Review: Fiio EX1 – Dunu’s euh, Fiio’s First IEM

Disclaimer. We received the EX1 free of charge from Fiio directly. Fiio is also a site advertiser. This is Paul’s first official review as a Headfonia writer. Please give him a warm welcome! Lieven

 

INTRODUCTION

In the last 5-6 years (since I’ve become more involved again with personal audio), I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a lot of different IEM and earphone set-ups. And as my knowledge of what is out there has broadened, so has my appreciation for how much really good sounding audio gear is available for very affordable prices nowadays.

Nowhere is that more apparent than with the Fiio Electronics company (makers of affordable but very good quality DAPs, DACs and amps), and also with DUNU Topsound (makers of some really excellent and innovative earphones).

So what happens when the two companies collaborate together – to allow Fiio to bring to market their first earphone (based on DUNU’s design)? The result is a little very affordable audio magic – in the shape of the new Fiio EX1. Read on for more information about this new offering from Fiio.

ABOUT FIIO

Fiio was first founded in 2007. Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers, and DAC/amps. As they grown, they’ve listened actively to the audio community (and involved us in their design choices), and slowly expanded and refined their product range, becoming perhaps best known for their range of digital audio players including the X1, X3 (1st and 2nd gen), and X5 (1st and 2nd gen). Lieven and I have jointly reviewed the X5ii earlier in the year, and I think it is air to say we were both impressed at the fidelity it delivers without breaking the bank. I still use mine every day.

Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.

I personally own Fiio’s E11k amp, E17K DAC/amp, and X1, X3ii, X5 and X5ii DAPs.

ABOUT DUNU

DUNU Topsound was established in 1994 originally as an OEM supplier to other companies. Since then they have developed their own branded line of high quality earphones, and gone from strength to strength with each release.

The name DUNU is simply an acronym of the principle design points that the company strives to implement in their product range – Delicate, Unique, Utmost

DUNU have brought together some truly innovative designs in their earphones and in particular their triple hybrid series DN-1000, 2000, and 2000J which have been able to go toe to toe with earphones costing hundreds more than their RRP. But perhaps their biggest selling earphone was the Titan 1 dynamic (released late 2104) – and priced between $80 (promotion) and $140. And it is this earphone that DUNU have collaborated with Fiio – to release as the Fiio EX1.

I personally also own the DUNU Titan1, Dn-1000, 2000 and 2000J.

PREAMBLE – ‘ABOUT ME’.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

I generally tend toward headphones that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.

I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent. I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).

I tend to be skeptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.

For the purposes of this review – I used the Fiio EX1 straight from the headphone-out socket of my iPhone 5S, X1 and X3ii – choosing these sources because they link more closely with the Fiio EX1 being a budget friendly high quality earphone (current RRP is $89.99 USD)

In the time I have spent with the EX1, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in), and for these particular earphones I did not require any brain burn-in at all as I know them well (from my time with the Titan1) and very much liked their sound signature from the very first listen.

This is a purely subjective review – my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt – especially if it does not match your own experience. For a full list of my audio gear – I have linked my Head-Fi profile here.

Click HERE or below to go to the real review on the next page.

Review: Fiio EX1 – Dunu’s euh, Fiio’s First IEM
4 (80.96%) 83 vote[s]

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Paul is a Kiwi from Down Under (New Zealand) and spends his time selling Lamb by day, and playing round with audio gear by night. He's a self confessed music junkie, with wide musical tastes and a penchant for female vocalists. He is not a golden eared listener, prefers to review armed with an SPL meter and objective measurements, and does his best to balance objectivity and subjectivity. Mostly though, he can be found with headphones on his head, and a smile on his face - lost in the moment.

    44 Comments

    • Reply August 13, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      We’re gonna have a talk about cables sounding different, Paul 😉

      • Reply August 13, 2015

        Brooko

        Yet to hear a difference Lieven, and I pretty much call it as I see it. I’d be more than happy to entertain a difference – but both my own experiences, and the science also, indicate to me that the only audible differences occur when a cable is actually extremely poorly made. I am a sucker for a nice flexible, low noise good looking cable though. In fact my next job will be to recable my AKG K553 at some stage. But I’ll be doing it for aesthetics rather than sonics 😉

        • Reply August 13, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          If only you could borrow my magic box of cables people don’t believe I have, I really should take a picture of it

          • Reply August 13, 2015

            Brooko

            LOL – I always have an open mind L. But lets just say that I haven’t seen any compelling evidence so far.

            • Reply August 13, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              My office is like Area 51: the evidence is there! 😉

            • Reply August 24, 2015

              ohm image

              All it takes is a difference in impedance. Depending on the transducers, the difference can be big. But I’m with you otherwise: if all else is the same, the sound should be the same.

              • Reply August 25, 2015

                Brooko

                Oh I agree – impedance can definitely affect the sound on some earphones.

              • Reply August 25, 2015

                dalethorn

                Capacitance in a cable can make a big difference in high freq. response.

        • Reply August 13, 2015

          dalethorn

          Technique might make a difference. Take a song like Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken – there are a series of phrases where you can toggle on/off or A/B *between* phrases, rather than toggle in the middle of a tone or phrase. This technique helps me hear things that I couldn’t hear otherwise. First example phrase: “Morning has broken”, and 2nd phrase: “Like the first morning”. Or, I can combine both of those as the first segment and the next equivalent segment as the 2nd for comparison. The spectral content of this track makes differences easier to hear. I highly recommend this example or something equivalent for testing things like cables or highres versus lowres tracks.

          • Reply August 15, 2015

            Brooko

            Thanks Dale. I pretty much volume match at 1kHz with test tones and a calibrated SPL meter. Then I A/B, and if possible ABX (if I can get someone to help me). For music formats, I use Foobars ABX comparator. Where possible I set-up a switch box, so that I can switch very quickly between sources etc. In the end its all subjective, and clouded to some extent by my own limitations. But I’m only really testing for my own limits/thresholds anyway 🙂

            • Reply August 15, 2015

              dalethorn

              The point I was making is to NOT switch during a tone, as is most commonly done, but to encourage people to try playing short consecutive phrases with comparable tonalities to see if they can detect a difference that way. If you’re not keen on trying that technique, then just ignore my suggestion.

              • Reply August 15, 2015

                Brooko

                I don’t Dale – I volume match with tones. I A/B or ABX with music 🙂 Usually something that I know really well, and that has very good transients and dynamic range. Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” is a good example.

                • Reply August 15, 2015

                  dalethorn

                  So what you’re saying is that your technique is better without trying mine? I don’t understand what you’re trying to say then, because I’m trying to make a suggestion for other readers here, and you didn’t address the specifics of my suggestion.

                  • Reply August 15, 2015

                    Brooko

                    No – you’re reading something into it that isn’t there – and this has nothing to do with the EX1 review either – so surprised you’re even raising it. I was asked about cables by L – I replied that I haven’t found any differences in my own experiences so far. You then started talking about a test method for both cables and also hi-res vs low-res. I explained my methodology for testing hi-res vs low-res. I ABX. Here – I even wrote a thread about it (http://www.head-fi.org/t/655879/setting-up-an-abx-test-simple-guide-to-ripping-tagging-transcoding). I use real music to test. I use the same track, and I ABX properly (the gold standard of testing). But again – if you want to debate it (I don’t) – then please take it to another medium rather than this review 🙂

                    • Reply August 15, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      You are taking it wrong. This isn’t about you, it’s about sharing a test technique with interested users, which I posted in a context that makes sense. I also suggested that *you* should ignore my suggestions as you wish, and you chose to contest them instead. Ball -> court -> you.

                      • August 15, 2015

                        Headfonia_L.

                        All is good guys, let it go 🙂

    • Reply August 13, 2015

      willy vlyminck

      Great review Lieven, you only mentioned two progressive recordings from Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, a genre where the bass guitar usually have a prime role, think of Yes, Steven Wilson solo, king Crimson, etc. which Dunu does the very best here?

      • Reply August 13, 2015

        Headfonia_L.

        Hi Willy, Paul wrote the article, not me 😉

        • Reply August 13, 2015

          willy vlyminck

          Stupid me?

      • Reply August 13, 2015

        Brooko

        Hi Willy – I’m a big fan of Wilson (love his new album – Hand Cannot Erase). I’m a bit biased with the DUNU’s. Due to my liking for a slightly brighter earphone, I really love the DUNU DN2000J, and find them perfect for Floyd, PT, SW ….. anything Progressive. Because the recordings are generally highest quality, I’ve never had an issue with over exuberant treble – and the bass on the 2000J is sublime (fast, textured, some of the nest I’ve come across).

        • Reply August 13, 2015

          willy vlyminck

          Hi Broko,thx, outdoors i use mostly the IE80. As a prog fan, I like clarity , detail but also a good bass that make sound the Rickenbacker bass as it should, from there my question, and yes the latest SW is fab. You should also try Anglagard if you don’t know them yet?

          • Reply August 13, 2015

            Brooko

            Hadn’t tried Anglagard before. Thanks for the recommendation. Looking into their discography now.

            • Reply August 13, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              Maybe they’re on HDTracks as well?

              • Reply August 13, 2015

                Brooko

                Just checked – looks like they have no digital downloads for purchase anywhere. Luckily I have clients in Sweden – so can probably get them to find me a copy. Listening to “Viljans Oga” (full album) on youtube while I’m typing this. It’s pretty good. BTW – I’ll do that Bio for you tomorrow.

                • Reply August 13, 2015

                  willy vlyminck

                  There is only a live album for download because this one was orginally released by Musea. The 3 studio recordings and the newest live( on their own label) are not for download neither can you stream them, but they were responsible for the renaissance of prog in 1992. Their first two were massive sellers only by mouth to mouth as only form of publicity.

                • Reply August 13, 2015

                  dalethorn

                  I went looking on iTunes for Anglagard and found ProgFest 1994. It’s expensive and prob. typical iTunes quality, but the bands and previews are good.

    • Reply August 13, 2015

      real_cranium

      Have you heard the Superlux HD381F ?

      • Reply August 13, 2015

        Brooko

        Sorry – haven’t heard any of the Superlux line yet.

        • Reply August 13, 2015

          real_cranium

          I meant that as to share that this popular “semi-open design” by DUNU might have been influenced by the HD381 series..most prolly not though. Them HD381F is not too shabby too IMO. Nice write up as always anyways!

    • Reply August 14, 2015

      Anthony Kimball

      Great review Paul…It’s great to see that your reviews are getting around.The Titan’s have been on my shortlist, but these, being a little cheaper will probably be my next IEM…thanks!

      • Reply August 15, 2015

        Brooko

        Thanks Anthony. The EX1 (like the Titans) really are one of the absolute sonic diamonds I’ve experienced when considering value vs performance. As such they are a very easy recommendation. What other IEMs are you coming from?

        • Reply August 15, 2015

          Anthony Kimball

          My finest (at this point) are my Shure 535s…I also favor my Westone 2 & Meelectronics 161…on the more “fun” side, I have the B&W C5 (2nd gen), Jays 5 Jays & the Onkyo IE-FC30 (and a ton of bargain bin stuff). I find I like a balanced sound, with a little more bass than say the Etymotic ER4P. I’m really interested in these & the Aurisonics Rockets….thanks!!

          • Reply August 15, 2015

            Brooko

            If you’re looking for contrast – go with the Titans/EX1. IMO the Rockets are more similar (very mid forward) than different to the SE535.

            • Reply August 15, 2015

              Anthony Kimball

              Thanks for the tip…although the Rockets would be a more durable travel companion than the 535…I can put that off (for a while at least).

    • Reply August 16, 2015

      Savage Brit

      What a superb review and thanks to it, I’ve just ordered these. Bravo, mate… cheers to you and FiiO.

      • Reply August 16, 2015

        Brooko

        Thanks – post back after you’ve had a chance to get used to them, and let me know what you think.

    • Reply August 16, 2015

      Mokies

      Wow, it seems that EX1 is a fun sounding IEM. Can’t wait to get it locally to compare it with my TTPod T1E.

      • Reply August 16, 2015

        Brooko

        I really like it – and there is enough bass to get my toes tapping. The slight V shape is enough to call it fun I guess. At the price thy’re asking it is easy to recommend though.

        • Reply November 25, 2015

          John S

          what’s the difference between Fiio ex1 and titan 1 in sound? They are the exact same?

          • Reply November 26, 2015

            Brooko

            Not exactly the same John – but so close that you won’t really tell the difference easily. The bass is practically the same, and the only real difference sonically is that the Titan vocal area is just the tiniest bit closer and more intimate. The other real change is in the cable (different sheaths).

    • Reply October 1, 2015

      Andrew

      I’m having trouble with Dunu cables and thinking of downgrading from DN1000 to this. I personally don’t like the bass on the DN1000. Can you please do a quick comparison of this to the DN1000.
      If the EX1 have better mids, a notch reduced bass, and the same highs, then it would be perfect for me.
      Also can you give any iems that shares the sound signature of the Sennheiser HD598?

    • Reply November 15, 2015

      krishtrinity

      How is it compared to fidue a73,i already own fidue and vsonic vsd 5 but dunu looks really tempting

    • Reply May 15, 2016

      Maxwell Herman

      How is it compared to the IE 80? I see you have one in the picture. Right now the IE 80 with the Tape mod is my reference IEM.

    • Reply September 18, 2016

      Artie Gregorsome

      my assistant was looking for Wh 382 form a few days ago and used a great service with an online forms database . If you want Wh 382 form as well , here’s a https://goo.gl/bvtqCh

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