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FiiO X3 2nd gen Ultraportable Hi-Res DAP

Rating:
4.4625/5,
  1. stolzone
    Best DAP for Tight Budget Audiophiles
    Written by stolzone
    Published Apr 15, 2015
    5.0/5,
    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: 
    [​IMG]
     
     
    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. 
      H20Fidelity and hakushondaimao like this.
    1. 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.
      hakushondaimao, Apr 15, 2015
    2. peareye
      I think X3 is a huge bargain...improves on everything from the original X3 and keeps the price the same!
      peareye, Apr 16, 2015
  2. Cotnijoe
    Fiio X3II: A Worthy Update!
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Apr 15, 2015
    4.0/5,
    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!
      allhifi, Vartan and hakushondaimao like this.
    1. 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!
      peareye, Apr 15, 2015
    2. Cotnijoe
      yea im honsetly quite surprised that it hasnt been an issue addressed too much in the other reviews :\
      Cotnijoe, Apr 15, 2015
    3. 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
      Arsalan, Aug 18, 2016
  3. Koolpep
    Huge improvement over previous version - King of the <$200 DAPs
    Written by Koolpep
    Published Apr 8, 2015
    5.0/5,
    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!
      iano, Brooko, Hawaiibadboy and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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.
      Koolpep, Apr 13, 2015
    3. 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?
      landroni, Apr 14, 2015
    4. punit
      Very Comprehensive review. Nice.
      punit, Apr 16, 2015
  4. nmatheis
    Fiio X3 (2nd generation): X5's talented younger brother
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Apr 8, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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
      Brooko and hakushondaimao like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Skullbox
      Unfortunatly, for Dignis leather cases, for FiiO x3 II, there is no International ( CAN/US) distributors.
      Skullbox, Apr 8, 2015
    3. bruce1967
      Very nice review. Well written and very useful. Thanks very much!
      bruce1967, Apr 8, 2015
    4. peareye
      Sounds like a bargain! I love bargains!!!
      peareye, Apr 9, 2015
  5. hakushondaimao
    Good Things Come in Small Packages
    Written by hakushondaimao
    Published Apr 6, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. hakushondaimao
      @OldRoadToad: You're welcome. Glad to be of help. Let me know what you decide(d) in the end.
      hakushondaimao, Jun 7, 2015
    3. 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! 
      OldRoadToad, Jun 8, 2015
    4. 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...
      Shane D, Sep 3, 2015
  6. jdog
    A Brief Review of the FiiO X3 2nd Generation DAP with Comparisons to the Xuelin iHiFi 800.
    Written by jdog
    Published Mar 31, 2015
    4.0/5,
    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. 


     


    1. View previous replies...
    2. jdog
      Thank you, and I hope you have enjoyed your time with the X3.
      jdog, Mar 31, 2015
    3. zippersnapper
      can you confirm if the volume control works when using the "line out"?
      zippersnapper, May 10, 2015
    4. 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.
      jdog, May 10, 2015
  7. piksnz
    A top notch budget audiophile player. You cannot go wrong with this DAP.
    Written by piksnz
    Published Mar 29, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
     [​IMG] 
     
    DSD SQ comparison:
    [​IMG]
    1. View previous replies...
    2. CarmenC
      DSD playback has been out for over a month now.
      CarmenC, Mar 31, 2015
    3. 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. 
      LajostheHun, Apr 22, 2015
    4. piksnz
      The second video is for dsd comparison only. The title says it.
      piksnz, Apr 22, 2015
  8. TheoS53
    Great bang-for-buck value
    Written by TheoS53
    Published Mar 24, 2015
    4.0/5,
    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
      chowmein83 and Senthuran like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. TheoS53
      Thanks for that, really appreciate it. I'd love to review their upcoming models
      TheoS53, Mar 25, 2015
    3. 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.
      Senthuran, Mar 27, 2015
    4. 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)
      TheoS53, Mar 27, 2015
  9. twister6
    A VERY mature budget hi-res DAP
    Written by twister6
    Published Mar 20, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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
     
    fiio_x3II-07_zpshcxu3kii.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-08_zpsyds6hnq7.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-09_zpsfpu4xxjg.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    fiio_x3II-10_zpsuqrfudfy.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-11_zpsl7rw8luy.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-12_zps7neg4nht.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-13_zpspg19dvu1.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-14_zps3q5mu87b.jpg
     
     
    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).
     
    fiio_x3II-15_zpshvm2qrag.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-17_zpsqrua5hnh.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-18_zps0nwidy3i.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-19_zpsimryxfxy.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-20_zpszsylwypt.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-21_zps7mkxcges.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-22_zpsvghap0fs.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-23_zpszxdwijij.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-24_zpscinpdjr1.jpg
     
     
    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
     
    fiio_x3II-26_zpszynsxzdj.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-27_zpsxociqkit.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    fiio_x3II-31_zpszydqxhvm.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-30_zps8pj4epzw.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    fiio_x3II-28_zpshcjxaszl.jpg
     
    fiio_x3II-29_zpsnyzdg68h.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    fiio_x3II-25_zpsxa8gust0.jpg
     
     
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. adin10
      what about X3 2G + E17K Alpen 2?
      adin10, May 9, 2015
    3. 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.
      twister6, Mar 5, 2016
    4. 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 ?
      Skullbox, Mar 5, 2016
  10. Brooko
    Fiio X3 (2nd Generation) – The New Champion Budget Audiophile DAP
    Written by Brooko
    Published Mar 15, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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
    x3ii52.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii01.jpg
    x3ii02.jpg x3ii03.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii04.jpg x3ii05.jpg x3ii06.jpg
    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
     
    x3ii07.jpg x3ii08.jpg x3ii09.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii10.jpg x3ii12.jpg x3ii13.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii14.jpg x3ii15.jpg x3ii16.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii19.jpg x3ii18.jpg x3ii20.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii21.jpg x3ii22.jpg x3ii23.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii24.jpg x3ii25.jpg x3ii26.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii27.jpg x3ii28.jpg x3ii29.jpg
    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)
     
    x3ii30.jpg x3ii31.jpg x3ii32.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii33.jpg x3ii34.jpg x3ii35.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii36.jpg x3ii37.jpg x3ii38.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii39.jpg x3ii40.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii41.jpg x3ii42.jpg x3ii43.jpg
    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).
     
    x3ii44.jpg x3ii45.jpg
    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.
     
    x3ii46.jpg x3ii49.jpg x3ii48.jpg
    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

    x3ii50.jpg x3ii51.jpg
    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!
     ​
    x3ii53.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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
      Arsalan, Aug 18, 2016
    3. 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 :)
      Brooko, Aug 18, 2016
    4. 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 :)
       
      Arsalan, Aug 18, 2016