Updated: Mar 18
FiiO strikes again with yet another excellent IEM, the FiiO FH5S, at just US$260 or around S$400.
So, let’s start with design. This is a semi-open IEM with a pretty interesting design that almost reminds me of, like, overlapping dragon scales. It’s pretty cool and I do like the rose-gold metal ring around the faceplate. All in all, one of the more unique designs from FiiO I’d say. You get the three DIP switches on the rear of each earbud for the bass, mids and treble, clearly marked. As you can guess, turning whichever switch on results in a bit of a boost for that range. Most of my testing was done on the standard setting with all the switches turned off, but if you prefer a bit more bass, turning on the bass switch does provide a bit more oomph.
These are hybrid IEMs, with dual dynamic drivers and dual balanced armature drivers, which means the vent at the faceplate serves more than just aesthetic purposes. As such, the shells are relatively large and do protrude out a bit. That being said, the shell is shaped almost like a CIEM, so it sits relatively well in the ear. They are a bit heavy though, at almost nine grams, thanks to the aluminium magnesium alloy, but they feel really solid in the hand. Passive noise isolation though, is not great since it’s a semi-open design.
The cable connects via an MMCX connector, and the connection jacks are coloured blue and red for easy recognition of left and right. The MMCX are the expanding type, so if you have your earphones swivelling freely on an MMCX connection like me, well, these won’t do that. At the termination point, you get screw-on plugs, 3.5mm single-ended as well as 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced options. Unfortunately, I couldn’t lock the jacket in place for the 2.5mm termination for some reason. Not sure if it’s just me, or if it’s an issue with the threads, but I had to use the 4.4mm termination for most of the testing for this pair of IEMs.
The cable itself is a four-core SPC cable that’s just okay. The memory wire sheathing does extend quite a bit and it’s a bit finicky. That being said, I didn’t experience any microphonics and it’s a pretty good thing that there’s not much cable memory, so the cable pretty much straightens out every time, although that might also be due to the weight of the 4.4mm termination.
In the box, you get a plethora of accessories. FiiO is great with providing ear tips, and they’ve done it once again here. You get bass boosting tips, vocal boosting tips, double flange tips, foam tips as well as balanced standard tips. Personally, I think the standard tips are the worst of the bunch. I’ve also had enough of bi-flange and tri-flange tips after a few years of using Etymotic earphones, so I found myself mostly sticking to the bass tips. Unfortunately, no Spinfit tips were included here.
There’s also a sturdy leather case that’s honestly pretty big and definitely not pocketable, you’ll have to keep these in a bag. There’s also a cleaning tool included that has a tip to help flip the switches mentioned earlier.
Anyway, that’s about it for the design and accessories provided. Let’s move on to the sound. Again, I did all testing with the switches turned off. I did give the switches a try, but my thoughts are based on the standard setting.
If you go online and search for the FH5S, you’ll notice a lot of people saying these require burn-in, and while these are a pair of review units, I didn’t know if they had ever gone to another reviewer before me, so I obediently did around 150 hours of burn-in with a few playlists, but not before taking a listen to them. I’d say there definitely is a change in the mids, but not as big as I expected. Maybe these were already burned in by someone else before. Testing was done with my iPhone 12 and FiiO Q3 DAC amp.
So anyway, after burn-in, these came out sounding pretty darn good. It’s a well-balanced sound that’s leaning more towards a reference sound. The bass is tightly controlled and very clear, with a good amount of texture. Flipping the bass switch on does provide a slight boost, although not as big a change as you would think.
Mids are pretty good, you get a rich sound that has just a tinge of warmth with great timbre and really engaging vocals. There's not much to fault here.
Treble is where it gets a bit mixed for me. As some of you might know, I love energetic treble. And the treble on the FH5S has plenty of sparkle and energy, which I love! The two BA drivers are located in the sound tube, really close to the ear, which results in a more forward treble. But that’s also where the problem lies. If this was the sound with the treble switch turned on, I think it would be great. As it stands now, I have no use for the treble switch AND people who are more sensitive to treble will end up finding the treble response of these IEMs a bit peaky.
Thankfully, there’s a pretty decent solution, which would be to swap out the stock cable for a pure copper cable, as that would not only tone down the treble slightly but also bring a bit more warmth into the bass and mids. Of course, purely personal preference.
Moving on, the soundstage is excellent, thanks to the open-back design, of course. You get a great sense of airiness and space, and imaging is spot on as well. At this price point, it’s pretty darn good.
So who are these for? Well, I’d say a vast majority of people would enjoy them. They’re affordable, they’re relatively versatile and they work very well with a wide range of genres. If you prefer a warmer sound, throw in a copper cable. Prefer sparkly treble? Well, these are already really great. You can boost anything you want with the flip of a switch, and honestly, these just sound great for the price.
Content by Cheryl Tan