FiiO EM5 Earbud Review
FiiO is a Chinese HiFi brand that was established in 2007 and has experience in researching and developing countless portable music products of different types, and sells FiiO-branded products through sales agents worldwide.
- The Motto of the Company is “Born for Music”.
The FiiO EM5 is the new released Flagship Earbud of the company with some unique features like a 14.2mm Diameter Beryllium-Coated Dynamic Driver, the Bass-Enhancing Acoustic Flute Design, Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs and many more.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the EM5 Earbud sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and all these words are reflecting my true and unaltered opinions about the product.
The actually MSRP price of the FiiO EM5 Earbud is around $299.99 USD and can be purchased under the bellow;
Package and Accessories:
The FiiO EM5 came in a black box that is wrapped with a cardboard sleeve with an illustration of the earbud on the top. The box is pretty big especially for a product like an earbud.
The main box has a textured surface with the FiiO brand logo on the top.
This box contains the following items;
- 1 pair x FiiO FA9 In-Ear Monitor
- 1 piece x Detachable SPC Cable with MMCX connectors
- 3 pairs x Silicone Ear tips (Bass Tips)
- 3 pairs x Silicone Ear tips (Vocal Tips)
- 3 pairs x Silicone Ear tips (Balanced Tips)
- 3 pairs x SpinFit Silicone Ear tips (S/M/L) “one came preinstalled”
- 2 pairs x Memory Foam Ear Tips
- 1 pair x Bi-Flange Ear Tips
- 1 piece x HB3 Leather Case
- 1 piece x SK1 Magnetic Cable Organizer (can also be purchased here separately)
- 1 piece x Cleaning Brush
- 1 piece x Warranty Card and User Manual
When you open the cover of the box, you will see the EM5 earbuds that are placed in a removable foam pad that offers a very nice first appearance.
After you put out the foam pad you will see three transparent plastic boxes that do have different type of sound tuning foams, here are also 2 of the 3 type of Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs (1 of them came pre-installed) and the HB3 leather carrying case.
As I have mentioned above the FiiO EM5 comes with 3 sorts of sound tuning Foam Eartips which are the “Bass Foam Eartips, Balanced Foam Eartips and the Crisp Foam Eartips”. Each box includes 6 pairs of those special foams.
The tuning foams are some nice additions but do show/offer only minor sound differences.
The HB3 leather case is in a nice blue color and has a nice waxed surface. The HB3 can also be bought separately and has the FiiO brand logo and the motto “Born for Music” on the top.
I am quite familiar with earbuds and the FiiO EM5 has maybe the richest accessory package that I have seen with an earbud, which makes the unboxing experience to a real joy.
Design, Build Quality & Fit:
The FiiO EM5 is an earbud with a unique earpiece design that was produced the 4th generation DLP 3D printing technology, which is allowing that seamless design.
The shell has a smoky truculent color and is made of skin-friendly, EU IIA medical grade certified resin that makes the EM5 not only comfortable for your skin, it is also pretty durable and doesn’t shows any color fading.
On the front of the earbud is the earpiece with a fairly open grid design. Under those grid is a mesh that prevents the insertion of dust and other particles that could reach otherwise the surface of the pretty large 14.2mm diameter Beryllium-Coated Diaphragm.
At the rear side of the earpiece is the flute-inspired special “Acoustic Bass Tube” that was used to effectively boost the lower frequency response of the earbud. This implantation was possible thanks to advanced 3D Printing Manufacturing Technologies.
Each earpiece extension has left and right color indicators which is Red fort he right earpiece and blue fort he left one.
The overall build quality of the earpiece is pretty good, while the design that I like is a mater of your personal preference.
The FiiO EM5 is an earbud that needs to be worn straight down like the most earbuds on the market. It’s a pretty lightweight earbud with 23,5grams (incl. cable), thanks to the use of resin material, while the earpiece has a comfortable shape and sits/fits pretty well in to my average sized ear concha without to drop out; even I don’t use one of the foam eartips.
The FiiO EM5 comes with a High Purity Sterling Silver Cable with a braided design that is fixed to the earpiece.
The cable is lightweight and features an environmentally friendly transparent soft plastic insulation that shows non-microphonic effects.
Some brands do offer eabuds with detachable cables that do have MMCX or 2-Pin connectors, while FiiO has chosen a different solution which are removable headphone plugs that can be replaced with the so-called Twist-Lock mechanism.
The Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs are available in 3 different variants which are the 3.5mm Single Ended (TRS) plug, 2.5mm Balanced (TRRS) plug and the 4.4mm Balanced (TRRRS) Pentaconn plug.
The male connector located on the cable is made of metal material in black color and features FiiO’s twist lock mechanism. Near the mechanism are ON & OFF markings, so that you only need to swap to the plug you want and simply rotate the lock and unlock mechanism.
The Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs do have a L angled profile that I always prefer over straight profiled headphone plugs.
The cable features a Y splitter with FiiO branding on the top and comes with a metal chin slider made of the same metal material in silver color.
The cable has a very good craftsmanship and is one of the best I have seen on an earbud!
The FiiO EM5 is a easy to drive earbud thanks to its pretty low impedance of 32ohms (@1kHz) and a sensitivity of 109dB (@1mW) which makes it efficient enough for portable sources such like Smartphone’s, Tablets and smaller Portable Players, while it shows its true potential paired with Higher end devices like the FiiO M11 PRO DAP or FiiO Q5s DAC/AMP.
- Earbud Type : Straight Down Open Earbud
- Drive Unit : 14.2 mm Diameter Beryllium-Coated Dynamic Driver
- Freq. Response : 10~20000Hz
- Sensitivity : 109dB (@1mW)
- Impedance : 32 ohm (@1kHz)
- Max Power Input : 100mW
- Cable Material : High Purity Sterling Silver Wire
- Cable Length : 120cm
Sources used for this review:
- IEM : FiiO EM5, Simphonio Dragon 2+
- DAP/DAC/AMP : FiiO M11 PRO, FiiO BTR5, FiiO Q5s
- Sting – Englishman in New York (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Bryan Adams – MTV Unplugged (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Eric Clapton – Acoustic Blues (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
- First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
- Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- John Williams – Duel Of The Fates (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Spotify)
- Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- No Doubt – Hella Gut (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
- U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kpbs)
- Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
- Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
The FiiO EM5 is an earbud with a very expansive & airy soundstage presentation that shows a fairly warm tonality. The bass is pretty fast and controlled along with a good level of intensity thanks to the Beryllium-Coated Dynamic Driver and the unique Acoustic Flute Design. The midrange on the other hand is lively, very open and shows a good level of transparency and detail retrieval, while the treble range has great clarity and sparkle.
Please note that the sound performance of earbuds may vary from user to user as the fit and ear anatomy greatly affects the overall performance. The review below is mainly based to my impressions paired with the FiiO M11 PRO/FiiO Q5s with the use of the Balanced Foam Eartips.
The FiiO EM5 is not a Bass Monster like any earbud on the market and cannot produce big subbass rumbles or great midbass impacts even with its unique Acoustic Flute Design. Some earbuds are able to produce greater bass notes but do sound in general muffled or have problems like a midbass-hump or are overly muddy. The Acoustic Flute Design helps in fact to make the EM5 sound pretty full bodied and meaty for an earbud without to show such side effects.
The subbass shows an above average intensity and depth for an earbud and extends quite well when I do listen to acoustic albums like Bryan Adams – MTV Unplugged or Eric Clapton’s – Acoustic Blues.
The midbass region has more intensity compared to the subbass region due to the nature of an earbud and is able to add a good amount of fullness and body to the overall presentation, while it does not dominate the rest of the sound spectrum. The rendering of detail and bass texture is on a good level especially for an open back earbud.
The midrange presentation and tonality is one of the main attraction of the FiiO EM5 with is very lively and open character that is reproduced with a good level of transparency and detail retrieval. The midrange is pretty upfront and intimate, that offers an emotional vocal and musical instrument presentation.
The lower midrange of the EM5 has an average intensity and depth, which adds and sufficient amount of fullness and body to the male vocals. The level of clarity and detail of male vocals on the other hand is above average. Female voices are slightly more pronounced and do sound more emotional & realistic compared to male vocals due to the well highlighted and extended upper midrange tuning.
When it comes to the instrument presentation, I can say that string instruments from mandolins up to the electro guitar do sound pretty energetic and realistic to my ears. Woodwind instruments like the flute do sound fairly bright and pretty emotional.
The treble range of the FiiO EM5 is pretty crisp and detailed while the transition from the upper midrange towards the lower treble (presence) fairly controlled. The lower treble range of the EM5 shows a decent level of clarity and definition that I have enjoyed while listen to instruments like is able to cymbals and flutes sounding.
The upper treble range has a good level of extension and adds the overall presentation of the EM5 sparkle and airiness. Percussion instruments like snare drums and cymbals in genres like metal music do sound quite crisp and lively. Other instruments such like pianos or hi-hats are pretty highlighted and countable, while crash cymbals are showing a fairly quick and controlled decay.
The FiiO EM5 offers a very airy and spacious soundstage presentation with good separation and placement of instruments and vocals. The soundstage is very expansive and shows a great level of wideness and slightly less depth due to the fairly upfront midrange character. This ability makes the EM5 to an ideal earphone for genres that do need a wide staging.
FiiO EM5 versus Simphonio Dargon2+:
The most noticeable difference between the Simphonio Dragon2+ and the FiiO EM5 is the lower frequency response where the EM5 is superior in terms of depth, extension and layering. The FiiO EM5 shows more subbass depth and intensity compared to the Dragon2+ that has a more linear response and moderate of depth.
The midbass region of the FiiO EM5 shows more depth and fullness, which is a remarkable advantage over the Dragon2+ if you listen to instruments like acoustic guitars or organs. The FiiO EM5 has also the upper hand in terms of midbass extension, while both are very successful in terms of detail retrieval of the lower frequency area.
The midrange of the FiiO EM5 is slightly more upfront compared to the Simphonio Dragon2+ and shows a warmer tonality. The Dragon2+ shows more midrange clarity and upper midrange brightness, while the EM5 has the upper hand in terms of lower midrange depth and extension.
Female vocals do sound very detailed with both erabuds, but the Dragon2+ offers more clarity and sparkle, while the EM5 sound more emotional and intimate. Male vocals on the other hand are more natural and musical with the FiiO EM5 that offers more lower midrange depth and identity.
The treble range of the Simphonio Dargon2+ shows more clarity and sparkle especially while listen to instruments like cymbals and pianos. Both are very successful in terms of treble extension an airiness while the EM5 has a fuller treble notes compared to the Dragon2+.
Both the FiiO EM5 and the Simphonio Dragon2+ do offer an impressive performance in terms of imaging and separation of instrument and vocals. The main difference is that the Simphonio Dragon2+ shows slightly better depth, while the FiiO EM5 has the upper hand in terms of soundstage wideness.
The FiiO EM5 is an impressive sounding product in the earbud category with a very expansive soundstage. It comes with some interesting features like its Acoustic Flute Design and the large 14.2 Diameter Beryllium-Coated Dynamic Driver which is able to produce a bass with good intensity, speed and control. Other highlights in the sound category are the lively and very open sounding midrange and the treble presentation, which shows great clarity and sparkle. In addition to the success in terms of sound quality, the EM5 impressed me with its Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs implantation, high quality braided cable and the very rich accessory package.
Pros and Cons:
- + Very Open and Spacious Presentation
- + Bass Speed, Control & Intensity (for an Earbud)
- + Midrange Clarity & Treble Sparkle
- + Easy to Drive
- + Very Rich Accessory Package
- + Twist-Lock Swappable Plugs & High Quality Cable
- – The tuning foams are some nice additions but do show/offer only minor changes
- – Isolation (Typical for Earbuds)
- – Some Earhooks could be very useful additions
Thank you for the Read!