FiiO Q1 Mark II Apple MFi Certified DAC & Amp

Rating:
4.09091/5,
  1. thelittleaudiophile
    Fiio Q1MkII
    Written by thelittleaudiophile
    Published Jul 30, 2018
    4.0/5,
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    SPECIFICATIONS:


    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 BOX
    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.

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    BUILD AND DESIGN
    Volume knob
    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.

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    Gain Switch
    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.

    Bass Boost
    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.

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    Usability and Compatibility
    Apple Devices
    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.

    Android Devices
    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.

    Windows Computer
    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.

    Overall Finish
    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.

    SOUND QUALITY
    As DAC
    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 Amplifier
    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.

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    Conclusion
    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:
    http://www.extreamsd.com/index.php/technology/usb-audio-driver
  2. Palash
    Value King.
    Written by Palash
    Published May 25, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Small footprint.
    Great design.
    Lots of connectivity option.
    Good SQ.
    Great Battery Life.
    Can take any unbalanced input can provide balanced output.
    Cons - Small volume knob.
    Android comparability is limited.
    Get warm while charging and using side by side.
    Misaligned Hi res Logo.
    Only one silicon pad provided.
    Micro USB.
    Suitable for IEMS.
    This is not a review unit. It is purchased from Fiio.in and the review is intended to promote the good audio gears for fellow music lovers. And it is a compact review based on real time experience .

    For Specification visit - http://www.fiio.net/en/products/76

    Gear used to test the product -

    Headphones , IEMS & Earbuds- Ve Monk Plus , Ve Biggie & Smalls, Fiio FH1, FIIO F9 pro, Fiio F5, Wooeasy EMX500, Shure Se215, 1more Triple driver, Audiotechnica M50X, Sennheiser HD598, Tin audio T2, IBasso ITo1, Fiio EM3K, Final audio E2000, Isine 10.

    DAP - Cayin N3, Fiio X1 Gen2 , Sony NW-A46.

    DAC - Audioquest Fragonfly Black. Fiio Q1, Fiio E10K. Fulla 2, Xduoo XD 05.

    This review is not a immediate one, it is after almost 8 months daily usage.

    Tracks/Albums used to test the product - All songs of 'Hotel California ' , ' Bruno Mars - 24K ' , ' Adele - 25 ' , ' Sting - Fields Of Gold ' , ' The Beatles - Abbey Road ' , ' Sia - 1000 Forms Of Fear ' , 'Eric Clapton - Riding With The King' , ' Fleetwood Mac - Rumours ' , ' Jeff Buckley - Grace ' , ' Michael Jackson - Scream' and many more.

    The main thing - When the product first launched ,I was very happy and excited and picked up as soon as it launched in our region. I love Fiio products for their aggressive pricing. They provide excellent value for money. Out of the box the product looks great , mat finish black and built quality is also good. I wish they come up with more color option like silver and red.

    The volume knob also works as a power on/ off but it is so small that it is difficult to rotate and when the product is lying on the desk it is impossible to rotate the volume knob. But the knob is smooth and fun to rotate. Fiio this time implemented Digital volume control so no Chanel imbalance is noticed.

    Three ports present front of it, First 3.5 mm out, second 2.5 mm balanced out, third 3.5 mm in and out. So in terms of connectivity no compromise. Gold metal accent on 3.5 mm and 2.5 mm port is good. Back side gain switch and bass boost with a micro USB for data and power. Both gain an bass boost work fine . But in 2018 micro USB is not acceptable. Hope they use USB C for Next model.

    Q1 Mk2 support 5V 2 Amp max so charging is quick and never notice any unusual heating issue while charging. But charging and using make it a bit hot but it is justified. Color led and its change of light when charging and discharging worked well . The DSD light turn on when I played few DSD files.

    Setting Q1 Mk2 with PC is very easy , just connect it with provided cable and install drivers provided in the website and ready to goo. For Foobar setup, Fiio provided great instruction in their support forum with all helpful plugins. With IOs device is worked like a charm. But with android it was not so great. I tried 3-4 android devices with a micro USB to micro USB cable and only one device recognized it. So android users try in your own risk.

    After setting up it with my PC , I used it with all my favorite albums and really pleased . This little baby is doing its job really great.

    For sound it is a bit warmer side, good amount of Bass , Mids are ok and Treble is rolled off a bit, through out it is smoother side or a little too smooth. In comparison to Audioquest Dragonfly black and Fulla 2 it is really smoother side. Sound stage is good and fun to listen . instrument separation is also good. Use of AK4452 is good but it can be better if Ak4490 is used. Good amount of energy is there but sometime with slow tracks it fails to give the feel . 3.5 mm output is too low but 2.5 mm output is fine. So i suggest to use it with Iems. DAC section is good but AMP section is not so great. With my Fiio A5 it is fine. Amp section is clean but hiss can be noticed with sensitive IEMS. Battery life is very good . I would say it is a decent product.

    Conclusion - For this price q1mk2 is an octopus . Lost of features . For a beginner it is a extremely good device to start . Product is good but it can be better. APM section is less powerful and not so rich. Android support should be there . Love to see use of AK4490 or Dual AK4452 in next gen Q1. Sound wise it is acceptable and fun to carry around and listen for a long time. I really liked the product and not going to leave it . It can easily claim its place in the list of DAC/AMP on an audiophile's desk . May be its not so powerful but with most of the IEMS it is enough . Good job Fiio.

    Thanks for reading this review.

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      azkaban3000 and Lifted Andreas like this.
    1. azkaban3000
      Hi, how is sounds in comparison with Fiio E10K? Is it worth to upgrade from E10K to Q1 MKII in your opinion?
      azkaban3000, Aug 3, 2018
    2. Palash
      Yes of course its much better than E10K, sound quality is way better. But the main purpose of Q1 mk2 is portability .
      Palash, Aug 4, 2018
  3. faceestrella
    FiiO Q1 Mk II review by FACE
    Written by faceestrella
    Published Mar 24, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Attractive, compact, good build, good sound, has balanced connection.
    Cons - Single ended could use more power, Need to utilize balanced to really shine.
    *Disclosure: I purchased the FiiO Q1 Mk II myself for full price.*
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/76
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    Overview:
    The FiiO Q1 Mk II, FiiO is their second foray into their Q lineup (Now consisting of the Q1, the Mk II, and the Q5) and brings a novel feature rarely seen at the price point, balanced output.
    Were there any sacrifices made to pack that feature into such a portable frame? If there were any, what could those be?
    Enough lollygagging and on to the main portion of this review.


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    Specifications:
    From Penon Audio website: https://penonaudio.com/fiio-q1-mark-ii.html

    Weight: About 101g
    Dimensions: About 99mm x 59mm x 12.5mm
    Audio Input: Micro USB/3.5 mm Jack
    Headphone Output: 3.5 mm stereo jack
    Balance Headphone Output: Supported (2.5mm balanced headphone jack)
    Recommended Headphone Impedance: 16~100Ω(PO),16~150Ω(BAL)

    Bass Boost: 0/5.4dB
    Channel Imbalance: 0.2 dB
    Power Input: DC5V 2A recommended
    Battery Capacity: 1800mAh
    Charge Time: ≤4h
    Battery Life: >20h(AUX IN)>10h(USB IN)
    USB DAC: Up to 384kHz/32bit supported
    DSD Support: DSD64/128/256
    Line output specifications
    THD+N: <0.003% (1 kHz/10kΩ)
    SNR: ≥110 dB (A-weighted)
    Frequency Response: 6 Hz~80 kHz(-3dB)
    Channel Separation: >90 dB (1 kHz)
    Max Input Level: 3.4V

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    Packaging:

    The Q1 Mk II comes in an approximately 6.5x4.5x2 inch carton box, with a pull out inner box sporting the FiiO logo that opens up to reveal the device on top, surrounded by foam and underneath you will find the included accessories:
    USB A to Micro B cable, Lightning to Micro B cable, a 3.5mm to 3.55 cable, a Silicone pad, 4 Silicone bands of 2 sizes, and a mesh pouch for the device along with an instruction manual and a warranty card.
    There is no Micro B to Micro B or USB C to Micro B cable included as this was a “Designed for Apple” device with MFi certification.

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    Build and Design:
    The Q1 Mk II is an attractive device, definitely deserving of its iF Design Award, with smooth lines and all design elements coming together cohesively. If anything, the design isn’t an innovative one, but a very well executed one.
    Size wise it’s a 4-inch diagonal and fits quite nicely in hand with the smooth curves of the side helping in handling of the device and lends quite well with stacking with most modern devices.
    The main body material is smooth black aluminum, with plastic front and rear covers, with the volume knob being made of aluminum as well with red trim at the base of the knob, in a similar style to the AK70, and sports a 2 tone LED light to indicate blue for power and red for charging with purple being the color when both functions run at the same time plus a smaller green light to indicate DSD playback.

    Overall, a well thought out and attractive design that should work well both in a stack with your transport of choice or with your laptop as an alternative playback device, as long as you don’t mind that this doesn’t come with rubber or silicone feet, though the included pad should suffice.

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    Features:
    The FiiO sports one 3.5mm single ended output, one 2.5mm balanced output, one hybrid line in/out 3.5mm port, one gain switch, one bass boost switch, and one Micro B input, and while separate input and charging ports would be preferred it’s understandable given the compact size.

    Using the device is quite easy, for most phones iPhone or android you merely turn it on and plug and play, it worked without a hitch on the iPhone 7 plus I tested it with, and played nicely with most android phones I’ve tested.
    On Windows all you need is to download and install a driver an you will be good to go.

    Fair warning though, phones with USB C ports may have some issue with the phone charging/powering the Q1 no matter what settings you try, this is largely a USB C issue as some cables work and won’t cause discharge and some will, the Oppo HA-2SE also has this problem.

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    Performance:
    The biggest draw here is the balanced output, often you don’t see balanced out in this price range, but it’s all part of FiiO’s new InfinitySound system, albeit not as fully spec’d out like the higher tier products in FiiO’s product stack, due to the relatively low to average 112mW output of the 3.5mm port.
    While this will be good enough to drive most earbuds or IEM’s certain power-hungry models can prove to push the 3.5mm output to it’s limits. Fortunately, the balanced output of the FiiO is quite robust with a 240mW output being able to serve enough power to drive the HIFIMAN HE-400i (an admittedly relatively easy to drive set) comfortably, a pairing where the Single Ended output was struggling to give enough power to, especially on low gain.

    The Q1 Mk II presented an adequate black background free from and static or hiss and didn’t cause any issue even with less forgiving sensitive IEMs like the Campfire Andromeda, either on single ended or balanced at either gain settings at reasonable listening volumes.
    The gain and bass boost switches all found on the rear functioned correctly, with the bass boost adding around 5db in the bass region, nice if you have any gear that seems to lack a little low end. And the line-out functioned fine as well, the hybrid line in/out port being a nice touch to save space.

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    Tonality and Sound:
    All comparisons were done volume matched using: Campfire Andromeda, Hifiman HE-400i iBasso IT01
    A reminder; Of course, the sound you hear will largely be the sound of the ear gear you plug in, but there are some minute and nuanced sonic differences that the playback device will have.
    The Q1 Mk II houses an AKM 4452VE “Velvet Sound” DAC and Texas Instruments OPA 926 amp. The FiiO imparts warmth and smoothness to the sound of whatever you’re listening to. This may be attractive to those who have a certain sound they are looking for and want that little nudge of low-end to fully round out their sound, I found this to be a very nice pairing with the HE-400i.

    The tonality of the FiiO is the same through either output, but the balanced connection of the FiiO is really where it shines, when running through balanced there’s extra dynamism to the sound, instruments or sounds that usually just blend in the background stand out more. Like in Billie Jean, through the balanced output the guitar riffs in the back that you wouldn’t really focus on are just a touch more defined. It’s a small change, but that plus the extra driving power the balanced output brings shows that it really is where the FiiO shines brightest.
    So if you’re planning to get the most out of this device, then be sure to have a balanced cable ready.

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    Select Comparisons:
    The following comparisons are here to give an alternative view.

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    Sony PHA-1A: The Sony is a similarly designed product, sharing the same overall shape albeit quite larger. The Sony does have the advantage of having separate USB ports for input and charging, as well as a full sized USB input making it a more versatile companion. It does lack the bass boost and DSD support but does have a gain switch. Tonality wise, the Sony also leans slightly warm but not as much as the FiiO.
    The Sony also has much more power via the single ended output but lacks the flexibility the FiiO provides with balanced.
    If DSD playback, super portability nor balanced output don’t interest you, the Sony provides an equally attractive, still somewhat compact alternative option, for the Sony price premium of course.

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    XDuoo XD-05: The XD-05 is an interesting device, it barely qualifies as portable thought the size it comes in it just squeezes inside, thus being a more rugged and unwieldy device. However it makes up for it with possibly the most features packed in, barring balanced out.
    It is easily the most powerful device here, with 3 gain settings, a bass boost, DAC and SRC filters, with an OLED screen to boot. It can also playback DSD files.
    The tonality of the XDuoo is the most natural of the 3, and if you’re looking for “purer” sound it definitely warrants a look plus the filters do add a slight flexibility for getting that last extra mile in the sound. The XD-05 stands out by being a “Honey I Shrunk the Desktop DAC/Amp” toeing the line of being portable but trading off by having a more robust feature set, so as a Laptop DAC/Amp the XDuoo is a compelling alternative.

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    Conclusion:

    The FiiO Q1 Mk II provides a very interesting value proposition.
    Good build, decent power, attractive design AND balanced output all for around $100.
    That doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws however, single end output being on the lower end of the spectrum, with middling performance, and no dedicated charging port comes to mind.

    However if you’re a mostly IEM user looking to turn your iPhone or Android into Hi-Fi listening device, and want to sacrifice as little in terms of portability as you can, or a balanced believer looking for a portable solution with balanced output that won’t break the bank, then the FiiO Q1 Mk II Portable DAC/Amp will not leave you wanting, and is something you should seriously consider for your portable purchase.


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      Lifted Andreas likes this.
  4. HiFiChris
    A great overall Package
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Jan 6, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - •reasonable, affordable price
    •slim design
    •features and accessories
    •digital volume control
    •almost entirely hiss-free even with extremely sensitive IEMs in pure Amp mode
    •reasonably low SE output impedance (~1.2/1.3 Ohms)
    Cons - (•limited Android compatibility (but not advertised by FiiO in the first place, so no "real" con))
    •hissing a little more audible in DAC mode when using extremely sensitive IEMs
    •slightly soft character with high quality IEMs
    •a few very diva-esque IEMs might still benefit from less than 1 Ohm output impedance
    Preamble:

    Originally posted in English on my English and German audio review website, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the FiiO Q1 MkII.


    Introduction:

    The original FiiO Q1 was a portable DAC-Amp for headphones, in-ears and earbuds. Recently, it was replayed by the Q1 MkII. Other than the name and what they are (DAC-Amps), the two devices don’t really have much in common at all, since the Q1 MkII is a product that was completely redesigned not only on the outside, but also inside when it comes down to the technical implementation.

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    The low price and slim design of the new Q1 MkII promises quite a lot, such as native DSD support, MFi support, a balanced headphone output, digital volume control, additional bass boost and up to 20 hours of battery life.

    Does the FiiO Q1 MkII DAC-Amp deliver good value and sound? Let’s find it out in this very review!


    Full disclosure: I was provided with a sample of the FiiO Q1 MkII DAC-Amp free of charge for the purpose of an, as always, unpaid, honest and unbiased review that reflects nothing but my own impressions and wasn’t given any directions/guidelines, no matter how it would turn out.


    Technical Specifications:

    MSRP before Taxes: $99.99
    German/European Price: ~ €119

    DAC: AK4452
    Amp Chips: OPA926
    Output Power (into 32 Ohms): >75 mW (SE), >220 mW (BAL)
    THD+N: <0.003% (USB DAC), <0.002%) (AUX In)
    SNR: >115 dB (AUX In), >110 dB (USB DAC)
    Crosstalk: >90 dB
    Headphone Impedance: 16 ~ 150 Ohms (BAL), 16 ~ 100 Ohms (SE)
    Supported Sampling Rates: up to 384 kHz/32 Bit
    DSD Support: DSD64/128/256
    Optional Bass Boost: 5.4 dB
    Battery Capacity: 1800 mAh
    Battery Life: >20 h (AUX In), >10 h (USB DAC)
    Dimensions: ~ 99 x 59 x 12.5 mm
    Weight: ~ 101 g

    SE Output:

    Output Power: >112 mW (16 Ohms), >75 mW (32 Ohms), >11 mW (300 Ohms)
    SNR: >116 dB (A-weighted, AUX In), >109 dB (A-weighted, USB DAC)
    Gain: -2.5 dB (L), 3.2 dB (H)
    Output Impedance: <1.2 Ohms
    Crosstalk: >79 dB (AUX In)
    Peak Output Voltage: >4.4 V (peak to peak)
    Max. Input Level: 3.4 V

    BAL Output:

    Output Power: >240 mW (16 Ohms), >220 mW (32 Ohms), >45 mW (300 Ohms)
    SNR: >115 dB (A-weighted, AUX In), >109 dB (A-weighted, USB DAC)
    Gain: 3.2 dB (L), 9.1 dB (H)
    Output Impedance: <2 Ohms
    Crosstalk: >93 dB (AUX In)
    Peak Output Voltage: >7.4 V (peak to peak)
    Max. Input Level: 3.4 V


    Delivery Content:

    When you get the Q1 MkII, you will likely not need any further accessories, since it comes with many things already included, such as a handy rubber pad (that is great to use for stacking to prevent scratches), four silicone bands/loops that can be used for stacking, one Lightning to micro USB cable, one USB-A to micro USB cable, and last but not least a perforated carrying pouch as well as a brief manual.

    [​IMG]

    The only thing that is missing for perfection is a micro USB to micro USB OTG cable.


    Aesthetics, Haptics, Build Quality:

    The majority of FiiO’s most recent devices has got a quite unique and stylish, beautiful design, and the Q1 MkII is certainly no exception. Therefore it looks quite a bit sleeker and more stylish than its predecessor that is also quite different inside.

    Additionally, the DAC-Amp is quite small and flat, and definitely a bit smaller and flatter than I imagined it to be.

    [​IMG]

    The chassis is made of matte black metal, which also includes the switches but not the front and back panel that are made of plastic (but appear almost like metal) and sit slightly recessed and are concavely shaped, which looks nice but also somewhat protects the ports and switches from unintentional operation and shorts. Solely the volume pot is unprotected compared to the old Q1 (however, I frankly appreciate this decision as it makes the Q1 MkII look much more visually appealing, nonetheless one should take more care not to drop or nudge the DAC-Amp).

    Build quality and design are great – there are no panel gaps, no build imperfections, and no burrs or sharp edges.

    The included lightning cable is just awesome – short, but extremely soft and flexible.


    Ports, Buttons/Switches, Features:

    The Q1 MkII can be used as a pure DAC (combined line in- and output socket), as a pure amplifier, or as a DAC-Amp.
    Besides that combined line in- and output on the front side, it has got a single-ended 3.5 mm headphone output, next to a balanced (TRRS-terminated) 2.5 mm output. Additionally, there is a smooth and non-stepped volume potentiometer that is small but has a rather good grip and also turns the DAC-Amp on and off, with a blue LED (that can also light up in red if the FiiO is charging) next to it as a power and charging indicator. Last but not least, the front also houses another little LED that lights up as soon as you play DSD material.

    [​IMG]

    On the back, one can find a two-stage gain control switch along with a bass boost switch, a reset button hidden inside a tiny hole, and last but not least a micro USB socket for charging and USB DAC input (with DSD capability for those who need it).

    The only slight imperfection that one could remark is that activating and deactivating the bass boost doesn’t happen quietly, but that there’s a slight, audible glitch.

    In order to get the Q1 MkII to work as a DAC in combination with a Windows computer, drivers have to be downloaded and installed first, whereas it should work without any additional drivers when connected to a MacOS or Linux-based computer.

    The FiiO is by the way MFi-certified wherefore one can use it directly with portable Apple devices unlike non-certified devices that usually require going the alternative route by using the Apple CCK as a workaround.

    While other people have reported the FiiO to work flawlessly with their Android devices, I couldn’t get it to work with my Asus Google Nexus 7 (2nd generation) despite having compatible OTG cables on hand. I guess just like the Beyerdynamic A 200 p, it won’t work natively with all Android devices but will probably require root access with some, or the USB Audio Player Pro. The included manual by the way doesn’t mention Android compatibility at all, nonetheless as I mentioned, some users have reported that the FiiO works with some devices running on Android OS.


    Volume Control:

    A fully analogue implementation of the volume control usually has the disadvantage that channel matching in the low potentiometer adjustment range is pretty bad and that one side is quieter than the other until you raise the volume. That is why I have developed a bit of hatred towards fully analogue volume control implementations over the years.

    [​IMG]

    While the new FiiO Q1 MkII appears to have a typical analogue volume control implementation due to its regular rotary volume potentiometer, this is totally not the case – its volume control is implemented digitally wherefore channel imbalance is completely avoided, even if the potentiometer is in the very low adjustment range. Indeed, it is great to see an idea I have recommended to FiiO multiple times to be finally implemented. I just love it.

    The Volume is almost muted during the first two, three mm after turning the DAC-Amp on, but then suddenly increases immediately with a big-ish jump, although increments are smooth and gradual above that threshold – in the latter way, the Q1 MkII feels just like a regular device with a traditional analogue potentiometer, but with the advantages of the digital attenuation (ideal channel matching), and this is probably exactly what FiiO wanted to go for.

    (Very personally, as someone who has come from preferring analogue attenuation to clearly preferring fully digital attenuation, I would still prefer a small screen and volume buttons or a pot with infinite turns and probably steps coupled with a small screen for the sake of even higher precision and always getting the exact volume setting I want, ideally with 256 steps in total, but I can totally see why FiiO went the way they did. Very personally, I also wouldn’t have minded a slightly lower starting volume in amp mode in order to being able to listen at even quieter volume levels with very sensitive in-ears (it’s absolutely fine in DAC-Amp mode though) – but that’s just me.)


    Battery Life:

    For this test, I used the FiiO’s single-ended headphone output, with the inexpensive Superlux HD668B connected to it. No bass boost was used, low gain was chosen, and the potentiometer was set to ca. 50%.

    Used as a pure amplifier, the Q1 MkII’s battery lasted for roughly 20 hours and 45 minutes, which is even slightly better than FiiO’s stated 20 hours.

    While this might not appear as all that much at first glance, compared to the Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII’s ~ 30 hours and the Elekit TU-HP02’s ~ 50 hours, one has to bear in mind that the FiiO is not only a much flatter, more compact device, but also has got a digitally controlled volume that of course contributes to the battery drain as well.

    And for portable headphone amplifiers with digitally controlled volume, the Q1 MkII runs quite a bit longer than most other portable headphone amps with digital volume control such as the Creative SoundBlaster E5, JDS Labs C5/C5D, Leckerton UHA760 or FiiO’s own E17k. Therefore one can definitely say that the Q1 MkII has got good battery life.

    A battery test in DAC-Amp mode couldn’t be performed due the lack of a recent iPhone with lightning connector (one could have been organised/borrowed, but probably not for a full-length battery test), and since the FiiO recharges itself when it is connected to a PC.


    Sound:

    Frequency Response:

    One of the most basic and fundamental things an audio device should have is a flat unloaded frequency response in the important range of 20 to 20000 Hz. While it is anything but sorcery to achieve this in modern days, some (however mainly inexpensive and rather no-name) audio devices still fail to achieve this very basic thing.

    So let’s see how the Q1 MkII measures when used as a…

    … pure Amp:

    [​IMG]


    … DAC-Amp:

    [​IMG]


    … pure DAC:

    [​IMG]


    As one can see, a flat frequency response, just the way it should be, is what the FiiO outputs (the minimal roll-off on both far ends that can be seen in some of the graphs is just very slight and still below the audible threshold).


    The Q1 MkII however also features a bass boost implementation:

    [​IMG]
    ^^^ different graph scaling compared to the others above

    As one can see, it adds ca. 5.6 dB below 100 Hz.

    Output Impedance:

    Even when having a flat frequency response without load or with a simple load (such as a headphone that has got the same impedance over its entire frequency response), things are getting quite a bit more difficult with most multi-driver in-ears that have got more than just one driver and a crossover circuit that causes the in-ears’ resistance to vary along with their frequency response.

    If the audio device’s headphone output doesn’t have a low output impedance, the in-ears’ frequency response and therefore heard tonality will be skewed and they will (depending on the player’s output impedance and the in-ears’ specific impedance response) sound more or less different compared to when driven by an audio player that has got a low output impedance.
    To maintain an unaltered sound even with low impedance multi-driver in-ears, it is therefore best to have an audio device that has got an output impedance of around (or ideally even less than) 1 Ohm.

    This is what the FiiO Q1 MkII puts out when connecting a critical, low impedance multi-driver in-ear to its single-ended output:

    [​IMG]

    The connected load was my Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10, an in-ear that is among the more source-picky species of its kind and changes its sound rapidly as the player’s output impedance climbs (yes, it even makes a low output impedance of 0.5 Ohms visible). I therefore pretty much always use it for measuring the frequency deviation compared to a simple load. Based on this, the output impedance can be calculated.
    The measured deviation in combination with the FiiO is still on the smaller side and can be calculated to be around 1.2, 1.3 Ohms, which is still a fairly good value and proves that the player can drive the vast majority of multi-driver in-ears without (or with only slightly, which is the case for divas such as the Triple.Fi 10 or Shure SE846) altering their sound unlike players that have a rather high/higher output impedance. This also backs up FiiO’s specs that state 1.2 Ohms.

    So if you were wondering whether or not the Q1 MkII has got a still low and (for the vast majority of in-ears) multi-driver-friendly output impedance in single-ended mode, I can tell you that it does.

    I didn’t perform any output impedance measurements of the balanced output, but the 2 Ohms spec stated by FiiO spears realistic and there’s no reason to not believe in it.

    Hiss:

    As someone who is quite sensitive to hearing hiss when it is present and as someone who is also using many sensitive and some very sensitive in-ears such as the Shure SE846, Ostry KC06A or Pai Audio MR3, three models that are real “hiss-magnets”, having an audio device with as little audible hiss as possible has always been an important thing to me. The destination of perfection, a hiss-free audio player in combination with super sensitive in-ears, was what I could reach with my iBasso DX90, the Plenue 2, as well as the Luxury & Precision L3 and L3 Pro, though the L & P players don’t have the ideal output impedance for every kind of in-ear. And devices such as the iBasso DX200 with its stock amplifier module came very very close to it.

    Using my Shure SE846, Pai Audio MR3 and the Ostry KC06A through the FiiO’s single-ended output, with the Q1 MkII acting as a pure amplifier, I can happily report that hiss is just very barely above the audible threshold with these three super sensitive in-ears when no music/empty files are playing, wherefore one could call it basically hiss-free, just like the DX200. Changing the gain, activating the bass boost or increasing the volume doesn’t change this.

    Using the Q1 MkII as a DAC-Amp though, there is some slight hiss audible with those extremely sensitive in-ears. It’s still rather quiet (quieter than the Cowon Plenue D or Plenue J for example, two devices that already preform quite well in this regard), but more noticeable than when the FiiO is used as a pure amplifier.

    In this scenario, hiss also becomes more noticeable when the volume pot is turned almost all the way up, however one wouldn’t need that setting with sensitive in-ears, and headphones that need that much power are way too insensitive to make the hiss audible.

    Changing gain or activating the bass boost doesn’t have an effect on the amount of hissing either.

    To sum it up – used as a pure amplifier, the FiiO Q1 MkII is basically hiss-free even with super sensitive in-ears, whereas it shows a faint amount of hiss when it is used as a DAC-Amp when the same super sensitive in-ears are connected to it.

    Subjective perception of Transparency, Details and Soundstage…

    … in Amp Mode:

    Now to the rather subjective part of my review. My opinion and experience regarding the perceived “character” and “transparency” of source devices and amplifiers is this one: there can be an existing audible difference between various devices, but it should definitely not be overrated – simply because the basic character of a headphone won’t be completely changed (if the circuit follows a clean design philosophy and the output is load-stable), but sometimes rather slightly “shaped” and is usually very subtle in many cases and is (in most cases) just slightly present (if even there) and not “huge” or like “totally different classes” or “night and day”.

    I am not a fan of exaggerations and hyperboles here because as long as the objectifyable parameters of an audio player are neutral and not too shabby (loaded frequency response, distortion, crosstalk, dynamic range, noise, …), the audible difference, if there is any, will be quite small at best if two devices are compared with proper volume matching that cannot be done by ear but only with instruments, since even small differences in loudness can be perceived as a technical advantage by our ear and brain.

    A more detailed, German article written by me concerning the “audible difference between comparable audio devices, if there is any”, can be found here: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.de/2016/04/Eigenklang.html

    [​IMG]

    So let’s go on with my subjective impressions and observations (for this critical listening, I mainly used my UERM, Audio Technica ATH-IM03, Etymotic ER-4S, Audeze LCD-X as well as the NocturnaL Audio Atlantis and Fidue SIRIUS in single-ended mode. I also used a few more headphones and in-ears from different price and performance ranges for listening but more for personal enjoyment than for the sake of critical listening and comparisons. The main DAC/source for the Q1 MkII in use as a pure amplifier was the iBasso DX200 with the stock AMP1 module’s line output):

    The basic “character” of the FiiO is clean and neutral, but with a very slight amount of smoothness and a little softness. To my ears, it falls right between sources that I also subjectively perceive as “neutral” (they measure objectively neutral anyway), such as the iBasso DX200 with the AMP1 module, my iPhone 4 or my Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII, and sources that I perceive as somewhat smoother and “unaggressive” sounding, such as my Chord Electronics Mojo or iBasso DX80.

    Transparency with sensitive in-ears is on a good level, although on a slightly lesser level compared to for example my Leckerton or the DX200 and Cowon Plenue 2, which I would partially contribute to the Q1 MkII’s slightly soft and smooth, a bit more “inoffensive” presentation, and very good but not yet flagship quality measurements.

    Those clearly aren’t night-and-day differences with proper volume-matching though, which one shouldn’t expect anyway these days where a clean audio implementation is no wizardry even in the budget-oriented price range.

    The FiiO’s soundstage reproduction appears quite “average” to me and neither as “compact” as the Mojo’s or as expansive as the DX200’s (with properly matched volume of course).


    … in DAC-Amp Mode:

    Here I can make it very short: to my ears, the highs appear very slightly smoother and very slightly softer, but otherwise the presentation remains similar.

    - - -

    Just a very quick and brief comparison with another DAC-Amp:

    My Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII has got an overall slightly cleaner sound (a little higher “transparency” and tightness with in-ears) but is also more expensive.
    The FiiO outputs a slight amount of hiss in DAC-Amp mode whereas the Leckerton still remains quiet when used as a DAC-Amp (when low gain is chosen). In pure amp mode, the FiiO is also basically hiss-free.
    Feature-wise, the FiiO offers more, such as the additional balanced output, digitally controlled volume and bass boost, along with the more modern format support for those who need it. However, when it comes to inputs, the Leckerton offers more (S/PDIF and COAX).
    Both DAC-Amps’ output impedance is low and multi-BA-friendly (Leckerton: excellent < 0.5 Ohms; FiiO: good, ca. 1.3 Ohms).
    The Leckerton offers the somewhat higher battery life in amp-only mode while both offer comparable battery life when they are used as DAC-Amps.

    Balanced vs. Single-Ended use:

    Proper volume matching of the two outputs (at least doing it quickly) was quite difficult with the Q1 MkII’s potentiometer, however I found an easy way to still get proper volume matching between the two outputs: using my computer’s digital volume control, I didn’t have to use the FiiO’s pot but could quickly and properly match the volume on my PC while switching outputs.

    Mainly using the Fidue SIRIUS, as it was to be expected, the higher power output compared to the single-ended output is the most obvious feature of the balanced output (unfortunately hiss increases audibly as well with the gained output power when sensitive in-ears are connected), but the sound is also slightly less soft and therefore a bit tighter to my ears compared to the single-ended output. The perceived timbre (slight smoothness) and soundstage reproduction remains however the same.


    Conclusion:

    That the FiiO Q1 MkII doesn’t fully excel in each and every category, aspect and scenario (for example it showcases some slight hiss in DAC-Amp mode with very sensitive in-ears, and hiss becomes more prominent over the balanced output, along with its slightly soft general character in single-ended use), but this was rather clear from the beginning, given the excellently detailed, transparent and trustworthy technical specifications. That is does really well in pretty much all categories (still quite low output impedance (single-ended), digitally controlled volume, great format support, good battery life as an amplifier, pretty much hiss-free when used as a pure analogue headphone amplifier with very sensitive in-ears in single-ended mode) and comes close to exceling was however also obvious from the same spec sheet.

    It is true, the Q1 MkII is a great product that is feature-rich, at the height of time when it comes to ports, sampling rate and technical implementation, and has got a truly good price-performance-ratio.

    [​IMG]

    There simply isn’t anything that really speaks against FiiO’s small and very reasonably priced DAC-Amp (well, probably limited compatibility with some Android devices that aren’t rooted and/or don’t have the USB Audio Player Pro installed, however since Android support isn’t listed as a feature and mentioned nowhere in the manual or the website, I cannot blame FiiO for this at all, and several users have reported that the Q1 MkII works with some of their Android devices).

    Good job, FiiO!
      Waldman Jordaan, jabro, wlai and 3 others like this.
    1. Dobrescu George
      Awesome Review!
      Dobrescu George, Jan 9, 2018
      Lifted Andreas likes this.
  5. darmanastartes
    Portable but problematic
    Written by darmanastartes
    Published Dec 29, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Improved soundstage and separation vs smartphone, incredible battery life, pairs well with sensitive IEMs
    Cons - Sensitive to EMI, single-ended output underpowered relative to previous generation, volume pot vulnerable to jostling in pocket, still uses micro USB
    Introduction:
    I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the Fiio Q1 MkII review tour. My own focus in these impressions is going to be less about the sonic characteristics of the N3 and more about its functionality as it applies to my particular needs.
    2017-12-20 02.09.28 1.jpg
    About Me:
    I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities, and generally prefer a V-shaped sound signature. I don’t possess any DSD format music and have only a little in the way of Hi-Res FLAC. Most of my portable listening has been straight out of a smartphone, or occasionally out of of my Fiio E6 portable amplifier. I have owned the Fiio X1 (first gen) and briefly owned the Fiio X1 (2nd gen). For desktop listening, I use the JDS Labs Element. I currently own the Campfire Audio Polaris (received today), Mee Audio Pinnacle P1, Mee Audio Pinnacle P2, E-MU Teak, KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, and Archeer AH07, and have owned the Fostex TH-X00, V-Moda M-80, V-Moda LP2 Crossfade, Mee Audio M6, Hifiman HE-400S, and (very briefly) Phillips Fidelio X2.

    Other equipment used:

    I mostly used the Fiio Q1 MkII as a DAC/AMP with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Android smartphone running a custom Nougut ROM, using either Spotify Premium HQ streaming or 16 bit 44.1Hz FLAC files. I did most of my listening with the Mee Audio Pinnacle P1 and the E-MU Teak, but I did have some time with the Mee Audio Pinnacle P2 as well.


    Acessories/Build Quality:

    The review unit came with a USB-A to micro-USB cable, a short 3.5mm interconnect, two micro-USB to Lightning jack cables (of equal length, causing me to wonder if this was a packaging mistake), and a micro-USB cable to a jack that I did not recognize resembling a micro-USB cable twice the regular width. Also included were four rubber bracelets for stacking, a silicone slab for scratch protection while stacking, and a cloth mesh carry case. The volume pot was noticeably angled, which was disappointing. In addition, the bass-boost and gain controls were not marked, which hopefully was an oversight limited to my review unit as press photos indicate that they should be marked.


    Design/Functionality:

    The Q1 MkII is not advertised as being compatible with Android devices, and when I connected the Q1 to my Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, it crashed the device twice, the second time sending it into a bootloop that took a factory reset to recover from. I'm not entirely sure what the issue was. I switched kernels and it worked fine for the remainder of my time with the device for all media sources, including Spotify, GoneMad Music Player, Youtube, and Snapchat, but I have not tried it with Hibymusic again (which was what was open when the crashes occurred).

    This was my first experience with a balanced setup. I used the balanced cable from the Fiio F5 with the MeeAudio Pinnacle P1. There was considerably more power on tap with the balanced output, but apart from maybe a hair more bass clarity, I didn't hear a difference in sound quality from single-ended.

    I liked the overall form factor more than the flask-shaped MkI, but I miss the volume pot protector from the MkI, which helped to keep the volume from being adjusted while in my pocket. I also would advise Fiio to not be afraid to make devices intended to be stacked bigger. My phone has a 5.5 inch screen, and if the Q1 MkII had been more the size of the Fiio A5, the functionality of the phone would be less impaired by the placement of the rubber bracelets.

    When being used as just an amp through the 3.5mm out on the phone to the line-in there was some distortion when adjusting the volume, which does not occur in DAC/AMP mode.


    I wish that Fiio had used USB-C for the charge/connector port. This should really be a basic expectation at this date, and it is frustrating that it remains so rare. The device did have exceptional battery life, lasting a full day of listening easily. Fiio advertises a battery life of 20 hours, which I have no reason to doubt. It also charged fully after being completely drained within 2-3 hours.

    I generally subscribe to the philosophy that if a source device is coloring the sound, something is wrong with the source device, so I will not wax lyrically about how the N3 made such and such song sound different than with other source devices. It has also been my experience that the primary benefit of high-end amplification is to increase the maximum volume music can be played at while still having the instrumentation resolve clearly. That said, the Q1 MkII has a slightly rolled-off high end, which helped with the occasionally harsh treble of the P1s. Separation and soundstage are nominally but noticeably better than being driven straight from my smartphone. There is no audible hiss at max volume on high gain with the P2 for both balanced and single-ended outputs while there is no music playing, so users with sensitive IEMs should be in good shape. I did not have any issues driving the Teaks out of the single ended output, but I did not have the chance to test the Q1 MkII with anything truly power-hungry.

    My biggest issue with the Q1 MkII is it seems to be extremely sensitive to noisy USB ports. I haven't had issues with static with my phone or laptop, but when hooked up to my desktop's rear USB ports, I had continuous issues with intermittent static, which is an issue I don't have with The Element. I've also had occasional incidences of skipping fractions of seconds of songs from all sources I tried with the Q1 MkII.

    Final words:
    I have mixed feelings about the Q1 MkII. For portable use it is an easy recommendation for a self-powered DAC/AMP, especially if you have sensitive IEMs, easy to drive headphones, or balanced cables. I would not recommend the Q1 MkII for desktop use given my experiences with EMI interference and the underpowered single-ended output compared to the Q1 MkI.
  6. Lifted Andreas
    Great sounding entry DAC with some quirks.
    Written by Lifted Andreas
    Published Dec 28, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Has the fantastic FiiO house sound
    Direct upgrade to the FiiO K1 and Q1 mark 1 in my opinion.
    Great value at around £88.
    Works with on-the-fly DSD conversion in Foobar (with some caveats)
    Fantastic build and finish. Looks amazing!
    Cons - Android support is wonky
    Balanced output won't be that important to most.
    Low output power from the analogue output
    No talk of MQA support (as yet)
    Received the Q1ii today and OMG its a beauty of a device, but I wouldn’t expect anything less than that from FiiO. Its sounds fantastic and is a direct upgrade to my now year old FiiO K1.

    I must say for the low price of £35.99 for the FiiO K1 that tiny device kicks serious ass. However, from the last hour of listening the Q1ii sounds more forward with greater resolution and sound stage while still having that house FiiO sound. Its slightly darker and less thick than the K1, as well as way more airy and refined. Another thing the Q1ii does remarkably to my ears is revealing layers in music, especially in Trance tracks. They're full of high-hats, cymbals, FX pads, sweeps and it sounds like the Q1ii handles each one separately. I can only assume this will get even better once the DAC is run in for a few days.

    Hopefully there will be a possibility to take advantage of MQA in the future on this device, since Sony, Warner and Universal have all adopted MQA so far and lots of master recordings are being made available for streaming in FLAC format. I don't see why the Q1ii couldn't support this in the future, Saying that, the DSD native support is a great feature, and works with on-the-fly conversion in Foobar2000. Although for me if I'm playing DSD audio I cannot hear anything else going on in my laptop. Whatever, I'll just close my eyes and enjoy the music! :D

    Currently I have only used it with my PC360 G4ME headset, but in the future I am gonna try it with a variety of IEMS including ROCK Zircon, Yamaha-EPH100 and OnePlus Icons. For the PC360 which are 60ohms I have the gain set to high and listen on 40-60% total volume, however I feel that the amp section is definitely lacking a bit. However I don't feel like I'll have any issues with this since I don't own any high impedance headphones.

    Also, as always from FiiO the packaging and accessories are fantastic. However, I would easily have paid an extra £1 to throw in a Micro-USB to Micro-USB cable for use with Android phones that doesn't drain the phone's battery (check out the official thread here on Head-Fi to understand what I mean). I guess FiiO didn't say anywhere that Android is supported so this can be overlooked as a mistake in my opinion.

    I took some pics of it today:

    IMG_20171228_161711.jpg IMG_20171228_221809.jpg IMG_20171228_221951.jpg

    You can view the full Imgur gallery here – https://imgur.com/a/Yltwh

    EDIT/CONCLUSION:

    I'm really enjoying how musical this DAC is! Its such a pleasure to listen to, the sounds are so sweet and beautiful. Especially when listening to some orchestral and melodic Trance, like Sound Apparel - Dream (2017 Remaster) for example. The breakdown just sounds godlike!




    Never had a DAC so beautifully sweet sounding. Amazing! :dt880smile:

    In light of this new experience I am bumping my review up to 5 stars from 4, personally I think this DAC more than deserves it, and that FiiO did an amazing job on it. Yeah its more expensive than the Q1 1st Gen and has some features like MFi certification which I could care less about since I detest iPhones, as well as wonky Android compatibility. However, it is totally worth its price on sound quality alone. Well done FiiO!

    ---

    ADDITIONAL NOTES

    I have also tested how sound has improved in various games I play like CSGO, Rainbow 6 Siege, Diablo 3 etc....The cues and positional audio for competitive games is fairly good, but not perfect. I suggest leaving the bass boost off for this as it can sometimes mask audio cues such a footsteps and make explosions louder than they need to be. Having the bass boost on for action/adventure games (not competitive) helps the immersion a lot, but also smooths out the sound quite a bit. Honestly my advice for gaming is just to keep the bass boost off, unless you want that extra bit of immersion for games like Tomb Raider, Battlefield etc...

    Thank you for reading! :)
    DJ Lifted Andreas (retired)
    [/SIZE]
  7. Ver JJ
    Fiio Mark II Review (Balance mode not mentioned)
    Written by Ver JJ
    Published Nov 17, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sturdy, Volume Knob, No "Hiss" with sensitive IEM, DSD Playback, Reasonable Audio Sound Quality.
    Cons - Not visible wording, Headphone jack too tight...... I don't think there are any more thing to complain about.
    About me:
    I have been listening to music ever since I was a kid like (almost) everyone else. I also have an interested in cameras and gadgets in genera. Few years ago, I was unsatisfied with the visual presentation of my little Sony MP3 player and bought a Sony NWZ-A15...... at first I taught that my audio game ends there since A15 is capable of displaying my song’s album art but sadly it didn’t. MP3 file format was what I “used” in the past but they could not satisfy me because the Gold Hi-Res logo never pops up on my A15 screen......... After few months of researches and decision making (also saving) I decided to spend a little more to get a better file format that is at least 24-Bit......... and the Gold Hi-Res logo appeared on my A15 as expected. I had also tried DSEE HX feature to upscale those MP3 file formats to equivalent of Hi-Res as advertised by Sony. Good day passes by quickly and after having extensive listening session, I realised that the sound reproduced by A15 is a little to artificial sounding and not articulate. Of course, more researches were done and I discovered an audio store near my area where I bought my third audio player, Aune M1s. Soon after I bought an amp, DAC and others accessories to complement my setup. I think you can take over from this point because you know the drill when you get down to it.


    Disclaimer:
    This Fiio Q1 Mark II that is currently in my procession was provided by Fiio for free of charge in return for an (honest) review. I will also like to apologise to Fiio again due to delaying the date to publish this review with reasons explained as followed, my exam started as soon as I received Q1 Mark II and during the examination period, I was quarantined for the whole day which made me unable to submit this review on time. Also I will like to thanks the person who got this unit first for taking good care of it. Of course, those kinks at the corner might be due to the rough handling of inspectors at custom when they were inspecting it (which cause a huge delay by the way). Anyhow I was glad that Fiio allowed me to extend my time with this unit so that I can audition it after the exam and submitted this review by the deadline that I had sent to Fiio.


    Specification & Images:
    I will not like to rewrite any information posted on Fiio official website in this section as the info that I provide might not be as accurate as on Fiio’s official website so kindly head over there for a full list of in dept specification, thank you. Link: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/76 .




    Build quality:
    Good;
    • I will say that it is as tough as my good old Fiio E17k as no cracking noise was heard when I squeezed it.

    • Volume knob might be a little too small for my fingers but well since this is a portable device and having a gigantic volume knob will just make it less portable. As long as it turns smoothly, it should be a “Good”.

    • The nicely printed “Hi-Res Audio” sticker and Fiio logo was placed at dead centre of my unit, nicely done Fiio, my OCD-ness was put to rest here.

    • Gold plated ring on top of both 3.5mm and 2.5mm output jack was a nice touch to make it look and feel more premium and of course the 3.5mm line out jack stayed cleared of any decoration which makes it easier to identify the function of each ports without looking at the lables.

    • Switches at the rear of this unit was quite recess to prevent accidental toggling which was a wise choice Fiio made as I did happened to always hit the gain switch on my other portable amplifier, ouch that hurts but this problem is absent in this unit so rest assure and just slide it into your pocket without any fear.

    • I could not hear any hiss even with my sensitive IEM including TFZ Exclusive 1, LittleBigSound Cherry Wood Classic and Shure SE215 (Balanced & Unbalanced).

    Bad;
    • The wording on my unit was printed in grey colour except Fiio logo and unit information which makes it extremely hard to read under low light condition, I hope that Fiio will fix this issue with the official unit……….. or maybe I was a little too late.

    • I find the headphones jacks to be a little too tight as I had to apply lots of force to insert and eject my cable which might rip either the jack or my cable soon.

    • Not so sure about this but it seems like having a sand blasted texture paint will attract more fingerprint than metal brush texture paint. Just to clear this up, I do not against the decision Fiio made here since it looks aesthetically pleasing without those fingerprints. So it is recommend that user brings a small micro fibre cloth to clean it up when necessary if you want it to look……… nice.

    • The micro usb “head” of the Sony Walkman otg cable that came along with Q1 Mark II seems to be a little too short in my case which makes the connection between the cable and Q1 Mark II a little too loose which causes the cable to detach ever so often and ended up causing the connection to break when being moved around. This makes me unable to bring my stack (Sony NWZ-A15 > Fiio Q1 2nd Gen) along with me for a walk as I have to make sure to not accidentally bump the cable. I hope that it can be extended by approximately 0.5~1.0 mm in length to ensure the whole “head” of male micro usb jack is completely inserted into the female micro usb port.


    Usage & Control:
    • The volume only starts to kick in when my pot is set to 11 o’clock which is something to take note. The way that Q1 Mark II volume increases or decreases does not seems to follow any parabolic graph but a linear graph instead (based on my ears) makes pairing it with an IEM a pleasure. I don’t have to worry about accidentally rotating the knob since the rate of change of volume is quite constant which in turns allow me to fine tune the volume too. Also the satisfying click sound when you switch on and off this unit is a little addicting.

    • There is not annoying loud “pop” sound at the beginning or end of a track when DSD file is played backed unlike some audio player do which make the transaction between tracks more comfortable.

    • Also take note before purchasing an otg cable to hook up Q1 Mark II with a smartphone. There are two options (ways). First, male Micro usb to male Micro usb. Second, male Micro usb to female usb Type-A and male usb Type-A to male Micro usb. First option will “tell” Q1 Mark II that a smartphone is connected as source and this will prevent Q1 Mark II from drawing current from your phone (Q1 Mark II battery is used). Whereas the second option will “tell” Q1 Mark II that it is connected to a source that can supply current and this will cause Q1 Mark II to draw current from it (Q1 Mark II battery will instead be charged in this case).


    Sound Quality:
    - DAC, Bass Boost: Off:
    • Highs, I noticed a lot of sibilance on this unit, more so when compared to E17k which is due to treble spike when paired with my ATH M40x. This gives it a brighter sound signature compared to Fiio X1 Mark II. The treble is also a little on the cold side and is quite course sounding which makes string instrument like violin exceptionally spectacular but when listening to vocal you might experience some chill down your spine………… might.

    • Mids, flows beautifully, not overpowering and does not flood your earphone or headphone. This makes imaging on this unit exceptionally great. I was able to pint point the position of each music instrument when playing back “Fly me to the moon by Clarie” with an ease as long as the music instrument itself reproduce mid and high range frequency instead of low end frequency which I will explain below. With the mids being a little recess, I could actually envision those instrument placement in a tall flat picture which contributes to the sound field.

    • Lows, very shy and tight, I dislike it as I could not hear the bass string being plucked at the background clearly for most of the time which forced me to search for it. Even if so, the sound of bass string does not rumble which makes its present not significant. If you don’t listen to music that heavily focus on bass then I don’t think you will be disappointed with the low end reproduction of this unit. I will praise Fiio for at least not making the low end sound muddy. Also this is what contributed to it dryness along with a bright cold treble.

    • DSD playback in one word, astonishing. If you have this kind of files lying around, you should try it as I have no idea why does the bass actually sound better with DSD files. Yes, I did mentioned above that I dislike the bass reproduction of this unit but those were when Lossless and Lossy files are used, strange indeed. Normally DSD files only improve high frequency reproduction……. hmm, don’t take my words for granted just try it yourself and you might notice some difference.
    Conclusion of Sound Characteristic with Bass Boost set to Off:
    • Temperature: Cold

    • Texture: Course

    • Imaging: Great

    • Sound stage: Wide

    • Sound field: High over width

    • Humidity: Dry

    - DAC, Bass Boost: On
    • Overall sound in terms of Highs and Mids remains the same.

    • Lows, resonates, softer, not as tight and more organic sounding. Now here is when I contradict what I mentioned above again, with Bass Boost switched on, this unit turns into a different beast. The kicks and punches are more meaty and do stay around for a brief moment (rumbles) and I find that more enjoyable even when listening to a classical track. The trade off is that it will occasionally interrupt mids section which reduces the imaging ability a tad bit. Also with the presence of warm lows, the overall temperature is slightly shifted to neutral.
    Conclusion of Sound Characteristic with Bass Boost set to On:
    • Temperature: Neutral

    • Texture: Less course

    • Imaging: Fine

    • Sound stage: Wide

    • Sound field: High over width

    • Humidity: Slight Wet

    - Amp, Bass Boost: Off, Paired with Sony NWZ-A15
    • I am not going to go over what I said above again in the DAC section because there are only little difference when Q1 Mark II is used as an amp. One fact that I found out when these two units are paired together is that the “artificially sounding” characteristic of my A15 remains. By “artificially sounding” I mean that the instrument does sound like they were played by human but instead programmed by computer, it is hard to explain but that is the best I could put it into words. Imaging was still not impressive as A15 could not reproduce each and every single instrument precisely. And yes, temperature is cold and humidity is dry if you are interested in it.


    Conclusion:
    I will say that if you don’t have DSD files lying around, you might as well consider the older brother, Fiio E17k which has more features including being able to “change” the intensity of Bass and Treble by ±10db. But if you absolutely love volume knobs, go ahead as it only cost 99USD. Fiio, if you want me to upload a few picture please message me, I will be glad to do so but I cannot guaranty that they will be nice looking. As per usual, I will strongly recommend trying out this unit at your local store before making any purchase decision as you might have a different experience as what I do here and also thank you very much if you have spent your precious time reading till the very end. Once again THANK YOU.
      stalepie and Rach13 like this.
  8. Ynot1
    Fiio brings balance to headfi w/ a nice DAC
    Written by Ynot1
    Published Nov 12, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Balance sounds great with lots of power. DAC is really detailed. MFi, so works with ipad and iphone. Android TV box supported Lollipop.
    Cons - Single ended did not sound good on mine at all. OTG cable not included because some smartphones are hopeless. Now I have to convert all earphones to balance where possible. Headphones seem easier to do balance.
    This is the review for the New Fiio Q1 MK II edition.

    Disclosure: I joined the Fiio Q1 Mk II product tour and hence this review. I appreciate the chance to evaluate this product at or near the time of product launch. And I am fully aware my written review will reflect on me and my points of view.

    I like what Fiio has done here, bringing to the portable fine audio community
    something that makes sense. This is Fiio's entry level portable dac and amp setup. And I believe this will open peoples' choices and wallets. You know what the latter means, and as for the former it's like this: I'm an ios user, but this thing made me cross the line to the other side just to find out how they do it in android. It's about the same, as it should be sound quality wise. Most people use smartphones and they demand that better audio quality to be convenient. This does that quite well.

    The specs are specs, and I think that it is nice of Fiio to publish the numbers. But I want to know for real what happens when I listen to music at the volume levels and setup that I normally use. And I was pleasantly satisfied with the performance of this Q1 MK II. Power is there in the bass; clarity and separation are there in the mids; and last but not least the treble is presented quite cleanly. In fact the only thing I have trouble with the amp side of the coin is that the Q1 MK II is really difficult to figure out where things stand. It's like being in front of people where nobody is standing up to volunteer to do extra work; amp freq response is flat with no peaks nor valleys. As for the sound stage, I observed the soundstage presentation of KZ ATR, which is big, was preserved in single ended mode and like wise Piston 3 in balance mode, which is a bit typical for earphones.

    The dac side of Q1 MK II brings out the details and the presentation of the sound signature. And the dac brings a lot of detail in a way that seems really unheard of before. And the sound presentation is really just hard to describe because there is nothing emphasized. It is possible with more listening there could be found a more definitive sound character. But I could not discern any particular character. I suppose the dac is being faithful to its recorded source data.

    The features in the Q1MK II are plenty. And it is here that I have also a caveat. I know DSD is the new high resolution source material. But I had trouble finding good music that I listen to in DSD format or DSF file. Anyhow, I found modern music to have much better recording of details than from the music I had in CDs. So, much of the audio that I used for evaluation came from modern music, though some acoustical music were a generation past. Anyway I felt the source material was detailed enough to reasonably assess this dac/amp's performance. For the sample of earphones I used with the Q1 MK II, the amp scales really well.

    The Q1 MK II was used with ipad mini and android TV box on Lollipop successfully, just plug and play. The Fiio's battery performance was decent but I did not have a chance to run down the battery. The charging though I thought took a while; the red led lights up during charging and goes out when finished charging. The ipad and TV box played music responsively. The amp section has the line input port to accept audio from different devices via analog. I was not too impress with the sound quality, but it is difficult to say between the Fiio and the analog source the reason for coming up short. That is, when compared to the fully balance mode, the sound through the line in as well as sound through the single ended mode via micro usb data transport were not as clear and detailed; though the bass performance was there on all modes.

    Here is a bit of after thought on the perspective of amp's performance and its role in volume. The point of getting an external amp is to play audio better than without an amp. And the amp's job is to amplify with low distortion and good sound characteristics. Thereby many people get an amp because sound quality and quantity improves greatly over smartphones.

    These are the earphones and headphones used with the Q1 MK II and the corresponding observations.

    Balance:
    Xioami Piston 3
    The clarity of P3 shines nicely. I wish there was more bass, but I think it is the P3 holding back the bass.

    Vivo Xe800
    The brightness was definitely better as well as clarity than P3. Again I wanted more bass.

    Plantronics Backbeat earbuds
    The sound clarity is not up to par with the P3 and Xe800, but I discovered how well the Q1 MK II pushed this earbud with power to spare. Definitely noticeable because earbuds are further away from the ear canal and are more difficult to get a good seal; this powerful amp really helps when it comes to earbuds.

    Velodyne Vfree
    The point of using headphones was clear in the balance mode. Headphones provide a bigger sound and a much more out of the head sound space experience. The bass came through bigger. And I bet you may be wondering how does the treble and clarity stack up to in ear monitors. It also came clear to me in this price point, the headphones with its bigger drivers and poorer isolation can not compete with iems in clarity and treble quality; for that matter separation as compared to XE800. By the way an adapter was used to drive the headphones with detachable cable in the balance mode.

    UE4000
    Again the similar sound characteristics were observed with bigger sound and clearer space, but not comparable to iems in clarity.

    Monoprice 8323
    Same here as well, the bass were bigger and space were more surrounding, but clarity was no where near XE800.

    Single ended:
    KZ zse
    Surprisingly in the single ended mode the bass response was acceptable. The highs were pulled back a little like the other earphones and headphones in the single ended mode.

    KZ atr
    Aside from the fact the single ended mode pulled back the highs from an earphone that is already warm, there was the sound stage of the atr that was well preserved.

    Vfree
    In the single ended mode the amp just did not appear to have enough power to drive this headphone properly. The sound was very subdued.

    The other amps and daps in my possession that I made comparisons with were the Advance Accessport, Benjie X1, Walnut V2.1, and Creative Labs G5.

    Q1se: Q1 MK II single ended mode with ios

    Q1bal: Q1 MK II balance mode mode with ios

    AAP: Advance Access-port

    BX1: Benjie X1

    W: Walnut 2.1

    G5: Creative Labs G5

    Relatively Power wise:
    Q1se < AAP < BX1 < W < G5 < Q1bal

    Relatively Clarity wise:
    Q1se < W < BX1 < G5 < AAP < Q1bal

    Relatively Bass wise:
    W < BX1 < AAP < G5 < Q1se ~ Q1bal ( I did not have bassy balance earphone/headphone)

    Relatively Warmth wise:
    BX1 < AAP < Q1bal < Q1se < W < G5 ( se pulled back the highs)

    Relatively Size wise:
    AAP < BX1 < Q1se = Q1bal < W < G5

    Relatively Battery drain wise:
    Q1bal < Q1se < W < BX1 < G5 < AAP ( includes educated guesstimates)

    Conclusion:
    For the price of admission you as the customer get quite a lot of value for the money. Be it the dac with interface to ios and android and an amp that can do balance all the way from input to output. It is kind of nice to be a customer for headfi stuff today. But like all audio head gear there are limitations, and although minimal Q1 MK II comes up short for line input and single ended output. Kind of good in that you can still keep around the traditional analog only amp. However for achieving high resolution audio an dac/amp such as the Q1 MK II is most desirable.

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      Rach13 likes this.
  9. ryanjsoo
    Fiio Q1 MKII Review – Balance and Harmony
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Oct 19, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Nicely balanced tone, Clarity and detail, Great build, MFI certified, Excellent value
    Cons - Bass slightly loose, Lacking driving power through .5mm output, Slight hiss with sensitive iems
    Introduction –

    Fiio have transcended a lot of other Chinese manufacturers not only through their wide range of products but also through their consistent performance. And while products like the X7 II may not epitomize frugality, a sense of value underpins every product. The original Q1 was my first dedicated source and one that marked an entry point into the hobby for many listeners. However, even considering its meagre price, it was not a device without its flaws and perhaps not one that is best suited towards modern uses.

    With the very unfortunate loss of the headphone jack on many smartphones, Fiio’s affordable products are more pertinent now than ever. So, retaining the same $99 USD asking price, Fiio have produced a new Q1 that comes better equipped for smartphone use with a flatter, more compact form factor and wider file support. It also sports a 2.5mm TRRS output, providing a taste of balanced audio that, just a few years ago, was limited to sources costing several hundred dollars. Let’s see how the Q1 MKII performs in various use case scenarios.



    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Sunny from Fiio very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the Q1 MKII for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the DAC free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.



    Accessories –

    [​IMG]

    As with all newer Fiio products, the Q1 MKII is nicely packaged and well equipped with accessories. Fiio provide buyers with 2 pairs of smaller stacking bands and 2 pairs of larger bands, a micro usb charging cable

    [​IMG]

    In-line with their newfound focus on smartphone use, Fiio provide buyers with a micro-b to lightning otg cable in addition to a short interconnect cable and silicone pad that prevents the Q1 MKII from scratching the back of your phont and vice versa.

    [​IMG]



    Design –

    The Q1 MKII departs from the original Q1 with a much more refined, coordinated aesthetic combined with a generally more svelte design. Gone is the silver capped flask housing of the Q1 in favour of a slimmer, flatter design that is easier to live with during daily use. Due to its more conventional shape, the DAC/AMP no longer rocks on flat surfaces and more comfortably sandwiches behind a flat backed smartphone. The machining and finish are all a few steps up from the original model too, creating a product that feels markedly more complete than its predecessor.

    [​IMG]

    The Q1 is available in both silver and matte black and I have to reiterate what a compact unit the Q1 MKII is, it truly surprised me. In addition, its insignificant weight at just over 100g and rounded edges that don’t catch on clothing during portable use, allow the new Q1 to find practicality both at home and on the go. Furthermore, the DAC’s anodized aluminium constructed (with exception of the plastic plates on either end), are reassuring of the device’s longevity. This construction is topped off with tight tolerances between seams and smooth machining to every edge that belie the Q1 MKII’s conservative asking price, this is a nice looking device.

    [​IMG]

    And onto the physical features, the main outputs are located at the front of the DAC; a regular 3.5mm out and 2.5mm TRRS balanced output on the left and a line-in jack in the middle that enables the Q1 MKII to be used as an external amplifier. On the right is the volume knob that doubles as a power switch and a notification LED that denotes power and charging/battery status. One of my main issues with the original design was its volume knob that protruded slightly from the housing, causing volume to shift when the DAC was shifted sideways. The new knob no longer suffers from this issue and its position is easier to manipulate.

    [​IMG]

    The Q1 MKII also has a DSD indicator light to ensure that the source player is providing the DAC with the full resolution file since some players will downscale those files. On the rear are two metal switches with a tactile concentric texture that enable users to toggle bass boost and adjust gain between low and high. In the middle is a regular micro-usb plug for charging and data input.



    Usage –

    The Q1 MKII requires users to download a driver before first use though those who have used other Fiio DACs/DAPs will be able to plug and play. And when paired with a smartphone over USB OTG, the Q1 MKII instantly connects, I didn’t find it to be nearly as picky as prior Fiio DAC’s perhaps due to some power consumption adjustments. The Q1 MKII also has an in-built MFI certified camera connection kit of sorts like the Oppo HA-2 that makes it ideal to pair with Apple devices. Fiio are kind to include a lightning to micro-usb cable out of the box though android phone users will have to purchase a separate cable/adapter. When stacked with my smartphone, the Q1 MKII produced no EMI noise.

    [​IMG]

    Despite the Q1 MKII’s slightly larger battery capacity (1800 vs 1400mah), the original model actually finds better longevity by a fair margin. The Q1 MKII manages a passable but not outstanding 10 hrs of playback time or 20 hrs as an amplifier only. This contrasts to the 30 hrs of battery life provided by the original model. In use, the Q1 MKII does handily exceed Fiio’s rating but I wasn’t able to squeeze more than 12 hrs of life when used as a DAC/AMP at low-medium volumes. Luckily, the Q1 MKII charges quickly and runs off the USB port when connected to a computer. And while the Q1 MKII lacks a switch to enable/disable charge over USB, the Q1 MKII didn’t suck power from my HTC but rather ran on its internal battery, something that bothered on the HA-2.

    The Q1 MKII also has some other handy features that make it an excellent choice for sensitive iems. Chiefly, it makes use of digital compensation to provide better channel balance at lower volumes as opposed to other amps with a traditional analogue volume pot. As a low volume listener, I did appreciate the added control, my Oppo HA-2 was barely usable at lower volumes due to channel imbalance. The pot is also very fine grained but its 45 degree angled ridging and spot on resistance mitigate accidental pocket volume changes.



    Sound –

    The Q1 MKII makes a notable stride over the original in both output power and codec support (see Fiio’s website here for exact specifications). This starts with the Q1 MKII’s newer, higher end DAC chip, implementing the AK4452 as opposed to the PCM5102 of the original. And while both are slightly fuller, smoother sounding chips, the Q1 MKII ends up sounding appreciably more linear account of its hugely improved amp stage. In fact, the new Q1 is using the same circuitry as the AM3A module for the X7 II that costs $99 on its own. This is a great choice, the AM3A is my favourite sounding X7 amp and one that provides stunning value at Fiio’s asking price. Finally, the Q1 MKII makes use of dual crystal oscillators to reduce jitter while retaining the low/high gain and bass boost functionality of the original.



    DAC –

    But, of course, how these elements culminate in the final product is most important and the Q1 MKII unsurprisingly provides a noticeable increase in quality and ultimate listening experience. Where the original Q1 was a warmer, more laid-back source with a mediocre soundstage, the Q1 MKII is more neutral and spacious. It is not an explicitly neutral source, compared to the very linear X7 II, the Q1 MKII sounds slightly fuller, darker and softer in the higher frequencies, but it is a step up from the majority of similarly priced sources I’ve heard. Resolution is also notably higher and the new amplifier segment provides a noticeable jump in both clarity and refinement.



    AMP –

    [​IMG]

    Though power is actually slightly lower than the original and just slightly higher in balanced, the Q1 MKII ends up providing a better experience with the vast majority of gear. The Q1 MKII is slightly noisier than the X7 II despite using similar amplification circuitry. It is still a quiet source, my Campfire Jupiter’s found slight hiss that was quickly overshadowed once music was playing, even at lower volumes. The balanced output is a very nice addition, it is a shame that the output power is so much lower on the regular TRS port, but those with earphones/earbuds that can take advantage of a balanced output will find a much nicer experience than the original Q1. This starts with a slightly more solid sub-bass impact and generally more spacious sound that aids separation. It is very noticeable if not night and day, and the regular output still powered even my most difficult in-ears and portable headphones to capacity.



    Bass –

    The Q1 has nice bass extension but sub-bass notes have a slightly softer, looser impact. Mid-bass is slightly elevated, granting additional fullness to its low-end, but also some added bloat when compared to cleaner, more linear sources. This sap a little texture and definition from bass notes though more mid-forward or cooler earphones such as the Rose BR5 MKII find great synergy with the Q1 MKII’s slightly larger bass notes. The Q1 MKII also benefits from a larger stage and generally impressive clarity that aids separation. Otherwise, bass is surprisingly linear, the Q1 MKII is tighter and more defined than its predecessor and appreciably more balanced than similarly priced sources like the Hidizs AP60 that utilize the same DAC chip.



    Mids –

    Mids are clean and bodied but lack that last iota of refinement. That said, the Q1 MKII performs very well within its price class with impressive linearity overall. As a result of their low-frequency bump, midrange body is slightly fuller than neutral throughout but never to the extent of outright warmth or thickness. The Q1 MKII also possesses good but not great clarity and plenty of resolution to discern individual layers within more complex tracks. Vocals are full-bodied, clear and articulate but do miss that last element of extension and refinement, though instruments are crisp and well textured. The Q1 MKII is easily the more transparent source when compared to the original Q1 and even the E17K. It is well-detailed and clear without erring on the side of aggression, producing both greater long-term listenability and technicality than the aforementioned models. My main issue is that the Q1 MKII isn’t the smoothest sounding source out there nor is resolution exquisite, but the Q1 MKII didn’t falter too much even when paired with the exceptionally revealing Campfire Jupiter and Sennheiser ie800.


    Treble –

    Highs carry that typical AKM sound with a very slight lower-treble accent enhancing detail presentation and a more laid-back tone above. Once again, extension is good but not outstanding and due to their smoother nature, the Q1 MKII doesn’t excel with air and clarity. However, lower treble details are very crisp and well-bodied. For instance, cymbals have realistic timbre and texture and strings are accurate with a nice sense of body. However, higher notes aren’t quite as flattered, triangles and high-hats are a little dull and cymbals don’t shimmer quite as much as more neutral sources. On a whole, the high-frequency presentation of the Q1 MKII is more laid-back though they still retain more balance than the Q1 and are surprisingly nuanced if lacking attack. The E17K has a bit more high-end aggression and clarity than the Q1 but the Q1 MKII is appreciably smoother and instantly more refined in its presentation.



    Soundstage –

    Despite its more laid-back high-end, the Q1 MKII has a very nice soundstage that is notably spacious. Of course, higher end sources do still hold an advantage here, the X7 II and X5 III are both notably larger, though the Q1 MKII is a great step up over the more intimate E17K and original Q1. It is a very wide sounding source and depth is respectable too. Vocals have nice projection and instruments extend beyond the head with the right set of earphones or earbuds. Separation is surprisingly strong due to the Q1 MKII’s mostly linear nature. This is only accentuated when switching over to a balanced connection where separation and space noticeably improve, especially aiding thicker, more congested sounding in-ears.



    Comparison –

    [​IMG]

    HTC 10: The 10 may no longer be the best sounding smartphone on the market, but it is an excellent example of smartphone audio done properly. Even still, the Q1 MKII provides a noticeable upgrade and improved driving power with pickier earphones/headphones. Starting from the lower frequencies, the 10 is bolder but the Q1 MKII is slightly more neutral and noticeably more defined, making the smartphone sound quite muddy.

    The HTC 10 has a pleasant but not outstanding midrange with a somewhat artificial sense of clarity and thinner vocal body. Both sources are slightly dark in tone, and while the Q1 MKII isn’t quite as clear, it sounds appreciably smoother and cleaner throughout. Highs are noticeably more prominent on the 10 though it can tire with already brighter in-ears while the more detailed yet smoother Q1 MKII finds greater listenability and refinement. The Q1 has an appreciably larger soundstage with better resolution of layering and background details.

    iPod Touch 6G: The 6th generation iPod Touch is utilising the same chipset as the iPhone 6 so it should sound very similar to the 6s and dongle included with the 7 and 8. It is a clean and crisp but not particularly musical source that suffers from similar fall-backs to the 10. Bass is tighter than the HTC but also leaner, the Q1 MKII though actually slightly fuller, is more controlled and coherent with the iPod glossing over some finer details. The iPod is cleaner and more neutral than the 10 but similarly thin with lower resolution.

    While the Q1 MKII is similarly balanced, it has noticeably more body, sounding more natural and musical and finding greater synergy with the majority of my iems. Highs are bright but not especially detailed on the iPod which creates a sense of forwardness that can push v-shaped and mid-focussed in-ears over my threshold of comfort. The Q1 MKII lacks this entirely, it is once again, smoother and more nuanced with more texture and detail to instruments. The Fiio also has the larger, more nuanced stage though the iPod has respectable layering.


    Verdict –

    [​IMG]

    The Q1 MKII is a considerable step up from Fiio’s previous model in both form and sound though it definitely does not make Fiio’s higher end models redundant. It’s also not the most flawless source on the market, but for a lot of people, I think it will offer more than enough performance and buyers certainly receive a lot of product for the money. The build and design are as excellent as we have come to expect from Fiio and little features such as MFI certification and a very usable bass boost make it an excellent companion to any smartphone. And in listening, the Q1 MKII continues to impress with one of the more linear, transparent sounds I’ve heard around this price augmented by a clean, clear amplifier. The option to go balanced also offers some very real benefits though at the cost of a slightly hampered TRS output. Still, the Q1 MKII is a featured, versatile and well-considered offering that has never been more relevant.

    Verdict – 9/10, The Q1 MKII is one of best DAC/AMPs I’ve heard around Fiio’s asking price and a fine upgrade to even the more distinguished smartphones out there. It’s excellent build, compact design and clean but musical sound make it a perfect on the go companion.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it:

    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/fiio-q1-mkii-review-balance-and-harmony/
  10. Brooko
    FiiO Q1ii - definite upgrade but 1 small flaw
    Written by Brooko
    Published Oct 15, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Portability, battery life, clean signature, ease of use, low OI, reasonable power, nicely implemented gain and HW EQ, and easy installation of DAC drivers, connectivity with a variety of sources
    Cons - EMI/RFI interference when paired with iPhone SE
    [​IMG]
    Pictures in tables are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION

    I genuinely like my iPhone. I have the iPhone SE (based on the 6 internals but with the 5's body dimensions). The SE is very linear (tonally flat), has low distortion, and is incredibly easy to use. Mine has 64 Gb of memory (so with aac256 files I have a lot of music on it), can drive most portable earphones well and has good Bluetooth and wireless capability. The biggest thing though – its virtually always with me, so as a music source it gets almost as much use as all of my other DAPs. The issue is that Apple seem to be steadily removing the 3.5mm jack from future iPhones. Which leaves you with the option to go Bluetooth, have a lightning capable earphone, or run the risk of trying different amps or dac/amps to gain compatibility. And this can be hit or miss. Enter FiiO with the new Q1 2nd generation DAC/amp – and this time its fully certified for iOS use. It can also be used as an amplifier, a computer DAC, and possibly be used with some compatible Android devices. So lets look at this new release and see if FiiO have hit the mark.

    ABOUT FiiO

    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the FiiO Electronics Company. If you don’t, here’s a very short summary.

    FiiO was first founded in 2007. Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”. But FiiO has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range. Today, their range includes DAPs, portable amps, portable dac/amps, desktop dac/amps, earphones, cables and other accessories.

    FiiO’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.


    DISCLAIMER

    The FiiO Q1 2nd generation (aka the Q1ii) that I’m reviewing today was provided to gratis as a review sample. I have made it clear to FiiO in the past that I did regard any product they sent me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. I have purchased quite a few FiiO DAPs and amps over the last 5 years. Recently FiiO informed me that everything they send to me now is a review sample and they will not accept further payment. So I acknowledge now that the Q1ii I have is supplied and gifted completely free of any charge or obligation. I thank FiiO for their generosity.

    I have now had the Q1ii approximately 4 weeks. The retail price at time of review is USD 100.


    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 50 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (mostly now from the FiiO X5iii, X7ii and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, MS Pro and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2, 64 Audio U10 and LZ Big Dipper. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present – although needs updating) is listed in my Head-Fi profile.

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables (unless impedance related etc), and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the Q1ii with my iPhone SE, iPad Mini, my PC and laptop (as DAC), my X1ii as amp only, and with (believe it or not) the X7ii and X5iii for digital out from an Android device.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.


    FURTHER NOTES FROM FIIO
    This is of course a review sample from FiiO, and as such there are some noticeable differences between what I have as a reviewer, and what you'll receive as a consumer. These include:
    • The indicator light on the retail model will be green – this one is blue
    • Not for sale is engraved on this unit, but isn't on the retail model
    • There are slight differences in PCB layouts of the review samples, but the overall configuration and sound is the same.
    • The silk screening on the review samples is very faint (text next to gain and bass buttons). It will be much clearer on the retail models

    WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A PORTABLE DAC/AMP
    I usually list (before I start with the review) what I would look for in a portable DAC/amp. This is useful to remember when looking at my scoring later in the review.
    • Genuine portability
    • Good battery life
    • Clean, neutral signature
    • Easy to use
    • Low output impedance
    • Reasonable output power – should be able to drive IEMs and earphones up to 300 ohms
    • Good gain control
    • Hardware EQ if possible
    • Easy installation of DAC drivers
    • Value for money
    • Free of EMI (use with smartphones)
    In this particular case though, the most important requirement was going to be interaction with my iOS devices.

    PORTABLE AMP/DACs I HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH
    Previous = Fiio E7, Beyerdynamic A200p, RHA L1
    Current = Fiio E17K, Q1, Cozoy Aegis, iFi Micro iDSD, IMS HVA


    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The Q1 arrived in FiiO’s standard retail style packaging – a plain white box measuring 110 x 165 x 53mm. The front has a picture of the Q1ii, and the rear has some compatibility and other information in English and Chinese.

    Opening the outer retail box reveals a plain hinged lid inner box with the Q1ii in the top layer, and underneath the accessories.


    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Retail packagingInner boxAll accessories

    The accessories include:
    • Lightning to Micro USB OTG cable
    • Micro USB data/charging cable
    • 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio interconnect cable
    • 2 x large and 2 x smaller “stacking” bands
    • Slide-proof silicone “stacking” pads
    • Soft mesh storage pouch
    • Warranty and instructions

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    SPECIFICATION FIIO Q1 2nd Gen FIIO Q1 Original
    Approx price USD ~ USD 99 ~ USD 60
    DAC Chip AK4452 TI PCM 5102
    Amp Chip OPA 926 MAX97220
    LPF (line-out) OPA1662 Not stated
    Highest Res Support (DAC) 384/32 PCM and DSD256 96/24 PCM
    Output Impedance H/O <1.2 ohm SE and <2.0 ohm Bal <0.3 ohm
    Max Output Power @ 16 ohm 112 mW SE and 240 mW Bal not stated
    Max Output Power @ 32 ohm 75 mW SE and 220 mW Bal 190 mW
    Max Output Power @ 300 ohm 11 mW SE and 45 mW Bal Not stated
    SNR >109 / 115 dB (USB / AUX) >107 dB
    THD+N 0.002 / 0.003% (USB / AUX) at 1 kHz 0.005% at 1 kHz
    Frequency Response 5 Hz-55 kHz SE, 5 Hz-80 kHz Bal 20 Hz-20 kHz
    Gain ~ 11.5 dB -2.5 dB/3.2 dB SE and 3.2 dB/9.1 dB Bal
    Channel Imbalance <0.2 dB <0.2 dB
    Max Output Current >150 mA >75 mA
    Peak Output Voltage 4.4 Vp-p SE and 7.4 Vp-p Bal 7.2 Vp-p
    Dimensions 99 x 59 x 13mm 97 x 56 x 13mm
    Outer Material Powder-coated Aluminium Powder-coated Aluminium
    Headphone Out 3.5 mm SE and 2.5mm Bal 3.5 mm
    Line In/Out 3.5 mm (shared) 3.5 mm (shared)
    Weight 101g 100g
    Battery Capacity / Life 1800 mAh / ~ 20 hours (Aux) or 10 hours (USB) 1400 mAh / ~ 30 hours
    Recharge Time 3½ - 4 hours 3½ - 4 hours


    BUILD
    The Q1ii is rectangular shaped with nicely rounded curved edges, but this time a flat shaped main body – much easier for stacking than the original Q1. The body consists of a top and bottom plate with a one piece matt black hollow aluminium body. The size and shape is perfect for FiiO’s X1ii or X3ii DAP’s – same W and L dimensions. It is slightly shorter than my iPhone but almost the same width.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Top – headphone outputs, line in/out and TOCOS potBottom – USB port and gain / bass switches

    The front face of the main body simply has the word FiiO in the bottom centre, and the Sony Hi-Res logo at the top centre. The top panel (if you go by the wording direction) has
    the bass boost switch at the left, micro USB port in the centre and gain switch on the right. The markings on the switches are so faint that they are unreadable, but FiiO tells me that this issue was known and has been corrected on the final production units.

    At the bottom is a 3.5 mm headphone out socket on the far left hand side, a 2.5mm balanced headphone out socket next to it, and a 3.5mm line-in/out in the centre. At the far right is the TOCOS analog pot, and just inside it is the LED light (charging / operating) and a small LED which indicates if DSD is being utilised. The TOCOS pot has a very smooth action, and there is extremely low channel imbalance (0.2 dB or less).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Comparison to original Q1Newer model is much better for stacking (no curve)

    Overall the external build quality is essentially faultless (it appears to have one design fault though - which we'll cover shortly), and the Q1ii really does feel nice in the hand.

    Internally the the Q1ii uses the AK4452 DAC chip which has impressive S/N ratio and low distortion measurements. Combined with the XMOS platform, it is also capable of decoding DSD up to DSD256 and 32/384 PCM. The Q1ii also utilises 2 separate crystal oscillators – each designed to handle separate sampling rates to achieve the highest accuracy in digital to analog conversion.

    The main amplifier chip is the OPA926 – the same chip utilised in FiiO's new flagship X7ii – and there are two of them (the second one for balanced mode). Line-out LPF is handled by the TI OPA1662.

    HEAT AND POWER

    The Q1ii doesn't really heat up at all, and is quite cool to the touch even after a few hours playing.

    In terms of power output, the specs say that it'll put the following output into these loads:
    Into 16 ohms = 112 mW SE and 240 mW Bal
    Into 32 ohms = 75 mW SE and 220 mW Bal
    Into 300 ohms = 11 mW SE and 45 mW Bal

    But what does that mean in real world turns? So lets look at a few scenarios. Armed with my trusty SPL meter, I set out to see just what the Q1ii could and couldn't (subjectively) drive. For this test I used the Q1ii attached to my iPhone SE.


    IEMs / Earbuds

    [​IMG]
    First up was FiiO's own F9 (28 ohm impedance, 106 dB/mW sensitivity), and approx 10.00-10.30 on the pot (or about 1/3 of the total pot) was able to easily get me my preferred 65-75 dB volume level in single-ended mode on low gain. Max volume on high gain pushed this to 95-100 dB, so no issues there. Balanced mode increased the output by about 6dB.

    Next was HiFiMan's RE2000 (60ohm impedance, 103 dB/mW sensitivity), and approx 11.00-11.30 on the pot (or just over 1/3 of the total pot) was able to again achieve my 65-75 dB volume level in single-ended mode on low gain. They sounded pretty good to – no signs of being under-driven.

    The last test was with VE's brilliant Zen2 open ear-buds (320ohm impedance, 108 dB/mW sensitivity), and this time I needed just over 12.00 on the pot (just under 2/3 of the total pot) to achieve the 65-75dB (this was quite hard to measure with the SPL meter – so take with a grain of salt). To give myself confidence they weren't being under-driven, I also tried them with the more powerful A5 amp, and it confirmed that with the Zen2, the Q1ii was performing well (it was nice with the bass boost engaged too).

    So IEM's don't seem to be an issue – what about headphones?


    Full Sized Headphones

    [​IMG]
    First up this time was Sennheiser's HD630VB (23 ohm impedance, 114 dB/mW sensitivity), and approx 10.00-10.30 on the pot (or about 1/3 of the total pot) was all that was needed in single-ended mode on low gain (again 65-75 dB). And like the F9, max volume on high gain pushed this to 95-100 dB. So far so good.

    Next was Alessandro's MS Pro (32ohm impedance, 98 dB/mW sensitivity), and this required only 10.30-11.00 on the pot (or again approx 1/3 of the total pot) to get to the same approximate level.

    Time to really push the amp, and this time my 300 ohm, 102 dB/mW sensitivity HD800S. Surprisingly (to me anyway) 12.00 on the pot got them to the same listening level, and they did sound pretty good. It wasn't until I cross checked with the A5 (which will put 150 mW into the 300 ohm Senns compared with the Q1ii's 11 mW) that I noticed the better control over the driver, and especially the improvement in bass response (the Q1ii was a little loose). Unfortunately I couldn't test the balanced output with the Senns, as I do believe that in balanced mode, the Q1ii should be able to do a reasonable job even with the harder to drive HD800S.

    On the whole though, the Q1ii did a really decent job providing good clean amplification.


    SONIC PERFORMANCE

    Preface
    I’m going to preface this section with a little critique I received a while ago (by PM), and my answer to it – so that you can understand why I don’t comment on some things, and why I do comment on others. I was told my review on another amp was poor because I didn’t include sections on bass, mid-range, treble, sound-stage, imaging etc – yet referred to an amp as warm, full, or lean.

    Now I can understand the reference to warm / full / lean – as they are very subjective terms, and whilst I’d like to avoid their use, they are invaluable to convey true meaning. Comparing my NFB-12 to the Aune X1S for example – the Audio-gd does sound richer and warmer. It’s the nature of the DAC which is used.

    But I choose not to comment on bass, mids, treble, and most definitely not sound-stage – simply because when we are talking about an amp – IMO they shouldn’t be discussed. An amp’s job is to amplify the signal with as low distortion as possible, and output as linear signal as possible. If it is doing its job properly, there is no effect on bass, mids, or treble – except if hardware boost is concerned. And IME an amp does not affect soundstage (unless there is DSP or cross-feed in play) – that is solely the realm of the transducers and the actual recording.

    So we have that out of the way how does the Q1ii perform sonically – as a separate DAC and as a DAC/amp combo?


    Tonality
    The first thing I did was to check the linearity of the Q1ii's amp section. To do this I used a calibrated sound card (calibrated to measure completely flat), ARTA and a loopback. At first glance the Q1ii measures pretty flat – with a very small drop off south of 50 kHz (only a fraction of a dB). This could be my equipment, and its something you won't notice.

    I next measured the DAC section using the same method, and there was noticeable roll-off in the top end. My problem is that this shows up on a lot of DAC sections (many have more than this), and I suspect it maybe something to do with my equipment – although the E17K DAC measures completely flat on the same equipment. Perhaps then, it is something to do with the ultrasonic filters at play. All in all though – the Q1ii does appear to have very good linearity.

    I’ve stopped measuring distortion (THD / IMD) as I need better measuring equipment to get to the levels FiiO is able to measure. I think we can trust the published distortion measurements.

    Finally I listened and compared it to the E17K (one of the most linear device I own). In subjective comparison, the Q1ii does have a slightly richer / warmer / fuller tonality than the E17K. So what does this tell us? Simply that the Q1ii supplies reasonably linear, and very clean output. Purely subjectively, it sounds pretty neutral and to my ears, ever so slightly on the warm side of neutral. It does have a very clean background which creates a good sense of space.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Amp section measurements – incl. gain and bass boostDac and amp measurement

    Gain and Bass Boost
    You'll note in the graphs above that I measured (amp section only) both gain and also the bass boost. Gain is approximately (just under) +6 dB between low and high, and this correlates with FiiO's own measurements. Likewise the bass boost provides a gradual slope up from approx 1 kHz peaking at about 20-30Hz at approx +6dB, so it is very much a sub- bass oriented bass boost, but will also raise mid-bass and lower mids up in a gradual gradient.


    Balanced vs Single Ended
    The balanced output is provided by the 2.5mm output. I went back and forth with the Q1ii balanced, single-ended and back again (using FiiO's own F9). It was pretty difficult getting an exact volume match because the pot had no markings, so it was not a very objective exercise. But I still couldn't tell a real difference, so time to measure and see if there actually was any.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    FiiO F9 balanced vs single endedFiiO F9 after volume matching

    Using the F9, I measured both single-ended and balanced (the difference with the F9 was close to 6 dB). I then applied a linear gain to ARTA to completely volume match the two and align the graphs. The frequency response was identical. In my own tests, I'm noticing no differences between the two when volume matched (and nor should there be when you think about it – they use the same hardware – just x2). Maybe my ears are simply not good enough to hear the other differences some people associate with balanced output.

    But the additional voltage and output power provided by the balanced circuit should be handy if you have harder to drive headphones, and I am looking forward to checking this with my HD800S when the adaptor eventually arrives.


    Format Support
    I've tested with PCM up to 192/24 and the Q1ii has had no issues natively decoding. I also managed to send a direct DSD stream to the Q1ii and the DSD LED light “lit up” so I have to infer that it is natively decoding that as well. I did not test at the maximum 32/384 resolution stated on the specs – because quite frankly I can't find any music to test it with. Perhaps a case of “numbers going mad”.


    Use as a DAC
    On my Linux desktop, the Q1ii is instantly recognised, and I had no issues passing through DSD and PCM via Jriver at correct resolutions. Of course it was driver-less too, so no hiccups or concerns.

    Switching to Windows 10 and I was amazed to find that when plugging (and this is without loading drivers), the Q1ii was not only recognised, but also Windows loaded a generic driver and would play everything from 32/44.1 to 32/384. I'm assuming that its using the Windows mixer to up or down sample – but it sure sounds pretty good. To get the full range of available sample rates, its just a matter of downloading and installing FiiO's driver (from their website). I successfully connected and tested a number of different formats (bit-perfect using the ASIO driver), including native DSD. No issues for me whatsoever, and it is a really good option (IMHO) as a DAC for a portable solution.

    My next test was with my iPad mini, and once again, instantly recognised and playing without hitches. One of the best features the Q1ii adds in this configuration is simply the pot (variable volume). Anyone used to dealing with the “hitched” volume steps from iPads / iPhones will relate to this. Its just really nice having fine control over volume.

    The final test was one I didn't expect to work – but it does surprisingly well. Using a micro USB to micro-USB, I connected the Q1ii to both the X5iii and the X7ii. Both recognised the Q1ii and asked if I wanted to pass digital audio via Neutron. I chose to do so, and both devices then sent the audio via USB to the Q1ii. This was unexpected, but worked brilliantly.


    Weaknesses / Issues
    So far I have only found one – and unfortunately its a bit of a doozy. When paired with the iPhone SE, I intermittently get bursts of EMI / RFI intruding on the music (basically as bursts of static). FiiO knows about the issue, and has recommended disabling Bluetooth/wireless on the iPhone to eliminate it (ie putting it into flight mode). The issue of course with this is that the Q1ii is designed to be paired with the phone, and the phone in flight mode is effectively just an iOS device – no longer a phone. Unfortunately it is the one blemish on an otherwise practically perfect device.

    My advice to FiiO would be to fix it (shield it properly). Its still a really good little amp and DAC/amp – but its effectively crippled for use with the phone (and isn't that what they went through the whole certification thing for)?


    COMPARISON WITH SIMILAR DEVICES

    I thought at this stage it would be a good idea to try and compare the Q1ii with some alternatives. My prerequisite was that the comparable units should all be portable DAC/amp devices which would work with my iPhone – so I’ve used the ones I have at my disposal – FiiO Q1 original (USD 60) vs FiiO E17K (USD 99) vs IMS Hybrid Valve (USD 270). For testing I’ve used my iPhone SE, headphone out of the device in question, and my Sennheiser HD630VB to evaluate. I also tested with the Brainwavz B400 and a number of different IEMs - but for the comparisons below the tests were actually performed with the AKG. All devices were volume matched with my SPL meter at 1 kHz with a constant test tone.

    [​IMG]
    I used the included cable for the Q1ii. All other devices required use of the L19 cable to connect successfully with my iPhone.


    FiiO Q1ii (~USD 99) vs FiiO Q1 original (~USD 60)
    Starting as usual with build quality – both are built really well with virtually no imperfections. They are virtually identical in size, but the Q1ii has the more modern look, including the flatter profile which is far better for stacking. The original Q1 has a lot longer battery life though (up to 30 hr vs up to 20 hr)

    [​IMG]
    As far as features go, both have bass boost and gain controls. The newer Q1ii has the balanced circuitry and can also cater for more sample rates (including native DSD decoding). Using the Q1 original and L19 cable, it is often a bit fiddly connecting with the iPhone. Sometimes I have to plug and re-plug before its recognised. But once it is connected there isn't any issues. So far I haven't spotted any direct issues with EMI or RFI with the older Q1 (which makes the issue with the Q1ii all the more disappointing).

    Sonically the two sound incredibly close, and despite a lot of back and forth I think I would be lucky to tell the two apart in a proper blind test. Both sound better (subjectively to me) than the iPhone's native output.


    FiiO Q1ii (~USD 99) vs FiiO E17K (~USD 99)
    I should preface this to say that the E17K is still my favourite Swiss army knife for a portable amplifier. Again – both are built really well with virtually no imperfections. They are virtually identical in size, but the Q1ii is slimmer and again has the more modern look. Both have a flat profile ideal for stacking.

    [​IMG]
    As far as features go, both have gain controls, and where the Q1ii has bass boost, the E17K has full bass and treble controls. The newer Q1ii has the balanced circuitry and can also cater for more sample rates via USB, although both are pretty good if using coax (E17K can do up to 24/192). Using the Q1 original and L19 cable, it is again often a bit fiddly connecting with the iPhone. Sometimes I have to plug and re-plug before its recognised, and the driver shows Bravo X USB audio – but plays perfectly. Again once it is connected there isn't any issues. There are also no direct issues with EMI or RFI with the E17k.

    Sonically the two sound a little different, and I could pick them apart easily (even blind). The slight warmth of the Q1ii is very apparent when compared to the razor flat linear response of the E17K. The E17K is actually a lot closer to the iPhone's tonal output – which is probably why I don't tend to use it paired (there is no point). In terms of preference, I would probably gravitate toward the new Q1iis overall tonality – but prefer the E17K's feature set (I'm really looking forward to a potential upgrade of E17K if they ever decide to upgrade it!)


    FiiO Q1ii (~USD 99) vs IMS HVA (~USD 270)
    The IMS HVA is a vacuum tube portable hybrid dac/amp developed locally by an engineer in NZ. Both are once again built really well with virtually no imperfections. The IMS HVA does have that wow factor with the tubes lit up, but the Q1ii is the more modern looking device, both slimmer and smaller dimensionally, and far easier to stack They are virtually identical in size, but the Q1ii is slimmer and again has the more modern look. Both have a flat profile ideal for stacking – but my prototype HVA does have a USB out which makes stacking difficult .

    [​IMG]
    As far as features go, both have gain controls, but that’s where it ends for the HVA. No bass controls, but it will decode the same formats – including DSD. Using the HVA and L19 cable, and this time its a lot more reliable and pretty much connects with the iPhone most of the time straight away. The driver shows Bravo X USB audio – and plays perfectly. There are also no direct issues with EMI or RFI with the HVA, but because of the configuration of the valves you can only run the iPhone SE at about 75% volume, otherwise the HVA can distort the valve output.

    Sonically the two sound very similar, both having a hint of warmth in the overall tonality, and both very engaging (and superior sonically IMO to the iPhone SE's native output). The HVA is also the tiniest bit smoother in the presentation of upper mid-range or lower-treble, and this is noticeable. People who prefer the sound of tubes will pick this immediately – its simply the even order harmonic distortion at play. You either love it or you don't.

    As far as preference goes – if the HVA was easier to stack, I would probably use it a lot more – it really does sound brilliant. But the FiiO has it beat on form factor, ease of use, and is quite close tonally. Its also miles cheaper.


    VALUE

    Always a tough one to call, and especially when there is an overall issue (the EMI/RFI). But when you look at the overall features and sound quality for the price, I can still recommend this device. And if you look at my initial requirements, it meets every one (portability, battery life, clean signature, ease of use, low OI, reasonable power, nicely implemented gain and HW EQ, and easy installation of DAC drivers) for a very attractive price.

    The only one it fails on is the EMI/RFI issue, and while potentially a deal breaker for some, I'm hoping there is a solution – FiiO just needs to find it.


    FIIO Q1ii – SUMMARY

    The Q1ii is one of those devices that practically ticks every box, and unfortunately misses on one – but its a significant one. The unit is extremely well built, pairs easily with both desktops and also my iPhone and iPad mini, and is very easy to set up (as a DAC).

    It has some well thought out and implemented features – including HW bass boost, and a good gain control, and the addition of balanced could be quite good for those with slightly harder to drive headphones (within reason).

    In terms of overall tonality, it is quite linear (especially the amp section), and has a little hint of overall warmth (assume this is treble roll-off) when using the DAC section. It sounds really (extremely) good.

    At $99 it represents incredible value when you compare features for price. There is one little caveat though. There are some issues with EMI/RFI which present themselves as small static bursts occasionally when paired with the iPhone SE. I should qualify this – they are intermittent, and seem to be dependent on location and what the phone is doing. Sometimes I'll get an hour with no sign, and others it'll be regular enough to be annoying. The big issue is that its a problem and it shouldn't be there.

    So how to rank? Well quite honestly if this issue was fixed, the Q1ii would be a well deserved 5/5. With them present (for me anyway) I see the Q1ii as an 80% success or 4/5. Very good – but not quite great yet.

    Recommendations for FiiO – come up with a solution as quickly as you can – and also a good stacking method. Please.

    I just want to close with thanking Sunny and the team at FiiO for arranging the review sample.


    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Q1ii with iPhone SE and F9With the ME1 and U10Digital out with the X5iii and HD630VB