Updated: Mar 18
We previously reviewed the FiiO FA1, which was a single balanced armature (BA) driver earphone with a DLP 3D printed shell that fits the human ear quite similarly to how a custom in-ear monitor would. It was a pair of affordable, but entry-level earphones, and now FiiO has come out with the FA9, a pair of flagship earphones that is honestly, one of the most impressive offerings I’ve seen from them.
Let’s start off with the internals. This is a 6-driver in-ear monitor (IEM) with dual-drivers for the bass, mids and highs. The drivers are all from Knowles, and FiiO and Knowles have worked together to create custom drivers for their IEMs in the past, so it’s no surprise to see a new custom driver here as well.
It’s pretty interesting to note that FiiO didn’t go with a three-way crossover though, opting instead for a four-way crossover similar to what is in their other IEM, the FA7. Instead of including filters, FiiO is using a long sound tube, at 80.6mm, which effectively acts as a low-pass filter.
All that is packed into a beautifully crafted shell, with a diamond-cut pattern on the faceplate that looks quite interesting textually. I’ve seen other reviews with a white colour that definitely looks more bling-ed out, so if you’re looking for something a bit more subtle, black is the way to go.
Other than that, the 3D printing of the shell is excellent. There aren’t any seams or rough spots that could rub and irritate the ear, but because of the number of drivers inside and the long sound tube, the earphones do stick out of smaller ears a little.
In the box, there are a bunch of tips provided by FiiO, including small and large SpinFit tips (the medium is preinstalled on the earphones), foam tips, bi-flange, bass tips and more. There’s also a faux-leather hard case which keeps the earphones nice and secure, along with a more portable soft case that keeps a cleaning tool and a magnetic cable organiser.
What really impressed me was how much FiiO is providing at this price point. We’ll speak about the sound later, of course, which is the true measure of any audio product, but the accessories are absolutely insane. The earphones themselves come with an 8-core silver-plated copper cable, which is definitely more than what I expected out of a stock cable.
For reference, I purchased an 8-core OCC copper litz cable previously, and it cost me around S$400. That’s half of the price tag of the FA9 already. Granted, one’s a copper cable and the other is silver-plated copper, but for a S$799 pair of earphones, the fact that FiiO included an 8-core cable took me by surprise.
The cable itself is excellent, with no microphonics at all and handles very well with no memory retention. The memory wire hooks are much better this time compared to the FA1; even though they’re long, they’re not too stiff and shape much better to the back of my ears.
FiiO is still sticking to MMCX connectors, which is great in terms of consistency, even though I’m not a big fan of MMCX personally. Another quibble I had with the FA1 was that the velcro cable tie on the cable was non-detachable. Well, FiiO fixed that with a detachable one on the FA9, so thumbs up there.
There’s an interesting feature on the FA9, and that’s the sound adjustment switches on the top. You get three switches that adjust impedance, bass and treble.
A handy little illustration from FiiO shows which positions the switches should be in for people who like heavier bass, boosted treble and more. For this review, most of my testing was done on the standard setting as shown in the illustration.
Let’s get into the sound, finally. The songs tested were Master quality tracks from Tidal.
The first thing that struck me about these earphones was the staging. There’s plenty of air and separation between instruments, and I found that female vocals stood out beautifully.
The standard setting does see a bit of a dip in the mids, but it can be easily rectified with a bit of switch tweaking. The mids are clean and well defined though, and overall, I’d say the FA9 have a warmer sound signature with excellent detail and instrument layering.
You get a good amount of bass, and even though it doesn’t have the same punch that you might get out of a dynamic driver, you get a much cleaner sound here that doesn’t suffer from distortion even when listening to music at higher levels.
Speaking of which, since the drivers are all balanced armatures, there’s no bass port in these, meaning you get even better passive noise isolation and seal. I got a pretty good fit with the medium SpinFit tips too, so I didn’t feel the need to change them out. For people looking for more bass or to change the sound though, I recommend changing the tips to one of the pairs provided in the box.
At this price point, I have almost no complaints about the FA9. It’s an excellent pair of earphones, and even though the tuning switches won’t make a world of difference, it’s nice to have the option there.