Fiio F5 review: Value for money earphones that pack a punch

Believe it or not, despite the rise of Bluetooth-connected headphones to meet the rise of smartphones ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack, there are still a large number of people out there who want to hold on to wired headphones a little longer. It's just that right now, Bluetooth audio products still can't match up to the sound delivered through wired ones. For those who still own a smartphone or an iPod or any device with the old jack, Fiio has something interesting to offer with the F5 in-ear headphones.

Launched in India in September, the Fiio F5 in-ear headphones are priced at Rs 4,999 and boast of Hi-Fi audio, something the 10-year old Chinese company has become known for producing. The F5 continues the company's tradition of offering high quality products at an affordable price. Here's everything you need to know.

Design

The Fiio F5 has an angular design that is divided into three sections - a bottom stem that features detachable connectors, the middle dome shape body that houses the driver and an angled nozzle on the dome that is where the buds fit. The F5 is the first detachable cable IEM from Fiio. You can switch between the standard unbalanced TPE cable with a 3.5mm jack that will work for pretty much every device using the old port, or a balanced 2.5mm MMCX terminated cable that will support Fiio's portable players.

The F5's insides features a titanium diaphragm that helps provide a smooth sound and response for mids and trebles. For the most part this seems true as the mids and highs are pretty clear, but more on that later. The inline remote is made out of metal which gives it a very solid build that feels a lot better than plastic controls. The earphones are MFI certified that makes it compatible with both iOS and Android. You can switch for either via a small toggle on the back. Note that if the toggle is switched to "A" for Android, you won't be able to control the volume levels of the earphones are connected to an iOS device.

The earphones are pretty lightweight and comfortable, which is one of its biggest attractions. The angular design nicely fits inside the ears and the tips are quite soft so you won't have any trouble leaving them on through the day. You get three different sizes of earbud pairs in the box so rest assured you'll find the one the fits you perfectly.

I was quite happy with how well they fit me and not once did I find the need to adjust them or put them back in place even when I took them for a run. The F5 look and feel quite premium, which impressed me at this price point. You also get a small plastic case to take the earphones on-the-go.

Performance

The Fiio F5 features 13.5mm drivers, which are pretty large and sit well inside the earphones. They aren't the best at noise isolation and are best suited for indoor use for undisturbed listening.

Let's talk about the sound now. Overall, you're going to find a pretty balanced sound, but you won't get the best at this price point. While testing them out, I found that the upper mids and treble got a little too high to the point it can start to feel peaky especially in songs like "TaKillYa" by Vinnie Maniscalco where the saxophone gets too much for the ears while the bass doesn't boom enough. I would have prefered if the upper registers were a little more smooth and clear. You can hear some bass in songs like "Lose Yourself to Dance" by Daft Punk, but I would have liked a little more to be honest. It's also clear that the earphones focus more on producing better mids and treble and aren't bass-forward.

Also Read: Fiio F9 review: One of the best earphones you can buy for the price

But let's be honest, at Rs 4,999 the Fiio F5 won't be giving you a great and balanced sound throughout. Speaking of which, the F5 is also one of the cheapest earphones you can find that comes with a 2.5mm balanced cable for better sound signature. The only problem is that you'll need a player that supports 2.5mm. Luckily Fiio has a few of them worth considering like the X3 Mark III hi-res lossless music player, but this also means having to spend a lot more than Rs 4,999 in which case you're better off just purchasing a more premium pair of headphones.

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Coming back to the sound through the unbalanced cable, the F5 does offer some bass, but you won't feel much thump while listening to songs like "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac or "You Might Die Trying" by Dave Matthews Band as they have a lot of instrumentation going on the overshadows the bass sound. This is especially in the case of the latter, which also involves saxophones, electric guitar and violins that punch right through dwarfing the lows and lower mids, and can get piercing at high levels.

What you need to know is that the F5 is quite a balanced pair of earphones with decent bass and more emphasis on the high-end side of the spectrum. The mid-range is good and vocals sound clear although you will get the occasional piercing "S" sounds. You can't expect a lot at this price point, and I feel the Fiio F5 has a pretty good soundstage and acoustics that should please general audiophiles.

Should you buy it?

The F5 has been priced well in India. At Rs 4,999, this is a pair of wired in-ear headphones that provides pretty clear mids and highs. And although they can get pitchy at high levels, they are still worth the price tag. The earphones will work well for a number of genres, especially music with a lot of acoustics and casual audiophiles will like the sound. However, these earphones can be passed if you're in the market for something with a little more bass. I would have liked a little more punch for lows and lower mids, but they're still decent enough.  

You will of course find a noticeable difference when listening via the balanced cable, but the biggest problem here is the need for a music player to support the 2.5mm jack. Fiio does offer that with the X3 Mark III, for example, which is priced at Rs 14,990. However, if one is going to spend close to Rs 20,000 buying both the products, I would suggest simply buying a better sounding pair of wired headphones instead.

The Fiio F5 are one of the most comfortable pair of in-ear headphones I've worn in a while. The angular shape, metal build, soft tips and lightweight design are a few reasons that make them pretty great at this price point and something you will not be complaining about. The F5 is definitely worth considering if you're on a budget and prefer the higher side of sound spectrum, but I wouldn't suggest them for those looking for a good bass sound signature.

Fiio F58.5/10Good stuffValue for moneyLightweight and comfortableDecent mids and trebleBad stuffNot enough bassPeaky at high levels

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