Pros: Features, Navaigation, Sound Signature
Cons: Sound Stage, Media Update
I would like to first send tanks to Fiio and Head Fi member Joe Blogs for giving me the opportunity to preview the Fiio X5, I am not affiliated with Fiio in any way.
For the purpose of this review I demo'd the X5 with my Balanced Modded Denon AH MD 2000 Headphones and my iBasso PB2 Balanced Amplifier, equipped with quad LME 49990 OP amps and dummy buffers. In addition also compared the X5 again'st my Hifiman HM801, using the same music and amplification.
Price for the X5 is said to be $350.
Here's the X5 sitting atop my PB2 in it's silicon case.
What's in the Box
The X5 comes with some brief paper work in addition to the charger cable, the player it self is encased in a semi hard foam shell within the box, underneath is the paperwork and accessories. It features a usb mirco SD Card reader and high quality usb to micro-usb charging/data cable, 3 push plugs for each 3.5mm port, coaxial cable adapter, USB OTG cable,
The Top of the player features 3 ports, the headphone out, line out and coaxial out ports, next to that is the power button. Volume is controlled by the two side buttons to the right of the headphone out going down the side face of the unit.
On the bottom are two ports for mirco SD Cards, the unit that I have did not feature any internal memory, so all music is loaded from the external Mirco SD cards. Seeing as there are two slots, the player has a very large external memory capacity! I usually prefer to use 64gb Cards for compatibility, but it's possible to have 128 or higher mirco SD Cards, non the less 128gbs of Flash Memory is an impressive feature. Unlike the iPod classic, the X5 does not use an internal hard drive, which means there's very minimal risk of data loss due to very few moving parts.
The player is controlled by the mechanical spinning wheel, and 5 buttons feature on the face of the player. There's a nice feel to the wheel, in addition volume is controlled by two side buttons. Controls are intuitive and menus are easy to maneuver through.
The player is fairly dense, I enjoy the heavy in the hand feel that it has. I do not feel that it's overly heavy either, it is also smaller in size than the HM801.
The main menu is composed of simple icons that are switched by scrolling on the wheel.
The player does feature an EQ Utility as do most.
The gain is adjustable as well via the options menu, in addition to other options such as gap-less support and play mode.
The player does support 24/bit decoding and features album art during play back, in addition in the left hand corner of the screen you'll notice small icons. The X5 features an on the fly option adjustment as well, you can favorite songs in addition to adjusting the play back methods without leaving the now playing screen, If I'm really diggin a song, I can set the player to repeat that song without having to go into the main menu!
In addition the player does lock it self, during play back. So if you shove it in your pocket there's no worry that you might accidentally change the song, a useful feature that my Hm801 does not have [and trust me pockets and the HM 801 don't get along.]
As far as hang ups go, I've only had an issue with the X5 automatically filling it's library via the media update feature. The unit I have is a demo so perfection is not expected.
I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures, I figured a shot of my ears wouldn't be too appealing.
Again, I'm using the X5 line out into my iBasso PB2. The PB2 is a fully balanced amp, meaning it splits the SE input into 4 separate channels, each channel is then sent individually to my balanced D2k. In addition, my PB2 is out fitted with LME 49990 OP amps and Dummy buffers, my point in all this is the PB2 is a very powerful and neutral amp. It adds bit of small bit "oomph" or "kick" to the bass as well as enhancing the sound stage depth, width and presentation by a small margin.
I'll say that in it's own right the X5 is a nice sounding player, it's fairly neutral I don't hear any major dips or peaks in the sound. It does a nice job of keeping my modded D2k slightly boosted bass in check. Paired with the Pb2 it is in it's own right a very nice sounding player. Fairly neutral and enjoyable.
It's not what I would call a Sterile player, but a very clean and balanced DAP. The bass, mids and treble are all in equal standing. Really there's little to no deficiency with the sound of the X5.
Ahh yes head fi, the place where I can be brutally honest in my... disappointment with how bland the X5 sounds in my taste. Not to mention it's disappointing sound stage.
Long story short, the X5 lacks a natural timbre and an engaging sound. The sound stage also lacks the clarity and definition of the Hm 801, being shallower, narrower and not as focused. More on the sound though, is the almost sterile nature of the X5. Granted it's a smidge warmer than the my NFB 10ES2 [but what isn't] still the mids bass and treble all lack anything... wonderful!
The HM 801 features a rather spacious sound stage, and very organic mids and bass, With a nice touch of treble sparkle. Everything about the Hm 801 [and my old Hm 601 for that matter] sounds right to me. While the Hm 601 lacked the sound stage and definition of the Hm 801 and even the X5, the tone or natural sound of the Hifiman HM 601 and my current 801 are what make them in my opinion better players all around. Granted I've not heard Hifimans new Line up of players, but for me the sound signiture of the X5 is kinda boring, and even worse the sound stage and details are equally as disappointing. For $350 it's still a great bargin, as the UI was enjoyable for me, and the myriad of playback options where cool. Not to mention it actually fits in my pocket and locks it self. BUT the sound is what turns me off from it.
Granted I'm comparing a $350 DAP to a once Flag Ship Status DAP that cost me $500 new, but it was the HM 601 , the joyous sound of that player that pushed me to buy the HM 801 [on a whim mind you] and imo both of the old school fatty BRICK Hifimans have a more organic and enjoyable tone than Fiios X5.
And going to the NFB 10ES2, while the X5 is warmer, it lacks the sound stage, tactility or definition. My point being, I enjoy, or rather I can accept a sterile sound in exchange for improvements in sound stage, detail retention and imaging. But Sadly the X5 offers a disappointment across the board for me. Again, in it's own right it's a great player, the combination of sound, UI Navigation, Features and utility make it a nice DAP! But it doesn't compare to the magic of the Hifiman Players, and honestly for me as long as it sounds good I can live with it.
I would highly recommend the X5 for any one looking for a mid level DAP. The combination of it's size, sound and features make it very appealing. It's certainly a grab an go friendly player! And I my self prefer the un sleeved case, as I'm a big fan of that lovely metal shell! But the silicon case does a nice job of protecting the player, and will certainly help it stay where ever you put it.