Disclaimer: The FiiO F9 Pro was delivered to me directly from FiiO as they're one of our site advertisers. The price seems to be 139$ for now, 40$ more than for the standard F9.
When I reviewed the FiiO F9, I was impressed by the sound quality and especially the build & design for 99$. FiiO certainly knows how to make bang for buck products as we know them for a long time now. But they also want to step up to the next level and quickly improve with each product they launch. As a result, the FiiO F9 Pro was born.
Just as I thought that the F9 could’ve been better in some ways, there came the FiiO F9 Pro. Some people don’t like the short cycles in terms of product releases, but seeing a company pushing for better is not necessarily a bad thing after all. And there we have the F9 Pro, saying “gently step aside” to the basic F9 and taking the spotlight.
DESIGN & BUILD & FIT
There’s really not much for me to add in terms of “not sound” parts for the F9 Pro. There are some slight changes but at the end of the day they don’t impact the user experience significantly. While saying that, these small changes are very nice from FiiO nevertheless.
The female MMCX connectors have a slightly better angle for a more comfortable fit. There are easy to see L and R markings on the earpieces, and the cables also have blue and red color finish on the connectors. These small things create a better user experience overall, and add that “pro” touch to the earphones. Cables are also finished with right angled jacks this time. That’s also a more compact solution compared to straight jacks, at least in my opinion.
I’ve talked about all those things in my video below. Check it out to see the F9, F9 Pro and FH1, and of course their design differences. (The video had some focusing problems unfortunately, so sorry in advance. I’ll definitely solve that for the next ones)
For content, the F9 Pro has a secondary zipped case other than the weatherproof case provided and this is a nice addition. Sometimes it’s really handy to have a smaller, pocketable case to carry the IEMs in your pocket. Another addition is that foam tips are provided, and this is really nice if you like foams like me, and I think the F9 Pro blends very well with them.
Other than those things, build quality, fit and design is all the same with the F9. The color of this one tough is a lighter gray. It’s the only color option for the Pro model and I personally like it. In fact, I think it looks even better than the F9 with a titanium-like appearance. I saw things about MMCX connectors failing at some point or a certain angle, but it was all OK in my case. Still, one should not overlook this issue. You can search on the web and look for the complaints.
In conclusion, the F9 Pro is not only better in sound, it also offers a slightly better user experience. If you would like to have more insight about this part, you can check out the original F9 Review as well. Let’s jump to the sound right away.
The difference between the F9 and the FiiO F9 Pro lies in the Balanced Armature drivers. FiiO managed to get the Knowles BA drivers and put them inside the Pro. I was a little skeptical about whether these drivers would make a big difference or not but in the end, it actually turned out to be a bigger difference than how I imagined it. My only expectation was the disappearance of that peak on upper mids/lower treble region; meaning the IEMs would exhibit a more controlled sound performance. But it’s definitely more than just that and I will explain those points shortly.
The FiiO F9 Pro presents a very clear sound like the standard version, but this time with more control and cohesiveness on the whole spectrum. I personally would skip the F9 and pay extra for the F9 Pro without hesitation, just for that reason. With that improvement, this I think has become even more “bang for your buck” now.
On paper we should have the same dynamic bass driver from the standard F9 here. And precisely, the bass presentation does not contain a big difference when compared side by side. I will describe the lows of the F9 Pro right from the start, just in case you haven’t read the F9 Review beforehand.
The F9 Pro has a good slam and punch in its lows, but not overly so. It has a good amount of bass when needed, and gives you those sweet midbass tones when they’re present in the recording. The bass feels very natural as it’s a hybrid IEM with a dynamic driver, so this trait helps to have an airy sound overall. The midbass is a little more gripping compared to the subbass area, therefore I can’t say this IEM can reach down very deep. While saying that, I don’t think midbass compresses the sound stage or stereo image in any way. As I said, this is a dynamic driver, so midbass does not create that kind of a problem, like BA drivers do (when they have a big midbass focus).
Source also plays a factor here, as some DAPs give you a great bass control, and some don’t. In this case, the WM1A Walkman is very good in this regard. Midbass is under control at all times and again thanks to the dynamic driver, you don’t get a congested sound. Layering is not that great but that is not unexpected, since we are used to seeing great layering on IEMs which costs around 7 times more.
I think maybe FiiO can get a better response out of this driver with more precise tuning, although I personally enjoy the bass as it is. Like the F9, this is a natural and satisfying bass response, especially for the price.
Still, the F9 Pro’s bass feels a little bit fuller and more coherent compared to the original, thanks to the better mid/treble performance of the new Knowles BA drivers. With a more balanced and natural sound overall, the bass driver can show itself more with its performance and succession. As a result, the sound now is more connected across the spectrum.
Continue to the PAGE 2, where you can find more about the sound.