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FiiO FH5 - Do IEMs Get Any Better? - A Consumer's Perspective

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Posted · Original PosterOP

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The FiiO FH5 is a 2018 in-ear monitor flagship and have a hefty pricetag of $250. As a person whose best piece of audio equipment before acquiring these in-ear monitors was Audio-Technica's ATH M50x, my review of which you can read here, I expected big things such as a wider soundstage, wider frequency response range, enhanced clarity, clearer mids and highs, as well as a more enjoyable listening experience in both casual and critical sessions in general. So, I got the FiiO FH5 as an early Christmas present to myself, and ordered them late November earlier this year just as my Amazon Prime expired, so I got them next-day free of charge on top of that $250 price tag.

I have had these in-ear monitors for just under two weeks now and easily 70 hours sank into things, and here's my in-depth review.

 

The FiiO FH5 consists of a single dynamic driver coupled with 3 of Knowles' Balanced Armature drivers, making these in-ear monitors a quad-driver hybrid. The dynamic driver is present to represent the bass team with the triple balanced armature drivers to run for the mids and highs team. This combination of dynamic and balanced armature drivers is in theory a perfect match for covering all the frequency ranges and then some.

 

I was recommended the FiiO FH5 as I am a listener of Korean pop and its many subgenres such as bubblegum, ballad, R&B, soul, with a strong emphasis on female vocals in particular. I came from the TIn HiFi T2, which were great for the type of Korean pop I listen to, but they lacked low-end and had some strong sibilance about them so I wanted something a bit more premium. Enter the FiiO FH5.

 

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The design of these in-ear monitors are extremely premium-looking and look like they would pair perfectly with a high-class supercar. FiiO's marketing notes on the FiiO FH5 lists that the lines on the faceplate of the FiiO FH5 were based on exotic supercars, and I can see exactly how that might be. The lines remind me of the likes of the McLaren 570S' frontal third, the BMW M2's frontal third, Ferrari 458 Italia's rear third, as well as the general shape of the Mercedes A45 AMG. This is such beautiful styling. The shape of these in-ear monitors is also designed to contour with many ears, given that these in-ear monitors are designed with a universal fit in mind. Classy design indeed.

 

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The included MMCX-to-3.5mm cable is just as classy, with its angled hook-like connectors to better fit the over-the-ear style of these in-ear monitors. The cables' ends are also color-coded to match the FH5's color-coded rings, blue for left, and red for right. The cable is nice and thick, I bet I could abseil with this and not have it snap. The cable is rigid as well which aids it in literally never tangling over itself.

 

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Included in the FiiO FH5's box is this set of 26 different eartips (including the ones attached the in-ear monitors themselves). These different eartips are made to vary the sound signature of the in-ear monitors, such as favoring vocals, bass, or giving a balanced sound signature. There are also a trio of memory foam eartips if you prefer memory foam over the silicone tips that are provided in the aforementioned different sound signatures.

 

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I personally chose the vocal eartips myself as I prefer prioritising the highs in female vocals over anything else. In terms of how much of a change a different tip could make, it's not night and day. In my experience, I had to pay attention to which tip I was using and look out for the change in sound. It's still a great addition to have included so many bonus tips to try and it adds to the value of the in-ear monitors as a whole.

 

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Highs:

The highs are crisp and detailed, a good example of presenting high quality highs is in Apink's 'I'm So Sick' chorus or the entire composition of fromis_9's 'Love Bomb' as they both utilise female vocals heavily and have a chirpy and bubbly background instrumental.

As I am using vocal tips, my highs might be a bit more enhanced than others who elect to use bass or balanced tips for example. I have not used any other eartip extensively as I have used vocal tips 100% of my time with the FH5s.

Despite the highs being crystal clear and full of life, there is little to no sibilance found in the sound signature of the in-ear monitors. I'm made to believe the lack of sibilance and hiss in the highs is thanks to the amazing sound isolation in the fit of these in-ear monitors. I have fairly standard and small ears, so these in-ear monitors fit almost perfectly and block out any outside noise.

 

Mids:

The mids are also just as detailed as the highs, I feel in my experience and sense of sound, the mids are a lot more prominent than the highs. A good example of the mids being a crucial role to the sound experience is Dragonforce's 'Ashes of The Dawn', where the electric guitars are extremely present along with the drum hits. Where the mids also shine is in instrumentation seperation in this part of the frequency response. Using Boney M's 'Rasputin' as an example for instrumentation seperation, the two guitars in the introductory segment of the song are perfectly seperated, and shine even further when the third guitar, a piano, as well as the vocals are introduced. These balanced armature drivers do not play around, giving a clear and concise mids sound floor. The mids is easily the strongest part of the FiiO FH5s.

 

Lows:

The lows are excellently presented on these in-ear monitors. Using Dethklok's 'Go Into The Water' as an example of excellent lows, the tenudo-like bassline of the song is almost head-shakingly clear and rumbly. Every guitar pluck is outrageously punchy and deep. The chant-like vocals are also husky and cavernous, the noise floor from the bassline is super satisfying.

Green Day's 'American Idiot' is another excellent example of fantastic lows on the FiiO FH5. The bassline for this song is amazingly profound and heavy-hitting to the ears. The bass is vibrant, vivid, and full of clarity. It's not muddy and also not overly done. Mind I also use vocal eartips, so bass eartips may even enhance the bass noise floor a bit more compared to what I am personally expericing using vocal eartips.

 

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I'm going to listen to some songs using the FiiO FH5 fed through my PC which is using the Sound Blaster Audigy Fx soundcard with no additional features like EQ or surround enabled for the vanilla experience. I'm going to be using the Spotify version of each song at 320kbps to listen. I usually do timestamps but I feel as a better representation of the sound signature of the FiiO FH5 that I will comment on the different sections of the song to highlight the highs, mids, and lows altogether.

 

Song 1 - Momoland (모모랜드) - Bboom Bboom (뿜뿜) (Bubblegum K-pop)

  • Intro: The introduction's soft and sweet guitar melody is vibrant and clear, with the lows helping out the guitar's range a lot. The saxophone-like instrument gets the highs in full gear and does it well, with the mids managing to seperate the lows and highs nicely with no muddiness or sibilance.
  • Verse 1: The vocals are vibrant and clear here with no hissing, which is impressive given the low noise floor the guitar in the background is still pulling off. The sparkly notes found in the instrumental are also pleasant to hear and are clear despite being very far back in the composition itself. I find it amazing that despite the naturally-closed soundstage of the FiiO FH5 that it manages to achieve a balance of composition to make sure nothing is muddy nor hissy.
  • Pre-Chorus: The highs and mids shine a lot more here, there is still no noticeable sibilance nor hissing found even though the whole instrumental in this section has raised an octave or two. The vocals are still crystal clear and the guitar still manages to stand out. The slight synth in the background is ever so slightly muddled in between all the rest of the composition but still noticeable enough to distinguish itself from the rest of the instrumental.
  • Chorus: Here is where the lows of the first verse and the highs of the pre-chorus come together seemlessly. The vocals combined with the lows of the instrumental are perfectly balanced and in such great clarity. I must stress again that I am using vocal eartips so with a different pair of tips, the highs may not be as seperated and the lows might even be deeper than now.
  • Verse 2: In Momoland fashion, the second verse contains a lot of girl crush and urban hip-hop themes, these lows are not as exaggerated as the first verse, but are still comfortably low and deep. The vocals are also still extremely clear here.
  • BridgeThe soft, pillowy vocals are a great use of the triple balanced armature drivers inside the FiiO FH5, these vocals are carried effortlessly forward despite the booming bass in the background of the song. It's amazing how well-balanced these in-ear monitors are in terms of sound signature.

Song 2 - Shawn Mendes & Camilla Cabello - Señorita (Modern Latin Pop)

  • Intro: The deep, prolonged guitar strums combined with the quick, sharp, high guitar plucks perfectly balance each other with no muddiness or hissing. They are both full of clarity.
  • Verse 1: Cabello's vocals make the highs shine hard with her tweety and nasally vocals. This combined with the same long guitar strums make for a nicely balanced composition that the FiiO FH5 can wholely appreciate and represent. Mendes' entry with his whispery and modest voice fills in the mids and also continues the guitar instrumentals. The cracks in Mendes' vocals chords are eerily present when listening to this song using the FiiO FH5, they are amazingly clear. Especially the latter section of the song with the subvocals from Mendes.
  • Chorus: Mendes and Cabello's vocals are greatly matched and clear, the separation between the two vocalists is outstanding, and the continuation of the guitar is ever present. Clarity and balance are the main takeaways from the chorus of this song.
  • Verse 2: The guitar is picked up a notch, as well as Cabello's vocals. The mids and highs are once again present and clear here, with the hint of deep, low bass still giving the composition some body.
  • Bridge: This is easily the busiest section of the song. Despite this, Cabello and Mendes' vocals are still clear and far forward, with that returning guitar still audible and the light subvocals also making an appearance. This is one part of the song where it can be slightly muddled but not enough to notice in casual listening sessions.

Song 3 - Green Day - American Idiot (Punk Rock)

  • Intro + Verses: The edgy and dirty gutiar solo is amazingly clear despite being purposefully nasty and unkempt, the kickdrum pauses are also punchy and vibrant.
  • Chorus: The evidently punk-rock instrumentals are amazingly vibrant and fun, with the vocals also clear, the vocals are slightly overpowered by the instrumentals but I feel like this was done on purpose with a song of this nature. This simple composition is highly effective and punchy using the FiiO FH5, and I'm not even using bass eartips to listen to American Idiot.
  • Bridge: This guitar and drum solo is amazingly fun and vibrant, the guitars are in perfect sync with the kickdrum also punchy and deep. There is also a light symbal audible in the background and I am amazed at how balanced the FiiO FH5 is at keeping the composition separated. I also love that the vocals are still clear and raspy to properly represent the vocalist's true sound signature.

 

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I picked up on the audio scene pretty late this year and only got fully invested when I first purchased my Tin HiFi T2, which I bought after requesting recommendations for budget-oritented in-ear monitors made with mids and highs in mind. While they were good, I sought after more, and just after two weeks, the FiiO FH5 introduced themselves to me.

I thoroughly believe the FiiO FH5 is going to be my ultimate in-ear monitors, for the price it is unbelievable how good they sound. Take with salt, as I have only tried a handful of audio equipment, with the FiiO FH5 easily topping all of them, and in every department.

 

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Having originally bought these for Korean pop where songs tend to be on the fun and saturated side with enhanced highs and mids, I'm proud to say that I am in love with the FiiO FH5's bass and low-end reproduction. The FiiO FH5 is so good at the low-end and it's all thanks to the single dyanmic driver as it handles the responsibilities encompassing the low-end.

The mids and highs are just as clear, vibrant, crisp, and detailed as well, there hasn't been a time when I'm listening to a song and the vocals haven't shone brightly. The mids are greatly separated and allows for amazing instrumentation separation on the FiiO FH5.

 

I am completely satisfied with dropping $250 on the FiiO FH5, and actually from the unboxing and addtional accesories, not to mention the aesthetics, I would've thought these retailed for so much more. These in-ear monitors are amazing at balancing the lows, mids, and highs, and I suppose that's exactly what makes these my personal favorite in-ear monitor, and probably the best in-ear monitors I will ever get the chance to use in my entire life.

For that $250 price tag, personally, I'd say that is well worth it and then some.

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