FiiO FW3: An interesting and ambiguous model

FiiO FW38FiiO is one of those companies that already traditionally offers close to a certain maximum return for your money. This is evident in the sound, materials and equipment. The review will...

FiiO FW3 Review
FiiO FW3 Review
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FiiO FW3 Review
FiiO FW3
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FiiO is one of those companies that already traditionally offers close to a certain maximum return for your money. This is evident in the sound, materials and equipment. The review will be about the new FiiO FW3 . Featuring a classic in-canal design, these Bluetooth headphones are the entry-level model in FiiO’s line of wireless headphones. In the review, I will not write “in my opinion” every time, because this review, as always, is purely my non-objective opinion.

The headphones are very ambiguous. They have many strange nuances. These headphones are definitely not for everyone. But I find the model interesting for two reasons. Now in more detail.

Complete set

There are 6 pairs of nozzles in the box, they differ only in size. The nozzles are ordinary. Very short USB C cable. Case with headphones. There is also a separate box with manuals in different languages.

FiiO FW3

I already wrote once that I don’t like “rich equipment” simply because in this world you pay a priori for everything. Every little wire that is wrapped around the cable or bag is all included in the price. Therefore, I consider “rich” configurations, where more than half of the contents go irrevocably into the regular or trash can, an irrational approach and disrespect for our mother planet. In the case of FW3, we only have everything we need, although I don’t know why I have 6 almost identical nozzles.

Functional

At the beginning, before the headphones got into my hands, I was interested in their functionality. Headphones are interesting, at least for me, with the presence of a parametric equalizer. Importantly, it is configurable via the Fiio Control app and recorded in the headphones’ DSP. I will explain in more detail. You open the application and adjust the equalizer and other parameters, these settings are recorded in the memory of the headphones. After that, for example, you disconnect the headphones from the first device and connect them to another device where there is no application, tablet, TV, laptop, etc. The convenience is that the headphones will still play with the settings that were last set in the application. That is, you do not need to have an application, the headphones will always play with the equalizer settings that were set last time. For,

In addition to the equalizer, you can choose from the following codecs: SBC, aptX-Adaptive, AAC, LHDC, aptX, LDAC. There are also 4 lowpass filters. I couldn’t hear much difference between them, but I settled on the third one.

 

 

The headphones have a microphone, its quality is at an average level. I personally did not like it, if the microphone is important, I recommend paying attention to other models.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides. The LDAC codec is very unstable, if it works at all. The equalizer has a mysterious tendency to shift the balance, one of the headphones starts playing quieter or louder. In general, the equalizer can suddenly stop working. The headphones have a “not very” reliable bluetooth receiver and tend to lose connection in “noisy” places (meaning places saturated with radio signals). The overall stability, reliability of both software and electronics disappointed me in this model. Hopefully this will be fixed with the new firmware.

FiiO FW3 comes in two colors

Design and ergonomics

FW3 is available in two colors – gray and white. Both options are matte with a small drop of gloss. The size of the case, as well as the headphones themselves, is slightly larger than average. Headphones are easily inserted into the case with the largest and even foam nozzles. I’ve never been a fan of FiiO when it comes to ergonomics and design. For me, FiiO is always something, at least not very convenient. I like their sound-price ratio, that’s what makes their devices interesting to me. But, unfortunately, FiiO cannot boast of ergonomics. In short, FW3 is not convenient for me. But it is individual.

Separately, it is worth mentioning the control buttons on the headphones themselves. On the side of the case, there are two small buttons, in addition to a bunch of functions, one is responsible for calling, the other for playback. To understand the controls, I opened the manual on page 80 – “Controls with the buttons on the headphones” and was frankly shocked. I have never seen more dead-end, confusing, illogical and inconvenient management in my life. Also, no matter how you hold these headphones, it’s extremely easy to accidentally press one of these buttons. I think the ergonomics in this FiiO model failed miserably. Consider my opinion purely subjective. Try it yourself, maybe your opinion will be radically different.

Sound

The most interesting thing about FW3 is the sound. This is a kind of compensation and “lifeline” in view of all previous complaints. The model has definitely above average sound quality in its price category. I have a strong opinion that FiiO sharpen their headphones primarily for rock and all related genres, well, they probably like it. Or the chief engineer is a big fan of similar genres, they use one single sound profile as a benchmark in almost all models. If some manufacturers try to make different sound signatures in different models, FiiO is more trying to level all models and bring them closer to their standard.

FiiO FW3

The headphones play perfectly all “live” and vintage genres, I especially liked how they play music from the 60s and 70s, on the FW3 it all plays perfectly! Strictly considering the price. It’s not a relaxed laid back sound like I like, it’s the complete opposite of the sound I prefer. I know very well the category of people who simply drool over the sound that FW3 has. This is air, lightness, a little brightness, and emphasis on vocals, especially female vocals.

As always, in any in-canal headphones, the sound is highly dependent on the earpieces. I almost always use foam tips, any other tips have a poor fit in my ear. I also like how they affect the sound, especially on the FiiO headphones, they make the sound less bright. Foam nozzles, unfortunately, are not included with the FW3. In short, the FW3s sound too bright for me, with very sparse bass due to the usual rubber tips.

Again, this is about the same signature that most FiiO headphones have. In general, the headphones have a relatively even sound, a slight deflection in the middle, as always a “dry” slightly metallic upper middle with a slight emphasis on the high frequency. The sound is “lightweight”, has, as it were, a lack of mass, especially for instruments that have a slow decay. With any medium or small set of ear tips, the headphones sound too “sharp” for my taste. As always, FiiO misses the thickness and density in the midrange and bass. At the same time, traditionally, the level of detail is good, the resolution is slightly higher than average for its price. The earphones do very well with music like: rock, folk, indie, blues, etc. And as usual for FiiO, the earphones don’t shine in the bass, I don’t like how FiiO handles the bass. The headphones have an average level of three-dimensionality, the width and depth of the scene fully correspond to the price tag, although I would even say a little bit more than it.

FiiO FW3

The headphones have an average margin of volume. When using the equalizer, it is advisable to reduce the Gain, in such a situation, I often did not have enough volume reserve. With the individually adjusted EQ through the Fiio Control app, I was able to achieve a very decent sound.

Autonomy

FiiO claims that the headphone battery is enough for 7 hours of operation. I actually got less than 4 hours from the headphones at 30% to 50% volume with the SBC codec. In my opinion, this is very modest by modern standards. The headphones charge quite quickly, less than 40 minutes for the headphones and one and a half hours for the case.

FiiO FW3 Battery

Comparison

I haven’t held the top-of-the-line FiiO FW5 , but according to multiple sources, the FW5 doesn’t have much of a sound advantage. It is clear that I cannot confirm this information. By design, both models are the same.

All Sony headphones that I had at a similar price win first of all with the microphone, and it is very noticeable. As for the sound, it is more difficult to answer here, maybe I would prefer FiiO. For convenience, my sure choice is Sony.

Despite the cool electronics, I frankly did not like such devices as “earrings” – UTWS. I don’t like anything that wraps around my ear. Whatever headphones you choose for the UTWS, this combination will be more expensive than the FW3. I don’t think UTWS has a future, it’s an extremely niche product. To be honest, I tested the FiiO UTWS3 model and realized that it is not for me. Although the idea was interesting.

Comparing with Apple at a close price makes no sense at all. FW3 without a doubt sound better than anything offered by Apple under $250. In terms of ergonomics, the two companies are at very opposite ends of the universe.

Haylou makes absolutely top headphones in the “price – sound” category, but they do not have a single model that comes close to the sound of the FW3. I consider Haylou to be one of the most interesting companies in the lower price segment of bluetooth headphones.

Conclusion

The FiiO FW3 model has a big trump card – it’s sound, it’s one of the best among  bluetooth headphones  in the $100-$150 range. The headphones are interesting due to the presence of a full-fledged parametric equalizer, which is recorded in the DSP memory of the headphones, perhaps for many this will be a strong argument for the purchase. At the very top, I wrote that I find the model interesting for two reasons, the first is sound and the second is DSP with a parametric equalizer.

Ergonomics is an extremely individual factor, for me it is absent here, so I highly recommend measuring them if there is such an opportunity. FW3 are very individual, I cannot call the model successful, but I think the headphones will definitely find their category of users.

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