Clear Sky with a Bass Thunder!
PROS: clear and transparent tonality, powerful bass, wide soundstage, premium balanced cable with custom adapters, small comfortable metal shells, lots of accessories.
CONS: tuning is very eartips dependent, some might find upper frequencies a bit too vivid for their taste.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have to admit that prior to this review I wasn’t even aware of FAudio brand and their products, and only heard of them recently when Andrew of Musicteck asked me if I’m familiar with their latest Dark Sky flagship release. After Googling the company, I saw it was founded by former MiniWatt lead engineer, Fung Wong, in 2014, and their first official release was back in 2016. Based in Hong Kong, it seems they built quite a following in Asia, and had a few popular releases, such as Minor, Major, and Project Y. Dark Sky is their latest release, though I couldn’t find it on their site yet.
I was still contemplating if I should take a listen since a lot has been on my plate lately, but once I found out it is a single DD design, as usual, curiosity got the better of me. Single DD iems fascinate me because you have one building block, unlike hybrids, tri-brids, quad-brids, and you never know what to expect. I borrowed this pair without expectations to write the review, only wanted to hear a new flagship iem from a brand I never heard of before. At least that was the plan, but I got drawn in as I spent more time listening, switching eartips, trying other cables, and pairing it with different sources.
And while taking notes, I realized that I have accumulated enough material to start working on the full review, to share what I have discovered after spending the last few weeks with Dark Sky in my ears. So, here it goes!
Unboxing and Accessories.
As I have learned lately, the price of the product is no longer an indicator of unboxing experience. You can have multi-kilobuck IEMs that come in a modest brown cardboard box, or you can have something like Dark Sky at 1/6 of the price with a premium packaging and a flagship level unboxing experience. Arrived in a sturdy giftbox quality packaging box, the first surprise came after I removed the cover to discover Dark Sky along with a round leather case and 2 quality T-shaped cable adapters which reminded me of popular DDhifi adapters. With everything out of the box, let’s take a closer look at what was included.
As already mentioned, you get a nice round leather storage case, and it wasn’t some generic cheap case with a stamped logo. This is a nice quality textured leather case with a soft inner lining, in blue color to match the IEM shells and cable. Furthermore, you also get a soft cloth drawstring storage pouch and the same material piece of a cleaning cloth plus cleaning brush tool, along with a warranty card and user’s guide. You also get a double-pocket mesh storage. As you can see, FAudio paid a close attention to make sure you keep these safe and scratch-free during transportation.
And speaking of that, FAudio went one step further, also including protective soft silicone covers. Referred by FAudio as soft silicone earplugs sleeve, these use a skin-friendly soft material, have a perfect cutout for 2pin connector and vents, don’t add to much bulk, and very comfortable to wear with shells. I don’t know if the color will change over time, silicone DAP cases tend to get yellowish, and in theory you don’t have to use it. But considering all metal shell design, they make a good protective cover if you are planning to use them while working out or biking and need extra protection from scratches and drops.
I will talk more about the cable next, but cable by itself comes wrapped in a genuine leather organizer strap with a snap button. And considering cable was terminated with 2.5mm BAL plug, FAudio also included 2.5mm to 3.5mm and 2.5mm to 4.4mm short T-shaped adapters, as I mentioned already, similar in shape to DDhifi adapters. These adapters have a metal black housing and a very solid robust design with a secure mating of the cable plug. Their sound quality is actually very transparent, no coloration what so over. I verified it by comparing with my other high end PWA and EA adapters and pigtails.
Last, but not least, are 3 sets of eartips, set of white silicone (S/M/L) narrow bore tips, set of grey silicone (S/M/L) wider bore tips, and a pair of small size wide bore foam eartips. Not sure why only one pair of small foam eartips was included because I would have loved to try bigger size.
I always consider removable cable as part of the accessories and was quite surprised here that $1k+ iem comes not only in premium packaging, but also with a premium wire material cable.
The cable design features 4 separate 24AWG thickness conductors and deep blue color outer Ultra Soft PVC jacket to match the color of the shells. Each conductor/wire features 7 core groups, wound with a specific ratio and multiple twists. The wire itself uses high purity Silver and Silver alloy and adds Gold-Silver alloy wires (silver immersed in gold). Also, only premium audiophile grade solder was used.
The hardware of the cable uses CNCed metal parts with a shiny chrome finish. 2.5mm TRRS BAL plug housing has a comfortable grip, matching finish and similar shape y-split with a matching chin-slider to complement the looks. You will also find a flexible pre-shaped earhook heatshrink close to 2pin connectors, also housed in matching finish metal shells with clear L/R labels.
The shells are very compact and lightweight, CNCed from T6061 aluminum alloy, and treated externally using manual grinding and anodized polishing finish which gives it a more unique textured deep blue look. The design itself is very ergonomic and I found shells to fit comfortably inside my ears, been using them for hours without ear fatigue. The shape and the size of the shells should work with any ear anatomy unless you are into CIEMs only.
From a visual perspective, faceplates are flat, with FA logo. Inner part of the shell is slightly bulbous and extends into a longer stainless-steel nozzle which has a vent at the base and mesh cover at the nozzle tip. Nozzle tip has a generous lip to hold eartips secure and to prevent them from sliding off. Another pinhole vent is located next to 2pin (standard 0.78mm) socket.
In the heart of the design is 10.2mm double diaphragm Dynamic Driver, using different material for each diaphragm. According to manufacturer, one is Fiber material diaphragm which supposed to provide a faster sound response, yielding tighter low frequencies and smoother mids. The other diaphragm uses D.L.C. (diamond like carbon) material, intended for better high frequency extension, to provide more clarity and details, higher resolution, and more expanded soundstage. The spec of this driver is 24ohm impedance and 114dB sensitivity with a wider range of frequency response covering 15Hz to 38kHz.
Surrounding this 10.2mm DD is a patented Triple Built-in Acoustic Chamber design (T.B.A.C.) to control the airflow pumped by this dynamic driver. This triple chamber design consists of 1) A separate acoustic chamber which houses the actual driver, 2) CNC aluminum housing of the shell with a built-in acoustic chamber to reduce any unnatural jitter and distortion, 3) Stainless steel nozzle sound tube which releases the air pressure into the ear canal.