FiiO FA9 Review

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Sound performance

 

 

My main sources were: FiiO M15 / Astell&Kern SA700 / EarMen Tr-Amp. Trusted sources from trusted brands that I used extensively for the past weeks.

As usual, files were played from either Qobuz / Spotify or my own music library. Some tracks will be highlighted, just so you can try them home too!

Overall signature

Out of the box, my FiiO FA9 was configured with the exact opposite settings as the one the brand stated as standard: S1 On, S2 Off, S3 On.

Surprisingly, after a few tries, those were my favorite settings and if the various settings give room for improvements and tuning, I clearly preferred that sound :

  • lower impedance for a better sensitivity
  • treble normal
  • reduced bass and increased mids

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Even if shyer, the bass remained full and engaging. It goes deep, enough to give you the morning kick you need to fight the filthy crowd, surrounding you in the subway, but subtle enough to retains those little details, sometimes hidden behind the low-mids.

Layering is great, really. Hybrid IEMs give you solid bass but balanced one’s offer you detailed lows. The rumble, the body, the power, all of those are there, never crossing the sidelines so you can enjoy every little nuance of the sound. Resolution and clarity are on-par with higher tier IEM and, I truly believe that the solid lows are the foundation of those great results. The soundstage is wide and most people will enjoy the sound even connected to a phone or an entry-level DAP like the FiiO M3 Pro.

There are no sibilants, even if sometimes highs can be a bit vibrant with S1 turned on. If you turn on S2, you really get more noise, so you’d better avoid that setting. But, I never found any harshness in the sound. 

On Dream Of Love from Nox Vahn, Mimi Page, I felt completely immersed and heard those “daunting voices” that FiiO talked about previously. The 3D sensation is nothing short of amazing, and the FA9 may be one of the best ears I encountered in this regard. Of course, this is much more palpable on a DAP like the FiiO M15 or Astell&Kern SA700, which were able to create an astounding sound stage, where I could accurately pinpoint each instrument, every time.

That said if your main focus is realism and accuracy, the FiiO FA9 really nailed it. It delivers crisp details and small notes without overloading your ears. And if FiiO put too much emphasis on voices, it’s always pleasant to hear. The richness in the upper-range blends perfectly into the bass and that extra boost in the mids makes the in-ear vibrant and lively, perfect in the long run.

Powerful mids, good impact, natural voices, powerful bass, and excellent clarity from top to bottom. Plus, it does so with a nice level of finesse, one you can only get with multi-BA drivers like the FA9, Fearless S8F, or the 64Audio A18T (if you really want to go high-end). Compared to the FiiO FH7, my previous “go-to-reference” with the brand, the FA9 adds a good level of contrast, vibration, and more simply, performances. It soothes what could be hard, and enhanced what couldn’t be heard.

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It’s a great all-rounder, one that can be used daily and still surprise you, weeks after once you get a new source. This is what happened when I plugged the Tr-Amp, which gave me a completely different view of the FA9, when I got too accustomed to the FiiO M15

So yeah, all of that to say the FiiO FA9 is, at the moment, FiiO’s best IEM.

Tonality

Highs: higher and cleaner. Compared to the other models of the brand, the FiiO FA9 feels like a good upgrade. It’s much more vibrant, yet not sibilant and you can confidently raise the volume never to encounter any harshness. The highs/super-highs difference didn’t strike me, but if you play with the toggle, you’ll hear a real difference/improvement.

Good test-track : Through and Through – Leaving Laurel

Mediums: rich and full. Excellent soundstage and clean mids make for a very pleasant experience. As usual, FiiO’s done an excellent job in this regard: voices are bliss, and the IEM can fully immerse you, in just a few seconds. The most impressive sensation remaining the 3D effect of those voices.

Good test-track: Money – Pink Floyd

Bass : deep, fast, powerful. As usual,  the lows are the pillar of all the great things that happens upfront. It goes nearly as low as DD drivers, but remains undeniably sharper, and you enjoy more nuance, even more if you crank up the volume.

Good test-track : Sacrifice – Sara Landry

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Sensitivity / Hiss 

Impedance is low, sensitivity is high – whatever the settings – so yes, you can drive those IEM’s with nearly anything, but it will shine only when hooked on a good DAC or DAP

There is some hiss with badly grounded sources, but that’s more than bearable. Once you’ve launched your music, all of that annoying buzz will immediately disappear. Hurray!

Synergy

FiiO FA9 + FiiO M15: le menu du chef. Sure, pairing a FiiO DAP with a FiiO IEM should lead to great results, but that could also not be the case. Thankfully,  this is an amazing combination that gives you a wonderful sense of space, pin-point layering, and sharp sound every time. 

FiiO FA9 + EarMen Tr-AMP: pocket-sized bliss. I recently discovered EarMen DACs, and I’ve been using them daily since the day I got one. If you want to get a wide soundstage, with lot of details, but don’t want to break the bank, this is my top choice at the moment: beefy bass, powerful vocals, and sweet highs on the go, or on your computer.

FiiO FA9 + Astell&Kern SA700: business class. The SA700 is one of the best DAP in its price range, giving the FiiO M15  a real contender. It’s a great combo, maybe too heavy for me, lacking a tad bit of fun, but those highs are to die for!

The article continues on Page Five, after the click here

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

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