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.