Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dynamic VS BA: Flare Audio R2Pro VS Final Audio Design Heaven VI

==Introduction==


I would like to thank Flare Audio for providing the Flare Audio R2Pro at such a reduced price and a seller on Head-Fi for providing the Final Audio Design Heaven VI that will be pitted against the R2Pro in this review.

This review should of course be taken as a grain of salt as it is my opinion and only my opinion. I have past experience with quite a few cans and IEMs before. I personally own or have owned these cans and IEMs (to the best of my knowledge):

Sennheiser HD25 Aluminium 25th Anniversary Limited Edition
Sennheiser HD424
M-Audio Q40
Denon AH-D2000
NAD VISO HP50
Aedle VK-1
Beyerdynamic DTX-101iE
Monster Turbine Pro Gold
ADL EH-008
Koss Sportapro
AKG K7xx
Other odd vintage cans

I wanted to try how different companies implemented their own unique philosophies behind dealing with the pressure caused by a single moving driver in front of and behind it when placed in a confined space like an IEM enclosure. Flare Audio's implementation uses a dynamic 5mm driver with their own pressure-balancing system (I think it's called the Dual-Sized Vortex) while Final Audio Design use a balanced armature driver of an unknown sized backed up by their BAM mechanism.

The Flare Audio R2Pro is used with Jaben spinfit tips while the FAD Heaven VI is used with stock medium soft tips. I will also sell the IEM that I don't like as much so this makes it a deathmatch of sorts, if death means having to leave me forever. Now, lets see how they stack up against each other!

==Aesthetics==



Packaging and Accessories

The Flare Audio R2Pro came in a very small box with a square-shaped footprint in a foam cutout with three pairs of Comply foams and a small carrying case. Honestly, this isn't all that much especially for the price but I suppose it works. However, with every time I was unimpressed by the packaging, I was impressed by the sound, so we'll have to see! At least they came with adequate protection which stopped them from being damaged at all in transit.

The Final Audio Design Heaven VI came to me second-hand so I can't judge it all that much but its carrying case is simply stunning, if seemingly rather easy to scratch and damage. The seller also supplied with a small baggie of original eartips which is nice to see as I suppose that FAD deigned to offer that amount of choice for us consumers.


Design and Build


The Flare Audio R2Pro is made of titanium and is absolutely tiny. This means that they're harder to insert properly but once there they isolate nearly everything. I really like how solid they feel despite how small they are and it never feels like the housings themselves
need to be babied.

I prefer them with an over-ear fit as I find that helps lessen microphonics and make them easier to fit properly. I think the cable, however, is absolutely atrocious and belongs on a $50 pair of earbuds and certainly not a $400 MSRP pair of earbuds. I'd really love it if Flare Audio provided a stronger and higher-quality cable or at least one that doesn't seem that it'll break as soon as it is pulled once. There is a block of aluminium serving as the Y-split which I think actually helps with the over-ear fit as it weighs them down and helps them stay there without falling off, but I know some people who complain about how it's too big. I also hate how the Left/Right markings are on the Y-split instead of the IEMs themselves which forced me to use a bit of tape to mark which one is the right side.


The Final Audio Design Heaven VI is made of Chromed Copper and has an absolutely beautiful finish which unfortunately makes me scared stiff of scratching it lest it ruin the finish. They're also larger than the R2Pro and requires a shallower fit to get the sound right but don't isolate as well and to me aren't quite as comfortable to wear.

They have a...let's just say weirdly coloured...flat cable that at least seems to be somewhat durable and not likely to break with real strain reliefs!  attaching them to the IEM housings. The cable, unfortunately, is as microphonic as the one on the R2Pro, but there's a chin slider which helps things somewhat but isn't as flashy as the R2Pro y-split.

Comfort and Isolation

I find both IEMs to be really comfortable to wear, but the Flare Audio R2Pro edges out the Final Audio Design Heaven VI  due to its smaller housing size and over-ear fit. This means that the R2Pro are also better at isolating outside noise than the Heaven VI and this also allows the R2Pro an advantage when wearing them underneath a helmet or on the side in a bed.

==Sound==



Equipment and Burn-In

The equipment I used was: Windows laptop (running Foobar 2000) > Cozoy Aegis > IEMs and the LG G4 > USB Audio Player Pro > Cozoy Aegis > IEMs. The Flare Audio R2Pro was used out of the box with no burn-in and I'm not sure how long the Final Audio Design Heaven VI has been burnt in as they were bought used.

Comparisons

We're starting with a solo piano piece which I've known and loved for a while. The reason I'm starting with this is because headphones in general have a lot of trouble reproducing the exact finesse, timbre and vibrations of the piano and making it sound exactly like a piano. A perfect challenge to start testing these two competitors with.

Flare Audio R2ProFAD Heaven VI
  • Good decay and timbre on every piano note with a somewhat warm presentation of the piece being very easy and pleasant to listen to
  • The piano sounds ALMOST like a piano but just not quite, being just a little too warmer than neutral 
  • However, it possesses excellent detailed decay and reverberations and reviews subtle individual piano-playing technique 
  • The lower frequencies are excellently weighed and help supplement the entire presentation of the song
    This is a somewhat brighter piano sound with a little more liveliness but in this case it’s definitely more natural a piano sound in comparison
    The presentation is again more airy but at the same time seems to be a little more compressed than the R2Pro
    The piano still sounds excellent with decay and reverb right on point
    Low frequencies are there but leave the piano sound alone and do not interfere with the presentation at all which is a plus in this case

    Winner: Final Audio Heaven VI, barely.

    This is because the more euphoric presentation of the Heaven VI helps make the piano sounds just a little bit more lively and forward compared to the darker presentation of the R2Pro which doesn't work quite as well for piano pieces.


    Flare Audio R2ProFAD Heaven VI
    • Vibrant, resonating voices that just fill the space in front of rather than inside my head with the sound of an excellent choir
    • The presentation is marvelous, possibly better than the H6 because of the weighed sub-bass which is essential when it comes to classical music
    • The way the instruments vibrate is more enjoyable to me in this case due to the better bass presentation allowing for fuller sound
    • Somehow the whole thing sounds more real and solid to me than the ethereal-sounding H6
      • Very natural vocal sound with great rendering of the reverberation off the concert hall walls and the accuracy of the decay is just marvelous
      • All of the string, brass and woodwind instruments have an incredibly natural timbre that is rendered perfectly – I can practically see them vibrating as they’re being played
      • The presentation is just a tad too bright to be natural to me with very forward mid-range
      • The soundstage still sounds compressed which is about the only nitpick I have when it comes to this song

      Winner: Flare Audio R2Pro, barely.

      I prefer the richer presentation of the R2Pro for both sections of the song; the vocals are richer and more flowing and the latter instrumental section is presented in a more spacious and larger presentation compared the the Heaven VI that I just prefer.

      Hotel California by the Eagles - Hell Freezes Over

      Flare Audio R2ProFAD Heaven VI
      • The guitar at the beginning is rendered about as realistically as I’ve ever heard and seems to be more detailed sound despite being less bright
      • The impact of the drum is strong and deep with a good amount of sub-bass complimenting it but it never sounds bloated no matter how strong the impact is
      • The soundstage does not belong in an IEM and I have no idea how on earth Flare Audio managed to pull this off
      • Don Henley’s voice is just so natural and flowing right in the center of the stage
        • Still a wonderful euphoric presentation of the guitar but it doesn’t seem quite natural and rather slightly emphasized
        • The impact of the drum is frankly disappointingly bad compared to the R2Pro, being soft and somewhat muted without that much impact although it’s still well-extended and of a very high quality
        • Soundstage has good positioning and placement but it seems somewhat squashed and compressed
        • Slightly shoutey Don Henley here doesn’t help the Heaven VI with its presentation of Hotel California

        Winner: Flare Audio R2Pro, by far.

        The Heaven VI just does not have enough bass quantity to fully render this song in its impressive whole state and this combined with the smaller soundstage help the R2Pro walk away with this one.

        Cloudy with Intermittent Rain - Decade of Expose

        Flare Audio R2ProFAD Heaven VI
        • The bass impact and quantity is just right for this kind of song, creating a pulsing rhythmic melody that I can’t help but bob my head to with an authoritative and strong presence that takes the song by its reins
        • The R2Pro compliments the bright mastering in this song perfectly, reducing the peaks and presenting the song in a weighed and solid manner
          • The bass impact and quantity is horribly unsuited to this type of music, being of a type that sits out of the way instead of complimenting the song and thus being too light and soft for this song
          • The emphasized and euphoric mid and treble section work to bring down the rest of the presentation, causing the song to sound peaky and sharp

          Winner: Flare Audio R2Pro, by far. 

          The sing is listenable for me on the R2Pro and not the Heaven VI. Not the Heaven's fault as I deliberately chose something like this to see if I can trip up both IEMs.

          Namei no Nai Kaibutsue by Egoist - Psycho Pass ending theme

          Flare Audio R2ProFAD Heaven VI
          • Less bright and easier to listen to -- more relaxing shhs
          • Good drum impact - full and solid, very rhythmic and punchy
          • The huskiness of Chelly’s voice and the edges of the synths in general have plenty of bite yet Chelly’s voice still sounds smooth and flowing
          • The song sounds darker, more weighed, dynamic and lively and the soundstage and presentation is a lot more realistic
          • The R2Pro sort of guides you through the song while holding your hand and showing you everything of interest
          • All the instruments sound as they should sound if they were played live
            • Shhs -- cymbals! -- more pronounced
            • Drums hit slightly less hard - tad muffled and the impact isn’t nearly as good as with the R2Pro
            • Brighter in general but also more light than the R2Pro – more airy in a way but definitely not as natural verses the R2Pro’s smooth, weighed and yet still flowing presence
            • The bite in Chelly’s voice is still there 
            • Soundstage is smaller and more compressed in my head with a more oval-shaped soundstage
            • The IEMs almost sound as if they were nasal yet holographic at the same time with their presentation

            Winner: R2Pro, barely.

            This is a toss-up between whether you prefer a brighter, more forward sound signature or a darker, more weighted sound signature. I know many people will prefer something more forward and in-your-face but personally at this point the R2Pro is the winner to me. This is because I much prefer its darker and bassier sound signature which works for more genres of music that I listen to verses the more specialized and polarizing Final Audio Design Heaven VI which only works for certain genres of music.

            ==Conclusion==



            Neither of them are IEMs that you'll buy if you want value for money. There is the R2A which offers most of the bang for the buck of the R2Pro if you want to go that route and Final Audio Design isn't really known for their bang for the buck and by contrast are known for their unique statement products. However, I think that in this case, the R2Pro edges out the Heaven VI as I just prefer its sound signature which just clicks for me. That's not to say that the Heaven VI is bad, but it will be better used in someone else's collection and so it will unfortunately be leaving my collection in the foreseeable future.

            CategoryScore (R2Pro)Comment (R2Pro)Score (Heaven VI)Comment (Heaven VI)
            Packaging and Accessories5/10Mediocre for its price range, but the inclusion of a nice case redeems this somewhat.7/10Absolutely beautiful if easily scratched carrying case with a good selection of eartips for use.
            Design and Build2/10Solid aluminum enclosures are nice, but the cable is worse than that found on many a $50 IEM.7/10Wonderful shiny chrome copper housings let down a bit by its cable, but not as badly as the R2Pro.
            Comfort and Isolation9/10The R2Pro shines as its deep fit and tiny size helps a ton in this category versus the larger and bulkier Heaven VI.8/10Still excellent, but not quite as good as the R2Pro – especially because it’s thicker and longer and thus not allowing such a deep fit.
            Bass9.5/10Yummy, juicy bass with excellent impact and beautiful extension that helps with a myriad of genres from rock to electronic.5/10Extended fairly well, but let down by its mediocre impact which polarizes it into genres not reliant on a good bass section.
            Midrange
            9.5/10
            Natural and flowing midrange reminiscent of how we breathe – effortless and without thinking.9/10Beautiful midrange in a different way as it’s emphasized to make instruments and vocals shine.
            Treble9/10Slightly dark treble, but this suits my tastes as it’s not peaky at all while still being incredibly detailed and with only a hint of treble spike.7/10Good detail but somewhat emphasized presentation makes me doubt how much of it is actual detail and how much of it is artificial.
            Presentation9.5/10I love the overall frequency response of the R2Pro, and while it won’t rival top-tier IEMs, it just clicks with the kind of natural and effortless presentation I know and love.7/10Its somewhat polarizing frequency response makes people either love or hate these IEMs, and while I can hear the merits, I don’t think this kind of presentation works with me.
            Value7/10This score is driven down by two things: the R2A, which is most of the R2Pro while being only half the price and the cable, which is horrible.5/10As I mentioned above, I can’t say an IEM that only works with certain genres of music offers excellent bang for the buck.
            Total
            7.5/10
            A wonderful-sounding IEM is unfortunately let down by its mediocre cable and meagre accessories, but this doesn’t stop me from loving just how wonderful the R2Pro sounds.7/10Somewhat the opposite of the R2Pro, the beautiful housings and case of the Heaven VI is let down somewhat by its polarizing sound signature that my brain just doesn’t click with.


            ==Specs==


            Specs R2ProHeaven VI
            Headphone Type:IEMIEM
            Driver Type:Single 5mm DynamicSingle Balanced Armature
            Frequency Response:N/AN/A
            Max. Input Power:N/AN/A
            Sensitivity:105 dB/mW112 dB/mW
            Impedance:16 Ω16 Ω
            Weight:9g17g
            Connector:1/8-inch jack1/8-inch jack
            Accessories:3 sizes Comply tips
            Sewn carrying case
            5 pairs of different sized silicone tips
            Metal spring-loaded carrying case
            Presentation box

            2 comments:

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            2. The Flare R2Pro are a titanium body. It's the R2A which is aluminium.

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