Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Pros: Build Quality and Cable, Natural tuning, Punchy bass with quick decay, good detail retrieval and separation.
Cons: Treble can get a little sibilant at times, soundstage a little unnatural, given silicone tips don’t pair well with earphones.
Driver setup and price: Hybrid dual-driver configuration — 13.6mm Dynamic Driver and a Knowles 33518 Balanced Armature Driver
Price: $69 (USD)
Disclaimer: This review is done of my own accord and I purchased this set at full price from Aliexpress.
The Fiio FH1S has a hybrid dual driver configuration, with a 13.6mm dynamic driver and a Knowles 33518 Balanced armature driver. This configuration is somewhat similar to the Jade Audio EA3 which was released prior to the FH1S. The FH1S come in various colours, and you probably would have no trouble finding one to fit your style or collect them all… if you must.
It is priced around SGD$95-100 and hence comes under the increasingly competitive sub $100 budget IEM category. We shall be taking a look at whether the FH1S is a worthy contender at its price and compare it to some other IEMs.
Packaging and Accessories (Score: 7/10)
Nothing fancy about the packaging, but the presentation is really good considering this is an entry-level IEM from Fiio and the unboxing experience was pretty good.
The waterproof-ish plastic case included was a nice inclusion at this price point (This is something the Jade Audio EA3, its sibling/clone, doesn’t come with). However, a little complaint is that although the bottom half of the plastic case is rubber padded, the top is hard plastic and if you put this case in your bag and it might scratch the earpieces if it jiggles around in your bag. If you intend to bring this with you daily I would consider switching to a soft case.
Taking a few points off from the score in this area due to the tips provided. Being a little picky since they do provide 2 complete sets in 3 different sizes and a comply-like foam tips which would fit most people. See the Overall Sound section for my comments about the silicone tips.
The cable that comes with the earphones is a 9/10 (I dare say a 10/10 at this price point!). I have not yet seen any other earphone come with a cable this good in the sub $100 range.
Build and Fit (Score: 9/10)
Not gonna lie, I’m tempted to give this a high score just based on the colour alone (I LOVE this shade of purple) but read on and see why I feel this set deserves every bit of the 9.5 in this section
The shell of the earphones is made from a translucent plastic that feels sturdy in the hand and the buds do have some weight to them and do not feel fragile or cheap by any means. I liked being able to see the internals through the plastic and the celluloid faceplate design is also really unique and pretty. Basically, the FH1S has no business looking this good at its price.
The connector is a 2-pin connector, a change from the MMCX connector used in its predecessor, the FH1. Most of you might find the 2-pin more durable, but this is really a toss of the coin, depending on your preference or which you happen to have more cables to change out. But I’m choosing to stick to the stock cable since it’s a nice cable and I’m quite ambivalent to the choice of connector.
The only reason why I would take off 0.5 points as the nozzle is quite a bit wider than most earbuds and some of you with smaller ears/ear canals may have some difficulty with the fit. Moreover, you might face some difficulty fitting your own tips if you do not fancy the stock tips/foams.
I really love the fit of the FH1S! One of the standouts for this IEM. Although I can’t speak for everyone, these are the first earpieces to fit so well in my ears in a long while. I would say I have average to slightly smaller than average ears.
Sound (Score: 7/10)
The following sound impressions are obtained from listening to various genres of music from the following sources. I did not find amping necessary since it is relatively easy to drive.
- Fiio Q1MkII
- Shanling M3s
Albums I listened to
- Boney M.’s Gold – 20 Super Hits
- McFly’s 10th Anniversary Concert – Royal Albert Hall (Live)
- Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin
Bass (Score: 8/10)
Bass is punchy but not overwhelming. At times I would be even wishing there was a tad more volume to the bass as the bass has a really nice texture. However, I would say that it is nice that the bass here doesn’t overpower the music but provides enough thump to keep the music lively. Definitely not anemic or lacking. The texture is pleasant and decays relatively fast with little mid-bass bleed. Overall the bass is still slightly boosted but much less than one would expect from the phrase “V-shaped)
Mids (Score: 7/10)
The mids are not really recessed and have their own space to shine. The mids are not exactly the star of the show here but are definitely not compromised upon. Fiio has done a great job in keeping the tonality really natural and that the mids still manage to sound really pleasant despite being boosted. I would say female vocals shine more than male vocals in this set for me, with exceptions on some sets the higher female vocals can get a tad bit fatiguing. On some tracks, the vocals may sound a little warped due to the boost in the bass
Treble (Score: 6.5/10)
Views may vary over this area depending on what you may like. If you are treble sensitive, you may find the treble a little on the harsh side. The treble is boosted quite a bit but not in an unpleasant manner. It really helps bring out the micro-details and keeps the music really engaging yet natural. To me, I really liked the treble on many tracks and it really was a cherry on top of the cake, providing a little sparkle and shimmer into the music. However, I know that some may find the cymbals slightly sibilant on some tracks. I have no problems listening to this set for an hour, however, if you’re looking for a set that you would want to use for hours on end and you happen to be treble-sensitive, you may want to take this into consideration.
Soundstage and Separation
The soundstage is a little weird on this one. Although the treble extends up pretty high, the width can seem a little narrow and constricted on some tracks. I would have preferred the highs to be a little airier for it to be more natural.
Separation is exceptional and impressive, and it punches way above its price in this aspect. One of this earphone’s strong suits for sure.
To me, this was a pleasant and refreshing change from the usual Harman target tuning. Something worth noting is that tip selection does happen to have quite a noticeable effect on the sound. Treble may be a little harsh on the stock grey silicone tips and many people have recommended using your third-party tips which may help in making the treble much more universally enjoyable. I have tried the foam tips provided and they seem to sound much better than the 2 sets of silicon tips (the red and grey are the “bass” tips while the all-grey ones are the “vocal” tips).
Fiio FH1S (SGD$100) vs BGVP DM6 (SGD$220)
The sound here is a little reminiscent of the BGVP DM6 but what I wished the DM6 would do for me. The DM6 had a much stronger V-shape, with stronger and a greater emphasis on the lower end. The FH1S has a gentler bass response but I prefer the bass texture and presentation on the FH1S. The highs are also sweeter on the FH1S although they are pronounced on both. For me, there are no weird/excessive peaks in the upper midrange or treble region.
The overall sound signature of the FH1S is also much more pleasing than the BGVP DM6 as the DM6 seems to be much more sibilant on many tracks and making it a less versatile set than the FH1S. Both present micro-details very well with the DM6 edging the FH1S out in this aspect given the DM6’s driver configuration. The soundstage and imaging on the DM6 are also better.
Overall, I would say that the FH1S matches up well against the DM6 especially when you take the price difference into consideration. Hence, you may want to consider the FH1S if you have been looking for something more affordable than the DM6.
Fiio FH1s (SGD$100) vs predecessor Fiio FH1 (SGD$135)
A little disclaimer: I do not currently own this set and impressions are based on my memory of it while I had my hands on them.
The FH1S is technically superior to the FH1 although they have a similar hybrid configuration. Although the FH1S is the successor of the FH1, their sound signatures are very different. The FH1 has a much more consumer-friendly tuning, such as having a greater emphasis on the lows and a more rolled-off treble. However, the FH1S seems to have a more Hifi-ish sound signature. One interesting difference to note is that the FH1 comes with 2 cables, one balanced 2.5mm and one standard 3.5mm, whereas the FH1S only comes with 1 standard 3.5mm cable. However, the cable on the FH1S has a much better build quality.
At an even lower price point than the FH1, yet still managing to put out some impressive build and sound quality, the FH1S possess serious value and shouldn’t be easily dismissed.
I would say the Fiio FH1s are decent if you’re thinking of taking their first step into the world of “hifi-music” without breaking the bank, or to anyone looking for a beater set to bring about on your daily commutes. It is not a game-changer or something that’s going to blow people’s minds but comes across as a reliable IEM. It’s a decent performer for its price and manages to look pretty on top of all the things that it manages to do well. Kudos to Fiio for the change in tuning to fix the shortcomings of the original FH1. However, some quirks in the tonality are holding this back. Do leave a comment if you agree/disagree with my impressions of this set or have any questions about it!
Overall Grade: C-
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