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Custom Art ME Review – Power and Control

Pros –

Very dynamic yet controlled sound, Spacious soundstage with holographic imaging, Comfortable design and excellent construction quality

Cons –

Might sound overly thick for some, Slower sub-bass

Verdict –

The ME is a strong bass-focussed IEM for those wanting lushness, dynamics and an expansive stage.

Introduction –

Spearheaded by former reviewer, Piotr, and hailing from Poland, Custom Art has secured a spot amongst the greats in custom IEM design. Anyone who has past experience with the company will vouch for their meticulous level of finish and Piotr’s generous accommodation of the buyer in after service support. Their most recent innovation includes the Fibae flat impedance in-ears that provide an effective solution to inconsistent source synergy by negating the effects of output impedance. The ME is one of their latest models, a Massdrop exclusive IEM featuring 6 balanced armature drivers and a bass-focused sound tuning. This is another earphone that features Custom Art’s delicate tuning set to strong technical ability. You can read more about the ME and order one for yourself here.


Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Piotr from Custom Art very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the ME for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.


Customisation –

Though only offered as a custom on Massdrop’s website, the Fibae ME can be configured as a universal too (though you’ll have to contact Custom Art via e-mail). And, regardless of form, Custom Art’s designs are realised through an excellent manufacturing process that yields some stunning results. Of course, due to the nature of the earphones, they don’t possess the same level of consistency as a mass-produced product. However, in return, the Fibae ME is almost fully customisable to the buyer’s request.

Custom Art’s customiser is very comprehensive and reasonably flexible; offering the ability to customise nozzle and housing colour in addition to a huge selection of faceplates with the ability to print a user-specified design on top. Piotr also takes custom requests should the freedom offered by the customiser not suit your needs. Once ordered, Custom Art have a quicker turnaround, averaging between 3 and 4 weeks upon receiving the buyer’s ear moulds. Piotr is also exceptionally communicative, providing frequent updates and a very prompt response time. Additionally, the earphones were shipped using FedEx, further reducing turnaround.


Design –

The ME is typical Custom Art, superbly comfortable and realised through some of the best construction quality in the business. I let Piotr helm the design process for me and the results showcase the beauty in simplicity. My pair is a rich semi-translucent swirl blue with clean branding. Piotr also directs special attention towards the shape of the faceplates, ensuring symmetry and visual appeal.


In terms of construction, Piotr re-used the moulds (moulds can be shipped back to the buyer on request) used for my Fibae 2 unit and the ME fits just as well. Its edges are perfectly smoothed making the earphones incredibly comfortable to wear. Interestingly, this model is actually slightly more compact than the F2 though it also has a slightly shallower fit depth as far as customs go; though this may vary based on the customer’s individual ear anatomy. This makes the ME especially comfortable during longer listening sessions.


Isolation is excellent and better than what you would find from the best universal IEMs and noise canceling headphones. It also does so without developing any pressure, a trait aided by its modest fit depth. Up top, Piotr is using non-recessed 0.78mm 2-pin connectors that enable cable replacement and upgrade down the line. The included unit is a fairly standard OFC unit with a twisted 4-core braid. It’s soft and appears well constructed with a slim yet well-relieved 90 degree 3.5mm plug and y-split. The cable isn’t microphonic and coils easily for storage. Similarly, it isn’t prone to tangle and is easily uncoiled due to its smooth insulation. Memory wire ear guides provide additional fit stability.


Sound –

Tonality –

The ME is, in essence, V-shaped, but with a predominate focus on bass over treble. It has a warm and full presentation, combining a rich, smooth low-end with clean midrange and high-end transients that prevent congestion and veil. Still, it is clearly not intended for those wanting outstanding clarity and separation; this earphone sounds thick by comparison to the conventional but has a sound that works exquisitely in itself.


Bass –

With the ME, Piotr attempted to imitate the extension and natural decay of a dynamic driver, and he has done so with great success. A critical listener likely wouldn’t mistake this for a dynamic driver, however, lows extend incredibly well for an armature in-ear, lacking only the last iota of rumble provided by true dynamic drivers. In addition, it has a very full presentation stemming from moderate sub-bass emphasis combined with a hump in the mid-bass and gently sloping upper-bass providing enlarged notes and ample warmth. Bass isn’t the clean, hyper-separated affair characteristic of most multi-BA’s. Instead, the ME provides great fullness without erring into congestion or losing the finer qualities one expects from a high-end IEM.

The smoother texture of the ME can be mostly attributed to its decay that is deliberately prolonged. This seems to affect the sub-bass more with mid-bass representing a more typical BA response. As bass control is very high, lows remain focussed and adequately separated to unveil smaller details. The ME is pleasantly dynamic and surprisingly defined given its level of emphasis, especially within the mid-bass as its sub-bass is slightly hazier, focussing more on delivering deep slam over defined rumble. Resultantly, the ME doesn’t seek to impress with lightning speed and separation, especially compared to more traditional and balanced in-ears. Rather, it is charmingly organic, blissfully smooth and very impactful.


Mids –

The ME smoothly transitions from lows to mids while retaining enough separation to prevent spill. Its upper-bass gently slopes downwards into a slightly attenuated lower-midrange that prevents overly warm or chesty vocals. The earphone picks up into a slightly emphasized but also delightfully linear centre midrange with a small peak at 4KHz to augment clarity and extension. That’s not to say the midrange is neutral; due to the earphones enhanced bass, the midrange remains clearly warm and full, delivering a rich vocal and instrument reconstruction. Vocals themselves sit moderately behind the bass, however, due to excellent upper-midrange extension, vocals retain clarity, openness and intelligibility.


Additionally, the ME implements a fairly significant lower-treble dip. This grants it considerable midrange smoothness without affecting extension as the 4K range doesn’t have to be attenuated. Sibilance is muted and though it doesn’t have the glossiness of brighter monitors, the ME sounds effortlessly coherent and complete without a hint of over-articulation and ample vocal size and body. Still, as the midrange is fairly linear overall with only small upper-midrange bias, the ME isn’t exceptionally revealing or clear nor is it tonally transparent due to its warmth. Instead, the ME provides a rich voicing with bold instruments set to lush, present and well-defined vocals.


Highs –

Some may be concerned over mention of the ME’s sharp lower-treble attenuation. However, fear not! Piotr has tuned this earphone with a top-end that really helps to open up its otherwise thick, warm sound, thereby avoiding congestion of its presentation. Lower-treble is quite delicately tuned in order to balance midrange and high-frequency voicing. Sharp 5KHz attenuation saps warmth which cleans up the IEM’s treble image. Meanwhile, a small 6KHz bump enhances detail presence by imbuing crispness into its foreground instruments. A steady climb to an enhanced middle-treble adds air and increases perceived headroom, lightening the ME’s sound.

As a result, the ME’s background isn’t immaculately black, however, the earphone doesn’t struggle with composure or cleanliness in light of its coherent midrange and smooth foreground. It lacks any obvious brightness that would skew its presentation or fatigue. Upper-treble is also lightly elevated in order to further aid air and micro-detail presence. The ME impresses with its treble extension that enables its expansive stage and thick tuning that is nonetheless devoid of congestion. Treble is a touch tizzy due to this style of tuning


Soundstage –

Stepping up from the lower-end Fibae earphones, the ME instantly flaunts its technical proficiency with its layered, expansive stage. With excellent treble extension and a slightly laid-back vocal presentation, this earphone delivers an out of the head stage in both width and depth. Imaging is also a strong point with distinct directional cues and precise, clearly discerned instrument placement. Though treble isn’t bright or acerbic in its presentation of small details, it is focussed and very layered, especially within the midrange.

Foreground/backround separation is excellent despite having an elevated middle-treble and the additional sparkle imbued by its upper-treble lift create a more holographic presentation than most. Separation is surprisingly good too, a result of its spacious stage dimensions that grant its enlarged notes more room to breathe. Resultantly this earphone has plenty of headroom despite being thick and warm in its tuning.


Driveability –

Being a Fibae earphone, the ME prides itself on its flat impedance curve indicating an almost identical sound signature from sources of different output impedance. And in listening I was able to confirm this, the ME sounding essentially tonally identical out of the 10-ohm Hiby R6 and >1ohm iBasso DX200. It still responds to higher-end players, benefiting from greater resolving power and bass control, in particular. Still, for those running their earphones from a variety of sources, the ME is a fine proposition.


Comparisons –


Custom Art Fibae 2 ($550): The ME is a thicker sounding earphone with a warmer sound. It has immediately better sub-bass extension and also slower decay. On the contrary, its bass is more controlled so though notes linger longer, they have more definition and bass is more detailed. The ME’s thickness mostly stems from its greater upper-bass presence. Both earphones have centre midrange emphasis, the ME has less upper-midrange so it doesn’t sound as clear while the F2 has a peak in this region which contributes towards a more open midrange.

Neither have an especially energetic treble though the F2 does have a crisper lower-treble before a very dark background. The ME, on the other hand, has a smoother but more organic lower-treble mated to a slightly brighter middle-treble around 10KHz. This grants it an airier top-end. The ME has better extension and resolution, it has superior micro-detail retrieval. As such, its stage is also larger which prevents it from becoming too congested.

Beyerdynamic Xelento ($1000): The Xelento offers a more energetic, V-shaped sound. Its bass is similarly emphasised and prominent but focuses more on the mid-bass with a sharper fall through the upper-bass and dip into the lower-midrange. As such, its bass is full and warm but doesn’t warm up its midrange to the same degree. Being a dynamic driver, it has more sub-bass kick, it is just as controlled as the ME and both are stunningly detailed down low, the Xelento is a little more separated. The Xelento has more recessed vocals but they are clearer due to greater upper-midrange emphasis.

Meanwhile, the ME is denser and fuller with greater power but less extension. The Xelento also has the more energetic treble, with a sizeable lower-treble peak imbuing great crispness and foreground aggression. Meanwhile, the ME is smoother here but has a little crispness from its middle-treble bump. The Xelento is cleaner here and it has a wider soundstage. The ME on the other hand, has a more rounded presentation.

Campfire Audio Andromeda ($1099): The Andromeda has a more tonally neutral sound, it’s a little more balanced. The ME has a slightly deeper sub-bass and greater emphasis throughout the entire bass range, especially upper-bass and mid-bass. It has a slower decay and the Andro has both higher definition and detail retrieval though at the cost of depth and power. The ME has an immediately fuller, warmer midrange while the Andro has a touch more vocal presence and a more netrual tone. The Andro is a touch warm here too but it is clearly cleaner than the ME with greater clarity and linearity through the upper midrange.

The ME has a lower-treble dip that grants it a smoother foreground and vocal presentation while a bump in the middle-treble grants some headroom. The ANdro, on the other hand employs a peak in the lower-treble that grants it a crisper and more aggressive treble presentation. The backgrounds on both are relatively clean, both also employ an upper-treble bump for sparkle, energy and to being micro-details to the fore. The Andro is the sparklier and more extended monitor, delivering more high-end energy in general. It has a larger soundstage but imaging is similarly keen on both monitors.


Verdict –


Tuned for dynamics and impact, the ME is an effective response to the bass orientated tuning found more commonly in the West and a refreshing antithesis to the brighter, thinner sound more typical to high-end IEMs. This is a creature of body and richness, delivering bass that digs deep and highs that keep its warmth in check. In terms of build, turn-around and fit, buyers can expect the same quality universal to all of Piotr’s customs. The ME fits like a glove with perfectly smoothed edges and its sound tube doesn’t extend to depths of discomfort while maintaining strong noise isolation. Neutrality is often likened to perfection, however, perfection is an impossibility in a subjective hobby. Instead, the ME is a strong bass-focused IEM for those wanting lushness, dynamics and an expansive stage.

The ME can be purchased from Massdrop for $800 USD excluding cost of shipping and ear impressions. I am not affiliated with Custom Art and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

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