FiiO X5 3rd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

Average User Rating:
4.22727/5,
  1. justjag
    4.0/5,
    "Excellent value proposition"
    Pros - Myriad features, thoughtful design, competitive price
    Cons - Acceptable sound quality, button placement, usability quirks
     
    Many thanks to Fiio for extending the opportunity to review the new X5 3rd Gen as part of their review tour.
     
    A brief look at packaging
     

     

     

     
     

     
    Attractive boxes, sensible layout, nice accessory package.
     
    Before sound
     
    A note on objectivity
     
    Objective measurements serve as a basic benchmark of audio performance that all audio manufacturers should strive towards, and one in which Fiio products have traditionally fared very well in. They offer a measure of objective transparency and provide credence to the marketing claims of a product’s performance vis-a-vis other competing devices (including smartphones).
     
    As expected, the X5 performs admirably here, but I still look forward to loaded (ie. real world) measurements of the X5.
     
    Headphone out specifications (3.5mm headphone out jack)
    Output power 1
    ≥480 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%)
    Output impedance
    <1Ω (32Ω loaded)
    Output power 2
    ≥250 mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%)
    Channel separation
    >73 dB (1 kHz)
    Output power 3
    ≥28 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%)
    THD+N
    <0.003% (1 kHz)
    Frequency response
    5 Hz~55 kHz(-3dB)
    Peak output voltage
    >8 Vp-p
    SNR
    ≥115 dB (A-weighted)
    Max. output current
    250mA (For reference)
    Balanced headphone out specifications (2.5mm TRRS headphone out jack)
    Output power 1
    ≥400 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%)
    Output impedance
    <3Ω (32Ω loaded)
    Output power 2
    ≥240 mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%)
    Channel separation
    ≥98 dB (1 kHz)
    Output power 3
    ≥26 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%)
    THD+N
    <0.003% (1 kHz)
    Frequency response
    5 Hz~55kHz(-3dB)
    Peak output voltage
    >7.5 Vp-p
    SNR
    ≥111 dB (A-weighted)
    Max. output current
    >250 mA (For reference)




     
    Subjective preamble
     
    Beyond numbers and graphs, differences in voicing may nonetheless exist between sources which are important to consider. While these differences may ultimately be small, they can result in disproportionately large differences in the subjective experience of listening to music in terms of enjoyment and immersion.
     
    Sound quality
     
    That said, I have found the subjective performance of the X5 to be respectable but not particularly impressive. Make no mistake, the X5 is not remotely a bad sounding player, and in fact has quite an enjoyable and pleasing sound. It just has a few caveats which I have found to take away from MY own listening enjoyment which I feel are important to note for your consideration. Broken down into various aspects:
     
    Soundstaging comes in with a solid performance. It does not sound compressed or claustrophobic in the least, but it is not particularly spacious either.
     
    Separation and general resolution is rather underwhelming. The X5 does not sound congested but imaging is not especially precise or defined and note edges have a soft tone.
     
    Presentation is intimate, present and engaging, but notably soft and smooth (no accentuation of textural details, stage elements not exaggeratedly distinct)
     
    Bass has impressive if slightly elevated body and heft, making for a chunky, visceral sound that can be very satisfying. However, it is a little muddy and does not have the last say in punchiness and control which causes it to fall a little short in offering grit and realism.
     
    Midrange is largely a matter of personal taste. It is forward and engaging but soft in character. It is not notably textured or detailed and has a comforting and pleasant presentation.
     
    Treble is present and detailed but smooth.
     
    Overall, the X5 generally meets but does not exceed expectations. Presentation is smooth and pleasing, while bass is visceral and impactful but could stand to be more controlled.
     
    Not sound
     
    Build and design
     
    The X5 is gorgeous, functional and constructed impeccably. It features a compact design, tasteful angles, thoughtfully laid out transport buttons which are easy to identify and press, a sleek and well constructed volume wheel, a premium finish, attractive glass back panel and secure headphone ports.
     
    My only gripe, which amounts to so much more of a shame in light of the otherwise fantastic design, is the awkward power button placement. It is too high up to reach comfortably one-handed and results in frequent misclicks of the play/pause button flanking the the same position on the opposite side.
     
     
     

     
     
     

     
     
     

     

     
     
     

     
    Software
     
    Speed is passable. There is a slight delay with certain actions, but it doesn’t significantly hamper over experience or operation. Overall experience remains fluid other than a few hiccups and is very much usable.
     
    Android interface is familiar and easy to use. Downloading third party apps such as Spotify and Tidal can be done through the Play Store or the FiiO Market which is less polished but still simple to use.
     
    Pure music mode works well and is mostly smooth and intuitive to operate.
     
    The X5 is absolutely jam packed with useful features, most notable being:
     
    Wifi support (OTA updates and streaming):
    1. Streaming apps work well. No stutters or crashes
    2. Rather poor wifi reception. Slow OTA updates and streaming hiccups even for lossy 320 kbps Spotify tracks with a single concrete wall separation.
     
    Filters
    1. Hard to access, quick settings bring up settings page rather than allowing immediate selection of filter choices.
    2. Minimal differences between filters. You might find a preference but honestly I struggle to tell a difference between filters beyond a vague gut feel.
     
    Effects
    1. Channel balance (this should be a standard inclusion on every DAP honestly)
    2. Vipereffect
       
      1. About half of the features are locked behind a paywall (payment can be done through WeChat, Alipay or Paypal) but there is still a good selection of free effects like various surround simulations, gain adjustment, and upscaling
      2. Effects generally work well but there is a few seconds of delay before the settings take effect making finding the right setting quite laborious.
      3. Overall nothing astounding (at least based on the free effects) but nice to have the additional functionality and features.  
    USB DAC, dac out
    1. USB dac installation much easier than before. No need to allow unsigned drivers in Windows settings.
    2. Software is laden with features usually absent on other daps featuring USB DAC functionality such as channel balance and even basic but important functions like volume adjustment with the screen off.
    3. However, some issues remain such as occasional crashes when changing usb streaming settings in the fiio driver software and notable latency making it unsuitable for video streaming/gaming. It is bearable on “minimum latency” setting but latency is still noticeable.
    4. Seems to not work through USB hubs whereas other dac/amps like my HA-2 worked just fine.
    5. Instant play/pause, no idle mode where the amp turns off after certain durations of inactivity.

    I could not get the USB OTG out option to work even with third party apps like the Onkyo HF player to test the X5 with external DACs.
     
     
    Usability quirks
    1. Amp section turns off after short period of disuse and produces audible clicks when turning off/on. Delay in output when turning on (almost 2 seconds).
    2. Occasional clicks when switching between tracks (either selecting a different track or simply during continuous playback)
    3. Power button too high up and positioned opposite the play pause button leading to accidental pauses.
     
    Battery
     
    About 8 hours (just short of 10 hours as per Fiio’s claims), capable of lasting several days between charges depending on usage.
     
     
     
    Should you buy it?
     
    At the end of the day, the X5 3rd Gen presents an incredible value considering it’s outstanding feature set (including streaming support, dual micro-sd slots, quick charging, balanced output), sensible and attractive design, and incredibly competitive price point.
     
    However, it’s few usability quirks do amount to palpable annoyances in day to day usage and while the X5 is far from a bad sounding player, it’s relatively soft, smooth voicing and modest subjective technicalities mean you should probably give it a listen to see if it pairs well with your existing setup and if it suits your tastes before purchasing one.
     
    Overall, the X5 is still a good sounding player and presents a strong value proposition worthy of a 4/5 rating.
    Dobrescu George likes this.
  2. ironpeg
    3.5/5,
    "X5G3 Android PlayerGreat for the price!"
    Pros - Aggressive sound with great bass impact, Sparkling Treble, Forward Mid, Android operating system, 2 memory card slots, luxury build
    Cons - Firmware changes sound dramatically, cannot get Tidal, sometimes it went blue screen, distortions in bass and mid
    EDITED: Firmware Comparison
     
     
    This X5 Gen 3 unit is provided by Fiio for my honest review. The unit will be returned at the end of my review period.
     

    I come from AK380Cu+Amp Cu which is ten times the price of Fiio X5 Gen3 but has the same DAC that Fiiio X5 Gen3 has. So most of my thought about Fiio X5 Gen3 will be compared to AK380Cu+Amp Cu
     
    Testing Equipment: Zeus-XRA + Effect Audio Mars+Leonidas Bespoke 8 braids 2.5 TRRS.
     
    Packaging: Fiio did a very good job in packaging. It looks like a luxury packaging that AK does for all their DAPs. There are 2 cases, silicone and leather, in the box already. I don't see screen protector in the box but I remember my friend said he has one in his retail purchase. There is a memory card slot opener in the box, and usb cable.
     
    Design: Fiio X5 Gen3 has a perfect size for a small hand. It's roughly the size of iPhone 4 but thicker. It doesn't fits Pelican 1010 case but fits Pelican 1020. Design looks cool, nice and luxury. It comes with 26 Gb Storage and 2 Micro SD card slots which I remember that they support up to 256 Gb. This makes X5 Gen 3 has a massive storage.
     
    Original Firmware 1.1.4
     
    High Gain Setting
     
    Sound presentation: The stage size is around 60% of what AK380Cu+Amp provides. It is tall but narrow. Depth isn't that deep. Therefore, it's less airy than AK380. Judging from my memory, its presentation is quite similar to AK240.
     
    Bass: Bass has a very nice impact considering my iem isn't good with bass impact. Bass is fast, tight, and clean. Bass hits deep but lacks body. I heard some distortion of bass drum from Tidal. 
     
    Mid: Mid is very clean and clear. Male vocal position is just right for me; not too forward nor laid back; however, female vocal seems to be laid back. Mid has more body than bass. Snare hits hard and pretty forward; just slightly behind the singer. Details are pretty fine but still at different level comparing to AK380Cu+Amp Cu. Also found some distortions from Electronic music.
     
    High: High is laid back in X5 Gen3 but it has good sparkles. It's not piercing or harsh. This would be the best area that Fiio did. I'd love it more if it's not too laid back. Details are not impressive but still good for the price.

    Note: I will not say anything regarding low gain because I feel that high gain provides much better sound and impact. There is no hiss on high gain with Zeus-XRA which is considered to be very sensitive to hiss.
     
    Verdict: This could be secondary DAP (Gym DAP) for Audiophiles or Entry level DAP for beginners.
     
    Original Firmware 1.1.1
     
    High Gain Setting
     
    Sound presentation: The stage size is still around 60% of what AK380Cu+Amp provides. Stage has way better presentation. It's no longer way bigger height like 1.1.4. Judging from my memory, its presentation is very similar to AK240.
     
    Bass: Bass is faster than 1.1.4. Less impact. No distortion. 
     
    Mid: Mid is slightly move backward comparing to 1.1.4. No Distortion.
     
    High: Similar to 1.1.4. Still laid back.
     
    Verdict: At this price, I'd get Fiio X5 G3 rather than AK240.
     
    Modified Firmware by WindowsX
     
    High Gain Setting
     
    Sound presentation: Best soundstage among all firmwares. Stage is wider, and a bit deeper. This has the best realistic stage among the 3 firmwares.
     
    Bass: Bass is nimble but smooth, lean, fast, and tight. Impact is very noticeable that it's quite less than 1.1.4. No distortion.
     
    Mid: Mid is similar to original 1.1.1. I can hear a bit more details.
     
    High: Not much changes.
     
    Verdict: WindowsX did a great job modifying the Rom. Now X5G3 sounds closer to High-End DAP. WindowsX also does hardware mod. He claims that it sounds way different level than the stock. I would say with the right ROM X5G3 could easily beat AK240 from my memory.
  3. PinkyPowers
    3.5/5,
    "The Big Bad Bear Deep In Hibernation - A Review of the FiiO X5 3rd Gen"
    Pros - Strong, goodly build. Duel SD slots. Volume wheel. Plays music on command.
    Cons - Strangely complicated software. Bugs which I don't bother mentioning in review. Sound quality not competitive.


    ~::I originally published this review on The Headphone List. Now I wish to share it with my Head-Fi fellows::~

    ::Disclaimer::
    FiiO did everything in its power to keep me out of this review tour. I signed up for it, waited months, and in secret they started gathering confirmations. I nearly missed out. Luckily, my spycraft is honed to a razor’s edge and I slipped in against their best efforts.

    My time with the X5 3rd Gen was allotted on the condition I share my impressions openly and honestly, for good or ill. And that I leave the razors out of it.

    We’ll see what I can do.

    ------------------------------
    For further information on the X5 3rd Gen:
    FiiO’s website
    X5 on Amazon

    For a long time I held the X5 Classic (FiiO’s 1st Gen) as the standard-barer for all mid-tier audio players. I tested everything against it, and very few products in that range beat the original X5, to my ears. That changed with the Cayin i5. And quickly changed again when I reviewed the Opus#1. This new breed of DAP has raised the bar awfully high. To clear it, a device must call upon some heinous forces and dedicate its labors to SOUND, above all other concerns.

    Right off the bat I’ll say I prefer the 3rd Generation X5 to the FiiO X7. It does many things better, and it does many things different, and of those things which are equal, they are at least more in line with my tastes this time around.





    I’m a fan of the build. The X5 is a handsome device. The laser-etched back plate is straight up Astell&Kern. The size is just right. Very palm-able. It’s impressive just how much power and features they pack into this thing. On the outside it sits smack dab between my AK120II and the Opus#2. But on the inside, I think it packs more driving power than both. The buttons don’t bother me. I know some find them problematic, but I had no such issues. While they are placed in unusual locations, I grasped the design quickly and thought nothing of it thereafter.

    FiiO deserves special congratulations for including duel microSD slots, on top of the 32GB internal storage. They deserve more than a mere clap on the back. I’m talking all due pomp and circumstance, banner-waving, and bikini-clad girls baring wreaths of flowers. Bravo FiiO! Have a trophy! This is becoming a rare thing to find, and I like to give credit where credit is due. I recall being disheartened when the X7 only had one slot, and I celebrate FiiO’s move in this direction.

    On top of that, they’ve innovated the ****** out of these two microSD slots, designing cool little treys which seal the ports when the cards are installed. I LOVE THIS!

    The volume wheel is a nice touch. It’s the weirdest one I’ve seen yet, but I like it. The wheel turns with fluid, controlled motion, and no wiggle. It’s minimalistic, unlike the king-hell knob on the Cayin i5, which holds an esteemed place in my heart. Go big or go home, I say. Or go weird. FiiO went weird. And it works.



    We are given two headphone outs with the X5 3rd Generation: A 3.5mm single-ended, and a 2.5mm balanced. There are quite a few players on the market using the Astell&Kern-style balanced, and this is the latest to take up that excellent trend. Not that it executes Balanced especially well. I hear almost no difference between the two. At the very least, I can use all my balanced cables without the need for an adapter.

    When I met with Lynn for a gear swap and mini Head-Fi meet, he had the clear silicon case on the X5. He liked it better than the black leather. He’s insane. Likely lost his mind after grading one paper too many. The first thing I did when I got my hands on it is switch cases. The PU leather is much nicer. I didn’t find the buttons difficult to work at all. Still, the fact we have two cases to choose from is a classy move on FiiO’s part. Give the “bird”-brains an option they can appreciate. Ho ho! He’ll enjoy that reference.

    Now, the software… oh boy, the software. There’s not a lot I can say about it. For starters, from hour one I booted into Pure Music Mode and NEVER came out. My experience with the X5-3 was one devoid of Apps, Internet, Streaming, or clutter of any kind. That might not sound like the sentiment of a professional reviewer. And you’re right. I’m a fraud. I simply couldn’t motivate myself to sign up for Spotify and TIDAL just so I could test those functions for the sake of a thorough review. I don’t care about that stuff. So I pretended they don’t exist, and that gave me joy.



    One feature Pinky made certain to test, in spite of my contempt for it, is Bluetooth. Andrew over at MusicTeck sent me a pair of Bang&Olufsen H9 for review. So I can say with authority, Bluetooth streaming works very well on the X5. The distance I got was impressive. Not that I have any experience with this, but I didn’t expect to get out of the room and half-way into the next before the signal cut out. I figured we’d get around a ten foot range. Yet that’s not the case. Also, the H9 sounded pretty okay… for wireless.

    But that’s for another write-up. Today we’re talking about FiiO. And I do believe it’s time to move on to a discussion of sound, and what it means to hear with human ears.

    They call the new X5 smooth. It is. Coming from the AK120II and now the Opus#2, I’m familiar with the notion. Yet unlike those DAPs, the X5 achieves its smoothness not through refinement and polish, but rather by coloring the sound with an abundance of warmth, rolled-off treble, and sluggish dynamics. It’s smooth, alright. It’s also boring.

    Now, now. Put away those pitchforks. It’s not as bad as all that. This device sounds pretty good when paired with the right headphone. Pick a transducer with the opposite characteristics described above and you’ll get a middle-ground that works quite well. The X5 is not incapable of rich, high-resolution audio. You simply need to help it along.

    I must give FiiO credit for its ability to recreate clean, artifact-free music. The 3rd Gen is measurably better than the old X5 Classic. I hear none of that “digital” sound its forefather suffered from. This player renders natural, easy-going, laid-back audio. Its soundstage is neither big nor tiny, just a bit smaller than average. More like you’re listening to the music in a living room, rather than a local venue.



    There is thickness and weight to the notes, which I like. But when combined with the smaller stage, this makes instrument separation a crowded affair. Though imaging is excellent, you don’t get a good sense of air or space between the musicians.

    When taken on its own, the X5 is entirely adequate. It’s when you toss this player into a ring with its more notable peers that you witness the dichotomy.

    The Opus#1 by Audio-Opus (theBit) is THE DAP I recommend in the mid-fi category. It’s not a full-android device. There is no streaming, WiFi, Bluetooth or Apps. It’s just a music player, and it whips the X5-3 up and down the street. Okay, that might be hyperbolic, but to these queer ears, Opus sings a significantly grander tune. Not only that, but the OS is simpler and more intuitive, with far fewer bugs and peccadilloes. The music is clearer and more transparent. Details are more evident. The bass strikes harder, with control and texture. Treble has greater presence. The Opus’ soundstage shames the X5 in width and depth. And then there’s dynamics… the X5-3 sounds like it’s right in the middle of a long winter nap next the excitement found in the Opus. On the other hand, the X5 has the volume wheel, and you know I love me a volume wheel. That, and the full Android system makes the X5 a more versatile device. But I don’t really care about that. If you own a smartphone, you don’t need all that other stuff in your DAP. That’s why I bought the Opus#1 as my personal choice for best mid-tier player.

    If you still think you need apps such as TIDAL, there is also the Cayin i5. Like the X5, the Cayin is quite warm-sounding. But unlike the X5, the i5 has a strong, dynamic sound that is wonderfully enthralling and terribly musical. After burn-in and v2.2 of the firmware, the sound opens up even more, achieving brighter highs and greater air. Sadly, the i5 is not as easy a recommendation as the Opus#1 since it lacks some of the things that makes the X5 so appealing: there is only one microSD slot and no balanced output. There are lots of reported troubles with streaming services. Yet the Cayin i5 is sexier and possesses superior audio, so you must decide where your priorities lie.

    A sentiment has been passed around on the forums that the FiiO X5-3 competes at the Top of the Line level. You see these kinds of delusions sprout from the soil of many new devices, until a few months have gone by and the hype engine grows rusty. People suddenly come to their ******* senses.

    I have on-hand the AK120II and the Opus#2. I shall not even go into how they compare to the X5, because quite honestly, the X5 doesn’t compete well at all. The Opus#2 is a small step up over the AK120II, and the AK is a small step up over the Opus#1, and the Opus#1 decimates the X5-3 and… well, you can see what I’m saying. After performing a thorough A/B test with my top players, I simply don’t feel it’s useful to draw this out.

    As I said before, unlocking the potential of FiiO’s new player is all about synergy. Find the right pairing, and you can know happiness with this DAP.



    The Audio Technica IM03 is a longtime favorite of mine. It fights through the doldrums of the X5 and, on a budget, creates a great deal of liveliness. David Bowie’s Space Oddity is crisp in the treble, clear and detailed in the vocals, and boomy at the bottom. It’s just about the warmest I’ve ever heard these IEMs, but they don’t sound bad at all. Quite the contrary. This paring is scrumptious and I don’t want to turn the music off.

    I plugged in my 64Audio U12 expecting this to be the worst pairing of all. The U12, while my go-to IEM, is aggressively smooth and warm. I feared adding a boring, laid-back source to the chain. In point of fact, this combination rather pleased me. The vocals come through strong and clear. There is decent air in the mix, and more attack than I hoped. The major failing of this coupling is it doesn’t take advantage of the U12’s monstrous soundstage. FiiO holds it back in a big way. Yet not so much that I can’t get lost in the musicality of the U12.





    Next to the U12, Rhapsodio Solar is fast, bright, and immensely detailed. But it’s not enough for the X5-3. FiiO’s newest player reminds me that Solar is actually a warm and thick CIEM with only moderately extended treble and average soundstage. The X5 accentuates these aspects in the worst possible way. It doesn’t offer Solar enough energy, and the combination is sadly underwhelming. Solar sounds so much better on other devices. It’s quite enthralling on the Cayin i5.

    One of the finest examples of the all-arounder in the TOTL range is the new Kaiser Encore by Noble Audio. It doesn’t go too far in any aspect and thus will please most people. It’s also my favorite IEM for the X5. Encore is so highly dynamic, with bright, sparkly treble, extremely clear mids, and tight, punchy bass, you forget you’re listening to a lackluster DAP… because Encore never lacks luster. It brings a big bowl of it to the table.



    If you want a good pair of full-size headphones for the FiiO X5 3rd Gen, the same rules apply as with IEMs. Don’t go for a laid-back set. You want to counter this DAP’s natural tendencies to bore you. Look for treble energy, vibrancy, and dynamism. My choice is the Meze 99 Classics. The X5 robs them of some of their brilliance and excellence, but their special virtues shine through nonetheless. Putting on good old Nirvana Unplugged, and I hear the richness I come to expect from Meze. Some of the “crunch” is gone, and the treble is shier than I’d like. Pretty good detailing and clarity, though. Yet the stage is awfully small, and I miss the depth, layering and separation of better DAPs.

    Although the X5 is well amped, and will get most full-size headphones good and loud, the Sennheiser/Massdrop HD6XX sounded miserable. Hollow, and lifeless. These have paired so well with weaker devices, like the Opus#1, that the only explanation is dynamics. When driving 300 Ohm headphones, a mobile device needs some way to compensate for not having the amperage of a desktop unit. The sonics need teeth. Both Opus and i5 kick hard enough to bring these cans to marvelous life, while the X5 falls well short. The HD6XX is a warm, laid-back headphone, and chained to a warm, exceedingly laid-back DAP, it’s just… sad. A rain curtain closes about you, and all light seems to leave the world. Before you know it, your hand is penning a suicide note.

    Well that’s it folks. That’s all she wrote. Who’s “she”? You’ll never know. I killed her for asking too many questions, and you’re next if you don’t get a rein on that curiosity of yours. What do you want to know, exactly? Why is it so important? What more can I say about a smartphone that doesn’t phone?

    FiiO’s 3rd Gen is not the wonder kid who’s changed the game forever. It’s a very capable streaming device that’s fully-featured, with class-leading storage capacity, faultless build quality, and endless potential. It’s probably the best option right now if streaming services are a requirement for you. Tragically, audio performance is the X5’s weakest asset. For my use, there are two mid-fi DAPs I’d take over this one in a heartbeat. But as you know, I’m wrong from the inside out, and my views do not reflect modern trends. Ignore the dinosaur typing away in his dark room. FiiO’s created a newfangled thingamabob all the kids will love. They call it an Em Pee Three Player, and I hear it’s going to replace 8-Track.

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-
  4. originalsnuffy
    3.5/5,
    "Evolving Platform; Good Sound but Can be Congested in the Bass; Apps Do not Completely Hang Together Yet"
    Pros - Can run Android Apps; dual memory card slots, clear sound for the most part
    Cons - Folder use is difficult; NAS use not functioning yet; hissing when not playing music on my IEMs, congested bass on some tracks
    Summary:
     
    I wanted to love this unit.  Really I did.   I was looking forward to a sound signature in line with or even better than thebit Opus #1; Cayiin i5, and other Android app capable devices.  And at first I thought I was going to absolutely love it.  With less complicated, semi-acoustic albums it sounded very good.   Miles Davis Kind of Blue (MFSL-SACD DSD rips) sounded clean and articulate. Beck's Sea Change--sounded nice.  But then I started trying out heavier rock; and my opinion became muddier.  Or should I say the sound became muddier.
     
    And for me; sound is factor #1, #2, and #3.  Simply put, I can't rave about the sound.  Now with some FIIO products sound signatures move around with various firmwares, and we are only on version 1.13.  So I would watch how the reviews evolve over time. I remember that the sound on the original X3 went from muddy to very pleasing over time.  I hope that happens here.
     
    Then there is the issue of the apps.  They do not all seem to hang together right now.   
     
    Right now I would rather own a single purpose machine with great sound (Opus #1 is a stand out at this price point, but there are others).  Or perhaps feed the Chord Mojo (yes it is that good) with your device of choice.   I hope the firmware evolves and that my initial thoughts will prove to be out-dated.
     
    Sound
     
    It might be because of impedance issues; but I have two observations when using this with the FLC8S.  First, there can be almost too much bass with this machine.   I found that taking the FLC8S to a reference tuning was a good choice (gray - gray - gunmetal).  Otherwise sometimes there is simply too much bass.  I think some would describe the sound as congested or bloomy. in the low and mid-bass area. 
     
    Second, for some reason, when music is not playing, I experienced a fair amount of hiss with the FLC8S. 
     
    I did try two other IEMs; the venerable Carbo Tenore and my LZ-A2.   The LZ also sounded a bit muddy.  The Carbo Tenore is a bit bass light compared to the other two IEM units, and did not have the same bloom issues.
     
    On the positive side, the treble was clear and open and I thought the soundstage was likeable.  But unlike other electronics, I found myself listening too much to the unit and not enough listening to the msuic.
     
    User Interface
     
    OK, I will admit it.  There is much to be said for old school digital audio players.  Scroll wheel, buttons, volume knobs.   With this unit, you very much know you are using an Android device.  I like to listen to music in folder mode.  Bad choice for this machine.  There is no easy way to traverse folder structure.  You need to close down the FIIO app to get back to the SD card file level.  Otherwise you will be presented with a  somewhat random list of albums created from scans.  With some errors to boot.
     
    I was able to put in some network passwords and look at FLAC files on my NAS units.  But the unit does not seem to associate those files with the FIIO music app and you get an error message when you click on the files.  Well, one it actually started playing music with firmware 1.11; but I could not repeat that happy situation.   Once it started to download the files from the NAS to the unit; but I cancelled that.
     
    I did play some tunes via JRiver's Gizmo APK app.  Unfortunately, Gizmo transcodes music to 320kbps MP3 (at best).  I suppose I could have fiddled with some APKs from Synology.  I put in DS Audio but that just wanted to download files not play them.  As you might guess, I dropped that idea.  If I was the owner of the unit I probably would have doggedly looked for another, better workaround but since I was just testing the unit I decided to punt on that effort.
     
    There is an advanced audio equalizer available, but it seemed to require a separate license and I was not interested in that.  So sorry, not comments about VIPER from me.  The primary equializer works with files at least up to 24 - 96 (that was all I tested).  It does not work with DSD files (not a criticism; DSD files are not designed for EQ).   Actually, I almost never use EQ so testing that was not a priority for me either.
     
    I did not test Tidal or other streaming apps
     
    Features:
     
    I like the dual microSDXC slots.  I did not test the bluetooth, or the USB outputs to an external DAC.  Nor did i use it as a DAC from the PC or iphone.
     
     
    Summary:
     
    I really wanted to love this machine and came away on the positive side of neutral but not enthralled.  My $200 DAP is not as detailed as the X5III, but it is not muddy with heavy rock tracks.
     
    I hope that future firmware releases will address some of the issues discussed here.  I thank FIIO for allowing me to evaluate this unit
     
    Disclaimer:   I was loaned this unit by FIIO as part of a North American Tour.  No renumeration was received for this review.
     
     
    .




    PinkyPowers and NoMythsAudio like this.
  5. leaky74
    3.5/5,
    "A Compelling Proposition"
    Pros - Value, functionality, build quality, detailed & clear sound
    Cons - Slow wifi & file transfer. SQ maybe a little clinical and cool.
    Before I start, many thanks to Fiio for arranging this tour and allowing many Head-Fiers, including myself, to be a part of it. I am not affiliated to Fiio in any way.
     
    A bit of background about me, I guess you’d say I’m a keen exponent of what many on Head-Fi would refer to as mid-fi gear; with a view to getting the most ‘bang for buck’. This is due in most part to having a young family and other interests which, for the most part, win in competing for my disposable income!! To that end, my current set up consists of Meze 99 Classes for home (where I’d say I do 90% of my listening), 1 More Triples for use on the go and I was, until recently, using a Dragonfly Red as DAC/AMP out of my MacBook Air at home (and occasionally for longer trips away from home, paired with my iPhone 6S Plus). I long since stopped buying music (apart from a period of investing in a decent vinyl set up, subsequently sold), because most of my listening is done via Tidal Hi-Fi.  
     
    Prior to the tour, again with one eye on maximising value and usage, I had been considering a DAP to replace the Dragonfly Red. So, a DAP that doubles as a USB DAC at home, scores high on my checklist. Prior to receiving the X5iii tour unit, I had literally just splurged on an iBasso DX80. So, I was still open to being persuaded by the charms of an alternative. Oh, I just remembered, I did splash out on an A&K AK70 before Christmas but returned it. It was honestly a great DAP (using a single implementation of the CIRRUS CS4398 DAC chip vs dual usage of the same chip in the DX80). Where the AK70 fell down though, badly, was when used as a USB DAC - as well as occasional noise (pops & clicks), it struggled badly when sample rates changed between tracks.
     
     So, in summary this tour came around at a timely point for me! The following make up my short, DAP main features shopping list:
     
     - Doubles as a USB DAC
     - Sound quality - might sound obvious but given the relative quality of the iPhone, a DAP has got to offer a decent step up in order to justify carrying a second device
     - Works as a standalone - I don’t want to carry a stack for when I am out and don’t especially want to feel as if I need an amp to get the most out of my setup at home. Fortunately, the Meze are ridiculously easy to drive so that’s not really an issue.
     - Bonus feature: ability to stream Tidal. As this is currently my main media channel this would definitely be a nice to have. On the other hand, not having this as a DAP feature would encourage me, bit by bit, to build on my long neglected library; by adding to it and replacing existing content with better quality files.
     
    Anyway, onto the Fiio X5iii. Whilst I’d consider this DAP to be priced at a, relatively speaking, mid-fi price point - the packaging has a premium look and feel to it. Both the bundled clear silicone & leather cases are a nice touch and of good quality. This is carried forward into the build of the unit itself. It has a lovely build quality and weight to it, though I agree with others observations that button positioning makes it too easy to accidentally skip tracks when hitting the power button to shut the screen off. The screen is both lovely to look at and faultless in operation. GUI comes courtesy of Android and again is implemented  in a clean no fuss fashion (which can be further dialled back in ‘Pure Music’ mode, freeing up system resources to focus only on music reproduction. 
     
    Set up is also quick & simple. What’s not so quick is transferring content to the device. What’s even slower is the downloading of firmware updates over wifi - a good couple of hours for a not particularly big update.
     
    Downloading streaming apps from the marketplace is simple & work flawlessly when either streaming or downloading for offline listening (I only tried Tidal). Using the device as USB DAC also worked perfectly. Just a note here; like the DX80, the device tries to draw a  
     
    Sound quality - probably top of most people’s priority list. My impressions are that the X5iii is fairly neutral in tonality. It offers good detail retreival and decently wide staging. It has well controlled & punchy sub-bass and bass, the detail I mentioned, is prevalent in the mids and slightly, pleasantly, rolled off through the treble so as to be not fatiguing. It’s all positive stuff and I can’t really fault it. When I compare it to the DX80 however, it sounds slightly clinical where the DX80 I find to much warmer, smoother and analogue sounding. The DX80 too carries good levels of detail retrieval and has a wider soundstage. Bass on the DX80 is less ‘tight’ but goes, pleasingly, deeper. Sound wise, for me, I think the DX80 is a better fit for my ears.   
     
    The X5iii in summary, offers a compelling and complete package at a price point that means it’s, rightly so, likely to capture a large fan base. It doesn’t do anything particularly poorly (other than file transfer and updates slowly), which won’t, I’m sure, be fixed by future updates. It certainly ticks all the boxes on my shopping list. If I were to apply a weighting to my criteria though, I think my preference for the tonality of DX80 means I’m likely to keep hold of that for now (not to mention the X5iii currently costs £100 more). For those though after a do it all DAP, whose primary use case is entered around purely portable use - it’s a compelling proposition. 
  6. bhazard
    4.5/5,
    "A DAP Revolution"
    Pros - Sound Quality, Android OS, Wifi, USB DAC
    Cons - Older android OS, Slow transfers.
    Introduction
     
    I’ve never been a fan of DAPs. I’ve always found the interfaces clunky and missing features compared to what I could do with my Android smartphone and its apps. When high quality DACs started appearing in smartphones and when USB external DACs started working on them, my interest waned even further. It didn’t seem like I would ever be happy with a DAP, and I just gave up on them.
     
    Fiio’s release of the X5 Gen 3 changes all of that. It includes everything I felt was missing in a DAP (Android apps, Wifi transfer, balanced audio, USB DAC, OTA updates), and it does it very well. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the X5 Gen 3 tour, and I will be providing my impressions based on a week with the unit.
     
     
    REVIEW
     
    Specifications
     
    DAC : 2 x AK4490
    Processor : Quad-core RK3188 processor
    ROM : 32GB built-in storage +
    RAM : 1GB
    Storage : Up to 512GB(2 x micro SD)
    Headphone Out : 3.5mm + 2.5mm TRRS balanced output +
    OS: Android 5.1
    Connectivity : Bluetooth 4.0 (aptX) + 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
    Usability: 4.0 in. touchscreen
    Charging : 2 Fast charging modes(Qualcom QC and MTK PE)

     
    Full specs here:
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/65/parameters
     
    Accessories
     

     

     
     
    Package Contents:
     
    1 x Case 1 x Protective TPU Silicone Case  1x Screen Protector
     
    The X5 comes packaged beautifully, similar to the packaging of a high-end smartphone. The pre-applied screen protector is a nice touch, and the silicone case helps prevent scratches and wear. Despite some annoying silicone pieces that are meant to cover the openings getting in the way, I think it was wise of Fiio to provide protection instead of having to have the customer search for some or pay extra.
     
     
    Build Quality
     

     
     
    The X5 size and shape reminds me of a deck of cards, albeit slightly larger.  Its compact size allows it to be carried easily on a commute or trip, far easier than it would be to strap a DAC to the back of your smartphone. It’s design is sleek but simplistic,  focusing your eyes onto the display, despite the enclosure giving a very polished, high quality look. While not heavy, it did feel sturdy enough to survive a drop and day to day use.
     
    While not high res like a smartphone, the display resolution is more than acceptable.
     
    The balanced port is 2.5mm, making it easy not to plug into the wrong output.
     
    One of the things I somewhat disliked is the location of the back/skip buttons. They are entirely too easy to hit while holding the device or walking. The volume knob is fluid and far more useful than pressing buttons, and having the separate hardware play button was useful.
     
    I had no issues with the touchscreen, and the interface behaved very much like the Android interface I’ve grown used to over the years.
     
     
    Features
     
    Quick Charge. Ever since it first debuted, it was a monumental battery achievement to me. Getting a full charge in less than two hours, and a useable one in 15-30 minutes was so convenient that I stopped caring about removeable batteries. Having this on the X5 is a beautiful thing.
     
    Balanced audio: More power, more crisp audio in an affordable unit. With the prevalence of MMCX iems, not running balanced for every bit of power and other enhancements seem like a waste to me. The X5 had just enough power to drive my balanced AKG7XX at more than acceptable levels.
     
    Dual MicroSD: Do you have several terabytes of music like I do? If so, running two 128GB MicroSD cards on the X5 gives you a very large collection for cheaper than an integrated 256GB of storage would cost. Transfer speeds are a bit slow though, so it can take a bit to load if you transfer to the cards in the X5 via USB. Apps like USB Audio Player Pro, Neutron, and even the Fiio Music app easily detects the music.
     
    aptX: I like that Fiio included aptX (although aptX HD would have been a bit nicer). aptX provides substantial benefits in sound quality over a Bluetooth connection, and it works well on the X5. I believe that using Bluetooth on a DAP is a waste though, as you get the same experience you would from your aptX enabled smartphone. You also miss out on the sound quality of the balanced connection.
     
      
    Functionality
     
    The ability to sideload android apps is the killer functionality feature of the X5. While the “Fiio Market” contains many of the popular Android apps such as Spotify, adding your own favorite app just works the majority of the time.
     
    ES File Explorer Wifi transfers provide another desperately needed function to the X5. You can connect to your media server without wires and download your music to the X5. This is incredibly useful while lying in bed or away from your PC. Transfer speeds are on the slow side however, as the Wireless N wifi connection and slow transfer speeds of the internal memory and SD card tend to transfer under 4 MB/s. It would be best to transfer a large collection onto the SD card first, where the wifi connection works well for a few albums to listen to on a whim.
     
    USB DAC: This is the most useful function of the X5 to me surprisingly. In USB DAC mode, the X5 has the power and features to replace many desktop DAC/AMP setups with its dual balanced mono DAC and powerful amp implementation. While it doesn’t have the power to truly drive power hungry headphones, it was able to drive my AKG 7XX in balanced mode at more than acceptable levels with the volume knob at 90/100 in High Gain mode (you can also adjust Gain in normal use). My smartphone can’t do that, and I have the Axon 7 with the same AK4490 DAC.
     
    You can adjust many features in USB DAC mode as seen below
     

     
    I did have trouble finding out how to turn this feature on. You need to hit the “Storage” button in the notification pane to switch over to USB DAC mode. You also need to install the USB drivers from Fiio, then choose the Fiio ASIO driver in programs like Foobar2000. None of this is documented, which will confuse a lot of users.
     
    ViperAudio & EQ: I've used ViperAudio a lot in the past. I didn't use it much on the X5, but it has extensive sound modeling features. Seeing it on a DAP for the first time is exciting. The Fiio EQ is a nice feature, but I didn't use it much. It is lacking compared to Viper and a Parametric EQ, such as the paid EQ within USB Audio Player Pro.
     

     
     
    OTA Updates: OTA updates went very smoothly. I had no issues updating to version 1.1.1, although a semi detailed changelog would be nice before each update. Easy updates like this weren’t possible on DAPs before.
     
     
    Sound Review
    Testing Gear (in order of quality)
     
    LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0
    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity + Moto X Pure
    Axon 7
    MSI Gaming 7 amped onboard DAC
     
    Testing Songs
     
    Random Metal, Rock, EDM, Rap, Top 40, Hip Hop, Blues, and anything else that comes along. I focus on songs I know well to spot differences in frequency amongst a/b comparisons.
     

     
     
    Sound Signature
     
    The AK4490 is a warm, smooth yet detailed DAC. The Dual Balanced Mono DAC configuration along with the amps chosen provide a more powerful, more refined, more detailed sound over the AK4490 configuration in my Axon 7, despite the same overall signature. The S/N ratio increase the X5 has is noticeable.
     
    Compared to my Dual Mono Sabre ESS SABRE9018AQ2M setup in my LH Labs Infinity V2+, the Sabre has more forward mids and treble, which presents itself as a little bit clearer. Both the V2+ and AK4490 sound excellent in their implementations, but the AK4490 is a bit easier to listen to for longer periods of time.
     
    Comparisons
     
    There is no comparison to me in the price range unless you go by pure sound quality. You get so much more functionality over a custom DAP interface by using Android OS.
     
    Conclusion
     
    There are a few things that I wished were a bit different. I wish Fiio used a more powerful SoC to give the X5 faster transfer speeds and AC wifi. I also wish they used Android 7.0 Nougat as a base instead of Android 5.1, which is over 2 years old now. These are minor qualms though, as the X5 functions just fine otherwise.
     
    This is the first DAP that I would ever purchase. If I did not already have a strong balanced DAC in the V2+ Infinity, I would own the X5 3[sup]rd[/sup] gen. The combination of sound quality, build quality, features, and price makes the X5 an incredible value to me. This says a lot because I have never truly liked DAPs in the past. Fiio really nailed it here.
     
    Thanks to FiiO for the opportunity to review the X5! You’ve been a wonderful company to us music lovers for years, and we hope you continue being great.
  7. fleasbaby
    5.0/5,
    "Damn nice..."
    Pros - Great sound, nice accessories, stable UI, perfect price point
    Cons - Erm...maybe...I don't really know actually...

    Last time I reviewed a FiiO DAP, it was (I think) the X5ii. If I recall correctly, the X5ii sadly succumbed to the exotic charms the Pono offered. I ditched my plans to settle down with a nice safe option like the X5ii, and ran off with the exotic Pono, with its balanced output, weird, yet appealing shape and hellishly temperamental UI.
     
    Today I received a review sample of the X5iii to try out for a little while and then forward on to the next reviewer in the schedule. This unit is part of yet another legendary FiiO review tour. I am getting no financial reward or gifts for this review. This is definitely no longer the dowdy, safe, matronly X5ii. It's not even a quirky cousin. The X5iii is a clear and definite upgrade of the X5ii. Three physical items stand out:
     
    1. The large touch screen interface.
    2. The physical volume knob.
    3. The prominent ridge on the left hand side of the device.
     
    A closer look shows a couple more physical updates:
     
    1. 2.5 mm Balanced output.
    2. Smartphone SIM-card-style Micro-SD card holders
     
    The device also features a Play/Pause button, as well as a Skip Forward and a Skip Backward physical button on the pronounced ridge on the left side of the device. Gone is the old iPod-style click wheel. There is still a line-out/co-ax out jack. 
     
    In the box you no longer get a silicon case. Instead, the unit comes already snuggled up in a clear plastic flexible shell that covers the back and sides. You can pull that off and use the black leather case included instead if you’d like. Personally I preferred the plastic sheath. The leather case has slightly gaudy looking red stitching on the back, and an odd almost Harley Davidson-esque logo embossed on its rear with the FiiO slogan in it: “Born for music and happy”.
     
    When you start the unit up, it takes a while to get going. Along the way you see various graphics, one of them proclaims the unit as a “Smart Hi Res DAP”. I am not too sure what this means, and possibly sounds a little hyperbolic to me….but it is an Android device, equipped with wi-fi, capable of streaming from various services, connecting with a DLNA server, connecting with bluetooth headphones and generally being a badass, so I guess “smart” is warranted. 
     
    I tested the unit I was given to try out using Google Play, the Bandcamp app, and a 128GB micro-SD card loaded with 16/44 FLAC files of various genres. I tend to be a little esoteric in my tastes, listening to Jamaican Dub by the likes of Lee Perry and Scientist, modern IDM by folks like Flying Lotus and Four Tet, Jazz by Alice and John Coltrane, Miles Davis and a host of others. I also have a thing for Madagascan guitar lately, and a few other acoustic genres coming from the Dark Continent. What can I say, I miss my home. This tested the X5iii across multiple styles and gave a good impression of its ability to handle bass, miss and highs.
     
    For my testing, I used some homemade Ypsilon woodies in Black Limba and Burmese Blackwood (single-ended termination), some Monk Plus terminated with a 2.5mm balanced plug and an outlier earbud, the Quian39 (just because….well….why not?). I am not much of an IEMs person. They irritate my ears and annoy me when I start to be able to hear myself chewing, breathing, gulping, etc…
     
    Sound wise the X5iii is great., especially when listening to balanced headphones. It conveys bass realistically, without over-emphasis, the mids are clear and coherent, and the highs are clean, without introducing fatigue. Compared to other players I have owned/currently own, its not going open the gates of heaven, or transfigure you into an avatar of pure audio bliss. What player will though? The audio world is plagued by the rule of diminishing returns, and fanciful legends about $3K+ players transporting users to higher dimensions populated by rock gods, their wanton maidens and rivers of milk, honey and money...
     
    The only way to show value in the DAP market is to produce a clean-sounding, competent player with a stable UI, and the extra features people look for as the hobby evolves (like Bluetooth, wi-fi, the ability to load streaming apps, balanced output, expandable storage…). 
     
    In this regard, FiiO has produced an incredible product. It gives all of these things, and it only costs $400 new. This changes the game substantially. Want balanced? Sure…there are a few cheaper players out there that will give you this…no bluetooth though, and no stable UI. Want a stable UI? Yeah, buy an iPod Classic….no balanced though, no wifi or apps, and limited storage unless you get crazy and crack that sucker open for some surgery. Want wi-fi? Sure thing…it will even come with balanced….but dear Lord you’re going to pay a premium. You get the idea.
     
    FiiO, in their characteristic fashion, have seen the hole in the market and firmly filled it with all of the features people clamor for, at a reasonable price, in a handsome package (with a slightly kitschy leather case on the side :D). I applaud them for their astute market knowledge, and an extremely successful release, that seems to be free of the usual early firmware bugs that inspire such wailing and gnashing of teeth these days. The X5iii is an excellent successor to the already popular X5 and X5ii. 
  8. TheoS53
    4.5/5,
    "Fiio has redefined the benchmark for affordable portable DAPs "
    Pros - Mature design, Great sound, Ability to install 3rd party apps, Price point, Bluetooth connectivity, Apt-X, WiFi, Dual card slots, Fast charging
    Cons - Slow start up, Slight play in buttons, Storage trays not the most convenient, Screen’s outdoor legibility
    Full review can be found at: https://www.samma3a.com/tech/en/fiio-x5-3rd-gen-high-res-player-review/

    Rating
    The NO BULL rating system is designed to take as many aspects of the device into account as possible. As such, we have a basic rating, as well as a final rating. The basic rating rates the product purely as a high quality portable audio device, and is generally a good indicator of how it stacks up to its rivals in terms of standard features and specs. The final rating, however, grants bonus points for any extra features and specs that aren’t quite as common, and is a great way to judge the product as a complete package.


    Packaging
    Look and feel: 7 / 10


    Included Accessories
    Screen protector: YES
    Protective case: YES
    Cables: YES


    Build
    Quality control: 8 / 10
    Seems durable: YES
    Screen quality: 7 / 10
    Intuitive interface: 9 / 10
    Responsive interface: 8 / 10
    Comfortable button layout: 7 /10
    Internal storage: YES
    Accepts external storage: YES
    Relative silence when inserting cables: 5 / 10


    Sound
    Sound stage: 8 / 10
    Detail retrieval: 8 / 10
    Sibilance: 9 / 10
    Instrument separation: 8 / 10
    Neutrality of sound signature: 8 / 10
    Ability to EQ: YES
    Plays lossless audio: YES
    Plays 24-bit: YES
    Hiss: 7 / 10


    Portability
    Small size: 7 / 10
    Relatively low weight: 7 / 10
    battery life more than 8 hours: YES


    Value
    Competitive price-point: YES
    Relative value: 9 / 10


    Manufacturer
    Released the device with relatively bug-free software: 9 / 10
    Is prompt with software updates: 7 / 10
    Is active and prompt on forums/social-media: 9 / 10

    Basic Rating: 7.7 / 10


    Bonus points
    Bass boost: -
    Various digital filters: 4
    Allows 3[sup]rd[/sup] party apps: YES
    Number of cables included: 2
    Number of gain positions: 2
    Fast charging: YES
    Premium case: -
    Bluetooth: YES
    Apt-X: YES
    Premium look and feel of the device: 9 / 10
    Number of digital connections: 2
    Number of analogue connections: 3
    Power adapter included: -
    Balanced output: YES
    Dual card slots: YES
    Touch screen: YES
    WiFi: YES
    Dual DAC setup: YES
    Premium DAC chip(s) used: YES
    Screen protectors included: 1
    Use of metal and/or glass: YES
    Plays DSD: YES
    Plays 32-bit: YES
    Ultra low power-saving mode: -
    Wireless connection quality: 9 / 10
    Gapless playback: /10

    Final Rating: 9.2 
    Hawaiibadboy, bvopfo and peter1480 like this.
  9. ngoshawk
    4.0/5,
    "Setting the "new standard" for mid-fi DAPs, the x5iii, produces upper-level audio quality"
    Pros - Easy OS, excellent musical tone, multitude of platforms, fairly fast operations, updated FW
    Cons - Buttons can be accidentally pushed, Fiio's native music app does not "remember" place upon exit, leather case is OK...
    FiiO x5iii-please see addendum at bottom for clarification of FiiO playback feature.
     
    Many times, there is trepidation when you sign up for a possible tour review, at least for me. Your hope is to not only be chosen, but to give an open honest review, under the assumption that the manufacturer has put that trust in you. Kind of a scary thought, that if one did not openly convey their positives and negatives, it could hurt the direction where said company wants to go. Well, the chance of a single negative review, even from the tour hurting the company is quite slim one would hope, which helped alleviate my fears when signing up for this unit. A HEALTHY dose of people signed up, so to be chosen was quite an honor. I thank @FiiO for the opportunity to review the x5iii, a MUCH anticipated unit indeed.
     
    Digital Audio Players (DAP’s) are still fairly new, blooming within the last decade or so. The plethora of new DAP’s coming out recently bucks this trend of a trickle. Many manufacturers are scrambling to put out an Android-based music player, with exceptional sound characteristics as well as a good baseline for Internet usage. I think we are at the cusp of the next big expansion in our listening pleasure. A player that can not only give us music listening of top quality, but also allow us to use the ubiquitous World Wide is a trend that I see. A trend to keep up with those hipper than your humble author into their musical stream and social stream. While the “common Smartphone” can do the same; the quality of music leaves a lot to be desired.
     
    Some such as @PinkyPowers espouse the virtue of keeping all separate. The Luddite in me agrees, for purities sake, we should. But I can see in the near future a meeting of the two into a happy melding of sound, social media, work, and “phone calls.” For those of you not familiar with what that is, ask your grandparents…All joking aside, the mid-fi DAP market is flush with excellent choices from Bit Audio, FiiO, Shanling, Cayin, Onkyo, Pioneer and others. I have firsthand experience with the first four, and can say with somewhat of an authoritarian tone, they are all excellent. It is HOW those companies manage that sound, which is different. Throw in the abilities of the Android-web versions and you can see how quickly this could not only cascade out of control; but how quickly it might all change.
     
    Unboxing video:
     
     
    [​IMG]
    Unboxing video
     
     
    Build/Functionality:
     
    Excellent fit and finish. Top quality build. No blemishes. Kind of nifty on the left side, what with the beveled edges tapering to the rotary volume wheel, complete with detents and gold accent. A very efficient box, too. Hardly any wasted space. This bodes well for protection, as well as saves money on packaging. An added benefit (huge to me!) is that this is more environmentally responsible. Nice job, FiiO.
     
    Typical FiiO red ring around blue power button…subtle and a nice touch.
     
    Easy to set up, FAST OS. FW 1.1.0. Tidal downloaded in nothing. MUCH better WiFi than i5. Functionality/aesthetics are quite pleasing. Another FW upgrade brought it to 1.1.1, during the test. After initial troubles, the FW updated automatically, including some stabilizing effects as well as album art to the lock screen. A nice touch is that you can now not only access the current music being played (and change), but also access the drop down menu from the lock screen, to change many items. A nice touch.
     
    Streaming is good, Tidal sounds fabulous. It simply works without fuss. Streaming and surfing work well together. Small keyboard, but what do you expect. You can lock side buttons, so you do not inadvertently push them…Screen could be a bit bigger.
     
    Loading the SD card was easy, just be careful when taking the tray out. Card is mounted upside down, too. Using FiiO’s own music app, was easy and the scan was quick and painless. Sound quality is quite good. Open, refreshing, unobtrusive. Clean, clear and crisp. Audio-wise this is on par with the Cayin i5, Opus #1 and Shanling M5. All of these mid-fi DAP’s work quite well (for music, we will only discuss that here..functionality later), so the presentation is what might be needed to separate the quartet. Running the gamut from full-on Android/WiFi/Bluetooth to the “lower” Android, to dedicated DAP’s; the decisions are not as easy as one might think.
     
    Running Android 5.1.1, under extensive customization allows the x5 to function at quite a high level. Not top Smartphone level, but let’s be honest, you didn’t buy this for the Smartphone capabilities. You wanted an efficiently functional music player, which can provide you access to your tunes across multiple platforms, while POSSIBLY surfing the pages of Head-Fi, and checking Amazon for the latest accessories for that King George parlor…see below for reference, sheesh.
     

    The finest place to listen to your FiiO...
     
    Upon turning the critter on for the first time, connecting to my home network, the FiiO automatically upgraded to Build # 1.1.0. I was told to update to this build, but watching the x5 do so automatically, and quickly was nice to see.
     
    Buttons are somewhat-logically laid out on two sides, with all of the jacks/ports on the bottom. There has been talk of accidentally pushing buttons while trying to manipulate others; but to be honest you get used to it. Also, I am left-handed so this conundrum does not bother me much. While getting used to the layout, should one need worry about bumping other buttons? I would think not, but when you consider how bloody complicated these are, it is a trade off, which would not be a deal breaker to me. And to boot, you can disable those side functions so you do not accidentally bump them. A cop-out to some; a non-issue to me. Here is one of the few situations where being left-handed is a boon! OK, beside toll-booths and typewriters…

     
     
    Since I run iOS, there was some reacquainting needed with the Android system. After about a day, I was versed enough to function without looking like an idiot who had a new expensive sports car, but didn’t know how to drive a stick… (I DO know how, so kindly don’t go there…).

    Told you...
     
     
    Logical in sub menus, my only problem was remembering all of those sub menus, and how to get there! Think cockpit check system, and you get my point…
     

    Kind of like relearning Android OS...kind of...
     
     
    A nice feature is the dropdown menu from the top, which provides you with quick options to change many functions. Pulling down twice from that top reveals a quick list of necessity functions ranging from your WiFi setting, to Bluetooth, to Line out/Coax digital out, to how your music is playing (storage/USB DAC), a quick hit of the low/high gain switch, filter settings, and whether you want the critter running in Android or Pure Music Mode (which switches all unnecessaries off dedicating all operations to “Pure Music.” The deeper settings switch can be accessed in the top right of this sub menu from the ubiquitous settings cog, allows deeper tuning of system items. Useful, functional and without unnecessary “frills,” is how I would describe the FiiO…efficient to a fault. My right side brain is having a real conundrum with this efficiency…
     

    Think RIGHT side...
     
     
    Three buttons on the bottom center allow navigation around the Android OS. The back button controls many features throughout the apps, a home button, and the multi-tab button, where you can access everything, which is open. Yes, this is standard Android, but it is nice to see FiiO keep the basics of functionality intact. Again, logical in layout along with multiple options move the x5 ahead of it’s competition. Menus are clearly laid out, and logical of navigation. With the three buttons at the bottom always present, you are a mere two clicks away from another app, or the web.

    Illuminated navigation buttons
     
     
     
    Pretty much everything is customizable, so we will leave it with that. With a 1.2mHz chip, this isn’t meant to compete with your Smartphone. No, it is meant to be competent and upgradable when new Firmware comes out. FiiO has chosen wisely in not loading the x5 with bloatware. We seem to be a far cry from the day when manufacturers loaded their wares with unneeded bloatware. THANK GAWD!   
     

     
     Operation between screens is fairly fast…fast enough not to be bothered while our lightning fast Smartphones run circles around it…Don’t think tortoise/hare, though. That would be an unfair comparison. Think hare/less fast hare…
     
     
    Navigation around the critter is good, efficient, and typical Android. Running 5.1.1 , it is solid. While no match for a smartphone, speedwise the x5 is quite adequate as mentioned above. Those familiar with Android phones will have no problem navigating around; and even those lunkheads of us using iOS, will gain sufficient competence to not look like a dolt whenst around you “Android-experts.”
     

    ME, not you as I met Android again...
     
     
    Native FiiO Music App:
     
    FiiO’s native music app is quite good, but pretty much frill-free, outside of VIPER. The ability to download and run your favorite music app gives many, many options. The first app I downloaded was Tidal so streaming allows multiple music platforms. Pretty much anything that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store can be run. Although I have not tried it, Apple Music can be downloaded and run. How well, again I do not know. With this plethora of options (and yes, I know these are not new, but how well they preform is “almost” a new feature), you can customize the FiiO to your hearts content!

     
     
    Someone PM’d me regarding the use of Apple streaming music, as they had quite a bit of that. Well, I did not know, but did the legwork, and you can in fact run an Apple Music app on the x5. So, multi-platforms are certainly a nice aspect of running an OS system on a DAP.
     
    Music Functions (within each app):
     
    Loading two sd cards, is quick and painless (much less so, than on my old x3ii, believe it or not). Once in the native FiiO music app, you are presented with the usual choices of genre, artist, album, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary here…move along…to the menu, which shows all of the songs. Scrolling right on a song reveals a cool menu option of favorite, add to playlist and share via Bluetooth. Excellent options, indeed. Scrolling left give the delete song option.
     

    Scroll right for favorites, playlist and Bluetooth sending. Scroll left for delete
     
     
     
     
    While in the individual songs menu, you have the options of shuffle, repeat, share via Bluetooth again, favorite, add to playlist and the usual play functions. Scrolling right from this sub menu gives the option to see what songs are queued before and after the current song. In album mode, you get the whole list.
     
    A decent, logical app, which will work for most people, the native app is nothing to sneeze at. Others will of course download their favorite such as Poweramp or others. With 480mW at 16 ohms, there is plenty of power for those apps to run most headphones, too. A multitude of supported file formats helps, too (as it should).
     
    File format support
    Lossless:
    DSD:DSD64/128(".iso", ".dsf", ".dff")
    DXD:352.8K
    APE FAST/High/Normal:384kHz/24bit(MAX)
    APE Extra High:192kHz/24bit(MAX)
    APE Insane:48kHz/24bit(MAX)
    Apple Lossless:384kHz/24bit(MAX)
    AIFF:384kHz/24bit(MAX)
    FLAC:384kHz/24bit(MAX)
    WAV:384kHz/32bit(MAX)
    WMA LOSSLESS:96kHz/24bit(MAX)
    Lossy compression:
    MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG...

     
    A quick word about the VIPER option. From what I have read, this is quite the popular sound EQ app/addition. My understanding is that this is the “go to” EQ for Android systems. While I have played around with it somewhat, I’m not sure this isn’t just a glorified native EQ. I’m sure there are those of you out there, who will now throw tiny pebbles and twigs at me for saying that, but tough...

     
    It’s my review and I can say that if I want.
     

     
    That tantrum said, I can hear a difference, and I am still playing with it. One of the benefits, which I can see is that you can modify several different settings WITHOUT changing the EQ. That might be the true beneficial aspect of this. I know, I would be loath to spend any money on some of the features before trying them out. I guess I am saying it works, but I am not sold on its benefits…yet…Addendum: it works!
     
     
    Gear used:
     
    FLC Technology FLC8S
    MEE Audio Pinnacle P1
    Audioquest Nightowl
    Audioquest Nighthawk
    Tennmak Pro
    FiiO F1 (because I can!)
     
    Schiit Magni 2
     
     
    The majority of my time was spent with the FLC8S. This was easiest to me, and in all likelihood, I would IEM my upcoming x5iii. Using a headphone would be a luxury, which I would love to enjoy more but it simply doesn’t happen enough to me. And I will state, that the FLC8S unequivocally worked stunningly well. I am as impressed day to day with them as I am the x5. The synergy with the Shanling M5 was astounding, and what hooked me. The synergy with the FiiO is as good, and sometimes better (such as on twentyonepilots excellent newer song Heathen). Both versions on Tidal are superb. The building of sound towards that bass flush is anticipation of Heinz Ketchup quality. To feel the bass flow through the drivers makes me extol the virtues like few items have before. Just wow…
     

    Anticipation...
     
    The Nighthawk gave a wonderfully airy sound to any music played. Whether through the sd card, or Tidal; overall quality of sound was worth the time. One could say that the clarity of the FiiO was met hand in hand with the airy sound from the NH. One would not be wrong. And one would be happy to enjoy the pair.
     
    Brief listens through both the P1 and Tennmak’s Pro allowed for verification, that the FLC8S is pretty damn good. I can say that I liked all three, but the FLC8S is my go-to, until my Vibro Labs Aria arrives. The P1 was astounding yet again. This $200 IEM keeps coming back to me and I must smile. While the bass is lacking to me, the overall clarity and crisp nature of the sound makes it just quite pleasant with which to listen. Through Tidal or FiiO native music, I enjoyed my time yet again with the Pinnacle.
     
    The Tennmak, is probably my favorite “budget” IEM. Retailing for 9x LESS than the P1, I really like the sound characteristics. Much deeper and palpable bass, the only thing holding this critter back is that it cannot handle complicated music like the expensives with which it tries to compete. That and because of the bass, the sound can be a bit hard to separate instrumentation-wise. I still use them regularly for workouts and general quick listens. They worked quite well with the x5. A worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
     
     
    Sound signature:
     
    Smooooth. Slightly warm. Good bass through Tidal, sound stage is good, and pushed forward. I do not mind. Closer to neutral than i5, but with a better bass push. Maybe it is an authentic bass sound, or the Tidal tuning. There is a jet-black background between songs on Tidal. Velvety of sound has been thrown around in the descriptions by some. I would concur, and add that the sound might be the equivalent of experiencing King Henry’s sitting parlor on the finest sofa you may have set your bum upon…while reading politely and listening to the Harpsichord play. Just a thoroughly enjoyable time is had. Almost neutral, but slightly north of neutral is how I would describe the signature. Instrument separation where it should be, true to the artist. Good depth and width of the sound stage, and a cohesiveness that allows the musical selection to show through.
     
    A brighter, more clear sound than my 6+, and I would hope so! That is all I need say there...Compared to the MBP-the x5iii is a slightly more forward sound. Those cymbal shots, which are up front (as they should be in any twentyonepilots song…) on the x5iii, are SLIGHTLY behind center stage on the MBP, without the Shanling UP. With the UP inline, the mids are pushed forward, and a deeper bass than the x5iii can provide is had.  But that’s not really a fair comparison, so…
     
    Running the x5iii through its paces, I alternated between Tidal (ummm…no, actually you didn’t; you ran one dedicated program a day, you moron…) and the native Fiio music app. Tidal free provides a really good basis for comparison, because even that level of music is quite good (to me). I was mighty impressed with how the FiiO handled the songs without any delay (except the initial load-up of a change in artist), while allowing me to surf the web without pause. The only glitches to speed and functionality were from my home WiFi going goofy and playing hide-and-seek with me…I now hate hide-and-seek and will punch anyone who says otherwise…
     

    My LEAST favorite game, as of yesterday...
     
    Anywho, the FiiO came through all trials with nary a glitch or hiccup. As each time of use passed, I became more and more impressed. This was fast moving to the top of my DAP list, knocking the heck of the things in front of it to get there, too. Over the last year, I have had the privilege to test some fine equipment; and I can say that each time I was impressed with something from each DAP. Each have their benefits whether it was sound quality, ability to play music seamlessly, or the functions that go along with said DAP. With the x5iii, I can honestly say that all of the functioning parts came together, and well…. just worked. And the benefit? The sound was close to the top, if not AT the top against all of those other DAP’s. A true tip of the hat to FiiO for making a synergistic device, which caters to those who favor streaming, AND those who are stuck with the “ancient” technology of sd cards. Each format can sound simply superb. I say this listening  Stevie Ray Vaughan (God rest his soul) on FLAC and my 64gb sd card. The pull of his guitar on Voodoo Chile is magical, deep, near-religious, smoky, dark, and mysterious. A true soul-rendering version to the original by Jimmy Hendricks. One cannot help but come away with chills and be impressed that not only is the song magnificent, but the presentation by the x5 is true to meaning. I must have another Cold Shot of single malt to calm my nerves…Man, he is good…and so is the FiiO. This combo was meant to be together…period. GOD, I miss him…
     

    Taken from us too early...
     
    A side note: a huge portion of my passion for music comes from Stevie Ray Vaughan. Lucky enough to see him twice in the big (both outdoor), and twice more AFTER each show in a small venue (INTIMATE actually); his passion was unquestionable. His oneness with the guitar showed on each little scratch, each little divot, each stretch of string to get that little extra out of the note was something I will never forget…ever. He was taken from us way too early. I was “lucky enough,” under the circumstances to see Eric Clapton, in Kansas City the night after the plane crash. The two had just performed the night before at Alpine Valley, in Wisconsin. It was Eric Clapton’s seat, which SRV took on that fated night flight…something that clearly shook Clapton as he played for three-and-a-half hours straight that next night in KC. He never said a word about anything. He let his music play tribute to SRV, and it did. There were times you could hear a pin drop in the outdoor audience, and then a collective sob of sorrow whilst EC played. That was the only way it could be, an impassioned musical tribute to a friend; a player we all collectively lost that previous night. I can still go through every song played that night.
     
    If the FiiO can bring out the passion, the sweat in SRV’s music, then I am smitten. I am taken back to the last time I saw SRV live, and it was a good night as he sat on the stage at Starlight Theater, swinging his feet as he played Lenny, and we listened. We closed our eyes and simply enjoyed the music. It was perfect.
     
    The FiiO is not, but it is an exceptionally well-versed attempt at such. And as such, the highest praise I can give is that my own personal unit is on order awaiting shipment. I had no intention what so ever in doing that, but I bit. I bit hard, and after a glorious week, I do not regret it one bit. Or is that bite?
     
    Negatives of the FiiO are there, but pretty much few. I’m not a real fan of the black leather case…to me it makes operating the buttons much harder. Maybe it will break in, but I prefer the clear plastic case, with the benefit of looking at the cool device. While the volume wheel looks very fine with the gold accent, I would like a quicker response to large inputs. To raise the volume a good bit takes several tweaks of the wheel. I’m not a big fan of that. As @x RELIC x mentioned, bumping the side buttons is annoying, and should be changed. I would agree, but with the caveat that being left-handed has an advantage here…I can carefully wake the item from sleep, and raise the volume with one hand. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of a “left handed DAP,” before; but I will take it!
     
    FiiO’s native music app is good, quite good. Throw in the addition of VIPER, even with the add-on purchases; and you have a fine baseline. A function, which I deservedly call a flaw though is that when you pause music, and exit. Upon return, the app resets to the baseline start, instead of remembering where you were. I find this highly annoying. To the point, where I will probably download another music app to try with my own. Neutron gets good reviews, so that will probably be my first option. Coming from iOS, I am devoid of Android music app knowledge, so I will rely upon the fine peeps here. Maybe a future FW update will correct that. Not a deal breaker, simply annoying, it is.
     

    How I felt using the native FiiO app, but not PLAYING it...
     
     
    Beyond that, I can find little to fault. A superb attempt at an Android DAP, and one, which will probably be studied closely by the competition.
     
     
     
     
    Comparisons:
     
    Baseline information on the competitors:
     
    1. Cayin I5- A Ferrari with a flat tire limited to the speed limit. But, it IS still a Ferrari. Yes, a red one.
    2. Shanling M5- an old trusty (I said trusty not rusty) Range Rover…it just works, even with the quirks it possesses, and goes anywhere.
    3. Opus #1- VW R32-fast, fun, it just works. Unobtrusive, almost boring, but stunning in performance. Dark gray in color…interior, too. One, which those in the know…well know.
    4. FiiO x5iii- an Aston Martin Vanquish S with the street creds to back it up.
    5. iPhone 6+ boring baseline Smartphone (no auto analogies, except maybe a “competent” Toyota Corolla…)
     
    x5iii v i5:
     
    From memory, the i5 provides a warmer sound base with which to start. I REALLY liked the sound of the Cayin. Clean, clear, crisp like that mountain cabin, one cannot escape the fact that this is a well “north of neutral” warm sounding DAP. My tastes tend toward the dark side, so I did not mind. A thoroughly enjoyable sound, mixed with the niggles and snafus of a near-first time Android-based DAP in this range. I commend Cayin for helping make the i5 such a fine DAP. It is an excellent foray into the mid-fi range, and one, which I anxiously look forward to upgrades in, or their revised model (no hurry, it is still quite good). But, compared to the x5iii, it falls short. The x5 is easier to navigate through, quicker of operation, and generally more efficient of operation. Plus two card slots help, along with a “newer” Android OS makes it functional in the interwebbie-world for a longer time.
     
    Sound wise, the x5 runs slightly south of the i5, and I do not mind. ZOOT ALORE! He likes something that is LESS warm!!! Oh, shut it…yes in fact I do. While the FiiO is SLIGHTLY less warm, it is still north of neutral, just not out of sight warm like the i5 tends to be…A bit crisper (crispier?) a smidge more clear, and a sound closer to neutral has it’s benefits. One is that you can EQ that sound to your preferences. Running VIPER while listening to Stevie Ray, you are enveloped in the music, taken into the experience. With a sound stage slightly larger than the intimate Cayin, you get the whole musical experience. The i5 is no slouch, and if my preferences were based solely on sound, then the Cayin could very well win…who DOESN’T want a Ferrari?! That said, the early-stage adoption of an older Android OS while allowing Cayin a base in which to develop; it does put operational “skills” behind the newer/ slicker 5.1.1 on the x5. If we are talking whole package, the x5 wins, but an excellent try is had by the i5. It really is a worthy DAP.
     
     
    Opus #1 v x5iii:
     
    I was lucky enough to have @nmatheis’s #1 in house for the entirety of my time with the x5. And I was glad. Arriving slightly before the FiiO afforded me time to compare it to the i5, as well as my trusty (NOT RUSTY!) x3ii. The Opus is quite a stunning unit. Extremely easy to operate, it is a simple DAP, that focuses on MUSIC. And music, only (future upgrades on the upper level Opus #2, will bring Android operations on par with the x5iii, apparently). With dual slots, it matches the x5iii. Built of plastic and aluminum, the feel is slightly more comfortable holding than the FiiO. Make that less worried, not more comfortable. I like the way it feels. I like its heft. If possible, sound characteristic-wise, it is between the i5 and x5iii. Not neutral, not overly warm, it is an extremely pleasant sound. Again, I REALLY enjoyed the sound of the Opus (I am currently using it to burn in my Audioquest Nightowls, so it is in good hands). It does have a slightly narrower sound stage than the FiiO. SLIGHTLY. Instrument separation is excellent, bass is good with wonderful reach, and a small roll off of treble (small…), gives this stunner the warmish sound I hear. A thicker sound is what I hear from the Opus, versus the x5, too. Robust would not be an embarrassing term to describe the sound. And with dual sd slots, you should have plenty of opportunities to listen.
     
    If quality sound characteristics are what you desire first and foremost, then you would be hard pressed to beat the Opus or the Shanling in this price range. Both are superb examples of exceptional sound capabilities. Mind you the FiiO and Cayin are no slouches, but the pure of you, dear reader, (yes, @PinkyPowers I’m thinking of you…) would be well and good to consider the #1 or M5. In fact, I peruse the Head-Fi classifieds for a used example of either, daily. My bank account is very worried…
     

     
     
     
     
     
    M5 v x5iii:
     
    The Shanling came my way (thanks Nik!) at the same time as a loaner FLC8S, which I ended up purchasing (used from eBay) after my audition. I was stunned that such a device could have such a pure sound. Almost dead neutral, the music spoke; and spoke volumes. The sound was like looking at that spectacular mountain scene, then walking through it, on a fine summer day. There was no hiding anything with the Shanling. I liked that. A lot.  Compared to the FiiO, this was probably the closest of sound signatures. Vibrant (think clarity) of sound, depth of quite acceptable stage; the M5 is excellent, and I would rate it against ANY of the devices mentioned in this review. I would happily own one for pure music’s sake.  And, rumor has it, that they will soon join the touchscreen Android scene. I am extremely excited at that prospect. The only knocks against this excellent device (to me) would be the finicky scroll wheel (which to me was not as intuitive to use as I thought it should be), and the slightly smaller screen. A single sd slot is also a mark against it.  With adequate power, though and the excellent AK4490 chip, it does compete, and VERY well. Sound wise, there is no embarrassment in the Shanling house. Think clean and clean view, and you get the message.
     

     
     
     
    A final comparison of the four would yield:
     
    1. Three have volume wheels (weeeeee!): x5iii, M5, i5. The i5 wins here, simply sexy and smooth of operation. To raise the volume a good bit on the x5iii, takes quite a bit of effort and scrolling (rather annoying). The Shanling is similar to a toy bottle cap, and I do mean to state that. That to me is one of its major downsides. If it had a better tactile feel, that would improve the functioning immensely.
    2. Aesthetics of design: Again, the i5 wins here…just flat sexy. Slim, no waste of space and a thin body. Most simplistic of design, goes to the #1. Nothing to see here, move along…The M5 is the eccentric one of the lot, and that wheel simply confirms it (not bad, mind you, just annoying…). Finally, FiiO went conservative on the x5iii. Nothing wrong with that, and it is easy to operate in hand (EXPECT some of the mentioned problems with multiple button touches)…One can simultaneously press the on/off and either the play/pause or fast forward/reverse buttons. While turning the side buttons off in the settings can compensated for, should one have to? An annoyance, one must decide if it is worth living with...
     
    1. Two card slots: x5iii & #1. One card slot: M5 & i5. That is not a major deterrent to me. While it is inconvenient, I really do not care.
     
    1. Final verdict on the fine four: All produce excellent sound characteristics ranging from slightly north of-neutral (x5iii, to me); to thick, stout and warm (#1); to bright, vibrant and cheery (M5); to pretty darn warm (i5). To say that I like all four would be an understatement, which will be explained below…
     
     
    Final conclusions:
     
    As I listen to Lindsey Stirling on the FiiO, my time comes close to ending. This would normally make me sad; except that I will have my very own in hand within a couple of weeks. This is the highest regard I can give to a piece of audio kit, which I review. And yes, I know that part of the appeal from the manufacturers standpoint is that the tour participant MAY end up with one. But, I am extremely judicious in that regard. Otherwise, I might find myself with all of that new kit, under a bridge without the means to charge any of them! (Wife-unit would have me hide…)
     

     
     
    FiiO has had plenty of time to mull over decisions, make changes to their units, learn from mistakes and improve upon them. The x5iii is a stunning example of this thought and commitment to making the audio products they sell. Are they perfect? Heck, no. Does this do anything radically different? No, again. Is it groundbreaking? Certainly not. But what the x5 does, is take all that collective wisdom, and improve upon what needed improving. First and foremost, they addressed the shortcomings in their own devices and made those improvements. When you then throw in the tweaks done using other manufacturers items, you get the sense that FiiO has (hopefully) learned from their past mistakes, and will now take the necessary time to run this out, AND correct the mistakes of their other units. My firsthand knowledge is limited to this, and the excellent x3ii. I like both, a lot. But as others have pointed out, FiiO has had to work overtime correcting some of their other products operations. My hope is that they continue to do this, while sending us lucky peeps stunning devices such as the x5iii. We all win if that is the case.
     
    I want to thank @FiiO for the opportunity to have this unit so early in the cycle. I feel honored to be included, and thank them immensely for the fine unit I have in hand. FiiO truly trusts those of us with the tour unit, and take our collective criticisms seriously. One need only look at the response time on the Head-Fi thread to understand their commitment.
     
    *Addendum*
     
    After conversation with @FiiO, it was determined that I did not have the "resume" feature toggled on within the FiiO native music app. I regret not searching the features more, and appreciate the clarification by FiiO. A picture of the feature is shown below:
     

     
    My apologies to the community for this oversight.
     
     
     
    Final review video:
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Well done, FiiO.
  10. peter1480
    4.5/5,
    "Fiio X5iii Review - not just another DAP"
    Pros - Sound stage, detail, balanced out put, build quality, value for money, accessories.
    Cons - Button placement, slow screen, no dual band Wi-Fi, Fiio app still a work in progress.
    Disclaimer:
    I would like to thank Fiio very much for providing me with the opportunity to review the X5 iii. This review is part of Fiio’s tour, there is no monetary incentive for a positive review, the player is on loan and I will be as objective as my ears can in my evaluation of the player.
     
    About me:
    My ears are 57 years old and have listened all kinds of noise! My first recollections of music are of my grandfather's 78's, symphonies on 15 or more records, imagine. I 've progressed from a dancette record player to some serious Hi-Fi, Linn, Naim et al. I had one of the first Philips CD players and one of the Iriver CD-R players, onto Ipods and phones; to DAP and stacks and now HR DAPs.
    My musical taste is wide, all forms of rock comprises most of my collection but there is an extensive repertoire of classical, jazz, country and the spoken word. If I like it, I listen to it and that is commuting, at work and often in the evening with phones when the grand children are in bed.
     
    The excellent reviews that have already been posted have dealt with the unboxing, aesthetics and technical details. Me thinks they know a lot more about these things than I do and are far better photographers.


     
    So here goes, I've loaded three SanDisk Ultra 256GB MicroSD, one full for a Fiio x7 and two split for the x5iii, with an identical music selection, everting from classical to rock in mp3, DSD, WAV and FLAC. The fiio player app on the x7 and the x5iii I would consider is identical FW 3.1.5 as of 24/2/17, I will not dwell on the outstanding issues, check out the x7 thread. Both scanned the same number of tracks, not all my music by about a 1000, but Fiio are on the case so hope fully this will be fixed soon. So I have also added the Neturon (payed for) player so I can compare SQ on that as well. Phones are Meze 99 classics, Audeze LCD-XC and Fidue A83 all using standard cable and balanced cable on each one. Also to test out the bluetooth a pair of Sennheiser momentum 2.0 on-ear wireless and some Sony SBH80's IEs. I do not tend to mess with output ie no Viper and no equaliser, so hopefully I'm reflecting what each bit of kit has to offer with each other. The x7 is about 8 months old, as a believer in 'run-in' electronics the x5iii has been sat playing to its self when not in use so should be run in. By the way the clear plastic cover is a nice touch but it gets in the way of getting a 2.5mm balanced plug in fully seated especially if its a chunky one. But the included leather cover is open at the bottom so has no such problem.
     
    In Fiio 'pure' mode (which I believe bypasses a lot of android):
     
    Sennheiser momentum 2.0 on-ear wireless:
    AptX is enabled, mid range appears a bit less clear than with the x7 but bass is the same.

     
    Sony SBH80
    AptX works. Bass heavy but quite detailed with both, but you can tell they are quite cheep with both players, the x5iii is more forgiving I think and provides better results. But see the Fidues below, is it just best for IEs?
     
    Meze 99 classic:
    With the stock 3.5mm unbalanced you would be hard pushed to tell which player was which. However with the balanced cables and the x7 with the AM3, the x7 presents a better sound stage, bass is the same with both but top-end a bit brighter with the x5iii. Rock sounds particularly nice with this combo.

     
    Fidue A83:
    I hate to say this but with IEM I think the x5iii has it perhaps because they are easier to drive? The difference on volume being 30 on the x7 and 42 on the x5iii for a similar perceived volume. But again with the balanced cable the x7 has it by a slim margin. Both sound excellent with rock.

     
    So lets put something silly on the end of them both....... Audeze LCD-XC:
    Sorry the x7 wins just more of everything. But with either, a good combo for classical and Jazz.

     
    Not phones but the x5iii sounds convincing with a Audio Pro T10 and at the other end of the spectrum a Naim Hi-Fi with Neat speakers.

     
    Android mode using Neutron, with none of Neutrons added extras turned on and the EQ left off, the sound is perhaps not quite so precise, bass while strong feels a little dense, mid range is open and clear, top range sometimes a little splashy and occasionally harsh.
     
    Taking the x5iii out and about in your pocket. It's a bit easier to fit in your pocket than the x7 being a bit smaller and the buttons are less easily knocked. I did n't accidentally trigger fast forward as I sometimes do with the x7. But activating the player again with the on/off button you can easily hit the play/pause. The screen seems less sensitive to my fat fingered prods than the x7 or a SonyZX phone. I use Sony SBH80's on bluetooth for the commute and Fidue A83's in the office. Last week I used the same phones for the same amount of time with the x7, the x7 wins on battery by about an hour. On bluetooth connection it breaks less frequently and you can get about 2m further away with the x7 than the x5iii, unless its stood upright, same with Wi-Fi strength, (strange). One day I managed to only get 6 hours use out of the x5iii but the screen was on a lot and I was using the Audezes.
     
    Tidal, Amazon Music loaded via Google Play Store. They both work as expected and will download to internal and external storage. The x5iii appeared to cope well with different sample rates, though I'm no expert on those. I think the sound quality is a bit better than the Neutron player app but perhaps not as good at the Fiio player in pure mode, over all similar to the x7. Using the Fiio app to play DLNA music from my Synology DS716 worked very well, the same as the x7, as I expected and a similar sound.
     
    I may just be getting use to the x5iii or it may just be running in but I think the sound stage feels bigger, bass has stayed firm and punchy, treble well controlled as time is going on. But I still love my x7it sounds ….....less restrained, perhaps more effortless?
     
    Using the x5iii as a USB DAC on a Windows 10 i7 all SSD computer. Not something I ever done much, I've too many other ways to store music. It says 44,100 Hz 24 bits and is playing a DSD track, has 'played' uncompressed and compressed FLAC, MP3, using Sony Media Go with the HR tag lit up when you would expect. The Fiio diver is set at stream mode reliable, buffer, auto. It sounds nice, bit rich and warm, no pops or buz.
     
    The x5iii bluetoothed with my Mini and sounded fine, I nominally use a USB stick and the built in Mini player, all MP3 tracks. Mini has the advantage it works well with Ipods all the track info etc. being displayed not the case with the x5iii.
     
    A quick comparison to other players, some I own some friends do some with my phones some with friends (very subjective sic.):
    Ibasso DX80, generally warmer and less high end detail than the x5iii
    A&K Junior, very similar to the x5iii
    Sony Walkman NW-A35, I like the interface, but very bright in comparison to the x5iii.
    X5 2[sup]nd[/sup]. 3 is better than 2 but similar signature.
    Iopd classic, more convenient than the x5iii but no comparison in SQ.
    HTC phone and a mojo, nice, mojo doing all the work but adds bulk.
    Cyin N6, the design is interesting and the sound is more x5 2[sup]nd [/sup].If I had n't heard the x5iii I may well......
    remember this is my ears personal opinion!

     
     
    Selecting some specific tracks not for any reason just as I've played them as I typed this:
    Classic Rock
    Rush: Moving Pictures: XYZ: FLAC:96/24:
    The drumming is clean and the symbols not too splashy. The base rattles your fillings as it cuts in. Mids are well distinguished. The whip crack noises have space and depth. I've often though this was quite brightly recorded when played on an Ipod but the x5iii makes the best of it. I thine the x7 gives it a bit of a wider sound stage.
     
    Classical
    Bartok: Concerto For Orchestra – Reiner-CSO: Elegia: Andante non troppo: DSD/128:
    Violin a nice, the flute is very crisp and clear. Base is very reverberative and deep. The sound stage appears wide and had depth. The wind section has real attack. The loud passages are well contrasted to the quite melancholy passages. With the Mezes I think this is easier to listen to with the x5iii than the x7, perhaps it too involving for comfort. But this is not music to relax to it's music you listen to and will make the hairs on the back of you neck stand on end. Exceptional on both with the Audezes
     
    Jazz
    Jazz Various:2006 Chesky Records: Meditation - Ana Caram: WAV :96/24:
    Voice is clear with no top ends sibilance, while the piano bounces away in the background, the appears to be a lot of space between it and the singers. During the the duet there is good voice separation. The piano roll-off at the the end has drama. With the Fidue A83's its quite dream like it rolls around you head.
     
    Rock
    Five Finger Death Punch: American Capitalist:100 ways to hate: FLAC: 44/16 encoded from CD with EAC:
    Power and dynamic range are improved and the voice stands out. In a track I've always thought must have been mastered as an MP3; the drumming appears to have more space and is cleaner and the guitar mids are cleaner. When it stops it stops, is there hiss, no its jut the hairs in you ear just stopping moving. Gives the Momentums a workout.
     
    Contemporary Rock:
    Coheed and Cambria:Good God Apollo I'm burning star IV: The willing well III: Appollo II: MP3 download:
    MP3 is what it is you can tell stuff is missing, it's compressed but it sounds better than on and Ipod perhaps a bit more life. Voices are less splashy and the instruments more clearly defined.

     
     
    Hopefully this gives you some idea what the x5iii sounds like at least to my ears. But remember everyone's ears and phones are different and we all have our own preferences.
    The good news is that if you want to play around the equaliser on the Fiio app, it is good and then there is always Viper. In Neutron there are extensive sound controllers that an make your music sound almost any way you want it to or even make up for deficiencies in you phones or hearing.
     
    Conclusion:
    Will I go out and buy one? Yes I have. What will it replace an Ipod classic (clapped out). Is it the best DAP? Perhaps my Naim HDX is but then you can not stuff it in your pocket and the x5iii is very listenable to and a 10th. of the price.
     
    I hope you enjoy reading this, its my first review! Thank you Fiio for letting me have a play with the x5iii.