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FiiO Q5 Flagship Bluetooth and DSD-Capable DAC & Amplifier

  1. KopaneDePooj
    My name is Bond, James Bond...
    Written by KopaneDePooj
    Published Feb 9, 2018
    Pros - sound quality, versatility, build quality, design, ergonomics
    Cons - can’t take calls over Bluetooth, leather case not bundled
    ...I’m agile, resourceful and refined. The FiiO Q5 Review.


    I’ve become interested in headphones and related gear more intensively for about 4 years and during this time I have tried to find my preferred sounding headphones for various occasions and uses. Three months ago I bought my 1st “better” source - the FiiO X5 3rd gen - and being interested in how it compares to other products I applied for the FiiO Q5 Review Tour.

    The FiiO Q5 sample was loaned to me by FiiO, free of charge, for a 10-day evaluation and posting of my opinion of the product. After the 10-day period I’ve sent the unit to the next reviewer.

    About me:
    I’m 49 years old, male.
    Music preferences: classic rock, prog rock, metal, grunge, jazz, roots reggae, world / ethnic, classical, some 80's new wave, some electronic / pop
    Some of my prefered bands: Marillion (with Fish), Rush, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Genesis (P. Gabriel), Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson.
    Only 1 album to take on an island: The Beatles - Abbey Road. OK... take one more: ABBA: The Album.
    Sound preferences: I like a warmer than neutral sound signature with 2 to 3 dB elevated bass, full-bodied vocals and detailed but natural, not harsh or grainy upper-mids to highs. I’m particularly sensitive to elevated or harsh 3K to 8K region, and I don’t like thin, dry, sterile, abrasive, clinical sound. I don’t believe in “detail retrieval”. I think details don’t need to be “retrieved”, brought forward, they need to remain in the original form, tonality, loudness and position relative to the other sound elements as a whole. To be there in natural amount. I believe in realism of the MUSIC reproduction. I also don’t listen at crazy volume. I generally listen at a volume comparable to someone singing loudly, 3 meters away from me, with no amplification. If that makes sense. I don’t know how to translate that into decibels.

    This will be my first product review and I’m not a native english speaker. So please bear with me. Or don’t. I like constructive criticism. I didn’t read any review about the FiiO Q5 prior to this, to avoid bias.



    Tech highlights:
    • DAC: dual AKM AK4490EN
    • Supports up to 384kHz/32 bit sampling rates and native DSD up to DSD256
    • Interchangeable amp modules, fully compatible with FiiO’s lineup
    • Bundled with the AM3A amp module with both single-ended and balanced outputs
    • aptX Bluetooth audio
    • Digital Inputs: USB / Coaxial / Optical / Bluetooth
    • Analog Inputs: Line IN
    • Analog Outputs: Headphone Standard 3.5mm / Headphone Balanced 2.5mm / Line OUT
    • Recommended Headphone Impedance: 16~150Ω(PO); 16~300Ω(BAL)
    • Battery Capacity: 3800 mAh
    • MSRP for US market: is about $349.99 and subject to change for other markets.
    Full features here
    Full specs here

    Packaging and accessories:
    The Q5 comes in a sturdy hard box with a foam padding frame inside and accessories in a compartment below the main unit. The packaging is well made and similar in size and layout to the one that FiiO X5 comes in.
    It is well accessorized and includes the following:
    • micro USB to Lightning short cable for connecting to Apple devices
    • 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male short cable for line IN or line OUT use
    • USB to micro USB long cable
    • 3.5mm to RCA coaxial adaptor cable
    • optical adaptor
    • screwdriver and 4 extra screws for amp module replacement
    • silicone pad for placing between devices when stacking (if necessary)
    • 2x long straps and 2x short straps for stacking
    • carrying pouch


    In addition the review bundle included the following accessories which ARE NOT included in the retail package:
    • LC-Q5: Leather case of Q5
    • LC-Q5i: Dedicated case for bundling the Q5 with iPhone
    • L27: WM port to Micro USB digital audio cable
    • L28: Coaxial digital audio cable
    • Micro USB to Type C USB short cable
    • Micro USB to Micro USB short cable
    I really wished the leather case LC-Q5 would have been bundled in the retail package instead of the pouch, as with the FiiO X5 3rd gen, where you receive a leather case and a TPU case in the box. The leather case is much more useful than a pouch especially when stacking because it prevents slipping of the silicone straps.





    Build and design:
    FiiO has really come a long way from my old E06 that I had velcroed back to back with my Sansa Clip a few years ago. The design of the Q5 follows the new trend that started with the X5 3rd gen / X7 Mk II DAPs and won some well deserved iF and Red Dot design awards.

    The build quality of the Q5 is nothing short of outstanding. Elegant aluminium alloy sandblasted body, bold (or is it Bond...?) angles combined with rounded corners, lasered shiny chamfered edges, different metal surface textures and the PU leather cover at the back. All these make for a sharp looking gadget. If James Bond would be an audiophile this is what he’d use. This gadget should be called Agent Fii007/‾.

    The RGB LED between the amp module and body is a very nice design element, and also provides information about the selected input, glowing in different colors. Because it is recessed relative to the metal body there is no annoying bright light when charging at night. It pulsates and “breathes power” very gently.





    All the buttons and switches are tactile and responsive, providing a reassuring feedback when operated. Especially the volume potentiometer is well done, having enough resistance to avoid accidental turning in your pocket. That resistance also helps with setting a fine controlled volume level with ease, especially from 11 o’clock position and on, where the volume rises more steeply. The jacks and USB inputs are also of good quality which is to be expected at this price point.




    Usage and pairings:

    Smartphone to Q5 USB in:
    Although the Q5 has no official support for using with Android devices, I used it with my HTC 10 with no problems. Using the provided USB-C to micro USB cable my phone instantly recognised and connected with the DAC. I used Tidal Hi-Fi and USB Audio Player Pro app which operated in Bit-Perfect mode with various resolution files including native DSD with no problems.
    You can find more about the Q5 and Android in the article written by Product Manager Demond here.

    PC to Q5 USB in:
    The FiiO USB drivers need to be installed, and if you want to play native DSD also, some drivers and components for ASIO and DSD support in Foobar2000.
    This guide can help, but use the latest drivers in the Download section here.
    All installs went smooth and the music playback with my PC to Q5 was flawless.

    Smartphone to Q5 Bluetooth:
    No problems here either, I got aptX connection with both my HTC 10 and X5 to Q5.
    The sound quality was surprisingly good over Bluetooth with just a slight loss of depth and resolution, but the sound character of the DAC/AMP was kept intact.
    The Bluetooth ability of the Q5 is really of great convenience if you want to avoid stacking on-the-go. The Q5 stays in one pocket with the headphone cable attached, and the smartphone in another pocket, free to operate independently. My only gripe with this usage scenario is the lack of a “phone bluetooth” profile support. You cannot take phone calls on the Q5, cannot use your headphone cable inline remote or microphone. But the ringtone and notifications sounds are sent to the Q5 so at least you know if someone calls you.

    For the next iteration of this DAC I propose that FiiO ads Bluetooth phone call support and links the - fwd / pause / play / back - buttons to the headphone cable inline remote also.

    FiiO X5 line-out to Q5 line-in
    Using the Q5 as an amp for the X5 went with no problems and was very beneficial for the X5. More of that in the “Sound” section.

    FiiO X5 coaxial to Q5
    All good.




    Bass Boost
    Generally I’m not a fan of bass boost, and I didn’t test it very much because everything sounded properly without it. What I found is that with some thin sounding recordings it brings live and punch by elevating a good chunk of bass and taming the mids without adding distortion. So it can be beneficial in some situations

    Tested the Q5 with my Sennheiser HD 598 SE, HD 518, Momentum 2 over-ear, Koss Porta Pro.
    In all cases the sound was improved and the matches were good. My critical listening I have done with the Sennheiser HD 598 SE.


    Sound evaluation will be made in relation to the FiiO X5 3rd gen DAP which is the best source that I own, but the sound description also stands on its own.

    HTC 10 > USB Audio Player Pro / bit perfect > USB type C to micro USB > FiiO Q5 > Sennheiser HD 598 SE
    Fiio X5 > Sennheiser HD 598 SE

    Listening notes:
    1st impression - fresh out of the box:
    Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing
    Q5 vs X5 - More effortless, more focused, cleaner upper mids with less grain but more detail, more even in the midrange, deeper bass, more extended highs.

    2 days later in-depth listening:
    Lars Erstrand and Four Brothers - Body And Soul - DSD Showcase 5 - 1bit DSD
    Eric Bibb - Where The Green Grass Grows - DSD Showcase 1 - 1bit DSD
    Diana Krall - Peel Me A Grape, Narrow Daylight - 16bit FLAC
    Jethro Tull - The String Quartets (flac album)
    Q5 - Liquid, organic, with great micro-detail and resolution, but not abrasive, no harshness in the vocals, upper mids or highs, yet cristal clear and natural. Smooth, yet focused.
    Seems like every sound element is polished and has its own space and breathe room in relation to the others. Very good dynamics and transient response. Bass goes deep and it has texture. Soundstage has more depth, layering and is more three dimensional. X5 feels more compressed in comparison.



    4th day:
    Pink Floyd - Money
    Steven Wilson - Luminol
    Dead can Dance - Song of The Stars
    Q5 has more authority, goes to the same loudness more easier, maintaining great separation and relation between frequencies. Vocals remain natural sounding when loud. When I turn up the volume the sound gets BIGGER and richer, while on X5 it gets LOUDER, struggling more to maintain sound integrity, and the vocals becoming a bit more shouty and somehow rough. The Q5 feels like it can reach the same volume while not hurting your ears. Also the Q5 feels less compressed, you can feel more air between every sound element. Everything is arranged against a contrasting dark background, so “the edges” and contours of every sound element are clearly distinguishable. I guess this is what they call a “black background”. It is the first time I experienced it.





    Opus3 DSD Showcase no. 1 to 5
    Tracklist and description > http://shop.dsdfile.com/category/samplers/

    Alan Taylor - Kerouac's Dream
    Cyrill Lutzelschwab & Martin Hess - Boxenkiller
    Henry Mancini - Pink Panther
    Carl Orff - Introduction Fortune
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Concerto No21 Andante
    Giuseppe Verdi - La Donna E Mobile
    Giuseppe Verdi - Requiem Dies Irae
    Dire Straits - Water Of Love
    Dreadzone - Yeah Man
    Genesis - Battle Of Epping Forest
    Genesis - Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
    Gigamesh - All My Life (Original Mix)
    GusGus - Deep Inside
    Iron Maiden - Afraid To Shoot Strangers
    Iron Maiden - Revelations
    Kem - Heaven
    Metallica - Don't Tread On Me
    Metallica - Sad But True
    Michael Jackson - Jam
    Michael Jackson - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
    Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
    Rammstein - Mein Herz Brennt
    Rammstein - Sonne
    Rebecca Pidgeon - Spanish Harlem
    Robert Plant - 29 Palms
    Rush - Tom Sawyer
    Seal - Crazy
    Rachelle Ferrell - Sista
    Rachelle Ferrell - Will You Remember Me
    Zucchero - Il Volo
    Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy
    Macy Gray - Redemption Song
    Rebecca Pidgeon - The Raven
    Paquito D'Rivera - Como Arrullo De Palmas
    Amber Rubarth - Don't You

    Sound conclusion:
    Q5 vs X5 sound differences:
    Bass - Q5 a bit deeper and punchier, with better dynamics, harmonics, and more detail.
    Mids - here is the biggest difference with the X5 having a bit grainier more abrasive high-mids, and a bit more forward. Q5 mids / vocals are cleaner with better resolution and less digital, more organic, natural, even sounding. Making an analogy with photo processing the Q5 feels like an image that comes untouched from a high quality prime lens with great focus, contrast and color, while X5 feels slightly sharpened / enhanced in post-processing.
    Treble - Q5 feels cleaner, more natural, and more extended.
    Sound stage, stereo image - the X5 sounds a bit compressed in comparison to Q5.

    IMO a great deal of the sound difference comes from the better external amp module used in the Q5, because when testing line-out of X5 to line-in Q5 (with the AM3A module being used for amping the X5), the sound quality is somewhere in between the two on their own.

    Please observe the intensive use of “a bit”, and “feels” in the description above. The FiiO X5 is a great sounding device on its own.

    But, in the end, IMO the Q5 is a step up over the X5. Although they share the same dual DAC, the combination of different DAC tuning + the external AM3A amp module + no Android to deal with (speculating a little here) - makes for an improved audio experience.


    Final words:
    Day 10, listening to “The Wall”. Pink says to himself:
    “There must be some mistake, I didn’t mean to let them take away my soul, am I too old? is it too late?
    Where has the feeling gone? Will I remember the song? The show must go on...”

    I’ve come from noticing the Q5 main thread a few months ago, to really being interested in it, then losing patience and buying the X5 on Black Friday, to returning and applying for the review tour. After a long(ish) wait and some annoying customs paperwork, I finally received this beauty. There were 10 days of intense usage, photo sessions, touching, petting and most of all delightfully music listening. I’m in love with this device and sooner or later it will replace my X5 3rd gen.

    Note: After reading it a few times, I realize that part of my review including this final words may sound a little overenthusiastic, but this is because I genuinely liked the Q5 very much. Please don’t take this as it will necessarily work the same for you. Generally my advice is: go and try to listen to audio gear before you buy and form your own opinion. This hobby is highly subjective and nothing can replace the act of testing for yourself. For me the Q5 is a great device and I will make it my own. For now, it is time to pass it to the next reviewer. Bye-bye Q5! But see you soon!

    "Wrong! Do it again! Wrong! Do it again!
    If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding!
    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?
    You! Yes! You behind the bike sheds! Stand still laddie!"
    -- Roger Waters

      Arghavan, chrisba, Gonzalez and 17 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. AudioBear
      Thanks for taking the time to write a really superlative review. Oh, and you can never use that non-native speaker excuse again since you write better than most native speakers.
      AudioBear, Feb 22, 2018
      liquidluvr and KopaneDePooj like this.
    3. KopaneDePooj
      @audiophilefan Thanks man! The pineapple crown shots look more "dangerous" because I angled the camera :) In fact the Q5 was very well secured between the stiff leaves. I wouldn't have put it into danger :))
      @AudioBear Thanks, I appreciate :)
      KopaneDePooj, Feb 23, 2018
      audiophilefan likes this.
    4. audiophilefan
      You're welcome! Nice to know it's safer than it looks. Haha. :wink:
      audiophilefan, Feb 26, 2018
      KopaneDePooj likes this.
  2. darkdoorway
    Fiio Q5 Impressions - Pairings and Bluetooth
    Written by darkdoorway
    Published Feb 3, 2018
    Pros - Detail Retrieval shines through
    Fun sound
    An AptX based wireless anti-stack solution
    Cons - Can be a little clinical depending on what you pair it with

    A bit of background for this impression:

    I am not on the review tour. I have not been sent this unit for review purposes. I am a mostly UK based head-fier, who has been quite interested in the Q5 for a while. A fair while. And now that the unit is out, I'm interested in sharing my experiences.

    I was the 17th person that ordered this product from Fiio's AliExpress store. Being part of a limited first batch available to non-Chinese, this unit comes with Fiio's leather case. And a soft Goat.



    Build quality - let's put that at the end. More flavoursome stuff first:

    After quite a lot of Reddit and Head-fi, I was looking for a couple of things from the Q5. I've mostly found them.

    Detail Retrieval:

    I'll write further about this in the pairings section. I feel detail retrieval is above par for this price range. Fiio has a clean implementation of the dual AK4490. I don't detect a background hiss. Details do shine through:

    Billy Joel's Pianoman - At about 30 seconds in there's a distortion mostly hidden by lower end equipment, but brought out on more disecting kit. With the Fiio Q5 - Check, it is there and obvious to me. This is more a quick litmus test rather than a full quality check. So doesn't by itself say the Q5 is great for detail.

    Dire Straits- Sultans of Swing - Great audiophile check track. Multiple layers of instruments spacially distributed. A listen on the Q5 shows some fine details brought out. The Fiio unit picks out the soft instruments on this track and presents them without having to strain to listen for them.

    Baby Driver Soundtrack - Bellbottoms - I love using this track to test audio equipment. Bellbottoms can sound just dead on some equipment and shows the value of a good DAC/Amp. Instrument separation and vibrancy across the audio spectrum do shine through with the Q5.


    This was the second thing I was interested in. The AM3 module paired with the Q5 does deserve its reputation and has already had a lot written about it. So I will only say, that as part of this impression, the unit performs as previously written about.

    I will, however, comment on Bass and Gain Switches. The Q5 paired with the AM3 module feels powerful. I have given up any high ohm stuff to test it with, but there is plenty of room on the voulme knob. The gain switch adds fairly extreme gain, so in my opinion should only be used with high ohm equipment. Your results may vary.

    Now. The bass switch. I've used amps in past with a bass switch, a switch that had the potential to turn a nice piece of kit into a fart blaster.

    I was expecting a little fart blasting when switching the bass on the Q5. Nope. No fart blasting. Wait... is this even working? First batch. Maybe it is defective. Nope, it is not. The Bass switch on the Q5 is not defective.


    The switch does, however, focus on lows and sub-bass and pretty much leaves mids alone. I say 'pretty much' as there is a detectable change to mids if you listen for it.

    This bass switch makes select music have some amazing depth. Especially when testing with some trance albums:

    AvB 666 - A memorable episode from Armin - the bass switch on this episode adds some depth which does enhance lows considerably and adds even more vibrancy to the episode. Female vocals feel untouched.

    Tron Legacy Reconfigured - bass detail with the switch makes you feel like you're next to a giant speaker at a daft punk concert.

    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - Lots of fine tracks on this album to speak to sub bass.

    The Q5's bass switch doesn't work in some cases and can cause distortion:

    AM - Arctic Monkeys - I expect the bass switch effect on this album, specifically the distortion is to do with the way this album was mastered, making further enhancement of lows problematic.


    Comparing this device to the Audio Opus #11 which I had for a fair while ( but not A/B-ing as I have since passed the Opus to someone else ) I would say that to my ears, the Q5 is in another realm in regards to detail, sub-bass and power. And that is saying a fair bit, as the #11 is a device with solid detail retrieval and highlights the upper regions. Detail of sound on the Q5 outclasses the Audio Opus. I acknowledge that this may not be a fair comparison. The price ranges are slightly different as well.


    Shure SE425 VE:
    The se425, winning What HiFi's award for top IEM in that price range every year for the last few years - Pairing the se425 VE with the Q5 plays to the IEMs strengths. Not a bass heavy IEM, the 425 is well balanced, fairly disecting and easy listening for long periods. With the Q5, these attributes are all retained making them a good match.

    Cosmic Ears CE6B / Linum Music Cable:
    Note, the CE6B (formerly called the CE6E) is comparable with a 1964 V6s. (Check out Lieven's excellent shootout review between these two)

    The 6B is a smooth listening and forgiving relaxing experience. Paired with the Q5, this doesn't change. The 6B really shines on bass centric tracks and the Q5 adds another dimension to that, making the IEM more enjoyable.


    Just because I've always thought. "Man the ADDIEM would really fly with a great source."
    And it does, but not by much. Quite a bit of warmth and bass response are added to this iem when paired with the Q5. So it does address some of the shortcomings of this iem, but not to a level where it can compete with another price bracket.

    VE Monk (original)
    OK. Had to try the Fiio with this little piece of witchcraft. The original monk benefits a lot from this DAC Amp combo. Please note, i'm not saying the Q5 transforms the monk. The flaws exhibited in the monk are still present, but if you love the monk and want it to sound better, the Q5 will do that.


    Bluetooth Connection:

    The Q5 provides a stable Bluetooth connection with an AptX capable source. I did encounter some issues with Poweramp, but on testing, those turned out to be specific to that application. The AptX option works and delivers a quality stream to the Q5 from source. This option removes the need to stack, allowing the Q5 to be safely tucked away, leaving you portable with your phone.

    In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons to get the Q5.

    Vs OTG
    I can't leave this section without writing about the Q5 with a wired connection. I'm a big OtG fan. And, correctly volume matched, I honestly can't tell the difference between connecting the Q5 via wireless AptX or wired OtG. I don't want to get too much into a compressed Vs uncompressed opinion in this impression, save to say that on balance, I will not be using OtG or any other wired connection again with this device, and do not feel the need to.


    Build Quality:

    Fiio advertised the Q5 as having a premium feel with leather highlights. I would say the device does have a premium but rugged feel.

    This isn't a ceramic and glass encased baby. More an industrial and sleek machine. Not quite an Oppo HA2, the Q5 exhudes a functional premium look.

    The included leather case is very sleek and made to fit the device snugly.

    It will easily go in your pocket.
      snellemin, Gonzalez, chrisba and 7 others like this.
    1. Rautej1
      Hey mate, coud you please corroborate a bit on the Bluetooth bit? Does it work like this: Phone pairs Q5 like a "headphone" and sends sound right in, Q5 then converts it via DAC, amps in in AMA3 a plays it via wired headphones?
      Is there some way of having it connected as bluetooth DAC and feed data instead of sound to it, or is it just cable DAC if I want to have full capability?

      Are you saying, that differences between these two (BT vs usb) are indiscernible by ear?

      Thanks, Jan.
      Rautej1, Feb 15, 2018
    2. darkdoorway
      Hi. I'm....not too sure what you are asking. It is a Bluetooth DAC. You pair it with your phone / computer / whatever and play. The Q5 receives a wireless digital signal , amps and plays it through the headphones connected to it.
      darkdoorway, Feb 23, 2018
  3. Mshenay
    Little Something for Everyone
    Written by Mshenay
    Published May 4, 2018
    Pros - Convince, Fiio Customer Support, Acceptable Sound Quality, Apple Plug n Play Ready
    Cons - Finicky Digital Inputs, Inconsistent Sound Quality, Poor Value Overall

    Fiio's Q5 is a portable DAC/Amp featuring a dual AK 4490EN Chipset and a focus on wireless connectivity via BluTooth. Priced at $349 via Amazon, the Q5 also has a module Amp design with a dedicated 3.5mm sigle ended line out, dedicated digital Coax/Optical input and both 3.5mm single ended and 2.5mm fully balanced output for the headphone amp section.

    In terms of sound quality, I found the USB Performance to be some what stuffy or hazy sounding. Overall it's performance was most impressive with Optical In and many of my subscribers and readers were also impressed with it's BluTooth Quality. Non the less with a hard wired optical in I found the Q5 to be;
    • Fairly Neutral
      • Tonality did change slightly depending on the file format
      • At times it was very natural
      • Other times it was a bit hard and rougher sounding
    • Having a thicker full low end
    • Fairly Smooth on the Top
    • Quite cohesive with good precision
    So if you happen to own an older Digital Audio Player like the ole school iRiver Models the Q5 is a great way to use their Optical output and breath life back into them! I in-fact really enjoyed the pairing of the Q5 with my own iRiver H140. I had a Source with lot's of storage and a quick Graphic Interface and a DAC/Amp that I could pair it with so I got the best out of both devices!


    I also enjoyed the Q5 with my wife's iPhone. It's included iPhone friendly Case was super convenient, so in terms of pure convenience for iPhone users the Q5 is un-matched!


    So if your more concerned with ease of ownership than you are sound quality, I have to say the unique iPhone Case for the Q5 was the easiest portable solution to carry. As the phone retained full functionality with the DAC/Amp tucked neatly away behind it.

    Though outside of iPhone Users who are looking for something super easy to own/use, I would likely recommend Android or Digital Audio Player owners to consider other options. As overall I wasn't impressed with this unit at the current price. Maybe a different amp Module would help but right now I don't see a common situation that this would serve well in.
      Liviu Nicolof likes this.