FiiO has long been respected for inexpensive high-performance In-Ear Monitors, in fact, the FiiO FH7 and FiiO FD7 both are members of my regular stable of IEMs for equipment testing. Now FiiO has released a big brother to the FH7 the FiiO FH9, a seven-driver hybrid IEM that moves FiiO ever closer to the realm of reference level IEMs.
FiiO FH9 Seven Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitors:
As one would expect from a flagship product, the FiiO FH9 has a fairly extensive list of bullet points:
- Pure titanium alloy construction; designed to reduce unwanted harmonics and resonances due to the extreme rigidity of titanium while offering the metals inherent beauty.
- Each FH9 ear unit is precisely made using five-axis CNC machining to exacting tolerances; ensures predictable performance and excellent comfort.
- Customized 6 Knowles BA configuration designed in partnership with Knowles; Knowles SWFK-31736 drivers provide the high frequencies while a special configuration of multiple drivers balanced for harmony provide the midrange focused through the controlled resonant titanium shell, sound tube, and cavity specifically aimed at reducing unwanted sibilance.
- Second Generation FiiO-developed 13.6mm DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) DLD (Direct Laser Deposition) diaphragm dynamic bass driver; A more rigid diaphragm reduces deformation allowing the driver to maintain timbre with reduced sonic distortion.
- Low-frequency sound tube adopts FiiO’s patented S.Turbo acoustic turbocharged structure design; uses sound wave guiding characteristics to strengthen the bass effect through the shape of the turbine creating fast deep bass while filtering out excess mid and high-frequencies produced by the dynamic driver making for a smoother crossover with the BAs
- Specially-engineered acoustic notch filter; eliminates unwanted harmonic resonance inside the sound tube and cavity
- Semi-open rear acoustic cavity employing FiiO’s patented balanced pressure relief technology; creates a more natural tonal balance and reduces pressure on the eardrum, for more comfortable less fatiguing listening
- Interchangeable sound filters (Red – Enhanced, dynamic bass focus, Green – Highly resolving, detailed treble focus, and Black – Clear, transparent balanced timbre); allows user to tailor the sound to their own preferences
- Stainless steel angled MMCX connectors; greater comfort and longer cable life
- High-purity pure silver cable; braided 8 strand high-purity silver cable with 28 silver wires per strand for a total of 224 cores with imported TPU jacket
- Twist-lock swappable audio connectors; allows a single cable to support 2.5mm TRRS, 3.5mm TRS, and 4.4mm TRRRS connections without use of adaptors
- Hi-Res gold certification
- Selection of tunable ear tips; 3sizes Bass ear tips (SML), 3sizes Balanced ear tips (SML), 3sizes Vocal ear tips (SML), 2 pairs Foam ear tips, 2 pairs Double Flange ear tips, 3sizes SpinFit ear tips (SML)
On top of the above-mentioned ear tips, sound filters, and Twist-lock swappable audio connectors the FH9 also comes with a host of accessories including an HB5 leatherette carrying case, an MMCX removal tool, a cleaning brush, and a magnetic clamp.
Living with the FiiO FH9 Seven Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitors:
I burned in the FiiO FH9 IEMs using the FiiO K5 Pro ESS (subject of an upcoming review) and performed my first listening tests using the K5 Pro ESS for my review of the Core Power Ground Zero with spectacular results (using the prefitted black filters and SpinFit ear tips). For this review, I used my FiiO M11 DAP and iFi Pro iDSD Desktop Tube/Solid-state DAC/Amp as source.
As with my FH7 review, I decided the first step was to compare the different filter/ear tip combinations using one of my standard test tracks to determine my personal sound preference. In this case, I picked “Can-utility And The Coastliners” by Genesis (“Foxtrot” – DSD) as this track covers all of the bases from subsonics to acoustical instruments and vocals to detail.
Starting with the out-of-the-box combo the sound was a bit emphasized on the upper mids and highs while the bass was concise while not as deep as anticipated. Detail was excellent and the soundstage was open and large. Switching to the “Balanced” ear tips caused the bottom end to blossom but the upper mid glare remained and the soundstage expanded a bit. The “Vocal” tips created a more intimate closer soundstage with mellower more natural mids and highs supported by deeper more robust bass. The “Bass” tips did amplify the bass but also left the midrange a bit jangly. The double flange tips gave the largest soundstage so far but otherwise were similar to the SpinFit. I personally find foam tips to be less comfortable due to the constant pressure, and I always have trouble arriving at a seal, but there was no question that they gave the most neutral tonal balance with deep rich bass with a good-sized soundstage.
Switching to the “Treble” (green) filters I went back to the SpinFits and was treated to a much more neutral presentation though there was still a bit of brightness in the upper midrange, the bass was much more solid. The “Vocal” tips took the brassiness out of the midrange but softened the bass, giving the most natural timbre yet experienced. Like above the “Bass” tips increased both the bass and midrange but not to the point of the SpinFits. Again the “Balanced” ear tips reflected their performance with the black filters good bass but weighted towards the midrange. This time the foam tips offered the deepest sound stage while the double tips sounded a lot like the “Balanced” tips.
With the “Bass” (red) filters, I skipped the SpinFits and went right to the “Vocal” tips and found that the tips pretty much performed as advertised, that is to say, that the “Vocal” tips had a more recessed bass and a mellower midrange, the “Balanced” tips had a more linear tonal balance with a slightly hotter mid and bass, and the bass tips had an uptick on both the bottom end and the top end. Yet again the dual flange tips offered a similar balance to the “Balanced” tips but with a deeper soundstage. The foam tips were a few dB louder and had the heaviest bottom end.
In the end, I chose the green filters with the “Vocal” ear tips as best fitting my taste with a good balance between musicality and comfort moving on to more in-depth listening.
It was time to boot up Qobuz and listen to different types of music. My first choice was Youn Sun Nah’s “Waking World” ( 24-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) which opened with a Barbra Streisand-like vocal set to electronic music in a huge hall. “Don’t Get Me Wrong” featured acoustic guitar and a Jazz/Rock feel. Again the soundstage was huge and the timbre of the instruments was very natural. “Lost Vegas” was a more Bluesy Pop Rock piece with a host of acoustic instruments supplemented with a little electric guitar. The resolution was fantastic allowing you to pick out the different sounds of the individual instruments.
Switching to the iFi Pro iDSD to see how the FH9s scale up to a higher quality source, I selected “Get Back – The Rooftop Performance” (24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) by The Beatles. It was like being there, Paul’s bass was solid and tight, and the vocals were unbelievably natural. The drums were crisp and musical, and the Rhodes piano was rich and full with that bell-like quality that sets the instrument apart. Overall the presentation was extremely musical and life-like.
Jethro Tull’s new album “The Zealot Gene” (24-bit/48kHz – Qobuz)was released today on Qobuz so I decided to give it a listen. Once more there was a great sense of space and excellent clarity coached in musicality.
Feeling it wouldn’t be fair to end this review without listening to a classical piece I selected Elsa Dreisig performing extracts from Mozart on her new release “Mozart X 3” (24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) and I was not wrong as Opera is the true forum for the FH9, dynamic, musical, pure, without a hint of harshness or sibilance.
Conclusions on the FiiO FH9 Seven Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitors:
Clear, dynamic, musical, with excellent deep tight bass and enough flavor combinations to satisfy even the most picky of connoisseurs, the FiiO FH9 In-Ear Monitors are well deserving of the title of flagship and easily competitive with any IEM in its price range. They easily handle any form of music and scale up well to higher resolution electronics. The combination of silicone tips and their semi-open back design makes them extremely comfortable for long-term listening, while bass heads will love them with the foam tips whether into Hip Hop or Death Metal, the FH9 deliver all music without prejudice. They even worked well with the $149 K5 Pro ESS desktop amp (review pending). So once again, FiiO delivers excellent value for the money with class beating musicality and performance.
Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.fiio.com/fh9
Wearing Style: Over-the-ear
Frequency Response: 10Hz-40kHz
Drivers: 1 13.6mm dynamic, 6 balanced armatures (Knowles)
Sensitivity: 108dB (1kHz@1mW)
Max input power: 100mW
Cable: High-quality pure silver wire
Cable length: Approx. 120cm
Single unit weight: 12.8g