FiiO EH3 NC - Reviews
Pros: + Price
+ Sonic quality with nc off
+ Comfort
+ Battery Life
+ Design
+ Works as USB DAC if connected to a source via USB Cable
+ LDAC / aptX / All the BT codecs available
Cons: - Noise Cancelling makes the sound quie poor
- Noise Cancelling doesn't really work so well
- Not very practical to use them wired, best to use them on BT or with USB cable
FiiO EH3 NC Bluetooth Headphones - Commercially Cool






FiiO EH3 NC are an entry-level noise cancelling pair of Bluetooth Headphones, priced at 170 USD, being competitors to headphones also in the entry-level area, like AIWA ARC-1, Brainwavz HM100, and ESS 422H. I will skip the pairings part of this review, and will explain a bit in the portable usage part of the review why I did such a thing.






Introduction


If you haven't heard by FiiO yet, I really invite you to read some of my reviews about their products, because they're one of those really awesome companies who does everything they can for their customers and helped shape the current audio world that we know. They are a large-ish company now and it is recommended to get their products from their official channels rather than directly from FiiO, unless you live in China, as your local sellers can serve you a bit better than FiiO can directly from China (since shipping a package will include taxes, shipping costs and all).


That being said, it should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank FiiO for providing the sample for this review, with me being responsible for paying the custom taxes. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in FiiO EH3 NC Headphones find their next music companion.




About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html




Packaging



First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:


































The package is cool, satisfying to unbox. EH3 NC comes with extras, including two cables, and a carrying case. The case is of great quality, and everything looks fit for the price point.




What to look in when purchasing a BT NC Headphone


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html




Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort



A big point here is that EH 3 NC is a bluetooth headphone, made to be used with a BT source, and as such I recommend it more as a BT Headphone. All in all, it is pretty comfortable, and for 170 USD, it is a technological wonder, with 50 hours of battery life, aptX HD, LDAC, and Bluetooth 5.0.


EH3 has Noise Cancelling too, and large dynamic drivers coated in titanium.


Bluetooth Type-C also comes in handy, and they even have a 3.5mm AUX line in, making them pretty versatile in the number of scenarios you can use them in.






In practice they are incredibly light, enough so that you could use them for jogging, especially since they have that NC effect. I would typically suggest something like the RHA True Connect more than the likes of EH3 NC for jogging though, small IEMs are better, especially if you plan on sweating a lot.


The adjusting mechanism is of a great quality, clicks right into place, but the pads are fairly thick and soft too, making for a very comfy experience. You can hear air whistling in and out of the headphones while adjusting them, but they do not have driver flex. The clamping force is light, which means that they are comfy, but could also fall if you move a lot while wearing them, so if you need a really secure fit there are better options out there. The outer part of the earpads is nice, with a glass effect, and a carbon fiber print, both of which look pretty awesome in real life.






EH3 NC is the first from a long series of headphones where I found that companies started implementing controls and other features on the right earcup, so the left earcup only has the data / charging cable, while the right earcup has the buttons, aux port and even the microphone hole.


I found the gestures to be hard to use, and blindly using EH3 NC is not intuitive. There is a light indicator that lets you know how much battery they have left, with one light for 20% and five lights for 100%. Not the most practical, as you can't really see the thing, but if you remove them from your head, you will see how much battery is left for sure.






The USB Type-C port can also be used as a DATA port, so EH3 works as a USB DAC too, if you want the maximum quality they can have.


The 50 hours battery life is reduced drastically with the Noise Cancelling enabled, to 30 Hours. From my own tests, I was able to get around 42 hours on the normal battery run, with AAC codecs, about 35 hours with LDAC / AptX, and about 25 hours when the Noise Cancelling was enabled. This was with varied volume and a mix of usage, so a realistic number, when you randomly turn them on / off and abuse them a bit. Over 24 hours of battery life is still far more than most headphones can offer, so that's great from FiiO.






Phone calls also sound good to great, and everything about EH3 seems to be pretty well made.


That is, except for the Noise Cancelling part which is ok but not great. This is because although the DSP chip and the microphones are advanced, about 4 microphones, the Noise Cancelling is best at removing humming in the background, like an air conditioner, or random noises that are somewhat quiet. For loud conversation, it is not quite as effective as Sennheiser Momentum 3. The NC also applies a background noise that is continuous.




Youtube Video Review






Sound Quality



The sound quality is a mixed bag if you turn the ANC on, it tends to worsen the sonic performance a lot, so I will only be reviewing their signature with it turned off. The sonic performance is similar between using LDAC or using them as a USB DAC. Using the AUX line changes that quite a bit, but given their price point and design, they are made for portable BT usage, so I will be referring to that scenario more.


The sound can generally be described as thick, boomy, somewhat slow, but also very wide, dynamic, punchy, and smooth.






The bass is deep and thick, has good presence, and a great emphasis on the mid bass compared to the deep bass. They can deliver a nice amount of rumble, but the mid bass is usually presented forward compared to the sub bass. The upper bass is not particularly enhanced, so the sound doesn't come across as being really warm, but a bit boomy, a bit thick and with a fairly good sub-bass. The speed of the bass is slow to natural, so they are not made for Technical Death Metal at all.


The midrange is clear enough for the price range, and there's a nice amount of staging to the sound, but the clarity is not the best, rather they come through as fairly musical and clean. There's a good amount of detail for their price tag, and I clearly have been spoiled by the likes of Audeze LCD-MX4 and Kennerton Thror, and also LSA HP-1, so I am always looking for more detail, but if you're coming from Skullcandy, or something like a Miniso pair of headphones, you'll surely love the detail and clarity of EH3 NC.


The treble is smooth, not the most emphasized out there, but has enough presence to uplift the entire sound and not leave it into a dark place. All in all, it is fun to listen to, especially if you don't mind a smoother top-top end.




Comparisons


The comparison list includes AIWA ARC-1, which is a very similar design to EH3 NC, also Brainwavz HM100, because they have a very similar price point, and also ESS 422H. The pairings part cannot exist for bluetooth products, if they are headphones or IEMs, because the DAC and AMP is inside the headphone / IEM, so EH3NC will sound similar across sources, as long as they have a stable bluetooth range, and the BT codecs available.






FiiO EH3NC vs AIWA ARC-1 (170 USD vs 130 USD) - AIWA ARC-1 is what I consider the fairly less expensive thing to get, but which is still a great quality and price/performance ratio. All in all, the comfort is much better on EH3NC, and so is the sonic in general, especially when used over BT. The overall sound is a bit clearer with a bit more detail on ARC-1, but the stage is larger on EH3NC. The build quality and the package of EH3NC is a bit better, compared to ARC-1, which feels a bit more spartan. The NC is not that useful, as long as you enjoy a better sonic quality, but it is existent on EH3NC, while it is not present on ARC-1.


FiiO EH3NC vs Brainwavz HM100 (170 USD vs 170 USD) - HM100 is a ghost headphone that is only sometimes available in stores, but which makes your day an amazing one when you do find it. The HM100 has a much higher clamping force, and the pads are softer on EH3NC, making EH3 more comfy. The overall build quality also feels better on EH3NC, and so does the sound, because although I call it boomy, it is much more natural, smooth and relaxing compared to HM100 which is straightforward and boomy by comparison. The HM100 has real wood in the build, which is pretty great, but the overall comfort is better for EH3NC. The connectivity options are also better on the FiiO, since HM100 does not have bluetooth at all.


FiiO EH3NC vs ESS 422H (170 USD vs 200 USD) - ESS422H does not work in bluetooth at all, but it has an interesting advantage, being much more of a looker than EH3, which is bland in comparison. This being said, EH3 is much more comfortable than 422H, which feels heavy, and clamps hard compared to EH3, which can be said to feel like a feather. The overall build quality is great on both, but the sound is clearer, with better detail, clarity, and overall refinement on 422H. EH3 feels less detailed, but also smoother, easier to listen to, and has more sub-bass depth, and a wider soundstage.




Value and Conclusion


EH3NC has great value, excellent. Even beyond my wildest expectations. They have the build quality, sonic performance, and features to really top everything in their own price range, and even trade blows with Sennheiser Momentum 3 in some ways. They were so fun that I even took the liberty of making some memes while taking the photos for this review.






The package is not the greatest, but they come with a really nice carrying case. The build quality is top notch, and man, I am blasted away by the number of connection codecs they manage to put in just one headphone. In fact, I could safely say that EH3 is the most connective bluetooth headphone you can find at this price point, if we don't include BTR5, which is even better, and pretty much at the same price. There's also FiiO BTR3K which is awesome and priced in the entry-level price range, all of them designed by FiiO.






If you need something that's not a Bluetooth dongle, FiiO also has their DAP line, with M11 PRO and the likes available for you.


The sound of EH3 NC is not the most clear or detailed out there, but it has a large stage, with tons of width, they have a nice punch, and if you enjoy bass, they have quite enough of it. The treble is smooth, and they are musical, and fatigue-free, which combined with their comfort makes them really good for long hours of listening.






All in all, if you're looking for a high-end or at least a great headphone to start your day with, something to cut you off from the outside noise, if you're looking for having all of the connectivity options there are, and if you're looking for the best bang for the buck, literally, as far as Noise Cancelling Headphones go, EH3NC surely delivers an impressive blow.




Full Playlist used for this review


While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.


Youtube Playlist




Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b


Song List


Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date

Eskimo Callboy - Frances

Incubus - Summer Romance

Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage

Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead

Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir

Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow

Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.

Infected Mushroom - Song Pong

Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl

Doctor P - Bulletproof

Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw

Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!

Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare

SOAD - Chop Suey

Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory

Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve

Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop

Crow'sclaw - Loudness War

Eminem - Rap God

Stromae - Humain À L'eau

Sonata Arctica - My Selene

Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back

Metallica - Fuel

Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable

Masa Works - Golden Japang

REOL - Luvoratorrrrry

Dope - Addiction

Korn - Word Up!

Papa Roach - ... To be Loved

Fever The Ghost - Source

Fall Out Boy - Immortals

Green Day - Know The Enemy

Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge

A static Lullaby - Toxic

Royal Republic - Addictive

Astronautalis - The River, The Woods

We Came As Romans - My Love

Skillet - What I Believe

Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Yasuda Rei - Mirror

Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire

Falling Up - Falling In Love

Manafest - Retro Love

Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris

Zomboy - Lights Out

Muse - Resistance

T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku

Grey Daze - Anything, Anything

Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For

Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike

Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct

Pendulum - Propane Nightmares

Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover

Saving Abel - Addicted

Hollywood Undead - Levitate

The Offspring - Special Delivery

Escape The Fate - Smooth

Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe

Dope - Rebel Yell

Crazy Town - Butterfly

Silverstein - My Heroine

Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet



I hope my review is helpful to you!






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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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