The headphones are designed with a stretchable headband that supports the fit. The clamping force is not too tight while keeping the headphones secured on my head. The outer headband is wrapped with full grain leather material which appears unlikely to flake compared to the software pleather. The design reminds me of the Philips Fidelio X2 I owned many years back, but the FiiO FT3 is much more comfortable, lighter, while fitting larger 60mm diaphragm drivers.
Remember that the FT3 comes with two pairs of earpads. As stated in the product website, the suede earpads produces “balanced sound, enhanced ambiance, majestic experience”, while the protein leather offers “clear sound, large soundscape, highly detailed”. It is largely aligned with what I hear. Bass frequency lingers around more on the suede pads, it fills the ears with the low rumbles better. When switching to the pleather, the bass is less plump but sounds clean and articulated. Conversely, the treble sounds more airy, spatial, more precise on the pleather pads. Midrange also benefits from the pleather’s cleaner presentation and sounds less veiled.
Personally, I prefer the suede earpads because of its more prominent bass, which is not too overpowering yet its presence provides an overall warmer tonality. I believe that its larger diaphragm contributed to the greater bass intensity yet leaving room for the midrange and upper frequencies to showcase the details. At the same time, the treble is not too pushy on the suede pads so that listening gets less fatiguing. Having said that, I am quite happy to swap the pads if I listen to albums that I want the vocals to shine and give me the chills. For acoustic piano tracks, I am able to pick up the key-striking movements amidst the loitering sustain notes that suspend yet dissipates across the wide stage.
How does the FiiO FT3 compare to my other wired headphones? First, I want to compare it with my old headphones that I have sold off, but I have to disclaim that my impressions on these old headphones may not be accurate. The Philips Fidelio X2 rests heavier on my head, its sound is brighter and more brittle, bass is less oomph compared to the FT3. The Sennheiser HD650 is warmer, treble is less bright, while bass is less boomy.
The Hifiman HE400se has a narrower sound stage, so instruments sound closer, more direct. Bass is leaner with less low energy. Dishing out my Sennheiser HD 800 S, I can appreciate why I pay so much for it. The HD800S sounds much more engaging, immersive, yet presenting in a wider space. Treble is not as sparkling and prominent mix as the FT3, yet it remains highly detailed. Instruments have better balance among one another, less crowded, you can hear the separation.
After putting all the good words, that is not to say the FT3 is lacking. I feel that the HD800S offers me an ultimate reference-grade listening experience when I’m in the mood. This master headphones present music in a different plane that is certainly in a league of its own.
What I enjoy on the FT3 is the ability to present instrumental performance with a relatively prominent bass impression while showcasing the rest of the musical details without sounding too sterile. Its high sensitivity and resistance mean that it will convert the amplifier’s characteristics to the FT3, letting you appreciate the quality (or lack of) of your amp. I enjoy driving the FT3 with the Burson Playmate digital headphone amp with V6 Opamps which I have kept in storage for a while. Using a Ugreen USB-audio adapter on my Pixel 7 Pro, the FT3 still manages to deliver articulated sounds with a good feel of the sound stage where the mid and upper instrumentations are spaced for comfortable refined listen aided with firm filling lows.
The FiiO FT3 is my new favourite value-for-money every-day headphones with audiophile-grade versatility that I can use both as a high-quality casual headphones and a reliable reference cans. At a retail price of S$479, it trumps many headphones at the price range for its impressive audio performance and generous accessories. More importantly, its design ensures that the headphones will last for decades without any surface deterioration.
The FiiO FT3 is a value-for-money audiophile-grade headphones with comfortable fit, immersive staging, impressive bass performance.
Immersive sound, sufficiently spatial with good amount of bass
Very comfortable fit and durable materials
Long premium cables with interchangeable connectors
Two pairs of earpads included for different listening preference
Leather hard case colour does not seem to fit the theme
The highs can sound a little harsh with the pleather pads
The bass might overpower the rest of the frequencies