FiiO FT5 Review – FiiO’s First Open-Back Planar Headphones
The all-new FT5 is FiiO’s first planar magnetic headphones. Planar magnetic drivers are in between dynamic and electrostatic headphones. Like dynamic headphones, there is a sort of coil on the planar driver. Similar to electrostatic headphones, the diaphragm is a special kind of thin, micron-level film.
The FT5 comes with a 28nm chip-scale process, leading to an approximately 6μm thick diaphragm. These characteristics of the planar driver make it possible to create a headphone that is not only highly detailed but also easy to power.
The FiiO FT5 employs a large 90mm planar magnetic driver. Compared to a traditional dynamic driver, a planar magnetic driver converts sound energy to sound waves in a more balanced way, by vibrating in a much more even way.
The vibrations are distributed across the entire driver diaphragm and there is little distortion caused by the rigidity of the diaphragm material. Thus, the FiiO FT5 can truly and accurately express audio signals.
During the development of the FT5, the R&D engineers not only needed to consider how the coils would interact with the 6μm thin diaphragm but also the density and conductivity of the coils themselves. Having examined and tested various commonly used materials to plate planar coils, FiiO engineers determined that the lighter aluminum alloy material was best for the coils.
Also, FiiO determined that mixing in silver metal would enhance the conductivity of the coils, making the driver easier to power without sacrificing the high-frequency detail and rich sound characteristic of good planar magnetic drivers. The FT5’s driver is both light and strong, allowing for a high sensitivity of 110dB/1Vrms@1kHz i.e. 96dB/mW@1kHz. This allows the FT5 to be easily driven even by portable players.
The FiiO FT5 stands out as possibly the most visually appealing planar headphones at this competitive price point thanks to its sleek matte black paint job.
Its body is constructed using a lightweight magnesium alloy, striking a balance between solidity and weight.
Furthermore, the hinges and self-adjusting headband move with impressive smoothness, enhancing the overall user experience. The detachable cable incorporates a special connector that ensures a secure connection through an additional friction lock mechanism.
In terms of build quality, the FT5 can even be compared to headphones priced significantly higher. The overall construction exudes a sense of premium craftsmanship that is rare to find at this price point.
The decision to use magnesium alloy for the frame of the FT5 not only ensures a robust build quality but also helps in maintaining a manageable weight.
This lightweight construction is particularly beneficial for extended listening sessions, as it reduces the strain on the neck.
FiiO also provides two sets of earpads with the FT5. The suede set enhances tonal balance and dynamics and the protein leather pads sound clearer and more extended according to FiiO.
The protein leather pads have a small high pass effect possibly since it is leakier, and the suede set has a better seal that enhances the bass delivery.
The FT5 comes with a 1.5m cable made of 392 wires of silver-plated monocrystalline copper, each wire with a diameter of 23AWG. The copper wires help to give a solid and highly detailed sound.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me with the review sample of the FT5.
The FiiO FT5 headphones present a fascinating aspect in terms of sound performance, as the sonic signature undergoes a significant transformation when switching between the stock/suede pads and the spare/leather pads included in the package. This difference is so considerable that it feels as if the headphone’s sound signature has been completely altered.
With the stock suede pads, the FiiO FT5 delivers a warm sound profile characterized by a rounded, fuller sub-bass, bass, and mid-bass presentation. On the other hand, when the leather pads are used, the sub-bass and mid-bass are reduced, while the upper mids become more pronounced, providing a more neutral listening experience.
This versatility is an attractive feature of the FiiO FT5, making it feel like a 2-in-1 deal. Initially, the headphones offer a highly satisfying and enjoyable listening experience in genres such as EDM and bass-centric music with stock pads.
However, for genres dominated by natural instruments, a more open presentation is desirable. When the pads are swapped, the FiiO FT5 effortlessly delivers this sought-after openness, resulting in a cleaner, more balanced experience for the listener.
Overall, I found the FiiO FT5 quite capable and it was a welcome surprise. Let’s take a closer look at individual ranges, together. I used sources such as FiiO KA13 dongle DAC and SMSL DO300EX AKM desktop DAC-AMP.
The FiiO FT5 headphones showcase exceptional bass performance, producing well-controlled and detailed bass. When using the stock pads, the bass quantity is more pronounced, whereas the replacement pads offer a slightly more balanced response. The stock pads enable the FiiO FT5 to deliver a powerful, impactful, and deep bass reproduction, excelling in bass-centric genres.
Switching to the spare pads, the mid-bass and sub-bass quantities are slightly reduced, resulting in a faster and airier bass presentation. Regardless of the pads used, the bass impact and punch never become boomy or overwhelming, maintaining control in both scenarios. The depth and texture in the bass region are quite impressive at this price point, making the FiiO FT5 a good all-rounder for a wide range of genres. Overall, the lows are fantastic at this price point, IMO.
The FiiO FT5’s midrange performance is praiseworthy, with the bio-cellulose driver ensuring that the mids are reproduced with clarity and accuracy. Vocals and instruments are presented with a natural tonality and have a balanced presence on the stage. The wide stage and airy presentation allow the instruments ample space to breathe. Particularly with the spare pads, the FiiO FT5 is capable of handling complex passages with multiple instruments while maintaining excellent layering and positioning.
Using the stock pads, male and female vocals are rendered slightly more smoothly and engagingly compared to the spare pads. The note weight is somewhat thicker with the stock pads, with additional mid-bass affecting the mid-dependent instrument and vocal thickness.
The FiiO FT5’s ability to reproduce the nuances and subtleties in vocal and instrumental performances is impressive for its price range, especially when using the spare pads. In terms of performance in this department, the FiiO FT5 can hold its own against some of the best headphones in its price bracket.
The FiiO FT5’s treble performance is both polished and well-tuned. The controlled upper midrange and low treble region provide ample extension without ever reaching uncomfortable levels. The spare pads offer slightly more detail and air in this region, resulting in a cleaner and more balanced presentation, while the stock pads deliver a warmer, more rounded response.
According to my ears, the pads do not significantly change the upper treble response, and the FiiO FT5 provides an excellent upper treble response, characterized by a perfectly smooth, detailed treble with adequate extension and reach.
When the track demands high treble energy, such as passages with numerous hi-hats and crashes, the FiiO FT5 is capable of keeping up with a sparkly and airy treble whilst maintaining control, which is impressive for this price range. The entire treble range is detailed and airy, contributing to the sense of space and openness in the sound.
Regardless of pad choice, the FiiO FT5’s treble response strikes a delicate balance between detail retrieval and smoothness. This equilibrium allows for an engaging listening experience that can be enjoyed for extended periods without causing fatigue. This is one of the highlights of the FiiO FT5’s performance.
The open-back design of the FiiO FT5 plays a significant role in its expansive and well-defined soundstage. The presentation feels open and spacious, offering a good sense of depth and width. Instrument separation is excellent, and the FiiO FT5 can accurately position individual instruments within the soundstage, with ample space between them.
Imaging is another subject that the FiiO FT5 is great at. As the listener, it is quite easy to follow and pinpoint instruments so it can easily be said that FT5 provides a realistic and holographic portrayal of the stage.
Initially, I was not thoroughly impressed with the FiiO FT5’s soundstage when using the stock pads. However, upon switching to the spare pads, I observed a noticeable acceleration in the bass response, as well as a reduction in the overall bass quantity.
Intrigued by this change, I decided to give fast-paced tracks and genres another listen with the spare pads, and I was genuinely surprised by what I heard. In a nutshell, the FiiO FT5’s performance is quite remarkable for its price range
The FiiO FT5 is an exceptional headphone that comes with a high-quality build, and an elegant design, offers excellent comfort, and most importantly, excellent sound quality. With its impactful lows, clean midrange, and smooth but detailed highs, the FiiO FT5 caters to a wide range of musical preferences.