The S8 series is generally considered to be the standout of the Fearless Audio lineup. In this review, I’ll be taking a look at the S8 Pro which, as its name might imply, uses 8 BA drivers and is intended to be used as a stage monitor. This IEM goes for $489 and can be purchased here.
Disclaimer: I’m an amateur audio enthusiast, and this is my first audio review. I apologize in advance for any ambiguity; I’m working on learning audio lingo so I can better articulate my thoughts. I paid for this IEM with my own money, and these are my purely subjective thoughts.
I bought mine second-hand, so I don’t have the original packaging.
Fearless has done an excellent job in terms of build quality. The plastic resin they use is devoid of any bubbles or inconsistencies in the surface finish. The connector pin is slightly recessed, so there’s no wiggle.
I’m quite pleased that they didn’t skimp out on the cable. It’s supple, tangle-free, and inspires confidence. However, it’s also quite heavy – they must literally use lead for the hardware! There’s a common misconception that weight translates to quality which is not always the case. And unfortunately, this means the cable is far from ideal in practice.
The case it comes with is made out of faux leather. Nothing special, but it’s aesthetically pleasing and works as it should.
Fit, Isolation, and Comfort
I have smaller ears, and wow, these things are like suction cups. I get a noticeable, icky vacuum feeling whenever I put them in or take them out. It follows that isolation is stellar. I can wear them for a couple hours before my wacky, left ear cramps up. I think for most people fit’ll be fine, but of course this will all depend on your personal ear geometry.
- FLAC files off a Shaling M0 with the stock cable and silicon eartips.
- My genres of preference include country, EDM, instrumentals, film scores, and pop.
- Burn-in: Don’t really believe in it, unless we’re talking about your brain and ears acclimating to the sound. And for what it’s worth, they sound exactly the same to me as they did out of the box.
- The S8 is a very sensitive IEM and requires little power to drive. With all my sources (my pleb Sony DAC, Shanling M0, phone, MacBook) there’s faint hissing. It doesn’t bother me much once I start playing music, but make no mistake it’s there.
Bass: There is a strong, noticeable bass-boost. Bass hits fast with good thump and decays medium-fast. Good sub bass extension. I think it’s quite controlled nonetheless, and it never seems to bleed into the mid-range. As with most BAs, it has that “plasticky” texture to it.
Mids: There is a dichotomy going on here for me. They are slightly recessed as the graph would imply, and yet higher-frequency vocals seem to be pushed forward ever-so-slightly. There’s a lot of texture to vocals which I initially confused with a lack of clarity after listening sessions with some of my other IEMs.
Highs: The S8P is a detail monster. In fact, the first couple days I was listening to them, I ended up with a headache. There seems to be a lot of BA timbre going on here – it’s not at all natural to my ears.
The S8P uses a typical, Chi-fi V-shaped tuning. It is a very, very aggressive IEM – I could tell in just the first couple minutes I listened to them. Despite the emphasis on the bass and treble, I don’t think either of them dominates or infringes upon the sound signature. Overall, the sound is slightly warm to my ears.
I’m probably not the best person to ask about soundstage or imaging, but to my ears the S8P honestly feels below average. While I can easily identify the placement of instruments, the stage seems quite confined and intimate. Like I said, take my thoughts here with a grain of salt. There is still decent separation between frequencies and instruments, and the S8P is a technically proficient IEM. Resolution is good for the price.
vs. Massdrop Noble X [$250]
It’s a wash for the Noble X, which is quite possibly the antithesis of the S8P. Bass is more controlled on the S8P with faster decay and more depth. The mids on the S8P, while quite textured, don’t give me the impression that they’re veiled unlike with the Noble X. Let’s not talk about treble…because the Noble X doesn’t have any. I prefer S8P.
vs. Moondrop KXXS [$190]
There is greater thump to the S8P’s bass, but it feels unnatural and “plasticky” compared to the KXXS. Mids on the KXXS are thinner and with less texture. Highs are very bright on the KXXS, more so than on the S8P. The KXXS is slightly more airy and much more natural-sounding. I prefer KXXS.
vs. Moondrop Blessing [$400]
This is a very analytical IEM. Bass is much weaker on the Blessing, and it lacks thump and depth relative to the S8P. Like the KXXS, mids on the Blessing are thinner, almost to the point of being anemic, but with excellent resolution. The Blessing is airier than both the KXXS and S8P. I prefer S8P.
vs. 64audio U12t [$2000]
Bass still has a bit of a plasticky texture, but not nearly as bad as the S8P. The mids of the U12t run circles around the S8P; resolution is on another plane. The U12t is also much more natural-sounding. S8P is clearly the more energetic IEM. I prefer U12t.
The S8P is an energetic, “fun-centric” IEM. It’s not at all natural-sounding to my ears. But while it clearly suffers from BA timbre, it has decent technical chops and solid tonality. Coming from the almost-dull Moondrop Blessing, I was immediately drawn-in by the S8P. Over time though, I’ve come to realize that it’s not a sound signature that plays well with my musical tastes sans perhaps EDM and some pop tracks. So while I don’t love this IEM, I’ll say it’s quite competent. I won’t talk about value because I haven’t heard many other IEMs in this price bracket.
Score: 6/10 (Good)
Understanding my score: This is a personal, subjective assessment of an IEM’s sound quality. I don’t take into account any other factors. Take it with a grain of salt! I’m not going to lie; I have high standards. But I’m not telling anybody how they should hear something – it’s a reflection of what of me, myself, and I hear.