Fiio’s ties with Dunu are immediately evident when observing the F5’s design; those large, tapered but low-profile housings are incredibly reminiscent of the Titan earphones. In that sense, the F5 also reminds of the EX1 though Fiio have implemented several small changes to the design, some enhancing the ergonomics of the earphone and some, unfortunately, degrading the in-hand feel. However, with their much reduced asking price (Titan 5 retails for ~$120 US vs <$80), the F5 is still very impressive within its price class, the EX1 and Titan earphones are simply outstanding.
The F5 is a more subdued looking earphone than the chromed silver Titan’s and EX1, instead adopting a matte gunmetal finish which feels nice if less solid in the hand. Fiio have also implemented a different strain relief design that places the mmcx connectors more lateral and anterior. Not only does this assist quite a bit with fit, it also provides the earphones with a more intriguing design and minimises microphonics, something that frequently bothered on the EX1. Unfortunately, the inner surface, nozzle and offset MMCX housings are all plastic, only the main housings are aluminium. As a result, the earphones feel perceptibly cheaper when compared to the all-metal EX1 2nd gen and Titans.
However, these features, while diminishing the earphone’s feel, do help with fit and it is in regards to comfort that the F5 most notably improves upon its predecessor. Despite housing rather enormous 13.6mm drivers, the earphones manage their size with aplomb. The housings have a flush inner face that avoids forming hotspots and well-angled nozzles that provide as good a seal as one could hope for from a semi-in-ear design. They are a shallow fitting earphone but their lighter weight, smaller vents and more laterally offset strain reliefs produce both more stability and isolation than the EX1. When compared to other similarly priced earphones like the Shozy Zero and Meze 11 Neo, the F5 provides the greatest comfort of the bunch offset by the least passive noise isolation. As a result, the earphones are best suited for indoor use, they are just adequate for quieter public transport and may actually be a solid choice for commute as they allow you to remain aware of your surroundings.
As aforementioned, one of the most notable features of the F5 is its removable cable, quite a rarity around this price. Not only does this augment long-term durability, it also enables cable swapping to modify acoustics to preference. Fiio were kind enough to include two cables from factory, both are impressive in their own regards yet both are also inferior in quality to the fantastic unit used on the EX1. I suppose a benefit of having that MMCX interface includes the ability to swap them out for higher quality alternatives.
I’ll start with the remote cable since that is inevitably going to be the most popular. Unfortunately, it’s a rather thin and rubbery unit with minimal strain relief. The straight plug is low profile but feels markedly less sturdy than the beefy right angle plug on the EX1. By contrast, the included remote is very nice, with a metal enclosure and large, clicky buttons. A small switch on the side enables the user to switch between Android and IOS, enabling all 3 buttons to function on all devices. The switch is recessed, requiring a sim tool or paperclip to change, and they are notably less convenient to use than the auto switching unit used on 1More earphones. Still, just having the option is fantastic.
The balanced cable impresses more in its quality. Instantly, it’s silvery finish draws the eye to the strands of OFC copper weaving underneath its transparent sheath. It has a smoother texture that doesn’t catch or tangle like the remote cable and the balanced cable is far more compliant and supple, well resisting tangling. Unfortunately, mine had a small defect, the left MMCX connector doesn’t click into place, often detaching from the left earpiece in my pocket. I would chalk that up to my F5 being a pre-production unit but it is still concerning and not something I have experienced from other earphones. Again, this is a balanced cable, requiring a source with an appropriate 2.5mm output, though adaptors enabling use with unbalanced (or “regular” in layman’s terms) 3.5mm sources are easily found. Interestingly, I also found the balanced cable to be acoustically superior regardless of whether the earphones were being run through a balanced or unbalanced connection. It’s unfortunate that Fiio skimped on the remote cable, but this is a common trend that persists even to the $400-500 Westone earphones.
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