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Fiio F1 Dynamic In-ear Monitors

Rating:
4/5,
  1. B9Scrambler
    FiiO F1: An Everyday Companion
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Mar 22, 2017
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Build - Comfort - Material Quality
    Cons - Sound Quality - Mic Performance
    Greetings Head-fi!
     
    Today we are going to checking out an exciting new entry to FiiO's expanding earphone lineup, the F1.
     
    FiiO really needs no introduction given that their audio equipment has grown synonymous with quality portable audio over the years. Last year they took a serious step into the headphone market with a couple fantastic bang-for-your-buck products in the form of the EM3 earbuds and EX1, which was more-or-less a lightly revised Dunu Titan 1. The new F1 continues FiiO's push into the entry level market, this time targeting sub-20 USD in-ears.
     
    Disclaimer:
     
    The F1 was provided free of charge by FiiO, but not necessarily for the purposes of a review. I was selected as one of a number of Head-fi'ers in a giveaway. As part of the description for their giveaway they noted that they would appreciate reviews, but they were not required. All comments and views within this review are my opinions and do not represent those of FiiO or any other entity.
     
    The F1 sells for 14.99 USD. You can check it out here on FiiO's official site; http://www.fiio.net/en/products/63
     
    I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
     
    Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
     
    Gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, an XDuoo X3 (w/ Rockbox update), a Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. A Shanling M1 was recently added to the crew. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1[i[ is a fantastic example of this with their grey filters installed.
     

     
    DSC00669.jpg       DSC00670.jpg       DSC00671.jpg
     

     
    Packaging and Accessories:
     
    The F1's packaging takes the basic concept laid out by the EM3 and both refines and expands upon it in a way that I personally find quite appealing. The shock-white background highlights the images of the F1's earpieces, name, and FiiO branding on the front. The sides give you a nice glimpse of the in-line remote/mic and the Dunu-esque 90 degree angled jack. On the rear you are provided lists of specifications, accessories, features, and a handy diagram showing off the remote's various functions.
     
    Sliding out the inner cardboard tray reveals the F1's earpieces and remote on display under a lightly frosted sheet of plastic. Lift that off and you find the foam the F1 is set within is coated with an almost felt-like finish. It's a nice touch. Lift a flap in the bottom half of the tray and you are treated to a spacious clam shell carrying case with a carbon fiber-like texture. Inside are the extra silicone tips. All-in-all the following accessories are included;
     
    - 4 sets of silicone eartips in s/m(x2)/l sizes
    - hard clam shell carrying case
    - permanently attached cable tie
     
    While you're not provided a silly number of accessories or anything out of the ordinary, everything oozes a level of quality rarely experienced at this price.
     

     
    DSC00672.jpg       DSC00674.jpg       DSC00679.jpg
     

     
    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
     
    The feeling of getting a quality product for you buck carries on once you get the F1 unpacked and in your hands. The squared off polycarbonate plastic housings are certainly interesting to examine with the angling and shape of the stem bringing to mind the 2015 Reddot award winning, 3rd generation Xiaomi Piston. I like that they left the plastic translucent, giving you a glimpse at the inner workings of the earphone.
     
    The F1's polyurethane cable is the real star of the show. It's thick and reinforced with threads that snake their way throughout. Strain relief is well-done at the beefy Dunu-inspired jack but absent at the y-split and leading into the housings. While I do consider this an issue, the cable feels durable enough for it to be merely a minor concern. FiiO advertises it's tangle resistance, and for good reason; this cable rarely crosses up. The built in cable strap, which you might recognize from Dunu earphones (noticing a pattern here?), helps significantly as well. Microphonics are a bit of an issue though. When worn cable-down I found the noise of the cable bumping and sliding against my jacket overly intrusive. While the F1 has a very nice chin cinch built in, it's effectiveness is restricted by the placement of the inline remote on the right side cable. Wear them cable up and the excellent chin cinch can slide to an effective position, drastically reducing cable noise.
     
    The F1 nails ergonomics and as a result is very comfortable despite the squared design. The nozzle exits at a logical angle, any edges are rounded off preventing uncomfortable hotspots, and weight is minimal. There's really nothing awkward or unusual in FiiO's design to highlight. It's simply a nice earphone to wear.
     
    Isolation is acceptable, on par with what you would expect from a dynamic driver earphone. A bit of outside noise bleeds in when walking around outside, but not enough to ruin the experience. If using them alongside your computer you can hear the keys clacking away in the background while typing. Voices are dulled to a murmur.
     
    The F1 is a well-designed earphone made from quality materials. Fit and finish is top notch, the cable is much better than pretty much anything you'll find at this price, microphonics notwithstanding, and comfort is also a strong point. Well done FiiO.
     

     
    DSC00685.jpg       DSC00686.jpg       DSC00688.jpg
     

     
    Mic Performance:
     
    This section really only makes an appearance in my reviews if there is something particularly noteworthy. I found the F1's inline remote to be exceptionally well constructed and quite premium feeling, experiencing none of the rattling issues others noted. I had no issues selecting the right button, and ergonomics once again felt spot on.
     
    While call quality alone was fine for those on the receiving end, there was a not-so-minor problem that made the F1 less than desirable for phone usage. For whatever reason it picked up and magnified the sound of the cable touching my cheek, making it near impossible for callers to hear anything else unless I held the cable away from my face.
     
    I was speaking with my wife while driving and she questioned what I was doing that was so noisy. That was a pretty confusing question considering I was sitting still, driving down a straight, flat, smooth stretch of road; which is what I told her. She said she thought I was outside scraping ice off the window of my car. Huh.
     
    Hopefully this is a one-off problem confined to my particular F1. Still worth noting though.
     
    Specifications:
     
    Driver: 9.2mm dynamic
    Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20KHz
    Sensitivity: 97dB
    Impedance: 16 ohms
     
    I found the F1 easy enough to drive from any source, however, given their reliance on high volume for the best performance a more powerful source is recommended.
     

     
    DSC00682.jpg       DSC00691.jpg       DSC00692.jpg
     

     
    Sound:
     
    I am thankful to have access to a variety of earphones spanning a wide range of price, quality, and signature. Despite this, I find myself spending most of my time listening to hyper-budget gear that competes directly with the F1 which simply comes across as decent sounding. Not good, not bad, just decent.
     
    I found the F1 characterized by a somewhat dry mid-focused, presentation that's a touch mid-bassy with recessed treble. It rarely comes across as musical or inviting, until you crank the volume which for low-volume listeners like myself is a pretty disappointing characteristic. At low volumes the listening experience is quite dull. Treble has little presence and no sparkle to speak off. Their mid-range is thick and muffled. Bass extension lacks reach and speed, with limited texture.
     
    When using them outside of the house and in noisy environments where you must raise the volume to drown out exterior noise, the F1 makes a stronger case for itself. While still recessed and touch on the dull side, it's treble shows a hint of shimmer. It's midrange loses some of the muffled presentation. Detail is still smoothed over too much for my preferences though. Bass sees the most improvement developing a nice low end rumble that keeps up with the mid-bass punch. Decay comes across sluggish for quicker tracks regardless of volume, leading to the F1 getting crossed up on more complicated tracks.
     
    Despite them lacking air in the upper ranges, the F1 maintains a fairly open presentation behind the forward mid-range that avoids coming across congested. This really benefits them on tracks like Run For You Life from Big Grams. Skylar Grey from Phantogram mostly sounds amazing on this track.
     
    For the most part I found the F1 to an underwhelming listen that really only excels at volumes I'm not comfortable listening to for any length of time. The smoothed over detail and relaxed treble presentation means that regardless of volume they are quite non-fatiguing, a nice quality to have when listening to music on the move.
     
    DSC00838.jpg
    MEMT X5, FiiO EM3, FiiO F1, Xiaomi Piston 3rd Gen
     
    Select Comparisons:
     
    FiiO EM3 (9.95 USD): The EM3 is a pretty awesome little earbud and a fitting comparison to the F1 as they share a similar signature. That said, the EM3 comes across to me as the better sounding product, though you give up isolation, build quality, and accessories to get it.
     
    The EM3's treble is more forward and contains the sparkle missing with the F1. It's mid-range is pulled back in comparison, but is clearer and more detailed. Bass lack the extension of that found on the F1, but is similar overall in punch and texture.
     
    Xiaomi Piston 3 (14.99 USD): Xiaomi's 3rd generation of the Piston series built on the success of the iconic Piston 2 with a more ergonomic design and balanced signature. They sell for the same price as the F1, they share design elements, and they offer a similar feature set. It's only natural to pit these two against each other.
     
    When it comes to the build of each respective earphones housings, Xiaomi's combination of gunmetal aluminum and black plastic looks and feels more premium than FiiO's monochromatic housings. Fit and finish is much better on the Piston as well with each part fitting together flushly without any gaps or edges. It's pretty impressive actually. Both cables are microphonic, but FiiO's exudes a level of quality and durability sorely missing from the Piston's braided/rubber combo.
     
    Where the F1's sound quality is simply acceptable, suffering from the previously outlined issues, the Piston's sound quality is excellent. It's smoother and more refined and there is some sparkle to it's treble at any volume, though not enough to be fatiguing. I found the Piston just as easy to listen to over long periods. While the Piston's mid-range isn't as forward it's lacks the stuffiness heard in the F1. Bass on the Piston as has a better balance of mid- and sub-bass, with greater extension and control. Detail retrieval and separation on the F1 falls well short of what the Piston is capable of presenting.
     
    MEMT X5 (~20.00 USD): The MEMT X5 seems to be a popular pick at the moment. While slightly more expensive than the F1, that money is well spent if sound quality is of primary concern though I'd still take the Piston's similarly detailed but more balanced sound.
     
    Build on the two is on par, with the X5's cable being even more annoyingly microphonic while also adding in some additional stiffness. The lack of a chin cinch really hurts when compared to the F1. The jack is similar to the F1's, but more compact and with a metal sheath to add some style and potential durability. The X5's inline mic has only one button vs. the three found on the F1, but it doesn't pick up noise to the same extent and works well on phone calls. Fit and finish on both earphones is just okay. You can clearly see and feel each individual piece that composes each respective earphone's ear pieces. Neither is put together with the level of detail and tolerance of the Piston.
     
    While the X5 has a more generic and consumer friendly v-shaped signature, it's clarity and detail is a notable step up from the F1. The level of detail present in the X5 really highlights the F1's muddiness. it sounds significantly more open, on par with the Piston. If forward mids are your thing though, the F1 would still be the better choice. I found the X5's mid-range recessed a little too much, and as a result vocals have a tendency to be overshadowed by mid-bass. Speaking of bass, the X5's is monstrous compared to the F1, and extension is much better. It can be a little overpowering, but for the most part is better controlled and significantly more punchy than what the F1 outputs.
     

     
    DSC00431.jpg       DSC00694.jpg       DSC00441.jpg
    Earphone stand provided courtesy of ​
    AuralLife

     
    Final Thoughts:
     
    If you're looking for an earphone to run with you during your everyday life tasks, the F1 is near perfect. They are inexpensive, very comfortable and their build quality far exceeds what you expect to see at their low cost. The cable in particular is outstanding if you can look past the microphonics. It's well relieved and the strong tangle resistance and lack of memory works wonders in keeping them neat in your pocket should you opt not to use the included case. On top of that, the built in cable wrap pretty much guarantees you'll never have to worry about a tangled cable.
     
    If strong audio performance is priority on your list of desirable features, other options should be up for consideration. The F1's dry, mid-forward signature lacks musicality and unfortunately makes for a somewhat dull and uninviting experience. It's works very well with podcasts and speech-focused media though.
     
    In the end, the F1 has been a mix of highs and lows for me. While their sound quality fails to impress, pretty much everything else is top notch which in itself makes them worth a look. However, if you don't need the isolation and want to stay within the FiiO family, the EM3 earbud is a respectable choice. Toss the F1's cable setup on those and you've got yourself one heck of a budget product *hint hint, nudge nudge, FiiO*.
     
    Thanks for reading!
     
    - B9Scrambler
     
    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
     
    Test Songs:
     
    Aesop Rock - Saturn Missles
    BT - The Antikythera Mechanism
    Big Grams - Fell in the Sun
    Big Grams - Run For Your Life
    Daft Punk - Touch
    Gramatik - Bluestep (Album Version)
    Incubus - 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
    Infected Mushroom - Deeply Disturbed
    Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
    Jessie J - Bang Bang
    Kiesza - Hideaway
    Killer Mike - "Reagan"
    King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black
    Pink Floyd - Money
    Skindred - Death to all Spies
    Supertramp - Rudy
    The Prodigy - Get Your Fight On
    Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack
      TrollDragon likes this.
    1. TrollDragon
      Excellent review @B9Scrambler.

      I received a pair as well in the giveaway and am less impressed than you were with the F1's. I don't own a collection of similar priced IEM's so it is good to read how the F1 stacks up against the more popular budget units.
      TrollDragon, Mar 22, 2017
    2. B9Scrambler
      Thanks TrollDragon! I think I was more tolerant than impressed though, haha. I could live with the noisy cable and just ignore using the mic, but they sound so uninspired at anything but stupidly high volumes. They would be the kind of earphone I keep on me for general use or in my car as backup (which was pretty much the case for the last three months), simply because the sound is good enough (barely), they are so well-built, and they are very comfortable. From purely the perspective of sound quality, they'd get a wide pass from me.
      B9Scrambler, Mar 22, 2017
  2. Brooko
    FiiO F1 – Sharp Price, Smooth Sound
    Written by Brooko
    Published Feb 19, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Value, build quality, fit, comfort, carry case, balanced and smooth SQ, good vocals
    Cons - Not the biggest fan of the cinch, lower treble is rolled off
    FiiOF132.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

    Every so often as a reviewer you get a surprise – something not quite expected. Sometimes its disappointment – when a much hyped new product simply doesn't live up to its billing. Other times its quiet wonder and amazement – especially when something arrives that you thought would be just another product – and it turns out to be something quite special. When Sunny approached me about reviewing their F1 and F3 IEMs, my initial reaction was “OK its FiiO but I really don't have time to do an in-depth on another budget offering”. I'm glad it was FiiO because I would have been tempted to say no (my external work-load has been very heavy lately) to another company. But FiiO have supported my reviewing since day 1. I simply don't turn them away. This is one of those times when the voyage of discovery was also one of delight.

    ABOUT FiiO
    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the FiiO Electronics Company. If you don’t, here’s a very short summary.

    FiiO was first founded in 2007. Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”. But FiiO spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopted our ideas, and grew their product range. That product range now includes some extremely proficient DAPs, DACs, amps, and recently some earphones and IEMs.

    FiiO’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.

    DISCLAIMER
    The F1 IEM was provided to me free of charge or obligation as a review sample. I thank FiiO for their generosity. I own and have paid for the E7, E9, E11, E11K, X1, and X5 in the past. I am not otherwise affiliated with FiiO in any way, nor do I make any financial gain from my contributions, and this is my subjective opinion of the FiiO F1 IEM.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
    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, 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 (although I am spending more and more time with a pair of FiiL Diva lately). 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 this review – I've used the FiiO F1 out of most sources I have around me – from the higher end X5iii and X7 to the more budget X1ii. For the majority of the review though, I've simply used the X1ii and my iPhone SE, as its likely to be the common smart-phone and lower end DAPs which are paired with the F1. I haven't used extra amping – as during my testing (we'll cover that later), I didn't find they needed or even benefited from additional amping. In the time I have spent with the F1, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (burn-in), but am aware that I am becoming more used to the signature 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.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    The FiiO F1 arrived in a compact white retail box measuring 97 x 168 x 42mm. The box is a simple but elegant white, with a picture of the F1 on the front cover, and specifications and features on the rear.
    FiiOF101.jpg FiiOF102.jpg FiiOF103.jpg

    Front of the retail case

    Rear of the retail case

    In profile


    Opening the box reveals a pull out tab, and this slides out the inner box, protected by a frosted plastic cover. Under this, nestled in a foam cut-out is the FiiO F1. Adjacent to the foam holder is an internal box which reveals a really nice carry case (containing the tip selection). Also included is a warranty document.
    FiiOF104.jpg FiiOF105.jpg FiiOF106.jpg

    Inner sleeve

    First look at the F1

    F1 and accessories


    The carry case is small, zippered, and semi-hard covered. It measures approx 75 x 85 x 35mm and is an ideal size for portable use. The outside shell is quite rigid and has an attractive carbon fibre pattern on top and bottom. Inside is a simply cloth internal covering with a mesh pocket. The quality and protection though is extremely good – I wish I had a dozen of these!
    FiiOF107.jpg FiiOF108.jpg FiiOF109.jpg

    Tips and case

    The (IMO) excellent case

    Nice fit and still compact


    The tip selection is simple, but remember we are talking about an IEM I've already seen on line priced between $15-$20. You get 4 pairs of silicone tips, and that’s pretty much it – but at this price point I really wouldn't expect anything else – especially considering the quality of the case.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From FiiO)


    FiiO F1
    Cost
    Approx USD 15-20.00
    Type
    Single dynamic inner ear monitor
    Driver Type
    Dynamic 9.2mm
    Frequency Range
    20Hz – 20 kHz
    Impedance
    16 ohms
    Sensitivity
    97 dB / mW
    Jack
    3.5mm gold plated – right angled
    Cable
    1.3m fixed OFC with Polyurethane outer coating
    Weight
    18.6g
    IEM shell
    Industrial grade polycarbonate



    FREQUENCY GRAPH
    The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.

    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.
    FiiOF1Freq.png

    What I’m hearing from the FiiO F1:


    1. Reasonably natural sounding mid-bass with a slight hump, and pretty good extension (some natural roll-off into sub-bass). Sub-bass is reasonably robust, but still balanced with the rest of the overall signature
    2. Relatively flattish lower mid-range, maybe the slightest recession or distance in vocals, but it is minor, and adds to the impression of staging size
    3. Upper mid-range has a rise in the presence area (2 kHz) and gives a clear and clean vocal presence. It is around 10dB above the fundamental range at 1 kHz.
    4. Lower treble is present but subdued compared to upper mid-range. Lower treble rolls off early and there is not a lot of presence from about 7 kHz onward.
    5. Upper treble is quite rolled off
    6. Overall it is a very slightly V shaped monitor with shallow peaks in the sub-bass and upper mid-range areas. It does feel more balanced than anything though – and the overall impression is quite vocal / mid-range oriented, and very smooth.

    One thing to note is the extremely good matching of left and right channels. This is amazing from a $20 monitor! Well done FiiO.

    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
    External
    FiiOF110.jpg FiiOF111.jpg FiiOF112.jpg

    Inner face and angle of the nozzle

    Nozzles and vent

    From the rear


    The FiiO F1 body is two piece industrial grade polycarbonate (very hard plastic) which is squarish in shape with rounded corners. The plastic is very slightly translucent. The body is pretty small too – just 13mm across at it's widest point with a depth of about 12mm.. it looks kind of blockish, but is surprisingly comfortable to wear. The internal surfaces are pretty well rounded. If worn cable down, the nozzle extends slightly forward. It is approx 6-7mm in length with a generous lip (great for tips) and approx 5mm in diameter. There is a small dynamic driver vent adjacent to the nozzle exit. There is an approx 10mm arm which runs perpendicular to the IEM body – and houses the cable exit. This is capped with a rubber strain relief. There are L/R markings on the strain relief – but they are very difficult to see. The easiest way to remember left from right is that the control unit sits on the right hand side of the cable.

    The cable
    The cable is permanently fixed to the FiiO F1. It is OFC with a Polyurethane outer coating. The cable is an attractive black with very thin red highlighting. It is also very smooth, very supple, and exhibits reasonably low microphonics. FiiO chose the coating because it is lightweight, durable, and highly elastic. As soon as I saw the cable – my immediate thought was “Dunu” - more on this in a second.
    FiiOF113.jpg FiiOF114.jpg FiiOF115.jpg

    Very faint L/R marking

    Very good strain relief

    The 3 button remote/mic


    The cable has an in-line microphone and control unit extending from the right ear-piece approx 125mm from the cable exit. This unit hangs just under my jaw when worn over ear (so ideal height for the mic for me). The three button control unit has a central button for track controls (allowing play/pause (one push), next track (two pushes), and previous track (three pushes). The other two buttons are volume control buttons. Unfortunately they do not work with my iPhone, but they do work perfectly with my wife's Android Galaxy (S3 – she's an old fashioned girl) – and also with FiiO's newer DAPs – the X1ii and X5iii (they surprisingly won't on the X7). The microphone is surprisingly good quality – I had no issues with phone calls or activating Siri when using my iPhone.
    FiiOF116.jpg FiiOF117.jpg FiiOF118.jpg

    The cinch (not a big fan)

    Y-split

    Looks familiar? Dunu style jack and cable tie


    The Y split is located around half way down my chest, and just above this is the small cinch. Its really good for FiiO to include this – but they've gone with one which is permanently fixed on one side, but detachable on the other. It's not a bad design – allowing you to cinch above or below the mic/control unit. But because of the detachable side, it doesn't stay attached – the slightest pull and it releases. The first thing I do following the end of the review is going to be fixing it permanently to the other side of the cable as well. There is no strain relief on the y-split, but given the quality of the cable, the cost of the IEMs and the fact that the y-split is a semi-rigid rubber, I think omitting relief isn't a deal breaker.

    The cable terminates at a 4 pole right angled gold plated 3.5mm jack with very good strain relief. The jack casing is relatively smart-phone case friendly (for my case anyway). Just above the jack – and able to be slid up or down the cable is a very familiar rubber cable tie. When not in use it sits unobtrusively close to the plug (I never notice it). When you’ve finished listening to the F1, simply carefully coil the cable and use the tie. Simple, elegant, brilliant.

    So lets address the “elephant in the room”. The cable, the jack and especially the cable tie are all extremely familiar to me. Why? Because they are based on Dunu's designs – so I'd suggest they've had a big hand in the overall design of the F1 (which is a good thing).
    FiiOF119.jpg
    Internals
    FiiO makes special mention of this in their documentation, so I thought I should too. The driver utilises an ultra-lightweight polyester diaphragm – which FiiO chose because of its “relaxed tonality” which they've observed “works well with modern pop music”. Paired with this is a copper clad aluminium voice coil which has very good detail retrieval. Combined, the two are supposed to deliver a detailed, but fatigue free listening experience.


    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. I initially tried the included large silicone tips, and I was unable to maintain a constant seal (my difficult ears). I then switched to my after-market tips.
    FiiOF120.jpg FiiOF121.jpg FiiOF122.jpg

    Spinfit and Ostry tips

    Crystal foam and Trinity Kombi (Sony Isolation)

    Shure Olive and Spiral Dot


    The FiiO F1 easily fits most standard tip choices including Ostry tuning tips, Spin-fits, Spiral Dots, Comply foams and Sony Isolation / Trinity Kombi tips. I have a specially stretched pair of Shure Olives which tend to fit most earphones I'm reviewing, give me excellent comfort and seal – so I used them for the review.

    I think FiiO probably designed these to be worn cable down (hence the 45 degree forward angled nozzle), but I was able to successfully wear them “cable over ear”, and the comfort was still pretty good with the Shure Olives. There was one slightly hard edge – but with a little management (fiddling) this soon disappeared. The Fi is one of those IEMs which because of its size tends to disappear when worn. They sit well within my outer ear and are easy to sleep in.
    FiiOF126.jpg

    Isolation with the F1 is about average for me and do a good job of passive isolation. However I wouldn't be using these for long haul transport.

    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the FiiO F1. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii + E17K as source, and my Shure Olive tips. The reason I chose to go with the X3ii and E17K is simply because I know the combo so well.

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X1ii was around 20 which was giving me an average SPL around 65-70 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

    Relativities

    1. Sub-bass – generally reasonably well extended, with normal minor roll-off associated with most dynamic drivers. The sub-bass is a little more emphasised than mid-bass and the curve peaks around the 50Hz mark. Relative to the rest of the freq range, sub-bass is elevated above mid-bass and lower mid-range, and has roughly equal SPL as upper mid-range. There is sufficient rumble present to represent lower notes well – but it doesn’t feel overly muddy or too bassy.
    2. Mid-bass – still has a mild hump (necessary to sound natural) but is slightly recessed against sub-bass, and slightly elevated compared to lower mid-range. It is in effect a very gentle mid-bass bump, but also nicely distributed. The result is a very natural sounding bass response – and there is no noticeable bleed into the mid-range. Both mid and sub-bass are elevated compared to lower mid-range.
    3. Lower mid-range – recessed compared to bass and upper mid-range. There is a slight sense of distance with male vocals – more-so than with female vocals. I have found myself upping the volume slightly – particularly with male dominated rock tracks. Pearl Jam actually sounded pretty good – although Eddie’s vocals could have used just a little more richness or fullness.
    4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a reasonably significant rise from lower mid-range to the peak at about 2 kHz. The result is a clean and clear vocal range, with good presence to lend a very good sense of euphony to female vocals. The upper mid-range on the F1 is one of the best qualities of this IEM for my particular tastes. Even though the rise at 2kHz is about 10dB above the fundamental lower mid-range, it does not sound too strident – mainly due to the comparatively recessed lower treble.
    5. Lower treble – present through to about 6-7 kHz and then drops away quite dramatically. This leaves a quite mid-forward but smooth overall signature. The only issue I have with the F1 for my tastes is that they are quite subdued, and could use a little bump (IMO) at around 6-7 kHz. Cymbals are still present – but subdued, and there is not a lot of air, or great sense of decay.
    6. Upper treble – not really present .

    Resolution / Detail / Clarity

    1. Reasonable with micro detail, and still has ability to resolve many finer details well, but they are often subdued.
    2. Cymbal hits have reasonable initial presence, but decay is somewhat lost due to the recession of the upper treble (especially around the 7 kHz mark).
    3. A relative clean and clear monitor with average resolution but overall portrayal is decidedly on the smooth and warm side (mainly through lack of lower treble than over-done bass).

    Sound-stage, Imaging

    1. Directional queues are decent, and presentation of stage is just on the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so good sense of width and depth.
    2. Spherically presented sound-stage with above average impression of overall depth
    3. Absolutely compelling sense of immersion with the applause section of “Dante's Prayer” – and sounded very natural. “Let it Rain” was next up and because of the lack of lower treble emphasis, there was no sense of sibilance. I thoroughly enjoyed the F1 with Amanda Marshall’s album – and it was the smooth easy-going signature which really ticked my boxes here.

    Strengths

    1. Good overall bass response and the sub-bass is tastefully done without dominating. I think FiiO’s target range (younger generation modern music lovers) will love the default tuning.
    2. Decent (if a little distant) with male vocals, better with female vocals, lending a slight air of euphony and sweetness.
    3. Overall smooth and effortless with good vocal presence. Will suit those who like their music presentation with a warm, rich and smooth overall presentation.
    4. People who like to listen a little louder may find the F1 ideal – without raising too much listening fatigue.

    Weaknesses

    1. Lower treble is under-done a little, and anyone looking for a very detailed listening experience may need to look elsewhere. Cymbals in particular lose their natural decay.
    2. Vocal fundamentals can tend to sound a little recessed – mainly with some male / lower mid-range oriented music
    3. Not the best at low volumes – detail tends to get a little lost.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
    The FiiO F1 with its relatively low impedance and higher sensitivity is extremely easy to run straight out of your average source. With the FiiO X1ii I tended to stay around 20-25/100 depending on the track recording quality. With my iPhone SE – this translated to 25-30% volume.
    FiiOF123.jpg FiiOF124.jpg FiiOF125.jpg

    Great with my iPhone SE (but no vol control)

    Really good with FiiO's X1ii - and controls work fully

    No real amplification improvements to these ears


    I tried the F1 with the E17K, and there was no increase in dynamic presentation or elevation of detail to my older and somewhat insensitive ears. Even using DAPs with a lot more power (X7, X5iii, Cayin i5) didn’t really make a huge noticeable difference. So I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the F1 doesn’t need, nor benefits from, any additional amplification.

    EQUALISATION
    You've may have guessed at what I think could change on the FiiO F1 (at least for my tastes). Yep – elevation in the lower and upper treble. No sense in being too shy with this one, so using the EQ on the X1ii, I raised both the 8k and 16k sliders by 6dB and for my preferences this was an improvement overall. After that it was a matter of simply tweaking the 400k, 1k and 3k sliders by small degrees to get the overall vocal presentation to my liking. The good news is that there is definitely enough lower treble presence to coax some extra life via EQ.

    COMPARISONS
    This is not a price point I've really got a lot of experience with, so please excuse my lack of popular comparative IEMs. I have to work with what I have though – so for this comparison it is FiiO's own F3, RockJaw's Arcana 2 and Brainwavz's Jive and XF200.

    As always, I first volume matched with a 1 kHz test tone and SPL meter. I had a fast switch set-up in place with a splitter and volume attenuator for the volume matching. This section is very subjective, as it is sighted, the change between IEMs took about 5 seconds, and I knew exactly which one I was listening to. But it is my honest thoughts on where the F1 sits for my own personal tastes. Source used was the E17K / X3ii combo – with no EQ (simply because it is still the source I know best).

    FiiO F1 ($15) vs FiiO F3 ($25)
    FiiOF1vsF3.png FiiOF127.jpg

    Frequency response

    F1 vs F3


    Both have similar builds, fit, and accessories – with the main difference being the changeable face-plates and inclusion of the ear-hooks. For me the F3 fits a little better because of the slightly smoother internal face.

    Sonically both are on the slightly V shaped side of neutral with warmish sounding bass which is more centred toward sun-bass than mid-bass. The F1 has more of an upper mid-range peak which really helps vocals stand out. But after that it drops off pretty sharply. The F3 has less mid-range dominance, and more lower treble presence. Both are really good earphones for the price. For my personal preference the F3 is worth the extra outlay.

    FiiO F1 ($15) vs Brainwavz Jive ($28)
    FiiOF1vsJive.png FiiOF128.jpg

    Frequency response

    F1 vs Jive


    The Jive wins on overall build quality – but I like the cable on the F1 a lot more. Accessories are about even. Fit is good on both – but the Jive's diminutive size makes them slightly more comfortable.

    Sonically the Jive is very V shaped comparatively – with a lot more sub-bass, a lot more treble extension, but also a quite comparatively recessed lower mid-range. If you were looking at the strengths of each, you'd be saying fun and lively vs clear and smooth. Personally I preferred the more balanced approach of the F1.

    FiiO F1 ($15) vs Brainwavz XF200 ($25)
    FiiOF1vsXF200.png FiiOF129.jpg
    Frequency responseF1 vs XF200


    The XF200 is technically more of a sports earphone – but they sit close to the same price range (so why not). The build, fit and ergonomics are all subjectively better on the F1. The XF200 can appear slightly blocky (I like the naturally formed ear-loops though). The F1 just feels sturdier though, and once again the FiiO (Dunu) cable is an improvement.

    Sonically the XF200 is quite similar to the Jive. More of a V shape with extra sub-bass, comparatively recessed mid-range, and more emphasis on the upper mids and lower treble. The F1 is again smoother and more balanced – its just a bit shy on the lower treble. Again my preference here would be the FiiO.

    FiiO F1 ($15) vs RockJaw Arcana V2 ($40)
    FiiOF1vsArcana.png FiiOF130.jpg

    Frequency response

    F1 vs Arcana


    I chose this one simply because the Arcana V2 impressed me when I first heard it. Like the FiiO it was a warm and smooth sounding earphone – but with a good sense of lower treble detail.

    Build and fit are pretty good on both – but again the FiiO/Dunu cable stands apart. Overall on build, I'd give the slight nod to the F1. Accessories go to the Rockjaw (tips) but to the F1 for its case.

    The Arcana still is a warm and lively earphone, and although I don't usually gravitate to this type of signature, there is something about the mid-range which can still captivate. That sub-bass is still a bit over the top though and I think that is where FiiO got it right with the F1. The bass has enough oomph to satisfy, without over-doing it, and then having to over compensate. Once again the F1 is my preference (but I wish they had just a little more presence around 6-7 kHz)

    FiiO F1 - SUMMARY

    Its not often I get to review something in this price range, and when I do it can sometimes be a pleasant surprise at how good audio quality can get for the price of a decent cup of coffee and a fresh baked snack.

    The F1 has its good points and its not so good. Build is primarily plastic, but they are light-weight, and appear to be reasonably sturdy. The cable is the stand-out – good overall quality, and when you pair that with the case, there is more on the positive side of the slate than the negative. Fit is pretty good. Because of the angle of the nozzles (I suspect they are more for wearing cable down), it's not 100% comfortable – but good enough over-ear for causal use.

    Sonically the F1 has good channel matching, is relatively well balanced, very clear through the vocals, and has nice cohesion between lower and upper mid-range. Its weakness is the roll-off in both lower and upper treble. This is clearly intentional and results in a smooth but clear IEM which will no doubt appeal to many people.

    If I was going purely on build and sound, then the F1 would be a nice 3/5 in the budget stakes. But when you factor in the low price of $15 (how do they do it?), it becomes a 100% easy recommendation. I really enjoyed it. Well done FiiO. Recommended as a budget option.

    Once again thanks to FiiO for sending me an evaluation sample.


    FiiOF131.jpg
  3. Zelda
    FiiO F1 Review
    Written by Zelda
    Published Feb 11, 2017
    4.0/5,
    REVIEW: F3
     
    For full review on F1 & F3 read here:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/834924/review-fiio-f1-f3-new-budget-fi-iems
     

     
    Website: LINK
     
    Product link: LINK
     
     
     
    Specifications:
     
     
    F1
     
    Driver Type: Dynamic 9.2mm
    Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz
    Sensitivity: 97dB
    Impedance: 16Ω
    Plug: 3.5mm L-shaped gold-plated stereo jack (CTIA standard)
    Cable length: 1.2m
    Weight: 19.8g
     
     
     
     
    Price (MSRP): U$D 15
     
     
     
    Accessories
     
    1. 3 pairs of eartips (S/M/L)
    2. 1 case
    3. 1 pair of earguides (F3 only)
    4. 3 pairs of replaceable covers in red, blue and black (F3 only)
     

     
     
     
     
    Design
     
    Design on both F1 and F3 is practically the same for shell material, cable and plug. They only differ in their shape, being the F1 meant for cable down fit and F3 for over-ear. Build quality is very solid for the low price and the design is well thought. The housings are made of semi-translucent polycarbonate plastic type material with looks solid enough and is also very lightweight. The finish is very smooth and very well rounded as well. Nozzle is of standard length and width. Strain relief at the shells is lacking a bit.
    As an extra, the F3 features replaceable cover in 3 colors; a cool feature, and makes it easier to differentiate between R and L sides.
    The cable is one of the advantages on both F1 and F3 models. It is thick, but not too much, and very soft and easy to handle. You can see the results of the Dunu & Fiio partnership from the previous EX1 model in these two new ones, having a very good cable quality and obviously including the once “Dunu patented” attached cable wrap. The plug is similar (if not identical) to the Fiio EX1 and the Dunu Titan and other series, very sturdy and well relieved. The 3-button in-line control is placed on the right side, made of aluminum alloy. The only part that might be missing should be the y-split, which is a bit small and lacks a proper relief, nothing to complain about for the low budget price though.
     
    Fit is very easy on both F1 and F3. The shells on the F1 adopts a 45º angled design and while it’s meant for cable down wear it can be easily used over-ear by switching the sides. On the other hand, while the F3 is larger and more rounded, it’s meant for over-ear configuration, but can also be used in a cable-down fit. Both are quite comfortable with a decent level of isolation with the included eartips, however I’ve the F3 model to be the more ergonomic and comfortable one for daily use. The F1 fit is a bit tighter despite having smaller housings.
     
     
     

     

     

     

     
     

     
     
     
     
    The Sound
     
     
    F1
     
    For a low budget IEM, the F1 has a more unique tuning. The F1 is very warm, a bit sweet and very relaxing without being too laid-back or boring. Forward in its presentation and a bit more mid-focused.
     
    Bass has decent impact and speed but it is small quantity-wise and soft in character, gently rolling off passed down the mid-bass region. Punchy but not particularly tight, average in resolution, although well controlled and not muddy thanks to the less mid-bass focus. Depth is average but fairly smooth and well-rounded for most genres, just not for bassheads by any means.
     
    Mids are slightly sweet and very smooth with good texture on the vocal part being a little more forward. Still shows good sense of space and balances well with the low end that gives a fuller and warmer overall tone. The F1 does give up a bit in terms of detail and clarity for a more relaxed and laid-back midrange presentation.
     
    The treble is pleasant, and again very smooth and non-offensive at all. More laid back in comparison to the rest of the frequencies and free of any hint of sibilance in expense of sounding a bit dark and off and also lacks energy and crunch for upper instruments. Detail is about average and the lack of air contributes in making the F1 to sound more congested and closed. The limited extension and forward midrange also give a more narrow stage effect. For the $15 price it’s still hard to dislike especially for its more relaxed and easygoing presentation.
     
     
     
    Value
     
    There’s not much to add about these new Fiio earphones. They’re both solid options for their price with a solid construction, friendly design and easy going sound presentation. For more accuracy and control there are some more expensive products going around, and a few hidden gems that can still triumph over the F1 and F3 in pure sound quality, however, taken as a whole package they both have some advantages.
     
    Thanks again to Fiio for providing both F1 and F3 models for the review.
  4. genclaymore
    Better then what i thought it would be.
    Written by genclaymore
    Published Feb 10, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Good isolation,Comforty, control pod,not harsh
    Cons - L& R markers hard to see,bad location for the controls.
    IMG_0008.jpg IMG_0009.jpg
     
     
     
     
    This review is going to be about the Fiio F1 IEM, which is my second IEM that I have used that is wired. My first being the Nuforce HEM 2. The F1's are small and does not stick out that much unlike the HEM2 and feels more comfortable in my ear because of that. As the HEM 2 is against the rear of my ear while touching the it, pictures explain it better.
     
    F1.jpg Hem2.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Usually the IEM's have markings on them to tell you which side go into which ear. Which I realize I had it on wrong as the Right side had the control pod, The R on the casing was hard to see and can be easy missed. Either putting it on the casing brighter or putting it on the cable would had made it more easier even go as far as putting red and white colors on the bottom of it would have also helped. The cabling feels really good, the only minor thing is the cable while is good it can not be removed but that not really a deal breaker at the price these IEM's are going for.
     
    Fiio packs the F1 inside a soft foam insert, with a small carrying case next to it, which also where the other size ear-tips are located. They come in Small, Medium and large, they felt very comfortable in my ears while being made from plastic. They fit really well inside my ear's including staying on the IEM when i remove the Fiio F1, which was a big problem for me on the HEM 2 where the tips ended up coming off the IEMs. Lucky the they stay on the F1's which makes me very happy.
    IMG_0010.jpg IMG_0011.jpg
     
     
     
     
    When you connect the Fiio F1 to a smart phone the volume control box can be used to raise or lower the volume by pressing the + and – buttons which are on the outer edge's, and accept calls when you press the middle button between the volume buttons, that same button also pause and resume the songs when you press it normally. The mic is also located inside the same spot. I didn't have issues pressing the buttons with my fat fingers and I did not make a mistaking the hit buttons.
    IMG_0012.jpg
     
     
    Setup
     
    For the source I will be using an LG leon smart phone, The Fiio F1 and the Nuforce HEM 2 with the mobile cable will be compared to each other.
     
     
    IMG_0013.jpg
     
     
     
    Fiio F1 EM
    It sounds really good even from my smart phone, I did not have any issues with it. Even when I was moving around they did not come out of my ears. I find the highs to be very smooth, no brightness any where, with very good details. Lows have very nice impact that is not too much nor one noted. Voices sound as you are in the front row as they are on stage. Sounds like the audio is outside of your head with very good imaging, nice separation as I have no problems hearing the different instruments and the different singers in the songs, including the location.
     
     
    Nuforce HEM 2 IEM
    In comparison to the F1 the audio to be more detailed, You could hear every thing a lot more the exact way it sound including being clear. Some songs didn’t work out with it as they was too bright, while others had a bit of brightness. This wasn't an issue on the Fiio F1 at all. The voice performance was very good as the singer came off as being directly In front as if there in your face, as they are talking into your forehead or above your eyes which is creepy. Which why I like the way it sound on the F1 no creepiness added.
     
    But the Bass and drums was very accurate with the bass hitting a very tinny bit hard. Over all sounded very neutral to me. The sound was also outside of my head like the F1 was. But the sound imaging was small which I found the F1 to do a better job at. The separation was just as good as the F1.
     
    Conclusion
    The Fiio F1 is much more comfortable to my ears over the HEM2 when using the Comfy ear tip’s, even when the plastic ones are used since they no longer stay on the HEM2 and slips off the IEMs. The ear tips on the F1 doesn’t pop out your ear like the HEM 2’s does. The isolation on the F1 is much better then it is on the HEM 2, even the comfit tips doesn’t isolate that well for me on the HEM2’s. While being uncomfortable plus after awhile the memory foam tips makes my ears hurt.
     
    I still enjoyed the HEM2’s but honestly I enjoy the Fiio F1’s much more due to it’s sound signature in compared to the HEM2’s Neutral and more detailed sound signature and vocal performance which I disliked. The Fiio F1 let me sit back and enjoy my music, where the HEM2 doesn’t do that.
     
    The Fiio F1’s control box was better design and gives you more options. All the mobile cable does for the HEM2 is stop and play the songs, There's no volume control or call answering which makes the cable useless for smart phone usage, might as well not even include the cable.
     
     
    The low’s on the Fiio F1’s was very good to me with the impact to them, which I loved, I never used Iem’s that had this much of a bass, even my the HEM2 didn’t have this kind of a bass. Music was much more enjoyable then it was on the HEM2 as performed like it would do good in monitoring for song producing.
     
     
    Over all both the F1 did a very good job in my songs, I ended up liking it more then the Nuforce HEM2’s to the point that the Nuforce’s will be sitting in my closet. With Fiio F1’s taking over the helm.
  5. ryanjsoo
    Fiio F1 Review – New Budget Benchmark?
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Feb 9, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Comfort, Isolation, Build & cable, Remote, Smooth sound, Relatively linear tuning, Nice treble, Integrated cable strap
    Cons - Slow bass gets lost, Perhaps too laid-back, Remote buttons rattle in housing
    Introduction –

    Fiio make some really great players and amps, however their only in-house designed earbud so far is the EM3; as many know, their EX1 was a recabled and more affordable Dunu Titan 1. So before listening to the F1, I was essentially expecting an in ear variation of the EM3. But upon testing, I was actually quite surprised by the F1 and couldn’t be happier that I was; while it does carry the darker Fiio house sound, it is still considerably clearer than the EM3 with foams and also more refined.

    [​IMG]

    While the EM3 still holds numerous strengths over the F1 due to its open earbud form factor, the F1 is an evolution of that same sound, bringing a more neutral tuning and overall quality to the next level. That being said, these are a $20 AUD earphone, so they are not without their shortcomings; but long story short, I have found them to offer a very pleasing sound that is at least comparable to the best hyper-budget earphones out there. Keep reading to see where the F1 excels, where it stumbles and how it stacks up to its closest competition, the Xiaomi Pistons 3’s and Origem Dual Drivers.

     

    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Sunny from Fiio very much for sending me a unit of the F1 for review. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

     

    About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

    I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

    Read More

     

    Accessories – 

    Fiio’s packaging is constantly evolving to deliver a more unified and premium unboxing experience. The F1 represents a huge step up over the EM3, which was similarly priced and came in a simple card box with a plastic cover.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




    The F1 on the other hand, is showcased with impactful renders and sits nestled within laser cut foam beneath a frosted cover, much better! Upon opening the box, a tray slides out containing the earphones within

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




    Upon opening the box, a tray slides out containing the earphones within foam and the accessories housing within another compartment below.

    [​IMG]

    Not only are the F1’s well showcased, they also come with a neat semi-hard carrying case with a carbon-fiber texture, a very nice addition.

    [​IMG]

    Fiio also include 2 pairs of tips, one small and one large in addition to the medium sized tips equipped on the earphones from factory. The quality of the tips is very good, they are perfectly moulded and are both comfortable and well sealing in the ear. Once again, the tip quality is very impressive for the price, the tips included with the Pistons and Dual Drivers both are considerably more flimsy, especially those on the Xiaomis.

    [​IMG]

    Overall, Fiio provide the buyer with the right accessories to stretch the longevity and enhance the quality of the earphones. Correct tip selection and a carrying case are especially important at this price since the primary demographic won’t want to spend $30 on a pair of Spinfits for instance. The quality of the included accessories is very well considered, great job Fiio!

     

    Design –

    [​IMG]

    Continuing on the strengths of the EM3 that I reviewed before, the F1 has absolutely stunning build quality for the price. While the plastic housings aren’t the most premium I’ve felt, the cable and strain relief is fantastic, especially considering the meagre asking price.

    [​IMG]

    The earpieces themselves are compact and softly styled for ergonomics. While I initially wasn’t sure about the square shaped housings, in the ear, the F1 is exceptionally comfortable, even for long periods of time. The nozzle is also angled for comfort producing a stable and comfortable fitment that the similarly designed Xiaomi Pistons 3 could not achieve due to sharper angling and sharper housing design that forms discomfort.

    [​IMG]

    They are similarly comfortable to the Origem Dual Drivers and just as stable, staying put in my ears during my usual 6km run. That being said, despite having small vents on the bottoms of the housings, they do seal better than the Origems. They produce stronger passive noise isolation than the Origems, roughly equal to other medium depth sealed earphones, making them more than adequate for use on a train, bus or around the city. I would still prefer a more isolating earphone for plane travel though the F1 with a foam eartip would be sufficient.

    [​IMG]

    My attempts at winding the Origem’s up for photos were futile


    Nothing frustrates me more than a great earphone with a poor cable. Fortunately, the cable on the F1 carries over from the EX1 MKII, a much more expensive earphone, and this is definitely reflected in its superb quality. The cable is reminiscent of that on the ie800 with the dark greens swapped out for a burnt orange. It is supple and soft, with a smooth texture that doesn’t catch or knot when routed through clothes and shoved in pockets.

    [​IMG]

    Thickness is perfect (they’re actually a bit thicker than the ie800 cables), neither thin nor cumbersome and its tangle resistance is only accentuated by the inclusion of an inbuilt cable strap similar to that included on Dunu earphones.

    [​IMG]

    I’m going to go off topic for a bit, but I love this feature, and it’s something that should really be included on more earphones. It reinforces good cable habits, forcing people to wind their cables rather than fold them and prevents the coiled cable from becoming knotted up in your pocket/carrying case.

    [​IMG]

    Fiio have outfit the F1 with a right angle 3.5mm plug, great for pocket usage. It’s incredibly solid, grippy for easy removal, case friendly and has awesome strain relief.

    [​IMG]

    The y-split has no strain relief but is well moulded with Fiio embossed on its front face. Both the earpieces and remote have small rubber strain-reliefs that are not the best I’ve seen, but better than most earphones that have no form of relief at all.

    [​IMG]

    The cable has an inbuilt remote, it’s well located for calls, the microphone is above average in quality and the buttons are contoured, even if they are a bit too close to be immediately discernible. Interestingly, both volume and multi-function commands registered on my HTC 10, usually only the centre button works; all buttons also functioned perfectly with my iPod Nano and Touch. Perhaps my only complaint with the build is the remote. The buttons tend to rattle within the remote housing which diminishes the quality of the earphones on a whole, I was initially worried that the driver was loose within the housings. Luckily, you can’t hear the noise when you’re wearing the earphones, but it’s still something that could be fixed in a later revision.

    [​IMG]

    Microphonics are just average for a cable down earphone, they aren’t as noisy as the ie800 and Klipsch X10’s, but they aren’t as quiet as the JVC FX series earphones either. Luckily, the included chin slider functions smoothly and clips into place to prevent adjustment over time. Overall, the cable is much better than most $100 earphones and worlds better than the rubbery mess on the Origem Dual Drivers and the overly thin and rubbery cables that come with the Piston 3.

     

    Sound –

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    Tonality –

    Smooth, laid-back sound, u-shaped but with greater bass than treble emphasis. They are probably the most balanced budget earphone I’ve tested in a while and have a very even midrange. They lose composure with faster tracks, but are really no worse than any other $20 earphone in that regard.

     

    Soundstaging, imaging and separation –

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    The F1’s have an above average soundstage for their price. The Origem Dual Drivers sound more separated on account of their brighter sound, but the crisp treble response of the F1’s prevents them from sounding overly intimate even if they do sound congested during more complex tracks. Their soundstage is quite well rounded between width and depth with just a little more width over depth. As a result, imaging is quite accurate though the centre image isn’t the strongest I’ve experienced. As aforementioned, separation is good but not outstanding for a $20 earphone, but the Origem’s still have a superior sense of space and air between instruments. Both are superior to the Pistons 3’s who’s rolled off treble response and warm, thick sound severely hampers separation and space.

     

    Bass –

    The F1’s are quite bassy, they have decent sub-bass extension for the price but still lack visceral sub-bass slam considering their bass quantity with a roll-off beneath 50Hz. They have a more mid/upper bass focus (peak at 120Hz) as opposed to the Origem Dual Drivers which are more lower-bass focussed and don’t suffer from the same lack of slam. Quantity wise, the Origems have slightly more quantity and the F1’s are more balanced in the low-end as a result. Though I would consider the F1 to be a generally well –tuned, relatively bloat free earphone, it is still missing definition in the low-end. The Origem’s, on account of the nature and larger size of their bass emphasis have considerably more slam and generally sound more textured too. The F1 is a warm, non-fatiguing and smooth sound, the bass response slots in perfectly with the organic nature of the sound, providing a warm response that doesn’t overly spill into the mids and doesn’t overbear with its emphasis but still fails to be truly insightful and engaging due to the nature of the emphasis. The F1’s are easily lost on more complex tracks, but that goes for the entire sound not just the bass response, they are laid-back and more suited towards slower genres of music such as jazz over rock. If you primarily listen to faster genres, then the more impactful, faster Origem Dual Drivers are a better bet, if you want more balance, then the slower F1’s are really impeccably tuned for a budget earphone even if quality does leave me wanting more than some of the better competing models.

     

    Mids –

    As far as tuning goes, the midrange is pretty neutral, in between the darker Pistons 3 and the brighter Origem Dual Drivers. They are slightly darker than ruler flat and have opposing strengths and weaknesses to the Origems as a result. Male vocals are slightly more prominent in the mix, though they still sit behind the bass and female vocals sit the most behind in the mix. Lower mids are slightly warm and perfectly present, vocals sound smooth and clear, bass rarely spills unless the track is quite bassy itself. The upper midrange is unfortunately, more mediocre. The F1’s are missing a bit of detail and clarity with slight veil to female vocals and strings even if they aren’t particularly recessed. Acoustic songs sound slightly duller than I would like but the crisp treble manages to pull in some excitement. That being said, the F1’s are smooth and laid-back, they are very forgiving of poor recordings and work well with most genres even if they don’t put details front and centre. The Origem Dual Drivers, being a bright earphone, have considerably more clarity and also retrieve slightly more detail. In addition, details are more forward on the Dual Drivers, making for an engaging, if less natural and more fatiguing listen. The Shozy Zero’s have similar tuning to the F1’s, combining a warm low-end with a dark midrange and crisp high-end, though they manages much more clarity and detail without sounding unnatural yet they are also more expensive.

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    Given the F1’s strong lower midrange performance and style of upper midrange tuning in addition to my personal preference for brighter earphones, I wouldn’t say that they are necessarily inferior to the Origem Dual Drivers; they are more natural and pursue a different kind of sound entirely, it’s an apples and oranges dilemma. Rather, I would propose the F1 as a more neutral, more laid-back alternative to the engaging and clarity driven Origems since quality wise, they are very similar. Ultimately, you really won’t find much better for the price, the Xiaomi Pistons 3’s for instance, pursue the a somewhat similar kind of sound; They are muddier and darker in the midrange but also a little more textured in their bass performance, it’s a fair trade-off based upon the buyer’s priorities.

     

    Highs –

    As previously stated, the F1’s are quite smooth in the midrange, however this lack of clarity and more laid-back detailing is somewhat salvaged by their treble response. Here, the F1’s are quite identical to the Origem Dual Drivers, with the same kind of airy and extended treble response. Treble does roll off in the upper treble and just a little earlier than the Origems but they are similarly detailed and just very slightly less emphasised overall. Certain high notes do sound a little unnatural, and sometimes thin, cymbals often do not have adequate body and sound splashy, however these instruments are much better portrayed than the vast majority of budget earphones. In addition, treble notes do sound a bit grainy, especially lower treble, something that is not uncommon at this price, but still aggravating. The Origem Dual Drivers had a similar response, both in tuning and quality and the F1 is mostly comparable making them just as impressive. Both of these earphones are much more refined than the Pistons 3’s which I found too polite and dark, resulting in a considerable loss of detail, even if they sound slightly more natural overall. The Pistons 3’s avoided issues such as thin body and grain by simply rolling off the treble to the point that these imperfections become inaudible. While I do respect the bass and midrange performance of the Pistons for the price, the newcomers have very rapidly caught up and are constantly pushing ahead, redefining the definition of budget earphones.

     

    Verdict –

    In the past, whenever someone would ask me for a great budget earphone, the Xiaomi Pistons lineup was always my go to recommendation. However, it’s no longer so easy to make recommendations, since there are simply so many great budget earphones out there. The Origem Dual Drivers were a truly impressive $15 earphone and the similarly priced F1’s are just as impressive. Fiio provide not only a smooth yet detailed listen, but also class-leading build quality and a more comprehensive accessory suite. Even if budget earphones are rapidly improving in the sound department, build quality still seems to be a common weakness. As a result, I really can’t compliment Fiio enough for pushing above and beyond in this field with the F1’s. The F1 are easily the best-built earphone at this price and even shame some much more expensive earphones.

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    Ironically, as with the darker EM3 and the brighter Baldoor E100, my main comparison between the Origem Dual Driver and the F1 has provided similar results. Here though, the gap is not quite as large and the F1’s are just slightly less engaging to my brighter tastes. However, both the Origems and the E100’s failed me due to poor build quality, both requiring a new jack. Yet the EM3 and F1 still function perfectly fine, despite receiving daily use, I’m especially impressed with the EM3’s since they have served me reliably for over 6 months of relatively heavy usage without issue. I expect the F1’s to be no different.

    Accessories 9/10, Unboxing is some of the best in the business, maybe slightly less premium than the Pistons. Nice selection of quality tips and a practical but protective case. Could perhaps do with some generic foam tips for travel.

    Design – 9.5/10, One of the best cables I’ve felt on an earphone under $200. Integrated cable strap is practical and promotes good cable habits, all connectors are incredibly solid. Integrated remote/mic will suit more diverse usage. Very comfortable, well-sealing housings are great for both home usage and commute. They are more comfortable than the Pistons lineup and isolate better than both the Pistons 3’s and Origem Dual Drivers.

    Bass – 5/10, Nice, relatively linear emphasis for the price, reasonably textured and has better extension than most earphones. Quite slow and easily lost with complex tracks though very rarely sounds muddy or bloated.

    Mids – 5/10, Laid back and smooth, lower mids have nice presence, upper mids are slightly veiled. Detail retrieval is good and clarity is above average.

    Treble – 5/10, Moderately rolled-off, though treble is sparkly and quite detailed. Adds some excitement to the otherwise laid-back sound.

    Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 5/10, Soundstage is average though average is more than good enough at such a low price. More width based and centre imaging is a little diffuse. Imaging is accurate enough to portray a convincing soundstage.

    Verdict – 8.5/10, Simply put, build is the name of the game and the Fiio F1’s feel built to last. Add to that a comfortable and well-isolating fitment in addition to a very convenient in-built cable strap and the F1 has become my new recommendation for a cheap earphone that won’t let you down either in sound nor comfort nor build. The F1’s are a great replacement for the Xiaomi Pistons 3’s, they are not a huge upgrade in sound but the build quality is in another class entirely. If you want a brighter sound within a similar budget, the Origem Dual Drivers are a very accomplished listen though their build is far more compromised.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this review, please have a look at my website for more just like this:

    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/fiio-f1-review/

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. mike138
      Thinking about getting these. The EX1 are my everyday listeners and I love them with the X3II DAP. My budget, "leave at the desk at work" pair are the KZ ATE. It's pretty amazing how good budget equipment is becoming.
      mike138, Feb 9, 2017
    3. ryanjsoo
      @mike138 Couldn't agree more mike, manufacturers are perpetually innovating and bringing premium features down to an accessible price. 
      ryanjsoo, Feb 9, 2017
    4. iAudio365
      If it wasn't for the base I would of probably picked a pair of these up.
      iAudio365, Feb 10, 2017