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Fiio FH7S Hybrid IEM Review

Solid upgrade from the FH5s

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Fiio has been on an absolute tear this year, releasing new products at a breakneck pace. Today, we’re looking at its latest in-ear monitor, the Fiio FH7S, a new hybrid IEM that builds upon the FH5S we reviewed last summer. It features a hybrid design composed of a large dynamic driver, four balanced armatures, and proprietary technology to deliver a great listening experience. 

Fiio has listened to feedback from the FH5S and have made big improvements with this release. There is no sharpness or sibilance, improved bass, soundstage, and imaging, making them a more well-rounded, better sounding set overall. At $399, this sci-fi inspired set marks a big improvement from its predecessor.

Specifications

Fiio FH7S - First Impressions and Key Features 

The Fiio FH7S is the latest entry in Fiio’s line-up of hybrid IEMs. Like other entries in the “H” line-up, it’s composed of a mix of balanced armatures and a single large dynamic driver. This mix of driver technologies lends the set a unique timbre and an improved ability to tune the earphones for a high-quality audiophile sound that’s also fun for the mainstream. 

The FH7S shares a similar design with the FH5S, as well as much of Fiio’s proprietary acoustic technology. On the exterior, the semi-open back return, but while the FH5S looked like dragonscale, the FH7S adopts a more sci-fi aesthetic. The implementation is better here, leading to a more open and spacious sound. Those open backs do let in more sound, however, so they’re not the best at isolation.

The build quality is as high-end as ever. The shells are made from CNC-milled aluminum and have a midnight blue finish. The grilles are silver, but look closely and you’ll gold accents along the bottom edge of each opening. The exterior shape is pretty angular, but flip it over, and where the interior contacts your ear is smoothly finished. There’s also a small vent port to let air escape for a more comfortable fit.

Each earpiece is topped with an MMCX connection that allows the cable to detach. Fiio’s MMCX connectors are excellent. They’re robust and don’t detach easily, but a special tool is included in the box that pops them right off. While I still prefer the ease of a 2-pin connection, I like that the FH7S can rotate on its connection to better route the cable around my ear.

Inside those shells, the FH7S uses a five-driver array in each earpiece. Bass is handled by a large 13.6mm dynamic driver, whereas the mids and highs are split evenly between the four Knowles balanced armatures. 

It’s worth taking a bit of time to explore these further, so let’s do that. The dynamic driver is large and able to move a lot of air, so you can expect powerful bass response. But it also uses a diamond-like carbon diaphragm and has been well-tuned, so it’s fast, tight, and well-done without overwhelming the other frequencies. 

Mids are handled by a pair of customized balanced armatures. Fiio collaborated with Knowles on the design of these drivers with the goal of creating smooth and natural transitions between the bass, mids, and highs, while also delivering rich and transparent vocals. Highs are covered by the second set of BAs, which were selected for their airiness and soundstage. 

The FH5S was sometimes critiqued for its brightness. While that didn’t bother me, Fiio took it to heart and implemented a notch filter to reduce sibilance. The FH7S is noticeably less bright in side-by-side comparisons but still sounds lively. It also makes use of the company’s S. TURBO design for enhanced bass performance. More on all of that later, but these are definitely successful. 

Unlike the FH5S, there are no tuning switches to customize the sound this time. Instead, we have a set of tuning filters designed to enhance bass, treble, or deliver a balanced listening experience. These make a difference you can hear right away; it’s less subtle than tuning switches, and give you some latitude to adjust the sound without completely moving away from the normal sound signature.

As has been the case with every major Fiio release, there’s a plentiful array of accessories included in the package. The cable is excellent. It’s soft and flexible and is woven from a thick 8-strand Litz braid. It comes with a 3.5mm termination installed out of the box, but this can be unscrewed and swapped out for a 4.4mm plug if you’d rather listen from a balanced source.

Fiio also includes a wide selection of tips so you can find the perfect fit, including a brand new selection of their own design. These tips, called HS18 tips, are made from a very thin silicone, which makes them feel exceptionally soft. I preferred them, even over the included Spin-Fit premium tips and assortment of other silicones. Fiio also includes its excellent carrying case with the package.

Fiio FH7S  - Fit and Comfort

Fit and comfort with this set is exceptional. The earphones are medium sized but don’t stick out of the ears much. Using the HS18 tips, I was able to find a comfortable seal quickly and easily using my standard Medium (R) and Small (L) sizes. More impressive is that the HS18s and FH7S are able to provide an effective seal without creating the usual pressure found on other earphones (including the FH5S and FD7). This can be a bit disorienting, and I had to double check my seal, as sound still made its way in, but it’s a testament to the softness of the tips and effectiveness of the semi-open back design.

Fiio FH7S - Listening Impressions 

The Fiio FH7S isn’t a difficult IEM to drive, but as usual with these premium hybrids, it scales well with power and I would recommend giving it more juice than a built-in headphone jack can provide. A simple dongle or audio interface will do the trick, so you don’t need to spend a lot here. 

With power, these earphones are very balanced. They have improved bass response coming from the FH5S and less sharpness in the treble without losing much detail in the process. The technicalities are also improved, with better imaging, layering, and soundstage. The tuning with the balanced tips still leans toward the brighter sound but it’s tamer and better done overall.

For my tests, I compared them directly with the FH5S, as well as the FD7, which uses a single dynamic driver. I included the FD7 as a “tier comparison” across Fiio’s line-up, but also because the the bass tuning of the FH7S is closer to the FD7 than the FH5S. 

Bass: Bass performance is mid-bass focused. There is good sub-bass reach on these. D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig is a good showcase of the extension these earphones offer. The emphasis is definitely on bass guitars and kick drums, however, which makes these a good fit for rock. Adding the bass tips cuts the treble slightly and warms up the sound overall. It doesn’t seem to raise the bass on its own but increases how much bass is perceived, but provides a welcome bit of warmth for hip-hop like Riot by Tom MacDonald.

This tuning is very good for games. There’s enough sub-bass presence to give explosions and cinematic moments texture and rumble. The mid-bass gives a sense of impact and body to these moments. 

Mids: The mid-tuning is excellent. Vocals are stepped forward but are smooth. Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain captures her syrupy, soulful voice perfectly. The Scientist by Coldplay is another showpiece. Chris Martin’s voice sounds natural and the background chorus is so lifelike, the song took on a vocal sweetness I haven’t experienced before.

Mid-range instruments like guitars are rich in detail. They’re bright enough to have crunch and edge. Pianos sound poignant. The Scientist blends these together well, drawing out the acoustic guitar in the background. Heavier tracks like Right Side of the Bed by Atreyu sound amazing on this set, with just enough edge to the guitars, clarity in the highs, and punch in the lows.

Treble: Treble on this set is very well tuned. The highs have sparkle and air — especially so with the balanced and treble tips, less so with the bass tips — but aren’t sharp. At high volumes, they could potentially be fatiguing, but there is clear improvement here from the FH5S. Cymbals have realistic impact and decay. Hi-hats and percussion pop out but aren’t stabbing. Instead, they keep to their place and enhance the tracks.

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: This is perhaps where I see the most improvement. There is a clear upgrade in technical performance, soundstage, and imaging from the FH5S. Layering is enhanced, and there’s clearer definition and verticality between instruments and sound sources. You can better pick out their location in the headstage, too, so if you plan to use these for gaming, you’ll find that they offer better positionality. The soundstage is also expanded with better width and depth. 

Detail retrieval on the FH5S was good and the FH7S is on par, but depends on the nozzle you’re choosing. With the balanced and treble tips, fine details are more clearly audible while the bass tips rolls that back in favor of a warmer sound signature. I don’t hear a big upgrade in this department but instead carrying through what started with the FH5S.

Compared to the FH5S: Mids are a bit more forward on the FH7S but guitars are don’t have the same edge to them. There is better layering and articulation in fine details. Soundstage is better with slightly increased depth and width. There is also better detail and texture in the bass. Percussion sounds a bit more forward on the FH7S but doesn't sound sharp or sibilant. 

Compared to the FD7: The soundstage on the FH7S is a bit tighter than the FD7 and the sound is a bit warmer overall. I prefer the bass presentation on the FD7 more: it’s even tighter and better presented thanks to that beryllium driver, be the tuning on the FH7S is higher in the mid-bass. The FH7S is more airy overall. The FD7 has a more cohesive sound thanks to its single driver and the technical performance and detail retrieval are definitely superior, befitting its price.

Gaming: The FH7S is a solid choice to use when gaming. The tuning lends itself well to entertainment outside of music and the enhanced soundstage, layering, and positionality all enhance the atmospheric qualities of single-player gamers and positional awareness in multiplayer shooters. As always, turn on Dolby Atmos for the best experience, but even stock, these provide a satisfying gaming experience without any major drawbacks.

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

At $399, the FH7S is coming against some steep competition. It faces off against the Moondrop Blessing 2, Mangird Tea 2, and Yanyin Canon. All are great IEMs with a lot of pedigree. I have a soft spot for Fiio’s tuning and design, and really enjoyed the FH7S and would easily place the FH7S amongst them as some of the best earphones at this price. 

Where the FH7S comes out ahead is the mid-range. Fiio’s custom drivers really do wonders in this register, making vocals and midrange instruments come forth and shine. For rock, metal, and acoustic, the FH7S’s midrange is excellent. I also have to commend Fiio for making such a big leap in layering and imaging from the FH5S, it’s the kind of upgrade you notice immediately and makes you feel great about your purchase. 

At this price point, you’re really getting into different flavors among many great sounding IEMs. The FH7S has its unique tuning and presentation, and what it does, it does well. I really enjoyed these, and if you liked what that FH5S began but want a more refined, more capable version of it, this is an excellent upgrade.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.0Great
Pros
  • Balanced tuning that addresses feedback from the FH5S
  • Forward bass and detailed mids make it a great fit for rock and metal
  • Improved layering, imaging, and soundstage
  • Solid choice as a gaming IEM
  • Robust, striking sci-fi inspired design
Cons
  • Bass nozzles seems to roll back treble rather than increase bass
  • Good detail retrieval but doesn't really upgrade the FH5S much
  • Stiff competition at this price makes it feel slightly expensive


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight