Custom Art FIBAE 5 Review - Precog's Take
The market has seen an explosion in popularity of the planar driver topology in the past year. But lately, this explosion has shifted into something of a race to the bottom, as manufacturers rehash what is more or less the same IEM with some minor tuning adjustments and a cheaper price tag. Granted, we've seen some innovation: DUNU's Talos which meshed a BA driver into the mix to accentuate the treble frequencies, or the Oriolus’ Szalayi which used a planar driver for the midrange. Still, I'd argue these implementations were more gimmicky and plain mediocre, respectively, rather than culminating in something that pushed the envelope. Then you have Custom Art's latest creation, the FIBAE 5, which meshes a DD for the bass, BAs for the mids, and dual planar drivers for the highs. Is this a novel and tasteful implementation of these drivers? Let’s take a closer look.
Unit was provided for review by Custom Art. It can be purchased here. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.
Source & Drivability
All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX300 and my iPhone 13 Mini with lossless files. The stock silicone tips were used. The Fibae 5 takes a moderate amount of power to drive, but I had no issue hitting my usual listening volume of ~70dB on either device. If you would like to learn more about my listening methodology, then I would encourage you to check out this page.
The Fibae 5 arrived in a lightweight cardboard box. Inside was a zippered, soft carry case with a custom foam cutout and the following accessories:
- Filters and swapping tool
- 2-pin 0.78mm cable
- Silicone eartips s/m/l
- Cleaning tool
The included cable is a silver, 8-core cable. I found it to be slightly on the thicker side, but supple in tactility and relatively non-microphonic. Like most standard 2-pin cables, the connectors are protruding instead of resting flush when inserted into the IEM.
The Fibae 5 itself is a medium sized IEM. Some listeners might struggle slightly with the nozzles which I found to protrude further than some other IEMs in my collection; however, the nozzles are still fairly angular, so I had no issues with fit or comfort personally. Black resin is utilized for the shell; the Fibae 5’s simple but classy aesthetic is completed with a violet-silver faceplate with a wave pattern.
It’s worth noting that if you observe the top of the Fibae 5’s shell, it has a circular slot which is for swapping in the included filters. Installation of these filters is achieved via a small tool and a press-friction fit. It’s really quite simple to install and remove these filters, and I’ll talk more about what they do shortly.
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The frequency response graph above was measured using a clone IEC-711 coupler. Generally, there is a resonance peak at ~8kHz (this isn’t the case here, as the Fibae 5 has a true delta), but as such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate. If you would like to compare the Fibae 5 to other IEMs that I have measured, then please see this link here.
I will say that the Fibae 5 sounds like no IEM that I have heard before, although whether that’s in an entirely good way is more debatable. To start, the Fibae 5 strikes me as being a very bassy IEM, for which I would suggest that the quality of the bass is mostly just average for $1K. It’s an odd thing to say given how much bass the Fibae 5 measures with, but bass notes do not seem particularly thick; they lean toward the faster, more nimble side to my ears. Rest assured that this is not a particularly “cloudy” or congested bass presentation either; installation of the included filters tempers quantity even more (and for this reason, I personally opt to forego the filters). I just wish that this bass slammed harder and had some more weight behind it.
As an aside, I would also normally be concerned about the staging of an IEM with this much bass, as this level of quantity can occlude higher frequencies. Thankfully, this isn’t the case at all with the Fibae 5, as it really sounds quite open for a sense of staging. I would posit that this impression can be rooted in a couple of key characteristics in the Fibae 5’s upper-midrange and treble. The first is a spike at 4kHz following a conventional pinna structure. This contrast creates an exaggerated sense of space around female vocals without landing in sibilance territory. Second, the Fibae 5’s treble response is quite elevated, particularly in the upper treble. It should come as no surprise either given that the Fibae 5 sports not just one, but two planar drivers tokening the highs! There is certainly a slightly spicy, thin edge to transients here; however, the sheer extension is excellent. And unlike the Fibae 7U which I felt could be overly zingy on certain tracks, the Fibae 5’s large bass shelf is a boon to balancing this strong upper-treble emphasis.
While not as remarkable as its imaging chops, the Fibae 5’s sense of detail is actually fairly good thanks to spike at 4kHz and upper-treble emphasis. I do, however, have to draw the line for the Fibae 5’s timbre. No way around it: transients have a very lightweight, artificial quality to them. Disregarding hybrid IEM driver memes, I think this is simply a product of the general emphasis on upper-treble.
The Bottom Line
Basically, I don’t think the Fibae 5 can be considered an all-rounder; this is not the IEM for listeners prioritizing proper timbre and wanting a more analytical presentation. But the Fibae 5 does have solid technical chops and I can say it’s at least a good IEM - to me - for the more exciting sound it’s targeting. I do think it could use some more refinement, but frankly, I find it difficult to draw comparisons to the Fibae 5 based upon the niche it sits in. Sure, it’s definitely not better than either the Monarch MKII or the Symphonium Helios overall, at least in my book, but listeners who like the Fibae 5’s sound wouldn’t necessarily like those other IEMs either. That in mind, the Fibae 5 might be worth getting ears on by virtue of how unique it sounds.