Pros: Sound quality, portability, build quality, Blue-tooth quality, Fiil app, battery life, fit/comfort, noise cancellation, EQ options and other features
Cons: Non-replaceable ear-pads, proprietary voice recognition is patchy at best, headset communication is not the best (mic location).
Boy 2016 has been one heck of a year. My work has snowballed, and unfortunately my review queue has at times built up – as I've struggled to make the available time. But the manufacturers that work with me (supplying review samples) have been very understanding and very patient. But I've also been fortunate to review some great gear – and some of it has come out of the blue too. When I reviewed the HD800S I wasn't expecting to go out and buy one after I sent the review sample back – but it quickly became apparent it was to be my end-game.
This review is a touch of deja-vu in that respect. I wasn't expecting to find something close to my portable end-game. But I have. And it couldn't have been more surprising.
Step back about two months ago – and George from Gear-Best contacted me asking if I'd like to try another headphone. The one he suggested was by a company I've never heard of (Fiil), and I only agreed to try it because he recommended it – and because it had both Blue-tooth and noise cancellation. I figured I could compare it to my QC25 at least. Fast forward to today – and this particular headphone currently gets more use than my IEMs when I'm out and about. It has quite literally changed the way I listen to music.
If you haven't heard of GearBest it might be time you looked at them. They are (at the time of writing) a Head-Fi Sponsor, and are essentially an on-line electronics seller. The company was founded in 2013 and specialise in anything electronic – including a growing range of earphones and headphones.
George is their Marketing Manager and approached me about reviewing some of their products earlier this year. GearBest seems to be steadily growing their product range – and in amongst many of the budget offerings, I'm starting to see some higher end gear.
GearBest have very good service, and in my time dealing with them (both as a Moderator and also a reviewer), I can vouch for the very ethical way GearBest approaches business.
This is a company I'd never heard of before now, and I have to really thank George for making me aware of them. Fiil are an audio design company based in Beijing, China – established in 2015, so they are relatively new. Their product range seems to consist so far of variations around 3 base models – the Diva (wireless blue-tooth on-ear portables), the Bestie (IEM), and the Carat Pro (wireless sports earphone which features an exercise monitor and inbuilt player).
For these types of introductions I normally let companies like Fiil do the talking from their website introductions -
“Our core team members include popular rock music artist Wang Feng and experts from top-notched companies like Huawei, Plantronics, Lenovo, BMW, etc. We are committed to making fairly priced, fashionably designed, and most importantly, superiorly sounded products that could accommodate to every subtle circumstance, and fulfil every unsatisfied need.”
I don't know enough about the company yet – but one thing I can confirm is that they have a good grasp on the four main features of a great portable headphone – audio quality, comfort, style and portability. What makes things even more interesting is that they are taking a very professional approach to tuning. Borrowed from their website - photos of their measuring and testing in their own anechoic chamber!
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.Click here for a summary of my known bias (Click to show)
I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
For the bulk of this review - I mainly used the Fiil Diva via Blue-tooth connection with my iPhone ES or iPad Mini – but also with a variety of other sources – including FiiO's X7 and X1ii (both wirelessly) and other DAPs using the wired connection. I have noticed no changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that I am also becoming more used to the signature of the ES3 as I use them more often (brain burn-in).
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
|Fiil Diva retail box||Sleeve front||
The Fiil Diva arrived in a 210 x 180 x 110mm white box (with outer sleeve) – very simply adorned by by a graphic representation of the Dive headphones, the catch phrase “Diva – Fiil Me Now” and the Sony Hi-res Audio logo. Aside from this there is a QR code and website address. Removing the outer sleeve reveals a similar white box and lid, which when opened reveals the carry case – then under this, the manual and also two boxes for the charging cable and also the headphone cable for wired use.
|Inner box||The carry case||
Manual, charging cable and headphone cable
The carry case is reasonably compact, although a little deep (~190 x 150 x 75mm), with a hard exterior and moulded interior which seems to give pretty good protection. The charging cable is a pretty standard USB to micro USB cable – and most of my DAP charging cables will also fit and charge the Diva. The Diva package also includes an optional wired connection for audio. This cable is no flimsy afterthought either. It is an approx 1.25m cable with quality jacks and decent sheathing.
|Manual and cables||Carry case and Diva||
Compact and offering good protection
The manual is clearly written, easy to follow and has decent illustrations.
First impressions – very good.
Current RRP price
$199 (GearBest website)
Closed on-ear dynamic Blue-tooth headset
15 Hz–22 Khz (Blue-tooth), 10-40 kHz (wired)
110 dB / 1 kHz
320 ohms at 1 kHz
< 0.5% @ 100dB SPL, 1 kHz
Optional – 1.25m, straight. 3.5mm gold plated jacks
Wireless – Included in head-set
Up to 33 hours (tested at med volume by Fiil)
Up to 48 days
~ 2.5 hours
Version 4.1 with aptX support
Up to 100m (Fiil claim)
HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
|Headband padding||Headband width||Sturdy metal connectors|
The Diva is a compact sized on ear (supra-aural) headphone which feels light and super comfortable when worn. Starting with the headband, it consists of a 30cm long, 2.5cm wide, shaped band. Each end has very strong metal sections which house the extenders, and between them is a padded section for the top of your head. This is covered in extremely soft p-leather, and I find it incredibly comfortable. Inside the headband (guessing here) is spring steel which allows the headband to be bent out. It seems to be very strong.
The metal ends of the headband which house the extenders are clearly labelled L and R on the inside, but you’ll never forget which cup is the right side anyway, as it is the one that houses the controls. The extenders themselves and have firm but smooth action. They extend a further 3 cm each side, and should suit those with larger heads. I’m a reasonably big guy, and I have them comfortable settled at just over 1.5cm each side. The extenders are hinged, and allow each earpiece to fold into the headband for compact storage.
|Very sturdy extenders||The protein elather pads||Internal swivel mechanism - 360 deg adjustment|
The connection to the ear-cups appears to be metal, and allows full rotation around all axes. Everything feels amazingly solid, and best of all, it is easy to get a perfect fit because the Diva has such a full range of rotation/motion.
The ear-cups themselves are circular, approx. 6.5cm in diameter, and just on 3cm deep (pads slightly compressed). This makes them nicely low profile. All of the controls and connections are on the right hand side cup. This includes:
- The micro USB charging port
- The headphone cable socket
- The controls for ANC (options to be explained shortly)
- The on/off switch – which also is used for pairing and for play/pause.
- The exterior surface of the cup has tracking controls
|On head-set controls||Connected Bluetooth with iPhone||Wired connection and cable|
The pads are p-leather, and exquisitely soft. They are supra-aural with outer measurements of 7 cm diameter, and inner measurements of 3.5cm diameter and the actual pads are just 2cm deep. The driver is covered with a cloth dust cover. Unfortunately the pads do not appear to be easily replaceable.
I’ll cover the controls shortly – but I can say these are pretty easy to get used to, and appear to be reasonably robust and well-built.
COMFORT / ISOLATION
In the past I've owned a few supra-aural earphones – including 3 sets of Grado (MS1i, SR325i custom, and RS1), Beyer T51P, MOE, and the XTZ Divine. With each, I've experienced varying degrees of comfort – but ultimately I've always had the burning pressure sensation within an hour or so – and ultimately its why I've never had an on-ear portable I really liked. That has changed with the Fiil Diva.
Once the headband and ear-pieces have been adjusted to allow a reasonable seal, they are fantastic. Over time (maybe an hour of listening) I can feel them – but its just a feeling that I know I have something on my ears. It's not discomfort, or pain. Are they as comfortable as a decent circumaural? No. But are they OK for several hours use? Yes – for me anyway. I've used them for as long as 3 hours – with no actual discomfort. What helps is the really soft p-leather combined with the equally soft memory foam, and the ability to fully rotate the earpieces to match your own physiology. And this goes for the headband too – supremely comfortable.
As far as isolation goes, they are average to above average. They isolate passively pretty well with little leakage. I can still hear a little bit of ambient sound around me though – but this is negated to a high degree when you engage the active noise cancelling (ANC).
HEADSET / COMMUNICATIONS
I’ve used the Fiil for a couple of test calls – to my wife – who said that she found my voice to be relatively clear in a quiet environment but the microphone seemed to pick up a lot of ambient noise if I was anywhere noisy. Accepting and rejecting calls is facilitated by a single button on the head-set, sot here is not too much to learn. Pressing and holding this button allows me to bring up the voice recognition system. Interestingly – pressing and holding does not start Siri, but rather their own Baidu search function (which is next to useless for me). The Baidu system works around searching on-line for music and playing it (Spotify etc). I just want to use it for my own library, and the Baidu default won't seem to do that. So far I haven't been able to work out how to get it to default to Siri's voice commands – which do work pretty well. Its a minor annoyance – but I don't usually use it anyway (for calls or searching my phone's library). Calls are OK at a pinch – but I'd personally prefer a wired connection which would allow me to bring a microphone closer to my mouth.
FEATURES AND CONTROL SUMMARY
This is one of the strongest feature sets I've come across in a wireless headphone. The basics are available via the on ear-piece controls, but they also extend to full control over the ANC. This can then be further enhanced by use of the iOS or Android app.
The Diva features include:
- 3 pre-set EQ's (base / mids / treble)
- MAF (my audio filter) = presets and options for noise adjustment
- 3D sound – spacialisation dsp settings
- Battery indicator
The preset EQ system is pretty rudimentary, but does allow 3 choices and there is a subtle change in overall signature. This can be quite handy when switching to ANC (the bass does get a little enhanced automatically), and you can then switch up the treble to counteract the change. This is only available with the app.
|Fiil options screen||Fiil Diva battery status screen||Fiil Diva profile screen||Fiil Diva EQ screen|
The MAF is the best part of the feature set, and is available direct from the head-set (app not required). Options are:
- ANC noise reduction mode
- Monitor mode
- Open mode
- Windy mode
The ANC noise reduction isn't quite up to Bose standard, but it is about 80%+ there, and works brilliantly in the likes of a car, or even walking down the street. I've used it in aircraft, and its pretty good – but if I was long-haul, I'd still take my QC25. Effectively takes out a lot of low level noise. The trade off (as is with most ANC) is the subtle increase in bass warmth – but its not oppressive, and I really don't mind the change – given the benefits of added isolation.
|MAF (my audio filter) selection||MAF main screen||Windy Modoe selected (brilliant for walking)||3D sound options|
Monitor mode is pretty much ANC but allows the you to hear others talking – useful if you are in an office environment, and need to be aware of someone talking to you. There isn't a lot of change sonically with the monitor mode setting – slightly on the bassy side.
Open mode is what it says. It allows you to fully hear the environment around you. With this mode, there is slightly less bass.
Windy mode is my favourite. If I'm out walking, and there is any wind noise, you just flick the switch and wind noise gone. I don't know how they've done this – but it works brilliantly. Tonally windy mode is essentially the same as ANC mode.
|In app manual||In app manual||In app settings screen||In app FAQ screen|
The 3D sound is interesting. Its a bit like 3D spacialisation DSPs you get on a computer trying to recreate being in different sized room setting (off, living room, theatre, hall). While it does work – it also sounds kind of artificial to me – so I pretty much always keep this setting to off (too much reverb otherwise). Some may really like it – but I see this more as gimmick than really useful.
The battery indicator is on the app – and lets you know approx how many hours of play-time and standby time you have.
The on-off button also doubles as pairing, and is the button used for pause/play. It's easy to locate and use.
Next to this is a slider + push button which basically controls the MAF (ANC options). Again – well implemented and easy to use. Single push = on/off. Slide up or down to engage the different MAF modes. Double click to toggle windy mode on or off. Simple!
The other controls are on the outer face of the right ear-cup and they are slide/touch controls. Touch the centre top and it is volume up. Touch the centre volume and it is volume down. Slide from centre back to centre forward and it advances one track. Reverse and it goes back. Apparently you can also slide top to bottom to smoothly control volume – but it doesn't seem to work on this unit, and for me is not necessary (I use the single tap top or bottom). The controls are easy to locate, easy to use, and brilliant for on the go.
Pairing is simple. Put your phone in pairing mode, press and hold the on/off button until the ear-cup LED flashes. At this point it should show up on your device, and pairing is simply a matter of choosing the Diva. Once the pairing is successful, every time you turn the Diva on, it automatically tries to pair with the last device. You can pair with two devices simultaneously.
As part of the controls set – when you engage features, the head-set tells you what you are doing and also advises battery status (when you first start up, plus also if you double click the on/off button).
This is one I didn't expect, and for the most part (for me) works pretty well. The headset features a pressure sensor, so it knows when its being worn. Once you're connected and playing,if you remove the headset (ie take the pressure off the pads), the Diva pauses your player, turns off any ANC, and enters power savings mode. Really smart technology, and extremely useful.
So the controls are simple, practical, and work pretty much perfectly.
BLUETOOTH PERFORMANCE / BATTERY LIFE
The Blue-tooth performance on the Diva, like the XTC Divine and Ausdom M05 I previously reviewed, is exceptional. The only dropouts I’ve experienced so far have been when I've either exceeded the wireless range, or been in extremely volatile wireless areas prone to interference. If anything I'd say the Diva has even better and more stable connectivity than anything else I've tried.
As far as range goes – Fiil advertise up to 100m, which personally I doubt (and wonder if its a typo). But I can get 20m of solid connection through two solid walls – and that to me is pretty impressive. When connecting to my X7, the Diva showed as using the AptX codec. X7 connection was very solid and the pairing was very good. X1ii was OK - but could glitch out from time to time. This is more an X1ii issue than a Diil Diva issue. Connection with the iPhone has been amazingly solid since I've had them together.
|Performance with X7 was good (but app did not work)||Performance with X1ii was OK - but spotty Bluetooth|
So what about battery life? I’ve tried more than a few times to measure it, and I'm pretty sure Fiil's claims are not excessive. I’ve flattened my iPhone battery before I've come to the end of the Diva's battery life, and unfortunately I simply don't have the time to perform a proper test. But I only charge them once every three days or so – but I charge my iPhone every day. The battery life on the Diva is impressive.
Recharge time seems to be around 2-2.5 hours, depending on the power source (mine were wall-wart based).
If you ever did run out of battery, you have the option of using the wired connection. The interesting thing here is that when using the cable, the Fiil automatically disables blue-tooth, but if the unit is switched on, you still have use of the MAF features. You can also use the Diva completely turned off, and it sounds pretty darn good. You lose the various DSP features – but I have no complaints. Crystal clear audio. And its nice to know that in the unlikely event you are ever caught short – you still have great audio available.
The following is what I hear from the Fiil Diva. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). The testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was all done with my iPhone SE via Blue-tooth using the Fiil music app, active noise cancelling, and no EQ (ie balanced mode).
Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
- Sub-bass – good extension, with perceptible rumble. Sub-bass is lower than mid-bass in quantity, but still sufficient to be there without overpowering.
- Mid-bass – Definite hump, there is a lot of impact, and I would say the mid-bass is elevated compared to both sub-bass and also lower mid-range. But there is very little bleed into mid-range frequencies. Definitely a bit of warmth here though.
- Lower mid-range – slightly recessed compared to both mid-bass and upper mid-range, but there is still a lot of clarity, and I've been surprised how good male vocals sound with the Diva.
- Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, but it is a slow rise from lower mid-range, and I would say it peaks at around 4 kHz. The result is an incredibly clean and clear vocal range, with good presence to lend a sense of euphony to female vocals – but without over-doing it and making the entire signature too lean or dry. The upper mid-range on the Diva is (for me) one of the best qualities of this headphone.
- Lower treble – recessed compared to upper mid-range, but there is still enough presence to capture both cymbal fundamentals and harmonics. Extension seems to be reasonable – but I wouldn't call it wonderfully extended. Overall the treble area is smooth but has enough detail to be clear and clean.
- Upper treble – personally I don't hear a lot of extension beyond 10 kHz, but then again, I never really notice it any more – there is little useful information above 10 kHz as far as fundamentals go – virtually all harmonics.
- Overall Signature – smooth, warm, lush – but with good clarity and a surprising amount of overall detail. A little on the V shaped side (mid-bass and upper mid-range).
Resolution / Detail / Clarity
- Very good with enough micro detail to appeal to detail lovers, but not spotlit if you are treble sensitive.
- Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have good presence and sense of decay. They are slightly back in the mix though
- An clean and clear monitor with good resolution – but which can be overpowered at times if the track has very prominent bass.
- Reasonable directional queues (not super precise, but generally pretty clear), and inside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so average width and depth
- Spherically presented (if slightly small) stage – with equal emphasis on width and depth. Definitely not one dimensional
- Very good sense of immersion both with applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, and also “Let it Rain”.
- Easy to listen to tonality with good clarity
- Very good with both male and female vocals, but better overall with female IMO
- Female vocals have an air of euphony and sweetness – without over doing it. Genre master for lovers of a warmer and slightly V-shaped signature – I enjoy it with pretty much all types or genres of music.
- Bass is warmer than neutral. This can be changed if its not to your liking by use of either the app's EQ, or setting a base EQ with whatever music software you have engaged.
- Reasonably small sound-stage, and bass can be a little woolly and loose at times – again easily solved with EQ.
This was an easier choice this time – as the two main features of the Diva (wireless portability and ANC) pretty much leaned toward comparisons with the XTZ Divine and the Bose QC25.
Comparisons were done using the default setting for each headphone, and my iPhone ES for both. I volume matched to the best of my ability with an SPL meter and test tones, but it is never easy getting it 100% precise with on-ear headphones, and especially not with ANC engaged.
Fiil Diva $199 vs XTZ Divine $179
Both are very compact and portable. Build quality is overall similar, but the Fiil ultimately has a sturdier overall build (more metal, less plastic). Fit and comfort both go to the Diva – mainly due to the softer pads and better cup rotation. I personally find the control set on the Diva to be slightly easier to use and more intuitive. In terms of feature set – both are brilliant. The Divine concentrates more on EQ presets (which are very good), and ultimately I'd give it the nod for overall SQ with more balance and clarity. But the Fiil still delivers very good SQ, and it of course has the added features of ANC, better battery life, and features which work better for ultimate portability. Both are incredible performers (really incredible) – but ultimately for truly portable use – the Diva gives me better isolation, more comfort, and better life. My 13 yo daughter uses the Divine pretty much every day, and after trying the Diva, she really wants one. That should be a good indicator.
Fiil Diva $199 vs QC25 $299
Both again are very portable and very compact. Again I’d give the Diva the edge on pure build quality (metal vs plastic), but the QC25 definitely goes ahead on comfort (over-ear vs on-ear). Both have increased bass response with ANC active, and it is centered around the mid-bass. I rate both both pretty well on sonics (for portable use) – with both having a slightly V shaped but warmish and smooth signature. The QC25's noise cancellation is class leading, and it does pip the Diva here – but the Diva is of course wireless, and has the additional software modes. Thankfully I don't need to make a choice here – and for me the QC25 suits a different purpose (long haul air travel), while the Diva will remain as my portable of choice for the foreseeable future.
FIIL DIVA – SUMMARY
First up I want to take the chance to again thank George from GearBest for giving me the chance to review these. I honestly wasn't expecting these to be as good as they are. And its really blown me away how much my listening habits have changed in the time I've had them. Basically the Diva's accompany me everywhere during my work day. I use them on my way to work, at work, and after work. I use them walking at nights (when time allows). They are simply easier to pick up and head out the door with – and the blue-tooth connection, and ease of use with my phone has been brilliant. Yes – If I want to settle in and do some serious listening, I'll revert to my HD800S, or my U6 – but for absolute head-time, the Diva gets more hours.
The Fiil Diva is a well built portable which has very good design and (for an on-ear) surprising comfort. But it is also wireless (Blue-tooth), and the overall stability and connectivity with my iPhone SE has been mighty impressive. But wait – that’s not all (I sound like a TV advertiser). The Fiil also has ANC (which is very effective, and a software suite which is both well designed and very practical.
Sonically the Diva is on the warm side, but still very clear, and ultimately just easy to listen to.
Best of all though – the Diva is under $200. Yep – you heard me right – the normal RRP is only $199.
So do I recommend it? Unquestionably! In fact I'm likely to buy one of these myself – simply to stop my daughter grabbing this pair. The Diva would be one of my finds of the year – and easily is among the best portables (for overall package) I've found.
The Fiil Diva can be purchased direct from GearBest by following this link.