FiiO X7 - Reviews
Pros: sound quality firmware
Cons: little to big
have this dap for about 6 mos. bought am3 which made difference with my
audio technical ath mx 30 40 and 50x series. the problem imo about
audio equipment is everyone has different hearing. some here hear at
different ranges and tones what may sound superb to one may just be ok
to another. the big improvement with this dap was android 5.1 update.
The x7 is now more smooth operating. also a footnote if you are having a
problem updating from 4.4 firmware using download tool for windows 10
it worked for me temporarily disabling anti virus to download
happy listening
Pros: Clean, smooth sound, Low noise, Great driving power even with AM2, Nice build and ergonomics, Price has become accessible in the wake of the X7 II and X5 III
Cons: Bulky and heavy, Amp modules are an added cost, UI fluidity is not always ideal
Introduction –

In the wake of the X7 II and with recent attention being focussed mainly towards Fiio’s new X5 III, it seems that the device that started it all has lost its spotlight. But Fiio’s X7 remains their present flagship for good reason, and though it was Fiio’s first attempt at a smart, Android-based music player, the X7 is no less mature in its execution than the X5 III. With the addition of a modular amplifier unit, offering different output powers and altered flavours of sound, the X7 is versatile and featured. And though the X7 is older, being a flagship device, it was designed to the highest standard, whereas the midrange X5 III was designed with the intention of being compromised. Let’s see if the X7 still represents the value and prestige it held at launch and whether it remains a smart purchase in 2017.



Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Ari very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the X7 on extended loan. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the player free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective in my evaluation as possible.



About Me, Background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases –

I generally prefer a u-shaped sound that is close to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound. I’m not particularly treble sensitive so I may be more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I will note if I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review and describe the sound changes.

Read More



Accessories –



The X7 is similarly packaged to the X5 III with renders and specs adorning the outer surfaces of the box. A hard box slides out from the pictured exterior containing the X7 within foam. The device comes with a plastic screen protector pre-installed, unfortunately not a tempered glass one like the X5 III. The player also comes clad within a plastic case that should protect from scratches and small drops.



Fiio also include a micro-usb cable, extra screws for the amp modules, a matching T5 screwdriver, extra screen protectors, several skins and a 3.5mm to coax cable. Basic instruction and warranty papers are located just below.



Amp modules come within a smaller package, they are well protected within a nice metal tin with a snug foam inlet. Fiio packages each module with a plethora of vinyl skins to personalise the module and match the main unit should you want to add some texture and scratch protection to your X7.



It’s a nice selection of accessories all up. We can clearly see some progression with the X5 III through the inclusion of a glass screen protector and an additional faux leather case though the X7 comes very well equipped for most uses.



Design –

The X7 was the first Fiio device that really stepped up build quality from impressive to thoroughly premium. It shares the same uni-body aluminium design as the X5 III though due to an absence of glass back, the X7 has a small plastic window at the rear to allow wireless transmission. And perhaps most notably, the X7 is a modular player allowing users to swap amplifier modules to achieve lower noise levels with sensitive iems and higher driving power with high impedance headphones. While it may seem redundant, the modular amplifiers allow for greater flexibility that regular gain controls can achieve.



The X7 has an almost completely metal build that is just as solid as the X5 III though I personally prefer the aluminium back to the glass back of the new X5 due to its greater in hand feel and drop resistance. The main chassis is perfectly solid without flex or give in any direction, it also feels a little softer in the hand than the more straight edged X5 III. The X7 is a chunky device, measuring in at 130 mm× 64 mm× 16.6 mm and 220g making it a bit thicker and heavier than the X5 III and very substantial coming from a modern smartphone. However, to my eye, the X7 is a more attractive device than the X5 III with more slender and elegant dimensions that conform appreciably better to my hands. It’s not a device that goes unnoticed in the pocket nor would the X7 be remotely viable as a workout DAP, but it does avoid being overly cumbersome during commute.



Some bold chamfering runs the perimeter of the device adding some visual interest. The buttons are also metal, keeping the premium feel uniform and each is clicky with nice travel and feedback. Though they are a tad shallow, different machining on the buttons gives them an easily distinguishable texture when the device is in your pocket. The buttons are also very well placed and the X7 controls much more like a smartphone, I also didn’t experience any accidental presses like the X5 III.



At the front of the device lies the same 4” 800 x 480 display as the X5 III. I feel my particular X7 was more accurate with more pleasing colours though I have also seen X7’s that looked more off than the X5 III so I would put this up to unit variation rather than calibration from factory. Brightness is similar, minimum brightness is a little bright for night use and max brightness is fine except when under direct sunlight where the screen tends to wash out. Viewing angles and contrast are also quite good as is saturation which works a treat for album art and video. The X7 doesn’t have the highest Dpi compared to today’s premium smartphones, but text looks crisp and UI elements are well scaled. There is plenty of resolution to view album arts and small text, even the occasional video and game look great on the X7’s IPS display. While the Hidizs AP200 utilises a higher resolution 960×540 display, the hardware utilised in these players isn’t quite powerful enough to push those pixels and the slightly lower resolution X5 III and X7 both provide a significantly more fluid performance.



And finally, running over the physical features of the device, the right and left sides are symmetrical with a rocker at the top and single button below. The rockers can be used to skip songs and change volume while the buttons cover play/pause and power functions. Being symmetrical, Fiio provides a software option to swap the orientation for left-handed users.



The left side houses the single micro sd card slot, it isn’t covered like the slot on the X5 III but allows for tool-less swapping of cards. The card also lies perfectly flush with the side of the device to prevent damage and accidental removal.



The top of the X7 is mainly featureless save for a line/coax output for use with an external amplifier. The bottom of the device is most notable, housing the main interfaces and amp modules. The modules themselves are quite small, they slot nicely into the device and attach using a wide connector that looks to be quite hardy and reliable, I didn’t notice any audio dropouts or other connection issues during my 2 months of use.



The modules house the micro-usb charging/data port and the 3.5mm output though Fiio offer a balanced module with both an additional 2.5mm balanced port. The modules are fixed to the main housing using two T5 screws, one on either side. The screws are countersunk and lie very flush with the housings, I found the included module to line up perfectly with the main device.



Unfortunately, the AM2 module that shipped with my X7 was evidently from a different production batch as it had a slightly darker colour than the main housing and didn’t line up perfectly. This could be exclusive to my review unit but it is something to consider for second hand buyers.



AM1 (Flush) – AM2 (Offset)

Just above the modules lies the pulsar light which acts somewhat like a notification LED and adds some visual intrigue to the device. The action and brightness of the light can be altered in the software with 255 levels of brightness and the choice of blink, solid and full off illumination.



By default, the light pulses when charging and glows solid when the device is active. Other notable features of the X7 include an ambient light sensor just above the display that provides auto brightness adjustments and an accelerometer which senses device orientation. These small tweaks really emphasise the ethos behind the X7’s design, and the culmination of several minor features produce an appreciably more convenient experience than that offered by the X5 III.



Usage –

The X7 has a 3500mah internal lithium ion battery that is just a little larger than the 3400mah unit in the X5 III. But due to the X7’s modularity, battery life can vastly vary despite using otherwise identical hardware. Battery life is rated at over 9hrs with the stock AM1 module though that decreases with higher powered modules, for instance, the AM2 delivers just over 8hrs and the AM3 and AM5 closer to 6. In usage, my unit achieved number just shy of 9 hours with the AM2 module on volume level 30 of 120. The X7 doesn’t have exceptional longevity, but it is easily sufficient for a few days of use and standby drain is very good. I am pleased with the X7’s battery life given its features and output power.

But apart from battery life, the X7 provides much the same software experience as the X5 III. If you would like a little more detail with benchmarks and usage tests, I will provide a link to the usage section of my X5 III review here.



Sound –

The X7 is Fiio’s former flagship that was released almost 2 years ago to a good critical reception. And while there were some more critical reviews about the device’s software experience, few had much negative to say about the player’s sound. And in 2017, the X7 remains a fine sounding source. I would still recommend looking into a pure DAC/AMP if value is your prime concern, but the updated X7 provides a nice smart user experience combined with a well-refined sound and its strengths remain just as pertinent as ever. When evaluating the X7’s sound, I mainly listened to the Campfire Audio Jupiter ($1300), a very sensitive mulit-ba monitor, the Flares Pro ($600), a more power hungry iem and the Sennheiser HD700 ($800) which is a relatively source sensitive headphone.

I won’t delve further into the player’s file support and exact specifications but will link Fiio’s website with all the details below: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/45/parameters



Amp –

Describing the sound of the X7 was more daunting than I had presumed due to those swappable amp modules, each of which carries its own sound. I decided the AM2 module would make for best comparison since it has similar output power to my other similarly priced sources over the stock AM1 module which has notable lower driving power. This also allowed for more accurate volume matching and to my ear, the AM2 sounds a little nicer with a slightly more full-bodied sound that well balances the slightly brighter signal produced by that Saber DAC.



Starting with noise, the X7 with either the AM1 and AM2 modules benefits from very minimal hiss, much less than the X5 III and HA-2 which makes it much more desirable for sensitive iems. I’m a low volume listener and quite sensitive to noise but even the Campfire Jupiter, which is probably one of the most hiss prone earphones available, only picked up minimal amounts from the X7. It isn’t silent, but noise is unlikely to bother any listener. I feel that the AM2 is the most versatile module, as it also had no issue driving my 150 ohm HD700’s. They were missing some dynamics and soundstage space compared to my desktop amp though I found the X7 to do a better job than both the HA-2 and X5 III with its increased output power; 300mW on the X7 vs 250mW from the X5 III and 220mW from the HA-2. All sources have a sub 1ohm output impedance which I can confirm in independent listening, I experienced nice sub-bass extension from my Jupiter and no other frequency response wonkiness. Perhaps my only issue with the amplifier performance of the X7 is some fizzle when WiFi is active, something that doesn’t affect the X5 III. It isn’t a huge issue and only occurs occasionally when streaming music, but it is very noticeable on sensitive monitors. Some may also frown upon the necessity of buying additional amp modules, which are around $150 AUD each, though some retailers offer bundles that include multiple modules for a discounted price. For most uses, the AM1 will be sufficient and the AM2 is a nice all-rounder that provides low noise to sensitive monitors and enough power to higher impedance earphones and headphones.


DAC –

The X7 implements a single Saber ES9018, a highly regarded DAC chip with great file support and terrific sound quality. It is a highly resolving chip that is known to carry a slightly brighter sound and some implementations are prone to “Saber glare” which manifests as a sense of over-forwardness within the upper registers. With that said, I’ll start with some basic comparison to the Oppo HA-2 (based on the same DAC chip) to illustrate Fiio’s implementation. Both sources unsurprisingly carry a very similar tonality with the HA-2 being slightly clearer and the X7 a little more full-bodied. The HA-2 holds a small advantage in bass reproduction with a little more definition than the X7. I lean forwards and backwards with regards to midrange performance, the HA-2 produces clearer male vocals but female vocals don’t quite sound as natural as the X7 with a thinner body. The HA2 is also slightly more forward in their upper midrange which makes them sound a little more resolving but also more fatiguing long term. Treble is interesting, the HA-2 is a little crisper while the X7 retains a smoother character. I feel that the HA-2 separates slightly better though the X7 sounds a lot cleaner with appreciably less background noise with sensitive iems. I would probably take the X7 for all day listening and the HA-2 for shorter sessions, both are fantastic sources though those who don’t require a full player will save a few dollars by going with the HA-2, or perhaps the SE model with reduced background noise.

I also feel that comparison with the new X5 III is important as it’s always interesting to see how older flagships compare to newer midrange offerings. Starting off with soundstage performance, the X7 has a really well-rounded presentation that is nicely expansive but also very coherent. Instruments are allowed to radiate and atmospheric effects have the appropriate projection yet more intimate instruments and vocals are never artificially distant. This grants the X7 with a really nice presentation that flatters both in-ears and open back headphones. By comparison, the more laid-back X5 III does sound a little more immediately spacious, but it lacks the placement precision of the X7; vocals sound more distant and lack the intimacy of the X7 and instruments don’t project quite as much as they should when called for. The X5 III also lacks the depth of the X7 which makes them a bit less convincing for live recordings. While the difference between the two sources isn’t enormous, upgrading from the X5 III to the X7 won’t turn your HD650 into a HD800, buyers with well-performing in-ears and headphones will find a notable upgrade with the X7.

And this quality can be partially attributed to the varying tonalities between these sources. I have to reiterate that the differences between sources aren’t astronomical, perhaps not even immediately noticeable, but during extended listening, the individual characteristics of each device becomes clear. Off the bat, the X7 is probably one of the best Saber ES9018 implementations I’ve heard, it isn’t quite as bright as the Oppo HA-2 but retains the same kind of clean, clear and well-detailed sound. It’s lack of hiss also makes it the clear choice for use with sensitive iems; the X7 provided a much more agreeable listen than the X5 III with the Jupiter simply due to its vastly lower levels of noise. The AKM based X5 III does carry their more mellow tones over the more forward X7, some may call it the more musical or analogue sounding source and those prone to fatigue may actually find the X5 III to be the more listenable source. But for my tastes, the X7 is pretty spot on, the HA-2 that I daily is a similarly resolving source, but it does occasionally come across as over-bright and forward, the X7 is just a little smoother and tones down the glare a bit to produce a more neutral listen. The X5 III is considerably more laid-back, it is a softer sounding source with less intimate vocals, it is also less linear throughout and bass is notably fuller at the cost of definition. However, the X5 III avoids sounding congested and overly laid back though it’s aggressive detailing, they actually have a bit more bite to their upper midrange than the X7 though the X7 still retrieves more outright detail and presents them in a more natural manner. The X7 has a considerably smoother midrange with improved resolution and a little more clarity, especially to male vocals. The X5 III doesn’t quite sound as transparent and revealing as the X7 even though the X7 is the smoother sounding source. And this trend extends into their high-frequency performance; the X5 III lacks the upper treble extension and resolution of the X7 which saps texture from high hats and cymbals are clearly more detailed and natural on the X7. The X5 has a tendency to sound a little crunchy when details run rampant while the X7 handles more complex passages with refinement that the X5 III isn’t able to achieve.

The X7 remains the more refined sounding source and it’s still the device I would listen to every day despite being a bit older. The X5 III is a fine sounding source but it is missing the smoothness and resolution of higher end devices even though detailing and musicality are very impressive. Of course, the X5 III remains the cheaper device, but with the X7 ageing and the impending release of the new X7 II, that price gap is quickly narrowing and buyers should strongly consider spending a little more for the X7, especially with that AM2 module.



Verdict –



Over the years, the X7 has become the device Fiio intended it to be through numerous software updates and fixes with that same terrific sound underpinning the entire experience. The X7 achieves great ergonomics through its very smartphone-like form factor and great versatility through a modular design. While its hardware is hardly cutting edge in comparison to the latest and greatest smartphones on the market, the X7 nonetheless provides a convincing user experience through the adoption of the feature rich Android user interface. Luckily, these added features don’t come at the cost of sound quality and the X7 demonstrates that a lot of buyers could benefit by looking into older technology designed to a higher standard than newer models. The newer X5 III is a slightly more musical source and one that I would enjoy in isolation, though I found better synergy with the X7 on the majority of my gear due to its greater neutrality and linearity. The X7 provides a smoother, more organic take on the highly resolving Saber sound that proves to be highly rewarding in terms of both resolution and long-term listenability.

Verdict – 9/10, The X7 is aged but by no means long in the tooth. The X7 has a nice display, a fluid user interface and well-considered ergonomics. Its sound combines resolution, clarity and refinement and the ability to swap amp modules provides some basic sound adjustments and varied output power for a wider range of headphones.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it:
https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/fiio-x7-review-still-top-dog/
Pros: Sound (AM2)
Mobile (desktop) DAC
Cons: Software
Usability
Stability
Bad support
Battery
Size
In terms of sound (AM2 module) i like it every bit. It's that Fiio sound that i like so much, even better than before on the X3.

The whole reason this product turns out to be a disaster is the software. Not only the very un-user friendly way of having to dig through Fiio's forums to find beta software updates (in 2 years there has been 0 stable releases) and complicated processes to upgrade. The software itself doesn't work well too. From annoying popups that makes the device unusable on 1 firmware version (the stable one) to beta versions that can't even store your saved (offline) spotify tracks. (it does save, but after a restart of Spotify/player it's all gone - the data is still there, filling up your free space, but unusable).

The only thing that works well is, like on any Fiio, using their player and play mp3's from the SD card. Which is not why i spend so much on a Android driven Fiio to have all the modern advantages it can't deliver.

It's really been a disappointment and i'm looking forward to replacing it. Also it's been my last Fiio. Mostly because posting my issues on the Fiio forum, not one Fiio employee even took the time to respond. Support = 0.
Pros: Great hardware, great usability, nice sound
Cons: Default amplifier (am1) is not up to standard, battery life could be better, the firmware is a pain
20+ years ago I used to have a chinese portable tape player. It had very bad build quality, extremely cheap materials and was slooooowing down the playback as the battery was running lower than 50%. After that I had a couple of Sony walkmans and the discman that were much better. Many years later smartphones (and later iphones) emerged and I thought that dedicated portable music sources are part of history. There was a moment when I thought of getting the Pono player. However I was never able to justify this purchase for myself. Nowadays things are getting different.

What I`m holding now is the chinese dedicated portable hi-res music player (DAP as it`s usually called). From the first touch you realize that it has nothing in common with my first tape player. It’s made from a solid high-grade aluminium piece with a beautiful finish. It feels like tank. Heavy and sturdy. Built on Android and this makes it flexible and full of features rarely available on devices with proprietary OS. The touchscreen is responsive and nice. The contrast and viewing angles are not the best and generally it’s not at the level of newest iphones. But IMO it`s perfect for the purpose. I wouldn't want to pay extra for the DAP top-tier screen. The resources should be mostly spent to fulfill the main purpose of the device - the sound quality.

This is my first DAP so it is hard for me to compare with the direct competition. However comparing to Audioquest Dragonfly (v1.0 that is built on the same DAC chip by the way) and FIIO e17 I’m very happy with the sound. Here I`d like to note that the default amplifier module (Am1) is the weakest part of the device in my opinion. I would recommend to get it with Am3 (Am2 and Am5 should be good as well, but I haven't heard them personally). Lows are tight and punchy, mids and transparent and detailed, Highs are very detailed. If I try to find something to improve I will say that the mids can be more forward and there is a slight spike in highs that can be sibilant sometimes. But that is really minor to me and don’t bother at all. The soundstage and instruments separation is great. With Am3 module the battery life is not among the best (5-6 hours of playback) but for me it’s not an issue. X7 forced me to re-listen all my favourites as it revealed so much details that I couldn`t pick up before. Especially on DSD recordings. The piano pedals pushed down, subtle breathing, fingers touching strings, background noises and echoes. The first DSD album I played was “Jazz in the Pawnshop” by David Chesky records and it overwhelmed me. Of course the headphones used should be on the same level with the device to open the full potential.

To sum this up - the X7 is like having a hi-fi system in a pocket. Nice sound and drivability (with am3) great usability. The bettery life is not the best and the firmware is a pain at the moment. Hopefully FIIO will polish it soon.


Pros: Solid implementation of the SABRE chip
Cons: Not a huge step up from mid-fi players
Disclaimer: This review is written from my perspective as someone with a mid-fi DAP looking to upgrade. Your mileage may vary.
 
Over the years, my DAPs grown in size and capability from the Sansa Clip, to the original Fiio X3 and now the iBasso DX90. I found that I enjoy the signature of Sabre chips very much, in particular the speed and detail oriented nature of the sound. Some may find the Sabre to sound ‘cold’ but I find it enough for me. I pair the DX90 with JH5 pros and occasionally the Sony CD900STs. I also have the Dragonfly V1.0 which the CD900STs hooked up to most of the time.
 
When the X7 was announced, I was very excited considering Fiio reputation for offering great value for money. As an aside, I still own the X3 and various small amps (E3, E5 and E6). With the X7 packing the full 9018 chip with 8 cores as opposed to the two 9018k2m chips in the DX90 with 4 cores, the X7 should in theory offer some gains over the DX90. I was lucky enough to obtain a X7 for review and here are some of my thoughts.
 
The Good. The things that I loved about the Sabre sound, such as attack and details, are all present in the X7. In addition, the sense of space and sound staging was also a noticeable step up from the DX90. Not 100% better, but enough to be noticeable. The sound was deeper and wider to my ears than the DX90, and the mids are not so in your face but deeper into the sonic scape. The findings are consistent across formats from mp3s to uncompressed (ALAC and FLAC) up to DSD. The blacks sound just abit blacker, the mids sweeter and the highs are clearer. The X7 takes the Sabre sound to an altogether more refined level compared to the DX90. However, I have not heard the DX100 before (which packs the same Sabre chip as the X7) and therefore could not offer any comparison.
 
The Bad. The default amp module for the X7 is designed for IEMs. As the sensitivity of IEMs vary, it is understandable that the design team may have taken a conservative approach to limit the power output of the module (reduce hiss?). For sure, my IEMs are dead quiet when there are no music being played. However, the sound of the JH5s through the module sounds too polite on low gain. I ended up using the X7 on higher gain (through software settings) most of the time.
 
The conclusion. The X7 offers a meaningful upgrade over mid-fi DAPs such as the X5 and DX90. Having briefly heard DAPs such as AKs, Calyx and Cayin, the X7 appears to be competitive. However, technical abilities come at a price. While the X7 is great value for money compared to other TOTL players, it is still a considerable sum. In the same price range are other spectacular offerings such as the Chord Mojo. What you end up with is ultimately the result of your priorities. If you treasure small size and convenience of a one box solution, the X7 is a good upgrade and great first serious DAP. If you can live with bulk and multi-box solutions, the choice may not be so straightforward.
 
I ended up with the Mojo, but that’s another story.
Pros: Insane Sound Quality (with proper setup), Customizability, LINE/Coax OUT, Clear Shell, Android OS/V4A/Root.
Cons: Treble (AM1), Touch Screen Unresponsive, Unsupported Sample Rates, Freezes & Hangups, UI Oddities, Slow Shuffle, Drain on Android Mode (faster w/AM2).
FiiOX7AM2.jpg
 
Disclaimer.​
 ​
There are going to be a lot of things I will have not mentioned about this player, since I would have gotten used to them since the purchase, nonetheless, in the verdict, I will be as detailed & unbiased as possible, while still expressing my personal opinion.
That being said, I will update when something new comes to mind, or any errors happen to pass, this being my first product review.
 
Introduction
I am a 19-year old romanticist who has a very keen ear for a grand variety of music, from chiptune, to electro swing, to classic, videogame, hard rock and all of that good stuff.​
I like my sound signature to be powerful and balanced, putting an emphasis on sub-bass.​
Music has been a daily routine as it has helped as an escapism & coping device during some of the most brutal stages of my life.​
It's helped me do many things that I don't believe would be possible for me to do without it, It's increased my creativity, along with it being extremely therapeutic.​
It is something only a very few could understand.​
Let's begin.​
 
 
Pre-Review
 
Here we are, my very own review of FiiO's current flagship; the FiiO X7. I'm not one of the people who have watched FiiO grow as a company, nor have I been a loyal customer for years (although I have bought many of their products within a very short amount of time), but I have only been here since the conception of the X7, along with being swept up by the hype of this lustrous device, I never had a device so high end, let alone one made ONLY for music, and since I finally got a job (2 jobs at the time actually), I started to go mad with excitement, I grew up poor, so I could never afford something so...valuable, but now I could, I could have it in my hands, I could OWN it and call it MINE, and finally stop watching the others have fun without me.
It was exciting and I REALLY wanted to be part of the early testers, unfortunately, I heard deal-breaking issues on its early run.
Since this was the first time I was ever going to buy something so top notch, I waited some months for the tide to die down, and waited on more experienced users, like Brooko, x RELIC x, twister6, with many, many others, to give a final verdict if I should get it or not.
 
Past Devices (Chronological Order)
RCA MP3
iPod Nano (3rd Gen)
Sansa Fuze+
FiiO X1 x E17K Amp Stack
FiiO E17K DAC + HTC M9 w/ Hiby.
 
 
Review
 
- FIRST IMPRESSION
After what seemed like an eternity waiting for this device to arrive at my doorstep, I finally heard a knock when I least expected it, it was late in January, after making a deal with a very understanding and very respectful user in this forum, bless them.
I dragged myself off of bed, thinking to myself that once again, there were Jehovah's Witnesses trying to convert me, I opened the door, about to tell them to scram, then a holy light shone on me when I saw a woman holding a white package, my frown turned right around, it was finally here, it was happening, WE WERE DOING THIS, BABY!
She asked for my name, and I confirmed, signed the slip, thanked her, closed the door, and welcomed my child to its new abode, "Welcome, my baby." I told the unopened package, as I rubbed it suggestively, with bedroom eyes.headfi.png
 
 
 
 
 
I blazed to my room, looking like Christian Weston Chandler right after making a new comic, looking at the package with intense contemplation, very carefully treading around the box, and then suddenly-- carelessly started stabbing it with a knife. I wanted to crack open the hard shell of this uncolored crustacean, to peek in the pretty package, to get that sweet treat in the center. After much abuse, I finally pried the sucker open, and lo and behold, there it was, it was "lit", the model, the chinese beauty (not talking about the woman in the cover either), it was a lightly used player, but still looking brand spanking new, my baby!
I wanted to cry, "I worked hard for this, I deserved it! I needed a break from all of this bull$#!(" I told myself, as I firmly grasped the aluminum child, kissing it, over and over, as it seemed we were about to make yet another child.
 
I started having a feel for it, titanium finish, bright blue pulsar, as bright as the hottest star, the raised glass, polished semi-clicky buttons, this felt...high-end.
It was like a gift from the angels themselves, my heart was racing, I've honestly never felt this excited since I obtained a gamecube in '08. It was real.
It turned it on, saw the "Welcome" in the boot logo, having "FIIO - MUSIC PLAYER" follow it shortly afterwards, and I grinned, hard. I clicked my SD card right in that sucker and let it scan, I fiddled my thumbs, waiting and waiting for my collection to complete, FLACS, High Quality MP3's and such then, there it was! My heart raced ever so fast.
The menu, it felt sharp, snappy, and intuitive (for now), I clicked on the very song, "Adam" from "G-Darius"----AAAANNNNNDDDD....nothing.
 
I was confused, why wasn't I being drifted into another dimension of musical freedom, why wasn't my soul being torn from my corporeal body, to be cast away to a land of infinite ethereal pleasure, to be comforted by other beautiful celestial bodies, being grabbed by many hands, and felt all over in the most intimate of fashions? What the hell..!? Was it the player, the amp, have I simply surpassed summit-fit, this can't be, can it!!?!
I took a deep breath, and realized, that my expectations were simply too high, did I feel robbed? Maybe. Did I feel disappointed? Certainly. Did I regret it....? Hell no.
INTO THE SOUND SECTION WE GO.
 
 
 
- SOUND
First of all, the sound is very treble oriented,  that's the root of /my/ problem, maybe it's different from yours, maybe you like treble, but personally, I was freaking OUT.
"Why does it sound like this?", "This isn't THAT much better than a stacked X1, if anything it's almost worse!" "Dear god, what have I done!?" I asked myself all of these things, confused and almost frustrated, then I remembered, one very, very obvious thing, my IEM's. "My IEM's! Dear Lord, They're an insult to something of this caliber! I'm a monster! I HAVE DISRECTED THE GODS OF HI-FI" after that epiphany, suddenly another one struck. Eureka! I remembered the AM1 as well, I was...moderately relieved.
At the time, I still had the IM-70's along with the stock AM1 amp, which didn't push this player to complete absolution. These were all I had though, I didn't know HOW much better new IEM's and amps would make it, I just kept thinking on how the treble hurt my ears just as bad as an unamped X1. It fatigued very often, the separation felt empty, treble was overly dominant, sudden shift in frequencies BLARED through my ears, it even gave me light headaches from hearing it often. Although, the more I heard it, the more I started to appreciate as well, excluding the bass, it has been a subtle improvement over the amped X1, strings were clearer, it didn't sound overly warm, it was extremely "Holographic", and the sound signature was "lucid" as I would put it, nevertheless, it was still very hard to enjoy it with such grating frequencies. You have to remember, I'm a very young guy, I was 18 at the time, and I can STILL pick up more sounds that an older person might at their age, so it was screeching to the point that I started to absolutely ABHOR it.
 
After a few weeks later, I ordered the FLC 8S, it was on sale, so why not? I'm unsure what I expected from these but "muh customizability", and, wow, that's actually what I got, I was pleasantly surprised, impressed even. I expected something very useless and gimmicky, but they're surprisingly powerful, I'll focus on these on my next review, but they are VERY good. The detail was better, it sounded way less jumbled and more spacious, instead of far and hollow, not what I would like (at the time), but the tuners helped get rid of some of the treble scratching as well, it sounded slightly so warm.
After a few MORE weeks, I got the AM2, I pre-ordered it to get it the day it came out afterI read all of the reviews on it, since I wanted to make sure I didn't mess up as badly as with the X7.
I'm unsure what I expected for one hundred dollars, but I might as well burn $100 more, I came THIS far, right?
 
IMAG0127.jpg
Then came the day....
 
- AM 1 vs AM2
Other reviews have already done this, so I'm just going to do the very basics, since I'll be focusing more on the AM2 than the dreaded AM1.
AM2 on the left, AM1 on the right.IMAG0130.jpg
 
 
-Treble (AM1)
The treble is very, VERY high on the AM1, no way out of it, if you have treble-centric IEM's, prepare to get ear-raped, ESPECIALLY on tracks like something out of "Sonic Rush". Horrible sensation, HORRIBLE.
 
-Treble (AM2)
This is where it gets good, here is where I start complimenting the player and giving it treats for doing such a fantastic job, this is finally where FiiO meets their dues for such hard work.
Treble is less scratchy, it isn't any less prominent by the way, unneeded frequencies just aren't there, which is, obviously, VERY, VERY good. Yes yes. It sounds great, it's smoother, very fluid, frequency spikes aren't as grating, sound flows much better, fatigue has been decreased substantially, especially with the mentioned FLC 8S, it's certainly improving from when I first got it! (;
 
-Mids (AM1)
Not punchy nor intimate, it's cold, very cold, there's no passion, just a robot blowing cold wind at you, is how I can describe it, quite sad actually.
Detail retrieval is only relevant for the higher mid frequencies, if you're into airy sound and high treble with excellent retrieval in that specific place, this is for you, but me? I like to Jam, madam!
 
-Mids(AM2)
 
Ohhhhhhhhh baby, baby baby baby! This is it, I'm going to get into lick-boot territory here.
I LOVE how absolutely erotic the sound can be for my ears, it's close, it's almost in your face, it's near damn personal, NOT enough to bloat though, HOW is this magic possible!?
Do you know what I'm trying to say? Yes, indeed, the sound is...wait for it....wait for it...It's; BALANCED!! Huraah!!!
The warmness I craved from my E17K mixed with the cold breeze of the AM1, and made -- beauty.
Seriously, this is what I've been wanting since I got a SANSA FUZE+ in '12, but this player obviously, utterly, destroys it. No contest.
I feel so, so close to my music, it's as many users have said before, "It's as if I'm standing right in front of the stage".
 ​
 ​
tmp_29121-IMAG02962048753849.jpg
 
 
-Bass & Sub-bass (AM1)
Imagine this, you're about to be served some delicious food, right? You're excited, you get a certain type of burger, you take a bite, the meat, it's very...dry.
You get very little sauce as well, the lettuce is very crisp and fresh, yes, airy cold tasty lettuce, but the burger is...less than average, you can barely taste the freaking thing.
You don't want purely the taste of lettuce with dry burger meat, that's unsavory, you can only taste the lettuce at this point, the meat has no substance.
That's how I put it with the sub-bass, the bass is there too, it's weak though, just like the burger meat, it's thin too.
Meat & Juicyness = Bass
Meat FLAVOR & Tenderness= Sub-Bass
 ​
 
-Bass & Sub-bass (AM2)
It's gonna be a bizzaro version of what I said above.
Imagine this, you're about to be served some delicious food, right? You're excited, you get a certain type of burger, you take a bite, the meat, it's very...Juicy! Mmmmm!
 
You get a more than acceptable ration of sauce as well, the lettuce is very crisp and fresh, yes, airy cold tasty lettuce, and the burger is EXQUISITE, you can taste so MANY TEXTURES from it, a lot of work went into it, It's insane.
You never knew you could have so many different flavors in your mouth at once! You take yet another bite and pick up even MORE flavors.
You love how fresh this is, that's savory, you can taste both the meat, the spices, the hints of CHEESE inside the meat, AND EVEN THE BREAD! It's not just there to keep it together, it's also including a very distinctive flavor, you enjoy it thoroughly, it; it fills you up and gives you a HUGE amount of energy.
That's how I put it with the sub-bass, the bass is there, It's powerful, not enough to ruin the other flavors, they mix VERY well, it's powerfully balanced.
Your taste buds can also pick up the quality of said meat and spices depending on each different burger.
Meat & Juiciness = Bass
Meat FLAVOR & Tenderness= Sub-Bass
 
-Dimension, Room & Depth (AM1)
It's one of the good things I'll actually give this thing credit for, it's slightly better at instrument separation than the AM2, it's not a HUGE step-up, but if you're the type of analytical person who has a "golden ear" so to speak, you'll definitely pick it right up.
That all goes out the window with the high treble I mentioned earlier though, this doesn't mean much if the high-frequencies keep grating you, especially with the depth not being very deep in mid and bass retrieval, the lower-end depth here is lacking horribly.
 
-Dimension, Room & Depth (AM2)
On par with the AM1, slightly less well, but the balance of the instrument frequencies make up for it. The reason for this must be because it has less weight, and airyness, lack of bass in the AM1 tends to cause a better separation without the heavier frequencies getting in the way, it's very complex stuff.
The depth here reaches far and knuckle-deep.
I can hear artists lips smacking, guitars strumming right as if someone was putting a show in front of me, and it's been up to the point where I can even hear recording fallacies and BREATHING, YES, it sounds...wow. I can't describe, but this player can really differentiate between a poorly recorded audio file and an excellently recorded one.
It's both a gift, and a curse.
 
 
- DESIGN
It's sexy, I like it, I'm no design wizard, I simply think It's a modest high-end. It doesn't scream "STEAL ME!!", but it also doesn't mess around and look cheap, although, I've had several people comment on it, telling me "That's a clunky old phone.", Hahahah, peasants.
I haven't had my hands on a lavish A&K, so I can't really can't say how they compare.
It's really nice to look at for me, especially knowing it's purpose, maybe I just really like sleepers, although, I wouldn't mind having it both look high-end while working as expected to look.
 
- ERGONOMICS, COMPABILITY & CUSTOMIZABILITY
Exchanging amps work just fine, no errors on my part, It's a simple unscrew, plug & play, very easy and VERY handy.
Unfortunately, the screen sometimes fails to detect what keys I press, if I press "G' it will go to "B" then press different keys instead, and it's very frustrating.
On another note, I bought a screen protector and it has protected it from falls and such, though, it isn't the exact size as the screen, just sliiiiightly off, not too shabby.
The SD card needs to be put face-down, which is rather strange, but not a deal breaker.
In being able to customize the X7, you have plenty of amps to meet your demands, I'm settling on the AM2 since I only use IEM's, It's beautifully built and has a sanded finish, there's also the AM5, but that's only if you have big power hungry 'phones.
 
-USER INTERFACE & V4A
If you're using pure android mode, don't worry TOO much about it, but as for me, I'm using neutron and V4A now (which doesn't apply to the sound comparisons above, check below).
It's prone to not working with the side buttons at times, and activates the stock FiiO Player, which is very annoying, along with it also having hangups, the player tends to freeze in the lock-screen sometimes, until forced reset, very grating, especially during jogs and general workouts, way to kill the mood.
 
Now, with V4A and Neutron, they're a dream team, especially in the X7, Neutron is by far, the best Audio App for FiiO right next to the FiiO stock app, when I first used it, I hated it, but now, I don't know how I lived without it, it somehow beat the stock player that I already loved, most likely due to the HEAVY, HEAVY customizability.
Unfortunately, Neutron is prone to crashing every half hour or so, which is unfortunate, but I can live with it, would be more than happy to have it fixed though.
 
- MISCELLANIOUS THOUGHTS
The AM1 has a very noticeable hiss in both Android & PMM.
It was very annoying, especially after a song ended, that's another reason why I hated it so much.
The AM2 fixes this, and most likely other hardware based audio problems.
If you're a normie, and just want a player to play good, simple music without breaking the bank or wracking your brain, then use the phone you already have, and get an FLC 8S if they're on sale, If you get one, give it the golden tuner, clear bass, and red sub-bass tuner.
It sounds wonderful on my HTC M9, It obviously doesn't beat the X7, but it should be enough to please someone who isn't a giant music molestor, like myself.
If you're NOT a normie, and absolutely LOVE music, then try to form your own verdict based on what you've read here and other reviews.
If you like airy sound with a light touch of bass, get the X7 stock, if you like a more balanced, yet analytical sound, look at the AM2, if you want bass, there are upcoming apps for that.
 
 
Verdict:
Well there you have it folks, that's my review, I've said everything I currently know about the player, and my thoughts on it.​
FiiO definitely had a rocky start with the X7, and even if you had high-end earphones, the AM1 most likely didn't satisfy you if you were a bass-head, or just liked balance in general.​
Now, that they've been pushing out new firmwares AND new amps, you've better check it, especially after the price drop, it's under $499 dollars on amazon now, definitely better than the MSRP $649 price.​
Take care and good luck to you all!​
 
 ​
PinkyPowers
PinkyPowers
Finally settled on a DAP, eh?
RebeccaSugar
RebeccaSugar
I did since February, I never thought I'd actually want review it. Don't get me wrong, I love this thing, but I'd love to try others and see if it'll shatter my view on this baby.

I almost disowned it at one point I was so fed up with it. Those times are over, thankfully.
rebbi
rebbi
Very fun read, thanks!
Pros: bluetooth
Cons: not worth the money
Some brief impressions of the FiiO x7
So a while back, I got on the FiiO x5ii tour. I was absolutely impressed with the ability of the x5ii and wrote in my impressions that the x5ii made me very excited for the x7. When the Australian and New Zealand tour for the x7 came up, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out! Sadly, I might be the only one who was not absolutely impressed with it on this forum.
A little about me
Personally, I am a person who tends to gravitate to high end equipment, but have recently started looking at the low-mid end segments of the IEM world, since I have come to the conclusion that I have had my head stuck up in the clouds for too long. While I love trying new equipment, the equipment I end up buying tends to be little. This might be due to my lack of a decent income, or because I have very high standards, honestly I am not sure. However, one thing I am very sure of, since I have a rather limited budget, whatever I tend to buy or recommend are things I love, instead of hyping the regular item. While I believe sound quality to be extremely important, I also highly value ergonomics, and love things that look beautiful as well.
Sound
Personally, I feel that the impressions here are getting increasingly less important nowadays. With improvements in firmware, manufacturers are often able to change the sound of the DAP through the power of software. In addition, the x7 is also further improved by the future additions of the amp cards, which are to be released in the future. As such, preliminary impressions here really should be taken with a pinch of salt, regardless of reviewer, unless they have an amp card (or the specific amp card you want).
I personally felt that the FiiO x7 was decent with the sound quality, having nothing that really brought me into the music. It was pretty bland, despite being relatively neutral to my ears.
I felt that the player was able to drive IEMs well (not very hard to achieve here), but not able to drive transportable headphones, like my recently acquired Shure 1540, properly at all. This was confirmed when a friend listened to it. I subsequently read somewhere (sorry, forgot) that the x7 was tuned to be very stable for IEMs, but did not do well with much else that required amping, thus, creating the need for the amp cards that are being developed at the moment. I hope this is the case and wish the x7 owners well. I personally have had fun playing with amp cards with the Hifiman Hm901 and would definitely not consider the lack of power a minus point since playing with amp cards is fun, and if the amp cards were able to provide enough power to drive less sensitive headphones, FiiO would be providing a complete solution for anyone who liked the sound of this player.
OS
When I first picked it up from the post office, I was on the way to do some errands and a friend decided to come along to try out the new flagship from FiiO. He spent about half an hour trying to get the x7 to scan his microSD card before giving up and calling it ****. He had over 2000 songs in various formats, ranging from lossy to 24/192 lossless. I did not have that as many issues.
I had quite a few problems with the music app crashing. Every time I turned on the player, the music app would crash (100% chance for me). The music app would also crash randomly from time to time, but rarely. This is personally quite unacceptable, since android is pretty known and there are proper alternatives to an app that would crash. I was also told that using the non FiiO app to listen to music would result in absolutely **** battery life but was not able to test this since I could not figure out how to use android since I am an iPhone user.
Ergonomics
The FiiO x7 features both a touch screen and physical buttons on the side. While the touch screen was much better looking than expected, I personally found it to be a tad bit too sensitive and a bit too responsive, making me over scroll or under scroll when trying to compensate (I personally think this is a small issue and could be considered user error since I am stuck in my ways).
The physical buttons worked adequately for what they were and the player did not get too warm when played for long periods (I might have a bit of a bias here since my DAPs are known to get really warm with use).
Bluetooth
Special mention has to be made here for the Bluetooth feature. I used to not be a believer of Bluetooth for music since it is not needed (everything is wired right?). However, with the FiiO having Bluetooth, I decided that I might as well use it. This was the first player that I’ve had that has Bluetooth integrated. I have to admit, I was absolutely amazed at how useful it is! I usually use my Bluetooth speaker with my iPhone, playing what little music I have on it. The iPhone is often not updated with much new music, nor does it usually have much music because the iPhone doesn’t have expandable storage. What generally happens is that I tend to listen to the Bluetooth speaker for a while, before asking a friend if they have any music on their phones, or what not, resulting in me listening to a bunch of Justin Bieber or whatever other top 40 hit there is out there.
With the FiiO x7, this was not the case, with the expandable storage and the Bluetooth function. The battery life doesn’t even suck. I decided to test the battery life of the x7 by turning it on for a long period of time. Since I had to be near it to monitor whether the x7 died or not, I decided to leave it at around a volume of 30. The x7 lasted about 9 hours before I decided to call the experiment off in order to retain my sanity. It looked like the player had around 50% battery life left there (somewhere in the middle). Congratulations FiiO, you have convinced me that I need a feature that I previously did not.
Conclusion
As you can read from my impressions up till now, I am not a fan. The FiiO performs decently for what it is, but has certain issues that I personally am not able to stomach if I were to purchase the unit. It has better battery life than what I am generally used to (I own power hungry DAPs like the Calyx M and the HM901) and has a wonderful Bluetooth feature. Aside from that, I personally would rather go with the x5ii, which I was impressed with. The x5ii is cheaper and has a simpler OS and decent ergonomics. While I am not able to compare the sound since I don’t have the x5ii on hand, I remember being impressed with the sound and would personally rather go that route if I didn’t need the Bluetooth feature. The savings would be able to net me an external amplifier, which would probably perform better than the x7 on its own. 
avitron142
avitron142
RamblerBoy
RamblerBoy
it is sad and funny how difficult it is for members to post a negative review/impression about a hyped product in here. not saying that x7/x3ii/x5ii are hyped products. i see such issues more often these days. Audiophiles are getting intolerant, i guess.
 
@angelo898 nice review. really helpful. thank you.
angelo898
angelo898
Pros: Excellent sound, very versatile OS with good UI, good build quality
Cons: Internal memory could be better, location of headphones socket
First, I wish to acknowledge that I received a demo unit as part of the Australia and New Zealand world tour. I wish to thank FiiO and Brooko for organising the tour, and for allowing me to demo the unit. It should be noted however that there was no expectation communicated for this to influence the review in any way.
 
This review is divided to 2 main parts: Physical appearance / UI, and the sound quality. The main device used for comparison is the Astell & Kern AK100ii, which has been my main portable DAP in the last year, and occupies a similar price range (in Australia, at the time of writing, the X7 can be had for about 900-950 AUD, while the AK100ii can be had for about 1,000 AUD).
 
Physical appearance and UI

Out of the box, I immediately noticed a similarity to the feel of the AK100ii. Both share a similar metallic frame with a washed pattern and a similar colour. The X7 appear slightly larger and slightly heavier (220g vs 170g). Both devices present nice touch screen, with the FiiO screen being slightly larger (4” vs 3.31”), both with 480X800 resolution. The AK100ii has a nice round volume attenuator, while the X7 opted for a two-button attenuator, is not as nice to operate.
 
The controls show further similarities. In addition to the touchscreen, both devices have 3 physical control buttons on one side (forward, back, play/pause) and the volume control on another side, and a power button. Both devices respond to the physical buttons even when the screen is locked.
 
A further look at the specs show further similarities: both include internal flash memory (64gb for the AK100ii compared with 32 for the FiiO X7), expandable via a single msd slot. The msd slot on the X7 is less recessed, and does not require an additional item to take the msd card in or out – an advantage over the AK100ii for people who change cards often. The X7 includes a separate line-out which doubles as coax out, while the AK100ii lacks a true line-level output (the “line out” setting simply maximises and locks the volume), and its headphones out doubles as optical out.
 
While the X7’s inclusion of a separate line-level output is to be commended, its placement on the top of the device while the headphones out is located at the bottom is quite confusing. When I first got the device and plugged my headphones at the top of the device, I was surprised to find that I am unable to alter the volume using the volume slide. Upon further investigation I realised that the actual headphones out was located at the bottom of the device.
 
Regarding the UI, both devices sport a fully-customised android-based UI, and on both devices the UI is relatively easy to use. The UI of the X7 is a significant improvement compared to the previous FiiO DAP I reviewed (X5ii), and is comparable to the easy UI of the AK100ii. I still found a couple of small things not as intuitive as the AK100ii, for example when viewing the list of artists, and then choosing an artist to reveal the list of albums, one would expect to choose an album to reveal the track list in the same way, however it operates on a slightly different menu.
 
One significant difference of the devices is that the X7 allows for the installation of apps. This makes the X7 as potentially including more functions and one can use the X7 for more applications than just music. However, the X7 can also operate on a “pure music mode”, which makes the X7 a “pure” music player. The AK100ii can only operate on that mode, so the X7 offers the added benefit – for those users who wish for it – to install other apps and use the X7 for other applications.
 
To conclude, in terms of physicality, the X7 has a nice touch and feel to it and it includes a separate line-level output, which the AK100ii is lacking. However it is slightly larger and heavier than the AK100ii, the location of the headphone port is not ideal, and the two-button attenuator has a slightly satisfying feeling compared to the AK100ii’s.
 
Sound quality:
 
I chose to address the sound quality last, because of the inherent subjectivity of the matter. When comparing the devices, I had no way of conducting a truly blind comparison, so placebo effect cannot be ignored. Having said that, I feel that both devices present a clear and detailed sound, with some very small perceived differences which may or may not be real.
The headphones used for this review are, in order of importance:
 
  1. PSB M4U2 – my main portable headphone, very balanced sound, which I often use as a benchmark to testing portable equipment.
  2. Ultrasone Performance 880 (modified with HM5 hybrid pads) – a recent purchase, an excellent over-ear with exceptional soundstage and dynamics.
  3. HE-500 (modified) via Meier Audio Corda Classic amplifier – my main home setup. I don’t usually connect my portable audio to my desktop gear directly (usually I would use my reference DAC) but the direct connection to extremely clean and balanced Corda Classic amplifier allows to test the output from a more detailed, open-back headphone.
 
For this comparison I have used a variety of the genres I mostly listen to, including: rock, funk, soul, blues, jazz, and country/folk. Apologies for fans of other genres that were not used for this review (EDM, classical), as well as users of IEMs, as I only use over-ear headphones.
 
I find that both amplifiers present a very clean sound, with a low noise floor. I do find that the noise floor is slightly lower on the AK100ii, which is evident in some acoustic/quiet track (for example, Guinneviere by Crosby Stills and Nash). The X7 appears to my ears to have slightly better lower-end dynamics, with a very nice punch around the mid-bass regions. The AK100ii, however, seems to have a slightly more elevation in the treble, which makes tambourines for example sound a bit clearer and more present. However, both devices seem to produce very crisp mids, that are a joy to listen to. The X7’s sound is full, rich, and detailed, and generally sounds very similar to the AK100ii.
 
While I couldn't find or generate measurements of the actual power output, I would venture a guess that the X7 has slightly more output power compared with the AK100ii. This appears more noticeable with the Ultrasone P880, which seems to be driven better by the X7 without an external amp. The PSB M4U2m with their internal amplifier sounded great with both devices, as did the M100.
 
To conclude, while both devices offer similar sound quality, the X7 seems to me to have a slightly elevated low-end, while the AK100ii has slightly elevated treble. Apart from those small differences the sound is rich, detailed, and open. The X7 seems to have slightly stronger amplification, which can be especially beneficial to those who use it with over-ear headphones. Another difference in the amplification section is that the AK100ii comes with a balanced output, while the X7 comes with a detachable amp section, which can be upgraded to higher power and balanced modes. I didn’t try any of the upgrade modules.
 
Overall, the X7 is an excellent DAP that is comparable with the AK100ii, and even holds some advantages over it (higher power output, proper line level output, ability to install apps, ability to upgrade amp module), and some disadvantages (lower internal memory, lack of stock balanced output, location of headphones socket, lesser attenuator).
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Pros: great ui, solid build, responsive screen
Cons: a little chunky

Intro

 

This review is a part of the Australian FIIO X7 tour where I had the opportunity to spend a week with this little beast. Thanks to FIIO and the tour organisers for trusting me with the kit and all the hard work behind the scenes.

 

I am a long time lurker who occasionally pops in to say hi in a few of the forums but stays up to date on all things headphone. I have been enjoying the talk and leadup to the this player. I have been interested in the idea of a good android based player but am a little sceptical of a DAP that does more than I really need but less than a phone and where that would fit into my life. So, does this great piece of kit stack up?

 

I will compare the unit in my review to my little DAP, the Sony NWZ- and for the comparisons I will use my ATH MSR7 and Aurisonics Rockets.

 

Packaging

 

The packaging reminds me of the apple approach, relatively minimal but reasonably premium. I have to say that I am getting a little bored with this approach, not to be too harsh but it is an apple thing, I think Fiio does have the opportunity to take it in a different direction, with companies like FLC, UE and Jays capturing my attention with an alternative approach with a lot of style

 

 

 

Build

 

The build is nice and solid with a bit of a chunky aesthetic, pleasant but nothing revolutionary. It has a confidence inspiring heft and I really enjoyed the feel of it in hand.

 

My main criticism of this category of DAPs is that the girth does do a little harm to the level of portability. It would be interesting to see something that takes it a different way, keeping it slim but maybe a larger footprint. So saying, it was smaller than the Cayin N6 and I got used to that in the end. The bottom line is that it is well within my level of expectation for this category of DAP so if you like the interface and sound, it is well nice enough to make you feel that you aren’t carrying something that doesn’t reflect the investment

 

Interface

 

The display is a nice and reasonably responsive screen. My first gripe though is that to start using the screen you need to press a button on the side. This is fine unless you have the DAP on the desk. I would appreciate having an option to wake up the screen on the front as per the Galaxy or Iphone lines.

 

Once you are in, the X7 has made a nice little player that sits on the homescreen. Personally after using the Hum Pervasion, I completely love the FIIO approach. I dig that you can still get behind it and into the system broader to start digging around in the android world, but I like to just be able to plug and play as well as having my music always at my fingertips. This seems like a much better approach.

 

The menus and navigation all seem pretty intuitive although I feel like there is definitely room for refinement. The scrolling and touch input all seemed to register fine for me.

 

All in all, I enjoyed the experience.

 

Sound

To evaluate sound, I have listened to each headphone volume matched by ear to compare the DAP’s. I know this isn’t the most technically sound methodology, but I am a relaxed imprecise guy, so if you are reading my review my hope is to give more of a story rather than the hard data :) If you want that, there are reviewers that I could recommend for you :)

 

General impressions –

 

Vs my Sony A15 the X7 is clearly in the next league. In comparison the A15 just has a level of haze as opposed to the X7. I would say that it sounds the next level of refined. Areas of black space and separation between instruments in a way that the A15 just can’t match. Compared to to my memories of the Cayin N6 I would say that the X7 has similar level of detail and refinement but the N6 sounds a little etched by comparison, a little hyper detailed. I would say that the X7 has a little more of an organic feel, the X7 is a really satisfying listen.

 

The unit has plenty of power, never feeling like it was stretched, giving deep and full bass, detailed but still smooth mids and detailed shimmering highs. It doesn’t have the same warm feel as some of the other fiio units I have heard, but rather takes the organic, nice enveloping sound that usually characterises that sound and applies it to a nice flat sound.

 

Sorry if it doesn’t make sense, I am just trying to put words to my impressions :)

 

Conclusion

 

I enjoyed this experience. Thanks to all the Aussie crew for the opportunity to be involved in this tour.

 

I guess to boil it all down, I would say this.

 

It is at the top of the list of DAP’s I have spent time with. Is it the perfect portable? I don’t think so, but it definitely takes it closer than I have seen before.


BUILD:
 
It's solid, can likely withstand abuse, but it doesn't look high end or refined, imo it looks a bit cheap. The jutting out screen is set on a plastic bed, the screen covering feels like plastic not glass, but can't find info on it. The aluminium case feels very sturdy and looks very good, if only the whole dap followed suit, the jutting out back cover is thinner aluminium and doesn't feel as nice or solid as the main body and looks out of place.
 
USABILITY:
 
I'm not a fan of the side buttons, they are thin and harder to press than some other daps. I also dislike that the buttons on both sides are identical, meaning you have to make sure which way the dap is in your pocket to press correct button. Battery life is average, but that never bothered me. It's slightly heavier than I would like in my pocket personally.
 
SOFTWARE:
 
It is responsive, no complaints there, has a few glitches still on latest firmware, but hopefully will be ironed out with further updates. A few times I had to restart the player because the track seeker would stop responding for example. I'm not one for using streaming or online features so they weren't tested.
 
SOUND:
 
It sounds great, definitely better than X5ii in every way, tighter definition, bigger sound stage, better separation, etc etc. I did find that there was a very familiar underlying sound style in X7 which was also in the X5ii, I'm not going to describe the sound of X7 other than say it sounds very much like an improved X5ii more than any other dap. X7 is no game changer in terms of sound, in the same price bracket I prefer the sound coming from the Onkyo HA-300, which aside from smaller sound stage takes every other sonic victory to my ears. But as usual it is all subjective. And X7 ultimately sounds very good.
 
VERDICT:
 
X7 does not excel hugely in any particular field for me, but at the same time has no major flaws, aside from some people saying it has EMI issues with wifi, which if true make it a flop of a product, but I didn't test that so I won't factor that in, and in any case fiio will probably fix that issue in newer units if that is the case. X7 performs above average in all fields tested, if I hadn't factored in price I would give X7 a 4, but with price factored in I give it a 3.5 because I can't justify it's value personally, in saying that, the X7 is unique in it's feature set, so if it's particular features tickle your fancy then it's value is in the eye of the beholder, if that makes sense lol.
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Pros: Smooth mids, Firmware Updates OTH, layered tones
Cons: Bluetooth headphone distortion, EQ level jumps, unresponsive soft buttons
My experience involved using a Sennheiser HD700 and a Parrot Zik 3.0 headphone with all kinds of music.
 
Headphones plugged into the X7:
The HD700, and Zic 3.0 have sounds that are completely different on the X7.  The HD700 sounds excellent with perfectly layered,
robotic,  precision sound, while the Parrot is a little wilder sounding on the X7.  The Parrot looses musicality because of the fun it has with low bass,
elevated highs, etc.  I think the Parrot is more fun with the X7 when you just want to hear the party and not necessarily the
delicate passages of the music.  I would like to take the Parrot and the X7 on vacation together.
 
What was enjoyed:
Ok, I really enjoy listening to that top of the line DAC.  The music was so smooth and nice sounding.  I tried hooking the line out to my external sound system,
and it was so good, that you could crank it to the max and not hear any apparent distortion.  I want to get a SPDIF to Toslink to test that out later.
The source for the music in the X7 must be very clean 'cause I didn't hear it break up at all.  Also, the system seemed pretty linear.  Each increase in
volume produced the same linear output and sound at all frequencies.  Plugged into a headphone, this thing sounded pretty great.  The X7 sounds somewhat
like the Sony PHA3, but the PHA3 just sounds like it has more power, and seems to have larger images, and slightly more space, while the X7 seemed to have more
multiple layered sounds in the music, and a slightly richer midrange.  I think more power to the X7 will have these DACS sounding very close.
 
What I did not like - bluetooth sound:
Well, the Parrot Zik 3.0, in addition to plugging in, can also go Bluetooth wireless.  Dam*&^, this thing was almost perfect for me.  Bluetooth
has a non-stop BACON FRYING at the low high freq. ranges.  Also, the music across the frequency range is not as clean.  It sounds cheap.
But wait, when you plug directly into the  X7 it is a completely different ball game - it sounds terrific.  I tried to go to the bluetooth settings to turn off the telephone bluetooth
checkmark, but that did not help.  I tried resetting the entire device, and updating the firmware all over again - nothing, same problem.
I connected the Zik 3.0 bluetooth headphone to my PC, and VOLA!  The bluetooth connection sounded outstanding, and the bacon was finished cooking!
Apparently, the X7 to Zik 3.0 headphone sounds BAD!, while the PC's bluetooth connection to the Zik 3.0 headphone sounded SUPERB!
CAN THIS BE FIXED?  Makes me think the bluetooth audio on the X7 is not great.  I already returned a pair of headphones for this, but now I know that it is the X7,
and depending on responses here, I will be returning the X7 until it is fixed.  I mean the difference between the PC's bluetooth, and the X7 is night and day!
 
EQ selector icon unexpectedly raising volume:
I can't get a hold on this, but at times, when I touch on the EQ icon to go to the EQ, the overall volume increase.  This is with or without the EQ set to on.
I wouldn't have a problem with this, but I am wondering, if there was volume available, then let me have it already, don't raise the volume
when I select the EQ icon.
 
Soft buttons unresponsive at times:
I think this is just an Android thing, but it happens.
 
I can live with most of these things, except for the Bluetooth - dangit!!
 
Anybody, please advise...
Hitec
Hitec
I have not owned one Android phone that I did not root, and install a custom ROM.  Now, that Android is making it's way to our favorite music players, maybe we can get involved with the XDA Development site to aid and encourage the volunteering developers to create a super-duper customer user interface for music players.  http://forum.xda-developers.com/chef-central/android.  I haven't actually searched to see if this is already being done...
1wyseman
1wyseman
I have 7 headphones and 1 relay DAP/DAC-to-hifi system connected via Bluetooth to X7. All sound excellent with no fying bacon.

There was a concern with lack of volume--just enough but not enough to be a little dangerous on special occasions. In other words, there isn't an 11 when using Bluetooth. I was told on the X7 thread that this has more to do with the receiver than the X7, and X7 + Relay + Harmon Kardon amp + speakers proved that--but yes, there was a significant jump in volume when turning on the EQ. That is gone now with FW 1.8--but defaulted to the lower volume setting. So, if there was more volume with the previous FW 1.5 +EQ, then it seems like it should be possible to bump up the volume with Bluetooth  in general...yes? No?
Hitec
Hitec
@1wyseman,  I agree, there should be room to bump up the volume.  I'm thinking they did not do it because of distortion or something.  I probably had a bad X7 unit.  
Pros: Sound quality, build quality, overall feel of UI, immense future potential, price
Cons: Some UI issues, screen is only OK, some functions have yet to be implemented
EDIT 2/22/2016: I’ve updated the review with some notes on DLNA (under Wi-Fi and Bluetooth section), USB DAC, and the user interface due to the new FW 1.8.
 
Table of Contents
  • Introduction
    • A special note
  • General Usage
    • Build Quality
    • Ergonomics (physically)
    • User Interface
    • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, DLNA
    • USB DAC
    • Battery Life
  • Sound Quality
    • Comparisons (volume-matched)
    • Comparisons (non volume-matched)
  • For whom is this good for? And the Competition
  • Conclusion
 
(Before I even begin with the introduction, I want to warn the reader that my review is somewhat lengthy. So I have included a table of contents above which you can click on to jump to whichever section you want. I’ll also include a tl;dr summary at the beginning of each major section.)
 
Introduction
 
Tl;dr: FiiO lent me the unit for my honest opinion, and a bit of background about myself. Also a special note regarding this review compared to others as of January 2016.
 
A little bit about me: I consider myself to be a relatively inexperienced audiophile, having only taken this hobby seriously for the past 2 or 3 years. Funnily enough, I actually began to take an interest in my headphone system with the purchase of a FiiO E7. The next logical upgrade from there was the FiiO E17, which I appreciated but soon found it a bit lacking in sound quality after I was exposed to other audio equipment. Now, after having been away from FiiO for a while I’m now looking for a great sounding DAP, which FiiO’s X series of players seem to be.
 
I tend to like a neutral sound signature, perhaps with a bit of warmth. But if one were to ask me to pick between a very warm or a very bright sound signature, I’d go towards the brighter one. I actually like full-sized headphones more than I do IEMs, but for this review I focus more on the X7’s performance with IEMs. I like a large variety of music including rock, pop, jazz, classical and orchestral, J-Pop and J-Rock, and C-Pop.
 
A special note…
 
Before I go into the review proper, I wanted to mention this. Since I was fortunate enough (maybe?) to be the last one in the tour group to receive the X7, I have been able to use the X7 on the latest firmware as of this moment (February 2016) which is FW 1.8. Thus, I hope to give a better picture on how the X7 performs now compared to the other earlier reviews.
 
Phew, that was a long introduction. Let’s get into the actual review, shall we?
 
IMGP09052.jpg
 
General Usage
 
Tl;dr: Great build quality and mostly good ergonomics. The X7 feels quick and responsive. UI is mostly great, but due to some minor issues not yet perfect. Some of the ergonomic and UI issues can and will be solved with future updates. Battery life is decent, but not mind-blowing.
 
Build Quality
 
Nobody is going to mistake the X7 for a cheap device once they actually feel it. The machined aluminum looks and feels classy. The amp module tightly screwed in isn’t loose and really feels like it was originally part of the whole. Some people have raised concerns about the raised screen, but honestly I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with it – it doesn’t impede usability nor does it look cheap to me.
 
The one thing I am lukewarm about is the screen - it’s merely OK. Compared to other Android and Apple devices, the X7’s screen looks a bit washed-out. Contrast is ok (so blacks look a bit gray) and colors seem a bit faded out. To be honest, I actually think (based on memory) the X5 2nd gen screen had better contrast and slightly more vibrant colors. However, due to the screen being an IPS panel, viewing angles are pretty good though you will notice colors getting somewhat darker at extreme angles.
 
Overall, FiiO’s reputation for great build quality is once again on show here.
 
Ergonomics
 
First off, the player feels great to hold in the hand. The machined and smooth aluminum feels good and doesn’t make the X7 too slippery in the hand. The size is also great – due to the 4 inch screen and relatively narrow width, one-handed usability is excellent. The X7 is a bit tall, but this is due to the amp module so it doesn’t affect general usage.
 
While the device is thick compared to other smartphones, it still fits easily into the hand. The X7 surprisingly also doesn’t get very hot in the hand while using it – it seems to only get hot when connected to a beefy charger.
 
IMGP08522.jpg IMGP08572.jpg
 
Some size comparisons. Left pic: HTC One M7 on left, FiiO X7 on right
Right pic: FiiO X7 on top of HTC One M7. The X7 is slightly smaller than the 4.7 inch smartphone.
 ​
IMGP08632.jpg
 
HTC One M7 on left, FiiO X7 on right. The X7 is much thicker than the typical smartphone.
 ​
I would like to call special attention to the symmetrical side buttons. The buttons protrude just enough to feel, have satisfying tactile and audible feedback, and are easily accessible. However, having owned many smartphones with the volume buttons on the right, I found myself getting confused and accidentally hitting the track skip forward and backwards buttons on the right when I really wanted to change the volume (the buttons for those are on the left on the X7). This is not a huge problem, and it will be solved with a future firmware update that incorporates mapping those side buttons to user preference. But it is something that I wanted to point out at this time.
 
User Interface
 
Is the X7 responsive? While you don’t need lots of RAM and an extremely fast CPU to play music, I do know that Android is fairly unforgiving to slow hardware. However, I’m glad to say that the FiiO X7 is extremely responsive and quick even with its weaker CPU and only 1GB of RAM. FiiO has optimized its version of Android 4.4.4 pretty well, so loading and switching between apps is quick. And it doesn’t crash and freeze much now. There are exceptions though, like with one time I connected a 64GB USB stick full of music while in the FiiO Music app and that pretty much froze the device.
 
Also, as of FW 1.5, the Google Play Store and framework seems to be implemented so that one can easily get their apps. The X7 has also worked with every app that I have thrown at it, including stuff like Google Play Music. Occasionally, the “Google Play Services has stopped working” message will come up, but it’s a minor annoyance that can be brushed away with a quick tap.
 
So it feels snappy and actually works. What about the actual user interface? I want to make some comments here, but I will not go into an in-depth overview of everything it has – there are other reviews which do a much better job than I ever could.
 
FiiO’s version of Android is mostly stock Android, so most Android users will probably know how to navigate around the X7. That’s good. I also like how the X7 now automatically prompts you to reboot to switch between Android and Pure Music modes, saving us from confusion. However, I would have liked FiiO to tell us during initial setup that pulling down the top of the screen from the left (goes to notifications) and right side (goes to quick settings) yields different results. Most builds of Android I’ve seen don’t do this.
 ​
As for the FiiO Music app itself, generally I like it. The help screens mostly do a good job of telling you how to use it, and the app itself is fairly intuitive. The good thing is that FiiO has been listening to user suggestions and is still constantly improving it. For instance, hitting back/rewind after the current track has played for 10 seconds or more goes back to the beginning of the track now (instead of going to the previous track), and by default tapping on an artist in artist view leads to a list of albums instead of a list of songs.
 
However, I still have some issues with it. For example, while search works quickly and effectively, its behavior is kind of strange. Why is it that when we tap on an artist in search, that it starts to play tracks by album order? Why is it that when we tap on an album in search, that the first song alphabetically in the album starts playing? Not only are these behaviors different from other music players, it also is inconsistent.
 
One last thing I wanted to mention is the lock-screen. The lock-screen as it is right now is kind of confusing, because the music control buttons that show up by default are only for FiiO Music. So it’s possible to have Spotify be playing and then accidentally also play something from FiiO Music at the same time because you hit play on the lock screen. It would be nice if the default set of lock-screen music controls does whatever you want on the music app you were last or currently using.
 
While it seems like I have a lot to complain about the X7’s user interface, in reality these issues are relatively minor and don’t get in the way much. And what I brought up as problems can all be solved with software and firmware updates.
 
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, DLNA
 
Wi-Fi strength on this device is ok. I would imagine it is good enough for most people if they are around some decently strong Wi-Fi, but the X7 may struggle with some places with troublesome signal. The X7 seems to get less signal and slower Wi-Fi than other Android smartphones in my testing. However, it should be good enough for most music streaming.
 
Bluetooth works well on the X7. It doesn’t have aptX so you’re not going to get the best quality sound, but Bluetooth signal on the X7 was as strong as any other smartphone out there.
 
As of FW 1.8, FiiO has implemented DLNA into their music app. However, for some reason I cannot get it to work properly. If I set up DLNA with Windows’ music sharing feature as shown in FiiO’s own guide, I can’t get any music file to show up. If I set up DLNA through foobar2000 using a plug-in, I can only get lossy files to show up and play (which it then does flawlessly – however album art doesn’t show up, which other apps can do). That is, WAV, FLAC, other lossless formats, and even DSD doesn’t show up in that case. Perhaps others have had better luck in getting DLNA through the FiiO music app to work. However, I do want to note that third party DLNA apps on the Google Play Store (such as BubbleUPnP) do work perfectly.
 
USB DAC
 
FiiO has implemented USB DAC functionality as of FW 1.8. As long as you are only listening to music on your computer, it works well. For Windows 8 and later, you still have to disable driver signature enforcement to get the driver to install, but this isn’t hard (especially for those who already own FiiO’s other DAPs). After installation, I found the driver to be stable and work well on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 – no causing the computer to crash or anything, no incompatibilities with any of the apps I tried.
 
However, the USB DAC function still isn’t perfect as of FW 1.8. One problem is that DSD doesn’t work properly over USB. For some reason, DSD shows up as 24 bit 176.4 kHz music on the X7’s USB DAC screen when being played, and is played at an extremely low volume with lots of white noise. However, the bigger problem is that there is currently lots of lag/delay to the sound when the X7 is used as a USB DAC on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 (and from other reports on Mac too). Unfortunately, this makes using the X7 to watch movies or to play video games on the computer impossible. Playing music is still okay though. The good news is that FiiO has already acknowledged this delay problem and it will probably be fixed in a future firmware update.  
 
Battery Life
 
While I wouldn’t say that the X7 has great battery life, I do think it has good battery life that’s in line with FiiO’s other players.
 
Below, I have some screenshots of how long the battery lasted in several different usages. All tests were done with the X7 on low gain at a volume level of 55 driving the Etymotic ER4PT (except for the line-out and Bluetooth cases).
 
First from the left on the 1st row is the battery time from the X7 in Pure Music mode and in airplane mode – a little over 8 hours.
 
Second from the left on the 1st row is the battery time from the X7 in Pure Music mode and in airplane mode hooked up to a Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon headphone amp through line-out. It reads a little over 10 hours, though you could probably add an hour or so to that since I accidentally left on Bluetooth at first.
 
Third from the left (the right-most) on the 1st row is the X7 in Android mode and in airplane mode but with Wi-Fi turned on (Android allows you to do this), streaming from a DLNA server using the BubbleUPnP Android app. About 7.5 hours here.
 
Finally, the bottom (2nd row) picture shows that the X7 had about 66% battery left after about 10 hours on Bluetooth in the FiiO music app. I gave up testing Bluetooth battery life testing after this point because I didn’t want to recharge my Bluetooth receiver after it died first. It’ll last pretty long under Bluetooth.
 
Normal-1.png LO-1.png WiFiStreaming-1.png BT-1.png
 
 
Overall, the X7 has decent battery life that should be enough for many people unless you’re listening to music for long periods of time without access to a charger.
 
Sound Quality
 
IMGP09322.jpg
 
Tl;dr: The X7 sounds great. DAC section sounds especially great – can go against desktop equipment here. IEM amp module also handles IEMs and some full-size headphones pretty well, though I hesitate it to call it the best for those.  Holds its own in terms of sound quality against its DAP competitors.
 
Headphones primarily tested with: Etymotic ER4PT (with P-to-S converter) and Klipsch Image X10.
 
Enough about general usage. How does it sound, you may ask?
 
Overall, I find that the X7 has a neutral tone, with perhaps a very slight bit of warmth. This allows it to pair well with warmer headphones like the Klipsch X10 – the neutrality prevents the X10 from sounding too muddy and bloated, but yet still maintains the X10’s overall warm nature. However, with something like the Etymotic ER4S, the neutrality may be too much of a good thing – I can easily see how some people would regard this pairing a bit fatiguing (but not sibilant) depending on the music being played.
 
I actually think that this brightness is probably due more to the amp, as I found the DAC section mostly neutral. While we are on the subject, the IEM amp module seems to handle in-ear monitors pretty well. The X7’s amp could slightly enlarge the soundstage of my 50 ohm Klipsch X10’s and give it better separation while also giving it hard-hitting bass. The X7’s amp also allowed the clarity, separation, and detail retrieval of the 100 ohm Etymotic ER4S to shine through. Easy to drive full-sized headphones like the Sennheiser HD598 are also pretty good on the IEM amp – huge soundstage and excellent imaging, though the bass here doesn’t come out as much as I have heard on the best amps. It also actually did a fairly good job with the Hifiman HE-400i, though it was lacking bass. But the X7’s IEM amp module didn’t do such a great job with the Sennheiser HD700 – it was a bit lacking bass and was somewhat grainy, though interestingly it made the HD700 less fatiguing like only good amps can do.
 
Since I don’t have any other portable amps to compare to, I won’t be doing amp comparisons in the next section. However, I do want to say the X7’s IEM amp is not far behind the single-ended out of the Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon when driving IEM’s – its slightly less deep in the soundstage, a bit fuzzier in its imaging, and a bit behind in detail retrieval, but the overall feeling of a 3D soundstage is quite comparable. I do like the slightly warmer tone of the LC though.
 
Speaking of soundstage, I really like the X7’s take on this. While its soundstage is fairly wide, it’s also pretty deep. When combined with the excellent layering, separation, and imaging, the X7 presents a truly 3D soundstage that makes songs come to life as you easily pick out all of the sounds around you.
 
Lastly, the X7 has very good, even excellent detail retrieval. While detail is somewhat put into your face, it’s a lot less so compared to other ESS Sabre implementations I have heard. I would say that it only sounds that way though if you have heard other audio gear that presents the same amount of detail but is less forward about it (like with highly expensive audio gear that costs much more than the X7).
 
Comparisons
 
Volume-matched comparisons
 
The comparison here was done under volume-matching with a C-weighted SPL meter.
 
Vs. the NuForce UDH-100
 
IMGP09682.jpg
 
I think I should give an introduction to the NuForce UDH-100 here, since it isn’t very well-known. The UDH-100 is a discontinued $650 MSRP amp/DAC combo. The DAC section should be very similar, if not identical to the NuForce DAC-80 ($800 MSRP) and to the NuForce DAC-100 ($1100 MSRP, discontinued). The X7 has quite the fight here.
 
I am only comparing the DAC sections of the X7 and the UDH-100 here.
 
As for specific methodology, I compared the UDH-100’s AK4390 DAC chip to the FiiO X7’s ESS ES9018S using the Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon amp. Headphones that I used to compare the two DACs were the aforementioned IEMs and the Hifiman HE-400i and HE1000, and the Sennheiser HD700.
 
The DAC sections: The two DACs have similar tonality to each other. Both are mostly neutral, but with a tiny hint of warmth. Detail retrieval and separation are about the same for both DACs. However, imaging (both horizontal and depth-wise) seems to be slightly more precise on the UDH-100. On vocals and certain notes, the X7 also seems to have a slightly harsh and brittle edge that is not present on the UDH-100 – but this is not easily noticeable. Vocals seem to have a bit more body on the UDH-100.
 
However, all of the differences I just mentioned are really quite minor. What’s more noticeable is the bigger soundstage and better quality bass on the UDH-100. The soundstage is noticeably wider on the UDH-100. Bass seems to dig deeper and is slightly more nuanced/textured on the UDH-100.
 
Overall, to my ears the X7’s DAC is very close to the one in the UDH-100 in terms of sound quality. The UDH-100 still has some traits that propel it above the X7 in terms of DAC quality, but the X7 is still very impressive for keeping up with a not inexpensive desktop DAC.
 
Non-volume matched comparisons
 
Normally, I try to volume-match any comparison I make for a review. However, in this case I was able to compare the X7 to some other DAPs in relatively good conditions outside my home – but that meant not having access to my trusty SPL meter. So I tried to do volume-matching by ear, which isn’t ideal but should be better than nothing at all.
 
Hopefully people find this section interesting and helpful.
 
Vs. the FiiO X5 2nd gen
 
Comparisons between the two DAPs were done with an Etymotic ER4S and a Sennheiser HD650.
 
The X7 surprised me because it was a noticeable jump in sound quality over the X5 2nd gen. Not only was detail retrieval and separation slightly greater on the X7, bass was also definitely more controlled on the X7. The X7 also had a noticeably more 3D soundstage due to the greater depth (while width was about the same) and more precise imaging. All of these traits were noticeable even when comparing the X7 with the IEM amp module to the X5 2nd gen. While each of these aspects are minor individually, together they add up to make for noticeably richer listening experience on the X7 over the X5 2nd gen – even on the IEM amp module. With the future, more powerful amp modules, I expect the X7 to have an even more noticeable jump in sound quality compared to the X5 2nd gen with harder-to-drive headphones. This is based on having listened to the medium power amp, which only served to further tighten and deepen the bass on the HD650 while also very slightly expanding the soundstage on that headphone.
 
Vs. the Onkyo DP-X1 and Pioneer XDP-100R
 
I listened to all of these DAPs out of their single-ended headphone jack, all with the Etymotic ER4S.
 
First off, I thought the X7 to be simply better than the Pioneer. While detail retrieval levels and imaging between the two DAPs were about the same, I thought the X7 had a noticeably deeper and 3D soundstage. Separation on the X7 seemed to be somewhat better too. Both had a similar tonality though, with the Pioneer perhaps being slightly brighter.
 
However, the Onkyo DP-X1 is much more of a match to the X7 in overall sound quality. Honestly, I believe that the X7 and the DP-X1 are pretty much equals in just about everything – detail retrieval, bass quality, 3D soundstage, etc. The only major difference I could find between the two players was the tonality – the X7 is more neutral while the Onkyo adopts a somewhat warmer tone. The Onkyo paired very well with my ER4S (probably even better than the X7), but I think the X7 has the potential to pair well with more headphones than the DP-X1. Some headphones could definitely get a bit too warm with the Onkyo.
 
IMGP08472.jpg
 
For whom is this good for? And the competition.
 
Tl:dr: Anybody who can tolerate touchscreens and wants serious sound quality in their pocket should consider the X7, even with other great choices on the market.
 
First of all, anybody who can’t stand touchscreens at all really should not be looking at the X7 – there are other great-sounding players out there that don’t use touchscreens, some of which are from FiiO themselves (X3ii and X5ii) and other brands (Hifiman HM901S, anybody?).
 
But for everybody else, the X7 is great-sounding touchscreen DAP. It feels fluid and responsive, has lots of connectivity options for multiple usage scenarios (line-out for hooking up to a bigger sound system, Bluetooth for some cars, etc.), and most importantly sounds really good. Battery life, while not great, is also decent enough for most people I imagine. I mean, who has a commute that lasts 7-10 hours the X7 can play music for? Or does anybody actually listen to that much music at work all the time without a charger? I’m not saying that there aren’t people in that situation, but I would think that most people don’t fall into those categories.
 
Also, people who already have other FiiO products like the X5 2nd gen could seriously consider upgrading to the X7. Not only are you getting noticeably better sound with the X7, it also comes with an entire well-implemented touchscreen interface. I think that warrants the extra $300 USD for the X7 over the X5 2nd gen.
 
Finally, we consider the competition. I’m not going to talk much about much of Astell and Kern’s lineup nor the Sony NW-ZX2 since I haven’t listened to them a lot. I’ll just say that the X7 is significantly cheaper.
 
But let’s look at some more similarly priced DAPs. First the Pioneer XDP-100R. If you buy the XDP-100R in the US through Amazon, as of this writing it costs $699 USD. While the Pioneer does have a better screen, two micro SD slots (the X7 only has one), potentially better battery life, and faster hardware (arguably not very useful), I found it to have inferior sound quality. Personally, I’d go for the slightly cheaper X7 at $650 USD because it sounds better while maintaining most of the same functionality. Of course, you could import the Pioneer through PriceJapan for $565 USD, making it cheaper than the X7. However, you would have to go through more hoops when using your warranty. And the X7 has more future potential due to the changeable amp modules.
 
And then there’s the Onkyo DP-X1, which has a MSRP of $899 in the US. That makes it quite a bit more expensive than the equally great sounding X7, although the DP-X1 has more micro SD slots, better screen, potentially better battery life and faster hardware. You could also get it through PriceJapan for $643 USD as of this writing. Is the DP-X1 really worth that extra money (if you get it through retail channels) or the potential extra hassle in warranty claims (if you import it)? That really depends on the person, and I could see why someone would go for the Onkyo because it does sound as good as the X7 while having some advantages over it. Also, again the X7 has more future potential due to the swappable amp modules.
 
Conclusion
 
Tl;dr: The X7 is a value-packed and highly recommended digital audio player.
 
I think this review has gone on for too long, so I’ll end with a brief summary. The FiiO X7 is a fantastic sounding, great feeling, competitively priced, snappy Android-based touchscreen DAP. It currently does have some minor ergonomic and UI issues, but most of these will probably be solved with software updates. One thing it really has going for it is its immense future potential in terms of both software updates, and in hardware (the more powerful amp modules).
 
Overall, I’m going to give the FiiO X7 4.5 out of 5 stars for now due to it being a well-executed overall package that’s just a bit short. Once FiiO adds more functionality (mapping of the side buttons, USB DAC, etc.) and fixes its UI problems, it’s definitely worth 5 stars. Definitely recommended.
 
Thanks for reading this long review of the X7!
 
IMGP09142.jpg
Arctican
Arctican
So far the best and most coherent review of Fiio X7. I salute thee, chowmein83.
nonobody
nonobody
Great review. Big fan of your amp reviews. Looking forward for more future reviews (especially headphones) due to the fact that we have 95% similarity in what we perceived as warm/trebbly/neutral. 
chowmein83
chowmein83
Thanks for all of your comments, everybody! I have now updated my review with some notes on the new functions included with FW 1.8 (USB DAC, DLNA, some UI changes, etc.).
Pros: Sound quality, design, hardware buttons, modular amps, allround functionality
Cons: FiiO Music user interface, non-removable battery
FiiO X7 Review
 
First I need to thank FiiO that I could attend the FiiO X7 World Preview Tour ( http://www.head-fi.org/t/782490/fiio-x7-preview-world-tour-tour-impressions-rolling-in ). My FiiO X7 is a preview demo unit and will be go to FiiO back after the review time is gone.
 
001_x7_2.jpg
 
Specifications:
 
Internal storage (onboard): 32 GB
Internal storage (extension): up to 200 GB (microSD)
External storage: USB OTG up to 2 TB
AMP: power (standard IEM AMP M1) 220 mW @ 16 ohm / 110 mW @ 32 ohm / 12 mW @ 300 ohm
DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018S
Battery life: around 9 hours
Supported formats: MP3, AAC,ALAC, WMA, OGG, APE, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, DXD, DSF/DFF* (*up to DSD128 )
Outputs:
1x 3,5mm (~ 0,2 Ohm output impedance)
1x 3,5mm (coaxial and line-out combo output)
Inputs:
1x microUSB
Additional connection :
- WiFi
- Bluetooth without aptX
- Modular amp system (optional): Medium-power AMP M2, Balanced AMP M3 or High-power AMP M4
- Optional FiiO K5 docking station, more information here: http://fiio.net/en/products/46
 
Packaging:
 
- warranty card
- 2 additional screws for the amp module
- coaxial adaptor
- USB cable
- screen protectors
- short guide
 
Soon there will be two leather cases available (LC-X7A and LC-X7B), more information here: http://fiio.net/en/story/376
 
002_zb_x7.jpg
Default packaging from the FiiO X7, sadly no matte screen protectors, which would be a real benefit for outdoor usage against the sun on screen.
 
First impression and look and feel:
 
The FiiO X7 offers a real high build quality, the aluminium case is in the colour Titan and offers additional a very snappy surface feel. With a weight of around 220g and the sizes of 13 cm x 6,4 cm x 1,66 isn't the FiiO X7 not one of smallest and lighted DAPs on the market. For me personally its positive since I got a very pleasant handling and the feedback from the 6 hardware buttons from the FiiO X7, which will be in future firmware upgrade switch able like for left or right handed usage. Optically is the FiiO real eye candy to me, the display which is on top of the case isn't for sure all people taste, but I really find that matches to the entire design very well.
 
003_x7_1.jpg
The scratches did someone from my preview group. What a same for the beautiful device.
004_x7_3.jpg
Simply to see its a preview demo unit - X7 debut World Tour 2015.
 
Operation/options/mobile usage/battery life:
 
I used the FiiO X7 with its current firmware 1.5 ( http://fiio.net/en/story/372 ), pre-installed was version 1.1. The German translation is not finished yet, sometime some strange words used instead, or simply they kept the English word for it. The little blue LED can be customized in the software settings (brightness level, pulsar, permanent light, or off). The FiiO X7 firmware is based on Android 4.4.4 with Google Play Store connection. As far I know FiiO is working on Android Version 5 too - but for the sound quality it doesn't matter which Android version is used in this case. You have on one side, the Android mode which all typical operations and functionally allows what you can do with Android. On the other side you have the for musical only operation mode, the so called Pure music mode. FiiO has spent a own developed customized music app (FiiO Music - used in version 1.7), which completely bypassed Android typical re-sampling/down-sampling actions, short SRC ( https://source.android.com/devices/audio/src.html ), to offer bit-perfect, native playback of all supported formats. This app works in both modes without limitations. Additional as mentioned on beginning FiiO heavily optimized Android, that the FiiO X7 has native 44 kHz, instead of mostly typical 48 kHz on Android devices.
 
Short RMAA measurement for comparison:
 
16 bit/44 kHz:
005_16bit_Apps_Compare.png
 
006_16bit_Apps_Compare_Detail.png
FiiO Music vs 3rd party music apps. Like you see with 16bit music with the native 44 kHz implementation from the FiiO X7 no quality loose is happen.
 
24 bit/44 kHz:
007_24bit_Apps_Compare.png
 
008_24bit_Apps_Compare_Detail.png
FiiO Music vs 3rd party music apps. Like you see depending of the implementation in real world, trough SRC the sound quality can be decreased if you use 24bit music, but Neutron offers a real great deal with exemplary performance, like the FiiO Music app.
 
Android typical the control is smooth and fast and absolute self explaining. The FiiO Music app is easy to use and after a couple of minutes you know all functionality and options. From the control I see some room for improvements, I personally prefer the user interface and control of Neutron.
 
The used 1.4 GHz clocked Rockchip RK3188 quad-core SoC, with 1 GB of RAM and the 3.97” IPS display with 480x800 and a pixel density of 233 PPI is for all applications more than enough. A higher pixel density would only cost more battery life and offers no real added value to draw like album covers. From the 32 GB of internal storage you can use slightly over 27 GB. FiiO shows support for 128 GB microSD cards, but a 200 GB microSD works fine too.
 
The volume levels can be adjusted in small 120 steps and this in every app. The amp gain can be switched on the software between low and high. The 10 band equalizer should be more than fine for the most user (I never use EQ at all), if not you can use other apps instead with i.e. parametric equalizer and others (like Neutron). A hint on this stage, by default any other app than the FiiO Music app has an built-in 6 dB attenuation to prevent clipping and that all apps sound the same.
 
What at first directly catches the eye from the design of FiiO X7 is its modular amp module. The idea is not completely new, some Hifiman DAPs offering switch able amps, but the solution of the FiiO X7 is very smart done.
 
009_x7_amp.jpg
With only two screws you are able to swap the amp section of the X7.
 
Here is a overview over all amp modules for the FiiO X7, like you see for all needs or wishes, no need for external amps anymore:
 
010_FiiO_AMP_Modules.png
By default the IEM AMP M1 module is shipped with the FiiO X7.
 
The pricing for the amp modules should be move between 70 to 100 Euros per module. It should be on the beginning some introductory price, where the price should be between 35 to 50 Euros. But please note I only converted Yuan to Euro, what the prices will be for us (Germany) I don't know yet. But in any case, the small additional costs for a balanced or very powerful amp module is out of competition if you see what a dedicated balanced amp or a very powerful amp costs you normally. Source: http://fiio.net/story/367
 
The battery life from the non-removable 3500 mAh battery is in real world with the paired IEM AMP M1 module with my custom IEMs around 9 hours, which fits very well with the manufacture statement. You have long display on times and massively use WiFi / Bluetooth the life varies finally. The charge time for a entire full charge takes under 4 hours with 2A wall charger.
 
The WiFi with 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.11n standard is stable and more than enough for streaming apps like Spotify or Qobuz. MFI or RFI noise interference I couldn't see regardless if I use my most sensitive IEMs.
 
Since the Bluetooth module (Bluetooth V4.0 + EDR) from the FiiO X7 don't come with AptX, it has some incremental sound quality decrease. For my test I have chosen my Creative Soundblaster E5 with the FiiO X7, in the opposite I have used my Sony Xperia Z1 compact which have AptX – the differences you can hear, with a regular 16bit FLAC music file – without AptX minimal less dynamic and slightly taller sound stage, with the same source material, same player app (Neutron) and same output level. No big differences of course, because I have heard with other Android devices much more worse results in a very bad meaning. In this particular case with the FiiO X7 its not a deal breaker that no AptX is onboard, since its such a small real world difference.
 
011_BT_test.jpg
Wireless music listening no problem with the FiiO X7.
 
Sound quality/performance/compare:
 
Lets come to the most important attribute of a DAP - the sound. Before I start my (best possible objective) comparison, I want to share that I measured all my sources with a multimeter (UNI-T UT139C) with a 1 kHz sinus 0dBFS test signal for scaling all to the (best possible) same loudness level for listening.
 
Direct comparisons:
 
FiiO X7 vs iBasso DX50 + Chord Mojo
 
With the Custom Art Harmony 8 Pro and Etymotic Research ER-4 (OE Edition) is the stack of iBasso DX 50 + Chord Mojo, with its higher transparent and even more detailed playback, added with larger sound stage in advantage. Its not like day and night differences, but with these two high resolution IEMs quite easy noticeable.
 
With the LEAR LHF-AE1d and Custom Art Music One, the differences slightly smaller, but still you hear it, because the Mojo offers his real strengths with IEMs.
 
With the Sennheiser HD 800 on the other side, I can't hear any difference between those two, in this case I don't see a better or worse.
 
Put all together is the FiiO X7 on top notch with these stack which is really impressive, only for the last couple of percent if use high quality IEMs, has the stack a small benefit, but with regular headphones fades this advantage.
 
012_vs1.jpg
Lots of toys for the comparison, the differences of the source are really small. Small benefit with IEMs for the stack.
 
FiiO X7 vs iBasso DX50 + iFi audio micro iDSD
 
Quite interesting comparison – because the iBasso DX 50 + iFi audio micro iDSD and the FiiO X7 sounds absolutely identical with the before mentioned IEMs. Both offering such a high quality playback of the music.
 
But after I swapped to my Sennheiser HD 800 in other hand, we have now small plus points for the stack. Because the headphone earns a better bass response, higher transparency and a little larger sound stage. But again this are only small differences, but you can hear it quite easy.
 
In summary the AM1 amp modules in high gain is enough to drive the Sennheiser HD 800, but I really would know how the more powerful amp modules would be match for the FiiO X7.
 
In this comparison plays the FiiO X7 again head to head with these stack, but now its completely opposite, that regular headphones getting the last last couple of percent trough a better amp, because with IEMs I have zero differences.
 
013_vs2.jpg
Lots of toys for the comparison, the differences of the source are really small. Small benefit with headphones for the stack.
 
Line-out performance:
 
Since the line-out of the FiiO X7 offers fixed 1.4 Vrms I tried it to pair with my Stax SRS-002 set. The amp SRM-002 matches very well and very great that with the lower line-out level of 1.4 Vrms, I can adjust the volume quite good in great range. The most problem I have with industry standard 2 - 2.1 Vrms output is, that it's too much power for lower volume for this Stax set. That's the reason why I “normally” use the Stax amp with my other gear with double amping to have a lower input level. But great from FiiO to have this lower line level, perfect performance for my SR-002, sounds on top wit iFi audio micro iDSD and Chord Mojo.
 
stax_1.jpgstax_2.jpg
Love this baby Stax airy sound, still unique sound signature for IEMs.
 
Other audio perfomance:
 
Best hiss performance, a ranking list, for dedicated DAPs (a small selection):
 
FiiO X7 > FiiO X3 (1. Gen) > iBasso DX50 > Shanling M2
 
The FiiO X7 paired with the default IEM AMP M1 modules has very very great hiss levels, even on very sensitive IEMs. The hiss performance is shortly on top like my reference device for this attribute – the Chord Mojo. The IEM module makes his naming very proud.
 
The output impedance again, I have measured with a multimeter (UNI-T UT139C) and a DIY mini jack without resistance and after with DIY mini jack with a 33 ohms resistance and afterwards I calculated 0,5153 V - 0,5005 V = 0,0148 | 0,5005 V / 0,0148 = 33,818 | 33 / 33,818 ~ 0,9) and I get around 1 ohms. But please note measure tolerances because the manufacture value of around 0,2 ohms can be very right to me.
 
My RMAA measurements I have done with my Creative E-MU 0404 USB Audio Interface:
 
014_24bit_X7_FG_compare.png
The FiiO X7 with and without load. For test I used my 8 driver IEM, the frequency response is ruler flat and only a very inaudible 0,2 dB roll-off.
015_24bit_X7_outputs_compare.png
The line-out, like the headphone output, from the FiiO X7 very flat and neutral.
016_X7_test.jpg
The test equipment for measurement and comparison.
 
Also the other technical specifications I have confirmed with my measurements, in some cases better as FiiO mentioned.
 
Conclusion:
 
FiiO offers with the X7 a really great sounding, flexible usable Android based, with modular amp module system and docking station a smart all-rounder DAP. Put all things together its a very interesting DAP with good attributes/performance/functionality and a awesome design. I need to admit its not so easy to give the FiiO X7 away, because its a all-rounder with small footprint which is the current flagship from FiiO and a really a good deal imho.
 
 
h1f1add1cted
h1f1add1cted
@rolandpsp
 
If I use line out paired with line in from i.e. iFi micro iDSD as amp only mode my compare FiiO X7 with AM1 vs iBasso DX50 with coaxial iFi micro iDSD sound very similar, feed digital is slightly better. The AM2 I can't test, I don't have. The same will stay if I would pair any external amp like Meier Audio Corda Quickstep or similar great amps vs the Mojo stack, the difference will be kept, as I wrote in my comparsion.
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
Very nice review and thank you for your measurements! 
h1f1add1cted
h1f1add1cted
Thanks, you are welcome.
Pros: android, streaming, dedicated app, amplifier modules
Cons: a little bit big, small storage, firmware issues
2016-01-0215.21.26.jpg
 
Design:
The DAP definitely has a solid build to it. Very good in terms of its weight which kind of reminds me of the FiiO X5 when I owned it but almost all touch screen. I like the build quality a lot and the screen is wonderfully spacious. It is a tad bit big to my liking but that is probably because I’m already used to the form factor of my own DAP. I personally am not a fan of the buttons as it is hard to distinguish what side I am pressing if I want to change the volume or change the song. It would have been ideal if FiiO had used another mechanism for the volume control or used different buttons altogether to avoid confusion. Even when I have the DAP right next to me, I can’t just grab it and change the song without having a second look to make sure I am not increasing the volume.

Interface:
I like how FiiO made the DAP have two different modes, Pure Music and Android mode. I enjoy the dedicated music app by itself though it also needs a little bit of getting used to in terms of navigation. This is because there are buttons that don’t have labels on them and I find them necessary especially for those who are more used to iOS. The UI is very responsive, I don’t see any lag on it at all and the freedom streaming apps is definitely very convenient as well. One thing I don’t like about the X7 is the on-screen volume change. Sometimes it does not respond properly where I drag my finger and it’s not doing anything. There are also times that it’s the android-style volume bar that shows when changing the volume. The drop down pane also disappears sometimes where it only shows what’s playing rather than being able to change settings on the fly. Perhaps these are polishings that FiiO will address in the next few firmwares.
 
Sound:
The X7 is quite a contender indeed. I am using my SE846 and it provides a close amount of clarity and detail when compared to RWAK240. The X7’s sound signature is very flat and a little bit lacking when it comes to dynamics. While there are details on the X7, I think it still lacks when compared side by side with the RWAK240. They are not too far apart though, on a price and feature standpoint the X7 easily wins out though the RWAK240 does offer more storage, optical and balanced out if that’s what one needs. The bass is excellent and hard hitting, mixed with a well-balanced midrange and treble. The treble is very smooth and it makes music sound engaging as it should be. I would say that it is a good match for the SE846 which I think is particular when it comes to it source.

Final thoughts:
The X7 is truly a flagship in its own right and it can definitely compete with the more expensive AK DAPs. While I do enjoy the sound from it, the dealbreaker for me would be the small storage of 32gb internal and the interface which can be remedied with future firmware updates. I wish that FiiO had made the button layout more ergonomic and I would’ve been happier with a smaller device. Optical out would also be nice. I look forward to the modules FiiO would be releasing for it as well. 
HarlanDraka81
HarlanDraka81
Hi, i could see you tried the Shure Se846 with the X7. Can you hear any hiss with them? How is the noise floor with the Se846?
 
Last two questions:
 
Is it possible to change the theme or the colour of the Pure music player (like choose other colours for the player beside that blue)?
 Is it possible to choose to have that blue led off when the player is on? Many Thanks!!
jjacq
jjacq
@HarlanDraka81 I didn't hear any hiss despite the 846 being a 9 ohm IEM. The X7's amp module is reported to be <.2 ohms though so it makes sense.
 
The last two questions, maybe eventually they have it but at the moment I haven't noticed the option of changing the theme color or turning off the blue LED.
Pros: build quality, audio quality, modular amp
Cons: usability can be better
_DSC9713.jpg
 
 
Before we start, I have to mention that this X7 is a loan unit from Fiio for the world tour. Thanks again to Fiio, Head-Fi and Joeblogg to make this event possible.
Since the X3K review, I am still an amateur on the subject of sound quality, so I will do my best describe my experience.
 
Since I have started looking around at different kinds of music player, I think the X7 is the first of the kind that used Android OS as their software bases and allows users to use their own prefer applications for music playback.
 
Packaging
The unboxing is very similar to the X1 and X3II. It comes with
 
  1. MicroUSB charging/data syncing cable
  2. 3.5mm to coaxial adapter
  3. Two screen protector
  4. T5 screws
  5. T5 screw driver
  6. Warranty card
 
This time though it did not come with a silicon case.
 
_DSC9705.jpg
 
Build quality
The build quality is as usual, very nicely done. The aluminium housing is very sturdy. Nowhere in the device that shows low quality or cheaply made. The most favourite part about the exterior of the device is the buttons. They give a light click which can be satisfying to press.
The size of the device is designed specify for single handed use. With a good amount of thickness and the right size of the device made it stays in my hand very securely.
At the bottom of the device, it has an empty block. It is the modular amp that Fiio says will allow user to swap out with a different amp for a different sound signature. It reminds me of the RHA T10 of their "Interchangeable tuning filters". This would be an interesting idea to look forward to.
 
_DSC9727.jpg
 
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_DSC9729.jpg
 
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Usability
In the build quality, I mentioned that I really like the buttons, but usability wise, it can be better. Along with the review unit, there are some documents related to the making of the device and it was explained the reason behind the parallel buttons. Even so, I would prefer the buttons to be different on both sides for the ease of blind clicking.
 
UI
Overall the UI is pretty clean. Throughout the time I’ve used the device, I have only used the default music player. The text are clean to read with the good contrast between the background colour. Swiping from the very left in the music player reveals its settings. One big problem I have notice is the register point of touch can be a bit hard to get to use to since the screen is small, in turn each elements are scaled down. Would be better if the buttons are a bit larger or increase the register point a bit more. Other than that, the UI is well-done.
 
eq1.jpg
 
eq2.jpg
 
musicplayer1.jpg
 
musicplayer2.jpg
 
sidesettings.jpg
 
Battery Life
I would consider it to be average. Since It has a lot of functions disabled. The battery life lasts longer than my phones. My last check before fully charge the device, it ran almost 14hours at 14% battery. I've also notice there are more battery drain when wifi was turned on, but I did not really use those functions so I can't really say much about it.
 
batterylife.jpg
 
runningapps.jpg
 
 
Sound Quality
Gear used: K7xx, SE215
Throughout the 10 days, I did not change the EQ since I have very little knowledge about it. Everything is kept at default besides switching the gain to low.
The vocal is pretty imitating even on the K7xx, especially the female vocals. I would say the instrument separation is pretty good which of course, better than my X1. I can really hear the better separation on the X7 with classical and jazz music. For some reason, the X7 give me a softer more comfortable feeling when listening to Jazz music such as the one by KoolKlean. While listening to classical music, it has more soundstage than my Fiio X1.
 
 
[So far, I've only got a little improvement on evaluating on the subject of sound quality. If you have read until here, thank you very much for the patient. Feel free to provide any feedback!]
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peareye
peareye
Nice review: Easy to read and easy to follow.
m1ku
m1ku
Thanks for the compliment~
Pros: Mature, detailed, beautiful sound
Cons: New f/w for FiiO, therefore needs work
I remember when the FiiO X3 came out. It was an idea that had originally been shelved, but was later resurrected, and released. In retrospect, I see it as FiiO’s opening shot, an exploratory probe in to the world of DAPs. After cutting their teeth using the X3, FiiO moved swiftly and decisively. The X5, X3ii and the X5ii followed in quick succession, each a step forward, a refinement of firmware, UI, build and in the background, subtle, but still there, sonic changes (the biggest was the switch from the X3’s warm sound signature, to the more accurate, clearer sound of the X5).
 
Now FiiO has released what I predict will likely be their next opening shot…the X7 looks like it will be an exploratory probe into the world of higher-end DAPs. Among many other firsts, most notably, it is their first player to use an Android interface, have wi-fi and use a touch screen. It also borrows a concept I haven’t seen done by anyone other than Hifiman and expands upon it. It has swappable amp modules.
 
I have had the good fortune to get a week with a tour unit, sent around the world for a few folks to have the opportunity to review the X7 and share their thoughts. I have not been paid for this review, and will not be keeping the tour unit. I am not affiliated with FiiO in any way and am a strictly independent listener. I use 16/44 FLAC files for all of my listening and my tastes run from jazz and the blues through to leftfield and experimental electronic music, with a lot in between.
 
My last moment spent with a FiiO player was when they sent an X5ii around the globe for reviewers. It was at that time I succumbed to a temptation, a dark horse I had not anticipated meeting or running off with. In fact, I planned on buying an X5ii. I was distracted at the last minute by the Pono, and have ever since been enjoying its numerous delights. Time has rolled on and I am still entranced by it.
 
I have spent the last few days listening to the X7 and the Pono, and can honestly say I have enjoyed listening to the X7. It has been a delightful experience. I can’t help but feel though, that I have been holidaying away from my wild co-ed apartment in the city with my quiet, wealthy uncle out in the suburbs. Compared to the Pono, the X7’s sound signature is polite, accurate, reliable and completely relaxing. The unit drove several different headphones and earbuds very competently. I had the good fortune to test it with Hifiman Edition X (also a tour unit), a pair of Magnum V6 drivers in Black Limba and Rosewood cups of my own making, the VE Zen (both the 1.0 and 2.0 version), the VE Monk, the Blox M2C and BE3, the T–Peos Altone 200 and the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
 
With the Edition X especially I felt like I could quietly slip back into a comfy chair, drink a cup of tea and let myself maybe take an afternoon nap. Aurally, everything was in its place, neither aggressive nor shrill and immaculate in its presentation. This is a stark contrast to the Pono. Usually it has me up, tapping my toes, looking for an alcoholic beverage and cruising my music collection for fast, rollicking tracks.
 
Like that wild co-ed apartment in the city though, the Pono lacks some amenities that one will always have when visiting that quiet, orderly, wealthy uncle. Want wi-fi access and streaming (Tidal, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime…)? The X7 can help with that. Want access to the Google Play store? The X7 will sort it out for you. Bluetooth? The X7 again.
 
All of this makes me see the X7 as not necessarily better or worse than the Pono…just…different. It aims somewhere else in the DAP market, and hits it squarely in the chest. The average person who uses something like the Pono frequently eschews streaming services in favor of local media. They don’t see the attraction of using an app to tweak sound performance, or feel any desire to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The X7 gives you all of this and more.
 
One day, sonically speaking, I’ll be ready to give up my hedonistic ways, and move out to the suburbs, live a quiet life, and settle down. And when I do, the X7 will likely be my first choice for where I want to be. I am sure I am not alone in this, in fact I am sure there are many making that life-choice right now. The X7 is 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a small town somewhere pleasant in a nice climate.
 
It has a few odd little firmware quirks and the UI does take a little while to get used to, but other than that its build is solid and sexy, it sounds great and will be customizable when those amp modules start coming out…and FiiO is usually very quick to take feedback and fix firmware issues rapidly…
 
Buy without fear if you’re looking to settle down comfortably 

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Pros: Design, build quality, ease of navigation, DAC implementation, overall sound, value for money
Cons: Minor UI quirks, IEM module does not unleash X7's full potential

FiiO X7 Review by lalala6​

 
IMG_20151214_224509.jpg
 
Disclaimer: This X7 is a preview unit kindly loaned to us by FiiO for the X7 world tour. A big thanks to Joe and team for organizing this tour and letting many people experience the X7 first hand!
 
 
About Me
 
I have been an avid audiophile for 3 years and counting. Starting from portable and then branching to desktop, I have slowly accumulated more and more gear, buying and selling stuff to try to find the perfect collection of IEMs, headphones, amps and sources for my musical needs. I listen almost exclusively to Japanese music, mainly Anime songs, J-pop and Japanese indie (doujin). But even within those genres, there are many musical styles resembling many different genres, like rock, metal, acoustic, ballad, jazz, piano, and even classical. I believe most of the music I have are well mastered, and I know a bad recording when I hear one.
 
Since this is a DAP review, I thought I should share my experience with DAPs. I currently own an iBasso DX80, and have owned in the past many DAPs; namely every single DAP that FiiO released before X7, iBasso DX90 & HDP-R10, Cayin N6, HiFiMAN HM-650, Walkman Z, F & A series. While I have never heard the ultra-expensive DAPs like Astel&Kern, I consider myself quite well-versed on DAPs and know how a good DAP should sound like.
 
Gears used in this review:
 
- FiiO X7 with IEM amp module (duh)
- FiiO E12DIY with OPA827 + LME49600
- IEMs: Audio Technica ATH-CK100 & CKR9LTD, DUNU DN-2000, JVC FX850
- Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD2000, Fostex TH-X00
- Other DAPs: iBasso DX80
 
 
Packaging and Accessories
 
IMG_20151214_225323.jpg
IMG_20151214_225530.jpg
 
The X7 comes in a simple black box with minimal text or decoration. Opening it reveals the unit, and underneath it is a box containing the manuals and accessories. While it does the job well, for $650 I was hoping for a fancier packaging that will properly convey the class of FiiO’s flagship statement DAP; maybe something like the HDP-R10 packaging. Well, considering the amount of features and quality packed into the X7, I guess we can’t complain.
 
For accessories, it comes with two screen protectors, a USB cable, coaxial cable, screwdriver and spare screws for the amp module. The retail version will also come with a transparent case.
 
 
Aesthetics and Build Quality
 
IMG_20151214_224605.jpg
IMG_20151214_224710.jpg
 
The X7 has a very modern and sleek look, with its minimalist design, brushed aluminum and metallic body. High points for visuals right there. The build quality is equally as impressive. It feels like a solid and expensive chunk of metal in your hands, with absolutely no creakiness or moving parts inside. Buttons are tactile and clicky. The X7 is something people would be proud to own.
 
 
Removing Amp Module
 
IMG_20151214_231342_HHT.jpg
 
The amp module is very easy to remove. After taking out the screws on the sides of the X7 with the provided screwdriver, the module can be detached smoothly, and can be inserted as just smoothly. While this is a very easy operation, having to keep that screwdriver near you can be cumbersome for some and this means you cannot swap modules while on the go as you risk losing the screws or the screwdriver. I would prefer a lock-in system where no screws are involved.
 
One thing that irked me is the “T5” wording below the screws on the amp module. Not sure if this is just on the tour unit, but there is no need to label what size the screws are on unit itself. Just leave it as information available in the manual, for those who are inclined to know. You don’t see Apple labeling what type of screws they use on the iPhone, do you?
 
 
UI and Navigation
 
IMG_20151214_225105.jpg
 
The X7 runs on Android 4.4, and the OS works pretty much flawlessly. If you have used an Android smartphone before, you will have no problems picking up the X7 and using it. There are two modes, the Android mode and Pure Music mode. The music player is just an app in Android mode, while in Pure Music mode it runs just the music player, making it work like a dedicated DAP. Navigation in the FiiO Music app is fast, smooth, logical, and overall an enjoyable experience.
 
However, there are some minor quirks in the UI that needs correction, and I have made a list of suggestions to improve the UI:
 
- Delete button revealed too easily when accidentally swipe left, breaking the momentum of scrolling. Suggest to put delete button together with the three buttons revealed when swiping right.
- In the Now Playing screen, a tiny accidental swipe on the album art changes the track too easily. Suggest to change tracks only with a longer and more deliberate swipe on the album art
- Top part of the album art is cut off in the Now Playing screen. Suggest option to hide the notification bar.
- In the built-in settings in FiiO Music app, allow user to toggle the Gain, Balance, and In-line Remote right in the app instead of directing them to Sound Settings whenever those are clicked.
- In Sound Settings, capitalize LO and SPDIF, and rename 'Lrbalance' to 'LR Balance'
- Put an indicator whenever EQ is enabled, either on the Now Playing screen or on the notification bar.
 
 
Battery Life
 
The battery life of X7 is decent for a DAP. I could get around 7-8 hours of playback on a single charge in Android mode. While this isn't impressive numbers by any means, having to power a high-end desktop DAC while also powering the SoC and amp module yet managing to squeeze out average DAP battery life is a win in my book.
 
 
Sound
 
Here comes the part you have been waiting for – how’s the sound quality?
 
Well, I’m not too good at expressing sound in words, but I’ll try my best.
 
The X7 with the IEM amp module can be characterized as having a warmish neutral sound. Bass is slightly elevated above neutral, creating the warmth that is in line with FiiO’s house sound. While the X5II is a departure from the house sound with an airier and more neutral signature, the X7 makes a triumphant return to their signature sound, and does it better than any FiiO DAPs before it could. The flagship Sabre ES9018S DAC really helps in this, bringing tons of micro-details, superb dynamics, and impeccable staging to the table. I can say the DAC is extremely well implemented in the X7, and is the best line-out I’ve ever heard from a DAP.
 
Here I shall describe in detail the sound with the stock IEM module.
 
Lows
 
The bass is smooth, detailed and goes quite deep. There is a slight mid-bass bump creating a punchy sensation to the sound. Overall decent sounding lows, but could do with more definition and texture.
 
Mids
 
The mids are definitely the standout of the X7. Amazingly intricate, smooth and yet full of micro-detail and texture. Very dynamic and musical sounding, slightly forward in a nice way. On intimate recordings, the vocals are lush, detailed and incredibly expressive. Several times I had goosebumps while listening to vocals with the X7. For sure, one of the best DAPs for mids without having to spend much more.
 
Highs
 
The highs are very well controlled with no sibilance or harshness in the sound. Despite having a Sabre DAC, it is surprisingly smooth, and has no edginess in the treble that is common in many Sabre implementations. Might lack sparkle or excitement coming from brighter DAPs, but it is good for controlling bright IEMs. With warm IEMs I sometimes crave for more treble. Quality-wise it is very good and extends well, just not very noticeable as it sits behind the rest of the spectrum.
 
Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
 
Decent width but awesome depth, very 3D sounding; an inherited characteristic of the ES9018 DAC inside. Precise imaging and amazing instrument separation. One of the only DAPs I’ve heard that can give you such a believable, realistic stage and incredible layering. I could close my eyes and literally hear where the instruments are in the mix.
 
 
Line-out
 
IMG_20151214_224638.jpg
 
Utilizing the X7 line-out to the E12DIY, everything gets improved to a mind-blowing degree. From a tighter, more defined bass, an even more dynamic and colorful mids, a more present and sparkly treble, to a huge increase in soundstage and separation. This shows just how capable the DAC in X7 is, and I can’t wait to see how the other amp modules will pair with it. If my E12DIY with the X7 is any indication, a better amp module will skyrocket its performance, putting the X7 squarely among the best of DAPs, regardless of price.
 
 
Comparisons
 
Vs DX80
 
The DX80 has a leaner, more analytical sound compared to the X7. Surprisingly, the DX80 boasts much better lows, the bass being tighter, more refined and textured over the X7. In fact, the DX80 might have the best bass quality in DAPs under $1K, so it’s a bit of a tough fight there. Otherwise, the X7 beats it in all other areas. Mids on the X7 are more detailed and musical relative to the laid-back mids on the DX80. Highs, while lesser in quantity, are smoother and more refined than the DX80’s. Soundstage width is about the same, but the X7 definitely owns it in depth and height. The X7 is also more revealing and transparent, but that’s expected as it is twice the price of DX80.
 
If the X7 had the bass of the DX80, it would be the perfect DAP (for my tastes).
 
IMG_20151214_230723.jpg
 
 
Conclusion
 
Overall, I think the X7 is a good first attempt at a flagship Android DAP from FiiO. The design is wonderful and well thought out, the UI is fast and visually pleasing, the navigation is logical and a breeze to operate. Unfortunately, during my time with the X7 I did not try to download and use streaming apps, so I’ll leave the experience of streaming with the X7 to the other reviewers.
 
Soundwise, FiiO set out and crafted a sound which I think will appeal to many customers. With the prospect of sound improvement and tuning with different amp modules, the possibilities are endless and a great fun to tinker around with. Thanks to an extremely well implemented DAC section, you are bound to have great sound no matter what amp modules or portable amps you pair it with!
 
Finally, a BIG thank you and kudos to FiiO for being such an awesome company, listening to your customers’ wishes and making the best DAP you could for us! I wish you all the best and look forward to what amazing products will come from FiiO in the future.
Pros: Wireless streaming service, value for money, excellent DSD sound quality
Cons: UI Improvements, 16bit, mp3 files sound similar across their lineup.
Fiio X7 video review
 
 
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Pros: Sound quality is excellent; value
Cons: UI is functional but somewhat limited; the placement of the pause button
Quick review of the FiiO X7

This past week I have been playing and experimenting with one of the FiiO X7s that has been out on World-Wide tour recently. Really appreciate the opportunity that Fiio and Joe Bloggs have given some of us lucky Head-Fi'ers to be able to have an extended hands-on preview of the unit, in our own homes with the rest of our regular gear, that is a rare treat and priviledge.

As you probably recall, but I will remind you anyway because it's important ... the X7s went on tour BEFORE they were commercially available thorugh normal retail channels. FiiO was looking for feedback from the kind of consumers who would likely purchase a highish-end DAP, and undoubtedly also hoping for some favorable buzz, but the other side of the coin is that the product wasn't necessarily entirely ready for prime time when the journey began. 

Yesterday (I think), firmware version 1.5 was released, which is the 4th firmware update since X7s started touring approx 6 weeks ago. That one I have not installed yet, but that gives you a sense of the pace of fixes and upgrades that FiiO is cranking out.

One of the difficulties a reviewer has, which a potential purchaser also faces, is whether one judges the product based on where it is today, or where you think it will/could get if X number of seemingly easy changes get made, especially in the UI. That's always a tough call, but certainly FiiO's track record suggests they don't release a product and then forget about it. 

In this review, I am not going to include pictures, or have an unboxing video, or (intentionally) repeat every comment that other reviewers have already covered well.  

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My special interests and issues in testing the X7:
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(1) as a "one piece" portable solution.  Not interested in a stack of DAP+(DAC/)amp for portable use; BTDT.  We're almost in 2016, the technology has moved enough that I am interested in how good a reasonably-priced single box solution can be, but not willing to carry a whole bunch of gear.  (Caveat: always will have a phone. So a phone/DAP + amp isn't adding more pocket hardware than a standalone DAP with internal DAC+AMP.)  I understand that not all h/ps will be suitable for portable/mobile use, so selection of appropriately matched cans is part of the solution. (And the entire system cannot surpass the capabilities of the transducers that create the physical sound.) 

(2) using the X7 as a high-quality desktop source. For a long time, my PC-based playback system was plagued by USB-related issues. Some other new gear (received after the X7 tour sign-up) seems to have helped greatly on that, but still the idea of having a home-quality source that is potentially less prone to USB noise artifacts is very appealing.

(3) I don't have any good IEMs, and so far haven't much liked the feel in my ears of the few I have tried. I primarily use and like full-size headphones. The Oppo PM-3 is my designated "travel" (closed ear) headphone. The initial amp module available for the X7 was reportedly designed primarily for IEMs, so it's clearly not going to be optimal for my personal use preferences. But how much compromise is there? I was keen to find out.

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Observations, notes & comments:

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*---- about me -----* 

I've been "serious" about Head-Fi gear for a couple of years. Well, more correctly have recently re-kindled a passion for headphones that started circa 1977 when I spent two weeks pay to buy a pair of brand new, state of the art Stax SR-X Mk III headphones "ear speakers". Which I still have, and still use. But I have a thrifty bent, and have never owned any (other) real TOTL equipment. One of the real exciting things about today's gear, especially h/p gear, is how close to top quality sound we can get for reasonable amounts of money. But I listen to and enjoy music, I don't listen to gear, per se.
 
 
*---- Sound Quality ----*

* the IEM amp module of the X7 drives the Oppo PM-3 very well. I never sensed that it was strained, or unmusical, and it probably could have made my ears bleed at full volume.  Excellent match. SQ=9/10. Unquestionably way better than my FiiO X1. 
 
* the IEM amp module of the X7 did considerably better than I expected driving a HiFi-Man 400i, on high gain.  It clearly didn't have all the power and clarity of my normal desktop amp, a Project Sunrise III, and usually needed volume settings in the 95 to 110 range (of 120), but I would characterize the SQ as "Very Good," which is a 6/10 on my personal semantic anchoring scale. (10=Incredible, 9=outstanding, 8=superior, 7=excellent, etc.) I would not listen to this combo at home much, given better choices to hook-up, but in a hotel room, absolutely.
 
* paired with a Senn HD-650, which ought to be a poor match-up, it was, predictably, just "Fair." Somewhat muddy and strained. Listenable, but not capable of the elevating or entrancing experiences we are all looking for. Didn't get as loud as I sometimes like to listen. Doubt that I would bother to get one of the future release alternative amp modules to handle the HD-650 better. I love those headphones but they are not closed and just not well suited for travel use; for in-home use, there are better solutions, see the next two notes.
 
* Lineout: to the Project Sunrise III, driving any of the previously mentioned cans: Outstanding. Got a hiccup a couple of times during the week, which happened when playing 24-192 FLACs when the battery was low (which could have been coincidence), but otherwise flawless. 
 
* Digital out to external DAC, a Schitt Bifrost Multi-Bit. Didn't think I had the connecting cables to test this, but then I realized the FiiO kit had thoughtfully included a suitable adapter for just this purpose. Super Super Super. Used purely as a transport to even better gear, the X7 works beautifully. It's at least as good as my everyday JRMC on Windows PC --> USB connection --> external DAC configuration, and probably better.
 
 
*----- UI and physical design ----* 
 
* I mostly used the device in FiiO Pure Music mode. I primarily listen to entire albums, and thus tend to navigate by hierarchical folders. (e.g., $Music/ABC/Bob Marley & The Wailers/2002_Legend....) My tags are probably in decent shape, but I don't rely on them much. Folder navigation worked fine for me. With the hierarchy I use for folders, any album was just two or three steps away.
 
I am not a highly advanced Android user. It's reasonably likely that there are things the UI does that I did not discover. There's been a lot of criticisms of the UI. Maybe I have low expectations, but I found it functional enough for me, and reasonably intuitive. 
 
* within folders, things were sometimes odd. Double-disk albums often showed Song 1, Song 1, Song 2, Song 2, etc., rather than keeping the two disks separate and in the expected sequential order. JRMC didn't do that for the same albums, so I don't think it's the tags.
 
* similarly, on some albums with a lot of tunes, the listed order was 1, 11, 12... 20, 21, 2, 3, 4, etc. Since I like to listen to albums from end-to-end, I prefer to hear them in the order the artists and/or producers intended. Again, could be tags, or the lack of them, but JRMC isn't showing or playing the tracks in this order. The X7 was apparently alphabetizing by track name, including an embedded track number, rather than using a "track number" tag. Maybe there's an option to control that. 
 
* Not sure if the X7 currently has a true "random shuffle" mode. If it does, I couldn't figure it out. The default "play all the songs" order seems to be alphabetical by song. I could get that change to something that wasn't pure alphabetical, but it was too clustered by artist to be random. When I'm listening to stuff in random order, I like the idea that the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" could come up next ,even if an A-song like "Accidents Will Happen" by Elvis Costello was last up. It annoys me to know that as a P-song, Psycho Killer is, for sure, 1800 songs away. (How hard could it be to load a 60,000 long list of (pseudo-)random numbers into the firmware?) 
 
* in "individual song" mode, there's an index-scale on the right-hand side of the display, from A-Z. Touching that will jump you to that part of the song list, but be patient, it takes a couple of seconds to respond.
 
* the pause button is just badly placed. As a right-hander, it's precisely where my fingers naturally wrap around when I hold the unit in my hand. If I had a penny for every time I inadvertently hit the pause button, I would be $34.72 richer today than I was last week. Not a deal-breaker, but it is annoying. On the X7 version ii, I hope FiiO flips the buttons, and has the ON and Pause button above the double-rockers on either side, rather than below them.
 
* the volume scale works well. Not sure that going to 120 is necessary ... although I somewhat enjoyed it in a Spinal Tap "11" kind of way ... but I could always find a Goldilocks volume that was "just right" for the tune, my mood and the 'phones on my head. 
 
* Did I mention the Android UI is MUCH better than the wheel of the X1? The wheel has given me oodles of nuisance and malfunction, this is far superior. One small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind. So to speak.
 
 
*--- miscellaneous other stuff ----*
 
* I mostly played FLACs, the vast majority of my music is ripped or purchased as FLACs. Played up to 24-192 fine.
 
* DSD - I don't have a lot of music on DSD, but I do have a couple of albums and some demo files from various vendors. DSD64 sounded great, not sure I put any higher-res DSD files on the X7. Not surprisingly, the X7 would not play a 5.1 multichannel DSD file.

* MP3 - beats me. Mostly when I find any of these still hiding in my collection, I just delete them on sight as archaic relicts. Didn't listen to any MP3s with the X7.
 
* SACD-ISO. Tried two. One played, one didn't, don't know what the difference was.
 
* WAV/WV. Tried Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is just great music for certain moods. My copy is a one-file WAV rip, it didn't play with FiiO Pure Music. I believe it did with Neutron however.

* One of the previous participants on my unit's tour apparently installed Tidal and Neutron, and (kindly or inadvertently, don't know) left Tidal logged in. Saw it in Android mode, touched the icon just to see what would happen, and was surprised when it fired up, made a Wi-fi connection with the home network automatically, and was ready to go. I did play with it for a few hours. (Okay, six hours. Until 3 am Sunday morning.) I don't think the SQ was quite up to onboard FLAC quality, but it was much better than I expected, definitely quite listenable. And so simple even this caveman could do it. Just for funnzies, I did searches for around 50 albums from my "albums I am hunting for" list, some of which could reasonably be described as "obscure." Tidal had about 90% of them. I was quite impressed with CD-quality Tidal, will probably sign-up. Streamed everything live, didn't try any "download now to play later" kinds of things. 
 
* Neutron: played a couple of songs, just to see that it works. Not an app I currently use, and I didn't spend much time trying it out. Seems to have a lot of customization and EQ options. Noticeably lower volume than FiiO's app.
 
* Speaking of EQ ... don't usually use it, didn't try it at all on the X7. 

* Wi-Fi - as previously stated, Tidal brought up Wi-Fi with no fiddling. Somebody else had set it up before me, so I don't know if that was much of a chore. I never experienced any kind of interference or noise using Wi-Fi, which very much surprised me. 
 
* firmware updates - the X7 arrived as 1.0. I downloaded 1.4 as one of the first things I did after receiving the unit, followed FiiO's instructions, and it installed uneventfully. (i.e., Happy-Happy-Happy-Quick.) Never listened to the X7 with any firmware earlier than version 1.4.

* earlier today when the Wi-Fi was turned on, the X7 told me that firmware 1.5 was available and could be installed. I didn't avail myself of that invite ... something for the next person to do, if feedback on the update suggests it's essentially bug-free ... but nevertheless that's a neat capability for the X7 to have. Especially if it goes through a period of regular firmware updates as more capabilities and fixes are added. 
 
* Loaded up a bunch of xmas and "regular people" tunes on a new micro-SD card in preparation for the annual xmas "obligatory 2 day holiday tour around the state to visit various relatives." Was thwarted in my effort to share good music cheer because the X7 and my vehicle (2013 Honda Odyssey) were not able to to find each other to make a BlueTooth connection. Was on the road and didn't get to fiddle with it much. (Unfortunately, I had assumed the BlueTooth would work, and neglected to also bring a line-out cable as a backup. Whoops. Had to listen to the radio, how retro 20th century. Under my reindeer antlers headpiece, I was secretly embarrassed by this technology failure. Fortunately, the wifelette was pre-occupied with hitting the travel schedule.) 
 
* Battery life: I didn't really time it, but from my experience 8-10 hours seems a good guess. And remember, I'm using cans that need more power than IEMs would. That's enough for me, anytime I know I'm going to be unable to recharge for more than 8 hours, I have a number of cheap "recharge your mobile device via USB" batteries I can bring along. (They're a commodity accessory now, $10-$15 for 3000 to 6000 mAh.)
 
* Recharge via USB --> fast. I'd guess it took less than 2 hrs to go from 6% to 100%, while the X7 was playing.
 
* USB connection to PC. Worked fine for a while. Plug in the USB cable, and up popped a "Connect in Android mode" screen. But that is not happening now, in either Pure Music or Android mode. Don't know if I inadvertently turned something off on the X7 or on my PC. Regardless, loading tunes onto a card is usually faster for me if I plug the card directly into a card-reader on the PC rather than use a USB cable to an external device anyway, so I generally do not move tunes via a USB cable.
 
* re-scanning the list of tunes: the X7 took 80 seconds to scan the internal storage and a 128-GB card, and to register 2,930 tracks. I was happy with that. (The track count for that size card is kinda low, because I put a large number of high-rez files on the card for testing purposes, and of course those files tend to be much larger than normal 16/44.1 redbook files.)
 
* I LOVE that FiiO isn't burdening the X7 with a ton of expensive internal storage. With a card slot, we get essentially unlimited storage capacity, as much as anyone wants to buy, and can purchase whatever size cards offer the best capacity vs price trade-off, any given time. To me, at the moment the 128-GB cards are still the sweet spot. Because the X7 rescans a memory card so fast, swapping a new card in is no big deal. (Unless you drop the old one on the floor of a crowded public transit bus in the dark, etc. Some free advice: don't do that.)  Two card slots would be nice, but it's not essential.
 
 
*----- bottom line ---* 
 
I like the FiiO X7 a LOT. Even with the IEM amp module, SQ was excellent on full-size headphones that are reasonably well-matched. Super as a transport to desktop gear. No show-stoppers in terms of usability from my point of view. Its functionality with Tidal is making me re-think about the fun and usefulness of wireless streaming, which up to now frankly I had not seen much point to.
 
Will it rip the guts out of the market for top-end A&K models? Don't know, but it will certainly push them as "a value proposition." Hate that phrase, but it fits here.
 
How does the X7 compare to other hot new DAPS, such as the Questyle Q1PR, the Onkyo DP-X1, or even the LG-V10 ? Don't know that either, haven't had a chance to play with any of them.
 
But I would say that if SQ is your #1 consideration, which IMO it certainly should be, then the X7 is most certainly a very serious contender, as is. 
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peareye
peareye
Nice Read! i too bought a pair of Stax back then (1976)...still have the bill (just over 200.00)...
 
i had them over 20 years: they took longer and longer to get up to volume (like a tube radio) when i first turned the power on...
 
you're lucky yours still work!
DougD
DougD
(re the Stax) Yeah, mine definitely show their age. I leave then on, and thus "charged up", 24x7x365. From a cold start, it can take a couple of hours for the two sides to sound the same. Oddly enough, I just bought a new (old) amp to power them. But that's off-topic!
Pros: Impressive soundstage. Smooth, refined audio. Impeccable detail. -touchscreen-
Cons: GUI. Incomplete firmware. Battery life. Hardware buttons. Raised screen.
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::Disclaimer::
I managed to insinuate myself into the North American tour for FiiO’s new flagship audio player. I receive no payment for this review, and have no affiliation with the company… yet. I’m trying to convince James Chung I’m his long-lost son/grandfather/aunt. Fingers crossed! My participation in this tour was permitted only under the mandate that I share my opinions openly and honestly, for good or ill. Let’s all of us take a moment to sit and read and see if I can do that.

::Review::
I have earned the ire of some members of the Head-fi community for suggesting that DAPs should be devices focused and dedicated to the highest quality sound achievable. And nothing else. The idea of wifi, internet, streaming, and even video! I have a Galaxy S6 for that, and it does not sound very good compared to even a budget DAP. Top-tier smartphones are proficient at everything and masters of nothing.

Enough people want all that garbage in their DAPs, though. Yet I can’t help feel when a manufacturer splits its focus—and budget—to accommodate features that have nothing to do with sound quality, it’s to the detriment of the product.

As it turns out, the FiiO X7 does show signs of this, but not so bad as it could have.

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Aesthetically, the X7 is mundane to look upon. Gone is the old FiiO, who gave us the idiosyncratic X3 and the handsome brute known as the X5 Classic. The 2nd Gen products are all about function, form be damned. There are rumors out of Hong Kong the last artist in FiiO’s employ was killed in the winter of 2014/15. The others fled months before, and those who couldn’t were transformed into something else.

That at least explains the X7. The most interesting thing about its appearance is the raised LCD screen, which happens to be a design flaw I am in fact docking them for. Displays must be exposed, or they aren’t displaying much. Still, there’s no reason to expose them like this. One oughtn’t take the most vulnerable part of a device and willfully make it more vulnerable.

The build feels sufficient and sturdy. Buttons are solid. NO SCROLL WHEEL! Yay! The layout of the buttons makes for awkward handling, I’m sad to say. By virtue of their symmetrical arrangement, when I press the Power button, I’ll often press the Track Forward or Track Backward on the opposite side of the player. Or if I try and hit the Play/Pause button, I might also change the volume. I’ve found the touchscreen a tad unresponsive. Sometimes it just doesn’t recognize you’ve touched it. Dead center, medium force, and it doesn’t notice.

One of the major drawbacks to the X7 is that it possesses only one slot for microSD cards. That, and the measly 32GB internal storage, makes this a tough sell for some of us. Both the X5 Classic and X5ii have two slots, giving you quite a lot more potential storage. The recently released Cayin N5 also has two, and for half the X7’s price. My AK120ii has but one slot, as well. Yet with 128GB internal storage, the issue becomes moot.

The GUI is rather good, but not great. It could use streamlining. A copious application. You have to select two separate folder icons before you enter Browse by Folder. Every other DAP I’ve owned has this icon on the root menu. Manually updating the firmware is a bit tricky to figure out. Once you do, it becomes simple. Now that the X7 can automatically check for updates, download, and install them, it promises to be as easy as Astell&Kern. Changing from Pure Music Mode to Android Mode was confusing, until v1.41beta. Now it prompts you to reboot, whereas before you would have no idea you should power-cycle the system. Unless you read manuals, which everyone knows hurts the pancreas.

The individual who had this unit before me reported all manner of troubles, which included a plague of system crashes so severe he feared it came straight out of the book of Revelations. Myself, I have seen only one crash. It caused the system to reboot and I thought, “Here we go. I was warned.” But I haven’t seen another one since. Perhaps because I’ve gone through four versions of the firmware since receiving my unit.

Putting my reservations aside, most of the UI is a step up from the FiiO X5. Simply doing away with that hell-wrought scroll wheel secures the X7’s victory. Now… pit it against my principle music player, the Astell&Kern AK120ii, and we see a whole other story. Button layout on the AK is made for human hands. You won’t press anything you didn’t intend. The software is trim, intuitive, and a joy to use. The screen sensitivity is without fault. Let’s not forget the gorgeous volume knob, which is a feature I love in my high-end equipment. Your tastes may disagree. No doubt some folk are muttering “fanboy” as they read this. That’s okay. To me the AK120ii simply feels superior.

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Battery life was tested at a little over eight hours. I ran her from a fresh charge, on high gain, at volume 68, powering my Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ear. That’s louder than I can comfortably listen at. I turned the screen on four or five times for mere seconds in order to check the status. It was playing standard 16bit/44.1Khz FLAC files. If you’re using IEMs on low gain, expect to get longer use of this DAP.

The ability to plug your X7 into a computer and use it as a USB DAC was still absent while I held it. FiiO says this feature will be unlocked in later firmware updates. Then again, they also say the X7 couldn’t possibly have given me rabies. But I feel mighty frothy, and boy do I hate water. Who’s right?

Google Play Store is present in the latest update. That, along with FiiO Marketplace, gives you access to apps such as Spotify and Tidal. Streaming from Tidal was super easy over my home wifi. I’ve read reports of line noise creeping into the signal when using wifi on the X7. My own limited experience using this device for streaming was pleasant, without any detectable signal interference.

Now… let’s talk about sound.

For this review I finally picked up a headphone switcher—LINE5—and oh my lord does it help distinguish all the variations between sources. I should have bought one of these a long time ago. Sadly, I still don’t have an SPL meter, so everything was volume-matched by ear.

It's an achievement so great I shall preserve it in black and white.

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Upon powering up the X7 for the first time, right off I performed a factory reset. Whatever demons tormented the last reviewer, I wanted to head them off as best I could. I then updated the device’s software. I had all of forty minutes with v1.3 of the firmware before v1.4 released. The update improved the sound nicely. During those first forty minutes, I felt the X7 sounded kinda dull, lacking dynamics and energy. After the update, it was like the FiiO woke up, randy as hell, wanting to get it on with the nearest warm body.

The X7 is utterly neutral, more so than my other DAPs. Its soundstage has a fabulous open quality, with density of detail to fill it all in. Clean and clear is the impression.

I find it easier to describe a device by comparing it to another. A reference point like that gives my descriptions much-needed context. So I’ll match this player against my main DAP. But first, the backup.

The X7 is less warm than the X5 Classic, with even more detail. The X5 has always been known as a detail beast. The X7 is better. It also has a significantly larger soundstage, and smoother sonics. The music is crisper and more analogue-seeming. It takes its place as FiiO’s new flagship with ease.

In regard to my top player, the AK120ii, the X7 is again brighter and more neutral. They are more or less equal in detail. Being brighter, the X7 comes across as having more detail, but if you listen with care, it just isn’t so. The AK renders an even wider soundstage, and deeper.

That’s as far as I can go with my objective comparison. Those are aspects you can almost quantify. This hobby, however, is mostly a subjective one. What do we think about a product? How do we feel about what we hear?

To me, the warmer sound of the AK120ii gives the music a thicker, richer quality. It’s smooth and organic, with a weight of tonality the X7 falls short of. I observed this with every headphone I tested.

I favor a measure of warmth in my sound. That’s the bias I work under. Others lean towards a brighter character. They may prefer every aspect of the X7.

Now, when you take into account the Balanced Output of the AK120ii, it leaps ahead of the X7 in clarity, soundstage, texture, detail, and everything you can think of. FiiO is developing a Balanced Amp Module, along with one for high impedance headphones, and a few other configurations. When these are released the fight will be on leveler ground.

Forgetting my bias is sooooo easy with the X7. It recreates such a splendid melody. Nothing sounds bad on the FiiO.

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I feared that pairing a highly neutral phone with a highly neutral DAP would generate a terribly dry, analytical sound. When I tried the Klipsch X7i with the FiiO X7, relief washed over me. It sounds brilliant. Being single-driver, Balanced Armature, this Klipsch is not going to take full advantage of FiiO’s new flagship. Nonetheless, I fell in love with these little earphones all over again. The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour played out with so much detail. It’s very smooth with delightful tonality.

Running the Audio Technica IM03 I found some of that warmth I hunger for. A Perfect Circle made me feel like I was in a dark club, watching them jam on stage beneath blinding lights. Oodles of bass, with plenty of air up top to keep it out of that mucky, veiled territory. The mids are just delicious.

Moving on up to the JH Audio Angie, I’m struck by the clarity and detail. It keeps some of the warmth of the IM03 while giving me everything the Klipsch did, only infinitely more refined. These are the phones I put in when I want to know exactly who the FiiO X7 is. Angie exposes everything, in the most intimate fashion. What I discover is the X7 can handle any genre, and handle it with aplomb. It never sounds digital. It never gets messy with complex recordings. Everything is spaced out and precise, very much on a level with Astell&Kern.

The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ears are some of the sweetest, easiest, most laid-back headphones. I took the X7>M2 pair out with me on a few errands leading up to Christmas Eve. Together they made the insanity of the traffic and shopping centers a lot more bearable. The X7 really brought out the Senn’s potential. Rumors by Fleetwood Mac has rarely sounded this good. HD Tracks’ Black Sabbath collection is quite simply life-altering on this setup.

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Most digital music players I’ve had the pleasure of trying are not intended to drive 300 Ohm headphones, such as my Sennheiser HD600. Most can drive them to a loud enough volume, but they sound anemic and hollowed out. Cayin N5 could not deliver a satisfactory performance with the HD600. Even my AK120ii failed this test. The FiiO X5 Classic was the only DAP I’ve tried personally that can fatten up the sound and give me an adequate facsimile of how the Senns perform on a beefy desktop amp. Don’t get me wrong, they are still underpowered. You are not fooled into forgetting that. A good desktop amp makes the HD600 quite a bit thicker, smoother, and richer sounding. The X5 is only adequate in a pinch. And now, so is the X7. That’s right. With just the IEM Amp Module, it does as well as the X5. Once those other Modules arrive, we will have one hell of a player on our hands.

If you stripped me naked and took away all my audio gear, and then offered me the choice, free of charge, between the X7 and the AK120ii, I choose the AK, without hesitation. Nearly everything about it appeals more to my sensibilities. Of course, it’s wildly expensive. At the time of this writing, Amazon has it for just under $1,500. And that’s low for the 120ii. We’re talking nearly two and a half times the X7’s $659. I could never reasonably suggest the Astell&Kern is worth buying when the X7 performs so ******* well at just a fraction of the cost.

The question, as it always comes down to, is what can you afford, and what features do you prize? For many, the X5ii is the better choice, simply because of its storage capacity, and the lack of all that smartphone rubbish the X7 is bogged down by. I still love my X5 Classic. My AK120ii is the perfect upgrade to it. While it is Android based, it’s highly locked down and refined. There’s no App Store. It still feels, and sounds, like it’s dedicated to nothing but sound quality.

Whatever. Enough of this heinous philosophizing. Especially when the deeper mystery is why I had to be naked in the scenario I proposed two paragraphs up! Food for thought.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

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