Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" November 2020 iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, Ventura 13.3, 40GB RAM), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switches, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 100Hz; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, EX-M7 on subwoofer; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf + sound|kaos DSUB15 on Carbide Audio footers, Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Complete loom of Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 4th-order/60Hz active filter; Amplifiers: Gold Note PA-10 Evo monos; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF, Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1; Headphones: Final D-8000
Upstairs headfi system: Source: FiiO R7; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro 2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €299
10 times lower resistance equals less futility? FiiO's new circumaural open-backed headphone with large 60mm dynamic driver comes in 32Ω or 350Ω, the former in black, the latter in black or white. Which to marry? The extra voice-coil windings of higher impedance could signal extra resolution but would also want more signal voltage than much battery-powered portable kit is happy to swing. Sennheiser's HD800S with the 56mm ring radiator for example is 300Ω, their IE900 18Ω. One is a serious stationary design, the other an ambitious earbud. If we replace the word impedance with resistance, more resistance would suggest less sensitivity yet in FiiO's spec's, the 350Ω version actually books an extra 2dB. Meanwhile FiiO's own sonic descriptions suggest a tonal-balance shift as though from a generic op-amp's perspective, more resistance could favour the highs, less the lows. With some sweat pooling under my thinking cap for organizing a pre-arranged marriage, I opted for 32Ω. All else being equal, I favour a slight incline in the LF and always found the original Sennheiser HD800 too bright. Meanwhile John Darko's "inclination is toward the higher impedance because the FT3 is open-backed and will never need to leave the house. And home is where the headphone power is."
FioO Germany in the North Sea harbor city of Bremen were my port of call, ordered by Saturday, delivered by Tuesday the result. After crowning FiiO's R7 my favorite component of 2023 which apparently pipped a colleague to the polls, I had a proper Borg moment. FiiO's hive mind called. I merged. The companion headphone had to be next. True, its ninja-esque shuriken motif on the aluminium-alloy ear cups spells more adolescent gamer than silver-haired 'phile. But after the R7's victory lap, I was in a forgiving mood. Particularly for headphones, 20-somethings should make for a far bigger audience than the +60-year-old high-end crowd that's still married to their complex systems and money-coffin speakers. Hey, I'm one of that lot. For the cash of a Romanian Meze 99 Classic, could FiiO's FT3 32Ω be another easy reco for folks of normal budgets who want something proper? I decided to take one for the team and find out. About that 350Ω question versus my beastly stationary amps, I'll never know. That sweat has already dried. Be happy with the one you're with.
FiiO go back to 2006 when leaving his job at Oppo, founder James Chung had plans to develop a speaker dock for the popular Meizu MP3 player. When his Meizu collaboration withered despite having invested considerabe R&D, he and some engineer friends formed FiiO in 2007 to do it independently. They ended up selling "several tens of thousands".
FiiO's 3rd product was the E3 portable headphone amp whose single AAA battery produced 70mW and included a bass boost. Sennheiser's Chinese distributor ordered 1'000 units to bundle as gifts with his earbuds. A headfi.org review created sudden global interest. The E3's success focused FiiO squarely on the emerging portable market and the E3 proved popular enough to remain in their catalogue until 2014.
A Wikipedia entry claims that today's FiiO staff numbers in excess of 300. Particularly in the portable space, the company has clearly become one of the biggest brands. But as the R7 hub, SP3 desktop speakers and full-size FT3 headphones suggest, they now seem primed to also expand their market share in other product categories.
The FT3 was purportedly 1.5 years in R&D. Given FiiO's large engineering team, that suggests very serious man hours. It also weighs ~390g so a full 130g more than the Meze. Behind a spiderwebby Fibonacci grill, the extra-large 350Ω dynamic driver angled at the ear uses a diamond-like carbon coating, beryllium-skin gasket and N52 neodymium motor. Delivery includes pleather and suede earpads on speaker-grill type posts, a tan hard case and these screw-type Fabrilous adapter sleeves for 6.3mm, XLR 4 and 4.4mm conversion. The 23-gauge mono-crystal 1m copper cable sports a black outer woven sleeve and the load ends are 3.5mm channel-marked TS plugs. The headband under the split bridge self-adjusts and the ear cups swivel in three axes. Clearly the nicely kitted-out FT3 positions itself as a premium product right out of the gate. Again, the hyper-masculine styling could split opinions but no hairs over build quality, engineered seriousness or attractive pricing. After all, some aftermarket headphone leashes with quality plugs sell for what (cough!) the entire FT3 package wants.
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