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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / FiiO FT5 review: a new wired wonder

FiiO FT5 review: a new wired wonder

Do these over-ear cans come close to planar magnetic perfection?

FiiO FT5 review lead

Stuff Verdict

Purpose-built to please audiophiles who refuse to give up on wired listening. The FiiO FT5 is a fantastic pair of planar over-ears.

Pros

  • Superb sonic performance
  • Looks great and is built to last
  • Extensive wired connection options

Cons

  • Proprietary cables
  • Ear cups not the largest

Introduction

FiiO has been a go-to name in pocketable yet powerful DACs and digital audio players for years, but has only just started branching out into wired headphones. And instead of starting small, the firm is going in at the deep end with a set of audiophile-grade, planar-magnetic cans – while somehow keeping the price in the realms of affordability.

It sounds like an impossible ask. After all, Planar specialists such as Meze and Audeze charge considerably more than the $449/£430 FiiO wants for a pair of these. Yet the fact I’m talking about them in the same sentence shows how impressive these over-ear headphones are. Of course, sound quality is just one aspect – do they also deliver everywhere else, or are the more established brands still in the lead? I’ve had the FT5 as a near-permanent backing track to my last few working weeks to find out.

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: precision engineered

Unboxing the FiiO FT5 is like opening a set of Russian Dolls. The headphones themselves live inside a luxurious-feeling leather storage case, which itself is safely wrapped in a cloth bag. As an indication of quality, things are off to a good start.

The headphones themselves mean business in gunmetal grey, with a mix of leather, suede and metal materials. The ear cups are machined from lightweight aluminium-magnesium alloy, in order to keep the FT5 from tipping the scales too dramatically. They’re still on the heavy side at 456g, even before taking cables into account, which is largely down the number of stacked magnets needed to make the planar drivers work.

I didn’t have any issues when it came to comfort, with the suspension-style headband distributing the weight evenly. The ear cups swivel on three axes, and the suede ear pads provide plenty of cushioning. The oval-shaped cutouts left enough room to fully encase my ears, but some may find them a little restrictive; the leather pair are slightly deeper. They pop off and clip back in place tool-free.

There’s a real industrial vibe from the ear cups, which have a precision-milled fan blade design. Everything is held together firmly and general build quality is superb.

Features: plug in baby

FiiO could’ve easily equipped the FT5 with a captive cable and called it a day, but that would’ve irked the audiophile fanbase. Detachable cables are much easier to replace, and the one included here is wonderfully versatile.

At 1.5m it’s not the longest cable for home listening, but the braided outer sheath and internal construction (392 silver-plated monocrystalline copper cores, according to FiiO) is suitably high-end. I like how the ends that plug into the headphones have rubber grommets to keep them securely fastened, but still able to pull free with enough force. Potentially that makes them less damage-prone than headphones with twist-and-lock mechanisms.

The other end terminates in a 3.5mm headphone jack, but can be quickly unscrewed and swapped for a 4.4mm connector. There are also 3.5mm to 6.35mm and 4.4mm to XLR-4 balanced adaptors included. Each has a home inside the leather carry case, so there shouldn’t be any audio kit that these headphones can’t plug into.

That case is of the hard shell variety, so is sturdy enough to keep the headphones safe when tossed in a backpack. Just keep in mind these are open-back cans, so will leak like a sieve and instantly annoy anyone around you if you try listening to them in public.

Sound quality: driven to succeed

With a modest 36 ohms impedance, the FT5’s sizeable 90mm planar drivers don’t demand an excessive amount of voltage. I ran them through a Rotel S14 media streamer, a MacBook Pro, and one of FiiO’s own diminutive KA13 DACs; everything could drive these headphones sufficiently, with plenty of volume overhead.

The FT5 has a slightly V-shaped tuning curve, but one that doesn’t skimp on mid-range presence. The distorted guitars on Royal Blood’s Supermodel Avalanches are filthy, yet the vocals still shine through and percussion has plenty of bite. I preferred the protein leather ear pads, which dialled back the bass just a tad compared to the suede ones, although they’re also a little leakier. The sub-bass on Kanine’s Light it Up was still squelchy and impactful, without overdoing it.

There’s a richness and warmth here that many rivals try to engineer out in pursuit of neutrality. The FT5 has more personality and ‘fun factor’ than many rivals, noticeable in the extra oomph on Emancipator’s Natural Cause – usually a more restrained chillout anthem. Serious audiophiles can EQ it out if they like, but I loved how full-bodied my test tracks sounded.

Treble is wonderfully precise, avoids sibilance, and the planar tech brings a near-total lack of distortion even at high volumes. Lana Del Ray’s Country Roads cover is airy and detailed, with each breath being clear to hear. The protein leather ear pads expand the soundstage slightly compared to the suede, but these aren’t the widest pair of open-back headphones I’ve tried.

Overall performance was never not enjoyable. The well-resolved and textured presentation has plenty of body, but not at the expense of high-end accuracy. That’s very hard to argue with given the asking price.

FiiO FT5 verdict

FiiO FT5 review verdict

As a first effort pair of high-end headphones, the FiiO FT5 are beyond impressive. Sound quality trades blows with planar models costing a whole lot more, the build quality is excellent, and the included accessories are extensive. You don’t need a beefy DAC to drive them, either.

It’s not the only planar magnetic pair in its price bracket, with Hifiman, Monolith and Audeze all having more affordable options. One or two arguably deliver a wider soundstage, but there’s very little to separate them elsewhere. If you’re still all about that wired life, this is an excellent choice.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Purpose-built to please audiophiles who refuse to give up on wired listening. The FT5 is a fantastic pair of planar over-ears.

Pros

Superb sonic performance

Looks great and is built to last

Extensive wired connection options

Cons

Proprietary cables

Ear cups not the largest

FiiO FT5 technical specifications

Drivers90mm planar magnetic
Frequency response7Hz-40kHz
Impedance36 ohms
ANCNo
Connectivity1.5m cable with 3.5mm/4.4mm interchangeable, 3.5mm to 6.35mm, 4.4mm to XLR-4 balanced
Weight456g (excluding cable)
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor

About

A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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