Thanks to Kerry Ko for arranging me this review sample of Firestone Audio Fubar HD (360USD).
Fubar HD is a DAC/Amp combo in Firecute series. It is a compact versatile little box that can do highest 24/96through USB input and 24/192 through coaxial input. Fubar HD is in the FireCute series so they will share the same small and cute form factor. If you have following Earmass long enough you will know that we over here are big fans of Amp/DAC box solution, because for us this can save space (One machine only and just use on power plug) and cost (You do not need to buy separate RCA cable ETC).
Just like what other products in FireCute series offered, Fubar HD is small and simple. Fubar HD is a good entry level DAC/Headphone amplifier, input wise Fubar HD supported Coaxial, optical and USB input, also there is a RCA jack that is a input and output in the same jack, this is quite brilliant and space saving.
Ergonomic wise Fubar HD is very easy to use, you just have to plug in the USB cable and turn on the device, in another words just plug and play. The only problem is you will have to reselect your gain and source setting everytime you turned on the device because Fubar HD does not have memory effect that can memorise your last setting choice, this is not convenience.
There is also some inconveniency because you will have to plugged in a PSU for Fubar HD, unlike some desktop DAC/Amp that you can easily power up them using just a USB cord, however it is always better that a better and stable PSU will give you better sound, but I just like the idea of simplicity.
I have paired Fubar HD with Arce MDAC3/MUA1, Yulong Audio U18 and M2Tech HiFace DAC, tested using German-Maestro GMP400, Hifiman HE400/RE400, Hisound Living, Klipsch X7i/S4 ii/ Image One II, Creative Aurvana Live!, Soundmagic HP-100 and Dunu DN-19 Tai-Chi. Fubar HD have been burned in more than 150 hours.
Sound tuning might be one of the Firestone Audio strongest weapons. First of all, Fubar HD is quite balanced and neutral in audio presentation, it does not really push anything forward or pull anything backward, very slightly towards warm sound signature.
Soundstage and transparency is very good in this price range, transparent and give good sense of clarity. Music have been blessed by good richness, I will rated Fubar HD is ahead of Audinst HUD-MX2, Yulong Audio U100 and JDS Labs ODAC/Objective 2 combo, also slightly better than the iFi Audio iDAC that I like very much. I personally think that Fubar HD is unique that settled everything (sound) backward, no, it will be more appropriate that I say Fubar HD tend NOT TO bring anything forward by much. This is a good approach, because you can ‘see’ music from a distance. ‘Seeing’ music from a distance (with clarity) is a good thing, this is a decisive factor that determine the timbre of an audio device, meaning that although pushing forward the sound will make you feel like ‘near to the music’ for a while, but after long session listening period, you will know that it will be tiring, but Fubar HD will give you sound that you will appreciate more after you spent more time on it.
Now, not pushing the sound forward will caused some issues as well, for example sometimes you will feel the sound is weak (not full nuanced or not clear), however Fubar HD has good sense of clarity and reasonable soundstage, so most of the time the sound is a little bit laid back and spacious, that is what making you stick to the music longer.
This making me thinking back Arce MDAC3 that I just reviewed not too long ago, obviously Fubar HD does not have the ‘Gentle’, Liveliness and wide soundscape of Arce MDAC3, but we are talking about a product that is few times more expensive and less versatile.
Vocal of Fubar HD is good and clear, treble is good, bass is fast and tight. However, sometimes I do think the sound is not true to life (I should not expect this though in this price range), for example, the song ‘My Love, live’ (Celine Dion) began with crowd clapping, when I played through Fubar HD, the clapping sound seems unreal, however, drums hit with good impact and body, vocal is clear and warm (Slightly). I have tested the Fireye HD with this song (Both using Arce MDAC3 as DAC), I think that Fireye HD headphone amplifier sounded more real than the Fubar HD headphone amp and sounded wider.
Fubar HD is musical, powerful and good sounding little box. I don’t really have anything to complain against the sound, it sounded like a 360USD device and worth the money, for times, it might not sounded as true as the source means to be, it is not it has heavy coloration, just that this is really common for devices in this price range.
For me, Fubar HD worth the price and performed as the price tag speak. But don’t expect any miracle happened though. If you found out that you get tiring with your headphones/music lately, or you think that you don’t like the way the music has been push forward, you might give Fubar HD a serious audition.
Just before I forgot, Fubar HD is quite powerful even in the low gain settings, which can powered up the Hifiman HE400 and German-Maestro GMP400 easily.