Today, we review the FiiO FF1, which is a very affordable set of open-back detachable cable earbuds using a 2nd generation large 14.2mm dynamic driver. It is priced at $17.99.
Disclaimer: This was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. We thank FiiO for its support.
You can click here to learn more about the FiiO audio products we have previously assessed on Headfonics.
Note, that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.
FiiO FF1 Review
The FiiO FF1 provides good value with its ability to produce IEM levels of bass using an earbud-style design, whilst maintaining reasonable comfort. The USB-C Dongle DAC included makes its $20 price point a low-risk buy for earbud enthusiasts.
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Good Bass Response
Comfortable and Lightweight
Included USB-C Dongle
Included USB-C dongle doesn’t pass through the built-in mic
Not many audiophiles may be aware of this, but FiiO has also been steadily building a fair large line-up of earbud releases such as the FiiO FF3 and FiiO FF5.
This is a category most people associate more with stock iPod earphones rather than modern-day IEMs and DAPs. However, the fans are hard-core. Our ex-reviewer, Mike,
At a no-risk $17.99 price point, can the ChiFi giant’s humble entry into this niche segment provide some compelling value?
The FiiO FF1 is a pair of “earbud” style single dynamic driver earphones that come with an in-line microphone and a USB-C dongle at a very affordable price.
These buds have quite a few tricks under their sleeves, especially at this price point. First, is its use of a 14.22mm beryllium-plated PU Driver. This supposedly stiffens the large driver and generates better bass performance. And as I will mention later in the review, the FF1 delivered on that goal.
The FF1 also comes with a detachable cable with an in-line microphone. Detachable cables are more usually found in IEMs and headphones, and rarely make their way into earbuds, making this a welcome surprise.
The inclusion of a respectable built-in mic makes the set more versatile in emergency voice conferences.
The earbuds also come with a USB-C dongle DAC out of the box, immediately making the set compatible with modern-day smartphones that have unfortunately omitted the 3.5mm jack.
This overall package could make this a perfect “backup” pair of earphones for buyers of the new USB-C iPhone 15 or other Android smartphones.
The FiiO FF1 makes use of an inoffensive, yet uninspiring design. The FF1 comes in two colors: Black and Silver. The pair sent to us is the black model, making use of a black plastic shell for the buds themselves, with metal grilles towards the back.
The stem of the bud is black as well, with a polished metal FiiO emblem at the center. This gives the FF1 a more consumer-friendly aesthetic when compared to DIY-style Chi-Fi earbuds in the market. The stems themselves are quite wider than those on other earbuds I’ve tried.
The design of the FF1 is simple and classic, reminding me of the included earbuds that used to come with cheap iPod knockoffs and CD players. The set exudes a utilitarian feel; no frills but they get the job done.
Thanks to its plastic shell and lightweight detachable cable, the FF1 is a reasonably comfortable pair of earbuds, better than some, but not as good as others for a few reasons.
On the plus side, some of the additional comfort comes from the reduced shell diameter. According to FiiO, the diameter was reduced from 16.5mm to 16.2mm. In practice, the improvement in comfort shows, especially when comparing them head-on to other MX500-style earbuds.
On the downside, they aren’t the most comfortable pair of earbuds I’ve tried, in large part due to their wider stem. The wider stem tends to touch my ear lobe. It doesn’t cause too much discomfort or irritation, but I personally just prefer having as little contact between my buds and my ear as possible.
The FF1, like most buds, does not isolate well. Even with music playing at a medium level, I could easily make out conversations and background noise around me, quite similar to open-back headphones like my Sennheiser HD 580 Precision.
This made them perfect for office use, where I needed music to focus on my work, but also needed to be aware if I was being directly spoken to.
The FF1’s cable was one of the first standouts to me as I took out the pair from its packaging.
Since the FF1 makes use of a removable 2-pin cable, I was excited to try them out with my collection of IEM cables. However, the narrow 2-pin connector on the buds themselves made them incompatible with my other cables.
According to the FiiO website, they are currently developing a “FiiO-designed headphone cable” that will be compatible with the FF1. This would be great in ensuring that the buds do not become useless in case of cable damage.
The cable itself is made of oxygen-free copper, wrapped in rubber from the buds to the rubber splitter, and wrapped in a cloth braid from the Y splitter to the 3.5mm jack.
This braiding did prevent the cable from retaining memory or causing kinks, however, I did notice the cable tangling quite a bit.
The inline welcome microphone was a welcome surprise. In my testing, the quality was good, especially from an inexpensive pair of earbuds.
In my mixed desk and on-the-go listening, I observed no microphonics at all and was quite pleased with the overall quality of the cable.
Packaging & Accessories
The FF1 comes in a basic box that I would expect on the racks next to the cashier at a department store. The box itself has a stylized print of the FF1 on the front.
The real star of the show is the inclusions. Aside from the earbuds and the detachable cable, the FF1 also comes with 3 pairs of donut foams, 3 pairs of regular foams, silicone rings (1 pair black, 1 pair transparent, 1 pair winged), and more importantly, a basic USB-C dongle DAC.
By no means is it the best dongle DAC I’ve listened to, but the mere inclusion of one automatically makes the FF1 more accessible, whilst making it a better value.
My only gripe is that when I tested the USB-C dongle DAC and FF1 on an iPhone, the dongle did not support microphone pass-through, rendering the in-line microphone useless.
I understand that a free USB-C dongle coming with a pair of earbuds retailing for under 20 USD is already a big deal, I would just hope for more synergy with the accessories that come out of the box with the product.
The first audible stand-out to me was the bass of the FiiO FF1. This is the first pair of earbuds I’ve listened to that was able to play back bass drums as actual bass drums.
As I will expound on in the comparison portion, other earbuds play bass drums like they’re snares. It removes all rumble and low frequency, which I find to be a deal breaker for many genres of music.
Bass hits on the FF1 have good impact and rumble, to the point that my brain subconsciously compared the sound signature of the FF1 to other IEMs, not earbuds.
I never found myself wanting more bass, I always found that the quantity and quality of bass that the FF1 was providing was sufficient for what the track needed. This was something I didn’t experience with other earbuds aside from FiiO’s own FF3.
Bass lines in funk and soul tracks are lush and decently textured. It is by no means a powerhouse at detail retrieval or playing back with texture, but this very good bass performance for an earbud makes it an exciting listen with hip-hop and dance tracks, and a relaxing listen with R&B tracks.
The midrange of the FF1 has a lush and organic tonality. Once again, it is by no means a detail powerhouse I would even say that the FF1 has a veiled tonality, but this contributes to a relaxing and inoffensive midrange.
Male vocals, in particular, are played back with a smooth authority, and deep notes are played back satisfyingly, however, I did hear some bass bleeding into the lower mid-range.
Pianos and other string instruments do have a veiled tonality, with a slightly lacking detail retrieval performance in more complex tracks and mixes, however, this was not as much of a bother when considering the relaxing tonality.
The mids performance of the FF1 is not groundbreaking nor is it the most technically impressive, but its warmth feels like a blanket on a cold day or a glass of whiskey on a Monday night.
In more exciting pop tracks, the FF1 does have some high-end energy and sparkle. However, it unfortunately does so without much detail in the performance. It’s difficult to identify the micro detail in chimes and cymbals, but its high-end tonality does give the overall sound some air.
The high-end quantity of the FF1 was more than sufficient for my taste, but I often found myself wanting more detail. My usual test for high-end performance is analyzing if I can easily differentiate between different kinds of cymbals in a track. Unfortunately, this was a test that the FF1 failed.
The FF1 does a good job of riding the fine line between excitement and fatigue. I never found it lacking treble energy, but I also did not experience any fatigue throughout my testing.
The imaging performance of the FF1 is quite decent, nothing stands out, but I never experienced complex mixes merging into a solid wall of sound.
The soundstage, on the other hand, was quite good, even compared to other earbuds. Compared to the IEMs that I usually listen to, the FF1’s sound stage is simply in a class of its own.
I found myself subconsciously comparing the sound stage performance of the FF1 to open-back headphones instead of other earbuds.