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Fidue A73: A hybrid In-Ear that I really love at its price point - [Review] 🇬🇧

Prolog:

Die deutsche Alternative dieses Reviews kann hier gefunden werden: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.com/2015/09/Fidue-A73.html


Preamble:

Benny Tan, Fidue’s chief engineer, has got more than 20 years of experience in developing and producing premium headphones and has already designed several products for some famous brands in the past, so says the text on the back of the A73’s packaging.
That the team around Benny Tan and Fidue are no rookies in the audio industry becomes obvious when one starts listening to their products, such as the A73, but I’ll get more detailed further below in my review that also features some comparisons with dynamic and Balanced Armature earphones in about (more or less) the same price range.





Before I go on with my actual review, I want to thank Fidue and especially Michael Lin for providing me with a sample of the A73 for this review and my honest opinion.
I am not affiliated with Fidue or Michael in any way and also don't receive any monetary compensation or directions for my reviews.


Technical Specifications:

Driver: 10 mm Exclusive Woofer Dynamic & Balanced Armature Drivers
Frequency Range: 13 – 27000 Hz
Impedance: 20 Ohms
Sensitivity: 107 dB
Max. Input Power: 20 mW
Distortion: <1 %
Plug: 3.5 mm stereo, gold-plated
Cable: 1.3 m
Sensitivity of Mic.: -42 +/-3 dB
S/N Ratio of Mic.: > 55 dB


About hybrid In-Ears:

As you can read from the technical specifications, the A73 is a little different from most In-Ears and doesn’t only use dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers, but combines both in one shell.

Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.
Higher-priced and professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering mids and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducer adds resolution and precision to the mids and highs – and that’s what the A73 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, speed and precision.


Delivery Content:

The A73 comes in a black cardboard box with a picture of the “illuminated” In-Ears on the front. On its right half are the model and manufacturer name including a short description with white text on green background, which I find unique and refreshing. The green colour, together with the “F” in Fidue that looks like a branch with two leaves, brings up associations of harmony, calmness and relationship with nature – but that was enough association for today. J
Moreover, there is a chequered black pattern that gets visible in direct light and consists of the Fidue F and black squares above the Fidue logo on the front. The green band from the front continues on the bottom and has got the brief description from the front translated into Chinese and German, with the slogan “Original sound, beautifully voiced!” with Benny Tan’s printed signature beneath.
On the back, there’s a picture of the four-pin 3.5 mm connector, a QR code with the serial number overhead and the technical specifications with a brief description of the company and Benny Tan on the right.



 
Inside are the In-Ears, four pairs of silicone eartips (three pairs that differ in size and one pair of double-flange tips; the medium single-flange tips are already installed on the A73), a sturdy small zipper case, a shirt clip with the white Fidue logo on it, an unnecessary silicone cable tie (rolling it up with the fingers is in my opinion faster and better), a set of black silicone ear-guides and finally something that seems to be a warranty card.

  
 


Build Quality:

The IEMs’ bodies are halfway made of matte-silver painted structured metal and halfway of semi- transparent red plastic, seem sturdy and have each got two vents. The straight connector, the y-split and the remote control are all made of finely grooved metal cylinders and have got red rubbery strain reliefs. Strain relief on the IEMs’ shells is also of superb quality and red, too.
The sturdy premium tangle-free cable is very flexible and of greyish semi-transparent nature, wherefore the copper and silver coloured wires can be seen.
Except for two small dust inclusions underneath the paint of the left shell, there are no flaws in the very well and sturdily built IEMs that I received.




Comfort, Isolation:

The Fidue A73 is intended to be worn with the cables over the ears, which is also my preferred method, as it improves fit, seal and comfort and drastically reduces microphonics. In this case, I don’t hear any microphonics at all, which speaks for the good cable.
As there is no memory wire close to the IEMs’ bodies, two silicone ear guides come included, and I also use them, just like with my Phonak Audéo PFE 132, because the cable then also stays in place when I lay down. With the ear guides are installed, the IEMs barely fit into the case (there is not really any more space left then) and I have to roll them up tighter, but it is possible; without the silicone ear guides, they fit in easily.
Because the IEMs have got an ergonomic shape and are worn around the ears, comfort is very good and the weight isn’t really high although the shells are halfway made of metal. The only thing that I miss is a chin slider, but I guess they didn’t include it because of the remote control.



As the IEMs have each got two vents, isolation isn’t as good as with fully-closed competitors, but still clearly upper mediocrity.

In-Line Remote Control, Microphone:

The single button in-line remote control works smoothly and without any flaws with all devices that support a microphone and remote control. The Button’s pressure point is rather high, but it is still easy to operate and not too stiff.

Microphone’s speech quality is above average, with correct and realistic yet somewhat muffled voices, which can be tuned to sound clearer by turning the microphone towards one’s face.

Sound:

The A73 received at least 50 hours of burn-in before I started critical listening (just in case that it has an effect although I don't believe in that).
Source devices I tested with were my iBasso DX90 and the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100; music material covered many genres and different speeds; files were stored as FLACs and MP3s (320 kBps cbr).



Tonality:

A73’s tonality is generally v-shaped, meaning it has got an emphasised bass and emphasised highs, but in contrast to a classical v-shaped sound signature which mainly concentrates on sub-bass, the Fidue has got an evenly emphasised low range with just a slight subbass roll-off.

Compared to a mostly flat In-Ear monitor, the A73’s low range is evenly emphasised by about 7 dB, also including a (lesser) emphasis of the lower middle fundamental tone area, wherefore the IEM gets a moderately warm character in the lows.
Transition from the fundamental range into bass is superb and even and doesn’t bleed into the mids.

Midrange is tonality-wise pretty much correct in my ears, although high voices are probably just a slight tad brighter than they should be. Despite the engaging moderate v-shaped tonality, I wouldn’t really call mids recessed.

Presence area around 2 kHz is a bit recessed, then level evenly increases again, with a peak at 8 kHz that I could locate with a sine generator, but it is not overly present and not harsh. Treble extension is excellent and although a BA transducer is used, there is not much roll-off in the super highs, with audible frequencies even above 16 kHz.

Luckily, the dynamic transducer’s potential of creating a bloated bass with ease wasn’t abused but well-tuned to gain a present low range that is full-bodied, but not exaggerated and great for doing sports, low listening levels and traveling where loud outside noise masks the lows.


Sound in general is very coherent and the transition from the dynamic bass to the BA mid-high driver is even, smooth and unobtrusive.

Resolution:

The A73’s dynamic drivers’ bass is of the dry and punchy kind and totally free of any softness, bloat or sponginess, but is very precise and has got a dry and solid impact without losing the musical and dynamic body that is typical for dynamic transducers.
In one evaluation, I read that somebody found the Fidue’s bass to be too dry and arid, but I think it is just perfect as it is in this configuration, as the A73 has got a smooth and unobtrusive transition between the dynamic and BA transducer that would probably have got lost if they decided to tune the bass softer.
I just come out to say that privately, I am not the biggest fan of dynamic transducers for In-Ears and not many of them are convincing me, but the Fidue is one of the few In-Ears with (at least one) dynamic transducer where I have no criticism regarding bass quality.

Typically for a BA transducer, mids and highs are high resolving, precise, fast and unveil tiny details with ease.
Highs are very precise, differentiated and airy, although cymbals sound slightly metallic and unnatural due to the peak in the upper treble, but it’s not that bad at all.
To my surprise, despite the (but more or less of moderate nature) peak, highs are never harsh, annoying or unpleasing, which is due to the pretty good resolution.

The harmonic, coherent and engaging sound paired with the high resolution is just a lot of fun and very satisfying while listening with the A73.

Soundstage:

Soundstage is neither extremely wide nor extremely narrow, but in my ears somewhat wider than average.
Spatial depth is present but of lesser amount than with some other dynamic and BA earphones (although not all BA earphones have got spatial depth). Layering in depth is precise, although some more expensive multi-driver IEMs (if they have got spatial depth) have got the slightly finer separation of single instruments in their depth layer.
Instrument separation is, typical for earphones with BA transducers, on a high level, wherefore single tones and instruments are sharply separated from each other and have got a precisely defined place on the imaginary stage.


In Comparison with other In-Ears:

RHA T20 (Reference Filter:
The Fidue’s bass is more arid, faster and has got less level and the better transition from bass to fundamental range. The RHA’s mids are more present, but the Fidue has got the better mids and highs resolution, unveiling more micro details. The RHA’s soundstage has got the wider and deeper expansion, but the A73’s instrument separation is superior and generates the better space between single instruments and sound elements.
Victory of the Fidue.

Shure SE425:
The Shure is definitely the more neutral-ish sounding IEM out of the two and, due to its BA transducer for the lows, has got a faster and more arid impact, but lacks body compared to the Fidue. The Shure’s mids’ and lower highs’ resolution is better, but its upper highs sound unnatural and compressed due to the early treble roll-off, wherefore the Fidue has got the better upper highs and also the much better treble extension. The Fidue’s soundstage is wider, although the Shure has got slightly more depth. Instrument separation is just a tad better on the Shure’s side.
Tie, more or less.

Phonak Audéo PFE 132:
The Fidue has got way less subbass roll-off and the better treble extension. The Fidue’s overall resolution is clearly superior, although the Phonak isn’t bad for a single-BA IEM. I never found the PFE 132’s soundstage to be successful, as it isn’t really coherent in my ears and has got gaps on both sides with unnatural sounding spatial depth. The Fidue’s soundstage is much better and coherent, and the A73 also has got the better instrument separation – the Phonak is a good single-driver BA earphone, but not more and gets easily beaten by the Fidue.
Obvious victory of the Fidue.

Etymotic ER-4S:
That’s a little unfair, as I find the ER-4S to be probably the best single-BA earphone ever that even beats some dual-drivers. Sure, both differ pretty much in terms of tonality, as the ER-4S was tuned to have a reference-like approach with as flat as possible sound. ER-4S’s resolution is in my ears superior, but the Ety also beats some other, more expensive dual-drivers. Bad or mediocre recordings sound like cr@p with the Etymotic, as it has got an extremely analytical and revealing character, wherefore the Fidue sounds much better with mediocre recordings due to its less analytical character.
The Ety’s soundstage is in my ears close to perfection with a very balanced width to depth ratio and a good instrument separation, although the A73 comes surprisingly close. The Fidue’s sensitivity is clearly higher, wherefore it requires less power to be driven, but is also extremely hiss-revealing, wherefore it requires a proper source with black background to unveil its full potential.
Victory of the Etymotic (but it is overall my favourite IEM anyway).

Fischer Amps FA-3E:
This comparison is a little unfair, as the FA is much more expensive and has got a 2.5 way configuration, but the Fidue didn’t lack that much behind.
FA-3E’s sound signature is more neutral, though it has also got a treble peak in the upper highs. The FA’s resolution is higher. Soundstage expansion is about the same with both IEMs, although the FA-3E has got the better instrument separation and therefore also the better perception of layering, wherefore its soundstage’s spatial expansion sounds deeper (although it isn’t). The Fidue has got the better bass body and you won’t like the FA-3E if you want that lows’ body of a dynamic driver (the v-shaped FA-4E XB has got a more “dynamic” bass body, but I will leave it out of comparison as it is a quad-driver IEM with three-way configuration).
Victory of the (obviously more expensive) Fischer Amps.

Summarised, I see the Fidue clearly above the Phonak, above the RHA and partly above the Shure, but below the Etymotic and Fischer Amps, but both are more expensive, too.
The Fidue has got a great full-bodied, non-exaggerated, fast and arid low range with sparkly and high resolving mids and treble and great coherency and is just a hell of joyful IEM to listen to. It unites the best aspects of dynamic and Balanced Armature drivers and offers a great value for the money.


Conclusion:

The Fidue A73 could utterly convince me – it’s got the full-bodied bass characteristic of a dynamic transducer which is fortunately very arid, quick and controlled without any negative flavour, paired with the speed, clarity, air and resolution of the mids/treble BA driver. The overall package of sound, joy of playing and fun doesn’t really have any flaws. The only things that could be minorly criticised are the lack of a chin slider and a due to its peak slightly unnatural upper treble characteristic, but some other IEMs in my collection, also more expensive ones, have all in all got more flaws in their overall presentation/package, so it’s not really what I’d consider as criticism.


Price-performance ratio is just really good and I think that it is extremely hard to find another (hybrid) IEM for the same price with the same technical qualities and the overall package and presentation, combined with the fun and joy of playing and with a bass that is strong and beefy, but not exaggerated.
That said, I could honestly not find anything I didn’t like about the A73.

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