Fiio FD5 - The Semi-Open IEM!?
IEM's come in all sorts of designs but semi-open isn't very popular. There are all sorts of designs & technology found in IEM these days. Various driver type (balanced armature, dynamic, estat, planar, etc) hybrid multiple drivers, high driver counts, custom and universal shells (open, closed or semi open) and so much more. Fiio is offering an IEM of interesting design; a single Beryllium dynamic driver in a semi open, hockey stick shell. Does Fiio pull off a good tuning with this strange design?
A friend and subscriber, Jesse, provided the Fiio FD5 for review. I have not been paid, pressured or otherwise influenced to spin this review one way or the other. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Drivers: 12mm Beryllium-coated diamond-like carbon (DLC) dynamic driver
Frequency response: 10Hz ~ 40kHz
The design of the Fiio FD5 might look familiar to some, it is reminiscent to the Tin Hifi T2, T2 Pro, T3, T4, with the exception to the wavy open grills and being way larger.
I like the shell shape and the design as it looks and feels quality and expensive. There is a heft to the shell that is a bit heavier then most IEM.
The shell is designed like a puck, on its edge, on a hockey stick. The cable connection is the hockey stick shaft and the body is the blade and puck. Chunkier than any Tin Hifi but it works none the less.
The cable deserves a lot of the attention; it is a new favorite of mine. The cable and shell connect via MMCX. The cable itself is soft and pliable and well behaved, you won't find any tangling and twisting tendencies. But the most unique part is the termination connectors; the connection shells spins and the termination pulls out so you can quick swap. No need for adapters to go from 2.5mm, 4.4mm or 3.5mm as you can swap on the fly. I love this concept and am in love.
Another design that Fiio has chosen is the filters and I love it!
Instead of the usual twist off the very end of the tip that most IEM implement, Fiio has chosen to change out the entire tip section. This is a genius design that makes it so much easier to swap filters, again I am in love.
Goodbye to swapping cables or adapters! Goodbye to dropping filters and searching for hours for a small piece of metal before the cat finds it and stashes it under the couch with all the other toy hostages. Thank you Fiio!
Comfort/Fit: Comfort and fit is subjective for sure. I think the Fiio FD5 will fit most and be comfortable. But for my ears, the fit was borderline too big and the weight got to me after awhile. I found that I could only wear the FD5 for about an hour at a time before fatigue from the fit and weight started to garner my attention.
Filters: As mentioned above, Fiio has gone with replacement filters on the FD5. As much as I love the design of the filter; I don't love the effect that the filters offer.
There are two filters available, large (balanced) and small (bass). The small filter is odd and only works with the triple flange tips provided by Fiio; also Etymotic tips were found to fit. Sonic differences are evident when changing the filter. The smaller tube increases the bass presence and adds warmth to the mids but adds intensity to the presentation that became shouty and aggressive. The large filter is more balanced, cohesive and controlled.
Tips: Fiio also offers several silicone tip choices; bass, vocal and balanced.
As expected, the bass tips add more bass presence but quell the upper mids and treble causing the FD5 to sound stuffy. The balanced tips are just that, balanced, but show off a tad too much aggression and can sound shouty at times. The vocal tips are very similar to the balanced tips but are more controlled and cohesive, losing that aggressiveness without being too smooth. Fiio also includes foam tips that I found made the entire presentation dark and bassy, lacking air and treble.
Sound Impressions: (All sound impressions are with the large filter and vocal tips)
Bass: Fiio did a great job with the bass of the FD5. Fiio has taken the Harman Target Curve and tweaked it with a slight increase in the mid and upper bass that adds body and note weight. I enjoy this for the fun sounding IEM universe where the Fiio FD5 resides. Fiio has given a bass that is articulate and pronounced. The FD5 is like that loud speaking friend we all have and love but wish that they would use their inside voice more often. The FD5 has an authoritative presence but the bass isn't domineering or overbearing. Details and resolution are fantastic, providing an engaging wow factor.
Mids: The mids are a modified Harman Target Curve in that it adds a bit of body to the lower mids and lessens the upper mid peaks, making the Fiio FD5 pleasant to my ears. The FD5 falls somewhere between a normal and slight v-shape in the mids. There is a good amount of body and note weight without being thick; let's call it big boned. The Fiio FD5 has an airy and open approach that shows off the natural tone and timbre of instruments. Vocals and instruments have appropriate distance and separation without sounding like they are trying to smell each others breathe or extreme social distance. For an IEM that is following the Harman Target Curve, the FD5 does a good job with presenting the mids close to natural and accurately. Details and resolution are exceptional on the FD5 and you won't be lacking anything in the mix.
Treble: Fiio deviates from the Harman Target Curve in the lower and middle treble with the FD5. The recession of treble allows the FD5 to present in a laidback but not fully reclined way. There is still enough energy and sparkle to keep the engagement factor but at times there is a lackluster gusto. In the upper treble, there is a rise to bring in air and openness to the FD5. I really enjoy the treble but do wish that there was slight more engagement in the lower and middle regions. Details are retrieved adequately and resolved with cleanliness and clarity. The Fiio FD5 represents tone and timbre well in the treble.
Soundstage/Imaging/Depth/Layering: Fiio FD5 has created an IEM that has a natural and realistic soundstage. I find that the stage width and depth is realistic as it isn't too wide or too close. Imaging and layering are realistic as well, making for a stage that is easy to diagnose and decipher. The FD5 excels in placement and accuracy and is fantastic for gaming and movies. The FD5 does a good job of sounding open, giving off natural vibes.
Details/Retrieval/Resolution: Throughout the entire frequency range, the FD5 does an excellent job with detail retrieval, nothing of importance is left behind. Resolution of revealed details is great through out. The Fiio FD5 does tend to smooth over edges and loses a bit of natural bite.
Tone/Timbre: The Beryllium driver shows off natural tone and timbre that I have no complaints about. Fiio has done a good job of putting a spin on the Harman Target Curve to make the FD5 sound very close to natural and accurate. The FD5 lacks just a touch of natural sibilance and harshness instead opting for the smooth approach.
NextDrive Spectra X: Looking for a pairing that seems like it was made for each other? The Fiio FD5 and NextDrive Spectra X are truly a pleasure to listen to and enjoy. There is a fun and engaging approach to the presentation with the BIG bass, mostly balanced mids (middle mids slightly recessed) and the laidback treble with just enough energy and sparkle. This is a portable option that I recommend and enjoy very much.
Sony NW-A105: A quality DAP deserves a quality IEM pairing and the FD5 and NW-A105 do just that. I used the 3.5mm connection as the NW-A105 is single-ended only. There is a lushness to the presentation. Of course the bass is BIG and FUN but the mids are detailed and full and the treble is laidback but engaging and it does it in a natural and realistic way. I really enjoy this pairing and highly recommend it.
Sony NW-WM1a: Using the 4.4mm balanced output of the WM1a with the FD5 is an experience that I love and recommend. This is a fantastic pairing for those times of music enjoyment when the critical listening hat isn't on. The WM1a and FD5 take you to an oasis of sonic bliss. When I want to relax and enjoy music this is one of the pairings I reach for over many others. Enough details, resolution, BIG bass, pleasing mids and treble; everything is cohesive, balanced and non-fatiguing and can be in the background while I peck away on the keyboard typing up a review or working at my day job.
Mytek Liberty: (I used an iFi IEMatch) The Fiio FD5 scales very well when paired with different gear of varying prices. This is my favorite desktop pairing as the Liberty DAC brings out all the natural and realistic tendencies of the FD5. There was an open, airy approach with natural tone and timbre. Bass is BIG and fun but still controlled. Mids are articulate and engaging enough. Treble is a relaxed ear blessing.
Matrix Mini-i Pro 3: (I used an iFi IEMatch) My second favorite desktop pairing is the Matrix Mini-i Pro 3 as it brings out the natural tone and timbre with a touch more body and note weight. The FD5 is a little more intimate and fun with the Matrix. Bass is BIG and has more of a WOW factor. The mids are slightly recessed and lose some of the fullness in the middle, having more lower and upper presence. Treble is laidback and somewhat lazy at times, losing a touch of air and openness.
A very interesting comparisons where the SeeAudio Yume approach is more about quality and the Fiio FD5 is about quantity. The Yume bass is more defined and refined but isn't as impactful and fun as the FD5. The mids of the Yume have a more cohesive and balanced presentation that doesn't dip in the middle segment. The Yume treble is more filled in the lower and middle sections and air is similar, thus the Yume isn't as laidback. Detail retrieval and resolution are very similar with the Yume being more expressive and forthright. Tone and timbre is more natural and realistic on the Yume. The SeeAudio Yume is the critical listening compliment to the fun, relaxed FD5.
Moondrop Blessing 2:
Moondrop Blessing 2 can't compete with the FD5 when it comes to bass impact and fun. But the Blessing 2 has better detail retrieval and resolution in the bass. The mids are more even and cohesive on the Blessing 2 and vocals have more presence. Treble isn't as dipped on the Blessing 2 but there is more air presence. The Blessing 2 is a brighter presentation up top. Detail retrieval and resolution are significantly more on the Blessing 2. Imaging and layering are better on the Blessing 2 even though soundstage width and depth are similar. The Fiio FD5 has a more natural and realistic tone and timbre.
Tin Hifi T5:
This is craziness how similar these two IEM sound. The FD5 has more bass impact but it is a slim margin and the T5 has a touch less upper bass which thins out the lower vocals and instruments. Mids are near identical till the upper mids, where the T5 has a slight aggressiveness to it. Treble is filled in more on the T5 and rolls off in the air region when the FD5 rises. The T5 treble is not as laidback as the FD5 and has a little more energy and sparkle. Tone and timbre, detail and resolution are all too close to call a clear winner. If you want a little more forward upper mid and treble presentation then the T5 is where to look but if you want a more robust bass and a gentler upper mids and treble presentation then the FD5 is where you should look.
To be honest, I really didn't know what to expect of the Fiio FD5. I was curious if it would show too many of the Harman Target Curve tendencies that I dislike or if Fiio had found a way to improve those flawed tendencies. Call me impressed, the Fiio FD5 is a close to Harman Target Curve IEM that I enjoy and recommend. If you are looking for a fun, detailed, every day carry IEM in the $300 price bracket then you should consider the Fiio FD5. I like it and I approve; the Fiio FD5 is a fun IEM.
YouTube reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgMj7xJ1SDxGqqxZ5l3g_jg
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The Honest Audiophile research and review process: https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc
Audio Terms and Definitions: https://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html
Rosson Audio Design RAD-0: http://www.rossonaudiodesign.com/
Meze Empyrean: https://mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean
Hifiman Ananda: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/290
Sennheiser HD660s: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd-660-s
MrSpeakers Ether C (non flow version) https://danclarkaudio.com/
Meze Rai Penta: https://mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/rai-penta
Meze Rai Solo: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-solo
Empire Ears ESR: https://empireears.com/products/esr-b-stock
Moondrop SSR: https://www.moondroplab.com/ssr
Monoprice Monolith THX AAA 788: https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=24459
Mytek Liberty: https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/liberty-dac/
HeadAmp GSX-Mini: https://www.headamp.com/products/gs-x-mini
Soekris DAC1421: https://soekris.modhouseaudio.com/soekris-audiophile-line/dac-1421
Tor Audio Roger: https://toraudio.com/main.html#
Massdrop THX AAA 789:
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Geshelli Labs Enog 2 Pro: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/enog2-pro-dac-metal-case
Geshelli Labs J2: https://geshelli.com/jnog
Geshelli Labs Erish: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/erish-balanced
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/5bbf80ce-33f3-4222-a1fc-6539a95415d6 (in order of playlist)
Tingvall Trio “Beat” - piano tonality
Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - multiple layer soundstage
Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - female vocal tone
Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - male vocal tone
Eric Clapton “Change the World” - soundstage, layering and placement
Yo Yo Ma “Ecstasy of Gold” - acoustic instrument timbre
Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - acoustic instrument timbre
Pain of Salvation “Stress” - percussion balance
Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - orchestral dynamics
Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - sibilance check
Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - shouty upper mids
Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - imaging
Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - sub bass extension
Marcus Miller “No Limit” - bass control
Dave Holland Quartet “Conference Of The Birds”- bass check
Ilhan Eshkeri “47 Ronin”- orchestra and bass dynamics
Hans Zimmer: “2049” - sub bass extension
Cher: “Believe” - sibilance
Stanley Clarke - “Passenger 57 main title” - percussion, bass, separation and placement
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra - “The Pine of the Appian Way” - soundstage, imaging and separation
Houston Person - “You are my Sunshine” - tone and timbre
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