The Story Behind the EM3---FiiO's First Open Earbuds

Author:FiiO Publish time:2016-03-15

Strictly speaking, the EM3 is not FiiO’s first earphones but the third.

The first earphones were the EX1. Some of you may already know that the EX1 were branded both FiiO and Dunu, and were derived from Dunu’s T1 IEMs. This was similar in spirit to A&K’s cooperation with another earphone company.

The EX1 model number stood for “Earphones for X1”, that is, to choose a pair of IEMs for the X1, which paired together totaled 169.99USD, which we think stood for the best sonic value for money among Chinese audio products.

The EX1 were like an adopted child for our X1. But they have made their foster parents proud, selling in large numbers and entering the top 100 in Amazon US’s sales rankings for earphones. Don’t forget that the EX1 sells for 69.99USD. I dare say that the EX1 have been exceeded in sales by few Chinese headphones above the 50USD price range.

The second pair of earphones were sold were the nameless earbuds bundled with the M3 player. Because it was estimated that many M3 buyers would be casual users rather than hi-fi enthusiasts, we designed the M3 different differently from our other players in that (1) the M3 comes with 8GB of internal storage, (2) it comes with a bundled pair of earbuds. The goal was to let buyers be able to use the M3 right away without buying micro SD cards or earphones.

To demonstrate the sincerity of our offering, the bundled earbuds were not a rebrand of an existing OEM offering, but of our own design in appearance and developed anew in conjunction with our OEM based on our sonic requirements. Design-wise, we decided to go for the earbud form factor to make the issue of fit less demanding for casual users; an in-line remote was also added to help ease control of the player.

Sonically, the bundled earbuds employed 14.8mm large-diameter drivers, high-flux NIB magnets, and custom-designed driver diaphragms; the sound is warm and full-bodied rather than highly analytical, so it’s more suitable for vocal and pop music, which fits with our M3’s target audience. An advantage of the earbud design is that it has an inherent advantage in soundstage size and natural tonality over IEMs.

After the M3 was launched to market, we received a lot of positive feedback from experienced headphone hi-fi enthusiasts regarding the quality of the bundled earbuds, and lots of suggestions for us to launch the earbuds separately from the M3. Thus it was that the EM3 open earbuds were born, which you should now know for certain are based on the earbuds bundled with the M3.

So what’s the difference between the EM3 and the M3’s bundled earbuds, other than the color?

Firstly and most importantly, the EM3’s impedance was raised to 47 ohms. Raising the impedance may alter the earphones’ impedance characteristics, reducing non-linear distortion caused by inductance in the voice coil windings, increasing sound quality. For example, the Yuin PK1, legendary among HiFi circles, has an impedance of 150 ohm.

Of course, too-high impedance places undue stress on the player / amplifier’s voltage amplification requirements; therefore, we settled on an impedance of 47 ohms, which we believe reaps most of the fidelity benefits of high impedance while being easy enough to drive from most smartphones.

Secondly, the EM3 comes with a microphone as well as the in-line remote, so as to allow voice calls as well as music listening.

Finally, the EM3 employs an L-shaped jack in place of the original straight jack, and does not compromise durability for prettiness: the jack is suitably sturdy if a bit clumsy looking, but is suitably designed to be compatible with cases for smartphones and DAPs alike.

There are not that many high-quality earbuds on the market, never mind one that is so cheap and comes with a mic and remote. Hopefully we’ve found a little unfilled niche in the market? Simply put: Good sound at a bargain! Simple to use, but not simply designed!  Would you like to try a pair?

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