Pros: Sound; Build quality.
Cons: Nothing especially
Package & Build:
FiiO X3 comes in a nice box with adapter and micro USB cable, as well as a nice soft silicone sleeve to protect the player. It is built very nicely, has some retro touch to it since it doesn't have any wheels or touch screen, just buttons and normal, not so good, screen (but it does the job just fine). It has coax out, line out and 3.5 mm headphone jack as well as micro USB port for charging, using as an external DAC or transferring music from PC. On the right side there is a "hold" switch that is used to block other buttons to be mistakenly pressed, though I haven't used it once since the buttons are not that sensitive and it will never happen that you mistakenly press a button, but still there it is. On the left side there is a micro SD card slot (you don't get SD card with player) and player itself is equipped with just 8 Gb of memory, but who cares about that when you can get 128 Gb and if not now than soon 256 Gb SD card. Player is built with combination of metal front and back andgood plastic around, it looks and feels nice. It has a decent battery of 3100 mAh and while they claim it will last ~10 hours I get around 7-8 from it, though I'm crazy track swapper so the screen is on a lot more than average person would have. Also it's decently light at 122 grams which might surprise some because of metal finish - it looks heavier than it is.
UI & Usage In General:
User interface on X3 is good, couldn't be much better if you see that it doesn't have a touch screen and/or volume wheel. It's decently fast and responsive with an exception when you have a huge size album art on your songs, then there is a delay in UI when you play or change the song; it starts playing in an instant but the screen is frozen for a second or two till it shows position of the song, it's not a major issue but just to note it. If you have a small size album art or no album art at all, the X3 is very fast and responsive. Also there is a possibility to change the themes and make themes on your own, and it's not hard at all, several videos about it on YouTube and several posts about it here on Head-Fi. Buttons are responsive with that nice click when pressed and all the buttons, since there are only six of them have more purposes, for example if you hold back button it will display song info, if you hold play/pause button player will turn off/on etc. Firmware updates bring real improvements and good changes which is really great! Also FiiO's support is very fast, at least was to me, they answered me in a few hours after I sent them an email (had some random question).
24 bit talk:
Ok, first a small story here: 24 bit audio cannot sound better and it doesn't. It wasn't just randomly chosen for a CD standard that 16/44.1(48) audio, it is precise mathematics and they considered what we can hear. 24/192 audio has more dynamic range of 144 db (range between lowest and loudest signal, and CD audio quality has 96 db) but humans perceive less, ~105 db effectively. But! Also environment noise, even with great isolation won't come lower than 10-15 db which means lowest signal cannot be lower than that noise (or we wouldn't hear it, it's called masking), so in studio when they are finished with editing they compress dynamic range and it should be, must be and it always is equal or less than the capability of CD (96 db). And when people are speaking about resolution or bit depth, that manifests through that higher dynamic range and lower hiss. Hiss in 16/44.1(48) is inaudible. None of this is a matter of opinion. Audio isn't some abstract magic, it's very measurable, very proven, very tested. 24 bit is useful in studio, because it leaves editors to work well above the noise floor and when they are done they just compress it and it leaves space for mistakes also, as well to other several things, but for now that's it. Oh, and if someone says something like "soundstage opens up", sound is more "clear" that is literally like you believe in dragons. Why I said this - because many people are aiming for the good players because of that "HD" audio capability which is a complete nonsense. And it is not a matter of how good someone hear or a matter of opinion. I'm sure many of the companies wouldn't even mention 24 bit audio but when several started with that to make money other didn't have a choice because people simply started following the hype. After all just get some song from HD tracks for example (or anything similar, a lot of free promo samplers that are 24/96 or 24/192, Linn also gives often free some album) convert that very same file to 16/44.1 and enjoy your blind test, that no one ever passed and that no one can pass.
Sound & Comparisons:
Player sounds good, if you use small impedance IEMs that are sensitive (like I do, Sennheiser IE80) you won't be getting probably any benefit from having a player like this instead of a smartphone or an iPod, but if you drive some harder to drive headphones you will certainly hear the difference. There are no noticeable (at least I haven't noticed) distortions on very high volumes, like I had on Nexus 5 for example above 90% volume, which is good and expected. It plays everything you might want: alac, flac, wav, mp3. And till recently (firmware 3.3) it has support for playlists too and it has 5 band equalizer. DAC inside is good quality Wolfson WM8740 also found in several products of a lot higher price than X3 like Astell & Kern AK100 (mk1) that cost literally over three times more (700$ vs X3s 200$) and it produces a good sound though not distinguishable from other modern players or latest smartphones that have good built in DACs. I have read many reviews and people are talking how it has wide soundstage, some say it has narrow soundstage, some say it has good imaging, some say it has decent warmth bla bla. I say it's nonsense, several of my friends, my father (far bigger audiophile than I am) tested it vs the AK100, AK120, iPhone 5s, iPod classic 5th gen and Nexus 5, and imagine wonder! None of us could tell the difference on IE80, Vsonic GR07, Sony EX700. (I'm just talking about IEMs now because that's what most people would use small portable player with) When you plug in something harder to drive X3 shines in comparison to smartphones because it has a lot more powerful output (250mW on 32 ohm). Genrally better amp than smartphones.
Summary & Recommendation:
Overall a good product with fair price of 200$ which kills all concurrency in value, except maybe that new FiiO X1 of just 100$, haven't heard it though. Good looking, good sounding with as good as possible UI if you consder it's non touch and all buttons player that is decently responsive with fair battery life (will last you more than smartphone, that's for sure!), I gave it 4 stars because there is a space for improvements, they should've added a volume wheel so you can adjust volume fast and without having the player out of the pocket, screen could be a bit better, and after all, it's hard to
value much a player next to smartphones (when it comes to the low impedance sensitive IEMs, that I mostly use) so to have 5 stars it REALLY needs to shine to carry an extra device in pocket. I use it a lot as an external DAC on my PC because my sound card is bad and there is a lot of noise coming from my PC when I connect any headphones, and I use it in gym for example, where I never bring my phone to distract me. If you need to drive some bigger headphones, and if you have a need of an extra player, I can gladly recommend the X3, but don't get it just for the sake of hobby if you have sensitive headphones of low impedance, you will not be gaining much, if anything. I'm not a native English speaker nor I speak it perfectly so I am sorry if there were some mistakes! Good day! :)