FiiO FH1s Review: with comparisons to the Jade Audio EA3
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
Hey, guys and gals! Welcome back to the Neighborhood!
So, let’s talk about the FiiO FH1s...
This is a Dual-Driver Hybrid IEM featuring a Knowles Balanced Armature with a 13.6 mm Dynamic Driver that is produced by FiiO. Sound similar to another IEM I recently reviewed? Well, that’s because it is… The make-up of the FH1s is very similar to the Jade Audio EA3. In fact, you could say that the FH1s is the sister IEM to the EA3, or vice versa. Despite both IEMs sharing some physical attributes, they also do have some differences, including the sound at times.
So, let’s, get InToit...
The FH1s comes in 1 of 4 different colors, black, orange, green, or purple. The purple variety I have here is curtesy a member of The Neighborhood. You too can join The Neighborhood by subscribing to my channel, if you haven’t already.
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The wire on the FH1s is comprised of 120-core, Litz, monocrystalline copper, which terminates in a 2-pin connector. And, although this wire is thicker and ultimately nicer to the touch, it behaves in a similar manner to the wire on the EA3, and is prone to bends and not laying perfectly flat. Unlike the EA3’s small straight connector, the FH1s has a medium-sized angled connector, depending on your preference there. Sound wise, I could not determine any sonic differences between the cable on the FH1s vs the EA3, despite FiiO’s claim of enhanced sonic consistency of the FH1s cable on their website.
I will say that I like the red and blue markers on the FH1s more than the markers on the EA3, as they are hidden and located under the two-pin connector on the FH1s cable; rather than being notably visible as they are on the EA3. I thought, this was a nice touch. And honestly the FH1s should have more, nice touches such as this given the price differentiation between the cheaper EA3 and the more expensive FH1s.
Other than a nicer cable, what you get in the FH1s package that exceeds the accessories of the EA3 set, is a nice hard, clam-shell carrying case instead of the EA3’s small-sized, soft-cloth pouch. The silicone tips that come with the FH1s seem to be the exact same set that comes with the EA3, but I also see in the pictures on the FiiO website that there may also be one set of foam tips included with the FH1s, but The Neighborhood Member did not include those with the FH1s, as he more than likely knew that I wouldn’t want anyone else’s ear-juice remnants in my precious ears…
One last thing to note about the build is that the angle of the nozzle on the FH1s is slightly less aggressive, and is therefore, slightly more comfortable with stock tips in my ears; but my wife, who has very small ears, actually found the EA3 to fit her ears better. So, your mileage may vary. In general my take would be that, in terms of build quality, everything is a bit more well built on the FH1s, but not by leaps-and-bounds, and I actually prefer the more pronounced celluloid striations on the more electric-teal, colored EA3, compared to the more understated colors and striations of the FH1s.
Upon first listen, I used the included red-bored tips as a direct comparison point between the two IEMs; and while this accentuated differences, I ultimately found that the FH1s sounded better with its included black tips, while the EA3 sounded best with it’s greyed-out, red-bored tips.
In general, tonality of the FH1s is drier and more sterile, but I do think that Fii0 delivers on its promise of a balanced sound signature here. The bass is rather neutral in presentation, but it can be enhanced somewhat with tip selection. Overall, the bass is tight and well controlled for the most part, but it does have a one-note, passive-radiator-like-sound to it, which, unlike some passive radiators in speakers, actually tightens up and resolves rather quickly. Bass; however, is definitely not the star of the show here, and I would say that it is more holistically laid-back. Vocals and harmonies are also somewhat laid-back on the FH1s, but fairly neutral overall. Oddly, while the mids and treble are also laid-back here, there is a certain crispiness to the sound quality of the mids and treble, which is pleasant with some music, but also leads to some mild graininess, which was only observed in the upper mid-range and the top-end of the treble, specifically.
In comparison, the EA3 has more “honey tones” to its balanced armature than the FH1s does, as the balanced armature in the FH1s sounds somewhat cold and sterile in comparison. This may be due to the BA in the EA3 being further down the nozzle in the EA3 than in the FH1s. Both appear to be equally revealing and resolving to my ears. The FH1s might have the tinniest amount more treble extension to it, but this was barely noticeable, if at all with most music, and this may have contributed to the slight harshness at the top--end in the FH1’s treble, which I mentioned earlier, and was really only emphasized on poorly recorded tracks.
In contrast, the EA3 was slightly rolled-off at the very top end of the treble, which resulted in a perception of increased smoothness with the EA3; this, despite the EA3’s being more forward and intense overall within its mid-range, treble presentation, and vocals compared to the FH1s. In particular, male vocals seem recessed in comparison on the FH1s. For example, on Aerosmith’s “Shut Up and Dance,” the EA3’s presentation sounded like what I have come to expect from that track mostly, while vocals were clearly diminished in their forwardness on the FH1s. Guitar tones also sound off and thin on this example. If I was being overly critical, I might say the FH1s seemed less clear in the top end at times, thinner, harsher, and more metallic sounding than the EA3, despite these tones having less presence than on the ea3. Having said that, the FH1s was also more nuanced in its vocal presentation, at times, compared to the EA3, despite complex vocals and harmonization’s actually sounding clearer on the EA3.
Bass on the FH1s was more tightly controlled, but also less impactful, textured, and layered than the EA3. There was more of a mid-bass hump in the ea3, whereas the mid-bass seems to be purposefully under-represented on the FH1s. For example, on the track, “Elevate” by DJ Khalid from the “Into the Spider-Verse” Soundtrack there seemed to be somewhat of a scoop somewhere between the mid-bass to upper bass region. If I was being uber critical of both IEMs, I’d say that the bass is somewhat thuddy on the FH1s, and looming or somewhat hazy on the EA3.
Overall low-end presentation is less hazy on the FH1s, but the bass of the ea3 is fuller, more forward, and blended better with the Knowles driver. Additionally, Impact is almost non-existent on FH1s, whereas the EA3 has impact in spades.
Overall separation between instruments across-the-range is better on the FH1s than the EA3. Imaging was slightly more precise for the FH1s when tested with a variety of Yosi Horikawa tracks. Sound-stage width on both IEMs was just above average, and was essentially a toss-up, but the FH1s had increased depth and distance to the instruments from the listening position, which sounds like a good thing, but I actually would have preferred for the main stage to be less distant in the FH1s than it was- even if the EA3 could have used a bit more. Although the overall presentation of the EA3 was somewhat more claustrophobic, I still preferred it’s cumulative stage to the FH1s’ in the end.
I should also note that the EA3 performed better off low power sources, and was easier to drive, whereas the FH1s performed better when being driven off of an amplifier for added power and flavor, as I found that the FH1s lacked engagement with both its vocals and mid-range presentation without the aid of an amp. I became somewhat apathetic with them when being driven off my phone, and this ultimately contributed to listening fatigue in the end. The EA3 was also more source dependent; performing better on neutral to neutral-warm sources, whereas the FH1s appeared less source dependent.
While I ultimately liked the presentation of both the FH1s and EA3. I found the EA3 to be more energetic, lively, and engaging between the two, despite also being very slightly more rolled-off up top. In my opinion, the bass was slightly overdone on the EA3, and underdone on the FH1s, but both were pleasing in their own way. The FH1s was generally more analytic and balanced, and the EA3 was generally more fun and intense. Neither IEM was shouty, sibilant, or overly aggressive to my ears, and the honey-toned, smoothness of the EA3 made its intensity generally more tolerable and acceptable to my ears.
Metaphorically, I kind of think of Jade Audio EA3 as like the friend that's "a little too much" but fun, and the FiiOFH1s as like your depressed friend that needs a little kick in the pants to get them going.
I will say, that I think I have a certain, inexplicable affinity for the EA3 more so than the FH1s. During this review, I found myself “missing the EA3” when I listening to the FH1s, but I didn’t really miss the FH1s when I was listening to the EA3. In my eyes, the EA3 has a good combination of technicality and listenability. But, I know may prefer the FH1s. Because of this, I tested preference between the two sets amongst a few friends and family members; and the results showed that most people, like myself, actually preferred the performance of the cheaper EA3- but I can’t guarantee that your mileage won’t vary. Nevertheless, hopefully this review can help you make the choice that is right for you, as they're both good options to consider taking home.
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