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

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

The EX1 is an interesting IEM. Despite its low 16ohm, it doesn’t have high sensitivity – so I am pushing the volume up a little further than I normally would with some of my other more sensitive IEMs. But in a quick A/B between an amped and unamped X1 or X3ii (using the E17K) I haven’t really noticed a huge difference in dynamics. My iPhone 5S needs closer to 40-45% volume where with other IEM’s I’m often around 25-30% comparatively. But on all my devices the EX1 is relatively easily powered straight out of the headphone out. If you have a really weak source you might have issues – I don’t.

QUICK COMPARISON OTHER IEMS (very subjective)

For this comparison, I tried to compare the Fiio EX1 with some similarly priced IEMs to get an idea of value vs performance. I did not compare the Fiio EX1 with the DUNU Titan below – simply because to my ears, they are essentially the same earphone). My set-up when performing these A/B comparisons was Fiio X3ii into Fiio E17K – then to a signal splitter, with one end also having an attenuator so I could match the volume levels.

EX1 ($90) vs Havi B3 Pro1 ($65)

This was an interesting comparison – because they both have a similar type of signature – pretty flat, slightly elevated bass, and clear and extended upper end. Two things stood out in this test though. The Havis are outclassed in both stage and imaging by the EX1, and the Havi also sound quite “hollow”, where the EX1 sounds more natural. The EX1 also has clearer overall resolution and presentation of micro details. Both are built pretty well, and both are comfortable to wear. The Havi has better isolation. I prefer the EX1 cable though, and it is easier to drive. For my own preferences, I would always take the EX1 over the Havi, even at the higher price.

EX1 ($90) vs Trinity Techne ($99) (using the vivid filter)

The Techne has a much more intimate signature which heightens the EX1 sense of space comparatively. In fact, after spending so much time with the EX1 this week, the Techne actually feels quite claustrophobic. Both are very detailed, but it is clear that the EX1 has better balance between mid and sub bass (the Techne with this filter has too little, and with the middle filter is a little boomy). Again the EX1 sounds far more natural. Both have excellent build and comfort. Again the Techne has better isolation – and the Trinity cable is far better than the Fiio. Despite having the ability to change sonics with the filter system, if given the choice, I would take the EX1 over the Techne.

EX1 ($90) vs Brainwavz S5 ($99)

The S5 is much darker and also quite hollow sounding – but still quite reasonably clear. The EX1 is slightly fuller sounding but at the same time lighter tonally – more balanced. Sound stage and imaging is definitely better on the EX1, and although the S5 has a very good build – the cable makes it unwieldy. Both are comfortable to wear, and again the EX1 has poorer isolation – but its far more natural sound is again my preference.

EX1 ($90) vs Trinity Delta ($135) (using the smooth / balanced filter)

This was probably the most interesting, as this was the first comparison where the EX1 didn’t absolutely rule on stage and imaging. It is a little more spacious – but both image exceptionally well for their price point. The Delta is thicker and weightier – with more bass impact. Both sound quite well balanced and natural, and both have very good levels of detail. Tonally they are quite similar – with the EX1 having a slightly lighter, more nimble signature. I could live with the tonality of both. As far as build goes – it is exceptional on both. Delta wins on isolation and has a far better cable (allowing over ear use also). As far as preference goes with this pair – it really is too hard to call. The Delta wins for overall versatility – but there is something about the overall tonality of the EX1. I choose …… both J

FIIO EX1 – SUMMARY

The Fiio EX1 is an incredibly well designed, well built, and beautiful sounding “semi-open” IEM. It is relatively well balanced in frequency range, and has very good clarity for its price range. Its venting allows for a very open and spacious presentation of sound stage.

I have found it a great all-rounder, suitable for multiple genres, and with no real sonic weaknesses for my tastes.

The EX1 will likely suit:

  • Fans of a balanced or slightly V shaped sonic presentation
  • People who value clarity
  • People who do not need high levels of isolation

The EX1 may not suit anyone who:

  • Requires high isolation
  • Prefers a darker, warmer, smoother presentation
  • Does not like wearing IEMs cable down

At the current retail price of USD 90, the Fiio EX1 represents an incredible bargain in my opinion. Because of the sheer number of reviews I’ve had recently, I hadn’t listened to the DUNU Titans for a while. And listening now to the EX1 has brought back to me what incredibly well rounded IEMs both the DUNU Titan and Fiio EX1 are. I should listen to these more often, because they are simply so enjoyable.

A common question I ask myself is would I buy these, and would I recommend them to friends or family. The answer is a resounding yes to both questions. In today’s market, these are a sonic diamond.

In closing I’d like to thank Sunny at Fiio and also Lieven for giving me the opportunity to review the EX1. It has been immensely enjoyable “rediscovering” them.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO FIIO / DUNU

It really is hard to recommend any changes – these are simply “that good”. If there is anything I would like though, it would be

  • An over ear version
  • Possibly a version/option with a microphone on cable.

Maybe (for the future) a detachable cable, which then solves both above requests.

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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