FiiO F3 Dynamic In-Ear Monitors - Reviews
Pros: Engaging sound, End to end extension, Linear bass boost, Natural clarity, Detailed treble, Great cable and accessories, Economical
Cons: Housings look and feel a little cheap, Buttons rattle in remote, Muddy bass, Lower mids may be too distant for some
Introduction –

While Fiio recently proved with the X5 III, that they can do great things within the premium market, their original strength as a budget/value orientated brand still remains. Following hot on the heels of the very impressive F1 comes the Fiio F3, a slightly higher end model that retains a similar design language but offers a more stable build and a more exciting sound. Within the hyper-budget earphone foil, Fiio provide two fantastic offerings with their differing sound signatures and fitments suited towards different applications and buyer preferences. One could really own both, and use the more balanced F1 for home usage and the more v-shaped, over-ear F3 for sports and commute. Let’s see what Fiio’s latest earphone has to offer.


Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Fiio very much for providing me with the F3 for review. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will be as objective as possible in my evaluation. all statements and opinions in this review are my own.


Accessories – 

The F3 comes packaged identically to the F1’s with that same clean white colour scheme and high-contrast renders. The rear has a nice exploded vector in addition to basic specifications. Sliding out the internal tray reveals the earphones within foam and a small box underneath contains the accessories.

Fiio provide the buyer with a very nice faux carbon-fibre carry case. It’s a zippered hard case that is well sized to fit the earphones and a few accesories within but also fit inside a larger jacket pocket. The F3’s come with the same great silicone tips as the F1, they are comfortable yet solid and vastly improved over the flimsy tips that come with most budget earphones. The F3 comes with an additional set of medium tips (as well as small and large sizes) along with earguides to help the conform to an over-ear fit. Fiio aso provide 3 pairs of faceplates that can be swapped like on Westone W-series earphones, they are purely aesthetic and do not touch the sound in any way.

All in all, a nice unboxing that is not overly convoluted but rather effective and clean. The new accessories included with the F3 are thoughtful and functional, they are all of very good quality and its good to see Fiio putting effort into the intricacies as well as the bigger picture.


Design –

The F3’s are designed very much like the F1’s. As a result, they are hardly the most fashionable or professional looking earphones that I have reviewed, but they are relatively sleek and practical where it matters. While the smoked plastic housings admittedly feel pretty cheap, the Xiaomi Pistons easily best the Fiio’s here, they are very lightweight and ergonomically styled; embodying the ethos of function over form.

In this vein, and despite using a considerably larger driver, the F3’s housings actually felt more ergonomic to me than the smaller F1’s; they possess a smoother design that promotes a deeper fitment. Though I had no comfort issues with the F1, the F3 disappears more in my ear over time.

But perhaps the greatest deviation from the design of the F1, is the adoption of an over-ear fitment. This is actually quite a notable feature since over-ear earphones hold many advantages over conventional cable down earphones (such as increased stability and vastly reduced cable noise), but are difficult to find for under ~$60 AUD (there are a few from Meeaudio and Vsonic for around this price but few under it). The $30 AUD F3’s not only carry such a fitment, but are comfortable, isolating and, as I’ll detail in the sound section of this review, sound pretty impressive to boot.

The F3’s are noticeably more stable in the ear than earphones such as the Xiaomi Pistons, they are also far less susceptible to microphonics than any other budget earphone. While I did occasionally find the cable to flick over the top of my ear, the included silicone ear guides do solve this issue entirely. The deeper fitment and sealed design did contribute to a little more isolation than I experienced with the F1, Origem Dual Drivers and Pistons though they still isolate considerably less than higher end monitor style earphones that fill more of the outer ear and have a denser build (such as Westones, Shures, etc). I found isolation with the stock silicone tips to be sufficient for public transport and the fit was solid during my general commute, they fit remarkably well for a budget earphone but still don’t expect Shure level stability.

In terms of visual design, Fiio have taken a page out of Westone’s book to add a bit of flair to the design by means of swappable metallic faceplates (option of red, blue and black). This gives users the opportunity to choose a colour they prefer or better differentiate between channels, ie you can use blue for left and red for right. The mechanism is well realised, the plates simple click down into place and slide upwards away from the stem. The colours are also nice and rich, Fiio’s choice of darker red and blue hues does look quite premium though the plain black plates are nice too.

Moving down to the cable, we find the same compliant, strong and tangle-resistant component that was employed on the F1 which is no issue since I found it to be one of the better cables out there. If you haven’t read my F1 review, the cable is supple, smooth and has perfect thickness. The jack is great and all strain reliefs are well above average for a budget earphone.

The design has been altered slightly to accommodate for the revised fitment; the cable is slightly longer than that on the F1 and the remote has been moved down so that it is properly placed when worn over the ear. Though, just like how the F1 could comfortably fit cable-down, the F3 can be easily be worn cable down by reversing orientation. The same integrated cable strap makes a return and once again I found it to be a functional and wise addition. One thing that I didn’t note in my F1 review is that the strap is a little loose on the cable and had a tendency to slide up and down along its length. I would suggest fixing the strap in place or at least making it tighter on the cable.

Fiio include the same 3-button remote and mic combo as the F1. The aluminium remote feels nice in the hand, but the plastic buttons still rattle within the housing, diminishing the quality of the earphones. Otherwise, the remote functioned perfectly with my HTC 10 and mic quality was quite good.

So overall, while the housings are similar in quality to the lower end F1 (though the price difference between the two is pretty negligible), the revised shaping/fitment and added features produce an earphone that handles completely differently, in a good way.


Sound –

Utilising a slightly larger 11mm driver (vs 9.2mm on the F1) and a slightly better sealing fitment, the F3 does well to address the limited bass extension that I was experiencing with the F1. In addition, the F3 has the more detailed, aggressive sound of the two, altogether producing an earphone that is a nice compliment to the smoother, more balanced F1.


 Tonality – 

The F3 is the F1’s more exciting counterpart. While the F1 carried a laid-back, rich u-shaped sound, the F3 sports a more engaging v-shaped signature that makes it sound broader and more dynamic in general. Sub-bass has greater extension and emphasis while mid-bass remains similarly punchy. Mids are a little more recessed on the F3 as opposed to the F1 though the F3 is hardly congested with a greater sense of clarity. Treble is slightly emphasised, just less so than the low-end. It’s a more linear boost than the F1 and high notes sound more naturally detailed and less granular.


 Soundstage Imaging and separation –

The F3’s provide a pleasing soundstage performance for a budget earphone. Like the F1, they avoid sounding overly intimate and compressed, especially with the F3’s more dynamic sound signature and the F3’s do have more space than the F1’s due to their v-shaped tuning. Listening to BigBang’s “Last Dance” and the F3’s portray a nice sense of both depth and width, similar to the Origems and easily superior to the darker Xiaomi Pistons earphones. The Cure’s “Close to Me” was reproduced with well-placed if not razor sharp imaging similar to the other best in class budget earphones but still behind earphones like the Shozy Zero and Oriveti Basic (understandable since they are more expensive). Separation is very good considering their price tag and upper mids and treble in particular, have a nice sense of separation and air.


Drivability –

Despite their impedance rising to 40ohms from the F1’s 16ohms, the F3’s are similarly sensitive as the rest of the budget earphones I have on hand. They are also pretty easy to drive, I didn’t notice a huge difference listening directly from HTC 10 and amped through my Oppo HA-2 (without using the Saber DAC). As with any decent earphone, they do scale a bit with nicer gear, namely the soundstage increases in size and separation is improved, they also have a little more bass extension from a source like the X5 III over an iPod for example. While they do moderately hiss from my Oppo HA-2, I still would not consider the F3 a difficult earphone to drive and you will be able to squeeze optimal performance from any decent portable source (silent from my 10 and iPod touch 6g).


Bass –

The lower end response sounds more like the Origem Dual Drivers than the F1’s, with a more lower-bass, sub-bass focussed emphasis over the mid-bass focus on the F1’s, but they have a more linear boost overall than either. They actually have quite a lot of bass, but the way Fiio have tuned the F3’s and the quality of that bass response results in a more enjoyable experience than any other budget earphone I’ve heard so far (save for the Xiaomi Hybrid Pro perhaps). Sub-bass extension is really great for a budget earphone, many tend to struggle with extension, but the F3’s deliver impressive amounts of rumble and slam within the lowest registers. The bass drums in Toto’s “Rosanna” were nice and full without sounding slurred while the bassline in The Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Soul to Squeeze” was reproduced with nice texturing that easily bested the F1 and Pistons. Bass is articulate and, despite being reasonably muddy, is warm and lush. They are more textured than both the F1 and Dual Drivers with a more even bass boost that sounds a lot more refined overall.

I really do like the way the F3’s do bass, the F1’s will suit those who prefer a more neutral response, but the F3’s combine a full, natural bass tone with much improved quality. They do have slightly too much low-end for me, especially on tracks that are already quite bassy, but keeping in mind that these cost $30, the F3’s are favourable over the Xiaomi Pistons 2/3, Origem Dual Drivers, Rock Zircon and KZ ATE; they are the most textured, the most linear and also have better extension than all of these models.


Mids –

Mids are slightly recessed in relation to bass and treble but are never overwhelmed. Male vocals are slightly recessed while female vocals are more present but both are a little distant overall. With a slightly brighter midrange tone, clarity and veil are much improved over the F1 though some may prefer the more mid-forward, slightly more balanced F1’s. I did personally find the lower midrange on the F3 generally pleasing, there is a great sense of body and detail to male vocals that the thinner F1 did not capture. That is not to say that lower mids are thick or muddy, they easily sound clearer than the thicker Shure SE215’s for instance, but they are definitely warmer in nature (which is quite normal for a budget earphone). Vocal intelligibility was still very good, though more recessed tracks such as Eric Clapton’s “Layla” did sound a little too distant, and acoustic instruments avoid sounding tubby. Upper mids are slightly more present, piano notes and strings tend to be a little more forward in the mix than male vocals and guitars. They lack that veil of the F1’s and swing more in the opposite direction. Female vocals are clear and well layered, strings and piano notes sound relatively uncoloured and there is a nice sense of clarity to the general midrange.


Highs –

The treble performance on the F3’s is actually really, really impressive for the price. The highs were probably the most surprising aspect of the earphones in that they are so refined. While not refined, smooth or supremely detailed in the grand scheme of things, the F3’s have superior resolution and detail retrieval to the F1’s and Origem’s and are considerably better performers than the Rock Zircon and KZ ATE (though these are a little cheaper). Details are quite forward due to the treble boost, though not quite as aggressive as the Xiaomi Hybrid Pro’s, making for a very engaging, but not fatiguing listen. The clashing cymbals in Elton John’s “Rocketman” were more sparkly than neutral but not particularly splashy or thin and the high-hats, while quite distant and a little rolled-off, sounded natural rather than tizzy. Micro-details were well portrayed and treble is overall a great performer for the price. Since budget earphones often have quite a rolled-off/non-existant treble response, I can see some people preferring the milder F1’s though for my personal preferences, the F3’s are superior, both in quality and tonality; they are considerably less rolled-off up top and provide much more insight into your favourite music as a result.


Verdict –

While the quality of the F3’s sound is superior to the F1 overall, the very similar pricing and revised tuning do make it more of an alternative rather than an outright upgrade. For my personal preferences, and probably the vast majority of buyers in this price range, the F3’s are the better earphone and their engaging and lush yet detailed sound will likely garner plenty of fans. From my knowledge, the most popular models around this price seem to be the Rock Zircon, KZ ATE and Xiaomi Pistons however, the new F3 from Fiio has proven to be quite formidable in direct comparison. Combining a stable over-ear fit, comfortable design and robust build, the F3 has easily become my new budget earphone recommendation for lovers of an engaging sound. While the F1 was slightly worse than the class leaders in terms of SQ but superior in build, the F3 bests these earphones while compounding on the strengths of the F1.

Accessories – 9/10, Nice unboxing similar to the Xiaomi Hybrids and other better budget earphones. Great stock tip quality, silicone ear guides and a nice hard carry case. Faceplate mechanisms are nice for differentiating each side and general aesthetic pleasure.

Design – 9.5/10, Fantastic cable with integrated strap for storage. Inline remote works well though rattling buttons are an issue. Over-ear fitment is comfortable and increases stability during any kind of activity. The housings feel a little hollow, but they are super lightweight for longer usage. Isolation is good for public transport and faceplate swapping adds just a little personalisation.

*Sound ratings are universal and disregard price to allow for comparison

Bass – 6/10, Nicely extended and textured for a budget earphone, but still muddy overall. Relatively linear boost sounds natural and lush, does not overwhelm lower midrange.

Mids – 5.75/10, Slightly brighter, lower midrange can sound distant with some material. Great clarity and detailing in upper midrange.

Treble – 6/10, Well extended but still rolled-off at the very top. Sparkly and very well detailed. Nice sense of body to cymbals and higher strings.

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 5.5/10, Good sense of space with nice depth in particular. Upper mids have nice separation though warmer lower mids are slightly congested. Imaging is good, not great.

Verdict – 9/10, The F3’s are perhaps the most tastefully tuned v-shaped budget earphone I’ve come across. They have a nice balance between frequencies and have all the right kinds of emphasis. Quality is also really great and they make for a nice upgrade to any $10-20 earphone. The fitment is class-leading as is build quality. I hate being this overly positive, but the F3 is just a very well-rounded earphone. As such, I believe the Fiio F3 deserves a solid recommendation.

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

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Pros: Value, overall build quality (for the price), fit, comfort, carry case, balanced SQ
Cons: Not the biggest fan of the cinch, channel imbalance (this pair only)
For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
This is the 2nd pair of IEMs sent to me for evaluation recently by FiiO. You can find my thoughts on their F1 IEM here, and the F1 did genuinely surprise me with its tonality and overall sonic signature for a very budget price. The F3 comes in at a price slightly more expensive – but still firmly in a budget price bracket (only USD $25).

As I alluded to in my F1 review, it's nice to get an unexpected surprise when reviewing a cheaper headphone or earphone. When Sunny initially 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 I took the chance though 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 again one of those times when the voyage of discovery was well worth it

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.

The F3 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 F3 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 F3 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 F3. 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 F3, 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.



Retail box front

Retail box rear

Retail box profile

The FiiO F3 (like the 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 F3 on the front cover, and specifications and features on the rear.

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 F3. Adjacent to the foam holder is an internal box which reveals a really nice carry case (containing the tip selection and ear guides).


Inner box

Compartment for the case

All accessories

Also included is a warranty document and replaceable outer covers to change the physical appearance of the F3. These come in red, black and blue, and are simply snapped into place. They are very easy to apply, and look pretty good cosmetically.

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!

Earguides, covers and tips

The case is a nice fit

and very strudy

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. Also included are two generic ear loops.

(From FiiO)

FiiO F3
Approx USD 25.00
Single dynamic inner ear monitor
Driver Type
Dynamic 11mm
Frequency Range
15Hz – 20 kHz
40 ohms
98 dB / mW
3.5mm gold plated – right angled
1.3m fixed OFC with Polyurethane outer coating
IEM shell
Industrial grade polycarbonate

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.


What I’m hearing from the FiiO F3:

  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 (most importantly does not exceed the level of amplitude of the upper mid-range – so not overdone)
  2. Relatively flattish lower mid-range which is slightly recessed relative to bass and upper mid-range.
  3. Upper mid-range has a rise in the presence area (2 kHz) and gives a clear and clean vocal presence. It is around slightly less than 10 dB above the fundamental range at 1 kHz.
  4. (Note – there is channel imbalance in my pair – but I understand the left channel represents the true tuning). Lower treble is present, well balanced, and has a soft peak at 6-7 kHz which really does aid cymbal presence and decay.
  5. Overall it is a slightly V shaped monitor with shallow peaks in the sub-bass and upper mid-range and lower treble areas. There is more emphasis on detail and clarity than the F3.

Apart from the obvious issue with one channel above 5 kHz (which is unfortunately quite noticeable), the rest of the channel matching is exceptional – especially from a $25 monitor! Note that the right channel is slowly dying - so it does appear this sample is defective, but I was able to review before it gives up the ghost :)


Red cover (left), and no cover (right)

Beautifully shaped inner face

The cable arm and nozzle

The FiiO F3 body appears to be a two piece industrial grade polycarbonate (very hard plastic) design which is squarish in shape with rounded corners. The internal face is nicely smoothed and rounded, and IMO is more comfortable than the cheaper F1. The body is just slightly larger than the F1 at 14-15mm across at it's widest point and a depth of about 15mm. The polycarbonate is slightly translucent and you can see the dynamic driver inside.


Slightly translucent and you can just see the vent

Black cover an no cover

Blue and red covers

If worn cable up, the nozzle extends slightly forward, so I think the F3 is designed more to be cable up (over ear) than cable down. The nozzle is approx 6-7mm in length with a generous lip (great for tips) and approx 5-6mm in diameter. There is a small dynamic driver vent adjacent to the nozzle exit. There is an 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 this arm – 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 F3. 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.

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.

Control unit and mic (great with X1ii and X5iii)

The cinch - probably my least liked feature

The Y split

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 would do following the end of the review would be to be fix 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 F2, 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 F3 (which is a good thing).

The driver is different from the F1 being both larger and utilising a different technology. The F3 uses a graphene driver diaphragm which is just 0.335nm in thickness. They used graphene due to its strength and conductivity. Paired with this is a copper clad aluminium voice coil, and in tandem the two are designed to combine and deliver a “clean, rich, and transparent sound” according to FiiO's documentation.

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.


Shure Olives and Ostry tuning tips

Trinity Kombi tips and Spiral Dots

SpinFits and Crystal foams

The FiiO F3 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.

FiiO designed these to be worn cable up (hence the 45 degree forward angled nozzle), and the comfort was extremely good with the Shure Olives. There were no hard edges this time (definite design improvement over the F1, FiiO). The F3 sits well within my outer ear and are easy to sleep in.


Isolation with the F3 is about average for me and do a reasonably good job of passive isolation. However I wouldn't be using these for long haul transport.

The following is what I hear from the FiiO F3. 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 & E17K was simply because I know them so well (my go-to combo for reviewing over a few years now).

For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the E17K 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


  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 vocals in general, but although they aren't as forward on the F2, they do have more overall balance and cohesion (better for both male and female vocals).
  4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a slight rise from lower mid-range to the first peak at about 2 kHz (then continuation through to around 4 kHz). The result is a clean and clear vocal range, with extremely good overall balance and enough euphony for female vocals to sound sweet and elevated.
  5. Lower treble has a peak at 6-7 kHz which is about 5 dB above the nadir of both bass and lower mid-range. This gives a very good sense of overall clarity, and is excellent for cymbal decay and overall presence.
  6. Upper treble – pretty much rolled off post 10 kHz – but does not affect/detract from the overall signature.

Resolution / Detail / Clarity

  1. Very good with a lot of micro detail present, but does not become harsh or grating.
  2. Cymbal hits have good initial presence, and a great sense of decay. I really wish the review pair didn't have the imbalance at 6-7 kHz, because this was one of the best parts of the overall signature. FiiO did a really good job here.
  3. A clean and clear monitor with good resolution and excellent sense of overall balance.

Sound-stage, Imaging

  1. Directional queues are very good, and presentation of stage is just outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so very good sense of width and depth (especially considering the price).
  2. Spherically presented sound-stage with above average impression of overall depth
  3. Very good sense of immersion with the applause section of “Dante's Prayer” (somewhat marred by the channel imbalance) – but sounded pretty natural. “Let it Rain” was next up and again that sense of 3 dimensional sound was quite apparent. There were some mild signs of sibilance but nothing to onerous – and I know that this is in the recording rather than a fault of the F3.


  1. Good overall bass response and the sub-bass is tastefully done without dominating.
  2. Very good presentation of vocals overall – and equally strong with male or female vocals.
  3. Warmish overall tone, but nicely balanced with the lower treble peak
  4. Excellent balance throughout, and the extension through the lower treble was exactly what the F1 was missing IMO.


  1. For the price, I'm honestly struggling to find any real deficiencies. The only one I really have is the channel balance issues – and I have to assume this is just my pair.

The FiiO F3 with its relatively benign impedance (40 ohm) and higher sensitivity is pretty easy to run straight out of your average source. With the FiiO X1ii I tended to stay around 25-30/100 depending on the track recording quality. With my iPhone SE – this translated to 35-40% volume.


Brilliant with the X1ii

Great with the iPhone (sadly no volume control)

Extra amplification not required from the E17K

I tried the F3 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) didn’t really make any noticeable difference. So I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the F3 doesn’t need, nor benefits from, any additional amplification.

Personally I wouldn't change a lot. I did give it a little -4 nudge on the bass (with the E17K) which did suit my tastes just a little more, but really speaking I can see most people enjoying these with their default signature.

Again, like the F1 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, and seeing as I used the same for the F1, I stuck with comparing FiiO's own F1, 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 F3 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 F3 ($25) vs FiiO F1 ($15)

Frequency comparison

FiiO F3 vs FiiO F1

Both have similar builds, fit, and accessories – with the main difference being the changeable face-plates and inclusion of the ear-hooks on the F3. For me the F3 fits a little better because of the slightly smoother internal face and properly oriented nozzle angles (I always wear my IEMs cable over ear).

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 F3 has less upper mid-range peak which really helps the balance between male and female vocals. It also has much better treble extension, and consequently better presentation of detail. Both are really good earphones for the price. For my personal preference the F3 is worth the extra outlay.

FiiO F3 ($25) vs Brainwavz Jive ($28)

Frequency comparison

FiiO F3 vs Brainwavz Jive

The Jive wins on overall build materials – but I like the cable on the F3 a lot more. Accessories are about even. Fit is good on both – but this time the F3's better internal face shape makes them slightly more comfortable than the Jive.

Sonically the Jive is very V shaped comparatively – with a lot more sub-bass, and more upper mid-range presence, but also a quite comparatively recessed lower mid-range. Lower treble extension is close on both. If you were looking at the strengths of each, you'd be saying fun and lively vs clear and balanced. Personally I preferred the more balanced approach of the F3.

FiiO F3 ($25) vs Brainwavz XF200 ($25)

Frequency comparison

FiiO F3 vs Brainwavz 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 F3. The XF200 can appear slightly blocky (I like the naturally formed ear-loops though). The F3 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 F3 is again more balanced with better vocal presence. And again my preference here would be the FiiO.

FiiO F3 ($25) vs RockJaw Arcana V2 ($40)

Frequency comparison

FiiO F3 vs RockJaw Arcana 2

These two have surprisingly similar frequency shapes – but the Arcana (like the Jive and XF200) is simply more emphasised throughout.

Build and fit are pretty good on both, but again the better ergonomics on the F3 deliver more comfort. And once again the FiiO/Dunu cable stands apart. Overall on build, I'd give the nod to the F3. Accessories go to the Rockjaw (tips) but to the F3 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 F3. The bass has enough oomph to satisfy, without over-doing it, and then having to over compensate. Once again the F3 is my preference, and this time the balance overall is a lot better – especially for longer term listening.


Its been a pretty cool journey reviewing FiiO's two new IEMs, and again a pleasant surprise at how good audio quality can get for sub USD 25.00.

The F3 is a really good earphone. 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 excellent for me, and comfort is extremely good (the correct angle on the nozzle really helps compared with the F1).

Sonically the F3 has good channel matching over most of the spectrum, and it is a real pity that my review sample had the imbalance at 6-7 kHz, as it is both noticeable and did detract from my listening pleasure. The imbalance is slowly getting worse, and I think the right hand driver is probably going to die early. But I know FiiO, and their service is really good. If this was a paid for pair, I'd simply have to return them for an immediate replacement.

As far as the overall signature goes, I think FiiO really nailed this one. My personal preference would be for a little less sub-bass, but that would be an easy tweak with EQ. And I think most people will like the warmish tonality the extra sub-bass brings. The F3 is very well balanced, clean and clear through the vocals, and has fantastic cohesion between lower and upper mid-range. One of its strengths is the bump at 6-7 kHz which delivers clarity and air without overdoing it and becoming brittle or sharp.

When you factor in the low price of $25 and then look at the sonic package they have delivered at this price, FiiO should be justly proud of this earphone. It would easily become an immediate recommendation at this price point. My only wish would have been to hear one without the imbalance.

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

I bought me a pair of Fiio F3 off Amazon after reading this, I needed some IEM's, they only had 3 left in stock but I got one just in time :DDD  I only wish in your reviews you would discuss noise canellation because it is important to me that my IEM's block out car traffic noise outside my apartment window when I have my window open, even if they don't I am keeping them since they are so cheap anyway, but yeah I need something to block out noise good someday.
What tips are you using.  If you're not getting a good seal, passive isolation will suffer.  Personally I found they were about average as far as isolation goes.  My tip of choice is the large Shure Olives.  You need to stretch them a bit to go over the nozzle - but they work really well.
Received my F3 today from an authorised reseller in India and guess what the right earpiece driver was almost dead with hardly any sound coming out of it. Moreover, though the package was sealed well, the IEM was scratched and the gold plating on the jack was faded. As an added bonus, all accessories were missing. Initiated the return right away. Sad, it had to end this way!!

For full review on F1 & F3 read here:

Website: LINK

Product link: LINK



Driver Type: Dynamic 11mm
Frequency response: 15Hz ~ 20kHz
Sensitivity: 98dB
Impedance: 40Ω
Plug: 3.5mm L-shaped gold-plated stereo jack (CTIA standard)
Cable length: 1.2m
Weight: 19.6g

Price (MSRP): U$D 25


  1. 3 pairs of eartips (S/M/L)
  2. 1 case
  3. 1 pair of earguides
  4. 3 pairs of replaceable covers in red, blue and black