The FLC8s are another beautiful surprise coming from China. They are Triple-driver hybrid in-ear monitor (using 2 balanced armature drivers for the medium and high frequencies, and a dynamic driver for bass output), very balanced, vouched for linearity, detail retrieval and musicality.
The hybrid nature of the FLC8s is explained by the nature of its drivers: balanced armature drivers are smaller and have faster transients compared to the bigger, dynamic drivers. A few years ago, it was much less frequent to see hybrid IEMs, and generally those using dynamic drivers tended to be less detailed and darker, while raising multi driver hybrid techology allows, more and more, to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Structure and Fit
The main peculiarity of the FLC8s is their modular construction: each earpiece sports three swappable sections, allowing the user tune the sound to some extent. Such sections are the front port, the rear port, and the nozzle filter. The FLC8s include different kinds of each category.
Front Ports are for sub-bass adjustment: red (higher sub-bass output), grey (medium sub-bass output), clear (lowered sub-bass output).
Rear Ports are for bass adjustment: black (higher bass output), grey (medium bass output), clear (low bass output).
Nozzle Filters are for midrange and treble adjustment: gold (raised midrange, medium treble quantity), green (medium midrange response, higher treble quantity), dark grey (medium midrange and treble), blue (medium midrange and lowered treble).
Although, initially, the number of combinations might seem overwhelming, it’s easy to narrow down the combinations according to what a user seeks in sound.
In my case, as I will describe in the following paragraph, there are two combinations which I find particularly good.
Other peculiarities of the FLC8s, as far as structure goes, are the ear hooks, that help strongly with comfort and stability, and the cable. The cable is very beautiful to look at, and replaceable, but is very microphonical, which means that you will hear its noise when walking/running. A shirt clip might be needed to get rid of such microphonics.
Sound impressions of the FLC8s are based upon what I think are the best combo of swappable components:
(a) grey filter (medium bass response), golden nozzle (elevated midrange response and medium treble response) and red low bass port (stronger deep bass);
(b) grey filter, blue nozzle (medium midrange response and tamed treble response) and grey/red low bass port.
These are in my opinion the most enjoyable and balanced configurations. With configuration (a), the mids come through in a lively manner, the bass is snappy and deep, and treble is extended, if slight on the bright side.
With configuration (b), the whole sound is slightly warmer and darker, although mids come out a bit less than I usually love.
In both cases, the FLC8s prove to be extremely resolving IEMs, with exceptional instrument separation and placement, wide soundstage, strong sense of transparency and detail retrieval, which is particularly evident with configuration (a), which is also my favourite overall.
In such case, they verge slightly on the lean side, because of a bit of treble brightness: it never really translates into sibilance or any other offending trait, but it’s rather a slight sense of luminescence, which adds up to the sense of transparency (as looking thorugh a very clear glass), but as a downside, it feels like some light more than necessary is shed over the music. It’s not a big issue, anyway, because it’s not something bad like when headphones present sibilance, stridency or have dead midrange. It’s more of a subtle trait.
The rest of the tonality is vivid, lively, especially thanks to the beautiful midrange coming through the “golden” nozzle. The bass integrates with the rest of the spectrum for very beautiful pacing.
Swapping the golden nozzle for the blue one, the treble “luminescence” is gone, and the midrange is slightly less forward… it’s mainly a matter of preference.
They sound very good with my Blackberry Passport (i.e. a “very good sounding but regular” smartphone), and they are even better with the Hifiman HM-802s, where they gain even more kick and warmth, and separation of detail layers is more apparent.
The FLC8s have a beautiful, delicate “personality” and will appeal both people looking for an all-arounder and detail lovers. They don’t have any real “offending” traits, and in the meanwhile they have beautiful qualities for their own sake. They are definitely worth their asking price, something which occurs very seldom in audio.
They offer good tuning possibilities, which shouldn’t really scare the buyer, because finding the optimum is a quicker and more straightforward process than it would sound “on paper”. The removable cable, the beautiful looks, and the built-in earhooks (which prove pretty useful) add up to an already convincing package.