Confession time: I took my own sweet time with the review of the FiiO FH5. I’ve had it for almost a month now and it has been my primary pair of IEMs (in-ear monitors) for this period. Why? Because the FH5s are so darned good.
It is truly commendable how FiiO has managed to graduate from making ultra-budget amps to mid-range IEMs with multiple drivers that can take on the likes of big-name brands like Audeze, Shure, and Noble.
Anyway, I know that the FiiO FH5 is undoubtedly stunning - both in build quality and sound. Here’s why I think so.
FiiO FH5: box contents and design
You will be gobsmacked by the contents inside the FH5’s intensely dense packaging. FiiO pulls no stops here. You get everything inside the box including two different carry cases - a soft silicon pouch and a hard case! That’s not it, FiiO has also included a smattering of foam and silicon ear tips. And interestingly, the silicon ear tips are individually tuned for three different signatures - balanced, vocal, and bass. To be honest, I was not a fan of the sound through the foam tips inside the box. This is weird because I generally love the dark, the more bass-heavy sound you get with foam tips in general.
I stuck to the balanced tips, and that works because there is no discernible difference in sound signature with the vocal and bass tips. Wait, there’s also a cleaning brush for times when you want to share your IEMs with someone else. Unimportant personal information for no reason at all: I hate sharing my IEMs.
The FiiO FH5 earphones are made of a CNC alloy that is a mixture of aluminium and magnesium. Basically, it is sturdy and massive. Drop it, kick it, throw it, I doubt it’ll break. The same can be said about the 1.2m detachable cable that uses MMCX connectors. The main cable is made of a copper wire with a silver plating and it has a TPU sheathing on top. I noticed absolutely no microphonics (the cable noise that you get when it scratches against your shirt) or memory retention either. Essentially, the cable is so sturdy that you can possibly strangle someone with it. It is just an analogy, don't do it.
FiiO FH5: fit and specs
The earphones are big but they aren’t heavy. Couple that with the shape of the earphones that are contoured to fit your ears snugly, you’ve got a pair of earphones that can be used for long listening sessions. I had absolutely no fatigue whatsoever. And, the curved TPU cable that runs around your ear adds to the comfort factor. Good job, FiiO.
Inside the FiiO FH5’s earphones, you have four drivers. A single 10mm dynamic driver is used for the bass frequencies. And, FiiO uses a combination of the acclaimed Knowles balanced drivers for the mids (ED30262), highs and ultra highs (TWFK-31082 dual driver). The IEMs can operate in the frequency range from 15Hz to 40KHz. Also, thanks to its low impedance of 19 ohms even most smartphones can drive it easily. With a sensitivity of 112 dB/mW, you can expect it to get very loud. In fact, I couldn’t go beyond 60 percent volume level on my iPhone XS Max or Pixel 3 XL.
I used the FiiO FH5 with a bevy of phones which included the - LG G7+ ThinQ, ASUS ZenFone 5Z, Vivo Nex, and Mi A2 - apart from the two phones I mentioned above. Furthermore, I also used the Cayin N3 and my MacBook Pro for testing purposes. Important note: I used only FLAC files for auditioning.
FiiO FH5 sound quality: plus points
Thanks to the fit, I got great passive isolation in and around my daily environments - home, loud office, and roads. As far as the overall sound signature goes, the FH5 has a clean treble space thanks to the dual Knowles drivers at work. The bass is tight and heavy, unlike many IEMs I have heard in the recent past. The mids are where the FH5 shines thoroughly. Yes, there is a spike in the upper-mids like a lot of reviews have been pointing out but that is what I love about the signature. You get such a lively sound that feels alive, almost like the singer is crooning especially for you.
Also read: LG G7+ ThinQ vs Asus ZenFone 5z vs Vivo Nex: the best phone for audiophiles?
This kind of sound is particularly suited for modern-day pop songs that are recorded well. For example, in the simplistic yet super addictive I Like Me Better by Lauv, the vocals are clear and crisp and the snapping of the fingers in the background underlines it beautifully. Which brings me to clarity and tonality, where the FH5 just shines and puts other IEMs to shame. It is clean and almost lifelike.
In Kaleo’s Can’t Go On Without You, the lead guitar plucking and the low-intensity bass drum just comes through cleanly. Moreover - thanks to the insane imaging - when the electric guitar starts taking over the right channel in the middle part of the song, you will be greeted by a clean delivery and unparalleled clarity. It is a big, tight sound that is perfectly suited for head-banging. If anything, I would have liked a bit more punch in the low end but that’s just me. I believe it could have elevated the experience to a different dimension.
FiiO FH5 sound quality: negative points
As far as the soundstaging is concerned, the FH5 is undone by the fact that it is an IEM. You really cannot expect an expansive space. Not to say that the sound staging is bad, but there’s only so much space for the sound to move around and it is mostly in your head. I am not complaining though. As long as I can identify micro-details, I will take that over an expansive soundstage any day.
Also read: From Arijit Singh to Adele, the Tin Audio T2 will make your favourite singer sound amazing
However, I do have one complaint. For some reason, at full volume on smartphones I could hear an electronic hiss from the left earphones. I don’t know if it was a fault with my review unit or something else, but I did find a few similar issues online.
Should you buy the FiiO FH5?
At its currently discounted price of Rs 22,999, the FiiO FH5 is a great pair of mid-range audiophile-grade IEMs that I can recommend easily to anyone. The sound signature is phenomenal by default and it responds to EQ-ing, the build quality is great, and the package is filled with more accessories than you will ever need. As far as alternatives are concerned, I have heard the RHA T20, RHA CL1, and the Audeze iSine 10 in this price range. Of all these alternatives, I would pick the iSine 10 as the best option but the fit is super annoying. That said, the iSine 10 does offer better soundstaging. Regardless, I’d still pick up the FH5 for sure.
As a matter of fact, If I didn’t get so many great IEMs for review, I would’ve purchased the FH5 for sure. It is indeed that good.
Images shot by Nitesh Guleria