FiiO EH3 NC

General Information



In recent years, wireless headphones have gradually become the most popular products in the market. Aside from TWS earbuds, the best choice would be over-ear wireless headphones, which are rich in functions and good in the audio performance. But among such a large variety of products, how to make the right choice? Well, FiiO has just got an answer for you: EH3 NC, over-ear wireless headphones that support both Active Noise Cancelling and HD Bluetooth codecs including aptX HD & LDAC!


Key features of the FiiO EH3 NC include:

* Supports Bluetooth audio formats like LDAC/aptX HD/SBC/AAC/LDAC
* ADI noise cancelling technology, feedforward hybrid active noise cancellation design
* Large 45mm drivers with double-sided titanium-plated diaphragm
* 50 hours battery life,1000 hours standby time
* One-touch NFC
* Support USB DAC
* Dual Hi-Res Audio Certifications
* Removable protein leather earpads

Latest reviews

Pros: - Great sound quality
- Huge battery life
- Comfort
- Wired connection supported
Cons: - Mediocre noise cancellation
Introduction

As we all know there is a growing demand for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and good sound quality.
So it was only a matter of time till FiiO presented us with such a headphone.
This is not only the first wireless headphone for FiiO but it is also their first full sized one.
We are talking about the EH3 NC from FiiO a wireless Bluetooth headphone with active noise cancellation.
It is an over the ear closed design with a vast Bluetooth codec support as it includes the aptX LL , aptX HD and LDAC lossless formats amongst others.
Large 45mm drivers with double sided titanium plated diaphragm are powered by a CSR8675 chip handling both d/a conversion and amplification duties for maximum sound quality.
Wired 3.5mm jack and USB dac inputs are supported with both cables included inside the nice and sturdy travel carrying case.
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Build quality and comfort

Premium materials are used all over such as good quality plastic , 2.5d glass for the outer cups and protein leather for the pads.
Build quality is overly satisfying with decent feeling but a little lacking compared to similar products from brands like Sennheiser as it feels a little filmsy and fragile.
Weight is average at about 293gr and comfort is excellent due to the very even distribution of the weight and the roomy , large enough ear pads.
Pads are made from protein leather and are user replaceable with the extra option of breathable mesh replacements sold separately.
There is memory foam inside which is shape adjusting and comfortable but it's a little noisy during compression as the air captured inside is being released.
It's not the most discreet wireless headphone we have tested but you can't call it bulky either and the modern design will apeall to many people.
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Controls and ANC

User controls and indicators are pretty basic and are all located at the right earpiece as the left houses only the USB type C charging / USB dac port.
No gesture controls here, as there is only a power button ,an ANC on / off switch and three physical buttons to control music playback and calls.
Small leds indicate power status and remaining battery.
Battery duration is one of the best parts of the headphone as in real life use we managed to squeeze out more than 25 hours of mixed continuous use so no worries about frequent recharging.
Voice assistance and NFC connectivity are also supported.

Active noise cancellation is build around a powerful ADI dsp chip with four microphones but it is a basic one on / off solution so we don't get adaptive and user selectable modes.
In every day use combined with the good passive noise attenuation it proved to be an adequate solution.
Well it is not high end noise cancellation like we find in other more expensive headphones but it sure gets the job done more or less depending upon the situation.
Unfortunately sound quality takes a hit and the user must judge at the end if to use it or not depending upon the environmental noise.
Bluetooth connection is very solid as we didn't experienced any drop outs even at several meters away from the transmitter.
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Sound quality

And now on to the most important part sound quality.
Impressions are with the ANC turned off and LDAC protocol enabled streaming music up to 24/96 from a mobile phone and Fiio M9.
Overall tuning is on the neutral side with an airy and open presentation and just a hint of a pleasant warmth.
It is not overly warm neither bright with decent treble extension and a little midbass emphasis.
Bass quantity is good enough to satisfy most users except maybe from the bass heads.
Quality wise is good but not great , sure it is not an one note bass but still is lacking in ultimate definition and transparency.
Dynamics are good to make for an enjoyable experience though and it is hard hitting when called to.
There is a slight bleeding into the midbass not overly annoying giving the headphone just a touch of warmth.
Mids are clear but a little veiled from time to time but you get an easy going non aggressive sound suitable for long term listening.
Voices and instruments are well rounded and full bodied making for a persuasive presentation.
Highs are extended enough , detail is good and satisfying but there is a slight lack of resolution.
Treble is well behaved without any annoying peaks or dips and any kind of sibilance fatigue.
Transparency and extension are further improved when listening with the analog or USB connections as it is to be expected due to the known Bluetooth limitations.
Further tweaks to the sound can be done through the FiiO music app with the included equaliser options.
What impressed us most with FiiO EH3 NC is it airy presentation and stage wideness for a closed headphone.
Left to right width is very good making for an open sounding experience with good instrument separation without congestion even during complex passages.
Overall sound impressions are very satisfying for the price tag with not much to complain about that is of course with the ANC turned off.
Sure FiiO must work on with their ANC implementation in order to be more competitive with their next products.

FiiO EH3 NC vs Sennheiser PXC 550 ii

Compared to the slightly more expensive Sennheiser PXC 550ii , the later offer a superior noise cancelling experience , are a little bit more light and discreet so better suited for the frequent traveller and commuter.
But the FiiO EH3 NC with the advanced codec support and more technical driver design takes head in sound quality be it in wireless or wired mode.
So when it comes to pure musical enjoyment the FiiO EH3 NC is our primary choice.
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At the end

This is the first foray of FiiO into the wireless noice cancelling headphones realm and their first full sized over the ear one.
As such they should not be judged too severely.
Sure there are better but more expensive options out there especially regarding the noise cancellation feature.
But with FiiO EH3 NC we buy ourselves firstly a great sounding wireless headphone with the added bonus of noise cancellation.
Add the extra comfort , huge battery and friendly form factor at a very competitive price and we've got here a value king winner.


Notes

This headphone was provided as a loaner unit from the Greek retailer of FiiO to be featured in several reviews and we thank him for the opportunity.

English is not my native language.


Copyright by @Ichos 2020.
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Pros: 1. Excellent balanced sound quality with ANC Off
2. Supports all mainstream Bluetooth wireless audio codecs and USB digital audio
3. Long battery life of 50 hours
Cons: 1. Sound quality with ANC On is inferior to competition
2. Relatively heavy and bulky compared to competition
FiiO is an audio brand established in 2007 that manufactured dozens of portable audio players, amplifiers earphones, and accessories. Like many China start-ups, they worked hard and produced a good track record of products which helped them grow globally. The EH3 NC is their first over-ear headphones as well as their first active noise cancelling model. The EH3 NC would have been a formidable product against the incumbents, if only they had gotten one thing right.

FiiO EH3 NC review by musicphotolife.com Singapore tech blog

Unboxing and Operations
The EH3 NC is designed for the frequent traveller and regular commuter in mind. It easily folds to reduce storage footprint, and comes with a 50-hour battery life that keeps you company continuously for over 2 full days. Its 5-LED battery indicator keeps you informed of the remaining battery life. Another unique design element is the use of 2.5D glass panel with carbon fibre texture, and a pleather-wrapped headband to elevate the premium look and feel. They are not as compact as most other ANC headphones, but they feel comfortable on the head and can fold down to a manageable size for transport.

FiiO EH3 NC review by musicphotolife.com Singapore tech blog
Pairing is an ease using NFC, which most smartphones should come with. The EH3 NC can initiate NFC pairing without even turning the headphones on, just place the smartphone or DAP on the right earcup. For manual pairing, turn off the headphones, then press-hold the power button for 3 seconds.

With their experience in wireless audio codec implementation, it comes no surprise that the EH3 NC is packed with them. In fact, it supports all the major Bluetooth codecs – SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD, and LDAC. Additionally, it also supports USB digital audio when plugging the USB-C cable directly to the computer (power has to be turned on to operate). It also supports direct 3.5mm passive audio (power not required). With all these technical capabilities, the headphones earned its certifications of Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio Wireless logos embossed on the headphones.

FiiO EH3 NC review by musicphotolife.com Singapore tech blog
The button placements are a little awkward to reach: the power button and the ANC switch are located towards the front of the right earcup, which requires me to twist the hand for my thumb to reach them and operate. Perhaps it would be better to position them on the left earcup, but I reckon it is easier to build all the components in a single earcup. The volume buttons are well-placed, but to control the track changes, I had to operate the opposite way. Hence, the same button to increase volume in single tap is to go back to previous track when held.

FiiO EH3 NC review by musicphotolife.com Singapore tech blog
Using the FiiO Music smartphone app, you can personalise a few things on the headphones, like selecting which codecs to enable, LED behaviour, auto power off timing, applying EQ. The app itself is a full-fledged audio player, and to access the headphone settings, go to “Bluetooth Device Control” menu.

FiiO Music app for EH3 NC

Audio Quality and ANC
Inside the EH3 NC is a high-end ADI noise-cancelling DSP chip powering a 2-way, 4-microphone array in a feed-forward hybrid active noise-cancelling design. The noise-cancelling is not as aggressive as the industry-leading Bose and Sony models, but is sufficient to remove the daily environmental noise from traffic, appliances, and more importantly, airplane cabin noise and public transport. A good thing is that the user would not feel excessive ear pressure which in some cases could cause nausea to some people.

As an ANC headphones, the primary judge for the audio quality would be in the ANC mode. For the EH3 NC, this mode offers the poorest audio tuning among the modes. The upper-bass to midrange is excessive which obscured the treble clarity, resulting in a somewhat dark mix.

Turn ANC off, and the EH3 NC shows why FiiO is one of the more popular audio brands from China. The EH3 NC delivers well-balanced details from natural tight bass to clear treble that sits comfortably in the mix. Even for tracks with fierce highs, there is no fatiguing harshness as the sibilance is subtly eased off. This is not warm-sounding nor neutral, but retains the clarity and the right amount of bass delivered but not pushy, thanks to a wide small-room staging.

With power on, the sound is tighter, more compact, overall more forward. With power off and playing over 3.5mm analog cable, the sound is more relaxed, more dynamic, less compressed, better room imaging and cohesive instrumental positioning. With USB-C digital audio, the sound is slightly improved with more resolution and instrumental details.

To learn what songs I use to review my headphones, go to this page.

Compare with Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC
The closest ANC headphones to EH3 NC would be the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC. Both have similar connectivity options – powered, passive, and USB digital audio, and can be folded. Both also has a long list of supported wireless audio codecs, but EH3 NC has aptX HD and LDAC which Lagoon ANC does not.

FiiO EH3 NC vs. beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC
Between the two, there isn’t a straight-up winner: in ANC mode, the Lagoon ANC sounds better. In non-ANC mode, the EH3 NC sounds better. In general, the EH3 NC is a better overall headphones: lower price, more comfortable earpads, better bass presence, fuller midrange. The EH3 NC offers better vocal clarity, while the Lagoon ANC is tuned to be more neutral (except ANC mode) with details across the board.

For ANC feature, both are on par, though I felt that the Lagoon ANC has more tendency to leak sound if you wear glasses as EH3 NC ear pads are thicker. Having said everything, if you need a better-sound headphones in ANC mode, then Lagoon ANC is the one to get, as it really sounds better in this mode. EH3 NC is a great-sounding headphones, but only when ANC is off, so you can’t enjoy them as much in public places.


Verdict
FiiO’s first over-ear headphones delivers great audio quality and offers all-rounder specs and generous connectivity options. I truly enjoy the audio tuning on most of the connectivity modes, except ANC On, which is such a shame, because that is what want out of a noise-cancelling headphones. If you need good audio with ANC, then EH3 NC is disappointing. If you want a comfortable pair of headphones with balanced sound – right amount of bass, treble and musical details – then this is satisfying.
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