Audio brand FiiO is a relative newcomer to the true wireless headphone market and the company’s latest launch is the FiiO FW3, an audiophile pair of wireless headphones at an affordable price.
The FW3 headphones have impressive specs and are built around the Qualcomm Bluetooth QCC5141 chipset and AK4332 DAC. The Bluetooth chipset and DAC are very capable and can support Qualcomm’s Snapdragon audio with wireless audio up to 96kHz/24bit resolution. There’s also support for LHDC, aptX Adaptive, AAC, and SBC audio codecs which cover most bases, including AAC-limited iOS devices.
The build quality of the FW3 is adequate, but it also reflects the high price. The silver clamshell design is attractive and they are incredibly comfortable to wear. FiiO offers two types of silicone tips in different sizes to ensure an optimal fit. Getting the tip size and fit right is key to blocking out as much noise as possible and increasing bass response. The headphones don’t have active noise cancellation (ANC), so you’ll have to look elsewhere if that’s a dealbreaker for you.
The FW3 headphones can be personalized using the FiiO Control smartphone app. It’s basic software with some rough edges, but it lets you select the audio codec you want to use and there’s a 10-band graphic equalizer to tweak the sound to suit your preferences.
Inside each clamshell earbud is the usual 10mm dynamic driver, which FiiO has tuned to deliver audiophile signature sound rather than the more usual V-shaped EQ that some cheap wireless headphones serve up. A full charge of the headphones will provide enough power for up to seven hours of continuous playtime. There are three full charges from a full battery, 7 hours in the headphones and 14 hours reserve in the charging case, bringing the total to 21 hours, enough for a week of commuting or gym visits .
For those who like to wear their headphones while jogging or cycling, there’s IPX4 water resistance, enough to shrug off a light rain and a bit of sweat but not enough to withstand a monsoon. The FW3 has clickable buttons on each earbud rather than touch controls. The buttons cannot be programmed or customized but provide all necessary controls including volume adjustments. I prefer proper buttons because the touch controls are too easy to trigger accidentally.
The FiiO FW3’s charging case can be fully charged in less than two hours and there is a row of four white LEDs on the front of the case to indicate the remaining charge in the headphones. The surface of the case is durable and should withstand the rigors of daily commuting or sports use.
Although the FiiO app is basic, an unusual feature is a headphone volume control that allows the user to set the maximum headphone volume level to protect hearing or boost listening levels. If you find the FW3’s default max volume a bit low, go into the app and push the slider to the right for more sound.
Connecting the FW3 to a smartphone is simple and only needs to be done once on each device. The overall sound is exquisite, with so much detail. The bass is well articulated without being too muffled or drowning out the rest of the frequencies. If you’re looking for subsonic bass sound, the FW3 won’t appeal, but it’s not audiophile sound.
The FW3’s midrange is superbly clear and does an excellent job with vocals, bringing vocalists to the fore without ever dominating the overall mix. The highs are slightly lean and a bit bright but not in a way to cause listening fatigue. The level of detail is ideal for creating a compelling and expansive soundstage without sounding artificial. After a few minutes of listening to the FW3, I was engrossed in the music rather than the sound from the headphones. This is always a sign of a good pair of headphones or earbuds.
One area where I noticed a slight issue was with the stability of the Bluetooth connection. Sometimes the headphones fall out and although I tried to fix the FE3 with my phone, I couldn’t fix the problem. This is not a problem unique to the FW3; many other wireless headphones I’ve reviewed occasionally give up, but the FW3 always did. Hopefully that’s something a future firmware update might fix. I suspect it could be a bluetooth antenna issue.
The latency of the FW3 is good and in most cases you can watch a movie or play a game without losing sync. A game mode is selectable using the FiiO app, but this impacts battery life and doesn’t make a huge difference. However, this may vary depending on the codec used.
The microphones are built into the earcups and work well enough for phone calls and video conferencing, but they’re probably not as good as headphones with multiple mic arrays and beamforming features. These are headphones for audiophiles, so maybe mic quality isn’t an important feature.
Verdict: THE The FiiO FW3 true wireless headphones offer excellent audiophile performance at a very reasonable price. The dynamic drivers that FiiO tuned work well and deliver sound with a perfect balance between bass, midrange and treble. The sound is enveloping and with low levels of distortion, the FW3 won’t tire your ears and will surround you with superb sound with just the right amount of bass control and forward midrange presence. If you want an affordable pair of headphones that support most audio codecs and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon sound, the FiiO FW3 is a no-brainer. Listen to them soon.
Price and availability: The FiiO FW3 TWS headphones are available now and cost $99 / £95 / €110.
More information: fiio.com/FW3
- Transducer: 10mm carbon-based dynamic diaphragm.
- DAC: AK4332.
- Bluetooth chipset: Qualcomm QCC5141.
- Bluetooth version: 5.2.
- Bluetooth protocols: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP.
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive, LHDC, LDAC.
- Maximum sampling rate: 96 kHz / 24 bit.
- Impedance: 32Ω at 1kHz.
- Sensitivity » 106dB/mW (@1kHz).
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz.
- Headphone controls: Power On/Off, Pause/Play/Previous Track/Next Track
- Volume up/volume down, answer call/end call/reject call, activate voice assistant.
- Low latency gaming mode: <100ms.
- Battery capacity: 65 mAh (headphones) / 380 mAh (case).
- Charging time: 1h (headphones) / 1h40 (case).
- Battery life: 21 hours (7 hours earbuds + 14 hours case).
- Weight: 6.2g × 2 (earphones) / 57.2g (with earphones in the case).