©2018 by The Audiolocheese. Proudly created with Wix.com

 

Untamed Beast - FiiO FA7

Introduction

FiiO was established in 2007 and has experience in researching and developing countless portable music products of different types and sell FiiO-branded products through sales agents worldwide. The brand name FiiO is composed of Fi(fidelity from HiFi) and iO(number 1&0), representing the real feeling and convenient life that digital brings to life. Meanwhile, the Chinese “飞傲” is the transliteration of FiiO, indicating the positive and innovative spirit as thriving as spring.


After long waiting, I finally received my FiiO FA7 after the launch event in Singapore. I purchased this IEM with full retail price. So, this is not a sponsored post. I will give my most honest view from a consumer's point of view. I have very positive impressions on FiiO FH5 and F9 Pro. Nicely done IEMs with affordable price. This creates strong competition in this market. FA7, a quad Knowles balanced armature drivers IEM selling at SGD499.00 is again creating competition in this audiophile market. This unit completed 100 hours run-in before this review is written.


Technical Specifications

  • 4 Knowles Balanced Armature Driver

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 40kHz

  • Sensitivity: 110dB/mW

  • Impedance: 23Ω

  • Maximum Input Power: 100mW

Accessories

The full accessory package includes:

  • 1 pair FiiO FA7 IEMs

  • 1 x 3.5mm MMCX stereo cable

  • 3 sets of “balanced” silicone tips

  • 1 set of “bi-flange” silicone tips

  • 3 sets of “vocal enhanced” silicone tips

  • 3 sets of “bass enhanced” silicone tips

  • 3 set of foam tips

  • 1 x cleaning tool

  • 1 x magnetic cable tidy

  • 1 x velcro cable tidy

  • 1 x rigid Pelican type case

  • 1 x soft neoprene carry case

  • Instruction manual & warranty card


Design

The shell of FA7 is made with German high-transparency resin, specifically medically designed for ears and with EU IIA medical certification. The FA7 is the mass-produced, 3D printed quad balanced armature IEM in the market. I would like to congratulate FiiO making this breakthrough. FA7 looks fascinating with the 3D printed shell and a shiny face-plate. The fitting is considered good for most of the ear size. Most of my friends have no issue with the fitting for this IEM.


FiiO is using a high-purity monocrystalline copper-plated silver cable, LC-3.5B. The build quality seems rigid and I believe it can sustain a reasonable amount of strain. Great improvement is observed on the MMCX connector. I always find it hard to attach and detach the cable from my FiiO F9 Pro. This is not found in the new FA7.

FiiO FA7

A close look on FA7

FA7 with the stock cable

Pairing

Being the TOTL of FiiO IEM, I will use the TOTL of FiiO X series DAP to pair with FA7 for this review. In the latter part of this review, I will do some source matching.

FA7 + X7 Mk II = Lucky 7

Test Track

  1. Hotel California (DSD)

  2. Billie Jean (FLAC)

  3. Beat It (FLAC)

  4. 24K Magic (FLAC)

  5. Sing (FLAC)

  6. Somewhere, Somebody (DSD)

  7. Style (FLAC)

  8. Rolling in the Deep (WAV)

  9. Hello (FLAC)

  10. Animal (FLAC)

Sound

At the first moment I listen to this IEM, I have no idea how to describe the sound signature - Uncommon and rare. After spending days with it, I will consider the overall sound signature as dark sounding with slightly U shape, slightly darker than most of my IEMs. It reminds me of InEar StageDiver 2. FA7 is a refined version of that particular model. Every region of the frequency spectrum sounds better. Little brother of SD5 maybe?


The soundstage is wide from the X-axis but a little bit lacking from the Y-axis. Ambiance, but the instruments are in a line, forming the X-axis width with the vocalist slightly behind all the instrument forming the shallow Y-axis. This results some overlaps in some of the track. I will further elaborate afterwards. The imaging and separation is precise, nicely done in this price range.


Lows

A Knowles CI-22955 balanced armature driver is utilized for this region. CI series from Knowles is one of the largest BA driver which creates powerful kick at the low region. Wise choice of BA driver. If the specification sheet mention this IEM as a hybrid IEM, I would believe it from the performance of this IEM at the low frequency region - Punchy and energetic kicks that make you shake your body with the track. I am not a bass head but I do appreciate good quality bass.


On some of the track, the kicking at the lows does affect the performance of the mid frequency region. I believe this is partially caused by the alignment of the stage - lows at the front stage while the mids at the center stage. As a mandopop lover, I am disappointed a little bit by this but I believe for those who like EDM or classical can appreciate this more than me.


Mids

A knowles ED-29689 balanced armature driver is utilized for mid frequency region. The ED series is one of the most popular series used by IEM manufacturer. As mentioned in the earlier part of this review, the mid frequency region of this IEM is being aligned in the center stage - Not the star, but emphasis still given. Some people might find the mids are slightly recessed but I think the alignment still consider reasonable and acceptable. For most of the track I have no issue.


I find the male vocal can be slightly thicker, more emphasis can be put in. Bruno Mars sounds a little weak in 24K Magic. For tracks with less lows frequency instruments like Sing from Ed Sheeran, the mids are well articulated - smooth and full of emotions. I believe the staging could have been done better to make the overall sound signature more balanced. For female vocalist, less influences by the low frequency region. Airy and breathy. Jennifer Warnes sounds silky smooth in Somewhere, Somebody.


Highs

Two Knowles SWFK-31736 balanced armature drivers are utilized in this IEM. The highs are well-extended. I have better tolerance towards high region frequency. For those who do not have such tolerance might feel fatigue after long hours listening. It is a little bright. An opinion from me - a little emphasis can be shifted to the mid frequency region to make the overall sound signature more balanced. I would appreciate this more if the tuning and alignment is being done that way (this is very personal and different people can have different view because I might be bias here). Sibilant sounding highs.


Comparison

FiiO FH5

The bass is deeper. I find the overall performance and tuning is more to my favorite as compared to FA7. The overall sound signature is brighter and more transparent. The Y-axis of stage improved while the X-axis is not compromised.


iBasso IT03

This IEM sounds leaner in the body. The airy presentation made the stage wider and with the depth of the low frequency region, both X and Y axis are sufficient. This is something lacking in the FA7. The highs are soaring but it is well controlled. Not to the fatigue causing level.


Astell & Kern Billie Jean

One of my favorite IEM in the SGD500 bracket. The lows might not be sufficient for bass head. I like how the mids are presented. Silky smooth with sufficient emphasis. The staging done well. Vocalist is the star this time. Love it!


Westone UMPro 30

UMPro 30 is a more analytical sounding IEM as compared to FA7. The sound signature is close but the presentation of details is more nicely done by UMPro 30. The staging is as wide but taller and deeper for UMPro 30.


Source Matching

Sony NW-WM1Z

Using the single ended with the stock cable, the soundstage is improved because the nature of this DAP. I believe the soundstage can be improved more by changing the cable and use the balanced output. Now the mid region frequency sounds more prominent as compared to pairing it with FiiO X7 Mk II.


Astell & Kern SP1000M

Not a very good matching because the nature of DAP is slightly warmer and musical. The sound signature shifted to the low frequency region more. I find it more congested as compared to pairing with X7 Mk II.


Opus #3

The sound signature is now more neutral because this player does not have much emphasis on low frequency region. This rectify the issue mentioned earlier in this review - insufficient emphasis in mids. A nice pairing!


Cable Rolling

Effect Audio Eros II

This cable is well known for the presentation of the mid region frequency. Spacious and airy. Now the mids are more prominent now. Overall sound signature is more balanced but the price of the cable is quite high. Not a recommended upgrade.


ALO Audio Litz

I always like the presentation of this cable - balanced with no bias towards or against any region. It is a better pairing with FA7 as compared to Eros II because of the price. The soundstage is wider now.


Conclusion

Being the TOTL, I have a little higher expectations towards FA7. I believe more works can be done on the next IEM to breakthrough the barrier. Still, this IEM can still sound fascinating for certain genre like classical or EDM.


All the best FiiO!