Disclaimer: The Custom Art Harmony 8.2 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Custom Art for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Custom Art products we reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
Poland’s Custom Art worked with us last year on our Harmony 8 (non-Pro) review. This was a full-bodied but relaxed 8 BA driver setup encased in just the most glorious and well-made silicone custom shell I have yet to see better to this day.
It had an excellent bass performance, stunning midrange, and a laid-back treble performance that I enjoyed but I could see why Piotr decided he needed an option called the 8 Pro.
Now the 8 Pro was the Harmony 8 with, well, more treble. A lot of people enjoyed that also but then a few chimed in and said maybe there can be something in-between the Pro and the regular Harmony that has more extension but perhaps a little less bright which was what some had mentioned was the case with the 8 Pro.
What Is The Pitch?
So here comes the Harmony 8.2 which now retails at €1100 (inc VAT, less VAT outside of Europe) which is a slight increase on the Harmony 8’s previous pricing of €925 inc. VAT but with that the guys at Custom Art tell me you are getting some upgrades.
These upgrades include the driver set used as well as the level of craftsmanship on the older Harmony silicone editions. Custom Art are also throwing in as the option to now buy it in acrylic form. That is a good move though in my own humble opinion I prefer silicone. There is something unique about being able to properly configure 8 BA drivers into a silicone mold. I am pretty sure that Piotr’s team is still the only one out there making it happen in silicone at such a high driver count level.
The pitch is still the same though overall. The Harmony 8.2 is still the key link between the Pro series of customs and the Music series of customs in their lineup. It is designed to appeal to both professionals and audiophiles alike and has a more musical take on audio reproduction without sacrificing accuracy.
Since the release of the original Harmony 9, Piotr has launched the Ei-xx series which was noted for the heavy-duty bass response as well as the 8 Pro which, as mentioned, was the more treble extended version of the Harmony 8.
The Harmony 8.2 is a result of a combination of the positive and negative feedback around both products to create something that takes the best out of each as well as tinker with the treble performance in such a way to make it sound a touch more natural. Custom Art are pitching the Harmony 8.2 as having superior sub-bass, a better vocal delivery, and a smoother treble than before.
If that isn’t tempting enough you can upgrade your old harmony or 8 Pro for €260 by sending them into the team at Custom Art for rebuilding and reshelling.
I told Piotr to give me a carbon copy of the Harmony 8 he sent me last year. Two reasons for that. One I just love the color combination, like orange swirl candy, and is by far my favorite design out of the 15 other CIEMs I have had made for me over 5 years.
Second, and linked to the first, I have to send back the one I didn’t like. Piotr presumed that would be the Harmony 8, I said not so fast, whilst it is possible it is not a given, hence please make a carbon copy, or else I may end up keeping the original even if superior. Thankfully he agreed but then informed me that the design and build process has gone through some “upgrades”.
Now noting this was not a full process for me I, therefore, did not have to send in fresh impressions and go through the ear impressions and courier sequence like I normally do. Custom Art will retain your impression molds for up to 2 years so it becomes a far cheaper and easier process if you are on your second CIEM from the team. That saves a lot of money upfront. However, if this is your first CIEM or first with Custom Art here is the link to the Harmony 8 ear impressions and delivery process.
Please note also Custom Art’s website is going through an upgrade at the time of writing so the old web page thoughts and options will soon get a hefty upgrade also. Also, the turnaround process is around 4-5 weeks which is pretty consistent since last we spoke and is average to above average in terms of turnaround. The fastest I think I had was 3 weeks but that I think is the exception.
The Final Product
Out with the old and in with the new old. It is the same physical design though not an exact duplicate and yes there are some tweaks. The below picture has the new 8.2 on the left and the older 8 on the right. It’s still a stunning and a masterful creation given there are 8 BA drivers stuffed inside the Harmony 8.2.
The unique twist of orange and red swirls are near impossible to duplicate but Custom Art has actually improved on the fusion of the two colors. They are bolder, with cleaner lines and denser colors. This is even more eye-popping and refined than the previous incarnation.
The other tweak to note is the nozzle of the new 8.2 which has a clear tube 4-bore design that is slightly more recessed and with a smoother finish than the original 4 tube bore design of the 8. The 8 tubes sit closer to the opening and as you can see they collect a level of everyday dirt and wax quicker than the new design giving it a slightly uglier blackened appearance.
The wood plates are the very same quilt maple plates with engraved logo though this time the logo color is a shade lighter and more blended with the wood plates. Wood is wood however and no two plates are ever the same. In this case of the new 8.2, the timber blend is a shade lighter than the older 8 but not by much.
The silicone finish on the new 8.2 is also smoother and less pitted than the original. From the picture above you can see the 8 has a relatively higher pitted count (where the bubbles burst during the injection process) with the 8.2 being almost perfect.
One major cosmetic addition on the new 8.2 is the inclusion of the serial number in red and blue. Red for right and blue for left. This is missing on the original 8 which has a transparent serial number print. This pretty much means if you are changing cables it is now much easier to know which is left and which is right when reattaching. A small but important feature for cable swappers.
The final change is the socket connection in the new 8.2. On the original 8, Piotr went with a flushed or non-recessed 2-pin connection.
On the new 8.2 edition, he instead changed it for a recessed socket 2-pin connection. I am socket agnostic to be honest when it comes to the 2-pin styles but the benefit here should be a tighter connection making it less likely to bend or become detached. All your existing 2-pin cables should still work just fine unless you have some bulbous fat plastic shell on your 2-pin.
Fit & Seal
Now it could be a simple change in technique or due to the manual process there are always going to be minute differences but the new 8.2 does feel snugger than the older 8 when in the ear.
It is slightly tighter than the more relaxed but excellent fitting of the old 8 and I wonder if this is on purpose because the seal is about 10% better as a result. It could all be placebo but that is my initial impression of the new 8.2 fitting. Since these are custom made to your own ear I cannot vouch you will receive the same fitting.
It still is one of the best fittings and sealing customs out there. I am used to acrylic so it’s always a welcome change to move back to silicone and well-made silicone shells at that. They are soft, comfortable but fit perfectly with the right amount of depth on the nozzle and pressure on the outer ear to get the seal working just right. Nothing comes close to a great silicone seal.
Now I am aware Custom Art now offers a silicone-filled acrylic shell which I have tried before with the SA-43 from M-Fidelity. It is very good also actually, better than regular fits so if you prefer to go acrylic then the new Custom Art offerings should offer excellent levels of passive noise control.
Custom Art has changed the stock cable with the 8.2, it is not the same as the 8 instead of selecting a Westone type EPIC cable. Physically that is not a bad thing actually since it’s light, pliant, and very easy to work with suffering from no memory retention and very little microphonics.
It folds tight and takes up very little space in the carry case also. The cable itself is terminated by default with null 2-pin config ala Westone style which is very handy as all my aftermarket cables are 2-pin also so plenty of chances to swap around.
I see the benefits of these types of cable on a practical level and the sound is not bad, to be honest, but given AAW and now UM are putting a bit of flair into their newest cables it is perhaps an option Piotr might want to explore even as an additional purchase.
As before, the Custom Harmony 8.2 comes packed with a wide selection of accessories stuffed into a nondescript elongated black box. Inside you get a Peli case 1010, a cleaning tool, a sealed circular pack of silicone gel for moisture control in the Pelican box, and a smaller pill type cloth case with a zip for in your pocket when out and about.
The Peli case now seems to be one of two norms for packing high-end customs and IEMs. The other being the screw style round metal case used by the likes of Oriveti, Lear, and UM.
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 2016. That is a missed opportunity for brand reinforcement. The final piece in the jigsaw of accessories if a small manual of sorts on safe listening personalize with your serial number and date of manufacture and the word “Hi” on the front.
Click on page 2 below for Sound Impressions