Fiio has done quite a good job at transforming the sterotype of Chinese based electronics manufacturers. In-fact their well priced portable headphone amplifiers and digital audio players have received excellent reviews from tech lovers around the world. Fiio’s latest venture is into the world of in-ear headphones with the creation of the F9 Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor. The F9 earphone comes in 2 different versions (F9 SE – hard wired) and (F9 – with removable MMCX cables). Right now I have a brand new Fiio F9 MMCX in-ear headphone so let’s do a full review and see what it has to offer.
In The Box
- F9 triple driver earphones
- MMCX to 3.5mm cable with inline controls
- MMCX to 2.5mm cable without controls
- Hard travel case
- 6-sets of silicone eartips (3 for balanced sound / 3 for better bass)
- Warranty card (1-year)
The two main features of the Fiio F9 in-ear monitor are the removable MMCX cable and the hybrid triple drivers. The MMCX wire connections allow you to switch out the (included) cables to your preference or even get yourself a totally different quality of sound with your favorite brand of cable. The Linum G2 Series MMCX cables are one option. There’s a world of high-end aftermarket replacement MMCX cables that can suit the needs of any audiophile. It’s just a matter of finding one that works best for you. As it is, you’ve already got 2 nice audio cables ready to go right out of the box.
As for the 3-way hybrid drivers, this is not a new approach but it has become a popular driver setup for more effective sound. The Fiio F9 uses 1 x 9.2mm dynamic driver (best for bass frequencies) and 2 balanced armatures (excellent for mids and highs). The idea is you to the best driver combination for the full spectrum of music.
Build / Design and Fit
The design of the Fiio F9 is of course a classic IEM with a modern twist. The over-ear wire keeps the earphone in place and the ergonomic shaped (aluminum) housing features a futuristic ripple design inspired by nature. It’s an interesting look for sure but also an efficient one.
The balanced (2.5mm) cable uses a twisted pair design and the unbalanced (3.5mm) cable is a standard single wrap around the entire wire. Both feel fairly solid and built to last. I did have quite a bit of trouble though with the MMCX connection itself. When snapping them on for the first time it felt very stiff. This can be normal. But when I tried to take the earphones back off to switch the cable I had a very difficult time removing them.
The fit of the F9 earphone is nice as expected considering the curved shape of the housing and over-ear wire. It’s a pretty standard IEM setup that doesn’t seem too big and didn’t cause any discomfort during extended uses.
How Does It Sound?
I’ve sampled several triple hybrid driver earphones over the past year and each one had a slightly different take on how to implement the triple driver technology. The biggest benefit of the hybrid technology (mixing a dynamic driver & balanced armatures) is that you get a much better bass response than only using balanced drivers. (note – Fiio also offers 2 types of eartips in the box. Three sets are designed to deliver a more balanced sound signature and the other three sets are for better bass response.)
Here’s some of my observations on the F9 in-ear monitor sound signature:
I found the bass to be quite powerful and capable of the entire range of bass all the way down to the 15Hz cut off. In the mix of tracks this dynamic driver provided a fullness and even warm aspect to my tracks.
The mids revealed the true nature of balanced armatures. The F9 has a sweet spot in the mid-range and it brings out the vocals and main elements of the mix like guitars and attack on percussion instruments. I found that this earphone excelled especially with electronic, pop and hip-hop because of the clarity of the mid-range. I detected a small amount of sibilance with a few tracks but for the most part found the mids to be clear yet smooth.
The high frequencies reflected a similar result as the mids. The second balanced armature pressed out the highs cleanly and accurately. Although I think it’s probably rolled off a bit toward the top, the frequency range definitely reflects a Hi-Res sound quality with a top-end of 40kHz.
Using A DAC / Amp and Balanced Connection
Considering the Fiio F9 comes with a balanced 2.5mm cable I decided to give it a little amplification with a proper device. The Fiio Q1 MkII is a powerful, portable DAC / Amp combo that features 3.5mm (unbalanced) and 2.5mm (balanced) outputs. It seems like a perfect match for the F9 in-ear monitor.
Using the balanced output on the Q1 MkII I played streaming music from my iPhone and got incredible results. The sound signature of the F9 came alive with even more force and depth. In addition, the DAC and balanced output combined to clean up the signal quite a bit. Overall it was a very successful test.
In conclusion, the Fiio F9 Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor is a great headphone for the price. The combination of 2 types of MMCX cables, heavy duty case and triple driver hybrid technology are pretty hard to beat for just under $100. You won’t get nearly as much in terms of hi-res sound quality or build quality from any other IEM in that price range. It might not be everybody’s bag but I kinda dig this cool new earphone. You should definitely check it out.
Get the best price on the Fiio F9 Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor at the following retailers:
Audio46 Headphone Store: Fiio F9 SE Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor (Red)
Audio46 Headphone Store: Fiio F9 Triple Driver In-Ear Monitor (Black)
Amazon: FiiO F9 Best Over the Earphones/Headphones Detachable Cable Design Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitors (Red)
Amazon: FiiO F9 Best Over the Earphones/Headphones Detachable Cable Design Triple Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitors with Android Compatible Mic and Remote (Black)
Frequency Response: 15Hz – 40,000Hz
Driver Type: 1 Dynamic / 2 Balanced Armatures
Impedance: 20 Ohms
Maximum Input Power: 100mW
Plug Type: 3.5mm / 2.5mm
Cord Length: 120cm
Single Earbud Weight: 3.67g