Fiio are a Chinese audio firm who have been well-regarded within audiophile circles. With an enthusiasm to bring affordable offerings to the mass-market, their products have received critical acclaim and many awards under their belts. Hence, their vision to improve the ‘Made in China’ reputation has certainly come along way owing to their use of high quality materials alongside a refreshing and innovative approach.
Their latest offering within the world of portable audio comes in the form of the Fiio FH7 in-ear monitors which stem directly from their new bang for buck F-series earphones. While not cheap by any means, the $449 FH7s packs in a whopping 5 series of drivers as part of a hybrid configuration.
With plentiful of international distributors, it is not surprising that Fiio have delivered on their packaging.
On the front, there is a printed insert which houses a black textured inner box. This opens to reveal an initial foam insert which houses the earphones themselves. Beneath this, resides another foam insert where all 14 pairs of ear-tips are located along with the blue-stitched faux leather earphone case. As if that were not enough, Fiio have included a soft zip pouch within the blue case for extra portability. Additional bits and pieces include an IEM cleaning device, cable organizer and a pill shaped metal tube containing Fiio’s own house brand of filters.
Overall, like fellow Chinese earphone brand DUNU, Fiio have gone to lengths in order to accommodate the budding audiophile’s purchase and quite rightly so given the price.
Design & Build
The shell of the FH7 is CNC-milled from ‘aerospace-grade’ aluminum-magnesium alloy with the final result being hand-polished and sandblasted. The overall effect resembles the waves of the ocean and offers a simple yet striking effect.
The MMCX connectors are well-built with color coding to separate the right earbud from the left. In a similar fashion, the FH7 sports a Litz monocrystalline silver-plated copper wire in an 8 core 152 strand geometrical structure. The cables feel light and easily manageable whilte being suitably terminated in an L-shaped jack.
The acoustic nozzle of the FH7 is slightly elongated to accommodate for the filter system included within the packaging. While there is of course, added variety, the filter system may be cumbersome for those who prefer switching sounds frequently. The red represents dynamic bass emphasis, while the black opts for a more balanced sound and the green for those keen on glistening trebles.
As mentioned, the FH7 adopts a 5-driver hybrid configuration. For the dynamic driver and bass portion, Fiio have made use of Beryllium material which is now a common trend for earphone companies owing to its purported lightweight, flexible and yet rigid properties. For the remaining parts of the frequency spectrum, Fiio have made us of Knowles balanced armature drivers with clever crossover and acoustic design. The midrange in particular is supported by a custom made Knowles driver which Fiio have tweaked to deliver more body and staging.
The FH7 also makes use of S.TURBO V2.0 – a patented architecture – which is said to complement the bass driver extracting more performance in the shape of rumbling lows. In addition, Fiio have taken heed of 64 Audio’s apex technology with a more rudimentary vent system of their own to relieve pressure off the eardrums.
Fit & Isolation
The shape of the FH7 is built from an ergonomic perspective and does resemble the shape of certain custom monitors. It is able to fit neatly into the concha of the ear without irritating the tragus or the ear canal itself. The MMCX connector is aggressively curved to allow the cables to fit flush over the ears themselves. Perhaps a memory cable type solution would have worked better here to prevent easy slippage of the cables during running or brief walks.
Isolation levels are beyond average despite the dual venting on this IEM. However, there is some sound leakage heard by people within the vicinity at higher volume levels.
The 13.6 mm beryllium drivers of the FH7 have the ability to push out quite some air delivering heft and authority in the lower frequency ranges. This hybrid design uses dynamic drivers which are chosen for their typically weightier and more impactful bass compared to balanced armature designs. To this end, the FH7 certainly deliver with sub-bass that extends incredibly low but with great accuracy and detailing helped by the beryllium treatment. Switching between the filters, the red filter gives a slightly weightier bass without suffering from unwanted bass bloom. Meanwhile, the green filter does subdue bass presence allowing more room for the midrange and the frequency to shine. Of course, the filters are included to accommodate for everyone’s different preferences. Personally, the green filters demonstrated the best elements of refined but present bass.
The FH7 possesses a midrange which is fairly linear, although does lean towards a neutral-bright tendency with the green filter. Vocals are slightly forward in the overall mix but the presentation does not sound congested or closed in. Overall, the sound signature benefits from the tweaked Knowles driver with the good note size and articulacy. There is no bass bleed with the green filters but there is marginal smearing with bass-overloaded tracks with the reference and red filters. Part of the difficulty with hybrids is producing a coherent sound which does not feel disjointed. The FH7 certainly achieves this as there is no element of incoherence owing to the balanced armature rather full and sweet sound. It is also great to hear that there is no stridencies and upper mid glaring which can affect Knowles drivers if not tuned in a forgiving way. This makes the FH7 rather versatile across a platform of genres and favourable for both male and female vocals.
The treble is not the most accurate sounding but strikes a good balance between detailing, extension and air. It is overall forward sounding while also possessing an energetic kick which is of course accentuated with the green filters. Those sensitive to treble may find there is some slight over-emphasis in treble-leaded tracks but the green tips rather unexpectedly does make treble smoother and more forgiving. Compared to the DUNU DN-2000J, the FH7 has smoother treble delivery but with less of a reference sound compared to the former’s more analytical take on recordings.
The Fiio FH7 possesses above average soundstage with good width, depth and height. While not the widest in sonic cue projections, there is a good element of height and depth owing to the extensive treble sections and layering. Tracks are delivered with good separation between instruments and there is good amount of air in the soundscape. The reference and treble filters possess the better imaging qualities with the latter possessing the least to none smearing where lower end frequencies are concerned.
Fiio have certainly done well with a strong footing in the mid to hi-fi personal audio territories. The FH7 is one which demands attention with an authoritative bass, intelligible midline and energetic treble performance. It is also a hybrid which carefully utilises good coherence to make best use of both the large beryllium dynamic and smaller Knowles balanced armature driver technologies. The wilful inclusion of filters and plentiful ear tip accessories caters to all demanding audiophiles and the comfort is second to none. Overall, the FH7 represents a high-quality device which remains in line with their great value for money philosophy. It will be interesting to see where next the Chinese brand will go with this F-series. Do stay tuned…