Somehow I found that I can’t use in-ear headphones more than two hours in a row, as well as full-sized due to discomfort. I love long hours listening to audiobooks, podcasts, background music while I work. I decided to try the “inserts”, which many, like me, have long associated with poor sound quality and lack of bass. At that time, as now, there were few liners on the market. I decided to buy a new model then – FiiO EM3S (version without a microphone). They cost me a ridiculous 10 dollars, so I bought two at once with the expectation that they would break in a month. They are made of extremely cheap plastic and the wire is very thin, despite everything, the headphones work perfectly fine for the fifth year. As for the sound, for me these were the first earbuds with such a decent sound, where there was even a good hint of bass. Time has shown that in-ears are the most comfortable headphone design for me.
Some time after the EM3S, FiiO released the EM5, which, unfortunately, I did not get my hands on. Today we have a new, third model in the brand’s range of earbuds – Fiio FF 3 . Which are a big step up from the EM3S.
The case with the EM3S showed me that FiiO not only know how to make headphones, but also justify their price far more than 100%. Therefore, if you want to get the most or more for the money spent, the first thing that comes to mind is FiiO . But, as with all manufacturers, the return falls as the price increases, relative to each dollar. Now in more detail about the new model – FF3.
- Type: Dynamic single-driver (driver size 14.2 mm)
- Weight: 31 g (with cable)
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB
- Impedance: 45 ohms
- Cable length: 1.2 m
- Connection: 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm
- Colors: Black/Silver
Packaging and assembly
The headphones come in a beautiful black packaging. Inside you can find headphones, two interchangeable plugs: 3.5 mm (worn) and 4.4 mm, 3 sizes of soft covers, waste paper.
The headphones are made in a classic “in-ear” design. You can choose two colors, dark and light. I personally really like the look of them, especially in the light, silver version. At the heart of the headphones is a large (14.2mm) dynamic driver covered by a dome with beryllium sputtering. The voice coil is made of special Japanese copper from the Daikoku company.
The case of the headphones is made of steel, which is very cool, and at the same time, in my opinion, on the verge of delusion. FiiO probably really wants to stand out from the crowd and all new models, namely the body of their headphones, are made of metal. Because of this, they are cold and heavy. I would suggest that they release a separate heater for their headphones.
The FF3s are quite comfortable for me personally, as are all earbuds. As I wrote above, I find in-ears much more convenient for me than any in-canal IEMs and “ear-ears”. These headphones are not suitable for active body movements, they are perfect for wearing while sitting and lying down. If possible, I recommend trying it on. It should also be taken into account that this design has very poor noise insulation, in fact it is absent.
The FiiO FF3s play absolutely fabulously live, instrumental music that has almost no bass, or it’s on the back burner. The music of the 70s shines on these headphones, it is without exaggeration a real candy, not a sound, you can’t say otherwise. At the moment, I don’t remember the records of the 70s playing as “deliciously” as it does on these pads. High resolution, lightness and a kind of “metallic”, sterility in sound, make them “number one” for me for vintage and any “light” instrumental recordings. Connecting them to vinyl rekindled my love for this antique.
As for electronics and any recordings that contain a lot of information in the LF, here it must be admitted that the FF3s are not suitable for this at all. A saturated signal in the low range gives distortion, and at a volume above average, the headphones start to crackle! Yes, it is crackling that occurs, such high distortions due to the fact that the driver is catastrophically unable to cope with the bass.
In my memory, these are probably the most non-universal headphones in terms of sound. The paradox of FF3 is that they have very strong and weak points at the same time. The strong point is the resolution in midrange and treble, sterile clean sound. The weak point is the implementation of the low frequency range. Headphones are great for watching movies, where clarity of speech is important, especially for people who are a little hard of hearing, or completely deaf like me. The quality of the dialogues, the clarity of the midrange is on par. Even when a character speaks softly and indistinctly, in FF3 there is almost no chance of not understanding the language.
The sound of these headphones, despite the huge price difference, somewhat resembles the sound of the FiiO FD7 , about which I recently wrote an article. In the case of FD7, pure beryllium is used, in FF3 a dome with sputtering of beryllium. As I see it, FiiO tune their new models according to the same pattern, as strange as it sounds, but the FF3 to my ears is a very simplified version of the FD7. On third-party sites there are frequency response graphs that confirm their similarity from 100 Hz and above. In addition to frequency response, they are combined by a dry, sterile presentation.
It would be very appropriate to mention EM5, but as I wrote, I did not have them. And the price of 300 dollars for the liners makes them, probably, not particularly in demand. Now more details about the sound of FF3.
Also read: Top 8 best Hi-Fi players early 2022
Low frequency range
The headphones have a strong drop below 90 Hz, which is expected for such a design. I can’t say that they don’t have bass, but the lower bass is actually absent at all, the middle bass is very weak, lightweight, flat. The upper bass is very fast and precise, with high detail. The distribution and decay rate in the bass make the FF3 an excellent choice for listening to, for example, classic rock. The lack of weight in the woofer and lower bass in particular make the overall sound a bit flat and dry.
Relatively flat, with a slight downward deflection at 700 Hz – 2 kHz and has a small hump at the very top. Excellent resolution and instrument separation. Vocals play fairly naturally, despite the slight “metallicity” in the sound, fatigue is very low. The high resolution in the mid-range, in particular, makes FF3 an excellent choice for watching movies. The midrange is quite comfortable without unpleasant peaks. In the 3kHz area, if the recording contains a lot of sharp information, it can be a bit jarring, the headphones will emphasize this.
It has good dispersibility, higher than average for similar headphones. Around 10 kHz and above, there is a slow decline, probably in order not to topple the sound, due to the lack of bass. The top does not scream and does not sting. In general, HF are moderately comfortable, fatigue is low.
The sound of the FF3 is generally balanced, slightly leaning towards lightness due to the lack of bass. As for the width and depth of the stage, the stage is slightly larger and deeper than average for such headphones, not as flat as a wall, but you shouldn’t expect much.
There aren’t many earbuds on the market at all, let alone ones that are ready to offer good sound quality. In such a design, it is difficult to achieve good sound quality, in particular, low frequencies. These headphones try to break stereotypes and to some extent they succeed.
If, like me, other types of headphones are not suitable for long-term listening, then among in -ear headphones at this price, I do not see any alternatives. The Fiio FF3 costs just over $100, so if your budget is the same, it could be a good buy or a waste of money. It all depends on what you listen to, for what purposes you need headphones. If you like electronic music with a lot of bass then FF3 is the last thing you need, blacklist them, choose something else. If you enjoy live music, classic rock, casual listening to podcasts, watching movies, or anywhere where low-end isn’t key, then chances are the FF3 will be your best purchase in years.