CanJam SoCal 2019: FiiO and Moondrop

I hit up the FiiO booth to listen to their new FH7 IEM and M11 DAP, both of which retail for $450 USD.

A lot of my friends and new acquaintances had been telling me I absolutely had to hear the new FH7 IEM from FiiO. I’m glad they did because much in the same way the Conquest RR1 from Kaldas was a total surprise, the FH7 had me listening well past my usual time.

I was having so much fun with the FH7 and M11 setup I spent probably a good 15-20 minutes at the FiiO booth, which for me is an exceptionally long time at a show. The FH7 had what I would describe as a generally neutral tuning, somewhere along the lines of a less bassy version of the Harman IEM curve, but with an incredible sense of spatiality and depth. The imaging was some of the best I heard at the show, expanding well outside of my head and playing with phenomenal dynamic impact and instrumental separation across the entire sound field and frequency range.

Somehow the FH7 managed to combine, rather than balance tonal richness and a very clear transient energy. A lot of IEMs and headphones with peaky treble, or elevated treble levels have a tendency to dissolve into white-noise type harshness which some folks enjoy and perceive as a heightened dynamic attack. Personally, it’s one of my few major pet peeves in personal audio listening, and I’m happy to say the FH7 did quite the opposite of this, and presented transients with an excellent sense of presence and ‘air’ without being overly softened. This is one heck of an IEM, and at just $450 was easily one of my two or three favorite listening experiences at the show.

The accompanying M11 DAP was quite nice as well, with a very clean fit and finish, of comparable standard with the much pricier A&K and Questyle DAPs I tried at the show. The interface on the M11 I tried seemed a fair bit speedier and more responsive than some other DAP’s I tried as well, responding as instantly as my smartphone, and with a very clean and intuitive layout, again edging out for my personal preferences over other more expensive models. It seemed to have plenty of power to run any of the IEMs at the table, as well as a few larger headphones, without breaking a sweat. Again, a seriously compelling product on first listen for $450 – I will be seeing if I can get some of this new FiiO gear in for a review soon.

Moving on to other IEMS, another product that was getting highly positive show-floor comments was the Moondrop audio booth. These folks were part of the Shenzen Audio brigade which represented a number of Asian brands that haven’t been seen much in North America. I heard some very cool stuff in this area, and it was quite informative to hear and see some of the excellent gear coming out of the Asian market.

Moondrop’s booth was a bit hard to get to as there was a rather extensive line the first few times I went to the table, but I finally scored a spot. They had three models on display, the KXXS at $190 USD, the A8 at $600 USD and a protoype electrostatic IEM marked ‘Solis’ which will eventually be retailing for around $1,000 USD.

The KXXS was a very nice offering for the money, with a fairly neutral tuning, with a lot more midrange clarity than I’m used to around the $200 price point. The Electrostatics had phenomenal separation, bass and clarity as well. The one that caught my attention most though was the A8. The local show gossip held that it was tuned pretty close to the Harman Around-Ear/Over-Ear curve. Much like the FiiO FH7, this headphone seemed to have a very clear but not harsh transient clarity, and a much larger and more defined soundstage than I’m used to with IEMs. The midrange and treble sparkle on this IEM were truly phenomenal, though I found it perhaps just a tad more forward than the FH7. There’s definitely something going on here with the frequency response of these IEMs that is very right to my ears. If you happen to have the chance to try these out, and the bass-cannon style IEMs aren’t your style, I would recommend taking a look at the Moondrop A8.

That’s all for this post – more full-size headphones coming up, including a brand I had never heard of and some surprising things from a brand that’s been around for a long time.

FiiO / Shenzen