FitEar Private 333 custom earphone in Review – Big Japan

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The world of earphones has been ripped asunder by the ‘driver war’ which is now sillier than the blade war which rears its ugly head in between French handball goals on TV. Today, models which boast 8 drivers roam the prototypical plains in the underbellies of inventive manufacturers – and mark my words, that number will only climb. On the heals of the Jerry Harvey JH13Pro, the Fitear Private 333 will expose another niche, another customer base, and another sound among custom earphones. This time, the badge of honour (other than “made in Japan”) which the 333 proudly wears, is that of ‘fun’. Indeed, this custom is somewhat of a departure from the more neutral options from Sleek and Jerry Harvey and goes the Ultrasone route of fun, space, and speed. And it rocks.

Package and Accessories
Like its more typically dressed colleagues, the FitEar 333 comes with a carrying case and a wax loop. And somewhat odd is an interesting cannon-shaped shirt-clip. Fitear’s new cable is a bit energetic and for the person who cannot keep up, the shirt clip may be necessary to keep it down. If the case looks familiar, it is because Sleek Audio and Sensaphonics also use the same excellent Pelican who are gods among small carry-alls. It is water resistant, crush-proof, dust proof, and otherwise, soft inside to protect your investment. It isn’t perfect though. Unlike Sleek Audio, FitEar didn’t fill the case from the bottom and top with sponge to ensue that the customs don’t move around. While a small matter, it means that if violently jostled, the hard acrylic shells could be damaged.

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Apart from the essentials, there is also a one page colour manual which shows you how to insert the custom and explains a few important points in preserving the earphones, and your hearing. I have no doubt that this excellent product will soon make it out of Japan, but currently, if you really want to get into the specifics of FitEar’s literature, you will have to be able to read 日本語.

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Fit
FitEar’s customs have a trademark shallow fit and position the drivers further into the body of the rather large custom shell rather than the ear. This decision allows for 3 distinct sound tubes for any size of ear. As a 3 speaker design, each driver has its own sound tube, ostensibly allowing for greater articulation. Each tube is also slightly wider than many competitors and a stunning show of workmanship. As a result of the shallower fit, isolation from outside noise isn’t quite as severe as with other, deeper sitting customs, but probably does the better part of 25 decibels.

The 333 is housed in solid, thick acrylic shells. As a consequence, they are larger than most customs. Also, since its cable is mounted onto a sturdy outboard terminal, each earphone protrudes from the ear. This piece is helpful for insertion and removal of the earphones because it provides something solid to grip onto, but I can foresee some users not enjoying this design, preferring instead, the flush designs of the more traditional Ultimate Ears’ standard. Overall fit and comfort best every other acrylic custom I have tried and can be worn for as many hours as the soft Sensaphonics 2X-s.

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Of course, fit depends on the quality of your impressions. Make sure they are taken at by a good audiologist, or if you are lucky enough to be in Japan, at Fitear.

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Finish and Build Quality
FitEar have many articles about which they can run amuck, boasting, but perhaps the point about which they have no rival is the build quality of their in ear monitors. Zoom way in, this unit is without visual and finish flaw. From smudges, to bubbles, air pockets, and imperfectly buffed areas, the Fitear Private 333 is immaculate. For real audio geeks, it could replace those silly snow globes, providing instead, a deep look into the inner workings of audio perfection. Everything is laid out with precision and optimised for quality. Of course, you cannot choose artwork to adorn the outer portion of the earpiece, and even the meagre personalisations are only possible through cellophane-printed logos. This point is bound to trap users. As a custom, artwork, which is as personal as can be, is rudimentary. But you will see that FitEar’s decision which limits customisation may be worth it in the long run.

The detachable cable is incredibly strong, resistant to the oxidation caused by body oils and sweat, and mounts in a semi-recessed two-pronged input port. If you need another recommendation, look no further than the Japanese Police force who have used a similar cable design for years. I mean, if it’s strong enough for the only people with legal guns in Japan, hell, it’s gotta be something! Contact pins cannot be bend from insertion into and removal from the earphone, nor from being stepped on – the design is quite near flawless. To be honest, there is no perfect method, but Fitear and Sleek Audio employ what appears to be the most sturdy cable mounting systems.

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The cable itself is completely sheathed in a jacket of energetic rubber which can be microphonic if the neck synch isn’t employed. After the Y-split, however, the cable tapers to a thin line which is less susceptible to touch noise and works very well for four-eyed audiophiles. While strong, it lacks real stress reliefs and melted anchor-points. The plug is right-angle terminated in a narrow jacket which should fit nearly any source or amp. I don’t doubt that it will last a long time, but there are certain precautions which should be taken to ensure users get excellent return on their investments.

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Sound
Fun fun fun – the FitEar 333 is a rock/pop/hip-hop/trance/classical-loving earphone. Indeed, it is the DJ headphone among customs: thick and powerful both down load and up top, but tweaked for excellent imaging. Let me attach my favourite Ultrasone DJ1Pro to the FitEar 333 as a weak guideline to its sound. I think it is an apt comparison: both headphones excel with lower and upper frequencies, maintain clarity and edge at the all extremities, and a detailed, but comparatively cool midrange. Unlike the JH13Pro which can be wrangled to lovely-ise every musical type, the 333 is most at home among technical and fast music genres.

Low Frequencies
Low down, tones hit hard and fast in incredibly detailed voices. Any low brush of strings, any pounce of the bass drum, any electronic low note – everything low is essentially expressive, taut and powerful. But unlike the bass monster Ultimate Ears UE11Pro, the 333 pounces with poise AND prejudice. Low notes aren’t boldfaced, underlined, or italicised; they are merely punchy and detailed. Technically, those low sounds are nigh on flawless, but pause should be served as well. Firstly, the 333’s clean, smear-free sound is hardly emotive in slower, moody music; thus organic instruments and low vocals, while finely resolving, lack some of the magical warmth which comes through for instance, in the JH13Pro. In such cases, think the 333 as an engineer who scrutinises music for flaws.

This signature really beings to pick up when the musical pace picks up. Think pop, hip-hop, rap, and electronic, etc.. These genres among many others, translate the 333 from instrument to player. Its fun nature really pops out in some of the most engaging, tuneful renditions of the above genres. In particular, trance is simply flawlessly spacey and deeply riddled with perfect PRaT.

Where the JH is deeply smooth and punchy, the 333 is deep, speedy and punchy. Lows are layered, spaced, and parsed better than any other inner earphone I have heard. But because it can sound clinical; for this reason, the 333 doesn’t encompass as many genres quite as well as the JH13Pro. Detail freaks, on the other hand, may disagree. Another point of comparison is the effect of the solid body. Neither the 333 nor the JH13Pro are bass monsters, but the hollow shell of the JH13Pro vibrates more tangibly, effectively sub-wooferising the light shells. The FitEar design, then, relies more on acoustics more than Jerry Harvey’s masterpiece.

Mids and Highs
The Private 333 is an energetic, and bass-loving earphone, but its low notes don’t drive anything else away. Similar to lows, mids are clean – ever so clean. In fact, if anything comes through with more aplomb, it is the space which is generated in the mid section by this earphone. Sure, bass is energetic, punchy, and detailed. And highs, are pretty much in the same boat, but the mid section sings in a dwarfing space. Most balanced armature earphones foot spacious mid-sections, but the 333 puts them to shame. It is wide, wide, WIDE! And in that vast chamber of sound, the 333 has a slightly more tender spot for male vocals than for female, but both are cleanly beautiful, though erring a little more dryly again than the JH13Pro. I don’t want to make the mistake of turning readers off of this earphone by my adjectives. When I mention clinical, I mean clean, leaving no trace. This isn’t an AKG K701, it is closer to a Beyerdynamic DT880, or again, the DJ1Pro. But still, the 333 is technical first, and lovely second.

Highs are the 333’s make-or-break frequency. Firstly, let me say that they extend very well to 20 Hz, easing into the limits of 16 bit audio with just a minor dip in frequency response to the tune of 3-5 decibels at the eardrum. This high frequency band, like the lows and mids is fast and clean. Thankfully, despite great extension and energy, it isn’t prone to ssssibilance, or grain. Cymbals and high strings shimmer just enough, then fade quickly leaving memory, rather than musical residue. And just for fun, there is a small bump around 8 kHz which shines everything up.

Soundstage
As always, this is one of the more subjective benchmark tests for any headphone, but that matters not. Imagine having tiny speakers behind your ears, near your eyeballs, and at your eardrums. Now imagine that those speakers were vagabonds, nomading their way in and out with the music in concentric patterns. Fortunately, the 333 isn’t so dizzying. But, it is a cavernous _savant_. It simply places everything perfectly with perhaps the widest achievable channel separation I have experienced in an inner earphone to date. Of course, that won’t make old Beatles albums sound better; on the contrary, sharp stereo separation only really makes beautiful music with modern, made-for-stereo albums. Again, is this runoff of the 333’s triple sound tubes, or is it because of the headphone’s excellent dynamics? The truth is that it matters little once in the ears.

Technical music: classical, trance, electronic, psychodelic, space, etc., is a new leaf which the 333 turns gracefully over. Even the JH13Pro doesn’t liven virtual placement quite as well.

Sound in a Nutshell
If the JH13Pro is a high plateau which establishes itself as lord over all genres, the Fitear Private 333 is the domineering range of peaks behind which usurp the lord’s power in certain genres. It sounds good with everything, but it is not the best earphone for soulful, atmospheric music. Rather, where there is space, it will magnify it, scrutinise details, and throw everything back with tight accuracy and loads and loads of fun.

Technically, the 333 is flawless. Sure, it has a small loss of high-end frequency and a slight bump around 8Hz at the eardrum. But the whole story is that this earphone is fun without getting sloppy. It pairs so well with fast music, with pop, and with electronic as to warrant a new genre badge of honour. In other musical genres too, it is an excellent earphone, but voiced with perhaps too stringently detailed a voice. Personally, I am in love, and will recommend the 333 to all fans of ‘fun’ musics. Keep in mind that it is a sensitive earphone. The volume levels needed for pain with other earphones are simply over the top this time around. Unfortunately too, if a source hisses, you will know it. Be sure to have a string of clean sources and amps if you really want to enjoy the 333.

Finally, as with most balanced armature earphones, the 333 is not easy to drive per se. Sure, it gets loud and bassy, but the differences when paired with an proper amp (in my case, the ALO Rx) and without one are kind of stark. The main difference is that high mids/low highs (???) suffer a ‘suck out’ for lack of a better term. There is an audible dip in the high frequency range of about 5 decibels when not driven properly. Fortunately, there is little to know loss of bass definition or the 333′s incredible soundstage without an amp.

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Out and about with the 333
There are simply too many items which combine to make this custom earphone perfect for portable use. Firstly, the cable’s lenght is just this side of amazing for walkabouting. Better yet, it is strong, resistant to body oil and sweat, and when the cable synch is employed, has very little touch noise. Then, there is the fact that it isolates well enough to enjoy music at very low volumes. But strangely, one of the best selling points is that the body, which protrudes from the ear more than other customs, is easy to take out and in without every having to pull on the cable.

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Because it is a very sensitive earphone, I typically use it at volumes of about 10-20% on the iPod touch which is enough to keep music clean and clearly louder than almost any surrounding. In the same vein, even the very clean iPod touch 2G exhibits slight hiss. Don’t worry though: my ears are simply out of control. You may have no trouble at all.

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Conclusion
In the end, if you are going to drop a lot of money on a custom earphone, you should know what you want. The Fitear Private 333 is one of the best if not the best built custom on the planet. It also is the undeniable champ for dynamic, fast, fun, and technical music. And fun is really what it is all about isn’t it? Sure, but you also get an excellent cable which isn’t as susceptible to pin breakages as many competitors, a housing which is sweetly comfortable, and a great case. If you don’t shudder with driver envy, this triple speaker, triple receiver, triple cross over unit will do for you things which till now have remained fantasy.

Artsy types, stay away. Neither the case, nor the housing are indelible by FitEars except the inner, seldom-seen parts. If you want artwork, keep moving.

But keep in mind, it is hungry for details, devouring them in every frequency band, in every instrument, in every voice. It isn’t as lush with vocals as the JH13Pro, nor as equitable as Sleek’s CT6 for trance. No, it is the exciting badboy; the type of earphone you wouldn’t want to catch your daughter with. And for this reason, it simply rocks.

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Headphone Summary
Title:Private 333Developer:FitEar
Price:89,250円 (89 250 yen)Transducer TypeTriple balanced armature
  • Stunning built quality and finish
  • Great cabling system
  • Technically graceful, fun, fast, and strong sound
  • Great case
  • Best in class fit and comfort
  • Extremely simple artwork options leave little to show off

Hot damn! Headphones really are a rockin’ way to enjoy music, right? Feel free to explore TMA’s headphone oubliette.

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