Fiio is one of the most popular and renowned Chinese brands in the market. They have vast range of audio products starting from cables to dekstop DAC/amps. It was Fiio that basically introduced the Audiophile word to high resolution DAPs and portable transport DAC/amps. Back then it was Sony, Cowon or Fiio. Their X5 still has a special place in our hearts. Fiio gradually ventured into main stream IEMs too with the F9. The still have some of the most popular DD and hybrid IEMs in the market. Read about their flagship hybrid IEM FH9 here. After tasting success in most of the disciplines Fiio ventured into desktop DAC/amps and spakers couple of years ago. They have a good range of USB dongles under their belt too. The flagship KA5 is one of the best USB dongle under $200. Read more about it here. What they had not tasted success with was headphones. They did had a BT headphone under their belt few years ago but that didn’t got enough popularity and it’s hard to please Audiophiles with a wireless product.
What they are going to introduce are a few high quality headphones with their FT lineup. What I have here is the FT3. Priced at $299 it houses a 50mm DLC drivers and targets the toughest price range in the market dominated by Sennheiser and Hifiman. I will compare it with the Sivga Luan and Dekoni Blue.
Get one from these links:
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES:
Fiio ships it’s IEMs with some of the best set of accessories and it isn’t holding back here either. The retail box has a color radiance like their IEM retail boxes. Open the box and just like most of the headphones, we get all the accessories placed inside a hard sided brown carry case. It looks cool but did it had to be brown? The best part of the list of accessories is the cable. It has swappable terminations and the 4.4mm jack tags along. And guess what, we get a 4.4mm female to 4pin XLR adaptor in the box. The only down side might be it’s length. It’s 3M and for those of us who like to sit at the desktop, it’s a bit too long. I have used the cable tie to good use for my use case.
Another excellent addition to the package is the extra hybrid ear pads. These pads on their own can cost as much as $20 and getting one in the box is always a win.
HOW’S THE CABLE:
Finally.. finally we are getting a good quality stock cable from an main stream brand. I am not talking about the cores but the external braiding makes it look much more premium than the competitors. Unlike Hifiman, Sennheiser, AKG or most of the headphone brands Fiio has paired the FT3 with a more durable and strong looking dual core cable and it looks very good too. There is little to no memory issues and it’s softer and supple to touch. No microphonics to worry about either. Parts used on this cable are made out of metal, are minimal in size but are of very good quality. All the connectors look good and compliment the headphone aesthetically. Swapping the termination is simple too.
I have one minor complaint though. I know brands like to provide their pro grade headphones with long cables for the sound producers and movie watcher but believe me when I say this, this 3M/10ft long cable will not be fully utilized by most of us. In any case, it’s a very good cable. Anyone will be happy with it.
You know what.. This is the sturdiest headphone I have put on my head, ever. No other headphone, irrespective of the price feels as sturdy and solid as the FT3. Fiio has nailed the build quality. Everything is put together with superior precision. The frame is made out of metal and has minimal moving parts. The cup hinges are put together superbly. The whole headphone barely makes any noise. The spring loaded headband too is made with high quality material. We get velour kind of texture on the inner side while the upper part has a leather type finish. We get a layer of faux leather sewn on the headband, enhancing its aesthetics. I would have liked it even more if it had “Fiio” written on it. One very good thing is, it doesn’t exert much pressure on head. In fact it has fairly low clamping force but its extra heft provides better stability, keeping the headphone in its place.
Another excellent feature is incorporated in the metal cups. Unlike any other headphone in this price, we get a pair of spring loaded cups, providing a premium experience. Back plate of the cups look nice too. It’s tornado like pattern can be a bit flashy for mature buyers but it still look very good.
If I have to nitpick, I will complain about the smaller cup size and shallower depth. It’s decent but could have been a bit bigger.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
You can read the specs and it’s not going to win you any prizes if you guessed that this headphone needs good amount of power to sound good. With an impedance of 350ohm this is a hard to drive headphone and I suggest at least 200mw at 350ohm to get good sound. Please dare not to drive it out of USB dongles powered by the mobile phone. They will make this headphone sound loud but FT3 will be screechy, sharp and annoyed.
I tried using a handful of dongles and except the Questyle M15 no other managed to make the FT3 sound decent. I plugged it into the Sound Blaster X5 and the stage opens up beautifully!! The thinness gets better and it sounds pleasing and pleased. So, feed it, and enjoy!!
Fiio is well known for their IEMs. They used to be moody, a bit too temperamental, they still are a bit but the improvements with their new products are huge. Their latest IEMs are some of the best in their respective tuning disciplines. The FH9 has to be one of the best V shaped IEMs under $800 while the new FD3 is one of the best bassy IEMs around $100.
Fiio never had an Audiophile grade headphone and I don’t have a reference point within the brand but FT3 is a highly capable headphone. Unlike the F9 (their first mainstream audiophile grade IEMs) the FT3 isn’t marred by any obvious flaws. It has V shaped signature with a reasonably emphasis to the vocals while delivering a good balance of everything else. It does need a bit of power to sound at its best because of its higher impedance value but if driven reasonably, it has an enjoyable signature. What I like is its details and it’s reasonable (V/W shaped) dip in the mid range than the FH9.
I am using Sound Blaster X5 for this review.
This DD doesn’t try to hide. Its sub-bass extension easily gives away the driver type and it’s superb satisfying. Open back headphones usually sound a bit crisp and daft footed but that’s not the case here. FT3 doesn’t want to be lost in the crowd. It delivers bass notes with plenty of substance. It’s not bassy heavy but isn’t bass shy either. Sub bass in its own isn’t huge with the area of impact but has the heft which makes the whole experience delightful. Mid bass is a bit less full and meaty in the upper-mid bass region but that’s perfectly fine as the lower and mid-mid bass has the required amount of punch and weight. I was not expecting an open back headphone to sound this impactful and punchy. The upper bass nicely blends into the mids without being hard or forward.
Dynamics are very good. It does have a bit of softening but nowhere close to being monotonous or repetitive. It nicely manages the after decay weight and delivers an aptly tight and accurate note. The decay is slightly on the faster side but still has some of the best rumble and focused punch. I was expecting a slightly dry timber but this headphone has a surprisingly juicy tonality and timber.
If you have read some of my reviews, you know that I love the mid range and this headphone is either a hit or miss here. It has very good presentation for Crisp, forward and lightweight notes of both vocals and instruments. Clarity is never an issue but One needs high quality tracks to extract the best out of this headphone. If not, there is a bit of thinning of notes which are short and not nicely grounded. These notes sound like they are drained. Some instruments in the upper-mid are suppressed and thinned too. I am not very happy with the lack of throatiness with male vocals but female vocals are super good thanks to the better accuracy and sharpness. Vocal notes have thiner mid body but the finishing region is wider. In any case we do not miss out on texture. Basically, notes that aren’t projected higher or are a bit low on energy suffer a bit.
It seems like I have emphasized the weakness a bit too much but this headphone is much better than this. It has excellent clarity and details with very good air between instruments. Unlike the Sivga Luan we get better layering and separation too. There is no upper mid devil here except the usually thin notes with less accurate timber.
I will start with the positives first. FT3 has one of the best treble range under $300. It’s lively, agile and engaging and doesn’t have unnecessary aggression or sibilance to worry about. Sweet, crisp and delicate details are portrayed in high quality. Treble extension is excellent with superb presence in the upper treble region too. We get some of the best layering and separation too. Mid treble too is done nicely. We get superb positioning and air between instruments. While the FT3 has a more energetic upper treble its lower and mid treble aren’t as tall or energetic. They have nice sparkle and finishing energy but they aren’t extra on level with the rest of the spectrum. Layering and separation are very good with plenty of air between instruments. Treble extension is as good as it get at this price.
So.. The rosy parts are behind us, let’s look at a few of the down side. Notes aren’t accurate with timber or tonality, they do not sound natural. Notes are thinner and shorter than expected in the lower treble region and even when this leads to cleaner and clear notes the stage feels a bit hollow-ish. I suggest a thick source to take care of these issues.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
Oh, this is one of the highlight of this headphone. Excellent expansion in every end but the short and thin notes in the upper mid and lower treble compromise the height or else we have a decently tall and well expanded stage which has a wider feel with very good expansion in the X-axis. We get very good imaging with good quality sonics and transient effects. Notes have excellent transient effect and cue placement is superb. Notes enjoy some of the cleanest space which enhances their definition, transparency and resolution. Cue placements are super accurate with one of the best precision and accuracy.
VS Sivga Luan:
Options options options!! We have a lot of options these days and a lot of distractions too. Should I get this, should I get that.. It’s getting more and more confusing with each passing day.
What most of us want is a headphone that does it all. Is this Fiio’s Answer to this? Yes, they have tried and succeeded to a good extent. FT3 has a W shaped signature and sounds good with most of the genres and fits most of the use cases. It has very good bass presence, accurate mid range and aptly clean and inoffensive treble with a well expanded stage. If we look beyond SQ, this headphone looks very good and the build quality is superb. It has no chinks in its armor and its spring loaded cups are a welcome addition too.
It has very good bass presence, accurate mid range and aptly clean and inoffensive treble with a well expanded stage.