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

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

The Fiio Ex1 arrived in an approximately 180mm x 80mm x 35mm retail box in Fiio’s traditional black and red colours. The box is fairly simple with a window to display the EX1, and specifications and descriptions of the EX1 on the rear.

Opening the outer box reveals an inner plastic moulded tray – holding the Ex1, carry case, tips, and shirt clip

The carry case is a sturdy moulded plastic rectangular hinged lid box (with nicely rounded pocket-safe corners) measuring approximately 90mm long, 65mm wide and 23mm deep. It has a catch/lock to keep it closed, and has a matte exterior on the rear and sides, and shinier plastic top (personally I’d prefer matt all around – better for both scratches and finger prints). The only thing missing with the case is no internal pockets for spare tips etc. – but I’m OK with that considering how pocket friendly and sturdy it is. I really like this case.
The accessory pack includes 3 different varieties of silicone tips (all in S,M,L) – including some that look very close to the Sony hybrid type design, some more standard red and grey tips (again with very sturdy mounting stems) and some flatter silicones with a wider bore. There is a reasonable variety here that should suit most people – and my only personal wish would be for a pair of S200 Comply foams.

Also included is a warranty card, adapter, and shirt clip for the cable.

The accessory pack included is essentially the same as the DUNU Titan – except for the omission of the 3.5-6.3 mm adapter.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

TypeSingle dynamic driver inner ear monitor
Driver13mm dynamic titanium driver
Frequency Range20 Hz – 30 Khz
Impedance16 ohm
Sensitivity102 dB/mW
Plug3.5mm gold plated
Cables1.2m, fixed
Weight18g
IEM ShellPolished aircraft grade duralumin

 

FREQUENCY GRAPH

For a while now, I’ve been creating my own frequency graphs. To do this, I use a calibrated SPL meter (C weighting) with a tube to simulate the ear canal, and set tones at different frequencies to plot a frequency curve. I then use a spreadsheet to convert the C-weighted data to frequency data we would hear.

I’ve included measurements for the EX1, Titan 1, and a comparison graph for both. The differences between the Titan 1 and EX1 are very small – and probably more likely to my not having the exact same position of both IEMs in the measuring tube.

I’m hearing a reasonably well balanced (mild V shape) and very clear signature. There is a slight mid-bass hump, very slight recession in the lower mids, and peak at around 3kHz. There does seem to be reasonably good extension into the sub-bass (test tones are just audible at 20Hz), and plenty of sparkle in the upper registers.

BUILD & DESIGN

The Fiio EX1 is really well made with a polished metal outer shell (aircraft grade duralumin) – which is very reminiscent of an earbud type shape – but with an angled nozzle designed to take an IEM tip and provide some measure of isolation. The circular part of the body is 15-16mm in diameter, and designed to snugly in your ear with, the rear of the EX1 shell against your antihelix, and the front underneath your tragus, with the nozzle angled forward into the ear canal. It is designed to be worn cable down, and with a shallow seal into the canal.

On the underside of the body is 11 vent holes plus there is also one more smaller one on the exterior adjacent to the cable. The right ear piece is designated with a red ring around the circumference of the main body. The left ear piece has a blue ring.

The nozzles are approximately 50mm long, have a generous lip, and have a pinhole mesh type of opening with 7 holes to allow the sound into your ear.

The cable is the main point of difference to the original Titan 1, and Fiio have replaced the black cloth / rubber cable with an all transparent sheathed cable from jack to earphone. The Y-split is metal with the top piece sliding off to form a cinch. The plug is a right angled gold plated 3.5mm plug, and is designed to be very friendly for portable devices. No issues with my 5S with fitted case. The cable shows good flexibility, with no real signs of kinking (it does have the occasional issue with tangling if not coiled properly though), and has excellent strain relief at all the required major points (plug, Y-split and IEM body).

There is a moderately high amount of microphonic noise present with the cable – but this can be alleviated by using a combination of the neck cinch (or shirt clip), and cable management under clothing.

One of the most simple but innovative designs with the cables is the inclusion of the black rubber cable tie actually on the cable itself. When not in use it sits unobtrusively close to the plug (I never notice it). When you’ve finished listening to the EX1, simply carefully coil the cable and use the tie. Simple, elegant, and brilliant. I’ve loved this with all of DUNU’s earphones, and I’m really pleased Fiio included it with the EX1.

FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) – so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don’t fit overly well. This is often even more of an issue with shallow fitting IEMs. I initially tried the included medium and large silicone tips (wide and small bore), and whilst they fit OK, they simply weren’t to my particular preference. My usually preferred tips are the Sony isolation tips I have, and also Comply T200/S200. Both gave me a very good seal.

I also tried Spinfits, SpiralDots and Ostry Blacks and Blues. All fit the nozzles really well and stayed intact.

The EX1 is designed to be worn cable down only (I have tried wearing them cable over ear (inverting them) – and although it is doable, it is not “long-term” comfortable). The nice thing about the new Fiio cable though is that it is so light and flexible that it is possible to wear them cable down, and then lightly loop the cable back over your ear, and secure it with the cinch. This works passably well for exercise, but I have to admit at times I’ve simply thought about reterminating them (soldering a new jack), and simply swapping the channels.

They are extremely comfortable to wear though (cable down), and I’ve had no issues sleeping with them intact.

Isolation is below average, but this is due to the extensive venting, which is what contributes to the EX1’s open and wide sound profile. You won’t be using these on public transport (at least I wouldn’t be anyway) – but they are ideal for walking where you still need to be aware of your surroundings. Also, because they are not full sealed/closed, they are ideal for exercise as I don’t get much in the way of bone conduction sound.

There is also a reasonable amount of leakage depending on your listening volume. I’m a lower volume level listener generally, but sitting beside my daughter, she is usually able to tell me what I’m listening to.

The one other thing I do wish these did have was an i-capable cable option – as they would be brilliant for phone calls I think (allow me to finally retire my earpods).

Sound on the next page, click HERE

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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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