FiiO FH1 Dual Hybrid IEM

Rating:
4.625/5,
  1. Vincent Do
    A perfect IEM to start the audiophile journey
    Written by Vincent Do
    Published Jul 5, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Bass-oriented, clear Mid and Treble
    Bang for the buck
    Very nice design and perfect comfortability
    Cons - Treble is a bit weak
    Might look small on big ears
    Soundstage is not so impressive
    Introduction

    I have been into music world for about 15 years. At first I picked up mostly pop, and that was during the golden era of boy-bands like: NSynce, Boyzone, Backstreet boys, Westlife, the Moffatts,… you name them. After one or 2 years later I was so much into Hip-hop, RnB. Later on, high-school, I started playing the guitar in order to impress a girl in class. Since then, I was so much into Metal music, I did play in a local band and we covered bands like: As I lay dying, Parkway Drive, August Burns Red, Metallica, … as well as writing our own songs. As for my main job, I studied mecha-tronics, which part of it is electronics, therefore, I have quite amount of knowledge about electronic signals.

    So, my point is that, I have been listening to a wide variety of music, a kind of a play-for-fun musician, and electronics engineer, I hope my review will somewhat make sense to you.

    Before I start, please be aware that I believe most headphones reviews are subjective because the ability to sense the music is different from people to people. Believe me, I have a friend who cannot tell the different between $2 and $1000 headphones while listening to them. Even, when you are using the same headphones, the bass will sound different between having the ear-tips well-fitted or loose in your ears. You can try that by yourself and will realize the different right away.

    Finally, I believe you need to have a baseline to do the review, at least for the audiophile beginners (the targeted market of FH1) because they have not tried much headphones, they got no idea what is good or bad, then by reviewing like “I think the low is rumble”, “The mid is clean”, etc will not actually do any good to them. Therefore, in this review, I will review with KZ ZST (the same 1 + 1 hybrid), and review with KZ ZS10 (1+4 hybrid) to see is it true that more is best? And will point out some example so that you can try out yourself.

    Equipments

    -Player: PC, Xiaomi A1 with USB Audio Player Pro

    -DAC: FiiO Q1 Mark II

    -Amp: FiiO A3

    -IEMs: FiiO FH1 (With RC-MMCXB cable), KZ ZST (With KZ upgrade cable), KZ ZS10 (With KZ Upgrade cable)

    -Eartips: acoustune aet08, spinfit cp240 twin blade

    -Cable: FiiO L17 to connect DAC and AMP

    -iFi ear buddy

    Album

    -2002 - Aerosmith - O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits [SACD DSF]

    -Eluveitie - Evocation II - Pantheon (2017) Hi-Res 24 bit

    -Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms (1985) 2014 SHM-SACD-DFF

    -Parkway Drive - Reverence (2018) [24bit Hi-Res]

    Package, Accessories, Design and build quality

    Thanks to previous reviewers, you can pretty much see what is inside the package.

    For aesthetic purpose, I think the cable is a bit boring with the black color. The RC-MMCXB with transparent color is more awesome in my opinion (But of course no complain about it because black will suit most people)

    Technical Specifications:
    Type: Hybrid In-Ear
    Drivers per Side: 2 (1x dynamic driver, 1x Balanced Armature (Knowles 33518))
    Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
    Impedance: 26 Ohms
    Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW
    Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
    Detachable Cables: Yes, MMCX
    Available Colours: Black, Blue, Green, Red

    Fit, Isolation, and comfort

    I am an average Asian male, and I think FiiO is kind of targeting Asian Market, that is why the housing size and shape is very comfortable. Even so, I am sure it will fit Western users as well, and the comfy will surely be there, but it will look a bit too small on the big ears, and losing the coolness of the wearing (I meant we do wear earphones as a jewelry as well, for aesthetic purpose of course). But the comfy is top-notch.

    You can say that because it house only 2 drivers, other IEM with more drivers will surely bigger and less comfortable. That is partly true, of course bigger housing will be heavier, bigger and less comfortable. But comparing with ZST (the same 2 drivers IEM), or other 1 driver cheap Chinese-made, none can beat FH1. My work mostly relate to doing research, therefore, I often wear phone 8 hours continuously when working, and I sometimes forgot that I am wearing FH1. In conclusion, FH1 is a very comfortable piece of iem, especially for those who wants to sleep with them on.

    For Isolation, maybe I am wrong but in my opinion, I think in the end of the day, it is the design of the eartips that create good isolation. FH1 come-along eartips design is good, and isolation is good as well. Comparing with the pair of Acoustune aet 08 tips, I actually see no difference in sound, isolation, fitness because the shape is quite similar (basic shape). However, changing to spinfit twin blade, they fit tighter (of course will be less comfy) therefore, more isolation but not good for sleeping. To conclude, I actually think eartips do not really make significant change in sound quality, but they will improve fitness, isolation and/ or effect the comfy.

    Bass

    FH1 is no doubt a basshead’s choice. If you are a metal-music player like me, you will be very fond of and very picky in the bass. We want the pressured-bass sound, tight sound, and fast.

    1. Sub-bass: that is what I called pressured-bass sound above. If you have ever been to a live concert yourself, and stand near the speakers (and Speakers are good enough), you will feel the pressure on your chest (Or if you play loud music in your room, you will see the loose door, or glasses window will start to rumble)…But you will NOT get that feeling with earphones (not any earphones on Earth can create that effect on you), but you have to learn to feel the sub-bass in another way. I know it feel kind of strange at first if you are used to listening to music on through speakers already. So, what if would feel like on IEM, take out a pillow, and rest your ear on it, then pad on the pillow, you will hear the “burff”, “ burff” sound, and like something padding on your ear drum. Sub-bass will feel like that, but at lower frequency. And FH1 can create that effect impressively.

    2. Mid-bass: with FH1, very tight, and fast enough to keep up with Parkway Drive’s drummer.

    Now, compare to KZ ZST and KZ ZS10, those KZ I think their bass is softer, however, with FiiO Q1 Mark II and A3 bass boost, I do actually can get those pressure effect described above. But at times they are just not tight and bleed a bit into vocal mid-range.

    So, is this bass suitable only for metal music à No, not really. Actually with pop, hip-hop, RnB, FH1 does shine as well since they can well-isolate with the mid-range of other musical instruments. So, my thump up for the FH1 bass.

    Mid

    Mid is the main part that we notice throughout a song. You can sometimes pay attention to the bass, sometimes pay attention to the treble. But just “sometimes”, most of the time we spend our focus on the mid. So, if you are a photography just like me, you will be familiar with the terms “ambient”, normally, ambient is the warm light, we like the warmth tone as well. Take out some cheap earphones, listen to it, and listen to FH1, you will understand what I meant by “warm”. The tone is thick, fat and like people said “music to my ear”. And this range is not being invaded by the bass or the treble.

    You one immediate example, try the song Mama Kin of Aerosmith, around 2:30, you will hear a series of pattern, end of each patterns there will be a “crash symbal” sound. With KZ ZST, and even KZ ZS10, the crash cymbal is submerged. But you can hear the details on FH1. So, we got the winner here.

    Treble

    Very clean indeed, I hear no sand. However, seems a bit weak comparing to the bass and mid. However, the details are protected. For this reason, I am eagerly looking forward to the release of the FH5 and hoping that with more BA drivers will handle the treble better. However, songs in which the drums do not overwhelmed with the bass, you can hear very clear detail of other instruments like flute, violin,… Please try out Eluveitie band, they are very creative in combining many instruments.

    Soundstage

    1 word: neutral. If you try the album of Eluveitie I mentioned above, close your eyes, you can hear the waves, the wind, but it doesn’t create the feeling you being in the middle of the area. However, with KZ ZS10, I can tell very good soundstage, I feel like being submerge with the atmosphere. For this, hopefully the new FH5 will impress me.

    Final Words

    If you are on the verge of the audiophile world. I absolutely suggest this IEM. Why you ask? The sound is a bit bass-oriented, and because bass is the most fun and easy to recognize, it will not disappoint you. I guess this is the reason FiiO making bigger Dynamic driver and aim for bass-oriented rather than V-shaped, most beginner will looking for the bass power to start with. When you have built up your listening skills, you will be able to yourself judge other earphones, and choose the one suits your need. As the elders often said: “you need to start it right!”. If you think that other low budget IEMs are fine because you couldn’t hear the difference anyway, you are on the path of ruining your audiophile life, your ear will not being improved, and days by days you will be discouraged and start spending more and more money on gears hoping for some miracle to happen.

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  2. ezekiel77
    FiiO FH1 - The Tunesmith's Wistful Dream
    Written by ezekiel77
    Published May 23, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Class-leading mids tuning, natural signature with good timbre, bass extension, robust build quality, classy design, ergonomic fit, two cables provided, price!
    Cons - Overwhelming bass at times, soundstage depth and layering, treble extension and air, detail and resolution, MMCX connectors.
    Introduction

    There's a guy here who owns the 64 Audio Fourte, Astell&Kern SP1000, and Effect Audio Horus. I should know, I peeked at his inventory many times. Last year, another user bought the Empire Ears Zeus, AK380, and PWAudio 1960s in one painful sitting. Summit-fi "it" items change from year to year, but there's always a ready market for them. Some Headfiers are no-nonsense, starting and ending at the pinnacle, never looking down. I should probably be asking them how they make money rather than spend time writing reviews, but here we are.

    What the summit-fiers might not know is, there is a vibrant budget-fi scene bubbling underneath, with quick-and-dirty DAPs and IEMs (ok not that dirty) that get the job done at a fraction of summit-fi price tags. More and more their voices are heard, but FiiO has always been at the forefront of this movement. They have a ubiquitous presence here, being a value-for-the-dollar brand for portables, and with an extensive product range that would make boutique makers green with envy.

    FiiO has recently taken their IEMs very seriously, and are now knee-deep in hybrids. Their F-series (which stands for FiiO and not, you know) has been successful with the range-topping F9 Pro, which has a detail-oriented sound. Today we'll be looking the first IEM of another, hopefully more fun-oriented series, the FH1. The FH1 is a dual-driver hybrid monitor with a 10mm titanium daphragm dynamic driver for the bass region, and a Knowles BA driver handling the mids and highs. It currently retails for USD74.99 and is available here https://www.amazon.com/FH1-Headphones-Earphones-Monitors-Compatible/dp/B077TXG33Q. The official product page is here http://fiio.net/en/products/81.

    I would like to thank Lily of FiiO for the review sample, and the opportunity to review this monitor despite my limited experience.

    And also my wife for the photos of this review. :heart_eyes:


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    Equipment Used:

    DAP

    -Sony NW-WM1A "K" Modded, FW 2.0

    IEMs
    -FiiO FH1
    -FiiO EX1 2nd Generation
    -VSonic GR07 37th Anniversary Edition
    -KZ ZS10

    Albums Listened:
    Amber Rubarth – Sessions from the 17th Ward
    Art Pepper – Modern Jazz Classics
    Beck – Sea Change
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    Ed Sheeran – Divide
    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    Macy Gray – Stripped
    Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
    Radiohead – OK Computer
    Sade – Soldier of Love
    Taylor Swift – Reputation



    Packaging and Accessories

    To me, good product packaging should either be extravagant, or with understated class. Despite the budget-fi price tag, FiiO managed to keep things dignified. A matte-black cardboard box invites you to open them up and give their goods a look. Mmm. The all-black waterproof hardcase provided resembles a mini-Pelican. There's some padding inside to keep your IEMs snug, and just enough room for the FH1 and its two cables. It's sturdily built and inspires confidence, in fact, they're so good I've bought a few separately for my other IEMs. As mentioned, you get two sets of cables, a 3.5mm single-ended cable with microphone and in-line controls, and a clearly superior braided 2.5mm balanced cable, meant to be paired with FiiO DAPs no doubt. Rounding off the accessory set are two sets of silicon eartips in three sizes (S, M and L); all-black tips confer a balanced sound, whereas red-stemmed tips provide more bass.


    IMG_20180602_113611.jpg


    Design, Build Quality and Cables

    The FH1 is available in 4 colours which were rolled out gradually, starting with black, then blue, red and green. The colours won't elevate you to geek god status, but look quite alright. They are going for a classy outlook after all. The chrome trim, glossy nano-coated plastic housing, brass nozzles, all point to a sleek and understated design which I fully agree with. Build quality is solid and looks to stand the test of time, bar the MMCX connectors where the jury is still out. According to the HeadFi thread, the black FH1 had a few teething issues like the sound cutting out from one channel, likely due to the MMCX connectors. I am however glad to report that my blue unit has not run into any blue-ball issues after four months of use.

    As mentioned, two detachable cables are provided. The standard 3.5mm cable is basic, with microphone and in-line controls for volume, play/pause, and next/previous track. The angled jack, cable wrap and strain reliefs are nicely made, and while the rubberised cable has a good hand-feel, I can't help but think a hard yank or minor accident will put an end to it. FiiO obviously put in more man-hours for the 2.5mm balanced cable. The cable is upgraded, using silver-plated copper in a 4-wire braid. It looks premium, especially next to the (poorer) standard. Build quality is a veritable step up, as is sound quality. Using an adapter to pair with my Sony DAP (which has 4.4mm balanced out), the sound benefits from more background black space, leading to better differentiation of instruments/vocals, more apparent detail, and a more spacious presentation. If you have a DAP with balanced output, by all means, use the 2.5mm cable and never look back.



    Fit, Isolation and Comfort

    It's no secret that I love bean-shaped IEMs, so there is certainly bias on my part. I've used and loved the SE846, Pinnacle P1, SM64, Galaxy V1 and the shape largely agrees with my ears. Its comfort and ergonomics are second to none (barring customs), and the best part is I can lie on my side while listening. Why? Because my kids love funny postures and orientations when asleep, largely banishing me to the edge of the bed. Same story for the FH1, I love the fit and comfort, absolutely nothing to fault. Isolation is average, you hear some outside noise unless you crank the volume to unhealthy levels, but this is more or less a given with universals.


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    Overall Signature

    Critical listening was done after 100 hours of burning in. It wasn't recommended by anyone I just thought the titanium dynamic driver could use some exercise. The good news is the sound didn't change before and after burn-in, so you can thank me and save 100 hours. The main setup used was Sony WM1A "K" Modded (low gain and Direct Source on) > 4.4mm to 2.5mm adapter > balanced stock cable > FH1. My favourite eartips for FH1 are the Mandarines Symbio N, which provide excellent bass response and detail levels. Stock all-black tips come a close second, giving me a nice balanced sound with better comfort levels than the Symbios which tend to put weight on the ear canals after an hour of use. Spinfits improve on comfort, but bass tends to be overwhelming and fuzzy, so it's back to Symbios. I'm not a big fan of the red-stemmed bassy stock tips either.

    The FH1 is a warm monitor, with abundant bass which sometimes impede into the mids, while the mids hold their own with a deftly natural tone that's a joy to listen to. I've noted some shrill, brittle treble in past FiiO IEMs, but not in this case. The treble is pleasant and smooth, with some shimmer for excitement. I've played recordings of various quality with them, and the FH1 veers on the forgiving side. No ear-splitting treble to be found here, good news for those who found the F9 Pro too detailed. While warm/smooth IEMs are a dime a dozen nowadays, what FiiO has accomplished with the FH1 is remarkable. The mids and treble tuning are very coherent and among the best I've heard in this price range. It is not shackled by the need to unearth every detail in the recording, nor does it aspire to give you headphone-like, out-of-head spaciousness. What it does achieve is a natural timbre and tone that skews towards realism. That is the FH1's claim to fame in this cut-throat sub-USD100 hybrid category. The bass is the troublemaker here, and I'll talk about it very soon.



    Bass

    Oh, here we are. The FH1 has what I call a working class bass. The working class knows there is no shortcut to success, and to earn more, you have to do more than your share of work. See where I'm getting at? The FH1 bass pounds and grinds like its next paycheck depends on it. It's not a beautiful, light-footed, fluttery bass, with air for miles. It believes that more work will get done with an excess of power and grunt, and is not afraid to get down and dirty. For the most part, it's a load of fun. The subbass goes down to rumbly, satisfying, head-throbbing levels; moving wafts of air to the listener's ear. The midbass is undoubtedly raised as well, with a keen sense of rhythm. The notes are thick, impactful, well-rounded and warm, but on the flipside lacks detail, texture and speed. So on tracks busy with detail and layers, where speed is a must, it plods through and congests the stage. It's also guilty of encroaching into the lower mids unapologetically at times. Gritty work... is not pretty. What you have is an unmistakably dynamic driver bass, that is proudly showing off of its status as the workhorse of the signature, the driving force. It's a sight for sore eyes, but it gets the job done. And mostly in excess.



    Mids

    Opposites attract, and the beautiful, angelic mids somehow finds its way next to the plucky, devil-may-care bass. It's like when you see in tabloids how a stunning model walks hand-in-hand with someone dressed like a greasy hobo. Stunning. The lower mids inherit some power from the midbass, lending note richness and warm euphony to cellos, bass guitars, and male vocals. They sound meaty, each note gorgeously fleshed out from attack to decay. The highlight however, is the centre to upper mids. They straddle (heh) a fine balance between detail and organicity, sounding alive and realistic. Note weight is average, not too limber and wispy, and never too bogged down, with trace amounts of air around each note. When not intruded by the bass, the mids are positioned slightly forward, asking for your polite attention to focus on every note as it is rendered. Its timbre is lifelike in essence and accomplished in note texture. Truly wonderful. Female vocals, woodwinds, strings, every instrument that desires the the centre-stage is a delight to listen to. Weaknesses? If the mids were airier to better define each note, it would be splendid.



    Treble

    A monumental undertaking is often tasked to able and dependable hands, one whose work is valued for its consistency. Kinda like Thor. Treble extension is not stellar, the signature lacks some much-needed air in the upper treble region. Treble speed might also be a weakness, it won't be able to keep up with faster, demanding tracks. But what FH1 accomplishes with what it's given is quite commendable. The treble is the stable rock of the signature. It is even, totally devoid of harshness or peaks, and smooth as buttered silk. Continuing upwards from the mids, notes are again average in size and thickness, veering towards naturalness over detail levels. As for tone, there is nothing to fault, just a realistic tone all day and night. Position-wise they take a back seat to the mids and bass, but makes its presence felt with a nice shimmer and excellent note decay. Cymbals and hi-hats, among others benefit from this and do not suffer from any graininess or tizziness. Sacrificing a bit of dynamism and excitement, the treble serves the warm and smooth signature as a whole, sounding astoundingly coherent as a result.



    Soundstage and Imaging

    The FH1 has good width, and correspondingly, left to right separation is very capable. Centre imaging is positive as well, vocalists take centre stage and command your attention. Listening to binaural albums like Amber Rubarth's Sessions from the 17th Ward, I was taken aback by some height thrown in for good measure. So far, so good. Where it stumbles is in soundstage depth, layering and instrument positioning on the Z-axis is lacking. There is just enough depth to discern some positional cues from front to back, and not having the music slice across my head is always welcome. Most of the imaging cues are from left to right, some above and below ear level, but rarely in front of and behind the ears. As for separation, overall the stage is clean, with enough black spaces in between instruments. However sometimes the bass rears its head and congests the stage, throwing its bass weight around like a hefty guy in an all-you-can-eat.


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    Comparisons

    KZ ZS10

    KZ brought some big (budget) guns to join the driver wars. Steadily increasing their driver count and prices, they hope to be considered more than just a cut-and-paste brand. The ZS10 is a 4BA + 1DD hybrid for your consideration. Right off the bat, the presentation is different, with the ZS10 more V-shaped. Vocals are recessed compared to FH1, with notes sounding thinner and colder. Even then, FH1 extracts more detail and texture in each note, while sounding rich and lush, conveying great depths of emotion. ZS10 aims for a brighter, more exciting signature, however the treble sounds unnatural and brittle compared to the smooth and winsome FH1. As for bass, both have their qualities, with FH1 subbass-focused while ZS10 brings more midbass. As a result, FH1 is more visceral and rumbly, while the ZS10 midbass is bloomier and sometimes more distracting to the overall signature. For soundstage properties, FH1 is wider, but ZS10 surprises by being a touch deeper. Imaging ability is similar. Signature-wise, ZS10 is somewhat incoherent, with the thick warm bass contrasted with the thin mids and treble, a typical hybrid tuning. FH1 keeps it all together in an immersive musical experience. All in all, FH1 is in another league, but I do hope KZ continue to improve and innovate, because I love their prices.



    FiiO EX1 2nd Generation

    The EX1ii is my favourite FiiO IEM previously with an airy, open, earbud-like sound. Given its age it can still teach other IEMs a thing or two in this price range. Starting with its greatest strength, the soundstage, separation and imaging ability greatly surpasses that of FH1. Given its vented build it's no surprise that EX1ii has far more width, depth and air around every instrument. It's like a relaxing breeze interrupted by music. FH1 claws back to contention with its midrange supremacy, easily besting the EX1ii in tone, timbre, euphony and texture. FH1 has a better-balanced, more natural treble as well, while EX1ii is prone to unnatural peaks and occasional sibilance. Bass has FH1 delivering gut-busting subbass goodness, while EX1ii relies on punch and impact more heard than felt. The EX1ii has tighter notes and quicker decay, delivering a more exciting and dynamic sound, compared to FH1's inviting tone and comparatively intimate presentation. They complement each other well, but I tend to reach for FH1 more.



    VSonic GR07 37th Anniversary Edition

    Ever since I was a wee lad, the GR07 has been the go-to for a reference signature on a budget. Little has changed since then, and after about 200 iterations, they arrive at the 37th Anniversary Edition (GR07AE). I'm glad to say it's my favourite variant, with a warmer, musical presentation compared to the classic GR07 while taming the infamous shrilly treble. The GR07AE has a balanced signature. Compared to FH1, it has tighter, quicker bass in lesser quantity, making the FH1 bass sound slow and fuzzy. The mids are neutrally-placed, with leaner and meaner notes. They render more detail than FH1, opting for a reference-like tuning, but still no match for the sheer realism and emotion FH1 is capable of. The GR07AE highs are nowhere as dangerous as GR07 classic, but is noticeably brighter and more jagged-edged than FH1. Where FH1 is in no danger at all of sibilance, GR07AE does veer on the border a bit. Soundstage presentation is more alike for both monitors, relying on width and left-right separation to convey space. GR07AE's leaner notes mean the signature is airier, and edges ahead in separation/imaging. Where GR07AE falters is in the sheer absence of depth, with most of the music residing in my brain. I would say that both IEMs are again complementary, offering options for critical listening, and kicking back to relax.


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    Final Words

    Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by a multitude of budget-fi choices. There are more picks in the sub-USD100 category than you can shake your spear at. Sailing on a sea of indecision, the FiiO FH1 provides a package worthy of your attention. Consider the robust build quality, timeless design, fantastic ergonomics, two included cables and generous accessories (really, the hardcase is so good it's no joke). Add that to an accessible signature that gets the fundamentals correct: properly tuned mids, smooth inoffensive treble, borderline basshead lows that pull in the crowds, and coherence rarely seen in hybrids at this level. FiiO did a damn fine job, and still managed to keep the price at a very respectable USD75. Applause, applause.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. KopaneDePooj
      Continued: But I guess it is just my preference for an even warmer sound. I don't use IEMs very often so for now I got back to my SoundMagic E10 which doesn't have the technical competence of the FiiO but I prefer the tuning :). They are the reference signature for me and I might search something close to them. Maybe the SE215?
      KopaneDePooj, May 25, 2018
      ezekiel77 likes this.
    3. voxie
      Thanks for your review. Very informative. "Working Class Bass"... LOL
      voxie, May 26, 2018
      ezekiel77 likes this.
    4. ezekiel77
      @KopaneDePooj and @voxie thank you for the kind words. I guess hybrids might be out of the question because there is a different sound characteristic between dynamic and BA drivers. So very likely your solution is a single dynamic IEM for something with more coherence. I haven't heard SE215, but based on reviews you can check that out too.
      ezekiel77, Jun 1, 2018
      KopaneDePooj likes this.
  3. HiFiChris
    A Basshead's Delight
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Feb 5, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - •great value and affordable pricing
    •good sound quality and technical performance for the price
    •control
    •well-done midrange and treble; midrange and lower + middle treble timbre; lower midrange bleed mostly avoided despite very strong bass
    •super elegant and premium design/appearance as well as finish; build quality; accessories
    •fit, ergonomics
    •two included cables
    Cons - •strong bass levels only for those who really want it; really strong bass emphasis will not fit to everyone’s personal preference
    •sub-bass can appear a bit unfocussed at times
    Vorwort:

    Waren hybride In-Ears im letzten Jahrzehnt praktisch noch nicht existent (mir fällt im Zeitraum vor 2010 lediglich der Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB als hybrides Modell ein), hat sich dies mittlerweile grundlegend geändert und hybride Neuerscheinungen findet man auf dem Markt mindestens genau so häufig wie ausschließlich mit dynamischen oder Balanced Armature Treibern bestückte In-Ears.

    Eine hybride Neuerscheinung ist auch der in vier verschiedenen Farben erhältliche FiiO FH1, der preislich in der oberen Hälfte des zweistelligen Eurobereichs positioniert und mittlerweile auch bei Amazon erhältlich ist.
    In welchen klanglichen Bereichen sich der günstigere Dual-Driver, der trotzdem mit wechselbaren Kabeln (und davon gleich zwei Stück) ausgestattet ist, vom teureren Triple-Driver F9 Pro unterscheidet, kläre ich unter anderem in dieser englischsprachigen Rezension.


    Introduction:

    When FiiO announced the F9 Pro, they also unveiled another hybrid in-ear, the FH1, which utilises one titanium-coated 10 mm dynamic driver per side along with one Balanced Armature.

    DSC05041-small.JPG

    The FH1 while priced lower, in the two-digit dollar range, however also offers removable cables (MMCX system) and comes with two of them – one with an integrated remote control, and one with a balanced 2.5 mm TRRS plug termination.

    In what ways does it differ from the F9 Pro? And how does it sound and perform in general? Well, that’s what I find out in this very review.


    Full disclosure: I was provided with one sample of the FiiO FH1 in-ears free of charge for the purpose of an, as always, unpaid, honest and unbiased review that reflects nothing but my own impressions and wasn’t given any directions/guidelines, no matter how it would turn out.


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: $74.99/€89.00 (in Germany)
    Type: Hybrid In-Ear
    Drivers per Side: 2 (1x dynamic driver, 1x Balanced Armature (Knowles 33518))
    Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
    Impedance: 26 Ohms
    Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW
    Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
    Detachable Cables: Yes, MMCX
    Available Colours: Black, Blue, Green, Red


    About hybrid In-Ears:

    As you can already see from the technical specifications and introduction, the FiiO FH1 is a little different from most In-Ears produced in the past decade and doesn’t only rely on dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers for sound reproduction, but combines both in one shell.

    Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.

    Higher-priced and especially professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is usually somewhat difficult (although not impossible) to cover the whole audible spectrum with just one single BA transducer, and a strongly emphasised bass is often only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for the lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering the midrange and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution, speed and precision to the mids and highs (, at least in theory) – and that’s what the FiiO FH1 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural and prefer body, impact and weight, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, nimbleness and precision.


    Delivery Content:

    Despite being FiiO’s lowest priced hybrid model, the package design and included accessories are definitely not bad at all – even quite the opposite is the case – and one will not only find the in-ear, but also two sets of cables (1x single-ended 3.5 mm with in-line three-button remote control and microphone, 1x 2.5 mm TRRS), two sets of silicone ear tips (narrow and wide bore) in three different sizes, and last but not least a very sturdy carrying case (FiiO HB1) inside the cardboard box.

    DSC05035-small.JPG


    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    One of the largest design/build differences between the FH1 and F9 Pro is that the more expensive triple-driver’s shells are fully made of metal whereas the dual-driver’s are made of plastic but have a sound tube/nozzle that is made of metal (brass). And oh boy, that design of the FH1 looks gorgeous in person! The metallic blue shells, surrounded by a silver frame, together with the brass nozzle really give the FH1 a somewhat royal, premium appearance.

    DSC05036-small.JPG DSC05037-small.JPG

    While the heavier metal shells of the F9 Pro appear more valuable and are also designed more uniquely, one cannot deny that having plastic shells has also got its own advantages since they won’t feel as cold in winter and are lighter. And besides that, the FH1 doesn’t appear cheaply made at all but looks and feels nicely sturdy, and it has the advantage of being available in four different colours whereas the F9 Pro is only offered in one.

    DSC05038-small.JPG DSC05039-small.JPG

    The large carrying case, called HB1, is pretty nice as well since it is softly padded on the inside to protect the in-ear well, and it has got a nice design, too.

    If you are familiar with DUNU’s more recent in-ears, you will likely immediately recognise FH1’s standard remote/mic cable, as despite lacking braiding/twisting compared to the other included cable with 2.5 mm TRRS plug termination, it is very soft and super flexible, and therefore among the best, if not the best, non-twisted cables on the market.
    Apart from directly above the y-splitter, there is good strain relief, but unfortunately no chin-slider.
    The ear guides are pre-shaped, flexible silicone tubes without any memory wire. They automatically adjust to the ears’ radius.

    The MMCX plugs sit firmly and tight in the sockets, and what I find nice are the matching coloured side-markers on the cable and the ear pieces themselves.
    The remote control itself is also really nice since the volume buttons are easy to distinguish. Additionally, it doesn’t require much force to push them, yet definition is really good and not too soft.


    Comfort, Isolation:

    Thanks to the general shell design that was made popular by Shure and Westone, the FH1 sits ergonomically in one’s ears and most people should be able to wear it for hours without experiencing any discomfort – and that’s definitely also true for me. As the shells are made of plastic, the ear pieces will also not feel cold upon insertion in contrast to in-ears whose shells are made of metal on the inside, such as the F9 Pro’s.

    DSC05040-small.JPG DSC05042-small.JPG

    Thanks to the nice cable, microphonics are close to being inexistent but could be even lower if the single-ended cable had a chin-slider.

    Noise isolation is, as expected given the FH1 is vented, not on the same level as with in-ears that have closed shells, however it is still somewhat higher than average and therefore isolates somewhat more than the F9 Pro (free/unblocked front cavity vent) even though both in-ears seal properly in my ear canals.


    Sound:

    For listening, I mainly used the iBasso DX200 (AMP1 and AMP2 module) and FiiO Q1 MkII. The FH1 was always used with the included single-ended cable during comparisons and listening.

    Only the largest included silicone tips (red stem, wide bore) were used for listening and all comparisons.

    Frequency response measurements can be found here: […]

    The measurements were performed with my Vibro Labs Veritas coupler.
    Below is the information about the measurements with that coupler:

    Please note that my measurements weren't recorded with professional equipment but with my Vibro Veritas coupler that was pseudo-calibrated to more or less match a real IEC 711 coupler’s response with applied diffuse-field target, hence the results shouldn’t be regarded as absolute values but rather as a rough visualisation.
    Especially at 3, 6 and 9 kHz, there are sometimes greater deviations from professional plots – but for a general, rough comparison between various in-ears and a rough idea of how they sound, the results are sufficient, and in the mids and lows, they are even (very) accurate.

    FR tips.jpg
    FR included tips


    FR vents.jpg
    FR effect on blocking front cavity vent


    vs 1More E1001.jpg
    vs. 1More E1001 (front cavity vent blocked on both (FiiO = blue, 1More = yellow))

    Tonality:

    FiiO includes two sets of silicone ear tips – one with a wide bore, and one with a narrow bore. Just as expected and also shown on the measurement graphs linked above, the narrower bore tips reduce the upper treble emphasis somewhat, so if you personally find the upper treble, even though its elevation is nicely happening in the higher range, to be just a tad too strong, they are probably the way to go.
    I personally used the FH1 with the included larger bore tips.

    Covering the dynamic woofer’ front cavity vent (, which is by the way true for pretty much all dynamic driver and hybrid in-ears,) will increase bass quantity quite noticeably. Depending on your individual ear anatomy, this vent might be either free or fully blocked – in my ears, it is fully blocked. And I suspect that this might be the case for most people, since this vent is pretty close to the nozzle where it’s more likely to be blocked completely compared to the F9 Pro where it’s sitting a bit closer to the body.

    If the FH1’s front cavity vent isn’t blocked due to your ear anatomy, you will get a still impactful but not heavy bass lift of around 7 to 10 dB compared to an in-ear that is diffuse-field flat in the bass, such as the Etymotic ER4S/SR. However, if that vent gets blocked due to your ear anatomy, which is, as I said, quite likely, you get a whopping bass and especially sub-bass elevation that is around 17 dB!
    Yep, that’s a bass elevation that will please bass heads who are out for quality, since the FH1 definitely delivers quality when it comes to bass emphasis – despite being heavily lifted, the bass doesn’t overshadow the mids and doesn’t unnaturally thicken the low mids. In fact, the lower mids are only moderately thickened by the strong bass emphasis hat slowly starts around 700 Hz and peaks around 40 Hz, in the beginning true sub-bass. And since it doesn’t roll off at all below that, you get an eardrum-rattling sub-bass emphasis.
    Sure, especially the warm midbass but also lower root aren’t shy at all (they really aren’t, trust me), but it is the strong, turned-up-subwoofer-like sub-bass that is the powerful star of the show.

    If you are a (sub-) basshead, the likelihood that this in-ear will be a true delight for you is really high.

    With a heavy bass elevation, a bloated, overly thick lower midrange is what only few people want, and fortunately the FH1 avoids just that. With a bass emphasis this strong, a bit of bass bleed isn’t completely avoidable, but in case of the FiiO, there is luckily not too much of added lower midrange warmth, and it sounds pleasant, only moderately on the warmer side, and avoids lower midrange bleed and especially bloat.
    Vocal timbre in general is done really well – as it is natural. Besides the bit of added, pleasant lower midrange warmth, mids have got correct timbre and lack the bright upper midrange lift the F9 Pro has for example, wherefore the FH1 sounds realistic in the midrange and higher piano notes as well as trumpets are reproduced realistically.
    Central mids have got a bit of a bump that was added so that the midrange doesn’t lose presence compared to the heavy bass lift and bright upper treble. And as a result, voices are never pushed into the background or thinned out even with busy, bass- and treble- oriented tracks.

    The highs above 2 kHz even take a moderate step back and are on the more relaxed side, just to come back with a vivid, bright elevation between 10 and 12 kHz that highlights cymbals and helps the in-ear to have some brightness to counterbalance the strong bass lift while avoiding sibilance and harshness.
    As that upper treble/beginning super treble emphasis is rather wide than narrow, cymbals are a bit on the spread, slightly metallic side though, but also rather soft than harsh in their attack.

    - - -

    The more consumer-oriented, v- to w-shaped FH1 is an in-ear that is clearly not on the shy side in the bass at all and delivers a thumping, impactful, heavy elevation in the sub- and midbass that mostly avoids midrange bleed. Speaking of the midrange, its timbre is nicely natural with just a bit of added lower midrange warmth, and thanks to a moderate bump, it doesn’t lose presence compared to the lows and highs that are on the inoffensive side but hold enough of countervailing upper treble brightness so that the FH1 is a fun but harmonious sounding in-ear that avoids artificiality as much as it is possible with a heavy bass like that.

    Resolution:

    One could think that, due to its very strong, heavy bass, the FH1 might struggle to deliver a clean and focused presentation. But that is, most of the time, not the case.
    While the dynamic bass driver has undeniably got a dynamic driver character to it with the typical impact, attack and somewhat longer decay compared to Balanced Armature woofers and is on the somewhat softer side in general, its bass control is quite splendid and good despite the weight and heaviness the lows carry.
    Notes still decay reasonably fast, and the softer attack only leads to a less focused, tendentially blurry presentation with really fast tracks while still mostly avoiding muddiness. Nonetheless, sub-bass definition could be ultimately, in relation to the midbass, a bit clearer since true sub-bass notes can appear somewhat unfocussed.

    The popular (and, if the vents are blocked on both in-ears, quite comparably tuned and comparably bassy) 1More E1001 triple-driver in-ears have got a comparably strong (although ultimately still slightly milder and less heavy) sub-bass emphasis if their inner vent is blocked due to one’s ear anatomy, which is the case in my ears. Nonetheless the FH1 has still got the superior bass speed and control in comparison, which is also true for the mids and highs when it comes to transparency.
    While the E1001 might sound a bit more open and spacious as a result of its elevated, clarity-generating upper midrange lift, the FH1 outperforms it when it comes to control, small details and resolution in general wherefore I didn’t even bother to include the E1001 in an in-depth, written head-to-head comparison in this review.
    The FH1 also handles its bass elevation audibly better than the NuForce NE800M.

    Generally, the FH1 is an in-ear that is quite convincing on the technical side for its price class.
    Midrange resolution and speech intelligibility are good, with generally quite clean transients. Lower midrange details are however slightly masked by the bass.

    The FiiO’s highs are clean and crisp with good note separation, although ultimately on a slightly lower technical level compared to the more expensive F9 Pro.

    Soundstage:

    The FH1 is an in-ear that has neither got a really remarkable or a bad soundstage – it’s more on the average side, however with fairly pronounced expansion to the sides, and manages to already leave the base between my ears.
    There is not much spatial depth to my ears, however some front projection can still be perceived and is noticeable with a rather good ability to discern close and rather far elements as well as those in-between. Nonetheless it is a definitely rather width- and separation-driven than layering- and depth-focussed presentation.
    Imaging is quite good too, and the “empty” space between instruments is pretty clean.

    ---------

    In Comparison with the FiiO F9 Pro:

    For this head-to-head comparison, the F9 Pro was used with the included white silicone tips that have the least amount of treble emphasis, whereas the FH1 was used with the included wide bore silicone tips that have the most amount of treble. Nonetheless the F9 Pro is undeniably the brighter sounding in-ear out of the two, by quite a bit.
    The differences in accessories and finish/design/build were already depicted further above.

    While the F9 Pro could be, sonically, described as tuned for a balanced sound that is heading more into the brighter, tendentially aggressively revealing direction, the FH1 features a frequency response that is more consumer-pleasing with a noticeably stronger bass emphasis and heavy sub- and midbass, along with a countervailing upper treble lift that highlights cymbals.

    Like pretty much all front-vented in-ears with a dynamic bass driver, both in-ears will have a noticeable bass increase if that front vent is covered due to one’s individually different ear anatomy. In my ears, the F9 Pro is sitting with mainly free, unblocked vents, whereas the FH1’s front vents are blocked – how can this be given that both in-ears are shaped almost similarly? One reason, although not the main one in my case, is that the F9 Pro’s inner side of the shells is slightly bulkier, rounder, whereas the FH1’s is a little flatter. The other, and main reason in my case, is that the two in-ears’ vents are located in a slightly different spot (closer to the body on the F9 Pro and closer to the nozzle on the FH1), so even though both in-ears are positioned pretty much identically in my ears, the FH1’s vents are blocked whereas the F9 Pro’s remain mostly free. And since the FH1’s vents are in this spot, they seem more likely to be completely blocked in most users’ ears.

    As a result, the FH1 is noticeably bassier than the F9 Pro in my case. Also blocking the F9 Pro’s front cavity vents on purpose, both have almost similar levels of sub-bass at 20 Hz, with the FH1 still dominating a bit. However, in the rest of the sub-bass, the midbass, the upper bass and the lower root, it is the FH1 that still clearly dominates with ca. 4 dB stronger levels, resulting in a still bassier and somewhat fuller side in the lows on the FH1’s side even if both in-ears are used with blocked front cavity vents.

    Midrange tuning is quite different on both in-ears – while the F9 Pro has got a bright, clarity- and female vocal-oriented upper midrange elevation, the FH1 has got an audibly flatter midrange with the undeniably more correct timbre. Despite being behind the highs and lows in level, the FH1’s midrange isn’t in the background or thinned out since it’s got a moderate bump wherefore singers keep their proximity in the mix.

    The treble on the two in-ears is presented quite differently too, and frankly more realistic and tamer on the FH1. While the F9 Pro generates more perceived clarity and air due to its upper midrange/lower treble elevation that however also shifts its vocal timbre to the leaner side, the FH1 is more even in the middle treble where the F9 Pro could ultimately have more evenness, so all in all the FH1 has got a more realistic and more even treble response in comparison.
    Both in-ears have got an upper treble peak, but the difference is that it’s happening at a higher frequency on the FH1, pushing it further from the problematic 6 to 8 kHz range, and making it sound less intrusive and a bit softer.

    - - -

    While the F9 Pro is tuned for those who are looking for tonal balance and added clarity, the FH1 is more consumer-appealing with its stronger bass lift. At the same time however, the FH1 also features the more correct timbre in the mids and is less spiky highs.

    - - -

    Even though the FH1 is quite a bit more elevated in the bass, speed, attack, decay and especially control are almost similar, and it is remarkable how well that dynamic driver performs with an elevation like that.
    Midrange resolution is where the F9 Pro has got a bit of an edge, making the FH1 sound slightly constrained and a little less transparent in comparison, however both are reasonably close and the main difference comes from the F9 Pro’s clarity-generating upper midrange lift, nonetheless that just-described difference holds true for the lower mids.
    Treble resolution is relatively close as well, and the only thing that the F9 Pro does a little better in a head-to-head comparison is note separation that appears slightly better focussed and a bit cleaner.

    - - -

    When it comes to soundstage, the FH1 portrays a bit more width to my ears while appearing otherwise quite similar, which also goes for instrument separation, layering and imaging precision in general.


    Conclusion:

    DSC05043-small.JPG

    The FiiO FH1 is an in-ear with great build quality, excellent ergonomics and fit, a beautiful, premium design, and good accessories for its price class.
    If its front cavity vent is blocked, which seems to be quite likely for most people due to where it’s located, it outputs a strong, heavy bass elevation that does however not bleed into or overshadow the midrange which still has got good presence in the mix and especially features a realistic, mostly neutral timbre, coupled with a generally rather inoffensive treble that has got a bright, countervailing elevation in the upper highs that ultimately still manage to avoid sibilance.
    Resolution and control are also good, so if a heavy but mostly controlled bass is your thing, FiiO’s FH1 looks like a great and still rather wallet-friendly option.
  4. Brooko
    FiiO FH1 : Smooth, warm and uber comfortable
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jan 24, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, overall design, tonal balance, fit, comfort, value, balanced and SE cables, accessories
    Cons - Sub bass can mask the upper mid-range and lower treble on bassy tracks
    [​IMG]
    Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION
    FiiO's roll with affordable hybrid IEMs continues with the third in the F series (following the release of the F9 and F9 Pro) – the new FH1. When I reviewed the F9 and F9 Pro recently, they were variations on a similar theme, with extremely similar overall signatures, and the main changes being both cosmetic, and some slight variation in the upper mid-range and lower treble. While both received an extremely positive reception, there were calls for a similarly designed IEM, but with a little more bass emphasis – a slightly warmer F9 if you will. FiiO of course were already a step ahead (the FH1 had been planned for some time), and hit the market in December 2017.

    So what has changed with the FH1, and how does the tuning differ from their F9 triple hybrids? Lets put FiiO's FH1 through it's paces.


    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 has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range. They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by the X5, X1, X7 and most of these DAPs are now into their 2nd or even 3rd generations.

    They've also developed new cables, desktop and portable amplifiers, DACs, ear-buds and earphones. 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 FH1 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 FH1 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 FH1 IEM for 5 weeks. The retail price at time of review is ~ USD 75.

    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, X7ii 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, MS Pro and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and it has mainly been (for pleasure) with my own personally owned IEMs - the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and LZ Big Dipper. 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 overly treble sensitive, 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 (unless it was volume or impedance related), 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 FH1 straight from the headphone-out socket of many of my portables, but predominantly the X5iii, X3iii, X7ii and my iPhone. I did not generally further amp them (I did test them with my Q1ii, A5, and E17K), 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 FH1, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). Time spent now with the FH1 would be approximately 35-40 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
    The FiiO FH1 arrived in an approximately 110mm x 165mm x 53mm retail box with a picture of the FH1 on the front cover. Its essentially the same sized box as on the F9 and F9 Pro. Inside the retail outer is a black box and lid – simply adorned with the FiiO logo.

    Inside you get a black glossy Pelican case, the FH1 in a cut-out foam enclosure, 2 sets of silicone tips and an extra cable (this one balanced) .
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Retail boxInside the box

    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.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    All the accessoriesTip Selection


    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From FiiO's packaging / website)
    ModelFiiO FH1 Pro
    Approx price$75 USD
    TypeDual Driver Hybrid
    Driver DD1 x 10mm Titanium DD
    Driver BA1 x Knowles 33518 BA
    Freq Range20Hz – 40kHz
    Impedance26Ω
    Sensitivity106 dB /mW
    Cables1.2m, replaceable (MMCX) x 2 (balanced and SE)
    Jack3.5mm gold plated right angled
    Weight21g with default cable
    Casing materialPolycarbonate shell with brass nozzles


    FREQUENCY GRAPH

    The graphs I use 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. I've also included a quick comparison graph with the F9 and F9 Pro for interest sake.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Default freq chart and channel matchingFH1 vs F9 and F9 Pro

    My quick sonic impression of the FiiO FH1 – written well before I measured:
    • Bass is enhanced slightly over both the F9 and F9 Pro, but it is mostly in the sub-bass region. It also appears bassier than both of its siblings principally because of the lower amplitude in the upper mid-range and treble regions. Extension is very good and there is audible rumble.
    • Lower mid-range is reasonably linear, with a light recession. Both male and female vocals are well represented and sound quite natural. Upper mid-range is 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, but it is definitely lower in overall amplitude from the F9 series, and there are small peaks at both 7 and 9-10 kHz. Both of these are relatively benign – especially compared to its siblings.
    • The overall signature is one of very nice overall balance, but with a warm tonality due to the enhanced sub-bass and lower treble.
    • Channel matching is extremely good on the pair I have – very good in the mid-range and treble, with the dynamic drivers slightly out (its not noticeable with music).

    BUILD

    The FiiO FH1 (like the F9 series) is beautifully built and seeing what FiiO can do at this early stage in overall development really does make me question how so many other companies struggle to get ergonomic design right. The main body is a polycarbonate polished glossy plastic, with a nano-thermal exterior coating which is supposed to be very skin friendly. The external face has an ABS electroplated silver decorative inlay, and the nozzle is brass (extending to the internal drivers). FiiO tells us that the brass has higher density than aluminium, which produces a more natural sound. The outer shell is available in 4 colours – black, blue, red and green. The entire shell is beautifully rounded and sized to perfection (very ergonomic)

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    External face viewFront view

    The FH1 measures ~ 20mm across with a total height (including cable exit) of 17mm, and depth of 12mm. The nozzle is angled forward and extends ~ 7mm from the main body (so relatively shallow fitting). It is ~ 5mm in diameter with a generous lip and mesh protective cover.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Rear viewInternal face view

    On the internal face of each unit are two ventilation ports and a L or R designator. The cable exit uses an MMCX connector and this is situated on top of the main body, and naturally forward. The connectors are tight, and although they do not sit quite flush with the main body, they still feel very sturdy. There is a small red or blue marking on shell next to the MMCX socket (makes IDing left or right very easy), and the angle of the cable exit allows other after-market cables to be substituted easily.

    The FH1 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. Both cables have a hard rubber / moulded plastic housing for the MMCX connector which then joins to preformed flexible ear-hooks which are extremely comfortable and keep the IEM in place brilliantly (I love this design). On the MMCX mating collar are either red or blue markings which makes determining left or right very easy, and there is also knurling to the cable ends to make grip easier for removal.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Ear guides and connectorsSE mic, control unit and y-split3.5mm right angle jack

    The SE cable has a control unit on the right side which hangs just about equal with my jaw if worn cable down (so ideal height for the mic). The on-cable controls are designed to work with Android devices and do so brilliantly with FiiO's X1ii, X3iii, X5iii and X711 devices, allowing play/pause (one push), next track (two pushes), and previous track (three pushes). The volume control rocker also works. The microphone is crystal clear for calls (with my iPhone SE), as is the audio. I also tried the FH1 with my wife's Galaxy, and everything worked as it should.

    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 right angled. It has a small shoulder which allows perfect mating to my iPhone without having to worry about the case being an issue. It also has very good strain relief. The balanced cable is a very soft and pliable twisted pair, and FiiO tells us it is silver plated OFC. There are the same formed ear-loops and this time a 2.5mm balanced jack.

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    Balanced cable y-splitBalanced cable jackConnectors

    Both cables have a 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.


    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 definitely above average for a hybrid with a dynamic driver. It is pretty good for most situations, and I thought it was pretty good for even some forms of public transport, although I'd probably go to an all BA set-up for air travel. The FH1 are designed to be worn cable up. Fit and comfort is exemplary – especially with the formed loops.

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    Most tips fit pretty wellAnd the FH1 is extremely comfortable

    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 FH1 has a very nice nozzle lip (the brass nozzle is excellent), 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. The included tips were also pretty good, but I settled with what suits me best, and in the end I've been using either stretched Shure Olives or Symbio Mandarins.

    The FiiO FH1 sits nicely flush with my outer ear, and is extremely comfortable to lie down with. I've slept with them often over the last few weeks, and have had no discomfort on waking. The combo of the in-line controls with a FiiO DAP makes them brilliant for late night.

    So how do they sound?


    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the FiiO FH1. 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 X7ii, no EQ, and Shure Olive tips. I used the X7ii 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.

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7ii (paired with AM3a) was around 30-35 Balanced or 45-50/120 Single Ended (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 – good extension, nice audible rumble, in balance with the rest of the spectrum but does tend to be slightly emphasised.
    • Mid-bass – slightly elevated almost like an HD600. Sounds natural and gives good impact without masking the mid-range.
    • Lower mid-range – slightly recessed compared to bass and upper treble, but not enough to make vocals distant. Male and female vocal fundamentals are very good – rich and full.
    • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a very even rise from 1 kHz to the first peak at just over 2kHz. Cohesive transition from lower to upper-mids, and very good euphony for female vocals.
    • Lower treble has a nice overall balance throughout, and small peaks at ~7 and 9-10 kHz. The 7 kHz gives good clarity with cymbal strikes, and the subsequent decay is quite dependent on your music. If there is anything bass dominant (i.e. a lot of bass guitar), there can be an element of masking. Its not extreme though, and there is actually quite nice detail through the lower treble area.
    • Upper treble rolls extends quite well with some decent “air”, but is pretty difficult to capture properly on my budget measurements set-up.
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    • Clarity overall is quite decent. Upper-mids and lower treble have enough emphasis to give guitars bite and definition. Micro details are quite evident as long as there isn't a strong bass line (masking).
    • Cymbal hits have a good clarity and presence but unlike the F9 series, they aren't high-lighted as much, and tend to sit a little back in the mix.
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    • Directional queues are quite good – clean and clear without being over emphasised. Presentation of stage is just on the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks, but the violin in Tundra does project beyond that (so good emphasis on width).
    • I also played Lakme's “Flower Duet” - an excellent recording which has the two sopranos (Netrebko and Garanca) moving to the rear of the stage at the end of the song, and continuing the last chorus from there. The FH1 captured the transition quite well – which shows a nice presentation of stage depth.
    • The applause section of the same track showed a very good sense of immersion (the sound of the audience flowing around me), and the natural tonality gave a nice sense of realism. This usually indicates a nice sense of both width and depth balance.
    • “Let it Rain” (Amanda Marshall) gave a nice 3 dimensional feel (the way it is miked) with good crispness of guitar and a lot of overall clarity. There was the usual sibilance with Amanda's vocals – and it should be there because its in the recording. The interesting thing was that it was quite present in the opening bars, but quickly became more masked as the bass kicked in.
    Strengths
    • Overall tonality and reasonable (but warm) balance of the frequency range.
    • Good sense of stage and imaging
    • Very nice cohesion with lower and upper register vocals
    • Great for both female and male vocals and with slightly more bass warmth to give a richness which might be absent in the F9 series.
    Weaknesses
    • The sub-bass might be a little too warm for some, and especially if you enjoy a little more detail in lower treble – it could produce some masking.
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The FiiO FH1 doesn’t need amplification for overall volume – and because its impedance isn't overly low, any source with an output impedance of less than 3-4 ohms (to meet damping requirements) should pair OK.

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    Great with any sourceNo extra amplification required

    With my iPhone SE around 35-45% volume is more than enough with most tracks, and the FiiOs are generally at around 45-50/120 single ended. I tried the FH1 with the Q1ii, A5, and E17K, but noticed no real differences in dynamics. None of the amps seemed to be adding additional (compared to the non-amped DAPs). The FH1 really is an easy IEM to get the best out of.

    RESPONSE TO EQ?
    Glad you asked. There was two ways to tackle this, either dropping the sub-bass just a little bit (to avoid the masking) or raising the lower treble a little to overcome the added warmth. I used the X7ii again, and first dropped the 31Hz slider by about 5 dB and then the 62Hz by around 4 dB and the 125Hz by about 2dB. The rest I left alone. The result was an immediate slight drop in the warmth of the bass guitar (Pearl Jam's “Elderly Woman BTCIAST”), and a lift in fidelity with the cymbals. This is a signature I would likely gravitate more toward – but that’s simply my taste and preference. The next step was to slightly raise the 4 kHz and 8 kHz sliders, and this was less noticeable. Yes – it gave slightly more detail, but it was a worse result than simply taking a smidgen of bass out.

    In reality though, I am very much OK with the default signature – but its nice to know that those wanting a little less warmth can do so easily and quickly.


    BALANCED VS SINGLE ENDED
    I measured these, and there was no difference with the X7ii's AM3a amplifier module apart from volume. Even the slight change in impedance wasn't enough to change the overall frequency response. 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. Its nice to have the option – but sonically I don't hear any benefits. If you volume match properly, I doubt you will either.


    COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS

    These comparisons were all done with the X7ii, (no EQ) – and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. It was a hard one to choose the comparisons, because the FH1 really does punch above its price range. So in the end I chose to compare to some of the IEMs (mainly hybrids and a couple of multi-BAs) in considerably higher brackets. So I chose the F9 Pro, LZ A4, Brainwavz B400, Dunu's DN-2000, Aedle's ODS1, and my benchmark – the Alclair Curve.

    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs FiiO F9 Pro (~USD 139)

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    FiiO FH1 and FiiO F9 ProComparative frequency response

    We can make this one pretty short. As far as build and design goes, the shape, comfort and cables are practically identical. The F9 Pro has the more permanent materials (alloy shell), but that doesn't really matter when they are worn. The F9 Pro also has better overall accessories. Both are very easy to drive and come with balanced and SE cables. Both also have similar isolation.

    Sonically the two are quite similar, but where the F9 Pro is a little cooler and drier in the top end, the FH1 is more on the warm and lush side. Both have very rich bass response, and extremely good transition from lower to upper mids. Technically the F9 Pro is a little more resolving, but its not a huge difference, and if you do take a little bass quantity out of the FH1 via EQ, I was surprised to find that I liked the overall tonality a little better. Both are outstanding value.


    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs LZ A4 (~USD 200)

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    FiiO FH1 and LZ A4Comparative frequency response

    The LZ A4 is a triple hybrid IEM which is tunable via changing front and rear filters. It's black and pink filter combo comes closest to the FH1, so this is what I used for the comparison. The LZ A4 has the better use of permanent materials, has more overall accessories, and is tunable. The FH1 has the balanced cable choice, the far more ergonomic design, and is less than half the price. The FH1 does isolate better and is a little easier to drive.

    Sonically – both are incredibly good IEMs with good balance despite their mild U shaped default frequencies. Despite the measurably fractionally fuller bass on the LZA4, it is the FH1 which does sound a little richer (especially through the mid-range), and slightly more tonally correct. The LZA4 has the slightest bit more upper end energy comparatively and does sound a little brighter as a result. Both are incredibly good IEMs, and the choice here is whether the LZA4's tuning options (which are excellent) trump the more comfortable ergonomics and lower price of the FH1. For me personally, the FH1's comfort ultimately wins out, although it would be a different story if the A4 was in a fully ergonomic chassis.


    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs Brainwavz B400 (~USD 180-220)

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    FiiO FH1 and Brainwavz B400Comparative frequency response

    Brainwavz came from nowhere with the B400, and knocked it out of the park IMO. A quad BA in a very ergonomic housing, and spectacular tuning. Compared to the FH1, I'd call design and ergonomics a tie, and both come with balanced and single-ended cables. The B400 has better isolation.

    The difference here is in the drivers and the tuning. Both are clear, smooth and rich monitors, but it is the presentation which is slightly different. The FH1's dynamic driver moves more air, and provides more impact and slam with its bass, where the B400 has more speed and agility. The FH1 is a little smoother and warmer in its vocal delivery, but is also a little more coloured (in a good way) with female vocals. Both have very good lower to upper mid transitions and are very coherent. This one is a rally hard one to call and ultimately depends on your preference for bass presentation. But it shows just how good the FH1 is – especially considering the price difference


    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs Aedle ODS1 (~USD 360)

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    FiiO FH1 and Aedle ODS1Comparative frequency response

    The ODS1 is (like the FH1) a dual driver hybrid, but there are some big differences in the overall design. Both are ergonomic and extremely comfortable, but with the ODS1's short lipless nozzles, you may have to do some serious tip rolling to find something suitable. The ODS1 has the more luxurious build/design but ultimately the FH1 has the better (IMO) cables, and of course comes with the balanced option.

    Sonically the FH1 and ODS1 both have similarly shaped curves, similar bumps in the mid-range, and similar treble peaks. The difference is in the bass where the ODS1 has at least 5-6 dB more bass. Consequently the ODS1 is an overly warm monitor with too much bass emphasis, and subsequent problems with masking of other frequencies. The ironic thing here is that if the ODS1 had been closer to the FH1's bass tuning, it would be a much more popular IEM (at least on these forums). If I EQ (E17K) the ODS1's bass out to match the FH1, the ODS1 really sings. This is a no contest though – the FH1 handily trumps the much more expensive monitor.


    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs Dunu DN2000 (~USD 240)

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    FiiO FH1 and Dunu DN-2000Comparative frequency response

    The Dunu DN2000 another triple driver hybrid, which was one of the more popular triple hybrids when they were beginning to come into vogue. It is a cartridge design with a fixed cable and copious accessories. In terms of build materials, the DN2000 has the more permanent materials, but the FH1 pulls ahead with superior ergonomics, comfort, and of course the detachable cables.

    Sonically these two are variations on a very similar theme. Both have extremely similar bass quantity and quality, and the main difference between the two is in the FH1's more forward presentation of vocals (particularly female) and the slightly brighter top end. Its been a while since I last listened to the DN-2000 and it was relatively easy to fall in love with its signature all over again (especially with acoustic music), but while I was ABing, the thought that kept occurring was how well the FH1 was presenting the same tracks. The DN-2000 might have the slightest bit more resolution in the lower treble, but for a third of the price and better ergonomics, my choice would be easy.


    FiiO FH1 (~USD 75) vs Alclair Curve (~USD 249)

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    FiiO FH1 and Alclair CurveComparative frequency response

    To finish with, what happens when I put the FH1 against one of my favourites in the sub $250 bracket? The Alclair Curve is a dual BA and the most ergonomic IEM I own. Both IEMs have very good build quality – with the FH1's shell being carbonate vs the acrylic compound shell of the Curve. Both have replaceable cables. Both have exceptional comfort. The FH1 of course has the balanced cable option – the Curve isolates better.

    Sonically these two have quite similar overall signatures, with the main difference being the bass. Where the FH1 is warm and rich, the Curve is a little more on the cool and lean side, very quick, but definitely not a rich tonality like the FH1. What did surprise me was how much I was beginning to like the FH1's default signature (it was growing on me), so I gave the Curve a little bass boost and was mazed at how much it added to some tracks (using the Q1ii's hardware EQ was a present revelation). This one comes down to how you prefer your tonality (lush and warm vs cool and lean), and I quite like both. The FH1 won't supplant the Curve, but it has given me some food for thought on just how good it performs.


    VALUE

    By now you'll already know where I see the strengths of the FH1, and as with both the F9 and F9 Pro, the massive strength is in perceived value. At $75 I can't think of too many IEMs which I would put on an equal footing for what FiiO is offering in terms of build, ergonomics and sonic signature. I would predict that the FH1 is going to become incredibly popular in a very short time. The fact that it can hang with, and in some cases beat, a variety of higher cost IEMs speaks volumes about its value proposition.

    FiiO FH1 – SUMMARY

    I was a little wary coming into this review – especially with the positive reaction I had from the F9 Pro. I was expecting the FH1 to be an IEM tuned with much heavier bass, relinquishing the balance of the F9 in favour of a much more “consumer friendly” signature. The FH1 does have more bass warmth, but in many ways it is also a mature tuning, and I think FiiO really understands the idea of balance.

    The FH1 combines good build and design, fantastic ergonomics, and still maintains the inclusion of dual cables (balanced and SE). Gone is the treble spikes of the F9 series – replaced instead by a mellow but still well extended treble. Added is a dollop more sub-bass, and although it can mask some of the finer details (if you have a track with a lot of sub or mid bass), its at the same time not overdone like some of the cheaper consumer oriented monitors.

    If you do find them a touch warm, simply drop the sub and mid-bass down a couple of notches with EQ, and the resultant signature is (for my tastes) simply sublime.

    At USD 75.00, the FH1 is a real bargain, and I would absolutely recommend them, especially to those who like a touch of bass warmth with their music. I put these through my new objective ranking calculation module, and unsurprisingly they scored incredibly well.

    My thanks once again to Lily and the team at FiiO for their continued faith in me as a reviewer.


    Scoring Chart
    HeadphonesFiiO FH1 (out of 10)
    My ScoreOut Of WeightingWeighted Score
    Accessories7105.00%0.35
    Build8.51010.00%0.85
    Design9.5105.00%0.475
    Fit/Comfort9.51015.00%1.425
    Sound Quality
    Bass Quality8108.00%0.64
    Mid-range Quality9108.00%0.72
    Treble Quality8108.00%0.64
    Overall Tonality7.5108.00%0.60
    Clarity7108.00%0.56
    Stage/Imaging7108.00%0.56
    Value101017.00%1.7
    TOTALS91110100.00%8.52


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    1. View previous replies...
    2. needmoretoys
      As usual, excellent review. What is your opinion of these vs the Pinnacle P1? I'm looking for something with more sub bass than the P1, as I like to listen to classical organ and the P1 don't reproduce the very low frequency notes that well. They're great for most everything else.
      needmoretoys, Mar 4, 2018
      bait oven likes this.
    3. dw1narso
      Really like the way you do the scoring, including the weight; which could show the aspect importance to your view.
      dw1narso, Apr 22, 2018
    4. scott1
      Great review. You sold me, just placed my order with Fiio!
      scott1, May 24, 2018