Editor’s Note: Victor drops a hybrid review. Please note that the Fidue A83 was provided to CYMBACAVUM free of charge as a review sample.
Hybrid IEMs, usually with a mix of dynamic drivers for bass, and balanced armature drivers for the mids and the treble, have been around for some time now. Many of them are recognized for deep rumbling bass, and sparkly treble. I myself have owned the popular T-PEOS H-200, and extensively demoed other hybrids such as T-PEOS H-300, Sony H1, H2, and H3, AKG K3003i, and Ultrasone IQ.
While I found all of them capable (except the Ultrasone IQ), the only hybrid I actually liked was the AKG K3003i, for it was the only IEM that got the mids right. As a vocal/guitar lover, the recessed mids of many hybrid IEMs have always bothered me, as did their usual and rather bothersome mid-upper frequency peaks (which tended to cause some ringing and sibilance).
Fidue offered to send us a pair of A83 for review. A moderately priced (~$350USD) hybrid with “reference” sound is always interesting, and Fidue touts the direction of Mr. Benny Tan, a well-known audio designer in China. Personally, I really appreciate a dynamic driver’s bass reproduction, and that was what made me so interested in the A83. In fact, I still own a pair of Sony MDR-7550, just for the sheer reproduction of bass.
Triple Hybrid Technology with Premium Dual-Balanced Armature & Exclusive Dynamic Drivers
Divider & 3D Acoustic Chamber Design
Silver Plated OFC Cable with Flat Wire Technology
Gold Plated MMXC Connectors
10mm Dynamic+Dual BA Drivers
Frequency Range: 9-31,000Hz
Impedance: 11 Ω
Max Input Power: 30mW
(All info was found on Fidue’s A83 packaging)
To me, the A83 looks stunning. With faux metal faceplates and blue/red housing, the A83 demonstrates simplicity and elegance. While appearances can be subjective, this kind of design is definitely on the better side.
One might worry about the build quality, as the IEMs themselves are almost fully plastic, the plastic is really thick and durable. The cables are also extremely well built, and is quite different from your average IEM cable.
They are bit thick, but these are some what like the high quality aftermarket cable that you would buy — thick, durable, and high quality.
However, the lack of chin slider is a minus.
MMCX connectors are always a plus as well, as it allows easy cable replacement, and the debris issue, commonly present in Shure MMCX connectors, are thankfully not present in A83.
Now, please do note that fit of an IEM varies from person to person. I personally have rather small ear canals, and hence, my experience with A83 in terms of fit and comfort may vary from someone else’s. The A83 has a very light and comfortable fit, kind of like the MDR-7550’s fit.
The memory wire contributes to an even distribution of weight. Due to its extremely light weight and ergonomic shape, and comfort is above average. However, due to such light fit, the IEMs themselves tend to fall out of ear rather easily. The presence of chin slider would have helped with that issue, but the stock cable lacks a chin slider.
The IEMs don’t fall off with everyday activities such as a casual stroll, but will fall off if you go for a jog.
The isolation, due to dynamic drivers, suffers as well. Dynamic drivers require steady airflow, and hence requires vents. The A83 has vents as well. In fact, it has two. While the vents are small, it does affect the isolation negatively. As such, the A83 has about average isolation. I’d estimate it has about 15dB of isolation, which isn’t too bad, but it is not exceptional (such as Shure or Westone IEMs). However, it is a bit lacking, even when compared to other hybrids.
- Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitor
- Sony MDR7550, SBH80
- Sennheiser HD800
- Astell & Kern AK10
- LG G3
*Source with low impedance is strongly recommended, as the impedance of A83 is 11 Ω.
Mr. Benny Tan did a good job keeping the treble clean without it sounding too harsh.
Bass is punchy and rather speedy. While not as strong as that of other hybrids such as T-PEOS or Sony’s offerings, the bass on the A83 packs good impact and gets rather high marks from me. The extension is also quite deep and rumbly.
The overall signature of the bass reminds me of UERM and HD800’s bass, which is overall very flat and extended. If you want boosted bass, A83 may not be the best call, but if you are looking for neutral bass, A83 is a solid choice.
Now, as I mentioned above, I didn’t like most other hybrids, mostly due to recessed mids. Most hybrids had intentionally recessed mids, so as to boast the deep bass and sparkly treble. However, A83 took a different route. The mids, just like bass, are neutral. Not forward or recessed, not muddled by bass, or overpowered by treble. While the mids are not the smoothest, A83 has one of the most clean sounding mid range out of IEMs in its price range.
However, the upper mids display some negative traits. There is a sudden dip in 4-7k range, causing a slightly awkward sounding upper mids. It’s not as noticeable or bad as T-PEOS’s infamous dip and peak, but there there definitely is a dip and a slight peak. This may be intentional, so as to prevent excessive harshness, but the trait still causes a bit of awkwardness in 4-7k frequency.
Editor’s Remark: Victor’s findings are verified by InnerFidelity‘s electroacoustic measurements of the A83. The A83 possesses a standard 2.7 kHz peak (rises 12-15 dB from 800 Hz) to compensate for pinna and canal gain, but thereafter drops 20 dB, centered around 4 kHz, before rising back up to a peak centered between 7-8 kHz. These values exaggerate the real-world experience, but the tendency for upper-midrange recess and lower treble peaking is clearly there. The A83 is a classic example of the tendencies of the Knowles TWFK balanced armature dual driver used as its midrange and tweeter transducers. Despite these tendencies, the TWFK driver remains a popular choice for audio designers because of its small size, good resolution, intricate-sounding timbre, and decent high-frequency extension.
Lower treble, as mentioned above, suffers a bit from a dip and a small peak, yet upper treble is sparkly and well extended. While sparkly, the treble is not excessively harsh or overbearing like some other hybrids, and remains analytical and clean. Mr. Benny Tan did a good job keeping the treble clean without it sounding too harsh. Well extended treble contributes to a rather wide soundstage as well.
Detail recovery remains excellent. With a clean and analytical sound, the detail recovery is above average, and I am able to pick out detail fairly easily. While the A83 cannot present micro details like the UERM or HD800 can, it definitely can present more detail than most IEMs in its price range.
Most hybrids I’ve heard have had a fairly wide stage, and A83 continues this trend. Whether it’s due to the “3D Chamber” or not, I do not know, but all I can tell is that the A83 has a wide sound stage. However, the imaging ability remains only average, and stereo separation seems to be a bit lacking.
While the Fidue A83 presents an different “hybrid” sound from its competitors, there is a upper-mid frequency dip that causes a bit of an awkward sound, along with somewhat of a weak fit. However, with superbly clean and natural sound and above average comfort (once fitted correctly), I would recommend the A83 to others.