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Fearless Audio S8F Review – Escape

TESTED AT $489
Our Score

Since their introduction to the Western market, Fearless Audio has taken massive strides and quickly established itself as one of the leading brands in Chi-Fi. Today, I’m reviewing the Fearless Audio S8F (S8Freedom) earphones.

The S8F has a combination of 8 Sonion and Knowles balanced armature drivers per side with a 4-way crossover and 3 sound tubes. Will the S8Freedom give you an escape from overinflated western prices or will it drain your wallet and leave you with bitter buyer’s remorse? Let’s dive in.

This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

Fearless Audio S8F Review (S8Freedom)

Pros
  • Extensive customization options
  • Great build quality and comfort
  • Price to performance
  • Balanced, detailed presentation
  • Tonal accuracy

Cons
  • Have been some reports of faulty cables

Package and Accessories

The S8F box comes in a white sleeve with a black flower pattern and “Classic Never Ends” printed on the front. Beneath the sleeve is a plain white box with the Fearless Audio logo and branding. When you open the box, you’re greeted with a sky blue faux leather carrying case,

What’s in the Box?
  • Fearless Audio S8F earphones
  • Faux leather carrying case
  • 0.78mm 2-pin 8N OCC Silver Plated Cable
  • 3 pairs of silicone eartips
  • Aluminium warranty/information card
  • Fearless Audio branded cleaning cloth
  • Documentation

Build Quality and Design

Like several other Fearless Audio models, the S8F comes with a truckload of design options. There are over 100 faceplates to choose from and I’m not even kidding! Crazy right? Additionally, you can choose from a number of shell colours making this possibly the most customizable universal in-ear monitor I’ve ever seen.

The S8F I received has a tasty purple faceplate (I think it’s the WL-02) and clear, transparent shells. Just like the S6RUI, I reviewed (review here), the build quality of the 3D-printed and hand-finished S8F is superb. Being a multi-BA IEM, the S8F shells are non-vented. The transparent shells allow to you see all the wonderful bits inside and internally, things seem just as nicely constructed as the exterior housing.

Fearless S8F faceplates and green-grey eartips

Speaking of the internals, the S8F contains 8 balanced armature drivers, including a Sonion Dual Bass BA Driver, Sonion Dual Low-Mid BA Driver, 2x Knowles Mid-High-Frequency BA Driver and a Knowles Dual Treble BA Driver. These drivers are controlled by a 4-way crossover and separated into 3 sound tubes. The sound tubes travel all the way to the end of the triple-bore nozzle.

Fearless S8F internals, including balanced armature drivers, crossovers and wiring.
Comfort and Noise Isolation

For my ears, the S8F is supremely comfortable. Although the S8F shells look very similar to the S6RUI, they are, in fact, shaped a little differently. As a result, the S8F fits my ears even better than the S6RUI does. So good, actually, that the noise isolation is very nearly as good as my custom in-ear monitors. These would be perfectly viable for stage use, noisy public transport and just about anywhere else you can think of.

Cable

The 0.78mm 2-pin 8N OCC Silver Plated Cable seems to be standard across most of the Fearless models. It’s an attractive 8-core braided cable that is silver in colour, handles well and has minimal microphonics.

Colour-coded aluminium 2-pin connector housings follow on to pre-formed ear guides that are supple and comfortable. The aluminium Y-split is chiselled on one end and tapered on the other and has a matching aluminium cable cinch. At the termination is a straight aluminium 3.5mm plug with a band of silver-coloured carbon fibre in the centre.

Sound

Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M5s and Soundaware M2Pro as portable sources using both 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended outputs. On the desktop, once again the FiiO K3 was fed flac files from Foobar2000 on my Windows PC via USB. While not particularly power-hungry, I found the S8F required more drive than the S6RUI, however, it works fine with my low-powered DAPs.

The S8F has a balanced presentation, being fairly even across the bass, midrange and treble. What I love about the S8F is its resolving and detailed nature combined with a satin-smooth and very musical presentation.

S8F’s 4-way crossover masterfully blends the spectrum into a cohesive whole that sounds natural and accurate. A touch of added warmth gives the S8F cosiness without confinement and details without compromise, the best of both worlds.

Bass

Warmth, weight, authority and speed. Speed? Yes, speed seems like it should be the odd one out but the S8F bass manages to deliver all these things in harmony – something the Sonion BA drivers seem to excel at.

The S8F seems to have an intuition that lets it know just how much weight and impact a track needs. Its got body and it can slam but is more inclined to be polite rather than rambunctious. Songs like Bootsy Collins’ “Home-Of-Da-Freaks” is a good example of the S8F’s ability to balance between bounce and boogie.

Mids

It is in the midrange where the S8F flexes its muscles the most. The mids are bristling with clarity, naturalness and tonal accuracy. Vocals density is good, voices are slightly forward and infused with a touch of warmth that adds emotion.

Instruments sound amazing too, with just the right mix of body and warmth to make them natural and accurate. In Emerson String Quartet’s “Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo” the S8F really nails the tone as well as the placement of each instrument.

Treble

S8F’s treble presentation is detailed and sparkles with clean energy. It puts some emphasis on the mid-treble region, giving a lift to the overall tonality. There’s a dip between 5-8kHz which avoids harshness with the slightest bump around 7kHz to maintain clarity.

An additional peak sits at around 9-10kHz. This adds a touch of brightness and sparkle, as well as delivering subtle details. Hi-hats sound crisp and cymbals ring with a natural sheen and decay. It’s what I would consider a detailed but non-fatiguing treble, not too different from that of the S6RUI but the S8F has more air and better extension.

Soundstage

The S8F has a moderately sized soundstage that doesn’t excel in terms of sheer dimensions but because of its other characteristics. First is its slightly forward vocal presentation which helps add a feeling of depth between the vocalist and the other instruments. Another contributing factor is the stability of the stage, where each sound occupies its own space on the stage and the above-average separation reinforces the holographic sensation.

S8F with Sony DAP

Comparisons

Fearless Audio S6RUI

The Fearless S6RUI (review here) could be considered the more boisterous little brother of the S8 Freedom. It has a fuller presentation with more enhanced mid-bass which makes its tonality warmer and adds more body to the midrange. S8F’s midrange is cleaner, more resolving and has a more accurate tone.

Both IEMs share similarities in the treble but the S6RUI has extra lower treble energy which adds more contrast to the sound and might sound more exciting to some people. The S6RUI’s middle treble is similar to the S8F but in the upper treble, the S8F has better extension and airiness.

Overall, the S8F is more balanced and natural, preferring accuracy over the excitement of the S6RUI’s more colourful presentation. S6RUI’s stage isn’t as organized or expansive but it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

FiiO FH7

The FiiO FH7 (review here) is a 5-driver (1DD+4BA) IEM. It has a large 13.6mm dynamic driver and as you might expect, this gives it more bass extension and powerful, authoritative sub-bass. Regardless of SPL and graphs, dynamic and balanced armature drivers simply don’t do bass the same way. The S8F’s BA powered bass has more texture but less weight.

FH7’s lower midrange has thinner notes with less body than the S8F. The FH7’s warmth comes from its bass while the S8F’s lower midrange has a larger note size, creating warmth and extra body that makes the mids feel more natural. S8F’s vocals are more forward and vivid, adding emotion and intimacy.

In the upper frequencies, the FH7 is brighter and more lively. It rises at 6-7kHz, where the S8F dips, giving it a slight edge in clarity but also making it edgier. Both IEMs have sparkle and airiness in the upper treble – the FH7 has more detail retrieval but the S8F’s tone is more accurate.

S8F internals showing customized balanced armature driver and wiring

Conclusion

Well, it’s pretty clear to me now why the Fearless Audio S8F has been receiving so much praise around the web. I’m not really surprised as I was already a huge fan of the S6RUI. The S8F takes the Fearless Audio house sound and makes it more refined and more accurate than its 6-driver counterpart. Instrument separation and resolution are improved, as has the overall naturalness and accuracy.

The S8F now takes a well-deserved place on our Best Universal IEMs list. This is one Chi-Fi brand that is crushing it right now and I can’t wait to sample more of their awesome earphones.

Specifications
  • Technical Features: 8 BA Drivers, 4-way Crossover, 3 Sound Tubes
  • Drivers: Micro Knowles Balanced Armature Driver 8, Including Sonion Dual Bass BA Driver x1, Sonion Dual Low-Mid BA Drivers x1, Knowles Mid-High-Frequency BA Driver x2 and Knowles Dual Treble BA Driver x1
  • Sensitivity : 113dB/mW
  • Impedance: 26Ω
  • Frequency Response: 15HZ-20KHZ
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