If you want to go wireless, there is no shortage of Bluetooth earbuds to choose from, and new ones seem to be released weekly. If you want a great pair of in-ears however, the pickings get slimmer, more expensive, but way better-sounding. The FiiO FH5 in-ear monitors are a perfect example of that, with a quad-driver setup in all-metal housings meant to give you the best sound possible.
Who’s the FiiO FH5 for?
- Commuters. Believe it or not, I would say the FiiO FH5 are a great option for commuters. They have a fantastic build, come with a hardshell traveling case, and offer amazing sound quality.
- Anyone tired of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is great and all, but if you’re tired of charging a bunch of devices and paying crazy amounts of money for sub-par sound and a little more convenience, then these are for you.
- People who listen to music. Of course, you can use these for podcasts too, but I don’t think sound quality matters too much in that case. If you want good sound quality then you might like the FiiO FH5.
What comes with the FiiO FH5?
When you open the box, you’re greeted with just the in-ears and all the other goodies are packed neatly away underneath. Besides the ‘buds, you get a small hardshell carrying case with a zippered pouch along with four different kinds of ear tips (memory foam, balanced, vocal, and bass), all of which come in different sizes. With all of these things included, you should be able to get a perfect fit.
Build and design
If you’ve ever wondered what a racecar would look like as a pair of in-ears, the FH5 in-ears are your answer. After visiting the website it turns out that is exactly what the company was going for in its design language. The casing is a CNC machined aluminum body that feels heavy (41g) but is surprisingly lightweight. They fit almost perfectly right out of the box and by just swapping out the ear tips got a more comfortable pair. I was able to get a fit that got them to stay in no matter what I did throughout the day.
The sleek, metallic look is reflected all the way down to the 90-degree 3.5mm connector at the terminal end. The braided wires are wrapped in a translucent TPU sheath that makes it easy to handle without sacrificing the overall look and feel. It also does a great job at preventing tangles, and I didn’t have to untie a single knot during the review process. The connector is also notoriously the weakest part of a pair of earbuds, but that isn’t the case here.
You get the same tough aluminum metal here with a hard plastic piece for extra reinforcement against fraying. Plus, the jack has some great knurling which isn’t necessary, but feels great and provides additional grip. Thankfully, if you do happen to break the cable you won’t have to go replacing the entire thing thanks to MMCX connectors. The housings just pop off, so you can replace the damaged cable without needing to spend a fortune.
The only issue with the connection was finding a device that still has a headphone jack. My primary source device is usually a Pixel 3 and my other is the 11-inch iPad Pro, neither of which have headphone jacks. Luckily, my computer still has a headphone jack (for now), and FiiO sent along the M9 hi-res digital music player for me to check out as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t use it much since this isn’t a review for the M9. Plus, most people reading this will already have their own source devices.
I’m currently also working on an Apple Music piece, so I did all of my listening streaming that while using my laptop. Considering these headphones have an impedance of 19Ω and were made for portable devices, I didn’t have a problem applying enough power at all. I ended up keeping the volume at only around 30%, which was more than enough to hear my music at adequate levels. If you already have an amp that you want to use with me these you obviously can because it’s a free world, but you really don’t need one here.
How does the FiiO FH5 sound?
I used these while on a long bus ride and while working out of a cafe, and both times I was surprised at how well these isolated considering I wasn’t using the memory foam tips. While some low-end rumbles from the engine still crept through, most ambient sounds in the mids and highs were significantly less loud and really let me focus in on just the music I was listening to. Then there are the ear tips that come with the FiiO FH5 in-ears, all of which have a slightly different sound signature depending on what it is that you’re looking for.
I was impressed with just about every aspect of the sound signature. It could just be that I’ve been stuck in Bluetooth land for a while, but having a quality pair of wired in-ears sounds better than I remembered. Plus, these are quad-drivers we’re talking about. So the FH5 in-ears have a different driver tuned specifically for a certain part of the frequency range.
There’s the 10mm polymer dynamic driver that handles the lows, a Knowles ED30262 balanced armature that deals with the mids, and two Knowles 31082 drivers that handles highs and ultra-highs. Of course, how much of those super high-res frequencies you can actually hear depends on your source file, your age and overall ear health, and your species because no human can hear up to the 40kHz range that gives these their Hi-Res certification. Still, at the risk of being blunt and making this the shortest sound quality section in any review ever, these do sound pretty damn great.
The low-end is surprisingly flat and nowhere near overemphasized, and I love it. It’s almost perfectly flat so music you listen to will be given equal emphasis in the lower notes throughout the mids, but it doesn’t sound empty or boring at all. They find a nice sweet spot right in the middle that lets me hear the intricacies of the baseline throughout the song Where’s the Fun in Forever by Miguel without feeling my eyes rattle. That might not be for everyone, but it’s right up my alley. If you want a heavy bass go with Beats headphones, but if you just want clear sound in the low-end, these will get the job done.
There’s a slight underemphasis of the lower mids as well which helps the bass sound just a little louder than it actually is, letting you hear it without taking up too much of your attention. Vocals sounded nice and clear, and the raspy vocals of Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka had plenty of detail. The detail in the highs was similarly clear, emphasized at all the right parts of the frequency range without ever getting harsh or distorting.
Should you buy the FiiO FH5?
The Fiio FH5 in-ears satisfied an itch I forgot I had. After listening to dozens of Bluetooth products, there’s something about a good pair of in-ears that can show you what you’ve been missing. Not to mention: I was using less than ideal source files as I was mainly using streaming services. So are these worth the $249 asking price? I’ll answer that by only copping out a bit: for me, it absolutely is with the money. Admittedly, its value depends on how much you prioritize sound quality.
New audio products seem to focus more on the tech inside with sound coming as an afterthought. That’s not a bad thing either, considering it’s that tech that gives us the amazing active noise cancelling from Bose and Sony, or the IPX7 sweatproof build of the Powerbeats Pro. Still, there’s something romantic about a quality pair of in-ears designed to be great at one specific thing. I would end this with a car comparison considering that’s what inspired the design of the FH5’s, but I’m not a car person. Instead, I’ll leave you with a watch analogy. Some people may love smartwatches and all their extra features, but there will always be those who prefer the Rolex.
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