I guess with everyone in this hobby there is one earphone that changed the way you perceived headphones, a reason why we end up dedicating a lot of time and money trying to figure out not only what is the best headphone but the best one for our personal tastes and the best set up to really make it sing. Well my first expensive buy in headphones was a pair of Beats Pros and they left such a sour taste in my mouth I am surprised I kept going but I was persistent and thought surely there had to be earphones that are really going to be a step up, a pair I can really tell the difference with. Well that first experience came in a pair or Fischer Audio DBA-02s that I still own to this day. Now I was in touch with Fischer Audio and for a long time they promised a new IEM flagship, something with 3 Balanced Armature drivers and after a long wait, it is finally upon us in the name of the TBA-04, standing for Triple Balanced Armature and the 04 is because it is the fourth in their balanced armature line (two singles and a double) and it is the most expensive IEM that Fischer have ever released coming in at around £200. What is quite interesting is what the 3 armature drivers are getting up to as they have gone for a similar method to what Sony employed and that is using one driver for the full range and then using the additional two drivers to overlap. Now Fischer have not said if there is two single units or a dual unit on top of the full range driver or what part of the frequency response they are helping out in but it is interesting none the less.
The design is cool, the housing have a ceramic look to them, something I find quite appealing although I do worry how long I will be able to keep the white housings squeaky clean. The only tiny niggle is that looking up close to them the seams are quite apparent and that takes a little bit of the expensive look away but oh well. As for the cable I have always found the braided cable really neat looking and it was one of the things the originally drew me to the DBA-02, yes I was that shallow! However the use of the braided cable, the same one as the DBA-02, leaves me very confused as it is a major issue with the DBA, a reason mine are pretty much broke and also the reason Fischer done a MK2 of the DBA with a new cable. I am not sure why they have reverted back to the old cable after all the positive impressions on the MK2 cable. This cable starts off all floppy and flexible and seems strong enough but over time it goes very brittle and then starts to crack exposing the inside of the wires. It also is just hard to use when the cable does not really bend and just snaps when you try and bend it any way. There is not really a true strain relief either which is a bit iffy leading onto the cable that concerns me already. The housings do seem strong enough though so that’s good and the strain reliefs on both the y-split and the straight jack are good and we do also have a cable cinch on these so there are some things to smile about.
In the little box you get with the TBA-04 they do no scamper with what you get, they give you all you will need get started with the earphones. First of all you get a nice round clamshell case to keep them nice and safe in. You also get a pair of ear guides and a shirt clip for better fit and then rest are pairs of tips, in which is fairly wide variety. You get some standard silicone tips in 3 sizes, some firmer silicone tips in two sizes, some more silicone tips that are like the one you get from Sony with the foam inside and then a pair of triple flange. So foam tips would have really finished of the package but I still don’t see anyone not getting an ideal seal with all of that!
The comfort is pretty much all you can ask for with these, they have no weight to them, fit nicely over your ear without any stupid memory wire and the design is ergonomic with it fitting snug in your ear, not sticking out and fitting at a comfortable depth in your ear. They are not as tiny as the DBA but they are still what I would categorize as a small earphone and I do not think the size with these or the overall comfort will be a problem for anyone.
Isolation is fairly good although these do not insert the deepest unless you using these with the triple flanges which obviously has a deeper seal and large isolation. I have been getting the best sound with some single flanges and while isolation has not been a problem with me having all the sound blocked out in some noisy environments, they are not at CIEM or Etymotic level.
The sound of this actually reminds me of the Tandem more than it does the DBA-02 with that you have a very mid centric, mellow and smooth sound. It certainly gets rid of that extreme analytical signature of the DBA and also does away with the cold that come with the sound and these is much more easy going as well as being tame on the ears. Now I am not quite sure too what extent it impresses me because while the DBA was not for everyone, it stupidly detailed sound really did impress if you liked it. Now this leaves the over detailed, clarity orientated sound and while this is still got a lot of detailing, it gets closed to a mainstream sound. The thing is if people didn’t get the original DBA, one of there biggest issues would have been a “lack of bass” because they were very neutral and the thing is, while these have more mid-bass, they still lack a solid sub-bass and the mid-bass is a bit lack luster in its impact. Fortunately the midrange is very luxurious and the treble is smooth and detailed if just a little early to roll of.
Going into more detail the bass is pleasant, it does not do anything to offend in anyway but it’s just a bit weak, doesn’t have any flare, doesn’t deliver when needed or have that detail that some better earphones have. It is fairly fast though and gets from one not to another quickly and as well as that does have some decay that does not make it seem anemic, it has a good balanced of the two things. It also does not interrupt with the midrange as you can imagine. The sub-bass both rolls of early, lacks details and feeling and generally can be worked on heavily. It just feels a bit empty, like you can sometimes be missing a bit of the music, especially when you switch on some of the bassier music in my collection. You know me, I am far from a bass head so when I have a desire for some more sub-bass I think it is worth noting.
The midrange is delicious in that it is detailed, very balanced, very smooth and easy to listen too. This all being said I do question them at times and do find them just a bit different. Now the reason for this is that they are very balanced in throughout the midrange instead of having the usual presence range boost that gives the effect of clarity, that extra lush-ness to female vocals and general airiness and height to vocals. Without that everything sounds just a bit flat I guess, especially female vocals that lack a bit of power and emotion. This being said the midrange as a whole is the front running of this earphone, is always very clear, details flow neatly and they instruments sound organic if a bit light.
The treble is as I have said smooth and easy. It does not have sibilance, it is not harsh, it does not have the crystal clear sound, which allows for every instrument to be so real you cannot almost see it, nor does it have extension way past your hearing is capable. IT just follows on from the smooth upper midrange and that’s how it stays. It is still detailed for sure, it just does not have the crystal qualities. It also lack just a little bit of sparkle to it, you do not get that easily audible snare drum or cymbal crash, you can hear them, they just do not pierce over the rest of the music.
The rolled off bass and not the most extended treble do come together with the forward midrange as a very tight cohesive package even if these are certainly an different listen and one that is not for everyone, I mean I can see a lot of people turning there noses up at these but then I no a fair few will also be over the moon. The presentation is well separated and has all right width but do not expect these to be any sort of soundstage kings. They are overall very fast and do not ever struggle with fast passages. Sometimes when I am listening to this I find them wonderful, they get the music, Lenny Kravitz “Heaven Help” was just amazing and so was Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” but sometimes I just did not get the earphones, they didn’t synergies with the genre of music at all and just did not understand them. I mean “Cold Sweat” by Thin Lizzy was almost garbage for no apparent reason.
These earphones did really cause me to have mixed feeling towards them and with their price I am fooled again because I do listen to them like I would a much more expensive earphone most of the time and when they disappoint it may well be because they set the bar so high at over times. They do face fierce competition for sure though with the likes of the HiFiMAN RE-400 being close (and cheaper) and the FAD Heaven II not quite offering as much but being over 100 pound cheaper. That being said they do also show up a lot of the price competitors such as the NOCS NS800 and FAD Adagio V. I guess one people will be curious about if how they stand up too the very popular hybrids, the T-PEOS H-200 and the DUNU DN-1000 and they are completely different earphones. These are much clearer, do treble smoother and mids more detailed but they do not pack nowhere near as much bass so they are different earphones for sure.
Now do you like smooth music, do you mind a little less bass but want amazing clear midrange, smooth treble and accurate imaging and instrument separation in a confident physical package, then these may very well be just what your after.