Quick Thoughts: FIIL Carat

You’ve probably have read the review of the Diva Pro by Mr. T here on CYMBACAVUM. At their price point, the Diva Pros were impressive, so we were excited to hear about FIIL‘s Bluetooth in-ear line up. We contacted FIIL regarding their Carat and Carat Pro, and received a pair of Carat for review. (At the time, the fitness-tracking Carat Pro was still being refined.)

I am also currently working on a comprehensive review of Bluetooth IEMs and headphones, with comparisons between all of them, including the FIIL Carat, so keep your eyes open for that article!

The Carat is a sport-oriented bluetooth IEM from FIIL with a fashionable design. They utilise what I call “wired between the ears” approach, used by IEMs like the Plantronics BackBeat GO series. Specifications of the Carat are not published on the English version of their website, but basic features, such as battery life and shape, are the same as the Pro version. However, the Carat lacks few features of the Carat Pro, such as a heart rate monitor or built-in music storage.

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The FIIL Carat has a glossy black body.

In terms of packaging, the Carat comes in sleek and modern packaging. (My package got searched by HK’s customs, and was damaged in the process — ouch — so it was not photographed.) The Carat come with various sizes of silicon tips and ear wings, which are extremely helpful in keeping the IEMs inside your ears despite the the IEMs themselves being on the weighty side. Also included are choker clips with which to shorten your cables, ear guides that go behind your ears, a micro-USB cable, and a nice pouch. Overall packaging and accessories are well appointed.

The IEM themselves are on the heavier side, as the batteries and circuitry are built into the main IEM housings. The housings are glossy and are very smooth to touch. While on the larger side, the Carat fits in my smallish ears comfortably, unlike some other larger bluetooth IEMs which had failed to do so. The strain reliefs on the IEMs are, for some reason, red on the both sides. My guess is that it’s for the aesthetics. Nevertheless, it’s very easy to tell which side is which, so it shouldn’t be an issue. The hexagon shape is unconventional, and rather pretty in my view. As you turn the Carat on, you’ll notice the LEDs on both sides of the IEMs. The LEDs can be turned off, or set to a different color, if you prefer.

The Carat comes with a handful of features, such as a dynamic EQ, which will change in setting according to your running speed (spectacular for athletes), voice command, and a simple pedometer. The accuracy of the pedometer wasn’t tested as I simply don’t use the feature. The pedometer cannot be turned off, but I was assured that it consumed very little battery. One of the key features of these IEMs are the ear guides and the ear wings, which allows the IEMs to stay in your ears even in the most extreme environments. They stay in my ears just as well as my CIEMs do, and will certainly not fall off your ears even when exercising. A hard pull on the cable might successfully dislodge the IEMs from your ears, but that is an unlikely scenario as the cables go behind your neck.

Unlike the Pro version which is designed around a balanced armature driver, the regular Carat comes equipped with dynamic drivers, so I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of sound, and I was mostly right. The Carat displays a typical V-shaped signature with boosted bass and treble. The mids are recessed, although still enjoyable. Extension is good in both upper and lower end of the spectrum. The Carat sound like it was made for a workout, and that’s exactly what it is meant to do. The bass rumbles powerfully (perhaps to the point that it’s a little boomy), and the treble is aggressive and sparkly (although not to the point that it’s painful). Details are fairly ample, and soundstage is wide enough for outdoor use. It’s certainly not meant to compete with audiophile grade IEMs, but they’re not that bad either. I find the Carat to fit my exercise mood very well. While the Carat don’t sound exceptional per se, I find it to stays true to its intentions. After all, it sounded decent enough for me to have used it as my daily driver for two weeks.

Despite being equipped with dynamic drivers, the vents on the Carat face inside your ears, and hence the Carat doesn’t leak much sound and isolates fairly well.

However, while I found the Carat satisfying in most regards, I found the battery life to be a bit short of what I had hoped for. With the LEDs on, the battery on the Carat only lasts around four hours or so. With light use, the Carat should last the whole day, but heavy users will find themselves charging the Carat every few hours. To help with the battery life, Carat turns off automatically when worn like a necklace around the neck (the built-in magnets allow the housing to snatch onto one another). This helps improve the standby battery life, but not the actual use time. While the Carat will last a full workout session easily, it won’t survive a full day of use.

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With its water resistance and active sound, the Carat was designed for a serious workout. It packs a slew of features into a small attractive housing. For the month I’ve used the Carat, I was quite satisfied with them, although I wish that the battery lasted a little longer.

On the other hand, the Pro version of the Carat has been successfully funded on Kickstarter, and I am very excited to hear what FIIL could do with BA drivers!

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