Ever since the release of the stainless steel FD5, FiiO has been on a roll with releasing a series of IEMs that has steered away from the classic trilobular shaped IEMs. After the release of the more affordable FD3, the Guangzhou-based audio electronics company lept towards the higher end with the new FD7.
Though at first it seems to be a simple dark-themed cosmetic update, there’s more than meets the eye as the FD7 uses a pure beryllium diaphragm instead of the beryllium coated DLC diaphragm in the FD5. But does the upgrade make enough difference to crown FD7 as the new flagship dynamic driver driven earphone? Let’s dive in to find out.
Black and Gold Upgrade to the Unique Waterfall Design
The FiiO FD7 follows the striking waterfall design of FD5 - but this time in black and gold. Not that there was anything wrong with the original polished stainless steel, but I think most would agree that the new ebony auric combo one-ups even the original chrome beauty. On FiiO’s official website, it’s said the color scheme was inspired by ancient Chinese landscape paintings, but for those of us from the West, these IEMs are what we imagine Wakadans in the Black Panther universe would wear.
One reason why it looks so good is due to the layering of the anodized matte black surface, with the ribs highlighted in jet black. Of course then you get the polished gold ducts beneath the grill, which are more than for looks, but are functional vents for the open-back design.
The dark-theme continues to the angled stainless steel MMCX plugs, braided cables and the audio jack, completing the look.
Semi-open Design for Superior Soundstage
The same system has been implemented for the new dynamic driver flagship FD7, where the sound stage is as good as it gets for an earphone, offering a wide 180 degree spatial sound as well as excellent instrument separation. At the same time, there is minimal sound leakage, and won't be heard by those near you, even with the volume up - unless you’re in a very quiet room, or someone has their ears right up against your own.
Distinct Sound of a Pure Beryllium Dynamic Driver
The question FiiO fans must have is: since the FD7 is only an iterative design upgrade from the FD5 or even the FD3 Pros, how much difference could there really be in sound performance? That’s a question I wanted to find out myself, and thankfully I was able to compare them side-by-side.
For those unfamiliar, the FD3 utilizes a DLC diaphragm, whereas the FD5 has the same diaphragm - but has it coated with beryllium. When it comes to the FD7, FiiO has figured out how to make the whole diaphragm out of pure beryllium. This is quite a feat due to the hardness and difficulties in material handling of the rare metal. The outcome is a diaphragm that is lighter than titanium but harder than steel, giving it an unmatched ability in terms of movability.
What does all that material science translate to in actual listening experience? Surprisingly there’s quite a noticeable difference. Compared to the FD3 Pro, the FD7 has a noticeably more controlled sound, better soundstage, and a more delicate presentation of the sound details. Overall the listening experience is perceptibly more enjoyable.
Excellent for Various Music Genres
Thanks to the large 12 mm driver, just like the FD5, excellent bass response on the FD7 was expected, and did not fall short of expectations. The beryllium driver did not diminish any punchiness of the bass, but gave it more character, making it relatively less muffled.
I expected the FD7 to do splendidly with bass-heavy songs like pop, hip-pop or electronic music. The question that needs to be asked is whether it can also handle more delicate music and make the most of its soundstage and sensitivity.
Since the FD7 beryllium driver has both the lightness and speed for fast response, it handles nuanced and textured music very well. Vocal dominant songs are reproduced naturally, as well as acoustic instruments. Subtle, higher frequency details in songs that are usually articulated better by balanced armatures is almost matched by the FD7, making these earphones serious competitors for typical in-ear monitors when it comes to producing minute details.
Balanced Interchangeable Jack and Braided Cable Included
To get the most out of the Guangzhou electronic company’s top-tier dynamic driver earphones, a standard 3.5 mm audio jack just won’t cut it in terms of clarity and dynamics. But FiiO has you covered, as most of their new earphone releases use a balanced cable with interchangeable jacks.
The FABRILOUS licenced twist lock audio jack system gives the user the option to either use the standard 1/8 inch jack, or swap it out for a 4.4 mm or 2.5 mm balanced jack. It means not needing to fork out another few hundred dollars to shop for another premium MMCX cable, and getting the top performance from the FD7 out of the box.
Dynamic drivers might have been around for a long time, but they are far from becoming obsolete. With the development of new materials and casing technology like the FiiO FD7, it’s surprising how much better the sound can continue to improve and open up new horizons. For those who prefer the natural sound from dynamic drivers, but want to get that extra crisp detail, the new beryllium diaphragms are exciting new developments that get the best of both worlds.
Not only do the FD7 sound good, they’re also a handsome pair of earphones, with its jet black stainless steel and gold highlights - it’s accessories that won’t look out of place even for dressier occasions. We’re awarding the FiiO FD7 the IBTimes Best Products products badge for business travelers.
Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.