Stage, imaging and separation
So remember how I said the FD1 is a $60 IEM. Not that I’m harping on the point, but don’t expect $1600-worth of technical acuity in a $60 IEM. What you will get is a sound that ticks most technical checkboxes, and you’ll need to spend several multiples the cost of the FD1 before you start getting notably better technicalities for your money.
While IEMs don’t really have a ‘stage’ in the true sense of the word, the FD1 never sounds congested or overly intimate. Sounds are generally ‘in your head’ but on occasion, and particularly with some binaural tracks, the effect of space can be convincing.
Take Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra’s ‘La Luna’, for example. This famous binaural recording sounds super-wide, almost exaggerated, with the FD1. Sounds appear well outside my head here, even slightly behind, though the lack of absolute resolution is also apparent. Imaging is okay, there seems to be a vast chasm between the performers with not much happening in the middle, but that could just be the recording.
In Amber Rubarth’s ‘Hold On’ from her seminal ‘Sessions from the 17th Ward’ album, I wasn’t getting my usual sense of the space. This track probably showcases the minor shortcomings in the FD1’s technicalities, but hey, $60, and besides, even some better IEMs will struggle here.
Most people will buy a $60 IEM like the FiiO FD1 to use with their phones, although the better your source, the better you can expect the FD1 to sound.
Most of my listening for this review was done on the HiBy R6 Pro, a well-equipped, well-tuned DAP with plenty of power and resolving ability, and I could tell there was a dip in quality when switching to my LG V30+ phone by comparison. Quality was still good, make no mistake, but the FD1 was able to scale up nicely to take advantage of the extra horsepower and audio chops of the HiBy.
Surprisingly (to me), one of the better pairings I had with the FD1 was FiiO’s true wireless Bluetooth IEM adapter, the UTWS1. I reviewed the UTWS1 a while ago, using some fairly high-end IEMs, and I can confidently say the FD1 sounds excellent with this adapter as well. Not only that, the UTWS1 converts the FD1 into a wireless IEM, is lightweight and comfortable, and has plenty of power to drive the IEMs from any source.
Keep in mind that the FD1 is tuned for music listening, first and foremost, though I was enjoying the versatility of using them to watch YouTube and Netflix on my MacBook Pro while connected wirelessly with the UTWS1. If you want to use them with your phone and take calls on the go, note that the stock cable doesn’t have a microphone – a problem solved once again with the UTWS1.
Turn to Page 5 for closing thoughts