Love at First Listen!
PROS: Very enjoyable tuning, good technical performance, excellent bass, premium build quality, improved ergonomics, interchangeable plug, plenty of spare foams, value for money.
CONS: Fit will depend on each person’s ear shape, which is inherent to earbuds.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me with the FiiO FF3 earbuds in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
- 316L stainless steel polished shell in Cosmic Silver or Elegant Black
- Bass enhancing acoustic flute design
- Ultra-fine copper-clad aluminum Daikoku voice coil
- 2mm beryllium-plated dome + PU gasket diaphragm
- New generation twist-lock plug, swappable 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm termination
- High-purity silver-plated monocrystal copper cable
- Price: US$99.99
About two years ago I reviewed the FiiO EM5 flagship earbuds. The story behind the EM5 was that it was always going to be one of the pet projects of FiiO’s founder James Chung. It started as early as 2017 and the aim was not to come up with a market-oriented product, but rather something like a proof-of-concept or a “let’s see what we can do for the fun of it”. Fast forward to today, I think it is safe to say the EM5 were a very successful proof-of-concept. I suspect that because of that success, FiiO took what they learned and set out to produce a new line of earbuds that are intended for a wider market. This new line is starting with the FF3 and rumor has it that FiiO also have higher end FF5 earbuds in development for release later this year. Exciting times for earbud enthusiasts!
Although I don’t have access to a wide range of earbuds, I do consider myself an earbud enthusiast. In fact, I have a pair of earbuds that have been with me for well over four years and I still use them on a daily basis, which is more than any other piece of gear I own. So, when I heard FiiO had released the FF3, I quickly reached out for a review because I was very curious how far FiiO’s earbuds had progressed.
The unboxing is a fairly standard affair and I tend not to dwell on it too much. That said, there are a few interesting things to note here.
When opening the box, the first thing seen is the quick start guide. Usually this is not that interesting, save for the description of how to change the interchangeable plug and how to mount the foams. However, I assume the guide has been printed for the FF5 as well as the FF3 earbuds because there is also a description on how to use the MMCX assist tool. The FF3 do not have a detachable cable and therefore I think it is safe to expect the FF5 to feature a detachable cable with MMCX connectors.
Removing the quick start guide reveals the FF3 sitting all pretty and shiny in the top half of box. Below that is a black cardboard box with plastic hard case inside. It might not feel as luxurious as the leather case that came with the EM5, but I really like these hard cases. I have several Peli cases for when I want to store something as safe as possible and one of those I always use when travelling because of how tough they are. I would say that these are never a bad choice.
Inside the case are the 4.4mm balanced replacement plug and three bags with foams: Bass, Balanced and Crisp foams. There are six pairs of each included, which is a healthy amount and, in my opinion, this is important for earbuds because the foams wear out frequently.
Build quality and fit.
Look at them… How gorgeous do the FF3 look! The polished stainless-steel shells look amazing and nothing like I would expect for earbuds at this price point. Okay, let’s not get distracted by the sparkles…
The FF3 have a wonderful and solid feeling build quality. The stainless-steel shells are a little heavier than most earbuds, yet still well balanced when wearing them. In other words: they do not pull down and simply sit comfortably in your ears. The ergonomics are also pretty good. I always have problems with earbuds and to my deepest disappointment, I could not get a secure fit with the EM5. The ergonomics on the FF3 have been noticeably improved to where they sit fairly secure in my challenging ears. It is not perfect and the right side sits more secure than the left side, which tends to fall out occasionally. Still, for me this is the best fit I have found with earbuds and I can happily wear them while I am working behind my desk without any worries.
Moving down, the cable is a great quality one. Fairly thin and very supple, it has a good balance between light weight so as not to pull on the earbuds too much, while still having the weight to avoid tangling. At the end of the cable is of course the new generation interchangeable plug. I was a big fan of the previous design, but this one is even better. FiiO have managed to create an interchangeable plug that is not any bigger than a regular one. The mechanism also feels very solid, making it effectively indistinguishable from a regular plug.
Because of the interchangeable plug, I have been able to use the FF3 with a wide variety of sources. Everything from straight out of a MacBook Pro, to the Lotoo PAW S1 dongle, the EarMen Angel portable DAC/amp and high-end DAPs such as the Shanling M8 and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (LPGT).
Initially I decided to use the LPGT for the analysis because of its neutral and incredibly transparent sound. However, as time went on I started using the M8 and Angel just as much. The M8 is a slightly warmer, more analogue sounding source and that pairing was wonderful. The Angel is more neutral and has a lot of power, which seemed to work very well for the FF3 too.