It's a Headphones Thing

A Headphones Reviews Blog

REVIEW: Fischer Audio DBA-02 MKII

In the last few years, “Fischer Audio” (On this review, I’ll refer to them also as FA), a Russian Headphones & Earphones company, had been a quite common name in the audio discussion boards. Since early 2010, their (then) flagship IEM, the DBA-02, had received lots of raving all over the internet, and had became one of the “bang for the buck” kings. As the time passed, people learned to value their sound very highly, though, later, some building-quality problems had started to appear. Fischer Audio had understood that they have to do something regarding to this issue; about a year and a half since their releasing, late 2011, the original DBA-02s were discontinued. A few months later, around February 2012, the replacement model, the DBA-02 MKII’s, were finally released. FA had fully changed their design and construction, in order to achieve a more durable and long-lasting building quality. In regards to the sound, the drivers from the original DBAs (TWFKs by Knowles) were kept, in order to make the MKIIs to sound as good as the original DBAs.

The technical specifications of the Fischer Audio DBA-02 MKIIs are below:

  • Frequency response: 20-24000 Hz
  • Driver: Dual Balanced Armature
  • Sensitivity: 108 dB
  • Impedance: 43 Ohm
  • Input power: 60 mW
  • Cable Length: 1.3 m

Packaging: The DBA-02 MKIIs are packaged in a quite small cardboard box, built of an inner and outer box. The orange colored outer box has images and renders of the DBAs all over its surfaces, while the technical specifications are printed on its rare side.  The IEMs themselves are seated in a foam surface, placed in the inner box, while the included accessories are seated in the foam layer below.

the red-black colored case is very compact

Accessories: Lots of people were disappointed from the accessories which were included with the original DBAs, a thing which FA had took a note of and fixed with the MKIIs, by including a very generous and wide range of accessories with it. Starting from the ear-tips, FA includes a variety of 9 pairs of tips: 3 Pairs of standard single-flanged tips (Small/Medium/Large), a pair of Triple Flanged Tips (Large), 2 pairs of clear tips (Medium/Large) and 3 pairs of Sony-Hybrids clones with a foam stuffed inner core (Small/Medium/Large). Moving on, FA includes also a pair of plastic-silicone ear-guides and a triangle-shaped shirt clip. Finally, a black-red colored clamshell zippered case (which is a bit smaller than your regular clamshell case, and it fits easily into every pocket) is included either. I had found the included accessories to have a very good usability, and they make the using experience a lot better than without them. The rating is 9.5/10.

a pair of silicone-plastic made ear-guides is included too

the housings are made ofblack-rubberized-plastic

Building Quality & Design: One of FA’s goals was to make the DBA-02 MKIIs more durable and well built; after all, no customer will be satisfied with an easily broken but good sounding IEM. Design-wise, nothing has been left from the original DBAs – the MKIIs are a completely new design. The black rubberized-plastic housings feel quite sturdy and strong, and seem to be a lot smaller than the original housings; they are only a bit bigger than the minuscule Hisound Golden Crystals and from the even-tinier ACS T15s. The connection between the drivers to the cable is protected by flexible-yet-tough strain-reliefs, which the left and right markings are printed on too. Moving on, the cable is quite-weird. It isn’t a regular round cable, it isn’t a twisted cable, and it isn’t a flat cable either; It’s rectangular shaped. At first, I thought that it was quite weird, but afterwards, as the time had passed, I had understood that it’s a more durable and thick than the standard flat cables, yet, it is as stylish and less prone to tangling as them. A black cylinder-shaped plastic piece, which has FA’s logo on it, is utilized as the Y-Split. The cable ends with a straight-plug, coated in a quite big and sturdy silicon and rubberized-plastic housing, which looks like it’ll do a good job and be durable enough even though it isn’t an L-shaped plug, while the gold-plated jack itself feels tough enough. My conclusion is that the MKIIs are very-well built, and after more than a month of using them, I feel that they are durable enough to be able to take some major abuse. The rating is 9/10.

the plug is coated by a tough rubberized plastic housing

the y-split

Comfort & Fit: As I already said, the DBA-02 MKIIs utilize tiny rubberized housings, which are very easy to fit both straight-down and over-the-ear, though, the fit is quite deeper when they’re being worn over-the-ear. There’s little to not pressure inside the ear-canals, even when worn over a few hours. All of the included tips were comfortable enough for me, though, I preferred to use TX100 Comply tips instead. The cable is a bit problematic while worn over-the-ear due to its stiff nature. Fortunately, the included ear-guides can easily fix this problem. Unfortunately, a chin-slider, which makes the over-the-ear wearing method securer, isn’t included; in my opinion, every IEM should include a one.  The rating is 9/10.

the included ear-guides can help the user to handle the strange cable

Isolation & Microphonics: Due to their deep fit, the DBA-02 MKIIs isolate very well, as good as Earsonics’ range for example. Meanwhile, the cable is quite microphonic, but it is only noticeable when worn straight-down; when worn over-the-ear, the microphonics are negligible, not really noticeable. The rating is 4.5/5 for the isolation and 3/5 for the microphonics.

there are 9 pairs of tips included

Sound Quality: The DBA’s sound-signature is cold, accurate, transparent and bright. As I already mentioned before, the DBAs utilize Knowles’ TWFK dual balanced armature drivers. Prior to this review, I had already reviewed a TWFK based IEM, the Korean EXS X20, which I expected the DBAs to share some sound characteristics with. The DBAs seems like a less bright and smoother version of the X20s.

Bass: The MKIIs produce a very accurate, precise, neutral and well controlled bass. Clarity isn’t a problem at-all; in fact, the DBAs produce one of cleanest and clearest lower-ends that I’ve heard in their price-range. Its extension seems a bit better than the X20’s; it digs a bit deeper on the spectrum. It is very fast, and it has a nice texture, while its impact will be enough for analytical users, but some of the users might want to use an EQ in order to make it a bit more “fun” sounding, as it may overall sound a bit thin and weak.

Midrange: The mids are quite forward and aggressive, but they aren’t fatiguing. They’re very clear, clean and their detailing level is rather impressive. The produced mids are beautifully textured and quite sweet.

Treble: As the bass, also the treble has a great extension; the drivers can hit very high notes. It is as detailed as the midrange, managing to reproduce micro-details even from the super-high ranges. There’s a bit of sibilance, though, nothing too interrupting. On the other hand, the aggressiveness of the treble may be a bit tiring for some of the users. Clarity is top-notch, better than most of the IEMs in the DBA’s price-range. Also, there’s enough sparkle to satisfy most if not all of the treble-heads.

Sound-Stage: The sound-stage is a bit above average in height and depth, while it lacks a bit of wideness.  Instruments and vocals positioning is very satisfying, while the instruments separation is excellent for an under $200 IEM.

The rating for the “Sound Quality” section is 9.4/10. The rating is in ratio to the product’s price at the time of the review.

In Conclusion, I think that Fischer Audio has a very strong competitor in the below $200 IEMs market. Their new flagship does everything in a very impressive way, while still remaining a great value-for-money IEM. Their sound-signature isn’t the ideal one for everybody, but users that search for a bright and neutral IEM would learn to appreciate its performance. The included accessories are very generous and useful, the building quality seems to be quite durable and reliable, the comfort & fit are great and the isolation level would be satisfying even in loud environments. The overall score is 9.5/10.

Pros: Generous accessories bundle, Durable, Comfortable, Good isolation, Bang for the buck value, Very precise and accurate sound, Crystal-clear.

Cons: Microphonic Cable, May lack bass for some, May be a bit boring for some, Lack of chin-slider.

Where to Buy? Fischer Audio’s DBA-02 MKII can be purchased for $160-$200 from FA’s authorized dealers, which a list of can be found in their FaceBook page. Western Europe & UK based customers would be glad to know that Fischer Audio has a new UK distributor, called “Top Dog Headphones“, which sells the DBAs (and some other FA products too).

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