FiiO FT5
FiiO FT5
FiiO FT5

FiiO FT5 Review: Nothing short of impressive

FiiO FT5
9.5

FiiO has been actively broadening its lineup of full-size headphones. Initially, the roster only featured the FiiO FT3 model, boasting dynamic drivers. However, towards the end of autumn this year, the lineup expanded with the introduction of two new models: the budget-friendly JT1 priced around $80, and the mid-budget FT5 priced at $450, both featuring planar drivers.

The FT5 marks FiiO’s debut in the realm of planar headphones. Drawing from 17 years of experience in portable audio production, the company aimed not just to fill gaps in their lineup, but to do so with meticulous engineering, resulting in unparalleled sound quality, which we’ll delve into shortly. These headphones offer an impressive blend of affordability and audiophile-grade performance, appealing to both casual listeners and discerning enthusiasts. But before we explore their sound, let’s begin, as usual, with the unboxing experience.

Unpacking

The box exudes a robust aura with its sturdy construction and thick walls. Adorned in black and gray hues with a captivating holographic effect, it showcases three-dimensional triangles arranged in a chaotic yet mesmerizing pattern. At the heart of the box, the inscription “FiiO FT5” takes prominence, accompanied by the company’s resounding slogan, “BORN FOR MUSIC.”

Upon opening the box, besides the headphones themselves, you’ll find:

  • A cable equipped with interchangeable 3.5mm and 4.4mm connectors, supplemented by XLR and 6.3mm adapters. This versatile setup ensures seamless connectivity, allowing you to adapt to various audio devices effortlessly.
  • Two pairs of ear cushions, including the pre-installed velour ones, along with additional leather ones, catering to different preferences for comfort and sound isolation.
  • A durable leather case designed for secure transportation, ensuring your headphones remain protected on the go.
  • A black velvet bag (presumably for the transportation case).

Completing the ensemble is a user manual, providing comprehensive guidance for optimal usage and care of your FiiO FT5 headphones.

Design

The design of the headphones may not boast vibrant colors, but it certainly captivates with its intriguing aesthetic. The exterior of the ear cups showcases a distinctive pattern reminiscent of a clockwise-twisting vortex adorned with triangles, adding a touch of uniqueness to their appearance. Positioned at the center of each cup, a golden inscription of “FiiO” encircled completes the elegant yet understated look.

These headphones feature an open-back design, meaning that sound leakage occurs, allowing those nearby to hear your music, while also enabling you to hear ambient noises. Despite this, the open design offers notable advantages, including an expansive soundstage, a sense of airiness, and natural timbre reproduction. With open-back headphones, you’re treated to a more immersive listening experience, where sound isn’t confined to your head but rather extends into a spatial recreation, enhancing the perception of instrument placement within the audio landscape.

The cups are crafted from a blend of magnesium and aluminum alloy, ensuring a balance of durability and lightweight construction. The headband is designed with a two-component structure: the upper section is composed of sturdy metal, while the part in contact with the head features a combination of leather on the exterior for a sleek appearance and velour on the interior for added comfort. Notably, the headband boasts an automatic adjustment mechanism, adapting seamlessly to the size of your head. This eliminates the need for manual readjustments when sharing the headphones, offering convenience for multiple users.

The headphones come equipped with a replaceable cable, securely attached to the cups on both sides using 3.5mm connectors that are firmly fixed in place, ensuring they stay put during use. These connectors are conveniently labeled with ‘L’ and ‘R’ for left and right channels respectively, and corresponding markings can also be found inside the ear pads and above the cups, providing foolproof channel identification.

Given their planar design, these headphones feature a sophisticated magnetic system and weigh 456 grams, although this remains relatively lightweight compared to other planar headphones. Additionally, boasting a sizable 90mm diaphragm, the cups are notably spacious.

Both the leather and velour ear pads offer a snug fit, with a personal preference leaning towards the leather option due to its superior contouring to the head. Nevertheless, both options excel in comfort, thanks to their remarkable softness and perforated design, which prevents discomfort and sweat buildup, allowing for extended listening sessions of 2-3 hours without issue.

Features

  •  As in dynamic drivers, the planar driver has its own coil. As in electrostatic diaphragms, the diaphragm is a super-thin micron film, which is manufactured using a 28-nanometer technological process, thanks to which its thickness is only 6 microns. These characteristics allow you to create high detail from a simple power supply.
  • The  FiiO FT5 uses a large 90mm planar magnetic driver. Compared to dynamic, it converts sound energy into sound waves in a more balanced way, vibrating more evenly. Vibrations are distributed throughout the diaphragm, which gives small distortions.
  • Coils made of an alloy of aluminum and silver, in which almost all the weight is concentrated. Engineers and researchers had to achieve the most effective interaction with a thin diaphragm 6 microns thick, taking into account the density and conductivity of the coils. After testing various materials commonly used in flat coils, FiiO engineers decided that a lighter aluminum alloy with silver would be the best option, silver improves conductivity, which simplifies driver power without compromising detail.
  • The FT5 speaker coils are printed using advanced semiconductor technology, which not only ensures a consistent coil thickness, but also an even weight distribution, resulting in greater diaphragm consistency for a more accurate sound.
  • 20 neodymium magnets per driver, the magnets are used N52 with a magnetic density of 1.5 T to provide the force necessary for the coordinated operation of the large flat magnetic driver, they are parallel to the coils, which allows for an even distribution of the magnetic field
  • The headphones have a high sensitivity compared to others. Traditionally, planar headphones require high power, more often with stationary devices, to reveal their full potential. But the FT5 is not traditional, thanks to 20 neodymium magnets with a high magnetic density of 1.5 T, a thin diaphragm of 6 μm and nano coating technology of aluminum alloy, the driver provides a sensitivity of 110 dB/1V
  • High-quality sound is also achieved thanks to the 392 core cable made of silver-plated copper conductor of high purity. Copper wires help ensure reliable, highly detailed, lossless sound. The length of the cable is 1.5 meters. The cable itself has a fabric braid.

Sound

I’ll start by mentioning that the testing involved two devices from a similar price range but different sizes and manufacturers: the Shanling H5 and Cayin RU7, both considered portable. The initial setup consisted of the Shanling H5 paired with the FiiO FT5 headphones.

The overall sound presentation can be best described as warm, crisp, and airy, blending seemingly incompatible concepts. For instance, it seamlessly combines infrasound frequencies (7-16 Hz) with precise and detailed midrange tones, alongside expansive and airy highs.

In terms of low frequencies, the sound is warm and soft, with moderately paced attacks that are elastic and well-articulated, imparting a sense of massiveness. Textural nuances are discernible across the entire low-frequency spectrum, with bass extending to impressive depths while maintaining a balanced weight, ensuring the headphones aren’t overly bass-heavy. This versatility makes them well-suited for instrumental and electronic music across various genres.

Moving to the midrange frequencies, they are rich in timbre, exhibiting a balanced tonal equilibrium. Both male and female vocals sound open and expansive, evoking a sense of presence on the stage. While the width of the soundstage and depth are not maximal, there is a harmonious balance between the density of sound waves and their spatial width. Instruments within the mix are distinctly separated, ensuring a clear and uncluttered presentation, making classical music listening a truly enjoyable experience.

Moving on to the high frequencies, they are accentuated but in a measured and restrained manner, leaving nothing but pleasant impressions. Airy and expansive, the high frequencies contribute to the sense of spaciousness and vibrancy without overpowering the sound. Instead, they delicately highlight details while ensuring the main melodic motifs remain intact.

In summary, the sound can be aptly described as multi-genre, offering a wide sonic landscape rich in both bass and intricate details. Vocals possess a lifelike quality, akin to experiencing a live performance in a well-acoustically prepared concert hall.

Now, let’s delve into the second setup: the Cayin RU7 paired with the FiiO FT5 headphones. The overall sound presentation remains largely consistent compared to the previous setup, as the headphones exhibit a distinct character that remains relatively unchanged regardless of the DAC and amplification used. However, in comparison to the Shanling H5, the sound from the Cayin RU7 appears more balanced and smoother, with a slightly heightened emphasis on micro-contrast, roughly around 7-10%. Conversely, when juxtaposed with the Shanling H5, the Cayin RU7 yields a narrower soundstage and less pronounced bass and treble ranges.

In terms of low frequencies, they retain their depth and emphasis, maintaining the same softness and warmth observed in the previous setup. However, there’s a slightly heightened springiness compared to the H5, resulting in a more pronounced and textured bass that extends into both the sub-bass and mid-bass regions.

Moving to the midrange frequencies, they remain pleasingly even and tonally balanced. While male and female vocals may have lost a slight degree of liveliness compared to the previous setup, the difference is minimal. The expansive soundstage is notable due to the headphones’ openness, accentuated by the large 90mm radiator, particularly evident in instrumental music where each instrument is distinctly separated.

In the high frequencies, there’s less emphasis compared to the Shanling H5, but there’s a greater focus on micro-contrast, allowing for better discernment of hidden sounds within the music. Despite this adjustment, the airiness and openness characteristic of the headphones are preserved.

Overall, the connection with the Cayin RU7 still offers a pleasant listening experience, with a sound profile suitable for various genres. While the stage width may be slightly narrower compared to the Shanling H5 setup, it’s not particularly noticeable, although there’s a partial loss of the lively concert atmosphere. Additionally, the bass and treble are less accentuated, resulting in a more balanced presentation.

Conclusion

FiiO’s foray into the realm of full-size planar headphones has been nothing short of impressive, marked by the release of the FT5 model that instantly captivated with its exceptional sound profile. Boasting fundamental low frequencies characterized by warmth, depth, and controlled attacks, the FT5 delivers a delightful sonic experience. The mid frequencies are expansive and tonally balanced, while the high frequencies exhibit good microcontrast, offering a well-defined presentation across the spectrum.

FiiO’s engineers spared no effort in creating the FT5, meticulously exploring various materials to ensure both outstanding sound quality and user comfort. The result is a headphone that not only excels in audio reproduction but also provides a comfortable listening experience. Furthermore, the comprehensive package includes a rich assortment of accessories such as replaceable connectors and two types of ear pads, along with a protective case for convenient transportation. Despite its impressive features, the FT5 remains affordable, making it accessible to a wide range of enthusiasts. Overall, FiiO’s entry into the full-size planar headphone market with the FT5 sets a high standard, offering remarkable value without compromising on quality.

FiiO FT5
FiiO FT5
9.5
Resurface CMP