FiiO FH3 review featured

FiiO FH3 Review | Take No Prisoners

TESTED AT $129
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When it comes to Chinese portable and desktop audio brands, FiiO is a name that people know and respect. They have a massive line of products that includes DAPs (Digital Audio Players), headphone amplifiers, DACs, cables, Bluetooth DAC/amps earphones and the list goes on. In this review, I’m checking out the FiiO FH3 hybrid triple-driver earphones.

Loaded with one dynamic driver and two Knowles balanced armature drivers the FiiO FH3 has some premium features that are normally only seen in pricier models. Things like the beryllium-plated dynamic driver and high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated cable look great on paper but how do they fare in real-world testing? Let’s find out.

FiiO website: https://www.fiio.com/

Disclaimer: 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 FH3

Pros
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Good accessory bundle
  • Detachable cable
  • Naturalness, note size, soundstage
  • Class-leading audio quality
  • Value for money
Cons
  • Cable is heavy and has microphonics

Package and Accessories

The FH3 packaging consists of a black box with a magnetic flap cover. It’s mostly bare except for a coloured image of an earpiece on the front. Inside the box are the earphones seated in a black foam insert.

Another smaller box contains FiiO’s plastic storage case which we’ve seen bundled with several other models, along with the rest of the accessories. Let’s break things down into a list:

  • FiiO FH3
  • FiiO LC-3.5B cable
  • Hard plastic storage case
  • Soft storage pouch
  • 9 pairs of various silicone eartips
  • 2 pairs of foam eartips
  • Nozzle cleaning tool
FiiO FH3 faceplates up close

Design, Comfort and Noise Isolation

Wrapped in a CNC crafted aluminium-magnesium alloy shell, the FH3 gets off to a good start. This is very similar to the housings on the flagship FiiO FH7 monitors. A rippled design on the faceplates not only adds visual interest but strengthens the shells too.

The shells are rounded and smooth all over with a matte finish. There is a single vent near the base of the nozzle, as well as one near the MMCX connector. A small L or R marking indicating the Left and Right sides respectively can be found on the inner side of the shells too. As usual, the nozzle has a protective mesh cover and a good ridge to hold eartips on securely.

Internally, the FH3 has a beryllium-plated 10mm dynamic driver for the bass, Knowles ED-30262 BA for the midrange and a Knowles RAD-33518 BA for the treble. There’s also a three-way physical + electronic crossover.

When it comes to comfort, the FH3 is fantastic. The smooth shells fit naturally in my ears and the longer nozzles provide a really stable fit. Noise isolation is well above average too, making the FH3 ideal for commuting and for when you’re out and about.

Cable

Included with the earphones is FiiO’s LC-3.5B high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper cable. Starting at the top, there are transparent plastic MMCX connector housings followed by heat-shrink pre-formed ear guides.

The Y-split is aluminium with the FiiO logo printed on both sides and there’s a matching aluminium chin slider. The cable terminates with FiiO’s excellent right-angled 3.5mm plug which appears on several of their in-house cables.

Overall, this is a handsome and very robust cable that handles and drapes well. However, it’s a little heavy and has significant cable noise (microphonics).

FiiO FH3 MMCX sockets

Sound

Gear used for testing:

My first impressions on the FH3 straight out of the box weren’t great. What I heard was a warm, safe tuning that didn’t have any immediate outstanding qualities. But as I continued to listen, my feelings about the FH3 changed dramatically. Fast forward to now and this is one of my favourite IEMs of the year. Also, I can comfortably say that the FiiO FH3 now sits in my top 3 in its price range and above.

It starts with the slightly warmer than neutral tonal balance that I must admit to being fond of. Then comes the tonal balance which sounds just right with no single part of the spectrum dominating or overshadowing the others.

The FH3 sounds organic and natural yet pay attention and you’ll notice the excellent instrument separation and detail retrieval which among other things, help to deliver a good overall resolution. When it comes to note weight, the FH3 nails that too and find the perfect point between thick and thin.

One other outstanding characteristic of this earphone is the dynamic range. Even when you’re listening at very low volume, the size and weight of the bass are still there. And when you turn things up loud, there’s no shrill treble peaks or shouty upper midrange: the tonal balance is maintained at all volume levels. It all adds up to a sound that just makes listening so enjoyable.

FiiO FH3 frequency response graph
Bass

FH3’s bass is dynamic, punchy and textured. Whether it’s the beryllium-plating, S.TURBO acoustic design or a combination of both, it works. There’s a slight emphasis on the sub-bass, giving the bass an unquestionable authority. Thankfully, the decay speed is good so it’s authority without bloom or excessive bleeding.

The mid-bass is punchy and hits with impact. Leading edges are only slightly rounded, adding weight to the notes without making them overly soft. One of the things I love about this bass is the way it still conveys its presence even at low listening levels. Simply put, this bass rocks!

Whether it’s hip-hop, heavy metal or classical, the FH3 bass adapts to the recording and responds in kind. In Devin The Dude’s “Broccoli & Cheese” the bass is big, bold and bodied, just as the track intended. But in Leech’s “The Man With The Hammer”, the bass doesn’t impose on the midrange guitars in the least. Instead, it just gives them a stable, warm floor as a foundation.

Mids

What I really like about the FH3 midrange is the tone and note weight. It sounds so natural and inviting yet the clarity is excellent and the air between instruments is clean as a whistle.

There’s great separation between the midrange and the upper bass but male vocals still have fullness and body. On the other hand, female vocals sound clear and vigorous without being shouty or shrill. Even older recordings like Ella Fitzgerald’s “It’s Only A Paper Moon” sound great on the FH3. They’re full of life, clear and engaging.

Treble

The high-frequencies are just in that place that’s ideal for an IEM. FH3’s treble is sweet and extremely smooth but it’s one that is still light and spacious. It provides ample detail too and a surprising amount of micro-detail for a warm-voiced monitor.

The treble extension is very good and the sound is airy while maintaining good density. It’s not the most forward treble but the timbre is on point and there is no trace of sibilance to be heard. Furthermore, the FH3 treble is very even and doesn’t display any dissonant peaks or shadowy valleys: just airy bliss with a hint of sparkle.

Soundstage

The soundstage dimensions are quite good but not what would be considered expansive. However, the quality of the FH3’s stage is a tier above most IEMs at this price point. It just sounds especially natural and lifelike.

Stereo imaging is impressive and positional cues are good too. The FH3 favours musicality over precision so there is still a bit of warm air between instruments. But thanks to the accurate note size and the controlled bass, there’s no congestion. There’s a good sense of depth in the stage and layers of sound are clearly perceived in the space created.

FiiO FH3 IEM with FiiO M6 DAP

Comparisons

Moondrop Starfield ($109)
FH3 vs Moondrop Starfield
FH3 (red) vs Starfield (grey).

The Moondrop Starfield (review here) created quite a sensation and rightfully so. It has a similar tuning to the FH3 but with slightly thinner notes and additional lower-treble emphasis. Both of these IEMs have good bass extension but the bass on the FH3 has better definition and texture.

Starfield’s midrange isn’t as forward and has a lighter tone: it’s slightly more recessed in relation to the bass. FH3 generally has clearer mids with better instrument separation and overall resolution.

Although both IEMs have similarities in the treble, the Starfield has extra lower treble boost plus a dip around 10kHz that gives it a softer sound. Starfield’s upper treble peak gives it extra air and subsequently a slightly larger soundstage but the FH3’s superior resolution and instrument separation give it a more organised and stable stage.

IKKO OH1 ($139)
FH3 vs IKKO OH1
FH3 (red) vs IKKO OH1 (grey).

The IKKO OH1 (review here) is a hybrid with 1DD+1BA driver. It has a more conventional V-shaped signature compared to the FH3’s more linear presentation. The OH1 has similar bass extension but the FH3 bass has better definition and control.

OH1’s midrange is slightly recessed although it does have more forward upper mids which highlight electric guitars and female vocals. The FH3 has better clarity, detail and instrument separation in its midrange.

The IKKO has similarly smooth bass with a little extra bite around 4-5kHz. It has a slightly metallic timbre compared to the more natural-sounding treble on the FH3. The OH1’s centre image and stage position are pushed back, making the space feel larger but there is little in the way of layering compared to the FiiO which creates much more vivid and perceptible stage positioning.

Simgot EN700 Pro ($149)
FH3 vs Simgot EN700 Pro
FH3 (red) vs EN799 Pro (grey).

The Simgot EN700 Pro (review here) is a single dynamic driver earphone with beautiful styling and a light V-shaped signature. It has less sub-bass emphasis and more mid-bass compared to the FH3. The FiiO’s midrange is more forward but both IEMs have similar midrange note size. The FH3 has superior clarity and resolution throughout the mids.

The EN700 Pro generally has a smooth treble like the FH3 except for some additional lift at 5-6kHz and a pronounced dip around 11-12kHz. Compared to the FH3 it sounds a little more metallic and less detailed, although it maintains good airiness.

FiiO FH3 with controls of M6 DAP

Conclusion

I tend to expect good things from FiiO products these days because their track record speaks for itself. But I really wasn’t expecting the FiiO FH3 to be this good. For starters, it basically has the same build quality as it’s more expensive siblings like the FH5 and FH7. It also comes with a well-rounded accessory set including the quality hard case and a plethora of eartips.

Nevertheless, the best thing about the FH3 is its sound. To my ears, it’s class-leading. The tonal balance, note size and weight, detail, naturalness and layering are shockingly good for an IEM at this price point. Needless to say, the FH3 gets my highest recommendation and is going straight onto our best IEMs list.


Specifications
  • Drivers: 10mm beryllium-plated dynamic driver, Knowles ED30262 for mid frequencies, Knowles RAD33518 for high frequencies
  • Cable Material: High-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper
  • Max input power: 100mW
  • Sensitivity: [email protected]
  • Frequency response: 10Hz ~ 40kHz
  • Impedance: 24Ω@1KHz
  • Weight: 7.3g (single unit)