The treble performance is very satisfying as well with good extension and breath. Although it’s not fantastic, it’s better than I expected. I think FiiO IEMs have struggled with this area a lot but seems like the FH9 has overcome those issues. It presents a natural and airy treble that feels relaxed. There’s good clarity and sparkle here, with good micro detail. (The source in the picture below is an Astell&Kern DAP)
Previous FiiO models had either a too aggressive treble or a too polite and rolled-off one. The FH9 manages to present a great balance there. There’s a good amount of sparkle, air and breath together with nice articulation. With those, there’s also a nice smoothness and easy-going nature. So I think the tuning of the FH9 is a success.
And yet, in terms of extension, articulation and resolution, there are better IEMs out there, for bigger pockets of course. For its price bracket, the FH9 performs very well. Also, I liked the treble performance with treble filters attached. It’s still smooth and easy-going, but you get more air and sparkle so use it as you wish if you like to have your treble with a bit more presence. It doesn’t take away the balance and coherency but adds a good definition.
The FH9, with its semi-open design, presents a wide and deep sound stage. I liked the staging performance especially with the treble filters since the sound become more spacious and airy. Overall the sound stage might be the best you can find in this price range. The acoustic design FiiO has come up with, ended up nicely on their part.
The IEM’s imaging capabilities are high. There’s good instrument separation and definition across the spectrum. It has very good balance and articulation as well. The resolution is very strong for the price. It can compete with anything except the very successful high-end IEMs in that regard, and even those are not so far away. As we all know, the law of diminishing returns is an important phenomenon in the audio hobby.
Transparency is also excellent with good breath in the mids and treble. Detail retrieval is very good, and overall control is satisfying. For a hybrid IEM, the presentation is coherent and well-balanced. The bass response steals the show sometimes with its texture and rumble, but it’s not that apparent when you fit in the treble filters and attach a pair of SpinFit tips.
Overall the technical performance is high for the price, and apart from the mid-range timbre, I can’t say anything negative here.
You might wonder if the FH9 is worth the price when there’s the FH5s with a similar semi-open design approach. Well, it does. Sure, you need to pay 349$ more here, but if you want to experience a good hybrid IEM from FiiO, the FH9 is the way to go.
The bass of the FH9, especially in terms of texture, is a level above the FH5s. The mid-range has better transparency and resolution, and the treble has a much better definition. Above all else, the FH9 sounds much more cohesive and balanced. If you have the budget, don’t hesitate for the FH9.
Here’s the other member of the FiiO’s hybrid lineup. I hear you say “OK, the FH5s is not comparable, but what about FH7?”. Well, first of all, the FH9 has a miles better design, a much better carrying case and more accessories. It has better build quality as well.
As for sound, both are well-balanced, coherent and controlled. Both offer a good and smooth hybrid experience. What the FH9 brings to the table are better refinement, more resolution, and transparency. The definition in the treble region is also better. Another striking difference is the sound stage. The FH9 provides a wider and deeper staging performance with better separation and imaging.
The FH9 also has more dynamism. So I say, instead of paying around $400 for the FH7, save more and get the FH9. You’ll hear the difference.
Another hybrid released this year was the Kinera Norn. It has a fantastic hand-painted design with a striking look. FiiO looks much more industrial. They’re both good brands when it comes to providing rich accessories for the price. I think FiiO is a bit better in that regard though. The Norn has a smaller chassis whilst the build on the FH9 is better for durability.
Sound-wise the Norn has a fun tuning with a v-shape response. Its treble is more splashy and a bit more aggressive. It has an impressive bass too, but not on the same level in terms of texture and quickness. It also has a recessed mid-range. The mid-range in the FH9 is not incredible or superb, but it’s better in terms of definition, tonality and transparency. So it’s an easy win for the FH9 in my book.
The FiiO FH9 is the best FiiO IEM I’ve reviewed in terms of sound performance. It’s a testimony to the effort and ambition of the FiiO team. As a first-hand witness of their progress over the years, I appreciate the effort and the technology they’re putting forward. The only thing missing here is the note size in the mid-range. Other than that, it’s a high performing IEM.
I recommend using the treble filters and SpinFit tips with the FH9. You’ll have a spacious and highly resolving presentation with excellent definition and transparency, as well as balance and bass texture. I guess FiiO could’ve just left the IEM with the treble filters and released it as it is. This is the last recommendation of the year on my part. Well done to FiiO.