FiiO F5 – FiiO’s latest IEM brings a great package, a happy sound, and both single ended and balanced cables at a fair price point.
FiiO is one of the largest Chinese DAPs, Headphone AMPs (amplifiers) and (recently) IEM producers. Their past successful IEMs were made in partnership with Dunu, another well-known and well-renowned Chinese IEM producer. FiiO has been around since 2007 and while their first products were small headphone amplifiers, their latest products range from small headphone amplifiers to State-Of-Art DAPs. FiiO is also known for their friendly customer support and for their implication with the audiophile community, organizing tours, and providing answers to the most exotic of inquiries.
I bought my first serious DAP a few years ago: A FiiO X5. I loved that product and it always was a trustworthy partner, there with me when I first left my hometown and moved to Bucharest. The next DAP I bought was a FiiO product as well, their 2nd generation of X5. I still own FiiO X5 2nd , and use every day in combination with iFi iDSD Black Label.
When I first caught news of FiiO tinkering with a new IEM, a river of questions flooded my mind. What was this new IEM? Is it here to replace EX1? Is it here to replace the 2nd generation of EX1? How does it sound like?
For many of us music lovers, the price of our portable setup is an important aspect of our hobby and I always respected companies who make a good package for an affordable price. FiiO is one of the companies who made lots of wonderful products at accessible prices, perfect for those of us who couldn’t spend more.
I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO at this moment, I am not receiving any kind of incentive to sweeten things out. The review unit is provided for this review and for our honest opinion. FiiO asked us directly to publish our thoughts and feelings as they are and I am as objective as humanely possible to all products. After owning many high-end IEMs and other devices, I am a bit hard to impress. This review is made to help those who wonder if F5 is the chosen IEM to become their next music companion.
My name is Gheorghe Dobrescu and I am the Director of the Seventh Heart Studios game studio. I work as one of the main programmers for the company, and I am the writer for Quantum Magica and Falsetto Memories projects, the Programmer, Co-Director, Producer and Editor for Eternal Hour.
I spend almost twelve hours per day working on a computer, drawing, writing and programming. I also take care of administrative work which means that my needs vary a lot, and I’ll end up using devices both while on the computer and while on-the-go.
My collection includes everything from Classical to Metal, from Rap to Pop, from Punk to Cabaret and absolutely everything in between. There are great artists from every type of music, and I’m one to collect their albums and discographies.
At Seventh Heart Studios, we all love music and this has had an impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best disk space to sound quality ratio, OGG -q10 being closest to audibly transparent when compared to FLAC encoding.
FiiO X5ii has been my DAP for a long while, I sold it and bought it again two times, and now and it is part of why I am so curious about F5. Besides X5 2nd gen, I have a few other trusty companions that are always there for me: Meze Classics 99, iFi iDSD Black Label, Dunu DK-3001 and Sennheiser ie800.
All of those devices are easily state-of-art devices and some of the best one can own and use, so I might be a bit hard to impress.
It was a damp and cloudy day when I received F5. I had to take the trolleybus to reach an area of Bucharest where they haven’t extended the Metro yet. It was late in the noon that day and people were slowly starting to go home from their work, together with kids coming back from school. The Trolleybus has never been a favorite of mine in Bucharest, it is old and rusty, with people riding it never looking happy. I met with a friend, the writer from http://soundnews.ro/ as we both live in Bucharest and he received an F5 as well and offered to pick mine from the postage together with his. We kept talking for a while as he described his feelings for F5 and about music that we love and enjoy. It was already evening when I took the Trolleybus back home and the seats were mostly empty, just a few people wandering at those late hours through the dusty, empty streets of Bucharest. The weather was getting cooler with the night fall in Bucharest as I quickly got home and started unpacking FiiO F5 with a tender curiosity and a delicate eagerness to find what the folks at FiiO cooked for us.
After unpacking and carefully setting F5 up for usage, the first thing that surprised me was the comfort. For an IEM of this shape and size, FiiO F5 felt like a feather gently grazing my ears, I could barely tell that I was wearing it – the open design also giving them a sense of openness and airiness that’s hard to match. I picked a magical song to start my journey with FiiO F5, StereoRyze – Neon Sails. F5 impressed me by their deep bass and by their airy, wide and open sound.
It was time to get more listening and burn-in to FiiO’s IEM before describing their sound.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
Having enjoyed the company of FiiO DAPs in the past, I knew what to expect from a FiiO DAP unboxing experience, but I had no idea what to expect from their IEMs.
FiiO F5 comes packaged in a similar box like FiiO’s premium DAPs.
F5 is packaged in a pretty thick box, designed in a black theme and decorated with red lines and golden accents. The box includes a good amount of information about F5 and FiiO’s philosophy towards sound, both in English and Chinese.
Inside the black box, there is another black box made of hard, textured cardboard with the inscription “FiiO”. This box doesn’t include any more information, but it protects everything else during transport.
Inside this second box you will discover a few compartments each including something magical, the most explosive of them all being the glossy carry box which is eye-catching, eye-candy, and sturdy at the same time. The carry box slightly reminds of the typical Peli boxes, having a similar locking mechanism.
Inside the black carry box, you can find F5 IEM bodies seated in a foam cutout, and a selection of tips. After unpacking the rest of the package, you can find a balanced cable, a single ended cable that features an iPhone/Android remote and a set of instructions / warranty cards for FiiO F5.
I love having extras in a package, and I actually still own the 3.5mm rubber jack saver that came with the first generation of X5.
Coming with balanced cable, six sets of tips, a single ended cable with a microphone, and detachable cables, F5 can only be commended for their rich box content, especially at their price point. F5 is one of the very few IEMs that has such a rich box content at this price point.
With everything out of the way, it is time to connect them and start listening to F5!
What I look in for a IEM
When buying a IEM, there are a few things that a buyer should have in mind since sooner or later those will make a difference:
– Sound quality – This is the most important aspect of an IEM by far, if it sounds good, it’ll bring a lot of fun and pleasure to you
– Ergonomics – the fit and ergonomics of a IEM are very important, the listener wants a comfortable IEM that can stay in place for hours at once and that doesn’t have a microphonic cable.
– Value – Some IEM fans might want to keep the value of their purchase in mind
– Drive-ability – Some might want to drive an IEM directly from a smartphone or from a weaker source, it is important to know how hard or easy to drive is a IEM or Headphone before making a purchase
– Interesting design – Everyone will have a different definition for what an interesting design is, but it is always good to see effort going to the design part of the IEM.
– Portability – An IEM should be portable and possible to wear while walking or doing other activities.
– EMI interference – Any IEM out there should be free of those, but it is good to test against them either way.
3.5 mm SE + 2.5 mm BAL
20 Hz – 40 kHz
102dB / mW
Dynamic, Open Back
Includes Balanced cable
IEM body connector type
(Build Quality, Sonic Quality & Usage Next Page)