FiiO is one of those companies in China who compete against some of the best in the market, striving to prove that China is there with everyone else, and they do a great job of making sure their voice is heard. This is something that can be experienced with their FH5 Quad-Driver In-Ear Headphones, that are designed for those looking for a lot more presence in what they are listening to, including audiophiles, musicians, engineers and more.
We recently discussed their M9 Hi-Res Portable Player that resulted in an excellent score by us due to its performance and the multiple functions it can perform as. Although these headphones can’t take on the many forms that the player can (they are just headphones after all), they do quite well in its company when it comes to quality alone.
Again, these are targeted for serious listeners, let it be an audiophile looking to relax to their favorite tunes, a musician on stage using them as their in-ear monitors (especially for vocals), or equivalent. They take many forms depending on how you drive them look amazing to the eye.
The overall design of these headphones project a level of elegance and quality. From the materials that create each bud to the cable running to the 3.5mm connector. The buds, feature an aluminum alloy shell, promoting a sturdy and long-lasting build. They have a wave-like pattern on the outer face and a nice gold trim for aesthetics.
The cable and buds come together using an MMCX connection, allowing you to detach the cable and replace it if there is every any damage, or swap it out with a capable of your choosing. Say a company like Kimber Kable where to design an MMCX-style cable you really liked, or you wanted to use a MMCX Bluetooth cable to take these buds wireless with–you can easy swap to one of those cables within seconds.
As for the cable, it is a twisted silver-plated copper wire inside with quality insulation and a tight/firm connection to the buds. A very solid feel to it that gives the impression that it will last just as long as the buds. The 3.5mm connector on the end also features the same aluminum build, and includes a gold-plated connection. All of this a great balance and match for the overall product.
There is no microphone in-line on this cable since these are solely meant for the enjoyment of sound and not a beat of pair of in-ears you’d run around with normally taking phone calls with. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t swap them out for an MMCX-style cable that does have a microphone built-in, but chances are you won’t care much about this.
Inside of each bud is four separate drivers, including three Knowles balanced armature drivers (two if which are dedicated to your highs, and one for your mids), and one 10mm polymer nanocomposite dynamic driver for your lows. They feature S.TURBO technology with three independent sound tubes running to your ear (as you can see in the image to the right), covering your highs, mids and lows separately.
There are plenty of tips to select from that come with these. Eight pairs alone are broken down into three different groups, with your normal small, medium and large sizes (except for the balanced tips which feature only small and large for some reason). These different groups are for controlling the overall balance of the buds. Then you have three pairs of memory foam tips, all medium in size (since they are kind of one size fits all), and you also get a single pair of dual-flange silicone tips (which we didn’t like and assume the average user would be happy to lose those).
Those three groups of tips cover balanced listening, an emphasis on vocals with mids/highs highlighted, or an emphasis on bass. Which you use depends solely on what you are looking to experience in what you are listening to. If you are a singer using these as in-ear monitors, you will most likely want to use the vocal or balanced tips. If you are using them for music listening, you will most likely find yourself using either the balanced or the bass selection.
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The memory foam tips are nice but we find these to depend highly on user preference. Some prefer to use memory foam tips since they conform nicely to the shape of your ears and help to trap in a lot of sound. However, some may find the added pressure they deliver might not be what they are looking for. Foam tips also wear down, which is why they come with three pairs.
There are two cases to select from for storing the buds in, including a soft zippable pouch (perfect for storing them in your pocket or anywhere where minimal protection is just fine) and a nice hard-shell case for a more solid protection (if you don’t mind a tad more bulk). Both cases should do a great job at protecting the buds and cable.
When it comes to performance, these headphones have a lot of versatility. This is something you would normally expect when buying into this level of a product. Dialing in the sound with the right tips is more important with these buds than your normal consumer product since it is more than just about a tight but comfortable fit. It is also about what your ears want to ear. They aren’t going to replace running the buds through an EQ of course, but their effect is quite noticeable and helps in shaping these to “you”.
Sound quality heavily depends on how you attach the tips as well. You can’t slide them on too far else you will lose a LOT of the range, including most of the lows. So you have to ride the tips on the rib going around the stem just right. I only point this out since it is easy to slide them beyond that little rib, and then you won’t have a right seal in your ears.
With the tips installed right, you can get a decent amount of range and even bass from these. The highs are incredibly clear, the mids have a nice range as well. Bass is the only thing you have to play with if you want more presence within the lower range of frequencies. For this, it depends heavily on what is driving the headphones. The tips make a difference, but the difference is minimal in comparison to that.
When you are able to bring out the lower frequencies, the lows are profound yet balanced. It’s not over boomy or anything and the lows can get deep and, well, low (hitting as low as 15Hz). For an example, listening to something like Brahms Academic Festival Overture (in C, OP) helps to highlight this with its huge bass drum. However, you have to find your way to these lows to experience that.
We found that these buds sound great with any mobile device (phones, tablets, laptops, etc). However, they shine best when paired with an amp. Pairing them with something like FiiO’s M9 Hi-Res Portable Player or the Dragonfly USB DAC (via a computer), or Creative’s Super X-Fi USB DAC, is going to bring out a fantastic range to them and great volume levels. Overall, the range is pretty balanced, although the lows aren’t always as powerful as the rest.
However, they sound amazing with a more powerful amp, like a nice tube amp such as the Little Dot MKII or something like the Marantz HD-DAC1. This is where you can bring out the best in the lows along with everything else, making for a perfect balanced blend to everything.
For an even bigger emphasis on bass when you are watching videos/movies, as well as an added value of “fun”, use the Creative Super X-Fi amp with Super X-Fi mode (virtual 7.1 sound stage) enabled, which can give these a huge presence and deep low frequencies. They also sound pretty good within the virtual surround sound stage it creates in general. You will find yourself playing around with some of the profiles to get it right, but the end result is fantastic. The only disadvantages in this setup is that sometimes the bass can sound a little overly boomy in a few scenarios (depending on what you are listening to). This however, is the optimal setup for listening to the before mentioned Brahms Academic Festival Overture.
These in-ear headphones provide and outstanding range to them, that can be customized by both what you use to drive them with as well as which of the many ears tips you choose to crown them with. Between being able to tune them into your own personal preferences, to the ability to swap out the cable with any other MMCX solution, you get a lot of customization out of these. They sound really good no matter how you tune things in, and they sound amazing when paired to the right amps. Their build is top-quality both buds and cable, and should last an incredibly long time if you take care of them. You don’t always get a full experience with the lows depending on what you have driving them, so it does take some tweaking and pairing to get it just right if you need heavier lows. They are also expensive, which means these aren’t for your average consumer. However, for the serious listener or audiophile who knows what they want and has the right gear to pair them with, these are a great find.
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- Frequency Response: 15Hz – 40kHz
- Driver Type: 1 Dynamic + 3BAs(knowles)
- Impedance: 19 ohm
- Sensitivity: 112dB/mW
- Maximum Input Power: 100mW
- Plug Type: 3.5mm
- Length: 120cm
- MMCX Type (swappable)
- Single Earbud Weight: 8g
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