Rank #17: the Custom Art 8.2


The 8.2 has a full-bodied bass, that fills the midrange nicely. Its combination with the laidback treble creates its characteristic warm and smooth presentation. It’s a rounded bass, warm with a natural tone. The sub-bass is slightly north from neutral, providing a nice bit of power and depth in bass-heavy music. Similarly, the mid- and upper bass are slightly forward. This gives the bass a soft and natural touch, rather than being particularly hard-hitting with an emphasis on sub-bass. Due to the fuller mid-bass presentation, its speed isn’t as quick as traditional BA bass, although it isn’t sluggish altogether.

The 8.2’s bass is warm, and slightly forward. While it gets points for its tone and weight, the enhanced mid- and upper bass provides warm air to the presentation that reduces the airiness of the stage. Furthermore, the mid-bass resolution is not very high. Bass lines are prominent enough due to their size, but their definition could be greater. Finally, its speed could be better – the 8.2 receives an average score for its bass.

The 8.2’s specialty is undeniably its midrange, and the center focus of the tuning. This is a midrange with essential qualities: warm, smooth and natural. The warmer bass response provides a nice chesty feel to male vocals, and a warmer tone throughout the midrange. Importantly, it’s a midrange that’s capable to convey emotion. If analytical is one side of the spectrum, this is the other: organic and emotional. Where an analytic signature dissects the music, the 8.2’s organic presentation brings it together. But it has its downside – the transparency suffers from the warmer stage structure. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the combination with its warm tuning tends to subdue some of the subtle detail.

The 8.2 has a neutral lower midrange, followed by a slight bump in the center midrange. This gives the vocal presentation an average size. As the midrange is fairly linear, it’s not necessarily a full-bodied or forward vocal presentation. Due to the warmer bass, male vocals convey emotion, a sense of sincerity – but are not necessarily very dense or powerful. The 8.2 remains fairly neutral in this regard; its performance isn’t bad by any means, but not better than average. Female vocals seem to hit the spot a bit better; they’re more focused, a rounder, denser presentation. They’re incredibly smooth, but might miss a bit of sweetness up top.

The 8.2’s upper midrange is smooth, and fairly natural. When it comes to band-based instruments as guitars and drums, the 8.2 portrays them realistically, although there is a slight added thickness to the tone. The same can be said for vocals. There tone might be too warm to be considered completely accurate; but it simply sounds natural, and completes the 8.2’s harmonious midrange. More importantly, it’s a thicker upper midrange that gives instruments nice size, providing them with good presence on the stage. Vocals might not be overly thick; instruments on the other hand have good body, as well as a fairly neutral and smooth tone.

The final element of the 8.2’s tuning is its laidback treble, completing the 8.2’s smooth and warm tonality. Especially the upper treble is distant, taking some of the sparkle and air from the presentation. The treble tone is quite natural, but simply lacks a bit of definition and clarity – this isn’t an overly articulate treble. It’s basically hanging in there, trying its best to participate while attempting to not get overshadowed by the bass and midrange.

If an iem is tuned with an attenuated treble response, it must rely on its treble extension for its definition. The 8.2 however struggles to extend further than the iem average of 9-10 KHz. Accordingly, its midrange resolution is ok, but ok at best. For sensitive listeners, the 8.2’s treble might be a god’s gift. This treble is harmless. But there is a price to pay: a touch of clarity and precision. In addition, the treble tuning affects the tone of especially string instruments.

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About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

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