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Fiio FH5 - A Beautifully Detailed and Musical IEM!

11-09-2020 | By Kermit Heartsong | Issue 112

That so much transparency—detail, macro/micro-dynamics—and music lies within these small and, relatively, inexpensive IEMs is, no doubt, a wondrous discovery. For more years than I'd like to recall, I have chased after the audiophile "Maltese Falcon" (The Maltese Falcon, John Huston, Warner Brothers,1941) only to be left wanting for what a given piece of equipment—speaker, amp, preamp, DAC, CDP—promised but did not deliver.

Perhaps it is modern technology or the decoupling of musical equipment from the "trials and tribulations" of one's listening environment (room), into one's "audiophile veins" (ears) or both. Now, however, I find myself paying a pittance for the musicality of headgear that I once spent small fortunes trying to obtain via stereo equipment. Huzzah for us all!

Refrain: Unlike most reviews, this review will be non-sequential, as it will start with how the equipment actually sounds and not the process of physically "undressing" it and/or laying out its various accoutrements, specifications, etc. Think of this review then, as a  non-linear movie—Memento, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, etc—that, likewise, starts at the end and winds its way to the beginning.

The Sound

As I write, I listen to Sophie Hunger's "Walzer für Niemand" (Monday's Ghost, Universal), and the physical interplay between Sophie's hands and the piano keys is, perhaps, the clearest that I've heard it, to date. Sophie's voice now hangs in the air, lilting, melancholy, until the xylophone punctuates air and space, and then voice and piano and xylophone fade away into blackness. As allied to the Cayin N6ii there is a beautiful analog-like rendering of this haunting track that beguiles. I play the track again. Yes, the FiiO FH5 ($259) will scale beautifully from AudioQuest Black to Red to Cobalt to Cayin N6ii.

The tonal palette of the FH5 is reminiscent of a natural, analog richness that does not cheat the soul of the music, but allows the music to breathe, to enchant. And this is the signature that runs across its frequency spectrum. That said, transparency does not take a back seat, by any means, and brings forth macro/micro—large/small—detail that provides dynamic swing, scale, and intimacy. There are certainly more detailed IEMs on the market, but how well do they keep the music's soul intact? That we shall resolve on a case by case basis.

The FiiO's volumetric cube—sound stage—is intimate. Intimate in that it spans good depth and height with reasonable width, while layering and positioning (instruments, performers), coherence and decay (note diminishment) are superb. Vocals will also show themselves forward in the staging of the FH5's moderate-sized cube. For lovers of the 'voice' this will be a real treat!

For the purposes of this review, the FiiO FH5 was paired with the AudioQuest DragonFly Black, Red, Cobalt, the Cayin N6ii, and Smartphones—Samsung S10, Apple X iPhone. Given its impedance (19 Ohms) and its efficiency (112dB w/M) the FiiO FH5 mated exceptionally well with all of the above (MacBook Pro included). Also, do allow, at least, 75 hours of burn-in, prior to your optimum listening enjoyment.


Dave Holland's "B-40/RS-4-W/M23-6K" (Emerald Tears, ECM) as heard through the FH5 is agile, detailed, taut. It is difficult to pull away from this album and to go on to the next. And yet this is a $259 IEM! The bass notes of Eiji Oue's "Symphonic Dances, Op 45: III Lento Assai" (Symphonic Dances, Reference Recordings) are vivid, bold, and powerful, as handled by the FH5's dynamic driver. Across this frequency band there is power, when called for, speed, copious detail, and controlled rumble, that speak to an IEM poised well above this price point.


I listen now to Boz Scaggs, and the track "But Beautiful" (But Beautiful, Gray Cat Records) and the hi-hats have sheen, wonderful tone and timbre, and a natural diminishment. Boz's voice enters with attendant weight, rasp, and warmth, that engages immediately, as presented by the FiiO FH5s. Vocals are forward in the mix and thus clear, of full body, and natural, with very good detail and timbre. Again, this is a music lover's midrange and not, necessarily, an audio professional's.


The treble is natural, detailed, smooth, and maintains a wonderful balance with the rest of the frequency range. Hi-hats, as mentioned above, have a naturalness, a sweetness of tone, and good extension. Hilary Hahn's "Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, MWV O14: I. Allegro molto appassionato" (Mendelssohn & Shostakovich: Violin Concertos, Sony Classical) reaches skyward and the notes are sweet, natural, extended, and quite detailed. Are there more extended IEMs? Certainly, though there are very few non-audio professionals, I imagine, who would miss that which the FH5's do not capture.

The Wrappings and Accessories

The FiiO FH5's outer box is black, sports a minimalist design aesthetic, with images and text, seemingly, reversed-out in a pale gray. The FiiO design thus translates to a clean, well executed, minimalist design. The outer box acts as a sheath for the inner box, much like first edition books, at one time, had sheaths to protect their valuable inner contents.

The inner box, once removed from its sheath, opens as though a book, to reveal its top layer—a black foam insert, that cradles the FH5 IEMs in a mirrored fashion. And once the top layer, has been removed, below in yet another black foam insert, lie the various accoutrements—an instruction manual, 13 pairs of ear tips, with varying designations (explained below), a hard carrying case, which holds within it a soft carrying case for the FH5, and a small cleaning brush.

Ear Tips

Balance Tips: One imagines that the balanced tips were tuned to maintain the "steady-state" nature of the FiiO FH5's overall sound signature. These tips would be employed for the duration of our review sessions.

Vocal Tips: These tips sport a semi-translucent shell with a red, ridged stalk.

These tips are intended to supplement the FH5's vocal presentation, again, by "unbalancing" what the stock Balanced Tips provide.

Bass Tips: Sport a black tip and a smoked-charcoal body and are intended to supplement the FH5's bass response by, again, "unbalancing" what the stock Balanced Tips provide.

Foam Tips: These tips are black and may well be intended, as foam ear tips generally are, to secure a better in-ear fit, towards greater isolation, and an increase in bass response. I leave that investigation to you.

Suffice to say, that the FiiO FH5 has been quite nicely appointed with premium wire, two carrying cases, and ear tips for practically all frequency bands.

The Technical Specifications

The FiiO FH5 is a hybrid IEM (In Ear Monitor), that utilized three balanced armature drivers and a 10mm polymer-nanocomposite, dynamic driver, wherein the dynamic driver handles the bass, while the balanced armatures take responsibility for the midrange and the treble regions.

FiiO utilizes three sound tubes, via its patented S.TURBO acoustic design, which port to the ear tips and handle each of the four drivers situated within. In FiiO's words:

"These tubes have been designed to impeccably integrate with the 4 driver units, allowing for a wonderfully smooth transition between the three main regions of sound frequencies to maximize the drivers' combined potential, bringing you a phenomenal symphony of music."

With regard to the FiiO-FH5's cables, that are virtually free of microphonics and which embarrass cables of much more expensive IEM offerings, FiiO explains:

"The high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper wire makes up the FH5's hybrid cable effective minimizes distortion and signal transmission loss for the best sound quality  possible. These wires are braided together in an environmentally-friendly, transparent TPU sheath that allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship involved in making the cable."

The FiiO-FH5's, due to their low impedance (19Ω -Ohms) and high sensitivity (112dB w/M), are easy to drive and may be driven by Smartphone, computer, DAC, and DAP alike.

  • Driver(s): 3 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic Driver
  • Frequency Range: 15Hz – 40kHz
  • Impedance: 19Ω
  • Sensitivity: 112dB SPL/ m/W Sensitivity
  • Max Input Power: 100mW
  • Single ear-bud weight: 8grm
  • Stock cables:  high-purity, mono-crystalline, silver-plated copper wire—1.2m  w/MMCX connectors (detachable)
  • Plug Connector: 3.5mm gold-plated L-shaped plug jack

Design - Look and Feel

The FiiO FH5's design is premised on "today's most advanced exotic supercars," in the company's words. Perhaps, however, there is an even more organic raison d'être for the wonderful design of the FH5's patented TRISHELL. An exotic sea shell, for instance. Or, perhaps, a more "custom-fit" IEM wedded to industrial design, that affixes to it a "5-axis CNC machined aluminum-magnesium alloy superstructure." The rigidity and secure fit is said by FiiO to greatly reduce unwanted resonance and distortion. The FiiO FH5's musical envelope would say "Yes" to that determination. The FH5's design is certainly an eye-catcher as it is beautifully and meticulously constructed.

As per the custom-fit referenced above, the FH5 with its various curved lines fits in a like manner to custom made IEM's. This is to say that the FiiO FH5 are very comfortable for both travel and extended listening sessions.


What the FiiO FH5 ($259) will do is beguile and engage with its natural, analog-like musicality, its rendering of copious detail, its coherency, prodigious bass (when called for), and its excellent layering and positioning. And while it is not perfect, when has $259 (in an IEM) ever bought anyone perfection?

At one time the FH5 represented FiiO's statement IEM. It is easy to hear why. The FiiO FH5 is a music lover's IEM that also brings detail enough to enchant, possibly, even the audio professional (or, at least, that professional in his/her off hours). Very highly recommended! Hazzah for us all!

There appears to be a trend with regard to the IEMs that we have set out to review and those that have been sent to us for review—they have performed far above their MSRP designation. There were, however, a couple of exceptions that will be sent back to their manufacturers and go forever unmentioned on this review website.

Music - Qobuz & Tidal

  • Alexander Tharaud, Tharaud Plays Rachmaninoff
  • Omar Sosa, Calma
  • Patricia Barber, Verse
  • Rickie Lee Jones, Pop Pop
  • Sade, Lovers Live
  • Sheku Kannah Mason, Inspiration
  • Tracey Chapman, Where You Live
  • Olafur Arnalds, Island Songs
  • Eiji Oue, Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances
  • Hilary Hahn, Mendelssohn & Shostakovich: Violin Concertos
  • Mechell Ndegeocello, Bitter
  • Maxwell, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite
  • Sarah Jarosh, Undercurrent
  • Annie-Sophie Mutter, Tchaikovsky/Korngold: Violin Concertos
  • London Grammar, If You Wait
  • Stevie Wonder, Innervisions
  • Gidon Kremer, "Preghiera" (Rachmaninov: Piano Trios)
  • Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Orphée
  • Dave Holland, Emerald Tears
  • Gidon Kremer, Daniil Trifonov, Giedre Dirvanauskaite, Preghiera/Rachmaninov Piano Trios

Ancillary Equipment

  • Cayin N6ii/A01
  • AudioQuest Cobalt
  • AudioQuest Red
  • AudioQuest Black
  • AudioQuest Dragon Tail
  • Meze Empyrean
  • OBravo EAMT-2C IEMs
  • Final Sonorous III
  • Samsung S10
  • Apple X iPhone

Pros: Deep, resonant bass, great mids, good extended highs.

Cons: Still thinking...

Fiio FH5

Retail: $259


2/F, F Building, Hougang Industrial Zone,

Shigang Village, Huangshi West Road, Baiyun District,

Guangzhou City, 510430, China.


Kermit Heartsong is a published author, writer, and working screenwriter, who brings an established writer's approach/perspective to Personal HiFi reviews. Kermit has owned numerous high-end and ultra-high-end components/systems and has tested numerous pieces of audio gear over the course of his life. And he is a music lover first and foremost with regard to the types of Personal HiFi equipment that he enjoys and enjoys to review. 

In conjunction with Positive Feedback, Kermit, as an Associate Editor for PF, will focus on Personal HiFi and Headphones for the venerable and long standing audio magazine. Kermit is currently Managing Director of AudioKey Reviews. AudioKey Reviews' mandate is to review Personal HiFi equipment from headphones to DACS to Amps/DAC to IEMs and, in doing so, to seek out that which is, above all, musical, transparent, and engaging.