An excellent successor to the DBA-02 mk II
Pros: Mids, highs, accessories, build quality, comfort,
Cons: Worldwide availability, bass, straight 3.5mm jack, needs to be ideally driven with an amp
Packaging & Accessories: 9/10
Build Quality: 9/10
Design & Look: 8/10
Microphonics (higher ratings means lower cable noise): 9/10
Audio Quality: 9.5/10
My final Rating: 9.5/10
Purchase Date: 2013
Purchase Price: £185 / $300
First of all I would like to thank Serge from Fischer Audio for sending me out the TBA-04′s on their release. I took some time doing this review as I wanted to get a good amount of personal listening done, to the music I’m used to. More so, I wanted to get used to the Fischer Audio sound signature again, as I had a good impression of the different type of sound the FA earphones have to offer over other earphones.
In this review, I will refer to the TBA-04′s as the TBA and their younger brothers the DBA-02 mk II’s as the DBA’s. A full review of the DBA’s can be found here, a read of the review can serve as a useful reference for those who aren’t accustom to some of the traits of the DBA’s.
Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)
For my initial impressions and unboxing video of the TBA-04′s – Click here
The packaging of the TBA-04′s reminded me very much of the DBA-02′s, in fact it looked identical – by not only the looks, but also the contents within the packaging.
The accessories were vast, as expected after my experiences with other FA earphones, especially the DBA-02 mk II. The accessories were in fact identical to what was found in the DBA-02′s, which had the following:
-Silicone tips (S,M,L)
-Silicone tips with inner foam ring (S,M,L)
-Clear tips x2
-Triple flange tips x1
As much as I loved the accessories, I was quite disappointed not to find anything different or additional in the TBA-04′s. For example, it would have been nice to get some foam tips included, dual flangue tips and possibly some more triple flangue tips.
Despite the above, the accessories are very much excellent, but it is just a shame that there was no distinction between the two earphones. Especially seeing as the TBA’s are £60 more expensive. With that said, it does still impress me and does the job very much better than a lot of other earphones that can be found in the market today.
I have and will always be a big fan of the included carrying pouch, that’s included with the DBA’s and there was no difference with the pouch included with the TBA’s.
Overall first impressions:
Overall, I was a little disappointed that Fischer Audio copy and pasted everything that they had in the DBA’s over to the TBA’s, but with that said, it is still a good array of things included within the package.
The build quality of the TBA-04′s is quite good, from top to bottom. However, I did find a few points of concern with the build quality which I was a little worried about.
First of all the wire – I quite like the fact the wire is braided however it does feel a little loose at times. With wear and tear, I’m not too sure about the choice of a braided cable by Fischer Audio. To add to the concern, the wire is terminated with a straight gold plated 3.5mm jack, rather than a right angled one. I feel that if users were to pull the earphones jack out by the cable, after a certain amount of time, it will come undone. Furthermore, the termination on the earphones themselves, where the wire has a small strain relief, I found to be a little worrying if it were to be yanked out of your ears suddenly, by pulling it against its natural direction it is intended to go.
Other than that, the build quality is quite good. I especially like the lightweight nature of the earphones – which means that listening to them for an extended period of time isn’t fatiguing. I also like that on the earphones themselves there is a clear right and left indicator – this makes it very easy to see which side each earphone should go.
Overall, the build quality is very good, and does certainly shine through the product, but certain aspects of it left me slightly disappointed. I wish there was more attention to detail in that respect with the earphones, especially seeing as they are Fischer’s new top of the line earphones.
I should also point out that there was barely any microphonics as the earphones are worn over-the-ear. I did notice a very small amount of microphonics, but it was quite negligible.
Now the overall look, comfort and isolation
The looks can be taken in two ways – either you like the white colour, or you don’t. Unfortunately for me, I don’t like their bright white colour. This is extremely subjective and comes down to taste, but it would have been nice if Fischer had different colour shells to offer. A black coloured earphone for me would have been much more appealing or even a see-through shell would have been very cool indeed.
Other than that the earphones are reasonably discrete and don’t stick out too much – thus meaning the looks and the design is still very good.
I should point out that the TBA’s nozzle is quite long, like the one found in the Shure range and the DBA’s.
The isolation of the earphones was good – especially with the provided inner foam ring ear tips, which give you a little better isolation over the normal silicone ear tips. They also didn’t leak any noise, due to the earphones not needing any sort of air to move the drivers, unlike dynamic driver earphones that often have a port located on the earphones.
Finally the comfort:
The comfort was very much excellent. The earphones, as stated above were light on the ears and could be worn for long periods of time.
The sound quality is what was the most intriguing for me when I opened the box – I couldn’t wait to hear them as the DBA’s really had impressed me a lot, despite having a few points that were concerning (ie the sibilance and the lack of bass).
The TBA’s I found were a natural successor of the DBA’s – Fisher must have taken the DBA’s as a benchmark and improved it. The highs were refined and thus no longer made the earphones sibilant, the lows were drastically improved and the mids kept their rich sound.
Thus, the TBA’s to my ears were an improved DBA set of earphones. Which, after having been extremely popular with the DBA’s I think Fisher made the right decision. If these had a bit more bass extension, I think these would hit the nail on the head, especially at their price point of £185.
Important note about the sound quality:
I should mention that the sound signature, in my opinion, changed a little since the DBA’s. The DBA’s used to be like a flipped V shaped signature. Mid centric, highs rolled off ever so slightly especially due to the sibilance making you reduce the volume you listen to your earphones at and lacking lows.
The TBA’s on the other hand have a more flat line frequency response – which makes them a much more favourable earphone for audiophiles out there.
Another important factor is that I found the TBA’s really benefited from an amp. When I paired them up with my ZO2 or my EHP-O2D, I found that the earphones came to life a little more.
The lows were improved over the DBA’s, however I did find that it did lack extension and thus didn’t really hit some of the low end frequencies. When compared to my PFE232′s, the PFE’s were able to deliver a better extension – thus making the PFE’s better in terms of extension and thus the quality of the bass tones. Despite being a dual BA driver itself, it was still able to provide excellent bass. The TBA’s on the other hand didn’t have much quantity of bass and their extension also lacked, however when paired with my DigiZoid ZO2 the bass quantity really increased and thus became a lot more present. This was nice to see as the DBA’s to my ears weren’t really capable of this, whereas the TBA’s with that extra driver could deliver in the bass department if called upon. So to summarise the lows, don’t expect to be blown away from the bass, but coming from the DBA’s I think you’ll be extremely satisfied and pleasantly surprised that the TBA’s don’t sacrifice an inch of mids quality and yet deliver a bigger blow than the DBA’s is able to do.
The mids and highs are simply perfect. I think they really shine through with an amp – but they share the mids that are present in the DBA’s, almost like they went unchanged, which is a great thing.
Mids are thus excellent – very precise, vocals that really shine through and overall an excellent sounding earphone for listening back to mid centric songs.
The highs are improved over the DBA’s – they only needed a little fine tuning and I think Fisher Audio nailed it. They reduced the sibilance of the earphones by reducing the peaks the DBA’s had and also extended them. Meaning there is no roll off of the high that I noted in my DBA review. This means the highs are more precise, better present and furthermore much more pleasant.
The soundstage hasn’t improved over the DBA’s – It still sounds excellent – has great separation, but lacks depth and width, mainly due to its plastic and small construction.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusions and final thoughts
In conclusion the TBA-04′s are an excellent successor to the DBA-02 mk II’s. I feel that a lot of the qualities have been ported over to the TBA’s and yet they have been improved with the inclusion of that extra BA driver. Turning it from a dual to a triple balanced armature driver.
Fischer really did a good job in this respect to keep previous customers happy with a similar sounding earphone, but also made it so that it offers something more.
Would I recommend this for £185 – definitely. It is one of the best all-rounded (yet slightly mid centric) earphones I’ve heard. Despite it not being quite to my tastes, as I prefer a more V shaped signature earphone, I do definitely think this is a lot of earphone for the money. If I was a DBA owner, and you feel you’re lacking extra bass extension and feel that you could do with listening to something that’s less sibilant and has a little more of a flat sound signature, then you should definitely consider investing in the TBA-04′s. With that said, with the extra price tag, £60 extra is quite a bit to pay for that little additional tweak in sound and refinement. It just all comes down to you evaluating your previous purchase or comparing it to other £180 earphones in the market.
What I loved about the DBA’s is the fact that they were so cheap for the amazing sound they produced. With the TBA’s being in a different price category, it makes them a little harder to recommend and jump upon, due to their similar sound to the DBA’s and lack of additional extras included.
Hope you enjoyed my review!