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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Headphones

Cheap thrills: FiiO's astonishing EX1 in-ear headphones

The FiiO EX1 sounds almost too good to be true, the Audiophiliac thinks it's the best under $100 in-ear headphone on the planet!

Lets cut right to the good part, the FiiO EX1 is a great sounding $89.99, £69.99 in-ear headphone. Not just great for the money, the EX1 approaches the sound quality of the best headphones that sell for double the price. It's also super-comfortable, and looks pretty cool, the EX1 sports ear pieces crafted from CNC milled duralumin and stainless steel. The cable is Kevlar-reinforced, and the 3.5mm plug housing looks durable. There's a 13mm titanium driver in the ear piece, and the EX1's impedance is listed at 16 Ohms.

FiiO's snazzy EX1 in-ear headphones FiiO

The low bass pulse coursing through the Nine Inch Nails "Hesitation Marks" album was profoundly deep and tight, the EX1's low-end will blow you away!

Stereo imaging was expansive, detailing is good, but not so extreme as to render compressed recordings unlistenable. In fact, the EX1's sound was consistently flattering to every tune I played.

Acoustic music has the sort of tactile/delicate quality I associate with much more expensive headphones, treble detailing is crisp and clear, there's no added grit or harshness. Dynamic contrasts are vivid, and midrange tone is very natural.

To put the EX1's sound in perspective, I compared it with my reference affordable in-ear headphone, the Hifiman RE400 . That one had a softer, less clear sound than the EX1, the RE400 blunted the shimmer of cymbals, and the sound wasn't as airy and spacious as the EX1. The differences aren't small; I was surprised by the margin of the EX1's superiority.

Downsides are limited isolation from external noise, it's a little worse than average for in-ear headphones, and the EX1 lacks a mic and phone controls. Even so, the FiiO EX1 is the new budget audiophile in-ear headphone champ! It's sold on Amazon, so availability won't be an issue.