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FiiO X5 2nd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

Rating:
4.04167/5,
  1. fleasbaby
    A fantastic player...fair price, packed with great features....and it sounds great to boot.
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published Jul 28, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Size, build, sound
    Cons - None
    This review will cover the X5ii, comparing it to the Pono player and the original X5. I have a Pono in my possession now. I unfortunately sold my original X5 prior to receiving the review sample, but had spent a good amount of time with it before selling it (I pre-ordered it at its release time from B&H).
     
    The X5ii I listened to was a review sample sent out on a tour of the United States by FiiO. It was not given to me, and I am in no way affiliated with FiiO. It was forwarded on to the next tour participant as soon as I had spent ten days with it.
     
    I used CD quality 16/44 flac files on all three devices. Headphones used were the Koss Portapro, the Sennheiser HD650, the VE Zen, the TPeos Altone 200 and the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
     
    With all that seriousness out of the way, let’s discuss me, and the awkward cross-roads I find myself at here. I am a long-time fan of FiiO DAPs. They are affordable, they sound great, and they take a beating. FiiO as a company are great folks…always responsive to the community, encouraging theme modders, always looking for feedback. Let’s face it, they are an anomaly in the electronics world. They bring the attentiveness of a boutique manufacturer to a very large audience.
     
    I loved my X5. I really did. I use the past tense here, because sadly, sometimes love loses its lustre. We grow old, we change. One day you’re a vigorous young man in his prime, the next you have saggy butt-cheeks, a tendency to fart easily, and a profound dislike of young hooligans in that supreme contradiction….the saggy pair of skinny jeans (how the hell did they do that….make something tight so poorly fitted all at the same time?).
     
    We all change. Life changes us, gray hair changes us…it’s depressing if thought of as a negative thing. Personally, I like that I will never be the same person from instant to instant (even if part of that change is becoming smellier). Change is what you make of it.
     
    What does my flatulence have to do with the X5ii? Well….life happened to me in terms of my audio journey as well. I used to think the X5 was hot. It was sleek, sexy, slightly unique looking. All the things that make my little heart go pit-a-pat. So I made it mine. We made this a permanent thing (well…as permanent as anything in this life can be). We were very, very happy. Even when I introduced a third party (the FiiO E12) and a stacking kit to give the X5 a little more oomph in those trickier headphone situations.
     
    We were rock-solid….until the X5ii was announced. People are fickle things. I instantly plonked my beloved X5 in a classified and sold her off at a good price to a nice fellow down in Louisiana. Let’s face it, there are worse places to go when you are left and need a change of scenery. At least I didn’t ship it to outer-Mongolia or somewhere like that (can you tell I feel a little guilty?). I gathered my pennies, put on my Sunday suit, and prepared for my first meeting with the X5ii. All was set to go…until the Pono happened.
     
    I had always been curious about the Pono. It’s nothing that fits my usual criteria. It’s a little too quirky looking, its battery life is a little sub-par….but the tricks it can do. My goodness. It can do balanced. It can drive a pair of HD650 or a pair of VE Zen with no amp. More than that, it sounds different. It’s different from anything I have heard. Brooko was close when he described its sound as “…almost holographic…” I hear details I never heard before (yes, I did just use that cliché), and I truly, actually do hear a difference with hi-resolution music. When I listened to the Pono, the heavens opened and little angels sang as I closed my eyes in ecstasy. What was worse was, the Pono snuck into my line of sight while I was waiting for the X5ii. It was a happy accident. A deal on eBay got it into my hands. I thought “…this will be quick…a casual interlude before the X5ii is released…”. Sadly that was not to be.
     
    I listened to the X5ii. I tried really hard. But the Pono had already worked its charms on me. There was no going back. It was truly a depressing ten days I spent trying to make things happen with the X5ii. It sounded great. Better than the X5, better than the X3ii, better than the X1 (I was on those tours too). It beat out my iPhone 5, and it trounced my Clip+ (Rockboxed and my old iPod Touch (1st Gen).
     
    The X5ii is a superior player, no doubt about it. I would take it over anything…anything except my freaky, funky, dirty Pono. I will refrain from the usual clinical dissections of bass, mids, treble. I am not a very structured writer, and I know plenty of others will cover this ground very well. I will praise the positives of the X5ii though:
     
    • It sounds better than the original X5.
    • The UI is great. It’s the new one put out on the X1 and X3ii.
    • The build is amazing. Solid, re-assuringly so, and pretty.
    • Capacity is awesome. I love the two micro-SD slots (one thing my Pono won’t entertain…multiple micro-SD cards at the same time).
    • The price point is perfect.
     
    If you’re looking for a new player, add it to the list for consideration. Add it near the top. Seriously. Ignore me and my deviant love for the Pono. I'll probably be back and begging at the X5ii's door in a few months...
      Brooko, hakushondaimao and AlexCat like this.
    1. AlexCat
      Im Fiio x5-2nd owner & i think x5-2nd is very good choise for everyone! Simply listen the music without clinical dissections of EQ. It`s great step to Hi-Res music.
      AlexCat, Jul 28, 2015
    2. Brooko
      Great review Bruce - and I know exactly where you are coming from.  If the Pono had a better battery life, and slightly better user interface, I'd possibly go down that road as well.  Here's hoping that Ayre do bring out a Pono2 at some stage and fix the flaws it currently has.  In the meantime both X5ii, and Pono both hit the sweet spot for price / performance - as long as you're prepared to live with their individual quirks.
      Brooko, Jul 28, 2015
  2. jk47
    neutral sound but lacks bass, texture and air
    Written by jk47
    Published Jul 11, 2015
    2.5/5,
    Pros - neutral, uncolored sound reproduction, pleasant listening
    Cons - lacks sub-bass and weak in low bass into mid- bass, 2 dimensional sound with no sense of space, sound lacks texture - on k812, not iem's ?significance
    THOSE GREEN BARS DO NOT REPRESENT THE RATINGS I GAVE.  THEY APPARENTLY CANNOT BE CHANGED WHEN I EDIT MY REVIEW.
     
    i participated in one of the fiio x5ii tours.  i would like to thank fiio and all those who helped organize the tour.  i was eager to participate because i almost bought an x5 [1st gen] but then decided on a dx90 - i'd never heard either when i made that decision and wondered how they compared.  so given a chance to listen to the x5ii, i signed up.  my goal was to compare sq on the two daps. 
     
    i am grateful for the opportunity provided by fiio, and feel badly to post a critical review.  yet if a friend were to ask me for a recommendation, it would not be the x5ii, and i wanted to share my honest observations with the head-fi community.  
     
    other reviews describe the physical object, the interface and controls, and i'm not going to repeat all that.  i will just discuss sq.
     
    the music i used to evaluate it were the following tracks, all redbook, flac encoded:
     
    charlie hayden and pat methany - first song for ruth  - i use this the evaluate bass. hayden goes very deep in his solo.  a four string bass gets down to about 30hz, a five string about 25hz.
     
    melos quartet - schubert's quartet 14 "death and the maiden" - 2nd movement - andante -   i use this track to evaluate treble - the violin can get up to about 3500hz and of course produces overtones as well.  the first violin in this movement has runs getting quite high.  i also listen to the cello to see if the richness of the instrument is fully conveyed, and i listen to hear how well the individual instruments are defined.
     
    radu lupu- schubert piano sonata 18 - 1st movement - i have 8 versions of this sonata and lupu's is for me head and shoulders above the others.  in the first movement the left and right hands sound pretty far apart, i.e. the left hand's bass is quite separate and distinct from the right hand's treble.
     
    kleiber vienna phil - beethoven's 7th symph- movements 1 and 2 - i use this to hear how the massed instrumental sections sound.
     
    these are tracks i have heard many times and know very well.
     
    my method was to first listen to a track on the x5ii and then on the dx90, and then check my impressions by listening again on the x5ii.  i listened directly from HO via my k812's - the best headphones i have that can without doubt be driven by these daps without any extra amping.
     
    i had certain expectations as i approached this evaluation.  from things i'd read, i expected the x5ii to sound somewhat colored and, in particular, warm.  the first thing i noticed when i listened to the hayden/methany cut was that my expectation was wrong.  the x5ii sounded quite pleasant and quite neutral.  "hey," i thought, "this is pretty good."  i was shocked, however, when i played that cut through the dx90 - there was a ton of bass i was experiencing that had been missing from the x5ii.  without the comparison i don't think i would have noticed, but the difference was enormous.  the bass gets low enough that i felt vibration in my lower throat and upper chest.  as a check, as i am writing this i am playing this track through my speaker system- and there's very deep bass, bass that the x5ii did not convey.
     
    next i played the schubert quartet movement.  this sounded nice but the violin sounded a little thin.  i wondered if the dx90 would sound much different.  when i played it through the dx90, though, my immediate reaction was "AIR!" - something i hadn't thought about and wasn't looking for but it hit me in the face.  the sound was much more open and the 4 instruments more well defined.  i noticed that the cello sounded much richer - there's that difference in the bass frequencies showing up.  the violin sounded more textured, thicker.  i suppose this means that there are more harmonics reproduced, but i really don't know what is happening at the technical level.  the difference is comparable to a painting done with acrylics compared to the same image done in oils.
     
    i decided to listen to some piano music and queued up lupu.  the left hand sounded muffled and distant, almost missing.  again the dx90 gave full accounting to the bass frequencies and the left hand was contributing fully.
     
    i then decided to listen to some orchestral music.  here the difference was the increased texture and richness of e.g the massed violins in the 2nd movement.
     
    i said i had certain expectations - the 2nd expectation i had was that the differences between these daps would be subtle and take work to discern.  this had been my experience when i compared the dac sections of the dx90 and the ifi idsd.  i had used coax out of the dx90 to run the signal through the ifi's dac and amp, and compared this to using the dx90's dac and running a line out to the ifi's line in so that the signal would go through the same amp.  i went back and forth many, many times before i finally concluded that the dx90's dual sabres revealed a bit more detail than the ifi's dual burr-browns.  i expected this comparison to be like that.  it wasn't.  the differences were very marked.
     
    obviously this was not a blind comparison, and i suppose i could be somehow conditioned to the dx90's sound.  otoh i actually do most of my listening through my speaker system - vortexbox -> squeezebox touch -> DSPeaker anti-mode [just set to correct the room's effect on the bass below 150hz] -> nad c375 bee -> focal chorus 836v.  it is really my speaker system sound which is my reference for both daps, and through which i have great familiarity with my chosen test tracks. also, the differences were shockingly MUCH greater than i expected.
     
    so i feel a bit of an ingrate saying all this, but this is what i heard.
      Currawong, 7keys and Hawaiibadboy like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. AlexCat
      before this review, i wanted to buy fiio x5 2nd, now after read....i don`t know....lack sub-bass, no textures......
      but i don`t wanna ibasso dx90, because weak knobs, and poor firmware and so much reboot - it from other users of ibasso dx90
      AlexCat, Jul 25, 2015
    3. jk47
      @AlexCat the dx90 has no knobs.  people have had problems with tags; if you use folders there is no problem. last couple of firmwares have been stable, 2.2.0 and 2.3.0.    sound is neutral/airy, sub-bass is strong but a little loose.  for me the dx90 @$400 is a better value than the x5ii @$350. i've been using a dx90 happily, just decided to try a cayin n6 [which i got on sale for $500] to see if it's a step up.  if i listened to very bassy music on the dx90 i'd want to use eq to dial back the lowest bass a little bit.
      jk47, Jul 25, 2015
    4. Currawong
      @jk47  Someone else just posted a review of the X5II who didn't like the combination with AKG K712s. The AKGs seem to have a bit of a reputation of being harder to drive well than their specs suggest. I will try myself with the K7XXs and update my review too. 
      Currawong, May 10, 2016
  3. chowmein83
    The Best of FiiO as of yet
    Written by chowmein83
    Published Jul 10, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great ergonomics and build quality, great screen, overall sound quality, able to drive power-hungry headphones
    Cons - The X3 2nd gen exists
    Table of Contents
    • Introduction
    • Build Quality and Ergonomics
    • Sound Quality
      • High Gain vs. Low Gain
      • Comparisons to other audio gear
    • For whom is this player good for?
    • Conclusion
     
    (Before I even begin with the introduction, I want to warn the reader that my review is somewhat lengthy. So I have included a table of contents above which you can click on to jump to whichever section you want. I’ll also include a tl;dr summary at the beginning of each major section.)
     
    Introduction
     
    Tl;dr: FiiO lent me the unit for my honest opinion, and a bit of background about myself.
     
    Before I begin my review, I would like to thank Joe Bloggs and the rest of the team at FiiO for letting me play with their X5 2nd gen (from now on referred to as the X5ii) for 10 days. FiiO has not paid me whatsoever in the making of this review and is only asking for my honest opinion.
     
    A little bit about me so you know where I’m coming from: I consider myself to be a relatively inexperienced audiophile, having only taken this hobby seriously for the past 2 or 3 years. Funnily enough, I actually began to take an interest in my headphone system with the purchase of a FiiO E7, which was already a significant step up from the onboard computer audio that I was previously listening to. The next logical upgrade from there was the FiiO E17, which I bought and appreciated but soon found it a bit lacking in sound quality after I was exposed to different headphones and audio equipment. Fast forward a year or two, and after having been away from FiiO for a while I’m now looking for a great sounding DAP, which FiiO’s X series of players seem to be. So I’d like to thank FiiO again for letting me evaluate their excellent players.
     
    A bit more about me: I actually haven’t owned a serious DAP (the only portable music sources I’ve used are a cheapo Sony Walkman and my smartphone) even at the time of this review – hence the relative lack of comparisons to other mobile sources. I actually also like full-sized headphones more than I do IEMs, so the focus of this review will be how well the X5ii powers headphones. As for what kind of music I listen to, I like a large variety including rock, pop, jazz, classical and orchestral, J-Pop and J-Rock, and C-Pop.
     
    With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the actual review.
     
    IMGP0541.jpg
     
    Build Quality and Ergonomics
    Tl;dr: Build quality and ergonomics are excellent, and are definitely worth the X5ii’s asking price. No obvious glitches with the firmware or the USB DAC functionality. Responsive UI and good battery life.
     
    I’m not going to focus much on the user interface (it’s responsive and fairly intuitive) of the X5ii here as other reviews have already gone over that very well. But I do want to talk about how the X5ii physically feels and overall usability (including its function as a USB DAC).
     
    First of all, the overall build quality is fantastic. It feels well-built, with enough heft so that it feels like it isn’t fragile at all. Edges are nicely smoothed out, so you won’t cut yourself on any angle of this player. I also really like the brushed metal finish of the player, and it reminds me of how FiiO built their older products such as the E7 and E17, which also looked particularly nice. I actually prefer this finish to the X3 2nd gen’s (from here on referred to as the X3ii) smooth metal finish and how the X5ii ditches the plastic (?) cover on the back compared to the X3ii, because to me these changes make the X5ii look and feel classier.
     
    IMGP0475.jpg
     
    IMGP0498.jpg
     
    IMGP0487.jpg
     
    IMGP0483.jpg
     
    IMGP0485.jpg
     
    IMGP0480.jpg
    The X5ii from various angles. From the uppermost photo: front side, back side, left, right, top, bottom.
    Note the brushed metal finish, and the lack of a clear cover layer on the back side.
     ​
    The buttons on the X5ii are not too small, easy to press down and have good feedback. Of special note are how the volume buttons and the power button are located on the upper-left side of the player. Exactly as in the X3ii, I really like how the volume and power buttons are clearly distinguished from each other by having the power button recessed enough, and how even the volume up and volume down buttons are distinguished from each other due to the volume up button having a slight protrusion to it. I also personally like how the power status indicator (whether it’s charging, on, etc.) is now integrated into the power button. This may annoy some people who were used to the X3ii and how they just had to glance at the front of the player to see its status, but I don’t really think it’s such a big deal.
     
    The scroll wheel of the X5ii seems to finally have one-to-one operation – that is, one click on the scroll wheel physically leads to one movement up or down in the UI of the player. The non one-to-one operation of the scroll wheel of previous FiiO X-series players didn’t really bother me before, but it’s nice to finally have the on-screen actions exactly correspond to each physical movement of the wheel.
     
    IMGP0491.jpg
    Volume and power buttons are distinguished by distance and height
     ​
     ​
    IMGP0531.jpg
    The X5ii is nice to hold, being not too small or big and having nicely rounded corners.
     ​
     ​
    IMGP0530.jpg
    From top to bottom: FiiO X3ii, FiiO x5ii, and HTC One M7.
    Not shown: X3ii and X5ii have same exact thickness.
     ​
     ​
    IMGP0520.jpg
    The FiiO X5 (left) isn’t extremely thick, but it is much more so compared to the HTC One M7 (right).
     ​
     
    Another thing that I want to mention is the screen of the X5ii. Wow, it’s a nice screen, especially considering the price point that it’s selling at and all of the other stuff crammed into its chassis. Compared to the X3ii’s screen, text is sharper, colors are much more vibrant, contrast is greatly improved, and viewing angles are much larger. Also, it’s much brighter and much more legible in sunlight (so it’s actually usable outdoors) compared to the X3ii, which was pretty much unusable even at max brightness in a lot of outdoor conditions. Honestly, I think the screen is one of the big reasons why FiiO charges more for the X5ii compared to the X3ii, because it’s that much better.
     
    IMGP0542-cropped.jpg
     
    IMGP0546-cropped.jpg
     
    IMGP0555-cropped.jpg
    Above 3 pictures: X3ii screen at max brightness on the left, X5ii screen at 50% brightness on the right.
     ​
    A quick note on USB DAC functionality – it works flawlessly, and I couldn’t find any bugs or glitches with the X5ii when using it as such on Windows 7/8/8.1 (which I can’t say the same for the X3ii). And FiiO has now included a detailed but easy-to-read instruction guide on how to set up the driver and even DSD playback on Windows when you download the driver. Nice, FiiO!
     
    Finally, I wanted to quickly mention battery life. I’ll just say that the X5ii lasted about nine hours driving my modded Fostex T50RP (a bit of a difficult headphone to drive) at a volume of 55/120 on high gain. This was with the X5ii playing a mix of CD quality audio, high-resolution PCM (24 bit 48 kHz files and above) and even DSD. I would say that’s not bad, considering the greater voltage swing capabilities under high gain mode.
     
    Sound Quality
     
    Tl;dr: The X5ii’s neutral signature allows it to pair well with a variety of sound signatures. The X5ii drives lots of full-sized headphones with authority, even when compared to desktop equipment. There’s not a big difference in sound between the high and low gain modes. While the X5ii does well against its little brother, the X3ii, and even against some desktop units, the X3ii offers much of the X5ii’s sound quality for a lower price, which kind of diminishes the X5ii’s value.
     
    IMGP0563.jpg
    Some of the equipment I used to put the X5ii through its paces.
     ​
    Now here’s the part that everybody is interested in. How does the X5ii sound?
     
    Before I go on, I would like to mention that I primarily used the following headphones to evaluate the X5ii: Klipsch Image X10, Sennheiser HD598 and HD700, HiFiMAN HE-400i, and Fostex T50RP (self-modded).
     
    Overall, tonally I would say that the X5ii is extremely similar to the X3ii, if not identical. That is, it has a very neutral sound signature, with perhaps a (very) slight dark tilt. To me, this allows the X5ii to pair well with a variety of headphone sound signatures. For example, the X5ii’s neutral character allows me to enjoy warmer sounding IEMs and headphones like my Klipsch Image X10 and my self-modded Fostex T50RP (which I purposely tuned to be warmer) without overly suffocating me with warmth. The very slight dark tilt also allows me to enjoy brighter headphones such as the HD700, which manages to sound very clear without being very fatiguing on the X5ii. Of course, the neutral nature of the X5ii also allows listeners to enjoy the relatively neutral HD598 and the HE-400i as they are.
     
    Soundstage is of medium width – it’s not the biggest soundstage out there, but it isn’t exactly small. The X5ii also has good depth and layering to its soundstage. Imaging and separation is also done well too, so that one can clearly distinguish where sounds are coming from since they aren’t all mashed together. The X5ii also has pretty good detail retrieval, and even the most complex of music never sounds blurred or smeared together on this player.
     
    One strength of the FiiO X5ii is that it can drive most full-size headphones without much problem, even when compared to full-sized desktop units. It had no problem whatsoever powering my Klipsch X10 or Sennheiser HD598, nor did it have any problems powering my Heiman HE-400i or Sennheiser HD700. Heck, it didn’t really have too much problems powering my modded Fostex T50RP or even the HiFiMAN HE1000 beta unit. The latter was especially surprising, since the HE1000 is a relatively power hungry beast, but the X5ii actually made the HE1000 quite enjoyable to listen to (though obviously the headphone didn’t sound its best here).
     
    High Gain vs. Low Gain
     
    An interesting feature of the X5ii is that the low and high gain modes don’t only affect the gain of the volume – it also toggles between different voltage swing modes, so that in low gain there is a lower voltage swing range to save power, and in high gain there is a larger voltage swing range to drive more power-hungry headphones but also consumes more power in the process.
     
    While FiiO says that in high gain mode the voltage swing range is 40% greater than in low gain mode, does this really make a difference in how a headphone or in-ear monitor sounds?
     
    After volume-matching between the different gain modes using an SPL meter with C-weighting, to be honest the differences are extremely subtle. In fact, I would say that with most types of music (with the exception of classical, as we’ll see below), one will be hard-pressed to find any meaningful differences in direct comparisons.
     
    For example, with the 35 ohm impedance planar magnetic HiFiMAN HE-400i, under high gain mode with non-classical music, I thought I heard that drums to perhaps have a bit more impact, the bass to seem to be slightly more controlled, and perhaps the more minor elements in the mix to be slightly more defined and separated from the rest of the music. However, with classical or orchestral music, I heard a bigger difference. There seemed to a sense of greater effortlessness to the sound with mids and highs being slightly less raspy and grainy, subtle nuances in changes in the volume were more obvious, and the sound seemed to be a bit more airy in that I could hear more of the room reverb in the recording. For example, the sound string instruments such as the violin and erhu seemed to reverberate more distinctly in the air with high gain mode.
     
    With the 150 ohm dynamic Sennheiser HD700, I pretty much heard the same subtle differences between high and low gain mode. However, there was a subtle, but audible difference to its bass presentation between the two different gain modes no matter which type of music I listened to. While the HD700’s bass did not necessarily increase, the bass seemed to go deeper and hit harder under high gain mode. But again, this wasn’t a huge difference and did not fundamentally change the nature of the headphone.
     
    Overall, the high gain mode to my ears does sound a bit better, but you really wouldn’t be missing much if you choose to listen in low gain mode as opposed to high gain mode.
     
    Comparisons to other audio gear
     
    Note: All of the following comparisons were done under volume matching with a C-weighted SPL meter.
     
    Vs. the FiiO X3ii
    IMGP0510.jpg
     
    How does the X5ii’s little brother fare against it? Quite well, in fact.
     
    Before I go further, I listened to the X5ii’s high gain mode and the X3ii’s low gain mode (because I could not hear a single difference between the X3ii’s high and low gain modes).
     
    The X5ii, compared to the X3ii, has more refined and smoother edges to its notes. The X5ii is slightly more detailed, though the greater perceived detail is more due to the blacker background (of which I explain more below) The X5ii also has more emphasis on the sub-bass rather than the mid-bass as opposed to the X3ii, as well as the bass being more solid, coherent, and overall of better quality than with the X3ii.
     
    In regards to soundstage, while the X5ii has a slightly larger soundstage, the depth between the two FiiO players is really about the same – I could not detect a difference in the latter aspect.
     
    One of the biggest differences between the X5ii and the X3ii is that the X5ii has a blacker background. This in turn affects lots of parts to the sound. With a blacker background, I find that not only does everything sound a bit clearer, there is better separation on the X5ii so every instrument (and vocals) comes through more clearly and distinctly in the mix compared to the X3ii. With better separation, the X5ii also seems to have a bit more accurate imaging and slightly layering imaging capabilities. That is, with each sound more separated from each other, you are better able to perceive where the sounds are coming from horizontally and how far or close each sound in the music is from you. On the X3ii, occasionally instruments will sound like they’re on top of each other, while I find this not to be the case with the X5ii.
     
    Another big difference between the two FiiO DAPs is that the X5ii is much better able to drive power hungry headphones. However, this isn’t as big of a difference you might think it to be. This is because I honestly could not say that the X5ii sounded like it drove the Klipsch X10, Sennheiser HD598 and HD700, or even the HiFiMAN HE-400i with any more authority than the X3ii. However, there was a pronounced difference between the X5ii and the X3ii when powering the modded Fostex T50RP or the stock HiFiMAN HE1000 beta unit. With the modded T50RP, while the X3ii slightly sounded underpowered with slightly grainy mids and highs, the X5ii did not sound underpowered at all. With the HE1000, there was a huge difference in that while the X3ii definitely sounded underpowered with grainy mids and highs as well has only producing a small soundstage, the X5ii eliminated this graininess to the higher frequency sounds and produced a much larger soundstage. (I find that the HE1000’s soundstage tends to shrink in when underpowered.) But how many people are actually going to buy a DAP like the X5ii and use it to drive something crazy like the HE1000? That is why I say that the difference between the X5ii and the X3ii in terms of driving power is not as big as you might think my words would imply, since the difference is only really apparent with very power hungry headphones.
     
    Overall, going along with the general theme of the previous paragraph, the X5ii definitely is a step up in terms of sound quality compared to the X3ii, but it’s not a night and day difference and is somewhat subtle. I know that I’ve described what seems to be a lot of upgrades in the sound quality of the X5ii compared to the X3ii – but I will say that I’ve actually had to listen to the two players in direct comparison very closely for quite a while before I could actually articulate these subtle differences. Basically, while these differences will be apparent to the most sensitive audiophiles, most people are going to be hard-pressed to tell any big differences between the sound of the X5ii and the X3ii, especially if they compare the two only for several minutes. Admittedly, this does kind of diminish the X5ii’s value relative to the X3ii – but this is not to say that the X5ii sounds bad or doesn’t even sound better than the X3ii at all.
     
    Vs. the Aune T1 mk1
     
    How does the X5ii compare to a desktop unit? Specifically, the Aune T1 mk1 which for the purposes of this evaluation I’ve outfitted it with an upgraded Amperex Orange Globe (OG) tube? (The T1 mk1 and the OG tube altogether cost me about $200.)
     
    In short, to my ears the X5ii sounds better than the T1 even with the upgraded OG tube.
     
    The X5ii and the Aune T1 mk1 with the OG tube are comparable in soundstage size – both in width and depth. Both also do well and are equally good in layering, imaging, and separation capabilities. Surprisingly enough, even though Aune claims the T1 mk1 can deliver 1000mW of power into 32 ohms (compared to the X5ii’s 245mW into 32 ohms), I felt that the two drove headphones such as the HE-400i, HD700, and even the T50RP with equal authority.
     
    While I felt that the X5ii and the T1 with the OG tube were equals in terms of the aspects above, I also felt that there were a number of areas in which the X5ii was better. The X5ii seemed to have smoother, more refined notes to its sound compared to the T1 with the OG tube. I could also hear the “airiness” and more reverb of the sound in the recording environment more easily with the X5ii. The X5ii also not only had more bass, it also had the deeper and more detailed and texture bass compared to the T1 with the OG tube.
     
    Overall, while I felt that the X5ii and the T1 were comparable in a number of areas, the X5ii wasn’t worse in any single area and in fact bettered the T1 in some parts of its sound. So to me, the X5ii is the clear winner of this comparison.
     
    IMGP0501.jpg
     
    For whom is this player good for?
     
    Tl;dr: The X5ii is good for those who want the best as of now from FiiO, as well as those who have hard-to-drive headphones. But many others might want to gravitate towards the X3ii instead.
     
    The X5ii should be considered by anybody who’s looking for good-sounding, mid-priced DAP due to its fantastic build quality and ergonomics as well as its sound quality. Also, anybody looking for a reasonably priced portable source looking to drive more power hungry full-sized headphones should also give the X5ii a serious look. I would also say that the X5ii is good for anybody looking to minimize their collection of audio equipment by having just one source for both home and on-the-go usage, since the X5ii is able to drive a wide variety of headphones and IEMs very competently and has flawless USB DAC functionality.
     
    However, the X5ii’s own worst enemy is its own little brother, the X3ii. For anybody who is not extremely sensitive to how their source sounds, doesn’t really care too much about the screen, like the slightly smaller size of the X3ii, doesn't need/doesn't care about the extra features of the X5ii (such as the two micro SD slots and not having a 5800 song limit), and/or has easier to drive headphones, they should probably look at getting the X3ii, since that offers much of the sound quality of the X5ii for a lower price.
     
    Conclusion
     
    Tl;dr: The X5ii is a great sound player that’s definitely worth its asking price. However, many people (and their wallet) may be served better by the X3ii.
     
    Overall, I feel that the X5ii is a great-sounding DAP that is especially useful for difficult to drive headphones and physically feels as if it’s worth every cent of its asking price. It’s a great portable music player.
     
    However, for those who don’t necessarily want the best sound but still want great sound, they might be better off with the X3ii, which I find to be fairly close in terms of sound quality to the X5ii but for a decently lower price (and it’s a bit smaller too, which helps portability though the X5ii itself isn’t huge). But for anybody wanting the best of FiiO, the X5ii is definitely the way to go.
     
    While the X5ii is overall a great DAP with no real flaws, the fact that the X3ii exists and offers an amazing value leads me to give the X5ii 4 out of 5 stars. (Add another star to that if you really care about the better screen, the two micro SD card slots, and the greater than 5800 song limit because there are no real big flaws to the X5ii.) Don’t get me wrong, the X5ii is still a great player and is still a good value – it’s just that for most, the X3ii may be the even better value.
     
    Thanks for reading my review of the X5ii!
     
    IMGP0539.jpg
     ​
      Jill, Brooko and x RELIC x like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. x RELIC x
      Good review! Glad you covered the high/low gain differences.
      x RELIC x, Jul 10, 2015
    3. chowmein83
      @dbdynsty25 Thanks for your feedback! To be honest, I actually did forget about those features that the X5ii has (since I personally don't really use them, except for the screen). I do see your argument, and so I'm going to revise my review just a bit to reflect your valid points. But I still stand by original overall rating, because value does play a big part in how I rate products, and because I really think that most people are going to find it hard to justify the price difference if just evaluating based on sound quality (I personally actually don't think this, but hey).
      chowmein83, Jul 11, 2015
    4. originalsnuffy
      That was a very good review. I also appreciated the high gain vs low gain explanation. Perhaps I should have given the high gain mode more listening time whe I reviewed this unit

      I presume that eventually the x3 will overcome the song limit and that usb dac functionality will stabilize with future firmware updates.

      I agree that the two key points in favor of the x5 gen 2 is the greater articulation and the higher power capability when compared with the x3 gen 2
      originalsnuffy, Jul 11, 2015
  4. RedTwilight
    Noob-friendly review of this sleek looking beauty.
    Written by RedTwilight
    Published Jul 2, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Nice size, vibrant screen, very convenient deep sleep feature, lively sound and superbly black background.
    Cons - Soundstage is slightly smaller than its predecessor
    Preamble:
    I'm a budding audio-appreciator since starting on this journey a year ago. I just have average ears that like to listens to slightly above average sounds and so don't consider myself an 'audiophile' by any stretch. Please forgive any wrong use of terminology and lack of vocabulary yea. (I seriously cannot tell how 'extension' and 'texture' are supposed to sound like..) [​IMG]
     
    First up, many thanks to Fiio for once again organising this demo tour so that the common folk like us get to try out these wonderful players. Also many thanks Eng Siang and Jeremy of AV One (http://www.av1group.com.sg/) for graciously allowing me to loan not only the X5 Second Generation (X5ii) but the X5 Classic (X5C) as well.
    These units were loaned to us on the local arm of the X5ii world tour to give a fair and unbiased review. We were neither paid nor given any benefits in return for this review.
    I am also not affliated to Fiio , Eng Siang or AV one in any way.
     
     
    As I only had 3 days to spend with the X5ii, I wasn't able to gather much in-depth feedback. As such, a major part of this review will be in the format of comparisons between the X5 2nd Gen (X5ii) and it's predecessor the X5 Classic (X5C).
     
    And now on to the review proper!
     
    When I went down to AVOne to collect the unit, I was given a choice to loan the entire box, or just the unit alone. I opted for the latter and received the just X5ii and its protective silicon case. I was assured however, that the box contained all the usual things:
    1) Coaxial Wire
    2) Charging/ data cable
    3) 2 spare screen protectors (one already applied)
    4) 3 types of masking stickers (wood, carbon and USA)
     
     
    Upon popping the X5ii out from it's protective case to insert my microsd card, I saw the beautiful gunmetal finish (yes, I'm an unabashed fan).
    Button layout is identical to the X1 and the X3ii, except that the ports have been reversed. Just briefly handling both DAPs, I decidedly like the X5ii more for it's form factor.
    Not only is it smaller, lighter and prettier, the buttons on the front have been made flush with the body.
    The effect was immediately apparent during my fumbling around as I managed to accidentally go to the next song on the X5C by simply holding them together.
    The flushed buttons are much less prone to getting accidentally pressed, and the 1-click deep sleep/ lockscreen mode is exceeding helpful in this aspect.
    Functionality of the buttons during deep sleep can be selected as well, whether to disable all the front buttons or enable just the play/pause or fwd/rev as well.
     
    The X5ii was running the preproduction beta firmware FW0.05Beta. Understandably, it had a couple of teething problems but I'm pretty sure they'll get ironed out in the production version:
     
    Scroll wheel is a little glitchy and EXTREMELY sensitive. Just pressing close to the side of the play/pause button will trigger the scroll. Even waggling the play/pause button will make it scroll.
    As such, it was slightly difficult to do the pause and switch test as I kept going into the song selection screen.
    For some reason the X5ii doesn’t support a few of the 8kHz/ 8-16 bit wav test tones that work with the X5C.

    The unit spontaneously hung on the 3rd day; I was still able to connect and disconnect usb and it was on but the buttons were all unresponsive. Managed to shut down and restart the X5ii by holding down the power button for more than 10s.
     
    Round 1: First impressions
     
    It's smaller and cuter than its predecessor, but the screen is much sharper, brighter and more vibrant. It looks more refined as well.
    Volume was about 5db less than the X5C for the same volume level (roughly measured using spl app and holding the iem up to the phone's mic).
    Both X5s sound significantly cleaner and slightly more open than my X3 Classic. I could hear smaller details that would have otherwise faded into the background.
    Functionality-wise I really like that a long press on the volume buttons will change track.
    Battery life felt rather short however. I didn't get to time it but it seemed like it'd run out of juice at the end of the day. Or I was just listening a lot.
     
    Round 2: Comparisons
     
    This was the test  method I employed:
    1) Listened to X5C for a day to acclimatise to the sound, then the X5ii.
    2) Simultaneously playing the same song on both players, pausing and switching.
    3) Headphone Out on high gain for better dynamics.
    4) Tried to volume match with the SPL app on the phone.
     
    Test Apparatus
    a) Havi B3 Pro 1 (Stock Tips)
    b) ATH-M40X
     
    Test Songs
    Wagakki Band
    I love to use their songs as they're recorded with great imaging, due to all the traditional instruments being used.
    Nadeshiko zakura - Soundstage width by the shamisen off to the left
    Nijiiro chouchou - Favourite test song, most familiar and listening for plucking transients.
    Tsuki Kage Mai Hana - Drum placement and imaging. Also for the softer instruments in the background during the bridge.
     
    Hanafugetsu
    Kazaguruma - Female vocals, as the singer Yuko has an incredibly beautiful, sweet and flowing voice.
     
    Fiction Junction Yuuka
    Kouya Ruten
    Akatsuki no Kuruma
    FictionJunction songs always have a lot going on in the background, so I listen for those. The composer, Yuki Kajiura, is exemplary at harmonising background vocals with the lead singer.
     
    With Havi B3 Pro 1
    The Havi is famous for its budget king clarity and soundstage so I'll be mainly comparing those.
     
    X5C sounds cooler and more 'clinical'.
    X5ii is warmer sounding somewhat (I can't really describe but it sounds less clinical than the X5C.). Soundstage is a little smaller in width however.
    X5ii sounds smoother and more alive.
    I could get excited listening to X5ii, and start tapping my feet along with the songs. Vocals are sweet, and for acoustic tracks, I could hear the crisp plucking of stringed instruments.
    X5C lends itself to a more analytical experience where I end up trying to listen for small details.
    X5C is marginally darker and bassier
     
    With ATH-M40X
    Closed back and reputed for being neutral with a bassy tilt.
     
    X5ii has slightly punchier bass and more engaging mids, is more lively.
    X5ii feels MARGINALLY more resolving than the X5C.
    X5ii is brighter and has slightly better defined bass.
    X5C has greater bass quantity, and goes deeper as well; bass is more ‘felt’ as compared to X5ii where it is more 'heard'.
    X5C has wider soundstage, songs sound more ‘airy’.
    X5ii has an subtly but audibly blacker background.
     
    Conclusion:
    After going through all that, I must say that the differences are VERY slight. It was often quite easy to forget which X5 my iems were plugged into. With the M40x I could hardly tell the difference unless I was looking for it. Both DAPs have great levels of detail, so much that it was quite difficult to compare. If you have an X3C and the X3ii didn't feel like a big enough step up, I daresay you'll find in the X5ii a player worthy of your cash.
     
    Once again many thanks to Fiio for organising this world tour. It was pretty fun while it lasted, and perhaps I'll swing by AV One to play with the X5ii again.
     
     
     

      Brooko, Hawaiibadboy and JAMEZTHEBOI like this.
    1. earfonia
      Nice write up! Thanks!
      earfonia, Jul 21, 2015
  5. Koolpep
    Great incremental upgrade - value for money outstanding
    Written by Koolpep
    Published Jun 21, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - increased soundstage, smaller, higher quality case, lower weight
    Cons - no micro SD card covers, combined line-out, coax socket
    REVIEW:
     
    Equipment used:
    Headphones: RHA T10, T20, AKG K7XX, LCD-2f, Momentum, RE-400, HD-650
    Firmware: 0.05b (later updated to 0.11b)
     
    Music used:
    From Röyksopp to Amber Rubarth, Diana Krall to Apoptygma Berzerk, Tom Jones to Sphongle, Yello to Camouflage, mostly FLACs 24/96 or 16/44.1 - some mp3 320kbps, some AAC 256kbps
    Depending on headphone high or low gain - no EQ 
     
    Disclaimer: I received the Fiio X5II review unit from www.samma3a.com the local distributor of Fiio products. I have to return the unit, so there is no financial interest. I am not affiliated with Fiio or Samma3a.com Though I really highly appreciate what these guys are doing for the audiophiles in the region!! Thank you so much for letting me test and review this player. I had so much fun doing it!!
     
    When I review DAPs I tend to use an input switcher and play the same song on both players, volume matched by ear and switch back and forth. Then I do some extensive listening with the unit and different headphones.
     
    I owned a lot of Fiio products over the years, the X3, X5, E07K, E7, etc. and so far never had any issues with them.
     
    IMG_5067.jpg
     
     
    TL;DR
    ProsCons
    More details in every frequency bandno optical out
    Good build qualitySilicon sleeve is dust/lint magnet
    Power ampNo internal memory
    Works as external DAC/Amp in Mac/PCNo dust covers on mSD card slots
    Two mSD card slots 
      

     
     
    While the X3ii came VERY close to the original X5, the 2nd Gen X5 now puts a little bit of distance between them again, the X5ii is clearly the best Fiio has to offer right now.
     
     
    Now, the longer version:
     
    Packaging & Accessories
     
    It consists of a 1m high current micro USB charging/data cable, 3.5mm to RCA COAX digital S/PDIFadapter, 2 spare screen protectors in the box, 1 already fitted on device, pattern stickers in three different designs (US flag, wood grain and carbon fibre), HD Tracks coupon, warranty card and quick start guide. The Titanium colored X5ii also comes already packed into a black silicon sleeve/case and with a screen protector applied.
     
          
    IMG_5068.jpg
     
     
    Technical Highlights
     
    DAC Chip: BurrBrown 1792A , LPF:OPA1652, OPA: OPA1612 + BUF634U
    Ouput: 436mW @16 Ohm, 245mW @32 Ohm, 27mW @300 Ohm
    Output impedance: smaller than 0.2 Ohm
    Outputs: Headphone out, Digital (COAX) out (switchable to line out),
    Display: 2.4 inch 400x360 pixel colour display,
    Card slots: 2 mSD card slot for up to 128GB cards (256GB total)
    Size: H109mm, W63.5mm, D15.3mm (compared to oldX5:  H114, W67.6, D15.6)
    Weight: 165g (old 195g)
    Gain: 3.6dB (Low), 9.1dB (High)
    THD: <0.001% (1 kHz)
    Battery: 3,300 mAh (>10 hours)
     
    Formats supported: 
    DSD: 2.8 MHz/1 bit (dff/dsf)
    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;
    WMA9.1 Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit;
    Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit;
    All MP3, OGG, MP2, AAC (as used on iPads, iPhones, iPods)   
     
    Size comparisons & Input switcher   
     
    IMG_5077.jpg
     
           
    X5 original and X5 second generation in size comparison.
     
    User Interface and Build Quality
     
    IMG_5068.jpg
     
    As it has been mentioned before, I keep this part short as well. The build quality is very good, solid, nothing squeaks, buttons and ports have no play and feel solid. The scroll wheel is much improved over the scroll wheel of the original X5, it seems to have less feel and locks in you movements more reliably, however sometimes a “click” or turn is ignored. My particular demo model has quite some serious issues with the scroll wheel but I was assured that they won’t be present on the production model.
     
    I repeat what I said on my X3ii review: The machined case is a joy to hold and handle and it feels really solid and well made. It loses quite some appeal when put in the silicon protection case. It’s a shame that you wont’ see much of this nice device when using that case.
     
    The User Interface is already known from the X3 and X1 and has slight variations to it. Overall it’s pretty straight forward and easy to master once you get the hang of it.
     
    What I particularly like about Fiio players is that you have still dedicated buttons for many functions. You have volume buttons, play/pause/select and a FFWD, RWD (long press) buttons that skip forward and backward with a short press. Makes blind use at night or in the pocket easier.
     
    I tested the device with Firmware 0.11b which is NOT the release Firmware. So while it’s unlikely the sound might change marginally (usually for the better).
     
    Overall the UI has only a few little quirks and is pretty well thought through. They are a couple of “shortcuts” that you can access with long pressing certain buttons, since that might change before official release, have a go yourself…you might be surprised how much time this can save.
     
    The Deep Sleep mode is a very helpful feature and the battery seems to go on forever!
     
    Sound Quality Comparisons
     
    General
     
    The X5ii has double the power at 16 Ohms than the X3ii. I was surprised how well usually hard to drive headphones sounded with it. Native DSD support in this price range is pretty crazy as well. For the comparisons below I used the Fiio HS2 Headphone Output switcher. I pitched the X5 against only one single competitor this time.
     
     
    Compared to X5 1st gen (or original)
     
    Main differences:
        •    mids a little more forward
        •    same bottom end but a tad more detail in the bass
        •    more detail in the treble (just)
     
    I felt that the X3ii was VERY close to the X5 original, maybe even on par. It was a very close call.
     
    I feel that with this release Fiio has put a bit of distance again between their X3 and X5 2nd generation offering. The X5 is now superior to the X3 (again). But to be honest, not by an awful lot.
     
    Here is a quote from my review of the X3ii compared to the X5 original:
    This was surprising. It seems that the design brief for the technical team was: Make the new X3II sound like the X5 for half the money. And they succeeded mostly.
     
    I felt the X3II to have a slightly larger soundstage (!!) and shockingly similar in overall sound quality and signature. The X5 still has the upper hand in power handling and drives the headphones with ease where the X3II reaches its limits. So there is still a slight advantage for the X5 in regards to detail retrieval, clarity, musicality and fun.
     
    End of quote. So, with the X5ii the order of things is restored. I found the soundstage to be slightly better, probably caused by the more detailed and extended treble. The mids are a tad more forward and the bass, while still a bit on the warm sound is more detailed and layered.
    One could say that the overall texturing is improved across all frequencies, as mentioned the bass is dry, hard and also a bit more rumbly in the very low sub bass frequencies. There is definitively more clarity (or transparency?) in the sound. 
     
    Please note, these are all very small differences when using an input switcher and very intensely trying to hear these differences. 
     
    IMG_5076.jpg
     
     
    Line Out & Digital Out (COAX)
     
    Now instead of separate sockets for line out and COAX digital SPDIF out, it’s a joint socket. The function of it is switched in software. So you have to dive into the menu to check which setting it is and to change it of course, if desired.
     
    The combined port also means that some of the previously working COAX cables don’t work anymore. Hmmmpf. I don’t like that. However, with the supplied adapter, you can use any COAX cable and be good. The adapter cable though feels flimsy and is not of the usual Fiio quality. 
     
    IMG_5072.jpg
     
     
    DAC use on a Computer
     
    The X5 works like a charm on Macs (and I am assured on Windows equally well) without any drivers and offers an easy use as external DAC/Amp.
     
    Pros:
     
    1. increased sound quality and sound stage
    2. nicer case
    3. better display
    4. smaller size and lower weight
     
    Cons:
    1. no micro SD card covers anymore
    2. separate sockets for line out and digital out now combined 
    3. small evolutionary updates not a revolutionary new product
     
    Conclusion
     
    IMG_5066.jpg
     
     
    IMG_5069.jpg
     
     
    IMG_5070.jpg
     
     
    IMG_5073.jpg
     
     
    IMG_5074.jpg
     
     
    IMG_5075.jpg
     
     
     
    So… should you buy the new X5?
     
    Well, if you own the X3ii and run into storage space issues, the X5ii is awesome as it provides two micro SD card slots. 
     
    This digital audio player is fantastic and very much worth its money. However I wouldn't run out and buy it if I already have the second generation X3. As an owner of the original X5 it is worth considering, only if you are unhappy with the weight, size or battery life of your aging X5.
     
    The X5ii is an evolutionary improvement in regards to build- and sound-quality, it feels better and sounds better. The improvements especially in the sound quality are subtile but they are real, hence a clear recommendation. If you already own a X5 first gen, I would wait to see what the X7 delivers before shelling out for this updated X5.
     
    Overall the new X5ii is a worthy successor, rather an evolutionary upgrade than a revolutionary one.
     
     
    THANKS to www.samma3a.com and @Mazen4samma3a for the review loaner!
      Jill, Hawaiibadboy and iwing88 like this.
    1. ASpencer
      Stupendous perspective and a useful review.  Have you heard any inclinations when the X7 will be released?
      ASpencer, Jun 22, 2015
    2. Koolpep
      @ASpencer  Thanks a lot :wink: well - re: the X7 what I heard is that September but then, deadlines can slip, Fiio only states "2015" currently, let's hope it's rather earlier than later.
      Koolpep, Jun 23, 2015
  6. originalsnuffy
    X5 Generation II: Flagship Updated. Top of the FIIO Line Until X7 ships
    Written by originalsnuffy
    Published Jun 8, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Crisp clear sound, powerful amplification; 2 MicroSDXC slots; Improved Display
    Cons - Some features unstable with beta firmware or beta hardware; "lively" sound implies non-linear frequency response

    X5 Generation II review
     
    IMG_1424.jpg IMG_1428.jpg
     
    IMG_1429.jpg
     
    IMG_1431.jpg
     
    IMG_1432.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Introduction:
     
    I was fortunate enough to be in the first wave of the review tour of the X5 Generation II hi fidelity, hi power personal audio playback device.  I did not receive any compensation from FIIO for providing a review other than the loan of the machine for 10 days, and I was responsible for shipping the unit to the next reviewer in line.
     
    The design goal of the X5 was to provide a slightly livelier sound than the original X5, which had a flattish sound according to information provided by FIIO. 
     
    Most listeners will be very happy with the high degree of instrument articulation that the unit provides.  Combined with more than ample power amplification, for many users this will be a dream portable music player.  However, I think the "lively" sound signature implies a playback that provides some upper midrange emphasis, at least with current beta firmware.  This is a fairly subtle effect that only was audible with some male vocal driven recordings. 
     
    About the Technology:
     
    The unit is designed to provide native DSD playback and has dual crystal ocscillator circuitry to provide optimal playback for all currently used PCM  and DSD sampling rates using multiples of 44 and 48 khz.  Compared with the X3 series (I have both the first and second generations) it also has stronger independent amplification circuitry with analog volume control to increase audio resolution.  It has been enhanced to use power efficiently using different system voltages for hi and low gain amplification.   The auto standby mode also provide power management enhancements.  I never had the unit away from a power source to run it to zero power so I cannot verify battery life but many listeners are reporting ten to eleven hours between charges.
     
    IMG_1435.jpg
    IMG_1438.jpg
     
     
    As the photos demonstrate, it is a slightly longer unit than the X3 Gen II.  The unit can also handle two TF (micro SDXC) memory cards, whereas the X3 family only handles one TF memory card. 
     
    This review will not review the user interface, which is almost exactly the same as the X3 Generation II.  It appears that the final scroll wheel will have improved tactile feedback compared to the beta unit under review.  In my view, the current wheel is quite nice so any improvements would probably be lost on me.  The display has much better color fidelity than the X3 Gen II and is somewhat easier to see in direct sunlight.  For future units, I would suggest that FIIO look into technologies that are even easier to read in direct sunlight.  At least for me, a portable unit by definition gets used in broad daylight and I find myself having to shade the screen in order to see what I am doing with my FIIO units including this unit.
     
    Sound Quality and Amplification:
     
    To me, the two most important things that I want to cover in this review are sound quality and amplification.    Unlike many head fi readers, none of my headphones are extremely demanding.  I used my most inefficient in ear headphones for much of my testing and comparison testing with the older units, the Phonak Audeo PFE-022.  These are balanced design headphones that sound relatively flat.  To achieve proper bass response with these headphones the tips must be inserted fairly deeply into one’s ears. I had aftermarket Comply foam tips that I use for this purpose.  In sort, I found that the X5 drove these IEM units well.  Whereas for typical listening on most of my headphones I set my X3 to about 60 on the low gain setting, I need to go to about 80 for the Phonak units.  On the X5, the setting was roughly 70.  So there seems to be more power available.  I tried high gain, and frankly could not hear much difference. On paper distortion and other artifacts are reduced using low gain, so that is how I did most of my listening.
     
    Also tested were Carbo-Tenore in ear headphones, Sennheiser PX-100, and Sony folding sports headphones.  The Carbo Tenore IEM units sounded great; but those units are fairly efficient and did not tax the X5 Gen II at all.   The power of the X5 unit came through on the Sennheiser headphones; which could barely keep up with the accurate yet powerful bass signal provided.  Similarly, the Sony headphones came to life on the low end with this unit.  The low end response is very accurate; the improvement in the low end was a function of powerful and clean amplification and in no way reflected negatively on the X5.  There is a reflection on the aging headphones that were tested and on the owner of the headphones who is reluctant to invest too much in other the ear headphones due a preference for earbuds and IEM units for traveling.
     
    In terms of sound quality, I did detect greater articulation of instruments with the X5 compared with both the X3 first and second generation units.  I did almost all the comparisons with the x3 Gen II unit.  The X3 Gen II is known as a flatter playback device than the original X3 which has some low and mid bass emphasis. 
     
    On some musical sources featuring male vocalists I felt that the frequency range just above the vocals was somewhat emphasized.  In particular, this seems noticeable with Rod Stewart recordings.  At least one other reviewer noted a similar effect in a post on the X5 Gen 2 forum so I do not think I am alone in this observation.  I think that is what FIIO means by a slightly livelier sound in their reviewer notes. 
     
    I did contact our regular information source at FIIO who stated that the unit is designed for flat frequency response.  I ended up creating a custom EQ for certain recordings, but that only had limited applicability as above 48 khz EQ is not active on either the X3 Gen II or the X5 Gen II.   I do not think the frequency emphasis was a show stopper but for me it was apparent on many recordings but not all.  An alternative reading is that I was noticing artifacts in the original recordings but I did detect different frequency response with the X3 Gen II set to flat and the X5 Gen II set to flat.
     
    The greater articulation came to the fore when playing certain sources such as the recently released HD Tracks version of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.  This release features the remastering of Steve Wilson without any manipulaton by other individuals.  It turns out that the DVD Audio release of this remastering had been altered before pressing by another engineer; but not the new HD Tracks version.  The clarity of this remaster rang true with the X5 Gen II, and the playback on the X3 Gen II was to my ears somewhat more congested.
     
    Additional Features Tested:
     
    I did not have a chance to test the DAC playback on this unit as I am in the process of beta testing Windows 10 on my notebook. 
     
    I did test DSD files played back directly from the microSDXC card.  I was very impressed with the sound quality of native DSD playback on this unit.   Frankly, I felt like I may well have been in the control room of a well run studio.  Almost like I was sitting next to Steve Hoffman or Steve Wilson during a mastering session.  The files played included Dire Straits and Bob Dylan.  For more details on extracting DSD files from SACD ISO files I suggest heading over to ComputerAudiophle.com.  I also suggest SteveHoffman forums for great discussions of music and the quality of varous musical releases. 
     
    One feature that did not live up to expectations was the use of OTG playback.  It would appear that FIIO engineers have made some modifications to their OTG circuitry, and the firmware has not quite caught up to the new designs.  Management is aware of the issues with OTG, and knowing FIIO this will eventually be addressed.  However, for now FIIO is not emphasizing this capability and purchasers should be aware that I can not in good faith recommend this unit for this feature at this time.
     
    It is a Beta Unit, After All:
     
    The unit that was tested is one of 200 early production models with beta firmware.  That gives test users a chance to get a handle on the new unit before general release. However, beta software and firmware can often be less than rock solid.  The unit had two fairly meaningful hard stops on my first day of testing, which required holding down the power button for an extended time to perform a reset.  I did experience one other crash later in testing, but generally the unit ran well.  The memory card involved and the music files that were under review had been formatted using a different FIIO unit and has caused no problems on either a first of second generation X3.    In fact, the same files played just fine once the unit was restarted so I attribute this to beta firmware.  I do not anticipate that production models will have these issues.
     
    Conclusions:
     
    This is, no doubt, a premier playback unit.  Personally, I would prefer a flatter frequency response in the upper midrange with the same articulation benefits of this unit.  This effect is subtle; I suspect it is no more than 3 db and many users will be fine with this.
     
    In the future, I would suggest that FIIO consider adding either hardware equalization like the original X3; or extending the equalization circuitry to handle hi res PCM and DSD files.
     
    If the reader has demanding headphones then this unit is a must consider purchase.  On the other hand, if one's headphones are generally non demanding, the X3 Generation II could also be considered. The sound is not quite as detailed, but is quite listenable and the unit is smaller and less expensive ($349 suggested US retail for the X5 Gen II vs. about $199 - $229 for the X3 Gen II).
     
    I thank FIIO for the opportunity to test this high quality unit.
     
    IMG_1442.jpg
    IMG_1439.jpg
     
    IMG_1441.jpg
      HK_sends, Jill and Light - Man like this.
    1. Light - Man
      Thanks Snuffy for an honest review, I hope Fiio can sort out the upper midrange emphasis issue?
      Light - Man, Jun 9, 2015
    2. AndrewH13
      Now I've completed my own review, I'm enjoying reading previous ones. Interesting reading comparisons with X3, thank you.
      AndrewH13, Jun 17, 2015
  7. Barra
    X5ii, Best in Class
    Written by Barra
    Published Jun 19, 2015
    4.5/5,

    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.

     
    DSC00482.jpg
     

    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.
     

    Perspective

    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.
     
    Notes:
    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.
     
    Notes:
    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.
     
    Notes:
    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.
     

    AK100ii

    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.
     
    Notes:
    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.
     
    Notes:
    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.
     

    HD700

    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.
     

    LCD2.2

    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.
     
    DSC00490.jpg
     

    Conclusions

    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
  8. DDDamian
    The Fiio X5ii: Can it do it all?
    Written by DDDamian
    Published Aug 15, 2015
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
    2015-07-2011.01.18.jpg
     
    [​IMG]
    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
     
    2015-07-2011.04.49.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    2015-07-2011.03.41.jpg
     
     
    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.

     
    Conclusions
    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
  9. WayneWoondirts
    FiiO always delivers
    Written by WayneWoondirts
    Published Jul 31, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - audioquality, price, design, build, screen, two mSD slots, native DSD, power
    Cons - user interface, very responsive center button
    Disclaimer

    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.
     
    Introduction
     
    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)
     
    P7300324.jpg
     
    Build
     
    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
     
    P7310320.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.
     
    Sound
     
    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.

     
    Conclusion
     
    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
     
    Price:

    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:

    Lossless:
    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
  10. nmatheis
    Fiio X5 2nd generation: A solid iterative improvement!
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Jun 15, 2015
    4.0/5,
    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.

    zpTbnB6s.jpg

     

    DISCLAIMER

    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!
     
     

    ABOUT ME

    I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  From electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush), I listen to a wide variety of genres and artists. 
     
    My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-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. 
     

     

    REVIEW

    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!
     
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    BUILD & ERGONOMICS

    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. 
     
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    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!
     
    W54hJIhN.jpg
     
    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.
     
    5fIOZR2C.jpg
     

    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!
     
    KDuP2wwF.jpg
     

    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 / FIRMWARE

    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.
     
    u0jAjyds.jpg  

     
    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!
     
    ZQ1eNIdk.jpg
    1XAxNsmS.jpg
     

    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!) 
     
    OZwgeKPk.jpg
     
    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. 
     
     

    SOUND

    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.
     
    anbfVSCu.jpg
     
    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. 
     
    OEitDVDG.jpg
    PLqEEPBZ.jpg

     
    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.
     
    pvsv7eQ9.jpg
     
    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.
     
     

    SUMMARY

    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