Fiio FH15 ($229)
I recently purchased the Fiio FH15 from Amazon US for $229 for the purposes of a review as well as my unending curiosity for what is out there in the great Audioverse. I am a blind buyer and I do not advise anyone to do the same. It doesn’t always end positively. Anyways, about the FH15, it is another in a long line of ‘FH’ series of iems. Fiio uses the ‘H’ in the name to define that this particular set is part of their ‘Hybrid’ line of iems.
Well, we shall see how Fiio’s newest hybrid fares against the ever-growing sea of quality iems within the price point. In all truth, I wanted to find out if the FH15 could best even some within Fiio’s own lineup. I want to thank anyone who chooses to read my thoughts and I do hope this helps you in making a purchasing decision.
Fiio is now what you could call a “storied company” as they have been around long enough and are certainly more successful than most. As for me, I have owned many Fiio iems and audio devices. One thing you can count on with a Fiio set is the fact that they will always strive to go ‘over the top’ with their quality per the price. Most of the time their tuning is pretty spot on as well. They have had some ‘not so great’ sets but have also had quite a few fantastic sets as well. Fiio seems to always bring a premium vibe with great build quality and a striking appearance with the majority of their iems. In this case, the FH15 is no different. With that, let’s get into my full review of the Fiio FH15…
-Great looking iem
-Packaging / Accessories
-Bass quality per the quantity (near basshead)
-Forward, weighty midrange
-Vocals, both male & female (Lush & Smooth)
-Note weight across the spectrum
-Very full & rich timbre
-Price, $229 is a bit much considering the competition
-Slightly veiled in the midrange
-Quick roll-off helps to create a lack of air
-Bass will be too much for some
-Note definition could be better
-Will be too warm for many
Oh Fiio…you just know what we like. We like stuff and stuff is what you give. Let’s start with the packaging. The box is a larger rectangular shaped black box. Upon the box you’ll notice there is a sleeve. On the sleeve is a graphic of the FH15 themselves as well as an intricate blueprint type drawing of the Internals within the FH15.
Slide off the sleeve and you get the actual box which has a flip top. Open the top and there is some reading material. Under the reading material you finally see the gorgeous FH15’s in plastic cut-outs. Pick that level up and you are met with the carrying case, nozzle tuning filters and a very nice plastic case full of tips. Inside the carrying case is the cable along with the connectors, nozzle brush & mmcx tool. The presentation is very well laid out. In fact, not many companies do it better.
The case provided is the exact same case you’ve seen a thousand times from Fiio. I expected nothing else. The case is similar to the popular Pelican style cases. This one in particular is made of very hard plastic and is extremely durable and watertight. These actually are very nice cases to throw in a backpack as your iems will never get crushed and will be perfectly protected anywhere you go. Not much more on the case other than it is always a nice addition. Of course, I have about ten of them now and truthfully, I don’t use any of them.
I always love to see tuning nozzles. I don’t really have a good reason for that except that I love to switch up the sound to suit my desired taste at any moment. As for the tuning nozzles provided with the FH15 you get a nice little stainless-steel slab with four holes which are all screw tapped so that you have a place to store the nozzles themselves. The tuning nozzles are either “Bass”, “Balanced” or “Treble”.
I have to comment on this; I own the Fiio FH9 (My FH9 Review) and I complained about the tuning nozzles that came with that set because they are FREAKING TINY!! Fiio what is the deal?! They are so miniscule that simply screwing them into the slab is like prepping for surgery. I’ve grown up fixing things, I was a pipefitter, steel worker, welder and finally a Mechanical Integrity Inspector and I fancy myself very mechanically inclined. However, these filters are so small it’s hard to even get your fingers on them, let alone having to actually align the threads on the filters with the tapped threads of the base! Seriously Fiio?! Why would you add filters that are so miniscule? Okay I’m done…Moving on.
Change or no change?
Anyways, the filters don’t make the greatest difference in the world. Yes, the bass filter seems to add some sub-bass judder, and the treble filter slightly opens up the lower treble region, and yes, the balanced filter is somewhere in between. That said, the difference is very slight between them all. I choose the treble filter only because the bass isn’t affected, and it does help to give a teeny bit more air up top. I don’t foresee myself changing back to the other two for any reason.
Fiio is awesome. Name another brand that just throws quality tips at you the way they do. In total you get 16 pairs of eartips. Three pairs of “Vocal” tips, two pairs of bi-flange tips, three pairs of “Balanced” tips, two pairs of “Bass” tips (basically KBear 07’s), two pairs of memory-foam tips and three pairs of Fiio’s “HS18” Vocal tips. Phew…That’s a mouthful. Anyways, I won’t go into detail about the tips, but I will say that Fiio only provides quality tips which absolutely help to dial in the tuning of your earphones.
I actually decided to use a different set of tips which seemed to work best for me. I went with a shallow fit wide bore eartip of unknown origin. You see them all over the chi-fi world and its likely you may have a set like the tips I have pictured. Anything to bring down the low end a bit and open these bad boys up will help, in my opinion of course.
I love a good cable and love when I don’t have to purchase an extra cable. I love even more when that nice cable is a modular cable. First off, the cable that Fiio provides is a 152 strand Silver-plated Monocrystalline Copper 8 core cable with a Litz braiding.
Fiio provides both a 3.5 single ended jack as well as a 4.4 balanced jack which gets pushed into the modular housing on the cable and then screwed tightly in place. It is actually a great system for a cable such as this. However…
Fiio chose to negate the 2.5 balanced which I suppose is in line with the industry but if I’m paying over $200 for a set of iems with a modular cable… just add the 2.5. As if 2.5 balanced connections do not exist anymore… Fiio?? How much are you saving by not including said 2.5 modular adapter? Anywhoo, not a big deal, unless of course your beloved balanced source is 2.5! Instead, you have to purchase a 2.5 male to 4.4 female adapter when the 2.5 adapter could have easily been added for a couple measly bucks, Fiio… Do better. Honestly people, I don’t really care at all…Lol.
Moving on, the cable is very nice, but I do have some small complaints. First, the jacket which covers the cable is that stiffer plasticky material, it isn’t very soft at all. The problem is that there is some microphonics which occurs very easily every time the cable rubs against your shirt. Obviously when music is playing the sound is muted to a small degree but, it’s still there. Another thing I don’t completely enjoy is when rolling up the cable for storage it does tend to have a mind of its own. Like a spring there are times it just doesn’t want to stay all nicely rolled up and almost “PINGS” out of shape. That’s it. Those are my complaints. In truth it’s a very nice cable.
Build / Design / Internals / Fit
The Fiio FH15 is very well constructed and typical to a Fiio set of iems. Built entirely out of five-axis CNC machined aluminum, the FH15 is a bona-fide STUD in the build quality arena. Of course, this is a common theme with Fiio products. The FH15 however is the culmination of four years of tinkering in the build, design, as well as the internals. As far as the build is concerned the FH15 has a very solid, yet smooth and premium feel when in hand. Fiio added female threads to the nozzle to screw on the different tuning nozzle filters which I spoke on earlier. Also, Fiio did add red and blue rings around the mmcx connectors to help in determining which side is which. I’m sure that will help some newbies who may need it.
Fit / Isolation
Fiio’s build team did a wonderful job of creating an almost perfectly ergonomic shape which sits perfectly in my ear. The Fiio team machined this set perfectly smooth and comfortable for long listening sessions. The shape is much like some older Fiio iems; the Fiio F9 and F9 Pro and the FH1. The FH15 really does sit perfectly in the ear which aids in getting an appropriate seal, at least for me. This also aids in isolation from the outside environment as the passive noise isolation is very good. Sound leakage is not an issue either as very little can be heard from others as you jam away to your music. I also really enjoy how light the FH15 are. Honestly, once this set is in your ear you will forget about them as they feel like nothing at all.
The FH15 is a fantastic looking iem in my opinion. Incorporating a Dragon Scale theme carved into the faceplates gives the FH15 a very bold, very masculine and very bad-ass look. The FH15 are all black except one golden colored ring accent which circles the dragon scale faceplates. Very dope!
Fiio decided upon a four-driver hybrid system. That is, one 10mm Carbon based diaphragm dynamic driver to cover the low-end. Fiio states that the material used is 9 times harder than steel and ¼ lighter than beryllium. Producing the midrange is one custom Knowles ED balanced armature, while the treble is using two Knowles RAD balanced armatures.
Fiio patented designs
Fiio also opted to use their patented S-Turbo design for the DD. This was a work-around that Fiio designed to get away from using a LC Low-pass filtering circuit which takes up quite a bit of space. This design reduces frequency response overlap helping to better divide the spectrum cleanly. Another design choice was a custom-built notch filter system which uses a Helmholtz resonator in conjunction with the mid frequency Knowles ED driver. Think of blowing air across the top of an empty glass bottle. The basic principle is capturing the air resonance in an empty space. The notch filter system adopted by Fiio is similar to this understanding. Said to improve the 1k through 4k area of the mix by giving denser mids, richer vocals and is meant to add more of a realistic timbre and weight.
The FH15 is not a difficult set to drive at 16 ohms with a sensitivity of 112 db’s. Using 3.5 single ended on the Shanling UA2 the FH15 sounded very well composed and I truthfully saw no real issue sonically. In fact, the FH15 sounds great with lesser power. Now I don’t have a phone with a 3.5 jack so I can’t report how the FH15 sounds using such a device. I can tell you this, if you feed the FH15 from a better and more sonically gifted source, the FH15 will reward you. From the Ifi Go Blu, to the Moondrop Dawn 4.4, to my daps, the iBasso DX240 and the Shanling M6 Ultra, the FH15 sounded highly dynamic. I would say the FH15 does seem to scale to the quality of the source and not necessarily the output power.
I do think that better source pairing of the FH15 will make a noticeable difference. The FH15 is warmer and lusher and so finding a source which has a tilt to the neutral or analytical side does help the sound quite a bit. For myself, I found the best synergy with the more neutral Moondrop Dawn 4.4 as well as the iBasso DX240. My Shanling M6 Ultra isn’t overly warm but it does have a more robust low-end and it shows itself even more when paired to the FH15. I would simply be aware of that if this is a set that you are looking to purchase.
Quick Sound Impressions
The words which spring to the tip of my tongue when describing the Fiio FH15’s auditory ability are rich, full and BOOM. The sound of the FH15 is simply full. However, if I am to break it down a little further, I would call the FH15 a very hearty sounding, but rather light V-shape to almost an L-shaped sound signature. There is very good coherence between all the drivers as they melt into each-other very well. I hear a more natural sound across the spectrum minus the more colored low-end.
The bass is a BANGER! The FH15 hits hard and does so with good authority. The midrange has a very rich and weighted timbre that is more forward than it isn’t. The treble rolls-off quicker than usual with decent body and comes across nice and smooth yet also isn’t deficient in the details arena. If you want a full-bodied representation of your music then I may have the iem for you, with one caveat… You can’t be scared of lil bass. There are definitely some subjective issues that I have but all things considered Fiio did a pretty good job here.
Fiio says that they took some cues from the legendary Fiio FH5, as the FH15 is supposed to be a follow-up. I honestly don’t see it completely, or, shall I say, hear it. That said, in some ways the newer FH15 is a step forward or possibly a step back depending on what it is that you prefer. I will compare the two later on. That said, let’s take a look at each 3rd of the spectrum.
Fiio added about a 10 dB rise in the bass section and it shows. On paper the FH15 definitely has a sub-bass emphasis but really the sub & mid-bass do well to share the spotlight down low. No doubt this set hits with deliberate potency. I hesitate to call this set a basshead iem because of the immediate stigma attached to the mantra but… the FH15 can bang! There is this unpliable and rigid density to the bass region that comes across nicely separate from the mids and highs. This is where Fiio’s patented “S-Turbo” tubing design seems to show its worth. Of course, the FH15 is not very well balanced with the rise in the low end which skews everything and tilts the replay to the warm side of things. Personally, I would’ve liked to see a few db’s less in this region but… I’m not everyone else.
Either love it or hate it…
For those of you who enjoy a bigger bass, then I would say you’d be hard pressed to find many better at or around this price point. For the large quantity, the FH15 is well in control as the bass is pretty agile and clean. However, if you value a more balanced approach with tighter and snappier bass then I would assume the FH15 isn’t for you. I suppose I can begin to really enjoy the FH15 when I listen to it… for what it is.
Now, if I were to draw out my perfect tuning, I would like a hair less bass rise down low but since it’s there… It isn’t hard to enjoy. Nobody ever said that this audio game has to be one thing or one “audiophile” template which all others should aspire to. I simply want you (the reader) to be aware of what you are getting here.
The FH15 has substantial haptic vibration with good depth and weight. “Elevators (Me & You)” by none other than Outkast begins with that legendary bass line… the FH15 does it perfect justice. Each bass drop hits hard, but comes and goes relatively quick. It’s clean for its purpose. Its tight for its size. The sub-bass is dense with a well-adjusted transient response to my ear… PER THE TUNING. I find the sub-bass rumble to be very rewarding for Hip-Hop, EDM, Metal, R&B and even Pop, but it doesn’t fit all genres perfectly.
The sub-bass is perceivably dexterous and nimble yet hard layered. Like in the jam “Never Left Memphis” by Austin Jenckes. I can feel the bassline judder and jive through the melody with good cadence for its size. Or “I Love” by Joyner Lucas. The sound is so deep in pitch, which adds this other dimension to the bass. Very hard and solidified with a guttural thrumming when called upon and with very nice extension for fans of deep bass.
The mid-bass follows the lead of the sub-bass and really has a nicely rounded slam that keeps it very well in control. In “Billie Jean” by Weezer the kick drum is pretty tight, and it booms with depth and fantastic tactile surface texture. Nothing even remotely fuzzy or pillowy on the surface while the fundamental frequency of the kick drum is flat out bulbous and water-logged with density. This song on the FH15 has a hard-edged cleanliness that not all iems can duplicate. This is why I always use this track for my reviews. The FH15 really does well with this one.
Another good example is the bass guitar riff which begins the song “John Wayne” by Whiskey Myers. The FH15 is flat out angry on this track as it growls with purpose. There is this robust & gravelly-grunt to the sound that grabs my attention. There’s a very gradual decline from the sub-bass to the mid-bass which leaves plenty of presence for instruments like bass guitars, kick drums, lower snares as well as deep baritones etc. etc. I possibly would have liked to see the mid bass begin its roll-off a hair sooner with slightly less rise in the sub-bass, but Fiio did a decent job at presenting a bigger than average bass which sounds very kempt, tight and clean for its size.
There are some downsides as well though, I am 100% positive that many will think this is too much in quantity. In fact, it is a hair too much for me at times. The bass can be over-reaching and almost coat the rest of the mix in a very slightly weighted blanket of warmth. The warmth added from the bass section cascades throughout the whole of the spectrum and without a doubt carries the greatest emphasis. I would almost call the sound L-shaped, but I do think it stops just short of that. Not everyone enjoys a warmer and heavier sound, in fact, the FH15 has been an acquired taste for me. I can stretch my love of audio to many different sound signatures, but I don’t think that everyone will share my enthusiasm.
The whole of the midrange on the FH15 is pretty forward with an almost wet and lush presentation. There is great body to all voices as well as instruments whose fundamental frequencies live in this area of the mix. This is not the most detailed mid replays I’ve ever heard, but it is very clean with okay resolution. You won’t hear anything dry or analytical or thin and you won’t hear any annoying sibilance either. There isn’t anything shouty or anything which would be considered glaring and peaky as I hear a more gradual pinna rise. You will hear a non-fatiguing midrange that still has good energy and presence. Yes, there is a warmer hue to the delivery but there is a certain charm to the sound that I enjoy.
Male vocals are very well sculpted. From baritone to tenor the weight of each voice is evident with great texture to those voices. The note definition is decent with clean lines and a robust sound. “Travelin’ Soldier” by the acapella group Home Free presents every different pitch of the male voice (5-member band) and I just think the FH15 nails them all. It’s just like I wrote earlier, from deep baritone to tenor, there is a certain life-like weight to go along with a smoother and richer sound. The intonation of the different male voices rising and falling to the melody shows off on the FH15, as each voice is rendered distinct and separated from each other. The baritone has that clean and deep droning crispness to his voice while the higher pitched males sound more slender and airier with a nice, contoured note outline.
The upper midrange is where most female vocals are heard and with the FH15 there is a very musical and full nature to female voices. “Mariana Trench” by Gabrielle Aplin sounds fantastic. Listening with the FH15 I hear that well-articulated melody within her sweet voice. There is a light shimmer in her harmonics that never goes overboard, always stays in control and is very resolute. The FH15 catches the softness and the smooth character and gives off a fully emotional sound with depth and musicality. I realize it seems I am just throwing out different “audio” words, but the truth is, I’m simply describing what I am hearing the best I know how. Lush, smooth, clean, musical… I suppose I could’ve ended this paragraph with only those words and saved some digital ink in the process. That said, females sound great on the FH15.
As a whole…
The midrange is not one which caters to the finest of details and in my opinion that is its strong suit. There isn’t that dryness and thinness which detail oriented iems seem to invoke. Instead, I hear a melodic & rhythmic midrange with a penchant for the dramatic from a pretty quick driver that handles this area with lush finesse. I am actually surprised at how well the ED Knowles BA takes care of the mids. You have that thicker timbre with a nice marriage of smooth and crisp that makes the FH15 pretty agile and easy to listen to.
I should add that Fiio didn’t completely negate the finer details within a song. They are there and some tracks display them better than others. More complicated songs with more moving parts and commotion will obviously stress these drivers a bit but that goes for any set short of some well-done Planar iems. Or songs which have more pronounced low-end activity, the FH15’s bass region might blanket some of the minutiae. The FH15’s midrange is actually quite good at illuminating some micro details, especially for how this set was tuned, which certainly wasn’t to be a technical marvel. Mostly macro but at times… there’s some micro too.
The treble area is very easy going. Fiio did not overly emphasize this part of the frequency and I’m sure for many this will be a point of contention. Definitely this will not appeal even remotely to any treble Heads. However, the treble does follow suit with the rest of the mix in that it is very smooth and full sounding. What I don’t hear is that nicely energetic treble which could offset the low-end a bit more to add some levity and more air to the sound. Part of my issue with the treble region revolves around the puzzling idea to begin the treble roll off around 6k-7k. However, the dissent is a very gradual slope which still adds info further out. Just not as energetic as I would like, and I am sure that many people will feel the same.
I say all of that, but I will also say that the FH15’s treble area isn’t devoid of details either, and there is still decent enough energy up top to not “totally derail” the FH15. Yes, it is more relaxed and attenuated from other sets within the Audioverse but it is also clean and pretty nimble. Fiio decided on using two RAD Knowles BAs to handle the treble and what they succeeded in was not giving off an incoherent, tinny, or metallic sound in this area.
“Don’t Say it’s Over” by Gaz Coombes has some treble activity which I feel could use a bit more vibrancy as those areas are supposed to support and enhance this track. What you get is a more subdued version of the song, or a more relaxed version. Understand I don’t think it is bad by any measure as what you do hear still has good body and isn’t grainy or flat and the timbre isn’t out of whack. It’s simply held back some and I feel that you lose out on some of the most important info. This is kind of a running theme but it isn’t always the case on every track. I suppose much will be determined by what genre you mainly listen to.
Could use some air
The secondary harmonics of cymbal strikes is again, a bit held back, but in the same breath those cymbals aren’t tizzy or unnatural which tilts the scales in the favor of the FH15 in my eyes. However, in tracks with a bit more commotion, those same cymbals will be quite attenuated. Obviously, this relaxed sound is more noticeable in tracks which have more activity in them from the low end but there is a number of songs in my test tracks where I don’t notice this as much. However, as a whole, the treble could most certainly use some air. This is something that I can at times overlook when I’m wrapped up in a casual listening session but I’m positive that others will not be able to overlook this.
What’s nice about this treble is that you won’t come across any sibilance or anything peaky. There aren’t any awful spikes, and nothing comes across as peculiar, or irregular, or completely unnatural. I don’t think that the treble is so relaxed that I would call the FH15 “Dark”, but it is warmer and that most definitely is in relation to the lack of rise in this area.
The soundstage is represented with very nice depth to the field of sound which adds to its ability to layer those sounds. The width isn’t the widest that Fiio has ever produced but I also don’t think it’s abnormally small or closed in, just not super wide. Height is about average and also isn’t overly enhanced. I say all that to say that the stage size comes together very well with an appropriate replay of my music.
Separation / Imaging
Separation of elements within the imaginary stage is actually quite good. Not perfect, but good. The separating of instruments and voices goes hand-in-hand with the FH15’s ability to image well. In fact, imaging is also pretty good, as it should be. Perceived driver speed, depth of stage, clarity, decent resolution and multiple drivers working in tandem help to achieve a nice psycho-acoustic image of a stage. However, I could argue that there is the slightest veil which impedes the FH15 from being even better.
I’ve partially covered this section throughout this review, but I will reiterate what I’ve said. The FH15 isn’t tuned to pick up every breath in a mic or hiccupping audience person 10 rows back in your favorite live jam. It simply isn’t tuned to take on the detail monsters within the audio world. Yet still, it isn’t bad at all. I can say without batting an eye that you can find much better in this area for far less money. However, that’s not why you would purchase this set though. You purchase the FH15 for the fun factor and whatever other descriptive words which describe auditory joy. You wouldn’t pick up this set because of its hi-res ability to capture micro-details. It’s about the fun factor, or the guilty pleasure for some of you audiophile folks.
*Note: For the comparison portion of the review, I want you to know that these are never a duel to the death. I try to use other iems as a tool for explaining (to a degree) the set that I am reviewing. I hope by explaining some of the differences that it will help in this task. Also, I present some very general differences and will not go into great detail explaining myself. Most comparisons take me around an hour or more of constant back and forth A/B’ing between sets using the same source always.
Fiio FH5 ($150-$250)
The Fiio FH5 was the first iem that I ever purchased for over $250. I absolutely adored the sound of this set and guess what, I still do. Yes, there are issues but what fun is an iem without issues? Don’t answer that, it was a very stupid question. Anyways, the FH5 comes equipped with a total of four drivers (why wouldn’t they name it FH4?). It has three Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers as well as one 10mm Polymer Nano-Composite Ferromagnetic Dynamic Driver. That was a mouthful. The FH5 is built like a tank, it’s beautiful and it still holds up. So how does it handle its much younger sibling?
Starting off with the bass region, the FH15 and the FH5 are very close in terms of quantity down low. I do feel the newer FH15 is perceivably tighter and sounds a hair more robust. The FH15 has much better texture with cleaner note definition. Granted, the FH5 sounds fantastic but this newer DD that Fiio is using (in the FH15) is flat out more precise with a speedier approach while slamming harder. No fuzz on the FH15 to slight fuzz on the FH5. That’s what almost five years of driver innovation and implementation gets you.
Male vocals on the FH15 and the FH5 are very close in tonality but I do notice that there is a slight bit more of a full sound on the newer model. The leading edge on male vocals is a hint crisper on the FH15 but both come across clean and well bodied. The FH15 does sound a hair warmer as well. Female vocals on the FH5 are slightly thinner but a pinch more shimmery too. They sound just a little bit more resolute than on the FH15. However, the FH15 has a more emotional pull to the sound with a lusher presence. I like them both as they take a different approach to a slight degree. Both sets do very well in vocals, and I honestly feel this is a draw.
The treble on the FH5 is more pronounced and slightly dryer to the relaxed and bodied playback of the FH15. Details are illuminated a bit better in the older model mostly due to having more energy in this area. Truthfully the note definition within the treble of the FH15 is just as good yet with a more subdued approach. That being said, the FH5 does add that last little bit of luster up top which changes the overall tonality of the mix to make it just a hair less warm and more vibrant.
All things considered…
Both sets are very well coherent, and both represent my library just fine. I feel the FH15 stands out a little bit by offering cleaner note outlines across the mix. It also has a more emotional sound with tighter and beefier bass drops and more grunt with bass guitars. It’s close though, as these two are not miles apart. I do like the overall tonal temperature of the FH5 and do wish that Fiio would’ve either dropped a few dB’s in the bass or elevated the upper-mids and treble a bit more on the newer FH15. So, these two are not tuned exactly the same and they don’t sound completely alike. I do not understand how Fiio can say that the FH15 was designed after the older model when there are apparent differences. Oh well, I like them both.
Aful Performer 5 ($219)
What a set! The Aful Performer 5 or “P5” as I’ll call it Is a wonderfully tuned iem within the same price point as the FH15. The P5 is an almost neutral sounding U-shaped set with nice balance across the spectrum and honestly… the P5 is an over-achieving golden child in my book. Sorry FH15. However, it makes complete sense for me to add the P5 for comparison’s sake. Both sets are relevant and newer, both are around the same price point, and both are DD/BA hybrids. The P5 has 1 Dynamic Driver as well as four custom Balanced Armature Drivers. I still have yet to review the P5 but that will be coming soon. Please check out Mahir’s review of the Aful Performer 5 HERE.
The FH15 comes with much more slam and definition in the bass region. The P5 in comparison is the slightest bit more pillowy while not “pillowy” persa. The FH15 has a cleaner sound on bass drops but also has a hint more in overall bass mass. I say that but the P5’s bass makes more sense to the whole of the mix whereas the FH15 almost adds too much warmth and gusto down low.
Midrange (Male vocals)
The P5 is simply more natural and organic replaying male vocals, which is saying something because I feel the FH15 does a commendable job at presenting male vocals. The FH15 has thicker note weight and is much lusher and fuller. Still the difference shows itself most in tonality and timbre of the P5. The P5 has better levity in the replay, and livelier energy with a more detailed midrange. Both sound great and both make an argument here but as far as my time goes during this comparison… The P5 sounds better to me most of the time. I did say most. There are some deeper male vocals that sound a pinch better to my ear on the FH15 but those are rare. However, as a whole I’d say that the P5 has the more balanced, detailed and natural sound here.
Females are exactly the same story. The FH15 is richer, bolder and even has more of an emotional tilt. Still, there is shimmer on the P5 that the FH15 cannot replicate due to the treble roll-off. Now on some tracks the FH15 actually does fare better and that especially shows up on more acoustic style emotional songs. However, those are also few and far in between. The P5 has that natural and earthy controlled sheen that still has body as well as an easier time catering to the accentuation and cadence within a woman’s voice. It isn’t miles apart though, because the FH15 does vocals very well.
This will be short. The P5 is simply better. The choice of Fiio to forget about the treble is a dagger to the heart when compared to a set like the P5. The P5 has a wonderfully smooth, organic, energetic and technically astute treble region. The FH15 has body, decent extension and pretty nice details and is 100% non-fatiguing but the P5 just does it better. Obviously not all genres and tracks use a ton of treble activity but for the most part just having the boost in the P5 up top helps other regions perk up a bit. Now, if you are one who loves and adores a warm, subdued, yet clean replay with a completely non-offensive sound then look no further than the FH15. Everyone else… the Performer 5.
All in all…
I knew what this comparison would look like the second I decided to compare the two. Maybe it wasn’t fair. Maybe I should’ve gone with the TRI I3 Pro instead, which is a warmer sound as well and would have been a relevant set to compare the FH15 to. Anyways, I suppose I could also simply Chalk this comparison up as a preference battle. They are far enough apart from each other tonality wise that it would all really come down to your preference anyways. Do you like Bassy, warm, lush, smooth and pretty clean. Or do you like neutrality, naturalness, resoluteness and details with effortless musicality? At any rate, I do hope it helps in comparing the two.
Is the FH15 worth the asking price?
Absolutely the FH15 is worth the price…if…the description I’ve tried to lay out sounds like it fits your preferences. If you are a neutral lover or treble head then the FH15 should probably cost about $15, and that would only be because of build quality and accessories. However, if deep and penetrating bass that is just as clean and taught as it is big and robust sounds like a dream, well, I would say the FH15 is well worth the money. If a smooth, easy listening and non-offensive treble with some of the most rich and milky midrange vocals in its price point sounds appealing, I would say the FH15 is well worth the money. So, to answer my own question… Maybe.
I have to be honest, the FH15 juuust misses the mark for me. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy this set either, as I actually do enjoy it quite a bit. Ya know, for these reviews I really have to bend the scope of what it is that brings me enjoyment. I do so because no matter the product out there, somebody loves it. I really try to retrain my mind to find enjoyment in any sound signature. For all intents and purposes, I normally am able to do just that. It doesn’t hurt that my library of music is quite literally all over the place.
Truth be told, I had to do just that with the Fiio FH15. However, the FH15 is simply lacking that last bit of treble air for me. Can I enjoy the sound? You bet! A large chunk of my music sounds fantastic on the FH15. Also, I am sure that there are many of you who will absolutely adore the sound here. Keep in mind, when I say “miss the mark” it doesn’t mean that I think that the FH15 isn’t a good set. It is good. Maybe it isn’t perfect for me, but it will be to somebody.
To conclude this review, I want to first ask anyone reading to now go find another review of this set, and then another. I can promise that I give my absolute honest opinion and do the leg work every time I write a review, however, we are all different. We may have different gear, different likes and dislikes, different hearing abilities and we all haven’t been on the same audio journey. So please do yourself a favor and check out some other views. I can’t thank you all enough for spending your time reading anything that I take the time to write. The process is a long one but very rewarding and I do hope it helps even one person. So, thank you everyone, please take good care and stay safe.