Written by: Chris Love
I have been a fan of Fiio Iems for at least a few years now. I have always appreciated Fiio’s attempts to create good products for less than comparable brands. Fiio seems to do a very good job at taking an already born idea and making it better. They have had some duds over the years i.e. many of their earlier full BA Iems. That said… They still got better… and better… and better. Fiio is a brand that I’ve come to trust, as it seems they really try to impress the fan base. Their products are like anything else in the hobby… not for everyone all the time, but for those who can appreciate the effort that Fiio puts into the unboxing experience as well as the listening experience…they should like this set. Also I did purchase the Amazon US for $599.
-Beautiful looking iem
-Very full sounding
-Great Midrange performance
-Different tuning options (Tuning Filters)
-Noise isolation isn’t perfect
-May be too heavy/large for some
-Rare occasions of sibilance on prone tracks
-Tuning Filters difficult to handle
Fiio always gives a luxurious unboxing experience that we as audio hobbyists love. Opening the contents of the box uncovers 30 eartips in total. #6 pairs of Bass Tips, #6 pairs of Vocal Tips, #6 pairs of Balanced Tips, #4 pairs of Spinfit Tips, #4 pairs of Memory Foam Tips, and #4 pairs of Bi-Flange Tips. Also presented in the box is a very premium looking fliptop Leather Case. It is blue and tan and very sharp with clearly enough room to store the Fh9’s. Also, you will find that beautiful cable. More on that later. Fiio also supplies three different nozzle tuning filters; Black (balanced), Red (Bass), Green (Treble). One thing I really think is cool; the magnetic leather covered shirt clip, very handy. You also receive a dust brush for cleaning (I’ve never used those) and that’s about it. Hopefully I’m not missing anything.
Fiio really impressed me with the 7 Driver system in which they used to create the Fh9’s. A huge 13.6 mm DLC Diaphragm Dynamic Driver and six Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers. The array of Drivers implemented in this design create a very united and cohesive listening experience. The shells are Titanium Alloy, precision cut, semi-open back design and stunning in appearance. I already spoke of the cable but… really it is truly a fantastic cable which costs $70-$90 alone. The cable is a High Purity Silver Plated Monocrystalline Copper Cable with 8 strands of 19 total cores equaling 152 wires. Each wire is individually isolated and braided in a Litz style, giving off a very stylish appearance. The detachable terminations actually plug in and then screws on in a twist-lock style. You receive 2.5, 3.5 and 4.4 connectors which are very durable.
Rated at 18 ohms, with a sensitivity of 108 decibels, the Fh9 would seem sensitive. Low powered sources can bring them to decent volumes however, I have found that with a true flagship like this it is better to give them a clean and more powerful source to get the most out of the FH9. By specs alone it would seem you could drive these with anything. That’s just not the case. These do seem to take very well to the addition of power.
Overall, the Fh9 is slightly warm of neutral in tonality but never seeming too warm. Perhaps this is due to the slightly cooler upper parts of the mix. These are very spacious in stage with crisp highs, forward and emotional mids and deep lows. Every area of the frequency seems just as big as the next. These are aggressive but smooth enough. A flagship level Iem, fantastically tuned in my opinion.
The Tuning Filters are tiny! If anyone who purchases this set is able to successfully take on and off these filters on their first try, really man… Bravo! The threads are so fine that any sized finger will have a hard time spinning them on. I may have almost lost these lil guys multiple times. These Filters are the perfect size for losing in thick carpet if dropped, so I’d advise to at least be careful.
All three filters present a slightly different approach to the tuning. I like the balanced and treble filters the most though all three create their own unique flavor to the sound. Fiio added two BAs in the nozzle and so the filters have a very small attenuation filter centered in the middle of the screw on tip (Tuning Filter) which does change the sound of this Iem.
The Bass filter works by attenuating the upper frequencies thus enhancing the low end. The Balanced filter is the true middleman of the three with a tad bit more energy up top and mids which push a bit more forward to my ears. The Treble filter is basically just an open nozzle with simply a screen. It is Probably the most U-shaped of the three, with a more open sound, bringing almost the best-balanced replay of the three tuning filters as well. Albeit a tad brighter but also a tad more open and airier without adding harshness and not affecting the fantastic Bass.
The Bass filter does not create a bass-head set (it gets very close though) and the treble filter does not create a treble-head set, even with the dreaded BA’s in the nozzle. I conducted this review using the Balanced filter as I find it most appealing to me.
I really love the low end of the mix on the Fh9. What I hear is a full bass with tight edges and full vibration. The sub-bass extends very low without dropping in volume and is pretty linear through the mid-bass. I hear a distinct separation between the two with good texture. The bass here is thick but not claustrophobic as decay is correct to me. Not too fast, not too slow.
In bass heavy tracks the Fh9 almost sounds like a bass-head Iem. However, tunes which require more finesse with quicker energy, the Fh9 seem to handle just as well. I wouldn’t say the FH9 replay exactly to an artist’s truest intent as there is some color to the low end. Not that any of us know what the truest intent of an artist really is. That said, the Fh9 bass is a welcome piece of its repertoire.
There is just such a dynamic and low reaching intensity to the bass here. I hear visceral haptic feedback created by the moving air in this semi-open structure. The diaphragm is pushing and releasing with tightness and control but also with heft and body. The bass in both the sub and mid regions of the low end have fantastic speed which results in air and texture. I percieve tactile imagery along the edges of bass notes as the FH9 does a superb job of giving bass drums that visceral hit, that punchy boom.
With either the “Balanced Filter” or the “Treble Filter” the FH9 seem like they are flirting just a bit shy of bass-head territory, almost like a perfectly satisfying tease, just not quite. Then if you actually screw on the bass filter…. “Hello bass lover we have a special Iem for you”. Seriously though… The Dynamic Driver has one sole job on the Fiio FH9 and that is to replay the bass region. To my ears the FH9 do so very well, with clarity and great resolution.
Using the Balanced filter there is a more forward sounding and full sounding midrange. I adore the weight of both male and female vocals. Male vocals have good body, placed nicely within the imaginary stage. There is a crisp but whole element to male vocals that blends nicely with the rest of the replay. Female vocals on the FH9 are just fantastic to me. There is a sweet energy with a certain depth that sounds smooth and forward but also emotional and detail oriented.
There is good control in the midrange with a clean outline to everything. I love that voices on this set are rich and evoke a feeling of being in a room with the singer. The midrange has smooth and detailed notes carried out in high resolution.
There is a richness in this range that is palpable. Still there is good detail and separation of instruments and good placement of the stage. I do hear in the upper midrange a lift in brightness which aids in those details I was referring to. This uphill climb in the upper mids does not detract from the overall performance but in my opinion actually aids the sound to be more natural than not. I do not hear sibilance unless I put on the treble filter, but this is very minimal and only on tracks which are prone to it. I think anyone who enjoys a detail rich, weighty and even tender vocal showing will likely be happy to own the Fh9’s.
Fiio did a great job with upper areas of the mix here. The FH9 will take me right to the threshold of pierce but doesn’t cross the line. Instead, they stay in control and simply add needed energy in this area of the mix. Listening to a song like “In Bloom” by Nirvana can rip your ears out using many Iems. The Fh9 however take you right to the brink of brightness but stay in control the entire time.
Again, I have come to really enjoy the energy of the treble. There is a contoured sharpness, a restrained edge. I hear well sculpted notes that have presence. Not thin, not rolled off too early or too warm but instead they are on point, lively and vivid.
There is good extension here as Fiio tuned these in a way that they add width to the stage but also depth too. I do not feel anything is missing or left out of the upper region.
Also, I hear zero BA Treble as the Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers handes the higher frequencies well. I enjoy the timbre here. Nothing nasally or splashy. I don’t hear anything which sounds unnatural or metallic. The treble lines up well with the rest of the mix. There is a nice progression from the upper mids to the lower treble. Overall, I find this area mostly natural but completely musical. I hope that makes sense.
Fiio designed the Fh9 with the help of a semi-open shell. The intent is to add space and air, but these also stay thick enough and aggressive in the presentation. I find they have come to a great balance here. There is very nice width, height and depth to the music. It isn’t some grand auditory expanse like a stadium or anything. That type of listening experience isnt needed because there is a certain charm to the Fh9’s stage. The stage is as wide and deep and tall as it should be and really is just …appropriate. It seems Fiio pulled out all the tricks here as they managed to create a very real stage which is convincing to the ear. What I hear is an almost 3D presentation that is a joy for my ears.
Imaging is on par with similar Iems in this price point. I don’t hear anything out of place as far as instrument placement is concerned. Nothing negative distracts or takes away from the overall performance. Vocals aren’t somewhere floating around inside of my head and Instruments have partitioned off areas to be singled out. I have nothing bad to say about the Fh9’s performance concerning spatial cues and imaging. Details both macro and micro seem to be on display as well. All in all, I gotta hand it to the people of Fiio…I dig em!
The Fiio FH9 are bold, slick looking, comfortable and sound fantastic. This is Fiio‘s best in-ear to date in my opinion. Fiio seems to have learned from past fortune and past mistakes to create a true flagship at a price that actually renders this set ultra-competitive. While there are many Iems in this price tier which do very well to challenge the FH9, at this price I think these are useless challenges. It comes down to preference at this point.
One may prefer something even more detail oriented, more reference or even more grand in staging etc. etc. What Fiio has done is put many great attributes into the creation of the FH9. Seven drivers in a congruent dance that evokes a sense emotion. Depending on the track or genre my hands were either dancing and toes tapping, or my eyes were closed, and I was lifted emotionally. The Fiio FH9 are a fantastic addition to Fiio’s lineup, and I have very much enjoyed my time with them. Take care everyone and thank you for reading.