Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Portable Source Components › Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) › FiiO X5 High-res Portable Music Player

FiiO X5 High-res Portable Music Player


Pros: Sound quality, build, usability, interface, output power, versatility, boot speed

Cons: UI features not yet complete (gapless, hierarchical menus artist/album/track), scroll wheel a little loose, SD slot caps difficult to remove. -FW 1.00

X5 - Strength and Beauty The Fiio X5



My audio chain has actually been pretty stable of late, my last addition being the Studio V3 Anniversary (DAP) and Dunu DN-1000s.  With the addition of the Studio V3, I had pretty much solved the one missing component – a decent DAP for my requirements.  I watched the progress with other “audiophile” high-res players being released (DX100, DX50, AK100 & 120, X3 and others), but beyond mild curiosity, I wasn’t overly tempted to go beyond what I currently have.  Then Fiio advertised that they were looking for reviewers for a World tour for the X5 – and with the hype building I put my hand up and was fortunate to be included.


My main reasons for wanting the opportunity were to further my experience with reviewing and to make a comparison with the Studio V3


So how does the X5 perform in my eyes?  Is the current hype justified?



I was provided the Fiio X5 as a tour sample.  It now goes on to the next reviewer once I have finished reviewing it.  There is no financial incentive from Fiio in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Fiio - and this review is my honest opinion of the X5.  I would like to thank Joe & James for making this opportunity available.

NOTE - I later paid for the review sample from Fiio at a price I am not at liberty to disclose.


(This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).


I'm a 46 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile - just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (iDevices and Studio V3) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  My main headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD600, Grado RS1, Beyer DT880, Dunu DN1000 & Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs.


I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, indie, classic rock, and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I tend to like audio chains that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range.  I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though).  Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV.  I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.  I have also in the past owned Fiio’s E7, E9 and E11.


My experience with DAPs in the past have been initially with very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, my iPhone4 and iPod Touch G4 – which are both very good sounding and have excellent interfaces, and finally to my HSA Studio V3.  I've also listened to various other devices along the way - including Cowon's J3.


I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  For my portable listening – it has been my preferred format (space vs quality).  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).


 I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’



I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.

  • Great (neutral) sounding – but with body (not thin)
  • Good build quality
  • Reasonable battery life
  • Easy to use interface
  • Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.


Did I get all of this with the X5?  Mostly – yes, and I’m sure what is missing will come with firmware updates.  Will I be buying an X5 – likely based on my very short time with it, but this would be dependent on FW upgrades which I will be watching closely.  So please pull up a chair, sit for a while, and let me relay my experiences with Fiio’s new flagship.


This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.






Retail Carton Front Retail Carton Rear

First up – the review sample I was sent was really well packaged with exterior foam – so Kudos to Fiio for that.  The retail box is red and black, actually reasonably compact considering the contents, and very smart looking IMO.  There is a great photo of the X5 on the front, whilst the rear has information on the build, specifications, and other features of the DAP.


Retail Carton Side Outer and Inner Box

On opening the retail outer box, you are presented with an inner black textured box and lid which houses the X5, silicone case, documentation, and in a compartment underneath, the accessory package.  This includes:

  • A USB charging / data cable (very well constructed and shielded)
  • A digital out to coax cable
  • 3 x socket pin protector plugs (for the output ports)
  • A Fiio branded USB micro SD card reader (this is very handy!)
  • 2 spare screen protectors for the X5 (plus one already fitted)


Documentation and Fiio X5 Accessory Package


Documentation includes:
  • A Fiio warranty card
  • An HD tracks discount card (15%)
  • A contact card
  • The Fiio X5 quick start guide


X5 In Its Silicone Case The Silicone Protector Case


The entire package is IMO very good, covering everything you initially need for the player.  Materials are all good quality.  Cables are particularly sturdy.



The tables below list most of the relevant specifications.  I’ve collated these from information on the box, information found on line, my own personal experience with the X5, and also information from Joe.




64.6 x 114 x 15.6 mm (W/L/H)


122 g


2.4” 260K HD IPS (400x360)


Ingenics 4760B 600MHz dual core


PCM1792A (supports up to 192/24 res)


3.5mm headphone out, 3.5mm line out, 3.5mm digital coax out


2 x microSD (max support 64Gb x 2 at time of review)


3700mAh Li-Polymer, up to 15 hours playback (~12 hours currently)

Gain options

0 / 6 dB

Supported Formats


Supported Resolution

Up to 192K/24bit – dependent on format


Headphone Out

Output Impedance

<0.26 Ω


>75 dB @ 1KHz


< 0.003% @ 1KHz

MAX output voltage

> 8 Vp-p

MAX output current

> 150 mA


> 115 dB

Output Power

460 mW @ 16Ω, 255 mW @ 32Ω, 28 mW @ 300Ω


Line Out


> 100 dB @ 10KΩ @ 1KHz


< 0.0025% @ 1KHz


> 115 dB

Line output

> 1.5 Vrms



The build on the X5 (IMO) is what I would expect (mostly) in a top of the line DAP.  The casing looks to be a 2 piece high quality CNC aluminium alloy with a very nice matte finish.  I see no blemishes on this unit – everything seems to fit extremely well together, and the corners are smooth, and bevelling gives a nice touch of class.  The X5 feels more expensive than its RRP.  The screen has a really nice resolution, and is very clear and easy to read.  It does suffer a little in direct sunlight, but just shading the screen with your hand helps.


Fiio X5 Fiio X5 Side View


The scroll wheel flows nicely, and is easy to spin.  My only critique is that there is some side-to-side play with this unit – not much but it is there.  Probably the only part of the unit that feels a little flimsy.  The wheel itself is fairly sensitive, and takes a little getting used to – but practise makes perfect, and the buttons are also very easy for advancing and reversing through menu choices.


Scroll Wheel and Buttons Rear Plate


The buttons themselves are nicely placed, and feel good to the touch.  They are easy to locate on the unit, and equally easy to use unsighted (or with the screen off).


X5 Top / Ports X5 Bottom / Micro SD Slots


Moving to the ports – once again, an excellent fit – nice and snug for plugs.   All connections feel very solid. The best I have seen from Fiio in this regard.  There are three ports in the top of the unit – the headphone out, a dedicated 3.5mm line out, and also a digital plug (works with a 3.5mm to coax adaptor – which Fiio supply).


Finally the micro SD ports – functional, and positioned well.  My only criticism is the covers for these.  I appreciate them being there, and I’m probably a user who wouldn’t be removing the cards a lot.  But the covers themselves are extremely difficult to remove.  Maybe something that loosens over time, and therefore fixes itself.

Overall – the build for me is a solid 4.5/5.  TheX5 feels reassuringly solid in your hand at 122g.



Please note that this is with the released firmware 1.00.


Let me preface by saying that for me the overall usability sits above my experience with my Studio V3, but still falls short of the benchmark (Apple).  However – the surprising thing for me is how good the interface is considering it is just the initially released firmware.


Fiio Welcome Screen Fiio Boot Animation


On starting the X5, you are greeted with a very nice “welcome” and Fiio animation – before moving to the menu.  The menu can be navigated using either the scroll wheel or buttons.  At the top of the menu is a status bar which shows (left to right) : volume, gain, current screen, sleep timer – if set, SD card in use, play status, and battery level indicator.


Menu Screen 10 Band Equaliser


The menu choices include: now playing, equaliser (10 band), audio settings, general settings, folder mode, library access (via tags), and favourites.


General Settings Music Settings


The general setting and audio settings screens are straight forward, and pretty much include everything you’re likely to need.  General settings include language, media library updating, lock screen settings (2nd option allows manual button access while locked), timer, brightness and power settings, access to different USB modes, information about the player, and ability to format.  Audio settings give access to the play

modes, gapless on/off, volume default settings, gain and balance modes.


The equaliser is 10 band, and comes with 10 presets including ‘flat’ and a custom one you can save.  The presets are OK – I probably wouldn’t use them – but the custom one is handy, especially if you have a headphone that needs a tweak.  My only wish would be that there was an option to add more custom EQs, or simply ditch / override the presets, and replace them with your own.  I would rather have 3 or 4 EQs for different headphones rather than different music types.  It would have been nice to have a parametric EQ setting – but the 10 band is functional and works well.


Accessing Library Via Tags - Genre Accessing Library Via Tags - Artist


Folder mode works very well, and is far easier to use with this firmware release than browsing by tags.  In tag mode you can select one major level of operation, and then one minor level – e.g. choosing artist brings up the artist list – but then all material from that artist is listed in file name order (i.e. there is no sorting by album etc).  So if you have multiple albums under an artist, and your filenames list by 01 name, 02 name, 03 name – then all the 01’s are listed first (i.e. albums are scattered).  Similarly – browsing by album brings up individual albums – but if you have multiple CDs within an album, and they aren’t noted in the album name (e.g. “The Wall CD1”) then you have the same problems.  Fiio will be apparently fixing this – and they need to.  Browsing by tags at the moment for me is pretty much not going to work.


Issue (Tags) - Songs Lumped Together Solution (for now) = Folder Mode 


Going to folder mode is better – as you have the ability to then organise a folder hierarchy to suit (much easier to navigate).  Mine are always stored artist > album.  The only issue I have again is that (being used to Apple and also any reasonable PC software) I sometimes store multiple-disc albums together (again The Wall) – but have differentiated the 2 discs in the tags rather than in separate folders.  This is a relatively easy fix (I have to manually do it).  The best answer is having tagging working.


Artist / Album - Folder Mode Tracks In Folder Mode


The upper left button brings up a context menu that is dependent on the menu you are in.  Amongst this is a favourite’s button so that you can save a song to a favourite’s playlist.  This works really well, and it is quite easy to add and remove songs from favourites using the context button.  Unfortunately there is only one favourites list – so no using multiple playlists at this stage.


The upper right button is a back button, and this is literally what it does – puts you back exactly to your last menu choice.  It has a memory too – so you can go back 4 or 5 choices.  This is something I would personally change.  IMO it would be far more practical to have this as an “up one level” button instead.  When navigating simply as a back button, it is quiet easy to get lost if you’ve been in a number of screens.  Holding this button down (no matter where you are) will take you back to the main menu.


The bottom two buttons are forward, back / up, down / fast forward, rewind – depending on your application.


The middle button is simply to select (i.e. action button).  One thing I have found – if you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated.  Nice little touch.

Overall the UI is reasonably responsive – but can sometimes have some small lags between button press and actual action (this includes the wheel).  Hopefully this gets better with later firmware releases.


A couple of final notes on the UI – the gapless play is not entirely seamless (still a noticeable micro-pause between songs.  I can live with this – many wont.  This needs fixing.  Also the gain is 6 dB and is much appreciated especially for driving my DT880 and HD600.


Now Playing Screen A natural match - DN-1000 and X5

Overall – if the Apple (think iPod Touch 4 / iPhone4) UI is a 10 (and that’s what I’d give it) – this initial release would come in about a solid 6.  It’s usable, has plenty of features, and I believe will get better with more firmware releases.  But it needs work.



Probably best if I preface this section with a small note so that you are aware of my thoughts on audiophile type DAPs.  I like my iPhone4.  It is linear, user friendly, sounds pretty good actually – and I can tailor the sound via apps.  When I got my Studio V3, I was very surprised in the increase (to me) of perceived SQ.  Sonically the Studio seemed to have a more holographic/spacious sound to it.  Now I’m not sure if this is crossfeed, a dsp they’re using, or simply in the frequency response (I know the Studio is slightly on the bright side).  All I know is that I like it.


X5 vs iP4 vs Studio V3 X5 vs iP4 vs Studio V3


Also – when doing comparisons – to make sure I’m comparing correctly – I equalised the volume on all 3 devices with an SPL meter, and used the same files for all 3 devices.

So without further ado ….


The X5 (IMO) sounds phenomenal.  My initial impressions, and this is also comparing to my desktop (NFB-12) is that the X5 essentially has a very black background, is essentially flat/neutral – but with a slightly warmish tint to it.  It sounds very similar to my NFB-12 when level matched.  So the sound is quite full bodied (yet not dark).  I’ve noticed no hiss at all, and even with sensitive IEMs (SE 535), no issues with any channel imbalance.


I won’t go into highs, mids, lows etc. – as that is more to do with the frequency range of the headphones being used.  But I will say that I am very happy with the detail presentation, and also with the overall sense of space when listening via both my HD600 and DT880.  There is nothing lacking.


After level matching, I tested the following tracks with the Studio V3, Fiio X5 and iPhone4.  I used the DT880 250 ohm as it’s the most neutral can I currently have (and it was easier level match than the IEMs).

  • Steely Dan – Hey Nineteen
  • Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
  • Amber Rubarth – Tundra (ideal for soundstage and imaging tests)
  • Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca – Lakme, The Flower Duet
  • Porcupine Tree – Trains


I had two main revelations when doing this:

  1. How close the V3 and X5 sounded in terms of detail and sense of space
  2. How good the iPhone sounded comparatively


In terms of absolutes (and please remember this is very subjective - my ‘old and imperfect ears’) in all of the tracks tested …..

  • V3 is definitely slightly brighter than both the iP4 and X5
  • I’d actually call the iP4 the most neutral – sitting between the V3 and X5
  • V3 and X5 have similar detail retrieval – withiP4 comparatively just a little behind, but still performing well.
  • Whilst the X5 is still very flat/neutral – it does have a slight hint of warmth to it – and this does it give a slightly fuller sound than both the iP4 and V3.  The X5 does this without losing its sense of detail.
  • Both V3 and X5 have a bigger impression of spaciousness (than the iP4)


HD600, DT880, RS1 + iP4, X5 and V3 X5 and RS1


For my personal preference and rankings – skip forward to the end.



The review wouldn’t be complete without a quick word regarding the other features the X5 offers, and this is where it truly sits apart from my other devices (as they do not have some of these features).


As a digital transport – using the 3.5mm to coax out – it works extremely well.  This is ideal for anyone who is away from home (e.g. at a Meet) and wants to test an audio chain – but with their own music.  I actually tried this feature going straight to my NFB-12, and then alternately using the NFB-12’s SS amp and also my LD MKIV.


With line-out to an external amp.  The line-out (to my ears) is essentially very clean, with no discernable noise or degradation of SQ.  I used this feature going straight to the LD MKIV – and the X5 in combination with my HD600s was simply sublime.  I actually ended up getting lost in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Anne-Sophie Mutter) for about half an hour while I was supposed to be evaluating.  To me, getting lost in the music is always a great sign of an audio chain done right.


As a DAC.  It did take a while to get the drivers loaded for Windows 8.1 (if you’re having trouble try this link [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM1MN8QZhnk] – thanks to John aka musicheaven for the help with that).  Once the drivers were installed, the X5 performed flawlessly with no recognisable dropouts or glitches.  The interesting thing was that I did a volume matched (using an spl meter) comparison with my NFB-12 and DT880s, and they sounded pretty much identical.  Blind, I don’t think I could have picked one from the other.  From my point of view – this is a great endorsement, as it means I can essentially have desktop quality whilst on-the-go.  Fantastic!



The X5’s amp section is a good one.  The power output is listed in the specs earlier in the review.  Basically I tested these with: HD600 @ 300 ohm, DT880 @ 250 ohm, RS1 @ 32 ohm, SE535 @ 36 ohm and DN-1000 @ 10 ohms.  At no stage did I feel any of the headphones were under driven, or in any way lacking.  With the X5 – for my tastes, there is simply no point in having an add-on amp.



Fiio rates the battery life under current firmware at around 10-12 hours, and thinks they can get up to 15 hours once the firmware matures.  I ran a ‘real world’ test from fully charged, and playing overnight with screen off.  I managed 11.5 hours before the X5 quit (playing red-book FLAC files) – so consistent with the information released.  From fully depleted using a 1a wall-wart, full charging took ~ 4 hours (again consistent with Fiio’s released information).



With my Studio V3 – one of the ‘issues’ that I have is that every time it’s switched on, it scans the card for changes.  With approx. 2200 lossless tracks – this takes around 1m15s (64Gb card).  After that it’s pretty good – with very little lag.


With the X5 – the nice thing is that you only have to scan once – and then no scanning again unless you update / add to your library.


Scanning the same micro SD card on the X5 took approximately 3 minutes, - dual cards roughly double that.  Scanning a single 64Gb card filled with a mix of FLAC, aac and MP3 files (approximately 5500 files total) took considerably longer – but once again, after the initial scan – access has been very snappy.



Ok – time for me to state my personal rankings – and remember these are mine – your own thoughts may be different.

  • Packaging / accessories – 5/5 – nothing missing IMO.  Packaging is smart and accessories are well thought out.
  • Build/form factor – 4.5/5 – excellent build, and size is good considering it’s feature set (audio only), and power capabilities
    X5 > V3 > iP4
  • UI – 3.5/5 – still some work to do, but promising feature set.  Slight responsiveness lag at times and the hierarchy within the audio structure needs to be multilevel and fixed.  This is essential to the X5’s success.  Other features need tweaks, and there is room for added functionality.
    iP4 >>> X5 >= V3
  • Sound – 5/5 – I can’t fault it.  The X5 sounds fantastic.  I wouldn’t change anything.
    X5 = V3 > iP4
  • Other features – 5/5 – the versatility of this DAP is going to be one of its greatest strengths
    X5 >>> iP4 > V3
  • Power – 4.5/5 – it’s not going to drive power hungry orthos, or extremely high impedance cans – but it’ll drive practically anything else.  Based on my tests – I’d guess an effective target impedance range might be between 10-300 ohms (depending on sensitivity).
    X5 >= V3 >>> iP4
  • Battery – 4/5 – average-to-good for its class, and if Fiio can get it to 15 hours, it would be ideal.  The V3 can’t be beat here though.
    V3 >> X5 = iP4
  • Overall – given its feature set and current FW, I’d put the X5 ahead of the Studio V3 for my preferences.  The main points (given SQ is similar) is the potential for better UI, plus the far quicker boot time and access to both SD cards simultaneously.
    X5 > V3 > iP4


So will I be getting one?  That will very much depend on the development of the firmware,  If Fiio gets it right – then the purchase of the X5 is a given.  The value proposition is simply too good at USD 350.00 to turn down.



Firstly – my apologies for the length of the review.  I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over essential information.  My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the tour.  I will genuinely miss having this unit when I have to send it on to the next recipient next week!


Pros: Top grade sound, powerful quality internal amp, superb micro-detail, great value, ability to obtain full quality sound in a compact package

Cons: No removable battery for easy charging or continuous use, adequate only battery life, difficult to get back to now playing screen to regain fw/bk cont





  1. This is not my personal DAP, as part of the X5 Preview tour, I only had the chance to evaluate the unit for 10 days to form my opinion.
  2. As a preview model, there may be material differences compared to the commercial version - especially in the firmware.
  3. The following review is based on my personal needs and tastes using equipment that I personally own unless otherwise noted.


Pros: Top grade sound, powerful quality internal amp, superb micro-detail, great value, ability to obtain full quality sound in a compact package without the inconvenience of an external amp.

Cons: No removable battery for easy charging or continuous use, adequate only battery life, difficult to get back to now playing screen to regain forward/back button functionality, scrolling long lists is difficult.




The X5 rocks! It is the best sounding mobile DAP I have heard to date. However, I have not heard the DX100, balanced 901, or the AK120 to know if they can do any better. What I can say is that at 2 to 4 times the cost including the required balanced cable for the 901,  and considering the form factor, they would need to be clearly twice as good to get any serious consideration from me vs. the X5. That’s not even considering the AK240 – could it really be 7 times better?


The X5 is the clear winner over my current DX50 – no contest. However, adding my BH2 amp pairing gets the stack sound quality much closer with the X5 still taking an easy win. The DX50’s internal amp really lets it down. I guess the big question is whether the X5 is good enough to justify replacing that stack which starting this review, I was still considering. If I didn't already have them, it would be a no brainer, but it is much harder to justify sidelining what I already have. So I still have to work on answering that question – maybe I can introduce the stack to my wife or make a gift to my father. We’ll see.




Use Case:

Having a two year old and another child due in two months, cranking my speakers whenever I want is no longer an option so I need a high fidelity alternative to enjoy my music. I actually need three alternatives:


  1. (NO) Listening station: My highest quality option is my desktop setup when I am willing to sit still at my desk or in my recliner.
    - iTunes/AIFF (.5TB) < Caiman DAC < Mjolnir < Black Dragon balanced < LCD2
  2. (NO) Active mobile: This is for the gym, jogging, mowing the lawn, or hiking. The Clip Zip has been the perfect solution for this as it is light, sounds great, clips to my shirt making it very manageable and out of the way, and it pairs well with most headphones. The surrounding noise and distractions during these activities makes it impossible to appreciate a higher quality sound anyways so why be at risk for more than $30. I listen through my TF10s or my Monster Coppers for reasonably high quality sound.
  3. (YES) High quality mobile: When wanting to listen comfortably around the house, when going to sleep, or when traveling, I like to be able to listen to higher quality sound. This is where the X5 would be used. I am currently using my DX50/BH2 combo for these purposes, so it would be my main comparison in the review. Traveling or around the house I use my NT6pros to pair, but for going to sleep I need a better low volume performer and more comfort so I use my HD595s.



Since my main pairing for my high quality mobile setup will be with the NT6pros, this is the HP that I will be making the general comparisons with. However, the other headphones will have their own sections on pairing attributes. As my DX50/BH2 stack is by far the best I have to compare to the X5, I will be mainly discussing the DX50 stack when comparing except in the specific comparison sections.


Music Collection:

My biggest music sound quality upgrade by far was to convert my entire library to a lossless format, period. To keep things simple, I use iTunes to rip, tag, and manage my entire 1 TB AIFF music collection. I use playlists to organize my favorite music collections. Outside of Apple products, I create folders named for my playlists, and drag and drop all songs directly from the iTunes interface into the folders on my MicroSDs. I divide the playlists between my 5 MicroSDs and rotate as I update. This allows me to choose folders and play them like playlists as the mood strikes. I bring this up because it defines my DAP usage style.


NOTE: Given the lack of music worth listening to in high res 24/196 formats and absolutely no reasonable choices in DSD, I am almost ignoring these capabilities with the exception of a few test files.



My Magnepan Mangneplaner speaker setup is my best sounding by far, period. IMO, the ergonomics of wearing a headphone automatically remove some of the “being there” illusion so I would be really surprised if a mobile setup even came close. So my perfect ten is my speaker system and I compare everything else to it. My speakers make the performers sound as if they are in the room with me, literally. No kidding, but I often respond to background voices in the music or during movies thinking it is my wife or child calling me. It may not be as good as some of the quarter to half a million dollar full sound room setups that I have heard, but it is not far off. I am guessing that most  of the difference is the dedicated room, speaker placement and tuning, and room treatments.


Most of the good Head-Fi gear I have heard are a step or two below “being there.” Continuing the analogy, a step below is like an old wild west Hollywood movie set with 2D building fronts held up by posts. You can get lost in the sound only if you ignore all the 2D clues and stay focused on the action. A step below that is the stylized stage show where no one is attempting to imitate reality, but to make colorful and fun. The final step below that is a children’s kindergarten play with miss-scaled props made from cardboard and crayons. The table below shows my perspective of how the gear I tested lines up.





  • $500K Dedicated Sound Room


Cost no concern, dedicated sound room with treatments, sophisticated tuning

  • My Speaker Setup


Marantz SR7005 > Rotel RB 1090 150lb Amp (700 watts into 4 ohms) > Magnepan 1.6 plus a pair of MK 12” high current dual sealed active/passive subwoofers

  • X5/Mjolnir


Life sized performers and intimate soundstage

  • X5


Closest DAP to being there

  • X5/BH2


BH2 more colored than X5 HO

  • DX50/BH2


DX50 holding BH2 back with lesser DAC than X5

  • C3/BH2


C3 less detailed and more blaring than DX50/BH2

  • DX50


Better details and power than C3 with FW1.2.8

  • C3


Nice details, but lacks power

  • Clip Zip


Very musical and engaging but a clear step down from DX50

  • iPhone 5


Has talent, but very 2D and overly blaring at volume sweet spot.

  • iPhone Classic G6


Has talent, but very 2D and overly blaring at volume sweet spot.





The interface takes a little getting used to, but quickly it becomes second nature. Here are some of the things that I have noticed while using it. Please remember that this is a pre-release tour unit on an early firmware so any of these UI dependent notes are likely to change with firmware updates.

  • Looks: It is not ugly like I thought it would be from the pictures - it looks and feels like a quality product that you would be proud to show off. Holding the DX50 and the X5 in either hand, IMO you would guess the X5 costs more which held up when I was showing to friends and family.
  • Resume: It requires a startup period rather than instant on resume like an iPod. However, the startup isn’t bad and is faster than most players I have used including the irritatingly slow DX50 startup. Like an iPod, after starting it does resume playing where you left off. It even has resume options in the setup options to customize how it resumes.
  • Off: It is relatively easy and quick to turn off – much easier than the DX50 that requires an additional confirmation.
  • Wheel: The wheel spin is opposite of the expected screen movement which is a little weird, but given the short graphical list, easy to adjust for. However, this should probably be fixed.
  • Navigation: It is easy to navigate the UI and find the option you are looking for. The UI is fast and responsive with no lags.
  • Buttons: The front buttons do get pressed in the pocket easily unless disabled, but then you cannot forward between songs easily.
  • Now Playing: You lose the ability to use the forward/back buttons to control the music when you leave the “Now Playing” screen which is unfortunate. Worse, there is no easy way back to the “Now Playing” screen once you leave it requiring too many clicks and too much navigation to return. This is one of the bigger issues with the player. (Joe Bloggs says that a coming firmware update will provide a shortcut key option for the “Now Playing” screen.)
  • Search: There is no search function that I can find. I would love to see an indexed search function that creates a selectable smart options list below as I type letters like any smart phone uses. The iPhone IOS7 smart search is a good example.
  • Scrolling: There is no scroll management to get through long lists quickly so it takes forever to go to the end of a large library list. I would like to see the scroll speed up after a few seconds switching to the alphabet scroll like the iPod.
  • Weight: It is heavy compared to other DAPs and is built like a tank so it needs to be well secured when mobile. However, I would be more worried about chipping my granite counters than damaging the X5 as it is that solid.
  • Heat: It does sometimes get noticeably warmer than most DAPs or smart phones when used for a while, but not uncomfortably.
  • Indexing: The player took my DX50 MicroSD cards without issue and indexed them rather quickly – both of them – while showing progress.
  • Charging: This seems to take a very long time compared to my DX50 S3 batteries given the larger battery size. This was never a problem with the DX50 with their removable batteries that could simply be swapped out and charged independently. However, charging requires planning with the X5 that I will have to get used to.
  • Battery: I have yet to run the battery out as I am constantly charging it afraid it will not be charged when I need it. This constant topping off could shorten the battery life if the battery has a maximum number of charge cycles which could be an issue as the battery is not user replaceable. However, there is also conflicting advice that this could be better for a battery than letting it run dry at this site:
  • Battery Indicator: The only battery status I could find is the small typical graphical indicator at the top of the screen. It is difficult to tell where the battery charge is at as it is small and there is no numeric percentage next to it.
  • Volume: While the X5 has a very large sweet spot throughout the volume that is appreciated, controlling it could be improved through some interface tweaks. For better control, it would be nice if the screen would turn on –for a second or two - when adjusting to show the volume as a number. This is the one time that I think at least most of us can agree that it would be nice for the screen to briefly engage. Otherwise, it is hard to tell if the press did anything at all. I typically find volume numbers that work for me for different uses and adjust to them.
  • HP Out: Music pauses when the headphone is unplugged.
  • Line Out: Music pauses when the line out is unplugged. The volume control has no effect on the line out.


Ergonomic Conclusion: My main use cycle is to turn on my DAP, and resume where I left off playing a folder or a playlist randomly. I tend to forward through the songs a lot as I get bored of the current song. I occasionally go into the interface and change folders. So really, I mainly need a DAP to turn on quickly and resume while allowing me to easily forward through the songs. The X5 did very well with this. The only real issue was the buttons being easily pushed when in my pocket and unexpectedly forwarding songs. Otherwise, I find the X5 very usable assuming the battery is not an issue. Having gotten used the convenience of the DX50’s easily swappable batteries I am very concerned about battery management which is the only downside I can see in moving to the X5.


Sound Overview:

Sound reproduction to me is all about producing that “being there” feeling. This is something that the X5 does better than any other DAP I have heard. While it is difficult to forget that you are wearing headphones and are attached to a device, what the X5 does right is to effortlessly produce realistic full speaker sized sounds that feel like they are coming from a full sized humans and instruments in the same room. This is in part due to the very detailed and realistic sounding DAC that is very surprisingly analog sounding and a powerful amplifier that is able to project these sounds to full size with realistic texture and impact. I almost said slam, but there is nothing artificial here which slam almost implies. While the X5 does not project the full speaker setup realism, there are times with the correct recordings that I do feel like I am there.


When I say analog, what I am referring to is a lack of metallic, artificial, or digital sounding artifacts that destroy the illusion of “being there.” The X5 also has an extraordinarily black background that allows the details to flow and the textures to layer 3 dimensionally. However, what is most impressive is how the player creates this sound so effortlessly allowing a very large sweat spot on the volume dial to play with. The sound stage and full spectrum realism flows to very low volume and high volumes can be reached without the X5 sounding shouty or strained. In the end, as good and realistic as it sounds, it is the headphone sized sound stage coming from the headphones holding the X5 back, not the X5 itself. I will be very impressed when I hear another DAP that is significantly better and not just a different sound signature.


Sound Breakdown:

For those that prefer a traditional Head-Fi sound description:

  • Signature: A very neutral signature with reasonable extension at both ends with a touch of warmth.
  • Bass: The X5 has a very honest bass. It is big and punchy if that is how it is recorded. However, poorly recorded or poor digital reproductions and sound thin, deflated, or clicky. What is most important is that the bass is neutral and not in the way of the detail coming from the other frequencies. In fact, it borrows from the other frequencies to better define the bass sound for better realism. Having said this, there is a touch of warmth in that the bass is very capable with a powerful amp that is not afraid to rise to the occasion.
  • Midrange: As a neutral signature with above average extension in both directions, the mids can seem neglected sometimes, but are usually just right. To get it right, it is better to listen to the X5 in a quiet room without distraction. In noisier rooms the tendency is to turn up the volume to compensate which may make the treble and bass too much for some. However, in the right environment paired with the right music and headphones, the midrange can be heavenly.
  • Treble: The treble is surprisingly analog, smooth, and effortless  until the volume goes too high. The treble is the first thing to get shouty at too high of volumes or with bad recordings. However, what is special about the treble is how it typically gets out of the way of the music by integrating with the other frequencies to add to the realism and 3D effect.
  • Sound Stage: The X5 sound stage is excellent for a DAP with a nice sized airy sound stage with reasonably 3D instrument placement. What is special about the sound stage is really the very black background to help with placement and the space between instruments. Unfortunately, being made to power headphones is the X5’s “Achilles heel” only allowing it to produce the head stage that the headphones are able to produce.


Volume Performance:

I set my volume by focusing on the mids and increasing volume until the singer sounds full sized. Then I make small adjustments to blend the bass and treble to produce the most pleasing sound resulting in a full sized sound stage with a properly sized singer and instruments. If the performers cannot be sized correctly, the frequency range doesn’t blend correctly, or if the sound becomes shouty or incoherent, the “being there” feeling is lost. What is wonderful about the X5 is that it has a wide sweet spot on the volume dial where the sound is realistic to low volumes scaling correctly to rather high volumes. Turning down the volume feels like moving further back away from the stage where lesser DAPs lose their coherency. The X5 sound stage only loses cohesion at extremely low volumes and sound quality only becomes shouty at overly high volumes. This is unique among my DAPs that typically have very small ranges or require an amp to perform at low volumes.


This awesome low volume performance is very important to me as a large percentage of my X5 listening mileage will come at night while going to sleep. Now if only the screen would engage momentarily – a second or two - when adjusting volumes with a volume number to allow easy and accurate volume adjustment.


Line Out:

To test the line out capabilities, I tested the X5 with my BH2, miceblue’s O2, and my Mjolnir:

  • X5/BH2:
    Compared to the headphone out, the line out paired with my BH2 is a lot boomier with the HO being tighter and more realistic. The BH2 adds an unrealistic bass boost that creates a fun and euphoric sound that I enjoy greatly, but the HO also has a weighty presentation with impact that is much more realistic getting closer to my “being there” goal. What was surprising was that my DX50 was holding back my BH2 sound wise. I already mentioned that the X5 wipes the floor with the DX50 one on one. In addition, pairing the BH2 with the X5, the woofer/sub-woofer sound went from a cheap $300 DJ setup to an audiophile $2000 subwoofer with $2000 high end speaker sound with much tighter, more realistic quality. That I wasn’t expecting. One more point, the BH2 is much more forgiving of poor bass recordings than the X5 HO where the X5 HO is much more realistic. The difference is reduced considerably when the BH2 is powered through the X5 vs. the DX50. For those that know that BH2, I always have all switches on as I feel it sounds best that way.
  • X5/O2 (Borrowed from miceblue):
    Paired with my NT6pro, the O2 brings the entire presentation forward for a nice intimate sound stage. It also brings a tad brighter sound losing some of the richness of the X5 presentation. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other but are two different very capable presentations. So the convenience of the X5 as a single solution vs. a transportable but not portable stack is a no brainer. However, when using the LCD2 or the LCD-X, the extra power is appreciated allowing the Audeze signature to scale closer to the Mjolnir sound. This comes at the cost of a portable solution, so I would personally opt to go direct from the X5 deferring to my desktop solution when I want to hear the ultimate in sound quality.
  • X5/Mjolnir:
    There is nothing unexpected here. As a balanced setup, the only headphones that I can use with my Mjolnir are my LCD2s and the tour LCD-X. Both appreciate the additional power and make full use of it. As expected, the Mjolnir spanks the X5 amp badly, but it is not in any way portable so is likely irrelevant. More interesting is the comparison to my desktop DAC. While the Caiman is not a very expensive DAC/AMP unit, when used as a DAC it  excels and has tempered my motivation to get the Da8 DAC that I have been eye balling. However, when compared to the X5 as a DAC, the X5 loses.  Even though the X5 sounds very good, when compared it is more aggressive, bright, and has a smaller sound stage. The Caiman as desktop unit is sweeter, more musical, and more effortless with a better sound stage. But hey, it’s a desktop unit.


Line Out Conclusion: Following these tests, I came to the conclusion that I would never personally use an amp with the X5 as there is no need and often a step backwards.


DAP Comparisons:

For those looking to move up from lesser devices, here is a comparison to the ones that I own.


  • DX50:
    My main comparable rig is with my DX50. The DX50 is dialed in with FW1.2.8, paired with my BH2 as a two piece stack. Without the BH2, the X5 wipes the floor with the DX50 with great authority and a much superior DAC providing a much richer/blacker/punchier/3d sound. The problem that I have with the DX50 now that I have the X5 to contrast is that the DX50 often sounds strained or thin or both. Think of it like with American Football and the recent 2014 Super Bowl. While the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos both obviously had skills making it to the top game in professional football, the Seahawks obviously had some extra magic that allowed them to make the Broncos look like a high school football team easily taking the 43 to 8 win. Yes, I am from Seattle. :smile:
  • DX50/BH2:
    Adding the BH2 amp, the DX50 sound is closer adding the punch and richness of the X5. However, the BH2 has warmer more euphoric sound that is aggressive and sometimes fatiguing in its slam with the NT6pro. The X5 is a little more laid back allowing the details to flow through widening the sound stage a bit. The other notable difference is that the BH2 focuses a bit more on mid-bass while the X5 bass response is flatter going really deep into the sub-bass allowing the sub-bass to shine through without covering it up. This plays well with the NT6 Pro signature promoting its unique frequency extension both directions.
  • C3/BH2:
    The C3 is a nice sounding detailed DAP that works well with highly efficient IEMs. However, the magic happens when it is paired with the BH2 that allows the sound to become full sized and powerful. As a stack, the C3/BH2 is very different from the “being there” signature of the X5, unless by being there you mean a large Rave party with oversized subwoofers and a large pounding, euphoric, in your face sound. This is a very fun combination that sounds extremely good with my LCD2s and everything else. But like being in a loud night club, it can become overwhelming after a while unless this is the sound you are after.
  • Clip Zip/+:
    As a value DAP, at $30 to $40, nothing beats the Clip. I use this smooth, musical, and open sounding DAP more than anything else as my main mobile use is when working out. However, it is not in the same league as the X5 so there is no way to compare the two. However, when working out, the distractions and the noise eliminate the ability to hear the additional sound quality anyways so it is good enough in these situations. The Clip replaced my Apple devices that sounded a bit shouty and congested in comparison. While it was nice having my phone with me when I was working out, it is more convenient to simply clip the light Clip Zip to my shirt and not have to deal with an arm band case or the weight of the iPhone.
  • iPod Classic (Gen5):
    iPhone 5:
    Although the iPod and iPhone signatures are somewhat different, at this lower level, the Apple products are more alike than different so I am grouping them. While I was surprised listening to them again after a while to see how much talent they really had - compared to the X5, they are irrelevant in terms of sound quality. My like for these devices is more for the ecosystem that allows me to store, manage, and sync music easily. On top of that, it is very convenient to have my phone, email, applications, and the Internet available at all times. But when listening to music, they sound too flat and 2D and way too shouty. In addition, the realism is just off with both performers and instruments sized incoherently and often metallic sounding.


X5 Headphone Pairings:

For those looking to pair their headphones correctly, below is a description of how my collection pairs.


  • LCD2.2:
    The LCD2s sound very good with the X5. However, that is not saying much because the LCD2s are fairly easy to drive and make most everything sound good. The LCD2s even sounds ok with my Clip Zip so I think it requires a little more explanation.

    IMO, what is unique about the LCD2 is its ability to scale down extremely well. The LCD's signature changes significantly when scaling from warm and euphoric with a small congested sound stage with low end low power sources to crystal clear, punchy, black background, and a much more realistic sound stage with higher end, higher powered sources. Throughout the scale, the LCD2 has a very realistic "being there" sound. At the higher end of the scale, the signature ranges from laid back and rich with something like a Bryston BHA-1 to aggressive/engaging with my Mjolnir. The difference is being able to take a pleasant nap while listening to spending half your listening time up on top of your chair involuntarily playing air guitar. You know what I’m saying. :smile:

    My impressions of the LCD2s with the X5 are this:
    • Power: The X5 has enough power that the LCD2 sound stage opens up a bit and the warmness clears up a lot, but not as much as a Mjolnir or Bryston that boast between 5 and 8 watts.
    • Laid Back: The signature leans more toward the Bryston laid back signature than my Mjolnir's more aggressive signature.
    • Stackless: The most important point is that I don't feel the need to amp the X5 as the sound is very pleasing as is.
    • Realistic: It is a very full size and realistic sounding experience.
    • Mobile Option: It is not as good as through my Mjolnir, but that was never expected.
  • LCD-X (Tour Unit):
    While I don’t own the LCD-X myself, I happen to have the tour unit to test with the X5. Compared to my LCD2, the LCD-X feels shifted up in the frequency range and a little faster providing even greater clarity than my LCD2.2/Mjolnir pairing which is saying a lot. It’s not that the LCD-X is lacking in the bass department, but the bass seems to be turned down a notch keeping it from getting in the way of the rest of the frequency range. The result is a very realistic sounding sound stage that is even wider and closer to being there than the LCD2.2.

    Now, paired with the X5, I was surprised by how good the LCD-X sounded directly from the X5 headphone out. The X5 coupled with the O2 amp (borrowed from miceblue) is even better giving the LCD-X enormous sound on the go. What is really noticeable is the clarity and wide sound stage of the LCD-X scaled down to the level of a DAP where the LCD2 is more euphoric, warm, and congested. Both are enjoyable, but the LCD-X obviously scales down better than the LCD2.2.
  • Fostex TH900 (Borrowed from m2man):
    While I thought that the Fostex TH900 sounded awesome through the X5, m2man thought it sounded a little boomy. To prove his point, we plugged into his Laptop > Off-Ramp 5 > PWDmkII > Schiit Mjolnir home setup and indeed, it did sound bigger, clearer, and more neutral - but you would expect that from $8000 setup vs. a $350 one. So that doesn’t take away from how good the TH900 sounded with the X5. However, a better comparison was to compare the LCD-X to the TH900 where we both agreed that the LCD-X sounded better. The reason was that the LCD-X sounded closer to the $8000 home setup sound on the $350 X5 than the TH900 did. The LCD-X just simply scales down better.
  • HD595:
    The HD595s were the second best pairing that I heard. As very neutral sounding, open eared headphones, they have the largest sound stage of all my headphones in a mobile context. Matching the X5’s neutral signature, they project that black background very effectively enhancing the already very large sound stage. With nothing to get in the way of the details that X5 is capable of, the HD595 matches the NT6pro’s bell like clarity with a larger sound stage. The only thing holding the HD595 back is it’s neutral bass response. With no warmth, it may be considered to be bass light by some which the X5 helps to supplement with its touch of warmth. This only effects the HD595 pairing at excessive higher volumes where the bass falls off. However, the HD595 is my low volume top performer with the ability to reach deep with realistic sub-bass performance down to extreme lower volumes. Being my most comfortable and best low volume performers, they are what I like to listen to at night to fall asleep.
  • Hidition NT6 Pro:
    The NT6 Pros are outstanding with the X5 and the best pairing that I heard. The things I appreciate with the X5 paired with the NT6pro:
    • Stackless: it has all the punch and authority that I need with the NT6Pro so no stack required.
    • Effortlessness: the sound is full sized with rich texturing and without any clipping or thinness. The sounds from each singer/instrument sound like they are on the same stage and are scaled correctly. Drums sound like drums rather than like weird clicks.
    • Neutral Signature: as discussed so far in the X5 threads, the X5 is neutral across the frequency range with a slight warmness that pairs very well with the NT6pro enhancing its signature and supporting its extension both directions.
    • Sub-bass Authority: The X5 has the power and signature to support an authoritative sub-bass down to the bottom of the range showing off what the NT6pro can really do.
    • Low Volume Performer: The X5 has authoritative power, full sized sound, and a realistic sound stage down to very low volumes. This is particularly important to me as I am a low level listener usually needing an amp to keep the sound from falling apart at lower volumes. The X5 has a very wide sweet spot in its volume range that is much greater than most DAPs.
    • Realistic Details: The detail is all there, but in a much more natural sense than the DX50 with a much blacker background to support the 3d sound stage. For example, a singers breath between passages sounds like you were standing next to them vs. an unnatural metallic sizzle that is pushed forward.
  • TF10:
    The TF10 pair very well with the X5 and sound better than I have heard them sound before. What is interesting with the TF10/X5 pairing is that the mids are pushed way forward to take center stage where they are normally somewhat recessed with a V shaped signature. The mids are really outstanding with this combo. I never felt the need to amp the TF10 with my prior setups as the TF10s don’t really require it, but the power of the X5 is giving them real authority that they don’t typically have. The sound stage isn’t enlarged that much with the X5 showing a weakness in the TF10s, but it is much more believable with the X5 with larger sized performers and much more realistic sounding instruments. The other place the TF10 is showing its limitations is with clarity and the associated detail. While they have never sounded so clear before, the TF10 is not a NT6pro nor a LCD2 or an LCDX. So while the X5 is holding the TF10 to new heights, the TF10 is holding down the X5. Regardless, I would still chose to pair the TF10s just to enjoy those great mids, wow.
  • Monster Coppers:
    My Coppers are my most comfortable IEM that seal almost as well as my CIEM. This is quite an accomplishment as I tend to find IEMs as uncomfortable – although convenient – and typically have difficulty getting a seal at all. While it is nice that the Copper is very efficient, it is not a plus with the X5 that boasts a very powerful amp. The Coppers are also quite warm in signature with the most bass boost of any of my headphones giving it a very smooth signature. However, I find that this hides some of the X5 detail and congests the sound stage. While the Copper sounds great with the X5, I find that the Copper holds the X5 back from its full potential. The Copper is probably my worse pairing with the X5. I do use them though to pair at night as a comfortable low volume listening option when the open ended HD595s disturb my wife.




I think it is pretty obvious to anyone reading this review that there is a X5 in my future. Although it is possible that the uber expensive DAPs may meet or exceed the sound quality of the X5, I cannot imagine it being by much and certainly not by enough to justify the additional cost. As a portable music player I would rather carry something that I can afford to lose or damage without crying. Otherwise bringing it along stops being fun and it ends up being left at home. I would rather put my significant investments into my speaker or desktop system that stays home - safe and sound. The X5 is good enough that I don’t care what the other DAPs sound like any more……….. well, not as much. :smile: 


Pros: Sings like a champion. Handles like a schizophrenic gimp. Stole the physique of Vin Diesel.

Cons: Scroll wheel, even on late models, is rather finicky. (not to be found in the body of the review... just 'cause)

I’ve had my eyes peeled for a staunch enough system to replace my GalaxyS4>UAPP>OTG>Dragonfly1.2 mobile setup. While this package sounds amazing, it’s cumbersome and time-consuming to connect and get running. I have all my adapters and cables, along with the Dragonfly itself, in a leather pencil roll. To set it all up I must unroll the bundle, take the Dragonfly out of its sheath, remove the cap, pull out the cable I need for going mobile, connect everything, load up USB Audio Player Pro, and select an album to play. Oh, and headphones, of course. Gotta have that.

All this can be accomplished in less than a minute. But in the doing, that time takes on a brutish quality. It’s a lot more work than it should be. I wanted something lighter and quicker, something self-contained, compact, and extremely easy to just pick up and go.

Them who roam the lands of high-end audio call a contraption of that sort a “DAP”. Queer little buggers… these audiophiles.

There are lots of options out there. Fortune placed a 2nd Generation FiiO X3 in my path at a reasonable mark-off. You can find that review on your own, if you fear what awaits you for not reading it. The X3ii did everything I could possibly want from a DAP, save one crucial mark: it did not match or surpass the Dragonfly in raw, unadulterated sound quality. It came close in some ways. The sound is so clean and lively, that after a week of not comparing it to the Dragonfly, I began to ponder why I should ever desire an upgrade.

Then, when I listen to the Audioquest again, I am refreshed of its spaciousness, clarity, and refinement. After that, it’s tough to reconcile the disparity and convince oneself to settle.

Perhaps a week and a half into owning the X3ii, I found a brand-new X5 Classic for $195. The taut, well-oiled reflexes of a degenerate sprang into action, and I pounced on the opportunity.

Allow me to say, if you’ve spent the last month reading every review of the X3ii, X5 Classic, and X5ii, forming proper expectations is a cruel and befuddling exercise. Part of me thought this could be a monstrous upgrade. Another part feared it might weigh in just under the X3ii, and sound rather too dark as a bonus. Both extremes informed by stuff I’d read.

My principle monitors for mobile and work listening were the fairly new AUDIO TECHNICA IM04 in-ear phones. Being on the warm side, I knew mingling with the X5 Classic might yield a very dark sound indeed.

As it turns out, it does. But only on a few especially dark albums—like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, or Dookie by Green Day, or Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. Most everything else sounds marvelous. Using the ATH-IM03, which is a brighter, airier IEM, these darker tracks breathe again. The sonic signature is mildly warm, yet quite open and spacious. There is a rich, velvety smoothness to the music that favors slower acoustic pieces, yet somehow never falters on quick, complex tracks. Paired with a multi-driver earphone, you are treated to such immersive layering. The X5 is a clear, transparent, detail-oriented machine.

I’ve coveted the aesthetics of the X5, even before I knew what it was. Again and again, as I read up on various products, I’d see a photo of this bold, almost brash, hunk of metal. I’d think, “That’s right and good, isn’t it? That’s what a DAP ought to look like.” I much prefer this design over the 2nd Gen FiiO players. While smarter, sleeker, and, functionally speaking, superior, they’ve killed something in the personality department. Also, on a carnal level, the fluidity of the scroll wheel of the X5 Classic promotes a greater number of erections than the cog-like workings of the newer players. There’s a luxuriousness upon fingering it which frightens me.

When coupling this DAP with something larger, like the Sennheiser HD600, it holds up admirably. Setting the volume at 100/120 on High Gain, I reach a sufficient blast to meet the fundamental requirements of Metallica, the Black Album. These 300 Ohm headphones do not reach the same fidelity on the X5 as they do on my desktop amp. Then again, the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 Plus with the OPA627 upgrade is a hellcat. Nonetheless, fed by the X5, it sounds more or less badass.

I don’t own a portable amp to which to chain my DAPs. Something like the E12 or the C5 is the antithesis of what I want from a portable unit. As I only take IEMs on the go, this is not a problem. But should I ever want to go mobile with a king-hell headset, the X5 will serve splendidly in a pinch.

14 Ohms, 34 Ohms, 300 Ohms… all pair very well here. Even my 50 Ohm Klipsch X7i opens up like a prom date for the X5 Classic. It’s a privet agony, but the X7 has been relegated to backup duty in recent months. Once you go multi-driver, it’s impossible to willingly go back. Still, the X7 is the lightest, smallest, and most comfortable earphone I’ve ever tried. So they stick around, criminally underutilized, as my Podcast and Audiobook phones, played via the headphone-out of my Galaxy S4 (now S6). Heaven forbid if my IM03 were to go on a walkabout I could stride onward with the X5>X7i setup, head held high. They certainly make a handsome couple.

So… the FiiO thrills on all of my equipment. But does it compete against that which it’s meant to replace? Well…

The Dragonfly has a soundstage more-or-less equal to the X5, erring on the side of broader. There seems to be a greater degree of detail on the X5. It’s a close call, though. The Dragonfly sounds smoother, perhaps due to a combination of less detail and wider staging. Both sound very close to one another. I have trouble deciding which is darker and which is lighter. I believe the Dragonfly is a smidge brighter, if at all.

It’s particularly difficult to decide which is better. Smoother speaks to refinement I’ve always felt, but in this case, the X5 makes up for it in detail, a natural rendering of space, and a lively sense of musicality. Switching back and forth between the two, neither emerges a clear winner. They share so much in common.

Which makes this FiiO DAP a perfect replacement for the muddling mess of the Audioquest. I’ve been using the X5 Classic for weeks now, and have not once reckoned a lack in my listening sessions. This is what I had hoped the X3ii would sound like. Turns out my expectations were perverted by the lusty Dragonfly.

If all you need is a thumb-sized DAC to plug into a PC or tablet, the Dragonfly 1.2 cannot be beat for the price. But if you want an all-in-one portable music player of extreme audio fidelity, the X5 Classic is where you start.

I say “start”, because I’m nowhere near done yet. I still long to discover new levels of quality and refinement. But this will tide me over for a few months at least. It’s the beginning of August now. With my Christmas bonus I may give the Cayin N6 a try. See where that takes me.

This is the perfect place to rest for a time. If I were unable to buy another piece of gear, it would not kill me. The X5>IM03 is unreasonably great and delivers immaculate pleasure to your ear-holes.



Pros: Sound Quality, Looks, Price/Value, Storage, Versatility

Cons: UI, Wheel

The X5 from Fiio. Where to begin...


Perhaps I'll start with dual-CPU processing power... or maybe the dual TF card slots... or perhaps USB DAC functionality... then again how about the exceptionally black background...


So many options. You know what? I'll make your life easier. Since every other review is pretty dang thorough, I'll just include the highlights and then my personal impressions.


The Hits 

  • Support for every lossless format under the Sun
  • USB DAC capability
  • Two TF-card slots (up to 256 GB!)
  • Exceptional firmware/UI development that continues to improve


The Misses

  • The click wheel implementation
  • Non-removable battery


My Thoughts


To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, my head-fi DAP history has included a plethora of iPods, a sample of Sansas, a cache of Colorfly, a basket of iBassos, and a few Fiios. Some like the iPods, C3, and DX50 were used with additional amps & DACs, while the X3, DX90, and now X5, have been standalones. 


The X5 is the one I've decided to keep and here are the reasons why:




Duh. This whole journey has been a pursuit of better sound without sacrificing much else. The X5 does it right. It's a noticeable step up from the iPods, Sansas, and Colorfly so I won't reference those.


In comparison to its younger sibling, the X3, the presentation is more neutral, with just a dash of warmth in the lower mids. Both have the Fiio sound, but to me, the X3 is the obsessed-with-being-cool younger brother, and the X5 is more sophisticated, eternal-bachelor uncle. Just more refined, clear, authoritative sound. Since it's often a subject of contention, I'll cast my vote confidently for the X5 over the DX90. It's got a more organic (less digital) sound and comes at a substantially lower price. 


Mid- and sub-bass are both very textured and well-balanced. From Paul's upright to Bassnectar's bass cannons, I've never once wanted more. This is definitely a pro for the X5 over the DX90. The 90's bass is heard. The X5's is felt. Which, if you ask me, is better. I've never been to a concert or venue where, when it was time, I didn't feel the bass, whether it be from a drum or an instrument. 


Vocals and instruments presented in the midrange are in a word: rich. From the distortion in Jimi's electric to the rasp in Norah's voice, I've always felt that the X5 does the mids better than is let on. Often in DAP-world, we judge by extremes. Depth of soundstage. Low-listening noise. Extreme upper and lower-end frequencies. Sometimes we forget about the middle. Well, have no fear. I did not forget, and neither did the good people over at Fiio. The X5 gives them just like they were recorded. 


The X5's upper end is solid. It's not as spacious as the DX90, but it's certainly close. It extends farther than the X3, and offers more detail than the DX50. Thanks to the exceptionally noiseless background, all the details you only hear up top are easy to discern. Things like Joe's fingers sliding on guitar strings, Adele's breathing, and Neil's cymbal rolls are very detailed and lifelike. In my experience, these kinds of things are lost in live recordings with most DAPs. They just don't have the resolution capability to make instruments recorded live sound like it. Luckily for us, the X5 does.


All in all, the X5 offers a complete audio experience that doesn't leave this listener wanting anything. In a world where DAP to DAC to AMP to headphone pairings are all the rage, this is quite a feat if you ask me!




With regards to the X5's user experience, we've been presented with something original (always scary) yet very capable. Physical buttons require a little getting used to, but they follow a reasonable navigational scheme. I also appreciate the thought that has gone into making this player one-handed and non-visual operational. Being able to choose which buttons function when the screen is off is a nice touch. I can operate all audio functions without seeing the player!


The UI has a pretty short learning curve, which is certainly appreciated. Honestly, no matter how good the sound is, a bad UI can be a dealbreaker. Fiio's folder-based UI is easy enough to navigate and adjusting player and audio settings like gain, EQ, sleep, and card-scanning are reasonably intuitive. Heck, I like the look of the nav screen with it's circular design. Even the volume adjustment is cool. Unfortunately, I can't stop here though...


The qualms I have with the UI right now are that 1. the playlist support is clunky at best. 2. the Verdana-style font with now-playing information is a little annoying and 3. the click wheel. Why oh why would you try to make a different click wheel the the most popular portable player of all-time? That's asking for it. The X5's wheel works just fine, but it's mechanical design (as opposed to the iPod's electronic) drops the ball in two ways. First, it has as limited scroll speed - super annoying for those of us with large libraries. Second, one click of the wheel does not equal one move on-screen. Sometimes it does and then sometimes it doesn't. This makes for a lot of missed selections. 


Even though I don't use them much, there are other functions that the X5 offers which should satisfy most users. First, it's USB DAC capability is quite nice. It offers some seriously quality sound for those of us who are doing most of our listening through a laptop or portable rig. It's coax and line out are also very convenient. The line-out is one of the cleanest I've ever heard!


Finally, I should mention that the driving power of the X5 is excellent. I've yet to use a headphone that made it feel insufficient. From the 215s to the KSC75s to the PS500s to the ZMFs, the X5 drives everything I've thrown at it with authority. This is great not only from an SQ standpoint, but also from a convenience factor: I don't need to look for an additional amp! No more double-stacking! Woohoo!




In closing, the X5 from Fiio bests most of the other DAPs in and (obviously) below it's price bracket in almost every category. I can't compare it to the offerings from A&K or the brick of a player that the DX100 is, but I can assure you that it leads the race in my experience, for sub-$500 players. From it's excellent sound quality (I don't remember the last time I listened so exclusively to my portable device), to it's "extras" like dual-TF slots and USB DAC capability, to it's authoritative amplification, this DAP has proven it's worth time and time again. If you want an all-inclusive solution to hear your music more clearly and enjoyably when you're on the go, look no further than the Fiio X5. 


Pros: Inexpensive, great battery life, good with most IEMs. Can be used as a transport or with a separate amp for good results. Dual microSD card storage.

Cons: Poor performance with full-sized headphones and needs a separate amp to work best with those. No touch-screen UI.

Thanks to FiiO for the loaner unit.

If there is a brand other than Apple that is more well-known at Head-Fi than FiiO I’d be very surprised.  A number of their products have become pretty much standard entry-level recommendations and their flagship amp, the E12 is a mere $129! However portable amps have been rapidly going out of fashion with the increasing number of DAPs, or Digital Audio Players on the market, itself a consequence of the increasing number of Android-based phones available, including inexpensive models in China, which in turn have provided much needed components to manufacturers of portable audio gear.
While not Android-based DAPs in themselves, FiiO has gone with this trend and through something of a trial-by-fire as they worked on the software, developed the hugely successful X3. As their software has reached something resembling maturity, they came out with the larger X5. I became interested in the X5 because of the design and feature set and due to the positive impression I had of the sound at the e-earphone headphone festival in Tokyo in December 2013.
I was lucky enough to get in the loaner tour for the X5 and hold onto a unit for a while to get the hang of its capabilities. Thanks to Joe Bloggs on Head-Fi for giving us this opportunity.
It would not be unkind to describe the X5 as looking rather like a modern take on the original iPod. From the outside, the case is almost a work of art which manages to balance style with form and function. A physical scroll wheel and central button with 4 un-labelled buttons evenly arranged around it make up most of the front, and a small 400x360 pixel screen sits behind a wider piece of or plastic that, by default, is covered with a screen protector. The main volume controls sit on one side, two microSD cards slots and USB on the bottom and three different outputs on the top. The net result is attractive and reasonably functional, feels good in the hand and, with help from the quick-start guide in the box, doesn’t take long to get the hang of using.
Next to the power button is the headphone socket, line out and a coaxial digital output for connecting to another DAC, for which a short cable is included. On the other end, astride the micro-USB socket are two micro USB slots, giving the potential for up to 256GB of storage (potentially costing more, I might add, than the X5 itself). While slower than a USB 3 reader, the X5 can be connected to a computer and the contents of the cards accessed in mass-storage mode or the X5 used as a DAC, where it will accept up to 192k and 24 bit input. The X5 will play the usual plethora of common file formats, including DSD, which is converts to PCM on the fly.
The attractive interface, if you don’t mind reading the tiny, and in the case of some of the indicators, faded writing. Indoors it wasn’t a problem for me, but outside in the sun, especially with reflections, like other DAPs became impossible to read. For those so inclined, a number of members of Head-Fi have hacked the firmware to produce their own versions*. Despite being small, the interface is very quick. Scrolling fairly fast even though a large number of albums there are no delays or even stutter when turning the wheel at a moderate speed, though over two rotations per second it starts to struggle. Any delays come from having to repeatedly press and scroll through the menus. If you have as I do a very full 64 GB card, getting to an album in folder view half way down (or up, as scrolling jumps from beginning to end if done backwards and vice-versa) can take quite a while. The fastest way to drill down is via genre, if your music is tagged sufficiently well and you have a variety, followed by Album and Artist by picking whichever is closer to A or Z in the list.
If you’re thinking now “Why not just load on some playlists?” you’ll be disappointed to know that one major omission is support for M3U playlists. In the Chinese market, according to FiiO, playlists aren’t a big thing. If you wish to use playlists, you have to manually create them inside the X5 by playing the song and adding it using the quick menu button to a playlist, which cannot be re-named from the default “Playlist 1/2/3/4/etc.” Similarly, while there is an equaliser with a number of presets available, the lack of a touch screen means that the custom EQ needs to be set via a series of scroll, press-and-scroll motions, which can be somewhat tiresome. 
The good news is, however, the battery life. When not playing music, even left switched on, the X5 takes days, if not over a week, to drain the battery. Switched off the battery didn’t deplete even when left for a month unused. Playback time for CD quality files is quite long, over 10 hours according to the specifications.
The volume control has a very useful 120 positions, at least so for IEMs, with a setting for the default power-on volume level. It can be controlled using the side buttons, or using the scroll wheel after pressing one of the side buttons beforehand. Which buttons will still work after the screen is off/locked can also be controlled via settings, with three options for side volume buttons only, side buttons and play/pause button, or the previous setting plus forward/back buttons. While convenient, the idle power off setting, if on, is limited to only 1 to 8 minutes, though the sleep timer can be set to up to 2 hours.
Other than that, the X5 has a good number of settings for everything from balance and playback mode to being able to set whether songs are displayed by file name or title and whether or not to go to the last played song on startup.
What has now become something of a reference album with headphones, I put on Amber Rubarth’s Sessions from the 17th Ward. Switching between DAPs and IEMs it would become pretty quickly apparent which equipment was more or less capable of delivering the fine details buried in the tracks, from the birds tweeting outside to traffic noise and subtle movements of the musicians.  The IEMs I settled on for comparing, all high-quality, if varying in degree, were the FitEar Parterres, Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors (UERMs for short) and JHAudio Layla universals.  While the Parterres didn’t reveal much difference between the X5 and my AK240 (single-ended output), as I stepped up to the other two, especially since the UERMs and Laylas have balanced cables, the differences became apparent. My first impression with the various IEMs was of a slightly warm, but not ultra-revealing presentation.  Out-and-about, the X5/Paterre combination made for a very enjoyable listen, especially given the slightly lighter-weight frequency response of the Parterres. The Laylas, on the other hand, just revealed how dull and one-note the X5 was with acoustic music, the bass when attempting to push so many drivers also somewhat boomy and loose.
While I felt that the X5 does an adequate job with IEMs, with full-sized headphones it clearly had trouble, despite the nice-sounding numbers of <115dB S/N ratio and <75 Ohms crosstalk shown in the specifications. Plugging in Sennheiser HD-800s and other high-impedance headphones resulted in the music sounding like it was coming from a blob in the middle, most noticeable where I knew the music should have a wide soundstage. My more basic Audio Technica ESW9LTDs were more along its capability level. FiiO’s E12 amp, designed for full-sized headphones, is the same size as the X5 and FiiO provides a kit allowing them to be joined together. While I didn’t have one on hand, I used my Headamp Pico Power instead, which was clearly far more capable with full-sized headphones. The combination with either amp is still cheaper than other DAP options that do a decent job driving full-sized headphones that I’ve tested, such as the Calyx M. The only rivals that I can think of would be the iBasso DX50 and DX90 which I haven’t had the chance to test.
For further discussion, check out my DAP-off thread here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/714374/


Pros: Great instrument separation, simple GUI, dual microSD cards, fast music library update, library and file directory browsing

Cons: Fatiguing for me, hallway-like soundstage, coloured sound, cluncky UI, large size, protective relay, crashes, really slow battery charging

This review is based on a touring X5 unit and I do not personally own the X5. I need to give FiiO a big, big thank you for letting me be a part of this tour.

Since Head-Fi's detail section does not represent the scores of the reviewer, but rather the community average, here are my scores based on the 10 days that I actively used the unit (2014/02/10 - 2014/02/19):

Value: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Design: 3/5
Battery Life: 3.5/5
User Interface: 2.5/5
Overall Rating: 3.2/5

Now let's get into the details of these details.


At $350 USD, this device offers a lot for the price. What's a lot?

Here's what's in the package:
  • Hard storage box
  • X5 unit with screen protector pre-installed
  • Soft silicone sleeve/case
  • MicroSD card USB reader
  • Male microUSB - male USB cable
  • Short male 3.5 mm - female RCA coaxial cable
  • Short male 3.5 mm - male 3.5 mm cable
  • 2 x extra screen protectors
  • 3 x 3.5 mm plugs
  • HD Tracks coupon card
  • Warranty card
  • Quick-start user manual
  • X5 button layout card (I did not see this in the touring unit package though)

That's a ton of stuff bundled with the device. Will people even use half of these? Probably not, but they're nice to have handy and it adds to the value of the package.

What else does the X5 offer?
  • Portable media player
  • USB external soundcard
  • MicroSD card reader

For what it's worth, the X5 offers a lot at $350 and the overall package is well- and competitively-priced.

4/5 (Great) for Value

Audio Quality

My Testing Rigs (Click to show)
MacBook Pro -> Audirvana Plus -> FiiO X5 -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), MrSpeakers Alpha Dog (touring unit), or V-MODA Crossfade M-100

FiiO X5 (with 64 GB SanDisk microSD Class 10 card) -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MEElectronics M9-BK, MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), Sennheiser CX-300, or V-MODA Crossfade M-100

FiiO X5 (with 64 GB SanDisk microSD Class 10 card) -> FiiO L2 -> FiiO E12, JDS Labs C5, C5D, or Objective 2 -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), or V-MODA Crossfade M-100

This is a quality of the X5 that seemed weird to me. Everyone else, or pretty much everyone else, seems to like the X5's sound and that it's "the greatest thing since sliced bread." My experience with the X5 is that it sounds okay, but nothing amazing.

In short, I heard:
  • a bumped-up mid-bass response that sounded a bit boomy
  • excellent warm lower-midrange
  • fatiguing upper-midrange/lower-treble
  • slight roll-off in the treble that makes it sound soft
  • deep soundstage that isn't very wide
  • great instrument separation
  • imaging seems off
  • good detail retrieval

In general, I listen for the overall sound signature before analyzing the technicalities and the X5 doesn't sound transparent to me. It has a warm sound overall that may be a bit thick, and there's something with the upper-midrange/lower-treble region that makes the X5 sound fatiguing to my ears and is a deal-killer for me in that regard. I'm not going to lie and say that the X5's audio quality is good if I have to take breaks from listening to the device due to fatigue, no matter what headphone or earphone I used. No other portable media player I've tried has this effect on me. The soundstage wasn't particularly wide, more so deep, so imaging seemed off to me and it was weird having the effect of listening to the music half-way into in a concert hall instead of the front-row, or on the stage as the conductor.

Using the line-out feature of the X5, it turns out that the amplifier portion of the X5 causes the fatigue issue for me since I no longer had those painful listening experiences. The DAC portion seems to add some warmth to the sound since I was hearing more mid-bass than I typically do. On the other hand, pairing the large X5 with an external amplifier seems impractical for being used as a portable media player.

What is this fatiguing sound I hear? It's hard to completely describe, but I was in a 2014 Subaru Forester the other day and I heard the same kind of sound from the speaker system. Female vocals, and really anything in the upper-midrange frequencies, sound really harsh, shouty, strident, or hard on my ears, almost as if dynamics of those instruments are being compressed and/or the system has a hard time reproducing those sounds accurately. They just really hurt my ears and I had to cover my ears or speaker to dampen the effect. It's one thing to have it happen to X speaker or Y headphone, but I had the experience with all headphones I used with the X5 (AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MEElectronics M9-BK, MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), Sennheiser CX-300, or V-MODA Crossfade M-100). None of my other portable media players, amplifiers, nor DACs reproduce this effect.

Figure 1 - A depiction of me in anime form reacting to the X5's fatiguing sound

As for headphone pairings, I think the X5's sound worked the best with the Audeze LCD-X (touring unit). It sounded okay with the Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), but it wasn't optimal and the narrow soundstage of the X5 made it sound weird and off. I use the Crossfade M-100 as my main portable headphone in my portable rig, and the fatiguing upper-midrange/lower-treble was definitely not a good pairing with it, especially if I plan to listen to louder volume levels due to ambient background noise. I'd like to keep my hearing intact thank you. My two earphones aren't a good pairing with the X5 either because the "kill switch" effect will activate (more in the "Design" section).

Overall sound quality is okay, but a non-transparent sound and especially the listening fatigue are a big no-no for me.

3/5 (Okay) for Audio Quality


Figure 2 - A beauty shot of the X5 (credit goes to lugia862)

The main body of the X5 is absolutely superb. It's made of a single solid piece of metal and it reminds me of an aluminum unibody MacBook. When I first picked up the X5, I noticed how heavy it is. It's quite heavy and it feels like picking up a portable external hard drive (or at least a 500 GB OWC Mercury On-The-Go one). I have small hands and the weight and wide body of the X5 almost feel uncomfortable to me when handling it with one hand. It's like having a super heavy Samsung Galaxy SIII in your hand (actually the width dimensions are very similar: 67.6 mm for the X5, 70.6 mm for the SIII).

Figure 3 - Size comparison between the iPod 5G, JDS Labs C5D, and FiiO X5

What's disappointing to me is that the body of the X5 feels rock-solid, but the buttons and mechanical wheel feel quite cheap. In the end, these moving parts are probably going to get the most use and thus wear-and-tear over time instead of the body. I'll expand on this more in the "User Interface" section, but the X5's front-panel buttons are raised from the main body instead of being flush and they're easy to push/activate. This is not very convenient to have in your pocket since accidental button presses will occur.

Figure 4 - Note the raised buttons

I use portable media players in my left hand. Why my left hand? Headphones typically have the cable running down from the left earcup, and the portable media player consequently ends up in my left pocket (it's annoying to have the cable cross your body to go into a right pocket). That in combination with my small hands makes handling the X5 an awkward task. The skip track and previous track buttons are near the bottom of the unit (this is poor placement considering it's far from the center of mass) and the back button is on the top-right of the wheel (making it awkward to reach with your left hand).

Moving on to the X5's mechanical wheel, the wheel has steps (or clicks) when it rotates. Although having a stepped wheel is not a problem for me, the problem is that these steps seem very worn down; like when you have one of those long retractable erasers and the plastic steps wear down. This results in a very unresponsive and inaccurate user experience (more in the "User Interface" section). To add to that, the wheel is loose and for some reason, sticky if it hasn't been in use for some time (more on this in the "User Interface" section). To make matters worse, the wheel has very little grip with your fingers. The wheel's surface has a smooth, matte, soft-rubber/plastic feeling like the 2013 Nexus 7 tablet computer. This is problematic because you have to dig into the wheel to get a good grip on it, and upon spinning the wheel, you can feel it rubbing against whatever is right behind it. A patterned/texture surface like this early mock-up would have been much better in my opinion:

Figure 5 - Note the textured/patterned surface on the scroll wheel

Now it looks like this:

Figure 6 - Note the smooth surface on the scroll wheel

On second thought, it looks like the textured/patterned wheel was actually in an earlier prototype. Sad face.

Figure 7 - A photo of the X5 before the current iteration of design

Though I didn't really mind too much, the center button is activated in the very middle of the circle. If you press the button along the outer portions of the circle, it feels unresponsive and more effort is needed to press it than if you had just pressed the button in the very center.

The microSD card rubber/plastic doors are hard to access and it took me a while to get them open the first time around. Counterintuitively, you should push the door parallel to the X5's bottom instead of trying to pry it open.

Figure 8 - Showing how you should, and should not, try to open the microSD card door
http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000055517771&MenuID=105026016 (modified by me)

The screen of the X5 itself is just fine. Text is reasonably sharp and it's easy enough to read complex characters in Asian fonts such as traditional Chinese (無賴-許哲珮 for example: http://www.hifitrack.com/zh-hant/node/6359). The weird thing about the screen though is that it has a large black bezel surrounding it. Because of this, the screen appears smaller than what it looks like it can display under the glass, and it looks a bit disproportionate to me considering the wide body of the X5.

The X5 uses a protective relay to prevent damage to either the headphones or the unit itself. While this is probably a good thing to have, my experience with the X5's relay has been more of a miss than a hit. For instance, if the X5 is in my jacket pocket and nothing is touching it, nor the cable of the headphone/earphone, the headphone cable can rub against the jacket's fabric and create the well-known staticky sound. This has happened to both of the earphones I have at hand and every time I've done this, the X5 goes into an emergency "kill switch" mode and everything on the X5 shuts off. I need to use a pin to hit the reset button to get the X5 to even turn on again. When this happened to me for the first time, I thought the battery died. Upon using a friend's portable battery charger for about 20 minutes, the X5 still didn't turn on and I had to use a toothpick from a restaurant to reset it. Talk about having a heart attack with a touring review unit...

This is extremely inconvenient for any user, especially if you plan to use these while doing anything outside in a true portable situation. I often speed-walk to my next class at school and this portable media player would be utterly useless to me if it keeps hitting the "kill switch" every time my earphones get into contact with my jacket's fabric. I didn't have this problem with the Crossfade M-100 on the other hand, so I'm not sure what the problem is.

Design of the body is nice, but the main operating buttons feel cheap and are oddly placed. It doesn't look all that ugly in-person, but it does have that retro-look to it, which I like.

3/5 (Okay) for Design

Battery Life

There's not much to explain here, but I did a battery drain/charging test on the X5 unit before handing it off to the next person in the tour.

For my battery drain test, I tried to emulate a worst-case (or just a bad) scenario for music playback:
From this test, I got around 10.5 hours of battery life from the X5. It's not too bad, but it's not great either. I'd say it's about average for a portable media player.

The battery charging on the other hand took quite a long time to fully charge, which was shocking to me. I went to bed about 30 minutes after the battery depleted and left it charging via USB for about 4 hours. I woke up and the battery still wasn't fully charged, so I charged it periodically throughout the day at school. In the end, it took around 9 hours to fully charge (the LED indicator turned green). That's a ridiculous amount time if you only have a USB port at hand.
Raw Approximate Draining and Charging Times (Click to show)
Draining: 1:35-8:35, 23:10-2:30
Charging: 2:40-7:10, 10:40-11:20, 12:20-14:20, 15:20-17:30

The X5 has an average battery life, but it takes nearly the same amount of time to fully charge it as it does to drain.

3.5/5 (Good) for Battery Life

User Interface

The user interface (the interactions between the user, hardware, and software) is generally acceptable. The graphical user interface is navigational and things work reasonably well. Heck, they even have the full user manual in the settings, how cool is that? On the other hand, there are a bunch of problems I have with the X5 that all add up and prevent it from being a great or excellent user experience.

Right when you boot-up the X5, you're presented with a boot animation that lasts about 5 seconds total. This isn't problematic, but I would prefer a quicker boot time since I want to listen to my music as soon as possible.

After the boot animation, you're presented with the main menu of the X5. It looks nice and all, but when you rotate the wheel in one direction, the icons change in the opposite direction. This is a pretty well-documented issue and even after 10 days of active use, I couldn't get used to it. The center highlight remains static while the icons are dynamic/change. In other words, you control the direction the icons move.

Figure 9 - Home screen of the X5

One would think that if you wanted to get to the heart icon (for a favourite playlist) in Figure 9, then you would rotate the wheel counter-clockwise (moving the dynamic icon up from the bottom into the static highlighted area). Upon doing that, you actually go to the folder icon above the music icon, the exact opposite direction you wanted the icons to go.

Still on the topic of the mechanical wheel, as described, it feels like it has worn down steps. This creates some problems with the user interface since you may scroll 2 or 3 worn down steps, and the graphical user interface only registers 1 step (the "worn down scroll wheel" problem is, according to James, actually a firmware problem that will be fixed). This makes navigation inaccurate, which is absolutely key for me when using a portable media player: I want an accurate mapping of my actions on the hardware side to the graphical user interface in the software. Additionally, when I left the X5 alone for some time and came back to move the wheel, the wheel stuck on me and it was stiff for the first few steps. I have no idea why this would happen, but it was annoying when using the X5 as an external USB soundcard and I used the wheel to adjust the volume.

Speaking of the X5 as a USB soundcard, you can't adjust the digital volume from your computer; all volume is controlled with the X5 (the DAC volume should be adjustable from the computer if you're using a PC). Also, the screen of the X5 stays on when you have it connected to your computer. I worry about this because I have a FiiO E7 and the screen is burned in (the E7's display never turns off either). One, this is annoying to have in the dark because you have a display that's always on and you don't even look at it most of the time. Two, sometimes when disconnecting the X5 from your computer, the screen stays on even after removal and a reboot is required to get it working again. This is inconvenient if I just want to unplug the X5 from my computer after charging and use it right away. Still talking about using the X5 as a USB soundcard, I wish the wheel would always be active for volume control. It gets irritating having to hit the volume buttons on the side of X5, or press and hold the center button, to activate the volume adjustment menu just to change the volume by a few units.

If you plan to use the X5 as a portable media player, the physical media buttons don't work nearly as well as I thought they would. In "Lock Mode 1," the media buttons are inactive when the X5's display is off and you have to hit the hold/power button every time you want to use the volume/playback buttons. In "Lock Mode 2," the media buttons are always active when the the X5's display is off. While "Lock Mode 2" may seem to be the logical choice to use when you have the X5 in your pocket, this is actually not very practical at all since the previous track/next track buttons protrude out from the X5's main body and are thus very easy to accidentally activate. This happened to me way too many times and I thought the X5 was just acting up. In addition, in this mode, the previous track button actually goes to the previous track, instead of restarting the song like in every other media player I have ever used.

It doesn't matter to me at all, but the speed at which the X5 updates your music library is actually pretty fast, which is a good thing. On the other hand, the media library itself has poor organisation. It basically only sorts music by song, album, artist, or music genre. Once you go into those categories and select an artist, album, or music genre of your choice, every song with that tag listed in alphabetical order by filename, not even the track name (e.g. 01 Fearless, 01 Mine, 01 State of Grace if sorting by the artist Taylor Swift). This again is a well-documented issue and this type of organisation is generally not useful for the user. Fortunately I don't have to deal with this since I browse all of my files by folder directory, which the X5 does support. However, all files are displayed in the X5's directory mode, including those pesky hidden files that Mac OS X creates on external drives. If you try to play one of these hidden files, the X5 displays a popup message saying that it can't play it and move on to the next file about 3 seconds later.

Regardless of whether or not these hidden files affect the X5's media playback, I had playback issues with the X5. Sometimes the X5 would randomly stop playing half-way through a song and would lock-up the entire device. A reboot is required to get it functioning again.

Figure 10 - Both the original media files and the hidden "._" files created by Mac OS X are displayed in the X5's file directory browsing mode (http://elyonbeats.bandcamp.com/album/museum)

Video 1 - The X5 froze-up on me while playing a 16-bit/44.1 kHz Apple Lossless file during a bus ride (http://www.yesasia.com/us/jay-chou-2007-world-tour-concert-live-2cd/1010040628-0-0-0-en/info.html)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to diagnose the problem in this case. When I re-formatted the microSD card, I did so in order to update the X5's firmware, so either one of those variables may have been the problem. In terms of upgrading the firmware from version 1.00 to 1.10, the differences were pretty minimal. The only differences I found were that the X5's display turns on if you press any button when the display is off (showing a message along the lines of "you must press the power button to use the X5"), and the track scrubber moved a lot faster, too fast for accurate track scrubbing.

Although my native language is English, FiiO did translate the X5 in 7 different languages (Chinese (traditional and simplified), English, Japanese, Korean, French, German, and Spanish), which is nice to have.

On another note, the battery indicator only has bars (e.g. 3 bars of battery). I would prefer to see a numerical value because I can get a quick and relatively accurate reading of the X5's battery life (e.g. 62% battery instead of 3 bars for a range of values).

The user interface as a whole is usable, which is acceptable, but the myriad of problems makes it a frustrating experience.

2.5/5 (Acceptable) for User Interface


Evidently, my honest experiences and impressions of the X5 are pretty much the opposite of others'. Yes I'll probably be alienated because of this polarising review, and yes my review will just be a grain of salt in the larger pile, but I wanted to explain my experiences with the X5, and write an honest review. In short, I wasn't really impressed by the X5 at all and I thought it had more annoyances than enjoyable things. The X5 is okay for being an all-in-one solution of having a portable media player and a portable USB soundcard combo, and this is a great value in that regard, but I encountered waaaaaaay too many problems with it that ultimately prevent me from recommending this to anyone without trying it first. Even if the sound quality was beyond awesome, the user interface is definitely not something I would like to deal with again. On the other hand, there are people out there who don't care about the user interface at all and only care about the sound quality. Perhaps the X5 is right for you then.

Fortunately, FiiO has acknowledged some of these user interface issues and is working on some fixes for future firmware updates. However, until those are officially released, my experiences with firmwares 1.00 and 1.10 still stand. Unfortunately, the stock sound is pretty much locked in place via hardware unless changes are made in the firmware, so my sonic impressions of the X5 are more or less set in stone.

You might say that my touring review unit was defective, or that I broke it somehow (this was actually suggested in the X5 tour thread...). While that could have been the case during the time I had with the X5, the users before and after me in the tour have written glowing reviews for it, so I don't think that was the case for me.


With that, I am still very thankful to FiiO for allowing me to try this, and I'm glad that I did get the opportunity to try it. I would also like to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read through this very lengthy review! I really do hope this review helps a person or two.

Thanks again!

Note: Text in red are corrections made by Joe Bloggs of FiiO


Pros: Modifiable User interface

Cons: EQ, library navigation,



Theme in video     https://www.dropbox.com/s/3r8b8wlkcyiw4hn/x5.fw?dl=0




This is an updated video review and it is highly suggested you try and enjoy the multiple custom options this device offers.




I cannot and did not use the default theme as i have never seen it. That's how easy it is to customize this device or use another persons theme.


If you have not updated to FW 2.5 it is strongly advised.








Pros: Great sound, build, features. high resolution, strong imaging, black background, dual card slots

Cons: Click wheel durability? Lock screen options need improvement. Still a little off neutral (for my preferences)

Firstly, I'd like to say special thanks to James from FiiO and Joe for offering us a wonderful tour on their new FiiO X5 unit.

It's not everyday we get to sample a new product before release, this has been a wonderful opportunity not only to give members a grasp on the player though also examine whether the unit might be for myself as a keeper or future purchase. I will try to write as even review as possible. The FiiO X5 unit I have with me is a loaner unit for 10 days to assess my likes and dislikes. I received the X5 unit on the 25th of February 2014. Firmware version: FW1.10

My past history with FiiO being I haven't been particular fond of their warmer house sound. In general I lean for more neutral sound signatures and as preference prefer bright to analytical presentations, (though I am flexible to a degree). What I've always been impressed with about FiiO is their excellent price to performance ratio for budget orientated audio enthusiasts which seems almost untouched by any other company out there. When I heard FiiO was designing a higher end DAP that leans more towards neutral from their previous house sound this intrigued me quite a lot, especially remembering the price to performance ratio I mentioned.



The FiiO X5 unit comes in a stand alone box with an outer sleeve, it reminds me very much of IBasso's DX50's packaging, simple, sweet and elegant, nothing to over the top though enough to get the job done nicely with a feeling of satisfaction. After all its what inside that counts right? To some yes, but FiiO have dressed up the boxing nicely to give that consumer feel. The inner box can also be used for long term (or short term storage) of your unit as you can see in the photos, the X5 sits nicely inside and you can place the lid back on.




Inside the packaging you're greeted with:


  •  Pre molded Silicon case (high quality silicon)
  •  High current USB charging / data cable (shielded)
  •  Digital out to coax cable
  •  3 x socket pin protector plugs (for the output ports)
  •  FiiO branded USB micro SD card reader 
  • x2 spare screen protectors for the X5 (plus one already fitted)


  •  FiiO warranty card
  •  HD tracks discount card (15%)
  • Contact card
  • FiiO X5 quick start guide






As you can see the accessories are more than adequate FiiO seem to have provided everything you need to get started, there won't be any 'I need this" or "damn I forgot to get that". The only thing you will need is your own micro sd card as FiiO X5 does not support any internal storage for music, it relies on dual  micro sd cards slots.  I hear X5 can be bought bundled together with micro sd card to get you on your way although I think in our day and age especially amongst many of us here micro sd cards are found in most users house holds. If not they're rather cheap and only dropping in price due to the the new Sandisk 128GB cards now on the market. 

Build quality:

The finish is of high quality aluminum alloy which feels solid in the hand making the x5 unit feel a little more than it's asking price, on the sides the edges are smooth and well rounded over, the entire unit feels admirable in the hand, you get a real feeling of quality when holding X5 as it also holds little weight equaling 174 grams.

The scroll wheel does feel a little loose or plastic feel to it though once you learn how to use it adjusting to the sensitivity levels being more than suitable. At first I was having problems with the scroll wheel either pushing it to much or not enough which caused me to miss my destination, but as driving a car the unit becomes easier to control with some use especially after an hour or two, I also hear this will be improved in future firmware updates. I do have some concerns about it's long term durability after many months of hardcore spinning although considering the player is so early and fresh we cannot say for certain.

The input jacks feel sturdy and have a nice firm click to them as do the volume and power tactile buttons, there's a feeling of craftsmanship within the build of X5. Moving to the bottom of the player you're greeted with not one but two micro sd card slots, an excellent selling feature of X5. Each slot can take up to 128GB micro sd cards giving a whopping total storage of 256GB. I will probably opt for two 64GB cards until the price of these newer 128GB come down a touch. 

Format Support:

X5 takes almost every format you will ever need to use, rather than go through them all individually I'll simply display the formats. We also need to remember that FiiO X5 is not only a 16bit player it also does Hires 24 bit play back, this is another superior selling feature only seen in a few other players at this price point. This here having the 24bit support is a huge feature as now time is moving forward these files will be in demand so this feature assures FiiO's X5 long life span in the market.

Formats / Resolution  


Supported Formats


Supported Resolution

Up to 192K/24bit – dependent on format


USB External sound card (using X5 as a DAC)

I must admit during my time with X5 I haven't had a chance to use it as a DAC, though the player does support this feature. To my understanding it can be connected to any laptop or PC then use the DAC section similar to FiiO E10, E17, for example. Only X5 does support 24bit playback as well in this area. For more information regarding using X5 as a DAC please check some other reviews as I'm sure it's just as functional as being a stand alone media player, it's just I don't listen to music while at a computer it's not something I can concentrate on.


UI (User Interface):

When first booing up the player you're greeted by the FiiO logo welcoming you to X5, the actual start up time between pressing the power button is about 6 seconds total from screen on to  main menu, I think that's a pretty decent amount of time to get up and running for my standards, especially considering the dual card support. Some players like Studio V or Rocco BA take more than 10 seconds to load and up to 15-20 seconds with Studio V as those players scan their cards before each boot up quickly. So for me the boot up times on X5 is closer to instant.. I think only a Rockboxed Clip+ would boot quicker. 

Once at the main menu you're created by a scrolling design where all your options for music selection, setting, music settings are located, it's a rather intuitive interface and something I've not seen before. You get a feeling of uniqueness but most importantly it matters how well this functions at speed. Happily I can say after a week with the unit you become quite at home rather quickly.

At first there's always that "what the hell am I doing" but without even reading the manual the player has become second nature to me in a matter of days, my only grunt is the scroll wheel sometimes misses your selection as it seems to click as you turn and sometimes doesn't land on the menu option/track selection you want, however I think in further firmware the unit will be improved in this area. By all means it's more than functional, you can move at speed though  I can see some people possibly kicking up a fuss about it.

In the system settings you can manually scan your card which can also be done automatically. I prefer having the auto scan function off as I don't think it's needed to scan every boot up unless when adding several albums to your cards. There is a key lock setting which gives you two options: option 1 disables the buttons on the DAP so you can't switch tracks or adjust the volume while the screen is off. Option 2 leaves access to the volume pause/play, track navigation buttons.

You can set the screen time out duration before the screen locks but currently you cannot disable the key-lock feature completely. As it is on the current firmware I found this a little frustrating when the player is just sitting on a table or bed because each time you pick the player up you must press the power button to unlock the unit first. I hear this will  be improved in future firmware updates. There''s also sleep mode, idle power off settings available.

You can view your music via folder view, album, artist, favorites (add favorites to your list first), genre & all music.  For me personally I only ever view my music by folder so I didn't run the player through tests of tag reading, I hear though on our boards it's fairly stable for most parts.

There is one little niggle with the current firmware, when selecting from folder view (when selecting your track) X5 unit takes about 3-4 seconds before your track starts which can be a little laggy, it does give you a feeling of halting for a second however we must remember the firmware I was on is still very early, I gather this time delay will be sped up in the future. Once an album is playing the transition between tracks is smooth. I did however detect a slight skip if gap-less was engaged between track transitions.

More examples of FiiO X5 User Interface.

(please click each photo to see close ups)

Main Menu:

System Settings:

Play Settings:

Custom 10 band EQ: (with presets):

Folder selection screen (albums):

Now Playing Screen:





Sound Quality:


Tonality of X5 is indeed more towards neutral than FiiO's previous products I've tried, I still personally hear a hint of warmth in the presentation, which makes the entire mid range rather smooth and non fatiguing, while I find it does lean very close on neutral I can still feel a hint in there, just a slight essence of FiiO still, but we must remember my preference with other DAP's is a little bright to begin with and everyone opinion on neutral varies wildly on head-fi and in general. When I first heard X5 I couldn't help feel it sounded a little veiled with some of my parings though that sensation clears up rather quickly, probably within 5 minutes of listening. I think most will agree the X5 unit is much closer to neutral than their previous products and this is a good thing for audiophiles.


The bass on X5 is a tricky section for me, I find it rather powerful and a touch forward from the mid range, not by incredible amounts though it does lean a little on the emphasized side of things depending what headphone you're using. Some have suggested because of X5's driving power it's really just a tight well presented bass, but I do get a slight feeling of light bloat depending on my earphone / headphone used. For my preferences it can just hinder a little to much in the bottom stage and express a fraction of bleed, With that aside it has good texture and detail, the mid bass isn't to much for my standards (very slight amount). I think just a little less in the low end quantity would be my perfect preference although in a world that needs to please a majority of listeners I think FiiO made the right choice. 


The mids on X5 to put in perspective are excellent, the refinement in that mid range is second to none from most DAP's I've heard  there's great coherency on both left/right channels and samples hold excellent posture all round the stage This refinement mixes in with high resolution on X5, so when they blend together they make a rather wonderful mid range experience, as I've said sometimes it feels a little to smooth or a touch lacking some aggression though the detailing levels combined with that excellent refinement really steal the show.

I think X5  (for my standards) would be better paired with a slightly brighter sounding IEM/Headphone, just a fraction to light up the mid range with some more edge and sparkle. The background on X5 is very dark, it forms a pitch black space around your instruments, with no hiss. The actual imaging is especially focused and accurate, your perception of each image well refined. 

I must double express though the mid range is simply wonderful for the price, the timbre is natural if not a fraction digital sounding. Detailing levels and clarity are right up there it makes a really professional sounding player. The micro detail is strong, I was hearing certain samples such a singers lips closing together, or a singer breathing in before the next verse my other DAP's don't express. The dark background just lets them push out from no-where. I think because of X5's high level of resolution there's new layers to find in your music, little pieces otherwise hidden and that resolution finds pushing out to you. 


The treble to my ears has a slight emphasis in the lower regions, tends to push out most detail in this area, I cannot say it has incredible extension with pairings I've tried although never absent or lacking in anyway, rather well balanced with the mid range, you can always hear what's going on upstairs, I would however personally prefer a slight tilt here to try and increase the amount of air around the stage, this would also tilt the players overall tonality, though it doesn't seem to be lacking in anyway. Never harsh or strident, basically true to your headphone, probably a nice safe choice to again please a wide variety of consumers.


Many people have asked me if X5's instrument separation can compete with Hisound Studio V 3rd Anv (the best instrument separation I have heard), well to be quite frank no, X5 does not match Studio V 3rd Anv's instrument separation, it is on similar levels but always lacking a touch behind in attack, it does however have better ability to present samples coherently in the mid range, there are samples I've been able to make out easier due to this bonus especially when many are playing at once though the Studio V player has like a metronome effect where instruments are so well separated they can tick in time with each other, kind of like a clock and all it's cogs working together (like clockwork). X5 does not have that unfortunately but as compensation no other player has that I've heard expect for Hisounds unit. So fear not because X5's instrument separation is far from lacking you really get a nice image of each instrument and the much darker background than Hisound players ices the cake.


X5's soundstage has excellent depth to all left/right/center channels for example, if you hear a saxophone playing on the left channel it images itself way out back much closer to what a real life presentation would sound like if it's in the recording, it does this on all 3 channels so when you add this with strong imaging characteristics  it makes a really well defined stage, the width with some of my hybrids is wider than most players I've heard, but it also has a big head-stage (the actual size of the image) so vocals sound larger than average, there's a fair amount of height and all your samples sound much bigger than for example on a Sansa Clip or even the Studio V for that matter to some extent. This is an area that works well while the mid range places those final pieces to the presentation we've talked about. I have not one bad word to say about the stage, besides a little more air would work well in the upper regions. You really get that feeling you're almost there live because of this area working strongly with the right headphone..


I think what FiiO have done is a mighty achievement, they have answered the prayers of consumers bringing them basically what they asked for. As we know James is very active on Head-fi forums and listens to every piece of advice, what you see in X5 is partly exactly what you all asked for, an affordable mid tier high resolution DAP. The features like dual micro sd card slots, 24bit playback, along with the sound and build of X5 is what could possibly be a slight game changer for the future. I think some other DAP manufacturers may want to take a step back and look what FiiO are doing in the DAP market. I still think for me X5 needs to lean cooler in tonality, just a fraction and lessen the bass because of my stubborn preferences but overall taking into consideration the majority, X5 was made for them, and for them it will more than please.

I had a lot of fun on this tour and would like to thank once again the FiiO team.



Pros: Made for great recordings, built like a tank, easy to use

Cons: May be a bit heavy for some users, scroll wheel not as durable as rest of player

The Fiio X5 Pays A Visit To Saigon


I first want to thank James at Fiio and everyone else involved in setting this tour up (especially Joe Bloggs) – it was way cool of you guys to let us have a crack at the X5 before its release and much more satisfying to be a participant as opposed to a spectator, which was always the case in the past for this guy….



Where I’m Coming From


So I’ve been into this hobby for a couple of years now and started out buying a used Cowon J3 in the for sale threads after having an ipod 5.5 and and 4th generation ipod touch. I like the J3 quite a bit because of its battery life, decent though unspectacular sound quality, and stable/more than adequate UI. It’s light as a feather, too, which matters a lot to me since I listen to music nearly daily while driving a moped on my way to work (half hour each way) and elsewhere (Saigon is a veritable sea of mopeds – the streets are teeming with literally millions of them). There simply is no other way for me to keep my sanity intact when driving to work. Exhibit A:  (I drive through this intersection nearly every day :blink:)






Anyways, I’m not yet a super-discerning know-it-all sommelier of daps (not a conscious goal of mine), but I’m getting that itch to upgrade. I guess I’m your typical newish head-fier with a mild case of upgradeitus who is on somewhat of a budget ( the X5 should retail for $350, depending on your region). Fortunately for me, I was allowed to participate in the SE Asian tour and had the X5 for about a week. Here’s my experience with the X5…




Old-school Build Quality


It is built like a tank and really feels like a substantial piece of kit in my hand, unlike most consumer electronics nowadays. It seems like something designed for field use – its build is that robust. For my own purposes and general use, it is on the heavy side and not ideally-sized for a shirt pocket during my commute (that is where I keep my J3 when on the road). I kept it in my backpack instead, which wasn’t quite annoying, but a bit cumbersome when getting off my bike since my backpack is strapped to my handlebars, facing me.  Clearly, this will not be an issue for 99.9% of users. After a couple of commutes, I decided the J3 is better suited for this generally dangerous task since this was, after all, a review unit and not mine (imagine the horror of having to inform Fiio of the demise of a review unit!). Saigon is quite hot, so there never really is a time when one has use for a coat with pockets – I wish I had an occasion to drop it in the inside pocket of a peacoat or something like that…hence, I’m really jealous of people who get to experience 4 seasons. For me, the X5 is more of a coffee shop/office sitting-on-your-tookus dap, which is quite alright since I spend a lot of time planning lessons or reading.


As far as battery life is concerned, I got about 10 hours or so out of it, using a mix of 16/44 and 24/96 files. I thought that I’d be really annoyed by this because of the J3 and its 30+ hours, but it didn’t cause me any problems at all. I knew what to expect, so how could I feel let down? I will say that it does take awhile to fully charge, so you need to be patient. A green indicator light  beneath the scroll wheel will show you when it is topped off. Otherwise, the light will be red and blinking. Everybody is in agreement about its storage capability: 2 microSD (256GB maximum capacity) slots is a beautiful thing. There is no on-board memory, but this can be forgiven since they were forward-thinking enough to consider the size of high-res files (typically over 1 GB per album) when deciding on this aspect. Well done, Fiio! Here's a couple of pictures I took of the X5: Camera: Canon S110








In The Box (16.6 X 13 X 4.3cm)


  • Micro USB cable: 1 meter, large current Micro USB cable (for charging/data transfer)
  • Silicone case: 1 dark gray semi-transparent silicone case (with built-in port covers)
  • Coaxial cable
  • OTG cable
  • Protective film: 2 pieces (plus one already applied to the X5's screen)
  • 3.5mm port covers: 3 pieces (very handy to avoid plugging into the wrong port when not using the case)
  • User manual
  • Warranty card
  • Promotion code for HDTracks


The UI


Much has been said about the UI and its unintuitiveness relative to other daps, but I didn’t find it particularly challenging to use. After a couple of minutes navigating through the UI, it struck me as a fairly straight forward affair, even before being improved with an update by the good chaps at Fiio (after I sent it to the next tour participant). There are similarities between the UI of the X5 and that of an ipod, but the X5 isn't quite as good. I'm not very picky about this kind of stuff, so I felt that it did its job admirably.


As far as the scroll wheel is concerned, I can’t say that I loved it, but it wasn’t bad. I wish it was more solidly affixed as it had just a wee bit of play and seemed to be slightly flexible (in contrast to the rest of the player, which is as solid as the hammer of Thor). I got used to it fairly quickly and didn’t really give it much thought after that. My experience was that the UI is very stable overall, though it did go a bit screwy on me a couple of times. At one point, the text was completely reversed, an exact mirror image of itself. Turning it off and back on again fixed the glitches each time (I think it happened 3 times over the span of a week), so it didn’t bother me so much as it put a sliver of doubt in my mind about its long term usage. I’m confident that Fiio will make the UI rock solid by the time it is released into the wild (if it isn’t already).


Update: Fiio has released a new version of the firmware with the following improvements:

  • DSD support
  • USB on-the-go support
  • Improved decoding of lossy formats (mp3 / ogg vorbis)
  • New UI for file browsing and selection of songs by category
  • Other bug fixes related to lock screen and recognition via usb by some computers


Update #2: Fiio has released firmware version 1.2.2 and gapless playback has been successfully implemented.


The brightness of the screen isn’t really sufficient for direct sunlight, but that’s one of the sacrifices that had to be made to keep this thing within reach of more budget-minded audiophiles like myself. In its defense, few if any audio-only devices can adequately cope with the sun in SE Asia (especially in its price range). My J3 has the same issue, but I’ve managed to live with this minor inconvenience for over 2 years now without having a mental breakdown over it.  




Naked Sound


This thing is way more revealing than the J3.  (For the record, I used Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs 3.2, VSonic GR07 MK1s, and UM Miracles CIEMs).  There were some albums on my J3 which sound just fine to me that were shown to be less than stellar recordings by the X5, and this is a good thing. Yes, it means you may have to dig around and perhaps pay again to find another version of an album you already love and have to really enjoy it on the X5, but it will be worth the trouble. High-quality recordings were made for the X5 and one that really stood out for me was Paper Airplanes by Alison Krauss & Union Station from HDTracks. With my Mad Dogs plugged directly into the HO of the X5, this album sounded sublime, just crystal clear, non-fatiguing, and full of body. I was near max volume, but I must have mistakenly been on low gain. It didn’t bother me at the time, but I was a bit surprised. I thought I had it on high gain and I’m now 99.9% sure that I was in err.  The MDs are a fairly power-hungry set of cans, so rest assured that the amp section of the X5 has enough power to respectably drive a plethora of full-size headphones. Another peach of an album was Whites Off Earth Now! by The Cowboy Junkies (MFSL), which is a collection of old blues songs masterfully reinterpreted, featuring gobs of sub-bass goodness (at least I think it's sub-bass). 


Other recordings didn’t sound so great to me; Morning Phase by Beck (24-96 flac from HDTracks) sounded harsh in the highs – not exactly sibilant, but grating (with flat eq setting). On the J3, the same file sounds better though less detailed: The X5 really put a spotlight on a recording's flaws. I used the X5's eq to reduce this and it did do the trick, but I was left hoping and praying that the folks over at MoFi get their well-manicured hands on Morning Phase and give it the same treatment they gave to Sea Change (a much better record imo). Much has been made about the sound quality of Beck’s latest, so I’ll just reemphasize my point about the revealing nature of the X5: garbage in, garbage out (sorry, Mr. Ludwig, but I think you laid an egg). Feed it properly and you’ll be very pleased with the results.


At any rate, the Mad Dogs did sound gorgeous with the X5, and is clearly a better mate than the E17, which is substantially warmer and less revealing. I didn’t bother to stack the X5 and E17 – for better or worse, I just can’t be troubled to lug around a brick during my commute, so I didn’t see the point. I’m probably in the minority, but I just want a dap that can stand on its own two feet (I usually use iems, so this stands to reason in my mind). Those who do prefer to use a separate amp or dac are in luck; the X5 has both a line out and coaxial out, and can also be used in amp/dac mode when hooked up to your computer via usb, which just shows its versatility. Though I would probably only utilize the amp/dac on occasion, it is a player that you can sort of grow into, should you decide to delve into the world of portable amps/dacs. That flexibility right there really makes this a good value relative to other products in its price range.


Regarding how my personal gear paired with the X5, my Miracles and GR07s both sounded very good, but not as good as the full-size Mr. Speakers cans. They needed a bit of eq adjustment to tame the highs with some recordings, as I've mentioned, especially if I wanted to listen at louder volumes (I usually do), which only surprised me in the case of the Miracles. For this reason, I will go out on a limb and recommend iems or full-size cans that are mildly warm-sounding – some have called the X5 neutral to slightly warmish, but my impression is that it’s a bit of a detail monster (in a very good way with the right headphones). As always, YMMV…anybody who has been following the threads will know that most people have had a notably different experience from mine, so I may be the exception here.



Final Deep Thoughts


For those of you with a dap that sits in the entry-level to lower-mid tier, and also have your first confirmed case of upgradeitus, I think you need to give the X5 a long look. Yes, it’s heavier than average, but it is built to withstand Armageddon, has a fairly powerful amp section, is easy to use, and can hold up to 256gb of music (128gb MicroSD cards are now available if you hadn’t noticed). It will play nearly every file type under the sun and you can go high-res if you like, all the way up to 24/192. It doesn’t look very sexy, but like me, you just want something that is dependable and sounds great. Just ponder for a moment what you're after, how you’ll be using it on a day-to-day basis and consider your options. Fiio has made an excellent player here and it should be on your shortlist. Also, they deserve heaps of credit for really listening to their customer base to find out what people want; they do a remarkable job of delivering features that there is demand for and the X5 is evidence of this. If you want to hear it for yourself, they've reopened the tour (http://www.head-fi.org/t/696004/fiio-x5-preview-world-tour-re-opened-for-application-p-114/1725#post_10392960), so depending on where you live, you may be able to audition this fine piece of ear candy.


If you want to read up on all of the vital stats, like size, weight, output impedance, etc., here's a link to Fiio that has everything you need to know in one place:              http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000055517771&MenuID=105026016


A couple of parting shots...







Pros: Outstanding build (body/case), easily navigable interface, loads of extra goodies and last but not least fantastic sound reproduction

Cons: UI - Weak library scanning and narrow tagging hierarchy, flimsy rubber TF covers and thin easily scratchable rubber painted wheel

X5 Review by musicheaven


Before I start, I would like to make a few points clear so no one will be misled about if I own one or got one as a review sample:

1. The X5 was loaned to me for 10 days by FiiO which was to be returned once the evaluation is done or 10 days have elapsed whichever came first.

2. I'm in no way affiliated with FiiO in any shape or form.

3. I can’t thank Joe and James enough for what they have done, if a vendor knows what personal touch means those two guys truly know. If there is a model other vendors should copy, I suggest they look at FiiO’s.


There is something else that I want to express: my gratitude to Jude and the site admins for their diligent work in creating and managing such an exciting and excellent site with people from all walks of lives and with so much human and user experiences. This site might be addictive, which I am sure lots would concur but wouldn’t be as exciting without the participations of countless members who have given me and many others the key to music nirvana but also wallet sliming. I extend my heartfelt thank you to all of you out there! One more thing; this is my first time so please be gentle but also join the club if you like or dislike anything, this is a democracy and everyone is welcome to comment, constructively ;).


Let’s go with the task at hand, the review:


First let me describe what it does not have:

With my SE535, I did not get any hiss whatsoever. This has to be the cleanest player I have heard so far. I am usually pretty quick to attach an amp to the player, but this has not been the case with the X5, it is clear from the headphone out and did not feel any major boost in sound quality or changes from the line out. I would say the amp section has to have been extremely well designed. I used my SE535, Sennheiser Momentum and HD600 headphones without ever moving into high gain.


Build quality:

The X5 is without a doubt a solidly built player. It is heavy and feels it’s built like a tank. The first thought you have when holding the player is holly crew, the dap feels heavy/solid. The body is bi-leveled aluminum construction all around, the display is raised a few millimeters above the base. To be honest I would be hard pressed opening the case, I still can’t find how they put it together so the silicon cover would definitively stay there to avoid any collisions.  The size is about just right, slightly larger than the iPod Classic, it still stands nicely in your hands. The buttons on the side and tops are properly positioned, no chance of accidently pushing one by pressing on the others. The wheel action is very smooth and you can also feel the slight mechanical click as you move the wheel. The rubber mat covering the wheel definitively helps in having a good grip. I am a tad worried about the durability of the rubber mat as you could easily scratch it with your nails. The buttons are well placed and also slightly raised with a solid feel, akin to the iPod construction. The headphone, line out and coax out plugs are quite solid and seem to be made of copper allow with possibly gold platting but I can’t say for sure (James and Joe stated that in fact they are gold plated). The TF card readers sit at the bottom of the dap cover by rubber plugs. Not sure about the durability of those covers however the dap I own does not even have a plug.


The wheel middle button is quite sensitive, I have stopped and started the player a few times just lying in my coat pocket. If you want to avoid having any actions while transporting the player, you should definitively pick the lockscreen mode 1 but keep in mind that the only button you will have operating is the power on/off button. I think I can see FiiO adding additional lock screen modes, say just the power on/off, volume +/- and maybe just the play/pause button, best would be to allow customizations for the lock mode, have it a tad granular so we can pick our own settings without rendering the player useless.


The screen resolution is really outstanding, I have not tried it outside when the sun is out, my feeling is it will be hard to read. I believe the best for that (I did not have a single player that was easy to read under those conditions) would be a screen shield that can block the sun rays.


Functions and features:

Main features:

• Supports up to 24Bit/192kHz - TI PCM 1792 24Bit DAC Chip

• 4 OPA1612 used for current / voltage conversion and amplification

• 2 LMH6643 used for headphone output

• 2.4” IPS color LCD (320*240)

• Up to 24 Bit/192Khz 3.5mm Coaxial Output

• 3.5mm Headphone Output, and Line Out

• 10 bands graphic EQ

• Dual TF card slots for a total of 128 Gb storage space (with support for 256GB, 512GB, etc. with future firmware upgrades).

• All-new mechanical scroll wheel (using Alps rotary switch components from Japan)

• All-new custom UI forged from years of experience and feedback

• Volume +/-, Power on/off button

• 2-setting gain software enabled switch

• Audio Formats Supported: DSD, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP2, MP3 

• 3700mAh 3.7V lithium polymer battery

• Support auto-turn off when sleeping, time can be decided.

• Auto track, support CUE playing by selection and fast forward/ fast backward of playing song


The functions and features I have tested: Playback low and hi-res up to 192khz/24 bit files including all supported file formats. I also tested the Equalizer unit and the USB-DAC function on both Windows 8.1 and Mac OS Maverick, also tested the HO and LO ports (with amps). The only feature I have not tried are DSD playback (not available yet) and the coax output.

I would strongly recommend for anyone who either evaluates the player or own one to consult the detailed user manual as indicated by the link below, it is filled with useful information and instructions on how to operate the player. I also added the X5 quick start guide link. I won’t repeat anything that pertains to the manual other than emphasizing the features and functions.


Joe's user manual translation from Chinese to English - Click Here





Packaged box


What’s provided


Top port view


Bottom TF card readers and USB input/output


Volume Buttons (+/-)




Frontal View (Rotary main menu)


System Settings


Play Settings


Now Playing


Size comparison (from left to right X5 – iPod Classic 5th gen – DX50)


·         Missing on the photos the HDTracks.com and quick control cards.


User Interface:

The user interface is centered around the scroll wheel motion. That is the theme used. It is well laid out and is very intuitive (even more so for the ex or current iPod classic user). It will take you few minutes to get used to it. I have noticed a bit of lag when selecting songs and moving from song to song however I am hopeful it will be fixed in a future release. It has all of the main functions available from the main menu. You go to detail selections by selecting the top level and then using the scroll wheel to position yourself on different selected items. To confirm you selection, you use the center button. Notice that you cannot work on the current displayed song if you are navigating the menu selection. You will have to select Now Playing in order to go back to the Now Playing screen. If you are on the now playing screen and you activate the scroll wheel, you will browse your song selection using the scroll wheel theme with all of the songs being displayed depending on how you got there (directory of album listing).


File format art work is recognized:

File Format

Art work loaded in Playing Screen























Easy navigable user interface, once you get the hang of it, you can operate it with one hand.

Sound reproduction is fantastic.

Option based feature selections instead of hardware (e.g. gain).



A one second lag going from song to song although I am hoping that they will fix this issue.

The fast forward and reverse do not provide acceleration when keeping the button depressed, it is constant. It would be amazing if they could increase the speed trough acceleration.

It only recognize embedded art work instead of allowing a generic picture file to be picked up if one is missing.

I was not able to fully take advantage of the library using my current song library due to possible file and/or tag conflicts, it is always hoped that the player can deal with those issues like some well known manufactures I won’t mention. (James and Joe have stated that the library scan issues will indeed be addressed in a firmware update before the player launches worldwide in late March).


Usage as a DAC:

The DAC implementation is flawless, it sounds as good on the PC as it sounds on the Mac. The driver needs to be installed in Windows in order to get it recognized by the operating system. But once you do, it works without a hitch. It will play any music with up to the player top resolution. I have played my hi-res sample files with the same results than playing them directly on the player. The DAC does use the amp as I connected my headphones on the HO port. I also connected the LO port to one of my amps and worked beautifully. So your choice is yours, you can go and enjoy the DAC with your favorite headphones/iems or just plug it to your nearby stereo through the LO out and enjoy a room full of music. Goes without saying that if you have coax in from your favorite stereo system, the better. I did not attempt to connect the coax out as my sound system did not have the coax in and I do not own an amp with coax in.


Using the Equalizer:


I did not spend a lot of time with the EQ other than trying the different settings and the custom one. I can only say it just works and it does change the sound frequency/amplitude response according to your selection. I am not much of an EQ proponent, I have always enjoyed the player as is with its pros and cons. If the vendor is serious enough to make a great sounding player, they will make it nice untouched (flat as much as possible), that is what FiiO has confidently done with the X5.


Sound quality:

It is airy, light, delicate, open, and seemingly unrestricted in the mid and upper extension. Instruments are playing in what I can perceive as ample surrounding space. Vocals are articulate, voices come clearly and sound well-spoken. Aliveness is one quality that comes to mind, I feel the performers to be located close to me.


As far as imaging is concerned, it would classify it as in the semi-wide (in the middle), you can get the feel of space between the instruments and the singers but not to a point where you could place the different singers (back and front) on a stage, at that level they blend in and tend to be gathered right in front of you. The musical instruments feel somewhat closer but you do feel some separation. Spanning and field depth is truly felt on the X5, this is what gives it a feeling of depth and perception of a wider  soundstage.


The sound is truly transparent, pretty much even across the frequency range however I do sense that the mids and highs are slightly prominent but in good way more towards being clear/transparent, I truly enjoyed the vocals from the player, to me so far that is the best player for vocals.


I would classify it as analytical but not excessively, quite detailed sounding, playing with different music file res makes me say “ah I never heard that sound before”.


The bass

In general, the player tilts towards being a neutral clean player. The bass is there but it isn’t prominent nor recessed but with enough confident energy. For an audiophile, I believe it to be just right, that is if you do not like this section of the audio frequency being boosted. With high sampling rate (hi-res) music, this part truly shines, you can easily feel every stick hit on the drums as if you are only few feet away. The sound is truly clear and crisp and quick. There is no heft or heaviness to it.


The mid-range and highs

This is where the player truly shines, the vocals on this player is a joy to listen to. I haven’t had so much fun listening to such a clear, crisp and non-fatiguing sound, you can literarily spend hours listening to the music and not get tired.


By the way I have already been through one firmware update and no sound changes, so that makes me happy as I don’t have to change the review according to how the dap sounds after each update.

What is nice and great about the player is it is really easy on the headphones, IEMS you are throwing at it. I used my cheaper SE215 IEMS and the more expensive SE535 and they all sounded very good with it. My SE535 have never sounded so good with the player as I had difficulty using them with prior players to a point of satisfaction. My HD600 really came to life using the dap, to me it’s so far the best pairing I can dream to achieve not going beyond a certain price point. For portability, A+ as I never had to carry an amp, the HO out is crystal clear and the output power is more than enough to power my HD600 headphones, I also used it with my SennHeiser Momentums at work and it was a delight.


In Conclusion:


Outstanding build, easily navigable interface, loads of extra goodies.

Sound reproduction is fantastic; exceptional sound quality, clear, airy neutral and non-fatiguing.

No need for an amp, truly portable and friendly with headphones and iems. The hi-res on this player is a joy if you love details you are in for a treat.

Easy navigable user interface, can be operated with one hand (did it and did not drop it).

Option based feature selections instead of hardware (e.g. gain).



I don’t see that many cons but if I have to pick a few the user interface do need some tuning to allow for a smoother scrolling using the album/artist/genre Library features and the next levels that the interface should tackle, for example once artist is selected, album would be displayed then one can pick an album to play instead of all songs from the artist (that is my preference, may vary with other members). A last one would be to get a flawless scan and somewhat more tolerant of file naming and tag info. I truly find that a player which can handle directory and library browsing is more useful than one that does not. I also found myself turning the player on/off with just the friction of it on my inner wall pocket, not a desirable thing that explains most likely why the lock screen option 1 is available.


In Summary I would definitively classify the player as one of near reference. I don’t want to over emphasize the player but I have to say its implementation is impeccable. You will certainly gain from playing hi-res music playback but yet will provide a great performance for better recorded lower res files. I can say with confidence that you will not regret purchasing this player.

FiiO X5 High-res Portable Music Player

To be launched internationally in March 2014, the X5 marks FiiO's next step into no-holds-barred high-res portable hi-fi territory at a bargain price: http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000055517771&MenuID=105026016

Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Portable Source Components › Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) › FiiO X5 High-res Portable Music Player