The FiiO FH1 is a very good monitor for the money, just like the other two models in this range. But it takes a different approach to the music, and goes to the opposite side compared to F9 models.
The FH1 overall is a warmer and it’s a full bodied IEM, giving a punchy and impactful bass, good amount of mids which are better in tonality, and somewhat laid back highs. It’s a coherent and easy IEM to work with, and you can pair it with every kind of source, unless they’re not too bassy.
The bass shares the same characteristics with the F9 and F9 Pro, but I feel it has a little more rumble and punch in its hits. Actually I can say it’s a fun type of bass rather than audiophile-oriented, but when you use foam tips things get flatter and more balanced. Thankfully bass doesn’t bleed into the midrange so you can enjoy the middle part of the spectrum.
Other than slightly punchier response, everything is around the same with the F9 series. Good level of control, generous quantity and warmness, good layering for the price and good lushness. If you like those traits, than you’ll love the FH1. But I personally recommend foam tips to tame that rumbling bass.
This is the area where things get rather different. The FH1 has lusher and thicker vocals and instruments by a notch, and that creates a less bright, warmer sound character overall. If you know my liking, than you should already have understood that I like the mids of this IEM.
To me, tonality is better with the FH1 than with the F9 Pro, so hearing that was a nice surprise in my first listening session. I wonder if it’s really the result of using a brass nozzle with the BA driver placed just inside of it, but sure thing is it feels very natural and effortless indeed.
While having a very nice and smooth presentation, the mids still are just a little behind in the stage. To me this can be solved with a DAP which has a good mid range performance, but to warn you; mids are definitely not upfront to be in your face. So the resolution and transparency are not on a very high level, as expected from the price. This is not necessarily a bad thing of course, as it creates a good staging for instance. And by the way, I should say it’s not v-shaped as much as the F9 series is.
All in all, I really liked the natural tone, separation and control of the mids. It made me more satisfied than the F9 and F9 Pro, since I love warm and sweet sounding mid range. But on the other hand the F9 Pro has more brightness and openness on its mids, not to mention a little more transparency and resolution. It all goes comes down to your personal choices.
To me, if you’re going to choose the F9 Pro over this, this has to be the reason. Due to its character and having one less driver, the treble of the FH1 is not the most detailed, transparent or extending. F9 Pro puts up a better performance in this regard, while the FH1 has less treble quantity and air. If your priority are cymbals, then you should go with the F9 Pro.
Treble has some amount of roll off, like the other two models, but this one has a little more roll off to me. F9 Pro in comparison, has more treble energy and detail than the FH1. The highs of the F9 Pro are also more articulated and better separated. Trebles overall are rather soft here, and have less dynamism.
The FiiO FH1 puts a close performance to the F9 models in terms of technicalities. Good enough resolution, very nice separation and a wide sound stage for the price. But to me the FH1 has more depth in its stage, thanks to its bigger dynamic bass driver which is providing good deep lows. General resolution is a tad lower, because of the warmer and laid back approach (especially in treble). Dynamism takes a small hit as well, together with transparency.
The winning point of the FH1 though is its very nice tonality. I think if I would have to choose between the three models, I would go with the FH1 simply for that reason. The mids sound so good on it, it’s hard to deny this success in tonality and naturalness. In comparison, the F9 models have thinner and off the tone mid range performance. They’re more open and bright, but the FH1 has the correct position for note size and correct tones.
The driving factor of this one is similar with the other two, so it’s not a hard to drive IEM.
We have a winner. Great fit and good isolation, good content, nice build and design, all together in a sub-100 package. FiiO managed to get a great mid range performance from this IEM, thanks to the brass sound tube and Knowles BA driver right inside of the nozzle. Also, the bass hits a little harder and that’s a great thing for bass lovers.
But the whole story of this IEM is the mid range, and the tone. Therefore, while having the lowest price range between the three models, I don’t think it’s the low level performer here. In my opinion, the F9 is the least satisfying model, although still being pretty good for the money.
So in the end it’s a call between the F9 Pro and the FH1. The result will shape depending on the users’ taste. The FH1 contains an easier and more forgiving presentation together with a smooth and correct sounding mid range. The F9 Pro on the other hand, has a little more resolution, dynamism, transparency and treble extension.
The choice is yours.