FIIO FD1 REVIEW: Lush Beryllium Dream

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SOUND: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 7.5/10
PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES: 9/10
VALUE: 8.5/10

THE PLUS: Thick lush textured timbre, Clear full-bodied vocal, fast thumping bass, Well balanced, Rich in sounds layers, Fast transient response, Immersive holographic soundstage, Musicality, Bright without being harsh, excellent accessories
THE SO-SO: Need minimal amping and right ear tips to sound its best, thick macro-resolution that lack air, roll-off sub-bass, average micro-details retrieval and clarity

FIIO doesn’t need introduction, because they are surely the most know ”Chi-Fi” company out there. This was mostly true for DAP and DAC-AMP before they begin to seriously work on their IEM line up.

One thing sure, the tuning experience they gain with the time begin to bear fruit. While FH7 being the supreme example that they can enter the bigger league and still offer high benefit returns, I think the model I review today is a big step into the single dynamic earphones market.

https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/He77d10eb2eb1435fad004b44e2b57e67L/FiiO-FD1-Beryllium-plated-Dynamic-Driver-HiFi-Music-Audio-In-ear-Earphone-Bass-Earplug-IEM-2Pin.jpg_960x960.jpg

The FIIO FD1 earphones use a big 10mm beryllium-plated driver as well as a powerful dual magnet that promises a speedy transient response. These type of drivers are rarely if ever found in the sub-100$ earphones market, so my expectation for these was rather high.

It’s a little mysterious to know ot what extend beryllium is used, is it the whole diaphragm or just the dome? And what is the other diaphragm material?

One thing sure, the FD1 offers very unique tonality and technicality that I will try to explain to you in this review.

You can buy the FD1 for 60$ on official FIIO Amazon STORE.

SPECS

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PACKAGING, ACCESSORIES & CONSTRUCTION

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AT 60$, I wasn’t expecting a refined package and a generous amount of accessories, but it’s FIIO, and as I learn they can be over the top in generosity sometimes. The packaging is well done with a box with a magnetic door similar to the flagship FH7 presentation. Everything is well presented in the box. What impress here is the quality of accessories, you have a high-end pelican-like protective case that is highly durable and water-resistant, this alone sells around 15$ (HB1 carrying case). You have a very nice 4 cores Litz cable, that looks very sturdy and durable and pair well with FD1 if you want warmer tonality. You have 3 pairs of silicone balanced ear tips, 3 pairs of silicone bass ear tips, and 1 pair of memory foams ear tips. At this price, I can’t ask more and feel quite spoiled.

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In terms of CONSTRUCTION, it’s not very impressive and uses the very same plastic housing than FIIO FH1 and JADE AUDIO EA1. The plastic looks a little cheap and fragile, though the backplate celluloid glossy effect is nice. 2pin female connector looks study enough due to the the use of very solid plastic-type. The nozzle is the only metal part.

While in the hands it feels of average quality, in the ears the use of light plastic is a plus fo comfort. The FD1 is very light IEM and not very big for a universal custom. The nozzle is long enough for deep insertion too. I never feel any discomfort even for long listening sessions.

DRIVEABILITY

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The FD1 are rather easy to drive due to their decently high sensitivity of 109db, but their impedance of 32ohm does take advantage of extra amping power. This is very evident when I compare Ibasso DX90 with and without JDS LAB ATOM amp. One thing that annoys me was how saturated and compressed in layering feel the soundstage of FD1, once I hook it to the ATOM, the soundstage opens quite a lot especially in tallness and deepness which offer a more holographic layering with better sens of instrument placement and more air between separation. To hear the full potential of FD1 beryllium driver, I urge you to try an amp with it.

ISOLATION

The FD1 has average isolation, the thin plastic of housing surely explains why it does not passively cancel noise at the normal volume level. Sound leakage is notable, here, it’s surely the front venting upon the big driver that shoots unwanted noise.

SOUND

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OVERALL SOUND is a well balanced V to W tonality, with weighty thumping bass, gently bright mids, and thick crunchy treble. The FD1 is impressive in transient response speed, which inflicts on the overall articulation of the macro-resolution that rarely if ever get congested. Timbre is rather natural with slightly oversaturated texture that does not overly affect transparency. This isn’t what I would call a ‘’Wow effect searcher IEM’’ because it’s more about the nuances in cohesive thickness than details from spiky sharpness. The density of timbre is very impressive in nuance, it’s rich, full and has an amplify naturalness to it. I never heard these timbre technicalities with sub-100$ IEM and I think this is something only beryllium drivers could offer. Please, amp it well so the sound becomes open, otherwise, this timbre talent might become a drawback due to over-compressed layers textures. My revelation happens once amped with my JDS LAB ATOM as stated before.

SOUNDSTAGE is above average, it’s very tall, has good wideness and decent deepness. It sounds out of your head and while not being hall-like in size because of proximity you have with the instrument, it acts like a 180 degree curved panoramic tapestry and is very immersive.

IMAGING finds the sweet spot between sound layers addition and instrument placement. Unlike multi-BA IEM, the background isn’t as clean so you do not have super crisp analytical imaging with dead silence in separation. Instead, it’s a holographic presentation with good positioning that has more space between horizontal instrument placement than sounds layers.

BASS is fast, round, and thumpy with a slight boost in mid-bass so you get extra weight in punch. It isn’t very boosted and will not steal the show neither bleed on the mids. Sub bass extension is rolled off, which affects both rumble and natural extension down to 20hz. Resolution is a little warm but timbre is dense and has a good amount of texture. This is the kind of bass that shows it’s presence when needed, but it isn’t lean, dry or anemic like Moondrop Spaceship or Hifiman RE600 neither. Separation in the lower end isn’t the best, which means sub and kick can feel very stick together sometimes, as well, more their mids in your music, more it will shadow the bass articulation. Still, even if not perfect, I find the bass to have a versatile performance, doing as good with IDM and electronic in general than Pop, soul and R&B, if you aren’t a crazy critical listener, it does sound okay with classical and jazz, only some fast rock track lack upper bass bite for drum kick (sorry metalhead, not for you).

MIDS are lush and brightish, full and thick, greatly textured and forwards in presence. I never heard this type of mids before, perhaps the BQEYZ Spring1 are the closest to it even if sharper in imaging. When I say brightish, don’t get me wrong, its due to the slightly aggressive forwardness, not so much to the timbre or tonality because both piano and vocal doesnt sound unbalanced in harmony. For example, when I listen to the album ‘’About Time’’ by SABRINA CLAUDIO, her vocal tend to sound thin and sibilant, which isn’t the case at all with FD1, it’s lush, full and upfront, not shy and recessed. The FD1 isn’t very recessed in lower mids, and have just a hint of extra upper mids, all well rounded, so both male and female vocal sound great, thick and hyper-realist, with a holographic feel to hit as if density add 3D effect to timbre. This timbre density and texture inflict on transparency, which is just enough and far from being like looking through clean glass, so it can affect layering and imaging with very busy tracks that use a textured instrument like an electric guitar, sax, but again, apart from crazy jazz-rock big band this would never be a drawback and act as a plus cause electric guitar is full, heavy and very lively. Let’s talk about this more in the treble section. If you have an allergy to either thin or recessed mids, the FD1 will certainly be the cure.

TREBLE is more crunchy than crisp, but have a thick snap to it and a rather fast attack and good control, It’s very well balanced with rest of spectrum and doesn’t sound artificial or too forwards, percussions stay in the back, hit hat are very natural while cymbals splash slightly hot even if not messy in decay. Talking about decay, there not a lot of sparkly and decay, it’s tight full highs that give an extra bit and body to snare, electric guitar and violin, do quite well too with acoustic guitar, but not so much with clavichord or harp that would benefit from extra air and sparkle. On the album ‘’Pastrami Bagel social club’’ from jazz-rock band AUTORYNO, the whole presentation is super weighty, hefty and textured, giving intense energic immersivity, electric guitar are lush, thick and grippy, with fantastic attack weight while kick drum is heavy and fast in punch, percussions are hit or miss, well, especially in multiple crash hit which tend to jump at you a little more than other more natural cymbals and percussions. Nonetheless, I really appreciate treble quality, it never sounds metallic and just have enough brilliance, as well, it’s quite fast in articulation.

QUANTITY QUALITY
BASS: 7.5/10 7.5/10
MIDS: 8.5/10 8/10
TREBLE: 8/10 7.5/10
ATTACK-DECAY: 8/10 8/10
SOUNDSTAGE-IMAGING: 8/10
TIMBRE-TEXTURE: 8.5/10
8/10
8/10

COMPARISONS

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VS URBANFUN ISS014 (60$)

So, these are supposed to use a beryllium plated driver too, let’s see how it comparess with FD1!

TONALITY is warmer, more organic with a higher bass boost and rumble.
SOUNDSTAGE is wider, but not as tall and deep.
IMAGING is inferior, making it hard to pin point instruments due to lower clarity.
BASS is warmer, less detailed, more boomy and near texture free. It bleeds more on mids.
MIDS are warmer, smoother and a hint more recessed, vocal is less bright and textured but the overall timbre is a hint more natural, though piano and male vocal sound less full, detailed and realist.
TREBLE is less detailed, less snappy, and thinner, making the percussion more delicate.

All in all, it’s a very boring bassy listen compared to FD1 and the bass veil overly affect clarity and imaging.

VS IBASSO IT00 (80$)

TONALITY is warmer with a more balanced W shape.
SOUNDSTAGE is wider, more panoramic with less well-layered IMAGING.
BASS is more extended in sub bass region, have more slam but looser control and slower attack, as well it isn’t as textured and weighty in thumping.
MIDS are wider, smoother and free of any sibilance, slightly less clear and vivid, with a more breathy approach that can be heard as more natural in timbre. Both male and female vocal has more presence.
TREBLE is leaner, fuller but less detailed and sparkly.

Both having good tonal balance, I would say Musicality go to IT00, while technicalities go to FD1.

VS HISENIOR T2 (80$ in sale)

TONALITY is brighter-crisper, with smoother timbre, better transparency and more neutral tuning.
SOUNDSTAGE is notably deeper and slightly less wide. IMAGING is way better with more precision and accuracy in instrument placement and separation.
BASS is similar, but in a more recessed way, it’s punchy and faster-tighter with clearer separation. It has little less extension and rumble in lower region.
MIDS are crisper with better transparency and more edgy attack, it’s thinner in timbre and vocal are more intimate and centered. Sibilance is less evident too.
TREBLE is more delicate, better balanced, fuller and more analytical. It’s less grainy too.
In term of technicalities, the T2 is leagues ahead, but it sounds slightly colder and vocal might be more appealing with FD1 for lot of people.

VS HIDIZS MERMAID MS1 (100$)

How does a 13mm Berylium-plated dynamic driver compare to a 10mm Bio-diaphragm driver? Well, here it’s all about transient response and tonal balance.

SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider and deeper with the MS1, IMAGING too is more accurate and less condensed in layering than FD1. BASS is thicker, fuller, and flatter with the FD1, it has more high bass so the kick sound fuller, as well, it’s better balanced and controlled than the more boomy and resonant low end of MS1. MIDS are fuller but more opaque too with FD1, the male vocal is more bodied than MS1, presentation is more intimate and forwards with FD1 and cleaner due to slower transient response of MS1. TREBLE is again fuller and thicker with more natural tonality and less splashy cymbals, making the MS1 highs sound thin in mid-treble and peaky in the upper region, so you have more micro-details but less texture and nuances with MS1.

All in all, the MS1 sounds more U shape, fun and immersive due to its bigger hall-like soundstage and more boosted bass while FD1 is more neutral and natural in tonality.

VS DUNU LUNA (1700$)

Okay, this can seem an unfair review, but the LUNA uses pure Beryllium driver and when I listen to FD1, the sound signature similarity triggers my curiosity.

TONALITY: Very similar, kinda U shape with extra vocal forwardness and thick textured timbre with enough transparency. The FD1 is just a hint brighter and more forwards in texture. LUNA is smoother and slightly warmer-more organic.
SOUNDSTAGE: Again very similar. FD1 sounds more out of your head, taller and wider, while LUNA is slightly deeper.
IMAGING: LUNA have more transparent layering, so you can dig deeper. FD1 is more spacious and better in precise instrument placement.
BASS: Both these have a thumping kinda rounded bass, with a slightly boomy sub that lack natural extension, still, LUNA extension is more natural and less thick. FD1 is looser but its more weighty and adds more body to male vocal.
MIDS: LUNA have warmer and more transparent mids, it’s better layered but less textured and lively. Vocal is better-rounded, more forwarded and less prompt to tiny sibilance too. FD1 is a little more breathy with vocal, they are thicker and have a wider presence. Piano fuller with FD1.
TREBLE: LUNA is less detailed sounding than FD1 with more relaxed treble and laid back sound, this gives extra edge to definition to FD1 but control isn’t as fast as LUNA. Still, it makes the FD1 more energic in macro-resolution and delivers higher micro-details.

Wow, this comparison surprises me quite a lot and sure confirm how good is the beryllium plated driver of FD1. Sure, the LUNA is slightly faster in transient so you gain extra transparency and layering, as well, balance is more refined, but the biggest difference is in bass quality. In fact, some might prefer the more energic, spacious and detailed sound of FD1!

CONCLUSION

I’ve never been a fan of budget-minded FIIO earphones, but the FD1 change the game with its fascinating textured sound that has a hefty bass attack, addictively lush vocal and well balanced, full sounding treble.

The drivers in these are excellent, and I do recognize the beryllium magic which is shown in the effortless transient response of sound layers.

If the Jade Audio EA1 is tuned the same as FD1, it might represent a supreme bargain, but the extra accessories you get with FD1 sure justify the price jump too.

If you are tired of overly V shape IEM, thin timbre, or not full sounding enough earphones and want to enjoy unique holographic lushness and full-bodied textured vocal, I urge you to give FD1 a try because this is the type of sound that grows on you due to its incredible richness.

 

1 Comment

  1. Hello!
    Thanks for writing this review, I’m in the process of replacing my twice soldered Sony MDR-EX500 (damn thin cables!) and have come across the FD1 and the FH1s from FiiO (which somewhat fit my budget, because third world), and would like to ask you a couple of questions if I may:

    I utterly loved my EX500, they sounded very bassy but balanced and not overpowering the mids and treble, great soundstage, deep and “oceanic”.
    I mainly used them for running and cycling, lonely nights when you fall asleep to your favorite music, and long bus trips to other towns. They were easily driven by my iPods / phones. In all my life I’ve never listened to any earphone coming close (granted, I’m not an audiophile by any sort and my experience is very limited, but I like decent sound).

    Would this ones be a proper replacement for the EX500, even with their smaller drivers?

    Thank you in advance and best regards!

    Like

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