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FiiO FD5 Review: Dynamic headphones with groundbreaking technology

Last year , FiiO presented an interesting model of FiiO FD1 in -ear dynamic headphones  , which stands out for its workmanship, design, generous equipment, neutral, detailed sound and an affordable price. Then I noted that HiRes-novelties among the “dynamos” do not appear often these days. And now, more recently, the developers of FiiO presented the older model FiiO FD5, which today has taken the place of the company’s flagship among dynamic headphones….

But this is not just another new model from a renowned productivity company. In the headphones FiiO FD5, high technologies and modern approaches are used in their manufacture, as well as a number of interesting design solutions are proposed. I’ll tell you about these and other features of FD5 in this review.

FiiO FD5 specifications:

  • Acoustic design: semi-open;
  • Emitters: single-driver, dynamic (12 mm with beryllium coating);
  • Resistance: 32 Ohm;
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB;
  • Frequency range: 10 – 40,000 Hz;
  • Cable: detachable, silver plated copper, MMSH connectors;
  • Single earphone weight: 11g.

Packaging and equipment

FiiO FD5 headphones come in an oblong and bulky box. The outer packaging is available in black and light gray. A tactile photograph of the FD5 enclosures and the Hi-Res Audio logo are printed on a black background. The company logo, model name and references to steel housings, replaceable sound guides and beryllium-coated diaphragm are embossed on a light gray embossed with silver paint. The design of the outer packaging is elegant and discreet at the same time.

Under the top cover is the main box made of thick black cardboard, pleasant to the touch. It depicts in silver a large design of a headphone and the famous slogan of the company “born for music”. I will say that in FD5 this phrase occurs quite often – on the box, on the case, on the plug, and even on the foam protection.

The contents of the box are arranged in two layers. In the upper layer there are headphones with a cable in foam protection and a beautiful blue-brown case (case) on a magnet. On the lower one there is another foam plate with a set of ear pads and a cardboard box with the words “Accessories”.

I will dwell in a little more detail on some of the accessories. As I said, I really liked the FD5 case for its appearance and quality. Inside it is lined with black soft fabric and has two compartments for fixing the headphone cases in them. In theory, everything is fine. In practice, it turned out that the Velcro on the cable, pardon the tautology, sticks to the insides of the case and the headphones have to be removed (removed) with force.

In addition, the compartments for placing the cases in them are not very convenient, especially when the cable is connected to the headphones. Yes, this case for FD5 is very good in design, but  I like the complete case from FiiO  FH7  or  FA9 more for convenience.

For many of its models, FiiO has already become the norm to complete headphones with attachments, dividing them for specific purposes. FiiO FD5 comes with: 3 pairs (S, M, L) Balanced, 3 pairs (S, M, L) Bass, 3 pairs (S, M, L) Vocal, 2 pairs of foam and 2 pairs of three-flange nozzles- ” herringbone “with a narrow sound guide.

As expected, the headphones are equipped with standard instructions, which do not say anything about the maintenance features of this model. Therefore, an additional one-page insert is included with a text-graphic explanation of the plug change and the replacement of the sound guides.

About the know-how for disconnecting the cable is not said anywhere. The FD5 set also includes: a headphone cleaning brush, special “tweezers”, interchangeable plugs and one pair of interchangeable sound guides. All this will be described in detail in the Technology and Functionality section.

Design and ergonomics

I am subjective about FiiO headphone design. Outwardly, I like all their current models. The new FiiO FD5 is no exception, and I have never seen such a design solution before. The earbuds are housed in cylinder-shaped steel cases, combining polished and matte design elements, as well as three curved lines on the outside. FiiO themselves define the look of these earbuds as uniquely timeless industrial design. The FD5 design is an example of when it is better to see once than hear a hundred times, that is, read.

White cable, interchangeable with MMSX connectors. It is solid, audiophile-looking and not prone to confusion. True, out of the box, at first, the cable twisted a little. The cable is 8-core and consists of monocrystalline silver-plated copper. The connectors, in addition to the subtle R and L inscriptions, have blue and red markers. The same markers, in the form of large circles, are also on the headphone cases and are an element of their design. The cable has a steel splitter and white branded Velcro to secure the coiled cable. The plug is straight and matches the color of the headphones. The headphones are designed to be worn behind the ear. On the cable, near the place of attachment to the cases, there is a barely noticeable transparent silicone tube that forms the ears.

The only FiiO headphones that did not suit me in terms of ergonomics, that is, in other words, “did not sit down”, were the FiiO  EM5 earbuds . The rest of the problems never arose. FiiO FD5 continued the positive statistics of successful models in terms of ergonomics. Despite the significant weight, the FD5 sits comfortably in the ear, while listening to them, their considerable weight did not make itself felt. I haven’t tested it specifically, but the steel housings of these earbuds can probably keep your ears cool in cold temperatures.

Technology and functionality

A similar section name is more suitable for wireless models or any devices. But for FiiO FD5, new and interesting approaches have been applied that I have not yet met with other manufacturers. The FD5 uses a flagship 12mm dynamic driver with a beryllium-coated diamond-like carbon diaphragm for low distortion and excellent dynamics. Front acoustic prism reduces phase misalignment and provides more accurate sound reproduction. The rear part contains a system (resonator) that reduces distortion and improves sound quality.

The FiiO FD5 comes with a number of interesting accessories. Firstly, this is a set of interchangeable plugs for the cable for 3.5 connectors; 2.5 and 4.4 mm. Here, a new approach is applied, which allows not only to quickly connect the required size of the straight plug, but also offers higher reliability and compactness, which was not in the previous L-shaped interchangeable plugs from the same FiiO or Dunu .

Secondly, the kit contains something like tweezers, with which you can disconnect the cable from the MMSX connectors (previously I always pulled them neatly). The funny thing is that the tweezers are really very convenient to use for changing the cable for many headphones, except for the FiiO FD5 themselves. The fact is that the design features of the FD5 do not strongly allow the instrument to be clearly fixed between the headphones and the connectors.

Thirdly, the set includes replaceable sound guides. The larger ones, which are immediately inserted into the FD5, are designed for balanced sound. Smaller sizes – Produce bass-focused sound. These sound guides come with two pairs (S, L) of three-flange tips for deep fit into the ear canal.

Thus, the FiiO FD5 is not only a flagship headphone, but also, to a certain extent, a technologically innovative model.

Sound

For flagship headphones, this section will start with a non-canonical, by the standards of audiophile, paragraph. As an experiment, I connected FiiO FD5 to a simple FiiO BTR1K bluetooth receiver. The BTR1K receiver effectively emphasized the bass and added expression – the sound turned out to be devoid of neutrality, but massive and “tasty”.

The main sound source for FiiO FD5 was the  Fiio M11Pro Hi-Fi player and the FiiO Q3 DAC amplifier  . Since FiiO FD5 offers many options for tuning the sound, the main option for me to evaluate was the “option out of the box”. This consisted of a sound guide for balanced sound, a pair of Balanced silicone tips and a 3.5 mm jack plug.

Let me remind you that the headphones are dynamic, so you may not like the sound right out of the box. Even a little “warming up” of the FD5 before listening is very welcome.

You also need to take some time to select the attachments – a tight fit and good sound insulation will only benefit. FiiO FD5 belongs to those headphones for which it is desirable to select high-quality recordings, not only in terms of technical characteristics, but also in terms of the quality of the recorded material. The model does not differ in tolerance to poorly recorded tracks.

On the FiiO website, the FD5’s sound is defined as surprisingly pleasant, suitable for most people, relaxed and natural. I am ready to agree only with the last statement. If the task were the shortest possible sound characteristic of FiiO FD5, then I would choose three words – detailed, verified, bright.

Due to the semi-open acoustic design, the stage width in the headphones is above average. There is always a certain distance between the music and the vocalists on the one hand, and the listener on the other. For me, such a space filled with sounds was an interesting feature of this model.

And now for the frequencies.

The bass in FD5 does not differ in its massiveness – the case when quality prevails over quantity. A special feature of the bass in the FD5 is its high technicality. The bass is very picky, its parts are well defined, and it can go deep. The speed characteristics of the bass are high, you can feel its elasticity in every beat. On some tracks the bass is a little dry. On electronic compositions, the bass may be a little lacking in quantity, but there were no complaints about their percussiveness. FD5 does not belong to basshead models, their element is something else. Jazz music with parts of double bass and bass guitar in classical rock and related genres, I liked the most. Their sound is presented articulated and clearly.

The mids are presented in great detail. Sometimes you even wonder how only one dynamic driver can do this. The midrange is very calibrated and sounds quite natural. In the sound, preference is given not to the transmission of the sound picture as a whole, but to the saturation of the music with interesting nuances. To my ears, there is a certain accent in the headphones, starting from the upper-mid range and going into the high frequency range, which gives the scene good width and detail. As already noted, there is a sense of space between the listener and the vocalists. The midrange is given, although in detail, but without going into excessive analytics. And even if listening to FiiO FD5 you will not be overwhelmed by a wave of emotions, you definitely cannot call the headphones insipid and boring.

High frequencies are also a strong point of the FD5. The treble display gives the sound a sense of space and airiness, which does not compromise their physicality. High frequencies sound detailed, bright, large-scale and without attempts to smooth them out. Well-recorded music is one of the conditions for the full disclosure of the model’s full potential. On some tracks on the treble, you can feel the thrust, aggressiveness or even a real musical whirlwind. The FD5’s high control is high. And yet, for people sensitive to HF, it is advisable to listen to headphones first.

Sound customization options

Interchangeable plugs allow the FD5 to be plugged into a variety of source jacks for a different sound experience. I will not describe in detail the sound from each connector of the player. I’ll just say that after going through all the options, I chose the standard 3.5 mm jack for myself.

When changing the sound guide to a smaller one and using three-flange nozzles, the sound flow of the headphones changed simultaneously in several directions. The high frequencies were “pressed”, their detail dropped, and they became less noticeable in the overall mix. At the same time, there was a feeling that some instruments lost their physicality, which immediately affected the natural sounding. In general, the sound decreased in intelligibility, it became more blurry.

Comparison

I did not have models adequate in terms of comparison. “Head-to-head” managed to compare FiiO FD5 with quite good and well-known dynamic headphones iBasso  IT01s .

The IT01s stage is inferior to FD5 in width, it is closer to the listener, it has less space. The IT01s bass has more mass, but is less technical, less picky and does not have the speed of the model from FiiO. The natural sounding of IT01s on the midrange and treble is inferior to the FD5, this is especially audible on high female vocals or when playing high notes of a saxophone. At the same time, iBasso IT01s offer not as bright as the FD5, top, have good stage depth and may suit more people.

Conclusion

More recently, it was hard for me to imagine that mid-budget in-ear dynamic headphones can accommodate so many different technologies and sound tuning options. In addition to the use of diamond-like carbon and beryllium, steel cases and an eight-core silver-plated cable, the FiiO FD5 is distinguished by its original design, a large number of accessories and ample audio customization right out of the box.

In addition, we get the ability to connect headphones to all the main connectors used in portable audio. And the main thing is the sound. FiiO FD5 has a wide stage, gives out detailed and technical sound, which is not so often found among dynamic headphones. All these factors listed above make FiiO FD5 headphones with innovative technology and flagship model.

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