Pure Monitors – Fischer AMPs Rhapsody FA-4E XB IEMs Review
FA-4E XB is a multi-Ba driver IEM, with a low impedance and a high SPL, extreme clarity and revealing abilities, good isolation, and pretty much everything a monitor should have. Since the FA-4E XB costs quite a bit, about 400 EURO or 450 USD, the comparisons list will include the 470 USD Dunu DK-3001 PRO, 450USD FiiO FH7, and the 400 USD Periodic Audio Carbon. The pairing list includes iBasso DX160, priced at 400 USD, Earmen TR-AMP, priced at 250 USD, and FiiO M11, priced at 420 USD. I will also include a bonus comparison with the Rapture, as it is fun to see how the IEMs from the same company differ from each other.
Fischer AMPs is a company from Europe, and they make monitors and musical instruments, so the focus of FA4EXB is going to be recording, mixing and mastering, with listening taking second place. Indeed, the sound and everything about it makes it look considerably more like a recording piece of equipment, rather than a listening device, and one can see that Fischer AMPs takes a professional approach to making IEMs, rather than a commercial one. If you need great support, from an expert who makes instruments by hand, you can always rely on Fischer AMPs, and if you don’t feel like trusting them based on my word, you have to take into account that the European Warranty LAWs guarantees at least two years where you’re protected from any kind of damage for the FA-4EXB, which has 3 years of warranty.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Fischer AMPs, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank Fischer AMPs for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB find their next music companion.
Official Product Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fischer-Amps/
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
I really don’t feel like writing the name correctly for this entire review, they had a terrible idea naming it FA-4E XB, so I will go with fa4exb or just fa4 for part of this review, so that it is more legible too.
Fischer AMPs lacks a proper marketing department, and you can totally feel it, the entire package and presentation feels much closer to an auditive aid tool, rather than a proper IEM. The fun part is that they include everything you could need, including foam tips, and a carrying case, so they are hard to fault, it is just the package that’s a bit underwhelming.
All in all, the carrying case is great, and the number of tips is excellent. Some competitors, like Dunu DK-3001 PRO in particular, has a better cable, while FiiO includes spinfit tips with their FH7 IEMs, so FA4 has to make up with their sound, and we’ll find if they do in the sonic analysis part of this review.
What to look in when purchasing a Flagship Headphone
3-Way with 4 drivers (2x bass, 1x mid, 1x high)
Extended bass with approx. 6 dB bass enhancement up to 100 Hz
With ergonomically designed earpiece
Ambient noise absorption approx. 20 dB
Frequency range: 20 – 18,500 Hz
Impedance: 19 Ohm
Max. SPL: 119 dB
Kink-resistant connector cable with 800 N tensile load
Powerful sound with very precise mid and high frequencies
Suitable for professional in-ear monitoring with high efficiency
Detachable 121 cm cable with gold angled mini jack plug
Incl. travel bag with zipper and carabiner; silicone eartips, one pair each in sizes S, M, L; foam tips one pair each, in sizes S, M, L; cleaning tool
Made in Germany
Like the Rapture, it is all plastic, nothing too fantastic about the build. This being said, where I complain a bit about other IEMs being really heavy, the Fa4 is quite light and comfy, and in fact makes a lot of sense to purchase if you like a comfy IEM. I did an experiment where I invited a few friends to test them, and everyone had excellent comfort with the FA4.
The SPL is quite high, and the Impedance really low. This means they are really easy to drive, so despite the pairings including pretty good sources, they can be driven out of a smartphone like the Huawei P20, of course, if you add a DAC/AMP like the Earmen TR-AMP, NextDrive SpectraX, or let’s say something more exotic, like the FiiO Q5s. FiiO BTR5 or BTR3K would also do really well.
On the other hand, they are really sensitive to hiss, and they will reveal hiss out of a source, so Hiby R6 is not great, and Earmen TR-AMP does have a slight hiss with the FA4EXB.
The isolation is extremely good, almost 25 dB, especially with foam tips, although it is about 20 dB with silicone tips. It looks like fischer AMPs is quite humble with the technical specifications, and they state that their IEMs only reach 18.500 Hz at the top, where some chinese IEM makers will give you a 40.000 Hz as the maximum frequency, despite rolling off at 11000 kHz. Me likey the Fischer AMPs German approach better.
The cable is pretty terrible, thin, resistant, but simple, most replacements like Dunu Hulk or FiiO’s Silver Cable are much better than the default cable. In fact, the cable is so poor that for the price of 400 USD, I would recommend considering getting an IEM that’s really cheap, like an Alpha Delta KS1 and using the cable from that one, because despite it being cheap-ish, it still has slightly better ergonomic.
All in all, FA4EXB wins all the points possible for comfort and ergonomics of the IEMs, and the tips included are awesome.
The sound is as precise as it gets, dry, but the soundstage is not exactly small. They are best compared to a more natural, deeper, wider, and more refined / detailed ER4XR from Etymotic, which are a single-Ba Driver IEM. The 4 BA drivers surely have an excellent amount of detail and they sound quite coherent, all of them quick and dry, making what I would consider the best performance possible for a monitor.
The bass is quick, quick, fast, speedy, and surprisingly, has a good extension. It is really flat though, so for bassheads, it will not be enough, it is the kind of bass that is faster than any grindcore or technical death metal you can throw at it, but it does not roll off early, making an excellent pairing for quick EDM too. It works well for monitoring and mastering, also for mixing, but may be a bit too dry for pure musical enjoyment, unless you use something from Hiby that has MSEB EQ embedded.
The midrange is dry and detailed, but also has a good amount of stage and a very natural actual timbre and tonality. The mids tend to be a bit forward, compared to the bass, which is quite flat, and the treble, which tends to be a bit smooth. The midrange could easily be compared to a high-quality, more revealing, more natural, better Etymotic ER4XR. In fact, if you’re a big fan of detail, you’re going to love the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, which tends to be one of the most detailed IEMs in this price range.
The treble of Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB is also pretty smooth, so that it doesn’t get fatiguing after listening to it for a while, and compared to something like the Lime Ears Model X, which can be bright and uplifting, the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB can be quite smooth and rolls off slowly starting with 11kHz. It works really well for long hours of listening, and the detail is far more than enough to understand what you’re doing when you’re mixing and mastering.
The dynamics are also good, especially considering we’re dealing with an all-BA design, and there’s enough headroom to EQ if you want to push the bass and the treble forward a bit, a situation in which you could create a pretty nice natural sound with a ton of detail and textures.
The comparisons list could have included many other IEMs, like the Etymotic ER4XR, IMR Acoustics R2 Aten, and even TheCustomArt Fibae Black. One bonus comparison I decided to include is with the Fischer AMPs Rapture, the big brother of FA4EXB. The main reason for choosing the other comparisons is the price/performance ratio, which is just golden, it is easier to see how FA4EXB compares to something, if they are popular, high-quality options readily available locally.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB vs FiiO FH7 (450 USD vs 450 USD) – FH7 has a much colder sound, which although has less detail, can be perceived as much wider and more musical. The overall comfort is better for the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, and the isolation too, but FH7 has a much better default cable, better package, is more widely available, and if you want a more sparkly, more splashy sound with a slower but larger bass that sounds deeper, FH7 would be the one for you. On the other hand, if you want a really quick, detailed, mid-forward sound, Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB makes a great option.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB vs Dunu DK-3001 PRO (450 USD vs 470 USD) – Once again, the package is much better for the Dunu, and this time, it is also more comfy than the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB. The sound is more natural, V-Shaped, and less detailed on the Dunu, while with Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, the sound is far more detailed, more dry, much faster, smoother, more flat, and with a more precise instrument placement and separation.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB vs Fischer AMPs Rapture (450 USD vs 500 USD) – The rapture has similar package and presentation, although the differences are that the Rapture is smoother in the mids, has less detail, but is more natural, has a more musical sound. The FA4 has more detail, more precision, a quicker sound.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB vs Periodic Audio Carbon (450 USD vs 400 USD) – The Carbon has a less interesting package than the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, but it has a much larger bass, with more impact, and is fit for a basshead even. Even the treble has better extension and more detail, clarity, with the entire sound being much more dynamic and exciting. Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB has a more dry, quicker, more detailed, flat and precise sound.
Since the pairings need to include high-quality sources, Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB being rather revealing, I decided to go with midrange sources, rather than entry-level ones. Of course, there are some great entry-level sources that can do just fine with Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, like iBasso DC01 / DC02, Pro-Ject Pre-Box Digital S2, and even Shanling M2X.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB + iBasso DX160 (450 USD + 400 USD) – DX160 makes the best pairing if you want the default, natural Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB. With Streaming services, an excellent UI, great support from iBasso who is still releasing firmware updates, great build quality, and a great battery life for a DAP this good, DX160 makes one of the easiest to recommend DAPs at the moment of writing this review.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB + FiiO M11 (450 USD + 420 USD) – M11 is totally different from the M11 PRO, which I reviewed on video, but for now let’s talk a bit about the M11, which is brighter as a DAP. This works well with Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB, because they sound quite a bit more sparkly, but M11 is flatter in the bass, which does not work so well for the already pretty flat sounding Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB. If you use the EQ a bit, they can turn into a much better IEM, since they have enough headroom to take it.
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB + Earmen TR-AMp (450 USD + 250 USD) – Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB can be a bit hissy out of the TR AMP, but I loved the detail and clarity of this pairing, and also the dynamics and punch. Although the TR-AMP is not very warm, I totally love the way it delivers a full and deep impact with Fa4, which keeps their excellent speed and resolution in the pairing.
Value and Conclusion
Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB surely provides a refreshing product, on a market that has many things, but nothing quite like it. The price/performance ratio is solely sustained by the sonic performance, because the package is a bit underwhelming, compared to all the other options, and so is the default cable.
But the comfort is excellent, with a good amount of passive noise isolation, and with no microphonic noise, and with no driver flex, since it has no dynamic driver.
On the other hand, the sound is dry, precise, textured, ultra-revealing and makes for a really good purchase if you plan on doing some monitoring, mixing or mastering, while for music, it is harder to recommend unless you like to dissect your music, and you enjoy a mid-centric sound.
And this bring us to the conclusion of this review, if you’re looking for a mid-forward IEM with an extreme amount of details, a really quick and dry sound, but with a good amount of bass and explosion, with excellent comfort and passive noise isolation, the Fischer AMPs FA-4E XB does a really great job and should be a great fit for you.
Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.