TouchMyApps » FitEar http://www.touchmyapps.com All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Fri, 11 Jul 2014 00:31:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.3 FitEar ToGo! 111 – This is Trance http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/11/15/fitear-togo-111-this-is-trance/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/11/15/fitear-togo-111-this-is-trance/#comments Fri, 16 Nov 2012 01:33:36 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=70824 Yesterday, I was asked by Musica Acoustics to shoot a new earphone, the FitEar ToGo! 111. The 111 is the ToGo! 334′s younger sibling. It was released sometime in the summer in Japan and has had very few legit sales channels abroad. This version is spread with a Musica Acoustics label. Evidently, Jaben have their … Read more]]>

Yesterday, I was asked by Musica Acoustics to shoot a new earphone, the FitEar ToGo! 111. The 111 is the ToGo! 334′s younger sibling. It was released sometime in the summer in Japan and has had very few legit sales channels abroad. This version is spread with a Musica Acoustics label. Evidently, Jaben have their own label. You can pick it up from Musica for 645$. From what I understand, it is the same as the regular ToGo! 111. Correct me if I’m wrong.

While setting up my studio I decided on some preparatory listening. And after the shoot (evidently I have to return these on Monday), I kept listening. I’ve now got about 7 hours and 9 albums on the 111, and I’m prepared to say:

This is Trance.

Bass is oh so tight, so beautifully fast. Mids are flat, staid, and never get in the way. Highs are extended, but not peaky. Space is wide, though not continentally so and separation is top notch for a single driver earphone. The 111 is an Etymotic ER4 done perfectly. There is no plastic resonance or thick overhang anywhere, no screech, no pain. Trancing out to the 111 is as refreshing as using shampoo for the first time after a week of canoeing in July. Refreshing.

It gets on splendidly with vocal, jazz, the piano works of Nick Cave, and surprisingly, with perfect fit, with Classified’s raps. Its bass, being lean and tight, isn’t fun enough for hard IDM artists such as Anodyne Industries, Kasunagi, or thick American hip hop. And, being sensitive, it picks up a good amount of hiss from any source.

But after quite a few hours, I am almost ready to dub the 111 my favourite single driver earphone. Almost. I’ll be reviewing my current favourite, the Grado GR8 next week. Bass is harder hitting with the Grado, and more organic, but apart from that, the better overall coherence and space of the 111 is plum ear estate. Not sure yet if I will or will not do a review. Prices need to come down first.

NOTE:  about the large and ugly watermark: TMA have been ripped off by verbatim copycats in China and Russia several times. Recently, however, Audiophilia.com, a Canadian website, ripped off the FitEar 334 main image from TMA by cropping out the discreetly placed watermark. I raged about it on Twitter, sent an angry email, and waited. They fixed it later by using FitEar’s image – exactly what they should have done in the first place. They had myriad legit pictures to use, but they deliberately chose to steal TouchMyApps’ image. Their action was not a mistake. They never replied to my email, never apologised, never acknowledged their wrong. I’ve heard nothing on Twitter, either. I don’t expect to. I will continue to shoot and review, but TMA will be more careful. We have to be: the internet is full of cheap-arse freeloading website scum like Audiophilia.com.

FitEar-111-cable-earjoint FitEar-111-titianium FitEar-111-y-main FitEar-111-y-split FitEar-111-plugRead more]]>
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FitEar To Go! 334 earphone in Review – nonpareil http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/07/18/fitear-to-go-334-earphone-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/07/18/fitear-to-go-334-earphone-in-review/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 01:37:53 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=69049 Zip, ziiiip, wiiiiii, a mosquito. Chuka chuka chuka katakatatata, the Tsukuba Express plowing back to Akihabara. Click click click, my evil shoe-wearing neighbours on the eighth floor dancing up a spell. Summer’s heat amplifies each sound. So does after-work debauchery. So does Arcade Fire. And Markus Schulz’ Progression, Vibrasphere’s Lungs of Life, etc. and so … Read more]]>

Zip, ziiiip, wiiiiii, a mosquito. Chuka chuka chuka katakatatata, the Tsukuba Express plowing back to Akihabara. Click click click, my evil shoe-wearing neighbours on the eighth floor dancing up a spell. Summer’s heat amplifies each sound. So does after-work debauchery. So does Arcade Fire. And Markus Schulz’ Progression, Vibrasphere’s Lungs of Life, etc. and so on. Especially at the wee hours of 0:00 to 5:00. I get on fine after that. There goes my sleep. And whereas sometimes, screwing earphones into my ears helps me zone out and catch some zzz’s, screwing in the fabulous, new FitEar To Go! 334 zones me in, like never before. Hello Music!

It’s nice to meet you, I’m shigzeo, zombie.

Specifications
Quadruple (4) balanced armature drivers
3 way / 3 unit / 4 driver (334)
Low 1 / Mid 1 Low 2 / High 1
Two prong detachable cable
Pelican 1010 hard case
Soft carrying pouch
Cleaning brush
4 sets of ear tips
12 month limited guarantee

You can find the To Go! 334 here:
Musica Acoustics
ALO audio
Price Japan

Introduction
Several weeks ago I spent the better part of an hour at the Ginza FitEar office soaking up as much technical info as my feeble brain could imbibe. Ginza is a nice place to stroll after work, but honestly, its ramen sucks. It’s a godsend that around the corner you can get your teeth drilled and your ear holes plugged by the world’s most classy earphone maker, FitEar.

Mr. Suyama came out of the lift wearing his patent smile and a blue collared shirt. Around his neck was a 5000¥ cable snapped into his own custom earphones. I didn’t see what sort of machine was driving them. I bet it was an iPhone. I will also be willing to wager that he was listening to Karizma’s Cuba or Barry Manillow’s Copacabana.

I follow FitEar on twitter.

Upstairs is a drum set, several comfy chairs situated in front of a wonderful collection of HiFi equipment, headphones, speakers, and of course, music. It’s spinning on CD’s, vinyl, and ticking away inside computer hard disks. I didn’t ask how much music he’s got, but I’ll make another bet: if anyone’s music collection tops mine, it’s Mr. Suyama’s.

But we didn’t go upstairs this time. I was on a tight schedule. (My wife was waiting at Denny’s, and their kimchi is awful – I had to rescue her.) Mr. Suyama sat down, brought out my To Go! 334, smiled, and answered every question I asked, and most of the ones I didn’t.

He did this on small sheets of paper, carefully mapping out the 334′s driver array, explaining why titanium was chosen for the treble tube, waxing in gory detail how each driver is basically hand painted into the housing. This ensures that the earphone body is as slim as possible, and eliminates driver rattle.

You’ll be forgiven if you think the To Go! 334 (here on dubbed the TG334) is just a custom-cum universal earphone bent primarily, on maximum profits and distribution area. The j-Phonics was inspiring, but we are talking about two completely different levels of workmanship here. It’s true that the TG334 utilises the same innards as the fabulous MH334, FitEar’s first custom earphone to be tweaked by master engineer, Mitsuharu Harada. And what a feat it is. Its speakers are precisely machined and fitted into their housing with 100% repeatable results despite the entire assembly being done by hand. It suffers no concessions against the custom earphone that precedes it. That is, unless you really wanted to squeeze goo into your ears holes.

Regarding profits and distribution, you’d partially be correct. Custom earphones are buggers to work overseas from a central plant, especially if your outfit is moonlighting as a dental laboratory. The TG334′s universal package allows the FitEar lab to assemble and ship more units than its custom sibling. Distributors are springing up around the globe, and music lovers are discovering the sound of what once was the most hidden treasure in the vast sea of custom earphones. But since the TG334 is essentially an MH334, you’d also be incorrect in assuming it’s all about numbers. The difference in end user cost is substantial.

Had I been Mr. Suyama, I’d have smirked down at the skinny, semi-balding lout sitting before me. Mr. Suyama waived such nonsense. He is nice. I’m not. You sort of have to be nice to be a dentist in this modern world of lawsuits and litigation. And that is the fulcrum of this essay – sleepless nights aside, that is.

Accessories and Package
FitEar are ever pragmatic. What comes with your TG334 is an indestructible Pelican 1010 hard carrying case, a soft toss-pouch, four pair of silicon ear pieces, a shirt clip, and a cable. For the buying price, it’s an ascetic package, to be sure, but then again, who can argue with discipline?

Well, I suppose that for 1400$, you might be forgiven for expecting a life-size poster of Mr. Suyama, a set of false teeth, and a bowl of bad ramen to boot. The TG334′s price is well hung. It nuzzles its tusks in your common sense every time John Denver bleats on about West Virginia.

But, if you are reading this review, you probably don’t care too much about that. And again, you’d be forgiven.

Fit and Isolation
Bigger than the price difference between the MH334 and the TG334 is the difference in fit between the two. The stark truth is that the TG334′s fit won’t be for everyone. Case in point one: my wife. She is blessed with wide ear holes, but her concha is tiny. She was very kind to pose for this review’s fit photos, and probably deserves an expensive ice cream. (Note: photos to appear this evening, Japan time.)

Because the TG334 houses four full-size drivers, and makes room for three bandwidth-optimised sound bores, it is large. And heavy. It is solid acrylic. TG should stand for ‘The Gargantuan’. I’ll admit, however, that ‘To Go!’ sounds more appealing. By the way, so is the TG334′s sound.

Generally, female ears are smaller than male ears. I’ve been told that mine are wasted on me. I should be a boxer. I don’t get it. I suppose that means they are small. But – and my wife can confirm this – I’m male. With the bad: shaving, strange growths of hair, snoring, a tendency sweat, a growing forehead, and a predilection for bathroom humour, comes the good: enough room even in those small ears for the TG334. Barely.

For me, the TG334 rubs cartilage on every side. I have to tilt it slightly forward for complete comfort. Fortunately, there are no sharp edges anywhere to grind against ears. Me and the TG get alone fine.

People with enough ear real estate will be able to tip the earphone back and forth with nary a wince. In fact, men: I reckon almost every one of our kind will be able to take the entire 334 in. God bless us.

The TG334 doesn’t lie completely flat in the ear. Remember, it isn’t a custom earphone. There will be gaps. To a degree, that will affect isolation. I say to a degree, because the TG334 has the uncanny ability to cancel the outside. It is also quite sensitive. The combination means that you can keep the volume on your source low.

For instance, modern albums such as Marcus Schulz’ Progression will be perfectly comfortable at a setting of 150 on an iBasso DX100, or -42 dB on a rockboxed Sansa Clip, or about three clicks from the bottom on an iPhone 4s. That is at a loud cafe. In an airplane, I might bump those settings up one or two notches. Maybe.

Suffice it to say that the TG334′s sensitivity and isolation tag team noise into the ropes.

The Cable
Contrary to the Private series, the TG utilises a twisted cable sheathed in low friction heat shrink. It is terminated by a slim Oyaide 3,5mm stereo jack and sports pragmatic stress reliefs. One, a clear bit of flexible plastic, is at the jack. The other, sprouting memory wire, is at the earphone.

I wear glasses and am not a big fan of memory wire, but FitEar’s choice works much better than the stiff stuff that much of the competition uses. There are only minor scuffles behind my ears, ending usually, with my glasses getting the upper hand. Thank god. I suspect that Mr. Suyama had everything to say about that. He also wears glasses.

The TG series cable makes much less noise and tangles less than the Private series cable does. Corollary: I find no need at all for the shirt clip, though I’m sure someone will be glad of it.

The Oyaide end complements the same wonderful clip and pin set that is used by the Japanese police force at the opposite end. The pins are polarised: no way to accidentally plug them in the wrong way. Both sides wear coloured dots that line up with the earphone body. The right is black, the left is red. And in case you are colour blind, or habitually unplug your earphones in the dark, there is a raised bump on the right side to guide you.

FitEar have done all the hard work. It’s your blessed duty to enjoy.

Build Quality
I could write exceptional and be done with it, but I’m not that clever. So here goes:

Remember back when Japanese camera companies competed against the world? They made blocks of metal and glass that exceeded the rigid build quality of their German counterparts, and beat them for price. They were hand built of the finest materials. I have several, the oldest of which, a Canon P, was born almost sixty years ago and is mated to several lenses from the same period. It shames the modern scraps of composite,  alloy, and silicon to no end. My Nikon D200, a camera more than fifty years younger, at least still takes product photos. Barely. I predict its demise next year.

While the TG334 signals FitEar’s entry into larger production, FitEar don’t Toyotafy their products by copying and cheapifying. FitEar define quality build in the custom-cum universal earphone world.

Case in point: the sound bores. Unlike UE, Westone, and even Sensaphonics Japan, FitEar’s universal maximises discreet channels for each frequency. Bass and mids spit from their own niches and circle the central treble tube. They are carved into wide half-donut bores of acrylic, not soft plastic. The effect is precise timbre in every frequency. There is no equal.

Titanium
Fully metal earphones such as Final Audio’s high end Piano Forte line certainly crams in more metal than the TG. But when overall sound quality metrics are gauged, it falls flat in comparison.

The TG334 is made for performance. Absolute performance. Hence the full size drivers. Hence the acrylic donut bores. Hence the treble tube made of titanium. Titanium? you ask? So did I.

As FitEar is jointed to Mr. Suyama’s dental laboratory, titanium isn’t hard to come by. At first, it didn’t strike Mr. Suyama to use it, though. Being a perfectionist can work both for and against  you, a fact Mr. Suyama is well acquainted with. Sometimes you just don’t see the obvious when it’s in front of you as you are too focused on completion. FitEar went through many designs. They went through the do-it-Private like phase where each frequency channel would be forced through a slim circular tube. They went through the UE phase that combined one or more channel frequencies into a single tube. They went through many other phases.

But something was off.

Eventually, Mr. Suyama’s father suggested titanium. FitEar technicians were intimately familiar with working the metal, and had the tools necessary. What followed is the current design. It’s no conceit. Employing titanium in the centre channel allows sound tube walls to be thinner than they would have been in acrylic.

Titanium also proved to have less affect on high frequencies, allowing the most natural acoustic reproduction of music possible. Again, I’d have been smirking through the entire meeting.

Acrylic isn’t to be tossed aside, though.

Thin titanium, ineptly captured by a reverse-mounted 35/2 Nikkor Ai

Wall to wall acrylic
Earsonics employ a similar tactic to FitEar, though go about it differently. FitEar lacquer each driver into place until the housing moulds into its final shape. It isn’t printed around a hollow cavity, nor filled with gel. The rigidity of wall to wall acrylic ensures the drivers stay put. Let’s face it, with multiple drivers and complex crossover boards, it becomes necessary to take strict methods in the construction of an earphone of this level to ensure low distortion.

There are several side effects to this. The first is that the TG334 is many times heavier than the competition’s universal earphones are. Its weight even rivals or surpasses most if not all custom earphones. The second side effect is corollary to the time and expertise necessary in creating such an earphone. The effect is cost.

I’m here to tell you it is worth it.

Sound
By and large, the TG334 disappears more than any earphone I’ve heard. There is so little accent in any frequency that I feel justified in stating the trite. Here goes: I’m hearing my music again, for the first time.

Hence the sleepless nights. Hence the zombie behind this iPad, typing, typing away.

3D / instrument separation
Let’s start with this old audiophile trope. Really, this word gets passed around so much, I swear we music lovers are all gamers, topographic mappers, or architects. I promise you, too few of us capable of the last two.

But, I’ll throw this word around anyway. 3D presentation, or the spatial positioning of instruments within the sound field, is the TG334′s most triumphant forte.

I think you, too, will agree. Speaking of the devil, let’s look at U2′s Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of for a moment. It’s a simple song, but one with very distinct layers that I haven’t really paid attention to before, precisely, because I didn’t have the TG334. While my writing isn’t good enough to describe the positioning of each, your imaginations may be. Picture Bono’s whiny vocals, Mullen’s percussion, and The Edge’s melody as three ribbons. Via the TG334, each is distinct, practically carved into the song. There is no mistaking anything. Indeed, individual instruments are so precisely placed that at first, I experienced some sensory overload.

This sense of 3D could be said to be more vertical than it is horizontal, expanding upward, and out. Each frequency doggedly, ferociously guards its own channel.

Overall emphasis in this array favours mid frequencies where instrument layers are most distinct. Bono and the edge win out here, but only in the location of central pressure. There is absolutely no bleed between frequency channels, no obvious preference or emphasis for any one. Forget orgasmic, via the TG334, music is mesmeric. There are so many layers spit from Mr. Suyama’s latest multi-armature earphone, so much depth, that one gets lost, completely and utterly.

I tend to listen to music as I work. You’re probably thinking I don’t get much done. I do, but with music blasting in my boxer’s ears, I reckon I get less done than most. Whatever. You’re free not to follow my example. I find that grating and boomy earphones don’t allow me to concentrate, so I tend to listen to relatively flat earphones – all rounders you could say. By and large, the 334 is flat (we’ll get there later), and should be great for semi-concentrated listening. It can be, but it isn’t immediately good.

At first, its damned 3D placement is too captivating. Waiting a few weeks, as I have, should do ya. Yes, you can get to it. Also, keeping the volume rather low will help. Emphasis on low and high frequencies, as well as apparent detail retrieval go up with higher volume levels. If it’s work time, keep the volume low. That, my friends will solve some of the TG334′s incredible sound.

Soundstage
I have a feeling this may be a somewhat controversial section. With such well delineated instruments, shouldn’t the TG334 have the widest of soundstages? I’d think so. But, to my mesmerised ears, it doesn’t. Its sound stage is incredibly detailed, well placed, but more intimate than some earphones. Indeed, it sounds perfectly like a custom earphone.

If the musical stage thrown by TG334 was spherical, it would be a slightly large basketball. High frequencies tend to bounce around above the ear, mids, especially vocals, bob up and down between your ears, and at times hop up to your frontal lobe. Bass hits often at the back of the head or neck. Percussion pops out from behind the jaw to wrap around the ears.

That is, until you pull the earphones out just enough to maintain a seal. Suddenly, you are playing with a larger ball. This is the case with every earphone. TheTG334, however, is especially prone to change with fit. Push it in too far, and you have thick, almost congested sound.

Here’s why. As the earphone is pressed far into the ear, the silicon flange smothers the large sound tube. Some of the mesmeric instrument separation is lost. Sound stage is compressed. When loosely situated in the ear, bass and lower mids lose some volume impact. Suddenly, there is a small abundance of treble. Psychoacoustic effect? Wide soundstage.

Still, no matter how it is situated, the TG334 won’t cast the shadow of an open dynamic earphone. It will cast simply the most perfectly situated musical stage you’ve ever heard. And that, my friends is something that it does with particular, enviable talent.

I would encourage the brave among you to check out as many well-recorded binaural recordings as you can. Just make sure you are sitting on a stable, safe object.

So, what about the bass?
I agree with bassheads: if you were to carve it from the gestalt of a musical composition, there isn’t a more important frequency. You’ve got that PRAT, that hole-filling oomph, that vital throb. Bass is the heart of music. But, there is no all-important frequency to the TG334. Bass is ultra detailed, extremely well-controlled, severalised. Decay is fast, but not not dry, nor boring. There is a loving hanging-on for the briefest of moments at the back end of a low note. You could call it emotion. But that may be going too far. Remember, the TG334 has almost no accent.

In many ways, it reminds me of the bass produced by ortofon’s excellent e-Q5, only more distinct. It has slightly more edge than the JH13-Pro, and perhaps a smidgen less overall quantity.

Clean, driving, somewhat edgy, and yet not afraid to delicately smear it where it counts, it is pure rock and roll. It is as at home with Tiamat as it is with Arcade Fire, but I have a feeling that has less to do with bass as it does with perfect musical gestalt. In the same vein, this presentation mates to trance and classical like a frog on a finger in May – there’s no romance more absorbing.

Extreme lows, those of Marcus Schulz’ Mainstage, are easily discernible from very low volumes. However, through the TG334, Mainstage doesn’t yawn with the feckless volume of a 1980′s horror movie as it does with at the behest of an Atrio or the FX500, but it certainly growls. The difference in decibels would be about 5-10 depending on fit.

If you are looking for an organic bass sound, you will still probably have to look up something like the Victor FX-500. From lows to highs, TG334 is decidedly armature: fast, detailed, and ultra precise. However, thanks its incredible delineation from midrange frequencies, and the mesmeric sense of space from low to high, I feel that a number of dynamic-only fans will fall in love for a genre of earphone they otherwise may not have have.

‘Ow ’bout the highs and mids
I will bunch these together for the simple reason that these two gel with an energy – sometimes overlapping – that is studded with detail and texture. The TG334 is the king of strings and percussion. There is just so much detail to devour. Every string has two audible edges, one that builds up as energy is impressed into it, and one where it is released. Both are clear as a bell.

Highs and mids are also utterly inseparable. Spatially, mids and vocals are bunched more in the centre of the head than highs and lows are, so it is easier to concentrate on them. There may be a temptation to call the TG334 mid-centric. It isn’t – not from the stand point of frequency response. Here’s where we got back to the argument for dubbing this particular earphone ‘flat’.

Mid tones benefit the most from the mesmeric instrument separation. There are few genres that will not drown you in it. You will easily pick small groups or even single violins from larger bodies. The slightest of nicks a drumstick makes on the rim, the wet sounds a tongue makes, the rub of a finger over steel strings – it’s all there in gory detail.

High mids and lower high frequencies are all attack and decay. Sibilance is null, though with bad fit, you will get an abundance of treble. With perfect fit, you will find no genre too fast or demanding.

As mentioned above, the TG334′s commercial progenitor is the MH334, an earphone tuned by the famous Mr. Harada. Mr. Harada obviously prefers cleanliness to dripping sensuality. This has some negative impact when it comes to certain higher-voiced female vocals, which, at times, can sound thin.

In particular, Christine, in The Original Canadian Cast recording of Phantom of the Opera, sings with a little less pertinent edge than she does from an ER4s, for instance, or even my beloved CK10. I tend to prefer a little more edge in high female vocals. But that is just me. Reading Head-Fi, I have a feeling I’m in the minority.

To amp or not to amp?
When I originally reviewed the FitEar Private 333, I waxed lyrical about its fun, yet overall neutral sound. The 333 is more forward than the TG334 is, but only barely. It is also harder to drive, but only barely.

The TG334 is efficient, not as prone to hiss as the 333 is, and doesn’t seem to dive down as many Ω as the 333 does when it runs into upper mids and high frequencies. An iPhone 4s or an iPod touch 4G or a clip+ alone are enough to do it.

I don’t feel that an amp is necessary at all. In fact, it is possible that the amp you use will handle the TG334 worse than your iPhone does. Keep that in mind. If you have something like an ALO Rx, a VorzAMP, or an iBasso T3D, then use it – it will better your iPhone in some small, key areas, but don’t go out of your way to buy a new amp just to enjoy your new earphone.

There is plenty of resolution there for you.

Now, if you are using an older iPod touch, say 2G, or 1G, or a Cowon, or a Sony player, you WILL lose a LOT of resolution in mid upper mids and gain a lot of distortion. Those players simply aren’t up to snuff. A small amp may help. Or, a Sansa Clip.

Out and About
Aside from its size, there is nothing daunting about using the TG334 in public. It does stick out from the ear quite a bit, and is heavy, but it handles itself well. When you find perfect fit, isolation is excellent, and for the most part, there is no wearing fatigue. Similarly, the cable is excellent. It is resisting this awful Japanese summer perfectly. I see no signs of sweat or body oil induced crystallisation. None.

The only thing to think about is the termination of the cable. The long straight plug should be handled with care. It fits into narrow headphone outputs, but it puts more stress on the cable and output than an l-shaped cable does. Here, the Private series comes out on top.

Conclusion
I feel strongly that no other earphone manufacturer is as involved in the lives of audiophiles as FitEar are. FitEar started making earphones for enthusiasts, experimenting and tweaking endlessly. They’ve found perfection in their tweaking. It’s heavy, and black and made of solid acrylic and sports a titanium tube. It’s 3D presentation of instruments and balance of frequencies is nonpareil.

It is however, expensive. If you were looking for a custom earphone, you now have a universal option that in many ways betters a custom earphone. Fit, of course, is extremely important. Pay attention to it and you will have possibly the best earphone on the planet. But having the best is difficult. Sleepless nights ensue. The zombie is outed. And the zombie absolutely loves his To Go! 334.

App Summary
Title: FitEar To Go! 334 Developer: FitEar
Reviewed Ver: To Go! 334
Price: 1300-1500$
  • Best 3D detail of any earphone
  • Exceptionally neutral
  • Excellent isolation
  • Stunning build quality
  • Use of high quality materials
  • Made in Japan
  • heavy
  • finicky fit
  • sparsely accessorised
FitEar-ToGo334-accessories FitEar-ToGo334-banner FitEar-ToGo334-ear-pieces FitEar-ToGo334-iPhone FitEar-ToGo334-pelican FitEar-ToGo334-pins FitEar-ToGo334-stress FitEar-ToGo334-titanium

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

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FitEar Private 333 custom earphone in Review – Big Japan http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/12/07/fitear-private-333-custom-earphone-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/12/07/fitear-private-333-custom-earphone-in-review/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2009 18:22:54 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=24351 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 … Read more]]>

HP-Review-FitEars333-06

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.

HP-Review-FitEars333-07

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 333 Developer: FitEar
Price: 89,250円 (89 250 yen) Transducer Type Triple 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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