The A85 Virgo is the latest hybrid IEM from Fidue and is the successor to their original and highly regarded A83.
Hybrids are a theme with Fidue and the A85 Virgo is no exception to that theme.
Our first Fidue review was way back in mid-2014 with the A83 which I found quite alright actually with a top-heavy sound signature fitting for treble heads. I am also still a massive A91 Sirius fan and its one of my go-to IEMs for a lot of fun listening.
The $399 A85 is the next step up from the A83. It has a similar hybrid mid-fi pitch but draws a lot also from the top of the line A91, particularly in looks. For those that have been closing following the line for the last few years will notice that Fidue has stuck with the constellation branding for the A85 with the use of the Virgo moniker.
Sirius, if you remember, is a star system and is the brightest star in the known galaxy, a fitting strapline for the flagship A91. Virgo, on the other hand, is the second-largest constellation in the sky behind Hydra – Hail Hydra.
What Is The Pitch?
Fidue currently works four different verticals in their product line; reference, audiophile, entry-level and ‘music& entertainment’. The A85 Virgo sits second in the Reference tier behind the A91 and ahead of the A83 and the A73.
All monitors in the Reference class are hybrid monitors. The A91 is a 5-way, 4BA, and a single DD TOTL IEM, the A85 Virgo uses a single DD, dual BA and is considered mid-fi alongside the older A83 which is also a single DD and dual BA. The A73 is the entry-level model in the series with a single DD and single BA.
Priced at $399 the A85 Virgo is not going to replace the A83 directly, rather it is a step up. When the A83 first came out the pricing was a lot higher than it is now though. Currently, the street price is about $199 to $250 but SRP was once $350. Now if the A85 is SRP $399 then I do tend to see the A85 Virgo as a modern twist on the A83 rather than a huge leap up.
If anything, the A85 Virgo is all about the feedback from the A83 combined with a trickle-down of tech from their A91. Fidue is pitching the difference between the A83 and A85 as really an evolution in their design methodology and a new compliment of custom drivers with a fresh twist in the tuning.
The design is now more A91 than A83, the cable has had a switch to SPC using OFC wire and the DD diaphragm has moved away from polycarbonate to a polymer material for a stronger bass response. On paper, this will not be a treble head IEM like the A83 was.
The A85 Virgo evoked the A91 in a big way only just a little smaller. Whilst the shape is not a 100% mirror image they are indeed very similar in their striking aesthetics. The A85 adopts the same toned two-piece shell using the ripple-like front plate effect from the A91 and the A83. Although the A91 feels a touch heavier I do believe the A85 is made of the same aluminum CNC materials and finished in a slightly lighter shade of grey.
Unlike the colored plastic shells of the A83, the A85 Virgo also adopts the smoothed flatter rear shell of the A91 with the triple vent system. The homogenous use of silver for both plates makes this an altogether more refined look than the red/blue of the A83.
The shell curvature is also a bit more rounded and smoother than the A91. Users griped a little about the shallow depth of the A91 and its heavy reliance on the tip creating a seal. The A85 does sport a longer nozzle than the A91 which should help those looking for a good fit.
The A85 is detachable, using MMCX connectors. Unlike the A91, however, the A85 does not use the enhanced screw lock system on the cable so it is more of a traditional MMCX design. That being said Fidue has created a similar red and blue finish to the A85 connectors so visually they look similar even if they do not function in the same manner.
The rubbery cable finish is a little more basic than the cloth jack of the A91 but comparing the properties of each I believe the cable is similar in wire materials, if not the core count. The A85 Virgo, like the A91, uses an SPC or a silver-plated OFC copper wire, however, FIDUE advertises the A91 as an 8-core cable and makes no reference to the core count on the 1.3m A85 cable. I can only presume then we are looking at a 4-core SPC cable.
The finishing on the cable components is very good quality. The straight angle 3.5mm gold plated stereo jack is finished in a small branded light grey aluminum barrel. Strain relief is low profile but looks well put together. You will find similar short black strain reliefs on either side of the complementary silver barrel branded y-splitter. The adjustable chin strap is also made of similar aluminum metal.
The ear hooks are flexible and shaped to contour around your head. They are not memory retentive so they do not band to shape and stay that way. However, they are fairly flexible, low profile and shouldn’t create too many issues for people who wear glasses.
Overall the cable is soft, pliant and easy to work with but I have to give special praise for the microphonics performance on this cable. Rubber coatings on other cables tend to ring loud, not so with this one. It is very low indeed, particularly below the y-split. Not aftermarket crazy low but definitely not something that is ever going to distract you.
Comfort & Fit
The A85’s are every bit as comfortable as the A91 if not more so. The more rounded shape of the CNC aluminum shells does feel a little snugger. The angle of the nozzle stem just that little bit better also and allow for a more secure and deeper fit.
The smaller shell also helps. The A91 shell is a bit bigger and in a way prevents you from getting any depth relying instead on the tips to create the seals. The A85 is still a little tip reliant but not quite as much as before. Certainly, this is much more comfortable than the A83 and less adjustment required to get that sweet spot in your ear.
Background isolation is fair though not amazing. That should not be a surprise given they are vented for the dynamic driver and in most hybrids, I have tried the isolation is of a similar level.
Choice of tips will determine the quality of comfort and seal and my choice would be the supplied comply foam tips. You can also opt for a supplied deeper inserting dual flange silicone tip but you will not get the same level of isolation.
Accessories & Packaging
The A85 packaging is tried and true Fidue styling with a copious amount of green, a lavish interior design and a ton of really useful accessories thrown in. It is not as top tier as the A91. For me, the A91 is just insanely good for packaging and the cable accessory system. The only thing really missing is a balanced cable. I would have loved to have the A85 with an additional balanced 2.5mm cable much like the A91 or even stock 2.5mm with a connector would have been interesting.
Apart from that, the list is strong and includes:
- 4 pair silicone Tips (XS/S/M/L)
- 2 pairs of double flange silicone tips (L/M)
- 1 pair Comply T500 foam tips
- 1 pair of unbranded foam tips
- Cleaning Tool
- Storage Box
- Airline Adaptor
- 3.5 to 6.3 Stereo Adaptor
The little storage box has a nice design but is plastic rather than metal. It has a brushed metal plate on the top with the Fidue logo central.
I like it as a small box but space is very tight with not a huge amount of room for tips and the IEM. Put too much in and the latch is not strong enough to hold it together. You will not get much additional space for adapters to fit in. There is just enough room for the IEM itself and better you detach the cable for more flexibility.
Page 2: Sound Impressions & Comparisons