To be launched in April 2015, the FiiO X3 2nd gen takes the torch from FiiO's first ever DAP, the...

FiiO X3 2nd gen Ultraportable Hi-Res DAP

Average User Rating:
4.44872/5,
  • To be launched in April 2015, the FiiO X3 2nd gen takes the torch from FiiO's first ever DAP, the original X3 from 2013. It will support native DSD decoding, in-line remotes on headphones, deep-sleep mode for instant-on usage without battery drain, and comes with dual crystal oscillators to support all sample rates with some of the highest fidelity in its class.

Recent User Reviews

  1. mokler
    4.5/5,
    "Great entry level mobile player with a lot of added bonuses."
    Pros - Great sound, powerful amp, multiple formats supported, DAC, dedicated line out.
    Cons - DAC took months to set up.
    I have been using this for over a year now and use it nearly daily. Extremely versatile component can be used not only for mobile play, but also line out to my receiver (don't yet have funds for dedicated media center), and as a DAC for my desktop and laptop. This allows me to have almost any combination of source and output that I need from one portable device. The mobile setup is easy and music transfer directly to the micro-SD is a lot faster than through the device. Going through my ATH-M50x, the music is incredibly clear for DSD or FLAC tracks and there even is a noticeable jump in quality playing the same MP3 on the same headphones between my phone and the Fiio. The dedicated line level out allows me to plug it directly into my receiver to get FLAC play on my home setup without an expensive dedicated server or decoder or upgrading my current equipment. The DAC feature took a long time to troubleshoot as the exact order software is installed is extremely important. A recent revision to the installation guide has cleared up this confusion almost completely (might have been just me.) The user interface is fairly intuitive, but creating playlists on the device is extremely cumbersome. I have not tried exporting playlists as of yet, but I should try that. Battery life is extremely impressive, even at decent volumes. Overall, a great buy I would not change. The X1 was missing a few features I was looking for and the X5 was more than I needed.
  2. someyoungguy
    3.0/5,
    "okay"
    Pros - simple to use, microSD mean lots of storage
    Cons - sound is a bit muddy
    I just got one of these last night. Unfortunately where I live there's no possibility of hearing one of these before buying one (or really any other DAPs apart from mainstream, iPod, etc.). So after a bunch of research and reading reviews online this seemed like it'd be a great player.
     
    I've previously had a few Cowons - iAudioE2, S9 and J3. My J3 is supposedly gapless playback, but it seems like it can't handle gapless with FLAC files, so I've been looking for an upgrade.
     
    The Fiio X3 definitely has a smaller soundstage than my J3 - the music sounds more cramped. This was my first thoughts, so I did a side by side comparison (with the same Sennheiser Momentum 2 headphones) and sure enough it's a muddier, less distinct sound on the X3. Bass range definitely extends lower on the J3, giving it more punch and I think helps contribute to a wider more spacious sound than the X3.
     
    Don't get me wrong, the X3 2nd gen is a nice player and has a very simple no-frills, high functionality UI. Sound isn't bad, just okay to my ears. But I think I'll be sticking with my J3 for daily listening - not to mention the battery life on the J3 is crazy, I can't even remember when I last charged it. My X3 might end up living in my car or as a handy music library to connect to my stereo - I find most DAPs, etc. are too quiet when connecting up to the car stereo through the headphone jack, but here the line out on the X3 might come in handy and give a bit more volume, so I can use the X3 without having to switch CDs all the time.
     
    Overall I'm a little disappointed as I was hoping for more, but I guess I've been spoiled by great sound and maybe I've inadvertently become a snob. Wait, I'm posting a review about my new DAP - probably a snob :wink:
     
    PS. Purchase price indicated is NZD with courier delivery
     
    Re: Uberclocked. For some reason I can't post a comment below, so will just add here: I volume matched the units using a decibel meter on my phone placed between the headphones. Not exact, I know, but is about the most I can do without more equipment. I don't mean for my review to come off too negative - in all honesty they both have a decent sound. I'll probably warm to it a bit more with extra listening, and playing around with the EQ a little.
    taffy2207 likes this.
  3. ObjectVoice
    4.5/5,
    "Superb Digital Audio Player"
    Pros - Transparent sound, black background, excellent interface (with newest firmware), well upported by Fiio.
    Cons - No way to turn off keylock via any buttons other than the power.
    I've only used Sansa devices prior to getting this player a few weeks ago - Fuzes and Clip+'s - and I wondered if the Fiio X3 2nd Gen would provide any perceptible audio improvement. Within a minute or two of swapping the SD card over the answer became obvious: yes, there's an improvement and it's actually a pretty big one. I'm no word-smith audiophile and it's pretty much all been said but I can say this: transparency, detail, separation, sound-stage, blackness of background - they are all simply better with the X3 2nd Gen than with the Sansas. I've kept a Clip+ for ultimate portability (for jogging  with, basically) but I've sold the Fuzes as the X3 2nd Gen made them instantly redundant. I was very fond of my Fuzes and I would never have guessed that the audio upgrade would have been so noticeable or so devastating with regard to my affection for the little Sandisk devices.
     
    In terms of the usability: it's great. My player came loaded with the newest 1.44Beta firmware and it makes using the wheel simply an efficient and straightforward way to navigate files and volume with no niggles or glitches at all. It may not have been so in the past and I can see that a scroll wheel with such noticeable clicks that wasn't synchronised with items on a list would be a recipe for instant crazy irritation - but with this firmware though, as far as I can see, the matter is just closed. It's fixed, it works and for me at least, it's a non-issue.
     
    Actually getting my hands on the X3 2nd Gen made me realise how misleading reading lots of reviews prior to actually using a device can be. It's possible to pick up on several points that individual reviewers have found to be sticking points and accumulate them all into a ball of confusion about the player. So I had a pile of preconceptions and worries about the X3 2nd Gen that turned out to uniformly baseless: I'd need to upgrade the firmware with it straight away (no); the wheel was glitchy in use (absolutely not); the wheel cannot be used to adjust volume (it totally can); you can only skip tracks with the side buttons when the player is locked (nope, you can use them to adjust volume too: long press versus short press); the screen is unreadable outdoors (no, it's fine - and my eyesight is pretty poor. Just boost the brightness and take the small battery life loss in your stride); having no internal storage is a pain (no, it doesn't matter at all if you can put huge micro SD cards in, and you can); the drivers for the DAC are almost impossible to install in Windows (really no, they're not. I just followed the guide and bingo: a great USB DAC as well as a great DAP).
     
    So it's a great player and a clear upgrade - for me at least - over the Sansa's that I've owned before. Does it mean that my lust for portable aural pleasure has been sated for good? I suspect not. Those DX90's look kinda interesting to me and the fun of putting Rockbox on them appeals too (Rockbox for the X3 2nd Gen? Well, yes please!) but the price jump to the Ibasso is a pretty big one. So for the time being, the X3 2nd Gen suits me just fine.
  4. VladTheImpala
    3.5/5,
    "Great budget player, decent DAC, but needs patience to operate"
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality
    Cons - Aplifier significantly weaker than 1st generation, scroll wheel responsiveness frustrating, firmware issues, thicker than 1st gen, no internal storage
    I upgraded to a second generation Fiio X3 after owning the first generation for over a year. Here is my feedback after six weeks of use:

    Sound quality is slightly better, more refined/sophisticated sounding than the first generation. Subtle details are placed better in the soundstage, but as others have pointed out, the sound is not as "sweet" as the first generation. It's a fair bit quieter, with a bit more nuance, and a better sense of space. I suspect that this is because of the built-in amp, and not the DAC.

    Unfortunately, this is where the improvements begin and end. In every other possible way, this 2nd generation is a big disappointment compared to the first generation. Here are the most frustrating aspects of this player (rendered even more frustrating by the fact that the first generation did not have these issues)

    - Scroll wheel. I have never been a fan of the ipod scroll wheel, so I would cite this as a negative even if this wheel was well implemented, but it is not well implemented at all. The responsiveness of the wheel is so frustrating that, in my opinion, it is almost unusable. The wheel has physical increments built in to its scrolling mechanism, so you can actually feel little clicks as you turn the wheel. This is supposed to give you tactile feedback to the scrolling you are doing. It would be a great idea if the increments/clicks actually corresponded with items on the list, but they don't. You would think that each increment/click moves the cursor down one item on the list, but it doesn't. Sometimes, when you turn the wheel and feel the increment/click, the device does not scroll at all, and the same item remains selected. Other times, scrolling one increment/click will skip an item and scroll down two items. So, sometimes one click doesn't move the cursor at all, other times it  moves it too far and skips the item you are trying to select, and only rarely does the wheel actually function as I imagine it is supposed to, with one click moving the cursor one item. There were many complaints about the first generation's button layout. I've never shared these complaints. While I thought that the first generation's buttons looked a little weird when I first received the item, it took me two days to get used to them. You have the option not to use the scroll wheel, but to use the button on the front, but even if you are using the buttons and not the scroll wheel, the button layout and button operations are actually a lot more confusing and less intuitive than the first generation. The first generation had nothing wrong with the button layout. It just looked funny so people thought it was weird. Anyone who actually used the first generation Fiio X3 for more than a few days would tell you than the button layout is actually very intuitive and functions very well. The second generation is designed entirely with the scroll wheel in mind. If you don't want to use the scroll wheel, the option to use the buttons appears to have been added as an afterthought because it's just not convenient to use.

    - Playlist management. This is one of the most frustrating features of this player. As far as I know, there is no way to remove a song from favorites if the song has been deleted. It can only be deleted from favorites if you play the song, click the menu button, and toggle whether or not it's a "heart." If you have songs added to favorites, but the songs are no longer on the SD card, then good luck deleting them. The menu gives you the option to delete the song, but nothing happens when you try. Also, the self-created playlists cannot be deleted. It gives you the option to delete them, but when you try, nothing happens. This is a firmware issue, and I hope it will be fixed, but it is extremely frustrating because it's such a basic problem that there is really no excuse for this type of thing. 

    - Screen responsiveness. Switching screens takes longer on the second generation than it did on the first generation. Backing out of the "now playing" menu to see the folder you are listening to takes twice as long as it did on the first generation. Every subsequent push of the "back" button also takes longer to reach the previous menu than it did on the first generation. This isn't a big deal, as it literally takes half a second, but it's frustrating to think that my first generation was better at loading menu screens.

    - The amplifier is weaker. Powering my Etymotic ER4B, I have to turn the volume up all the way to 120, and it's still not loud enough for my taste. The amp in the first generation Fiio X3 was able to power my ER4B fine, but this is significantly quieter. It's fine if your headphones don't require much juice and all you listen to is brickwalled, overly loud CD rips, but I listen to vinyl rips and HDtracks, which are mastered significantly quieter, so I require an amplifier that can take a quiet track and bring it up to a loud enough level that it will sound good even with power hungry headphones. So, while the DAC in the 2nd generation is a more sophisticated sounding, the amplifier is significantly weaker. I am not into the idea of "stacking" this with a separate amplifier because I hate bulky items, so this is a significant shortfall. But it won't affect most listeners, who listen to CD rips and don't have power hungry headphones.

    - Item is thicker. To me, it makes no difference that it's slightly shorter. It's thicker, which causes it to take up more room in your pocket.

    - No internal storage. You lose 8GB of internal storage when upgrading to the 2nd generation.

    Having said all that, I still think this is a good DAC and a great value. If I never owned the first generation Fiio X3, I wouldn't be making most of these complaints. I wouldn't have anything to compare it to, so I'd simply get used to the badly implemented scroll wheel and the annoying user interface and firmware issues. But when you consider the fact that the first generation of this player did not have these shortfalls, it becomes frustrating.

    I recommend saving a $100 and getting the first generation.
  5. goodyfresh
    4.5/5,
    "A great DAP, and the very best for its price as far as I know"
    Pros - SUPERIOR sound compared to "Mainstream" DAP's like iPod or smartphones, value for the money, battery life, use as USB DAC, customizable UI
    Cons - UI somewhat glitchy at times, sound a tad bit on the "analytical" side, treble a little bit bright
    So, first off, I must say that for 200 dollars (or 170, in my case, for a unit that was previously a store-display model), you CANNOT go wrong with this superb little DAP.  The soundstage and dynamics, detail separation, and overall frequency-response are FAR AND AWAY better than what you hear in something like an iPod, Zune, or Smartphone.  That being said, does it sound as good as a 1400 dollar hi-Res Walkman, or a 1000 dollar Astell and Kern or HiFiMan DAP?  No, of course it doesn't, but you're only paying 200 bucks for it so just sit back and enjoy it, guys :wink:  The bass is very accurate, in fact, the WHOLE frequency-range seems incredibly accurate on this through my V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphones, but I will say thaty the treble seems just a LITTLE bit bright, to the point where when it's on a high enough volume that the mid-range doesn't QUITE hurt my ears yet, some of the higher treble-notes sound a bit painful.  But it's probably not good to listen to it that loudly for extended periods of time anyway, so it's not much of an issue.  The sound also is a TAD bit more analytical as opposed to warm or fun, but many people may like this. . .personally, I'd prefer a bit more warmth, but heck, this is still WAY more fun-sounding than my laptop's on-board sound, or the sound from my old iPod for that matter!  Then there's the fact that unlike the X1, you can use this as a USB DAC for your computer. . .and oh BOY does it improve vastly upon the onboard sound in my laptop!  As a result, you're basically paying for two devices in one, both a DAP AND a DAC, which only serves to make this an even BETTER value for your money.  It is also quite good at driving headphones at al different impedance levels, even without an amp, although I'd imagine that if you're using something with an impedance int he range of a few-hundred ohms, you probably want to pair this with an amp.  The UI is quite customizable, and it has a very nice built-in equalizer.  The build-quality is excellent, all solid-aluminum, and it comes with some nice accessories: a silicone carrying-case, and a line-out with gold-plated connectors.  Also some stickers that personally I think are kind of silly, haha.
     
    All that being said, the X3 2nd Gen certainly has its issues, although nothing that I find to truly be a nuisance.  The UI seems to "glitch out" sometimes, and in very random ways that I can't even quite describe, leaving me no choice but to force a shutdown and restart the device.  I use this for at least six hours a day, and the glitches seem to occur maybe every third day or so. . .not too bad, really, it hardly bothers me at all.  Right now the device is only on v1.1 of its firmware. . .I'm sure that the glitches will be fixed in future updates from Fiio! :)  UPDATE (September 10, 2015): Sure enough, since installing the newest released stable firmware, v1.3, for the X3ii, I have not experienced a single glitch, either in DAP mode or USB DAC mode.  Also, it seems like things lag a little bit less when browsing through files and skipping songs.  This is still a very early version of the device's firmware, but already seems to have fixed the vast majority of stability issues.  Very nice job, Fiio programmers! [​IMG]
     
    I would recommend this device for ANYONE looking to buy a good DAP for anywhere under 300 dollars to vastly improve upon the sound they get from their smartphone, laptop, or other such devices.
  6. H20Fidelity
    4.0/5,
    "The FiiO Box full of Magic Beans"
    Pros - Features, settings, build, value, price,
    Cons - Touchy scroll wheel for some. Slight lack of detail retrieval
    First of all, I'd like to thank FiiO for sending me this sample to review as part of the Australian / NZ tour.
     
     
    FiiO is an ever expanding Chinese company no stranger to the portable audio world - with the likes of their early amps such as FiiO E5, E11 and other early products. Over passing months they've completely expanded busting out into the portable audio player market and doing so at great speed. Their ever increasing performance ratio doesn't seem to stop and that's exactly what you'll find today in FiiO X3II. The new player from FiiO brings a pocket size unit packed at the absolute seams with features, some of which usually only found in more expensive players from other companies.
     
     
    From USB OTG storage, DSD Playback, 24BIT support, true line out, USB DAC Mode, huge audio format support, X3II answers almost everyone's expectations.
     
    x3iireview1.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Let's take a look at the players specs and features.
     
     
    SPECIFICATIONS:
    Model/NumberX3(X3 2nd gen)
    ColorTitanium
    Dimensions96.7 mm×57.7 mm×16.1 mm
    Weight135 g
    Display Screen2.0" TFT screen, 320x240 pixels
    Line OutStandard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Digital Out (Coaxial)Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Usb DacSupporting up to 24bit / 192kHz and DSD (driver installation required)
    Headphone PortStandard 3.5mm Headphone Port
    Drive Ability16~150 O
    Volume Control120 steps digital potentiometer
    Equalizer10-band equalizer (±6dB)
    TrebleN/A
    BassN/A
    Balance5 dB
    Gain2.6dB(GAIN=L)
    8.6dB(GAIN=H)
    Thd+N<0.001% (1 kHz)
    Frequency Response20 Hz~20 kHz
    Crosstalk>102 dB (10 KO/1 kHz)
    Snr≥114 dB (A-weight)
    Dynamic Range≥101 dB
    Line Output Level1.45 Vrms (10 KO/1 kHz)
    Output Power 1>224 mW (16 O/THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 2>200 mW (32 O/THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 3>24 mW (300 O/THD+N<1%)
    Frequency Response20 Hz~20 kHz
    Snr≥113 dB (A-weighted)
    Output Impedance<0.2 O(32Ω)
    Crosstalk>74 dB (1 kHz)
    Thd+N<0.001% (1 kHz)
    Max Output Voltage>7.2 Vp-p
    Max Output Current>75 mA (For reference)
    PowerDC5V 2A recommended
    Charge DisplayRed light indicates , green light turns on after fully charged
    Battery DisplayYes (Accurate battery % readings))
    Battery Capacity2600 mAh
    Battery Life>11 h (32Ω; normal volume with display off )
    Charging Time<3 h (DC5V 2A)
    Lossless:DSD: DSD64, DSD128 (.iso&.dsf & .dff);
    APE(Fast): 192 kHz/24 bit;
    APE(Normal): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    APE (High): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    FLAC: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    WAV: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit;
    Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    Lossy Compression:MP2、MP3、AAC、ALAC、WMA、OGG…

     
     
     
    Like I said, packed to the brim with usable features - for the going price of around $240 AUD that's one big shoe filled for anyone seeking value for money. While I'll only ever use 16/44 FLAC files with X3II I know its a good thing for consumers and sale side of things, especially with the increasing popularity of hi-res 24bit files. The more features you add, the further you reach out to the consumer, it seems FiiO are well aware of that. But its more than this. FiiO take pride in supplying content for money, they enjoy satisfaction making (you) the buyer comfortable with your purchase.
     
     
     
    It doesn't stop there though, let's take a look at the accessories included!
     
     
    x3 Decal Stickers
    USB Charge / Data Cable.
    Digital Out Cable
    Silicon Case / Cover
    x2 Spare Screen Protectors (one also installed on arrival)
    Documentation 
     
     
     
     
    x3iiacc.jpg
     
     
     
    A quick look around the player.
     
     
     
    x3iisideview1.jpg
     
    On the left-hand side you have your power button, volume up, volume down.
     
     
     
    x3iisideview2.jpg
     
    On the lower right your micro sd card slot.
     
     
     
     
    X3IIsideview3.jpg
     
     
    At the bottom your micro USB charge / data port - just above that (quite small) the round power indication light.
     
    The light while lluuminate blue when power is on and red whilst charging.
     
     
    X3sideview4.jpg
     
    Moving up to the very top your headphone out and beside that your line out / coax out. 
     
    (there is a setting to flick between line out /coax out in the X3II settings)
     
     
     
    Build Quality.
     
    As shown in the pictures above X3II is no slouch when it comes to build, the metal casing feels quite solid, in person giving the resemblance of something more expensive.The sides are smooth, seamless and even the backplate has a clear finish which gives the appearance of glass. I give strong points to the build quality on a unit at this price. It really feels nice in the hand, you feel like holding something worth what you paid. Not always found in the Chinese market.
     
     
     
    x3iiback.jpg
     
    User settings.
     
    One thing I've been overly impressed with on both FiiO X1 and X3II is the amount of settings offered even making iBasso players look average. Inside X3II's user-interface is an overabundance of settings, some even making an iPod look plain. From themes to adjustable max volume restriction X3II seems to have every base covered.
     
     
     
    System Settings
     
    Update Media Library (switch between manual / auto)
    Key-Lock Settings (several options)
    Screen timeout
    Brightness
    Idle Power Off (on / off)
    Idle Power Off time
    Sleep (on / off)
    Sleep Timer (duration)
    Multifunctional outputs (switches between line out and coax)
    USB mode (switch between DAC or Storage)
    Themes (several to choose from)
    Support in-line volume control (on / off)
    File name display (Title, Filename)
    About X3 (shows firmware version, storage space)
     
     
    Play Settings
     
    Resume mode (on / off)
    Gapless playback (on / off)
    Max Volume (set limit)
    Default Volume (set to remember your last position on start-up)
    Fixed Volume Setting
    Gain (low / high)
    Equalizer (several presets and custom EQ)
    Balance (left / right)
    Play Through Folders
     
     
    Phew, as I said, I don't know how FiiO thought of them all let alone implement them to work seamlessly. There's enough features there to play your own arcade game if put to good use. While I won't ever use them all its about flexibility of having them. Each person is different as is their wants and needs.
     
     
    User interface.
     
    Because I browse by folder only X3II makes life very easy. I simply click on "browse folders" enter into my micro sd card and away I go. All my music is there showing the folder title. There are options for those who use Artist, Album, Genre, Favourites, Playlists, but none of this ever gets used by myself. I look at X3II like any other player, I select an album from the folder directory and usually let it play through.
     
    Which brings us to the scroll wheel. Many people seem mildly underwhelmed with FiiO scroll wheel implementation. They say it doesn't function accurately or misses their selection. While I can agree to some extent its not perfect, I have used far worse in my time, and for most parts X3II gets me where I need to without much hassle. And if scrolling ever becomes tedious or you feel hindered the bottom left / right (change track buttons) also work for scrolling whenever in a menu screen. One thing I would like to see in the future is FiiO adapt into the touch screen interfaces, as I must admit its one area I feel iBasso offers ease of use in comparison.
     
     
    Sound Quality
     
     
    Gear used: Fidue A83, Grado SR325e, Aurisonics ASG-2, Etymotic ER4S.
     
    Files: 16/44 FLAC
     
     
     
     
    The sound, a place where we start to wander off the strong road we'd been heading down. To get things out of the way I do feel X3II is a very competent player, its strong technically, areas like instrument separation and overall coherency are quite sophisticated for the money. Its especially skilled at keeping everything in sync without losing much cohesiveness. Each instrument separates well defined as does each bass note, the treble maybe a little rolled off or absence (a safe road?). I have a lot to say about how technically sophisticated this player is for $240 AUD, every time I listen for these aspects I've felt completely impressed, even next to iBasso DX50 which does not hold the same posture, especially in separation.
     
    Another area is the refinement and overall resolution offered by X3II is quite strong, you always notice great presence and stance of the music along with a strong sense of musicality, the type that gets your foot tapping without noticing and great for casual listening. But where we start to leave one another is, I find X3II to lack a little overall vibrance around the mid-range and its ability to reveal detail isn't what I find in an iBaso DX50. Don't get me wrong here, the sound of X3II is very good, especially where I mentioned, but I always sense a little too much warmth from the presentation or soft veil which restricts those final levels of clarity or bite in the presentation.
     
    Whilst this can have a huge upside of lessening listening fatigue for long sessions it always leaves me a little underwhelmed, at least compared to my DX50 unit. Then I think what the hell and listen to how strong X3II is technically and those feeling go away. It isn't a complete deal breaker what I hear in X3 detail retrieval, but a little more next time would be welcome please, or at least a lift in the tonality. Soundstage is adequate in width, though nothing overly excessive. I never feel closed in however and your headphone plays a major role.
     
     
    Line out
     
    When using the line out I'm able to bypass X3II's internal amp section and it does sound that little bit cleaner. I hear on the forums many people are having great results using X3II with their external amps, so if adding an amp for more power, flavouring  the sound is your thing you'll be mighty impressed overall. Personally, I think X3II headphone out will suit brighter sounding headphones, take Grado for example, this will show great results. The beauty of having line out is you can increase power output and add some flavour!
     
     
    Conclusion.
     
    I think what X3II has, offers, shows the audio world is marvelous, it packs so many features, settings, everything you would want from a player in 2015, the most features I've seen from any player since my time in audio at under the $300 mark. The build quality and overall package is just great and you will get above what you pay for. And I think for the majority out there X3II will serve up a competitive sound level that can show any mainstream player a thing or two. Its just for those of us who are seeking a little more bite or vibrance, maybe even cooler/brighter preferences may be a little under the rain with the sound X3II puts out. I personally am one of those people.
     
    Will this stop me enjoying X3II? Hell no, because I can hear the potential X3II has technically, I can admire the way it makes my foot tap without trying. X3II will be used as my main on the go player where critical listening isn't of great importance. and if I ever want to get critical I can bypass the warmish amp section using line out.
     
    Thanks again FiiO for showing the audio world what you can do!
     
    ~H20
  7. PinkyPowers
    4.5/5,
    "The Ambition of Small Things - A review of the 2nd generation FiiO X3"
    Pros - Great sound for the price. Disturbingly small. Sexy design that ages well.
    Cons - Could always sound better, I guess.
    20150619_193244_zpsmegpooxb.jpg
     
     
     
    -~::The Review::~-
     
    I’m not much of an audiophile. I’m too new. It was only this last January I bought my first pair of decent headphones. Since acquiring the Klipsch R6m it’s been a weird romp of financial irresponsibility. 
     
    After upgrading to the Klipsch X7i a month later, I realized I needed a better DAC than the one inside my Galaxy S4. I could hear the limitations of that poor thing. So I did some research and settled on the Dragonfly 1.2 by Audioquest.
     

     

     
     
    In a lot of ways, this is a review of the Dragonfly nearly as much as it is of the X3ii. For the last four months, my mobile Digital Audio Player has been my Samsung Galaxy S4 connected to the Dragonfly via USB On-The-Go. That’s the comparison I must make. As I said, I’m new to this. My store of equipment has the limitations of a light purse and short time.
     
    Be warned, ere you read on! I’m not a professional reviewer. In fact, I’m a ramped amateur. There will be no readings, or measurements, and if the review happens upon some semblance of structure, know in your heart it was incidental.
     
    For the first two days with the X3ii I paired it solely with my newest IEM, the Audio Technica IM03. I’d owned these phones for a few weeks now, and was intimately familiar with the sound they produced with the Dragonfly. 25 days of near-perfect auditory rapture. So you can perhaps understand my irritation when I plugged them into the FiiO and was aggressively underwhelmed. It sounded cheap and small compared to the Dragonfly. There was plenty of power, but no comfort to any of the notes.
     
    I thought, “Holy Hell! This can’t be right.” All the reviews spoke very highly of it. Maybe they weren’t comparing it to DACs, but only other DAPs. Maybe the DAP market is cluttered with poor audio. I wouldn’t know. Like I said, the Galaxy>Dragonfly combo is the closest thing I have to a DAP.
     

     
     
    Two days, I fiddled with it at work. My job has me sitting at a bench all day testing controller boards for air-conditioning units. I’m an electronics bench tech. So I can listen to my music all day long… and I do. When I say I fiddled with it for two days, I mean two whole work days.
     
    At the end of the second day, I came home quite depressed over the affair. Not only because my new toy was poop from a butt, no, this suggested the whole DAP market was a cesspool of undesirable products. If, of course, you inferred the state of the market by the praise the X3ii received. Which I did, and then howled at the moon with a belly full of despair… and tacos.
     
    It was in this dejection I pulled out my Klipsch X7i. I had always intended to try out the FiiO on all my headphones. You need data to make a cake. Or you need cake ingredients. But I was all out of eggs and flower.
     
    Sad and miserable, I put the eartips in and pressed Play. HOT DAMN! This thing sounded kind of good. No, it sounded excellent. The music was smoother, no longer dark, and the details were coming out to play. It even sounded more open. It was a transformation the likes of which I couldn’t believe.
     
    You’d think I was happy. And I was… sort of. The burr in my panties was that this meant the awesome-sauce ATH-IM03 was the problem. Everyone knows the ATH-IM series are tricky to pair. The 03s sounded messy in my desktop DAC/Amp as well. So my best and favorite earphones would not pair with my one and only DAP. This notion did not uplift my rotting spirit.
     
    As I tried to sleep that night I was struck by a moment of clarity. I jolted out of bed, turned on my computer monitor and submitted a return on Amazon for the IM03. Three days before the 30-day return policy expired. Then, to do this properly, I placed an order for the IM04, and splurged on 1-day shipping.
     
    That was Wednesday night. Thursday and Friday were spent with the fabulous paring of X3ii and X7i. Friday evening I came home to the ATH-IM04.
     
    20150619_193244_zpsmegpooxb.jpg
     
     
    If the Klipsch phones brought the X3ii out of the muck, the IM04 unlocked its full potential. Four drivers need a little extra juice, so I run on High Gain, and there is nothing about the sound that does not impress. The bass is enormous and ever-present. There is sparkle in the guitar plucks and vocals. Plenty of micro detail pops up all over. You can hear the slight echo of vocals as the soundwaves bounce around the recording room. The X3ii renders a wonderfully smooth, vibrant sound.
     
    What was once a chasm between the FiiO and the Audioquest is now a mere hop and a skip. Nonetheless, the gap is there. Audioquest’s USB DAC gives a more refined sound. The overall signature is much alike between the two, yet the Dragonfly has an extended soundstage and depth. They create more or less equal levels of detail. In the sub frequencies there are more natural tones and texturing with the Dragonfly.
     
    When the sound is narrower and more in-your face, as it is with the X3ii, it comes off a little artificial. The Dragonfly spaces everything out quite well, and it sounds more realistic because of it. This impression might owe some tribute to how familiar I am with the Dragonfly’s sound. However, over the last week I’ve listen to the X3ii almost exclusively, save a little A/B testing.
     
    I volume-matched the two units by ear, and even gave the X3ii a notch or two extra, out of wanton benevolence. My appraisal is as accurate as I care to make it. I do get ever so bored with tedium.
     
    On the grounds of amperage, the X3ii wrestles down the Dragonfly and sprains the DAC’s ankle. I’ve had an ankle sprain many times; I use the metaphor with all the weight one can muster in times such as these. It gave my Sennheiser HD600 enough power to sound more than decent at high volume. In order to really rock-out I need to set the volume very near the X3ii’s limits, but it works. Of course, it’s fairly far removed from the might and beauty of a proper headphone amp. Still… not bad. The Dragonfly really loses grace when trying to power the HD600. When I start raising the gain in USB Audio Player Pro, the sound deteriorates.
     
    I solemnly deem the FiiO X3K a brilliant device. If I had paid much more for it, I would have expected more. As it stands, the DAP does not carry with it great financial burden. Instead, it mocks its price tag and delivers a lovely, clear, and rich auditory experience.
     
    There. That happened. You want to know about menus and buttons? Do you lust after information about that sultry scroll wheel? Read those other reviews. They're better.
     
    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-
    warrior1975 and flacaddicted like this.
  8. earfonia
    4.5/5,
    "High-End audio player with a modest price tag"
    Pros - Excellent sound quality, feature rich, very good build.
    Cons - Display quality & playlist management can be improved.
    Many Thanks to Fiio for the review sample!
    I`ve been a Fiio user for some time. Currently I have Fiio X3 (1st gen) and Fiio E12DIY amp. Also had Fiio X5 before, and I reviewed Fiio X1 a while ago. So far my experiences with Fiio products have been positive.

     

    Review sections:

    Summary, Pros & Cons, Suggestions for improvement.
    Sound Quality & Comparisons.
    Features & Measurements.

     
     

    01P1020405.jpg

     
     

     

    Summary

    Design wise, Fiio X3 2nd gen looks closer to Fiio X1, and very different from the older Fiio X3. The heart of the player is DAC chip Cirrus Logic CS4398, which is also used in higher end players such as Astell&Kern AK120 II and AK240. X3 2nd gen supports playback of both PCM and DSD, all the way up to PCM 24bit-192kHz and DSD128. Not only it supports most of the common audio file formats, it also supports CD image formats (wav / flac / ape + .cue) and SACD ISO image. Basically it plays nearly almost all common audio formats.  

    02P1260144.jpg  
     

    Beside as a standalone player, Fiio X3 2nd gen also functions as USB DAC. As USB DAC it also supports both high resolution PCM and DSD format as well. While PCM support is up to 24bit-192kHz, in DAC mode DSD support is only for DSD64. Probably it will support DSD128 as well in the future, but as the time of this review, only DSD64 is supported in DAC mode. Nevertheless, for such a small player in this price range, those features are already very impressive.  

    A few features that I consider improvement from X3 are:
    Sleep or hibernation after a certain time of idles, instead of total power off. We know that iPod already implemented this long time ago, but this is a great improvement from previous Fiio players. After idle for a few minutes (adjustable from 1 to 8 minutes), the player goes to hibernation mode, and consuming less than 5 mW during hibernation. And the player will immediately ON when we press the power button. Anyway, even without this feature, X3 2nd gen starts pretty fast, from power off to ready to use in less than 10 seconds.
    Improved EMI immunity. My experience with Fiio X1, X3, and also iBasso DX90, they might get interfered by phone EMI, and occasionally I can hear EMI noise when hold them side by side with my smartphone. But so far none with Fiio X3 2nd gen. The all-metal chassis function as an excellent EMI shield for the player. Watch the video below showing EMI test on X3 2nd gen and other players.  

    03P1260145.jpg  
     

    Feature rich is not good enough without good sound quality. Don't be fooled by the modest price tag, Fiio X3 2nd gen sounds way beyond its price tag, both the headphone output and line output sound quality. What impresses me most is the soundstage. It has 3D holographic imaging that has been greatly improved from 1st generation X3. Imaging is more 3D, wider, and more spacious, with good layering and better depth. Also quite accurate in instruments separation & placement. Hall's acoustic portrays realistically. The improved soundstage greatly improved the music listening experience.  

    Although the old X3 has more powerful headphone output than X3 2nd gen, but most of the time the extra power doesn't translate to better sound on IEMs, and even on some full size headphones. Headphone output of the X3 2nd gen has more than enough power for most IEMs. X3 2nd gen sounds powerful with all earphone / IEMs I've tested. Therefore, IMHO, the more refined sound quality of Fiio X3 2nd gen with its spacious holographic imaging is preferable than the high power output of the X3. I've also tested X3 2nd gen to drive some full size headphones, Philips Fidelio X1, Philips SHP9500, Shure SRH840, Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 & Audio-Technica ATH-M50, no driving issue at all, X3 2nd gen drove them with full authority, spacious imaging, detailed, with good quality & powerful bass. Really impressive to hear this little player drives those full size headphones, it really has good driving power.  

    Beside the imaging quality that impresses me most, X3 2nd gen has a very neutral tonality. It has excellent detail, clarity, and transparency, at the level that is just right, before entering to the analytical region. Both line and headphone outputs have good bass and treble extension. Dynamic is surprisingly quite lively. Transient is fast and snappy. Bass has good punch and speed, with good texture, at neutral level, without any bass emphasize or de-emphasized. Detail and clarity are excellent, clean sounding with realistic transparency, without sounding analytical. The headphone output can drive some low impedance full size headphones really well, with sound quality that pretty much conveys the quality of the DAC, and relatively sounds as good as the line output.  

    It could be due to the dual clocks in X3 2nd gen are very well implemented and perform better than X3 clock, or it could also be due to better design of the analogue output stage, or other improvements. But one thing for sure, Fiio have done it well on X3 2nd gen. It is not only feature rich, but to my ears it has the sound quality that is simply punches through its suggested price tag. Overall I rated it a little less than 5 stars due to mostly the quality of the LCD display, and playlist management that could be improved. But for sound quality alone, I would rate it 5 stars. Kudos to Fiio!  

    04P1020494.jpg  
     

    Pros:

    Exceptional sound quality from such a small and affordable player.
    Feature rich. It has almost everything we could expect from a modern player in this category.
    Sleep / Hibernation mode.
    Good battery life.
    Very good all-metal chassis build quality with excellent EMI immunity.
     

    Cons:

    LCD display could be improved, especially for day time outdoor usage.
    Not the best playlist management.
    Silicon protective cover easily attracts dust and lint.
     

    Suggestions for improvement:

    Higher contrast and better resolution LCD display.
    Better material for the protective cover, material that doesn't attracts dust and lint. 
    Beside 'pure mode' line output, fix gain and without equalizer, it would be a nice feature if user can choose to enable volume and equalizer for the line & SPDIF output.
    Option to enable headphone output when the line or SPDIF output is connected.
    Option to enable and disable battery charging in USB DAC mode.
    Option to disable volume lock feature when screen is off.
    Larger database capacity for the library to manage more than 5800 songs.
    Automatic playlists such as: Recently played lists, Most frequently played lists, and Recently added lists.
     


    05P1020400.jpg  
     

     

     

    Sound Quality & Comparisons

     

    The sound signature of Fiio X3 2nd gen is clean, detailed, spacious, and transparent, without sounding analytic. The detail and transparency sound natural, and not over emphasized to make it entering the analytic category. Overall tonality is neutral with very good spaciousness and driving power. It significantly sounds more spacious, with better imaging than the older X3. Clarity and detail are also improved from X3. X3 2nd gen is not a warm and mellow sounding type of player, but also not the harsh and analytic type. It has excellent perceived detail with the right level of smoothness to make it sounds musical. Driving power is good on X3 2nd gen, most of IEMs and full headphones I tried with it sound well driven.  

    Personally I'm impressed with the sound quality of Fiio X3 2nd gen, and it has been my daily player for the last 2 months now. I found that it has good matching ability with most of the IEMs and headphones I tried, with my favourite pair would be to pair it with DUNU DN-2000. Simply a wonderful sounding portable system, probably one of the best neutral sounding portable system for under $500. Beside DN-2000, ATH-IM50 also matches beautifully with X3 2nd gen. The transparent and spacious X3 2nd gen complements the warm and bassy signature of IM50 really well. Resulting a full and spacious sounding, powerful bass with clear and full bodied mids, and silky smooth treble. Listening to both DN-2000 and ATH-IM50 paired with Fiio X3 2nd gen, are truly addictive.  

    06P1020493.jpg  
     

    Previously DX90 was my daily player since last year, now using X3 2nd gen for 2 months somehow I don't feel that I missed my DX90. They have different sound signature, and DX90 still has slightly better transparency and treble sparkles, but X3 2nd gen sound quality is good enough to make me not missing my DX90 for daily commuting. X3 2nd gen smaller size is also more comfortable in the pocket.  

    Pairing Fiio X3 2nd gen with portable amplifier Fiio E12DIY (Op-Amp OPA827 + Buffer LME49600), I was simply impressed by how well they drive my Sennheiser HD800. They manage to give body to HD800 mids and bass, while maintaining good detail and transparency. While not really quite up to the level of good tube desktop amp which I prefer for HD800, this small system is good enough that I would confidently bring them around in a headphone meet or local shops to test IEMs and headphones. Recently I brought this pair, X3 2nd gen + E12DIY to a local shop to audition MrSpeakers Ether, and they don't disappoint. They have good tonality, power, with excellent detail and imaging. Impressive!  

    07P1020500.jpg

     
    0820150602_183737.jpg Testing MrSpeakers Ether at local headphone shop
     

     

     

    Comparisons

    During the more than 2 months period, I've compared it with other players:
    Fiio X3 (1st generation, Ver. 3.3)
    Apple iPod 6th Generation 80 GB (Ver. 1.1.2)
    iBasso DX90 (Ver. 2.1.0)
    Astell&Kern AK100 (Ver. 2.4)  

    As for the Fiio X3 2nd gen itself, the latest firmware version I tried for this review is version 1.1.  

    Main headphones and earphones used for comparisons:
    Audio-Technica MSR-7, Shure SRH840, Yamaha HPH-200, DUNU-DN2000, DUNU-DN-1000, DUNU Titan 1, and ATH-IM50.  

     


    Comparison with Fiio X3 (1st generation)

    Fiio X3 is using Wolfson WM8740 professional DAC and AD8397 high current op-amp. Fiio X3 2nd gen is using Cirrus Logic's top-flight CS4398 DAC and OPA1642+LMH6643 for the amp section. To me, X3 2nd gen is totally a different player than X3 1st gen. What puts them together is only their price which is within the $300 price bracket. Other than that they don't have many things in common.
     

    Most noticeable difference in sound character is the imaging. Switching from X3 to X3 2nd gen I can hear better, and more spacious soundstage, better depth, and clearer instrument separation. X3 soundstage sounds a little flat and congested when compared to X3 2nd gen. The 3D & spacious imaging adds a lot of pleasure in music listening, and probably the best improvement of X3 2nd gen over X3.  

    Besides that, X3 2nd gen sounds more transparent than X3, not much, but audible. Nothing wrong with X3 treble, but X3 2nd gen sounds like it has smoother upper treble extension, so treble sounds silky smooth, more airy and transparent. X3 2nd gen has slightly better micro detail, and sound slightly more refined than X3.  

    There is also improvement on power efficiency on X3 2nd gen, it doesn't heat up as much as X3. X3 will gets quite warm after sometime, especially when kept in less ventilated place, like in a bag or pocket. So far I didn't have any heat issue with X3 2nd gen, at max it only gets a little warm. Power efficiency seems to be better on X3 2nd gen, smaller battery, yet longer playing hour and less heat. Beside that I also found the navigation is a little easier on X3 2nd gen, requires less button clicks with the scroll wheel.  

    09P1260141.jpg  
    10P1260139.jpg  
     

    Aside from their sound quality, in my opinion, the following are some features of each model that can be considered better than the other:  

    X3 1st generation:
    1. Analog circuit bass and treble adjustment that sounds good, and works even when playing high resolution PCM and DSD format, where digital EQ of both models doesn't work for DSD, and only works up to 48 kHz PCM.
    2. More powerful headphone output.  

    X3 2nd generation:
    1. Plays DSD 128 and DSD ISO image. Well, practically to me this feature is not very important, but YMMV.
    2. More efficient battery consumption, less heat and slightly longer playing time.
    3. Scroll wheel for easier navigation.
    4. Hibernation mode.
    5. Playback from USB OTG storage.  

    Both are excellent players in their category. Sound quality wise, both won't disappoint at their price point. Features wise, easy to use and user friendliness, I prefer X3 2nd gen.  

     


    Comparison with Apple iPod 6th Generation 80 GB

    My iPod is probably too old to be compared with the new X3 2nd gen, but just for comparison sake I will write a brief comparison between them.
     

    The 2 x 30mW iPod headphone output is no match for the X3 2nd gen more powerful headphone output. X3 2nd gen has better driving power, bass has better texture, tighter, and punchier than iPod. Fiio X3 2nd gen also has better detail and faster transient. Upper treble is more extended on X3 2nd gen, and overall sounds more transparent than iPod.  

    I used my iPod classic for years, and it is more or less retired early last year. It is a nice sounding player, smooth, polite, with friendly sound characteristic, but it is rather too old, and doesn't offer many features as compared to modern players. Limited playable formats, no line output, no USB DAC function, etc. But I think iPod has better UI, and especially the automatic playlists, the recently added, recently played, and Top 25 most played playlists are quite useful.  

    11P1260172.jpg Size comparison with Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPod classic 6th gen.
     

     


    Comparison with Astell&Kern AK100 (first generation)

    AK100 20 ohms output impedance might not be suitable for some multi drivers IEMs, so for fair comparison, I mostly use single driver IEM, but also tried the DN-1000 and DN-2000 hybrid just for comparison. For example, DUNU DN-2000 has wonderful matching with X3 2nd gen, it sounds transparent and holographic, with excellent detail. on AK100, DN-2000 bass is slightly boosted, and treble level is slightly less than X3 2nd gen. Overall still sounds balanced and enjoyable, and I do like AK100 pairing with DN-2000. With DN-1000, the difference is even more audible, as DN-1000 starting to lose its transparency on AK100.
    The difference is quite audible between X3 2nd gen & AK100 when comparing them using multi driver IEM.
     

    Operation wise, X3 2nd gen feels quicker and more responsive than AK100. Probably due to simpler OS and the lack of touch screen. As for the size, AK100 is smaller. About similar width and thickness, but much shorter.  

    AK100 sounds warmer and a little smoother than X3 2nd gen. AK100 also has slightly stronger and fuller bass presence. While X3 2nd gen sounds more transparent and open sounding. Vocal sounds fuller and more intimate on AK100, and overall I do prefer the smooth and intimate vocal on AK100 for pop music. If you like open sounding vocal, X3 2nd gen vocal sounds a tad more open and transparent. But the difference is not much. I also notice that the perceived transient is slightly faster on X3 2nd gen. Both have good imaging, with excellent detail and dynamic. Though the price difference is quite high here, IMHO X3 2nd gen doesn't sound inferior to AK100. They do have different character, but I don't hear one player to be inferior to the other. It is all depending on personal preferences, as well as matching the right earphone to the player. For example with ATH-IM50, X3 2nd gen transparent signature really helps to balance the warm and bassy signature of the IM50, in this case, better than AK100. While AK100 might be better on other pairing. In general, those who like smooth & warm character with stronger bass will find AK100 is preferable, while those who prefer transparency will find X3 2nd gen is really a good deal.  

     


    Comparison with iBasso DX90

    DX90 sounds a little more transparent and powerful than X3 2nd gen, with better dynamic. DX90 treble sounds more extended with more treble sparkles. It also makes DX90 a little more prone to sibilant as compared to X3 2nd gen. Bass punches harder and fuller on DX90. Both the sparkling treble and more powerful bass make DX90 sounds livelier. But vocal sounds a little smoother on X3 2nd gen, less grain, more focused and rounded. Sometime I do like vocal of the X3 2nd gen a little better than DX90, especially with matching IEMs such as DN-2000 and ATH-IM50. DX90 vocal may sounds a little sharp and grainy sometime. But again it comes back to matching. With smooth sounding full size headphones like my new ATH-R70x, DX90 sounds better, more open sounding with better detail.
     

    Soundstage presentation is rather different between the two. DX90 imaging is perceived wider, while X3 2nd gen is perceived deeper. Both have excellent capability to produce 3D holographic imaging.  

    I observed that sound quality between low and high gain on X3 2nd gen is quite consistent. While on DX90 I always set it to high gain due to noticeably better sound quality at high gain. DX90 sounds tighter with better driving capability at high gain.  

    Though in general, I feel that DX90 is still a better sounding player, but the difference is not night and day despite of the double price. And X3 2nd gen comes pretty close.  


    Size comparison with AK100 & DX90:
    12P1020410.jpg  
    13P1020411.jpg  
    14P1020413.jpg  
     

     

     

    Features & Measurement

     

    Fiio has listed most of the features of X3 2nd gen here:
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/39
     
    The following are some of the features I would like to highlight or have been tested.  


    Line Output & SPDIF Coaxial Output

    Beside the headphone output, there is a switchable multi-function output, for analogue line output and digital SPDIF coaxial output. Selection is done in system settings menu. Headphone output is disconnected when line output or SPDIF output is connected.
     

    15P1260151.jpg  
     

    Line output level is fix at 1.45 Vrms (measured 1.46 Vrms), bypassing the digital volume control and digital equalizer. Probably due to the limitation of the battery voltage, the level is slightly below the standard 2 Vrms for line output. Some users provided feedback that it would be nice if there is an option to enable variable gain and equalizer for the line output.  

    SPDIF coaxial output connector pin assignment is different than the X3 and iBasso DX90. That means, we cannot use SPDIF cable from X3, for the X3 2nd gen SPDIF output. Older X3 and DX90 use the Tip and Shield of the 3.5 mm connector for SPDIF output. X3 2nd gen use the 4 poles TRRS 3.5 mm connector. From the Tip, Ring 1, Ring 2, & Shield (TRRS), X3 2nd gen SPDIF output uses the Ring 2 and Shield poles. Ring 2 connected to the ground or shield of the RCA connector, while the Shield pole of the 3.5 mm connected to the Tip of the RCA connector. So it is similar to CTIA standard for TRRS phone connector, the SPDIF coaxial output uses the microphone pole for the SPDIF signal. The new arrangement is quite make sense, since the SPDIF is sharing the same port with the line output.  

    16P1020849.jpg  
     

    The SPDIF coaxial output works for all PCM sampling rates from 44.1 kHz up to 192 kHz, including 88.2 kHz and 176.4 kHz. SPDIF output sampling frequency follows the sampling frequency of the audio file.  

    The interesting part of the SPDIF output is when X3 2nd gen playing DSD64 files. Instead of muting, the SPDIF output will output 88.2 kHz PCM signal, converted from the DSD64 files. So X3 2nd gen functions as DSD to PCM converter. Brilliant! But please take note, DSD128 is not supported by the SPDIF output, therefore when the multi-function output is set to 'Coax Out', DSD128 files are not playable. In order to play DSD128, the output must be set to Line Out.  

    17P1020890.jpg  
     


    CTIA Inline Remote

    Another interesting feature is the compatibility with inline remote. Using earphones or IEMs with microphone and inline remote, the remote middle answer button functions as the following on X3 2nd gen:
    1 click: Play or stop
    2 clicks: Next song
    3 clicks: Previous song
     

    Please take note, X3 2nd gen only supports the more common CTIA standard, not the less common OMTP headphone jack standard. More info here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_connector_(audio)
     
     


    USB DAC & USB OTG

    Beside a standalone player, X3 2nd gen also functions as USB DAC. All PCM sampling rates from 44.1 kHz up to 192 kHz are supported, including DSD64 format. DSD128 is not supported in DAC mode. Probably not yet. DSD playback method in foobar is using the common DoP Marker setting.
     

    18P1010368.jpg  
    192015-06-08_093819.png  
     

    The micro B USB port also supports USB OTG storage. Using the common USB OTG cable for Android smartphone or tablet, X3 2nd gen can access flash storage connected to the OTG cable. I tested PNY 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive (formatted in exFAT), as well as Transcend USB 3.0 card reader to read micro SD, so far the OTG function works well. This feature is quite useful especially if we have a full micro SD in the player, but want to try some audio files with the player. Simply copy the files to a flash drive, and plug it to the OTG cable.  

    20P1020294.jpg  
     


    Storage

    Officially supported file format is FAT32, up to 128GB maximum capacity, and it is recommended to use the player to format the micro SD card. Nevertheless, I found that X3 2nd generation (firmware v1.1) supports exFAT file system as well. At the time of this review, I haven't seen this feature mentioned on Fiio website, but I have tested both 64GB micro SD and 128GB USB flash drive connected using OTG cable, both formatted in exFAT, and both were supported by X3 2nd gen. I have tested exFAT cluster size 32kb, 128kb, and 256kb, all work. Though during testing, exFAT file system works fine most of the time, but some users reported that occasionally they have issues playing 24/192 PCM files and DSD files from exFAT storage. exFAT support is probably still in early stage and need further development, but this is a good sign to support larger storage in the future.
     

     


    Media Library

    The media library scanning is quite fast, faster than DX90 and AK100. It scans 1114 songs in about 21 seconds. Currently, with firmware 1.1, media library maximum capacity is 5800 songs. Not sure if the capacity will be expanded in future firmware update, but IMHO, 5800 is generally sufficient for 64GB storage. With 64 GB micro SD, in average we could use around 59.5 GB of storage space. Averaging some of my collection, around 2739 songs, a mixture of MP3 320kbps & AAC 512kbps, resulting an approximate of 11 MB file size per song. It means, for high quality lossy formats, 59.5 GB could hold around 5400 songs. Most of my songs are in FLAC format (mixture of standard and high resolution), which is in average around 4-5 times larger than 320 kbps MP3 file. Therefore the 5800 songs of media library capacity is quite sufficient for 64 GB storage, especially for mixture of lossy and lossless formats. But when 128 GB is getting cheaper and more popular, it might not be enough for a collection with mostly lossy formats.
     

    But please take note, that this 5800 capacity is 'Media Library' capacity, and not X3 2nd gen file browsing capacity. The file browser is not limited by the media library capacity. We can have 128GB storage with much more than 5800 songs, and we can browse them all using the file browsing feature. Since most of my song collections are folder organized, I never used the media library so far, and always use file browser to select songs. So the 5800 limitation is not relevant if we browse our songs using file browser. But I could imagine if in the future the playlist management has been much improved, more will start using the media library function, and with 128GB storage, the 5800 capacity will need to be expanded.  

     


    File Formats

    Tested the following file formats & sampling rate, except the DXD format, all are playable, including DSD files, both DSF and DFF format, in both DSD64 and DSD128 resolution.
     

    212014-10-25_230656.png  
    222014-10-25_230716.png  
    232015-06-08_101609.png  
     


    CD & SACD Image

    Supporting various common audio formats is probably not something unique these days, but playing CD images and SACD ISO images directly from the player is not what many portable players claim able to do. This is especially useful for those who backup their collection of CDs and SACDs as images.
     

    I've tested the following CD images format:
    CD_Image.ape + CD_Image.cue
    CD_Image.flac + CD_Image.cue
    CD_Image.wav + CD_Image.cue  

    242014-10-25_230441.png  

    All are playable on X3 2nd gen. Only gapless playback on CD image is still not perfect, with a very short, probably around 0.3-0.4 second gap. Hopefully future firmware upgrade will fix it.  

    The neat way to organize the image files is probably to put each of the image file in a separate folder, with proper naming. But we have the option to put all the CD images together in the same folder. The displayed artwork for the CD Image playback will follow the file name of the CD image file. So just name the artwork jpeg files accordingly, with the same file name as the associated CD image, and X3 2nd gen will display the artwork accordingly.  

    25P1260128.jpg  
    26P1260129.jpg  
    27P1260130.jpg  
     

    Also tested SACD ISO image that was placed in a folder together with artwork jpeg file with different file name, and X3 2nd gen has no problem displaying the artwork file while playing the SACD ISO file.  

    Please take note some of the following limitations for DSD playback. Some SACD ISO images might be in DST format (compressed DSD) and is not supported by X3 2nd gen. The solution is to convert the ISO image to DFF files, with DST to DSD conversion option selected. When I found some the SACD ISO images were not playable by X3 2nd gen, I was not aware of the DST codec. I have to thank @WayneWoondirts for the tips to check the DST codec! ISO image in DST format may be converted to DFF files using Sonore ISO2DSD (freeware). The other limitation is surround DSD files. Fiio X3 2nd gen is a stereo player, meaning DSD 5.0 and 5.1 files are not supported. Only 2.0 DSD file is supported.  

     


    Display Quality & User Interface

    There is not much improvement for the LCD display from previous X3, most probably to keep the cost low. But I do hope that in the next generation X3, Fiio would improve the quality of the LCD display, especially to improve the contrast & resolution. It is difficult to use the display in bright outdoor condition. And it would be nice to have higher resolution display.
     

    28P1260097.jpg  
     

    In my opinion, the new wheel navigation is preferable over the buttons navigation on the old X3. The X3 2nd gen wheel and buttons arrangement are quite intuitive and easy to use. User interface has also been improved and quite user friendly.  

    What I would like to be improved is the back button behaviour and playlist management.  

    1. I prefer for the back button to have the following behaviour:
    Short click from the currently playing song is dedicated to always bring back one level up to the song file directory, or one level up of the playlist hierarchy, for example back to the list of songs in the album.
    Currently, once we long press the back button to go to the home menu, when we go back to the currently playing song, when we short click the back button, it won't bring us back to the song's folder or album, but goes back to home menu.  

    2. Automatic playlists such as:
    Recently played:
    Songs; Albums; Folders; Artists
    Most frequently played:
    Songs; Albums; Folders; Artists
    Recently added:
    Songs; Albums; Folders; Artists  

    Something like this:
    29P1260112.jpg  
     


    Equalizer

    Equalizer is standard 10 bands digital equalizer with +/- 6 dB adjustment. Equalizer only works for PCM files with sampling rate 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz. It doesn't function for higher sampling rate and DSD files. When EQ is on, it reduces the whole level by 6 dB to provide a 6 dB headroom for EQ adjustment.
     

    30P1260109.jpg  
     

    This is quite a common implementation in today's digital audio players. I would like to suggest a slightly different approach to Fiio (and other vendors). I suggest integrating the digital volume and the digital equalizer, so headroom calculation can be done in an integrated manner. Instead of cutting the volume by 6 dB immediately when EQ is activated, why not just reduce the maximum volume instead. For example, if maximum volume is let say 18 dB without EQ, when EQ is activated maximum volume is reduced to 12 dB max, providing the 6 dB headroom for EQ. The digital volume control is limited to 12 at max when EQ is activated, instead of 18 dB max without EQ. The reason is, when using IEMs, we seldom use near the maximum volume, so there will be some headroom from digital volume control that can be used for EQ. When EQ is activated, users don't have to experience that the overall volume is reduced, because EQ is using the leftover headroom from the digital volume control. Only the maximum level of the volume control is reduced when EQ is activated. In headroom calculation, it might looks the same, but different user experience, since user no longer has to adjust the volume when activating EQ.  

    For example, maximum volume of X3 2nd gen is at level 120, and -6 dB from maximum is at level 108 (the same for both high and low gain). So, just make it that when equalizer is enabled, reduce the ceiling of maximum volume level from 120 to 108. Most of the time my listening volume with my IEMs, DN-2000, DN-1000, ATH-IM50 are only in the range from 40 to 70. If the ceiling of max volume is lowered from 120 to 108, it is not affecting the playback volume, and I don't have to adjust the volume when enabling equalizer. My 2 cents :wink:  

     


    Power Management and Battery

    Mentioned earlier, the newly implemented sleep / hibernation feature is a very welcomed feature. Sleep when idle can be set between 1 to 8 minutes. Sleep mode is indicated by blue LED. The LED will turn off when in sleep mode, and the player consumes less than 5 mW of battery power. To activate the player, press the power button.
     

    From my experience, battery life is pretty good. Though battery life varies by many factors, with more than 2 months of almost daily use, I don't feel the battery capacity is lacking.  

    X3 2nd gen uses similar 0.8 mm P2 pentalobe screws to those found on the iPhone 4. Using the pentalobe screwdriver from generic smartphone tool kit, we can open the back of the X3 2nd gen. Pictures below shown the battery and circuit board or the X3 2nd gen. The battery seems to be removable.  

    31P1020397.jpg  
    32P1020393.jpg  
    33P1020359.jpg  
    34P1020343.jpg DIY expert might know how to open the battery connector.
     
     


    EMI Rejection

    As mentioned earlier, the X3 2nd gen all-metal chassis design has improved the EMI rejection from the first generation X3. X3 also has metal chassis, but EMI rejection is not as good as the X3 2nd gen. Using X3 2nd gen, now I'm no longer annoyed by EMI when holding the audio player side by side with my smartphone.
     

    The following video is showing a simple EMI test using the base of home DECT phone. The base of DECT phone is transmitting consistent radio signal, that easily interfered audio players on close distant. A simple electromagnetic transmitter for EMI test.  

    35P1020075.jpg  
     

    The test setup is simple:
    4 players: Fiio X3, Fiio X3 2nd gen, iBasso DX90, & Astell&Kern AK100.
    All players were set to high gain (except AK100 which doesn't have gain adjustment), and the volume was set to 0.5 Vrms when playing 0 dBFS 100 Hz sine wave. So output level were equal.
    During the test all players were playing silent track.
    Headphone output of DUT (Device Under Test) connected to Line Input 1 (Left) and 2 (Right) of Zoom H6, gain set to 7.
    Zoom H6 headphone output connected to a small active speaker (Creative Woof), to monitor the sound of the EMI noise.
    Video recording was using Panasonic DMC-FZ1000. Sound in the video was recorded from the speaker sound using the FZ1000 build-in mic. No audio post processing.  

    http://youtu.be/OQsoGI-uzYE
    [​IMG]
     

    From the Zoom H6 recorded file, we can see that Fiio X3 2nd gen has the best EMI immunity from other players in the test.  

    362015-05-28_EMI_Test_4players.png  
     


    Headphone Output

    The following is some measurement of the headphone output. I don't have lab grade accuracy measurement instruments, or dedicated audio analyzer, so the measurement result should be taken as estimated value.
     

    Low gain maximum output voltage at 600 ohms: 1.345 Vrms / 3.8 Vpp
    High gain maximum output voltage at 600 ohms: 2.69 Vrms / 7.6 Vpp
     

    Low gain output impedance: 0.34 ohm
    High gain output impedance: 0.39 ohm
     

    37P1020489.jpg  
     

    Measured power output:

    My digital oscilloscope doesn't do THD measurement, but it has FFT feature. Power output criteria is maximum output at less than 1% THD. To estimate the maximum output voltage before the waveform get distorted, I visually monitor the waveform on oscilloscope, and monitor the FFT window to keep the harmonic distortion is less than 40 dB (100 times) from the main frequency.
     

    Maximum volume before distortion, at 20Hz & 200Hz on 15 ohms load (at volume 106 - high gain):
    38FiioX3II-HOHiG-15ohmsVol106-20HzGood.png  
    39FiioX3II-HOHiG-15ohmsVol106-200HzGood.png  
     

    Waveform started to get distorted, at 20Hz & 200Hz on 15 ohms load (at volume 107 - high gain):
    40FiioX3II-HOHiG-15ohmsVol107-20HzBad.png  
    41FiioX3II-HOHiG-15ohmsVol107-200HzBad.png  
     

    For low impedance load, I made a custom cable as shown below, where the load is connected using 4 pins XLR. This way I can use the cable with various load, including balanced headphone.  

    42P1020853.jpg  
     

    Maximum output voltage at high gain, at 15 ohms load:
    At 20 Hz: 1.157 Vrms (volume @ 106)
    At 200 Hz: 1.167 Vrms (volume @ 106)
    Average: 1.162 Vrms
    Maximum current at 15 ohms load: 1.162 / 15 = 77.5 mA  

    Maximum output voltage (Vrms) at high gain, at 600 ohms load: 2.69 Vrms  

    Calculated maximum power output @ 32 ohms: 192 mW
    Calculated maximum power output @ 300 ohms: 24 mW
     

     


    Line Output:

    Measured output impedance: 99 ohms
    Measured maximum output voltage: 1.46 Vrms
    Line output is fix gain, bypassing the digital volume control and digital equalizer.
     

     


    RMAA Test Results

    Audio interface for RMAA test is using HRT LineStreamer+. HRT LineStreamer+ doesn't have any gain at the input stage, so it is a direct connection to the ADC stage, at 24bit-96kHz sampling rate. Line output is connected directly to HRT LS line input as shown below, while headphone output is connected with 600 ohms load (different cable).
     

    43P1020448.jpg  
     

    Please take note:

    RMAA test is only as good as the quality of the audio interface used for the measurement. And in most cases, only useful for verification purpose of the audio quality within the 20Hz to 20 kHz range. For example, most audio interface line input only have linear frequency response up to around 20 kHz, if I measure an amplifier with flat frequency response up to 100 kHz (which is common), RMAA test result will only shows frequency response up to 20 kHz. In this case RMAA test result doesn't reflect the frequency response of the amplifier under test, but the frequency response of the line input of the audio interface. Besides that, noise and total harmonic distortion result are also affected by the performance of the line input interface, which in many cases has inferior specification than the tested unit. Once again please take note, RMAA test is only for verification purpose, and not accurately reflecting the real specification of the equipment.
     

    Sampling mode: 24-bit, 96 kHz
    Fiio X3 2nd Generation Outputs: Line Output, Headphone Output at Low Gain & High Gain.

    44fr.png

     
    The frequency response (FR) graph is pretty close to the official FR graph published by Fiio. The HRT LineStreamer+ FR is 20Hz-20kHz in +0 / -.4 dB tolerance, so won't get better result than that even if the player FR is flatter. From the individual output result, I don't see any issue with channel imbalance. Output level balance between Left and Right channels is good.  

     

     

    That concludes my Fiio X3 2nd generation review. It is a wonderful audio player, very reasonably priced, with performance that exceeds many other players in the category. Congrats to Fiio!

    47P1020896.jpg

     
       

     

    Additional pictures:

     

    Accessories:
    48P1260173.jpg  
    Fiio X3 2nd gen comes with silicon protection case and screen protector. One of the screen protector already applied to the player from factory.  

     

    User Guide:
    49P1020898.jpg  
    50P1020899.jpg  
     

    System Settings:
    51P1260098.jpg  
    52P1260099.jpg  
    53P1260100.jpg  
     

    Play Settings:
    54P1260107.jpg  
    55P1260108.jpg  
     


    Equipment used in this review:

     

    Headphones:
    Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
    Audio-Technica MSR7LTD
    Audio-Technica M50
    Philips Fidelio X1
    Philips SHP9500
    Sennheiser HD 800
    Shure SRH840
    Yamaha HPH-200
     

    Earphones / IEMs:
    Audio-Technica ATH-IM50
    Audio-Technica ATH-IM70
    DUNU DN-1000
    DUNU DN-2000
    DUNU Titan 1  

    DAPs, DACs & Headphone Amplifiers:
    Apple iPod Classic 6th gen 80GB
    Astell&Kern AK100 (loan)
    Fiio X3
    Fiio X3 2nd gen
    Fiio E12DIY (Op-Amp OPA827 + Buffer LME49600)
    iBasso DX90
    ifi micro iDSD (firmware 4.06)
    Mytek Stereo192-DSD  

    Computer & Player:
    DIY Desktop PC: Gigabyte GA-H77-D3H-MVP motherboard, Intel i7-3770, 16 GB RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1.
    foobar2000 v1.3.3  

    Measurement & Other Instrument:
    Amprobe Digital Multimeter AM-160
    Amprobe Pocket Meter PM51A
    Owon VDS3102 Digital Storage Oscilloscope
    Velleman PCSU 200 PC Scope & Generator
    Zoom H6  

     

    Some recordings used in this review:

    56Albums2015-01.jpg

     













































































































































  9. interpolate
    5.0/5,
    "Cracking value"
    Pros - Good sound, very portable.
    Cons - UI is a little clunky. Jog dial rattles when being used.
    I just bought this recently and so far  I am very impressed by the quality of this unit. It's a very capable unit capable of many things other than just playing music. The DAC mode is good for anybody wanting to upgrade their sound interface on a laptop. There is 4 ways of output,USB device into PC/Music system, headphone (Low and High Gain) and Line Out and Digital Coax options. It is also capable of decoding DSD in file format using DSF downloads at 2.8Mhz/5.6MHz (64/128 fs) or SACD ISO files through software or on the device itself. Although I haven't been able to try the latter as yet.
     
    The UI is a little basic to say the least however it does what it says on the tin. It shouldn't take long to learn however this is no iOS or Android (technically it is) interface in appearance, it seems more like a Symbian environment without the Java. When you just want to play music you shouldn't need too many options. There's not much in the way control although it does feature an equaliser, stereo balance and favourites tool for keeping your best tunes in the one place.
     
    You can research the parts such as the DAC and Amplifier components elsewhere. A quick summary would be it will drive a lot of headphones such as sensitive IEM to Studio reference headphones under the $500 bracket with no issues. The stated range is up to 150 Ohm headphone resistance which will cover a lot of options. I tried my Shure SE425 IEM with them and the sufficient gain really makes them shine. Also gone is the electronics hiss I was getting from my mobile phone. Then I tried my AKG K702 on High Gain which use 62 Ohm and 200mW drivers and is harder to drive due the AKG driver design although it's clean and impressive for a small player.
     
    Music auditioned:
     
    Pink Floyd - The Endless River (24/96 FLAC)
    Chase 'n' Status - No More Idols (160K MP3)
    The Orb - Blue Room (40 Minute mix - 128K MP3)
    No Doubt (256K M4A)
    Emeli Sandé (320K MP3)
     
    and some other FLAC 44.1K/16 bit encodes direct from my CD collection.
     
    To create some DSD files I used Cakewalk Sonar Platinum which exports 1-bit 2.8Mhz/5.6Mhz formats by using the SSE3 found on CPU processors. This information was given to me by the CTO Noel Borthwick although the actual DSP codec was created by someone at Tascam.
     
    If you do prefer your other music interface then you can use it as a DAC and bind them together with a USB OTG cable which will turn your mobile device into a portable hi-fi device, if you don't mind the chunkiness. There is a few options of connection and is compatible with Windows 7 onwards and Mac OS X. I'm not sure about Linux however there is always a workaround there.
     
     
    So would I recommend it?
     
    Yes, if you don't mind the fact it has no internal memory and relies on external SD. Officially you are restricted to 128GB although maybe this limit will be lifted when more Fiio products become available. The next model up X5/X5 ii offer two slots meaning you double the potential and a slightly improved amplifier stage. I can't fault it for the majority of things I have currently thrown at it. The TF/SD card slot threw me at first. The picture shows a straight insert of the memory card however the actual insertion requires snapping the card in at an angle.
     
     
    To summarise, this is a great piece of kit and great introduction to the world of high-end portable players.
  10. chowmein83
    4.5/5,
    "One of the best sounding pieces of audio gear for $200 and under, period."
    Pros - Sound quality, great ergonomics, offers so much for the money
    Cons - Screen is hard to read in sunlight. Some glitches in the firmware and USB DAC driver.
    Table of Contents
    • Introduction
    • Usability and Ergonomics
    • Sound Quality
      • How does it pair with certain headphones?
      • How does it compare to other audio gear?
    • For whom is this player good for?
    • Conclusion
     
    (Before I even begin the disclaimer, I want to warn and apologize to the reader that my review will be long. Thus, you can click on the table of contents above to jump to whichever section you want. I’ll also include a summary tl;dr summary at the beginning of each section.)  
     
    Introduction
     
    Tl;dr: Just stating FiiO lent me the unit and some of my personal history.
     
    Before I begin my review, I would like to thank Joe Bloggs and the rest of the team at FiiO for providing an X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen loan unit for 10 days to review. FiiO has not paid me whatsoever in the making of this review, and is only asking for my honest opinion. I actually think this says a lot about them – they’re confident that they’ve made a good product, and don’t need to pay people off for them to say good things.
     
    And you know what, they absolutely have every reason to think so.
     
    Before I get into why the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is a great product, I’d like to explain a bit of my audiophile background and how it specifically relates to FiiO. I actually began my journey with FiiO – their E7 portable DAC/amp combo was the first real piece of audio gear (besides headphones) that I bought. I thought that it sounded so good that soon not long after their E17 came out, I bought that as well and used it for the next year or so. However, after listening to other people’s gear, I started to notice what was missing from my FiiO gear and how my tastes in sound signature was changing. My E17 started to sound a bit too dark for my tastes. This was what caused me to stay away from FiiO entirely for a while.
    Fast forward a year or two later. I wanted a good-sounding portable device because my smartphone just wasn’t cutting it. So I started to look at DAPs, and specifically noticed that FiiO had branched into there. I still had a soft spot for FiiO because they were my introduction into the audiophile world, so I thought “why not?” and sought out to somehow audition the X5. And when I did – I was impressed. FiiO had come a long way in making their stuff sound so much better. So when I saw that FiiO was planning a tour for the new X3, I immediately jumped at the chance.
     
    Needless to say, after my experience with the X5 I had high expectations for the X3.
     
     
     
     
    Usability and Ergonomics
     
    Tl;dr: Great ergonomics and responsive UI. Good battery life. Screen is hard to read under sunlight. Some glitches with the firmware and USB DAC driver.
     
    I’m not going to spend too much time in this section, mainly because the many other reviews have already done an excellent job of covering these aspects. However, I will comment on several things that jumped out to me.
    First are the in-line controls. They pretty much worked flawlessly as advertised and without much delay (like half a second after my button presses), using my Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear, which only has a single button to the mic. These controls are very convenient for whomever happens to have such an IEM or headphone with these controls, as it literally allows you to do all of the playing functions without ever taking the X3 out of your pocket, or bag, or whatever have you.
     
    Second is the responsive UI. The X3 pretty much flies through its menus very quickly without hiccups. Playing even DSD files doesn’t elicit much, if at all, of a slowdown from the X3. And I remember the X5, when I auditioned it, sometimes could not keep up with the user changing the volume too quickly using the scroll wheel (this may have been changed with later firmware). Not so with the X3 – it always changed the volume as fast as I could spin the wheel. Also, the “deep hibernation” mode works flawlessly – it’s really convenient having the player pretty much boot up instantly after putting itself into a power conservation mode. And even if you don’t use that feature, I find that a full boot-up of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen doesn’t take all that long – certainly a lot faster than the Android smartphones that I’m used to.
     
    Third are the great ergonomics and feel in the hand. For anybody who is wondering how on earth does putting the power button and the volume buttons on the same side and relatively close to each other work, FiiO has got you covered. One, the power button is spaced out enough so that it sits by its lonesome so that one is not likely to mistake it for the volume buttons. Two, the power button is nearly flush to the body of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen while the volume buttons are significantly raised up. I find it hard to believe that people will mistake the power and volume buttons with these design considerations. I also find that indicating which button is the volume up button by putting a slight protruding point on it is a nice touch.
     
    Volume and power buttons are clearly distinguished by distance and height
     ​
     ​
    Another view of the volume and power buttons
     ​
     ​
    X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen fits nicely into the hand – not too big to tire your hands, with nicely rounded corners
     ​
     ​
    The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen isn’t terribly thick – though it is noticeably thicker compared to the HTC One M7
     ​
     ​
    From top to bottom: Sony Walkman NWZ-S716F, X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen, HTC One M7
     ​
     
    However, not all is good with the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen here. The major thing that I’m not happy about is that the volume buttons stop working under certain conditions. (This isn’t fixed as of firmware version 1.1.) I’m not sure how to exactly cause this bug, but under certain conditions the volume buttons will simply just stop working, or, in other cases, allow you to only change the volume for a few steps before it stops working. A reboot of the player solves this, and holding down the center button will always allow you to change the volume with the scroll wheel, but it is annoying.
     
    Also, while the screen is actually better than I thought because it’s reasonably sharp, it lacks contrast and viewing angles aren’t great. This doesn’t really matter because I’m not constantly looking at the screen of a DAP. But the fact that even with max brightness, I can’t really see the screen even under moderate sunlight does matter.
     
    A quick word on the USB DAC functionality – it pretty much works flawlessly, with the exception of a bug that I found using Windows 8.1. Setting up the drivers was not difficult and even setting up DSD playback in Foobar2000 was not too difficult. However, there is a bug to the drivers that I can consistently reproduce – if you try playing DSD using Foobar2000 in actual DSD mode, and then attempt to switch to playing the same DSD track except converting it to 176.4 kHz PCM, the music will start to dropout and stutter. The only way to really solve this is to unplug the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen from the USB port and then plug it back in. This is not a huge deal for most users, but I thought I should mention it.
     
    As for battery life, I’ll just mention that I clocked the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen being able to run nine hours. This was with it playing a mix of CD quality, high-resolution PCM (24 bit 48 kHz files and above), and DSD files, driving my 35 ohm impedance HiFiMAN HE-400i on low gain at a volume of 73/120. Seems pretty decent to me, no?
     
    Sound Quality
     
    Tl;dr: The X3’s overall sound signature allows it to pair well with lots of different headphones. It doesn’t sound underpowered even with full size headphones. For some headphones, the sound on the X3 is good as it gets short of using expensive desktop equipment. The X3 compares well to lots of portable devices and even does well against desktop equipment in its price range.
     
    We now get to the juicy part of the review. How does the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen sound like?
     
    I would classify the sound signature as very neutral, with perhaps a (very) slight dark tilt. In my opinion, the neutral sound signature allows it to pair very well with warmer sounding headphones and IEMs. The slight dark tilt also allows brighter sounding headphones to be less fatiguing without taking away their fundamental character (I like my sparkle in the treble, so this is good for me). To me, FiiO has somehow managed to infuse the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen with a sound signature that pairs well with just about any common sound signature you can find in a pair of headphones/IEMs.
     
    Soundstage is of about medium width, and with really good depth that allows headphones with good layering capabilities to shine (it’s about as good as a $200 product can get). Imaging is also pretty good on the unit – this is due to the previously-mentioned good depth, and because of pretty decent separation between instruments. There’s no smearing at all between instruments when playing complex music on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen, and even slight details cleanly come through.
     
    I also find the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen to have a somewhat aggressive kind of sound, and not laid-back. By this, I mean that the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen really emphasizes the differences in dynamic range, and somewhat pushes the music to be in front of you. So the music is punchy and is somewhat forward on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen. But it’s not to the point where I would find the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen to be fatiguing to listen to for long periods of time.
     
    How does it pair with certain headphones?
     
    I used the following headphones/IEMs to test out the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen: Klipsch Image X10, Sennheiser HD598, Sennheiser HD700, HiFiMAN HE-400i, and Fostex T50RP (self-modded).
     
    With the Image X10:
     
     
    The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen really nicely brings out the body in the bass of the Image X10. But it doesn’t do this at the expense of the mids and treble – which I find the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen to also bring out nicely without being drowned out by the bass, and handles with finesse. This is an example of how I mentioned earlier that the neutral sound signature of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen pairs well with warmer sounding IEMs like the X10. The X10 is not among the most highly sensitive IEMs, and will definitely respond to good amping. The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen provides enough clean power that I can definitely hear the differences between it and other portable music devices when using the X10 – mainly, this is by giving the mids and trebles a smoother but yet more defined character that lesser audio gear can’t do to my X10. In fact, using the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen I’m not sure how much better the X10 can sound without resorting to much more expensive desktop setups that cost much more than the X10 itself (yes, I have actually listened to the X10 on my much more expensive desktop gear).
     
    With the HD598:
     
     
    In my opinion, the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen pairs wonderfully with the HD598. I think the HD598 has a slightly bright character, and so the very slightly dark but overall neutral nature of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen allows the mids and highs of the HD598 to shine without it becoming fatiguing at all). The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is definitely not underpowered when it comes to driving the HD598 – there’s no real graininess to the mids and highs, and really allows music with great dynamic range to come through powerfully. While the medium width soundstage of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen doesn’t allow to HD598 to fully present that expansive soundstage, the great depth of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen allows the layering capabilities of the HD598 to really shine. The very good imaging capabilities of the HD598 also shine with the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen since the DAP is able to do a great job at separating instruments and putting them together in a coherent soundstage. The only thing that I may even have a complaint about is that the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen doesn’t fully bring out the last bit of bass from the HD598, but again that’s only possible with expensive desktop equipment that costs much more than the headphone itself. In fact, that’s a pretty good summary of how the HD598 sounds on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen – it’s not going to get much better than this unless you use something crazy expensive.
     
    With the HD700:
     
     
    How well does the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen drive the HD700, which costs much more than the DAP itself and being rated at 150 ohms is the limit of what the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is rated for? Surprisingly well, in fact. The slightly dark character of the X3’s sound really takes the edge off of the HD700’s treble and makes it a far less fatiguing listen – but it won’t transform the HD700 into an entirely different headphone. Bass and dynamic range also come nicely through the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen, but one can only still squeeze that last bit of depth and body to the bass using desktop equipment. Mids and highs also come through quite nicely, though it lacks that last bit of extension and refinement that again, only much more expensive equipment can provide. Details are also plentiful with the X3/HD700 combo. The soundstage width and depth of the HD700 through the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is definitely reduced compared to desktop gear, but is still good enough to allow the excellent imaging, layering, and coherency of the HD700’s soundstage to come through. Overall, I am pretty happy with the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen powering the HD700 despite having heard how it sounds on more expensive gear.
     
    With the HiFiMAN HE-400i:
     
     
    We have here a planar magnetic headphone, though it is one the easier ones to drive. So how does the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen fare with the HE-400i? Actually pretty dang well, I’d say. While the bass of the 400i with the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen doesn’t hit as deep as with a desktop amplifier, it still has plenty of body and sounds very satisfying. The neutral nature of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen also allows the great mids and highs of the 400i to shine, but they are a bit unrefined compared to more expensive desktop equipment. Vocals especially sound a tiny bit raspy and bright compared to the best I’ve heard the 400i in – but it’s far from being unsatisfying. The great depth and imaging (due to the good separation and decently wide sound stage the X3 gives the headphone) of the 400i is apparent with paired with the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen – a plus in my book. All in all, the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen doesn’t really sound underpowered with the 400i – especially if you don’t compare it to much more expensive equipment. This pairing truly is a satisfying experience, even though I usually use much more expensive gear to drive the HE-400i.
     
    With the modded Fostex T50RP:
     
     
    To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of this combo – how could a portable device be able to really drive the T50RP, when modded craves lots of power? However, the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen pleasantly surprised me by pairing relatively well to the T50RP. The mids and highs were definitely a bit grainy compared to listening on higher-end desktop equipment but not so much as to suggest that the T50RP was woefully underpowered, and bass seemed a bit boomy by being able to only draw out the mid-bass and not as much of the sub-bass. However, the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen still allowed the Fostex to retain its good imaging and separation, and didn’t really make the soundstage any smaller than it already is. And like with the Klipsch Image X10, the X3’s neutral signature paired well with the darker nature of my modded T50RP so that the sound had plenty of body and lower range emphasis but retained just enough sparkle in the treble to make for a captivating listening experience.
     
    If what I just said makes it sound like the modded Fostex T50RP sounds like total crap on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen, it doesn’t. To really convey how impressed I am that the $200 X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen can drive the T50RP, let me offer the following anecdote: I’ve actually listened to my modded T50RP through the Sony NWZ-ZX2 and AK100ii. I distinctly remember feeling that both of those DAPs were underpowered because they made the mids and highs on the T50RP sound somewhat hazy and grainy. The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen from my experience does not suffer from this. Enough said.
     
    How does it compare to other audio gear?
     
    These are the other amp and DACs that I had on hand to compare to the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen: Sony Walkman NWZ-S716F, HTC One M7, FiiO E17, and Aune T1 mk1.
     
    Vs. the Sony Walkman NWZ-S716F (tiny little DAP)
     
     
    First off, let’s get this out of the way: the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen simply has a lot more driving power than the tiny Walkman. The Walkman somewhat struggles at making the HD598 sound really good while the X3 makes even the modded T50RP sound not half bad.
     
    Thus, my comparisons between the X3 and the Walkman are solely based on using my Klipsch X10. Overall, the sound on the Walkman is more hazy and blurred. For example, drum cymbal hits are “splashy” and all smeared together on the Walkman, while they are clearly distinct and sharp without going overboard on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen. Imaging is better, and the soundstage is much better on the X3 – there’s really no contest here. One can pick out the ambient cues and listen to the ambience of the recording room much better on the X3. Vocals are smoother and more defined on the X3. The bass on the X3 actually seems to punch less hard than on the Walkman, but in return the X3 provides bass that has more body and is more textured.
     
    Vs. the HTC One M7 (high-end, very good audio quality smartphone)
     
     
    Surprisingly, I would say that the M7 and the X3 have a similar amount of driving power – they both can drive cans like the X10 and the HD598 fine, and do a decent (but not the best) job at driving the HD700, HE-400i, and the modded T50RP. As for sound signature, the X3 is slightly brighter than the M7. However, despite being brighter, I find that the X3 somehow gives everything from vocals to guitars that extra bit of weight that makes it sound that more realistic than the M7. The level of detail presented between the two devices is surprisingly about the same – but this is not a knock to the X3, since I find the M7 to actually have a good amount of detail. The mids and treble on the M7 are perhaps a bit fuzzier and more unrefined than the X3, but it is a noticeable difference. The X3 also seems to be able to better portray dynamic range than the M7 – which gives the X3 the edge in classical music. The X3 also has a blacker background and better separation of instruments than the M7. Soundstage width between the two devices is about the same, but the much greater depth of the X3’s soundstage really makes the M7 sound flat soundstage-wise. Honestly, I’m impressed at how well the HTC One M7 stacks up against the X3. But make no mistake, the things that are better on the X3 really add up to make listening to it a better experience.
     
    Vs. the FiiO E17 (portable DAC/amp combo that the first gen X3 is based on)
     
     
    While I don’t exactly have a first generation X3 on hand to listen to, I do have an E17, which the first gen X3 is pretty much identical to in terms of hardware and supposedly even sound.
     
    Right off the bat, I can tell that the new X3 has much more treble extension and presents much more detail than the E17 does. The E17’s mids and treble are very smoothed over and really lacking in detail compared to the X3. Vocals especially sound much better on the new X3 than on the E17 and is quite noticeable. Not only are vocals on the X3 more detailed, but I can also hear the slight differences in intonations and volume changes in a person’s voice much more easily and the vocals really come to life compared to in the E17, whose vocals sound lifeless in comparison. As suggested by what I just said, the E17 definitely has a warmer sound than the new X3, though it isn’t excessively warm. The E17 has a slight mid-bass emphasis which simply isn’t there on the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen – the latter of which is more to my taste.
     
    While soundstage width on the X3 and the E17 are comparable, depth is noticeably better on the X3. Things just simply feel closer to you on the E17. Background details in the mix of the music are more apparent and imaging is better on the X3 due to a blacker background and better separation.
     
    One thing that the E17 has that the X3 doesn’t is some kind of weird “glare” at certain frequencies to the sound. Some things sound artificially louder and “brightened” than what sounds natural to me, as if FiiO were trying to make it sound like there is more detail than what there actually is due to the really smoothed out top end of the E17. For example, brass instruments sound like they should on the X3, but for some reason are brighter and somewhat harsher than what should be right to me on the E17.
     
    Overall, I think the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is a pretty substantial jump in audio quality compared to the E17.
     
    A quick note comparing the amps of the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen and the E17 – to be honest, I think they’re mostly comparable in terms of driving power and quality. I think this means that the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is not really going to benefit from external amplification unless you get a really powerful and clean amp, given that the E17 amp is not that weak.
     
    Vs. Aune T1 mk1 (desktop DAC/amp combo for about the same price as the X3)
     
    The DAC sections: I compared the DAC parts of the Aune T1 mk1 and the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen with both using the Aune T1 headphone amp. With the stock EH6922 tube, I actually feel that the X3’s DAC section is better than that of the T1. With the EH6922 tube, the T1 actually sounds a bit veiled and sounds lacking in detail compared to the X3.  You hear much more airiness and notice tiny ambient cues much better with the X3 DAC. The soundstage with the X3 DAC is definitely deeper, while the width is comparable. Imaging and layering are much more precise on the X3 DAC than the T1 with the stock tube. For some reason, the bass on the X3 also hits harder and deeper. Overall, the X3’s DAC to my ears sounds better than the T1 with the stock tube.
     
    With the Aune T1 upgraded to an Amperex Orange Globe (OG) tube, the T1 and the X3 DACs are much more comparable. In fact, I would say they’re about the same quality, and that preference will dictate which one you prefer. The T1 with the OG tube does not sound veiled at all compared to the X3 – to me, they’re equally clear.  Soundstage width and depth are pretty much about the same between the two DACs. Imaging is equally clear and precise between the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen and the T1 with the OG tube. The only real differences that I notice are that the T1 with the OG tube seems to be slightly warmer than the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen, and that the X3 presents a more aggressive and dynamic sound while the T1 OG tube combo sounds a bit more laid-back.
     
    The amp sections: For this comparison, I compared using the X3 DAC’s section paired with its own built-in headphone amp and paired with the T1’s amp. The X3’s headphone amp presents a smaller soundstage (by a fair amount) in terms of both width and depth. The X3’s amp also seems to be somewhat warmer and “softer” than the T1 amp – for example, brass instruments seem to be “sharper” and a tiny bit more shrill sounding on the T1’s headphone amp. The T1 amp sounds more powerful because it sounds more “effortless” at driving more power hungry headphones such as the T50RP, HE-400i, and the HD700, as in the mids and highs are less etched and grainy. (Also, the T1’s amp can extract more and deeper bass from the aforementioned 3 headphones.)  However, the difference is not as big as you think (and is pretty much nonexistent with easier to drive full size headphones like the HD598).
     
    Also, the X3 has an advantage in driving IEMs due to its low output impedance. The Aune T1 mk1 I believe has an output impedance of 10 ohms, which does weird things to the frequency response of my Klipsch X10 by making the bass too boomy and making it too bright in certain parts of the treble. I have none of these problems with the X3.
     
     
     
    For whom is this player good for?
     
    Tl;dr: The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is not only good for anybody looking for a DAP $200 or less, but also for anybody who wants excellent sound for their computer in the same price range.
     
    I would argue that the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is not only right for people who are looking for a reasonably priced DAP $200 and under, but also for any audio enthusiast who wants have a nice sounding setup, DAC and amp and all, for $200 or less. The X3 has decent battery life, a responsive and well thought-out UI, and is portable enough to make it a strong contender for anybody looking for a DAP in this price range. On the other hand, the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen also has the handy USB DAC function which works pretty well and its sound quality is comparable to the best of the $200 or less desktop setups (based on my experience comparing to the Aune T1, itself which many think compares favorably to other popular desktop units in that price range such as the Schiit Modi/Magni combo). The DAC is also good enough that I feel somebody could still keep using it down the line and do justice to an upgraded portable or desktop amp. The X3 is a great choice for anybody who wants something that they can not only take with them on the go, but also plug into their computer and listen to at home without feeling they have made any real compromises.
     
    Conclusion
     
    Tl;dr: The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is a fantastic value. I highly recommend it.
     
    Has FiiO met my high expectations after I was impressed with their X5? Definitely yes, and they probably exceeded them by putting the amount of sound quality they did into such a small nice-feeling package and at that price point too. I know by now that I’m just gushing about how good the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen is, and you might be wondering if I really hadn’t been paid by FiiO to say all these things despite my disclaimer at the beginning. I really am that impressed, and judging by the other reviews, I don’t think I’m the only one.
     
    Overall, I really want to give the X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen a 5 out of 5 because of its incredible value, but since there are still some very minor problems (notably the volume problem and the USB DAC driver bugs) I noticed, I’m going to give it 4.5 out of 5. The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen comes highly recommended.
     
    This was my first review, and I know that it may not be perfect. If anybody has some suggestions on how to make my future reviews better (such as the length being too long, etc.) please feel free to let me know.
     
    x RELIC x and LikeABell like this.

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