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FA7, the first Quad drivers IEM from FiiO , all Knowles BAs and 3D printed technical , MMCX design

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  1. Kentavar8
    Hey everyone! I just want to share my experience with the FA7 after listening to them for about 20 hours. In addition to that, I will also make a short comparison between the FA7 and my Audiofly AF180 ($500) since both of them are quad BA.

    In terms of packaging, accessories, build quality and design - I am beyond impressed. These look and feel like an extremely well build IEMs. Comfort is amazing, although I find the cables a little too robust over my ears and they tend to weight a bit after listening for a couple of hours. The reason why I decided to purchase these is first - the amazing reviews regarding the FA7, and second - I wanted a quad BA that reproduces a little bit more bass than my AF180's. To my surprise, after the first two songs that I played on the FA7, right away I was able to notice the HUGE emphasis on bass these have. It is way more impactful than I initially expected. Which brings me to my next point - sound. Too much bass, to the point where vocals and details are being overshadowed by it. Some songs work nicely, others not so much. I would lie if I say that I didn't enjoy the bass at times, but it is way too overwhelming for my listening preference. Another issue in terms of sound that personally bothered me a little bit is the reproduction of vocals. I cannot really explain or understand where that comes from, or maybe I've been spoiled by the AF180's phenomenal sharp vocals, but the vocals on the FA7 sound a bit artificial to me. As if there is a filter placed in order to make them sound smooth and less fatiguing, specifically in the highs region.

    Despite the cons I mentioned above, these are definitely capable of better and more balanced sound after some EQ. I don't know why FiiO decided to add so much bass impact on supposedly a more balanced IEMs. To me they lean more towards the mass bass lover consumers, rather than audiophiles or people who enjoy a more realistic and balanced listening experience. The FA7 can depict details and provide a good soundstage and imaging, but I feel like the bass ruins the joy most of the time and doesn't let FA7's true capabilities to shine. Considering the $300 price, the overall performance, build quality, comfort, and design, make the FA7 an amazing value for people who prefer more bass-heavy IEMs who can still reproduce a lot of detail, soundstage, and overall a decent sound. I might sound too critical about them, but in fact, I really enjoyed the FA7. Unfortunately, not to the extent where they would be able to replace my previous AF180.

    Audiofly AF180 vs FiiO FA7

    The difference between these two is night and day. Where the FA7 comes with more fun and overall bassy performance, the AF180 to me is the definition of an extremely well-balanced and realistic sound. Unlike the AF180, the FA7 is more on the dark side, with veiled vocals and too much warmth in general. The AF180 can point every little detail in a song and I can tell right away where is the position of each instrument in the recording. Also, the soundstage is OUTSTANDING on the AF180. Once I close my eyes and listen to them, I truly experience the sound as if I'm sitting in the room with the singer and the band while they perform. The soundstage on the FA7 is definitely noticeable on certain tracks, but not as wide as the AF180. And as I mentioned above, the difference in the vocals is pretty big for me. I have never heard before more accurate vocal reproduction such as the AF180 reproduce. It's marvelous. I cannot be 100% certain what a truly realistic vocal might sound like on an IEMs, but the AF180 make me believe what I listen, to be just as accurate as it is in the recording studio. Also there is ABSOLUTELY NO FATIGUE with the 180s. I don't find the FA7 fatiguing 97% of the time, but for example "Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper" did cause some fatiguing towards the end of the track. In terms of details, the FA7 produces just as many details as the AF180s, the only difference is that with the FA7 I had to listen carefully in order to pick up some of the details in the back, while with the AF180 doesn't let you lose any detail out of sight.
    I only wish the bass impact on the AF180's was a tiny bit more enhanced, but I feel like the FA7 made me appreciate the clarity and the balanced sound on the AF180 even more, so I think I can live without some extra bass in return for a more realistic listening experience. And lastly, in FA7's advantage, they completely blow away the AF180 in terms of build quality. From the cables to the actual body of the IEM, I would feel way more confident in FA7's durability.

    In the case of these two, the $200 price difference is well justified by the performance of the AF180's, at least for me personally, which by any means does not make the FA7 a bad value. In fact, it is an amazing alternative for some who prefer a more budget-friendly quad BA high-end IEM. But for now, I would have to return them and will wait for FiiO's next releases. And lastly, I would encourage anyone to try the FA7 by themselves. We all have different preferences when it comes to sound! :)
    Brainiac9000 and Brooko like this.
  2. mykupyku
    brand new one... very good sound

    and very poor quality check

    broken biggest driver or maybe it is FiiO's hair?

    2-3mm misperfection on the nozzle

    @JamesFiiO what about quality control? P1137617.jpg P1137618.jpg P1137619.jpg P1137620.jpg P1137622.jpg P1137624.jpg
  3. papa_mia
    Dude don't panic, that's just the glue they use to attach the drivers into the shell. You don't want them Knowles to roam freely in there, do you?
    Redcarmoose likes this.
  4. mykupyku
    maybe... hard to see it without loupe. but that's not a good job. I've got transparent customs and there was no visible glue. and L earbud of FA7 is done well.
    and nozzle misperfection is sharp enough to destroy tips after some time.

    no panic. it's just poor quality control.
  5. mhoopes
    The FH5 measures about 1 mm from the base of the nozzle to where my crus helix intersects the shell. Here's a pic that demonstrates more clearly what I'm talking about:

    jaxz likes this.
  6. gLer
    So today I had the opportunity to audition the FA7 at home (with the kind loaner pair from @xenithon), and specifically to compare them with the FH5 using the FiiO M9 and a collection of a my favourite Redbook and high-res flac test tracks as the source. I won’t bore you with the full SoC, but instead have summarised my findings below.

    Build and fit

    If you’ve owned or seen the FH5, you’ll feel right at home with the FA7. Same high-quality packaging, (mostly) same selection of excellent tips, same top-drawer cable (the FA7 arrived with both LC-3.5B single ended and LC-2.5B balanced cables, although I only used the balanced cable for this test), same meticulous attention to detail.

    Unlike the FH5’s metal alloy shell, the FA7 is made from what looks like a single piece of extruded resin. If you’re going to use plastic in an IEM, this is the gold standard – seamless, soft, superb. I personally prefer the metallic finish of the FH5 but wouldn’t for a second feel short-changed by the FA7. Both these IEMs put $1000+ earpieces to shame with their build quality, and the overall package just exudes class.

    Ever since I first bought the FH5, they’ve proven the most comfortable IEMs I’ve had the pleasure of wearing. That said, some of the tips I’d used with other IEMs were either too small to fit on the wider nozzle of the FH5, or too shallow to make a proper seal with the FH5’s shallower-than-normal nozzle length. And without a proper seal, the FH5 falls flat. (hint: if your favourite tip doesn’t work with the FH5, try one size up).

    With a thinner, longer nozzle, the FA7 was said to address some of the fit issues others were having with the FH5, and so this was the first thing I was eager to test for myself. The first tip I tried with the FA7 was the medium double-flange silicon tip FiiO now supplies as standard with the FH5 (mine didn’t come with any, so this was a first for me). Combined with the longer nozzle, the double flange tip was just too long for my smallish ears with the FA7.

    Switching the double flange tip to the FH5, however, was love at first fit. Not only did it fit perfectly without wiggling, it sealed perfectly too. So if you’re struggling with a tip that fits both the FH5 and your ears, give the FiiO double flange a go. It’s also the best sounding tip I’ve heard with the FH5 to date, but more on that later.

    Another favourite of mine, JVC’s Spiral Dot, is sometimes hit-and-miss seal-wise with the FH5 (I’ve been using the MS size Spirals and they don’t always pass the yawn test – losing seal with a wide yawn). With the FA7 and its deeper insertion, the Spiral Dot was perfectly seated at the first time of asking. Seal was good too, but having grown accustomed to the shallower insertion of the FH5, it took a little while to get used to the FA7’s deeper intrusion in my ear canal.

    In my experience the thickness of the nozzle (or lack thereof in the FA7) makes a bigger difference. For example, swapping tips is a breeze with the FA7, they just slide on with minimal pressure. With the FH5 it’s a process – turn the tips inside out, squeeze them, stand on your head and face left, and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get them on without them popping right back off. The extra thickness of the FH5 also stretches most silicone tips and some foam tips so that the fits is quite a bit tighter with narrow ear canals. Makes it easier to seal sooner, but also easier to fall out of the tips don’t reach deep enough.

    I tried a few other tips, on and off, with both IEMs, with differing degrees of comfort. Bottom line, for me, is this: it’s easier to find tips that both fit the FA7 and fit my ears, but the FH5 is the more comfortable IEM with tips that fit my ears well. At this point, there are two that make the cut every time: FiiO’s M double flange tips, and FiiO’s M bass tips. FiiO’s M balanced and vocal tips fit well too, but less well than the more ‘splayed’ bass tips. I’ve got M-size JVC Spiral Dots on order, which will hopefully mimic the fit of the M bass tips while giving me the superb Spiral dot sound. I’ll report back here when I get them.


    This is probably the most contentious but also most interesting part of this type of review, so if you’ve jumped here before reading about the fit (above), I suggest you go back and do so. The reason for this is simple: the fit and seal of the tips used for both FH5 and FA7 make ALL the difference to the sound. If the fit is off by even half a millimetre, it can change almost everything you hear through these IEMs.

    My experience with IEMs is very limited compared to full size headphones and speakers, but I can say this with certainty: never before have such small changes made such a big difference in what I was hearing. I mean we’re talking fractions of millimetres to shape, slight differences in material, and a millimetre or two at most of depth and angle. And yet every small difference makes such a big difference to the sound that from now on, any sound impressions I read about any IEM are going to be almost entirely put into context against the tips used, size, material and fit.

    With that said, everything you read past this point is specific to how I heard it, based on the tips I used with each IEM. This means it’s likely unique to my physiology, and even my degree of hearing loss (I have mild hearing loss between 2khz and 4khz, although for the most part my impressions of headphone sound closely follows the consensus when similar gear and music is used).

    Tracks used:

    · Lorde – Royals
    · Heidi Talbot – If You Stay
    · Owl City – The Saltwater Room
    · Angels of Venice – Trotto
    · Carla Bruni – Raphael
    · Selena Gomez – Hands To Myself
    · Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right
    · Brandi Carlile – The Story
    · Joe Satriani – Always With Me, Always With You

    Some pointers: I went into this review wanting to hear what others have been saying about the FA7’s more ‘balanced’ midrange compared to the FH5’s forward mids (especially with female vocals). The FA7 was also said to have a thicker mid-bass ‘hump’ compared to the FH7’s more linear mid-bass but bigger sub-bass.

    I’ll give a breakdown of bass/mids/treble below, but if I were to summarise my overall impressions of the sound of the FH5 and FH7 it’s this: the FA7 is flatter, warmer, darker, smoother and more laid-back; the FH5 is punchier, faster, more engaging, more dynamic, but conversely skirts a fine line between crisp and edgy, forward and shouty.

    Bass: one of the most impressive features of the FH5’s sound, and what won me over ever since I first heard it, is the bass. More specifically, the almost complete lack of mid-bass ‘bloom’ and generous amounts of sub-bass ‘slam’. When the track calls for it, the FH5 hits and hits hard; the size and weight of the bass is impressive, reverberating in your head as if you were standing right beside the drum hit or bass pluck. That ‘impact’ – so prevalent in Lorde’s opening keys of Royals, and the bass-heavy plucks of Heidi Talbot’s guitar in If You Stay, are significantly reduced in both size and weight with the FA7. You ‘hear it’ more than feel it with the all-BA IEM, and that could possibly be purely down to the difference between BA and DD bass.

    That’s not to say the FA7 is lacking in bass, or that the FH5 overdoes it. I’d actually say the FA7, on occasion, has *more* bass than the FH5, but it’s more of that warm blanket of mid-bass that sometimes finds its way into tracks even if it’s not there in the original recording. As such, I’d say the FH5 has the more faithful or accurate bass of the two. Which presentation is preferable is entirely up to the listener. Neither IEM bleeds bass into the mids, although the extra mid-bass quantity of the FA7 does warm everything up, including the lower mids.

    Mids: this leads me to the second big difference between the FH5 and FH7. Whereas the FH5 has a 2khz peak that emphasizes part of the vocal range, it follows a slight dip in the lower mids that can sometimes ‘stretch’ some female vocals, making them appear a touch thin, hollow or shouty. This is only an issue with poorly recorded material, but it’s something to be mindful of if you’re not a fan of forward vocals. The flip-side of the FH5’s forward vocals is that lower volume listening doesn’t come at the cost of vocal clarity.

    The FA7, on the other hand, balances the mids much closer to the bass and treble. Vocals aren’t necessarily recessed, but listening to the FA7 immediately after the FH5 may appear to make them so. In truth all the detail is there, in smooth, silky glory. In fact, paying closer attention to the FA7’s vocals reveals just how well they’ve been tuned. Carla Bruni is at her sexy, smoky best on Raphael on the FA7, whereas the FH5 makes her far more strident and forward, whether you want that or not. Again neither is better or worse; it’s a preference. And in this case my preference is very much for the FA7’s rendition of vocals.

    Treble: here’s where you’ll need to take my impressions with a pinch of salt, because I’m fairly treble sensitive. As long as the highs aren’t harsh or sibilant, and there’s enough air between notes and sparkle in the bells and cymbals, I’m good. The minute I hear screeching, it’s an instant fail.

    The good news is neither FH5 or FA7 come anywhere near to sibilance, harshness, grain or brightness. Of the two, the FH5 is more extended in the highs, so poor recordings are likely to suffer more on the FH5; the FA7 is super laid back up top, notably rolled, but not to the point that the sparkle is gone. There’s plenty of detail in the FA7 treble but sibilance or harshness is simply impossible. You have to find some really crappy recordings to irritate the treble in the FA7, and I haven’t found any yet.

    I personally prefer to listen to great recordings, though, and this is where the differences in treble (and overall balance) are quite apparent. Joe Satriani’s guitars have a much sharper, more distinct edge with the FH5, while the FA7 renders them as it does most guitars (and leading edges): smoothly. Those who want ‘crunch’ in their electric guitars need not fuss with the FA7 because it doesn’t do crunch. The FH5 does, and does it well.

    If I had to describe the ‘shape’ of the FH5 and FA7 sound, I’d say the FH5 is a clear W, while the FA7 is a more gentle U, titled downward towards the treble. But that’s not a hard and fast rule, and tip selection can influence how you hear different parts of the FR even with the same tracks. The double flange tips, for example, fill out the lower mids of the FH5 more so than the FiiO bass tips, but without sacrificing bass heft, so you’re left with a more balanced sound with something as simple as a tip swap.

    With the FA7, switching to Spiral Dots cleans up some of the ‘veil’ apparent with the bass tips. If you’re only heard the FA7 with the stock balanced tips, and find it bloomy, veiled or distant, do yourself a favour and swap in some Spiral Dots. The FA7 will be instantly transformed into the quality transducer it is.


    FiiO has created two stars with the FH5 and FA7. Despite the numbering difference, they are both flagships of the range, and rightly so. Despute the modest pricing they are both high-end and high class.

    The differences in balance and presentation can be put down not only to the tuning, but also the differences between all-BA and hybrid drivers, along with nozzle length and thickness.

    Sound wise, both seem to cater for very different tastes. There’s no semblance of a ‘house sound’ here. The FH5 is big, bold, fun, punchy. The FA7 is a smooth operator; warm, smoky, laid back. With the FH5 you’re on stage with the band, while the FA7 puts you in row F, taking it all in without losing anything from the performance. Interestingly I find the stage width and depth of both to be on par; not too intimate and not too wide. Just right. Like any IEM it’s an in-your-head sound, compared to the best over ear headphones, but on occasion they’ll both surprise you with sounds seeming to come from well outside the room in your head.

    And that’s not the only surprise. For less than $300 FiiO has given us a choice of two superbly made, superbly tuned IEMs that cover a very broad range of listening tastes. Both are versatile enough to do almost any genre justice, as long as you enjoy the sound profile they’re tuned for.
  7. SeeD
    Well done! I enjoyed reading your review. I love the FA7- except for the “veiled” vocals that I experience. I ordered the JVC spiral dots- Mediums, got them today but they were too small!! Not sure larges will do it- we shall see. I am using the stock Large Bass and the Vocal tips trying to sort it all out.

    Would you say that if the “veiled” vocals were bothersome to a person with the FA7s, that the FH5s would be more preferable?? More bass and more vocal presence?

  8. FiiO
    Dear friend,

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    Redcarmoose likes this.
  9. gLer
    I’d say vocals on the FH5 definitely sound less veiled but also less ‘full and warm’, and I know at least two people that find them too forward and therefore fatiguing. I don’t find FH5 vocals/mids fatiguing at all, but I would prefer them slightly fuller *without* changing anything else in the FR, if that’s even possible.

    I definitely wouldn’t touch the FH5 bass. I don’t think the FH5 has more bass that the FH7, but I prefer the bass balance on the FH5 (more sub bass, less mid bass). The FA7 night actually have more bass - it’s definitely more obvious because of the mid bass ‘hump’ that makes it sound warmer than the FH5, but also more ‘veiled’.

    So to answer your question, I think you might prefer the FH5 for vocal clarity and bass balance, but you’d have to hear it for yourself to know for sure.
    Currawong likes this.
  10. SeeD
    Thank you for you insight. I may have to just try them out! However, I am quickly learning again that there are so many independent variables listening to IEMs that it difficult keeping track of the differences between IEMs sounds/nuances. The eartip seal, the fit of the housing on your ear, the recording quality, the digital source, the cables, your mood...etc. all play into effect. lol. But then again, that’s what makes this hobby so fun.
    Such a first world up hill battle. :)
  11. dcfac73
    A quick scan of this thread indicates a slightly overly bassy signature on the fa7? Is this generally with the "balanced " or "bass" tips?
  12. gLer
    I wouldn't say overly bassy, maybe warm mid-bassy, but that's the signature FiiO were going for I guess. And that's with every tip I tried. the JVC Spiral Dots did clean up some of the 'veil' from the bass and opened up the treble and stage a bit more than the others, but the general warm, smooth signature is baked in. You can probably tweak it with EQ, but I don't EQ much myself.
    Brooko, Currawong and dcfac73 like this.
  13. Currawong Contributor
    This write-up is great, and matches my own impressions. I've been trying to describe these things in terms of how different types of music are presented and it's challenging, as the different aspects can present themselves on one track, but not another.
    sidecross and gLer like this.
  14. gLer
    Thanks Amos. I’m hardly an expert - I just try to describe what I hear. Helps that I’m a writer by profession :) Learning every day from this great community.
  15. SeeD
    Thanks for all the feedback. One additional question......and I know this is subjective. Is there an appreciable difference in comfort between the FH5 and the FA7? The FA7s are very comfortable. Could be a trade off between comfort and sonics for me.
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