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

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FAudio

FAudio is a brand I’ve watched closely for quite sometime now. Their stunning designs – which include multi-colour swirls, stabilised-wood faceplates and intricate watch-part inlays – have been featured prominently on Instagram. Their 22-driver FAudio Engine also made noise at a Hong Kong trade show. At e-earphone, I had the chance to briefly listen to their entire line-up: From their 2-driver, entry-level, hybrid Scale, all the way to their flagship, universal, single-DD Major.

FAudio Scale: The Scale is a warm, lush and forgiving piece reminiscent of in-ears like the classic UE5. It’s rich, smooth and musical the way most in-ears were in the 2012-2014 era – a nostalgic, audiophile sound. However, there’s sufficient articulation here for even the most upbeat genres of music, and adequate bass authority prevents it from sounding congested or overtly-veiled. Soundstage expansion is probably its weakest point, as well as midrange resolution. But, those looking for a safe custom in-ear monitor- perhaps as their first ever – will find the Scale worth considering.

FAudio Chorus: The Chorus is an intimate, vocal-focused piece. The midrange is forwardly-placed, but neither overtly-saturated nor smeared. Rather, it’s balanced beautifully against an articulate lower-treble. The upper-treble is left linear for tonal balance, imbuing the air with a tinge of warmth. Unfortunately, extension isn’t the Chorus’ fourte. The stage – again – is intimate. As musical and absorbing as it is with simpler arrangements, the stage may get crowded – and resolution subsequently lost – with busier tracks. The Chorus is a great mid-tier option for vocal aficionados or jazz enthusiasts, with sufficient presence, finesse and organicity to serve ballads to a tee. Just don’t play any Metallica on it.

FAudio Harmony: A-ha! Some upper treble! The Harmony is FAudio’s first true all-rounder (including technical aspects as well) with a fun, well-balanced, dynamic sound. This is certainly one for fans of rock and EDM, where dynamic contrast, clarity and bass impact are prioritized. The Harmony has a healthily thump-y mid-bass. Combined with a laid-back upper-midrange, the Harmony’s melodic instruments are more compact relative to the thick bass line. But, enough balanced is maintained – in upper-treble sparkle, especially – to prevent the low-end from overpowering the rest of the range. Harmony is one for uptempo music, with enough body, warmth and finesse for adequate vocal reproduction too.

FAudio Symphony: The Symphony is FAudio’s custom top-of-the-line. Consequently, it’s their most technically-capable too. Superior treble extension gives the Symphony great headroom, and peaks here provide clarity and articulation. It’s more balanced down-low than the weightier Harmony, whilst maintaining similar energy due to superior extension. So, the Symphony is more neutral in tone, with its treble adopting a brighter profile. But, appropriate control in the lower-treble allows an inoffensive signature at all times. The upper-midrange again takes a backseat, so this is certainly a piece for those looking for detail and definition (in addition to a guttural bass line), rather than blooming warmth or lushness.

FAudio Major: The Major was undoubtedly one of my favourite listens throughout the entirety of my trip. It shares some tonal DNA with similarly-configured flagships – like Dita’s Dream and Sennheiser’s IE800S. Consequently, its signature is driven towards fun, energetic hi-fi; equally bombastic in dynamic energy and technical performance.

Immediately, its stage is outstanding. The single-driver design grants high linearity and flawless coherence, which in turn constructs a vast, spherical, concert-hall-like stage with no shortage of background blackness, stereo separation or air. In terms of imaging precision, I’d rank it a hair above the aforementioned flagships, because it achieves this performance whilst delivering more resolution. And despite its compromises, the Major performs adequately in tonal realism as well.

Its low-end is an absolute highlight as well. Satisfyingly guttural and visceral, the Major’s bass is woofer-like in ways that’s reminiscent of EE’s dual WIX drivers, but a touch more thwack-y and upper-bass-inclined. It works equally well with 808 beats and kick drums as a result. The lower-mids are shelved for cleaner definition, alongside a neutral upper-midrange for depth. This is where the Major pushes its luck most in naturalness, but the refinement and linearity it manages to maintain prevents any artificiality whatsoever. No more than half-a-track’s worth of adjustment should be required.

There are peaks along 7-8 and 12kHz for sparkle and clarity, but the treble region as a whole is cleverly positioned; effortlessly balanced with the rest of the frequency response. The Major may read like a very typical, hi-fi, clear-cut universal, but how it comes together is a treat to listen to. Due to outstanding spatial performance, near-flawless linearity and a sufficiently warm timbre, it sets itself apart from the crowd as a one to watch in the universal space.

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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.

8 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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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