Between the Headband: FIIL’s Diva Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Editor’s Note: We’re starting a new category of articles here on CYMBACAVUM that covers headphones. Historically, there have been numerous websites that do a very good job of covering full-sized headphones, so we chose to cover — obsessively — in-ears and other aspects of the most portable arm of audio. But while we’ve always focused almost exclusively on in-ear headphones, what we’re most concerned about is great stories and great technology.  That’s why ‘Between the Headband’ is a new category in our list of features that will begin to cover on-ear and portable over-ear headphones, with a specific focus on the trend of being connected and smart in this mobile-first era. We’ll be covering the interesting stories, the underreported stories, and the stories that make people smile. In the coming weeks, we’ll be adjusting all of our coverage categories to fit our expanded coverage range. For example, our IEM coverage will be coalesced into the category ‘Between the Helices’, just like our site’s slogan. ‘Par Excellence’ will be our tag for what we consider to be the very best of audio. More revised categories will come later. As for ‘Between the Headband’, our coverage of the chinese headphone company FIIL and its Kickstarter products, the Diva and Diva Pro, will kick things off (no pun intended). While the FIIL Diva Pro might just seem like yet another Bluetooth-connected ANC headphone with a few more bells and whistles than the competition, the back story behind the company is as fascinating as the product itself, and that’s why we’ve chosen for it to headline ‘Between the Headband’. Please enjoy! 

Update for October 2016

The FIIL Diva Kickstarter project has ended, but it looks like the company has switched over to Indiegogo for pre-orders: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fiil-diva-pro-advanced-technology-headphones-sound-audio#/

Yes, this is an article about a Kickstarter project. Crowdfunding has been a popular destination for audio products for some time, to mixed results. Like most other types of crowdfunded projects, some have been great successes, but many others have been near-misses or failures. Most notably, many well-funded projects have had rocky, protracted development schedules — the Bragi Dash is one such example. It takes, understandably, a long time for a new, small company to translate a product from concept or prototype to shipping worthy. Sometimes, though, a company just wants more public recognition — they’ve essentially finished their product and merely want to use crowdfunding as a springboard for proving its worth. FIIL and its new Diva on-ear headphones are this very example.

We were approached by FIIL last month, and at that time, the brand had zero visibility outside China. The showy but insubstantial subject line their marketing liaison had chosen, “Premium Headsets by Chinese Rockstar” was probably not ideal. We thought it was a review request from merely another one of the many, almost innumerable, Chinese headphone companies trying to shine whatever publicity they could get on their mostly mediocre products. But a closer look tells us that FIIL is no ordinary headphone company — it’s a very public, visible one that has ambitions beyond a small piece of the Chinese audio pie.

FIIL, stylized as “F I I I”, is an amalgamation of ‘fill” and “feel”. The concept of the brand name is the kind of thing that the Chinese language naturally dictates — conveying multiple ideas, emotions, and actions in one single (character) word and displaying it with stylized modifications. Don’t mistake FIIL for a hazy, under-formed concept, though — the team behind the brand is not actually new to the headphone game. Based in Suzhou, the core R&D team was culled from Plantronics’ headset division. Despite having questionable industrial design chops, Plantronics has long had a line of critically-acclaimed active noise cancelling headphones, so the FIIL technical base is solid and experienced. The company also has another team in Beijing that works primarily on its Android and iOS smartphone apps. Together, the R&D comprises over two-thirds of the entire company. These two hardware segments, along with marketing, are coordinated by its veteran executive brass, which is populated by former hardware VPs for major tech companies like Huawei and Lenovo. Suffice to say, there is a good deal of experience with execution in this company. It shows with the design side as well, as the industrial design for FIIL‘s products is handled exclusively by German firm designaffairs‘ Shanghai studio, which has a portfolio full of products designed for major international conglomerates.

Wang Feng (汪峰) is the frontman for FIIL as an establishment.
Wang Feng (汪峰) is the frontman for FIIL as an establishment. (Image courtesy of FIIL)

And what about the “Chinese Rockstar” part of the company? The external face of FIIL is Wang Feng (汪峰), a music superstar in China; he’s one of the judges on the Chinese version of ‘The Voice‘ (appropriately named ‘The Voice of China’), and has released multiple hit albums over the years. So his credibility as a musician and music lover is obvious — or at least with the Chinese population. When it comes to western audiences, however, Wang is a nonentity and his wife is almost certainly the far more famous person in the household. Zhang Ziyi is well-known for her roles in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, ‘Rush Hour 2’, and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. Together, the two make up one of the most notable entertainment power couples in China, living the glam life under the watchful eye of the sino-paparazzi. Wang has also weathered his fair share of TMZ-worthy scandals over the years and had become a near-constant tabloid fixture, so it was understandable that Chinese consumers collectively shrugged and turned the other cheek when Wang Feng got up on stage last summer and announced that he was building a new headphone and technology brand. They took him for another celebrity that wanted to slap his name on some ready-made product and scoffed at Wang Feng’s best Steve Jobs impression. So, despite gaining support from venture capital firms in China, FIIL elicited lukewarm consumer interest domestically, even with the celebrity panache of Wang. FIIL‘s first products, which launched in 2015, the eponymous FIIL Wireless over-ear headphones and the hybrid in-ear Bestie, struggled to make a major splash. Apple, after all, is incredibly popular in China, along with its now subsidiary Beats (as well as their many fakes). With the introduction of the Apple W1 wireless chip integrated with the AirPods and the Beats Solo 3, Apple is primed for a continued stranglehold on the celebrity cum design-oriented lifestyle headphone, turning over little chance for FIIL to usurp established brands in the headphone arena. To the majority of Chinese people, FIIL is a brand that entered the arena too late in the game, and without a defining characteristic that allows it to stand out from the crowd. Instead of folding, however, as many in China expected, FIIL redoubled its efforts with the August announcement of the Diva and Diva Pro. The new product, changed from the over-ear FIIL Wireless to an on-ear design, promised to define FIIL as not just a headphone company but also a technology company as they looked for the latest tech trends to stuff into their headphones. They also decided to fight the good fight on the international stage by heading to Kickstarter and trying its luck there.

So here we are, with the Diva Pro, a $299 USD (this is the suggested list price, but FIIL is offering them for less on Kickstarter, depending on your perk level; the lower-priced Diva lacks a few key features but is largely the same headphone) supra-aural, Bluetooth-connected, smartphone app-enabled headphone with active noise cancellation, multiple selective environmental noise filters, a built-in digital audio player with 4 GB of memory, a 3D audio virtualizer, capacitive touch controls, and Siri/Cortana-like voice search. If you thought all that was a mouthful, it is. The features list reads like a wishlist snagged off a YouTube tech reviewer’s desk, fresh with dripping saliva and all. Understandably, it’d be hard to take a Kickstarter project seriously when it promises the world. The precedent set on Kickstarter is that companies that promise futuristic features rarely deliver what they originally promised, and rarely deliver on time. Fortunately, the Diva Pro seems like a product on the cusp of readiness (and perhaps success?) because for the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the Diva Pro a hundred different ways, comparing it against major products like the Bose QuietComfort 35, Sony h.ear On MDR-100ABN, Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H8, and even its own predecessor the FIIL Wireless — while the Diva has some clear flaws, the core product — a stylish, active noise-cancelling, Bluetooth headphone — is excellent. Not only are the core features and sound quality of the Diva Pro highly competitive against segment leaders, FIIL has demonstrated it has learned from its previous products and evolved their headphone into something much better. A cardinal sign of any new company worth endorsing is a display of improvement with every generation of product.

Design, Build Quality & Ergonomics

The look of the FIIL Diva line is sleek, modern, and minimalist. While the Diva is undoubtedly a handsome looking pair of headphones, in the world of tech, however, this kind of look is also very safe and somewhat uninspiring. You’ll get some remarks on the street for it looking good, but as far as industrial design goes, it won’t be winning any awards for transcendent design.

FIIL went the safe route with the Diva's design, carving out simple lines and edges.
designaffairs’ Shanghai studio went the safe route with the Diva‘s design, carving out simple lines and edges.

It will win over the hearts of consumers who place a premium on build quality, however. The Diva are a mixture of high-grade engineering plastics and aluminum, just like every other headphone around, but the materials are used in all the right instances. The headphones get their solid feel from the aluminum frame that runs from the ear cups to the headband, resulting in a very structurally sound pair of headphones that doesn’t ever generate any plastic creak — it’s surprising that, despite the metal frame, the Diva‘s weight only tops out at under half a pound (0.47 lbs). Oddly, they feel heavier to carry around than the Bose QC35, despite the Bose being the heavier of the two, but I doubt there’ll be a long-term difference in feel. The stepless adjustment sliders feel really solid and well-oiled; they have a bit of grip so as not to lose their clamping position but are never difficult to adjust. The protein leather pads on the Diva are soft and supple, leading to comfortable pressure against the pinnae of the ears. They’re articulated, able to move subtly in every direction to fit individuals’ ears better. While the Diva‘s cups do not fold flat (unlike the FIIL Wireless, which does), they do fold in for storage in its carry case.

When placed side to side next to the original FIIL Wireless, the Diva Pro‘s premium feel is accentuated in all the right ways. While the materials used aren’t terribly different, the differences in texture and feel in the hand go a long way. The Diva Pro just feels like a more solid product, while the FIIL Wireless feels like any other plastic-clad headphone. It’s not that the build quality of the FIIL Wireless is bad — the plastic has a nice, soft-touch texture, and the paint coats are nice. But it feels plastic and somewhat hollow, while the Diva Pro feels substantial. On the design side, there’s clear family resemblance between the two models, but the minimal, clean lines of the FIIL design language manage to look bulky and large on the FIIL Wireless. They’re far better suited to the more svelte on-ear design of the Diva line. A similar feeling of superior build is evident when the Diva are compared against the Bose QuietComfort 35 and Sony h.ear On MDR-100ABN, and even the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2. Each of these respective competitors is well-built, but something intangible makes the Diva feel nicer to grip by the headband. The only headphone that clearly outpaces the FIIL Diva in the build quality category is the B&O BeoPlay H8, which feels sumptuous and luxurious, right down to the leather stitching. It’s also twice the price, so the extra attention to detail is to be expected.

Like a few other headphones on the market, the Diva is able to sense whether you’re wearing the headphones on the head, or have taken them off, and will automatically pause the music when the headphones are removed, and then automatically resume when the headphones are put back on. I had initially suspected that the accelerometers in the Diva would be easily fooled, but I found the automatic pause/play detection to be quite consistent.

The ‘F I I I‘ logos on both ear cups light up white when toggled from the FIIL+ app or on the headphones themselves (a consecutive triple short press of the on/off/play/pause button). It’s an effect that’s obvious, but not gaudy.

Comfort is a plus for these headphones, especially in this world of poorly-fitting on-ear headphones. They fit better on the ears than the Sony h.ear On, despite the Sony’s design being an over-ear design. The B&O H8, also an on-ear design, fit similarly well, but are heavier (0.55 lbs) and because the H8 use a stiffer leather, feel heaver on the ears and thus aren’t as well-suited for longer listens. I don’t feel the Bose QC35 can be beat for comfort when it comes to ANC headphones, though. These headphones are essentially purpose-built for long-haul transatlantic/transcontinental/transpacific flights, and the Diva‘s on-ear design simply isn’t able to match the airy, light comfort of the Bose. As overall lifestyle headphones (e.g. jogs along the river bank, walks through a busy street market), the Diva will do just fine; just don’t expect cool outer ears when using them on 16 hour flights.

Active Noise Cancellation

The ANC feature is a make-or-break category when it comes to modern headphones. Bose is widely recognized as the standard bearer when it comes to active noise cancellation technology. Without any music playing, the QuietComfort 35 is devoid of any electronic hiss or clicks, offering listeners a sense of cool serenity when the headphones are worn. No, the Diva isn’t close to beating the QC35 is this regard and will give off the slightest hint of electronic feedback hiss, as well as fizz and buzz when seeking between tracks and toggling between different modes, but relative levels of ambient noise defeat are actually pretty similar between the two. If the ANC of the Diva is compared to the Sony h.ear On, the Diva will come out on top, able to filter away more non-recurrent noise in spite of having less passive isolation. The ANC is additionally substantially improved over the company’s own FIIL Wireless; despite having the over-ear passive attenuation advantage, the FIIL Wireless is considerably worse at ANC than the Diva, both in feedback buzz noise and in absolute attenuation.

MyAudioFilter, or MAF, is FIIL‘s implementation of selective noise filtering for its ANC functionality. Whereas most active noise cancelling headphones only have an on/off toggle, the Diva provides three levels of noise filtering. Noise-cancelling mode is the default, full-ANC mode, and people will use this mode most often. The headphones will cancel up to 96% of all ambient noise for up to 28 dB of noise reduction — or so FIIL claims. Real-world performance is not nearly as good, in my experience, though the reduction of noise sounds relatively natural. Monitor mode lets in human voices (and some traffic noise) to let you hold a conversation. Repetitive sounds such as air conditioning noise are still filtered away, giving you a cleaner feel for your surroundings. In my experience, no noise cancelling headphone ever reduces ambient noise to the point that you can’t hold a conversation with another person out on the street or inside an airplane cabin, so it’s not entirely necessary, but I found myself having a ton of fun toggling between the full-on noise-cancelling mode and monitor mode in sneaky attempts to eavesdrop on passersby on the street. It’ll also introduce enough car noise to let people be aware of surrounding traffic without having it be annoying. Open mode actually amplifies the noise that is normally attenuated, leading to this surreal, hyperacute sense of hearing that most people probably won’t end up using. It might be interesting to use in a very quiet environment, however. Lastly, there is a windy mode, which is a modified version of noise-cancelling mode that uses a wind-cut filter for its microphones. It definitely works, and I tested the function with a powerful floor fan blowing at the headphones from various angles, to which the result was wind noise being completely cut down at all angles. However, overall ANC noise attenuation levels suffer, so only use it on very windy days when the windy microphone effect is especially annoying.

They do fold up, just not flat.
They do fold up, just not flat.

Touch Controls and Button Interface

Capacitive touch controls seem like a slick idea, and companies like Parrot have incorporated them into headphones like the Zik, as have companies like Sony and Bang & Olufsen. FIIL is merely keeping pace. None of the control surfaces from any company works flawlessly and will respond inconsistently to touches and slides. Of the headphones I tested, the B&O H8 probably had the snappiest touch sensitive controls. The FIIL was somewhere in the middle of the pack. The Diva Pro‘s touch controls do have a tendency, also, to stop responding at random instances. A push of the play/pause button rescues the touch functionality, though, so it’s probably a firmware bug that can be ironed out later on.

My only real complaint with the buttons and toggles of the Diva is that the control schema doesn’t feel consistent. The main button on/off has three functions: push once for play/pause, push twice for voice confirmation of the mode status that the Diva Pro is in, and then push three times for… toggling the FIIL logo on and off? Well, at least it can be turned off. The rocker dial for switching between the various MAF modes is good, though. The exception is the access to windy mode, which requires a quick double press of the rocker dial, but cancellation of windy mode isn’t done the same way. Inconsistency in the control interface is problematic for lowering the learning curve of a headphone interface.

The touch controls work okay. Not great, just okay.
The touch controls work okay. Not great, just okay.

Wired Connectivity

Wired mode on these headphones works as expected from headphones these days. It’ll work with the power turned off and with the power on and ANC engaged. Everything seems like a direct carryover from last year’s FIIL Wireless, which also has an auto-sensing feature that detects when the cord is inserted into the headset. The Diva will give a notification that the headphones have entered wired mode, but won’t drop Bluetooth connection so that you can continue using the FIIL+ app to control the headphones. Accompanying the Diva is an included wired cord that includes a microphone and remote control, along with a toggle switch that allows users to choose between Apple MFI circuitry and the analogous Android layout. It’s a nice perk not to have to use two cables for users who use mobile devices from both ecosystems.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Connecting the Diva to devices is quite simple; turning on the headphones requires a long press that segues into a musical startup sequence, and if the user continues to hold down the on/off button, the FIIL will go automatically into pairing mode, prompted by the headphone’s voice assistant. The real plus of the Diva and Diva Pro‘s BT connectivity, though, is that it can connect to two different Bluetooth devices simultaneously. I was able to connect to my iPhone and iPad at the same time and switch between the two devices seamlessly, playing music on my iPad before pausing and taking a call with my iPhone. FIIL‘s little Siri/Cortana-like voice assistant will let you know that fact with a “Bluetooth 1 Connected, Bluetooth 2 Connected” notification. As far as I know, this kind of connectivity is matched only by the Bose QuietComfort 35, which also allows users to connect to two devices at a time.

FIIL claims 330 feet with its Bluetooth 4.1 wireless transceiver. Is it any better than any other company’s BT implementation? Probably not. While it performs well and almost never experiences dropouts in open, unobstructed spaces, turn a few corners in a concrete-walled building, and the Diva will begin cutting out before losing connection altogether.

Able to connect to two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously, the Diva gives users flexibility and convenience under real-world usage.
Able to connect to two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously, the FIIL Diva gives users flexibility and convenience under real-world usage.

Local Music Storage (Diva Pro ONLY)

With the higher end Diva Pro, users are getting extra hardware baked in, in the form of 4 GB of internal music storage and playback. Gym goers who wish not to carry a phone with them would appreciate this feature. Loading songs is about as easy as it gets, and like most rudimentary digital audio players, the Diva Pro can be treated as a drag-and-drop flash drive device. The big perk is that the format support is pretty substantial, going well beyond merely MP3 and AAC, expanding to Ogg, WAV, FLAC, APE, and more, all up to high-resolution bit/sampling rates of 24/192. If you have a music library with a bunch of high resolution and/or lossless files, then there’s no real need to reconvert everything for the Diva Pro‘s local music mode. It does not, however, sound dramatically different from the headphones used in wired mode, and toggling into the mode produces a loud popping sound as the headphones switch electronic circuits in real-time.

Sound and Frequency Response

Subjectively and objectively, the Diva sounds good. Although the overall sound balance is undeniably geared toward the mainstream, with some bass boost, the Diva are actually quite pleasant to listen to, with clear mids and well-measured treble. The bass itself is of reasonably high quality, with better texture and extension than both the QC35 and even the Momentum Wireless 2. If held to my finicky standards, the bass could still be tighter and faster, but I don’t think most people, even audio enthusiasts with a large variety of higher-end headphones, would have any issue with this quality of bass performance from ANC headphones. Head to head, to my ears, the Diva clearly sounds better than the Sony h.ear On. The Sony, despite the natural circumaural advantage, sounds overly nasal and hads a troubling mid-bass hump that masks the titanium driver’s true performance potential. The Diva also yields a superior sound balance to the B&O BeoPlay H8, whose huge bass (though nicely layered and texture), is simply too distracting for anyone not looking for maximum bass levels. The Bose QC35’s technical sound performance is also uninspiring compared to the Diva’s, but it does acquit itself with a mostly harmless sound signature and somewhat pleasing spatial representation to music (its angled circumaural cups do hold an advantage in this regard). Many companies claim to yield great sound from their headphones, but few actually sound good like the Diva does, especially those entrenched in the active noise cancelling arena. They either sound flat out bad, or have mostly milquetoast sound presentations, a likely result of the extensive DSP use that neuters the bite and definition of sound. As just mentioned, the Bose QC35 fits this very bill of a average performing and inoffensive sounding pair of ANC headphones. Thankfully, the Diva and Diva Pro preserve detail while presenting music in a manner that comes closer to neutral than most other ANC headphones. The Diva are just even sounding and clear.

The measurements are right here, graciously provided by FIIL; we were able to ascertain that the results were equalized to a diffuse field target. Although results taken from different measuring rigs are not directly comparable, this site from South Korea (a nationally-funded audio research center) has results on the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, and a multitude of other headphones taken from a very similar measurement setup: a B&K 4128C head-and-torso simulator and Listen Inc. SoundCheck data acquisition.

Frequency response of the FIIL Diva and Diva Pro headphones, equalized to a flat diffuse-field target response, tested internally by FIIL's development team by a B&K HATS
Frequency response of the FIIL Diva and Diva Pro headphones in Bluetooth mode, equalized to a flat diffuse-field target response, tested internally by FIIL‘s development team by a B&K 4128C HATS. The mostly flat midrange is a good sign.
Total harmonic distortion (THD) of the FIIL Diva and Diva Pro headphones tested at 100 dB and 110 dB.
Total harmonic distortion (THD) of the FIIL Diva and Diva Pro headphones tested at 100 dB and 110 dB. Levels of distortion at 100 dB (a commonly tested metric) seem quite good for ANC headphones, staying below 1% for everything above 100 Hz.

Now, the center image is somewhat narrow and nothing pans very well, so imaging is perhaps the weakest part of the overall likeability of the Diva‘s sound signature, but I’ve not found on-ear headphones to ever image well. Active noise cancelling headphones are also, in general, pretty poor performers when it comes to this regard as well. An over-ear design like the Bose QC35 has the advantage, though, when it comes to the size of the center image and the spatial representation.

The overall sound signature of the Diva is balanced, slightly laid-back, and with mild but controlled bass emphasis. Midrange clarity is good, but imaging and spatial representation suffer.
The overall sound signature of the Diva and Diva Pro is balanced, slightly laid-back, and with mild but controlled bass emphasis. Midrange clarity is good, but imaging and spatial representation suffer.

When used in passive, unpowered mode, the Diva sounds more hollow and less focused than with the ANC (and hence the DSP) turned on. ANC headphones seem to all take on this kind of presentation when used in unpowered mode, so I’d recommend that people use these headphones in powered ANC mode as they were meant to be.

Going too far with the DSP is where FIIL stumbled; one of the features exclusive to the higher end Diva Pro is 3D Audio, which uses spatial virtualization DSP features licensed from Eilex to give the effect of being in a living room space, theatre, or large hall. Originally, I had high hopes for this feature, but I quickly found out that it was a bad, bad idea. I can understand that a “surround sound” feature would be a painless way of adding value for consumers, but the Eilex technology simply doesn’t work very well. Frankly, the digital room simulation sounds terrible — all of the music begins to sound like it’s being listened to underwater, with garbled distortion and poor spatial virtualization. It didn’t get any better with movie soundtracks. I was worried it was a hardware issue with my pre-production test unit of the Diva Pro, but the FIIL Wireless unit had the same exact issues with 3D Audio. It’s not that all 3D virtualizers sound bad, either — the ones I’ve heard implemented on Sony’s high-resolution audio Walkman players are excellent. But the Eilex technology doesn’t cut it, and most consumers wouldn’t bother with it. Frankly, FIIL should’ve just left out the function, saved a few bucks on the licensing fees, and passed those savings onto the consumer.

In fact, they would’ve fared better if they’d simply fleshed out the functionality of the equalization controls. Currently, it’s limited to three non-customizable EQ modes: Bass, Original, and Treble. Treble boost mode tended to make the sound thinner and more nasal, and I just never use bass boost, so I chose to keep it in its original configuration most of the time. However, if FIIL were to be able to implement an intelligent, learning EQ system like the one Sennheiser utilizes in its CapTune app, the value of the EQ would go up in spades. Of course, an active noise-cancelling headphone such as the Diva might end up with a lot of extra distortion added to music (such as it is with the 3D Audio function) because of DSP overreaching its limitations.

Voice Search

Let’s move onto the feature most widely touted by FIIL as the thing thing that separates the Diva and Diva Pro from the rest of the pack: voice search. Much like Siri, Cortana, or Google Now, voice search is intended to allow users a voice-activated music seeking experience. Simply say, “Hello FIIL,” and command the unit to play a specific song on either the local music library, the connected mobile device’s music library, or even on Spotify (short preview clips). Unfortunately, this function of the doesn’t actually yet work in our test version of the firmware or app. Say, “Hello, FIIL”, and the voice assistant will respond with her own “Hello”, but won’t respond to any commands at this moment.

I guess this is where Kickstarter provides mea culpa? The voice recognition technology itself is powered by Baidu, China’s answer to Google, so FIIL is working to implement voice search for both Mandarin Chinese and English. It’ll take some fine tuning and time — probably a lot of time. FIIL has promised that the voice search functionality will be ready to go by the time they ship the Diva units en masse, but let’s take that statement with a grain of salt.

Luckily, this is where over-the-air firmware updates and continual app releases come into the picture. Hardware for both the regular Diva and its higher-end Diva Pro version can be firmware updated over-the-air with the included app, though the beta software I tested the Diva Pro with failed to update every single time. The possibilities for improvement are there though: even if the Eilex 3D audio function sounds like rubbish, they could easily scrub that and put in better virtualization code. With the accelerometers installed for detecting whether the headphones are on the ear or not, the Diva can probably even double as a pedometer (but this kind of functionality is probably best reserved for a next iteration product specifically designed as a wearable/hearable).

iOS and Android Mobile App

For testing purposes, I was able to use FIIL‘s pre-release beta app to access controls to the Diva Pro. It has just about everything necessary for controlling the headphones remotely through the smartphone, with redundancy to the physical controls. However, use of the app requires user registration through social media accounts like Weibo or Facebook and no other recourse. Gaining access to your particular device also requires the product to be registered via serial number. The process feels extraneous and unnecessarily convoluted. They’re probably doing it in a play to build a larger music streaming service or whatever, but I would’ve preferred more personal privacy.

Concluding Thoughts

The FIIL Diva line is a well thought-out, versatile ANC on-ear headphone line. It provides all of the creature comforts of a modern wireless headset that anyone can think of, to varying degrees of success and excellence. At the end of the day, if travel and serenity are your priorities, the Bose QuietComfort 35 is still unbeatable. The noise-cancellation function is unrivaled, giving travellers the ability to tune everything out, whether in Economy/Business class or a Grand Hyatt lobby. However, if you need a multi-purpose headphone that wears well on the streets, and whose noise-cancellation comes respectively close to that of the Bose, the FIIL Diva is excellent. The MyAudioFilter function is fun and somewhat useful, and while the touch controls are middle-of-the-road, the sound is at the top of its class. It’s well-built, and competently designed. The unfinished app, voice search, and extra bells-and-whistles like the 3D audio function somewhat blemish the overall perception of the Diva Pro as a whole, but there’s no denying that its core product features are very, very good.

FIIL are right to market the Diva as a jack-of-all-trades, lifestyle headphone. It lacks the focus on travel and leisure of the Bose QuietComfort series, but makes up for it with urban-inspired versatility.
FIIL are right to market the Diva as a jack-of-all-trades, lifestyle headphone. It lacks the focus on travel and leisure of the Bose QuietComfort series, but makes up for it with urban-inspired versatility. (Image courtesy of FIIL)

Should you get the more expensive Diva Pro over the regular Diva? At this time, I’m inclined to say no. The built-in 4GB digital audio player is certainly nice to have, especially with all the format support that it offers, but most people are tied to their smartphones these days, and unless you’re an avid exerciser who likes to leave the phone at home while running or working out, save yourself the extra expense and stick with the more affordable Diva — it’s more than enough headphone to go around. And at the Kickstarter price of $149, it’s practically a steal. The Diva is an excellent pair of active noise cancelling, on-ear headphones. These headphones were near production-ready to begin with, and it shows — Kickstarter projects are rarely this good right off the bat. The Diva Pro will require more consideration, as the 3D Audio function does not meet expectations. Either way, FIIL is worth taking a risk on — the company comes from solid roots and seems committed to delivering an ever better experience to its customers. Their Kickstarter campaign ends soon, so act fast, but if you’re not ready to commit to FIIL, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try to win a Diva Pro, either:

For more information on the FIIL Diva and Diva Pro, visit their Kickstarter campaign page:

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3 thoughts on “Between the Headband: FIIL’s Diva Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones

    1. Glad the review helped — think of the Diva as a solid, well-performing pair of ANC headphones that looks nice and sounds good — when FIIL gets the “smart-device” features going, they’d be merely icing on the cake.

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