Custom Art Harmony 8.2 (€1100)
The clearest difference between the FIBAE 7 and the Harmony 8.2 would probably be the imaging. The latter’s a monitor reliant on width to separate instruments, compensating for its okay depth by today’s standards. Conversely, this FIBAE 7 has much stronger, more convincing spatial cues. Then, its background is far cleaner as well; tighter separation between instruments. When it comes to dynamics, though, I find the Harmony 8.2 a hair more engaging with percussion, because it has more oomph to its extremes; the mid-bass and mid-treble, specifically. However, when it comes to overall dynamic range (i.e. how clean transients come through) and resolution, the FIBAE 7 is the clear winner by way of treble extension.
Tonally, this Harmony 8.2 is the fuller, chestier, darker-sounding monitor. It’s got a fuller, less transparent low-midrange, along with a more shelved high-treble. As a result, instruments are bolder, meatier-sounding. The FIBAE 7 maintains this meatiness to a degree, but surrounds with a much airier, much cleaner image. Its notes, though slightly buttery and lush, come off open; able to breathe and resonate more. Plus, top-end details like ride cymbals and hi-hats are far less muted here as well. Down low, the Harmony 8.2 has the gutsier, more muscly response. Its kick drums and bass drops emanate more warmth into its stage too. So, which of these two you prefer will very likely come down to taste. But, for my money, the FIBAE 7 is the clear superior performer; technically, at least. Its staging, linearity and resolution is, by far, Piotr’s best.
FiR Audio M3 ($1299)
The FiR Audio M3 is a foil to the FIBAE 7. It’ll largely dip where the latter peaks and vice-versa. As a result, it comes across a leaner, tighter-sounding IEM with a penchant for clarity and sparkle, as well as a brighter, more aggressive hue overall. For a thorough comparison between these two IEMs, you can check out my full-length review of the M3 by the link here.
Empire Ears Phantom ($1799)
Compared to this FIBAE 7, Empire Ears’ Phantom is a darker, more understated-sounding in-ear, especially in the upper-midrange. The latter’s are a lot less vibrant and forwardly-positioned, so you’ll hear a lot less twang from keyboards and guitars. And, female vocals will sound chestier as well. This FIBAE 7’s 3kHz peak lends its instruments more vibrance and vividness. And, it assists in separation as well, helping them pop against the background. Up high, the Phantom’s got the more articulate low-treble at about 6kHz. Transients are brighter, but they’re also more prone to brittleness or glare. The FIBAE 7’s, on the other hand, are more refined and more linear; not as aggressive, but just as clean, if not more so, even.
This discrepancy is largely because of the FIBAE 7’s more present upper-treble. It shows more clarity and air to it, further aiding separation, image precision and cut. Notes are more cleanly separated, and they’re positioned a hair further from each other too. Whereas, there’s more warmth to the Phantom’s soundscape that binds those notes together. The FIBAE 7 also has the more coherent, linear tone of the two. This is especially true of the upper-mid-to-treble transition. It melds the two near-flawlessly to my ears. Whereas, there’s a bit of an abruptness there on the Phantom; a dark high-midrange leaping into a low-treble peak. Lastly, down low, the Phantom’s the more guttural-sounding of the two with a darker low-end, while this FIBAE 7’s is airy with a lighter, more melodic tone. Though, in quantity and role, both these lows are alike.
Vision Ears EVE 20 (€1300)
Vision Ears’ EVE 20 is a more v-shaped sounding IEM; more present towards either extreme and more dynamic – punchy – with genres like pop or hip-hop. Most apparent is a 5kHz peak, which gives it rather crisper, tizzy-er transients than the FIBAE 7. And, there’s its darker, punchier, more guttural-sounding bottom-end. It’s got a more palpable texture to it; less BA-like than the FIBAE 7’s, which makes it more suitable for the aforementioned genres. But, the FIBAE 7 doesn’t lag too far behind in raw extension or power either. The EVE 20’s midrange isn’t as pronounced as the FIBAE 7’s, especially when compared to its extremes. It comes off less transparent, while there’s a lot more shape and colour to the FIBAE 7’s. Shifts in dynamics and size are picked up more clearly on the latter, which makes it more fitting for vocal- or melody-led tracks.
Technically, the most obvious discrepancy between the two would be linearity. The FIBAE 7 has the smoother curve from bottom to top, which results in a more coherent shape to instruments; again, more uniform in colour and texture. Vision Ears’ EVE 20 has been coloured more so for energy and punch. So, it doesn’t come off as natural as the FIBAE 7. Between the upper-mids and treble, for example, the body and the transient of certain instruments – like vocals – don’t mesh with as much roundedness or smoothness as they do on this FIBAE 7. In resolution and separation, I feel the two trade blows. The FIBAE 7, again, has the more transparent midrange, while the EVE 20’s notes tend to have a sharper outline, because of its more focused mids and its sparklier treble. It’s got a hair more depth and air to it too, but the trade-off here, again, is tone. So, these are two IEMs that I’d say complement more than they compete; one for punch, and the other for tone.
The Custom Art FIBAE 7 is a complete distillation of their signature house sound – intimate, vivid and authentic-sounding – executed with the most precision, refinement and nuance that Piotr’s ever had. It embodies this naturalness through a smoky, melodic bass, a complete, uncompromising midrange and relaxed, unselfish highs. Then, around them is a space with nearly as much separation, uniformity and air as such a tonality will allow. Those after a more calculated, cut-throat sound may find this in-ear a tad too generous in body and saturation; a hair short of the summit when it comes to image size, macro-dynamics or upper-treble presence. But, those who put more stock into the linearity of a monitor’s tone, the shape of its notes or the power of musicality will certainly find this IEM among their must-try’s. At €1100, the FIBAE 7 is a bargain of a flagship; punching well above its price, and sacrificing none of Piotr’s unmistakeable persona along the way.