Today we are going to be taking a look at the Paco, a compact, attractive, and smartly priced earphone in Fischer Audio’s Totem series of products.
Fischer Audio isn’t new to the industry first appearing on the scene in 2006. For me personally, the product I think of when I hear the name Fischer Audio is the DBA-02, dual balanced armature in-ear. I’ve not had the pleasure of hearing it myself, but it’s reputation speaks volumes. While their goal of providing the “best sound at a reason at a reasonable price” is shared by many other companies, it’s something I can get behind. If my experiences with a few of their products is any indication, they are doing a bang on job of it.
The Paco was provided free of charge in exchange for a fair and impartial. Thank you to Royston with Fischer Audio for making this review possible. The views and thoughts within are my own, and do not represent Fischer Audio or any other entity.
The Paco retails for 29.99 USD and is available in the Forest Green you see here, Rose Gold, and Classic Silver. You can check them out here.
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, an XDuoo X3 (w/ Rockbox update), a Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. A Shanling M1 was recently added to the crew and used for the majority of testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1[i[ is a fantastic example of this with their grey filters installed.
Packaging and Accessories:
Despite being quite an inexpensive earphone, Fischer Audio clearly spent time on the design of the Paco’s packaging creating something that is both attractive and informative without coming across overly busy.
The front contains all of the expecting branding and a clean image of the Paco. Highlighted is it’s intention for use with smartphones through a statement in the top right hand corner, and image of the in-line control module below. Flipping to the back you are greeted by a viewing window which takes up about half the available space. There you get to the see the Paco in the flesh, and can admire their simple but intelligent, tear drop shaped design. Below this you find the all-important specifications:
- Driver diameter: 7 mm
- Frequency range: 16-18000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 98 dB Impedance: 16 Ohm
- Maximum power input: 50 mW
- Cable length: 1.25 m
Slide out the covered, inner plastic tray to find the Paco’s accessories:
- Silicone ear tips in s/m/l
- Felt carrying pouch
A basic shirt clip would have been a welcome inclusion since there is no chin cinch, but that’s certainly no deal breaker.
Overall the unboxing experience is about what you would expect. There are no real frills or important extras to highlight, except maybe the carrying pouch. There’s nothing special about it except that it’s a little smaller than those provided with other brands. That may seem like a negative, but it means the Paco is really easy to place in and take out. It’s also fits the Shanling M1 perfectly so while listening to the Paco I can slip the M1 in the pouch and into my pocket.
Design, Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
Budget earphones generally don’t rewrite the book, so to speak. That’s not really the point of them though, is it? No. They generally provide income and revenue that can be used to develop new, more interesting and more advanced products. That said, does a budget earphone need to be compromised and offer up a sub-par experience in order to hit that magical budget price point? Heck no, and the Paco is a good example of this.
The cable is a little stiff, it’s not particularly well-relieved, and the in inline mic both looks and feels a little cheap but it’s all perfectly functional and resists tangling effectively. The 90 degree angle jack is chunky and feels tough, tapering off nicely at the plug to ensure compatibility with most cellphone or device cases. The stiff sheath acts almost as built-in relief, but I’d still rather have proper protection in place.
The Paco features tiny, light, aluminum, teardrop-shaped housings with an attractive silver accent ring to give them some subtle style. The materials and shape ensure they will be durable enough to handle daily use and abuse. The small vent on the rear prevents driver flex and that uncomfortable suction effect that you often get with fully sealed earphones. All of these features meld together to make them quite the ergonomic and comfortable earphone.
Even their isolation isn’t bad, able to deaden exterior noises fairly effectively. The aforementioned vents will ensure some sound leaks in, but you can consider that a safety feature even if Fischer Audio may not have intended it that way.
Outside of a somewhat average cable, the Paco is well-designed and put together neatly. Comfort is outstanding and isolation isn’t too shabby either.
Tips: I actually found the stock tips on the Paco pretty much perfect. This signature works best with a basic wide bore tip and that’s exactly when you get. KZ’s Starline tips and their stiff core seemed to harden the Paco’s treble. Sony Hybrid tips brought out more bass than I would prefer. I used JVC’s FXT90 tips most of the time as they were a bit softer and more comfortable than the stock tips without and discernible change in signature.
Amping: The Paco doesn’t need amping as it’s tiny driver is fairly efficient. They do scale fairly well with source , however, and sounded best straight out of the Shanling M1 playing FLAC files.
I had an idea of what to expect when the Paco first arrived and plugged them into my player, but after running through some of my favorite tracks I knew we had a little gem on our hands. The clarity and detail coming from this tiny, inexpensive earphone was impressive to say the least.
They power through tracks with authority, wowing with sharp, clean treble that’s perfectly weighted. Not thin and piercing but not so thick that detail is sacrificed for listening comfort. Extension is plenty and there is lots of shimmer and sparkle present in tracks.
Their refined and textured mid-range isn’t overshadowed by overblown bass, leaning ever so slightly towards a thinner presentation which for my preferences benefits male vocals most. I enjoy lush, thick, forward female vocals which the Paco doesn’t really have. On Big Gram’s “Run For Your Life”, Sarah Barthel should be singing to me personally, her lips almost touching my ear.
Their bass is wonderfully tuned, striking a fine balance that many budget earphones fail to achieve. There is just enough mid-bass presence to give it an authoritative presence, but it drops off just enough leading into the mid-range so no as to cause any interference. Sub-bass presence is lovely, giving the Paco a visceral, pulsating sensation that really shines with electronic music.
The Paco’s soundstage is fairly average and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. They give you enough of a sense of space to ensure they never feel claustrophobic or confined. They layer fairly well and image cleanly side to side. I wish their soundstage depth was greater to let effects travel more.
Overall the Paco is a very lively and energetic earphone with an extremely refined, crisp and clean sound for something so inexpensive. They’re not going to please someone looking for a neutral tune, but for the average listener this is way more performance than they’ll ever need.
Brainwavz Jive (28.00 USD): The Jive and the Paco, well, they’re long lost brothers. Their sound signatures are so very similar it would be hard to tell them apart on first listen. However, listening closely I found the Jive to have a slightly thinner presentation without gaining the perceived benefit of added detail this usually provides, and area where Fischer Audio’s tiny terror pulls ahead. The Paco also has a bit more sub-bass presence, playing nicely into my personal preferences. I think the Paco is the most impressive sonically, even if the differences are fairly minor.
Comfort is outstanding on both giving neither an edge. Build on both is great with the Jive taking the point for it’s superior cable and in-line remote, and slightly cleaner fit and finish. Accessories go to the Jive hands down due to the inclusion of Brainwavz’s awesome case and the velcro cable tie that has proven itself very handy.
Accutone Lyra (29.00 USD): The Lyra and the Paco, well, they’re long lost brothers. Their sound signatures are so very similar it would be hard to tell them apart on first listen. Wait a second. I swear I’ve read this somewhere…huh. Anyway, the Lyra has slightly more mid-bass presence and a thicker, more forward midrange that gives female vocals that extra presence I enjoy. Still they also give up some detail and clarity to the Paco. Once again, the Paco is the more impressive of the two sonically.
Comfort goes to the Paco hands down. The Lyra’s extremely short nozzle means the included tips, well, they really don’t fit and are pretty much useless. You are pretty much forced into finding a third party alternative. Build goes to the Lyra with it’s excellent fit and finish, fantastic strain relief, and one of the best cables you’ll find on a budget product. Accessories are a tie. The Lyra’s tips are mostly useless but they comes with Accutone’s excellent Sony inspired case. The Paco’s tips work perfectly, and the pouch works fine.
Thoughts: Choosing between the three would be extremely challenging. The Paco is ever so slightly the best sounding of the bunch but is lacking a little on the value side due to it’s less impressive build and basic accessory kit. The Lyra bests the Jive in sound but falls just behind the Paco, and is pretty much on par with the Jive build wise. Maybe ahead due to that glorious cable. The Jive performs strongly everywhere without any real flaws making it the best all-rounder.
The Paco is a very good earphone, and for 30 USD is a pretty darn solid buy. It’s detailed, energetic signature is versatile and just barely bests two of my favorite earphones in the segment, making them a easy recommendation.
Improvements could be made to the cable, and if a basic clamshell carrying case became an inclusion in the future I wouldn’t be complaining. That said, as is they are excellent value and a worth your time, especially if you want something that’s unique and isn’t commonly discussed.
Well done Fischer Audio. In the Paco you have a wicked little, budget-minded earphone.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
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