Custom Art FIBAE Black Review
FIBAE Black; Musical, Powerful, Smooth & Fatigue-Free
Custom Art was founded in May 2012 in Warsaw by Piotr Granicki, a long-time reviewer of portable audio equipment, Head-Fi member, and DIYer. The natural step forward for him was to create his own series of earphones.
Currently, the company’s product portfolio includes several different CIEMs, ranging from the affordable single-driver FIBAE1 (€300) to the flagship Harmony 8.2 (€1100). The first generation of Harmony 8 released in 2014 set a technical benchmark as the world’s first eight-driver silicone in-ear monitor.
In August 2015 Custom Art introduced FIBAE technology. The name stands for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone and is world’s first, IEM design providing flat impedance and phase, which solves one of the oldest problems in the audio industry – dependence on output impedance of sound source for correct earphone output. The first models are the FIBAE 1 with single driver, the FIBAE 2 with dual-driver and the later announced FIBAE 3 with triple-driver configuration.
The FIBAE Black which I will now review for you is the latest member of the FIBAE line and features a single Flat Impedance Balanced Armature.
I would like to thank Custom Art for providing me the FIBAE Black as review sample. I am not affiliated with Custom Art beyond this review and all these words are reflecting my true and unaltered opinions about the product.
The current price for the FIBAE Black is 450 Euros and is available under the following link;
Purchase Link: https://thecustomart.com/shop/acrylic-products/fibae-black/
Packaging and Accessories:
The Custom Art FIBAE Black came in a simple cardboard box in Black color and is including the following items:
- 1 pair x Custom Art FIBAE Black In-Ear Monitors
- 1 x Detachable SPC Cable with 0.78mm 2-Pin connectors
- 4 pairs x Silicone Ear Tips (3 pairs of Bi-Flange and 1 pair of Double Flange)
- 1 x Pelican 1010 case
- 1 x Blue zipper case
- 1 x Wax pick tool
- 1 x Drying pellet
- 1 x Warranty card
The Pelican (1010) case which is a part of the standard packaging is a nice addition.
Design and Build Quality:
The Custom Art FIBAE Black is available in two shell options, one with universal fit design and the CIEM (Custom In-Ear Monitor Shell) variant. My review unit is the Universal Variant of the FIBAE Black which has a hand made Acrylic Shell that looks and feels of high quality craftsmanship. The shell has a Piano Black (the name explains the reason for the naming) finish which I do very like.
On the front of the Monitor shell (the faceplate) is the Custom Art logo.
At the inner side of the Monitor shell is the serial number that is printed in blue on the left and in red on the right monitor.
On the top of the IEM housing is the 2-Pin female connector which shows a tight connection.
The nozzle is slightly angled and has a medium diameter that sports a lip on the top which allows you to use a wide variety of foam and silicone ear tips. On the top of the nozzle is no filter or mesh/grill that could save the driver from insertion of earwax or dust. So you need to be carful and clean it regularly with the cleaning tool which is included to the standard packaging.
The Custom Art FIBAE Black is coming with a 0.78mm diameter 2-Pin SPC (Silver Plated Copper) cable.
The 2 Pin connectors have a transparent plastic housing with left and right indicator dots. The cable sports also built in heat shrink ear guides that are comfortable.
The Silver Plated Cooper wire is coated with a soft and transparent PVC insulation which shows a microphonic effect that is fairly low and on an acceptable level.
The cable of the FIBAE Black sports a round shaped transparent plastic Y splitter and an identical chin slider.
The 3.5mm TRS (unbalanced) headphone jack is gold plated and has a transparent L- angled plastic housing.
The overall quality of the cable is pretty solid.
Fit and Isolation:
The Custom Art FIBAE Black is a very lightweight and comfortable to wear In-Ear Monitor, which is ideal for long listening periods. The isolation of the FIBAE Black is on a moderate level which is good enough to use it in fairly noise public environments such as bus, metro or train.
Single proprietary Balanced Armature
- Pressure Optimizing Design (P.O.D.)
- Flat Impedance technology (FIBAE)
- 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V
- 5.2 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
- Low % THD
- 10-16000 Hz (+-10dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
- 3D printed acrylic shell
- Custom or Universal fit
The FIBAE Balanced Armature Driver Technology
Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone (FIBAE™) technology is world’s first, In-Ear Monitor design providing flat impedance and phase. By changing Balanced Armature driver character from inductive to resistive we solved one of the oldest problems in the industry – dependence on output impedance of sound source for correct earphone output.
Equipment’s used for this review:
- IEM’s : Custom Art FIBAE Black, iBasso IT04, Campfire Audio Polaris
- DAP’s : QLS QA361, Astell&Kern A&Norma SR15, FiiO M6, Cayin N5II
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- Led Zeppelin – Kashmir (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- David Bowie – Black Star (Spotify)
- Elton John – Your Song (Spotify)
- Dave Gahan – Saw Something (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Eric Clapton – Layla (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Spotify)
- London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
- Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Minor Empire – BulbulumAltinKafeste (Spotify)
- Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
- Opeth – Damnation (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Alboran Trio’s – Cinque Lunghissimi Minuti (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Gogo Penguin – Raven (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Lorde – Royals (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
- Photek – The Hidden Camera (Spotify)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Gogo Penguin – Raven (Tidal Hi-Fi)
The FIBAE Black is a warm, musical and smooth sounding In-Ear Monitor with deep and strong bass, soft and musical midrange, controlled and mildly pronounced upper midrange and treble presentation.
The subbass is showing good depth and extension for an IEM with a single Balanced Armature Driver. The overall tonality is close to warm and fairly soft, while the FIBAE Black is pretty controlled in this region. The subbass quantity and intensity is above average that makes is quite successful with genres such like Pop, EDM, Hip-Hop, etc.
The FIBAE Black was successful with Gogo Penguin’s “Raven”, Massive Attack’s “Angel”, Lorde’s “Royals” and Photek’s “The Hidden Camera” where you can find complex or deep subbass passages.
The FIBAE Black has a warm, soft and controlled midbass presentation which has a good intensity like the subbass range, without to show negative situations like midbass hump or degeneration. The quantity is at a moderate level while exhibiting a musical and entertaining tonality. Percussion instruments such as drums, snare drums, etc. have a good emphasis, while the beats are clearly audible.
Other instruments like the bass guitar or the contrabass have good level of warmth, depth and thickness. I have enjoyed the FIBAE Black with bands like Gogo Penguin and Alboran Trio where the contrabass is very prominent.
The bass quantity and intensity of the FIBAE Black is in general above the neutral levels, while the tonality is soft, close to warm and entertaining. The bass of the FIABE Black is showing moderate speed and tightness and is sufficient with most genres with exception of fast trash metal songs.
I do like the FIBAE Black’s full, soft and entertaining bass presentation and the fact that bass is not dry or too firm is remarkable.
The midrange of the FIBAE Black is full bodied, warm and musical in its presentation, while the level of transparency is on an average level.
The lower midrange of the FIBAE Black is showing good depth, warmth and thickness, which is an advantage for the presentation of male vocals. Male vocals have a natural tonality and I was able to hear every detail of the vocal.
It was a pleasure to hear the thick and warm vocal from the throat without any harshness in Led Zeppelin’s epic song “Kashmir”. The male vocals in songs like Elton John’s “Your Song”, Eric Clapton’s “Layla”, David Bowie’s “Black Star” or Dave Gahan’s “Saw Something” have had a quite musical and pleasant presentation. The male vocal presentation of the FIBAE Black doesn’t show any muddiness which is a remarkable plus for it.
The FIBAE Black is showing a mild emphasis in the upper midrange, which makes the general presentation of female vocals pretty smooth, warm and full bodied. There are no negative situations like sibilance or sharpness, while the level of transparency and airiness is on an average level.
The instrument tonality of the FIBAE Black is saturated, slightly veiled and very musical. All instruments that I have listen with it sounded soft and have had a relaxing timbre. It does not show the slightest sharpness, so you can listen to your music for hours without tiring your ears. The level of detail, transparency and airiness is on a moderate level.
Instruments such like guitars are slightly warm, bassy and have a sweet tonality, while pianos are pretty soft and musical, without to show any over brightness or sharpness.
Upper Midrange & Treble:
The upper midrange of the FIBAE Black is not very forward in its presentation, which is the main that is avoiding harshness, sparkling and mixings in fast records. It has a smooth, mild and very musical tonality with good control in upper midrange transitions.
The upper midrange extension is a bit short while listening to female vocals or instruments such like pianos or violins. The transparency and clearness of this frequency range is on an average level.
The treble range of the FIBAE Black is relaxed and is showing a smooth and warmer than neutral tonality. There is also a slightly roll-off in this area.
The lower treble range has moderate quantity, while the upper treble range is mildly pronounced. The lower treble range shows more quantity and shares also more detail than the upper treble range.
The treble extension is a bit short, while the overall intensity and airiness of this region is on an average level. The general treble presentation of the FIBAE Black is fatigue free and relaxing and is successful with genres like pop / edm / hip-hop / acoustic and trio jazz.
The soundstage of the FIBAE Black shows more depth than its width and is not the most spacious and airy sounding in-ear monitor I have listen to in this price range. However, the performance in terms of separation and positioning of instruments and vocals is at a good level, as it is a very consistent-sounding IEM.
Custom Art FIBAE Black vesus iBasso IT04:
The iBasso IT04 is an IEM with a slightly V shaped character, which has a neutral and transparent midrange, lightly pronounced but fast lows and a detailed treble range.
The Custom Art FIBAE Black on the other hand is a warm, musical and smooth sounding IEM, with strong and deep lows, soft and musical midrange and mildly pronounced but very controlled upper midrange and treble.
The FIBAE Black is superior to the IT04 in terms of subbass depth/quantity and midbass intensity, while the IT04 has the upper hand for bass speed and detail. The FIBAE Black is more successful with male vocals, while I prefer the IT04 for female vocals.
The upper midrange and treble of the iBasso IT04 is more detailed than those of the Custom Art FIABE Black, while the FIBAE Black is more successful in terms of control and musicality.
The soundstage of the iBasso IT04 is more spacious and airy than those of the Custom Art FIBAE Black.
Custom Art FIBAE Black versus Campfire Audio Polaris
The Campfire Audio Polaris is an In-Ear Monitor with a more neutral and a bit dry sounding tonality than the Custom Art FIBAE Black.
The bass of the Polaris is lightly pronounced and fast. The FIBAE Black is superior to the CA Polaris in terms of subbass depth/intensity and midbass quantity, while the bass of the Polaris is a bit faster and detailed.
The Custom Art FIBAE Black is more successful with male vocals due to the better depth in the lower midrange, while the Campfire Audio Polaris sounds livelier with female vocals because of its more pronounced upper midrange tuning.
The treble range of the Campfire Audio Polaris is brighter, more pronounced and detailed than those of the Custom Art FIABE Black, while the FIBAE Black is superior to the Polaris in terms of control tonality and musicality.
The soundstage of the Campfire Audio Polaris has more air and wideness, while the Custom Art FIBAE Black is more successful in terms of soundstage depth.
The Custom Art FIBAE Black is an in-ear monitor with a high-quality processed Acrylic Shell and a single FIBAE driver that does not have the primary goal of being your source for critical listening, on the contrary; The main feature of the FIBAE Black is the very musical, powerful, smooth and fatigue-free presentation that’s perfect for enjoying and rediscovering your music collection.
Pros and Cons:
- + Warm, Strong and Musical Presentation
- + Overall Tonality and Consistency
- + Fatigue-Free listening experience
- + High Quality Acrylic Housing
- + Pelican (1010) Case
- – Soundstage is not very expansive
- – Treble tuning is not suitable for Treble-Heads
- – Detail Retrieval for the Price