Disclaimer: This Custom Art FIBAE 3 sample was sent to us for the purposes of this review and does not have to be returned. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
Custom Art’s FIBAE family is growing! In the last 6 months we have reviewed the FIBAE 1 and FIBAE 2 custom monitors and quite logically the FIBAE 3 is next up.
It only seems like yesterday that I first heard the FIBAE 1 and what it can do with impedance mismatch issues. The FIBAE 2 gave us a musical thicker sounding and a warmer option to the neutral FIBAE 1 a few months later.
Both are excellent and both offer strong positive differences that I think a lot of mid-fi shoppers will find appealing.
Now we are onto triple drivers (hence the ‘3’ moniker in the title) and quite possibly one of the coolest designs I have seen land at our office in the last 12 months.
By the way, the price for the FIBAE 3 is still incredibly competitive for a CIEM starting from €525.
What Is The Pitch?
The clue is in the name. FIBAE stands for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone. This is a patent-pending design Custom Art developed recently and something which I first heard about during CanJam Singapore back in March 2017 when CA was at the prototype stage.
It has advanced rapidly now after one year. So much so that I hope to be testing the ‘FIBAE ME’ at CanJam Singapore 2018 and we have already done reviews of their FIBAE 1 and 2.
In summary, FIBAE promises to deliver flat impedance and phase via a series of specially designed balanced armatures to negate the problem of output impedance dependency.
Why is that important? Basically, every headphone jack has an output impedance rating that affects the tonality of your IEM to some degree. Manufacturers have taken strides to reduce this as a factor in their DAPs and amps with a sub 1-ohm impedance being almost the norm.
Inductive To Resistive
However, this is not always the case. Some can range well over 1-ohm such as the Shanling M2s at nearly 5-ohms, the HiBy Music R6 at 10-ohms and many balanced outputs come close to 2-ohms.
The FIBAE pitch changes balanced armature designs from inductive to resistive in order to cancel out impedance mismatching and delivers an optimal sound no matter what jack you plug your IEM into.
The store is a bit similar to the new Vision Ears online store and I also like the stock design options. It may not be quite as complex as the 64 Audio Store but it does have more realistic pictures and more interesting choices. I still think 64 Audio need to come out of their 3D-cacoon a little and expand their design choices a lot more.
Using the store is really nice and easy with plenty of flexibility. You can customize each individual earpiece (left or right) in terms of shell, nozzle, and faceplate. You can also put your own custom artwork and text onto your creation.
Mind you, I again taxed Piotr to come up with a unique design via online chat and emails which we will talk about a little later. Call it ala carte if you will but it can be duplicated by special request.
Using the CA store process you are offered up to 13 different shell and tip designs. After that, you have a huge choice of up to 39 different plate designs. These range from translucent acrylic colors, to exotic woods such as amaranth as well as more modernistic tones such as carbon fiber and aluminum.
Note, for the FIBAE 3 you can opt for either silicone or acrylic much like the FIBAE 2. The FIBAE 1 is still an acrylic only option.
The starting price of the FIBAE 3 is €525. This is the same for both silicone and acrylic versions. Of course, these are custom designs so you have a little interaction with the pricing as you go along and pick out your custom design. Just remember the more you add the more you pay.
I calculated that each option cost roughly around 13 EUR and only the basic clear shell will keep it pegged at €525. With colored shells and wooden plates and the free logo expect around €575. This particular design will cost you that also at 25 EUR per side. To be honest I find the FIBAE 3 pricing to be more than reasonable, even for the premium plates. I have seen some other stores add 100’s of dollars to the price for similar plates and designs so kudos to Custom Art for keeping prices reasonably affordable.
Other options to the right of the screen include cable type and socket type. Recessed will cost you an additional 10 EUR or you can opt for the free non-recessed connector option. For the silicone version, you cannot change the socket version to recessed.
Cable choices are 2-pin in grey or black free of charge or an optional grey cable with inline remote and mic for an additional 25 EUR. Both silicone and acrylic are designed to be fully detachable. I estimate the maximum cost of a FIBAE 3 with all the premium options and the most expensive add-ons to be around 635 EUR. That is not too bad at all.
Accessories & Packaging
All Custom Art accessories are the same with each product. It is nothing hugely fancy but it is professional neat and tidy. You get some control over the cable choice during check out but otherwise, you will receive a black elongated carton box with the following additional items:
- Peli 1010 case
- Zipper case
- Wax pick tool
- Drying pellet
- Warranty card
The final piece of the jigsaw is a small manual on safe listening personalized with your serial number and date of manufacture and the word “Hi” on the front.
The only pity is the lack of Custom Art branding on the large black shipping box and the Peli 1010 and pill case is still not here in 2018. That is a missed opportunity for brand reinforcement. Though I do have to caution that at this price point, for the FIBAE 1, 2 and 3 the margins may be too tight to do anything more expansive in terms of packaging.
Ear Impressions Short Guide
The impressions guide and Q&A from Custom Art is absolutely brilliant. Perhaps one of the best in the business in recent memory. It’s not just a simple do this and that but addresses all your concerns in a few simple question and answer formats.
To quote, simply because I could not say it any better myself:
Impressions have to be made from soft silicone material. Dreve, Egger and Westone brands are recommended. It is suggested to use foam or cotton swabs to protect eardrum.
Impressions have to be made past the second bend and shall include: full concha, helix, crus helix, tragus and antitragus.
Note that Custom Art do require open jaw impressions so bring a bite block to your usual audiologist to keep your jaw steady whilst open to prevent the clay impressions from poorly curing. Then it is a simple case of packing them securely and sending them to Custom Art through your favored courier.
Page 2: Build & Sound Impressions