Fiio was established in 2007 in Guangzhou, China. The company is well known for its series of headphone amplifiers, IEMs and digital audio players and also makes DACs and dongles.
The brand name is a combination of Fi (as in HiFi) and iO (number 1 & 0) the binary symbols representing the convenience of digital coding.
Focusing on product quality, style and service, FiiO places great importance on users’ needs by ceaselessly pursuing perfection in product design and manufacturing.
The FH11 is the second earphone in the new “bionic conch” series, following the single dynamic FD11. Like the earlier model, it features a shell design inspired by the Nautilus. It retails for around $40.
The FH11 comes in a compact rectangular box with a silver slip cover. The product name is displayed in a bold sans serif font, with a large illustration of the product and a “Hi-Res Audio” logo in the bottom left corner. Removing the slip cover reveals a black container with a clear plastic lid containing:
● Fiio FH11 IEMs
● 2 pin OFC cable with 3.5mm plug
● 4 pairs white silicone eartips
● 3 pairs black silicone eartips
The accessories are rather minimal, being not dissimilar to those from the popular KZ brand, but the FH11 does include an extra set of silicone tips compared to the earlier FD11.
Build and Design
The FH11 shares the same zinc alloy shell as the earlier design, shaped like a Nautilus. The finish is shiny and smooth with a faceplate decorated with an array of diamond shapes resembling a flower. The FH11 has five petals whereas the FD11 features six, and the newer model has an attractive gunmetal finish rather than silver. The earpieces feel solid and well made and have some heft to them.
The 2-pin sockets are circular and recessed and are colour-coded for channel identification. This proprietary design precludes the use of aftermarket cables since the recessed area will not accept standard connectors. I tried cables from Yinyoo, KBEAR and Hifi Hear with no success and I was therefore unable to test the FH11 with different cables or in balanced mode.
There is a small vent for the dynamic driver on the top surface opposite the 2 pin socket and there is another similar vent at the base of the flared nozzle, which has a silver-coloured metal grille.
The stock cable is similar to that supplied with the FD11, a 4-core OFC type with 2 pin 0.78mm plugs and a 3.5mm gold plated TRS termination and is coloured bronze rather than silver. As before, there are coloured rings matching the inner part of the 2-pin plugs. The cable is well made, flexible and light in weight. The cable is somewhat prone to tangling, and unfortunately no chin slider is provided.
The FH11 is a hybrid design (hence the “H” in the model number, whereas “D” denotes a dynamic driver type). The DD is the same unit as in the FD11 with a 10mm “carbon-based” diaphragm ( DLC or Graphene) and an asymmetric dual magnet array. The balanced armature is a “custom” unit, placed within the nozzle. Internally there is a three-chamber layout designed to separate the output from the two drivers and reduce distortion.
Like the FD11, the shell also features a “C-shaped acoustic flute” which employs an extended path for the bass frequencies similar to a transmission line speaker which is designed to produce a deeper bass response.
Fit and Isolation
The pre-fitted tips did not provide a secure fit or acceptable isolation. Combined with the shiny metal shells and their weight distribution, this made the earpieces unstable and reminded me of the fit issues with the (in)famous Blon BL-03. I therefore swapped the stock tips for medium KZ Starlines which were better, but I eventually settled on some Tin Hifi tips which had a superior grip and these were used for the review. I would recommend that experimenting with tips is essential with this model.
The FH11 was tested using a Hidizs AP80 Pro X and Xduoo X20 DAPs, a Samsung smartphone and a Ruark digital radio. A burn-in time of 100 hours was carried out before evaluation.
The FH11 displayed a generally balanced profile. The bass possessed good extension with notable detail and texture, the midrange was a little forward in the mix and the high frequencies were smooth and clean with no undue emphasis in the upper midrange and lower treble. A further rise in the upper treble gave some extra sparkle in the high frequencies. The excellent detail retrieval also helped to improve the staging. Overall, this resulted in an overall mild “W” shape.
The bass was well-tuned. Sub bass was elevated but remained clean with good speed, and mid bass was just above neutral without bleeding into the midrange. The resolution was excellent with detail and texture well defined. The lowest octaves were reproduced well and the bass in general was in good proportion to the midrange and treble.
The second movement of Roy Harris’s Symphony No.6 is a brutal portrayal of conflict. Introduced by mournful brass and powerful bass drums, the FH11 gave full rein to the piece with impressive weight and a natural decay.
In the version by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra conducted by Keith Clark, the bass drums appear again at the conclusion with full force and the rebound of the skin was convincingly and cleanly reproduced with impressive depth and impact.
American synthesiser artist Meg Bowles’s album “The Shimmering Land” features her trademark sustained chords, gentle rhythms and melodic progressions. “Venus Rising” is typical of her work with its deep bass, soft synth patches and measured pace.
On the FH11, the weighty, deep bass underpinned the track very effectively, providing a solid foundation for the subtly shifting melodies and there was an effective contrast between the texture of the bass and the synth chords.
The midrange was somewhat forward in nature with a neutral tonality and there was no bass bleed, letting the music breathe. The presentation was open and detailed with an expansive stage and vocals were displayed very clearly with good imaging.
“Say Hello Wave Goodbye” is a classic 80s synth pop track by Soft Cell. The FH11’s clean and precise delivery brought Marc Almond’s distinctive storytelling to life, with all the character of his voice preserved, including his occasional lapses in pitch. The synthesised accompaniment occupied the full width of the image, which added to the wide, spatial effect.
Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters”, from their “Gaucho” album was another good example, with Donald Fagen’s smooth, laid-back vocals contrasting well with the female backing singers, saxophone and brass. The FH11 managed to separate all the disparate elements of the production very effectively and maintained a musical character while at the same time displaying good technicalities.
The FH11’s “custom” BA proved itself very capable with a smooth, detailed and airy treble. There was a moderate rise in the lower region followed by a neutral mid-treble. Further up the frequency range there was another moderate rise which helped to add clarity but without adding harshness. The commonly encountered “BA timbre” only reared its head occasionally, the tonality being generally natural and just a little restrained.
The fine details of the delicate violin in Sarah Chang’s luminous reading of Vaughan Williams’s beautiful “The Lark Ascending” were reproduced very clearly by the FH11, allowing the feeling and radiance of her performance to come through. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Haitink, supported the soloist with a poetic and warm accompaniment, underlining what a classic recording this is.
Soundstage and Imaging
Despite having a forward midrange and a brighter than neutral treble, the FH11 possessed a spacious soundstage with a pleasant impression of depth with width and height of approximately equal dimensions and imaging fairly precise. Layering and separation were of a good standard except occasionally in more complex passages where some confusion occurred.
The detail of the harpsichord and continuo in Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No.3” came convincingly to life in the superb recording by the Saar Chamber Orchestra under Karl Ristenpart.
Due to the good separation and layering and the clean and crisp rendering of the high frequencies, the FH11 was able to reproduce the intricate counterpoint in perfect balance with the concertante parts and portray the lively rhythm of the piece with verve. The amazing 1960 recording sounded astonishingly fresh and modern.
“All of my Heart” appears on “The Lexicon of Love” by ABC. Produced by Trevor Horn and orchestrated by Anne Dudley, the album’s sound is sumptuous and full of detail with a huge soundstage. The FH11 made the most of Martin Fry’s clever lyrics, and, combined with the intricate and spacious production, they were presented entertainingly and enjoyably. The effect later in the track, where Fry’s voice is close mic’d and recorded without reverb, was very striking.
Fiio FD11 ($39)
The first model in the “bionic conch” series, the FD11 uses the same 10mm carbon-based dynamic driver as the FH11. Tuned with a crowd-pleasing Harman-like profile, it is lively and entertaining in character. The treble is a little boosted and less refined, and the midrange more uneven in nature than the FH11. The FD11 has a more prominent bass which results in a fairly strong V profile compared to the later model.
The FH11, in contrast has been tuned with a more balanced W shaping and this may be due to the three-chamber design and the excellent integration of the two drive units, resulting in a cleaner tonality. I consider the extra cost of the FH11 well worth the additional outlay over the FD11.
KBEAR Lark ($29)
KBEAR’s Lark, like the FH11, is a dual hybrid (1DD +1BA). It features a 10mm dynamic driver with a “silicon crystal biological composite diaphragm and a BA described as a “customised” unit. It is, I believe, made by Bellsing and may be a version of the venerable 30095 unit. The earpieces are constructed from metal and resin and are well made and it has a normal 2 pin connection.
The Lark has a well-balanced sound with a near neutral bass, a detailed midrange with little recession and a clean and smooth upper register. In this respect it is quite similar to the FH11, but the bass is less emphasised with poorer extension and the overall profile is flatter.
Timbre is quite natural and once more it resembles that of the FH11 but is a little brighter in general. Soundstage is broadly comparable with perhaps a little less width. At a slightly lower price than the FH11, the Lark is still certainly a contender for a hybrid in its price band.
TRN TA2 ($91)
The TA2 is a three-driver hybrid. It has a 10mm CNT bass driver coupled with two Knowles 33518 balanced armatures placed within the nozzle. The earpieces are formed from resin with a contoured alloy faceplate. The 2 pin sockets will accept regular cables, which is an advantage.
The TA2 is a very well-tuned IEM. The transitions are seamless, giving it a character reminiscent of an all BA design yet possessing the weight and punch of a dynamic driver in the low frequencies. Transient response is excellent and the neutral/bright profile is detailed and spacious. The TA2 displays a largely neutral/bright mild “W” profile which is well balanced across the whole spectrum, in fact quite similar to the FH11 in this respect, but the TA2 is a little more refined in the treble.
The soundstage is expansive, extending well beyond the ears with good depth and height. Layering and separation are of the same high standard. The FH11 measures up very well here, too but the TRN has the edge with a more airy presentation and a better cohesion between the different driver types.
Although based on the earlier model and sharing the same solidly built shell design and dynamic driver, the FH11 managed to outperform the FD11 in almost every respect. With a balanced tuning, lively midrange and smoother high frequencies, it presents music in a refined manner. Lovers of bass will, no doubt, prefer the FD11, but even here the present design is no slouch.
The proprietary cable remains, limiting options, and as with the previous model, experimenting with tips is essential to obtain a good fit. However the FH11 stands out in the market as a good example of a hybrid IEM, especially at the price and is certainly worthy of consideration.