FiiO EH3 NC Review

The EH3NC represents Fiio’s first foray into noise-cancelling wireless headphone technology. The company have already commandeered a strong and loyal consumer base with its plethora of high value propositions. Hence, this new venture by the Chinese brand into the world of wireless listening would only be considered a smart move since the direction of the market is heading that way. 

Priced at a competitive $199, the Fiio EH3 incorporates active noise cancelling technologies where 4 microphones pick up ambient noise and the resulting DSP chip emits an inverse signal to cancel out sound. In an effort to please audiophiles, the headphones also support hi-res Bluetooth audio formats such as LDAC, aptX and aptX HD for lossless sound quality. While a majority of other headphones in this category use smaller drivers, Fiio have opted for 45 mm dynamic titanium-plated drivers to produce a dynamic sound with deeper bass. The resulting sensitivity of the headphones being only 32 Ohms of impedance allowing it to be played adequately from a multitude of sources. 

The Packaging

The Fiio EH3NC arrive in a matt black box with a professional shot of the headphones. Inside, is a large clam-shell case which seems adequately robust to house the foldable set of headphones. Also included is a USB-A to USB-C cable as well as a 3.5mm to 3.5mm connector. Overall, the packaging is nicely done and ties in with the overall brand theme.  

The Build & Design

The Fiio EH3NC has a simplistic but elegant design to it. Nothing in particular stands out but features appear to be well-made including the supple headband, swivel mechanism and carbon fiber textured housings. In fact, this same carbon fiber texturing can be seen sported in Fiio’s M11 Pro digital audio player. The chrome accents accentuate the look and are branded by the Fiio logo on one side and the Hi-Res Audio logo on the other.

Both the sliding and folding mechanisms are well engineered which allows for neat and easy storage of the headphones for travel. To add to this, the earpads are removable and fixes easily back onto the brackets. This encourages further space-saving techniques and is a nice addition to these lightweight headphones.

Functionality wise, the Fiio EH3s come enhanced with buttons to optimise the listening experience. On the right ear pad, there is the power button which rests next to the ANC sliding on/off button. Users are given a 3.5 mm jack output for wired connection and final below that are volume keys which double as ‘next’ and ‘previous’ on song tracks. Between these buttons is the play/pause function with the ability to accept and reject calls too. The right outer housing also hosts 5 LED indicators which feedback battery status and charging mode.

Overall, the buttons are very intuitive and offer good tactile feedback when users need to adjust volume levels or simply change tracks.

The Ergonomics

In terms of comfort, the large plush earcups encompass the whole of the outer ear while also providing an ergonomic listen. Perhaps the only critique here would be the relatively narrow headband and clamping force which by no means the worst is noticeable during extended listening.

Technology

The Fiio EH3 NC incorporates the flagship Bluetooth chip – CSR8675 which is said to only transmit signals at high speed but also shields such signals from external interference. Although there is no clearly defined range one can listen from the Bluetooth source, the headphones are able to be heard from approximately 20 meters + without a drop in performance or interference.

In terms of the Active Noise-Cancelling (ANC) technology, the EH3 NC utilises a high-end ADI noise-cancelling DSP chip which works in tandem with a 2-way, 4 microphone array in a Feedforward and Feedback approach. While the ANC does well to drown out low-frequency ambient sound, the chatter of people and high-frequency noises can still be heard. This reduces with music playback.

Part of the inherent design of this type of active noise-cancelling technology is that while it acts to diminish the droning of sounds such as bus or plane engines, there is no passive systems to stop occasional real-time sounds. Comparing this to Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, the Fiio EH3 NC does less well to curb ambient sounds. However, the Bose produces more of a reverb effect which may deter some consumers.

‘Fiio Music’ app

The Fiio Music app is a device control app which can be downloaded from the Android Play store – it provides a seamless experience where users are able to further customize the sound profile of the EH3 NC headphones. Included is a five-band EQ system and the ability to switch between different Bluetooth codecs. The app supports a variety of formats including DXD, DSD (DSD64/128), WAV, FLAC, APE, ALAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, OGG, and more.

Sound impressions (wireless, unless specified)

Lows

The bass of the EH3 NC offers a surprisingly capable rumble which not only extends low but is authoritative. An example of this is in ‘Rain’ by Aitch where the basslines are delivered with visceral depth and texture. The tuning leans towards a more neutral approach with more emphasis on sub than mid-bass. Compared to the Pendulumic Stance S1+, the Fiio EH3’s bass sounds tighter and more controlled. The headphones do respond well to EQing and for those craving just that more bass will be pleased by the extra dB in this part of the frequency spectrum.  

Mids

The midrange of the EH3 NC is tuned towards agreeability with moderate amounts of detail and dynamics. However, there is more of an emphasis here on lower midrange presence than upper midrange frequencies. The result being that while vocals carry some element of warmth, the upper frequency energy sound relatively further back in the mix reducing the overall amounts of liveliness. To that extent, the Stance S1+ sounds more musical with a more coherent overall sound.

Highs

Energy in the lower treble region picks up again and there is relatively good amounts of detail and bite here to produce a crisp but never bright sound. It is nice to note that the treble produces a keen sense of linearity and is not rolled off to cater for a bass-heavy sound. Instead, both the low and high frequencies produce a clean sound.

Soundstage & Imaging

The soundstage of the Fiio EH3 NC is above average for its closed back design and offers decent separation between the left and right pans. There is also a good element of height owing to the clean delivery of the treble. Instrument separation, however, is something which could be worked upon to truly deliver a high-fidelity sound.

Conclusion

Overall then, the Fiio EH3 NC is a valiant effort from the Chinese audio brand into the wireless headphone segment of the market. While the EH3s perform with versatility and spirit, there are no elements which truly stand out. However, consumers may be tempted by the competitive price which sits well in the price-performance curve as with Fiio’s other products. The design of the headphones are sleek and lightweight which sit well aesthetically. For those who need wireless listening inside and around the home, the EH3 NC is a capable offering with very little, if any, glaring weaknesses. For these reasons, they are certainly worthy of consideration. If Fiio’s past history is anything to go by, I am sure their next iterations will improve upon this already solid contender in the already saturated arena of wireless fidelity.  

Fiio EH3NC Wireless Headphones

$179.99 (summer sale)

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