Awhile back when the iPhone 7 marked the removal of the headphone jack, I was disappointed. That trusty 3.5mm jack that we’ve all come to know was gone from the best-selling smartphone. While most are OK with Bluetooth enabled devices, audiophiles like me were left to suffer. Apple’s solution was a cheap little “adapter” that sounded way worse than the built in DAC on the iPhone 6S/6S Plus. Not only that, Apple’s adapters are plagued with durability issues. In this article, we’re going to cover a device that will solve these issues entirely. Enter: The FiiO i1, a DAC designed to connect directly to the lighting port on your iPhone or other iOS device.
A Little Background History: FiiO, A Trusted Brand For Years.
Ask any audiophile who makes some of the best portable headphone products. They will more than likely mention FiiO. FiiO has designed some really successful products throughout the years. Their DACs and headphone amplifiers have been a staple in the world of personal audio. As you can see, FiiO is a huge player in the headphone market. They don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon despite Apple’s move.
The Design and Features: FiiO Already Hit The Nail In The Coffin
Upon unboxing the FiiO i1, One thing that I noticed right off the bat was the size. While the cable is significantly longer than Apple’s adapter, the connector’s plug is slightly smaller. The 3.5mm female end is where the i1 really shines however. The FiiO i1 comes with a 3-button remote that allows you to use all functions from pausing/playing, seeking, activating Siri, and adjusting the volume. All without ever getting your phone out. FiiO even threw in a microphone built into the remote for taking phone calls and talking to Siri. Both the remote, microphone, and 3.5mm connector are all housed in this little tinny remote. In case you’re wondering, we’re missing the finale piece of the puzzle, the DAC.
Did FiiO Skimp on Sound For These Features?
The short answer is no. If you reading about the FiiO i1, you’re more than likely not looking for the short answer. Here I’m going to be giving you my impressions with the sound quality of the FiiO i1. I’m also going to be comparing the FiiO i1 directly to Apple’s pitiful adapter.
Here’s a surprise that I am going to tell you: Out of the box, the FiiO i1 wasn’t entirely impressive at first. Although I noticed a noticeable increase in amplifier power, the sound seamed kind of muffled. Being a much higher end DAC then Apple’s, I decided to let the DAC burn in a little. The results post burn in were an entirely different story.
The FiiO i1 Woke Itself Up!
The first set of headphones that I had used to test out the FiiO i1 were the Aiwa Prodigy 1s. At first, I was just relaxing late at night listening when I started to notice improvements. I was shocked as I started noticing subtle sounds that I have never even heard before in music that I listen to regularly. What was just a night of listening quickly turned into a critical listening session.
Thinking about the sound signature, I can describe it as very neutral. The overall frequency response seams more flat than Apple’s adapter which seams to boost the low end a bit. Overall, I much prefer the frequency response of the FiiO i1. The Aiwa Prodigy 1s has plenty of low end to begin with.
Now for tonal quality, the FiiO i1 really shines in this department. For those not familiar, tonal quality is how good a sound actually sounds within a song. The FiiO i1 just makes your music satisfying to listen to.
The FiiO i1 also left me satisfied with it’s soundstage. While my Aiwa Prodigy 1s already have a good soundstage to being with, I found them to be significantly happier with the FiiO i1. Specific details seamed to come far from both the left and right sides. There was ‘depth” in between these two sides that I have never heard from a portable headphone setup before. The only way I could previously get this type of soundstage with headphones was by using one of my bulky USB DACs and a good quality headphone amplifier.
Overall, the sound was warm yet accurate by combining the Aiwa Prodigy 1s with the FiiO i1. I recommend reading my review on them as they are the best sounding headphones period for $40.
The True Test: Listening With The Sony MDR V6s.
Now that I was impressed with what my Aiwa Prodigy 1s were revealing, I decided to break out the old Sony MDR V6s for a true test. Being studio monitors, that Sony MDR V6s would reveal any flaws withing the sound of FiiO’s i1 DAC. While listening, I was shocked that my first impressions of the sound were correct. The frequency response was extremely flat and accurate. I was expecting more of a peak within the mid range as the Aiwa Prodigy 1s are a bit v-shaped but this was not the case.
This is where I decided to try something interesting. My iPhone being the 11 Pro Max has stereo microphones. For this test, I wanted to see just how good these microphones were at accurately catching the sound around me while recording video. I went ahead and recorded a couple videos where I was sitting at. Playing these recordings back blew me away completely. The sound was extremely pure to listening to them unrecorded! I’m glad that I use my iPhone’s stereo mics to record these sounds.
Overall, even the Sony MDR V6s are an interesting combination with the FiiO i1 DAC. If you want to learn more about these ancient Sonys, you can read the review here.
The FiiO i1 Is A Suprisingly Good DAC!
Overall, I was impressed with the FiiO i1. I couldn’t find any flaws with this DAC. It sounds amazing and everything works as intended. For a little over $30 at the time of this writing, the FiiO i1 is an audiophile-grade product that really performs. It is small but mighty in the sound department and completely blows away Apple’s sorry excuse for an adapter. As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to comment down below and I will be sure to answer any questions regarding FiiO’s i1 DAC.