FiiO X5 2nd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

General Information

To be launched in June 2015, the X5 2nd gen is poised to take the flagship baton from the X5 of 2014 while gaining many refinements, some learned from the design of its newer little brothers the X1 and X3, others all new to this X5:

-Switchable power supply voltage, improving high-gain driving power and low-gain playtime endurance;
-Hardware DSD128 decoding with premium analog volume control to realize direct uninterpolated DSD output
-Direct SACD ISO decoding
-Dual silicon crystal oscillators for jitter <1ps at all output frequencies
-Deep-sleep standby for instant-on music playback
-Lighter and smaller than 1st gen X5
-Screen and controls now flush with front plate for better durability
-10 EQ bands
-Support for headphones with in-line remote

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Pros: Build Quality, Sound Quality, Detailed Treble, Wide Soundstag, Deep and detailed bass, Detailed mids, Exciting Sound
Cons: Mechanical Wheel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Introduction
 
FiiO X5-2 is the second generation of X5 DAPs (digital audio players) from FiiO. I owned a FiiO X5 for quite a while before buying X5-2 and I was entirely happy with the first X5, except for a few details. If I were to say, the thing that bugged me the most on X5 was it's hardware button configuration. They were far too easy to press by mistake while in the pocket, making the original X5 skip songs at random times. 
 
When I heard that there is an X5-2 coming along, I was quite excited, but I knew I won't have the money to buy one for a while. I waited and saved a few until I was able to buy it. At the moment of writing this review, X5-3 was already launched and I have one in my hands, but the review for X5-3 might wait a little bit as I need more time before having certain thoughts about it. FiiO X5-2 has been my benchmark for portable audio so far and until the appearance of X5-3 nothing really beat X5-2 as far as audio setups go, from what I tested. Since X5-2 is a mid range DAP, it is pretty sanely prices, like all FiiO products, so you can probably buy one without much hassle.
 
 
About me
 
My name is George and I enjoy music. I listen music while working, listen to music for enjoyment and listen to music while I'm gaming. Music is a thing that is everywhere around me, be it classical, pop, rap, metal, jazz or electronica. I also like to prepare long playlists to enjoy while working on my company's games. You can check out more on our pages here https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/     and here https://twitter.com/7heartstudios . My love for music has had some impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best space to sound quality ratio.
 
Music is like a bad habit for me as when I listen to music, I generally do it for hours and happen to even lose sleep as sometimes I can't go to sleep without hearing "that one song". I happen to be very involved with my music and I believe that music is a form of love and emotion, music should be lived and music is an important part of one's life.
 
 

First Impression
 
I still owned X5 at the moment of first hearing X5ii. AVstore is a nie shop in Bucharest that happens to have FiiO products in shop and a nice showroom, so I was able to test FiiO X5ii. The first moment testing it, I thought that there was something funny going on, like some kind of EQ was engaged or something like this. To my shock, this was not the case, and X5ii was actually sounding different from X5 - in an impressive way. 
 
My listening equipment was formed from ie800, which I will be using for the rest of this review as ie800 are very good at discerning the differences between equipment. I can only say that I was in awe at how x5ii reproduced bass. It was tight, fast, detailed, textured. In a single word, amazing. It was better than it's predecessor and considerably so. At that point, I knew I had to buy an X5ii, but I wasn't really sure how to do it. I put my X5 up for sale and after some waiting time I was finally able to get my very own X5ii.
 
 
Packaging
 
As I've waited quite a while before I was able to buy my X5ii, you can imagine my excitement when I was finally able to get one and open the package. 
 
X5ii xomes with a hard plastic clear case by default and is wrapped in a white protective plastic layer. Underneath is a black box in which you will find the papers, bonus screen protectors, an coaux cable and a USB cable. From my understanding, X5ii comes with a very high quality shielded USB cable. 
 
The  package includes all that you need to fully enjoy X5ii and I'm glad that FiiO decided to include a few bonus screen protectors. There are also some stickers that you glue to your X5ii  - I would name them skins. I haven't used any of the skins included in the package since I really like the original aspect and feel of X5ii which is made out of metal, but nevertheless it's a nice bonus that some of you will surely appreciate and I've seen more than one person rocking an X5ii with the skin put on - so they're clearly worth a lot to some customers. 
 
The case x5ii comes in is a hard cardboard case, and I actually appreciate that as sometimes I hhad to shove X5ii in my bag so I would use the case it came in - especially when I had objects of questionably density that might had scratched it or objects that I would be uncomfortable touching X5ii directly (Hey, I'm an engineer and business director after all). The hard plastic case does an amazing job at protecting X5ii albeit it only protects the front and in the meanwhile I also got a FiiO HS7, their own carrying cases which are both pretty resistant but feel nice to the touch as well. Those cases are hard carrying cases and you can safely throw around your things in one then throw it in your bag. They also enable you to take a few spare mSD cards, or your favorite IEMs and such. 
 
What I look in for a DAP
 
When buying a Digital Audio Player, I have a few things that I really need or I'm looking for. Those are:
 
- Battery life 
- Good build so it can perform well in real world usage 
- Display (screen) brightness, sharpness, colors and quality 
- Good Value
- Interesting design 
- To work well with both my IEMs and my headphones
- Sound quality
- To be possible to use it as an USB DAC
- To have a good EQ function
 
 
Technical Specifications
 
Output Impedance0.2 ohm
Connector3.5mm Headphone Out 
Frequency Response10 Hz - 65.000Hz (-3dB)
Works as a USB DACYes
Battery3300mAh
Play Time~10 Hours
Display Size / Type 2.4", IPS
Display Resolution400x360 pixels
Output Power 436mW into 32 ohm, THD+N <1%
Weight195g
DAC ChipPCM1792A
Max Output Voltage8.2Vp-p
Max Current250mA
Cross Talk75 dB / 1kHz
SNR117dB (A weighted)
AMP ConfigurationOPA 1612 + BUFF 634
 
 
Build Quality/Aesthetics
 
X5ii is different from it's predecessor in many aspects, considering it's build and aesthetics. First thing you will notice is a much more unified, but still smooth aspect. Since I own the black version at this moment, I will talk about it. The buttons, sides and everything else is a deep black, with the wheel and center button being black as well. The color is deeo ad the aspect is unified, giving it a unique elegance and refinement. All edges are chamfered, giving it a plus of style and also giving it a good grip. On the tip of it you will find the headphone output and the line out / coaux port. On the bottom you will find it's dual mSD card slots and on the left side you will find 3 buttons, power, volume+ and volume-. I like that volume+ is easily differentiate from the other two buttons - volume+ has a little bit raised part and power button sits flush with the body, so you won't have any problem using X5ii while inside a pocket. The power button has a led inside which helps you determine whether X5ii is running or not, and it helps you determine when it finished charging. All in all, the build quality and aesthetics are pleasing and a nice addition to the DAP. 
 
The wheel is tighter than it was on the original X5 and same can be said about all buttons - making operation considerably better for all usage case scenarios. The screen (display) is also considerably brighter than it's predecessor, making usage of X5ii in daylight a real delight. I totally recommend X5ii for outdoors usage from all perspectives of it's build and design. The player is easy to grip, feels nice in hand and it's sturdy. 
 
The buttons have been changed from it's predecessor to a design configuration that sits flat with it's surface, so you won't press any of the buttons by mistake. I consider the movement to be entirely in the right direction and I was able to even run with it in my pockets without any keys pressed by mistake. The device is also beautiful in it's design and is something I would be really content using in every environment possible, having a neutral to stylish design that gives it a certain appeal to look at. The thin silvery circles around the operational buttons also add to the style of X5ii.
 
Both audio jacks are tight and firm. The jacks are not metallic anymore but made out of plastic, change which is for the better as it won't scratch the plugs you put in any day soon, and after about two years of usage I would say that it remained about as firm as it was on it's first days of usage. 
 
The wheel mechanism is tighter than it was on the original X5, making scrolling and browsing a much better overall experience. 
 
 
Firmware and UI
 
The firmware developed by FiiO is great, I detected no problems with it and no problems in my daily usage. I did however install this  version https://mega.nz/#!Y0sDjSJL!xetgjoeQcDpFW4yzhnjj6ZtUGlxqyqQD-JQFUxlds2g   
 
This version is not the original firmware, but a user interface tweak, made by @XVortex . It speeds up X5ii's firmware and UI, making it smoother in experience, giving it a snappy feel to it. I would name it the fastest DAP to date, but I already had the chance to have X5-3 in hand and that would be unfair given that X5-3 is my new benchmark for UI speed and fluidity (more about this in a few days). 
 
After installing that incredible FW mod, I think that X5ii's firmware and UI are complete, it has gapless playback, very good EQ function, with function working from -6dB to +6dB and a volume attenuator that works do stop any kind of clipping / distortion that might appear, it works as a USB DAC and it's hassle free, tags work well in general and folder browsing works as intended. X5ii is very fast to scan my entire librare (1x128 GB mSD card + 1x 64 GB mSD card, both filled to the brink with a collection of FLAC, OGG and MP3), the FW is able to do a few other handy tricks as well. 
 
Deep sleep is a feature that allows X5ii to sleep so it doesn't need full boot sequence when it is to be used. This is useful and I generally use it as it consumes very little battery. 
 
The firmware is very intuitive and it took me less than a minute to find everything I needed. 
 
 
Sound Quallity
 
X5ii has a pretty neutral general signature, with no emphasis. The sound is vivid, clear, has absolute extension both ways - treble and bass and is neutral. Exactly like a DAP should sound like ideally. 
 
Channel balance
The channel balance is perfect on X5ii and I don't hear any imbalance at all. If you headphones do present a channel imbalance or if you need this function, X5ii can actually change it's channel balance by + or - 10 dB to one channel.
 
Bass
X5ii's bass is deep, gues down to 20 Hz and this is audible with ie800 or Dj One Pro. X5ii's bass is tight and tighter than the original X5, resolving details that otherwise weren't audible with the original X5. With music like Mindless Self Indlugence, you can actually hear the texture of the bass, the level of detail and tightness causes the bass to sound closer to it's original shape, you can hear the differences between different types of bass and they sound like an instrument with strings being played rather than a mass of energy. The bass is tight though, it doesn't bloat and it doesn't explore in any way, leaving all the work of coloration to the headphones. There is nothing I can fault on the bass and it is pleasing. 
 
Wtih EDM, the bass is able to resolve many tiny dents in the bass that were otherwise treated as a large moving mass. With this new resolution of bass, the music itself has another meaning leading to a more intriguing experience. 
 
 
Midrange
The midrange of X5ii is clean, clear, vivid. Musical notes are played with life and energy and the whole music is pretty good. Instrument separation is good and it helps accentuate specific instruments from a composition, for example you can differentiate two background or rhythm guitars in a complex metal song. 
 
The dynamic range is better than it was on the original X5, music sounding fuller and livelier on X5ii. 
 
Treble
Treble is more clear and more detailed on X5ii than it was on X5 and it carries a lot of energy and strength. X5ii is one of the best DAPs I ever tested when it comes to treble, having a very lifelike treble, that expands in all directions and there is no sight of roll off. If I were to give it a name, this would be a true treble - exactly the way treble is intended to sound like. There is no harshness to speak of or false sibilance, but if the record was bad, X5ii will show that. If the record had a harsh processing of treble, X5ii will be able to show that (this is great for metal music, where the treble must sound aggressive and must be abrasive rather than smooth). This lifelike treble also brings a spark to Punk, Jazz, EDM and even classical. Due to the very good treble, X5ii will give a new life to many songs that might had sounded dull or lifeless before. 
 
With Dance Gavin Dance - Acceptance Speech, it is possible to hear every fine sound of the cymbal, every semi hit - or quarter second hit that the drummer processed. A true amazing experience as it will be true to the live experience. The higher registers being well pronounced will also determine an interesting true to life tone to guitars. Every guitar solo shines and is full of life, every cymbal hit is so vivid that it's as if it happens directly in front of the listener. 
 
 
Soundstage
This is actually interesitng; X5ii has a bit more width than it has depth. The height of the soundstage is similar to it's depth, bit the width is large. The final result is interesting and enjoyable albeit the size of depth might affect instrument separation a bit when it is compared to DAPs that offer more depth (FiiO X5-3).
 
Even so, the instrument separation on X5ii is very good, it is easy to tell instruments apart and the transients are very good as well. The overall experience on ADSR and PRaT is very nice and X5ii will leave the listener satisfied. 
 
Drive factor
X5ii is able to drive many headphones, from Sennheiser ie80 to Sennheiser HD650 and everything in between (Sennheiser ie800, Ultrasone Dj One Pro, Sennheiser HD3800Pro, etc.). The line out of X5ii is clean and clear, provides a very nice signal and when compared to other TOTL DAC solutions, it is up to compete with products even 8 times as expensive at the same level of quality. Regardless, X5ii does not need an amp to sound very good and it is an enjoyable device by its own. 
 
 
Comparisons 
 
X5ii vs X5 - X5ii brings considerably tighter bass, wider soundstage that is a bit shallower, vivider mids and improved dynamics. The treble is better on the X5ii as well, providing better details, much better energy, the treble sounds real and lifelike on X5ii while it sounded a bit dulled out on the first generation X5. 

 
Value
 
Considering that my first X5ii (owned more than one since I had some financial problems) costed me over 370$, I would say that it was entirely worth it's money at that price. One of the best companions for me when I was traveling long roads and it's entire build and future set made my day brighter every single day I used one. When I had to sell my unit due to a few financial constraints, it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make and I regretted it ever since I made it and until I acquired another X5ii. A DAP to keep and with good value. At the price it can be found for nowdays that it will be replaced by X5-3, I can safely call X5ii a steal and a must-get DAP if you fancy its signature. The only thing that might be holding you in place from buying one is X5-3 for which I promise to write an in-depth review in just a few days. X5-3 also offers great value and I strongly suggest checking the differences between models, both their features and their sound is different, with X5-3 coming on better in most aspects, but at a bit steeper price.
 
 
Conclusion
 
FiiO X5ii is one of the best DAPs in the world and it certainly is a good contender to the title of the "Best DAP ever made".
 
I already own a laptop, a 6.4" smartphone and a few other devices so I don't really need my DAP to do anything else than play music from the mSD cards that are within. The only DAP that I tested personally and can threat X5ii's  position at this moment is its own successor, X5-3, which really does add a few more things to the mix! Stay tuned for more details as X5-3 is very interesting as well. 
 
To conclude this review, I am using X5ii at this moment and I am most certainly happy with it but there's more to hear in the upcoming news about X5-3, about which I avoided to speak so far as I'm still testing it and I'm still making impressions of it. 
Burma Jones
Burma Jones
Very well written, thank you for the enjoyable read. Agreed with your assessment regarding the sound.
Dobrescu George
Pros: For me -- nothing
Cons: No bookmarking makes the device useless for me -- all other points are moot.
Can’t believe nobody has commented on the lack of an extremely basic feature that exists on 99% of MP3 players but missing from this and many other Fiio units — which is the ability to bookmark. Without it, this player is garbage IMO — making it impossible to listen to audiobooks and flick between different books and music.
 
Fiio developers have had dozens of people pleading with them since 2014, (all there in google on their forums) begging for this most basic functionality. Supposedly their support / forum moderator made the devs aware of this as something to: ‘maybe make it into the next firmware’. Well it did not — in any firmware on any of their products in over two years. They listened — but chose not to ignore the requests. Even in assembly language, adding this functionality is a few days work max by any competent programmer.
 
I’m not interested in reviewing the hardware or sound quality in this review — as the only thing about this product and company that is noteworthy, (and not in a good way) is the contempt it has for its customers. I have only just bought the X5ii and it was obsolete before I even received it, (given that it had it’s final firmware in June 2016) which still did nothing to address bookmarks.
 
I don’t care if Fiio was able to make a product that had £30,000 worth of sound costing £300 — when missing the most basic functionality — it is garbage. As is their ability to address their paying customers very reasonable requests, (that Fiio has known about for at least two years).
 
If they had omitted the ability to pause it would be no more annoying. This player and this company are a joke IMO. I will be taking a lump hammer to my 1 week old unit — as that will be the only satisfaction this player will ever give me.
 
******* response to Cinder below -- as I can't comment on their comment *******
 
Are you a Fiio rep ? I’ll assume you didn’t take a cursory look in Google — otherwise you’d have seen you’re mistaken with regard to my: ‘making a mountain out of a mole hill / loan nut’ assertion and see there’s plenty of people saying the exact same thing.
 
You’re right about one thing —  I’m a little salty on it. £269’s worth of salt to be exact, (not USD which is all the form accepts).
 
You seem to suggest that valid criticism of a product is unwelcome and dismiss it as: ‘fix in a few minutes / user error’, (by creating a playlist). However, there are people who call a spade a spade and afford no product or company sacred cow status if dissatisfied with a product. 
 
A playlist is not a bookmark — nor can it ever serve that function; (some audiobooks have dozens and some even hundreds of files). I’m sure you don’t really think that the majority of all mp3 player manufacturers that do have bookmark capability took the trouble to implement an unneeded feature. I don’t even think I could find an Mp3 player without it, (except for the one I just bought).
avitron142
avitron142
People are neglecting to note that this isn't about the user, it's about the company.
 
Whether or not he should have bought it isn't the point. Nor is it the point that he bought (or pretended to buy) an item that he knows doesn't have this functionality.
 
The point stands, that if users complained about a widespread feature, Fiio knew about this, and did nothing about it, it says something pretty important about the company.
 
While I don't think this should be specific to any one review (like twister said, more suited to a thread), it is a valid point, regardless of whether you should or should not have bought it.
 
And yet, complaints in the thread seemed to have no impact on this issue. So I kind of see why someone would want to try a more drastic option.
doctorcilantro
doctorcilantro
"A DAP's most basic functionality is playing music."
 
Very hard to do when the UX design is crap. E.g. the iBasso DX80 does not support M3U or an Play Next function.
 
The lack of usability on many of these devices blows my mind.
DrSHP
DrSHP
It is not a review.not helpfull
Pros: Neutral sound. Clean, fairly good separation. Relaxing not fatiguing sound. Good soundstage.
Cons: No storage. Vocals sometimes recessed. Need to adjust volume sometimes as not consistant on different tracks.
I really like this DAP but it does is make me want to get a top one. At times it really delivers and then on some tracks the vocals take a back seat.  I was debating on the ipod 6 with bigger storage or this. I find it very neutral with a nice sound stage. Its track dependent as some songs suffer. I copied all my iTunes songs and some ripped cd's and even some flac files and the unit is hard to figure out. I am constantly adjusting the volume even a few flac tracks. The ipod touch is  louder and works very well with all low impedance headphones/iems where as the FIIO is not as consistent. It can drive my 650's and he400i's at larger volumes but still is track dependent. When I a/b the ipod with it the FIIO sounds cleaner and I actually hear more but like I said the vocals can be recessed. The ipod is a more fun unit but I really like the clarity of the FIIO. If you love your ipod and music and need to replace it. Buy  another. The ipod is still a great portable music player with wifi/Bluetooth and a very good sound. If you want to listen analytically to experience sound and move into the audiophile(not sure its a gift, more like a curse) DAP's the FIIO X5 seems like a good starting point but it may make you want more which means a lot more $$$$ like an Astell and Kern ak240. Technically the FIIO is a better DAP but the ipod touch is more fun/practical/portable, easier to use, cheaper and can do more than just play songs. My ipod 16gb is low on storage but it still gets the bulk use of my listening. The FIIO I am still trying to figure out how to enjoy it more. 
 
Edit: Well I spent the day with FIIO and changed some IEM tips and found my Westone w40's really do well.  Even my audiofly af78's which I never used much of(changed tips) sounded great. Some tracks still need volume bumps but I have to admit its a very relaxing experience listening to the FIIO X5. I then put on my ipod and I was surprised that I felt the music was not clear and I actually didn't like the loudness. I noticed micro distortion. I have no carrying case or protector for the FIIO so its not going to be used on the go. That's fine the ipod does the job and it's clearly a great portable music player. I was never one for a forward  sound but I am tempted to try the Shure 535's with the FIIO X5 might be a good match to put some fun into them.  So I have to say my Ipod will now be an outdoor dog only.

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