The Virtue of Versatility – A Review of the FLC8s

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Again, my impression of how the FLC8s sounds is based on the Red, Black, Gunmetal filter setup. For me, the Gold nozzle filter was still a little too bright in the treble, and a friend suggested I try Gunmetal. This sounds just about perfect to my ears, with the biggest bass, warmest mids, and least harsh treble.

The FLC8s is a fundamentally clear, detailed IEM, and with the right filters, counterbalanced for delicious warmth. Tonal richness mingles with transparent, highly articulate rendering. The weight of the notes is on the lighter side, but do not feel hollow. Instead you get a thinner, airier quality. Yet that dynamic bass is ever-present to keep things grounded and deep.

FLC has struck a curious balance between clarity and detail, and a relaxed presentation. It has all the vibrancy of a quick performer, but feels laid-back like a much warmer transducer. Whatever trick they’ve pulled, I approve. These are a very easy listen.

No matter what filter you use, the treble is on the brighter side, and sparkles freely. I find Gunmetal warms it up the most and is quite pleasant to my ears. Using Gold, it was a little fatiguing. Listening to Gunmetal, the highs are well-extended and smooth. There’s quite a lot of air, and light bathes the stage, revealing everything. Symbols and high-hats become prominent in the mix. Textures sharpen into relief. Details galore!

If you want laid-back treble, these are not the IEMs for you. Even with a dynamic driver dedicated to the low-end, the highs are really FLC’s main asset. You can feel the effects on every note, in the transparency and cleanness. The treble is not the finest I’ve ever heard. There is a slight glare, and it will bring out the sibilance if the recording contains any. Indeed, the FLC8s is a revealing monitor.

The mid-range is where that incredible balance shines the brightest. It’s so rich, yet so clear. Honest, beautiful warmth imbues the acoustic guitar, but never at the expense of precision. The intricacies and grain of a vocal piece are showcased in full, all while possessed of subtle lushness.

The romantic notions of the FLC8s are there, though tempered by high levels of technical proficiency. Voices sit large, center stage, with clean boundaries. The empty spaces around, and especially behind the vocals, are filled with a fairly black atmosphere, adding to one’s immersion in the music.

I hear the mids as quite linear and coherent. From male vocals to female, the characteristics are the same: Warm, clear, and extremely detailed. They are powerful and very present, but not shouty or unnatural.

Oh that sweet, sexy dynamic bass. Some people find hybrids a terrible mismatch of tone and quality, but I love them. I have a passion for Balanced Armature IEMs, but a Dynamic Driver delivers a low-end like nothing else in this form factor. Indeed, if you’re using the bassiest filters, the FLC8s is awfully satisfying. It’s not outright bass-heavy, but the lows are emphasized enough to create a thumping, driving force to the music, with great warmth. It’s likely more than some purists want, but as always, there are filters for that.

Sub-bass is raised a bit over mid-bass, and there’s a gradual decline through upper-bass into mid-range. This produces a visceral, rumbling low-end, but one that doesn’t suffer aggressive bloom, and doesn’t bleed into the vocals. It’s tight and controlled, yet mighty as f**k. The resolution and texturing of these sub-registers is impressive. FLC generates such a large, deep bass line. Its timbre is fulsome and luscious. In short, I’m a big fan.

Soundstage is not great, but not depressingly tiny, either. In truth, it’s sufficient to capture your imagination and hold you in the illusion. And at the price point, I’m not sure there is better. Imaging is excellent left-to-right, and okay on the depth axis. The stage itself isn’t very deep, so what do you expect? FLC8s resolves at a high level for a mid-tier IEM. It does a fantastic job rendering all the elements in sharp detail. And those elements have better than decent separation. I’m going to say it: these IEMs are stellar examples of what $300+ can get you.

Oriveti’s New Primacy ($299, Review HERE) is another three driver hybrid, with the DD dedicated to bass. It is warmer and less clear than FLC. The bass is flabbier, with a notable mid-bass hump which does cloud the vocals quite a bit. NP’s treble rolls off earlier, making for a less airy stage and less note articulation. FLC8s is to my tastes a proper upgrade to an already excellent IEM in New Primacy. It separates better, renders at a high resolution, and produces a slightly larger soundstage. If you ask me, FLC’s normally higher price-tag is indeed worth it in this case. Between these two, I go with the 8s every time.

Now… the DUNU DK-3001 (currently $469, Review HERE) is an interesting comparison. Here we have a 4-driver hybrid, with a king-hell 13mm DD for bass. It’s a lot like the FLC8s, only smoother, gentler, and altogether more refined. It flows like a clear blue stream and is one of the most pleasant-sounded monitors I’ve ever heard. The bass is everything the 8s is, even tuned the same, only more organic and a goddamn force of nature. The vocals are just as clear and transparent as the 8s, only liquid, and with a less aggressive presentation of details. DUNU’s treble is much smoother and more linear in its rise. And it extends higher, giving even more air to the stage. In fact, the whole slope from bass to treble feels more coherent. Not that the 8s sounded chaotic, but when you switch over to the DK-3001, you hear the difference. Even soundstage is wider and deeper with DUNU. Separation and imaging is about the same, both being super good examples of quality. The only advantage the FLC8s may have over DUNU is in resolution. I feel the 8s is a touch sharper. Oh! There is one other thing FLC does better: Ergonomics. The DUNU DK-3001 has monstrous problems in this area, and FLC is a f**king champion. The difference is so significant it could mean a decisive win for the FLC8s.

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About Author

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.

13 Comments

  1. infinitum4 on

    I bought the FLC8S too and I really like it. My configuration is Red – Grey – Gold, and I really like it!

    Now I’m looking for a bluetooth IEM for use on commute / workout, that has a similar sound signature as these, do you have any recommendations on what to buy?

  2. Lord Sinister on

    Thanks Pinky.

    Waiting for delivery of Kaiser K10U. Might try for a TOTAL CIEM later 2018 but haven’t decided yet. Primarily listen to EDM – mostly some variation of techno, trance, goa/pys, drum & bass and dubstep.

  3. Lord Sinister on

    Very nice Pinky! Thanks. I bought the original FLC8 few years back based on |joker| review and really like it. Been tempted to buy a better cable to get a slighly more refined or improved sound but kept holding back. Glad to see the Dunu comparison as it gives me a really good idea how well the 3001 is.

    Might be different signature type but could you please compare FLC8S to Andromeda and Rhapsodio Solar? Curious how different or far up the ladder these 2 are from FLC. I should be getting the Kaiser K10 in few weeks…

    Many thanks!

    • Pinky Powers on

      I’m sorry, but I’ve yet to try Andromeda.

      Solar, I sold a few months back, so this will be based on memory:

      Solar is more detailed, with better note weight. Soundstage is about the same, but vocals are smaller and further back. Bass bight be even bigger on Solar, but don’t hold me to that. They are close.

      Solar is a reasonable upgrade. I would imagine Andromeda is, too, from what I’ve read about it.

      Are you getting the K10, or Encore?

    • dc655321 on

      Having just spent a couple of weeks with the Andromeda and having used the FLC8S for the last couple of years, I can take a stab at that comparison.

      In short, if you like the FLC8S in its warmer configurations, you will like the Andromeda.

      As to “how different or far up the ladder” is Andromeda, my opinion is not that incredibly far. If you use the red sub-bass, black bass, and green filter filters then, at lower volumes, you’ll get a sense of the Andromeda’s signature: warm with good extension/sparkle on the top and full, deep bottom. But, the Andromeda also is smoother up top than the FLC in this config, and is fuller in the mids (less v-shaped, more mid-forward). IMO, the Andro gives up some sub-bass extension and power to the FLC as well. OTOH, the Andro’s resolution and wall-to-wall vividness are quite a bit ahead of the FLC.

      Both great earphones for their prices. Beware that the Andro will get substantially leaner sounding out of sources with only a few Ohms output impedance. The difference between 0.5 Ohms and 4 Ohms is easily apparent (and not for me: I likes the junk in the trunk).

      • Pinky Powers on

        Great information! Thanks for sharing.

      • dc655321 on

        Addendum:

        Re-experimenting has me thinking that the red and black bass filters with _no nozzle_ filter is even closer to Andromeda-ish sound. Sounds odd, I know, but try it out…

        • Lord Sinister on

          Will definitely try today. Thanks.

      • Lord Sinister on

        Awesome! Thank you!

        Regrettably, I haven’t plunged into the DAP/DAC world yet and mainly use a Galaxy S7e or iPhone as the source with 320k & flac files but have been extremely tempted to get either a iBasso DX200, Shanling M3s, OPUS#1/2 or HiBy Music R6. Think I’ll join the campain for the R6 which should handle all I have so far nicely including FLC8. Though Pinky’s take on the Opus & M3s is pulling me in that direction too.

        • Pinky Powers on

          At this point, I HIGHLY recommend the new Cayin N5II. Fabulous device. Incredible sound.

        • dc655321 on

          At 10 Ohms output impedance, the R6 would be a no-go for me with something like Andromeda. That would give something like a -10 dB drop in sub-bass and bass, resulting in a lean, bright sound.

          10 Ohm OI seems like a mistake to have in a high-end (ish) DAP if IEMs are a target. That would not do any favors for just about any iem with balanced armatures.

          Still… very cool device!

          • Lord Sinister on

            Hmmm…..I’m glad I mentioned it. Thank you both!

            I’ve added the N5II high on my list! …..might even add to my xmas list.

            • dc655321 on

              Yes, the Cayin N5II ticks all the right boxes for me. Thanks for the tip, Pinky Powers!

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