e-earphone Japan – Featuring Impressions from FitEar, FAudio, Rhapsodio and more!

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FitEar

Kicking things off, we have Japan’s most well-renowned custom in-ear brand: FitEar. They’ve held a strong reputation of exclusivity in their hometown, as well as unabashed admiration for the classic, Japanese house sound. Featuring a total of two shell materials and three driver types on display, here are my brief thoughts on FitEar’s four premier products.

FitEar EST: The FitEar EST was the first universal IEM to feature Sonion’s electrostatic drivers. Although they’ve now run rather rampant amongst manufacturers worldwide, I was interested to hear FitEar’s iteration of the new technology – especially given my experience with the Electro and Trinity. While the Electro adopts a more linear, reference profile, and Jomo’s Trinity endorses clarity, air and technical performance, the EST strikes a relatively healthy in-between. It’s a fun-sounding all-rounder very much in line with the Lime Ears Model X, Campfire Audio Andromeda and the 64Audio A18t.

It’s a jack-of-all-trades with balance between body and clarity; warmth and definition. On one hand, it deals every genre with equal musicality. It’s a forgiving monitor that – pardon the cliché – sounds good with everything. Its midrange in particular is highly linear and pristinely clear, even if it could’ve been more saturated. But, I get the feeling it doesn’t flex its electro-muscles very often. Now, that can be a good thing; it’s more effortless than the Trinity, for example. However, to those looking at it as a potentially eye-opening experience, you might be left nodding, “M-kay.” But, those simply eyeing a fun-sounding, clear, do-it-all that’s more a cheaper A18t than the Electro is, the EST is a very suitable candidate.

FitEar Titan: FitEar’s all-metal Titan is a dream for vocal clarity – female vocals especially. There’s an emphasis in the treble, which gives instruments a clear, clean-cut profile. This is particularly great with high-pitched balladeers, as well as woodwinds. Flutes in are filled with tension and force – realistically and confidently reproduced. However, a dip at 3kHz contradicts this somewhat, restraining instruments from unleashing their fullest strength. Belting balladeers may feel compressed at times. So despite high definition, the lead sits nicely – perhaps too nicely – with the rest of the ensemble.

Unfortunately, these characteristics don’t favour heavier instruments. Male vocals, trombones and cellos may lack body and gravitas. The chesty fundamental is less prominent than the transient, which leads to a presentation that’s not thin, but wispy in nature. The Titan’s DD punches with sufficient impact, imparting adequate warmth to bind the stage in a musical way. If the upper-mids were placed further forward, I think the Titan would sport better tonal balance. On the flip side, the stage may have been less clean and vast. Coherence is among the best I’ve heard from a hybrid config, resulting in high left-right separation and stage stability. Again, it’s a wonder for clarity, but with its fair share of quirks.

FitEar Air 2: The Air 2 sports a similar configuration as the Titan: One BA plus one DD in a hybrid config. And in sound, it’s essentially what the packet says: An open-sounding, airy, crisp monitor with emphases on the upper-treble and low-end decay. Instruments are articulate, quick-sounding and superbly clean. But, they assume a neutral tone, because of the dynamic driver’s radiant bass. The stage is similarly bonded by the bass, while the transients display great imaging.

As a result, you get both positional audio and a shared ground. The disadvantage here in coherence. Like the Titan, the Air 2 has a dipped lower-midrange. But, the crossover – spatially especially – is more obvious on the latter. The bass remains rooted to the centre, while the higher registers seem to display a greater sense of width. Shifting to the upper-mids, instruments again suffer from a lack of saturation. It could benefit immeasurably from vibrancy along 3-4kHz. But, if the priority was indeed definition, clarity and imaging precision, then this was most likely an intentional compromise.

FitEar MH335DW-SR: The MH335DW-SR is a revision of sorts of FitEar’s former 5-driver flagship. The SR postscript refers to the stainless steel tubes Suyama-san has installed to act as a waveguide. The MH335DW-SR carries what I’d consider to be the epitome of a Japanese sound: A warm, intimate, bass-driven presentation counteracted by an articulate upper-treble. Instruments on the SR are full-bodied and almost reverb-y as a result of lifts along the mid- and upper-bass. The lower-mids remain neutral though- instruments are still upper-midrange-dominant for a more vibrant, lively response.

The low-end lifts characteristically add warm, rich undertones that almost act as a shadow of the transient. It evokes the ambience of a coffee-club jazz performance, complete with reverbs, echoes and resonances bouncing off the brick walls. Additionally, despite peaks along 7 and 10kHz, an 8kHz dip grants instruments a light featheriness , rather than an ultra-crisp profile. Yet, transients strike with a very natural sense of speed, which completes those full-bodied, deeply-resonant instruments with an appropriate dose of clarity; neither overtly clean, nor compromised in detail. If you literally want to hear your music as if it were radiating from an intimate, smoky cafe, the MH335DW-SR deserves a solid shout.

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About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

14 Comments

  1. Hi Deezel,

    How did you came by the Flipears? I only know that they are Philippine made. Any more impressions on the Axis?

      • Hey Rhyan,

        I first stumbled upon them on Instagram, so when I saw their products at e-earphone, I instantly wanted to try them. I got a couple minutes on a couple of their other models, but I forgot which they were. They shared a common house sound with a crisp treble, an emphasis on detail and a neutral tone, which I honestly find a bit generic at this point – not bad per se, but it’s something I’ve already heard hundreds of times before. So, the AXIS was clearly the one that stood out and really stuck with me throughout my entire trip.

        Cheers,
        Daniel

  2. Hey deezel I wanted to know how the fitear togo 334 faced against the fitear est and fitear 2 which one is a better balanced out of the 3 but with still having a mid-centric signature

    • Hey Neil,

      All three are pretty well-balanced. The most mid-centric of the three is definitely the 334.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

  3. Hey Deezel. Thanks for your interesting article. I have a Fitear model bearing the number: 084537. It appears to be from the Universal Series. Can you tell me if this is the case and what current model if any it most resembles?

    • Hi Tim,

      Unfortunately, I can’t find out what model it is by serial number alone. If the model number isn’t printed on the bulbous concha area, the only other indicator would perhaps be colour, because FitEar usually colour-code their universals. But for the most accurate information, I’d recommend e-mailing FitEar directly and asking them for clarification.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

  4. Hey deezel I am really interested in the faudio major can you describe the signature more, what other iems does it compete against interms of the totl(fourte, legend x, solaris, u12t,trio) and would rnb, vocals, hippop and house work well with the iem, thanks, also what are your favourite top 3 iems regardless of price in universal

    • Hi Neil,

      Unfortunately, I only caught this comment after replying to yours on the CanJam SG 2018 article. I hope you won’t mind referring to the comments section of that article as an answer to your question. Again, I can’t really describe the Major any further than I already have given the brief time I had with it. Is there anything in particular signature-wise that you’d like to know?

      Cheers,
      Daniel

        • I’ll copy and paste it here:

          “Hey Neil,

          I talked about the Major quite a bit in my e-earphone article here: https://theheadphonelist.com/e-earphone-japan/4/. I’m afraid I can’t say much more without another audition, but I have talked to FAudio about a potential collaboration with the Major.

          I can’t really speak to the comparisons you’re asking for, because I haven’t listened to them side-by-side with the Major. I can say that the Major is a step above its single-DD’ed brethren like the Dita Dream or the Sennheiser IE800S, but I don’t know whether it’s on par with technical giants like the Fourté. In terms of staging for example, the Fourté definitely has a more transparent stage. But when you take into account how much the Fourté sacrifices tonally in the process, all of a sudden the Major sounds like the more enjoyable option. Really, it’s too complex of a comparison for me to speak blindly on without an A/B audition, so you’ll have to wait on that.

          To put it simply, I think the Major punches considerably above its price, but we have to be realistic too. ????

          Given the Major’s tonal balance, it would work really well with hip-hop and house music. When you start talking about R&B and vocals, it really depends on what kind of R&B you listen to and what you look for from vocals. If the kind of R&B you listen to is more dreamy and vibe-y ala Miguel, for example, I think the Major would work really well. If it’s more pop-oriented ala John Legend, then it depends on how you like your bass. I think the Major’s low-end is guttural, visceral and placed just right, but with those genres of tracks, it may outshine the vocals a bit – not in presence, but in engagement and musicality.

          If you want vocals to be the clear focus of the ensemble, the Major isn’t perhaps for you. But then again, none of the TOTLs you mentioned do that either, so I’m guessing that’s not what you’re fully looking for. In terms of vocal clarity, the Major performs really well. Its treble is a touch darker and smoother than the Fourté’s, so instruments aren’t as crisp as the ones on there. But as a result, the Major is more pleasing to listen to and less metallic-sounding. If you want more body and wetness with your vocals, the Major isn’t too much for that. The Major’s vocals are on the cleaner side, but again, they’re very refined-sounding, so they won’t come across lean at all.

          My top three universal IEMs (i.e. IEMs that aren’t available in custom form, so the Legend X and U12t aren’t included) at the moment would probably be the Major, Earsonics’ Grace and Jomo Audio’s Trinity Brass. I love the Major for the reasons I described on my e-earphone article. Earsonics’ Grace has a wonderfully elegant, refined, gorgeous signature that my colleague Nic so accurately described in his review: https://theheadphonelist.com/earsonics-grace/. And, the Trinity to me fuses technical performance and musicality in such a wonderful way. It’s a fun-sounding, coherent and engaging piece with an effortless and not-showy technical foundation underneath.”

          • Well thanks for the detail, I will give a quick run down of iems I used to have ie80, ie800 , sm64/earsonics velvet, oriolus mkii, phonak pfe 232 to then picking up the andromeda which was amazing but had a bad fit to finally using the fitear tg334 which had great vocals, I listen to a lot of rnb (miguel ofcourse), old school hippop, triphop and country so for me mids and treble are important as is bass, so now you know my history interms of iems, I guess I learn towards warmish clear dynamic sound as fitear tg334 has a very dynamic bass but is a bit bloated

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