Fiio F9 Review – Making Waves

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Comparisons –

Rose Mini 2 ($100): The Rose and F9 couldn’t diverge much more in their tonality. Where the F9 is clear and engaging, the Mini 2 is neutral with a tinge of warmth. Bass extension easily goes to the F9 and the Fiio possesses notably more slam and impact, though the Mini 2 is much faster and considerably more defined if more reserved in quantity. Mids are far more linear on the Mini 2 and though the Rose lacks the outright clarity and resolution of the F9, the Mini 2 is a lot more natural and far more refined.

Mids are better balanced with the rest of the sound on the Mini 2, it is also more bodied and transparent with more accurate timbre. Highs are far more aggressive on the F9 and though the Mini 2 is just as detailed, it is more on the laid-back side in terms of presentation. The Mini 2 isn’t spiked like the F9 and resolves greater texture and micro-detail as a result. However, it can sound a little sedate and air is not its forte. The F9 also has a large advantage when it comes to soundstaging, though the Rose images a little better, the Fiio has greater space in all axis and notably higher separation.

Simgot EN700 Bass ($100): The Simgot is a delightfully warm, natural earphone that contrasts to the V-shaped competition. It is bassier than the F9 with a bigger mid-bass hump though it is less extended and defined. That said, the Simgot is nicely articulate and bass/midrange transition is smoother so lower mids are more natural as a result. The F9 is clearer but also much thinner, it sounds thoroughly artificial compared to the EN700 Bass if more resolving. Upper mids are clear and clean on the Simgot but even clearer on the F9.

The Simgot clearly lacks the technical ability of the Fiio, the layering and resolution isn’t quite there nor is the detailing, but they make up for it with tonal excellence, they are so much smoother and more refined. Treble is more laid-back on the EN700 Bass with average extension and air. The F9 is a lot more aggressive and extended and raw detail retrieval is appreciably better. On the flipside, the EN700 Bass is much smoother and more textured while retaining some crispness. The En700 Bass has a very nice soundstage on account of its almost semi-open design. The Fiio has less width but a little more depth and both image similarly well. Separation is a little better on the F9 due to its greater extension and more dynamic tuning.

TFZ King ($100): The King and F9 make for interesting comparison since both earphones pursue absolute technicality over tonal refinement yet through differing approach. The King is a bright, forward sounding earphone while the F9 balances its prominent high-end with greater bass quantity. Both are similarly well extended but the King’s low-end is more defined and agile. That said, low-end details can become overshadowed by higher elements, something the Fiio doesn’t suffer from. Mids on the King are considerably more forward in the mix and find a better balance between clarity and smoothness.

The F9 pushes clarity a step further but also sounds a little harsher and less refined. As such, though both have excellent resolution and layering, the King is a bit more linear with better background detail retrieval. The King has a similarly spiked high-end though its emphasis lies in the middle rather than lower treble. As a result, it is airier but splashier with a similar lack of body and the F9 is more separated and detailed without the overbearing brightness of the TFZ. The F9 has a larger stage, especially depth in addition to appreciably better separation though imaging is more accurate on the King.

Kinera H3 ($100): The H3 is the more engaging counterpart to the F9 and P2 with a notably more visceral bass response combined with a similarly clear midrange and high-end. Sub-bass extension is better on the H3 and bass is greater in emphasis with a more deep bass over mid-bass focus. As such, though the H3 is bassier, it is more defined, controlled and articulate. Mids are more recessed on the H3, lower mids sound a bit scooped compared to competing models though clarity and body are both excellent. And though the F9 is more balanced throughout, the H3 is almost as clear but warmer and more bodied. The H3 actually matches the F9 on resolution but it is also slightly more natural with greater definition of layering.

Highs are actually brighter on the H3 but also more resolving and separated which acts to counteract some of its peakiness. Both are very aggressive yet well-detailed earphones, the H3 a little more so since its treble emphasis extends a little further up. As such, the H3 doesn’t overshadow as many higher details and instruments sound a little more linear if pushed forward in the mix. The F9 once again has the larger soundstage, especially depth which provides vocals with an immersive character. Separation is better on the H3 while imaging is similar on both.

Meeaudio Pinnacle P2 ($100): The P2 pursues almost identical tuning to the F9 but with better balance throughout, this is probably the most pertinent comparison of the bunch. Bass is similar on both, the F9 has a hair more extension and greater emphasis throughout though the tuning is similar. The P2 is considerably faster but also tighter and more defined, it has a touch more upper-bass quantity that grants mids with a slightly warm tone as opposed to the thinner, cooler F9. Both possess a clarity driven midrange though the P2 is smoother and more refined, less affected by the sibilance and peakiness of the F9. The P2 is also slightly more balanced, though still lightly v-shaped overall.

Resolution is slightly higher on the F9 though the P2 is more detailed due to its greater body and more natural presentation. Highs are also similar, lower treble is spiked on both, the P2 to a lesser extent. As a result, the P2 has less aggression but also sounds smoother and more detailed, cymbals are more textured and notes are less raspy in general, female vocals are also less strident. The F9’s soundstage has greater depth and a little more width than the P2 though it is the less coherent sounding earphone with inferior imaging. Both separate very well, the P2 more so since it is less peaky and more balanced.

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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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