The FH5 caught my attention even as a prototype at CanJam SoCal 2018 and I was not let down by the finished product either. This is a wonderful IEM priced extremely competitively – we recommend not to miss out on this.
We received the FH5 from FiiO for review. Accessible Audio is an independent, affiliate-free audio review site and this is our honest opinion. Get some delicious, rich mids, nice solid low end, and smooth high frequency details with the FiiO FH5 for 260USD!
In terms of the audiophile community, FiiO was practically unnoticed in the world of IEMs – they were really only known for their affordable peripherals like DAPs, DACs, and amps. Though they had other decent designs like the budget priced FiiO F5, they only struck gold with their F9 and F9Pro IEMs, which put them firmly on the minds of budget minded audiophiles. Now, the FiiO FH5 has catapulted them into stardom – and in my opinion, for pretty good reason.
|Product Type||Wired In-ear|
|Driver Type||1 x 10mm Dynamic Driver + 3 x Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers|
|Frequency Response||15 Hz – 40 kHz|
|Maximum Input Power||100mW|
|Cable||1.2 m MMCX Detachable cable|
|Weight||8g per side|
Packaging & Accessories
Unlike the budget priced FiiO F5 which comes in a smaller, humbler packaging, the FH5 makes a much bigger statement in its presentation. The bigger box not only gives it a nicer display space, it also holds many more goodies that it rightfully should with a higher price.
There is a hard plastic carrying box, within which resides a soft zip up carrying case which honestly is a little small as it fits the FH5 rather snugly.
The main difference with FiiO’s latest offering is the plethora of eartips that they supplied here – not only are there the standard different sizes, there are also different tips designed to slightly alter the listening experience such as Balanced, Vocal, and Bass. Read on below in the sound analysis section to find out how the tips affect the sound!
Design & Ergonomics
One of the highlights of the FiiO FH5 is its beautiful and quality design. Although the form factor isn’t a new groundbreaking design as it takes on the amorphous universal blob shape based on average sizes of people’s ears, it is the details that sets it apart from other IEMs. Its sleek metal body with a subtle satin gloss silvery bluish-grey coloured finish, nicely detailed with a pale gold trim around the edge of the faceplate both looks and feels very premium. The ridges on the outside face, although not functional, give it a stylish, unique look.
Unlike the acrylic resin shells in other IEMs, the cool metal body feels more comfortable when worn as it doesn’t feel as sticky. The main mass of the shells also taper towards the nozzle ever so slightly, helping with comfort as otherwise it can be quite a large sized IEM that not everyone will be able to wear.
On the inside face of the shells is also a small hole for the dynamic driver venting along with small graphics to mark left and right sides, although if you use the stock cable you probably won’t need it as the ear hooks are already marked with red and blue at the MMCX connectors. The grey coloured cable is very solidly built, with a little heft to its weight and nice touches of metal at the L-shaped 3.5mm plug and cable cinch. Without a doubt this IEM is a looker, and built without any compromises.
Detailed Sound Analysis
This review was done with the large sized Balanced tips in place. Skip to the last paragraph for my tests with the Vocal and Bass tips.
Let me preface this by saying my usual format of review is pretty methodical, going through the different frequencies from bass upwards to highs, noting any details or lack thereof in each region and any distinctive characteristics, but I’m changing it up this time with the FH5. Feel free to skip ahead to other subheadings which might have what you’re looking for.
I did a quick impressions piece on the FH5 when I received it, noting its elevated mid-high frequencies, and somewhat similar sound signature to the Oriolus. though I am not wrong in my observations, a comment from our other reviewer Martin about a common sound tuning in Chinese and Japanese audio circles led to a sort of epiphany about the FH5.
His comment led to me testing the FH5 with the ultimate gold standard of female vocal testing tracks in Chinese audiophile circles which is 蔡琴 – 被遺忘的時光. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, this track is beautifully recorded and is worth a listen. With the way the FiiO FH5 brings out the rich, warm tones of the singer and the intimacy of the track with such detail and richness, I wouldn’t be surprised if the designers of the FH5 tuned it to perform perfectly with this singer’s voice.
It is the FH5’s balance of warm, natural yet gentle bass and lower mids, combined with elevated mid-high presence frequencies, and a smattering of shimmer and high frequency detail that create an ultimate experience for me when I listen to this song. Every detail of her rich, mezzo-soprano tones were incredibly refined and smooth with, in my opinion perfect, timbre. The FH5’s intimate presentation also fit like a glove for the song, with the vocals taking centre stage, and alongside its clear sense of layering the backing instruments twinkled in the background, soothingly accompanying the main attraction. The drums were exactly where they needed to be in the background; pleasantly supported by a laid-back subbass rumble, they were firm, with good impact, but gently so.
I then decided to bring the FH5 for a spin with some other soothing female vocal focused tracks. With Kina Grannis’ latest album In The Waiting, the FH5 performed just as wonderfully even with her slightly higher and more ethereal vocals, though the higher frequency range seemed to bring out her light and breathy singing to the forefront on the verge of being a little too close – any closer and it would have begun to get fatiguing. Going back to lower octave, huskier voiced singers like Melody Gardot and Diana Krall, and the the FiiO FH5 was right back in its comfort zone and performed perfectly.
What about the other genres?
You’re probably wondering at this point as to how the FH5 performs with other genres like rock and EDM. Thanks to it’s sizeable and high quality 10mm dynamic driver, a general feeling of warmth permeates the sound of FiiO FH5, which lifts away in the mids and highs to reveal a pretty balanced sound with mid-high frequency boost, so it generally does well with heavy genres. My testing with rock n its subgenres was overall positive – bass response was certainly good, though personally I would prefer slightly more subbass and just a tad more impact to really get headbanging. John Mayer’s live album, my go-to for IEM testing still sounded fun and lively, albeit a little narrower in soundstage compared to what I’m used to with the Oriolus mk2. Progressive and math rock tracks from bands like Plini and Chon sounded great, as the lack of vocals meant that there weren’t going to be any issues with it sounding too boosted and strange.
With certain bands like the metalcore band Killswitch Engage which has much heavier, faster layered tracks with screechier guitars, there were moments when the guitars did start to sound a little harsh, but otherwise I had a good time with the FiiO FH5. EDM tracks, just like rock was for the most part enjoyable, but again there were a few tracks where the “snare” (or whatever the higher sounding drum synth is called!) hits sounded too loud and close for comfort.
If I haven’t been clear about the the FiiO FH5’s characteristics yet – the FH5 is a bold sounding IEM that has no qualms about making its presence known. The elevated mid frequencies at around 2kHz puts all the mids right in centre stage. That is, vocals and other instruments around that range will be quite boosted and have an intimate presentation. It’s not enough to overpower everything else, but you will definitely notice it. As a result of all this, the FiiO Fh5 has a rather average soundstage. Every time I switch back to my Oriolus, I get surprised at how much more spacious the same tracks sound.
Tips, tips, and more tips
They are definitely a millimetre or two wider than the balanced tips, and I noticed that not only was the material of the bore a little stiffer, the size of the bore was also wider than that of the Balanced or the Vocal tips. Bass response was instantly stronger and warmer, and I felt that it did help to calm down some of the midhigh harshness I experienced in some of the rock and EDM tracks I tested in addition to giving stronger bass impact and subbass rumble.
For some reason this tip was incredibly hard to push down to the end of the nozzle. Perhaps the bore material is even stiffer than the Bass tips’. With these tips, the difference was a little subtler than the contrast between Bass and Balanced tips. Vocals seemed just marginally brighter and more forward, without compromising bass response and other frequencies.
I really like what FiiO did with the FH5, which is really their first attempt at entering a higher tier of IEM design. The sound is highly resolved without any graininess to it, and although it lacks in terms of soundstage, it does completely excel in its strength which is mids and intimate vocals. At the same time, the overall sound is balanced enough that it doesn’t compromise the listening experience of other genres of music, so I can totally see this becoming a daily driver for me if I was in the mood for softer, vocal acoustic tracks but still wanted the option of switching it up. Combined with its reasonable price and build quality, I highly recommend the FiiO FH5 to anyone that feels like my review of it resonated with them. At least give it a chance and try it out at your local audio shop!
I made an earlier post with quick impressions comparing the FiiO FH5 with the Oriolus here. Basically, the Oriolus has a similar warmth to the FH5, but with a much more spacious and laidback presentation. Even though there is some presence boost in the Oriolus, it sounds much less intimate than the FH5. Resolution-wise they’re both pretty similar, so it just shows the value of the FH5. There is a little more subbass impact in the Oriolus as well.
While in my old review I mentioned that the 1More Quad Driver had rather ‘neutral bass’, I now want to clarify that though its impact is quite neutral and polite, it does have quite a bit of bloom at times, and as there is a hump from its lows all the way up to lower mids it ends up sounding quite warm.
Anyway – back to the comparison. Although I still think the 1More Quad is a great value IEM, I prefer the FiiO FH5 over it, since its bass is less boomy and sounds a little tighter, with more impact as well. I enjoy the FH5 more because of its bolder, more lively mid region as well. The boosted mids and highs give a little crisper clarity to things like snare drum impact and little details like the twangs of guitars.
In terms of soundstage, I would say they are kind of even – the 1More is a little more open in general, but feels congested as the bass is too warm, while the FiiO FH5 is brighter and highs sound a little wider, but because of the boosted midhigh frequencies the presentation is much more forward.
The Polaris is kind of V-shaped, and is all about that bass and high extension which results in rather thin vocals. The FH5 is a much more balanced IEM, with good bass and highs, but putting the vocals right at the front. In terms of value I would say the FH5 has much better value unless you’re looking for that very specific Campfire Audio Polaris sound.
- Great value, smooth, high resolution sound quality hits above price point
- Fantastic build quality
- Velvety smooth mids with elevated midhighs provide an intimate vocal presentation
- Natural sounding, moderate impact dynamic driver bass gives a good amount of low end warmth without being overpowering
- Extremely potent with vocal tracks, especially for female singers with lower voices
- High frequency details are also well resolved and smooth
- Mid-high presence frequencies can be too boosted for certain genres; for example singers with higher voices can sound a little too close for comfort
- Slightly congested with heavily layered tracks like metal
- Just above average soundstage, not the best for recreating the ambiance in live recordings if you want that wide soundstage feeling.