FiiO is a brand that continues to keep updating their product line across multiple price points, whether it be their MP3 players, DACs or earphones. In today’s review, I’m taking a look at the FiiO FH1s budget hybrid earphones. The FH1s features one Knowles balanced armature driver and one dynamic driver plus a detachable 2-pin cable.
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 FH1s Review
Unique faceplates for every set
Great build quality and comfort
High-quality stock cable
Satisfying bass performance
Superb clarity and detail
Treble can be a bit forward at times
Package and Accessories
The FiiO FH1s comes in a high-quality box, not unlike that of their flagship FH7 model. It’s constructed of sturdy black cardboard and has a magnetic flap. On the front is a colour image of the monitors and the remainder of the box is mostly plain. Here’s what you get inside the box:
FiiO FH1s earphones
Detachable 2-pin monocrystalline Litz cable
HB1 plastic carrying case
3 pairs of “bass” silicone eartips
3 pairs of “balanced” silicone eartips
1 pair of foam eartips
That’s quite an impressive package for an earphone at this price. The carrying case and the cable (more on this later) alone add substantial value to the bundle.
Build and Design
According to FiiO, the FH1s shells are shaped more like a custom in-ear monitor based on feedback received for their other IEMs. I will admit that they feel very comfortable for my ears and fit naturally, making them great for long listening sessions.
The shells are made of transparent acrylic that looks and feels quite premium. There are 2 colours available: black and purple. An interesting feature of the FH1s is the celluloid faceplates. These faceplates not only look interesting but due to the nature of layered celluloid, it means that every single unit has its own unique appearance.
Brass nozzles adorn the shells and these are protected by a mesh cover to keep out any ear wax and detritus. FiiO has done a nice job with the build and the overall impression is one of quality.
Internally, the FH1s contains a large 13.6mm bio-polymer dynamic driver for the bass and a Knowles 33518 balanced armature driver delivering the midrange and treble bands. The BA driver also utilizes a brass sound tube that reduces unwanted resonances and increases the realism of higher frequencies.
I love the cable that comes with the FH1s. It’s a braided, high-purity mono-crystalline copper Litz cable that feels very much like the recent DUNU cables. It has a right-angled plug with 3.5mm termination and an aluminium Y-split with matching metal chin slider.
The 2-pin connector housings are cleverly colour-coded for easy identification. Just below these housings is the only thing I don’t like about this cable: the pre-formed ear hooks. I have nothing against ear guides in general but these ones are rather aggressively curved which makes them prone to tangling. Aside from that, the handling is excellent but the cable is slightly microphonic.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M5s and iBasso DX120 as portable sources. On the desktop, I plugged the FH1s into my Topping DX7 which in turn was connected to my PC via USB and fed mostly FLAC files with Foobar2000.
The FiiO FH1s has a fairly balanced signature with a lifted treble region. End to end extension is very good, as is the overall resolution. A peak in the treble adds definition, clarity and detail. The final result is a sound signature that is warm and smooth but with a noticeable touch of energy in the high frequencies as well.
One of the first things I noticed about the FH1s was the bass. It’s my personal preferred type of bass with a linear transition from the sub-bass to mid-bass region. This generally gives the bass authority and weight but at the same time does not cause a muddy or congested lower midrange. The bass has a medium attack speed and decay, making it neither tight or sluggish but somewhere in between. Make no mistake though, it can hit pretty hard when it needs to.
The 13.6mm dynamic driver really goes to work, moving a lot of air for a powerful, slightly thick response. What’s great about it is that it is still reasonably quick with a decent amount of slam. For example, the FH1s had no trouble keeping up with the frantic bass in Thundercat’s “Uh Uh”.
The midrange is smooth but has an outstanding resolution for a budget dual-driver hybrid. Notes have good body with a little thickness carried over from the upper bass. However, there’s no smearing or overt colouration present and the tone is quite neutral.
Vocals have good articulation and density. Although they’re placed a bit further back on the stage they feel fleshed out and present. One thing I noticed was that was a slight edge on some female vocals, like in Kehlani’s “Too Deep”. This is likely introduced by the peak in the treble and gives some female vocals a slightly raspy timbre.
As I’ve alluded to, the treble is quite lively and might be a little fatiguing if you’re sensitive to high frequencies, particularly around the 8kHz area. It’s well-extended, crisp and defined but occasionally shows hints of sibilance.
For the most part, it’s smooth, although a bit upfront. It boosts the clarity and opens up the soundstage. Additional peaks at 11 and 14kHz add sparkle and reveal micro-details.
The FH1s’ stage has average dimensions and is fairly evenly spread between width and depth. The stage position is pushed back slightly adding to its sense of depth but this also makes it rather narrow and cone-shaped in front of the listener. Instrument separation is good thanks to the clean midrange and the airiness of the treble. Due to the modest stage proportions, it feels as if you’re sitting a few rows back in a long and somewhat narrow room.
KBEAR Diamond ($70)
The KBEAR Diamond (review here) is a single dynamic driver earphone at a similar price point to the FH1s. It has a V-shaped sound signature with excellent clarity and a natural timbre. Unlike the FH1s, Diamond’s shells are metal making them heavier but they’re just as comfortable.
Diamond has a more elevated bass response, especially in the mid-bass area. It has a similar bass attack and slightly slower decay.
The KBEAR has more body in the lower midrange, with extra warmth that carries over from the bass. However, due to the boosted bass and upper midrange, the Diamond’s mids are more recessed but I would say its tonality sounds more natural.
The FH1s has more micro details which come from its lifted treble. This also makes the overall tonality thinner and brighter than the Diamond. One of my favourite aspects of the Diamond is the sweetness of its treble. It may not be as detailed or precise as the FiiO but it sounds more effortless and is less fatiguing over time albeit less energetic.
The FiiO FH1s ticks a lot of boxes, especially when you consider the price. It comes with a high-quality carrying case and a great cable. With its linear presentation, it excels at detail retrieval and has a highly resolving nature. The bass is particularly enjoyable and finds a great balance between impact and speed.
Another feature I find especially appealing is the unique pattern in each unit’s faceplates. Overall, this is a great value IEM and definitely worth considering. In fact, it’s good enough to get a spot on our Best IEMs list.