Review: FiiO F9 – Prime

Disclaimer: The FiiO F9 was sent from FiiO free of charge for my opinion in this article, it doesn’t have to be returned. There’s also a Standard Edition of the F9, which doesn’t have the detachable connectors and balanced cable. This version goes for 100 $ and the Standard Edition costs 90 $. The FiiO F9 Pro will also be released in November, which will have Knowles BA drivers. That version will go for 150 $.

INTRO

While continually developing & updating their DAPs and portable DACs / Amplifiers, FiiO also have been stepping up their game in the IEM business. I’ve reviewed their F1 & F3 IEMs earlier this year, and as usual with FiiO they both had an excellent value, especially the F3. Both IEMs entered our Universal IEM Recommandations page, with their great performance for such tiny price brackets.

Now for competing in the low-mid tier IEM market, they recently introduced the FiiO F9 IEM. With a much more sleek and stylish design, and potentially a higher level of sound than their first couple of models, the F9 is a signal from FiiO indicating they have higher goals in the IEM market.

DESIGN OF BIONICS

Applied to airplane, car and pearly nautilus speaker, as well as the F9.

FiiO claims that they have applied bionic & aerodynamic principles in terms of designing the F9 IEM. Even though it doesn’t look unique or original apart from the “waves” which you can see in the photo below, I absolutely love it looks-wise. I think this is the best built IEM from FiiO as far as I’m concerned. The IEM earpieces are so smooth and well finished. I always praised the progress of FiiO products over the years, and it seems they continue to develop with IEMs too.

I also understand that they derived some inspiration from Westone & Shure IEMs. You can’t blame them though. If you want to produce IEMs with a low-profile design and great fit, this maybe is the best possible design route you can take. And, they used CNC cut metal which I think exceeds those IEMs from the past in terms of build.

The shell is first engraved by CNC as a whole, then anodized and sand blasted, making a beautiful metallic appearance.

Build quality is fantastic and for the price it can’t get better than this. The all aluminum body gives a compact and solid impression when you inspect it in hand. It looks like it can take some blows and stay perfectly in one piece. Yes, these really look like Westone IEMs, but to me the metal shells should be more solid than plastic. Or at least give a better premium feeling. It sure is a great job from FiiO putting up this smooth design and great build.

To eliminate the resonance, there’s also a plastic smaller shell inside the IEM that takes a supportive role for the structure as well. And there’s the MMCX connectors for detachable cables, which are very sturdy and you can pretty much rely on them for their entire life-span.

PACKAGE

The package is quite complete and there’s nothing missing. Maybe some foam tips would be nice and that’s my only small complaint. Otherwise, there are many silicone tips provided and there’s a weatherproof case that looks really cool. It’s shiny, full black and has rectangular shapes on the top; so you see some nice reflections with daylight. This is not a Pelican case but feels really close to that. Not bad for 100$ isn’t it? I absolutely loved the inclusion of this case and I think I’m going to use it for other IEMs in my possession.

FIT

Because of the ergonomic design, the FiiO F9 has great fit as you can guess. They don’t stick out from your ears and you can easily take a nap with them. Nozzle angle is perfect for the majority of the people. I personally would’ve preferred just slightly longer nozzles for better isolation and a snug fit. Even so, it’s still very good as it is.

Isolation is fairly good, not spectacular but not bad either. The good thing is there are many tips supplied in the package. If that’s not enough, I can recommend you to try out some foam tips. Foams provide better isolation and solid fit. However do note that you can sacrifice some treble response that way, but that could be your goal, as I will explain in the sound section.

The earphones are supremely comfortable and as long as your ears are not extremely small, you’ll feel very nice with them even for long periods. I can easily say the fit is almost perfect with the F9.

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A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists the same. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level with audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes him over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews is the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.

74 Comments

  • October 10, 2017

    Brooko

    “To me the balanced cable is clearly better to the standard cable. You get better imaging and separation, better staging and better frequency response. If you have the F9, go straight to balanced and don’t look back.”

    Well unless you’re using a source with massive impedance difference, then there is no measurable change in frequency response. I know, I’ve measured them. There is also no change in imaging, staging or separation – if you volume match and blind test. I take it when you were comparing, you didn’t volume match? What was the source – and does it have a big difference in impedance between SE and Bal?

    • October 10, 2017

      Berkhan

      I’m not a total believer in measurements, and I don’t really like to approach the items completely in a technical way.

      As soon as I’ve heard the balanced cable I was convinced that it sounded better. So I just trust what I hear and pass on that information in my reviews.

      The sources were WM1A, Q1MK2 Amp and Shanling M3S.

      • October 10, 2017

        Brooko

        How can you not be a believer in measurements? they are more accurate than our ears – and they don’t have our brains to filter them. I checked your DAPs. The FiiO and Shanling both use the same circuits, so they shouldn’t sound any different balanced or single-ended. I have the FiiO and the F9 measures exactly the same frequency response on both balanced and single-ended. Sony don’t publish full specs, so can’t really comment on that one. Anyway – suggest you change the review – and take out the bit about frequency response, as it is simply not correct. Otherwise good review 🙂

  • October 10, 2017

    Lieven

    I am with Berkhan on this one regarding the balanced output

    • October 10, 2017

      Brooko

      Wish we were on the same continent Lieven – would love to set up a controlled volume matched blind test, and we could compare notes after that 😉

      • October 10, 2017

        Lieven

        One day, Paul ☺️

  • October 10, 2017

    dale thorn

    I wonder, if the audio difference were clear enough, whether measurements would confirm that exact difference? Some of these things are elusive. But I agree on volume matching, which would need to be closer than 1/2 db.

    • October 11, 2017

      Brooko

      Depends on the difference I guess Dale. If its in frequency response – yes definitely it will show up. Imaging, separation, and perceived sound-stage width/depth can have some things show up in frequency (generally if it’s brighter, or cooler tonally, we tend to perceive a bigger stage and better separation (makes sense when you consider the added clarity). But its not the whole story, and definitely when I volume match (to 0.1-0.2 db) and blind test (my wife and kids humour me with the switching), I can’t personally tell a difference. I also accept I have cloth ears 🙂 – but I know thats not the whole story either.

      If we look at separation and staging – and then check against the specs (I’m using X7ii here for the example), between balanced and single ended:
      SNR on SE is 116 dB and on balanced is 119 dB. Both are beyond what we can hear – so no difference. Both have THD measurements at 0.003% = beyond our hearing. You’ll get a magnitude more distortion from your earphones. Now the important one – crosstalk (channel separation). SE is 73 dB and balanced is 97 dB. That must make a big difference – right?

      Well not really – The FCC minimum channel separation/crosstalk spec for FM Stereo used to be 29.7dB…yes, that’s right, 29.7. It had to do with how the signal was generated and handled, but 30 – 40dB wasn’t hard to achieve, and 50dB wasn’t uncommon.

      The bulk of what is perceived as stereo separation happens above 20dB with decreasing detectable improvements above 30dB or so. It’s almost impossible to detect separation improvements above 40dB. Localization of a phantom image depends less on channel separation and much more on relative intensity and inter-aural time delay of the sound, and human hearing response at different angles

      So….long answer…separation above 40dB doesn’t improve sound quality, below 40dB it slowly degrades, the final separation is equal to the device with the least separation in the system. Once degraded by a device, no device following it can restore separation.

      As you can see, SE crosstalk at 73 dB and balanced at 97 dB actually means nothing – we can’t hear the difference.

      So where are these magical differences? I agree that impedance can change frequency response – mostly with multi BA set-ups, and generally with crossovers involved. The F9 though doesn’t change – even with the X7ii’s impedance difference. So where are the perceived changes coming from. I have no doubt “Berkhan hears them” – my question though is are they actually real or expectation?

      • October 11, 2017

        dale thorn

        OK – I see where the lines get drawn now. Between the maximum detectable difference at ~40 db and 73 db is a huge dynamic. So the only conceivable thing that could enter the audible range (all other things like volume being equal) is if something reflected back into the audio or modulated the analog signal somehow. That would be a defect rather than a feature though. This is interesting. I’ve never used a balanced rig, so maybe I’ll try this at some point.

  • October 10, 2017

    HUGO SILVA

    Fiio F9 or Magaosi k3 Pro?

    • October 11, 2017

      Berkhan

      Never listened the k3

  • October 11, 2017

    Bill Ruschmeyer

    Sound is so subjective. For me i like transparency, accurate tonal bass and a little forward sound, that is what draws me in. The next person with the same iem’s and source could be completely different, and guess what the measurements don’t change. To me the only measurement that matters is my ears and no two are alike.

    • October 12, 2017

      Armand

      If sound is completely subjective, then why read or write reviews…

    • October 12, 2017

      dale thorn

      Different genres of music, and/or different eras of recordings, can make a much bigger difference in sound than just the difference between headphone A or B. There are so many factors, and you have to take them into consideration when reading reviews of things you want to purchase. Of course, when researching new amps and headphones, you can also explore those other genres of music that different reviewers are featuring in their reviews.

  • October 21, 2017

    Yannick Khong

    Thank you for this review. How does it compare to the Oriveti New Primacy as both share hybrid drivers?

    Thanks

    • October 23, 2017

      Berkhan

      I haven’t experienced the New Primacy, sorry.

  • November 3, 2017

    Shubham Garg

    I think these headphone might offer some competition in the market.

    • November 3, 2017

      Berkhan

      Absolutely

  • November 9, 2017

    ketan singh

    How are they compared to similarly priced 1more triple drivers?

  • November 15, 2017

    Serin

    Good information, it helps a lot!!

    Thank you!!

    • December 21, 2017

      Berkhan

      You’re welcome

  • December 10, 2017

    Harpreet Singh

    I’m using fiio products like fiio audio DAC for PC and I loved the build quality and performance is also superb and i hope fiio F9 also offers great value for money.

  • December 12, 2017

    Dominic

    How does this compare to the oriolus forestini especially towards the bass? Its priced quite in a similar price range in my area , just curious which would u recommend?

    • December 21, 2017

      Berkhan

      Forsteni has better bass quality and it’s much better in other areas too. But the F9 Pro is very nice you should wait for that review 🙂

  • December 20, 2017

    Rahul Malhotra

    I think its great choice for anyone looking for headphone over 4K-5K INR.

  • December 20, 2017

    Rahul Kolkar

    First of all Hats off for making such an amazing blog! I was in search of the best earphones and landed on this page,found all the relevant things!Nice content guys keep it up

    • December 21, 2017

      Berkhan

      Thanks a lot. Keep following us 🙂

  • March 5, 2018

    Jesi

    I think this is one of the best choice!!

  • June 2, 2018

    Dailydrops

    is this comfortable to wear

  • July 10, 2018

    tarique ghani

    Does it fit into the ear?

  • December 25, 2018

    Best Green AC

    I never found one that provides best comfort and nice sound but it is looking good and I think it will be better than others……!

    • December 25, 2018

      Berkhan

      Go for Custom IEMs.

  • January 10, 2019

    flexible packaging bags

    Thank you very much for the sharing the post because I am looking for headphones created by good material.

  • January 10, 2019

    Rekonstrux

    I feel very glad to read your blog because I get a lot of information from it… Thank you so much.

  • January 10, 2019

    Carrier AC

    Thank you so much for the blog and I really appreciate your initiative.

  • January 10, 2019

    Sand Mandala

    I always experience that wires are cheaper then headphones so I am looking for the material that doesn’t broken in the winters.

  • January 10, 2019

    wool socks

    Anybody who like to enjoy music and dance with hi – fi music, must need good quality headphones like me. I bought that one in the article and it is outstanding.

  • February 10, 2019

    Rekonstrux

    These are really amazing. Good to see something new in market. And price is very reasonable. Hoping these are comfortable to wear and expecting good sound. But informative blog. Thanks.

  • February 13, 2019

    stuart garner norton

    Your products are really amazing and very reasonable price. Do you have wireless headphones for i phone please let me know.

  • February 14, 2019

    stuart garner norton

    Your products are really amazing and very reasonable price. Do you have wireless headphones for i phone please let me know. I really wish to have those.

  • April 12, 2019

    Umesh

    I was looking for such deep review of fiio f9 since long time, thanks for explaining all the facts.

  • June 3, 2019

    Akshay jagtap

    Thanks for sharing this amazing and informative post. I enjoyed reading this information.

  • June 3, 2019

    Disha Shengale

    Thanks for sharing this amazing and informative post. I enjoyed reading this article.

  • June 14, 2019

    APPSC Online Coaching

    My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more!

  • July 29, 2019

    guideadda

    You are writing some Amazing tips. This article really helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing this blog

  • August 2, 2019

    Smruti ranjan

    Thanks for your Amazing tips and deep information. It really helped me and I enjoyed the reading.

  • August 5, 2019

    Alex

    I really love this FioO F9 and it’s sleek and stylish design, and potentially a higher level of sound than their first couple of models. I will buy it definitely it’s worth of money.

  • August 29, 2019

    Green Coast

    Sound is so subjective. For me i like transparency, accurate tonal bass and a little forward sound, that is what draws me in.

  • September 13, 2019

    Jenny

    You are writing some interesting and best review about headphone. I also bookmark this URL .You guys are writing some amazing articles. Thanks for sharing this.

  • September 17, 2019

    mohini

    Hi everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this web page, and article is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of articles.
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  • September 24, 2019

    Juli kim

    This review is great and FiiO F9 has 1 dynamic driver and 2 balanced armature drivers under the hood are the best choice. great one. Thanks for this informative post.

  • September 24, 2019

    ketty

    Hey .. This review is great and FiiO F9 has 1 dynamic driver and 2 balanced armature drivers under the hood are the best choice. great one. Thanks for this informative post. If you are looking for the best mixer grinders, here is the complete list and analysis for your help. You will surely amazed to read this article.

  • September 28, 2019

    Let Stack

    I never found one that provides best comfort and nice sound but it is looking good and I think it will be better than others……!

  • October 9, 2019

    disadvantages of solar

    I think this is one of the best choice!!

  • October 23, 2019

    Duttaji Technical

    Very Good article

  • January 1, 2020

    Ankit Varma

    I have used it and its amazing

  • January 8, 2020

    GetPetPortrait

    Your blog is amazing. You had done hard work for this and it really reflects from this blog. Helpful review it is.

  • January 12, 2020

    Riann Will

    This is very cool but also very costly. At present I need to wait for this. Bring some thing for a common man.

  • March 17, 2020

    Varun Rana

    I think these headphone might offer some competition in the market

  • March 19, 2020

    Ayurvedic clinic

    i HAVE USED IT, AND IT’S SUPERPV

  • March 20, 2020

    Hemang

    I suppose it’s likely that these headphones offer some industry pressure.

  • March 22, 2020

    Topbestsales

    I suppose it’s likely that these headphones offer some price competition.

  • March 24, 2020

    sushant thakur

    It looks costly but effective.

  • March 24, 2020

    AM Varghese

    I am using this. Its main attraction is its superb design.

  • March 28, 2020

    Digital Net99

    I think these headphone might offer some competition in the market.

  • March 29, 2020

    Rahul

    its superv to use . Now some competition in the market.

  • March 29, 2020

    Vijay

    It seems these headphones gives some competition to others headphones in the market.

  • March 29, 2020

    Simran

    You write some amazing content. Thanks for sharing it.

  • April 6, 2020

    James Mulller

    Your articles are very useful. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

  • April 12, 2020

    Varun Rana

    Good information, it helps a lot!!

  • April 12, 2020

    Varun Rana

    Sound is so subjective. For me i like transparency, accurate tonal bass and a little forward sound, that is what draws me in. The next person with the same iem’s and source could be completely different, and guess what the measurements don’t change. To me the only measurement that matters is my ears and no two are alike.