| A time of change and creation
Compared with speakers and large headphones, the development and innovation of earbuds in recent years is actually not slow.
Whether it is the composite application of multi-type units, the promotion of balance technology, the modular tunable design, or the joining of new materials, new concepts and new sounds are galloping in front of us.
Of course, these new technologies have indeed brought us a lot of better sounds, but in fact these adjustments are still within a fixed range and framework to try different viewing angles and tastes.
Especially in recent years, after the existing technical conditions have stabilized in the earbuds field, real changes and breakthroughs have rarely been seen. In many cases, it is still the improvement and optimization of the original idea. For example, increase the sound field a little, improve the resolution a little, and make the sound more natural. Such tweaks are more of an improvement than a change.
| About FiR Audio
We are no strangers to FiR Audio. This headphone brand established in 2018 has been committed to the development of high-end headphones and new technologies. Previously, the FiR Audio M series headphones have been widely recognized by the enthusiast group, and I have also conducted a very detailed listening experience for this series of headphones.
In my impression, the most intuitive feeling that FiR Audio gives me is that this brand is very good at innovation. Whether it is the application of new technologies, or the active attempts to various sound styles, and the continuous breakthrough to a higher level. In just a few years, FiR Audio can let us see its progress and more different content in multiple directions and fields.
For example, the FiR Audio M5 that we were familiar with before has been hailed by many enthusiasts as one of the pinnacles in the field of earbuds. According to the habits of many other brands in the industry, FiR Audio’s next step must be to launch models such as M5p, M50 or M6 to enjoy the dividends brought by M5. But FiR Audio did not, they launched a completely different series of headphones to declare their innovation, breakthrough determination and courage.
| Objective part
1. This time, FiR Audio released three headphones, Ne4, Kr5 and Xe6 at the same time. Among them, the Xe6 that this article focuses on is the flagship model in this series, and it is also the most expensive earphone in this series.
2. FiR Audio Xe6 adopts a composite unit structure design of 1 dynamic+4 armature+1 static electricity. Now, the composite unit form of dynamic+armature+static electricity has become the mainstream structure of flagship earbuds, and it is very mature in terms of structure setting and frequency division technology.
3. The Xe6 earphones use a stainless steel case and a sapphire glass backplate, so the Xe6 earphones are heavier. Maybe for some enthusiasts, long-term wear will produce a certain sense of fatigue, so it is particularly important to choose the right eartips. Of course, as you all know, FiR Audio also has a complete product layout in the custom product line. For audiophiles with enough budget, directly choosing the customized version of FiR Audio Xe6 can solve the wearing problem at one time, while obtaining relatively better sound performance.
FiR Audio Xe6 uses a gold cavity and a black backplate. A number of patterns and patterns with different levels and textures are embedded in the back panel, making the headphone look dignified and stable as a whole, without lack of exquisite details and connotations.
4. It is particularly worth mentioning that the Xe6 is equipped with a unique “Kinetic Bass touch subwoofer” inside the cavity. We can understand it as a two-way mixed conduction through the low frequency vibration to the outside of the auricle outside the sound transmission system of the catheter and the ear canal. Let the low frequency be transmitted to the eardrum and senses in a more diversified and three-dimensional way to obtain better low frequency effect.
5. At the same time, FiR Audio Xe6 is also equipped with an ATOM-X ear pressure release module to release and adjust ear pressure in time to relieve ear fatigue. This technology not only protects ear health and reduces ear damage, but also achieves a more relaxed and comfortable sound and hearing through pressure regulation.
6. The FiR Audio Xe6 is equipped with an 8-stranded headphone cable, 4.4mm balanced plug, and is not equipped with a 3.5mm wire or replaceable plug. After all, a player with a flagship earbuds usually has a balanced port.
At the same time, the connection method between Xe6 earbuds and cables has also changed from the MMCX of the previous generation to the more mainstream 2PIN port in the current high-end earbuds field.
7. The accessories of earphones are not rich, such as ordinary round storage box, 4-5 pairs of eartips of different types and specifications, and a cloth decorative picture of the same size as the storage box. If it is required by the standard of a flagship earbuds, I think the accessories and packaging of the FiR Audio Xe6 are slightly simpler, at least it should be equipped with more exquisite storage devices and adapters to facilitate the needs of users in all aspects.
| Sound of FiR Audio Xe6
This flagship earbuds can basically represent the highest level in the current earbuds field in all aspects of sound quality. Whether it is the integrity and accuracy of the information and content, or the tension and structure of the sound field and dynamics, the Xe6’s performance is perfect. Whether it is at the macro level or the micro level, FiR Audio Xe6 can polish the sound almost to the perfect state of imagination.
Previously, we have given a very high evaluation of the quality performance of FiR Audio M5. I think the FiR Audio Xe6 generally continues the sound level and frame of the M5. On this basis, targeted enhancements have been made to the texture of the sound. Especially in the natural sense and dynamic strength of the sound field, it has a more obvious enhancement.
For example, in “Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15”, the explosive power of the timpani and double bass in the opening and the fineness and transparency of the subsequent violins form a distinct comparison and contrast. The music alternates between these two strong contrasting sounds, giving people a more profound shock and emotion. It is particularly worth mentioning that the sound field of FiR Audio Xe6 is no longer suitable to be described as “big” or “small”, but a very natural and real sound field performance. The true form of its spatial location is enough to put many full-size large open-back headphones to shame.
If you consider the overall form of the sound, I think the FiR Audio Xe6 does not highlight the mid-frequency like most earbuds, but makes the entire frequency band more balanced. Therefore, if we use FiR Audio Xe6 to listen to human voices, it may not be “on-ear” like in-ear earbuds, but maintain a relatively moderate sense of distance and moderate energy. If you use Xe6 to listen to classical music or other pure music, you will feel a richer comprehensive performance of the overall frequency band.
At the same time, the sound texture of FiR Audio Xe6 maintains a moderately loose state, and also has more overtones and tails. It has a richer flavor and aftertaste when performing string music.
Still taking my favorite folk music “Legends of the Eight Immortals” as an example, I can feel the breath of the flute and the tail trembling of the guqin on many instruments. Under the interpretation of Xe6, the taste of this song is very different. The first is a better sense of transparency, so that we can more clearly feel that the music lines like a landscape painting seem to be slowly extending in front of our eyes, and the picture is more clear. At the same time, the right string with overtones also brings the charm of the music into full play, making the song more long and far-reaching.
Of course, if you use the FiR Audio Xe6 to listen to some more rhythmic music, such as Rap or metal rock music, it will appear a little procrastinate and not decisive enough. At the same time, the sound will be too empty, lacking a sense of oppression and rhythm.
3. Collocate and drive
I think FiR Audio Xe6 should first consider high-quality portable players when it comes to collocate. It is not recommended to collocate with mobile phone peripherals (decoding amp, Bluetooth adapter, etc.) or low-end Walkman. Only when the quality of the front end reaches a certain level, can the strength of the Xe6 be truly exerted.
In terms of style, I recommend using a slightly warmer front end to match the Xe6, such as a tube/dual-mode player represented by the A&ultima SP2000T, which will make the Xe6 sound more relaxed, gentle, and more charming.
Relatively speaking, Xe6’s requirements for driving force are not particularly high. Although according to experience, whether it is a large-sized dynamic low frequency unit or an electrostatic unit, it is more difficult to drive. However, in the actual performance of FiR Audio Xe6, the requirements for the driving threshold are not particularly high. Basically, mid-to-high-end players can make the Xe6 achieve a better sound state in terms of driving force. Whether it is the basic framework of the sound, or the specific performance of the sound field and dynamics, they are all excellent. And if we match the Xe6 with a larger driving force, it does have a lot of driving potential.
4. Music style
I can’t think that the Xe6 is an earbuds that is completely balanced, comprehensive, stable in musical style, without character and personality.
This flagship earbuds has a relatively obvious style orientation. As a whole, it is mainly based on classical music and other types of pure music, with relatively soothing pop music and pan-blues supplemented by a music style structure.
Especially in the expressiveness of large-scale classical music, Xe6 can be said to be unique in the field of earbuds, with a strong level and unique sound character. The sense of scene and momentum created by FiR Audio Xe6 is far beyond what ordinary earbuds can achieve. For small-scale classical music and folk music, Xe6 is also good at expressing and shaping the sense of sound line and texture, and can restore the timbre and flow of instrumental music in an extremely natural and loose form.
In most popular music, the Xe6’s vocal performance is also remarkable. The vocals of Xe6 are not fat and close to the ear, but are expressed in a more realistic form, so that the singing is full of the actual timbre and emotional expression of the singer’s voice, which is more tuneful and moving.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, I think that some other headphones may have a more targeted performance than the Xe6 in some music with a sense of atmosphere and rhythm.
In fact, the Xe6 earbuds have almost no problems and shortcomings in the sound style of their design.
However, I personally feel that the level of the headphone cable that comes with the FiR Audio Xe6 is not enough. For such a high-priced headphone, the sound quality and matching of this cable are not completely satisfactory.
I tried using the Effect Audio Centurion with the Xe6, and the results I got were wildly varied. Of course, even if we don’t consider the extreme cable combination of the Effect Audio Centurion, the headphone cable equipped with the Xe6 is not very good when only measured by some original cables for headphones above $1500.
Having said that, we already have a relatively clear understanding and preliminary judgment on the sound performance of Xe6. But as mentioned above, FiR Audio is a brand that is good at innovation, so let’s take a look at what innovations and breakthroughs have been made by Xe6.
1. Low frequency
Low frequencies have always been the Achilles’ heel of earbuds. From technical difficulties such as unit size and conduction loss, to acoustic characteristics such as sound pressure balance and form display, the low frequency of earbuds has always appeared in the form of “high imitation”. If we are used to listening to the low frequency of speakers or high-end large headphones, and then listen to the low frequency of general in-ear earbuds, we always feel that the low frequency is like a fake, with almost no form and texture at all.
The FiR Audio Xe6 benefits from the new “Kinetic Bass Touch Subwoofer”, which combines low frequency with conduit transmission and tactile transmission, forming a low frequency content in our ears that is almost completely different from other earbuds. It is displayed in the most vivid, real, morphological and dynamic form. It can be said that the low frequency of Xe6 is completely out of the concept of earbuds, and is moving towards the low frequency quality of large headphones and speakers.
We don’t have to test the Xe6 with extreme low frequencies like “鼓诗”, but take the piano bass part of the intro to “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 in c minor, Op.18” as an example. We can intuitively feel the low-frequency and mid-low frequency parts of the piano, with the resonance and tone of the entire piano box, which is unmatched by other earbuds. In the performance of Xe6, the sound of the bass part of the piano can even outline the shape and texture of a complete piano cabinet, which is more vivid in the entire symphony system and becomes the most beautiful scenery. This sound is a low frequency performance that previous in-ear earbuds have never touched or even imagined.
Therefore, we can say that FiR Audio Xe6 is creative in the processing of low frequencies.
2. The naturalness of the sound field
As mentioned earlier, the soundstage of the FiR Audio Xe6 doesn’t need to be measured by “big or small” at all.
FiR Audio Xe6 combines the precise positioning of in-ear earbuds with the continuity of the open structure, allowing its sound field to be neatly and orderly arranged in a shape and scale similar to open-back headphones.
Also in “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 in c minor, Op.18”, the sound field space we hear is not even the “sequentially expanded” arrangement of traditional high-end earbuds. Instead, after the sound parts are arranged in an orderly manner, they naturally form a complete performance space system. That is to say, the Xe6’s sound field method has departed from the traditional earbuds based on the “separation” design idea, but let the sound form an overall spatial system with mutual linkage, which is closer to the real music environment.
3. The realism of the sound
In my opinion, compared to the FiR Audio M5, the Xe6’s tone and texture are a little looser, while the midrange is a little more convergent.
As a result, compared with the M5, the Xe6 has a great improvement in the realism and tuneful of the sound. Especially in the performance of medium and high frequency instrumental music, the Xe6’s sound is more real and tuneful than the M5.
Of course, this might feel like it’s not bright enough on the vocals, but I think being able to make such trade-offs in tuning is actually a creation.
Therefore, Xe6 earbuds does not relatively improve its sound orientation by shifting the frequency band like some previous headphones. Instead, under the original framework, a lot of new technologies, new ideas, and new contents have been added, and these are integrated into the sound of earbuds, making it a real change and creation.
With so much creative expression in the FiR Audio Xe6, there are bound to be breakthroughs and progress.
We all know that the FiR Audio M5 flagship earbuds have already amazed many audiophiles. If we want to break through it, it is difficult for us to even imagine where there is room for breakthroughs. After all, in our experience, the M5 has done almost everything earbuds can do.
And the emergence of FiR Audio Xe6 gave us the answer. What Xe6 breaks through and surpasses is not even FiR Audio M5, but the inherent mode of traditional earbuds.
Of course, we can think that the Xe6 has better low frequency and more real sound texture. We can also think that the Xe6 is more relaxed and stretched in sound than the M5, and has a more complete sound field space. But I still feel that the Xe6 has refreshed the sound ceiling and dimension that earbuds may reach in a different way than the M5. It can even be said to be a qualitative change in the entire earbuds field.
If we assume that FiR Audio M5 is a peak of traditional earbuds, then Xe6 has gone beyond the category of traditional earbuds and leads a new field and concept.
Value is often a variable.
Of course, the FiR Audio Xe6 can also be an earbuds that goes beyond the concept of earbuds.
So, we don’t have to measure value by price. There is no need to be superstitious about high prices, nor to be turned against them by high prices. Xe6 is just Xe6 itself, our understanding of it should be more on its sound.
Perhaps, FiR Audio Xe6 will not be popularized to everyone. But this earbuds can make many audiophiles who have heard it have a new understanding of the sound of earbuds, and can create more content and development direction for this earbuds field, which is its real value.
Therefore, for many enthusiasts, it is not necessary to care whether to buy this earbuds. Instead, you should be able to gain something from every minute and every second of listening to it. Of course, if conditions permit, to have this “earbuds”, it must be one of the most beautiful scenery in the HiFi journey.
For us, in the era of more and more earbuds and less and less changes, FiR Audio Xe6 comes at the right time, at this time of change and creation.