For this review, I only used a set of DAPs as I traveled across the country in my car : the FiiO M6 (yes again and again), the FiiO M11 and finally, the all-new iBasso DX220. I used FLAC files, in 16/24 bits and Spotify when it was possible.
Okay, the S6 Rui were quite good, but a bit bassy. Does the Fearless S8F follow the same trend ?
Good news, the S8F are much more balanced than the S6 Rui, while keeping that same warm touch. This is not a neutral IEM by any means, even so I never used an EQ when testing them. This is not an IEM which lacks in some frequencies, as some Earsonics IEMs in example, it’s quite the opposite in fact.
The vocals are a bit forward, and the lower body clearly takes the lead once you crank up the volume. Yet, I never thought that the S8F were unbalanced, by any means. Why ? Because you get a tons of details, much more than you’d expect in fact.
Even with low-end sources such as the FiiO M6, I could get the lowest note from “Splitting the Atom – Massive Attack”. Like a magnifier, the S8F could extract the finest details from every track I put them on. Once the vocals arrive, the voice just blends with ease, as it was intended to do.
Compared to the KZ AS16, another 8 drivers (on the cheaper side) the difference is massive. Like comparing a Kia and a Porsche doing 0-100kmh. Even if they state the same horsepower, and one cost three times more, on the track, there is a real difference.
Layering is excellent, a big plus if you’re into classical music. I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks, such as Hans Zimmer’s “Dunkerque” or “Inception”, with massive dynamics and strong toms. Exactly the kind of track where the Fearless S8F can display its superiority.
Take “The Mole” for example, just a long Shepard Tone making you nauseous when you watched the movie. With the DX220 and the S8F, you get that exact same feeling, on the go. The slight emphasis around 150Hz, gives you all the low mids you’ll ever need… and maybe more.
That can be heard through every aspect of the IEM :
- voices feel nearer, with more presence
- sound stage is wide but not as wide as BGVP IEM
- female vocals seem more realistic, yet less “melodic”.
For example, Diana Krall sounds amazing, but Minnie Riperton sounded better on the Crystal Pearl, in my opinion.
Again, that’s if you really want to be a nit-picker. If you take the IEM as a whole, it’s one of the finest ones you can get in this price range. And yes, it seems like I said it numerous time before, but that’s chi-fi : every month a new model appears, cheaper but also better !
Highs : clean and spacious. Compared to the Crystal Pearl, the S8F is more open, as if the sound stage were a third more spacious. It’s a bit too sensitive so you have to carefully choose your source, but if you stick to the best-sellers, you shall extract the quintessential of highs.
Good test-track : Max Richter – Recomposed
Mediums : superb. Voices sound amazing, as guitars and everything related to the mids charts. It’s never forced, the S8F placing each instrument, each singer as naturally as a conductor would do in an opera. Acapella will give you the chills… period.
Good test-track : San-Francisco Street – Sun Rai
Lows : big slam, all the time. where the S6 Rui could be a bit overwhelming, the S8F are much more easy to fall in love with. Even if I love the S6, once you hear the S8F, you’ll discover a very different side of Fearless, one made of control and power.
Good test-track : Hans Zimmer – The mole
Sensitivity / Hiss
The Fearless Audio S8F are very easy to drive but that should not stop you from hooking it up to a good DAP or AMP/DAC. It hisses fairly fast, so check carefully what you’ll plug them in to though.
Fearless S8F + FiiO M6 : a clean combo, not the best but surely unbeatable in this price range. The M6 tends to reinforce the lower end, but that’s what makes it popular.
Fearless S8F + FiiO M11 : this combo feel much more natural, but also a bit more dire. You’ll get a very clean sound with lots and lots of details, yet you may find the bass a tad shy, compared to the S6. A very good, but flat combination.
Fearless S8F + IBasso DX220 : definitely the best combo of the three. Sound stage is wider, bass full-bodied but not invasive and the massive power reserve gives you astonishing dynamic levels. A must have.
A classic now, it’s comparison time
Fearless Audio Crystal Pearl : the S8F is better in every way, pushing much much further than its smaller sibling. Yet, I’m pretty sure some will prefer the Crystal Pearl as it delivers a very clean, unharmful sound.
Fearless Audio S6 Rui : if the S6 Rui is a raging V6, the S8F is a calm/torquey V8, delivering details and music in a much more natural way. That doesn’t mean the S6 Rui sounds bad by any means, it’s just that the S8F is really better.
KZ AS16 : on paper, it should be the same. But (un)fortunately, the S8F are way better than the AS16, be it dynamics, layering and details. Yet, the KZ AS16 remains a great solution, considering the price.
So, are the Fearless Audio S8F a good IEM ? No, they are great.
These IEMs have it all: superb design, exceptional performance and excellent isolation. And the cherry on the cake? All of that for less than $500USD! The price/quality ratio is simply of the charts, as the S8F sound clearly better than the S6 Rui, which I found amazing at the time.
I will strongly recommend the Fearless S8F to any listener, avid of high performance without breaking the bank. Yet, I know that I might have to orient you to the S10 once I’ll receive them… I mean, not too long ago, performances doubled every two years, now it’s every two months !
So yeah, pick one till it’s hot, and never look back !