FiiO X3 2nd gen Ultraportable Hi-Res DAP

originalsnuffy

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Great sound, Powerful Amp, Useful Features
Cons: Some owners of previous generation may not like UI Features and Other Feature Changes

The X3 2nd 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. 
 
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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 2nd 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.
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peareye

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Value, Balanced sound, Soundstage, Dynamics
Cons: Battery life could be longer

Fiio X3 Generation II Review
 
 
 
Music Listened To:
 
Art Garfunkel, “99 Miles From L.A.”
 
Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak”
 
Kruder & Dorfmeister, “Café Del Mar”
 
Mark Morrison, “Return of The Mack”
 
Kenny Burrell,  “Midnight Blue”
 
The Corrs, “Everybody Hurts”
 
Alcatraz, “Gimme Luv”
 
 
 
Pros: Value, Balanced Sound, Soundstage, Dynamics
 
Cons: Battery life could be longer
 
Headphone used: Denon D5000
 
Iem used: Final Audio Design Heaven V
 
 
 
 
 
                              The Concerns of A Reformed Audioholic
 
     Hi. My name is John and I am a reformed audioholic. Don’t get me wrong. I still love
music but I have to watch it. As they say “one demonstration is too many and a dozen is
not enough!”
 
    Going back to the 1990’s, I started to buy stereo equipment. And it was fun…for awhile.
Then I felt I could do better so I went out and bought more expensive pieces thinking it
would only get better. Fast forward a year and numerous new speakers, new amps, new
cables. I looked around and now saw tens of thousands of dollars of shiny and colorful
stereo equipment. I had been listening to the same 10 or 20 songs yet again when I finally
realized that I had come down with a case of chronic upgraditis. No matter how much I spent,
I wasn’t listening to the music anymore. I was listening to the equipment.
 
    Why am I writing about this when I am supposed to be doing a review on the new Fiio X3.
BECAUSE, the new Fiio X3 is one of those pieces that makes you forget about the equipment
and just listen to the music again!
 
    It just seems to do everything right enough that I can’t get critical with it…sounds like my
favorite pet! It might not be a purebred but it makes me happy and that’s all that counts in the end.
 
    It’s the right size. It’s got the right amount of buttons. It can be used as a usb dac or a line out.
It’s little amp is powerful enough to drive most headphones to a satisfying level with pleasing results.
 
    Let me explain briefly. I was cranking out Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” through my Denon D5000’s. the
stage was wide and filled in very well from left to right. The guitars were easy to follow and had that
nice electric crunch. The volume was only just past half way!
 
    Then I listened to Art Garfunkel’s “99 Miles From L.A.”. This song has plenty of emotion that draws
you in for the whole ride as if you were in the passenger seat. If you haven’t heard it, you owe it to yourself …
 
    If you enjoy Techno, the X3 will keep your toes tapping with it’s high level of P.R.A.T. and dynamics.
R ‘n B was great through my Final Audio Design Heaven V iems.
 
Whatever I played just sounded better. Less digitial more analogue. The build quality is excellent and
the value factor is through the roof…and I’m definitely a sucker for value.
 
 
Here are some of my notes as compared to original X3:
 
Soundstage: Wider and more continous (no apparent holes in the soundstage)
 
Bass: Tighter and controlled, Quicker than original X3; plentiful bass but not as dominant as original
 
Mids: Forward but not as forward as original
 
Highs: Not sibilant, a little rolled off
 
 
    In my eyes, Fiio has joined the ranks of other well known companies like Outlaw Audio, Hsu Subwoofers,
Von Schweikert Speakers, Emotiva that moved the Price/Performance bar in categories.
 
 Your mileage may vary but you will never say you overpaid.

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Tzar

New Head-Fier
Pros: Wide Sound Stage. Great DAC. Asynchronis USB DAC included in an already awesome player. And hey. Plays Native DSD too!
Cons: Found Gain Setting Redundant. The bright 'blue' light.

joku213

New Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, Compact size, Great cost performance
Cons: Small display size, Low quality of display
At first, I'm very thankful to FiiO for giving chance to use and review this great portable music player.
I'm owner of the FiiO X3 1st, E3, E7 and E9, so I know how FiiO made great DAPs and portable amps.
This X3 2nd gen is one of the greatest DAP which FiiO made than ever, I thought.FiiO always give us variety of choice of hi-grade DAPs and portable amps at an affordable price.
 
There's no doubt that X3 2nd gen give us great experience with great cost performance.
 


Unboxing...

 
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THE REVIEW

 
Package

 
I know the package of E3, E7, E9 and X3 1st, and FiiO products' package designs are becoming more cooler and cooler.
But I have to say that it is NOT easy to open retail box and other boxes.
 
For accessorise, there includs follwing things,
・micro USB cable
・A digital out to coax cable(4pin plug)
・3 type of stickers.
・Warrenty card
・Quick start guide
・spare screen protecters


Comparing to X3 1st and X5

 
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I wrote I own X3 1st, so I have to compare and tell you how X3 improved from 1st gen to 2nd gen.
You know X3 1st's sound is warm and musically with thick Bass and cleaar High (in Japanese we say sound like this for "Don-Shari, ドンシャリ")
Comparing to X3 1st, X3 2nd's sound is cleary sound, monitor like sound I think.BUT more musically than X5.
X3 2nd's sound inclination lie between X5 and X3 1st.
I forgot to write, sound resolution improved from X3 1st, nealy X5.(But X5 is still better than X3 2nd)


Sound Quality(phoneout):

 
hmm, I wrote X3 2nd improved its sound resolution from X3 1st.
Then, I'll write X3 2nd's own sound quality.
These reviews based on the set of X3 2nd and Etymotic Reserch ER-4PT.
 
High:
X3 2nd's high sound area is very clear, as X3 1st and other FiiO products.
Its' female vocal quality is very well, brought up free of all care.
 
Bass:
X3 2nd's bass is smarter than X3 1st, it's tight, solid, but I did't feel unsatisfying.
I can hear enough bass line, but this bass line is not superfluous.
 
Overall and comparing to other DAPs:
Right, X3 2nd's sound is clear and bass line is very tight.
For sound resolution and soundstage, X3 2nd improved from X3 1st.
 
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At last, I'm very proud to became the member of reviewer.
Actually, I bought X3 2nd and it is already arrived and I use the unit everyday.
Thank you FiiO!Giving us great chance and great unit!
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hakushondaimao
hakushondaimao
Nice review, @joku213. Yoku dekita, ne. We had similar viewpoints on improvement from X3 1st to 2nd generations.

daduy

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, build quality, features (work as a DAP + DAC), plays pretty much all music format
Cons: Nothing really worth mentioning for me
Disclaimer
 
I got this unit as part of Australasian tour arranged by Brooko, thank you very much for including me in this tour.
 
Introduction
 
I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 7 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
 
I listen to the X3 II daily in my commuting from home to work and in the office for about 5 days.
 
Since Fiio X3 II is a DAP, I think it's only proper to compare them with other DAPs, having said that i never own a lot of DAPs, so for this review I will just compare them with the Kogan MP4 player and my phone, HTC One M7 in term of sound quality.
 
For the majority of my listening i am using JVC HA-FXT90.
 
Build Quality
 
Similar to the X1, the X3 II is build in a similar manner, solid all metal body, really feel good in your hand, like holding a premium phone (smaller of course).
 
Interface
 
This kind of stuff never bothered me much, but if anyone need to know i found them very easy to use, no problem here, i kinda get used to the interface from my handling with the X1 on my first tour.
 
Deep Sleep
 
One thing that i really like is their ability to go to deep sleep without shutting them down, when i plugged out my earphone X3 II will go to deep sleep after it's idle for a couple of minutes, when i plugged my earphone back it will resume the music instantly, awesome!
 
Sound Quality
 
Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? In summary: super awesome! I would say they are neutral with bit of warmth and added treble sparkle (just a hint). Music just sound beautiful, musical, straight out of X3 II, and it's quite consistent experience with my other headphones (Senn HD 580, KRK 8400, Sony SA1k, etc).
 
In the beginning i was planning to compare the Fiio with my Kogan & HTC One M7, but i dont see any point, to me the X3 II is just a class above them. I remember when reviewing the X1, the Kogan gives a good competition to the X1, but the X3 II just kill Kogan & HTC M7 completely. It's quite sad for me, i've been quite happy listening to my HTC M7 on my daily commuting before the X3 II arrives, when i start listening to X3 II, and switch to Kogan or HTC for comparison, the magic is gone....i guess that shows how good the sound coming out of X3 II.
 
Since the X3 II can also work as a DAC, i give it a try and plug them to my Linux (ubuntu based) laptop, they work sweet, Ubuntu just pick them up immediately and i can play music without any problem. 
 
My desktop system is usually Micromega MyDAC + Project Sunrise V1 + headphones of the day, and replacing Micromega MyDAC with X3 II is fine, but as you probably guess Micromega MyDAC is just a level above X3 II, soundstage, resolution, detail, is noticably lower on the X3. I understand that this is not a fair comparison in the first place, but it's the only one i have, so that will have to do. X3 have an advantage though, it can play DSD while Micromega can't.
 
DSD playing
 
DSD is a new stuff for me, before X3 II i don't have anything that can play DSD, hence i don't have any album in DSD, but i manage to grab a lot of freebies DSD sample just to try out their SQ. This is my impression on how the DSD sounded on X3 II: They are good of course, but for my ears i can't really distinguished any noticable differences from FLAC. Did i hear any improvement on the DSD files? or is just my imagination? I don't know.
 
I would argue that a DSD and FLAC from the same source will most likely equally mastered or gone through the same mixing process, so in a lot of ways they would sounded almost the same, with DSD have the added information.....maybe? I am not an expert on this kind of stuff so i will have to do a bit more testing when i bought a DAC that support DSD. In summary it's really great that you can have DSD playing on 1 single small box that can act as a straight DAP or a dedicated DAC.

Amping
 
I tried pairing my Headstage Arrow 2G out of the X3 II line out and surprised to find some noticable improvement to their sound, bass just sound tighter and fuller, and i think the treble got even more spark and definiton to them. I was using the X3 II without amp for a couple of days and after i tried pairing it with the headstage i never go back, excellent sound quality. 
 
Random thought
 
Interesing things happened, one morning on my way to work i was listening to this song i downloaded from youtube, and oh they sound so good out of the X3 II + headstage arrow I just get lost in the music. The train is delayed, i am gonna get late to work, got project deadline that i haven't finished yet...but interestingly when this song played...it's all gone from my mind, it's just the music playing...when the song finished i quickly switched to my Kogan just to see if i can get the same feeling again....nope! not there! Ok let's get back to X3 again and see if i can recreate the feeling, yep! beatiful music again! Hmmm....this is the first time this kind of stuff ever happens to me (out of portable DAP), well i just think that really tells how good and musical the fiio is, or maybe my gout medication is triggering something on my brain, oh well.
 
Summary
 
They are awesome, sounds good, feels good, work as DAC, work as DAP, good standalone, even better amped. If you're looking for all rounder solution in a box i don't think you can't go wrong with Fiio X3 II, they're the one.
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KC33
KC33
Thanks for the review. I was going to buy the Pono but I haven't been impressed with a lot of the reviews. The X3-2 has received lots of great reviews and I'm leaning towards it now that balanced inputs aren't as important to me. (Sent back my HifiMan RE-600) I look forward to testing one real soon.
retiredat21
retiredat21
hi bro im planning to buy the x3 but im worried that the sound might be just a little bit better compared to the m7, i was just wondering if youre using the m7 with poweramp as well as the viperaudio app?
daduy
daduy
Hi @KC33 thanks! i think you will be pleased with them,
Hi @retiredat21 i wasn't using poweramp or viperaudio when i compared them with X3, however i did use viperaudio when comparing the X1 with M7, and still prefer the X1. YMMV but for me X3-2 is a class above X1 or the M7. HTH :)

shady1991

Head-Fier
Pros: Clean neutral sound, Decent soundstage, comes with good accessories
Cons: Laid back vocals, Battery life
First of all I'd like to mention that my previous DAP was Sony X1050 and this review mostly will be loosely based on comparison with it.
 
DSC08976.jpg
 
 
 
UI and features:
I don't want to talk much about features and user interface. UI is pretty simple and responsive, slow at times. Coming from x1050 finding tracks takes much more time and while still good overall UI and navigation is nowhere as good as sony's, no surprises here.
Another clear downside from walkman is battery life which is still more than 20h after 6 years of using on sony, twice as much as X3 II. 
Bugs:
Couple of times when the player was in a sleep mode it was producing very loud hiss in left headphone which caused battery drain. After connecting to pc the problem disappeared.
Even though in the menu u can change it, in the list it always shows file names rather than title of track. I hope I'm doing something wrong and there is a way to change it.
 
Sound Quality
I compared sounds with no EQ or any sound effect applied on any of the devices. Volumes matched by my ears. Gain setting was low and it was tested with easy to drive headphones (<48 ohm). Since the differences in sound signatures is very big there was no point of performing blind test.  This section of review is very much depended on my personal taste.
 
Overall sound signature / Details:
Sound signature is quite neutral, it is neither very warm or too digital. Compared to Sony x1050 it is colder with more open sound. Vocals are farther than I'd like, in my opinion it doesn't allow you to feel enough emotion from the singer and uniqueness of voice of artist is kind of lost compared to sony X. Instruments sound very clean and detailed, well separated from each other. Though there are things for what I prefer x1050. On Sony you can almost feel the smell of wood when listening to acoustic guitar or violin, When listening to Violin Concertos of Mozart on X3 II you feel like you are sitting near the stage and on x1050 you feel that you are the one who plays violin, if it makes any sense. In one word sound signature of sony is more Organic or more Analog maybe (costing little bit of soundstage though).  
In noisy environment I had to push volume up on Fiio compared to sony because walkman's forward sound signature doesn't take your attention to background noise as much as fiio's open sound.
Soundstage
One of the most important part of the sound for me is soundstage and X3 II performs very well in this regard. It is very wide and uniformly distributed in the space. It is much wider than sony though it never comes as close to ears as walkman does, but overall soundstage is a noticeable improvement over Sony.  Imaging is also better than x1050 and if it had little bit more forward vocals I would rate the soundstage as excellent for my taste.
Bass
Bass quality is quite good, it is very clean and fairly textured, though it doesn't extend as much as x1050's bass. On sony bass is little bit more forward with more punch and better extension with a noticeable margin. On the other hand Fiio has more clarity better texture and faster midbass. 
Mids
Mids are very clear and colorful, has little bit more clarity than x1050 and again it is little bit laid back similar to vocals (which is kind of part of mids anyway). What I liked was how it performed in upper mid section, which didn't have any harshness was bright enough and caused very little sibilance even with sibilant IEMS.
Highs
High extension is remarkable, it isn't brightest DAP u can find but it has very well controlled smooth treble with sufficient sparkle. Compared to sony highs are less present and also less grainy but extends bit more, on x1050 highs are little bit boosted which causes more sibilance with some headphones compared to fiio. So overall highs are very enjoyable and detailed with almost no grain.
Noise floor
I know some people say there is noticeable hiss but since I've been listening to very "hissy" sony for 6 years there is nothing to complain about. Fiio has much, much less noise which is barely noticeable for me even with fairly sensitive IEMS. I have to admit that I was always surprised that people were complaining about noise floor because I didn't care about it even on my walkman but now that I got used to clean background of X3 II the hiss on Sony kind of bothers me when listening at complete silence and darkness (yes, darkness is very important for feeling sound quality for me).
 
EQ/sound effects
The problem with EQ is that once you apply it the volume drops significally so it is hard to say how much it affects quality (in case of sony EQ decreases soundstage and extension of treble). One thing I can say for sure is that sony's clear bass has more pleasant impact than fiio's 6 DB equalizer. Anyway I don't think difital EQ is good enough nowadays for audiophiles, what matters for most of us is an untouched clean sound.
 
Amp section / Conclusion
As I mentioned all my headphones are easy to drive and I couldn't see advantage of fiio X3 II over x1050 in that regard, volume level on low gain is exactly the same as Sony's (bear in mind that Fiio output impedance is much lower i.e. it needs more power to match volume of sony), so other than much less crosstalk and background hiss there are no other advantages of amp power for me (probably there will be if I buy high impedance headphones). Before buying I also was considering Sony A15 but decided to keep my x1050 and buy fiio for little bit diversity.
 
Considering the fact that it is almost in same class that X1050 was 6 years ago I expected little bit more from X3 II. The sound quality overall is better than of Sony but there still some aspects in which I prefer sony's sound  and overall difference isn't big enough considering that you lose some features and versatility of UI.  All in all The DAP is excellent for it's price tag 200$ in US but it isn't as spectacular for the price I had to pay in Europe (235 Euros).
 
Overall, excellent built quality, great accessory pack, big soundstage and clean sound guarantee the success of the player.
 
I tested sound mainly 44/16 WAV (since sony doesn't support flac) and 320kbps mp3 (still perfectly enough for testing sound signature), for diversity the player was tested with songs of Radiohead, Iron maiden, Tool, Mozart, Eminem, Katie Melua (for female focal tests) and so on...  
Thanks for reading...
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peareye
peareye
Nice review and comparison. I remember the Sony players I had were colder sounding but great menu interface.
 
Too bad they didn't do flac.
shady1991
shady1991
Thanks. Yes, sony players usually had cold sound with bit boosted bass. But x series was completely different from those. I remember back then when I compared walkman x to s series I was really shocked how much different their sound signatures were. 
peareye
peareye
And i almost bought one of the larger X series. Best Buy Canada was selling them for less than 200 bucks!!!

kytuphicanh

Member of the Trade: DIY Amp Builder - AKA tranhieu
Banned: Multiple Profiles & Incomplete Sales
Pros: Exellent sound quality, especially midrange. Robust built, beautiful finished. Many functions: DAP, Transport and DAC.
Cons: Firmware isn’t stable. The wheel is now better, but you need to use it with care and keep away from babies.
2 years ago when Fiio X3 came in place, I was so proud to say that it was one the best high quality digital audio player on the market at that time with a very good smooth sound, engaging bass response and also a very dark background, which was suitable for kinds of headphones and tastes. And X3 owned a dedicated 3,5mm analog line-out and coaxial output. Furthermore, Fiio X3 was also my DAC for laptop and a transporter for my budget-line desktop set up, featured with Wolfson WM8740 DAC Chip. In short, it worked as my very first Swiss Army Knife in the audio world.

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This year, Fiio has a renewing campaign, which is like they used to do with Fiio E7, and i was quite interested in the name of Fiio X3-II ( or you may say, Fiio X3K ). Fiio introduces the X3-II as a completely new version of the old X3. New? What that means? OK my friends, let’s take a closer look to X3-II’s utilities.

Utility

X3-II uses a very different DAC chip, coming from Cirrus Logic CS4398 with better SNR and Dynamic Range than Wolfson WM8740 on X3 (you should know that Cirrus Logic did buy Wolfson). CS4938 itself can play high resolution music, like 24bit/192kHz, and DSD natively without down-converting to PCM like PCM1795 on Fiio X5. To make sure that X3-II will work flawlessly without any problem of speed, Fiio puts an Ingenics 4760B dualcore cpu inside, running at 600Mhz, I hope that my X3-II will suffer from lag and ramdomly stop. The amplification is responsible by OPA1642 and LMH6643. OPA1642 has significant low THD ( 0,00005% ), which brings out the very natural sound without color. Digital to Analog stage really shines with CS4398 and moreover, 2 dedicated clocks are inserted for better upsampling and low jitter. One clock runs at 44,1kHz while the other handles 48kHz.

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Like the predecessor, x3-II also works as a DAC for laptop and PC using MAC or Windows. This function, however, is such a brilliant one. Noted that you can still use X3-II as a USB – Coaxial signal converter. I’ll introduce X3-II to my dad. He has a Marantz SA-14S1 and wants to use it with his own laptop, since he’s got so many CDs and most of them are very old. X3-II doesn’t have internal memory, however, there’s a 128Gb ( maximum ) microSD card slot.

Packaging and Appearance

I guess I don’t need to talk about the packaging, these below pictures will tell you all about that.

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“ …Peopole fall in love in mysterious ways, maybe just the touch of a hand “ ( Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran ) And yes it is ! I love X3-II at the first time I touch it. The build quality is robust! X3-II ‘s whole body is constructed by aluminum. X3-II looks exactly like the X1 but a bit thicker. The wheel is better, providing better stiffness than X1 . Titanium color is just. Wow! I hate using both silicone case and stickers, they look cheap and somehow attract too much dust. I like this one-and-only color of X3-II. With darker color, scratches are hardly visible, which means you may use it for a long time without aging.

User Interface

I don’t like it so much. The UI is not remarkably good but I think Fiio did their best.We have dedicated tabs for songs, artists, albums and genres. And you can still manage your music by folder. But without a touch screen and operating system, finding a songs in thousands of them are difficult. In the Option tab, we also have high/low gain setting. Playback screen is informative with details about the songs. You can add music tag to have pictures in the background.

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Sound

Well well, this is the most interesting part. My gear used are ATH MSR7, Phillips Fidelio X2, Hifiman HE400i and some in-ears monitors such as ATH CKR9, Furutech ADL EH008 and AKG K3003. X3-II provided a big driving force into all of my headphones. Mostly, I listen to classical, jazz and some pop music, all of them are DSD for superior sound quality.

The overall sound is natural and bright with stunning midrange and awesome treble reproduction. Bass is clear and impact.
For more details about the sound, I would like to write each separated part for bass, mid and treble.
Bass: I’ve read some review talking about the bass response of X3-II. Many of them complain that the bass is not so deep and mediocre expressed. Pairing up with most of my headphones, I found out the reason why. To me, the bass is overally full body, lots of details. It hits deep and plump. However, there was an only thing caught my attention: bass extension is not much, that is like when you listen to an jazz song with cellos (for example: Bye bye blackbird - Patricia Barber ) , you can miss the vibration of bass strings. It’s still there, full body but the echos of the bass are not extended. Or like electric bass guitar in the song Brother In Arms – Mark Knofler, bass extension is somehow abbreviate, making the song’s tempo faster. Upper bass is plenty, with good slamming force. While the low-end possesses a thin and, to many people, a little clumsy.

Mid: Shine! Diamond shines! This might be the best thing in sound quality of X3-II. It’s the best mid I’ve ever experienced so far in the music players under 500$. The sublime midrange is natural, laidback. Both low and high mid are pretty well reproduced. Male vocal in the song Hey Katrina – Ewen Carruthers is thick and warm. It’s a fresh hot cup of cappuccino in the morning. On the other hand, high mid in the song of Alisson Krauss: It wouldn’t have made any difference, reaches the very high notes of human voice without any harsh and peaks. The mid isn’t candy-sweet. It’s clear, little rough but smooth and relaxing. X3-II helps remaining the true sound of my headphones, even the Hifiman HE400i.
Next to musical instruments, I used my beloved tracks with Marianne Thorsen ( D major KV218 Allegro ), Mari Kodama ( Piano Sonata No.1 in F major OP.2 ) and Rachel Podger ( Concerto in B flat, Opus 4 No.1 ). Oh my ears…..These songs sound no coloring, no artificial digital flavors at all. It stuns me again and again, makes me rape the replay buttons like crazy. The violin are smooth, bleak and unbelievably fast. Piano sounds elegant, clear and clean like a Baltic Sea in an early morning. X3-II reveals so much details here. I can feel the force when Mari Kodama use double fingered technique playing some very hard parts of the concerto, it’s thick and superbly strong like a hammer that hits in to your eardrums.

Treble: Good? Yes, X3-II’s treble is well paired up with my most-of-the-time-favorite inear AKG K3003. It sounds transient, sparkle, powerful. Decay is fast. A song like Jump Right In ( Zac Brown Band ) has a lot of high frequencies instruments like hi-hat, snare, crash cymbals, therefore, it’s tough for any headphones and player to play well without confusion. But after spending a serious listening time with Fiio X3-II and AKG K3003 and ATH MSR7, these combo suffered very well and passed the exams, of course, no disappointments, even the smallests.

Soundstage and imaging: width and depth are excellent, phenomenal.

Thanks AudioChoice VietNam (Distributor of Fiio) for sending me a sample to make this review come to real.
PinkyPowers
PinkyPowers
Your review was a delight. While some who struggle with the language come off clumsy, you managed a kind of intelligent charm. The care you took with each of the three frequency ranges made me feel I understood the sound of the X3ii quite well.
 
Thank you. 

fleasbaby

Member of the Trade: Wabi Sabi Headphones
Pros: Great "fun" signature, great battery life, fantastic construction
Cons: Not as refined as the X5
How much more can we possibly hear? At some point audio, and personal audio by default, becomes a continual series of efforts to throw oneself over the walls of the physical world. We try desperately to defy our bodies and minds, and so chase file resolution, processing effects, driver technologies endlessly. We are Alice in Wonderland, chasing the White Rabbit, eating this cookie, that mushroom and experiencing all manner of auditory hallucinations.
 
I am drawing dangerously close to a drug analogy, so I’ll wrap this up quickly….Alice took whatever was available to try and enhance her experiences or surmount problems. Different combinations of actions, consumables and words took her to different places.
 
Plenty of people will give you a detailed review covering packaging, build, specs, etc, etc...allow me to give you the "quick and dirty"... How is the X3K like munching mushrooms and talking to a disappearing cat? The X3K is a rather potent *ahem* mushroom, that is guaranteed to help you throw yourself, willingly, back into trying to improve your next audio experience just a little bit more than the last one.
 
I spent a week with the tour unit for North American tour participants. I received no compensation from FiiO for doing this, and am in no way affiliated with them or employed by them. I did not get to keep the unit either. This is what I found: the X3K has a richer, more “classic hi-fi” sound than the X5. This means it sounds fantastic, as long as you pair it with the right headphones. I found that with neutral/clinical iems (like the TPeos Altone 200) and earbuds, it was very pleasing. A little of that hi-fi love (ie: warmth and bass) from the X3K and they shone.
 
Surprisingly, warmer iems and buds do very well too. I thought the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore would be muddy and dense. Not so. It felt delicate and easy, non-fatiguing, with great soundstage and detail. They came across as more engaging and musical than via the X5, where they sound muddier.
 
I wanted to challenge it a little as well, so I tried my personally modded T50rp too. These have been tuned to have a “just-South-of-neutral” signature. The X3K easily powers them on high gain. The sound was clear and appealing, just as it was with the Carbo Tenore. The X3K signature shone through again.
 
With my collection of earbuds, I found the Blox M2C and the Yuin PK3 were less easy-going than the Zero Audio Tenore IEMs. They were driven nicely, and the detail, soundstage and bass were all there. The synergy was not as markedly good as the Zero Audio though.
 
I was recently sent a pair of the VE Zen and Asura to review. These are a particularly challenging earbud. They sound gorgeous, but they like a powerful source. Both buds have a similar signature, which I am guessing is the VE house sound…detailed, engaging, not fatiguing…most enjoyable. The Zen has an impedance of 320 ohms, the Asura has one of 120 ohms. The X3K amp section handled both with aplomb.
 
Overall, after a long and steady diet of X5 and E12 only, I found the X3K a refreshing change. Despite the better implementation of the scroll-wheel in the X3K, and the nice flush screen though, I will not be selling my X5 yet (I am guessing the X7 is going to be the one to make me do that when it comes out). I have no doubt that plenty will find the X3Ks signature more enjoyable than the X5 and the X1. It’s more refined than the X1 and less “serious” than the X5. It’s also pretty powerful as a stand-alone unit, driving difficult headphones with admirable effort. It’s definitely worth trying once….you might even find yourself coming back again….and that’s not a bad thing….everything in moderation….right?
 
All source files were FLAC 16/44, with the exception of a few FLAC 24/192. I did not test DSD playback at all.
peareye
peareye
I found this X3 literally leaped over the original in nearly all categories...wow. Bang on review.

albaman

Head-Fier
Pros: An amazing digital audio player for the music loving masses
Cons: If only they get to find out about it
Albaman Reviews FiiO’s X3 Gen 2​
 
First; ten things you should know about me, a newbie reviewer
 
1 I appreciate technology for what it delivers but not the actual mechanics of delivery. So I lead with my ears to appreciate an old valve amp, a used cable or a new dac.
 
2 I love music. I’ve studied it, carelessly, I’ve played it, incompetently, but I use my reasonably well trained ears to listen to it, avidly.
 
3 I have luxuriated in high end hifi - WLM, Trafomatic, Accuphase - and equally flash headfi gear - Audeze, Sugden, Luxman - but now I have more sense than money, I’m very considered in my listening; from digital gear to analogue ear.
 
4 My portable products of choice have been a FiiO X5 (replacing an iBasso DX90) and Final Audio Design Heaven IVs (replacing RHA 750s) In support, a Cayin C5 for extra juice when required. In short, some decent midfi compromises.
 
5 I own  no MP3 compressed files, one CD (Sol Gabetta - Elgar Cello Concerto), and 1TB of high res PCM and DSD albums. You would probably not describe my music library as compromised.
 
6 I enjoyed a successful career in consumer research and marketing so I ‘get’ brand buyers and sellers and the relationships between them.
 
7 The expression ‘fit for purpose’ is not just an idea to me; it’s a personal mantra. No matter what else it can do, if it doesn’t deliver what it says on the tin, it doesn’t deliver.
 
8 Research and statistics are both important. But human hearing is uniquely individual, like a fingerprint. Technology is unquestionably objective but human listening is inescapably subjective.
 
9 My opinion on gear is based on how it sounds to me but never what it costs or who built it.
 
10 My goal with hifi can be surmised in one word. It’s only ever about listening pleasure. Be it pleasure per pound, unexpected pleasure, 1 + 1 = 3 pleasure or shared pleasure.


 
To my FiiO X3 Gen 2 review then…​
 
In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Bradbury argues “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” The idea that one small event can trigger enormous change is attractive and it has been proven time and again. Think bottled water instead of tap water or (mobile) phones for people not places or electronic books that glow in the dark.
 
Well, we may just have us a tipping point here.
 
Caution
This will not be a narrow product technical review or a wide-ranging equipment comparison by any measure. If you want to understand the ‘gearology’ of this DAP, I commend Brooko’s authoritative effort published at the beginning of this global launch tour. No, this is a strictly subjective assessment of a very ogle-worthy object; the second iteration  of FiiO’s X3 digital audio player.The FiiO X3 Gen 2.
 
So the review style may be new to you but don’t be afraid; different’s good...
 
My Cousin Vinny, a 1992 gem from 20thC Fox, featured Joe Pesci as a sartorially challenged New York lawyer of questionable provenance, defending a teenage relative wrongly accused of murder. (Accompanied by his adorable partner in crime-law, Marisa “my body clock is ticking” Tomei.)
 
In a pivotal scene, Vinny cross-examines a key prosecution ‘asset’ who claimed to see the murder from his living room. Vinny confronts the witness with a series of photos taken from his house...
 
“And you saw all this...through these thick glasses. Snap. And those net curtains. Snap. And dirty windows. Snap. And rusty fly screen. Snap. And trees in foliage. Snap. And bushes in bloom. Snap.” OK, not verbatim but you get the (exceedingly clouded) picture.  
 
It’s a lovely movie moment. And a wonderful analogy for listening to mediocre music on mediocre equipment. The iphone-earbud listener is several layers removed from  musical transparency; poor production, over-compressed files, token dacs, speech-centric amplifiers, multi-tasking technologies and head gear not much better at relaying music than garden hose. Even with a funnel on the end.
 
Market movement
Headfiers have known for some time that investing in better gear enabled them to remove many of these unwanted sound screens. But the level of investment required for premium portable players is substantial and, for most normal folk, unwarranted.
 
In the last two or three years, big brand players like Sony quietly joined the fray with their NWZs. Boutique operators like iBasso lifted their game with the DX90. Astell & Kern introduced BMW looks and performance...but at what might be considered closer to Ferrari prices.
 
Apple recognised their own game was up when they consigned the iPod to history. But not before cracking a quarter of a billion sales though. So the case for volume potential with music players has been made, I believe.
 
Then, in 2013, fledgeling Chinese (mostly mobile) music maker FiiO stepped into this gear germinating greenhouse and, well, started cleaning the music ‘windows’. Their window cleaner par excellence is the X5 and it has rightly gained recognition as one of the best performance-price offerings in the market. But at £250+ for the player alone it is, for the masses, a distinctly high rise viewing opportunity. Add decent in ear / over ear gear and sd cards loaded with high res files and that budget is doubled without effort.  Yes, a wonderful player - I own one myself - but not a mass market tipping point by any means.
 
But FiiO were learning. Fast. FiiO’s earlier effort, the X3 Gen 1, remained their nearly machine. Nearly windex-clear sound, nearly great tech, nearly fabulous design and nearly the first DAP to break through the glass ceiling separating specialist product appetite from global icon hunger. Their entry level X1 then broke the $100 barrier -  but without cracking the must have window.
 
Just two years after entering the mobile music glass house, FiiO have just smashed every pane in the DAP greenhouse with their second take on the X3. The X3...err...2. OK, I’m pretty sure the product’s name will not win many prizes. But its performance will. That, at least, is clear to see.
 
In a nutshell
The UK price will be circa £160. That’s the same as the ‘old’ X3. Or obsolete ipod money Your £160 gets you FiiO’s all new X3 Gen 2, with a CS4398 dac delivering 113db SNR, protective silicone case and assorted cables and screen protectors. Even free screen print options to personalise your player. It is less than 10cm x 6cm by 1.5cm and a larry lightweight 135g. It delivers up to 200mw across a 20-20 frequency response and should drive phones up to about 300ohm, efficiency dependent of course.
 
According to FiiO, improvements on its predecessor - the X3 Gen One - include a more refined and balanced sound signature, new UI including improved X series scroll wheel, new “digital audio architecture” (eg dual crystal oscillators = less jitter and more precision), new music playback capabilities (DSD Native, 10 band eq, custom playlists, in line remote support), better power management inc deep sleep mode and remaining battery life display.
 
Potentially, that’s a lot more X3 for your money.
 
Your flexible friend
This DAP plays anything from naughty mp3 (a shame) to native DSD (a joy). And it does all this effortlessly. It will work with most earphones on the market without recourse to hiss-steria. Portable phones are largely no problem. And, within reason, full scale on ear / over ear head gear is small beer for the X3... too. (I’d love to listen to Philips’ L2 / X2 phones on the X3 Gen 2; the synergy could be wonderful.)
 
It will also feed a separate hifi system and act as a dedicated dac for digital downloads. And right now, it is even driving my Sennheiser HD700s - paired with a portable head amp for enhanced and enriched performance. And it’s giving my prized X5 a serious run for its extra money.
 
This is normally the part of a review where a promising product is paired with pricier playmates. Not here though. As I confessed earlier, I’m  a firm believer in the legend “fit for purpose”. So, whilst the X3-2 could feed a £100 000 hifi room, and probably make a really good fist of it, I won’t be playing that game. ( I could drive a Ferrari round the Nurburgring in second gear but what would be the point?) No this particular vehicle is called a portable player for a reason.
 
So. As a portable (inside-outside) music player, how does it perform? Either with ear gear or dropped into a price paired domestic / office rig. Preceding reviews have been uniformly positive. This contribution is going to be different. No, for me the X3 Gen 2 is not a very good DAP. Let me explain.  I think this FiiO is actually a brilliant DAP. The X5 is a slightly up-market but very competitive player. The new X3 is a much more nimble and able competition destroyer. It is Apple-esque audiophilia without the Apple price.
 
Check my photographs. It’s beautiful. It is mellow metal, not pono plastic. And function more than matches form here. The scroll wheel just works and the surrounding menu buttons quickly become second nature. The screen is great. The size is pocket / purse perfect; more muscular than the X1. More handy than the X5.
 
A new headfi descriptor
As for how it sounds...it is gob-grinningly good. (ggg = even better than an involuntary smile inducer but not quite a Homer Simpson dribble maker.)
 
It’s traditional to divide sound performance analysis into distinct segments. You know; bass - lower and upper, mids...err...lower and upper, and highs...well...higher and higher. However, that would do this FiiO no favours. It is the X3 Gen 2’s seem-less even-handedness across these vertical layers that distances it from less balanced and less transparent peers. No fiery magnifying glass analytics here though. More open window, ever so slightly lush, landscaping.
 
For portable players driving in ear monitors, soundstaging is a tough ask. As we headfi-fans know, left ear is all left channel and right ear is all right channel so creating dimensional images is tougher than it is for room speakers which merely bias left and right channels instead of isolating them. But the X3 delivers a 3D listening experience admirably.
 
In the zone, outside the ears
Through budget compatible FAD Heaven 4s, I can clearly place a Beethoven string quartet violin just outside my left ear whilst the ‘cello is playing just outside right. With Chesky’s binaural Jazz in the New Harmonic, separation is even better and front-back layering is extended. The sax player is clearly in front of the drums and to my right. Kate Bush’s voice and piano are simultaneously realistic and distinct yet joyfully integrated in 50 Words For Snow. With full on Mahler (4th symphony), orchestration is, if you want to be really picky, just a fraction confined. But not by much and with Mahler you get a lot of players and a lot of notes for your money. Otherwise, you’ll hear no separation anxiety here.
 
But the above are merely five star features. The magic of the FiiO X3-2 is in the sound of music it delivers. Think big ticks for tone, texture and timbre. Big ticks. And music  playing is rendered properly percussive. (We get too used to the rougher edges of playing being filtered out of the digital equation. So instruments appear, unannounced, instead of grabbing our attention. Real music is never so polite.)
 
I want to hear the rosin vibrate off of a plucked string, trumpets triple tongued and clarinet keys clattered. I want to experience the sax player’s breath engage a reed to trigger tempting tenor tones. And singers simply seem more real when you can hear them breathe. And even playing close to the bridge of a ‘cello, I loved experiencing Sol Gabetta’s finger pads audibly strike at speed in her Elgar Concerto performance.
 
It’s just more real. And frankly, the X3 Gen 2 brings you closer to real music than should be possible for the price.
 
That good? Really?
 
Don’t just take my word for it in this review. My distinctly ‘unfi’ brother is a prime prospect for the new FiiO DAP. He has already enhanced his Sony Xperia listening with the lovely new FiiO E11K and a set of Brainwavz R3s. His listening taste extends from old rock to new blues with very little in between. On hearing the X3 Gen 2, he said:
 
“I like my Sony / FiiO combination but this little thing sounds way better AND it’s more compact. I think the sound (Bach Cello Suites through car stereo) is much cleaner.” His better half added: “If I knew about this, I’d much prefer it to an iPod. It’s a really neat design.” And my professional musician sister is excited just by what the X3 Gen 2 can do. Chalk upx3221of1.jpg
 
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two sales to FiiO.
 
I myself interviewed several DAPs before coming back to my much appreciated and appropriately named X5 ie it is better than players that cost 5X the price. And I have enjoyed FiiO’s portable amps - particularly the E12 - too. But I just wasn’t prepared for the sonic excellence of this newest player in their portable portfolio. I say again; a player that costs just north of a hundred and fifty quid!
 
If I was buying a new DAP today, I would be very hard pressed to choose between the X3-2 and the X5-1. Armed with prices, it would probably be a no brainer.
 
Conclusion
For portable music playing millions ready for something cooler, smarter, better, cheaper, the new X3 Gen 2 is the player they don’t yet know they covet. It is, potentially, a game-breaker product. Like high-tech icons before it, it combines beautiful design, brilliant performance and outstanding value in an exceptionally compact package. FiiO have an extraordinary window of opportunity here.
 
I hope they can see that they are on the verge of a mass market tipping point with their X3 Gen 2 product. They just have to let the waiting millions beyond headfi know it now exists.
 
**********​


 
Supporting evidence
Review equipment: FiiO X3ii, FiiO X5, FiiO E11, FAD Heaven IV, Brainwavz R3, Sennheiser HD700, Cayin C5. The word midfi springs to mind.
 
Review music: Mahler 4th Symphony - San Francisco Symphony  / SFS, Kate Bush 50 Words For Snow / HDTracks, Bach St Mathew Passion / Berlin Phil Digital Concert Hall, Chesky Jazz in the New Harmonic / HD Tracks, Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4, 5 / Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Linn, Tony Furtado Special Event 30 / Bluecoast. The word eclectic springs to mind
 
I know both the equipment and the music listed above intimately. I know how it’s meant to sound, how it can sound with different combinations of my gear. The only new item in the mix was the review item, loaned to me for a week by those awfully clever FiiO people.
 
This review was conducted over fifty hours of intensive listening in April 2015.
MisterMudd
MisterMudd
After reading numerous reviews on this device, your review was my "tipping point". Fiio X3 II on the way via Prime. 
peareye
peareye
This is one of those times where "You definitely won't regret it!"
Prognathous
Prognathous
Very nice review. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

xsk3l3t0rx

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: sound quality, wide soundstage, build quality, manufacturer responds here, price DAC capability, beautiful
Cons: user interface not intuitive, screen quality,
FOREWARD: as a relatively new user to head-fi, i dont expect many of you to take my review seriously. however, although i'm new to POSTING on this site, i've been an audiophile and a lurker of this site for quite some time. i've got several years of hifi under my belt, a low post count, and an electronics degree to work with, so thats my resume to you guys. without any further ado: the FiiO X3ii!!!!
 
UNBOXING: the item arrived beautifully packaged. the presentation was beautiful, and upon first opening, you could tell that effort was put into fitting everything in this box, while still making it look beautiful. multi-lingual directions, the DAP, a micro-usb cord (of good quality), extra screen protector, stickers (kind of cheesy USA flag, carbon fiber, and fake wood grain). as soon as i registered the product and made a user name on FiiO's site, everything was promptly thrown away (i'm not gonna use any of that crap). also, it comes with a sleek, sexy silicone case which i prefer to leave on. its very thin, but seems very secure and allows for headphones to feel securely inserted into the jack.
 
FEATURES: this DAP is quite feature packed for its price, hardware-wise. the build quality is phenomenal. as mentioned in other reviews, its a one-piece metal body, rather than last-gen. it feels like it could take a drop on the floor and be ok functionally, although the screen is suspect to durability. features include a headphone out, line-out/coax out, recessed power button (useful for when it's in your pocket), a decent scroll wheel, basic control layout, integrated DAC features (plug and play for linux/posix systems i.e. ubuntu, fedora, debian, mac), and a USB charging/data transfer port. software EQ is decent, software hi/low gain allows you to drive different impedence headphones accordingly without introducing noise. battery life is quite long on this device, as of this submission, ive been listening for a solid 4 hours straight and i've still got a full 4 bars, VERY IMPRESSIVE FiiO!
 
USER INTERFACE: this is easily the worst part of this DAP. i really really dont want to give this DAP a bad mark on anything, but as a newbie to portable hi-fi, this is unacceptable. i'll let many, many things slide. but the screen/UI is abysmal. i realize that there is only so many pixels you can fit on a small TFT screen like that, but its just not well made. i dont wish to start any flame wars, and no, i couldnt make one better, but thats not whats on trial here. i realize that FiiO devs post here, and aware of the current situation, but for people like myself who are just jumping into this market, its hard to "accept" this in 2015. understandably, to keep the price point low, sacrifices had to be made, and FiiO did do the right thing by cutting corners on the screen rather than the circuitry. the UI is simply not very intuitive. the main screen is split into 5 categories: Now Playing, Category, Browse Files, Play Settings, and System Settings. within 2 minutes of using this device, i could see glaring issues. on such a small screen, why wouldnt you minimize the amount of onscreen objects to simplify the UI? "now playing" shouldn't even exist, it should be accessible by long holding the "back button". "play settings" should be IN "system settings", why have multiple settings categories? just put all configuration settings in ONE place, dont over-complicate things for the end-user. "browse files" and "category" should be unified into one as they both are ways to play your audio. these steps would simplify the UI, while at the same time, getting the user to their music quicker. 
 
SOUND QUALITY: the best part of this product (besides how small and light it is). i'm usually a fan of mids/highs, but i'll make acceptions for this DAP. its not that mids/highs aren't clear, they just seem less prominent in the mix. however, its not a bad thing, the soundstage allows the instruments to sound evenly spread across the mix (having nicely mastered FLACs doesnt hurt either). i'm running this DAP straight into a pair of SHURE SE215's and for low impedance IEMs, this is a dream to listen to. in the end, thats exactly what this hobby is about, and in that regard, FiiO really knocked it out of the park with this one. i'll admit that i never turned on EQ because i like a flat response. i prefer to listen to the recordings as they were mastered and not try to compensate, its a personal thing. whatever rocks your world, keep doing it :wink:
 
OVERALL: put it this way, if you were on the fence about buying this, do it. if you're just getting your feet wet in portable hifi audio but dont want to spend too much money, buy this. if you dont need a fancy pants flagship device, buy it. if you want to be pleasantly surprised with what a portable can provide/do, buy it. the only reasons i can think of NOT buying it, would be if you are a) broke b) already have something you are happy with c) don't like excellent sound quality. for what you pay, i feel like the X3ii will be the model that other DAPs aspire to become. its got the right features-to-pricepoint ratio. sure, there are some areas that need improvement, but its not the audio department, FiiO has clearly listened to its' customers, and its paying dividends. FiiO: if you are listening, your UI needs some drastic improvements, its the only reason i cant give you 5 stars. its THAT bad. simplify it, it HAS to feel natural, and at this point there's too much clutter. its literally the only glaring issue i have.
 
tl;dr sound quality rules, n00bs should buy this and be done with it, everything is 0mG except UI, but that can/will be improved.
 
ALBUMS LISTENED TO: (all flacs)
 
thin lizzy - jailbreak
genesis - the lamb lies down on broadway 24-bit SACD rip
queen - innuendo
porcupine tree - the incident
camel - rajaz
camera obscura - desire lines
10cc - how dare you!
king crimson - the power to believe
marillion - misplaced childhood
tears for fears - the seeds of love
the smashing pumpkins - adore
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JeffAustin
JeffAustin
Thank you for your thoughtful review. I don't find the UI as bad as you say, but we all have different experiences and expectations.
 
McDown has created an incredible theme for the 1st generation X3 that makes it more beautiful to look at and more enjoyable to use. Hopes that he will do the same for the X3ii.
peareye
peareye
really like you music selection: i always appreciated 10 c.c. from way back and my daughter turned me onto camera obscura about 8 years ago.
Skullbox
Skullbox
Congrats for your instructive review! Well done! Reviews are Always welcome!

stolzone

New Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, build, compact size, affordable price
Cons: Wheel scrolling needs more precise work
First of all, I would like to thank Fiio for letting me one of review tour members and providing me with a sample of X3 2nd(X3K/X3 II). This is my honest opinion. 
 
Unboxing: 
 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Size comparison with X1 and AK120: 

 

 

 

 

 
Quick review for operation of X3 2nd: 
0.jpg

 
 
Sound Quality(phoneout):
 
I have owned Fiio X1, X5, AK120, and Cayin N6 and had owned Colorfuly C4 and HM-901. Sometimes I do comparison with them. The word "more" doesn't mean "better" for me. Even if I say "Fiio X5 has more brilliant high than X3 2nd", it doesn't mean "X5 is better than X3 2nd on high." I want to describe X3 2nd's sound by comparing with other DAPs.
I pair X3 2nd with 1964-Qi and AKG K495NC. Following review is based on the set of X3 and Qi.
 
High:
X3 2nd's high is very clear and accurate. The amount of high is C4>N6>X5>X3 2nd>X1. X3 2nd doesn't have so much high, but I don't feel lack of high from X3 2nd. I think this is sufficient amount of high. X3 2nd's high doesn't go spread and isn't brilliant, so I don't recommend this if you are "high-lover" person. I think C4's high is more brilliant, extended, and sharp. X5 has more sharp and solid high. N6 has more sharp, strong ,and thick high.
 
Vocal: 
X3 2nd 's vocal is clear and airy. X5, X1, and N6's vocal is more accurate and solid. I don't mean X3 2nd's vocal is backward. Vocal is intimate and smooth. I enjoy dance, metal, and electronic music with X3 2nd. X1, X5, and N6 has more solid vocal. 
 
Bass: 
I'm surprised at X3 2nd's bass. I love its bass. There is so much bass, but it is hard, accurate, and well controlled. Also it is powerful. Its bass doesn't mask vocal and high. Because of its bass, X3 2nd sounds more "dancy" than X5 and X1. But X3 2nd's bass is not deep and warm. If you like that kind of bass, I recommend HM-901 and AK120. 
 
Soundstage: 
X3 2nd has a bit opened soundstage, but it's not spacious. The rank of soundstage is X3 2nd>N6≥X5>X1. I think X5 and X1 has unopened soundstage. I remember C4 has much more larger and opened soundstage. 
 
Overall: 
X3 2nd has accurate high, airy vocal, and hard and well controlled bass. Because sound is well controlled, there's no mid-bass bump, mids are smooth, intimate, highs are mild but still enjoyable. Fiio makes really enjoyable-sounding DAP for affordable price. 
 
Final Thanks:
Sample X3 2nd I borrowed was shipped and has been in next reviewer's hands now. Because I became one of X3 2nd lovers after review, I ordered, and my X3 is going to be in my hands today!
Really thank you for reading my review. If you have questions, please leave comment freely. 
hakushondaimao
hakushondaimao
Nice review. I also was motivated to by my own X3 2nd generation (replacing my 1st generation model) after being involved in the review tour. It really is a great little DAP for those on a budget.
peareye
peareye
I think X3 is a huge bargain...improves on everything from the original X3 and keeps the price the same!

Cotnijoe

Sponsor: iFi Audio
Formerly with Unique Melody
Pros: Versatility, ease of use, build, musicality, overall sound quality
Cons: noise floor (sort of), could use a bit more refinement in sound
Brief Introduction:
I received this unit of the Fiio X3II as part of North American leg of the preview world tour that Fiio generously organized. The firmware I used the majority of the time with the X3II is FW0.22beta. Fiio has since released a new firmware that they plan to use for the X3II on release, but I did not get a chance to update it and spend any time with it, so my review will be based around the beta firmware.
 
            This is the second preview tour that I have been included in from Fiio, the first being the X1 preview tour. As part of the tour, the opinions I state are solely my own as I am not affiliated with Fiio in any way. I would, however, like to give a big thank you and shout out to Fiio for another great tour and another great product, and for including me in their X3II tour!
 
IMG_0034.jpg
Packaging of the X3II
 
Construction and Build
            The X3II is solidly built product with dimensions nearly identical to its younger brother, the X1. However, rather than being constructed by mostly hard plastic like the X1, the X3II is made up of mostly of what I’d guess is brushed aluminum with a nice gun metal grey sort of color to it. Thus, overall if feels sturdier and nicer than the X1.
 
            The scroll wheel also saw some improvements compared to the X1. I remember complaining that the X1 scroll wheel lacked any grip, and someone with dry hands like me found it a little difficult at times to turn the scroll wheel. The X3II adds a bit of grip to the scroll wheel, now making it much easier to scroll through your music and settings with. A very welcoming change to see Fiio implement!
 
            I complained about the silicon case of the X1, and I have to complain again about the silicon of the X3II. It’s just such a dust magnet and I find it impractical. Not only does it clean out the lint in your pocket for you, but the grip it has also makes it difficult to put the X3II in your pocket or to take it out (at least for me and my other younger brethren who wear skinnier jeans). I honestly think I would prefer a soft plastic or pleather case instead as I just see no use in this case. If this was my own personal X3II, I would opt to just not use it. Of course, I do understand that it may be a step taken to keep costs down, so I don’t mind it too much overall. I just don’t see a real use for the case.
 
IMG_0033.jpg
A Clean Silicon Case
 
IMG_0027.jpg
A Dirty Silicon Case (BLEH)
 
UI, Usability, and More
            The User interface is also similar to what I can remember of the X1. It’s very intuitive, user-friendly, and the position and function of each button are also very well implemented. The boot-up time is very quick and the overall presentation of the UI is nice with a little bit of customization. I think new users will pretty much be able to pick up and get comfortable with the UI of the X3II very easily. Updating is as easy as clicking and dragging the new firmware into the Micro SD card, and then clicking two buttons to initiate the firmware update. Scanning music from the Micro SD card is also a piece of cake, and the scan time is also not unreasonably long.
 
            The battery life on the X3II, like the X1, is also really good. I got a good 12 hour or so out of it before it ran out, which is better than the majority of DAPs currently on the market.
Overall, the X3II is a very easy to use and practical product. The UI is fairly glitch-free (I didn’t encounter any glitches myself) and I’m certain that those to purchase the X3II will be pleased with its lack of any significant firmware issues on release!
 
Sound
            Listening to the X3II was done with my Earwerkz Supra 2, using file ranging from 320 kbps to higher resolution files up to 24/192. While the X3II can decode DSD files, which is awesome for those who have DSD, I did not use any DSD files with the player. Music genres spanned basically the entire spectrum, ranging from electronic music to classical and jazz. I also focused on listening to the X3II as a standalone DAP and did not use it as a USB DAC/Amp during my time with it.
 
            Before getting into the sound of the X3II, I would like to address some issues I encountered while listening to the X3II with my very sensitive Supras (Quick Disclaimer: The Supra 2 is the most sensitive pair of in ears I have ever seen and owned).
 
            The first issue I found with the X3II is that there is an obvious audible beep that I can hear when I switch between songs. It’s not a significant issue, but I did find it getting annoying every now and then. Second off, I found that sometimes when I play high-res files, every now and then there seems to be a sort of distorted background noise that appears. It’s very inconsistent but it is something I would notice. In all honesty, I’m not even sure if it’s because of playing high-res files, it just seems to be a trend that I find. I do think that this is something that Fiio will be able to fix with some firmware updates. Finally, the X3II also has a bit of hiss with my Supra 2, so if you’re using some VERY sensitive IEMs, I would suggest making sure the noise floor isn’t unacceptable for you. I personally found the background noise to be prominent, but at an acceptable level. With the Supra 2 being the most sensitive IEM I know of, I assume that at least 95% of IEMs will work with no problems at all with the X3II, and only the most sensitive of people will find it to be a problem. Just something I want to note regardless.
 
            Another thing to note regarding the hiss is that I believe it’s an improvement from the X1. I remember detecting some hiss with X1 while using the Noble 6, which is not nearly as sensitive as my Supra 2, so while I’m not able to do side by side comparison, I can say with a good amount of confidence that its nonetheless an improvement from the X1.
 
The Fiio X3II with Earwerkz Supra 2 CIEM
 
Sound Description (For Real This Time)
            Right off the bat, I can say that the X3II is a great sounding DAP at its 200 USD MSRP. The overall sound is fairly neutral with just a little bit of warmth to its sound and a little bit of brightness to the upper midrange to my ears. The bass has good punch and focus to it with a much improved extension in comparison to the X1, the mids are musical and engaging with a little extra bite to the attack on instruments like snare drums or cymbals, while the treble is a little more on the relaxed side with a softer decay that can lacks a little bit of definition to the sound.
 
            Nothing on the X3II necessarily stands out as punching far beyond the price point, but as a whole, everything does sound pretty good. You get a respectably sized sound stage, good timbre and dynamics, as well as a satisfying amount of detail coming out of a 200 dollar all-in-one device.
 
The Great Battle: Fiio Vs. iBasso
            In my mind, the biggest competitor Fiio currently has would perhaps be none other than iBasso Audio. Having owned the DX50, currently using the DX90, and having auditioned both the X1 and X3II, I can safely say that both companies make some great product that doesn’t leave your wallet crying. Here are just some of my thoughts I’ve collected.
 
            There have been a couple reviewers who have gotten their hands on the new X3II before me. I absolutely agree with the general consensus that seems to be out there that the X3II is certainly a step up from the X1 and is a great sounding player. However, there have been a few comparisons between the X3II and the X5 that troubles me a bit. Here’s why.
 
            I have never heard the X5 before, so naturally I have no clue what it sounds like and cannot comment on its sound. From the looks of it, it seems that some people find the X3II and X5 very similar, maybe a little TOO similar. I can very much understand remarks stating that the two have a very similar signature, as I too have come to recognize the general Fiio house sound, but when people start making remarks regarding the X5 as more of a “side-grade” rather than an upgrade or that the X3II comes incredibly close in terms of sonic performance to the X5, I get a little worried. To me, the X3II does not perform at the level of a 350 dollar DAP – and it shouldn’t be expected to either!
 
            iBasso’s DX90 is a fantastic DAP and is still one of my all-time favorites. It can be found for around 370 dollars or so these days, making its price very close to that of the X5. Comparing the X3II to the DX90 is really no comparison at all. The DX90 has a much fuller sound with more dynamics, more natural timbre, and kicks the level of detail up quite a few notches in comparison to the X3II. So as you may expect, when the X3II is suggested to be very comparable to the X5, I’m left wondering what the sound of the X5 is like. I cannot deny the incredible success and immense popularity that the X5 has had, but something just doesn’t seem to add up for me. I’d love to have a listen to the X5 myself if Fiio is able to send me a unit, so I can do a comparison myself.
 
            On that note, the reality is that the X3II’s big iBasso competitor is not meant to be the DX90, but its younger brother: the DX50. In this sort of comparison, I must say that I see a lot of good things in the X3II. Note that it’s been a while since I’ve had my DX50, but I still remember its sound quite well. I find that the sound of the X3II has more musicality and engagement to it than that of the DX50, which I found can be a bit flat and sterile at times. In addition, the levels of detail from the two are very comparable. I don’t dare to comment anymore on that since I don’t have the DX50 to do a direct A/B comparison. However, if I had to choose one over the other, I would probably give the edge to the X3II because it has the musical qualities that DX50 lacks without making any real sacrifices for it.
 
            Comparing the UI of the DX50 to the X3II, I think I would still give the edge to the DX50, with its touch screen and the three big buttons. I'm just a big fan of those three big buttons as they make life so much easier. I also feel that the DX50 UI is just a bit more organized, but that very well could just be me being use to it after using an iBasso product as my DAP for a little over a year now.
 
Ending Thoughts
            Getting another opportunity to listen to another Fiio DAP has been a great experience, and Fiio has cranked out yet another great sounding product. While I don’t think that the X3II will make quite the splash the X1 made in terms of price/performance, afterall, the X1 goes for an awesome 100 dollars, I do think that Fiio was extremely successful with putting out another competitive product for a VERY competitive market. For those looking for a mid-fi sound at a reasonable price, I think the X3II has to be on the list. Not only does the X3II sound great, it has a great UI and a good amount of versatility to it.
 
            Fiio is good at what they do, and they’ve only gotten better at it in the past few years with their highly competitive DAPs. Congratulations to Fiio on another great product!
peareye
peareye
I agree with that little noise/distortion...Just got the tour X3 for Canada last night and that was very noticeable. It was intermittent but it
appeared to be heard about once every minute or so. I think the noise floor is high as well. My impressions mirrors yours almost exactly so far!
Cotnijoe
Cotnijoe
yea im honsetly quite surprised that it hasnt been an issue addressed too much in the other reviews :\
Arsalan
Arsalan
​If i want to use this device only for playing the mp3 tracks (320 kbps), which one would you prefer? (most important: sound quality)
1- Fiio X3 2nd Gen
2- iBasso DX50
3- another device to this price range
Thanks

Koolpep

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Clean, airy sound, lovely soundstage, built quality, battery life.
Cons: No optical out, no internal memory anymore
REVIEW:
 
Equipment used:
Headphones: HD650, AH-D600, LCD2, T90, HA-FX850, UE900s, Momentum, ATH-M50x, Ostry KC06A, RE-400
Firmware: 1.0
 
Music used:
From Royskopp to Amber Rubarth, Diana Krall to Apoptygma Berzerk, Tom Jones to Sphongle, Yello to Camouflage, mostly FLACs 24/96 or 16/44.1 - some mp3 320kbps, some AAC 256kbps
Depending on headphone high or low gain - no EQ
 
Disclaimer: I received the Fiio X3II review unit from www.samma3a.com the local distributor of Fiio products. I have to return the unit, so there is no financial interest. I am not affiliated with Fiio or Samma3a.com Though I really highly appreciate what these guys are doing for the audiophiles in the region!! Thank you so much for letting me test and review this player. I had so much fun doing it!!
 
When I review DAPs I tend to use an input switcher and play the same song on both players, volume matched by ear and switch back and forth. Then I do some extensive listening with the unit and different headphones.

TL;DR

Pros
Cons
Clean, airy sound, way improved soundstage from X3
More details in every frequency band
Scroll wheel way better than X5
Great build quality
Drives high impedance headphones quite well
VERY close in performance to the X5
Works as external DAC on Mac & PC
No optical out
Silicon sleeve is a dust/lint magnet
No more internal memory

 
Buy it - you won’t get anything better for this price.
Now, the longer version:

Packaging & Accessories

In short it consists of USB charging/data cable, 3.5mm to RCA COAX digital out cable, one spare screen protector in the box, one already fitted on device, pattern stickers (??) in three different designs, warranty card and quick start guide. It also comes already packed into a silicon sleeve/case that is much better than the one from the X3 1st gen.
 
IMG_4698.jpg  IMG_4694.jpg  IMG_4695.jpg  IMG_4697.jpg
 
 
IMG_4703.jpg  IMG_4704.jpg  IMG_4705.jpg  IMG_4706.jpg  IMG_4707.jpg
 
IMG_4708.jpg
 
 

Technical Highlights

DAC Chip: CS4398, Amp: OPA1642+LMH6643
Ouput: 224mW into 16 Ohm, 200mW into 32 Ohm, 24mW into 300 Ohm
Output impedance: 0.2
Headphone out, Digital (COAX) out (switchable to line out), 2inch 320x240 pixel colour display, 1 mSD card slot for up to 128GB cards.
 

Size comparisons & Input switcher

IMG_4711.jpg  IMG_4714.jpg  IMG_4720.jpg  IMG_4725.jpg
 
IMG_4733.jpg   IMG_4736.jpg  IMG_4737.jpg  IMG_4738.jpg
 
AK100Mk2, X3II, Gloveaudio A1, X5 (with Cayin C5 and stacking kit HS6)
 

User Interface and Build Quality

As it has been mentioned before, I keep this part short as well. THe build quality is very good, solid, nothing squeeks, buttons and ports have no play and feel solid. The scroll wheel is much improved over the scroll wheel of the X5, it seems to have less feel and locks in you movements more reliably, however sometimes a “click” or turn is ignored.
 
The case really appeals to me and it’s a device that you will enjoy to hold and handle. It loses quite some appeal when put in the silicon protection case. It’s a shame that you wont’ see much of this nice device when using that case.
 
The User Interface is already known from the X5 and X1 and has slight variations to it. Overall it’s pretty straight forward and easy to master once you get the hang of it.
 
What I particularly like about Fiio players is that you have still dedicated buttons for many functions. You have volume buttons, play/pause/select and a FFWD, RWD (long press) buttons that skip forward and backward with a short press. Makes blind use at night or in the pocket easier.
 
I tested the device with Firmware 1.0 which will be the release Firmware - it was released on the 2nd day of my review and I didn’t revisit the sound tests I made with FW 0.22.
 
Overall the UI has only a few little quirks and is pretty well thought through.
 
The Deep Sleep mode is a very helpful feature and the battery seems to go on forever!
 

Sound Quality Comparisons

General

I was genuinely impressed how well the X3II drives my HD650, T90 high impedance headphones. Not bad at all for such a small DAP. NAtive DSD support in this price range is pretty crazy as well. For the comparisons below I used the Fiio HS2 Headphone Output switcher. I pitched the X3II against a single competitor every time.

Compared to X3 1st gen (from memory)

Since I sold the X3 a few month back this comparison is of course to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
 
Main differences:
  1. larger soundstage
  2. mids and highs crisper
  3. more detailed across the frequency range

Compared to iBasso DX50

This was a difficult one. I have sold my X3 and kept the DX50 since for me the sound quality and usability was better with the DX50. Until now. Fiio has now reached and in some areas surpassed the DX50. There is a tad more bass impact with the X3II, in the mids and treble both are quite similar and the soundstage is now (FW 1.8 on DX50) pretty similar too.
 
Both players offer some great value for money, overall the X3II now feels like the more modern and advanced player - even though the DX50 has a touch screen.And it also sounds a tad better in everything compared to the DX50 to my ears, the same way the original X3 sounded a tad inferior in everything before...tables have turned.
 
IMG_4727.jpg
 

Compared to AK100Mk2

The AK100Mk2 is my goto player when I don’t want any bulk. It runs Firmware 2.41 and is the blue special edition that was released exclusively in Japan December 2014. I love this little beauty. However, at a price around $420 depending on the exchange rate, it has only slight advantages in sound quality over the X3II - the X3II shows what’s possible for $199.
 
The AK100mk2 had the same amount of details but slammed the bass a bit harder and more precise, it also had a slight advantage in the soundstage.
 
IMG_4728.jpg
 

Compared to AK100 & Gloveaudio A1

The Gloveaudio basically degrades the AK100 to a pure transport, it uses it’s own DAC and balanced amp. Unsurprisingly this combo is a level above the X3II - bass impact, layering and detail is way better, it’s more musical, has better grip on the headphones and controls them somewhat with ease, where the X3II was doing a good job but reaching it’s potential. Plus the background is dark dark dark, black hole dark. Lots of clean power. A brilliant device. CEntrance - this is amazing!!
 
IMG_4729.jpg
 

Compared to Fiio X5

This was surprising. It seems that the design brief for the technical team was: Make the new X3II sound like the X5 for half the money. And they succeeded mostly.
 
I felt the X3II to have a slightly larger soundstage (!!) and shockingly similar in overall sound quality and signature. The X5 still has the upper hand in power handling and drives the headphones with ease where the X3II reaches its limits. So there is still a slight advantage for the X5 in regards to detail retrieval, clarity, musicality and fun.
 
Once I added the Cayin C5 amp to the X5, the soundstage opened up, more depth and width appeared and the music was more impactful. So in order to beat the X3II not only marginal but clearly, it needs help.
 
IMG_4730.jpg
 

Line Out & Digital Out

For me this is an important function. I use the AUX line in in my car - and I use the digital out at home if I want to listen to music on my LCD2s via my DACMini CX or my Crack in the office. It’s also great if you want to try other gear with your own music without the hassle. Usually it’s easier for me to connect the Player to the DAC (Modi2Uber or DACMini) then use line out into the amps, so no unplugging of the whole setup, changing RCA to RCA - 3.5mm cable etc.
 
So, the digital out is “only” COAX but works extremely well. It’s digital, bits reach the DAC - nothing else to report….
 
Line out is important. I liked the DX50 for the ability to change the volume output on the line out as well. That helped match it better to some car stereos.
 

DAC use on a Computer

I didn’t try with a Windows machine as I currently prefer my Macs, especially when it comes to audio, the X3II is plug and play and I can just select bitperfect transport 24/192 in the menu - no driver to install, it just works out of the box. Like the X3 and X5 before the X3II - great job Fiio for making this so easy. Sound quality is as expected the same as if playing tracks from the memory card.

Conclusion

The X3II is amazing. It drove high impedance headphones like the T90 and HD650 well, has a very low noise floor with IEMs, sounds superb, works as a DAC/Amp on your PC/Mac, With the advancements in sound quality, I don’t see a competitor in its price range.
 
Everything has been improved from the X3 - and the performance is now VERY close to the X5. The only omission is that the player has no more internal memory.
 
For the recommended sales price, this device is a huge hit and I am sure Fiio will sell them by the boatload - hands down - a full recommendation from my side. 5 stars

 
THANKS to www.samma3a.com and @Mazen4samma3a for the review loaner!
Koolpep
Koolpep
Both are digital following the S/PDIF standard (S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format)), wikipedia has a nice entry about it. Main difference between them is that quote from wikipedia: "TOSLINK cables, unlike coaxial cables, are immune to ground loops and RF interference.[10] TOSLINK cables may suffer permanent damage if tightly bent."
 
So since the coax cable is made of transmitting electricity (and not light like the TOSLINK) it can transfer electrical interference, while optical cable transmit purely (optical, digital) information and not electricity.
 
Hope that helps.  Regarding connection it to your CEntrance Hifi-M8 - you are unfortunately out of luck. The Hifi-M8 takes either USB or iOS data and the Hifi-M8 LX takes in optical S/PDIF and USB. So in both cases you cannot use the Hifi-M8 as DAC/Amp and the X3II as transport, sorry. For that you would need a player which can output optical S/PDIF like the AK100, AK120 and others with optical output.
landroni
landroni
Very helpful, thanks. I think though the X3 should work with the Mini-M8, which has an Optical/Coaxial Line In.

One other thing. I hear that X3 gets much closer to the X5 in terms of SQ, which looks like a major achievement. But what about the X3 paired to the E12? How does it fare against the X5?
punit
punit
Very Comprehensive review. Nice.

nmatheis

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: High-quality sound & build in a small package. Great one-handed ergonomics. Deep sleep mode.
Cons: No internal storage or hardware EQ.
DISCLAIMER
 
I was provided the new X3 as a review sample as part of the U.S. tour. There is no financial incentive from Fiio in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Fiio, and this is my honest opinion of the new X3.  I would like to thank Joe & James from Fiio for giving me the opportunity to test drive the new X3.
 
 
ABOUT ME

 
I'm a 43 year old father who loves music. From electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush), I listen to a wide variety of genres and artists. 
 
My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-120 (just picked a lightly-used IHP-140 for nostalgia's sake), iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso. 
 
I typically listen with IEMs from my ever-growing collection from budget to mid-fi. Less often, I grab a pair of full-size cans. Recently, I've been listening a lot with Brainwavz S0 & S5, Heir 4Ai-s, Philips Fidelio L1, and Vsonic VSD5. You can always check my profile for a reasonably up to date gear list. 
 
As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues. I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which often affect hearing in my right ear. I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears. That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear - just wanted to be transparent up front. 
 


 

INTRO
 
Previous reviews have great unboxing pics, specs, and a full accessories list. I'm not going to duplicate that effort and will instead focus on a more experiential take on the new X3. I will say that if you've purchased a Fiio product recently, the unboxing experience will be very familiar and you get all the accessories you need to get up and running and protect your new DAP. And it's really nice that the X3 comes with screen and rear protection films pre-applied. Thumbs-up, Fiio! Do you (and your new X3's) a favor though, and buy a Dignis leather case for it when they become available - you will not be disappointed!
 
Glamor Shot #1: New X3 + Philips Fidelio L1
IMG_1418_2.jpg
 

 

BUILD & ERGONOMICS
 
My first reaction after opening the box was, "Whoa, this thing is tiny!"  When I lifted it from the box, I was reassured by the weight. It may be smaller than I expected, but it felt really solid - especially compared to the old X3 which felt light for its size. I was also struck by how attractive it is with careful attention to detail and gunmetal finish. 
 
As I turned it on and started to play with the controls, I was again impressed by how well-centered all the buttons were in the frame. This is something that can get overlooked and was definitely appreciated at this price point. Not only were all the buttons nicely centered, they felt good when pressing them with just the right amount of resistance. 
 
Some much-appreciated differences coming from my X5 were the four control buttons, which are now round and well-marked. The four control buttons on the X5 are okay, but their shape makes them easier to accidentally press. Having smaller targets means fewer navigational faux-pax. 
 
The power button was moved from on top on the X5 to the left side just above the volume controls, and it's now recessed. Again, this means fewer accidental presses. The volume buttons are more distinct and separated than those on the X5, and the X3 volume up button has a small raised dot to distinguish it from the nearby recessed power and volume down buttons. Nice touches!
 
In contrast to my old X3 and my X5, the new X3 has a shared Line / Coaxial Out jack. I think this is a quite reasonable compromise to conserve space, but I found one UI quirk that I hope is fixed before final release. The default is Coax Out, which is an odd choice given how many people use Line Out vs. Coax Out. I could easily see this leading to confusion when people hook their new X3 up to their favorite amp and get no signal. Fiio, please fix this and make Line Out the default.
 
I saved my two favorites for last: the screen and scroll wheel. The screen is flush with the X3's body and there's no wasted screen space. In contrast, the X5's screen is raised up a few mm above the X5's body and has a bezel on the left and right sides which gives a letterboxed look to the screen. 
 
And finally the scroll wheel, what a love or hate thing it is. I'm in the love it club and found the X3's scroll wheel to be a nice improvement over the X5's. The X3's scroll wheel is tighter and has quite noticeable clicks when rotated. In contrast, the X5's scroll wheel feels much looser and has no clicks as you rotate the scroll wheel. The one nit I have to pick with the X3's scroll wheel is that with noticeable clicks, I felt an expectation that each click would represent one line or movement through the X3's UI. That didn't happen, and I could see it leading to frustration for some people.
 
To sum up: The size, weight, and placement of controls makes one-handed use easy. It also makes the new X3 very pocket-friendly. Attention to detail like "right-sized" buttons with just the right amount of resistance means fewer accidental button presses. Small details like the recessed power button and raised dot on the volume up button allow Fiio to place important buttons in close proximity while allowing for blind operation.
 
The lineup: X5, old X3, DX90, new X3
IMG_1420_2.jpg  


 

USER INTERFACE
 
User Interface (UI) can make or break a positive experience with any piece of technology. Luckily, Fiio is learning fast! I was an early adopter, buying the original X3 on pre-order. To be completely honest it was a bit of a wild ride at first. But to their credit Fiio not only listened to customer feedback, they actively solicited customer feedback. I'm proud to say that I and many fellow headfiers actively participated in that process, identifying bugs, suggesting new features, and beta-testing firmware, making the original X3 a much better DAP. 
 
Next came the X5, and it had a much more mature UI than the original X3 had - even with all the community-driven improvements the X3's UI now had. The X5's UI was very stable but was lacking some some features more mature DAPs have, especially when it came to reading tags and building a database for tag-based browsing. The new X3 shares those limitations, so you need to go in eyes wide open if you're used to using a smartphone or a DAP with more mature firmware. Many commonly-used tags just aren't recognized by Fiio's DAPs - like Album Artist, CD#, and Composer. And when browsing by Genre, you just get a big list of songs for each Genre in numerical order. IMHO, it would be handier to have Genre browsing act like a filter for Genre-specific Artist -> Album browsing. 
 
To overcome these limitation many Fiio DAP users have become fans of File Browsing, which doesn't rely on the database. For instance, the 128GB mSD card I used while testing the new X3 was organized at the top level with folders named A-C, D-F, G-I, etc. Inside those, I maintained the following folder naming scheme: Artist / Year  Album / Songs. To easily accomplish this, I set up Media Rage or MP3Tag to rename my folders to follow that folder structure, pulling the relevant information from tags. This structure lets me quickly navigate through my artists and once I'm at the album level, albums are all arranged I chronological order. Nice!
 
Other than weak support for tags, the new X3's UI is very easy to navigate and is easy on the eyes. Of course, there is a flourishing community of themers for Fiio DAPs on headfi. So if you're not completely satisfied with the stock UI, once the new X3 is released you should be able to easily find a number of alternate themes to choose from - from professional to fun!
 
Just like the X5's, the new X3's features a very functional10-band equalizer with several fully-customizable presets. If you learn how to mod the firmware, you can even rename them. I did this with my X5, renaming the presets after my most commonly-used HP / IEM. This allows me to tailor each preset for my HP / IEM and then easily switch between them without remembering whether my VSD5 was the Metal or Rock preset - handy!
 
On a related note, the new X3's "deep sleep" mode works a treat! Fiio DAPs are known for good battery life to begin with, so I wasn't expecting to charge the new X3 much during my time with it. No surprise there that I only had to charge it once during my time and then topped it off before mailing it out to the next reviewer. I was pleasantly surprised with how fast the new X3 was at resuming playback when picking it up after a period of non-use. Instead of waiting for the DAP to boot before I could listen to music, I experienced near instantaneous resumption of music playback - brilliant!
 
To sum up: The new X3 is no iPod and does lack support for some commonly-used tags that will frustrate some users - especially classical music fans. For most users though, this is easily overcome with some basic file / folder organization and File Browsing. And despite not being as feature rich as a more mature DAP like an iPod, the new X3 is very easy to use and most users will find little to complain about especially with lightning-fast response with the new "deep sleep" feature. 
 
Glamor Shot #2: New X3 + Heir 4.Ai-s
IMG_1425.jpg
 

 

SOUND
 
Since Gold Master firmware was not released yet, I tested the new X3 with firmware 0.22b.  During my time with the new X3 very, I used the following HP / IEM: Brainwavz S0 & S5, Heir 4.Ai-s, Philips Fidelio L1, TPEOS Altone200, and Vsonic VSD5. I didn't encounter any sound-matching issues with any of these, and could easily recommend any of them for use with the new X3. For critical listening, I set the new X3 to a comfortable listening level with a pair of Denon AH-D1100 I had close at hand, played a 1kHz test time, and volume matched the new X3 with my X5 and DX90 using the Decibel 10th iPhone app. I don't have a setup to volume match IEM yet, so I extrapolated the results with my AH-D1100 to the other HP / IEM I used. Here are the volume matching results I got:
 
X3 @ 30 (Low Gain) = 77dB ->1x multiplier
X5 @ 26 (Low Gain) = 77dB -> 0.87x multiplier
DX90 @ 160 (Low Gain) = 77dB -> 5.3x multiplier
 
Other reviewers much better at describing what they're hearing have weighed-in on the new X3's sound - and have done a very good job at it! In light of that, I'm going to make my sound section the lightest part of my review. I listened to the X3 as my sole DAP for my time with it, only comparing it with my DX90 and X5 at the end of the week before my time was up. 
 
I typically switch off between my DX90 and X5 from week to week and was just coming off a week with the X5 when the new X3 arrived for testing. As soon as the new X3 arrived, I immediately started using it as my sole DAP and sound-wise found nothing to be lacking. It drove all of my HP / IEM to my satisfaction. I typically used High Gain for HP and Low Gain for IEM, as I would with my X5.
 
When comparing more closely with my DX90 and X5 later in the week, I found the new X3 was indeed very close sound-wise to my X5. Close enough in fact, that I could see the new X3 being a very good substitute for the X5 if one doesn't need the extra mSD slot. I'm glad Fiio has adopted this quite neutral sound signature as their new house sound. 
 
Comparing the new X3 with my DX90 (Lurker0 2.1.8 FW), the DX90 has a more v-shaped sound signature with slightly enhanced bass, more energetic treble, slightly better separation and layering and a slightly larger soundstage. There are plenty of advocates and detractors in both Fiio and iBasso's camps. I find both Fiio's more neutral sound signature and iBasso's more v-shaped sound signature complement each other, and I enjoy having both around to switch back and forth between. 
 
To sum up: I found the new X3's and my X5 to have very similar sound signatures. So similar in fact, I could easily live with the new X3 in lieu of my X5 sound-wise. As compared to my D90, both the new X3 and my X5 have a more neutral, more linear sound that purists will appreciate. Those looking for a more v-shaped sound should look elsewhere. 
 
Glamour Shot #3: New X3 + TPEOS Altone200
IMG_1424.jpg  


 

SUMMARY
 
The new X3 is a very attractive, well-made DAP with excellent attention to detail that solves a lot of the little niggles I had with previous Fiio DAPs. Fit and finish are definitely upgraded when compared with the original X3 and X5. It's size and design make it it very ergonomic for one-handed use. It's small size and strong-enough amp stage make it pocket-friendly with no need for an amp to get a great portable listening experience. The neutral sound signature really allows the unique sound signature of your HP / IEM to shine through without worrying about synergy. 
 
The only detractors for me are minimal and not enough to prevent a strong recommendation. First - the UI isn't as polished as more mature DAPs like the iPod. However, this can be easily mitigated with basic file management and tagging practices. Second - when compared with the X5, the new X3's has only one mSD slot as compared to the X5's two mSD slots. For me, this is the difference between carrying around my music library in AAC (new X3) vs. FLAC (X5). Third - when compared with the old X3, the new X3 is missing the very nice hardware bass and treble controls. This is a feature that really works a treat, and I'd like to see incorporated into more of Fiio's DAPs in the future. 
 
In short, if you're looking for a new DAP with a neutral sound signature that's easy to use, well-built, stylish and very ergonomic and pocket-friendly and don't mind living with one mSD slot, the new X3 from Fiio should be at the top of your list. Fiio's learning how to make very competitive DAPs very quickly, and I can't wait to test out the X5 2nd Generation when it's released!
 
Thanks again to Fiio for giving the headfi community an early taste of this brilliant new DAP!
 
Glamor Shot #4: New X3 + Vsonic VSD5
IMG_1423.jpg
 

 
P.S., If you do end up buying a new X3, I'd suggest investing in a nice leather case from Dignis.  I have one for both my X5 and DX90 and love them.  Here's an example of a nice leather X1 case from rakuten.com:
 
induo-x1-2.jpg
Skullbox
Skullbox
Unfortunatly, for Dignis leather cases, for FiiO x3 II, there is no International ( CAN/US) distributors.
bruce1967
bruce1967
Very nice review. Well written and very useful. Thanks very much!
peareye
peareye
Sounds like a bargain! I love bargains!!!

hakushondaimao

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Sound quality, ergonomics & build quality, scroll wheel & user interface, quick start-up.
Cons: No internal memory. Protective Case is a lint-magnet. I don’t get to keep the review unit.
Before I get into my review, I should state that I received a pre-production unit from Fiio as part of their pre-release “World Tour.” I got to keep the unit for 10 days, during which I used it extensively, before sending it on to the next reviewer on the Canadian tour. I did not have to pay for the unit (only to forward it to the next reviewer), and unfortunately do not get to keep it. Because I was reviewing a pre-production unit running beta firmware, it is quite possible that release models will feature changes and/or improvements to hardware and firmware over what is reflected here.
 
In my review I did comparisons using the X3 1st generation, Fiio E12A and Cypher Labs Picollo amps, and Sennheiser HD598 and Sony XBA-H1 headphones. I also did extensive general listening using the previously listed headphones in addition to the RHA MA750 and Audio Technica ATH CKX9. All of the above equipment is my own, paid for by me.
 
Early news of the X3 update had it called a number of things, including X3K and X3ii. The literature that came with my review unit explained that Fiio’s naming conventions are changing, and that the update will be sold as the X3 on release, with the term “2nd Generation” to set it apart from the original. For the sake of my fingers, I’ll call the new model “2G” in this review, and the original “1G.”
 
While I’ve been a music lover for decades, I am relatively new to the MidFi/HiFi/Head-Fi game, especially high quality portable audio equipment, and this is my first review. I haven’t listened to a lot of different equipment (certainly nothing in the high price, TOTL realm), so this is very much a review by a newbie, for other newbies.
 
Unboxing and First Impressions:
 
Box and notes from Fiio about the review process. Box still says X3K, but, as noted, the production model will be X3 (2nd Generation), and will simply say “X3” on the packaging.
 
1.Arrival.jpg
 
Stuff that came with the review unit: USB cable, coaxial adaptor, 2 spare screen protectors in addition to one pre-installed, 3 sets of "body armour" stickers, and a rubberized protective case. The case is thicker and more substantial than the one that came with the 1G. Not 100% sure if this is what will come with the production models.
 
2.Contents.jpg
 
The unit itself: The 2G has a gorgeous finish! Full metal jacket, good heft and nicely finished all over. Feels significantly more high-end than the 1G. Horizontal screen, mechanical scroll wheel with select button in centre, menu button top-left, back button top-right, and track forward/backward at bottom of scroll wheel. Layout very sensible and intuitive.
 
3.TheUnit.jpg
 
Top Side: Headphone Out jack and switchable Line Out/Coax
 
13.Top.jpg
 
Left Side: Power button and volume controls. Volume can also be controlled during playback using the scroll wheel by pressing and holding the select button in the middle.
 
11.Left.jpg
 
Right Side: Micro SD slot. That is all.
 
12.Right.jpg
 
Bottom: Micro USB, for charging and DAC usage. Little LED below the scroll wheel glows blue when X3 is powered on, red when charging and green when charging is complete.
 
10.Bottom.jpg
 
2G, E12A and 1G side-by-side. In my opinion, the 2G’s colour is a better match with the E12A than the 1G.
 
4.Line-up.jpg
 
2G and 1G are about the same thickness. 2G is about 1 mm wider than 1G (2 mm when in their cases). 2G is significantly shorter, and has a really nice hand-feel (fitting perfectly in the palm). I never was a big fan of the 1G’s elongated shape.
 
5.InCases.jpg
 
Other impressions:
  1. As a long-time iPod user, the scroll wheel is so much more intuitive than the 1G’s diagonally arranged buttons. I’ve gotten used to the 1G over time, but it still feels clunky. I actually prefer the Fiio mechanical scroll wheel over the old iPod tactile wheel.
  2. The 2G’s micro SD slot is recessed (as in, the card doesn’t stick out at all). This is an improvement over the 1G in my mind, where the SD card stuck out just a smidgeon.
  3. The 2G lacks internal memory: This is one of only two faults I could find with the new X3. I have two 64 GB micro SD cards at the moment, one with Classical music, and one with Jazz, Rock, Pop, Funk, etc. With the 1G’s 8GB of on-board memory, I could have a few favourite, heavy rotation albums at my finger tips at all times without having to switch out SD cards. This is a relatively minor quibble, but a quibble nonetheless.
  4. Protective silicon case: The 2G’s black silicon case is sturdier and more attractive than the 1G’s rather flimsy clear case. That said, the 2G case attracts lint lie a magnet. Again, a minor annoyance, but an annoyance.
  5. User interface: I far prefer the horizontal display and user interface of the 2G over the vertical display and zig-zaggy arrangement of the icons and options on the 1G. The 2G is far more intuitive.  I won’t go into detail about the UI as Brooko and twister6 do a great job of this in their extensive reviews.
  6. Deep Sleep feature: Once the 2G has been powered on and booted up for the first time, the power button acts like a sleep/wake switch, with "instant-on" feature a massive improvement over having to wait through the 1G's full boot-up cycle every time you wake the device.
 
Comparative Listening Tests:
 
As an owner of an X3 1st generation that I rarely use without either the Fiio E12A or Cypher Labs Picollo, my interest in comparing revolved around these three pieces of equipment. Even without having heard other DAPs (besides iDevices) before this review, I found the 1G to have shortcomings in sound quality, and so used it with an amp to improve sound quality and staging. Because I travel a fair bit for work and am also a runner, it would be nice to have a DAP that doesn’t require stacking with an amp when on the go, and my comparative tests were done with that in mind.
 
Test 1: X3 2nd generation (FW0.22Beta) vs. X3 1st generation (FW3.3)
 
Low Gain, EQ off, Sennheiser HD598. Tracks: Supertramp – Give A Little Bit (Even In The Quietest Moments), Joni Mitchell – Carey (Blue)
 
6.NoStack.jpg
 
I found the 2G very slightly quieter at the same volume settings, but more balanced from low to high than the 1G. The 1G was more mid-forward with occasional sibilance in treble, some bass bleed into mids, and overall a bit muffled. The 2G mids were less prominent, with treble clearer and bass tighter and no bleed into mids. There was greater clarity and texture, and I could hear vocals and each instrument distinctly.
 
The 2G had wider soundstage and depth, with an airy freshness. Even listening un-amped, the SQ was rich and sonorous. The 1G felt like listening inside a cardboard box in comparison; sound didn’t “travel” anywhere. I stress "even listening un-amped" as I have always amped when using the HD598s with the 1G as the SQ is too restricted without. The sound quality and staging using the 2G unaided was thus a hugely pleasant surprise.
 
Test 2: 2G un-amped vs. 2G + E12A
 
Un-amped: Low Gain, EQ off, Sony XBA-H1. Amped: LO, Low Gain, EQ off, Bass Boost off, Sony XBA-H1. Track: Miles Davis – Blue In Green (Kind Of Blue)
 
7.WithE12A.jpg
 
I was surprised at how little difference I noticed between un-amped and amped. I found very slightly more instrumental separation and texture using the 2G with the E12A, but minimally so. What differences existed were certainly subtle. Trumpet and sax were perhaps a little clearer and brighter in the upper registers with the E12A. Piano was very slightly recessed through just the 2G un-amped, and cleaner and more prominent when combined with E12A.
 
I found that the 2G’s sound quality fell somewhere between the two E12A Bass Boost settings. The 2G alone was a touch more bass-forward than with the E12A and Bass Boost off, while the 2G + E12A combination was noticeably more bassy with boost on.
 
I also found soundstage differences minimal with the 2G un-amped and amped. Amping gave slightly more depth, but not to the level that I felt something was missing when listening to the 2G on its own. As mentioned already, this was a pleasant surprise as it means portability isn’t limited by the need to stack with an external amp.
 
Test 3: 2G un-amped vs. 2G + Cypher Labs Picollo
 
Un-amped: Low Gain, EQ off, Sennheiser HD598. Amped: LO, Low Gain, EQ off, Sennheiser HD598. Track: Wilhelm Kempff, Henryk Szeryng & Pierre Fournier – Beethoven Piano Trio No. 2
 
8.WithPicollo.jpg     9.PicolloHD598.jpg
 
As with E12A, I didn’t find a huge difference with or without the Picollo. Kempff’s piano was ever so slightly more nuanced with the Picollo, but Szeryng’s violin was pretty much the same either way. Fournier’s cello was more textured (less buttery) without the amp in this case. The Picollo is described as a “warm” sounding amp, and that colouring came through compared to the 2G on its own, but not in a way that made me prefer one set-up over the other.
 
Conclusions of my A/B tests: First, the 2G is a significants step up on the 1G. Second, I felt less need to use an amp with the 2G compared to the 1G. I can happily use my IEMs and HD598s with just the 2G and not feel like I’m “missing out” on anything. Am less willing to use the 1G un-amped as sound quality and staging suffer. I realise that my headphones are all pretty easy to drive, so your mileage may (and probably will) vary if you’re using more power-hungry cans.
 
General, everyday listening:
 
In his review of the Pono music player on the InnerFidelity site (which I read a few days into my time with the new X3), Tyll Herstsens wrote, “Blind testing back and forth between gear may give me the opportunity to hear the differences between products, but it's difficult because most gear is only subtly different. But when it comes to long-term listening, those subtle differences can mean the large difference between an irritated or ecstatic experience.”
 
I have not listened to the Pono, and this is not a review of the Pono. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, I am relatively new to the audiophile world, and so my experience of DAPs up to now has been limited to iDevices and the X3 1st generation, sometimes on their own but usually in concert with one of my portable headphone amps (E12A, Picollo and Meier Porta Corda III). But that thought from the Pono review stuck with me with regards to my listening for this one.
 
14.StackedListening.jpg     15.StudyLull.jpg
 
I listened to the X3 2nd generation DAP a LOT in my 10 days with the unit, and found myself lost in my music – in listening ecstasy – over and over. Myaskovsky Cello Sonatas, Dusty Springfield, Miles Davis, Roxy Music, Gaelle, Thad Jones, Daft Punk, Beethoven Piano Trios, Rush, Doris Monteiro, Jean Michel Jarre, Al Di Meola, Rickie Lee Jones, Brahms Symphonies, Rodriguez, Supertramp, Billie Holiday, Pink Floyd, New Order, Haydn String Quartets, Fleetwood Mac, Etta James, Zero 7… I could go on (and already have a bit). In all the myriad musical styles and artistic stylings, I heard things and noticed nuances and sounds in songs and albums that I hadn’t heard or noticed previously with my other equipment.
 
16.Dusty.jpg
 
While I did perform some A/B tests, and did find subtle and not-so-subtle differences in those tests, for me the experience in my everyday listening is what set the X3 2nd generation apart. Immersing myself in the listening experience, letting it take me away, and suddenly realizing the quality of a horn passage, a thumping bass, an exquisite electric guitar riff, a textured cello, a swirling synthesizer, a syncopated drum rhythm, a soaring vocal, a wailing sax solo, a strummed acoustic guitar, or an intimate piano run… album after album, song after song, I had moments of connection with my music that raised goose-bumps. I listened a lot, and loved every minute of it, and my ears were never fatigued – never irritated. In a nutshell, my general listening experience made me feel the X3 2nd generation is a special music player.
 
Conclusions:
 
If it isn’t obvious already, I seriously loved having the opportunity to play with the X3 2nd generation. I really was disappointed when I had to send “my” unit on to the next reviewer. I’m sure there is a lot of equipment out there that is “better” than the 2G (for the prices charged for some of the more popular equipment I see hailed in audio forums and on Hi-Fi websites, I certainly hope they’re better), but I can’t imagine you’ll find more bang for your buck right now. For someone just entering the head-fi audio game, I truly believe you can’t go wrong with the X3 2nd generation, and for those who’re already in it waist-deep, the 2G makes a strong case for consideration as your next addition to the DAP collection.
 
Thanks to Fiio for the opportunity to participate in the tour, and I hope this review was useful. If you have a question or comment, please leave feedback in the comments below.
hakushondaimao
hakushondaimao
@OldRoadToad: You're welcome. Glad to be of help. Let me know what you decide(d) in the end.
OldRoadToad
OldRoadToad
I bought an X1 and am happy with it so far.  The random play is not my favorite but I like the X1 more than I do my iPod Nano Touch and less than either my 2nd generation iPod 20 gig or my 60 gig Classic.
 
I have had to reset it twice now but overall I really like this DAP.  I may one day move up to an X3 or X5 but not just yet! 
Shane D
Shane D
Great review.  I am debating between this or the Sony NWZ-A17.  Price wise they are pretty much identical in Canada.
Or maybe the Sony now and the X5ii towards Santa time...

jdog

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Functionality, File format support, Firmware development, Overall value for the price
Cons: Placement of "On/Off and Volume Buttons" on left side panel, Needs updated Theme patterns/colors, Subtle audible clicks/pops when powered on/off
A Brief Review of the FiiO X3 2nd Generation DAP with Comparisons to the Xuelin iHiFi 800.
Firstly, I would like to thank Mr. James Chung for allowing this preview of FiiO’s new X3 2nd Generation DAP.  I would also like to thank “Joe Bloggs” for coordinating the world preview tour, and his help in the Head Fi.org forums.  As directed by the folks at FiiO, this review has been done on one of the pre-production units of the X3 2nd Gen DAP; and it was loaned out to us for free, except for the cost of postage to the next reviewer.  The information in this review is based on my experience with the loaner X3 2nd Gen model and my Xuelin iHiFi 800 that I purchased with my own funds. 
Some Brief Remarks about the FiiO X3 2nd Generation Player.
This is my first experience with any of the FiiO DAPs.  Prior to this opportunity, I had not listened to any of the FiiO DAPs, so I really do not know how the new X3 2nd Gen compares to the first generation X3, the X1 or the X5.  Therefore, I did not have any previous real-life biases or assumptions of this player.  There are (as of this writing) 2 very complete (ie, encyclopedic) reviews of the X3 2nd Gen by Brooko and Twister 6, and these reviews discuss the X3 2nd Gen in much detail and offer comparisons to the X1, 1st Gen X3 and X5.  I will not try to duplicate their work in my review.  These reviews can be found here:  http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x3-2nd-gen-ultraportable-hi-res-dap.
After being able to assess the X3 2nd Gen DAP in my review period, I can easily say that it is an outstanding music player.  It is quite attractive and is solidly built.  The functionality, file format support and firmware are all very impressive.  I have been impressed by the options that this player offers in functionality.  Not only does it serve as a high-quality music player, but it also can serve as a stand-alone DAC.  In addition to a headphone-out port, it also has a port for line out/coaxial out functions.  While the X3 2nd Gen does not have any built-in memory, it does have a single microsd slot that is currently able to support up to 128 gb cards.  It also supports OTG (on-the-go) usb devices. 
The file format support is very impressive; it supports both lossless (including high resolution FLAC files, WAV, WMA, ALAC, APE, and DSD) and lossy file (eg, MP3, AAC) formats.  In addition, the files can be listed as individual songs, by albums, by artists, by genre and by personal favorites.  The player also supports playlists.
The UI and firmware for the X3 2nd Gen are also quite impressive; I did not encounter any significant firmware bugs during my time with the player.  I must admit that when I first received the player, there seemed to be some difficulty with the volume control buttons, because when I would press them to increase/decrease volume, the buttons did not respond properly.  However, after the first day, the volume buttons worked properly, and I had no further problems with them.  Although I am not a big fan of scroll wheel navigation, the X3 2nd Gen appears to have a fairly decent one; as others have pointed out, however, one click of the wheel does not always result in 1 advancement on the screen.  A couple of the functions that I really like on the X3 2nd Gen are gapless playback, resume play, and automatic pause when the earphone plug is removed from its port.  The gapless playback worked very well with my files.  I was happy to see a 10-band graphic equalizer, high/low gain “switch”, and R/L balance control.  The user is also offered several options to unlock the key pad.  Please refer to the extensive reviews by Brooko and Twister 6 for more detailed information re: features of the X3 2nd Gen.
There are only a few areas where I could think of any constructive criticisms.  The first has to do with the Theme selections on the player.  Some of the theme colors (in my opinion) on the pre-production model are just not attractive at all, and others could benefit from more contrast between lettering and background to make it easier to see which line you are currently on.  The other issue I have involves the placement of the On/Off and Volume buttons on the upper left side panel of the player.  As a right-handed person, I hold the player in my left hand and use my right hand to operate the scroll wheel and front-panel buttons.  As I hold the player in my left hand, my left thumb is on or around the On/Off and Volume buttons. Many times when I was placing/replacing my earphone plug into the HO port, I found that I had inadvertently pressed one of these buttons in the process.  This is minor issue, but certainly something I would have to get used to.
Xuelin iHiFi 800 DAP
Please refer to this thread for more detailed information on the iHiFi 800: http://www.head-fi.org/t/755399/xuelin-ihifi-800-a-brief-introduction.
The iHiFi 800 was released by Xuelin in February 2015.  The player is a bit of a diversion for Xuelin in terms of hardware and form factor.   All of Xuelin’s other current players use Wolfson DACs (960s, 812v2, and 770 have Wolfson 8740 and the 770C has Wolfson 8718).  The 800 uses the Sabre ESS9018K2M DAC.  All the current Xuelin DAPs use Rockchip processors.  The 800 has three LME 47926 opamps and uses the OPA1662 as its LPF.   Compared to the other Xuelin players, the iHiFi 800 is a neutral sounding DAP.  In regards to form factor, the 800 is quite a bit smaller than the 960 and 812v2.  The 800 measures 100 x 49 x 16 mm and weighs about 120 gms, while the 960 measures 110 x 70 x 26 mm and weighs about 300 gms.   On the other hand, the 770s resemble an iPod Touch and weigh 103 gms.  All in all, the iHiFi 800 is a solidly built, high-quality DAP.  It is an attractive player with sturdy aluminum alloy casing that comes in either black or silver color versions.   It has 8 gb of built-in memory storage and a single microsd card slot that supports up to 128 gb cards.  It does not support OTG devices.  The iHiFi 800 currently sells for ~$250 US (price includes standard shipping).

 FiiO X3 2nd Gen (L), Xuelin iHiFi 800 (C), and Xuelin iHiFi 770 (R)
 
FiiO X3 2nd Gen vs.  Xuelin iHiFi 800
For the remainder of my review, I will tend to focus on functionality, file format support, firmware, and sound quality between these 2 players.   I have included several pictures that show the X3 2nd Gen and the iHiFi 800 side-by-side.  In all pictures, the FiiO X3 is on the left and the Xuelin iHiFi 800 in on the right.
Front view
 
Bottom panel view
Top panel view
Left side panel view
Right side panel view
Back view
 
Well, when it comes to functionality, the X3 2nd Gen appears to offer more than the iHiFi 800.  The X3 can function as a usb DAC and has both line out/coax out in addition to headphone out.  The 800 does not function as a stand-alone DAC, and while it has a line out, it does not have coax out.  The X3 supports in-line headphone remote, whereas the 800 does not. The X3 supports OTG usb devices whereas the 800 does not.  Both players have a single microsd card slot and both currently support up to 128 gb cards.  The 800 does have 8 gb of on-board memory storage, whereas the X3 has no on-board memory.  Both have high/low gain options. The battery life on the players appears to be similar, somewhere between 10 and 12 hrs.
The X3 has much better file format support than the 800.  The X3 2nd Gen easily handles 24/192 FLAC, AAC, ALAC, along with WAV, MP3 and lower resolution FLAC files and also has native DSD decoding.  The 800 currently does not support high resolution FLAC files, AAC or ALAC files and does not have native DSD decoding.  The X3 offers gapless playback, whereas the 800 does not.  Neither player offers cue support.
The X3 2nd Gen easily bests the iHiFi 800 in firmware development.  The firmware on the 800 is currently somewhat simplistic in comparison to the X3.  FiiO appears to have literally adopted many of the more popular features from Rockbox and adapted them to the X3 2nd Gen.  Needless to say, I am quite impressed.  However, when it comes to navigation through the UI to access all these nice features, I’m not sure FiiO comes out on top.  Of course, this will be very dependent on an individual user’s preferences.  Navigation for the X3 2nd Gen primarily uses a combination of a scroll wheel and 4 physical buttons on the front of the player.  Volume control and on/off buttons are on the upper left side of the X3.  Navigation for the 800 is thru a set of 7 physical buttons on the front of the player; on/off and volume control buttons are included in the front buttons.  For “in-pocket” use the 800 has separate “pause/off”, “forward” and “reverse” buttons along the upper right side panel.   I much prefer the button control/navigation of the 800 myself, but I am sure others may prefer the scroll wheel layout of the X3.  I do have to say that the scroll wheel on the X3 works pretty well, but there is some extra play in the wheel that can be a bit frustrating at times.   I also find the volume control buttons on the front of the 800 to be more convenient/easier to use than the volume control buttons on the upper left side of the X3.
Well, despite all its apparent short-comings in comparison to the X3 2nd Gen, as it stands now, I do believe the iHiFi 800 has better overall sound quality than the X3 2nd Gen.  I reached this conclusion after 4 days of intense comparison between the 2 players.   For the most part, I found more differences in the players when I used IEMs with dynamic drivers, and the sound quality was more similar when I used IEMs with balanced armatures.  I do not currently own any hybrid IEMs, so I cannot comment on these.  For the most part, I preferred IEMs with dynamic drivers with these 2 players, because the sound stage with both players appeared to be a bit narrower with BA IEMs.  FiiO has since reported that some modifications will be made in sound prior to general release of the X3 2nd Gen, so I have no idea how my current comparisons will hold up over time.   Let me just say that the X3 2nd Gen is a nice sounding DAP, and in no way do I want anyone reading this review to infer that the sound quality is not good.  The differences between the 2 players are all relative and my conclusions are based on my own preferences.  Before I get into the discussion of sound quality, one of the strongest attributes of the 800 is its absolute black background.  I hear no hiss between songs, and there are no pops/clicks when the player is turned on/off or between songs.  The black background (in my opinion) gives the music better definition, body and dimension.  The X3 has a dark background as well; although I did not hear any hiss with any of my earphones, the player does have subtle clicks/pops when it is powered on/off and between songs (except when gapless playback is used).
When it comes to sound quality, both players have similar sound stages in terms of width.  The most significant difference between these 2 players is in bass presentation and vocals.  The 800 has a more neutral presentation and the X3 has a warmer presentation.  While the bass on the 800 is less in amount when compared to the X3, it is better in quality.  The bass on the 800 is punchier and more clear/detailed; in comparison, the bass on the X3 is a bit heavier (think thud instead of punch) and slightly fuzzy.  With the earphones I prefer to use with the 800 (YinJW ie800), the bass on the X3 creeps into/distracts from the midrange.   The vocals on the 800 are very, very nice, and this is a major strength of all the Xuelin players I have.  The vocals on the 800 have better clarity and dimension than the vocals on the X3, and as a result, I find the vocals to be more “musical” and life-like on the 800.  The bass quantity of the X3 can be reduced by using “cooler” earphones (like the Ostry KC06), but this does not really improve the vocals in my opinion. 
The 800 has better separation of low, mid and high frequencies than the X3, and this results in better clarity of detail and improved instrument separation/placement. 
(As a complete aside, for those readers who have the Xuelin 770/770C and Ostry KC06 IEMs, the sound quality of the X3 2ndGen using the KC06 IEMs is very similar to the sound quality using the A HO port of the 770/770C (more neutral HO) with the KC06 IEMs; except the X3 2nd Gen has a wider sound stage and the 770s have slightly better vocals.)
Both players had plenty of power to drive all my IEMs; so I would personally not routinely use a separate headphone amp with either one.  I did try out both players using their lines-out with my Neco Soundlab v2 amp (with dual AD8610 opamps).  I could not really appreciate any real improvements in sound quality with the 800, but the sound quality of the X3 appeared to improve.  With the amp, the bass on the X3 was reduced/more refined and there was better separation between lows, mids and highs.  The vocals on the X3 seemed to benefit with the amp as well.
Final Thoughts
Overall, the FiiO X3 2nd Gen is a very nice DAP.  The obvious strengths of this player are its functionality, file format support and firmware.  The sound quality is quite good, and with properly paired earphones, the user should be quite satisfied.  At its price point (approx $200 US), there appear to be few, if any, other players at present that can match its overall value.   I predict the FiiO X3 2nd Gen will be very well received when it is released for general sale.  It is clear to me that FiiO has set a new standard for DAPs at this price point, and other manufacturers will need to step it up quite a bit to remain competitive.  I certainly wish FiiO good luck and want to thank them again for this opportunity to review their new, high-quality DAP. 


 


jdog
jdog
Thank you, and I hope you have enjoyed your time with the X3.
zippersnapper
zippersnapper
can you confirm if the volume control works when using the "line out"?
jdog
jdog
On the iHiFi800, the volume is locked when you select the line out option.  I don't have an X3 2nd generation player and I don't remember if the volume is locked on the LO setting.

piksnz

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Portability, Clean UI, Great SQ, Price and native DSD
Cons: Rubbery Case, No internal storage, Al right battery life
Video review of the Fiio X3 Second Generation player.
 
 
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DSD SQ comparison:
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CarmenC
CarmenC
DSD playback has been out for over a month now.
LajostheHun
LajostheHun
Than second video was contradicting regarding your ranking and the description of them by your  categories. Based on your individual assessments I thought the X3 would be the second behind Sony. 
piksnz
piksnz
The second video is for dsd comparison only. The title says it.

TheoS53

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Build quality, sound
Cons: Design is near identical to X1, wheel is a bit too clicky
Firstly, a HUGE thanks to Fiio for selecting me to participate in the X3 2nd gen's world tour reviews. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to be involved in something like this, and it definitely makes me an even more loyal Fiio customer than ever before.
Honestly, if I was the head of Fiio, I don't know if I'd trust people enough for this world tour kinda thing, and it makes me a little nervous to know that I've been trusted to take care of this device. I almost feel like I'd have to feed it and change its nappy.

Right, let's get to the review.

I'll break it up in the following categories:

Intro
Packaging
Design
Interface
Drop and Submersion Tests
Sound
What I Like
What I Don't Like
Final Thoughts
 

Intro

The X3 2nd gen is an updated and redesigned version of the original X3. The X3 is the DAP that started it all for Fiio; a relatively affordable DAP possessing high quality music playback. Unfortunately I do not have an original X3 to compare it against, but I do have the X1 and X5.

Please keep in mind that the X3 2nd gen model that I received is not completely representative of the final production model, so some things might very well change
 

Packaging
 




 
The packaging is exactly what I have come to expect from Fiio, very nice, or rather premium.
Although, I do hope that they change the black box somewhat, as it is incredibly tedious to take off the lid (due to it being very tight fitting and the bottom sitting flush with the sides of the lid. Getting the X3 2nd gen out from inside the box was also rather difficult, as there was no space to grab onto it.  
As you can see, the box still says "X3K", as that was the name given initially, but the final product on units will have a different name on their boxes
Also in the box you will find 2 additional screen protectors, a COAX cable, a USB cable, and 3 "body stickers" to give it a different look, of which you can choose between a wood finish, carbon fibre, and USA flag.
 
 
 
Design
 







 
Firstly, look at that colour...just look at it! I absolutely LOVE the colour. It's a real shame that, in order to protect it, you'd have to cover it up with the silicon protector.
The brushed metal also feels really good, very premium and modern.
In terms of dimensions it is almost identical to the X1, the X3 2nd gen is around 2 - 3mm thicker than the X1 though. It's also heaver than the X1 (by 29g), tipping the scale at 135g.
As you can see from the images, it's considerably smaller than the X5.
It also has a smooth, Apple-ish back. I'm not entirely sure if it has a very thin pane of glass, or if it is just the metal that has been crafted that way, but it does look and feel substantially more premium than the X1
The scroll wheel feels vastly more robust than both the X1 and X5. It has some solid clicking going on and does require a bit more effort to turn.
The whole thing just feels better built than any of their previous DAPs. The X1 I have has a slightly off centre scroll wheel, and the same can be said for my X5.
One thing I absolutely must praise Fiio on is putting some logos next to the buttons to indicate their purpose. Now, I know the X1 has it too, but due to the colour of the X1 these little logos almost seem invisible. But that's not a problem for the X3 2nd gen, as it has a nice contrast with the darker "titanium" colour. 
Along the top of the DAP you will find a headphone jack, along with a Line / COAX Out combo jack.
 
 
 
Interface
 


 
There's not much I can say about the interface really. The UI of the X3 2nd gen is pretty much identical to that of the X1. It's simple and intuitive...it simply works. I do like the more "Fiio" colour schemes as compared to the X1, and it does feel vastly more mature than the theme found on the X5.
 
 

Drop and Submersion Tests
 
For these tests I wanted to see just how much abuse the unit can take. Let's face it, accidents happen out in the real world, and hopefully this review will allow you to get a deeper understand of just how much care you need to take of your (potentially) new Fiio device. 
I will break these tests down into a few categories:
Drop - 1m
Drop - 1.5m (average height when holding the device)
Drop - 3m
Submersion - Shower
Submersion - 1m for 30 mins

So, did you see me mentioning this section in the first part of the review, and couldn't possibly believe that I'd do these tests? Lol. I wouldn't do a drop or submersion test on any of my own devices, let alone a review unit...heck I didn't even take the protective sheet for the screen protector off!
Hopefully you'll take enough care of your device to not have to find out how it would fare in such circumstances. 
 
 
 
Sound
 
The X3 2nd gen has a lovely, smooth sound to it; but warmer, less analytical than the X5. Finer details (such as cymbals) are more pronounced on the X5.
When listening to someone like Amy Winehouse, you get a real sense of her raspy voice on the X5, whereas on the X3 2nd gen you don't get that same presentation, but you gain a very buttery smooth sound.
I guess my best description would be that the X5's sounds like its audio signature was sculpted in a laboratory, flat and refined; whereas the X3 2nd gen's sound was created in a very expensive home studio.
Ok, perhaps that's not the most accurate or clear description, but hopefully you catch my drift.
Rest assured, however, the X3 2nd gen is better than the X1. The X1 does sound flatter than the X3 2nd gen, but at the same time rather congested, as the X3 2nd gen has better instrument separation, and the sound seems cleaner than that of the X1. The X3 2nd gen also gives you a much better sense of space.
Honestly, for a MSRP of $200 for the X3 2nd gen, I'd be very surprised if you could find a better sounding DAP at the same price point.
I suspect that, due to the brighter (read flatter) sound nature of the X5 as compared to the X3 2nd gen, the latter would be less fatiguing. The X3 2nd gen just has a really comfortable sound to it and would perhaps be more suited to someone who likes to listen for hours on end.
 
When hooking the X3 2nd gen up to an external amp, such as the E12, things do improve. You hear more details, and it's not quite as warm as through the headphone jack. But again, when compared to the X5+E12, it's not quite as good, but definitely not far off! 
 
 
What I Like
 
The colour, as I've said before, is phenomenal, and the brushed metal look is definitely a winner in my book.
The bang-for-buck value of this player is also a huge plus. The sound is not THAT far off from the X5 (albeit noticeably warmer and less detailed), but at a much cheaper price this DAP won't disappoint.
Again, keep in mind that this is a review unit, and the final sound might very well be improved to the point where the sound difference between the X5 and X3 2nd gen might not be so clear anymore. 
I truly appreciate the time and effort that Fiio has put into redesigning the X3 2nd gen. It feels more premium, better thought-out than the X5. When compared to the original X3, the X3 2nd gen blows it out of the water in every way (especially the ridiculously awkward button layout of the original X3). 
 
 
What I Don't Like
 
To be honest, I'm in two minds about the design. Whilst I do like the design, the X3 2nd gen just looks like a darker coloured X1. There is nothing, just by looking at it, that would make you think that it's a better player than the X1. I have the same problem with Porsches..they all just look too similar.
But, from a business perspective, I get it. Keeping a similar overall design between a range of products helps to reduce manufacturing costs, and also serves to create brand recognition.
Of course, a better looking player certainly does not mean better sound quality, but looks can have a significant impact on our perception of a product.
And then there's the glass-like back. It feels premium, but it also feels like something that would pick up scratches rather easily.
It also feels too Apple-ish because of that back. Granted, I am rather biased against Apple products, so take this part of my opinion with a grain of salt.
I also don't particularly like the scroll wheel. It definitely feels a heck of a lot more robust than the one used on either of Fiio's other players...but a clicking wheel just doesn't quite make sense to me. I'd much prefer a slightly stiff but smooth scrolling wheel. Again, that's just my personal preference.
 
 
 
Final Thoughts
 
I honestly, truly, genuinely like the X3 2nd gen. Fiio have come a long way since the DAP that started it all for them, the original X3, and the X3 2nd gen gives me high hopes for Fiio's future in the DAP market (and portable audio in general), especially their upcoming X7. 
I've always felt that Fiio made products that had the perfect balance between sound quality and affordability...but I was wrong....very, very wrong. The X3 2nd gen pushes the envelope yet again, with the same sound quality that I've come to expect from Fiio, but now in a much more premium and compact package.

Over the last few days I've grown to really like this little gadget, and the sound signature has really grown on me.
I do still prefer the X5, but as I've said before, that decision might very well not be as easy to make if Fiio improve the sound in the final production units. 
I still cannot get over just how good the device looks, and I'm almost tempted to keep it. But, alas, it must continue its journey to the next reviewers, who I am certain will appreciate the look (and sound) as much as I do. 
As I prepare it for shipment and cleaning it up with alcohol swabs (due to the fact that I am a much-feared spy who's fingerprints and DNA must not be leaked...P.S pm me for details on Area-51) and tucking it away in its neat little box, I'm left feeling a bit confused.
I know I don't need the X3 2nd gen, the X5 sounds better...but there's just something about it...something special. 
The X5 sells for around $350, and if that's your budget, I'd say you should get the X3 2nd gen and the E12 amp. Overall that's just a better value package
 
 
 
**EDIT** I have been told (and confirmed by Fiio) that the back of the device does not have a glass pane, but instead it is just a clear protective film. The reason I thought it was glass is because all the usual product text on the back of the device was actually printed onto that film.
So, ignore my "Apple-ish" complaint
TheoS53
TheoS53
Thanks for that, really appreciate it. I'd love to review their upcoming models
Senthuran
Senthuran
Very helpful review! I have Vmoda M100's and at the 400 range do you still think i should get the X3 2nd gen and the E12 amp although my headphones don't need an amp? will the sound be better? i listen to electronic chillstep and singers like jason mraz.
TheoS53
TheoS53
It's really difficult to say. I haven't personally heard the M100, but from what I've read and reviews I've watched, it seems like the M100 tends to have a warmer sound and some bloated bass (or perhaps just fuller). 

Seeing as the X3 2nd gen already has a slightly warm sound, I'm not sure if using the M100 will be a good or disappointing experience. Best thing would be to try it out for yourself. 

Personally I have the Audio-Technica M40X...incredibly flat, accurate, and detailed; fantastic headphones for $100. With them I could pickup on the warmer signature of the X3 2nd gen..but through the M40X it didn't sound so warm as to bother me (I actually prefer a neutral sound signature)

twister6

twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: excellent sound, compact size, battery life (w/deep sleep mode), usb DAC functionality, native DSD decoding, in-line remote headphone support
Cons: unless you are on a tight budget - makes X1 obsolete, still needs some FW work
Before I start my review, I would like to Thank FiiO and their US distributor MICCA/TekFX for providing me with a review sample of X3 2nd gen (X3 II) in exchange for my honest opinion.
 
As a diehard fan of FiiO audio products, I feel a little embarrassed how the original X3 II announcement flew under my radar.  Can't believe I almost missed it considering I used to count days before X5 and X1 releases, knowing in depth specs of those new gen FiiO DAPs that followed up their popular X3 – the original FiiO DAP that started it all.  I guess it’s very easy to get overwhelmed in today’s “DAP” market with so many new releases and announcements where unfortunately some companies pay more attention to sound quality rather than design ergonomics or the other way around with fancy looks to compensate for performance shortcomings.  Also, a trend of using popular brand name chipsets for marketing hype can stir you the wrong way if you don’t consider a fact that without experience of a proper architecture design, schematic capture, and layout tricks – not even the best and the most popular DAC going to make your DAP sound good.
 
I became a fan of FiiO not because I get a chance to review a lot of their products, but because I see they really know what they are doing, they have a clear plan of how to do it, they deliver on their promises, and they have a great support.  But going back to my "confession" intro, perhaps I was under an impression that FiiO already covered entry level DAP market with their budget X1 ($99) and upper mid-fi market with X5 ($349), while the upcoming X7 ($TBD) should make a serious dent in TOTL hi-fi market.  So where would X3 II fit in?  For starters, it can still fit in very comfortably in a pocket of your pants (lol!!!), and it got a few tricks under its supercharged X1-hood to go head-to-head with some of the more expensive DAPs.  So let’s take a closer look at what I found after testing this new release from FiiO and comparing it against their other DAPs.
 
Starting with packaging, I do appreciate FiiOs attention to details with a sturdy carton "gift" box inside of a packaging sleeve which comes handy for storage of DAP and accessories.  It definitely enhances your unboxing experience and adds to a premium feel of the product versus cheap plastic throwaway packaging.  I do have to note that considering this is an early review unit, it still has X3K label on the cover though moving forward it will be changed to either X3 or X3 2nd gen.  X3K was an early reference, similar to updated designs of E10k and E11k where "k" suffix was added to distinguish a new model.  Moving forward, the model number should stay the name, only new generation reference will be used to indicate updated version.  Also, on the back of the packaging sleeve/box you still have a comprehensive listing of main functionality and spec summary.
 
Unboxing.
 
fiio_x3II-01_zpszznn4gre.jpg
 
fiio_x3II-02_zps7bce9l52.jpg
 
fiio_x3II-03_zpsgatrkkn6.jpg
 
fiio_x3II-04_zps4ufnfozq.jpg
 
fiio_x3II-05_zps443i1cwb.jpg
 
 
With a cover off, sitting in a protective foam cutout you will find X3 with a very familiar “face” of X1 DAP dressed in a silicone black skin.  In addition to this skin and already attached screen protector, as part of the included accessories you will also find additional replacement screen protectors, a charging power/data usb to micro usb cable (quality thick cable to handle 2A charging), Coax digital patch cable, personalized skin stickers (3 sets with wood finish, carbon fiber, and USA flag?!?), warranty card, a quick start guide, and X3 II quick reference card.  Obviously, personalized stickers are for scratch protection, though I would prefer to carry X3 II naked without any stickers covering its slick titanium finish aluminum alloy body (front to back).  As a matter of fact, in comparison to X1 where the back was plastic, X3 II is all metal including a thicker metal back cover where thickness of the unit is the main physical exterior difference between X1 and X3 II.  Another interesting detail I noticed was a transparent film used on the back of the DAP - comes handy to protect back of X3 II from scratches without covering its smooth back, just wish they would include a spare set.
 
At the same time, for a piece of mind, silicone skin does a good job protecting from both scratches and minor drops, not to mention of being an excellent lint magnet lol!!!  Also, I was pleased to see FiiO guys finally added a small pinhole in silicone skin at the front bottom of the case to show power led.  Other open ports in this silicone case are micro-usb at the bottom, and 3.5mm HO at the top, with LO/Coax port cover with a rubber flap to keep dust away.  Obviously there is a cutout for navigation wheel, while 4 control buttons and volume up/down and power are covered/sealed with a raised shape imprint.  As a bonus, X3 II will have add on accessories with HS12 stack up kit (the same as X1), LC-FX3221 leather case (crafted to access all the buttons without flipping a cover), and C03 clear plastic cover case - all to be purchased separately.  If I get a hold of these accessories, I will update my review with additional pictures.
 
Accessories.
 
fiio_x3II-06_zpsitldepk2.jpg
 
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For anybody familiar with X1 footprint, physical exterior design of X3 II will be nearly identical with an exception of a slightly thicker body – only 2mm difference.  Other than that, you will be greeted with a familiar layout of 2” TFT screen (with a decent contrast and 320x240 resolution) and a mechanical scroll wheel with a large round button in the middle and 4 small round buttons in the corners.  Furthermore, you have 3 buttons on the left side where a Power button is leveled with a body of the housing (to prevent accidental power up/down) and a slightly raised volume up/down with a small dimple on volume up which you can id just by sliding a finger across it.  Buttons have a nice tactile response, and there is no rattling or shaking.  Right above the volume/up, there is a Reset pinhole, something fortunately I didn't have to use during my testing.  Micro-usb port is at the bottom, along with a pair of pentalobe screws located toward the corners.  MicroSD card (X3 II supports up to 128GB) is at the bottom corner of the right size, and at the top you have a dedicated Headphone Out (HO) 3.5mm port and a shared Line Out (LO) and Digital Coax Out port.
 
I have been enjoying FiiO’s mechanical scrolling wheel since the day I got X5.  After awhile of using it, I did find some little issues, but to this day it’s still my favorite navigation control.  I’m sure FiiO got a lot of feedback from their users, and with every new release I see the wheel being updated with further improvements.  Keeping in mind my X5 was the original production unit and X1/X3 were early preproduction review samples, here is how I would rate evolution of this navigation wheel:
 
X5 - mushy, a bit loose, no feedback, and feels plastic to the touch.
X1 - a little tighter control, some click-feedback, and still feels plastic and slippery to the touch (a wheel "friction" sticker would definitely benefit in here).
X3 - rubbery finish with a nice grip, wheel feedback with a noticeable click, a better scrolling control.
 
Design details.
 
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After turning X3 II on, you are greeted with a fast boot up sequence.  I'm always pleased to see how with every new release FiiO firmware feels more stable and polished.  This is definitely not your typical beta software release, and actually feels mature and solid.  Obviously, FiiO didn't start it from scratch but rather found a way to port X1 firmware and GUI as a basis for X3 II.  But still, X3 II boot up and shut down time was faster than X1 and X5.  Another really cool and very useful feature FiiO added in X3 II is a new power management referred to as "deep hibernation".  Even so X3 II comes with a very capable 2600 mAh battery which I was able to verity lasting anywhere from 10hrs to 11+ hrs (depending on audio source files and listening volume level), you still get a deep sleep mode with idling to conserve battery drain down to less than 5mA of current draw.  And with a click of a Power button it wakes up instantaneously "on" again!
 
Besides a fast boot up, you also will be happy to know that FiiO continued with a same new GUI introduced in X1 - a cleaner interface in comparison to X5.  Staying consistent with their original interface, you have a status-notification bar at the top with a volume level, gain setting, menu selection, flash card presence, and battery status.  The only thing that would have been good to see in there is EQ indicator to know if it's off or on with a preset.  In the main screen section, you are presented with 5 menu choices, scrolled in a circular motion.  With a help of a scrolling wheel it's a simple operation which is comfortable for either left or right hand navigation with turning a wheel to simulate scrolling, pressing middle button for Enter/Select/Play/Pause/OK, upper left for Shortcuts key, upper right for Back/Main Menu with hold down, lower left for up/prev/rewind, and lower right for down/next/fast forward.  Also, holding down the middle button gets you into Volume change so you don't even need to push dedicated volume up/down buttons.  Another fantastic feature is a support of headphones with in-line remote to Play/Pause and double/triple click to skip tracks - a fantastic feature to remotely control X3 II (the same as X1) hidden in your pocket or while exercising.
 
So, back to the GUI and menu selection.  Starting with Now Playing you will see a list with all of your songs, displayed by what appears just a file name.  Category sorts songs in a more organized sub-categories of All Songs, Albums, Artists, Genres, Favorites (which you can tag individually), and Playlists.  Browse Files gets you to select MicoSD card folder or OTG folder (confirmed to be working like a charm, reading files from usb otg microSD card reader and usb otg thumbstick).  Also, I like a folder view since I have albums in separate folders while misc songs are below it in a separate list.  Moving on to Play Setting, you get a nearly identical to X1 menu selection with Play Mode (with different repeat and playback mode options), Resume Mode, Gapless Playback, Max Volume and Default Volume, Fixed Volume, Gain (L/H), 10-band EQ with a number of quality presets and custom setting option, Balance (L/R), and Play Through Folders option.  The last Main Menu selection is System Setting, also with a similar selection of choices like you can find in X1 and X5.  Those include Media Library Update (Manual/Auto), Key-lock setting (key function setting when screen is off), Screen timeout, Brightness setting, Idle poweroff, Idle poweroff time, Sleep mode, Sleep timer, Multifunctional output (Line Out vs Coax Out), USB mode (storage vs DAC), Theme selection (among 6 color choices), Support in-line headphone control (enable/disable), File Name display (by file name or title), About X3 (with info about microSD card capacity, number of songs, and firmware version, as well as full Quick Start Guide), Language selection, Storage formatting (helps to format Fat32), and Factory reset.
 
Graphic User Interface (GUI).
 
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I personally think that ergonomics of hardware interface and layout of GUI is very important in DAP design.  You can have the best sounding DAP in the world, but if its operation is awkward and uncomfortable - it will take away from the enjoyment of the product.  At the same time, sound performance is still very important.  When I reviewed X1 and compared it to X5, I was impressed with a scaled down design for under $100, and always commented “for the price, it sounds great” where the sound improvement came when paired up with an external amp.  But there was always a big gap with a clear separation in sound quality and features/functionality between X1 and X5.  With introduction of X3 II, FiiO is bringing this gap closer.
 
X1/X3/X5
 
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First of all, starting with fundamentals, FiiO used a better DAC and amplification stage similar to X5.  Before anybody calls me a hypocrite considering I always preach about treating a DAP like a black box where I don’t care about its chipset, I’m only bringing this up for a relative comparison of improvement and considering I have other DAPs that use the same Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC.  As a matter of fact, Hidizs AP100 uses the same DAC and it was an interesting comparison to find X3 II vs AP100 having a similar sound sig tonality where X3 sound was a little tighter and punchier while AP100 was a little more airy and wider and slightly more transparent, perhaps due to a different amplifier section.  As a step up to utilize quality of this new DAC, X3 II also added USB DAC functionality similar to X5, where you have a simple plug’n’play connection to your laptop/PC to turn X3 II into an external audio card.  As a bonus, due to a native DSD support/decoding, you can play high res DSD files after you install corresponding drivers and plug for your audio player (Windows).
 
And speaking of audio formats, X3 II is a true hi-res DAP supporting everything under the sun, from lossy compression MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG to lossless formats of DSD (DSD64 and DSD128), APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, and Apple up to 192kHz/24bit.  I was especially impressed with native handling of DSD files decoded in hardware, something X5 supports through internal conversion to PCM only.  But ironically, you do need a considerable amount of space for DSD files where X3 II only supports a single 128GB microSD card, while X5 supports 2 cards.  Still, not a show stopper considering X3 II was upgraded with USB OTG support where you can attach external drive to expand your storage capacity – very convenient using some of the latest usb otg mini thumb drivers or usb otg microSD card readers.
 
USB DAC and USB OTG.
 
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So how does it actually sound?  Figuring out sound signature of DAP is a bit tricky since you’re judging it through a sound signature of headphones, and as a result need to reference the sound to other sources or be very intimately familiar with a sound sig of your headphones from a flat source.  To my ears X3 II has a full body balanced sound with a touch of warmth and a bit of enhancement toward the low end.  The sound is detailed and smooth, background is relatively black, and soundstage is above average.  I don’t have any high impedance cans or super sensitive IEMs, but I can reassure you that level of hiss with some of the sensitive IEMs in my collection was on the same level as X5.  In comparison to X3 II, X1 is warmer and darker and bassier, clear but not with the same level of detail retrieval, and with a sound being a bit more congested and not as wide.  Looking at X5, in comparison it’s thinner and brighter, more revealing and open/airy, and with a wider soundstage. 
 
Some might consider X3 II sound to fit right in the middle of X1 and X5 sound sigs.  I personally do consider X3 II to be a noticeable improvement over X1, but with X5 it almost felt like a sidegrade, though still being a notch below.  It is not on the same revealing level as X5, but at the same time I found it to have a much better synergy with some of my brighter/analytical headphones to smooth out the harsh top.  As an opposite, my darker/bassier headphones sound better with X5 to “clean up” a sound.  So for example, A83 was a better pair up with X3 II while UM Pro 50 was a better match for X5.  But you are not limited to being tied up to HO output, and with added flexibility of LO, you always have an option to try different external amps.  For the purpose of this test, I used E11k and E12A amps, keeping it all in FiiO family!  Here are some of the observations I found comparing X3 II against X1 and X5 with different combinations of amps.  To keep the write up cleaner, I will refer to X3 II as “X3”, and obviously I’m referring to HO output of DAP when used without an external amp.  Also, testing was done using ATH-MSR7 headphones.
 
X3 vs X3+E11k - I prefer HO of X3 vs X3+E11k since E11k affects soundstage a bit and makes sound a little bit darker.
 
X3 vs X3+E12A - adding E12A improves soundstage a bit, makes sound wider, slightly better retrieval of details, a little better separation/layering, definitely an improvement.
 
X3 vs X1+E11k - X1/E11k combo is brighter and more transparent in comparison to X1 by itself, but still sound is a little warmer and with more sub-bass rumble comparing to X3.  The tonality of X1 gets cleaned up, but its warm characteristics is still amplified.  In comparison, X3 still sounds more neutral, transparent, and more detailed, not by a huge margin, but noticeable enough.
 
X3 vs X1+E12A - X1/E12A combo takes it to a whole new level with improved detailed sound, closer to a neutral level with just a little bit of low end boost inherited from original X1 sig.  With an exception of that "bass boost", X1+E12A pair up closed a gap with X3, bringing it almost to the same level.
 
X5 vs X3+E12A - X5 sound is more neutral and transparent in comparison to X3/E12A, also it's a little thinner with less body, while X3/E12A is a touch warmer, with a faster mid-bass attack, and overall having a more energetic sound.
 
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While test and comparison between X1/X3/X5 and different amp combinations is valuable, my next test round was using three different pairs of IEMs directly from HO of X1/X3/X5 to compare the sound.  For this test I choose to use Fidue A83 3-way hybrid since it has a great low end reproduction and bright top end, UM Pro 50 5-way BA with silver litz cable since it’s my darkest signature IEMs with a smooth sound and excellent bass, and Havi B3 Pro 1 which is neutral warm dual-driver known to be power hungry.
 
A83 testing (stock silver/plated cable).
 
X1: warm and smooth sound, not as much low-end definition, upper mids/treble are less revealing, soundstage is just average.
X3: brighter sound with better layering/separation, punchier bass with more details, more clarity and details in mids/treble which still remains smooth, wider staging.
X5: more revealing, vivid/open/airy sound, punchy detailed bass, upper mids/treble are more analytical/revealing, pushing it to a borderline harsh.  Treble is crispier, with a little better extension. Soundstage is a bit more 3D.
 
UM Pro 50 (w/Pure Silver Whiplash Litz cable).
 
X1: warm dull sound, bass is too rounded (slow attack), lower mids are a bit thick, upper mids are too warm and overly smooth, treble doesn't sound too extended.  Soundstage is narrow.
X3: still warm sound, but more detailed.  More definition and punch in the bass, better separation with lower mids, upper mids brighter and clearer.  Better treble extension, but not as much sparkle, still smooth.  Soundstage has more depth.
X5: still warm sound but improved transparency and retrieval of details.  Bass punch is slightly improved, separation with lower mids is still good, upper mids are still clear and brighter, treble has more sparkle and improved extension.  Soundstage is wider and deeper.
 
B3 Pro 1 (v# signifies volume where X1 doesn’t have Gain selection, so volume dial is lower).
 
X1: (v55) warm and bassy, bass is textured and with a slower attack, good separate from lower mids, clear upper mids, nice smooth treble with a good extension, soundstage has an average width.
X3: (v77) warm and bassy, bass has more crunch and a faster punch, more transparency and better layering and separation, mids are more detailed and brighter, treble has a better extension and more crunch.  Soundstage is wider.
X5: (v75) more neutral with enhanced bass, bass has a deeper texture and more details, better separation from lower mids.  Mids are smooth and detailed, not too bright.  Treble is brighter and has more extension.  Soundstage is open, and with more width and depth.
 
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Overall, I think X3 II was definitely a big surprise for me.  I know that FiiOs product line is partitioned with X1<X3<X5<X7 in order of design and sound improvement, and I was expecting X3 II to fit right in the middle between X1 and X5, but in reality found it to be closer to X5.  With some bright/revealing headphones I felt a synergy with X3 II to be even better than with X5.  Without a single doubt in my mind, I would say that X3 II is easily worth a double of X1 pricing due to an additional improvements of a new DAC and amp section, USB DAC support, native DSD playback, dedicated LO port, USB OTG support, 10 band EQ (vs 7 band in X1), selectable L/H gain, and very useful Deep Sleep mode.  X1 is still a great DAP if you are on a budget of $100 or planning to pair it up with a good external portable amp.  But in my honest opinion if you are deciding between X1 and X3 II or thinking about upgrading X1, I would strongly recommend looking into X3 II.  Sure, X5 is another step up, but if you are looking for a truly portable high quality DAP with an innovative scroll wheel control, great battery life, support of every audio file format under the sun (including native DSD decoding), possibility to use it as USB DAC, and being able to control it with in-line remote of your headphones – X3 II will be hard to beat in $200 price range.
adin10
adin10
what about X3 2G + E17K Alpen 2?
twister6
twister6
@DiegoDS310 : I'm too anal when it comes to video reviews, at least with a written review I can guarantee to put one out once a week, with video reviews I will end up doing dozens of takes, spend a week editing, and then still will not be happy with how it looks or sounds.  Besides, there are way too many unboxing and video reviews.  If I will do a video review, it has to stand out, and unfortunately I'm more articulate writing then being in front of the camera.
Skullbox
Skullbox
Having a FiiO X1, (will get X3ii DAP (very soon) I just want opinions from anyone, about X3ii synergy, presentation, or how pairing is with the Westone 4r IEM ? Are they both warm ?
Are my W4r will be just fine ? Some reader said the Westone 4r is warm to dark sounding Iem, it need open and powerful dap to drive this westone 4r. Is it true ?
What ur opinions, any suggestions ?
Pros: Sound quality, build, form factor, usability, interface, output power, versatility, boot speed, features/versatility
Cons: UI features not yet perfect (hierarchical menus artist/album/track), scroll wheel while mechanically firm still has “play” in use
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To view larger images (1200 x 800) click the appropriate photo

INTRODUCTION

I’m a proud owner of the Fiio X5 and X1 – they’ve been my go to DAPs for some time now, and I use both daily.  The X1 for when I want ultimate portability, and the X5 when I need a little more power, and also want the added level of refinement it brings. I’ve been using Fiio audio equipment for some time now, and have watched them evolve from a fledgling company to becoming a serious player in the personal audio world , with IMO some fantastic equipment that both sounds and measures impressively well, and gives incredible value for money.
 
When I heard that Fiio were looking at revamping their X3 DAP (the first DAP they released) I immediately contacted Joe to ask if I could be included in a tour “Down Under”. Joe went a step further, organising me one of the early review samples – and I’m very thankful for the opportunity. At the completion fo this review, I’ll be organising an Australia/NZ tour for this unit – so that other Head-Fiers can also get a chance to review and compare the X3 second generation. So far I've had the X3 second generation with me for just over 4 weeks.
 
ABOUT FIIO
 
Everyone on Head-Fi should know about the Fiio Electronics Company by now – but if you don’t, here’s a very short summary.
 
Fiio is still a relative newcomer to the audio scene when compared to the more established companies.  Fiio was first founded in 2007.  Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”.  But Fiio has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range.  They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by their current flagship DAP (the X5) – which despite its reasonable cost (350-399) has been able to compete with models from other manufacturers costing hundreds of dollars more. More recently they released the X1 – an ultra low cost DAP (~USD 100)  which has done even more toward bringing high quality mobile audio to those on a tighter budget.  Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding wonderful.
 
DISCLAIMER
 
I was provided the Fiio X3 second generation as a review sample.  It will go on tour once I have finished reviewing it.  I gave listed the price as RRP of $200 - but it was sent as a review unit at no cost.  There is no financial incentive from Fiio in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Fiio - and this review is my honest opinion of the X3 second generation.  I would like to thank Joe & James for making this opportunity available.
Note - I later purchased the review sample from Fiio.  I still use the X3ii most days.
 
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
 
(This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last few years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X1, X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X1 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
 
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
 
I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).  I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
 
My experience with DAPs in the past had been initially with some very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, iPhone4, iPod Touch G4, iPhone 5S, HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5 and X1.
 
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A DAP
 
I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.
  1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
  2. Good build quality
  3. Reasonable battery life
  4. Easy to use interface
  5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
  6. Value for money
  7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
 
Did I get all of this with the X3ii?  Mostly – yes, and Fiio’s track record with firmware releases tells me that anything missing at the moment will get better with time (more firmware releases). So please, sit with me for a while, and let me relay my experiences with Fiio’s latest DAP – the X3 2nd generation.
 
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
 

THE REVIEW

From this point onward, I’m going to simply call the Fiio X3 2nd generation the “X3ii” – as much for ease of typing and understanding than anything else.
 
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
 
The X3ii arrived in a bright red and black box with a nice picture of the X3ii on the front cover, and some specification and feature info (in English and Chinese) on the rear.  The box is labelled as the X3K – which will be changed at some stage to the new name.
 
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X3ii comes fully sealed
Front of retail box
Rear of retail box
 
Opening the retail box reveals an inner box and lid (black) very similar in dimensions to the inner box from the X5 – just a little taller.  Opening the lid reveals the X3ii, already encased in its silicone protective case (and also in a protective bag), cushioned inside a foam protective form fitting mould. In the top of the box was also a single card explaining the layout of the main features.
 
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Retail box
Retail box and inner box
Inside the retail box - X3ii well protected
 

Underneath the foam 9which lifts out) there is a thinner secondary box which holds the accessories which include:
  1. A USB charging / data cable (very well constructed and shielded)
  2. A digital out to coax cable
  3. 2 spare screen protectors for the X3ii (plus one already fitted)
  4. 3 different patterned sets of stickers (for personalising your X3ii) – wood grain, carbon and USA.
  5. A foldout warranty card
  6. The Fiio X3ii quick start guide
 
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Accessory box exposed
Accessory package - stickers, cables, screen protectors and documentation
USB/charging/data cable and digital out cable
 

The entire package is practical, covering everything you initially need for the player.  Materials are all good quality.
 
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
 
The tables below list most of the relevant specifications, and because Fiio’s players are likely to be compared (a lot), I’ve included the relevant information on the X1 and X5 I have also.
 ​
Fiio X1
Fiio X3ii
Fiio X5
Approx cost
USD 100
~ USD200 (RRP)
~ USD 349-399
Dimensions
~96 x 57 x 14mm
~96 x 57 x 16mm
~ 114 x 68 x 16mm
Weight
106g
135g
195g
Lossless file formats supported
APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC
APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, DSF, DFF
APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, DSF, DFF
Lossy file formats supported
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis
Use as external DAC?
No
Yes
Yes
Battery
1700 mAh 3.7V
2600 mAh
3700 mAh
Play time
11 hours+
11 hours+
10 hours+
DAC chip used
PCM5142
CS4398
PCM1792A
Main amp chip
ISL28291
OPA1642+LMH6643
OPA1612+LMH6643
S/N (H/O)
110 dB (A-Weight)
113 dB (A-Weight)
115 dB (A-Weight)
THD+N (H/O)
<0.004%
<0.003%
< 0.0015%
Output into 16 ohm
>100 mW
>224 mW
>460 mW
Output into 32 ohm
>65 mW
>200 mW
>255 mW
Output into 300 ohm
>8 mW
>24 mW
>28 mW
Highest resolution lossless
192 kHz, 24 bits
192 kHz, 24 bits
192 kHz, 24 bits
DSD/DSF/DFF support
No
Yes - Native
Yes – converted to PCM
Output impedance (H/O)
< 2 ohms
0.2 ohm
0.26 ohm
Line Out
Yes (shared with H/O)
Yes / Separate (shared with digital out)
Yes – separate port
Digital Out
No
Yes – 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
Yes – separate port, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
External storage (current)
Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
Screen
2in colour TFT, 320x240 px
2in colour TFT, 320x240 px
IPS 400 x 360
Shell / Casing
Aluminium (silver)
Aluminium (gun-metal)
Plastic shell over aluminium body
 
BUILD QUALITY
 
The build on the X3ii (IMO) is excellent for a DAP in this price range.  The casing is a 2 piece high quality CNC aluminium alloy with a very nice brushed finish.  The colouring is also really nice (gun-metal grey), and I have to admit I prefer this to the silver/metallic colouring of the X1.  I see no blemishes on this unit – everything fits extremely well together, the corners are smooth, and the bevelling/champfering of the edges adds to the classy look. The body is essentially much the same as the X1, but the X3 is a little thicker.
 
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X3ii in the included silicone skin/cover
X3ii - bottom view
X3ii - right side view (micro SD slot)
 

The scroll wheel is the first point of difference with the X1 and X5.  It still flows nicely, and is easy to spin, but on the X3ii it is a lot firmer, and each click is quite distinct.  On this unit there is really no side-to-side mechanical play with this unit.  Bravo Fiio – this was a point of contention with previous models, and this is a vast improvement.  The wheel, like previous models is fairly sensitive, and takes a little getting used to – but practise makes perfect, and the buttons are also very easy for advancing and reversing through menu choices. Warning though – if you expect one click to be one step through each menu, you’ll be disappointed.  The X3ii is still a little finicky with this – but I personally have no issues with usability.  YMMV here.
 
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X3ii - top view
X3ii - right side view
X3ii - view of buttons and wheel
 

The buttons themselves are very well placed for one handed operation, and give a good tactile click.  They are also clearly labelled (a now corrected critique from the original X5). Once you know the layout (easy if you’ve used and X1 or X5), they are easy to locate on the unit, and equally easy to use unsighted (or with the screen off).
 
The ports are excellent fitting – snug and secure for plugs.   All connections feel very solid. There are two ports in the top of the unit – the headphone out, and a dedicated 3.5mm line out which also doubles as a digital plug (works with a 3.5mm to coax adaptor – which Fiio supply).  The second port switches between line-out and coax-out by software switching (in the System Setting Menu).
 
There is a single micro SD port on the right hand side of the unit – and currently handles up to 128Gb cards – but Fiio is confident that this should have no issues handling larger capacity cards as they are released.
 
On the right hand side, there is a small reset hole between the on-off button and volume buttons.
 
The screen is a 2 inch colour TFT, basically the same as the X1, and is not as vibrant as the X5’s IPS screen, but is easy to read and is clear enough for easy navigation. It does disappear a little in direct sunlight (even turned all the way up), but this can be fixed by using your hand for shade, and I think better contrasting themes will also help
 
Overall – the build for me is a solid 5/5.  The X3ii feels reassuringly solid in my hand, and in my time with it so far, it appears to me to be the most solldily built DAP Fiio has introduced yet.
 
UI (USER INTERFACE) / USABILITY
 
Please note that this is with the released firmware 0.18 beta.
 
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Animated start sequence
Main menu screen - easy to navigate
System Settings Screen - top half
 

Let me preface by saying that for me the overall usability of the X3ii is as good OOTB as Fiio has had with any of their releases to date.  If you are used to the Fiio ecosystem – especially coming from the X5 or X1, you’ll have no problems finding your way around.
 
On starting the X3ii, you are greeted with an animated “welcome” screen – before moving to the menu.  The menu can be navigated using either the scroll wheel or buttons.  At the top of the menu is a status bar which shows (left to right) : volume, gain, current screen (or EQ status if in now playing screen) , play/pause status, sleep timer – if set, SD card in use, and battery level indicator.
 
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Systems Settings screen
System Settings Screen
Theme Selection screen
 

The main menu choices include: now playing, category (or library access via tags), folder browsing mode, play settings, and general settings.
 
The general settings screen is very straight forward, and includes:
  1. Update media library manually
  2. Lockscreen settings
  3. Screen timeout and brightness
  4. Power off and sleep settings (including a sleep timer)
  5. Software switch for line-out vs digital out
  6. USB mode switch (USB or DAC mode)
  7. Theme controls
  8. Switch for in-line remote controls
  9. Settings for file name display (title or filename), language, info about the X3ii and options to format the SD card plus totally factory reset your X3ii
 
The lockscreen switch includes 3 options which should suit most users.
 
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Play Settings screen
Play Settings screen
10 band graphic EQ
 

Theming has a choice of 6 preset themes.  The good news is that the set-up is very similar to X1’s so theme modding will yield plenty of aftermarket options.  When my own unit arrives, the first thing I will be doing is modding mine to use a carbon theme (which I’m currently using on my X1).
 
Updating the media library can be set to automatic or manual (I always leave mine on manual – as most of the time now I simply use folder browsing). To give you an idea of the time to update an entire library – I currently have 5795 tracks (in aac256) on it at the moment, and it takes 3 minutes and 43 seconds to update the entire library. Once again though – using manual updating means you update when you have the time.  The rest of the time there is no scanning and the X3ii is always instantly ready to use.
 
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Folder browsing TF or OTG (on the go not tested)
My folder set-up for folder browsing
My external test track playlist
 

The Play Settings menu includes settings for:
  1. Play mode (normal, shuffle, repeat track, repeat all).  These can also be accessed in play mode with the upper left button.
  2. Resume mode (off, same song, and same position in song)
  3. Gapless play back
  4. Setting maximum, default, and fixed volume
  5. Gain switch (0 or +6dB)
  6. Equalizer – 10 band, with 9 presets which can all be edited.
  7. L/R balance setting
  8. Play through folders setting
 
The equaliser is a step up from the X1’s 7-band EQ, and the option to edit each one of the presets is really handy – especially if you have multiple headphones.  You can also custom rename these if you are familiar with modding the X3ii themes (it is pretty easy). Engaging the equaliser automatically drops the output by ~ 4dB to reduce the chance of clipping. The equaliser cannot be engaged when using the line out or digital out, and also does not work on hi-res tracks (DSD, or anything over 88.2 sample rate)
 
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Test track playlist opened
Artists in my folder set-up (P-R)
Category Selection Screen
 

The other settings all work well, and what I really like is the option to use set volumes (I default to around 30/120) on start-up, so there are no “accidents” with a sensitive IEM and using the last setting for full cans when you last switched the X3ii off.
 
Folder mode is brilliant and I pretty much use it as my default. Some people with large libraries have been critical of Fiio DAPs in the past (too slow navigating a lot of albums/tracks) – but I’ve found using a combination of folder mode and some smart folder organising makes things flawless.  With my folders, I set up the first level using alphabetical first letters for groups of artists, then artist name in the next level, then album in the third level.  For me (with over 450 albums on board) this makes navigating a breeze. Using folder mode also gets around the 5800 track limit for tagged libraries (this has been fixed with the X5 so hopefully an eventual fix for X1 and X3ii will be forthcoming).  The other great feature with folders is the now implemented “play through folders” which automatically advances to the next folder after the last track in the last folder is completed. A suggestion for anyone using this method though – make sure your file names have the track number in them.  X3ii sorts alphanumerically, then alphabetically.  So for my album files – I use “01 name”, “02 name” etc.  If I have a 2 disck album, I’ll use “1.01 name”, “1.02 name” etc then “2.01 name”, “2.02 name”.  Again, a little forethought with library management works wonders.
 
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Artists (tagged) under category
Albums (tagged) when viewed under Artist
Tracks (tagged( when viewed under Artist, then Album
 

In category mode you can play by song, artist, album, genre, and there are also options for favourites and playlists. Choosing artist bring a natural hierarchy of album then track (works well). Likewise album brings in track underneath the album chosen. Selecting by genre collects all the tagged genres together, but then lists everything in one selection by number first, then alpha – so for me, all my “01 filename” tags get bunched together, then “02 filename” etc.  Unless you plan on putting things in shuffle mode, it makes the genre selection useless.  It needs to be sorted by artist and album first.  Likewise, choosing by song just lumps everything (in the wrong order) into one directory.  Good if you simply want to shuffle every track in your library – useless otherwise.  This is why I primarily use folder mode.
 
I haven’t used favourites or playlists much as they have to be manually added track by track.  I find this laborious, so I simply use an external database and editor to create external playlists. This takes some getting used to, but ultimately works very well.  I save the playlists to my root directory – or you could put them in a single folder – then access them by folder mode.
 
The upper left button brings up a context menu (that is dependent on the menu you are in).  When you’re in play mode, this is a quick way to access track playing modes (including repeat, shuffle, add to favourites, and delete). Holding the buttion in now playing mode brings up album, track and bitrate information. From the main menu it brings up the play settings options.
 
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All songs (tagged) under category - all jumbled
Now playing screen
Now playing screen with context menu enabled
 

The upper right button is a back button, and this is literally what it does – puts you back exactly to your last menu choice until you reach the main menu screen.  Pushing it again from there will take you to the now playing track window.  Pushing and holding will immediately take you to the main menu.
 
The bottom two buttons are forward, back / up, down / fast forward, rewind / next menu item / previous menu item – depending on your application.
 
The middle button is simply to select (i.e. action button).  One thing I have found – if you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated.  Nice little touch.
 
The UI is reasonably responsive – but can sometimes have some small lags between button press and actual action (this includes the wheel).  One way to make this better is to have no art in the tags, and just have a single album art picture in each directory.
 
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Track paused
Shutdown screen

Overall – if the Apple (think latest Touch or iPhone) UI is a 10 (and that’s what I’d give it) – this initial release would come in about a solid 8 for me.  It’s usable, has plenty of features, and I believe will get better with more firmware releases.  It is miles better than some of the other DAPs I’ve used in the past (eg Studio Anniversary 3).

COMPARISONS TO X1 AND X5

I seem to have written a book so far, and I’m yet to state how good the X3ii sounds. I debated how to do this, and thought maybe the best way was to have a short comparison to the excellent sounding X5 and its younger sibling the X1, then give a short summary.
 
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Fiio's X5, X3ii and X1
Fiio's X5, X3ii and X1 left side view)
Fiio's X5, X3ii and X1 (top view)
 

So first vs the X5 (initially using the HM5 – easy load to drive and quite revealing):
 
The 5 is both larger and heavier.  Both are built really well – and feel like serious audio devices to me.  The screen on the X5, despite being bigger, is also a lot clearer and crisper. Tactile buttons on both units are very solid and feel firm.
 
The wheel on the X3ii is noticeably firmer, and it is easier to feel the mechanical ‘clicks’ when turning it. But the X5 wheel (at least mine is like this) is still reasonably solid and is quite easy to scroll with.  Both wheels have the same issue – where a felt ‘click turn’ does not necessarily convert to a single menu movement.  But I have no issues personally navigating with both devices.
 
A feature that the X3ii has that the X5 doesn’t, is the deep sleep mode. Basically it goes into this mode when not being used, but rather than turning itself off, it simply sleeps, without the normal battery drain.  End result – when you click the power button – “instant on”.  Both have the same volume steps (120).  With the HM5 the X5 is at 50/120 and the X3ii on 53/120 to match. I used a 1kHz test tone and SPL meter to do the volume matching.
 
Direct A/Bing (sighted), and the two DAPs sound very similar to me – and I’d have difficulty (initially) telling them apart in a blind test.  However, over time, the difference that manifests itself reasonably consistently is that the X5 sounds slightly more refined – has a softer smoother edge to notes, where the X3ii on the same tracks is very slightly sharper.  It’s only noticeable when A/Bing rapidly (same track, same volume – so I can switch quickly – plus I also have both DAPs playing same portion of the song). The difference I’m talking here is subtle though, and unless you’re doing a quick switching A/B, I don’t think you’ll notice the difference. The X3ii by itself doesn't sound the slightest bit harsh or grainy (to me anyway).
 
Tonally – they are very, very similar (good thing).
 
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Fiio's X5, X3ii and X1 (right side view)
Fiio's X5, X3ii and X1 (bottom view)
   

I couldn’t spot any differences in sound stage, and the bass weight sounds the same to me. The main difference is in the mid-range and lower treble – and again it’s just the X5 sounding very slightly smoother, more refined, cleaner.
 
I also tried both DAPs with a couple of DSF files I own (Quiles and Cloud).  So the X5 playing converted to PCM, the X3ii playing natively.  I personally didn’t notice a difference in playback – they both sound pretty incredible (they are Blue Coast Records recordings – recommended!).
 
OK – time for some fun stuff …..
HD600 – this time I had to crank the X3ii up to 75/120, and the X5 to 72/120 to volume match. Interestingly now, it was much harder to tell the two apart. Perhaps the HD600’s own tonality and laid back nature taking some of the edge of the X3ii? Anyway – the HD600 sounds excellent on both DAPs – I could listen to either one for hours.
 
 T1 – I had to add another 5 notches to both DAPs.  Again – both sound pretty good at first with the T1 (600 ohm be damned!).  Again the added refinement of the X5 has become evident though. The other noticeable thing is that while both sound pretty good – they’re both missing some of the bass impact that’s usually evident with the T1 from my desktop amps.  Interestingly – even adding the little E11K to the mix, and some of the dynamics return – more so with the subtle bas boost it also has.  Still not as good as the NFB-12 or LD MKIV – but definitely enjoyable.
 
Next vs the X1 (again using the HM5)
 
So basically very similar looking units.  X1 is skinnier and lighter.  Subjectively – love the gun-metal aluminium finish on the X3ii.  It looks stunning.  On the hardware side, the X3ii gives you a better amp (more power anyway), use as a separate DAC, native DSD support, a separate line-out, option for digital out, and slightly better battery life.
 
The wheel on this X3ii feels tighter and sturdier than the X1. Some are still going to complain that one rotational click does not necessarily mean 1 movement on whatever menu you are on – but TBH, I’ve never had any issues navigating my X5, X1 or this X3ii – so really …… YMMV.
 
The GUIs are pretty much similar – which means that we should be able to mod the X3ii themes (a good thing). All the features of the X1 are there in the X3ii, with the addition of a couple that are worthy of mention (10 band equaliser and instant on).
 
No use comparing use as a DAC in this comparison, as X1 doesn’t have the option – so onto sound.  This IS subjective – OK.  FWIW the X1 at 37/100 with the HM5 needed the X3ii on 55/120 to match. I used a 1kHz test tone and SPL meter to match.
 
Direct A/Bing (sighted), and the two DAPs sounded tonally very similar to me. Purely subjectively, the X3ii does seem to have a very slightly blacker, cleaner background (but it is really marginal).  Both sound crystal clear, dynamic, and the way they should as audiophile players. Soundstage on both appears to be the same.  Bass quantity seems to be pretty similar as well – it’s just that added sense of clarity that comes in with the X3ii – makes it seem crisper, cleaner.  Hard to put a finger on it.
 
OTHER FEATURES
 
The review wouldn’t be complete without a quick word regarding the other features the X3ii offers, and this is where (for the low RRP of USD 200) the X3ii really shows its value.
 
As a digital transport – using the 3.5mm to coax out – it works extremely well.  This is ideal for anyone who is away from home (e.g. at a Meet) and wants to test an audio chain – but with their own music.  I actually tried this feature going straight to my NFB-12.  It worked brilliantly.
 
With line-out to an external amp.  The line-out (to my ears) is essentially very clean, with no discernable noise or degradation of SQ.  I used this feature going straight to my LD MKIV, and also to the E11K.  The first thing I noticed was that the headphone out and line out essentially sounded the same to me. This is a good thing. The X3ii + LDMKIV + T1 was superb, and I ended up getting side-tracked for about half an hour with my new DSD Jazz album whilst I was evaluating.  Always a good sign.
 
Note - when engaging either the line-out or digital out - as soon as either is plugged, the X3ii automatically pauses if it was playing.
 
As a DAC.  The drivers loaded fine with Win7, and the overall operation was flawless.  They also worked OOTB with Linux.  Again the sound was superb, and after volume matching and then comparing the DAC on the X3ii with the NFB-12 (using easier to drive HM5 and borrowed Fidelio L2), the first thing I noticed was how alike the two units sounded.  I didn’t feel I was losing any SQ with the X3ii.  Both are full bodied and great sounding DACs.
 
The only issue I had with the X3ii as a DAC was getting DSD playback from within Windows.  I eventually managed it by using jplay (Foobar was being remarkably unco-operative trying to play natively).  Anyway – it worked, and the issues were more with my Windows set-up than the X3ii.
 
The killer new feature with the X3ii is deep-sleep mode (or instant on).  Basically when its idle for a while, it switches itself into an extremely low power mode rather than switching itself off.  When you go back to using it, simply tap the on button and its instantly awake and ready to go.  This is brilliant.  No slow restarting after being interrupted.
 
POWER
 
The X3ii’s amp section (like the X5’s) is a good one.  The power output is listed in the specs earlier in the review.  Basically I tested these with: HD600 @ 300 ohm, Havi B3 Pro 1, and even my T1 (all reasonably demanding loads).  With the HD600 and Havi, at no time did I feel they were being under driven, or in any way lacking (compared to my NFB-12).  Even the 600 ohm T1 was driven pretty well – just maybe lacking a little bass impact (we’re not talking a huge difference though – and still very listenable).  Volume was on low gain – but around 90/120 though.
 
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HS12 stacking kit and L17 interconnect
X3ii and E11K
X3ii and E11K
 

With the X3ii – for most headphones (except very difficult to drive full sized), there is simply no real need to have an add-on amp. So it becomes choice rather than need.
 
BATTERY PERFORMANCE
 
Fiio rates the battery life under current firmware at around 11 hours.  I did a battery test earlier in the week on the X3ii - fully charged to fully empty.  Stet-up was:
  1. Continuous play
  2. Havi B3 Pro 1 playing at reasonable sound level - so around 55/120
  3. Redbook FLAC
 
Total playback time was 12 hours and 10 minutes continuous play before battery depleted. Recharge time from empty to full was 3 hours and 5 minutes.
 
FORMATS TESTED
 
During my testing, the following formats were all tested with the X3ii, and all found to work pretty much perfectly:
  1. Aac256 (lossy) - there is a slight 'micro' gap with the gapless - which doesn't appear during playback of the same flac files.
  2. MP3 (lossy) - (V0 and CBR320)
  3. Ogg (lossy)
  4. WAV (lossless)
  5. FLAC (lossless) - 16/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/196, 24/192
  6. APE (lossless)
  7. DSD (lossless- native)
     

VALUE & SUMMARY / CONCLUSION

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Testing with the HD600 and T1
Testing with IEMs (Havi, Titan and A83) and easier to drive headphones (HM5 and L2)
 
I tested the X3ii with a variety of headphones over the last 4 weeks - including:
  1. full sized - T1, HD600, HM5, Fidelio L2
  2. IEMs - A83, Titan, Havi B3 Pro1, Altone200, and many others (see profile)
 
With the IEMs, at no stage did I notice any hiss from the headphone out - but YMMV.  I was unable to test with really sensitive customs (don't have access to any) - my most sensitive IEM is the A83. When using full sized headphones with the X3ii, the only headphone which may have been very slightly under-driven was the T1 - which was very slightly bass shy (compared to the output from my NFB-12), but this was only very slight, and I had great enjoyment with the T1 straight out of the X3ii alone.
 
Value is going to be very dependent on the features you require most for your DAP.  Where I see the niche for the X3ii is that it bridges the gap between X1 and X5 – bringing high portability and brilliant form factor from the X1, and better overall SQ, driving capability, and total feature package (use as DAC, separate line-out / digital-out etc) from the X5.  The fact that it comes reasonably close to the feature set, power and SQ of the X5, and achieves this at almost half the RRP is incredible, and really at this price range, I can’t think of another DAP that I’ve heard that comes close.  I’ve had a PONO with me for the last few days, and to be honest I’d even take the X3ii over the PONO at half the money (and the PONO SQ is really very good).

 
This is an incredibly good sounding DAP, with an excellent overall feature set, and will definitely be getting daily use from me – possibly even more so than my X5.  It won’t replace the X5 – simply because there IS the added refinement, power and storage the X5 possesses.  But it will make a great companion, and I fear that now I will probably not be using my X1 very much in the future because of how good the X3ii is.
 
At USD200 this DAP deserves a 5 star rating – but I’ll give Fiio a 4.5 because I do think they can make further improvements on the GUI.
 
FINAL THANKS
 
Again – my apologies for the length of the review.  I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over essential information.  My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the early review team.  I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away next week on its Australasian tour.
 
As I've been editing this review prior to posting (so basically for the last 2-3 hours), I'm still using my T1's straight from the headphone-out of the X3ii - and it sounds phenomenal!
 ​
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Arsalan
Arsalan
Hi Brooko,
If i want to use this device only for playing the mp3 tracks (320 kbps), which one would you prefer? (most important: sound quality)
1- Fiio X3 2nd Gen
2- iBasso DX50
3- another device to this price range
Thanks
Brooko
Brooko
Unfortunately haven't heard any of the iBasso players. Maybe try The Lab thread - there will be guys there who have heard a lot of the ~$200 players and might be able to give you a better steer.  Personally I love my X3ii - use it all the time. Mine is solely aac256 though :)
Arsalan
Arsalan
Thanks Brooko, after you helped me, I found my lovely Headphones -----> Dunu 2002
if I could, i would give you 1000 Likes for each of your reviews :)
 
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