Pros: Generous accessories - even comes with a 3.5 mm to USB-C adapter
Cable has mic to assist with calls or meetings
Relatively easy to drive
V-shaped consumer friendly tonality
Non shouty upper midrange
Cons: Proprietary detachable cable
Below average technicalities
Slow bass is untextured and one-noted
Not the most airy or sparkly in the treble
Driver configuration: 14.2 mm polyurethane + beryllium-plated dynamic driver
Impedance: 40 Ohms
Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW
Cable: 0.78 mm, 2-pin. Oxygen-free copper cable, 3.5 mm termination
Tested at $20.99 USD
Other than the earbuds, these are included:
- 3 pairs of donut foams
- 3 pairs of full foams
- 1 pair of silicone wing hooks
- 2 pairs of silicone rings (L/M)
- Type-C USB to 3.5 mm adapter
The accessories are extremely generous for the $20 entrance fee, and definitely puts pricier competitors to shame in this department. There's even a type-C USB to 3.5 mm adapter added, for users whose phones do not have a 3.5 mm jack.
Two variants of foam tips are included. The full foams add bass and warmth, whereas the donuts aren't as bassy and open up the upper end a bit. We also have silicone rings and winged hooks to assist in fitting.
The stock cable is a 2-pin oxygen-free copper cable with a 3.5 mm termination. Even though it is detachable, it is unfortunately semi-proprietary, and most aftermarket 2-pin cables will not be able to fit in. Thankfully, the cable is microphonic free, with a nylon fabric sheath, and it is quite usable haptically, other than the lack of a chin cinch.
The cable has a mic with in-line volume control; thus, other than for music, this earbud can potentially be used for calls and meetings.
The rest of this review was done with the stock cable and stock donut foams. No aftermarket accessories were used, so as not to add any confounders to the sound.
Weighing in at 3.2 g apiece and measuring 16.2 mm in diameter, the plastic housings are very light and comfortable. Ergonomics are solid, with no complaints on this front. During ordering, customers can opt for a silver or black shell.
The FF1 houses a 14.2 mm polyurethane + beryllium-plated dynamic driver. Internally, Fiio has installed elongated acoustic tubes, which are marketed to increase bass quantity (higher frequencies are first to be dissipated in a longer tunnel, this preserving bass).
I tested the FF1 with the following sources:
- Apple dongle
- Cayin RU7
- Colorfly CDA M1 DAC/AMP dongle
- Creative Sound Blaster X5
- E1DA DAC/AMP dongle
- Fiio KA13 dongle
- Hiby R3 Pro Saber 2022 DAP
- Khadas Tone Board -> Schiit Asgard 3 amp
- Questyle M15 DAC/AMP dongle
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One WM1Z Plus v2 Mod)
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One Neutral Mod)
- Sony Walkman NW WM1A DAP (Walkman One WM1Z Plus v2 Mod)
This earbud is relatively easily driven, and amplification is not 100% required. Having said that, the FF1 will sound tighter in the bass, with improved dynamics, if fed clean power.
SOUND & TECHNICALITIES
The FF1 can be described tonally as having a mild V-shaped profile (ie boosted mid-bass and lower treble), which is quite consumer friendly.
The FF1 is mid-bass focused, with bass north of neutral but not at true basshead levels. Sub-bass extension is decent for a flathead, but as per most earbuds, there is a roll-off at the lowest registers. However, bass quality is wanting - the bass is ponderous and untextured (one-noted), and when complex bass movements come out to play, the basslines smear, with mid-bass bleed present.
As per the V-shaped soundscape, the lower midrange is recessed. With a double-whammy of the aforementioned mid-bass bleed, this region is veiled and transparency takes a hit. Thankfully, unlike some rival buds that like to have over-zealous upper mids, this frequency band in the FF1 is restrained, with no shoutiness noted.
The lower treble continues on from the upper mids boost, with minimal sibilance. Thereafter, the upper treble rolls off early, and the FF1 is not airy, with some penalties in resolution. The choice of foam covers will influence treble perception, so do explore to see what suits your preferences - eg full foams versus donut foams versus silicone rings, or even a combination of these.
Timbre is very natural, in keeping with its single DD engine.
Alas, the FF1 falls short in technical chops. Soundstage is average in all 3 dimensions, with middling micro-detailing and instrument separation. The FF1 redeems itself slightly in imaging, which is quite accurate for a budget earbud.
The Rosemary is an L-shaped warm and bassy bud. It has a 150 ohm impedance and requires copious amplification compared to the FF1. The Rosemary also has a non-detachable cable.
The Rosemary has a thicker note weight, and is way more bassier. When properly driven, the Rosemary has slightly better technicalities in micro-details, instrument separation and soundstage.
The EB2S is a warm neutral bud. It has way lusher mids than the V-shaped FF1, and midrange lovers might find it to be a better option as such.
The EB2S has a non-detachable cable, but it has improved technicalities, with better instrument separation and imaging.
For the coin, the FF1 is extremely well accessorized, with solid build and ergonomics, and easy drivability. Coupled with a mic, this earbud may also suit non-audiophiles who want a daily beater set for calls and meetings. Other good points are the FF1's natural timbre with a consumer friendly V-shaped profile. Costing around $20ish USD, the FF1 is relatively cheap and won't cause heart-rendering pain should it get damaged or lost.
The FF1's detachable cable is sadly proprietary, which limits aftermarket cables. It is also not the most "audiophile" technical beast, with sub-par technicalities and a slower bass noted.
In the big scheme of things, the FF1 is probably a budget earbud for beginners new to the flathead rabbithole. Earbud connoisseurs who own higher-end gear will have heard something better and should temper expectations, as they may find the FF1 lacking in technicalities and sounding a bit "lowFI". Newcomers searching for a cheap multifunctional flathead for work and music may be attracted to the FF1 as an overall package though, so it might appeal to this segment of consumers.
FiiO FF1 - Nice entry level EarBuds - just don’t wear them “naked”
Pros: Impressive accessories (for the price) including a USB-C headphone adapter
V-shaped sound signature (once sponges are used)
Detachable 2-pin cable
Very lightwight - can wear all day
Cons: Need to use sponges to tame treble and provide some bass uplift
Needs a bit of extra EQ to give a balanced sound
No sub-bass (but you can't expect much for a $30 earbud)
Treble not that detailed
So I have been listening to these earbuds for the past few days and I thought I would share my experience.
Packaging and accessories
For the price ($30 or so), this ear bud comes with a nice set of accessories. In the box you get multiple different options for modifying the sound signature and keeping the earbuds stable in your ear during work outs. I am also reasonable impressed with the detachable 2-pin cable and a microphone, it’s cheap but has a nice material feel so one of the better cables at this price point. I really like that FiiO included a pretty good USB-C Dongle DAC in the box for those that need it. Overall no complaints - see picture below.
So initially I decided to listen to these without using the applying any of the provided sponges or silicone rings or hooks i.e. "naked" . It didn’t sound right so I decided to do a couple of frequency sweeps and was sort of horrified by the extreme 3-4Khz peak in the lower treble, it was unlistenable in certain tracks and in general using the FF1 this way would not be recommended at all. So I did a bit of experimentation with the provided silicone and sponges and pretty quickly it became obvious that it needs the sponge cover to be sound they way it should. But once I applied one of the sponges (without the hole) see picture below, the sound started to make sense.
There was a much more balanced sound - still not perfect IMO (hence the 4-star rating) but much better, the 3-4Khz was less of a peak (more of a “hill” than a “mountain” ) and there was now some decent mid-bass which wasn’t there when it was “naked”. In summary, I found the FF1 was now providing a treble focused V-shaped sound which will probably appeal to lots of people. For those wondering, I also tried the sponge without the hole and silicone rings but for me they were still too much treble for my tastes, but I do appreciate that FiiO provide the options in the box as everyone has different tastes.
But I thought I would see could I add a little EQ to make it more natural to my ears. So with a little bit of trial and error - I decided to make an EQ with a few minor changes to it more “harman neutral”, basically I felt that I could enhance the midrange and lower that troublesome 3-4Khz region some more and I settled on a relatively simple 3 filter PEQ see below for details. I left the bass alone (though it could easily be enhanced for those users who want more bass even for an EarBud) and I was very pleased with the result.
Preamp: 0 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 1175 Hz Gain 5.52 dB Q 1.41
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 3124 Hz Gain -4.23 dB Q 1.03
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 2353 Hz Gain -5.97 dB Q 1.41
This was the effect on this EQ:
With this EQ in place I went back to my reference tracks and started to enjoy the FF1 greatly.
As an earbud (especially at this price range) it was never going to have any sub-bass, but I was very impressed with mid-bass I was getting mainly after applying the "sponge" cover but I feel my EQ settings above also helped. So, there was a good "rumble" in James Blake “Limit to your Love” at the 50 second mark, the careful balance of bass and treble required with the production in Billie Ellish’s debut Album “When we fall asleep ..” was mostly excellent and tracks like Bjork’s Hunter had the swirling percussion that I would expect - far superior to the original Apple EarPods for comparison.
When testing treble, with some “sibilant” tracks (badly recorded but good for testing) like Alan’s Morissette’s MTV Unplugged, they were now listenable (where this album was a mess without the sponge dampening the treble and even somewhat sibilant for me without the EQ). I tried Laurie Anderson "Born Never Asked" and was very impressed that something at this price point can provide decent treble in that challenging track. I would not say is the most detailed but it was perfectly acceptable.
Jumping between EarBuds, IEM’s and closed and open back headphone’s can be an interesting way to appreciate each type of “headphone” for what they provide. This FiiO FF1 provides a bargain earbud which with a couple of tweaks can be provide a lovely “open back” sound signature. The default V-Shaped signature with the sponge cover will definitely appeal to lots of people, its size and shape is nice for those with smaller ears.
My wife who has smaller ears and doesn’t like IEM’s has already started to use this EarBud for her daily walks. She likes an open sound when walking in the countryside while listening to music so that ear bud open sound is very appealing to her.