Kiwi Ears Orchestra, FiiO FH7 / FD7, or

Hi all and thanks for reading my first post on this forum…

I’m in the race for a new IEM and have my eyes set on the Kiwi Ears Orchestra ($500) which, unfortunately, receives very little publicity. The reviews that are out there are fantastic though without a single exception, and I’m drawn to its cross-spectrum neutrality with a hint of warmth. I really dislike bass- and treble boosts, vocals without any texture or being nasal or shouty. At the same time I love to hear some shimmer in violins and a piano being presented as 1 instead of 3 completely different instruments. But above all I’m looking for a highly engaging musical experience that makes it impossible not to drown in the music, no matter whether I’m listening to Monteverdi, Wagner, Fitzgerald, Coltrane, Zappa, or Metallica.

Because of the above I thought I should strive to find a very balanced IEM as the perfect compromise, even when not top of the bill for any specific genre. With this in mind and rather not wanting to spend over $500 I thought the Kiwi Ears Orchestra was an excellent starting point. After reading and watching reviews for 7 days straight I’m back at square 1 as nearly all IEM offerings seem to favour the V-shaped tuning that I do not. There’s some stand-outs like maybe the Dunu Zen, but not only is it $200 more expensive but it still comes with its own sonical peculiarities (although I AM attracted to its single driver approach; knowing from loudspeakers that not having to use crossovers solves many problems while adding rhythmic qualities at the same time). So being more expensive most often leads to doing something really better while compromising on another topic.

I’ve been seeing a lot of love for the FiiO FH7 and there may be more to come with the new FD7 but I’m not sure if they are neutral and engaging enough to make me happy. They do seem to be the more complete package though. On the other hand FiiO IEMs don’t receive much love when technicalities are compared and are always way down on those lists. Funny enough individual reviews are always great, so what gives?

So… Long story short: Is there anything to consider next to the Kiwi Ears Orchestra for me given the above or should I simply pull the trigger - slightly scary for a first product of yet again a brand new Chinese company.

Tnx much!!!

drftr

It depends on your library. FH7 are very good, have great resolution, good sound stage, tuning filters and unique bass, almost neutral tuning. They are good for many genres. I haven’t listened to the others, but Kiwi is unlikely to beat them, even though they are different drivers. Maybe FD 7 will be the best, but … Grab FH7 :wink:

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Not sure about that as Kiwi Ears is the company of the person who tunes the ThieAudio IEMs, and you may be aware of their rather incredible reputation over the past few years. That (plus the fantastic reviews the Orchestra is getting) has certainly piqued my interest - not in the last place because he seems to be on a very different tuning path that favours neutrality over more V-shaped setups.

drftr

Kiwi Orchestra has breen praised all over. Even HBB liked it. Of all those options, I’d pick it in an heart beat. I also hate fiio stuff so there’s that.

Fd7 is over priced.

For 500 i’d get a balanced tribid. If you want that sweet timbre, you might need a single DD. Oxygen is only 280 and beats all others.

I took the Tanchjim’s from my list because of a couple of bad reviews earlier on but will have a second look tomorrow - tnx for the suggestion.

I indeed do think that the FD7 is overpriced with so many great competitors. They probably would be able to get away with it 2 years ago but in 2021 with these prices they will possibly only sell to current FiiO users. Still, I like the 1 DD concept but I would need to see a lot of love for it before pulling that trigger. From reading so far I’m still interested but it’s hard to see it beat the Kiwi while the FH7 can now be found for $395, making it almost $250 cheaper / less expensive than the FD7. That’s quite some money in this quality class.

drftr

Well, I never heard FH7, but unless you hear prog metal, I’m not sure I’d pick it. It is know for it’s fast bass, but I think you’re looking for something else.

I actually found it back in my notes: I de-listed the Oxygens because of 2 main reasons that are somewhat related as well: More than a few reviewers were complaining about a rather fatiguing treble, and similarly they warned about potential fit issues, especially for longer use. I took offense because of that because 1) I’m known to have 6-8 hour long listening sessions, and 2) I’d have to take a gamble fit-wise because I don’t have large ears AND am currently spending half a year in Mexico making logistics after ordering okay-ish but possible returns a a bit of a nightmare, IF that possibility exists at all. So I decided to err on the safe side. That also partly explains why I have FiiO on my list, because as a permanent traveller I think I’d be up for less logistical hassle using a company that exists (I honestly don’t know) for a decade or so, compared to a newbie like Kiwi. So not sound-related at all, but probably not completely stupid either.

drftr

Thanks for your efforts! Do I interpret the chart correctly expecting rather recessed upper mids? Like less meat on the bones for singers? Or am I trying to read too much from a single line?

drftr

I have the FH7 and it seems like it could be a good choice for you. The FH7 is solid at $400, especially with the build quality and accessories you get. When I first heard them, I was extremely impressed, having not owned anything that expensive audio-wise. Nowadays, I actually think that my Galaxy Buds Pro surpass them, although those are way too V-shaped for your taste.

The bass on the FH7 is quite capable and quick, but doesn’t draw attention to itself unless absolutely needed. Overall sound signature is neutral to a fault, with the only deviation being a boosted upper treble to give everything more shimmer and air. That upper treble boost may be fatiguing for some (tips and filters can alter that some) but it helps to give this super detailed image. The FH7 is quite technically capable, punching well above its price in that department.

The downside of the FH7 is with timbre and a few little issues in tuning. It has a case of ‘balanced armature timbre’ which can give the sound a sort of metallic sheen and make the mids and treble sound slightly smeared or smoothed over. What this means is that while you’ll be able to hear most every intricacy of what is being played, and everything is part of a coherent whole, the individual instruments and voices can sound ‘off’ in different ways. Not to a drastic extent, but that is the issue with them, and also the reason that they’re $400 instead of $800+ because improvements over the FH7-tier get real expensive real quick.

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If you have an issue with the FH7 it will be with the treble. Lots of those graphs are measure with rigs that are really inaccurate above 8k Hz. The recessed mids can be a good thing as it avoids shouty vocals, it’s all about trade offs. A graph isn’t a review even though too many people thing it is :slight_smile:

Another good point for the FH7 is that you can get it on Amazon and return it if it doesn’t work out really easily.

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That, simply from reading over a dozen reviews about them, is exactly the sound I would expect, so without having heard them I can only say you must be spot on. I think I would fall in love with their liveliness and not doing anything wrong, which is probably a great compliment for any IEM under a thousand bucks. But coming from Apogee Duetta and Revel Ultimate Gem loudspeakers on Mark Levinson sets I’m afraid I’m probably something of an audiophile boomerang that is slowly picking up an old hobby again, meaning that soon enough I would probably want more than the FH7 can deliver on an absolute level. Knowing how nitpicky I am I will probably focus on anything it doesn’t do perfect instead of focussing on what it does well. As such I thought I’d be happiest with something like the Kiwi Ears Orchestra that apparently is very hard to fault, without doing anything top notch. I think that behaviour would keep me closer to what it’s all about: The music.

drftr

Happy to help! Yeah the FH7 isn’t for you then if you’ve had plenty of exposure to high-end audio. It would likely be a stepping stone rather than a final destination. That’s what the FH7 was for me.

I hope the Orchestra does it for you! But if it doesn’t, just ask here or message me. Compared to how nuts speakers can get, IEMs are a bargain to get top quality audio.

Mmmmm. Yes, but FH7 in my opinion is well above the price! IEMs with a much higher price cannot reach it. There are some drawbacks, but overall it is exceptional, even for 2021.

Are you kidding…?!!

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This can’t even be true in theory :)))))) Practically not to mention! But everyone judges for themselves.

Dunu Studio SA6 maybe?

drftr

For full BA at that price range, my recs will go for
Sa6 or RSV.

One of them will be in my collection.

Have you thought about a tribid?

Thanks for that… I have crossed the RSV from my list because it had too many No’s for the price. That last addition is important for me as indeed I can find more than a handful IEMs that are better on average, but they all seem to come with a couple of let downs that wouldn’t make me comfortable paying that much more.

Having quite some experience with electrostats I don’t really think I would appreciate having them included on an IEM in this price range. I do like them very much (I spent weeks with a Stax Lambda Pro) but I recognize too many “faults” in the mid-fi category reviews that more often than not leads to a rather disconnected sound balance. This is not only because of their sound characteristics but also because of cross-over issues. Yes, they add something very special to the sound, but my experience so far isn’t that great. I guess we can’t expect an extraordinary integration with the rest of the sound at this price level. Fair enough. Although I would kill for a single driver EST setup I will never do so under $1,000 or so.

I’m even hesitant about a dynamic / balanced armature combination to be fair. They’re simply 2 completely different beasts that need a lot of tricks to play very well together. Yes, sound-wise it can be just fine, but having to use many cross-over tricks to solve timing and phase problems in the end leaves a lot to be desired once you’re talking rhythm, soundstage, dynamics, etcetera.

If I had to choose between dynamic-only, BA-only, and EST-only, then in an ideal world I would always pick EST-only. But sub $1,000 I think dynamic-only is probably the best compromise, were it not that there’s not too much available. Probably mostly because people want to buy something with a strong V-shaped curve, that sounds very dynamic, with impressive specs, that looks gorgeous, and can be had for less than $200. How they hold up timbre-wise against real world accoustic instruments is not that important in a world built around electronic instruments that are based on distortion - or so they say.

Most important sentence of my rant: There’s not a single system that is better than others as it’s all about compromises and how it’s executed.

drftr

The FD7 has a 100% pure beryllium diaphragm, not just coated like the FD5; I imagine that is a big part of the extra cost. Whether or not it is worth it is another matter. I have seen 1 review so far that was very positive:

But I need more reviews to be sure it is worth the price. So far the jury is still out imo.

According to reviews, FD7 are FD5 with tamed higs and pure beryllium. And … nothing else! Overpriced, typical of Chi Fi today :unamused: