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The Custom Art Harmony 8.2

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Sound impressions

Presentation
The 8.2 has a very neutral presentation. On average, notes are neither thick nor thin, but well proportioned within the stage dimensions. The presentation isn’t as upfront as a truly mid-forward iem like the S-EM6 or Zeus-XIV, or as distant as something like the Galaxy. The 8.2 has a mid-centric signature, with a slightly warm tonality. The aim of the tuning is on presenting an organic and non-fatuiging listening experience, rather than a focus on detail retrieval based on apparent clarity.

The 8.2’s stage is wide, with a relatively neutral to slightly closer stage positioning. Its stage height is flatter than tall, although I wouldn’t call it flat altogether; it just has the appearance of being slightly flatter due to the wide stage. The vocal positioning is also slightly more forward than neutral, so the central area for layering in depth is not overly spacious. But while the 8.2 doesn’t project the sound very deep, it uses the space beside rather than in front of the ears very well, more so than other ciems. Because of the effectual use of this area combined with the wide stage, the instrument separation is still quite good, and the stage doesn’t have a tendency towards congestion. It just has a different instrument placement, clustering instruments more in the lateral spaces than the front, while the imaging within the stage is also quite precise.

Bass
Piotr is known for his bass; the previous Harmony earned him a reputation for its speed and precision. The main critique was that it lacked a bit of impact, but overall it was considered quality audiophile bass. More recently the Ei.XX continued Custom Art’s tradition of high quality bass, though this time with a significantly north from neutral tuning. It’s clearly audible that Piotr dedicated a good portion of his time in tuning the 8.2’s bass. Probably to address the critique of the previous Harmony, although I personally suspect he has a bit of affection for good bass himself.

The result is high quality bass; quick and detailed, while adding a juicy punch. The balance between sub- and mid-bass is linear, resulting in nice texture as well as impact – this isn’t a bloated, softish kind of bass. The sub-bass is well extended and hits hard and clear, rather than sounding soft or veiled on impact. The bass has good speed with a well-timed decay, rather than evaporating in thin air like we sometimes see in multiple BA designs. It adds a sense of naturalness, contributing to the overall quality. In addition, the 8.2 offers a good amount of bass resolution; the definition and separation of bass lines.

Midrange
The midrange is the center focus within the presentation, although the bass to midrange is very linear. The 8.2 has its main presence in the center midrange around 1 KHz. This brings the vocal presentation slightly closer, and gives vocals good size and power – singers sing like they really mean it. It isn’t overly deep or chesty, but it has enough fill to give vocals good density. In overall size, both tones as well as vocals stay close to neutral – a balanced presentation. The instrument timbre can be considered natural, as their isn’t an overly amount of coloration.

The center midrange presence gives it a slightly warm tonality, with good body to instruments and vocals. Depending on your source, it can have a slight preference for male over female vocals. With a warmer dap like the Plenue S the overall focus is on smoothness, depth, and warmth, although the combination can be a bit much – resulting in a more outspoken warm and mid-centric signature, and somewhat lacking in airiness due to the warmer atmosphere. A dap with a more neutral signature like the Lotoo Paw Gold or 901S will add more clarity and transparency, and an overall more balanced and neutral tonality.

The upper midrange is tuned with a slight edge towards clarity due to a slight treble hump around 8-9 KHz. This gives a boost to its upper midrange clarity, and note and especially vocal articulation. Overdoing this can sometimes result in harshness, but it is well done with the 8.2. It makes the upper midrange nice and detailed, with a good bit of sparkle. Vocals have a right amount of edge to them and are clearly articulated, while acoustic instruments and electric guitars have a nice amount of shimmer and bite, despite the warmer tonality of the center midrange.

Treble
The treble is somewhat laidback compared to midrange. It’s not subdued or dark, but its aim is towards smooth and non-fatuiging, with a moderate amount of sparkle. Overall, the treble response is very linear, besides a slight dip in the lower treble. This takes some light and air from the presentation, but keeps it sibilant free. This makes the 8.2 very easy to listen to, contributing to a smooth listening experience.

Treble extension is around the iem standard of 10 KHz, and the 8.2 sits somewhere around average when it comes to detail retrieval and overall resolution. While the treble isn’t overly articulate, it isn’t muffled either. It’s there doing its thing and fits well within the overall presentation, without grabbing too much attention. I might have liked to see the treble extend just a little further for a bit more precision and airiness up top, but I can’t say the 8.2 underperforms either.

Page 3: Comparisons and concluding thoughts

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About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

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