FiiO X3 2nd gen Ultraportable Hi-Res DAP

Average User Rating:
4.44872/5,
  1. m1ku
    4.5/5,
    "Great budget portable music player"
    Pros - Very portable, great UI and battery life, warm sounding (subjective)
    Cons - Display is hard to read under sunlight
    Fiio X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] generation preview
     
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    Disclaimer: before jumping into the device itself, I have to talk a little bit about myself. I am still an amateur on the subject of sound quality, but I’ll try my best to describe my experience.
    And this device is from a preview tour. Hence the model named X3K as it is the early name. For other users, it will be “X3” on the box instead of “X3K”
    Upon removing the package from the box, it feels very well packaged.
     
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    While holding the device on my hand, it has the solid feel. Compare to the X1, it is a bit heavier, which is 29g heavier with the aluminum body instead of plastic. The best thing about being all metal is it is less likely to be interfered with any wireless devices near it. While testing it with my phone on top and having active wireless connection, I did not notice any static noise compare to the X1 with a plastic back.
    The silicon cover is a must have if you do not want to have scratches on the device. One downside of the silicone case is it prone to dust, but from my experience with the case, it does not get too much dirt and the dust that got stuck on it can be removed with the wipe of my fingers. A great thing about the silicone case is it has a cover for the line out/coaxial out jack, to prevent dust getting into it while not being used. The cutting for the 3.5mm audio jack is large enough to fit in any type of jacks as AKG, Shure and a few others who will understand.
     
    UI
    When booting up the device, it shows an animation which reminds me of the Google’s Lollipop boot animation. Not really sure how that would fit into the rest of the UI though…The main screen is almost identical to the X1 with a little bit of changes of colour in the theme. I would say the change is rather an improvement with a few better themes compare to the X1. There are six themes to choose from which I only found four of them to be usable. For example, the wood theme which has light colours on the pattern, it overlaps with the white texts, making it hard to read. The best thing however, is Fiio allows the user to customize their firmware and create our own themes, kudos for that!
    It recognize any characters, no matter it is English, Japanese or Chinese. Compare to other devices or music player that give me unreadable characters.
    In the Browse files section, even though I choose the language as English, it is showing TF-Card as TF- (Chinese character lol)
    I wonder if there is way to change the screen brightness without jumping through settings to change it. Perhaps having some key combo with the wheel?
     
    Feature
    The DAC mode can be a hazel to configure. While remembering the experience with the E07K was very simple and easy, the X3II is almost the opposite, but a bit of research got the problem solved. It would be nice if the configuration was easier. While using the X3II in dac mode, I am still able to navigate through different places which is a very nice option.
    It also has the gain feature to help boost the volume but with my current gears, it is not something I will be using. Another thing to note is the number of volume control is a bit more with 120 instead of 100 in the X1.
    I also features a standby mode which is similar to a smartphone, cutting down the booting time needed before enjoying your music.
    Battery life
    Through the week that I had been using, the battery life is pretty good. I got it charged to full while using it as a desktop dac at the beginning of the week and I hold for the rest of the week even after I sent it to the next person for the review. As my usage, I use the device around two hours per day while leaving it on standby mode.
     
    Display
    The display is pretty good if you are using it indoor and in dark environment. The display can be dimmed into a comfortable level, but it can be very hard to read under sunlight even at the brightest level.
     
    Sound quality
    With a few jazz music that has a bit bass in the background, it does not get as punchy as the X1 which I really like because on the X1, I will need to use the eq to soften the bass to have less fatigue.
    Overall, it sound warmer than the X1 which I find it similar to the Xiaomi Mi3, warm and punchier bass. Not until later that I found out both the X3II and Mi3 has the Cirrus chip which I see majority of the people find them having a warmer sound.
    This is the first time I ever listen to a song through the DSD format. Since I did not have any songs that is in that format, I was able to get a free one from Oppo website which is call “Vision of her” and I quite like the song! It sound really smooth and I can hear better separation of different instruments and vocal sound really clear.
     
    Overall, I find it better than the X1 which of course should be. This is a music player that is great for people like me who is on a budget but also want to enjoy some quality music. It has great build quality and the experience was very smooth.
     
    I apologize for the lack of details in the sound quality, as I progress in this community, I might update this review for a more detailed one. Meanwhile, feel free to ask any questions.
    LikeABell likes this.
  2. YoYo JoKeR
    5.0/5,
    "FiiO X3 Gen.2: Phenomenal DAP for Price"
    Pros - Neutral & Detailed Sound Quality, Great Build Quality, Excellent Battery & UI, Sheer Value.
    Cons - None at this Price


    Me: I am a 21 year old student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 and recently, by the seductive LCD2 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop.  With time, my sonic preferences have very much grown. I avidly admire transparency, accuracy along with neutrality, and my favourite headphones are K702, HD800 & K812.
     
    I appreciate Audio Players which deliver a very neutral & transparent sound quality, along with good battery backup and a decent User Interface. Output power or exterior looks/weight/shape is really not an important factor for me, as long as it delivers sonically. My all-time favourite DAP is QLS’s QA360 which simple is the most wonderful Audio Player I heard & have till date.  You may read my opinion on the excellent QA360 DAP here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/qls-qa360-portable-hifi-lossless-music-player/reviews/12197
     
    I will be using my DN2000 IEM & MH30, MH40 & K812 headphones to evaluate the X3 Gen.2 DAP. I will also test USB DAC functionality of the X3II by connecting to a portable O2 amp.

     
    Intro: FiiO is a highly popular & well established Chinese brand specializing in the area of portable DAP’s & amp/dac’s. FiiO was established in 2007.  Even though a relatively newer establishment in the field, FiiO managed to capture attention of the world by their amp/dac offerings which had attractive price tag & appreciable performance. Back in time, we can remember portable gears (especially DAP’s) would be expensive, and out of reach of a humble Enthusiast. It was the FiiO, who made well performing portable amps, DAP in an affordable price. Particularly their E11 model is legendary & a benchmark in low cost portable amps. This made them a well known name across the Audiophile World. 
     
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    FiiO’s Motto: Love Music, Love Life, Love FiiO!
     
    FiiO’s X3 Gen.2 was initially named as X3k, following in the lead of their E11K amp. But later in the production stage FiiO changed the name to X3 second generation or X3 II as we call it. The X3 II is designed to be the successor of aging yet very popular original X3 DAP. My profound Thanks to Jospeh from FiiO team for arranging a review unit for my evaluation.
     
    Specifications of FiiO X3 Gen.2:
     
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    Let us see how good the X3 Gen II performs,
     
    Packaging and Accessories: The X3II arrives packed inside a plain black cardboard box, packed inside a foam packing. Packaging is very good: a usual best by FiiO, nothing to complain about, considering X3 II’s high value aspect.
     
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    List of accessories in the box, which include the following:
     
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    USB cable: Can be used for charging & to transfer the data from X3II to computer.
     
    Coaxial Cable: One 3.5mm jack to single RCA socket: henceforth to connect to standard coax cable to carry coax output.
     
    Screen guard: Two spare screen guards for applying on X3II's screen.
     
    Body Skins: Can be carefully applied on body to give a personalized exterior looks.
     
    User Manual: Contains all information about operating theX3II, including contains warranty information.
     
    Silicon case: This black & flexible silicone case is supplied to protect the X3II from falls or scratches, and also gives a firm holding grip and anti-skid feature to the X3II.

     
    Design and Build: The X3II has an excellent overall build quality. Its design is very practical, or shall I say modern, & is easy for day-today operation without any confusion or hassle. The entire housing is made up of high quality aluminium, and is painted in matt titanium colour, and is resistant to fingerprints. It is rectangular in shape with smoothened edges, the X3II is actually quite small & compact in size, and just appears to be smaller in pictures. It feels fairly light when held in hand.
     
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    At the front side, we have an analogue rotating wheel pad (performs up/down scrolling function upon rotating) the pad has rubbery grip surface. It includes an embedded central play/pause button. The rotation is not completely smooth, but with step interval type ratchet mechanism. The knob has grips on its side for easy rotation. Power switch has a pretty great feel, and is very precise in its job. Four buttons (Menu, back, foward/rewind) are uniformly placed around the wheel. An LED is embedded right in the lower centre area of the front side, which gives it a really attractive look.
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    The display screen here is again large enough for comfortable viewing, and color/resolution on X3II is one of the best I have ever seen in DAP’s. It’s really good & better than most of the DAP’s. The screen is anti-reflective, resistant external lights, and colour output is very crisp and natural. On the top, there is a headphone out socket, and a Line/Coax Out, both in same 3.5mm format. These jacks are a smooth operator, which is neither too tight nor too loose. The socket employs ball bearings instead of clips to avoid scratches/damage on the headphone jack. If we look at the bottom side, we can observe a micro USB port. On the right side a micro SD card slot is present, which again works flawlessly, and has right cuttings to hold the micro SD card. On the left side of the X3II, Power button & two volume keys are located. The Power button is slightly recessed inorder to avoid mistaken switch off’s.  All these work without any hassle, and are of good quality.
     
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    Sound: The X3II in overall has a very ‘clear’ & ‘detailed’ sonic character. ‘Accurate presentation’ is the key word. In my view, it is essential for a source to be as neutral and as accurate as possible for an optimal sound quality. Though stage is not very spacious.
     
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    Burn in: The X3II audibly improves with time. Let’s say a playback of 10 hours provides few minor audible improvements, Bass prior to break-in is quite sterile, and eventually it becomes more in body. Mids will sound more open, airy and natural. highs become slightly more clean, soundstage will open up by a margin. DAP’s are known to slightly change their final sonic impressions by using different memory cards. In my case, I have found: Sandisk memory cards provided a slightly rich sound, whereas Lexar’s sounded audibly more detailed and analytical, so that made me choose Lexar card for X3II for best possible neutrality.
     
    Driving Power: There is gain setting Low/High, which if switched, provides a high gain (ideal for demanding cans). Else, will provide a low gain (ideal for low impedance dynamic cans & IEM’s) The X3II has 120 step volume adjustments, which is quite accurate and precise. I hardly ever cross ‘80’ volume low gain.  I can say, this DAP is very powerful when it comes to output power, and can put up very high listening volumes in low gain itself. The X3II is also audibly dead silent on any give gain and volume pot. It is also totally immune to EMF and other such disturbances.
     
    Lows: are accurate, tight and refined; have a good impact. Depth & extension are good.
     
    Mids: sound very neutral, clean. Mids are neither forward nor recessed, and are just about the neutral line.
     
    Highs: Clear and detailed treble with very less grains.
     
    Soundstage: The X3II is not very spacious or airy sounding. The soundstage width & depth are just good enough. Instrument separation & detailing is very good & appreciable. I really liked the way X3II picked out the details. This is an area where X3II excels. The X3II portrays music as it was recorded. The X3II is very neutral in nature. Faulty recordings are not forgiven, and are immediately picked out by the X3II. I am fully satisfied by the performance given out by X3II, as I firmly believe, sources should be as transparent as possible, and X3II wins in that. Due to its neutrality, X3II does not sound organic, natural or lifelike. But inturn it sounds like a very detailed & accurate high fidelity DAP. The X3II can also act as a USB DAC and can give multiple outputs. Performance as DAC is also pretty good, but as expected, performance is not upto mark as compared to dedicated standalone DAC’s.
     

     
    Battery & UI:  Battery life on X3II DAP is appreciably good, with about average 7-9 hours general playback. Absolutely no heat detected when charging or during playback. The charging time is also quite fast, (at about 3 hours) by using a 5V 2A adapter as recommended by FiiO. User Interface is actually very modern, fast, and appealing for our eyes. The UI has all basic and convenience general features. Though there are small bugs here n there, which I believe will be solved by FiiO in upcoming days.
    Actually UI & button layout it’s pretty simple, yet very advanced functional layout, which I quite like. With X3II,  FiiO has definitely rolled out a very unique, modern yet practical design, which is simple to operate for everyone alike.

     
    Comparison: I will write a brief comparison with well performing DAP’s in similar price range,
     
    FiiO X3: FiiO’s first DAP release & original release of X3 DAP over three years ago. I still have my trusty & three year old FiiO’s original X3. This was then a very popular & performing DAP with a great value aspect. The original X3 is now discontinued. The Original X3 holds a huge personal importance to me, as I enjoyed a lot through it, in my early days of Audio & Head-Fi Journey. Feels very nostalgic whenever I even look at it. The original X3 is comparatively warmer & darker in sound presentation. Also, the function, technology & practical usage aspect is really high in its successor X3II. Build quality is really great on both predecessor & successor.
     
    Shanling M3:  Shanling’s sole DAP offering. The M3 is also a excellent performer. Sonically, the M3 is slightly superior to X3II. Transparency & soundstage definition level is greater in M3. The M3 costs about 70$ more than the price of X3II, but well worth the additional price. But the X3II has better UI layout, and practicality features. But in terms of sheer sound quality: Shanling M3 clearly triumphs.
     
    Conclusion:  I feel the FiiO X3 Gen.2 is a phenomenal DAP for price. It offers an amazing neutral sound quality, and employs cutting edge design, modern UI and very neat and easy controls. Build quality is very good, sonic presentation is neutral & detailed. It can fairly drive any cans upto 300 ohms. I can whole heartedly recommend X3II for music enthusiast & audiophiles who would prefer a reliable DAP in a reasonable price. A very easy & confident recommendation.
     
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    Pros:
     
    1) Build Quality: The X3II has a very good all-metal build. No compromise to be seen anywhere in exterior. Very well designed indeed.
     
    2) Sound quality: Sound presentation here is very neutral &detailed, very much appreciable for becoming a good source on the move, which is the base of sonic chain. But comparatively lacks soundstage definitions.
     
    3) Driving Power:  X3II DAP is very powerful when it comes to output power, and it can comfortably drive even power hungry cans to insanely loud volumes. Also, the noise floor is very low, and is audibly silent. Good job!
     
    4) UI, Display & Controls:  This where X3II stands out from rest. X3ii’s display is simply one of the best I have seen DAP’s. Its vivid and deep colour presentation and low brightness capability has impressed me. UI is very much user-friendly, easy on battery, doesn’t warm up. For controls, the rotating wheel is very innovative inclusion, very soothing and comfortable for fingers.
     
    5) Value: Considering the points mentioned above, it is safe to conclude, the X3II DAP has a sheer price/performance ratio. Without hesitation, It is the best performing DAP under 250$.
     
    Cons:
     
    None at This Price Point

  3. Loquah
    4.5/5,
    "Fiio X3 2nd Gen - A Seriously Impressive Budget DAP"
    Pros - Sound quality, size, build quality, UI, features, DAC functionality, native DSD
    Cons - None
    The unit I'm reviewing was provided courtesy of FiiO and Head-Fier, Brooko, as part of an Australia / New Zealand tour so thank you to both FiiO and Brooko for this opportunity! This unit is clearly marked as a review unit, but appears to be 100% production quality.
     

    Overview

     
    For a retail price of roughly $260 here in Australia, the X3K (as the 2ng gen X3 was known for a while) is a genuine bargain for a native DSD capable DAP boasting a comprehensive feature set. The biggest question for me though was how it would sound, but before we get to that, let's look at some of the features and specs.
     

    Specifications

    1. Dimensions:  97mm x 58mm x 16mm
    2. Weight:  135g
    3. Output:  3.5mm stereo jack
    4. Recommended loads:  16 - 150 ohms
    5. Power:  >200 mW to 32 ohms
    6. Line out:  3.5mm stereo jack (shared with coaxial)
    7. Line out level:  1.45 Vrms
    8. Coaxial out:  3.5mm jack with adapter to coaxial RCA (shared with line out)
    9. Supported formats:  DSD64, DSD128, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, MP3, AAC, OGG
    10. Sample rates and bit depth:  up to 192kHz and 24-bit for lossless PCM formats (FLAC, WAV, etc.)
    11. Graphic EQ:  10 band
    12. THD:  <0.001%
    13. Crosstalk:  >102dB
    14. Signal-to-noise ratio:  >114dB (A weight)
    15. Battery life:  >11 hours (into a 32 ohm load with screen off)
     
    There is no doubt that the engineers at FiiO know how to create technically excellent players and all of the specs here check out and suggest an incredibly proficient player, particularly when considering the price tag. Let's check out some of the other bits and pieces before we discuss subjective topics like sound quality.
     

    Design and Functionality

     
    [​IMG]The X3K (not the official name for the 2ng gen, but I will use it here to prevent confusion with the original X3) is beautifully built, much like the X1. With each new DAP that FiiO release, their build quality improves. They seem to be very good and listening to consumer feedback and taking action to create really top-notch players in terms of the fit, finish and interfaces of their players.
     
    The X3K is all aluminium and finished in a titanium grey colour with black and silver accents. The layout is identical to the X1 with a 2" screen, rubberised scroll wheel with buttons in the centre and at the 'corners', and volume and power buttons up the left hand side of the player (when looking at the screen) along with a reset button inside a pinhole port. At the base of the X3K on the front is a small LED that shows different colours to signal power, low battery, charge status, etc. The two 3.5mm outputs are on top, a micro SD slot is on the right side, and a micro USB port is centred on the bottom edge of the player.
     
    In terms of look and feel, the X3 is nearly flawless. It feels great, is really light, but not flimsy at all. This feels like a serious piece of gear, but is still light and small enough to be truly portable.
     

    Interface

     
    In addition to a really clean physical design, the user interface[​IMG] (UI) of the X3 shows a lot of refinement on FiiO's part. Things have come a long way since the original X3. The menus are cleanly laid out with simple and obvious icons (for the most part) and easy navigation via the scroll wheel and centre button. You can also choose from 6 different themes which offer everything from minor variations to the stock FiiO look through to denim, wood panelling, and a really sexy cross-hatched charcoal texture. There's no doubt that the interface of the X3K is as good as anything else I've seen to date - not better, but as good - it's really excellent now and essentially a replica of the very good X1 interface, only with extra options.
     

    Features

     
    The X3K packs a few nice features that some users expect and some don't ever use.
     

    Equaliser

     
    The graphic equaliser is a 10-band affair that's easy to adjust, has a nice range of presets and works well on normal resolution tracks - it doesn't work on high bit rate files (i.e. DSD, 192/24 FLAC, etc.) just like the X5, most likely due to the processing power required. This isn't a big issue for me because I'm a non-EQ kind of guy, but that might bug some people.
     

    Balance Control

     
    [​IMG]Balance control is in demand more than you might think, particularly from people with a unilateral hearing loss (i.e. one ear hears better than the other) so the X3K will no doubt win some sales with that feature when combined with all the other things it has going for it.
     

    DAC Capability

     
    The X3K can also operate as a USB DAC with Windows (using an additional ASIO driver) and with Macs. It can even play DSD files from your computer via an additional software plugin so that's great news for people who are out and about with a laptop and a taste for great sounding music.
     

    Miscellaneous Features

     
    Finally, here are a few other things that the X3K has going for it:
     
    1. Headphone detection allows the X3K to pause playback when the headphones are unplugged
    2. Hibernation mode allows a low-power sleep mode that conserves battery, but also provides near instant resuming of playback
    3. Inline earphone control support means you can play, pause, and change the volume from your earphone cord (for compatible earphones)
    4. A nice range of accessories including a sexy looking brown leather case
     
    So, all up the X3K looks to be a winner. It has a great feature set, is extremely well-built, extremely well priced, and offers functionality and compatibility on par with much pricier players. So does it sound like it costs or does it sound like it looks on paper?
     

    Sound Quality

     
    [​IMG]There is no doubt at all that the X3K sounds great - better than the original X3 and definitely better than it's baby brother, the X1. I'm almost convinced that this is the best bang-for-buck sound you can get, but it's not definitive and your personal tastes will come into the equation.
     
    Rather than talk about the bass and treble and all those fine details that are really hard to differentiate when trying to compare different players, let me break down the overall listening experience from the X3K compared to the same experience (same tracks, etc.) on other devices. I'll also discuss how the X3K compares with varying loads, from sensitive IEMs through to challenging headphones.
     
    Before I get into specifics, let me say that the X3K offers a quite neutral experience. It's not analytical or cold, but it also doesn't carry the same warmth of the original X3. The X3K is a player with nicely balanced sound that doesn't jump out as too warm, too cold, or too much of anything really and that's excellent - it'll let your earphones sound the way they're meant to rather than adding too much colour in the player. Nice work FiiO!
     

    With IEMs

     
    [​IMG]With the hyper-sensitive Shure SE846 there is noticeable hiss from the X3K. Now, I'm a bit hyper-sensitive to hiss so some people won't even notice what I'm hearing and it's not an issue once the music's playing, but it's there. I should also mention that there is a little bit of hiss from many players on the market, including the outstanding Shozy Alien, HUM Pervasion (to a lesser degree), and even my faithful iPod Video so the X3K isn't bad in this regard - it's actually quite normal.
     
    With the higher impedance Noble Kaiser 10s, the hiss is gone so it's likely only an issue with super low impedance IEMs (like the SE846) and possibly with some of the more hiss-prone IEMs like the FitEar TG!334, but I don't own a pair to test unfortunately.
     
    Power wise, the X3K's 120-step, dual gain volume control means that there's plenty of range to work with in low gain mode. I found myself at around 40-50 on the volume control for IEM listening in a quiet room.
     

    With Headphones

     
    For this test, I tried the Thinksound On1s (50 ohms) , Beyerdynamic DT1350s (80 ohms), and Ultrasone HFI-680s (75 ohms). Of this lot, the full-sized HFI-680s are the most demanding to drive and I do feel like the X3K struggled with them a little. They still sounded good, but not their best - highs were a bit edgy and the bass was lacking from what is quite a punchy headphone.
     
    [​IMG]With the more portable (i.e. smaller drivers) DT1350 and On1, the X3K sounded great, providing plenty of power and authority to the sound. I was getting up towards volume 80 / 120, but that's still on low gain so there's no shortage of volume with the X3K - it will comfortably drive any headphone you're likely to use in portable situations, but you may find an amp helpful for more desktop style headphones and that's where the line out comes into play which I'll discuss shortly.
     
    So, the X3K plays very well with all but the most sensitive / hiss-prone in-ears and even then it's quite acceptable even if not perfect. It also offers plenty of grunt for portable and efficient headphones, so as the portable player it's designed to be, the X3K ticks all the right boxes so let's discuss how it sounds compared to some other players you might have heard of or read about.
     

    Versus Various Devices

     
    iPod Video 5.5G: [​IMG]Compared to the iPod, the X3K brings a little more refinement to the sound and the separation is also better - everything is just cleaner. The sound from the X3K is also fuller with more weight and a little more body, but the X3K is flatter sounding - lacking a sense of depth and space. Technically, the sound is rendered perfectly well and is cleaner and sharper than the iPod, but it's all painted onto a flat canvas that stretches from left to right. If I had to choose one player over the other, I'd choose the X3K without a second thought, but I really wish FiiO could start to focus a little more on the subjective presentation of their sound, specifically a spatial and organic sound, rather than just technical accuracy.
     
    [​IMG]Shozy Alien: This battle was a bit closer in terms of clarity, but the X3K had a slight edge in terms of bass extension and control. The bass from the X3K is really tight and punchy which keeps the music sounding energetic and dynamic. Overall, the X3K is probably slightly more technically proficient than the Alien, but the Alien might still be the more engaging listen due to its organic presentation and sense of space - the number one strength of the Alien and the one area where it beats basically every player on the market. Honestly, I would have a hard time choosing between these two because the Alien sounds a touch more engaging overall, but the X3K performs better technically and has so many more features.
     
    [​IMG]HUM Pervasion: These two are surprisingly close in sound and that's a huge compliment to the X3K. In terms of signature they are almost identical, but the Pervasion wins in two key areas. Firstly it brings a greater sense of space into the soundstage despite the Pervasion being a little limited in this regard. Secondly, the sound from the Pervasion has a level of refinement that the X3K can't quite match.

     

    DSD Performance

     
    [​IMG]The DSD performance of the X3K is seamless and the player skips quickly between formats with no delays or pops or crackles so if you load up a mixture of MP3, FLAC, and DSD files you'll find a glitch-free listening experience.
     
    I did notice a hint of processor noise (or something similar) at the beginning of the DSD tracks when things were quiet. It's completely inaudible when the music is playing and therefore doesn't really interfere, but I never noticed that type of noise with PCM format files.
     
    Comparing identical tracks in DSD and FLAC (I converted the DSD file to 192/24 FLAC to ensure identical mastering), the DSD may have a slight edge in refinement, but it's so close as to be not worth debating. In short, the X3K provides an equivalent experience regardless of using FLAC or DSD which is great - you don't want a player that sounds noticeably better with one format because it'll have you converting or re-buying all your music and that's a pain.
     

    Line Out Quality

     
    [​IMG]The line out from the X3K is clean and detailed with no significant colouration. As a portable source to pair with an external amp, the X3K is very good. That's not to say the X3K needs an amp, but it's line out is 'up to scratch' if you want to use an amp.
     
    To get a better handle on just how good it is, I compared it directly (and unfairly) with my Matrix X-Sabre DAC. I only did this because it was an easy way to have identical tracks playing that I could switch between instantly, but the results were astounding. The X-Sabre has an edge in detail and subtle cues (including depth and spatial cues), but it's a razor's edge. The X3K comes amazingly close to the X-Sabre in terms of signature, clarity, and overall subjective quality. That's right, this pocket-sized, $250 DAP stands toe-to-toe with a $1200+ desktop DAC and manages to lose only about 10% to the goliath in this match-up!! That's crazy and puts the X3K's DAC / line-out performance on par with or above the Pervasion, iFi Nano iDSD (and possibly Micro iDSD) and easily beats multiple desktop DACs that I've tried - wow!
     
    The only thing holding the X3K back from perfection in this area is the tiniest lack of refinement around the edges of the high notes. It's a subtle distinction, but one worth making - the X3K doesn't beat top end DACs like the X-Sabre, but it has no right to be even playing in this ball park and that's what makes it supremely impressive.
     

    Summary

     
    [​IMG]Coming from owning the very good X5 and reviewing the good, but not exceptional X1, I really didn't expect huge performance from the X3K and perhaps even came into this review with a slightly negative bias, but I'm pleased to say that the X3K had everything required to completely change my preconceptions and convert me towards fandom. I'm not quite a fanboy now because the HUM Pervasion is still my dream player for the time being, but I have immense respect for the X3K and what FiiO have achieved and it has me very excited to see and hear the upcoming X5 2nd Generation and the first generation of the flagship X7.
     
    If you're on the hunt for a compact, high quality, fully featured audio player you should absolutely, 100% check out the 2nd generation of  FiiO's X3 - it might be the most impressive product made by FiiO so far and that's saying something!
  4. jamato8
    4.5/5,
    "It gets you to the music"
    Pros - Please read the review
    Cons - Within it price, none really.
    FiiO X3 Generation 2  Review sample. 
     
    From the start FiiO has given value for the money you spend. The new X3 Generation 2 continues the history of the value given for what you spend. Starting with the X3 and now the X3 G2, improvements have been made that add to the positive side of the equation on what you get. 
     
    One the the first things the X3 G2 impressed me with, before we get to the sound, is the update user interface, UI. For me the X3 never jelled. I had to do too much thinking about what button did what, it wasn’t intuitive, to me. The new X3 washes that away and brings this DAP in with a new UI that is intuitive and functional. There is almost no learning curve, which bespeaks a well thought out concept on what the user goes through to get to what they want, music. The wheel and button placement is easy to follow and now is intuitive. 
     
    The all aluminum body also has a great feel to it and should hold up to the unfortunate abuses that our DAPs occasionally go through, like the fall from a place on the desk or pocket and will be more unscathed and yes I do drop things or pull them off the desk from time to time. Forgetting that your headphones won’t reach 20 feet isn’t always helpful. 
     
    The new X3 charges via the USB, which makes it easy to keep it ready to go as there are so many sources of usb charging now. There is a headphone output jack on top and on the opposite side to the right, is the combination line out and coax output. As a complete package the X3 G 2 pretty much as everything you need to use as a portable player, a source using the coax or a source feeding an external amp. 
     
    For me a simple straightforward easy to use UI and enjoyable sound are pretty much on the same level. If I have to fumble around figuring out how to get to the music or switch to new music, even if the sound is excellent, the whole interaction is decreased. So with that in mind I am glad that the new X3 is easy to use and has a sound to match. How is the sound? 
     
    I use the ESW10 Japan headphones quite a bit. They are a portable, though I don’t wear them when out and about but do take them with me on trips in a nice semisolid carrying case. They are on the ear phones that I am so familiar with, I can tell how music sounds or will sound on my much more expensive phones. To this end I used them most of the time with the X3 G2. For music type, I listen to most everything, favoring well recorded no matter the genre. I don’t enjoy mono much, never have and if it is hard panned right and left stereo with no depth, again, I don’t use the album much. 
     
    Sound:
     
    Even I often skip ahead after a short bit of reading of a review, wanting to know how something sounds, later, possibly, going back to the other details if I am further interested in the item, whatever it happens to be. 
     
    The X3 G2 is a step up from the sound of the sound of the X3. It is more open, dynamic, more detailed, transparent and less warm. So how is that? I don’t enjoy a too warm sound as it covers the music in a thick blanket and I miss the contrasts and musical inspiration that I seek. The X3G2 isn’t cold sounding and slants to the warm but not enough to suck the life out of the music. 
     
    On some favorite tracks that I listen to, Neil Young’s live acoustical album from 92, Dreamin’ Man Live 92, there is plenty of space around the sound, that live sound that is important to capture. There is good hall reverb retrieval to connect you with the event. The voice of Mr. Young, is caught with his slight strain unconventional sound is Neil Young’s voice. I enjoy his voice and if you can appreciate it, it has to be done right. I once had Fang of HiFiman listen to a cut I enjoy and he didn’t care for it. He thought Neil sound nasally and he does, a little but it is part of his charm. But if this is glossed over and the bite of his harmonica playing isn’t there, then neither is the essence of his music. 
     
    Highs on the X3 G2 are thankfully free of grain, they are smooth and extended. The bass could have more definition but we are not talking about a 1200 or 2400 dollar DAP and for the approximately 200 dollars, the new X3 does a great job of conveying the music to your ears and the bass while not the most defined is not overblown, which can detract from the music. I had no problem driving most all my headphones from the Foster TH900, HiFiman HE-560 and various IEM’s. 
     
    Summary:
     
    So what do you get with the X3 Generation 2? You get a well laid out machine. It is versatile, easy to use with a great UI, a solid body and some accessories to take care of your needs for charging from a 5 volt source, external amp or digital transfer to another dac and you get a silicon slip on case to protect your conveyor of musical enjoyment! 
     
    Looks like to me, for a small package, if you want to have fun and enjoy your music the X3 Generation 2 is waiting for you. 
     
     
    Support for: 
    Native DSD 64 and 128
    AIFF
    APE
    FLAC 
    ALAC
    WMA
    WAV
    MP3 and 2
     
    Full specifications can be found here: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/39/parameters
    JAMEZTHEBOI likes this.
  5. Peter West
    3.5/5,
    "Fiio X3 Second Generation - First-Class DAP"
    Pros - Sound quality, really small, excellent build quality, stable software, price, performance
    Cons - Impossible to read display in sunlight,
    Fiio 3X Second Generation Review
     
    Lots of other reviewers have talked about the technical aspects of the Fiio X3 Second Generation so I am going to limit my review to what I heard and felt. This is a subjective review.
     
    In Toastmasters, where I’ve been a member for over 20 years, we have a saying about doing evaluations. It goes like this: Evaluate the speech you heard and not the one you would have liked to have heard.
     
    So I’m applying the same principle to my review of the Fiio X3 Second Generation (3X) which I want to thank Joe Bloggs, a Fiio online customer representative, for inviting me to the 3X tour of Canada.
     
    I am a retired professional photographer, community newspaper and national magazine editor (mainly trades to do with the cabling and electrical business in Canada) and I’m an active Amateur Radio operator so I’ve had headphones on my ears most of my life.
     
    Recently I got into audio in a big way after going to my local headphone shop here in Toronto to buy a $75 Fiio E-10 K DAC and came back with a Fostex HP-A8C DAC and a set of Audeze LCD-X headphones. Talk about up selling. I went back a week later and got the Fiio DAC anyway.
     
    I’ve Got A Lot of Fiios
     
    I started a few years ago with a Fiio E11 which I plugged into my IPad so I could get better audio when watching NetFlicks. Cheap and cheerful the E11 really added a whole new dimension to my video viewing enjoyment.
     
    Then I got a Fiio E09K amplifier and accompanying Fiio E17 Aspen DAC/Headphone amplifier for my upstairs music room so I had some idea of what to expect from Fiio when it came to the X3.
     
    The Review
     
    So thanks to the last guy on the tour who charged the battery I was immediately ready to start my review. 
     
    Within two minutes the X3 had passed the “no manual” test and I was hearing music after inserting my micro SD card from my Astell and Kern AK-100 II. (More about this later.)
     
    What I Saw
     
    First the X3 is much smaller than I expected at 9.5 cm long, 5.5 cm across and 1.5 cm wide. (My AK-100 II is 11 X 5.5 X 1.5) and the X3 weighs 135 gms (compared to 170 gms for the A&K). 
     
    The Fiio case is made of lightweight aluminum with rounded corners and all the controls pretty much flush with the case. The X3 uses a main rubberized wheel with four push buttons on the front surface to do the navigation. Now some people like wheels and some don’t and it comes down to personal taste. I found the wheel just fine and I liked the navigation method and the menu system which comes up on the LCD screen. It’s a good system in my opinion. 
     
    One of the things I really like about the X3 menu system is it goes asleep really quickly and if you need to reawaken it for any reason it’s back with a single tap of the top button of three on the side of the unit. The other two buttons are volume up and down.
     
    However, when in sleep mode, the volume up and down buttons turn into next song or last song buttons with the middle button moving you forward into your playlist and the bottom button moving you back. Very cool and well-thought out feature.
     
    The X3 does have a tiny LED indicator light on the front panel that runs blue if all is well and turns red under charge and green when the battery is full charged up. Very cool again.
     
    A full charge is supposed to take three hours and give around 11 hours of playing time. I didn’t check this out but it would seem about right.
     
    My first pleasant surprise after pushing the on button was the super fast loading time for the software. The X3 is ready to go in just over five seconds. (The A&K takes 30 long, long seconds!) Love it. This is the way all software should load - fast.
     
    Now I haven’t yet progressed to the point I’ve got a ton of music files in a variety of lossless and lossy file formats (let alone understand it all) but the X3 literature says it supports DSD, DSD64, DSD128 (.iso & .dst and .dff); APE; FLAC; WAV; WMA Lossless; Apple Lossless; MP2; MP3; AAC; ALAC; WMA and OGG. I’ll take Fiio at its word on this. Other reviewers cover this technical stuff way better than I can.
     
    What I Heard
     
    So I’ve got my mico-SD card out of my A&K and into the X3 and I turned the unit on and there were all 1500 tunes. Very cool. Never had the X3 not read the card first time and I can't say that about the A&K!
     
    Now I had the chance to run the same songs on the X3 from the internal memory card and from the AK-100 II from its streaming function from my ITunes library at the same 44.1kHz/16bit. I could also switch headphones back and forth to compare what was happening.
     
    So we’re at the place where I’ve fallen into the trap of evaluating the speech I would have liked to have heard as opposed to the speech I did hear. And for Fiio, it’s not necessary bad news.
     
    Here’s an analogy: I own a 2003 Toyota Celica with 137,000 kms on it. I love this car. It’s a fun car to drive. For me (at 66) it never gets old and I hope to keep it on the road for another couple of years at least.
     
    And then there’s the guy in my small town who drives a Ferrari. It’s a red Ferrari. I can recognize it by the sound it makes from several blocks away. I would love to own a Ferrari but not only can I not afford a Ferrari, I couldn’t afford the insurance for a Ferrari. And thus I don’t own a Ferrari whether it’s red or any other colour.
     
    Same principle applies here so after a day of switching headphones and DAPs back and forth I decided today to run the X3 all on its own and let it speak for itself.
     
    Remember I’m retired so in the last two days I’ve got around 10+ solid hours of listen in so far and six of them were with the X3 into mainly Shure 535s. The X3 plays differently with different headphones. My elderly Sennheiser 439s (modded) and much maligned 590s sound muddy and boring as do a set of $60 Skull Candy in-ears.
     
    The Momentums (on-ears and on sale here in Canada for $139) sound great as do my super cheap $36 T-Peos D-202Ns and Grado 60s.
     
    After six hours of continuous music ranging from Bob Marley to Lucinda Williams to The Doors to Ani DiFranco to Beth Orton to Lyle Lovett to the Buena Vista Social Club with a smattering of opera singer Cecilia Bartoli I can say the X3 is a wonderful sounding DAP especially when you consider the estimate selling price of $199.
     
    Now are they a contender compared to the Astell and Kern AK-100 II. Ah...no. The AK-100 II with the Shure 535s (often with a Cypher Labs Picollo amp in the mix) provide the best portable music experience I’ve ever had ...period. It’s wonderful and when I compare the X3 to the experience, the X3 comes in second.  The A&K has a lot of other features as well including onboard memory and the ability to accept wireless streaming files from the MacBook Pro plus Tidal (someday soon I hope) but those are only features and for $900 you should get something added.
     
    This is sort of like my Celica vs the Ferrari story.
     
    So today I thought I’d give the X3 a chance to stand on its own and I plugged in the Shure 535s and put my music playlist on random and let it run and run. My ears never tired of the experience which is not something I can say about six hours with the Audezes and the Fostex DAC which can be intense.
     
    I did run into one issue which since I can’t determine the cause and it went away doesn’t concern me. When I first tried the X3 with the Shure 535s I could hear a slightly click - click sound for the first few seconds after plugging in the very sensitive in-ear 535s and turning on the X3. This click sound happened a couple of times and then disappear for good. The Shure 535s have never clicked before or after and I’m don’t know what happened here but it did go away and wasn’t present with any of the other many headphones I tried on the X3.
     
    So I went back to swapping out headphones and the experience was the same for the Momentums, the Grados and even the super-cheap T-Peos. Now I’m not a fan of equalization but the  X3 has a lovely 10-band equalizer with 10 presets which might be very popular with some folks who own one set of headphones. Nice touch. 
     
    The headphones I used for this review are the typical types of headphones that people are going to use with the X3 and Fiio is going to sell a couple of big boatloads of X3s to people who want a better listening experience with a much larger variety of file formats and memory than smartphones can manage.
     
    Now for those who are adventuresome, the X3 can also be used as a DAC. 
     
    I compared it to my Fiio E-10 K which is my go-to DAC in my office attached to my MacBook Pro where I stream TIDAL and either listen it to through my office headphones or stream it to my living room (Apple Airplay into Fostex HPA8C and Audezes) or to my tiny music room (Airplay into Fiio E09K and Fiio E-17 Aspen and various headphones) and the X3 was terrific.
     
    What I Felt
     
    So would I buy one for myself? Yup especially if I didn’t have the A&K unit. Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely and I recommend it here to you. 
     
    In the world of high-end audio $200 is a rounding error when it comes to what we can spend to setup our systems. So this could be the best $200 you spend to listen to your music. Add on snappy headphones like the Grado 60s or the T-Peos or Momentums and you’re going to be very very happy.
     
    Just don’t go out and test drive a Ferrari. You’ve been warned!
     
    Day Three
     
    I got up this morning to the revelation that not once during a whole day of listening to the X3 did I even consider adding an external amplifier. I almost always use my A&K with a Cypher Labs Picollo external amp. This combo is spooky good into the Shures.
     
    For the most part the A&K sounds great without it but add the Picollo and my foot is tapping away keeping the beat and it doesn’t much matter which set of headphones I’m using I get the same effect. However it is more noticeable when I’m using the Sennheisers than any of the other headphones as they need more drive and sound flat without the Picollo.
     
    Adding the Picollo is easy by plugging in a jumper from the amp to the X3’s Line/Coax Out plug and the 535s are rocking. I pause the music and there’s absolute silence out of Picollo even with the volume at maximum.
     
    So that works and the X3 automatically goes into a Line Out mode (if that's what is selected in menu) with the Picollo plugged in so let’s try again without the Picollo. I’m listening to Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space and my foot is tapping again. This is very good audio. Amazing with or without the amp.
     
    Okay enough with this third party amplifier. Let’s see what the X3 makes of a Fiio E11 with the 535s.
     
    First there’s an expectable, minimal amplifier hiss that the 535s can hear near the noise floor from the E-11 but the music keeps on keeping on. I am really enjoying the X3 so let’s swap out the 535s for the Sennheiser Momentums and it’s time for a little more Bob Marley. The Momentums are dead quiet. They don’t hear any hiss so let’s hit play and…
     
    Oh yah mon this is heaven: Is This Love That I’m Feeling? Yes Bob it is - it is.
     
    Let’s take the E11 out and I can tell the bass notes are diminished a little. If I wasn’t swapping back and forth I wouldn’t notice the difference but the E11 especially with the three-position EQ button makes the X3 just rock when it comes to Bob Marley. I tried different settings with the X3 built-in equalizer but there was nothing in the presets that sounded better than no equalization. I could have done a custom setting but the X3 didn’t need it so why bother?
     
    A quick swapping of the E-11 back to the Picollo and surprise, surprise I preferred the pairing of the Fiio X3 and the Fiio E-11. I’m not sure why but the E-11 EQ just seems a little more gritty (another technical term) compared to the very smooth sounds of the Picollo and I like gritty.
     
    Goodness I hope there’s some audio engineer out there wisely nodding his head in agreement and I’m not just sitting here going slowly senile listening to Bob tell me it’s all going to be alright.
     
    This is an outstanding experience with or without an external amp. The X3 is also very very tolerant of getting plugs pulled and pushed without any hysterics that require rebooting. This would appear to be one stable operating system. 
     
    Somebody should get a raise for this!
     
    I was thinking of wrapping up this audition and going back to my regular setup but this is so much fun I’m running the X3 into the Momentums for at least another day. And really if you just add a little volume to drive the Momentums there’s no need for an external amp. Sure an external amp will change the sound but not so much as you’d notice after 30 seconds of listening. Some difficult to drive headphones might appreciate the amplification but there’s nothing I own (aside from the Sennheisers) that needs it when it comes to the X3.
     
    But all is not good. Huston we’ve had a problem here. I took the X3 outside in the bright sunlight and the screen becomes unreadable. It’s so unreadable in sunlight that even holding a cap over the X3 to shade it doesn’t help. It’s the type of LCD display that’s the issue as my IPhone, IPad and Kindle are readable in bright sunlight. 
     
    Don’t think you’d want to try searching for a tune while you’re at the beach with this display. The Astell and Kern AK-100 II is somewhat better but still pretty hard to read in full sunlight but is readable with some shade from a baseball cap. The X3 is not.
     
    Day 4
     
    So my previous experience swapping out the X3 with the AK-100 II reaffirmed my original decision to go buy an insanely expensive DAP (as opposed to the AK-240 which is a very insanely expensive DAP) as the AK does so much more and does sound better (remember the foot tapping test).
     
    Having said that I do realize there is a $700 difference in price so I thought of of another way of straightening out the playing field. I took the entire day listening to the X3 for an hour or so and then switching over to the AK-100 II for another hour or so. 
     
    I swapped out headphones starting with the Sennheiser Momentums on-ears and then to the Shure 535s and then to the T-Peo D-202Ns.
     
    Strangely enough, just for casual listening and walking around the house and the neighbourhood I preferred the X3!
     
    Here’s why: First the published dimensions don’t give you an adequate sense of just how much smaller the X3 is to the AK-100. I can carry the X3 in a shirt or pants pocket without any issue. There are no sharp edges to catch on clothing and unlike the AK-100 no wheels or other controls protruding from the case.
     
    The X3 is also a lot lighter. You can forget you’re carrying it around.
     
    Sound-wise each unit sounded superb…about 10 minutes into each listening session. In other words, if you don’t have a Ferrari in the driveway, the Celica seems pretty good. 
     
    It’s the same with the audio from the X3 compared to the AK-100. Give your ears a few minutes to adjust and compensate for the slightly different sound reproduction, then the music itself sounds very good on either machine.
     
    For this test I put my 1500 song playlist on random run and there wasn’t anything from folk to rock and roll with an occasional opera soprano thrown in that didn’t sound very good on either unit.
     
    So if you’re in the market for a really decent sounding DAP and you’re not willing to spend your entire old-age pension cheque then the X3 will thrill you and at my age I don’t get thrilled nearly enough anymore. 
     
    Thanks X3 and Fiio.
     
     
     
     
  6. WayneWoondirts
    4.0/5,
    "FiiO X3 2nd Gen. plus how-to get DSD playback and 192/24 decoding in Linux"
    Pros - Soundquality, build, price-perfomance ratio
    Cons - User Interface still needs some work
    FiiO X3 2nd Generation
     
    First of all I want to state that this review is obviously a very subjective opinion. Everyone hears things differently, so you might experience the device in an other way than described.
    This review is text only, I assume you already know how the X3 looks...

    I received it about two weeks ago, and I take it everywhere I go. I listen to it at home, outside and use it as a DAC at work. The headphones I use are Sennheiser's HD598 with the RC-HD1 replacement-cable from FiiO.
     
    Build and User Interface (UI)
     
    The X3 is fully made of metal, which gives it a great feel in the hand. The scroll wheel improved over the X1 yet still needs a bit of improvement in actually scrolling click for click. But besides that, it is perfectly built.
    The second Generation also got the same UI as the X1, but has a few more features in it's firmware. The most notable is the deep-sleep mode. This puts the X3 in hibernation and let's you power back up instantly. You can set the idle time-out for that under 'System Settings'. Personally I'd like to be able to set it below one minute (currently the fastest timeout setting), same goes for screen timeout (currently 30 sec).
    The software definitely improved over the first Gen, it is more user friendly and more comfortable to use. Although there are still some features I'd like to see in future upgrades, like a better and faster way to create playlists with the device itself. Another thing that caught my attention is the shortcut button. The coders really outdid themselves with it's abilities. In every mode (category, files, etc) it got different jobs. Let's say you are deep in category mode, looking at some songs of your favorite artist and want to go back to some other artist. Just hit the shortcut button and it opens up a small head up display (HUD) where you can chose between all the different categories. Simply a wonderful feature, it makes navigating much easier and faster. It does the same thing in other menus (homescreen → Play Settings; Browse Files → HUD)
     
    Sound
     
    This part of the review is the most interesting for everyone, but as stated at the top, a subjective opinion.
    The new X3 has got a great new DAC (CS4398), which is also used in other DAPs which go for a lot more money than the FiiO. Of course it has 192/24 decoding and also comes with native DSD support.
    To me the sound of it is outstanding. It is clear, open and listening to it makes a lot of fun. The sound it produces appears to me as more natural and detailed as the first X3. I listen to a lot of electronic music, such as Aphex Twin, and it was very easy for me to differentiate all the instruments and sounds, also the cymbals, vocals and strings came out incredibly realistic and true sounding. The bass is very smooth and subtle, but exactly how I like it.
    I'd say the sound quality is a step up from the first gen X3.
     
    Final thoughts
     
    Once again FiiO has made an outstanding product, and for 249€ you can't go wrong with it. You get a beautiful and incredible DAP alongside a powerful DAC.
    I'd rate it 4/5 since I think the software still lacks a few features, but if those get fixed it would get the full points.
    Overall the new X3 absolutely is worth it's money. It is great sounding and feels wonderful.
     
    Using as a DAC
     
    Whenever I'm using my Laptop I hook up the X3 to use it as an external DAC, and as a long time Linux user, I came to see that it doesn't use it's full potential out of the box. If you use pulseaudio you might want to tweak a little bit to get 192/24 decoding. It's only a matter of five minutes time and the audio quality improves a lot! If you're using ALSA instead, which is recommended because it sends the audio directly to the device, you're fine.
    But for now, I am going to show you how to enable 192/24 decoding and later how to get DSD playback.
     
    By default pulseaudio is configured for 44.1KHz and 16bit audio output. To set it to high quality encoding do as follows:
     
    open a terminal
    To view the current settings of pulseaudio:
     
    pacmd list-sinks | grep sample
     
    this will propably look like this:
     
    sample spec: s16le 2ch 41000Hz
    sample spec: s16le 2ch 41000Hz
     
    these show the internal audiodevices (HDA and HDMI)
     
    To enable high quality open and edit the daemon.conf file
     
    sudo leafpad /etc/pulse/daemon.conf
     
    now look for these lines:
     
    ; resample-method = speex-floar-1
    ; default-sample-format = s16le
    ; default-sample-rate = 41000
     
    uncomment them by removing the ; and change the lines to:
     
    resample-method = src-sinc-medium-quality
    default-sample-format = s24le
    default-sample-rate = 192000
     
    Save the file. Stop and restart pulseaudio.
     
    pulseaudio -k
    pulseaudio --start
    The new settings will increase the CPU usage a little, but it will be worth it.
    The last thing to do is to give the X3 a higher priority in the hardwarelist (under systemsettings).
     
    DSD playback with MPD
     
    MPD (MusicPlayerDaemon) is a powerful crossplatform audio backend. You can use it under Linux, Mac and Windows. I even think you can use it on mobile platforms, but I'm not sure about that.
    There are a lot of different clients (frontends) for MPD depending on the system it's running. I use Cantata because it is the best for me. It is lightweight and clear.
    You can find a list of clients here:
     
    http://mpd.wikia.com/wiki/Clients
     
    MPD is also able to play DSD files, but it isn't enabled by default. Once again, you have to make a small yet effective modification.
    I'll show you the steps to get DSD playback through MPD in Linux (I am using openSUSE)
     
    At first we need to install mpd alongside with its dependencies.
     
    Open up a terminal and install the packages.
     
    sudo zypper in cantata mpd
     
    As said, I use cantata. Replace that with the client of your choice.
     
    Next step is to set up mpd for the X3.
    First we need to list up all available audiohardware.
     
    aplay -l
     
    this list now shows us that the X3's name is simply “DAC”, we will need that for later when configuring mpd.
     
    Now open the mpd.conf file stored in /etc/
    sudo su
    leafpad /etc/mpd.conf
     
    Find the audio output section and add/edit the following to the alsa configuration:
     
    name “X3”
    device “hw:DAC”
    dsd_usb “yes”
     
    We use the hardwarename here, because since it's a USB DAC you'd have to use the same USB port everytime you connect it to your PC/Laptop, and the hardware address might change then.
    Save the file, and start mpd. It will run in the background. Start and set up your client.
     
    If your client couldn't connect to 'Personal' the next time you started it, mpd isn't running. Simply put mpd in autostart to prevent that from happening.
    landroni and Light - Man like this.
  7. viperxp
    5.0/5,
    "Great at playing music"
    Pros - power, sound quality, low output impedance
    Cons - Screen quality, scroll wheel
    First of all I would like to thank FiiO for choosing me as part of the world tour of the new X3 DAP. I am pretty new in reviewing audio devices, and I feel really grateful for including me.
     
    About me
     
    I am not considering myself as an audiophile. I like enjoying my music, and if I don’t like it, I change it. I used to own several players from Cowon that did not deliver, and ended up selling them. Same with headphones, if the sound is not right for me – I try to sell or simply don’t use them. My preference is as natural sound as possible, I don’t want it to be pretty, bright, dark or anything else. As natural as possible, for as sane price as possible. Last month I visited BH Camera in NY, and listened to Audeze LCD-3, Fostex th500rp and Sennheiser HD800 headphones (hooked up to high-end rack as well), so I think I know what is a really high quality natural sound. Out of the three I really liked the Fostex.
     

    Unboxing, package, physical impressions

     
    I received the unit after it was reviewed by some other reviewers before me,and the unit is from pre-production batch that may have differences with the units becoming available in stores. The review was conducted with the unit running on version 1.0 firmware, the same as the production units should have.
     
    iw3CKNvxWCUf6.png ibm35ViIbByaNS.png
    ibzxerCNM3rmtP.png
     
     
     
    The box itself looks really good, colored red and black. You can note that you see X3K on the box, it was one of the preliminary names given to the unit before it became simple 2[sup]nd[/sup] generation. The box also has a sticker that should assist to avoid buying counterfeit units.
     
    ibr0aWWyJz9Umb.png
     
     
    Inside the red/black outer box sits another black carton box. It is hard and has a nice texture to it, great at making you expect something special within.
     
     
    ilRtWntXrBxwn.png i28EvgGAVmRpd.png
     
     
    ipNodDzXiEUJU.png isLBw60ytlnqC.png
     
     
     
     
    There is a lot of usefull stuff bundeled with the player.
    There are 3 sets of stickers to be applied to the player, wood, graphite and American flag styled. There is usb to micro usb cable (same as most of smartphones use now) and line out coax cable (please note, that the default setting for the line out mode is coax, if you will connect it to a regular car stereo or and amp you will not hear a thing, you need to change the setting to Line Out).
    There are two additional screen protectors (the player comes with one pre-applied)
    And there is the silicone cover, more about it soon…
     
     
    iPkRYhisuVFr0.png idCryl0iKY6RJ.png
     
     
    ibjN3xmxjIVCLc.png iTWWfP8b5Ub94.png ibpYyqi1Yyzehe.png
    irAw0i93mVdjZ.png
     
     
    While the unit is inside the cover you have acess to all the necessary buttons and outputs. Line out has an integrated cover that you can open at time of need. The memory card (up to 128 Gb at the moment) is covered, but you can always cut a hole in the cover if you happen to swap those cards often. I intentionally did not clean the silicone cover to show how it looks like in real life. While protecting the player, it is also great at collecting dust particles as well.
     
    i1qbJLSzjWmlB.png ivErCHGbpd0cr.png
     
     
    ilBxrI94Rn1Cc.png ibnqer7nSSnujW.png irFxSEZE5hWtB.png
    ikBgkzTb4oHGA.png iSpu9CTt2umJ0.png iOOwbr6t6XoWH.png
     
     
     
     
    As you can see from the pictures, the built quality is excellent. The whole unit is made from aluminum. The scroll wheel has a higher quality feel than X1 and X5. Still, one click does not mean one move in the menus/one item scroll. I got used to it, and don’t think it’s much of a problem.
    The unit has a status LED that lights blue when the unit is one, green while it’s charging and red when it’s being charged. Pleae note that you can operate it while charging, just make sure you don’t connect it to a PC but to charger (or to PC with charging only cable, no data leads).
     
    iS78cF8ZMYPGH.png iKRwyzQTLrq0i.png
     
     
     
     
    iLHbAYEm5IKhr.png i50MOOlGxiWuH.png
     
     
     
    Well, now I hope that you have a better understanding of the size of the unit. I was not surprised when I saw it at first, because of previous short experience with X1. But X1 surprised me at the time, it was much more compact than I expected. I think the size of the new X3 is just right, not too bix and not too tiny. At the pictures, you see it compared with Sandisk Sansa, LG Nexus 5 and a standard sized gift card. Ah, and my hand :)
     

    Let’s Play?

    At first I will describe the headphones used and my impressions, and give overall conclusion at the end.
     
    i8nV6ML8TFcJp.png
     
    Those are my best headphones, the Koss Tony Benett Special Edition 1. I sold ATH-M50’s in order to get those, and can’t be happier. Very natural sound.
    Well, at first I thought that there is something wrong in the match between those headphones and X3. I heard a lot of high frequencies and a very weak bass. After hearing several albums I figured out that there is nothing wrong with the setup, it only plays what’s on those recordings. If it was poorly mastered, your ears will suffer. And if mastering was well done, it’s a joy joy joy.
     
    iCHINQzFzuFdt.png
     
    As much as I like Koss KSC-75, they are just not a match for X3. A lot of information is just lost, and after listening with better phones you just don’t want to go back.
    Of course X3 drives those 64 ohm headphones with ease, and the titanium coated drivers are great for metal.
     
    ib1jIq47WSJGmk.png iGPW19hmtzCxL.png
     
     
     
    Those are two earphones from Chinese smartphone companies – the Xiaomi Pistons 2[sup]nd[/sup] generation and the OnePlus silver bullet.
    Usually I just can’t use Pistons – the sound signature is too V shaped. I was really surpriced but with X3 they sounded very different that I remember from trying them with the Clip+. They are actually usable. Not great, but still.
    The OnePlus give a more balanced sound, but mid frequencies are somewhat distant sounding.
     
     
    iboap8HAh1jpG6.png
     
    Now that’s a match. Those are Sennheiser PX 80. Actually those are PX 100 first edition, reissued. Same sound, with slightly different (still steel-enforced) headband.
    Wow… Deep bass, sparkly teble. Mids are not the strongest part of those headphones but with most music they sound so good …X3 really makes you smile when you put them on, and keep on smiling…
     
    ibiDpigwrIcJ29.png i6uwyW8h5GBZe.png
    iY8dS6DfQVXeN.png
     
     
    That was an experiment. The Sennheiser HD 580 have 300 ohms of impedance, that’s twice the maximum rated supported impedance of X3. Well, actually they did sound nice, compared to the same headphones connected to AMC pre-amp (at about quarter of it’s max volume). While being driven decently, I had to crank up the volume of the X3 to 90-100% (High Gain setting), so if you really intend to use those, getting more powerful DAC or an amp would be a great idea.
     

    About the sound

     
    I would describe the sound of X3 as open, detailed and airy. I like the sound of X3 more than of the X5, because a slightly less piercing high frequencies, without that metal feel.
    I cannot point at any property of the sound of X3 that I did not like, it’s great. It’s definitely not slow, and I like it. While testing I went from classical to metal, and enjoyed every second.
    If you like laid back sound – this is not the DAC for you. If you like a heavy coloration – also, I could not find it in X3. I heard a very fast sound, great control of low frequencies, sweet mids and details in high frequencies area. The power is enough for me, any of my headphones can be driven to a volume above ridiculous with ease. I usually listen to flacs, and while enjoying the so-called hi-res tracks, not sure if I could notice a difference in blind test.
     
    Usage,menu,additional
     
    If you are a perfectionist, not ready to settle for nothing X3 might not fit you. The menus are far from being perfect, I don’t really understand why it’s divided the way it’s divided right now. Sometimes the screen does not refresh instantly after you skip to next track. And the screen itself can be called average at it’s best. The resolution is low, viewing angles are low, and the brightness at maximum … low. I don’t see it as a problem, as it’s not a video player and it’s acceptable. Switching to next song is instant, never had such a fast response in any player.
    DAC function (using the unit as external USB sound card) works really well, after installing drivers for windows. In order to install the drivers for Windows 8/8.1 64 bit you have to do some additional actions besides actually running the setup, because the driver is not signed.
    When I used integrated sound card, only 3/5 was my grade at Tidal test (blind testing if you can spot lossless vs 320 k audio). With X3 as DAC – 5/5.
    The unit never got stuck, I never had the need to restart it or use the reset hole. At first it accepted 32GB Kingston memory card from Sandisk Sansa, and later a brand new 128 GB Sandisk memory card. Transfer rate is about 7 mbyte/sec, I consider it good enough for transferring several albums at once (an initial load would better be done using card reader).
    The equalizer is implemented in a very unusual way, if you like playing with equalizer, I’d recommend to read forums or better ask owners about the implementation. It is difficult for me to explain, just trust me – it’s something completely different from what what you are used to.
    The inline remote works for both earphones I tested the player with.
    Before I got the unit I was warned that it’s a pre-production model that might have problems, and higher level of hiss could be one of them. Well, I did not hear that hiss, and I tried really hard with “silence” mp3 and maximum volume setting on all headphones I could find.
     
    Final words
     
    I really liked the unit, very sad that I have to return it. It is not perfect, what it does good it what I am looking for at the moment, and the other stuff I can live with.
    Brooko likes this.
  8. Dickymint
    4.5/5,
    "Nice player, feels substabtial in the hand, great value for money."
    Pros - The unit is nice in the hand, soundwise, you get a lot of unit for your money.
    Cons - The rubber boot, the click wheel sometimes works on single and sometimes two click, no internal memory.
    Fiio X3 V2 World Tour 2015, UK.
     
    Let me begin by saying that this Fiio X3 v2 is on lend to me for a short time as part of the world tour of 2015, the unit does not belong to me and I have no affiliation to Fiio in any way, nor am I getting any financial benefits from this review. All opinions are my very own! And you will not necessarily agree with me, which is only right and proper.
     
    Lets begin by setting the stage based on ME! From a very young age, I have been into “Hifi,” for want of a better word, I have built my own valve amplifiers, quite a few speakers and have owned an enormous amount of equipment in one shape or another, be it valve amplification, or solid state, to CD players, etc, etc. You know how it goes! This all started in the 70's, so that gives an idea of my age.
    My musical pleasures have been the normal fare, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Nice and recently I have been scouring the music industry for new sounds and have found to my delight, the likes of Ayreon, Anathema and IQ. Not to mention the tried and trusted Genesis and Nightwish!
     
    In recent years I have gone from the living room to the portable music machine, some rather basic and not very good sounding and I was amazed to find that there is a thriving world of portable audio out there for those who choose to follow it but like normal hifi, it is also very addictive!
    My pet hate though, is badly recorded music, ( or at least in my own opinion,) and I find that there is no need for it at all. In the past vinyl has been supreme and I still believe that it is one of the best music reproduction methods, try listening to a saxophone on good quality vinyl, then listen to it digitally, not quite the same, though the gap is diminishing! Some recent albums by well known artists are badly recorded, I won't mention who but to me they are so flat and un-emotional, it is unforgivable! I could ramble for ages, sorry. Most of my life has been in industry and with my head under the bonnet of cars, so hearing is a tad reduced, this means I need some treble emphasis to make it easier to hear, this goes for the upper mid-range as well, please take this into account when reading my review. My other burden is big ears, the actual ear hole is quite large and I need very large seals to make most of the headphones fit my ears and seal to be able to produce bass properly.
     
    My equipment;
    As mentioned, I have had a few bits and bobs over the years but my portable enjoyment began with a Sansa Clip, then I moved on to a Colorfly CK4, then added a Hifiman HM601 and lately an Ibasso DX50.
     
    Sansa Clip; Simple small easy to use, not too shabby on the sound production front and always there when you need it.
     
    Colorfly CK4; Liked it at first but now it seems dependant on what headphones you use and can even sound good or bad on what music you play through it, I find it a bit dry, un-emotional, but it can extract a reasonable amount of detail from the music. It always seems able to power any headphones, though you may need to use almost full volume. Soundstage is slightly forward of centre and spans a good 190 degrees and it seems to work best with .wav files rather than .flac files. But the UI is not very good and it is not able to go back to the last played song on re-powering, (or I cannot find how to do it!)
     
    Hifiman HM601; This unit was my favourite for quite a while, it is slightly valve like in it's reproduction, some reviews I have read say it distorts badly, maybe but the sound in life distort, it's not perfect but I enjoy the way it plays music, it seems to favour .flac files but throw .mp3 and .ogg files at it along with .wav and it just plays the music. My only gripe, is that the line-out socket is damaged on mine and I cannot use an external amp as I want to!
     
    Ibasso DX50; Such hype for this piece of kit, at first I found it had a strange soundstage, it feels inclined at about 30 degrees from the back of your neck, to somewhere forward and above your forehead, the left to right seems to be from approximately 8 to 10, with a break from 10 to 11, then 11 to 13 where you find another hole between 13 and 14, then 14 round to 1600 hours to complete the picture. Detail is reasonably good with, for me a reasonable depth to the music, I also expect my players to reproduce “bass!” The world around us is bass orientated, so why have a player or headphones that do not reproduce the main basis for all sounds? And this DAP is a bit dry in this region, I almost put it up for sale after a short time as I just didn't like the sound it made, then I bought a Fiio E17 and plugged it into the digital output and listened to the music from that DAC, then it all came together, clear music, a brilliant soundstage, front to back, side to side, everything, it now has bundles of emotion. And me being quite old, I find that now I need more emphasis on the treble and mid-range, (too much time in industry,) this DAP, plus DAC and amplifier make sweet music for me, it doesn't matter if it is .mp3. .ogg, .wav or .flac files, it plays and can be enjoyed with clarity and detail, I love it. But just to add a bit of spice, I now have a “Three Stones, Minibox E+” amplifier which feeds from the Fiio E17 into the headphones, now we are cooking.
     
    Headphones; Sennheiser HD598's, UE TF10's, UE 900's, Vsonic VSD3 (fixed cable,) and a set of RockJaw Kommand headphones. Plus assorted others.
     
    Sennheiser HD598; My only pair of over-the-ear headphones, a joy to use, comfortable, they can take a short time to tune into but then they just draw you into the music.
     
    UE TF 10; My favourites for a long time, good bass, great detail, soundstage that is as big as the amplification will allow, slightly muffled in the treble but this can be useful with some recordings.
     
    Logitech UE 900; For me, these are my ultimate's for detail, soundstage and musicality, my only gripe is that they are too light on the bass, treble detail is fabulous, midrange is clear and informative, not overbearing at all. It took me quite a while to find “tips,” to fit my large ear holes but when I did, then these began to shine but still with a slight lack of bass, for me!
     
    Vsonic VSD3 (fixed cable); These are a recent purchase and I tried them for a while, they were ok, nothing more so, they sat in my headphone box for a month or two, until I took them out and ran them in, now we have a set of headphone's that reproduce good music. To begin I thought they lacked bass, too much treble and strong mid-range, now they can dig deep into the bass, the treble is tamed to my level and the mid-range sings sweetly! Clarity and detail abound, I would almost put these in the same bracket as the TF10's, but with better treble!
     
    Rockjaw Kommand; Another recent purchase but I loved these from the moment I heard them! The bass was a bit squawky and not at the same level as the treble, the mid and treble seemed very withheld or restricted but as they have been used more and more, the bass is taming down and getting closer to a matching volume level compared to the treble. I cannot put my finger on it but these are just so nice to listen to, the balance is not quite right but do they boogy? They sure do! My main problem with these headphones, was getting a seal with the tips, but a set of Comply large seals sorted that problem. Even the over-the-ear clips are just right for me, it was just the seals, now that they are sorted, the whole lot sings.
     
    Enough rambling about my equipment, though I wish to paint a picture of my tastes and to allow people to understand where I am coming from with this review.
     
     
    Fiio X3 v2;
     
    Likes; The unit is nice in the hand, soundwise, you get a lot of unit for your money.
     
    Dislikes; The rubber boot, everything sticks to it and there is not a slot to fit the SD card, the click wheel sometimes works on single and sometimes it takes two clicks. No on board memory. Slightly more volume on the right channel.
     
    First Impressions.
     
    I am not really a reviewer, so my explanations may not seem very good but I will try and convey what I mean!
     
    The box looks good, it looks like you are buying something decent and substantial, when you get it open, the inner box is also pretty good, then when that is opened, the player is revealed, getting it out of the snug fitting back board is not so easy but not that bad, it could have done with some finger grooves. I finally got it out of the box and it is a nice solid piece of kit but the rubber protector is not so good, a few things I am not too keen on.
     
    What I do like is that this DAP will drive everything that I have, with ease and my opinion is that I could replace my Ibasso DX50 and the Fiio E17 with this single unit and save me some money and carrying weight.
     
    Being a “man,” I didn't bother to look at any instructions but rather relied on learning how to operate the unit by playing, not the best way but you tend not to forget as easy. The UI is quite good, there are a lot of options but it took a while for me to fathom how to go back and forth through my album lists, I got there in the end but did find one problem, I have a lot of .wav files as for some reason I like how they sound but this player puts them all into an “Unknown” file and lists them in numerical order, there is more than likely a way round this but I didn't try too hard, I just ripped my CD's to .flac as well.
    The fact that there is no on board memory is slightly disappointing but not a sale killer, the DAP can see the SD card easily enough and you just need to update the media and you are away, much better than the DX50, it can take some time before it decides to see the SD card and if you are not careful, it locks up and needs a complete reset which then wipes the DX50. The X3 is much better in this respect.
    One gripe I have is with the rubber boot, it gives a bit of protection but needs removing every time you wish to swap the memory card and everything sticks to it! Fluff, wool, dog hairs, human hairs, you could possibly use it to stick the DAP to your dash, only joking! If it was finished in a shiny or smooth finish, it may well become slippery and more easily dropped, so I can see where that may have come from but it is still annoying. All the buttons are accessible from the boot, I never had a problem with non-operation of any buttons through it and it even blocks the digital/line output socket to keep it clean, which is good.
    Loading files directly through the DAP is easy and at the usual expected speed, (my laptop is getting on a bit, so I don't expect fast transfers,) and when updated, the files can be viewed by either “album or artist,” or if you are bored, by “song.”
    When the DAP is starting and shutting down, there are no untoward clicks or pops, unlike some other DAP's, so this prevents me from needing to get the headphones off before switching off.
    Another feature that I like is the ability to change the output type of the extra socket, this can be either a digital output to connect to an external DAC, or as a line output to be able to feed it into an external amplifier, it means one less socket to worry about.
    Another thing I noticed and this will most likely be corrected in the final builds if it is a problem, is a small imbalance between left and right channels, at first I thought it was ok but I went into the setting to check and the previous user had adjusted the balance two clicks to the left, when I centred it, the right sounded louder.
    This DAP has a lovely flat back but this worries me as well, I think it needs some dimples, or some rubber dimples just to prevent the back from getting scratched in normal use, though if you keep it in the boot, then there should be no such problem.
    Another slight quibble is the click wheel, sometimes it needs two clicks to move, others it needs only the one, I still have not found any connection between one or two clicks as it seems random.
    Reading this back, I seem like I am finding lots of faults, these are niggles not faults, this unit is brilliant for the cost, there will always be something better to beat it somewhere but overall, this is a quality unit as you would expect from Fiio. And I like the size, the X5 is too big for my liking but this is just right!
     
    How it sounds;
     
    From the start, I decided to try and keep this as simple as possible, I wanted to use my favourite headphones and also to see if the DAP excels with any particular one of my headphones, then look for the detail and differences.
    As mentioned earlier, I use the DX50 + E17 + Minibox amplifier, I love how this sounds with most of my headphones but the Kommands need to go directly into the E17 for my liking. On the other hand, the X3v2 does it all in one unit, I would say that the sound is very much like the newer E17K, a bit on the dry side for my personal taste but detailed with a soundstage that starts about 8 going round to 4 on the clock but with a canopy that limits the depth away from the listener, whereas, the E17 seems to push the soundstage further out but is limited to 180 degrees of spread.
    A very small difference also noticed was with piano, the X3v2 produces this wonderfully clear and expressive but with the voice of the lead singer from IQ, the slight vibrato in his voice is smoothed over.
     
    Headphones;
     
    Sennheiser HD598; These are the only over-the-ear headphones I have at present, I like them because they sound the way I like it and when plugged into the X3v2, this was no exception, the X3 had no problems driving them, nor would I expect there to be a problem as all my equipment drives these easily. I much prefer IEM's, I can get closer to the music and keep most extraneous noise out.
     
    Rockjaw Kommand; At present these are my favourite, good bass and forward treble, they sound really good with the X3, the bass has punch, articulation and rhythm, the treble has great detail and a piano sounds absolutely brilliant. This combo produces emotion in bucket loads, you want to lie back and listen. “LB&L!”
     
    Logitech UE900; Before I got the Kommands' these were my preferred headphones but now they seem much too lean, using the X3 gave them more depth to the bass but not as much as when connected to the Minibox amp, I always thought of them as too much treble but the X3 seems to have tamed them and I don't like the sound I hear, it's to dry and emotionless.
     
    Vsonic VSDS3 (Fixed Cable,); Another headphone with detail but lacking in bass, even when coupled to the Minibox, these things are dry and using the X3 made no difference at all, I got the impression that this was not a match at all, very dry, extremely detailed but no real dynamics and most definitely no emotion.
     
    Ultimate Ears TF10; Now here we have a headphone that sounds like it was made to partner the X3v2! Again my impression is that these can produce some bass but not a lot and the top end is slightly limited, not with the X3, these things boogie, bass is detailed and not overpowering but can kick, mid range is clear and detailed and the treble is smooth, no aggression or harshness, just fluid. I must admit, I was surprised how well they worked together.
     
    Another trial I put the X3 through was using the line output and feeding it into my Minibox amplifier, this produced a lush smooth sound that makes you just want to lie back and listen to album after album of varied music. I like the ability to be able to assign the socket to either a line out or a digital output, rather than having extra sockets for different types outputs, a very versatile DAP.
     
    With my own equipment, I tend to leave the EQ alone, I did this also with the X3 but when I tried to use the EQ, the fixed settings were not at all to my taste and switching between the “off,” and the “custom,” settings, even when the custom was all at zero, made a huge difference in the sound, almost as if when you put all the settings to full, they then matched the “off” settings.
     
    Conclusion;
     
    As with all equipment, it comes down to personal taste, you have the option to buy and buy until you find what you like but considering how much I have spent to get to where I am at present, the Fiio X3v2 is fabulous value for money. The sound signature is not much different from what my three unit combo produces but in one package and you still have the option to add an amplifier or a DAC and amp to fulfil your spending or sound requirement needs. I found the rubber boot an annoyance but it will add some protection and it definitely will not slip from your hands with that on! The UI is good, not brilliant but I wouldn't know how to improve upon it, support for .wav files seems strange but that may well be me not knowing how to make the changes needed and the click wheel was sometimes one and sometimes two clicks to make a change. But all in all, a very enjoyable player to use and at a good price point, well worth the money, I think these will fly off the shelves when released.
     
    Thank you Fiio for the option to try this DAP, I have enjoyed it and like what you have produced, I look forward to your next generations of units to come.
     
    Dickymint.
     
  9. fnkcow
    4.5/5,
    "Bang for the buck native DSD Hi-Res DAP"
    Pros - Price, sound quality, build quality, features (work as a DAP + DAC + native DSD decoding)
    Cons - Silicon case a letdown, Windows 8/8.1 installation issue as USB DAC
    Disclaimer

     
    This unit was in my possession for a few days as part of the Australasian tour. I'd like to thank @FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for making this tour possible, and @Brooko for organizing and including me in this tour.
     
    *Based on latest firmware version 1.0 that I've updated at the time this review was written.
    *I listen at relatively high volume, so my impressions will be based on this. Please be aware that there might be variations in impressions at different volume and such issues may/may not exist on this product.
    *As I only use IEMs, I will only comment on its usage with IEMs. 
    *No EQ/sound effects were applied throughout duration of having this unit on all devices.
     
    P4303067a.jpg
     
    Build:
     
    The X3II is nearly identical to its younger brother X1 in size and build. It has a solid build with brushed gun-metal aluminium body along with the buttons, and and feels nice to the touch with a nice weight to it. Fairly smooth edges, no protruding parts or looseness. The buttons are firm and responsive. 
     
    One thing to note is the silicon case for X3II. Dust and lint tend to stick to it. And with the silicon case on the unit it's a bit difficult to put it into and take it out of the pants' pockets as they are a bit sticky. If this unit is mine I'd rather not use it. I would suggest a soft plastic/faux leather case instead. 
     
    User Interface and Usability:
     
    The UI is reasonably intuitive, similar to the X1. I was able to find my way around the menus and settings without much fuss without referring to the manual. Buttons are easy to get used to. The boot-up time is quick and the UI has a nice overall presentation. Updating is simply drag-and-drop latest firmware into the root folder of the Micro SD card, and long pressing power button on the side and top left button on the front to initiate firmware update. Scan time of music from Micro SD card is within reasonable bounds.   
     
    Fiio has listened to user feedbacks and looked into fine-tuning their DAPs and making them even more user-friendly. Power button is flat along the side of the unit to differentiate itself from the volume buttons which are slightly protruding out. The default volume up button has a protruding indent so it can be felt by hand while inside the pocket. The scroll wheel experience is improved compared to the X1, with a bit more grip and tactile feedback. When I unplug my earphones it pauses and few minutes later goes into standby to conserve battery. When I want to use it again, just short press on the power button and the X3II switches on instantaneously. The instant on feature is a really nice touch. With screen off and music playing, long pressing the volume buttons become next/previous song. These default actions for the various buttons are customizable. Also, there's no 'pop' sound when switching on X3II with earphones plugged in. These may be small details, but they are small details done right by Fiio compared to some other DAPs in terms of improving the user experience and ensure a smooth time listening. 
     
    Battery Life:
     
    The X3II is listed to last around 11 hours. Sounds about right when I used it under normal circumstances. Better than a lot of current DAPs on the market. Pretty impressive for such a small unit.
     
    USB DAC issue with Windows 8/8.1:
     
    The X3II couldn't be recognized as USB DAC when connected to my Windows 8.1 and this issue seems to be common. There is a workaround to this problem and just follow the instructions in the link below:
    http://fiio.me/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=40391&page=1&extra=#pid106818
     
    Sound:
     
    P4303096a.jpg
    P4303106a.jpg
    Headphone Out (Unamped)
     
    X3II continues the new line of tuning consistent with its younger brother X1, offering a fairly neutral sound with only a tinge of warmth, but most different from X1 is that it has added treble sparkle.  
    The noise floor is present with very sensitive IEMs but considered low enough and acceptable to me, and when music is playing it is not an issue.
     
    High:
    Highs are smooth and yet the treble extension is pretty good with sufficient sparkle. It is sufficiently detailed with barely any grain.
     
    Mids:
    Mids have good clarity and details and don't exhibit any harshness. 
     
    Bass:
    Well-controlled bass that has good decay and hits hard. Bass doesn't bleed into the mids. Bass quality is clean and fairly textured.
     
    Soundstage:
    Soundstage is fairly wide with enough depth and uniformly distributed around the space. Imaging and layering/separation is good.
     
    My main comparison here would be against my Vivo XShot. The X3II has slightly thicker and fuller mids than the XShot, and the bass has longer decay and it is punchier. Both has similar soundstage in terms of depth and width. On the other hand, the X3II has slightly less clarity and airiness. The X3II sounds much more engaging. 
     
    Line Out (Amped)
     
    X3II was paired with my Meier Audio Corda PCStep via line out and noticeable improvement was noted. There is more air and better clarity, soundstage opened up, and both ends were extended a bit with the bass being tighter and having better impact while treble having more air. 
     
    DSD playing 
     
    DSD is something new for me, as before the X3II I don't own anything that can play DSD, but luckily for me there are DSD and FLAC versions of the same albums already in the Micro SD of the tour unit. Under controlled conditions with everything the same and volume-matched by ear, I noticed that finer details are more pronounced on DSD files. It's akin to watching a video on YouTube on 480p and then you switch it to 720p (example just for jump in quality sake). It's more life-like and you get a real sense of feelings portrayed by the musicians. I wasn't much of a believer in hi-res audio formats before and the skeptic in me was truly impressed and looking forward to more comparisons of such in the future.
     
    As USB DAC
     
    Sound quality is the same as expected as playing directly from unit itself. Compared to my Meier Audio Corda PCStep as USB DAC, there is a bit more warmth, heavier bass impact and decay, whereas there is less airiness, detail and clarity and slightly smaller soundstage. 
     
    Verdict:

     
    In this day and age, the audiophile world is littered with many products costing way too much past thousands of dollars and beyond. Could anyone get any decent DAP at all for the budget conscious? Absolutely. DAP + USB DAC in one. Plus native DSD decoding as icing on the cake. With Fiio X3II , you definitely can, in a ultraportable hi-res DAP that decodes DSD64/128. Right on the heels of releasing the X1, Fiio has outdone themselves again with yet another solid deal in the X3II , with sound quality, build quality, portability and usability all rolled into one package that doesn't break the bank of the consumers. 
    Brooko likes this.
  10. originalsnuffy
    4.5/5,
    "Sets a new standard for portable audio at $200 price point"
    Pros - Great sound, Powerful Amp, Useful Features
    Cons - Some owners of previous generation may not like UI Features and Other Feature Changes

    The X3 2[sup]nd[/sup] Generation is a worthy replacement for the original X3.  At a price point of roughly $200 U.S.; the X3 product line provides a wide range of product features along with a sound that provides a meaningful step up the portable players that most people use nowadays, their mobile phone.  The sound is somewhat more refined than the original X3, with less of the mid bass “bloom” or warmth that is the hallmark of the original X3. 
     
    IMG_1303.jpg
     
     
    Instrumental articulation is noticeably more crisp; but not to the point of being so analytical that the unit is difficult to use for extended periods of time.  In in fact I would argue that a highlight of the X3 family is how listenable the units are when it comes to just sitting down and playing music.  I find it enjoyable to relax in bed at night and listen to the original X3 over IEM headphones (so as not to disturb my wife); and the 2[sup]nd[/sup] generation unit is just as enjoyable.  In particular, the high end is fully present but not harsh. 
     
    I tested the unit with FLAC files using both the redbook standard and higher res files up to 24bit 192khz, and also  DSD files.  I did not listen to much MP3 or AAC files as I tend to use my iphone for that kind of source material.  The iphone supports Bluetooth and when I exercise sometimes I prefer to have my headphones untethered.  Sure the fidelity is reduced but you can’t have everything sometimes.
     
    I listened primarily to vocal driven rock (Alabama Shakes, George Exra, Decemberists, the National, Head and the Heart, Rolling Stones, Who), and more progressive rock (King Crimson, Yes).  I also listened to the 24-192 version of Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” from HD Tracks and Charles Mingus “Ah Um” sourced from SACD and converted to PCM via Foobar.  In addition, classical pieces included Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Gustav Holst “The Planets”; and various pieces of chamber music. 
     
    I also tried some less well recorded rock to see whether the unit was overly revealing.  I have found that sometimes hi fi systems can make poorer recordings hard to hear because audio flaws can be highlighted more than is desirable.  But the recent releases of live Bruce Springsteen from 1975 sounded fine; and trust me the recording quality on that release is fine but nothing special.  
     
    A good forum for music fans and especially hi res music fans that readers may want to check is are the Steve Hoffman forums:  www.stevehoffman.tv   
     
    All sources, rock, jazz, and classical sounded very good both over the line out in my car and using various IEMs and earbuds and over the ear headphones.  Both efficient and inefficient headphones were driven just fine with the machine and no hiss was detectable.  But then again none of my headphones as of now are particularly demanding.   I would note that this new X3 made my older Yuin PK3 buds sound great. I have never heard particularly good bass from those earbuds before, and this unit brought those alive. 
     
    Feature wise the new X3 overall keeps pace with the original unit.  The new unit still has a line out and digital coaxial output like the original X3, but now the line out and coax out use the same port which is switchable in software.   One thing I like in the old unit was that the line out was near the micro-USB port.  In my car that meant that both the line out cable and the power cable (I have it hooked up for power to a USB power plus) come in from the same side.  On the new unit the power port is on the bottom and the line out is on the top.  Okay, so that is a first world problem but this is my review and I’ll whine if I want to.  One thing I do like compared with the entry level X1 is that there is no annoying notification that I am using the unit in line out mode. 
     
    The unit still can be used as a DAC, but I could not find a low power mode like in the original unit.  So I had to use a $10 USB port adapter that suppresses the power demand information and makes it much easier to run the unit with a iphone  or ipad using the Apple connecting kit.
     
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FJG5T4W/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
     
    Not a big deal really, as I found that this adapter made the DAC mode on the original X3 more reliable.  The DAC mode was not tested with my notebook but I suspect it will remain the same somewhat tricky setup under windows as it was with the original X3.  It works, but not without some fiddling.  I suppose that is the nature of the beast.
     
    I did test the OTG capability of the unit.  I was able to get a 32gb USB stick formatted in FAT32 to work using a micro-USB to USB OTG adapter.   After sending the review unit on its way, my new unit arrived and I was able to get a similar PNY USB 3.0 stick to work with 256GB formatted in FAT; so that was excellent in my view.  Please note:  one cannot simultaneously charge the FIIO and play music via a USB stick over OTG.  That is a limitation/design feature of OTG and USB.
     
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B4GGW5Q/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
     
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007JR532M/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
     
    Unfortunately,  I could not get my higher capacity SDXC cards (128gb and 256gb) from PNY to work with a variety of OTG SD adapters that were tried.  Please note I am referring to the larger format SD cards, not the microSDXC.   I also could not get these cards to work via an extender that connects the internal micro SDXC to external (larger size) SD using a ribbon cable.  I did get a very low capacity card to work in some of these scenarios; so the issue may relate to design changes in the controllers as the SD format moved to SDXC for higher capacities.
     
    I did try the unit with some DSD files.  The original X3 can play DSD files by converting them on the fly to PCM.   The new unit can natively play DSD files.  To get DSD music there are two main options.  One is to find websites that sell the files.  The second is to find an older PS3 with older firmware and some hacks that are explained in depth on ComputerAudiophile.com.  From there, the ISO files can be extracted with a variety of utilities to yield DSD files (actually there are  a variety of extensions but the music itself is in DSD format).   Well in my case I found a local genial soul that has a modded PS3 who was willing to convert a few of my SACD discs to ISO format.  Unfortunately they sold their PS3 so that was that for me.
     
    I tried some classical music and the Rolling Stones Hot Rocks.  The files sounded great but keep in mind that for any given song DSD formatted files are 3 to 4 times larger than a 24-88 file.  But in particular I have never heard the older Rolling Stones material sound so excellent.  My classical files were more quartet driven as I wanted to hear individual instruments.  The sound was amazing but I suspect that due to file size issues I will listen to 24-88 files (or above) in PCM more often than not.
     
    One area where the original unit has an advantage is that it has hardware bass and treble controls.  I do not know if this is a limit of the machine or just current firmware, but for higher res files (24-88 and above) the equalizer on the new machine is greyed out.  On the older machine there was some tone control capability on the headphone out that was always available; the new machine just has a software equalizer.
     
    The new machine, as other reviewers have noted, has a smart approach to the pause mechanism and can restart quickly from pause without draining the power much.
    There have been a great of discussions about the wheel approach like on the X1 and X5 versus buttons on the old X3.   Suffice it to say that at the end of the day they all get the job done and that is about all that is worth saying about that from my point of view.
     
    A few summary observations.  If you have never purchased a high fidelity DAP before, the second generation X3 is a great place to start.  I suspect the unit will hold its value fairly well.  If you already have a X1; this unit is, in my mind, a step up.  I find it more listenable over extended periods of time particularly in the high end which I found to be smoother. 
     
    The comparison with the original X3 is tricky.  This new unit has more articulation but once you really sit down and listen to either unit it is fairly easy to get immersed in the music and stop worrying about whether the bass guitar is quite as well defined.  So I suspect that the upgrade is more driven by the desire to have a wheel driven interface or some other features rather than the relatively small sound differences.  Please do not get me wrong; the new X3 is a step up but whether that step up is enough to drive your purchase is up to you.  And some features of the original unit (discussed at length in other reviews) may be enough to keep your wallet in your pocket.   Or you can be indulgent like me and decide you want to have two good X3 DAP units so that one can be left in the car and one is used in the house or some such. 
     
    Please note:  FIIO allowed me to reserve a spot in the original upgrade discount program while I reviewed the unit.  So my price was part of a small group that received a discount and that price is no longer available.  Current US prices start at $199.
    yannisgk likes this.