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Review

Fiio F9SE In-Ear Headphones Review: Triple-driver attack

Fiio may not have been as visible in the scene as we want it to be, but the Chinese audio specialist is back. This time, the company has launched the Fiio F9SE in-ear headphones. Are these triple-driver headphones worth the asking price? Find out in our review.

fiio F9se main2

Fiio F9SE 4 5
BGR Rating :
4/5

Highlights

  • The Fiio F9SE is priced at Rs 7,290.

  • It features a triple driver system, with two balanced armature drivers and a dynamic driver in each earpiece.

  • The sound is fairly neutral, with calculated bass.

Chinese audio specialist Fiio made waves when it gained prominence a few years ago. While the early product range focused on amplifiers, DACs and high-resolution audio players, the company eventually took the obvious step of branching out into headphones. The result is a small, but capable line-up of entry-level and mid-range in-ear headphones. Today, we’re reviewing the new Fiio F9SE in-ear headphones.

Launched alongside the Fiio F9, the nomenclature of the Fiio F9SE is a bit misleading here. While you’d think the SE stands for ‘special edition’ and signifies something in this headset is better, the Fiio F9 is in fact the current flagship headset. With practically the same capabilities as the Fiio F9, the F9SE sits just below it thanks to minor differences. What definitely appeals to us about the Rs 7,290 Fiio F9SE is its triple-driver technology, with three drivers producing sound. We’ve gone into the details in our review – read on to find out.

Fiio F9SE In-Ear Headphones Specifications and Design

The use of metal as a material for casings is catching on, and indeed even affordable headsets today feature metal build. It’s no surprise then that the Fiio F9SE comes in all-metal, with a brushed, dull finish that has it looking excellent. The headphones are available in two color options – red and black. We received the black review unit, which matches with the ear-hooks, cable and 3.5mm plug for a clean, single-tone look.

The design of the casings is best defined as tasteful and industrial. Interestingly, there are no Fiio logos on the headphone casings, and the only identifier that this is a Fiio headset can be found on the Y-splitter. The cable is of the twisted variety for some tangle resistance, with two lines for each channel. The large size of the ear casings means that the Fiio F9SE needs ear hooks to remain in place. The fit is something that took me a while to figure out, since the way you wear the headphones affects the sonic signature significantly. When worn a particular way, you might hear more of the low-end, while a different way may mean a more neutral sound.

The fit is something that took me a while to figure out

The Fiio F9SE in-ear headphones feature three drivers in each earphone. Two balanced-armature drivers taking care of the upper-midrange and highs, while a dynamic driver handles the lower end of the sonic range. This is where the way you wear the headphones comes in; a particular way may let you hear more of the dynamic driver’s output, while another may tend to muffle it and promote the balanced-armature drivers.

The Fiio F9SE has a frequency response range of 15-40,000Hz, with a peak sensitivity of 106dB and an impedance of 28Ohms. There is no microphone on the cable, which cannot be detached from the ear casings. This is the key difference between the F9 and F9SE. The former features an MMCX connector for its interchangeable cables, for a bit more variety. The latter comes with fixed cables, with a price difference of Rs 700 between the two. You also get a carry-case and six pairs of silicone ear tips in the box.

Fiio F9SE Performance

When it came to sound, I had high expectations from the Fiio F9SE. With its triple-driver system, the headphones promise better handling of sonic frequencies, and I’ve tested the headphones with various tracks. I primarily used the OnePlus 5T (Review) and a Windows laptop as source devices for the headphones, listening to a variety of high-resolution and compressed audio tracks.

Starting out with some dubstep, I played the Borgore remix of Passion Pit’s Sleepyhead. I usually tend to start with punchy tracks because I’m personally interested in any headphone’s bass handling capabilities. With the Fiio F9SE, the bass is gentle and relaxed. It’s also calculated and precise, but nowhere near as punchy as what you’d expect from headphones that are powered exclusively by dynamic drivers. The dynamic driver in each earpiece is just one of three, and therefore doesn’t have the tendency to attack quite as much.

When the bass drops in the track, it doesn’t quite feel as intense as a result. While I’m hearing the tones clearly and precisely, the drive falls a bit short. It isn’t lacking, it’s just inadequate. That isn’t a weakness of the headphones; it’s a sonic signature that a lot of people will appreciate for its precision and clean nature.

With the Fiio F9SE, the bass is gentle and relaxed.

The point here is that the Fiio F9SE isn’t meant for typical pop and electronic music listening, at least not most tracks. In some cases though, the precision and calculating nature of the low end does work to its advantage, as is the case with Iselilja by The Blizzard. This gentle, progressive track  benefits incredibly from the tightness of the bass.

Moving on to softer, gentler tracks, the Fiio F9SE produces a clean sound that focuses on detail. Stereo imaging and separation are particularly good, giving you a real sense of the differences in the individual sonic elements. Soft instrumentals stay soft while retaining tone, clarity and distinct characteristics, while primary elements such as vocals or lead instrumentals do get their due. On the whole, the sound is wide, clean and immensely enjoyable if you like detail.

Verdict

The Fiio F9SE uses its triple-driver hybrid arrangement sensibly, providing for a sonic signature that’s clean, detailed and mostly neutral. Audiophiles in particular will enjoy the sound, thanks to its attention to detail and strong output. It’s a technically advanced headset that also looks and feels great. Additionally, it’s priced well at Rs 7,290. It’s definitely worth auditioning if you’re looking for a good pair of in-ear monitors at under Rs 10,000.

  • Published Date: November 24, 2017 10:29 AM IST
  • Updated Date: November 24, 2017 11:20 AM IST