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FiiO x3 through full size system - Really..?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm way behind the times in terms of portable gear - I still use minidisc - Sony MZ-RH1 - and still love it for travel music, but it's a little bit thin when played via line-out through my sound system. I only use WAV, and will be ripping my CDs to FLAC if I go ahead with this...

 

I'm being tempted by the Fiio x3, and although I'm already convinced that it'll perform as a portable source, I'm less convinced of it's abilities when plugged into a full sized system.

I've been told that this little device will outperform pretty much any CD player, but is this true? That tiny little DAC?

 

OK - I fully admit to being out of touch with new audio developments. I'm here for education and honest opinions from folk who use one of these devices as a source into a decent amp & speakers.

 

My gear, like me, is getting on a bit in years, but I still love the sound of it -

Arcam Alpha 9 CD player (high end, around £1,000 when new), Arcam Alpha 9 Amp (glorious depth & huge soundstage) thru Dynaudios via decent cables.

 

I'm willing to be converted, but I don't want to spring for the FiiO and then find it's as thin sounding as every other portable device I've ever tried through the amp & speakers. If it turns out to be true - that such a small device does indeed sound as good as or better via line-out than CDs, well, I could even be tempted to get the FiiO x5 instead!

 

Thanks in advance for any opinions.

 

Will

post #2 of 17
I have had the Fiio x3 for a few month's now and have been very happy SQ so far. I use it primarily as my ultra portable set up with IEMs when I'm out of the house. I still feel that my desk top setup sounds better but to be fair the cost of my home setup is 5x greater then the Fiio.

Your home set up sounds fantastic and wouldn't be surprised if it out performers the X3 but for portable use the Fiio is tough to beat.
post #3 of 17

Hi Will, I come from a hifi background like you, DAPS were a thing of the past, I too had Sony Mini-Disc, nice gold one.

 

Then after visiting these forums after reading in What Hifi about the Sony ZX1, I made contact with a fellow member who only lived 10 miles away and offered me the chance to hear his £500 Sony DAP with £1000 IEMs.  It was like the first time I heard a Linn turntable, Naim Amp, you get the picture. I've always suffered room acoustics, need good Room EQ in an amp, but here was a way independent of room to get very good sound that I had never heard from a portable.

 

Of course, the reason being, I'd never had good earphones, my Etymotics had no bass, and Sony's (from the Minidisc days) were not up to todays standards.

 

I heard his DAP through the same hi-fi I have, Tag McLaren AV32, and the sound matched CD.

 

My budget was somewhat less than that heard, but I have now bought Earphones, ordered an X5 10 days ago, and tired of waiting, today ordered the iBasso DX90.

 

I currently play all my 'CD' music, from FLACs on a NAS drive via Sonus system, vasty improved since I bought a Rega Dac, but will never accept hi-res music. Recently a friend gave me some hi-res music to listen to, and now I'm kinda into this hobby!

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for replies.

 

Coachenzo you seem to confirm my suspicion that it wont match my CD player for listening through amp & speakers. I'm sure it's an excellent portable source, but I'm wanting something to also serve as an indoor FLAC player. I wonder how the Fiio x5 will measure up...?

 

Andrew - Linn & Naim - yes you get where I'm coming from. That's the experience I'm looking for. But your point about listening through headphones as a way to override the problems of room acoustics is something I hadn't actually considered, and is really making me think. I can already feel the wallet clenching in fear as I begin to lean away from the x3 and towards the x5...

I tend not to use headphones much at home - I've not found anything which is comfortable for more than an hour. But then I've not gone very far down the headphone road. I currently have Ultrasone HFI-780s, which I settled on after trying many others in the price range, but I still prefer my old JVC HP-FX500s. I'm not a bass-head, but I do insist on it being present in the proper proportion. Neither phones are comfortable for very long, and not much soundstage on either of them. My thirty-odd year old Sony MDR7s are easiest to wear, light as a feather, sound lovely, but a bit lacking in bass.

I guess if I go this route I may have to start the headphone search again.

I do have to be at least a bit restrained budget-wise - I've just regained consciousness after clicking on the Abyss headphone link to check the price :eek:

My car cost less!

 

Thanks for the insights. I guess if the Sony ZX1 (over budget alas) is up to the job, then the Fiio x5 just might be too.

 

More research methinks...


Edited by willw - 4/7/14 at 10:03am
post #5 of 17

You will find many here use IEMs rather than headphones. And then you discover that really you should have CIEMs, learn about what Van Halen's sound engineer JH started here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-ear_monitor

post #6 of 17
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the link. I have tried a few IEMs. I remember liking the Senn IE8s, but couldn't get them to stay in. Various Sonys, and I had a pair of Westones briefly, universal not custom, but didn't really take to them. I was always wary of committing to expensive custom fit IEMs without at least some time to try them out thoroughly first.

I've been curious about the FX700s since they came out - there's something I really like about the sound of these wooden IEMs ... but I want to try em first...

Thing I've found with HiFi   -  there's a point beyond which larger and larger outlay is required for smaller and smaller improvements. That's the nature of the search for perfection I guess..

post #8 of 17
What I've learnt most is that items must fit properly or it's awful. Found a place in England where I could try out items and they also matched tips to my ears. Heard £1000 jh16s as a benchmark but never intended buying as too dear and two month wait. But found a pair that I liked only come in that day, Westone w40s. Even then foam tips sound completely different to silicon, he opened a new w40 box for me, and they came with five sizes or each so he was able to guide me what suited.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

I agree - the fit is critical. This was most apparent on the IE8s - slight variations in size, seal and angle made a huge difference.

I've never yet heard any foam tips which do the music any favours.

Currently comparing existing earphones with existing gear, sorting out the Ebay pile... I think there's enough here to cover one FiiO, or go a good way toward the other...

These MZ-RH1s mint & boxed can fetch top dollar on Ebay :wink_face:

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by willw View Post
 

I'm being tempted by the Fiio x3, and although I'm already convinced that it'll perform as a portable source, I'm less convinced of it's abilities when plugged into a full sized system.

I've been told that this little device will outperform pretty much any CD player, but is this true? That tiny little DAC?

 

How is it "tiny" and less convincing than a miniDisc player? In total surface area or volume it's probably larger, and it doesn't waste any of that space on the mechanical system to hold and play from a MiniDisc, and instead has a microSD slot. It also has discrete chips for DAC, analog output, and headphone driver.

 

If anything the only thing I wouldn't like about the some new DAPs (my MiniDisc player included), compared to Apple and some newer Androids, is that the ergonomics aren't going to make for a neat set-up as you would need to have a cable running out from the top going to the back of your amp or DAC. Apple solved that with the dock connector on the bottom. My iPad and now my Android now work as digital audio transports with the reference headphone rig in my bedroom, held up by their respective docks.

 

*

 

 

As to whether it will outperform CDPs, I haven't really listened back to back on it with any CDPs, but I still wouldn't dismiss it based on size. The tiny USB DAC board on the Meier Cantate.2 amp up there handily beat a number of the usual suspect entry-level CDPs, right up to the Rega Apollo. Most of them had a "huge" soundstage, but unnatural - the Marantz CD6005 and to a lesser extent the NAD C545 made the drum rolls go around my head, while the rest of the instruments are somewhere in front of my forehead. That's like Reed Richards replacing Mike Portnoy on Dream Theater and the drums are suspended around the audience by Sue Richards, just so Reed can show off how he can play the drums with extended limbs. The Cambridge 350C (or something like that) had the bass drum in front of the vocals. Then there's the Rega - too dark and too warm with a little bloat in the bass notes. By contrast the USB DAC, using the PCM2702 which is also the USB receiver in that circuit (and some cheap DACs use it as such with other Burr Brown chips), was natural and neutral, with a believalbe (to scale, of course) soundstage where everything is in front of my forehead, with a little bit of space between them. The only CDPs that I got to try and preferred over the built-in DAC on my amp were the Arcam CD72, Cayin's CD50T and CDT23/CD100i, and the Shanling T200.

 

If anything, the X3 is known to be a bit warm, although when I tried it with my ASG-1 IEMs which already have a bit of enhanced bass and rolls off at 10khz (then nearly silent past 12khz), it didn't seem to exacerbate it. The bass was deeper and tighter than with the analog output on my smartphone, but of course the higher output amp circuit on the X3 has less distortion and better damping factor, so of course that's not really much of a surprise.

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for reply. I didn't suggest the DAC on the x3 was tinier and less convincing than a minidisc player - rather I was enquiring whether it is the opposite. I said that my minidisc player sounded a bit thin compared to CDs thru my amp & speakers, and asked whether the x3 would really be any different, having heard reports of its mighty performance.

 

I said I was already convinced it would perform as a portable, but needed convincing such a tiny thing would perform as well thru a full size system - unlike my minidisc and all other portable players I'd tried.

 

The Arcam Apha 9 CD & amp have a very natural and spacious soundstage, and produce that style of Brit HiFi sound very close to valve amp. I tried the CD72 some time ago. To my ears it's a step down from the Alpha 9.

 

Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. All grist f' mill..

post #12 of 17

Minidisc used ATRAC compression didn't it? WAVs, FLACs can at least equal sound quality of CD (in principal) because there is less error correction going on when reading the file. Don't want to open a can of worms here though!   Proof is in the listening.  My X5 is on its way to me tomorrow and the Line Out will be tested into my Tag McLaren Amps.

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

Most minidiscs yes. The MZ-RH1 (M200 in USA) was the last one ever made, and resolved all the issues of former models. It will record & play uncompressed PCM audio files. I think the issue with it sounding a bit thin thru the amp & speakers is just that the line out signal isn't beefy enough, and the DAC is of course old technology now (although it still sounds better than the Cowon I thought, briefly, to replace it with) This is why I'm curious to hear the FiiO x3 & x5 - I imagine the technology has moved on in great strides, and it may well be that these FiiO (Wolfson) mini DAC circuits match or even exceed the Arcam's superb dCS Ring-DAC with full 24/96 capability. This was the thrust of my initial enquiry of course.  I truly hope the Fiio does indeed come up with the goods. I'm on a serious downsizing purge, and wanting to get rid of big black boxes in favour of small black boxes....

 

I'll be very interested to hear your opinion of the x5 through amp & speakers.  (Weren't you going for the iBasso..?)


Edited by willw - 4/8/14 at 9:52am
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by willw View Post
 

Most minidiscs yes. The MZ-RH1 (M200 in USA) was the last one ever made, and resolved all the issues of former models. It will record & play uncompressed PCM audio files. I think the issue with it sounding a bit thin thru the amp & speakers is just that the line out signal isn't beefy enough, and the DAC is of course old technology now (although it still sounds better than the Cowon I thought, briefly, to replace it with) This is why I'm curious to hear the FiiO x3 & x5 - I imagine the technology has moved on in great strides, and it may well be that these FiiO mini DAC circuits match or even exceed the Arcam's superb dCS Ring-DAC with full 24/96 capability. This was the thrust of my initial enquiry of course.  I truly hope the Fiio does indeed come up with the goods. I'm on a serious downsizing purge, and wanting to get rid of big black boxes in favour of small black boxes....

 

I'll be very interested to hear your opinion of the x5 through amp & speakers.  (Weren't you going for the iBasso..?)

 

I pressed the iBasso order button and should have both soon as I just found out today, the X5 is finally being despatched from Amazon UK ;-)

 

I had the original Arcam Black Box DAC, now have a REGA DAC which does absolutely wonders with SONUS streaming system.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by willw View Post
 

Thanks for reply. I didn't suggest the DAC on the x3 was tinier and less convincing than a minidisc player - rather I was enquiring whether it is the opposite. I said that my minidisc player sounded a bit thin compared to CDs thru my amp & speakers, and asked whether the x3 would really be any different, having heard reports of its mighty performance

 

As i previously posted, X3 has a generally warm sound, but not overbearing as I tried it on a warm IEM that rolls off the treble, and yet despite the "easy" 32ohm impedance on it, the X3 showed how much better its amp circuit controls the bass reproduction. Louder, deeper, more solid/more impact/slam etc.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by willw View Post

 

said I was already convinced it would perform as a portable, but needed convincing such a tiny thing would perform as well thru a full size system - unlike my minidisc and all other portable players I'd tried.

 

As I posted earlier, the X3 is at least paper is basically a mini-CDP - kind of like a Marantz - as it has a dedicated DAC chip, analog output chips, and headphone driver chip. That's more like a Marantz running on a battery. That one's the pickle though - on paper it may not have the same dynamic range because it doesn't have the large caps and PSU, but hey that affects the amp a lot more than the DAC. Feel free to hook it up to your main hi-fi system - the only thing it will lack is a fancy discrete or HDAM analog output section after the DAC but then again, so do many CDPs.

 

And of course that ergonomic port layout that the general purpose devices I posted have.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by willw View Post

 

The Arcam Apha 9 CD & amp have a very natural and spacious soundstage, and produce that style of Brit HiFi sound very close to valve amp. I tried the CD72 some time ago. To my ears it's a step down from the Alpha 9.

 

I haven't had the pleasure of trying the Alpha 9, but I still liked the CD72 and the CD192. My wallet doesn't like them as much though. In any case, there actually are CDPs that perform worse than the built-in USB DAC on my amp, and that uses a chip that some separate DACs use as a USB receiver, so the X3 being a portable player isn't necessarily compromised if used with a hi-fi speaker system, except, again, to those who consider ergos and neat cable management very important, in which case it isn't the SQ that is the issue.

 

That said I wouldn't presume it can beat the Alpha 9, but only that 1) since some CDPs perform worse than my USB DAC, and these CDPs get good reviews, I wouldn't suppose a lot of CDPs to be superior to DAPs; and 2) at the very least I really cannot see how it can be worse than the MiniDisc (it's not farfetched that it will be better).


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 4/8/14 at 11:41am
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