Disclaimer: FiiO sent me the FB1 directly. I paid nothing for it. The FB1 is an APTX-capable Wireless DAC/earphone which goes for 30$. You can find out all about it here: FiiO FB1 Wireless earphones.
I have the utmost respect for FiiO. They make great things. FiiO constantly push the boundaries of performance on the metric of price. Sometimes they make the best product in a broad genre. I recommend FiiO amps and DAPs to friends, comrades, and geeks from MD lovers to portable music enthusiasts, and anyone else looking for an upgrade to their current gear.
And as a wireless guy, I’d love to recommend the FB1. I also wanted to recommend the M3. In both cases, it’s obvious that FiiO cheaper out. The reasons I can’t recommend the M3 are laid out in this ohm image article. The reasons I can’t recommend the FB1 are laid out below.
The FB1 is a bunch of bulbous plastic that tries to be white, but more often than not is off-white: smeared yellow stains, and grey seams mar just about every surface like it is recycled directly from the threshing floor before a perfunctory white wash. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a Devialet speaker (as pointed out in the comments section to my Picture Sunday post), itself which looks like a high-tech padlock. Maybe it’s imitation. Maybe it’s just a strange design.
Whatever the fact, the FB1 is something tubby and sometimes ill-fitting. I can’t get a proper seal with any of the included ear pieces, but I reckon that’s my ears speaking rather than poor design. I say this because I’ve talked with a few people that find it both comfy and able to seal.
But I get great fit with a bunch of different earphones. So what is the problem? Could be because of the sound tube angle, which just doesn’t match my ears well? It’s certainly not bending up to match the natural shape of the canal. And its sound tube isn’t long enough to ensure that it gets far into the ear. Whatever the case, I pretty good sit feel from the FB1. It doesn’t easily pull out or unseat itself during exercise. That’s nice. The problem, however, is that the Devialet pod sticks way out from the ears, and more often than not, snags on things.
Another problem is that the cable which isn’t stress relieved (and because the earphone snags pretty often) may be in for a rougher ride than necessary. The good news is that the cable, while somewhat energetic, doesn’t transfer as much touch noise to the ear as you’d expect- certainly less than a number of earphones out there. But this is a wireless earphone, an earphone you may want to try out in the active milieu of a gym, or on your road bike, or whilst mowing the lawn. Because it sticks out so far, it catches on bicycle helmet clasps, sweat towels, toques, and dangly fros.
All of this leads me to wonder if the FB1’s low price was necessary. What’s in it for FiiO to build something so cheap? Sure, being able to build and market wireless earphones at 30$ is a major manufacturing coup. But building and marketing a 30$ wireless earphone that feels, looks, and acts like a throwaway stocking stuffer doesn’t do your brand justice. And, after trying out a 30$ present, friends and loved ones that care about quality of any sort may be tempted to look elsewhere. Is the FB1 a shadow marketing gimmick for another brand?
That I’m even asking that question is a shame. Why? Because as cheaply as the FB1 is made, its remote is well laid out and even drops right below the ear where it belongs. Even its USB door is a nice, snug-fitting bit of silicon rather than poor-fitting plastic. Better, the FB1 gets pretty damn good battery life and with the right DAP connects via APTX. It’s an earphone that, if FiiO put real effort into, could rock. If FiiO could package, build, and maintain their overall excellent brand image with a 30$ Bluetooth earphone, and if this were that earphone, I’d be going bonkers.
Sound and more after the jump: