Wireless noise-cancelling headphones have been around for quite a while now. But the popular Chi-Fi brands have been concentrating more on TWS earbuds rather than ANC headphones. FiiO is mostly known for its portable audio solutions, particularly their portable players and earphones. Now they are expanding into the headphone space so, in today’s review, I’m checking out the FiiO EH3 NC headphones.
The EH3 NC has up to 50 hours of battery life, LDAC aptX Low Latency and aptX HD support, one-touch NFC and 45 mm double-sided titanium-plated diaphragms. Sounds promising right? Let’s dive in.
FiiO official website: https://fiio.com/Home
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
FiiO EH3 NC Review
- aptX HD, aptX Low Latency and LDAC support
- Very lightweight and comfortable
- Up to 50 hours battery life
- Extra functionality via FiiO Music app
- Also works with PC as a USB DAC
- Some loss of audio quality when ANC is enabled
Package and Accessories
The EH3’s outer sleeve looks quite elegant with its dark grey colour and clear image of the headphones on the front. In the top right corner are the dual Hi-Res certifications, one for Audio and one for Hi-Res Audio Wireless.
Once you remove the sleeve you see the actual box which is plain black except for a white FiiO logo on the front. Inside this box, you’ll find a semi-rigid carrying case and a quick start guide. Everything else is inside the carrying case so let’s do a quick list of everything in the box.
- FiiO EH3 NC headphones
- Carrying case
- Quick start guide
- 3.5 mm auxiliary cable
- USB Type-C cable
We always love to see a carrying case included and this one is pretty good. It’s rigid enough to offer decent protection but still lightweight. Additionally, there’s a nylon pocket on the back which is perfect for holding the aux and USB cables.
Build Quality and Design
So the first thing I noticed when I saw the EH3 was that they are foldable with swivelling earcups. This is great for a couple of reasons: first of all, it means you can comfortably sit them around your neck or place them flat on a desk etc. Secondly, it means that they become quite compact when folded, which is why the carrying case is small and conveniently portable.
The next thing you’ll notice is that these headphones are very lightweight, coming in at just around 293g. This is thanks to an all-plastic build but despite being plastic they feel solid in the hands and fairly robust.
Adjustment sliders on each side are numbered and have a satisfying click at each position. The earcups are a glossy plastic material with carbon fibre pattern which looks sleek but is somewhat prone to marks or scratches.
On the underside of the left earcup is the USB Type-C port for charging the headphones. Additionally, you can connect the headphones to your PC and use them as an external USB DAC.
All the controls can be found on the right earcup and include the power button, ANC on/off switch plus the volume and multi-function buttons. Here you’ll also find 4 LED indicators that display battery and operational status. Lastly, the 3.5 mm plug is here too which allows you to use the headphones wired without Bluetooth.
The physical buttons are responsive and have a solid tactile click. They’re intuitive and function as expected. All your music playback and phone call controls are here. Additionally, a double click on the multi-function button activates your phone’s voice assistant.
Comfort and Passive Noise Isolation
A combination of lightweight materials, low clamping force and plush protein leather earpads make the EH3 NC an extremely comfortable headphone. Interestingly, FiiO has chosen to make additional breathable mesh earpads which can be bought separately. The padding on the underside of the headband is nice and thick too so they don’t build-up pressure on the top of your head.
Passive noise isolation is quite good, even without the active noise cancelling. Sitting here at my desk with music playing at a moderate volume I can’t hear anything from the television nearby or the clattering of my mechanical keyboard’s keys.
Bluetooth Connectivity and Call Quality
The EH3 NC’s Bluetooth connectivity is rock solid and among the best I’ve seen on a portable headphone. Using Qualcomm’s flagship CSR8675 Bluetooth chip with Bluetooth 5.0, the EH3 NC not only maintains a great connection but it also supports Hi-Res audio codecs.
Pairing is quick and easy using either the Bluetooth menu or one-touch NFC. Regardless of the source (smartphone or DAPs), the EH3 NC didn’t have any cutouts or drops during testing. I can leave my smartphone on my desk and walk into the kitchen (thick brick wall in between) and the playback continues unabated.
Call quality is excellent with the EH3 NC. The mic quality on the headphones is good and people on the other end had no problems hearing me. Likewise, I could clearly hear the people on the other end of the call, making these headphones perfect for communication as well as music.
Active Noise Cancelling and Battery Life
ANC on the EH3 NC works reasonably well, especially with constant noises like droning engines and fans. Other abrupt noises, particularly high-pitched or erratic ones still come through but these headphones do a great job as far as noise-cancelling goes. They might not be quite up to the standard of the industry leaders like Sony and Bose but they come pretty close and for only a fraction of the cost of the aforementioned alternatives.
EH3 NC’s battery life is rated up to a crazy 50 hours of music playback or 30 hours with ANC enabled. The headphones come equipped with a 1000mAh battery and also have a truly impressive standby time of up to 1000 hours!
FiiO Music app
Connecting the headphones to the FiiO Music app gives you some handy extra features. It lets you enable or turn off the codec and battery indicators on the earcup, set the idle power-off timer and more. From here you can also access the Equalizer settings and there’s even a digital operating guide built-in.
The EH3 NC has the sort of tuning you would expect for a portable Bluetooth headphone i.e. one that is warm and full-bodied with a fairly relaxed treble. This makes sense considering the intended use of the headphones which is one aimed at portability and casual listening. Don’t be fooled though – the EH3 NC is a great sounding headphone.
For the best sound quality, however, using the headphones wired with the included 3.5 mm cable provides the best experience. They’re more balanced and resolving with faster, tighter bass response. They also work well when acting as a USB DAC via the supplied Type-C cable and plugged into my PC.
In Bluetooth mode, the sound has more body and a warmer tonality. The bass is a little wobbly and the soundstage slightly smaller than wired mode but still performs really well.
One thing to note about the EH3 NC is that when Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) is enabled the sound quality does change noticeably. The overall volume increases, the bass is more elevated plus vocals and the midrange become a little boxy and congested. The good news is the effect can be mitigated using the EQ in the FiiO Music app or DAP settings; not ideal but it is a workaround.
Surprisingly tight and fast, especially when using wired mode, the EH3 NC’s bass performs really well. With the 3.5 mm cable, it is only mildly elevated and is fairly balanced with the mids and treble. Sub-bass has a fast, controlled rumble that delivers with authority and impact when necessary while maintaining good restraint.
In pg.lost’s “Vultures” the EH3 NC conveys the weight of the kick drum and bass guitar but the lead guitars and midrange instruments stay out in the front of the mix as they’re intended to. Throw on The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ready To Die” and you get a solid dose of subterranean bass but the vocals still shine through clearly.
The midrange has a neutral tuning with a touch of warmth coming through from the mid-bass. Clarity is good, neither super sharp or dull but just natural sounding with good vocal articulation and detail. Instruments like electric guitars and trumpets are quite forward with vocals positioned a little further back which adds depth to the stage.
Vocals are emotive and have a natural tone. Both male and female voices are well represented. Vocals have good detail but they’re also rich and smooth. Firing up Adele’s “Hello“, with the EH3 NC, the vocals are full-bodied and laden with feeling.
I kind of expected a somewhat muted treble which is common for Bluetooth headphones but the EH3 NC is actually pretty perky in the higher registers. It’s deftly tame in the lower treble to avoid any sibilance and fatigue but it extends well and has solid upper treble performance. It’s a well-tuned treble that is smooth and good for long listening sessions but has enough detail and airiness to keep the sound lively and clear.
For a closed-back headphone, the EH3 NC creates a spacious and natural soundstage with equally good width and depth. Imaging and positional cues are solid too, creating a holographic stage and accurate details.
In Bluetooth mode, the stage is smaller with more warm air filling in the spaces but it’s not too far from what you experience when plugged in via the 3.5 mm cable. However, with ANC enabled the stage feels more congested and stuffy; this can be alleviated to some degree with EQ but in all fairness, I don’t think soundstage is a priority when using noise-cancelling headphones.
It was only a matter of time until FiiO entered the wireless headphone market and the FiiO EH3 NC makes quite a statement. Not only do they sound good but they are extremely lightweight and comfortable which is vital for a Bluetooth headphone designed for long listening sessions.
While the ANC is not quite up to the same standard as the class leaders, the EH3 NC comes at a much more affordable price. Also, the Hi-Res Bluetooth audio codec support plus that amazing battery life are way ahead of the competition. Add to that the extra functionality provided by the FiiO Music app and it becomes clear that these headphones are setting a new standard in the wireless space.
- Impedance: 32Ω
- IC Solution: CSR8675+ADI1777
- Bluetooth Version: V5.0
- Bluetooth Transmission Frequency: 2.4G～2.48G
- Bluetooth Transmission Power: Class 2
- Bluetooth Audio Codecs supported: SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX-HD/aptX low latency
- Wireless Range: ≥10m
- Standby Time: 1000H
- Talk Time: 50H
- BT Music Play Time: 50H
- BT+ANC Battery Life: 30H
- Charging Time: 2~3H
- Battery: 1000mAh, lithium-polymer battery
- Driver: 45mm titanium-plated diaphragm
- ANC IC Solution: ADI1777
- ANC Design: Feedforward (FF) + feedback (FB) hybrid
- ANC Performance: 30+/-5 dB
- Noise Frequencies Cancelled: 80Hz-20KHz (passive + active noise cancelling)