Oh, FiiO...How they woo us with their high fidelity sound at affordable prices. The company’s engineers also seem to be on steroids, given how many new products they produce on a consistent basis. Now, FiiO is growing its FA series and has released a more affordable alternative to the quad balanced armature driver, FA7. At 100 bucks, what can you expect in terms of sound, fit and design? Let’s take a closer look in this FiiO FA1 IEM Review.
IN the BOX
It’s interesting that FiiO’s earbuds tend to have better ergonomics than some of the fanciest IEMs on the market. And the FA1 is no exception. A snug fit with great sound isolation, these over-the-ear buds are comfortable to wear even through long listening sessions. Light too.
FiiO teamed up with Knowles to produce a single balanced armature driver for the FA1. And these earbuds are easy to drive, with an impedance of 15 ohms and a sensitivity of 111dB. The frequency range is a pretty standard 20Hz - 40kHz. But we’ll see how that translates to sound below.
The detachable MMCX cable, which is made from copper-plated silver looks quite thick and sturdy for an IEM at this price point. The only complaint I have is the stiffness of the MMCX connection. My little lady hands just weren’t tough enough to detach the left earpiece. Luckily, I had a strong, handsome man beside me to take on the task. What would we do without you boys? Stick to 2-pin IEMs, I guess.
The bass presence leans towards the more neutral side. So, you won’t get a huge amount of power or punch from the low-end. And when you pair this characteristic with the FA1’s high frequency extension, the bass response feels a little light when listening to pop and hip-hop tracks. That being said, the level of clarity is fantastic. So, acoustic instruments sound natural with plenty of articulation.
You can expect good presence in this range with a relatively even balance between the low and high mids. (Maybe a slight boost in the upper mids). And because the low mids get fair attention, you’ll get an expansive and full-bodied feel that covers the entire spectrum of the mix in this range. So, rock, pop-rock and electronica tracks will have plenty of meat on the bone.
The level of separation is particularly impressive for an IEM at this price point. And if you listen to a lot of folk music or guitars in general, you’ll appreciate the tidy, well delineated sound of the strums. And with respect to tracks with heavy arrangements, the layering of instruments is quite clean. Transparency remains good in this range as well. Classical strings revealed ample substance and nuance. So, again, you’ll hear a very realistic timbre and tonality with respect to acoustic instruments.
Listening to pop, percussion in this range is very crisp and tight, making for a snappy and energetic track. At the same time, folks with sensitivity to high frequencies shouldn’t find these earbuds fatiguing. Even listening to Miles Davis was almost bearable. And because the clarity is so top notch, my girl, Rihanna sounded super breathy, while the subtle modulations in her voice were nicely highlighted.
The imaging is pretty solid on the FA1. In particular, you’ll get a lot of height. And instrument placement across the vertical axis feels precise. You’ll notice less accuracy in terms of depth, but the spaciousness is certainly there. And all in all, the soundstage has quite a multidimensional feel for this price point.
Lots of transparency, great separation and a sweeping midrange makes for a satisfying IEM. That being said, some folks might feel hungry for a little more low-end oomph and thickness. So, this isn’t a bass-head’s IEM. But if you’re a sucker for clean detail and a full-bodied track, the FA1 is an ideal choice. And considering the FA1's beautifully contoured shell design and detachable MMCX cable, I think FiiO offers a very fair deal for $100.
Pick up the FiiO FA1 for the best price here.