DISCLAIMER: Custom Art provided me with the FIBAE 7 in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Custom Art for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
Custom Art is a Polish monitor maker unique for their upbringing in the online DIY community. Former monitor reviewer Piotr Granicki ventured into building in the early 2010s, eventually spawning a company renowned for their lush, musical sounds, their zany, off-the-wall designs and – last, but not least – their superb after sales service. Though home-brew was this company’s de facto brand earlier on, Piotr’s recent efforts in 3D-printing, custom-tuned drivers and FIBAE technology has undoubtedly elevated them a great deal. And, now, all that has culminated in their top-of-the-line in-ear: the FIBAE 7. Embodying the company ethos, the FIBAE 7 is the flagship for your buck; a shot at the top without the sky-high price tag.
Custom Art FIBAE 7
- Driver count: Seven balanced-armature drivers
- Impedance: 5.9Ω @1kHz (+-0.75Ω 10Hz-20kHz)
- Sensitivity: 113dB @1kHz @0.1V
- Key feature(s) (if any): FIBAE technology, top-firing drivers
- Available form factor(s): Custom and universal acrylic in-ear monitors
- Price: €1200
- Website: www.thecustomart.com
Build and Accessories
The FIBAE 7 comes in Custom Art’s age-old packaging: A modest mini-shoebox with a familiar, yet practical accessory set. In it is Pelican’s heavy-duty 1010 case, a smaller zipper case, a cleaning tool and desiccant. Then, accompanying all that is the Hi leaflet, which is both a quick-start guide and a warranty card with your IEM’s serial number and manufacture date.
For all that mileage Piotr’s gained in technology, craftsmanship and sound, it’s frankly a tad disappointing to see Custom Art’s packaging continue to stagnate, especially for their newest flagship. I’d love nothing more than to see at least some branding on the cover; perhaps, a simple, debossed emblem or an engraving of some kind. And, extra accessories like a microfibre cloth would be greatly appreciated as well. Though sonics and build clearly rank above all else for Custom Art (and rightly so), the unboxing experience still has to have a place there as well. Hopefully, a revamp here is in their cards.
Another addition worth mentioning is the Arete aftermarket cable that this FIBAE 7 comes with. It’s an OCC copper cable made by Null Audio in Singapore, and it features far superior hardware to the Plastics One cables that Custom Art CIEMs usually ship with. It comes with a velcro cable tie for very easy tidying-up as well. And, you can also get it with a balanced termination at check-out or with a microphone, even, if that’s what you want. So, I personally feel it’s a very sensible add-on for Custom Art’s top-of-the-line. And, at €99 purchased separately, it adds even more value to its overall package too.
Thankfully, though, when it comes to the in-ear’s build quality, Custom Art have only continued to top themselves. Every piece I receive from them boasts a new level of polish, and the same is true for the FIBAE 7 I have here. Taking cues from a design I found in CanalWorks’ catalog, I opted for a fairly complex scheme, which the Custom Art team pulled off to a T.
It’s a multi-colour theme, and it features two instances of a gradient as well; a technique Custom Art have recently begun to popularise. First is a colour gradient down the faceplates, shifting from red and blue to the grey of the shells. Then, it’s a particle gradient that transitions from smaller, finer bits of mica to larger, denser pieces of gold flake. Sat at the in-ear’s topmost layer are engravings on either side; the minuscule FIBAE text on that left IEM coming out particularly impressive. And, to finish is buffing and lacquer for a flawlessly smooth, bubble-free surface throughout this entire earphone. Bravo.
3D-Printing and Fit
As mentioned, Custom Art have made the big leap of incorporating 3D-printing into their production line, which brings a fair number of changes. They now no longer need physical, silicone ear impressions to make your custom IEMs. You can send them a digital scan of your impressions instead, which, on its own, cuts the costs of shipping the moulds to Poland, as well as the week or two it takes to get there. If you don’t have scans yet, all you have to do is send Custom Art a set of silicone moulds, which they’ll convert to a digital file for you. You may then use these as a substitute for physical moulds for any future purchase; whether it’s from Custom Art or any other IEM brand that’ll accept them, of which there’re tons.
With the 3D-printing process also comes changes in fit. Compared to, say, my Harmony 8.2, these fit smoother with even amounts of pressure throughout. There aren’t any hotspots, which helps them vanish in the ear a lot more. One thing I’d note is my units were trimmed pretty low-profile. The faceplates don’t stick out much from the ear, if at all. An advantage is the in-ear is more likely to stay secure. But, at the same time, they’re also cumbersome to remove. You have to dig into your ear, almost, to get a grip and pull them out. If you tend to take your IEMs in and out often, you may wanna ask for a taller shell when placing your order. Comfort-wise, though, that low profile doesn’t bother at all; not even when I’m using thicker upgrade cables. So, all in all, it’s a nicely comfy IEM to wear, and it’ll also stay secure no matter what you’re doing.
FIBAE is short for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone, and it has become Custom Art’s spotlight innovation. First introduced with the FIBAE 1 and the FIBAE 2, what this technology ultimately aims to do is preserve this in-ear monitor’s tonal balance no matter the source it’s connected to. So, essentially, whether you’re listening to the FIBAE in-ear through your laptop or a dedicated DAP, the frequency response should remain the same. This is especially crucial if you plan to use these on mixing consoles, monitor mixers, etc., where the output impedances can vary wildly from one to the other.
However, that does not mean you won’t hear any differences between the laptop and player either. Although FIBAE tech leaves the frequency response intact, the earphone will scale based on whatever data’s fed into it. A more resolving DAC is capable of rendering clearer spatial cues, deeper backgrounds, etc. So, although it won’t bridge the gap between more capable and less capable sources per se, this tech will allow the user to judge those differences in a clearer manner. And, whatever source you choose to use at the end of the day, you will always be guaranteed the sound Custom Art intended.