Today we’re taking a looking at Fischer Audio’s compact entry into the sports earphone market. The Spark utilizes a light weight 7 mm driver tuned with a very lively and energetic signature, all crammed into a diminutive housing. The design and tuning combined with their vibrant red and black color scheme are all fitting for an earphone named Spark.
So, is lil’ Sparky here worth your time and money? Let’s find out!
Royston at Fischer Audio was generous enough to trust me with a fair and unbiased review of the Spark. It was provided free of charge in exchange for this review, however, the views and thoughts within are my own and do not represent Fischer Audio or any other entity.
The Spark retails for 59.00 USD at the time of this review. You can check out the Spark and other earphones in the Omega lineup here; http://omega.fischeraudio.com.sg
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, Mixcder, 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 a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M1, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. 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, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
Here’s a video for those that don’t feel like reading.
Many consumers could care less how something is packaged. I’m not one of them. A well designed package can be a work of art, with interesting tibits to hunt down and discover. The Spark’s package is pretty awesome in this regard, and I love it, even if the materials used aren’t anything unique or premium feeling.
The primarily black, dark grey, and red colour scheme with white highlights really make the glossy image of the Spark’s housing on the front and right side of the packaging pop. My pictures really don’t do it justice. The rear contains a wealth of information including a frequency response graph, a bar graph that vaguely covers which genres the Spark is best for, classical being the most suitable, and the all-important specs;
– Driver diameter: 7 mm
– Frequency range: 20 – 22 000 Hz
– Sensitivity: 95 dB +/- 3 dB
– Impedance: 16 Ohm
– Maximum power input: 50 mW
– Cable: 1.2 m, TPU
Flip open the magnetically sealed front flap and you’re treated to a visual assault of information. Starting from with the right side of the package there is a viewing window showing off the Spark’s housings set within a transparent plastic tray. Hidden subtly in the depths behind the tray inside the box are the Fischer Audio and Omega series logos. Below the viewing window is a breakdown of the single button remote’s controls for media and phone use. Below that sits a list of product highlights and features.
Under the flap on the left is a blown up image of the Spark’s construction. Below that are instructions on how to properly wear the Spark and set the memory wire. Further to the left is a list of accessories;
– single flange tips (s/m/l)
– one pair of double flange tips
– one pair of foam tips
– clam shell carrying case
I found all the accessories of good quality, especially the carrying case with it’s subtle, raised Fischer Audio logo. That said, wow, do the single flange tips ever pair poorly with the Spark. With the single flange tips installed the Spark’s treble presentation is piercing, unrefined and uncomfortable. All the peaks are exaggerated. Using them with the included foam tips is a night and day difference. Other single flange tips like those from Ultimate Ears pair perfectly well. My initial impressions of the Spark were not great, but once I started trying other tips I realized the Spark is fine, the included single flange tips are the problem. My recommendation is to scoop up some extra foams tips at the same time you get the Spark, as they’ll give you the best audio performance.
Overall the unboxing experience is entertaining. There’s a ton of information presented in an attractive yet logical way that gives you lots to do before you dive inside to get to the earphones themselves. For those of you just want the goods inside, well, just cut the security seal, slide out the plastic tray, and you’re good to go. No fuss.
Build, Design, Comfort, and Isolation:
Fischer Audio did an excellent job designing the Spark, but, they advertise that they are ideal for women and youth, people who in theory will have smaller ear canal openings. While a small earphone helps, according to some female colleagues who have struggled to find comfortable in-ears over the years have explained, a slim nozzle is most important. The Spark’s 4 mm nozzles are ever so slightly smaller than what I consider average, 5 mm, but something even more compact like the 2.5 mm wide nozzles on Fidue’s A31s is ideal. Not a major issue, but something worth noting if you’ve got very small entrances to your ear canals. Outside of that one small oversight, the Spark is well-designed and looks good. The housings are compact, weigh next to nothing, and are very smooth and shapely without any uncomfortable protrusions.
The cable is pretty decent too. Microphonics are kept down and memory is fairly minimal, though I find it a little sticky so it tends to tangle upon itself. This is exacerbated by the built in memory wire. As long as you wind them up neatly before placing them in their protective case, it shouldn’t be an issue. Strain relief is excellent at the tapered 90 degree angled jack and pretty effective leading into the inline mic. Relief leading into the housings is more for show, made of stiff, unyielding rubber. Not a problem in my opinion given the build in ear guides and memory wire. Also, if you need a chin cinch to keep the cable in line and out of the way the Spark has one and it’s very effective, though it will only go up so far because of the control module.
At first I was a little disappointed by the comfort, but only because of the memory wire. It wasn’t doing a great job holding it’s shape and would constantly twist the cable out and away from my ear, breaking the seal and killing any bass response. It was driving me up the wall. Then, upon further inspection I found the wire was twisted underneath the sheath. I straightened the wire, moved it into the correct place, and what do you know; problem solved! It’s memory effect is still minimal, but I can form it into a tight u-shape so it hugs the rear of my ears and stays snugly in place. Now the Spark is offering that high level of comfort I was expecting from something so tiny and light.
Isolation, especially with the included foam tips, is pretty good for a dynamic-driver based earphone. There are two small vents in the rubber that composes the rear portion of each earpiece, but I’m not sure if they actually do anything or are simply an artifact of the molding process. You can cover them up with no effect on sound quality or isolation. I’m fairly certain the Spark’s housings are fully sealed.
Overall the Spark is well built and quite comfortable with excellent isolation, though you might need to work on the comfort side of things out of the box if the memory wire is twisted like mine was.
Mic and Remote Performance:
The inline microphone on the Spark is fine. Callers found me a little on the quiet side, but other than that there were no problems. Outside noise leaking into calls was minimal, and background static was on par with the majority of in-line mics on other products. Perfectly serviceable.
The remote on the other hand I really enjoyed using. The button was easy to locate and depresses with a click that is satisfying both aurally and physically. You know when it’s been pressed, and won’t be second guessing.
Tips: The vast majority of my listening time was with the included foams or Sony Isolation Hybrids which both paired exceptionally well with the Spark. The included single-flange silicone tips gave me a horrible first impression, causing all sorts of uncomfortable treble and mid-range spikes. Fischer Audio needs to ditch them and find a more suitable set to include.
The Spark’s name is a dead giveaway of what to expect from their sound. They have a heavy treble focus followed up by a fairly neutral mid-range, and a mild bass boost. It’s a very aggressive and lively signature, one that’s not for those who are treble sensitive. Those that enjoy a brighter signature will be right at home with the Spark.
As noted, the Spark has a pretty excitable treble region. There are some strong peaks shown on the frequency response graph around the 2.5-3k and 5k regions which I can believe after spending a couple months with them. They’re very JVC-like in their treble presentation and it can be quite fatiguing, especially at higher volumes and because they offer up a somewhat thin sound top to bottom. I found their treble was at it’s best at medium volumes as it maintained all the energy and airiness without losing out on the impressive detail and clarity on offer.
Leading into the midrange the Spark remains quite detailed. Vocals are surprisingly smooth and cut through with great clarity. There’s a ton of texture and separation is excellent, which is quite suitable to grungy guitar work and highly textured synthetic music.
While I certainly wouldn’t say the Spark is bass light, it’s not heavy in the low end either. I found it’s texture and timbre to be spot on, with notes taking on just the right amount of decay and weight. It was never sluggish or bloated. It actually reminds me a lot of the ADVANCED M4 in it’s low end performance, but without the early roll off leading into sub-bass regions.
The Spark’s soundstage is open and spacious presenting some impressive laying and separation. Tossing on the classical music they are supposed to be most suitable with, and some of my favorite Infected Mushroom tracks, showed off some great imaging qualities as well.
Fidue A31s (29.90 USD): While Fidue’s A31s doesn’t necessarily compete with the Spark on price, they do share many qualities. They both feature compact plastic housings that aren’t much larger than the tiny drivers they house. Both have an inline mic. Both are designed for active users as emphasized by the descriptions on their packages.
Instead of memory wire, Fidue chose to let users decide on how they wanted to wear the earphones, including instead removable rubber ear guides. I personally prefer removable ear guides and the flexibility of choosing cable up or down.
The Spark’s cable isn’t perfect, but it’s a million times better than the one built into the A31s. I’ll let these pictures do the talking. Keep in mind my A31s has been in use for well over a year now. It’s cable has had plenty of time to stretch it’s legs, so to speak.
When it comes to sound the A31s is much darker and places a lot of focus on a large mid-bass hump. It falls well behind the Spark in overall clarity and detail, with a clear veil sucking up this information. Despite this, it’s soundstage is about on par just without the same level of technical competence when it comes to imaging and layering.
For A31s users looking to move onto a different sounding sports earphone, the Spark would be a good choice. It physical properties are similar but it brings a much more detailed and clear sound to the table.
ADVANCED M4 (39.99 USD): Despite completely different target audiences, these two are remarkably comparable sharing a similar tuning and overall tone, albeit with some minor differences. The Spark is a little brighter but it’s bass digs a little deeper. The M4’s soundstage offers more depth but the rest of it’s presentation and overall technical presence is on par.
The M4 is the better built of the two with it’s diamond-cut aluminum housings and beefy braided cable. However, this fantastic cable is heavy which combined with long housings makes then less than ideal for outside use, unless wearing them cable over-ear. This is the Spark’s default orientation and their cable is much lighter and more flexible, making them a better companion for travel. Isolation on both is similarly excellent (when using foam tips).
If you enjoy the M4 but find it’s not working out for you when you’re out and about or when you try to use them for exercising, the Spark is a likely solution. Yes, they are a bit brighter than the already treble-heavy M4, but a touch of EQ can dial that down for you. That or just use the included foams.
I like the Spark, a lot. Once I found the right set of tips and addressed the twisted memory wire, they’ve been a pleasure to use and a great traveling companion when out of the house. Even after two months of regular use they look exactly as they did the day they were unpackaged.
If Fisher Audio were to make a mid-life revision to the Spark I have a couple suggestions. Swap out the included single-flange tips to something that uses a softer silicone and smaller bore, and maybe toss in a second pair of foams because they pair so well. It would also be nice if the memory wire was either revised to something with improved memory, or removed altogether with some rubber ear guides included instead. These minor changes would make them much more enjoyable to use out of the box.
For someone looking for an energetic and bright sports earphone with strong technical performance, they could do much worse than to get the Spark. They’re tiny and well built, comfortable, have an entertaining signature, and don’t cost a ton. Good stuff here.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock – Saturn Missles
BT – The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk – Touch
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd – Money
Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)
Skindred – Death to all Spies
Supertramp – Rudy
The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack