I have recommended repeatedly to FiiO to take into account the high performance headphones market, which did show a significant growth in the recent years.
This recommendation came also from FiiO customers, many fans of the brand wanting to use a fully portable system made by the same manufacturer.
It seems that FiiO took those words seriously and worked for some time together with local earphones manufacturer DUNU.
Following this partnership FiiO EX1 in-ear headphones were born – which resemble very much the Dunu Titan 1, it seems that the cable was replaced by an entirely new, highly durable cable that lacks microphonics, the diaphragm was slightly tuned, but not many details are known about this changes.
Design, feeling and construction quality:
EX1 are made from an alloy of duralumin and very strong stainless steel. This IEMs are not 100% closed, more of a semi-open design.
On the earphones themselves there are some open ports that are designed to relieve the pressure that is created in the ear canal when placed in the ear, also these ports reduce distortion of the diaphragm by partial elimination of the vibration.
In terms of sound these ports creates a bigger stage, providing a more airy sound than the usual type of IEMs.
The diaphragm is made of titanium that has a thickness at the nano-scale that is super light and very rigid, thus offering an ultra low level of distortion.
The manufacturer ensures that it withsands stong signals and high sound pressure levels without distorting the sound, as standard cellulose diaphragms do.
The cable is not detachable, but is very solid, conductors are made of OFC copper, covered with several layers of kevlar and polymers to withstand even the most unexpected shocks and twistings.
The internal design is impressive, for example beneath the strong neodyum magnets a soft silicone ring was placed to suppress the vibration and resonance of the diaphragm to achieve a sound closer to reality, with exceptional fast transients and low distortion.
The earphones come accompanied by nine pairs of tips – 3 pairs of different sizes and form, each offering a different sound signature.
For transport and protection a cute storage box is offered in the package.
For complete specifications please follow this Link.
Besides these EX1 I also have two pairs of headphones that have the diaphragm coated with metal alloys, one is Sony MDR-1A and another one is Koss KSC75. But both sound so different, Koss providing a quick but dry and metallic sound and Sony offering a relaxed , a bit slow , but full and rich sound. I really didn’t know what to expect from the FiiO EX1.
EX1 offers something from both headphones, I will try to elaborate on hearsay.
The first thing that strikes you is how airy and right it sounds. Nothing jumps out, FR spectrum seems to be all covered. You can easily hear the deep bass and airy treble. What can I say, everything is in place.
Beying a semi-open dynamic earphone I expected to have a rich and well detailed bass and that’s what I’ve got.
The bass sounds palpable, deep, having good authority and punch. This earphones are not really for bass maniacs, but they play a lot of information in the lows.
Some friends replied that they had too much bass, I think they have the right amount of bass. It is not present on any track, but it can be found when it’s called for.
I tend to think that upper bass is more present than sub-bass, on 15-20 Hz tests it sounds softer but it is not totally absent.
The mids are slightly sweeter, but not overly so. I was expecting to hear metallic voices without much naturalness (as for example on Koss KSC 75) but that was not the case. Voices sounded cohesive, well defined and pleasing to the ear. I am glad they are not heard on the second plan and that are not muddy. The mids offered an unexpected pleasure, they sounded quite real, dryness is not present at all. Mids are maybe a little warmer than neutral, but for my tastes is even better this way.
High frequencies are well aired and well defined, cymbals, drums sounded incredibly detailed and accurate. Many IEMs or home headphones have big problems in playing a proper and undistorted treble. EX1 even surprised me, I did not expect a level distortion so low on high frequnecies.
Overall the sound is fairly linear and uncoloured yet it is always pleasant with a quick, lively and articulate sound. Fast transients impress particularly on fast and/or crowded music.
And now about something that impressed me the most.
So far I have used quite often words like “airy”, “articulate” and “detailed” all thanks to the extraordinary stereo image.
The positioning of instruments in the auditory space easily rivals more expensive headphones.
The 3D and holographic playback of the stereo image is the greatest achievement. Soundstage is medium in size, neither too wide nor too high or deep.
From my point of view the holographic placement is more important that the stage size for the dimmension of this earphones.
The detailed and transparent sound playback and practical three-dimensional image of these earphones are simply a must buy at this price level.
Speaking of price EX1 will cost you 100 Euros, a very attractive price, but the competition is fierce. At the same price point we have Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9iS, Beyerdynamic DTX160 or even HiFiMan RE-400 that are so loved in the West in the last period of time.
I am convinced that many will choose a more traditional earphones brand in the world, but EX1 demonstrates that we can have a very good sound even at decent prices, even from a manufacturer less known in the earphone market.
Construction quality is good, earphones and cable are solid that can easily be thrown in a backback or pocket wihtout issues.
The 9 pairs of tips will satisfy any demands and even can be used to tune the sound to your preferencies, but I preffered the stock black medium sized ones.
The sound was definitely a pleasant surprise, though reluctant at first , this earphones surpassed my expectations, transmitting the message of the music in a very appealing way.
For detailed measurements please follow this Link.
– Solid construction, multiple accessories, exotic materials
– Detailed, well defined and airy sound
– Holographic and 3D stereo image
– Offers a pleasant and seducing naturalness
– The frequency spectrum fully rendered
– Excellent price for the received sound quality
– A slight hole in the sub bass
– Soundstage limited on all axes
– Fierce competition at this price level
Gear used for review:
On the go: FiiO EX3 II, EX1
At home: Audiobyte Hydra Z + ZPM power source, Hegel HD-25, Matrix HPA-3B, FiiO EX1