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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by Joe Bloggs, Jan 20, 2014
Pros - sound, size, price, battery life
Cons - weit, charging time
First part of the review. DESCRIPTION .
Yesterday, before I finally got the long-awaited by many, and me in particular, portable player Fiio X5, which began talks on the forum, long before its release. So , about a month later after its release, I have carried a red and yellow bag of DHL to home. Judging by the photos on the forum, I was expecting to see something " dull ." Inside the package courier service was red and black Cato box , packed in red " insulation " of Fiio. Inside it was a black box with imitation of snake skin , which caused speculation about copying this approach , the company IBASSO model DX50. Inside the box were : the player himself , dressed in a silicone case (it was included), usb cable , coaxial cable, usb-microsd - adapter , three plugs ( outputs player) , instruction manual, warranty booklet , two display protector, plus a third has already been glued to the screen.
Funny impression on me silicone case that does not look the player as a contraceptive in size XXXL pimply teenager.
The screen device made very high quality , good 2.4 inch IPS matrix (400 * 360 ) is much better than 50 . I will say even more, it's the best screen of all audiophiles players . There is certainly a fly in the ointment, because high-resolution fonts on the player , very small , and reading lists, it is necessary to hold the player under his nose . It is funny frame around the display , it is very broad, although in the process, it does not interfere with or even distracting, and when the display is off and does merges with the display in one unit .
I had some discomfort with controls after dh50 . So, on top of the player are all outputs: headphones- out, line out and coaxial , plus the power button and reset . Underneath USB and two compartments under microsd card. Left - the volume buttons. Right,- everything is clean . In front it is a control wheel , covered with softtach with the button in the middle and 4 buttons with a good response at the edges of the wheel -shaped X.
Dimensions player being 67.3 * 114 * 15.6 mm and weighs about 200 grams . Despite the large dimensions in hand, it does not feel much more than 50, but the weight is noticeable . The battery is 3700 mA at 3.7 . Player plays a long time , and fast charging. Manufacturer, as I mentioned earlier do not put in the charger kit , but the instructions recommend the use of the device is not less than 2A .
Case is made of anodized aluminum. On the body as I have not found the mounting screws.
Plugs microsd compartments made not qualitatively they are sitting tight and after frequent on / off . , Become loose , and will be allocated on the case ( it is will better IMHO make something like to AK100 shutter) .
The next section will describe the menus , controls, and playback formats .
In the third part , I will describe the sound.
SECOND CHAT . ON mode and playback mode .
Picking up Fiio X5 habit thumb stretched on the left face , but it was not there , a button on / lock on top of that .
So, a short press on the power button and appears WELCOME ( colored in NEXUS style) and animation Fiio logo, and 8 seconds ( timed ) , the player is ready to go. We met a very nice screen and " a string " menu " carousel " type , made in the style of black and red with a yellow- orange icons.
THIS PART IS TRASLATING MENU INTO RUSSIAN
When you select a track in the folder and it’s playing will meet you on the screen " background " in which the entire amount will show off the yellow sheet in the red spot black background ( as in bent ) or the album cover stretched to full screen. At the top of the screen there is a small service line , which displays icons from left to right : the dynamics of digital volume level , G = L / H ( type of reinforcement ) , displaying the current menu tab ( written) , displaying icons of memory cards , displaying the current activity playback , and battery level icon with five gradations . All this information is recorded continuously , regardless , from the " provisions" in the user menu.
Dale in the upper left corner ( just below the service line) is an additional context menu , which can cause upper left button . By default, it consists of two icons : " heart " ( colored in red ( active) or white ) - Display accessories Track favorites folder , and character list. When you activate this menu, you can access the following functions :
• Heart - track selection menu favorites . ,
• Select the playback style ( four icons ) . ,
• Deleting a track.
All functions are represented by the additional menu icons ( unsigned) .
Next in the top third of the screen in the middle of the yellow font displays information about the type of file playback (FLAC, for example) , the sampling rate and bit rate.
Next in the bottom third of the screen displays a white " scale " playing with an orange-colored , already reproduced interval track. Under it to the left to the right : the amount of time already playing the tracks , the track number relative to the folder / album , etc. , and the total time duration of the track. All of this is displayed in a small font in white.
Below is the title track (yellow) , the name of the artist and album name ( both white ) at the bottom of the screen.
Using the scroll during playback you will spread " carousel " menu playback folder . Long press the CC or volume rocker , the wheel will act as a volume control . As previously stated , the top left button opens a sub-menu , top right button - ago. The bottom two buttons are used to move between tracks and rewinding . Depending on the type of press ( long or short ) . During playback of the track , you can move freely on the menu and adjust the settings. It is also possible to adjust the playback volume is not dependent on the user's location in the device menu .
Strongly afflicted lack of " wind " track " wheel " and small fonts menu.
Switching between tracks depends strongly on the type of recording ( including Cue ) varies between 1 and 4 seconds . Gapless also works on all tracks without problem, it all depends on the type of files that works best with cut tracks in Flack 16/44 . It is also worth noting that the player can not read Cyrillic letters in track displayed in Chinese characters .
Mp3 player regains excellent , although I dare say that such a device a few will listen this format. According to the information on the device manufacturer's website is able to play the following formats : DSD, APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, WAV.
I checked it in the following formats:
1. WMA 16/44 256kbps single tracks, everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks 1 sec. , gapless works . ,
2 . WAW 16/44 975kbps single tracks, everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 2-3 sec. , gapless works . ,
3 . M4A 16/44 988kbps single tracks , everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 3-4 sec. , gapless works . ,
4 . FLAC 16/44 959kbps single tracks , everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 1-1.5 sec , gapless works . ,
5 . FLAC 16/44 916kbps file + CUE, everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 1.5-2 , gapless works . ,
6. FLAC 24/192 5536kbps file + CUE, everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 1.5-2 , gapless works, but the tracks themselves are not properly broken in time, cutting track file all decide (possibly curve cue ) . ,
7. APE 16/44 803kbps file + CUE, everything works fast without brakes , switching tracks with 1-1.5 , gapless works .
Scanning 8GB clogged stick ( Class 10) took 24 seconds , then open the folder with the tracks without brakes.
When you turn on you are hearing a click, so well known to the users of 50 .
It is also cool that when you remove the headphones from the jack or headphones- output linear , the player automatically gets paused.
PART THREE . SOUND .
I have to say that I will not specify a particular model of headphones from the sound , which I was doing my subjective review , because some headphones good on some styles , the other on the other , some of them do not and sounded irritated at any tapping . I will try to focus solely on the sound features that expand on certain models and genres. As my review have a lot of incomprehensible words with my subjective perception of sound , I'll try to do a little theoretical introduction to my review for easy understanding of certain words and phrases to describe the sound.
Let's start with what has sound characteristics ? Sound has the following characteristics:
• Volume - the subjective perception of sound power (absolute value of the auditory sensations) . Volume mainly depends on the sound pressure and frequency of sound vibrations . Also on volume affect its spectral composition , localization in space , timbre, duration of exposure to sound vibrations and other factors.
Sound level - relative value . It is expressed in the backgrounds and numerically equal to the sound pressure level ( in decibels - dB) generated by a sinusoidal 1 kHz tone of the same volume as the sound is measured ( ravnogromkim this sound) . (According to Wikipedia)
• Pitch - subjective quality of auditory sensations , along with volume and tone controls , allows you to have all the sounds on a scale from low to high . For a pure tone it depends mainly on the frequency (increasing the pitch frequency increases ), but also the subjective perception of the intensity - with increasing intensity of the pitch appears below . Pitch with a complex spectral composition depends on the distribution of energy along the frequency scale .
Units of pitch in music are tone , semitone cent.
Inside octave smallest musical interval - semitone ( musical interval between two nearest notes in an octave , approximately corresponding to the ratio of frequencies of two sounds equal. "Approximately" because the nature of the notes within the octave are not uniformly distributed (see Pythagorean comma ) .
• Timbre (Fr. timbre - « bell ", " label ", " distinctive sign ") - coloristic ( overtone ) coloration , and one of the specific characteristics of musical sound ( along with his height , volume idlitelnostyu ) .
By Voices distinguish sounds the same pitch and volume , but performed on different instruments , different voices , or on a single instrument , but in different ways , strokes , etc.
The timbre of a musical instrument is determined by the material , shape, design and conditions of its vibrations vibrator its various properties of the cavity , as well as the acoustics of the room in which the instrument sounds . In the formation of the tone of each particular sound are of key importance and its overtones ratio height and volume , noise overtones , attack parameters ( initial pulse of sound ) , formant , vibrato characteristics and other factors.
When perceiving sounds usually arise various associations : tonal sound specificity compared with organoleptic sensations from certain objects and phenomena, such as sounds termed as' bright , shiny, matte , warm, cold , deep , full , sharp , intense , juicy, metal , glass , apply and actually hearing the definition ( eg , voiced, voiceless , noisy ) .
In a strictly scientific sense, reasonable tone typology has not yet developed. Found that the ear has a band tonal nature.
Voice is used as an important means of musical expression : using voice, you can select one or the other component of the musical whole, strengthen or weaken contrast , change voices - one of the elements of musical drama.
• Duration .
As you probably already noticed that almost all the characteristics of human perception of sound , are not absolute values , but are the subjective quality of auditory perception in certain conditions.
To describe the features of sound , portable player , in conjunction with portable devices for personal listening audio information ( headphones ) , the focus of the review will be placed precisely on tone coloring compositions sound device , in order to compare the nature of the tone coloring with other devices at the same value of the original material.
In testing for the review participated following albums : Corner Stone Cues - Requiem For A Tower, ERA - Classics, Evanescence - Greatest Hits, Maksim Mrvica-The Piano Player, Nightwish 2000 Wishmaster, OkeanElzy-Zemla, Sarah Brightman - Amalfi, The Great Gatsby (Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film), Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Trilogy, DiDjuLja - Ornamental , Prime Test CD. Naturally all albums in high quality formats : WAV, APE, ALAC, FLAC, FLAC + CUE 16/44 b 24/192 . Just participated in the test , the following headset AT m50, AT W1000, DT990/250, Q701, w40, w3, XBA4, SM3v2, triple fi 10 (private sound description of the features of each model with the player will be in a separate article ) . As a direct opponent , played DX50 from iBasso, its sound compared with SC U7 and STU from ASUS ( because of their inconsistency devices with complex autonomous playing of sound material in the article is only an indication of some similar features in applying sound), so will also be compared with the 960 and MA8 memory ( so the article will not be given this a lot of place) , I also want to note that all headphones worked in the amplification mode of "high ." The average player has managed to survive more than 10 hours without topping up . Well here we go.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Trilogy. Let's start with the eponymous song. This is rather fast polyphonic rock composition . For its perception an important role plays attack speed and detail sounds. With these parameters, the X5 is handled much better than 50 , which is sometimes not very well cope with " difficult" moments. The sound of an electric guitar left mixed feelings , on the one hand, it is hard , dry and clear sound 50 times to cut the brain (such as early releases Ibanez , who will understand the subject ) , the other hand a softer sound and fused with a " long " (just what sustain direct then quietly used ) reverberation ( Les Paul Studio from Gibson ) . 50 focuses on the guitar, while the X5 , it does not emit strongly , making the composition more "whole " (I know that the artist plays a Fender ) . LF in 50 much worse than in X5 . X5 bass are good, but often put pressure on the midrange . X5 has to prolonged listening , while 50 give you " anger " normal guitars and vocals , but after listening to his long hard X5 constantly felt some shortage "poverty sound . 50 can compete with the X5 only in compositions where there is vocal in large numbers, as part of this album. Scene of 50 it is more distantly (4-5 series ) than in the X5 ( before the stage , sometimes the impression that playing guitar in the face ) , the design scene in both cases is good, but the X5 in width and depth , while the 50 slightly narrower due to positioning on the " imaginary " scene.
OkeanElzy-Zemla- In this album , many compositions emphasis on the low-frequency range , and it played into the hands of the X5 . So , thanks to slightly raised HF (IMHO) , the player makes the sound tracks more dynamic/fun. But OE primarily is their vocal soloist, and then fail Vakarchuka voice , moves into a higher tone , why is starting to sound somehow " woman " forgive me fans . On some track in some moments the sound of the lyrics goes to cry . 50 voice sounds more natural and smoother tonal on .
Evanescence - Greatest Hits. In this album there is a similar situation in the above album . Changes tone sounding voice Amy ( but not as much ) , which is seen on the track my immortal. 50 Again, the voice sounds more natural . But in the many others compositions from this album , you can hear a great dynamic range of X5. But it doesn’t mean that X5 can’t play vocal , it is plays great overtones and timbre , in this case, I try to describe it as :
DH50 - is how the expression and intonation to read , "***** you! " In the classroom with students quiet background noise .
X5 - shout it as the same person wronged you in a fit of rage at the bustling intersection. Not correct in terms of the tone relative to your " normal" voice , sometimes frustrated voice in the cry , but more emotionally sound and dd wider.
Sorry for such a crude comparison , but I think many will understand.
Nightwish-Wishmaster. Well, the voice of Tarja , I think it is not necessary to paint with a group of Nightwish , it was a gem . Here on the X5 can not listen to her . Lovely study tools , fast attack, powerful drums, clearly audible back vocal , bass guitar just fly away , and here comes into play " little girl ."
Sarah Brightman - Amalfi. Sarah takes the songs in the style Classical Crossover (popera). Listening to her albums began to notice that over time , her voice became more "adult" ( dropped or something, I do not know how to describe , just listen to her albums from 90 since 2005 , compare ), and so on X5 her voice was heard how early in his career , personally I like it , and here to add greater detail and wider range , generally obtained class . X5 in this comparison wiped his nose 50 . Yes, noticed that the X5 , practically does not change women's voices in opera performances.
ERA - Classics. X5 coped well , especially in the choruses , each distinguishable voice. For the first comparison with the 50 I got the impression that the sound is muted , slightly more dense, as opposed to 50 in which all sounded fine and easy , it seemed that it is better than X5 detail a hundred , and not the same . After wiretapping X5 for 30 minutes, I began to notice for themselves, not to hear that the veil on the sound that I heard in the beginning, all the instruments were heard in detail , the choir also fine vocal normal. But when I started listening to 50 first ran in his ears that the detail and brightness of supply , but listened , began to notice that the reverberation at 50 much less and distinguish individual voice in the chorus is much more difficult , and in some cases does not provide opportunities. There are comments to the fact that on the X5 violins sometimes annoying ( cut out the brain ), but it is eliminated properly selected headphones.
Maksim Mrvica-The Piano Player. Mrvica is a pianist. At first I thought that the X5 , in this comparison will undisputed winner , maybe no vocals , and no, there are nuances. First, it is hypertrophied LF, which climbs to all , and secondly , ringing in the " brain " of the notes to the second and higher octaves less pronounced emphasis on the piano in tune , as opposed to 50 . Very different sounding piano , it sounds like 50 is not easily enforced (Zimmermann), X5 and more " assertive / greasy » (Yamaha). 50 In the first place by a wide margin , etc tools nominated piano and violin at the X5 , it is less noticeable.
DiDjuLja - Ornamental . Light instrumental music , sounds great as 50 , and the X5 ( I do think there is such a source on which it did not sound ) . The only difference is in the nature of sound , X5 , softer sound , 50 more sonorous / hard guitar sounds . Scene I described earlier, the detail and dd almost at parity .
The Great Gatsby (Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film), soundtrack to the film " The Great Gatsby ." In this collection , a large number of tracks with a predominance of the bass , and this element of the X5 , it sounds very tight and energetic in M50 bass just nails , feel it all over. For baskhedov what the doctor ordered .
Corner Stone Cues - Requiem For A Tower. In the collection of a large number of tracks with lots of different instruments simultaneously sounding . We can say that all sounds great , if not for the fact that the LF strongly bulging , but if they touch up the equalizer , all ceases to their seats.
Prime Test CD_ well it is very hard , to listen to the end , this heroic feat . I will not dwell in detail , maybe a detailed analysis of 99 songs , it's overkill. I will focus on those moments that helps to identify the disc , such as:
• HF and sibilance - HF bullied and it is noticeable , Shiba skips more than 50 , but it all depends on your earphones. ,
• The width of the stage - quite wide and deep stage , with good study ( play instruments) , but is very close to the listener ( it is not even the first row ) . Good bugged stereo effect. ,
• Bass - well prorabony but hypertrophied a little . ,
• Vocal - not the strongest side of the device , thanks to an equalizer and headphones , it is possible to adjust it, but that's not it . On the men's vocals more prominently . ,
• El. Guitar - sound softly. ,
• Polyphony / Choir - excellent wins back , heard everyone in the choir. ,
• Classical musical instruments – is very well played. Soft and smooth sound.
In general, the device liked it stands level higher than 50 in stock , at 960 , but with some other accents in the sound. Despite the presence of identical MA8 DAC , X5 has less smooth sound , and worse towards MA8 exhaust, but this does not diminish its merits ( different price category). In comparison with U7 and STU ( on the same DAC ) , the player stands in the middle , however, differs significantly from serving STU where the middle worked much better. I assume that a good mod it can safely reach the level MA8 , and if you add more weight and autonomy , it will be a worthy competitor. In any case, everything will depend on the final price and convenience ( IMHO at MA8 convenient) . Features sound X5 easy to adjust " ears" knowing especially in extreme cases , you can resort to the equalizer . As for me, X5 , suitable neutral ears, or the prevalence of MF, bright ears like 990, will quickly tire also fit ears with a lack of bass , I think X5 will make their sound better.
Pros - Features, Navaigation, Sound Signature
Cons - Sound Stage, Media Update
I would like to first send tanks to Fiio and Head Fi member Joe Blogs for giving me the opportunity to preview the Fiio X5, I am not affiliated with Fiio in any way.
For the purpose of this review I demo'd the X5 with my Balanced Modded Denon AH MD 2000 Headphones and my iBasso PB2 Balanced Amplifier, equipped with quad LME 49990 OP amps and dummy buffers. In addition also compared the X5 again'st my Hifiman HM801, using the same music and amplification.
Price for the X5 is said to be $350.
Here's the X5 sitting atop my PB2 in it's silicon case. What's in the Box The X5 comes with some brief paper work in addition to the charger cable, the player it self is encased in a semi hard foam shell within the box, underneath is the paperwork and accessories. It features a usb mirco SD Card reader and high quality usb to micro-usb charging/data cable, 3 push plugs for each 3.5mm port, coaxial cable adapter, USB OTG cable,
The Player The Top of the player features 3 ports, the headphone out, line out and coaxial out ports, next to that is the power button. Volume is controlled by the two side buttons to the right of the headphone out going down the side face of the unit.
On the bottom are two ports for mirco SD Cards, the unit that I have did not feature any internal memory, so all music is loaded from the external Mirco SD cards. Seeing as there are two slots, the player has a very large external memory capacity! I usually prefer to use 64gb Cards for compatibility, but it's possible to have 128 or higher mirco SD Cards, non the less 128gbs of Flash Memory is an impressive feature. Unlike the iPod classic, the X5 does not use an internal hard drive, which means there's very minimal risk of data loss due to very few moving parts.
The player is controlled by the mechanical spinning wheel, and 5 buttons feature on the face of the player. There's a nice feel to the wheel, in addition volume is controlled by two side buttons. Controls are intuitive and menus are easy to maneuver through. The player is fairly dense, I enjoy the heavy in the hand feel that it has. I do not feel that it's overly heavy either, it is also smaller in size than the HM801. User Interface
The main menu is composed of simple icons that are switched by scrolling on the wheel.
The player does feature an EQ Utility as do most.
The gain is adjustable as well via the options menu, in addition to other options such as gap-less support and play mode.
The player does support 24/bit decoding and features album art during play back, in addition in the left hand corner of the screen you'll notice small icons. The X5 features an on the fly option adjustment as well, you can favorite songs in addition to adjusting the play back methods without leaving the now playing screen, If I'm really diggin a song, I can set the player to repeat that song without having to go into the main menu! In addition the player does lock it self, during play back. So if you shove it in your pocket there's no worry that you might accidentally change the song, a useful feature that my Hm801 does not have [and trust me pockets and the HM 801 don't get along.] As far as hang ups go, I've only had an issue with the X5 automatically filling it's library via the media update feature. The unit I have is a demo so perfection is not expected. The Sound I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures, I figured a shot of my ears wouldn't be too appealing.
Again, I'm using the X5 line out into my iBasso PB2. The PB2 is a fully balanced amp, meaning it splits the SE input into 4 separate channels, each channel is then sent individually to my balanced D2k. In addition, my PB2 is out fitted with LME 49990 OP amps and Dummy buffers, my point in all this is the PB2 is a very powerful and neutral amp. It adds bit of small bit "oomph" or "kick" to the bass as well as enhancing the sound stage depth, width and presentation by a small margin.
I'll say that in it's own right the X5 is a nice sounding player, it's fairly neutral I don't hear any major dips or peaks in the sound. It does a nice job of keeping my modded D2k slightly boosted bass in check. Paired with the Pb2 it is in it's own right a very nice sounding player. Fairly neutral and enjoyable.
It's not what I would call a Sterile player, but a very clean and balanced DAP. The bass, mids and treble are all in equal standing. Really there's little to no deficiency with the sound of the X5.
Spoiler: How ever, compared to my Hifiman HM801 the X5 rather obviously falls short.
Ahh yes head fi, the place where I can be brutally honest in my... disappointment with how bland the X5 sounds in my taste. Not to mention it's disappointing sound stage. Long story short, the X5 lacks a natural timbre and an engaging sound. The sound stage also lacks the clarity and definition of the Hm 801, being shallower, narrower and not as focused. More on the sound though, is the almost sterile nature of the X5. Granted it's a smidge warmer than the my NFB 10ES2 [but what isn't] still the mids bass and treble all lack anything... wonderful!
The HM 801 features a rather spacious sound stage, and very organic mids and bass, With a nice touch of treble sparkle. Everything about the Hm 801 [and my old Hm 601 for that matter] sounds right to me. While the Hm 601 lacked the sound stage and definition of the Hm 801 and even the X5, the tone or natural sound of the Hifiman HM 601 and my current 801 are what make them in my opinion better players all around. Granted I've not heard Hifimans new Line up of players, but for me the sound signiture of the X5 is kinda boring, and even worse the sound stage and details are equally as disappointing. For $350 it's still a great bargin, as the UI was enjoyable for me, and the myriad of playback options where cool. Not to mention it actually fits in my pocket and locks it self. BUT the sound is what turns me off from it.
Granted I'm comparing a $350 DAP to a once Flag Ship Status DAP that cost me $500 new, but it was the HM 601 , the joyous sound of that player that pushed me to buy the HM 801 [on a whim mind you] and imo both of the old school fatty BRICK Hifimans have a more organic and enjoyable tone than Fiios X5.
And going to the NFB 10ES2, while the X5 is warmer, it lacks the sound stage, tactility or definition. My point being, I enjoy, or rather I can accept a sterile sound in exchange for improvements in sound stage, detail retention and imaging. But Sadly the X5 offers a disappointment across the board for me. Again, in it's own right it's a great player, the combination of sound, UI Navigation, Features and utility make it a nice DAP! But it doesn't compare to the magic of the Hifiman Players, and honestly for me as long as it sounds good I can live with it.
Conclusion I would highly recommend the X5 for any one looking for a mid level DAP. The combination of it's size, sound and features make it very appealing. It's certainly a grab an go friendly player! And I my self prefer the un sleeved case, as I'm a big fan of that lovely metal shell! But the silicon case does a nice job of protecting the player, and will certainly help it stay where ever you put it.
Pros - Bang for buck
Cons - Not the cleanest design ever. UI not yet fully intuitive like a Ipod.
Packaging and bundled miscellaneous
* The X5
* X5's silicone case
* The box the X5 came in and the card stand inside
* X5 quick start guide
* bundled USB cable
* bundled USB card reader
* 3.5mm to RCA coaxial digital adapter cable
* warranty card
* 3 3.5mm port cover plugs
* 2 extra LCD screen protector films
* X5 button layout cue sheet
* HDTracks coupon
Fiio is outdoing the rest of the competition in this aspect. I have never seen any other companies provide that much that there really isn’t any accessories you need to get for it. Earphone jack cover for all holes. 1 pre applied screen protector and 2 spares and rubber case for it. It has got you covered for years to come.
Build quality and design aspect
The casing is well made, nothing to complain about here. Hard buttons for all the important functions(Vol up/Vol down/Forward/Backward and Pause). Operating with 1 hand, I realise my thumb couldn't reach the bottom left button comfortably. Screen is not completely filled on the glass which doesn’t look nice. But they have done the right thing and not make the screen touch sensitive. Would have prefered if the screen is flush with the player. A little play on the wheel and middle button but not to point of being flimsy. Battery seems to be sealed though I remember James mentioning that users can replace the battery but not in the hot swappable way. MicroSD card flap could be designed in a better way. I feel that the flaps doesn’t sits well but it’s a minor nuance that is covered by the silicon case.
UI on the X5 is better than what’s in the audiophile niche market at the moment but still a long way from the big players such as Apple and Sony. Booting time is fast. Interface is clean. Complaints I have is that the wheel accelerates in a linear way such that a long playlist takes a long time to wheel through(My own experience being 600 songs and wheeling it for 70+ full circles). Play by category needs work. All songs is sorted by file names which I think isn’t very user friendly. Would actually prefer if they replace the genre into playlist. There is no ways to create playlist. The closest it have is a favourite function which once you heart it, it appears under the favourites menu. I hope that they can implement the middle button hold as a favourite/add to playlist command at songs selection pages. So far from my usage, I have not encounter any bugs or hangs from the machine. Accuracy of the wheel is average. It seems to fail to register a few steps here and there but you use the forward and backward buttons to fine tune your selections. General UI design is very coherent and options/settings are very well thought out at this stage though it can still be improved further.
The X5 doesn’t disappoint in this area though it scales with what you’re using it with. I had some sibilance issue with my Elpis2 whereas on the AKG K272HD, Klipsch X10 and Koss PortaPro, it was a bliss listening it through the X5. Its able to handle what I’m listening to from Norah Jones to Avicii to Queen. There isn't any issue with playing any of my FLAC or MP3 files. Spacious and detailed/good separation would be what I would say about the sound from the X5. Bass isn’t overpowering in my opinion. Mid is neutral. Tested everything on low gain except for the AKG K272HD. Some tracks that I tested with.
Norah Jones - Don’t know why, Come away with me
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Swedish Mafia House - Calling
Audiomachine - Guardian at the gates, Akkadian empire
Fatboy Slim - Right here right now, Rockafeller Skank, Praise you,
ACDC - T.N.T, Shoot to thrill, Thunderstruck
Loch Lomond - Elephants and little girls, Wax and wire
Yoko Kanno - Gotta knock a little harder, No reply
Size is about the same as a Ipod Classic although a little thicker. There’s no problem putting it in my jeans pocket. Battery life is good. I managed to get 11 hours out of 1 single charge with constant use changing and searching of tracks.
At this price point, it’s really hard to complain about it. The X5 really hits all the right spot in terms of price/sound quality aspect. In the quality aspect especially, it's really a few notch above what the others are offering at the moment. Yes, there are things that can be improved upon and I’m very happy that Fiio is taking the right approach in developing their products. They do listen to what the niche market wants from their MP3 which is rare in this day and age. Fiio proves that you don’t have to pay an absurd price to get decent sounding gears and from this demo, I will pick one up once it’s available in my country. I would lastly like to thank Joe and James for the opportunity to test out the X5 before its international release.
Disclaimer: Unit tested was a loaner and I’m not affiliated with Fiio in any ways.
Pros - Beautiful sound quality, built like a tank, professional look and polite UI
Cons - The UI needs improvements, little on the heavy side.
FiiO X5 Review
«Not only for Audiophiles»
DISCLAMER: I am not affiliated with FiiO. This is a part of a world review tour and FiiO provided me the unit for review purposes. This review is as independent and objective as possible.
As the very first Italian reviewer of the FiiO X5 i want to thank all the FiiO staff for this opportunity to grow as a reviewer and to put my hands on this beauty.
Documentation (Quick Start + Warranty, etc.)
USB charging / data cable
Silicone protective case
Digital out to coax cable
USB micro SD card reader
The X5 is well packaged and basically includes almost everything you need to start using it.
My review will follow a unusual route and i'll start with the
My unit is really well crafted, the chinese aluminium production standards this days are really high and this unit is not an exception. The design is sleek but a bit «rough», in my opinion lacks a bit of smoothness. The lines and texture of the material are original and the overall presentation is good but it lacks a bit of friendliness on the design. It looks industrial. It feels and looks like a tank; and speaking of tanks, i think the unit is well ruggedized. I'm not sure if it meets the requirements of some standards (not for the water i guess) but i think wih this build quality would be easy to achieve. As i've mentioned, water can be a real problem with this unit because it lacks basic isolation: think about the gap on the wheel or some other small parts. Central and lateral buttons are perfect, the wheel rattles a little bit on the side (microns), but it feels solid. All the other buttons are perfect on this unit.
The aluminum cutting is really good on this unit, there aren't debris or bad soldering points.
The screen top protection is well ruggedized, and so the parts around it.
Obviously i haven't done drop tests but i feel like the unit can handle concrete drops from hands, even more with the silicon cover provided.
It does sometimes get warmer than most DAPs or smart phones when used for a while but nothing to be concerned here.
Thinking about a single word to describe the buildings and design on the unit i think the best for me is TANK.
It's a little on the heavy side;
It's rock solid;
It looks and feels powerful;
Software and UI design:
The software will change from the testing time to the final release.
My assumption are not based on the final software design of the unit.
Software side, my opinion is that there is a solid code base to work on but the work is not finish yet.
Solid code means that there is space to work on some bugs and improvements confortably wathever is the development environment.
Overall, the system seems really reactive and again, space for improvement is really, really high from now to release and with new firmwares.
Talking about the UI usability more deeply, i guess that everything is in the right place aside of some scrolling problems due to the firmware but they are working on it as i have the unit in my hands.
The graphics on the UI is clean and fluid.
I'll go straighforward to a description of the key components of the sound:
Signature: A very neutral signature, no questioning here, the player is neutral born and i love it. Neutral and sweety flat as beautiful mountain lake in a calm, sunny day.
Bass: The X5 has a very big bass compart. It is big and punchy. The bass is neutral and not in the way of the detail coming from the other frequencies. Other than that, bass are on the warm side, but still very detailed.
Midrange: Midrange are just right there, a little bit recessed maybe, but everything in the right place
Treble: If the recording is bad, there might be some sibilance and discomfort with the treble, especially at high volumes.
Sound Stage: The X5 sound stage is excellent: Imaging and instrument placement are really good for a portable player.
It is very close to the FiiO house sound, the kind of sound quality you get from products like the e07k or above, absolutely fantastic.
Comparing the player i must say that is able to outperform most of my gear starting from the SansaClip+ up to the Rockboxed ipod even with the help of the FiiO e07k, sonically speaking and i'm glad it delivers all of that in a more compact package, even if it's still on the heavy side.
Final Ratings and Conclusions:
The DAP market has really taken of this year, the quest for an all in one music solution has never sounded any better and now we have so many choices for where we go.
I think this player has a sweet spon on it's price range and to me everyone deserves a FiiO X5.
It's not just a Audiophile matters, i just think that this product can break off the lines of the audiophile elites and push himself on the bigger market, the game changing field.
This product can satisfy the casual listener looking for more and the demanding audiophile.
For my honest opionin, it's a Buy.
Pros - See review
Cons - See review
This review is based on the brief time I had the X5 as part of the UK tour.
I am not going in the facts, like spec, what's in the box etc, we all know that by now.
This is all my personal opinion and you should try to listen to anything yourself before buying.
All our ears are different.
46 year old – amateur musician for 32 years, audiophile for 20 years. I think I know
two channel audio pretty well, I have worked in Hi-End audio retail,and I certainly know how an instrument, especially guitars and drums are meant to sound.
Loves Rickenbackers, Gretsch Drums, Vox amps, LP12s, Quad Electrostatics and BBC speakers.
Equipment Used with X5 and in comparison
Hisoundaudio 3[sup]rd[/sup] Anniversary.
Hifiman - HM-801
Linn Ikemi CD player
Audio Technica ATH-ES10 (ESW9 pads)
My 801 developed faults about a month before the X5 arrived, so I used my Studio 3[sup]rd[/sup]
for that period until I received the X5. So both other DAPs were still quite fresh in my memory.
When I first received it, it was already charged, and very simple plug and play.
I plugged into my Dell Precision M4700 (Win7 64 bit) at work and there were no issues.
I find Fiio quite brilliant at this. You KNOW that when a lovely FIIO box arrives it will work.
I have E7, E07k, E17 and G01 guitar amp, and they've all been easy to use, and reliable.
If only the same could be said for others.
So I've the X5 in my hand, it's big, wider than my Iphone5, it feels good and weighty in my hand,
however I have very very big hands, so I am not too sure how others would feel, it could seem
a bit large.
I transfer some music with drag and drop, there is no internal memory so you have to use a mico SD card, I used a Samsung 32g class 4, that I had in my Studio 3[sup]rd[/sup]. Of course the first thing I put on
is some 24/192 files. This is the first DAP I have had that plays over 24/96, and this was my main
reason for showing interest in the first place.
After ejecting safely I turn it on and am completely bemused!. I can't seem to move the cursor.
I show it to a younger MAC friendly colleague at work, and he instantly spots the wheel and shows me. I have never used an Ipod so this was not intuitive to me.
So panic over and I plug in my ES10s
UURGGGGGHH – horrible. BUT I know it's not the DAP. I have had the ES10s for 2 months
now and the X5 confirmed that I just don't like them.
Ridiculous bass and veiled treble. I often wonder if they are fakes, yet they are beautifully built and others who I lend them to like them.
Back to the trusty DT1350. That's more like it.
Real world bass, beautiful midrange and treble.
Lots of treble.
On certain recordings there is no doubt I found the combo of X5/DT1350 a little
overly bright, like there is a spotlight on the treble. Sometimes I really like this as the detail
on the X5 is fabulous, the best I have heard on any DAP.
I am a detail freak, I think a lot of musicians are. I love hearing more, whether it was Beatles
24/44 flac, Rolling Stones 24/192 or WAVs of Jason Falkner and Michael Head I heard more detail
than ever. I was delighted as this.
Due to the short time I can't really say if part of the extra detail is due to the brightness or not. The match with D2000s was the best, I could have listened to that for a long long time without needing to upgrade a thing.
I have a Voyager and O2 but used the X5 only as a DAP, after all I was looking for a one box
replacement for my 801. I did find on better masterings, with high dynamic range like Mobile Fidelity and DCC that I had to have the volume at 85-90 with my DT1350s. I don't normally have to turn any amp up that hard, and I am no headbanger.
With other more modern compressed recordingsI had the volume at 65-75 – a bit more acceptable. Unlike others here I find the DX50 to have more power, but that of course is not what's important.
I found the battery life to be very good, I didn't measure it but definitely better than the 801, and its so easy to charge via USB, unlike other DAPs where you need a unique charger, this used to drive me mad about my HM-601 and HM-801
It's my birthday soon, it's fabulous value and I may ask for one.
I wish I had more time with it, and got to try it with the Voyager (that may have tamed the brightness a bit) I need to find out more about the X90, then the X7 might come out, or I might get my 801 repaired or exchange it for a 901 – choices, choices, this are very very exciting times in the world of personal audio, golden days. And the X5 adds to that perfectly
So to summarise
Plays Hi-Res beautifully
Amazing details, you will hear things you haven't heard before
Dual USB slots
Proper Line Out
Firmware easy to change
My only criticisms (that don't seem to agree with anyone else's here!)
Maybe a bit bright with certain headphones.
I don't like the X controls on the front. Though I guess I would get used to it after time.
Headphone amp could be a bit more powerful.
Pros - Great sound, build, features. high resolution, strong imaging, black background, dual card slots
Cons - Click wheel durability? Lock screen options need improvement. Still a little off neutral (for my preferences)
Firstly, I'd like to say special thanks to James from FiiO and Joe for offering us a wonderful tour on their new FiiO X5 unit.
It's not everyday we get to sample a new product before release, this has been a wonderful opportunity not only to give members a grasp on the player though also examine whether the unit might be for myself as a keeper or future purchase. I will try to write as even review as possible. The FiiO X5 unit I have with me is a loaner unit for 10 days to assess my likes and dislikes. I received the X5 unit on the 25th of February 2014. Firmware version: FW1.10
My past history with FiiO being I haven't been particular fond of their warmer house sound. In general I lean for more neutral sound signatures and as preference prefer bright to analytical presentations, (though I am flexible to a degree). What I've always been impressed with about FiiO is their excellent price to performance ratio for budget orientated audio enthusiasts which seems almost untouched by any other company out there. When I heard FiiO was designing a higher end DAP that leans more towards neutral from their previous house sound this intrigued me quite a lot, especially remembering the price to performance ratio I mentioned.
The FiiO X5 unit comes in a stand alone box with an outer sleeve, it reminds me very much of IBasso's DX50's packaging, simple, sweet and elegant, nothing to over the top though enough to get the job done nicely with a feeling of satisfaction. After all its what inside that counts right? To some yes, but FiiO have dressed up the boxing nicely to give that consumer feel. The inner box can also be used for long term (or short term storage) of your unit as you can see in the photos, the X5 sits nicely inside and you can place the lid back on.
Inside the packaging you're greeted with:
Pre molded Silicon case (high quality silicon)
High current USB charging / data cable (shielded)
Digital out to coax cable
3 x socket pin protector plugs (for the output ports)
FiiO branded USB micro SD card reader
x2 spare screen protectors for the X5 (plus one already fitted)
FiiO warranty card
HD tracks discount card (15%)
FiiO X5 quick start guide
As you can see the accessories are more than adequate FiiO seem to have provided everything you need to get started, there won't be any 'I need this" or "damn I forgot to get that". The only thing you will need is your own micro sd card as FiiO X5 does not support any internal storage for music, it relies on dual micro sd cards slots. I hear X5 can be bought bundled together with micro sd card to get you on your way although I think in our day and age especially amongst many of us here micro sd cards are found in most users house holds. If not they're rather cheap and only dropping in price due to the the new Sandisk 128GB cards now on the market.
The finish is of high quality aluminum alloy which feels solid in the hand making the x5 unit feel a little more than it's asking price, on the sides the edges are smooth and well rounded over, the entire unit feels admirable in the hand, you get a real feeling of quality when holding X5 as it also holds little weight equaling 174 grams.
The scroll wheel does feel a little loose or plastic feel to it though once you learn how to use it adjusting to the sensitivity levels being more than suitable. At first I was having problems with the scroll wheel either pushing it to much or not enough which caused me to miss my destination, but as driving a car the unit becomes easier to control with some use especially after an hour or two, I also hear this will be improved in future firmware updates. I do have some concerns about it's long term durability after many months of hardcore spinning although considering the player is so early and fresh we cannot say for certain.
The input jacks feel sturdy and have a nice firm click to them as do the volume and power tactile buttons, there's a feeling of craftsmanship within the build of X5. Moving to the bottom of the player you're greeted with not one but two micro sd card slots, an excellent selling feature of X5. Each slot can take up to 128GB micro sd cards giving a whopping total storage of 256GB. I will probably opt for two 64GB cards until the price of these newer 128GB come down a touch.
X5 takes almost every format you will ever need to use, rather than go through them all individually I'll simply display the formats. We also need to remember that FiiO X5 is not only a 16bit player it also does Hires 24 bit play back, this is another superior selling feature only seen in a few other players at this price point. This here having the 24bit support is a huge feature as now time is moving forward these files will be in demand so this feature assures FiiO's X5 long life span in the market.
Formats / Resolution
APE, WAV, FLAC, WMA, ALAC, MP2, MP3, AAC, OGG
Up to 192K/24bit – dependent on format
USB External sound card (using X5 as a DAC)
I must admit during my time with X5 I haven't had a chance to use it as a DAC, though the player does support this feature. To my understanding it can be connected to any laptop or PC then use the DAC section similar to FiiO E10, E17, for example. Only X5 does support 24bit playback as well in this area. For more information regarding using X5 as a DAC please check some other reviews as I'm sure it's just as functional as being a stand alone media player, it's just I don't listen to music while at a computer it's not something I can concentrate on.
UI (User Interface):
When first booing up the player you're greeted by the FiiO logo welcoming you to X5, the actual start up time between pressing the power button is about 6 seconds total from screen on to main menu, I think that's a pretty decent amount of time to get up and running for my standards, especially considering the dual card support. Some players like Studio V or Rocco BA take more than 10 seconds to load and up to 15-20 seconds with Studio V as those players scan their cards before each boot up quickly. So for me the boot up times on X5 is closer to instant.. I think only a Rockboxed Clip+ would boot quicker.
Once at the main menu you're created by a scrolling design where all your options for music selection, setting, music settings are located, it's a rather intuitive interface and something I've not seen before. You get a feeling of uniqueness but most importantly it matters how well this functions at speed. Happily I can say after a week with the unit you become quite at home rather quickly.
At first there's always that "what the hell am I doing" but without even reading the manual the player has become second nature to me in a matter of days, my only grunt is the scroll wheel sometimes misses your selection as it seems to click as you turn and sometimes doesn't land on the menu option/track selection you want, however I think in further firmware the unit will be improved in this area. By all means it's more than functional, you can move at speed though I can see some people possibly kicking up a fuss about it.
In the system settings you can manually scan your card which can also be done automatically. I prefer having the auto scan function off as I don't think it's needed to scan every boot up unless when adding several albums to your cards. There is a key lock setting which gives you two options: option 1 disables the buttons on the DAP so you can't switch tracks or adjust the volume while the screen is off. Option 2 leaves access to the volume pause/play, track navigation buttons.
You can set the screen time out duration before the screen locks but currently you cannot disable the key-lock feature completely. As it is on the current firmware I found this a little frustrating when the player is just sitting on a table or bed because each time you pick the player up you must press the power button to unlock the unit first. I hear this will be improved in future firmware updates. There''s also sleep mode, idle power off settings available.
You can view your music via folder view, album, artist, favorites (add favorites to your list first), genre & all music. For me personally I only ever view my music by folder so I didn't run the player through tests of tag reading, I hear though on our boards it's fairly stable for most parts.
There is one little niggle with the current firmware, when selecting from folder view (when selecting your track) X5 unit takes about 3-4 seconds before your track starts which can be a little laggy, it does give you a feeling of halting for a second however we must remember the firmware I was on is still very early, I gather this time delay will be sped up in the future. Once an album is playing the transition between tracks is smooth. I did however detect a slight skip if gap-less was engaged between track transitions.
More examples of FiiO X5 User Interface.
(please click each photo to see close ups)
Custom 10 band EQ: (with presets):
Folder selection screen (albums):
Now Playing Screen:
Tonality of X5 is indeed more towards neutral than FiiO's previous products I've tried, I still personally hear a hint of warmth in the presentation, which makes the entire mid range rather smooth and non fatiguing, while I find it does lean very close on neutral I can still feel a hint in there, just a slight essence of FiiO still, but we must remember my preference with other DAP's is a little bright to begin with and everyone opinion on neutral varies wildly on head-fi and in general. When I first heard X5 I couldn't help feel it sounded a little veiled with some of my parings though that sensation clears up rather quickly, probably within 5 minutes of listening. I think most will agree the X5 unit is much closer to neutral than their previous products and this is a good thing for audiophiles.
The bass on X5 is a tricky section for me, I find it rather powerful and a touch forward from the mid range, not by incredible amounts though it does lean a little on the emphasized side of things depending what headphone you're using. Some have suggested because of X5's driving power it's really just a tight well presented bass, but I do get a slight feeling of light bloat depending on my earphone / headphone used. For my preferences it can just hinder a little to much in the bottom stage and express a fraction of bleed, With that aside it has good texture and detail, the mid bass isn't to much for my standards (very slight amount). I think just a little less in the low end quantity would be my perfect preference although in a world that needs to please a majority of listeners I think FiiO made the right choice.
The mids on X5 to put in perspective are excellent, the refinement in that mid range is second to none from most DAP's I've heard there's great coherency on both left/right channels and samples hold excellent posture all round the stage This refinement mixes in with high resolution on X5, so when they blend together they make a rather wonderful mid range experience, as I've said sometimes it feels a little to smooth or a touch lacking some aggression though the detailing levels combined with that excellent refinement really steal the show.
I think X5 (for my standards) would be better paired with a slightly brighter sounding IEM/Headphone, just a fraction to light up the mid range with some more edge and sparkle. The background on X5 is very dark, it forms a pitch black space around your instruments, with no hiss. The actual imaging is especially focused and accurate, your perception of each image well refined.
I must double express though the mid range is simply wonderful for the price, the timbre is natural if not a fraction digital sounding. Detailing levels and clarity are right up there it makes a really professional sounding player. The micro detail is strong, I was hearing certain samples such a singers lips closing together, or a singer breathing in before the next verse my other DAP's don't express. The dark background just lets them push out from no-where. I think because of X5's high level of resolution there's new layers to find in your music, little pieces otherwise hidden and that resolution finds pushing out to you.
The treble to my ears has a slight emphasis in the lower regions, tends to push out most detail in this area, I cannot say it has incredible extension with pairings I've tried although never absent or lacking in anyway, rather well balanced with the mid range, you can always hear what's going on upstairs, I would however personally prefer a slight tilt here to try and increase the amount of air around the stage, this would also tilt the players overall tonality, though it doesn't seem to be lacking in anyway. Never harsh or strident, basically true to your headphone, probably a nice safe choice to again please a wide variety of consumers.
Many people have asked me if X5's instrument separation can compete with Hisound Studio V 3rd Anv (the best instrument separation I have heard), well to be quite frank no, X5 does not match Studio V 3rd Anv's instrument separation, it is on similar levels but always lacking a touch behind in attack, it does however have better ability to present samples coherently in the mid range, there are samples I've been able to make out easier due to this bonus especially when many are playing at once though the Studio V player has like a metronome effect where instruments are so well separated they can tick in time with each other, kind of like a clock and all it's cogs working together (like clockwork). X5 does not have that unfortunately but as compensation no other player has that I've heard expect for Hisounds unit. So fear not because X5's instrument separation is far from lacking you really get a nice image of each instrument and the much darker background than Hisound players ices the cake.
X5's soundstage has excellent depth to all left/right/center channels for example, if you hear a saxophone playing on the left channel it images itself way out back much closer to what a real life presentation would sound like if it's in the recording, it does this on all 3 channels so when you add this with strong imaging characteristics it makes a really well defined stage, the width with some of my hybrids is wider than most players I've heard, but it also has a big head-stage (the actual size of the image) so vocals sound larger than average, there's a fair amount of height and all your samples sound much bigger than for example on a Sansa Clip or even the Studio V for that matter to some extent. This is an area that works well while the mid range places those final pieces to the presentation we've talked about. I have not one bad word to say about the stage, besides a little more air would work well in the upper regions. You really get that feeling you're almost there live because of this area working strongly with the right headphone..
I think what FiiO have done is a mighty achievement, they have answered the prayers of consumers bringing them basically what they asked for. As we know James is very active on Head-fi forums and listens to every piece of advice, what you see in X5 is partly exactly what you all asked for, an affordable mid tier high resolution DAP. The features like dual micro sd card slots, 24bit playback, along with the sound and build of X5 is what could possibly be a slight game changer for the future. I think some other DAP manufacturers may want to take a step back and look what FiiO are doing in the DAP market. I still think for me X5 needs to lean cooler in tonality, just a fraction and lessen the bass because of my stubborn preferences but overall taking into consideration the majority, X5 was made for them, and for them it will more than please.
I had a lot of fun on this tour and would like to thank once again the FiiO team.
Pros - Great instrument separation, simple GUI, dual microSD cards, fast music library update, library and file directory browsing
Cons - Fatiguing for me, hallway-like soundstage, coloured sound, cluncky UI, large size, protective relay, crashes, really slow battery charging
This review is based on a touring X5 unit and I do not personally own the X5. I need to give FiiO a big, big thank you for letting me be a part of this tour.
Since Head-Fi's detail section does not represent the scores of the reviewer, but rather the community average, here are my scores based on the 10 days that I actively used the unit (2014/02/10 - 2014/02/19):
Audio Quality: 3/5
Battery Life: 3.5/5
User Interface: 2.5/5
Overall Rating: 3.2/5
Now let's get into the details of these details.
At $350 USD, this device offers a lot for the price. What's a lot?
Here's what's in the package:
Hard storage box
X5 unit with screen protector pre-installed
Soft silicone sleeve/case
MicroSD card USB reader
Male microUSB - male USB cable
Short male 3.5 mm - female RCA coaxial cable
Short male 3.5 mm - male 3.5 mm cable
2 x extra screen protectors
3 x 3.5 mm plugs
HD Tracks coupon card
Quick-start user manual
X5 button layout card (I did not see this in the touring unit package though)
That's a ton of stuff bundled with the device. Will people even use half of these? Probably not, but they're nice to have handy and it adds to the value of the package.
What else does the X5 offer?
Portable media player
USB external soundcard
MicroSD card reader
For what it's worth, the X5 offers a lot at $350 and the overall package is well- and competitively-priced.
4/5 (Great) for Value
Spoiler: My Testing Rigs
MacBook Pro -> Audirvana Plus -> FiiO X5 -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), MrSpeakers Alpha Dog (touring unit), or V-MODA Crossfade M-100
FiiO X5 (with 64 GB SanDisk microSD Class 10 card) -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MEElectronics M9-BK, MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), Sennheiser CX-300, or V-MODA Crossfade M-100
FiiO X5 (with 64 GB SanDisk microSD Class 10 card) -> FiiO L2 -> FiiO E12, JDS Labs C5, C5D, or Objective 2 -> AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), or V-MODA Crossfade M-100
This is a quality of the X5 that seemed weird to me. Everyone else, or pretty much everyone else, seems to like the X5's sound and that it's "the greatest thing since sliced bread." My experience with the X5 is that it sounds okay, but nothing amazing.
In short, I heard:
a bumped-up mid-bass response that sounded a bit boomy
excellent warm lower-midrange
slight roll-off in the treble that makes it sound soft
deep soundstage that isn't very wide
great instrument separation
imaging seems off
good detail retrieval
In general, I listen for the overall sound signature before analyzing the technicalities and the X5 doesn't sound transparent to me. It has a warm sound overall that may be a bit thick, and there's something with the upper-midrange/lower-treble region that makes the X5 sound fatiguing to my ears and is a deal-killer for me in that regard. I'm not going to lie and say that the X5's audio quality is good if I have to take breaks from listening to the device due to fatigue, no matter what headphone or earphone I used. No other portable media player I've tried has this effect on me. The soundstage wasn't particularly wide, more so deep, so imaging seemed off to me and it was weird having the effect of listening to the music half-way into in a concert hall instead of the front-row, or on the stage as the conductor.
Using the line-out feature of the X5, it turns out that the amplifier portion of the X5 causes the fatigue issue for me since I no longer had those painful listening experiences. The DAC portion seems to add some warmth to the sound since I was hearing more mid-bass than I typically do. On the other hand, pairing the large X5 with an external amplifier seems impractical for being used as a portable media player.
What is this fatiguing sound I hear? It's hard to completely describe, but I was in a 2014 Subaru Forester the other day and I heard the same kind of sound from the speaker system. Female vocals, and really anything in the upper-midrange frequencies, sound really harsh, shouty, strident, or hard on my ears, almost as if dynamics of those instruments are being compressed and/or the system has a hard time reproducing those sounds accurately. They just really hurt my ears and I had to cover my ears or speaker to dampen the effect. It's one thing to have it happen to X speaker or Y headphone, but I had the experience with all headphones I used with the X5 (AKG K 701 (8-bump headband), Audeze LCD-X (touring unit), MEElectronics M9-BK, MrSpeakers Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), Sennheiser CX-300, or V-MODA Crossfade M-100). None of my other portable media players, amplifiers, nor DACs reproduce this effect.
Figure 1 - A depiction of me in anime form reacting to the X5's fatiguing sound
As for headphone pairings, I think the X5's sound worked the best with the Audeze LCD-X (touring unit). It sounded okay with the Alpha Dog with Obedience Kit (touring unit), but it wasn't optimal and the narrow soundstage of the X5 made it sound weird and off. I use the Crossfade M-100 as my main portable headphone in my portable rig, and the fatiguing upper-midrange/lower-treble was definitely not a good pairing with it, especially if I plan to listen to louder volume levels due to ambient background noise. I'd like to keep my hearing intact thank you. My two earphones aren't a good pairing with the X5 either because the "kill switch" effect will activate (more in the "Design" section).
Overall sound quality is okay, but a non-transparent sound and especially the listening fatigue are a big no-no for me.
3/5 (Okay) for Audio Quality
Figure 2 - A beauty shot of the X5 (credit goes to lugia862)
The main body of the X5 is absolutely superb. It's made of a single solid piece of metal and it reminds me of an aluminum unibody MacBook. When I first picked up the X5, I noticed how heavy it is. It's quite heavy and it feels like picking up a portable external hard drive (or at least a 500 GB OWC Mercury On-The-Go one). I have small hands and the weight and wide body of the X5 almost feel uncomfortable to me when handling it with one hand. It's like having a super heavy Samsung Galaxy SIII in your hand (actually the width dimensions are very similar: 67.6 mm for the X5, 70.6 mm for the SIII).
Figure 3 - Size comparison between the iPod 5G, JDS Labs C5D, and FiiO X5
What's disappointing to me is that the body of the X5 feels rock-solid, but the buttons and mechanical wheel feel quite cheap. In the end, these moving parts are probably going to get the most use and thus wear-and-tear over time instead of the body. I'll expand on this more in the "User Interface" section, but the X5's front-panel buttons are raised from the main body instead of being flush and they're easy to push/activate. This is not very convenient to have in your pocket since accidental button presses will occur.
Figure 4 - Note the raised buttons
I use portable media players in my left hand. Why my left hand? Headphones typically have the cable running down from the left earcup, and the portable media player consequently ends up in my left pocket (it's annoying to have the cable cross your body to go into a right pocket). That in combination with my small hands makes handling the X5 an awkward task. The skip track and previous track buttons are near the bottom of the unit (this is poor placement considering it's far from the center of mass) and the back button is on the top-right of the wheel (making it awkward to reach with your left hand).
Moving on to the X5's mechanical wheel, the wheel has steps (or clicks) when it rotates. Although having a stepped wheel is not a problem for me, the problem is that these steps seem very worn down; like when you have one of those long retractable erasers and the plastic steps wear down. This results in a very unresponsive and inaccurate user experience (more in the "User Interface" section). To add to that, the wheel is loose and for some reason, sticky if it hasn't been in use for some time (more on this in the "User Interface" section). To make matters worse, the wheel has very little grip with your fingers. The wheel's surface has a smooth, matte, soft-rubber/plastic feeling like the 2013 Nexus 7 tablet computer. This is problematic because you have to dig into the wheel to get a good grip on it, and upon spinning the wheel, you can feel it rubbing against whatever is right behind it. A patterned/texture surface like this early mock-up would have been much better in my opinion:
Figure 5 - Note the textured/patterned surface on the scroll wheel
Now it looks like this:
Figure 6 - Note the smooth surface on the scroll wheel
On second thought, it looks like the textured/patterned wheel was actually in an earlier prototype. Sad face.
Figure 7 - A photo of the X5 before the current iteration of design
Though I didn't really mind too much, the center button is activated in the very middle of the circle. If you press the button along the outer portions of the circle, it feels unresponsive and more effort is needed to press it than if you had just pressed the button in the very center.
The microSD card rubber/plastic doors are hard to access and it took me a while to get them open the first time around. Counterintuitively, you should push the door parallel to the X5's bottom instead of trying to pry it open.
Figure 8 - Showing how you should, and should not, try to open the microSD card door
http://fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000055517771&MenuID=105026016 (modified by me)
The screen of the X5 itself is just fine. Text is reasonably sharp and it's easy enough to read complex characters in Asian fonts such as traditional Chinese (無賴-許哲珮 for example: http://www.hifitrack.com/zh-hant/node/6359). The weird thing about the screen though is that it has a large black bezel surrounding it. Because of this, the screen appears smaller than what it looks like it can display under the glass, and it looks a bit disproportionate to me considering the wide body of the X5.
The X5 uses a protective relay to prevent damage to either the headphones or the unit itself. While this is probably a good thing to have, my experience with the X5's relay has been more of a miss than a hit. For instance, if the X5 is in my jacket pocket and nothing is touching it, nor the cable of the headphone/earphone, the headphone cable can rub against the jacket's fabric and create the well-known staticky sound. This has happened to both of the earphones I have at hand and every time I've done this, the X5 goes into an emergency "kill switch" mode and everything on the X5 shuts off. I need to use a pin to hit the reset button to get the X5 to even turn on again. When this happened to me for the first time, I thought the battery died. Upon using a friend's portable battery charger for about 20 minutes, the X5 still didn't turn on and I had to use a toothpick from a restaurant to reset it. Talk about having a heart attack with a touring review unit...
This is extremely inconvenient for any user, especially if you plan to use these while doing anything outside in a true portable situation. I often speed-walk to my next class at school and this portable media player would be utterly useless to me if it keeps hitting the "kill switch" every time my earphones get into contact with my jacket's fabric. I didn't have this problem with the Crossfade M-100 on the other hand, so I'm not sure what the problem is.
Design of the body is nice, but the main operating buttons feel cheap and are oddly placed. It doesn't look all that ugly in-person, but it does have that retro-look to it, which I like.
3/5 (Okay) for Design
There's not much to explain here, but I did a battery drain/charging test on the X5 unit before handing it off to the next person in the tour.
For my battery drain test, I tried to emulate a worst-case (or just a bad) scenario for music playback:
Volume level 96/120
Replaying a 2:41 DR21 24/96 FLAC file (track 3: http://www.hdtracks.com/dr-chesky-s-sensational-fantastic-and-simply-amazing-binaural-sound-show-133068)
AKG K 701 (8-bump headband) connected to the headphone out port
Wrapped in a towel to simulate being in a poorly-ventilated coat pocket
Less than 30 seconds of the screen being turned on
Turned on/off the player twice (I had to do 2 sessions)
From this test, I got around 10.5 hours of battery life from the X5. It's not too bad, but it's not great either. I'd say it's about average for a portable media player.
The battery charging on the other hand took quite a long time to fully charge, which was shocking to me. I went to bed about 30 minutes after the battery depleted and left it charging via USB for about 4 hours. I woke up and the battery still wasn't fully charged, so I charged it periodically throughout the day at school. In the end, it took around 9 hours to fully charge (the LED indicator turned green). That's a ridiculous amount time if you only have a USB port at hand.
Spoiler: Raw Approximate Draining and Charging Times
Draining: 1:35-8:35, 23:10-2:30
Charging: 2:40-7:10, 10:40-11:20, 12:20-14:20, 15:20-17:30
The X5 has an average battery life, but it takes nearly the same amount of time to fully charge it as it does to drain.
3.5/5 (Good) for Battery Life
The user interface (the interactions between the user, hardware, and software) is generally acceptable. The graphical user interface is navigational and things work reasonably well. Heck, they even have the full user manual in the settings, how cool is that? On the other hand, there are a bunch of problems I have with the X5 that all add up and prevent it from being a great or excellent user experience.
Right when you boot-up the X5, you're presented with a boot animation that lasts about 5 seconds total. This isn't problematic, but I would prefer a quicker boot time since I want to listen to my music as soon as possible.
After the boot animation, you're presented with the main menu of the X5. It looks nice and all, but when you rotate the wheel in one direction, the icons change in the opposite direction. This is a pretty well-documented issue and even after 10 days of active use, I couldn't get used to it. The center highlight remains static while the icons are dynamic/change. In other words, you control the direction the icons move.
Figure 9 - Home screen of the X5
One would think that if you wanted to get to the heart icon (for a favourite playlist) in Figure 9, then you would rotate the wheel counter-clockwise (moving the dynamic icon up from the bottom into the static highlighted area). Upon doing that, you actually go to the folder icon above the music icon, the exact opposite direction you wanted the icons to go.
Still on the topic of the mechanical wheel, as described, it feels like it has worn down steps. This creates some problems with the user interface since you may scroll 2 or 3 worn down steps, and the graphical user interface only registers 1 step (the "worn down scroll wheel" problem is, according to James, actually a firmware problem that will be fixed). This makes navigation inaccurate, which is absolutely key for me when using a portable media player: I want an accurate mapping of my actions on the hardware side to the graphical user interface in the software. Additionally, when I left the X5 alone for some time and came back to move the wheel, the wheel stuck on me and it was stiff for the first few steps. I have no idea why this would happen, but it was annoying when using the X5 as an external USB soundcard and I used the wheel to adjust the volume.
Speaking of the X5 as a USB soundcard, you can't adjust the digital volume from your computer; all volume is controlled with the X5 (the DAC volume should be adjustable from the computer if you're using a PC). Also, the screen of the X5 stays on when you have it connected to your computer. I worry about this because I have a FiiO E7 and the screen is burned in (the E7's display never turns off either). One, this is annoying to have in the dark because you have a display that's always on and you don't even look at it most of the time. Two, sometimes when disconnecting the X5 from your computer, the screen stays on even after removal and a reboot is required to get it working again. This is inconvenient if I just want to unplug the X5 from my computer after charging and use it right away. Still talking about using the X5 as a USB soundcard, I wish the wheel would always be active for volume control. It gets irritating having to hit the volume buttons on the side of X5, or press and hold the center button, to activate the volume adjustment menu just to change the volume by a few units.
If you plan to use the X5 as a portable media player, the physical media buttons don't work nearly as well as I thought they would. In "Lock Mode 1," the media buttons are inactive when the X5's display is off and you have to hit the hold/power button every time you want to use the volume/playback buttons. In "Lock Mode 2," the media buttons are always active when the the X5's display is off. While "Lock Mode 2" may seem to be the logical choice to use when you have the X5 in your pocket, this is actually not very practical at all since the previous track/next track buttons protrude out from the X5's main body and are thus very easy to accidentally activate. This happened to me way too many times and I thought the X5 was just acting up. In addition, in this mode, the previous track button actually goes to the previous track, instead of restarting the song like in every other media player I have ever used.
It doesn't matter to me at all, but the speed at which the X5 updates your music library is actually pretty fast, which is a good thing. On the other hand, the media library itself has poor organisation. It basically only sorts music by song, album, artist, or music genre. Once you go into those categories and select an artist, album, or music genre of your choice, every song with that tag listed in alphabetical order by filename, not even the track name (e.g. 01 Fearless, 01 Mine, 01 State of Grace if sorting by the artist Taylor Swift). This again is a well-documented issue and this type of organisation is generally not useful for the user. Fortunately I don't have to deal with this since I browse all of my files by folder directory, which the X5 does support. However, all files are displayed in the X5's directory mode, including those pesky hidden files that Mac OS X creates on external drives. If you try to play one of these hidden files, the X5 displays a popup message saying that it can't play it and move on to the next file about 3 seconds later.
Regardless of whether or not these hidden files affect the X5's media playback, I had playback issues with the X5. Sometimes the X5 would randomly stop playing half-way through a song and would lock-up the entire device. A reboot is required to get it functioning again.
Figure 10 - Both the original media files and the hidden "._" files created by Mac OS X are displayed in the X5's file directory browsing mode (http://elyonbeats.bandcamp.com/album/museum)
Video 1 - The X5 froze-up on me while playing a 16-bit/44.1 kHz Apple Lossless file during a bus ride (http://www.yesasia.com/us/jay-chou-2007-world-tour-concert-live-2cd/1010040628-0-0-0-en/info.html)
Unfortunately I wasn't able to diagnose the problem in this case. When I re-formatted the microSD card, I did so in order to update the X5's firmware, so either one of those variables may have been the problem. In terms of upgrading the firmware from version 1.00 to 1.10, the differences were pretty minimal. The only differences I found were that the X5's display turns on if you press any button when the display is off (showing a message along the lines of "you must press the power button to use the X5"), and the track scrubber moved a lot faster, too fast for accurate track scrubbing.
Although my native language is English, FiiO did translate the X5 in 7 different languages (Chinese (traditional and simplified), English, Japanese, Korean, French, German, and Spanish), which is nice to have.
On another note, the battery indicator only has bars (e.g. 3 bars of battery). I would prefer to see a numerical value because I can get a quick and relatively accurate reading of the X5's battery life (e.g. 62% battery instead of 3 bars for a range of values).
The user interface as a whole is usable, which is acceptable, but the myriad of problems makes it a frustrating experience.
2.5/5 (Acceptable) for User Interface
Evidently, my honest experiences and impressions of the X5 are pretty much the opposite of others'. Yes I'll probably be alienated because of this polarising review, and yes my review will just be a grain of salt in the larger pile, but I wanted to explain my experiences with the X5, and write an honest review. In short, I wasn't really impressed by the X5 at all and I thought it had more annoyances than enjoyable things. The X5 is okay for being an all-in-one solution of having a portable media player and a portable USB soundcard combo, and this is a great value in that regard, but I encountered waaaaaaay too many problems with it that ultimately prevent me from recommending this to anyone without trying it first. Even if the sound quality was beyond awesome, the user interface is definitely not something I would like to deal with again. On the other hand, there are people out there who don't care about the user interface at all and only care about the sound quality. Perhaps the X5 is right for you then.
Fortunately, FiiO has acknowledged some of these user interface issues and is working on some fixes for future firmware updates. However, until those are officially released, my experiences with firmwares 1.00 and 1.10 still stand. Unfortunately, the stock sound is pretty much locked in place via hardware unless changes are made in the firmware, so my sonic impressions of the X5 are more or less set in stone.
You might say that my touring review unit was defective, or that I broke it somehow (this was actually suggested in the X5 tour thread...). While that could have been the case during the time I had with the X5, the users before and after me in the tour have written glowing reviews for it, so I don't think that was the case for me.
With that, I am still very thankful to FiiO for allowing me to try this, and I'm glad that I did get the opportunity to try it. I would also like to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read through this very lengthy review! I really do hope this review helps a person or two.
Note: Text in red are corrections made by Joe Bloggs of FiiO
Pros - Top grade sound, powerful quality internal amp, superb micro-detail, great value, ability to obtain full quality sound in a compact package
Cons - No removable battery for easy charging or continuous use, adequate only battery life, difficult to get back to now playing screen to regain fw/bk cont
This is not my personal DAP, as part of the X5 Preview tour, I only had the chance to evaluate the unit for 10 days to form my opinion.
As a preview model, there may be material differences compared to the commercial version - especially in the firmware.
The following review is based on my personal needs and tastes using equipment that I personally own unless otherwise noted.
Pros: Top grade sound, powerful quality internal amp, superb micro-detail, great value, ability to obtain full quality sound in a compact package without the inconvenience of an external amp.
Cons: No removable battery for easy charging or continuous use, adequate only battery life, difficult to get back to now playing screen to regain forward/back button functionality, scrolling long lists is difficult.
Summary The X5 rocks! It is the best sounding mobile DAP I have heard to date. However, I have not heard the DX100, balanced 901, or the AK120 to know if they can do any better. What I can say is that at 2 to 4 times the cost including the required balanced cable for the 901, and considering the form factor, they would need to be clearly twice as good to get any serious consideration from me vs. the X5. That’s not even considering the AK240 – could it really be 7 times better?
The X5 is the clear winner over my current DX50 – no contest. However, adding my BH2 amp pairing gets the stack sound quality much closer with the X5 still taking an easy win. The DX50’s internal amp really lets it down. I guess the big question is whether the X5 is good enough to justify replacing that stack which starting this review, I was still considering. If I didn't already have them, it would be a no brainer, but it is much harder to justify sidelining what I already have. So I still have to work on answering that question – maybe I can introduce the stack to my wife or make a gift to my father. We’ll see.
Having a two year old and another child due in two months, cranking my speakers whenever I want is no longer an option so I need a high fidelity alternative to enjoy my music. I actually need three alternatives:
(NO) Listening station: My highest quality option is my desktop setup when I am willing to sit still at my desk or in my recliner.
- iTunes/AIFF (.5TB) < Caiman DAC < Mjolnir < Black Dragon balanced < LCD2
(NO) Active mobile: This is for the gym, jogging, mowing the lawn, or hiking. The Clip Zip has been the perfect solution for this as it is light, sounds great, clips to my shirt making it very manageable and out of the way, and it pairs well with most headphones. The surrounding noise and distractions during these activities makes it impossible to appreciate a higher quality sound anyways so why be at risk for more than $30. I listen through my TF10s or my Monster Coppers for reasonably high quality sound.
(YES) High quality mobile: When wanting to listen comfortably around the house, when going to sleep, or when traveling, I like to be able to listen to higher quality sound. This is where the X5 would be used. I am currently using my DX50/BH2 combo for these purposes, so it would be my main comparison in the review. Traveling or around the house I use my NT6pros to pair, but for going to sleep I need a better low volume performer and more comfort so I use my HD595s.
Since my main pairing for my high quality mobile setup will be with the NT6pros, this is the HP that I will be making the general comparisons with. However, the other headphones will have their own sections on pairing attributes. As my DX50/BH2 stack is by far the best I have to compare to the X5, I will be mainly discussing the DX50 stack when comparing except in the specific comparison sections.
My biggest music sound quality upgrade by far was to convert my entire library to a lossless format, period. To keep things simple, I use iTunes to rip, tag, and manage my entire 1 TB AIFF music collection. I use playlists to organize my favorite music collections. Outside of Apple products, I create folders named for my playlists, and drag and drop all songs directly from the iTunes interface into the folders on my MicroSDs. I divide the playlists between my 5 MicroSDs and rotate as I update. This allows me to choose folders and play them like playlists as the mood strikes. I bring this up because it defines my DAP usage style.
NOTE: Given the lack of music worth listening to in high res 24/196 formats and absolutely no reasonable choices in DSD, I am almost ignoring these capabilities with the exception of a few test files.
My Magnepan Mangneplaner speaker setup is my best sounding by far, period. IMO, the ergonomics of wearing a headphone automatically remove some of the “being there” illusion so I would be really surprised if a mobile setup even came close. So my perfect ten is my speaker system and I compare everything else to it. My speakers make the performers sound as if they are in the room with me, literally. No kidding, but I often respond to background voices in the music or during movies thinking it is my wife or child calling me. It may not be as good as some of the quarter to half a million dollar full sound room setups that I have heard, but it is not far off. I am guessing that most of the difference is the dedicated room, speaker placement and tuning, and room treatments.
Most of the good Head-Fi gear I have heard are a step or two below “being there.” Continuing the analogy, a step below is like an old wild west Hollywood movie set with 2D building fronts held up by posts. You can get lost in the sound only if you ignore all the 2D clues and stay focused on the action. A step below that is the stylized stage show where no one is attempting to imitate reality, but to make colorful and fun. The final step below that is a children’s kindergarten play with miss-scaled props made from cardboard and crayons. The table below shows my perspective of how the gear I tested lines up.
$500K Dedicated Sound Room
12 Cost no concern, dedicated sound room with treatments, sophisticated tuning
My Speaker Setup
10 Marantz SR7005 > Rotel RB 1090 150lb Amp (700 watts into 4 ohms) > Magnepan 1.6 plus a pair of MK 12” high current dual sealed active/passive subwoofers
8.5 Life sized performers and intimate soundstage
8 Closest DAP to being there
7.5 BH2 more colored than X5 HO
7 DX50 holding BH2 back with lesser DAC than X5
6.5 C3 less detailed and more blaring than DX50/BH2
6 Better details and power than C3 with FW1.2.8
5.7 Nice details, but lacks power
5.5 Very musical and engaging but a clear step down from DX50
4.0 Has talent, but very 2D and overly blaring at volume sweet spot.
iPhone Classic G6
4.0 Has talent, but very 2D and overly blaring at volume sweet spot.
The interface takes a little getting used to, but quickly it becomes second nature. Here are some of the things that I have noticed while using it. Please remember that this is a pre-release tour unit on an early firmware so any of these UI dependent notes are likely to change with firmware updates.
Looks: It is not ugly like I thought it would be from the pictures - it looks and feels like a quality product that you would be proud to show off. Holding the DX50 and the X5 in either hand, IMO you would guess the X5 costs more which held up when I was showing to friends and family.
Resume: It requires a startup period rather than instant on resume like an iPod. However, the startup isn’t bad and is faster than most players I have used including the irritatingly slow DX50 startup. Like an iPod, after starting it does resume playing where you left off. It even has resume options in the setup options to customize how it resumes.
Off: It is relatively easy and quick to turn off – much easier than the DX50 that requires an additional confirmation.
Wheel: The wheel spin is opposite of the expected screen movement which is a little weird, but given the short graphical list, easy to adjust for. However, this should probably be fixed.
Navigation: It is easy to navigate the UI and find the option you are looking for. The UI is fast and responsive with no lags.
Buttons: The front buttons do get pressed in the pocket easily unless disabled, but then you cannot forward between songs easily.
Now Playing: You lose the ability to use the forward/back buttons to control the music when you leave the “Now Playing” screen which is unfortunate. Worse, there is no easy way back to the “Now Playing” screen once you leave it requiring too many clicks and too much navigation to return. This is one of the bigger issues with the player. (Joe Bloggs says that a coming firmware update will provide a shortcut key option for the “Now Playing” screen.)
Search: There is no search function that I can find. I would love to see an indexed search function that creates a selectable smart options list below as I type letters like any smart phone uses. The iPhone IOS7 smart search is a good example.
Scrolling: There is no scroll management to get through long lists quickly so it takes forever to go to the end of a large library list. I would like to see the scroll speed up after a few seconds switching to the alphabet scroll like the iPod.
Weight: It is heavy compared to other DAPs and is built like a tank so it needs to be well secured when mobile. However, I would be more worried about chipping my granite counters than damaging the X5 as it is that solid.
Heat: It does sometimes get noticeably warmer than most DAPs or smart phones when used for a while, but not uncomfortably.
Indexing: The player took my DX50 MicroSD cards without issue and indexed them rather quickly – both of them – while showing progress.
Charging: This seems to take a very long time compared to my DX50 S3 batteries given the larger battery size. This was never a problem with the DX50 with their removable batteries that could simply be swapped out and charged independently. However, charging requires planning with the X5 that I will have to get used to.
Battery: I have yet to run the battery out as I am constantly charging it afraid it will not be charged when I need it. This constant topping off could shorten the battery life if the battery has a maximum number of charge cycles which could be an issue as the battery is not user replaceable. However, there is also conflicting advice that this could be better for a battery than letting it run dry at this site:
Battery Indicator: The only battery status I could find is the small typical graphical indicator at the top of the screen. It is difficult to tell where the battery charge is at as it is small and there is no numeric percentage next to it.
Volume: While the X5 has a very large sweet spot throughout the volume that is appreciated, controlling it could be improved through some interface tweaks. For better control, it would be nice if the screen would turn on –for a second or two - when adjusting to show the volume as a number. This is the one time that I think at least most of us can agree that it would be nice for the screen to briefly engage. Otherwise, it is hard to tell if the press did anything at all. I typically find volume numbers that work for me for different uses and adjust to them.
HP Out: Music pauses when the headphone is unplugged.
Line Out: Music pauses when the line out is unplugged. The volume control has no effect on the line out.
Ergonomic Conclusion: My main use cycle is to turn on my DAP, and resume where I left off playing a folder or a playlist randomly. I tend to forward through the songs a lot as I get bored of the current song. I occasionally go into the interface and change folders. So really, I mainly need a DAP to turn on quickly and resume while allowing me to easily forward through the songs. The X5 did very well with this. The only real issue was the buttons being easily pushed when in my pocket and unexpectedly forwarding songs. Otherwise, I find the X5 very usable assuming the battery is not an issue. Having gotten used the convenience of the DX50’s easily swappable batteries I am very concerned about battery management which is the only downside I can see in moving to the X5.
Sound reproduction to me is all about producing that “being there” feeling. This is something that the X5 does better than any other DAP I have heard. While it is difficult to forget that you are wearing headphones and are attached to a device, what the X5 does right is to effortlessly produce realistic full speaker sized sounds that feel like they are coming from a full sized humans and instruments in the same room. This is in part due to the very detailed and realistic sounding DAC that is very surprisingly analog sounding and a powerful amplifier that is able to project these sounds to full size with realistic texture and impact. I almost said slam, but there is nothing artificial here which slam almost implies. While the X5 does not project the full speaker setup realism, there are times with the correct recordings that I do feel like I am there.
When I say analog, what I am referring to is a lack of metallic, artificial, or digital sounding artifacts that destroy the illusion of “being there.” The X5 also has an extraordinarily black background that allows the details to flow and the textures to layer 3 dimensionally. However, what is most impressive is how the player creates this sound so effortlessly allowing a very large sweat spot on the volume dial to play with. The sound stage and full spectrum realism flows to very low volume and high volumes can be reached without the X5 sounding shouty or strained. In the end, as good and realistic as it sounds, it is the headphone sized sound stage coming from the headphones holding the X5 back, not the X5 itself. I will be very impressed when I hear another DAP that is significantly better and not just a different sound signature.
For those that prefer a traditional Head-Fi sound description:
Signature: A very neutral signature with reasonable extension at both ends with a touch of warmth.
Bass: The X5 has a very honest bass. It is big and punchy if that is how it is recorded. However, poorly recorded or poor digital reproductions and sound thin, deflated, or clicky. What is most important is that the bass is neutral and not in the way of the detail coming from the other frequencies. In fact, it borrows from the other frequencies to better define the bass sound for better realism. Having said this, there is a touch of warmth in that the bass is very capable with a powerful amp that is not afraid to rise to the occasion.
Midrange: As a neutral signature with above average extension in both directions, the mids can seem neglected sometimes, but are usually just right. To get it right, it is better to listen to the X5 in a quiet room without distraction. In noisier rooms the tendency is to turn up the volume to compensate which may make the treble and bass too much for some. However, in the right environment paired with the right music and headphones, the midrange can be heavenly.
Treble: The treble is surprisingly analog, smooth, and effortless until the volume goes too high. The treble is the first thing to get shouty at too high of volumes or with bad recordings. However, what is special about the treble is how it typically gets out of the way of the music by integrating with the other frequencies to add to the realism and 3D effect.
Sound Stage: The X5 sound stage is excellent for a DAP with a nice sized airy sound stage with reasonably 3D instrument placement. What is special about the sound stage is really the very black background to help with placement and the space between instruments. Unfortunately, being made to power headphones is the X5’s “Achilles heel” only allowing it to produce the head stage that the headphones are able to produce.
I set my volume by focusing on the mids and increasing volume until the singer sounds full sized. Then I make small adjustments to blend the bass and treble to produce the most pleasing sound resulting in a full sized sound stage with a properly sized singer and instruments. If the performers cannot be sized correctly, the frequency range doesn’t blend correctly, or if the sound becomes shouty or incoherent, the “being there” feeling is lost. What is wonderful about the X5 is that it has a wide sweet spot on the volume dial where the sound is realistic to low volumes scaling correctly to rather high volumes. Turning down the volume feels like moving further back away from the stage where lesser DAPs lose their coherency. The X5 sound stage only loses cohesion at extremely low volumes and sound quality only becomes shouty at overly high volumes. This is unique among my DAPs that typically have very small ranges or require an amp to perform at low volumes.
This awesome low volume performance is very important to me as a large percentage of my X5 listening mileage will come at night while going to sleep. Now if only the screen would engage momentarily – a second or two - when adjusting volumes with a volume number to allow easy and accurate volume adjustment.
To test the line out capabilities, I tested the X5 with my BH2, miceblue’s O2, and my Mjolnir:
Compared to the headphone out, the line out paired with my BH2 is a lot boomier with the HO being tighter and more realistic. The BH2 adds an unrealistic bass boost that creates a fun and euphoric sound that I enjoy greatly, but the HO also has a weighty presentation with impact that is much more realistic getting closer to my “being there” goal. What was surprising was that my DX50 was holding back my BH2 sound wise. I already mentioned that the X5 wipes the floor with the DX50 one on one. In addition, pairing the BH2 with the X5, the woofer/sub-woofer sound went from a cheap $300 DJ setup to an audiophile $2000 subwoofer with $2000 high end speaker sound with much tighter, more realistic quality. That I wasn’t expecting. One more point, the BH2 is much more forgiving of poor bass recordings than the X5 HO where the X5 HO is much more realistic. The difference is reduced considerably when the BH2 is powered through the X5 vs. the DX50. For those that know that BH2, I always have all switches on as I feel it sounds best that way.
X5/O2 (Borrowed from miceblue):
Paired with my NT6pro, the O2 brings the entire presentation forward for a nice intimate sound stage. It also brings a tad brighter sound losing some of the richness of the X5 presentation. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other but are two different very capable presentations. So the convenience of the X5 as a single solution vs. a transportable but not portable stack is a no brainer. However, when using the LCD2 or the LCD-X, the extra power is appreciated allowing the Audeze signature to scale closer to the Mjolnir sound. This comes at the cost of a portable solution, so I would personally opt to go direct from the X5 deferring to my desktop solution when I want to hear the ultimate in sound quality.
There is nothing unexpected here. As a balanced setup, the only headphones that I can use with my Mjolnir are my LCD2s and the tour LCD-X. Both appreciate the additional power and make full use of it. As expected, the Mjolnir spanks the X5 amp badly, but it is not in any way portable so is likely irrelevant. More interesting is the comparison to my desktop DAC. While the Caiman is not a very expensive DAC/AMP unit, when used as a DAC it excels and has tempered my motivation to get the Da8 DAC that I have been eye balling. However, when compared to the X5 as a DAC, the X5 loses. Even though the X5 sounds very good, when compared it is more aggressive, bright, and has a smaller sound stage. The Caiman as desktop unit is sweeter, more musical, and more effortless with a better sound stage. But hey, it’s a desktop unit.
Line Out Conclusion: Following these tests, I came to the conclusion that I would never personally use an amp with the X5 as there is no need and often a step backwards.
For those looking to move up from lesser devices, here is a comparison to the ones that I own.
My main comparable rig is with my DX50. The DX50 is dialed in with FW1.2.8, paired with my BH2 as a two piece stack. Without the BH2, the X5 wipes the floor with the DX50 with great authority and a much superior DAC providing a much richer/blacker/punchier/3d sound. The problem that I have with the DX50 now that I have the X5 to contrast is that the DX50 often sounds strained or thin or both. Think of it like with American Football and the recent 2014 Super Bowl. While the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos both obviously had skills making it to the top game in professional football, the Seahawks obviously had some extra magic that allowed them to make the Broncos look like a high school football team easily taking the 43 to 8 win. Yes, I am from Seattle.
Adding the BH2 amp, the DX50 sound is closer adding the punch and richness of the X5. However, the BH2 has warmer more euphoric sound that is aggressive and sometimes fatiguing in its slam with the NT6pro. The X5 is a little more laid back allowing the details to flow through widening the sound stage a bit. The other notable difference is that the BH2 focuses a bit more on mid-bass while the X5 bass response is flatter going really deep into the sub-bass allowing the sub-bass to shine through without covering it up. This plays well with the NT6 Pro signature promoting its unique frequency extension both directions.
The C3 is a nice sounding detailed DAP that works well with highly efficient IEMs. However, the magic happens when it is paired with the BH2 that allows the sound to become full sized and powerful. As a stack, the C3/BH2 is very different from the “being there” signature of the X5, unless by being there you mean a large Rave party with oversized subwoofers and a large pounding, euphoric, in your face sound. This is a very fun combination that sounds extremely good with my LCD2s and everything else. But like being in a loud night club, it can become overwhelming after a while unless this is the sound you are after.
As a value DAP, at $30 to $40, nothing beats the Clip. I use this smooth, musical, and open sounding DAP more than anything else as my main mobile use is when working out. However, it is not in the same league as the X5 so there is no way to compare the two. However, when working out, the distractions and the noise eliminate the ability to hear the additional sound quality anyways so it is good enough in these situations. The Clip replaced my Apple devices that sounded a bit shouty and congested in comparison. While it was nice having my phone with me when I was working out, it is more convenient to simply clip the light Clip Zip to my shirt and not have to deal with an arm band case or the weight of the iPhone.
iPod Classic (Gen5):
Although the iPod and iPhone signatures are somewhat different, at this lower level, the Apple products are more alike than different so I am grouping them. While I was surprised listening to them again after a while to see how much talent they really had - compared to the X5, they are irrelevant in terms of sound quality. My like for these devices is more for the ecosystem that allows me to store, manage, and sync music easily. On top of that, it is very convenient to have my phone, email, applications, and the Internet available at all times. But when listening to music, they sound too flat and 2D and way too shouty. In addition, the realism is just off with both performers and instruments sized incoherently and often metallic sounding.
X5 Headphone Pairings:
For those looking to pair their headphones correctly, below is a description of how my collection pairs.
The LCD2s sound very good with the X5. However, that is not saying much because the LCD2s are fairly easy to drive and make most everything sound good. The LCD2s even sounds ok with my Clip Zip so I think it requires a little more explanation.
IMO, what is unique about the LCD2 is its ability to scale down extremely well. The LCD's signature changes significantly when scaling from warm and euphoric with a small congested sound stage with low end low power sources to crystal clear, punchy, black background, and a much more realistic sound stage with higher end, higher powered sources. Throughout the scale, the LCD2 has a very realistic "being there" sound. At the higher end of the scale, the signature ranges from laid back and rich with something like a Bryston BHA-1 to aggressive/engaging with my Mjolnir. The difference is being able to take a pleasant nap while listening to spending half your listening time up on top of your chair involuntarily playing air guitar. You know what I’m saying.
My impressions of the LCD2s with the X5 are this:
Power: The X5 has enough power that the LCD2 sound stage opens up a bit and the warmness clears up a lot, but not as much as a Mjolnir or Bryston that boast between 5 and 8 watts.
Laid Back: The signature leans more toward the Bryston laid back signature than my Mjolnir's more aggressive signature.
Stackless: The most important point is that I don't feel the need to amp the X5 as the sound is very pleasing as is.
Realistic: It is a very full size and realistic sounding experience.
Mobile Option: It is not as good as through my Mjolnir, but that was never expected.
LCD-X (Tour Unit):
While I don’t own the LCD-X myself, I happen to have the tour unit to test with the X5. Compared to my LCD2, the LCD-X feels shifted up in the frequency range and a little faster providing even greater clarity than my LCD2.2/Mjolnir pairing which is saying a lot. It’s not that the LCD-X is lacking in the bass department, but the bass seems to be turned down a notch keeping it from getting in the way of the rest of the frequency range. The result is a very realistic sounding sound stage that is even wider and closer to being there than the LCD2.2.
Now, paired with the X5, I was surprised by how good the LCD-X sounded directly from the X5 headphone out. The X5 coupled with the O2 amp (borrowed from miceblue) is even better giving the LCD-X enormous sound on the go. What is really noticeable is the clarity and wide sound stage of the LCD-X scaled down to the level of a DAP where the LCD2 is more euphoric, warm, and congested. Both are enjoyable, but the LCD-X obviously scales down better than the LCD2.2.
Fostex TH900 (Borrowed from m2man):
While I thought that the Fostex TH900 sounded awesome through the X5, m2man thought it sounded a little boomy. To prove his point, we plugged into his Laptop > Off-Ramp 5 > PWDmkII > Schiit Mjolnir home setup and indeed, it did sound bigger, clearer, and more neutral - but you would expect that from $8000 setup vs. a $350 one. So that doesn’t take away from how good the TH900 sounded with the X5. However, a better comparison was to compare the LCD-X to the TH900 where we both agreed that the LCD-X sounded better. The reason was that the LCD-X sounded closer to the $8000 home setup sound on the $350 X5 than the TH900 did. The LCD-X just simply scales down better.
The HD595s were the second best pairing that I heard. As very neutral sounding, open eared headphones, they have the largest sound stage of all my headphones in a mobile context. Matching the X5’s neutral signature, they project that black background very effectively enhancing the already very large sound stage. With nothing to get in the way of the details that X5 is capable of, the HD595 matches the NT6pro’s bell like clarity with a larger sound stage. The only thing holding the HD595 back is it’s neutral bass response. With no warmth, it may be considered to be bass light by some which the X5 helps to supplement with its touch of warmth. This only effects the HD595 pairing at excessive higher volumes where the bass falls off. However, the HD595 is my low volume top performer with the ability to reach deep with realistic sub-bass performance down to extreme lower volumes. Being my most comfortable and best low volume performers, they are what I like to listen to at night to fall asleep.
Hidition NT6 Pro:
The NT6 Pros are outstanding with the X5 and the best pairing that I heard. The things I appreciate with the X5 paired with the NT6pro:
Stackless: it has all the punch and authority that I need with the NT6Pro so no stack required.
Effortlessness: the sound is full sized with rich texturing and without any clipping or thinness. The sounds from each singer/instrument sound like they are on the same stage and are scaled correctly. Drums sound like drums rather than like weird clicks.
Neutral Signature: as discussed so far in the X5 threads, the X5 is neutral across the frequency range with a slight warmness that pairs very well with the NT6pro enhancing its signature and supporting its extension both directions.
Sub-bass Authority: The X5 has the power and signature to support an authoritative sub-bass down to the bottom of the range showing off what the NT6pro can really do.
Low Volume Performer: The X5 has authoritative power, full sized sound, and a realistic sound stage down to very low volumes. This is particularly important to me as I am a low level listener usually needing an amp to keep the sound from falling apart at lower volumes. The X5 has a very wide sweet spot in its volume range that is much greater than most DAPs.
Realistic Details: The detail is all there, but in a much more natural sense than the DX50 with a much blacker background to support the 3d sound stage. For example, a singers breath between passages sounds like you were standing next to them vs. an unnatural metallic sizzle that is pushed forward.
The TF10 pair very well with the X5 and sound better than I have heard them sound before. What is interesting with the TF10/X5 pairing is that the mids are pushed way forward to take center stage where they are normally somewhat recessed with a V shaped signature. The mids are really outstanding with this combo. I never felt the need to amp the TF10 with my prior setups as the TF10s don’t really require it, but the power of the X5 is giving them real authority that they don’t typically have. The sound stage isn’t enlarged that much with the X5 showing a weakness in the TF10s, but it is much more believable with the X5 with larger sized performers and much more realistic sounding instruments. The other place the TF10 is showing its limitations is with clarity and the associated detail. While they have never sounded so clear before, the TF10 is not a NT6pro nor a LCD2 or an LCDX. So while the X5 is holding the TF10 to new heights, the TF10 is holding down the X5. Regardless, I would still chose to pair the TF10s just to enjoy those great mids, wow.
My Coppers are my most comfortable IEM that seal almost as well as my CIEM. This is quite an accomplishment as I tend to find IEMs as uncomfortable – although convenient – and typically have difficulty getting a seal at all. While it is nice that the Copper is very efficient, it is not a plus with the X5 that boasts a very powerful amp. The Coppers are also quite warm in signature with the most bass boost of any of my headphones giving it a very smooth signature. However, I find that this hides some of the X5 detail and congests the sound stage. While the Copper sounds great with the X5, I find that the Copper holds the X5 back from its full potential. The Copper is probably my worse pairing with the X5. I do use them though to pair at night as a comfortable low volume listening option when the open ended HD595s disturb my wife.
I think it is pretty obvious to anyone reading this review that there is a X5 in my future. Although it is possible that the uber expensive DAPs may meet or exceed the sound quality of the X5, I cannot imagine it being by much and certainly not by enough to justify the additional cost. As a portable music player I would rather carry something that I can afford to lose or damage without crying. Otherwise bringing it along stops being fun and it ends up being left at home. I would rather put my significant investments into my speaker or desktop system that stays home - safe and sound. The X5 is good enough that I don’t care what the other DAPs sound like any more……….. well, not as much.
Pros - Sound quality, versatility, 2 microSD slots, manual
Cons - Flaky gapless, twitchy scroll wheel, menu navigation issues, must study manual
Pros: (expanded) Sound quality, versatility, (mostly) easy to use UI, data storage options, charging indicator, user’s manual, most “issues” can be addressed via firmware update
Cons: (expanded) Gapless needs work, lack of markings on control buttons, silicon cover needs larger holes for plugs, twitchy scroll wheel, no playlist support, no easy way to return to “Now Playing” screen, “Next Track” and “Previous Track” functionality needs work, need to read user’s manual just to operate the player
I would like to thank James FiiO and Joe Bloggs for giving me the opportunity to evaluate the X5. It was provided at no charge and with no obligation other than to post my thoughts and impressions to the Head-Fi community. The X5 was reviewed using Firmware 1.00. Some of the issues noted below may be addressed in future updates but the player was reviewed and rated “as is”.
This review is going to be somewhat different since I won’t be focusing on the sound quality so much as the usability and versatility of the unit. My needs are fairly specific: I want a dedicated digital transport to replace an old laptop I've been using for a digital music source. I also want a portable player to carry with me when traveling, something to handle headphones and IEMs. I also may end pairing the DAP with an external DAC or Amp depending on my sonic preferences at the time. The beauty of the X5 is that I was able to try all those options.
I have owned a number of DAPs in the past to include a Second Generation iPod Nano, Cowon D2, S9, J3, a Little Dot DP-1, and iHiFi 960. I am currently using an iBasso DX50 as a digital transport for my home rig (along with a Schiit “uber” Bifrost, Lyr, and LCD-2s) and as a portable player for use with IEMs. My music preferences include 60’s-70’s Classic Rock, 80’s “New Wave”, Classical, Folk and some “New Age” stuff. While I totally understand and appreciate the advantages of analog sound, I grew up at the dawn of the digital age and recognize the convenience of digital music while being able to accept its limitations. What does that mean to you? It means I’m an old fart that doesn’t mind listening to digital music and trying out new toys.
Since the tour started, there have been a number of reviews with unboxing pictures so I will just say that the contents of the X5 box were all there and well packed. The player was already in its protective silicon sleeve and had a screen protector mounted (with a couple of spares included). A thoughtful inclusion was the USB-to-microSD card reader/writer. After admiring the contents, I hooked a charger to the X5 to top off the battery. I noticed the little charging light below the scroll wheel. It glows red while charging and turns green when the battery is full. It’s a very useful indicator since the menu screen only stays on briefly during charging.
The X5’s rival in my Man Cave is the iBasso DX50. I got it a short time ago and have found it to be rather nice for my needs. The X5 would have to equal or better the DX50 if it was going to pass muster. I also use a Schiit (uber’d) Bifrost DAC and Lyr Amp with Amperex USN-CEP 7308 tubes. For headphones I have the Audeze LCD-2…and on the last day of the evaluation I received a pair of Dunu DN1000 IEMs.
I found the X5 to be well built and comfortable to hold in my hand. It is taller than the DX50 but a little thinner front-to-back. There are four elongated buttons at the 2:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 10:00 positions outside the prominent scroll wheel and center button. The screen is not a touch screen. I like the fact all the jacks for the Headphone-Out, Line-Out, and Coax-Out (SPDIF) are all on the top. I did have some problems with the position of the power switch since I am used to it being on the side of my phone and the DX50. The position of the power switch makes it a little difficult when you have a cable plugged into the Coax Out and need to reactivate the screen. The volume controls are located on the side while the USB port for charging, file transfers, or DAC functionality is on the bottom nestled between two microSD card slot covers. I actually like the covers since they help keep the cruft out of the sockets…and since I ended up loading the X5 up with two 64GB microSD cards I probably wouldn’t have to open the slot covers for a long time (of course, YMMV).
The scroll wheel is rather twitchy. It is the main control for navigating through the menus but it is extremely sensitive to small movements, sometimes jumping several options in the menu when I was only trying to move to the next option. It's made worse by the scroll wheel being a bit loose, having some play before connecting with the next underlying contact. It made for a pretty frustrating experience…and to top it off, when spinning the scroll wheel it kept squeaking in one spot. I hope it is just a fluke confined to this one example and not indicative of all players. I think if FiiO reduced the sensitivity of the scroll wheel (perhaps adding a slight delay before switching to the next option), it would be a lot less frustrating. The frustration can be reduced somewhat by being able to use the four front buttons to navigate the menus. However, this brings up a couple of points…
The User Interface (UI):
When I think of a UI, I don’t just consider the menus on a screen but physical buttons and controls on the player. A UI should be fairly intuitive and should not require studying a manual to memorize what a button does. It can make for a very frustrating out-of-box experience for a new user having to operate the controls by trial-and-error. In my opinion, one of the biggest shortcoming of the X5 UI is the lack of control symbols on the front buttons. I really think this can be a major decision factor for people looking to buy based on the appearance of “ease of use”. Not everyone wants to have to “RTFM” (Read…The…F*...err… Manual), instead preferring to just pop in a microSD card and hit play. I deliberately approached this evaluation without consulting the manual unless I got really stuck on navigating the UI (...and yes, I ended up having to cheat and RTFM to learn what the physical buttons did).
I really like the screen main menu...It works well with the scroll wheel (at least when the scroll wheel isn’t being twitchy). I also noticed the menu selection rotates opposite the direction of scroll wheel spin which makes scrolling through the menus counter-intuitive. Perhaps if the menu scrolled in the same direction as the scroll wheel, it would significantly reduce some of the perceived “twitchiness” or at least make it easier to adjust to the UI. I found the four physical buttons do allow some menu navigation as well (except scrolling up and down in a sub-menu), but I had to RTFM to discover it. The on-screen menu symbols are pretty intuitive and the sub-menus present all the necessary information (I liked the separate music and player settings menus). I just have a question…how does one go straight back to “Now Playing” after changing a menu setting without having to navigate backwards a step at a time to the main menu? Perhaps having an option that returns you to the “Now Playing” screen after a certain amount of time is in order?
Using the player:
Disclaimer: Remember, I reviewed the X5 with Firmware 1.00. Some of the issues noted will probably be addressed in future updates but the player was reviewed and rated “as is”.
I used two 64GB microSD cards with mix of Flac and MP3 music files. I had some initial trouble getting the X5 to recognize the cards after formatting them with my PC. It was easier to format the cards in the X5 and load them with music via the USB-to-microSD card reader. I’m sure it was due more to my ignorance than to any issue with the X5 but it seemed to be the easiest way to load music on the cards. After that, the X5 easily recognized all my folders and tracks.
Selecting and playing music was easy using the directory (folder) menu. I do like the option to choose which microSD card to access but I would also like to see an option where the player indexes both cards and presents all the music folders in a single directory. I would also like to see multiple playlist support and the ability to add music to favorites by folder as well (playlist support is rumored to be coming in a firmware update). Gapless playback is a necessity for me so I enabled it. In Firmware 1.00, the music transition was not smooth with an abrupt transition as if the end of one song and the beginning of the next were clipped and jammed together. I hope this can be addressed in a future firmware revision since it can be a major factor in choosing a DAP.
A note about the sound:
This area will actually be rather short since I find offering impressions of sound quality to be subjective and a matter of great debate in some circles. The only apples-to-apples comparison of the sound quality that I can make is with my iBasso DX50. I received the DX50 with a firmware that left it sounding rather bland and cold. Recently, iBasso released a firmware version that brought the DX50 to life musically...it sounded really good to my ears…until I listened to the X5. I found the X5’s sound to be more full-bodied and musical with good extension in the bass and treble and well-rounded mids. I also noticed the background of the X5 was completely silent compared to the DX50 which sounds “airier”, almost as if you can hear the noise floor along with the music. The difference between the two sound signatures is very noticeable with the X5 having the better sound quality. Again, this is all subjective but are my impressions comparing the two. I favor the X5 on sound quality if nothing else…
As an aside, I was asked to try the player with my LCD-2 headphones. The X5 drove them surprisingly well, managing to play them louder than my comfort level...it won’t replace a high-powered amp, but at least it doesn’t suck when the X5 is all you have. I found the X5 paired excellently with the Dunu DN1000 IEMs! I would be perfectly happy having the X5 and DN1000 with me if I ever got stranded on a deserted island (with power ).
I tried out the X5 four different ways…as a player with headphones, as a digital source feeding my Schiit Bifrost DAC and Lyr Amp, as a source/DAC driving my Schiit Lyr Amp, and finally as a standalone USB DAC feeding my Schiit Lyr. The X5 acquitted itself admirably, performing all the functions I required.
Hey, it works! The holes in the silicon cover are too small for large plugs...
As a Digital Source feeding an external DAC/Amp... And as a USB DAC feeding an external Amp...
The display while operating as a DAC... And feeding the LCD-2's...
As a Digital player feeding an external Amp via Line-Out... The X5 and Dunu DN1000...an Excellent Pairing!!
The X5 is a diamond in the rough. With Firmware 1.0 there are User Interface issues that make operating the player less than intuitive and somewhat frustrating. Gapless isn’t correctly implemented (yet), and the menus and shortcuts need some refinement. These, I truly believe, will be addressed in future firmware updates (as I’ve already heard rumor of). Hardware wise, the scroll wheel is a bit loose and there are no control icons on the buttons. These could be fixed in future revisions but might frustrate current users not accustom to “feeling their way around” the controls. While the User's Manual wasn’t completely finished it was excellent in pointing out features and operations but the question is, how many new users want to have to “RTFM” before they can even use a player?
Despite my critiques above, I am looking forward to getting the X5 after it is released in the USA. While I may have to wait for a few firmware revisions as well as “RTFM'ing" before owning an X5, I think in the end it will definitely be worth the investment when I need a DAP or a DAC or a Digital Source or a… I think you get the picture.
My thanks again to James FiiO and Joe Bloggs for the opportunity to evaluate the X5 and offer my impressions.
Pros - Excellent sounding , build quality , user interface , dual micro sd card slots , USB Dac function ,
Cons - Front buttons looks breakable , some bugs and functions yet to be implemented in the current firmware (1.00) , unable to swap batteries .
Disclaimer: I am not related to FiiO, nor am I paid to do this review, they have kindly organized a tour to let the previewers have a 'taste' of how it actually sounds like.
Intro: I first came across FiiO's dap in Early December , which is their first and only dap in 2013 , I was particularly impressed on how it actually sounds , especially for it's price . In late December there was the FiiO X5 world tour application, decided to try my luck , and unfortunately I wasn't that lucky , but a few weeks after the shortlisted names were announced , I received a PM from my fellow group of local-Head-Fiers, enclosing a message sent by Joe that there'd be an extra set, so there it is, I'm in the X5 world tour !
This is a simple review of mine:
[Sorry for the low quality pictures , I do not have a proper camera so I took these using my phone]
The packinging: 9/10
It's a simple yet elegant box
Open up the box and you'll find a black box, it has the leather-texture, though it's made out of paper.
Inside the box, you'll get a silicon protective case for the X5, a micro USB charging/data transfer cable, 2 instruction manual, 2 screen protector, a warranty card, a coaxial cable, 3 anti-dust plug, a micro sd card reader, a USB OTG cable (for future firmware use) and a HDtracks discount code.
It is heavy(200g as stated), build quality like a tank, though I have not (and will not ) try to drop it to see whether it'd survive after a drop
There're a total of 5 clickable buttons at the front side, they're have a tactile feeling when you try to press it.
The scroll-wheel has a rubbery texture and it is turnable , unlike the iPod , where you'd only touch and go round the circle.
There're two volume buttons at the side, it has also the tactile feeling when you press it.
At the top of the X5, you'll see 3 output holes, the first hole to the left is Headphone Out, second hole is the Line Out and lastly to the right is the Coaxial Out.
On the bottom of the X5 you'll find 2 micro sd cards slot, with a rubber flapper attach to it, not the biggest fan of it , as I had problems opening up the rubber flap , takes awhile to open it up .
It is a built-in 3700mAH Li-polymer battery, it is said that it'd last 12-15 hours of playback which is quite impressive it has to be said.
Not the fanciest UI , but it's simple , good , and best of all , fast .
This UI reminds me of a Sony Walkman-style (phone) kind of theme , scrolling speed is great , no lag or whatsoever .
General specifications (Thanks Brooko!)
Dimensions:64.6 x 114 x 15.6 mm (W/L/H)
Display:2.4” 260K HD IPS (400x360)
CPU:Ingenics 4760B 600MHz dual core
DACCM1792A (supports up to 192/24 res)
Outputs:3.5mm headphone out, 3.5mm line out, 3.5mm digital coax out
Storage:2 x microSD (max support 64Gb x 2 at time of review)
Battery:3700mAh Li-Polymer, up to 15 hours playback (~12 hours currently)
Gain options:0 / 6 dB
Supported Formats:APE, WAV, FLAC, WMA, ALAC, MP2, MP3, AAC, OGG
Supported Resolution:Up to 192K/24bit – dependent on format
Output Impedance<0.26 Ω
Crosstalk:>75 dB @ 1KHz
THD+N< 0.003% @ 1KHz
MAX output voltage:> 8 Vp-p
MAX output current:> 150 mA
SNR > 115 dB
Output Power:460 mW @ 16Ω, 255 mW @ 32Ω, 28 mW @ 300Ω
Crosstalk> 100 dB @ 10KΩ @ 1KHz
THD+N< 0.0025% @ 1KHz
SNR> 115 dB
Line output> 1.5 Vrms
Here's the main part of the review , it's a little short and simple section .
Treble: It's extends very well , yet smooth and natural . Consiered 'netural' in FiiO's product, it is a little warm if compared to other daps , excellent for bright sounding headphones or in-ear monitors.
Bass: It's punchy yet controlled , it produces the right amount of bass when needed .
Sound-stage: It has more depth than width , I'd give a score of 3/5 for depth and 3.5/5 for it's width .
Mids: If you have a 'mids-laid back' headphones or IEMs and you want a dap with forward mids, this is for you, presentation of the mids is just stunning, one of the excellent aspects of the player .
Micro-detailling: W-O-W . By far , the best I have ever heard , every strumming of the guitar , beat of the drums , this player will never fail to capture every micro detail of the music . Just wow .
Final thoughts: 350 USD ? You don't get what you pay for this player , you have gotten a steal of the century , it has to be the best player for it's price tag , and with a great customer service , you'll not regret buying this player . Judging from it's build , it can last for at least a good 5 years . If you're looking to buy a player that sounds excellent and can last for long time , FiiO's X5 is for you .
I'd like to thank FiiO , James and Joe for organizing this tour and giving me a chance to preview the X5 , it has been a amazing and wonderful experience .
Thank you for reading