When I received these through and found a very similar exterior, I did start to have doubts to how much had changed. Would the sound just have a slightly different treble orientation or does this display two years of further developing an 8 armature design? Upon first listen my concerns were immediately answered. While true I cannot do a direct comparison, it was clear this was a different beast altogether! For these reasons, I am just going to get on reviewing this without dwelling too much on that past!
The present is a musical, lush and sweet monitor with a thick and obvious bass and midrange with a slightly more laid-back treble presentation.
The bass is jolly and fun. It extends admirably for an armature and has an impressive heft to the mid-bass alongside it. The naturally elevated bass does provide a warmth to the sound, which partnered with a tad of extra decay makes for an organic and rich experience, one that creates an impressive ambiance and body to the sound! While for the most part with some more relaxed and cosy tracks, I found the bass to be a little comfy, with stuff like Rage, it could show some real power and intent! That is especially noticeable in the deeper regions which really provides some texture. I think all in this is a range that is designed to sound realistic and natural, so won’t be as nimble and flat as some more analytical IEMs like Hiditions Viento-R. Therefore while it is very level headed in texture and naturalness, the quantity it is boosted, I do sometimes find the bass has just a little too much reverb on it, in comparison to the UERR or InEar ProPhile 8.
The mids ride the glory of the bass very elegantly and arrive with presence and body. Something that is very obvious with the 8.2 when comparing to something like the UERR is how thick and textured the sound is, especially from the low end and through most of the mids. It does lack the level of detail retrieval but it has this big, whole sound, which does narrow down its ideal uses a little and questions whether you want precision or musicality. That being said the UERR does show up a slightly pitchy timbre through the midrange, making comparing very critical of the Custom Art. It tells me while the Custom Art is plump and fun, oozing enjoyment, they are not a true or completely honest reproduction of your music, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing for a second. The UERR feel without a soul in an AB comparison, even if my preferences still lay with them.
While I didn’t want to just turn this into an article about the differences with the 8 Pro, I did just want to mention them when talking about the treble. That was one of the most finicky areas of the previous model which had a metallic timbre and uneven response. The 8.2 has taken an obvious descent in the overall quantity of the treble, but the range still sounds clearly more linear with a thicker, smoother and more analogue timbre. That being said in the upper registers that offer sparkle to the sound seem to lack just a bit too much for my tastes.
The soundstage is fleshed out with generous helpings on all axis. I don’t think it is the overwhelming size that makes the soundstage so impressive, instead, it is the vibe created by the rumbling bass and all around body. Everything feels bold and dense, with a tightly knitted and coherent sound delivery. In overall size, it still goes pound to pound with most of your CIEMs while still losing out to some in certain dimensions, think JHs Roxanne in width or the Viento-R in depth.
I should probably make a point of adding how Piotr has made an effort to really give this source versatility. It is very efficient and takes hardly any power from any of my DAPs and also thankfully doesn’t hiss as much as one would expect from something with 118db rated efficiency and 15 ohms of impedance. I think this is a much-needed area for IEM designers to think about and why I am especially excited for RHA’s 150-ohm models designed for use with amps!
Well Executed Upgraditis
The combination of the relaxed treble (compared to a lot of competitors) and weighty mids and bass, means these don’t come across as a balanced model, much less a neutral one. It is however extremely musical and even more of a pleasure to listen to than its predecessor, which I ended up concluding a similar thing. It is clear that this model comes packing better technicalities and overall has a performance that I would say certainly justifies its price. That being said for similar money you can get a more honest and transparent model in the UERR, a much more balanced midrange and treble along with considerably more versatile and impressive bass (Lear BD4.2) or even a top class universal that you can share with your friends (Campfire Andromeda). All of this is irrelevant however if you love a thicker presentation, a smooth and appealing midrange/bass and high you can relax too. If that sounds like you then this could very well be your ideal CIEM!
Add exceptional comfort with their shallow inserting silicone shells, the additional acrylic option if you so wish and some of the best looking and most unique CIEM designs and you have an impressively thought out and well put together product. Custom Art has certainly impressed me more than before with this one!