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FiiO X5 3rd gen Premium Hi-Res DAP

Rating:
4.22414/5,
  1. maciux
    A great mid-range DAP
    Written by maciux
    Published Aug 25, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - a variety of accessories included (e.g. silicone and faux leather cases)
    - build quality
    - nice looks
    - high ergonomics & compact size
    - no Wi-Fi interference
    - clear signal (in case of most IEMs/headphones)
    - neutral, direct, smooth and pleasant tuning (neither too analytical nor too musical) with high resolution, good separation and much air
    Cons - low performance of internal storage, card readers, Wi-Fi and OTA update servers
    - audible hiss (when using IEMs of high sensitivity)
    - average battery life
    - amplifier section could have been better – when using the line out, dynamics and resolution are improved
    Third generation of FiiO X5 offers plenty of features. It utilizes dual AKM AK4490 DAC, quad-core SoC, a 4-inch touchscreen and runs on Android OS.

    Third revision of X5 brings a lot novelties. Rotary dial has been replaced by a touchscreen and it comes with a single-band Wi-Fi module added. Moreover, streaming is supported and there’s a Bluetooth transmitter with aptX codec support. New X5 version is powered by dual Asahi Kasei DAC and the Chinese company decided to restore the internal memory (32 GB), which can be further expanded via 2 microSD slots (up to 256 GB each).

    Accessories

    The device is packed in an aesthetic box. The accessory set is as follows:
    • silicone case
    • faux leather case
    • USB-microUSB cable (100 cm)
    • coaxial adapter
    • card slot opening tool
    • quick start manual
    Silicone case is thick, smooth and elastic. The included faux-leather case exposes the bottom flank and the volume dial.

    22a.jpg 23a.jpg 28a.jpg

    Construction

    New X5 looks completely different than its predecessors. It more resembles FiiO X7 or Astell&Kern DAPs. X5 III is a device that reduces the gap between high-class digital audio players and smartphones.

    Front is occupied by a nearly 4-inch IPS display, which is further reinforced by hardened glass. The borders are rather wide and the screen resolution is 480x800 pixels (235 ppi). Color reproduction is fine, viewing angles are wide and contrast is just average. Housing is made of CNCed aluminum.

    Build-quality is awesome, better than in 1st gen X7. The device is massive and built like a tank. Materials are of high quality and the device’s also pleasant to look at. For me, it’s the sexiest FiiO’s device (it won the Red Dot Design Award) and I like it more than Astell&Kern’s products.

    2a.jpg 8a.jpg
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    Ergonomics and operation

    Comfort of handling is fine, with some minor inconveniences. One also needs to remember that X5 III is a decent-sized device (11,4 x 6,6 x 1,5 cm), which weighs almost 200 grams.

    X5 is meant to be held in the left hand. User can then comfortably operate the volume or navigate the tracks, while the right hand can be used to use the touchscreen. Elements are placed favourably, but the buttons are too soft, yet offer precise click. Accidental presses happen when lifting the device, but it’s easy to block that function (with the screen turned off) in the options menu.

    All connectors are grouped at the bottom flank, which is a convenient decision as they can be easily distinguished and their position easily remembered. Card slots are placed on the right side and this time FiiO decided to use trays (like in smartphones ; a special tool is required for opening) instead of slots. Luckily, there are also 32 gigs of internal memory, while two microSD slots are compatible with microSD cards up to 256 GB.

    Battery life is average for an audiophile DAP – up to 10 hours when using a headphone output. During intense tests X5 lasted for 7-8 hours with 3 hours Screen-on-Time. I used various headphones and earphones, played music from internal and external storage, streamed via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and switched between miscellaneous modes and functions.

    During playback the device does not heat up much. Even after a long-lasting playback it is barely warm.

    17a.jpg 11a.jpg

    Operating system and benchmarks

    3rd gen X5 is powered by Google’s Android 5.1.1 Lolipop. The operating system is therefore outdated – it’s a shame that FiiO didn’t use at least 6.0 Marshmallow version, which features Doze sleeping algorithm.

    Booting takes a long time, but when the device is finally ready to use, the system works fine. Android is almost clear and adapted for a DAP function. System is stable, but can be laggy, especially when launching an app. X5 scores 26322 points in AnTuTu 6.2.7 and GeekBench rates it at 500 points in single-core test and 1004 points in multi-core benchmark.

    Graphics looks like stock Android. Memory is filled with essential apps only (including Google Play store). Notification drawer is adjusted to a DAP function and includes useful shortcuts (e.g. analogue/digital line out, gain level, USB connection type, digital filters). There’s also Pure Music mode which works as high-priority fullscreen application (enabling it doesn’t require a restart). Android settings offer basic options plus disabling the buttons when the DAP is locked.

    Music player in Pure Music mode has been developed. Left flank of the app is filled with options like gapless, balance and gain adjustments etc. The app also includes ViPER Effect sound enhancements, most of which aren’t free. Home screen of the player is highly adjustable and features handy shortcuts. Music files can be launched via library or folders. I enjoyed Pure Music mode much and used it more frequently than PowerAmp.

    One needs to remember that X5 III is not a smartphone and it has its limits. WiFi is not very fast and the same applies to FiiO’s OTA update servers – applying updates via microSD card is usually much quicker. The performance of internal memory and card slots is not very impressive too (in case of internal storage transfer rate is typically between 5 and 13,5 MB/s). Luckily, sound cracks do not appear and the overall performance is still decent for an audio player.

    When using dynamic-driver IEMs hiss is not audible, but noticeable when using low-impedance and high-sensitivity Balanced Armature IEMs. Wi-Fi module doesn’t disrupt the sound and Bluetooth supports aptX.

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    Specs

    ● SoC: Rockchip RK3188 (4x1,4 GHz)
    ● RAM: 1 GB
    ● OS: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop ; Pure Music mode
    ● screen: 3,97 inch, IPS, touchscreen, 480x800 px
    ● DAC: 2x AKM4490, 32-bit/384 kHz
    ● LPF: 2x OPA1642
    ● OP: 2x OPA426
    ● USB DAC (24-bit/196kHz), Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (2,4 GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 aptX
    ● 32 GB internal storage, two microSD slots (up to 256 GB)
    ● 10-band equalizer, 120-step analogue volume control
    ● battery: 3300 mAh (up to 10 hours of life)
    ● balance control: +/- 10 dB
    ● 2 gain levels
    ● dimensions: 114,2 x 66,2 x 14,8 mm
    ● weight: 186 g

    Sound

    Cans: Audeze LCD-2 (Double Helix Fusion Complement4, PlusSound X8), MrSpeakers Ether 1.1 (Forza AudioWorks Noir HPC mk2, DUM), Final Sonorus III, AKG K612 Pro, Focal Spirit Professional, AKG K551, Noble Audio Savant i Noble 4, Etymotic ER-4PT, Brainwavz B200
    AMPs + DAC/AMPs: Burson Conductor Virtuoso (Sabre), AIM SC808, ODAC i O2, Leckerton UHA-760, Zorloo ZuperDAC
    DAPs: iBasso DX200, iBasso DX90
    Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Copper Series, Klotz
    Music: various genres, different bitrates (including 24-bit), binaural tracks

    X5 III surprised me with the sound quality and its signature. Applied DAC is known for warmer, mid-forward sound, while X5 III is neutral, bright and direct-sounding. FiiO’s sound signature, however, is still audible. X5 III resembles X7 1st gen, its smooth, a tad digital tuning, but the overall quality is a one step up. The sound is universal, detailed and surround. It allows for both analytical and relaxing listening. The signature has its flaws, though.

    Bass is not dry, very hard and precise. It also doesn’t offer much attack and dynamics. Lows are vigorous and don’t get muddy and rumbling. It’s neither very fast nor very slow. It’s well-controlled – low tones are nicely separated from one another. The sound is not boring - when needed, a bass drum enters or midbass becomes stronger. Bass reveals many details, but not all of them. FiiO’s devices are often associated with emphasized midbass, but with X5 III the lows don’t overtake, are rather even, with appropriate transition into subbas. Bassheads won’t enjoy such signature, which is rather neutral and transparent. The sound is not thin, though – the bass is present, but not exaggerated.

    Midrange is neutral and even. It’s not recessed and not forward either. This range is direct, clear and bright, not dominated by bass and not covered by trebles. Again, there’s no sign of harshness or dryness – the sound is smooth and pleasant, but without losing much resolution and details. Live instruments don’t impose, female vocals don’t hiss and the level of details isn’t overwhelming. The sound is fairly detailed, put somewhere between being analytical and musical. Lower midrange is not emphasised and not overlapped by bass. Midrange is close and non-aggressive. It works well with music genres featuring vocals and live instruments, but synthesizers and modern music also sound fine. Signature is not very natural, not warm. On the other hand, it may also not satisfy people seeking very analytical, highly-contoured tuning.

    Upper midrange fluently turns into treble. This frequency range is solid, but – just as bass and midrange – also smooth and soft. It’s bright, but not syblilant. High tones seem a bit artificial, digital, but still at acceptable level – it’s more annoying in other FiiO devices and in two older generations of X5.

    Holographics is impressive. One can actually hear that the device is using separate DACs for each side – channel separation is strong, the sound is airy with distinctly separated instruments. Soundstage size is optimal – it’s neither a hangar nor a concert hall. The device clearly exhibits instruments in all directions. The listener is plunged into music, but there’s no effect of discomfort, crampedness, aggressiveness. X5 III doesn’t sound distant – the user is placed in the middle of the scene, next to musicians.

    Line out

    Line out works awesome, which is in a way… disappointing. This is because when you add a better amplifier, you start to notice some vices of the chip that FiiO uses. When you pair X5 with such a great device as Leckerton Audio UHA760, it is then hard to return to the headphone output – the sound improves a lot. It remains smooth, but gains better dynamic and higher resolution. It seems that the internal amplifier makes the sound smoother. When using a line out, one can hear more details, soundstage also improves and bass is fuller and tighter.

    On one hand, X5’s sound can be further improved by adding a high-quality external amplifier. On the other, if you find a decent combination, you may not want to use the headphone out anymore.

    FiiO X5 III vs other DAPs

    In its price range, the newest X5 is a very good sounding DAP. However, the sound quality is not as good as in Astell&Kern products. iBasso DX80 is also superior, not to mention the DX200. When using the line out, the differences are smaller, yet the FiiO device still loses. Naturally, X5 III offers a whole lot of features, but I wouldn’t call it a killer-DAP.

    For me, X5 III performs on par with iBasso DX90 and Astell&Kern AK70. The first one offers harder, more raw and analytical tuning, which is not as easy to listen, but makes the sound more dynamic. X5’s tuning is more calm, less vigorous, but also speedy. FiiO’s device is smoother, musical, with better instrument separation and more air. If one prefers details, DX90 will be a better choice. X5 works better for neutrality in a musical version. Last but not least, one needs to remember that DX90 is much less feature-packed.

    AK70’s tuning is more musical and coloured. The DAP offers more midbass and not as transparent and direct midrange. It sounds warmer and offers smaller soundstage, less air and worse separation.

    iBasso DX200 provides much higher resolution and dynamics, bigger soundstage, deeper bass and trebles. By contrast, X5 is smoother, thinner, with softer tuning and lower dynamics and a smaller soundstage.

    In case of Astell&Kern AK300, which utilizes the same DAC, but just a single one, the sound is more natural, but warmer. Midrange is closer and bass is more tight and massive, trebles are softer and the resolution is a bit higher.

    FiiO X5 III vs headphones/earphones

    X5 III pairs well with the majority of headphones and earphones, but not all. I much enjoyed it with Etymotic ER-4S and ER-4PT, which have become softer. FiiO works surprisingly great with AKG K551, but not as great with Focal Spirit Professional – the sound is too smooth. Noble Audio 4 hiss quite a lot, but in general sound good. X5 also pairs well with Noble Audio Savant and Brainwavz B200, so with both neutral and darker IEMs. I wouldn’t pair it with very bright and thin earphones/headphones. The device won’t add the lows or cut the highs.

    Verdict

    FiiO X5 III is not a perfect device and not a killer of much more expensive DAPs. As a whole, it’s, however, an excellent piece of gear, which I enjoy a lot. I prefer it over FiiO X7 1st gen with a standard amplifier and it’s also much better than the previous generations of X5. 3rd gen X5 is perfectly-built, easy to use and packed with a lot of features. Android OS works fine and allows streaming and connecting Bluetooth devices. It’s a fantastic all-in-one device that also offers great line out sound.

    Personally I think that the performance of internal storage and card readers as well as Wi-Fi transfers are not limiting. I wouldn’t call X5 III a cheap DAP, especially that its 3rd generation is more expensive than the previous two. For its price, new X5 is for sure worth recommending.

    maciux - Maciej Sas
      Liviu Nicolof, Dsnuts and yakcyll like this.
  2. emptymt
    Complete package in a small unit
    Written by emptymt
    Published May 6, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sounds great and smooth across all frequencies, 2 micro sd, accessories, price, build.
    Cons - UI is not as snappy as competitors(not much different though), side buttons are a bit too soft
    Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Fiio for making this awesome DAP at an affordable price and rich features, and also to @Fiio for organizing the tour.

    This review will focus on the sound quality and not so much about other aspects, so I'll make the other sections as brief as possible.

    The official rating of this device for me is actually 4.5 stars, however with head-fi's latest change to the site it isn't possible for me to put 4.5 stars for the ratings.
    The review is long overdue so i decided to post it in anyway as a 5 stars as 4 stars is too low for this exceptional device.

    INTRODUCTION

    I'm an Indonesian working as a Web/PHP Developer in Melbourne, Australia.

    Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.

    When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM, etc at the moment, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet >_<.

    Starting from almost 2 years ago I've been really hooked in metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead but I don't know about that, I also listen to other genres occasionally.


    I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
    - Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, everyday anytime anywhere)
    - Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Radiohead or something like it)
    - Pop (90s stuff, rarely)
    - EDM (Mostly trance and it's sub-genres)
    - Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
    - Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop or rock, guitar is used all the time, sounds natural and relaxing, however, mastering of the song is not very good, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
    - KPOP
    - JPOP and JROCK/Visual Kei, whatever you call it (mostly the older stuff)

    EQUIPMENT USED FOR REVIEW/COMPARISON WITH THE DAP
    - Shozy Stardust
    - Meze 99 Classic
    - Sony MDR Z1R
    - AK Jr
    - Chord Mojo
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    Box
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    ACCESSORIES
    my unit come with a silicone case and also leather case.
    USB cable
    Coaxial cable
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    The Fiio X5
    The Build Quality is very nice, and also clean, nice colouring for the unit with sturdy construction, got a few option for colours too, the black one is really nice, but the red is very bold and daring looking, I like it.
    It is a little thick, but not overly so and still comfortable on my side pocket.
    Nice screen with good brightness to be used outdoor very easily.

    At the top of the unit there is nothing.

    At the bottom is the micro USB port for charging and data transfer duties, I'm a little disappointed that Fiio does not use USB C here, hopefully this will be rectified for future release.

    Other than that you will find 3.5 SE jack, 2.5 balance jack and combo coax/line out jack.
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    On the right, You will find 2 Micro Sd slot (very nice, great job Fiio!), and power button.
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    On the left is the play/pause button, volume rocker wheel, and also next and previous button, of which has too little easy to press.
    There are many occasion where I press it accidentally when handling the unit disrupting my music enjoyment.
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    The player itself is very responsive to touch, but compared to the Cayin I5 which is the primary competitor of this unit, it is slightly less snappy, still very easy to use though, so this is just me nitpicking here.

    UI & FEATURES

    At the home screen, you will find your usual android interface here, nothing revolutionary here, I went straight to the music player as it is a DAP.
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    There are 5 Navigation modes available:
    - Folder
    - Artist
    - Songs
    - Genre
    - Playlist
    IMG_1053.JPG

    For other navigation except folder, you need to scan your library first for it to work.
    I'm a big fan of Folder navigation since I like to group all my musics in folders based on my preference, so It is very good that Fiio has included this feature.

    You can then access you on-board memory or to your sdcards to play your music.

    You can also change the setting in the device, such as wifi, brightness, etc.
    On the audio side, you can adjust gain and balance, etc
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    Sound Quality

    The Signatures
    The Fiio X5 has a warm musical signature with slighly laid back highs and slight emphasis on the bass.
    It works well with most modern music and my favourite genre (Metal & rock), The bass although quite a bit north of neutral never intrude the mids at all, and speaking of the mids I find it detailed and smooth with good body without being overly lush in any way.

    The Bass
    The Bass is has a slight emphasis to it with good extension and sounds quite tight and fast.
    It Hits quite hard with good punch, so the dynamic is definitely there and it is good.
    The bass is tight however it still has good body so the ratio is spot on on this, very slight bloom does help with musicality at times, adn Fiio surely know about this as the implementation is very nice.
    The speed is excellent and combined with the tightness of the bass it portrays distinction between each drum hits very well, giving a distinct presentation per drum hits/beats.
    For Metal tracks especially in Brutal/Technical Death metal, double blast beat hits strong and fast with excellent rumble and distinction on each hits, portraying the intensity perfectly.
    On EDM tracks, the bass extends down to the sub-bass well and because it is not too tight, you still get that club room bass bloom that you expect in club music.

    The Mids
    The mids is detailed and has slight warm tilt to it, not too much though.
    Clarity of the mids is very good without any overly excessive sibillance and just flows naturally with the music seamlessly, the warm tonality definitely helps with this, very enjoyable.
    Screaming and growling vocals in metal track are slightly intimate and smooth, you can definitely hear the crackles in the vocals quite easily with this.
    On Jazz Tracks like Norah Jones, the slight warm touch to the mids increase the emotions in her voice while exposing all the detailsin it very well.
    Electric Guitar sounds smooth with excellent bites in it, it makes the guitars pop in the mix and I love it.

    The Treble
    The treble is smooth and slighly laid back, the good this is it is not fatigueing even in a long listening session, some treble sparkles is still there here and there but it is not the focus of the music.
    The bass and mids are more forward then the trebles but the trebles does not feel lacking at all, in fact it provides the perfect company for the rest of the spectrum for engaging musical listening.

    The Soundstage, Imaging and separations
    The soundstage presentation is not very large but it is quite good, imaging is accurate and all the instruments are separated nicely and there is no congestion in the sound.
    It more wide than tall/deep, so the positioning of instrument can be clearly heard in X axis across the songs but, meaning left-right channel separtion is excellent.

    Pairing

    Shozy Stardust earbud (hi-end earbud)
    The stardust has an excellent synergy with the X5, the bass hits hard and the mids are detailed but musical sounding, treble is smooth and not fatigueing with relaxed listening experience.
    The presentaion is also bigger in a sense, this earbud is excellent on its own in this regard but the Fiio takes it to the next level, sounding more full and bigger in soundstage.
    Details in the treble is there and the presentation is still laid back so the mids and bass(mid-bass) pops out more in the mix.

    Sony MDR Z1R
    The Z1R is not a hard headphone to drive but I'm still impressed with how well the combo sounds, The driver in this headphone is huge but I see no occation where it feels underpowered on The Fiio.
    Bass is still there along with the Z1R signature of powerfull but tight bass that sounds grand hall like in presentation, speed is still well maintained and speedy metal track still sounds like an absolute joy on this.
    Mids is still detailed and does not get intruded by the bass, has good body and the details are still there, it drives the Z1R excellently and The power of Z1R still shines through in this combo.
    Despite the slighly laid back nature of the X5, I don't feel that it changed the Z1R's treble to be too laid back. I actually feel it still remains laid back but detailed just like when I pair it with my desktop setup.

    Meze 99 Classics

    I expect the Fiio X5 to pair best with this headphone, in fact it does, but it doe not transform the headphone just like the Cayin I5 + meze99 combination.
    Bass still hits hard and deep with excellent extension, compared to my AK Jr, the bass seems more refined and full force and unrestrained, it has that immediate effect to it that I like.
    Mids is still true to the meze's natural presentation, it is still a litle u shaped as the bass seems a bit more emphasized xompared to the mids, vocal is lush and detailed with steady and quick decay, it is musical and engaging, and if you want to hear the details, you can, it's all there.
    Treble is still smooth and laid back with enough sparkles when needed, it never gets fatigueing.

    Comparisons

    AK Jr
    The Fiio X5 beats the AK Jr very easily in my opinion.
    The bass has better dynamics and sounds bigger with better extension and clarity even though it has more empahasis, the tightness is about the same yet the details shines through more on the X5.
    The mids has similar tonality but is way more detailed with crackles and raspness of vocals very easily heard without much efforts.
    The treble on the X5 is slightly more laid back and smooth, the AK Jr's treble is not as laid back but details is more apparent and clear on The X5.
    Soundstage is bigger in the X5 especially the width, sounds more spacious with more defined instrument separation.

    Chord Mojo
    Not a DAP, but I found the X5 is quite competitive despite the price differences.
    Mojo's Bass is tight, accurate and still musical and is closer to neutral than the X5, details is slightly more and is also feels a little faster and more natural.
    Mojo's mids expose more details and has better extension and decay, the decay on the mojo is very apparent and details in it still shines through as it fades, The X5 is good too, but the final bit of the decay is harder to hear due to stronger bass and less detail retrieval.
    Mojo's treble is not as laid back and again is more detailed and neutral compared to the X5's laid back treble, both offers smooth treble and is not the thin analytical type.
    Soundstage is about the same overall, the width is probabbly better on The X5 but the mojo is more 3D in it's presentation.

    Cayin I5
    I was once areviewer of the Cayin I5 a couple months ago, and I have to say I was impressed with the DAP, just like I am now with The X5.
    Both offers exceptional performance for the price, there are a couple of difference though:
    The bass of The I5 was more stronger in quantity than the X5 tight but emphasized presentation, but also more dynamic and more punchy, detail retrival I give a slight edge to the X5, but not by much.
    The mids in The I5 was more forward and more lush and engaging but lose out on details to the X5 by a bit, The X5's mid is more align to the rest of the frquencies and not as forward but not laid back either.
    The trebles on The I5 is a bit more laid back than the X5, but both has good extension and is not your typical bright DAP.
    Soundstage is wider on The X5 due to the intimate vocals on The I5.
    Pricing and feature are better on The X5 with 2 micro sd for a cheaper price and also balanced out, but The cayin has better player interface in my opinion and also feels snappier, buttons are also more resistant preventing accidental presses unlike The X5 which happens every once in a while.
    I have to say that comparing the 2 DAPS in all aspects(not only sound), The X5 is a better buy, however depending on your preference you might feel that the I5 is more compelling for it's presentation.
    It depends on what you like I guess.

    For the price of the Daps, it is a complete package really, have many features, sounds great and very practical with great pricing.
    I would recommend this DAP for anyone under a budget or for people who wants to put more of their money on their desktop set-up.

    images

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    4. IMG_1059.JPG
    5. IMG_1060.JPG
    6. IMG_1061.JPG
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  3. Hawaiibadboy
    FiiO X5iii Review
    Written by Hawaiibadboy
    Published Apr 27, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sonics, Versatility, Price, FiiO support
    Cons - Firmware is almost perfect....almost




    I was one of the first to showoff this beauty on YouTube and Head-Fi

    It is a fantastic item with smooth sonic replay that does not sacrifice any detail.

    I compared it with the double the cost iBasso DX200
    I found the sound and usability of the X5iii to be superior.






    FiiO has offered a premium device at an extremely cheap/affordable price relative to the competition.

    This review will be updated and edited when I figure out how to use this new forum:confounded:




    [​IMG]



    I highly...highly rec this item :call_me:
      Dsnuts likes this.
  4. fleasbaby
    Damn nice...
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published Feb 28, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound, nice accessories, stable UI, perfect price point
    Cons - Erm...maybe...I don't really know actually...

    Last time I reviewed a FiiO DAP, it was (I think) the X5ii. If I recall correctly, the X5ii sadly succumbed to the exotic charms the Pono offered. I ditched my plans to settle down with a nice safe option like the X5ii, and ran off with the exotic Pono, with its balanced output, weird, yet appealing shape and hellishly temperamental UI.
     
    Today I received a review sample of the X5iii to try out for a little while and then forward on to the next reviewer in the schedule. This unit is part of yet another legendary FiiO review tour. I am getting no financial reward or gifts for this review. This is definitely no longer the dowdy, safe, matronly X5ii. It's not even a quirky cousin. The X5iii is a clear and definite upgrade of the X5ii. Three physical items stand out:
     
    1. The large touch screen interface.
    2. The physical volume knob.
    3. The prominent ridge on the left hand side of the device.
     
    A closer look shows a couple more physical updates:
     
    1. 2.5 mm Balanced output.
    2. Smartphone SIM-card-style Micro-SD card holders
     
    The device also features a Play/Pause button, as well as a Skip Forward and a Skip Backward physical button on the pronounced ridge on the left side of the device. Gone is the old iPod-style click wheel. There is still a line-out/co-ax out jack. 
     
    In the box you no longer get a silicon case. Instead, the unit comes already snuggled up in a clear plastic flexible shell that covers the back and sides. You can pull that off and use the black leather case included instead if you’d like. Personally I preferred the plastic sheath. The leather case has slightly gaudy looking red stitching on the back, and an odd almost Harley Davidson-esque logo embossed on its rear with the FiiO slogan in it: “Born for music and happy”.
     
    When you start the unit up, it takes a while to get going. Along the way you see various graphics, one of them proclaims the unit as a “Smart Hi Res DAP”. I am not too sure what this means, and possibly sounds a little hyperbolic to me….but it is an Android device, equipped with wi-fi, capable of streaming from various services, connecting with a DLNA server, connecting with bluetooth headphones and generally being a badass, so I guess “smart” is warranted. 
     
    I tested the unit I was given to try out using Google Play, the Bandcamp app, and a 128GB micro-SD card loaded with 16/44 FLAC files of various genres. I tend to be a little esoteric in my tastes, listening to Jamaican Dub by the likes of Lee Perry and Scientist, modern IDM by folks like Flying Lotus and Four Tet, Jazz by Alice and John Coltrane, Miles Davis and a host of others. I also have a thing for Madagascan guitar lately, and a few other acoustic genres coming from the Dark Continent. What can I say, I miss my home. This tested the X5iii across multiple styles and gave a good impression of its ability to handle bass, miss and highs.
     
    For my testing, I used some homemade Ypsilon woodies in Black Limba and Burmese Blackwood (single-ended termination), some Monk Plus terminated with a 2.5mm balanced plug and an outlier earbud, the Quian39 (just because….well….why not?). I am not much of an IEMs person. They irritate my ears and annoy me when I start to be able to hear myself chewing, breathing, gulping, etc…
     
    Sound wise the X5iii is great., especially when listening to balanced headphones. It conveys bass realistically, without over-emphasis, the mids are clear and coherent, and the highs are clean, without introducing fatigue. Compared to other players I have owned/currently own, its not going open the gates of heaven, or transfigure you into an avatar of pure audio bliss. What player will though? The audio world is plagued by the rule of diminishing returns, and fanciful legends about $3K+ players transporting users to higher dimensions populated by rock gods, their wanton maidens and rivers of milk, honey and money...
     
    The only way to show value in the DAP market is to produce a clean-sounding, competent player with a stable UI, and the extra features people look for as the hobby evolves (like Bluetooth, wi-fi, the ability to load streaming apps, balanced output, expandable storage…). 
     
    In this regard, FiiO has produced an incredible product. It gives all of these things, and it only costs $400 new. This changes the game substantially. Want balanced? Sure…there are a few cheaper players out there that will give you this…no bluetooth though, and no stable UI. Want a stable UI? Yeah, buy an iPod Classic….no balanced though, no wifi or apps, and limited storage unless you get crazy and crack that sucker open for some surgery. Want wi-fi? Sure thing…it will even come with balanced….but dear Lord you’re going to pay a premium. You get the idea.
     
    FiiO, in their characteristic fashion, have seen the hole in the market and firmly filled it with all of the features people clamor for, at a reasonable price, in a handsome package (with a slightly kitschy leather case on the side :D). I applaud them for their astute market knowledge, and an extremely successful release, that seems to be free of the usual early firmware bugs that inspire such wailing and gnashing of teeth these days. The X5iii is an excellent successor to the already popular X5 and X5ii. 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rmoody
      This makes me want to just order it now! Seems exactly what I have been looking for. I'll be patent and wait for my turn on the review tour.
      rmoody, Feb 28, 2017
    3. chaturanga
      Not so much detailed but it gives enough clue, (and there will be lots of other reviews on review tour we can get different pieces from each).
       
      Thanks for the review. 
      chaturanga, Mar 1, 2017
    4. Kouzelna
      Literally astounding to me that it took so long for a company to just make a phone with quality audio components, without the phone part in it.  Was it really that tough?  Kudos Fiio.  Now please produce enough stock for people to buy one.
      Kouzelna, Mar 2, 2017
  5. Dobrescu George
    FiiO X5-3: The Next Benchmark for Digital Audio Players
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Feb 24, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Very Detailed Bass and Mids, Good Soundstage Width and Depth, Fast and Fluid UI, Android, Modern Design, Screen Quality
    Cons - Buttons Placement, Smooth top end
     
    Introduction
     
    FiiO X5 3rd  generation is the successor of the "loved by many" X5 2nd generation DAP from FiiO. 
     
    I was a part of the tour for X5 3rd gen because I really wanted to hear it for a longer period of time before deciding whether I want to buy one for myself or not.
     
    This proven to be an unwise idea as now I want to buy one. 
     
    FiiO is a company that emerged in 2007 and focused on portable headphone amplifiers at first, but slowly extended their product range to DAPs (digital audio players), desktop headphone amplifiers and IEMs (in-ear monitors). I only met with a FiiO product in 2014-2015 when I got my FiiO X5 - the best DAP I would had ever laid my hands on at that point. FiiO impressed me with the quality of their products for the price asked ever since and I generally recommend their products for both the value and the quality of their offering, albeit I don't have any affiliation with FiiO at this moment and there was no incentive offered for any of my words. Those are just my honest observations. 
     
    There are many DAPs that want to claim the tile of King Of DAPs and none was perfect thus far for my needs, with the closest to perfect being FiiO X5ii which has been my great music companion for over two years now and proven to be a champ in every aspect.
     
     
    About me
     
    My name is George and I enjoy music and listen to music more than the average person. Sometimes I listen even 8 - 10 hours a day. I listen music while working, listen to music for enjoyment and listen to music while I'm gaming. Music is everywhere around me, be it classical, pop, rap, metal, jazz or electronica or any other genera for that matter. I also like to prepare long playlists to enjoy while working on my company's games.
     
    You can check out more on our pages here https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/     and here https://twitter.com/7heartstudios . My love for music has had an impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best disk space to sound quality ratio, OGG -q10 being audibly transparent when compared to FLAC encoding. 
     
    Sometimes I like to get lost in music and experience a whole new level of enlightenment from the long hours. I love new songs as much as I love songs that I've been listening to since my early childhood. I can say that music shaped my imagination and improved every part of my life, giving me a wide perspective over life - this being a broad statement made about music in general. Love is a term too short to explain how I feel about music, but so are most words when used to describe complex human emotions.
     
    (Sorry, I got lost for a moment there. Back on track)
     
     

    First Impression
     
    I have owned a FiiO X5 2nd generation for a good while now. I has been my trusty companion through thick and thin, being there with me on my long trips to distant cities and being with me when I was happy and fully enjoying my life. X5ii shaped my standards for what I consider a worthy DAP and I was quite agitated when FiiO announced an X5-3 that was so different from it's predecessor. I had so many questions, so many doubts about X5-3 so I wanted to test one and see how it works for myself. 
     
    By the time FiiO X5-3 arrived to me, it was a cloudy morning and I had too little sleep that night having worked until 6 AM on the upcoming games Eternal Hour, Falsetto Memories and Quantum Magica. The agent delivering the X5-3 called me on a monotonous tone, so I swiftly went outside to pick the box. 
     
    Fast forward through the unboxing and the first setup to the sound and device impressions, I was baffled. There was so much about X5-3's feeling as a device that was different from X5ii. Instead of feeling like a DAP, X5-3 feels more like a high end luxury device that you might expect to get with an expensive car. The device is packaged with a leather case that adds a certain style to owning the device. The moment I plugged X5-3 in with me IEMs, Sennheiser ie800, the sound coming from the rather modern device sound was shocking; The entire sound was changed and in a positive way. It felt like X5-3 is the upgraded version of an X5ii on steroids and I had to listen more before making a certain assessment of how the sound changed exactly. All I knew is that I loved the guitar notes I was hearing
     
     
    Packaging
     
     
    Box and package
     
    IMG_20170224_132556.jpg
     
    IMG_20170224_132638.jpg     IMG_20170224_132714.jpg     IMG_20170224_132823.jpg    
     
     
     
    X5-3
     
    IMG_20170224_132940.jpg     IMG_20170224_134002.jpg     IMG_20170224_134118.jpg
     
     
     
    Package contents
     
    IMG_20170224_133022.jpg     IMG_20170224_133146.jpg     IMG_20170224_133353.jpg
     
     
     
    Leather skin + X5-3
     
    IMG_20170224_134234.jpg     IMG_20170224_134305.jpg     IMG_20170224_134401.jpg
     
     
     
    X5-3 and X5-2
     
     
    IMG_20170224_135125.jpg     IMG_20170224_134854.jpg     IMG_20170224_135014.jpg
     
     
    X5-3 came in a nice package made out of a cardboard box with an intricate layering inside. In the box you can find X5-3, its manuals, a warranty card, a tool for taking the mSD trays out, one coaux cable,  a leather (leatherette?) skin, a silicone clear skin (it is on X5-3 by default) and a high quality USB cable (thicker than the typical audio cable and dedicated for Audio). 
     
    One of the most exciting parts of owning a product is opening the box it came in, then using it the first few times. If a product is really good, it will be exciting every single time it's being used, and this is something FiiO X5ii was really good at with the device I bought in the past.
     
    The most intriguing parts of the box are X5-3 itself, the leather case and the USB cable. While I'm not a leather expert, the leather case has a nice red stitching on it's back that adds a clear plus of style to it and the leather itself has a smooth yet slightly textured feeling to it. There is no indication whether it is faux leather or animal leather, but it looks pretty good in person. The writing on the back looks and feels nice to the touch and the holes in the leather case exactly where they should to enable a good operation. The leather case is arguably better than the silicone one for most usage scenarios since the cut around the headphone jack in the silicone case won't allow for certain cables to be used, but that is just me nitpicking. 
     
    The USB cable is also a very interesting addition as it's been changed from the ones a few years ago (when I first bought my X5 and my X5ii) and now the cables are of a higher quality and have a different type of construction and shielding. Flexing the cable is possible, but it is not overly flexible. The stiffness is most probably caused by its internal composition. 
     
    It is worthy to mention that there are screen protectors both on the face and on the back of X5-3; The screen protector found on the display of X5-3 is a glass screen protector with rounded and chamfered edges that doesn't impede operation and usage of X5-3 in any way. The screen protector on the back seems to be a thin plastic protector that is applied to protect the back of X5-3's glass back from scratches. I am pleased with both additions since they come in the box and already applied from the factory. 
     
    The Hi-Res sticker on the glass display of X5-3 can be easily peeled off but I didn't really take the liberty to do so as I don't own the tour unit. There was a similar sticker on the back of my X5ii when it arrived and it took me 10 seconds to peel it off, and another 5 to clean any residual glue, but given the smooth glass texture of the X5-3's glass display protector, there won't be any trace glue left. 
     
    All in all, The unboxing experience of X5-3 is nice and the box includes the right amount of accessories. There aren't many other accessories that I would had really asked for since it's package is robust, but I would like audio companies to bring back the 3.5mm jack saver (a rubber 3.5mm plug) that was found with the first generation of FiiO X5. I found them good for protecting the headphone jacks from dust or other debris, but it is good to mention that the silicone case offers rubber flaps over the 3.5mm audio jacks.
     
     
    What I look in for a DAP
     
    When buying a Digital Audio Player, I have a few things that I really need for me to even consider buying it. Those are:
     
    - Battery life – at least 8 hours of function at high volume on high gain, with some screen operation and with EQ function engaged (real world usage scenario) 
    - Good and intuitive / ergonomic build (buttons arrangement, robust build, no creaking noises, resistance to pressure for when it's a pocket, robust headphone jacks)
    - Display (screen) brightness, sharpness, colors and general quality 
    - Good Value
    - Interesting design - the device must look modern / elegant / luxurious and fit in with both street usage and a business environment
    - To work well with both IEMs and over the ear headphones
    - Sound quality
    - USB DAC function 
    - Good EQ function
    - Enough I/O ports
    - Fluent, Fast, stable Firmware 
    - Wide Music file type support
     
     
    Technical Specifications
     
    Output Impedance1 ohm into a 32 ohm load
    Connector3.5mm Headphone Out, 2.5 mm balanced 
    Frequency Response5 Hz - 55.000Hz (-3dB)
    Works as a USB DACYes (didn't test)
    Battery3400mAh, Li-Polymer
    Play Time~10 Hours
    Display Size / Type 3.97", IPS
    Display Resolution480x800 pixels
    Output Power 480mW into 16 ohm, THD+N <1%
    Weight186g
    DAC ChipAK4490 x 2
    Max Output Voltage8 Vp-p
    Max Current250mA
    Cross Talk98 dB / 1kHz
    SNR115dB (A weighted)
    AMP ConfigurationOPA 1642 x2 + OPA 426 x2
    CPURK 3188 4-core
    FirmwareCustomized Android 5.1
    Wifi SupportYes, b/g/n standards
    BluetoothV4.0 apt-X supported
    RAM1GB
    mSD support2 x mSD slots (max 256 GB x2)
    Formats supported Virtually every format made supported by Android apps

     
     
     
    Build Quality/Aesthetics
     
    X5-3 will surprise anyone who looks at it as it's far from being a chunky audiophile device and it looks closer to an elegant device taken out of a modern (or maybe Industrial) museum. X5-3 is characterized by sharp angles, a smooth digital volume wheel, snappy buttons on both sides of the device and glass on both front and back of the device.
     
    On the front, there is a very fine dot pattern that accompanies the display, giving it a plus of elegance, and the back of X5-3 is characterized by a glass surface under which there is a pattern of tiny golden stars. The FiiO logo on the front will be covered by the leather case and so will be most of the device, but the leather case by itself has a stylish appearance although it features less angular and more rounded edges, 
     
    The volume wheel is an analogue controller for the digital volume chip and while the clicks are not exactly the loudest or the most tactile, they are easy to feel and offer the volume a coherent feel. The space between two clicks is large and while it helps with having a finer control over the volume wheel, it is better to use the display control of volume if you're doing large adjustments for volume. 
     
    The placement of the buttons is okay, but it is possible to press the play / pause button by mistake while trying to press the power button as it is possible to press the FWD / BCKWD button while trying to press the power button. A similar effect happens with the volume wheel as it is exactly on the other end compared to the power button. The device works well for ambidextrous usage and while it doesn't offer perfect button placement, using it left handed will offer a better control for buttons when compared to right handed usage. 
     
    It is possible to use X5-3 inside the pocket without much hassle and having the physical buttons on the other side than the power buttons is better here as it's not possible to activate the display by mistake. 
     
    X5-3 is made out of metal and the edges are slightly chamfered offering a good feeling to the device. The device feels sturdy in the hand and there is no creaking as X5-3 does not give in to any kind of pressure. The display won't show any color shifts when pressure is applied, so X5-3 can be used inside a pocket without a problem. It is recommended to avoid pocket usage to protect the headphone jacks, but the headphone jacks are sturdy and have a solid feeling to them. The USB port is also pretty stable and won't jiggle while in usage. 
     
    While many have criticized the usage of a combined line out and coaux out port, I rarely use either so it works well enough for me. I can't assess whether there is any degradation in sound caused by the standalone design, but the DAC within X5-3 is good and the sound coming out of the line out is clean. I didn't text the coaux function at all, but there is an adapter included in the box and I know that it worked very well with X5 and X5ii attached to Chord Hugo.
     
    The usage of a touchscreen display is good, but the display might be small for big fingers as I'm actually using a phone of 6.44" and still can't write a message without Google's auxiliary help (autocorrect). Nevertheless, I was able to use X5-3 without a problem and the big font setting helps out with this. There is enough information on the display and the touchscreen sensor is precise enough for daily usage. Given the size and purposing of X5-3, it is not a device made for playing games or watching videos, and its main purpose is listening to music - purpose which it achieves pretty well. 
     
    Both mSD card trays are ejected using the tool included in the package and they sit pretty tightly in the device, there is no trace of them sliding out without the usage of the mentioned tool. The mSD cards are facing with the connector pins up (towards the display) and are placed from the back of the device, the design being the same as it is on my Xiaomi Mi Max smartphone. 
     
    I can't talk about the 2.5mm balanced jack in any way as I don't own any balanced IEMs or headphones at the moment and I didn't have the time to borrow a balanced headphone.
     
     
     
    Firmware and UI
     
    IMG_20170224_135225.jpg     IMG_20170224_135251.jpg     IMG_20170224_135426.jpg
     
    IMG_20170224_135446.jpg     IMG_20170221_222751.jpg     IMG_20170224_135900.jpg
     
     
     
    Upon opening X5-3 first time and activating the wifi function, it will request the installation of the latest FW via OTA update. The update goes smooth and the latest version released from FiiO works well. The firmware and UI themselves are fluid and fast, X5-3 being the new standard for the speed a DAP should have. Comparing X5-3 to X5ii, X5-3 is faster than even X5ii with the modded firmware and considerably faster than X5ii running stock firmware. X5-3 features a built in music app developed by FiiO which works well and plays back all the music formats I have within my collection. It is hard to fault X5-3 on the firmware or UI side as it is right now and the device requires a maximum time of 5 minutes before getting used to it.
     
    FiiO bundled Viper effects within the stock music app offering a while array of effects developed by the Viper Team. As this is a review unit (and I have to send it back), I didn't purchase any effect, but the effects that you can use out of the box are good, and won't cause any aliasing / distortions / artifacts. 
     
    FiiO's own Music app is adequate and it's actually good for music playback. I didn't feel the need to install any other app.
     
    The operation is smooth, gapless playback seems to work by default and there were no drops in music and no crashes in my usage. I generally prefer to use "browse by folder" as it is simpler for me to predict what songs are included under which tag and my music collection is too big to manually tag every song. Some songs had certain tags when extracted from the CDs making them harder to properly tag to be used while portable. Nevertheless, I tested the play by tag function and X5-3 has indexed my entire library well and all tags were read correctly, even tags and names that otherwise didn't show well on my X5ii.
     
    As the FW is based on Android, it is possible to install most music apps and even video apps and games from Google Play Store and upon testing, VLC media player works well, same for Angry Birds and Tentacle Wars games. This addition of Google Play based apps will allow for virtually any file type to be played and other type of features that are enabled through a different app, if there is a feature desired that isn't supported by the default music app. I didn't discover any feature that wasn't supported by the default music app, but my needs are quite basic when it comes to music playback. I wasn't able to test the bluetooth function as I don't own any Bluetooth headphones or IEMs at this moment. 
     
    Regarding the FW being based on Android, I observed no degradation in sound caused by the usage of Android firmware and I got to admit that I was a bit reluctant at first when it came to Android, but I was pleasantly surprised that FiiO made the FW stable and the sound quality is good with Android. They made a deeply customized version of android that comes with very little on the side and I would actually be willing to say that there is zero bloatware on x5-3, most apps being useful. The technical support app offers an easier way of finding whether X5-3 is running the latest FW available for it and is a good help so all the apps that come installed from the factory are pretty useful.
     
     
     
    Sound Quallity
     
     
    X5-3 has a specific signature that is not exactly easy to describe. I would say that the sound is detailed, open with a generally smooth and warm presentation. It has a large soundstage that has a good depth, width and height to it and it also features good technical ADSR, PRaT and transients.  
     
     
    Little disclaimer: For those impressions I have used Ultrasone Dj One pro, Sennheiser ie800 and Meze classics 99, all items being quite revealing in terms of sound. The headphones used will always have an impact on the sound and impressions. X5-3 is able to drive all of them very well. EQ was used for 99C and DJ1P but no EQ or enhancements were used for ie800. At some point, I might end up describing the signature of ie800, 99C or DJ1P so please take the whole sound quality area with a grain of salt as it's not really possible to describe the sound of a source without using a transducer. The transducers used are very good and TOTL - your experience might differ if you're using other transducers.
     
     
    Channel balance
     
    I noticed that the channel balance is good on X5-3 and there is an option in the settings to change the channel balance if need be, with + / - 10dB on either channel. The function works well and won't introduce aliasing or errors nor will affect the sound in any negative way. 
     
     
    Bass
     
    The Bass is one of the first things that hits when listening with X5-3. The bass of X5-3 is deep and goes lower than you would expect before listening to it. At the same time, the bass is tight and fast, it doesn't lose any of its power nor it bloat or lose its detail. The bass is able to recover every bit of detail in the music that's being played - but there's more to it. The bass is actually faster and better than on any other device I owned to date, being able to expose all the tiny ribs and textures hidden within the bass of many tracks - ribs and textures that I wasn't aware of before. Listening to IOSYS and Mindless Self Indulgence will reveal an even deeper layer of textures than most devices are able to show, the quality of the bass being way better than expected. Given my prior experiences, X5-3 has the best bass of any DAP I played with for extended periods of time, outclassing every DAP that I owned (X5, X5ii). What's even more interesting about the bass of X5-3 is the transient quality of it; Most DAPs will recover the bass as either a mass of sound or a liquid presence in the music, but X5-3 recovers the bass with more transients, more depth and considerably better texture recovery than any of those being an axe that cuts through the veil that's been laid on the bass before. I would say that if there is a lace laid over the bass area, X5-3 is able to recover all the details in that and show paint it before your eyes.
     
    The most interesting part is that X5-3 doesn't have an enhanced bass by itself, being pretty neutral in the bass area; This detail in bass is a result of its own ability to recover the details hidden in the bass and I can easily name its bass the best I heard to date and even although I always loved bass, I never knew that there was so much fun to it - so much texture.
     
    The incredible transient recovery of ie800 and 99C will also play a role in this, but the other DAPs I owned were tested with the same headphones so it's fair to assume that X5-3 outclasses them by a considerable margin.
     
     
    Midrange
     
    The midrange of X5-3 is another really nice surprise for X5-3 as it has abilities beyond those of its predecessors. The midrange is sweet and has a generally sweet tone to it while staying true to the recording. I was baffled again by the detail but even more by the textures that are once again better than I expected. The transient abilities of X5-3 are very good and the midrange can recover sounds that I barely noticed before like short notes or nuances in complex songs. For example, many of the background guitars in Dance Gavin Dance - Acceptance speech were generally clouded and sounded closer to a fuzzy cloud rather than proper guitar notes with complex textures and X5-3 is able to properly define all those textures - not only exposing them like under a microscope, but even pointing the smallest dents in the sound. Violins now have a complex texture and it's easier to recall the tension and surface of the strings while they are played, but the biggest difference I felt were in rock and metal music as X5-3 was very good at painting guitars, strings and string textures.
     
    The details are very good and the soundstage and instrument separation of X5-3 are on another level when compared to its predecessors, leading to a whole new level of instrument definition. Those differences are best felt on extremely complex songs that can bring a simpler device to its knees. Songs like those include most of the IOSYS album "Nothing but the TOHO EDM", album which has a lot of fine details in the mids that are easily overshadowed by a less detailed source. Dance Gavin Dance music in general can get overshadowed by a cloud of noise, like a fuzz, while really well detailed sources will be able to pick all the details in the guitar picks and notes. The guitars do move across the stereo image as they should and there is an involving sense of music within every note. Songs that would otherwise sound stale will gain a sense of melody and fun to them, will gain more musicality and the better speed of X5-3 has a deep impact on how a song can transform from a random compilation of fuzzy noises into a true magical masterpiece that pictures the music as it was recorded. 
     
     
    Treble
     
    It is smooth and slightly rolled off. This is one of the smoother trebles I heard so far in a DAP and the general signature of X5-3 is not neutral but fun and smooth. The DAC chip within X5-3 is known to have "Velvet Sound" technology incorporated, which is a technology developed by Asashi Kasei. There is some information on Asashi Kasei Microdevices official site about what it does, but I would like to have more time to listen to X5-3 before pronouncing what it does exactly.
     
    From the more practical information that can be found on their site, the velvet sound technology is a trick that will enhance the soundstage of a device and it works pretty well for that. Given it's name "velvet sound", it is unclear whether it tries to achieve velvety treble as well in the DAC phase, but the treble of X5-3 could be named velvety and smooth. It sounds like the cymbals have some velvet within instead of being fully made of metal. This results in a sound where all the detail is still there but the treble is soft and velvety.
     
    The top end of X5-3 is smooth, detailed and will show every instrument played and cymbal crash. There is something to it that will pull back the top end in a recording and will make almost any album listenable, giving music less work in the high registers. This approach is useful to make music easier on the listener, being forgiving with many types of music. Songs like Amon Amarth -  the Pursuit of The Vikings will get a new meaning to their music, the melodic part of the song being enhanced by the velvety treble. The song becomes a fast and friendly composition rather than the raw / rough metal song that it normally is. 
     
    I will complete this section when I get the chance to listen more to X5-3 as right now my opinions are incomplete and my time of listening to X5-3 has pretty much ran out now. Some impressions might be mistaken due to not enough time spent with X5-3.
     
    X5-3 could be named musical considering that it will make even harsh death metal songs sound more musical; Taking away the harshness of the cymbal crashes will turn many otherwise energetic songs into relaxed compositions where it is easier to appreciate the beautiful guitar compositions and drums arrangements. With acoustic music, it is possible to increase the treble from either X5-3's internal EQ or from within Viper Effects to add a bit more bite, if this is desired. The treble is ultimately as clear and detailed as X5ii, with the sound coming as more refined in the end, but with smoothness. X5-3 is a DAP that can be used for many hours at once, without getting any fatigue. It is fairly good for long listening sessions of Jazz compositions or even listening to technical death metal as without the harshness in the treble, those songs are more like fast compositions of non-fatigue energetic music. 
     
     
    Soundstage
     
    The soundstage of X5-3 is bigger than that of it's predecessor - or it rather has better depth and a rounded soundstage. The soundstage of X5-3 reaches very good levels and it adds a bit more realism to the instrument separation making music more interesting. It is easy to identify a single guitar's work in complex songs like those speedy pieces from Protest the Hero or identifying the fine nuances over a classy Cabaret or Jazz composition, like those sang by Jill Tracy. The ethereal and straightforward out-worldly compositions of Akira Yamaoka have a precise position of all the symbols and the instruments, giving more life to all the eerie pieces he composed.
     
    With a good depth of stage, it is possible to recall which sound comes from a closer position and which comes from a distance, leading to an intriguing experience. X5-3 is good at getting the user involved in the music. 
     
     
    ADSR/PRaT
     
    The ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) and PRaT (Peace, Rhythm and Timing) are consistently better on X5-3 when compared to X5ii and the transients were upgraded as well in the process. The new level of detail in the transients will have two effects, one immediate and one that will change listening to music. The immediate effect are the improved textures of every instrument and the macro-details being enhanced and presented more directly without affecting the main component of the music. The longer and more subtle effect is a considerable boost in micro details and nuances within the musical notes. As ADSR is the main component of every note responsible for how real a note sounds like (musical notes having a unique shape in nature), the improvement brought in ADSR will give every note a new subtle meaning, every piano key being even closer to its natural sound. 
     
     
    Drive factor
     
    FiiO X5-3 is rated to be able to drive headphones from 16 to 150 ohm, but the highest headphone I tested it with was a 64 ohm Ultrasone Dj One Pro. X5-3 was able to drive DJ1P well, and there was no trace of struggle at any point. If there is a need for more power, FiiO A5 amplifier is a good option and the combo should have enough driving power for most headphones. X5-3 combined well with Sennheiser ie800 and there was no trace of hiss, but ie800 is not the most hissy IEM out there either. All in all, X5-3 should be able to work just well with almost any headphone out there. I cannot talk about the standalone DAC sound / signature at this moment as I need more time to test, but I speculate that the DAC in X5ii is good and should make a good DAC even in an audiophile large speaker system. 
     
     
    Comparisons 
     
    X5-3 vs X5ii – X5-3 brings a lot of new features to the table, making the comparison almost unfair. X5-3 brings a whole new level of customization with the Android OS, a more detailed sound in general with better textures, a considerably smoother top end and a whole new feature set like Wifi abilities, BlueTooth with APT-X and balanced headphone output. The mechanical volume controller on X5-3 is a nice addition as is its smooth to use for making fine adjustments. While both devices have a very good screen, X5ii has a slightly brighter screen while X5-3 has a considerably larger screen as its main system of operation is based on touchscreen instead of a mechanical wheel switch controller.
     
    Bonus Photos
     
    IMG_20170221_223420.jpg
      IMG_20170224_140039.jpg   IMG_20170221_224117.jpg   IMG_20170221_223757.jpg   IMG_20170224_134002.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Value
     
    Taking into account every of X5-3's specifications and the fact that it became a new benchmark for DAPs everywhere, X5-3 has a fair value being priced between 400$ and 530$, depending on the area it's bough in, the specific VAT for that country and other taxes that must be handled. Compared to all of its direct competitors, X5-3 has a stable UI and fluid UI operation with an intuitive orientation. The feature rich set of X5-3 and the fact that it ticks all boxes for a DAP makes X5-3 a good value and one of the best DAPs that can be bought at this moment. There are many alternatives but X5-3 is priced competitively, making it a very interesting choice. The increase in price when compared to x5ii is also fair considering all the new features that were bought to X5-3, like Android firmware, Wifi, BlueTooth and all the other bells and whistles that you might want in a DAP. The price of X5-3 is comparable to a midrange portable audio device, but X5-3 offers more than most do at that price point, including the very detailed sound and nice design touches, turning X5-3 into a good value device. When compared with high end devices, X5-3 performs very well and can be safely considered one of the high end DAPs. 
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    Falling in love with X5-3 is unavoidable once you hear one and you're bound to want to buy one once you get enough time playing with it. The UI is faster than any other DAP UI I've laid my paws upon, faster than Cowon J3 and X5 and slightly faster than FiiOX5ii after customizing it with the light UI. It was a lot of fun time using X5-3 and I'm glad I was a part of the tour.
     
    It survived through my outdoors usage test, my quandaries related to music and it was able to customize its sound to face my rather obtuse listening habits. I got to use some Youtube and some video watching in the meanwhile, but I own a 6.44" Xiaomi Mi Max for videos and games. The main reason I want a DAP is for music and music alone. X5-3 answers well to this call.
     
    X5-3 set a new benchmark for what a DAP should do and how a DAP should act. The speed of the UI is great, the detail retrieval is great, and while the top end is smooth, this can be alleviated by the built-in Viper and Equalizer functions. There is little to fault on X5-3, but the things nice to see in a future revision are buttons on only one side and all audio ports on top of the device with USB on bottom. I would also like to see a brighter top end as it helps my ears distinguish details better, but that's a matter of personal preference. 
     
    All in all, X5-3 is a great device and it's probably going to be the highlight for a good while in terms of Digital Audio Players. I can't wait to see what next thing FiiO comes with and what other DAPs will appear on the market. Everything is getting really nice!
     
    I am thankful to FiiO for including me in the tour and I hope this was a good read for you! 
     
    Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!

    1. View previous replies...
    2. Dobrescu George
      @Indrajit - X5-3 is much warmer, much much smoother, much leaner, much more relaxing. N5ii is more energetic, more honest, more balanced, more versatile. There are other differences as well, like for example, the display, their software and so on, but just sonically, N5ii feels more balanced, where X5-3 feels smoother and warmer. The detail levels are similar, Cayin N5ii might have a slight edge on the revealing part because the treble is much more balanced / natural
      Dobrescu George, Jul 16, 2018
    3. Dobrescu George
      @JaZZ - I am really curious if you had a chance to try X5-3, and how you felt about its smooth velvety treble reproduction :)
      Dobrescu George, Jul 16, 2018
    4. fokta
      Nice Review, Quick Question,Do X5-3 with install apps Spotify able to go offline, and storage the song in the SD card ?
      fokta, Aug 8, 2018
  6. xkonfuzed
    Spacious and Musical
    Written by xkonfuzed
    Published Apr 25, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Impeccable Build. Great sound. Versatile.
    Cons - Not the smoothest UI. Price point somewhat high. Minor caveats in SQ.
    Pictures: 
    20170425_034302-1.jpg
     
    20170425_034326.jpg
     
    20170425_034529.jpg
     
     
     
    Introduction:
    The device was lent to me as part of FiiO's review tour. I was given 10 days with the device to evaluate it and in return give my honest opinion about it. My current equipment is an LH Labs Geek Out V2 as my source, my headphones include a balanced HD650, Sony MA900, M-Audio Q40. I listen to a wide variety of music and generally tend to prefer my sound to be transparent, musical, and detailed. 
     
    Build Quality:
    FiiO absolutely nailed this part. I have never held the previous generations of the X5, however the X5III is built impeccably well. Everything is nice to the touch and the device itself has a good amount of heft to it giving the impression of quality. The buttons - albeit weirdly laid out and positioned - feel solid and give good feedback. The device has an analog volume knob (even though you could still adjust it digitally on screen). The volume adjusts in small increments and reacts linearly to minor adjustments. FiiO did a very good job here.
     
     
    UI:
    The X5III uses Android version 5.1 and for the most is actually pretty quick and responsive. However, I have encountered that apps like Tidal experience hiccups every once in a while. Another problem I encountered is that the Wifi cuts off randomly sometimes, and when I try to re-connect it takes longer than usual. Battery life is nothing special, however I am quite disappointed with the way this device loses juice when its idle and not in use. Overall I am happy FiiO went the Android way as this means a wide selection of music apps and players, and a lot of customization. For reference, I am using the stock FiiO firmware and did not want to fiddle with anything. 
     
    Sound:
    All music testing here was done in Tidal using the HiFi quality (lossless files).
     
    The way I would describe the sound on the X5III is that it doesn't compromise on anything in favor of another. It manages to achieve and impressive amount of detail without tuning the sound to be bright. I have always preferred a warm, laid back sound but I have found that this often comes at the price of perceived clarity and detail. The X5, surprisingly, manages to achieve outstanding musicality with its warm, spacious sound while also retrieving subtle information in music. 
     
    Instrument separation and a wide soundstage is one of the first things that stand out when listening to the X5. Instruments are widely spaced out and never feel mushed together. This, along with the wide soundstage, gives off a euphoric, almost life-like sound. 
     
    The bass and midrange are beautifully integrated together to achieve a certain "thickness" to vocals and instruments which really enhances the musicality. One caveat with the bass is that it sometimes sound sluggish sometimes. The transitions in different bass frequencies dont seem to be as seamless as other gear I own (GO v2). The decay one the notes is also somewhat slower. This is not easily picked up but I thought I'd mention it since I noticed it a few times compared to my GO v2. As a whole though, the bass is extremely well defined and detailed, and is very pleasant to listen to. There seems to be more elevation in the mid/upper bass areas than deeper subbass. Gives an extremely satisfying thump to certain instruments and makes them stand out. This also contributes to the overall warmth characteristic that it possesses. I was listening to Woodkid's "Iron" and the way the drums are represented on the X5 is beautiful. They hit with authority, detail, and clarity. The midrange of the X5 has a certain sweetness to it. It is not forward nor recessed, however its warmth resonates a certain delicacy in instruments and voices that renders them beautifully. The midrange carries tons of detail and never sound shouty or harsh.  
     
    The highs seems to be - relatively speaking - laid back and not as pronounced. I do miss the sparkle I got on my other sources, however the softer treble translates to me being able to listen for longer periods of time and relaxing more while doing so. The treble still offers plenty of detail and extension, however, if you like brightness you may want to look elsewhere. 
     
    Comparison to LH Labs GO v2:
    To be clear this is will be comparing the sound through the 3.5mm SE output as opposed to the Balanced out. I would have loved to test out the 2.5mm TRRS on the X5, however my balanced HD650 terminates in a 3.5TRRS and there wasn't enough time for me to get an adapter shipped in time. Therefore, this is a comparison of the SE outputs only. 
     
    It seems that overall, the GO v2 seems to be the slightly faster, more detailed, and more forward source. It has a neutral signature with emphasis on the crystal clear mids and a sparkly (though not-fatiguing) treble. Bass is extremely quick and tight. What it lacks in musicality it makes up for in its technical ability. 
     
    The X5 is a somewhat different story. On the surface it may appear like it may not have perceived clarity of the v2, however the more you listen the more the notice that it in fact "perceived" and the levels of clarity on the X5 are impressive. The soundstage is wider, instrument separation is better, and there's seems to be more room to "breathe". For me, it falls behind the v2 in terms of detail, speed, and decay, however it makes up for all of this with its warm, musical signature. 
     
    Closing Thoughts:
    To say that I enjoyed my time with the X5 would be a vast understatement. I found its musicality very appealing and ended up listening to it hours upon hours endlessly. I just wish it was cheaper as I feel (and this is purely my opinion) it is priced somewhat high. FiiO have made an excellent job of putting together a device that not only sounds incredible, but is also built remarkably well and has a lot of options and potential in the future.
     
    Thanks for reading my review. Constructive criticism is always welcome.
  7. ObjectVoice
    Great Android DAP
    Written by ObjectVoice
    Published Apr 23, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Beautiful Spacious Detail, Net-Connected Android Device
    Cons - Net-Connected Android Device, a few intereface glitches

    I got my hands on this as a part of the UK X5iii review tour.
     
    1. Almost at once there was a keen ‘Oh ****, I’m just going to have to buy one of these’ moment for me when listening to Joni Mitchell and getting a sense for the first time ever of being able to judge or perceive the actual sound absorbency or acoustic qualities of the particular and different environments in which she recorded each of her individual vocal tracks. Just crazy.
     
    2. The very, very slightly smooth tone of the X5iii made me switch from almost always using HD650’s (with my X5ii) to almost always using HD600’s. It seemed like: Smooth + Smooth = Slightly Too Damn Smooth. It was great with HD600’s though.
     
    3. The wheel is fantastically useful on the go but it feels slightly odd at first: like you’re torturing a tiny sea creature with your thumb or something - and that’s just a little bit yucky.
     
    4. There were a few glitches, crashes & other semi-weird interface miss-fire moments with it. Enough to make you appreciate the 'dumb' interface of non-Android DAP’s a bit more. (It seemed not to like you switching between using the Line out and headphone out mid-track and froze or crashed a couple of times.) The X5iii does make you realise that it takes very little in terms of interface glitches to make your belief in the overall coherence or the functional integrity of a device wobble a bit. It produces wonderful audio – but the impression of the player as a whole becomes peppered with the repetition of the still fairly numerous little ‘uh?’ moments. Probably the updates will fix this stuff though.
     
    5. I ended up getting a bit more distracted from listening with the X5iii due to the access it offers to the endless blur of t'internet and/or Android system tweaks pulling my focus away from the music. Non-Android DAPS are pretty dull - and that’s arguably a good thing.
     
    6. I worry about dropping my X5ii and I worried about dropping this more.
     
    7. It’s obviously great for use with downloaded audio and since that’s basically how I get stuff now that’s obviously a huge plus over shifting stuff to SD cards from other download devices.
     
    If FiiO offered to sell me the UK review tour X5iii ‘second hand’ at a hundred quid or so off the new price I’d probably buy it in a flash and flog my X5ii. Would I flog my X5ii now and buy one of these new? No - but then I buy almost nothing new and certainly not fancy DAPs. 
     
    After a period of intense listening to both of them it’s made me realise afresh how much I actually really like the X5ii (particularly with my old beat-up HD650’s) and what an amazing audio device it is.
     
    X5iii.jpg
     
    X5.jpg
    1. Dobrescu George
      Interesting view over X5-3 though! 
      Dobrescu George, Apr 23, 2017
  8. bms44974
    Amazing DAP for the price!
    Written by bms44974
    Published Apr 18, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - detail, sound stage, instrument separation, app functionality, build quality
    Cons - Android, battery life

    Disclaimer: I received the X5iii tour unit to evaluate for 7 days in return for my honest opinion.

    Build:

    The X5iii is solidly built and has a substantial feel. The controls are conveniently placed with the exception of the forward/backward rocker. I frequently skipped forward or backward when picking up the unit or holding the unit in my left hand and pressing the power button to wake the screen during playback (the base of my thumb would activate the rocker when pressing the power button with my index finger). The rocker can be disabled using custom keylock settings in the system options menu.
    The unit came with a plastic case that covers all but the screen, volume wheel, and 3.5mm headphone port. Small flaps cover the 2.5mm balanced, line-out, and USB ports. The flap on the USB port would not stay in the closed position. The plastic cover must be removed for access to the SD slots. I assume it’s from repeated charging with the cover on.
    SD cards are not inserted directly into the X5iii, but must be placed in pop-out trays. A small stylus is provided to facilitate tray removal. The trays could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how often you switch cards. The cards will fall out of the trays if ejected with the face of the unit up. I strongly suggest turning the unit over when ejecting and replacing SD card trays.

    Operation:

    I had prepared my music library in anticipation of receiving the tour unit, stripping embedded album art from files and including a single file (cover.jpg) in each album subdirectory. My music is structured with directories for each artist and subdirectories for each album. After formatting the cards in the X5iii, I mounted them on my laptop and copied the library directly to the SD cards. I encountered no problems reading the library from both SD cards. Album, artist, and genre tags functioned as advertised. Unfortunately, tracks sorted within artist without regard to album doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ll stick with playing by folder.
    Most of my files are in FLAC format, but the X5iii had no problems with the few 64 and 128 bit DSD and ALAC (*.m4a) files that I threw at it.
    The FiiO music app is feature-rich. Almost every time I touched the screen I found a new feature. I have no need for WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity. Consequently, the battery life was quite reasonable for an Android device. In standby mode (i.e. no music playing), the battery went from 80% to 40% over the course of about 10h. The 2.0A charger for my Android phone worked fine to charge the X5iii (0% to 100% in a couple of hours).
    The only major problem I encountered was the known incompatibility of X5iii with the USB ports on my Dell XPS15 (9550) laptop. When connecting to an USB3 port on a XPS 15, the unit keeps cycling through the welcome screen. This happened whether the USB3 port was on the computer or a connected Dell WD15 dock. The same behavior was not noted on the USB3 port of the Dell DA200 attached to the same laptop, but an error message was generated, “Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43). A request for the USB configuration descriptor failed.” The X5iii was powered down in all cases. USB storage mode would not work either when the X5iii was on. I had not installed the Windows 10 driver for the X5iii since I have a desktop DAC and would not use the X5iii for this purpose.

    Sound:

    The X5iii has lots of detail without being fatiguing. The sound stage is wider than my X5ii and the instrument separation is outstanding with well mastered source material.
    The X5iii drives my Etymotic ER4SR with authority. I tried the line-out with my FiiO E12 amp, but found that it was (almost) completely unnecessary with ER4SR. The only exception was the analog bass boost on the E12. I fiddled with the digital EQ (FiiO music and Viper), but neither compared with the instant gratification of the E12 bass boost.
    I tried several of the free Viper effects. The one I found most useful was the Playback Gain. It takes a few moments to analyze the source, but does an adequate job of adjusting volume on different albums/tracks. It may not be quite as effective as embedded replay gain, but it served the function with only minor volume adjustments between loud and soft tracks.

    Overall:

    This is an amazing DAP. The SQ is definitely worth the $399 retail price. I could do without Android and all the battery wasting overhead, but the SQ is worth it.
     
    The following albums were sampled during my review:
    Adam Harasiewicz: Chopin Nocturnes & Preludes
    Adrian Legg: Waiting for a Dancer
    Antoine Dufour: Back and Forth
    Antonio Pleeth: 6 Geminiani cello sonatas
    Billy Mclaughlin: Fingerdance
    Calum Graham: Phoenix Rising
    Dirks und Wirtz: Kinski Spencer Gismonti
    Don Ross: PS15
    Earl Klugh: Cool, One on One, & Whispers and Promises
    Francois Sciortino: French Guitar
    Giovanni Palombo: La melodia segreta, A Secret Melody
    Goran Sollscher: Eleven-String Baroque
    Helene Grimaud: Duo
    Hoff Ensemble: Quiet Winter Night
    Jian Wang: The Baroque Album
    Jimmy Wahlsteen: No Strings Attached
    John Doan: A Celtic Pilgrimage
    John Williams: The Guitarist
    Julian Webber: Elgar Cello Concerto - Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No.1
    Krzysztof Meisinger: Villa-Lobos Melodia Sentimental
    lan Ethan Case: Run Toward The Mountains
    Laurence Juber: Guitar Noir
    Lawson Rollins: Elevation
    Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: L.A.G.Q., Guitar Heroes, Spin
    Luca Stricagnoli: Luca Stricagnoli
    Lucas Michailidis: Laughing at the Thief
    Markus Segschneider: Snapshots
    Michel Haumont: Michel Haumont & Co
    Mike Dawes: What Just Happened
    Mstislav Rostropovich: Beethoven The Cello Sonatas- Vol1&2, Chopin Cello Sotatas, Schubert Schuman Debusy Cello Sonatas, The Brahms Sonatas, Vivaldi - Tartini - Boccherini Cello Concertos
    Oslo String Quartet: The Shubert Connection
    Peppino D'Agostino: Acoustic Guitar
    Peter Ciluzzi: Still Without Words
    Ryan LeBlanc: Speechless
    Sarah Mclachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Surfacing
    Sergio & Odair Assad: Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla
    Spencer Elliott: Some Forgotten Color, Unspoken
    Thomas Fellow & Stephan Bormann: Hands On Strings
    Tomasz Gaworek: Born To Be Together
    TRONDHEIMSOLISTENE: In Folk Style, Souvenir I & II
    Vladimir Horowitz: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #3
    Yo-Yo Ma: Bach Cello Suites Nos. 1, 5 & 6, Rachmaninov Prokofiev Cello Sonatas, Mendelssohn Piano Trios, Op. 49 & Op. 6
     
      Hawaiibadboy and Kundi like this.
  9. bhazard
    A DAP Revolution
    Written by bhazard
    Published Mar 8, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound Quality, Android OS, Wifi, USB DAC
    Cons - Older android OS, Slow transfers.
    Introduction
     
    I’ve never been a fan of DAPs. I’ve always found the interfaces clunky and missing features compared to what I could do with my Android smartphone and its apps. When high quality DACs started appearing in smartphones and when USB external DACs started working on them, my interest waned even further. It didn’t seem like I would ever be happy with a DAP, and I just gave up on them.
     
    Fiio’s release of the X5 Gen 3 changes all of that. It includes everything I felt was missing in a DAP (Android apps, Wifi transfer, balanced audio, USB DAC, OTA updates), and it does it very well. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the X5 Gen 3 tour, and I will be providing my impressions based on a week with the unit.
     
     
    REVIEW
     
    Specifications
     
    DAC : 2 x AK4490
    Processor : Quad-core RK3188 processor
    ROM : 32GB built-in storage +
    RAM : 1GB
    Storage : Up to 512GB(2 x micro SD)
    Headphone Out : 3.5mm + 2.5mm TRRS balanced output +
    OS: Android 5.1
    Connectivity : Bluetooth 4.0 (aptX) + 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
    Usability: 4.0 in. touchscreen
    Charging : 2 Fast charging modes(Qualcom QC and MTK PE)

     
    Full specs here:
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/65/parameters
     
    Accessories
     
    IMG_20170220_210515.jpg IMG_20170220_210632.jpg IMG_20170220_210706.jpg
     
    IMG_20170220_210914.jpg
     
     
    Package Contents:
     
    1 x Case 1 x Protective TPU Silicone Case  1x Screen Protector
     
    The X5 comes packaged beautifully, similar to the packaging of a high-end smartphone. The pre-applied screen protector is a nice touch, and the silicone case helps prevent scratches and wear. Despite some annoying silicone pieces that are meant to cover the openings getting in the way, I think it was wise of Fiio to provide protection instead of having to have the customer search for some or pay extra.
     
     
    Build Quality
     
    IMG_20170220_211306.jpg
     
     
    The X5 size and shape reminds me of a deck of cards, albeit slightly larger.  Its compact size allows it to be carried easily on a commute or trip, far easier than it would be to strap a DAC to the back of your smartphone. It’s design is sleek but simplistic,  focusing your eyes onto the display, despite the enclosure giving a very polished, high quality look. While not heavy, it did feel sturdy enough to survive a drop and day to day use.
     
    While not high res like a smartphone, the display resolution is more than acceptable.
     
    The balanced port is 2.5mm, making it easy not to plug into the wrong output.
     
    One of the things I somewhat disliked is the location of the back/skip buttons. They are entirely too easy to hit while holding the device or walking. The volume knob is fluid and far more useful than pressing buttons, and having the separate hardware play button was useful.
     
    I had no issues with the touchscreen, and the interface behaved very much like the Android interface I’ve grown used to over the years.
     
     
    Features
     
    Quick Charge. Ever since it first debuted, it was a monumental battery achievement to me. Getting a full charge in less than two hours, and a useable one in 15-30 minutes was so convenient that I stopped caring about removeable batteries. Having this on the X5 is a beautiful thing.
     
    Balanced audio: More power, more crisp audio in an affordable unit. With the prevalence of MMCX iems, not running balanced for every bit of power and other enhancements seem like a waste to me. The X5 had just enough power to drive my balanced AKG7XX at more than acceptable levels.
     
    Dual MicroSD: Do you have several terabytes of music like I do? If so, running two 128GB MicroSD cards on the X5 gives you a very large collection for cheaper than an integrated 256GB of storage would cost. Transfer speeds are a bit slow though, so it can take a bit to load if you transfer to the cards in the X5 via USB. Apps like USB Audio Player Pro, Neutron, and even the Fiio Music app easily detects the music.
     
    aptX: I like that Fiio included aptX (although aptX HD would have been a bit nicer). aptX provides substantial benefits in sound quality over a Bluetooth connection, and it works well on the X5. I believe that using Bluetooth on a DAP is a waste though, as you get the same experience you would from your aptX enabled smartphone. You also miss out on the sound quality of the balanced connection.
     
      
    Functionality
     
    The ability to sideload android apps is the killer functionality feature of the X5. While the “Fiio Market” contains many of the popular Android apps such as Spotify, adding your own favorite app just works the majority of the time.
     
    ES File Explorer Wifi transfers provide another desperately needed function to the X5. You can connect to your media server without wires and download your music to the X5. This is incredibly useful while lying in bed or away from your PC. Transfer speeds are on the slow side however, as the Wireless N wifi connection and slow transfer speeds of the internal memory and SD card tend to transfer under 4 MB/s. It would be best to transfer a large collection onto the SD card first, where the wifi connection works well for a few albums to listen to on a whim.
     
    USB DAC: This is the most useful function of the X5 to me surprisingly. In USB DAC mode, the X5 has the power and features to replace many desktop DAC/AMP setups with its dual balanced mono DAC and powerful amp implementation. While it doesn’t have the power to truly drive power hungry headphones, it was able to drive my AKG 7XX in balanced mode at more than acceptable levels with the volume knob at 90/100 in High Gain mode (you can also adjust Gain in normal use). My smartphone can’t do that, and I have the Axon 7 with the same AK4490 DAC.
     
    You can adjust many features in USB DAC mode as seen below
     
    IMG_20170225_140042.jpg IMG_20170225_140106.jpg
     
    I did have trouble finding out how to turn this feature on. You need to hit the “Storage” button in the notification pane to switch over to USB DAC mode. You also need to install the USB drivers from Fiio, then choose the Fiio ASIO driver in programs like Foobar2000. None of this is documented, which will confuse a lot of users.
     
    ViperAudio & EQ: I've used ViperAudio a lot in the past. I didn't use it much on the X5, but it has extensive sound modeling features. Seeing it on a DAP for the first time is exciting. The Fiio EQ is a nice feature, but I didn't use it much. It is lacking compared to Viper and a Parametric EQ, such as the paid EQ within USB Audio Player Pro.
     
    IMG_20170227_205323.jpg
     
     
    OTA Updates: OTA updates went very smoothly. I had no issues updating to version 1.1.1, although a semi detailed changelog would be nice before each update. Easy updates like this weren’t possible on DAPs before.
     
     
    Sound Review
    Testing Gear (in order of quality)
     
    LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0
    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity + Moto X Pure
    Axon 7
    MSI Gaming 7 amped onboard DAC
     
    Testing Songs
     
    Random Metal, Rock, EDM, Rap, Top 40, Hip Hop, Blues, and anything else that comes along. I focus on songs I know well to spot differences in frequency amongst a/b comparisons.
     
    IMG_20170227_205309.jpg
     
     
    Sound Signature
     
    The AK4490 is a warm, smooth yet detailed DAC. The Dual Balanced Mono DAC configuration along with the amps chosen provide a more powerful, more refined, more detailed sound over the AK4490 configuration in my Axon 7, despite the same overall signature. The S/N ratio increase the X5 has is noticeable.
     
    Compared to my Dual Mono Sabre ESS SABRE9018AQ2M setup in my LH Labs Infinity V2+, the Sabre has more forward mids and treble, which presents itself as a little bit clearer. Both the V2+ and AK4490 sound excellent in their implementations, but the AK4490 is a bit easier to listen to for longer periods of time.
     
    Comparisons
     
    There is no comparison to me in the price range unless you go by pure sound quality. You get so much more functionality over a custom DAP interface by using Android OS.
     
    Conclusion
     
    There are a few things that I wished were a bit different. I wish Fiio used a more powerful SoC to give the X5 faster transfer speeds and AC wifi. I also wish they used Android 7.0 Nougat as a base instead of Android 5.1, which is over 2 years old now. These are minor qualms though, as the X5 functions just fine otherwise.
     
    This is the first DAP that I would ever purchase. If I did not already have a strong balanced DAC in the V2+ Infinity, I would own the X5 3rd gen. The combination of sound quality, build quality, features, and price makes the X5 an incredible value to me. This says a lot because I have never truly liked DAPs in the past. Fiio really nailed it here.
     
    Thanks to FiiO for the opportunity to review the X5! You’ve been a wonderful company to us music lovers for years, and we hope you continue being great.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Quadfather
      How does it compare to the FiiO X7 and Questyle QP1R?
      Quadfather, Mar 13, 2017
    3. Melonfrog
      I reserved it about 10 days ago.  Very excited.  I hope the shipment arrives soon.
      Melonfrog, Mar 13, 2017
    4. MrRimantas
      Be careful with updates, it gets a MCU update filed error or just hangs on bot logo. Had couple customers, who have been guided through this problem.
      MrRimantas, Mar 16, 2017
  10. TheoS53
    Fiio has redefined the benchmark for affordable portable DAPs
    Written by TheoS53
    Published Feb 28, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Mature design, Great sound, Ability to install 3rd party apps, Price point, Bluetooth connectivity, Apt-X, WiFi, Dual card slots, Fast charging
    Cons - Slow start up, Slight play in buttons, Storage trays not the most convenient, Screen’s outdoor legibility
    Full review can be found at: https://www.samma3a.com/tech/en/fiio-x5-3rd-gen-high-res-player-review/

    Rating
    The NO BULL rating system is designed to take as many aspects of the device into account as possible. As such, we have a basic rating, as well as a final rating. The basic rating rates the product purely as a high quality portable audio device, and is generally a good indicator of how it stacks up to its rivals in terms of standard features and specs. The final rating, however, grants bonus points for any extra features and specs that aren’t quite as common, and is a great way to judge the product as a complete package.


    Packaging
    Look and feel: 7 / 10


    Included Accessories
    Screen protector: YES
    Protective case: YES
    Cables: YES


    Build
    Quality control: 8 / 10
    Seems durable: YES
    Screen quality: 7 / 10
    Intuitive interface: 9 / 10
    Responsive interface: 8 / 10
    Comfortable button layout: 7 /10
    Internal storage: YES
    Accepts external storage: YES
    Relative silence when inserting cables: 5 / 10


    Sound
    Sound stage: 8 / 10
    Detail retrieval: 8 / 10
    Sibilance: 9 / 10
    Instrument separation: 8 / 10
    Neutrality of sound signature: 8 / 10
    Ability to EQ: YES
    Plays lossless audio: YES
    Plays 24-bit: YES
    Hiss: 7 / 10


    Portability
    Small size: 7 / 10
    Relatively low weight: 7 / 10
    battery life more than 8 hours: YES


    Value
    Competitive price-point: YES
    Relative value: 9 / 10


    Manufacturer
    Released the device with relatively bug-free software: 9 / 10
    Is prompt with software updates: 7 / 10
    Is active and prompt on forums/social-media: 9 / 10

    Basic Rating: 7.7 / 10


    Bonus points
    Bass boost: -
    Various digital filters: 4
    Allows 3rd party apps: YES
    Number of cables included: 2
    Number of gain positions: 2
    Fast charging: YES
    Premium case: -
    Bluetooth: YES
    Apt-X: YES
    Premium look and feel of the device: 9 / 10
    Number of digital connections: 2
    Number of analogue connections: 3
    Power adapter included: -
    Balanced output: YES
    Dual card slots: YES
    Touch screen: YES
    WiFi: YES
    Dual DAC setup: YES
    Premium DAC chip(s) used: YES
    Screen protectors included: 1
    Use of metal and/or glass: YES
    Plays DSD: YES
    Plays 32-bit: YES
    Ultra low power-saving mode: -
    Wireless connection quality: 9 / 10
    Gapless playback: /10

    Final Rating: 9.2 
      Hawaiibadboy, bvopfo and peter1480 like this.
    1. peter1480
      the video made me order a black one :) the titanium one can live at work, the x7 may get relegated to the car
      peter1480, Feb 28, 2017