FIBAE, Driving Power, Hiss and Source Matching:
As already covered in the introduction, FIBAE IEMs are immune to OI of the driving source. In order to put the FIBAE tech to test, I tried the F7 on my Hiby R6, which has a 10 Ohm OI. There was no shift in signature compared to the F7 played from low OI sources such as my Hugo2 and Shanling M2X. As for the power requirement, F7, just like most multi-BA IEMs out there, don’t require a lot of power. Your regular smartphone or its dongle should be more than capable of driving it to very loud levels. But it is transparent enough that it would definitely benefit from better DAPs. As for hiss, F7 hardly has any hiss. Out of my Hugo 2, I hear an indiscernible hiss of I am in a silent room and when no music is playing. Given that F7 is immune to OI, easy to drive and hiss free, it is not too picky about sources. For tonal synergy, I’d recommend sources with a smooth upper-mids.
F7 vs EE Phantom:
Both are very different sounding IEMs. Phantom is a warm and thick sounding IEM with the tendency to sound muddy. F7 on the other hand has a more neutralish, even handed signature with a very slight emphasis in the upper mids. F7 not just has more clarity, it is also more transparent given the linearity in it’s midrange. It just sounds more correct and accurate than the Phantom. Phantom tries to compensate the lack of upper-mids with a bright lower treble, which does help add some articulation and detail, but it also comes across as harsh. While the F7 isn’t harsh in the treble, it can be a bit intense in the upper-mids. While the upper-treble is a bit subdued on the F7, Phantom’s upper treble is almost non-existent. The bass performance is kind of similar on both IEMs, but the Phatom’s bass is warmer and thicker. While the 2 IEMs differ in tuning, they share a similar presentation that is placed slightly forward than neutral. Stage size of both IEMs is kind of in the same ball park, but F7’s stage is cleaner, as it is free of excess warmth, and so it comes across as but more expansive than Phantom’s stage. The same goes with the separation, with the F7 displaying better separation. But the resolution of both IEMs feels more of less the same and so there is not much difference in depth, layering and imaging.
F7 vs CA Andromeda:
Once again, quite different sounding IEMs. Andro has an almost neutralish sound, with punchy bass, toned down upper-mids and a bright treble. F7 is also neutral in a different way with a slight emphasis in uppermids and a linear treble. Andro sounds hollow in the upper-mids region but has a sparkly treble, which can be harsh and unforgiving. The F7 on the other hand can get a bit intense in the upper mids and a smoother treble. The result is F7 sounds more accurate with the instruments, whereas the Andro sounds fun and exciting given it’s punchy bass and airy/sparkly treble. F7’s upper mid focus puts the vocals in the spotlight and even its overall presentation is a bit on the forward side. Andro’s presentation on the other hand is a touch relaxing with the vocals taking a neutral or sometimes even a laidback positioning. But as a whole, F7 sounds more accurate with regards to instruments and vocals. While the positioning of the presentation could be matter of preference, Andro is the clear winner when it comes to soundstage space, lateral separation and airiness. F7 on the other hand displays slightly better depth and layering.
F7 vs QDC Anole VX:
Both IEMs have a signature that is in the neutral ball park. Both are great IEMs in their respective price points. What the additional dough for the Anole VX gets you is a step up in aspects like resolution, separation, layering, depth and detail retrieval. Both are similar when it comes to presentation, with both having an almost similar stage and slightly forward placement. But VX’s stage is slightly cleaner and airier than F7’s stage. Unlike the F7 which tends to bring the vocals further forward and put it in spotlight, VX is impartial with vocals and instruments. Given the linearity in their midrange, both IEMs present a very transparent midrange. Compared to the VX, F7 sounds slightly more intense in the upper-mids and also carries more body and weight. VX’s treble is a bit more aggressive and hot making it sound more harsh than the more smoother and linear treble of the F7. Bass quality and quantity are almost similar on both IEMs with the VX exhibiting a cleaner bass lines and quicker decay of notes. While I am not someone who is sensitive to BA timbre, VX does seem to exhibit a bit of it. F7 represents better value for money, whereas the VX gives you the extra bit of resolution and performance for an extra $1000. Whether the extra $1000 is worth the improvement in performance is a question only your wallet can answer.
F7 vs Sennheiser IE800S:
F7 is a multi-BA IEM, whereas the IE800S is a single DD IEM. IE800S has a more relaxed sound with respect to its slightly U shaped signature and relaxed midrange. F7 on the other hand has a neutral signature and is an engaging listen, due to its forward presentation. IE800S also presents a larger soundstage and has better separation as it presents smaller instruments on the stage. IE800S doesn’t sound as accurate as the F7 in the midrange, but has a better treble response that is as linear as on the F7, but with better extension. Bass performance definitely goes to the IE800S, given its a DD, but the difference is not huge. F7 is more accurate with the timbre of vocals and acoustic instruments given its linearity in its midrange. Vocals on the IE800S sounds withdrawn and doesn’t sound as engaging and the acoustic instruments don’t carry the body in the lower-mids nor the bite in the upper-mids. F7 is a bit intense in the upper-mids and can be unforgiving. Basically, both are very different sounding IEMs that I’d pick for different genres and purpose. I’d pick the IE800S for electronic, synth, pop, games and watching movies and I’d choose the F7 for vocals and genres with acoustic instruments.
While I didn’t mention this in the individual comparisons, it should be noted that Phantom, Andromeda and Anole VX are multi-BA IEMs and are susceptible to impedance mismatch, when used with a high OI source. Of those 3, Andro seems to suffer the most with respect to impedance mismatch. Andro and Phantom also happen to be super sensitive that they easily pick up hiss and get too loud in just few clicks on the volume and so don’t provide sufficient headroom for finer volume adjustment. F7 and IE800S are immune to source OI and are not super sensitive.
FIBAE 7 may not have the resolution and performance of some of the very-expensive flagships out there. But with its neutralish signature, a transparent sound, FIBAE Tech and a price tag of $1300, FIBAE 7 represents a much better value for your money than any of those super expensive flagship IEMs. Except for the slight emphasis in the upper-mids, the slightly subdued upper-treble and a slightly forward presentation, Custom Art’s FIBAE 7 is an almost perfect sounding IEM in my books.