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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by Joe Bloggs, Jan 20, 2014
Pros - Very robust, Sound Seperartion
Cons - Highs can be a little harsh
As part of the pre-release tour, these observations are based on a relatively short experience with the X5, but I think that I got a good impression of what it offers. The X5 is a solid DAP. If you like the Fiio house sound, the X5 will delight you. It has some great features like dual mSD slots and a good UI. The Texas Instruments DAC provides great instrument placement on the sound stage too. The onboard amp didn’t wow me. It is solid and certainly acceptable, but it seemed too warm for me, with some bass bleeding into the low mids. Overall, it’s a good DAP, but I prefer a different sound sig from me equipment.
My context: I use my DAP’s primarily at work, or while working around the house. I want a DAP that’s small enough to comfortably fit in my pocket, and is easy to use without looking at (mostly meaning change the song, pause, and adjust volume while its in my pocket). Up to this point I have been using the iBasso DX50 with a C&C BH2 into Vmoda M100’s.
My Music: I did the testing with about 60% FLAC, 30% 320 mp3’s and 10% 128-256 mp3’s. I included the low rez files because I have some legacy music that I cant/don’t want to pay to replace and was interested how it would do with low bitrate files, but these were not factored into how I think the X5 sounds. I only tested one 24/96 album and no 24/192, as I hear no improvement from super hi-rez music.
Looks: Personally, I think this thing is ugly. I heard someone compare it to a 90’s Aiwa CD player, and I totally agree. I guess they were going for a turn table appearance, but it doesn’t really work for me. This is fairly unimportant though. Also, for those of you that are going to rubber band an amp to it, there is very little room between the screen and the wheel for the rubber band, and it gets in the way a little bit. You may be better off cutting out a square from the back of the silicone case and Velcro-ing your amp to it.
The Wheel: Personally, I am not a big fan of the wheel for navigation. The wheel seems solid enough, but I have concerns that small particulates (sand/lint/grit) could possibly become wedged between the wheel and casing, or possibly get underneath it since the wheel physically spins, unlike an Ipod which is stationary. I work in a machine shop where micro sized metal chips are common. I could see one getting wedged in the wheel at some point, although this was not an issue at all on my unit. I’m just thinking if you’re taking this around to less clean environments, it may be an issue. Other than the wheel itself, I thought it took a long time to scroll through long lists. I only have around 50 albums on my SD card, but it took quite a while to get to the bottom, so those of you with large directory lists will get a good thumb workout.
UI: I’ve been spoiled by a touchscreen for a while now, and going back to the wheel took some getting used to. Navigating the UI will get easier with time I’m sure, but I was not a big fan of it. It is fairly slow to get back to the Now Playing screen to change the song when you’re in the menu. Using the EQ with the scroll wheel is also somewhat tedious, but once it’s set you don’t really adjust it much, so I don’t foresee this as a big issue. Besides the interface, I like all the options included in the UI. It had some handy ones that the DX50 does not, like “power on volume”, left/right balance, and an integrated instruction manual. These are all great features.
Another big plus for the X5 is a properly working random play, meaning; Next Track button plays a random song, Previous Track plays the last track that was played. On the DX50, the Last Track button goes to the song immediately behind the current file in the directory, not the last track played. This drives me nuts! Another feature I like more than the DX50 is the FF/RW function. It skips ahead at a good rate with minimal delay. The DX50 FF/RW is overly slow, and its much more useful just to poke at the progress bar until you get the time in the song you’re looking for.
Timeout: The X5 only has a 8 minute maximum time out/shutoff which I thought was too short. I commonly get interrupted at work for more than 8 minutes, but less than 15 or 20. I have my Dx50 set to timeout after 20 mins, and don’t have to turn it back on frequently. With the 8 minute limit on the X5, I was turning it back on frequently, which was kinda annoying.
Silicone case: If you change cards a lot you’ll want to note: the silicone case covers the card slots, so you’ll either be taking the case on and off a lot, or you’ll want to cut out slots for the cards. Also, if you’re going to use it Amped all the time, the silicone case has 2 little tabs that cover the LO and Coax out which kinda get in the way. I would cut them off and just buy the silicone 3.5mm plugs to cover the unused HO/LO/Coax ports.
Play: there is a couple second pause between pushing the play/pause button and the player responding. Its about the same as on the DX50. The power up is slightly faster than the DX50 though. I like the menu option that allows you to choose how/if it resumes play where you left off.
Weight/size: noticeably heaver than the DX50. Not massive by any means, but its substantial. Its boarder line of too big, but hasn’t quite crossed into that territory yet. Without an amp, its fine; with an amp, its pretty big and no longer portable IMO. It becomes closer to a portable desktop rig.
Volume/Power: I used my M100’s for most of the testing, but also used Phillips Stretch headphones for a small comparison. I used High gain at around 35-50 volume. 40-45 was loud but comfortable. The M100’s are exceptionally easy to drive, so I cant really comment about the X5’s ability to drive 250-300 ohm headphones. One thing I like a lot more on the DX50 is that the Volume + and – buttons are separated by a quarter inch. On the X5 they are each half of “1” long button. I like the DX50’s 2 distinct buttons because they are easier to feel through your pants and easier to adjust without looking at the player.
Now, on the the important part: The Sound.
Do not have a large palette of high end DAPs to compare this to, mostly just the DX50, but have used Ipods, Sansa Clip+, Creative Zen, Zune, and the X3. For my comparison, I did No EQing to best compare one to the other (I mean, EQ off).
First off, I think the Texas Instruments DAC does a good job of imaging and instrument separation. Most of the time I thought this was a plus, but in some recordings, it made the sound stage too wide or localized. I specifically thought that the guitar and drums on Dave Matthew’s Lie in our Graves were almost too localized.
To me, the general signature of this DAP seems to be strong lows and mids, laid back highs. By that I mean the bass and mids stand out, with the treble taking a back seat. Sub bass ( <40hz) wasn’t as strong either.
To my ears, the Lows on the X5 are boosted. They seem more present than on my DX50. This really comes through with things like a bass guitar, and the lower notes metal guitars with distortion. I think I heard the upper lows bleeding into the lower mids on a lot of rock songs like Godsmack’s Bad Religion, Weezer’s Pork and Beans, and Disturbed’s Voices.
The Mid’s also seem very prominent to me. The vocals come across very nicely in general with a good, natural sound. Once thing I noticed: there is a certain frequency in some rock songs, a medium-high guitar note, that really pierces and seems overly loud. I noticed this in some of the rock songs mentioned above, and specifically in Korn’s Reclaim My Place.
The Highs could use a little EQing up in my opinion, but I think this about most setups. I did about the same boost with my DX50 and got both players to sound about the same.
I did some testing with the C&C BH2 and the Fiio E12 via the LO too. I thought both the E12 and BH2 provided a better (to my ears) sound sig than the onboard amp. It seemed flatter/more neutral in general. The prominent lows and mids via the HO seemed to be more even via the LO to either amp. Comparing the LO of the DX50 to the X5, I highly doubt I would be able to tell one from the other in a blind test. 1 thing I do like about the DX50, is that the LO volume is variable. I know people go both ways on this, but I personally like it because I have sensitive headphones. With the X5, I could only use around ¼ to 1/3 of the volume knob before it became too loud, and when in a very quiet environment, I only needed 1/6 to 1/8 volume. On the DX50, I set my LO volume to 230/255 and then I can use ¾ of the volume knob. I know that technically you want the highest source voltage and lowest amp gain for the best THD ratio, but I still cant hear distortion using it like this. If you have higher impedance headphones, this wont be an issue, as you need more power to achieve the same volume. Overall the LO on the X5 is very good and clean. It will be a great source for any amp you strap on it.
Final thoughts: The X5 is a solid player. Personally, I like my DX50/BH2 combo better at the same price point. I think the X5 has the “Fiio house sound”, and the people who like that will love the X5. I chose the DX50 after my co worker had me listen to the X3 and DX50. I instantly liked the DX50 more and have been in the iBasso camp ever since. I know lots of people like the Fiio sound though, so if you have liked their players in the past, im sure you’ll love the X5, especially if you’re coming from an X3. All in all, Im glad that I got to hear the X5, but it didn’t sway my love for the DX50.
I will be adding some pictures soon, my camera needs some updating so they are not the greatest but there are plenty on Head-fi for you to view.
Thanks for reading,Andy (Aka Howdy)
After all that was said above I ended up selling all of my ibasso products bought the X5 and became a FiiO fan boy. The sound of the X5 is by far superior to the DX50, I think there have been something wrong with my tour unit but the new one I have now is great, no issues what so ever. I'm excited for the upcoming X7!
Just figured I would update this review and tell my new thoughts for the X5.
Pros - Natural presentation, superb detail reproduction, ample amounts of performance, competitive price.
Cons - The navigation wheel feels a bit fragile, non replaceable battery.
I am in no way, shape or form affiliated with FiiO or their partners.
First of all i would like to thank FiiO and those involved for making the world tour possible.
This write-up is based upon the ten day period of time in the middle of march when i had a preview unit in my possession.
1. The first time
I picked up the unit on the fourteenth of march, and quickly hauled a*se home to try this new thing that came to change my view on portable audio.
When i got it out of the packaging i quickly realized that i was a beta tester, the player crashed when trying to index my library of seven hundred or so FLAC files.
After a quick search i found that this was a common bug with version 1.10 of the X5's firmware and that it had been fixed in a later update. With the new update installed the listening began.
1.1 Listening and hearing
I plugged my InEar StageDiver SD-2's into the X5 and heard... well i heard music, nothing spectacular just music. I thought "This can't be right, is there something I'm missing?", it turned out that i was. Later that evening when i grabbed my InEar's again for another listening session it struck me, the X5 is not doing anything in special, it's just doing what it's supposed to. It does not colour the music in any mayor way, nor does it improve it. The X5 is strikingly natural. The music just sounds right, and that is the best way I can describe it.
The X5 and the StageDivers.
Natural, is that it? Sonically, yes that is the best way i can describe it, natural. And with me being a naturalist i feel that this is the way that I want to enjoy my music, "as it is" and with as few disturbances as possible detracting from the music.
2. The physical
The X5 is one solid feeling player. Built out of solid aluminum with very little plastic in the actual chassis. The one thing i wish that FiiO took a good hard look at is the mechanical navigation wheel. The unit i received had a very poorly implemented wheel, the thing jiggled like there was no tomorrow and felt like it was about to pop of the unit, which could probably be fixed with some inlays but since I didn't own the unit I decided against putting the X5 under the screwdriver and fixing it myself. That wheel was a real turnoff. When everything about the unit screamed quality there it was, jiggling away.
2.1 Holding its own
The Swedish weather can get a bit crazy around the month of march. One minute it can be sunny and lovely, the next it can be poring down rain and the next it can be snowing. Despite this i never had the X5 crap out on me because of the weather, it handled sub zero degrees centigrade like a champ when other digital devices like my phone didn't.
3. The big picture
Even though the X5 has some flaws I still feel like it's a welcomed addition to the ever growing market of Digital Audio Players. It's solid enough to withstand some fairly heavy abuse, it handles weather like a champ and it plays music without to many diversions. It gives ample amounts of performance for not to much money. Is it the best player on the market? No, it isn't. Is it for everyone? I believe not, but for someone that likes things to be a bit bigger (yes, some puns intended), does not like to have things spoiled and enjoys naturality. Then i think it is something to consider and keep in mind when the time for an upgrade comes.
The X5 does also work well with FiiO's E12 amplifier if you need some extra power.
3.1 Closing words
I would once again like to thank FiiO for this opportunity and for pushing to meet the demands of us Head-fi'ers that keep knocking on your noggins with an everlasting thirst for you and your products.
Markus Petersson a.k.a. Skalkman.
Pros - good UI, sound swings above its price point, well made, Good battery life,
Cons - not crazy about the SD card covers, when navigating song titles wish fonts were bigger
Full review below
Pros - Fantastic sound signature; outstanding build quality
Cons - New UI to learn.
Firmware: 1.20; 1.22 Beta; 1.23 Beta
Gapless Playback: On
Files Used: FLAC (16/44.1)
MicroSD Card: Sandisk 32GB, formatted to FAT32
Music used during review:
The Beta Band – the Three EPs
Devandra Banhart – Cripple Crow
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Miles Davis – Musings of Miles
John Wizards – John Wizards
Amampondo – Raw and Undiluted
McCoy Tyner – Extensions
F. Gulda, K. Abbado, Wiener Philharmoniker – Mozart, Great Piano Concertos 20, 21, 25 & 27
Headphones used during review:
Magnum X drivers in Cabillas Mahogany Cups
Blox M2C (2013/2014 edition)
Vintage Grado SR80 Pink Drivers in African Blackwood Cups
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80
Fostex T50rp (unmodded)
Sadly, this is not virgin territory. There have been a slew of X5 reviews prior to this one, and at this point not much new can be said for this product. Like a man who meets a delightful young lady on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the best I can do is perhaps add my voice to the cat’s chorus of people who have also met said young lady, and alongside them, sincerely voice my appreciation of her company. The unit I reviewed is my own, purchased at full price, from B&H Photo and Video in New York.
I applaud FiiO for what they have done. I am a firm believer that quality audio (in fact, quality anything…) can be had for a reasonable price. Money does not equal superiority, class cannot be bought, etc, etc… (insert anti-elitist, pseudo-libertarian, wannabe-anarchist cliché here). Anyone interested in this concept should read Robert M. Pirsig’s classic, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. With regards to the X5, read on for a subjectivist’s impressions…
The unit comes very well packaged, and has a plethora of accessories. Some of them will never see the light of day for me…they are nice to have nonetheless. A side note of little relevance: the X5 does not include earbuds, but this is not a con in my book. I am waiting for the day FiiO ventures into headphone and earbud territory. They will more than likely be a force to be reckoned with. In the meantime, if you are buying an X5, the odds are that you already have a headphone/earbud/iem of preference.
The X5 is solidly built, and in its complimentary silicon case feels rather comforting to hold (like a lead-filled baseball bat or perhaps a nice police baton…or just a nicely engineered piece of consumer electronics). All of the entry points are secure and solid (I am going to refrain from making an improper joke here). The SD card slots are a touch awkward to get to, but once the cards are in, they are safe (again…refraining from inserting yet another improper joke). I added and removed music without using the micro-SD card reader so thoughtfully provided and encountered no problems at all.
The user interface was built by FiiO from the ground up apparently. As such it is a completely new animal for all of us. I am not completely used to it, but I will be soon enough I am sure. It’s hard to override all that muscle memory built up from years of using iPods…Like a man confined to a hospital bed for 3 months while his broken leg heals, I now find myself having to walk down the hall to take a leak again…It’s going to be a little wobbly at first, and there will be accidents, but I am pretty sure after a little while I will be whizzing (see what I did there?) through the system effortlessly.
The sound the X5 puts out as both a portable device and a USB DAC is absolutely perfect for my tastes. It is neutral, but not completely so (if it were, it would be a dreadful bore to listen to). Not only does it sound good, it is (as noted by others) very detailed. I haven’t used this old chestnut for a while: I heard things on old favorite albums I have never heard before. Gapless playback worked flawlessly for me. There was no noticeable pause, not even a miniscule little hiccup, between tracks for me. I do not use playlists or replaygain, so I shall refrain from commenting on these. I was impressed with its ability to drive even the dreadful stock T50rp (See? I had good reason to include the wretched old studio mules in my headphone list at the beginning…) and Beyerdynamic DT770 80 to acceptably enjoyable levels.
For someone looking for a step up from the iPod, or a reliable on-the-go player with superior sound, I highly recommend the X5. For those who feel that being asked to pay upwards of $500 to enjoy decent sound in a portable player is asking you to perhaps invest too much of your hard-earned income into something that should feel like a pleasurable pursuit as opposed to a spending habit that rivals a nice combination of a crack habit and a gambling problem, I say pursue the X5, pursue it with a gleeful heart and enjoy it when you have it.
Pros - Capacity, power, battery life and sound quality.
Cons - Could use a better wheel. Interface needs a bit more tuning.
Hello everyone, My late review of the X5 due to PC issues.
Headphones used: AD900X, MDR-F1, HD25-ii, JVC SZ2000, Fischer FA-011, JH16 and FXZ200.
To start with, no pictures since they were all lost along with the review so I will keep it short and sweet.
To begin with, the player feels sold and well built compared to the X3 and should be able to hold its own against the rest of the DAP bunch.
The buttons feel well built and nice to the touch although the wheel could use a more rigid gearing compared to the one it has now as it feels too loose at times.
Moving on to the display, the display seems nice and clear and sufficiently lit to see in the sunlight too very important due to the fact that it will be used outside.
Could use a bit more brightness or maybe its just me going blind.
The layout of the X5 with all its ports and buttons is very easy to use after fiddling with it for 15 minutes and as with most things you can just feel the buttons and do your thing.
So a big benefit for future X5 users as the wont have to deal with esoteric buttons and myriad menus.
Now coming to the most important part, the sound. The Fiio X5 seems fairly well balanced overall with no nasty spikes or unnatural boom.
Just clean and clear audio with no surprises.
The treble is well defined and articulated for a very pleasant presentation, midrange just needs a bit more body but that could possibly be changed by using different headphones.
The bass is just about right with no bloom or looseness. You get tight punchy bass and very good speed/impact for most tracks.
The soundstage is very precise and large though not huge.
I also tested it with my E12DIY and that only helped it to get even better. The E12 adds some more bass impact and punch to the whole sound while helping out with harder to power cans.
The X5 surprised me most however when it came to plugging it in my car and boy oh boy, it was amazing how good it was.
I have a comprehensive triple amp car setup with a HX-D2 headunit,Focal Kevlars, JL Audio sub and sound proofing all around.
The X5 literally was the cheapest piece of kit in the whole setup and it also had the biggest impact.
The whole system seemed to have cleared its throat and the sound was simply mesmerising.
It was crystal clear, sharp and very very enjoyable and seemed to unlock hidden potential in the whole setup.
I still haven't gotten over the fact and will get an X5 just to keep in my car.
To conclude, the X5 is something that is well worth the price and even more importantly for Fiio, a shot across the whole DAP field.
Having owned the X3 and currently running the E12DIY, the X5 pushes Fiio in a newer and bigger direction as I always liked Fiio products (E7,E12 and E18)
but had that nagging feeling that something was missing or not right but not anymore.
The E12DIY and the X5 have progressed Fiio to a higher playing field and everyone else, watch out.
Pros - Sound quality, great price, bullet proof build, functional (take 5 minutes to learn the UI and everything just works – no fuss)
Cons - More power on the headphone amp please
I am part of the X5 Preview tour for Europe (UK). I had the chance to evaluate the unit for 10 days. I have no affiliation with FiiO and this review is based solely on my 10 days with the X5.
I would like to take this opportunity Joe, James and the whole FiiO team for making this preview possible. Any company that makes an effort to know who their customers are and engage with them is on to a winner.
Well done FiiO.
A little context
I am not an audiophile - at least I don't think I am. Unless of course what I deem to be excetional sound quality makes me an audiophile then so be it.
First I had an iPod playing 128, 160 and 192 kbit/s MP3's using the standard packaged earphones - I was super impressed.
After a while I wanted more so sourced 320 kbit/s MP3's and bought some 'upgrade' earphones (Sennheiser CX 300-II) - I was super impressed.
After a while I wanted more and discovered FLAC & ALAC and bought some 'upgrade' earphones (Sony XBA2 In-Ear Headphones) - I was super impressed.
Then I got a gift of Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro-80 Closed Studio Headphones which led me to discover headphone amps. Some research pointed me in the direction of the Fiio E07K Andes USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier - I was completely blown away. This was now on a par with the McIntosh MX406 and MCD4000-6-Disc-CD-Changer system I have in my car. I never thought I could have that quality of sound in a portable package.
After a while I wanted to take this sound with me when I travelled so I purchased a pair of Beyerdynamic DTX501P to complete the package.
After a while I wondered how much nicer it would be to have exactly what i have in a more compact package which is when I discovered the FiiO X3. It was while researching the X3 that I discovered the X5 which led me to an invitation to join the X5 tour.
The question that I needed the X5 to answer for me was is it a suitable replacement for my current bundle and are the improvements significant enough for my definition of 'sound quality' (I think sound quality is something that is totally subjective although I understand the need to try and describe or define it)
I firmly believe (my personal opinion) that the main function of a high quality music player is to listen to music. Things like being able to easily adjust the volume, the bass & treble or whether a track can be tagged as a favourite are very much secondary functions. Fortunately, most of these secondary functions are software based so they can be improved or tweaked.
Here are my findings.
The build quality of the unit is hard to fault. The solid metal casing is a joy and feels great in the hand. Unlike some, I actually like the weight of the X5 - it gives it a premium feel.
Operation (User Interface)
I found the operation of the X5 via the User Interface to be fresh and different, in a good way. It took a little getting used to and I can see that a little more work is required in the software to address issues of workflow and making a few functions configurable.
The good news is that most of this can be done via the Firmware upgrades with relative ease. FiiO will have to manage their development roadmap carefully to release Firmware upgrades that address logical feature sets.
I would like to be able to adjust the speed of the scroll wheel or what each 'click' represents.
Operation & Ergonomics (Control)
I found operating the X5 in terms of volume controls, shortcut 'X' buttons for next track, previous track etc., was perfectly adequate. It took a very short time to get used to how things operated and then it was a breeze.
In terms of Ergonomics, the only thing I would change would be to duplicate the volume buttons on the left of the unit, on the right. Then I would allow the user to select the right or left for the volume controls and the right or left for the next track/previous track. This way the ease of use of the X5 does not depend on which hand it is held in – just a thought
For me this should be the only reason to buy a portable player. The UI, the controls and even the capacity are all secondary in my opinion- after all there isn’t much point in listening to several songs at the same time ?. I was truly amazed at the sound quality produced for such a reasonable price.
As I mentioned before I am not an audiophile. All I know is that I found the X5 to have just the right amount of bass, treble and mid range for almost any type of music I cared to put through it. I was particularly impressed by the way I could get the perfect sound by using the EQ when listening to high quality recordings of Kora music. But it doesn’t stop there – I pulled out some music that I only have on as MP3’s and somehow the X5 treated them with so much respect that they decided to behave like high quality FLAC’s - miraculous!
The only ‘core’ part of the X5 I would want to see improved if possible would be the power of the headphone amp – more power please.
The X5 really is a hidden gem. I will be getting one just as soon as I can. I am already looking forward to long haul flights with the X5. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to evolve their enjoyment of recorded music – by the time they become a fully fledged audiophile they will already have the right player!
Next challenge FiiO – make a player that is twice as good for only twice the money, I dare you!
For me the X5 is a better package than the iPod/E07K bundle and that X5's wining margin grows with each firmware update.
tl;dr: 3.9/5.0 => 4.5/5.0. The X5 is a good DAP and USB DAC combo that will shine even more after more polishing (right now it’s 1.20 and will get 1.21 soon. Things are looking really great from what I have seen in the changelog so far! )
People who want the same sound for their portable and desktop setup
People who prefer a very well-detailed and well-presented soundscape
People who want something simple to play their loseless files (i.e. those who just throw everything into one card and play from there)
People who are ok with frequent firmware upgrades
People who want something a little smaller and/or lighter
People who prefer a touchscreen
People who need ReplayGain support
People who want something more intuitive at one look
People who want something that works really well off-the-shelf
Note: In italics are the required disclaimers as per stipulated in the Preview Tour thread.
One day in December 2013, as I was looking around in Head-Fi (being more interested in audio ever since Fiio decided to add USB DAC capability to the X3), I came across a thread by Fiio asking people to test out the X5 as part of its “Preview Tour” (i.e. test it for 10 days for free and then pass it to the next reviewer/Fiio depending on schedule set by Fiio). I thought to myself, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained, YOLO” and signed up for it despite not writing having written a proper review before, not having high-level audio products and most probably being unable to afford to get the X5 in the immediate future being just a college student only. So, by some stroke of luck, here I am, reviewing the Fiio X5 (albeit an engineering sample and mostly on Firmware 1.00; the ones that you will be buying will be better than this review set ), and here’s my experiences with it.
When I got the set from the previous reviewer, it was in a normal-looking box that you will expect for any electronic product. But, when I opened it, I was a little impressed by that sleek looking black box that held the X5; its leathery surface seems to show that this product is clearly for the (slightly more) upmarket consumer. The other stuff you get is on par with the rest in this market (e.g. USB cable, 3.5mm to coaxial cable and maybe that silicon case), except for the screen protectors (the X5 already has one, and some spare ones), the MicroSD card reader and even an USB OTG cable (as the X5 will be able to play media files from other USB storage devices in future firmware patches), which I thought are a nice touch from Fiio. The silicon case is a little thick though, which means that if you are planning to use the X5 with bigger 3.5mm plugs, you cannot use the silicon case (that’s why you will see that I am not using it in the pictures).
The X5 itself
The first impression you might have is that “Hey, it looks like and iPod!” thanks to its mechanical wheel. But beyond that, it is a completely different beast from the iPod and many other digital audio players in the market. Around the wheel are 4 buttons, with a fifth one in the middle of the wheel. Below the wheel, you will see 4 dots, which are lit by a green/red LED to indicate USB activity. Above these is a large screen, which is quite clear and sharp. I am happy with the screen considering that it is the biggest I ever had for a DAP. On the top side of the X5, you will see the 3.5mm ports for Line-Out, Headphones Out and Coaxial Out, the Reset button and Power On/Off button (which acts as a Lock button too), which is as expected. The left side of the X5 has two buttons for controlling volume like the Sansa Clip Zip. What may be more interesting is the bottom of the X5, which has two MicroSD card slots and a MicroUSB port; not many digital audio players allow you to use two MicroSD cards and also another USB storage device at one go and not many digital audio players have thick and strong rubber covers to protect your MicroSD cards, which I think are important since they are small and somewhat fragile.
Within the X5
The X5 starts up pretty fast and switches off pretty fast too (with a friendly “See You” message). Once the X5 is started, you will be in the main menu and you can use the wheel (or the bottom two buttons) to select where you want to go and the middle button to confirm your selection. You can choose to play your music files via selecting one of them among them within a storage device (this is what I used almost exclusively throughout this review), or go by artists or genres. There is also a “Favourites” playlist that you can use after setting some songs as your Favourites. Finally, you can adjust your X5 according to its “Equalizer”, its “Playback Settings” (e.g. gain control) and “System Settings” (e.g. language settings and USB port settings). A firmware upgrade can be done quickly and easily by getting the firmware file from the official Fiio website and placing it in a MicroSD card and then starting the X5 with it.
Coming from entry-level digital audio players like the Sansa Clip Zip that I am using now, the X5 is unsurprisingly a huge improvement. When paired with my (modded) Beyerdynamics Custom ONE Pro, I was happy at how the X5 was near-neutral as compared to the Clip Zip; I noticed slightly more treble (and even more so if FW1.15 is used). More importantly, I was pleased with how the X5 presented the details of the music; the level of detailing may be the same for the X5 and the Clip Zip but the X5 somehow managed to make me notice all these details much more than the Clip Zip. I support the popular notion that the X5 is good at showing the “micro-details” of the music. Also, it was only on the X5 that I can notice the weakness of my COPs: weak mids, which goes to show that the X5 is good enough at telling the weakness and strengths of some headphones. One of my friends also noted that the X5 is on par with the Cowon Z2 in terms of sound signature, but another friend using an iBasso DX50 noted that it was too bassy to his liking.
One of the reasons why I am interested in Fiio’s X3 and X5 is that they can be USB DACs too and thus be part of your desk setup aside from being your portable setup (i.e. I prefer an all-in-one solution). Here, the X5 proved to be quite good. In order to use the X5 as an USB DAC, you must set it to be a DAC in the USB settings under the System Settings and then install the USB DAC drivers for your computer. When I was using the X5 as an USB DAC and paired it with a 12AU7 tube amp from Fred’s Amps using a RCA 1960’s grey plate tube, the sound signature is obviously the same as before except for the slightly tubey sound due to the tube amp. It is surprisingly on par with the much cheaper Fiio D03K/Taishan, but I must note that the Fiio D03K needs a SPDIF or Coaxial input while the X5 needs an USB input. (Sidenote: I connected the X5 to the D03K via its Coaxial output and then connected the D03K to the tube amp. The results are almost the same aurally, but it looks kind of funny ) The X5 however outdid Stoner Acoustics’ UD100 as it is much heavier on the vocals and bass, which then underemphasized other details, making it less neutral than the X5. Notably, the X5 hung and had forced shutdowns a few times during this testing phase; I suspect it has something to do with the line out port since they happened when the jack is inserted or removed from the port. Normal usage does not require you to do this many times in a short period of time though so this should be a not-so-urgent issue lest this is related to other forced shutdown issues.
The X5, being an USB device, needs to be charged via the USB port. While it can reach 100% if charged from a wall socket (of which I need to separately get a wall socket to USB plug), I was disappointed in seeing that it cannot be charged that quickly when plugged onto my laptop as an USB DAC (even after 12 hours!). I thought that I can use the time it is acting as an USB DAC to sufficiently charge it for the next day. Strangely, when I tried using a portable charger to charge (whether using the X5 or not), it was not charging as fast as on a wall socket too. On FW1.10 and above, I also noticed how hot the X5 can get while charging and how slower the charging process can get.
Other than this issue, I also noted that the buttons could have been labelled a la the X3; some of my friends and I noted that at first glance we do not understand what buttons do what until we either read the Quick Guide (in the System Settings or the one supplied with the X5) or we just play around with the X5. We also noted that the physical wheel feels flimsy and can be clumsy in terms of usage (especially when setting the Equalizer). While the wheel makes it faster to go through many songs as compared to the normal buttons as seen on the X3 and the Clip Zip, it is still slower than a touchscreen. I also noticed how imprecise the wheel can be at times, for some reason I tend to select the option/file that is just below my intended target.
Album art proved to be another issue I had with the X5; while the X5 is able to support them as stated on the official website, I am forced to experiment to find out what naming convention works and what doesn’t. Also, album art is cut off at the bottom and anyway, I feel it could have been better placed in the screen (i.e. the text should not block it at all).
The X5 is also quite huge and heavy compared to my Clip Zip, I had a hard time operating the X5 with one hand given that it is almost as wide as my palm. I also note that at certain circumstances (e.g. chasing a bus), its weight can be a hindrance.
Finally, song switching is much slower on the X5 than on the Clip Zip. This is slightly rectified on FW1.15 but the new Artist>Album behaviour (and that much loathed lockscreen being switched on when wrong button is pressed issue) is not something I want at all times.
The X5 does well to market itself to the audiophile market (which have its own expectations of prioritising SQ over UI/physical size and not minding to read the manual first) given its excellent near-neutral detailed SQ (+2.5 stars) and the USB DAC functionality (+1.0 stars) at a good price point (+1.0 stars) (compared to iriver/Astell&Kern’s AK series of DAPs, which seems to be its main competitor given the similarity in terms of functionality). That said, the slight problem of it is getting “mainstream” customers due to the UI (particularly the five unlabelled buttons) and the slowness of the hardware wheel vis-a-vis touchscreens that most of us are used to today (-0.5 stars). I am also not impressed by the album art issue; the lack of documentation can give a bad impression to consumers (-0.5 stars). I however acknowledge that I might be nitpicky over these points since they will not cause much problem operational-wise (+0.5 stars). If then, the main problem I have would be the charging issues (-1.0 stars) as I feel that no matter how good the X5 is in terms of sound quality, that will be pointless if I cannot use it often thanks to this issue. Thankfully, all these issues I have mentioned can largely be mitigated via the firmware patches that Fiio gives often (as seen in the X3) and I believe that Fiio can and will be able to fix these issues in due time and even throw in new features as per users’ suggestions/feedback (e.g. the USB DAC feature in the X3) given their excellent track-record in Head-Fi. (+0.9 => +1.5 stars)
Will I Get It: Maybe. Its price (SGD 479) is a little too high to my liking though but that’s really just me. The lack of ReplayGain functionality is another personal bugbear too (having to reconvert my collection takes up a lot of my time that could have been better to enjoy the X5, but thankfully, it is just an one-off…)
And sighs, it is too big for this pouch... :X
Pros - Great for flat sound lovers, durable, multi-functional
Cons - Might sound boring to some, lacks driving power
detailed review : http://earfisensation.blogspot.com/2014/04/fiio-x5-review-flat-head.html
Pros - Made for great recordings, built like a tank, easy to use
Cons - May be a bit heavy for some users, scroll wheel not as durable as rest of player
The Fiio X5 Pays A Visit To Saigon
I first want to thank James at Fiio and everyone else involved in setting this tour up (especially Joe Bloggs) – it was way cool of you guys to let us have a crack at the X5 before its release and much more satisfying to be a participant as opposed to a spectator, which was always the case in the past for this guy….
Where I’m Coming From
So I’ve been into this hobby for a couple of years now and started out buying a used Cowon J3 in the for sale threads after having an ipod 5.5 and and 4[sup]th[/sup] generation ipod touch. I like the J3 quite a bit because of its battery life, decent though unspectacular sound quality, and stable/more than adequate UI. It’s light as a feather, too, which matters a lot to me since I listen to music nearly daily while driving a moped on my way to work (half hour each way) and elsewhere (Saigon is a veritable sea of mopeds – the streets are teeming with literally millions of them). There simply is no other way for me to keep my sanity intact when driving to work. Exhibit A: (I drive through this intersection nearly every day )
Anyways, I’m not yet a super-discerning know-it-all sommelier of daps (not a conscious goal of mine), but I’m getting that itch to upgrade. I guess I’m your typical newish head-fier with a mild case of upgradeitus who is on somewhat of a budget ( the X5 should retail for $350, depending on your region). Fortunately for me, I was allowed to participate in the SE Asian tour and had the X5 for about a week. Here’s my experience with the X5…
Old-school Build Quality
It is built like a tank and really feels like a substantial piece of kit in my hand, unlike most consumer electronics nowadays. It seems like something designed for field use – its build is that robust. For my own purposes and general use, it is on the heavy side and not ideally-sized for a shirt pocket during my commute (that is where I keep my J3 when on the road). I kept it in my backpack instead, which wasn’t quite annoying, but a bit cumbersome when getting off my bike since my backpack is strapped to my handlebars, facing me. Clearly, this will not be an issue for 99.9% of users. After a couple of commutes, I decided the J3 is better suited for this generally dangerous task since this was, after all, a review unit and not mine (imagine the horror of having to inform Fiio of the demise of a review unit!). Saigon is quite hot, so there never really is a time when one has use for a coat with pockets – I wish I had an occasion to drop it in the inside pocket of a peacoat or something like that…hence, I’m really jealous of people who get to experience 4 seasons. For me, the X5 is more of a coffee shop/office sitting-on-your-tookus dap, which is quite alright since I spend a lot of time planning lessons or reading.
As far as battery life is concerned, I got about 10 hours or so out of it, using a mix of 16/44 and 24/96 files. I thought that I’d be really annoyed by this because of the J3 and its 30+ hours, but it didn’t cause me any problems at all. I knew what to expect, so how could I feel let down? I will say that it does take awhile to fully charge, so you need to be patient. A green indicator light beneath the scroll wheel will show you when it is topped off. Otherwise, the light will be red and blinking. Everybody is in agreement about its storage capability: 2 microSD (256GB maximum capacity) slots is a beautiful thing. There is no on-board memory, but this can be forgiven since they were forward-thinking enough to consider the size of high-res files (typically over 1 GB per album) when deciding on this aspect. Well done, Fiio! Here's a couple of pictures I took of the X5: Camera: Canon S110
In The Box (16.6 X 13 X 4.3cm)
Micro USB cable: 1 meter, large current Micro USB cable (for charging/data transfer)
Silicone case: 1 dark gray semi-transparent silicone case (with built-in port covers)
Protective film: 2 pieces (plus one already applied to the X5's screen)
3.5mm port covers: 3 pieces (very handy to avoid plugging into the wrong port when not using the case)
Promotion code for HDTracks
Much has been said about the UI and its unintuitiveness relative to other daps, but I didn’t find it particularly challenging to use. After a couple of minutes navigating through the UI, it struck me as a fairly straight forward affair, even before being improved with an update by the good chaps at Fiio (after I sent it to the next tour participant). There are similarities between the UI of the X5 and that of an ipod, but the X5 isn't quite as good. I'm not very picky about this kind of stuff, so I felt that it did its job admirably.
As far as the scroll wheel is concerned, I can’t say that I loved it, but it wasn’t bad. I wish it was more solidly affixed as it had just a wee bit of play and seemed to be slightly flexible (in contrast to the rest of the player, which is as solid as the hammer of Thor). I got used to it fairly quickly and didn’t really give it much thought after that. My experience was that the UI is very stable overall, though it did go a bit screwy on me a couple of times. At one point, the text was completely reversed, an exact mirror image of itself. Turning it off and back on again fixed the glitches each time (I think it happened 3 times over the span of a week), so it didn’t bother me so much as it put a sliver of doubt in my mind about its long term usage. I’m confident that Fiio will make the UI rock solid by the time it is released into the wild (if it isn’t already).
Update: Fiio has released a new version of the firmware with the following improvements:
USB on-the-go support
Improved decoding of lossy formats (mp3 / ogg vorbis)
New UI for file browsing and selection of songs by category
Other bug fixes related to lock screen and recognition via usb by some computers
Update #2: Fiio has released firmware version 1.2.2 and gapless playback has been successfully implemented.
The brightness of the screen isn’t really sufficient for direct sunlight, but that’s one of the sacrifices that had to be made to keep this thing within reach of more budget-minded audiophiles like myself. In its defense, few if any audio-only devices can adequately cope with the sun in SE Asia (especially in its price range). My J3 has the same issue, but I’ve managed to live with this minor inconvenience for over 2 years now without having a mental breakdown over it.
This thing is way more revealing than the J3. (For the record, I used Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs 3.2, VSonic GR07 MK1s, and UM Miracles CIEMs). There were some albums on my J3 which sound just fine to me that were shown to be less than stellar recordings by the X5, and this is a good thing. Yes, it means you may have to dig around and perhaps pay again to find another version of an album you already love and have to really enjoy it on the X5, but it will be worth the trouble. High-quality recordings were made for the X5 and one that really stood out for me was Paper Airplanes by Alison Krauss & Union Station from HDTracks. With my Mad Dogs plugged directly into the HO of the X5, this album sounded sublime, just crystal clear, non-fatiguing, and full of body. I was near max volume, but I must have mistakenly been on low gain. It didn’t bother me at the time, but I was a bit surprised. I thought I had it on high gain and I’m now 99.9% sure that I was in err. The MDs are a fairly power-hungry set of cans, so rest assured that the amp section of the X5 has enough power to respectably drive a plethora of full-size headphones. Another peach of an album was Whites Off Earth Now! by The Cowboy Junkies (MFSL), which is a collection of old blues songs masterfully reinterpreted, featuring gobs of sub-bass goodness (at least I think it's sub-bass).
Other recordings didn’t sound so great to me; Morning Phase by Beck (24-96 flac from HDTracks) sounded harsh in the highs – not exactly sibilant, but grating (with flat eq setting). On the J3, the same file sounds better though less detailed: The X5 really put a spotlight on a recording's flaws. I used the X5's eq to reduce this and it did do the trick, but I was left hoping and praying that the folks over at MoFi get their well-manicured hands on Morning Phase and give it the same treatment they gave to Sea Change (a much better record imo). Much has been made about the sound quality of Beck’s latest, so I’ll just reemphasize my point about the revealing nature of the X5: garbage in, garbage out (sorry, Mr. Ludwig, but I think you laid an egg). Feed it properly and you’ll be very pleased with the results.
At any rate, the Mad Dogs did sound gorgeous with the X5, and is clearly a better mate than the E17, which is substantially warmer and less revealing. I didn’t bother to stack the X5 and E17 – for better or worse, I just can’t be troubled to lug around a brick during my commute, so I didn’t see the point. I’m probably in the minority, but I just want a dap that can stand on its own two feet (I usually use iems, so this stands to reason in my mind). Those who do prefer to use a separate amp or dac are in luck; the X5 has both a line out and coaxial out, and can also be used in amp/dac mode when hooked up to your computer via usb, which just shows its versatility. Though I would probably only utilize the amp/dac on occasion, it is a player that you can sort of grow into, should you decide to delve into the world of portable amps/dacs. That flexibility right there really makes this a good value relative to other products in its price range.
Regarding how my personal gear paired with the X5, my Miracles and GR07s both sounded very good, but not as good as the full-size Mr. Speakers cans. They needed a bit of eq adjustment to tame the highs with some recordings, as I've mentioned, especially if I wanted to listen at louder volumes (I usually do), which only surprised me in the case of the Miracles. For this reason, I will go out on a limb and recommend iems or full-size cans that are mildly warm-sounding – some have called the X5 neutral to slightly warmish, but my impression is that it’s a bit of a detail monster (in a very good way with the right headphones). As always, YMMV…anybody who has been following the threads will know that most people have had a notably different experience from mine, so I may be the exception here.
Final Deep Thoughts
For those of you with a dap that sits in the entry-level to lower-mid tier, and also have your first confirmed case of upgradeitus, I think you need to give the X5 a long look. Yes, it’s heavier than average, but it is built to withstand Armageddon, has a fairly powerful amp section, is easy to use, and can hold up to 256gb of music (128gb MicroSD cards are now available if you hadn’t noticed). It will play nearly every file type under the sun and you can go high-res if you like, all the way up to 24/192. It doesn’t look very sexy, but like me, you just want something that is dependable and sounds great. Just ponder for a moment what you're after, how you’ll be using it on a day-to-day basis and consider your options. Fiio has made an excellent player here and it should be on your shortlist. Also, they deserve heaps of credit for really listening to their customer base to find out what people want; they do a remarkable job of delivering features that there is demand for and the X5 is evidence of this. If you want to hear it for yourself, they've reopened the tour (http://www.head-fi.org/t/696004/fiio-x5-preview-world-tour-re-opened-for-application-p-114/1725#post_10392960), so depending on where you live, you may be able to audition this fine piece of ear candy.
If you want to read up on all of the vital stats, like size, weight, output impedance, etc., here's a link to Fiio that has everything you need to know in one place: http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000055517771&MenuID=105026016
A couple of parting shots...
Pros - Build quality, features
Cons - Weight, storage
Fiio X5 Review
-I am a beta tester for Fiio products so the item is loaned to me for a set period, and I am in no way affiliated to Fiio
-This is my first time reviewing a DAP, keep that in mind
I am Lespectraal, just your average person inclined towards everything tech, and in this case I have been delving a bit into the world of DAP, starting with my own purchase of Fiio's own X3. The X3 was a mixed bag, despite the sound quality itself being exceptional the device as a whole suffered in other areas. So now we will see how the X5 holds up. I will be comparing the X5 to the X3 because those are the only two devices which are of the same category that I have owned and/or used.
Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro 250Ohm
JDS Labs C5
The Fiio X5 oozes of great build quality and even the looks alone tells you that Fiio has not skimped on this department. The device just feels great in the hand, albeit it is heavy compared to the X3. The casing to the buttons and the jacks are appropriately made to deliver the best operation possible.
X5's scroll wheel does feel a bit loose during my operation, it feels as if the sensors were going to come off and it even shows during usage as the items does not move with accuracy. As it turns out it is more of a software issue than anything, but even with that said it still does feel a bit loose. With that said though the scroll wheel does help considerably when scrolling through large files, which does make sense since such a device that has large file capacity allows many files at once. Button scrolling as in the X3 will be more of a nuisance since you are expected to continually depress a button to scroll through all items and this does not feel as natural as the circular motion which the scroll wheel allow for.
For the four corner buttons feel appropriate, their actuation force(the force it takes to press them down) feels just right. Daily usage of pressing the buttons to change folders or settings proved to be comfortable and I did not make accidental presses at all. Compared to the X3, the buttons are about the same to me. They both are accurate and able to register button presses when I demand them without a miss. They also feel durable as the presses feel "authoritative" and firm. The power button and volume rockers also share similar experiences.
For the jacks, I feel they are made quite durable. Each input/output jack has this circular ring around it, which is the same for the X3. This ring serves as to protect the jacks from wear and tear, and allows for firm attachment of jacks. It also looks aesthetically pleasing. Once connected, a headphone jack feels firm in place, without no looseness felt at all. I had no problem with the headphone jack as I would usually place the X5 in my pocket. No disconnections or anything at all. Really built like a tank. The same applies for the X3. Both devices have equally firm and durable jacks and I would not worry about placing the devices in my pocket.
Overall, the device feels absolutely stunning functioning to be durable, to allow it to be used daily and last for a long time. The quality is of the same league as the AK series of DAPs.
The UI is one of the most competent ones I have used in my life. It feels snappy and reliable without any hiccups. I could easily navigate the entirety of the devices UI with ease. I can easily get to where I want to, say to play a song from my library and get to it with such accuracy that shows how great the UI is. It never feels like a chore to move about the interface and for that reason alone makes the device worth the price.
Now the ease of navigation is largely due to the fact that it incorporates a large scroll wheel right in the middle of the four corner buttons with another larger button in the middle of the wheel which acts as the accept/volume/play/pause button. All of the buttons form together to make that UI such a breeze to use with. The layout of the X3 with the oddly placed buttons for volume and up/down it does not feel as natural to me compared to the X3.
The visuals on the X5 also deserves some praise. It just looks stunning. The vibrant colours and the sharpness of the screen just gives a great experience to the device. The low resolution screen and the lack of colours on the X3 is just eclipsed by the level of performance the screen the X5 has. Now that I have return to the X3 after using the X5 for the duration of the beta test, I just feel disappointed that I have to suffer with the X3's lesser screen quality.
The X5 can also be used as a USB DAC which to me is one of the major reasons why I bought the X3. I spend a lot of my time in front of the computer so I needed a way to play music on my computer while having great sound quality. The X3 came along and from there I decided to buy it because it solves this very problem. The X5 is similar here. I can plug it into my computer and even play games on it and provide me great sound quality to replace the built-in systems.
Here is a small disclaimer, I am not accustomed to the various Hi-Fi terminologies to describe sound as professional or as informative as possible, so bear this in mind. Think of it as a very subjective impression of the sound rather than a reliable understanding of how the device produces the analogue waveforms. But all reviews are subjective anyway, or at least to some degree, but I digress.
I love all songs from classical to rock, and with this large scope of taste, I have found the sound section of the device as Hi-Fi as it can be at this price range. It sounds more cleaner and natural compared to the X3, which is more warmly tilted. I was able to hear more details on the X5 than the X3, and the soundstage became wider and the instrument separation is also boosted up a notch. As for the instrument separation, I think it is more subtle than an apparent change but it is there.
I will break down the sound to its components:
To my ears the bass is quite well defined, it is the type of analytical bass I love in my music. Through the DT880s with its ability to go very low, shines in this regard. I was able to hear the low range rumble from songs like "Angel" by "Massive Attack". That song contains so much low frequencies it somewhat massages your brain as the song progresses. The X5 helps with that a great deal, it delivers the low frequencies through being punchy and defined.
It comes to me as being very honest somewhat. Any vocal song you throw at it the midrange will be present and brings it forth so beautifully it leaves you wanting more. You will keep on playing your vocal-centric pieces for many times because of this quality. Instruments that fall in this range are also treated similarly, as in the flute in the song "With You There to Help Me" by "Jethro Tull". The flute sounds so fluid and engaging as if you could just lay down and let the flute just carry you away into audio nirvana.
The treble is very well defined and integrated into the rest of the sound spectrum. It displays this range with no fatigue, it lays them down to you instead of throwing it to you giving you ear fatigue. Cymbals sound just right for my ears, the sizzle sounds as realistic as it could be without sounding too harsh on you. The snare drums hit with such a snap and authority. "Wish You Were Here" by "Pink Floyd" delighted me with its wonderful synthesizers and guitar.
Compared to the X3, the X5 sounds more spacious. The X5 delivers more depth, as in the front and back space. Other than that it is not so different than the X3. In this regard, the X3 and X5's soundstaging is already as good as DAPs can get.
The imaging on the X5 is done better than the X3, for it sounds more 3D like compared to the flat 2D of the X3. I feel that I am more into the song on the X5 than I do with the X3 for that reason alone. The instruments and vocals are placed to give a better impression of the music being played. This is one of my favourite things about the sound of this device, with the other being the neutrality.
The sound as a whole is delivered with neutrality in mind. And by neutrality I mean that all frequencies are adequately expressed to the best of its capabilities. All the songs I have listened to are portrayed nicely through the device. Now this all does depend on the headphone/IEM you are pairing, but from my gear this is what I have experienced.
The Fiio X5 deserves to be one of the top DAPs out there for giving it a nice feature packed experience with such a price, that it surely cannot be topped in that sense. For someone who wants pure Hi-Fi sound on the go, and also to be used as a USB DAC with a PC as a desktop device.
However, if you are on a budget, I think the X3 will suffice, as both devices are similarly packed with features, and the sound quality difference is not that big of a deal if you are going to look for a device with less of a damage on your wallet. The X3 will do just right for that situation.
The X5 will delight its owners for sure. From the build quality to the UI to the sound quality, all is done with a level of competence that just shows.