Mis à jour le 3 January 2020.
This week’s review will be geared towards people who like to listen to music on the go, as we will be reviewing the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones. We took our time trying these IEMs and spent several months with them in order to be able to thoroughly assess their performance. The FiiO FH7 IEMs are sold for €499 and are the Chinese brand’s flagship headphones. Renowned for its ability to build high-quality portable audio devices, the brand didn’t disappoint with the release of the brilliant FiiO M11 audiophile DAP which we recently reviewed. So, will these Hi-Res certified in-ear headphones be a new resounding success for FiiO?
FiiO FH7: the brand
The Chinese brand made its first appearance on the market in 2007 and immediately made a name for itself as a serious contender in the field of high-end portable audio devices due to the quality of its portable headphone amplifiers.
In 2015, the brand expanded its catalog by adding its first in-ear headphones: the FiiO EX1.
These headphones are fitted with wideband titanium drivers and made an impression with their clear and soft sound signature along with their great value. FiiO’s first steps in the world of in-ear headphones were a success and were followed by the equally successful FiiO F1, FiiO F3, FiiO F5 et FiiO F9 two years later. The FiiO F5 and F9 IEMs were the first Hi-Res certified models designed by FiiO. A full review of these headphones is available on Son-Video’s blog.
The FiiO F9 in-ear headphones stood out from the competition thanks to their audiophile 3-way design which used 3 drivers per earbud. Each earbud’s anodized shell contains a composite material driver for low frequencies and two Knowles balanced armature transducers for the mids and highs. The F9 earphones therefore paved the way for in-ear models using hybrid technology for FiiO. This technology is based on the use of different types of transducers to ensure optimal reproduction of all frequency ranges.
In 2018, FiiO released the FiiO FH5 IEMs. This 3-way model is also Hi-Res Audio certified and inherited its hybrid design from the FiiO F9. The FH5 combines a dynamic transducer featuring a nano-composite polymer cone for the lows with a ED30262 Knowles balanced armature driver for the mids, and a TWFK-31082 Knowles double balanced armature for the highs.
This same year, the brand continued to expand its offer in the realm of in-ear headphones by adding the FiiO FA7 to its catalog. The FiiO FA7 IEMs feature four balanced armature transducers per earbud and were lauded by the specialized press and audiophiles alike for their performance. Comfortable and esthetically pleasing, these headphones provide a balanced and punchy sound restitution, a sound signature which has become synonymous with FiiO.
With a price tag under €300, the FiiO FH5 and FA7 are lauded for their sound signature, which remains accurate, balanced, and lively at all times but also for their affordability. These earbuds designed to listen to high definition audio files are a perfect match for the brand’s audiophile DAPs such as the FiiO X5 III, FiiO M9, and FiiO M11. Following the success of the FH5 and FA7, the Chinese brand decided to come up with a worthy successor and developed the FiiO FH7 earphones as the flagship of their in-ear range.
FiiO FH7: design and hybrid structure
The FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones are a 3-way model featuring five transducers per earbud. The earbud shells are both esthetically pleasing and constructed to ensure optimal sound restitution using a patented structure. This magnesium alloy shell allows for minimum sound reflection and distortion. Each earbud is also fitted with two vents whose function is to balance out the internal pressure. This venting system adds to the comfort of the listening experience and ensures proper evacuation of unwanted vibrations.
Inside the earbuds are a 3.6mm beryllium dynamic transducer combined with four balanced armature transducers. Two of the balanced armature transducers are for the reproduction of the mids, and the other two for the highs. The dynamic transducer is in charge of delivering the lows and features the proprietary S.Turbo technology. This technology consists in using an acoustic tube whose design is based on that of the turbines used in turbo-compressor engines. This tube’s function is to optimize and direct the delivery of low frequencies. Note that it is also possible to slightly adjust the sound signature of the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones by using the switchable filters. We will discuss this more in depth later in the review.
The shells of the FiiO FH7 IEMs are each paired with an acoustic tube whose purpose is to direct the soundwaves coming from the transducers towards the listener’s ear canal. This structure ensures a deep bass response down to 5 Hz according to FiiO.
The FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones are connected to each other via an audiophile grade detachable cable. The cable is made of 152 monocrystalline silver-plated copper wires gathered in 8 strands braided together. The FiiO FH7’s cable was designed to ensure optimal transmission of the audio signal and fully preserve it while it travels from the source to the earbuds. The cable is connected to the earpieces by MMCX connectors. A flexible see-through sheath protects the end of the cable and allows you to adjust the cable curvature so it sits around your ear, which insures maximum comfort with all ear shapes. On the other side of the cable is an angled 3.5mm mini-jack connector. The jack connector and the MMCX connectors are gold-plated.
FiiO FH7: packaging and accessories
Inside the box are a leather case and a soft fabric carrying pouch which allows you to take the earphones wherever you like and easily put them away. FiiO also thought of adding a small brush to clean up the tips and a cable clamp to clip the wire to a shirt for example. The leather case feels sturdy and is visibly well made. We used the FiiO FH7 outside of our offices multiple times and kept the carrying case in a backpack. The case proved to be very solid and durable. The carrying pouch also seemed well made. Note that the fabric pouch is a little bit smaller, just big enough to hold the IEMs, and can therefore easily fit in a pocket.
Lastly, the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones come with a user guide, a selection of tips, and a small tube containing the filters.
The selection of ear tips that comes with the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones is comprised of six different types of tips, 12 silicone pairs and 2 pairs of memory foam tips. Among the silicone tips are two pairs of balanced eartips (L and S), three pairs of vocal tips (S, M, L), a pair of bi-flange tips (M), and three pairs of SpinFit tips (S, M, L). Two pairs of memory foam eartips (same shape and size) are also part of the selection. As for all in-ear headphones, taking the time to choose the best tips for your ear canals is absolutely essential. Whether it is for comfort or sound quality, choosing the right tips has an undeniable impact on the listening experience and the sound signature. Using improper ear tips will result in an almost assured uncomfortable experience, but you will also run the risk of leaving space between the tip and your ear canal, thus resulting in a sound loss, especially in the lows. This is the reason why memory foam tips are usually the way to go for deep, full bass.
After trying all the ear tips available, we chose to use the “bass” tips in S size.
FiiO FH7: shape and comfort
This brand means business when it comes to design and comfort, which is something we could already observe with the FiiO FH5 and FiiO FA7 IEMs. Esthetically speaking, the FiiO FH7 IEMs are very simple and elegant. The shape of the shell was conceived so that it sits perfectly inside the ear and the waves on the surface along with the golden rim outside are a great touch. Nothing over-the-top here, just a simple and refined design, which is perfectly befitting for these audiophile in-ear monitors.
From the first time we picked them up, we could tell that the FiiO FH7 were well built. The earbuds are obviously sturdy without being terribly heavy, which would have made the listening experience rapidly tiring. Weighing only 8 grams, the FiiO FH7 in-ear monitors promise a very comfortable experience on paper, but is it truly the case ? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Whether it was sitting down at home, taking public transport, on a train, or walking in the street, we were able to keep the FiiO FH7 on for hours on end without experiencing the slightest sign of fatigue. If you are not used to wearing in-ear monitors, especially those with a cable which goes around the ear, you will need a short adjustment period as the earphones may have a tendency to slide out of your ear canal at first, even more so if the tips are not the right fit for you. But once you are used to having the FiiO FH7 in your ears, you will quickly forget that they’re even there. The comfort is beyond reproach and only very rarely have we worn in-ear monitors that allowed us to listen to music for hours on end without feeling the need to take a break.
The cable is also quite durable, although we recommend avoiding plugging and unplugging the MMCX connectors repeatedly in order to avoid damaging them.
FiiO FH7: filters
The FiiO FH7 earphones come with a small black tube, snuggly held in the packaging foam, right by the earbuds. This tube holds two pairs of filters which allow users to slightly adjust the sound signature depending on their preferences. Let it be said that changing the filter is not meant to have an extremely strong impact on the sound, but rather to highlight a certain frequency range. No need to expect a drastic difference in sound signature then, as it is not what FiiO intended here. The sound signature of each filter is indicated by a color coding system which is displayed next to the tube location.
- Red: bass boost
- Black: reference signature
- Green: high boost
The filters are very easy to change: simply unscrew the filter placed on each earbud and screw-on the one you want to use instead. The “high boost” adds some shimmer to the highs and will please those who are looking for a bright sound signature. On the other hand, the “bass boost filter” adds a bit more substance to the lows, without being boomy. After trying out all three pairs of filters, we decided to use the bass boost filters, which made for even richer lows, although it is worth noting that these in-ear monitors already do a good job with bass from the get-go. Of course, we also deactivated the EQ of the Foobar2000 player in order to not experience a bass overload.
FiiO FH7: specs
- Highs: 2x Knowles balanced armature transducers
- Mids: 2x Knowles balanced armature transducers
- Lows: 1x 13.6mm beryllium dynamic transducer
- Acoustic filter tube (lows, mids, highs) S.Turbo proprietary technology developed for bass enhancement using turbines
- Three-part shells made of aluminum and magnesium alloy, machined, anodised and held in place using screws
- Frequency response: 5Hz – 40kHz
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Sensitivity: 111 dB SPL/1 mW
- Max. power handling: 100 mW Distorsion: <1%
- Monocrystalline silver-plated copper conductors and see-through sheath
- Gold-plated MMX connectors
- 3.5mm angled connector with gold plated contact
FiiO FH7: test conditions
We tested these in-ear headphones on-the-go as well as in our offices. For our desktop system, we used a Cayin CS-55 KT 88 tube amplifier as well as a FiiO Q1 II headphone amplifier, both connected to a computer. Our portable setup was an Android smartphone which we later paired with the FiiO Q1 II headphone amplifier. We also used the FiiO M11 DAP. We listened to a variety of tracks streamed from Qobuz using our Sublime+ hi-fi membership, as well as mp3 (320 kbps) and wav (PCM 44.1khZ, 16 bits) tracks stored on the phone’s internal memory and computer’s hard drive. In order to put the passive isolation to the test, we listened to the FiiO FH7 IEMs while walking in the street and taking public transport.
FiiO FH7: listening impressions
We had the opportunity to test the FiiO FH7 over a long period of time and took advantage of it to try them in various conditions and these IEMs never disappointed. The flagship model from FiiO’s range of in-ear monitors is very comfortable and we quickly forgot that we were even wearing headphones, so much so that we were able to listen to music for entire days without feeling any fatigue or discomfort. The sound signature is fun, detailed and dynamic, regardless of the source or content. Everything is clean and tight throughout the entire sound spectrum. The lows are rich without ever being boomy, the mids are never dry nor exaggerated, and the highs reach high while remaining soft.
Hanuman, Rodrigo y Gabriela (Qobuz, 16/44): the entire sound spectrum is well built and smoothly articulated. The percussions are natural and we can hear every detail and subtlety that makes the sound of the duo. The FiiO FH7 headphones manage to extract the entire richness of the guitar harmonies without showing a hint of weakness when it comes to reproducing Gabriela Quintero’s powerful percussive technique. There is a great energy and undeniable balance. Every detail is striking, the vibrations of the strings and the resonance of the guitars sound natural. We started tapping our foot and turned the volume up. Everything stayed in place and the earphones never became excessive or aggressive.
Forty Six & 2, Tool (Qobuz 24/96): the bass and percussion intro is reproduced with convincing energy. This vitality is confirmed once the track takes off. The restitution is both warm and punchy, the FiiO FH7 deliver the music of the progressive rock band in a flattering way, despite the complexity of the orchestration. We felt like the vocals were a little too withdrawn and that the sound signature was a bit bassy, so we decided to switch the filters for the “regular” model. The restitution then opened up, and Many Keenan’s vocal performance along with Danny Carrey’s drumming undeniably took advantage of this adjustment. Each cymbal brings extra richness to the percussions, the snare is clear, lively and snappy, listening to this track was a real pleasure.
Just Like Heaven, Dinosaur Jr. (MP3, 16/44): this album has become a regular during our tests because of its sound, which can be aggressive and tiring when falling into the wrong hands. The FiiO FH7 do not shy away and manage to layer sounds with impressive know-how. The listening experience is rich without ever being overwhelming as it could be the case with less dexterous IEMs. J Mascis’s vocals stand out from the rest of the instruments, and this cover of The Cure’s song benefits from a combination of energy and restraint which captures entirely the characteristic dynamics of Dinosaur Jr’s music. We noticed a hint of harshness during the guitar solo, nothing surprising considering the album’s overall production and the guitar sound the band is famous for.
What I Saw, HKY (FLAC, 24/96): massive guitars, pulsating bass, and thundering drums are on the menu here. Are the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones able to replicate the complex orchestration and massive production of this track? They absolutely are! The impacts are tangible, the guitars benefit from rich mids and the keyboard atmospheres are extracted with dexterity, which brings a lot to the track. Even the vocals, which were deliberately down-mixed, are clearly delivered by the FiiO FH7. The lows are authoritative and tight. Once more, the FH7 surprised us and never faltered.
When it comes to sound isolation, the FiiO FH7 in-ear monitors are quite simply beyond reproach. While sound isolation is optimal when using memory foam tips, the silicone tips are just as good. When we were using these earphones while walking in the street, on public transport and even while in a grocery store, not a single time did we experience outside noise disrupting the music. These closed in-ear headphones also ensure complete silence for the people around you. Be careful not to turn the volume too high as you risk damaging your hearing or may not hear what is going on around you when in the street. We strongly recommend cautious use with all in-ear headphones.
FiiO FH7: compared to…
Shure SE535: the sound signature of the Shure earphones is very neutral, which is a typical trait of a brand used to designing in-ear monitors for the stage. These IEMs are very comfortable and ensure great passive noise-reduction, but they lack the energy and the enthusiasm of the FiiO FH7. The low end is richer, the restitution is punchier and more fun with the FiiO in-ear headphones. The filters which allow the user to adjust the sound signature also play in favor of the FH7, which definitely have the advantage when it comes to pure musical fun. Note that the Shure SE535 IEMs have the advantage of being sold with a Bluetooth cable, which is quite convenient.
Meze Rai Penta: Meze’s high end in-ear monitors are in a different category, but FiiO’s IEMs have nothing to be ashamed of. While the Rai Penta have the upper hand when it comes to extracting micro details, particularly in the mids, the FH7 are more versatile, especially considering that they offer more solid lows which makes them less strict and warmer.
Aedle ODS-1: when it comes to comfort, performance, versatility, or value, the FiiO in-ear headphones have the upper hand. It is a difficult task to rival the Chinese brand who establishes its status as a major player in the world of portable audio with the FH7 IEMs.
FiiO FH7: conclusion
FiiO delivers did a masterful job with the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones. While the price may seem a bit discouraging to some, it is justified by the quality of these IEMs. The selection of tips and the choice of filters ensure outstanding flexibility, and the FiiO FH7 completely won us over with every single track we listened to, regardless of the musical genre or the quality of the recording. They particularly shine when paired with an audiophile DAP such as the FiiO M11 or Cayin N6 II.
The FH7 have a pleasant and enthusiastic sound signature and are never harsh or oppressive. It is therefore possible to enjoy very long listening sessions without experiencing audio fatigue, especially considering how comfortable these IEMs are. If you travel on a regular basis and are looking for earphones to take on long trips, or if you listen to music all day long without interruption, the FiiO FH7 in-ear monitors deserve all your attention.
What we liked:
- The comfort
- The switchable filters and selection of tips
- The lively delivery with all types of music
We would have liked:
- It’s difficult to ask for more considering the value of these earphones.