FiiO sort of went left-of-field earlier this year with the launch of the FT3, one very serious high-impedance set of open-back dynamic driver headphones.
The FT3 350Ω is demanding but rewards the user with what Michael called, “a soundstage nightmare for everyone else in the middle tier. Good. This will force others to innovate and catch up next year. ”
The FT3 32 Ohm headphone is a new option to this line-up and swiftly follows the original with an easier-to-drive impedance rating, but with the same unique, but good-looking visuals.
I also have on hand the FT3 350Ω and came away impressed when paired with either the YULONG Aquila III or Drop + xDuoo TA-84, two amps well suited to high-impedance headphones.
However, the lower impedance of the FT3 32 Ohm model should pair better with a wider range of amps. Let’s find out if this is a worthy addition to your Black Friday shopping list.
The FT3 32 Ohm uses the same 60mm dynamic driver of the 350Ω model but switches to an LCP Aluminum metal-plated gasket, which also has an aluminum metal diaphragm compared to the Beryllium-plated gasket of the 350Ω edition.
The rated sensitivity rises to 110dB @1kHz, from the original’s 105dB @1kHz.
The combination makes the FT3 32 Ohm easier to drive for those who do not have an amplifier capable of handling the higher-impedance headphones. The drivers are still angled slightly forward for better placement in the sound signature within the sphere of your ear.
The stock cable is also changed to a 392-wire High-purity silver-plated monocrystalline copper, instead of the earlier Furukawa Monocrystalline Copper cable.
Other than those two changes (albeit major), the FT3 32 Ohm edition cannot be told from the 350Ω model by looks alone.
Having the units side-by-side, the only differentiation is the “32Ω” labeling on the inside of each yoke. The FiiO FT3 32 Ohm’s all-aluminum open design still has the airflow potential of the older model and the 60mm driver.
The spoked spider-like wheel design on the back takes a bit of getting used to, but with its unique design, I have come to appreciate it. Neither too garish, nor flashy; it fits the model showing that differences in design are all right.
The suspension system remains unchanged with a strap extending through both sides of the sub-suspension.
The extension can touch the outer headband, but I never encountered this, not even while wearing a hat. I do like this sub-suspension design, due to the tension provided, which was neither too much nor too little.
The gray coloring of the cup and spokes makes a nice, subdued look, and those spokes look like a raven running if you look closely. The darker gray of the headband and sub-suspension add to the subdued look, while the honeycomb protective layer gives a 3D look to the cup.
Due to the size, one might expect the FT3 32 Ohm to be quite heavy on your head. It isn’t, and I could listen for long periods. The lighter weight at 391g (same as the 350Ω) minus the cable positioned well on my head. While the design looks to be a heavier fit, the actual feel belies that.
The sub-suspension band helped provide good comfort while wearing the FT3 for long periods, and the tension noted above helped keep pressure off the ear pads for the most part.
I did feel a bit of pressure on both sets of ear pads, under my ear, but not enough to bother me. Both sets of pads were equally comfortable, except for the extra heat generated from the ventilated pleather sides on the dual material pad.
The FT3 32 Ohm stock cable has changed to a 392-wire High-purity silver-plated monocrystalline copper in approximately ½ the length of the 350Ω model at 1.5m. The longer cable could be for studio sessions since the high impedance might work for those purposes.
When taken out of the case, the cable will retain its wrapped shape for approximately 20 minutes, so it is pliable with good tactility. I never had to worry about tangling, either. The earcup inputs are standard 3.5mm monopoles, but the other end is where the fun begins.
Coming with pretty much every conceivable connecting option you need you can go between the four included options with minimal effort.
The 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced jacks both have 4-pin inserts, keeping the single-ended (3.5mm & 6.35mm) separate from the balanced (4.4mm & 4-pin XLR).
The novelty of keeping the two separate makes for easy changes, as well as logical sense. The quality of each also bodes well for long-term use.
The cable lays well, with no microphonics due to the soft braided fabric cover. There is no cinch above the splitter, but I felt one was not needed due to the weight of the splitter. A rubber strap is used for keeping the cable organized when wrapped, although I worry about its longevity.
Packaging & Accessories
The FiiO FT3 32 Ohm includes a standard hard case, a soft bag, four adapters, and two sets of pads (ventilated pleather/suede combo & suede). The black 2-part box with which all the goodies come is laden with the FT3 32Ω image and minimal writing on the back.
Reflective “FiiO” and “FT3” are on opposite sides of the top box. The soft pouch is large enough to hold all of the accessories and the headphones if you need to save space. Personally, the hard case is too good to pass up. A detailed owner’s manual finishes off the packaging.
Removing the top box, you are met with the brown hard case and soft bag, with the extra pads underneath. Inside the case, with a velcro patch is the pouch for the three additional jacks, and a velcro strap for the cable. The form-fitting case also cradles the headphones nicely.
The soft brown coloring looks elegant on the case, and the zippers work without issue and are of good size. I would personally be afraid of scratching the case with use, but the impending patina would add to the vintage look of the case, in my opinion.
The case is also small enough (even with the large ear cups) to comfortably fit into my backpack without utilizing too much space. It isn’t small, but it is not too big, either. This is a very good-looking case.
The FT3 32 Ohm is easy to drive, and with the ability to change pads quickly, you can tailor the sound with two distinct signatures.
Where the FT3 350Ω conveys studio-like detail and a near-reference signature, the lower impedance model embodies a certain amount of warmth and richness at the expense of some clarity.
The suede exclusive pads exude a warmer signature, while the combination pleather/suede pads give more detail with a bit deeper reach down low.
Both present a fairly even and smooth signature, but not as much as the 350Ω model. The soundstage on the FT3 32 Ohm is quite wide and deep giving the notes room to spread out, but not become too thin.
The FT3 32 Ohm’s good weight of notes does provide for a bit looser signature. This pervades into the warmth of the signature, helping give the music a certain richness.
There is no lack of excitement, but this headphone will not be mistaken for overly vibrant either. The balanced options do provide a more energetic signature, though.
There is a good thump regardless of the jack chosen, which comes across as accurate with a bit of bleed. This hinders the transparency of notes but aids in note weight.
The evenness in the signature does make for a less enticing sound, but I would certainly not call it boring. That evenness provides for an engaging listen when paired with the right genre and source.
Staging & Dynamics
The FT3 32 Ohm soundstage is deep and wide, with only a little less height; which gives the notes room to spread out and fill the space. This can lead to a bit of confusion on overly-complicated pieces but makes for that smooth character; which can be quite soothing.
The FT3 32 Ohm is thoroughly competent in presenting the listener with a pleasant listen, even with the discrepancies noted above. That smoother overtone does come at the expense of transient response, which as mentioned above lingers making for a slower pace.
Resolution is slower accompanying this, but I would not call it overly cumbersome. The result is an engaging softer response. The upper reaches are tailored to fit this as well, with a rolling off in the upper end avoiding too much brilliance; which would provide a disconnect to that smooth character.