Written by Cheryl Tan
- Neutral sound signature with airy highs and forward mids
- Excellent noise isolation thanks to snug fit design
- High quality accessories
A balanced armature (BA) earphone using a custom designed Knowles driver for just S$179? The FiiO FA1 is probably the best entry level BA earphone, but it’s made even better by the shell design that’s incredibly comfortable and offers excellent noise isolation.
Using DLP 3D printing technology, the FA1’s shell shape was designed after analysing tens of thousands of human ear scans. This resulted in a shell that fits the general curvature of the human ear, giving it a tight seal that’s somewhat similar to a Custom In-Ear Monitor (CIEM).
Coming from a custom Noble Audio K10, I’m super impressed by the feel of the FA1. The single driver makes the earphones incredibly small and light so you’ll be able to feel like there’s almost nothing there.
There is also a red and blue model in addition to the smoke gray I’m using. If you’d like to immediately recognise which side each piece is for, the more colourful option might be a better one. Alternatively, there are small bands where the wire connects into the shell to quickly identify which side the shell belongs to.
Music quality wise, it’s what you’ll get from BA drivers. The music is generally neutral, with a pop of colour in the higher ranges. Bass feels a little toned down, but that’s standard with most BA drivers. I appreciate that the bass present is still tight and relatively punchy, but people looking for the rumble and bass extension that dynamic drivers provide should definitely look elsewhere.
Soundstage is good, with airy highs helping to make it sound a little larger. I want to emphasise how good the mid range is however, with plenty of clarity and very decent instrument separation and layering. Again, isolation is absolutely brilliant thanks to the seal that the design creates.
The accessories that you get for the price are also surprising; a sturdy carrying case, cleaning tool, airline adapter, 3 pairs of medium-bore tips and 3 pairs of narrow-bore tips are all included. So is there anything that gives me grief about this pair of earphones?
Unfortunately, yes. The cable irritates me for a couple of reasons. I’m happy with the copper-plated silver core that sounds great, but it’s the exterior that irks me so.
First off, it’s using MMCX connectors. Granted, it’s a personal preference, but I don’t enjoy having my cables being able to rotate around the connection.
Secondly (and this is the biggest issue for me), the memory wire on the cable is too long and doesn’t stay in place for long after I try to shape it. Bespectacled audiophiles have been dealing with memory wire issues from the start, so this might just be my own personal quibble.
There’s also a cable organiser that’s useful, but can get in the way occasionally. I’ve found that the best thing to do is simply to lock it into the last hole, thus stopping the piece from flapping around. It’s not detachable either, so the only way you’ll be able to remove it is if you take a scissors to it and remove it permanently.
The FA1 is a balanced, neutral sounding BA earpiece that has plenty to offer in the mid-range and highs, with quick bass that holds up well. For the price, I reckon this is a great earpiece for people who are looking for something with great sound and a little more comfort than a universal fit IEM but don’t want to really stress the wallet.