Brand new from the Chi-Fi-turned-audiophile-staple brand FiiO, the new FH5 has arrived at MajorHifi. At a cool $259, this sleek new earphone boasts a four-driver design and hinges on FiiO’s reputation for high-tier sound at rock-bottom prices. But does the FH5 deliver the goods?
FiiO FH5 Review
Arriving in an imposingly large box, the FH5 comes with a hard plastic earphone vault case and a soft, zippered carrying pouch. The included eartips attenuate the sound of the FH5, with sets for Balanced Sound, Vocal-Heavy Sound, and Bass-Heavy sound. A set of memory foam tips is also included. All tips come in small, medium, and large sizes, with a total of 12 different pairs of tips.
Note: for this review, listening impressions were achieved with tips for Balanced Sound
Design-wise, the FiiO FH5 rocks a machined aluminum-magnesium alloy with a contoured faceplate. Red and blue connection rings on the right and left earpieces allow for easy connecting with the supplied MMCX cable.
And speaking of the cable, FiiO has done a bang-up job here. With a thick, braided design, this baby strikes me as incredibly durable. Indeed, this is the kind of headphone cable you could skip rope with or tie your shoes with – and then go plug it in and still get fantastic sound. Despite the standard length of just 4 ft (1.2 m) and the 3.5 mm connection, this is just a fantastic piece of equipment.
Perhaps the most important design feature, though, is the driver configuration. The FH5 rocks four drivers in each ear – three Knowles Balanced Armature drivers and one dynamic driver. Folks (this reviewer included) have been going ape over the Knowles driver since it appeared, and I’m dying to hear how the Knowles drivers will work with the FH5.
Frequency Range: 15-40,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 19 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 112 dB
On paper, the FiiO FH5 offers a wide frequency range that displays more high-end detail at the expense of low-end emphasis. A low nominal impedance of just 19 ohms will compliment low-output devices like phones and computers, and a sensitivity of 112 decibels will deliver adequate volume in any scenario.
Accurate and tempered, the lows on the FH5 eschew excessive emphasis. The sound strikes me as clean and articulate, heavily focused on sheer detail. Bass impact seems slight, but still remains somewhat emotive while not overpowering the rest of the low end. Of course, the sense of bass can be increased by using the Bass-Heavy eartips.
In the midrange, the FiiO FH5 displays a wealth of fidelity. With no compression or distortion, the sound here remains clean and accurate. Not necessarily forward-leaning, the mids work effortlessly with the rest of the frequency range to offer a rich, detailed sound that never sounds too oppressive or in-your-face.
Not bright but slightly peaky in the highest highs, the FH5 offers a high end that may benefit from a period of burn-in. As my demo is straight-off-the-shelf with no previous playtime, I imagine this will dissipate somewhat with time. However, even with the slightly peaky high end, the sound remains resolving with good attention to detail.
A strong sense of depth and a good sense of placement result in a fairly impressive sense of soundstage. Perhaps somewhat hindered by the in-ear design, the impression is still one of decently-spacious headroom – an impression that only increases the longer I listen to the FH5.
Where fit is concerned, the FH5 is a perfect earphone. From the moment I put these babies in my ears, they feel like they belong there. The springy rubber coating on the MMCX cable is another flourish – forget cheap, stiff wire you have to bend and re-bend to fit around your ear. With the FH5, the wire naturally (but gently!) presses against the back of your ear to hold the earphones in place.
Another point worth emphasizing: quality of sound. Every earphone offers a certain quality of sound, but the FiiO FH5 offers a very, very, very sweet sound at an affordable price. Those three Knowles drivers work in tandem to deliver a luscious, reference-grade sound you just can’t find anywhere else at this kind of price.
If you’re a basshead, you should probably skip this model and opt instead for another choice Chi-Fi cherry, the Dunu Falcon-C. At $219, this model utilizes a simpler single-driver setup while still delivering a naturally-warm (but still detailed) sound.
For those folks seeking a more mid-heavy sound, the Mackie MP-240 still comes to mind as a great recommendation (though I am a huge fan of this model, so I am a little biased).
Really, though, for balanced, detailed sound with equal focus on the lows and highs – and the ability to tweak this sound somewhat – the FiiO FH5 sounds amazing and looks fantastic.
With a premium sound, a premium fit, and premium looks, the FiiO FH5 probably deserves a higher price tag. The fact that you can own an earphone this excellent for a paltry $259 is downright stupid. My advice? If you can find these babies, snatch ’em up. And while you’re at it, save a pair for your boy Carroll.
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