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FiiO X5 2nd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

  1. Brooko
    Fiio X5 (2nd Generation) – Evolution, but not revolution
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jun 19, 2015
    Pros - Sound quality, build, form factor, usability, interface, output power, boot speed, features/versatility, value
    Cons - UI features missing/incomplete (hierarchical menus artist/album/track), scroll wheel still not perfect
    For larger images (1200 x 800), click any of the photos


    I’m a very happy owner of Fiio’s X1, X3ii and the original X5 digital audio players (DAPs). I’ve used them all (a lot) over the last couple of years – and up until now, the X3ii has been my go to portable DAP for daily use.  I still use the X1 for ultimate portability (eg exercise), and the X5 when I need a more power, mainly when I’ve been using full sized headphones. I’ve been using Fiio audio equipment for close to four years now (amps, DACs , and DAPs), and have watched them evolve in that time from a fledgling audio company to a serious player in the personal audio world.  A couple of things have stayed constant in all of my time using Fiio products though – they’ve always striven to improve their performance, and they’ve always aimed to release audio products that measure well, sound great, and offer real value for money.
    After seeing the improvements Fiio made recently upgrading their X3 DAP to the X3ii, naturally I was keen to also see the changes in the transition from X5 to X5ii. So I arranged with Joe to organise the Fiio X5ii “Down Under” tours, and we now currently have two units touring through Australia and New Zealand.
    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the Fiio Electronics Company.  If you don’t, here’s a very short summary.
    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 the X5 (now former) flagship DAP – which despite its reasonable cost (300-350) has been able to compete with models from other manufacturers costing hundreds of dollars more. They then 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, and more recently the X3 2nd Generation (X3ii), and upgrade on the original X3 from 2013.  Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.
    I was provided the Fiio X5 second generation as a review sample.  It will go on tour once I have finished reviewing it.  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 X5 second generation.  I would like to thank Joe & James for making this opportunity available.
    EDIT - at the completion of the review tour, I arranged to buy the tour unit from Fiio.  I paid real money for it, although it was discounted. I am not at liberty to discuss the discounted sum paid.
    (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 (mostly Fiio X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP or PC > USB > iFi Micro iDSD > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > 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, Trinity Delta, and more recently DUNU’s DN-2000J. 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, X1, and X3ii, and the L&P LP5.
    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 X5ii, and more importantly was the X5ii an improvement on the original X5?  Mostly – yes, and I hope that the shortcomings with the firmware will be improved over time.  Fiio has shown commitment to the Head-Fi community in the past - in trying to improve the Fiio experience with better firmware releases over time.
    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.


    From this point onward, I’m going to simply call the Fiio X5 2nd generation the “X5ii” – as much for ease of typing and understanding than anything else.
    x5ii01.jpg x5ii02.jpg x5ii04.jpg
    Outer review unit packaging
    Inner box
    X5ii nestled safely in the foam surrounding

    The X5ii arrived in a rather sombre looking black outer box, with the now traditional black inner box and lid nestled inside. Gone is the texturing on the 2nd box though – now it is a simple black matt with the Fiio logo subtly shown on the front.  I love the simplicity of it. Note – this is not the final packaging though. Opening the box reveals a foam inner form fitting mould, with the X5ii nestled securely inside, already in its black silicone case – in turn covered in a plastic protective cover. Also included is a single card explaining the layout of the main features.
    Layout cardRear of layout cardAccessory box

    Underneath the foam (which lifts out) there is a thinner secondary box which holds the accessories which include:
    1. A USB charging / data cable
    2. A digital out to coax cable
    3. 2 spare screen protectors for the X5ii (plus one already prefitted)
    4. 3 different patterned sets of stickers (for personalising your X5ii) – wood grain, carbon and USA.
    5. A foldout warranty card
    6. The Fiio X5ii quick start guide
    Customisation stickersQuick start manualWarranty and spare screen protectors


    The entire package is practical, covering everything you initially need for the player.  Materials are all good quality. What is missing (IMO) from the original X5 is the small Fiio USB card reader – which I have found extremely handy over the last couple of years.
    Included cablesClose up of coaxial cableUSB data and charging cable


    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 X3ii and X5 I have also.
    Fiio X5ii
    Fiio X5 Original
    Fiio X3ii
    Approx cost
    ~ 109 x 64 x 15mm
    ~ 114 x 68 x 16mm
    ~96 x 57 x 16mm
    Lossless file formats supported
    Lossy file formats supported
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    Use as external DAC?
    3300 mAh
    3700 mAh
    2600 mAh
    Play time
    10 hours+
    10 hours+
    11 hours+
    DAC chip used
    Main amp chip
    S/N (H/O)
    ≥117 dB (A-Weight)
    >115 dB (A-Weight)
    >113 dB (A-Weight)
    THD+N (H/O)
    <0.001% (1 kHz)
    <0.003% (1 kHz)
    <0.001% (1 kHz)
    Output into 16 ohm
    >436 mW
    >460 mW
    >224 mW
    Output into 32 ohm
    >255 mW
    >255 mW
    >200 mW
    Output into 300 ohm
    >27 mW
    >28 mW
    >24 mW
    Highest resolution lossless
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    DSD/DSF/DFF support
    Yes - Native
    Yes – converted to PCM
    Yes - Native
    Output impedance (H/O)
    <0.2 Ω
    0.26 ohm
    0.2 ohm
    Adjustable Balance
    10 db L, 10 dB R
    5 db L, 5 dB R
    5 db L, 5 dB R
    3.6 dB L, 9.1 db H
    3.7 dB L, 9.2 db H
    2.6 dB L, 8.6 db H
    10 band
    10 band
    10 band
    MAX Output Voltage
    >8.2 Vp-p
    >8 Vp-p
    >7.2 Vp-p
    MAX Output Current
    >250 mA
    >150 mA
    >75 mA
    Line Out
    Yes / Separate (shared with digital out)
    Yes – separate port
    Yes / Separate (shared with digital out)
    Digital Out
    Yes – 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes – separate port, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes – 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    External storage (current)
    2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
    2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
    Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
    IPS 400×360
    IPS 400 x 360
    2in colour TFT, 320x240 px
    Shell / Casing
    Aluminium (gun-metal)
    Plastic shell over aluminium body
    Aluminium (gun-metal)

    Rear plate removed
    Battery connector

    Fiio lists the following as the main improvements of the X5 2nd gen over the X5 original.
    1. All new exterior design, improved build, and metal finish changed from powdered to brush
    2. Smaller and lighter
    3. Reduced black borders around LCD
    4. New independent amplification stage with analogue volume control – increasing audio resolution
    5. New digital audio architecture utilising dual crystal oscillators dedicated to multiples of 44.1 and 48kHz respectively (to handle all major sample rates without resampling artifacts and minimal jitter)
    6. Hardware DSD decoding
    7. Supports CTIA standard in-line earphone remote control units
    8. New power architecture design that utilises different system voltages for low and high gain – allowing maximum flexibility between endurance and power.
    9. Standby mode – allowing player to remain in standby for weeks, ready to continue playing instantly when activated.
    10. Coulomb meter for precise battery level readouts.
    When reading this review, and remembering this is a preview unit, it should be noted that the following changes are still to be made by Fiio before release.
    1. Packaging will be changed to full retail ready packaging.
    2. Side control buttons will be manufactured slightly differently to improve tactile performance
    3. Scroll wheel will have a higher damping factor – similar to the X3ii – for more positive tactile feedback.
    4. Firmware will be likely to change before final release – but this will be ongoing.
    Like all of Fiio’s recent releases, the build on the X5ii (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 gunmetal shade and brushed finish.  I see no blemishes on this unit – everything fits extremely well together, the corners are smooth, but I did notice the front face bevelling is angled rather than rounded (similar to the original X5). Both the X1 and X3ii are rounded, and I have to admit I actually like their appearance and feel a little more when held.
    x5ii14.jpg x5ii15.jpg x5ii16.jpg
    X5ii in its silicone caseSide view of the X5ii in its caseTop ports in the silicone case


    One of the first noticeable physical changes between the original X5 and X5ii, apart from the colour, finish, and slightly smaller dimensions, is the very flat “sleek / modern” look of the X5ii.  It still has the wheel and 5 front navigation buttons, but this time everything is on a single plane – and quite flat/flush – where on the original X5, the wheel, buttons and screen were all raised. Because of this, the buttons are less likely to be jogged or pressed accidentally.  In fact on this unit, the front buttons are actually very flush – which I see as a good thing.
    The front buttons themselves are smaller, round, but have roughly the same tactile response, and I have no problems with accidental pushes, or with locating them.  The buttons are labelled with white etching in the metal work of the case – but of course this disappears if using the supplied cover. The button layout is very consistent with Fiios other DAPs, and if you’re familiar with the X1, X3ii, or even original X5 – it won’t take too long to know exactly where you are. I find the front buttons ideally located for easy one hand operation.
    x5ii19.jpg x5ii20.jpg x5ii22.jpg
    Bottom micro sdxc slots and USB slotRight side of X5ii - notice flushness of buttons, wheel and screenLeft side of X5ii with on/off button (with LED) and volume buttons


    The scroll wheel is still mechanical, and on this review unit has a very smooth glide with very little play.  In a lot of ways this feels very similar to my original X5.  I would have preferred a slightly stronger tactile response similar to the X3ii – and Fiio says that the final units will indeed be changed for firmer more tactile feedback. For those who have been annoyed in the past with the inaccuracy of the wheel – one click still does not equal one menu movement.  It is what it is – and I still have no issues with navigation personally.  If you’re someone who has a pet hate with the Fiio wheel navigation system though – there hasn’t been a lot of improvement.
    The ports are once again excellent fitting – very snug and secure for jacks.   All connections feel very solid. Supposedly for the X5ii, these ports now have a hard plastic sheath – rather than full metal.  I’m not sure if this was for implemented for durability, better connection, or something else – but I’m pleased to report that they are firm fitting.
    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).  And this is where I come to my first major critique of the X5ii.  Normally (on all Fiio’s other DAPs), the headphone out is on the left, and the line-out/coax out is on the right.  For the X5ii (and I have no idea why they changed this), it has been swapped.  I have already had a couple of mishaps with this, and all I can say is thank goodness I was using HD600’s both times.  If I’d had sensitive IEMs suddenly plugged into the line-out, and full fixed volume blasting in my ears, I would not have been happy.  This is one change which will take a while for me to get used to – and I guess the obvious question is – why?  If it’s going to be a wholesale change across the line-out, I’d get used to it quickly – but the X3ii is directly the opposite.  I’m afraid this is one design change that I simply don’t agree with. Not clever.
    x5ii21.jpg x5ii23.jpg x5ii69.jpg
    Top input portsClose-up of buttons and wheelsRear plate


    On the bottom of the unit are dual micro SD ports – which currently handle up to 128Gb cards – so total known capacity at time of writing is 256+ Gb. But Fiio is confident that there should be no issues handling larger capacity cards as they are released, so expansion options look good for the future. The slots this time have no covers – and I actually think (after some of the comments about the original X5) that many will welcome this change. Nestled between the two slots is a standard USB micro socket for data transfer and charging.
    On the left hand side panel of the unit is the on-off switch, and below that the volume buttons.  There is decent separation between the power and volume buttons, and the volume buttons protrude very slightly more from the unit – so they are easy to identify.  Tactile response is pretty good.  I understand Fiio is going to change an internal piece of silicone (to improve tactile response further). The power LED light is now in the center of the power button, and this is surprisingly effective.  It’s blue when active, red when charging, green when fully charged.  I like this more than the pinhole LED in X3ii and X1.  There is a hole in the protective case to allow the light to be seen.
    One thing I’ve noticed is missing from the X5ii is no hard-reset button/hole. Joe informs me that you can activate a hard reset by holding in the power button for 15 seconds though.
    The screen is a 2.4 inch HD colour IPS screen with a resolution of 400x360 pixels. It’s hard to make a direct comparison with the original X5 (because I’m running a different community supplied theme), but just looking at album covers, with both units on full brightness, and I would say they are comparable.  Both are far more detailed and vibrant than either the X3ii or X1.  Viewing angles are very good, detail is sharp, and I personally have no problems reading the screen, even in direct sunlight.
    x5ii59.jpg x5ii60.jpg x5ii61.jpg
    X5ii sccreen compared to X5 screenX5ii screen compared to X3ii screenThe Fiio famil - X5ii, X5, X3ii and X1


    So overall – the build and physical design for me is a pretty solid 7/10.  I think the added tactility of the buttons, and the improvement of the wheel (before final release) will bring this score up to almost perfect.  And again, the only design change I really question is the swapping of the output port locations.
    Please note that this is with the released firmware 0.05 beta.
    Let me preface by saying that if you’re familiar with the user experience of the original X5, X1 or new X3ii, this is going to be very familiar ground for you.
    On starting the X5ii, 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) , micro SD card status, sleep timer – if set, play/pause status, and battery level indicator.
    Main menu
    The main menu choices include: now playing, category (or library access via tags), folder browsing mode, play settings, and general settings.
    x5ii24.jpg x5ii25.jpg x5ii26.jpg
    Default theme and main menuTheme 2Theme 3


    General Settings
    The general settings screen is very straight forward, and includes:
    1. Language
    2. Update media library manually
    3. Lockscreen settings
    4. Screen timeout and brightness
    5. Power off and sleep settings (including a sleep timer)
    6. Software switch for line-out vs digital out via coax
    7. Switch for displaying tile or file name (now playing screen only)
    8. USB mode switch (USB or DAC mode)
    9. In-line microphone control switch (on or off)
    10. Theme controls (5 options)
    11. Info about the X5ii and options to format the SD card, and totally factory reset your X5ii
    x5ii27.jpg x5ii28.jpg x5ii43.jpg
    Theme 4Theme 5On screen volume


    The lockscreen switch includes 3 options which should suit most users.  I’ve been using lockscreen 3, and have had no issues with random presses while it’s been in my pocket (YMMV).
    Theming has a choice of 5 preset themes.  I have to admit, I’m not overly keen on any of them (sorry Fiio) – but the ability to mod the firmware and change the graphical appearance, and store 5 different options is going to be very welcome (considering some of the excellent mods so far on the original X5).  At the moment I’m using the 2nd theme.  Just a note to Fiio here – considering the high quality of the original X5 mods, a competition for modders would be an excellent idea, especially if the top 5 themes could be included in a later firmware option !
    x5ii29.jpg x5ii30.jpg x5ii31.jpg
    Lockscreen 1 button layoutLockscreen 2 button layoutLockscreen 3 button layout 


    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 5652 tracks (in FLAC and DSD) on it at the moment, across two cards, and it took 2 minutes and 20 seconds to scan the entire library, but then a further 2 minutes 20 seconds to write the index to memory/card. I trialed this twice and it was pretty consistent both times. 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 X5ii is always instantly ready to use.
    I also threw some additional files on to check if the 5800 file limit is still there, and thankfully this limit is gone.
    Play Settings
    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 (3.6 or 9.1dB)
    6. Equalizer – 10 band, with 9 presets which can all be edited.
    7. L/R balance setting (now 10 dB each side)
    8. Play through folders setting
    x5ii32.jpg x5ii33.jpg x5ii34.jpg
    Play settings menuPlay settings continuedEqualiser


    The equaliser is the same as the one found in the original X5 and newer X3ii. The option to actually change the presets to your own liking is incredibly handy – and if you’re comfortable with editing the firmware, you can actually customise the names as well. Engaging the equaliser automatically drops the output by 6dB (actually 5.9 dB according to my SPL meter) to reduce the chance of clipping. This time the equaliser can be used with both digital (coax) and line-out, but is not engaged when playing hi-res tracks (DSD, or anything over 88.2 sample rate).
    The other settings all work really well, and what I really appreciate 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 X5ii off.  I do notice that utilisation of this feature is not really necessary for me any more though, as I typically never turn the unit off now that it has the deep sleep mode (more on that later).
    Browsing with folder mode
    Folder mode is once again brilliant and I still pretty much use it as my default on all Fiio devices. The addition of being able to play through folders (automatically advance from one to the next) is also a killer feature, and one I use all of the time. For those with large libraries, I definitely recommend multi-level folder management to make browsing quicker.  I split my library into alphabetical groups of 3 (A-C, D-F, G-I etc), then list artists under those folders, and albums under the artists.  I’ve also seen others do similar with genre, and even year – it just depends on how well you want your library managed.  I have over 450 albums now, and I can usually get to the exact album/song I want (using folder browsing) within a relatively few wheel turns and button clicks.
    x5ii35.jpg x5ii36.jpg x5ii37.jpg
    Folder mode - choose cardThen choose artistThen choose album


    A warning for those used to touch screens, or Apple type GUIs though – if you don’t want to spend the time setting things up properly, you will be disappointed.  There is no accelerated scrolling – so if you have a large library and a single major hierarchy with a lot of folders – chances are you’re going to get sick of the wheel pretty quickly.
    x5ii38.jpg x5ii39.jpg x5ii40.jpg
    Then choose trackAnd hit play :)Onscreen track data (temporary)


    Like the other Fiio DAPs, the X5ii sorts alphanumerically, then alphabetically.  So for my album files – I use “01 name”, “02 name” etc.  If I have a 2 disk 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.
    Category (or tagged) mode
    In category mode (or tagged mode) you can play by song, artist, album, or genre, and there are also options for favourites and playlists. Choosing artist brings a natural hierarchy of album then track (works well). Album brings in track underneath the album chosen. Selecting by genre collects all the tagged genres together, but then lists everything in one massive 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.
    x5ii46.jpg x5ii47.jpg x5ii48.jpg
    Tagged browsing menuAll songs continues to be a jumbled mess"By album" selection


    Fiio has now had two years with all of its DAPs using the same format with tagged browsing – so realistically I don’t think it is going to be changed any time soon.  This is actually a great pity as it is genuinely holding all of their DAPs back (IMO) from achieving “legendary” status. Because of the limitations, the only time I use tagged mode is to play by genre, or to shuffle every track ion the library.
    x5ii50.jpg x5ii51.jpg x5ii52.jpg
    By artist leads to genuine hierarchyArtist to albumAlbum to track


    I haven’t used favourites or internal playlists much as they still have to be manually added track by track.  I found this laborious right from day one, 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.  
    x5ii53.jpg x5ii54.jpg x5ii55.jpg
    Genre selection ..... leads to...... a similar mess as all songsAnd the playlists menu only works internally

    One thing that does irritate me with playlists is why (after scanning the database) my external playlists don’t appear in the “Playlists” category.  It’s not hard to navigate to them in folder mode – but this is something that could be improved.
    x5ii57.jpg x5ii58.jpg x5ii56.jpg
    External playlist via folder browsing ............ definitely works well, but ............... the playlists don't appear in the menu list (frustrating)


    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).  From the main menu it brings up the play settings options.
    x5ii41.jpg x5ii45.jpg x5ii44.jpg
    Context menu from now playing screenContext menu from folder browsingClose up of top menu icon bar


    The upper right button is a back button which puts you back 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).  If you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated.
    Overall 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.
    Overall – if the Apple (think latest Touch or iPhone) UI is a 10 (and that’s what I’d give it) – this initial fw release would come in about a solid 7-8 for me.  It’s very usable, and has plenty of features. I do think it could be (and should be) improved though – especially with the Song and Genre tagged selections.
    I guess this is the bit most people will want impressions about – how the X5ii sounds. For each of the below comparisons, I used my HD600 with the DAPs on high gain, HM5 (for its neutrality) with the DAPs on low gain, and DUNU Titan, again on low gain.  I used an SPL meter to volume match (test tones @ 1kHz).  Files used on all devices were exactly the same and consisted of a mix of my usual test tracks – in lossy, redbook, 24/96 and DSD. 
    x5ii62.jpg x5ii63.jpg
    Test gearX5ii, X5, X3ii, and X1
    X5ii, X5, X3ii, and X1​


    The files used were exactly the same on each device.
    Test tracks used were:
    1. Let It Rain – Amanda Marshall
    2. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
    3. The Bad In Each Other – Feist
    4. Chelsea – Sophie Bridgers
    5. For You – Angus & Julia Stone
    6. Aventine – Agnes Obel
    7. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town – Pearl Jam
    8. Turning Tables – Adele
    9. Hotel California – the Eagles
    10. The Last Resort – the Eagles
    11. Cali – Quiles & Cloud (DSD)
    X5 (original) vs X5ii
    First up was the HD600, and interestingly, level matching with an SPL meter and 1 kHz tone had both DAPs at even 60/120 on high gain – comfortable listening level, and matching to within 0.1 dB.  I played a medley of tracks. And had both DAPs playing simultaneously so that I could switch really quickly, and practically seamlessly. The first thing to notice is that both DAPs sound practically identical in tonality.  In fact – the only thing I really noticed, and this was pretty hard to pick up, even with close A/B, was a very slight lift in spatial sense with the X5ii.  I find it really hard to describe, and I even had to check a couple of times to make sure that the two DAPs were still volume matched. The X5ii sounds very slightly more vivid, more present to me.  But the overall change with the HD600 is very, very minor. Both continue to sound clean, clear, detailed, and consistently having that black background and sense of refinement I really like.
    x5ii65.jpg x5ii66.jpg x5ii68.jpg
    X5ii vs X5
    X5ii vs X5​
    X5ii vs X5​


    Time to switch to the HM5, and this time on low gain there was a 0.2 dB difference with both DAPs at 54/120 (the X5ii was very slightly louder).  Again, the tonality is really close – with the only real difference being that faint sense of wider spatial presence on the X5ii, and again that sense of slightly more vividness (cymbals with Pearl Jam). But other than that – the differences to me are really minor, and not at all what I thought I was hearing last week before A/B’d both DAPs at volume matched levels.
    Finally – onto the DUNU Titan.  The reason I chose the Titan was simply because I know a lot of people have it, plus it has a lot of upper level detail. Once again I level matched.  This time there was a 0.2 dB difference with the X5ii at 39/120 and the X5 at 40/120 – with the X5 being very slightly louder (if I had both at 40, then the X5ii was louder by 0.3 db).  With the Titans, the difference is exactly the same – the X5ii once again shows a slightly wider spatial sense – but it is extremely subtle.
    So the sound is very, very close – what are the other differences? Well there is the slightly smaller footprint, and the slightly sleeker looking physique, and apart from that the biggest difference is the instant-on feature which I love. Folder play through has been implemented from day one (which is a brilliant feature) - something the X5 original did not have until recent updates to the firmware.
    I have to admit, I was expecting more difference after reading the literature. And I do wonder if the talk of increased dynamics and more power have influenced me into hearing what I was expecting to hear when I was testing last week. The reality, now that I’ve had a chance to A/B closely and volume match before comparing is bringing me to reality.  Either my hearing is not as acute as other reviewers, and I accept this as a very real possibility, or the % gains over the original X5 are a lot smaller than I was led to believe.  Either way, I am extremely happy with both units, and am hugely enjoying both.
    I am still convinced that there is a very small change in spatial presentation (how did you do that Fiio?) and to some who were not fans of the original X5 (especially if you found it “flat”), this subtle change may be the difference you were looking for.  But anyone expecting big gains – if they volume match properly and A/B closely – I think are going to be surprised (how close the two are).
    X3ii vs X5ii
    Again –same test set-up, 3 headphones, all volume matched as precisely as I can get them using my calibrated SPL meter and test tones.  Again – the exact same files used.
    With the HD600s, and high gain on both devices, the X3ii required 63/120 to match within 0.1 db of the X5ii’s 60/120. This time (although tonally both are similar) the X5ii does give a little more width in the overall stage – but again I’m stunned by how well the X3ii performs against its higher spec’d sibling.  The X3ii sounds just a tiny bit more congested and close – where the X5ii seems to have a greater sense of refinement, and although every bit as vivid, just sounds wider and cleaner.  Again though we’re not talking massive amounts.
    This trait was repeated with the HM5 and Titan – with once again very similar volume matching on the pot (with the HM5 the X3ii was 63/120 on low gain to the X5ii’s 59/120).
    So how do the overall differences stack up between X3ii and X5ii?  Well first there is the portability factor, and the X3ii has that well and truly won. It’s not really fair to compare this test unit’s build and finish to the X3ii, as the wheel is a little loose at the moment, and I know this is going to be fixed before final.  The X5ii is slightly more powerful, has double the potential storage, and does sound marginally cleaner and more refined.  For those seeking the best that Fiio has – the X5ii is that, but for me, the X3ii still represents the best features and sonics on a value basis.  
    So let’s look at the other features that I haven’t covered yet with the X5ii.
    First – looking at the outputs – I tested coaxial (into my iDSD), and as expected it worked really well.  The only thing the X5ii doesn’t seem to do is feed DSD over DOP, but maybe that is something that can eventually be added via firmware updates.  One of the really nice things though is that the EQ does work over spdif (not on high-res though) which I find quite handy (it also works on line-out). The coaxial out 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.
    Just like the X5, the line-out to an external amp is essentially very clean, with no discernable noise or degradation of SQ.  I’ve used this feature going to the iDSD, and also my LD MKIV (T1’s sounded great on this set-up).  I haven’t really noticed any difference in sonics on the line-out vs headphone out (after volume matching).
    As a DAC.  As I already have the unified drivers for Fiio’s X series installed, and had been through this before, it was just a simple matter of reinstalling the new driver, with the X5ii plugged in via USB, and set to DAC mode.  The driver installed without hitch, and the X5ii was immediately recognised. I then set it as default in Windows (7) and it played with no issues.  I also tried with Foobar using WASAPI, and the X5ii played faultlessly – just crystal clear sound. I’d actually have no issues using this as a stand-alone DAC – especially on a portable (lap-top) set-up.
    I then checked with both X3ii and X5 plugged, and Windows successfully recognised each device.  Nice!
    The two features I haven’t tested so far are OTG (I have no adaptor), and native DSD play from Windows.  Last time I did this with the X3ii, it took a lot of playing around, and to be honest I was running out of time.
    The X5ii’s amp section (like the X5 and X3ii) is a very good one.  Fiio had implemented a new high gain architecture – but I haven’t noticed a big difference in overall power despite the extra 40% current on-tap (according to the literature).  It doesn’t seem to be translating into big volume increases compared to the X5 original anyway.
    So far, I’ve tested with HD600 @ 300 ohm, and also (out of curiousity) with the T1.  I didn’t worry about IEMs as I already know it has copious amounts of current available for lower impedance headphones.
    The HD600 were driven well, with no noticeable loss of dynamics – especially with the bass. Switching to the T1 was a different story.  Volume was around 75/120 on high gain – but the bass was slightly lacking, and the treble tended to get a bit peaky – which never happens on my desktop sources!  It wasn’t terrible sounding, and with some recordings was actually very good.

    With the X5ii – for most headphones (except very difficult to drive full sized), there is simply no point in having an add-on amp.
    Fiio rates the battery life under current firmware at around 10 hours.  I did a battery test earlier in the week on the X5ii - fully charged to fully empty.  Set-up was:
    1. Continuous play
    2. HD600 playing at around 60/120 on high gain
    3. DN-2000J playing at around 30/120 on low gain
    4. Redbook FLAC
    Total playback time for the HD600 on high gain was almost exactly 10 hours, and 11.5 hours for the 2000J on low gain, before the battery depleted. Small note too – the battery meter does seem to be far more accurate now. With my testing – screen was off for most of the time – so please take that into account.
    Recharge time from empty to full was almost exactly 4 hours.


    When I first received the X5ii, I read the release papers from Fiio – and spent the best part of a week simply getting used to its signature and feature set. I was expecting an increase in fidelity over the X5 original, and this was pretty much what I was hearing – or so I thought.
    Once I got a chance to sit down and critically compare the X5 and X5ii (properly volume matched), some of those perceived differences diminished just a little.  I still think the X5ii exhibits a slightly more spatial and vibrant sound – but IMO it is not a night and day difference with the X5 original.
    Comparing the X5ii and X3ii was also interesting.  Again – both are similar sonically with the X5ii exhibiting a touch better overall dynamics and a cleaner more refined signature.  The differences are not huge though.
    Like the others in the Fiio family, the X5ii continues to bring a fantastic feature set, and this is where its true value lies IMO.  Great build and form factor, very good power, options to use as DAC, line-out, and digital out, a GUI that whilst not fully polished is still very usable, very good expandable storage, and of course (IMO) really nice SQ.  All of this for USD 349 makes the X5ii a really attractive option.
    I still feel the X3ii offers the best overall value in the Fiio range – but for those wanting the pinnacle of sound that Fiio currently produces – the X5ii definitely delivers.
    Should current X5 owners upgrade?  That very much depends on what you are looking for.  Some of the features (instant on, play through folders) are definitely worth having – and there is the slightly more vivid sound (sorry – but that’s the best descriptor I can give for now). There is no doubt it is an incremental step up – but IMO we’re talking a step and not a leap.
    The question remains how to rate the X5ii – and I’m making the assumption that Fiio has said that the final version will have the same wheel dynamics/feel as the X3ii.  So from me (with those changes) – I’d give the X5ii a solid 4.5 stars (value and features).  They could easily get a 5 stars if they would finally fix the Genre / All Songs category issues.  C’mon Fiio – you know you can! 
    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 review team.  I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away later this week on its New Zealand tour.
    NOTE – this review was also published earlier on Headfonia
    1. View previous replies...
    2. goodyfresh
      Great review as usual, man!

      Sounds like it really wouldn't be much of an upgrade over my X3ii, huh?  *sighs*
      goodyfresh, Oct 14, 2015
    3. Brooko
      It's an upgrade - but an incremental one.  Whether or not the extra $$$ is worth it - only you could answer.  If I was on a budget, I'd take the X3ii and spend more money on either better headphones or more music. 
      Brooko, Oct 14, 2015
    4. Billyk
      Thanks for the great review. I just purchased an X5 refurb for an excellent price and your review helped a great deal with that!
      Billyk, Sep 3, 2016
  2. hakushondaimao
    Fiio Brings Their A-Game Again
    Written by hakushondaimao
    Published Jun 4, 2015
    Pros - Sound Quality, "Deep Sleep" feature, 2x Micro SD Slots, Responsive Scroll Wheel, Familiar User Interface
    Cons - No internal memory. Protective Case a lint-magnet. Confusing as LO and HO opposite on X3 and X5.
    Before I start my X5 2nd Generation review, I should state that I received a pre-production review 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 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 a number of DAPs (Fiio X3 2nd generation, Hidizs AP100, Cayin N6) and headphones (Sennheiser HD650, ESS RLM-713, T-Peos Altone 200, Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 and AKG K7XX). I also did extensive general listening using the previously listed headphones in addition to the Noble 6 and Havi B3 Pro 1. Some of the equipment I used in my reviews was my own, and some was provided by producers and distributors for review purposes.
    As of the release earlier this year of the 2nd generation X3, Fiio’s naming conventions changed, and updates to existing models will stay the same and have the term “Xth Generation” to set them apart from previous iterations. For the sake of my fingers, I’ll call the “X5 2nd Generation” the  “X5ii” in this review, and the recently released X3 update the “X3ii.”
    About Me
    Before getting into the review, a little background and context. I’m 50 years old, and so probably have deficiencies in my hearing (in a recent, entirely non-scientific test I discovered I can’t really hear anything over about 15 kHz, with roll-of starting around 12 or 13 kHz, which is actually pretty good for someone of my vintage). I’ve been a music lover for decades, but am still relatively new to the MidFi/HiFi/Head-Fi game; I haven’t listened to a lot of high end equipment, and am not an expert on the technical aspects of electronics or musical terminology. I have read a lot of reviews and threads on Head-Fi, and spend a lot of time on the site; as such I know what has been helpful to me in reviews and endeavor to provide what I consider useful insight to help others make decisions about items they might want to try or buy.
    I listen to a variety of music genres, in particular, Classical (mostly mid 1700s to mid/late 1800s), Jazz (late ‘50s to early 70’s), Rock and some Prog-Rock (‘70s), ‘80s New Wave/Electro, and Trip Hop/Acid Jazz (90’s into 00’s). My preferred sound signature would be characterized by a good sub-bass presence, tight mid bass, and relatively linear, detailed mids and highs. I like my music quite lush and rich, but with a good level of detail. I’m not a bass-head, am not a big fan of anything too boomy, and don’t like highs that are too intense or harsh.
    Unboxing and First Impressions
    The box I received containing the X5ii was obviously a pre-production design as it had no artwork or information on it. It was a simple black box with “X5” in large letters, some Chinese text, and then in smaller letters it said “Portable High Resolution Music Player.” That’s it. The box size is similar to the box I received my X3ii in a couple of months ago, so I assume this will stay the same when production units start being delivered.
    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 unit itself: The X5ii has a gorgeous finish! Full metal jacket, good heft and nicely finished all over. Feels high-end. 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 is very sensible and intuitive.
    Top Side: Headphone Out jack and switchable Line Out/Coax. These are in opposite positions to the X3ii, so I got caught a couple of times almost exploding my eardrums when I plugged headphones into the Line Out instead of the Headphone Out jacks! Careful!
    Left Side: Power button and volume controls. Power button is recessed and volume buttons slightly raised, so identifying buttons blind when the unit is in your pocket is easy. The power button doesn’t actually turn music on and off; it controls display power, so if you DO accidently push it, your music won’t stop inadvertently. Volume can also be controlled during playback using the scroll wheel by pressing and holding the select button in the middle.
    Right Side: Nothing to see here!. Move along...
    Bottom: Two Micro SD slots (the unit is officially compatible with 128 GB slots, so supports 256 GB of storage). Micro USB, for charging and DAC usage.
    Back: Nothing special to report. On my X3ii, I used the provided Carbon Fiber sticker on the back and it looks really sharp!
    X5ii and Fiio E12A portable amp side-by-side: Size and materials are similar, making for an attractive stacking combination. The X5ii has enough driving power that an external amp is, in most cases, unnecessary, particularly for portable use.
    Other impressions:
    1. Scroll Wheel: As a long-time iPod user and now X3ii owner, the scroll wheel is simple and intuitive. I actually prefer the Fiio mechanical scroll wheel over the old iPod tactile wheel. The X5ii scroll wheel is more responsive and accurate than that on the X3ii.
    2. Deep Sleep feature: Once the X5ii 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 a full boot-up cycle every time you wake the device.
    3. Size: The X5ii is a bit bigger than the X3ii. I have never actually seen or held a 1st generation X5, but photographs indicate that the new X5 is smaller than it’s predecessor.
    4. The X5ii lacks internal memory: This is one of only three faults I could find with the new X5. I have two 64 GB micro SD cards at the moment, one with Classical music, and one with Jazz, Rock, Pop, Funk, etc. These I switch back-and-forth between several DAPs, and I have on occasion picked up a DAP on my way out somewhere not realizing my SD cards were in other players; with on-board memory, I could have a few favorite, 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.
    5. Protective silicon case: The X5ii black silicon case is sturdy and appears to protect the unit well from bumps and scratches. That said, the case attracts lint. Again, a minor annoyance, but an annoyance.
    6. Display and user interface: I love the user interface introduced with the X3ii, and the X5ii UI is the same. Something I discovered after purchasing the X3ii is that the display contents are hard to see outdoors in bright light; happily, the X5ii display is much brighter, so this should not be a problem.
    IMG_5990.jpg       IMG_5991.jpg
    Using our ears
    So far I’ve discussed the look and feel of the X5 2nd generation, but what really matters to me and you is how it sounds, so let’s plug in some headphones and get to listening.
    I divided my listening into comparisons (looking for differences between the X5ii and other music players) and general listening (choosing a song and listening through it several times and trying to pick out details in the music that indicate a quality or deficiency in the player). All comparisons utilized a Line5 switcher unit, allowing for auditory (though non-scientific) volume matching, and fast switching between DAPs (which reduces the effect of memory and bias in detecting subtle differences). I didn't test using any amps; all comparisons were done using Headphone Out.
    I didn’t test the DAC features of the X5ii as it’s not what I typically us a DAP for, and didn’t perform any measurements of inputs or outputs. Again, not my thing. I can almost guarantee that more technically-minded reviewers will provide all the details you might want, in due course.
    Listening Comparisons
    1) X5ii vs. Cayin N6
    Al Di Meola – Mediterranean Sundance (flamenco style acoustic guitar duet with Paco De Lucia, from Elegant Gypsy)
    ALAC > X5ii > Sennheiser HD650 (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 110/120)
    ALAC > N6 > Sennheiser HD650 (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 65/100)
    1. X5ii: Warm, full, great body to overall sound. Energetic and sweet tonality. Guitar strings ever so slightly flabby (soft entry to pluck/strum, decay a bit slow)… sustained vibration means a very slight bleed of notes into each other. Sound is lively. Bass is not overpowering (in fact not really a highlight of the recording), but there is a floor of bass activity low down that adds life to the other frequencies. A feature of this piece is the use of the guitar body as a drum, and this knocking has a nice thump and resonance to it. Mids are well presented, with good texture to the two guitars, though notes are not as “plucky” as I might like. Highs are a touch rolled off, which may explain the feeling of constrained roundness to the higher guitar notes.
    2. N6: Differences between these two were minimal. The N6 is ever so slightly better defined, with faster attack and decay on guitar notes. This gives a slightly cooler feel to the music, and a sense of being in a bigger room (so bigger sound stage). Otherwise, no real difference.
    3. Just out of interest, switched to the AKG K7XX and the upper end of this piece came alive. Suddenly the high end became livelier, with notes no longer rounded off as before. Texture improved, with nice graininess and sense of the left hand manipulating individual strings. At the same time the low end almost disappeared, and the knock knock drumming lost its impact. Differences between X5ii and N6 were again minor, with X5ii slightly warmer and bleedy and N6 a touch clearer and better defined.
    Fleetwood Mac – Dreams (from Rumours)
    ALAC > X5ii > ESS RLM-713 (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 110/120)
    ALAC > N6 > ESS RLM-713 (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 65/100)
    1. The ESS RLM-713 is a bass-heavy on-ear headphone with Ebony encased drivers. Mids and highs are nicely balanced. That sound signature translated well to both DAPs here. This is a very familiar track to many Head-Fi listeners, so I won’t go into the details too much. As with the Al Di Meola track, there was very little between the two DAPs on this track. Differences if any were subtle. Bass through the N6 was quicker and clearer, while X5ii had very slight bleed. High hat, snare and acoustic guitar were better defined from the N6. Stevie Nicks’ voice had her typical rasp and textured throatiness, but both hers and Lindsey Buckinham’s vocals were subtly smoothed over by the X5ii.
    Verdict: While the N6 did sound very slightly better than the X5ii, we have to remember that we’re comparing a $600 DAP to an item that is set to cost around $350 on its release in mid-June. The N6 is significantly bigger than the X5ii as well; although it seems significantly more able to drive power-hungry cans. In reviewing and reading about the N6 and X5ii, indications are that the X5ii has better battery life. If you’re looking for a truly portable DAP on a budget, the X5ii will be a solid purchase.
    2) X5ii vs. Hidizs AP100
    Dire Straits – Private Investigations (from Love Over Gold)
    256 kbps AAC > X5ii > T-Peos Altone 200 (Low gain, EQ off, Volume = 86/120)
    256 kbps AAC > AP100 > T-Peos Altone 200 (EQ off, Volume = 46/80)
    1. The Altone 200 his known to be a “bright” IEM, with solid highs. Some users find them harsh, but I really like them. Perhaps my old ears appreciate the help they give in distinguishing highs. As with the X5ii vs. N6 earlier, with volumes matched these two DAPs were almost indistinguishable. Part way through the 3rd play through of the song, I started to notice subtle differences though. X5ii was clearer, more detailed on plucked solo guitar and piano, while on AP100 those same instruments were ever so slightly subdued by the bass. Knopfler’s vocal was drier and more textured from the X5ii than AP100, which smoothed his voice out just a tad. Otherwise the two sounded very similar.
    Verdict: The Hidizs has a reputation for sounding fantastic (main complaints have been around user interface, which was improved with a firmware update in February). Price-wise these two are close (the Hidizs runs around $300), and they are similar sized as well.  Sound-wise the X5ii just outshone the AP100 in my opinion, which – if reputation is to be believed – means the X5ii is a mighty fine sounding DAP.
    3) X5ii vs. X3ii
    Blue Mitchell – Graffiti Blues (from Graffiti Blues)
    320 kbps AAC > X5ii > ATH-MSR7 (Low gain, EQ off, Volume = 84/120)
    320 kbps AAC > X3ii > ATH-MSR7 (Low gain, EQ off, Volume = 88/120)
    1. The MSR7 is a clean, quite linear closed headphone. It has a lovely natural tone that pairs well with the Fiio line of DAPs. This track is from Blue Mitchell’s foray into a more funky blues sound in the mid ‘70s. To me this is the most successful of several similar albums made by him around this time. The track is incredibly funky with a hypnotizing bass line overlaid with energetic, piercing trumpet and soulful blues guitar, with harmonica, drums and rhythm guitar in the background. X5 and X3 both allowed this song to shine, and again I found it hard to tell the difference right off the bat. With a few repeated listenings, I noticed nuances that separated the two. Bass is tighter and quicker from the X5, but still very acceptable from the X3. Mids from the X5 are clearer and more textured; trumpet and sax shone brighter, but I noticed the mid difference most in the lead and backing guitars and high hat, which were all a shade more laid back on the X3.
    Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 (Emil Gilels, Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner)
    320 kbps AAC > X5ii > AKG K7XX (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 104/120)
    320 kbps AAC > X3ii > AKG K7XX (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 108/120)
    1. The K7XX is a tough-to-drive open headphone. In past tests with the X3ii, I’ve found the little DAP struggles to drive it adequately, so I usually pair it with a portable amp when using the AKG. With this dynamic concerto, I was able to get the music to a good volume without an amp but sound quality suffered, with the X3ii showing some distortion and lack of body and clarity as it chugged along at close to maximum volume. The X5ii faired better; while volume setting on the two DAPs was almost the same, body and clarity were more natural and the music more enjoyable from the X5ii.
    Verdict: I was surprised how well the X3ii performed against its newer, larger sibling. The X5ii wins on tightness and control of bass, and clarity and texture of mids and highs.  Differences in sound quality are not huge though. The other advantage of the X5ii is power; it is more capable of driving high impedance, low sensitivity phones than the X3ii. Which is better is up to you, but both represent solid value.
    General Listening
    Cannonball Adderley – One For Daddy-O (from Somethin’ Else)
    ALAC > X5ii > Noble 6 IEM (Low gain, EQ off, Volume = 65/120)
    1. Sound is beautifully balanced. There is warmth and body without being colored. Tonality of piano is bright without being too sparkly. Sax has a lovely, full tone, with nice sense of reediness. No bloat or syrup at all. Trumpet is bright and smooth, some rasp in the attack of each note. High notes exquisitely piercing but musical. Bass soft but nice and plucky. Snare, toms and high hat have life and clarity. Hear every crackle from original recording. Not sitting amongst the players, but front row seat?
    2. Combination of detail and body, lovely acoustics. Every frequency is present, very balanced and none overly emphasized. Warmth of the X5ii pairs well with the relatively analytic/linear Noble 6.
    Sade – Bullet Proof Soul (from Love Deluxe)
    ALAC > X5ii > Havi B3 Pro 1 (High gain, EQ off, Volume = 90/120)
    1. Wide open presentation! First impression is just masses of space… This is what the Havi is known for. Bass is tight and punchy, but not as full as I’ve heard with other phones; that said, it has great quality and doesn’t overpower the rest of the instruments. Snare, toms, sax and piano are clear and bright… very fresh sounding. Sade’s vocal is lush and airy, good texture and slight graininess to her voice. Backing vocals (male/female) clearly presented in the background. Definition, detail and texture are excellent.
    2. Havi is also known to be a hard IEM to drive (almost like an over-ear headphone). The X5ii drove them fine, with room to spare on the volume. This is another lovely combination.
    When I reviewed the 2nd generation X3 a couple of months ago as part of that World Tour, I gushed and bought one as soon as they were released. This time around, with the X5ii, Fiio have hit it out of the park again. Not having used the original X5, I can’t really comment on improvements or differences between it and the updated version, but I can say I’ve really enjoyed listening to it over the last week and a bit, will be sad to part with it later this week as it goes to the next reviewer, and will strongly consider picking one up on release later this month.
    Thanks to Fiio for the opportunity to participate in the tour, and I hope this review was useful. I welcome feedback, questions and comments below.
      HK_sends, Jill, Loquah and 11 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DDDamian
      Hi Eric - finally got to read this and I've been wanting to badly (I renounced reading other reviews until mine was complete). Very detailed and informative! Good choices of songs to highlight differences as well. Overall a very complete and professional review!
      Thanks for being the front-runner and organizer of the tour - it was great to be part of it.
      DDDamian, Aug 15, 2015
    3. hakushondaimao
      @DDDamian, thanks for the kind comment. Also enjoyed your review, and glad to hear you've got an X5ii of your own now. It really is a great player.
      hakushondaimao, Aug 15, 2015
    4. NightFlight
      For any X5i owners still considering - I had them side by side and after two swaps back and forth, the X5 was boxed for sale. The X5ii is brighter and tigher and cleaner sounding. Most of the 'muddiness' complains against the X5 were addressed in the 2nd generation. However I just jumped to a pair of CIEM JH13Pro and I don't find they match as well as the X5 does with the Westone W40. 
      NightFlight, Feb 19, 2016
  3. x RELIC x
    The Must Have Incremental Upgrade
    Written by x RELIC x
    Published Sep 30, 2015
    Pros - Form factor, Build Quality, Deep Sleep mode, multiple themes, sound quality improvements, battery life, Native DSD decoding, Price/Performance ratio
    Cons - Same interface shortcomings as previous generation, Combined line out/coaxial out, No dust covers for the mSD slots

    The FiiO X5ii was provided to me as part of the Canadian leg of the world tour in exchange for my impressions and honest opinion on the device. It has long since left my possession and has made its way through the next reviewers. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have not been able to post my review for some time. The good news is that I in fact did purchase a retail X5ii very shortly after my time with the review unit was over so I have some long term experience with the unit that I hope I can convey in my review. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO and have not been compensated for in exchange for my impressions. This review is based entirely on my impressions and your impressions may vary.
    About Me
    I am an audio enthusiast in my mid forties and have enjoyed listening to music since my youth with vinyl, cassettes, and later CDs and digital files. I listen to wide variety of music from a perspective of losing myself to the experience. At times I like to be transported to different states of mind or emotion in the case of classical and OST recordings. Other times I go to the venue in the case of live recordings, binaural+, or studio sessions. Some times I just like to rock out. Every time, however, I want the clearest and most natural representation of the music that I can afford. If the track has thumping bass I want to hear it. If the track is complex with many instruments I want to hear each one. I listen critically often but also appreciate timbre and musicality. 
    I've used Sony Walkman cassette players, mini disc players, Sansa Clip+, iPod classics, iPhones etc., over the years. My first digital high resolution player was the FiiO X3 first generation. My current player is the first generation FiiO X5 and I enjoy it for it's revealing and honest presentation of the music, and it's flexibility to integrate with the rest of my gear. This review will be mostly in comparison to the X5 with different headphones and amplifiers currently in my possession.
    Fiio X5ii General information:
    FiiO X5ii Product page LINK
    General Specifications:
    Model/Number - X5 (X5 2nd gen)
    Headphone Port - Standard 3.5mm Headphone Port
    Color - Titanium
    Drive Ability - 16~150 Ω
    Dimensions - 109 mm× 63.5 mm× 15.3 mm
    Volume Control - 120 steps digital potentiometer
    Weight - 165 g
    Equalizer - 10-band equalizer (±6dB)
    Display Screen - 2.4", 262,144 color HD IPS screen with 400x360 pixels
    Line Out - Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Digital Out (coaxial) - Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Balance - 10 dB
    USB DAC - Supporting up to 24bit / 192kHz and DSD (driver installation required)
    Gain - 3.6dB(Gain=L) // 9.1dB(Gain=H
    Partial Performance Parameters for Line Output
    THD+N - <0.001% (1 kHz)
    SNR - ≥114 dB (A-weight)
    Frequency Response - 20 Hz~20 kHz
    Dynamic Range - >110 dB
    Crosstalk - >115 dB (10 KΩ/1 kHz)
    Line Output Level - 1.53 Vrms (10 KΩ/1 kHz)
    Partial Performance Parameters for Headphone Output:
    Output Power 1 - >245 mW(32Ω//THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 2 - >436 mW(16Ω/THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 3 - >27 mW(300Ω/THD+N<1%)
    Output Impedance - <0.2 Ω(32Ω)
    Crosstalk - >75 dB (1 kHz)
    THD+N - <0.001% (1 kHz)
    Frequency Response - 20 Hz~20 kHz
    MAX Output Voltage - >8.2 Vp-p
    SNR - ≥117 dB (A-weighted)
    MAX Output Current - >250 mA(For reference)
    Power and Battery:
    Power - DC5V 2A recommended
    Battery Capacity - 3300 mAh
    Charge Display - Red light indicates , green light turns on after fully charged 
    Battery Life - >10 h (32Ω; normal volume with display off )
    Battery Display - Yes (Accurate battery % readings))
    Charging Time - <4h (DC5V 2A)
    Audio Formats Supported:
    DSD: DSD64, DSD128 (.iso&.dsf & .dff);
    APE(Fast): 192 kHz/24 bit;
    APE(Normal): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    APE (High): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    AIFF: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    FLAC: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    WAV: 192 kHz/64 bit;
    WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit;
    Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    Lossy compression: MP2、MP3、AAC、ALAC、WMA、OGG...
    New features compared to the first generation X5:
    1. All-new exterior design, improved build, with metal finish changed from powdered to brushed;
    2. More compact and lightweight; smaller black borders around LCD;
    3. All-new independent amplification stage with analogue volume control, increasing audio resolution;
    4. All new digital audio architecture, utilizing dual crystal oscillators dedicated to multiples of 44.1 and 48kHz respectively (including 176.4kHz=4x44.1, 192kHz=4x48 and DSD64 and DSD128 (multiples of 44.1), handling all major sample rates without resampling artifacts and minimal jitter;
    5. Supporting hardware DSD decoding;
    6. Supporting CTIA-standard in-line earphone remotes (e.g. Apple, Samsung compatible earphones)
    7. Breakthrough power architecture design that utilizes different system voltages for low and high gain, allowing maximum flexibility between long endurance and high driving power in the same unit.
    8. All-new power management feature: auto standby mode allows player to remain in standby for weeks, ready to continue playing instantly.
    9. Coulomb meter for precise battery level readouts.

    The packaging
    DPP_0050.jpg   DPP_0051.jpg   DPP_0052.jpg  
    DPP_0053.jpg   DPP_0054.jpg   DPP_0055.jpg  

    The X5ii comes in standard FiiO packaging and simply says X5 on the box.
    - 1m high-current micro USB data / charging cable
    - 3.5mm TRRS coaxial S/PDIF to RCA adaptor
    - Silicone case (Black) for earlier models, clear hard case for later models
    - 3 screen protectors (1 applied in-factory)
    - Quick reference sheet, quick start guide, warranty card
    - Body stickers - 3 sets (USA flag, wood grain, carbon fibre)
    - HDtracks coupon
    DPP_0056.jpg   DPP_0057.jpg   DPP_0058.jpg  

    Note the S/PDIF to RCA adaptor is different than the first generation.
    You will need to use this 3.5 TRRS adaptor for coaxial output on the X5ii
    Hardware Look and Feel

    The new X5ii is overall an improvement in ergonomics and aesthetics to me over the last generation. The face buttons are less prone to accidental pushes given their new design and the power on/off feels more accessible on the side rather than on the top. The wheel is stiffer and feels like a better implementation. 


    One comment about the wheel is the detents are much more noticeable on this generation over the last. I feel this is a mistake on FiiO's part to make the 'clicks' more prominent. There seems to be some difficulty in generally lining up the hardware click with one movement in the menu structure and this has led to a lot of criticism of the wheel. If they made the wheel slightly more resistive (not as free moving) than the first generation and with less mechanical wobble then they'd have avoided a lot of negative feedback about the clicks. Personally I don't care if a click lines up with a selection or not, but I can see the point of view that others have. Over time the detents on my unit have somewhat become less prominent, yet at the same time without feeling ‘mushy’ or too loose.
    The main chassis is made of aluminum with a brushed texture that is pleasing to look at and doesn't show finger prints. I really like the new titanium colour of the new unit.

    The screen is an IPS 400x360 resolution LCD screen and is bright and vibrant with very good viewing angles. Compared to the previous generation it seems initially to be quite an improvement in colour and contrast as well as improved sharpness. However, after adjusting the brightness on the old generation to match (3 notches brighter) the differences are very slight. I initially commented that the screen was a giant improvement but that gap is significantly narrowed when matched in brightness.
    Hardware Usability
    Interaction with the X5ii is a combination of four buttons around the mechanical scroll wheel on the front face and power and volume controls on the left side. The main usability is the same as the X5 Classic but I really do like the power button on the side better. The layout of the buttons and wheel is something that I really enjoy using in a DAP. Everything is pretty much where it needs to be for quick access and I’m never really doing any finger acrobats to control the device.
    The volume buttons also act as track forward/back buttons when the screen is locked. In this mode a brief press incrementally adjusts the volume and a long press skips tracks. The nice thing about FiiO DAPs is there are a multitude of shortcuts that are available depending on the screen or menu that is currently displayed. I recommend users find out what navigation easter eggs are available by pressing, or holding down, the menu and back buttons in different screens. It really helps with usability.
    DPP_0026.jpg I'm loving the light indicator on the power button!

    Inputs and Outputs and Storage
    On the top is the output jacks. There is the Headphone Out and the combined Line Out / Coaxial out. I much prefer the individual output jacks for coaxial and line level output on the X5 Classic given that I’ll often pop in to desktop listening straight from portable and it’s so much easier without digging in to the Settings Menu to switch the output.
    DPP_0012.jpg The HO and LO are reversed on the unit
    compared to the previous generation.

    Headphone Out produces:
    >436 mW(16Ω/THD+N<1%)

    >245 mW(32Ω//THD+N<1%)
    >27 mW(300Ω/THD+N<1%)
    Generally FiiO recommends using headphones with an impedance of 16~300 Ohm.
    1. Line Out bypasses the internal headphone amplifier and sends the 1.53 Vrms (10KOhm / 1kHz) stereo signal from the DAC to an outboard amplifier.

    1. Coaxial SPDIF outputs the decoded digital signal to use an external DAC to handle the digital to analogue conversion.

    DPP_0006.jpg No more dust covers on the mSD ports.
    On the bottom of the unit you'll find the micro USB jack and the two mSD slots. The USB jack is used for charging as well as transfering data and also when using the X5ii as a USB DAC from a computer. 

    The battery life of the unit is rated at >10 h (32Ω; normal volume with display off ) and I found this to be about what I was getting playing a variety of redbook CD 16bit/44.1kHz files to high resolution 24bit/192kHz files. I find the unit does not get that warm compared to other DAPs I’ve used, but it does heat up a bit. I’m quite happy with the battery life. When connected to a portable amp the battery life approaches ~20 hours and through coaxial I’m able to get ~30 hours use. Not bad. 
    Of note is the Deep Sleep mode on the X5ii and one of the main reasons for me purchasing the unit. When the player is idle it will enter Deep Sleep mode determined by the idle time set in the Settings Menu. In this mode the X5ii can last for up to a month in standby. The function works brilliantly and is a joy to have instant 'power on' compared to the power cycle that’s required with the X5 Classic.
    The mSD slot supports the current 128gb and 200gb cards on the market and I had no trouble using the Sandisk 128gb FAT32 formatted card straight out of my FiiO X5. Scanning music from the card seemed on par with the X5, that is to say pretty snappy considering the amount of files. I was also able to upgrade the firmware from 1.0 to 1.1 using this card with music files on it so no worries there.
    Software Usability (GUI)
    Just like the FiiO X5 the new X5ii pretty much uses the same interface. - The main theme of the X5ii is slightly different with its layout and five menu items vs seven on the original X5. This is no Apple UI but it gets the job done and I have no real complaints here. The nice part about the FiiO 'X’ series players is that we can modify themes to create custom theme for our unit. The functionality remains the same but custom themes can be much more pleasant to use than the default ones. On top of that the X5ii has five themes built in. While I appreciate the work FiiO has done on the themes I quickly transferred my existing X5 themes to the X5ii. Another reason I wanted to own one.
    Boot time is fairly quick and about on par with X5 Classic.
    I had no issues playing a variety of music files from mp3 320kbps, aac 256kbps, to 16/44.1 lossless FLAC and ALAC, and high resolution ALAC up to 24/192.
    The X5ii has a 10 band EQ that adjusts in increments of 0.5db. The EQ lowers the volume by ~5db when engaged to avoid clipping when the sliders are at their maximum. This is a welcome implementation and the EQ works well to shape the sound output of the device. Users should be aware though that the EQ does not work on files that are over 48kHz sampling rate. For 48kHz and below you are good to go! The reason is the amount of processing power required is simply too much for the device to handle above 48kHz sampling rates. Not a big deal in my book. Another knock against the new model is the EQ is buried in the Playback Settings menu. I much prefer to have it in the main menu where it's easier to access.
    You can also use the EQ with Line Out and Coaxial Out. Another perk for custom themes is that you can change the name of the EQ presets if you open the FW up. It’s fairly easy to do and I thank FiiO for providing the tools for users to customize their players.
    Gapless playback works mostly without a hitch for me and I did not notice any transitions in the lossless tracks of albums such as Pink Floyd's The Wall, or Hans Zimmer's OST The Dark Knight Rises. On lossy ACC files I do notice a very slight gap between tracks and I wonder if this can be fixed in a future FW update.
    Custom Themes Examples
    You may have noticed that there isn't one of the default themes in my X5ii images. I had converted my themes to the X5ii before the tour unit arrived so I've had very little time using the default interface. With that said the default GUI is an improvement over the last generation, it's just that I prefer mine. For those that want to try out some custom themes here are some of my examples. Please keep in mind that custom themes do not change any of the basic functionality of the player.
    I'll also note that these photos are not indicative of the quality of the screen or the themes shown.
    Click on any image to enlarge.
    DPP_0037.jpg   DPP_0038.jpg  

    DPP_0039.jpg   DPP_0040.jpg  

    DPP_0043.jpg   DPP_0044.jpg  

    For more themes or to try your hand at making one for the X5ii see this custom themes THREAD LINK.
    X5ii DAC section
    The X5ii uses a single DAC architecture with a top of the line Texas Instruments 1792A DAC chip, same as the X5 Classic, and FiiO has done an even better job with the implementation. Using dual Crystal Oscillators for multiples of 44.1kHz/DSD64/128, and 48kHz there is little to no digital distortion/smearing (jitter) that I can detect with my most revealing headphones/IEMs. The DAC section can deal with DSD high resolution formats DSD128 and DSD64 natively (.iso & .dsf & .dff), as well as up to high resolution 24bit/192kHz for lossless PCM ALAC, FLAC, WAV, APE  formats, and lossy PCM MP3, AAC, WMA formats.
    The DAC section of the X5ii is well implemented with no real smearing or loss of detail for a Delta-Sigma implementation that I can hear. Thumbs up FiiO.
    To use the X5ii as a USB DAC you'll need to instal the drivers provided on the FiiO website for Windows. For Mac users no drivers are required for the USB DAC functionallity. 
    X5ii Amplifier section
    FiiO has paid close attention to the amplifier section in the X5ii. One of their main marketing points is the higher woking voltages of 14V+- using high gain (a 40% increase over the last generation) to supply power to the amp. I’ve learned that the working voltage is the direct result in how the signal is amplified without distortion resulting in better dynamics. When the unit is used with low gain the voltage is reduced resulting in longer run times. There have been many discussions on Head Fi about how low vs high gain should be used and the benefits one may hear between the two. The standard thought is that if it’s loud enough on low gain you should use that, but with different gear as well as with the X5ii I’ve personally found that the more voltage feeding the amp then the cleaner the signal. The resulting boost in dynamics (the difference between the quietest undistorted signal and the loudest undistorted signal) is welcomed by me, slight as it may be. I’m sure others would disagree and as I said the difference is slight but undeniably I can hear it.
    The X5ii also outputs more current at the headphone jack than the X5 Classic. The output buffers used are claimed to output 250mA current output which is a 67% improvement over the first generation. All in all to me the X5ii headphone output is clean, fast and more articulate than the previous generation. With a slight bump in dynamics and transient speed I really have no complaints with the X5ii amp section. I’ve even used the LCD-2 straight out of the headphone output with positive results. 
    DPP_0002.jpg Yes! It can be done.

    FiiO X5ii overall Sound
    When describing the sound of a player there are many factors to consider - from the files being used and how they were mastered, the headphones being used, the volume one is using, the output chosen (headphone out, line out, coaxial out) and the other gear in the chain. Also, the perspective one is coming from I feel is of great importance. If a user has never heard a very detailed and analytical source they might find the X5ii to be too bright and analytical, or too revealing of the flaws in poorly mastered music. On the other hand if coming from a perspective of highly revealing source gear and quality masters one may find the X5ii to be too warm and not analytical enough.
    I'll be describing the signature of the X5ii from the use of generally well mastered music with a range of headphones with different sound signatures in my collection. One last note before I begin with describing the sound. If you don't like the sound signature of your headphones the X5ii will not magically change them in to something else. These are my findings and you mileage may vary.
    Basically the X5ii is a neutral player with a clean and detailed output. I feel the overall sound is balanced with perhaps a slight leaning toward an analytical over a musical presentation. That’s not to say that I can’t get my toe tapping while listening to the X5ii, it’s just that there is a sense of detail and cleanliness being a priority over bass thump and euphonic sound. For my tastes this suites me fine. The imaging is very good from the X5ii but the soundstage is somewhat narrow, like it’s older brother. Compared to DAPs from other manufacturers I’ve heard it can sound a bit flat but in no way do I think it sounds bad on its own.
    Sound Comparison to FiiO X5 Classic
    Note the obvious size difference. X5ii has been on a diet!

    The first thing I noticed was slightly better separation of instruments compared to the X5. The space between instruments and the detail is slightly better. I can pick out subtleties in track better. When I go back to the X5 Classic the upper bass and lower mids seem elevated, and while this may seem like this would add more 'musicality' it does not. It just sounds like the original has some EQ applied instead, while at the same time the new generation does not sound like it’s lacking either. Very strange difference but that’s how I hear it.
    Besides the slight difference in upper bass and lower mids I'd say the sound signature of both these DAPs is very close with the X5ii edging out the X5 Classic in dynamics and micro detail. These differences aren't huge but can make an overall better impression in the long run. That’s the key here. At first listen (and when doing quick a/b comparisons) the X5ii doesn’t seem to be all that much of an upgrade. After some solid listening time exclusively with the unit then going back to the X5 Classic reveals some very obvious improvements in the new generation.
    Headphone Pairings
    DPP_0036.jpg The usual suspects.

    To be honest I don't beleive that a certain headphones must be paired with a certain piece of gear or a certain genre. I beleive in synergy with gear, sure, but if you don't like your headphone you should move on to a different set rather than wrestle with gear to compensate, or use an EQ. 
    Vmoda M-100 - The X5ii helps the bass heavy (though somewhat detailed bass) M-100 a little with the detail. Overall though the M-100 has so much bass that without an equalizer I prefer not to listen to it. On the X5ii I dialed the 31Hz-62Hz range down by -6db, 125Hz down by -5db, 250 Hz down by -4db, and 500Hz down by -3 db. This helped quite a bit to balance the these headphones closer to my LCD-2 with regard to the frequency balance, and the EQ worked well. However, the M-100 did nothing for soundstage.
    AKG K550 - These headphones can sound a bit hot in the treble but the lower bass has a good kick to them and can punch hard when the music calls for it. I  found the K550 a bit bright from the X5ii with its treble detail. The K550 did help with some extra soundstage added to the rather narrow presentation of the X5ii. Overall an ok match and a fun listen.
    Audeze LCD-2.2 non fazor - The fact that these planar dynamic headphones can be driven from the X5ii without using a portable amp is good news. The X5ii increased the sense of treble and provides a good enough source for the LCD-2. It's not a match made in heaven though. The dynamics are somewhat crippled and it sounds a bit hollow to me compared to my desktop gear. This is expected though. Still you can use the X5ii with the LCD-2 to drive it to good volumes when in a pinch. High gain was used and brought the sound of the LCD-2 up a notch over low gain.
    Audeze LCD-XC - The LCD-XC is a different animal than the LCD-2. It's much more efficient and has much faster drivers with more detail retrieval. The X5ii paired very well with the XC for drivability but the elevated upper mids and treble on the XC were a bit too much coming from the somewhat neutral output of the X5ii. However, if I want to dig in to the details of the track these headphones are the ones I grab. Of course we are talking about some serious headphones and I find them very enjoyable but the X5ii wasn't the best paired with the XC.
    JH Audio Angie Universal IEM - The JH Angie has a bass attenuator on the cable to dial in the amount of bass you want. It’s an easy and elegant solution to tweaking the output of your source. With the X5ii I bump up the bass dial on the Angie and the music really comes alive. There is detail readily on hand and the musicality to tap my feet. This is different to the bass from the X5 Classic and I can’t quite get my head around how to describe it. There’s just more of an analogue feel to the Angie bass attenuator than the sound signature of the X5 Classic. Perhaps its the combo with better dynamics, or the slightly blacker background. Either way this is my favourite pairing with the X5ii.
    Line out to Oppo HA-1

    For these tests I used the LCD-XC with the balanced output from the HA-1, no EQ on the player.
    X5ii Line Out to the HA-1 was generally good, as is the X5 Classic. The DAC architecture compared well with the HA-1's built in ESS9018 DAC for detail retrieval, if not slightly behind. The X5ii DAC implementation had good seperation and was nice and clean. The leading edge of the notes had a great impact and the decay was tight and controlled, albeit slightly flat. Overall the Line Out from the X5ii is a well implemented and can be a clean source for an external amp.
    Line Out to FiiO e12 [bass boost off]
    From the e12 I used the LCD-XC, no EQ from the player.

    The e12 flattened the soundstage a bit further and music was presented in a dryer fashion than the X5ii headphone out. Clearly the amplifier implementation in the X5ii is cleaner. It seems FiiO e12 has a dryer presentation overall with more grain and musical dynamics seemed somewhat hampered.
    X5 Classic Line Out to e12 sounds very similar to the X5 Classic's headphone out. The e12 adds the required power for difficult to drive headphones and has slightly less grain than the X5 Classic headphone out, but overall the similarities are obvious. Given the sound of the e12 I felt better using the X5ii headphone out. 
    Line Out to the new ALO Rx (IEM version)
    DPP_0028.jpg DPP_0030.jpg

    This is my new favourite portable combo! The clean output from the X5ii Line Out mates extremely well with the ALO Rx and it's wide soundstage and deep musical presentation. I've been groovin' with this combo for a while with the JH Angie and I just love it. The Rx adds just a hint of organic musicality while being very transparent to the source. Music seems to take on another dimension with this pairing and it is precisely this pair that has prevented me from upgrading my DAP to anything else, tempting as it may be with the slew of recent and near future DAP releases.
    Coaxial Digital Out to HA-1
    DPP_0045.jpg Although the X5ii can decode DSD files natively it outputs the 
    decoded digital signal as PCM 88.2 through coaxial.
    Not a big deal as it still sounds the same as on the player.
    DPP_0049.jpg High res PCM is output bit for bit through coaxial.

    Given that coaxial output (should) simply bypass the internal DAC on a player and send the decoded digital signal to an external DAC this is an area where I don't expect any real difference. There is an obvious similarity in the coaxial output between the X5 Classic and the X5ii that for all intents and purposes they sound the same. The coaxial out is detailed and provides a good digital source to an external DAC.
    Final Thoughts
    There is something about the X5ii that is hard to put my finger on which has led me to purchase one very soon after the review unit left my hands. In my mind it’s a combination of improvements that does the trick. I like custom themes and there are five themes available at the same time with the X5ii. I like imaging and dynamics in my music and the X5ii is an improvement in those areas. I like the smaller form factor and button shapes over the previous generation. I love the Deep Sleep mode and feel I’d really miss it now if not available. 
    Overall the incremental improvements over the first generation may not seem worth it to upgrade on their own, but the combined improvement in sound quality and the improved form factor have sucked me in and led me to part with my money once again. Thanks FiiO!!
    Thanks for reading.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. x RELIC x
      Well as I mentioned in my review the X5ii drives my LCD-2 satisfactorily so you should have no problems with most of your headphones. Fiio officially recommends headphones with an impedance from 16-150 Ohms, but I've found that number to be conservative. The only headphones that may not be driven as well as you'd like are the t-90 and the hm-400, for those you might need the e12 but I don't think it would be necessary..

      The EQ is well done in the X5ii and doesn't over drive the amp. Not sure what you mean by overpowering the DAC. I describe the EQ on the X5ii in the 'Software Usability' section of my review.

      The X5ii will sound much better than the iPod touch in my opinion and is much more powerful for your headphones.
      x RELIC x, Oct 9, 2015
    3. Gram2
       Thanks for your advice when no one helped! I wanted to know if when you connect another device to the Fiio is the Fiio going to be the second source and the volume going to be controlled by the amp or the Fiio X1? And I do want to start at a reasonable price with the X1 . How are your opinions with the two gadgets?
      Gram2, Oct 9, 2015
    4. x RELIC x
      When using the X1 to the e12 you should use the Line Out function and that will use the volume on the e12 and disable the volume from the player. You can use the headphone out from the X1 but it won't be as clean a signal as the Line Out. The DAC in the X1 to the e12 amplifier will sound very good for the price.

      For more advice I suggest you go to the X1 thread as this review is for the X5ii. Good luck.

      x RELIC x, Oct 10, 2015
  4. fnkcow
    Fiio X5 Second Generation DAP – The Complete Fiio Experience
    Written by fnkcow
    Published Jun 8, 2015
    Pros - Sound Quality, Solid Build Quality, Smaller Size than Predecessor, Lighter Weight, Dual Micro SD Slots, Price
    Cons - UI still need some tweaking. UI a bit laggy. LO and HO opposite of other Fiio DAPs. Silicone case a lint-magnet
    This unit was in my possession for one week as part of the Australasian tour. I'd like to thank @FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for making this tour possible, and @Brooko for organizing and including me in this tour.
    First and foremost, I would like to let it be known that that the tour unit I received was a pre-production review unit running beta firmware, and the retail version released in the future may differ in the hardware as well as the firmware from what was offered in this tour unit.
    I listen at relatively high volume level, so my impressions will be based on this. Please be aware that there might be variations in impressions at different volume and issues present on different volume level may/may not exist on this product. As I only use IEMs, I will only comment on its usage with IEMs. No EQ/sound effects were applied throughout duration of having this unit on all devices.
    Current tour units come inside a blank black box and will change to color printed packaging once the design of the X5 2nd generation has been finalized.
    Unboxing the whole package reveals the following:
    1. Fiio X5 2nd gen (will be referred to as X5ii from now on)
    2. A silicone protective case for the X5ii
    3. A USB charging / data cable
    4. A digital out to coax cable
    5. 3 different themed sets of stickers for the X5ii – carbon fibre weave, wood grain, and USA
    6. 2 spare screen protectors for the X5ii (plus one already fitted)
    7. A foldout warranty card
    8. A X5ii layout diagram
    9. The X5ii quick start guide
    Front view: The X5ii has a solid build with brushed gun-metal aluminium body along with the buttons, and feels nice to the touch with a nice weight to it. Fairly smooth edges, no protruding parts or looseness. Front buttons are recessed.  
    Back view: Solid brushed gun-metal aluminium body.
    Top view: Line/Coaxial Out on the left, and Headphone Out on the right. I think this is quite an oversight by Fiio, as do take note that this is exact opposite of the other Fiio DAPs so those used to the original arrangement might get your eardrums blown out when plugging your earphones into the wrong jack! Selection of the Line Out or Coaxial Out can be accessed from the settings menu.
    Side view: On the left side are the Power button followed by Volume Up and Volume Down. The Power button is recessed whereas the volume buttons protrude out. This enables easy recognition and blind fiddling inside the pocket. Fiio has indicated that the side buttons will be manufactured differently in production units to improve tactile properties. There's no buttons on the right side.
    Bottom view:  2 Micro SD Slots with official support up to 128GB on each side (hence total of 256GB) with one on the left also designated to be used for firmware updating. Micro USB in the middle for charging and also as USB DAC. When connected to PC, the Micro USB can function as storage or USB DAC, with the selection accessed from the settings menu.   
    The scroll wheel in the review units is the same one used in the old X5 and will be upgraded for the production units so it’s redundant to comment on its usage. The scroll wheel in mass production units to follow will have higher damping factor (similar to X3 2nd generation units) for more positive tactile feedback.
    Display screen is vibrant in colour and easy to read. I took the X5ii out for a walk and having adjusted the screen brightness to maximum, it was easily readable under direct sunlight. 
    The silicone protective case for X5ii appears to be a bit better in quality in that it feels sturdier and less sticky than the ones with X1 and X3ii. However, it still attracts lint and dust fairly easily, as shown in the picture above which was taken just after unboxing!
    User Interface and Usability
    The UI is reasonably intuitive, similar to its younger brothers X3ii and X1. I was able to find my way around the menus and settings without much fuss without referring to the manual. Buttons are easy to get used to. The boot-up time is quick and the UI has a nice overall presentation. Updating is simply drag-and-drop latest firmware into the root folder of the Micro SD card, and long pressing power button on the side and top left button on the front to initiate firmware update. Scan time of music from Micro SD card is within reasonable bounds.   
    When I unplug my earphones it pauses and few minutes later goes into standby to conserve battery. The instant on feature is a really nice touch. When I want to use it again, just short press on the power button and the X5ii switches on instantaneously. With screen off and music playing, long pressing the volume buttons become next/previous song. These default actions for the various buttons are customizable. Also, there's no 'pop' sound when switching on X5ii with earphones plugged in. The move to support CTIA-standard in-line earphone remotes shows Fiio's continuous commitment to accommodate an even wider base of consumers. I tried it with in-line remote on my Android phone: Single-click to pause/play, Doube-click for next song, Triple-click for previous song. No luck with volume level adjustments. 
    I noticed that there was some lag between pressing a button (or using the scroll wheel) and the action happening, such as when switching songs once I pressed the button to select it the screen seemed to freeze for a second or two before the chosen song's details appear on the screen. I hope that Fiio will look into this and improve the response time in future firmware upgrades as it's quite apparent when compared to DAPs from other companies.    
    Battery Life
    Using low gain I got about 11 hours under normal usage and continuous play. Using high gain instead I got almost 10 hours. Pretty impressive for such a small unit compared to other DAPs of similar calibre.
    X5ii doesn't warm up much after continuous use like some DAPs do. I only realized this is a win for Fiio users after having the likes of N6 which can get very warm and would be a bother to those who put it inside their clothes' pockets and during hot summer.  
    USB DAC issue with Windows 8/8.1
    The X5ii couldn't be recognized as USB DAC when connected to my Windows 8.1 and this issue seems to be quite common. There is a workaround to this problem and just follow the instructions in the link below:
    Sound Impressions
    Headphone Out (Unamped)
    As the X5ii offers plenty of juice for me using IEMs and earbuds, even high impedance ones (320 ohms), I didn't test adding any extra amps hence I'll only comment on impressions formed using Headphone Out. 
    Using my 1964 Ears ADEL A12 with somewhat high sensitivity (16 Ohms impedance and 117dB SPL @ 1mW) and other IEMs of similar sensitivity, I don't hear any noticeable hiss against the backdrop of a very black background. 
    The soundstage of the X5ii is oval-shaped, where it focuses more on the depth than width. It sounds intimate and yet still provides solid layering and positioning. Resolving ability is good with plenty of details and fast attack. The bass decay could be a bit longer, but bass hits hard with good impact and texture, but I wont say overly so as to affect the rest of the frequency. Only when dealing with songs with big bass that it becomes a bit too overpowering. It still maintains its sound signature towards fairly neutral tuning, leaning a bit towards musicality with a tinge of warmth. This is also reflected in its forward sounding meaty mids, with meaty as in sounding a bit thick with slight veil masking small details. Vocals are rendered with full body and realism without being digital sounding. In some songs the vocals sounds a bit shouty. Treble is smooth and a touch rolled off, slightly soft resulting loss in headroom space and airiness. For me personally X5ii is seeking a bit too much musicality, going for similar direction as its younger brothers X1 and X3ii, and in doing so sacrifices a bit of transparency and airiness. 
    Sound Comparisons 
    All comparisons were done using a Multi-channel Headphone Audio Signal Switcher to enable fast switching between DAPs, and a 1kHz test tone was tested using a Digital Sound Level Meter to do the volume matching between DAPs to ensure a level playing field under controlled condtitions. 
    X5ii vs Cayin N6
    X5ii > 1964 Ears ADEL A12 (Low Gain, EQ Off, Volume = 67/120)
    N6 > 1964 Ears ADEL A12 (Low Gain, EQ Off, Volume = 36/100)
    I used the A12 with somewhat high sensitivity (16 Ohms impedance and 117dB SPL @ 1mW).
    Against the N6: Differences between the X5ii and N6 were impressively close, considering the X5ii costs about AUD$300 less than the N6. They have very similar sound tuning. The N6 has a slightly bigger soundstage due to having better airiness, with slightly better positioning and layering. It is a touch more defined with better dynamics and timbre. There's a slight recess in the upper range making it a bit less forward, giving the sense of a more organic/analogue and fuller sound. 
    X5ii > VE Zen (High Gain, EQ Off, Volume = 103/120)
    N6 > VE Zen (High Gain, EQ Off, Volume = 59/100)
    I used the Zen for its high impedance (320 Ohms impedance and 105dB SPL @ 1mW) that requires a powerful source to sound good.
    Power is not an issue with the X5ii and N6. They both drove the Zen with authority and findings are similar as above, with the X5ii a bit warmer and more musical. The laws of diminishing returns is apparent comparing the two DAPs and finding only minor differences. One reasoning would be that N6 requires way more burn-in time to sound their best as I only had 30 hours on mine, since it has 13 op amps built into its analogue circuit, rivalling that of desktop audio components, but then again, same can be said for the X5ii tour unit as it had only slightly longer burn-in time than my N6, for those who believe in burn-in. As of the review period though, they sounded remarkably close and this to me speaks volumes of X5ii's value. 
    X5ii vs Vivo XShot
    X5ii > 1964 Ears ADEL A12 (Low Gain, EQ Off, Volume = 67/120)
    Xshot > 1964 Ears ADEL A12 (EQ Off, Volume = 74/100)
    There's no photo of the X5ii taken side-by-side with the XShot as I only have the XShot with me and it was busy taking all the photos in this review [​IMG]
    Against the XShot: If XShot could keep up with X5ii's youngest brother X1, slightly outpaced by younger brother X3ii, it was certainly outclassed by the X5ii on all fronts except the treble where XShot was only very slightly better in terms of airiness. Next to the XShot, X5ii sounds much livelier and engaging, with comparatively much thicker and fuller mids yet with pronounced textured throatiness, and the bass is much weightier, with longer decay and better texture, all the while X5ii offering clearer and more refined details. Soundstage of the XShot sounds flat next to the X5ii. 
    With the introduction of the X3 from just two years ago, Fiio has gone from strength to strength with quick and much improved releases of DAPs until the X5ii that we now see today. The DAP scene is very crowded nowadays with lots of companies getting themselves involved for a piece of the pie. Question is: Could Fiio still hold the line against the barrages of the many choices of DAPs available on the market today? The answer for me is a definite YES! with the introduction of yet another stellar product by Fiio in the form of the X5ii. With its competitive pricing, and rather complete package from its packaging, build quality, usability, features, sound quality, and ability to decode DSD natively, it's very hard to fault the X5ii amongst the sea of DAPs and it stands heads and shoulders with its much more expensive competitors. It's an easy recommendation to those looking for a relatively clean sound with lots of features and easy portability.
      pedalhead, HK_sends, Jill and 8 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. fnkcow
      Yep that's fair enough about posting only brief impressions, since it'll be at a Head-Fi meet afterall with quite some ambient noise. Very interested to see which has the upper hand driving the cans!
      fnkcow, Jun 13, 2015
    3. AndrewH13
      Now I've posted my own review, I'm enjoying catching up with the others. Great comparisons, especially interested what you said comparing with the Cayin.
      AndrewH13, Jun 17, 2015
    4. fnkcow
      @AndrewH13 Yes the X5ii is definitely a winner for its value, it's no slouch at all next to the much more expensive N6
      fnkcow, Jun 18, 2015
  5. twister6
    A step up from the original X5
    Written by twister6
    Published Jun 24, 2015
    Pros - Updated slick design, build quality, sound quality, native DSD support, a ton of settings
    Cons - flush mounted control buttons, HO/LO flipped in comparison to other FiiO products, pre-production quality scroll wheel

    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank FiiO team for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.

    With a consistent flow of new releases, I feel like we have been spoiled by FiiO and their quality audio products.  I didn’t even realize it has been year and a half since the release of their original X5, and now I’m looking at their new X5ii flagship DAP released a few months after another impressive X3ii DAP update.  What strikes me the most, FiiO continues to update a number of their previously released models (DAPs and amps) while keeping price in the same ballpark.  And I’m not talking about a cosmetic refresh or a firmware update but actually a complete redesign.  Perhaps it’s the way how they challenge themselves, trying to come up with a creative update without raising the cost.  In my opinion, they do succeed every single time, with their latest X5ii being another perfect example of it!
    At the same time this high pace of new releases sometime feels like smartphone industry where every six months to a year we are faced with choices to either stay with a current phone or to upgrade, and if you decide to upgrade - either going with a smaller or bigger screen model.  I think a lot of FiiO fans will be facing a similar choice, either keeping their original X5 or upgrading to a “smaller” X3ii or a “bigger” X5ii, figuratively speaking.  If you want the latest and the greatest new release, a decision is simple - go with X5ii without looking back.  But for other loyal FiiO fans or new customers who are looking into different DAPs, I hope my review will provide some useful guidance to make your decision easier.  FiiO is very active and generous in various audiophile communities, such as Head-fi, where a lot of reviews and impressions have been posted already.  With my write up I hope to fill in some gaps and to offer a different perspective to compliment other available info.
    Though the unit I received is pre-production review sample, the content of the packaging should be close to the final product which I'm sure will include a colorful outer sleeve on top of the box my unit came in.  Keeping up with a tradition, X5ii arrived in a formally dressed black gift box setting with a nicely padded interior to ensure a secure transport of its content.  I personally like such gift-box detail, actually adapted by a number of manufacturers, since it makes unboxing experience a little more special and a sturdy carton box is also a great storage.
    Already dressed in silicone skin and ready for action, after removing X5ii from a cutout of the foam insert tray, I accessed the accessories box and was able to explore the rest of the included goodies.  No surprises were found here, just a familiar set of accessories consistent with their other models.  You get a quick start guide and a separate flash card with a layout and explanation of hardware controls, extra 2 sets of screen protector in addition to the one which comes already pre-installed, a cover stickers for the front/back/sides if you decide to personalize your DAP further (includes US flag, wood, and carbon fiber themes), usb to micro-usb power/data cable, and a short Coax patch cable.  I think a final production unit will also feature a flash card reader.
    While a carbon fiber sticker doesn't look too bad, I’m not so sure about other two themes and would suggest in a future to include something alternative for the ladies.  Brushed aluminum and carbon fiber finish is great for guys, but I would like to see FiiO making an effort to widen their sex appeal.  Actually in my personal opinion, the brushed aluminum body finish is too cool to cover with anything permanent, except with an included silicone case.  Screen protector is always a good idea to protect X5's gorgeous 2.4" HD IPS screen from scratches and smudges.  As for usb cable, FiiO usually includes a quality one which also guarantees a fast 2A charging with an appropriate supply.  The micro-usb connector is slim and has a nice lock grip, just another detail I want to bring up since with a few of my other usb charging cables I had to take silicone skin off in order to get a proper fit/connection.  Coax cable is different from the original X5 since in X5ii LO and Coax 3.5mm ports are shared, thus you will find extra ring-contacts (TRRS style) on 3.5mm connector side.
    I usually don't spend too much time talking about silicone case, but still wanted to bring up a few important points.  There is no surprise, silicone case gets static and becomes a lint magnet, but I still prefer it over any slippery plastic case because I like a secure grip.  Another benefit, it protects your DAP from scratches and minor drops, creates extra friction when placed on a smooth surface, protects outside surface itself from scratches, and protects the shell from scratches when stacked with external amp rubber-banded together.  The case has a perfect cutout for screen and navigation wheel, micro-usb port, a flap over LO/Coax port, and open HO port.
    HO port opening is very useful in this case because FiiO flipped HO and LO ports in comparison to their other DAPs where left-most port used to be always for Headphone Output.  We are creates of habit, and without a case and both ports exposed there is a very good chance that you will make an attempt to plug in your headphones into LO port to get a very unpleasant ear-full surprise, especially if you are a/b it with original X5 or X3ii.  So even if you prefer to go naked without a case, use it for the first few weeks as training wheels until you get used to HO port being on the right side at the top.
    Another interesting discovery I made even before turning the power on was a hole right in the middle of the power button cover.  In this new X5ii model FiiO integrated a status multi-color LED right inside of the power button thus an explanation for a small opening in the case to view the light.  Volume up button on a silicone case, just like with an actual DAP button, has a little id bump so you can identify volume+ control blindly in your pocket with a brush of a finger.  Power button itself is flush mounted to avoid accidental pressing.  The other 4 control buttons around navigation wheel are flush mounted as well and also nearly flat on the silicone case.  It's useful if you have selected Lockscreen option that enables their control for track switching, and you no longer have to worry about accidentally pressing buttons in your pocket the way how it was with raised buttons in original X5.  But at the same time, I would prefer buttons to be raised just a little bit like it was in X3ii which is the most ideal in my opinion.
    Silicone case.
    When it comes to the actual design, in my opinion X5ii is definitely a step forward in terms of a more compact footprint in comparison to the original X5.  While keeping the thickness nearly the same, the length and the width got trimmed down and weight got reduced by nearly 30g.  Similar to X3ii design, top of the unit has 3.5mm Headphone Output (HO) and a shared Line Out (LO) and Coax outputs.  There is nothing on the right side, and left side is consistent with a top Power button (already discussed with a built-in status led) and volume up/down buttons.  No longer will you find a reset pinhole, just need to press and hold power button for the same functionality.  Consistent with the original X5 design, the bottom has 2 micro-SD card slots and micro-usb connector.  You are also going to find 2 screws at the bottom if you dare to take X5ii apart, though be aware of voided warranty.
    You will no longer find a dust cover rubber flaps over micro-SD slots similar to the original X5.  If you carry your X5ii in a silicone case, it really doesn't matter since it will be covered and protected from dust already.  I also believe it's not a big deal without a case with a card inside, like it is with any other DAP.  But considering dual card slot and if you are not using a case and only have one card populated - it's not ideal for the other slot to be open while collecting the dust.  Perhaps, get some dummy or super cheap micro-sd card from ebay just to use for the purpose of keeping a dust away.
    The front of X5ii has 2.4" HD IPS screen at the top and a scrolling wheel with 4 control buttons around it and one button in the middle, a familiar layout carried over through all of the X-models (after the original X3).  I know a lot of people will be curious about a scrolling wheel "evolution" since FiiO has been consistent with improvements from X5 to X1 and X3ii.  Unfortunately, my review unit came from a first pre-production batch where FiiO made it clear this is not a final wheel version.  It wasn't as wobbly as X5 wheel, but still had a loose movement without a click-feedback like implemented in X3ii.  FiiO mentioned that final production units will have a scrolling wheel similar to X3ii which has been already confirmed by some users who got their hands on final production units.  When it comes to my actual review unit, I wasn't as pleased with a wheel due to a light-touch turning by simply brushing against it.  Unfortunately that happened a lot because control buttons were flushed with a surface and I had to hover over a surface with my finger to locate them.  Even with a scrolling wheel mechanism such as the one used in X3ii, I personally think the layout of these buttons pushed away a little more from the wheel and the flush mounted design is a step back from X3ii where it was just perfect for one handed operation.  X5ii is still feasible to use with one hand, but I just wish the beveled area and buttons around the wheel were similar to X3ii.  Either way, if I get a chance to play with final production unit, I will come back and update my scrolling wheel impression.
    Design details.
    Though exterior changes are the most obvious differences when you first look at the new X5ii, the 2nd gen update included a lot of substantial internal design changes and improvement as well.  Probably the first and the most noteworthy change come from a new redesigned amplification stage and analog volume control.  To my ears the improvement was noticeable enough and I will talk more about it in sound test section of the review.  Another change had to do with all new digital audio architecture with a dedicated dual crystal oscillator covering all major rates.  Using multiples of common clock rates to derive other rates ensures a reduced jitter performance.  I was also glad to see implementation of hardware DSD decoding with a native DSD support without a need for internal PCM conversion - another noticeable improvement when playing hi-res lossless files.  Of course, X5ii still supports almost every available lossy and lossless format under the sun, everything from DSD64/128 to 24bit/192kHz in FLAC, APE, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, and other formats such as MP3, AAC, OGG, etc.
    Native DSD support was introduced in X3ii already, the same way how the introduction of in-line remote control support got carried over from X3ii to X5ii.  Don't expect volume control on in-line remote to work, but a single click Play/Pause and multi-click track skip worked flawlessly with a lot of my headphones.  It's true that a lot of audiophiles prefer audio-only cable, but when you are on the go and want a simple remote control without reaching for your DAP or fumbling in your pocket - support of in-line control is extremely valuable.  Another improvement carried over from X3ii was a new power management with a deep-sleep standby and instant-on resume - an absolute life safer when you take periodic breaks from listening and don't want to restart your DAP if it shuts down after time out.  
    Btw, this deep sleep is not a gimmick.  I tested it on a number of occasions and was always amazed by how little battery was drained while in this standby mode.  Even when you are playing the music, battery life was still impressive with playback of about 10-11 hrs depending on the gain level and the volume level.  FiiO also mentioned about implementation of Coulomb meter for precise battery level readout.  I just hope that at some point they will implement the actual % of battery display in notification bar as well.  This 10-11 hrs battery endurance was accumulated across various tests where most of the time screen ended up being off - a typical real life usage.  With a screen on the time will be reduced a little, though it's hard to quantify it since it all depends on your usage.  And speaking of a screen, the rich color saturated display of X5ii is among the best out of the entire FiiO lineup, and it was an absolute pleasure to use it indoors and outdoors with a clear and crisp visibility of menus and full album cover art, actually a big step up from X3ii display.
    Since I mentioned about a display, I think now it's a good time to dive more into FiiO’s updated GUI.  Actually those who are intimately familiar with X1 and X3ii, X5ii GUI layout will be seen more like a dot update.  With a clear semi-circle left to right menu layout, it was updated with an improved graphics details and more features added under setting and playback menus.
    The main screen presents you with 5 selections of Now Playing (defaults to a currently playing track), Play by Category (with a choice of All songs, Album, Artist, Genre, Collection of Favorites - tagged from song playback, and Playlists selection), Browse Files (my favorite selection to view files by folders in Card 1, Card 2, and OTG connection - as long as you have FAT32 formatted device, you can expand your storage capacity by connecting external memory through usb OTG adapter), Play Setting, and System Setting.  As you can see, there are plenty of choices for music browsing and playback, and navigation is super easy with a scrolling wheel.  Once you select a song and it starts playing, the playback screen will display song/album art, if available, and you will see a current time marker for the song and the total time, the title of the song and the artist, and briefly a display with info about the file type.
    In the notification bar you can always see a volume level with corresponding value, Gain setting (L or H), EQ selection, a number of populated micro-sd cards, Playback status (plays/pause), and a battery status.  During the playback you can skip a song using two control buttons at the bottom or just by scrolling a wheel which brings you to a folder list where you click Play to select another song.  Pressing and holding skip song buttons will fast fwd/rev through a song, while a middle button works as Play/Pause, unless you press'n'hold it to get into volume control using a scrolling wheel.  Upper right button works as "go back" and upper left button brings up an icon menu where you can add a song to a favorite list or to a specific playlist, to delete a song, or to select different playback modes (loop, through, crossfade, and repeat one).  All this is extremely convenient for one handed operation.
    Going back to Play settings, you have a very comprehensive list of options related to playback.  You can change Play mode (similar to accessing playback modes), enable Resume mode, Gapless playback, cap the max volume level, set power-on volume and associated fixed volume setting, select between Low and High gain, enter EQ screen (10-band EQ with a custom setting and a lot of genre specific presets), L/R Balance setting, and a new option of Play through Folders setting.
    System settings gives you an option of language selection, Media Library update, Key-lock settings (with different options for lockscreen controls when display is off), Screen timeout, Brightness setting, Idle standby and corresponding timer, Sleep on/off and corresponding timer, Selection of shared output as either Line Out of Coax, File name display (as either Title or the actual file name), USB mode (DAC or Storage), enabling support of in-line headphone controls, display theme selection (5 unique choices), About X5 inf (which gives you both cards total capacity and available capacity, total number of songs, firmware version and serial number, and entire digital copy of detailed Quick Start Guide), Format (important if you are having problem with FAT32 format of your flash card), and last but not least - Reset to factory defaults.
    I already mentioned about in-line remote control, and just want to talk briefly about USB mode.  Storage selection enables you to connect X5ii to your computer where you can update the content of the flash cards by a simple drag’n’drop.  But with USD DAC selection you turn X5ii into an external usb soundcard.  After installation of proper drivers, X5ii is recognized as usb audio output to stream audio from your computer.  Though I personally prefer a dedicated USB DAC and feel like using DAP for this functionality is overkill, it was still nice to be able to improve sound quality (more detailed clean sound) of my ThinkPad laptop with a help of X5ii.  In this configuration while using DAP as usb DAC you are also charging it in parallel through usb port so you don't have to worry about drain a battery.  Furthermore, you can use Play/Pause and change volume right from X5ii remotely - very convenient for an external audio interface.  Just remember, you are not changing volume level on your computer, just relative to X5ii playback.
    GUI details.
    I'm sure the most important question on everyone's mind is how X5ii sounds, especially in comparison to the original X5 and X3ii DAPs.  Evaluation of a source sound quality is not an easy task because it's a function of your headphones sound signature, and sometimes it’s easier to describe in a relative comparative analysis to other DAPs.  Still, it was clear as a day to hear sound improvement of X5ii which shifted more toward the neutral sound signature with a decent extension at both ends of the spectrum and a detailed airy sound with an above average soundstage.  Background was perfectly black with no audible noise floor even in high gain.
    While going through a round of checking various headphones, I found a lot of solid pair ups with an impressive synergy.  Driving full size ATH-R70x (470 ohms) was with ease and authority at both low gain (vol at 105) and high gain (vol at 90) - at high gain bass had a bit more textured rumble and treble had a touch more sparkle, where in comparison X5 sound was looser and not as dynamic.  With UE600 iem, my “hiss” test case, there was literally zero hissing with X5ii while original X5 had a noticeable hissing when idle.  ATH-MSR7 had a nice wide soundstage, excellent retrieval of details, no sibilance, and well controlled low end punch.  With Havi's B3 Pro I the volume was raised by 10 notches (to 77), soundstage was still wide, and it still had a great extension at both ends of the spectrum with a warm neutral sound.  ATH-CKR10 had a nice tight bass and detailed and crispy treble - both complimented by a clear smooth mids which bring the best of AT house style.  It was also driving A83 low end with an authority, keeping bass tight and punchy with a great sub-bass extension, mids being clear and detailed, not harsh or grainy, and treble with a nice extension, soundstage width/depth was excellent as well.  With Westone W60 sound was warm, smooth, detailed, wide/deep soundstage, punchy bass, mids pushed a little back, and treble detailed but not overly crisp/bright.
    Next to the original X5, X3ii, and X1 (for a size comparison).
    Stack up with X5ii/E12A/UM Pro 50.
    I’m sure a question on many people’s mind will be how X5ii compares in sound to the original X5 and recently released X3ii.
    While comparing X5ii to X5, I found original X5 sound to be warmer, flatter (less dynamic), loudness to be on the same level but not driving headphones with the same level of authority, with difference more noticeable at low end where I’m hearing some additional sub-bass rumble/texture in X5ii.  I’m not discounting and actually quite certain that different people will hear these changes on a different level.  Furthermore, since most of the sound changes could be attributed to a newly redesigned amp section, I wanted to find out how these compare from LO using a few of my favorite portable amps.  To my big surprise, I found pair up with Cayin C5 (connected to LO of X5 and then X5ii) to yield nearly an identical sound.  With FiiO’s E12A amp, sound was very close but X5ii still had a little more sub-bass texture with an overall perception of a fuller body.  This observation brings up a very important point where if you are happy with a current gen X5 interface and control ergonomics and you prefer to use an external amp – perhaps there is not much advantage for you to upgrade to X5ii.
    What about those who recently upgraded from X5 to X3ii, is it worth taking a step further with X5ii upgrade?  With a volume level matched for a more accurate comparison between X5ii and X3ii, I found X3ii to be a little warmer and with a little less treble extension, all of which results in X5ii having an edge in detail retrieval across entire frequency range.  Pairing it up from LO with C5 and E12A yielded the same test results where sound was nearly identical with C5 and had a little more sub-bass rumble and top end sparkle with E12A.  I tested it numerous times, going back’n’forth between X5, X5ii, and X3ii, and my results were consistent despite different DAC being used in X5/X5ii and X3ii.  This reinforces my previous point where if you are a fan of aforementioned portable external amps, perhaps sticking with an original X5 or X3ii would make sense if you only care about a sound and happy with a footprint and storage capacity of your current DAP.
    Since both X3ii and X5ii support native DSD decoding versus X5 processing it through PCM conversion, I was also pleased to hear a noticeable difference when playing hi-res files on X5 and X5ii/X3ii.  Without a doubt during DSD (2.82MHz test files) playback in comparison to X5, X5ii sound was noticeably wider and deeper, more dynamic, more layered, and with a higher level of detail retrieval.  When comparing X5ii to X3ii, I found DSD playback to have a very similar level of width and depth, with a sound being equally layered and dynamic, though X5ii stayed consistent with its brighter and more detailed signature while X3ii was warmer and less detailed.
    For those who are considering X5ii along with other non-FiiO DAPs, here is a brief comparison notes with some of my other favorite DAPs, such as N6, AK120ii, AP100, and LP5.
    X5ii vs N6: N6 has a little wider soundstage, tighter bass, slightly brighter sound signature (based on fw2.0) with a little better retrieval of details.  N6 sub-bass extend a little deeper and sound is a little more layered/dynamic.  There used to be a bigger gap between X5 and N6, but now X5ii is a lot closer to N6 in comparison.  Also keep in mind, N6 is bigger in size and almost 60g heavier in weight, thus X5ii is more portable and pocketable.  With a sound quality getting closer, size getting smaller, and price still at almost a half, X5ii is a better value.  But if you want to squeeze every drop of sound performance without adding an external amp and only care about sound quality – in my opinion N6 still has a slight edge (which recently got even more ahead with N6 fw3.0 update).
    X5ii vs AK120ii: AK sound is warmer and with a fuller body, a little wider in soundstage (similar to N6), with a little more sub-bass rumble, a very similar retrieval of details, and with a bit less treble extension.  When it comes to a sound quality, I would probably choose X5ii due to my own personal taste, but in terms of a sexy compact design with touch screen and hardware controls and volume knob and balanced output – I still haven’t found any contender to dethrone AK120ii.  Also, keep in mind that X5ii cost quarter of AK120ii.  Furthermore, X7 is just around the corner with touch screen and modular amp design; though I believe it will have a bigger footprint.
    X5ii vs LP5: Luxury & Precision has a wider soundstage, tighter more detailed bass, overall more layered sound with a much better retrieval of details, better dynamics, etc.  In terms of sound quality, LP5 is very hard to beat thanks to its AKM DAC and cherry-picked component (I have Gold model), and yes LP5 stands out in looks with a rather boutique style.  But in terms of the usability, display, GUI, controls, and features, it falls far behind X5ii which cost 1/3 of the price.
    X5ii vs AP100 (with 24b/192k enabled oversampling): Now we are getting to a more interesting competition since I mentioned in the past that AP100 sound quality was better than X5 (by a noticeable margin).  In this new comparison, sound is very similar in quality to X5ii, but AP100 has just a little wider soundstage.  I believe X5ii really closed a gap on this one, though AP100 is still smaller and more compact.
    I’m going to make this short and simple.  If you are still using your smartphone as a main source to listen to music because you mostly stream your media - wait for X7.  I know that expectations are high, but I will give FiiO the benefit of the doubt regarding this upcoming Android-based touchscreen DAP which I think going to set a new bar.  If you want to leave the world of push notifications and social media updates behind, and ready to make your first audiophile step into the exciting world of hi-res audio without breaking the bank - X5ii should definitely be at the top of your list.  At the current moment it will not be easy to find another DAP in this price range with similar solid hardware build and slick design, unique hardware controls, mature firmware, high quality audio, and a ton of configuration options.  The decision gets a little harder if you already own the original X5.  If sound quality is at the top of your priority list and you are using your first gen X5 with an external portable amp, I'm not sure if you will benefit switching to X5ii while continuing using external amp.  But if you are like me who wants improved sound quality and values portability of a slick pocketable design without the hassle of bulky add-ons - X5ii is one great option.  As an alternative, if you don't mind a slightly warmer sound, especially if you have brighter headphones, and ok with 128GB micro-sd card storage - X3ii offers the best value in FiiO DAP line up.  It will give you the most flexibility of a small footprint with a powerful sound, support of all hi-res audio formats including native DSD decoding, using it everywhere even during exercising while carrying it in armband, and also ability to pair up with an external portable amp to step up in sound quality.  As a matter of fact, I think X3ii release made X1 a bit obsolete to the point where I would suggest to FiiO in the next X1ii update to get rid off scrolling wheel and make it more compact on a scale of Clip+.  Overall, DAP market is on the rise with a lot of choices in sub $600 category, but you can rest assured that FiiO offers some of the best price/performance ratio products in corresponding price categories.
      Jill, Brooko, Cagin and 5 others like this.
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    2. Light - Man
      Thanks Twister, a very helpful informative review as usual.
      Light - Man, Jun 25, 2015
    3. egosumlux
      Thanks man I been eyeing this DAP trying to choose between X5ii and AK120 or Plenue M1 I guess the more options you have the harder is to choose
      egosumlux, Jul 22, 2015
    4. bruce1967
      Great review! Best one on the X5ii I've read yet. I'm convinced it will be a worthwhile upgrade for me over the X3ii. Thanks!
      bruce1967, Oct 20, 2015
  6. AndrewH13
    FIIO X5 2nd gen: Taking the X5 higher
    Written by AndrewH13
    Published Jun 17, 2015
    Pros - Stylish Build, Two MicroSD slots, Display, Sound Quality, Native DSD, Ideal Digital transport
    Cons - EQ not available on hires tracks, Combined Line Out/Digital Out socket
    About Me
    As this is my first review on Head-Fi, a few details of my background. I am in my fifties and have loved music and music equipment all my life. From about 8 years old, I had my first exposure to my mother’s reel to reel tape recorder. A few years later, I was bought a slab-like cassette deck from Philips which I used to record chart songs. As a teenager I pored over Lasky’s HiFi brochures and my first purchase was a pair of big Celestion speakers. Over the years I have had Nad, Mission, Linn, Roksan and Naim equipment. Finally Tag McClaren HiFi where I was a volunteer software beta-tester for their numerous upgrades.
    However I always loved the idea of portables and returned with a gold Sony Mini-disc player, a Sony A808 and various iPods. But until that day a few years back when a Google search brought up Head-Fi, I was oblivious to the thriving portables community and the quality of sound that could now be obtained. I use DAPs mostly around the home so size is not a main consideration personally.
    Equipment owned and For Review
    A Fiio X5 and DX90 were my first hi-res DAPs, and I’ve soon gone from Westone W40s IEMs to Shure 846s and ie800s. And from B&W P7 Headphones to Musical Fidelity MF100s, Grado 325e and just recently Sennheiser HD800s alongside a Hugo portable DAC/AMP. I suffer iTunes (and its hidden art) for iPods in portable docks, but prefer drag and drop Players (Sony’s Sonicstage scared me for life!)  I am meticulous about tagging using mp3tag, and dBpower amp for converting a vast collection of CDs. Most of my listening is complete albums, either Folder view or Artist/Album meta data.  I now have a collection of Hi-Res and DSD music, which in some cases, does seem preferable to my older versions so will listen using all formats. Will test as a standalone and also my main use as a high quality digital transport.
    I received this X5ii for 10 days during the European leg of its World Tour in order to provide Fiio and prospective buyers with some feedback in the form of a review. I want to thank Fiio for including me in this program and will give opinions with an open mind how I find it.
    X5 2nd gen Specifications
    · Body is Brushed Aluminium with a 400 x 360 Screen
    · PCM1792A DAC

    · 3300mAh Lithium Polymer battery
    · 2 External Micro SD slots
    · 3.5mm combined LO and Digital Audio Output
    · USB DAC supporting 192KHz/24Bit
    · plays FLAC, ALAC, WAV, MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, MP2, and APE formats
    · Size is 109mm x 63.5mm x 5.3mm
    · Weight is 165g
    Main Changes from 1st Gen X5
    1. All-new exterior design, improved build, with metal finish changed from powdered to brushed;
    2. More compact and lightweight; smaller black borders around LCD;
    3. New independent amplification stage with analogue volume control, increasing audio resolution and enabling feature for native DSD decoding; 
    4. All new digital audio architecture, utilizing dual crystal oscillators dedicated to multiples of 44.1 and 48kHz respectively (including 176.4kHz=4x44.1, 192kHz=4x48 and DSD64 and DSD128 (multiples of 44.1), handling all major sample rates without resampling artefacts and minimal jitter;
    5. Supporting hardware DSD decoding;
    6. Supporting CTIA-standard in-line earphone remotes (e.g. Apple, Samsung compatible earphones)
    7. Breakthrough power architecture design that utilizes different system voltages for low and high gain, allowing maximum flexibility between long endurance and high driving power in the same unit.
    8. All-new power management feature: auto standby mode allows player to remain in standby for weeks, ready to continue playing instantly.
    9. Coulomb meter for precise battery level readouts.
    Feel and Usability
    The unit feels quality all over, cleaner lines in design, with just the right weight to be portable but not feel cheap. All the buttons are nice to push with a firm acknowledgement, special mention to the Power Button with its blue-illuminated light. I didn't notice any change in the use of plastic rimmed jack sockets, they made a nice solid connection, I like the scroll wheel but am informed retail units will have an improved version so can’t comment on the final design. The Display seems to have a really bright backlight but still keeps images well saturated in colour. Much improved from the first gen.
    Generally I was more than happy with the original X5's handling and I am again with the 2nd Gen. Pushing the top-right button 'to return' originally seemed strange but now seems second nature. Immediate Power-on is nice, making it seem a long wait now for all my other players, tablets, phones etc! An operational design I do not like about the menus and selections is that they don’t start and stop at each end but scroll round and round. This seems silly to me and makes it harder to quickly go to items you know are at the top or bottom as you overshoot.
    I am not a big user of EQ, generally using a neutral player and tailoring to my preferred signature with choice of IEM/phones. However not all albums are recorded very well and I occasionally like to subtly change things. And many users find EQ very useful so it is a shame that EQ can only be used on CD red-book rips and cannot be used for hi-res tracks.
    Sound Quality
    For a few years now, I have been alternating between a Fiio X5 original and an iBasso DX90. Differences in handling are obvious (touch screen v buttons and scroll wheel) but also to me the sound presentation difference is quite obvious. I’ve seen both units called warmer than the other countless times, they can’t both be!
    The X5 to me had a more closed in soundstage but more forward ‘in your face’ sound. The DX90 had a more ‘HiFi’ wider open expansive portrayal but at times seemed distant. I would change preference month to month but the truth is more dependent on the music playing, Norah Jones and any intimate solo artists, well recorded, sounded great on the DX90, but Rock such as The Darkness where you needed some oomph and aggression could lack excitement. Maybe X5 has mids pushed forward a tiny bit or iBasso has them recessed, I’m not interested in graphs, only what I like the best. Over time I felt the X5 had more excitement and PRAT, and that was the deciding factor making the X5 my favoured choice.
    Now where does the 2nd gen X5 stand? I’ve tried to not read reviews so far until I’d completed my own so as not to be influenced! I took a 128GB Samsung micro SD card straight out of my X5 and it played flawlessly throughout the week. On first listening, I felt it pretty close to the original, but maybe cleaner and with a slightly wider soundstage; further listening would no doubt confirm whether this was a good thing as it had less distortion, or a bad thing as it becomes a tad thin and blander!
    I like the X5ii's rhythmic sound and this was portrayed perfectly in a FLAC of Muse’s new ‘Drones’ album using Sennheiser ie800s. The track Psycho almost turns you into one, as the music took over and I completely forgot I was listening to the new player. But isn’t that what music is about, taking you away from any equipment, living the moment?
    A more familiar album to me is (Jeff) Beck, Bogart & Appice’s self titled album and I switch to using Shure 846 IEMs. The track ‘Sweet Sweet Surrender’ yields a perfect soundstage, bass underpinning the rest of the instruments. ‘While Should I Care’ has a nice crispness to the cymbals, a quick switch to the X5 suggesting just a touch less cohesion.
    Turning to DSD, which is played natively, I played Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Willy And The Poor Boys’ from 1969. Whether it’s the quality of DSD, the care taken over the mastering, who knows, but the sound is as clear as day but so natural at the same time, absolutely lovely.
    For me, it’s hard not to compare with existing products I own, further listening has confirmed the X5 2nd gen has a slightly wider, slightly cleaner sound than the original. Maybe losing a touch of upper bass excess? It is still very close to the X5 I like but leaning towards the DX90’s openness. But without losing attack or ever feeling recessed which to me can happen with the latter.
    Well done Fiio for taking an already fine sounding player, and subtly improving on it.
    Use as a Digital Transport
    I was itching to try it with my recently purchased Hugo and ultra-sized Sennheiser HD800s. I currently use the X5 in tandem with the portable DAC/Amp and it has been superb in every way. I have nearly deafened myself twice using the iBasso for this purpose, volume on the DX90 had to be set full on when connecting via Digital Out!  Fortunately Fiio have followed the 1st gen,  again having fixed volume for this output, retaining your normal headphone output volume independently. (EDIT: The DX90 has updated this in a firmware upgrade and now also has fixed output, thankfully!)
    Many say that any digital source will sound the same into a Hugo. My experience is that this isn’t the case. I have heard iPhones (using CCK), the DX90 and the Fiio X5 previous to this review. To me the X5 sounded superior.
    The X5 2nd gen unfortunately has combined the analogue Line out (post DAC) with the Co-ax Digital out using the same 3.5mm socket. No problem I thought, its a simple software switch in the Player Menu. But no sound at all.......  A quick query on Head-Fi and within minutes I learned because of combining the sockets, a 4 Pole 3.5mm connection must be made to the RCA out. Great help immediately from the forum, big thanks to those who responded so quickly. My existing Coax leads have more standard 3.5mm connection. Fiio do provide a dedicated 4-pole adapter cable but this goes to a female RCA/Phono connection. This necessitates using two cables and I used my QED 70 Ohm coaxial cable (borrowed from HiFi’s DAP connection), but this is three feet long. Shame that as it stands there is not one small cable that can be purchased for easily connecting to a DAC, which worked so well with the original X5. 

    I am investigating a suggested male/male 3.5 adapter that may solve this, allowing just the Fiio lead for Hugo duties.
    EDIT: With adapter from ebay, the included Fiio cable will just attach with a stretch, but really could have done with being an inch longer.
    I tried Madonna’s recent ‘Rebel Heart’ album on FLAC. Taking things up a notch now (and so it should with Hugo and HD800’s price) the early tracks displayed deep rumbling bass and a gigantic soundstage. Before giving way to later delicate tracks that made me feel she was so close in the same room!
    Rush’s mid-career albums on CD have seemed to lack body and sounded thin to me previously, drums being almost synthetic. A FLAC 24/96 version of ‘Roll The Bones’ from 1991 seemed much improved. My feet were twitching immediately, before hands started drumming! Time to revisit other Rush albums I believe.
    Just like the X5 before it, clipped onto Hugo’s reverse using the DAC’s supplied bands, this combo is bliss for me. Years spent in my lounge listening to full size HiFi has now largely been replaced with this transportable system. Can take from bedroom, to garden, or beside sofa in the lounge and listen at any volume I like without disapproving looks from my wife!
    I also connected to my HiFi via a Rega home DAC. Good sound from my PMC’s floor-standing speakers. In my opinion, the ideal transport for any portable or home DAC. Then unplug, and take anywhere still retaining a very good sound quality.
    The more I’ve used the X5 2nd gen, the more I’ve come to accept it as the most neutral of players. Only a few slight operational niggles, nothing is perfect!
    Overall, lots of small changes have improved upon the first gen. It seems the youthful younger brother or sister of the X5, slightly lighter of foot and a touch more energetic.
      Joe Bloggs, Peridot, Jill and 5 others like this.
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    2. AndrewH13
      Thanks for your comments Samandhi
      AndrewH13, Jul 12, 2015
    3. samandhi
        No, none of those things sound like enough to re-buy the X5 in any way (for me). I Really like the versatility of the gen 1. I will stick with the combo of X3II and X5 (for the different purposes I have assigned them).
        Looking at your pics, I can see the issue you are talking about with the cabling. I ran into the same issue with the cable when trying to run my X3II to my stereo via coax. It worked perfectly with the X5, but no sound with the X3II (I didn't know the issue, actually until you mentioned it in your review, so thank you again for that tidbit of information). I suppose instead of the nice 1" long cable that comes with the X5, I'll have to use that little nubbin' that comes with the X3II. :) I find the one included with the X5 works better (for me) because it puts less strain directly on the jack, than the little nubbin' aforementioned.
        I just leave my X5 on high gain all the time. I find my HPs to sound a bit more "dynamic" than on low (even with the lower, more efficient headphones), plus I find it to have an absolute black background even in high. I guess having an output impedance of <1 (actual 0.26) helps to keep things quite too.. heh 
      samandhi, Jul 12, 2015
    4. Carmantom
      Nice review. Re: CCR recordings were mastered from originals by Steve Hoffman. . I have always loved his insitence to maintaining as close to original masters.

      My Fiios arrived today. They are beautiful except for cheap case. Its a shame for $399 dap, especially such a beautiful piece of equipment. Oh well off to buy one of my preference. Thats what they probably thinking.

      Still have lots of listening to do. They paired nicely bluetooth with new Bowers Wilkes P7s. I'm not sure how to get line out to work (with volume) with my Audeze LCD2s. Volume is a tad much for me, although only a little louder than I like.
      Carmantom, Mar 4, 2017
  7. DDDamian
    The Fiio X5ii: Can it do it all?
    Written by DDDamian
    Published Aug 15, 2015
    Pros - Amazing price/performance ratio, excellent SQ, powerful drive, good build quality
    Cons - Interface not perfect, scroll wheel, open micro-SD slots
    The Latest X5 Second-generation DAP from Fiio
    - a worthy successor to the X5 classic

    First off, thanks to Fiio for allowing me a sneak-peek of the new X5 Second-generation DAP, referred to hereafter as the X5ii, as well as to the tour organizers and fellow reviewers. I'll apologize up-front for the delay in posting this but here's why: after a week with the unit I knew I'd be purchasing one, and I wanted to at least get a peek at the production version as well. Now that I have, on with the review!
    Here's the boring, intro stuff....
    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Fiio, nor any vested interest or gain from reviewing the Fiio X5ii and presenting my findings. I have studiously avoided previous reviews to avoid any pre-conceived impressions or bias affecting my review. If I do have a bias it is in being the owner of several Fiio devices, and an overall experience with those has left me impressed with their quality and excellent price/performance ratio. I wish to thank James and Joe at Fiio for including me in the Canadian leg of the Fiio X5ii world tour!
    About me: I am a 47-year-old music lover who has been in the game forever (lol) with an appreciation for high-fidelity sound starting from childhood, inheriting a taste for tube gear and quality speakers and headphones from my father. My hearing has been tested annually for some years and, while it shows the normal age-related losses in the upper-treble range, it is generally above the baseline for my age group.
    My first PortaPro's on the original Sony Walkman CD were my first foray into personal audio on a students budget. I all but stopped listening to headphones over the years as floor systems took over my audio world, and with them the ever-worsening quality of receiver headphone outputs and finer speakers falling into my budget.
    Now we are spoiled with the ever-growing availability of high-quality headphones, amps and sources, and I've returned to headphone listening as a hobby and with more discerning tastes than the years of bad mp3 players and consumer-grade headphones allowed for.
    When I listen to portable gear like the Fiio players I am setting a very high bar - perhaps unfairly comparing to my full-sized, high-powered desktop equipment and demanding headphones. So, just how will the Fiio X5ii fair?

    My Prior Fiio Experiences
    As mentioned in the spoiler above, I am no stranger to the Fiio world, and my current experience with them has run through the E17, E12, X5 and now the X5ii and X3ii. Yes, I bought an X5ii after hearing the tour unit, and at the same time bought an X3ii for my father as way to thank him for first introducing me to the high-fidelity world so many years ago.
    Each unit has struck me with the incredible build quality, sonics and bang-for-the-buck which increasingly seems to be Fiio's claim to fame.
    I'd also like to mention the versatility of their players. My go-to was of course the X5 classic. Standalone it would easily drive most cans I would consider portable, and with it's decent screen, two micro-SD slots and excellent sonics it out-classed any previous portable player I'd used, let alone a smartphones' mediocre drive capabilities. Add on the HS-6 stacking kit and a very low-cost E12 amplifier (both from Fiio) and I had a portable unit capable of driving my most demanding headphones to nearly full potential. As a DAC or source for my desktop amps the slightly warm but highly-detailed sound never failed to impress, and saved a lot of cable-swapping from my dedicated desktop DAC.
    Thanks to Fiio's foresight and the hard work of some truly gifted modders and themers on Head-Fi, the rather plain theme supplied was easily replaced with a buffet of choices from modern, stylish and simplistic themes to classic, retro, vintage styles. Kudo's to all those themers for your hard-work! Links to the threads highlighting their work are included at the end of this review.
    Now, the X5/E12 combo wasn't perfect. Let's face it, it's a brick I could use in self-defense, and entirely unsuitable for anything more physical than a stroll around. Unless wearing a coat with deep pockets it was not the most portable solution and its presence was always felt. I'm not normally an IEM user (just don't fit my ears well) and most of my cans were a little too hard to drive with the X5 alone.
    Soooooo, what could Fiio do better this time around?

    Enter the X5ii, or is it the X5SG?
    Upon first seeing the new, second-generation X5ii the most obvious change was to its size. Those clever engineers at Fiio have promised more power, better screen usage, more features and the same battery life from a smaller unit?
    Pictured below are some units for reference: the older E17, X3ii, X5ii and the X5/E12 stack.
    While not as portable and compact as the X3ii it is easy to see it's a lot more pocket-friendly than the stack. Also obvious is the common build and control scheme between the newer units. The finish is a beautiful brushed gun-metal shade which looks well-capable of withstanding minor scuffs.
    It's also remarkably light while still maintaining its solid, quality feel. On both the pre-production tour model and my later production model everything is perfectly machined and well-fitting, with good tactile feel to both buttons and the ubiquitious scroll wheel.
    The Wheel (here we go...)
    It had to be said sometime.....Nothing has divided fans and prospective buyers more than the mechanical scroll wheel now used on several Fiio models. For those from the iWorld it was clunky, unresponsive (and sometimes too responsive) and raised concerns about its longevity.
    The X5 had very subtle detentes or clicks which never seemed to align with the actions on the screen, and would overshoot when navigating.
    The new X5ii has improved upon this somewhat: there is a more positive click-feel to the scroll wheel and it seems closer to the one-step, one-scroll expectation but isn't perfect. The production model again seems one step closer, but can still trip you up.
    The other common complaint is that fast-turning does not accelerate the scrolling action through menus. Getting through a long list of artists, albums or (yikes) songs takes forever. Both these issues have long been on the firmware update most-wanted lists (yes, the firmware is easily updatable) but remain there still.
    The most common work-around has been careful arrangement of libraries under sub-folders like A-E, F-L, M-S, etc. I'm quite religious about properly tagging my music, and given the number of RedBook FLAC or higher-resolution files I have on my units it hasn't been too much of a problem. For those who do not tag as arduously, or who have cards filled with compressed files, this will be a sore point for sure.
    All-in-all I live with the wheel. It's not perfect, but for me it isn't as much of a nuisance as for others. It's just not a focal point for me - unlike the sound quality which is, but for those new to the Fiio players or those upgrading: it's better but not there yet. I do hope that an accelerated scrolling mode becomes available with future firmware.
    'Nuff said about the wheel.
    Controls and Interface
    I wasn't initially thrilled with the X5ii's change to the round buttons and lack of distinction from its siblings, but I can see the rational. Buttons and scroll wheel both provide solid tactile feedback, and placement is both logical and easy to learn.
    Concerns were raised over the pocket-friendliness of the side buttons controlling power and volume, but the recessing of the power button, the small nib differentiating the volume up/down buttons, and the multiple settings for lock-screen options all make this very intuitive to use and virtually fail-safe from accidental presses.
    The screen is a marked improvement over the original. It is far brighter with better clarity and colour, and a real plus for outdoor usage. The GUI now boasts five themes which can be selected via the System Settings screen, but may be a little ho-hum. Here's where Fiio and the headphone community have pulled a winner: Fiio has provided unpacking tools and the software means to allow some talented themers to create their own. You can quickly and easily change the interface more to your liking with several choices available online (see links at end). The ability to personalize the GUI makes for a better experience, and it's fun to sample the skilled work of the themers. Holding multiple themes - up to five - in memory and switch easily between them is a nice touch.
    Shown below is a stock X5ii theme and the "Corrosion" theme by @theUKMrT
    If I (and perhaps the themers) had one wish it would be the ability to change font size. The screen isn't huge, and while better and brighter than its predecessors it will still be a challange to read in bright conditions and for those with less-than-perfect vision.
    Noticeably missing from an audiophile-grade player is ReplayGain. The addition of shuffle playback in this and earlier models was a nice firmware improvement, but given the range of recording levels in the wild (from high dynamic-range classical to loudness-war casualties like much of modern rock/pop) this can lead to some deafening moments. It's an open standard and easy to implement in software so I'm surprised this hasn't found its way into the unit yet.
    There is a nice multi-band equalizer with multiple presets for quick selection - a real plus for those with several headphones or IEMs in play. The caveat is it will only work up to RedBook CD bitrates - not with higher-definition files or DSD.
    Did I mention DSD? New to the second generation is native DSD playback - no conversion to PCM. Note that this applies only to files on the player, not through an external USB connection. This may be an important feature to many who prefer what is considered a more analog, natural format. I'll stay out of that quagmire but can report that DSD playback was flawless, and the ability to read ISO containers without extracting the DSF streams was well-implemented. For a player in this price range it's a stellar feature and very welcome.
    For those considering this player (as a first or as an upgrade from a lower model) the dual micro-SD card slots should be a strong consideration. Hi-res files take a lot of space. With the latest 200GB cards or even a pair of 64GB cards this player can hold a ton of music. The ability to quickly swap cards makes for an endless supply of music, and in the Catagories or library browser modes the twin cards are seamlessly integrated. One firmware feature I wish was incorporated would be a Clean Library function: it seems a little silly to remove both cards and reset the library to clear the player of music missing after a card-swap or change to a card's contents. Minor but I'll throw it out there.
    A dislike is the loss of the micro-SD slot covers from the previous X5 classic. For those using the silicone sleeve or an aftermarket case it may not be a factor, but for those going au natural I have a paranoia of pocket lint or other nasties getting into the slots. Just feels like a step backwards there.
    Lastly I'll mention one of the other nice improvements over the first generation: the deep sleep function. For those with previous versions this is a very nice touch. Basically we no longer need to go through the long-press device shutdown/startup to get to our music. The player will automatically sleep after a predefined idle time, and instantly awaken on a press of the power button. There's very little reason to do a full power-down now, and instant access to the sleeping player is a nice feature.
    All-in-all this is a solid player with decent controls (the wheel, the wheel!), rugged construction, a much-improved screen and a customizeable interface. Decent battery life, Line Out and Co-Axial output versatility and a pocket-friendly housing and controls make this almost perfect for on-the-go. Those coming from the iWorld may decry its interface but it's functional and doesn't get in the way of the main reason to own one: the sound.
    Well done Fiio.

    Sound Quality
    Okay, brass tacks here: the reason you should be buying a high-quality DAP is for the sound. Perhaps you are new to this level of player, or are a seasoned vet, possibly considering an upgrade from a previous model.
    I'll state up-front that my usage will differ from most users. I am not a commuter, jogger or someone who will work-out with one of these strapped to me. Battery life is just fine in my books (yes, a full 11 hours playing FLACs or DSD with occasional screen use) and I've commented on how much more portable this unit is for lighter physical activity. I use my portables as a way to free myself from a desktop setup, for use around the house and occasional long walks, for occasional office use and as a source to my desktop amps. What I want from a DAP is pristine SQ, the ability to play high-bitrate files, and enough drive power to satisfy more demanding cans like the HD-650, LCD2.2, etc. I love the ability to use it as a DAC that won't let me down for critical listening as much as I love being untethered and free to hear high-quality sound away from the desk. That's my usage and here we go....
    As a DAC
    My setup here was feeding the X5ii from Foobar 2K using WASAPI through a nothing-special USB cable. The Line Out was connected to a tube amp (the Bottlehead S.E.X) and later a solid-state amp (the Gustard H-10). I was able to use a Y-splitter to alternate between the X5 classic and the X5ii with minimal switching time. Comparisons were made using the Sennheiser HD-650 and the Audeze LCD2.2 (pre-fazor). I tested with a range of music genres spanning classic rock, jazz, R&B and some classical. All test files were RedBook CD quality or higher.
    The differences between the two were subtle but noticeable. The X5 classic presented a slightly warmer, more refined signature. The X5ii had slightly better resolution and a more treble-tilted overall sound. There was a touch more air around the instruments. This translated into a slightly more spacious sound, although soundstage was only slightly improved. Seperation of the instruments was likewise improved.
    If I had to characterize, I'd give the nod to the X5 classic for a more-relaxed sound with slightly smoother FR and a bump to the mid-bass spectrum. Detail is very good but slightly bested by the X5ii. The X5ii is a more lively and engaging sound, more transparant and with a better sense of dynamics. It left me feeling it was the more neutral of the two, and brought out more from the music.
    These differences are subtle, and those looking for a stark improvement in SQ over the classic X5 may be disappointed, but I'd call that more a credit to the SQ of the classic than any fault of the new X5ii. They both sound excellent, and it takes fairly critical listening to come to hard conclusions. They are both capable of resolving incredible detail and nuance with a very black background. At no time did either feel bloated or muddy.
    I also compared the X5ii to my standalone desktop DAC - the Teac UD-501. The X5ii sounded a little more brash, with an edge to sharp transients but held its own very well. That's a pretty resounding feat for a battery-powered unit with all the constraints size and component-spacing bring.
    In short, the DAC section of the X5ii is top-notch. It provides detail, transparancy and neutrality on par with (or close to) standalone DACs costing several times more. The experience is very musical, and slightly more "fun" than the classic X5. I would rate it an improvement, if subtle, over the classic.
    As an amplifier...
    Okay, so the X5ii has a stellar DAC implementation with a great Line Out sound. Time to go portable. Again, I'll compare to the X5 with and without the E12 amplifier, with a brief comparison to the smaller sibling the X3ii.
    First go will be with the ATH-M50x. For years the original model were the go-to recommendation for entry-level yet acoustically-discerning listeners. They fell somewhat from grace as having a definite V-shaped signature (far from the studio-monitor moniker portrayed by their maker) but had a great sense of dynamics and detail. These are the newer version which, both subjectively and by testing, improve upon the linearity of the FR over the original. To my ears they are still V-shaped, but they have great bass extension and are capable of fast transients and detail. They are also closed, easy to drive and built like tanks, making them my favourite portable over the Momentums and others.
    Both the X5 classic and X5ii drive these cans amazingly well without additional amplification. I found on both units that high gain (while not necessary to reach very high levels) provided a meatier, more visceral listening experience. Bass response was deep, tight and punchy - power was not lacking. These cans can have fatiguing highs for those sensitive to them (I am) but I never felt shrillness or excessive harshness over several hours of listening. With decent though not stunning isolation, these make for an excellent pairing for commuters or office use. The sound of the M50x's stays quite dynamic at lower levels and provides an energetic sound that pairs well with either unit for those who prefer an upbeat sound with good resolution. As expected, the X5ii drives these perfectly.
    Now for the torture test: what can this thing do with audiophile-grade cans? For those with more portable, travel/commuter or work-out needs feel free to skip this - it's already a winner. For those who want to break free from the desk and still have audiophile-grade sound with high-end headphones here's a shake-down.
    The original X5 is a powerful beast, but coupled with an E12 amplifier you have in your hand/pocket something capable of incredible reproduction of music through some of the staples of higher-end headphones. Whether you're driving high-impedance cans like the HD-650, Beyer DTxxx's or other 300+ ohm cans, or current-hungry planars like the LCD2.2, HifiMan line-up or some of the new Oppos, something more than the standard iDevice or smartphone is required.
    The X5/E12 is very capable with these types of cans. It's not going to match some powerful discrete desktop amps or eke out every last drop of what they can bring to the party, but I've consistently been impressed with just how good that combo sounds with these phones. I would never have thought, five or ten years ago, that the equivalent of a higher-end floor system could ever fit in one's pocket and go for a stroll.
    But we are still left with a brick of no small weight, and two devices to charge and carry. Can the X5ii compare?
    One of the innovations of the X5ii is its change to the gain implementation. Switching from Low to High now switches the voltage rails to the amplifier for higher output voltage swing, a necessity for getting the best from high-impedance cans like the HD-650. It also provides more current capability for the planar designs now widely-available and gaining acceptance and applause from the audiophile community. Most of these designs are open, meaning they provide little isolation both in and out. Not your commuter-friendly closed choice at all. But several closed cans now sport high-impedance dynamic drivers or power-loving planar magnetic designs too.
    I tested the X5ii with the Audeze LCD2.2(pre-fazor) and HifiMan HE-400 planar headphones. Neither performed well enough in Low Gain, but to my surprise were both very well driven when switching to the new High Gain implementation. It was stunning to hear just how well the X5ii was able to drive these. The sound was full, rich and (especially with the 2.2) capable of high sound levels without objectionable distortion. Simply jaw-dropping that so much sound could come from such a small device from cans that are widely accepted to require multi-watt desktop amps to perform their best. I'm not suggesting this will replace your desktop setup, but for the ability to use these higher-end cans outside on a deck or around the house the X5ii is a capable amp indeed.
    It did not fair quite as well on the high-impedance HD-650, which I was hoping would benefit the most from the voltage-boosted circuit. Sound was muffled, veiled (there I said it) and just couldn't being the 650 to its potential the way a good OTL desktop could. Suprisingly the X5/E12 did a better job here. For those who have an E12 it's still required for these demanding cans, and brings it's own stellar sonics of warm detail to the mix.
    Still, for those who need more power than the X5 or X3ii can bring, the X5ii in High Gain is surprisingly capable. It may be the unit that frees you from the heavier stack. It's remarkable for the versatility it brings in being able to adapt from easy-to-drive portable cans to those that strike fear into lesser desk-top gear.

    For those new to audiophile-grade players this is a winner through and through. At half the cost of the latest cellphone it will bring a world of sonic enjoyment in a small, sturdily-built and customizeable portable player. The SQ is a huge improvement over consumer MP3 players or smartphones. The interface is not going to thrill those coming from iDevices but if you care more about sound you'll likely not care.
    Is it worth the step up from the X3ii? I heartily say yes. The depth and detail of the sound are a definite step up, and the bigger screen, two micro-SD slots and only marginal increase in size and weight to me are worth the difference in cost. Add in the ability to change themes to the work made freely available by those talented souls on Head-Fi and that's all the justification I would need. If you absolutely need a smaller, lighter player for work-outs or jogging then I'd give the nod to the X3ii. Good thing I'm lazy :wink:
    And finally, is it worth upgrading from the X5 classic? That's much harder to judge: they both have excellent sound and features, with a subtle nod to the X5ii. The brighter screen and instant-on features are nice to have, as is the DSD playback. It really requires some thought if you're on a budget, and who isn't? My advice? Gift your X5 to someone who shares your audio-enthusiasm or you wish to infect with this disease (lol) and share the music. Or sell on your original and jump in.
    Critical thoughts:
    I'll close with the areas I though could have been better, and there are a few that I'd like to point out:
    - if this is the flagship (at least for the non-Android, non-touchscreen units with the X7 coming) did it go all the way? In some ways no. Just as I'd give up the ultra-thinness of my smartphone for a bit more battery life, I'd give up the more compact size of the X5ii relative to the classic for just a bit more power and a slightly larger screen. These are the constraints of a portable unit, and engineering trade-offs must be made. If anything I'd like to have seen the X3ii become what the X5ii is in terms of abilities, with the flagship not making the sacrifices and taking just a bit more of a step up. That said, this is first and foremost a portable player, and making it better than the X5 in a smaller package is an outstanding feat. My usage is unusual and I can certainly see why this path was chosen for it.
    - the lack of ReplayGain is unusual considering how easy it is to implement
    - the lack of accelerated scrolling continues to limit the usefulness of mega-storage and user-friendliness
    - the lack of larger fonts can make operation in brighter light or for those with less-than-perfect vision more difficult
    All three of the above are fixable in future firmware, and Fiio does have a history of listening to the community and releasing improvements over time. That said, they are a smaller company with finite resources providing an already outstanding package for their price range.
    If you remember one thing from this long and rambling review make it that: the X5ii is, in my opinion, unbeatable in price/performance ratio and an absolute winner in portable audio value. The sound quality and versatility far outweigh what I'd consider minor interface complaints.
    Congratulations Fiio on another winner, and thank you for including me on the tour. I wish you continued success!

    Links to the Theme-modding threads:
    As mentioned there's a growing body of themes available for both the X5 classic and X5ii. The talent and hard work of folks like @x RELIC x, @Hawaiibadboy, @AsianInvasion, and others just adds the icing to the cake for these great little players. Give them a try, and be sure to thank the creators for their works. They are a great bunch of guys doing this for free and sharing with all - many thanks!
    Fiio X5 classic themes: http://www.head-fi.org/t/717947/fiio-x5-custom-modded-firmwares
    Fiio X5 second-generation themes: http://www.head-fi.org/t/771221/fiio-x5-ii-custom-themes-thread
    Fiio X5ii Mega-Thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/765943/fiio-x5-2nd-gen-impressions-and-discussion-tour-application-megathread
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DDDamian
      Thanks gents, and to Relic for all the themes and hakushondaimo for being the tour's major-domo!
      DDDamian, Aug 15, 2015
    3. Hawaiibadboy
      Great review, Thanks for the shoutout!
      Hawaiibadboy, Aug 16, 2015
    4. laatiftal
      Great job! I own it, and I LOVE it. Well done FIIO!
      laatiftal, Aug 18, 2015
  8. WayneWoondirts
    FiiO always delivers
    Written by WayneWoondirts
    Published Jul 31, 2015
    Pros - audioquality, price, design, build, screen, two mSD slots, native DSD, power
    Cons - user interface, very responsive center button

    I was part of the european leg on the X5 world tour, so I did receive a review unit, free of charge, for ten days, but it was already running FW 1.0.

    I am in no way affiliated with FiiO. I would like to thank Joe and James for giving me this opportunity and for organizing the tour. It was a lot of fun discovering the device.
    When I received the X5 my first thoughts were „So that's why the X3 is called an ultraportable device“. It's bigger than the pictures can show, yet still handy. It felt great, I couldn't wait to put my card in it and update the database. It's a 128GB SanDisk mSD card containing around 2700 songs, including some DSD albums.
    This took pretty long. My X3 2nd gen updates in no time compared to that.
    Changes from first to second generation:
    Native DSD decoding
    Deep-sleep mode
    Dual crystal oscillators
    Better amplification
    Brushed metal exterior
    Smaller and lighter device
    Supports in-line remote headphones
    Headphones used:
    Final - Sonorus VI (formerly known as „Pandora Hope VI“)
    AKG - K240 Sextett (made in the 70's)
    The exterior is completely made of metal, which gives it a premium feeling. The colour comes close to the X3's but is a little lighter. One of the things I really like about the design are the edges, unlike the X1 and X3 the X5 isn't rounded at the top.
    The buttons are more recessed than on the other players from FiiO, also the screen is now in line with the whole body. The center button was a little too sensitive for my taste, I often found myself clicking it when I didn't want to.
    P7300313.jpg   P7300318.jpg
    The scroll wheel was pretty soft and when turning it around I hardly felt the clicks, please note here that I had a preview unit, the wheel was changed to a better feeling one (like the X3's). I actually liked the soft wheel. The player has a protector already applied to the screen when leaving the factory.
    The volume and the power buttons are located on the left side. The power button also includes the LED indicator which shows you if the device is on (blue), charging (red) or fully charged (green).
    P7300325.jpg   P7300312.jpg
    On the bottom there are the two mSD slots and the micro USB port for charging, data transfer (computer or OTG) and for docking.
    The headphone and line/coax out are found on top of the device.
    P7300311.jpg   P7300314.jpg
    A very big improvement is the screen. It's a very clear and wonderfully readable IPS screen. You can easily use it outside without making shades to read the screen. It never bugged me that I had to put the backlight to 100% when using my X3 on the outside, but now that I've seen its bigger brother, I know how good it feels to use a higher quality screen.
    Another thing that was changed are the jacks on top of the device. Instead of three there are only two remaining on the second generation. Now Coaxial and Line Out share the same output.
    Package and Accessories
    The unit comes in a simple and elegant black box with the FiiO logo in the middle. Inside you'll find a quick start guide, an overview of the X5 and a warranty card. Also there are a few accessories like a coaxial adapter, an USB cable (not in the pictures), two screen protectors and some stickers to individualize your player.
    There's also a black silicon case for protection, which later got changed to a clear plastic cover, because of complaints about the smell.
    Please note, that the coax-adapter is a four pole plug, and won't work with any first generation X player. Also the adapters from the first gen X3 and X5 won't work with the second gens. The reason for this is the shared output for Line Out and Coax Out, you can use any stereo mini jack for LO usage.
    P7310310.jpg   P7310311.jpg
    P7310312.jpg   P7310316.jpg
    P7310318.jpg   P7310319.jpg
    User Interface (UI)
    FiiO is not known for its great UI, there are yet a lot of improvements to be made. The basics of course are covered. You can browse the database via Artist, Album, Songs, Genres or Favourites (personal made list). Or you can access your files directly with folder navigation.
    It also supports gapless playback and has two gain settings (high/low).
    When using in the pockets the X5 let's you pick between three different key-lock settings, where different buttons are active even though the screen is turned off.
    I would have used lockscreen two (volume and center buttons), but with the super responsive center button it was not very comfortable. The production units might be more suitable for this option.
    For me personally the UI is the biggest minus about the device, since there are so many features missing that would increase the usability by a lot. Like a better playlistmanagement. The ability to add songs to a playlist without having to start them first, is one of the keyfeatures I'm hoping for. Or simply to be able to name your own playlists. I know I can create playlists with my computer, but I'm always changing the files on my card and discovering new songs and artist, having to edit a playlist every time is a real pain. Screen time out and Idle standby are set in the system settings. Idle standby sets when the device goes into deep-sleep mode. Currently both times are a little too long for my taste (30s for screen time out, and 60s for idle standby).
    There's also a 10-band equalizer, which comes with eight presets (Rock, Classical, Jazz, Pop, Dance, Vocal, Blues and Metal) and a custom one, or you can turn it off and don't use it at all.

    Other improvementwishes include:
    - add more shortcuts in now playing (e.g. EQ and Brightness)
    - Replaygain
    - Crossfeed
    - showing the percentage of remaining battery
    - database sorting by title and filename
    - faster scrolling through the library
    - updating the library in the background, so music doesn't stop when updating
    - multidisc support for albums
    Rockbox for the X players would be huge, but that's not going to happen any time soon, even though I've read that one of the keydevelopers bought an X1 some time ago.
    Hands down, this is the best sounding FiiO to date. I have the current generation players at home. Neither the X3 nor the X1 comes close to the X5.
    It sounds more neutral, more precise and natural than any of its siblings. It's very detailed and I couldn't really find it leaning towards any sound. It also has a black background and shows some space and air between the instruments. Which makes especially DSD files sound like you're in the studio with the band.
    Needless to say, I loved it.
    For experiments I tried the X5 with my vintage AKG K240 (600Ω) and surprisingly found them well driven. Still not pushing them to their best, but way better than any other DAP I tried them with.
    Advantages and disadvantages over the X3 second Gen.
    The X5 definitely wins the most important part: sound, like I said before, it's the best of the FiiO's right now. It also features two mSD slots, so double space, which makes a lot of sense for people with a giant music collection or someone who has a lot of DSD files. The wonderful screen and it's readability on the outside is also a big plus over the X3.
    I noticed that the X5 gets a little warm when using it for a while. I don't know if that's a preview unit issue or if the massproduction samples do the same. The X3 doesn't do that.
    The X3 wins two contests in my opinion. First is the portability. For a device that small it makes incredible sound. The second is value. Nothing beats the X3 at its price point, while the X5 has a serious competitor with the DX90, especially the rockboxed one.
    Working as a DAC

    Unfortunately for me, FiiO names all of their devices the same, at least Linux reads them with the same name, when connected as USB DAC. Because of that I had to delete the soundcard configuration on my laptop to make it work. I had the X3 set up as primary device, but since X5 and X3 don't share the same ID it didn't output any sound when connected to a USB port.
    After deleting and reconfiguring my setup I was able to use it in DAC mode also.

    The sound definitely improved and is superior to any other of their DAPs to date, but it appears that the only thing that's holding FiiO back is FiiO themselves. They made a wonderful device, and they had to save somewhere to make it this inexpensive. Too bad it hit the software and it's still missing some important features in the firmware. Otherwise there wouldn't be a competition.
    Maybe after the launch of their new flagship, the X7, there will be more time to add some of the requested features.

    So, would I buy the X5? I will. Simply because of it's beautiful and neutral soundsignature and the ability to store two mSD cards to hold my entire DSD library.
    Final Words
    Again I would like to thank FiiO, especially Joe for all his work and support through the tour. Also I'd like to say a huge thanks and big up to Tiefparterre Records and Mr. Dero & Klumzy Tung who provided me with their quality music in high resolution.
      P7310312.jpg   P7300319.jpg
      P7300320.jpg   P7300316.jpg
      P7310314.jpg   P7310313.jpg

    MSRP: 349 USD $
    it goes around 429€ in the EU
    General Specifications:

    Model/Number - X5 (X5 2nd gen)
    Headphone Port - Standard 3.5mm Headphone Port
    Color - Titanium
    Drive Ability - 16~150 Ω
    Dimensions - 109 mm x 63.5 mm x 15.3 mm
    Volume Control - 120 steps digital potentiometer
    Weight - 165 g
    Equalizer - 10-band equalizer (±6dB)
    Display Screen - 2.4", 262,144 color HD IPS screen with 400x360 pixels
    Line Out - Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Digital Out (Coaxial) - Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
    Balance - 10 dB
    USB DAC - Supporting up to 24bit / 192kHz and DSD (driver installation required for Windows PCs)
    Gain – 3.6dB (Gain=L) // 9.1dB (Gain=H)

    Partial Performance Parameters for Line Output:

    THD+N - <0.001% (1 kHz)
    SNR - ≥114 dB (A-weight)
    Frequency Response - 20 Hz~20 kHz
    Dynamic Range - >110 dB
    Crosstalk -
    >115 dB (10 KΩ/1 kHz)
    Line Output Level - 1.53 Vrms (10 KΩ/1 kHz)

    Partial Performance Parameters for Headphone Output:

    Output Power 1 - >245 mW(32Ω//THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 2 - >436 mW(16Ω/THD+N<1%)
    Output Power 3 - >27 mW(300Ω/THD+N<1%)
    Output Impedance - <0.2 Ω(32Ω)
    Crosstalk - >75 dB (1 kHz)
    THD+N - <0.001% (1 kHz)
    Frequency Response - 20 Hz~20 kHz
    MAX Output Voltage - >8.2 Vp-p
    SNR - ≥117 dB (A-weighted)
    MAX Output Current - >250 mA(For reference)

    Power and Battery:

    Power - DC5V 2A recommended
    Battery Capacity - 3300 mAh
    Charge Display - Red light indicates , green light turns on after fully charged
    Battery Life - >10 h (32Ω; normal volume with display off )
    Battery Display - Yes (Accurate battery % readings))
    Charging Time - <4h (DC5V 2A)

    Audio Formats Supported:

    DSD: DSD64, DSD128 (.iso&.dsf & .dff); not DST compressed
    APE(Fast): 192 kHz/24 bit;
    APE(Normal): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    APE (High): 96 kHz/24 bit;
    AIFF: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    FLAC: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    WAV: 192 kHz/64 bit;
    WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit;
    Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit;

    Lossy: MP2, MP3, AAC, ALAC, WMA, OGG
      Jill, peter123, bruce1967 and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. KLJTech
      Great review! I think one of the nice improvements over the OG X5 is the improved amp section of the X5 II. I've felt no need at all to stack it with my E12A, which did indeed improve the sound of the X5. Nice job FiiO!
      KLJTech, Aug 2, 2015
    3. catspaw
      One thing that bothered me in fiio products was always the connectors. In my E17, the headphone jack stopped operating effectivly after a year of use (HEAVY use, so I am not really that dissappointed).
      Fiio was very nice and sent me a headphone jack to replace the damaged one, but as it was my first soldering experience, I ended up destroying the unit :).
      I am unsure if the headphone jack is more resistant in the X5 (as far as I know fiio recognized the problem in the E17 units and added a better hp jack in products from that time), but if not, it would be a bummer. 
      catspaw, Aug 7, 2015
    4. bruce1967
      Nice review! I'll definitely be upgrading from the X3ii to the new X5.
      bruce1967, Sep 3, 2015
  9. nmatheis
    Fiio X5 2nd generation: A solid iterative improvement!
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Jun 15, 2015
    Pros - High-quality sound & build. Smaller, sleeker, more ergonomic and pocket-friendly design. 2 mSD slots. Deep sleep mode. Increased screen brightness.
    Cons - No internal storage. HO & LO reversed from previous generation. UI not as mature as some competitors.




    I was provided the X5 2nd generation (from here on, I'll refer to it as X5ii) 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 X5ii.  I would like to thank Joe & James from Fiio for giving me the opportunity to test drive the X5ii!


    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-1xx, 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 my SoundMagic HP200 and T-PEOS Altone200.  I do have a lot of other gear, though.  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. 



    Here's a LINK to Fiio's produt page for the X5ii.  Previous reviews have great unboxing pics and a full accessories list. I'm not going to duplicate that effort and will instead focus on a more experiential take on the X5ii.  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 to protect your new DAP.  It's really nice that the X5ii comes with a screen film pre-applied.  Thumbs-up, Fiio!  Unlike the recent X3 2nd generation (X3ii), Fiio has not installed nor provided a protection film for the back - not sure why.  However, do yourself (and your X5ii) a favor and buy a Dignis leather case for it when they become available - you will not be disappointed!


    My first reaction after opening the box was, "This looks exactly like what I wanted from the X5ii!"  When I lifted it from the box, I was happy that it was smaller and a bit lighter than the original X5. It may be smaller and lighter, but it felt very solid just like the original X5.  I was also struck by how attractive it is, with careful attention to detail. 
    As with the X3ii, I was again impressed with the attention to detail.  All the buttons were  centered perfectly within the frame.  This is something that can get overlooked even at higher price points.  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 the original X5 were the four control buttons, which are now round, recessed, and well-marked.  The four control buttons on the X5 are okay, but their shape as well as being raised makes them much, much easier to accidentally press.  Again, as with the X3ii, having smaller, recessed targets means far fewer navigational faux-pax. 
    The power button has been moved from top right on the original X5 to the left side just above the volume controls.  Surprise, it's exactly where the X3ii's power button is, but whereas the X3ii's power button was completely recessed the X5ii's is just slightly raised.  It's not as raised as the nearby volume buttons, though, which is a good thing.  Again, this means fewer accidental presses, saving battery life by keeping the screen off. Speaking of the power button, it now contains the power indicator LED (Blue = Powered On, Red = Charging, Green = Fully Charged).  The volume buttons are more distinct and separated than those on the original X5, and the X5ii's volume up button has a small raised dot to distinguish it from the nearby recessed power and volume down buttons.  
    2dIiNPaU.jpg wXKI157b.jpg
    Like the X3ii but in contrast to the original X5 and X3ii, the X5ii has a shared Line / Coaxial Out jack. I think this is a quite reasonable compromise to conserve space.  When I reviewed the X3ii, I found one UI quirk that I suggested Fiio fix before final release.  The X3ii's default was Coax Out, which was 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 DAP up to their favorite amp and get no signal.  I'm happy to report that Fiio fixed this and made Line Out the default.  This is just another example of Fiio's responsiveness to customer input.  Way to go FIio!
    I saved my two of my favorites for last: the screen and scroll wheel.  The screen is flush with the X5ii's body.  In contrast, the original X5's screen is raised up a few mm above the face.  Scratching the original X5's screen is something I worry about, however unnecessarily given the screen protector.  With the X5ii, this is much less of a concern. Like the original X5, the X5ii has bezels on the screen, but they aren't as prominent or intrusive.

    And finally the scroll wheel, what a love or hate thing it is. I'm in the love it club and found the X5ii's scroll wheel to be a nice improvement over the original X5's.  Even though Fiio has stated that the pre-production model doesn't have the finalized scroll wheel, I found it an improvement over the original scroll wheel. Maybe it's just a firmware tweak, but I found the X5ii finally has one to one parity with scroll wheel clicks and movement of the selector on screen.  How nice to finally see this.  If this makes its way into final firmware, it's going to make a lot of people happy!

    To sum up: The smaller size and weight, as well as improved placement of controls makes for easier one-handed and increased pocketability.  Attention to detail like "right-sized" buttons with just the right amount of resistance means fewer accidental button presses.  Small details like the nearly 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.  I'm very happy to see that the physical design improvements I liked on the X3ii have finally found their way to the X5.  For me, this finally made Lockscreen 3 a pocket-friendly choice.  Big thumbs-up, Fiio!


    User Interface (UI) can make or break your experience with any piece of technology.  Luckily, Fiio is learning fast!  I was an early adopter, buying the original X3 on pre-order and buying the X5 after reading the initial positive reviews on headfi.  To be  honest, it was a bit of a wild ride at first.  To their credit Fiio not only listened to customer feedback, they actively solicited customer feedback.  I'm proud to say that I was among many fellow headfiers who actively participated in that process, identifying bugs, suggesting new features, and beta-testing firmware, making Fiio's DAPs better and better with each successive firmware release. 
    Next came the X1 and X3ii, and it was clear that Fiio had learned much from their initial outings.  The X1 and X3ii had sleeker hardware and firmware design.  The X5ii follows the same trajectory, and it should be very easy for anyone who's used the original X5, X1, or X3ii to pick up the X5ii and get going with no real learning curve.

    That said, the X5ii shares some weaknesses with its siblings, lacking some features more mature DAPs have with respect to tag-based music browsing.  So if you're used to using a smartphone or a DAP with more mature firmware, you need to go in eyes wide open.  Many commonly-used tags just aren't recognized by Fiio's DAPs - like Album Artist, CD#, and Composer.  For example, 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 maintain the following folder naming scheme: Artist / Year  Album / Songs.  This can be easily accomplished (and even automated) with many tagging programs.  This structure lets me quickly navigate through my artists and once I'm at the album level, albums are all arranged in chronological order - nice!
    Moving on to themes, the X5ii lets you choose between five themes.  I think Fiio's could've spent more time and attention to these.  The only two I found attractive were Themes 1 and 2, which were fairly simple with black backgrounds (albeit textured).  That said, Theme 1 has transparent white icons in the topbar, so good luck reading them if you've got white album art - so much for Theme 1. Theme 2, you're it!  I didn't use the three remaining themes, which were skeumorphic (denim, leather, and wood).  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 just wait a bit and the themers will have you covered!

    Just like the X5 and X3ii, the X5ii features a highly-functional 10-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 Altone200 was the Metal or Rock preset - handy!
    One cool "Easter Egg" I found was that the Launcher UI switches to a linear mode when you start use the FFWD / RWD buttons for list navigation.  I'm not sure if this is implemented in X1 or X3ii, but it was a pretty cool nod to some of the X5 themers (you know who you are!) 
    Just as with the X3ii, the new X5ii's "deep sleep" mode works a treat!  Battery life is good to begin with, and deep sleep helps stretch it further by allowing you to set the X5ii to sleep after one minute without having to waste time and energy rebooting when you wake it up.  And man, does it wake up quickly!  No more waiting through the boot sequence after that annoying coworker interrupts you for the fifth time this morning (you know who you are!).  Nope, just push the power button, and you're ready to go - instantly!
    To sum up: Just like most of the boutique, audiophile DAPs, the X5ii is no iPod and lacks support for some commonly-used tags.  This 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 X5ii is very easy to use and most users will find little to complain about, especially with the lightning-fast response of the new "deep sleep" feature. 


    During my time with the X5ii, I used the following HP: HiFiMan HE-400, Oppo PM-2, and SoundMagic HP200 and IEM: Heir 4.Ai-s and T-PEOS Altone200.  I didn't encounter synergy issues with any of these, and could easily recommend any of them for use with the X5ii.  I performed critical listening with X5ii vs. my X5 and DX90, volume matching across the three DAPs using a 1kHz test tone and the Decibel 10th iPhone app.
    I'll be completely upfront here and state that I think there are a lot of other reviewers who are much better at describing what they're hearing than me.  Several of them have already weighed-in on the X5ii's sound - and have done a very good job at it! In light of that, I'm going to make the sound section the lightest part of my review. 
    I typically switch off between my DX90 and X5, but as soon as the new X3's arrived I started using it as my sole DAP and sound-wise found nothing to be lacking. It drove all of my HP / IEM well with one exception to he noted later.  I typically used High Gain for HP and Low Gain for IEM, as I would with my X5 and DX90. 

    When comparing more closely with my DX90 and original X5, I found subtle differences in the X5ii's sound signature that could sway you towards one of the others.  However, I'd like to make it very clear that to me these were subtle differences that required an A/B switcher to confirm.  Once you grow accustomed to the sound of any of these three DAPs, the differences melt away leaving you with a very satisfying listening experience.  Okay, so what were the differences I heard?
    As compared to my original X5 (FW 2.5), the X5ii has less mid-bass emphasis which tightens up the low end and overall impact of bass on the sound signature.  This was one sticking point with a lot of people with the original X5, so the X5ii will make those people happy.  I found X5ii's mids to be a bit less lush than the original X5's.  I found the X5ii's upper end slightly more detailed and clear but not fatiguing.  All of these differences were subtle but added up to a slightly more analytical / linear sound signature with a more 3-dimensional soundstage.  Personally, I've been very happy with the original X5's slightly warmer, more intimate sound signature and found it was a toss-up which DAP I preferred depending on the music.  With electronic and metal, I found myself preferring the original X5 for the slightly enhanced low end and slightly warmer sound signature.  With classical and jazz, I'd reach for the X5ii for the more 3-dimensional sound signature and to hear more details.
    As compared to my DX90 (FW 2.2.0), the DX90 has a slightly more v-shaped sound signature, with slightly enhanced bass, more energetic treble, slightly better separation and layering, and a slightly larger soundstage. There was one area where I found the DX90 to clearly win out over both original X5 and X5ii, and that was driving my HiFiMan HE-400.  The DX90 really filled them out and significantly widened the soundstage.  Other than that, the differences were again subtle.  There are plenty of advocates and detractors in both Fiio and iBasso's camps. While I enjoy both Fiio and iBasso's DAPs, I do find myself reaching more for my X5 and also found myself reaching more for the X5ii partly due to sound signature, UI, and battery life.
    To sum up: I found the differences between the X5ii and my X5 were subtle.  They have similar sound signatures, and I could easily live with either. If you prefer a more linear sound signature, go for the X5ii.  If you prefer a warmer sound signature, stick with the original X5.  As mentioned, I prefer both to my DX90 for various reasons and would recommend the X5ii as a good substitute for those looking into the DX90.


    The X5ii is a very attractive, well-made DAP with excellent attention to detail that builds on the success of other current-generation Fiio DAPs (X1 and X3ii). Fit and finish are superb.  Its size and design make it more pocket-friendly and ergonomic for one-handed use when compared with the original X5.   The more linear 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 - there's no internal storage, which could've brought the X5ii close to 400GB.  Third - when compared with the original X5, the X5ii's HO and LO jacks are switch which exposed me to some high volumes as I inadvertently plugged into the wrong jack a few times.  Being an original X3 owner, one thing I wish Fiio would bring back is hardware Bass / Treble EQ.  It works a treat!
    In short, if you're looking for a well-built mid-tier DAP with a neutral sound signature that's easy to use and pocket-friendly, the X5ii 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 see what Fiio has in store for us when the X7 when is released!
    Thanks again to Fiio for giving the headfi community an early taste of this brilliant new DAP!
      HK_sends, Jill, x RELIC x and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. raybone0566
      nicely done
      raybone0566, Jun 16, 2015
    3. AndrewH13
      Now I've published my own review, I'm really enjoying catching up with the others. Great detailed review, love the first photo!
      AndrewH13, Jun 17, 2015
    4. bruce1967
      Great review! Thanks very much.
      bruce1967, Jun 17, 2015
  10. Barra
    X5ii, Best in Class
    Written by Barra
    Published Jun 19, 2015

    Please Note: This is a pre-production review unit from FiiO as part of their pre-release “World Tour.” The review period was 10 days, during which I used it extensively, before sending it on to the next reviewer. I did not have to pay for the unit, nor did I get to keep it. Because this was a pre-production review unit running beta firmware, it is possible that release models will feature changes and/or improvements to hardware and firmware over what is reflected here.


    X5ii, Splitting the Difference between the X5 and DX90

    While the entry level (under $500) audiophile DAP market is starting to get crowded, the fight for best in class has predominately been between the FiiO X5, first generation and the iBasso DX90 as the two most popular in this class. In my eyes, while this is an oversimplification – the dividing line has been the preferred genre with the DX90 crowd going classical and the X5 crowd going pop/EDM/rock. There are characteristics of each that make them better for enjoying those particular genres, but both DAPs are excellent choices and sound great across all genres. One other line in the sand was the volume level preferences as the X5 sounds best at moderate levels getting shouty at high volumes where the DX90 only sounds its best at higher volumes sounding somewhat lifeless at lower volumes. Of course this is in my opinion using my gear so YMMV.
    Enter the new FiiO new generation X5ii. The new X5ii seems to fall in the middle ground between the two DAPs taking on some of the characteristics of the DX90 while moving away from some of its older sibling. For example, the X5 is on stage intimate while the X5ii steps back to the first section and the DX90 is several sections back. Also the X5 thick texturing is reduced on the X5ii having a more transparent, neutral, and analytic sound quality closer to the DX90 presentation. In the end, the X5ii feels more like a new player with a different tuning than an upgrade in SQ. On the other hand, the form factor has some significant improvements over the older generation. Bottom line, there is room for all three DAPs and they all sound excellent, but the new X5ii is the best all-rounder across genres.


    There is only so much room for improvement in SQ. If the goal is to recreate the experience you had at a live concert where you had front row seats, then while you were there you experienced the ultimate 10. Speakers can bring you close, but not all the way – maybe 9, but at what cost? Headphones can get close to speakers, but not all the way alternatively offering some fun coloring options – however that requires significant equipment to even consider getting close to the best speaker experience maxing out at maybe 8. That brings us down to portable options the size of a cellular phone with significant limitations placed on them to make them portable. It should also be pointed out here that the SQ is limited by the weakest link in the chain from file quality to HP. On the road, listeners are less likely to take their best HP and typically trade file quality for size. So for a DAP to get to a 7 would take some significant wizardry on the side of the manufacturer and a significant risk on the side of the DAP user to carry several grand in portable gear on the go. Limited by a sub-$500 HP is likely to keep you down to a maximum SQ in the 6 range at best. If this is hard to stomach, add to this that I am assuming that we have perfect isolation from noise and distraction when listening to take in all the details provided - which doesn’t not sound like an on the go environment at all. The environment itself is the most likely limiting factor and may be limiting our audible SQ to 5 or less regardless of the HP/DAP SQ. No matter how you slice it, there is a considerable amount of detail retrieval lost when a ferry boat horn blows - yes, I live near the water - or when I put the top down on my convertible while driving on the freeway or when I go jogging.
    iPhone 6 < X5/X5ii/DX90 < AK100ii << Desktop << Speakers <<< Live
    What does this mean? It means we are splitting hairs when discussing improvements and there are many limiting factors beyond the DAP in determining its ultimate SQ at any point in time. This also means that the entry level DAP is the sweet spot to invest in your music as the benefits of the higher cost DAPs are likely to be eliminated by the environmental elements anyways.
    One more thing – as surprisingly good an my iPhone 6 sounds, it is not a replacement for a DAP and is only good in a pinch. If you are anything like me, the last thing I want to do when I get lost in my music is, to get blasted in the ear by a ringing phone or dinged by an email – especially if I am listening while dozing off. I listen to music to escape the chaos of life, the phone only pulls you back in.

    Comparing DAP Options     

    Sound quality in a vacuum is meaningless to me so I figured that I would better serve other Head-Fiers by comparing to the other DAPs it is most likely to be compared. Here I will discuss the X5 and the X5ii and how they compare to the other obvious players in the field surrounding them. It should be pointed out that my preference in genres do flavor my findings, but I will attempt to stay neutral in my review. Typically falling on the pop/EDM/rock side of the genre line, I do like a more intimate presentation with a thicker more textured note. But I do listen to occasional classical and jazz selections and do appreciate the other signature options as well.

    FiiO X5

    In a nutshell, the original X5 has an aggressively intimate, thick textured SQ that I have grown to love. Hating to be chained to a desktop setup, I use the X5 around the house and office as well. It is built like a tank so I have no problem going to the gym or jogging with it either. It has been my companion since they were first launched.
    1. Intimate: The X5 provides details by shoving it in your face and letting you feel it. As an on stage type listener, I can appreciate this quality and it serves my genres well. It also make the band feel full sized rather than miniaturized like they can feel in the DX90.
    2. Emotional: The intimate thick details bring out the emotion in the music.
    3. Heavy: It is a heavy player that will bounce in your pocket if not properly secured, but you know its there.
    4. UI: Easy enough to work and find my music through my playlist style folder system, but would not be good for finding a song in a long library list as there are no short cuts requiringa lot of scrolling.
    5. Buttons: The external buttons work well allowing me to do everything I need with the screen turned off.
    6. Volume: The volume sweet spot was at mid level for optimal low level listening. The thick texturing brought full range sound to moderately low volume listening which is my preference and a significant reason that I love this player.
    7. Shouty: when the volume goes too high on the X5, it starts to get shouty and bright.


    iBasso DX90

    I upgraded my DX50 to a DX90 and loved the improvement finding it finally filling all my needs in a DAP. However, after being introduced to the X5, I found that I preferred its more intimate and thicker note. I also found the UI on the X5 easier to use. After sitting unused for a period of time, I decided to sell the DX90, so this information is from notes and memory.
    1. Set Back: Attending an orchestra, it is far better to be set back a section, and preferably at the front of the upper balcony to take in the entire experience. It would not be the same listening from the middle of the horn section. Classic music is where the DX90 shine given its set back sound stage.
    2. Volume: I find that with my preference for a more intimate sound stage and my choice in genres, that I have to turn the DX90 up to uncomfortable levels to get the needed detailing and dynamics. Turned up, the DX90 sounds really nice, but I can only listen at those level for so long before my ears start ringing. Having tinnitus, I try not to do this so I am stuck listening to the DX90 at lower SQ than I would like.
    3. UI: I found that the touch screen was a bit touchy and difficult to control. I preferred the X5 for finding my music and playing a song.
    4. Replaceable Battery: I loved the replaceable battery that allowed me to charge them independently and swap batteries to keep from ever running out of juice. I had 5 batteries by the time I sold my unit. That was a nice feature.
    5. Sterile: The DX90 feels sterile next to the X5 as you might expect with the set back sound stage.
    6. Layering: The DX90 seems to get its detail from extravagant layering that provides a nice prospective both side to side and back and fourth.

    FiiO X5ii

    The X5ii is a departure from the X5 in a number of ways. However, it seems to be a great compromise between what the X5 and DX90 crowds are looking for that may serve both.
    1. Front Row: Rather than being on stage like its brother, the ii sits in the front row or first section depending on the volume level.
    2. Neutral: While I wouldn’t call the original warm, the new X5 seems more neutral or analytical being set back a ways with more transparency providing its detail.
    3. Texturing: While not textured like its big brother, the ii texturing is actually quite nice.
    4. Gain: When I first got the X5ii, I was wondering what was wrong as it sounded lifeless and under powered. However, after messing around with the settings options, I found the gain switch and switched to high gain and blew my ears out. Yes, that much more power. And yes, that solved the problem immediately sounding now very dynamic and punchy. Its alive! For some reason, I guess I am just not digging low gain.
    5. UI: The UI is very similar to the X5, but I seem to be having issues reading the text where I had not issue with the X5. Either I am losing my vision or the text is a bit smaller on the new ii.
    6. Formfactor: The new player is more sleek than the X5 tank, but I do prefer the old color better. They both seem like quality DAPs from a build perspective.
    7. Hybernate: This is much appreciated new feature that allows me to leave it on all the time for instant on without draining the battery.
    8. Power LED: There is a new elegant LED on the power button that changes color with status. This is a nice touch.
    9. Volume: I find that I am turning up the volume to a higher level to compensate for the further back sound stage getting from the first section up to the front row. This puts the sweet spot somewhere in the 2/3 to ¾ range and is a bit loud for my preference shortening my listening times. However, unlike the X5, the higher volume sounds excellent.
    10. Problem: The one problem with the new X5ii is the lack of ability to control it with the screen turned off. I may be missing the function change in the settings or it may change with the final firmware, but right now I cannot use the forward or back buttons with the screen turned off nor the pause button. The volume changes to double purpose with a cumbersome long hold being forward and back making big volume changes a pain. What is really bad is that there is no way to pause the sound without turning the screen back on.


    I recently purchased an AK100ii after hearing it at the Denver CANJAM this last year. The AK represents a different level of DAP priced currently at $900. However, it is important for perspective to mention it here to gain perspective, as we are really just splitting hairs in terms of SQ. To my ear, the AK100ii sounded close to the AK120ii priced at twice as high. The difference is a dual dac and dual amp section in the 120 vs. single implementations of both in the 100. I found that the signature was exactly the same in both, but the extra juice provide in the 120 made it slightly more lush and musical. However, further playing found that I could turn up the volume on the 100 to match the 120’s lushness and the SQ differences were gone. The remaining difference was the total power available to drive the full sized headphone that the 100ii could not. That didn’t matter to me as I will be using primarily with my CIEMs that sounded equally as good on both. Stepping up a notch I compared the 120ii to the 240 and ziltch, nada – no differences. Even the AK guys at the booth couldn’t tell a difference which should be expected given that they both use the same internal except the 240 has an addition chip to drive DSD natively. Bottom line, the 100ii sounded as good as the 240 to me through my NT6pro CIEMs when not listening to DSDs. I bought the AK100ii.
    1. Form Factor: This is the prettiest DAP on the market in my opinion. It is small, light with a quality heft, and looks like a million dollars.
    2. Buttons/Controls: Usability with the screen off is top notch with the AK UI. There is a separate volume nob for accurate, tactile, and simplified volume changes vs. two buttons that need to be held or repeatedly pressed. I can forward or fast forward with a long press or go back or rewind with a long press. There is also a separate pause button for easily stopping the music if needed.
    3. UI: There is no touching this UI throughout the competition. It is cleanest most intuitive layout with keypad contextual search, and other slick ways to get to your music quickly.
    4. SQ: I am splitting hairs, but it seems to excel in all areas past the FiiO and iBasso options, but marginally, and at 3 times the cost.
    5. Balanced: It sports a balanced out option that does add SQ in terms of sound staging, but again, marginal and I am splitting hairs. Yes I did A/B using the same wire with an adapter.
    6. Usage: The AK100ii at that price point never leaves the house and is only used in the office and in bed at night. Outside, I can not hear any differences between it and the X5 in terms of SQ. My X5 leaves the house to go jogging and to the gym with me.

    iPhone 6

    For this review, I decided to test my iPhone not expecting much, but was very surprised. It sounds very good with my NT6pro having a big intimate  sound stage that is wide, but has no depth. The details from its presentation are in your face like the X5, but even bigger at lower levels. However, it loses the 3D sound stage that all the DAPs boast. With the exception of the Sony ZX1 which I only heard once, but had the same signature with a bit more clarity. However, during my testing, the phone rang at full volume into my ears and the email consistently dinged at me reminding me that I needed to get back to work.
    1. Always There: My phone is always attached to me making it an obvious choice for on the go, however, I would have to take my CIEMs with me to be able to use it and do not wish to needlessly subject them to potential loss or damage.
    2. Intimate: The SQ is big and powerful, at the loss of transparency and 3D realism.
    3. Fun Tuning: It is a fun signature that makes pop and EDM fun to listen to.
    4. Alerts: There are constant alerts going off for the various functions of the phone from email to ringing.
    5. Form Factor: Wow, the screen and UI are beautiful. If it sounded better and didn’t have the ringing issue, it could be the perfect DAP.

    Headphone Pairings

    I have cut down my stable of headphones to my NT6pro CIEMs, HD700, and the LCD2.2. Being a portable DAP, the most likely headphone would be the CIEM for easy movement. However, for those that want to know how it drives a harder to drive HP, the HD700 has a 150 ohm impedance and the LCD2.2 planer technology is known to be power hungry.

    Hidition NT6pro CIEM

    Fantastic Pairing – Sounds great! Requires a bit of volume to get the proper texturing and intimacy playing at high gain and 50 of 120, but it shakes my brain. There is a little looseness at these higher volumes, but not bad providing a nice clear picture of the sound stage and no shoutiness. Very front row with the performers right in front of me. Full sized performance with a refreshing punchiness. However, it may be fatiguing during long term listening requiring me to turn the volume down to less than optimal levels. Going down to more comfortable listening levels – 35 of 120 – it still sounds great, but I loose a lot of dynamics and the emotional quality. There is a nice euphoric resonance at all levels that is appealing. The punchiness is not lost at lower levels, just the dynamics and emotional qualities.

    CustomArt Ei.3 Demo

    Fantastic Pairing – This is a new CIEM demo I just received for a CustomArt tour I am hosting. It is a entry level 3 way BA setup that sells for around $300 custom. However, it really has a big boy sound for its price point. More importantly, it drives the X5ii to its full potential getting significant SQ for on the go. However, I should point out that as with the player itself, it likes to be played loud to achieve full dynamics and sound staging. The Ei.3 tuning is supposedly a fun v shaped tuning, but sounds reasonably neutral and audiophile while having a nice bass response. However, unlike a lot of fun tuned IEMs, this one has high quality bass that is under control. It is there and impactful, but not in bass head flabby quantities. The treble is also smoother than the typical IEM which is characteristic of the CustomArt tuning, but can get fatiguing if turned too high without ever getting shouty. The Ei.3/X5ii is a great pairing for modern music and rock and only sets you back a little over $600 for everything needed on the go. Now that is portable value.


    Great Pairing – The HD700 makes a great pairing which sounds great at 75 to 80 of 120. 90 sounds great and clear without any clipping but was a bit loud for my ears. The HD700 is relatively easy to drive, even at 150ohms. The pairing with the X5 was what convinced me to get it to begin with, and the X5ii makes it sing too. The HD700 as a very transparent HP takes on the X5ii neutral signature in comparison to the GO720 that it is typically paired with. The GO720 transforms it to a warmer more tubey signature that I typically look like to smooth the highs that the 700 is known for. While the X5ii provides very nice highs that are not shrill in the slightest, they are not as smooth as the GO720, but this is not a disadvantage, just a different quality way to listen to the HD700s. Do they drive the HD700s to their fullest, well no. The best I have heard them paired was with a friends $3K Eddie Current Zana Deux Tube Amp. However, they are driven well for on the go and around the house without being tied to a desktop.


    Good Pairing – I have to admit that this sounds a lot better than I expected retaining a lot of the higher end characteristic that the LCD2.2 only displays with high end desktop setups. The sound stage is opened up on the LCD which normally takes a lot of power or it feels congested. So it is not Eddie Current ZD or 2a3 kind of open, but more open than I am used to on a DAP without an extra amp in the chain. It also seems to be retaining its euphoric signature while bringing the top end out of hiding which usually takes power as well or it sounds dark. Adding my C&C BH2 portable amp to the chain, there was no doubt that the LCD2.2 had more to give, but the DAC section provided more sound stage than I was used to hearing even with the additional AMP. The amp just made everything seem bigger and more organic at lower easier to listen to volumes. However, I do notice that the bass goes lower with the X5 DAC driving some significant power to the low sub bass notes.

    Beauty Contest

    Which of these beauties would your rather have sleeping next to you in bed at night or accompany you out into public? Beauty is only skin deep as there are certain needs that have to be met as well. Also, which one responds best when you have to feel around in the dark to get it to do what you like? Only you can decide for yourself, so here is a photo shoot showing the contestant lineup side by side, with all cloths removed, showing the same song displayed.


    The X5, X5ii, and DX90 are all top quality DAPs that are at the top of their market segment for SQ and functionality. They each have slightly different signature that favors different HPs and different genres. However, the new X5ii seems to split the difference grabbing the middle ground for those that want the qualities of both X5 and the DX90. For me, my preference is to keep my original X5 for its unique texturing that seems top of class paired with my NT6pro. However, if something ever happened to my X5 I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the newer version as its replacement without looking back. The harder choice will be when the new FiiO X7 comes out and ups FiiO’s game. Will the X7 replace my AK100ii?
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Barra
      Thank you
      Barra, Sep 1, 2015
    3. avitron142
      Incidentally, I also enjoy the thick, intimate signature my $6 earbuds have over the Beyer T90. Dunno why everyone's clamoring over soundstage and all that, congested is better.
      My point is that it's hard to take a reviewer seriously when he prefers a thick SQ that's in-your-face, rather than a clear and spacious one. Finding an addicting thick SQ was never hard; the whole point of higher end DAP's SQ is to get rid of that.
      avitron142, Feb 14, 2016
    4. Nec3
      I like your review layout, the X5ii is on massdrop right now and I'm glad I'm not really missing out on anything with the X5 classic.
      Nec3, Jan 16, 2017