- Clear and neutral sound, free of sibilance.
- Design and choice of colours.
- Packaging presentation.
- Possibility of making a simple modification to increase the sub-bass.
- Light lower zone.
- Size of the capsules.
Link to the Store
Faaeal is a recognized brand for its great sound/price ratio earbuds. Now, it has taken a step forward, bringing to market two higher priced products: Earbuds Datura-Pro and IEMS Hibiscus. With them they have managed to attract the interest of many fans.
On this occasion, I will analyze the Hibiscus, his most expensive IEMS to date. Faaeal has left nothing to chance when it comes to designing and manufacturing this product. The packaging is luxurious and distinctive, they have used the best technology available for its manufacture and have chosen to mount a dynamic driver with DLC diaphragm, something that until now was only reserved for more expensive products. We will now go into detail about all these questions.
- Driver type: 10mm dynamic driver with DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) aperture
- Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
- Weight: 20g
- Sensitivity: 110dB
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Connector Jack: 3.5mm Audio
- Capsule Connection Type: 2pin-0.78mm
- Cable: 4 Strands of 5N LC-OFC
Hibiscus come in a box wrapped in white cardboard, dimensions 140x119x41mm. The main side is occupied by the drawing of the Hibiscus girl and the name of the model. On the back side, there are the specifications in Chinese and English. After removing the packaging, a black box is shown, with gold letters inscribed in its center (the brand and slogan). After opening, the capsules can be seen embedded in a black foam mold. Underneath it, there is a small black box, which contains the rest of the accessories.
In short, the content is:
- The two capsules.
- 1 pair of silicone tips, size M, with red inner core, already fitted in the capsules.
- 3 pairs of silicone tips, size SxMxL, with red inner core
- 3 pairs of black silicone tips SxMxL.
- 1 cable, 4 strands, 5N LC-OFC.
- 1 clothing clip.
- 1 storage bag, imitation skin.
- Instruction booklet and warranty.
- Card with the illustration of the Hibiscus girl in full color.
It is clear that the presentation wants to be totally distinctive and eye-catching (with the Hibiscus girl in front). Although this detail reminds of another brand…
The box has a very suitable size, it is not disproportionately large. It is quite practical and its presentation has a clear Premium vocation, quite careful for the price. The accessories are more than correct, with 7 pairs of tips, but I would have preferred a couple of foam tips and a semi-rigid transport box. But, it is worth mentioning that the cable is the best within its price range, or even better.
Construction and Design
Hibiscus is an ambitious product. The capsules have a semi-custom shape, but with a rather stubby body. Its external face has been entirely made of zinc and magnesium alloy. Die-cast and CNC-engraved, hand-sanded and with a galvanic-plastic oxidation treatment. The body has been built with ABS resin. This body can be chosen in 5 colours: red, transparent, blue, green and black. The nozzles are made of the same material, the largest diameter is 5.8mm and the smallest 5mm. Its interior is protected by a metal grid. On the inside face of the capsules, near the base of the nozzles, there is a letter inscribed in white, inside a circle, indicating the channel. Also, very close, there is a hole.
The cable is made of high purity Litz copper, oxygen free and hand woven. It consists of 4 strands of 224 cores. The strands are covered with transparent plastic and braided together. The connection is 2Pin 0.78mm. The covers of these connections are cylindrical, metallic, polished, with a rounded head and in each one there is a letter inscribed in white, which indicates the channel. The cable that comes out of each connector is covered with a semi-rigid, transparent plastic, which gives it a shape for adaptation over the ear. The splitter piece is made of the same material, a large and heavy cylinder, which has a cover that acts as a pin. The Jack cover is the same as the splitter piece. The brand name is inscribed on it in white capital letters. The twisted cable that comes out of it is covered by a small semi-rigid transparent plastic cover, as protection. The Jack is 3.5mm Audio, gold plated. Possibly, the cable is one of the best within its price range and perhaps, in all IEMS under $100. The only drawback is its weight, which is higher than desired. But, without a doubt, it is a luxury to mount a cable of such good construction and characteristics.
However, the construction and design of the capsules, I have some doubts. The design is beautiful and you can tell that good materials have been used, but the size of the capsules is a bit stubby, a bit excessive for a single driver. The outer part is thick, maybe too much, and being metallic, it increases the weight of the capsules. The fact that the whole interior of the capsule is in one piece and is completely painted, including the nozzles, produces a differential effect. However, it is true that there are very slight irregularities in the nozzles. I would have preferred them to be metallic, but this is just a purely personal appreciation. As I said, the overall size of the capsules is a bit thick and they’ re overshot from my ears.
On the other hand, there is little else to criticize the overall construction of the product.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
Due to the soft inner forms of the capsule the fit is comfortable. Luckily, the shape is ergonomic to fit the width of the ear canal, so that the fit is quite good and there is hardly any undesired movement. The stubby body and the length of the nozzles do not allow a very deep insertion, but are shallow or slightly medium, depending on the tips used. However, due to the large size of the capsules, the insulation is quite high. The only problem, as I said in the previous section, is the weight and thickness of the capsules. But, once put on, it’s not something you notice much either, unless you use them for sport or fast walking.
The profile of the Hibiscus is balanced with a mid-centric vocation. It has a neutral low zone, a controlled high midrange emphasis, fairly soft highs and a good spark of air.
The lower area is linear, but lags behind the midrange. Its perception is complete and the depth of the sub-bass is felt, but its presence is clearly neutral, far from the power. In isolation, its quality is considerable, but the hitting is quite harmless, very controlled, dry, light but appreciable and delicately rubbery. Although, in my opinion, insufficient to provide the necessary body in music where the bass is the protagonist. The overall definition of the zone is soft. The resolution is medium, it does not deal with analytical bass, nor is it the opposite. In spite of its lightness, the speed is not high and the decay is a little slower, all this contributes to the bass having a certain pose in the music, but without filling the space.
Undoubtedly, its best range, the most complete, explicit, detailed, clear and also emphasized. Although the first sensation that is perceived is its lack of warmth, due to the null incidence of the low zone. Indeed, the midrange of Hibiscus turns to the cold side. The presentation of the voices is thin, sounding very sharp, defined, distinctive, but present and very well placed. I attribute this thinness to a certain lack of body, provided by the neutrality of the lower midrange. However, this contributes to the excellent delicacy of their recreation and the main role they play in the sound of Hibiscus. The clarity of these IEMS is evident in this section, but without abandoning a certain sweetness in the reproduction, which is perceived in the nature of the timbre, which is quite realistic, despite all that has been said.
It deserves a special mention because of the light that characterizes the range. It is abundant in quantity, but nothing blinding, totally zenithal and very slightly diffused, thus providing a sweetness that counteracts the cold nature of its sound. This light is responsible for the great sensation of openness that is perceived between instruments, voices and details. Yes, Hibiscus have a special light. It is perhaps the feature that I find most appealing in its sound and the first one that is missed, when compared to other IEMS.
The instrumentation on the Hibiscus is slightly sidelined compared to the voices. But, as the space is very large and there is a great feeling of air, they are reproduced completely and without any disdain, only with a minor prominence. But, in the same way, they also receive that delicate, beautiful, soft, but defined treatment from these Faaeal. In this way, a remarkable expressiveness is achieved throughout the central range.
The high range starts totally safe, but following the expressiveness line of the central zone. Without shining or standing out, the treble is softened, neutral, sifted, but not denatured, so that the timbre is always kept under control, in its natural range. The details are present, but never in an over-exposed or very explicit way, but rather with a medium sparkle. On the positive side, the safety of this area provides an absence of sibilance. Also, it should be noted that its extension reaches quite high, providing that great amount of air, which characterizes its sound.
The two good characteristics of Hibiscus, its light and its amount of air, provide a remarkable feeling of separation and spaciousness, which creates a relatively large scene. There is good height and width in it, but more depth is missed, as the distance is always perceived as close or medium. The instrumental recreation is quite good and it is very feasible to place the instruments within the scene, as long as the laterality that causes the greater presence of the voices is taken into account.
The reproduction of nuances and micro details is not as explicit as in other sections. Hibiscus have a good capacity for definition, but it is more thanks to their light than to their resolution. On the other hand, it is quite logical, due to the good degree of softness of its sound and, why not say it, the price range where it is located. In that sense, I find these Faaeal, in a remarkable situation, comparatively speaking, but without reaching the excellent one.
With a simple modification, the Hibiscus profile can be converted to a W, with a large increase in sub-bass, leaving the mid-range very clean and without modifying the other frequencies, beyond 400Hz (only a difference is observed in the high end, whose incidence is minimal in the final sound). The modification consists of covering the hole, which exists on the inside of each capsule, very close to the letters that indicate each channel. The ideal way to do this is to use Micropore tape and thus minimize the appearance of the Driver Flex effect.
This way, the subgrave grows a lot. But the Hibiscus do not become a declared Bass-Head IEMS, because the rest of the bass is not exaggerated, far from it. Besides, their interference in the midrange is very small. All in all, for those who want to gain power in the bass area and increase the depth of sound, it is certainly a modification that can be easily tested, as it is totally reversible. The best thing is that the low zone, even when increased, does not lose the timbre, nor the quality it already had before the modification.
NS Audio NS3
The NS3 is one of my favorite IEMS in this price range. Its profile is more balanced and warm than that of the Hibiscus. The lower zone of the NS3 has more weight and accent within the overall sound. While Hibiscus sounds blatantly more «bass-light». The differences in this area are quite large. The size of the lower zone is not comparable in depth, punch, presence or perception. Even if one does the exercise of equalizing volumes, taking the lower zone as a reference, the differences still appear. The basses of the NS3 sound more complete and complex, with greater depth, sub-bass and width. Its power and punch is more forceful, dark and big. The Hibiscus have simpler low frequencies and are quite linear, although the sub-bass has less weight in its entirety, preventing the generation of the depth and width that the NS3 have. The only thing that could improve the Hibiscus in the lower zone is speed, because they sound simpler and more concrete.
In the midrange, the first thing you notice is the higher density offered by the NS3, as opposed to the greater thinness and clarity offered by the Hibiscus. The voices in the NS3 are felt with more body, especially the male ones, while in the Faaeal, these are more isolated and more emphasized. In the NS3, the vocal treatment enjoys more instrumental warmth and protection, although they do not sound as prominent. The instrumentation has a more equal presence in the NS3, compared to the greater hollow and coldness perceived in the Hibiscus. But there is a section where the Hibiscus shine on the NS3, is in the amount of detail and nuance that are capable of generating in the female voices, providing a richer tonality, more expansion in its upper zone and also more harmonics. In this case, its clear emphasis on the upper mid-range is noticeable. Something similar happens with the instruments that also have a greater presence between 2kHz and 4kHz.
The upper zone is perceived differently, even though both have a similar softness. Hibiscus sound colder, thinner, but more present and with more spark. This makes the details of this segment very easy to notice. The NS3 has a greater initial extension, but also more balance, offering a softer and more harmonious sparkle. This way, details are presented in a less explicit way, less sharp and more integrated in the rest of the sound; in general, more balanced. Finally, the Hibiscus gains in extension at the higher end, with a greater feeling of air than in the NS3.
The light and clarity of the Hibiscus offer a good amount of nuance and detail, as well as a fairly good overall cleanliness. It is true that this richness is not as complete as that offered by the NS3, since it covers a wider spectrum of frequencies. The greater amount of sound offered by the NS3, generates a larger, wider and, above all, deeper scene. In the Hibiscus, the stage is wide, but less full and more hollow. In addition, they have good separation and air. However, the sound of the NS3 offers a higher density, which is not at odds with a greater sense of separation, being superior in this aspect too.
The NS3s are lighter and more comfortable, they are also thinner and once worn they fit excellently. In the Hibiscus it penalizes the greater weight and thickness, comparatively speaking. However, its cable is excellent, the best in its range and above it. The cable on the NS3 is not bad, it is thin, silver plated and very manageable. Its worst feature is the plug, which is too small.
Without a doubt, Faaeal has launched an ambitious product on the market: it has an excellent, very careful presentation, a luxurious and distinctive design, great construction, the possibility of choosing between several colours and the best cable on the market, in its price range. And, its sound, goes in this line, bold and daring, not suitable for all tastes. Its neutral character, with a mid-centric vocation, may not be to everyone’s taste, but it will surely have a large audience, which, of course, will know how to recognize its great virtues.
But it has a good advantage: the possibility of making a simple mod, totally reversible, capable of altering the profile, obtaining a great emphasis in the sub-bass area, without altering the rest of the sound.
Inevitably, we will have to keep an eye on Faaeal, with the illusion that they create new and brave IEMS models, which complement the Hibiscus, without giving up the great quality they treasure.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Tempotec Serenade iDSD
- Burson Audio Playmate
- JWD JWM-115