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FiiO Q5 Flagship Bluetooth and DSD-Capable DAC & Amplifier

Rating:
4.61538/5,
  1. Tysun
    Power House In A Small Package!
    Written by Tysun
    Published Mar 22, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Multiple inputs. Smooth vocals.
    Cons - Profile could be thinner.
    Comparison between Fiio Q5 vs Oppo HA-2SE

    Disclaimer:
    I own Oppo HA-2SE and Fiio Q5 was loaned to me in exchange for an honest review of the unit. This will not be a full review of Fiio Q5 but rather a comparison between those two dac amps as they are similarly priced.

    Phones used for assessment:
    Monoprice Monolith M1060, Philips SHP9500, Shure SRH840, Takstar Pro82, RHA T20, 1more Triple Drivers, KZ ZS6

    Source:
    Tidal HiFi and Spotify from Android to DAC/Amp via USB-C (HA2SE, Q5) or bluetooth (Q5)

    Form Factors:
    Let's start with form factors of both the devices as most of us will use DAC/Amps with our phones, DAPs or laptops while on the go hence form factor matters.

    Fiio Q5: It has a very well machined brushed aluminum face and the back is covered by synthetic leather to prevent scratching when stacked against your source device which is a very nice touch and increases the 'premium' feel. Edges are beveled and they feel sharper than that of the HA2SE. Perfect resistence on the volume knob. It is shorter than HA2SE but thicker. Just imagine a thicker iPhone 5C with sharp edges.

    HA2SE: It brings the leather game up a notch by having genuine leather wrapped around both front and back of the device. Volume knob is certainly more well built compared to that of Fiio - more sturdy, more clicky. Also, By being thinner and longer, the HA2SE will be less bulging and more pocketable if you decide to stack your smartphone and the DACamp together although Q5 is not far off behind.

    TL;DR Form Factor Winner: HA2SE

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    Features:

    HA2SE: Line in, 3.5mm Line out, micro USB in, Gain switch 3.5mm SE out, Bass boost, 4000mAh battery with power bank feature.

    Q5: Optical / Coaxial / Line in, 3.5mm Line out, Gain switch, Dual micro USB in for charging and source input separately, Bass Boost, Bluetooth AptX, Balanced 2.5mm + 3.5mm SE out, DSD indicating LED, input indicating LED, swappable amp module, 3800mAh battery without power bank feature, auto idling switch off.

    As you can see, Q5 definitely has longer and better list of features. I especially like the bluetooth features because when I am out and about I can leave Q5 in one pocket and my Android in another, not having a big ugly bulge while I can still enjoy close to perfect audio with my Android being free. Bluetooth has come a long way. Without having super analytical side by side A/B i really cannot tell the difference whether the source is wired or wireless. Another pro with bluetooth is that the USB ports on Q5 / phone are free and it comes in handy when one of them is low in battery. I can charge and listen to high quality audio at the same time!

    Having two USB ports on Q5 is another feature which i applause much since you can use it on a desk with your phone plugged into the bottom port of Q5 and you can charge it up at the same time using the side port. Big plus!

    Functions of both USB port can be swapped by software but unfortunately I am unable to test that because I dont have an iDevice on hand. Fiio, when are we getting the Android version of your app??

    About that auto-iding off, I think it is a godsent. Tell me about it, there has been too many times I forgot to turn off my HA2SE and the next time I want to use it.... flat battery! No more such issue with Q5. =)

    Both devices advertise iDevice compatibility hence you should not have any issues using your iDevice with them. On the other hand Android is a wild jungle that's why Fiio does not openly advertise official Android support but Q5 actually support most of the Android devices out there. With HA2SE I had trouble initially with my Nexus 6P and OnePlus 5 (both USB type C). Once connected my phones would reverse-charge the HA2SE! Irony when you know Oppo advertises it has power bank feature. The problem solved when I ordered a third party short USB C-to-micro OTG cable design to work with HA2SE then only the reverse charging stopped. WIth Q5 there is no issue when official USB C cable is used.

    TL;DR: Features Winner: Q5, by a far margin.

    Sound signatures:

    This is where anyone who reads this cares about and let me tell you, they are both really close. Differences which I am about to tell you are really minute and one will rarely notices without a thorough A/B session. Both has no problem driving all my gears with authority but then again if you look at it non of my cans are hard to drive. It is a shame my HD6xx which I joined the Drop during end of Dec 2017 is still not in my hands yet. I might give an update once I have received my pair. Both sound very neutral and bring up the characteristics of your headphones without overly emphasizing on any particular region in sound spectrum. Below I will be focusing the differences rather than similarities:

    Bass Boost:
    Both Fiio and Oppo do it exceptionally well with their bass boost switches. I use them to bring up the enamic bass in SHP9500 and both sounded 'right' with no leaks into the mids. They don't slow down the bass response, just the right amount of bass bump. Good work there. I leave the switches off for most of my other cans most of the time except when I'm listening to EDM (DeadMau5, Zomboy, Skrillex etc) and want that extra push in bass section.

    HA2SE:
    Power: 220mW/32ohm SE.
    In short, its sound signature is neutral to slightly bright. Symbals, synthetics snaps etc sound more forward and because of this, there is a perception of more details and stage coming from this DACamp. It will shine if it is paired with darker pair of cans.

    Q5:
    Power: 150mW/32ohm SE, 400mW/32ohm balanced.
    Isn't balanced the 'in' word nowadays? with balanced 2.5mm HP out one can definitely note the power increase compared to HA2SE or its own SE out. I managed to get balanced cables for my M1060 and ZS6 and they both performed well in balanced. It is quite impossible to A/B balanced vs. SE because of volume discrepancy after switching outputs so i will be conservative and say maybe there is not much perceivable differences besides volume increase. I will not switch back to SE though, if you ask me. (for the bragging rights!)

    Where Q5 shines over HA2SE is in the mids. Vocals and real instruments sound more 'natural'
    and 'organic'. HA2SE is nowhere bad, but in comparison it sounded more 'cold', 'synthetic' and 'robotic'. Don't get me wrong, these are only in relative terms. Possibly this is due to what everyone is calling "Sabre Glare"? In short, Q5 is neutral to slightly warm/smooth in comparison.

    TL;DR:
    HA2SE neutral to slightly bright.
    Q5 neutral to slightly warm and smooth

    Price points:

    Q5 $350usd vs. HA2SE $310usd
    Is Q5 worth the $40 extra? YES, a big yes, for the extra features it offers over HA2SE alone is already worth more than $40. Nice and natural vocal presentations are big bonus.

    Why choose HA2SE: Form factor (prettier!), sleeker while stacked, for those who don't care about Coax/optical/BT inputs, no hard to drive cans to pair with, and no cans with balanced cables.

    Why choose Q5: More options, freedom of BT AptX, transforming your analog cans into BT cans, more power to push higher resistance cans, stepping into balanced game.

    P/S: Regardless which amp you get, get Fixate gel pad to stack them. This is a much more elegant solution compared to rubber bands or Blue Tac.

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    That's all I want to say regarding Q5 vs HA2SE. Hope it can help someone out there to make a purchase decision. Thank you! =)
  2. Audiowood
    Fiio Q5 powerful versatile bluetooth device.
    Written by Audiowood
    Published Mar 15, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Powerful Bass, good treble extensions without sibilance or harshness. Reasonable price. Tons of connectivity and options, custom leather case, good bluetooth stability and AAC, DSD APTX support.
    Cons - None. But would love an EQ in the companion app.
    I want to say a very big thank you to Fiio for letting me do a review of their latest Fiio product, the Q5 Bluetooth headphone amp/Dac.

    I have been listening to Fiio ever since they first launched their product, they have come a long way from a few cheap portable amps to some of the best amp/Dac/DAP in today’s market for a very reasonable price. They have been improving and changing their product range but they have never change one thing. The urge to charge an exorbitant price in their lineup even after winning many awards over years. I also want to commend their customer service (for helping to track the “lost FedEx Package”). FedEx suddenly found the lost package on the last day of Feb.

    I have been using wireless music device ever since wireless Bluetooth becomes popular. During the early days of Bluetooth, they are mainly used for answering calls and not exactly for music. Well, that has been changing since the last 3-4 years with Sony launching the MW1 Bluetooth for headphones complete with FM radio and SD cards. The sound was “Ok’ish”, wasn’t; too bad for traveling. But then, Astell and Kern came into the pictures when they launch the AK XB10 promising “audiophile” sound quality. It was not cheap, I paid $189 for it. This was the first Bluetooth device that made me dig Bluetooth music streaming even more. I was addicted to wireless from then on. The sound quality from AK XB10 is still pretty good even by today’s standard.

    I finally got the Centrance BlueDac after reading rave reviews and was recommended by some very experienced head-fi (who has very good ears lol). I was blown away by the number of details and “audiophile” tuning of BlueDac. It was very impressive for Bluetooth. So when Fiio launched the Q5, I swear I am gonna have to hear this since it’s cheaper, and have more function. So in today’s review, I will be comparing the Fiio Q5 to Centrance BlueDac since the AK XB10 is not in the same price league. The Centrance BlueDac cost $399 while Fiio cost $349. A $50 differences.

    To keep the review short, I will not be posting the specs here. As for the accessories, I will not write much about it or how much each adaptor or leather case cost. I decided to just post pictures of all the accessories. You can get all the specs from Fiio website http://fiio.net/en/products/83

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    So let us head straight to what really matter. The built, features and sound quality.


    Built Quality.

    Oh my goodness, the Q5 screams high-end all over the place. From the smooth analog volume knob to the feel of the button and the sharp edges of the aluminum body feels very expensive. It reminds me of the original AK240 (yeah, I burnt a $2,499 hole in my wallet) super quality built with a hefty weight to it. There is nothing cheap at all. The cheapest feel is the faux leather at the back of the device. It’s a plastic that looks like leather. I think its suppose to prevent scratching when putting it on the table since the whole device is made of aluminum. I can already see some minor scratches on the devices, so I do recommend the leather case (sold separately).

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    Comparing to Centrance BlueDac built, the BlueDac is made out of biodegradable plastic, feels very light and very fragile (I already break it when I accidentally drop it). Obviously, these 2 companies have very different philosophies. Centrance is promoting earth-friendly material and featherweights portability as it weighs only 120g. To be honest, I love the light weight of the Bluedac, but not a fan of biodegradable plastic. All in all, I prefer the heavier built quality of Q5. See pictures below for comparison.



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    Input and Output

    In this regards, the Q5 wins hands down in the number of options. The Q5 has an Optical, COAX line in, a dedicated line out, a single ended 3.5mm headphone jack and a balance 2.5mm output, USB connection and an optional WM-PORT support (using Fiio L27 cable for all of sony’s diehard fans). The BlueDac is much simpler. It consists of a single ended 3.5mm, 2.5mm balance, and a USB connection. There are no optical or Coax support.



    The sound.

    This is what both companies describe their sound;

    Fiio describes the Q5 sounds as smooth, pleasant yet detailed due to its high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion.

    Centrance describes their sound as a reference-quality audiophile listening device. The sound is so awesome, you will hear detail in the music you never thought was there.

    As far as my experience goes, I don’t normally agree with what all these marketing talk about how great they are, but in this case, I have to agree to both of them. The Fiio Q5 sound exactly what Fiio describe, if you were to ask me to put into my own words, I will say the Fiio gives you a nice warm clarity with a very natural sound full of details. Nothing is sharp or unbalance, no sibilance, no harshness, just pure warmth clarity.

    Since both use the same brand DAC AK4490, only differences are Q5 has 2X of AK4490EN (yes with an EN). The sound tuning is more similar than different, but since this is an audiophile headphone forum, I will post even small differences here. Both amplifiers are dead quiet and have a black background. I used my hiss detector (Noble K10 CIEM) and could not hear any hiss in both devices. Sames goes for Shure SE846 and UE18PRO CIEM (25ohm).

    The sound signature of Q5 isn’t fully neutral as it’s a bit more to the warmer side but not overly done. There is a pretty good linearity and balance across the spectrum. Nothing sticks out, just very balanced. The strong points are having a stronger bass than most of my other portable amps like headamp Pico slim, Centrance BlueDAC/dacport slim and AK XB10. Yes, the strongest bass among these amps with the bass switches off. I don’t recommend using the bass switch as it completely muddle the bass and veil the trebles. This is no sub-bass switch, it’s a midbass switch so everything sounds even warmer with an already warm signature. However, if you have a treble centric IEM with midbass dip, this switch could totally change the game. I would rather have it when I need it than not having it at all.

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    Other strong characteristic includes full richness and good treble extension. The soundstage width and depth is fairly good for a Bluetooth portable device. The Q5 present music in a very smooth but yet lively accompany by occasional sparkle here and there.Yes, it’s slightly warm, more like sunset cozy warm making it a very versatile musical portable amp/Dac There is quite a good precisions and a respectable amount of resolutions even though its warm. A healthy dose of everything, very balanced.

    I especially love the bass of Q5, the bass has a fair amount of body and richness yet tight and fast enough which really gives a good impact. Bass can go really low and maintains stability throughout. I do wish the midbass is a tad lesser as it does bleed very slightly into the mid. Yes, very very slight. The bass is never overpowering and yet one would never feel it’s not enough. There is a good sense of depth and width with great instrument separation and extension. I would say that the mid is quite romantic yet with a sense of energetic flow within it. This is a very musical amp.

    Treble is pretty robust but not too overly done. You get a sense of great energy and natural tuning with zero sibilance. No harsh peak, or crazy sparkle here. For those looking for higher treble energy, for low-level listening should look for the BlueDac as it has a more neutral tuning.

    Fiio comes with an optional case to bundle with your iPhone 6/7/8. Just not IPhone X.

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    FIIO IOS apps

    The Q5 is equipped with a companion app. This apps allows one to make full use of the AK4490EN dual Dac by changing the low pass filter to the following mode.

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    The sound immediately change when you click one of the filters option. That being said, this is not a huge differences like an EQ. It’s a minute differences in sound shaping and it does not change the overall signature. It’s a fun thing to have. I generally prefer sharp Roll-Off filter as I am using mainly UE18PRO CIEM. It’s gives the overall harmonic and overtone a kick!


    This app is quite impressive since most companion apps that comes with bluetooth devices are really simple. Fiio app has the most features I have seen so far. There is an option to also do a channel balance. I really wish they include an EQ like the Earsonic ES100. Well, I am sure they will in the near future. Sony has it, BEO has it, Jaybird has a full band EQ, so Fiio, please include one in your next app upgrade.

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    Comparison with Centrance BlueDAC.

    In short, I would say their sound quality are both are in the same league even the DAC is from the same company. The major differences are in the amps. The Q5 comes with a variety of options but for this review, I am going to use the AM3A since its bundle together. The Bluedac is no pushover in this regard since Centrance decided to include the AmpExtreme, a powerful, custom, class-A headphone amp in it. This Amp extreme is their best portable HiFi amplifier yet and has tons of rave reviews from major hifi publications. So which is better? The answer lies in your preference of musical tuning. If you are going after a more neutral tuning where your focus is on overtones and harmonics, then you should audition the Bluedac. The bass slam, impact and treble extension are more pronounced. If you prefer more warmth yet powerful bass response, a romantic mid with natural treble accompany by good clarity, then go for the Q5. I suspect most audiophile would like the Q5 more due to the more powerful bass and musical tuning. I am not saying the Bluedac sound artificial, no, far from it, in fact, it just as natural with a more neutral tuning. Both amps are very detail, both wins!

    Conclusion.

    Overall, I think the Fiio Q5 is 2 steps ahead in the wireless game. The reason does not lie in the sound quality since Bluedac is just as good, but more on the huge amount of options and features. The Q5 wins hands down on connectivity, has a forward, back, play, pause button and just scream high end just by looking at it. There is also an option for the beautiful custom fit leather case, different amplifiers to match your headphones and the volume rocker is just amazing. This is a dream wireless device that everyone has been dreaming for a long time until Fiio makes it a reality.

    A reality not only for the rich kid but includes everyone with its resonable entry price point. I suspect the Fiio Q5 may win the 2018 best bluetooth audiophile device of the year. A gamer changer setup.

    Thank you for reading and a very big thank to Fiio. I appreciate the 10 days of fun!. 谢谢你 FIIO!

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      chrisba, Gonzalez, wanucom and 2 others like this.
    1. KopaneDePooj
      Great review and comparison with the BlueDAC. Thanks!
      KopaneDePooj, Mar 16, 2018
  3. Ynot1
    Fiio Q5 rewrites what it means to be versatile.
    Written by Ynot1
    Published Feb 1, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Connects most any input interface. Sound quality is top level. Does both single ended and balance exceptionally.
    Cons - Really nickpicking, bluetooth could be faster in syncing.
    Q5 review

    Here, I am writing a review of the versatile Fiio Q5 after having participated in the product tour. I found the Fiio Q5 to be very substantial in many respects. The physical build and the fit and finish were very premium. I really like Fiio's taste in form and function. And there is no question the Q5 sounds good and is better than the recently released Q1MKII. Why it is better is subject to a couple of things, which will be explained shortly. Pleased be advised that it is possible that you nor I will benefit financially from this written material so help me God. But if you believe a word I say then please secure your wallet before continuing.

    There goes Fiio, releasing yet another portable audio amplifier, the Q5. Haven't we been impressed enough already with the Q1MKII? Well it seems this one is different.
    Not that it isn't impressive; it is. What we have with the Q5 is taking the goodness of the Q1MKII and going in a different direction. It is like this. Some people live in the urban environment and they require specificity in doing things. Like a bro would not be caught club hopping after hours with sandals on, not gonna happen. A gentleman, dude if you will, needs the proper attire; and hence the Q1MKII. Other people live out in the boonies and can and must roam the earth. In doing so they require equipment to survive; equipment that can do many things practically and efficiently; and hence the Q5 is born.

    The Q5 can do what the Q1MKII does well with more power, within reason, to driving headphones. Outside of portability, Q1MKII can not best the Q5; if price was not made a factor. That said what is it that the Q5 can do that Q1MKII can not do? A whole lot,
    and please check the user's manual, that is made available by Fiio, for details. I have to disclose that I simply did not have enough time, due to tour regulation guidelines, to give an honest look-over of every feature that the Q5 brings. Yes, I did not do all of my homework. But!!! I had fun. And the Q5 made me happy within this context.

    None the less, I list here what I like about the Q5. The Q5 has a lot of versatility. More connections than most will ever use, let alone need nor want, but is good to know when the time comes that you're ready; sounds kind of inappropriate but I digress. And I like the included accessories and other goodies like storage pouch and torx driver and more. Last but not least the sound quality on the Q5 is really amazing. And the single ended connection sounded really good just like the balance connection.

    Here below I listed my relative feelings in comparisons to other gear that I am familiar with.

    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; as well as Q1MKII.
    These comparisons reflect observations made in recent memory.

    Q5se: Q5 single ended mode with ios

    Q5bal: Q5 balance mode mode with ios

    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 < Q5se ~ Q5bal

    Relatively Clarity wise:
    Q1se < W < BX1 < G5 < AAP < Q1bal ~ Q5se ~ Q5bal

    Conclusion:
    I really liked the Q5 for all that it does, but I would still choose the Q1MKII if the main use case was portability with balanced earphones. With that said if I plan to use headphones at all then the Q5 is a must. Fiio continues to bring greater value, performance, and quality as time goes on.

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