FiiO FA9 Universal IEM Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

FiiO FA9 Universal IEM Review

 

Introduction:

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 FiiO FA9 is the new flagship model of the FA Series which is the Product Line with a “Pure Balanced Armature Driver Configuration”. The FA9 offers some interesting features like 6 Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers per monitor, a DLP Printed Monitor Shell, a sound tube system that is 80.6mm long, 3 Sound Adjustment Switches, an 8-Strand SPC Cable and many more.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the Fiio FA9 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:

The actually price of the FiiO FA9 In-Ear Monitor is around $499.99 USD and can be purchased under the link bellow;

 

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The FiiO FA9 came in a relative big box similar in size like does of the FA7, FH5 and FH7 while the material and the look of the pretty thick sleeve box has changed. The sleeve box has now the FiiO brand logo on the top and shows a nice looking and colorful shimmering iridescent surface. The rear side of the box shows some technical information’s about the product and illustrations such like the new implanted 3 Switch Sound Tuning System.

When you put out the main box in black color out from the sleeve box you will see now the FiiO brand logo which is 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

 

The FiiO FA9 comes with the same luxurious leather case than we have seen with the FH7 which has the FiiO branding on the top. The case shows a high quality workmanship and can also be purchased separately.

The FiiO FA9 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) and 2 pairs of memory foam ear tips (M/M/ size) and 1 pair of Bi-Flange ear tips (M Size) and 3 pairs of SpinFit Silicone Tips (S/M/L size)

The FA9 came also with some nice additions such like a small carry pouch with zipper that is made of fabric material, a nice magnetic cable organizer with FiiO Branding on the top and a cleaning tool that can also be used for the sound tuning switches.

I really like the richness of accessories that I wish to see also from the competition especially from the western based companies.

 

 

 

Design and Build Quality:

The FiiO FA9 is a multi BA IEM with a Semi-Custom Monitor shell which has 6 Knowles Balanced Armature Driver on each monitor and shows a 4-way crossover system.

The monitor shell is made of high transparency resin material with EU IIA medical certification that is skin friendly and antimicrobial that was printed with the 4th generation DLP 3D printing technology.

The FA9 is available in two different colors, which are the Clear and the Black variant which is the color of my review unit. The faceplate of the monitor shell has a so called “Diamond Cut” pattern which shows a nice beautiful dazzling effect if you look on it from different angles.

The in total 80,6mm long sound tubes and the other internals like the 6 BA drivers on each monitor are visible that I really like to see with transparent monitor shells.

The sound nozzle has a slightly angled profile with a mesh on the top that prevents the insertion of small partials like dust and other unwanted materials like earwax from entering in inside the sound tubes. I highly recommend you to clean the mesh periodically with the brush that came inside the box.

On the top of the monitor housing is the MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) female connector that offers a tight fit with the male connector of the detachable cable.

At the rear side of the monitor shell are 3 sound adjustment switches that do allow you to choose between up to 8 different tuning options.

 

 

Cable:

The FiiO FA9 comes with a detachable cable that has a 3.5mm headphone jack and MMCX (Micro Miniature Coaxial) connectors. The cable is made of 8 strands of high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper wire and features an environmentally-friendly transparent soft plastic insulation.

The MMCX male connectors are sitting pretty tight on the monitor and should last for years without any problem. The MMCX connectors have a transparent housing on each connector with Red (Right) & Blue (Left) color indicators in form of rings.

Near the MMXC connector housings are ear guides that do that do offer extra comfort.

The cable features a Y splitter and chin slider made of the metal material.

The 3.5mm gold plated single ended (TRS) headphone plug has a nice looking metal housing with L angled profile that we have also seen on previous FiiO cables.

The cable shows in general a very solid build quality and doesn’t have any annoying mixings or microphonic effects.

 

 

 

Fit and Isolation:

The FiiO FA9 is an IEM with a Semi-Custom monitor shell which offers a pretty ergonomic shape, while a comfortable fit depends highly on the selection of the right ear-tips which was for me the stock sized “S silicone tips.

The noise isolation of this FiiO FA9 is above average and worked pretty well for me in fairly noise environments such like a bus, metro or on some of my train trips.

 

 

Drivability (Impedance):

The FiiO FA9 is a very easy to drive IEM with a pretty low impedance that varies between 13 Ω (in Low Impedance Mode) & 21 Ω (in High Impedance Mode) and has a sensitivity between 110 / 113 dB @ 1mW which makes it ideal for portable sources such like Smartphone’s, Tablets, Portable Players with a relative weak amplification.

 

 

 

Technical Specifications:
  • Driver Configuration   : 6 Balanced Armature Driver Configuration
  • Bass Driver                  : 2 x Knowles HODVTEC-31618 BA Driver
  • Treble  Driver              : 2 x Knowles SWFK-31376 (Highs/Ultra Highs) BA Driver
  • Midrange Driver          : 2 x Knowles EJ-33877 BA Driver
  • Frequency response    : 15Hz ~ 40kHz
  • Sensitivity                    : 110 / 113 dB @ 1mW
  • Impedance                  : 13 Ω (@ Low Impedance Mode) & 21 Ω (@ High Impedance Mode)
  • Max. Input power        : 100mW
  • Plug                             : 3.5mm gold-plated L-shaped plug jack
  • Connector type           : MMCX Connector
  • Cord length                 : 1.2 m
  • Weight                        : 6.2grams for each monitor

 

 

 

Sources used for this review:
  • IEM                             : FiiO FA9, FiiO FH7, Oriveti OH500, Custom Art Fibae Black
  • DAP/DAC/AMP          : FiiO M11 Pro, FiiO BTR5, FiiO Q5s


 

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (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)
  • 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 Sound Adjustment Switches:

The FiiO FA9 is an In-Ear Monitor that offers different sound signatures with the help of its “Sound Adjustment Switches”. Although the general sound character remains the same, changes can be made on the bass and treble frequencies. It can sound slightly bassier or more treble intensive with the help of these switches, while those differences are not very high.

  • S1 switch on: lower impedance and higher sensitivity, making the FA9 easier to drive
  • S1 switch off: higher impedance for a more clean and natural sound, with a darker background and lower audible noise from the source
  • S2 switch on: Treble Boost
  • S2 switch off: Reference Type of Treble
  • S3 switch on: Reduces the Bass and does increase the Midrange
  • S3 switch off: Does increase the Bass and does reduced the Midrange

 

 

The Sound:

The FiiO FA9 shows a soft, musical and fairly warm tonality from the top (treble) up to the bottom (subbass). The bass is pretty good in terms of speed and depth, the midrange is detailed and transparent while the treble range shows a good level of intensity and extension.

Please note that the FiiO FA9 review below will be based on the “Standard Mode” with switches set to “1 ON – 2 OFF – 3 ON”.

 

Bass:

The FiiO FA9 has two BA’s that are dedicated to produce the lower frequency region and if the song/record shows deep bass notes the FA9 is able to reproduce them pretty well without to add too much coloration.

The subbass region of the FA9 shows a good intensity with sufficient depth and extension. It has in general a fairly warm and bold tonality, while it sounds pretty controlled without to be too boomy or muddy.

The subbass extension and quantity of the FA9 in songs like Lorde’s “Royals”, Photek’s “The Hidden Camera” and Twerl’s “Lishu” was satisfying and has also shows a good level of depth and rumble, while it is not on a basshead level.

The midbass region of the FiiO FA9 is pronounced and effective such like the subbass region while it is inferior in quantity. The midbass impact quite impressive and is suitable for almost any type of music genre, from electronic music up to faster genres with instruments like drums in metal music.

Instruments like drums in intros of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, No Doubt’s “Hella Gut”, Opeth’s “Windowpane” and U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are pretty fast, pronounced, detailed and full bodied.

The bass shows in general a quite good performance in terms of technicality, resolution and layering thanks to the well-tuned balanced armature drivers. The bass is higher in quantity for analytical presentation while it is a bit low to be on a bass head level.

 

 

Midrange:

The midrange of the FiiO FA9 shows in general a warm, smooth and fairly transparent tonality, while the level like airiness or clarity is above average. The midrange resolution of the FA9 is pretty fine for its price range.

 

Vocals:

The FiiO FA9 is a successful In-Ear Monitor in terms of intensity, extension, detail retrieval and transparency of female vocals thanks to its good upper midrange tuning. The general tonality of female vocals is fairly warm, musical and emotional and doesn’t shows any negative situations like sibilance or sharpness and is pleasant to listen to from female vocals in electronic music up to jazz tracks.

The FiiO FA9 is also a successful IEM when it comes to clarity and detail retrieval of male vocals. It doesn’t shows any negative conditions like muddiness or mixings, while the lower midrange tuning gives male vocal a soft and musical tonality. It sounds quite successful and enjoyable from vocals like Dave Gahan, Leonard Cohen up to Eric Clapton and Sting.

 

Instruments:

The FiiO FA9 offers a musical, close to warm, soft and smooth instrument presentation. Instruments do sound pretty detailed and airy and do have a good level of separation and intensity. Pianos are mildly bright, soft and pronounced, while acoustic guitars are fairly natural, transparent and fast. Violins on the other hand are slightly bright and fatigue-free while the contrabass shows good depth and fullness.

The FiiO FA9 shows a pretty correct placement of instrument and vocals and has an above average performance in terms of separation.

 

Upper Midrange:

The FiiO FA9 has well pronounced upper midrange intensity with a warmish and smooth tonality. The FA9 shows also a good performance in terms of control and detail retrieval in the upper midrange transitions when instruments do play with high distortion.

For example, the upper midrange transitions of cymbals, drums or guitars in metal songs like Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets”, Slayer’s “Angel of Death” and Rush’s “Leave That Thing Alone” do sound quite detailed and clear.

 

Treble:

The FiiO FA9 has a slightly bright, mildly warm and soft treble tonality with an airy and fatigue-free presentation. It shows an above average performance in terms of treble intensity, quantity, extension and sharpness.

The lower treble range is more successful in terms of extension compared to the upper treble area that shows a shorter level of extensions, while the upper treble range shows a moderate amount of intensity and sparkle. Instruments like cymbals in metal music are pronounced, while the hits are fairly countable. Crash cymbals are pretty fast and do shows a controlled extension. There is no interference in jazz when the piano is accelerating, while the beats are clear and distinct. The FiiO FA9 offers in general a treble range that is transparent, airy and spacious, which makes it to an ideal IEM for many genres.

 

Soundstage:

The FiiO FA9 has a soundstage with a sufficient performance in terms of separation and placement of instrument and the vocals. The soundstage depth and wideness of the FiiO FA9 shows an moderate performance, while the performance in terms of depth is slightly better compared to its wideness.

 

 

 

Comparisons:

 

FiiO FA9 versus Custom Art Fibae Black

The FIBAE Black is a warm, musical and smooth sounding In-Ear Monitor with deep and strong bass, soft and musical midrange, with a mildly pronounced upper midrange and treble presentation.

The FiiO FA9 is superior in terms of subbass depth and quantity and also more successful when it comes to the bass speed and tightness. The Custom Art Fibae Black on the other hand has the upper hand for midbass quantity and intensity. The Fiba Black has a warm and soft midrange presentation, while the level of airiness and transparency is on a moderate level. The midrange of the FA9 sounds slightly more neutral and shows a higher level of clarity.

The Custom Art Fibae Black sounds more successful with male vocals due to its higher lower midrange depth, while the FiiO FA9 is superior in terms of female vocals thanks to the higher level of clarity and detail retrieval in the upper midrange region. When it comes to the upper midrange and treble performance I can say that the FiiO FA9 has sound more detailed and with better extension compared to the Custom Art Fibae Black which offers otherwise a fatigue-free presentation.

The soundstage of the FiiO FA9 sounds more spacious and airy compared to the Custom Art Fibae Black and has also the upper hand in terms of wideness. The Fibae Black on the other hand shows a slightly performance in terms of soundstage depth.

 

 

FiiO FA9 versus Oriveti OH500:

The Oriveti OH500 has a lightly V shaped sound signature with a nicely done warm tonality and entertaining presentation. The bass is deep, warm and full bodied; the midrange is soft and musical, while the upper midrange and treble region is mildly bright and with good extension.

The subbass depth of both IEM’s is pretty similar, while the Oriveti OH500 offers more rumble and slightly higher extension. The midbass region of the OH500 shows more intensity, while the FA9 has the upper hand in terms of overall bass speed and tightness.

The midrange of both In-Ear Monitors is successful in terms of detail retrieval and do share a warm tonality, while the OH500 shows slightly more warmth compared to the FA9. The male vocal presentation of the Oriveti OH500 shows more depth, fullness and is also a bit more emotional, while the FiiO FA9 is more successful with female vocals.

The upper midrange of both In-Ear Monitors is pretty controlled and shows a good performance at this price range. The treble range of the FiiO FA9 is more highlighted, neutral in tonality and shows also a slightly better level of extension compared to the Oriveti OH500.

The soundstage of both the FiiO FA9 and the Oriveti OH500 shows a similar performance in terms of width and depth.

 

 

 

FiiO FA9 (Standard Mode) versus FiiO FH7 (Balanced Filter):

The FiiO FA9 has a warmer, smoother and more musical presentation compared to the FiiO FH7.

Both the FA9 and the FH7 do offer a good subbass depth and a bass reproduction that is fast and controlled. The bass of the FiiO FH7 sounds slightly faster and a bit more controlled than those of the FA9 while the differences a minimal.

The midrange of the FA9 shows a more entertaining and musical presentation compared to the FH7 that has a closer to neutral tonality. The female vocal presentation of the FH7 is more transparent, while the male vocals of the FA9 do show a better level of depth and fullness.

The upper midrange region of both the FA9 and FH7 sounds pretty controlled and detailed, while the treble range of the FA9 shows a more intensity and detail compared to the FH7 that has a brighter but thinner tonality compared to the more natural FA9.

Both IEM’s do offer a sufficient soundstage performance with moderate wideness and above average level of depth.

 

Conclusion:

The FA9 is the new flagship IEM of the company that comes with a beautiful 3D Printed Monitor Shell and offers a warm, musical and detailed sound experience which can be fine-tuned with the new implemented “Sound Adjustment Switches”. The FA9 has also some interesting features like a 4-way electronic crossover, an 80.6mm long sound tube system that acts like a low pass filter and comes with a very rich accessory package that includes a high quality 8-strand monocrystalline SPC cable, HB3 leather case and many more.

 

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Overall Timbre and Tonal Balance
  • + Warm, Musical and Pretty Detailed Presentation
  • + Beautiful Design & Very Good Built Quality
  • + Rich Package of Accessories
  • – Soundstage Wideness
  • – Ear-tips dependent comfort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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