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Portable Source Components item created by ryanjsoo, Feb 23, 2017
Pros - Generally good, clean sound
Easy to use
Cons - Treble could be a little more pronounced
Some slight UI issues (see review for more details)
This is a review for the FiiO X5iii that has been a long time coming. I was chosen as part of the review tour in March, but I've been so busy that I wasn't able to complete the review, until now, that is. My apologies to @FiiO for the delay.
Most of these impressions were transcribed from my week spent with the X5iii from a few months back. Unfortunately, since so much time has passed, most of my thoughts on the unit have faded and I can no longer accurately describe, off hand, any ad-hoc thoughts on the player, apart from the points recorded below.
Hence, this is less of a straight-up review, but more of a comparison of the X5iii against some of the other DAPs in my possession. The files and IEMs used were consistent on each device. The players used were -
Astell & Kern AK240
Astell & Kern AK380
Empire Ears Zeus XIV (with plusSound X8)
All of them were tested with my Empire Ears Zeus XIV, on a single-ended connection (with my plusSound X8 SPC cable). I played a few of my favourite songs, which are generally my go-to list of tracks that I always use to test audio equipment. I will be talking about each device in comparison with the X5iii, unless otherwise stated.
By the way, I think my review is a little too bland, so if you have any critical thoughts on my writing, please do not hesitate to let me know. Thank you very much!
So without any further delays, here it goes (don’t mind the music choices!) -
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
One of my favourite pop songs of all time, Lady Gaga’s Poker Face has an infectious melody and chorus line.
AK240: On the AK240, treble was crisp, with similar detail retrieval. It has slightly more midrange body. The X5iii sounds a touch leaner in comparison. Both are equally clear, with good instrument separation, staging and imaging.
AK380: The AK380 has the best treble presentation of the lot. Its highs are clear, detailed, sparkling but never sibilant. Soundstage is also wide and deep.
DP-X1: The Onkyo’s midrange sounds a little veiled and congested in comparison with the X5iii. Instruments and vocals are presented in a slightly more compressed stage. Unfortunately, its treble is a little sibilant, compared to the smooth highs on the X5iii.
Mojo: The Mojo has the greatest body of all the players. Against the FiiO, it is certainly weightier in tonality, with emphasis on a more prominent presentation in its mid and lower registers. Detail is top-notch, which edges it slightly above the X5iii.
X5iii: FiiO’s mid-tier champ reproduces Lady Gaga’s vocals relatively well. Its midrange was clear and detailed, with smooth highs. Layering was also on-par with the AK240, and surpasses the DP-X1 with ease.
The Cure - Just Like Heaven
A recognisable rock song from my preferred generation, the 80s/90s.
AK240: As with Poker Face, treble on the AK240 was detailed and controlled. Against the X5iii, the AK240 has a more sparkling treble presentation, and on the FiiO, a smoother sound.
AK380: Again, the AK380’s huge soundstage affords The Cure’s Just Like Heaven a perfect platform to showcase the myriad instruments playing at one go. Treble sparkle and extension edges out the FiiO.
DP-X1: The DP-X1 struggles to reproduce the splendid, coherent song in all its greatness, with a midrange that sounds a little cramped. The X5iii easily trumps the Onkyo in this regard, with clear mids and superb imaging.
Mojo: The Mojo has stronger bass, and better extensions at both ends. Its soundstage was also a touch wider than on the X5iii. The latter however, sounds a touch cleaner.
X5iii: The X5iii’s slightly muted highs fell slightly short against the Mojo, the AK240 and the AK380, but made up for it with a clear and somewhat refreshing sound. Imaging and layering are strong points of the X5iii.
Ice MC - Give Me The Light
A favourite dance track of mine. I could listen to this on repeat for over an hour.
AK240: On the AK240, bass has less impact but texture and layering are both very well done. The X5iii certainly has a little more punch in its lows.
AK380: Vocals on the AK380 were presented with aplomb, but the X5iii was surprisingly good in this regard as well. Lows on the AK380 were definitive, with better layering than on the FiiO.
DP-X1: The DP-X1 had a slightly heavier low end, with a bit more rumble than on the X5iii. However, despite its best attempts, the midrange was once again its weak point, allowing the FiiO to best it in overall musicality.
Mojo: The Mojo’s overall sound is warmer than that on the FiiO. It retains the same level of detail and vocal authority, with a heavier bass presence.
X5iii: The X5iii’s clean midrange was a star performer for this tune, allowing the mix of beats and vocals to come to the fore, with some excellent instrument separation to boot. Bass was somewhat middle of the pack when it comes to quantity, but it didn’t disappoint in its quality.
During my time spent with the X5iii, I recall experiencing some UI hiccups when I attempted to move between songs, or when I tried to scrub through the current track. Most of these UI issues are extremely hazy to me right now, but I did face a couple of bugs then.
Nevertheless, as the X5iii was a fresh-from-the-oven product during my time with it, I suppose FiiO would have worked on these issues by now.
The FiiO X5iii is definitely a contender in the mid-tier category. It held its own against the AK240, which was rather surprising. Clarity and detail was about on par with AK’s former flagship, with perhaps a touch less treble sparkle than I was hoping for. The AK380 was without a doubt, the best sounding DAP in this review, but this wasn’t something unexpected. Rather, I was intrigued to see the X5iii perform at a comparatively close level.
The DP-X1 was quite a disappointment, as it fell short on many regards. The FiiO was clearer, had better staging and layering, and is the player with the better treble presentation. Stronger bass rumble on the Onkyo was a bit of a redeeming factor, allowing it to shine better when playing dance tunes.
The Mojo is certainly a star performer in its own right, but as a portable DAC, it’s definitely not in the same category as the X5iii. It has a warmer tonality, with a more powerful midrange and heavier lows. Nevertheless, the FiiO, as a proper DAP, trumps the Mojo with its use-case benefit - an all-in-one solution. The X5iii is also the cleaner sounding player.
For anybody considering a mid-tier DAP, the X5iii is certainly a player that you should consider. While I should have included more mid-range DAPs in this shootout, I was pressed for time, and I only had my own devices to compare it with.
Again, I’d like to thank @FiiO for this wonderful opportunity to use a player that was clearly designed to blend usability, sound and convenience in one package. Well done!
Pros - Size is nice in the hand, solid build, 2 micro-SD slots for tons of storage, Google Play Store, minimal skinning on Android, good functional interface, Quick Charge, excellent USB DAC function, full-featured
Cons - Sound is very mid-fi, hiss with sensitive IEMs, button layout not terribly ergonomic, weak/poor Bluetooth, limited amplification, crowded bottom end, coaxial digital out without with lame adaptor
List Price: $399
Thanks go to FiiO for organizing a worldwide tour of the X5iii and letting me join it. After this is all over, this player will be heading back to ea audio, FiiO’s UK distributor. You can buy the player there too.
This review originally appeared elsewhere in the blogosphere.
I have done a little bit of FiiO listening in the past at shows. I liked the X3ii. I thought the X1 was excellent value for money. I wasn’t really into the sound of either the X5ii or the X7. When I last met FiiO folks I was interested in reviewing their newly released (at the time) balanced cables. I didn’t like them. They had terrible ergonomics and a bit of a thin treble happy sound—consequently other reviews of gear that I like a lot more have taken precedence for writing up instead of the balanced cable reviews. I let FiiO know that I wasn’t likely to review those samples, but I’m a bit disappointed to not have done so. I may still do it.
My history with FiiO is one of not generally liking their house sound, but when I saw that they were releasing a DAP that was Android, with two microSD slots, Quick Charge, WiFi, Google Play Store enabled, and rocking two AK4490 chips I was more than intrigued. We’ll see if the intrigue carries on to affection.
Useability: Form & Function
The unboxing experience was somewhat reduced due to this being on a tour. Folks just slam things back into the case and I have no idea what it originally looked like. What is included though is quite impressive. You get two cases, one pleather and one TPU. I’m not really a fan of either, but it’s a good include. Of the two cases I liked the pleather best, but it doesn’t have the kind of quality that the optional Opus #3 case has.
The player comes fitted with a tempered glass, which is a first for me. Good thing too, as when I took off the case I thought that one of the previous reviewers had cracked the screen whilst practicing their circus routine. Luckily it was just the screen protector.
In addition to the screen protector and cases FiiO includes a 3.5mm to coaxial female adaptor, and the ubiquitous micro-usb cable. Personally, I prefer having an optical out, and if an optical out isn’t provided, I’d rather have a direct to coaxial adaptor rather than one that makes me supply my own cable. It’s a portable device, I’m not likely to be carrying around a full-size coaxial cable and I’m not likely to need a big length. In this position, the approach that iBasso took with the DX-50 is preferable—I don’t know if they still supply 3.5mm to coax adaptors.
The lines are striking and etched lines from the Astell & Kern school of DAP design, though applied only on one side of the DAP. The rest of the DAP is just like any other rectangular brick of metal. The material choice of Zirconium and the sand blasted surface give a nice texture to the body.
The asymmetrical design may be partly responsible for the awkward fit of the pleather case, as the single sided hump makes it difficult for the structure to pull even. The alternative TPU case also suffers in the aesthetic department. First because TPU is rarely very attractive and second because the plugs for the outputs and inputs on the bottom of the DAP can easily have memory effects that make them swing out of their proper slots and just wave around saying ‘hi’ like the really drunk girl at prom.
The glass sandwich front and back are reminiscent of the Cayin i5, another fine Android player, but one that I didn’t have for this review. The front and back have understated designs with a nice dot matrix adorning the front and a four-pointed star motif gracing the back.
The FiiO X5iii has a good size in the hand with a nice weight. The sandblasted texture feels delightful in hand, but this baby was mostly in cases for me, just to protect it.
I had problems with the button arrangement. The power button and play/pause button are directly parallel one another and the fast-forward button was extraordinarily close by in terms of where your fingers go when you grip. On more than one occasion this arrangement led to pausing or skipping tracks whilst switching between DAPs or pressing to turn the screen on. I prefer layouts where the power button is on the top, like the following: Shanling M2s, TheBit Opus #3, Echobox Explorer.
I also was not a fan of having every input and output on the bottom. This can lead to a very crowded layout. I would recommend moving the line-out, if possible.
I use DAPs in a blazer inside pocket quite a bit, and I found the volume hard to reach in this use instance. There are two reasons for this: the headphone jacks are at the opposite end of the player from the volume control, and because of this must be pointed down; and the orientation of the knob means it cannot be turned anywhere but from the side. The best implementation of a volume knob on a DAP for this type of use goes to the Cayin i5, with the Echobox Explorer not far behind. The Cayin i5 only requires one finger in the pocket to turn the knob. Nice.
The build quality is excellent. The metal is solid with a good grippy surface due to the sandblasting. The headphone jacks and line-out do not protrude far, but are not flush. With 2.5mm TRRS plugs, flush matters, as the plug is not very strong due to its diminutive size. The X5iii does well here in almost getting flush, but the Aune M1s does a better job on this as it is completely flush, allowing the plug body to lend reinforcement to the jack.
The X5iii has a full Android operating system with the music player as an app. Google Play store comes included right out of the box which is refreshing after seeing both the Echobox Explorer and the TheBit Opus #3 fail to do this. The interface is mostly stock Android with a little theming. Installing apps is simple and they work intuitively with all the standard Android buttons not stomped on.
I like being able to listen to Tidal, and share my listening habits via Facebook and Twitter.
One of my biggest dislikes was the lock screen. I want to open up the player and immediately be in the player. FiiO should build in the ability to disable the lock screen.
Where I spend most of my time is the music app, and there is good and bad here.
Search function. Everyone should do this.
Genre tab with option to be organised as Albums or Songs. Everybody needs to do this.
Relatively easy to navigate
DLNA works okay for CD quality and under
USB DAC works excellently and is easy to access via drop down menu of Android
Loads of options: display album art, VU meter, lyrics
Hypersaturated colour scheme, album art and text is a bit unnatural looking. It’s basically like a TV shop display with no way to make it have more normal settings. Neon grass forever, crap. Opus #3 looks natural.
Player doesn’t start in a music playback view, or even library navigation. It has a start screen with access to playlists, library and DLNA sources. Some may like this. I’d rather have one screen and a scrolling option bar.
No scrolling option bar. If I am playing an album and want to play a playlist, I have to back up in the menus multiple steps.
I prefer having text based menus instead of icons. I understand the reason for icons (better international compatibility), I just don’t like them.
Tapping back on a track doesn’t take you to the beginning of the track and slide scrolling with fingers is restrained by case edges. It’s too hard to get to the beginning of the darn track, which can be a pain for reviewers like me. It may be less of a pain for people who aren’t repeatedly listening to the intro of Hotel California and Time.
DLNA stutters on high bitrates and has lag issues. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Not enough memory or processor speed, methinks. 2GB RAM is not expensive, folks. C’mon.
Album art view is zoomed and cropped. This sucks, and it is because of button arrangement. This could be fixed by putting the track time in the track scroll bar, and making the scroll bar thinner. Tiled buttons would also allow for a more visually compact layout that would allow the full album art to be displayed.
Lots of purchase options for the Viper effects. I would have just left this off, as this is pretty lame.
Most of the problems in the OS I describe could have been resolved through beta testing. Send me your next DAP before it comes out FiiO, I’m not asking for a freebie. I want to help you.
The X5iii is not what previous FiiO DAPs and products have been like for me. Whilst it isn’t a neutral reference due to it’s little bit of bass lift it is transparent with excellent detail. It doesn’t feel laconic like the X7 did and it doesn’t feel dark and brooding like the previous X5 series numbers did to me. This DAP may be exactly what many people are looking for and at a fraction of the cost of many other Android based players, including the Opus #3 referenced in this review. In fact, this player costs the same as the Opus #1 and has far more functionality. It has been too long and too many firmwares since the I listened to the Opus #1, so no comment on the rest of that comparison.
Full bass and mids
Good open sound
Good level of detail
Not reference bass (positive for many)
Sound not so positives
Vocals can be shouty
Sometimes guitars get a bit strident
Not as speedy as some competition
Some details smear
Not reference bass (negative for some)
Not enough power for HD600, not even close.
As there is only so much time with one of these tour units, I’m going to let the comparisons speak most for audio quality. Everything is relative anyway.
The X5iii did not do well with higher impedance IEMs. I threw both the RHA CL1 and RHACL750 at it and it sounded a bit sucked out in the mids and lacking in bass compared to what these can do with better power. I didn’t try to pair the X5iii with the HD600, as the poor performance with the RHA CL series seems a good predictor of poor performance with the HD600. I don’t recommend trying this for demanding cans without an amp.
The Noble Kaiser Encore, Unique Melody Miracle v2, and the UERR all played very nice with the X5iii. Dropping down from the top tiers of headphones the X5iii played nice with the Meze 11 Neo and Meze 12 Classics.
With Bluetooth, I found that the transmitter was not very good. I have had better quality with my cell phone (Asus Zenfone 3) and with my Avantree Priva II transmitter (best transmitter I’ve found). I tested both with the Lear BTC-01, which I’ve had good results with elsewhere.
Comparisons began with the UERR matched at 76.2 dB using an SPL meter and DIY coupler. Comparisons began in Android Mode and moved to Pure Music mode on the X5iii. All other players do not have a separate setting for ‘pure music.’ Midway through testing I switched headphones to the Noble Kaiser Encore.
First, to be fair, I’ll list off the signal chain for the S6. The S6 was connected to my laptop with the following chain:
Dell Vostro to iFi supplied generic USB 3.0 to iFi Micro iUSB3.0 to LH Labs Lightspeed 2G cable (split power and signal)
I find that this signal chain generally enhances soundstage and note resolution, so the S6 is already getting a leg up, but this would be my use case.
Sloop John B (DSD64). The S6 has a much more transparent and natural sound. The treble sounds clearer and the space in the soundstage is larger. Mids are clearer on the S6 and bass has a more natural feel. The FiiO X5iii sounds veiled in comparison with a bit of recession in the vocal range. Bass is less emphatic on the X5iii.
Georgio by Moroder has a smoother sound on the X5iii, but this also means it has a slightly lower resolution. The S6 has more power and body in every part of the spectrum.
The sound of the S6 is full and organic. The chugging bass on D’yer Ma’ker really shines on the S6. Comparatively, the X5iii sounds restrained. I like the extra body on the S6. However, the X5iii has better definition on those signature chugging bass notes, and the stage seems a little bit more defined. I think in this situation I prefer the pairing with the S6.
On Damien Rice – Elephant the strings have greater body and emotion with very natural decay and timbre. The X5iii is very clear and breathy, but the S6 is soulful. The timbre picture on this comparison is becoming quite clear. The S6 has a more lush, organic sound, but the X5iii is by no means dry on these tracks. Details are excellent on both.
Katherine Bryan — Flute Concerto Alla Marcia, the S6 has an effortless and natural depth to the stage. The width is also greater. This track used to be my treble torture test. Executed right it doesn’t pierce your ears, but has some very high notes on the flute. It also has some fantastic timpani strikes. Both the S6 and the X5iii pass the treble torture test for this track. No shrill moments on either.
On Infected Mushroom – Heavy Weight. The S6 has much greater depth and width and a far more natural flow to the music. It matches the X5iii punch for punch in detail. The sound is just dripping with power. With the power differential in the comparisons, I felt the need to try listening to the X5iii at a much louder volume. So I jacked it 10 points in volume, this should be a roughly 4 dB boost. The S6 was still fuller sounding, but it was a lot closer. It is quite possible that measurement error accounts for some of the differences in sound, but I think it unlikely that it accounts for all of the differences between the two. The X5iii has better detail resolution and precision. Note definition is tighter on all the digital percussive elements that this song has going. The X5iii is a bit faster too. Jacking the volume a bit helps with definition on the X5iii, unsurprisingly.
Audio Opus Opus #3
The soundstage is quite wide on the Opus #3 on Infected Mushroom – Heavy Weight. The Opus #3 might be the most detailed DAP I have listened to and it doesn’t disappoint here. The sound presentation is clear and uber transparent on the Opus #3. The X5iii sounds more restrained with less width in the stage and less height. The sound is also less transparent and textured. Win for the Opus #3 on this one. Trying the jack the volume test, I find that the Opus #3 still outpaces on details and soundstage width and height. The sound is just far more transparent.
The announcer is further back in the stage and the overall stage dimensions are smaller for the X5iii on Pink Floyd – On the Run, similarly on Time there is more space between the clocks and greater width on the Opus #3. The moving drummer also has greater depth to use. The Opus #3 appears to be outclassing the X5iii when both are operating in Android. Switching to pure music mode the soundstage width of the X5iii improves some. The Opus #3 still edges it here, but it is a closer battle. It’s very close, in fact. On depth after the switch, the X5iii has a less immediate presentation, but the sound stage isn’t really bigger, it’s just further away from you.
Let’s torture some treble. Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie2 should work nicely.
Both players let the sound get to the piercing levels it is supposed to achieve. Test passed. The X5iii sounds a bit veiled in comparison, though (we are in pure music mode now).
At this point, to insure that my sound interpretations aren’t just due to having a different volume measurement on the user error prone customs, I switched to the Noble Kaiser Encore and ran through some tracks again. Heavy Weight’s intro sounded a little veiled on the X5iii. The Opus #3 is more transparent with better resolution. The presentation is a bit more intricate on the Opus #3. On the repeat of On the Run the two players are about even. The announcer has equal clarity in both. If anything, I’d say the Opus #3 is a little airier with more spatial resolution, whilst the X5iii has a bit less width and a little bit firmer presentation. On Time there is a bit more depth in the presentation of clocks with greater differentiation in the stage depth on the Opus #3. The Opus #3 is crisper. When the drummer comes in the there is more impact on the X5iii. Both do an excellent job depicting his movement around the stage—the drummer’s dance is full of motion on both players.
So far for me it’s been largely about the treble differences between these two, the bigger stage of the Opus #3 and the greater immediacy and impact of the X5iii in the mids. But what if Meghan Trainor is right? Is it All About That Bass?
To find out, I’m going to throw a couple of my favourite test tracks at it: Massive Attack – Teardrop and Why – Strawberries. As expected, the X5iii has a firmer and fuller bass presentation on Teardrop. The electronic drums and bass have firmer and fuller body. For bassheads, the X5iii is definitely superior. The bass is still there on the Opus #3, but not nearly as full as the X5iii. Likewise on Strawberries, the Opus #3 has tight and resolved bass, but not the physical or emotional weight of the X5iii. The Opus #3 still has the wider soundstage on this track and the more articulate and detailed presentation, if not more emotional presentation.
Does emotional weight carry on to the mids? We’ll see. For testing emotional weight I like throwing Damien Rice’s 9 album down. I don’t know if there is a male singer who can make my waterworks just flow like Damien Rice. He may have the most emotional male vocal I’ve heard, and those lyrics don’t help either. When testing with Elephant, the Opus #3 is more airy. Guitar picks have more definition, vocals are more delicate while still maintaining emotional weight. Vocals on the X5iii had a tendency to feel a bit more shouty at the same SPL. The Opus #3 is just the more refined player of the two.
The Aune M1s has a significantly wider and deeper soundstage. It has better note resolution, it is clearer. It sounds better. This is beginning to be a pattern. The X5iii just can’t win any of my duels. Good thing the battles are more like fighting with pool noodles than a real duel.
The X5iii is on the left. Poor kid’s about to be decapitated.
At this point I just don’t have the heart to subject the X5iii to another comparison, so I decide to leave it alone vs. the Echobox Explorer. In the past I’ve found the Echobox to sound as good or better than the M1s, so the FiiO X5iii didn’t really have a chance anyway.
I had some tables in here, to show volume matching, but the Head-Fi transition appears to have eaten tables for breakfast. That was my breakfast, Head-Fi. Give it back. In the meantime, those wanting image tables, volume match tables, and tables of specifications should look go to the blog in my signature.
Audio Opus Opus #3UERRStock BalancedBalancedHigh9976.2
Aune S6UERRStock BalancedBalancedNA4776.2
FiiO X5iiiUERRStock BalancedBalancedHigh6576.2
FiiO X5iiiNoble Kaiser EncoreDouble Helix Cables Symbiote Elite SP v3BalancedHigh4778.2
Aune S6Noble Kaiser EncoreDouble Helix Cables Symbiote Elite SP v3 to Eidolic 2.5mm to 4-pin XLRBalancedNA4278.2
Aune M1S (firmware 1.05A)Noble Kaiser EncoreDouble Helix Cables Symbiote Elite SP v3BalancedLow6278.1
Echobox ExplorerNoble Kaiser EncoreDouble Helix Cables Symbiote Elite SP v3, DHC hypershort 3.5mm adaptorSENA~55%78.2
[Missing volume matching data table and specifications table, an earlier table had a feature comparison across three DAPs. Tables are awesome.]
Here are some selected stats. For full stats, go to FiiO’s website. They have done a really impressive job listing stats and their methods of measurement. This is something that should be applauded. Applaud by going and having a look at their fine work here.
DAC ChipsDual AKM AK4490EN
System on Chip (SoC)Rockchip RK3188 Quad Core Cortex A9 processor
AmplifierLow-pass filter: OPA1612, Op-amps: customised OPA426 x 2
Output powerSingle-ended: ≥250 mW (32Ω /THD+N＜1%)
Balanced: ≥240 mW (32Ω /THD+N＜1%)
Output impedanceSingle-ended: <1Ω (32Ω loaded)
Balanced: <3Ω (32Ω loaded)
Recommended headphone impedance6 - 150Ω
Total Harmonic Distortion + N (THD+N)<0.0009% (1 kHz/10kΩ, line out), <0.003% (1 kHz, headphones)
Signal to Noise Ratio120dB (Line Out); ≥115 dB (A-weighted, SE headphones); ≥111 dB (A-weighted, balanced headphone)
Frequency Response5 Hz~55 kHz (-3dB)
Channel SeparationSingle Ended (headphone): >73 dB (1 kHz)
Balanced and line-out: ≥98 dB (1 kHz)
Outputs3.5mm headphone out, 2.5mm (balanced) headphone out, 3.5mm line-out with coaxial digital adaptor
Expandable storage2 microSD slots (512GB)
Display3.97” IPS panel (480*800)
Battery<10 hours (tested), 3400 mAh
Charge modesQuick Charge, and standard
Bluetooth4.0 aptX low-latency
Format supportPCM 44.1-352.8kHz (16, 24, 32 bit); DSD64-DSD128 (single to double DSD; iso, dsf, and dff); APE; MP3; ALAC; AAC; OGG, WAV, WMA, AIFF, ALAC
AccessoriesBlack leatherette case, clear TPU case, USB cable, tempered glass screen protector (installed), coaxial digital adaptor, quick-start guide
Dimensions114.2mm (H) x 66.2mm (W) x 14.8mm (D)
The FiiO X5iii sounds acceptable to good, but the DAP is more about bells and whistles than sound. When I compared the X5iii to other DAPs and DAC/Amps it invariably lost on sound quality. It doesn’t have the audio capabilities of the Aune M1s at $249 and it lags far behind TheBit’s Opus #3 at $899 (I think this price will come down). It has better features than all the DAPs I compared it to, but if I was looking for features over sound I could probably just listen to my cell phone on plenty of music with plenty of headphones. The DAC chips are good in the X5iii, so if you feed it into an amp, the sound does improve, but if you were planning on using the X5iii as a transport, you’ll be disappointed in FiiO’s choice of a coaxial connection over an optical connection.
If sound is your most important criteria in an audio player, there are significantly better options available at price levels below and above the FiiO X5iii. Before doing this review I was hoping that FiiO had finally made a real giant killer. Some reviews out there made it seem that way, but my experience was different. This device is a great DAP shackled by an average amp. It is no giant killer.
Pros - Great design, hardware potential, customer service
Cons - Veiled sound, beta software.
I bought my FiiO X5III for my money and have no interest to promote anything. Just my critical opinion, because lot of reviewers was talking about good and all good stuff about this player it is easy to find.
Double shell – outside thin, with FiiO X5 III photo, basic specifications of device, etc. Inside – trending black box, promising something nice inside and nice unboxing experience.
I would give 7. There FiiO set new high standard in the black box you will find:
Protective glass screen shield factory assembled
Two cases – one transparent silicon, another – nice black artificial leather!
Special key for SD card removal
Red dot award – what I can to say more? Really nice looking, good feel at hand. Choice of three colors – black, titanium and red (why red, not blue?) Safe durable closed slots for SD cards. One thing I don’t like – power button – hard to push inside, especially when turning on, because you need to do it for quite long time.
Battery life 3/5
Mediocre. Hope, will improve when FiiO will fix software issues.
Computing hardware 3/5
Processor – mediocre, slow. RAM – small. There start problems – about them I will talk later.
Sound, video hardware 4/5
All chips are really high class, promising good sound. Display – just OK, lacking of resolution and vivid colors.
Bluetooth, WiFi working flawless, SE and balanced output sturdy with lot of grip, separate line out with possibility for coaxial output, OTG – it looks not working, but, hope, coming soon.
Software full of bugs plus slow processor – and we got slow FiiO. You have wait eternity when you turn on, holding power button till you thumb feel tired – then you know, that player waking up and you have time for some breathing exercises to calm down. Second part of exercises you will have when you will start FiiO native player. Even when you turning on Viper effects you need to wait for about 2 seconds when they start working. Slow. Very slow.
Bugs…. Software so raw, that still full of bugs. Player freezes and need to be restarted. FiiO is doing their best to fix them and updates are coming often. Improves.
Tricky navigation, some features access need unnecessary clicks and jumps.
Honestly, I was expecting more from chips and amps, balanced output available. By my opinion player have much bigger potential and it is limited by software. Why? Maybe FiiO wanted not to compete with X7, maybe lack of experience with Android. Maybe both. Maybe at first all attempts were concentrated only for mp3 files reproduction to make it sound pleasant and not harsh? Anyway, good friend of mine working on mods on FiiO software and now my player sounding much better without any EQ. That’s why I can tell that problems with sound is in software, not hardware.
Native sound veiled, lacking of micro dynamic and details, sound stage mediocre, poor depth and instrument placement. Distortion in some middle frequencies. High frequencies recessed, lacking of air and sparkle. Bass boomy and woolly.
Musical, emotional, pleasant sound, but in need for improvement.
Output power – enough even for up to 300 Ohm headphones to have mediocre loudness.
Customer support – 5/5
FiiO listening their customer and doing all they can to improve their products and solve issues. Nobody is perfect.
Overall score 48/12 - 4
Pros - Build quality, Price, Smooth sound
Cons - UI needs improvements, bug fixes,
this is a review unit provided by Fiio during the tour event. Thanks again for Fiio allowing me to take part of this event.
by no means I am an expert in audio, but I will try my best to express my impression of this device.
Gear I used in this review:
Desktop (dac function)
32GB microsd card
It is really nice that it included two different case for user to choose from. Both of them has their advantages and disadvantages.
It feel very solid in my hands. As a thinkpad user, I would also worry the dent it make on the floor if I drop it. (luckily that never happened) Instead of full on metal case, Fiio incorporated a glass back which from my experience of the X7, it is much less slippery. Button placement is on point with my thumb able to access pause/play, volume knob, next track and previous track. The click on the button is also quite tactile. The volume knob also gives a good feedback. I really like the gear like knob that make sure the user does not slip while adjusting the volume.
Screen is nothing special since the device itself is focus on audio. I can understand Fiio would try to save cost in this aspect. Looking from the specs, it seems this is the same panel Fiio used in the X7. Viewing angle is average at best. With colorful albums, the color can shift quite a bit when I change the angle I look at the it. Touch in my opinion is a bit too sensitive. When I am scrolling through the tracks, I can accidentally swipe the track to the left for the option of delete. I’m not sure if this is also the case for other retail unit, but the one on the review unit comes with a glass screen protector. It is a nice addition to the user since most of us nowadays would slap on a glass screen protector right away. Screen brightness has to adjust manually since there no sensor for the auto brightness setting. The good thing is brightness control can be accessed very easily anywhere.
next to my E10k
While using it as a desktop DAC, it can get a bit warm to the touch. During my time using it, I would remove the leather case to keep it cool. You will need to download a driver from Fiio in order to make it work, but the installation process is very straight forward. Once it is connected, you will have to switch the mode to dac mode in the notification. The only issue I had was having replug the usb cable after my computer went to sleep, or else it the Fiio software won't be able to detect the device. I guess a software fix is possible on this one?
The leather case definitely add some premium feeling to the device. The padding inside also kept the device well in place. During my week of using it, it never slip out a bit. The only problem is with the leather case on, the buttons become mushy and whenever I try to press the wake button to check its battery life or time, it is most likely I have pushed the next track button which it starts playing tracks until I check it the next time.
On the other hand, the plastic case was pretty much made for users who listen with the device on-the-go. Besides the 3.5mm headphone port, the other ports are covered by flap inserts. This might be a bit weird to express, but the feeling of pushing the flaps into the ports are pretty satisfying. The buttons that the case covers remain clicky.
Lockscreen with an album cover
Music player UI
The UI might be a bit confusing to use since when you start using the first time, it has a guide that I consider too much for user to remember in that short amount of time. It does take time to get use to navigating through the interface. For people who are good at technologies, it might only be a very short process, but for other people, it can be a problem. I would love to see a cleaner UI.
It supports two microSD cards up to 256GB for each slot. During the time I used the device, I was only able to use one of them and only a 32gb. When I try to play larger files (DSD), it takes a little bit more than one second to load the song and start playing.
That being said, battery life on this unit is pretty good. Even when I left it playing music for almost two hours, it drop at maximum of around 20%. The first day I got the device, I fully charged it and let it sit on my desk overnight to check its standby time. After around ten hours of standby without any connectivity, it dropped only 6% from 100%. It really shows Fiio tweaked the Android system to consume as little battery as possible. Which comes back to the screen as it is a low resolution panel, it also help save battery life. Charging the device might take a little while when the 3400mah battery. It does support fast charging which I tried it with the oneplus 3 charger and it does charges faster.
The majority of the reviews here are comparing this unit with similar pricing ones or even better ones. Whereas I was only able to compare it with entry level gears. My impression on the sound quality will mostly base on my Fiio X1 and LG G4.
Comparing it with my Fiio X1, it definitely has a wider soundstage. When I listen to classical music, each instruments sound more separate with some are further away, creating a more pleasant listening experience. With the highs such as piano notes, it sounds more transparent.While listening to Kool&Klean (jazz), it feels even more smooth with the combination of different music.
The amp was able to power my iems and headphones pretty well.
Overall. This is a great device. It provides a great experience with an affordable price comparing to other DAP that has similar specs. Build quality is very good with the use of metal. Accessories are also enough to get it going without adding additional costs to the users on screen protector and protective case. The UI could be improved with more user friendly design and also can be optimized even further to create a smooth experience.
Thank you for reading my review. Feel free to provide any feedback~
Pros - Easy navigation menu, Android based, multiple I/O potential
Cons - Player app crashes oddly, lacking driving power compared to 2nd gen
The Fiio X5-3 is sent to me on a tour review setup, and so here is my impression on the unit and some illustrations on it's contents.
P/S I'm still trying out this weird formatting mechanism
The above is the Android mode of the device, where it can be switched from android powered to dedicated fiio music player alone as below
In android mode, the familiarity towards android eases the use by a lot, like a drop down not. bar
there is also an app menu, that has both fiio store showing supported apps and play store for going for something out of bound
The Fiio app store
nice touch on having a dedicated play pause button. The volume is clicky so it's easy to know how much volume is spun up.
The Fiio X5-3 sounds very different from the 2s. The 2s show a warmer tone with some slight bass and treble kicks in it, but on the 3s it's like a flat sounding player, not exactly my thing but hey, it's neutral and so it shows the characteristics of the IEM you use. If you use a heavy bass IEM, it's bass heavy, so it's a good choice for things like custom iem, where influence of the player sound sig shouldnt be there. I am pairing the 3s with RHA MA750i and Noble Audio Sage, and both performs well. The MA750i does need a high gain and a volume of 78 (on an accurate ripped CD source) though to be at the full form. Even the Sage needs close to that range, so power hungry pairings will certainly not apply, let alone headphones, dont think they can drive, but luckily for balanced output, things might change for the better, but I dont have a decent balanced IEM so I wont comment on that.
Not forgetting there is a (as usual design) Line out / coaxial combined. So now pairing a desired amp, and this thing will be beasting!
Fiio has improved the player on a correct direction but has done a series of sacrifice on what is already good, which was the UI and battery life of the 2s. The 3s has a shorter battery life due to the OS burden applied on it. Hope to see more software tweaks and improvements and this will be one versatile piece of player, as hardware is already there, just the software cant keep up
Pros - Nice sound, access to online music service
Cons - Buttons feel slack, user interface could be more easy to navigate
Here is my appreciation of the FIIO X5 3rd generation that i had the opportunity of trying for 10 days.
This opportunity have been offered by FIIO for free in exchange for an honest review, and i did not received any payment or any other advantage for it from them.
My objective is, while giving you my impression of this unit to help you decide if it is of interest to you, to investigate if i would invest in one of those units myself, wich would be an upgrade from my FIIO X3 2e generation.
I am near 50, and have been interested in music for a long time. I am a semi-professional guitar player, have a small home studio for more than 30 years (in and out) where i produced and mixed some CD’S of my music(composition or covers) in many styles. I think i can say that my ears have a decent training in frequency listening, but still they aren’t ’’golden’’, as i can’t consistently differ a 128 MP3 from his flac counterpart in blind testing using Foobar 2000 and abx testing plug-in. But i’m practicing and one day i will!
My most used headphones are Shure SE846, Fostex TH-x00 and AKG K601. I listen mostly to them through Grace Design M9xx at home and FIIO X3 2e generation on the run. I fact, i do listen to a lot more music outside then at home. Walking is for me the best time to appreciate music.
At this point, many review offered you a lot of pictures and description, so i will only offer you my personal impression : it does look good. I find it to have style, and while i recognize i should not judge a book by his cover, i would not buy an audio player that would look like a toy, or would bring too much attention (in a bad way) to it. I may look superficial but i would not feel good having ,let’s say, an orange and yellow (sorry if you like it!) audio player in my hands in public. This X5 is classy, and i like it.
The X5 is a little bigger and heavier than the X3, letting him maybe less ideal for jogging or sports. Still, it can enter most of my coat pockets so it is not a problem, but still an inconvenience in regard to X3.
The bigger size of the X5 come with a plus : a bigger and more easy to read screen.
I really did appreciate the addition of physical buttons, although they could be better placed in my opinion, and more robust (they felled a little slack and cheap). I did miss those buttons a lot getting back to the X3 after the trial.
The navigation is acceptable, but could, in my opinion, get better. Icons are not, from my perspective, easy to understand. In a perfect world, i could be able to play a song the first time using the unit without reading the manual, and in the case of the X6 i couldn't. Also, the X5 takes more time to be ready than the X3 when the on button is press, but it is understandable due to it having more software to load for the extra features. A ‘load only the music player but fast’ button could be a nice add-on to the phone.
This is where the X5 outshine the X3 a lot. While you can easily find info about those features online(dual memory, dual sound chip, balanced output, etc) i want to focus on the ability to connect to the net for online service, which is an enormous bonus . While still in his infancy, online music is the way of the future, as it offers the possibility to expand our song library almost infinitely. I say almost, because my personal preferred music right now is Japanese, and the offer on western online service is still reduced to what is already exported in our CD music stores.
This point, for me, is the most important one.
First, a warning : i believe that while hearing is an objective action, listening is a subjective one, and is conditioned by what we expect to hear. My observations may vary from yours.
To me, the X5 3rd generation is a little brighter, and have more details and overall clarity than the X3 2nd. But it is not big difference, i would say around 5 %. If i listen to them back to back, i can easily discern them one from the other, but if i would not listen to music for a day, and then would listen to one of the device in a blind way, without comparing one to the other i could probably not tell which one it is. I personally consider those extra details and brightness to be a better sound, so the X5 do get my preference, but not by a large difference.
The X5 sound real close to the Grace Design M9xx, the difference, to my hear is minimal, Grace Design may get better defined bass and maybe the X5 is just little more clearer in the highs. I find they do sound really close.
I should point out that both X3,X5 and M9xx did manage to push my Shure, AKG and Fostex headphones to a decent level with good sound.
For me a good buy is one where you took time to precisely define your needs. What i need is a a portable unit that sound clearly better than phones, affordable for my budget and reliable.
The X3 already have all those aspects. The superiority in sound of the X5 over the X3 is not enough to justify to bought it while my X3 is still working. Upgrading from my Samsung S5 phone to the X3 was a way bigger improvement in sound than going from the X3 to the X5.
Nonetheless, if the online music service provider where to offer more Japanese music, i would probably get an X5 and subscribe to the service. For now, i must continue with Youtube to discover the latest songs of my favorite Japanese artist, and then wait many weeks for the CD’s to ship home when bought. Hopefully, the interest in Japanese music will grow and change that.
If you don’t already have a music player, and are happy with online music service offering, i would suggest you to buy directly the X5 and skip the X3 if your budget can afford it. But if you just want to listen to you current library of music, in my opinion, the difference in sound quality don’t justify by himself the price difference between the two units.
Pros - design, features, accessories, storage, price.
Cons - fw still needs some work, summit-fi look with a mid-fi sound.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on Head-fi.
Manufacturer website: FiiO.
*even so my star rating was suppose to be 4.5, I can only select 4 or 5 stars, but not in the increments of 0.5.
Many of my readers can probably agree that original FiiO X5 was a gateway into the world of affordable audio quality. While the early X3 could be considered as an underground hit, the first gen X5 went all the way to a mainstream level, getting attention of not only audiophiles, but also regular consumers. That was 3 years ago, the time has changed, the market competition became more aggressive, the number of new releases skyrocketed, and picking your next DAP became more confusing due to so many choices. In audio gear business, if you don’t re-invent yourself with something new to stand out from the crowd, you are not going to last for a very long time. So, with FiiO recent announcement of their 10-year anniversary, you can get a good idea this company knows what they are doing, being in business for that long.
When it comes to their DAPs, without taking into consideration the original X3, the main design focus of the FiiO X-series was a mechanical wheel which lasted through X5, X5ii, X1, and X3ii. The next step was a brand new X7 flagship designed with a touchscreen interface and a removable amp module – a big step forward with an attempt to capture the attention of summit-fi market. X1ii was another bold move, replacing the mechanical wheel with a capacitive touch "wheel", but it kept a familiar design look from the original X-series, just in a more futuristic chassis. When X5iii was announced and its design details were revealed, it became an overnight “too good to be true” sensation, especially when FiiO shocked everyone with $399 price tag for an open Android DAP.
I’m building up my review intro, the same way how my excitement and anticipation was building up a few months ago, before I received X5iii review unit. Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away with high expectations without realizing that we are still talking about a mid-fi DAP, not intended to go head-to-head with summit-fi competition or to overthrow its own X7 flagship. But due to my own hype, when I finally got X5iii in my hands – I felt a bit underwhelmed with a sound, though impressed with a design. I’m glad I took some time before jumping into the review, and I was patient to wait for a few fw updates which did improve the sound quality. I do realize the web is already filled with dozens of published X5iii reviews, and hopefully I will be able to contribute with additional info from my perspective to complete the picture for anybody who is looking to either purchase their first or to upgrade to their next DAP.
Keeping up with a common packaging theme between their different products, you can still expect a printed sleeve box with another storage box inside of it. The printed sleeve has an eye-popping image of X5iii which stands out with a 3D-like picture of the DAP, focusing on both a touch screen interface and a volume wheel on the left side. The back of the box has a detailed list of the Main Features with an impressive spec. While some other DAPs read like a smartphone spec, here there is no mistake you are dealing with a serious DAP design. Everything looks great on paper.
The actual storage box is all black, only with FiiO name on the top of the cover. With cover off, you will find a protective foam keeping the DAP secure inside of the precise cutout, and underneath of it a plethora of accessories. I will talk about accessories in the next section of the review, but I do want to mention that FiiO put an extra effort to make the unboxing experience of X5iii to feel like you are dealing with a flagship quality DAP. They set the bar high, so will be interesting to see what awaits us with X7ii.
The list of included accessories starts off with a traditional high quality usb to micro-USB cable, thus you know that FiiO is sticking with a more common micro-USB port instead of following other manufacturers who are switching to usb-C. But I think one of the reasons for using micro-USB is to be backward compatibility with their K5 docking station which works fine with X5iii. Also, you will find FiiO's traditional short digital output interconnect with 3.5mm TRRS plug on one side and female coax connector on the other side. Keep in mind, this is not a typical interconnect because FiiO design shares LO with Coax Out. With that, all you need is to add a coax cable (not included) to use X5iii as a transport with your favorite DAC/amp.
One peculiar accessory I found was a metal key used to assist in removal of micro-SD card trays. Just like in some smartphones and sim card trays, FiiO decided to keep both micro-SD cards sealed away from the dust under a cover inside of a small tray which pops out when you insert this tool through a pinhole opening. You can probably use a paper clip for the same functionality, but nevertheless – this little tool looks cool.
If you are looking for a screen protector, you will find one already applied, and it’s not some cheap film protector but a high quality 7H hardness rated tempered glass screen protector. This was a great idea because now you are dealing with a full front panel touch screen which you want to protect not only from scratches but also from accidental drops. For those who are not familiar, in case of direct impact the tempered glass usually shatters and could be removed while leaving the glass display unharmed. Furthermore, tempered glass feels smooth and natural when swiping your finger across, unlike some plasticy film screen protectors. Btw, you will also find a regular film protector which is applied to the back of X5iii.
Long gone the days of the cheap black (or gray) silicone FiiO skin cases, and now X5iii arrives with 2 different cases. One is a nice looking black pleather case with a smooth shiny surface and red stiches on the back, along with a stamped FiiO logo. It’s not a real leather, but it has a premium look with a nice grip. The power button is covered but easy to press, on the other side the track skip buttons are covered and easy to press, while the volume wheel and play/pause button are open. The bottom of the case is open with a full access to both SE and BAL HO ports, micro-usb port, and LO/Coax port.
But if you want a more fun look with a fully transparent case that doesn’t hide any details of the design, you can switch to another included clear transparent case, made from a decent quality silicone material. With this case, all the buttons are covered and still easy to press. The volume wheel is open for easy access, and at the bottom you have an open 3.5mm SE HO output. The balanced 2.5mm HO, micro-SD, and LO/Coax ports are covered with a clear silicone dust plugs which are attached to the main case. You can open these ports and don’t have to worry about losing the plug. Or, if you find yourself irritated by constantly opening one of the ports and don’t want to be bothered with unplugging it – you can just cut off that plug cover.
For me personally, as much as I like a more sophisticated look of the pleather case, I prefer a transparent fun look of the clear silicone case which also has a better and a more secure grip. But either way, including a pleather case and a tempered glass screen protector (already applied) was a bonus I didn’t even expect.
When a company announces a new product, you can expect an original design. But the incremental version bump usually has ties to the previous design. X5ii was a nice refresh from the original X5 but still had a similar layout and other familiar elements, which also scaled down to X3ii and X1. X1ii was a bold move that kept the original "look" but stepped it up with a major change when mechanical wheel was abandoned. And of course, X7 had an all new design with a smartphone-like touch screen layout. In contrast to all of these previous X-series releases, X5iii feels like a brand-new product.
Sized at 114.2mm x 66.2mm x 14.8mm and weighting only 186g, this CNC aluminum alloy DAP is slimmer and yet just a little taller and a touch wider than X5ii predecessor. The switch to a full Android OS means a touch screen interface which occupies almost the entire front panel of the DAP. The top of the DAP has no controls or ports, and the right side has a power button with a red accent ring around it and a blue power-on LED in the middle of it. As I mentioned before, below it you will find 2 microSD slots. Both are fully covered since now you are dealing with two separate trays, removable by pushing through the pinhole opening to release the latch. Each card is capable to support up to 256GB of storage, so you are talking about a combined 544GB of storage (including internal) and you can also expand further with OTG storage device and “unlimited” streaming on top of that.
The left side has a beveled edge where you will find a Play/Pause hw control button at the top and Skip Next/Prev combined button toward the middle. The buttons have a nice tactile response with a softer click response. As expected, hw Playback control buttons are operational with a screen on and off. Between Play and Skip buttons, you have a recessed volume wheel which sticks out just enough for you to control it with a thumb. As you move the wheel, which has a click action as it turns, you also have access to touch screen volume slider for a faster adjustment.
The bottom of the DAP has all the available ports. Starting from the left, you have 3.5mm single ended HO and next to it 2.5mm TRRS balanced HO. 3.5mm HO also supports headphones with in-line remote so you have an alternative way to control the playback. Next is micro-USB port which supports everything from charging (including 2 charging modes, regular and fast 9V/12V high speed to give you easily 10hrs of playback thanks to 3400 mAh 3.8V battery), data transfer to internal memory and micro-SD cards, using it as USB DAC, connecting external OTG storage (though some of the external hard drivers might not work if they sink too much current), and also being able to use it with a docking station such as K5 DAC/amp. Last, but not least, is 3.5mm port which you select from within Settings to operate as either Line Out to use with external amp or Digital (Coax) Out to use with external DAC/amp.
When it comes to non-touch screen DAPs, you have a lot of room for creativity to make your product stand out from the crowd. With a touch screen, especially when it occupies the whole front view - you don't have too much room for something original, so every little detail counts. Unlike a blander X7 design with a symmetric hw control buttons, X5iii spiced it up with a cool looking power button, seamless microSD card trays, and an interesting non-symmetric design of the left side with hw playback buttons and analog volume wheel. These little details make the design not only a pleasure to look at, but also a fun to use and to show off to others.
Under the hood.
Here you will find a dual (2 separate) AK4490EN 32bit DACs which have been used in many recent new DAP releases, even those with a much higher price tag. This is not necessary the latest and the greatest DAC from AKM, but it's certainly among their very popular models that supports all the latest PCM and DSD lossy and lossless formats, from DXD, DSD64, DSD128, WAV, FLAC, APE, ALAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, etc., and has various digital audio filters. It was impressive to see two of these DACs being used in an Android DAP under $400.
Furthermore, you have a quad core SoC Rockship model RM3188 long with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of build in internal storage (and as I mentioned already, it could be expanded with additional 512GB of storage thanks to a support of 2 microSD cards). Also, you have 3.97" touch screen with an acceptable 480x800 pix resolution and decent colors (deep colors with a good contrast). You will also find Bluetooth BT 4.0 with aptX codec and 2.4GB WiFi. Plus, as already mentioned, 3.8V 3400 mAh battery supporting a dual charging mode. Playback time will vary depending on the file format, screen on time, enabling WiFi and Bluetooth, and volume level, but you can get at least 10hrs without a problem.
With all this hardware under the hood you shouldn't have problem running the pre-installed heavily customized Android 5.1 OS (still with a bypass of Sample Rate Conversion limitation), which comes with 2 operating modes: Pure Android (w/Google Play included) and Pure Music (no other apps are running to focus all resources on a pure music playback). Yes, you can load and run many different apps, but keep in mind that you only got 1GB of RAM and not the fastest SoC, so performance will not be a match your latest smartphone.
As far the hw audio portion of the design, in addition to a dual AK4490EN, you also get dual crystal oscillator (22.579MHz and 24.576MHz) to cover both clock rates (DSD/44.1/88.2/176.4/352.8kHz and 48/96/192/384kHz), and two dual-channel OPA1642 chips to use for Low Pass filtering and another OPA426 opamp for amplification section which supports 300mW under 32ohm load. All this looks great on paper, but the true test is how it translates into audio performance which I'm going to cover in Sound analysis section of the review.
If you already have X7 and familiar with this original Android debut from FiiO, you will feel like at home navigating around X5iii. As a matter of fact, anybody with Android smartphone experience will be able to quickly find their way around X5iii. After all, we are talking about modified Android 5.1 OS, including pre-installed Google Play Store. Also, like X7, you have 2 operating modes: one Android mode where you can load any app, including FiiO Music one, and the other one is Pure Music mode where you only have FiiO Music app running as the main interface to preserve the resources, thus you can’t run any other 3rd party apps.
Regardless of modes of operation, you still have access to the notification bar where you have shortcuts to Adjust brightness of the display, turn on WiFi and Bluetooth (as well as get into detailed setup of each), switch between Android and Pure Music modes, select between LO and Coax digital out, switch between L/H gain, select AKM DAC filter setting, switch usb mode between USB DAC or Storage, and get into the setting of various power-off timers. These are all shortcuts, but you can also access all this functionality directly in Settings (upper right corner icon), like in any Android smartphone.
Also, regardless of Android or Pure Music mode, the main audio playback app looks and functions the same. In my opinion, FiiO Music app interface is a little confusing for the first-time user, but after a while you get used to it. The first screen is partitioned with an artwork thumbnail of the currently played track at the top of the display, along with Audio Setting icon, Search icon, and Play icon to take you to a full Playback screen. Below it, you have shortcuts to Playlist/Favorite (has a list with tagged Favorites and Custom created playlists), Local Music (where you can sort by Songs, Artists, Albums, Genres, and search by Folders), and DLNA (where you can search for corresponding server). Underneath, you also have separate links to Recently played, Most played, and Recently added tracks. This view could be customized in setting, but not by much.
Personally, I wouldn’t have made this as my main Screen of Music app, and instead would use the full Playback screen once you start the music app. Also, you always must go back to this main screen if you want to access Audio Setting menu. Perhaps the problem here is that I have too many DAPs in my review collection, and there is too much variation between GUIs of each one to the point where every time I get my hands on X7 or X5iii, I must re-calibrate my brain to a different interface. If you are frequent to using X5iii or X7 as your daily source, this shouldn’t bother you.
On the other hand, I really do like the layout of the main Playback screen. Here the top half is occupied by either song’s artwork or a default graphics (if artwork is not embedded), and you have an icon in the upper left to get back to the main screen or in the upper right to search for a song. Tapping on this part of the screen will switch to Lyrics view, if one is available, and will give you options to search for lyrics, album art, zoom in/out, etc. The next click on that upper part of the screen will display a detailed song info, and one more click gives you a cool analog VU meter which is my favorite view.
Below that screen you have a scrub bar to fast forward through the song by dragging to a different point in song’s timeline bar. The lower half of the screen have playback touch controls with Play/Pause in the middle and current song time position and a total time above it, and skip Next/Prev on each side. Also, to the left of Play you will find EQ button which takes you to paragraphic EQ screen with 10 bands (31Hz, 62Hz, 125Hz, 250Hz, 500Hz, 1kHz, 2kHz, 4kHz, 8kHz, 16kHz) and pull-up menu with 8 genre-specific presets (all could be customized further), and separate custom preset. Of course, you also have a Reset button to zero-out everything. Next to EQ button you will find Bluetooth enable button, and in the same area to the left there is Play mode icon to switch between play through, crossfade, loop all, and loop single.
To the right of Play, you will find “heart” icon to add the currently played track to Favorites list and another icon to add it to a Custom playlist. One more “blue” icon with dots gives you an option to either delete the song or find detailed info about the song. Furthermore, if you slide you finger along the right edge of the visible part of the Playback screen, you’ll activate a volume up/down touch swipe control. Also, swiping the screen to the right from the left edge will bring up a list of all the songs in the current directory so you can quickly scroll and select one. These are all great features, and the only thing which is missing - the icon to get to Audio Settings menu which you must go back to the “greeting” screen to access it.
The Audio Settings menu is quite extensive with Off Time (for music app), different ways to Scan for songs (including option for specific folder or skipping tracks with a short duration), Media Library update (manual or auto), Personalizing the “greeting” screen with different shortcuts, activating in-line remote (to support CTIA), Gapless playback enable, Gain setting, Channel balance (L/R), Customizing album art, Customizing volume, Resume options, Play through folder (enable/disable), Lockscreen album art and lyrics, Theme selection (switched between two), Max volume setting, Reset Database, Auto Search for lyrics and album art, and Help and About the App.
One interesting setting is VIPER effects, part of famous VIPER4Android ROM created by XDA-Dev members. Some of these effects are free while others need to be purchased, and it was cool for FiiO to include them as part of their Android customization. Here you will find Playback Gain control, FET compressor (purchase), Spectrum Extension, FIREqualizer, Convolver (purchase), Field Surround, Differential Surround, Reverberation, Dynamic System, Tube Sound (purchase), VIPER Bass (purchase), VIPER Clarity (purchase), Auditory System Protection (purchase), AnalogX (purchase), and Master gate. Some have a more noticeable effect on the sound while with the others are subtler, but either way you get more tools to tweak the sound. Too bad it was a tease to include effects which require to be purchased.
Overall, you can get a lot out of this interface, but if you are new to FiiO Android daps or used to audio apps on your smartphone, you could find FiiO Music app to be not as intuitive at first due to multiple screens, hidden swiping, different shortcut icons, etc. But sooner or later you will get used to it, or you can just download and install your other favorite Music apps from Play store.
The only thing that bothered me was a delay when you click (hw) Play button and must wait a few seconds for a response. Since the fw is still work in progress, I'm sure it will be fixed in one of the upcoming updates, but for now it left me a bit frustrated.
Spoiler: Click to View GUI pictures (too many)
Being quite familiar with audio performance of AK4490 DACs, I already expected to hear a smooth musical sound with a neutral-warm tonality and a laid-back presentation. And that's exactly how I hear X5iii DAP. The signature is neutral with a noticeably warmish tilt. I do hear a slightly rolled off treble which in a way reduces the airiness and layering of the sound.
Overall sound presentation is a little laid back, not as aggressive, with above the average soundstage which is not very wide. While going from 3.5mm SE to 2.5mm BAL you do gain a little bit of soundstage width and some subtle improvement related to a blacker background, but everything else remained nearly identical and to my surprise I didn't hear too much improvement in output power. For me personally, I found the benefit of using 2.5mm BAL output for convenience since I have a lot of balanced terminated cables.
In the initial firmware release when I received X5iii, the sound had a flatter dynamics and not as good layering and separation between instruments and vocals. Now, with fw 1.1.4, I'm hearing an improvement, but it's still not a huge leap forward. At first this made me wonder why is FiiO holding back, considering they know how to get the sound right, going by X7 with AM3 which had an impressive quality. But then I realized, that is exactly the reason. Why would they make a mid-fi X5iii model to sound as good or even better than a flagship X7? I think it all goes back to my original thought in the intro of this review, X5iii looks like a flagship, but it’s not intended to sound like one.
While comparing to X5iii, I did find several other DAPs to have an edge in dynamics and layering/separation in sound. In many cases, it wasn't exactly night and day difference, but the problem is that I only used 3.5mm SE HO, and some DAPs have a noticeable sound improvement when switching to 2.5mm BAL output (if they support it). As I mentioned already, X5iii BAL sounds very similar to its SE, thus if I compare X5iii SE to BAL of other DAPs - the gap can widen further. So please keep in mind that the following impressions were taken using only 3.5mm HO in every comparison, along with UERR as my neutral monitor for sound evaluation.
X5iii vs X5ii - very similar soundstage expansion. 5ii tonality is a little more neutral, relatively brighter, while 5iii is relatively warmer, with more body, more musical, and smoother. 5ii sounds more transparent, with better layering while 5iii has a thicker sound presentation, not as layered, and not as dynamic.
X5iii vs X7 w/AM3 - similar soundstage, maybe with X7 being a little wider (AM3 balanced out has improvement). Also, X7 tonality is more neutral, more revealing, more detailed, with a better layering and transparency, while X5iii is warmer and with a little more body in comparison, not as dynamic or layered, and a little flatter (more compressed) in comparison.
X5iii vs Opus#1 - very similar soundstage, with #1 being a little wider. The tonality is nearly identical, both being smoother, musical, with an equal retrieval of details. Opus#1 sound is a little more dynamic, but otherwise they are similar.
X5iii vs Plenue M2 - very similar soundstage expansion. Also, very similar tonality, being smoother, musical, with a similar retrieval of details. PM2 has a touch more transparency in sound, but overall, they are very similar.
X5iii vs i5 - i5 has a little wider soundstage. i5 tonality it a little brighter (more neutral), with more airiness, tighter bass and crisper treble. In comparison, X5 sounds a little warmer, smoother. Also, because of more airiness and slightly better transparency, I hear improved layering and separation in i5 over X5.
X5iii vs Aune M1s - M1s has a wider soundstage. M1s tonality is a little brighter, with more airiness, tighter bass, more sparkle in treble. M1s sound is more dynamic, better layering and separation, while X5iii sounds smoother, with fuller body, and more organic.
X5iii vs L&P L3 Pro - very similar soundstage expansion. L3Pro tonality is a little brighter (more neutral), with more airiness, better transparency, along with layering and separation of the sound, and crisper treble. In comparison, X5 sounds a touch more compressed and smoother, and with more organic tonality.
X5iii vs DX200 - DX200 has a wider staging, a brighter tonality (more neutral, reference quality), more airiness and treble crispness, and improved layering and separation of the sound. X5 is smoother and not as dynamic in comparison.
X5iii vs Opus#2 - #2 has a little wider soundstage, similar tonality, though just a touch brighter in comparison, including a crisper and more airy treble. In comparison #2 has better dynamics, better resolution, and improved layering and separation of the sound, where X5 is a touch smoother and flatter (dynamics of the sound) in comparison.
X5iii vs LPG - LPG has a wider soundstage, more neutral revealing tonality, higher resolution, tighter bass, and crisper treble. X5 is smoother and less dynamic in comparison, also can't match the same level of layering and sound separation.
I know it’s not fair to compare mid-fi X5iii to some of the summit-fi performers, but I just wanted to point out that in no way some of its technical limitation makes it an inferior DAP. Many people take my comparison notes in a negative way, thinking that I saying “one is better than the other”. I’ve talked to many people who prefer a neutral-warmish source to balance out their bright/revealing headphones in order to find a happy medium of musicality and resolution, and X5iii is perfect for that.
During this testing, I kept X5iii in Low Gain, and noted the volume level (in “()”) in every case which should be useful for a relative comparison. I also noted next to each pair up test a unique design features of headphones under the test. One thing to mention, X5iii has a noticeable hissing with sensitive IEMs, but it’s on par with some other DAPs, like LPG.
R70x (95) 470 ohm open back - above average soundstage (not very expanded), smooth warm organic laid back sound, soft bass, clear warm mids, well defined treble but not as much airiness or sparkle.
T5p2 (75) tesla drivers - good soundstage depth, average width, smooth organic detailed sound, nice sub-bass rumble, decent mid-bass impact, warm organic mids, well defined treble with a nice sparkle but not as much airiness.
PM-2 (80) planar magnetic - good soundstage depth, but only average width, smooth organic detailed sound, warm relaxed bass, full body lower mids, organic smooth upper mids, treble is moderately crisp but not too much airiness.
EL-8C (93) planar magnetic - nicely expanded soundstage, both width and depth, balanced detailed sound with mids being slightly more forward, sub-bass has a nice rumble and mid-bass has a little above the neutral level of punch quantity, lower mids are neutral, upper mids are detailed, revealing, layered, and treble is crisp and with plenty of airiness - no hint of metallic sheen. I was expecting this to be a great pair up due to a brighter sig of EL8C and it didn't disappoint.
Zen (86) 320 ohm earbuds - nice soundstage expansion in both width/depth, very balanced natural detailed sound. Well extended sub-bass with a nice rumble and a decent mid-bass punch, above neutral lower mids, detailed organic upper mids, well defined treble with a polite crisp extension but not as much airiness.
Pinnacle 1 (86) low sensitivity DD - great soundstage expansion (width/depth), v-shaped sound signature, deep sub-bass extension with a nice rumble, above neutral mid-bass punch, neutral slightly recessed lower mids, bright slightly grainy upper mids and crispy airy treble.
Zeus ZRA (35) high sensitivity multi-BA - noticeable hissing, nicely expanded soundstage, mid-forward sig, neutral extended bass, lean lower mids, revealing detailed upper mids (nicely layered sound), crisp airy treble. Great pair up, and hissing not even noticeable when music is playing.
Xelento (49) tesla driver iem - great soundstage expansion (width/depth), w-shaped balanced signature, deep sub-bass extension with an excellent rumble, meaty mid-bass punch, neutral lower mids, organic revealing mids, and crisp airy treble. Really good bass emphasis in this pair up, and no sibilance or harshness in upper frequencies.
W900 (61) 9way hybrid - great soundstage depth and average width, slightly v-shaped balanced signature, deep sub-bass extension, nicely textured rumble, strong mid-bass punch, full body lower mids, natural detailed upper mids, crisp extended treble, but not as much airiness. Overall, sound is a bit congested.
W80 (46) low impedance multi-BA - some hissing, above average width/depth soundstage, balanced sound signature, nice sub-bass extension with a textured rumble, softer mid-bass punch, fuller body lower mids, clear detailed natural upper mids, crisp well defined treble with a moderate airiness.
UERR (62) neutral reference - nice soundstage expansion, neutral-balanced sound signature, neutral extended low end with a quality punch, neutral lower mids and detailed natural upper mids, well defined crisp treble with a touch of airiness.
Other wired and wireless connections.
The flexibility of X5iii design with so many output ports makes this DAP a perfect candidate for a pair up with various amps, DACs, and other external setups. While it’s convenient to have one compact device without a bulk of a stack up, if you want to scale up the sound quality, you have plenty of options to experiment with.
X5iii vs X5iii w/A5 with T5p2 - I always held E12A amp in high regard as a transparent neutral portable amp. Its replacement, A5, doubles the power and adds a little more body to the mids, though I still consider it to be relatively neutral. In testing X5iii 3.5mm HO vs X5iii LO + A5, I can clearly hear an improvement in sound being more dynamic, better layered, with more separation between instruments, and improved transparency. This testing gave me a Eureka moment once I realized that the only thing that holding X5iii back in the mid-fi bracket is its headphone amplifier section of the design.
To confirm this theory, I tested X5iii with K5 docking station to evaluate the sound using this external desktop headphone amplifier. And again, I was presented with a clean, dynamic, layered sound that was a pleasure to listen to. That felt almost like an experience with X7 when I stepped through the original default AM1, switching to AM2, only to discover later the best sound combo with AM3. You can’t roll X5iii amps like in X7, but you can certainly take the advantage of its neutral clean LO output of dual AK4490 DACs to add your own external amp to the sound chain. And if you want to use your own DAC/amp, Coax Out turns X5iii into a digital transport which I successfully tested with my Micro iDSD to find a clean warm sound. I’m sure, if X5iii would have supported optical out, the sound would have been more neutral, just based on my experience of Micro iDSD use.
If you want more controls, you can use 3.5mm HO with your headphones w/in-line remote since FiiO supports CTIA connection to enable playback controls from your headphone’s remote. The pair up with FiiO new F5 iem was really good.
If you want to cut down the wires all together, go for Bluetooth wireless connection with an available aptX codec support. The pair up was fast and easy, and the sound quality was no different than with my smartphone w/aptX.
And of course, WiFi support is not only convenient for download of over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates, but also tap into unlimited streaming resources from services like Spotify (using a free version of it, I have no complaints) or watching the latest videos on YouTube. One app I could get to start but without a success of running it was Netflix. I tried it on a few different occasions, and get an error when streaming starts. I need to investigate it further.
Also, I’m still investigating FiiO’s USB DAC driver compatibility with my Win7 machine. All my laptops still run Win7 home edition which has several security limitations, blocking the install of unsigned drivers. FiiO even acknowledged that in their installation manual as a potential problem, offering various solutions how to bypass this limitation, but I had no success. I can connect X5iii to my laptop, it switches to USB DAC mode, but my laptop gives me a headache since driver is not digitally signed. I have the same issue with many other DAPs.
To be honest, I got off on a "wrong foot" with X5iii. When you look at its slick design, the complete list of features, dual OS mode (Android and Pure Music), all the available ports, and premium accessories - you forget it's just a $399 mid-fi device and almost expect it to sound like a TOTL flagship DAP. But once you start listening, you get a reality check that it doesn't sound like other TOTL flagships. Just think about it, no company in their right mind would design a mid-fi DAP to kill the sales of their flagship. It’s a great consumer product for those who want to give their smartphone a break with an upgraded sound or would like an Android “player” alternative to their iPod Touch. And if you want to scale the sound to a higher level, X5iii dual DAC implementation is perfect for your external portable amp on the go or while docked with their excellent K5 head-amp for a desktop use.
Overall, X5iii came a long way from its original X5 introduction. It offers a full Android experience with a touch interface and access to Google Play store, OTA fw updates, hw playback control and analog volume wheel, premium accessories (tempered glass and two cases), plenty of storage with 2x microSD cards, dual DAC architecture, LO and Coax digital out, and both 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm BAL outputs depending on which cable you want to use. The sound is still very good for a mid-fi level DAP with a musically-smooth clear tonality and just enough headroom for improvement to whet your appetite in time for the upcoming X7ii. All this for under $400 is impressive, especially if you are after extra storage for your music library and require access to WiFi Streaming services.
Pros - Sounds great and smooth across all frequencies, 2 micro sd, accessories, price, build.
Cons - UI is not as snappy as competitors(not much different though), side buttons are a bit too soft
Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Fiio for making this awesome DAP at an affordable price and rich features, and also to @Fiio for organizing the tour.
This review will focus on the sound quality and not so much about other aspects, so I'll make the other sections as brief as possible.
The official rating of this device for me is actually 4.5 stars, however with head-fi's latest change to the site it isn't possible for me to put 4.5 stars for the ratings.
The review is long overdue so i decided to post it in anyway as a 5 stars as 4 stars is too low for this exceptional device.
I'm an Indonesian working as a Web/PHP Developer in Melbourne, Australia.
Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.
When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM, etc at the moment, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet >_<.
Starting from almost 2 years ago I've been really hooked in metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead but I don't know about that, I also listen to other genres occasionally.
I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
- Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, everyday anytime anywhere)
- Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Radiohead or something like it)
- Pop (90s stuff, rarely)
- EDM (Mostly trance and it's sub-genres)
- Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
- Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop or rock, guitar is used all the time, sounds natural and relaxing, however, mastering of the song is not very good, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
- JPOP and JROCK/Visual Kei, whatever you call it (mostly the older stuff)
I used the Cayin I5 for about a week not including transit times everyday at work and at home on weekend, I will also make some comparisons to my Ak Jr DAP.
EQUIPMENT USED FOR REVIEW/COMPARISON WITH THE DAP
- Shozy Stardust
- Meze 99 Classic
- Sony MDR Z1R
- AK Jr
- Chord Mojo
my unit come with a silicone case and also leather case.
The Fiio X5
The Build Quality is very nice, and also clean, nice colouring for the unit with sturdy construction, got a few option for colours too, the black one is really nice, but the red is very bold and daring looking, I like it.
It is a little thick, but not overly so and still comfortable on my side pocket.
Nice screen with good brightness to be used outdoor very easily.
At the top of the unit there is nothing.
At the bottom is the micro USB port for charging and data transfer duties, I'm a little disappointed that Fiio does not use USB C here, hopefully this will be rectified for future release.
Other than that you will find 3.5 SE jack, 2.5 balance jack and combo coax/line out jack.
On the right, You will find 2 Micro Sd slot (very nice, great job Fiio!), and power button.
On the left is the play/pause button, volume rocker wheel, and also next and previous button, of which has too little easy to press.
There are many occasion where I press it accidentally when handling the unit disrupting my music enjoyment.
The player itself is very responsive to touch, but compared to the Cayin I5 which is the primary competitor of this unit, it is slightly less snappy, still very easy to use though, so this is just me nitpicking here.
UI & FEATURES
At the home screen, you will find your usual android interface here, nothing revolutionary here, I went straight to the music player as it is a DAP.
There are 5 Navigation modes available:
For other navigation except folder, you need to scan your library first for it to work.
I'm a big fan of Folder navigation since I like to group all my musics in folders based on my preference, so It is very good that Fiio has included this feature.
You can then access you on-board memory or to your sdcards to play your music.
You can also change the setting in the device, such as wifi, brightness, etc.
On the audio side, you can adjust gain and balance, etc
The Fiio X5 has a warm musical signature with slighly laid back highs and slight emphasis on the bass.
It works well with most modern music and my favourite genre (Metal & rock), The bass although quite a bit north of neutral never intrude the mids at all, and speaking of the mids I find it detailed and smooth with good body without being overly lush in any way.
The Bass is has a slight emphasis to it with good extension and sounds quite tight and fast.
It Hits quite hard with good punch, so the dynamic is definitely there and it is good.
The bass is tight however it still has good body so the ratio is spot on on this, very slight bloom does help with musicality at times, adn Fiio surely know about this as the implementation is very nice.
The speed is excellent and combined with the tightness of the bass it portrays distinction between each drum hits very well, giving a distinct presentation per drum hits/beats.
For Metal tracks especially in Brutal/Technical Death metal, double blast beat hits strong and fast with excellent rumble and distinction on each hits, portraying the intensity perfectly.
On EDM tracks, the bass extends down to the sub-bass well and because it is not too tight, you still get that club room bass bloom that you expect in club music.
The mids is detailed and has slight warm tilt to it, not too much though.
Clarity of the mids is very good without any overly excessive sibillance and just flows naturally with the music seamlessly, the warm tonality definitely helps with this, very enjoyable.
Screaming and growling vocals in metal track are slightly intimate and smooth, you can definitely hear the crackles in the vocals quite easily with this.
On Jazz Tracks like Norah Jones, the slight warm touch to the mids increase the emotions in her voice while exposing all the detailsin it very well.
Electric Guitar sounds smooth with excellent bites in it, it makes the guitars pop in the mix and I love it.
The treble is smooth and slighly laid back, the good this is it is not fatigueing even in a long listening session, some treble sparkles is still there here and there but it is not the focus of the music.
The bass and mids are more forward then the trebles but the trebles does not feel lacking at all, in fact it provides the perfect company for the rest of the spectrum for engaging musical listening.
The Soundstage, Imaging and separations
The soundstage presentation is not very large but it is quite good, imaging is accurate and all the instruments are separated nicely and there is no congestion in the sound.
It more wide than tall/deep, so the positioning of instrument can be clearly heard in X axis across the songs but, meaning left-right channel separtion is excellent.
Shozy Stardust earbud (hi-end earbud)
The stardust has an excellent synergy with the X5, the bass hits hard and the mids are detailed but musical sounding, treble is smooth and not fatigueing with relaxed listening experience.
The presentaion is also bigger in a sense, this earbud is excellent on its own in this regard but the Fiio takes it to the next level, sounding more full and bigger in soundstage.
Details in the treble is there and the presentation is still laid back so the mids and bass(mid-bass) pops out more in the mix.
Sony MDR Z1R
The Z1R is not a hard headphone to drive but I'm still impressed with how well the combo sounds, The driver in this headphone is huge but I see no occation where it feels underpowered on The Fiio.
Bass is still there along with the Z1R signature of powerfull but tight bass that sounds grand hall like in presentation, speed is still well maintained and speedy metal track still sounds like an absolute joy on this.
Mids is still detailed and does not get intruded by the bass, has good body and the details are still there, it drives the Z1R excellently and The power of Z1R still shines through in this combo.
Despite the slighly laid back nature of the X5, I don't feel that it changed the Z1R's treble to be too laid back. I actually feel it still remains laid back but detailed just like when I pair it with my desktop setup.
Meze 99 Classics
I expect the Fiio X5 to pair best with this headphone, in fact it does, but it doe not transform the headphone just like the Cayin I5 + meze99 combination.
Bass still hits hard and deep with excellent extension, compared to my AK Jr, the bass seems more refined and full force and unrestrained, it has that immediate effect to it that I like.
Mids is still true to the meze's natural presentation, it is still a litle u shaped as the bass seems a bit more emphasized xompared to the mids, vocal is lush and detailed with steady and quick decay, it is musical and engaging, and if you want to hear the details, you can, it's all there.
Treble is still smooth and laid back with enough sparkles when needed, it never gets fatigueing.
The Fiio X5 beats the AK Jr very easily in my opinion.
The bass has better dynamics and sounds bigger with better extension and clarity even though it has more empahasis, the tightness is about the same yet the details shines through more on the X5.
The mids has similar tonality but is way more detailed with crackles and raspness of vocals very easily heard without much efforts.
The treble on the X5 is slightly more laid back and smooth, the AK Jr's treble is not as laid back but details is more apparent and clear on The X5.
Soundstage is bigger in the X5 especially the width, sounds more spacious with more defined instrument separation.
Not a DAP, but I found the X5 is quite competitive despite the price differences.
Mojo's Bass is tight, accurate and still musical and is closer to neutral than the X5, details is slightly more and is also feels a little faster and more natural.
Mojo's mids expose more details and has better extension and decay, the decay on the mojo is very apparent and details in it still shines through as it fades, The X5 is good too, but the final bit of the decay is harder to hear due to stronger bass and less detail retrieval.
Mojo's treble is not as laid back and again is more detailed and neutral compared to the X5's laid back treble, both offers smooth treble and is not the thin analytical type.
Soundstage is about the same overall, the width is probabbly better on The X5 but the mojo is more 3D in it's presentation.
I was once areviewer of the Cayin I5 a couple months ago, and I have to say I was impressed with the DAP, just like I am now with The X5.
Both offers exceptional performance for the price, there are a couple of difference though:
The bass of The I5 was more stronger in quantity than the X5 tight but emphasized presentation, but also more dynamic and more punchy, detail retrival I give a slight edge to the X5, but not by much.
The mids in The I5 was more forward and more lush and engaging but lose out on details to the X5 by a bit, The X5's mid is more align to the rest of the frquencies and not as forward but not laid back either.
The trebles on The I5 is a bit more laid back than the X5, but both has good extension and is not your typical bright DAP.
Soundstage is wider on The X5 due to the intimate vocals on The I5.
Pricing and feature are better on The X5 with 2 micro sd for a cheaper price and also balanced out, but The cayin has better player interface in my opinion and also feels snappier, buttons are also more resistant preventing accidental presses unlike The X5 which happens every once in a while.
I have to say that comparing the 2 DAPS in all aspects(not only sound), The X5 is a better buy, however depending on your preference you might feel that the I5 is more compelling for it's presentation.
It depends on what you like I guess.
For the price of the Daps, it is a complete package really, have many features, sounds great and very practical with great pricing.
I would recommend this DAP for anyone under a budget or for people who wants to put more of their money on their desktop set-up.
Pros - Sonics, Versatility, Price, FiiO support
Cons - Firmware is almost perfect....almost
I was one of the first to showoff this beauty on YouTube and Head-Fi
It is a fantastic item with smooth sonic replay that does not sacrifice any detail.
I compared it with the double the cost iBasso DX200
I found the sound and usability of the X5iii to be superior.
FiiO has offered a premium device at an extremely cheap/affordable price relative to the competition.
This review will be updated and edited when I figure out how to use this new forum
I highly...highly rec this item
Pros - Impeccable Build. Great sound. Versatile.
Cons - Not the smoothest UI. Price point somewhat high. Minor caveats in SQ.
The device was lent to me as part of FiiO's review tour. I was given 10 days with the device to evaluate it and in return give my honest opinion about it. My current equipment is an LH Labs Geek Out V2 as my source, my headphones include a balanced HD650, Sony MA900, M-Audio Q40. I listen to a wide variety of music and generally tend to prefer my sound to be transparent, musical, and detailed.
FiiO absolutely nailed this part. I have never held the previous generations of the X5, however the X5III is built impeccably well. Everything is nice to the touch and the device itself has a good amount of heft to it giving the impression of quality. The buttons - albeit weirdly laid out and positioned - feel solid and give good feedback. The device has an analog volume knob (even though you could still adjust it digitally on screen). The volume adjusts in small increments and reacts linearly to minor adjustments. FiiO did a very good job here.
The X5III uses Android version 5.1 and for the most is actually pretty quick and responsive. However, I have encountered that apps like Tidal experience hiccups every once in a while. Another problem I encountered is that the Wifi cuts off randomly sometimes, and when I try to re-connect it takes longer than usual. Battery life is nothing special, however I am quite disappointed with the way this device loses juice when its idle and not in use. Overall I am happy FiiO went the Android way as this means a wide selection of music apps and players, and a lot of customization. For reference, I am using the stock FiiO firmware and did not want to fiddle with anything.
All music testing here was done in Tidal using the HiFi quality (lossless files).
The way I would describe the sound on the X5III is that it doesn't compromise on anything in favor of another. It manages to achieve and impressive amount of detail without tuning the sound to be bright. I have always preferred a warm, laid back sound but I have found that this often comes at the price of perceived clarity and detail. The X5, surprisingly, manages to achieve outstanding musicality with its warm, spacious sound while also retrieving subtle information in music.
Instrument separation and a wide soundstage is one of the first things that stand out when listening to the X5. Instruments are widely spaced out and never feel mushed together. This, along with the wide soundstage, gives off a euphoric, almost life-like sound.
The bass and midrange are beautifully integrated together to achieve a certain "thickness" to vocals and instruments which really enhances the musicality. One caveat with the bass is that it sometimes sound sluggish sometimes. The transitions in different bass frequencies dont seem to be as seamless as other gear I own (GO v2). The decay one the notes is also somewhat slower. This is not easily picked up but I thought I'd mention it since I noticed it a few times compared to my GO v2. As a whole though, the bass is extremely well defined and detailed, and is very pleasant to listen to. There seems to be more elevation in the mid/upper bass areas than deeper subbass. Gives an extremely satisfying thump to certain instruments and makes them stand out. This also contributes to the overall warmth characteristic that it possesses. I was listening to Woodkid's "Iron" and the way the drums are represented on the X5 is beautiful. They hit with authority, detail, and clarity. The midrange of the X5 has a certain sweetness to it. It is not forward nor recessed, however its warmth resonates a certain delicacy in instruments and voices that renders them beautifully. The midrange carries tons of detail and never sound shouty or harsh.
The highs seems to be - relatively speaking - laid back and not as pronounced. I do miss the sparkle I got on my other sources, however the softer treble translates to me being able to listen for longer periods of time and relaxing more while doing so. The treble still offers plenty of detail and extension, however, if you like brightness you may want to look elsewhere.
Comparison to LH Labs GO v2:
To be clear this is will be comparing the sound through the 3.5mm SE output as opposed to the Balanced out. I would have loved to test out the 2.5mm TRRS on the X5, however my balanced HD650 terminates in a 3.5TRRS and there wasn't enough time for me to get an adapter shipped in time. Therefore, this is a comparison of the SE outputs only.
It seems that overall, the GO v2 seems to be the slightly faster, more detailed, and more forward source. It has a neutral signature with emphasis on the crystal clear mids and a sparkly (though not-fatiguing) treble. Bass is extremely quick and tight. What it lacks in musicality it makes up for in its technical ability.
The X5 is a somewhat different story. On the surface it may appear like it may not have perceived clarity of the v2, however the more you listen the more the notice that it in fact "perceived" and the levels of clarity on the X5 are impressive. The soundstage is wider, instrument separation is better, and there's seems to be more room to "breathe". For me, it falls behind the v2 in terms of detail, speed, and decay, however it makes up for all of this with its warm, musical signature.
To say that I enjoyed my time with the X5 would be a vast understatement. I found its musicality very appealing and ended up listening to it hours upon hours endlessly. I just wish it was cheaper as I feel (and this is purely my opinion) it is priced somewhat high. FiiO have made an excellent job of putting together a device that not only sounds incredible, but is also built remarkably well and has a lot of options and potential in the future.
Thanks for reading my review. Constructive criticism is always welcome.