FiiO FA7S Review

FiiO FA7S Review

3 February 2022 0 By Petros Laskis

Balanced to the bone

Pros: + Very balanced and neutral tuning
+ Smooth treble and articulated mids
+ Ultra tight and controlled bass
+ Excellent technicalities
+ Cohesive sound
+ Wide soundstage
+ Easy to drive
+ Comfortable fit
+ Design and build quality
+ Quality cable with interchangeable plugs
+ Complete accessories pack

Cons: – Not the best in dynamics as larger DD
– More lean than visceral
– Not the best in holography
– Prone to hissing

The review sample was kindly provided free of charge and I only covered import fees and tax.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
The retail price is $359.99 and you can buy it using the following (non-affiliate) link FiiO.eu.

About the FiiO FA7S

The FiiO FA7S is a new 3rd gen industrial design universal IEM housing six balanced armature drivers.
It is part of the FA line with the top model being the FA9 (review).
The “A” stands for a fully balanced armature set-up and the FA7S is a redesigned successor to the FA7.

IMG_20220202_153013.jpg

Features and technical specifications

The FA7S adopts a multi Balanced – Armature driver configuration featuring six high-performance balanced armature drivers on each side.
FiiO has partnered with Knowles to design high-quality BA drivers for the FA7S.
It features HODVTEC-31618 set for an impactful lower end, RAD-33518 for a smooth, non-fatiguing treble response, and a custom-developed Knowles BA set for rich midrange response.
FiiO has arranged the drivers for the FA7S in a three-way frequency crossover.
Each frequency segment is handled by a set of two Balanced Armature drivers, ensuring peak performance with lower interference with each driver.
The pair maintains a 1:1:1 ratio between the drivers with 2 drivers for each low, mid, and high-frequency range.
The FA7S has an impedance of 18Ω with a sensitivity of 111dB.

He003e76324d949f4a4fe1cd0c81b7c50E.jpg

Design and build quality

FiiO has redesigned the ear cavity structure for the “FA” series.
They now feature a 3rd gen industrial design similar to the “FD” series of single dynamic driver earphones by them.
The pair is made using high-quality stainless steel material with a powder metallurgy process.
Each ear cavity undergoes PVD electroplating for improved rigidity. The face covers are crafted using a five-axis CNC machining process.
The FA7S is available in both a gold and a black edition.
Build quality is top notch, nothing more to comment here.

Stainless steel is a great material and I prefer it over the synthetic resin.
Aesthetics is subjective but if you ask me, I find the FA7S industrial looks very cool and modern, I love the minimalist design and the “Y” shaped colored elements.

IMG_20220202_161400.jpg

Comfort and isolation

The new form factor, which is similar to the “FD” series, is less bulky and more discreet.
The fit is tight, stable and very comfortable, suitable for extended listening sessions and use during exercise.

The FA7S sound isolation is excellent and they are doing a good job in blocking outside the external noise.
While fitting them and choosing the right ear tips you must be careful not to squeeze too deep to avoid blocking the sound tube.

IMG_20220203_151421.jpg

Cable

When it comes to the cables, FiiO are the leaders of the industry for including some excellent quality cables that are always of far better quality than the earphone price would suggest.
The FA7S comes bundled with high-purity silver-plated monocrystalline copper cable.
It consists of 152 wires made with 19 wires in 8 strands.
Each wire is individually isolated and braided together with each other in a Litz pattern.
It has angled MMCX connectors that help in a comfortable fit with the pair. Another attraction with this cable is the swappable termination plug design with FiiO’s newly developed Twist-Lock technology.
Three plugs are available, 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm.
The cable itself is not too heavy, it never tangles and has very low microphonic noise.

IMG_20220203_151553.jpg

Accessories

FiiO is always generous with the included accessories.
Inside the box you are going to find the following:
A plastic case with a transparent lid,
a tool for easy MMCX plug removal
6 bass eartips, 6 balanced eartips, 6 vocal eartips, 2 triple-flange tips, 4 foam tips, a cleaning brush and a magnetic cable organizer.

IMG_20220202_153154.jpg

Sound impressions

I love the simplicity of the FA7S, no sound tubes to fiddle around, no complex electronic crossover switches to adjust.
Just the earphone and the eartips of your choice, great sound out of the box, an iem suitable for the lazy listener.

So after the usual 100 hours of burn in, I fitted the balanced eartips and started listening to my favorite music.

The FA7S is easy to drive but I do not recommend using it straight out of your phone’s 3.5mm output.
First of all you are never going to find out what it is capable of and then it is going to be noisy as hell for a sensitive iem like the FA7S.
The truth is that the FA7S scales incredibly well and I would strongly suggest using at least a quality USB DAC/amp dongle or even something better.
I got some great results with the iBasso DC05 and FiiO KA3 but FA7S was begging for more so I switched over to FiiO M11 Plus, iBasso DX240 and iFi Gryphon.

IMG_20220203_154237.jpg

The FA7S has an accurate and balanced tonality with an easy going character combined with a generous amount of technicalities.
As a matter of fact it is the most neutrally tuned FiiO earphone till now, with a smooth treble response, something not usually synonymous with balanced armature drivers.
Don’t even think that the FA7S is boring or clinical, you are going to be genuinely surprised to discover the level of engagement and the sheer musicality of it.

Sub – bass extension is good and suitable for bass heavy music just slightly shy on the kick and rumble.
Don’t expect anything exaggerated though, the tuning is reference – type and linear, gently downsloping to the lower mids without any spotted mid – bass bloat or associated muddiness.
The presentation is rather on the technical side than visceral, a touch lean but tight, well controlled, crystal clear with exemplary layering and much resolving.
You are not going to miss a single note, the bass line is absent of masking while the dual drivers are fast in their recovery with excellent timing properties.
The FA7S bass might not be as hard hitting as it’s dynamic driver cousins but it never fails to convince with it’s contrast during the music climaxes.

The midrange is a little dialed back, so you are not going to experience projected vocalists and flashing solo instrumentalists.
The FA7S is quite humble when it comes to the midrange presentation as the region is not given any front-stage prominence, this is a collective show, the mids are not the star per se but they are treated with equal intensity.
This doesn’t mean that they sound suppressed or suffocated.
On the contrary, they are lush with the finest articulation, open and spacious, warm and present while the timbre is natural, realistic and harmoniously full.
Just listen to the following album and get a taste of the FA7S combined bass and mids performance.

500x500.jpg

Treble on the other hand is smooth and controlled but still crisp, crystal clear and resolving.
There are no alarming peaks that could lead to harshness or brightness but it doesn’t sound muted either since there is no shortage of energy and agility.
There is a steady flow of low level information without the FA7S becoming analytically tiresome.
The sound is shimmering and natural with the right amounts of reverb and decay.

The FA7S various drivers are masterfully integrated together without leaps in the crossover transition points nor phase delay issues with the result of an extremely cohesive sound presentation.
Body intensity and textural qualities remain the same and intact from the top to bottom of the frequency range.

IMG_20220203_154332.jpg

The soundstage is miraculously open and extended with a surplus of air around the instruments plus some excellent positioning accuracy, never becoming unnaturally stretched.
Depth layering and dimensionality are somewhat restricted but in the end, the FA7S is very good in communicating the ambience of the recording place.
Sit back and enjoy some great jazz music.

61rNujfG7sL._SL1200_.jpg

Compared to the FiiO FD5

Twins with different personalities.
Form factor is identical and both earphones share the same comfortable fit.
When it comes to the tuning it is the mildly V – shaped FD5 vs the more neutral FA7S.
The FD5 is deeper extended in the sub-bass and a touch more prominent in the bass / mid – bass region which results in a slightly boosted, fuller and warmer lower end tuning.
In contrast, the FA7S has a reference tuning, it is more resolving, detailed with better layering while clarity is on a higher level.
On the other hand the FD5 beryllium coated – larger dynamic driver – hits definitely harder, dynamics are far better contrasted and the presentation is considerably more visceral than the leaner FA7S.
Upper mid range is more forward and present on the FD5, a different kind of tuning with prominent vocalists that sound slightly stepped at the front of the stage.
FD5 is more lush, fuller sounding with thicker notes but while it doesn’t lack in openness the FA7S is still the most resolving and detailed with better clarity between the lines.
Treble is smoother on the FA7S where the FD5 has a couple of alarming peaks that can give a brighter, sharper tone.
Again the FA7S is more detailed and clear with some finer articulation.

IMG_20220203_154008.jpg

Interestingly enough the FD5, as a single dynamic driver iem, ought to be the most cohesive of the two but surprisingly the FA7S multiple drivers are so well implemented that it sounds equally cohesive and with slightly better separation.
The soundstage on the FA7S is more open sounding, airy and wider with slightly better positioning and clarity between the instruments.
The FD5 can be finely tuned thanks to the interchangeable sound tubes. In the end it is the more fun, warmer and fuller sounding FD5 vs the more neutral, detailed, leaner and technically superior FA7S.
Different strokes for different folks.

IMG_20220203_154546.jpg

In the end

While writing these lines, I have been wondering why the FA7S doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
I don’t know.
Maybe because dynamic drivers are in vogue now and the FA7S is squeezed between two fine examples of the line, the FD5 and FD7.
What I do know is that the FA7S is one of the best tuned earphones I have ever tested, with a neutrally balanced and smooth sound signature, aided by an excellent technical performance yet not lacking in sheer musicality.
I find myself using it more and more, not only as an excellent reference tool but also for everyday music listening.
It is not a secret that the FD7 is my most beloved FiiO iem but the FA7S has managed to become the second one, more close than i could possibly imagine.

Test playlist

Copyright – Laskis Petros 2022.