Fiio needs no introduction. It is one of the most renowned chi-fi brands if not the most. They started with DAPs and back in their initial years the X5 was holding fort for them. It was one of the best player available in the market. Then Fiio forayed into DAC/Amps and IEMs. Their F1 was the more popular one of the two which had the F3 in tao. Their grand entry into the IEM market was with the F5 in collaboration with DUNU but that gave them the launching platform. They came up with F9 but the F9 pro was the real deal. Since then they have been making some of the most intriguing IEMs with various technologies and driver setups. But their heart has always been with what they started with, Dynamic drivers.
Fiio’s recent portfolio have been loaded with DDs. The FD5 was an excellent re-entry which showed us what Fiio is capable with and now they have the more entry level Fiio FD3 and FD3 pro with a very similar setup and design. It’s 12mm DLC driver has a 1.5T magnetic flux. Priced at just $109 it is an excellent looking IEM which has a lot to offer with it’s vented design and filter technology.
It faces tough competition from ISN D10, whole lot of JVC IEMs and Campfire Honeydew and I will be comparing it with BQEYZ Summer and TRI i3 Pro.
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ACCESSORIES AND PACKAGE:
The all black package looks classy yet cool but us mostly made out of paper but I am not complaining. Afterall it’s a $109 IEM.
The old hard pelican like shell makes a comeback here and I like it more than the artificial leather case of the FD5. This is more functional and sturdier. There are 3 pair of grey red core tips for bass, 3 more pair of white red core tips for vocals, two pair of wide bore tips for balanced sound and two more pairs of foam tips in the box. In addition to that we get another pair of nozzle, a cleaning brush and a metal MMCX cable remover concludes the list of usable accessories.
BUILD AND ERGONOMICS:
FD5 is the inspiration for the FD3 but the body has different materials on it. It has an aluminium shell but doesn’t have the volcanic diffused field, instead it has a vent on the back of the off body MMCX plug. There is another vent on the inner side of the shell. It has 2.5D glass on the back which looks cool and kind of makes is more premium than the FD5.
Build quality of the earpieces is very good. They feels sturdy and robust. The interchangeable nozzle has very good depth inside the ear.
It’s angled barrel design gives a fairly comfortable feel inside the ear. It’s not very contoured or grippy but has good enough traction inside the ear. The light weight build makes these very stable and sturdier than most straight barrel IEMs.
HOW IS THE CABLE:
Fiio FD3 ships with a excellent looking cable, comparable to the Smokey Litz when it comes to quality and feel. I like this 4 core mono-crystalline copper cable housing a total of 120 wires with MMCX connectors. The cores have a layer of clear coat on them to protect it from minor scratches. It is not flashy or as premium looking as the DUNU Falcon Pro cable but this cable compliments these IEMs both aesthetically and sonically.
Build quality of this cable is very good. It is one of the more supple cables with a lower profile. It barely has any microphonics. Cable guides too are supple and comfortable. 3.5mm jack has some stress reliever but it is missing at the Y-splitter. There is a cable slider to keep things tidy.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
Being a single DD IEM with just 32ohm impedance, Fiio FD3 doesn’t need a lot of power or expensive DAC/amp to sound good. It is not picky and can be driven easily with entry-level DAPs and new generation mobile devices like Redmi Note 10 pro. It doesn’t lose its essence and basic sound quality irrespective of source used. The only loss is with a bit of dynamics, nearly 30% of stage and some micro details.
I do advise an entry level USB dongle for desirable performance it has very good potential and scale exceptionally with higher end DAC/amps like Burson Playmate 2 and Micro Signature but kind of unreasonable for an IEM at $109. Thanks to its flexibility FD3 is plenty good for commutes and portable use.
Sound quality, comparisons and conclusion in the next page.
FD3 uses it’s 12mm single D.L.C. DD with 1.5T flux density to it’s fullest potential and can outdo the more expensive FD5 in some departments. It has a similar acoustics prism and an semi open design but I barely feel the effect of the vents present on the back of MMCX port. It doesn’t have the incoherent feel of the FD5 and notes have more even emphasis and uniform timber across the spectrum. It does have a bit of V shape to it but doesn’t have a lot of coloration. The lower end is fuller and meatier while the mid range is more natural. Treble is less sparkly and doesn’t have the additional attack of the FD5.
I am using Redmi Note 10 pro and Qudelix 5k for this review while the IEM has the black or say balanced nozzle on it.
Effect of nozzles:
Unlike the case with FD5, FD3 doesn’t have any variation in nozzle sizes but one can definitely distinguish them from their rubber dampeners. The black nozzle is more balanced with better treble sparkle and extension while the red one, even when looks exactly same has a narrower opening and favors bass with more rumble compromising treble energy and extension.
If you felt the FD5’s bass was lacking extension and unnatural weight (wide bore is dry, narrow bore is boomy) the FD3 has bettered that. It has a more even and natural feel. It has very good sub bass depth and rumble, its isn’t as good as the TRI i3 pro though but has bigger body and similar punch. Most of the heft and weight comes from mid-bass. It is a bit more prominent but barely feels wooly or overpowering. Upper bass is not as voluminous and nicely blends into the lower mids. FD3 has very good texture to the note’s body, thanks to better poise and breathing space. And nor to forget details, for just over $100 it nearly outperforms IEMs as high as $150 like BQEYZ Summer. Yes, it doesn’t have the dynamics of the FD5 and can feel a bit monotonous. Decay speed plays a huge part in the quality of bass delivered by the FD3, it provides the required amount of precipitation to leave a nice impression.
As an entry level single DD, FD3 has a very good mid range with nice transparency and details at most parts but it still is in the V. Most of the notes let them be vocals or instruments are more consumer oriented with a bit more weight and thicker notes. Instruments sound less natural and a bit calmer as the spark and aggression is not to the forth. The lack of energy affects dynamics and notes height of some vocals and instruments in the region just before the upper mids. Male vocals placed closer to head and female vocals are not susceptible to this but sadly violins and guitars are unable to express themselves freely. Male vocal notes are more pleasing with some concentration at the finishing end which gives it a fuller but less natural body. Instruments in the upper mids are reasonably good with nice dynamics, energy and note height. The biggest positive is more open and uniform density of the upper mids compared to the cramped FD5.
FD3’s treble region has forward presentation with sparkly and lively notes. It has good attack but is playful in nature. Transition from upper mid to the lower treble region is very good with gradual rise in energy. It does not suppress this natural rise of energy, which makes it more open and cleaner with definition. There is good amount of energy but nothing that is uncomfortable. While the FD5 is a bit more aggressive and energetic with sharper notes the FD3 is a more sedated with a level headed feeling, delivering a more even and natural sparkle. It has good contrast between back and foreground notes too. I barely can complain about the extension.
Going up the spectrum notes a bit forward while instruments exhibit excellent details and transparency. Let it be pianos, trumpets or cymbals, they have good sharpness and finishing along with good transparency and timber. It does not compromise with resolution, clarity or imaging. Unlike most of the hybrid IEMs FD3 doesn’t have thin or lean bodied notes giving it a fuller and more pleasing feel.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
For an entry level price the Fiio FD3 has one of the biggest stage expansion. Most of the time what we get is bigger and taller notes close to the head but the lack of X-axis width makes them a bit less desirable but that is not the case here. FD3 has an excellent X-axis width with very good height but average Z-axis depth. It doesn’t have any compression or lack of air between instruments exhibiting its better tuning against the FD5. It has much more even density but the slight lack of height with upper mid gives it an hour glass like stage. If this can be rectified with better imaging, this IEM can totally demolish its competition.
Imaging is very good, a bit less pinpointed but has very good technicality. I like the dynamics and sonicality and when driven with good amount of power it provides very good cue placements.
VS DUNU Falcon Pro:
Falcon is a more mature and clinical sounding IEM with a slight bit of lack of micro details in between notes.
The DUNU with any of its nozzles is not a very bassy IEM but the mid bass can sounds a bit dry. The volume is and meatiness is better with the FD3.
Falcon Pro is less in the V with more even and uniform notes height (and transparency) compared to some suppression felt with the FD3’s mid range. Treble region is more extended and more sparkly with the Falcon Pro. The stage too is bigger and more spacious with better air between instruments with the DUNU.
Falcon Pro is a more technically capable and better IEM in most of the scenarios but is not as jolly or pleasing as the FD3 and I find the fit of FD3 to be more secure and stable.
VS TRI i3 PRO:
The i3 pro is a very good alternative at a more expensive price point.
It has deeper sub-bass and better rumble but the FD3 has bigger volume. Mid bass of the i3 is not meatier or fuller than FD3. TRI i3 pro too has a V shaped sound signature but has better micro details and transparency. It has better texture and accuracy across the spectrum. Treble is where the i3 pro pulls much further than the FD3 with excellent energy and clarity. It has grander notes and better extension too.
Stage size of the two IEMs are very similar. FD3 has an hourglass kind of stage while the i3’s treble stage is bigger than lower end.
VS BQEYZ SUMMER:
Summer too has a similar approach to note’s formation but is not V shaped.
It has similar sub-bass extension but lacks some rumble and the mid bass is not as meaty. FD3 has better texture and weight while Summer has been dynamics and control. Mid range is where the summer primes. It has better clarity and details but the notes sound a bit hollow with thicker bases resulting into an unclear floor. Finishing definition and in general resolution of the Summer is better. It does have a bit of aggression and some unnatural peaks. Treble is where the Summer fades away. It loses its composure while FD3 delivers better extension, accuracy with crispier notes.
Summer has a more rounded stage with a taller feel while the FD3 has a slightly smaller volume with an hourglass shape.
FD3 is an excellent IEM for just $109. If you are not looking for an exceptionally accurate and detailed sound (opt for DUNU SA3) it delivers fuller and cohesive notes making the experience more premium than what its retail price suggests. FD3 is not a slouch in any scenario. It doesn’t feel held back or struggle with any kind of music and has better technicality and transparency than the Campfire Honeydew, what else you want from a $109 IEM?
It doesn’t have a lot of weak points. Keep in mind that it’s not a very technical or analytical IEM and it will not back out while delivering one of best sound quality around $100.