By : Theo @ Samma3a
If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from FiiO, then it’s to be practically showered by all of the extra bits and pieces that they include with their headphones.
In the case of the FA7 we get both a hard and a soft carrying case as well as a total of 3 pairs of eartips that vary between numerous sizes and materials (foam and silicon).
But there are 2 new additions that we haven’t seen from them before, and that come sin the form of a little cable clip as well as a cleaning brush.
When you first look at the FA7 you could almost swear they look like fully custom-made IEMs. It’s immediately clear that FiiO invested an awful amount of time and resources into the comfort of these earphones.Let’s be clear, no 2 humans are exactly alike, and that of course counts for the shape of our ears too. So, for any company to create a set of earphones that are designed to sit in the concha of the ear, whilst being both comfortable and secure, and to then achieve both of those things universally is a pretty big ask.
But, as if by some miracle, FiiO seems to have done exactly that. Honestly, if the FA7 is not the most comfortable IEM I’ve ever used, then it has to be at least in the top 3.
They just slip into position and they stay there. I feel no uncomfortable pressure and they don’t slowly break their seal after a few minutes.
In this respect I really do feel like saying that the FA7 is perfect. But it doesn’t just stop there as the finishing too is practically flawless.
I’ve run my fingers across the surface numerous times and I can’t feel any roughness or sharp edges other than the MMCX connector which is slightly raised. But where the faceplate is joined to the main shell, all the bumps and concave areas, it’s all absolutely smooth and seamless.
There’s really only one area where I found a slight imperfection on both the left and the right earpieces, and that is some small bubbles on the inside by the biggest driver. But really, I’m sure you’ll agree that that is just nit-picking now.
Speaking of the drivers, the FA7 is not equipped with a 7-driver configuration as the name might suggest, but this is rather a quad-BA setup.
For the bass frequencies FiiO opted for the well-regarded Knowles 22955 driver. This is a very popular driver in multi-BA systems, and is usually tasked to handle the lower spectrum. But, there are numerous single BA setups that employ the 22955.
The mid-range is taken care of by the ED-29689, whereas the higher frequencies are sent to a customised SWFK-31736 which in itself is a dual-BA package. I think it’s also worth mentioning the cable.
It seems to be the same cable that came with the FH5, and it really is one of my favourites. It’s just got this nice premium feel to it that I really enjoy. It’s not the softest cable I’ve ever felt, but it’s soft enough to still feel like a genuinely high-quality cable. There’s also just a slight heft to it to that reinforces that premium feeling.
But of course, FiiO could make the most amazing looking and feeling earphones ever, but if they don’t sound good, they’re essentially worthless.
So, does the FA7 sound as good as what they look and feel? Not quite, but holy damn they are close.
The FA7 offers a warm and full-bodied sound that is sure to please many people. When I first plugged them into my system and started listening there were three things that struck me.
The first was just how incredibly smooth they sound. There was just no hint of glare in the highs.
The details are there but they’re not shoved into your ears in an effort to give you this forced perception of micro-detail retrieval.
It almost sounds ever so slightly rolled off, but just enough not to make that smoothness seem like a flaw.
The next thing was the mid-range, which, in contrast to the signature of the FH5, sounded pretty much exactly how I would want the mid-range to sound.
It was there, but not elevated like the mids of the FH5, and so vocals sounded great. Male voices had a sense of authority, whereas female vocals came across as inviting and luscious. It really does sound damn good.
But now, let’s take a look at the response graph of the FA7.
Can you see a bit of a problem here?
It’s immediately apparent that the bass region is the most dominant region…and this in my mind is the only flaw of the FA7.
That elevated bass level results in a bit of a boomy sound which has a negative effect on the mids and as a result makes the FA7 as a whole not sound quite as good as it could. At certain times it can even give the perception of a slightly dark-sounding signature.
Instrument separation is pretty good and imaging isn’t bad, but as you would expect form an IEM, the sound-stage isn’t particularly wide. But I think this aspect is perfectly acceptable.
It’s just that elevated bass that really gets to me, and really makes me feel a little disappointed with FiiO. The potential is there for the FA7 to honestly be a damn good set of IEMs, and if you apply a little EQ correction they can sound really, really good….but not everyone wants to mess around with an EQ, do they?
So, when it comes to judging the FA7 as a complete package; at first I wasn’t 100% certain of what to make of them.
Personally, I don’t find the sound of the FA7 to suit my taste or the manner in which I think headphones should be portraying music.
However, what the FA7 has done is to force me to change my perspective a little bit.
You see, it might not suit my taste, but I also need to consider that not everyone is an audiophile or a reviewer. In fact, you’ll often find that both die-hard audiophiles and reviewers alike often obsess so much on the equipment, that sometimes we end up forgetting to listen to, and ultimately enjoy the music.
And it’s only once I confronted that idea that the purpose of the FA7 became clear to me.
That elevation in the bass and that smooth top end – those are the quintessential characteristics of a fun-sounding and forgiving headphone.
That is something which is perfectly suited for someone who just wants to listen to a wide variety of music genres without having to think twice about the quality of the recording, or how this type of music might pair up with the response graph of their chosen headphones.
And, given how the detail retrieval and instrument separation is pretty good, the FA7 is starting to seem like that perfect middle-ground between a consumer signature, and that of an audiophile one.
And I think that’s where the value of the FA7 lies…it’s a no-brainer for people who just want to plug in their headphones and enjoy their music.
The fact that the FA7 has a low impedance and high efficiency makes it even more applicable for people who don’t want to carry around an extra amplifier or something alike.
So, in essence, I think I see what FiiO did here. It seems that they’ve positioned the FA7 to target a much wider audience than just the comparatively minute audio enthusiast demographic.
And so, whilst I personally don’t think the FA7 has the balance and technical capability to really please audiophiles – for everyone else I think it might just be a damn good option, especially if it serves as a glimpse, or rather an introduction for that person into the world of more audiophile-related sound signatures.