Before going into the presentation, I would like to draw attention to the filters that FiiO included with the FH7 because I think something is going on there that is well worth noting. FiiO include three filters with the FH7 that provide a slightly different tuning: Bass Boost, Reference Sound, and High Boost. When the FH7 arrived the Reference Sound filters were installed.
Reference Sound (black)
I personally do not quite rate this as a reference sound. The bass is quite strong with plenty of body, although it does not overpower the mids. The mids themselves feel perhaps a hint back to create a slight U-shaped signature. The treble is quite sparkly and has a sharpness to it, giving a brightness that might be a bit much for more treble sensitive people. [Raises hand.]
Bass Boost (red)
To my ears the bass is not boosted as such, but it feels like the filter attenuates the treble to become more laid-back and give the signature an overall warmer feel. The bass itself becomes more prominent to add more excitement, but without becoming too bloated and while maintaining a brighter overall feel that can still be a bit too bright for some.
High Boost (green)
When I first listened to the FH7 with the Reference Sound filters I found it a touch too bright and a little fatiguing because I am somewhat treble sensitive, so the High Boost filters felt like they would be the stuff of nightmares. Of course, being a reviewer, I knew I had to risk life and limb for the benefit of my readers, who no doubt counted on me to sacrifice my well-being in order to provide a comprehensive review. So, I installed the High Boost filters and, as sweat started dripping over my forehead, put in the FH7 and pressed ‘play’… Wait? What?! Did I install the wrong filters? Nope! But… But… The treble… It is smooth.
I do not know what the filters do precisely, but the High Boost filters are completely open, where the other two sets have inserts that appear to act as a vent. I have read suggestions that those might mask the treble drivers, but whatever it is, I think they affect the treble adversely and the only way to appreciate the FH7’s treble is to go for the open ‘High Boost’ filters. These don’t actually boost the highs, but allow them to flow freely, more evenly. The overall signature is still on the brighter side, but (at least for me) easier to deal with, even compared to the Bass Boost filters. The bass is still plenty powerful, but now sits more linear with the mids.
Because of the, in my opinion, better quality treble with the High Boost filters, my impressions will all be with those filters. I have also tried a variety of tips and I ended up using the silicone tips that were already installed, the medium ‘balanced’ tips.
The FH7 with High Boost filters have a neutral-bright signature, but with a dynamic bass that can come up with great authority, so you never feel like there is anything lacking in that department. The sound is far from thin and yet the FH7 manage to create quite a spacious and airy sound. The thicker notes do mean that the FH7’s separation is not the best I have come across, as I feel the FH7 tend to get a little congested in the midrange with complex and layered classical music. The stage has great depth but lacks the width to separate the thick notes well enough in such pieces. It works better with band-based music where the stage gets filled up with music, while individual instruments are still easy to pick out.
Imaging is not the most clearly defined/stable I have heard. There is a slight fuzziness to notes so they don’t contrast as clearly against the otherwise black background. Like is often the case with hybrid IEMs, cohesion seems less than optimal as well. It might seem like I am being very critical here, but at this price point there is some stiff competition where I feel these technical aspects are done better. In terms of detail retrieval, I think the FH7 on the other hand do very well and the holographic stage often tingles with details everywhere.
The bass of the FH7 is quite powerful and thick sounding with a dynamic character where in sections of the music without bass it is completely absent, but when the bass does kick in it is certainly not something you are likely to miss. I very often listen to Caro Emerald and love tracks such as Back It Up for the delicious double bass that accompanies her voice and in this track the FH7, even with the High Boost filters, present that double bass as thick and lush. It is quite dominant in the signature and as such adds to the musicality of the FH7.
The bass can dig quite deep and provides a delicious rumble when asked for, something my inner bass head can appreciate. It is the sort of bass that can resonate throughout my head to give that wonderful ‘brain massage’ feel I enjoy when listening to down tempo EDM. A track like Massive Attack’s Angel also works great with the FH7 and shows off what the FH7’s bass is capable of. My only point of criticism is that it does not have the tightest impact or the most detail, which does surprise me a little considering that the dynamic driver is a pretty big one.
Owing to the brighter tonality of the FH7, I find that the midrange is not the most natural or accurate sounding and instead leans more towards the articulate side, bringing excitement to compliment the powerful bass and lively treble. As such I find that the FH7 do (relatively speaking) better with energetic music such as rock or metal than with more nuanced music such as classical where the tone is a much more integral part of the emotion in the music. The FH7 feel lively and energetic and reward you for feeding them the right type of music.
Vocals sit in a neutral position, neither too forward, nor so far back that you need a search party to find Agnes Obel among the instruments. The FH7 might in some cases feel like they favor female vocals over male, again due to the brighter tonality, but they also have a trick up their sleeve with growling male vocals such as David Draimain of Disturbed. Yeah, play some Disturbed and you will quickly learn that the FH7 do growling male vocal pretty well. This is in my opinion another indication that the FH7 are tuned for popular and energetic types of music.
As indicated when I addressed the different filters, the FH7 perform best in the treble with the High Boost filters, which are the most even/smooth. They are however not entirely smooth and there is definitely a bit of brightness to the treble that might not work for everyone. It depends a lot on the type of music you listen to, but with a lot of high notes being played by instruments such as violins or brass sections, it can feel a little too bright. It can also be noticeable with vocals where I feel the treble can cause some brittleness in, for instance, the voice of Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes (known simply as Aurora). Aurora’s voice has a natural brightness that can at times be quite emphasized by the FH7, such as in the track Running With The Wolves. However, when I switch to soprano Elin Manahan-Thomas that brittleness disappears and everything, while bright, is wonderfully smooth. Based on this I would say that the FH7’s treble can be quite unforgiving at times, but with the right music also a joy for people who love treble.
The treble in general is, as I said, a little on the brighter side and not the most natural sounding but does extend well and adds plenty of sparkle without being pushed into the foreground like I have heard with some IEMs. Cymbals sit right where I would want them while still being easy to pick out. For more treble tolerant people this will work very well, and I am sure there are plenty of people who will appreciate what FiiO have achieved here.