FiiO FA7s Review: High-quality headphones with a futuristic touch

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Exploring the world of audio further, I delved into the FiiO brand and discovered a whole new level of sound quality compared to mainstream headphones. My journey began in 2018 with the purchase of the FiiO F5, equipped with a dynamic driver and two interchangeable cables – one balanced and the other with a headset. Despite acquiring multiple cables over time, totaling four, I still use them at home. Moving on to the top-tier FiiO FD5 dynamic headphones, I now pair them with a recently purchased DAC after a period of neglect due to compatibility issues with my phone.

As I delved deeper into the audio world, exploring the FiiO website revealed an expanded model range, including hybrids, tribrids, and the FiiO FT5 planars that I have already reviewed. Intrigued by the idea of exploring a different sound profile, I turned my attention to the FiiO FA7s – a six-driver design featuring 2 armatures for low frequencies, 2 for medium, and 2 for high. Each driver offers a unique configuration, size, and model, promising a distinct audio experience. Stay tuned as we unravel the secrets hidden within the FA7s box.

Unpacking and packaging

FiiO continues its tradition of using a box with a captivating holographic effect for their devices, creating an impressive visual impact, especially under bright lighting conditions. The box is divided into two parts: a vibrant cover featuring the model name on the left, the brand name on the top, and the Hi-Res logo on the right. These headphones have successfully obtained the necessary certification, ensuring a frequency range of up to 40 kHz.

On the right side, a large and vibrant image of the headphones showcases their unique faceplate design in the shape of the letter Y, as well as the subtle yet elegant metal texture. However, the true beauty of these details may not be immediately apparent until seen in person. Beneath the eye-catching cover, which is also a customary feature, lies a black box secured by magnets. The lid of this box depicts the headphones from above, providing an outline of their shape.

Upon opening the box, the left side presents the headphones themselves, neatly arranged alongside the cable in the shape of a heart. On the right side, a generously sized plastic transport case can be found. The lower part of the case is made of rubber and can be easily removed for cleaning purposes. It is worth mentioning that I possess a similar case, albeit completely black and non-transparent, which was included with the FiiO F5 model. However, with the FD5, FiiO has upgraded to a leather case with a velvet interior, secured by a magnetic fastener.

Complete set :

  • the FiiO FA7s headphones themselves
  • silver-plated copper cable 1.2 meters long with the possibility of changing connectors
  • in addition to the installed 4.4 mm balanced connector, the set also includes 2.5 mm (balanced) and 3.5 mm (unbalanced) connectors
  • a brush for the care of headphones
  • an interesting fixator for the cable, which fastens it with magnets so that it does not unwind when twisting
  • iron key for disconnecting MMCX connectors
  • plastic case with a rubber bottom for transporting headphones
  • a set of 13 pairs of ear pads, including those already installed on the headphones
  • user manual

 

Additional information regarding the ear pads: On the left side, there are 3 sizes (L, M, S) of ear pads designed to enhance low frequencies. On the right side, there are 3 sizes (L, M, S) of headphones that focus on medium and high frequencies, as well as vocals. Below, there are 3 pairs of black foam ear cushions with a memory effect, which typically reduce high frequencies and boost low frequencies. There is also a pair of M size double-flange ear cushions, a unique type with only 1 pair remaining. Lastly, there are standard balanced silicone ear cushions (size M) already on the headphones, along with 2 additional sizes (S, L). This comprehensive set of ear pads offers a wide range of options, which is why I provided a detailed description of each.

Specifications

Weight and size indicators :

  • headphone weight: 8.4 grams

Acoustic parameters :

  • frequency range: 10 Hz – 40 kHz
  • sensitivity 111 dB
  • resistance: 18 ohms

Features :

  • silver-plated monocrystalline copper cable
  • interchangeable connectors
  • stainless steel headphone housings
  • six-armature construction

 

Design and features

The headphones have a unique design with a Y-shaped element on the faceplate resembling a windmill and a visible blue mesh in the slots, giving them a cosmic look. The housings are made of 316L stainless steel, electroplated for added durability. The plug is rounded at the point of attachment to the headphones, following the contour behind the ear for enhanced ergonomics. Additionally, there is a black version available.

The FiiO FA7s have an average depth, and their ergonomic behind-the-ear fixation ensures they stay securely in place. The MMCX connectors may be a bit tight and difficult to disconnect, but a special key is included in the kit to simplify the process. However, it’s worth noting that over time, the MMCX connectors may stretch and deform, so it’s recommended to only disconnect the headphones from the cable when necessary. Despite weighing 8.4 grams, which is slightly above average, the headphones can still be comfortably worn for extended periods.

One incredible feature of these headphones is the ability to change connectors. This not only reduces the need to frequently change cables but also allows for compatibility with different audio sources. The process of replacing the connector is straightforward: twist and unscrew the current connector, select the desired connector size (2.5, 3.5, 4.4 mm), align the notch and bump inside the connector, insert it, and securely twist it. This entire process takes no more than a minute and helps protect the MMCX connector from potential deformation caused by frequent disconnection.

Features

  • The FiiO FA7s are equipped with 6 balanced armature drivers, with each driver set handling its own frequency spectrum, with its own sound chambers to minimize interference. The woofer and tweeter pairs are manufactured by Knowles, providing a significantly extended yet controlled bass as well as highly detailed treble. The mid-range drivers are a special unit created exclusively for FiiO, with a natural character and clean processed vocals.
  • a precisely tuned three-band crossover allows each driver to work in a balanced manner, i.e. 2+2+2. There are 2 drivers for each frequency range, designed in an electronic and structural system for precise separation – resulting in a more realistic balanced sound, able to fully reproduce every detail of your music, to hear it as the artist intended.
  • you can judge the quality of the headphone housings just by looking at them. The FA7s are made from 316L stainless steel, carefully machined using a powder metallurgy process – high-temperature sintering under pressure at 1000 degrees Celsius to create the shape of the earphones. Its front panel is machined on a five-axis CNC machine, while the rear cavity is hand-polished to a shine.
  • the monocrystalline copper cable as additionally silvered has 8 conductors of 19 cores each, which makes a total of 152 cores. Each wire is individually insulated and all are litz braided. The outer shell of the cable is made of pure TPU, which not only has a beautiful transparent black appearance, but also resists yellowing after long-term use, and has no stiffness when working at low temperatures.
  • bent corner MMCX connectors with left “blue” and right “red” indicators simplify connection. The bend of the connector was developed based on scientific research to make wearing the headphones as comfortable as possible

 

Description of sound

In this section, I have chosen to undertake several tasks. Firstly, I will provide a detailed description of the sound quality of the FiiO FA7s headphones when paired with both the Shanling H5 DAC and the IBasso DX260 hi-fi player. Following this, I will proceed to compare these headphones with my dynamic FiiO FD5. As you can see, this section is quite extensive. However, before delving into the comparisons, I will begin by providing an overview of the overall performance of the FiiO FA7s headphones.

To begin with, these headphones are characterized by their lightweight design, airy sound, and bright tones. The low frequencies are soft and well-articulated, while the mids are well-developed. The high frequencies are accentuated and possess an excellent level of microcontrast.

Now, let’s move on to the comparisons. The first pairing we explored was the Shanling H5 + FiiO FA7s. When connected to this source, the headphones deliver a warm and musical presentation, with an emphasis on the low frequencies and a slight boost in the highs. The mid frequencies are presented in a manner that makes them easily discernible, without compromising their timbral content.

In terms of the low frequencies, they possess a punchy quality, reminiscent of drums being played with brushes rather than sticks. This unique characteristic adds to the overall appeal of the bass, providing a distinct body and outline. It is worth noting that these headphones are not specifically tailored for bass-heavy genres or electronic music, but they excel in reproducing instrumental tracks with a soft and warm tonality.

Moving on to the mid frequencies, while they may not impress in terms of width, they do offer a good separation of instruments and a clear sense of their spatial positioning. However, the voices could benefit from a slightly wider soundstage, greater depth, and more pronounced timbral qualities. It can be said that the Shanling H5 DAC may be the weakest link in this aspect. Nevertheless, it still contributes to the overall natural sound presentation.

Lastly, let’s discuss the high frequencies. They possess a warm and natural quality, without any sharpness. While this may result in a slightly smoothed-out sound, it is important to note that there is still an ample amount of detail and microcontrast present. However, the extremities of the frequency range may not be as pronounced, indicating that this device may belong to a lower class in terms of performance.

The second option is the iBasso DX260 paired with the FiiO FA7s. To begin with, I will provide an overview of the general characteristics and performance, emphasizing the clear articulation of vocals with a bright accent, regardless of whether they are male or female, maintaining accurate timbres. The player offers a bright and emotive overall presentation, focusing on details and low frequencies.

Regarding the low frequencies, it is worth mentioning that they do not overpower or cause excessive rumbling, delivering a soft yet impactful punch with remarkable texture and quality. The speed is also commendable, providing enough body to the track to evoke emotions and create a pleasant listening experience. While it may not cater to bass enthusiasts, it offers versatility across various genres.

Moving on to the midrange, it is broad and well-defined, ensuring sharp vocal reproduction with clear and natural transmission without any distortions in timbre. The instruments are distinctly separated, allowing each sound to stand out individually without causing any confusion. The soundstage is exceptional for in-ear headphones of this form factor, making it one of the best options available.

In terms of high frequencies, they are transparent and refined, filtering out excess distortion without sacrificing details. Every subtle sound is rendered clearly without causing any discomfort to the eardrums, ensuring that sibilants are not pronounced. Additionally, the edges of the frequency range are well delineated, maintaining a sense of completeness without any perceived losses.

When comparing both setups with these headphones, there are noticeable differences. The iBasso DX260 offers a fuller sound in the midrange, particularly enhancing the vocals by enveloping the eardrums naturally and gently. It provides a sense of presence and liveliness. On the other hand, the Shanling setup delivers a simpler, musical, warm, and smooth sound with emotional undertones.

Finally, let’s contrast these two headphone models: the top dynamic model FD5 and the current top pure balanced armature FA7s.

The FD5s offer a more V-shaped sound signature, while the FA7s lean towards a more neutral sound. Let’s delve into the frequency details:

Low frequencies: The FD5s have a stronger midbass, resulting in a more pronounced and impactful bass response. The subbass is quite similar in both models, almost on par with each other. Both models exhibit similar speed and overall perception in this range. However, due to the FD5s’ punchy mid-bass, electronic music sounds more immersive and energetic on them.

Mid-range: In this aspect, the FA7s excel with more distinct and emphasized vocals, along with better instrument separation. Both models offer an impressive soundstage, with the FD5s providing a wide and deep scene, while the FA7s offer a more divided scene with slightly compromised depth.

High frequencies: Both headphone pairs accentuate the high frequencies, but the FA7s take it a step further with superior separation of layers and reverberations, creating a more airy sound. The FD5s also exhibit excellent detail retrieval and micro-detail resolution, capturing even the subtlest sonic nuances. However, the FA7s execute these aspects with more elegance and precision.

In conclusion, if you prioritize bass, the FD5s are the way to go. On the other hand, if you seek neutrality, purity in vocals, and a better stage with distinct instrument separation, the FA7s are the better choice. The dynamic FD5 model shines in electronic music, while the armature FA7 model excels in instrumental music. However, it’s worth noting that both models can reproduce these genres with exceptional quality and minimal loss. Ultimately, personal taste plays a crucial role in deciding between the two.

Conclusion

FiiO has successfully crafted a top-notch headphone featuring a futuristic space design and stainless steel housings, showcasing exceptional performance in terms of aesthetics and functionality. Despite being slightly heavy, the FD5s are even heavier, yet I did not encounter any discomfort. The replaceable connectors on the cable are a convenient feature, eliminating the need to repeatedly disconnect it from the headphones. The package includes a diverse selection of ear pads in various shapes and sizes, allowing users to customize their listening experience based on size, genre preference, or frequency spectrum emphasis. While lacking variable sound guides, the FiiO FA7s deliver an incredible sound quality that envelops listeners in a world of music, offering transparent, detailed vocals, wide soundstage, soft yet articulate bass, and even capturing subtle nuances like performer’s breaths.

FiiO FA7s
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