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.