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FiiO X5 firmware's Sound Quality

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 

There is always debate of whether firmware update affects sound quality for just about every DAP / software / gears. Below is a link to download a zip file can contain five 30 seconds music clips that were played by FiiO X5 on different firmware version, then recorded in identical setting (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 + Audacity into PCM wave, then converted to FLAC). See if you can tell any difference. If you can, tell us which one is better / worst. It shouldn't matter if you use X5 for playback or not, but do try to use your most revealing gears.

 

http://www.mediafire.com/download/3kd1h8hew8c5lae/MusicComparison.zip

 

Firmware version will be revealed in a week.

 


 

Just for extra fun of comparison, please add the music clip below to the above comparison:

 

http://www.mediafire.com/download/kk9aai8s4uwl4kk/F.flac

 


 

Update:

 

Here are 6 more music clips, about 1 minute each, for another round of comparison. They are produced using near identical condition as the previous 6 files. The difference is that these are live recording / orchestra work so hopefully they will offer higher dynamic range.

 

http://www.mediafire.com/download/928vsjzc0es1kp2/MusicComparison2.zip

 


 

For those who have yet to try, just listen to the music clips first before reading the answer.

 

Now it is time to reveal the answer:

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Music clips - Firmware version

A - v2.2 final

B - v2.02 beta

C - v2 final

D - v2.04 beta

E - v2.2 final

F - original FLAC

 

G - v2.2 final

H - v2.02 beta

I - v2 final

J - v2.04 beta

K - v2.2 final

L - original FLAC

 

Basically, A and E or G and K are recorded under the latest firmware, to act as an control. F and L are the original copies, simply chopped to the right length as the recorded sample. If you find either to be better sounding than the rest, then you are correct. The big question however is, does any of the firmware version sounds different from the others? For that, we need a help from a software call Audio DiffMaker. I won't be bother with you for all the detail about this software as there is a published paper you can read on its page. In simple term, this software takes two pieces of recording, find out the difference and make it into an audio "subtraction" clip. The process is not totally perfect, but if the resulting clips is very low in volume, it means the two original clips are extremely similar and can be concluded to have no audible difference to the human ears.

 

The result is, all recording via different firmware should make no audible difference, as the differences generated using different clips on average go from -55dB to as low as -72dB (counting into the error generated by Audio DiffMaker itself), which are all below what human can detect between different tracks. In contrast, the differences generated using the original FLAC and the recording are within -20dB range for the first 6 clips and within single digit dB for the last 6 clips, and well within detectable range. The reason F is less differentiable to A~E while L is more differentiable to G~K is because the music used in L has better dynamic range as a music and therefore any difference between original file and the recordings are more apparent.

 

Below are two samples of the subtracted clips

 

http://www.mediafire.com/download/2roikp7456fvc2b/2.2-2.02.flac

^ this is A vs. B. Comparison between A~E are all pretty similar.

 

http://www.mediafire.com/download/vmrffrxtk9qubqu/Ori-2.2.flac

^ this is A vs. F


Edited by ClieOS - 8/24/14 at 10:02am
post #2 of 55

You can't really do a ABX of 5 different versions... so I will do a few ABX of two at a time.

You should have made it 3 different versions. Most efficient. because there are only 3 sets to test when doing 3 versions.

To do 4, you need to do 6 sets... and that is considerably more time... and 5 versions, 10 sets... this is starting to get in the major pain in the ass area.

post #3 of 55
Thread Starter 

Well, it doesn't really matter how you do it. It is not exactly a science experiment and there is no need to adhere to any strict rule. I am actually more interested in people's quick / initial impression.

post #4 of 55

Well, one reason why people should take the firmware changing sound with a grain of salt is because when you listen after you update the software there should have been significant time that has elapsed. I notice it's hard to decern difference if I don't switch right away or focus on a certain aspect of the sound.  I take impressions here with a grain of salt even though I write subjective impressions also.  I'll point out something if it's significant enough. 

 

One thing I've noticed is battery at 30% sound like bass has decreased and also the dynamics.  Is this possible?  Can the current output be reduced when the battery is getting low?

 

There has been too much talk of firmware change and changes in sound of the DX90, this could be due to a chain reaction or there can indeed be a change of sound from the firmware because of so many people reporting on it.  

 

What I'm curious about is, what can the firmware do to change the sound?  If EQ is possible, why can't they EQ the thing on the next update and call it default?


Edited by SilverEars - 8/16/14 at 9:45am
post #5 of 55
I can't hear differences. It's "plastic music" not natural sounding, that is my problem here.
post #6 of 55
I can't hear a difference either.  I don't see how this can simulate the output of the DAP accurately.
post #7 of 55
Thread Starter 

I am adding an extra music clip (link on first post), please also give that a listen and tell us what you think.

post #8 of 55
Not sure how this simulates what my ears hear. Does your recording use a mic with headphones or is it using the headphone or line out from the X5? Does the Scarlet2i2 represent the input accurately? I've never used one so I'm genuinely curious.

Reminds me of doing taste tests where people can't identify cauliflower when blindfolded, but know that they don't like the taste when they see what they are eating.

So many analogue/brain cues that help us sense our world as a whole that I have come to trust.

I'll take the the test when I get the chance later. Very interested in the results as I've been wrong before.
post #9 of 55
Thread Starter 

Detail will also be revealed in a week :D. Better don't let those brains know too much.

post #10 of 55
I have not heard the extra track because it is not my music and i think the examples are not good enough to compare such minimal audio differences. My choise for comparing is for example:

Tord Gustavsen Trio - Being There
Track 4 Blessed Feet

or voices like

Barbra Streisand - One Voice [live]
Track 11 It's a New World
post #11 of 55

Flipping between all tracks (including the bonus one) I would be hard pressed to say there's a difference in SQ between any of them

post #12 of 55

A quick glance through all the files in Audacity seems to indicate that they are basically identical, save for slight time shifts. I didn't go to the trouble of perfectly aligning them all, inverting one, and summing though, so this isn't completely conclusive. That having been said, there certainly weren't major differences.

post #13 of 55

^^ nice approach - didn't think of doing it that way...

post #14 of 55

I agree.  If there was some changes, it should have been reflected in the file if it was recorded based on the output of the hardware.  If they are identical in waveform, there really is no point of listening for something that will not be there.  If there was DSP done for the output, the waveform should have reflected that.

post #15 of 55

Would audacity analyze the difference in the waveforms for you and output the difference?  Anyway, quick glance, they are indeed identical.


Edited by SilverEars - 8/16/14 at 7:31pm
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