Here's a "first use" impression of my X5. I'll start with what new owners can expect with the setup and usage and move on to some UI observations and finally share my thoughts on my initial listening tests. In order to keep it short I'll try not to repeat what has already been said in this thread. These are just my first impressions and may change with more use. YMMV.
Anyone can find out what the contents of the box are so I won't bore anyone with that. As for the build quality I find it to be very nice indeed. The unit itself feels like a high end piece of electronics, sleek and simple. It's manufactured well but I have a few caveats. The scroll wheel feels a tad loose and the buttons are extremely easy to press. Other than that I really like the design of the X5 and it's quite attractive in person. As mentioned in other reviews the card slot covers are a bit of a chore to open but it's easy once you get the hang of it. Simply push the end of the cover toward the usb port and the cover pops open. A co-worker and I both bought an X5 and we both found that the microSD card needs to be pushed very deep in to the slot for it to lock in. We initially thought that perhaps we were inserting the card wrong and we had to use something narrow to get the card to insert all the way as our fingers just wouldn't get the card seated (he used a knife and I used a headphone plug). I haven't heard of this before in any of the reviews so I thought I'd mention it now. After that it started up fine and everything was operating as expected.
The UI is easy to use and I found that it took me no time at all to get used to the button layout. In general I like how snappy the interface is. Graphically the X5 is a big step up from the X3 and everything looks great on the new IPS screen. The wheel is very touchy but I found that if I apply a slight bit of pressure while rotating that it feels much more accurate. As I mentioned earlier the buttons are very easy to press, almost to the point that I can't believe how quickly I've selected a menu item. I know it sounds odd but it's true. The equalizer is easy to use and the custom setting has a wide range of frequencies to play with (I do not think I'll use the equalizer though, more on this later). There are two lock screen modes. I've only used 'Lockscreen 2' and it mostly works as expected. One thing I found interesting that I haven't read about was that in locked mode the side volume buttons also act as 'previous' and 'next' buttons when held instead of pressed. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of this as it forces you to press the buttons multiple times to change the volume quickly vs simply holding the buttons down. Again, this only happens when in locked mode.
One more quirk I found is that the X5 displays the hidden files that my Mac creates in the Finder but are normally hidden from the user (for example ' ._On Thin Ice' is a hidden file on the Mac OS and the X5 shows it as a duplicate of the track name 'On Thin Ice'). This doesn't happen for all my albums and sometimes not for all the songs in an album. Very strange as this is the same card I used in my X3, which does not show these hidden files. It actually makes browsing by folder a pain. The good news is that the category browsing does not show these files and the artist category lists the albums under it as well (FW 1.20). Nice.
The first album I listened to was Pink Floyd 'The Wall' as I've listened to it a thousand times and know each part intimately. The sound is definitely a step up from the X3. I love it! More soundstage, more separation, more impact. It just sounds natural to me.
I think I can sense that the X5 is slightly less powerful than the X3, but that may be a placebo effect considering there are more volume steps on the X5.
I have a couple of concerns about the equalizer though. When selecting any setting other than 'Normal' EQ the sound output is reduced by about -6db (confirmed by raising all the sliders to +6db in the Custom EQ setting and A/Bing between Normal EQ). That's a large amount and one that I'm not very happy about. When I balance the volume the dynamics still seem slightly reduced with the EQ set outside of 'Normal'. I'm particularly disappointed about this for the 'Custom' EQ setting. I have some very different sounding headphones and sometimes I prefer the overall sound signature of one over the other, but I may want to tweak it to bring the sound closer to neutral while maintaining what I like about that particular headphone. With the X3's treble and bass adjustments this is easy to do but somewhat limited. The 'Custom' EQ would be perfect for this, but it reduces in volume and dynamics as soon as it's selected, even before adjusting the sliders. I hope Fiio can look in to this issue. I feel that any equalizer that reduces output simply by being activated is a waste. Fortunately the X5 sounds great without any EQ and I actually love what it does to enhance the individual sound signatures of my headphones. I like it a lot without the EQ, but why include one if it reduces quality? (Please see Joe Blogg's reply below.)
Testing gapless I found that it was pretty horrible in browse folder mode before I did a library update. After the update it was pretty good but there is still a fraction of a pause between tracks.This is with FLAC's ripped from CD.
Speaking of audio formats, everything I've listened to sounds improved to me. ALAC, FLAC, AAC, High Resolution 24bit 96/192 all sound better to me than on the X3. The 1985 CD 'Brothers in Arms' album is simply stunning ripped to FLAC on the X5.
Sorry for such a long post (and these are just my initial impressions). Even with all of the above I am instantly taken with this device and very glad to own it.
Edited by x RELIC x - 4/2/14 at 1:40am