FiiO F9 Pro – Harder, Better, Faster, FiiO
FiiO made an updated version of their well-received FiiO F9 IEMs, this time using High-Quality Knowles BA drivers, giving the entire sound a new definition. The Bass driver is the same, but with better BA drivers taking care of the midrange and of the treble, F9Pro is surely to sound different from F9.
We reviewed FiiO F9 a while ago, and it was quite an intriguing little IEM, with only one rather large downside, which we named back then, the existence of its bigger brother, FiiO F9Pro. It is time to see what F9Pro is all about, but first, we’d like to invite you to read more about FiiO F9, so you know what F9 evolved from: https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/2018/02/fiio-f9-emotional-affordable-audiophile.html
It should be noted that we have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO, we are not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by FiiO or anyone else. We’d like to thank FiiO for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with FiiO’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects our experience with FiiO F9 Pro. Every opinion expressed belongs to George and Audiophile Heaven and we stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in FiiO F9 Pro find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
FiiO F9Pro comes in a very similar package as FiiO F9, with an amazing attention to detail, and an excellent set of accessories. The largest difference between the two is that F9Pro comes packaged with a little extra pouch that wasn’t present for F9.
The same elegant box, with a high-resolution image of F9Pro printed on the outside, with a lot of technical details written on the back of the package, and with a very complex box content is present with F9Pro, as it was with F9.
The main cardboard box needs to be taken out of the beautiful box with all the nice graphics on it.
Within the main box you can find FiiO’s legendary carry box, which I eventually got to store and carry my IE800 and even RE2000 in as it allows for better protection and as I can have an airtight seal with silica bags inside.
Inside FiiO’s legendary box, you will find another carry pouch, in grey color, which doesn’t come as a hardcore protective case for F9Pro, but more of a casual storage option that looks pretty friendly and elegant.
There is a large number of tips included with F9Pro, along with two cables, one of which is single ended, and one of which is Balanced. The cables are very good quality, and while they aren’t as thick or serious looking as those found with iBasso IT-01, they surely stood my usage tests and are supler and more flexible.
There are a large number of tips included with F9Pro, out of which I found that the silicone tips with the transparent color provided the best fit and sonic performance, although the other ones were pretty good as well.
All in all, at around 150$, the package is really good and has all that is necessary and maybe even more for any user to enjoy F9Pro to the fullest.
What to look in when purchasing an entry-level IEM
The build quality and the comfort are pretty much the same as those found on FiiO F9, the outer shell being exactly the same. In a few words, the build quality and the comfort are both golden, F9Pro is extremely well built, with solid but not too rigid MMCX connectors, have a deeper fit with excellent isolation and they are some of the best IEMs there are in this price range.
The wearing can be done only over the ear, and the cables F9Pro comes with do not permit any other wearing style.
We’d like to link the review on FiiO F9 for more information on the comfort and build quality:
Here is where things depart from F9 and where they get more interesting. FiiO F9Pro sports much higher quality BA drivers for the midrange and for the treble, resulting in a more detailed sound
No burn-in is recommended by FiiO, but a little over 50 hours has been applied before taking the impressions of FiiO F9Pro.
Starting with the overall signature, the overall balance hasn’t changed quite that much from FiiO F9, F9Pro is also quite V-shaped in its signature, with an enhanced bass, a slightly recessed midrange, and a fairly energetic top end, with a lot of sparkle and energy in the higher registers. It should be noted, though, that F9Pro is slightly more balanced in their sound, only if slightly, having a more natural response.
The bass is deep and goes down bellow without an issue, provides excellent impact and rumble, and has a natural decay, being revealing enough to show some of the nicer textures in the bass of certain songs. The punch and slam is fairly good, and given the fact that F9Pro is more balanced than F9, it also feels like it has more sub-bass and lower mid-bass, giving them a deeper overall tuning.
The midrange starts to be different from F9, as F9Pro has more detail and a more even upper midrange, with less of an upper midrange / lower treble spike, the spike being extended to a wider area, leading to a more coherent tuning. Vocal tonality is quite good and there’s not much to complain as F9Pro does everything F9 did, but has better detail, better clarity, and feels more vivid in the long run. The body of the midrange is quite natural, and while the male vocals might be slightly behind when compared to the rest of the midrange, the body is much improved from the original.
The treble also felt considerably better extended and airier than the treble on F9, with a much more natural cymbal body and decay, sounding rather correct and tonally pleasing this time. There is a slightly aggressive detailing with F9Pro, which gives a good portion of its revealing abilities. Guitars and trumpets have a very crisp sound to them, and bells and other symbols sound enticing and dazzling. Compared to its little brother, F9Pro is easily the better performer in the treble, with a better extension, as well, a higher quantity of air in the treble, and much better micro-detailing and micro-texturization. Where F9 might have ended some upper-treble notes a tad short, F9Pro extends much better and touches the sweet spot quite well.
The overall tuning still is similar to F9, but F9Pro is like a super F9 given steroids and made clearer, more vivid, and more balanced, and with a better and more satisfying extension both to its treble and to its bass.
The soundstage of F9Pro is actually quite similar to that of F9, with a good amount of width and depth, being rather well-rounded, reaching the boundaries of one’s head, sometime extending beyond as well, being quite immersive. Imaging is one step ahead of F9, especially with F9Pro’s more balanced tuning, and the good clarity of F9Pro also provides an excellent layer and instrument presentation, even when compared to their own brothers.
I have been using F9Pro on the streets of Bucharest and even in heated gaming sessions a few times, and the portable usage of them is quite satisfying. F9Pro does benefit quite a bit from a revealing source, on behalf of their own revealing nature, and they seem to be rather immune to hiss and other issues, being rather good at combining with almost any portable source one can think of.
There is a good amount of isolation from the outside noise, and they can safely be worn during a careless stroll through the noisy urban streets of Bucharest, as well as be worn in a noisy gaming environment. The isolation goes more or less the same as the original, and the originals were quite good in this aspect.
When it comes to long-term usage and comfort, if one can use the ear guides without any issue, F9Pro should have a golden comfort, as they have a good fit in general, they have a vent which avoids any kind of over-pressurization, and they have a good amount of tips included with them, so they should fit with most ears without much hassle.
The cables included with F9Pro are both rather supple and easy to walk and run with, both looking good to resist some rough usage, and the shells seem quite resistant to moderate usage as well. This pair doesn’t have a single scratch, even after being used for a good few weeks, so F9Pro should keep up with your active lifestyle just fine.
Now, for desktop usage, F9 PRO are just as good, since you can use them even for gaming, thanks to their larger stage and precise instrument placing.
If you’re even more curious about gaming, and especially gaming monitors, here’s a really good article about them. As you know, I’m typically relying on a large 55″ monitor, but if you need something smaller, and with a quicker response time, here’s something that may help you out. Not affiliated in any way, but they are friends who had something interesting to say: https://gamingrig.com/best-1080p-144hz-gaming-monitors/
FiiO F9Pro vs Astrotec AM850 – F9Pro tends to have a deeper fit, along with more isolation from the outside noise, but they aren’t more or less comfortable, both AM850 and F9Pro being golden in their comfort. FiiO F9 Pro comes with a much larger amount of accessories that might be useful than AM850 comes with, and F9Pro also has a better carrying case solution. The fit is over-the-ear only for F9Pro, thing which should be kept in mind, and the cables on F9Pro are not as nimble as AM850, but they are detachable on F9Pro. The sound is quite similar between the two, the biggest difference being in the treble, where F9Pro is a bit peakier with a stronger treble than AM850, which is quite smooth. Extension both ways is excellent on both, and both have a vivid, vibrant, clear, clean and dynamic sound. F9Pro feels a bit like an upgrade from AM850, but it is also more expensive than AM850.
FiiO F9Pro vs Westone UM1 – FiiO F9Pro has a brighter sound that can come through as more balanced, less laid back, less dark and closer to a natural sound. The sound is more detailed and provides better vividness for F9Pro, while UM1 feels more relaxing and a considerably more laid-back presentation. The bass, on the other hand, is thicker and more satisfying on Westone UM1, being both harder with each hit, and providing a more visceral feeling through and through. The treble is smooth on UM1, but the amount, detail and air of the treble is much better on F9Pro, which also extends much higher than Westone UM1. The fit and comfort is at golden levels on both, along with their portability. The build quality seems excellent on both.
FiiO F9Pro vs Kinera H3 – The sound is more balanced on F9Pro, with a much more coherent signature, much better body for both the midrange and the treble, less sibilance, and better / deeper bass presence, although the bass of H3 is also quite amazing on its own. F9Pro has a wider soundstage, while H3 has a slightly deeper soundstage. The comfort is better with F9Pro, as H3 had driver flex and is larger in the Shell Size. H3 is very well built, and it has a hard carrying case, which might come in handy, but F9Pro sports an even better carrying case, and a similar construction quality. F9Pro is more expensive than H3 though, and H3 has a more aggressive detail revealing presentation ability, being the more detailed IEM.
FiiO F9Pro vs iBasso IT01 – iBasso IT01 probably F9Pro’s largest competitor, as it is considerably less expensive, but comes with a set of really interesting abilities. Starting with the bottom end, IT-01 has a similar amount of sub-bass, but much more mid-bass, even after proper burn-in. This results in a rather different presentation, where F9Pro comes with a punchier bass, with more tactile feeling, but IT-01 is the more visceral and more obliterating presence in bass. The midrange is similar between the two, even the detail levels being similar, but IT-01 feels more dynamic where F9Pro feels more energetic and vivid rather than dynamic. The treble is an interesting area, as F9Pro and IT-01 both have a nice extension in their treble, and both are V-shaped in their signature. The price is considerably lower with IT-01 and the construction quality is similar, but IT-01 has a cable that looks more serious than F9Pro. IT-01 does not come with a balanced cable in its package though, but it has an amazingly good carrying case. Chosing between the two is very hard, as both have amazing things going on for them, but IT-01 is the more dynamic performer, where F9Pro is more vivid, and IT-01 will have a thicker presentation with more body, where F9Pro will feel less warm and more neutral in comparison.
FiiO F9Pro + HIFIMAN MEGAMINI – Megamini proves itself as an excellent driving force for FiiO F9Pro, as it handles them quite well, giving them large amounts of energy and vividness for their sound, with a rather wide soundstage and a good amount of details.
FiiO F9Pro + Cayin N5ii – Cayin N5ii is yet another amazing DAP to combine with F9Pro as it provides them with an excellent amount of details, and a very natural and reference presentation, a good amount of detail and clarity, and an excellent overall tonality. The abilities N5ii has with F9Pro are endless, and the setup is quite nice, and it should be noted that N5ii’s balanced output works quite well with F9Pro.
FiiO F9Pro + Opus #1s – #1s is to easily give F9Pro a very powerful presentation, with more strength to each note, and maybe a tad more body to their sound, giving them an ever so slightly warmer presentation that can feel quite satisfying.
FiiO F9Pro + X7mkii (AMP5) – FiiO IEMs always sound amazing with FiiO DAPs, and X7mkii is an excellent DAP to prove this. The sound stays well within the territory of neutral, with a neutral and clean signature, an excellent detail retrieval ability , and an amazingly high amount of energy and vividness. There’s no downside to this combo, and the overall excellent ability of X7mkii (streaming, 2 microSD cards, clean sound), along with F9Pro’s comfort and nimble nature makes this combo a very desirable setup.
Value and Conclusion
First, it is important to consider that we’re talking about a 150$ IEM, and that this is a bit higher than the original, but still places F9Pro in the entry-level, inexpensive IEM area. Even so, the amount of accessories that come with F9Pro, from the large number of tips included in the package, all the way to the two excellent cables you can find with it, are worthy of a higher price range, or rather, until very recently could only been found on very expensive IEMs and headphones.
There’s no mistaking here, F9Pro is much better than the original, it is much more linear and much more balanced in its signature, and virtually everyone out there will surely agree with this statement, making F9 a bit obsolete, unless one is quite constrained by this budget. This doesn’t make F9 an less good, but it makes F9Pro that much better, being like a very well re-imagined version of the original.
Outside it is the same IEM, but inside, FiiO made just the right changes to hit a sweet spot with F9Pro, this one being one of our favorite IEMs in this price area, and it’ll probably stay a favorite for a while, having very few competitors that offer a similar overall performance, iBassi IT-01 being one that we should name.
All in all, FiiO F9Pro is one of the best IEMs there are for 150$, especially if you liked the original (F9), and if you are looking for something even more dynamic, more balanced, and very natural in its sound. The extension is amazingly good both ways, having a deep bass, a vivid midrange and a sparkly treble that is sure to impress any listener, bringing a lot of emotion to music and a tear to our eyes when we listened to an impressive violin work through them. If you have 150$ and you want one of the best IEMs there are for this price, make sure to check out FiiO F9Pro as they are surely not only as impressive as F9, but much more, being better in every direction imaginable.
Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!