Sounds Impressions

Summary

There are three different signatures with the filter system on the FH7. Combine that with an array of tips that also fine-tune the sound, then the FH7 starts to become a fairly flexible monitor. That being said, there is a core sound to the FH7 and, to my mind, a different one to the FH5 that may or may not prompt FH5 fans to ‘upgrade’.

What I can say about the FH7 is that instantly it sounds more refined and resolving than the FH5. The additional driver for the highs and the larger 13mm beryllium driver does produce more contrast than the FH5 which in turn teases out a bit more air, a bit more detail and definitely produces a more holographic soundstage than the FH5.

At times in the initial testing, I felt the weight and impact of the FH5 dynamic driver might just have the edge but once I settled into a longer listening session with the FH7 it becomes clear just how much better their new 13mm driver is. It extends deeper, projects far more detail and delivers a generally better level of layering and texture than the smaller 10mm of the FH5.

That is not to say the FH7 is “bassier”, far from it. The tuning is relatively neutral in part and despite the 13mm size, FiiO had resisting putting all their musical eggs into delivering an overblown low-end.  Clever because it still retains excellent power and that beautiful dynamic driver low-end you tend to look for in a hybrid, but still leaves plenty of room for a forward midrange and a clean forward high end to shine.

Staging

Excellent depth on the FH7 and an area which it outmaneuvers the FH5 on. The FH5’s trick is to bring that 10mm in a bit closer and create a perception of competitive weight and depth whereas the FH7 staging depth does not come at a cost of spaciousness.

Everything really about the FH5 just sounds that bit closer in terms of staging which is a testimony to how well FiiO have tuned the FH7 in terms of openness and clarity.

Width is still not the greatest as it was with the FH5 but the imaging and 3-dimensional presentation are much better within the space allowed. Some of that will come from the better height and headroom the FH7 offers and a slightly cleaner more precise instrumental timbre. The rest comes from the better 13mm driver reach and layering.

Height is also demonstrably better on the FH7 though it will also sound more forward in terms of percussion positioning and presence compared to the FH5. I found the FH5 top-end to lack a little air compared to the FH7 which in turn robs some of the mids of a bit of air and space.



Bass

Love how FiiO has tuned this monster 13mm beryllium driver. I would say though that sub-bass presence is just a tiny bit more reserved than something like the DK-4001’s 13mm alternative but do not let that fool you. It can extend pretty deep when it needs to, throw out some power when it has to but otherwise stays wonderfully controlled when not called upon.

As mentioned, the level of detail and definition it has over the older FH5 10mm driver is stark at times. Impressively, it delivers impeccable layering without too much mid-bass bloom. It can get away with what I hear as a little sub-1k lower-mids elevation to thicken up instrumental notes without sounding congested one iota.

Mids

From about 200Hz to 600Hz or just into the lower-mids there is a gentle but linear dip on the FH7 before it starts to rise again right to around 2k. As such instrumental timbre has a gentle injection of warmth but nothing too soft or smoothed over and certainly not a congested forward presence.

That being said FiiO has tuned the FH7 with a fairly forward midrange which does peak around 1-3k and pushed forward fairly far forward in the mix. In some respects, that’s not too different from the vocal emphasis on the FH5 albeit not quite as intimate. However, because of the different treble tuning the timbre in both instruments and vocals do differ with the FH7 sounding the cleaner and airier of the two midranges.

For me, the FH7 instrumental and vocal timbre is a little brighter, a little drier and not quite as wet sounding as the FH5 mids/vocals and particularly over the 1-3k bump. The greater treble presence and reach of the FH7 does create more space for vocals to breathe but might give it a slightly edgier or less forgiving tone than the FH5. In short, you might find the FH5 a little more forgiving sounding and the FH7 a bit more detailed but fussier on source pairings and tips.

Treble

Definitely, a more energetic and forward sounding treble response compared to the FH5 but it also has a bit more coherence and body than something like the ethereal sounding IT04 top-end signature. There is some elevation around 5-7k and a smaller nudge 8-10k so compared to the FH5 it will sound the brighter of the two and of course, the overall tone of the timbre or harmonic balance will be cleaner sounding as a consequence.

On the flipside, that relaxed FH5 treble is now an airier and more articulate with more sparkle and headroom. It delivers a lot more staging height and helps create a better sense of space in its midrange instrumental separation. Percussion will also have a bit more presence and bite compared to the FH5’s slightly muted overtones which some will find to be more exciting sounding.

FiiO FH7

Matchability

Red Filter

If you are a little treble averse and like a slightly thicker timbre, then the red filter combined with the foam tips will give you that. The bass boosting on the red filter is not huge, a little more subtle than you might expect.

However, what I may be hearing is a slight attenuation of the treble response with slightly less air also. It’s a slightly weightier and slightly punchier sound without becoming bloated or congested sounding overall so FH5 fans might prefer this option if they intended to ‘upgrade’.

Green Filter

I actually prefer these to the reference tips for treble performance at times depending on the genres I am listening to. There is more treble presence for sure but it remains impressively controlled and doesn’t squeeze the body and harmonic balance to the point where it sounds excessively hot.

If anything, it opens up the top-end and delivers a little more perceived upper-width to the staging of the FH7. It also gives a bit more emphasis to the FH7’s percussion presence but satisfyingly it doesn’t sound edgier or splashier which is a blessed relief.

Efficiency

The FH7 is rated at 16Ω and 111dB SPL which is pretty good actually considering the size of the dynamic driver inside and actually slightly easier to drive than their own FA7 though SPL is to the advantage of the all-BA FA7.

I have found a few recent FiiO IEMs to all straddle that 100-112dB marker for SPL and the FA7 and FH5 are no different in that regard at 110dB and 112dB respectively. It is the kind of sensitivity that does well enough to avoid low-levels of hiss from most DAP analog amplification stages as well as keeping it fairly easy to drive.

Now whilst I found the DUNU DK-4001 to deliver a marginally blacker background on higher noise floors, the FH7 did deliver the goods on pretty much any sources in terms of next to no noise or discernable hiss. DAPs tested included the new Cayin N6ii, HiBy R6 Pro, iBasso DX220/AMP1 MK11 and the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch. None of these pairings were noisy and all of them had a fairly easy time driving the FH7 with the sources unbalanced lo-gain setting.

Synergy

I honestly did not hear too much scaling with the FH7 though the majority of the DAP amp stages tested have a decent reserve in power ranging from around 245mW to 750mW (HiBy R6 Pro) which is more than enough required to drive the 16Ω FH7.

The source pairing for me is more about synergy and the FH7 does very well indeed with balanced sources, not too bright but also not too warm either. Most importantly something that will extract the maximum resolution and instrumental separation from the FH7 regardless of filter or tip.

Examples

For example, the Lotoo and to a lesser extent the DX220 are on the brighter side. If you are already a little treble averse then these pairings might move you more to the bass filter and foams to prevent the FH7 sounding a little too ‘peppy’ up top. You can, of course, PMEQ the DX200 to bring down the level of mid-treble energy and it does response quite well to that.

The Cayin N6ii was a bit warmer and richer sounding with the FH7 so for those who want something ab it smoother this might be a preference for them. The only caveat I have with this pairing was the lack of low-end slam. The FH7 pairing sounded just a little too polite for me and lacked the excellent dynamic range and separation of the Lotoo pairing.

The HiBy R5 Pro was actually an excellent pairing with the FH7. It has this natural fade in its upper treble that gives it a smoother natural tone and a weightier low-end than the two netural DAPs. This seemed to pair really well with the FH7’s dynamic driver and energetic treble presence. Not quite as revealing or dynamic as the more expensive Lotoo but certainly a very pleasurable and more forgiving sound.

Select Comparisons

FiiO FA7

$299.99

Technical

The FA7 was launched a little earlier this year and James reviewed it back in Feb 2019 here. I was lucky to get my hands on an FA7 at the same time as receiving the FH7 so I can indeed make a direct comparison. The FA7 is an all balanced armature driver design comprising of 4 BA drivers using a 4-way crossover.

The drivers used in the FA7 are a Knowles CI-22955 large woofer driver, an ED-29689 for the mids, and a dual BA tweeter SWFK-31736 for the highs. The only driver these two monitors share is the SWFK-31736 for the highs. The FH7 swaps the CI series BA for that big beryllium 13.6mm dynamic driver and uses the DKF BA for the mids.

Build

The build is also quite different with the FA7 using a 3D printed transparent blue/red combo or an all-black faceplate compared to the gold ring accented black aluminum shell of the FH7. Both are very different in that respect with the FH7 likely to be far more durable for drops and knocks and the FA7 being lighter and providing a slightly comfier fit.

Of the two, the more aggressive custom universal contours of the FA7 and the lack of venting offers a better level of isolation compared to the FH7. The price you pay for that dynamic driver. The FA7 also does not use a filter system and in fact, has no mesh on the tubes so highly advised to clean them on a regular basis.

Cable

Both use MMCX terminated cables and connectors, however, the FA7 uses the FH5 flush mounted MMCX female sockets compared to the elongated stem of the FH7. The FA7 also has the FH5 stock cable which I think is a little lower in performance and quality finishing compared to the 8strand braided SPC wire of the FH7.

FiiO FH7

Performance

The FA7 is rated at 23Ω and 110dB SPL compared to the FH7’s 16Ω and 111dB SPL. This small gap pretty much played out in our actual testing with the FH7 sounding marginally more sensitive but only by about 1-2 steps on DAPs such as the Cayin N6ii and the HiBy R6 Pro.

If you are fine-tuning based volume, tips, and tuning preference may have more of an impact in comparing these given the punchier cleaner sound of the FH7 or the more explosive ‘contrasty’ presentation of the SpinFit tips.

For noise floors, both performed as good as each other and that means next to no hiss on analog DAP amplification stages such as the two mentioned DAPs, the N6ii and R6 Pro.

Tuning

I have to be honest I much prefer the tuning of the FH7 over the FA7. The FH7 response is far more balanced compared to the distinct shelving down of the FA7 presentation from about 800Hz-1K onwards.

As a result, the FA7 is much more colored than the FH7 with a big bias to an even-harmonic presence and robbing it of some needed odd-harmonic upper orders for clarity and air. As a result, there is volume, warmth, and body from an elevated 20Hz to 1k response in the FA7 but a lot of softness or a lush delivery that robs it of a necessary level of impact.



By comparison, the FH7 is much more engaging with a better harmonic balance and definitely more headroom though in its own right still a fairly musical presentation. I would say the absolute low-end on the FH7 is not quite as warm as the FA7 but that’s a good thing because it does sound more impactful and does not bleed warmth as high up due to a lower-mids dip.

The mids are further forward on the FH7 also and there is far more treble presence and elevation also. The FA7 only has a minor lift around 7K in an otherwise steady roll-off from around 3k onwards.

The staging simply sounds taller, wider and yes, despite the FA7 low-end body, deeper. You get a better sense of depth because of the more spacious sound that the FH7’s 13mm dynamic driver delivers. You can enhance the FH7 low-end with the bass filter if you choose but even with the reference and treble filters, I felt the low-end was just that bit more authoritative and detailed than the FA7’s BA alternative.

DUNU DK-4001

$899

Technical

The DK-4001 is also a 5 driver hybrid universal monitor. Even more, interestingly, it uses a 13mm beryllium coated dynamic driver though I am unsure if they are the exact same driver.

The 4 BA drivers are in fact, two dual-tweeter Knowles SWFK-31736 for the highs and ultra-highs using a 2-way crossover.  These are the same drivers used by FiiO for the FH7 top-end though they are only using one dual-tweeter pair and opting instead for a dual-driver DFK driver to target the midrange.

DUNU is opting to allow the dynamic driver to cover both the lows and the highs with one less crossover point. Take from that what you will. Some will prefer the more natural coherence of the DUNU DD covering a wider frequency whilst others will opt for the greater speed and midrange focus of the DFK driver of the FH7.

Build

Very different aesthetics on these two monitors. The DK-4001 has a much smaller body with a matte-black zirconium liquid alloy shaped into somewhat of a more traditional universal monitor form factor. It is unobtrusive but relies more on the tips for seal and final levels of comfort.

The FH7 uses a CNC Machined aluminum alloy 3-piece shell and is the larger of the two. Its dimensions are punctuated with light contours to shape better into your ear but it is the heavier of the two. The FH7 has less dependence on the tips for comfort levels but the same as the DK-4001 for tip sealing. Both seal almost to the same level as foams which I regard as both their best tips for isolation. The DK-4001 is the slightly comfier of the two with that smaller body.

DUNU Hulk

Cable

Huge differences here and for me DUNU have the edge. For the additional cost, they really needed to also. Both have good MMCX cables by the way with different sound signatures. The stock cable of the DK-4001 is now officially called the Noble and should be available to buy as an aftermarket cable soon.

The Noble wire is a high purity Furuteh OCC/Silver mixed cable and I presume the wire gauge is a 4-wire 26AWG wrapped in a twisted soft brown colored jacket. The FH7 stock cable, by contrast, is an 8-core Litz Monocrystalline SPC and also finished with a supple silvery (translucent) jacket though in a braided finish.

However, that’s not where DUNU has the edge. The edge is in the connection system DUNU have included with the DK-4001 cable which is just brilliant. The cable technically does not have a jack termination rather a port at the end for you to slide on a choice of 4 terminations including 3.5mm balanced and unbalanced. 2.5mm TRRS and 4.4mm.

The FH7 cable, by contrast, comes in unbalanced 3.5mm TRS. Good as the FH7 stock cable jack is, it does not have the flexibility of the Noble with the DK-4001. For balanced on the FH7 you have to upgrade and that will cost at least $69 – $110 over the FH7 $449.99 retail price (8-core LC-2.5/3.5BS or 4.4D) for an additional termination and close to $200 for both.

Performance

The DUNU DK-4001 is rated at 32Ω and 112dB so slightly harder to drive than the FH7 (16Ω and 11dB SPL).

During our testing current demands had a marginal difference between these two with the DK-4001 requiring a little more juice from our test DAPs including the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and the Cayin N6ii. Both have no issues using low gain settings from either DAPs, however, the DK-4001 needed about 8 steps more on the PAW Touch and a similar amount on the N6ii low-gain setting (unbalanced).

The additional impedance on the DK-4001 might just give it a very slight edge for noise floor and hiss. Mind you the FH7 is excellent at avoiding hiss but just a very marginal difference on something like the N6ii where I felt the DK-4001 had a slightly blacker background.

Tuning

Despite similar configurations, these two monitors have a different tone and FR emphasis. Which is better for you will come down to personal preference. The DK-4001 13mm driver seems to be tuned for a little more bass weight and sub-bass presence compared to the FH7 version. Both have an excellent sub-bass extension, by the way, it is just the level of emphasis is a little higher on the DK-4001

If you are into harder hitting EDM or modern R’n’B with its slower-moving sub-bass “phatness” then the DK-4001 is a better fit. If you want something a bit punchier for retro-trance or modern house then the FH7’s slight mid-bass bias will be more suited.

Treble & Harmonic Balance

Switching over to the treble response next is important because they have quite a different tuning that bears down a lot on the midrange timbre. The DK-4001 is a lot more neutral to slightly relaxed for me in comparison to the more forward treble of the FH7. You could argue that the DK-4001 is more laid back and as a result, the midrange timbre that pulls from the upper harmonic order, including vocals, sound a lot smoother and more even-harmonic biased.

The FH7, by contrast, has more upper order harmonic presence in its timbre so slightly higher pitched instrumental notes sound cleaner, with slightly less warmth and perhaps a little more prone to sibilance as a result. Now listening to the mids, the FH7 does seem to have a bit more amplitude around the 1-2k marker though to be fair the DK-4001 does peak around 2k in a similar fashion.

This amplitude combined with the treble emphasis means that the FH7 might not sound as smooth or as rich as the DK-4001, especially for female vocals, but it will sound the cleaner and airier of the two with more sparkle. That is going to hit the preference button for many right away. Do you like your vocal and instrumental delivery forward with a rich and smooth tone or forward with a clean and clear sound?

iBasso IT04

$499

Technical

The IT04 is a quad hybrid driver universal monitor though the price point is very close to the FH7, albeit slightly higher. The IT04 configuration is different with the use of a smaller 10mm multi-layered graphene diaphragm dynamic driver with a high pressure 1 Tesla magnetic field.

The BA aspect is a single Knowles full-range ED driver and their TWFK-30017 dual-driver for the highs. The 30017 is technically 2 drivers so one driver is for the lower treble and one for the upper treble with the ED driver for the mids.

Build

The build is also quite different and close to the FA7 vision. This is an acrylic custom universal build with slightly greater depth and width though lighter in weight. It also has a much longer nozzle than the FH7 though it has no swappable filters.

The comfort level is supreme and the IT04 does have an edge over the slightly heavier less contoured and dual-vented FH7 for isolation, especially for low-frequency hum like air cons. The FH7 maybe more durable but there is only so much you can do with aluminum in terms of contouring for one’s ear.

iBasso IT04

Cable

The two cables on these two monitors are very good. However, outside of sonic preferences, the options on the IT04 stock CB12s cable are just a little bit better with the inclusion of a piggy tail extension made of the same wire. The cable is terminated with a 2.5mm balanced jack with an additional 3.5mm piggy tail connector for going balanced or unbalanced. The FH7 comes unbalanced 3.5mm TRS only.

Both are very low for noise, both are 8-core though the iBasso CB12s uses an SPC and copper wire mix whereas the FiiO FH7 cable uses a Litz Monocrystalline SPC wire.

Performance

The IT04 is rated at 16Ω and 110dB SPL, which on paper, is not that different compared to the FH7’s 16Ω and 111dB SPL. That is pretty much how it played out across 3 DAPs tested (unbalanced), including the Cayin N6ii, (low gain), the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (low gain) and the HiBy R6 Pro, (low gain).

The only time I felt the need to push up the IT04 over the FH7 was on the unbalanced output of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and even then it was by 1-2 steps so the SPL rating gap seems accurate enough to me.

For noise both perform equally well on all the DAPs with next to no discernable hiss and a fairly black background.

Tuning

The IT04 tuning has a little more sub-bass bias and presence compared to the punchy but slightly more controlled FH7 low-end. The FH7 is a touch warmer in the mid-bass with more elevation so lower-pitched instrumental work is a little thicker and richer sounding and also a little further forward sounding than the IT04.

Lower-mids on the FH7 have a bit more lift and presence also on the FH7 from around 500hz to 1k whereas the IT04 seems to dip a bit more in this region. One more factor for that slightly more physical tone to the FH7’s instrumental notes. You still get decent power to the IT04 instrumental notes pulling from that sub-bass elevation but the tone of the overall note is a little cooler.

There is a little more “fill” from the FH7 for midrange instrument detail and vocal texture. The emphasis is not that dissimilar in their tuning. Both have a forward 1-2k range with perhaps the IT04 continuing a bit further up to around 3k. However, the FH7 timbre is just a little smoother, fuller sounding and natural to my ear. Both can show up a little sibilance where it exists so they are not immune from that but it is not overbearing either.

The IT04’s treble tuning may have some influence on that timbre with its lack of lower-treble elevation taking a little bit of body out of percussion timbre and shooting instead for a more ethereal tone from its upper treble 8-10k lift. The FH7 has more of a 5k-7k presence but it is not a strong elevation. Compared to the IT04, the FH7 treble might seem marginally more relaxed sounding.

FiiO FH7

Our Verdict

Captain Obvious again but yup, FiiO’s most mature universal monitor offering to date with a more resolving and expansive presentation than the FH5. I also much prefer this tuning than the darker FA7 though admittedly it is a more expensive option.

The inclusion of the filters is not as dramatic as some other filters systems but then I do not think it needs to be. There is just enough additional bass without it sounding bloated and even the treble filter sounds very accomplished in its tweaks. The emphasis is still on refined sound. These combined with the tips makes the FH7 a very versatile monitor indeed.

I don’t talk much about the value these days, it seems all over the place with new driver stuffed ‘Chifi’ entrants coming in much lower and some flagship gear going way beyond. However, in the case of the FH7, I think FiiO has done a remarkably good job keeping the FH7 under $500. In today’s market and with this level of performance and a package that is stuffed to the gills with filters and tips that’s a very good value for me. One well worth considering.

FiiO FH7 Specifications

  • 1 dynamic driver + 4 balanced armature drivers
  • Knowles DFK+ dual balanced armature driver SWFK-31736
  • 13.6mm dynamic driver
  • Frequency Range: 5~40kHz
  • Sensitivity: 111dB/mW
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • 3.5mm L-shaped gold-plated stereo jack
  • Cable Length: 1.2m
  • Weight: About 8.15g (excl. the cable)
Tonality
8.8
Build Quality
8.7
Comfort & Fit
8.7
Matchability
8.8
8.8
Score
$449
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7 Responses

  1. Jose

    Hello, first congratulations for ther great review after that in your opinion who’s the best fiio fh7 or Olivetti OH 500??, thanks so much

    Reply
  2. Marcos

    Congratulations Marcos, I’ve been eagerly waiting for you to review the FH7. I’m still struggling to choose between the fh7 and the DM7. Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Arsa

    Thanks for your review.
    Do you think is it worth it to pay extra for DUNU DK-4001?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Depends entirely on your personal preference. The question I think based on my comparison, is it worth paying extra for you? :) PS We have not done the full DK-4001 review.

      Reply

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