FiiO EM3 Open Earbud Earphones with In-Line Microphone (Black)

General Information

Great sound and style, for the rest of us. Introducing FiiO EM3 open earbud earphones, with 14.8mm large diameter dynamic drivers, a streamlined minimalist design, and secure comfortable fit. With an in-line mic and CTIA standard 3.5mm jack, the EM3 provides call support for most of today's smartphones, tablets, and notebook computers. Rediscover the simple yet effective earbud. The EM3 utilizes NIM-based drivers of high magnetic flux and electroacoustic efficiency, combining advanced equipment with artistic tuning intent to guarantee the consistency of performance and musicality of output. Sensitivity is high thanks to modern technology employed, while impedance stances at a well-chosen 47 Ohm to ensure that the EM3 can be driven well from a wide range of amplifiers without compromising performance potential. The large drivers of 14.8mm diameter brings powerful bass, while the well-designed open-earbud form factor brings excellent soundstaging and realistic tone quality, preserving the authenticity of music to immerse you in the live music environment at any time and any place. TL;DR - The EM3 is well designed and sounds great, and you really should try a pair! Package includes EM3 earphones plus 3 pairs foam sleeves for increased wear comfort. Specifications - Drivers: Dynamic 14.8mm - Frequency Response: 20~20kHz - Impedance: 47 Ohm - Sensitivity: 109dB - Jack: CTIA 3.5mm L-shaped - Weight: 13.6 Ohm - Cable Lengh: 47-inch (120cm)

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100+ Head-Fier
Fiio sent me the retail version of the EM3 to review a while ago. I’ve had these earbuds for over a year so I am quite familiar with the way they sound. They retail for $10.

Setup for this review:
Source: HP laptop running on battery and with wireless LAN turned off.
Media player: Foobar 2000 with full RAM buffering running in native ASIO mode.
DAC: LH Labs Geek Out 450 with 15dB to 18dB digital attenuation and FRM filter (Frequency Response Mode is a linear phase slow roll-off filter).
Headphones: Fiio EM3, Apple earbuds and earpods, Edifier H180, VE Monk, Blox BE3.

EM3 fit and finish:
Overall packaging is excellent. There is a unique code to verify that the earbuds are genuine. Three pairs of full foam earpads are also included. The connector is an L-shaped jack and there is a one-button microphone / remote (which I never used). The shell has the shape of a rocket exhaust nozzle. I am not a big fan of this design option: it’s not uncomfortable but the earbuds do not fit as snuggly as they would with something like a standard Sennheiser shell.

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EM3 sound signature:
With full foams, bass is overly boosted and boomy, vocals are muffled, soundstage is very distant and tiny. Why on earth is Fiio including foam earpads in the packaging? Many people will put them on without afterthoughts and will be robbed of the sound potential of the EM3. If you intend to use foams, stick with Apple earbuds.

Without foams, tonal balance and clarity improve quite markedly. Highs can show some trace of sibilance. Bass is now snappy but lacks some weight (not a good match for EDM or rap lovers). Bass and treble extensions are nothing to write home about. Soundstage stays stuck between the ears (no outsized outward projection). Vocals seem a little bit recessed. The overall sound signature can be described as clean and neutral.

With donut foams, one could hope that this is the miracle solution that lands on middle ground between full foams and no foams but this is unfortunately not the case. The results with donut foams are much closer to full foams than without foams so the sound takes a turn for the worse. Since donut foams are not as sturdy as full foams they are also more likely to fall and get lost. This configuration is not recommended either.

I tried an easy mod to see if I could improve the sound of the EM3. With vents taped over and without foams, the soundstage increases dramatically but the treble gets boosted and vocals are pushed forward. The resulting sound is very fatiguing. With vents taped and full foams, bass is further increased but vocals are again pushed forward. The sealed enclosure gives a certain “boxy” coloration to the sound. The overall tonal balance becomes unnatural. In a nutshell, no luck on finding a quick fix.

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Comparison of EM3 without foams to other earbuds:
Apple earbuds without foams and earpods:
This one is straightforward: except for build quality, the EM3 are simply better earbuds than the Apple ones.

Edifier H180 with full foams:
In many ways, the H180 sounds like what the EM3 with foams should have been: a fun v-shaped sound signature. The bass is elevated and a bit boomy but it gives more body to the sound. Treble is not overly refined but it's by no means harsh either. It is not as boosted as the bass and gives the impression of clarity. The form factor of the earbuds is extremely comfortable and fit snuggly against the ear concha. Edifier packaging, fit and finish is on par with Fiio. Price is also equivalent.

VE Monk with full foams:
This comparison is for the original Monk (now discontinued), not the current Monk+. The Monk is more mid-centric than the Monk+. Compared to the EM3, the soundstage is wider and vocals are more natural. There is a bit more clarity. Bass and treble are more extended. The cable seems sturdier and the use of standard Sennheiser shells makes the Monk more comfortable to wear. At the same price as the EM3, the VE Monk (and Monk+ for that matter) is the better buy.

Blox BE3 with full foams:
This is not exactly a fair comparison since the Blox costs about four times what the EM3 goes for. It is also a rather artisanal product with very limited distribution. However, I wanted to include it in the review to understand what the next level in quality brings to the table. The overall sound signature is relatively similar but clarity is improved and details become more readily apparent. You also get an easier sense of flow in the music, everything sounds less forced and more natural. These earbuds are a little more dynamic and better controlled.

Fiio EM3 review takeaway:
Were it not for the VE Monk, the EM3 would have been a perfectly acceptable product at its $10 price point. A much better option is looking into Fiio IEMs line-up which delivers excellent sound and really good value (much better than what Xiaomi / 1More has to offer at comparable price points, but that’s a story for another review).
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100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Mic button, fatigue-free sound, great soundstage, durable, affordable
Cons: lacks bass slam, treble could use more detail
I needed a pair of mobile headphones. I wanted to use something while walking to the transport station or while commuting. I needed something that are not very isolating so I’m still aware of my surroundings. I value safety more than sound in this case. I also needed something with at a mic button so I can take in calls while listening (this pauses the music of course). With these considerations, an earbud fits the bill. And among the budget earbuds, the Fiio EM3 may be the best choice at the time of this review. I owned the X1, A3 (E11k), and the E12 prior to this purchase and I can say that I’m a fan of the quality and value of their products. Let’s get to the review then.
The EM3 comes in a decent package given its price. What you get:
  1. The earbuds
  2. 3 pairs of full foam covers (total of 6)
  3. A warranty certificate
  4. The box can be used as storage if you want. The item is pretty secure inside.
For the price point, the packaging looks well thought off, which is very good.
Build quality is above average, at least compared to original earbuds from Samsung or Apple. The wires are thicker overall and strain reliefs are present. The wire, as Fiio indicates, is tension-protected. I presume it can take a beating but I can’t confirm that since I’m always careful with my gear. The L-shaped jack is a welcome addition too.
Isolation is below average, which is good for my uses. I believe that it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings to avoid accidents (e.g. hear a car honk when crossing the street, etc.). If complete isolation is important to you, this is something you need to consider.
The mic works well and can also be used for pausing and playing music. Play and pause functions are not very reactive and you need to press a little bit harder and longer than usual, which could be a design demerit.
Comfort is excellent. The earbuds are on the smaller side but the shell themselves are very evenly smoothed out that you won’t feel any pain wearing them for hours. For larger ears, they sit in more securely with the full foams but for small to average ears, wearing them naked will be ok.
Burn-in: 50 hours (can’t detect much difference in the sound so they may not need too much burn-in)
  1. Lenovo K4 Note Smartphone (with Wolfson 8281 Audio Hub)
  2. Dolby Atmos engaged (gives a more accurate perception of soundstage)
  3. Stellio music player EQ is off
I believe this is where it lacks the most. Bass is there but it’s barely there. The expectation is it should be able to provide some slam with rock and other faster music genres but it doesn’t really. The bass is a bit slow. To its merit though, this is highly “EQable”. And it will also benefit with an amp that has a bass boost. I imagine it would sound nice with those.
Mids have decent clarity and smoothness. It’s not forward, nor it’s recessed. If anything, I believe it’s flat or not boosted, which is good.
NOTE: Using the full foams can muffle or suppress the mids quite considerably. If you can find donut foams for these, they might benefit from those more. To their merit though, the foams included are very durable and you can stretch them confidently when putting them on.
Same quality as the mids, I believe they’re not boosted. They’re just right. They sound natural but not very detailed. A little bit more detail and extension would’ve been nice.
This is where the EM3 really shines. Separation is better than any earbud I have tried. And the soundstage is really wide. It’s an out-of-the-head experience similar to open-back, full-size headphones. Because of this soundstage, these earbuds are really good for movies too. The Dolby Atmos technology really shines with these.
I can say that the EM3 is tuned more for the masses than it’s tuned for audiophile. As a result, you get a sound that is easily likeable by a lot of people, but may be less engaging for listeners who has more experience with other gear. On the other hand, it’s a fatigue-free sound that you can enjoy music with tirelessly for long hours. They’re very easy to drive but might benefit from bass boost from portable amps.
The EM3 is a very good value given it’s added mic feature and a likeable sound overall. Highly recommended for someone looking for a fatigue-free, reliable daily driver.
Happy listening every one! :)
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Joeng Zeon

New Head-Fier
Pros: Clear and enjoyable sound, good sound stage and separation, nice bass, comfortable fit
Cons: Loose fit
I love the openness and light weight of earbuds, unfortunately those earbuds I tried such as OMX95, MX375, were lack of bass and musicality. Then I found Fiio EM3 is under $10 and got good review, so I got it a shot.
EM3 is cheap, but they don't look cheap, better than MX375. Easy going design, no logo from beginning to end. Cable quality is as good as Sennheiser CX300. No problem to plug them in those devices with thick cases. I can tell the L and R easily even in the dark, thanks to its in-line remote on the left.
It has a vent in the back, on each side of buds. Once I cover the vents, the sound change into less bass, and the sound image goes strange. Same situation as I cover the open back of my HD700.
Sound quality
Momentum 2 is my usual headphone. When I switched to EM3, I didn't feel a big drop. EM3 deliver quite open sound with musicality. Wide sound stage and very good bass response. Very satisfied.Curiosity drove me to buy VE Monk+ as well. Monk+ sounded full in mids, gave me a bassy feeling in the beginning, and yet I found the taste of bass were different. Monk+ tended to show the upper bass, and EM3 would show more lower bass. It got benefit from that when I played the soundtrack of movie <Lucy> and <Sherlock Holmes>. Monk+ also sound narrower, most of energy concentrate around mid range, some times when the vocal came in, I was hard to move my attention to instruments.
(Comparison above used each own provided foam cover.)
can you compare to monk+? :)


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