One of you recently asked for a comparison between the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S. They go for a similar price and seem to advertise to the same sort of audiophile crowd. I hadn’t listened to the IE 80 S in quite some time, so I was excited to sit down with them side-by-side to see how they compared. So which one is better? Today I’ll try to answer that question with this FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review.
FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
In the Box – FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
|Sennheiser IE 80 S
|FiiO FH5 earphones
|Sennheiser IE 80 S earphones
|eartips (balanced, bass, vocal, and foam (small, medium, and large)
|eartips (silicone, Lamella, Comply (small, medium, and large)
|sound adjustment / cleaning tool
|hard shell case
Specifications – FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
|Sennheiser IE 80 S
|1 dynamic, 3 balanced armature
|15 Hz – 40 kHz
|10 Hz- 20 kHz
Design – FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
Look and Build
While similarly durable to the touch, the looks of the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S are quite different. On one hand, the FH5’s driver housing is larger than that of the IE 80 S. It has a prettier, classier look to it because of the pretty shape, color and design of the housing as well as the intricacy of the cable. However the IE 80 S has a simpler, more masculine look to it. The FH5’s housing is made of machined aluminum while the IE 80 S is made of strong plastic.
Both the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S fit securely and effortlessly. The IE 80 S has a more versatile fit because one can wear it with the cable either hooked over the ear or hanging straight down. On the other hand, the FH5 has earhooks built right into the cable so while it only fits by wrapping behind the ear, it is more convenient.
Additionally, because the IE 80 S has a smaller housing, it fits more into the space in my ear. As a result, I get a better seal with it. It is also more sound isolating.
While the cables of both the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S are detachable, they are quite different from each other. The FH5 features MMCX connectors. These are universal and therefore, one could switch them out for a wide variety of types of cables. As a result, it is more versatile because one can use cables with a microphone or one with Bluetooth for example. Conversely the IE 80 S uses a proprietary 2-pin cable, so if it were to break for some reason, you could only replace it with the matching Sennheiser cable.
Additionally, the Sennheiser IE 80 S has a traditional cable style, with all the wires bundled into on jacket. As a result, it is a little bit more of a manageable cable. However, the FH5 has more of an audiophile cable, separating each channel of audio into its own individually insulated jacket. As a result it is a little bigger and stiffer, but has more attention to sound quality.
Both the Sennheiser IE 80 S and the FiiO FH5 have different approaches to their transducers. The IE 80 S has just one dynamic driver. It also includes a bass adjustment pot. As a result, the sound is more simplified, yet is flexible to the listener’s tastes. On the flip side, the FH5 has four drivers, one dynamic for the lows, one balanced armature for the midrange, and a dual balanced armature for the highs and ultra highs. As a result, there is greater attention to each frequency range, but it is a more complicated system with more room for error. So how does this affect the sound?
Sound – FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
*For the sake of judging the low frequencies, I’ve adjusted the bass adjustment pot of the Sennheiser IE 80 S to boost the lows a little bit (sitting at the second tick mark) to account for my aesthetic preferences. In a general sense, this bass adjustment pot boosts the highest part of the bass frequency range which can result in making the lows/low-mids a little bit cloudy. However it does provide a good amount of thickness for those that want it.
The low frequencies of the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S are in tonality but they come across with different energy. The low frequencies of the FH5 are quicker and more dynamically expressive than the IE 80 S. The lows of the IE 80 S remain solid and sturdy.
For example, when I was listening to the song Diamond Heart by Lady Gaga, the FiiO FH5 made the kick drum feel quick and punchy. The bass synth felt full and powerful. And overall, there was a good sense of low frequency extension and sense of subbiness. On the other hand, the sound of the kick drum on the Sennheiser IE 80 S sounded thick, powerful, and solid. It was less punchy, but it still had a solid foundation, especially with the bass synth.
When I was listening to the song Roosevelt Room by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, the bass guitar felt emphasized with the Sennheiser IE 80 S because of a low-mid boost. Additionally, the guitars sounded huge! However, the guitars tended to blend a bit with the bass guitar, making it sound slightly cloudy. On the other hand, the FiiO FH5 had good separation between the bass and guitars, but they felt a bit less thick, especially due to more emphasis on the high mids, which accented the guitars’ distortion rather than their thickness. Conversely, the IE 80 S had a mellower high-mid response, so the vocals sat a bit lower in the mix.
Both the Sennheiser IE 80 S and the FiiO FH5 have accented high frequencies, but they are emphasized in different areas of the high frequency range. The FH5 is emphasized in the lower region of the highs and the IE 80 S is emphasized a bit higher in the high frequencies.
For example, when I was listening to the song Cleva by Erykah Badu, the FiiO FH5 had a pleasant tonality to the high hat and nice definition in Erykah’s vocals. It accentuated the attack of the vibraphone which made it sit more forward in the mix. On the other hand, the Sennheiser IE 80 S emphasized the high hats in a different place. As a result, they sounded brighter, but a bit thinner. Additionally, it didn’t accent the attack of the vibraphone, so it sat lower in the mix and further back in space soundstage-wise. The vocals had a beautiful sense of air to them, but had less texture than the FH5.
Both the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S had a good and accurate depiction of width. As a result, when I was listening to Miles Runs the Voodoo Down by Miles Davis, the sax, drums, keys, and guitars were really fun to listen to because of the sometimes shameless, sometimes nuanced way they pop in and out of different sides. The sense of height is most pronounced in the IE 80 S where the high frequency boost is. As a result, the shakers/percussion and cymbals sit highest in the vertical domain. Additionally, there is a sense of height on the trumpet because of the way the high end emphasis interacts with it.
Conversely, the height of FiiO FH5 incorporates more of the extended lows so it feels bit more detailed. Both the bass guitar and low toms add to its sense of length in addition to the emphasized cymbals and percussion in the high frequencies. As for the sense of depth, the FH5 feels more nuanced than the Sennheiser IE 80 S because the contrast between the close, intimate instruments and the far away ones is more extreme. On the other hand, the IE 80 S achieves its depth more so from midrangey room mics and reverbs.
Overview – FiiO FH5 vs Sennheiser IE 80 S Comparison Review
Overall, the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S are great earphones! The FH5’s sense of energy comes from its quick transient response, whereas the IE 80 S’s energy comes from its thick and solid midrange.
Both the FiiO FH5 and the Sennheiser IE 80 S are available for the best price here: