1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

FiiO X5 2nd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

Rating:
4.04167/5,
  1. piksnz
    Fiio's best digital audio player till date
    Written by piksnz
    Published Jul 25, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - SQ, Price, Native DSD, Battery, Fiio design culture, two sd card support
    Cons - Lacking bass, no internal storage, UI bit laggy
    Video review of Fiio X5ii.
     
    [​IMG]
      Brooko likes this.
  2. reihead
    Fiio X5 2nd generation, simply better. even better value
    Written by reihead
    Published Jul 12, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great sound, build quality, instant On, enjoyable screen
    Cons - Not huge sound difference from previous version (could be a pro), UI somewhat limited, Combined Line Out/Digital Out socket
    Disclaimer
     
    1. I’m part of the X5 Preview tour. I had the chance to evaluate the unit for 10 days thanks to FiiO.
    2. I have no affiliation with FiiO in any way.
    3. The following words are my personal opinion, I wasn’t forced to give a favorable review or leaded in any way.
     
    As always big thanks to everybody at FiiO for allowing me to preview the player.
     
     
    About me
     
    I'm an avid music lover. I'm all about listening music on the go, I have tried several Apple product but never own one. To carry a brick has never been an option for me. Used many Creative players for years. The X3 was my first hi-definition portable player.
     
    I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but certainly can appreciate quality and I drive myself to find it with the better value possible. My music taste goes from Jazz, to Industrial, to Rap. My digital library is now mostly flac but also a lot of lossy mp3 files (224 kbps or more), and some 24bit flac files.
     
    I’m a web developer and app developer for smartphones, technology is part of my life.
     
     
    About this review
     
    This review comes after evaluating the player for 10 days straight as my main player.
    Many files type were used in the evaluation, FLAC, mp3, m4a, wav at different bit rates.
     
     
    IMAG0310.jpg
     
     
    Specifications
     
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/41
     
     
    Built
     
    I'm a huge fan of the build of the original X5, I was looking forward to compare the build and the day to day feel while using it on the road. Have tried the X1 before, the X5 2nd gen follows the same line of design, indeed Fiio is establishing a solid uniform design across all DAP.
     
    Well build with premium aluminum, par with what Fiio has done with the X1 and the X3 2nd gen. Now this is a darker color, yet does not come in black (insert Morgan Freeman voice here).
     
    The device is smaller and lighter than the previous generation, big difference here in holding and handling the device, feels more natural to use the wheel as is easier to reach.
     
    The plastic flaps for the micro SDCard slots are gone, which is a good thing. Details like the power indicator light in the power button make the X5 2nd gen build one to enjoy.
     
    Now, not everything has been improved, ports has changed and not for the better, Line Out (LO) and Headphone Out (HO) changed side now, also the LO/Digital Out is a single 3.5mm jack switchable via menu. That being said, you will only feel this as an issue if you have used the original X3 or X5.
     
    IMAG0314.jpg
     
     
     
    Screen
     
    The screen has seen a huge improvement, is bright and with great color, this thanks to a new IPS screen. Main advantage here is usability in bright sun light. The screen of the original X5 looks washed out in comparison.
     
     
    UI
     
    User Interface is the other aspect Fiio has solidify and now is uniform for most of the X line, a few good improvements can be found, but no radical change from the Fiio UI found on other players. UI is responsive and easy to use, yet the playlist features could be more powerful and the lack of a proper now playing queue could be deal breaker for some.
     
    The new instant On feature is one of those features that you can’t have a feel for or treasure until you have tried it, Fiio accomplish this by putting the player in a deep-sleep instead of a full switch off, with this the player can wake up literally in less than a second, this translates into playing music right away, no need to wait, right where you left off, power, play, listen all in less than 2 seconds. In case you wondering, this feature doesn’t affect the standby time of the device, Fiio claims it will last up to 4 weeks from a full charge.
     
    Scanning of files for library is faster than ever. Yet if you have a huge library, be ready to do a lot of scrolling to find an album or artist.
     
     
    Sound
     
    So how does it sound? At first listen I couldn't hear any difference comparing to the original X5, Fiio stated that the original X5 sounded a bit flat, after a few days I started to hear the improvements, now keep in mind these were hard to pick up, if you are expecting a full upgrade step from the original X5 you will be disappointed. But that's not the goal of the X5 2nd gen, here what is achieved are small tweaks to the sound, which are gladly welcome.
     
    Key here is it sounds effortless, a more natural enjoyable sound. Bigger difference is in the bass, more defined and faster.
     
    On tracks like Mark Ronson - Uptown Special and Kendrick Lamar - i, the effortless sound translates into a more enjoyable tune. 
     
    IMAG0315_c.jpg
     
     
    Storage
     
    As with the whole X line of Fiio (except from the X3) there is no internal storage on the X5 2nd gen. Two Micro SDCard slot are available to satisfy loading a huge library, I threw two 128GB cards at it, worked flawlessly.
     
     
    Other considerations
     
     
    Battery life wasn't measured.
     
    DAC function wasn't tested.
     
    Firmware used: 0.11
     
    Earphones used: V-Sonic's GR07 BE and Fidue A83, both in Low Gain, Volume 45-60.
     
    No comment about the buttons or scroll wheel (test unit didn't have production version)
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    If you are in the search for a DAP, I can recommend the X5 2nd gen even more than I recommended the original X5. Again, great price and great value is the main focus here. Fiio manage to keep the same price as the original X5 while upgrading pretty much every aspect of it and keeping the sound quality and tweaking it.
     
    For owners of the first incarnation of the X5, the decision is not that easy. The slight change in the size and the instant on are features welcomed by everybody, now you would have to ask yourself if native DSD decoding, screen readability in the sunlight, better ergonomics and other improvements are important to you, if the answer is yes, then you can justify the upgrade.
     
     
    You can check my review of the original X5 here
      ASpencer likes this.
    1. x RELIC x
      Nice review. FYI the original X5 screen is also IPS and I wonder if they are actually the same screen. Default brightness is three notches higher on the X5ii though. There may be a different layering/coating on the new screen or slightly different HW settings, but they are very very close when the brightness is matched.
      x RELIC x, Jul 12, 2015
    2. reihead
      Thanks. That wasn't my experience, they feel miles away in color reproduction and as you said brightness is higher. Maybe my X5 1st gen screen is acting up?
      reihead, Jul 13, 2015
    3. AndrewH13
      Agree with all that, good review!
      AndrewH13, Jul 13, 2015
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. daduy
    Fiio best DAP so far
    Written by daduy
    Published Jul 8, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, features (work as a DAP + DAC), plays pretty much all music format, two micro sd slot
    Cons - No internal storage
    Disclaimer
     
    I got this unit as part of New Zealand tour arranged by Brooko, thank you very much for including me in this tour.
     
    Introduction
     
    I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 7 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
     
    I listened to the X5 II daily in my commuting from home to work and in the office for about 10 days.
     
    I have always wanted to try out the original X5 since the first time i saw it, it just looks so nice and majority of people seems to like them a lot, so i am very happy that I finally got a chance to try out the 2nd gen one.
     
    I am going to compare the X5II with a Rockboxed 5th Gen Ipod. 
     
    For the majority of my listening i am using Shure SE420 on my travel and Fidelio X1 on the office, i also try out other headphones with them such as AKG K500 and KRK KNS 8400.
     
    Build Quality
     
    IMG_20150626_120358.jpg
     
    IMG_20150626_120415.jpg
     
    IMG_20150626_120428.jpg
     
    IMG_20150626_120532.jpg
     
    IMG_20150626_120544.jpg
     
     
    Similar to the X1 and X3II, X5II is build in a similar manner, solid all metal body, really feel good in your hand, they are bit bigger than X1/X3/Ipod 5th gen but i really like the dimension, it just feel good in your hand. I had the chance to use the pre-prod unit and the final production version of the X5II as well, and i can happily report that the scroll wheel is so much better on the final production unit, they have more resistance and an obvious step to them compare to the pre-prod unit.
     
    Interface
     
    This kind of stuff never bothered me much, but if anyone need to know i found them very easy to use, no problem here, i kinda get used to the interface from my handling with the X1/X3II on my previous tour.
     
    Deep Sleep
     
    One thing that i really like is their ability to go to deep sleep without shutting them down, this feature was first introduced on X3II and thankfully stays on the X5II ,when i plugged out my earphone X5II will go to deep sleep after it's idle for a couple of minutes, when i plugged my earphone back it will resume the music instantly, awesome!
     
    Sound Quality
     
    Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? I would say they sound neutral with a bit of boost in the bass region, it's definitely the most neutral sounding DAP from Fiio that i've heard, at least compare to X1 and X3II. They are transparent enough that when i change my headphones i can immediately hear the difference in the sound signature.

    AKG K500 sounds really natural with them, but i love pairing KRK and Fidelio X1 better than K500, i am guessing because they just add more sparkle to the neutral sounding X5II. 
     
    The X5II has enough power to drive any of my headphones without using any amps. I tried using headstage arrow 2g out of the line out but honestly i can't hear any major improvement, the X5II is fine as it is.
     
    As mentioned above, i am comparing them to a rockboxed 5th gen ipod, i use Fiio headphone switcher to quickly compare the sound between the ipod and X5II.
     
    IMG_20150626_102410.jpg
     
     
    So how do they fare againts 5th gen ipod? well to my surprise they sounded really really similar. I honestly expected the X5II to be miles ahead, but it's so much closer than that. They both share a
    neutral presentation and similar detail retrieval (at least from what i can hear using the same source of music files). There is a difference of course! When listening to Acoustic Alchemy, guitar notes has longer decay on the X5II, the echo of the steel being pluck lasted longer on the X5II, it's interestingly sort of being cut short on the ipod, X5II also provide punchier bass than the ipod, this is all the difference without any EQ being used.
     
    Let's not forget that the similarity ends there, the X5II just provide a whole lot more than just a simple music player, it plays DSD, it can act as a DAC (a good one as well, they pretty much just plug and play on my linux box), it's one DAP that can do (almost) anything.
     
    Summary
     
    Similar to the X3II, They are awesome, sounds good, feels good, work as DAC, work as DAP, and pretty much the only thing you need for your portable music solution, have two microSD slot so you can carry all the music that you need in the world.

    While they are really good, i honestly still thing that X3II provide better value for money compare to X5II. If you got the money, X5II is the better sounding DAP, but if you're tight on a budget, the X3II come really close.
     
    Note: I don't have the X3II for direct comparison with the X5II, the above statement is based on my lasting impression on them, so please take them with a grain of salt.
      Brooko and Light - Man like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. csglinux
      Nice review :) I agree 100% with all your observations. I made my comparisons against the iPhone 6, but reached basically the same conclusion. The sound is surprisingly similar. There is a little more treble extension with the X5ii, but it's hard to say for sure whether there's really extra detail in its DAC/amp, or whether it simply sounds that way as a result of the slightly different frequency response. (Giving my iPhone a treble boost with EQ or different cans also opens up a bit more detail.) The extra features and storage still make this a nice device, but on sound alone, I think most people (if they do an honest AB test as you have) will find the differences not as large as they might have expected. Daduy, whatever you do, don't post this review on Amazon. The Fiio faithful will rip you to shreds.
       
      I have a question for the community. I may be insane or have awful hearing, but I really, really liked the 6th gen iPod nano. It's really tiny, so lightweight you wouldn't even know it's there, and you can clip it on your clothes. It's perfect for any activity where you don't want the weight and bulk of a phone (or a Fiio). But the device only comes with a maximum 16 Gb storage :frowning2: I thought by now, there would be somebody building a device this small that would take microSD, or at least have a lot more on-board storage. The problem (for me) with virtually all these newer high-storage capacity DAPs is they contain a lot of fluff I don't need (like super-powerful amps and 24/192, DSD, .iso file playback, along with a bigger battery to drive it all, hence lots of bulk and weight). Does anybody know of a good quality, really tiny DAP with 128 Gb+ storage capabilities? (FLAC or ALAC 16/44 playback is all I need!)
      csglinux, Jul 15, 2015
    3. daduy
      hi @csglinux
       
      thanks for confirming, it's nice to know that it's not my only ears :)
       
      Anyway have a look at shozy alien, i think they support up to 32gig microsd.
       
      Cheers!
      daduy, Jul 20, 2015
    4. csglinux
      Thanks for the tip on the Shozy Alien!
      csglinux, Jul 24, 2015
  6. 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
  7. twister6
    A step up from the original X5
    Written by twister6
    Published Jun 24, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Updated slick design, build quality, sound quality, native DSD support, a ton of settings
    Cons - flush mounted control buttons, HO/LO flipped in comparison to other FiiO products, pre-production quality scroll wheel

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

     
    With a consistent flow of new releases, I feel like we have been spoiled by FiiO and their quality audio products.  I didn’t even realize it has been year and a half since the release of their original X5, and now I’m looking at their new X5ii flagship DAP released a few months after another impressive X3ii DAP update.  What strikes me the most, FiiO continues to update a number of their previously released models (DAPs and amps) while keeping price in the same ballpark.  And I’m not talking about a cosmetic refresh or a firmware update but actually a complete redesign.  Perhaps it’s the way how they challenge themselves, trying to come up with a creative update without raising the cost.  In my opinion, they do succeed every single time, with their latest X5ii being another perfect example of it!
     
    At the same time this high pace of new releases sometime feels like smartphone industry where every six months to a year we are faced with choices to either stay with a current phone or to upgrade, and if you decide to upgrade - either going with a smaller or bigger screen model.  I think a lot of FiiO fans will be facing a similar choice, either keeping their original X5 or upgrading to a “smaller” X3ii or a “bigger” X5ii, figuratively speaking.  If you want the latest and the greatest new release, a decision is simple - go with X5ii without looking back.  But for other loyal FiiO fans or new customers who are looking into different DAPs, I hope my review will provide some useful guidance to make your decision easier.  FiiO is very active and generous in various audiophile communities, such as Head-fi, where a lot of reviews and impressions have been posted already.  With my write up I hope to fill in some gaps and to offer a different perspective to compliment other available info.
     
    Though the unit I received is pre-production review sample, the content of the packaging should be close to the final product which I'm sure will include a colorful outer sleeve on top of the box my unit came in.  Keeping up with a tradition, X5ii arrived in a formally dressed black gift box setting with a nicely padded interior to ensure a secure transport of its content.  I personally like such gift-box detail, actually adapted by a number of manufacturers, since it makes unboxing experience a little more special and a sturdy carton box is also a great storage.
     
    Unboxing.
     
    fiio_x5ii-01_zpswb769v62.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-02_zps7tkbu5di.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-03_zps1hrnsvmg.jpg
     
     
    Already dressed in silicone skin and ready for action, after removing X5ii from a cutout of the foam insert tray, I accessed the accessories box and was able to explore the rest of the included goodies.  No surprises were found here, just a familiar set of accessories consistent with their other models.  You get a quick start guide and a separate flash card with a layout and explanation of hardware controls, extra 2 sets of screen protector in addition to the one which comes already pre-installed, a cover stickers for the front/back/sides if you decide to personalize your DAP further (includes US flag, wood, and carbon fiber themes), usb to micro-usb power/data cable, and a short Coax patch cable.  I think a final production unit will also feature a flash card reader.
     
    While a carbon fiber sticker doesn't look too bad, I’m not so sure about other two themes and would suggest in a future to include something alternative for the ladies.  Brushed aluminum and carbon fiber finish is great for guys, but I would like to see FiiO making an effort to widen their sex appeal.  Actually in my personal opinion, the brushed aluminum body finish is too cool to cover with anything permanent, except with an included silicone case.  Screen protector is always a good idea to protect X5's gorgeous 2.4" HD IPS screen from scratches and smudges.  As for usb cable, FiiO usually includes a quality one which also guarantees a fast 2A charging with an appropriate supply.  The micro-usb connector is slim and has a nice lock grip, just another detail I want to bring up since with a few of my other usb charging cables I had to take silicone skin off in order to get a proper fit/connection.  Coax cable is different from the original X5 since in X5ii LO and Coax 3.5mm ports are shared, thus you will find extra ring-contacts (TRRS style) on 3.5mm connector side.
     
    Accessories.
     
    fiio_x5ii-04_zpsbi5223n7.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-05_zpslvmrqley.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-06_zpswxas5b2f.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-07_zpsbkynzcdx.jpg
     
     
    I usually don't spend too much time talking about silicone case, but still wanted to bring up a few important points.  There is no surprise, silicone case gets static and becomes a lint magnet, but I still prefer it over any slippery plastic case because I like a secure grip.  Another benefit, it protects your DAP from scratches and minor drops, creates extra friction when placed on a smooth surface, protects outside surface itself from scratches, and protects the shell from scratches when stacked with external amp rubber-banded together.  The case has a perfect cutout for screen and navigation wheel, micro-usb port, a flap over LO/Coax port, and open HO port.
     
    HO port opening is very useful in this case because FiiO flipped HO and LO ports in comparison to their other DAPs where left-most port used to be always for Headphone Output.  We are creates of habit, and without a case and both ports exposed there is a very good chance that you will make an attempt to plug in your headphones into LO port to get a very unpleasant ear-full surprise, especially if you are a/b it with original X5 or X3ii.  So even if you prefer to go naked without a case, use it for the first few weeks as training wheels until you get used to HO port being on the right side at the top.
     
    Another interesting discovery I made even before turning the power on was a hole right in the middle of the power button cover.  In this new X5ii model FiiO integrated a status multi-color LED right inside of the power button thus an explanation for a small opening in the case to view the light.  Volume up button on a silicone case, just like with an actual DAP button, has a little id bump so you can identify volume+ control blindly in your pocket with a brush of a finger.  Power button itself is flush mounted to avoid accidental pressing.  The other 4 control buttons around navigation wheel are flush mounted as well and also nearly flat on the silicone case.  It's useful if you have selected Lockscreen option that enables their control for track switching, and you no longer have to worry about accidentally pressing buttons in your pocket the way how it was with raised buttons in original X5.  But at the same time, I would prefer buttons to be raised just a little bit like it was in X3ii which is the most ideal in my opinion.
     
    Silicone case.
     
    fiio_x5ii-08_zpsf7zkeaix.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-09_zps7gwjsbmb.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-10_zpsrnibq4zp.jpg
     
     
    When it comes to the actual design, in my opinion X5ii is definitely a step forward in terms of a more compact footprint in comparison to the original X5.  While keeping the thickness nearly the same, the length and the width got trimmed down and weight got reduced by nearly 30g.  Similar to X3ii design, top of the unit has 3.5mm Headphone Output (HO) and a shared Line Out (LO) and Coax outputs.  There is nothing on the right side, and left side is consistent with a top Power button (already discussed with a built-in status led) and volume up/down buttons.  No longer will you find a reset pinhole, just need to press and hold power button for the same functionality.  Consistent with the original X5 design, the bottom has 2 micro-SD card slots and micro-usb connector.  You are also going to find 2 screws at the bottom if you dare to take X5ii apart, though be aware of voided warranty.
     
    You will no longer find a dust cover rubber flaps over micro-SD slots similar to the original X5.  If you carry your X5ii in a silicone case, it really doesn't matter since it will be covered and protected from dust already.  I also believe it's not a big deal without a case with a card inside, like it is with any other DAP.  But considering dual card slot and if you are not using a case and only have one card populated - it's not ideal for the other slot to be open while collecting the dust.  Perhaps, get some dummy or super cheap micro-sd card from ebay just to use for the purpose of keeping a dust away.
     
    The front of X5ii has 2.4" HD IPS screen at the top and a scrolling wheel with 4 control buttons around it and one button in the middle, a familiar layout carried over through all of the X-models (after the original X3).  I know a lot of people will be curious about a scrolling wheel "evolution" since FiiO has been consistent with improvements from X5 to X1 and X3ii.  Unfortunately, my review unit came from a first pre-production batch where FiiO made it clear this is not a final wheel version.  It wasn't as wobbly as X5 wheel, but still had a loose movement without a click-feedback like implemented in X3ii.  FiiO mentioned that final production units will have a scrolling wheel similar to X3ii which has been already confirmed by some users who got their hands on final production units.  When it comes to my actual review unit, I wasn't as pleased with a wheel due to a light-touch turning by simply brushing against it.  Unfortunately that happened a lot because control buttons were flushed with a surface and I had to hover over a surface with my finger to locate them.  Even with a scrolling wheel mechanism such as the one used in X3ii, I personally think the layout of these buttons pushed away a little more from the wheel and the flush mounted design is a step back from X3ii where it was just perfect for one handed operation.  X5ii is still feasible to use with one hand, but I just wish the beveled area and buttons around the wheel were similar to X3ii.  Either way, if I get a chance to play with final production unit, I will come back and update my scrolling wheel impression.
     
    Design details.
     
    fiio_x5ii-11_zpsoamt6qeg.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-12_zpscd7zcpr2.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-13_zpsopaoyhml.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-14_zpsaraclwrt.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-15_zpsh8vt6fou.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-16_zps0vuyxmvq.jpg
     
     
    Though exterior changes are the most obvious differences when you first look at the new X5ii, the 2nd gen update included a lot of substantial internal design changes and improvement as well.  Probably the first and the most noteworthy change come from a new redesigned amplification stage and analog volume control.  To my ears the improvement was noticeable enough and I will talk more about it in sound test section of the review.  Another change had to do with all new digital audio architecture with a dedicated dual crystal oscillator covering all major rates.  Using multiples of common clock rates to derive other rates ensures a reduced jitter performance.  I was also glad to see implementation of hardware DSD decoding with a native DSD support without a need for internal PCM conversion - another noticeable improvement when playing hi-res lossless files.  Of course, X5ii still supports almost every available lossy and lossless format under the sun, everything from DSD64/128 to 24bit/192kHz in FLAC, APE, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, and other formats such as MP3, AAC, OGG, etc.
     
    Native DSD support was introduced in X3ii already, the same way how the introduction of in-line remote control support got carried over from X3ii to X5ii.  Don't expect volume control on in-line remote to work, but a single click Play/Pause and multi-click track skip worked flawlessly with a lot of my headphones.  It's true that a lot of audiophiles prefer audio-only cable, but when you are on the go and want a simple remote control without reaching for your DAP or fumbling in your pocket - support of in-line control is extremely valuable.  Another improvement carried over from X3ii was a new power management with a deep-sleep standby and instant-on resume - an absolute life safer when you take periodic breaks from listening and don't want to restart your DAP if it shuts down after time out.  
     
    Btw, this deep sleep is not a gimmick.  I tested it on a number of occasions and was always amazed by how little battery was drained while in this standby mode.  Even when you are playing the music, battery life was still impressive with playback of about 10-11 hrs depending on the gain level and the volume level.  FiiO also mentioned about implementation of Coulomb meter for precise battery level readout.  I just hope that at some point they will implement the actual % of battery display in notification bar as well.  This 10-11 hrs battery endurance was accumulated across various tests where most of the time screen ended up being off - a typical real life usage.  With a screen on the time will be reduced a little, though it's hard to quantify it since it all depends on your usage.  And speaking of a screen, the rich color saturated display of X5ii is among the best out of the entire FiiO lineup, and it was an absolute pleasure to use it indoors and outdoors with a clear and crisp visibility of menus and full album cover art, actually a big step up from X3ii display.
     
    Since I mentioned about a display, I think now it's a good time to dive more into FiiO’s updated GUI.  Actually those who are intimately familiar with X1 and X3ii, X5ii GUI layout will be seen more like a dot update.  With a clear semi-circle left to right menu layout, it was updated with an improved graphics details and more features added under setting and playback menus.
     
    The main screen presents you with 5 selections of Now Playing (defaults to a currently playing track), Play by Category (with a choice of All songs, Album, Artist, Genre, Collection of Favorites - tagged from song playback, and Playlists selection), Browse Files (my favorite selection to view files by folders in Card 1, Card 2, and OTG connection - as long as you have FAT32 formatted device, you can expand your storage capacity by connecting external memory through usb OTG adapter), Play Setting, and System Setting.  As you can see, there are plenty of choices for music browsing and playback, and navigation is super easy with a scrolling wheel.  Once you select a song and it starts playing, the playback screen will display song/album art, if available, and you will see a current time marker for the song and the total time, the title of the song and the artist, and briefly a display with info about the file type.
     
    In the notification bar you can always see a volume level with corresponding value, Gain setting (L or H), EQ selection, a number of populated micro-sd cards, Playback status (plays/pause), and a battery status.  During the playback you can skip a song using two control buttons at the bottom or just by scrolling a wheel which brings you to a folder list where you click Play to select another song.  Pressing and holding skip song buttons will fast fwd/rev through a song, while a middle button works as Play/Pause, unless you press'n'hold it to get into volume control using a scrolling wheel.  Upper right button works as "go back" and upper left button brings up an icon menu where you can add a song to a favorite list or to a specific playlist, to delete a song, or to select different playback modes (loop, through, crossfade, and repeat one).  All this is extremely convenient for one handed operation.
     
    Going back to Play settings, you have a very comprehensive list of options related to playback.  You can change Play mode (similar to accessing playback modes), enable Resume mode, Gapless playback, cap the max volume level, set power-on volume and associated fixed volume setting, select between Low and High gain, enter EQ screen (10-band EQ with a custom setting and a lot of genre specific presets), L/R Balance setting, and a new option of Play through Folders setting.
     
    System settings gives you an option of language selection, Media Library update, Key-lock settings (with different options for lockscreen controls when display is off), Screen timeout, Brightness setting, Idle standby and corresponding timer, Sleep on/off and corresponding timer, Selection of shared output as either Line Out of Coax, File name display (as either Title or the actual file name), USB mode (DAC or Storage), enabling support of in-line headphone controls, display theme selection (5 unique choices), About X5 inf (which gives you both cards total capacity and available capacity, total number of songs, firmware version and serial number, and entire digital copy of detailed Quick Start Guide), Format (important if you are having problem with FAT32 format of your flash card), and last but not least - Reset to factory defaults.
     
    I already mentioned about in-line remote control, and just want to talk briefly about USB mode.  Storage selection enables you to connect X5ii to your computer where you can update the content of the flash cards by a simple drag’n’drop.  But with USD DAC selection you turn X5ii into an external usb soundcard.  After installation of proper drivers, X5ii is recognized as usb audio output to stream audio from your computer.  Though I personally prefer a dedicated USB DAC and feel like using DAP for this functionality is overkill, it was still nice to be able to improve sound quality (more detailed clean sound) of my ThinkPad laptop with a help of X5ii.  In this configuration while using DAP as usb DAC you are also charging it in parallel through usb port so you don't have to worry about drain a battery.  Furthermore, you can use Play/Pause and change volume right from X5ii remotely - very convenient for an external audio interface.  Just remember, you are not changing volume level on your computer, just relative to X5ii playback.
     
    GUI details.
     
    fiio_x5ii-22_zps361hs0aa.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-23_zpsocpug4fc.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-24_zpsf7estcev.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-25_zpsfrcfbjld.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-26_zps1kryzjqr.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-27_zpswjucpgll.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-28_zpszgi16xvl.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-29_zpswrb2p8v4.jpg
     
     
    I'm sure the most important question on everyone's mind is how X5ii sounds, especially in comparison to the original X5 and X3ii DAPs.  Evaluation of a source sound quality is not an easy task because it's a function of your headphones sound signature, and sometimes it’s easier to describe in a relative comparative analysis to other DAPs.  Still, it was clear as a day to hear sound improvement of X5ii which shifted more toward the neutral sound signature with a decent extension at both ends of the spectrum and a detailed airy sound with an above average soundstage.  Background was perfectly black with no audible noise floor even in high gain.
     
    While going through a round of checking various headphones, I found a lot of solid pair ups with an impressive synergy.  Driving full size ATH-R70x (470 ohms) was with ease and authority at both low gain (vol at 105) and high gain (vol at 90) - at high gain bass had a bit more textured rumble and treble had a touch more sparkle, where in comparison X5 sound was looser and not as dynamic.  With UE600 iem, my “hiss” test case, there was literally zero hissing with X5ii while original X5 had a noticeable hissing when idle.  ATH-MSR7 had a nice wide soundstage, excellent retrieval of details, no sibilance, and well controlled low end punch.  With Havi's B3 Pro I the volume was raised by 10 notches (to 77), soundstage was still wide, and it still had a great extension at both ends of the spectrum with a warm neutral sound.  ATH-CKR10 had a nice tight bass and detailed and crispy treble - both complimented by a clear smooth mids which bring the best of AT house style.  It was also driving A83 low end with an authority, keeping bass tight and punchy with a great sub-bass extension, mids being clear and detailed, not harsh or grainy, and treble with a nice extension, soundstage width/depth was excellent as well.  With Westone W60 sound was warm, smooth, detailed, wide/deep soundstage, punchy bass, mids pushed a little back, and treble detailed but not overly crisp/bright.
     
    Next to the original X5, X3ii, and X1 (for a size comparison).
     
    fiio_x5ii-17_zpsywwyqzaa.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-18_zpsmbumujdk.jpg
     
    fiio_x5ii-19_zpsrvx62i59.jpg
     
    Stack up with X5ii/E12A/UM Pro 50.
     
    fiio_x5ii-20_zpspkdtl5xy.jpg
     
     
    I’m sure a question on many people’s mind will be how X5ii compares in sound to the original X5 and recently released X3ii.
     
    While comparing X5ii to X5, I found original X5 sound to be warmer, flatter (less dynamic), loudness to be on the same level but not driving headphones with the same level of authority, with difference more noticeable at low end where I’m hearing some additional sub-bass rumble/texture in X5ii.  I’m not discounting and actually quite certain that different people will hear these changes on a different level.  Furthermore, since most of the sound changes could be attributed to a newly redesigned amp section, I wanted to find out how these compare from LO using a few of my favorite portable amps.  To my big surprise, I found pair up with Cayin C5 (connected to LO of X5 and then X5ii) to yield nearly an identical sound.  With FiiO’s E12A amp, sound was very close but X5ii still had a little more sub-bass texture with an overall perception of a fuller body.  This observation brings up a very important point where if you are happy with a current gen X5 interface and control ergonomics and you prefer to use an external amp – perhaps there is not much advantage for you to upgrade to X5ii.
     
    What about those who recently upgraded from X5 to X3ii, is it worth taking a step further with X5ii upgrade?  With a volume level matched for a more accurate comparison between X5ii and X3ii, I found X3ii to be a little warmer and with a little less treble extension, all of which results in X5ii having an edge in detail retrieval across entire frequency range.  Pairing it up from LO with C5 and E12A yielded the same test results where sound was nearly identical with C5 and had a little more sub-bass rumble and top end sparkle with E12A.  I tested it numerous times, going back’n’forth between X5, X5ii, and X3ii, and my results were consistent despite different DAC being used in X5/X5ii and X3ii.  This reinforces my previous point where if you are a fan of aforementioned portable external amps, perhaps sticking with an original X5 or X3ii would make sense if you only care about a sound and happy with a footprint and storage capacity of your current DAP.
     
    Since both X3ii and X5ii support native DSD decoding versus X5 processing it through PCM conversion, I was also pleased to hear a noticeable difference when playing hi-res files on X5 and X5ii/X3ii.  Without a doubt during DSD (2.82MHz test files) playback in comparison to X5, X5ii sound was noticeably wider and deeper, more dynamic, more layered, and with a higher level of detail retrieval.  When comparing X5ii to X3ii, I found DSD playback to have a very similar level of width and depth, with a sound being equally layered and dynamic, though X5ii stayed consistent with its brighter and more detailed signature while X3ii was warmer and less detailed.
     
    For those who are considering X5ii along with other non-FiiO DAPs, here is a brief comparison notes with some of my other favorite DAPs, such as N6, AK120ii, AP100, and LP5.
     
    fiio_x5ii-30_zps3qtic7lp.jpg
     
     
    X5ii vs N6: N6 has a little wider soundstage, tighter bass, slightly brighter sound signature (based on fw2.0) with a little better retrieval of details.  N6 sub-bass extend a little deeper and sound is a little more layered/dynamic.  There used to be a bigger gap between X5 and N6, but now X5ii is a lot closer to N6 in comparison.  Also keep in mind, N6 is bigger in size and almost 60g heavier in weight, thus X5ii is more portable and pocketable.  With a sound quality getting closer, size getting smaller, and price still at almost a half, X5ii is a better value.  But if you want to squeeze every drop of sound performance without adding an external amp and only care about sound quality – in my opinion N6 still has a slight edge (which recently got even more ahead with N6 fw3.0 update).
     
    X5ii vs AK120ii: AK sound is warmer and with a fuller body, a little wider in soundstage (similar to N6), with a little more sub-bass rumble, a very similar retrieval of details, and with a bit less treble extension.  When it comes to a sound quality, I would probably choose X5ii due to my own personal taste, but in terms of a sexy compact design with touch screen and hardware controls and volume knob and balanced output – I still haven’t found any contender to dethrone AK120ii.  Also, keep in mind that X5ii cost quarter of AK120ii.  Furthermore, X7 is just around the corner with touch screen and modular amp design; though I believe it will have a bigger footprint.
     
    X5ii vs LP5: Luxury & Precision has a wider soundstage, tighter more detailed bass, overall more layered sound with a much better retrieval of details, better dynamics, etc.  In terms of sound quality, LP5 is very hard to beat thanks to its AKM DAC and cherry-picked component (I have Gold model), and yes LP5 stands out in looks with a rather boutique style.  But in terms of the usability, display, GUI, controls, and features, it falls far behind X5ii which cost 1/3 of the price.
     
    X5ii vs AP100 (with 24b/192k enabled oversampling): Now we are getting to a more interesting competition since I mentioned in the past that AP100 sound quality was better than X5 (by a noticeable margin).  In this new comparison, sound is very similar in quality to X5ii, but AP100 has just a little wider soundstage.  I believe X5ii really closed a gap on this one, though AP100 is still smaller and more compact.
     
    Conclusion.
     
    I’m going to make this short and simple.  If you are still using your smartphone as a main source to listen to music because you mostly stream your media - wait for X7.  I know that expectations are high, but I will give FiiO the benefit of the doubt regarding this upcoming Android-based touchscreen DAP which I think going to set a new bar.  If you want to leave the world of push notifications and social media updates behind, and ready to make your first audiophile step into the exciting world of hi-res audio without breaking the bank - X5ii should definitely be at the top of your list.  At the current moment it will not be easy to find another DAP in this price range with similar solid hardware build and slick design, unique hardware controls, mature firmware, high quality audio, and a ton of configuration options.  The decision gets a little harder if you already own the original X5.  If sound quality is at the top of your priority list and you are using your first gen X5 with an external portable amp, I'm not sure if you will benefit switching to X5ii while continuing using external amp.  But if you are like me who wants improved sound quality and values portability of a slick pocketable design without the hassle of bulky add-ons - X5ii is one great option.  As an alternative, if you don't mind a slightly warmer sound, especially if you have brighter headphones, and ok with 128GB micro-sd card storage - X3ii offers the best value in FiiO DAP line up.  It will give you the most flexibility of a small footprint with a powerful sound, support of all hi-res audio formats including native DSD decoding, using it everywhere even during exercising while carrying it in armband, and also ability to pair up with an external portable amp to step up in sound quality.  As a matter of fact, I think X3ii release made X1 a bit obsolete to the point where I would suggest to FiiO in the next X1ii update to get rid off scrolling wheel and make it more compact on a scale of Clip+.  Overall, DAP market is on the rise with a lot of choices in sub $600 category, but you can rest assured that FiiO offers some of the best price/performance ratio products in corresponding price categories.
      Jill, Brooko, Cagin and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Light - Man
      Thanks Twister, a very helpful informative review as usual.
      Light - Man, Jun 25, 2015
    3. egosumlux
      Thanks man I been eyeing this DAP trying to choose between X5ii and AK120 or Plenue M1 I guess the more options you have the harder is to choose
      egosumlux, Jul 22, 2015
    4. bruce1967
      Great review! Best one on the X5ii I've read yet. I'm convinced it will be a worthwhile upgrade for me over the X3ii. Thanks!
      bruce1967, Oct 20, 2015
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Brooko
    Fiio X5 (2nd Generation) – Evolution, but not revolution
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jun 19, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, build, form factor, usability, interface, output power, boot speed, features/versatility, value
    Cons - UI features missing/incomplete (hierarchical menus artist/album/track), scroll wheel still not perfect
    x5ii18.jpg
    For larger images (1200 x 800), click any of the photos

    INTRODUCTION

    I’m a very happy owner of Fiio’s X1, X3ii and the original X5 digital audio players (DAPs). I’ve used them all (a lot) over the last couple of years – and up until now, the X3ii has been my go to portable DAP for daily use.  I still use the X1 for ultimate portability (eg exercise), and the X5 when I need a more power, mainly when I’ve been using full sized headphones. I’ve been using Fiio audio equipment for close to four years now (amps, DACs , and DAPs), and have watched them evolve in that time from a fledgling audio company to a serious player in the personal audio world.  A couple of things have stayed constant in all of my time using Fiio products though – they’ve always striven to improve their performance, and they’ve always aimed to release audio products that measure well, sound great, and offer real value for money.
     
    After seeing the improvements Fiio made recently upgrading their X3 DAP to the X3ii, naturally I was keen to also see the changes in the transition from X5 to X5ii. So I arranged with Joe to organise the Fiio X5ii “Down Under” tours, and we now currently have two units touring through Australia and New Zealand.
     
    ABOUT FIIO
     
    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the Fiio Electronics Company.  If you don’t, here’s a very short summary.
     
    Fiio was first founded in 2007.  Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”.  But Fiio has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range.  They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by the X5 (now former) flagship DAP – which despite its reasonable cost (300-350) has been able to compete with models from other manufacturers costing hundreds of dollars more. They then released the X1 – an ultra low cost DAP (~USD 100) which has done even more toward bringing high quality mobile audio to those on a tighter budget, and more recently the X3 2nd Generation (X3ii), and upgrade on the original X3 from 2013.  Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.
     
    DISCLAIMER
     
    I was provided the Fiio X5 second generation as a review sample.  It will go on tour once I have finished reviewing it.  There is no financial incentive from Fiio in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Fiio - and this review is my honest opinion of the X5 second generation.  I would like to thank Joe & James for making this opportunity available.
    EDIT - at the completion of the review tour, I arranged to buy the tour unit from Fiio.  I paid real money for it, although it was discounted. I am not at liberty to discuss the discounted sum paid.
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
    (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
     
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last few years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (mostly Fiio X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP or PC > USB > iFi Micro iDSD > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan, Trinity Delta, and more recently DUNU’s DN-2000J. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).  I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    My experience with DAPs in the past had been initially with some very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, iPhone4, iPod Touch G4, iPhone 5S, HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5, X1, and X3ii, and the L&P LP5.
     
    WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A DAP
     
    I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.
    1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
    2. Good build quality
    3. Reasonable battery life
    4. Easy to use interface
    5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
    6. Value for money
    7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
     
    Did I get all of this with the X5ii, and more importantly was the X5ii an improvement on the original X5?  Mostly – yes, and I hope that the shortcomings with the firmware will be improved over time.  Fiio has shown commitment to the Head-Fi community in the past - in trying to improve the Fiio experience with better firmware releases over time.
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

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

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

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

     


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

     

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
     
    The tables below list most of the relevant specifications, and because Fiio’s players are likely to be compared (a lot), I’ve included the relevant information on the X3ii and X5 I have also.
     
     ​
    Fiio X5ii
    Fiio X5 Original
    Fiio X3ii
    Approx cost
    $349
    $349
    $199
    Dimensions
    ~ 109 x 64 x 15mm
    ~ 114 x 68 x 16mm
    ~96 x 57 x 16mm
    Weight
    165g
    195g
    135g
    Lossless file formats supported
    APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, DSF, DFF
    APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, DSF, DFF
    APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, DSF, DFF
    Lossy file formats supported
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    mp2, mp3, aac, ogg
    Use as external DAC?
    Yes
    Yes
    Yes
    Battery
    3300 mAh
    3700 mAh
    2600 mAh
    Play time
    10 hours+
    10 hours+
    11 hours+
    DAC chip used
    PCM1792A
    PCM1792A
    CS4398
    Main amp chip
    OPA1612+BUF634
    OPA1612+LMH6643
    OPA1642+LMH6643
    S/N (H/O)
    ≥117 dB (A-Weight)
    >115 dB (A-Weight)
    >113 dB (A-Weight)
    THD+N (H/O)
    <0.001% (1 kHz)
    <0.003% (1 kHz)
    <0.001% (1 kHz)
    Output into 16 ohm
    >436 mW
    >460 mW
    >224 mW
    Output into 32 ohm
    >255 mW
    >255 mW
    >200 mW
    Output into 300 ohm
    >27 mW
    >28 mW
    >24 mW
    Highest resolution lossless
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    DSD/DSF/DFF support
    Yes - Native
    Yes – converted to PCM
    Yes - Native
    Output impedance (H/O)
    <0.2 Ω
    0.26 ohm
    0.2 ohm
    Adjustable Balance
    10 db L, 10 dB R
    5 db L, 5 dB R
    5 db L, 5 dB R
    Gain
    3.6 dB L, 9.1 db H
    3.7 dB L, 9.2 db H
    2.6 dB L, 8.6 db H
    Equaliser
    10 band
    10 band
    10 band
    MAX Output Voltage
    >8.2 Vp-p
    >8 Vp-p
    >7.2 Vp-p
    MAX Output Current
    >250 mA
    >150 mA
    >75 mA
    Line Out
    Yes / Separate (shared with digital out)
    Yes – separate port
    Yes / Separate (shared with digital out)
    Digital Out
    Yes – 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes – separate port, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes – 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    External storage (current)
    2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
    2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
    Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
    Screen
    IPS 400×360
    IPS 400 x 360
    2in colour TFT, 320x240 px
    Shell / Casing
    Aluminium (gun-metal)
    Plastic shell over aluminium body
    Aluminium (gun-metal)

     
    Rear plate removed
    Battery connector

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

     

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

     

    The scroll wheel is still mechanical, and on this review unit has a very smooth glide with very little play.  In a lot of ways this feels very similar to my original X5.  I would have preferred a slightly stronger tactile response similar to the X3ii – and Fiio says that the final units will indeed be changed for firmer more tactile feedback. For those who have been annoyed in the past with the inaccuracy of the wheel – one click still does not equal one menu movement.  It is what it is – and I still have no issues with navigation personally.  If you’re someone who has a pet hate with the Fiio wheel navigation system though – there hasn’t been a lot of improvement.
     
    The ports are once again excellent fitting – very snug and secure for jacks.   All connections feel very solid. Supposedly for the X5ii, these ports now have a hard plastic sheath – rather than full metal.  I’m not sure if this was for implemented for durability, better connection, or something else – but I’m pleased to report that they are firm fitting.
     
    There are two ports in the top of the unit – the headphone out, and a dedicated 3.5mm line out which also doubles as a digital plug (works with a 3.5mm to coax adaptor – which Fiio supply).  The second port switches between line-out and coax-out by software switching (in the System Setting Menu).  And this is where I come to my first major critique of the X5ii.  Normally (on all Fiio’s other DAPs), the headphone out is on the left, and the line-out/coax out is on the right.  For the X5ii (and I have no idea why they changed this), it has been swapped.  I have already had a couple of mishaps with this, and all I can say is thank goodness I was using HD600’s both times.  If I’d had sensitive IEMs suddenly plugged into the line-out, and full fixed volume blasting in my ears, I would not have been happy.  This is one change which will take a while for me to get used to – and I guess the obvious question is – why?  If it’s going to be a wholesale change across the line-out, I’d get used to it quickly – but the X3ii is directly the opposite.  I’m afraid this is one design change that I simply don’t agree with. Not clever.
     
    x5ii21.jpg x5ii23.jpg x5ii69.jpg
    Top input portsClose-up of buttons and wheelsRear plate

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Updating the media library can be set to automatic or manual (I always leave mine on manual – as most of the time now I simply use folder browsing). To give you an idea of the time to update an entire library – I currently have 5652 tracks (in FLAC and DSD) on it at the moment, across two cards, and it took 2 minutes and 20 seconds to scan the entire library, but then a further 2 minutes 20 seconds to write the index to memory/card. I trialed this twice and it was pretty consistent both times. Once again though – using manual updating means you update when you have the time.  The rest of the time there is no scanning and the X5ii is always instantly ready to use.
    I also threw some additional files on to check if the 5800 file limit is still there, and thankfully this limit is gone.
     
    Play Settings
    The Play Settings menu includes settings for:
    1. Play mode (normal, shuffle, repeat track, repeat all).  These can also be accessed in play mode with the upper left button.
    2. Resume mode (off, same song, and same position in song)
    3. Gapless play back
    4. Setting maximum, default, and fixed volume
    5. Gain switch (3.6 or 9.1dB)
    6. Equalizer – 10 band, with 9 presets which can all be edited.
    7. L/R balance setting (now 10 dB each side)
    8. Play through folders setting
     
    x5ii32.jpg x5ii33.jpg x5ii34.jpg
    Play settings menuPlay settings continuedEqualiser

     

    The equaliser is the same as the one found in the original X5 and newer X3ii. The option to actually change the presets to your own liking is incredibly handy – and if you’re comfortable with editing the firmware, you can actually customise the names as well. Engaging the equaliser automatically drops the output by 6dB (actually 5.9 dB according to my SPL meter) to reduce the chance of clipping. This time the equaliser can be used with both digital (coax) and line-out, but is not engaged when playing hi-res tracks (DSD, or anything over 88.2 sample rate).
     
    The other settings all work really well, and what I really appreciate is the option to use set volumes (I default to around 30/120) on start-up, so there are no “accidents” with a sensitive IEM and using the last setting for full cans when you last switched the X5ii off.  I do notice that utilisation of this feature is not really necessary for me any more though, as I typically never turn the unit off now that it has the deep sleep mode (more on that later).
     
    Browsing with folder mode
    Folder mode is once again brilliant and I still pretty much use it as my default on all Fiio devices. The addition of being able to play through folders (automatically advance from one to the next) is also a killer feature, and one I use all of the time. For those with large libraries, I definitely recommend multi-level folder management to make browsing quicker.  I split my library into alphabetical groups of 3 (A-C, D-F, G-I etc), then list artists under those folders, and albums under the artists.  I’ve also seen others do similar with genre, and even year – it just depends on how well you want your library managed.  I have over 450 albums now, and I can usually get to the exact album/song I want (using folder browsing) within a relatively few wheel turns and button clicks.
     
     
    x5ii35.jpg x5ii36.jpg x5ii37.jpg
    Folder mode - choose cardThen choose artistThen choose album

     

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

     

    Like the other Fiio DAPs, the X5ii sorts alphanumerically, then alphabetically.  So for my album files – I use “01 name”, “02 name” etc.  If I have a 2 disk album, I’ll use “1.01 name”, “1.02 name” etc then “2.01 name”, “2.02 name”.  Again, a little forethought with library management works wonders.
     
    Category (or tagged) mode
    In category mode (or tagged mode) you can play by song, artist, album, or genre, and there are also options for favourites and playlists. Choosing artist brings a natural hierarchy of album then track (works well). Album brings in track underneath the album chosen. Selecting by genre collects all the tagged genres together, but then lists everything in one massive selection by number first, then alpha – so for me, all my “01 filename” tags get bunched together, then “02 filename” etc.  Unless you plan on putting things in shuffle mode, it makes the genre selection useless.  It needs to be sorted by artist and album first.  Likewise, choosing by song just lumps everything (in the wrong order) into one directory.  Good if you simply want to shuffle every track in your library – useless otherwise.  This is why I primarily use folder mode.
     
    x5ii46.jpg x5ii47.jpg x5ii48.jpg
    Tagged browsing menuAll songs continues to be a jumbled mess"By album" selection

     

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

     

    I haven’t used favourites or internal playlists much as they still have to be manually added track by track.  I found this laborious right from day one, so I simply use an external database and editor to create external playlists. This takes some getting used to, but ultimately works very well.  I save the playlists to my root directory – or you could put them in a single folder – then access them by folder mode.  
     
    x5ii53.jpg x5ii54.jpg x5ii55.jpg
    Genre selection ..... leads to...... a similar mess as all songsAnd the playlists menu only works internally

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

     

    Buttons
    The upper left button brings up a context menu (that is dependent on the menu you are in).  When you’re in play mode, this is a quick way to access track playing modes (including repeat, shuffle, add to favourites, and delete).  From the main menu it brings up the play settings options.
     
    x5ii41.jpg x5ii45.jpg x5ii44.jpg
    Context menu from now playing screenContext menu from folder browsingClose up of top menu icon bar

     

    The upper right button is a back button which puts you back to your last menu choice until you reach the main menu screen.  Pushing it again from there will take you to the now playing track window.  Pushing and holding will immediately take you to the main menu.
     
    The bottom two buttons are forward, back / up, down / fast forward, rewind / next menu item / previous menu item – depending on your application.
     
    The middle button is simply to select (i.e. action button).  If you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated.
     
    Overall the UI is reasonably responsive – but can sometimes have some small lags between button press and actual action (this includes the wheel).  One way to make this better is to have no art in the tags, and just have a single album art picture in each directory.
     
    Overall – if the Apple (think latest Touch or iPhone) UI is a 10 (and that’s what I’d give it) – this initial fw release would come in about a solid 7-8 for me.  It’s very usable, and has plenty of features. I do think it could be (and should be) improved though – especially with the Song and Genre tagged selections.
     
    COMPARISONS
     
    I guess this is the bit most people will want impressions about – how the X5ii sounds. For each of the below comparisons, I used my HD600 with the DAPs on high gain, HM5 (for its neutrality) with the DAPs on low gain, and DUNU Titan, again on low gain.  I used an SPL meter to volume match (test tones @ 1kHz).  Files used on all devices were exactly the same and consisted of a mix of my usual test tracks – in lossy, redbook, 24/96 and DSD. 
     
    x5ii62.jpg x5ii63.jpg
    Test gearX5ii, X5, X3ii, and X1
    X5ii, X5, X3ii, and X1​

     

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

     

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

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

    VALUE & CONCLUSION

    When I first received the X5ii, I read the release papers from Fiio – and spent the best part of a week simply getting used to its signature and feature set. I was expecting an increase in fidelity over the X5 original, and this was pretty much what I was hearing – or so I thought.
     
    Once I got a chance to sit down and critically compare the X5 and X5ii (properly volume matched), some of those perceived differences diminished just a little.  I still think the X5ii exhibits a slightly more spatial and vibrant sound – but IMO it is not a night and day difference with the X5 original.
     
    Comparing the X5ii and X3ii was also interesting.  Again – both are similar sonically with the X5ii exhibiting a touch better overall dynamics and a cleaner more refined signature.  The differences are not huge though.
     
    Like the others in the Fiio family, the X5ii continues to bring a fantastic feature set, and this is where its true value lies IMO.  Great build and form factor, very good power, options to use as DAC, line-out, and digital out, a GUI that whilst not fully polished is still very usable, very good expandable storage, and of course (IMO) really nice SQ.  All of this for USD 349 makes the X5ii a really attractive option.
     
    I still feel the X3ii offers the best overall value in the Fiio range – but for those wanting the pinnacle of sound that Fiio currently produces – the X5ii definitely delivers.
     
    Should current X5 owners upgrade?  That very much depends on what you are looking for.  Some of the features (instant on, play through folders) are definitely worth having – and there is the slightly more vivid sound (sorry – but that’s the best descriptor I can give for now). There is no doubt it is an incremental step up – but IMO we’re talking a step and not a leap.
     
    The question remains how to rate the X5ii – and I’m making the assumption that Fiio has said that the final version will have the same wheel dynamics/feel as the X3ii.  So from me (with those changes) – I’d give the X5ii a solid 4.5 stars (value and features).  They could easily get a 5 stars if they would finally fix the Genre / All Songs category issues.  C’mon Fiio – you know you can! 
     
    FINAL THANKS
     
    Again – my apologies for the length of the review.  I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over essential information.  My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the review team.  I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away later this week on its New Zealand tour.
     
    NOTE – this review was also published earlier on Headfonia
     
    x5ii71.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. goodyfresh
      Great review as usual, man!

      Sounds like it really wouldn't be much of an upgrade over my X3ii, huh?  *sighs*
      goodyfresh, Oct 14, 2015
    3. Brooko
      It's an upgrade - but an incremental one.  Whether or not the extra $$$ is worth it - only you could answer.  If I was on a budget, I'd take the X3ii and spend more money on either better headphones or more music. 
      Brooko, Oct 14, 2015
    4. Billyk
      Thanks for the great review. I just purchased an X5 refurb for an excellent price and your review helped a great deal with that!
      Billyk, Sep 3, 2016