Fiio F9 Review – Making Waves

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Verdict –

Fiio’s lower F- series earphones were sensational. They were priced competitively, built better than competitors and were tonally brilliant to top it off. However, unlike these models, the F9 sits within a price range overflowing with competition, some that strive for great balance and some greater engagement. There is no doubt in my mind that the F9 offers a great sense of value but what a lot of listeners and critics fail to acknowledge is that $100 buys you a lot of earphone these days and this is demonstrated by models like the Rose Mini 2, Kinera H3 and Meeaudio Pinnacle P2. As a result of this fierce competition, I would argue that even these mostly affordable in-ears can no longer be fully excused for treble peaks, unnatural voicing and uneven bass tuning, at least, not to the extent shown here.

Because, like the K3 Pro, the F9’s sculpted tones come with several inherent caveats that some competing models don’t suffer from. The Meeaudio Pinnacle P2 serves as a great example, that earphone fits better, isolates more and pulls off the same kind of sound but with greater balance and refinement. However, with the right material, the F9 sings like few others around this price with class-leading resolution and clarity within a well-featured and beautifully shaped housing. And at the end of the day, tonality is a preference and though the F9 doesn’t fit mine, those that prefer a clear, resolving V-shaped sound and don’t mind the treble, will find a delightfully technical listen. This technicality also makes them an excellent choice for those who like to experiment with eQ, they are indeed very response with great potential lying beneath wonky tuning.

Verdict – 7.75/10, The F9 is not an outstanding earphone but one that firmly deserves its asking price. For a reasonable price, Fiio provide buyers with an excellent housing, balanced capability and a resolving V-shaped sound. However, while technically impressive, that sound lacks the tonal refinement to stand above the rest.

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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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