Fischer Audio DBA-02 Review

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Fischer Audio DBA-02 400x300.jpg
Reviewed Jul 2010

Details: Dual-driver monitors from Fischer Audio’s flagship Master Series
Current Price: $160 from gd-audiobase.com (MSRP: $159.99)
Specs: Driver: Dual Armature | Imp: 43 Ω | Sens: 108 dB | Freq: 20-24k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Shure single-flange, Etymotic tri-flange
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) – Single flange silicone tips (3 sizes), over-the-ear cable guides, and soft carrying pouch (Brainwavz B2 (4/5): Single-flange silicone tips (6 pairs in 3 sizes), Comply T100, 6.3mm adapter, airplane adapter, and hard clamshell carrying case)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The shells consist of two layers of plastic – one light blue and one clear – and feel slightly cheap to the touch. Some sharp edges are left by the molding process and the strain relief on cable entry, while functional, is quite short. The black-and-white cable is very similar to the twisted cords found on Westone earphones and feels quite sturdy. The Y-split is well-relieved but the 3.5mm straight plug is a bit wimpy and the cord cinch slides up and down the cable too easily, which can be frustrating
Isolation (3.5/5) – Quite good with single-flange tips and even better with aftermarket triples
Microphonics (4/5) – Present when worn cord-down, almost nonexistent when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – The angled-nozzle housings can be worn both cord-down and over-the-ear in the same way as the Klipsch S4 but are quite a bit longer and may not be as fitting for those with smaller ears as the S4

Sound (9.2/10) – Despite being a relative newcomer on the international hi-fi scene, Fischer Audio have already caused quite a stir with their highly competitive midrange earphones. The Eterna, which I reviewed previously, won me over with its uncompromising musicality and fun factor despite being so very far from my preferred sound signature. But I’ve never made a secret of being after a far more analytical sound. There are many out there who claim that analytical earphones are antithetical to music enjoyment – that they cause the listener to hear the earphones and not the music. But for me a proper analytical earphone is quite relaxing – it never forces me to focus my attention on this or that to pick up on every detail and I find this more relaxing than listening to an earphone with the sound signature equivalent of a rocking chair (e.g. MTPG).

On that note, I will say that the DBA-02 is one of the best all-around earphones I have heard for the type of sound I am after. I will compare it mostly to the Audio-Technica CK10 as the two share an uncanny similarity but my listening involved lengthy comparisons to the dual-driver Phiaton PS200, Q-Jays, and ATH-CK90Pro as well as the Westone 1 and UM3X and the dynamic-driver-based Monster Turbine Pro Gold and Copper. As with the ATH-CK10, the bass of the DBA-02 is tight, controlled, and well-extended. I find the DBA-02 to be ruler-flat down to the lowest limits of my hearing, beating out the CK100 and a slew of other high-end earphones. The low end is quick and detailed. I do feel that the CK10 is just a hair more immediate in terms of impact and seems to move more air than the DBA-02 does. It should be noted that while I consider both earphones to be very well-balanced, for those used to something like the MTPG or Senn IE8 both will still fall square into ‘bass-light’ territory.

The midrange of the DBA-02 is balanced perfectly with the bass and treble. It isn’t lacking in transparency, clarity, or detail. If anything, it is a bit too crisp and aggressive when it comes to texturing – a bit Etymotic-like in that respect – but this is hardly a negative in my book. The mids of the CK10 sound slightly smoother and have a more liquid nature to them. Moving into the lower treble, the DBA-02 stays fairly smooth and quite articulated. There’s plenty of sparkle to go around but no harshness or sibilance. The DBA-02s are certainly bright earphones but the lower treble is less hot-tempered than that of the CK10s, which are just a tad more prone towards being sibilant. Treble detail is excellent but microdetail is presented with less authority than the somewhat more aggressive CK10 – a role reversal of sorts from the midrange, where the CK10 exhibits a more laid-back character than the DBA-02. Extension is effortless – a characteristic the DBA-02 shares with the CK10 and CK100.

When it comes to presentation, the DBA-02 once again surprises with the amount of air in its spacious stage as well as with the excellent (though not quite UM3X-excellent) instrumental separation. Soundstage width and depth are quite good, though neither the IE8 nor the Phiaton PS200 will feel threatened by the Fischers any time soon. In comparison, the CK10 sounds more enveloping and three-dimensional with better imaging and a capacity for front-to-rear positioning that never ceases to surprise me. The sound of the CK10 has a sort of ambience to it that I have not heard replicated except in the higher-end CK100. On a final comparative note, I feel that both the CK10 and DBA-02 are equally (in)efficient and will both run fine off of portable players and scale relatively well with added power.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that while direct comparisons always make it seem like the two products being compared are extremely dissimilar, the differences between the ATH-CK10 and DBA-02 are fairly small. For all intents and purposes, the two earphones share a general sound signature and I probably wouldn’t want to own both simultaneously.

Value (9.5/10) – The Fischer Audio DBA-02 offers nearly unprecedented bang/buck. For detailed and analytical sound, the biggest competitor is the substantially pricier Audio-Technica ATH-CK10, which boasts better build quality and a more convenient form factor. The build quality and accessory pack of the DBA-02 aren’t fitting of top-tier earphones, but then neither is the price, and that really sums up the earphones pretty well – top tier sound quality with middle rung amenities and price tag.

Pros: Astonishingly balanced and capable sound, comfortable, well-isolating
Cons: Average build quality and accessory pack


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

3 Comments

  1. Caleb on

    Sorry if this is a double post; I don’t know if my comment went through.

    Hey Joker,

    It’ s a sad day—I noticed that there’s a short in my Fischer Audio DBA-02, such that the sound cuts out when I fidget with the cord where it connects to the jack. I owned the Brainwavz B2 before the Fischer Audio DBA-02, but those had a nasty run-in with a wash machine. Since then I went through some cheaper VSONICs, some cheaper Brainwavz, and even Triple.Fi 10s (which I sold) before tracking down another TWFK based IEM—everything since the Brainwavz B2 felt muddy or flat/anemic. I love the crisp and aggressive highs—sparkle without sibilance—and the tight, quick but by no means anemic bass…

    Anyway, I’m after this TWFK sound (I’m worried that I’m so used to it now, that I’ll be disappointed with anything else). I’ve been out of the Head-Fi scene for awhile now, so I don’t know what some of the newer IEMs are—but is there anything these days in a comparable price range that can be seen as in the same family as the old TWFK-based IEMs (e.g. Brainwavz B2, Fischer Audio DBA-02, VSONIC GR01, VSONIC VC1000, Audio Technica ATH-CK10, and I don’t know what else)?

    Or, given my attachment to this sound signature, do you recommend getting these DBA-02s recabled? If so, could you point me to where this can be done or to someone who would do this for me for a fee? I imagine it wouldn’t cost more than buying another TWFK IEM… (though maybe I should hunt down another TWFK iem before they become too difficult to find…you know, to be safe in the future).

    • ljokerl on

      I hid your original comment since it was less complete than those one.

      It’s funny, I actually replied to a very similar question about the B2 yesterday – see here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-b2/#comment-139431 . I recommended getting them recabled, but I don’t know where that poster is getting it done. The only company I remember offering this service is BTG audio, and I don’t know if they still do it. I guess you can email them and ask.

      Generally speaking, I’m acutely aware of how difficult it is to move away from a TWFK set since these are some of my personal all-time favorite IEMs. The only TWFK IEMs I know of that are definitely currently in production are the new metal q-JAYS, and I haven’t personally tried this version. Seems to run about $280, which is about what an ATH-CK10 cost when I bought mine.

      The Rock-It Sounds R-50 seems to still available as well but only on the manufacturer’s own site, and Rock-It Sounds has otherwise all but fallen off the face of the planet. There was supposed to be a Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkIII as well but as far as I know it was never released.

      • Caleb on

        Thanks! I just bought some used VSONIC GR01 IEMs from a user off head-fi. But I’ll probably get my DBA-02 IEMs recabled at BTG audio in the near future as well.

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