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FiiO X7

Rating:
3.89474/5,
Tags:
  1. Fiio audio fan
    Nice Dap
    Written by Fiio audio fan
    Published Jul 27, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - sound quality firmware
    Cons - little to big
    have this dap for about 6 mos. bought am3 which made difference with my
    audio technical ath mx 30 40 and 50x series. the problem imo about
    audio equipment is everyone has different hearing. some here hear at
    different ranges and tones what may sound superb to one may just be ok
    to another. the big improvement with this dap was android 5.1 update.
    The x7 is now more smooth operating. also a footnote if you are having a
    problem updating from 4.4 firmware using download tool for windows 10
    it worked for me temporarily disabling anti virus to download
    happy listening
  2. Barra
    Addictive Sound Quality that Scales Impressively with External Amplification
    Written by Barra
    Published Dec 7, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - TOTL DAP SQ, Value Price, Flexible AMP Modules
    Cons - UI Quirks, Battery Life, Lock Screen!!!???
    Disclaimer: I do not own the X7 yet with this being tour sample that was provided by FiiO. I will be sending this on at the end of my 10 day trial to the next participant. Thank you FiiO and Joe for including me once again as your products never fail to impress. Having said this, below is my honest opinion as always with no punches held back. But in this case, the good outweighs the bad so no worries.
     
     
    Skipping right to the good stuff, this is an awesome TOTL DAP that anyone would be happy to own. Yes, I almost immediately added my amp and stayed amped for most of the tour and yes there are quirks in the UI, but it is working very well as is if you can forgive the few nits. Having the AK100ii already, I will probably stay as is, but will certainly be picking up an X7 when I need a new DAP. The SQ to value ratio for this DAP is outstanding.
     

    Sound Quality Perspective

    At a certain level, the TOTL DAPs are all great and the question comes down to signature preferences. It is the age old question of what is the better car, a Ferrari or the Lamborghini. The X7 comfortably joins the TOTL DAP range in SQ and at a much reduced price so it is an absolute win. But again, it is a TOTL DAP like many others, the key value here is price and functionality. The functionality is where we have upside with the new AMP module options and with FW updates.
     
    Forgetting the upside and focusing on the SQ, my signature preference looks like this:
    1. SQ = Paw Gold >>> AK380 > X7/AK240/AK100ii/ak120ii > Pioneer/X5/DX90 > iPhone/iPod.
     
    However, look up the prices and you can see why the X7 is a win.
    1. Price = 380 >> 240 >> 120 > 100 > X7/Pioneer > X5/DX90/iPod
     
    Now, adding functionality back, the functionality preferences look like this:
    1. Functionality = iPhone/iPod > AK380/240 = AK120/100ii >= X7 = Pioneer > X5/DX90 = Paw Gold
     
    So you can slice and dice for your goals and no choice is right for everyone. The X7 seems to fit well into all categories doing well at everything.
     

    Review

    I am skipping the boring walk through and the pictures as there are many reviews already that have taken care of this. My review will get straight to sound quality and usability points of interest so you can decide if this DAP is right for you. Remember, this is my opinion only and your mileage may vary given your different HPs and different preferences.
     
    Below are my review notes for your review to see how I came to my conclusions – the good, bad, and the ugly.
     
    Review Notes:
    • Overall:
      • Sabre Chip: My fears that the bight Sabre chip would hold down performance was unfounded. The Sabre bright sheen was smoothed retaining the details without the brightish signature. Several years back, Sabre was the rage, and now the custom Chord DACs are the rage, but FiiO proved that it is all about implementation.
      • Genres: The X7 proves to be genre neutral making everything sound great with a few exceptions. While most rock sounds great, there are occasional tracks that are too energetic and compressed that make me want to hit the forward button. However, these tracks seem to be rare and the others are sounding exceedingly good.
      • Changing Impressions: The X7 is one of those that fail to impress up front, but soon become obsession worthy. I found the same to be true about the Hugo and other very good equipment. It takes time to start to get familiar with the capabilities and run through enough songs to see how special the DAP is. I am only now on my last day understanding what I will be missing when I send it on.
      • Scaling: I had an awha moment when I upgraded my HD700 cables to a Norne Solv X Silver Litz which brought them to a new level. Most of my X7 listening has been through the HD700s so man was I surprised when the scaling I heard this week at a Seattle meet on Summit gear translated directly to the X7 DAP as well. My library sounded new with the X7 and the new HD700 config just as it did on the summit gear. I lost 4 hours sleep last night listening to the X7 with it unable to put it down. The X7 as a source is putting out more than we can hear on lessor HPs and truly calls for better gear.
      • Stacking: Sorry guys, this is not an all in one solution with the current IEM amp module, but neither is the X5, DX90, AK100/120ii, AK240/380, or any of the others IMO as they all sound better with my little C&C BH2 amp. After some comparisons, I quickly standardized on stacking my BH2 to show the X7’s true performance. Man does it scale well with an amp so you can keep enjoying your stack with a new improved source.
      • Working UI: It works and seems to be getting better, but it is no AK. The bottom line is that FiiO has a product that works for my needs now, and is getting better with each firmware release. FiiO has been proven to take their FW updates seriously unlike other firms, so there is no telling where the UI will be in comparison to AK given another year.
    • X7 Signature:
      • Overall: This is a front row or front section presentation that provides its details in note thickness as well as being more intimate in presentation than some other DAPs. For me this is a good thing as I find details through brightness to be fatiguing which is not the case with the X7. The X7 is full sized, but not overly wide so it can feel congested like many DAPs do, but it has a nice bottom end to make things fun.
      • Bass: Goes big without getting in the way. While I don’t consider this to be a warm signature, it is on the warmer side of neutral. That warmness goes into the texturing without stepping onto the mids.
      • Mids: This is a neutral type signature with neutral mids. That means that the mids depend on the song, but are typically more prominent than a typical recessed DAP like my old DX90.
      • Treble: The treble is not prominent, but smooth being well integrated into the signature. There is a little brightness at higher volumes, but not as much as my AK100ii. For me, this is an example of treble done right.
      • Sound Stage: Reasonable width, but not wide by any count. Great placement, but not much space between instruments. Full sized feel adds to the instrument placement. Not 3D like the Mojo, but can pick out the instruments that are next to each other. Amping improves sound stage considerably as it adds to the full sized character.
      • Texture: Great ticklish texturing that you can feel somewhat. The amp brings the texturing to the next level. While it sounds natural, the Mojo was more natural.
      • Dynamics: The x7 dynamics is a strength that grows when amped. The dynamics are where some of the detailing and sound stage comes from.
    • X7 Pairings:
      • NT6pro: The pro seemed congested in the mids at first, but seem to be ok now sounding great. However, they do not have the width that the HD700s bring to the table so they may seem congested by comparison. The reason that this is weird to me is that the pros have a tendency to beat/match the TOTL HPs on high end sources including the mid-level HD700. So I am guessing that even though they sound great there is a pairing issue. My suspicion grows stronger when I hear the improvement when adding the BH2 amp.
      • HD700: Sounds great, clear, and wide with strong bass response making for a very fun listen. That was with the old stock cable, but with the Norne Solv X cable my HD700 scaled into the stratosphere and the X7 happily allowed this liftoff with more SQ than I knew was there. Awesome job FiiO.
      • LCD2.2: Unamped, the x7 does a respectable job driving the LCD2.2 as it is not that hard to drive. However, it doesn’t near the LCDs potential with the bass being a bit soft and the sound stage a bit collapsed. But it sounds better than low end HPs any day. Now adding an amp makes all the difference in the world. Adding my BH2 makes the LCD2.2 sing and as a source, the X7 combination excels.
    • X7 SQ Comparisons:
      • AK100ii: AK 52 of 75 – x7 75 of 120: Very close, x7 has a little more thickness to the note while the ak is a little more detailed, but I am splitting hairs. I do think that the x7 has a stronger bottom end. They are even closer going to AK balanced from SE HO. Both sound great, neither is overly wide in sound stage, but better than lessor units like the x5. Both are first row, full sized, detailed presentations. However, one surprise is that the x7 remains listenable/enjoyable at higher volumes than AK which gets a little bright. I suspect that the x7 has a linear volume where the AK feels more exponential. Both sound great at low volumes, but the x7 retains a little more of the thicker textured note which is a positive to me. In the end, the x7 matches or surpasses the AK SQ at a lower price point. In terms of looks and form factor, the smaller prettier ak takes an easy win and is a more pocketable unit. But, whatever….. Coming back to UI, I have a strong preference for the AK
      • AK100ii/BH2: See below, no contest as the BH2 takes everything to the next level.
      • Mojo: Indirect comparison: Listened to the Mojo last week and found it to beat my AK/BH2 setup substantially directly out of my iPhone. The Mojo sound stage is not the widest, but definitely wider and more 3d than either the AK or x7 paired with the BH2. However, the Mojo is for a different purpose and the x7 brings most of its sound in a single unit. However, I still want a Mojo after hearing the x7 for those rare times that the Mojo makes sense in my lifestyle.
      • X5: The X5 is a fun unit that brings the presentation forward and in your face with thick meaty notes providing fun, but with a high level of detail giving it the audiophile feel. However, the X7 is an obvious upgrade in every way – except for that stupid lock screen. Not much to say here, moving on.
    • X7 Amped:
      • AK/BH2 vs. X7 Unamped: No contest, the BH2 takes the AK to another level.
      • X7/BH2 vs. AK/BH2: Wow, the BH2 take the x7 to another level too. However, the x7 adds more to the bottom end here too. I like the x7 better than the AK with the BH2 added to both. The X7 gets smoother than the AK when amped by the BH2. This would be desktop quality if we could get more width in the sound stage. Definitely full sized sound.
      • X7/BH2 Portable vs. Havana 2/Mjolnir Desktop: Obviously no contest, but it was closer than I thought with the LCD2.2. The problem with the Mjolnir is the brightness it adds to the LCD2.2 which I tame with the Havana 2 tube DAC. The X7 has a bit of that brightness as well, but the sound stage is not as strongly defined missing the desktop transparency and the tightness of the texturing. The x7 felt loose in comparison. However, the X7/BH2 has a nice smoothness to it and good enough umph and SQ that it would thrill anyone on the go but the utmost perfectionist. With the BH2 and playing “Thumper” by DJ Baby Anne, I could feel my molars rattling.
    • UI Notes:
      • Screen Off: Everything but volume works with the screen off. Same as the AK. I would strongly prefer a working volume.  Take that back, changing inputs or anything funky turns off the sound requiring a screen on to restart. So testing the unit and going back and forth was a pain in the butt.
      • Turning Screen On: It is a pain in the butt. The buttons are minimally responsive requiring visual confirmation that the push registered. Then you are greeted by a lock screen that is even more difficult to get right requiring numerous visual tries for me again. Only then can you attempt to figure out the next step. Please keep in mind that I have less than a couple hours using the device, but even regular users will need to visually confirm presses.
      • Turning Unit On: Very long hold and uncertainty that it is turning on until screen finally lights up with graphics.
      • Lock Screen: Why!!!!!!! What in the world would anyone want a lock screen for that places an extra obnoxious step into all the workflows. For example, when turning the volume up a notch: Turn screen on > unlock swipe > volume buttons. Three steps that require a visual approach. If I had to, I could remember where the on and volume buttons are to operate in my pocket which is where a DAP is supposed to reside, but with the swipe requirement, I have to have all eyes on deck. The volume buttons and the swipe are not easy use either requiring a bit of concentration to see if the volume shows up on screen and if the swipe took. Pain in the butt!!!
      • Hidden Functionality: There is a lot of hidden functionality that needs to be learned to operate correctly and smoothly. This is not an intuitive Apple or AK product. However, with a little patience, I expect that it can become natural as long as the other issues are eliminated in the FW updates. The good news is that it adds a lot once you learn it. The bad news it you have to read the instructions or you may never know that it is there.
      • Fixed Line Out: Fixed, no adjustments needed. Very nice.
      • Too Many Touches Required: Many of the work flows require too many unnecessary touches to get results. The lock screen messes most things up given that the screen time outs quickly requiring you to turn it on again to do things. It would be nice if we could keep everything at the external button level for basic commands. This would leave browsing and searching plus system changes as the only reason to turn on the screen.
    • Build: The x7 is solid and again built like a tank with great heft. However, the screen is exposed to breakage potential being raised a couple mm above the frame – ooopps! It looks reasonably expensive, but in a P1 kind of way vs. an AK more elegant kind of way. The AKs win the beauty contest, the UI usability contest, but at a great cost and delivering similar SQ.
     

    Conclusion

    If I didn’t already have the AK100ii, I would consider this DAP for its SQ to price advantage. However, having the AK, I don’t have a reason to jump today. Down the road after a few FW iterations fix my nits, and my AK bites the dust, I will likely pick one up. Another hold up for me is the amp. The BH2 did wonders for the X7, but I don’t want to carry a stack. If the new X7 amp modules can meet or beat the BH2 in an all in one setup, that would be motivation for me to make the move as well. Right now, the top of the SQ DAP wars for me is the Paw Gold, but that is too expensive and ugly/goddy for me and the UI is basic. If the amp module can get me to the Paw SQ, I’m in!!!
     
    Now for the big test, sending it on to the next tour participant. My opinion may change as I miss its SQ, scalability, and pairing with my newly invigorated HD700, This is where I may get weak in the knees and just buy one.  [​IMG] 
     

    September 2016 Update - Amp Module Tour

    With the completion of the FiiO X7 amp module lineup, I was given an opportunity to get the tour package back with the addition of the amp modules AM1, 2, 3, and 5. The real eye opener for me was the vast improvement on an already stellar performance that was achieved just through firmware updates. Since AM1 was the original amp module that came in the tour, the discussion there is about this improvement in SQ from the first tour.
     

    AM1 - Firmware Updates SQ Significantly

    This is the same setup as the original tour, but with firmware updates that have taken the X7 to a new level. The X7 has succeeded where many other Sabre implementations have failed - smooth HQ sound without the sharp edge. While the am1 does not have the grunt for the more power hungry HPs, it provides killer SQ that can be enhanced by your favorite amp pairing such as my C&C BH2. Paired, we are talking desktop quality in a DAP.
     

    AM2 - A touch More Volume

    While I appreciate the effort, I was not able to hear a significant difference in SQ between 1 and 2 so I did not spend much time with this unit. Was looking for more weight in the note, not just volume. If given the choice in an initial purchase I would go 2 for the additional volume, but would not buy aftermarket given my other choices.

    AM5 - Top Dog

    Between 1, 2, and 5 - 5 was the obvious. However, I didn't realize that the balanced module 3 was in the box free floating to spend some good time with it. My time was therefore mostly spent with am5. I found that it was a very transparent amp with nice weight and impact. There is no doubt I would go for the AM5 for the nice weight added to make the X7 a stand alone DAP and avoid traveling with a stack. This one is worth the after market purchase to me.

    AM3 - Ops, My Bad

    Unfortunately, I only found this module the day I needed to ship out. It was buried in the box in the peanuts without its own box which the others had. For the little I listened, 3 and 5 were close, but I never got to try the balanced mode which would have likely put it over the top. Wish that I could have spent some time here. Now I have a tougher decision given I like the balanced design and my CIEMs tend to work better with them. In a pinch, I would probably buy the AM3 over the AM5 and take a chance. Hoping that FiiO is at CAMJAM so that I might A/B the two and answer this question.

    C&C BH2 Amp Comparison

    Overall, while these modules all make the X7 a stand alone DAP, they are about transparency and detail. This is great, but I still like my BH2 amp better in its warmer more dynamic/euphonic signature. So at home I would stack, and on the go I would go single with the am3 or 5. But this is matter of preferences and technically, they are equivalent. 

    Overall

    The real eye opener was the improvement in the X7 sound quality by itself through firmware updates. Listening to the X7 with my BH2 and the HEX was magical. The DAP was great before, now it is even better and I am not a Sabre fan. I am missing the X7 sound and plotting to get one when I can get it past my wife's scrutiny. I am also looking for an opportunity to buy the X7 with the module of my choice which I suspect will happen soon.
      PinkyPowers likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Barra
      Wish I could hear a NT6 to compare to my Pro as I keep hearing conflicting descriptions of their differences. But I absolutely love my Pro as it compares or surpasses the TOTL HPs/CIEMs I have compared it to on the best Summit gear.
       
      With the Mojo, the NT6 seemed to pair well in a 30 minute demo at a friends house, but I didn't get to try long term to see what happened. Although, we ran into source issues with our optical from my AK100ii sounding lacking at best which may contribute to fatigue. The optical cables we tried were cheap and likely the issue or it was my AK. However, switching to my iPhone 6 thru a cheap USB, the Mojo lit up and sung like a champ. Did you try all the Mojo input options including the USB and try changing sources? The iPhone 6/Mojo/NT6pro combo was wonderful.
       
      While I warmed up to the X7/NT6pro pairing, the HD700 was the better pairing which is unusual and with the new silver cables, the HD700 pairing went into the stratosphere. But the NT6pro was better than the HD700 on the Mojo with the stock cables.
      Barra, Dec 8, 2015
    3. ptolemy2k6
      Nice comparison/critical review. Hopefully someone can get FiiO to check it out. I would hate to press bunch of buttons if I didnt need to
      ptolemy2k6, Dec 8, 2015
    4. ade_hall
      The volume works with the screen off but you have to keep pressing it.
       
      The Lock Screen can be turned off in settings
      ade_hall, Dec 12, 2015
  3. intlsubband
    Excellent DAP, comparable to AK100ii
    Written by intlsubband
    Published Feb 15, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Excellent sound, very versatile OS with good UI, good build quality
    Cons - Internal memory could be better, location of headphones socket
    First, I wish to acknowledge that I received a demo unit as part of the Australia and New Zealand world tour. I wish to thank FiiO and Brooko for organising the tour, and for allowing me to demo the unit. It should be noted however that there was no expectation communicated for this to influence the review in any way.
     
    This review is divided to 2 main parts: Physical appearance / UI, and the sound quality. The main device used for comparison is the Astell & Kern AK100ii, which has been my main portable DAP in the last year, and occupies a similar price range (in Australia, at the time of writing, the X7 can be had for about 900-950 AUD, while the AK100ii can be had for about 1,000 AUD).
     
    Physical appearance and UI

    Out of the box, I immediately noticed a similarity to the feel of the AK100ii. Both share a similar metallic frame with a washed pattern and a similar colour. The X7 appear slightly larger and slightly heavier (220g vs 170g). Both devices present nice touch screen, with the FiiO screen being slightly larger (4” vs 3.31”), both with 480X800 resolution. The AK100ii has a nice round volume attenuator, while the X7 opted for a two-button attenuator, is not as nice to operate.
     
    The controls show further similarities. In addition to the touchscreen, both devices have 3 physical control buttons on one side (forward, back, play/pause) and the volume control on another side, and a power button. Both devices respond to the physical buttons even when the screen is locked.
     
    A further look at the specs show further similarities: both include internal flash memory (64gb for the AK100ii compared with 32 for the FiiO X7), expandable via a single msd slot. The msd slot on the X7 is less recessed, and does not require an additional item to take the msd card in or out – an advantage over the AK100ii for people who change cards often. The X7 includes a separate line-out which doubles as coax out, while the AK100ii lacks a true line-level output (the “line out” setting simply maximises and locks the volume), and its headphones out doubles as optical out.
     
    While the X7’s inclusion of a separate line-level output is to be commended, its placement on the top of the device while the headphones out is located at the bottom is quite confusing. When I first got the device and plugged my headphones at the top of the device, I was surprised to find that I am unable to alter the volume using the volume slide. Upon further investigation I realised that the actual headphones out was located at the bottom of the device.
     
    Regarding the UI, both devices sport a fully-customised android-based UI, and on both devices the UI is relatively easy to use. The UI of the X7 is a significant improvement compared to the previous FiiO DAP I reviewed (X5ii), and is comparable to the easy UI of the AK100ii. I still found a couple of small things not as intuitive as the AK100ii, for example when viewing the list of artists, and then choosing an artist to reveal the list of albums, one would expect to choose an album to reveal the track list in the same way, however it operates on a slightly different menu.
     
    One significant difference of the devices is that the X7 allows for the installation of apps. This makes the X7 as potentially including more functions and one can use the X7 for more applications than just music. However, the X7 can also operate on a “pure music mode”, which makes the X7 a “pure” music player. The AK100ii can only operate on that mode, so the X7 offers the added benefit – for those users who wish for it – to install other apps and use the X7 for other applications.
     
    To conclude, in terms of physicality, the X7 has a nice touch and feel to it and it includes a separate line-level output, which the AK100ii is lacking. However it is slightly larger and heavier than the AK100ii, the location of the headphone port is not ideal, and the two-button attenuator has a slightly satisfying feeling compared to the AK100ii’s.
     
    Sound quality:
     
    I chose to address the sound quality last, because of the inherent subjectivity of the matter. When comparing the devices, I had no way of conducting a truly blind comparison, so placebo effect cannot be ignored. Having said that, I feel that both devices present a clear and detailed sound, with some very small perceived differences which may or may not be real.
    The headphones used for this review are, in order of importance:
     
    1. PSB M4U2 – my main portable headphone, very balanced sound, which I often use as a benchmark to testing portable equipment.
    2. Ultrasone Performance 880 (modified with HM5 hybrid pads) – a recent purchase, an excellent over-ear with exceptional soundstage and dynamics.
    3. HE-500 (modified) via Meier Audio Corda Classic amplifier – my main home setup. I don’t usually connect my portable audio to my desktop gear directly (usually I would use my reference DAC) but the direct connection to extremely clean and balanced Corda Classic amplifier allows to test the output from a more detailed, open-back headphone.
     
    For this comparison I have used a variety of the genres I mostly listen to, including: rock, funk, soul, blues, jazz, and country/folk. Apologies for fans of other genres that were not used for this review (EDM, classical), as well as users of IEMs, as I only use over-ear headphones.
     
    I find that both amplifiers present a very clean sound, with a low noise floor. I do find that the noise floor is slightly lower on the AK100ii, which is evident in some acoustic/quiet track (for example, Guinneviere by Crosby Stills and Nash). The X7 appears to my ears to have slightly better lower-end dynamics, with a very nice punch around the mid-bass regions. The AK100ii, however, seems to have a slightly more elevation in the treble, which makes tambourines for example sound a bit clearer and more present. However, both devices seem to produce very crisp mids, that are a joy to listen to. The X7’s sound is full, rich, and detailed, and generally sounds very similar to the AK100ii.
     
    While I couldn't find or generate measurements of the actual power output, I would venture a guess that the X7 has slightly more output power compared with the AK100ii. This appears more noticeable with the Ultrasone P880, which seems to be driven better by the X7 without an external amp. The PSB M4U2m with their internal amplifier sounded great with both devices, as did the M100.
     
    To conclude, while both devices offer similar sound quality, the X7 seems to me to have a slightly elevated low-end, while the AK100ii has slightly elevated treble. Apart from those small differences the sound is rich, detailed, and open. The X7 seems to have slightly stronger amplification, which can be especially beneficial to those who use it with over-ear headphones. Another difference in the amplification section is that the AK100ii comes with a balanced output, while the X7 comes with a detachable amp section, which can be upgraded to higher power and balanced modes. I didn’t try any of the upgrade modules.
     
    Overall, the X7 is an excellent DAP that is comparable with the AK100ii, and even holds some advantages over it (higher power output, proper line level output, ability to install apps, ability to upgrade amp module), and some disadvantages (lower internal memory, lack of stock balanced output, location of headphones socket, lesser attenuator).
      Brooko likes this.
  4. n05ey
    FIIO X7 - a great experience, leaves me wanting more
    Written by n05ey
    Published Feb 6, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - great ui, solid build, responsive screen
    Cons - a little chunky

    Intro

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Packaging

     

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

     

     

     

    Build

     

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

     

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

     

    Interface

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    All in all, I enjoyed the experience.

     

    Sound

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

     

    General impressions –

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Conclusion

     

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

     

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

     

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


  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. fleasbaby
    Weekend at Bernie's...
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published Dec 30, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Mature, detailed, beautiful sound
    Cons - New f/w for FiiO, therefore needs work
    I remember when the FiiO X3 came out. It was an idea that had originally been shelved, but was later resurrected, and released. In retrospect, I see it as FiiO’s opening shot, an exploratory probe in to the world of DAPs. After cutting their teeth using the X3, FiiO moved swiftly and decisively. The X5, X3ii and the X5ii followed in quick succession, each a step forward, a refinement of firmware, UI, build and in the background, subtle, but still there, sonic changes (the biggest was the switch from the X3’s warm sound signature, to the more accurate, clearer sound of the X5).
     
    Now FiiO has released what I predict will likely be their next opening shot…the X7 looks like it will be an exploratory probe into the world of higher-end DAPs. Among many other firsts, most notably, it is their first player to use an Android interface, have wi-fi and use a touch screen. It also borrows a concept I haven’t seen done by anyone other than Hifiman and expands upon it. It has swappable amp modules.
     
    I have had the good fortune to get a week with a tour unit, sent around the world for a few folks to have the opportunity to review the X7 and share their thoughts. I have not been paid for this review, and will not be keeping the tour unit. I am not affiliated with FiiO in any way and am a strictly independent listener. I use 16/44 FLAC files for all of my listening and my tastes run from jazz and the blues through to leftfield and experimental electronic music, with a lot in between.
     
    My last moment spent with a FiiO player was when they sent an X5ii around the globe for reviewers. It was at that time I succumbed to a temptation, a dark horse I had not anticipated meeting or running off with. In fact, I planned on buying an X5ii. I was distracted at the last minute by the Pono, and have ever since been enjoying its numerous delights. Time has rolled on and I am still entranced by it.
     
    I have spent the last few days listening to the X7 and the Pono, and can honestly say I have enjoyed listening to the X7. It has been a delightful experience. I can’t help but feel though, that I have been holidaying away from my wild co-ed apartment in the city with my quiet, wealthy uncle out in the suburbs. Compared to the Pono, the X7’s sound signature is polite, accurate, reliable and completely relaxing. The unit drove several different headphones and earbuds very competently. I had the good fortune to test it with Hifiman Edition X (also a tour unit), a pair of Magnum V6 drivers in Black Limba and Rosewood cups of my own making, the VE Zen (both the 1.0 and 2.0 version), the VE Monk, the Blox M2C and BE3, the T–Peos Altone 200 and the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
     
    With the Edition X especially I felt like I could quietly slip back into a comfy chair, drink a cup of tea and let myself maybe take an afternoon nap. Aurally, everything was in its place, neither aggressive nor shrill and immaculate in its presentation. This is a stark contrast to the Pono. Usually it has me up, tapping my toes, looking for an alcoholic beverage and cruising my music collection for fast, rollicking tracks.
     
    Like that wild co-ed apartment in the city though, the Pono lacks some amenities that one will always have when visiting that quiet, orderly, wealthy uncle. Want wi-fi access and streaming (Tidal, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime…)? The X7 can help with that. Want access to the Google Play store? The X7 will sort it out for you. Bluetooth? The X7 again.
     
    All of this makes me see the X7 as not necessarily better or worse than the Pono…just…different. It aims somewhere else in the DAP market, and hits it squarely in the chest. The average person who uses something like the Pono frequently eschews streaming services in favor of local media. They don’t see the attraction of using an app to tweak sound performance, or feel any desire to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The X7 gives you all of this and more.
     
    One day, sonically speaking, I’ll be ready to give up my hedonistic ways, and move out to the suburbs, live a quiet life, and settle down. And when I do, the X7 will likely be my first choice for where I want to be. I am sure I am not alone in this, in fact I am sure there are many making that life-choice right now. The X7 is 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a small town somewhere pleasant in a nice climate.
     
    It has a few odd little firmware quirks and the UI does take a little while to get used to, but other than that its build is solid and sexy, it sounds great and will be customizable when those amp modules start coming out…and FiiO is usually very quick to take feedback and fix firmware issues rapidly…
     
    Buy without fear if you’re looking to settle down comfortably [​IMG]
      RebeccaSugar likes this.
  8. lalala6
    X7 - FiiO's best effort yet!
    Written by lalala6
    Published Dec 29, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Design, build quality, ease of navigation, DAC implementation, overall sound, value for money
    Cons - Minor UI quirks, IEM module does not unleash X7's full potential

    FiiO X7 Review by lalala6​

     
    IMG_20151214_224509.jpg
     
    Disclaimer: This X7 is a preview unit kindly loaned to us by FiiO for the X7 world tour. A big thanks to Joe and team for organizing this tour and letting many people experience the X7 first hand!
     
     
    About Me
     
    I have been an avid audiophile for 3 years and counting. Starting from portable and then branching to desktop, I have slowly accumulated more and more gear, buying and selling stuff to try to find the perfect collection of IEMs, headphones, amps and sources for my musical needs. I listen almost exclusively to Japanese music, mainly Anime songs, J-pop and Japanese indie (doujin). But even within those genres, there are many musical styles resembling many different genres, like rock, metal, acoustic, ballad, jazz, piano, and even classical. I believe most of the music I have are well mastered, and I know a bad recording when I hear one.
     
    Since this is a DAP review, I thought I should share my experience with DAPs. I currently own an iBasso DX80, and have owned in the past many DAPs; namely every single DAP that FiiO released before X7, iBasso DX90 & HDP-R10, Cayin N6, HiFiMAN HM-650, Walkman Z, F & A series. While I have never heard the ultra-expensive DAPs like Astel&Kern, I consider myself quite well-versed on DAPs and know how a good DAP should sound like.
     
    Gears used in this review:
     
    - FiiO X7 with IEM amp module (duh)
    - FiiO E12DIY with OPA827 + LME49600
    - IEMs: Audio Technica ATH-CK100 & CKR9LTD, DUNU DN-2000, JVC FX850
    - Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD2000, Fostex TH-X00
    - Other DAPs: iBasso DX80
     
     
    Packaging and Accessories
     
    IMG_20151214_225323.jpg
    IMG_20151214_225530.jpg
     
    The X7 comes in a simple black box with minimal text or decoration. Opening it reveals the unit, and underneath it is a box containing the manuals and accessories. While it does the job well, for $650 I was hoping for a fancier packaging that will properly convey the class of FiiO’s flagship statement DAP; maybe something like the HDP-R10 packaging. Well, considering the amount of features and quality packed into the X7, I guess we can’t complain.
     
    For accessories, it comes with two screen protectors, a USB cable, coaxial cable, screwdriver and spare screws for the amp module. The retail version will also come with a transparent case.
     
     
    Aesthetics and Build Quality
     
    IMG_20151214_224605.jpg
    IMG_20151214_224710.jpg
     
    The X7 has a very modern and sleek look, with its minimalist design, brushed aluminum and metallic body. High points for visuals right there. The build quality is equally as impressive. It feels like a solid and expensive chunk of metal in your hands, with absolutely no creakiness or moving parts inside. Buttons are tactile and clicky. The X7 is something people would be proud to own.
     
     
    Removing Amp Module
     
    IMG_20151214_231342_HHT.jpg
     
    The amp module is very easy to remove. After taking out the screws on the sides of the X7 with the provided screwdriver, the module can be detached smoothly, and can be inserted as just smoothly. While this is a very easy operation, having to keep that screwdriver near you can be cumbersome for some and this means you cannot swap modules while on the go as you risk losing the screws or the screwdriver. I would prefer a lock-in system where no screws are involved.
     
    One thing that irked me is the “T5” wording below the screws on the amp module. Not sure if this is just on the tour unit, but there is no need to label what size the screws are on unit itself. Just leave it as information available in the manual, for those who are inclined to know. You don’t see Apple labeling what type of screws they use on the iPhone, do you?
     
     
    UI and Navigation
     
    IMG_20151214_225105.jpg
     
    The X7 runs on Android 4.4, and the OS works pretty much flawlessly. If you have used an Android smartphone before, you will have no problems picking up the X7 and using it. There are two modes, the Android mode and Pure Music mode. The music player is just an app in Android mode, while in Pure Music mode it runs just the music player, making it work like a dedicated DAP. Navigation in the FiiO Music app is fast, smooth, logical, and overall an enjoyable experience.
     
    However, there are some minor quirks in the UI that needs correction, and I have made a list of suggestions to improve the UI:
     
    - Delete button revealed too easily when accidentally swipe left, breaking the momentum of scrolling. Suggest to put delete button together with the three buttons revealed when swiping right.
    - In the Now Playing screen, a tiny accidental swipe on the album art changes the track too easily. Suggest to change tracks only with a longer and more deliberate swipe on the album art
    - Top part of the album art is cut off in the Now Playing screen. Suggest option to hide the notification bar.
    - In the built-in settings in FiiO Music app, allow user to toggle the Gain, Balance, and In-line Remote right in the app instead of directing them to Sound Settings whenever those are clicked.
    - In Sound Settings, capitalize LO and SPDIF, and rename 'Lrbalance' to 'LR Balance'
    - Put an indicator whenever EQ is enabled, either on the Now Playing screen or on the notification bar.
     
     
    Battery Life
     
    The battery life of X7 is decent for a DAP. I could get around 7-8 hours of playback on a single charge in Android mode. While this isn't impressive numbers by any means, having to power a high-end desktop DAC while also powering the SoC and amp module yet managing to squeeze out average DAP battery life is a win in my book.
     
     
    Sound
     
    Here comes the part you have been waiting for – how’s the sound quality?
     
    Well, I’m not too good at expressing sound in words, but I’ll try my best.
     
    The X7 with the IEM amp module can be characterized as having a warmish neutral sound. Bass is slightly elevated above neutral, creating the warmth that is in line with FiiO’s house sound. While the X5II is a departure from the house sound with an airier and more neutral signature, the X7 makes a triumphant return to their signature sound, and does it better than any FiiO DAPs before it could. The flagship Sabre ES9018S DAC really helps in this, bringing tons of micro-details, superb dynamics, and impeccable staging to the table. I can say the DAC is extremely well implemented in the X7, and is the best line-out I’ve ever heard from a DAP.
     
    Here I shall describe in detail the sound with the stock IEM module.
     
    Lows
     
    The bass is smooth, detailed and goes quite deep. There is a slight mid-bass bump creating a punchy sensation to the sound. Overall decent sounding lows, but could do with more definition and texture.
     
    Mids
     
    The mids are definitely the standout of the X7. Amazingly intricate, smooth and yet full of micro-detail and texture. Very dynamic and musical sounding, slightly forward in a nice way. On intimate recordings, the vocals are lush, detailed and incredibly expressive. Several times I had goosebumps while listening to vocals with the X7. For sure, one of the best DAPs for mids without having to spend much more.
     
    Highs
     
    The highs are very well controlled with no sibilance or harshness in the sound. Despite having a Sabre DAC, it is surprisingly smooth, and has no edginess in the treble that is common in many Sabre implementations. Might lack sparkle or excitement coming from brighter DAPs, but it is good for controlling bright IEMs. With warm IEMs I sometimes crave for more treble. Quality-wise it is very good and extends well, just not very noticeable as it sits behind the rest of the spectrum.
     
    Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
     
    Decent width but awesome depth, very 3D sounding; an inherited characteristic of the ES9018 DAC inside. Precise imaging and amazing instrument separation. One of the only DAPs I’ve heard that can give you such a believable, realistic stage and incredible layering. I could close my eyes and literally hear where the instruments are in the mix.
     
     
    Line-out
     
    IMG_20151214_224638.jpg
     
    Utilizing the X7 line-out to the E12DIY, everything gets improved to a mind-blowing degree. From a tighter, more defined bass, an even more dynamic and colorful mids, a more present and sparkly treble, to a huge increase in soundstage and separation. This shows just how capable the DAC in X7 is, and I can’t wait to see how the other amp modules will pair with it. If my E12DIY with the X7 is any indication, a better amp module will skyrocket its performance, putting the X7 squarely among the best of DAPs, regardless of price.
     
     
    Comparisons
     
    Vs DX80
     
    The DX80 has a leaner, more analytical sound compared to the X7. Surprisingly, the DX80 boasts much better lows, the bass being tighter, more refined and textured over the X7. In fact, the DX80 might have the best bass quality in DAPs under $1K, so it’s a bit of a tough fight there. Otherwise, the X7 beats it in all other areas. Mids on the X7 are more detailed and musical relative to the laid-back mids on the DX80. Highs, while lesser in quantity, are smoother and more refined than the DX80’s. Soundstage width is about the same, but the X7 definitely owns it in depth and height. The X7 is also more revealing and transparent, but that’s expected as it is twice the price of DX80.
     
    If the X7 had the bass of the DX80, it would be the perfect DAP (for my tastes).
     
    IMG_20151214_230723.jpg
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    Overall, I think the X7 is a good first attempt at a flagship Android DAP from FiiO. The design is wonderful and well thought out, the UI is fast and visually pleasing, the navigation is logical and a breeze to operate. Unfortunately, during my time with the X7 I did not try to download and use streaming apps, so I’ll leave the experience of streaming with the X7 to the other reviewers.
     
    Soundwise, FiiO set out and crafted a sound which I think will appeal to many customers. With the prospect of sound improvement and tuning with different amp modules, the possibilities are endless and a great fun to tinker around with. Thanks to an extremely well implemented DAC section, you are bound to have great sound no matter what amp modules or portable amps you pair it with!
     
    Finally, a BIG thank you and kudos to FiiO for being such an awesome company, listening to your customers’ wishes and making the best DAP you could for us! I wish you all the best and look forward to what amazing products will come from FiiO in the future.
  9. DougD
    Yet another review of the FiiO X7 on World Tour - a very nice piece of gear
    Written by DougD
    Published Dec 28, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality is excellent; value
    Cons - UI is functional but somewhat limited; the placement of the pause button
    Quick review of the FiiO X7

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

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

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

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

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

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    My special interests and issues in testing the X7:
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

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

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

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

    --------------------------------------------------
    Observations, notes & comments:

    --------------------------------------------------

    *---- about me -----* 

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

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

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

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

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

    * earlier today when the Wi-Fi was turned on, the X7 told me that firmware 1.5 was available and could be installed. I didn't avail myself of that invite ... something for the next person to do, if feedback on the update suggests it's essentially bug-free ... but nevertheless that's a neat capability for the X7 to have. Especially if it goes through a period of regular firmware updates as more capabilities and fixes are added. 
     
    * Loaded up a bunch of xmas and "regular people" tunes on a new micro-SD card in preparation for the annual xmas "obligatory 2 day holiday tour around the state to visit various relatives." Was thwarted in my effort to share good music cheer because the X7 and my vehicle (2013 Honda Odyssey) were not able to to find each other to make a BlueTooth connection. Was on the road and didn't get to fiddle with it much. (Unfortunately, I had assumed the BlueTooth would work, and neglected to also bring a line-out cable as a backup. Whoops. Had to listen to the radio, how retro 20th century. Under my reindeer antlers headpiece, I was secretly embarrassed by this technology failure. Fortunately, the wifelette was pre-occupied with hitting the travel schedule.) 
     
    * Battery life: I didn't really time it, but from my experience 8-10 hours seems a good guess. And remember, I'm using cans that need more power than IEMs would. That's enough for me, anytime I know I'm going to be unable to recharge for more than 8 hours, I have a number of cheap "recharge your mobile device via USB" batteries I can bring along. (They're a commodity accessory now, $10-$15 for 3000 to 6000 mAh.)
     
    * Recharge via USB --> fast. I'd guess it took less than 2 hrs to go from 6% to 100%, while the X7 was playing.
     
    * USB connection to PC. Worked fine for a while. Plug in the USB cable, and up popped a "Connect in Android mode" screen. But that is not happening now, in either Pure Music or Android mode. Don't know if I inadvertently turned something off on the X7 or on my PC. Regardless, loading tunes onto a card is usually faster for me if I plug the card directly into a card-reader on the PC rather than use a USB cable to an external device anyway, so I generally do not move tunes via a USB cable.
     
    * re-scanning the list of tunes: the X7 took 80 seconds to scan the internal storage and a 128-GB card, and to register 2,930 tracks. I was happy with that. (The track count for that size card is kinda low, because I put a large number of high-rez files on the card for testing purposes, and of course those files tend to be much larger than normal 16/44.1 redbook files.)
     
    * I LOVE that FiiO isn't burdening the X7 with a ton of expensive internal storage. With a card slot, we get essentially unlimited storage capacity, as much as anyone wants to buy, and can purchase whatever size cards offer the best capacity vs price trade-off, any given time. To me, at the moment the 128-GB cards are still the sweet spot. Because the X7 rescans a memory card so fast, swapping a new card in is no big deal. (Unless you drop the old one on the floor of a crowded public transit bus in the dark, etc. Some free advice: don't do that.)  Two card slots would be nice, but it's not essential.
     
     
    *----- bottom line ---* 
     
    I like the FiiO X7 a LOT. Even with the IEM amp module, SQ was excellent on full-size headphones that are reasonably well-matched. Super as a transport to desktop gear. No show-stoppers in terms of usability from my point of view. Its functionality with Tidal is making me re-think about the fun and usefulness of wireless streaming, which up to now frankly I had not seen much point to.
     
    Will it rip the guts out of the market for top-end A&K models? Don't know, but it will certainly push them as "a value proposition." Hate that phrase, but it fits here.
     
    How does the X7 compare to other hot new DAPS, such as the Questyle Q1PR, the Onkyo DP-X1, or even the LG-V10 ? Don't know that either, haven't had a chance to play with any of them.
     
    But I would say that if SQ is your #1 consideration, which IMO it certainly should be, then the X7 is most certainly a very serious contender, as is. 
      Peridot likes this.
    1. peareye
      Nice Read! i too bought a pair of Stax back then (1976)...still have the bill (just over 200.00)...
       
      i had them over 20 years: they took longer and longer to get up to volume (like a tube radio) when i first turned the power on...
       
      you're lucky yours still work!
      peareye, Dec 28, 2015
    2. DougD
      (re the Stax) Yeah, mine definitely show their age. I leave then on, and thus "charged up", 24x7x365. From a cold start, it can take a couple of hours for the two sides to sound the same. Oddly enough, I just bought a new (old) amp to power them. But that's off-topic!
      DougD, Dec 28, 2015
  10. cleg
    Great flagship DAP, showing new horizons for players
    Written by cleg
    Published Dec 24, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - android, ability to exchange amp, overall sound signature, build, screen
    Cons - IEM amp is weak
    1MainPic.jpg

    Well, I can't resist adding my 5 cents about this great DAP. I won't write much, as Head-Fi already have 16 reviews of X7, so everyone who's interested in build quality, box content, UI, etc. already satisfy their curiosity. I'll try to summarise my own impressions on sound.

    So happened, X7 was introduced with least powerful amplifier module, called IEM amp. It have about 100 mW @ 32Ω, which isn't much, even compared with Fiio X5-2, so X7 have a great chance to improve sound in future. Fiio promised 2 or 3 more amplifier, including powerful amp for big cans and balanced amp.

    For now, I'd call X7's sound signature close to neutral, with incredible level of details and leaned toward analytical representation. In some seldom cases, player sounds a bit "dry", but it's because of no coloration in sound. I've tried X7 with my E12DIY, so I'm sure that with future amps X7 will perform even better.

    8WithTitan1.jpg

    Bass is tight, fast and pretty accented. It allows player to render it nicely, showing it's texture and smallest nuances of low frequency instruments. Bass punches with good power and authority, so with bass-hevy headphones it can even overpower listener, so you should listen X7 with your headphones first. For example, Dunu Titan 5 have too much slam for me.

    Mids are absolutely flawless. Well-coocked Sabre inside X7 shows itself from best side, revealing even tiniest details of recording. This makes X7 very picky for recordings quality, but of course it's not a player's issue. Emotional, spacious representation of mids is an X7's best side. Scene is on wider side, and it's depth is really, really good. Please keep in mind that X7 won't add anything to records from itself, so dry, dull recordings will sound dull and dry.

    Higsh will be an issue for those, who are treble-sensitive. X7 represents treble without any smoothness and without an attempt to make it less harsh then they are. With some headphones (hello again, Titan 5) it gives harshness. So, if you don't like treble, keep it in mind. If you're ok with this part of spectrum, you'll enjoy airy and light presentation of X7.

    To summarise, there are some minor issues in X7's sound, but it still sounds more then great even for it's price tag, and please keep in mind, that future amp modules have a potential to greatly improve X7's sound.

    11WithX5-2.jpg

    Few comparisions (please note, that this is a pretty subjective opinion)

    L&P L5 Pro In some sense, L5Pro is an antipode for X7. L5Pro offers more smooth, softer sound, in exchange for little loss of details.

    Questyle QP1R Another raising star on DAP market. Questyle's patented amp allows this player to show great synergy with most of heaphones, even picky ones. QP1R have better trebles, but to my ears it's lacking some bass texture, compared with X7. Also, QP1R's awful scroll will kills it's usability, making it hard to use.

    Cayin N6 My favourite "top-middle" segment DAP. This player have enjoying, musical representation, but have somewhat less resolution compared with X7. New Fiio's flagship have more analytical sounding.

    Fiio X5-2 Former flagship now goes to middle segment, offers less resolving sound with less depth of lows, but if we keep in mind price factor, X5-2 is still a really great player.

    iBasso DX80 New iBasso's middle segment DAP is a complete antipode to X7. It offers absolutely emotionless, smoothed sound without any accents. X7 with it's lows impact and straightforward treble offers absolutely different sound approach.
      twister6 likes this.