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FiiO X7

Rating:
3.89474/5,
Tags:
  1. Brooko
    Fiio X7 – Potential End Game DAP
    Written by Brooko
    Published Nov 8, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, build, form factor, ease of use, interface, features/versatility, connectivity
    Cons - UI features missing/incomplete, on the largish side (physically), battery life
    x727.jpg
    For larger images - please click individual photos

    INTRODUCTION

    I’m spoilt for choice with the DAPs I have – owning the Fiio X1, X5, X3ii, and having access to review samples for the X5ii, L&P5, L5 Pro.  I’ve used them all (a lot) over the last couple of years – and up until now, the X3ii has been my main go to portable DAP for daily use. In the last couple of months though, I’ve been fortunate to be able to put the L5 Pro and now the new Fiio X7 through their paces.
     
    I’ve been using Fiio audio equipment for close to four years now (amps, DACs , and DAPs), and have watched them evolve in that time from a fledgling audio company to a serious player in the personal audio world.  A couple of things have stayed constant in all of my time using Fiio products though – they’ve always strived to improve their performance (interacting with the community to get guidance along the way), and they’ve always aimed to release audio products that measure well, sound great, and offer real value for money.
     
    I guess many of us have been waiting for the X7 for a while now – anticipating how good their new flagship could be, and hoping that it continues their tradition of excellent sonics at an affordable price. The X7 I’m reviewing today is part of the global X7 tour – I’ve assisted Fiio with organising the Australasian tours, and we now currently have two units touring through Australia and New Zealand.
     
    ABOUT FIIO
     
    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the Fiio Electronics Company.  If you don’t, here’s a very short summary.  Fiio was first founded in 2007.  Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”.  But Fiio has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range.  They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by the X5, X1, X3 2nd Generation (X3ii), and X5 2nd generation (X5ii).
     
    Fiio’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.
     
    DISCLAIMER
     
    I was provided the Fiio X7 as a review sample.  It will go on tour once I have finished reviewing it.  There is no financial incentive from Fiio in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Fiio - and this review is my honest opinion of the X7.  I would like to thank Joe & James for making this opportunity available.
     
    Since the tour ended, I have used X7 for follow up reviews, and I recently inquired if I could purchase the device from FiiO.  They have insisted I keep the X7 for my own use. So I acknowledge now that the X7 I have is supplied and gifted completely free of any charge or obligation.  I thank FiiO for their generosity. 
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
    (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portables (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-2000J, Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2, DUNU Titan 5 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    My experience with DAPs in the past had been initially with some very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, iPhone4, iPod Touch G4, iPhone 5S, HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5, X1, X3ii, X5ii, and the Luxury & precision L&P5 and L5 Pro.
     
    WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A DAP
     
    I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.
    1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
    2. Good build quality
    3. Reasonable battery life
    4. Easy to use interface
    5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
    6. Value for money
    7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
     
    At the completion of  the review I’ll refer back to this list and see how the X7 performed.
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
     
    The X7 arrived in a smart black retail box with a printed outer sleeve.  The box measures approximately 110 x 180 x 60mm. On the front of the sleeve is a picture of the X7, and logo referencing the highest sampling rates (DSD and 384/32), and on the rear of the sleeve are the specifications in English and Chinese.
     
     
    X701.jpg X702.jpg
    Front of the retail box
    Rear of the retail box

     

    Removing the sleeve reveals a plain back two piece box, which when opened reveals the X7 securely held in a foam surrounding. Underneath the X7 is a second box containing he accessories, as well as a printed navigation guide – showing he X7’s main controls.
     
    The accessories include:
    1. A USB charging / data cable
    2. A digital out to coax cable
    3. 2 spare screen protectors for the X7 (plus there is one already prefitted)
    4. A foldout warranty card
    5. A screwdriver and spare screws for changing the amp sections
     
    X703.jpg X705.jpg X707.jpg
    Box in profile
    First opening of inner box
    Accessory package

     

    The entire package is practical, covering almost everything you initially need for the player, and the only other things I would have personally liked to see included would have been some sort of protective case, and maybe the little Fiio USB card reader (which was included with the original X5) – which I have found extremely handy over the last couple of years.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
     
    The tables below list most of the relevant specifications.  I have (as a comparison) also listed specifications from Fiio’s former flagship (X5ii) and also the new L&P L5 Pro, which sits in a very close price bracket to the X7.
     
     ​
    Fiio X5ii
    Fiio X7
    L5 Pro
    Approx cost
     USD 349.00
    USD 650.00
    USD 809.00
    Dimensions
    ~ 109 x 64 x 15mm
    ~ 130 x 64 x 17mm
    ~ 125 x 65 x 18mm
    Weight
    165g
    210g
    217g
    DSD support
    ISO, DSF, DFF up to 128
    ISO, DSF, DFF up to 128
    ISO, DSF, DFF up to 256
    Lossless PCM support
    APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, AIFF
    APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, AIFF
    APE, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, WV
    Lossy support
    MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
    MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
    MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
    Use as external DAC?
    Yes
    Not yet implemented
    Not yet implemented
    Battery
    3300 mAh
    3500 mAh
    Not stated
    Play time
    10 hours+
    9 hours
    Up to 12 hours
    DAC chip used
    PCM1792A
    ES9018S
    AKM Verita 4490
    Main amp chip
    OPA1612
    OPA1612
    1812O
    S/N (H/O)
    ≥117 dB (A-Weight)
    115 dB (A-Weight)
    Not stated
    THD+N (H/O)
    <0.001% (1 kHz)
    <0.0008% (1 kHz)
    Not stated
    Output into 16 ohm
    >436 mW (THD+N<1%)
    Not stated
    Not stated
    Output into 32 ohm
    >245 mW (THD+N<1%)
    >100 mW
    Not stated
    Output into 300 ohm
    >27 mW (THD+N<1%)
    Not stated
    Not stated
    Highest resolution
    192 kHz, 24 bits
    384 kHz, 32 bits
    768 kHz, 32 bits
    H/O impedance
    <0.2 Ω(32Ω)
    <0.5 Ω(32Ω)
    Not stated
    Line Out
    Yes, shared with digital out
    Yes, shared with digital out
    Yes, shared with digital out
    Digital Out
    Yes, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
    Yes, 3.5mm
    Internal storage
    None
    32 Gb
    32 Gb
    External storage
    2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
    1 x Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
    1 x Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
    Screen
    IPS 400x360
    480x800 touch IPS
    480x800 touch IPS
    Shell / Casing
    Aluminium alloy
    6061 Aluminium alloy
    Aluminium magnesium alloy

     
    I’ll also touch on the other features as we continue with the review.
     
    BUILD / DESIGN
     
    The build on the X7 (IMO) is excellent.  Fiio were kind enough to provide some background information on the design and build, and I would encourage anyone with a review unit to take some time to read through the Preview Reference and also the “Making of X7”.
     
    The X7 is CNC cut out of a solid block of 6061 aluminium (the same as used in the iPhone 6S chassis). It is then polished, sandblasted, brushed, colour anodized, and then further diamond cut for the high quality finish. All edges are either rounded or bevelled. It is a rectangular shape (130 x 64 x 17mm). The top section (where the Wifi and Bluetooth modules are kept) is slightly thinner.
     
    X708.jpg X709.jpg X710.jpg
    The X7 - beautifully simple design
    Left side - volume, screen/power button and micro SD slot
    Bottom and left hand side

     

    The bottom 25mm is the amplifier section, and this is designed to be detachable so that other amplifier modules (balanced / high-power) can be swapped simply by removing a couple of screws. This makes the X7 very configurable for the future.
     
    The front face of the main body is completely taken up by the IPS TFT 480x800 screen, which has an effective viewing angle of 178 deg, and I personally find clear and easy to read.  It is a bit of a fingerprint magnet though, so I have been carrying a cleaning cloth with me.  It is a small price to pay for the UI though (which I will get to later in the review). It is very responsive as a touch screen, and according to Fiio can be used for up to 5 simultaneous touch points for very configurable options in the future.
     
    X711.jpg X712.jpg X713.jpg
    Bottom showing charging port and headphone out
    Top showing combined digital out and line out
    Rear plate

     

    The buttons are symmetrical, and Fiio’s reason for this approach was so that it was any easy switch for left and right handers.  Apparently the volume and track rocker controls can be reconfigured/swapped – although I have been unable to find that setting – so it may not be implemented yet. The buttons give good tactile feedback, and I’ve had no issues getting to know their location, and also no issues remembering which is which, nor having random false presses due to their layout.
     
    For righties (or by default anyway), the volume rocker is on the left side, and below that is the screen on/off button which doubles as power on/off.  Handy tip – pressing vol down and power button simultaneously also takes a screenshot. Below the screen on/off button is a single slot for a micro SD card. On the left hand side is the track up/down rocker, and below that the play/pause button.
     
    At the bottom (centre) of the replaceable amp unit is a micro USB port for charging and connecting to computer.  Left of this is the 3.5mm headphone out socket.  Both ports are nice and firm. At the top is a single 3.5mm line-out / coaxial out socket.
     
    X714.jpg X715.jpg X716.jpg
    Side view of back -showing raised surface
    Amp module removed
    Replaceable amp module

     

    Between amp section and touchscreen is a horizontal blue LED – which is always on when the unit is on.  When it is charging this slowly pulses. It can be a bit obtrusive at night, and one thing I’d love Fiio to introduce as an option / switch would be the ability to turn it off.
     
    The X7 weighs in at a reasonably hefty 210g, so it is no lightweight.  What it does give (for me anyway) is a reassuring weight that suggests they’ve used a quality build and not cut any corners. Size wise, it is marginally larger than my iPhone 6S.
     
    X717.jpg X718.jpg X719.jpg
    First start-up
    iPhone 5S next to the X7
    Profile view X7 and iP5S

     

    One thing I have noticed is that the review unit can get mildly warm while sitting in a pocket while it’s playing.  Not burning, and nothing to be concerned about (IMO) but it can warm up – so worth noting.
     
    So for general build and design I have no real critiques at all.  Exactly what I would expect from a  high quality DAP.
     
    DESIGN – INTERNALS
     
    Although you can’t see them, it is probably a good idea to mention the internal electronics. The DAC used is a Sabre ES9018S capable of DSD up to 128, and PCM up to 32/384. Fiio mentions in their release notes that the reason they chose this DAC is that it had the best measurements, and their goal with the X7 was best fidelity. It comes with 8 output channels, which can be combined  for 4x multiplier of performance parameters for two channel applications. They openly say that the drawbacks with the chip are high cost and high power draw – but with a 9 hour battery life, they are happy with the performance.
     
    The OP amp is based around the 1612 buffer for stability and a very balanced sonic output.
     
    At its core is the RK3188 SoC, and this was chosen mainly for the technical support that is available with this SoC, and the ease of having Fiio’s software designers being able to find solutions without any language barriers during development.
     
    The processor used is a quad-core Cortex A9 with 1 Gb RAM which I’ve found to be pretty snappy with next to no lag (maybe ½ a second when first pushing play). It runs at a 1.4 GHz clock speed, which when combined with the RK3188 SoC keeps power consumption low for longer run times.
     
    At its heart, the X7 runs an Android operating system (based on Android version 4.4.4) and has its own Fiio designed player application.
     
    UI (USER INTERFACE) / USABILITY
     
    Please note that this is with the released firmware 1.0 stable released Nov 3, 2015.
     
    I really didn’t know what to expect with the Android system, as although I’ve run a lot of Unix based systems, my phone is Apple, and my main machine is a Windows PC. The system though is pretty easy to navigate around, and although it’s not perfect yet, it already is a far nicer and easier interface than the X3ii or X5ii.
     
    No obviously I can’t run through all of the available features – as with only a week before I’ve had to move it on to the next reviewer, there simply isn’t enough time to cover them all (and I’m still learning).  So I’ll try instead to cover the main points – please excuse the number of images.
     
    In Android or “Full” Mode
    On first powering the X7, you get a pretty simple unlock screen, which after swiping, takes you to the main X7 window.  From here you have access to the browser, the Fiio app, support, settings and any other apps you choose to install.
     
    X7SS01.jpg X7SS02.jpg X7SS03.jpg X7SS04.jpg X7SS05.jpg
    Lock screen
    Main menu
    All songs - ordered alpha numeric
    Artists
    Default scrambles songs by same artist

     
    Swiping down on the left side of the screen gives you an event summary and also allows you to quickly switch between apps. Swiping down on the right side of the screen gives you access to the various Android settings – including Wifi and Bluetooth.
     
    At the bottom of the screen (always) is a menu bar with a “back” a “home” and a “window” (what’s running) touch emblems.
     
    X7SS06.jpg X7SS07.jpg X7SS08.jpg X7SS09.jpg X7SS10.jpg
    Under artist you can access album
    Album view
    Genre view
    Genre scrambles tracks too
    Accessing folder view

     
    Going into the Fiio app (default music app), you can select to play by Song, by Artist, by Album, by Genre, and by Folder. There is a touchable search button at the top which allows full searching of the database (brilliant).  Unfortunately, as good as the system is, Fiio still has the same issues with lumping everything together (no order).  Where hierarchy should be Genre > Artist > Album >Track (in # order), it once again stops at Genre > All Songs, or Artist > All Songs.  There is a button which allows you to bring up the albums, but then all you can do is press play on the album – you can’t go into a track list. It is frustrating, and I hope Fiio fixes it – but they’ve been waiting on this fix with the X1, 3 and 5 series for up to 2 years – so I’m possibly not as confident as I would normally be with some of the other features which need work. Folder mode works brilliantly though, and I still use the Fiio app (a lot) because most of the time I’m playing full albums anyway.
     
    X7SS11.jpg X7SS12.jpg X7SS13.jpg X7SS14.jpg X7SS15.jpg
    My folder structure
    Artists
    Albums
    Tracks
    Main play screen

     
    From the now playing screen, you get an icon in the top left which gets you access to music settings, a search icon in the top right, and then below the album cover the track numbers, song title and artist name.  These are actually inside a moving highlighted “track position” bar which can be tapped or swiped to go a particular section of the track being played. Below this is access to EQ, a Bluetooth icon (which I haven’t been able to work out yet), play/pause button, favourites button, play mode button (repeat, random etc), forward/back button, and add to play list button.
     
    X7SS16.jpg X7SS17.jpg X7SS18.jpg X7SS19.jpg X7SS20.jpg
    Lyrics screen
    Track info screen
    Equaliser
    Hidden presets (just swipe to find!)
    Volume control

     
    Swiping the album cover forward or back will advance or reverse one track.  Swiping up or down on the extreme right will change the volume.  Tapping the album cover once brings up a lyrics screen if it is included in your tags, tapping again brings up an info screen with further info on album, artist, track, bit rate and sample rate. Tapping a third time takes you back again to the now playing screen.
     
    The equaliser is 10 band, and while not parametric is very configurable, and I’ve found it extremely handy. I couldn’t quite work out why there was just one user option and then one preset each side, but then I found that if you swipe up, there are actually 9 presets in all, and all are user configurable. There is 12 dB +/- available for tinkering, and using any of the presets drops the volume by 6dB (to stop clipping).  The interesting thing (not sure if this is a glitch or intentional) but the X7 remembers volume, so I have it on the user set one switching on/off at the same volume which is actually really handy.
     
    X7SS21.jpg X7SS22.jpg X7SS23.jpg X7SS25.jpg X7SS26.jpg
    Left swipe down info screen
    Right swipe down Android settings
    Lock screen when playing
    Apllications screen
    Neutron player

     
    Rather than take you through all of the settings, I’ve just shown a list of screen shots and captions which should be able to give you an idea of what is available (or at least what I’ve discovered so far).
     
    During my testing of the default app, I played as many formats as I could – including MP3, AAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, APE, and DSD, and with the lossless files I checked playback of redbook, 24/88.1, 24/96 and 24/192.  There were no issues playing any of the formats, and the EQ worked fine for me – even with the higher resolution files.  There was no skipping – and features such as gapless (tested with Pink Floyd) and folder playback worked with no issues. Gain appears to be around 6dB between low and high.
     
    Other Screen Shots:
     
    X7SS27.jpg X7SS28.jpg X7SS29.jpg X7SS30.jpg X7SS31.jpg
    Neutron lists
    HibyMusic - Artists
    HibyMusic - Albums
    HibyMusic - Genre
    Albums in order! Nice

     
    X7SS34.jpg X7SS36.jpg X7SS37.jpg X7SS38.jpg X7SS39.jpg
    3 music apps
    Search function
    Battery summary
    Android settings
    Android settings 2

     
    X7SS40.jpg X7SS41.jpg X7SS42.jpg X7SS44.jpg X7SS45.jpg
    Sound settings
    Graphical settings
    Storage summary
    Fiio app settings
    Fiio app settings 2

     
    X7SS46.jpg X7SS47.jpg X7SS48.jpg X7SS49.jpg X7SS50.jpg
    Essential settings (blue dots)
    Gain settings
    Connexting to computer
    Updating
    Updating - navigate to file

     
    X7SS51.jpg X7SS52.jpg X7SS53.jpg X7SS54.jpg X7SS55.jpg
    Find the download file
    Click the upgrade
    The upgrade runs automatically
    Folder browsing
    Installed app summary

     
    Pure Music Mode
    This can be engaged instead of full Android mode, and it simply runs the X7 just with the default Fiio app available – all other functions turned off.  Wifi and Bluetooth can still be activated, and you still have access to the player settings – but access to most of the Android systems is turned off.  This really simplifies the player, and I can see it being the default for a few people (potential power savings) if Fiio fix the few bugs in the UI.
     
    Other Apps
    I haven’t installed a lot, but it has been a pretty painless exercise – and this is for a non-Android user.  Thankfully the support on these forums has been really good – so I was able to install Spotify and then Tidal (I don’t have a Tidal account so this was more to ensure it could be installed).  I also took the time to install Neutron (download and manually installed) and HibyMusic (through Fiio’s whitelist). Both work really well – and give you the proper sort functions using the library – so this is a really good option if Fiio’s development takes a while.  I won’t spend time on the features of each application, but both have the normal features that you’d expect – including EQ, folder play through and gapless, and Neutron even has replay gain.
     
    Software Upates
    I was really surprised how easy these are.  Download the zip file.  Connect the X7 to your computer.  Copy and paste the zip file (I just use the downloads folder).  Now from the home menu, tap Support, Update, navigate to the folder, select the update to apply, tap OK and let the X7 do the rest.
     
    ISSUES / BUGS /MISSING FEATURES
     
    A couple of the things I’ve noticed which will no doubt get ironed out over the coming months:
    1. I tried to change the default language to English NZ, and next thing I knew everything was in Chinese.  Thankfully I was able to reset – and get English back by returning to English US as default.
    2. The play / pause physical button works every time pausing music, but sometimes (after the player has been off for a while) pressing play again doesn’t work, and I have to turn the screen on manually to restart. The light is still on – so I guess it has gone into stand-by mode.  I haven’t had enough time to really nut this one out yet.
    3. The battery indicator can be a bit hit and miss, showing full for long periods, then all of a sudden going down rapidly.  This seems to be a lot better after the latest updates.
    4. Sort order (covered previously) with the default Fiio app.
    5. Use as DAC only doesn’t work yet
    6. From Artist you get to options – album or track.  The problem with this is that all the tracks are mixed up, but if you take album, there is now ay I can see to get track listings.  You can press the play button on the right, and it will start playing the album, but then there is still no way to get the track list (counter-intuitive).
     
    There are probably a lot of other smaller things as well – but as I’ve been concentrating on cramming as much listening as possible, I’d really need 3-4 weeks of through testing to really try and make a decent list. All-in-all though the GUI is a joy to move around in, intuitive for the most part, and where Fiio’s app is weak (sort order), applications like Neutron and Hiby Music easily fill that gap.
     
    POWER OUTPUT
     
    Fiio publishes the output power with the IEM module as “­>100mW (32 ohm load).  They also recommend headphones of 16-100 ohm with this amp module. Now I know Fiio have tended to be reasonably conservative with published data in the past (which is a good thing), so I’ll relate actual user experience.
     
    With the 320 ohm VE Zen Earbuds, low gain, volume at 75/120 was enough to give average SPL’s in the mid 70’s, and at full volume it was hitting mid-90’s (again, low gain, and measured with a calibrated SPL meter.  At no stage do they sound weak or under driven.
     
    Next up was the 300 ohm HD600s, and they required 85-90/120. Did they sound as good as out of the micro iDSD?  Well actually once volume matched – yep, they actually sounded every bit as dynamic as they did out of the iDSD.  In fact I really loved them out of the X7.  They were getting close to the limit of the X7’s capability though, and with Classical I was pretty close to 100/120 to get the listening level I prefer. So loud listeners are likely to need a little more than the X7 can deliver.
     
    What this does show though is that the amp on X7 is actually very capable, and for easier to drive loads – especially IEMs and portable headphones , you’re going to have no need for an amplifier add-on.
     
    FWIW – Classical tracks with the X7, and this was measured with an SPL meter just to approximate as close as possible to my normal low to mid-70 SPL listening (low gain):
    1. Adel U6 – 60/120
    2. DN2000J – 60/120
    3. DUNU Titan1 – 65/120
     
    So ample amplification in my purely subjective opinion.
     
    SONICS
     
    So Brooko, you’ve rabbited on for ages about build, gui and features, how does the X7 actually sound?
     
    Some of you may find this section a little limited, so I’ll give you some insight into the way I’ve changed my opinion on how to describe the sound with any competently made DAC, DAP or amplifier.  The problem with trying to break the sonics down to bass, mids and treble is that DAP / DAC / amp is designed (or should be designed) to be essentially flat across the frequency spectrum. If it has enhanced bass, then isn’t it adding colouration that should come from the headphones or EQ or recording?
     
    Likewise, I won’t comment a lot on soundstage, as this is primarily a by-product of the actual recording, or the transducers you’re using.
     
    So how do I go about describing it?  Well I can’t measure it this time (I’d need to be able to isolate the signal from the X7, and Fiio hasn’t unlocked the stand alone DAC functionality yet). But judging by the correspondence from Fiio, and their own measurements, I’m pretty confident the X7 will be very linear in its measurements, so you’ll be left listening to the recording pure and simple (and isn’t that what we all want?).
     
    So instead, I’ll just say that I really love the sound from the X7, and give you my (very) subjective impressions of the X7 compared to my other DAPs.
     
    X720.jpg X724.jpg X725.jpg
    X7, X5 classic and X5ii
    X7 and E17K (line-out and coax testing)
    X7 with Adel U6 (just one of the many combos I tested)

     

    With each of these comparisons, I used a 1 kHz test tone to exactly match volume, and used my DUNU DN-2000J to compare on tracks I know really well. I also used the X7 using Fiio’s default app with no EQ engaged. Warning – very subjective impressions ahead.
     
    X7 vs X3ii
    I really think I’d struggle to tell these two apart in a blind test.  They are both essentially pretty neutral, but what I’ve noticed (and I’m not sure if this is placebo or not), is that the longer I listen, the more the X7 feels effortless and slightly more refined, where the X3ii by contrast is just the tiniest bit edgier or more vivid. The X3ii though is extremely competent, and there is a reason it is my daily DAP.   The X3ii wins out on power, battery life and cost – but it doesn’t have the easy to use GUI, overall user experience, and wireless connectivity options.
     
    X7 vs X5 (original)
    The difference this time is slightly more pronounced.  The X5 is once again a wonderful sounding DAP, but compared to the X7 it sounds quite flat, smooth, and maybe lacking dynamics a little. The X7 has the same sense of blackness, and the same clarity, but there is a feeling of space with the X7, a feeling of actually being involved, whereas with the X5 I feel like a spectator.  Once again, the X5 wins out on power, battery and cost – but it doesn’t have the easy to use GUI, overall user experience, and wireless connectivity options.
     
    X7 vs X5ii
    Like the X3ii, again I’d be struggling to tell the two apart completely blind tested, so tonally both are extremely similar again. But once again, the X7 over time shows a similar effortlessness, and ability to pull me into the music.  Again this could be simply sighted placebo, because the two are very close in overall presentation, but in longer sessions the X7 time and again seemed to be a little more effortless and almost 3D in its presentation. And in a 3-peat, the X5 wins on value, battery and power – while the X7 scoops the pool on everything else.
     
    X721.jpg X723.jpg X722.jpg
    X7 and L5 Pro
    X7 and L5 Pro
    View from the top - X7 and L5 Pro

     

    X7 vs L5 Pro
    This was always going to be the big test, as both are capacitive touch screen enabled, both are in the upper tier price wise, and both are targeting the serious enthusiast / audiophile. Sonically the two are very similar, both having an effortless presentation, and sense of depth and space to the music. I wouldn’t want to pick a winner without a lot more time with both.  They are excellent DAPs with some seriously good components under the hood. For power and battery life, the L5Pro gets the nod, and I’d also have to say it is the more stylish physical layout (plus the two programmable buttons are pretty cool).  But the X7’s android layout and better overall GUI and features (wireless connectivity) are more than a match for the L5 Pro in its current form, and if I had to make a choice based on both DAPs current feature set – I’d be going with the X7.  I’m really looking forward to seeing both companies develop their players though – as both have the potential to be end-game.
     
    OTHER FEATURES
     
    I also tested the coax (digital) out – into the E17K. Not much to say - works well, although why anyone would want to use the X7 as a transport only is beyond me.  They’ve used a TOTL DAC for a reason.
     
    Likewise I used the line-out into the E17K, E11K, Micro iDSD and VE Runabout.  I can’t really say that I noticed any huge differences in changing amps. Most of mine are pretty neutral.
     
    I used the Bluetooth with both the Creative Roar2 and also in my car – and there was no issue with connectivity, and both sounded wonderful with the X7 as source.
     
    I also installed Spotify and listened to a couple of albums streaming, and it seemed to work flawlessly, and sounded pretty good to me.

    BATTERY LIFE

     
    Fiio states that a full charge will take around 4 hours, and the battery should be good for 9 hours playtime. To test this, I drained the battery, and then using an iPhone charger and wall-wart I plugged the X7 and carefully monitored it. Charging actually took 3 hr 45 minutes to a full 100%, so pretty consistent with Fiio’s advice.
     
    For playback, I switched to Pure Music mode, set the X7 on continuous play, low gain, at 50 volume with my 50 ohm q-Jays, and achieved 8 hours and 40 minutes before shut-down. So slightly short of the 9 hours, but again consistent with their suggested life.
     
    I’d ideally like to get over that magic 10 hour mark – but for me the 8-9 hours is more than sufficient for a day’s playing.
     

    CONCLUSION / SUMMARY FIIO X7

    Well I’ve had the X7 for just on 8 days so far, and my one regret is that I haven’t had more time with it (work commitments).  But every spare moment I’ve had it playing a variety of headphones, and I’ve managed to go through at least 4 battery charges so far, so that would indicate at least 40 hours + of listening and tinkering time.
     
    The X7 has a wonderful overall build – solid, nice feeling in my hand, with nicely laid out controls and a very clear and easy to read screen – even in daylight (it’s not perfect – but easy enough to read in direct light).
     
    The gui is Android based, intuitive for the most part, and very easy to operate. Fiio’s actual music app is still effectively in beta, so it is a work in progress. The biggest issue I have with it is the default sorting where songs are jumbled together rather than having a strict Genre > Artist > Album > Track# sorting hierarchy.  Besides the DAC implementation, in my view this hierarchy issue should be the number one issue their software engineers should be working on.
     
    But being Android, it is easy enough to install alternate music players, and both HibyMusic and Neutron work really well.
     
    The X7 sounds neutral, detailed, but also has a hard to describe quality – an expansiveness and layering – which just pulls me into the music.  Last night in my final session, while I was finishing my last critical comparisons, I was sitting on the sofa, with the X7 and Adel U6’s, and playing around with Genre. I pulled up Classical (I think I might have been testing dynamic range), and before I knew it, 2 hours had gone, and my wife had gone to bed without me.  I actually remember saying goodnight to her – but the rest was pretty hazy. The fact that it was Classical – something I might listen to for 30 minutes to an hour at most – speaks volumes about the musicality of the X7 to me. I find it difficult to put into descriptive words, apart from saying it truly sounds wonderful.
     
    At USD 650.00 this is not a cheap player – but I’m already thinking about either selling some gear, or speaking VERY nicely to my lovely girl.  She’ll tell me I have enough players (DAPs), but my answer will be simple – “not like this hon, not like this”.
     
    Four stars for the missing features and functionality – but the X7 is 5 stars in the making.
     
    I don’t want to let this go on tour tomorrow [​IMG]
     
    FINAL THANKS
     
    Again – my apologies for the length of the review.  I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over information, and I still haven’t covered a lot of what I would have liked to.  My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the early review team.  I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away next week on its NZ tour.
     
    AND WHAT ABOUT MY CHECKLIST
     
    Back at the start I listed what I looked for ina  new DAP.  So how did the X7 go?
     
    1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
      Definitely ticked this box - a pure joy to listen to music with the X7
       
    2. Good build quality
      Extremely good build quality - definite tick.

       
    3. Reasonable battery life
      Passable - I would have preferred more, but at least it's not a 4-6 hour DAP.  Box ticked.

       
    4. Easy to use interface
      Definitely a tick, and much easier and quicker to use than the X3/X5. Other apps are also options, and if Fiio continues to develop their own app, this will only get better!

       
    5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
      Will be dependent on your headphones, but with being able to buy add on higher power amp units, there should be no issues.  Pass mark - but not a big bold tick.
       
    6. Value for money
      I'll let you be the judge - but for me - yes.

       
    7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
      For me yes.  I tested most formats, but most of my listening was actually AAC256, and I had my entire library at my disposal.
      Carlsan, ehjie, aangen and 32 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ehjie
      Congrats on ur new portable hi-fi source... the review was excellent
      ehjie, May 21, 2016
    3. RaviM
      Great review, Can you use Spotify in offline mode so the data is stored on the device?
      RaviM, Jun 8, 2016
    4. Brooko
      Hi RaviM - I haven't tried, and I no longer have Spotify on the X7.  Might be a question to ask in the X7 thread, as I'm sure someone there might be using Spotify Premium.
      Brooko, Jun 19, 2016
  2. Hawaiibadboy
    Review of the FiiO X7 DAP with WiFi and Bluetooth
    Written by Hawaiibadboy
    Published Dec 21, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Very fast G.U.I, Built on foundation designed for FW upgrading
    Cons - G.U.I is best part of device
    [​IMG]
     

    The Review

    In the vid above
     
     
    A revolutionary device that combines genuine high end DAP internals with a Android frame. TONS of potential.
     
     
     

     
     

    Navigation only

    .
    [​IMG] 
      vapman, slowpickr, shabta and 21 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Hawaiibadboy
      I'm thinking somebody will root that badboy and stuff V4A on it and bassheads might snatch em' up :)
      Hawaiibadboy, Dec 22, 2015
    3. shabta
      Great Review. Looking forward to your Mojo review. Especially compared to ifi stack.
      shabta, Dec 24, 2015
    4. Hawaiibadboy
      @shabta,  am working on it now.  :wink:
      Hawaiibadboy, Dec 24, 2015
  3. x RELIC x
    FiiO X7 Preview - Coming in to Focus
    Written by x RELIC x
    Published Dec 18, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great Sound at a Good Price - Touch Interface - Swappable Amp Modules - Very Detailed Music Reproduction - Dynamic Sound
    Cons - Battery Life - One mSD Storage Slot - Button Layout
    FrontDefocus.jpg
     
    BackDefocus.jpg
     
     
     
    Disclamer
     
    The FiiO X7 was provided to me as a part of the FiiO X7 World Preview Tour in exchange for my impressions and honest opinion of the device. It has since left my possession and is in the hands of the next reviewers. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO and at this time do not own the X7. I'd like to thank @Joe Bloggs of FiiO for the opportunity to review the X7. This review is based entirely on my impressions and your impressions may be different from mine.
     
     
    About Me (Frame of Reference)
     
    I am an audio enthusiast in my mid forties and have enjoyed listening to music since my youth with vinyl, cassettes, and later CDs and digital files. I listen to wide variety of music from a perspective of losing myself to the experience. At times I like to be transported to different states of mind or emotion in the case of classical and OST recordings. Other times I go to the venue in the case of live recordings, binaural+, or studio sessions. Some times I just like to rock out. Every time, however, I want the clearest and most natural representation of the music that I can afford. If the track has thumping bass I want to hear it. If the track is complex with many instruments I want to hear each one. I listen critically often but also appreciate timbre and musicality. 
     
    I've used Sony Walkman cassette players, mini disc players, Sansa Clip+, iPod classics, iPhones etc., over the years as my portable devices, and I have 'grown up' with headphones in my ears and players at my side. My first digital high resolution player was the FiiO X3 first generation. My current daily portable player is the AK240 and I enjoy it for its interface, musicality, refinement, and it's pairing with my JH Angie IEM.
     
     
    FiiO X7 Links to Specifications and Tutorials
     
    There are many reviews already about the X7 and since the unit is now fully released globally I won't re-hash or give outdated information in my review of a preview unit. Instead I'll provide links to the FiiO X7's product page and interface tutorials. Everything you need to know about the product can be found there.
     
    Product Page LINK
     
    Interface Tutorials LINK
     
    App Installation LINK
     
     
    Packaging
     
    X7BoxFront.jpg   X7BoxBackWide.jpg   X7_BoxOpen.jpg
    Standard FiiO packaging here.
     
    The packaging of the preview unit I received is pretty much what the retail unit looks like. I do notice that there are different female models on the screen of the X7 on different boxes but I have no clue which one you'll end up with. After you lift the X7 out of the box there is another thin box that contains all the accessories that come with the unit.
     
     
    X7_Accessories.jpg
    Included accessories - Counter clockwise from the left:
     
    - A button navigation guide.
    - Warranty card.
    - Extra screws for the amp module.
    - TRRS coaxial adaptor for coaxial output.
    - USB Data and Charging cable.
    - Extra screen protectors.
     
    The X7 does not come with a case but FiiO has said that one is in the works and I'm sure third party manufacturers will be making cases for the X7.
     
     
    Hardware Look and Feel
     
    DAPLineUp.jpg
    Size comparison to other DAPs in my collection. The X7 is rather large.
     
     
    X7_Hand.jpg
    The X7 in my hand. It has some good weight to it.
     
    I've been following the development of the X7 since it was first announced on Head Fi. There have been many designs shown, some of them brilliant, some of them a little ambitious. and some of them terrible. In the end what FiiO has come up with is a very utilitarian device that doesn't shout 'hey look at me'! It's simple and symmetrical, there's just no other way to put it. To be honest I liked some of their earlier designs but FiiO can't please everyone. What I really appreciate about FiiO is that they seek feedback from their customers and although the X7 doesn't have all the original planned features and may not be the perfect design I know that FiiO is listening. I'll touch on this more later.
     
     
    Hardware Usability
     
    LeftSide.jpg
    RightSide.jpg
    Symmetry on either side. The blue cast is from the lighting.
     
     
    The Volume up / down and Power buttons are along the left side of the unit while the Forward / Back and Play / Pause buttons are on the right. Each button has a good click and they didn't feel soft or loose to me. Overall I appreciate FiiO's continued dedication to including hardware buttons.
     
    It wasn't all roses for me though. For my time with the X7 I had a hard time getting used to the symmetry of the device. Not everyone is going to find the symmetry an issue but my genetic makeup and large hands just didn't get along with the symmetrical hardware buttons. I use my thumb and fingers on both sides of the unit to brace it when I press the buttons and the first issue I had was I would keep pressing pause when trying to turn on the screen. I don't think it's a fatal flaw and I really have no suggestions to make it better as it makes the most sense in this chassis design, but still thought I should mention it. 
     
    The touch screen is fairly responsive and an entirely different world from FiiO's previous button and wheel based DAPs. There is simply so much more that a company can implement in the device with a touch screen interface over a non-touch screen device. I welcomed the change from FiiO.
     
     
    Inputs, Outputs, Battery and Storage
     
    On the bottom of the X7 is the amp module that also contains the micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The use of amp modules is where FiiO sets itself apart from other touch screen DAP manufacturers. With easily swappable amp modules you can choose the one with the appropriate output power without hiss for IEMs, or in the near future you can pick up a balanced module to output to a balanced headphone. There are many possibilities and FiiO has even hinted that they could provide an extra mSD slot in an amp module for example, and FiiO has also indicated that third party developers would be making amp modules for the X7. Also, the X7 can connect to the new FiiO K5 docking desktop amp.They certainly are thinking of covering all the users needs with the X7.
     
    The unit I tested only had the IEM module and it's the one that will ship bundled with the final production X7 unit.
     
    The USB acts as the data transfer port and battery charging port. You can not turn off charging when the unit is plugged in. I was getting around 8 hours on a single charge playing a variety of sample rates from 16/44.1 lossless to high resolution 24/192 files, and some DSD samples.
     
     
    BottomAmp.jpg
    Headphone out and USB port. Personally, I'm not a fan of the headphone out
    on the bottom of a device but there's no way around it with the amp module.
     
    AmpModule_02.jpg
    Amp module connection / removal. It's very easy to do!
     
     
    AmpModule_01.jpg
    The removed amp module. The connection is quite secure when attached.
     
     
    mSD_Slot.jpg
    The single mSD slot on the X7. Data transfer was painless when connected
    to the computer.
     
    LineCoax_Out.jpg
    The shared Line Out and coaxial out jack.
     
    On the top of the unit you'll find the Line Out and coaxial out jack that uses a TRRS configuration. The Line Out pins are in the standard location but the coaxial pins are on the Sleeve and the last Ring so you'll need to use the included adaptor to RCA or a custom 3.5mm coaxial cable to connect to an external DAC that accepts coaxial input.
     
     
    Software and Graphical Interface
     
    While the X7 allows you to take screen captures I decided it would be more helpful to create a video of myself navigating around the X7. The video turned out to be 14 minutes long but if you check it out you'll get to hear one of Pink Floyd's greatest tunes and you'll see what the X7 can offer from start to finish. Of course the FiiO link I provided earlier has explanations throughout each video but I put the time in to the video so may as well post it.
     
    You'll also see that there are some times that the X7 didn't always respond immediately to my touch. Overall though the interface is snappy and it was a treat to scroll to the bottom of a list instead of having to scroll a wheel to reach the same goal on FiiO's other wheel based DAPs.
     
     
    /img/vimeo_logo.png
     
    One overall gripe I have with the X7 GUI is that it seemed like it wasn't focused enough on one goal. There seemed to be too many ways to arrive at a destination and over time it eventually became distracting. I could see how others may like the flexibility but I want more focus from a DAP. For a more focused interface I'd prefer the AK240 interface. It's relatively fast and definitely focused on one thing only.... Get the user to their music as quickly as possible with the least amount of confusion. I hesitate to comment too much on the interface as FiiO is putting out firmware releases at a very fast rate and I feel much of what I criticize will be moot in short time. Like I mentioned earlier, FiiO responds very well to their customers.
     
    A big selling point of the X7 is the capability to use different apps like Spotify. The problem I had with the preview unit is the documentation was in Chinese and I'm an Android idiot so I didn't test any third party apps on the X7. The default music player is all I would use as I find it capable and I don't stream music.
     
     
    X7 DAC Section
     
    FiiO decided long ago that they would utilize the Sabre ESS9018S 8-channel desktop DAC in the X7. This is opposed to many other DAP makers using the 2-channel mobile version of this DAC and in my opinion FiiO has once again done a great job in the implementation of their chosen DAC chip. This desktop version of the ESS9018 certainly affords FiiO with the flexibility to use a variety of amp modules, and in my opinion, is a good choice on FiiO's part. It can natively decode DSD and PCM up to 384kHz. It can handle all file formats and has very good specifications. The key to a good DAC is it's implementation and FiiO knows how to do a good implementation.
     
    USB DAC functionality is not yet implemented on the X7, but FiiO has it in the works for a future firmware update. 
     
     
    X7 Amplifier Section
     
    As you've already read the X7 has swappable amp modules which are very easy to change with little effort. The amp module packaged with the X7 is the 100mW IEM amp module which, in my tests, sounded pretty good. It's not the best amp section I've heard and I feel it's actually holding back the fantastic DAC implementation, but still I find it more than capable. There's not much more to say other than the planned amp modules from FiiO are:
     
    - IEM module (bundled with the X7).
    - Medium powered amp module with the Muses02 opamp. 
    - High powered amp module with approximately 500mW power (subject to change).
    - Balanced amp module with 2.5mm balanced output and 3.5mm SE output (can't use both at the same time).
     
     
    FiiO X7 Overall Sound
     
    X7_Angie.jpg
    My IEMs paired well with the IEM amp module.
     
    When describing the sound of a player there are many factors to consider - from the files being used and how they were mastered, the headphones being used, the volume one is using, the output chosen (headphone out, line out, coaxial out) and the other gear in the chain. Also, the perspective one is coming from I feel is of great importance. If a user has never heard a very detailed and analytical source they might find the X7 to be too analytical, or too revealing of the flaws in poorly mastered music. On the other hand if coming from a perspective of highly revealing source gear and quality masters one may find the X7 to be not analytical enough (though I doubt it).
     
    I'll be describing the signature of the X7 from the use of generally well mastered music only with my JH Angie given the supplied IEM amp module. One last note before I begin with describing the sound. If you don't like the sound signature of your headphones the X7 will not magically change them in to something else. These are my findings and you mileage may vary.
     
    The X7 retains the general FiiO sound BUT everything is stepped up a couple awesome notches. There is a great sense of space, a refined presentation, a smooth top end, yet accurate details. The instruments have great impact while at the same time they're more separated out. It's easy to pick out instruments in the mix. The bass has weight but the presentation isn't overly warm. The mids are musical and engaging. The highs are detailed but not sharp or piercing which is very welcome given my fears when FiiO announced the chosen Sabre chip, as it can sound pretty bright with a poor implementation. What I hear is an audio reproduction that just wants to highlight everything that's in the mix without going overboard in doing so. There is a sort of holographic sound but it doesn't sound too forced. This helps me to lose myself in the mix and I enjoyed it immensely.
     
    With the X7 it's very easy to hear tambourines, hi hats, shakers, etc.. they aren't pushed back in the overall mix. Very good micro detailing. It's very easy to pick up subtleties in the recording. 
     
    Timing is good. Balance is good. Micro detail is good. Texture is very good. Bass has a great leading edge, guitar plucks a reverberation are sharp and textured, piano has impact. 
     
    Overall excellent balance and tonality. 
     
     
    DAP Comparisons
     
    DAP_Comparison.jpg
    Does the X7 really sit in the middle of these DAPs?
     
    I only compared the DAPs using my JH Angie because the X7 only came with the IEM module so I wanted to give it a fair comparison.
     
    X7 vs X5ii
     
    The X5ii is FiiO's former flagship model and it's a great sounding unit in its price bracket. However, the X7 is definitely a step up in refinement. The X7 is smoother, faster, cleaner and more accurate than the X5ii. X7 has a wider soundstage and even better instrument separation. The decay on the X7 is tighter than the X5ii. I also find the X7 to be more musical with deeper extension. In comparison the X5ii sounds slightly less resolving, slightly mushier, more smeared. It's not a huge night and day difference, but it is noticeable very quickly. For the price of the X5ii it's a very good player, just the X7 is better.
     
    X7 vs AK240
     
    I only compared the SE out of the AK240 given the IEM amp module in the X7 is only SE. The X7 is slightly more analytical than the AK240, more spacious. Micro detail pops out more. A similar level of capability but more holographic. More wide. More instrument detail. It's like with the X7 you are at the mixing board hearing all the instruments individually and the AK240 you are at the live event. AK240 layers the instruments together more while X7 separates them. X7 is microscopic in a way that shows you all the mix at the same level, easy to pick out. Same amount of detail but different presentation between the two. The X7 is a bit brighter in comparison with less mid bass but it sounds overall more balanced to me. The AK240 SE is more warm, even compared to my desktop gear. Balanced output changes some of this IMO.
     
    Comparing these two DAPs I would easily put the X7 closer to the AK240 than to the X5ii in sound quality. Quite a remarkable feat from FiiO considering the price difference between the X7 and the AK240.
     
     
    Line Out to the ALO Rx
     
    LineOut_Rx.jpg
     
    As I hinted at earlier the bundled IEM module is good, but I felt that there was more to be gained from a better amplification stage and boy was I right! The DAC implementation was high-lit by giving it a better amp. I've loved the Rx since the day I bought it and having the X7 feed it was incredible. The Rx added more life and musicality while maintaining the overall signature from the X7. There was even more spaciousness and even more extension. better decay and slightly smoother treble. I really enjoy the X7 on its own with my IEM. I enjoy it more with the Rx.
     
     
    Line Out to the Oppo HA-1
     
    LineOut_HA-1.jpg
     
    Since the X7 uses the same DAC as the desktop Oppo Ha-1 I was very interested in this paring. It turns out that the X7 can compete very well with its implementation of the ESS9018S. To be honest there was not a lot to it actually. They pretty much sounded the same but I feel the X7 was slightly smoother with less 'tizz' in the treble region. I could have been imagining it though. Still, I found the line out from the X7 to the HA-1 very enjoyable and up to par for expected performance.
     
     
    Coaxial Out to Oppo HA-1
     
    CoaxialOut_HA-1.jpg
    Shortest section ever. The x7 works as a digital transport. 'Nuf said.
     
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    This was an interesting device to test and review. It was like a moving bullseye being so new and still in the teething stages when I had it. Initially the battery indicator didn't even work. However, FiiO has been updating the X7 very quickly and released two firmwares in the short time that I had the unit. They have just released firmware 1.4 about a week after releasing firmware 1.3.... How's that for rapid progress? I'm sure that the X7 will have all the kinks ironed out very quickly and based on the sound quality it would be worth it to jump in right away. Like I said, I hesitate to say much more about the X7 as the unit I had didn't have firmware that was as fleshed out as the current version. I hope FiiO can get the interface more focused.
     
    FiiO has come a long way in a few short years. From the X3 that almost never happened to the X7 is quite a leap for a small company. Given the X7 can play with more high end DAPs with sound quality I predict we won't be calling FiiO a small company for much longer. The X7 proves that you don't need to take out a second mortgage to have TOTL sound in a DAP. It's simply one of the best deals available right now.
     
     
    BlueGold.jpg
     
     
    Thanks for reading!
     
     
     
    My ranking of the FiiO X7
     
    ScreenShot2015-12-18at3.11.50AM.png
     
     
    Edit: Added the Line Out / coaxial jack picture with a brief description on the pin configuration.
     
      iano, Peridot, Brooko and 14 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. leobigfield
      Great review!
      leobigfield, Dec 19, 2015
    3. hakushondaimao
      Nice job, Craig. Thorough, but easy reading.
      hakushondaimao, Dec 22, 2015
    4. Arctican
      Great review! I also do concur with your review points.
       
      I just bought this great DAP yesterday, and boy, I am a little nuts now on how great the X7 sounds. The instrument separation and "effortlessness" of its sound reproduction is phenomenal.
       
      I was lucky to audition this side by side with Hifiman's HM901s. Though the HM901s is more robust-sounding, detail retrieval is almost at par (if not better) with the HM901s. 
      Arctican, Dec 23, 2015
  4. chowmein83
    Desktop-class sound in your pocket
    Written by chowmein83
    Published Jan 20, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
     
     
    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
      Joe Bloggs, Brooko, cleg and 10 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Arctican
      So far the best and most coherent review of Fiio X7. I salute thee, chowmein83.
      Arctican, Jan 28, 2016
    3. 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. 
      nonobody, Feb 13, 2016
    4. 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.).
      chowmein83, Feb 22, 2016
  5. twister6
    Can X7 set the World on FiiO-R?
    Written by twister6
    Published Dec 2, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - top class DAC, modular amp design, streaming capability, touch screen interface, bypass of Android SRC limitation.
    Cons - FW is still work in progress, polarizing exterior design, need to buy extra amp modules.

    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank FiiO for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    Manufacturer website: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/45

     
    Looking back at the last few years and the amount of audio players I have reviewed and compared, ranging from $20 to $2k, I still hold the original X5 in high regard because it was my stepping stone into the world of DAPs. Though I skipped their original X3, there was no turning back afterwards with X5, X1, X3ii, and X5ii - all of which I had a privilege to test and to review.  While DAP market got saturated with a lot of new releases, I still consider FiiO to be one of the trendsetters pushing the envelope of price/performance ratio, regardless if they are outperforming the competition or being outperformed by the competition. 
     
    Going back to the original X5, in my review I compared its performance to a smartphone stack w/E18, and in conclusion mentioned that "... when you are relaxing and enjoying the music, you don't want to be interrupted by email or text message or social media update... smartphone is a jack of all trades, while X5 is a master of one - the music..."  The touch screen interface of a smartphone offered a great convenience, but the baggage of everything else it comes with loaded and running in the background was a turn off, not to mention a sub-par sound quality (back when I had my Note 2).
     
    Realizing challenges and benefits of Android based audio player, and considering that FiiO was overdue for flagship summit-fi level DAP, they shifted their design focus to a touchscreen based DAP supercharged with special audio enhancement features to set it apart from a typical smartphone and/or other android based DAPs.  The discussion about this DAP has been circulating for a year, with a lot of people waiting in anticipation the release.  Now with X7 out in the open, the big question is if it lived up to expectations?  Let’s find out!
     
    Unboxing and Accessories.
     
    The unboxing experience of X7 is nothing short of a typical smartphone.  You start with a cover picture of the DAP on the packaging sleeve which looks exactly like a smartphone without even a hint of being a dedicated audio player and a display shot of a typical Android screen with audio widget of FiiO Music app.  On the back of the box you will find a spec which could also be easily mistaken for a smartphone, except when you come across a support of 384kHz/32bit decoding.  Not everybody aware of this, but in Android OS you are facing a Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) limitation which keeps audio downsampled to a common denominator in order to ensure compatibility with different apps.  FiiO was able to overcome this limitation which I'm going to discuss later in my review.
     
    With a sleeve cover off, you will be greeted with a sturdy gift box construction and X7 sitting securely inside of a form fitted foam cutout.  If you find the cover sleeve picture to be deceiving, looking at X7 in person and holding this 220g touch screen gadget in your hand still won't convince you this is not a smartphone.
     
    fiio_x7-01_zpsw2guwnhj.jpg fiio_x7-02_zpsvyge3sef.jpg
    fiio_x7-03_zps30q9qtga.jpg fiio_x7-04_zps4whrsdwl.jpg
    fiio_x7-05_zpsfxympwhg.jpg fiio_x7-06_zpscyrzmpln.jpg
     
    With my X7 being a review unit, I'm not sure if I received all the accessories that going to be bundled with a retail version.  Included were 2 sets of screen protectors where the 3rd one was already applied to the display.  Keep in mind, screen protector will give you just a minimum protection from scratches.  Considering X7 design has a display which is not flush mounted, until you get a proper "smartphone" case with a corner protection and the front lip to keep the screen off the surface - you have to exercise extreme caution handling this DAP.
     
    Also included is a short coaxial cable with 3.5mm TRRS style connector due to a shared LO/Coax port.  Furthermore, you will find a quality usb to micro-usb cable for charging/power and data transfer, a quick start guide, and a torx screwdriver w/4 extra torx screws.  If you paid close attention to the spec on the back of the packaging box, screwdriver will explain a reference to a swappable headphone amplifier module which is located right below the glowing led light underneath of the display.
     
    fiio_x7-07_zpsw2y8kwvy.jpg fiio_x7-08_zps0ohcg9ku.jpg
    fiio_x7-09_zpsp7k4xe0s.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    X7 design is camouflaged to look exactly like a smartphone, with only a few DAP hints when you take a closer look.  Just like with any smartphone, the focal point of the design is a touchscreen display, 3.97" IPS (178deg viewing angle) TFT supporting 16.7mil colors with resolution of 480x800 and pixel density of 233 PPI.  Is this the highest resolution or the best pixel density or the most accurate color reproduction?  Absolutely not, which is quite ok considering the intent of X7 is not for playing video games or watching hi-res movies and videos.  4" touch screen is convenient for one handed operation, the experience I forgot all about after 3+ years of using various Galaxy Note smartphones.  I found touchscreen to be adequate for audio application, use of other audio apps, and some occasional browsing.  The screen is responsive, though not exactly on the same level as I'm used to with my Galaxy phones.
     
    With dimensions of 130mm (H) x 64mm (W) x 16mm (D), the screen occupies close to edge-to-edge space and about 105mm in height, which leaves 25mm below it for removable amp module.  There are 2 torx screws on each side of the module, holding it securely in place with absolutely no wiggle once properly connected.  One unique feature of this DAP is a glowing soft blue light, radiating from led in the middle under the screen through a light pipe which dims the glow toward the edges.  The light is always on, can't be disabled.  I personally like it because it gives me a visual indicator of power being on, but I think it would have been a good idea to provide an option to disable it in order to save battery or if you don’t want a “nightlight”.  Also, I would have loved to see it being customized to change colors to indicate low power or when charging.
     
    The bottom of the DAP, where amp module is located, has HO 3.5mm port and a standard micro-usb connector – by default X7 comes with IEM low power module.  These ports will vary between different amp modules, depending on functionality.  For example, one of the upcoming replacement amp modules should have 2.5mm TRRS balanced port and 4-pin kobiconn balanced connector.  With Line Out being common to X7 main frame as part of DAC output, this 3.5mm port (shared with Coax) is accessible from the top of the unit.  Left side at the bottom of the frame also hosts micro-SD card slot which supports 128GB card and most likely the latest 200GB.  The only other controls you will find on X7 are 6 buttons, placed symmetrically in groups of three on each side.
     
    By default, on the right side you have transport control with a separate Play/Pause button and double buttons for Skip/Next/Fwd and Skip/Prev/Rev functionality.  In the opposite spot symmetrically on the left side with an exactly the same look and feel, you have Power on/off button and double buttons for Volume up/down.  The whole idea of such design was to be able to accommodate left/right handed operation where you can map Power/Volume and Play/Skip functionality to either side.  I do appreciate the thought behind it and find it quite clever, but personally after a month of playing with X7 I still find it a bit inconvenient.  Perhaps I got spoiled by DAPs with dedicated analog volume knob, or used to other DAPs where volume/power is on one side and transport controls are part of multi-function front/side buttons, but I'm not too crazy about this symmetrical button arrangement.  Part of the problem is that X7 is a bit on a heavy side, and without a protective case I feel like its slick body, CNC machined out of a solid block of 6061 aluminum (polished, sandblasted, brushed, and color anodized), will slip out of my hand.  As a result, my grip usually tighter around the sides, and when pushing the volume sometime I press a track skip button on the opposite side of X7, or turning the screen on with a power button sometime triggers me pressing play/pause on the opposite side.  Is this a showstopper?  Not really if you get a quality case with buttons that take a little more effort to press (even recessed cutout for buttons should work).
     
    Overall, exterior design is smartphone vanilla-plain which I find polarizing.  Without any extra knobs and a uniform bar shape this is a very slick and comfortable unit to handle, to pocket, and to operate with one hand.  But it loses personality of a flagship status by looking plain and "boring".  I don't mind a bulge on the back (extra space for the battery), and the resulting slimmer part toward the top which makes a nice resting spot for my index finger.  It also enhances the grip and helps to id front/back of X7 when in my pocket.  But the screen sitting on top of the X7 body exposes the edges of the glass, making it vulnerable to break/chip if you drop it.  The protective case is definitely a must for X7, and creating one could be a challenge to keep the design slim while still providing an adequate protection.
     
    fiio_x7-10_zpsic9b8cq5.jpg fiio_x7-11_zpsxxcbrcuc.jpg
    fiio_x7-12_zpslkd75ay3.jpg fiio_x7-13_zpsi054epa5.jpg
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    Under the hood.
     
    If this would have been a smartphone, a processor would be the crown of the design to go against the competition.  But since we are dealing with an audio DAP, all eyes are on the DAC selection.  Here FiiO decided to pull out all the stops and go for a knock out with TOTL desktop quality ESS 9018 8-channel DAC with channels bridged 4-a-side for the highest dynamic range.  Also, a "classic" OPA1612 buffer was used.  I don't know exactly the guts of IEM amp module, but it's speced at >100mW (32 ohm load) with output impedance of less than 0.5 ohm.  Don't jump into conclusion about the power and max headphone impedance it can drive until you read my sound analysis further in the review.
     
    When it comes to the actual processor, FiiO selected Rockchip RK3188T SoC with quad-core Cortex A9 and 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM (w/1.4GHz clock speed, reduced from the original RK3188 w/1.6GHz), and also 32GB of internal memory in addition to microSD expansion.  This SoC is not sufficient enough for playing cpu intense games or watching high def videos (as a matter of fact, I noticed on YT sometime colors get messed up).  It’s typically used in a budget tablets and Android TV boxes where you don't need to support integrated cellular radio basebands.  It ensures a low power consumption to maximize battery life.  And speaking of that, the battery is non-replaceable and with a capacity of 3500 mAh, which I have tested to provide about 8-8.5hrs of playback time with screen off.  For a standby time, it all depends on which mode you are in.  In a regular Android mode you can last a day due to all system processes running in the background.  When booting up X7 in a Pure Music mode, I found X7 to idle for over 2 days.
     
    Also, typical for Android based system, you have a support of 802.11 b/g/n wireless connection and Bluetooth v4.0.  WiFi support is a huge plus enabling wireless internet connection so you can stream audio from on-line services in addition to being able to access the internet.  But I'm not too happy that aptX codec support is not available.  With some of the advanced wireless speakers that utilize its own decoding and DSP/DAC processing this is irrelevant, like in case of B&W Zeppelin Wireless I recently tested.  But with a number of other wireless headphones supporting aptX codec, there was a level of improvement comparing my Note 4 (BT4.0 w/aptX) vs X7 (BT4.0 w/o aptX).  But nevertheless, I was more than happy to use X7 as a source to drive my BT wireless devices without a need to drain my smartphone battery.  Also, X7 BT wireless performance is much better than AK120ii where signal strength is rather poor.
     
    With so much electronics under the hood and a support of WiFi/BT, naturally you might be wondering if X7 is prone to EMI or any other related interference.  I tested it sandwiched between our smartphones and next to the tablet - no interference causing problems with audio was detected.
     
    bampw_zeppelin_wireless-13_zpswsiq4mgn.jpg bampw_zeppelin_wireless-14_zps0v2om6gd.jpg
     
    Amp modules.
     
    To wrap up hardware overview, next I would like to talk about replaceable amp modules.  The design architecture of X7 allows you to replace the amp module based on your power requirements and wiring needs.  By default it comes with IEM module, a single 3.5mm TRS connection with low power output designed to drive efficient headphones and sensitive IEMs, though in my pair up test I found X7 to be capable of driving some higher impedance and planar magnetic headphones without a problem.  Amp module plugs into the main frame of the DAP and gets secured by two torx screws on the sides.  Attached together it feels like one solid unit.  Also, apparently this module should be plug'n'play where I was able to power up X7 without amp module being attached.  I wouldn't recommend doing that because it will expose the connector and you can short contacts.
     
    Other optional amp modules will be available to buy separately, and FiiO promises they will be reasonably priced.  In addition to IEM module, FiiO going to make available Standard, High-Power, and Balanced (2.5mm TRRS and 4-pin kobiccon) modules.  There is also a talk about releasing connector spec and making housing available for 3rd party amp modules.  In my opinion, this is a much better idea than the one implemented in HiFiMAN HM901 with replacement amp cards.  At the same time, it becomes inconvenient where you have to physically swap modules when you are switching between different headphones.  It makes sense with efficient vs demanding (high impedance, low sensitivity) headphones, but for many who use IEMs/CIEMs with either standard or balanced cables - this will be a headache.  Personally, I would have loved to see a universal amp module based on the currently planned balanced module with an addition of 3.5mm TRS connection and maybe a hardware high/low gain switch.
     
    fiio_x7-30_zpsnufg4i1w.jpg fiio_x7-31_zps3txgodvu.jpg
    fiio_x7-32_zpswftbcxdd.jpg fiio_x7-33_zpsqf6wsptn.jpg
     
    Dual-mode operation.
     
    I already mentioned that FiiO found a way to overcome Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) enforced by Android OS.  As a result, their Music app utilizes its own driver to communicate with ESS9018 DAC without SRC handicap.  But you still have to deal with a burden of Android OS system running in the background and all the corresponding processes and apps, some of which are not easy to disable manually.  This will contribute to excessive battery drain and taking away CPU resources, especially when dealing with decoding of hi-res lossless audio formats.
     
    To mitigate this problem, FiiO came up with a dual mode operation where you can boot up X7 into a regular Android Mode with everything loaded at the startup or a Pure Music mode where FiiO Music app is loaded as a default Launcher and you can't exit into a regular Android interface.  This Pure Music mode is highly optimized to load only specific drivers/processes required to run their native music app and nothing else besides it.  This dual boot switch could be accessed from notification bar or in a setting menu, just keep in mind after making a selection - you will need to reboot X7.  Also, if you want to upgrade firmware, you need to boot up into Android Mode.  In summary, Pure Music mode turns X7 into a touch screen DAP running one specific FiiO Music app without access to internet, streaming, or anything else associated with it, though you can still enable BT for wireless listening.
     
    Android mode is you typical full mode where you can install and run different apps and widgets.  But, there is a limitation to that as well.  X7 doesn't support Google Play store and as a result you will have to side load apps (apk files) except for those which do require Google Play for registration.  To make things a little easier, FiiO included a folder with "whitelisted" apps to download directly to X7.  The list is limited, so you better off Googling for some of your favorite apk install files.  One thing to keep in mind, the performance of X7 is optimized in Pure Music mode with their native Music app.  In Android mode this optimization is out of the window.  It's convenient to run your streaming apps, like Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, etc., but battery drain is rather noticeable.  One thing for sure, I wouldn't recommend putting FiiO Music audio widget on the screen because it drains battery like crazy.
     
    I think implementation of Pure Music mode was a great idea, though FiiO music app is still work in progress.  In Android mode – you’re faced with a typical Android "smartphone" performance where battery drain will be a quick reminder that you are no longer dealing with a dedicated DAP.  But now you can run streaming services or load another audio player app.  Luckily, you can gain back the performance by switching to Pure Music mode where I was able to keep X7 in idle for 2 days and 3 hours.
     
    fiio_x7-17_zpszbxwmv2j.jpg fiio_x7-18_zpsq4ws65tw.jpg
    fiio_x7-19_zpsroz8az3t.jpg fiio_x7-20_zpsno5tor1r.jpg
    fiio_x7-21_zps7errbfjb.jpg fiio_x7-22_zps7qbgdck6.jpg
     
    With Spotify / HibyMusic
     
    fiio_x7-23_zps15ldnekc.jpg fiio_x7-24_zpsojtoeasq.jpg
     
    FiiO Music app.
     
    I'm sure by now you realized the importance of FiiO Music player app - it's your gateway to an optimized X7 performance and to get the best of ESS9018 DAC.  Yes, you can boot up in Android mode and use any of your favorite music app and I guarantee it will sound great with your 320kbps mp3 or FLACs, but for a true audio purist who demands the best - FiiO native Music player app is the way to go.
     
    Unlike a number of other people, I don't have a huge library of hi-res music with numerous albums collected over the years.  I'm still a certified EDM-head who listens to a lot of separate tracks.  Also, I have a collection of carefully selected tracks from various genres I use to analyze performance of audio equipment I review.  That is a reason I usually don't lose my sleep over improperly tagged files which is a must for those who rely on a proper sorting of the songs/albums.   As a result of my listening habit, I have a lot of loose songs and often organize them by partitioning into folders.  Thus, I usually focus on the usability of the app in terms of a general song/folder navigation and playback.
     
    With all that in mind, my personal opinion about FiiO Music app is actually not that bad, though it's not as intuitive and requires some learning curve.  Upon start up you have the first screen with a last played track in the upper 1/3rd of the partitioned screen - you can flicker to skip the song or use hardware transport control to hit play button to start playback.  Underneath, you have a selection to access Favorite playlist, Folders, or DLNA streaming.  Right below it you can access either Recently Played or Most Played songs.  Clicking on artwork of the track thumbnail at the top will bring up the main Playback screen.
     
    Going into Folders link brings up another screen with Local Music list where you have more choices to scroll through All the songs, sort by Artist, sort by Album, sort by Genre, and access Local folders.  While making a selection through these choices, you have a narrow playback bar at the bottom with a thumbnail artwork of the currently playing song, scrolling name, and Play/Pause and Skip buttons.  Clicking on that playback bar opens up the main Playback screen as well.  I found going through All the songs and Folders to be more useful for my style of song browsing.  But it gets a little confusing now between the first start up screen and this second navigation screen, where in my opinion they have to be combined - list of Favorite songs should be part of the sorting choices.  Also, in the Folder view, I don't want to see every single Android OS folder, but would prefer to select and to display only the folder where I store my music locally and on micro-SD card.
     
    The main Playback screen is where things start to shape up to my liking!  In top half of the screen you have area to view artwork of the song or a default image if artwork is not available.  Tapping it once shows embedded lyrics (if available, and a new setup icon where you can scroll or change the font size), tapping second time brings up info about the song.  This part of the screen also has in the upper left corner an icon to bring you back to the first original screen of the app (why?) and in the upper right corner a search icon.  In the middle you have a playback progress bar with a scrolling song name and at the left edge of it index number of a song and a total number of songs in the current playback folder.  Swiping screen left-to-right brings out a list of all the songs in the currently playing folder, and swiping playback progress bar will fast forward through the song.
     
    Lower part of the screen has Playback and other Control buttons.  In the middle you have Play/Pause with a current playback time above it.  To the left of it you have icon to access Graphic EQ, turn BT on/off, change playback loop mode, and Skip back.  To the right of it you have Heart icon to tag song as Favorite, an icon to access more option to provide a detailed info about the song or to delete the song, icon to add the song to your Playlist, and Skip forward button.  By holding a finger along the right edge of the screen brings up a volume slider menu to adjust the volume.  In EQ screen, you have access to 10-band equalizer, actually with a very nice graphic representation in the upper part of the screen.  Lower part of the screen has access to 5 band sliders with +/- 12dB adjustment, but there is no frequency label to indicate which band you are adjusting - this has to be fixed because it gets confusing when you flip to the next 5-bands and don't know which band you are adjusting.  You can see the graphical representation of the adjustment, but you doing it blindly because sliders don't have a frequency indicator.  Sliding finger up brings up 8 EQ presents (genre related) and 1 custom preset.  All 8 pre-defined presets could be adjusted further.  Also, on the main playback screen there is no indicator of EQ selection, something I would like to see being implemented in future updates.
     
    In my opinion, FiiO Music app has a lot of potentials and considering it's still a work in progress - I will continue to look forward to more updates.  Flexibility of Android interface opens up a door to shape this music app to perfection where sky is the limit.  Yes, it is still work in progress, but I have a hope that progress will pick up soon, the way how I have seen it with sound tuning improvement.
     
    fiio_x7-25_zpst1v7yynh.jpg fiio_x7-26_zps7fxkg3nj.jpg
    fiio_x7-27_zpsxxmd8cle.jpg fiio_x7-28_zps70gdh3f3.jpg
    fiio_x7-29_zpsrwn3r0em.jpg
     
    Sound Analysis.
     
    Often people get a dedicated DAP because they are not happy with audio performance of their smartphones, and then they realize they miss streaming capability and touch control of their phone and decide to look for usb DAC stack.  With X7 you have a chance for a dedicated DAP with touch controls and streaming capability and different amp modules – all integrated in one compact design.  FiiO is known for their budget oriented products where their DAPs usually considered having mid-fi performance.  X7 is a big step up, nearly doubling the price of their previous X5ii flagship with high expectations to determine if FiiO was able to finally cross the threshold of summit-fi performance.
     
    When I received X7 with its initial beta FW release, I was a little bit disappointed.  Not necessary because it sounded so bad, but rather because I set my expectations very high.  I didn't feel that sound was on a level of summit-fi performance.  I quickly attributed that to a beta firmware and a default IEM module, assuming that fw is still work in progress and amp module will be updated with different versions.  Following that, a few more fw updates were released and I started to notice an improvement.  But not until the last FW 1.1 update I realized that FiiO means serious business and finally started to unlock a true potential of the ESS9018 DAC paired up with their IEM amp module.
     
    Based on the latest FW 1.1, I'm hearing X7 to have a neutral and slightly warmish signature with a very clear and detailed sound.  It doesn't necessary strike you with analytical micro-detailing, but it definitely leans more toward a more revealing sound signature.  The layering and separation is pretty good (improvement over the initial fw release), sound never gets congested, but the transparency is not at the highest reference level and I actually hear a little thickness in a sound, thus my reference to a slightly warmish signature contributed by a fuller body of lower mids and some noticeable impact of lower end.  Soundstage width/depth/height is slightly above the average where sound has a more intimate feeling, yet placement of instruments is still very convincing.
     
    Based on what I hear across different headphones, I find X7 to have an excellent impact and speed at the lower end and a decent extension.  Bass is well controlled and that is one of the reasons why I hear such a high level of clarity and details because bass is confined without spilling into mids.  Lower mids give some nice thickness to a body of the sound, but they are not too thick. Upper mids are full of details, but not too analytical, treble is clear and has a nice definition without contributing to sibilance.
     
    Describing a DAP by itself is not always helpful, thus I prefer to include a relative comparison to some of my other DAPs to give an idea how it stacks up against the competition.
     
    fiio_x7-34_zpsuomswr7g.jpg fiio_x7-35_zps2edh5wxw.jpg
     
    X7 vs PAW Gold - LPG is more neutral, soundstage wider/deeper, I hear more transparency in the sound, while layering and separation is similar.
     
    X7 vs L5Pro - similar neutral-warmish sig, L5P soundstage is a little wider, other than that sound is very similar in layering/separation, even matching the dynamics.  But overall L5P sound is tighter and a little faster.
     
    X7 vs AK120ii – AK has a very similar neutral-warmish sig, soundstage is a little wider, bass has a touch more impact, but everything else is very close in performance.
     
    X7 vs QA360 - 360 is slightly brighter (leaner lower mids), soundstage is wider/deeper, mid-bass has slightly more impact; overall sound of 360 is a little smoother.
     
    X7 vs LP5 Gold – similar sound signature, LP5G has a little wider/deeper soundstage, more transparency and faster speed, and slightly better layering and separation, but the gap is not that wide.
     
    X7 vs N6 - N6 is a little brighter (neutral-bright), soundstage is a little wider, very similar dynamic sound and separation/layering.  The bigger difference is that N6 sounds a little leaner in comparison. X7 has more body and sounds more musical.
     
    X7 vs X5ii - X7 has a fuller sound with more body, also more natural tonality.  Soundstage is rather similar.  X7 sound is a little more dynamic, and has a slightly better separation/layering of a sound.
     
    To test the DAC output of X7, I connected LO to different external amps.
     
    w/E12A - a great pair up where the sound is very close to HO of X7, but w/E12A you get a little more transparency.  Makes me wish FiiO would have used MUSE02 amp in their IEM module.
     
    w/VE Runabout - excellent pair up, improves dynamics, improves width/depth, sound becomes more transparent, layering/separation is also improved.
     
    w/HA-2 - nice pair up, improves soundstage depth, also makes sound a little bit warmer (adds more body to lower mids).
     
    w/C5 - nice pair up, improves soundstage width/depth, also makes sound a little bit warmer.
     
     
    X7 next to Galaxy S5 and Note 4
     
    fiio_x7-36_zpsqy3n13t1.jpg
     
    For those who are wondering if they should get X7 or external USB DAC to pair up with their smartphone, I tested N4 with HA-2 to find:
     
    X7 vs Note 4 w/HA-2 - X7 sound has a little more transparency and sounds a little tighter, otherwise a very similar performance.
     
    Pair up with different headphones.
     
    Though you have option to select high/low gain, I found the sound in high gain to have more energy and to be more dynamic.  Thus all my headphone testing was done with X7 set in high gain, and I also indicated a volume level for each.  Not every pair up turned out as I expected.
     
    ES60 (35/120) - some hissing, nice clean detailed sound, good low end expansion, good transparency.
     
    ZEN (83/120) - high gain is the way to go with these 320 ohm earbuds, though X7 doesn't drive them to a full potential, especially when it comes to bass which lost a little bit of weight/body and sound is a little mellow (not as fast or tight).
     
    Savant (49/120) - very clear detailed smooth sound, modest sub-bass quantity (sub-bass rumble is there), excellent soundstage expansion, nice transparency.
     
    W60 (45/120) - smooth warm detailed sound, a bit more on a laidback side, missing a little bit of speed.
     
    UM Pro 50 (42/120) - deep bass impact, nice smooth detailed sound, good dynamics, missing a bit of sparkle at the top.
     
    DN2kJ (52/120) – not the best pair up with these 8 ohm IEMs; bass missing some sub-bass texture and upper mids/treble a bit too revealing/harsh.
     
    MSR7 (56/120) - excellent pair up, clear detailed sound, good soundstage expansion, nice transparency and great retrieval of details.
     
    PM-3 (70/120) – excellent pair up, drives them with authority! nice punchy bass, good soundstage depth, clear detailed sound.
     
    EL-8C (80/120) - doesn't drive it to full potential, bass is not as tight and missing sub-bass texture and treble has a little bit of metallic sheen, sound is a bit thin.
     
    R70x (95/120) - excellent pair up with these open back 470 ohm cans, clear detailed sound, excellent transparency, but pushing it closer to X7 max driving limit.
     
    fiio_x7_vs_wizard_zpsxtp4rovu.jpg
     
    Conclusion.
     
    It’s hard to evaluate X7 as a finished product because I didn’t get a chance to test different amp modules and the firmware is still work in progress, but so far it shows a lot of potential.  As a matter of fact I was very impressed with the progress of sound improvement from the day I received X7 to the latest FW1.1 update.  At $650 it still represents a great value considering high performance desktop quality DAC, wireless connection with access to streaming services, modular amp design, and touch screen interface.  More work needs to be done to finish their Music app and probably to optimize DAC performance with new amp modules, as well as a desperate need for a good case.  But if you take into consideration this is their first Android-based release, I think it turned out pretty good!  Just like with a classic X5 and their mechanical wheel introduced and later improved throughout X1/X3ii/X5ii releases, FiiO is breaking their own new grounds with X7 release which I’m sure will get only better moving forward toward their ultimate goal of setting the World on FiiO-R!
      Baycode, Peridot, Brooko and 9 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. twister6
      twister6, Dec 6, 2015
    3. BRCMRGN
      I need to stop reading your reviews and then buying everything that you like!
      BRCMRGN, Jan 9, 2016
    4. twister6
      @BRCMRGN : I don't review everything I like, but rather everything companies send to me... and I'm usually easy to please lol!!!  But I try to be as detailed as possible in my reviews and provide my opinion about the product so you guys can decide if this is your cup of tea.  What I REALLY like and keep in my constant rotation is usually listed in my signature (which is overdue for an update).
      twister6, Jan 9, 2016
  6. nmatheis
    FiiO X7: So much potential!
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Nov 18, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Clear, clean sound. Apps. Potential.
    Cons - Large. Immature UI. Raised display. Back hump. No DAC function. No Play Store.
    FiiOX7-7.jpg
     
    INTRODUCTION
    I've got a history with FiiO and could probably be considered a FiiO fanboy. The X5 has been my go-to DAP since release. Before that, it was the X3. I preordered both and remember those early days with equal parts fondness and frustration. They were my first "audiophile" DAPs. They sounded good, but boy did they have their fair share of user interface quirks at first. Lucky for us, FiiO was receptive to user feedback, and I spent many hours on the Bugzilla @Joe Bloggs set up submitting bugs, feature requests, testing beta firmware, and helping out my fellow FiiO users. Major kudos to FiiO for reaching out its users and being so understanding of our needs. If you want to see what we accomplished, load up the oldest firmware on an X5 and compare it with today's firmware. I'm hoping you'll agree with me that there were a lot of positive changes made along the way! 
     
    In addition to owning the X3 and X5, I've also reviewed the X3ii and X5ii. Again, those were very solid iterations on the design FiiO settled on with the X5. FiiO was learning quickly, and it showed in the increasing maturity of their products. But we're not here to talk about all those old FiiO products, are we? Nope, we're here to talk about the brand spankin' new FiiO X7!
     
    Given my history with FiiO products, it should come as no surprise that I had very high expectations for the X7 going into my review period. I expected a stylish, well-built DAP that was easy to use and had great sound. FiiO nailed some of these but fell short in some areas. That's okay. I haven't met the perfect product yet. So what I'll try to do in this review is let you know how I feel FiiO measures up with respect to usability vs. sound quality because I truly feel that both should be very important factors in your decision making process. 
     
    Before we start, here's a bit of information about FiiO from the About Us section on their website:
     
    About FiiO Electronics Technology Co., Ltd.

    FiiO designs, produces and sells high-quality products at favorable prices to those who love music and style.

    FiiO's aspiration: to raise the reputation of "Made in China".

    Brand spirit: innovation, quality, service

    Brand positioning: HiFi with style

    FiiO was established in 2007 and has experience in researching and developing countless portable music products of different types,
    and sell FiiO-branded products through sales agents worldwide.

    FiiO is focused on product quality, adheres strictly to ISO9001 standards in quality management and works hard to attain the lowest
    repair-related product returns rate.

    Several products from FiiO have created record sales in their respective product segments; our portable headphone amplifiers, DACs and
    high-resolution digital audio players have all received praise from the majority of users.

    FiiO places great importance on users’ needs and ceaselessly pursues perfection in product design and manufacturing, to supply users
    with the best audio products at the best prices. 




     
    LINK to FiiO's website.
     
     
    DISCLAIMER
    I was provided the X7 as a review sample as part of FiiO's worldwide tour. There is no financial incentive from FiiO in writing this review. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO, and this is my honest opinion of the X7.  I would like to thank FiiO for sponsoring the tour and specifically @Joe Bloggs for not only choosing me as a tour participant but for letting me be the first member on my leg of the tour!
     
     
    ABOUT ME
    I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  From electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush), I listen to a wide variety of genres and artists. 
     
    My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso. 
     
    I typically listen with IEMs from my ever-growing collection from budget to mid-fi. Less often, I grab a pair of full-size cans.  Recently, I've been listening a lot with my AKG K553 and HiFiMan HE400, as well as the Alpha & Delta AD01 and RHA T20 IEM I had in for testing.  I do have a lot of other gear, though.  You can always check my profile for a reasonably up to date gear list. 
     
    As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which often affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear. I just wanted to be transparent up front. 
     
     
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Loads of awesome specs can be found on FiiO's X7 page: LINK.
     
    PRICE: $699
     
     
    PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
    As usual, I'll cover packaging and accessories in pictorial format below.
     
    Front
    FiiOX7-10.jpg
     
     
    Rear
    FiiOX7-11.jpg
     
     
    Inner Box
    FiiOX7-12.jpg
     
     
    X7 revealed!
    FiiOX7-13.jpg
     
     
    Literature + Accessories
    FiiOX7-17.jpg
    L-R: COAX Cable, T5 Screwdriver, USB Cable, and Warranty Card. You also get a couple extra screen protectors, which aren't in the picture.
     
    Conspicuously missing is a case or pouch of any sort and a user manual. I'm not worried about the lack of a user manual since the X7 has a digital user manual that can be updated with each firmware release. This makes it much better than a physical copy, which given the nature of the X7, could become outdated fairly quickly. Regarding the lack of a case or pouch, I'm a bit surprised. At this price point, I'd expect something to be thrown in to protect the X7 besides a couple screen protectors.
     
     
    BUILD & ERGONOMICS
    I'll go over what I like and what I feel could be improved regarding the X7's hardware build quality and hardware user interface in pictorial format below.
     
    Front
    FiiOX7-1.jpg

    Here's the X7 in its powered-on state. One of the first things that caught my eye was the blue LED. While its nice at first, the fact that it's always on can be frustrating. It's distracting in dimly lit environments. When I listened to music before bed, I found myself turning the X7 face down so the bright light didn't disturb me or my wife. I can't see any reason why this should be there, nor why it should be on all the time other than someone at FiiO really likes blue LEDs. I mean really likes blue LEDs. So, my first suggestion to FiiO would be to make it an option in the very next firmware for the user to turn the blue LED off. Please!
     
    My second nitpick is the raised display. I'd really rather the display was flush with the front case. Not only would it look cleaner, it would be less exposed and decrease the likelihood of the display chipping along the edges. Hopefully that fear is unfounded. However, I do hope the X7ii has a flush display. In use, the display is completely adequate for use as a DAP. It isn't, however, a high-res, high-contrast display, so don't go into your X7 purchase thinking that you'll be getting a top of class smartphone display. What you'll get is a display that gets the job done. Nothing more. Nothing less.
     
     
    Left Side
    FiiOX7-2.jpg

    On the left side, we see the Volume rocker, Power button, micro SD slot, and one of the two T5 screws that holds the amp module securely in place.
     
     
    Right Side
    FiiOX7-3.jpg

    Look familiar? Yup, the buttons are symmetrical. The difference here is that the the buttons on the right side are transport controls. While this was fine for me, I know it has already frustrated some people.
     
     
    Top
    FiiOX7-4.jpg

    All you get here is a shared Line / Coaxial Out
     
     
    Bottom
    FiiOX7-5.jpg
     
    The bottom below the blue LED is the amp module (IEM amp module in this case), which has Headphone Out and micro USB port. 
     
     
    Rear
    FiiOX7-6.jpg
     
    You get a good view of the seam where the amp module attaches here. I'm hoping FiiO can eliminate the raised section that starts at the amp module and continues most of the way up the case. If they could get it down to just the thickness of the very top section above all the buttons, it wouldn't feel quite as large in the hand.
     
     
    Amp Module
    FiiOX7-18.jpg

    Here's a shot of the amp module's connector.
     
     
     
    DAP Beauty Contest!
    FiiOX7-8.jpg
    FiiOX7-9.jpg
     
    The X7 is on the large side. It's as tall and thick as the Shanling M3 (which is comparable in size to the Cayin N6) but is a bit skinnier. In my opinion, the X7's size is verging on transportable vs DAPs like the X5, N5, and DX90, which will fit better into your pockets. Out and about, I mostly kept the X7 in my shoulder bag or in a cup holder on our Bob stroller. I'd do the same with the Shanling M3 and Cayin N6.
     
     
    TO SUM UP
    Since this is the pre-production World Tour version of the X7, I do want to point out that the final production model will be a darker, color more akin to gunmetal. It will also lack the cool "X7 debut World Tour 2015" text. Other than that, this is basically the same X7 you should be able to purchase. So what did I think? I liked the clean, simple design but am not a fan of the large-ish size, raised display, and back hump. Getting rid of those would make the X7 thinner, give it better handfeel, and make it more pocketable. And I'm sure there will be some people out there that will be frustrated with the symmetrical buttons.
     
     
    GUI
    I'm a firm believer that user interface can make or break your experience with any piece of technology. That said during my review period, the X7 went through a few FW updates with only one being considered stable. And despite being stable, bugs crept in that detracted from my user experience. With the X7, FiiO has taken on a big challenge and have had some hard decisions to make. For instance when I received it, the only apps I could install were FiiO whitelisted apps. By the time I handed it over, any apps could be installed. To me this represented a pretty big shift in FiiO's mentality, and it occurred over a period of less than two weeks. With such a young, fluid platform, I'm not sure how long what I describe below will be valid. That makes it difficult for me as a reviewer, so I'm going to focus on some of the things I liked and some that I strongly felt should be changed. I'm going to do this in pictorial format.
     
    Lock Screen
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-28-28.png
     

    Okay, so here you have the lock screen. You'll see this if you boot up in Android mode, and it's pretty basic. Swipe the lock icon to the left to open. You've got touch targets for the most basic transport controls, although you can always just use the hardware transport controls. Not much else going on here.
     
     
    Home Screen
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-04-32.png

    Here's the default home screen. Again, it's pretty basic. You can always jazz it up if you want. You can see I put the most important apps in the top row: FiiO Music, HibyMusic, TIDAL, and Support. Just as on the lock screen, the topbar has a lot of information: Volume, Background Apps, Wifi, Battery, and Time. Okay, nitpick time. Not everyone wants 24-hour time. I prefer 12-hour time, and this isn't an option. Why? FiiO, please add 12-hour time as an option.
     
     
    Shades
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-06-54.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-04-48.png
     
     
    LEFT: Swipe down from the left side on the topbar, and you get quick access to transport controls for all of the music apps you're running. You can see I'm running FiiO Music, HibyMusic, and TIDAL with some pretty rad music queued-up in each of them!
    RIGHT: Swipe down from the right side on the topbar, and you get quick access to important settings. The upper left tile is where you choose between Android mode and Pure Music mode.
     
    Again, all pretty basic stuff, right. Okay, let's move on to the FiiO Music app. This has been highlighted as the crown jewel of the X7.
     
     
    FiiO Music: Home Screen
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-15.png

    Here's what you see when you open FiiO Music. Not too bad, but I'd prefer to be popped into a list of music stored on my X7 instead of into a menu. Now I have to tap on the folder icon to get into my music collection, which I'm betting will be the most common action. Probably better for the majority of people to just start us off in the music collection. Oh well, what's one extra tap each and every time I open the app, right?
     
    NOTE: This is where you start if you boot into Pure Music mode. None of that Android stuff, just the FiiO Music app and nothing else.
     
     
    FiiO Music: Settings
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-23.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-28.png
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Default - Songs)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-48.png
     
    Okay, serious major nitpick time here. I absolutely do not want to be dumped into an alphabetical list of all the songs on my music player each and every time I enter My Music. No, no, no!!!
     
    Please change this ASAP, FiiO. Seriously! A much better choice would be popping me straight into the Artist category. This would've been one of he first things I changed in the Settings, but you can't change it for some reason.
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Artists)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-53.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-10-02.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-10-06.png

    1st Pic: Okay, I yet again waste a tap getting to my most commonly used feature of the FiiO Music app, the Artists category. Whew, I'm finally in there. This is going to be good!
    2nd Pic: Nope, each and every time you tap on an Artist, you get a completely randomized list of songs. Maybe this is good for some of you who want a random Artist playlist, but I just want to play my favorite Autechre album. Okay, yet another tap. This time on the quite small touch target that has the 3 lines + a music note.
    3rd pic: Okay, I've finally got my list of Albums by Autechre. Great! Now, I want to play that second song on the CONFIELD album. You know, that one whose name always escapes you. So, I tap on the album art. Nothing. I tap again, this time harder. Nope, nothing. Say what? I can't drill down to the song level? Nope! Sigh... And to play your music, you've got to tap on that extremely low-contrast Play icon over to the right beside each album. I mean, if you can't even drill down to the song level, why not make the whole line a touch target. Completely flabbergasted me!
     
    Please FiiO, rethink how this works. Seriously! This isn't the way a modern music player should work. It doesn't meet my basic expectations with all the extra taps just to get to a list of albums - and then I can't even get to a song list? Low-contrast icons? Sigh, this is a step back from browsing in my X3 and X5 and a major letdown!
     
    I'm going to skip the next two Categories (Album & Playlist) because I do not use them. they're basically what you'd expect. Instead, I'm going to skip right on to the last Category, which is the Folder Browser.
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Folder Browser)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-11-57.png    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-12-22.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-12-26.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-12-36.png
     
    Whew, this makes sense. I can quickly and easily drill down from the highest level to individual songs. Yes! 
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Now Playing)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-13-09.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-14-37.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-13-23.png

    Here's the Now Playing screen. This is pretty straightforward. Tapping on Album Art cycles through the Lyrics and Song Info overlays. Nothing to complain about here.
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Swipe From Left / Right Edges)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-14-15.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-14-20.png
     
    Swipe from left: Current track list.
    ​Swipe from right: Volume overlay. Okay, I finally got this in the end, but I was really confused by the volume overlay in the beginning. You've got two barely visible touch targets here. The + at the top and the - at the bottom. To me, they get lost amongst the rest of he visual information under the display. I think a much better choice would've been either a much less transparent or even a solid overlay so the + / - touch targets become much more visible. My second problem was that it seemed completely reasonable to me to swipe up / down from the middle value circle. Nope, nothing happens. You've got to tap on the touch targets. Really? Yup! If you want to adjust the volume by swiping up / down, you have to activate this by swiping up / down at the very right edge of the display. I found this to be very finicky and quickly abandoned all efforts to adjust volume on screen and solely relied on the hardware buttons. For me, the onscreen volume control implementation just didn't cut it. If I could've just swiped up / down from the middle, I would've been happy! 
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (EQ)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-13-45.png

    Hey, a 10-band EQ. Nice! I just wish there was a touch target to zero out individual bands instead of one touch target (upper left) to reset the whole EQ. That's just me and is probably my most minor nitpick so far with the FiiO music app.
     
    Okay, there's not much left in the FiiO Music app for me to cover, but I'd be sad if I left out Search so here goes... 
     
     
    FiiO Music: Music Collection (Search)
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-14-52.png

    Yay, Search! Or maybe not. I found Search to be disappointing. For instance, when I search for say Radiohead on most devices, I get a breakdown of Albums, Songs, etc. by Radiohead. Not with the X7. Nope. I get a single entry called Radiohead that just plays all of the Radiohead songs. Again, really? Not cool! 
     
     
    TO SUM UP
    I think you can probably tell the FiiO Music app didn't meet my expectations. It required too many taps to get where I wanted and just didn't measure up to what I'd expect from a to pos class music app. And to add injury to insult, all the help was in Mandarin - even in 1.0 firmware. Oh man, I just don't know what to say. I really expected more!
     
    Now, on the plus side, what I experienced was a very young / immature version of the GUI. It's got a lot of potential and plenty of time to mature, and I'm sure with the feedback all of us early testers have provided FiiO will make improvements quickly. At least, I hope so!
     
     
    BATTERY LIFE

    I don't think I should comment on battery life too much. Using beta software most of the time, I found I had unnecessary background processes running that consumed nearly 50% of my X7's battery life. This really made me wish I could live with FiiO's Pure Music mode because in that mode, most of the background processes are completely disabled giving much better standby time. Unfortunately, I just didn't get along with the FiiO Music app enough to boot into Pure Music mode. In the end, I don't see any reason to doubt FiiO's battery life claims. they've always exceeded their stated battery life, and I'm sure once all the bugs are ironed out the X7 will, too.
     
     
    DAC

    Doesn't work. Sorry. Move along!
     
     
    SOUND

    During my time with the X7, I mainly used the highly-tunable FLC 8S I had in for testing (review coming soon for these bad boys!). I also gave them some time with the VE ZEN 1.0 and HiFiMan HE400. IEM were on Low Gain, ZEN and HE400 on High Gain. I listened to a wide variety of music in mostly AAC and FLAC formats. 
     
    FLC 8S sounded great. VE Zen 1.0 pretty good. HiFiMan HE-400 was a sub-par listening experience.
     
    I'd characterize the X7 with the IEM module as a very clean, clear sound that doesn't veer off the edge into overly analytical territory and has a good soundstage. It sounded as good as any DAP I've spent a serious amount of time with. I can't find much to fault with it, as long as you can live with the limited power. This brings me to another point. I wonder if using amp modules was the right move for FiiO with the X7. If FiiO implemented a great sounding fixed amp stage within the X7 with L, M, and H Gain modes, I'm betting the X7 could have been smaller, lighter, and driven all my HP & IEM well. This line of thought occurred to me after I'd used the X7 for awhile, and it surprised me. I was really keen on the idea of amp modules when the X7 was in development, but once I started using it I felt like it was more of a limitation than a strength. just my two cents...
     
     
    APPS

    When I first got the X7, you could only install a few apps that FiiO had whitelisted. Talk about limiting. There was some back and forth amongst the early reviewers, and it was decided that the whitelist should be removed and X7 owners should be able to install whatever they wanted. Well, as long as you're comfortable searching for and manually installing .apk files - and keeping them up to date on your own. This is because there is no Play Store support for the X7. Coming from the iDevice world, this felt like the wild west to me. I was searching for TIDAL and found so many sites to download the .apk file from.The actual file size differed, sometimes drastically.Did they contain malware? I don't know. I do know I would've felt a whole lot better if I could've downloaded apps from the Play Store. I certainly don't envy X7 owners the experience of having to keep track of which version of the app you should be using and manually updating them. If I were buying the X7, I'd want either a FiiO-approved app repository with an auto-updating option, the Play Store, or just a straight-up music player a la A&K.
     
    All that said, once you get an app like HibyMusic, Spotify, or TIDAL installed, it's a great listening experience. However, I'm not sure if it's any better than just using a smartphone and high-quality DAC/Amp. Given the X7's size, it'd probably be a fairly comparable experience. I'll be getting the Chord Mojo in for testing soon and will put that to the test!
     
     
    SUMMARY

    Wow, what a wild ride I had with the X7. While I really liked the sound quality, I was let down by the clunky design with raised display, back hump, and symmetrical buttons. I quickly left the FiiO Music app behind and didn't look back. It needs some serious retooling before I'd come back to it. And I'm just not sold on the idea of amp modules. I didn't expect this outcome. I honestly thought I'd be swooning over the X7 and would rush out to purchase one. Instead, I'm left hoping the X7ii will meet my needs with a smaller footprint, lighter weight, and a more mature hardware and software user experience. For now, I'd recommend this to people who want a DAP with great sound and a smartphone-like user interface and don't mind waiting for the various nitpicks I mentioned throughout this review to get sorted out. For me, I'm sticking with my old-school DAPs for a while longer and waiting to see what FiiO (and others) bring next in this product category. It's an exciting journey FiiO's started, and I applaud them for making this move!
     
    And finally, a big thanks to FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for letting me take part in the X7 review tour. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing more great products from FiiO in the future!

      endus, HiAudio, H20Fidelity and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Vividcard
      Great review, Side note however, Regarding the Artist selection option. You can go down into album or song lists. However, you can not do so pressing the album art. Instead you have to choose the name of the album. Art is just there to be pretty, name dives deeper, and ultra-tiny play button plays the album.
      Vividcard, Nov 25, 2015
    3. nmatheis
      Thanks for clarifying that @Vividcard. I swear I was clicking all over the place trying to drill down but missed that somehow. Since there was already a (barely visible) play icon, the most intuitive place seemed to be the Album Art. I really wish FiiO had gotten an English translation of the Pure Music's Help Guide out before my time with the X7 ended. Oh well...
      nmatheis, Nov 28, 2015
    4. allinhead
      hi nmatheis, nice review.
      could you say few words  between x7 and n6 just about sound pls
      thanks
      allinhead, Jun 25, 2016
  7. fnkcow
    Fiio X7 – The DAP that Offers Much Potential
    Written by fnkcow
    Published Dec 13, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Build quality, Interchangeable amp modules, Ease of use, Android Interface, Connectivity
    Cons - Potential issues with interchangeable amp module locking mechanism, Features still in progress
    IMG_20151109_182420az.jpg
     
    Disclaimer
     
    This unit was in my possession for one week as part of the Australasian tour. I'd like to thank @FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for making this tour possible, and @Brooko for organizing and including me in this tour.
     
    First and foremost, I would like to let it be known that that the tour unit I received was a pre-production review unit running beta firmware, and the retail version released in the future may differ in the hardware as well as the firmware from what was offered in this tour unit.
     
    I listen at relatively high volume level, so my impressions will be based on this. Please be aware that there might be variations in impressions at different volume and issues present on different volume level may/may not exist on this product. As I only use IEMs, I will only comment on its usage with IEMs. No EQ/sound effects were applied throughout duration of having this unit on all devices.
     
    Packaging
     
    The tour unit came inside a black box as shown below and will change to new packaging for international customers.
     
    Unboxing the whole package reveals the following:
     
    IMG_20151109_175352z.jpg
     
    1. Fiio X7
    2. A USB charging / data cable
    3. A digital out to coax cable
    4. 2 spare screen protectors for the X7 (plus one already fitted)
    5. A foldout warranty card
    6. A screwdriver
    7. Spare screws for interchanging amp module
     
    IMG_20151109_175906z.jpg
     
    Build
     
    Front View
    IMG_20151109_180650_crz.png
     
    Back View
    IMG_20151109_180754_craz.png
     
    Top View
    IMG_20151109_180508z.jpg
     
    Left Side
    IMG_20151109_180445z.jpg
     
    Right side
    IMG_20151109_180452z.jpg
     
    Bottom View   
    IMG_20151109_180501z.jpg
     
    The X7 feels like a solid brick, but in a good way. The design / weight / size combination makes it sit comfortably inside both your hand and your pocket. It is easy to hold and engage the functions. All ports are well labeled. The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on when powered on but is customizable with latest firmware. The side buttons are also fully customizable. Display screen is vibrant in colour and easy to read. I took the X7 out for a walk and without adjusting the screen brightness much, it was easily readable under direct sunlight. 
     
    One big selling point of the X7 is its patented interchangeable amplifier module. Currently it comes with the Standard (IEM) module: suitable for driving most IEMs, earbuds, portable on-ear earphones and some efficient full-size headphones and impressions will be based on this. However, this is also where my concern lies as this is designed to be detachable so that other future amplifier modules can be swapped by removing a couple of screws, I had difficulty removing one of the default screws and the screw head became stripped. It didn't provide enough grip and is way overtightened in the first place. The other was unscrewed very easily in contrast.
     
    IMG_20151109_182627az.jpg
     
     
    User Interface and Usability
     
    The firmware version used at the time was still in beta, with Android version 4.4.4 and impressions were based on this. Future updates will improve aspects of the whole experience.
     
    X7 utilises Custom OS based on Android. Those familiar with Android based phones will know what to expect here and navigation feels like any other modern Android phones. It is implemented well, being responsive to touch with virtually no lag. The Fiio music app itself was easy enough to use once I got used to it.
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-37-56.png
     
    Wifi
     
    Wifi connection is reliable and performed well enough with streaming.
     
     
    Bluetooth
     
    The Bluetooth does not feature apt-x codec and the drop in sound quality compared to plugged in directly into Headphone Out is apparent with slight distortion when music is played. The Bluetooth here is more like an extra feature that is present for convenience sake.
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-35-50.png
     
    Battery Life
     
    Using low gain I got about 9 hours under normal usage and continuous play. Using high gain instead I got almost 8 hours. Pretty impressive for such a small unit compared to other DAPs of similar calibre.
     
    X7 doesn't warm up much after continuous use like some DAPs do. I only realized this is a win for Fiio users after having the likes of N6 which can get very warm and would be a bother to those who put it inside their clothes' pockets and during hot summer.  
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-34-01.png
     
    USB DAC
     
    At this point in time the USB DAC is not enabled yet and future firmware releases will feature this.
     
    Sound Impressions
     
    Headphone Out (Unamped)
     
    As the X7 offers plenty of juice for my efficient IEMs, I didn't test adding any extra amps hence I'll only comment on impressions formed using Headphone Out. 
     
    Using my 1964 Ears ADEL A12 with somewhat high sensitivity (16 Ohms impedance and 117dB SPL @ 1mW) and other IEMs of similar sensitivity, I don't hear any noticeable hiss against the backdrop of a very black background. 
     
    The soundstage of the X7 is oval-shaped, taking up a 3D footprint both high and deep, where it focuses more on the depth than width. It sounds intimate and yet still provides solid layering and positioning. Resolving ability is good with plenty of details and fast attack. It nails about as much detail in every frequency, meaning that music with a huge dynamic range will sound detailed, clear, and well spaced. The bass decay could be a bit longer, but bass hits hard with good impact and texture, but I wont say overly so as to affect the rest of the frequency. Only when dealing with songs with big bass that it becomes a bit too overpowering. X7 to me is a neutral sound signature leaning a bit towards musicality with a tinge of warmth and slight detail preference to the mid range. This is also reflected in its forward sounding meaty mids, with meaty as in sounding a bit thick with slight veil masking small details. Vocals are rendered with full body and realism without being digital sounding. In some songs the vocals sounds a bit shouty. Treble is smooth and a touch rolled off, slightly soft resulting loss in headroom space and airiness. 
     
    Sound Comparisons 
     

     
    All comparisons were done using a Multi-channel Headphone Audio Signal Switcher to enable fast switching between DAPs, and a 1kHz test tone was tested using a Digital Sound Level Meter to do the volume matching between DAPs to ensure a level playing field under controlled condtitions. 
     
    Fiio X7 vs Cayin N6
     
    IMG_20151109_183156az.jpg
     
    Against the N6: The N6 has a slightly bigger soundstage due to having better airiness, with similar positioning and layering, but at the expense of sounding leaner in comparison and having less body, giving the X7 a sense of a more organic and fuller sound. 
     
    IMG_20151109_183019az.jpg
     
    Ratings & Conclusion
     
    As Head-Fi shows overall ratings for the audio gear instead of my own, here is a snapshot of what I have rated:
     
    2015-12-14_042636.png
     
    All in all, the X7 is a very solid DAP based on Android OS with good hardware, sound, build quality and an intuitive and well-thought menu design as well as operation and has got a good overall value. It is an awesome sounding DAP that one day, once the issues and minor caveats have been ironed out, will belong in summit-fi. The future remains bright with upcoming releases of a variety of interchangeable amp modules that will offer new dimensions and sound tweaks to the X7. 
     
    IMG_20151110_203356_crz.png
      Brooko, H20Fidelity, twister6 and 6 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. RockStar2005
      fnkcow, 
       
      Great review!
       
      I have 2 questions: 
       
      1) Has FiiO released an update for the X7 that INCLUDES aptX yet? Or any word on that? 
       
      2) Any update on the interchangeable amp module/mod? If so, where can people buy one??
       
      Thanks!
      RockStar2005, Feb 28, 2016
    3. RockStar2005
      3) Also, will the current IEM amp mod the X7 comes with be strong enough to play a pair of headphones with 102 db sensitivity and 32 ohms LOUD??
      RockStar2005, Feb 28, 2016
    4. RockStar2005
      *32 Ohms impedance 
      RockStar2005, Feb 28, 2016
  8. h1f1add1cted
    Currently without competition in its price range - well done FiiO
    Written by h1f1add1cted
    Published Jan 17, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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.jpg stax_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.
     
    [​IMG] 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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.
      h1f1add1cted, Apr 8, 2016
    3. Dobrescu George
      Very nice review and thank you for your measurements! 
      Dobrescu George, Feb 19, 2017
    4. h1f1add1cted
      Thanks, you are welcome.
      h1f1add1cted, Feb 25, 2017
  9. PinkyPowers
    Taking on Giants - A Review of the FiiO X7
    Written by PinkyPowers
    Published Dec 26, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Impressive soundstage. Smooth, refined audio. Impeccable detail. -touchscreen-
    Cons - GUI. Incomplete firmware. Battery life. Hardware buttons. Raised screen.
    20151218_230317_zpst1of8lze.jpg

    ::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.

    20151225_164707_zps8bdpdenx.jpg

    20151225_164305_zpsauu779mv.jpg

    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.

    20151217_193909_zpsgiinsukb.jpg

    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.

    20151220_204122_zpsmogihrcr.jpg

    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.

    20151225_165359_zps1dueiuxy.jpg

    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.

    20151217_200758_zpseznjlyff.jpg

    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::~-

    20151225_225623_zpswsp9ezc1.jpg
      twister6, x RELIC x, hqssui and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. PinkyPowers
      I'll join you in a minute.
      PinkyPowers, Dec 28, 2015
    3. peareye
      Mind if i turn the lights off?
      peareye, Jan 3, 2016
    4. PinkyPowers
      You must watch, and bear witness.
      PinkyPowers, Jan 3, 2016
  10. Hisoundfi
    Cleaning up their act: Fiio's X7 revisited with AM1, AM2 and AM3 amplifier modules
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Nov 14, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Android Market, Amplifier module options (primarily the AM3), Phenomenal sound quality, Offers a lot for the asking price
    Cons - Still some minor software bugs with Android applications, Not the fastest and most responsive processing power
    20161023_190426.jpg
    At the time this review was edited, the Fiio X7 was listed for sale on Amazon. Here is a link for purchases of not only the X7, but the somewhat recently released amplifier modules and accessories that I will discuss as well:
     
    Fiio X7:
    https://www.amazon.com/X7-Hi-Res-Lossless-Player-Titanium/dp/B017SBSOB0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477112078&sr=8-1&keywords=fiio+x7
     
    High power amplifier module, AM5:
    https://www.amazon.com/Power-Headphone-Amplifier-Module-Titanium/dp/B01F1L2V5Y/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153040&sr=8-4&keywords=fiio+x7
    1. MUSES02 operational amplifier for voltage amplification
    2. TPA6120A2 buffer stage
    3. Ultra-high current drive (250mA) and ultra-low noise and distortion
    4. Separate positive and negative pole power supplies
    5. Power Output: >500mW (16Ohm @1kHz)

     
    Balanced output amplifier module, AM3:
    https://www.amazon.com/Balanced-Output-Headphone-Amplifier-Titanium/dp/B01H18RDBM/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153040&sr=8-10&keywords=fiio+x7
    1. Newly launched Burr-Brown OPA1622 from Texas Instrument
    2. Six OPA1622 chips are incorporated to achieve full stereo 2.5mm TRRS balanced output as well as 3.5mm single-ended output
    3. Ultra-low THD+N of -119.2dB (0.000018%) into a 32 Ohm load at 10 mW output
    4. Separate positive and negative pole power supplies
    5. Balanced Power Output: >540mW (32hm @1kHz), Single-Ended Power Output: >250mW (16 Ohm @1kHz)
     
    Medium power amplifier module, AM2:
    https://www.amazon.com/Medium-Headphone-Amplifier-Module-Titanium/dp/B01DH3T7IC/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153040&sr=8-13&keywords=fiio+x7
    1. MUSES02 operational amplifier for voltage amplification
    2. BUF634 buffer stage
    3. Ultra-high current drive (250mA) and ultra-low noise and distortion
    4. Separate positive and negative pole power supplies
    5. Power Output: >350mW (16Ohm @1kHz)
     
    K5 desktop docking station:
    https://www.amazon.com/K5-Docking-Headphone-Amplifier-Titanium/dp/B01BBX1NNM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153843&sr=8-1&keywords=fiio+k5
    1. This Item Includes: FiiO K5 Docking Headphone Amplifier/DAC - Power Supply - FiiO 1 Year Limited Warranty
    2. Headphone Port: 6.35mm stereo Jack
    3. Drive Ability: 16-300 Ohms
    4. Volume Control: Via analog potentiometer (incl. power switch)
    5. Gain: Low: 0dB Mid: 6dBHigh: 12dB
     
    Dignis Leather Case for X7:
    https://www.amazon.com/Dignis-Fiio-Leather-Case-Color/dp/B01B2HYOWE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477265172&sr=8-1&keywords=fiio+x7+case

     
    Introduction
    I’m not a huge follower of DAPs for the most part. I have several reasons for this. In today’s day and age the smartphone is taking the place of most DAPs. Yes, you can argue this philosophy and say that DAPs offer better file support and more premium chips. I can counter this by saying that phones like the 32 bit DAC of the LG V10, or audio oriented HTC 10 and ZTE Axon 7 are coming close and in some ways trumping what many DAP manufacturers are offering.
     
    The other argument is that it’s important to separate the smartphone experience from enjoying a high fidelity audio experience. We live in 2016 where Tidal and other streaming services are very relevant. Not everyone thinks we should only shell out a small fortune for FLAC and DSD downloads. On top of this, we want to be able to utilize modern technology and apply it to our music experience. We live in a world that is going wireless. We are almost all online, using smartphone applications on a regular basis.
     
    So what should be the next step? What does the audiophile need in today’s day and age? At what point are we sacrificing sound quality for technology and vica versa? I guess that comes down to what your individual preferences are.
     
    For me, I try to find players that take the best aspects from each piece of electronics and combines them into an all-in-one solution. I want FLAC and DSD playback, I want DAC/Amplifier capability, I want bluetooth, I want the ability to drive any in-ear monitor or headphone I have. I want third party streaming services and a easy to use interface. Simply put, if I’m going to shell out cash on a DAP, it’s going to be on something that takes my music listening experience beyond my LG V10. This is no easy feat. The V10 is an incredible device for audiophiles.
     
    When Fiio first introduced the X7 I was enamored by the concepts going into the device. From what I heard and read about the unit, I assumed this was going to be the answer to my desires when it comes to DAPs. I volunteered to lead off in the X7 launch tour November of last year, and was honestly disappointed. The integration of Android was not the greatest. I enjoyed the stock application and the sound quality, but was let down by the fact that the Android market was not installed, forcing users to search for and install APK files to stream music. The new amplifier modules were not released, and the unit had some design flaws that made me concerned. I wrote a three and a half star review (which could have easily been a three star review). At the time, the X7 was an incomplete product that didn’t live up to the hype.
     
    Months passed after that review, and I was left wondering if Fiio was putting more touches into the product with upgraded firmware and hardware. When I saw Jack from TEKFX at the Axpona Audio exhibit in April of this year, I had a chance to revisit the device. There were some pleasant surprises, with the most noticeable one being the implementation of the Android market. When I saw this upgrade, as well as new amplifier modules I knew that my review was outdated and my previous experience would do the X7 an injustice to potential buyers. I showed Jack the review and discussed that it would be nice to right the wrongs in my review just as Fiio had done by making improvements to the unit. Jack agreed to loan me an X7 to test and review, along with the AM2 and AM3 amplifier modules. I am now ready to shed new light on the revamped X7.
     
    The X7 has a plethora of reviews so at this point I don’t feel it’s imperative to break things down or go as invasive as an inaugural review. If you need to go step by step of each aspect of the device please reference one of the following reviews:
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14456
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14660
     
    As for the edit to this review, I will leave my initial review in small font at the bottom of my edit, and point out why I am not only increasing the rating, but also explain the reasons why.
     
    ANDROID MARKET
    20161023_190510.jpg
    Look, I get it, some people don’t want a second cell phone. Still, Android market is awesome and having the ability to easily download and install our favorite music streaming applications is important. For me, my favorite streaming application is Google Music.  For others it’s Tidal, Spotify and Pandora as well as many others. The list goes on and on. Long story short, the APK days are over for the X7. We have Google Play services, and access to hundreds of applications. Having applications went from being a pain in the butt to a pleasant experience and opportunity to customize each X7 owner to customize their music experience.
     
    NOTE: Although this is a huge improvement from what I’ve experienced in the past, it still has some bugs. Google Play services crashes from time to time. The device doesn’t have the processing power to handle a bunch of applications, so X7 owners still must choose the ones that matter most and keep their app cache under control without overloading the X7 and making it lag out. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that Fiio can address these bugs with future firmwares.
     
    ACCESSORIES
    Fiio launched the X7 with the AM1 amplifier module. Yes, it sounded really good with in-ear monitors, but to be honest the buck stopped there. There wasn’t a lot to say beyond this. Today, Fiio offers an accessories line that gives X7 owners an opportunity to customize their product. Let’s go over each accessory.
     
    FIIO K5
    The X7 has a place to call home when it reaches the desk of audiophiles, and it’s called the K5. No, I don’t have a review sample, but seeing it at shows I’ll say the thing makes sense. It operates as a docking station for the X7, allowing owners to use it for music playback, file transfers, and a charging station for the X7. It’s an all-in-one desktop companion\solution. Kudos for this Fiio, you done good with this one!
     
    AMPLIFIER MODULES
    20161023_190342.jpg
    *Fiio X7 with AM2 (left) and AM3 (right) amplifier modules installed
     
    There are now four amplifier modules to choose from. This has taken the stock player with AM1 chip and made its driving power much more versatile. Let’s take a brief look at each module.
     
    AM1
    The AM1 is the stock amp that comes with the X7. It is the “low power” module. I consider this module to be ideal for in-ear monitors and low impedance headphones. You aren’t going to get the most out of your power hungry high impedance cans with the AM1.
     
    AM2
    This is the “medium power” module, offering increased power over the AM1. I would recommend this amplifier who listen to mostly full size headphones that aren’t incredibly power hungry. This module offers a little too much power for sensitive in-ear monitors IMHO.
     
    AM3
    Of the amplifier modules I was able to sample this one is by far my favorite. The bottom of the modules comes with two different outputs. One is a 2.5 mm balanced output that  has some serious output power (540mW, 32 Ohms @ 1kHz). There is also a 3.5 mm single ended output that puts out less power (250 mW, 16 Ohms @ 1kHz). What does this mean? It means that with the right jack used and possibly adapter applied, you can drive just about anything. And for the balanced output? It sounds awesome! Of all the things that Fiio has done to improve the X7 this module is right up there with the application of the Android Market. The combination of these two things makes the X7 one of the best players you can get your hands on in today’s market.
     
    AM5
    I didn’t get my hands on the AM5, but from the description I can draw a conclusion of it’s capabilities. Pushing 500 mW at 16 Ohms, I assume this unit will push almost any high impedance headphone, but will be too much power for most low power earphones. If you plan on using your X7 with your pairs of 300 Ohm and above headphones and not much else, you should consider this module.
     
    CASES
    When the X7 tour was going on, there was virtually no accessories that came with the X7. Anyone who has had a chance to hold the X7 in their hand would understand my concern in regards to the device’s build The thing is built like a small brick and feels very solid in the hand, but the glass screen goes right to the edge of the device. Combine the X7’s weight with the screen design, and it gives the impression that it’s one drop away from the screen cracking. I had to baby my review sample the last time I had it. Now, there’s case options for the X7 that will make the X7 better withstand daily abuse and the test of time.
     
    Conclusion
    The accessories options make the X7 more expensive than the stock unit, but it puts the option out there for you to customize your device. The X7 is not yet what I would consider perfect. I don’t think the button layout is ideal, and there are still some minor software bugs that need to be worked out. On top of all of this, the processing power of the X7 should be more powerful. At the end of the day, when used in Android mode the X7 slower and less responsive than most of today’s smartphones. However, when used with just the stock player it works phenomenally. Speaking of which, the stock music application is awesome. Those who don’t want the Android Market and music streaming aspect to be a part of their listening experience will really enjoy the stock music application.
     
    I personally feel the X7 was rushed to market. Review tours were conducted before the X7 was a complete product. With the added accessories and Android Market, the X7 is an entirely different device, and something I can now say I recommend. In all honesty, at the moment and in terms of price to performance, the X7 and AM3 is one of the best deals around in my opinion. It gives me that “best of both worlds” approach when it comes to what I look for in a DAP
     
    20161023_190731.jpg
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
     
    Here is the original review written in November of 2015. Please note that this was the initial impressions posted. Let it be more of a flashback to remind you of how far the X7 has come since its release:
     
    We’ve been waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    But finally it’s here! The X7 is finally happening! I have been anticipating this for a looooooong time!
    20151110_102704.jpg
     
    We’ve participated in the threads. We’ve read the speculations and rumors. We’ve also read the online pissing contests and arguments made by some Head-Fi participants. It’s been quite a roller coaster to this point!
     
    I’ve made some outrageous claims as far as what I’d do to be a part of the initial beta tour. Luckily, I didn’t have to eat any turds, slap my mama, or name my next born child FiiO in order to be a part of this tour (thanks guys)
     
    And now, finally (and thankfully) I have the honor and pleasure to experience the X7 and share it with the Head-Fi community. Here we go….
     
    First and foremost, thank you to all the good guys at Fiio for your patience and consideration. Thank you for the opportunity to try the new X7 out, and also for letting the Head-Fi community be a part of this endeavor from the very beginning. There aren't many companies that allows the suggestions and input of the Head-Fi community weigh so heavily in the outcome and development of their products. Big ups FiiO!
     
    I was given an opportunity to sample the X7 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO.
     
    Before break into the package, let it be known that this is a BETA TESTING TOUR. In the fifteen days I’ve had with the product, I’ve downloaded three firmware updates, and I’m fairly confident that this isn’t going to be the last firmware installed before the official U.S. release of the X7. I don’t consider this to be a comprehensive review, but more of a initial impressions write up.
     
    The X7 came in a simple black box with a picture of the X7. The  back of the box had a listing of the X7 key features written in both Chinese and English. Also included in the package was a separate paper folder addressed to “X7 Reviewer” from Fiio, explaining the process and story behind the Fiio X7 project along with key features. This is a great read that I suggest ALL reviewers on this tour take the time to flip through.
    20151114_072403.jpg  
    *Front
     
    20151114_072414.jpg
    *Back
     
    20151114_073832.jpg
    *Supplied Accessories
     
    Key Features (as noted by FiiO)
    *FiiO’s first Android-based DAP
    *Android DAP that bypasses Android’s sample rate conversion
    *First DAP with Android/Pure music mode switch
    *High-impact 3.97” 480X800 multitouch functions
    *1 GB RAM, quad-core Cortex-A9 for smooth music under all circumstances
    *RK3188 SoC+ES9018S DAC+OPA1612 buffer, no compromises throughout the audio chain
    *Highly Customized music APP
    *Symmetrical button layout enabling custom button mappings
    *Patent pending exchangeable headphone amp module; docking connector to desktop amplifier
    *Supports WIFI/Bluetooth 4.0 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), expanding your music horizons wirelessly
    *6061 aluminium + advanced CNC processing, pursuing perfections from materials to machining
    *Ergonomic body design, well sized and shaped for single-handed holding and operation
    *Innovative mirror finished edge + reflective status light
    *Well-sized 3500mAh battery for 9 hours of playtime
    *Two years of research from FiiO’s professional audio development team
    *FiiO’s quality assurance
     
    FiiO has broken away from its conventional scroll wheel operation and vanilla user interface. This is Fiio’s attempt at a touch screen DAP. The device on a whole is heavy and feels very solid, like a brick of metal in the hand. All materials are top notch. Aluminum housing and a solid screen I would assume is gorilla glass. There are three buttons on each side and are mirror images of each other on each side. The left side is volume and power. The right side is skip tracks and play/pause. SD card access is located on the left side of the device.
     
    20151114_073101.jpg
    *Left Side
     
    20151114_073053.jpg
    *Right Side
     
    NOTE: Although I find the X7 to be a sturdy build, the raised glass screen is a big red flag for me. It appears to be a drop away from having a cracked screen or some sort of damage. I am hoping that FiiO releases a shockproof case for the X7 to give reassurance to owners who have concerns of how the X7 will handle being accidentally dropped.
     
    NOTE: I was disappointed that the X7 didn't have an analog volume pot. To adjust the volume when the screen isn't active I have to repeatedly press the volume button. I personally feel that all higher end DAPs need to have an analog volume pot. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Firing up the unit you are greeted with a custom Fiio welcoming screen which leads to the typical folder style menu of most android devices. However, the folder selection is minimal and only features the folders essential for running the Android operating system. I’m not going to focus on the function of these folders, as there are many other things to cover in this review. Just know that they are basic Android folders and a tab for the FiiO music application.
     
    Using Android OS in a high fidelity DAP creates it’s own set of problems. Android has a process of downsampling music to a lower bit rate to cooperate with the rest of the operating system and its applications. What Fiio has done with its music app is created a way of taking over the Android audio subsystem, allowing the app to play all music files in their native form. With this being said the X7 is able to play every file format I threw at it, including DSD and FLAC.
     
    20151105_113701.jpg
    *Tapping on the album artwork displays the file's bit rate.
     
    The X7 has one GB of RAM, which by today’s standards isn’t very much, especially considering we are dealing with an Android device. To counteract this Fiio has two modes of operation. If you want to maximize the RAM users can disable various Android operations by using “Music Mode”. This can be accessed by pulling down from the customized menu from the upper right hand part of the screen, selecting the Music Mode button, then rebooting the device. There are also several other options on this display. This menu is hidden by dragging the menu back up to the top. The android version of this screen can be accessed by pulling down the menu screen from the top left (displaying all running apps). This menu is also closed the same way.
     
    20151105_113036.jpg
    *Left Side Drop Menu
     
    20151105_113018.jpg
    *Right Side Drop Menu
     
    The display of the X7 isn’t the sharpest display I’ve seen, and not on par with most current Android Phone releases, but I find it perfectly adequate at the same time. Colors are sharp and vibrant and It works pretty well outdoors. Contrast was excellent.
     
    20151113_095247_HDR.jpg
    *The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on the entire time the unit is powered up (even in standby mode). I’m hoping FiiO will provide an option to turn this light off, or at least dim the light.
     
    20151105_105552.jpg
    *The top of the unit has a line out that works as a standard line out, or as digital coaxial line out (when used with the supplied digital coax adapter). Because the DAC and interchangeable amp module is so good, I see no reason to use this beyond plugging the X7 into a external stereo system, or to a high power desktop set up.
     
    20151105_105607.jpg
    *I assume the X7 will be able to be used as an external DAC/Amplifier to be hooked up to computers and other sources, but as of my last day with the unit I wasn’t able to do so. What you see here is the Micro USB input for charging and data transfer, along with the 3.5 mm headphone jack.
     
    The X7 is a mixed bag for me in terms of operation. While I was hoping for more in terms of Android support, but there’s no denying the sound quality this thing can pump out.
     
    The Fiio Music Application
    20151105_093917.jpg
    *Single Song Menu (note the various sort order options on the top of the screen)
    *Alphabetical options from left to right are Single Song, Artist, Album, Genre, File Folder (SD or Internal Memory)
     
    The Fiio music app is a nice app, but still has its fair amount of bugs. Although not perfect, I didn’t have too many problems with the user interface. I think their concepts are clever and well thought out. After installing my preloaded SD (supports up to 128 GB) card I was able to access all my music via a folder tab on the app. The X7 identified and played every music file I had loaded on my SD card, including FLAC and DSD.
     
    What struck a nerve was the file sorting order. I assume the normal way of navigating through in most cases should be Artist/Album/Song. What Fiio does is Artist, then goes to a list of all songs from that artist regardless of album. There was a button option on the upper right hand part of the screen to sort them into album after choosing the artist, but I found this to be an annoyance and unneeded extra step towards the same outcome. I’m hoping this is fixed.
     
    NOTE: If you do want to access the memory card the exact way it was loaded (Usually will be Artist/Album/Track) it can be done via a folder tab in the upper right corner of the music sorting options file by accessing the internal memory or SD card. Choose the SD card option and files will be displayed just as they were initially loaded on the card.
     
    Another bug was that after playing music with the Fiio music application for an extended amount of time the app simply would not close. In order to get back to the android home screen I had to turn the X7 off and back on. Also, after playing music for a considerable amount of time after the screen has gone blank, the play and pause but was unresponsive. These are both minor and I assume FiiO is going to fix both with their next firmware update.
     
    There are some other bugs with the Music application but I consider them to be minor. One thing I would hope to see with a firmware upgrade would be to see FiiO make the volume adjustment a sliding adjustment by pressing on the displayed volume and dragging this number up or down, similar to A&K DAPs.
     
    NOW, let’s discuss the good things about the user interface I really enjoyed. Aside from the identified Artist/Album/Song issue I’ve brought up, the rest of the sorting options and displays are pretty masterfully done. When playing a song from an album (in single song display mode) I can access songs from the designated sorting order by dragging my finger from the left border. In this there was the equalizer, bluetooth, favorites, delete and information tab as well as Play, Pause and Skip tracks options. Dragging a finger from the right side of the screen during this display accessed the on screen volume control.
     
    There didn’t seem to be much in lag or delay when selecting tabs. I did however have instances when I would press on the screen and it didn’t register and I would have to press the tab again.
     
    The Fiio app equalizer is pretty cool. It’s a ten band equalizer that shows a smoothed rendering of your settings on the top of the display. There are several preset displays aside from whatever custom setting you would want to apply.
     
    20151105_114842.jpg
    *Ten band equalizer with smoothed over setting display up top
     
    There is a settings menu on the music application that is pretty fantastic. Key features are an on  and off timer, gapless playback option, gain settings, play through folders, and UI personalization.
     
    With all the identified negatives being said, please don’t let that take away from the thing that will make the X7 truly special. The sound quality of the X7 is FANTASTIC, despite the fact that at first listen it seemed a bit sterile to my ears.
     
    The X7 came shipped with the IEM amplifier module, which is replaceable with separate amplifier modules that will Fiio will be offering. While I feel this amplifier didn’t unleash the full potential of the X7, I could tell by listening to it that the X7 used the ES9018 chip masterfully.
     
    20151114_074234.jpg
    *Detached (and interchangeable) Amplifier Mudule
     
    One thing I did notice while using the X7 is that it will get pretty warm if you keep it in your pocket while listening to music. In the winter it will make a great pocket hand warmer. In the summer it will be as welcomed as a loud and stinky fart in the middle of church service.  
     
    With the IEM amplifier configuration the X7 sits right in the middle of warm and cold. It is a very neutral, transparent and detailed sound. I feel the X7 was able to make even my my worst bit rate files sound almost like they were upsampled to sound their best potential. The X7 seemed to be able to handle sibilance better than other players I have used.
     
    Because the X7 came with the IEM amp module I used mostly in-ear monitors and easy to drive headphones. There really wasn’t any type of “synergy” type of things to speak of. The X7 is brutally honest with whatever you’re using with them. Bright earphones will be bright, warm will be warm, neutral will be neutral and so on. I could see this making a great device for review purposes because of this neutral and pretty colorless presentation. I made sure to use several in-ear monitors, and my favorite pairings with the X7 were more neutral monitors like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
     
    Android Functionality
    This is where I must admit I was pretty disappointed. Simply put, the X7 has an Android operating system, but doesn’t utilize Google Play Services or the Google play store, leaving me wanting more, much more than what my options are in terms of applications beyond the stock Fiio music application.
     
    Applications are can be downloaded via APK files (bypassing the Google Play Services and Play Store). If you are wondering what APK files are, here is a link:
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_application_package
     
    The drawback to this is that it leaves it up to the owner to search and download APKs. This also means that updates will have to be searched and installed by the owner without any notifications of updates being available.
     
    Only particular applications will work. If an application needs Google Play Services to operate they won’t work on the X7. For example, when I tried to install Google Music, upon installation I was prompted with a notification that I wouldn’t be able to access all features of the application. I was able to open the app and listen to music that was installed on my device, but I couldn’t access my online music library or stream music from the web.
     
    20151105_111610.jpg
    *Shucks...
     
    On a more positive note, I was able to install and use Tidal and Spotify with no problem. All streaming worked flawlessly. There are many apps that will work with the X7, including some streaming apps (via WIFI). My time with the device was limited, so I can’t elaborate too much. Just know that the APK compatibility is a work in progress. If Google Play Services and Android Market are not going to be available on the X7, I’m hoping FiiO will make an APK directory for X7 owners, making downloading and installing applications a more convenient and enjoyable process.
     
    20151105_112836.jpg
    *Tidal on full display
     
    Conclusion
    At this point the X7 is still a work in progress rather than a finished package, so I can say that in the short time I’ve had with the unit there is not a final verdict from me.
     
    I think FiiO has taken a huge step forward in terms of product development by breaking away from their conventional style of DAPs, offering a more modern device with improved sound quality. However, this is also coming with it’s own unique and new set of challenges for them to face moving forward.
     
    Android’s operating system and WIFI capability is going to give Fiio further opportunities to update and improve their product via firmware updates, even after the device is sold and in the owner’s hands. That combined with the chipset and interchangeable amplifier modules, they’ve created a very versatile and awesome sounding unit. Their fidelity rivals rivals just about any portable I’ve heard to this date.
     
    What leaves me on the fence is the Android aspect of this device. I am left wondering how the masses feel it competes against the likes of the players like the HUM Pervasion, Five year old Sony F series walkman (and inevitably dropping price of the ZX1 and ZX2), newly released and similarly priced ONKYO DP-X1,  as well as other Android based DAPs that are yet to be released. Please note, this has nothing to do with Fidelity and it’s performance in terms of sheer sound quality. It has more to do with the players ability to combine the full Android experience with the type of phenomenal sound quality that the X7 has. With today’s technological advancements in mobile devices, my next purchase will be based on what DAP can best integrate both aspects.
     
    To summarize, the X7 is a DAP will play up to approximately 150 GB of music (between internal and maximum SD capacity) and make it sound phenomenal. They offer their own new and pretty well designed stock music application that many will enjoy. The ability to download and install APK files and stream music is an added bonus. Some will not care for the fact that FiiO doesn’t offer the full Android experience (Google Play Services and Android Market) while others will applaud it for the exact same reason. Rather than being an android device with phenomenal sound quality, it is a phenomenal sound quality device with limited Android APK file capability.
     
    Kudos to FiiO for their hard work on the X7 project and choice to take a step forward in terms of technology. I look forward to seeing what is to come with future firmware updates and alternative amplifier modules.
     
    20151105_105451.jpg
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
     
    NOTE: The bottom half of this review is the initial impressions posted in November of 2015. Please read the top of the review to see the changes and improvements made to the device. 
      Brooko, H20Fidelity, DougD and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Pewterlocks
      For all of you talking about the " playstore app" not able to be used. Try downloading the aptoide app,it is a stand alone app store like the play store. All the apps are free, as it is run like a file sharing site,but Aptoide has their own security which moniters,imho quite well,as i have never had an issue with apps from the Aptoide store.
      Where you may run into problems is when you start adding more store into the Aptoide collective,but the Aptoide security clearly marks every app\ store with the applicable warning.
      This is a quick write up regarding Aptoide,feel free to contact me for more info.
      Pewterlocks, Nov 18, 2015
    3. Hisoundfi
      Greetings all who read this review. An edit has been made to note the improvements Fiio has made to this device. Please read the top portion of this review to note the changes made.
      Hisoundfi, Oct 23, 2016
    4. Brooko
      Vince - the AM5 has no issues driving sensitive earphones either. The volume control has enough play, and the amp is sufficiently low noise that it can be a jack of all trades. You do trade off some battery life - and the amp is a little warmer than the AM1/AM3
      Brooko, Oct 28, 2016