Fiio has been on a run over the last two years, releasing products at a breakneck pace. We saw its second-ever pair of over-ear headphones with the Fiio FT3 and were impressed at its quality. Today, we’re looking at the second headphone in the FT line with the Fiio FT5, the company’s first-ever pair of planar magnetic headphones. It’s competitively priced at only $449 and aims to go head-to-head with industry stalwarts like Audeze and HIFIMAN but does it have what it takes to compete?
The good news is that, yes, it’s an impressive debut at this price. The sound quality is classically planar magnetic with crisp details and great layering but offers a warmer tone that stands in contrast to most of the competition at this price. It’s a solid pick, especially ahead of the holiday season when sales are likely to keep prices low.
- Current Price: $449 (Amazon, AliExpress)
- Key Features
- Large 90mm planar magnetic driver
- 6um ultra-thin diaphragm
- Micron-plated aluminum-silver alloy coils
- 20 neodymium magnets per driver
- High sensitivity and easy to power
- Lightweight magnesium aluminum alloy construction
- Open-backed design
- 4 types of audio plugs
- 2 types of earpads
- Headphone type: Open planar magnetic headphones
- Frequency response: 7Hz-40kHz
- Driver type: 90mm planar magnetic
- Driver material: PAR diaphragm + aluminum alloy coils
- Impedance: 36Ω
- 110dB/rms (@1kHz)
- 96dB/mW (@1kHz)
- Max power input: 2000mW
- Weight: About 456g (excluding cable)
- Earpad pressure: 4.0N±0.3N
- Cable length: About 1.5m
- Cable material: 392 wires of high-purity silver-plated monocrystalline copper
- Cable connector: Dual 3.5mm plugs on headphone end, with swappable audio plugs
Fiio has been a major player in the IEM, DAC, amp, and DAP worlds for years, so it was with some surprise that I learned its second FT headphone would be a planar magnetic. The FT3 used dynamic drivers and sounded great, and since that’s the most common type of headphone available today, that made sense. The planar magnetic market, though… that’s a different beast. It’s populated by some of the biggest names in audio. HIFIMAN and Audeze are probably the most well known, but amongst enthusiasts, there are many others that have set a high bar. Fiio would have to aim high.
Why they’ve approached this market makes sense, though. It’s proven to be an enterprising brand that’s willing to challenge the status quo and deliver exceptional quality for reasonable prices. Considering many HIFIMAN and Audeze headphones go for $700+ and extend well into the thousands, that’s a welcome proposition. It also saw that the headphone space just wasn’t as competitive as the earphone market. As Fiio explained in one of its background documents, it sees the space as being controlled by a smaller number of older brands. It’s prime for a shake-up.
Fiio FT5 - First Impressions and Key Features
Enter the FT5. Compared to the FT3, its design is much tamer; less aggressive but still stylized. Its frame is made of magnesium alloy, black tone, for a lightweight yet durable and sleek aesthetic. At 452 grams, no one would consider it light but its suspension headband distributes its weight well across the head to prevent hot spots. The open-back grilles are cut in a turbine-like pattern, allowing air to escape out the back and enhance the soundstage.
The FT5 uses 90mm planar dynamic drivers that are 6um thick. These aren’t the largest or the thinnest, but Fiio has emphasized balance throughout the design. Its 90mm size allows it to be lighter weight while still delivering a big sound with wide imaging. The Audeze LCD-X, in contrast, is nearly the same size and fits 106mm drivers yet weighs 612 grams (bigger drivers need bigger housings and more heavy magnets). The thickness of the diaphragm was settled upon as a balance between detail and distortion; planars are usually very low distortion but thinner materials are more likely to increase THD (total harmonic distortion), so 6um represented a good middle ground. I suspect cost was another concern here as the FT5 is much more affordable than the LCD-X.
The diaphragm is also coated in an aluminum silver alloy to lower its impedance. Compared to many planar magnetic headphones, the FT5 is easier to drive with an impedance of 36 ohms and a sensitivity of 96dB/mW. It’s possible to drive using a small dongle DAC (though a simple adapter will probably be too quiet). On my Xduuo XD05-Plus, I was able to achieve a pleasant volume on the lowest gain setting at only 10 o’clock on the dial. You’ll still need something to drive these, but a moderately powerful motherboard, interface, or DAC should do the trick nicely.
The headphones are also quite comfortable to wear. Fiio ships them with two different pairs of ear pads that simply snap and unsnap onto each earcup. A set of fabric pads comes pre-installed and offer a more balanced listening experience with a wider soundstage. A second set trimmed in protein leather is included in the box and enhanced the reach and slam of the bass. For my library, the leather pads were the better fit, balancing fun with soundstage and detail for rock, electronic music, classic, and of course, games.
It also comes with a great travel case and modular cable. The case is very similar to the one we saw with the FT3. It’s large, trimmed in brown protein leather and fabric lined to protect the headphones. There are slots in the top and bottom to hold the cable, as well as the swappable 4.4mm and XLR ends, as well as the 3.5mm and 6.25mm adapter. It’s a very complete package and a good value for how much you’re paying here.
Comfort-wise, the FT5 is a winner. It’s a large pair of headphones but they fit snugly around my average sized ears and sealed nicely. The earcups angle and pivot slightly, allowing you to adjust them to match your particular anatomy. The headphones aren’t light, which concerned me because I’m particularly susceptible to hot-spotting. But I didn’t need to worry. The floating suspension headband allowed me to wear them comfortable for nearly two hours before needing a break.
Overall, the FT5 arrives as a picture of balance. It’s well-made, not the lightest but not the heaviest. The drivers aren’t the biggest nor the smallest. There are two sets of pads to balance the sound to your taste. The design here really is about striking that middle-ground and finding the best of both worlds to over-deliver for the money.
Let’s see how they sound.
Fiio FT5 - Listening mImpressions
The Fiio FT5 embraces a U-shaped tuning with plenty of bass. I would describe the sound as being warmer than the LCD-X, Sundara, or Ananda, which gives it a unique position in the market. In my experience, much of what’s available around this price leans heavily into the mids and highs, highlighting the detail strengths of the driver. The FT5, on the other hand, you guessed it, balances detail with a fun, lush sound signature.
The low end reaches deep. I found the leather pads extended the sub-bass frequencies slightly, so there’s more rumble and more punch. These are the pads you’ll want to choose if you enjoy impact in your listening experience. The bass is fast and responds quickly to changes, perfect for explosions and kick drums. It’s not quite as textured as the Anandas or LCD-X but there’s still plenty to appreciate here in the sheer body of it. The fullness is a lot of fun and one of the best entry-level planar experiences for when you just want to kick back and enjoy your listening instead of getting lost in the higher-end detail — which is also present, mind you. This is just punchy.
The mid-range is where the vocals and many fundamental tones for many instruments reside. I found these to be quite clear and resolving, though do take some color from the low-end. Vocals, in particular, have a lushness to them that’s quite nice. Adele’s Rolling in the Deep is a perfect example of the character you can expect here. There’s a huskiness that matches very well: it’s not perfectly accurate but it is engaging and enjoyable.
Instruments, on the other hand, have a crispness and clarity that I really enjoyed. Acoustic guitars, strings, and pianos ring out with a natural clarity that cuts through everything else in the mix. For games and movies, this aids in hearing every element of the sound. Footsteps, gunshot, and engines come through with solid positional accuracy.
The treble is well done. This is the right side of the “U” in its U-shaped tuning and is clearly punched up. Fiio does roll off the ultra-highs to keep sharpness at bay and is successful there. I found the highs to be resolving so instruments sound realistic and natural. The elevated register also draws out fine details in the listening experience and gives a high-resolution impression. In Battlefield, even in the midst of an explosion, you’ll hear every tinkle of breaking glass.
The soundstage is quite good. They aren’t the widest I’ve heard but they have sufficient depth to craft an engaging listening experience with a deep sense of staging. Nothing is overdone here. It’s, wait for it… balanced. The staging here really seems to be catered toward a natural listening experience, as if you had speakers on either side of your desk.
Layering and separation is also good but isn’t as expansive as something like the Sundara. I suspect that the warmth in the bass narrows the gap between the layers of sound. It doesn’t sound congested but it’s exceptionally spacious either. You’ll be able to hear everything but the holographic quality of sound isn’t quite as rich.
For pure gaming, I think these headphones are very good. The positional accuracy is detailed enough that you’ll have an edge over players with a standard gaming headset and its rich bass and high-end detail will make it much more fun and engaging. The soundstage is wide enough that you can get lost in your game world and only gets better with Dolby Atmos.
Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts
The Fiio FT5 is a great headphone at this price. At $449 to $499 depending on the sale, it offers a sound signature that really isn’t common among planar magnetics at this price. If you’ve heard about “planar bass,” something like the Sundara or Ananda or LCD-X aren’t going to get you there without the help of EQ. The FT5 gives you that taste of what these drivers are capable of without sacrificing detail, resolution, or comfort.
Is it better than those headphones? Against the Sundara, I would say certainly. Against the Ananda and LCD-X, that’s a tougher call and comes down much heavier on personal sound preferences. What I can say with confidence is that if you’re considering your very first planar magnetic headphone and you’re coming from more mainstream dynamic sets, the FT5 is very likely going to be a better match for your tastes. It’s an audiophile headphone that doesn’t lean into an audiophile tuning nearly as heavily as the competition, which makes it much more fun for the average listener to sit down with.
Whether you’re playing games, getting lost in music, or a little bit of both, the Fiio FT5 is a very solid headphone and an impressive debut for Fiio into the planar magnetic headphone market.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Articles may include affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission to help support the site. Authors do not earn affiliate revenue or commissions.