I am slowly working on my colossal backlog of products and another would be one I received just a couple of weeks before flying out to Oman, the Custom Art FIBAE 1. At the time I was finger on the pulse and proper keen to get a pair of these since their innovation is actually quite tremendous in the world of balanced armature. FIBAE stands for “Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone” and consists of three earphones, with a number of drivers in direct correlation to their name, the 1, 2 and 3. The FIBAE 1 is prepared in acrylic and has a starting price of 1,200 Polish Zloty. You can get it up to 1,490 Zloty if you max out customization, get recessed pins and a cable with mic should you want. That is a range of about £250 to £310 or if you are talking Omani Rial 130 to 160. That does indeed make it the cheapest offering now from Custom Art and that obviously includes them being custom made for your ears!
While these could be viewed as just another CIEM and will probably stand out most for their very affordable price rather than technology, it is the tech that is vastly more important with the FIBAE series. Impedance and phase curves are something I often talked about in my past reviews, sometimes of IEMs but mostly of DAPs and how their output numbers would interact with different types of earphones and headphones. The most notable example of that was in my review of the very first Astell & Kern product the AK100 some years back now. While it was in a lot for ways a player ahead of its time and paved way for a complete shift in the portable player market, it had a rather polarizing output impedance of 22 ohms. What this caused was some radical results when paired with different earphones, most namely ones with multiple balanced armatures. You see when you buy earphones one of the specifications you may look at is impedance, with the standard “understanding” being the higher the number the more laborious to drive the product is. Now what is often missed is that number is ordinarily measured from the earphone at 1kHz. With dynamic driver earphones the impedance curve will normally be flat for the entirety of the frequency response but with balanced armature earphones, especially ones with multiple drivers and crossovers, the impedance can be vastly different when measured at different frequencies. Depending on the various numbers of your DAP, most notably the output impedance, you can actually skew the frequency response or get damping of the bass because of these inconsistencies in impedance. It also means phase plots are likely a little wonky as well which can result in not so coherent earphones. TLDR… your balanced armature earphones can sound vastly different when listening to the same song just from a different source.
Custom Art’s naming scheme is pretty self-explanatory and as you may have assumed, they have managed to make balanced armature earphones with not only a flat impedance graph but also phase response as well. This is pretty revolutionary in both single and even more so multiple driver balanced armature products, in which the FIBAE series incorporates both. Long story short it doesn’t matter what source, amp or DAP you use with the FIBAE 1 (or 2 & 3), it will sound as Piotr and his team in Poland intended. These are things that CIEM designers should be working on, not how many balanced armatures one can cram in a shell!
There are a few other things worth noting about the FIBAE 1’s design. It has an advanced horn nozzle design, something that I think they introduced in the Music series I never tried and the model that this replaced. They have also vented the single BA (it uses a Knowles 33357) each earpiece houses to help get that extra bass from such a tiny driver!
A True Model
This is a Custom Art product so as an overall experience you will get a satisfying one. They are running at about 6 weeks turn around time at the moment but I can assure you that you will be in good hands. I have had friends (a women in one of my adult swim classes bought some Music Ones and a colleague had a custom job done on a reshell) purchase Piotr’s work (with no insider discount I must add) and they have been overjoyed by the outcome. I only recommend the very best to my friends as I feel like I have the added pressure of wanting them to genuinely like what they get, otherwise, they will question my obsession with this industry.
My unit is admittedly a thing of beauty. I always give Piotr full control over the creativity of my monitors because he has a much better imagination than me and he always nails the designs. I was extra lucky with my FIBAE though as he decided it would be the model for his product page and even the cover photo of their Facebook account! So if you have sought out this review it is likely you have already seen a few snaps of these gems! They have a lovely light blue shell that is clear enough to see the simplicity of the inner workings and then they have a brushed titanium faceplate with both the CA and Inearspace logos, just how I like it! I can’t find fault with the build quality of my first acrylic Custom Art’s and while they don’t quite have the squidgy comfort of my silicon 8.2s, they nail the contours of my ear for a comfortable seal.
The packaging is not the most snazzy but you get the essential stuff. You get two cases, one a larger Pelican case for the super safe storage and a more portable clamshell case. Two cases are very much appreciated by all accounts and depending on where I plan on taking the earphones, I can change up the options. You also get the standard ear cleaning tool and some dry packs!
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