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FiiO X3 Portable Music Player

  1. Tail
    FiiO X3: Good player!
    Written by Tail
    Published Jan 29, 2015
    Pros - Sound; Build quality.
    Cons - Nothing especially
    Package & Build:
    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! :)
      minsik and Mmet like this.
    1. soulorc
      Nice review! I am using X3 to drive my IE80, too! And I really enjoy it! 
      soulorc, Jan 29, 2015
    2. Tail
      Thanks! :) I drive some other too, but IE80 are my primary
      Tail, Jan 29, 2015
  2. gerelmx1986
    Good while it worked EDIT: GOT REPLACEMENT UNIT
    Written by gerelmx1986
    Published Jan 11, 2015
    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) [​IMG]
    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 [​IMG]
    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).
    1. spanner43
      you had trouble with a Questionable local dealer that never gave you a receipt, fair enough. In your review sound quality is listed as a PRO, but you hate the UI also fair enough. This player isn't for people who need a Sony Walkman or iPod type UI. Its for those that sound quality is of first importance. Its a  lower cost portable player that can drive some pretty power hungry headphones and I for one judge it that way
      spanner43, Jan 11, 2015
    2. gerelmx1986
      Sony walkman has better sound quality A17 superb detail retreival and superb imaging and soundstage, it's my dream DAP came true
      Simply J.L. Krebs organ works sound fantastic on the walkman, very 3D ish soundstage and veru accurate, lots of details and even i can feel the air in the cathedral
      gerelmx1986, Jan 12, 2015
  3. wijnands
    impressive but not for me
    Written by wijnands
    Published Jan 6, 2015
    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.
    1. 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
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. The device has a specific sound signature. Perhaps it's that famous Wolfsson 8740 but it has a personality.
    5. 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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. wijnands
      I wouldn't go that far. People's hearing is different. If I could have gotten the device at American prices I might have kept it but at $260 which is what I pay over here, it just wasn't for me.
      wijnands, Jan 7, 2015
    3. gerelmx1986
      You can get a walkman A17 which is so easy to use, has also microSd and plays both 16- and 24-bit FLAC files, as well MP3 and AAC
      Has better sound compared to the fiio
      gerelmx1986, Jan 11, 2015
    4. wijnands
      I've yet to see a sony product that's easy to use. Also they tend to be unavailable in this country and the last ones had a propriarity cable and lacked the power to drive any big headphones. So, no thank you I'll pass on the sony!
      wijnands, Jan 12, 2015
  4. edmscan
    Love this thing ..
    Written by edmscan
    Published Dec 31, 2014
    Pros - Sound
    Cons - None
    This thing is really pretty good. I am delighted and it was cheap. I happily will run with a smile on my face, just like if I stole it.  This thing is a great deal and pretty good sound ..with great potential. I am a very happy Fiio customer.
    I have not found any files that it will not play. That is a great thing .. but (blushes) .. most of my music is MP3. So .. it actually does not sound bad at all. In fact my flac files .. I cannot really hear much difference. That shows you how good this thing really is. I think in time I will buy better IEM's.  But that is not a urgent issue.
    I have made some tweaks with the firmware tool and it is really very good. I wish all my toys had this ability. Great job Fiio. The only thing for me was buying the X3 or the X5, but I am very happy with the X3. I prefer the button interface .. so it works very well for me.
  5. hstubc
    Okay sound, horrible UI and button organization
    Written by hstubc
    Published Dec 27, 2014
    Pros - build quality?
    Cons - UI, placement of buttons, narrow soundstage, Bass too boomy
    I'll keep it short. I think this player has:
    1- a horrible button layout! Bad UI but that can be improved by installing a custom firmware.
    2- Decent sound quality, not so wide soundstage! In fact, my laptop output (!) has a better soundstage than this DAP. 
    Edit: I'm still analysing the sound quality. It might cause some reduction in the depth of soundstage.
    After doing a lot of research and testing it on two devices, I ended up concluding that the soundstage is an issue on Fiio X3.
    So, I returned it and got the Fiio X5
    Fiio X5 does not sound that much different from my Nexus 5 ( [​IMG]) but I'm glad it doesn't bassy as X3.
    I also sold the Fiio X5. I don't think I'll go back to Fiio again.
    The next stop is DX90 from iBasso.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. hstubc
      Haha! Take it easy :wink: It was a joke.
      hstubc, Dec 29, 2014
    3. Tail
      Hmmm.. I'm wondering how does it sound worse than Nexus 5 to you... I have Nexus 5 and FiiO X3 and they exactly sound the same (couldn't hear even slightest difference) with my IE80 and EX700 but when I take something harder to drive FiiO X3 wins by far. Also lag when changing to next song is ONLY present if the album art is too high, but if there is no album art or if it is very small size there isn't any lag at all, not even the slightest, instant change. Maybe you got faulty X3?
      Tail, Jan 25, 2015
    4. hstubc
      I don't have a high impedence headphone so I can't tell but for my Shure 1440, IE800 and Etymotic, X3 sounded worse.
      hstubc, Jan 31, 2015
  6. greadlier
    Optimal DAP
    Written by greadlier
    Published Oct 15, 2014
    Pros - Price/performance, size, functionality, sound&built quality and FiiO service
    Cons - formatting and filing problem
    Add a high-quality pair of in-ear or on-ear headphones, and you have a complete high-resolution-capable music system wherever you want it.
  7. hema
    Written by hema
    Published Oct 10, 2014
    Pros - bass, separation, depth, power, attack
  8. ash47
    Hello Im X3...Nothing can Beat me...!!
    Written by ash47
    Published Jul 21, 2014
    Pros - Great Overall Music Quality it can satisfy every genre needs
    Cons - Not Touch Screen makes Forwarding a little hard
    I work with Trance music most ... Before The New released update 3.0 for the thing i wasn't really satisfied with its quality of sound in trance ...but the update Changed everything ,EVERYthing ...!
    I can actually Hear the Artist Performing Right In my Ears just for me...Down to this I can say X3 With 3.0 update can beat others In every aspect ... If you hear your favorite track and didnt Jumped in the air comment so will do something about it
  9. average_joe
    Feature rich with great performance in a small and affordable package
    Written by average_joe
    Published Apr 10, 2014
    Pros - Size, functionality, and sound quality
    Cons - DAC playback sounds a bit better than standalone playback
    Fiio has been around for quite some time, starting with a low cost, entry level amp, the E3.  It became a hot seller, especially with the limited digital audio player (DAP) choices available at the time, and followed-up by the vastly superior E5.  The next several years marked significant growth for Fiio, which has since released many amp and DAC/amps, and finally their first DAPs, the X3.  Recently Fiio released a higher-end DAP, the X5.
    The X3 is a high-end full-feature player done right, with the ability to play high-res files from internal memory or as an asynchronous DAC.  Sound quality is a good step up from phones and lower-end players and the ability to play high-resolution files up to 24 bit, 192 KHz allows users to enjoy higher quality tracks.  The feature set is full with plenty of playback options and an easy to use interface.  I commend Fiio the overall features, function, usability, and real-world practicality of the X3.
    Read the full review here.
      Claritas likes this.
  10. thermal666
    Fantastic Powerful Portable Audio
    Written by thermal666
    Published Dec 30, 2013
    Pros - Build Quality, Sound Quality
    Cons - Software, GUI, Lack of Playlist Features
    Great piece of a media player however there are a few things i'd love to see
    * Ability to customize home menu
    * M3U Support
    The device is fantastic. It has great build quality, incredible and very powerful audio quality as expected and it feels very good in the hands. I was surprised by the quality of the physical buttons but not too impressed with the software. It's definitely i'd like to see worked on, it seems like it was just made so the device works and not by an actual designer.
    1. mochill
      Im floored by the x3 plus dnk combo which i received today
      mochill, Dec 30, 2013