After hearing about the FiiO FA7 months ago, I’ve spent much of my time since pining to try these exciting earphones. With four Knowles BA drivers and a 3D-printed ergonomic housing, this tiny mama-jama talks a big game – and the Audiophile community has been whipped to a frenzy. But at $299, can the sound live up to the hype?
FiiO FA7 Review
When the FA7 arrived on my review desk, I was reminded of the FH5. Indeed, this earphone even comes with the same accessories – 12 pairs of eartips, a cleaning tool, a cable clip, and two carrying cases – a hard carrying case and a soft zippered carrying pouch.
Holding the FA7 in my hands, I’m struck by the lack of weight and the eye-catching design. The pair I received for review features the blackish-gray “smoke” color. FiiO also offers the FA7 in a red-blue color scheme that looks a little flashier or downright garish, depending on personal tastes.
Peering through the translucent housing sides and back of the FA7, you can see the driver configuration. Four Knowles BA drivers sit inside, offering 4-way crossover a helluva sound.
Each housing features a contoured, sculpted look that also offers improved comfort. While a tad bit irksome to dislodge, the FiiO FA7 has a habit of staying in my gigantic ears once situated. Sitting almost flush with my ears, it’s a fit that’s secure enough to wear on my daily commute, and slim enough to wear to bed.
Cabling comes in the form of a 4 ft (1.2 m) mmcx cable, with a right-angled 3.5mm plug. The cable feels strong and resilient, but just as light as the earphone. However, if you’re hankering for a balanced sound, FiiO also offers an accessory cable of similar build with a 4.4 mm connection – and all for the scant price of $69.99.
Frequency Response: 20-40,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 23 ohms
Sound Pressure Level: 100dB
As we can see from the specs, the FiiO delivers a fairly solid low end with some added juice in the highs. At 23 ohms, this earphone won’t much in the way of amplification and should work just fine with low output devices like phones, computers, or personal music players. Sound pressure measures a fairly standard 100 db – not as loud as some other earphones, but more than acceptable for general use in most listening scenarios.
The FA7 offers a full and robust low end chock-full of detail. It fills every track I listen to with a substantial weight – not bloated or uncontrolled, but just solid. Bass response comes across as accurate, dropping where it should, but never lingering longer than necessary. This sharp, contrast-y low end keeps things relatively accurate, but also fun, making it difficult to pause my tracks long enough to tackle the next section of this review…
Here the sound of the FA7 really takes off, with a midrange than leans slight forward from the rest of the frequency range. Isolated but not removed, it’s a complimentary tweak in relation to the mesmerizing lows and detailed highs. Vocals and instrumentation in the mids shine through with a surprising level of clarity and precision. While there might be just the slightest bit of compression, there’s no distortion and the sound in general proves highly intoxicating.
Highs sound teeter on the brink of brightness, but never grow too piercing or uncomfortable. The FA7 is well suited for this part of the frequency range, and the flood of resolution and detail proves the efficacy of the Knowles drivers again and again. Vocals sound smooth but articulate, while instrumentation features an almost glaring sense of finality. Tight, well-controlled, and mesmerizing, these highs are the kind of stuff audiophiles and headphone reviewers dream of.
The FA7 offers a decent sense of soundstage despite it’s in-ear design. While still somewhat “in your head”, the sound retains an impression of space and depth. Instruments and vocals occupy finite amounts of space and don’t really seem to overlap or bleed into one another. However, at times, those positions may seem a bit close together. This prevents the FA7 from sounding truly open, but for an earphone, the performance is still pretty enviable.
The FA7 sounds almost as good as it looks. However, the addition of a balanced cable does much to improve the sound even further. Testing this earphone with FiiO’s own balanced 4.4 mm cable, I was surprised at how much the sound changed. The bass and low end took on a slight sense of weight, while the mids sounded less compressed. The highs sounded less affected. But there was a noticeable improvement in the sense of soundstage, too.
Even with my own $500 benchmark sounding just a little more precise, I’m still tempted to pick up the FA7 based on looks alone. It sounds good, but it looks like a work of art, and I want people to see me wearing it.
If you need a solid, accurate, comfortable earphone under $300, pick up the FiiO FA7 and never look back. This phenomenal ‘phone sounds great, looks great, and feels great. Its accurate reproduction is matched only by its snazzy exterior.
However, if you want more extension in the highs and lows, then I would recommend the FH5. With a touch more bass and a touch brighter treble, it’s the v-shaped evil twin to the straight-laced FA7.
I have generally recommended the FH5 for rock, hip-hop, pop, and electronica in the past. Yet the FA7 handles all of these genres with ease, and I’d say that both are superb earphones. The real difference comes down more to personal taste. Those preferring a more balanced and nuanced sound would do well to consider the FA7. But fans of a more fun and energetic (but less accurate sound) might prefer the FH5.
At $299, the hard-hitting, sexy-looking, easy-wearing FiiO FA7 ticks all the right boxes. For Fiio, this earphone constitutes another home-run. But for audiophiles – especially those on a budget – the FA7 offers a strikingly impressive option that sounds great, looks good, and won’t break the bank.
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