FiiO F5 - The Well-Priced Whole-Package IEM


FiiO F5 -  FiiO's latest IEM brings a great package, a happy sound, and both single ended and balanced cables at a fair price point.





Introduction

FiiO is one of the largest Chinese DAPs, Headphone AMPs (amplifiers) and (recently) IEM producers. Their past successful IEMs were made in partnership with Dunu, another well-known and well-renowned Chinese IEM producer. FiiO has been around since 2007 and while their first products were small headphone amplifiers, their latest products range from small headphone amplifiers to State-Of-Art DAPs. FiiO is also known for their friendly customer support and for their implication with the audiophile community, organizing tours, and providing answers to the most exotic of inquiries.


I bought my first serious DAP a few years ago: A FiiO X5. I loved that product and it always was a trustworthy partner, there with me when I first left my hometown and moved to Bucharest. The next DAP I bought was a FiiO product as well, their 2nd generation of X5. I still own FiiO X2nd , and use every day in combination with iFi iDSD Black Label.

When I first caught news of FiiO tinkering with a new IEM, a river of questions flooded my mind. What was this new IEM? Is it here to replace EX1? Is it here to replace the 2nd generation of EX1? How does it sound like?

For many of us music lovers, the price of our portable setup is an important aspect of our hobby and I always respected companies who make a good package for an affordable price. FiiO is one of the companies who made lots of wonderful products at accessible prices, perfect for those of us who couldn't spend more.

I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO at this moment, I am not receiving any kind of incentive to sweeten things out. The review unit is provided for this review and for our honest opinion. FiiO asked us directly to publish our thoughts and feelings as they are and I am as objective as humanely possible to all products. After owning many high-end IEMs and other devices, I am a bit hard to impress. This review is made to help those who wonder if F5 is the chosen IEM to become their next music companion.



About me

My name is Gheorghe Dobrescu and I am the Director of the Seventh Heart Studios game studio. I work as one of the main programmers for the company, and I am the writer for Quantum Magica and Falsetto Memories projects, the Programmer, Co-Director, Producer and Editor for Eternal Hour.

I spend almost twelve hours per day working on a computer, drawing, writing and programming. I also take care of administrative work which means that my needs vary a lot, and I'll end up using devices both while on the computer and while on-the-go.

My collection includes everything from Classical to Metal, from Rap to Pop, from Punk to Cabaret and absolutely everything in between. There are great artists from every type of music, and I'm one to collect their albums and discographies.

You can check out more about Seventh Heart Studios games on our pages https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/     and https://twitter.com/7heartstudios 

At Seventh Heart Studios, we all love music and this has had an impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best disk space to sound quality ratio, OGG -q10 being closest to audibly transparent when compared to FLAC encoding. 


  
First Impression


FiiO X5ii has been my DAP for a long while, I sold it and bought it again two times, and now and it is part of why I am so curious about F5. Besides X5 2nd gen, I have a few other trusty companions that are always there for me: Meze Classics 99, iFi iDSD Black Label, Dunu DK-3001 and Sennheiser ie800.

All of those devices are easily state-of-art devices and some of the best one can own and use, so I might be a bit hard to impress.

It was a damp and cloudy day when I received F5. I had to take the trolleybus to reach an area of Bucharest where they haven't extended the Metro yet. It was late in the noon that day and people were slowly starting to go home from their work, together with kids coming back from school. The Trolleybus has never been a favorite of mine in Bucharest, it is old and rusty, with people riding it never looking happy. I met with a friend, the writer from http://soundnews.ro/ as we both live in Bucharest and he received an F5 as well and offered to pick mine from the postage together with his. We kept talking for a while as he described his feelings for F5 and about music that we love and enjoy. It was already evening when I took the Trolleybus back home and the seats were mostly empty, just a few people wandering at those late hours through the dusty, empty streets of Bucharest. The weather was getting cooler with the night fall in Bucharest as I quickly got home and started unpacking FiiO F5 with a tender curiosity and a delicate eagerness to find what the folks at FiiO cooked for us.

After unpacking and carefully setting F5 up for usage, the first thing that surprised me was the comfort. For an IEM of this shape and size, FiiO F5 felt like a feather gently grazing my ears, I could barely tell that I was wearing it – the open design also giving them a sense of openness and airiness that's hard to match. I picked a magical song to start my journey with FiiO F5, StereoRyze – Neon Sails. F5 impressed me by their deep bass and by their airy, wide and open sound.

It was time to get more listening and burn-in to FiiO's IEM before describing their sound.



Packaging:

First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:


Having enjoyed the company of FiiO DAPs in the past, I knew what to expect from a FiiO DAP unboxing experience, but I had no idea what to expect from their IEMs. 

FiiO F5 comes packaged in a similar box like FiiO's premium DAPs.


F5 is packaged in a pretty thick box, designed in a black theme and decorated with red lines and golden accents. The box includes a good amount of information about F5 and FiiO's philosophy towards sound, both in English and Chinese.

Inside the black box, there is another black box made of hard, textured cardboard with the inscription "FiiO". This box doesn't include any more information, but it protects everything else during transport. 



Inside this second box you will discover a few compartments each including something magical, the most explosive of them all being the glossy carry box which is eye-catching, eye-candy, and sturdy at the same time. The carry box slightly reminds of the typical Peli boxes, having a similar locking mechanism.



Inside the black carry box, you can find F5 IEM bodies seated in a foam cutout, and a selection of tips. After unpacking the rest of the package, you can find a balanced cable, a single ended cable that features an iPhone/Android remote and a set of instructions / warranty cards for FiiO F5.




I love having extras in a package, and I actually still own the 3.5mm rubber jack saver that came with the first generation of X5.

Coming with balanced cable, six sets of tips, a single ended cable with a microphone, and detachable cables, F5 can only be commended for their rich box content, especially at their price point. F5 is one of the very few IEMs that has such a rich box content at this price point.



With everything out of the way, it is time to connect them and start listening to F5!



What I look in for a IEM


When buying a IEM, there are a few things that a buyer should have in mind since sooner or later those will make a difference:

-      Sound quality – This is the most important aspect of an IEM by far, if it sounds good, it'll bring a lot of fun and pleasure to you

-      Ergonomics – the fit and ergonomics of a IEM are very important, the listener wants a comfortable IEM that can stay in place for hours at once and that doesn't have a microphonic cable.

-      Value – Some IEM fans might want to keep the value of their purchase in mind

-      Drive-ability – Some might want to drive an IEM directly from a smartphone or from a weaker source, it is important to know how hard or easy to drive is a IEM or Headphone before making a purchase

-      Interesting design – Everyone will have a different definition for what an interesting design is, but it is always good to see effort going to the design part of the IEM.

-      Portability – An IEM should be portable and possible to wear while walking or doing other activities.

-      EMI interference – Any IEM out there should be free of those, but it is good to test against them either way.



Technical Specifications

Impedance
32 Ohm
Connector
3.5 mm SE + 2.5 mm BAL
Frequency Response
20 Hz – 40 kHz
Rated Power 
102dB / mW
Weight
~21g
Cable length
1.2m
Driver Size
13.6mm
Driver Type
Dynamic, Open Back
Coupling type
In-Ear
Includes Balanced cable
Yes
IEM body connector type
MMCX



Build Quality/Aesthetics

F5 is a pleasant surprise as the first thing to notice is that not only they feature detachable cables, but there are two cables in the box as well. This is extremely rare at their price point and FiiO's effort can only be commended. The next thing to notice is that they have a sturdy build and that the single ended cable features a handy microphone/remote accessory.


As far as looks go, FiiO F5 is quite the handsome IEM. While worn, they look like a cool, industrial-like IEM, featuring an adonized finish together with a combination of sharp and curved edges that entwine to give F5 its final finish. They might also look like a futuristic object from a Sci-Fi movie at times.

The main IEM body is composed out of a dark metallic material while the front facing part of the IEM seems to be made out of hard plastic. The part facing the ear has three holes which act as vents, next to a L/R inscription. The tip bore is large and the tips included have a very tight fit between the silicone tip and the plastic bore. The first time putting a silicone tip on F5 can be a bit tricky, though it is promising to know that the tips stick well to the IEM body.

Upon close examination, I found a hole right behind the IEM as well, next to the cable connector. I suspect that it acts as another ventilation hole.


Going down the IEM body, there is a MMCX connector which connects the IEM with the cable. The MMCX connection is gold plated and has a nice tight fit to it, clicking into place. During my time with F5, the tips never fell off nor the mmcx ever disconnect during usage, but it is possible to spin the MMCX connector freely. Since the pair I'm using is a pre-production sample, the final version should have a tighter fit. 



The IEM body looks fairly sturdy and it also looks like it can take a lot of abuse before showing wear signs. There are no scratches on this pair, even after using F5 for a while, even after using it outside for a few weeks.


There are two cables included with F5 and both are pretty nice considering their price point. One of the cables is entirely black and single ended, featuring an iDevice + Android remote/microphone tool.

The other cable is balanced and has a transparent / bright color to it. Balanced cables cannot feature a microphone or remote due to their design.

The quality of the cables is slightly different and the sound will change as the single ended and balanced sound of every source will always be a bit different. Neither of the cables aren't overly microphonic and F5 can be used while taking a walk outside with no problems.

The microphone / remote works as intended and the voice sounds crisp and clear to the person on the other end. The remote functions work well for Android with my Mi Max phone.

FiiO has packaged another nifty trick with F5, as it comes with something that everyone will be glad to have: a nice-looking, sturdy carry box.

The carry box is made out of hard plastic and its surface features a glossy black color. While it might get a few scratches after some usage, it feels really sturdy (similar to pelican boxes) and provides a good carry method for IEMs and other accessories. The carry box features a slightly angular surface resembling modern art on the top surface and features rounded edges all around its body, being very easy to carry in a pocket. The inner part seems to be rubberized so it offers a pretty good protection for the IEM that is carried inside. I like to place a small humidity control bag inside the box to keep the IEM's drivers dry.

All in all, the build quality of F5 is nice and it is an IEM you can comfortably show to your friends and wear outside.



Fit / Comfort

As F5 is an IEM, the fit and comfort can be tricky as every person has a unique ear shape and size. IEMs can be hit and miss for anybody when it comes to comfort, but nevertheless, F5 provides a pretty good comfort.  


FiiO also comes with a nifty solution for the comfort issue with IEMs and adds a good number of tips to F5. I used the medium size colored tips, but all tips offered good comfort for me while the medium sized tips offered the most balanced sound.

F5's fit is shallow and their big IEM bodies play an important role in this as it is impossible to push F5 more than its body allows, but the kind of fit they offer works well with my ears and I found nothing to complain about.

F5 has absolutely no driver flex and sits comfortable in ears for long hours of usage. Due to their vented design, F5 has the tendency to feel more comfortable over a long period of time than fully closed IEMs, but this also means that they will provide less isolation from the outside noise.

People around me couldn't really hear my music and F5 isolated outside noise enough to take a walk through the dusty streets of Bucharest while wearing them, but they are open in their design.

F5 can only be used straight-down, and while it might be possible for some people to wear them with the cables around the ear, most people will find that the straight-down mode works best for F5.

Both cables are tangle-free and F5 can be safely put in their carry case or in a pocket without the cables getting tangled, while the little belt accessory down the cable helps with this as well.

The tips of F5 come in two types, a set of colored tips in 3 sizes and a set of fully black tips in 3 sizes. The part underneath the tip is colored and while FiiO didn't offer an explanation behind this, the colored tips seem to offer the best sonic experience and comfort to my ears. The tips don't get slippery very fast and I have worn F5 for a while without feeling the need to take them out or to wash the tips, the silicone in their composition is of pretty high quality.

All in all, F5 is comfortable and besides their isolation which is limited by their open design, it is an IEM hard to fault in the ergonomics and practical usage department.



Testing


FiiO F5 have been tested with a multitude of devices, from entry-level devices like Xiaomi Mi max, to portable DAPs like FiiO X5ii, all the way to high end DAC/AMPs like iFi iDSD Black Label.



Sound Quallity

The sound of FiiO F5 is warm, polite, euphoric, open and airy.


Early impressions: F5 has a good soundstage and while their general sound feels rather relaxed and polite, the large soundstage gives an airy sound to the whole presentation. There is a good sense of space and depth to the soundstage and the sound effects in electronic music have a good thickness and spatial presentation. The midrange is well expressed with a nice warmth to it and natural tonality to it.


Detailed Impressions: After listening to F5 for many hours and using them for many days, I would describe their signature as warm, open, airy and polite. The top end is very polite, but F5 features a fairly-energetic 8kHz area, after which they slowly roll off, the final sound being pretty smooth and friedly. The dynamics are good, especially considering their price point. Even after days of usage, the soundstage is one of the most amazing features of F5. Details are also very good for F5's asking price.  



Little disclaimer: 


For the sonic impressions, I have used: iDSD Black Label, FiiO X5ii and Xiaomi Mi Max. Each of them has a sonic signature of their own. That sonic signature will change the way F5 sounds when driven from any of them. A high-end DAC/AMP like iDSD BL makes F5 sounds better than a smartphone and although F5 are very easy to drive, I still recommend a good DAP or DAC/AMP to take full advantage of their sound.



Channel balance

F5 does not present any channel imbalance and the channels are perfectly balanced.



Bass

F5 presents a natural and clean bass that extends all the way to 20 Hz, but which doesn't bleed into mids one bit. The bass of F5 is well detailed and there is very little one can fault when it comes to their bass, especially considering the price tag of F5.

There is a good tendency for F5 to be bass heavy, but given its bass control and quality, I would name it a welcome Bass-Heavy signature as it gives a certain warmth and impact to music.

F5 could be easily be recommended to a basshead on a budget. It is good to note that they are cleaner in their bass than many of the competitors in the ~70$ price area, providing a clean, smooth and pleasurable presentation.

F5 works quite well with electronic, dubstep and bass heavy music, but they don't shy away from rock and pop, K-Pop and J-Pop in special sounding sweet and enthusiastic through F5.



Knife Party – 404 – The song starts strong with a great impact for every bass note. Small details can be heard playing in the background and the soundstage is well-extended. The textures in the special effects is very good and leaves a positive impression. As the song takes the listener on a trip through the universe filled with symbols and 90's internet sounds, all bass notes continue to go deep and hit hard while effects feel tangible, especially when driven from iFi iDSD Black Label. All textures feel vivid and are very impressive for an entry-level IEM.

Infected Mushroom – Becoming insane – The first few guitar notes accompany each other in a smooth way and the polite nature on F5 makes the song feel laid back, the guitars being warm, musical and enthusiastic instead of having their usual bite with this song. The bass goes deep and the impact of F5 can easily make one move his head while listening to this song, and while the treble is smooth(er) than I generally like it, the textures are good and vividly rendered, and so are all effects and the soundstage. For the record, I couldn't stop listening to the song while testing F5 and started to sing along with the song – a good measurement of the level of enjoyment F5 can provide, despite their friendly price point.

3OH!3 – Colorado Sunshine – The song starts with good strength and all bass notes extend well down to 20 Hz, with the voice having an excellent timbre and depth to it while the rest of the mids also have an excellent timbre. The first guitar notes have a laid back and relaxing sound to them while the top end also stays friendly and laid back. The song doesn't have any trace of sibilance or harshness, having a smooth general feeling to it. Through the trip 3OH!3 offers the listener, F5 presents things with a spacious feeling and it is possible to hear and enjoy many of the fine details hidden within the large soundstage. The texture, especially bass texture is great and gives the song a playful and vivid feeling to it.

Oceana – Barracuda Capital of the World – The start of the song is good and the vocal tone is rendered spot-on. The cymbal crashes are smooth and they give the song a warm feeling to it. The bass is deep and envelops the listener in its presence and texture while the guitar notes are true in both tonality and texture and their positioning is excellent.


Midrange

The midrange of F5 is warm and a bit thick but the tonality is good and becomes even better after just a bit of equalization. Driving F5 from iDSD BL will make the tonality and textures considerably better, and iDSD BL will also enhance the depth of F5's soundstage. The enhanced bass doesn't bleed into the mids, but the mids have a lush sound to them. This works very well for an enthusiastic and happy sound, a lot of the music sounding "happy" through F5. It is hard to describe the emotional engagement F5 has, but anything one listens through it will sound happy and optimistic, even most of Metal music.

The midrange is placed right at the perfect spot with F5, not too forward and not too recessed either. The instrument tonality is also very natural and relaxed. The level of details is also excellent for their price point, being better than I expected before hearing them. There is very little to fault on F5's midrange, and while listening to them, their enthusiastic and happy midrange can make one smile and gently move their heard with ease.

Antichrist feat Martin Mentzoni – Evil Gypsy Woman – The piano at the beginning of the song is clear and doesn't have any kind of sibilance or harsh sounds. The voiced parts are clear and have a spot-on tonality while the bass notes are deep and have enough impact to impress the listener, even managing to shake the earth around the listener while staying very clear, when called for. The soundstage size is impressive, together with the very good instrument separation, both being enhanced by the open design of F5. The ADSR and PRaT of this song are impressive considering F5's price point and effects are able to start and stop at the drop of a needle, F5 doing a great job at playing this song. The cymbal effects are smooth and polie, singing along in the background, keeping the rhythm of the song well and alive.

Cold War Kids – Love is Mystical – The song starts with a strong drum beat and with a smooth piano singing in the back. The voices are lively and carry a good amount of emotion, the bass guitar is clear and bass notes shake the listener well, giving the song a very good sense of fun. There are a lot of details that are easily audible due to F5's large soundstage and well separated instruments playing in a warm unison. All drum patterns are clear and crispy while the cymbals come to accompany the song in a harmonic background, being neither intrusive nor entirely erased, having enogh presence to justify their role in the song. For the record, I have been tapping my leg for almost the whole duration of the song. The story of love as sang by Cold Ward Kids is sent incredibly vivid and with a strong emotional impact, the listener can hear fine vocal cues that indicate the singer's strong emotions while the song was recorded.

Masa Works Design – God of Marie – The song starts with good impact and force while the cymbals play vividly in their spot, in the background-left area. The voices are sweet and the tonality is spot on, while the bass of the song feels big, hits hard and hits deep. The mid effects and synths are crisp and their textures are nicely rendered. The separation between instruments and soundstage are both staggering, F5 having the sound of an open-back headphone headphone rather than an IEM. The soundstage has very good depth and width, effects can easily be localized in the 3D listening space while everything plays together to create a sweet harmony. Although the voices of this song are part of Vocaloid, they sound lively and carry a sweet tonality with them while sang through F5.

Fall Out Boy – Immortals – The bass notes at the beginning of the song are impressive and hit deep without distorting one bit. The synth notes playing in the background are clear and have a sweet tonality to them while the voices are spot-on even without any EQ and all instruments are nicely layered in the 3D space. The cymbals fit nicely in the background, making good company for the rest of the song. The story of this song is presented nicely to the listeners and the emotional impact is very good as well.

Sylva Hound feat UndreamedPanic ft. Synthis – The Storm – The song starts with a groovy – funky bass woven together with a synth play that leads to the first verse which is sang with crisp voices and good amounts of details. All piano notes are easily distinguishable as they play in the background and create a cover for all the other instruments as they continue to play in their own layers. The rather minimalistic structure of the song doesn't feel minimalistic at all with F5, as it renders the song as a playful and intricate piece, perfect to dance to. While the piano notes entwine the listener into a sweet play-harmony that helps the listener dream to the electric yet quaint scenery of this song is portrayed nicely through the main voice and voice reverb tracks.

Ken Arai – I Am –  As F5 is already an awesome IEM for electronic music, "I Am" by Ken Arai is one of the best songs to compliment F5 and its default sonic signature. All bass notes are redeemed with extreme strength and every reverberation in the bass is audible and palpable for the listener. The weight and impact of the intro is excellent and the cymbals are played clearly and consistently in the background, seasoning the rest of the sound. All synth notes are clear and crisp, and the large soundstage of F5 gives the whole song a holographic presentation, without losing the impact employed by the excellent bass notes. The ADSR and micro-dynamics are spot-on for this song and F5 outdoes its price point by a large margin when playing this song. All details in the song are revealed by F5 and for the record, I couldn't stop listening to the song the first time I heard it played on iDSD BL + FiiO F5, combination which I found excellent. At the moment, I can only wonder how F5 would sound in balanced mode, but I would happily buy F5 to use in single ended mode as well.


Treble

The treble of F5 is smooth, relaxed, laid back and polite. It would be fair to say that it takes a step back when compared to the mids and bass, but it is detailed (especially for F5's price point). F5's treble has a bit of grain which helps recognize more details but it is clearly not the highlight of F5's signature, rather having an important role as the seasoning for the amazing soundstage, natural mids and clean bass. F5 will never sound harsh or sibilant and while the treble might be a bit polite for some listeners, most listeners will be delighted to hear F5's sound and how you can literally use it for hours on a row without suffering any kind of listener's fatigue. F5 works pretty well with any kind of music thrown at it, but the laid back treble can make metal sound less aggressive – which in return makes pop sounds sound sweeter and more enthusiastic, along with indie-rock pieces and compositions being rendered far more intriguing than they are when an aggressive IEM reveals their flaws.

As a listener, I actually prefer slightly brighter signatures so I found myself adding a few dB of treble to F5 to bring the sound closer to my ideals. There is a limit to how much EQ F5 can safely take, but most people won't feel the need to EQ F5 at all. For the record, while I am a fan of brighter signatures, my wife loves the smooth top end of F5 and didn't feel the need to EQ them in any way.

F5's sound is polite yet it sounds very energetic and F5 is one IEM that will make a person tap their feet while listening to pieces that feature a healthy rhythm.

Infected mushroom – Where do I belong – The first few bass notes enter the scene with impressive strength and impact, literally moving the listener from his place. The 3D effects and certain tones made to move through the sonic landscape works well along with the playful bass woobles. The cymbals make a great seasoning for the natural sound of this song and F5 is able to play a healthy level in the cymbals even though they do play in the background. The treble is actually well detailed and it is possible to hear fast cymbal hits. For the record, I have been tapping my feet even while writing the review for this song.

Protest The Hero – I Am Dimitri Karamazov And The World Is My Father – This song always sounds harsh and sibilant with most setups, given its mastering and original recording, but with F5, it is not harsh nor sibilant, it is enjoyable and the cymbals, while clear and vivid, don't steal the spotlight, which is instead given to the sweet and playful guitar tones. It is possible to hear the bass guitar notes playing through all of this song and the general feeling of it is melodic and fun while the solo guitar has a vivid and clear texture. Stereo separation is excellent, and musical notes are not one bit smeared and they don't protrude on each other. It is possible to feel the emotional engagement the singer has for the whole duration of the song – the story of the song being depressive, about a man who was sent to war without his consent.

Mojo Juju – Must Be Desire – Mojo Juju's songs are always jazzy with a sprinkle of groovy cabaret, a natural combination with FiiO F5. Must be Desire relies heavily on thick and heavy bass notes and a clear yet natural vocal presentation. F5 proves its qualities really well with this song, even the trumpets having a sweet sound to them and the voice being really clear. The love story painted through the song, a story of desire that consumes the partners through desire and attraction is painted with vivid colors and with a happy tone that makes the listener move his entire body to the rhythm employed by Mojo Juju. The crying trumpet at the middle of the song is an excellent example of how F5's laid back top end can make a song happy. Trumpets can be really harsh in nature, but F5 makes them sweet and filters them so the listener only hears the emotional impact the trumpet has, without the actual harshness of a trumpet sound. It is also amazing to hear the bassist's fingers sliding through the bass guitar's strings as he keeps the rhythm together with the drummer. All in all, F5's experience with this song can only be  commended and it is a fun trip through musical planes.

Machinae Supremacy – Gimme More – The cover of the well-known song by Britney Spears is a very good choice for F5 as it shows how the unique signature of F5 works with a rock cover of a pop song. The intro of the song is strong and has good impact while the guitars are layered nice together with the drum and cymbal patterns. The drums sound crispy and the cymbals are very clear, playing in the background. The synth effects are played harmoniously with the bass notes leading to a thick and playful feeling for each note. The guitar solo carries a good aggressive impact to it and the cymbal crashes and complex drum patterns are easy to notice playing at the same time as every guitar solo.

NaNoShi Orchestra feat Hatsune Miku – Double Suicide In The White Snow – The guitar intro of the song is vivid and each drum beat is gently woven in with each guitar note. Multiple sonic layers are easy to distinguish while the voices are rendered extremely sweet. With the voices being so sweet, the emotional impact and emotional involvement are even more potent for this song since the sadness the song transmits is felt even more vivid by the listener. For the record, F5 is able to bring this song extremely vivid to the listener as listening to this song actually brought a few tears to my eyes and I had to stop writing for a few minutes. 


Soundstage

The soundstage of F5 is very impressive and it is considerably larger than the soundstage of almost all IEMs that I heard in the past, at times surpassing the soundstage of IEMs far more expensive, even surpassing the soundstage of some closed back headphones I tested in the past.

The instrument separation is also astonishing on F5, all instruments play in their own space and layers, being separated by clear bounds. iDSD BL helps a lot with this as it has an amazing instrument definition and separation by default, embedding its qualities in F5's sound.

Soundstage depth is also impressive, and although the unique signature of F5 makes the bass a tiny bit forward, the mids are not affected by this effect and certain effects can come from a clear distance from the listener, while other effects in the mids can play right in front of the listener.



ADSR/PRaT

F5 does a great job with the ADSR and PRaT with both synthetic and acoustic music. F5's ADSR performance is extremely good for its price point.

Musical notes have a slightly prolonged decay / romantic feeling to them and this is probably a part of why F5 sounds sweet and happy with a lot of music.

Considering F5's price point, its ADSR and PRaT cannot be faulted in any way.



Portable Usage

FiiO F5 is a IEM, so it is highly portable by default. Since it has a very low impedance and a high efficiency, driving it won't be a problem, working really well even from a weak source like a smartphone or an ultra-portable player like Clip+.


Even so, it is highly recommended to drive F5 from a better DAC/AMP as the sound improves a lot and F5 turns into a completely better IEM. FiiO DAPs work really well in particular with F5, FiiO X5-3, FiiO X7 and FiiO X3ii.  

The isolation of F5 is low as they are fully open back IEMs, but I have been able to use F5 while on the go, in the noisy environment of Bucharest. I have used them at a slightly higher volume than I usually set my IEMs to. The microphone/remote accessory is on the right side this time (most other IEMs have it on the left side), but this didn't create any issue in the usage of F5.

Sound leakage of F5 is also slightly higher than other IEMs, given its open design, but people around me didn't even notice when I was listening to music – neither did it bother people in complete silence when I was listening to music.

The comfort is incredibly good, and I have been able to walk, dance, sing and do other activities while wearing F5 without any issues. The cables proven to be ever so slightly microphonic, but it was nothing too serious either.

All in all, F5 is a very portable IEM that would easily make a travel or listening companion to any music lover, with very little to fault in their portability. Since their weak isolation is a trade-off to offer a large soundstage, a great instrument separation and good comfort, I don't actually mind the open design.




Comparisons 


There are a few IEMs out there that F5 can be compared to, but I only have a few on my hands at the moment. The list of comparisons will be updated as Audiophile Heaven's inventory of IEMs grows.

F5 vs Shozy Zero – Shozy zero comes with less tips than F5 and comes without detachable cables. F5 is made out of metal + plastic, while Zero is made out of wood. Sound wise, Zero is similar to F5 in its signature, but F5 provides a more open sound due to their fully open design. F5 has no driver flex while Zero can present some driver flex. Shozy Zero's isolation is pretty good while F5 are fully open in design.

F5 vs Sennheiser M2 IEBT – The two are very different and M2 IEBT is almost 3 times the price of F5, and it is a Bluetooth IEM, but a comparison in sound is possible. M2 IEBT has a closed design and will provide more isolation, while F5 is fully open and provides more air in their sound. While M2 IEBT doesn't have any driver flex, the difference in their closed design vs the open design of F5 can be felt while wearing both. Both M2 IEBT and F5 provide very good silicone tips and both can stay comfortably in one's ears for extended periods of time. M2 IEBT provides an energetic, happy and enthusiastic signature while F5 provides a smooth, laid back and happy signature. The biggest difference is in the top end, which is very energetic on M2 IEBT, but laid back, polite and relaxing on F5. Both carry very good detail levels through all frequencies. You can read more about M2 IEBT here: https://www.head-fi.org/p/836/sennheiser-hd1-in-ear-wireless-review-by-dobrescu-george

FiiO F5 vs SIMGOT EN700 BASS – While EN700 BASS is more expensive than F5 with about 50%, the comparison is fair as they go for a similar signature and might be considered by the same people. EN700 BASS is closer to a neutral/natural sound while F5 is more laid back and relaxed and makes music sound happier. The soundstage is pretty similar and the bass is larger on F5. EN700 BASS has a different shape and fit when compared to F5 – EN700 BASS is bigger and has an over-the-ear design and fitting mechanism while F5 is best worn straight down. FiiO F5 provides Balanced modes and detachable cables, while EN700 BASS does not. [Review for EN700 BASS is in the works]



Value

All in all, the value of FiiO F5 is spectacular. Its price point, only 70$, makes things even more interesting as F5 comes with a plethora of accessories: it comes with two cables, one of which is balanced, a good selection of tips, and with a very nice and useful carrying case. The sound of F5 is very good for its price point, and there is no way to fault F5's value for its package.


The sound of F5 is better than most of its direct competitors, especially competitors at a similar price point, being one of the IEMs I wholeheartedly recommend in its price range.

The sole fact that F5 is almost the only balanced IEM at its price point and it comes with two cables tells more about its value than any words can tell.


Conclusion

FiiO F5 is a lot of fun to listen and it looks like FiiO is going in the right direction with F5. Feathery comfort, open sound, and amazing soundstage / instrument separation are only a few of the reasons one will be really interested in F5.

FiiO F5 gives other products a run for their money and if driven from a good source, like iDSD BL, F5 turns into an overwhelming experience for the music lover, providing not only a very immersive audition but also an enthusiastic and happy sound.

If you're looking for a laid back, happy sounding, warm and clear IEM, FiiO F5 makes one of the best companions for you. The balanced cable and really nice carry case are only the icing on the cake as F5 provides a complete package at a very good price!



Thank you for reading, stay safe, and remember to always have fun while listening to music!