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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by Joe Bloggs, Aug 21, 2014
Pros - Great sound, extremely portable, user interface is best Fiio yet, incredible value.
Cons - None at this price range.
1. I’m reviewing the player as part of the X1 Preview tour.
2. I have no affiliation with FiiO in any way.
3. I wasn't given external incentive to write a positive review, financial or otherwise. I had the player for ten (10) straight days and then the player was sent to the next previewer, for which, I had to pay for shipping.
Thanks to everybody at FiiO for the opportunity to try and review the player.
I'm an avid music lover. I'm all about listening music on the go, I have tried several Apple product but never own one. To carry a brick has never been an option for me. Used many Creative players for years. The X3 was my first hi-definition portable player.
I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but certainly can appreciate quality and I drive myself to find it with the better value possible. My music taste goes from Jazz, to Industrial, to Rap. My digital library is now mostly flac but also a lot of lossy mp3 files (224 kbps or more), and some 24bit flac files.
I’m a web developer and app developer for smartphones, technology is part of my life.
About this review
This review comes after evaluating the player for 10 days straight as my main player.
For details about the specifications and content of the box check other reviews or Fiio’s website.
The X1 follows the steps of it's bigger brother the X5, aluminum is premium, size and weight makes it extremely portable, a true pockeable device. The X1 comes in two colours, I tested the silver one, I'm a sucker for all black devices (X5 style) but the silver looks elegant.
Regarding the ports available, the X1 support both lineout and headphone out, but these share one 3.5mm jack, switchable via menu option. There is just one micro SDCard slot as with the X3, but on the X1 it feels more secure, even when there is no plastic or metallic cover. Finally there is a Micro USB port for charging and data transfer.
The screen is small but it doesn't ruin the experience with the player. Somehow the updated UI makes sense and just work on the limited size of the screen. The brightness of the screen could be better, but this was expected at this price point.
User Interface is best Fiio yet, this doesn't mean is perfect, is based on the X5 UI, but with a good amount of improvements.
Following the software improvements, the scroll wheel feels better than the X5. More precise, not sure if the size of the wheel helps on it's handling or just a plain improvement from Fiio.
Player is fast and responsive, it doesn't slow down noticeable even when high definition files are in use.
To put it simple, it sounds very good. For this price, is hard to believe how good it sounds, is not as natural as the X5, but you will find that is not easy to difference one from another without a critical listening.
In general, it has less details and highs feels hotter than the X5, but none of these are really issues, the X1's sound is very enjoyable, with very good details and a bit lush, a sound that is superior to any smartphone I have tested.
Gapless playback works as expected.
There is no internal storage on the X1. One Micro SDCard slot is available, I throw diferent cards at it, 128GB, 64GB, 32GB, 16GB with different speeds, all worked effortless.
The player had solid performance in average use during 10 days, never hang/froze.
Battery life wasn't measured.
Firmware used: 0.17 beta
Earphones used: V-Sonic's GR07 BE.
For US$99 / £99.99 the X1 is an amazing player with a value that is second to none.
Build quality is superb, very enjoyable to use and deliver great sounds, specially from such small package. Fiio has manage to deliver a product that is has to be up there with the all-time best value audio devices ever.
Great portable solution, to pair with not so expensive earphones and have a great, enjoyable experience without breaking the bank.
(The Fiio X family)
(X1 on top, X3 and finally X5)
Pros - Great build, improved scrollwheel over X5, better interface than X5
Cons - Not as neutral as the X5, more forward sound signature
Well…it’s not the X5, it’s true. It also doesn’t cost US$350.00. It definitely isn’t a Rockboxed Sansa Clip, and it definitely isn’t an iPod Touch. These were the different units (unamped) I compared the X1 to (unamped as well) when I participated in the X1 tour organized by FiiO.
So what is it? The X1 is a small, well-built and pretty-looking little DAP built by FiiO to appeal to those more in the “budget-fi” market. It will have an MSRP of about US$100. It features a variant (improved) of the good UI they introduced with the X5. It uses the same clickwheel as the X5, but it’s a little smaller and as a result actually works better. It also has no black border around the screen like the X5 does. It only has one micro-SD slot, and does not work as a DAC.
It has a sound signature that is closer, more in-your-face, than the X5’s and as a result is definitely a little warmer (not necessarily bassier) than its older sibling, the X5. It still sports great placement of sounds, and does a wonderful job of presenting dynamic range in recordings that have it.
I put the X1 through its paces using FLAC 16/44 files and ran through multiple genres, from jazz to rock to classical to folk to electronic and all were enjoyable, the electronic more so than the others).
I used my Magnum X build (Magnum X drivers in Korina sleeves and SR325is cups), my SR80 pink drivers in African Blackwood cups, a pair of Blox M2C and a pair of HiSound E212 IEMs. The bass from the HiSounds was too much…impressive, but a little overwhelming. The Magnum X felt harsh after a while, but the SR80 pinks and the Blox sounded just right.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the X1. I will not, however, be selling my X5 and replacing it with one. This is a good thing. To be honest I was a little afraid I would want to ditch the X5 after five minutes with the X1. To its credit the X5 withstood the challenge. The iPod Touch and the Sansa Clip will remain where they are (in the upper right desk drawer, the Clip waiting for my wife to take it running, the iPod Touch waiting for me to use its timer in my morning meditation sessions).
The established hierarchy in my household will remain the same, but I suspect it will not in other people’s homes. The X1 is going to be a solid contender in the market. It has great build quality, has a few improvements on the X5 (UI and clickwheel implementation), and despite not sounding quite as good as the X5, is still nothing to be ashamed of in the audiophile arena.
Now all we need is for FiiO to release either an IEM or an earbud to go with it with their usual emphasis on quality and value…
Pros - Size/performance ratio, sound quality/price ratio, power/price, UI responsiveness.
Cons - No "hold" button, UI setup, Filename display
First of all thank you to Joe Bloggs for including me in the trials.
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with FiiO, I received this unit for review purposes only. The following review is a result of a 10-11 day period in which I had the X1 for a trial and sent it on to the next recipiient for the same purpose.
X1 Overview: a quick look at Design, Build Quality, and UI.
It seems to me a bit like a well done revamp of the iPod Classic; sleek and shiny with a turnwheel but with buttons. I think it looks much nicer without the black silicone casing but having it included is nice, but I agree with a previous review that something like the semitransparent grey case of the X5 would be nicer. I don't much care about looks though, so that's all I have to say on the topic.
It looks and feels like it can take some pretty serious abuse, be thrown into a chaotic ladies purse for a week or so, and come out unfazed, EXCEPT for the micro SD slot. It's exposed without the silicone case and that seems odd to me. Adding a small cap or slide to protect the slot would make sense to me. Otherwise a solid feeling piece of equipment.
The UI is for basic uses a very easy to navigate, intuitive design. Very responsive for what happens in your ears, a slight lag for changing the image etc on screen. However, beyond basic use it does get a little iffy in the sense that there are a fair few options to navigate and understanding which button does what in which menu took me a little getting used to, and I even gave up on trying some of the features offered. For someone who wants plug and play music, listening to albums as they are without messing about with the settings this is an excellent player, for those who like to fiddle, this may not be the best choice (strictly from a UI perspective).
The ability to switch between HO and LO could also be a bit shorter IMO. I do a lot of switching between 'phones and speakers and it was a bit annoying to have to do the whole navigation every time.
Another nitpick I have would be the way the filenames are displayed. I would have displayed the browsing by album/artist/genre/whatever by file tags and not directory names. There is the option of directory browsing, so why not use the whole filenames there, and display by tags in the categories which are by default according to the file tags?
Overall very good with a few small gripes.
Other Gear Overview: a very brief overview on the cans used for testing and components for comparison, and a crushingly basic overview of each:
Skullcandy Aviators, V-Moda M80's, AKG K141 MKII's, AKG K240 Studio's, and the SoundMAGIC HP100's.
The first 2 are easy to drive, and my Galaxy note 8.0 drives them fairly easily (just not well), the AKG's are equally hard to drive and the hardest to drive in the list, and the HP100's fall somewhere in the middle.
Soundwise I would rank them in the order mentioned with a difficulty in choosing between the K240's and the HP100's due to very, very different signature.
Sources for Comparison:
In order of preference Galaxy Note 8.0, Realtek, iBasso DX50, FiiO E18 Kunlun, and the ODAC
In order or preference: cMoyBB, Marantz PM230, E18 Kunlun.
X1 Sound: (and how it compares)
I found that it faired very well with all the cans used, with all genres auditioned. Having a warmish sound I think it paired up very well with both AKG's that have a slight roll-off in the sub-bass department. None of my headphones are considered properly hard to drive, but the X1 has enough power and more for all of them. The Highest I went, if memory serves, was 90 (out of 100). And that was LOUD.
Very controlled for the price. Warm, musical, not overbearing with very little (almost imperceptible to me) leak into other frequencies. A massive improvement over the the Galaxy and the Realtek, not as good as the E18 as whole, or the ODAC amped be the E18. The cMoyBB, I have come to learn, is plain not good, has high distortion at low volumes, so from here-on-in I shall not include it the review.
Ever-so slightly recessed to my ears. Reasonably detailed, did not strike me as the "winning" part of the sound signature. For the projected price it does it's job and more, but it was a noticable step down from my better sources (ODAC. E18), as it was a noticeable step up from the worse ones (Galaxy, Realtek). Vocal reproduction was fair for the price, both male and female, and guitars, violins, and snare drums were fairly detailed.
This one is a harsh comparison because I find that both the E18 and the ODAC have really sparkling trebles. The DX50, while not quite up to snuff with the previous sources, is still a fair way ahead of the X1, so it took me some getting used to; but comparing them to the poorer sources, as consistent with the other ranges, it was a massive step up. The tails of cymbal crashes were more distinct, pops and sighs in singing were more clearly heard and it was generally more engaging and musical than your average consumer sources.
Soundstage and Imaging:
Are once again a fair reflection of the asking price. Not as good as the more expensive audio chains in my arsenal, but far ahead of consumer audio.
Separation and Layering:
This is where I think it really packs a punch above it's asking price. The separation is only marginally behind the DX50 which is far more expensive. It does a wonderful job of separating the difference sonic elements allowing you to sit back and be enveloped in your music.
I would happily recommend this to any beginning audiophile, and may even get one for my father next gift-giving occasion, but I have enough portable solutions, and better (more expensive ones), of my own that I wouldn't get one for myself. A great player for the price though. I'm almost sorry it hasn't existed longer so that I may have had a smoother entry into the world of researched audiophilia.
Pros - Price/Performance ratio, size, build quality
Cons - None
I received a unit of the Fiio X1 as part of the X1 world tour. I am in no way affiliated with Fiio, and in exchange for letting me demo the X1, I am required to give my honest thoughts about the X1.
I'm not going to post a picture of the box itself, since my unit is a pre-production one and it came in a plain white cardboard box. The final release would probably have some pretty nice designs so I guess we'll have to wait and see.
The X1 came with the following:
1) 3 pieces of screen protector (1 has been applied)
2) 1 black silicone case
3) 1 micro USB cable
4) Quick Start Guide
5) Warranty card
The X1 feels really solid on my hands. I'm still having a hard time figuring out if the body is made of aluminum or plastic, but I'm going to guess its a mix. The back cover feels like plastic, while the rest feels like aluminum. However, the plastic is really solid so I do not think there would be any issues arising from heavy usage.
Right away I noticed that each button on the X1 has an etching of its functions. This is a great addition for people like me who often skips the included manual and jump straight to the device. With the X5, I had to go through the manual (which is not a bad thing) but I sometimes find myself forgetting what each button do in the beginning.
Power, reset, volume buttons
Top left clockwise: Back, Forward, Previous, Menu buttons
As you can see in the pictures, Fiio has decided to retain the design of the center button as in the one in the X5. While I like the way it beautifully reflects light, I dislike the way it traps dirt and grime in the little ridges of the rings. Some might not be affected by it but I like my stuff clean and its a pain to remove the dirt. I had to use a stiff bristled brush to get to the little ridges where cloths can't. And since the scroll wheel doesn't sit exactly flush on the X1, some dirt also gets trapped on the sides of the wheel itself.
Notice the tiny white specs around the outside of the wheel
On the volume up key, there is a little nub so that you could tell which key you are pressing without looking. This nub is even present on the silicone case and is good news for those who keeps pressing the wrong volume keys.
Compared to the X5, the scroll wheel on the X1 feels a lot sturdier. Although it still raises a little when you press on the opposite side of the wheel, it does not feel as flimsy as the one on the X5. The scrolling action feels a lot more controlled and tight on the X1. Another point to note is that the wheel is not rubber coated, which may be a good or bad thing depending on each individual. To me, it is an upgrade as I always feel like I have to be careful with the X5 or the rubber coating would start peeling and come off and based on my experience with other gadgets, the rubber coating would start peeling off within a few years or even months regardless of how you use it.
The buttons on the X1 is nice as solid and gives a good (satisfying) tactile response with each press. The clicking sound does sound a little loud, and I don't think my roommate appreciates the clicks while he's asleep (I like listening to music before bed).
The X1 comes with a single microSD slot which supports up to 128 GB as per Fiio's specifications. What I like about this slot is that it doesn't come with the flimsy rubber covers. The one on my X5 became quite loose even though I only open and closed the covers for less than 10 times and I have to exercise caution each time I open it so it doesn't break. The microSD sits flush in the X1 after it is inserted.
The included silicone case is a nice touch. It feels a lot stiffer than the one on the X5 however I would've preferred it to come in gray instead of black so that I could see the charging indicator at the bottom of the device. Being a silicone case, it does pick up lint and dust fairly easily, but there's a kind of powder coating on the case so the dust could be wiped off fairly easily using just my hands.
After taking it out of my pocket
Battery life on the X1 is really good, with a rating of 12 hours by Fiio. I only had to charge it once every two days or so. No complaints there.
The screen on the X1 is decent. The screen is very bright and looking at it by itself the colors seem pretty vibrant, but when I place it next to the X5 the difference became obvious. The X5 shows a deeper and richer color while the X1 looks washed out. Of course, it isn't much of a fair comparison based on the price point of both device, but the X5 is the only other DAP I have (other than a C30).
Next to the X5
Outdoors the screen can be seen clearly
Holding down the menu key displays the information above
The user interface on the X1 is pretty similar to that of the X5, so I had no problems using it right out the box. Anyway, it's pretty simple, so much that anyone would be able to get used to it in a matter of minutes. There is a new theme function on the X1 which allows users to choose different colors on the UI but I just stuck with the grey one.
The X1 does sound a little warmer compared to the X5, but not by a huge amount. I also find that the X1 is a little less detailed in comparison. But with the difference in price, I could not complain about the audio quality (which is still very good compared to other sources such as my Nexus 5). There is an EQ function which users can adjust, but I always disliked the idea of using EQ to adjust the sound of a DAP. It's just me .
The X1 shares a single port for the Headphone out and Line out and switches between the two through the settings menu.
I didn't use any external amps during my tests because none of my gears are difficult to drive. The amp in the X1 does a pretty decent job. It only sounds a tad softer when matched with the same volume as my X5 (taking into account the X5 max out at 120 while the X1 at 100). Using my Brainwavz M4 with the X1, I only needed to set the volume to about 25-30 while I'm outdoors and below 20 when I listen to it before bed at night. With the Grado SR60 I would have to crank the volume up to about 40-43. Any higher I would feel that my eardrums would explode. So I'm guessing that it should be adequate to drive other more demanding gear (although sound quality might deteriorate without amping).
Although I prefer the sound of my X5, I find myself reaching for the X1 more when I am going out. The X1 is simply much more lighter and more compact. It just feels much more comfortable in my pocket compared to the X5 and I do not get as many pocket presses due to the stiffer buttons compared to the softer ones on the X5. For this reason, I have half a heart on selling my X5 and buying the X1 instead since it would be much more useful for my day-to-day activities. I am not one who likes to carry too many stuffs in my pocket like the X5 strapped to an e12 or something similar as I find it impractical when I am on the go.
One thing I disliked was that the idle shutdown feature maxed out at 210 seconds on the firmware (0.17 beta) it came with. So every time I paused my song to run an errand or speak to someone for a couple of minutes, I find myself having to turn on the X1 again and again. The good news is that the latest beta firmware 0.21 has updated this feature and now it maxes out at 8 minutes.
Another problem I experienced (probably the biggest so far) with the X1 is that it sometimes sort of lags and stutters while playing a song. Initially I thought it could be due to a bad music file but when I rewind to the part it stuttered there was no more issues. This has happened quite a few times randomly but I am confident that Fiio will look into this in the future firmwares.
Fiio has produced something incredible here. With such a price point (~100 USD), it is a good DAP for those who are just starting out in the audio world and looking for better alternatives than the usual handphones and other cheap(er) China mp3 players. Knowing that Fiio will continue supporting and developing the firmware on its DAPs makes me feel like this would be a worthwhile investment for anyone who is looking for a super portable and affordable DAP. Personally, if I do not own the X5, I would have went ahead and got myself an X1 when it is released but for now, I guess I will live with the bulkier X5. I am also curious to see how other DAP manufacturers respond to the Fiio X1 with their own versions of budget DAPs in the future.
Pros - Clean sound, easy UI, good features, good build, all for an affordable price
Cons - bass extension, tiny bit of hiss, lint magnet case
I’m sure as many know by now, Fiio has started touring their first batch of pre-production X1 DAPs to get feedback from the community. I think that’s a fantastic way to gain insight of how well received the product is (as well as what needs improvement) while being a great opportunity for the community to have a chance to see if the product is for them or not. With that said, I’d like to give a big thank you to Fiio for putting me in the “Americas” roster for the X1 tour.
Of course, I have no affiliation with Fiio in any way nor do I have any incentive to give anything but my person honest opinion on the Fiio X1. With that being said, let’s take a look at this little device! This review looks at the X1 using the 0.21 firmware, which is the most recent beta firmware (as of now at least.)
The X1 is solidly built and finished quite nicely. I believe most of it is a hard and durable plastic, with a bit of metal here and there. No jagged edges or any part of the device that might make one question the durability of the it or how it was put together. Being plastic, it’s not as hefty feeling or as cool to feel as the anodized metal finish of the iBasso DAPs. Nonetheless, for the price of 100 USD, there isn’t much more I’d ask of the X1. I think the build is fantastic.
The only gripe I really have is the scroll wheel. As someone with pretty dry hands that doesn’t have all that much friction, I found the scroll wheel too smooth sometimes and difficult to use as my thumb would just glide around the wheel unless I really put some pressure on it. If they could use some material that allows for better grip, I think that would be ideal. Of course, I’m one of few people that would actually have that kind of problem, so I don’t really find it a huge problem either of course if that doesn’t change.
The case works. I personally never really liked rubber cases as they collect dust like a mother f**** but I guess it protects the X1 from scratch. Why not?
(The black case for the X1)
(Relative size of the X1)
Although not the most gorgeous or most personalizable UI (can’t really beat apple…) I found the X1 UI quite intuitive to learn and get use to. Volume control with power button on the side, forward/back buttons on the bottom, back menu button on the top right, select button in the very middle with a scroll wheel that works nicely around the select button, and a shortcut menu button on the top left. That’s about it. Simple and intuitive. Its also important to note that the screen of the X1 is quite HD. I was surprised at how nice the album cover art looked. Its no retina iPhone screen but its better than a lot of audiophile DAPs (with exceptions of course) and certainly better than anything I know under 100 dollars.
I also found the buttons very response and have a nice click to it. I personally like them more than the 3 buttons of iBasso, which always leave me wondering if I clicked on it or not. The buttons on the X1, despite being small, are very easy to identify and click on since they’re quite far apart from each other.
I liked how the X1 split the music settings and general settings into two. It makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for. Settings for the most part are quite standard. Sleep timer, brightness, etc. they’re all there. What I quite liked from the settings was how you can actually have various options for key-lock setting. When in locked, you have the option of controlling some combination of volume, play/pause, and forward/back button which I thought was pretty smart to be able to control how much control you have when the device is locked.
Another great feature of the X1 (not really UI) is its battery life. I haven’t had it run out of battery on me despite using it throughout the day. I think Fiio listed it as being >12 hours. That’s pretty damn good. That’s all I can really say on that.
One problem I’ve had with the X1 UI is the media library scan. It seems like it’s only been me though, so I’m unsure whether it’s my unit, my microSD card, or maybe me? Either way, the scan, for whatever reason, can’t seem to get past 107 songs. The reviewer before me didn’t seem to have this problem, so I’m really scratching my head on this. If it is a firmware problem, I assume Fiio will have it figured out by release. For now, well… I don’t know, let’s just assume I’m messing something up haha.
Update: So a few days of trying to get it work, it suddenly works. I did nothing different. So I assume it is some sort of rare bug that possibly occurs for whatever reason.
Another thing is that the device can get a little laggy at times. That’s nothing a restart can’t, but the goodbye animation can be pretty painfully slow to have to wait for since that lags as well.
Overall, solid UI that I’m sure many people will be pleased with as it seems the device will be fairly glitch-free for the most part upon release. Could ask for a bit more customization of how the interface looks (or just… make it look a little nicer as it looks quite basic as of now but that’d really just icing on the cake if they do.
The line out was tested with the X1 connected to the wonderful Vorzuge VorzAMP Pure II. First and foremost, the X1 line out is fairly loud (although I believe not quite as loud as the X3). The Pure II is a fantastic portable amplifier for IEMs with almost no channel imbalance. Using the X1 line out however, really pushes the Pure II to the region where channel imbalance may occur when I used the setup with the Noble 6 which, granted, is a fairly sensitive IEM. For that reason, I would put the power of the amplifier and the sensitivity of the headphone/IEM into consideration when using the line out.
Putting that aside, the sound of the line out of the X1 is quite good. It’s not as warm as I thought it would be, in fact it’s quite flat with maybe a little treble tilt that gives it a good sense of air. Detail is quite good, although the overall sound is a little thin and not as full. Bass extension and overall bass presence is also a little lacking.
Putting it all together though, you’re getting a DAC that decodes up to 24/192 for a line out with a clean and accurate sound on a device that’s 100 dollars. Good deal? Yeah.
(I was too lazy to take the DX90 off... rubber bands are hard to deal with you know? )
The overall sound of the X1’s headphone out is neutral with a bit of warmth to it. Given Fiio’s products often being described as warm (and most budget-fi products being warmer in general), the X1 did not have the warmth that I was expecting. The fairly neutral sound was very welcoming.
What I liked:
-Instrument separate is very well done for a 100 dollar device
-Nice L/R imaging and a respectively wide soundstage
-Detail is present. It’s by no means a reference class device but it doesn’t leave you wanting more (especially when you’re on the move)
-Bass is well controlled and tight
-Nice and natural sound without being boring and dull
What I didn’t like:
-Similar to the line out, the bass extension and impact are both lacking.
-Soundstage lacks depth.
-Not the best noise floor. With my BA IEMs, it’s quite obvious when music isn’t playing, although it’s not much of a problem when music is actually playing.
(X1 with Noble 6 and Brainwavz S5)
Comparison to HTC One M8:
Bleh… the M8’s sound is so mediocre and so lacking in detail. I’ve never liked it. Let’s just move on…
Comparison to iPhone 4S:
I’m assuming that this is a comparison many people will be considering. Should I buy the X1 or is my iPhone good enough? So here are my thoughts on the two devices. Short answer is, I like the X1 sound over the iPhone’s sound. Whether you want another device purely for music at the cost of an extra 100 dollars is on you (being an audio geek… I’d totally go for it!)
Overall, I’ve always felt that the iPhone 4S is a little unnatural sounding. The vocals are quite forward (too much so), the overall sound is a bit on the thin side, while the bass lacks a bit of detail and control. It’s a fantastic sounding device considering how many functions it has and it’s a very competent device for mobile use. It lags behind a dedicated music player though. Considering all the possible functionalities it has, I doubt the music player of the iPhone even consists of 100 dollars out of its total price anyways.
The X1’s sound is in some ways similar to the 4S, while improving in most aspects. Sound is a little fuller, vocals isn’t as “in your face,” and bass has more control, contributing to an overall more natural and a more enjoyable sound (to me at least). Soundstage on the X1 is also a little better. It’s a very close call though.
Comparing the X1 to the iPhone does re-emphasize the weakness I’ve stated about the X1 multiple times though. Despite the X1 bass being cleaner, tighter, and much better controlled, it’s just also very polite and not particularly extended.
(X1 with iPhone 4S. Yea my 4S is not in good shape...)
Final Thoughts and Conclusion:
I don’t praise Fiio for creating a giant slaying device. Compared to my iBasso DX90, well, the DX90 pretty much does everything better. Compare the X1 to my portable setup, well… forget that. Of course, Fiio’s goal for the X1 wasn’t to crush higher price devices and piss of all the X3 and X5 owners while they’re at it.
I do, however, praise Fiio for creating a fantastic alternative to portable audio. The X1 is a very functional device with quite a few good features that has a fun but clean sound along with a sturdy build that doesn’t make consumers feel like they have to baby it lest it breaks. All of this come packaged in a small device competitively priced at 100 dollars. As I said earlier: Good deal? Yeah. In fact, I will very likely be purchasing one myself to use as a portable device when my portable setup's size proves too impractical (like when I need it in my pocket).
Pros - solid build, great sound, scrolling wheel control, solid firmware, price
Cons - none for its price range
This is a review of the upcoming FiiO X1 digital audio player (DAP).
Until my first experience with X5, a little over half a year ago, I used to refer to all dedicated audio players as "mp3" players. It wasn't my ignorance but rather a misunderstanding where I thought that I should focus more on higher bit rate songs and better headphones, and any "mp3" player or smartphone will play audio files just fine. Introduction to X5 changed all that and opened up my eyes to a world of music without being interrupted by emails, txt, or app updates, a world where audio player is not a cheap clip on gadget on my armband, a world where I ended up "rediscovering my headphones, all over again". X5 is great as a portable DAP, but in some cases I found it to be a little too bulky/heavy. In search for other quality audio players, I acquired some other DAPs, but nothing was able to replace the ease of navigation with a scrolling wheel. Now with introduction of X1, I can rejoice with a new pocket friendly super portable DAP that sounds as good as it looks, retains its scrolling wheel design, and cost a fraction of its big brother's price tag. But don't make a mistake thinking X1 is a cheaper replacement of X5. They can both coexist in a perfect harmony with their trade-offs in size versus sound quality. Others can think of X1 as a stepping stone for when you are ready to graduate from a basic mp3 player and want to get a taste of audiophile world - a taste that will whet your appetite for the next future upgrade when you are ready. Whatever your journey is, I think a lot of the people going to enjoy this little new gem from FiiO. Without further due, here is what I found while testing this fine little DAP.
My review unit arrived in a package similar to the latest E10k/E11k boxes resembling a size of double CD case. Inside, X1 was dressed in all black silicon skin with one screen protector already applied and two additional ones available for backup. USB to micro-usb cable also was included as part of accessory package. Since this is a review unit, I'm sure the final production package will probably going to have more accessories included. Silicon skin is definitely great for a basic scratch and minimal drop protection, but I wish it would have been gray like the one that comes with X5 since you can't see X1 charging light underneath of solid black. I'm sure with soon to be available bonus accessories, you will be able to get another skin color. But in a meantime, I took it out of the skin to enjoy a beauty of its brushed aluminum finish which I'm sure a lot of you will do to show off it's sexy curves!
Weighting only 108g with a measured dimensions of about 96mm x 56mm x 13mm, it gives a new definition to ultra-portable considering a very solid build and all metal front/sides with a silver finish hard plastic back. Having a size comparable to a deck of cards, the fitment in my hand was very comfortable with a great ergonomics of being able to reach every button/wheel control with a thumb. The aluminum finish and round buttons, especially power and volume on the side, makes it resemble a bit of an iPhone look. Buttons have a very nice tactile click response. At the top you have a single 3.5mm port, used as either HO or LO, selectable in Setting menu. On a right side at the bottom there is a slot for a single microSD card, keeping in mind that X1 by itself doesn't have any internal memory. MicroSD card is easy to access which is an improvement over X5 where it was a bit recessed. On a left side at the top you have a volume up/down buttons with an etched "+" and "-", a reset pinhole, and a power button. The volume buttons are slightly raised which makes it easy to distinguish them from power button by sliding your finger, and when you have silicone skin on - volume up has a raised dot bump on its cover. At the bottom you have a micro-usb port positioned in the center with two tiny hex screws symmetrically closer to the edges. This port is used for data transfer (no USB DAC support like X5) as well as charging up it's massive 1700 mAh battery which provides over 12hrs of playback time.
Top of the front panel is occupied by a display (2", 320x240 TFT), similar but not as bright as X5, which is a first indicator where they had to cut some corners stepping down from 2.4" IPS display in X5. Single microSD on X1 versus double in X5 is another change, though 128GB capacity still supported. For those familiar with X5, you will feel right at home with its scrolling wheel control and 5 control buttons with main Play/Pause/Select in the middle of the wheel, Return/Back in the upper right corner, Menu in the upper left corner, and Skip/Select next/prev buttons at the bottom. Otherwise, the wheel control is very intuitive and easy to get used to. Though the wheel looks and functions the same, it's updated from X5. When you turn it with a thumb - you can feel/hear micro-click action, and overall scrolling feels more solid and under a better control. I'm very pleased with this update, though would have been nice for a scrolling wheel to have a better texture, something I'm sure could be upgraded in the future with a textured sticker.
Once X1 is powered up, you are presented with a new updated interface. You still have icons arranged around the semi-circle but now at the top, and the scrolling logistics has changed from X5. Instead of 7 icons in X5, you now have 5 equally spaced icons with EQ and Favorite selections combined in other sub-menus in comparison to X5. Icons are placed at the top from left to right and instead of scrolling icons wheel, you have a scrolling glow pointer with a corresponding icon description text in the notification bar. Most of the Setting and Play Setting controls remained similar to X5 with one noticeable change being an option for Theme Color which helps to improve a contrast and to customize your DAP. I didn't notice any lag while scrolling through menu options or songs. The movement is fluid and as fast as with X5. Also, it really felt like a mature firmware release, and I'm sure FiiO team will fine tune it even further. Selecting to play a song displayed a name and ID tag info (if available), cover art (if available), and song format/encoding. Similarly to X5, at the top in notification bar you have volume with corresponding value, headphone/line out selection icon, EQ setting name (either built in highly usable presets or 7-band customizable one with a precise narrow band tuning), microSD card presence, and battery status.
So how would I describe the sound signature of X1? I found it to be warm and neutral. In comparison to X5, to me it sounded as neutral without any noticeable peaks or dips, just like you would expect a good source to be. Also in comparison to X5, X1 sounded a bit thicker and less detailed with narrower soundstage. That was expected and acceptable considering we are talking about scaled down version of X5 designed for a mainstream rather than audiophile audience. But don't get discouraged by this comment. Listening to X1, without driving yourself crazy with comparison to other DAPs, is actually very satisfying. You get plenty of details across entire frequency range, and X1 built-in amp was powerful enough to drive even some of my demanding headphones that typically require external amping. For example, I was able to drive B3 Pro I without a problem at 50% volume setting. It paired up well with anything I threw at it, either portable IEMs or full size cans, and even high sensitivity IEMs didn't exhibit too much background hissing. It looks like X1 has a single gain setting, and I noticed that it required volume level on average 10 ticks lower than with X5 in its default low gain setting.
Regarding HO sound quality in a comparison to X5, you can rest assure that X1 is not X5 killer. But at the same time, the difference is not really night'n'day. While X5 sound is more detailed and with a wider soundstage, X1 is not lagging behind by too much. This difference becomes even less apparent when you switch to LO with external amp. For example, while using E11k with X1 the sound gets more detailed, with a wider soundstage, and with a deeper and more detailed low end. The ability to switch between HO and LO, where internal amp is disabled, really sets X1 above other entry level DAPs with HO only output. Also, FiiO already announced a future accessory kit for X1 to stack up with other amps (similar to HS6 kit for X5). Plus, there was other mentioning about future accessories, such as armband holder, different cases, car mount, and even audio over micro-usb LO cable since X1 connector will accommodate a new docking amp in a near future.
Overall, testing X1 left me with a very positive impression about this new FiiO DAP. It feels very solid, it performs like a mature product, and it has a great sound quality for its price range. I liked all the improvements (over X5) with a new scrolling wheel mechanism, round physical buttons, and updated scrolling menu control. Sound quality is not equivalent to X5, but that is expected at a fraction of a price. At the same time, it's not too far off and when using external amp connected to LO, you are getting even closer to X5 or other quality DAPs. For $99 this DAP has an amazing value with a hard to beat price/performance ratio especially if you take into consideration everything from its build, design, sound, and firmware. The upcoming add on accessories will add more versatility to take this DAP anywhere with you on the go while keeping its bigger brother (X5) at home for a more serious listening. With such an impressive DAP line up (X3, X5, X1) one can only imagine what FiiO is going to come up with next to blow our mind with X7 release!
Here are the pictures.
Next to its big brother X5
Paired up with E11k
Next to its "brother from another mother"
Pros - price, size, build, ui, sound overall
Cons - missing some more bass impact
First of all, I'd like to thank Fiio for opportunity to test X1 among first.
As long reviews in english isn't really my cup of tea, I'll simply share my brief thoughts about X1
— I really like size of X1. It's like a regular deck of cards (I think everyone will compare X1 with card deck ). Grab one in hand, and you can got an idea, about holding X1. Navigation buttons are easy accessible with one hand.
— I really like new UI, it's much more logical then X5's "reverse kinematic", it's sleek and fast. I hope we'll see similar UI for X5
— Scroll wheel is bit more stiff then X5 (at least my X5 from first batch), so it's easier to navigate. But more ribbed texture will be better
— Sound-wise, X1 is really good for this price. Of course, his "elder brothers" are more mature, with better details, soundstage and dynamics, but difference isn't "huge". Difference in sound is much smaller then in price
— Only one thing, that I'm missing, is really energetic bass punch with my Dunu DN-2000, but see below...
— X1 is a perfect pair with E11K, amp adds missing punch and energy, so 'sandwich" with X1 and E11K will be very tasty. Especially, if Fiio going to release stacking kit for them (confirmed by James)
So, thank you very much, Fiio, as usual, great job. I'd like to see, how competitors are going to beat this