The comparison was done using Fantasy with a stock cable, foam eartips, and LPGT source; volume matched in every comparison. Here is how it stacks up to some other single DD IEMs.
Fantasy vs Final A8000 – while these two have a lot of similarities, there are quite a few noticeable differences that need to be addressed. They are both mid-forward tuned IEMs with a vivid presentation of the sound, but with Fantasy you can scale back the level of “vividness” by using foam eartips or Comply TSX tips. With A8k switching to foamies doesn’t yield the same results, thus I compared A8k with its stock Final Type E tips vs Fantasy with foam eartips. First noticeable difference is the soundstage shape where Fantasy has a wider L/R spread of the sound while A8k has narrower L/R spread but a lot more depth/height. As a result, they have a different imaging where vocals positioned closer to a listener with Fantasy while far out of your head with A8k.
They both have a fast, clear, transparent sound. When it comes to bass, A8k has a deeper and more elevated sub-bass while both have a similar mid-bass impact, close to neutral level. Lower mids are nearly identical, and upper mids also match close when using Fantasy with foam eartips. Treble has more sparkle and air in A8k which has a little better extension, but with foam eartips Fantasy treble sounds a touch more natural to my ears. Also, due to higher sensitivity, Fantasy is a little more efficient while A8k needs a higher volume to match it.
Fantasy vs Hifiman RE2000 – I can definitely hear a narrower soundstage in RE2k, while depth/height are the same. The bass of RE2k is warmer, slower, even less articulate, while Fantasy bass is a lot more neutral, thinner, with less sub-bass, but Fantasy bass is more articulate, faster, and has more control. Fantasy mids are more transparent, less colored, more revealing, while RE2k has more color in lower mids and noticeably less clarity and resolution, just warmer and smoother in comparison. RE2k lower treble peaks are a little more noticeable because of a contrast with their smoother upper mids, and as result they sound splashier than Fantasy treble.
Fantasy vs DUNU Luna – a very similar soundstage expansion between these two IEMs, perhaps with Fantasy being a touch wider, but that could be due to more transparency and sparkle in its tuning that creates perception of more open and less congested space. Luna has more weight in bass, with thicker sub-bass, but mid-bass punch is similar here. Also, Luna’s lower mids are thicker and warmer, giving the sound more body and less resolution in comparison to thinner more neutral and a lot less colored colder mids of Fantasy. The contract between warmer smoother mids of Luna and more precise micro-detailed colder mids of Fantasy is quite noticeable. Also, Fantasy has more air and better treble extension.
Fantasy vs Beyerdynamic Xelento – now, this is one interesting comparison where I find way too many similarities. With an exception of bass, the soundstage expansion and imaging are nearly identical. The lower mids and upper mids are also very similar in tonality and technical performance, I can’t say “identical” but very close. Both have a very similar treble extension, energy, and tonality. Xelento has a bit of sibilance but could be due to their custom silicone eartips and me not being able to use foam tips since the nozzle is oval in shape. Fantasy with foam eartips has more control in lower treble peaks. So, it all comes down to bass where it has a similar quality and control, down to extension, but a very different quantity with Fantasy being more neutral and Xelento having a noticeable “analog” boost.
Fantasy vs Sennheiser IE800s – it has been a while since I listen to IE800s, and it was a great opportunity to dust off these IEMs for testing. The problem is that sound is so different between these two, every time I switched from Fantasy to IE800s I had to keep them in my ears for at least a few minutes until I adjust my brain. The issue wasn’t soundstage, there is a good match between these two. And I already expected IE800s to have more bass which is does, thicker, slower, meatier bass with less control and some spillage into mids. Treble difference was also expected, I guess, with Fantasy having a lot more air and sparkle and better extension. Mids between these two are like night and day. Fantasy lower mids are thinner, more neutral, zero color, and their upper mids are clear, layered, micro-detailed, colder, and more precise. In contrast, IE800s mids are thick, warm, full bodied, and sound more congested and a lot less layered. IE800s has a bump between 1kHz and 2kHz, making vocals sound more nasal and a dip going down to 3kHz taking away from clarity, while Fantasy is the opposite, having a dip between 1k-2k and a peak around 3kHz giving mids/vocals more clarity and better definition.
Source pair up.
In each source pair up, I was using a stock cable and foam eartips. Fantasy is not hard to drive considering its 108dB sensitivity and 37ohm impedance. No hissing was detected. For your reference, here are my brief pair up notes. And by brief, I just focus on any changes related to signature and general tonality, without going into too many details of technical performance difference.
L&P P6 Pro – slightly wider soundstage; still the same sound sig, but the tonality is smoother now, not warmer. It is still quite a revealing sound, but the cold analytical tonality found in other pair ups is gone here, replaced by a smoother and more natural tonality of mids. This was probably my favorite pair up.
Lotoo LPGT – wide soundstage expansion; mid-forward sound signature with a revealing brighter tonality; neutral extended bass, micro-detailed layered upper mids, revealing airy treble.
Cayin N3 Pro (tube output) – slightly wider soundstage than LPGT; mid-forward sound sig with a touch more revealing tonality; still neutral bass, micro-detailed layered mids, revealing crisp treble.
Hiby R8 – in this pair up the sound signature, tonality, and technical performance is very similar to LPGT.
iBasso DX300 – in this pair up the sound signature, tonality, and technical performance are all very close to LPGT.
A&K SP2000 SS – soundstage is as wide as with LGPT, but interestingly enough the rest has a slight variation. Bass has more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch, mids/vocals are nearly the same, but treble is brighter and crisper, packs more energy, and was borderline fatigue to my ears, so I didn’t enjoy this pair up as much.
Cayin N6ii w/E02 (using SE adapter) – the sound difference with other DAPs wasn’t that drastic in this pair up. I do hear a little stronger bass punch, but otherwise it is very similar sig, tonality, and tech performance as other DAPs.
Cayin N6ii w/E02 + C9 – the same deal, sound is very similar to N6ii w/E02 connected directly without amp. Actually, with tube output the tonality was a little brighter, while switching to solid state amp made the sound a touch smoother. There is one thing to mention, while the noise floor varies from source to source and hardly noticeable with Fantasy plugged in directly, with C9 noise floor was amplified and was more noticeable with some of the DAPs, like N6ii and N3 Pro when used with C9. In the intro of my “hissing” test track, Agnes Obel “The Curse”, you can hear that “waterfall” noise/hissing even with N6ii LO set to low and C9 in low gain. Fantasy doesn’t need an amplifier to “shine”, but it can probably benefit from some solid/tube amps to color the sound warmer, if that what you prefer.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – why not try a smartphone, and it was actually not a bad pair up. The soundstage is not the widest, giving the sound a more intimate feeling and presentation, but the bass really gains more sub-bass rumble and a little stronger mid-bass punch. Also, mids/vocals are not as micro-details but they have a smoother and a touch warmer tonality. And as a result of that, lower treble also sounds a touch smoother.
This review was a good reminder of how not to judge a book by its cover or, I should say, first out of the box impressions. Right away it was clear to me that Fantasy dynamic driver was tuned to deliver the max clarity and resolution with the min coloration and distortion of the sound. But the actual tonal balance was skewed toward a vivid presentation with a treble tuning that was a bit fatigue to my ears. Without a doubt it is all a matter of a personal sound preference and the type of music you are listening to, but I’m glad I took my time with tip rolling to finetune the sound.
As a result, I end up with IEM ($799) that comes close in sound tuning and technical performance to some of the other popular single dynamic driver IEMs that are priced a lot higher. As a matter of fact, I was never able to finetune A8000 lower treble with foam eartips to the same non-fatigue level as I have with Fantasy and Comply TSX eartips. Of course, if you are craving more bass or more natural smoother tonality, Fantasy won’t satisfy you. But those who don’t mind a more neutral bass quantity and are looking for IEM tuning with a fast speed, high resolution, and retrieval of details on micro-detail level, will appreciate what Fantasy delivers in its shiny package!