Custom Art has made a recent resurgence with their immensely well received Fibae earphones. Spearheaded by Piotr, the team have been hard at work recently, expanding their Fibae flat-impedance BA IEM lineup with a 4-driver model to look forward to on the near horizon. We were also given a taste of a warm/bass-orientated sound with Custom Art’s Massdrop collaboration IEM that demonstrated how strong technicalities can shine through a warm, full tuning. However, Piotr’s latest design was not forecasted in any way. E-mails were sent out to 10 lucky recipients requesting participation with no mention of specification, price or tuning intention. It goes without saying then, that Piotr’s latest IEM is very much a mystery and with that said, here are my impressions.
Custom Art’s Mystery IEM has a very interesting sound signature with a warm tone and full note body but also reasonable balance throughout on behalf of its forward vocals and lightly emphasized lower-treble; to clarify, it’s reasonably mellow but woken up by emphasis at 3 and 6KHz. It reminds of the ME to a certain degree though it is less bassy, especially within the mid-bass which makes its low-end sound quite a bit cleaner than that model. On the contrary, its top end is darker and from initial impression does not appear to have the same extension. I also do not perceive the same soundstage expansion, Piotr’s Mystery IEM offering an impressively rounded but only moderately expanded stage, possibly due to the difference in middle and upper-treble tuning? I feel it’s too early to say anything with certainty at this time.
To my ear, this IEM seems to have fairly average sub-bass extension. Despite the housing being vented, I’m fairly convinced it’s a BA configuration due to its quick decay and definition. Still, the quality does impress and it certainly doesn’t lack bass with moderate emphasis throughout its low-end. Control stands out, with the IEM delivering a very punchy mid-bass and an especially enhanced upper-bass that greatly contributes to its generally full-bodied presentation. What’s quite refreshing about this IEM is its male vocal performance which is something I find to be neglected on many IEMs that prioritise bass/midrange separation over linearity. This is not the case here, Piotr’s latest IEM has slightly forward male vocals and they are flattered with accurate body and pleasing clarity. They’re also quite balanced with female vocals that avoid being too forward while upholding delicacy and a modest level of clarity.
This is a quality stemming from a gradual rise to a 3KHz peak after which the earphone begins a gradual decline that further increases midrange body and smoothness. As the 4KHz attenuation is gradual, vocals never sound truncated and midrange extension is quite good, however, clarity isn’t especially high either which is especially noticeable on older recordings. Meanwhile, contemporary genres, especially Asian pop, are more flattered as they are mastered with additional clarity. Its midrange isn’t neutral, hyper-separated or hyper-revealing, but it is very coherent and notes are complete without a hint of over-articulation or dryness.
Treble sits behind in the mix overall, but it’s never overshadowed as the earphone has a small 6KHz hump (but not what I would classify necessarily as a peak). This redeems clarity and aids note attack, producing a rather crisp portrayal of cymbals and guitar strums. Middle treble is attenuated to my ear. As such, this earphone does not have much air and upper-treble doesn’t appear to be especially present either so sparkle is subdued as well. It’s a very clean earphone in return and one quality that stands out, perhaps as a result or due to other factors, is its midrange layering. This IEM has a clear delineation between its vocals and instruments while upholding accurate placement of both, most notably with regards to its very strong centre image.
Early Verdict –
It was only until after I had formed my own impressions that I allowed myself to read other’s impressions. Perhaps my ears have become too accustomed to the Campfire Audio Solaris that I’ve been listening to recently (which has a clearly bright upper-treble). I keep listening for a magically expanded soundstage, but I don’t hear it. Similarly, that housing vent would suggest a dynamic driver, but the bass on this IEM still sounds like a BA to me, albeit a very well done warm/punchy BA tuning. That’s not to say that I’m pessimistic about this IEM and I also have to entertain the possibility of Piotr sending out different IEMs; as aforementioned my unit still has some strong qualities.
Specifically, its male vocal performance and midrange layering. In addition, its rounded presentation prevents over-forwardness of midrange elements and its imaging is terrific. Its treble is crisp and well-detailed while never encroaching on a hint of brightness. Moreover, despite being tuned for cleanliness and smoothness neither its upper-midrange or lower-treble sound truncated, delivering ample female vocal extension and openness in addition to what I would consider to be accurate treble instrument shimmer and decay. Despite not being airy or sparkly, this earphone nonetheless has heaps of atmosphere. This is certainly one of the more interesting IEM’s I’ve heard lately and I look forward to spending much more time with it.
Stay Tuned for Further Impressions!