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Fiio F9 Review – Making Waves

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Introduction –

Though best known for their sources, Fiio have augmented their new devices with a line of accompanying in-ear earphones that each offer sensational value at several conservative price points. I’ve personally reviewed them all, from the humble F1 to the excellent EX1 and F5. And, through aggressive pricing and partnership with audio guru Dunu, none have failed to impress with excellent price/performance ratios combined with build quality that belies their meagre asking price. The F9 is the latest extension of Fiio’s F-series in-ears and perhaps the most technically impressive to date.

Featuring a triple hybrid driver configuration, it represents a considerable step up from the Fiio’s single dynamic driver based models. In addition, the F9 retains the removable cable of the F5 but trades its shallow semi-open form factor for a meticulously sculpted monitor style housing. Combined with a balanced cable from factory, the F9 is without a doubt, Fiio’s best built and best sounding in-ear to date but also their most expensive at $100 USD. Let’s see how the F9 competes in a price range teeming with excellence.

*Of note, Fiio have released several variants of the F9. Initial batches of the F9 had tighter MMCX connectors and smooth cable connectors where newer batches have ridged connectors and slightly looser connectors. The new batches also have a larger angle between the connectors and housing which enables cables with wider connectors to be used. Fiio have also released the F9 SE which is acoustically identical but has a fixed 3.5mm cable. A higher priced Pro model with revised armature drivers is in the works and will be released at a later date.

 

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Sunny from Fiio very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the F9 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

It’s almost unbelievable how far Fiio has come since their first iems. The F9 is very professionally packaged with attractive renders and a very fully featured accessory set. Inside the box is Fiio’s excellent pelican style hard case that contains the earpieces and 6 pairs of silicone ear tips. The tips are quite interesting, there are 3 pairs of regular tips and 3 eQ tips that enhance the bass response, similar to that employed by the Simgot EN700 Bass.

During listening, I found them to provide very noticeable tonal adjustments with the red tips offering my most preferred sound. A small box just above contains two cables, a regular 3.5mm cable with a 3-button smart remote and a very nice braided 2.5mm cable for use with a balanced source. It’s a nice inclusion that is very uncommon at this price point and the inclusion of a remote cable is thoughtful for those that intend to use the F9 with a smart device.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

17 Comments

  1. gaston on

    Hola Ryan,gracias por las revisiones tan buenas que hace,es un placer leerte.me gusta le Mini2 ( tengo un Hifiman RE400 muriendose por el cable,pero que me puede decir de los nuevos Ibasso it01,mismo precio,y el Brainwavz
    B400,un poco maas caro pero con 4 drivers,Gracias y un Saludo.

  2. Michael on

    Hello Ryan,

    I´ve been thinking of getting my hands onto the pair of Fiio F9. Up until now I´ve been using the V-Sonic GR07 but they seem to approaching its final days. So now it´s a toss-up whether to go the unbeaten path and grab the Fiio ones or opt for the tried and tested V-Sonics. What would you think or could you perhaps recommend me some other IEM somewhere in the vicinity of 150$ (200$ at the most)?

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • Anez on

      Hi Mike, I’ll buy you both, your loving wife Anezka

  3. Filip on

    Hello, Ryan,

    please could you make some compare between F9 and Oriveti Basic? Thank you a lot.

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Filip,

      I enjoy both, they have excellent build and fit but the Oriveti isolates a bit more and is smaller. The Fiio is more V-shaped with considerably more clarity and more forward treble. The Oriveti is smoother and more laid-back but still sounds quite crisp, it has a warmer sound with more neutral body where the Fiio is clearer but thinner and raspier. Both are quite bassy, the Oriveti is more defined and visceral due to a sub-bass focus while the more mid-bassy Fiio has a little bloat and less extension. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Thanks,
      Ryan.

      • Filip on

        Thank you for answer. I used HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 before they broke up. I temporarily bought the KZ ZS5, which sounded much more audially to me, but they are too big for my ear. That’s why I’m looking for headphones like KZS5 but with a smaller body and better made. I originally thought up to the limit of $ 100 (Fiio F9 and Oriveti Basic), but maybe I would raise the limit to $ 300. Here we are talking about Oriveti New Primacy, if they sound like KZ ZS5. What would you recommend a similar sound to KZ ZS5?

        Thank you very much Ryan.

  4. Joa on

    Hi Ryan, I’ve been reading your reviews on both magaosi k3 pro and hd.
    I’m wondering , does the magaosi even compare to the f9?
    Since its in the same price bracket, there wasn’t much comparison between both.

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi joa,

      I don’t think the K3 Pro stacks up to its updated counterparts, but the HD is very comparable to the F9. The HD is a little more mid-recessed but its treble isn’t as thin as the F9 and it’s more detailed as a result. Both are a little muddy within the bass but the HD has a more natural midrange due to its more even midrange/treble transition. Both are built well and fit comfortable but don’t isolate superbly. I would personally pick the HD if you don’t eQ, the F9 has potential but you can’t maximise it from every source so I can’t freely recommend it like the Magaosi.

      Cheers,
      Ryan.

  5. Shawn on

    Ryan,

    How would these Hold up in comparison to something like Dunu dn-2000?

    • Ryan Soo on

      I haven’t heard the DN-2000 for quite a while so I can’t provide direct comparison. I remember it performing on a higher level sonically though the F9 is definitely better in terms of ergonomics and comfort.

      • Shawn on

        Is there an IEM you would recommend that is in the sonic quality range that the DUNU is? The IEM market has become so crowded, which is not a bad thing since it drives competition, makes it incredibly difficult to pick one!

        It seems to me, while I may be wrong, the better sounding hybrids use knowles BA drivers but I’m interested to know your opinion.

        • Ryan Soo on

          There certainly are a lot of iems out there, many of which I haven’t heard!

          Regarding drivers, I try not to generalize performance to driver type though they are linked to an extent. To my knowledge Sonion and Knowles are the two main manufacturers, Knowles make the majority of audio related armatures, sometimes to spec for specific manufacturers while others employ off the shelf components. Some add some tuning on top, but a lot don’t.

          We’ve certainly made developments in recent years, unfortunately, a lot of these advances come with price hikes. The Dunu is still a fine sounding earphone, I don’t think any of the $100 in-ears outperform it on a technical level. I’m inclined to recommend the Magaosi K3 HD, it’s a bit muddy and resolution isn’t exquisite but it is easily the most detailed and balanced V-shaped earphones around this price. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, Dunu’s new DK-3001 is sonically exceptional and many users have had more luck with comfort than Pinky and I.

          I should not that I’ve thrown out these recommendations based on the fact that you enjoy the DN-2000. If you give me your preferences like Tom has below, I can be more specific. I don’t think you’ll find an “upgrade” around this price per say, but you may very well find an in-ear that better matches your subjective tonal preferences.

          Cheers,
          Ryan.

  6. Tom on

    Thanks for another great review Ryan.

    Any chance I could encourage to compile a $100 IEM shoot-out? It would be a great help to me, and others, who need help navigating the sudden explosion of competition at this price point.

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hey Tom,

      I could definitely make one but it would probably just be a compilation of all the reviews I’ve already written. Personally, I’m against a numerical ranking or scoring and I would prefer for people to find the model that best suits their personal needs and preferences. You’re more than welcome to contact me either here or PM on head-fi if you’re looking for suggestions.

      Cheers,
      Ryan.

      • Tom on

        Hi Ryan,

        That’s a very generous offer, thanks.

        My needs are a little complicated as I want something that can do double-duty as both my everyday walk-around DAP and Spotify (smartphone) commuting IEMs, yet also perform as a fairly balanced and somewhat analytical monitor for the mobile music production I do on iPad when on-the-go (Cubasis, BM3 etc).

        Ideally, I would be seeking..
        – Over ear fit (memory cables a plus here)
        – Good isolation
        – Neutral (or sightly curved) frequency response
        – Easy to drive
        – Good Durability (removable cables a plus)
        – Remote-enabled cable option would be a nice bonus

        I am currently using a cheap pair of Brainwavz B100 (single BA), which I feel really perform high above their $40 price, but I’ve been eyeing an upgrade for months now, considering many of the fine models you’ve been reviewing lately, such as the Pinnacle P1/P2, Hero2, Kinera, TFZ, Fiio, etc.

        Is there anything you could suggest that might help me?

        Many thanks
        Tom

        • Ryan Soo on

          No worries Tom,

          I honestly admit that I have no insight into music production but I’ll try to help you out as best I can. As far as tuning goes, there aren’t a whole bunch of models around this price that offer genuine neutrality. That’s a reason why I’m such a big fan of the Rose Mini 2, it is easily one of the most balanced, neutral earphones around this price besides the notorious RE-400 though the Rose is far better built. For reference, it is way more linear than even the Pinnacle P2, it’s almost neutral but a little warmer and slightly more laid-back which makes it nicely musical as well.

          It also has an over-ear fit, a very good removable cable and pre-moulded earguides (not memory wire). It’s easy enough to drive and sounds consistent from most sources. It has no remote, but since the cable is removable, you can just swap in a cheap 3rd party remote cable. The design takes some getting used to, if you have especially large ears it may not be the best choice, but it is fully sealed so isolation is great. I should just put in a disclaimer that this earphone is genuinely quite neutral, not balanced as some people throw out there about other earphones, it will probably be leaner and more mid-forward than expected.

          Cheers,
          Ryan.

          • Tom on

            Excellent. Many thanks for your helpful advice.

            I had already shortlisted the mini2 based on your impressive review (even though I misnamed it the hero2 in my first post, lol)

            It’s probably between the mini2 and pinnacle P2 in that case, and I’m edging towards the mini.

            Regards.
            T

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