Fiio, a brand renowned for its portable DACs and players, has recently entered the wired headphone market. Instead of opting for an entry-level approach, they have launched a high-end planar magnetic headphone with a relatively reasonable price tag.
This might sound somewhat unbelievable, considering that planar magnetic headphones have been pursued by audiophiles, with well-known brands like Meze and Audeze selling for over a thousand dollars. However, the performance of the Fiio FT5 compelled me to compare it with these established brands. Of course, sound quality is just one aspect of evaluating headphones; will they also surprise or disappoint me in other aspects? To find the answers, I spent several weeks using the FT5 as my primary headphones.
Design and Build Quality
Unboxing the Fiio FT5 feels like unwrapping layers of presents. The headphones are housed in a luxurious leather storage box, protected by a fabric pouch. This packaging left me with a favorable first impression. The headphones, in a bronze gray color, feature a combination of leather, suede, and metal materials. The ear cups are made of lightweight aluminum-magnesium alloy to reduce the overall weight of the headphones. Even without the cable, they weigh 456 grams, mainly due to the numerous magnets required for the planar magnetic drivers. In terms of comfort, I didn’t experience any discomfort, as the suspension headband evenly distributes the weight. The ear cups can rotate in three directions, and the suede ear pads are quite soft. The oval shape of the ear pads fully covers my ears, though some may find them a bit snug; leather ear pads with a slightly deeper profile are also included. Changing the ear pads is straightforward, requiring a gentle pull and press.
The appearance of the ear cups exudes an industrial vibe, featuring a carved design reminiscent of fan blades. The overall assembly of the headphones is tight, showcasing excellent craftsmanship.
Multiple Connection Options
Fiio could have easily provided the FT5 with a fixed headphone cable, but they chose to include a detachable cable for added convenience. Moreover, Fiio offers various connection options. The cable measures 1.5 meters, which might be considered short for home use, but its quality is high, featuring a braided sheath and 392 strands of silver-plated single-crystal copper wire, according to Fiio’s claims. I appreciate the rubber ring around the headphone jack, ensuring a secure connection without being overly difficult to unplug. This design may be more durable than cables with locking mechanisms. The other end of the cable is a 3.5mm headphone plug but can easily be swapped for a 4.4mm balanced plug. Additionally, there are 3.5mm to 6.35mm and 4.4mm to XLR-4 balanced adapters. These accessories can be neatly stored in the leather storage box, eliminating concerns about compatibility with different devices. The hard-shell case provides excellent protection for the headphones, even when stored in a backpack. However, it’s essential to note that these headphones are open-back, meaning they leak sound, which may disturb people around you when used in public spaces.
Sound Quality: Powerful Dynamics
The planar magnetic drivers of the FT5 are substantial, with a diameter of 90mm, yet they have an impedance of only 36 ohms, requiring moderate voltage. I used the Rotel S14 media streamer, MacBook Pro, and Fiio’s own compact KA13 DAC to drive them, and encountered no issues, with plenty of room for volume adjustment. The sound signature of the FT5 is slightly V-shaped, but the midrange is still expressive. In “Supermodel Avalanches” by Royal Blood, the distorted guitar has a tangible texture, vocals are clear, and the percussion is impactful. I prefer using the leather ear pads as they slightly tighten the low frequencies, although they do allow some sound leakage. In “Light it Up” by Kanine, the bass remains deep and powerful without being overly pronounced. The FT5 provides a rich and warm sound, a departure from competitors aiming for a more neutral sound. This distinctiveness and “fun” factor are evident in Emancipator’s “Natural Cause,” a subdued piece of light music. While serious audiophiles may use an equalizer for sound adjustments, I appreciated the FT5’s rich presentation of my test tracks. The high frequencies are precise, without any harshness, and the planar magnetic technology ensures minimal distortion even at high volumes. Lana Del Ray’s cover of “Country Roads” feels ethereal and delicate, with every breath clearly audible. Using the leather ear pads expands the soundstage slightly, but the FT5 is not the most expansive open-back headphone I’ve encountered. Overall, the performance of these headphones is satisfying. They offer excellent resolution, a textured sound, and maintain accuracy in the high frequencies. Considering their price, it’s challenging to be critical.
The Fiio FT5 left a lasting impression as a high-end headphone. Its sound quality competes with more expensive planar magnetic headphones, the build quality is exceptional, and it comes with a rich set of accessories. You don’t need a powerful DAC to drive them. While not the only planar magnetic headphone in this price range, alternatives from Hifiman, Monolith, and Audeze exist. Some may offer a more expansive soundstage, but they don’t differ significantly from the FT5 in other aspects. If you still appreciate wired headphones, the Fiio FT5 is a great choice.