The FH5s in-ear monitors from Chinese manufacturer FiiO are a hybrid quad-driver system that has an integrated sound control in the form of three separate switches for the bass, mid-range and treble for individual adjustment to your own listening habits.
The IEMs come in a distinctive cardboard box with a comprehensive accessories package that includes a high-quality leather case for storage, two additional twist-lock interchangeable plugs, Final’s MMCX Assist, a cleaning brush and a total of 13 pairs of ear-tips. In addition to three each of neutral, bass and voice silicone versions (S/M/L), there are also three foam versions in size M and a pair of bi-flange attachments in size S to choose from, and these provide additional tuning options as well as specific customisation options for your ears.
The fit of these earphones proved to be exceptionally comfortable, with the cable routing typical of in-ear monitors with reinforcement behind the ear providing stability as well as reducing strain during prolonged use. The semi-open housings are made of aluminium and magnesium, with a weight of nine grams per side. They have air outlets that are supposed to visually represent the shape of a dragon’s scale, and they embed themselves excellently into the ears.
The cable supplied is 1.20 metres long and is connected to the housings via a commonly available MMCX connector, so it can be replaced if necessary. The cable braid connection is also replaceable. According to the manufacturer, it consists of 120 copper single-cell conductors coated with monocrystalline silver and is therefore 32 individual conductors narrower than the FD5, which weighs five grams more at identical length. In order to be able to operate the IEMs flexibly with different headphone amplifiers and playback devices, a total of three twist-lock interchangeable plugs are available, and these allow connection via 3.5 mm mini-jack as well as balanced connections to 2.5 mm or 4.4 mm outputs. This is a well-implemented, practical solution that does justice to modern connection diversity, even if the 6.3 mm jack has been omitted, so you might miss having that adapter in what is otherwise a rich range of accessories. During our test, we noticed that cable noise can occur above the splitter when it comes into contact with clothing or skin, but this did not impair the listening experience in the long term, as the microphonic effect is primarily perceptible when playback is paused.
The 4-way system has an extended frequency response of 10 to 40,000 Hz and uses a dynamic 12 mm driver with beryllium coating as woofer. The midrange is also represented by a 6 mm Beryllium-coated dynamic driver, while BA drivers are used in the treble and super-tweeter ranges. The semi-open design is intended to provide relief of physical pressure on the inner ear by allowing the air pressure generated by the woofer to escape. Another advantage is an open, wide sound stage, so the sound can spread out. However, at higher volume levels at least, this was also noticeable in the radiation pattern, with the major difference compared to closed in-ear headphones being less shielding so that the outside world was perceived more strongly.
The basic tuning of the FH5s conveys a down-to-earth sound impression with a slight emphasis in the lower frequency spectrum. At the same time, the powerful bass response reaches down very low and tends towards a rich, full-bodied presentation that reproduces bass-oriented productions punchily and accordingly offers a high fun factor. However, what impressed me most was the reproduction of voices, which has both energy and substance and is supported by a soft basic warmth, which is able to smooth the reproduction gently and subtly without any artificial showmanship. At the same time, the voice reproduction seems extremely subtle, very pure and transparent. Despite the presence, there is no prominent foregrounding or goosebump-inducing intimacy, as vocals remain embedded in the arrangement and the reproduction is not geared towards directness or proximity, but homogeneity.
Although the upper registers don’t drop off, overall, the treble range seems more restrained. At the same time, even at higher volume levels, there is no tendency towards harshness or sharpness, and even sibilants do not pose a problem area for the listener. The treble reproduction could be described as precise and well-behaved, and this also characterises the tuning of the IEMs in general. The timing, too, makes for a relaxed listening experience, as the extent of their playfulness does not seem too strenuous or brash. What doesn’t necessarily come across significantly in the basic sound of the FH5s, in my view, are the advantages of the semi-open design, given that the soundstage of the FD5 seemed more expansive.
The dip switches integrated into the housings are admittedly very delicate, and it requires a certain amount of concentration and good lighting conditions to adjust them using the tip of the cleaning brush that has been provided for this purpose. Otherwise, the sound adjustment works quite well, especially as there are a total of eight different setting options. For example, a more balanced sound can be achieved by raising the trebles; this opens up the presentation and reveals a wider stage. Clarity also increases while the high-frequency range sounds crisper and sets accents. If you prefer the popular, modern “bathtub” sound, you can boost both the bass and the treble, which also noticeably expands the low bass, but still sounds defined. Fans of vocals have the option of increasing the mid-frequency spectrum, which makes the satisfying vocal presentation sound a little more centred. When the treble is boosted in addition to the mids, the previously rather earthy sound is transformed into a brighter one, with voices sounding airier and gaining further purity without appearing thin or faint. Sibilants are still not perceived to a point where they become distracting.
What sets FiiO’s FH5s apart is their flexible, customisable sound. Even if the handling of the miniature controls requires a little attention, a versatile repertoire of sound characteristics is on offer, meaning that these semi-open in-ear monitors can be perfectly adjusted to your own preferences. The comfortable-fitting IEMs also score points with their diverse range of connection options thanks to the three twist-lock interchangeable plugs and a comprehensive accessories package including a leather transport and storage case.
- High wearing comfort
- Semi-open design
- Dip-switch for sound adjustment
- Three connection options via twist-lock interchangeable plugs
- Extensive accessories package
- Slight cable noise above the splitter
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principle2x dynamic + 2x balanced armature drivers
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 40.000 Hz
- Impedance40 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)106 dB
- Weight with cable43 g
- Weight without cable18 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- 13 pairs of eartips: bass-emphasised, voice-emphasised and neutral eartips in three sizes each (S/M/L) plus a bi-flange variant (S) and three pairs of foam eartips (M)
- Final MMCX Assist tool
- Cleaning brush
- Leather storage box