Reviews by El Zilcho

El Zilcho

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Clean, Detailed Sound. Well Built. Comfortable. Good Value
Cons: May Be Bright For Some Tastes.

I received these headphones for evaluation from Fiio.  I was not paid for my review and the headphones were returned after the review period.  
Music can evoke real emotion.  It can be a powerful experience to listen to a good song.  The type of music that stirs you is different for everyone.  Luckily, music is as diverse as its power is universal.  And the variety of headphones available is almost as diverse as the music they are designed to reproduce.
I love music.  But I am a bit of a beginner when it comes to headphones.  I’ve only recently begun to really get into headphones as a way to listen to music more often.  I don’t have the huge stable of headphones that many headphone reviewers have.  I do appreciate good sound, and I hope my thoughts and opinions can help someone considering the EX1 headphones from Fiio.

I listened to the EX1s on my Fiio X5ii, my Denon receiver, my computer and my iPad.  As expected, all were able to provide more than enough volume, with ample headroom to spare.  There were a variety of sources, including Netflix movies, Youtube, lossless, AAC, etc.
The EX1s are brighter than my other headphones (currently: Bose Soundtrue In Ear, Bose QC25, Apple Earpods, Samsung in ear), and those I’ve had previously (Bose AE2, Klipsch Image One).  No detected sibilance, or other problems with the treble, but it’s noticeably more present/forward.  Initially, the extra brightness of the EX1 seemed to make parts of the song sound almost harsh.  However, this was in comparison to my other headphones.  In comparison, my others sounded a bit smoother, but at a cost of some of the perceived detail and airiness which the EX1s have.  
As I listened to the EX1s I quickly got used to the bright sound and they no longer sounded harsh.  I found them to be very clean sounding across the range.  They aren’t fatiguing, nor do they have the undefinable quality (or lack thereof) that some headphones possess which makes me perpetually feel the need to turn the volume down.  I began to appreciate the added detail and clarity of the EX1s.  They are bright, but balanced.  After a while listening to the EX1s I switched back to the Bose Soundtrue and they sounded downright muffled in comparison, rather than smoother.
If the recording/song has hiss, it was slightly more noticeable with the EX1s than my other headphones due to the brighter sound signature and, possibly, greater treble extension.  Not a fault, just an effect of the more forward treble.  I happen to have a few older, hissy songs, and the hiss is a bit more noticeable (along with the rest of the treble) in the EX1s.  That didn’t stop me from enjoying those songs at all, it’s just something that’s more noticeable with a brighter headphone.  It is a small difference, but it’s there.  Also, bear in mind, the vast majority of what I listened to had no hiss, and the background on my X5ii was as inky black as ever with the EX1s.  So any background hiss was definitely not an attribute of the headphones.
While these phones are brighter than my others, they still have decent bass.  The bass is crisp and defined, hits when it should, and doesn’t bleed into the rest of the song when it shouldn’t.  It is a flat bass response though.  Unlike many of the headphones available today, which tend to have a dB bump in the bass range.
There are songs that do benefit from a little extra bass, but if you have to err on one side or the other, I would say the EX1s are a better choice for me than an overly bass-heavy pair of headphones.  In my opinion, balanced (meaning flat, not boosted) bass won’t ruin a song that would benefit from more bass.  But too much bass can nearly ruin some songs for me.  Again, the EX1s do have bass, but these are not bass-head headphones.  Interestingly, the sub-bass does seem to extend a little further down than on my Bose Soundtrues.  This may be due, in part, to the better seal/isolation.  My Soundtrues do have a warmer sound with a bit more bass overall, but the EX1s have impact when I feel they should.  Songs that have a lot of sub bass surprised me with how powerful the bass sounded in the EX1s.  
The brightness brings a level of clarity and detail I don’t quite get with any of my other headphones.  I have some Samsung in ear headphones (came included with a phone) that are nearly as bright on the top end, but the highs aren’t quite as clear.  The Samsungs have an almost grainy and artificial sound to the highs at times, compared to the EX1s.  I know it’s not a fair comparison.  The Samsungs are cheapos; they are outmatched by the EX1s in every way.
Compared to my Bose QC25s, I would say the QC25s have a bit more upper bass/lower mids, leading to a bit more “fullness” to some songs.  But actual bass “slam” and low end power seems about the same, and the EX1s have a cleaner sound, with easier to pick out detail, particularly in the higher frequencies.
I like the sound of the EX1s.  If you are looking for an in ear headphone with a fairly flat response, and good treble and bass extension, give the EX1s a try.  The sound is clean, clear and while nothing is boosted, nothing is missing either.  

The shallow fit of the EX1 is great for me.  Deeper insertion in-ear headphones become uncomfortable after a while for me.  These have a shallow insertion depth, and the “body” of the earphones just tuck against the back of the ear, holding them in place.
The isolation may not be quite as complete as some others because of this shallow depth, but I’ll give up a little isolation to get long term wear-ability any day.  Comfort wise, at first I’d have still given a slight edge to my Bose Soundtrue In Ears (the EX1s do provide much more isolation than the Soundtrues).  But I got used to them quickly and they basically “disappear” in my ears now.  Comfort for me personally is very good.  They strike a good balance between isolation and comfort.  They isolate much more than my Soundtrues, but are still comfortable for hours.  
The EX1 headphones stay put in my ears much better than I anticipated.  This is particularly surprising since it takes so little effort to insert or remove them.  Even if I shake my head around quite vigorously, they don’t budge.  Fit is a very individual thing, and the experience of others will surely vary.  For me the fit is great.  They do include various silicone tip sizes to match your ear canal as close as possible.  Because the body/housing of the earphones tuck against the ear, there is a chance that with larger ears than mine they wouldn’t hold as securely.  Likewise, with smaller ears they may end up too tight and become uncomfortable.  I don’t know how prevalent these issue would be, since they fit without issue in my ears.
Now that the temps are dropping, the metal body is cold on the ears for a moment when you first put them in.  I imagine if they were left in a car in winter they could cause quite a shock when you pop them in your ears.  Probably not a huge issue for most, but just something I noticed.

Build quality is very good.  The metal is smooth and polished, with no rough edges, tool marks or obvious issues that stand out.  The gaps are tight and even and everything seems to suggest quality.  The cord ends with a 90* plug, which is something that could be debated.  I typically prefer a straight plug, but there are situations where a 90 degree is preferable, so I wouldn’t count for or against a straight or 90 degree plug.  There is a bit more cord noise/microphonics than my Bose Sountrues, which is likely due to the increased seal they have rather than any differences in the cord.  This is to be expected, and it’s not too bad. 
There are colored rings around the body of the earphones which add a little flair and help differentiate between right and left.  Right and left are easy to tell apart just as a result of the shape, but the color adds a quick, visual key that will never leave you guessing.  There is also an “R” and “L” etched on each respective earphone.
The cord is reasonably supple and doesn’t cause any unusual annoyances.  The insulation is a more slippery feeling material than what my Bose Soundtrue cord has (it is also very slightly stiffer than the Bose Soundtrue cord).  This makes the EX1 cord a bit less apt to tangle, as the cord doesn’t hang up on itself as readily.  The cord is not detachable, but it does give the impression of being fairly durable.  Nothing about it stands out to make me think it wouldn’t hold up over time.    

I think a simple way to wrap this up is to say that if I was in the market for some in ear headphones I would feel very comfortable buying the EX1 headphones from Fiio.  They have a fairly flat, balanced sound signature with clean, detailed sound across the range. They have decent isolation and a secure, comfortable fit.  And finally, considering the build quality, included tips and hard case they are a pretty good value for money as well.  
The EX1s are a well rounded pair of earphones.  They may not be for everyone, but no headphone/earphone can claim that honor.
Happy listening.
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