Input/Output: 3.5 mm Input and Output, 2.5 mm Balanced Output, Digital In (USB/OTG DAC)
DAC Chip: Single AKM4452
Amplifier Chip: OPA1662 (low-pass) and OPA926
Max supported sampling rate: Up to 384kHz/32bit PCM and DSD256
Output Impedance: <1.2 ohms (3.5mm out) and <2 ohms (2.5mm balanced out)
For more technical information, click here: Fiio Q1 Mark II full specifications
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to Fiio in any way and do not benefit monetarily or in any other form for writing this review. I purchased this DAC/Amp with my own resources and I am simply giving my honest review of the product!
Review by: “Charlie” from The Little Audiophile
Fiio Q1MkII Retail Price (at time of writing): S$179
Fiio Q1MkII… where do I start? Alright, this little DAC/AMP is small in stature but is not exactly small in sound. No doubt it would not beat something like the Q5 – a TOTL DAC/AMP from Fiio, which is priced at slightly over S$500 here in Singapore. But at a fraction of the cost, the Q1MkII definitely punches well above the price Fiio is commanding. Why? Read on to find out.
The product comes in a pretty standard white box. Inside, you’ll find an interconnect (IC), a lightning to micro USB cable, 2 sets of stacking bands (normal and large sizes) and 1 stacking pad. Note the rubber feet on the Q1MkII are not included in the package. I installed them myself.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Q1MkII employs a digitally-stepped volume adjustment which is supposed to mitigate problems of channel imbalance. Though I am unable to confirm if this it actually works on paper, I can tell you that there is no audible channel imbalance.
Also, when you turn the volume up or down when the music is playing, you can actually hear very soft “clicking” sounds (maybe about 10 to 15 dB) due to the digital volume adjustment at work. There will be no “clicking” sounds when you are not turning the volume knob. Just something to take note of.
Nonetheless, the volume knob is very solid and the motion is very smooth, though it feels slightly weighted.
The high gain switch on the Q1MkII does not give a very big volume increase from the low gain in my experience. However, the low gain is already decently powerful. Fiio’s website did state that the delta of the volume between low and high gain is 5.7 dB for 3.5 mm out and 5.9 dB for 2.5 mm Balanced out.
One thing worth mentioning is that the Amp is reasonably clean of background noise, even on high gain. When turning the pot up to the max, I did not notice much (or any) background noise or amplifier hiss.
To put things into perspective, the Fiio A3 will start to display a little bit of background noise when the pot is turned up to an 8 or 9, even on low gain. (Sidetrack) In its defense, the A3’s noise is only really noticeable when no music is being played or on parts of the track where volumes are low.
The bass boost function on the Q1MkII is a real question of hit or miss. Polar opposites. On bassy, or just moderately bassy headphones or IEMs, you might wanna turn this “fun switch” off as does hit you will a substantial amount of mid + sub-bass. Six decibels, according to Fiio, is how much more bass you would get. That is substantial.
This bass boost extends all the way from 20Hz to 100Hz, before gradually falling off. However, 125 Hz to 250 Hz is the range where vocals get their body. This means that by adding this addition bass, you could potentially over thicken/muddy the vocals. I personally keep the bass boost off unless I really want that extra kick.
With the bass boost off, the bass might not be weighty or impactful enough for some. However, this bass is polite and decays fast, so I am perfectly fine with it.
Usability and Compatibility
This DAC/Amp is honestly really easy to use. For Android or Apple devices, it is usually plug and play. I am no Apple user, but I would believe that the Q1MkII would most probably work with most or if not all of the more recent Apple devices. Do note that the Q1MkII will not drain the battery of your Apple smartphone and will use its own battery power instead.
With Android phones, however, you should do some research to verify if your device is capable of isochronous data transfer. Most recent Android devices would support USB OTG, but not all devices support isochronous data transfer which is required for an OTG DAC’s media playback(ability) to work. In such cases, your smartphone might have issues with connection, audio playback or it might just straight up not detect your external DAC/Amp, the Q1MkII included.
I have found a website which might give you some insights into whether your smartphone is capable of using external DAC/Amps. Links will be all the way at the bottom.
Another issue with non-rooted Android phones is that when the Q1MkII is plugged into an Android phone, 99% of Android phones will start charging up the Q1MkII immediately (the Q1MkII’s indicator light will show up purple or red if so) and thus, it will quickly drain the battery of your Android smartphone. There is a workaround though. By fully charging your Q1MkII before you connect it to your smartphone will mean that there is a lesser potential difference in voltage between the battery of your smartphone and the battery of the Q1MkII. This will result in a significantly slower battery drain of your Android smartphone. In fact, the indicator light on the Q1MkII should show up as blue now, meaning there is no/negligible discharge of power from your Android phone’s battery into your DAC’s battery.
On a Windows laptop or desktop, a driver needs to be installed before you can use the device as a DAC. Drivers are available on Fiio’s website. After installing the Q1MkII drivers, you will need to head over to the Sounds option and set your default playback device to the Q1MkII. Don’t worry… if you do ever need to disconnect your Q1MkII from your PC, just turn it off and unplug the device. Sounds and playback functions will automatically revert back to using the PC’s internal DAC until you finally plug-in and turn on the Q1MkII again.
I have slaved my Q1MkII to my laptop many times without it failing or glitching on me once, so yes, it works very well with Windows.
Connectivity and Features
This DAC has provisions for 3.5 mm and 2.5 mm outputs, a 3.5 mm input and a digital-in for USB/OTG DAC functionality. However, it does lack Bluetooth or any wireless functions and it does not have a Charge/ Do Not Charge function as seen in the previous generation Fiio Q1.
The Q1MkII is finished off in an anodized all metal case which supposedly helps to shield the internal components from electromagnetic interference or EMF in short. I would believe this claim as again, compared to the Fiio A3, my IEMs pick up a lot of EMF or RF noise from the A3 (as the IEM would act as an antenna) when it is stacked directly behind a smartphone, with the only remedy being that I switch my smartphone to airplane mode.
The Fiio Q1MkII does NOT have this problem when stacked in the similar configuration and no EMF or RF noise was picked up by my IEMs so kudos to Fiio for this.
Away from all these technical stuff, the Q1MkII’s plugs and switches are very well made and the quality control was superb. Two gripes that I have about the Q1MkII is that the audio jacks require quite some force to plug in or out as they are quite tight. I would believe that they would become less tight after time though, but not in a bad way.
The other gripe is that the “Bass” and “Gain” wordings are just plain illegible in poorer lighting conditions. It is literally grey on black. Sure it looks sleeker with the dark colours but practicality wise, meh. White text would have been perfect.
The Fiio Q1MkII is more musical than it is technical. Music and especially vocals sound so natural with this DAC as this little bugger takes on a somewhat neutral to a very slightly warm sound signature. As such, I feel that this DAC does not tarnish the natural sound signature of the IEM itself by adding unwanted bloat at the wrong frequencies.
I wouldn’t say that the DAC is particularly detailed or quick, but it does seem to gel well with most decent IEMs.
Take the Fatfreq Eden for example. I absolutely loved the pairing. It went full on musicality with just a sprinkle of technicality and it sounded amazing. So basically, the Q1MkII carries a smooth, easily likeable sound signature.
If you are looking for a reference sounding source, however, you are unfortunately better off looking somewhere else.
As an Amplifier, the Q1MkII is no slouch either. This amp tends to add mid-bass and lower-mid warmth to music. In my experience, using this device as an amp can actually change the overall sound signature quite substantially (also considering the source’s sound signature) and that different sources would yield different results. Thus I am unable to comment too much on this setup.
However, as mentioned above, the amp is noticeably clean with little to no noise.
The Q1MkII is no doubt a relatively inexpensive amp, compared to many other DAC/Amps on the market. But for this amount of money you are paying, this product really does delivers in spades. I have seen users pairing this device with $500+ IEMs and they did not feel that the Q1MkII was bottlenecking their high-end IEMs, or that the bottleneck was just too subtle to tell.
This device is also built very well, even if it cost twice or thrice as much. Well done Fiio for the choice of materials here. Everything seems well finished with no rough edges or imperfections in manufacturing.
However, for the price of the Q1MkII, there are definitely some corners that Fiio had to cut in terms of features, such as the lack of Bluetooth connectivity, Charge/No charge switch, etc. Nonetheless, this is still a really great product from Fiio.
Do check out our WordPress site at https://thelittleaudiophile.wordpress.com/ for more reviews!
Android Device Compatibility List
Another Disclaimer: I am not 100% certain if the list is only applicable to Android devices with Extreamsd products installed, or for Android devices on its own. Please do more research on your own pertaining to the Fiio Q1MkII’s compatibility with your specific Android devices!
The compatibility list is from the website Extreamsd.com: