FatFreq Maestro Mini Review

I've always deep down in my heart wanted to enjoy a big bassy headphone or IEM. The problem is, most of them are not very good. They are muddy, boomy, and very poor in resolution, and to balance it out, they make highs very bright, or even worse -- have no treble at all (i.e. L-shape). While there are some fun bassy sets like the Empire Ears Valkyrie and Legend X sets, they are quite pricey, and also can be a tad harsh in the highs.

Along comes Fat Freq. This is a Singaporean small boutique brand that makes a series of IEMs with big bass boosts, but with balanced mids and treble. I was enamored with the frequency response graphs I had seen from various measurement sites when I first heard about their Maestro series. They had huge bass boosts, but the mids/treble range fit right along what I like.

So, I dialed up Precogvision, and asked him to send me Fat Freq 'scheapest universal set, the Maestro Mini, since I knew he had recently reviewed it. After receiving the unit, I must say, it does exactly what I was expecting it would do. Hit bass hard.

IEM Design

Since this was a loaner, as well as a pre-release unit, I did not have all the retail packaging and can't provide any details here. In addition, the nozzle of these units do not have a filter on them, and the driver and inner cavity of the Maestro Mini is exposed. Removing the filter may cause some sound changes.

The MM itself is a small-sized blue IEM with a very comfortable design that I found good and easy to wear. It features standard 2-pin connectors on both sides, and a FatFreq logo on the faces. 

Sound Impressions

After listening to a bunch of neutral monitors, or slightly bright gear with light or even bass boost, and then putting on the Maestro Mini, I was immediately engulfed in deep, rich and thick bass. It was startling at first. I knew I was expecting a big gain here, but it was surprising how much it was in some songs, yet how it did not come off as muddy or bloated. It was bass quantity done right.

That's because the FatFreq brand decided to bump a downsloping HUGE bass bump starting at subbass regions, making it act like a subwoofer, and not a mid-bass woofer, which can add a lot of kick and punch, but also bleed into the midrange. With this amount of bass increase, 20 decibels above the midrange, you really need to be careful how this tuning can affect the overall tonality.

The Maestro Mini, for the most part, does this quite well. So, normally I talk about the general sound, but it's taking me three paragraphs to get to the point. This is a big bass in-ear monitor that has surprisingly well balanced mids and smooth treble. There are sometimes hints of a some brightness in the upper-midrange, and that could possible be attributed to the filterless design of this prototype. In production models, there is a nozzle filter, and that may tame the brightness a tad.

How does the Maestro Mini do technically? It's alright. I would say it's average. There's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing special about it either, besides its not-so-secret weapon of big sub-bass, and in this regard, it does it very well. It's not the most detailed IEM at the $450 price range, and its not blobby either. It's just good, or good enough. The bass quality is a step or two below the Empire Ears dynamic driver IEMs like the Odin and Legend X, but its quite competitive with name-your-chifi product of the month, and likely beats it when you consider that the bass driver is pushed to its limits here. 

The soundstage isn't huge -- its fairly average for an IEM, which means its small, but acceptable. Imaging is just okay, and depth is alright. I wouldn't be looking at the Maestro Mini as a technical wizard, as it is not. It plays much better as a fun, fun IEM that actually sounds quite pleasant and enjoyable.

Final Words

So, if you are a big bass lover, but also want something that can actually work across genres well, this is a pretty good IEM, and its priced decently well for a possibly niche area where there isn't a lot of stuff that excels in pure bass quality. 

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