Written by Cheryl Tan
FiiO is well-known for their DAPs, IEMs and other affordable products, but the EH3 NC is their first full-sized over-ear headphones and it’s absolutely a steal when you consider the price point and features included.
Granted, it’s going up against some excellent ANC headphones that we’ve tried before, but we were actually quite pleasantly surprised by how it performed.
As is the norm with most headphones nowadays, it’s a plain box with just the case nestled inside. Open up the case and you get just two accessories, the USB-C charging cable and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for wired listening.
The case has enough structure to prevent the headphones from being crushed in a bag, which is great if you’re prone to overloading your bag.
The headphones come with matte grey plastic arms and earcups, and plush black leather cushioning on the top of the headband as well as earcup cushions. The earcup faceplate design is a bit more striking, with a carbon fibre design that looks quite nice in addition to the matte grey enclosure.
You get the single charging port on the left earcup, while everything else is handled by the right earcup; the power/Bluetooth pairing button, ANC toggle, the 3.5mm jack as well as three buttons that handle volume control, track skipping and play/pause.
The right earcup also has NFC for quick pairing to smartphones, which is a feature I absolutely love. Tapping my phone to the faceplate resulted in a quick and fuss-free connection, which takes away the whole hassle of having to hold down a button while hoping it shows up on the phone’s list of devices.
Another great quality of life feature is that there are markings on the arms of the headphones, meaning you’ll always be able to find the perfect fit simply by remembering which number to set them to.
The headphones are a dream to wear, with the plush cushion on top making it so that there’s no pinching at the crown of my head, and the clamping force is just right. The earpads do get a bit warm after extended use, but that’s just how it is for over-ear headphones.
FiiO claims a jaw-dropping 1000-hour standby time, 50-hour playback time with ANC turned off, and 30-hour playback time with ANC turned on. I’m unable to verify that because it’s quite impossible to listen to the headphones for 50 hours on end, but I did notice that the battery drain after being left in storage for 2 weeks was around 20%. Using the headphones for approximately 7 hours with ANC turned on resulted in another 20% drop, so I’m happy to trust FiiO on this one.
For audiophiles, there’s not only aptX on these, but aptX HD, aptX LL (low latency) and LDAC in addition to the AAC/SBC codecs. It’s a good all-rounder for high-res music, as well as watching videos without too much audio lag.
But how about the performance? Well, the headphones do cancel out noise quite efficiently, with the rumble of a car and the whir of an air-conditioner being cancelled out nicely. It’s not quite as strong as other ANC headphones out there, but that does have its own advantage since people who are prone to pressure headaches won’t have that with these.
There’s no way to adjust the amount of noise cancellation either, which is a downer.
Sound quality is quite admirable, with a warm, lush sound signature that’s quite reminiscent of other FiiO products. The amount of bass present is sufficient for most people, with a slight emphasis on the mid-bass, but I thought it could be a bit tighter and faster.
Guitar strums and the likes are clear, but you’ll occasionally find the mids feeling a bit too boxy. The imaging is quite spot on in terms of left/right, but the soundstage is a bit lacking when ANC is turned on, however, with instruments sounding a bit too close together in terms of width. There’s enough air, but you might just end up thinking that songs sound slightly congested.
Once ANC is turned off, you immediately hear the difference in soundstage, with instruments sounding slightly more separated and more airiness in the upper registers. Treble shines when the ANC is turned off, with a hint more sparkle and energy in string instruments and female vocals.
At just S$329, it’s still an investment, but it’s significantly more affordable than other brands like Sony or Bose. While the ANC can’t match up to either, the EH3 NC is definitely punching above its weight once you factor in the prices.