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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by Joe Bloggs, Aug 21, 2014
Pros - Sounds good, small size, affordable, and some other useful features.
Cons - Slippery scroll wheel, silicon case gets dusty easily, UI theme is lacking of high contrast theme for day time outdoor use.
Simply music. That summarizes this review of Fiio X1.
At $99.- Fiio is offering a very affordable high resolution (24 bit / 192 kHz) player to the market. At this price, many might question of the sound quality. Thanks to Fiio, they don't set the sound quality of X1 at the sub $100 bracket. There is nothing cheap with the sound quality of Fiio X1. On a blind test, I doubt any experience reviewer or audiophile will guess that it is a sound quality from a $99 player. X1 sound quality is simply beyond its $99 price tag. Kudos to Fiio!
X1 might not be technically superior as the X3 and X5, but I do honestly impressed by the sound quality. X1 always sounds pleasing and musically engaging. It has a very like-able sound signature that makes us forget the technicality of the player, and just enjoy the music. X5 for example, always sounds technically superior than the rest, but I sometime find it not as musically engaging as X1, especially for vocal. X1 might not have the most exotic ingredients, but mixed and cooked right, and always delicious.
The unit I reviewed was a loan unit from Fiio, from the "X1 preview world tour - Malaysia and Singapore" program. Thanks Fiio!
This review is based on Firmware 1.0
I have both Fiio X3 and Fiio X5, and I used them as reference to describe Fiio X1 sound signature. The comparison will mainly on the headphone output sound quality. I didn't have enough time to explore and compare the line out quality. From other reviews, I read that the line out quality is actually better than the headphone output quality. Having observed the headphone output sound quality, IMHO X1 is not far behind X3 and X5. Technically X3 and X5 are more superior than X1 with higher power headphone amp. But when using regular easy to drive IEM, X1 competes well with X3 and X5 on the musical fun factor. X1 might be technically lacking this and that, but the fact is, music always sounds fun and enjoyable on X1. I would say Fiio did it right. At this price category, simplicity and musicality are the main priority. And Fiio X1 hit the bullseye on those.
Very good sound quality for the size and price.
Supports high resolution formats up to 24/192.
Support .cue sheet with multiple file format, and cleverly use the cover picture from jpeg file with the same file name.
Better UI when compared to X3 and X5.
Line Out. Not many players at sub $100 has line out.
Support 128GB micro SD card.
Very good battery life, around 12 hours playback time, continuous playback of 24/96 FLAC with minimum screen ON. Can be slightly longer with MP3 files.
Compatible with smart phone control using the In-line remote button on earphones with built-in remote and microphone.
Slippery scroll wheel. The scroll wheel doesn't have anti-slip surface like on the Fiio X5.
Fiio recently updated me, that they will use rubberized scroll wheel on the production model. I increased the rating to 4.5 due to this improvement. Here is the message from Fiio:
Please note that the "slippery scroll wheel" is limited to the world tour X1's. Production X1's have rubberized scroll wheels.
UI theme is lacking of high contrast theme for day time outdoor use.
exFAT is not yet supported on FW1.0 (period). Might be supported in the future. 64GB and 128GB should be formated in FAT32 format using the player or 3rd party software.
Charging LED covered by the silicon case.
No USB DAC funtion.
Sensitive to mobile phone interference due to plastic back cover.
Suggestions for improvement:
Anti-slip layer on the scroll wheel. --> Production model of X1 will have rubberized scroll wheel.
Better and higher contrast screen.
High contrast, white graphics on black background theme for day time outdoor use.
Back button dedicated to go back one level up to the folder where the song is located, or the last level of selected playlist.
TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) material for the case, instead of Silicon Rubber, for less 'dust magnet' property.
Small hole on the case to show charging LED.
The combination of OPA2322 and buffer ISL28291 sounds sweet. It would be great if Fiio could increase the driving power and level of detail from the headphone output.
USB DAC function please
Many of head-fi'ers, have more than just a few IEMs and DAPs, simply because we like to have a few type of sound signatures in our collection. IMHO, X1 has the type of sound signature that is worth to be taken into our collection. X1 is a keeper, it has that type of 'collectible' sound signature.
X1 has natural warm and organic sound signature, with pretty good soundstage and instrument separation. Overall, X1 sounds very pleasing, fun and musical. X1 is less analytical than both X3 and X5, but still rendering pretty good level of detail, certainly better than my iPod Classic 6th Gen 80GB. X1 is not for those looking for highly detailed and analytical sound signature, but more for those who like warm and organic sound.
Though X1 has a smooth warm sound signature, it is not the muddy and dull type of smooth warm, but smooth warm with a pretty good level of detail and imaging. Imaging though not as wide and spacious as X5, but more spacious than iPod Classic 6th Gen, also better than some other good smart phones that I've ever tried.
The midrange is lovely, warm, full sounding with good detail. X1 performs admirably on vocal. The full bodied vocal sound conveys the singer's emotion really well. With DUNU-DN1000 that sounds a bit analytical, tonality wise, X1 vocal sounds just right. With DN-1000, X3 vocal might sounds a bit too analytical, while X5 vocal sometime sounds a bit thin for my taste. Tonality wise, DN-1000 matches X1 really well, organic sound with good detail and imaging. While for a more organic sounding IEM such as my ATH-IM50 and ATH-IM70, I might prefer X3 for a more dynamic and powerful sound. Generally I prefer to match the smooth organic X1 sound with natural to analytical type of IEMs.
X1 doesn't sound as powerful as the X3 and X5. Bass is slightly less punchy and impactful on the X1. X3 & X5 bass is tighter and more punchy than X1, but not by much. I'm not trying to say X1 is bass anemic, which is not. X1 bass is quite presence and sounds full bodied. But the slam, impact, and tightness, are not as good as X3. The rated 100 mW@16Ω headphone output is just not as powerful as the headphone output of X3 and X5. Considering the size and price, X1 power is actually quite impressive. But if you're very particular with powerful and hard hitting bass, X3 is the better choice.
X1 treble is the softest among the 3. X3 treble is more sparkling, and X5 treble is smoother and more refined. But X1 treble is not lacking either. Treble level is good, treble quality is on the smooth side, sometime lacking sparkle and airiness for classical music. If some people think that X3 treble a bit edgy, then X1 treble sounds more pleasing. X5 treble still the most refined of the 3, but sometime I do feel like X5 treble is slightly lacking of sparkle, and sounds like rolled off too early at the upper treble region. X5 treble decay sounds a bit too short for me. X3 treble maybe love or hate. For me, I do like X3 sparkling treble. X3 treble is the most sparkling of the 3, might sounds a bit edgy to some, but I do like it, IMHO it makes music sounds livelier. For the rather bright and edgy recordings, X1 silky smooth treble definitely preferable.
Headphone Output Driving Power
X1 does music in a fun way, but it doesn't always have the speed and power to catch up well with fast paced music as good as X3 or X5. Selection of recordings does play parts to get the most from X1. Vocal is what I found X1 does best. With album 'The World Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recording' from Chesky, overall X1 wins by a slight margin when compares to its bigger brothers the X3 and X5. X1 vocal is just right for my sonic preference, full bodied and less analytical. For album such as Pat Coil Gold and other instrumental albums, X3 is my favorite player for the most engaging bass and drum. As for X5, it is best for those looking for spacious imaging, such as binaural albums.
Compared to X5
X5 has clearer and wider imaging, with slightly more forward vocal. X5 sounds more spacious overall. X5 also sounds more powerful with faster transient and bass hits harder. But X1 has slightly fuller mids, that makes male vocal sounds fuller. I prefer X1 tonality for male vocal. X5 sounds more refined, but slightly lacking in midrange and bass body. X1 has fuller mids and bass compared to X5. X1 sounds warmer than X5. X1 Dynamic also slightly behind X5, but not at the level of lacking of dynamic. X1 still manage to sounds quite lively with decent power.
Compared to X3
X3 is power. It punches and hits hard. Even harder than X5. But sometime it sounds rough, less refined. While X5 sometime sounds too refined for me. X1 is gentler than X3. It does music in a gentler way. X3 has more sparkling treble that makes recordings sound airier than X1, but sometime could also sounds grainier. X1 treble is smoother than X3, and lacking a bit of air for classical. Just a bit. I did enjoyed hours of classical with X1. Lacking a bit of air, but still enjoyable. I think X1 treble is closer to X5 than X3. While X3 sounds a bit dryer, more analytical with better detail, X1 sounds warmer, more organic, and more relax, and not as detailed. X3 has better dynamic and sounds more powerful than X1. X3 sounds livelier, but sometime X3 might sounds a bit aggressive, depending on the recordings and earphone pairings.
Compared to iPod Classic 6th generation
X1 sounds bigger with a bit wider soundstage than iPod. Better detail, instrument separation, and sounds a bit more spacious. Tonality is actually pretty close to iPod, but overall X1 sounds better.
Compared to Samsung Galaxy S4 (SHV-E330K - Korean version)
X1 is a clear winner. S4 sounds brighter, and doesn't have the mids and bass body as good as X1. S4 Imaging is not as spacious, and focused as X1. X1 is simply more musically engaging than S4. X1 at $99.- is justifiable for those looking for an affordable music player that sounds better than smart phones.
Some simplified comparisons:
Bass power, punch, and tightness. Top to bottom, most potent to less potent:
Treble. Top to bottom, most sparkling to less sparkling:
Warm & Analytical. Top to bottom, warm to analytical:
Level of detail. Top to bottom, more detailed to less detailed:
Fiio X5 & Fiio X3 (comparable in level of detail, while X3 sounds more analytical, and X5 sounds more refined)
Dynamic and Transient. Top to bottom, most potent dynamic to less potent:
Wide and Spacious Imaging. Top to bottom, most spacious to less spacious:
Refined sound quality. Top to bottom, most refined to less refined:
Fiio X3 & Fiio X1 (different sound signature, but comparable in level of refinement)
I tested X1 to drive HD800, the headphone output has enough voltage to drive HD800 to a reasonable listening level. Volume was set in the range 90-100 (max) when driving HD800. Not bad at all
Build & Features
Features comparison with X5 and X3:
While some said X5 is a bit too bulky and heavy, X1 small size and light weight is a joy to carry. I just hope the next version of X1 could be thinner.
Compared to iPod Classic 6th generation, X1 is smaller, but thicker.
Position of buttons, micro SD slot, headphone / line out socket, and micro USB charging port.
During the battery test, before FW 1.0 upgrade, X1 was once hang and become unresponsive. So I had to poke the reset switch located between the power button and the volume button. But after FW 1.0 upgrade I didn't experience any more problem with the player.
X1 has front metal housing, but the back is made of plastic. The back screwed to the housing using pentalobe torx screw, like those found on iPhone 4.
Fiio X1 has very good battery life, around 12 hours non-stop playback with minimum screen, tested using 24/96 FLAC files.
The battery and the circuit board:
My main complain from the build is the scroll wheel. It is slippery. I hope Fiio will apply anti slip layer on the X1 wheel like the one on Fiio X5.
Second complain is the themes. All of them are low contrast themes, on relatively low contrast LCD screen. None of them is usable for outdoor during day time. Fiio, we need a high contrast theme, a simple white graphics on black background.
I found the UI on X1 is better and easier to use than X5 and X3. I hope Fiio will have unified UI on all their players, based on X1 UI.
Headphone Output Vp-p and Output Impedance
Measured maximum peak to peak voltage on headphone output is at around 4.38 volts on 33 ohms load, and 4.63 volts on high impedance load (1 Mega ohm).
Measured headphone output impedance: 1.88 ohms.
Maximum peak to peak voltage on high impedance load:
Maximum peak to peak voltage on 33 ohms load:
Line Out Vp-p and Output Impedance
Not many DAP at sub $100 has line out feature. Line out on X1 is selectable through menu, and shares the same socket with the headphone output. Although X1 line out shares the socket with headphone output, from the measurement it is confirmed that the line out by passed the digital volume control and headphone amplifier / buffer. The line out has different maximum peak to peak voltage, and also different output impedance.
Measured maximum peak to peak voltage on line output is at around 4.31 volts on high impedance load (1 Mega ohm).
Measured line output impedance: 97.5 ohms.
Maximum peak to peak voltage on high impedance load:
Maximum peak to peak voltage on 33 ohms load:
CD image / CUE sheet compatible
This is another cool feature of X1 (also supported on X3 and X5), that it is compatible with CUE sheet that is quite common for CD image backup from audio CD. Some of us backup our audio CD into a CD image instead of separate tracks of flac or mp3 files. So those with tons of CD images backup don't have to split them into separate audio files per track, and can just dump them all to X1 to be played directly by the player. X1 also cleverly choose the cover image from the jpeg file that has the same file name as the CUE sheet file name. Gapless playback also tested and works fine.
Tested CUE sheet with APE, BIN, FLAC, and WAV audio file formats, only BIN file is not supported, the other common audio file formats are supported. BIN file, although not commonly used by consumer, is the output from Digital Audio Workstation for CD Image.
My CD images test files:
File Formats and Sampling Rates
Tested the following audio file formats and various sampling rates, all are playable up to 24 bit / 192 kHz, except the last DXD file at 24 bit / 352.8 kHz.
Though X1 silicon case in my opinion is better than X5 silicon case, with less 'dust magnet' property, I still prefer for Fiio to use TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) material like smart phones cases, rather than silicon. Silicon case still annoyingly attracts dust and lint. One flaw, Fiio seems forgot to punch a small hole on the silicon case to show the charging LED.
In-line remote button compatible for earphones with built-in remote and microphone
I haven't tried this, but found on some post in Head-Fi, that the remote button on earphone that has built-in remote and microphone for smart phones, works with X1.
Single click: Play and pause
Double clicks: skip to next track
Triple clicks: skip to previous track
As I mentioned earlier as a point for improvement, is the behavior of the back button. After browsing through the album folders or playlist, and select a song to be played, I expect the back button to bring back one level up from the 'Now Playing' page, back to either the folder where the song is located, or the related selected playlist. The back button behaves that way, but only if I don't go to the home page by long pressing the back button. After I long press the back button to go to the home page, and go back to the 'Now Playing' page from home, a single short press of the back button now doesn't bring me back to the song folder or relevant playlist, but back to the home page instead. I find it very annoying as I have to browse back to folders or playlist to get to the album of the song that is being played. Fiio, could you please set the back button, when short pressed from 'Now Playing' page, to always go to one level up from the 'Now Playing' page, to either the folder where the song is located, or the selected playlist. It will greatly improve the user experience. Thank you!
I was quite busy when I got the turn to try the Fiio X1, so there are some features I haven't tested, like the line out quality, In-Line remote button, EQ quality, etc. From the limited time I had with X1, IMHO, FiiO X1 is truly a simple and beautiful sounding DAP. One again, kudos to FiiO!
Earphones and Headphones used in this review:
Some albums used in this review:
Pros - Price is absolutely amazing! Sound quality through line out. Size and dimensions
Cons - Scroll wheel needs refinement, Battery life could be better. No in built memory
I received this unit for a few days as part of a Australasian tour. I did not buy one and do not own one (yet). Thanks to @Brooko for providing his own unit for this tour.
Im not an audiophile....there its been said, but I do love my music and I know what sounds good to me. Im not in the position to convince other people with this brief look about the merits of the FIIO X1 or if it will suit your needs and thus these are my thoughts BUT I have always believed that getting the most value for your money is sound fiscal policy. I usually like to buy items that have a high price to performance ratio. Im always up for a bargain and thus Gumtree and and other classified ads listings are always visited by me. Im not scared of 2nd hand items. I have also known FIIO for a while now and my first product was their E5. This was my first foray into amping (although I realise now that all I did was double amping) but it gave life to my Ipod touch 2nd gen to actually sound GOOD! Thus started the interest in portable audio products for me. All you have to do is look in my profile page to see how many I've gone through. Sometimes people ask me if there is a product that I could recommend to start out with their audio journey but I know that there is not one product I can recommend that is both value for money and sounds good to boot. Have I found that in the FIIO X1?
Well to start off with I congratulate FIIO for making the X1 mostly out of machined aluminum. I believe the only plastic items are the back plate and the scroll wheel, but at this price point this is very well done indeed. There is no flex at all to the case although find the scroll wheel is not as sturdy as I would like as it there is play while moving it but at least the material of the wheel is correct in which it is grippy. No doubt greasy fingers were a factor in the materials selection. The rubber scroll wheel will be susceptible to scratches so long fingernails is a no no if you want to keep its physical appearance pristine. Otherwise there is nothing to complain about. The buttons are tactile and clearly labelled. Speaking about labelled, I wish that FIIO replicated the button signs on to the black silicone rubber sleeve provided but this is just a minor thing. Screen was bright enough for me outdoors and since this is not a multimedia player, the screen quality is just right for this type of device. No doubt anything of a higher quality would have driven up its price and the battery consumption. Bottom Line: For a US$ 99 device it ticks FORM FIT and FUNCTION for me!
From my use of it the past few days, the interface is quite logical for me. Of course a new interface would always have a learning curve (part of the thrill of having a new gadget for me) and at least it took me only a few minutes to go through the setting and figure out how everything worked and interacted. There are different color schemes to choose from as well so at least there is customization on the UI. I noticed no lags or freezes while scrolling and button presses are responsive and its nice that there is a reset hole just under the power button just in case. The scroll wheel as mentioned before is abit loose for me as it move it a notch and it wont register till the second movement. Something to improve upon I believe. Bottom Line: Interface and button interaction are well thought out with the scroll wheel needing improvement as a minus.
Website claims an 11 hour battery life with initial firmware but could go up to 15 hours with further firmware updates. I for one wish that this is much longer, say 24 hours for all the road warriors out there. I did not like having my music taken away from me while camping one time (to be honest that was a 5 night camping trip) but hey this is a wish from me for the next iteration of this device.
SOUND IMPRESSIONS (Listening to Kenny G Duets album various songs)
Pairing with the Phillips Fidelio X1 (see what I did there?)
This unit from drives the X1's beautifully in my opinion. The EQ has been set to flat/off and find Im enjoying what I hear. The warm sound signature matches the X1's strengths. The volume is at 80% and this is my listening level for these headphones on the X1. HMM..maybe needs more power? How will it power my HD 650's? Employing the EQ changes the sound effectively so I guess the EQ works as advertised. Im listening to the Kenny G Duets album at the moment and loving it. Vocals are nice natural, the sax is beautiful and Marcia Hines voice on the Forever Young track is just soothing. YEP! the X1's (FIIO and Phillips) pair together well in my ears.
Pairing with the Sennheisser HD650
Well I actually preferred the line out setting when using the HD 650's. Switching it back to the headphone output i need to put the volume to 90 percent and i can already hear its struggling to drive them. BUT with the line out enabled and the hD 650's plugged directly, the X1 is actually able to drive them to my listening volume. The track Im listening to currently is Misty featuring Gladys Knight. Heaven! If anything I think I've fallen in love with the hD 650's again. The vocals are so natural and true. Also I believe the soundstage opens up if using the line out. I have just put on my Fidelio X1's again and yep definitely soundstage has improved!!! Perhaps the FIIO X1 can indeed use more power from its internal amp in its next iteration. Lots of Headfier's have the HD650 and its a shame that the FIIO X1's have to be set to line out to get acceptable performance and to my listening levels at least but YMMV.
Pairing with the Phonak Audeo PFE121 (Grey filter on)
The Phonaks are my go to in ears for when Im out and about and perhaps this is more important test for me. Again I prefer the line out sound of the FIIO X'1s when paired with the Phonaks. Its just more detailed and open. Perhaps its abit bright (a Phonak Trait) but its never sibilant or harsh. The bass is just right and Le Anne Rimes vocals on Everything I DO I DO IT FOR YOU is rendered faithfully with the correct timbre of voice as I remember from her. Indeed the FIIO X1 and the Phonaks pair well together in my opinion and I can see myself using this configuration if ever I do get the X1 which is most likely.
Pairing with the Phonak Audeos and the C&C BH portable AMP using line out
Now THIS is match made in heaven! I cant believe the sound coming out of the Phonaks now! The amp is on high gain, LF (bass) boost on and SF (sound field) enhancer on. This leads me to believe that the FIIO X1 should just be a source and it should really be paired with a decent inexpensive external portable amp and the sound gains on all measurable levels just go up. There's just more detail, more resolution, more soundstage and its just an overall more enjoyable energetic sound. For me at least
Comparison Between the E11k and the C&C BH amp using Phonak Audeo and the an AB switch
Since I have another new FIIO product as part of the review package, namely the FIIO E11K I shall give my thoughts impressions on it, To be fair, I have turned off the SF sound field enhancer on the C&C BH as the E11k does not have that feature. Both amps are on high gain and bass boost on. I have roughly set each amp to the same volume although and this was just by ear and no electronic instrument was used to measure.
Its apparent that the E11K has a more forward presentation on the MIDS. Its more in your face and intimate. The C&C BH has more headroom and soundstage. Each instrument is more distinct and due to the increased soundstage each instrument or part of the music has more room the breathe. It is also apparent that the C&C BH bass boost goes deeper. The C&C also seems to extract more detail. The clicks as the each button is pressed on the saxophone is just more distinct. The echoes are also more apparent on the C&C BH. To be fair, I believe the C&C BH is in the $100+ price bracket and the FIIO E11K is $69 USD if im not mistaken so Im not entirely sure if this is a fair comparison but hey!
Lets see if I can pick up the same differences with my HD650. CONFIRMED: I have to raise the volume pot of the E11K to 5 and the C&C BH to about 70 percent so this would lead me to believe the E11K is more powerful. SO to test this out I have the HIFIMAN HE400 handy with me.
Surprise surprise! I haven't touched the volume pot but the volume is still listening volume for me AND I now prefer the sound coming from E11K paired with the HE400's. Perhaps the open nature of the HE400's (vs the Phonak in ears which already has the out of the head listening experience) help to open out and space out the instruments on the E11K. It now has the instrument separation and space that I heard using the C&C BH. Plus the vocals are now up close and intimate BUT the bass is still superior in the C&C BH which is evident on the track I LIKE THE WAY YOU MOVE (FEAT EARTH WIND AND FIRE)
SO Now that I've slowly moved up the chain of equipment I thought Id try to pair the FIIO X1 to the Just Audio AHA 120's, Class A portable headphone AMP with an RRP of $599
And of course the results are again another level up. More detail, more separation, more soundstage and more naturalness to everything you hear. Its a more refined sound I guess and the standout item for me are the vocals it just at another level. In the end you just sit back and enjoy the marvel that is the FIIO X1. Amazing how a $99 player can put a smile on your face and makes your toe tap.
To answer the question posted in my introduction: YES! The FIIO X1 in my opinion provides a beautiful gateway to HIFI sound that I would like the general public to hear. I would like the FIIO X1 at least to be the standard recommendation for those starting out their audio journey. There is really nothing negative to say about the unit. It works as intended and the sound that comes out of it is better than most units from other manufacturers and the price of $99 (albeit without memory card), I believe the price to performance ratio is indeed quite high. Would I buy one? Yes I would as the X1 for me provides a real good source specially with the line out and pairing it with other portable amps can be an interesting journey.
Pros - Cost, features, design, accessories, size, sound quality, build quality
Cons - power
I received this unit for a few days as part of a Australasian tour. I did not buy one and do not own one (yet). Thanks to @Brooko for providing his own unit for this tour.
Before I even got the device, I've been following the X1 thread from it's conception and as the details piled on I knew that this one is going to stir the pot in the DAP world. With its price being the biggest positive I knew that FiiO won't skimp out on the goods. Hence I was super excited for the X1 to come out.
Design The device looks and feel no less than amazing. Typical FiiO design. Brush aluminium, with machined body and buttons, and chamfered edges. World class build quality you won't get anywhere for the price tag.
Button layout is very intuitive. They did a great job with this. I think they based the layout on a bunch of different DAPs (one being the iPod of course). The second I put it in my hand I knew exactly where every button is subconciously. Bravo in this department.
The GUI is a classic interface I've grown up with. A lot of devices use a similar design. One being the good ol' blue screen file manager on DOS systems back in the day. I personally prefer this kind of interface over the icon based interface everyone uses. But, as it is not a touch screen devices it pretty perfect and does exactly what it needs to with no bloat or lag.
I find it very hard to review sources so this part will be quite brief but to the point.
This device sounds great with IEMs. I tried it with my Xiaomi Pistons 2.1 and absolutely fell in love with this match made in heaven. I never enjoyed listening to the Pistons as I did with the X1. Typical FiiO sound. It's quite transparent, a little on the warm side. Very enjoyable indeed.
Where the X1's only noticeable flaw lies is the power. When I tried the X1 with my 32Ω Goldring DR150 the sound was good but lacking in energy, and when I plug in my 60Ω Takstar Pro 80 (which are actually quite easy to drive) the sound was, for lack of a better word, anemic. This was fixed with a little help from the E11k. The X1 and the E11k pair very well for full sized cans but the sound stage and imaging take a little bit of a hit. Not my cup-o-tea, but some people like a more warm and intimate sound.
In Conclusion For $100 you will never ever get a HiRes DAP this good. It does extremely well for it's purpose and exceed all of my expectation. It's truly the best companion for that long commute some people have to take to work on public transport. Paired with a nice IEM and you can have one of the best sounding experiences for under $200.
I applaud FiiO for constantly pushing and toppling boundaries in the Audiophile World. I really think that this DAP is going to cause a lot of problems for those (in my opinion) astronomically overpriced DAPs on the market.
I'd like to thank @Brooko once again for including me in this tour. Cheers mate!
Pros - Sound Quality, Price, UI, Build Quality
Cons - None at the price!
Here are my impressions of the Fiio X1
Pros - PRICE!, build quality, performance, line-out from an excellent DAC
Cons - no date/time, slightly washed out screen
HiFiMAN's RE-400 makes a great pairing!
The X1 is an amazing little unit. In fact, that is an understatement. It's been a very long time since last time I was this overwhelmingly impressed by a $100 unit. The UI is excellent. Very intuitive, rather snappy and easy to navigate. Honestly, I was not expecting an in-house developed UI to be this good, but it every bit is, and it also reads all the formats that I've tried without any hiccups, including associated CUE files. The DAC is absolutely stellar, using an impressive Texas-Instruments PCM5142 DAC chip. The amp section is also pretty good, utilizing an Intersil ISL28291 amplifier buffer. The 2.4" TFT display is plenty big and easy to read, providing all the necessary information even in direct sunlight. It is slightly washed but still plenty good for the price. Among other things the player offers a 7-band equalizer [from -6 to +6 each], gapless playback, sleep timer, usable buttons when screen's off or volume limiting. There's no date and time yet though, which I find a bit strange though not all that important.
The build quality is perhaps the most spectacular aspect - holding the unit in your hand boasts confidence and there's good heft to the unit. The X1 features a fully-aluminium body with very tactile buttons and quality that's hard to find on products costing much more. The Fiio also comes with a screen protector and a rubber protective case, along with a charging cable. The battery life is around 12 hours a run, for a 4 hour's full charge.
There's also the line-out function using the headphone jack, which offers the possibility to use just the player's DAC with a more beefy portable amp. Although I already found the X1's amplifier to perform favorably with reasonable headphones from IEMs to full-sized cans.
I am really struggling to find anything to criticize here... Did I mention it was a hundred bucks?! In a long time, I am left with only fuzzy and completely positive feelings, while using the unit feels just as enjoyable. I really don't understand how Fiio did this, but currently I consider the Fiio X1 a jack-of-all-trades and wouldn't hesitate recommending it to anyone looking for a lovely little DAP and as someone coming from the pretty good, very-happy-with and tried-and-proved Sansa Clip+, I think this is some very high praise.
There's more competition on the way, however
+ build quality
+ User Interface
+ price, price, price!
+ line-out function
- no time & date, slightly washed-out display
Pros - Great Value, Build Quailty, Nice Wide Soundstage
Cons - Muddy Mids, Limited Volume with EQ, no internal storage
Taking part of the Fiio World Tour i was excited to get my hands on this little beasty. I was interested in this as a budget player and to see how it compared the the iBasso DX50 i had recently purchased and to my Girlfriends iPod touch 5th gen.
I was 3rd in line so i had to wait a while but it didn't dissapoint when i finally got a hold of it.
I only have a pair of Sony MDR-1R to try this out with.
The device came in a tiny box inside which was the device and a standard Micro USB cable. The Device itself feels high quality and has a weighty feel to it. Buttons have a nice click to them and the thing feels like it should cost more than the proposed price of $100 (around £62!) I did find that the scroll wheel felt a little loose and not quite as responsive as it could be. After inserting my Micro SD i found i had to re-format to FAT32 instead of the NTFS i had prepared it with. Finally we were ready to Rock and Roll!
The Display on this device seems much sharper than the resolution would have you believe however i found that the contrast is somewhat lacking and the screen while bright enough just seems a little too washed out. Its purely functional without too much fuss. You are able to choose from several colour themes to give the UI a look to suit your mood - i stuck to the default steel grey look.
The interface took me a while to get to grips with - but after half hour / 45 minutes i was navigating with ease. Everything seems pretty logically laid out, though i wasn't too sure why there are seperate menus for playback settings and system settings.
Music info is displayed nicely over album art while playing back music - this neatly fades away if left alone but can be displayed again with a click of the OK button. Everything feels fast and responsive, i didnt experience any lock-ups or freezes while using the device.
I may sound a little harsh here but at the back of my mind i 'know' this is a budget device. I feel what Fiio have achieved here is amazing for the cost of the little thing.
The X1 has a pleasant sound, i liked the wide soundstage but felt it lacked punch and energy. I like to listen to music loud but found the X1 just couldnt deliver the volume levels i like. I thought i could maybe compensate with some EQ, but found that for some reason volume is limited when EQ is in use. I couldn't find a way to unlock this limit, but thats not to say the feature isn't available.
At lower volumes the sound is pretty crisp though the mids i did feel were a little muddy, which seems to get more muddy with higher volumes. It wasn't unpleasant and i could easily listen to it for long periods of time but given the choice i'd reach for my DX50. I did feel the sound was better than the iPod as i always feel the sound from iPods is a bit crunchy and lacks depth.
The X1 surprised me - i expected a cheap device to 'feel' and 'Be' a cheap device, however the X1 doesn't feel cheap at all. I think it feels, looks and sounds a lot better than it has any right to. If Fiio do sell these at the price they say they will then i think that anyone looking for a decent DAP need look no further and will be in for a little treat. However those wanting a better sound may want to look at spending a little more.
I 'liked' the X1 but ultimately didn't 'love' it.
Pros - Build, value, sonic excellence (for value), easy to use UI, output power, boot speed
Cons - UI features not yet complete (refer to the review for details), scroll wheel a little loose (similar X5), screen a little washed out
Click any image for full size (1200 x 800) resolution INTRODUCTION I’m a proud owner of the Fiio X5 – it’s been my go to DAP for some time now, with the only drawback being ultimate portability if I’m jogging, or just out and about wanting a really simple set-up. So when Fiio started talking about a new entry level DAP in the sub $100 market, and already knowing what they are capable of developing, I was immediately interested. I was originally supposed to be part of one of the X1 tours – unfortunately we had some “personnel issues” along the way – and the X1 never made it down to our part of the world. So with the help of James and Joe from Fiio, I arranged to purchase a new unit, and we’ll be using that for a tour through Australia and New Zealand.
Everyone on Head-Fi should know about the Fiio Electronics Company by now – but if you don’t, here’s a very short summary. Fiio is a relative newcomer to the audio scene, first founded in 2007. Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which to be honest were often scoffed at by some seasoned Head-Fiers. But Fiio spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range. They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by their current flagship DAP (the X5) – which despites its reasonable cost (300-350) has been able to compete with models from other manufacturers costing hundreds of dollars more. Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding wonderful.
Although the X1 (and E11K) that I was provided by Fiio are about to embark on an Australasian tour, they are units that I have pre-agreed to purchase at the end of the tour. I am in no way affiliated with Fiio, and this review is my honest opinion of the X1. I would also like to thank Joe & James for assisting and facilitating the tour (and making a second set available due to the numbers involved).
Note - I later purchased the review sample direct from Fiio
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 47 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs (I do also have the Beyer T51p, but IEMs command most of my portable time) - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83 & A81, Dunu DN-1000 and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced. I am neither a bass nor treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. 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, HSA Studio V3, and Fiio’s X5. 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 (for space vs quality), but for my X5 I use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 as space is not an issue. 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 suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 47, my hearing is less than perfect.
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.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN AN ULTRA-PORTABLE DAP
I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I was looking for from the X1.
Small form factor
Great (neutral) sounding – but with body (not thin)
Good build quality
Reasonable battery life
Easy to use interface
Good pairing with my main IEMs
Bonus (if it was possible) - able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
Did I get all of this with the X1? Well yes – it exceeded my expectations in many areas, and the rough edges should (hopefully) be solved with firmware updates. Read on for an in-depth look at the X1.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The X1 arrived in a flat retail carton, with a simple red and black design – featuring a picture of the X1 on the front, and some specifications (in English and Mandarin) on the back.
Quick note here – the box on my unit arrived slightly torn – not Fiio’s fault – I think someone from customs in NZ might have been a little rushed opening it.
Box and inner trayX1 and accessories
On opening the retail outer box, you are presented with an inner tray containing the X1 (already sheathed in its silicone cover for added protection) wrapped in plastic. The X1 sits inside a foam cut-out and appears to be fairly well protected. Alongside it is a narrow white box which contains the charging/data cable (micro USB). In a bag underneath the X1 are spare screen protectors, three different stick on covers, and the warranty info and quick start guide.
Stick on coversCarbon cover
The stick-on covers are interesting, as they are designed to cover the entire player. It’s an interesting concept, but I wasn’t too sure how good they would actually look until I saw a couple of examples in the X1 threads – where other users have applied the included stickers. See below for examples of the wood and carbon – thanks to users @phillipwareham and @Dogmatrix respectively for the photos.
Wood stick on coverCarbon stick on cover
The entire package is IMO pretty good, covering everything you initially need for the player. Materials are all good quality. The cable seems sturdy – and can also be interchanged with the X5 cable. The black silicone case fits the player perfectly, and looks pretty good in place. It also provides very good protection – with the only drawback being that it can pick-up a little dust/lint from time to time.
Black silicone caseThe naked X1
One last note – the X1 does come with a screen protector intact. This protector is in two pieces – the actual protector and a plastic cover with tab attached. When you pull the tab, the top cover is supposed to come off – leaving the actual protector below it. Some new users have confused this will the actual protector coming off – but I can assure you that it remains securely in place.
The table below lists most of the relevant specifications. I’ve collated these from information on the box, information found on and line, my own personal experience with the X1
57mm x 96.6mm x 14mm
2.0” TFT Colour LCD (320x240)
TI PCM5142 (supports up to 192/24 res)
Combined 3.5mm Headphone Out & Line Out (software switchable)
1 x microSD (max support 128gb at time of review)
1700mAh Li-Polymer, up to 15 hours playback (~12 hours currently)
< 4 hours
APE, WAV, FLAC, WMA, ALAC, MP2, MP3, AAC, OGG
Headphone Output Impedance
MAX output voltage
> 4.2 Vp-p
MAX output current
> 46 mA
> 110 dB
100 mW@16Ω THD<1%, 65 mW@32Ω, 8 mW@300Ω
> 1.46 Vrms
Left/Right Channel Adjmt
Recommended HP Impedance
Volume Control Type
Digital – 100 steps
Gain Selection, Bass/Treble Boost, USB DAC, Digital Audio Output Jack
For graphs of X1’s performance, as measured by Fiio, go here and choose specifications from the menu: http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000060437344&MenuID=105026016
The build on the X1 (IMO) is incredible for a DAP in this price bracket, and a lot of thought has gone into the overall design. The casing looks to be a 2 piece aluminium alloy chassis – with a clean silvery finish (somewhere between a gloss and a matte). The corners are nicely rounded, and the bevel on top and bottom adds a touch of design class. The headphone/line-out socket is firm fitting, as is the microUSB port at the bottom.
Headphone outMicro USB charging / data port
The buttons give a really nice tactile response, and for my hand, are nicely located within easy reach. Nice to see that this time they are also labelled (this was a fault corrected from the X5). The only thing I don’t like about the button placement is that if adding an amplifier (like the E11K) – using a rubber band is not ideal, as it partially covers the buttons. The only way around this is with a stacking kit – which I understand Fiio will be bringing out.
X1 button layout - side and topProblem with add-on amp, no room for band (covers buttons)
Personal preference – I would have preferred the on/off button at the top like the X5, and just the volume buttons on the side. This would have created more space for attaching an amp via rubber band + also stopped me (often) going to change the volume and instead turning the screen on and off (a little frustrating!).
Next to the side buttons is the reset hole. The only issue I’d have with this is that it is quite small, and would need a pin or needle to press the internal reset button. A paper clip is actually too wide. If Fiio do make a revision, this is one thing I would change – just slightly. Just for the record, I’ve had no freezes at all so far.
Screen comparison X1 and X5Size comparison X1 and X5
The screen has a good resolution, and is relatively clear and easy to read. It does suffer a little in direct sunlight, but just shading the screen with your hand helps, and you can also turn up the brightness. It was also not until I compared the X1 with the X5 screen that I noticed it was definitely not as vibrant – but by itself, you don’t notice at all.
The scroll wheel flows nicely, and is easy to spin. Like the X5, there is some side-to-side play with this unit – not much but it is there. Less than my X5 – but this is probably due to its smaller size. Probably the only part of the unit that feels a little flimsy. The wheel itself is (like the X5) relatively 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. One neat thing I noticed that when using the wheel, the main menu comes up circular. When using the buttons it appears banded (or linear) – just another of the little surprises, and proof again that Fiio were really looking to innovate with the user experience.
Micro SD portX1 alongside E11K
Finally the micro SD port – no cover this time, but this is OK as it provides easier access and suits the overall aesthetic a little better.
Overall – the build for me is a solid 4.8/5. I can’t really see how Fiio could have improved the X1 further – apart from adjusting the button locations, and reset hole. It really is incredibly well made for $100.
UI (USER INTERFACE) / USABILITY
Please note that this is with beta firmware 1.03.
Let me preface by saying that for me the overall usability of the X1 sits above my experience with the X5, well above my former Studio V3, but still falls a little short of the benchmark (Apple). However – the surprising thing for me is how good the interface is – I guess I’ve got used to Fiio’ layout pretty quickly.
On starting the X1, you are greeted with an animated “welcome” screen – 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, output mode (headphone or line-out), current screen, play status, sleep timer (if set), TF card, and battery level indicator.
Theme selectionMain menu screen
The main menu choices include: now playing, category, folder mode, audio/play settings, and system settings.
The system setting and audio setting screens are straight forward, and pretty much include everything you’re likely to need.
System settings menuAudio settings menu
System settings include media library updating, lock screen settings (3 options), timeout settings, brightness and power off settings, sleep timer settings, output settings (H/O vs L/O), 6 colour theme options, settings to adjust display and language, info about the X1 including storage, tracks and FW version, and a format option (for the TF card).
Audio settings give access to the play and resume modes, gapless on/off, volume default settings, and access to the built in equaliser and also balance modes.
The equaliser is 7 band, and comes with 9 presets including ‘off’ 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 7 band is functional and works OK (and the presets are much better than Apple’s). Unlike the X5 – using the equaliser does not drop the output by 6dB.
Folder mode works very well, and is essentially the same as the folder mode on the X5. It is also the only mode you can access externally made playlists at this time. There is still no option to play sub all folders from the root folder – which is a bit of a shame.
Folder view on the X1Options in tagged view - all songs, album, artist, genre and favourites
For those who prefer to keep their players on permanent shuffle – setting the play mode as shuffle then going to “all songs” works quite admirably, and I’m pleased to report that it is a true shuffle. Restarting again from the first track brings up a new random list – nice!
In tag (or category) mode you can select one major level of operation, and then two minor levels – e.g. choosing artist brings up the artist list, then album list, then the files are shown. In album mode – there are two levels – album and track. In genre mode, you get a genre list, but then all songs with that genre are lumped in filename order. It would have been nice to have genre > artist > album > track, but I guess this is expecting a little too much at this early stage. The good news is that Fiio is continuing to work with the community on the UI. In all songs mode – again the files are just listed in filename order.
I’ve had no issues with either folder or tag mode – but I need to stress that all my files are meticulously tagged (I own an X5 so I know what works). I use hierarchal folders Artist > Albums, and my file naming always goes track # - title. I use very few tags – just artist, album artist, album, title, track #, genre, year and artwork. All my artwork is embedded and standard 600 x 600.
The upper left button brings up a context menu that is dependent on the menu you are in. Amongst this is an add to playlist button (circle with a plus sign in it) so that you can save a song to a playlist. This works OK, and it is quite easy to add and remove songs using the context button. The good news is that you can now save multiple playlists - but you have to do this song by song. The other method is to create them externally. Externally created playlists work well – but you need to navigate to them from folder view (they don’t appear in the playlists category yet).
All songs - needs work, but shuffle works nicely!On screen info
The upper right button is a back button, and puts you back up one hierarchal level. 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). Like the X5 – if you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated. Nice little touch.
The side volume buttons (when in lock mode 1) double as both volume buttons and also as track up/down buttons. Tapping the volume buttons raises or lowers the volume. Holding the button down advances or goes back one track.
Overall the UI is quite responsive – much better than the X5 with very little lag. There can be slight delays on screen when moving from track to track (whilst playing), but overall I am extremely happy with the UI.
A final note on the UI – gapless play is seamless for me so far. All my tested albums have worked well.
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 7 or 8. It’s usable, has plenty of features, and I believe will continue to get better with more firmware releases.
TEST GEAR USED
During the course of the review, I have used:
Fiio X1, Fiio X5 and iPhone 4
Audio gd-NFB12 (PC)
Fidue A83, Altone200, Dunu DN-1000, Beyer T51p, Sennheiser HD600
Some of the test tracks used for critical listening can be found here : http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks
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 had 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 was crossfeed, a dsp they were using, or simply in the frequency response (I know the Studio was a bright DAP). All I know is that I liked it. Sadly I don’t have the V3 to compare any more. Nowadays most of my listening is with the Fiio X5 (and I love this unit) – it has a fantastically black background, and sounds simply wonderful with whatever headphones or IEMs I pair with it.
iPhone4, X1 and X5iPhone4, X1 and X5
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 (X1 and X5 were FLAC, iPhone 4 was aac256 encoded from same master). The volume matching was done with constant test tones.
So without further ado ….
The X1 (IMO) sounds phenomenal for a $100 DAP. It’s been quite hard to characterise the overall sound without directly making comparisons, so the following impressions are all in comparison to both the X5 and iP4. For this section I’ve mainly used my Fidue A83 triple hybrid IEMs – as they are nicely balanced, and are both easy to drive, and also detect contrasts.
The X1 (to my imperfect ears) is quite a neutral sounding DAP – with a slight touch of warmth, very similar to the X5. Where the X1 differs is that it has a very slightly thicker, or fuller overall sound compared to the X5 – the X5 sounds comparatively cleaner, instruments sound more precise, with more space. The differences are there – but they are not huge – but to me they are noticeable. This can give the X1 the impression that the mid-range might be ever so slightly forward, but with the volume matching and constant back and forth during testing, I think that’s just an impression. I personally think what I’m hearing is the X5’s blacker background, and greater refinement – it’s simply more effortless in its presentation.
Queuing up bassier tracks (some hip-hop and electronic) and I’m finding similar contrasts with the bass. The X5 remains slightly cleaner and more defined – and the X1 is slightly more confined – but the overall tonality is very, very close. For those who already have the X5 – but want a more portable solution for an active lifestyle – you’re going to love the X1.
Moving to Amber Rubarth’s binaural track Tundra to check soundstage – and level matched, the stage is very similar between X1 and X5. The overall width and depth of stage is slightly better with the X5 – again that beautiful black background is the major difference – but the X1 is again really close.
Switching now between iP4 and X1 – and now the differences are easier to spot. The X1 comparatively is a lot smoother, warmer and fuller – especially through the mid-range – where the iP4 just has a slightly thinner edge to it. Tonality is similar in its overall neutrality, so it really comes down to your preference on signature. I like both. To me this is the beauty of this little DAP – it doesn’t strive to shine in any one area – it just present s a beautifully smooth and balanced presentation. No, it doesn’t have the effortless detail of higher end DAPs like the X5 – but for the price I’m not complaining.
For the next section, I paired the X1 with the Fiio E11K portable amp.
X1 and E11KX1 and E11K
This was far harder to objectively compare – mainly because I couldn’t fast switch. Each time I changed, I had to plug and replug the amp and IEMs, plus also switch the setting between headphone out and line out. Because I couldn’t rapid switch – it just became too hard to reliably detect any differences (and this was after very accurately volume matching). So all I can say so far is that:
The Fiio E11K is to my ears a really nicely neutral amp, and if this is the way Fiio are going with their house sound (IE away from some of the very warm offerings in the past), then I am definitely impressed.
The difference between line-out and headphone-out (to my ears) is very minimal – with the obvious difference simply having additional power on tap for harder to drive headphones.
I’ll leave the speculation that the line-out is cleaner to other reviewers. I’m not hearing it. Both H/O and L/O sound very similar to me – and also very good quality.
The X1’s amp section is surprisingly good. The power output is listed in the specs earlier in the review. We already know the X1 has no problems driving low power IEMS, so how does it do with something more demanding – like the HD600 at 300 ohm? Again after some careful volume matching using test tones and an SPL meter, I put the X1 up against my NFB-12, just to see how well it could drive the HD600.
X1 with Fidue A83X1 with HD600
After a lot of A/Bing, I came away really impressed. Yes, the X1 was requiring around 60% of its power to drive the HD600, but I wasn’t finding a huge loss of dynamics. This little DAP really packs an incredible punch – and I’d be almost as happy listening to the X1 unamped with the HD600s on a Sunday afternoon, as I would be sitting at my desktop. I needed to find out how the E11K would affect things though, so I tried again with the line-out engaged, E11K plugged, and the same tracks queued on the X1. The difference now is the amount of power available. I’m about 33-35% on the pot with the E11K (on low gain) and still getting the same glorious sound. Switching to some really dynamic classical, and there is plenty of headroom – and this is where the X1 + E11K combo shines. These two look like they were made for each other, and pair together really well. I simply can’t think of a better combination right now - $100 DAP and $60 amp – and the result is sonic bliss able to drive most mid-fi headphones.
Fiio rates the battery life under current firmware at around 12 hours, and thinks they can get up to 15 hours once the firmware matures. I apologise as I’ve been traveling with clients since the X1 arrived and haven’t had time to I run a ‘real world’ test. But I can say that I’ve been playing the X1 for around 7-8 hours a day, and it’s having no issues. Charging is relatively quick – around 3 hours. And you can play the X1 whilst it’s charging.
SD MICRO CARDS (PERFORMANCE/SCANNING)
From first power on, it’s taking the X1 around 9 seconds to get from cold start to the menu screen. That’s plenty quick enough for me. So far I have 825 tracks loaded onto a 64Gb card. When running a manual scan – the 825 tracks take approx. 9 seconds to run a full update. Compared to my old Studio V3 this is pure bliss!
In order to test the X1’s performance with different formats, I took one of my Dylan albums (Infidels) originally purchased at 24/96, and transcoded the album into the following formats – 24/96 WAV, 24/96 FLAC, 24/192 FLAC, 24/96 ALAC, 24/96 AIFF, 16/44.1 MP3 (320 kbps), 16/96 aac (256), and 16/44.1 ogg – each track a different format. The X1 played them all admirably with no issues at all – except for a slight noise (clicking) when switching between some of the formats.
SUMMARY The interesting thing I found when Fiio first announced the X1 was that they advertised it as the DAP for the young. I’m guessing this may be more a reference to the beginning audiophile, or maybe someone who can’t afford any of the emerging HQ DAPs being offered in the $300+ range. Now I’m probably not going to be (at the ripe young age of 47) considered as their main demographic audience – but as I stated earlier, I’ve already committed to buy this unit, and I have absolutely no regrets. Maybe the reference should be to the young at heart – then I’m a definite qualifier.
For $100 + the price of a micro SD card, you get an incredibly well built and stylish DAP, which sounds extremely good, is very well sized for portability, has a really good UI, and has power to burn – at least enough for any IEM and most portable headphones. Add Fiio’s E11K amp for another $60 and you have a portable solution that’ll drive most mid-fi headphones out there (at least up to 300 ohms).
What’s more, the X1 has no right sounding as good as it does at this value point. Fiio has (like they did with the X5) set a new bar for cost / performance ratio on a budget.
The X1 is not just for the beginner though – it’s for everyone. The worst part for me now is that I have to pack both the X1 and E11K up tonight, and send them through Australasia on their 4-6 week tour. I’ll really miss the ultra-portable solution over the coming weeks – but at least I can look forward to the fact that I will be getting it back in the near future (and then it’s permanently mine).
I would unreservedly recommend this DAP to anyone looking for a low cost ultraportable solution. In my mind, this IS the bargain of 2014.
Well done Fiio – you've reset the standard once again.
Pros - good build, good sound for the price
Cons - user interface is meh
Overall build seems quite nice. It has a solid metal feel in your hand and there's some heft to it (good or bad, depending how you feel about weight). Edges are all clean, and there's no looseness. Buttons are firm and responsive. The only thing I don't like is the wheel, which feels a bit wobbly. If there are no buttons built into the wheel, it should be steadier than that. It's also too smooth for my liking; a more textured surface would have been better for grip and being able to feel if I'm actually spinning the wheel or not.
The power switch is recessed which is good so you don't accidentally bump it, but the rubber sleeve has a nub on the inside which increases your likelihood of accidentally pressing it, so... one step forward, one step back?
Screen resolution seems decent. It's enough to display the cover art which I don't really care too much about. *shrug*
No internal memory? Seriously?
The UI is reasonably intuitive and fairly smooth. I didn't go through any manuals and was able to figure out how to move around the menus without any issues. Updating the firmware is also a cinch. That said, I still have a bunch of gripes over the UI.
First of all, why doesn't the wheel control volume? This is the most intuitive thing and it practically seems backwards to not have that. You can get rid of two buttons in one stroke. On that matter, the volume buttons are then no longer volume buttons when the screen is off and instead switch tracks if you hold them. Changing button assignments is just confusing for the user and really makes no sense. If you want to implement a hold-to-activate when the screen is off to prevent accidental button presses, ok I guess that's fine, but don't change what the buttons do.
I also don't like the lack of memory on poweroff. It'd be nice if it jumped back to the last song/playlist when you turn it back on.
Back to the scroll wheel, the lack of texture also makes it difficult to be precise. I can't feel if I'm actually moving the wheel at times which makes control sloppy.
These several factors make the X1 not that great for pocket fumbling use while on the move, which in my mind is a big detractor from the portability factor.
My main comparisons for sound here are my aging Sansa Fuze and Clip+. I listened primarily while walking around, which some will argue is not an ideal time for critical evaluation, but to me that is the intended usage.
Even with the din of people, traffic, nature, etc, I could tell that the X1 was more defined across the board. Deep bass on the Fuze feels mushy in comparison, and the treble presence wasn't nearly as good (though the bigger difference was easily in the bass).
Powerwise, it's got plenty of oomph for a dap. I even plugged it in directly to the newfangled HiFiMAN HE-560 and got reasonable sound out of it. Just for a laugh I tried the HE-6... I got volume, but felt like I was listening through a cardboard tube.
I played with the EQ for a bit, but really was not impressed. Turning up the bass produced a tubby sound, and messing with the treble made things sharp and tinny. I have a few different EQ plugins on my computer and those all produced a nicer sound than the X1.
Pro: It's a step up in sound quality from my Fuze. Not huge, but noticeable in a “busy” environment so that's good
Cons: UI is ok but annoying, bigger and heavier than my Fuze, no internal memory.
Verdict: For me personally, even though the sound is better, it isn't enough to justify the increase in bulk and clunkier interface.
Pros - Solid build; Excellent sound; Fun sound with a slightly bass emphasis;
Cons - UI needs some work; Battery performance could be a little better
a. I am in no way affiliated with Fiio
b. The X1 audition was a part of a world tour audition.
c. There is no monetary or in kind gain due to the audition.
With the disclaimer out of the way, I will focus on the device performance with 2 considerations:
1. Look and feel, functionality
2. Device performance with various earphones/headphones
1. Look and feel, functionality
I have not owned a Fiio DAP in the past. I do own a couple of Fiio headphone amps and can easily summarize that all of Fiio products are build very well. They feel solid and provide trouble free performance for a long time.
The X1 is lightweight but is very sturdy. It can sit very comfortably in your pocket without troubling you or itself!
The silicone case provided along with the player provides a skeptic of additional protection to the device in the event of a fall. I didnt want to test a fall as the device is in the process of multiple auditions by others.
A DAP merits evaluation of its usability along with the quality of playback equally. One will spend a long time with the user interface and functionality, building muscle memory of the various functions, in order to reduce interaction with the device as much as possible (I know this sounds contradictory, but one wants to mainly listen to music from a DAP rather than play with the UI).
The center wheel reminds you of the old iPod Classic that a lot of us have loved in the past. This one has a very tactile feedback with tiny and reassuring click when rotated. There is a little bit of a gap between the wheel and backing, which can be a comfortable nesting place for lint/dust etc.
In the iPod classic, the wheel played the role of the main selector when not playing music, and doubled as the volume control when playing music. The wheel on the Fiio X1 acts as a selector when playing music as well. For someone who is familiar with the navigation of the iPod Classic, this will take a bit of getting used to. Personally, I prefer the wheel to be more useful with additional functionality, as it feels very well built.
I do have a bit of a nitpick in this section and then we can get to the parts where the X1 shines. When playing music, if I want to skip a track, or pause/hold, I need to use the power button to switch on the display (power save) and then perform the necessary action. I think this will need to be managed better, as I would like to make those choices without having to start up the display.
Which then takes me to the display review. User interface can be switched to 2 different skins - Vertical strips or semi circular sections. The wheel controls navigation across the various menu items. The Forward and Reverse buttons can also be used for the same. Volume control is on the side of the device, like in a mobile phone, below the power button. The power button does the usual display sleep when pressed once, and power down with a long press.
The battery performed decently during playback, with a drain dependent on the headphone/earphone being driven. Standby seemed to drain the battery, a little more than my standby expectation. I am not sure if it because of a beta firmware; I believe this could be a software problem, rather than a weak battery.
Now onto the best part.
2. Device performance with various earphones/headphones
I tried the DAP with various headphones - ATH A900, Fostex T50rp, AKG k240 Sextett, Panasonic HTF-600s and ATH M50. The device comfortably drove almost all the headphones well.
The AKG is a little power hungry due to the higher impedence - the DAP was able to drive it with a high volume setting. A headphone amp was required to power it sufficiently, but the DAP was able to do a much better job compared to my other sources.
The X1 has an intimate sound and is not as airy and has an intimate sound stage, but with good separation. The sound from most devices was a little bright on bass, but with very good fidelity.
Then I tried the device with multiple earphones- Shure SE530, Sony XBA 3, JVC FXD80, MEElectronics A151, A161p, Astrotec AX35, Apple Earpod earphones to name a few. And I had a revelation.
While the player was very good with the dynamics and nanotube coated micro drivers, it had a special effect on the BA earphones - specifically XBA 3 and the A151; the player complemented the characteristics of the BA earphones so well that I was in heaven. Below is some of my observations and analysis (I could be wrong and YMMV).
Paired with Sony XBA 3
The Sony XBA 3 has a bit of a love hate relationship. As well understood at Head-fi, the XBA 3 is a phenomenal performer with a jarring defect - Metallic treble grating. On certain tracks which are hot on treble, there is a resonant grating feel to the treble which is a very uncomfortable experience. Especially at high volumes. I tried the XBA 3 on the device after trying some of the larger headphones. As a result, the volume level was a little high.
When I hit play on the Metallica - Black album, I was in for a great surprise! Instead of the grating treble, I heard a very velvety, involved sound that straight put a smile on my face.
The X1 + XBA 3 felt like a match made in heaven. The harsh treble was subdued and the bass felt right. Very right. I then played a mixed playlist of hip hop, prog rock, game music. Everything sounded so wonderful. The sound was very slightly outside the head, intimate and velvetty. Very clear, like the way music ought to be listened to. I have very rarely felt this with the XBA 3. I have felt this before on a Beosound 3 + SE530 before. Never on the XBA 3. The X1 made want to listen to the XBA 3 all the time. So those who are stuck with the XBA 3, do get the X1 in order to fall in love with the XBA 3!
Paired with A151
The A151 has been a favorite of mine ever since I got them. While I dont listen to them regularly, I often return to them for a clean sound (although slightly dark). With the X1, the A151 felt like home, and I had a fabulous time with this combination. The X1 seemed to provide the much missed bass emphasis while not muddling the overall sound signature of the A151. Another combination made in heaven!
I then sat down and tried to understand what could be the reason the X1 matched so well with the XBA 3 and the A151. Here is my theory.
With the XBA 3, the harsh upper treble was slightly subdued, providing for a very rich listening experience, sans the harshness.
With the A151, the slight bass emphasis gave the A151 a refreshing punch to the bass frequencies, adding to its rich treble and mids.
If you have a tight budget, need to start loving your XBA 3 again, or get more out of your BAs, and quality of sound is a definite must, then go ahead and buy the X1 when it becomes available. For all others, go ahead and buy the X1. The quality and sound really gives you a very compelling price point.
Pros - Sound is terrific (not just at this price)...Build quality is excellent...UI is very easy to use...It's cheap!!!
Cons - UI has some limitations in folder view (on original firmware), screen can be hard to read on a sunny day.
The Fiio X1 Begs The Question: Do I Really Need A Flagship DAP?
Before I get into anything resembling a detail about the X1, I want to thank everybody at Fiio for once again doing all of us a solid with their X1 tour. With any luck, there will be an X7 tour down the road....
First Things First:
Unique Melody Miracle
Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs 3.2
(Format is flac and all are generally very well-mastered recordings. Unfortunately, I'm of little help to those who enjoy EDM or Hip-Hop.)
Led Zeppelin - I, II, III 2014 Remasters, 24/96
Bob Marley - Kaya 24/96 HDTracks
Nick Drake - Bryter Layter 24/96 HDTracks
Steely Dan - Gaucho MFSL 16/44
Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic 16/44
Hall and Oates - Greatest Hits 24/96 Vinyl Rip
Beck - Sea Change MFSL 16/44
Joe Pass - Joy Spring 16/44
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue Remaster 24/96 HDTracks
Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense 24/96
2L Recordings - The Nordic Sound 24/96
Bob Dylan - Desire MFSL 16/44
Cowboy Junkies - Whites Off Earth Now! MFSL 16/44
Neil Young - Harvest CBS Mastersounds Vinyl Rip 16/44
Pink Floyd - DSOTM MFSL 16/44
Does It Sound Like A $100 DAP?
Yes, but only if we're talking about the buying power of the dollar in say, 1977. For $100 in 2014, this is quite an achievement. After about 5 minutes with it, I had to ask myself whether I really need a flagship DAP in my life after all...I've committed no small sum of money to the LH Geek Wave XD128 and I'm quite certain that it will not sound 10 times better at 10 times the cost. Coupled with its price, the fact that it's both great-sounding and easy to use leaves one with the feeling that they've somehow beaten the audiophile sorry-about-your-wallet market place. I really think this little thing, while it does have its limitations as far as power (couldn't sufficiently drive my Mad Dogs like the X5) and functionality are concerned (it cannot be used as a standalone DAC when hooked up to a computer), sounds terrific, especially with the UM Miracle, which was a very pleasant surprise. The X1 is going to make a lot of people quite happy and should set an industry standard with a buyer's remorse rate of......
Thank you, Dean Wormer. I simply can't imagine any reasonable person regretting a purchase of the X1 - it's that good. It actually reminds me of the X5 quite a bit (though this is from memory, not an A/B), the difference being the X1 has more weight in the lows (which are also looser) and a slight, but noticeable reduction in the highs. It still is very detailed, so don't take that as a negative. I actually found the X5 to be a bit too sparkly at times and think the X1 does a better job in this regard, as it does its rendering of the upper registers with more politeness. I found the mids to be fairly neutral, neither prominent nor recessed, though I must note that clarity was very good, especially compared to the Cowon J3. Voices and acoustic music had a very natural-sounding timbre and perhaps this is what reminds me of the X5 more than anything.
The X5 wins out in the bass department for me as it isn't boomy at all (some may call it 'warmth') while the X1 does have a bit of junk in the trunk. I prefer tight, fast, but not overly polite bass and I think that is exactly what the X5 offers. I have no qualms with the X1, though - it's just a different hue of the Fiio house sound that some may prefer...However, this thing is $100 dollars and it is not as though you're listening to a DAP by Dre or anything.
Compared to my J3, the X1 is a full step above in every respect when it comes to sound quality, and this is of course only when considering the 16/44 files (that is as high as the J3 will go). I could not think of any reason why I would choose the J3 over the X1 if that is my only concern, and I have to confess it was not a pleasure to give it up and go crawling back to my J3 when the 10 days expired. As is the case with the X5, well-mastered recordings really shine coming from the X1 and I cannot emphasize this point enough.
Not surprisingly, the J3 has the better battery life and is smaller, but the X1 currently gets about 11 hours of playtime (respectable though less than stellar) and future firmware updates should increase this to 12-15 hours per Fiio's website.
Can I Use It While My Brain Is Preoccupied?
Absolutely! It has a simple, easy-to-navigate UI that is nearly identical to the X5's. I was on the original firmware and the only annoyance I found was that when an album finished playing in folder view, it would not start playing the next album by itself - you have to take it out of your pocket and select the next one. I'm an album guy and sometimes I just let one play right after the other...I don't know if this has been changed, but I hope they do at some point. It isn't a big annoyance, but I have to mention it. There were no bugs while I used it, which is perhaps the most important thing to mention about the UI experience. The X3 and X5 had their fair share, but I think what they have now is nearly a finished product. The only other problem worth mentioning is the screen; it is fine indoors, but it just isn't bright enough in sunlight. This is part of the reason it costs $100, so adjust expectations accordingly.
Will It Fall Apart If I Sneeze In Its Vicinity?
Heck, no! Build quality is excellent and the scroll wheel is better than the one I used on the X5 tour - the tolerances between the moving parts are extremely tight, so there's no play on this one. Well done, Fiio. The buttons are both sturdy and low-profile and there's a fairly satisfying 'click' (more tactile than auditory) when pushing them. The buttons on the side of the player are on one side only, so there isn't any danger of accidentally pressing buttons on the opposite side when you give it a squeeze (something I have to deal with on the J3). The unit feels quite sturdy in hand and has enough weight to feel like there is some important stuff inside that makes it sound the way it does. I've seen some call it ultra-portable, but I think that is a stretch. It's quite portable, but the moniker 'ultra-portable' belongs to the Clips and Nanos of the world. No need to worry, though - it's perfectly fine on the go as it passed the shirt-pocket-Saigon-commute-on-a-scooter test with flying colors. Overall, the build quality is simply fantastic for a $100 device. Here are some pics:
Nothing, really. If you want all of the specs,
Spoiler: click this link
The X1 is an astonishing product for the budget-conscious consumer who has been bitten with the audiophile bug; this will be affordable to so many people who simply cannot buy a flagship DAP (especially in developing countries like Vietnam), but want a device with the audiophile in mind; Fiio should be commended for this, but I think they will be amply rewarded with increased sales volume (I hope they've anticipated this and can handle the spike). My bottom-line statement on the X1 is that the good folks at Fiio have given us a great reason to not be "sorry about our wallets" and have hit the target about this well...(pardon my sporting allegiances)
. Bye for now...