FiiO FH3 Review: engaging and pleasant, but is it the best in the price-range?
Hi Guys, welcome back to the Neighborhood! It’s been a long-time coming, but we are taking a look at the FiiO FH3 today. For a while now, whenever I do a video about an IEM in the $100 to $200 dollar price range, I inevitably get the questions and statements like: “But what about the FH3?” And, “Please review the Fiio FH3.” Well today’s finally the day! So, let’s get InToit!
So the build here was a little different than I expected. The shell appears to be made of a lightweight aluminum that FiiO classifies as “aerospace grade.” So, these things are pretty light, and disappear comfortably in my ear as a result. I always thought these were black from pictures, but they’re actually a deep navy blue color. They have an MMCX connection, and the angle of the nozzle is a bit aggressive in its angle, make it somewhat difficult to use with certain tips for me, but my preferred tips for this set fit without problems. While the tips that came in the box were fine, and there were many, I found that I preferred RHA dual density silicones or Ludos foam tips with this set the most. For the sake of this review, presume that all sound descriptions will be in reference to using RHA dual density tips.
The cable the FH3 comes with is a somewhat thick-sheathed, straight-lined silver plated, copper cable a single-ended, which terminates in a very nice right-angled 3.5mm connector. The cable was easy to use, and I had no problems with either its sound nor its comfort. I attempted to run these balanced, using an alternative cable, but perceived no sonic benefits from going balanced in this particular case, as the FH3 doesn’t appear to be power hungry, or anything like that.
The drivers utilized here are two Knowles drivers and a 10 mm beryllium-plated dynamic. So this is a hybrid configuration, but a mostly coherent one. A nice, but large, hard-plastic, clam-shell case, a small cloth zippered pouch, and a cleaning tool also come in the package. This is largely the accessory package that comes with the Jade Audio EA1 and EA3, but with a nicer cable, the additional clam-shell case, cleaning tool, and a third silicone tip type, in addition to some foams. So, for the money, you get a nice, stylish package here, that is well thought-out by FiiO.
So, let’s get into the sound, because for the $130 dollar price tag and below, these are in some rare company, with some of the best in the price-range. So, let’s start things out with some comparisons. The cheapest thing that keeps up with the FH3 is the TFZ No.3 with a cable swap and a tip change JVC Spiral Dots. The No.3 bests the FH3 in terms of low-end and macrodynamics, but the FH3 has wider staging, and even more pleasing upper mid-range. The next best comparison would be between the FH3 and TRI Starsea. While the Starsea supersedes the FH3 in articulation, layering, resolution, and clarity, it is also a more analytical IEM, and it lacks the sub-bass presence that is found in the FH3, an the FH3 is substantially more musical, and might be perceived as less intensive or fatiguing to the ear by some. Compared to the TinHiFi T3, there is some additional weight to the FH3’s presentation overall, and also enhanced clarity due to its hybrid, BA-infused design. Furthermore, the FH3 is somewhat smoother and less harsh in its upper mid-range compared to the T4, even if it may be less consistent in its presentation in this region, which we’ll get into in a bit.
Let’s start things off with the bass though. The bass in the FH3 is sub-bass focused, and impact is somewhat on the softer side of things, but also with a decent amount of weight to it. Yet, compared to something like the Blessing 2, there is considerably more heft to the FH3’s dynamic range, making it just as easy to listen to as the Moondrop, but more satisfying across a wider variety of genres. This is not a quick bass, but it isn’t overly sluggish either. It does well with rumble, and it is characterized by a pillow-like, soft texture, which warms over the range somewhat like a comfortable blanket. Specifically, I would like more representation from the FH3’s mid-bass and upper regions, while generally, I would like to see additional bass detailing in the overall low-end here (especially given that FH3 makes use a beryllium dynamic), but there is, nonetheless, a sufficient amount of opaque information offered, which is mostly easy to intuit or interpret by the listener.
The midrange, is smooth, creamy, and mostly laid back in its tones. The frequency response rises in a natural and inoffensive manner, but from about 3K forward, things tend to get a bit wonky here or there, and, on certain tracks, the presence and lower brilliance regions can suffer and produce confusing sonics. On a frequency response graph, things look a bit like a roller coaster ride from 3K onward, and sometimes this comes across oddly in the music. For example, on the track “The Sleeper” by Diamond Head, guitars sound like they’re awkwardly going in and out of phase at times, and these portions of the track sound less wonky and truer to life on most other sets. The beginning of the “Loneliest Road” by Grand Funk Railroad, was similarly difficult for the FH3 to maneuver, resulting in ungraceful acoustics during this song’s playback. Vocals as well centered, but more in the mix than pushed forward, for both male and female vocals alike.
The treble is unfatiguing and inoffensive. It is rolled from about 8K onward, and while this may be seen as an early decline by some, it does extend decently well in the upper brilliance region. This set doesn’t have the most air past 10K, but there is enough information to provide soft, yet articulate detailing to the listener; without ever beating him or her over the head with any type of intensity. Snaps, claps, and block strikes do have sufficient energy due to a peak around 15k, but sonics are never shrill, sharp, sibilant, or strident. This IEM definitely plays a bit for Team Dark Side, but it balanced armatures are always pleasant and enjoyable to my ears.
Overall tonality is warm, and moderately lush. Like macrodynamics, micro dynamics are slightly below average. Staging is relatively wide, but with only moderate depth and height to the overall sonic picture. Compared to the TRI Starsea layering and separation is less complex, resulting in more of flat acoustic picture than a 3D image, but the FH3’s staging is broader from the listening position, and more akin to something like the Shozy Rouge. Imaging tracks well from right to left, and overall separation, detailing, and resolution capabilities are above average for the $110-130 dollar price range; but average compared to other standouts as prices edge towards the $200 mark and beyond. Nevertheless, for their price, the FH3 is technically capable, and musical to boot- making it a value at its price, and worth its cost, in the end.
So, to sum it all up, the FiiO FH3 is a warm, and engaging earphone that plays a bit for Team Dark Side. It is pleasing to the ear, and technically capable enough for its price; making it a joy to listen to. It has a respectably wide stage, and will be a great option for a non-fatiguing, pleasant, everyday listening experience for most people. Its rugged metal housing, and exhaustive accessory package are suggestive of this; as are its inoffensive sonics. But, like all in-ear-monitors, it may not please everyone, especially those that are on the hunt for above average dynamics, additional resolution, or a more forward vocal presentation. In terms of others in the $110 to $130 dollar price-range, the FiiO FH3 stands out as a good musical choice, and is perhaps only bested by the more analytical TRI Starsea at this time; but it won’t be able to keep up with other standout IEMs priced at $160 or beyond, such as the Ikko OH10, Final Audio A4000, or the Shozy Rouge.
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