FiiO X3 comes in a nice box with adapter and micro USB cable, as well as a nice soft silicone sleeve to protect the player. It is built very nicely, has some retro touch to it since it doesn't have any wheels or touch screen, just buttons and normal, not so good, screen (but it does the job just fine). It has coax out, line out and 3.5 mm headphone jack as well as micro USB port for charging, using as an external DAC or transferring music from PC. On the right side there is a "hold" switch that is used to block other buttons to be mistakenly pressed, though I haven't used it once since the buttons are not that sensitive and it will never happen that you mistakenly press a button, but still there it is. On the left side there is a micro SD card slot (you don't get SD card with player) and player itself is equipped with just 8 Gb of memory, but who cares about that when you can get 128 Gb and if not now than soon 256 Gb SD card. Player is built with combination of metal front and back andgood plastic around, it looks and feels nice. It has a decent battery of 3100 mAh and while they claim it will last ~10 hours I get around 7-8 from it, though I'm crazy track swapper so the screen is on a lot more than average person would have. Also it's decently light at 122 grams which might surprise some because of metal finish - it looks heavier than it is.
UI & Usage In General:
User interface on X3 is good, couldn't be much better if you see that it doesn't have a touch screen and/or volume wheel. It's decently fast and responsive with an exception when you have a huge size album art on your songs, then there is a delay in UI when you play or change the song; it starts playing in an instant but the screen is frozen for a second or two till it shows position of the song, it's not a major issue but just to note it. If you have a small size album art or no album art at all, the X3 is very fast and responsive. Also there is a possibility to change the themes and make themes on your own, and it's not hard at all, several videos about it on YouTube and several posts about it here on Head-Fi. Buttons are responsive with that nice click when pressed and all the buttons, since there are only six of them have more purposes, for example if you hold back button it will display song info, if you hold play/pause button player will turn off/on etc. Firmware updates bring real improvements and good changes which is really great! Also FiiO's support is very fast, at least was to me, they answered me in a few hours after I sent them an email (had some random question).
24 bit talk:
Ok, first a small story here: 24 bit audio cannot sound better and it doesn't. It wasn't just randomly chosen for a CD standard that 16/44.1(48) audio, it is precise mathematics and they considered what we can hear. 24/192 audio has more dynamic range of 144 db (range between lowest and loudest signal, and CD audio quality has 96 db) but humans perceive less, ~105 db effectively. But! Also environment noise, even with great isolation won't come lower than 10-15 db which means lowest signal cannot be lower than that noise (or we wouldn't hear it, it's called masking), so in studio when they are finished with editing they compress dynamic range and it should be, must be and it always is equal or less than the capability of CD (96 db). And when people are speaking about resolution or bit depth, that manifests through that higher dynamic range and lower hiss. Hiss in 16/44.1(48) is inaudible. None of this is a matter of opinion. Audio isn't some abstract magic, it's very measurable, very proven, very tested. 24 bit is useful in studio, because it leaves editors to work well above the noise floor and when they are done they just compress it and it leaves space for mistakes also, as well to other several things, but for now that's it. Oh, and if someone says something like "soundstage opens up", sound is more "clear" that is literally like you believe in dragons. Why I said this - because many people are aiming for the good players because of that "HD" audio capability which is a complete nonsense. And it is not a matter of how good someone hear or a matter of opinion. I'm sure many of the companies wouldn't even mention 24 bit audio but when several started with that to make money other didn't have a choice because people simply started following the hype. After all just get some song from HD tracks for example (or anything similar, a lot of free promo samplers that are 24/96 or 24/192, Linn also gives often free some album) convert that very same file to 16/44.1 and enjoy your blind test, that no one ever passed and that no one can pass.
Sound & Comparisons:
Player sounds good, if you use small impedance IEMs that are sensitive (like I do, Sennheiser IE80) you won't be getting probably any benefit from having a player like this instead of a smartphone or an iPod, but if you drive some harder to drive headphones you will certainly hear the difference. There are no noticeable (at least I haven't noticed) distortions on very high volumes, like I had on Nexus 5 for example above 90% volume, which is good and expected. It plays everything you might want: alac, flac, wav, mp3. And till recently (firmware 3.3) it has support for playlists too and it has 5 band equalizer. DAC inside is good quality Wolfson WM8740 also found in several products of a lot higher price than X3 like Astell & Kern AK100 (mk1) that cost literally over three times more (700$ vs X3s 200$) and it produces a good sound though not distinguishable from other modern players or latest smartphones that have good built in DACs. I have read many reviews and people are talking how it has wide soundstage, some say it has narrow soundstage, some say it has good imaging, some say it has decent warmth bla bla. I say it's nonsense, several of my friends, my father (far bigger audiophile than I am) tested it vs the AK100, AK120, iPhone 5s, iPod classic 5th gen and Nexus 5, and imagine wonder! None of us could tell the difference on IE80, Vsonic GR07, Sony EX700. (I'm just talking about IEMs now because that's what most people would use small portable player with) When you plug in something harder to drive X3 shines in comparison to smartphones because it has a lot more powerful output (250mW on 32 ohm). Genrally better amp than smartphones.
Summary & Recommendation:
Overall a good product with fair price of 200$ which kills all concurrency in value, except maybe that new FiiO X1 of just 100$, haven't heard it though. Good looking, good sounding with as good as possible UI if you consder it's non touch and all buttons player that is decently responsive with fair battery life (will last you more than smartphone, that's for sure!), I gave it 4 stars because there is a space for improvements, they should've added a volume wheel so you can adjust volume fast and without having the player out of the pocket, screen could be a bit better, and after all, it's hard to
value much a player next to smartphones (when it comes to the low impedance sensitive IEMs, that I mostly use) so to have 5 stars it REALLY needs to shine to carry an extra device in pocket. I use it a lot as an external DAC on my PC because my sound card is bad and there is a lot of noise coming from my PC when I connect any headphones, and I use it in gym for example, where I never bring my phone to distract me. If you need to drive some bigger headphones, and if you have a need of an extra player, I can gladly recommend the X3, but don't get it just for the sake of hobby if you have sensitive headphones of low impedance, you will not be gaining much, if anything. I'm not a native English speaker nor I speak it perfectly so I am sorry if there were some mistakes! Good day!
Pros - Sound Quality, microSD slot, FLAC playback in 16 and 24-bit
Cons - Buggy, bad UX, weird soundstaging, Battery life
I really tried to like this player but the Buggy software and the bad button placement made me angry most of the time.
Build quality is lower than waht I expected as there is no frame to add strctural integrity, the Board is screwed on the plastic casing, unlike sony A17 which features a alumnum die-cast frame to add structural integrity. The hold (lock) switch felt loose.
Connecting to a pc is a flawless process as it works as a USB Mass storage device, transfer speed is slow in the internal memory and if the SD is inside the player (use a SD adapter to use it on the PC reader)
It has a case included (rubber) and a SPDIF Cable altought i never used it, has multiple jacks, one for HP out, one for coaxial (SPDIF) out and one for analogue line out, works as a USB DAC this was great to bypass my DELL HELL internal DAC. (currently owning a sony VAIO)
The player is fairly basic (no photos oe videos, anyways who wants to look at vids or pics in a smallish screen? me not), There is no radio on it, not even a clock., had to update the firmware to be able to use 128GB microSD card
The Player can browse by All music files (pretty slow as hell to render and build the data structure, clearly poor Software engineering here), Artist, Genre, Album and by Folder, tought no Composer View (like sony) but not a major problem (i'm not ultra-mega-super.duper purist to whine lbecause the lack of a Johann Sebastian Bach & Mozart View)
It has dual settings, sometimes confusing, this could be made a la Sony Walkman, Only one settings section and inside that a Music Settings and General settings (Common settings on my A17)
The music UI is fairly basic, providing cover picture (as FW 3.0 is cropped badly), Play/pause/FastForwad and rewind, It shows the Actual file name.flac or .mp3 etc instead of track title, and scrolling of this text is choppy and slow (in my A17 walkman is silky smooth)
The menu is not as intuitive as the Sony one, only showing pics (icons) is not nice to guess what one does what, in one occasion i ended up deleting a song because this.
The button layout is confusing for blind usage, i often mixed the volume up/down with the FF/REW ones and ended with a blaring LOUD SOUND, this to make it worse to lower the volume it exhibits a ******* lag becaise has to turn the screen on and then you have to press again vol + or vol - so it reacts after a lag, (my walkman A17 has inmediate effect even if screen is off idle)
My walkman is easy to use in blind situations due to it's diamond shaped D-pad, clever sony engneers on thi s one, browsing huge lists of songs is also smooth on the walkman due to good software engieering skillz like cache of lists
Sound quality is good better tha IDevices (had an ipod classic before fiio & returning to walkman) , this blew even the older walkmans (A818 & X1060) Out of the waer, the sound is amazing, warm and rich a tad bassy with bassy IEMS like XBA-H3, but neutral Phones like my XBA-1 sounded equally good.
Soundstage is wide but not accurate has a problem of presenting trebbly instruments or female singers "floating above my head" (the sony walkman has a better SQ, neutral and fixes this floating voices by presenting them in the correct position in the front).
I did not note a difference with 24/96 or CD quality (presumably because fiios HP out is capped at 20KHz), With the walkman this Hi-res audio gets pretty revealing and enveloping, that i often say OWO, holy Cow where is the violinist? and turn my head in my room to find no one
But Hold my irate hate of this buggy thing, god bless it not to crash, it forgot so often where i left my last play position after turning it off, also took a long time to turn off.. and 30 minutes to build a 128GB library really? (my walkman remembers always where I left, turns on and off instantly, and builds library in 10 seconds to 4 minutes for 176GB), not to mention the ****ty 5,800 FLAC limit on the fiio (when i had often like 7,000). My walkmas has no limit, i can play all my 9,600 FLAC i have there
Then it failed about two mohts ago due to a buggy FW update, contacting fiio on facebook "failure because battery was with no charge" REALLY? my ******* battery was at 50% wehn i upgraded the firmware, ti simply didn't turn on again dead as a brick, adn THE LOCAL DEALER IS A FRAUDSTER (AUDIOFILIA.COM.MX) the Telephone routing system robot says "El numero que usted marcó ya no existe" (the number you dialed no longer exists).
I had a hard time convincing fiio guys to send me one as a replacement DUE TO THE FRAUDSTER OF AUDIOFILIA.COM.MX DIDN'T GIVE ME ANY PROOF OF PURCHASE AT ALL (Sony gave me my E-invoice with it's PDF and XML documents, plus 2 year more warranty to the standard one year), I HAD TO TELL FIIO THE TRUTH IT COSTED ME MORE TO SEND THIS FAULTY UNIT VIA DHL MEXICO (******* EXPENSIVE, THE HALF OF THE FIIO X3 NEW).
But FINALLY THEY AGREED TO SNED ME OUT A FIIO X3 REPLACEMENT, I WILL use it as a ADC for my WALKMAN
Pros - well build, comes very complete, competent player
Cons - did not play nice with my laptop,
After several years with a rockboxed Clip+ I was yearning for a bit more detail and a somewhat bigger soundstage especially for my classical music. I also wanted just a tad more power for my DT770-250ohm. I am not an audiophile and my hearing is not what it once was so this is more an impression from an average user and not a dedicated hobbyist.
This Christmas I found an X3 under the tree.
First impression is very positive. The packaging is nice, feels like a real present for you. It's a nice touch that the unit comes with cables as well as a silicone sleeve and a screen protector. Powering up you're greeted with a nice boot screen and after about 8 seconds the player is ready to go. Some people have reported issues with the UI but I found it very intuitive and well thought out (firmware 3.21) out of curiosity I upgraded the firmware to 3.30 which seemed to have little effect except adding a 5 band equalizer.
Several hours worth of listening to it as a stand alone player I noticed some things.
I've always been skeptical about running in pure digital components with no moving parts but this device really did improve after about 6 hours playing time
The soundstage is wider than the clip, quite a bit so which I noticed most on the better live recordings (Sinatra at the Sands, Diana Krall live in Paris) but on a Handel's Messiah I noticed that some vocalists seem to be higher than others, almost like a 3D effect had been added. Not unpleasant but peculiar.
Instrument separation is pretty good which you don't notice that much unless you listen intently to a busy part of a symphony, then it's suddenly really apparent.
The device has a specific sound signature. Perhaps it's that famous Wolfsson 8740 but it has a personality.
Batterylife is pretty good. I got about 9 hours on the first charge and that will likely improve quite a bit after a few charges.
Next I hooked it up to my laptop to use it as a DAC and ran into issues. For some reason on my laptop it would not run for more than 90 seconds after the laptop had been in suspend. After a fresh reboot it would work well. To my surprise it sounded different when used as a DAC than as a standalone player. The same tracks played via Foobar sounded more alive, more musical than they did when I played them from an SD card on the device.
By now I'd put in about 10 hours with it and I wasn't quite convinced yet. The DAC issue, while very likely specific to my laptop, was a major nuisance and as a stand-alone player it lacked something for me. It's quite analytical and yet posses a slight warm tone to it but to my ears it lacked musicality. I found myself liking it more as a DAC than as a player. I also considered the price. In my country the only official dealer sells it for 220 euros. If import it myself I run a risk of having to pay import duties which would eat into the price advantage significantly. The Clip+ sells for around 40-45 euros. Perhaps unreasonable from me but for that price difference I expected a bigger leap in sound quality than I perceived while listening to it.
So at the end of the Christmas vacation I decided to return it. Not because it's a bad product which it is clearly not but because it's not the player for me. I know have an E10K which serves me better and is significantly cheaper.