FLC 8N

Review - FLC Technology 8N (FLC 8N)



Website - FLC Technology



Overview

The FLC 8n is one of the new additions from FLC Technology and follows the same well implemented sound tuning system that was introduced on the previous 8/8s model. A hybrid earphone that consists of the typical dual balanced armature & single dynamic units, but with full customizable design that allows to adjust the treble, midrange and bass frequencies in order to achieve many sound presentations. Very good sound quality with high resolution and detail, with a bit different overall flavor than the original 8s in a more lively sound, but still makes an excellent reference within its price tag and above.




There's also a video from Forrest Wei (FLC's owner) that may be found on the website or YouTube explaining the whole technology and tuning system on the FLC IEMs.

Specifications
  • Drivers: 8.6mm Dynamic + Dual Balanced Armature
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~20KHz
  • Sensitivity: 107dB/mW @1KHz
  • Impedance: 11Ω
  • Earphone Connection: 2-pin 0.78mm
  • Plug: 3.5mm, Gold-plated. Also available in 2.5mm Balanced option


Price: ~U$355



The FLC 8n arrive in a rather large thick cardboard box with a nice unboxing presentation. The main upper cover has a magnetic closure that reveals three separated sections. At the top the yellow foam holds the earphone with the attached cables and just underneath there is the large tweezers to change the different tuning options. Next at the lower part there are the round metal case, the main tuning filters set inside the round metal container, a selection of ear tips, extra spare tuning filters and a few other accessories such as cleaning tool, cable clip and adapter. As for the ear tips array it consists of 8 pairs of single silicone tips on 4 sizes. The tips have a less common cylindrical shape with a wide bore and long flange. They work well with the FLC IEMs, but other extra tips can be used as well.


Worth noting that there are now two different box presentations, one for the China and surroundings area and a more compact version meant for the worldwide market. There should be no changes on the inner contents, just a more affordable version as to avoid potential customs issues or delays. Like this one here, it is still possible to get the original box version depending where ordering from.


Design

This new 8n model continues the similar compact design as the previous 8s with a same over-ear wearing style, detachable cable and exact same tuning sections around the earpieces. However, there are important changes that may be consider as an upgrade. The main difference is on the shells material which are now made of aluminum over the plastic used on the 8/8s. The shape is also more rounded and a bit taller too, but with same length and width. Another interesting change are the 3 holes at the inner part of the housings which supposedly are working as vents and seem to have the effect on the advertised better stage.


The overall finish is good but still not perfect, at least on what may be expected for the price tag. There are no sharp corners and the whole earpiece is smooth, though the two pieces joint is a bit too obvious; not a huge issue though. However, the main concern to be spotted lies on the added 3 inner vents, as they are not of the same width on both earpieces sides. I'm not aware how much of impact this may have on the sonic performance, but it may lead to some channel imbalance if any.

The quality, while still tougher than the 8s model, is still around average for the nowadays standards. The two pieces are still well assembled and the shiny electric blue color looks more eye catching than the darker 8s theme.


Despite the 3 driver configuration, the round and compact shape results very comfortable and lightweight too. Fit and seal are also very easy, and the provided isolation level is above average. The different bass/sub-bass filters used might have certain effect on the isolation as they work by sealing their respective ports. The included ear tips were fine enough, though I personally opted for some extra ones. The nozzle is wider than standard IEMs, so those with narrow ear canals may get a more shallow fit with any of the FLC earphones.

On the detachable cable side, it uses a 2-pin connection (0.78), though the sockets seem much tighter than what usually found on this cable type. While this helps to provide a much secure and fixed connection it also limits the possibility of trying different aftermarket cables too. Quality wise, it is also around average. The cable consists of 4 separated strands tightly twisted from the plug to the pins. And while inner wire might be of good quality, the outer cable jacket makes the cable a bit stiff and not comfortable enough with a kind of springy effect and average noise if moving around. Nonetheless, the cable sits well around the ears without need of attaching extra earguides.

Lastly, regarding the multiple tuning filters they are made of different materials, metal for the large nozzle filters, rubber for the short tubes for rear outer port and plastic for the small filters for the inner port. A more detailed description on the sound section below, but just should mention that the nozzle filters are the easiest to install as they simple screw inside the earpieces. The rubber tube filters are a bit more difficult to install being so small, though easy to remove, while the smaller plastic filters at the inner part are more tricky to add being so close to the nozzle part. Moreover, they are all very smaller and can be easy to lose, so changing them on the go is definitely not recommended. And just in case there is an extra spare filter in case one of the pair is lost.



Sound Quality

Main IEMs used: FLC 8s, Dunu DN-2002 & DK-3001, Accutone Studio S2, CustomArt Fibae 3, iBasso IT04, 1216.e 3RM.

The first FLC 8 model and the later revised version 8s gained a lot of popularity among the audio community, and not only for the multi tuning system but also for the high sound quality they had in the triple hybrid setup.

The new 8n applies the exact tuning system which consists of 3 types of filters that work directly on each kind of driver and it respectively frequency range. In order to describe the sound of the 8n it is necessary to refer to each tuning option by itself, and so it is not simple to use the traditional way that could be used for even other earphones with tuning filters. What other IEMs usually offer is a much simpler single filter that either installs on the nozzle or rear port to adjust the overall sound a bit by a specific frequency region, but still keeping a base kind of sound. Even the LZ A4 that had a dual tuning system, closer to what the FLC8 options have still had some limitations and a main signature that could be used as reference.

The multiple FLC sound possibilities on this last 8n model make it difficult to be set as a base sound. The 3 tuning options have a very strong effect on the treble, midrange and bass quantities; and even though the suggested 36 possible setups may sound too positive for just a single earphone, it is a fact that they work as advertised. Obviously, the large metal nozzle filter has the main effect on the dual BA driver underneath changing the treble and midrange reach and impact, and also limits the air flow from the dynamic driver, depending on the small hole located very close to the top of the nozzle. The other 2 tiny filters take action on the low frequencies, mid and upper bass (or Low Frequencies - LF, in short - as FLC want to call it) for the tube like rubber filter located at the outer side, and sub-bass (or Ultra LF) for the plastic 'mushroom' shaped filter at the inner side.

It should be noted that the FLC 8n can be still used in a 'raw' form without any filter installed; however, the sound is in fact 'raw', very forward and inconsistent, and the most critical effect comes from the sub-bass (ULF) port which must be sealed to start to sound decent enough.

Now, the multiple sound options focus mainly in the quantities of each frequency and together can give a different overall tonality. But before that, there are certain general characteristics that the 8n features in terms of pure quality. Overall, the 8n shows high midrange and treble resolution form the dual BA units. The micro detail level is superb with a very open and airy presentation. Instrument separation and balance is very good with a rather natural timbre, and expectedly it has the traditional armatures strengths of speed and accuracy. Treble extension is very good as well even with the most laid-back filter setup. The ~8.6 dynamic driver may not be too large compared to other hybrid IEMs, but it does deliver good quality and has enough presence. It has very good speed, well matching the dual BA units, avoiding drivers' incoherence as much as possible. Control is very good too and has good layering and texture. It does not carry the best dynamics but it is tight and shows good depth. Together they give a spacious and effortless sound with above average to good stage dimensions.

Quantity wise, let's start with the nozzle filters for treble and midrange.

First of all, the Green filter. It is the only one that has no material at the tip part that gets in contact to the BA drivers to act as an extra layering or damper, and also has a wide opening at that section too. As such, it has the highest amount of treble, with the most bright and aggressive response. Extension is more effortless and detail is more forward. Midrange texture is lean, not distant but yes thinner in body. The extra energy can be too high at times with a certain peak at the upper mid and lower treble that can be sibilant. It has the flattest response with a more analytical tuning.

Next are the Gold and Gunmetal filters. These two should be described together as they bring the highest midrange presence, and personally found they give the best balance and signature. They seem to be using a same or very similar filter at the tip as they give a similar texture and body to the mids. However, there're a couple of physical differences that can be easily spotted. The Gold one has a wider opening both at the bottom close to the BA section, but also has the widest side hole among the 4 filters, which allows more air flow to arrive from the dynamic driver. The Gunmetal is narrow on both parts.

Sound wise, the Gold nozzle has a brighter tonality but still more reserved than with the Green option. It gives more body and texture to the upper mids keeping the energy to upper instruments and female singers. Lower mids are a bit less thick but still rich and effortless.

The Gunmetal nozzle, on the other hand, gives a kind of opposite effect while still giving a more forward midrange. Treble is more laid back and smoother and upper mids are a tad calmer too. If the Gold filter might still give some harshness, the Gunmetal is a safer option. Lower mids have more body and are more forward; the bass ports are more important here too. Male vocals gain a bit more focus too, and overall the midrange is richer and more musical.

Last of the nozzle filters is the Blue one. It is the total opposite of the Green one with a very narrow and thicker filter, having the most laid back treble and darker tonality. The midrange too is darker with a more off sounding upper midrange and lower treble. It may depend on the source used but I found it the less favorite tuning option. Detail level is still there though more distant and not effortless. Combined with the right bass filters it can reach the most powerful bass tuning.

Second part goes to the mid/up-bass (or Low Frequency) options. The tuning here is done by the small rear port located at the outer side of the shells. There're 3 different filters, all made of rubber material and similarly to the nozzle filters the sound is tuned by having different filter material at the very outer part, allowing or blocking the air flow.

First is the Clear colored filter. It has the thicker damper material blocking the highest amount of bass. The bass is light and has very little impact, though is tight and most controlled, falling into the 'neutral' category (or just north of nuetral).

The Grey colored filter has a thinner material and starts giving a good amount of bass with a stronger impact. Mid and up bass is plenty, and still has good control with more natural texture and body. I find this to give the best balance between quality and quantity and could use it as the main option.

The Black filter has no material blocking the air flow from the outside. As such the bass is the strongest and the 'heavy-bass' option among the FLC8n tunings. It does bleed into the midrange adding more warmth to overall tonality, but also has the less control and can be overdone with heavier tracks. It is more 'fun' though, but can be tiring too.

And lastly, the inner sub-bass port tuning, or Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) options. As mentioned above this filter (any of them) is most critical to have installed in order to have a decent sound out the 8n, otherwise it will sound very unnatural and inconsistent. However, the differences between these 3 options are less noticed than with the previous 2 filter nozzle and rear port options. They mostly work together with the other bass tunings options to add the last bit of low end impact and depth, with more or less same extension. They are made of plastic in what could be called 'mushroom' kind of shape, and also the most difficult to install. Again, the tuning here works blocking the sub-bass ports.

The Red option seals completely the bass inner port and provides the higher amount of sub-bass. There is more rumble and impact though less air and dynamics. The Black one has a bit less amount and more control and more effortless flow and depth with more natural extension. Again the middle ground filter. The Clear one is similar in depth to the Black but with less body and impact, though also tighter and quicker in decay. Differences are still more noticed when switching between the Red and Clear ones, while less perceived when changing to the Black ones.

Despite the so many configurations, what the FLC 8n cannot do is go too extreme. It does not get too aggressive in the treble area or too forward on the midrange. Even the most lively v-shaped that can be achieved is only moderate. Bass too, won't get a really heavy-bass signature either, or have a very wide stage presentation. Nevertheless, the 8n is completely versatile and can show very strong emphasis within the different tunable options.


The most important comparison is clearly next to the own FLC 8s model. I was able to demo a unit for the needed amount of time to compare the different tuning options against the new 8n model. The tuning system effect is clearly the same on both models. However, there are certain noticeable differences in their general characteristics, probably due the different shell material, shape and vents, and maybe different balanced armature units or their main tuning. The 8s is more neutral in the midrange and treble response with less extension at the top and not as open and airy as the 8n. Bass quantities are very similar but the 8n has bigger impact probably due the extra 3 vents added at the inner part of the shell. Soundstage is also wider on the 8n, not by a huge margin but gives more right to left distance.




Value

All in all, the FLC 8n is a great all-rounder earphone with the excellent tuning system that really changes the sound presentation. While overall build quality is not as stellar as other competitors may offer, the well rounded form factor still makes it a very comfortable IEM for everyday use. Whether all the multiple sound combinations are brilliant or not it is a matter of personal taste. Fans of the more neutral sounding original 8s model may not find a true upgrade within the 8n with its more energy and lively presentation. Nevertheless, even if the FLC 8n had just a few of different sound options, in terms of pure sound quality it would already be well worth its price tag, carrying great balance, high clarity and detail.

No comments:

Post a Comment