FiiO FA7S IEM Review
FiiO FA7S IEM Review
2021 has been a very productive year for FiiO, especially when it comes to In-Ear Monitors. Whether Hybrids (FH5s) or Single Dynamic Driver (FD3, FD5, FD7/FDX) models, FiiO has made many IEM surprises, while the company didn’t released any BA model since the FA9 flagship. The Chinese audiophile giant is coming now with the Brand New FA7S, which is an All Balanced Armature Driver IEM that shows a pretty different design compared to the original FA7, which was released back in 2018.
Each earpiece features 6 Balanced Armature drivers that do handle a specific frequency range and do also have their own sound chambers, beside the three-way crossover design.
The low frequencies of the FA7S are responsible by Knowles 31618 compound double drivers. At the rear cavity is a perforated design that runs through the whole cavity to ensure airflow dynamics are balanced in the whole chamber. Two Knowles 33518 drivers are in charge of high frequencies with fairly high extension, and there is a highs cutoff design to create a smooth and detailed sound reproduction. In addition, the customized midrange driver setup connects the bass, mids and highs together more smoothly and coherently.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing the FiiO FA7S as review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and all these words are reflecting my true and unaltered opinions about the product.
Price & Availability:
The actual price of the FiiO FA7S is $339.99 USD. More information’s can be found under the links below;
Package and Accessories:
The FA7S came in a rectangular black box with a sketch of the FA7S on the top and the motto of the company, which is “born for music”.
The main box is wrapped with a fancy looking cardboard sleeve that features the product illustration and some product related brandings with a nice iridescent (shimmering) print effect on its surface.
This box of the FA7S contains the following items;
- 1 pair x FiiO FA7S In-Ear Monitors
- 1 piece x LC-RC detachable cable with MMCX connectors
- 1 piece x Interchangeable Headphone Plugs 4.4mm TRRRS, 2.5mm TRRS & 3.5mm TRS
- 3 pairs x Bass Ear tips
- 3 pairs x Vocal Ear tips
- 3 pairs x Balanced Ear tips (1 pair came preinstalled)
- 2 pairs x Memory Foam Ear Tips
- 1 pair x Bi-Flange Ear Tips
- 1 piece x Storage Case
- 1 piece x Cleaning Brush
- 1 piece x SK1 Magnetic Cable Organizer (can also be purchased here separately)
- 1 piece x MMCX Assist Tool
- 1 piece x Warranty Card and User Manual
When you open the cover of the box you will see the FA7S that has been placed in a removable foam pad which offers a very nice first appearance.
The FiiO FA7S came with a very rich ear tips collection that is placed in a foam layer that is showing a short description about the sound effect and the size. They are 3 pairs of balanced ear tips (S/M/L size), 3 pairs of vocal ear tips (S/M/L size), 3 pairs of bass ear tips (S/M/L size), 2 pairs of memory foam ear tips (M/M/ size) and 1 pair of Bi-Flange ear tips (M Size).
The FA7S came also with some nice additions such like the SK1 Magnetic Cable Organizer, a cleaning tool and the FiiO MMCX Assist Tool.
Inside the box is also the LC-RC detachable cable, which is a very good stock cable that we know from the FH5S Pro. This is a High-Purity Silver-Plated Monocrystalline wires. It has 8 strands and each stand is made of 19 cores that means 152 wires in total. Each wire is individually isolated and all are braided together in the Litz style. This greatly minimizes the adverse skin and proximity effects and thus reduces the resistance of the wires, letting signals travel through the wire more easily and purely.
The cable features special isolation made from environmentally friendly German TPU material in black color. This TPU material is also resistant against yellowing after long-term use and against stiffening when in low-temperature environments.
The expanded angled MMCX connectors with left “blue” and right “red” indicators make it easy to connect and detach the FA7S, while the curve of the ear hook is based on scientific research to make it conform comfortably to your ears.
Near the MMCX connectors are transparent heat-shrink ear hooks for a better over the era wearing experience.
The cable sports a chin slider and y splitter made of metal in gunmetal color. The y splitter has the FiiO branding on the top.
The detachable cable has a unique Interchangeable Headphone Plug design and offers 3 (three) plug variants, which are the 3.5mm Single Ended (TRS) plug, 2.5mm Balanced (TRRS) plug and the 4.4mm Balanced (TRRRS) Pentaconn plug.
The housing of the headphone plug has a strait profile and is made of the same metal material in gunmetal color.
Design & Build Quality:
The FA7S adopts FiiO’s third-generation industrial design with its distinct elements such as Y-shaped elements reminiscent of windmills, the 120° angles, tri-circular faceplate, and bright blue steel mesh. The FA7S features a semi-open design with the goal to create a more open sound atmosphere. The FA7S is available in black and in silver color options same like my review unit.
The FA7S features 6BA drivers (Knowles HODVTEC-31618 “Bass” + Knowles RAD-33518 “Highs” + DIBEI db646006 “Mids”) per earpiece that are located inside a Stainless Steel Monitor shell, which is a quite different material choice since the original FA7 was the first product of the company that have had a 3D printed Resin housing.
FiiO has used not a regular stainless steel material for the housing; it’s a special medical-grade 316L material that has been handled through a powder metallurgy process at 1000 degrees Celsius. This is a high temperature sintering after injection molding to eventually form the whole earphone construction.
The rear part of the monitor is polished by hand for a glossy, dazzling, mirror-like finish. In addition, the 316L stainless steel goes through a PVD electroplating coating process for significantly increased rigidity.
Here are also the Left and Right markings and the slightly angled sound nozzle with a fine metal mesh on the top to prevent the insertion of particles like dust or earwax.
The monitors do have a protruding part with the MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) female connectors on the top. Each connector features left and right color indicators, which is blue for the left and red for the right earpiece.
The overall build quality of the monitors is top notch same like other FiiO products, without to show any imperfections such like gaps, burs, etc.
Comfort & Isolation:
The FiiO FA7S has a pretty ergonomic monitor shape, while it is slightly heavy do to the use of stainless steal material. The curved cylindrical shape makes it ideal for the use for longer listening periods without to hurt my ears that has an ear concha with an average size.
The noise isolation on the other hand is on an average level, since it has a semi-open back design and a monitor shape that doesn’t allow a deep insertion of the nozzle. However, don’t get me wrong, the isolation is efficient enough for the use it in fairly noise environments such as metro, bus or train, while it is not suitable for the use on the stage.
Efficiency & Pairing:
The FiiO FA7S is a quite efficient In-Ear Monitor thanks to an impedance of 18Ω and a sensitivity of approx. 111dB/mW. This makes the FA7S to a compatible IEM with most audio sources like Smartphone’s, Tablets or small Digital Audio Players/Mp3 players.
- Driver Type : Balanced Armature Driver
- Driver Configuration : 6 BA’s (2xBass + 2xMid + 2xTreble)
- Frequency response : 10Hz-40kHz
- Impedance : 18Ω@1kHz
- Sensitivity : 111dB@1mW
- Max input power : 100mW
- Cable Material : 8 core High Purity Silver-Plated Monocrystalline Copper Wire
- Cable length : approx. 120cm
- Weight : approx. 8.4 grams (Single Unit)
Sources used for this review:
- IEM : FiiO FA7S, FiiO FA7, HiBy Crystal6
- DAP/DAC/AMP : FiiO M11 Pro, FiiO Q5s, FiiO KA3
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- Adele – My Little Love (Spotify)
- Randy Crawford – On Day I Will Fly Away (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Hayley Westenra – Odyssey Album (Dezzer HiFi)
- Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Sarah McLachlan – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
- Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Payer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- David Bowie – Heroes (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Elton John – Rocket Man ((Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- B.B. King – Riding With The King (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Bro Safari, UFO! – Drama (Deezer HiFi)
- Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Really Slow Motion – Deadwood (Deezer HiFi)
- Jo Blankenburg – Meraki (Spotify)
- Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Toutant – Rebirth (Deezer HiFi)
- Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
- Charly Antolini – Duwadjuwandadu (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Ferit Odman – Look, Stop & Listen (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Deezer HiFi)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Lunatic Soul – The Passage (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Deftones – My Own Summer (Shove it) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- 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)s
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
- Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Spotify)
The FiiO FA7S has a mildly V shaped sound signature and shows slightly warmer than neutral tonality, which means that there is some significant coloration in the lows, mids and highs. This makes the FA7S to a quite musical In-Ear Monitor.
The bass of the FA7S shows a pretty fast and controlled response, along with a good level of depth and impact. The midrange on the other hand sound transparent, lively and musical, while the treble region has a nice sense of clarity and a brightness that is not overdone. The FiiO FA7S shows a pretty natural overall timbre for an IEM with an all-BA configuration, which was only possible to archive in the past with much more expensive IEM’s.
In short the FA7S can be described as a perfect all-rounder that sound great with a wide variety of genres, from pop to jazz, from electronic up to trash metal.
The FiiO FA7S is equipped with 2x Knowles HODVTEC-31618 Balanced Armature Drivers that are responsible for the lows. The subbass region shows a decent level of depth and moderate sense of intensity, which avoids any unwanted muddiness that could be crated in this area. The subbass area has somewhat soft, pretty controlled and entertaining tuning when I do listen to songs like Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angel” or Bro Safari, UFO! “Drama”.
The subbass rumble is maybe not as strong like the one that can be produced by bigger diameter dynamic drivers, but the quantity and intensity should satisfy most listeners, with exception of bass-heads that may want some extra depth and rumble.
The midbass region of the FiiO FA7S sounds pretty clear and detailed, while the sense of depth and impact are on an efficient level for most genres. The midbass are tight and not boomy, which avoids any unwanted conditions such like a midbass hump, muddiness or mixings that could affect the overall presentation in a negative manner. Midbass presentation of the BGVP DM8 is successful with almost any type of genre and shows for example, an impressive sense of control and speed when I do listen to drum intros in songs like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Opeth’s “Windowpane”.
Overall, the FiiO FA7S stands out with its bass performance, both in terms of technicality as well as general fun factor.
The FiiO FA7S has a close fairly natural midrange presentation with a hint of coloration that adds the overall presentation of this area a nice sense of musicality. It has a pretty transparent and airy atmosphere, along with an above average sense of clarity and resolution, which makes it one of my favorite FiiO IEM with a Full-BA driver configuration.
Both male and female vocals do sound quite natural and detailed. Male voices like David Bowie, Elton John or Eric Clapton are shown with a moderate level of depth and body/fullness, while the clarity and resolution is above average.
Female vocals are slightly more upfront and detailed compared to male vocals. Female voices such like Edith Piaf or Diana Krall do sound transparent and lively, while Adel, Randy Crawford or Sarah McLachlan is reproduced in a silky smooth and pretty emotional manner.
I didn’t notice any remarkable sibilance or harshness, even while listen to soprano voices such like Hayley Westenra or Sertap Erener.
The instrument tonality of the FiiO FA7S is slightly warmer than neutral, vivid and smooth. Instruments for example such like pianos and clarinets do sound mildly bright, lively and clear. Pianos are soft in the lower midrange, while the emphasis and brightness towards the upper midrange sounds slightly increased.
Other instruments like acoustic guitars are slightly warm, bassy and musical, while violins are silky smooth yet detailed and do have a moderate sense of brightness. Violas on the other hand are produced in a pretty emotional manner.
Upper midrange & Treble:
The FiiO FA7S has carefully tuned upper midrange that sounds highly controlled, nicely balanced and transparent. It is neither recessed nor too much in foreground, while the general emphasis is quite enough for most genres. The transitions towards the treble region are in most situations controlled and don’t show any remarkable sibilance or sharpness when instruments such like violas, flutes or electro guitars do play at high level of distortion.
From female vocals to instruments such as pianos, cellos to side flutes, upper midrange intensity and extension is on a decent level, especially for an In-Ear Monitor at this price level with a 6BA setup per earpiece.
The FiiO FA7S shows a bright, neutral and strong treble presentation with good extension. This strong upper midrange and treble emphasis makes the FA7S to an airy and detailed sounding In-Ear Monitor.
The lower treble region has a good level of intensity and extension, while the upper treble area shows is able to produce a decent sense of airiness and sparkle. The treble extension, detail and speed of the FiiO FA7S while listen to instruments like hi-hats, crash and ride cymbals are quite successful, which is a result of the use of carefully tuned Knowles RAD-33518.
Soundstage & Imaging:
The FiiO FA7S shows a decent performance in terms of separation and placement of both instruments and vocals offers. The soundstage has is spacious and airy atmosphere, while the sense of depth and wideness is on an above average level.
FiiO FA7S versus FiiO FA7:
The original FA7 has a close to U shaped sound signature where the midrange is behind the strong bass and sharp treble range. The general tonality is warmer than neutral, with a warm & entertaining bass and slightly warmish midrange and treble tonality.
The FA7S has the upper hand in terms of subbass depth and intensity, while both IEM’s are quite successful when it comes to the control/authority in this area. The FA7S is also superior to the original FA7 when it comes to the impact, resolution and layering the midbass region. The bass of the FA7S shows a better sense of decay and extension, which makes it technically superior in direct comparison to the original FA7.
The midrange of the FA7S sounds more natural and airy and offers a better level of clarity and resolution especially in the upper midrange region. Both male and female vocals do sound more realistic and lifelike when I switch to the new FA7S that comes with FiiO’s custom tuned DIBEI db646006 (versus ED-29689) Balanced Armature drivers.
The treble range the FiiO FA7 is slightly inferior to those of the FA7S when it comes to the treble speed, separation and extension. The FA7S offers a better level of airiness and sparkle and has also the slightly edge when it comes to the clarity and definition in this area.
When it comes to the soundstage performance I can say that the FA7S is superior in terms of wideness, while the difference for the depth of the stage is not that different. The biggest difference is the more spacious and airy atmosphere that the new FA7S offers.
FiiO FA7S versus HiBy Crystal6:
The HiBy Crystal6 shows a slightly warmer tonality than FiiO FA7S and is the IEM with the higher level of coloration, especially in the upper midrange and treble area.
The lower frequency region of the HiBy Crystal6 is less pronounced than those of the FiiO FA7S, both in the subbass and midbass region. The subbass region of the FA7S shows a better sense of depth and rumble and has also the upper hand when it comes to the decay in this area. The midbass region of the Crystal6 is in general fairly fast and controlled, while it doesn’t sounds as impactful and detailed than those of the FA7S. The bass of the FiiO FA7S sounds in general more natural, detailed and offers also a better sense speed and authority especially in fast and complex bass passages.
The midrange of the HiBy Crystal6 shows a relative brighter tonality and more energetic presentation, compared to those of the FiiO FA7S that has a more natural, relaxed and balanced general tuning. The lower midrange of the FA7S offers a better level of depth and body that makes it more successful with male voices or instruments like violas or cellos. The upper midrange of the HiBy Crystal6 is highly pronounced, which makes a bit unnatural and aggressive in this area. The FiiO FA7S on the other hand offers a more balanced, natural and realistic midrange presentation.
The treble range of both In-Ear Monitors is successful in terms of detail retrial, definition and extension. The HiBy Crystal6 offers a slightly better level of resolution and extension in both the lower and upper treble area. However, the FiiO FA7S is the IEM with the more controlled, balanced and natural treble presentation, which makes it more ideal for longer listening periods.
Both the Crystal6 and the FA7S are successful IEM’s when it comes to the separation and positioning of both vocals and instruments. When it comes to the soundstage performance, I can say that the HiBy Crystal6 has the slightly edge when it comes to the depth of the stage, while the FiiO FA7S is superior in terms of airiness and wideness of the stage.
The FiiO FA7S is a decent upgrade over the original FA7 that was one of my favorite IEM’s with a Multi-BA configuration when it was first released in 2018.
The FA7S outperforms the original FA7 in any area with its versatile tuning that sound great with a wide variety of genres, from pop to jazz, from electronic up to trash metal. Furthermore, it features FiiO’s third-generation industrial design that looks very stylish with its tri-circular faceplate and a blue steel mesh in the center. Overall, the great optics, versatile sound tuning and rich accessory set making the FA7S to a highly recommended IEM at this price range.
Pros and Cons:
- + Solid Bass Performance (Speed, Depth & Control)
- + Natural & Balanced Midrange Presentation with good level of Resolution
- + Treble Control, Level of Clarity & Separation
- + Soundstage Performance (Wideness and Depth)
- + Fancy Industrial Design & Robust Build Quality
- + Rich Accessory & Features Package (Interchangeable Audio Jacks & Sound Tubes)
- – Bass Tuning not Suitable for Bass Heavy Genres & Bass-Heads
- – Upper Treble Extension
- – The Beautiful Stainless Steel Housing is a bit Prone to Scratches
Thank you for the Read!