FiiO makes some of the best audiophile-grade products and they don’t cost a bomb either. One such product is the FiiO F9 Pro triple driver earphones. These in-ear monitors (IEM) are an upgrade to the FiiO F9. And, the F9 Pro comes with two Knowles-branded balanced armature drivers and a single dynamic driver. To put it simply, the F9 Pro is touted to offer an improved sound signature over its predecessor thanks to these new armature drivers.
Now, I’ve used the F9 Pro as my daily pair of earphones for a while now. And, when it came down to writing the review I had a brainwave (of sorts). Why don’t I compare the F9 Pro with its closest competitor – the 1More Triple Driver? In fact, I personally own a pair of 1More Triple Driver IEM and it just made total sense to compare the two.
Although, for all intents and purposes, you can easily treat this comparison as individual reviews of the F9 Pro and the 1More Triple Driver.
The one uniting factor — apart from the triple drivers (2 balanced and 1 armature) setup — of the 1More Triple Drivers and FiiO F9 pro are the box contents of the IEMs. You get so many accessories with the earphones that you can donate some to your family and friends. With the F9 Pro, you get a: hard case and a soft carrying pouch, 12 pairs of tips, a 3.5mm cable, a 2.5mm balanced cable, a house in Bangalore, a new Maruti Baleno, and a life-insurance certificate. Okay, you obviously don’t get the last three!
With the 1More Triple Drivers, you get: a slick package to begin with, a neat hard case, an airplane adapter, and 9 pairs of tips. If you are a sucker for more accessories, then the F9 Pro takes the cake, but only by a small margin.
Design and fit
As far as the design is concerned, both the earphones look good. I really like the wine colour, with gold accents, of the 1More Triple Driver. But, the grey housings of the F9 Pro earphones look classy too. Furthermore, they are now marked in Red and Blue, to indicate the right and left channels, respectively. As far as the sturdiness is concerned, both the earphones feel equally sturdy. However, I like the fact that the F9 Pro comes with an L-shaped 3.5mm gold plated plug unlike the 1More Triple Driver that comes with a straight jack.
But, there is one problem that plagues both the earphones – they tangle very easily. I like listening to music on my commute to work but by the time I untangle the FiiO, I reach my office.
Talking about the fit, the F9 Pro is supremely comfortable. You won’t ever feel the need to remove it even after long listening sessions. The 1More, on the other hand, is not as comfortable. While I didn’t face a big issue once I found the right fit and seal, I know many folks who are genuinely annoyed with the 1More Triple Driver’s tips and have struggled to find the right fit. On account of its impressive fit, the F9 Pro also offers a superior level of noise isolation over the 1More Triple Driver.
A word of caution: the foam tips of the F9 Pro are very weak and fray easily. In fact, I’ve used the 1More Triple Drivers for almost a year now and not a single tip has given up on me.
Audio setup for the comparison
Let’s move on to the more fun part of the comparison: the sound. But before I talk about it, let me explain my audio setup for this comparison.
I used an iPhone 7 plus with downloaded Apple Music files primarily because both the IEMs are easy to drive and have a low impedance of 32ohm (1More Triple Driver) and 28ohm (FiiO F9 Pro). The downloaded Apple Music songs are generally 256kbps AAC files. I also tested high resolution FLAC files on my Cayin N3 digital audio player (DAP). Just FYI, both – the 1More Triple Driver and the F9 Pro – are Hi-Res certified. Let’s jump right into the sound comparison.
I started off by testing the sub-bass response. The downtempo electronica track BTSTU by Jai Paul is my go-to track for whenever I am testing sub-bass frequencies. The attacking sound signature of the FiiO F9 Pro is a bit too aggressive for this track. Moreover, the F9 Pro is a little light on the low frequency response. While there is ample depth in the F9 Pro’s sub-bass presentation, I preferred the overall sub-bass output of the 1More Triple Driver. It is tighter and more soothing than the F9 Pro. In fact, when the song starts throwing a few aggressive high-pitched notes, the F9 Pro overpowers the almost negligence bass.
Okay, here’s the thing the F9 Pro doesn’t offer you dollops of bass. But, boy can you feel the thump! It is crisp, tight and never feels bloated. I heard Aronchupa’s I’m an Albatraoz and even the silences between the bass drops came to life. In complete contrast, the bass bleeds slightly on the 1More Triple Driver and fills the silence with unwanted noise. Something, I’d have not noticed if I hadn’t compared it with the F9 Pro in the first place.
As far as mid-range frequencies are concerned, the FiiO F9 Pro can reproduce it effortlessly. I tested a FLAC file of Bhor Bhaye from Dilli 6. This song is mostly made of three components – Shreya Ghoshal’s pitch-perfect voice, a tabla, and a harmonium – in the backdrop of a sample of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s rendition of the same song. While the F9 Pro excelled with the imaging and soundstaging in this song, I was also extremely impressed with the clean mid-range response. Evidently, the 1More was lacking in this area. If you are listening to classical music like Jazz, Hindustani, or Carnatic, the F9 Pro is your best bet.
Unlike its predecessor, the FiiO F9, the F9 Pro has a more controlled high-end that doesn’t sound very shrill – the kind that audiophiles like. That said, the F9 Pro’s treble response could still feel a little annoying for many folks. On the other hand, the 1More’s treble response is tight but doesn’t get shrill. Thankfully, both the earphones don’t suffer from any sibilance. You won’t be disappointed with the top end detailing on both the earphones.
Loudness, details, and instrument separation
On the same source, at the same volume level, the FiiO F9 Pro is a lot louder than the 1More Triple Driver. Moreover, the instrument separation or imaging is a much, much better on the F9 Pro clearly outlining its analytical capabilities. The 1More has a more musical sound overall, and the imaging is average at best.
Which is the best triple-driver IEM for you?
The answer is easy. Are you craving for a more open soundstage with a clean sound and superb instrument separation? The FiiO F9 Pro is for you. If you are a fan of modern pop and dance music, yet love listening to a Pink Floyd song every once in a while then the 1More Triple Driver could be a good alternative.
If I have to define the sound signatures of these IEMs; the 1More Triple Driver has a warmer sound compared to the F9 Pro, which is more neutral.
Two completely different sound signatures. Two completely different auditory experiences.
However, there is one thing that swings the vote in the favour of the 1More: it’s price. The 1More Triple Driver costs Rs 7,499 on HeadphoneZone after discounts. That’s a good Rs 3,500 cheaper than the F9 Pro, which costs Rs 10,999.
As far as I am concerned, the F9 Pro is my pick of the two earphones. What’s your choice? let me know in the comments section below which IEM gets your attention.