FiiO F5

Average User Rating:
4/5,
  1. nickthefunking
    4.0/5,
    "get it for the balance cable"
    Pros - balance cable included in the package
    comfort - with the right size eartip I forget it's in my ear
    mobility
    Cons - microphonic
    lack of soundstage when comparing with my AKG 551
    Fiio F5 is the cheapest earphone I can find that comes with a balance cable. I got an onkyo dsp1 not long ago and really wanted to try out the balance option. My akg 551 has been my headphone option for commuting for about 3 years. While my 551 sound fantastic it also very large and it's just not the best option for me anymore. The Fiio F5 is not going sound as good as the 551 - just like most to the earphones that cost under 100 CAD. When I purchase the F5 I already knew that I am sacrificing sound quality for mobility. The thing that the f5 surprises me was I never expected that how light and how comfortable they are - much better than all the earphones I had before. The only thing I will say about the sound of F5 is it's not bad - They are not a full size stereo system, they are not full size headphone and they don't cost like a full size stereo system. Earphones and IEM are for commuting only in my opinion. If you are looking for earphone because you can't carry a full headphone with you for any reason and your budget is limit, I will said go get the F5.
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    images

  2. peter1480
    4.0/5,
    "Good for everday use"
    Pros - Not too expensive.
    Versatile for different cables and tips.
    Lots in the box for the price.
    Sound for the price.
    Cons - Build quality of some of the parts.
    Marmite cable tidy.
    Here is my impression of Fiio F5 IEMs, which I've now been listening to for a few weeks. I'd like to point out that these are mine they are not a review sample. The sound I hear is through my 57 year old ears, so my ears are well 'burned in' and probably not perfect. So if you get the impression from this that you might like the sound , go out an audition them for yourself.

    They come in the usual Fiio high standard of packaging, a trait of Chinese product, which many western retailers could learn from. Via AliExpress.com, when in stock from $59-$79 depending on what they are paired(free) with.
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    In the box, a classy glossy black hard case.
    The IEMs.
    A 3.5mm cable with remote function.
    A 2.5mm balanced cable.
    A good range of tips of the silicon mushroom type.
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    Over all they look well made the finish is good. (Though Fiio did delay launch due to MMCX connection issues on the balanced cable. Mine was speedily replaced by Fiio who have excellent customer service and are easily contactable via this site.) The IEMs themselves are silky black with L and R printed on them. There are 3 small vent holes. The ear tubes will take T400 Comply tips, more of which later. In your hand they do n't feel that light.

    The cable with remote is all black and feel suitably flexible and the buttons positive, there are some silver highlight on the remote, classy or citch. The remote is on the right ear cable, personally I would have preferred it on the main part of the cable. There is a rubber attached cable tidy, which sometime is a nuance other time not, its Marmite. The is a little switch for Android and i-things. A mic is built in for use with a phone. It appears non-microphonic in sound transmission up the cable. Connectors are all gold plated and the MMCX are marked L and R but it is hard to see.

    The balanced cable has a rubbery feel and is quite flexible and soft but a bit easily tangled. It appears non-microphonic. Connectors are all gold plated and the MMCX are marked L and R but it is hard to see. Again it has the Marmite cable tidy. There is a small bit of plastic where the cable divides with Fiio on it in white. As these are MMCX terminated IEMs cable rolling is an option.

    The supplied tips will probably suit most ears but as I have mentioned there are other possibilities.

    The classy gloss black hard case is nice and should protect the contents against daily life, it will take a medium size Bobino, if you like to wind your cables around something.

    So over all they look like good value for money. That's why I bought them, for every day use and not heart breaking if they get trashed in portable use. But that being said I have and have had some great sounding and expensive IEMs and headphones. I like music and I like it to sound as good as it can when I am listening to it. I have been a devotee of higher resolution file formats and graduated away from i-devices as other better (my opinion only) devices came along. I've had a number of DAPs over the years have decided that I like Fiio's sound signature. My main portable players are an X5iii and an X7 with the balanced AM3. At home I have a full blown Naim system with dedicated head phone amps, Naim and Schiit Mjolnir 2. Apparently according to people who like to define the sound, I like the darker side of neutral that is not particularly clinical. I like valves! My music tastes are broad you'll equal likely to find me listening to baroque harpsichord as Five finger death punch. According to my Synology drive I have eleven weeks 24/7 of stored music, remember I'm 57 so I've been collecting a long time! Quit a lot to test any thing with.

    Out of the box, having spent the day with a pair of Fidue A83 in my ears for most of the day, the F5's sounded good. But I subscribe to the burn in theory. My Naim system stays on and I mean, on, not standby, 24/7, that's the way it is designed. My wife calls the the space heater! So the F5's were set to burn in on a continuous long play list on an old ipod classic for 24 hours.

    The following night some more dedicated listening commenced.

    I repeat this again - my 57 year old ears, so my ears are well 'burned in' and probably not perfect. So if you get the impression from this that you might like the sound , go out an audition them for your self.

    These impression are based on the balanced cable out of the Fiio X5iii, low gain, volume at 45 -50. The first impression is that they are good and well worth the money. The sound signature is on the dark side of neutral with well controlled bass but not really a the expense of the mid rage or the treble.

    With some music - and I'd have to say they are good all-rounders:

    These are the tracks that I listened to last night who wants to Ed Sheran at Glasto? It's just music I like but they give headphones a work out! (I've added links so you can play along as well though the quality at youtube is a bit variable!)

    F.Couperin Harpsichord Works Vol.1, Scott Ross
    Harpsichord musics is very complex the timbre and dynamic range is great but it is delivered with detail and panache via the F5's.

    Five Finger Death Punch – My Nemesis from Got Your Six
    Oh god its just mastered for volume in places, bass is delivered well mid is pronounced, treble has tiz, this is music for speakers! But I've listened to the whole album without pain on the F5's.

    Joe Bonamassa - Sloe Gin - Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks
    Complex guitar, sustain is delivered faithfully and vocals sound velvety, cymbals are clear with good decay. The organ sounds very good at 4.40mins.

    Rush - YYZ from Moving Pictures
    Listen for the control and slam as the bass kicks in at 33sec, I've always thought the HQ master of this was a bit tinny but theses IEM make the most of it, taming a bit.

    Royal Blood – Lights Out from How did We Get So Dark
    Wow, listening to this it gives the divers a good work out, bass can be a bit boomy but that's how it sounds on speakers.

    Celine Dion - Think Twice form The Colour of My Love
    F5's like the female voice, especially a well mastered track like this, giving the voice clarity and prominence.

    Enrique Bunbury – Ódiame from Licenciado Cantinas
    Odd bass rumble at 40secs vibrates you fillings, the cha-cha at 1.35min has punch and slam without tiz, thought the mid voice gets lost a bit.

    Bartók Concerto for Orchestra IV: Intermezzo interrotto. Allegretto; Ormandy
    The orchestral range is handled well with a sense on depth wide sound-stage, I must try a binaural cut of this I have. On volume, bewhere of the changes from quite to loud!

    Stelth – How Much Further (download)
    Voice is dreamy pulled out well from the backing, sound-stage fells a little compressed the treble has the same feeling slightly muddy but that could be the mastering.

    These are good value everyday IEMs but how do the stack up against higher priced ones. Well, quite well, you ' have to sit down in a quite room and listen hard. Suffice to say the F5's punch above their weight. Put them against Fidu A83s and the F5's mid range gets shown up a bit. Against Audeze isine 20 properly EQ'ed for android and there is just more of everything but especialy sound stage and space. Finally, Shure SE846 (borrowed) well no contest. But remember these all cost many, many times more and think of the pain of trashing a bit of any of them, while out and about.

    Playing further, a bit of tip rolling. Comply tips work well for sound insulation and make the base a bit less boomy. Tips one size down allow for deeper insertion and at an angle, results in clearer mid range. The ridged tips from Audeze also work well but appear more bright. Cable rolling, all balanced. A silver plated cable from China appeared to add a bit of sparkle, a Fidu cable less base, I would consider. Put the F5's on a top notch system and they just sound really listenable to bass with punch and slam, treble with clarity and a well defined mid especial with female voice. Playing with ViPER, which I do n't actually like, the F5's respond well to EQing allowing you to compensate for the mastering of the recording, or even dare I say, the deficiencies of you hearing.
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    (My ears first selfie :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

    Go out and have a lighten or a this price buy a pair, I'd be surprised if you did n't use them quite often.

    Hope you enjoy this ramble.................
    Dobrescu George likes this.
  3. Brooko
    3.0/5,
    "FiiO F5 : Stellar sound - concerns re MMCX."
    Pros - Sound quality, overall build quality, value, balance, accessories
    Cons - MMCX connections (poor quality), strain reliefs
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    Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION
    Sunny from FiiO has had me pretty busy with a string of released products, and I have to admit falling behind a bit (and I apologise for that). Recently I reviewed their F1 and F3 IEMs and found both to be very well tuned for the money. The third in the series reaches a little higher in the price bracket (still sub $100 though), and introduces replaceable cables, a balanced cable option, and early hype suggested these would be something quite well received at the proposed price bracket.

    So of course I said yes, and have only fairly recently had the chance to give them a lot of “ear-time” I can say its definitely been worth it. The sub $100 market is fairly crowded for IEMs – but I think FiiO is going to have a pretty popular offering with the F5.

    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 more recently a growing stable of 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 FiiO F5 IEM that I’m reviewing today was provided to me gratis as a review sample. Although I have made it clear to FiiO on many occasions that I still regard any product they send me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request, they have told me that the product is mine to do with as I see fit. So I thank them for the ability to continue use of the FiiO F5 for follow up comparisons. I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also FiiO themselves.

    I have now had the FiiO F5 IEM for around 4 weeks. The retail price at time of review is ~ USD 80.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 50 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 (mostly now from the FiiO X5iii, X3ii + E17K and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). 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 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the FiiO F5 straight from the headphone-out socket of many of my portables, but predominantly the X7 (with AM3 amp), X5iii and also my iPhone. I did not generally further amp them (I did test them with my E17K, A5 and IMS HVA), as IMO they do not benefit greatly from additional amplification (YMMV and it may depend on your source). In the time I have spent with the FiiO F5, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). Time spent now with the F5 would be approximately 25-30 hours.

    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
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    Front of the retail box Rear of the retail box

    The FiiO F5 arrived in an approximately” 110mm x 165mm x 53mm retail box with a picture of the F5on the front cover (along with the Sony HiRes Audio mark), and specifications and package contents on the rear. The retail box is black with the occasional red highlight, and white easy to read text. Inside the retail outer is a black box and lid – simply adorned with the FiiO logo.

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    Inner box Inside is the carry case

    Removing the lid reveals a black glossy Pelican case (again adorned with the FiiO name/logo) and a cardboard mini box containing the cables. Inside the Pelican case is a foam cut-out with the FiiO F5 safely nestled in the provided grooves. There is also two cardboard plates which house the included tips. The tip selection includes 6 sets of silicone single flange tips. There is also a warranty card and manual.

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    The full package contentsThe “pelican” case

    The storage case is very similar to the Dunu Pelican type cases, has internal measurements of ~ 98mm x 58mm and approx 34mm deep. It is rigid with felt like internal padding and provides pretty good protection as well as storage. Because of it's size, its more suited to jacket pocket than pants pocket use. FiiO includes two replaceable cables (MMCX) – a 3.5mm standard stereo option (with on-cable controls) and a 2.5mm balanced option.

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    Included tips The F5 + SE and balanced cables

    All in all, the accessory package is very good at this price point – especially having the two cable options.


    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From FiiO's packaging / website)
    ModelFiiO F5
    Approx price$70 USD
    TypeSingle Dynamic Driver
    Driver1 x 13.6mm Titanium DD
    Freq Range20Hz – 40kHz
    Impedance32Ω
    Sensitivity102 dB /mW
    Cable1.2m, replaceable (MMCX) x 2
    Jack3.5mm gold plated straight
    Weight21g with default cable
    Casing materialAnodised and galvanised aluminium alloy


    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.

    I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else's, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response - especially if you've followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I always use crystal foam tips (so medium bore opening) - and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements - and output is under 1 ohm.

    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.


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    FiiO F5 frequency and channel matchingFiiO F5 vs FiiO's F1 and F3

    My sonic impressions of the FiiO F5 – written well before I measured:
    • Bass is quite linear but also well extended, with a small mid-bass hump. There is audible sub bass rumble but it is in balance with the rest of the signature and does not overpower.
    • Lower mid-range is reasonably linear, maybe a small recession. Male vocals are well represented and sound quite natural, but are not as pronounced as female vocals.
    • Upper mid-range is definitely emphasised, and reaches a peak in the presence area. Female vocals have a a very good sense of euphony, and there is good cohesion and transition from lower to upper mid-range.
    • Lower treble extension is good and there is reasonable presence up to about 7 kHz and then a little drop after that. As a result detail is extremely good without being fatiguing in any way. The upper treble also has some extension, but does tend to roll off – however its not at a point that any detail is lost.
    • Overall a very well balanced earphone with a mid-forward tendency, which shows very good detail without any stridency.
    • Channel matching is excellent – some of the best I've seen.

    BUILD

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    Internal side of the shell and ventsSide rear view

    The FiiO F5, like its sibling the (EX1) appears to be quite well made, but with a variety of materials involved. The interior surface, nozzle and outer arm all appear to be a hard plastic, while the main body is a matt black aluminium alloy. The body is very reminiscent of an ear-bud type shape – but with an angled nozzle designed to take an IEM tip and provide some measure of isolation. The circular part of the body is 15mm in diameter, and designed to fit snugly in your ear with the rear of the F5 shell against your anti-helix, and the front underneath your tragus, with the nozzle angled forward into the ear canal. The nozzles are approximately 5-7mm long, have a generous lip, and have a mesh opening. The depth of the F5 is approx 16mm from the interior face to the outer arm (holding the cable socket).

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    Top view and socketsCloser look at the nozzle

    There are 3 vents or ports in the internal face of each IEM shell, and a further port adjacent to the arm holding the MMCX connector socket. There is also a L or R indicator on each shell on the internal side.

    As I said earlier, the “arm” extends vertically up from the main shell and holds a standard MMCX socket. On my F5, this socket sits very slightly raised from the body – and I am not sure if this is the design, or an error in manufacture. When the cable is mated, there is a small gap – similar to what I have seen from other reviews. I hope that this is a manufacturing fault – as it leads to my one major complaint with the pair I'm reviewing.

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    MMCX connectorNote the gaps!

    When I seat the male MMCX connector – and this occurs with the standard SE cable, the balanced cable, and also other cables I've tried, the connection is firm(i.e. doesn't rattle or stop the transfer of signal), but it is very easy to pull apart. Pressing your fingers on both sides of connector and arm is enough to dislodge it, and I've had times adjusting them in my ear – when suddenly I have the cable “dangling”. I've even had them fall off once when the cable wire got very lightly tangled. Personally I don't think the socket is deep enough, and I also think the locking ridge isn't quite protruded enough. Hopefully it is only my sample.


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    Single Ended cable – male MMCXY Split

    The F5 comes with two included cables – a standard 3.5mm stereo which has in-line mic, volume and playback controls, and also 2.5mm balanced cable option. The standard cable has a hard rubber / moulded plastic housing for the MMCX connector, but surprisingly no strain relief. I could see over time this being a possible weak point. On the housing is either L or R markings, but the black on black is quite difficult to see. You'll always know which is which though, as the right hand side has a control unit approx 10cm from the cable exit. This unit hangs just about equal with my jaw if worn cable down (so ideal height for the mic).

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    On cable controls – adjustable iOS and AndroidVery good microphone

    What makes this unit even more perfect is that there is a slider to convert from Android to iOS – and it works perfectly with both devices. The on-cable controls work brilliantly with my iPhone SE, allowing play/pause (one push), next track (two pushes), and previous track (three pushes). A single long push also activates Siri which is really handy. The volume control rocker also works. The microphone is crystal clear for calls, as is the audio, and the F5 could become my default for use my iPhone, if it didn't have the issues with the MMCX connector. I also tried the F5 with my wife's Galaxy, and everything worked as it should, and the volume controls also worked with the X5iii (but surprisingly not with the X7).

    Below this (about mid-chest) is a small tubular y-split with good relief below the split, but no relief above it. Y splits tend to be a little more forgiving in terms of wear, so no real issues with this. The jack is gold plated, 4 pole (for the in-line controls) and nice and skinny for use with smart-phone cases. It is also well relieved.

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    Case friendly jack and cable tieBalanced and SE cables

    The balanced cable is essentially the same, except with a clear outer jacket and 2.5mm balanced jack. The balanced cable also both looks and feels slightly sturdier – and of course does not have the in-line controls. FiiO claims the balanced set-up not only reduces crosstalk, but also improves signal to noise ratio (by reducing external interference) – which I can understand because measurably this can happen. They also claim that with the balanced cable, the F5 can take advantage of balanced amps which “provide wide-open sound stages as well as impactful yet tightly controlled bass”. Given that just because an amp is balanced, this is not an inherent outcome from balancing and depends more on the implementation, I personally think this is somewhat of a silly statement to make.

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    MMCX connector from balanced cable2.5mm balanced jack

    Both cables have a very “Dunu like” rubber cable tie intact with the cable – the same as that used on their other IEMs and pretty much all of Dunu's releases now. This is a really simple mechanism that is unobtrusive - but means that whenever it's time to store the IEMs, the cable is always tidily looped. This remains one of the most simple, yet practical, methods of cable ties I have ever seen.

    So summing up – great build, and good accessories – but a critical fail with my particular set's MMCX connectors.


    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    I'll start with the easy one (isolation), and we can then look at fit and comfort. Isolation will be a little dependent on tip selection, and if you get a good seal, it is slightly below average for a dynamic driver. The 4 vents seem to allow a little more ambient sound in – although they do passively isolate the release of sound out fairly well. It is still reasonably good for most situations, but as soon as things start getting very noisy (busy street, public transport etc), you're going to find them less than ideal.

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    Cable down with Dunu locking guidesSwap ear pieces on cable and use cable up

    Whilst they are designed to be worn cable down, by simply swapping ear pieces, you can convert easily to over-ear (as shown in the photos). Fit and comfort is exemplary. Overall, the fit is quite shallow. One thing which worked quite well to lock them in place was the stabilisers Dunu used for their Titan 3 and Titan 5 – and these are a good solution for locking them into your ear if you have some fit consistency issues.

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    Shure Olives and Crystal foamsSpiral Dots and Spinfits

    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 seal overly well. This is often even more of an issue with shallow fitting IEMs. Because the F5 has a nice nozzle lip, I had no issues fitting any of my tips, and had great success with Ostry’s blue and black tuning tips, Sony Isolation tips, Spin-fits, and also Spiral Dots. I could have also used my favoured Shure Olives or Crystal foams – but I found the Sony Isolation tips gave me a good seal, and they are very hard wearing.

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    Ostry tips and Sony IsolationBest fit for me were the Sonys (or Trinity Kombis)

    The FiiO F5s sit nicely flush with my outer ear, and are comfortable to lie down with. I've slept with them a few times now, and have had no discomfort on waking. So how do they sound?


    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the FiiO F5. 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 X7 and AM3 combo, no EQ, and Trinity Kombi tips (same design as Sony Isolation). I used the X7 and AM3 simply because paired they not only gave me a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and more than enough power – but also allowed me to use the balanced option. There was no EQ engaged.

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    I used my iPhone SE a lot dailyBut for testing – my X7 + AM3

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7 (paired with AM3) was around 40-45/120 (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 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
    • Sub-bass – has very good extension and even at my low listening levels is audible, but without being dominant. There is clearly evident rumble, but it is nicely balanced and bass guitars are nicely represented without overpowering the rest of the track. It is not a bass heavy IEM by any means.
    • Mid-bass – very slightly elevated, but taking a gentle slope downward to the eventual lower mid-range. The F5 has what I would call a gentle but very natural sounding mid-bass hump. It provides enough slam for tracks like Feist's “The Bad in Each other” or Amy Winehouse's “You Know I'm No Good” while still allowing the vocals to soar. I can see people liking a warmer and more impactful signature saying the F5 is slightly “bass light” – but IMO and to my tastes, this is more a case of “bass right”
    • Lower mid-range – relatively linear overall but slightly recessed compared to sub and mid-bass. Vocals are not in any way overly distant though, and Male vocals have a good amount of body.
    • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a very rise from 1 kHz to the first peak at ~2.5 kHz. The result is a quite cohesive transition form lower to upper mids, and a lot of euphony for female vocals. It is a very mid-forward sounding IEM, but lovers of female vocals in particular will love the F5.
    • Lower treble has a slight peak between 5-7 kHz (about the same size as the upper mid-range hump). This gives a nice emphasis to lower treble detailing, and was especially noticeable on Pink Floyd's “Money” and 10CC's “Art for Arts Sake”. Above 7 kHz there is quite a bit of roll-off which gives a very smooth and non-aggressive upper signature. There is still extension there between 7-10 kHz – its just not emphasised.
    • Upper treble – continues the overall roll-off of lower treble. Not a lot of noticeable extension. It does measure well past 10kHz – but there is no emphasis – nor is any needed IMO.
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    • Clarity overall is actually really good. With “Sultans of Swing”, I can clearly hear drumstick clicks and the other minute detail which makes this such a great track for testing.
    • Cymbal hits have great clarity and overall presence without being overly spot-lit. Cymbal decay sounds natural with only the slightest amount of truncation.
    • Guitar bite or edge is fantastic with the F5 – and especially acoustic guitar. I played for years, and the F5 manages to render it really well.
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    • Directional queues are very good – both crystal clear and cleanly defined. Presentation of stage is just outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so a pretty good projection of both width and depth.
    • Quite circular sense of sound-staging – with no obviously lateral L/R leaning.
    • With the applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, the FiiO F5 shows a wonderful sense of immersion (the sound of the audience flowing around me), although this time there is very slightly more width than depth. “Let it Rain” is usually my next track to listen to and it was a stand-out. Guitar was crisp and clear with a good semblance of 3D like experience (the way the track was miked). There was very slight sibilance with Amanda's vocals – and it should be there because its in the recording – but it wasn't overly emphasised.
    Strengths
    • Overall clarity and balance of the signature.
    • Reasonable sense of stage and imaging
    • Good cohesion with lower and upper register vocals
    • A lot of detail, but the dialled back upper treble also lends to a slightly smooth upper overall presentation.
    • Brilliant with upper mid0-range – and especially for lovers of female vocals who prefer a little euphonic colouration.
    Weaknesses
    • Upper mid-range is elevated past what would be considered balanced and if sensitive at 2-3 kHz may appear mildly peaky
    • I can't honestly think of too much else – sonically these are gems.
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The FiiO F5 doesn’t need amplification for overall volume – and because its impedance isn't overly low, any source with an output impedance of less than 4 ohms should pair OK.

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    IMS HVA, FiiO A5 and E17KThe A5 was great for bass boost (fun) rather than amplification

    With my iPhone SE around 35-45% volume is more than enough with most tracks, and the FiiOs are generally at around 40-45/120. I tried the F5 with the E17K, A5, and IMS Hybrid Valve and none of them seemed to be adding anything to my listening set-up other than some extra bulk. The IMS valve amp tends to add a little 2nd order harmonic warmth, and was pretty a good pairing for my tastes when paired with the iPhone. The A5's bass boost was also pretty good if I wanted to add an extra bit of fun – but these are colourations that the F5 doesn't really need.

    RESPONSE TO EQ?

    To be honest, I like the F5 as-is, and any changes for me would be pretty much short term changes. The most enjoyable one was the subtle boost to the bass with the A5 – which warmed the signature and gave a lot more impact.

    BALANCED VS SINGLE ENDED
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    Balanced with the X7 or L3 won't change muchAs the graphs show – the freq response is the same

    I'm not a great believer in the adage that balanced makes a huge difference. Yes, if the implementation is vastly different you can sometimes notice a difference, but more often than not the changes to cross-talk are already below the audible barrier, and most modern set-ups don't have crosstalk issues anyway. So for this test I used the X7 + AM3 and tested balanced vs single ended (volume matching first). I then measured the two. There was no difference perceptible to me once I'd volume matched and the graphs bore this out. Its nice to have the option – but sonically I don't hear any benefits.

    COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS

    These comparisons were all done with the X7, (no EQ) – and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. I could have used a number of different DAPs but I'd been using the X7 a lot, and simply wanted consistency. I wanted to compare against some reasonably well known IEMs in a similar price and signature bracket – so I chose the Meze 12 Classics, TFZ Series 5, Oriveti Basic, Fidue A73 and Dunu Titan 5. Hopefully this gives enough insight to anyone interested in this IEM. Here are my very subjective personal thoughts:

    Note – for the purposes of this exercise I am going to ignore the MMCX connection issue with this particular F5, and trust that my unit is an aberration rather than the norm.

    FiiO F5 (~USD 70) vs Meze 99 Classic (~USD 79)
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    FiiO F5 and Meze 99 ClassicFrequency comparisons

    The Meze 12 Classic is a cartridge style with a wood body. Build quality is extremely good and because of their size, fit and comfort are very good. The FiiO F5 has pretty good materials in its own build, and it has the benefit of replaceable cables, and the choice of two. It also has the slightly better on-cable controls. Comfort goes to the F5's slightly more ergonomic shape (although both are good), but the 12 Classic is able to isolate better.

    Sonically they are extremely similar similar, and although there are small differences (the F5 has more bass & especially sub-bass extension + also more upper mid-range), the added bass and upper mid-range of the F5 almost cancels out to leave the two sounding the same. The Meze 99 sounds slightly leaner and also slightly cleaner overall, while the F5 sounds slightly fuller and also a little warmer. This one comes down to preference – and if FiiO sorts out the connectors, it is probably the better purchase. But for my individual personal preference I'd very slightly lean toward the Meze 12. Both are exceptional earphones sonically for their asking price.

    FiiO F5 (~USD 70) vs TFZ Series 5 (~USD 80)

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    FiiO F5 and TFZ Series 5Frequency comparisons

    The slightly superior build materials used with the FiiO F5 trump the moulded plastic design of the TFZ5, but the overall fit and comfort are at a similar level (both have a very comfortable and ergonomic build). The F5 has the better cable options and of course it has the added benefit of being replaceable. Isolation goes to the TFZ Series 5. The FiiO can be used cable up or down though – another potential plus.

    Sonically the two are somewhat similar but with the lighter upper mid-range emphasis and the much lighter lower treble, the TFZ Series 5 actually seems quite bassy and warm in comparison, and for my own preference, the F5 is probably closer to my own preferences. Again both are very good earphones – especially at this price point, but the FiiO F5 offers a slightly better overall package.


    FiiO F5 (~USD 70) vs Oriveti Basic (~USD 99)
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    FiiO F5 and Oriveti BasicFrequency comparisons

    The Oriveti Basic surprised me when I reviewed it recently, and with EQ can really sound quite stunning. In terms of build quality, overall fit and comfort, isolation and even cable quality it definitely sits ahead of the FiiO.

    For signature however, the Basic is definitely tuned for a different audience, and its bass is stronger than that of the FiiO F5. When you combine that with the lower mid-range and treble, you get a perfect storm – with the Basic sounding warm, dark and bassy, and the FiiO F5 being comparatively leaner, more detailed and even somewhat more refined. If I am comparing default unequalised signatures, the FiiO F5 wins this easily for me on sonics. If I could get FiiO's F5 signature in the Basic's housing – for me you'd have the perfect sub $100 earphone!


    FiiO F5 (~USD 70) vs Fidue A73 (~USD 120-130)
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    FiiO F5 and Fidue A73Frequency comparisons

    Build materials go slightly toward the FiiO F5 with it's partial alloy body vs the formed plastic of the A73. Ergonomics and fit are evenly matched – both are extremely comfortable to wear. The smooth lipless nozzle on the Fidue means you may be slightly limited on tip options. The FiiO F5 slips ahead on cable options (including the fact that its replaceable). Isolation goes to the Fidue A73.

    Sonically the two are quite similar with main differences being the more mid-forward nature of the FiiO F5 versus the elevated lower treble of the A73. Because of this, the FiiO F5 appears both clearer in the mid-range, but also smoother. The A73 still has the zing in its lower treble, and unfortunately it seems to be at a frequency for me that enhances sibilance and also grain. For me this is an easy one – the F5 is simply closer to my preferences.


    FiiO F5 (~USD 70) vs Dunu Titan 5 (~USD 130-140)
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    FiiO F5 and Dunu Titan 5Frequency comparisons

    I've alluded to the relationship between Dunu and FiiO before – we've seen it in the similarities of the FiiO EX1 to the Dunu Titan 1, and also in FiiO's use of very similar cables and also the brilliant Dunu on-cable ties. So why did I choose to compare the F5 to the T5 – and not the cheaper T1? As you can see from the graph, the F5 is essentially a T5 with the secondary peak at 6-7kh softened. In practically every part of the frequency range, it is the same earphone. But lets look at the build first.

    Both have very similar shape and size – with the Titan 5 being polished stainless steel, and the F5 the mixture of alloy and plastic. Where the F5 has the encased plastic arm for the MMCX connector, the Titan 5 just has a protruding circular socket. The other difference is the actual connectors. The Titan 5's is actually longer, and the fit far more secure – but the price of that is you cannot use other MMCX replacement cables. With the F5 you can. Fit and comfort are identical. So for build – it really is advantage Titan 5 - as it should be.

    Sonically you can see how similar the two are. In fact I can actually wear one Titan 5 earpiece with an F1 earpiece (using a splitter from the source) and they sound perfectly natural together (I had to slightly adjust the volume using an attenuator). The only time I noticed the extra peak was with a passage of music that had a lot of cymbal detail, and the Titan earpiece was slightly more pronounced. So is the Titan 5 worth practically double the price of the FiiO? Under normal circumstances I'd say no. But with the question marks I have over this particular review sample's connector – personally I'd take the Titan 5. If the MMCX connector is a non-issue, then it would be the FiiO all the way.


    FiiO F5 – SUMMARY

    FiiO has really pulled out a surprise package with the $70 F5 IEM. It is for all intents and purposes a Dunu Titan 5 clone, with slightly cheaper build materials, but includes a couple of cables (including a balanced option).

    The FiiO F5 is an exceptional package for $70, and I can't think of many IEMs which will really come close if you like this sort of signature. It has exceptional overall balance, with enough bass to satisfy most music lovers without going over the top, while still retaining detail, tone and timbre – especially if you appreciate a more mid-forward sound.

    On the build side of things, some compromises have been made, but they have been smart choices overall. I do think they've missed a couple of obvious ones (the strain relief on some parts of the cable), and the MMCX connectors don't seem to be fully contained in the sockets (I've seen this on other review samples as well). The concern with mine is that the connectors are very easy to take apart – and that is not a good thing.

    I do think it is high time that all manufacturers got together and sorted the MMCX connector issue out. Jays use a screw cap method of locking, and so do Fidue on their A91 flagship. If everyone used something similar – we would never have these problems. Perhaps this can be started with companies like Dunu, Fidue and FiiO. Something needs to be done.

    If the FiiO F5 had a solid connector, these would be going on my figurative “wall of fame”, and would be definite 5 star for the price. Unfortunately the connectors have a big question mark for long-term life – so for now all I can do is go 3/5. I hope FiiO addresses and fixes this. These really are exceptional in all other categories.

    I just want to close with thanking Sunny for arranging the review sample.


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    vyogan, tarhana, Tbone519 and 6 others like this.
  4. Dobrescu George
    5.0/5,
    "FiiO F5 - The Well-Priced Whole-Package IEM"
    Pros - Deep Bass, Vivid Mids, Large Soundstage, Open Design, Comfortable, Smooth and Polite Sound, Happy Sound, Value, Balanced Cables, Interchangeable Cables, Affordable Price
    Cons - Polite Treble, Low Isolation

    FiiO F5 - FiiO's latest IEM brings a great package, a happy sound, and both single ended and balanced cables at a fair price point.



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    Introduction

    FiiO is one of the largest Chinese DAPs, Headphone AMPs (amplifiers) and (recently) IEM producers. Their past successful IEMs were made in partnership with Dunu, another well-known and well-renowned Chinese IEM producer. FiiO has been around since 2007 and while their first products were small headphone amplifiers, their latest products range from small headphone amplifiers to State-Of-Art DAPs. FiiO is also known for their friendly customer support and for their implication with the audiophile community, organizing tours, and providing answers to the most exotic of inquiries.


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    I bought my first serious DAP a few years ago: A FiiO X5. I loved that product and it always was a trustworthy partner, there with me when I first left my hometown and moved to Bucharest. The next DAP I bought was a FiiO product as well, their 2nd generation of X5. I still own FiiO X5 2nd , and use every day in combination with iFi iDSD Black Label.

    When I first caught news of FiiO tinkering with a new IEM, a river of questions flooded my mind. What was this new IEM? Is it here to replace EX1? Is it here to replace the 2nd generation of EX1? How does it sound like?

    For many of us music lovers, the price of our portable setup is an important aspect of our hobby and I always respected companies who make a good package for an affordable price. FiiO is one of the companies who made lots of wonderful products at accessible prices, perfect for those of us who couldn't spend more.

    I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO at this moment, I am not receiving any kind of incentive to sweeten things out. The review unit is provided for this review and for our honest opinion. FiiO asked us directly to publish our thoughts and feelings as they are and I am as objective as humanely possible to all products. After owning many high-end IEMs and other devices, I am a bit hard to impress. This review is made to help those who wonder if F5 is the chosen IEM to become their next music companion.



    About me


    My name is Gheorghe Dobrescu and I am the Director of the Seventh Heart Studios game studio. I work as one of the main programmers for the company, and I am the writer for Quantum Magica and Falsetto Memories projects, the Programmer, Co-Director, Producer and Editor for Eternal Hour.

    I spend almost twelve hours per day working on a computer, drawing, writing and programming. I also take care of administrative work which means that my needs vary a lot, and I'll end up using devices both while on the computer and while on-the-go.

    My collection includes everything from Classical to Metal, from Rap to Pop, from Punk to Cabaret and absolutely everything in between. There are great artists from every type of music, and I'm one to collect their albums and discographies.

    You can check out more about Seventh Heart Studios games on our pages https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/ and https://twitter.com/7heartstudios

    At Seventh Heart Studios, we all love music and this has had an impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best disk space to sound quality ratio, OGG -q10 being closest to audibly transparent when compared to FLAC encoding.



    First Impression


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    FiiO X5ii has been my DAP for a long while, I sold it and bought it again two times, and now and it is part of why I am so curious about F5. Besides X5 2nd gen, I have a few other trusty companions that are always there for me: Meze Classics 99, iFi iDSD Black Label, Dunu DK-3001 and Sennheiser ie800.

    All of those devices are easily state-of-art devices and some of the best one can own and use, so I might be a bit hard to impress.

    It was a damp and cloudy day when I received F5. I had to take the trolleybus to reach an area of Bucharest where they haven't extended the Metro yet. It was late in the noon that day and people were slowly starting to go home from their work, together with kids coming back from school. The Trolleybus has never been a favorite of mine in Bucharest, it is old and rusty, with people riding it never looking happy. I met with a friend, the writer from http://soundnews.ro/ as we both live in Bucharest and he received an F5 as well and offered to pick mine from the postage together with his. We kept talking for a while as he described his feelings for F5 and about music that we love and enjoy. It was already evening when I took the Trolleybus back home and the seats were mostly empty, just a few people wandering at those late hours through the dusty, empty streets of Bucharest. The weather was getting cooler with the night fall in Bucharest as I quickly got home and started unpacking FiiO F5 with a tender curiosity and a delicate eagerness to find what the folks at FiiO cooked for us.

    After unpacking and carefully setting F5 up for usage, the first thing that surprised me was the comfort. For an IEM of this shape and size, FiiO F5 felt like a feather gently grazing my ears, I could barely tell that I was wearing it – the open design also giving them a sense of openness and airiness that's hard to match. I picked a magical song to start my journey with FiiO F5, StereoRyze – Neon Sails. F5 impressed me by their deep bass and by their airy, wide and open sound.

    It was time to get more listening and burn-in to FiiO's IEM before describing their sound.



    Packaging:


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

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    Having enjoyed the company of FiiO DAPs in the past, I knew what to expect from a FiiO DAP unboxing experience, but I had no idea what to expect from their IEMs.

    FiiO F5 comes packaged in a similar box like FiiO's premium DAPs.

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    F5 is packaged in a pretty thick box, designed in a black theme and decorated with red lines and golden accents. The box includes a good amount of information about F5 and FiiO's philosophy towards sound, both in English and Chinese.

    Inside the black box, there is another black box made of hard, textured cardboard with the inscription "FiiO". This box doesn't include any more information, but it protects everything else during transport.

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    Inside this second box you will discover a few compartments each including something magical, the most explosive of them all being the glossy carry box which is eye-catching, eye-candy, and sturdy at the same time. The carry box slightly reminds of the typical Peli boxes, having a similar locking mechanism.

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    Inside the black carry box, you can find F5 IEM bodies seated in a foam cutout, and a selection of tips. After unpacking the rest of the package, you can find a balanced cable, a single ended cable that features an iPhone/Android remote and a set of instructions / warranty cards for FiiO F5.

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    I love having extras in a package, and I actually still own the 3.5mm rubber jack saver that came with the first generation of X5.

    Coming with balanced cable, six sets of tips, a single ended cable with a microphone, and detachable cables, F5 can only be commended for their rich box content, especially at their price point. F5 is one of the very few IEMs that has such a rich box content at this price point.

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    With everything out of the way, it is time to connect them and start listening to F5!



    What I look in for a IEM

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    When buying a IEM, there are a few things that a buyer should have in mind since sooner or later those will make a difference:

    - Sound quality – This is the most important aspect of an IEM by far, if it sounds good, it'll bring a lot of fun and pleasure to you

    - Ergonomics – the fit and ergonomics of a IEM are very important, the listener wants a comfortable IEM that can stay in place for hours at once and that doesn't have a microphonic cable.

    - Value – Some IEM fans might want to keep the value of their purchase in mind

    - Drive-ability – Some might want to drive an IEM directly from a smartphone or from a weaker source, it is important to know how hard or easy to drive is a IEM or Headphone before making a purchase

    - Interesting design – Everyone will have a different definition for what an interesting design is, but it is always good to see effort going to the design part of the IEM.

    - Portability – An IEM should be portable and possible to wear while walking or doing other activities.

    - EMI interference – Any IEM out there should be free of those, but it is good to test against them either way.



    Technical Specifications

    Impedance: 32 Ohm

    Connector: 3.5 mm SE + 2.5 mm BAL

    Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz

    Rated Power: 102dB / mW

    Weight: ~21g

    Cable length: 1.2m

    Driver Size: 13.6mm

    Driver Type: Dynamic, Open Back

    Coupling type: In-Ear

    Includes Balanced cable: Yes

    IEM body connector type: MMCX



    Build Quality/Aesthetics

    F5 is a pleasant surprise as the first thing to notice is that not only they feature detachable cables, but there are two cables in the box as well. This is extremely rare at their price point and FiiO's effort can only be commended. The next thing to notice is that they have a sturdy build and that the single ended cable features a handy microphone/remote accessory.

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    As far as looks go, FiiO F5 is quite the handsome IEM. While worn, they look like a cool, industrial-like IEM, featuring an adonized finish together with a combination of sharp and curved edges that entwine to give F5 its final finish. They might also look like a futuristic object from a Sci-Fi movie at times.

    The main IEM body is composed out of a dark metallic material while the front facing part of the IEM seems to be made out of hard plastic. The part facing the ear has three holes which act as vents, next to a L/R inscription. The tip bore is large and the tips included have a very tight fit between the silicone tip and the plastic bore. The first time putting a silicone tip on F5 can be a bit tricky, though it is promising to know that the tips stick well to the IEM body.

    Upon close examination, I found a hole right behind the IEM as well, next to the cable connector. I suspect that it acts as another ventilation hole.

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    Going down the IEM body, there is a MMCX connector which connects the IEM with the cable. The MMCX connection is gold plated and has a nice tight fit to it, clicking into place. During my time with F5, the tips never fell off nor the mmcx ever disconnect during usage, but it is possible to spin the MMCX connector freely. Since the pair I'm using is a pre-production sample, the final version should have a tighter fit.

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    The IEM body looks fairly sturdy and it also looks like it can take a lot of abuse before showing wear signs. There are no scratches on this pair, even after using F5 for a while, even after using it outside for a few weeks.

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    There are two cables included with F5 and both are pretty nice considering their price point. One of the cables is entirely black and single ended, featuring an iDevice + Android remote/microphone tool.

    The other cable is balanced and has a transparent / bright color to it. Balanced cables cannot feature a microphone or remote due to their design.

    The quality of the cables is slightly different and the sound will change as the single ended and balanced sound of every source will always be a bit different. Neither of the cables aren't overly microphonic and F5 can be used while taking a walk outside with no problems.

    The microphone / remote works as intended and the voice sounds crisp and clear to the person on the other end. The remote functions work well for Android with my Mi Max phone.

    FiiO has packaged another nifty trick with F5, as it comes with something that everyone will be glad to have: a nice-looking, sturdy carry box.

    The carry box is made out of hard plastic and its surface features a glossy black color. While it might get a few scratches after some usage, it feels really sturdy (similar to pelican boxes) and provides a good carry method for IEMs and other accessories. The carry box features a slightly angular surface resembling modern art on the top surface and features rounded edges all around its body, being very easy to carry in a pocket. The inner part seems to be rubberized so it offers a pretty good protection for the IEM that is carried inside. I like to place a small humidity control bag inside the box to keep the IEM's drivers dry.

    All in all, the build quality of F5 is nice and it is an IEM you can comfortably show to your friends and wear outside.



    Fit / Comfort

    As F5 is an IEM, the fit and comfort can be tricky as every person has a unique ear shape and size. IEMs can be hit and miss for anybody when it comes to comfort, but nevertheless, F5 provides a pretty good comfort.


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    FiiO also comes with a nifty solution for the comfort issue with IEMs and adds a good number of tips to F5. I used the medium size colored tips, but all tips offered good comfort for me while the medium sized tips offered the most balanced sound.

    F5's fit is shallow and their big IEM bodies play an important role in this as it is impossible to push F5 more than its body allows, but the kind of fit they offer works well with my ears and I found nothing to complain about.

    F5 has absolutely no driver flex and sits comfortable in ears for long hours of usage. Due to their vented design, F5 has the tendency to feel more comfortable over a long period of time than fully closed IEMs, but this also means that they will provide less isolation from the outside noise.

    People around me couldn't really hear my music and F5 isolated outside noise enough to take a walk through the dusty streets of Bucharest while wearing them, but they are open in their design.

    F5 can only be used straight-down, and while it might be possible for some people to wear them with the cables around the ear, most people will find that the straight-down mode works best for F5.

    Both cables are tangle-free and F5 can be safely put in their carry case or in a pocket without the cables getting tangled, while the little belt accessory down the cable helps with this as well.

    The tips of F5 come in two types, a set of colored tips in 3 sizes and a set of fully black tips in 3 sizes. The part underneath the tip is colored and while FiiO didn't offer an explanation behind this, the colored tips seem to offer the best sonic experience and comfort to my ears. The tips don't get slippery very fast and I have worn F5 for a while without feeling the need to take them out or to wash the tips, the silicone in their composition is of pretty high quality.

    All in all, F5 is comfortable and besides their isolation which is limited by their open design, it is an IEM hard to fault in the ergonomics and practical usage department.



    Testing

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    FiiO F5 have been tested with a multitude of devices, from entry-level devices like Xiaomi Mi max, to portable DAPs like FiiO X5ii, all the way to high end DAC/AMPs like iFi iDSD Black Label.



    Sound Quallity

    The sound of FiiO F5 is warm, polite, euphoric, open and airy.

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    Early impressions: F5 has a good soundstage and while their general sound feels rather relaxed and polite, the large soundstage gives an airy sound to the whole presentation. There is a good sense of space and depth to the soundstage and the sound effects in electronic music have a good thickness and spatial presentation. The midrange is well expressed with a nice warmth to it and natural tonality to it.

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    Detailed Impressions: After listening to F5 for many hours and using them for many days, I would describe their signature as warm, open, airy and polite. The top end is very polite, but F5 features a fairly-energetic 8kHz area, after which they slowly roll off, the final sound being pretty smooth and friedly. The dynamics are good, especially considering their price point. Even after days of usage, the soundstage is one of the most amazing features of F5. Details are also very good for F5's asking price.



    Little disclaimer:

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    For the sonic impressions, I have used: iDSD Black Label, FiiO X5ii and Xiaomi Mi Max. Each of them has a sonic signature of their own. That sonic signature will change the way F5 sounds when driven from any of them. A high-end DAC/AMP like iDSD BL makes F5 sounds better than a smartphone and although F5 are very easy to drive, I still recommend a good DAP or DAC/AMP to take full advantage of their sound.



    Channel balance

    F5 does not present any channel imbalance and the channels are perfectly balanced.

    Bass

    F5 presents a natural and clean bass that extends all the way to 20 Hz, but which doesn't bleed into mids one bit. The bass of F5 is well detailed and there is very little one can fault when it comes to their bass, especially considering the price tag of F5.

    There is a good tendency for F5 to be bass heavy, but given its bass control and quality, I would name it a welcome Bass-Heavy signature as it gives a certain warmth and impact to music.

    F5 could be easily be recommended to a basshead on a budget. It is good to note that they are cleaner in their bass than many of the competitors in the ~70$ price area, providing a clean, smooth and pleasurable presentation.

    F5 works quite well with electronic, dubstep and bass heavy music, but they don't shy away from rock and pop, K-Pop and J-Pop in special sounding sweet and enthusiastic through F5.

    Knife Party – 404 – The song starts strong with a great impact for every bass note. Small details can be heard playing in the background and the soundstage is well-extended. The textures in the special effects is very good and leaves a positive impression. As the song takes the listener on a trip through the universe filled with symbols and 90's internet sounds, all bass notes continue to go deep and hit hard while effects feel tangible, especially when driven from iFi iDSD Black Label. All textures feel vivid and are very impressive for an entry-level IEM.

    Infected Mushroom – Becoming insane – The first few guitar notes accompany each other in a smooth way and the polite nature on F5 makes the song feel laid back, the guitars being warm, musical and enthusiastic instead of having their usual bite with this song. The bass goes deep and the impact of F5 can easily make one move his head while listening to this song, and while the treble is smooth(er) than I generally like it, the textures are good and vividly rendered, and so are all effects and the soundstage. For the record, I couldn't stop listening to the song while testing F5 and started to sing along with the song – a good measurement of the level of enjoyment F5 can provide, despite their friendly price point.

    3OH!3 – Colorado Sunshine – The song starts with good strength and all bass notes extend well down to 20 Hz, with the voice having an excellent timbre and depth to it while the rest of the mids also have an excellent timbre. The first guitar notes have a laid back and relaxing sound to them while the top end also stays friendly and laid back. The song doesn't have any trace of sibilance or harshness, having a smooth general feeling to it. Through the trip 3OH!3 offers the listener, F5 presents things with a spacious feeling and it is possible to hear and enjoy many of the fine details hidden within the large soundstage. The texture, especially bass texture is great and gives the song a playful and vivid feeling to it.

    Oceana – Barracuda Capital of the World – The start of the song is good and the vocal tone is rendered spot-on. The cymbal crashes are smooth and they give the song a warm feeling to it. The bass is deep and envelops the listener in its presence and texture while the guitar notes are true in both tonality and texture and their positioning is excellent.




    Midrange


    The midrange of F5 is warm and a bit thick but the tonality is good and becomes even better after just a bit of equalization. Driving F5 from iDSD BL will make the tonality and textures considerably better, and iDSD BL will also enhance the depth of F5's soundstage. The enhanced bass doesn't bleed into the mids, but the mids have a lush sound to them. This works very well for an enthusiastic and happy sound, a lot of the music sounding "happy" through F5. It is hard to describe the emotional engagement F5 has, but anything one listens through it will sound happy and optimistic, even most of Metal music.

    The midrange is placed right at the perfect spot with F5, not too forward and not too recessed either. The instrument tonality is also very natural and relaxed. The level of details is also excellent for their price point, being better than I expected before hearing them. There is very little to fault on F5's midrange, and while listening to them, their enthusiastic and happy midrange can make one smile and gently move their heard with ease.

    Antichrist feat Martin Mentzoni – Evil Gypsy Woman – The piano at the beginning of the song is clear and doesn't have any kind of sibilance or harsh sounds. The voiced parts are clear and have a spot-on tonality while the bass notes are deep and have enough impact to impress the listener, even managing to shake the earth around the listener while staying very clear, when called for. The soundstage size is impressive, together with the very good instrument separation, both being enhanced by the open design of F5. The ADSR and PRaT of this song are impressive considering F5's price point and effects are able to start and stop at the drop of a needle, F5 doing a great job at playing this song. The cymbal effects are smooth and polie, singing along in the background, keeping the rhythm of the song well and alive.

    Cold War Kids – Love is Mystical – The song starts with a strong drum beat and with a smooth piano singing in the back. The voices are lively and carry a good amount of emotion, the bass guitar is clear and bass notes shake the listener well, giving the song a very good sense of fun. There are a lot of details that are easily audible due to F5's large soundstage and well separated instruments playing in a warm unison. All drum patterns are clear and crispy while the cymbals come to accompany the song in a harmonic background, being neither intrusive nor entirely erased, having enogh presence to justify their role in the song. For the record, I have been tapping my leg for almost the whole duration of the song. The story of love as sang by Cold Ward Kids is sent incredibly vivid and with a strong emotional impact, the listener can hear fine vocal cues that indicate the singer's strong emotions while the song was recorded.

    Masa Works Design – God of Marie – The song starts with good impact and force while the cymbals play vividly in their spot, in the background-left area. The voices are sweet and the tonality is spot on, while the bass of the song feels big, hits hard and hits deep. The mid effects and synths are crisp and their textures are nicely rendered. The separation between instruments and soundstage are both staggering, F5 having the sound of an open-back headphone headphone rather than an IEM. The soundstage has very good depth and width, effects can easily be localized in the 3D listening space while everything plays together to create a sweet harmony. Although the voices of this song are part of Vocaloid, they sound lively and carry a sweet tonality with them while sang through F5.

    Fall Out Boy – Immortals – The bass notes at the beginning of the song are impressive and hit deep without distorting one bit. The synth notes playing in the background are clear and have a sweet tonality to them while the voices are spot-on even without any EQ and all instruments are nicely layered in the 3D space. The cymbals fit nicely in the background, making good company for the rest of the song. The story of this song is presented nicely to the listeners and the emotional impact is very good as well.

    Sylva Hound feat UndreamedPanic ft. Synthis – The Storm – The song starts with a groovy – funky bass woven together with a synth play that leads to the first verse which is sang with crisp voices and good amounts of details. All piano notes are easily distinguishable as they play in the background and create a cover for all the other instruments as they continue to play in their own layers. The rather minimalistic structure of the song doesn't feel minimalistic at all with F5, as it renders the song as a playful and intricate piece, perfect to dance to. While the piano notes entwine the listener into a sweet play-harmony that helps the listener dream to the electric yet quaint scenery of this song is portrayed nicely through the main voice and voice reverb tracks.

    Ken Arai – I Am – As F5 is already an awesome IEM for electronic music, "I Am" by Ken Arai is one of the best songs to compliment F5 and its default sonic signature. All bass notes are redeemed with extreme strength and every reverberation in the bass is audible and palpable for the listener. The weight and impact of the intro is excellent and the cymbals are played clearly and consistently in the background, seasoning the rest of the sound. All synth notes are clear and crisp, and the large soundstage of F5 gives the whole song a holographic presentation, without losing the impact employed by the excellent bass notes. The ADSR and micro-dynamics are spot-on for this song and F5 outdoes its price point by a large margin when playing this song. All details in the song are revealed by F5 and for the record, I couldn't stop listening to the song the first time I heard it played on iDSD BL + FiiO F5, combination which I found excellent. At the moment, I can only wonder how F5 would sound in balanced mode, but I would happily buy F5 to use in single ended mode as well.



    Treble

    The treble of F5 is smooth, relaxed, laid back and polite. It would be fair to say that it takes a step back when compared to the mids and bass, but it is detailed (especially for F5's price point). F5's treble has a bit of grain which helps recognize more details but it is clearly not the highlight of F5's signature, rather having an important role as the seasoning for the amazing soundstage, natural mids and clean bass. F5 will never sound harsh or sibilant and while the treble might be a bit polite for some listeners, most listeners will be delighted to hear F5's sound and how you can literally use it for hours on a row without suffering any kind of listener's fatigue. F5 works pretty well with any kind of music thrown at it, but the laid back treble can make metal sound less aggressive – which in return makes pop sounds sound sweeter and more enthusiastic, along with indie-rock pieces and compositions being rendered far more intriguing than they are when an aggressive IEM reveals their flaws.

    As a listener, I actually prefer slightly brighter signatures so I found myself adding a few dB of treble to F5 to bring the sound closer to my ideals. There is a limit to how much EQ F5 can safely take, but most people won't feel the need to EQ F5 at all. For the record, while I am a fan of brighter signatures, my wife loves the smooth top end of F5 and didn't feel the need to EQ them in any way.

    F5's sound is polite yet it sounds very energetic and F5 is one IEM that will make a person tap their feet while listening to pieces that feature a healthy rhythm.

    Infected mushroom – Where do I belong – The first few bass notes enter the scene with impressive strength and impact, literally moving the listener from his place. The 3D effects and certain tones made to move through the sonic landscape works well along with the playful bass woobles. The cymbals make a great seasoning for the natural sound of this song and F5 is able to play a healthy level in the cymbals even though they do play in the background. The treble is actually well detailed and it is possible to hear fast cymbal hits. For the record, I have been tapping my feet even while writing the review for this song.

    Protest The Hero – I Am Dimitri Karamazov And The World Is My Father – This song always sounds harsh and sibilant with most setups, given its mastering and original recording, but with F5, it is not harsh nor sibilant, it is enjoyable and the cymbals, while clear and vivid, don't steal the spotlight, which is instead given to the sweet and playful guitar tones. It is possible to hear the bass guitar notes playing through all of this song and the general feeling of it is melodic and fun while the solo guitar has a vivid and clear texture. Stereo separation is excellent, and musical notes are not one bit smeared and they don't protrude on each other. It is possible to feel the emotional engagement the singer has for the whole duration of the song – the story of the song being depressive, about a man who was sent to war without his consent.

    Mojo Juju – Must Be Desire – Mojo Juju's songs are always jazzy with a sprinkle of groovy cabaret, a natural combination with FiiO F5. Must be Desire relies heavily on thick and heavy bass notes and a clear yet natural vocal presentation. F5 proves its qualities really well with this song, even the trumpets having a sweet sound to them and the voice being really clear. The love story painted through the song, a story of desire that consumes the partners through desire and attraction is painted with vivid colors and with a happy tone that makes the listener move his entire body to the rhythm employed by Mojo Juju. The crying trumpet at the middle of the song is an excellent example of how F5's laid back top end can make a song happy. Trumpets can be really harsh in nature, but F5 makes them sweet and filters them so the listener only hears the emotional impact the trumpet has, without the actual harshness of a trumpet sound. It is also amazing to hear the bassist's fingers sliding through the bass guitar's strings as he keeps the rhythm together with the drummer. All in all, F5's experience with this song can only be commended and it is a fun trip through musical planes.

    Machinae Supremacy – Gimme More – The cover of the well-known song by Britney Spears is a very good choice for F5 as it shows how the unique signature of F5 works with a rock cover of a pop song. The intro of the song is strong and has good impact while the guitars are layered nice together with the drum and cymbal patterns. The drums sound crispy and the cymbals are very clear, playing in the background. The synth effects are played harmoniously with the bass notes leading to a thick and playful feeling for each note. The guitar solo carries a good aggressive impact to it and the cymbal crashes and complex drum patterns are easy to notice playing at the same time as every guitar solo.

    NaNoShi Orchestra feat Hatsune Miku – Double Suicide In The White Snow – The guitar intro of the song is vivid and each drum beat is gently woven in with each guitar note. Multiple sonic layers are easy to distinguish while the voices are rendered extremely sweet. With the voices being so sweet, the emotional impact and emotional involvement are even more potent for this song since the sadness the song transmits is felt even more vivid by the listener. For the record, F5 is able to bring this song extremely vivid to the listener as listening to this song actually brought a few tears to my eyes and I had to stop writing for a few minutes.



    Soundstage

    The soundstage of F5 is very impressive and it is considerably larger than the soundstage of almost all IEMs that I heard in the past, at times surpassing the soundstage of IEMs far more expensive, even surpassing the soundstage of some closed back headphones I tested in the past.

    The instrument separation is also astonishing on F5, all instruments play in their own space and layers, being separated by clear bounds. iDSD BL helps a lot with this as it has an amazing instrument definition and separation by default, embedding its qualities in F5's sound.

    Soundstage depth is also impressive, and although the unique signature of F5 makes the bass a tiny bit forward, the mids are not affected by this effect and certain effects can come from a clear distance from the listener, while other effects in the mids can play right in front of the listener.



    ADSR/PRaT

    F5 does a great job with the ADSR and PRaT with both synthetic and acoustic music. F5's ADSR performance is extremely good for its price point.

    Musical notes have a slightly prolonged decay / romantic feeling to them and this is probably a part of why F5 sounds sweet and happy with a lot of music.

    Considering F5's price point, its ADSR and PRaT cannot be faulted in any way.



    Portable Usage

    FiiO F5 is a IEM, so it is highly portable by default. Since it has a very low impedance and a high efficiency, driving it won't be a problem, working really well even from a weak source like a smartphone or an ultra-portable player like Clip+.

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    Even so, it is highly recommended to drive F5 from a better DAC/AMP as the sound improves a lot and F5 turns into a completely better IEM. FiiO DAPs work really well in particular with F5, FiiO X5-3, FiiO X7 and FiiO X3ii.

    The isolation of F5 is low as they are fully open back IEMs, but I have been able to use F5 while on the go, in the noisy environment of Bucharest. I have used them at a slightly higher volume than I usually set my IEMs to. The microphone/remote accessory is on the right side this time (most other IEMs have it on the left side), but this didn't create any issue in the usage of F5.

    Sound leakage of F5 is also slightly higher than other IEMs, given its open design, but people around me didn't even notice when I was listening to music – neither did it bother people in complete silence when I was listening to music.

    The comfort is incredibly good, and I have been able to walk, dance, sing and do other activities while wearing F5 without any issues. The cables proven to be ever so slightly microphonic, but it was nothing too serious either.

    All in all, F5 is a very portable IEM that would easily make a travel or listening companion to any music lover, with very little to fault in their portability. Since their weak isolation is a trade-off to offer a large soundstage, a great instrument separation and good comfort, I don't mind the open design at all.



    Comparisons

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    There are a few IEMs out there that F5 can be compared to, but I only have a few on my hands at the moment. The list of comparisons will grow with the addition of new IEMs to Audiophile Heaven's list of reviews.

    F5 vs Shozy Zero – Shozy zero comes with less tips than F5 and comes without detachable cables. F5 is made out of metal + plastic, while Zero is made out of wood. Sound wise, Zero is similar to F5 in its signature, but F5 provides a more open sound due to their fully open design. F5 has no driver flex while Zero can present some driver flex. Shozy Zero's isolation is pretty good while F5 are fully open in design so they don't try to provide as much isolation.


    F5 vs Sennheiser M2 IEBT – The two are very different and M2 IEBT is almost 3 times the price of F5, and it is a Bluetooth IEM, but a comparison in sound is possible. M2 IEBT has a closed design and will provide more isolation, while F5 is fully open and provides more air in their sound. While M2 IEBT doesn't have any driver flex, the difference in their closed design vs the open design of F5 can be felt while wearing both. Both M2 IEBT and F5 provide very good silicone tips and both can stay comfortably in one's ears for extended periods of time. M2 IEBT provides an energetic, happy and enthusiastic signature while F5 provides a smooth, laid back and happy signature. The biggest difference is in the top end, which is very energetic on M2 IEBT, but laid back, polite and relaxing on F5. Both carry very good detail levels through all frequencies. You can read more about M2 IEBT here: https://www.head-fi.org/p/836/sennheiser-hd1-in-ear-wireless-review-by-dobrescu-george

    FiiO F5 vs SIMGOT EN700 BASS – While EN700 BASS is more expensive than F5 with about 50%, the comparison is fair as they go for a similar signature and might be considered by the same people. EN700 BASS is closer to a neutral/natural sound while F5 is more laid back and relaxed and makes music sound happier. The soundstage is pretty similar and the bass is larger on F5. EN700 BASS has a different shape and fit when compared to F5 – EN700 BASS is bigger and has an over-the-ear design and fitting mechanism while F5 is best worn straight down. FiiO F5 provides Balanced modes and detachable cables, while EN700 BASS does not. [Review for EN700 BASS is in the works]



    Value

    All in all, the value of FiiO F5 is spectacular. Its price point, only 70$, makes things even more interesting as F5 comes with a plethora of accessories: it comes with two cables, one of which is balanced, a good selection of tips, and with a very nice and useful carrying case. The sound of F5 is very good for its price point, and there is no way to fault F5's value for its package.

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    The sound of F5 is better than most of its direct competitors, especially competitors at a similar price point, being one of the IEMs I wholeheartedly recommend in its price range.

    The sole fact that F5 is almost the only balanced IEM at its price point and it comes with two cables tells more about its value than any words can tell.



    Conclusion

    FiiO F5 is a lot of fun to listen and it looks like FiiO is going in the right direction with F5. Feathery comfort, open sound, and amazing soundstage / instrument separation are only a few of the reasons one will be really interested in F5.

    FiiO F5 gives other products a run for their money and if driven from a good source, like iDSD BL, F5 turns into an overwhelming experience for the music lover, providing not only a very immersive audition but also an enthusiastic and happy sound.

    If you're looking for a laid back, happy sounding, warm and clear IEM, FiiO F5 makes one of the best companions for you. The balanced cable and really nice carry case are only the icing on the cake as F5 provides a complete package at a very good price!



    Thank you for reading, stay safe, and remember to always have fun while listening to music!



    Useful links:

    Link for the review on Audiophile Heaven: https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/2017/06/fiio-f5-well-priced-whole-package-iem.html


    Audiophile Heaven:
    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.com/

    Audiophile Heaven on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AudiophileHeaven/

    FiiO product page: http://fiio.net/en/products/69

    FiiO's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FiiOAUDIO/
  5. ryanjsoo
    4.0/5,
    "Fiio F5 Review – Apex Predator"
    Pros - Nice comfort, Removable cable, Warm but balanced sound, Soundstage, Great accessories
    Cons - Bass a bit sloppy, Highs may be too smoothed off for some, Mediocre isolation
    Introduction –

    Fiio has returned with another reasonably priced in-ear earphone that seeks to once again challenge our perception of value. Though similar in both price and design, the F5 sits above the EX1 2nd Gen in Fiio’s earphone line-up. And though the original EX1 was essentially a rebranded Dunu Titan 1, speculation has it that the F earphones are unique, designed in-house with assistance from Dunu producing some stellar results. With two removable MMCX cables, an ergonomic design and a sound crafted in conjunction with audio expert Dunu, the F5 provides a sensational feature set, clearly more comprehensive than lower models and even similarly priced models from other manufacturers; their sub $80 asking price (exact RRP not yet confirmed) is just the icing on the cake. Let’s see how the F5 stacks up to some similarly priced class leaders and if the F5 brings enough improvement over the already quite exemplary EX1 2nd Gen to warrant the increase in price.



    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Fiio very much for contacting me and providing me with the F5 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 analysis. All words are my own, I do no allow external editing or manipulation.



    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 –

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    The F5’s packaging instantly denotes their higher status over the F1 and F3 with low-key renders, specs and features along with an authenticity sticker (though I have yet to see any fake products pop up on the market).

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    Within lies a solid box that slides open to reveal an imitation pelican case and a smaller box containing two cables, one with a 3-button smartphone remote and one with a 2.5mm balanced connector. At the very bottom, Fiio have included some papers detailing warranty and further specifications.

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    Opening up the included hard case reveals the earphones securely fit within a foam plate and the various silicone ear tips presented within a very aesthetically pleasing layout. Fiio includes two types of tips, some firmer tips with coloured soundtubes and softer all-black tips which provide a slightly warmer sound. Personally, I prefer the Sony Hybrid style tips included with the EX1 2nd gen though the coloured tips included with the F5 are more acoustically transparent and provide a comfortable seal.



    Design –

    Fiio’s ties with Dunu are immediately evident when observing the F5’s design; those large, tapered but low-profile housings are incredibly reminiscent of the Titan earphones. In that sense, the F5 also reminds of the EX1 though Fiio has implemented several small changes to the design, some enhancing the ergonomics of the earphone and some, unfortunately, degrading the in-hand feel. However, with their much reduced asking price (Titan 5 retails for ~$120 US vs <$80), the F5 is still very impressive within its price class, the EX1 and Titan earphones are simply outstanding.

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    The F5 is a more subdued looking earphone than the chromed silver Titan’s and EX1, instead adopting a matte gunmetal finish which feels nice if less solid in the hand. Fiio have also implemented a different strain relief design that places the MMCX connectors more lateral and anterior. Not only does this assist quite a bit with fit, it also provides the earphones with a more intriguing design and minimises microphonics, something that frequently bothered on the EX1. Unfortunately, the inner surface, nozzle and offset MMCX housings are all plastic, only the main housings are aluminium. As a result, the earphones feel perceptibly cheaper when compared to the all-metal EX1 2nd gen and Titans.

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    However, these features, while diminishing the earphone’s feel, do help with fit and it is in regards to comfort that the F5 most notably improves upon its predecessor. Despite housing rather enormous 13.6mm drivers, the earphones manage their size with aplomb. The housings have a flush inner face that avoids forming hotspots and well-angled nozzles that provide as good a seal as one could hope for from a semi-in-ear design. They are a shallow fitting earphone but their lighter weight, smaller vents and more laterally offset strain reliefs produce both more stability and isolation than the EX1. When compared to other similarly priced earphones like the Shozy Zero and Meze 11 Neo, the F5 provides the greatest comfort of the bunch offset by the least passive noise isolation. As a result, the earphones are best suited for indoor use, they are just adequate for quieter public transport and may actually be a solid choice for commute as they allow you to remain aware of your surroundings.

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    As aforementioned, one of the most notable features of the F5 is its removable cable, quite a rarity around this price. Not only does this augment long-term durability, it also enables cable swapping to modify acoustics to preference. Fiio were kind enough to include two cables from factory, both are impressive in their own regards yet both are also inferior in quality to the fantastic unit used on the EX1. I suppose a benefit of having that MMCX interface includes the ability to swap them out for higher quality alternatives.

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    I’ll start with the remote cable since that is inevitably going to be the most popular. Unfortunately, it’s a rather thin and rubbery unit with minimal strain relief. The straight plug is low profile but feels markedly less sturdy than the beefy right angle plug on the EX1. By contrast, the included remote is very nice, with a metal enclosure and large, clicky buttons. A small switch on the side enables the user to switch between Android and IOS, enabling all 3 buttons to function on all devices. The switch is recessed, requiring a sim tool or paperclip to change, and they are notably less convenient to use than the auto switching unit used on 1More earphones. Still, just having the option is fantastic.

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    The balanced cable impresses more in its quality. Instantly, it’s silvery finish draws the eye to the strands of OFC copper weaving underneath its transparent sheath. It has a smoother texture that doesn’t catch or tangle like the remote cable and the balanced cable is far more compliant and supple, well resisting tangling. Unfortunately, mine had a small defect, the left MMCX connector doesn’t click into place, often detaching from the left earpiece in my pocket. I would chalk that up to my F5 being a pre-production unit but it is still concerning and not something I have experienced from other earphones. Again, this is a balanced cable, requiring a source with an appropriate 2.5mm output, though adapters enabling use with unbalanced (or “regular” in layman’s terms) 3.5mm sources are easily found. Interestingly, I also found the balanced cable to be acoustically superior regardless of whether the earphones were being run through a balanced or unbalanced connection. It’s unfortunate that Fiio skimped on the remote cable, but this is a common trend that persists even to the $400-500 Westone earphones.



    Sound –

    Similar to my experiences with their design, acoustically the F5 trades blows with the EX1 2nd Gen, doing some things better and a few things worse. Although the F5 employs a slightly larger driver than the EX1 2NdGen (13.6mm vs 13mm) and slightly revised housing design that is less immediately open, the earphones still perform similarly on a technical level. That being said, the F5 makes several notable improvements, especially in regard to overall balance and coherence. So while the F5 may be slightly pricier than the EX1, sound quality is surprisingly comparable between the two and I would suspect that tonal preferences would dictate which is right for you.

    Returning to the cable debate, I did find the balanced cable to be acoustically superior, even when running through an adaptor converting it to a regular TRS connection. Sound changes included an expanded soundstage and cleaner sound throughout. While the earphones still sound great with the regular remote cable, I felt that the balanced cable actualizes the potential of the earphones. As such, I will be using the silver balanced cable for my sound analysis.



    Tonality –

    The F5 is a relatively balanced earphone that is subtly v-shaped with bass having the most emphasis and the upper midrange the least. It has a warm, full low-end mated to a slightly darker midrange and a smooth but airy high-end. That being said, the F5 maintains a nice sense of balance that will please all but lovers of a brighter midrange, in which case the EX1 and Meze 11 Neo will satiate those needs. When compared to the EX1, the F5 is more balanced, especially within their midrange which boasts more presence and their high-end which sounds more linear and a little less thin. They are also more balanced than the bassier Shozy Zero and sounded more natural and engaging than the more mid-forward Meze 11 Neo which is one of the most balanced earphones around this price range.



    Soundstage, Imaging and Tonality –

    The F5 has a great soundstage and not just around this price; they are among the more spacious earphones I have heard period. Of course, they don’t image like higher-end earphones nor do they have the resolution and layering of the exemplary earphones around $200, but among their rather limited competition, the F5’s are almost class-leading. By sacrificing isolation, the F5 achieves large amounts of space that coincide with their semi-in-ear fit. They focus on width over depth with good but not outstanding height. Listening to David Bowie’s “Everyone Says Hi” and Bowie’s vocals were well centred while instruments just reached out of the head width. As aforementioned, the earphones lack the midrange resolution to layer like the more expensive Re-600, Pinnacle P1 and DK-3001, but they do have a really nice soundstage that easily bests the Meze 11 Neo and the more intimate Shozy Zero. When compared to Fiio’s EX1 2nd generation, the F5 actually takes a step back in terms of space, both due to their actual tuning and their less vented nature. But while the F5 isn’t constantly as out of the head as the EX1, imaging precision is appreciably improved and they do sound more coherent, especially with vocals which frequently sound more diffuse and distant on the EX1. Separation also remains strong on the F5 and very convoluted, complex songs such as Hiroyuki Sawano’s “Friends” were handled well by the F5. I suspect they will especially appeal to lovers of rock, metal and classical though their large soundstage does add that extra dimension to almost every genre.



    Drivability –

    The F5 has a nice sensitivity rating of 102dB combined with a 32ohm impedance, they are similarly sensitive as the Meze 11 Neo and slightly more so than the EX1 2nd Gen. As a result, the F5 isn’t source sensitive but also isn’t particularly difficult to drive and even weaker sources such as my iPod Nano 7G and Hidizs AP60 drove the F5 just fine. In addition, the F5 didn’t pick up much hiss from any of my sources, they were almost silent from my Oppo HA-2 and silent with my iPods and HTC 10. They don’t require an amplifier but scale up a bit with a better source as expected. In particular, the F5 has quite an outstanding soundstage that takes advantage of a spacious and separated source over more average portable ones, naturally, making the X5 III a nice pairing.

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    Since the F5 comes bundled with a balanced cable, I was keen to run the earphones from the hidden balanced output on my Oppo HA-2 and Fiio’s own X5 III. Interestingly, I found the actual cable to make a bigger difference than the balanced output as the sound quality through the more silvery cable, produced a more open high-end and more resolution than the black remote cable. Through the 2.5mm balanced output of the X5 III, the earphones perhaps sounded slightly cleaner, but I didn’t notice an immediate difference.



    Bass –

    The F5 has a fuller low-end that avoids excessive bloat and lacks any muddiness. While they are less concise within the bass than the EX1 2ndgen, the F5 is also more linear and sounds more even throughout. Mid-bass has the most emphasis while sub-bass and upper-bass have just a modest boost. Slight warming of the midrange is present but spill is minimal and sub-bass extension is quite good. When listening to The XX’s “Islands”, the F5 provided sub-bass rumble that bested the Meze 11 Neo and EX1 2nd Gen but still failed to match the exemplary Shozy Zero. That being said, when listening to David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”, bass drums were best represented by the F5; it had the most natural slam while the Zero came off as over boosted and the 11 Neo and EX1 sounded softer within these lower registers. The F5 provided improved extension and rumble over these earphones while remaining a little tighter than the Zero overall.

    Of course, the F5 isn’t the perfect budget earphone and it does have its caveats, mostly due to their mid-bass boost. Bass notes do sound somewhat bloated, more so than the slightly leaner EX1 2nd Gen and 11 Neo for instance. They also sound a little tubbier than the Zero though the Zero is ultimately warmer due to greater sub and upper bass presence. This was most apparent when listening to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” where the bass line on the F5 sounded a little sloppier than both the 11 Neo and EX1 2nd Gen. That being said, bass texture is very good, just beneath the 11 Neo and Zero though resolution could do with some work, especially when compared to the Zero. So while their tuning isn’t quite as balanced as the 11Neo nor is it perfectly linear, the F5 still provides a versatile bass tonality that neither comes across as bass dominant or anaemic. They maintain enough composure to flatter faster genres and are tight enough to portray rapid bass lines. It provides a happy medium in both quality and quantity between the more neutral 11 Neo and the warmer Zero.



    Mids –

    The midrange is where things get interesting. I personally found the original EX1 and even the 11 Neo to sound slightly unnatural within their midranges, something that was partially addressed on the EX1 2nd Gen. On the other end of the scale, the Shozy Zero provides a dark, organic and natural sound, a very nice option for the analogue lovers but one that could sound overly dark and even slightly veiled for everyone else. So with the F5, Fiio seek to find that sweet middle ground, imbuing the midrange with more body while slightly dialling back the clarity and space to provide a more forward, full-bodied and ultimately, more lifelike midrange. And in subjective listening, Fiio have succeeded, the F5 is still clearly tuned in the same vein as the EX1 2nd Gen, but sounds considerably more balanced and natural while sounding a little clearer than the Shozy Zero. They still have a darker tonal balance, female vocals can be pushed slightly behind in the mix, though vocals never get overwhelmed as was prevalent with the more recessed EX1 2nd Gen. The Meze 11 Neo does provide more balance throughout, their upper midrange sounds rawer and they sound clearer in general, though the F5 is hardly missing clarity and is more detailed in return. I actually found the F5 to sound just as natural as the Zero, especially when compared to the 11 Neo and EX1 2nd Gen. For female vocal lovers, in particular, the F5 is a really nice option within this price range, although upper mids aren’t pushed front and centre, the quality of those vocals will be sure to please.

    In terms of quality, the F5 once again provides a performance quite uncanny at this price. Resolution is very good as with the Titan earphones, improved over the EX1 2Nd Gen and Zero and similar to the Meze 11 Neo. Detailing is fantastic due to a well-integrated treble response that brings a more natural sense of detail than the EX1 2nd Gen and Zero with more outright detail retrieval than the more laid-back Meze 11 Neo’s. Vocal effects are well portrayed with that sensational soundstage imparting great separation, layering and dimension to vocals and instrument alike. Booting up Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and the F5 provided the most realistic presentation of the bunch; smooth strings were complimented by spacious, layered vocals that stopped short of distant. By comparison, the Zero lacked the clarity of the F5 while the EX1 2nd Gen had increased clarity and was more aggressively detailed but also sounded distant and imprecise. The 11 Neo also provided a very nice rendition of this song but their reduced soundstage space resulted in a considerably more compressed listen with strings, in particular, erring on over-forward. So even from brief analysis, it’s easy to spot the little idiosyncrasies that plague the midrange presentations of each earphone; the 11 Neo sounds slightly hollow, the EX1 sounds distant and thin and the Zero lacks clarity, issues that are easy to dismiss as simple compromises at this price point. However, the F5, while perhaps lacking wow factor when heard in isolation, is also devoid of the inconsistencies of its competition; not to be taken as a weakness off those earphones, but a strength of the F5 by comparison.



    Highs –

    The EX1 2nd Gen was an impressive performer in its highest registers simply due to the fact that most earphones around this price, despite rapid improvement in recent years, still don’t handle high-frequencies particularly well; in fact, that statement applies to plenty of earphones in higher price ranges too. This was the pitfall of the Meze 11 Neo, which provided great balance and refinement in its bass and midrange but was let down by its overly laid-back, rolled off treble response. The Zero experiences similar issues, though its treble is almost as aggressive as the EX1, it too succumbs to some roll-off that saps high detail and airiness and makes higher notes sound truncated. In that regard, the EX1 2nd Gen is exemplary; they extend well into the highest registers, more so than a lot of the $100-150 earphones I’ve heard, and have no shortage of either air or crispness up top. That being said, they were slightly peaky and treble notes do sound thinner than I would like, some listeners have even labelled the EX1 as a fatiguing earphone.

    But Fiio has heard our cries and as with the midrange, the F5 once again provides a smoother evolution of the same sound pioneered by the EX1 2nd Gen. Extension remains the best of the bunch, similar to the EX1 though they don’t quite sound as airy due to their less vented, smoother nature. Treble notes are fuller and cymbals have more accurate timbre, they don’t sound as tizzy as the EX1. In addition, they resolve just as much detail as the EX1 despite smoothing off the peaks, that detail just sits slightly further behind than before. But despite all of this improvement, I personally feel that the F5 has perhaps over-compensated, and I would like to see just a touch more crispness in the upper registers. Using the balanced cable does greatly address this issue, it provides a more open sound in general though that also requires an expensive balanced source or adapter ($30 USD from Penon). But even as they are, there is no doubt that the F5 is a very well-performing earphone within a sea of mediocrity; while they won’t appeal to treble or detail heads, they provide a very technically pleasing performance without the fall-backs of the EX1.



    Verdict –

    The Dunu Titan 1 was one of those earphones that provided a double take experience; I remember a lot of listeners stating how impossible such a sound was at their asking price. And now Fiio has worked with Dunu to evolve that sound complete with more balance, refinement and body to produce an earphone that is just as resolving but ever more natural. In the process, the F5 has been sapped of that instant appreciation, the sound is not as engaging, broad and dynamic as the EX1 that came before. Instead, it requires more long-term appreciation.

    [​IMG]

    But as a purchase and under extensive critical listening, the F5 remains steadfast where the EX1, as with other earphones around this price, reveals some weaknesses. The F5 is, therefore, a surprisingly mature product with well-considered features and trade-offs enhancing the experience without inflating the price. The earphone isn’t to be seen as an anomaly, I won’t abandon my $200 or even $100 earphones in favour of the F5. Rather, they simply provide performance that justifies their asking price and I wouldn’t feel that I’m paying a premium for the brand, packaging, etc. So Fiio has wisely priced the F5; it is still lacking the detail, texture and coherence offered by $100-120 USD earphones, but at it’s proposed sub-$80 asking price, the F5 sits comfortably at the front of the pack.

    Verdict – 9/10, Buyers will find much to love within the F5’s warm, balanced and spacious sound. Two cables are included from factory along with a very protective if somewhat impractical pelican style case. Great comfort and good build is combined with isolation that is now in line with that offered by other similarly priced earphones. The very tasteful asking price represents great value making the F5 another exemplary Fiio earphone that will be sure to impress the vast majority of buyers in both build and sound.
    peter1480 and Dobrescu George like this.
  6. Hawaiibadboy
    4.0/5,
    "FiiO F5 Balanced IEM Video Review"
    Pros - Good snappy bass, balanced cables included in package,price
    Cons - break your hand putting tips on this thing
    This item was provided to me free of charge. I could trash it, hype it, ignore it, whatever. FiiO is pretty big now and a bad review makes no difference or damage so....




    Best offering from FiiO in the IEM market to date,


    The weight seems lighter than the apparent Dunu re-brands.

    I always worried the old metal weapon like buds of the earlier series would fall and crack my DAP screen.

    Bass is clearly the most impactful of this design series.

    Bass is good, not messy, slow or overwhelming

    Mids would be weakest part of the freq but it is not recessed. however it can sound thin unless you tip roll. Without a perfect seal (which is easy) the mids could seem recessed. If that is the case then roll your tips and it will be fine

    Treble is airy like many Dunu of this design. Helps giva sense of a wider stage than a heavy bass line might ordinarily allow.




    IMGP5957.JPG IMGP5958.JPG IMGP5959.JPG IMGP5960.JPG


    Used the following vinyl rips 24/192 flacs to judge the F5 to be well worth it's price. The basic tuning, included balanced cable and support from a company that replies to any issue that might arise...yeah....this is an easy rec.


    America.jpg Bob Marley & The Wailers (1977) - Exodus (Deluxe Edition 2001) (A).jpg Allman_Brothers_Band_-_Eat_A_Peach-[Front]-[www.FreeCovers.net].jpg 937_large_3.jpg $_3.jpg

    images

    1. rrfrf.png
    2. thMU20SBL0.jpg
  7. chowmein83
    4.0/5,
    "A Warm, Inviting Experience"
    Pros - Sound quality, comfort, good amount of accessories
    Cons - Warmer sound may not be for everyone, some ear tips are hard to put on
    Introduction
    Tl;dr: FiiO sent me a review unit for my honest opinion, and a bit of background about myself.

    A little bit about me: I consider myself to be a relatively inexperienced audiophile, having only taken this hobby seriously for the past 2 or 3 years. Funnily enough, I actually began to take an interest in my headphone system with the purchase of a FiiO E7. The next logical upgrade from there was the FiiO E17, which I appreciated but soon found it a bit lacking in sound quality after I was exposed to other audio equipment. Now, after having been away from FiiO for a while I am now back with their X7 DAP.

    I tend to like a neutral sound signature, perhaps with a bit of warmth. But if one were to ask me to pick between a very warm or a very bright sound signature, I’d go towards the brighter one. I like a large variety of music including rock, pop, jazz, classical and orchestral, J-Pop and J-Rock, and C-Pop.

    Before I begin with the rest of the review, I would like to say that I paired the FiiO F5 with the FiiO X5 3rd gen and the Questyle QP1R in the making of this review.

    I would like to thank FiiO for letting me check out their new F5 IEM in exchange for my honest opinion!

    Specs
    Before we go onto the rest of the review, a specifications table might be useful.

    Driver Type

    Dynamic (13.6mm)​
    Frequency Response

    20Hz ~ 40kHz​
    Sensitivity

    102 db/mW​
    Impedance

    32 ohm​
    Plug Type

    3.5mm gold-plated stereo jack (CTIA standard) /
    2.5mm TRRS straight gold-plated stereo jack
    Cord Length

    1.2m​
    Weight

    21g​
    Color

    Black​
    Detachable Cable Design

    Yes (standard MMCX connector)​
    MSRP

    US $64.99​


    Packaging and Accessories
    Tl;dr: FiiO gives you a decent amount of accessories – including a hard carrying case and even a 2.5mm balanced cable.

    If you’ve seen FiiO’s recent designs for other boxes (such as the X5iii and the X7), you’ll know what to expect here. The F5 comes in a box very similar to those players, with another box on the inside that you can take the lid off of. It’s packaged quite nicely actually, especially for its price point.

    [​IMG]

    Inside the box you’ll find a generous amount of accessories. When you first look in the provided hard carrying case, you’ll discover the F5 IEMs themselves and six pairs of ear tips. There are two kinds of ear tips – one set which I will call the “black-cores”, and the other set which I’ll call the “color-cores”. The black-core tips have a squishy, soft core while the color-cores have a much harder core. Small, medium, and large sized tips for each set are provided. As we’ll go into later, these different sets of eartips do provide different sound signatures.

    [​IMG]

    The F5 also comes with two cables – one is 3.5mm TRRS cable that also contains in-line controls with a microphone on it – pretty handy for usage with a smartphone. The other is a 2.5mm balanced cable purely for audio – very nice, and this is especially great of FiiO to do so for the price point they are targeting with this headphone.

    Quick note on the quality of the microphone on the 3.5mm cable – it’s good quality. I tried using it in phone calls, and pretty much everybody I had a phone call with said the mic sounded clear, and easily picked up my voice. So the in-line controls are very much a worthwhile part of the F5 package.

    Overall, FiiO seems to provide you with a good amount of accessories for the F5 – definitely a plus in my book.

    Build Quality, Design, and Comfort
    Tl;dr: Excellent comfort, well-designed cables. The F5 also seems to work with a bunch of different tips.

    First off, while the build quality and design of the actual F5 IEMs won’t set anybody’s world on fire, it’s actually quite good for its price range. The F5’s shell is made up of plastic that doesn’t feel too cheap and doesn’t feel too fragile. I’ve actually squeezed the F5 pretty hard in trying to get some of the ear tips on (more on that later) and the IEM is still good as new.

    Moving onto the cables, they’re good quality. Not excellent, but pretty good. Both the 3.5mm and 2.5mm cables use MMCX connectors that snapped into the F5’s body easily and securely. I like how both the 3.5mm and 2.5mm cables aren’t prone to tangling, seem reasonably tough (I haven’t subject them to that kind of abuse) and don’t provide too much microphonics when moving around with them. Also, the actual in-line controls on the 3.5mm cable are well-designed. The buttons there are quite tactile, and I especially like how the play/answer call button is recessed enough so that one can distinguish it from the other buttons quite easily just by touch.

    [​IMG]

    As for comfort – FiiO’s marketing materials aren’t lying, this is a seriously comfortable IEM that I could wear for hours. The angled design of the body (somewhat like the FiiO EX1) allows the F5 to not sit in my ear too deeply yet still manage a good seal. This is very much a relief compared to the deep insertion of my Etymotic ER4PT that I normally use.

    As for the comfort of the tips, they’re just like any other decent silicon tips – they’re comfortable and allow you to get a decent seal easily. While the medium-sized black-core and color-core tips both fit my ears the best, I actually found the small-sized tips to fit well in my ears too. As for what tips you can use, any of the tips that fit on my Hifiman RE-00 also worked for the F5 too. Also, while I didn’t specifically try it out, I suspect that any tips that work with the FLC8S also will work the F5 since I’m actually using RE-00 tips on my FLC8S.

    About the passive noise canceling the F5 provides – it’s decent, though it’s not excellent. Let’s not even compare this to my ER4, the F5 doesn’t cancel out noise nearly as well my FLC8S – probably due to the somewhat shallow insertion of the F5. With the right-sized ear tips, the F5 does cancel out noise somewhat better than the EX1 though.

    Remember how I talked about squeezing the F5 pretty hard to get some of the tips on? Specifically, I somewhat had trouble putting on the color-core tips, whose hard core really makes it somewhat hard to squeeze it into a shape so I can get the tip around the nozzle of the F5 IEM.

    FiiO really seems to have nailed it in the comfort and design aspects. I don’t really have much to complain about.

    Sound Quality
    Tl;dr: The F5 features a tastefully done darker sound signature with notably good bass. Compared to the EX1, it’s hard to say which is better and this will come down to preference.

    [​IMG]

    Now onto the most important part. How does it sound?

    Overall, the F5 presents a warmer, darker, smoother sound signature. With a good seal, bass is very much elevated above neutral, with a slight mid-to-upper bass emphasis but sub-bass is still very strong. I’m tempted to say that it’s somewhat encroaching on bass head territory. And despite this rather heavy bass presence, it doesn’t actually get in the way of the mids most of the time.

    Bass quality is very good on the F5 – even though there’s a lot of it, I never felt that it was out of control. I also felt that the bass was very punchy, quite detailed and textured.

    Mids are also somewhat forward on the F5, with the treble being rather shelved. And while the treble is definitely not as prominent as I prefer, I do think it is still pretty detailed for the price. Both the mids and treble on the F5 are smooth.

    Dynamics on the F5 are quite good. Explosive passages where the music gets quite loud all of a sudden are rendered with gusto on the F5, especially with that bass slam I mentioned earlier.

    The F5 also boasts some pretty good separation in a moderately wide-and-deep soundstage for an IEM. Imaging and layering/depth perception were decent, so I was relatively easily able to tell where the sounds were coming from within the music. I really have no big complaints here.

    Remember I mentioned earlier about the different sets of ear tips having different sounds? The black-core tips to my ears give slightly more elevated bass (both mid and sub-bass seemed to be equally elevated) while the color-cores give you slightly less bass. Both the mids and treble seemed to be presented in about the same manner using either set of tips.

    However, one thing that I found nifty about the F5 was that I could put on the small-sized color-core ear tips (one size smaller than the medium-sized tips which give me a perfect seal) and get a much more neutral sound signature. No, it does not turn the F5 into something like the ER4 with this change, but it did bring the bass significantly down without totally making it disappear. In fact, the bass even with less of a seal was definitely still prominent, and the mids and highs were relatively unaffected. This results in a sound signature kind of a like a slightly warmer Sennheiser HD650, and was my preferred way to listen.

    I thought it was pretty cool for the F5 to pull off two main different sound signatures like that depending on the tips you use. And of course, the different sets of included ear tips also allow you to slightly further tune the F5 to your preferred sound. However, no matter what tips or seals I tried, I could not get more treble out of the F5 – it simply wasn’t tuned to be that way.

    Honestly, the F5 presents a darker and smooth sound signature that is executed in a manner above what you would normally expect for something in its price range. So while the F5 is not my preferred sound signature, I still think its overall sound quality should actually be commended, especially for its price.

    Comparison with FiiO EX1 (first generation)

    [​IMG]

    Something that people might be interested in is how the F5 compares with the FiiO EX1, since the EX1 (and now the EX1 2nd gen) was originally the IEM offered by FiiO at the price point that the F5 is slated to go for. So I managed to borrow a first-gen EX1 (sorry, I couldn’t get my hands on the 2nd gen version) to be able to compare it to the F5.

    Overall, I would say that the two are comparable in quality but offer very different sound signatures. I felt that width and depth of the soundstage, as well as the separation, imaging, and layering abilities of the two IEMs were very similar. Overall detail level between the two IEMs is also very similar too – I couldn’t reliably say which IEMs gave me clearer picture of the tiniest details in the music.

    However, with a good seal the F5 offers much more bass than the EX1. If you purposely get less of a seal by using smaller-than-usual eartips with the F5, then the bass level decreases to slightly less than that of the EX1. No matter what kind of seal you use with the F5, however, I simply feel that the F5 had a more pleasing bass with better punch and slam. I would probably also say that the F5 had slightly more detailed bass too.

    Mids on the EX1 are a bit recessed compared to those on the F5. The upper-mids also seem to be more prominent on the EX1 – at times, this was a bit too much and didn’t sound that realistic to me, while the F5 handled these frequencies better. However, I do like that the EX1 had more prominent treble. But it’s hard to say whether the F5 or the EX1 is actually better. At times, I preferred the EX1’s increased treble presence, while in others I preferred the F5’s bass punch and less wonkiness in the upper-mid range. Overall, for most people I think it’s going to come down to preferences and what type of music you listen to when deciding which IEM is better.

    Conclusion

    Tl;dr: If you’re looking for a multi-purpose IEM with a darker sound under $100, you should strongly consider the F5.

    I think it’s obvious in the rest of the review that I think pretty well of the F5, despite it offering a sound that I usually don’t prefer. First and foremost, its sound quality is an obvious strength of the F5, with bass that I think is excellent especially for the price. Combine that sound quality with excellent comfort, somewhat tunable sound, and truly useful included accessories (with microphone and balanced cables) and I think you have a winner in the under $100 IEM category. Honestly, for this entire package FiiO could have priced it at over $100 and I still think it wouldn’t be overpriced. At its current price of $64.99, it’s a fantastic deal considering the whole package you are getting.

    [​IMG]

    Thanks for reading my (somewhat) long review of the FiiO F5!