Fiio is one of the most recognizable brands in the world of high-res audio, and while its portable DACs and IEMs are highly regarded, the brand hasn’t made a dent in the wireless earbuds category. That’s changing with the introduction of the FW5; Fiio has dabbled in this segment before, but the FW5 is a ground-up overhaul of the UTWS5, and it includes a host of new features as well as better connectivity and new drivers.
The best wireless earbuds are made by the likes of Bose, Sony, Samsung, Jabra, Google, and other mainstream audio brands, and while Fiio is decidedly the underdog here, it has a rich heritage in enthusiast audio thanks to its IEMs, and it knows how to tune earbuds to deliver the best possible sound.
As a result, Fiio did things a little differently with the FW5; these earbuds have physical buttons (four in total), three drivers in each ear, better battery life than most wireless earbuds I’ve used, and a unique design that’s more in line with the brand’s IEMs. If you’ve tried other wireless earbuds and weren’t thrilled by the sound, you should consider giving the FW5 a go — I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are the best-sounding wireless earbuds around.
Fiio FW5: Price and availability
Fiio unveiled the FW5 at the end of December, and the earbuds are now available globally. In North America, you can get your hands on the FW5 at Amazon for $119, $30 off their retail price. You’ll also find the earbuds at most major audio retailers, and all Fiio distributors around the world.
Fiio bundles a lot of accessories with its earbuds, and that’s true for the FW5 as well. You get a selection of silicone ear tips in small, medium, and large sizes, and there’s also a pair of balanced ear tips that offer a slightly different sound. There’s also a cleaning brush that can be used for the sound nozzle and the ear tips, and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable.
Fiio FW5: Design and build quality
The FW5 uses Fiio’s latest packaging, so that means you get a rather large case with the charging case, earbuds, and all the relevant accessories bundled within. Now, the case isn’t particularly interesting, and the design feels strictly utilitarian — there’s no branding or interesting design flourishes, and you’ll just find the Fiio logo and regulatory labels on the underside.
But open the case and you’ll find one of the most unique-looking wireless earbuds in the market today. The FW5 carries the same design aesthetic as Fiio’s wired IEMs, and that makes sense as the brand is known to use the same tooling for various products to save manufacturing costs — like the K5 Pro and K7.
The earbuds have a dark grey finish that looks quite good, and they have a similar mesh structure as the FD5 with silver accents that widens at the top and narrows at the bottom, and this does a great job in giving the earbuds character. There’s an LED on each earbud that gives you a visual indicator of pairing status, and the overall build quality is fabulous.
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Another unique feature on the FW5 is the fit; the earbuds have an elongated design with an angled sound tube that nuzzles in your ear, and most of the weight of the earbud rests on your outer ear cavity, so they’re comfortable to wear for extended durations. Each earbud weighs just 6.4g and has a 65mAh battery, and the case comes in at 44.4g and has a 380mAh battery.
While the case doesn’t have as striking a design as the earbuds, it manages to do a great job holding the FW5 securely via magnets. There are LEDs at the front that indicate the charge level, and while there’s no wireless charging or fast charging, you get USB-C at the back.
Fiio FW5: Features
Continuing with the differences, the FW5 eschew gesture controls for physical buttons, and you’ll find two on each earbud. There’s a raised indent on one button that lets you differentiate between the two, and these can be used for controlling music playback, receiving calls, powering the buds on or off, and invoking Google Assistant.
The controls aren’t configurable, and I would have liked the ability to customize the settings via the Fiio Control app. The app allows you to enable a low-latency game mode, set channel balance, manually select a Bluetooth codec, change idle power-off time, and choose between a low pass filter. The best feature is a 10-band EQ that lets you tweak the sound balance of the FW5 to a degree that you just don’t get on any other wireless earbuds.
Rounding out the features, Fiio Control also offers a battery protection mode that doesn’t charge the battery on each earbud beyond 85%; this is done to prolong battery longevity. The FW5 also manages to deliver IPX4 water resistance, and that comes in handy during workouts.
As for battery life, I easily got close to the seven-hour figure that Fiio touts on its website, and that’s over the AptX codec. That’s more than the Nothing Ear (2) and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, and the FW5 is easily among the best in this particular category. The case has enough power to charge the earbuds twice over, so you get a total of 21 hours of music playback before you need to charge the case.
Charging the case takes over 100 minutes, and there’s no fast charging here; the earbuds take under an hour to fully charge. You miss out on wireless charging as well, and while the battery life is stellar, Fiio needs to do a little better on the charging tech, because the case maxes out at 5W.
And as I’m talking about things that could be improved, the biggest omission on the FW5 is ANC. The earbuds form a tight seal and you get passive isolation in that regard, but there’s no ANC whatsoever here. That’s a letdown considering what these earbuds offer in other areas, but it’s clear that this wasn’t a priority for Fiio at this point in time, and we could see the mode introduced in a future iteration.
Fiio FW5: Sound quality
I’ve used too many wireless earbuds to count over the last five years, ranging from budget Xiaomi models that retail for under $30 to high-end Sennheiser and Sony earbuds. The FW5 absolutely demolishes every other product in this category when it comes to sound quality; the imaging and soundstage that you get here is closer to a wired IEM than a wireless product.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that the FW5 uses a standalone AKM AK4332 DAC that handles audio decoding instead of the built-in Bluetooth DAC, and this makes a big difference in the sound quality. Each earbud has a 10mm dynamic driver joined by two Knowles balanced armature drivers, and it features Qualcomm’s high-end QCC5141 Bluetooth hardware. As it uses the full suite of Qualcomm audio technologies, the FW5 gets the Snapdragon Sound label.
You get Bluetooth 5.2, and all the wireless codecs you can ask for; there’s SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX Adaptive, and LHDC. Thanks to the standalone DAC, you get 96KHz/24-bit native playback, and I’ve been using the FW5 for nearly six months and had zero issues with Bluetooth connectivity. I got a strong signal up to 35 feet, and I paired the buds with several phones, including the likes of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Pixel 7 Pro, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro.
The sound quality itself is phenomenal. The FW5 delivers a thoroughly engaging bass with a good amount of rumble and vibrancy, and the sub-bass frequencies have a lot of detail. The mids have a natural tuning with good timbre for the vocals, and great instrument separation. If you’re using a phone that has an AptX codec, you’ll hear details that you previously missed.
The treble has good extension and range, and you get a sense of airiness without any harshness to the sound. The biggest strength of the FW5 is the soundstage; you get a wide and engaging soundstage that’s more in line with traditional IEMs than wireless earbuds, and it makes listening to a wide variety of genres highly enjoyable.
Fiio FW5: The competition
I like what Nothing did with the Ear (2), and the interesting design combined with the tuning makes the earbuds a good choice in this category. They don’t sound as vibrant as the FW5 and the battery doesn’t last anywhere as long, and the gesture controls are still finicky at times. But you get excellent noise isolation, and the design is a little more pocketable.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are among the best wireless earbuds, and they deliver great sound quality and have a few extras that come in handy if you use a Samsung phone. The fit isn’t quite as comfortable as the FW5, and you don’t get the ability to customize the sound to such an extent, but if you want a mainstream choice, they’re as safe a bet as you can get these days.
Fiio FW5: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want the best-sounding wireless earbuds
- You need a refined sound signature with excellent bass
- You want a wide soundstage
- You need physical controls on the earbud
- You want long-lasting battery life
You shouldn’t buy this if:
- You want all the extras
- You need fast charging
- You want a case that charges wirelessly
Fiio nailed the basics with the FW5. The wireless earbuds have a unique design, are comfortable to wear, and last longer than their immediate rivals. I generally don’t like gesture controls, so the fact that these earbuds have physical buttons is a big win in my use case. The best feature is the sound; with a highly engaging sound and wide soundstage, the FW5 sounds better than any other wireless earbuds I’ve used thus far.
Sure, it’s missing out on a few extras, and the earbuds take a long time to charge. But if you don’t need ANC and are instead looking for earbuds that deliver the best possible sound, the FW5 is an easy recommendation.
The FW5 sounds better than just about every other wireless earbuds I’ve used thus far, and that’s down to the tuning and drivers onboard.