FiiO X7 - Reviews
Pros: Sound quality, build quality
Cons: UI, value
Following on from quite a line of portable and desktop audio devices, Fiio has now released the X7. This is now their flagship device and a whole new beast at that. This beauty runs Android (a first for Fiio) and is equipped with some very interesting features.
First there is the ESS9019 DAC chip made by Sabre. This is not your usual run-of-the-mill DAC chip, this thing is desktop grade hardware, and is well revered for its audio quality.
But perhaps the most interesting concept is the amp-module. Here Fiio has tried something different, allowing users to swap out amp modules in order to drive more power-hungry cans, and, of course, make some adjustments to the sound signature. You see, in a perfect world an amp would only be there to provide varying levels of power output…but this is the real world, where few things are quite so black and white. Often I see people on forums asking about this or that amp, and it would seem that most of the time the recommendations tends to focus on the power output; often forgotten is the impact that an amp will have on the sound signature. And this is where I feel the amp modules will be of the greatest interest…the ability to cater to your specific sound signature requirements; whether this be to offset the signature of your cans, or to simply get a specific type of sound which complements the listener’s taste in music.
So, before I dive into the review, let me give you a little background info on myself as to better understand what it is that I look for and what my position on the X7 is.
If I had to describe my taste in music, I guess I’d say that I’m an audio purist. By that I mean my aim is to listen to the music the way it was intended; pure and unadulterated. My taste reaches far and wide, everything from jazz to classical, hip-hip to rock, acoustic to RnB. Whilst I fully understand some (perhaps most) people generally only listen to one or a few genres, it makes sense for them to get an audio setup which complements the music the listen to.
But when you’re looking to get the purest sound, it’s a whole other ball-game. This means that my setup needs to be as neutral as possible, to not emphasize or depreciate, to not add nor take away any of the sounds. I wouldn’t go out and buy a painting, and then decide “you know what this needs? More blue”...and then proceed to make my own adjustments. I treat music the same way. I want to hear what the artist wanted to portray, not to do their job for them and try to make the music better. Some people will get that and some won’t, but nobody is right or wrong either way; it’s all a matter of taste.
But, I’m also on a sensible budget. Unless I can hear a clear difference between different setups, I see no point in spending extra cash on something which is “technically better”, but doesn’t add to my experience in reality. Again, to each their own and there’s no right or wrong way.
 
So, the X7; let’s get on with it.
This is the second time I’m takin part in a Fiio world tour, the first having been with the X3 Gen 2. I think it’s a great concept to allow people to review upcoming products and it is indeed quite exciting to take part in. What I particularly like about taking part in these world tours with Fiio is the fact that they don’t try to sensor the reviews. They want users to give their honest opinions, and I respect that greatly.
Those who have been following the X7 thread on Head-fi may have noticed my rather strongly opinionated first impressions of the device, so this time round I will attempt to exercise more, umm, diplomacy.
 
Packaging
I must say, I prefer the new packaging. It seems more modern and classy. Up until now much of Fiio’s packaging were red and black bokes…nothing wrong with them, but nothing that really said “premium” either. I’m not going to spend any time describing the extra bits in pieces in the box, since the main focus here is the device.
 
Design
The X7 is genuinely a beautifully crafted device. Everything about it looks premium. It doesn’t look like it was designed by some Chinese audio device manufacturers, but perhaps rather a German car maker. When I first held the device, it felt solid. Be sure to hit the gym before picking it up though, as it is deceptively heavy, tipping the scale at 220g.
But for me, this is where the positives of the design end. The screen sits about a millimetre or two higher than the rest of the chassis, and just looks a bit quirky. The thickness of the entire device also doesn’t make it feel natural in the hand (granted, I don’t have large hands). On the back there is quite a “hump” which makes placing your fingers on the back feel rather awkward. I guess the weight, added with the form just makes it feel rather unstable in the hand.
Along the top of the device you’ll find a 3.5mm line-out and coaxial out combo jack. On the right is the play/pause button and a forward/back rocker. Along the bottom is the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack (which is part of the swappable amp module). And finally on the left is the micro-SD slot, power button and the volume rocker.
The side buttons do annoy me a bit. The logos printed on the device for the volume and forward/back rockers are exactly the same. One would think that Fiio would’ve used the usual “double arrows” to indicate the function of the forward/back rocker, but instead the same single arrow logo is used for both rockers. Not a major deal, but just a little detail that seems like a bit of an oversight (forgive me, I’m a detail Nazi)
 
Interface
Here Fiio has done something rather interesting too. You get the full on android experience, but they’ve also developed what they call “PureMusic mode”. When this is selected, the device reboots into an interface specifically designed just for music. Basically, the only app that is allowed to run is Fiio’s own PureMusic app. All other unnecessary apps and services do not run in the background…well, that’s the idea anyway. In reality this has not been implemented properly. When you have other music apps installed, for some reason they still start up in PureMusic mode when you plug in the headphones. Not the end of the world, you just quit the app…but that’s not what is supposed to happen. At first this proved to be quite confusing to a new user since 2 songs playing at the same time throws you off.
This proved to be the start of my frustration and confusion with the device. When I first loaded music onto it, for whatever reason it would scan and then display all the songs twice. So instead of showing 24 songs, it was showing 48. When playing songs as well, the timer would start at 30:00, instead of 00:00. Very odd. A factory data reset did correct this eventually.
But to be really honest, the whole PureMusic app just frustrated me. It’s not the worst interface I’ve ever dealt with (not by a long shot), but as a graphics and web-designer, I am incredibly picky about how intuitive the interface is and whether or not specific design elements make sense (have a purpose). Don’t get me wrong, things seem functional, but the whole point of a good interface is to minimize the learning curve and to not leave the user feeling confused to any extent.
A pretty UI has never been Fiio’s pride and joy, and this is definitely their best looking one to date, but I fear that a number of people would not want to use the device purely based on their experience with the UI.
In Android mode things are quite familiar. You get the usual home screen, app drawer, and settings look and feel of KitKat. Thanks to the latest firmware update (version 1.5) the Play Store is now also available so you can download your favourite players and streaming apps…but I wouldn’t bother, not with alternative players anyways.
 
Sound
Let’s first get the testy stuff out of the way first. I used a 48Khz 24bit 10-20,000 Hz pink noise wave to record some frequency response graphs, and the results are quite interesting. All graphs have a ½ octave smoothing applied.
 
Pure Music Mode
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Android Mode – HibyMusic
x7AMhiby.jpg
 
 
Android Mode – Neutron
x7AMneutron.jpg
 
 
Android Mode – Onkyo Player
x7AMonkyo.jpg
 
 
Android Mode – Poweramp
x7AMpoweramp.jpg
 
 
As you’ll see, the low and mid frequency range seem to be identical, but it’s in the highs that we see a drastic difference. HibyMusic and PureMusic mode seem to be extremely similar, however, you’ll notice that the volumes are quite different between Android and PureMusic mode. I did try to get the volumes the same, but my recording equipment picked up a lot of clipping at higher volume levels in Android Mode, and so I had to reduce the volume.
Neutron and Hibymusic seem quite similar, although it looks like Neutron has a slightly sharper roll off above 10kHz. Onkyo has an even sharper roll off, whilst Poweramp had the worst FR of all of them.
I wanted to use the Rockbox app as well, but couldn't as I couldnt see anything other than this screen when launching the app.
Screenshot_2015-12-24-21-24-36.png
 
 
For the sake of another comparison, here is the FR graph of my E18+E12A stack connected to my LG G3 running Lollipop and HibyMusic
hibye18e12abig.jpg
 
 
Since the E18+E12A stack is my main setup, I will compare it to the X7.
First off, the X7 does sound great, as is shown by the graphs, the FR is pretty damn good. But they also somewhat confirm what I was hearing. The X7 sounds wonderfully smooth, but just doesn’t quite have the sparkle of the E18+E12A in the higher frequencies, and as such highs seem just a tad pushed back. Instrument separation did seem a bit better on the X7 though, but the sound stage seemed a bit wider on the E18+E12A.
Honestly, that’s all I can say really, both setups sound incredibly similar, and if I wasn’t able to test them side by side, I genuinely wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Heck, even with testing them side by side, I have to really concentrate on what I’m hearing to discern a difference between them.
 
Battery Life
This has always been a concern of mine. As much as I love Android, it’s not what I would call battery friendly. I did some drain tests (until roughly 10%) in PureMusic mode to see the effects of leaving WiFi on and off.
 
On
Screenshot_2015-12-24-07-19-35.png
Screenshot_2015-12-24-07-19-31.png
 
Off
Screenshot_2015-12-24-20-14-28.png
Screenshot_2015-12-24-20-14-39.png
 
As you can see, not a big difference, about 15 minutes. I noticed something really strange though; for some reason it is not displaying the battery usage correctly. Each time it showed that the screen was the highest battery drain, but in both tests the screen was on at most for just over 5 minutes…very strange indeed. So, a battery life of approximately 8 hours doesn’t give me much hope for the device in terms of the battery. I say this because it is currently equipped with the IEM amp module. How much faster will it run out of juice when the higher power modules are connected?
Perhaps with further firmware improvements we’ll see the device become more efficient, but who knows?
 
Final Thoughts
Let me be clear, I’m in a very weird state of mind right now with regards to the X7.  Before I was able to get my hands on the device I read through other peoples’ impressions and reviews, and I couldn’t help but get really excited to try it out. Talks of how great it sounded, and the very “holographic” presentation it gave. I’m not saying they’re wrong, It’s just that when I compare it to my current setup, I don’t get the same sensation of awe. So when I finally got to plug my headphones in to get my fix of this awesomeness, I was left rather underwhelmed. Again, I’m not saying it doesn’t sound great, because IT DOES! But compared to my E18+E12A stack, there is absolutely nothing that makes me want the X7. I’m having a really hard time trying to justify why I would want to forget about my $320 stack in favour of a $650 device which doesn’t seem to provide me with any type of sonic improvement.
One the forum members mentioned something along the lines of “you can’t judge the sound of a device after only a few hours with it, you have to really listen to it for a longer period of time”. Personally, I couldn’t agree less. The best analogy that I can come up with is, let’s say you drive a French car, and someone hands you the keys to an Audi. The moment you climb into that car you just know it’s better put together. Everything just feels well thought out and engineered to precision. You don’t have to sit in the car for days on end to realise that, but you will appreciate it more as time goes on, and you start to realise why the German has the higher price tag. And I guess that’s where my disappointment with the X7 really comes in…there isn’t enough about it that screams at me “I’M WORTH MORE!”.
This is why I have a very weird state of mind right now. I feel both quite disappointed, and exceptionally relieved at the same time. Disappointed with what the X7 has delivered (or not delivered), and relieved that my humble E18+E12A setup still holds, what is in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck. Of course, the X7 does have a much more portable form factor, but it also couldn't hope to compete with the E18+E12A's 20+ hour battery life. But upon further reflection, perhaps the X7 is impressive after all. Perhaps it's a matter of the IEM amp module holding it back far more than I realise, and with the introduction of better modules it'll really bring the X7 to life.
The whole experience has left a rather bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. As I was discussing with a fellow reviewer, the X7 just feels incomplete. Almost as though there was a rush with the device, perhaps a deadline of some kind (maybe Christmas?) which was deemed more important than polishing the UI and ironing out the bugs. Fiio had a real chance to do something completely different here, to make a device like none other (and to some extent I suppose they have), but instead they sent out what feels to be a blueprint. What particularly annoys me is a buggy UI. UIs can be changed and perfected, so (in my opinion) there is no valid reason as to why they can’t properly test and sort out the UI before releasing the product to the consumers (especially for a $650 device). I’m talking about taking pride in one’s work, to do it to the very best of your ability. Taking pride doesn’t cost a penny.
I genuinely, honestly, truly hope that Fiio will take all the negative feedback and surprise us with a right hook to the jaw. Fiio is still, without a doubt, my favourite audio company and I will keep my hopes up that they will go up from here.
 
Last but not least I want to give a special thanks to Samma3a.com. For the purpose of this review I wanted to compare the X7 to the E18+E12A stack, and Samma3a gave me a 25% discount on the E12A. So thanks a lot Samma3a, it proved it be one of my best purchases yet!
 
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RebeccaSugar
RebeccaSugar
I want to let you know that I ordered the E12A and will pair it with my E17K.
If it sounds great. I will love you.
 
 
But for now.
I hate you, so so much.
 
 
Kisses.
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.
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Pros: Enjoyable engaging sound, build, amp module, onboard memory, ongoing firmware updates, flexibility, Fiio Head-Fi presence
Cons: Competition, dropability factor!
Many thanks once again to Brooko and Fiio for arranging this tour unit.
 
 
Build/Design/Ergonomics
 
The X7 is very well built with a functional smart phone type design, it has some heft to it and feels good in the hand. It's fairly long with the headphone jack at the bottom and physical transport buttons on the side towards the top, for in jacket use I preferred to have the transport buttons closer to the top for ease of use, this works best with headphones with a small right angle connector at the bottom. The X7 is quite heavy, smooth and slippy with a raised glass edge, if you are clumsy then seriously think about getting a case!
 
 
User Interface
 
Due to limited time I only used the Fiio Pure Music mode (1.1).
 
The software is surprisingly mature with a small learning curve but very easy once you get the hang, most importantly there were no crashes, glitches or dropouts whilst playing a mixture of ALAC and mp3, solid.
 
As with most new software there are a few quirks and issues that Fiio will hopefully be addressing, one (major for me) issue I have is the poor support for externally created playlists
 
A major advantage is Fiio has a Head-Fi presence and seems to listen to its customers and offers regular updates
 
 
Sound
 
All listening done with JH Audio JH-13 Pro
 
I got the Mojo about a week before the X7 turned up, which gave me a chance to get used to its smooth slightly warmish sound against my old HM-801 which is a bit brighter. The X7 also has a similar smooth and warm sound as the Mojo.
 
I tried doing quick comparisons, switching back and forth between the Mojo, X7, HM-801 and iPhone - sometimes I felt the X7 was better, sometimes the Mojo, sometimes the HM-801, sometimes no difference between any of them! Disillusionment and buyers remorse set in so decided to spend the remainder just listening to the X7
 
The X7 has a sound that didn't immediately grab me but as time went on I found myself enjoying it more and more and was sorry to see it go in the end. It has a nice natural feel with good levels of detail retrieval. From memory, the sound is similar to the X5ii, i.e. smooth, warm, full but with a much better engaging sound stage that makes the X7 a step above.
 
So which is better, X7 or Mojo? dunno, it's much of a muchness, the Mojo has maybe more treble extension and I feel the X7 has a wider soundstage which gives certain genres a greater sense of space.
 
The X7 has now gone and I'm back to the Mojo, on reflection I probably enjoyed the X7 more than the Mojo
 
I briefly tried the X7 from its line out hooked up to my home h-fi rig and it's good, really good
 
 
Conclusion
 
Fiio have a winner on their hands here, once there are more amp modules available and the usb dac functionality is working then is there anything out there that is as versatile and flexible for the same price?
 
Sound performance is subjective and I personally feel there's quite small differences between digital devices but having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the X7, recommended
thepooh
thepooh
Nice review ! Regarding the amp modules, as Hifiman is selling at nearly $300, I don't think it will cost that much but expecting something in the range of $100-150 from Fiio to be competitive enough, considering that the dap cost a hefty $700
Pros: Very fast G.U.I, Built on foundation designed for FW upgrading
Cons: G.U.I is best part of device

 

The Review

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

 
 

Navigation only

.
 
Hawaiibadboy
Hawaiibadboy
I'm thinking somebody will root that badboy and stuff V4A on it and bassheads might snatch em' up :)
shabta
shabta
Great Review. Looking forward to your Mojo review. Especially compared to ifi stack.
Hawaiibadboy
Hawaiibadboy
@shabta,  am working on it now.  :wink:
Pros: Great Sound at a Good Price - Touch Interface - Swappable Amp Modules - Very Detailed Music Reproduction - Dynamic Sound
Cons: Battery Life - One mSD Storage Slot - Button Layout
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Disclamer
 
The FiiO X7 was provided to me as a part of the FiiO X7 World Preview Tour in exchange for my impressions and honest opinion of the device. It has since left my possession and is in the hands of the next reviewers. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO and at this time do not own the X7. I'd like to thank @Joe Bloggs of FiiO for the opportunity to review the X7. This review is based entirely on my impressions and your impressions may be different from mine.
 
 
About Me (Frame of Reference)
 
I am an audio enthusiast in my mid forties and have enjoyed listening to music since my youth with vinyl, cassettes, and later CDs and digital files. I listen to wide variety of music from a perspective of losing myself to the experience. At times I like to be transported to different states of mind or emotion in the case of classical and OST recordings. Other times I go to the venue in the case of live recordings, binaural+, or studio sessions. Some times I just like to rock out. Every time, however, I want the clearest and most natural representation of the music that I can afford. If the track has thumping bass I want to hear it. If the track is complex with many instruments I want to hear each one. I listen critically often but also appreciate timbre and musicality. 
 
I've used Sony Walkman cassette players, mini disc players, Sansa Clip+, iPod classics, iPhones etc., over the years as my portable devices, and I have 'grown up' with headphones in my ears and players at my side. My first digital high resolution player was the FiiO X3 first generation. My current daily portable player is the AK240 and I enjoy it for its interface, musicality, refinement, and it's pairing with my JH Angie IEM.
 
 
FiiO X7 Links to Specifications and Tutorials
 
There are many reviews already about the X7 and since the unit is now fully released globally I won't re-hash or give outdated information in my review of a preview unit. Instead I'll provide links to the FiiO X7's product page and interface tutorials. Everything you need to know about the product can be found there.
 
Product Page LINK
 
Interface Tutorials LINK
 
App Installation LINK
 
 
Packaging
 
X7BoxFront.jpg X7BoxBackWide.jpg X7_BoxOpen.jpg
Standard FiiO packaging here.
 
The packaging of the preview unit I received is pretty much what the retail unit looks like. I do notice that there are different female models on the screen of the X7 on different boxes but I have no clue which one you'll end up with. After you lift the X7 out of the box there is another thin box that contains all the accessories that come with the unit.
 
 
X7_Accessories.jpg
Included accessories - Counter clockwise from the left:
 
- A button navigation guide.
- Warranty card.
- Extra screws for the amp module.
- TRRS coaxial adaptor for coaxial output.
- USB Data and Charging cable.
- Extra screen protectors.
 
The X7 does not come with a case but FiiO has said that one is in the works and I'm sure third party manufacturers will be making cases for the X7.
 
 
Hardware Look and Feel
 
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Size comparison to other DAPs in my collection. The X7 is rather large.
 
 
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The X7 in my hand. It has some good weight to it.
 
I've been following the development of the X7 since it was first announced on Head Fi. There have been many designs shown, some of them brilliant, some of them a little ambitious. and some of them terrible. In the end what FiiO has come up with is a very utilitarian device that doesn't shout 'hey look at me'! It's simple and symmetrical, there's just no other way to put it. To be honest I liked some of their earlier designs but FiiO can't please everyone. What I really appreciate about FiiO is that they seek feedback from their customers and although the X7 doesn't have all the original planned features and may not be the perfect design I know that FiiO is listening. I'll touch on this more later.
 
 
Hardware Usability
 
LeftSide.jpg
RightSide.jpg
Symmetry on either side. The blue cast is from the lighting.
 
 
The Volume up / down and Power buttons are along the left side of the unit while the Forward / Back and Play / Pause buttons are on the right. Each button has a good click and they didn't feel soft or loose to me. Overall I appreciate FiiO's continued dedication to including hardware buttons.
 
It wasn't all roses for me though. For my time with the X7 I had a hard time getting used to the symmetry of the device. Not everyone is going to find the symmetry an issue but my genetic makeup and large hands just didn't get along with the symmetrical hardware buttons. I use my thumb and fingers on both sides of the unit to brace it when I press the buttons and the first issue I had was I would keep pressing pause when trying to turn on the screen. I don't think it's a fatal flaw and I really have no suggestions to make it better as it makes the most sense in this chassis design, but still thought I should mention it. 
 
The touch screen is fairly responsive and an entirely different world from FiiO's previous button and wheel based DAPs. There is simply so much more that a company can implement in the device with a touch screen interface over a non-touch screen device. I welcomed the change from FiiO.
 
 
Inputs, Outputs, Battery and Storage
 
On the bottom of the X7 is the amp module that also contains the micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The use of amp modules is where FiiO sets itself apart from other touch screen DAP manufacturers. With easily swappable amp modules you can choose the one with the appropriate output power without hiss for IEMs, or in the near future you can pick up a balanced module to output to a balanced headphone. There are many possibilities and FiiO has even hinted that they could provide an extra mSD slot in an amp module for example, and FiiO has also indicated that third party developers would be making amp modules for the X7. Also, the X7 can connect to the new FiiO K5 docking desktop amp.They certainly are thinking of covering all the users needs with the X7.
 
The unit I tested only had the IEM module and it's the one that will ship bundled with the final production X7 unit.
 
The USB acts as the data transfer port and battery charging port. You can not turn off charging when the unit is plugged in. I was getting around 8 hours on a single charge playing a variety of sample rates from 16/44.1 lossless to high resolution 24/192 files, and some DSD samples.
 
 
BottomAmp.jpg
Headphone out and USB port. Personally, I'm not a fan of the headphone out
on the bottom of a device but there's no way around it with the amp module.
 
AmpModule_02.jpg
Amp module connection / removal. It's very easy to do!
 
 
AmpModule_01.jpg
The removed amp module. The connection is quite secure when attached.
 
 
mSD_Slot.jpg
The single mSD slot on the X7. Data transfer was painless when connected
to the computer.
 
LineCoax_Out.jpg
The shared Line Out and coaxial out jack.
 
On the top of the unit you'll find the Line Out and coaxial out jack that uses a TRRS configuration. The Line Out pins are in the standard location but the coaxial pins are on the Sleeve and the last Ring so you'll need to use the included adaptor to RCA or a custom 3.5mm coaxial cable to connect to an external DAC that accepts coaxial input.
 
 
Software and Graphical Interface
 
While the X7 allows you to take screen captures I decided it would be more helpful to create a video of myself navigating around the X7. The video turned out to be 14 minutes long but if you check it out you'll get to hear one of Pink Floyd's greatest tunes and you'll see what the X7 can offer from start to finish. Of course the FiiO link I provided earlier has explanations throughout each video but I put the time in to the video so may as well post it.
 
You'll also see that there are some times that the X7 didn't always respond immediately to my touch. Overall though the interface is snappy and it was a treat to scroll to the bottom of a list instead of having to scroll a wheel to reach the same goal on FiiO's other wheel based DAPs.
 
 
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One overall gripe I have with the X7 GUI is that it seemed like it wasn't focused enough on one goal. There seemed to be too many ways to arrive at a destination and over time it eventually became distracting. I could see how others may like the flexibility but I want more focus from a DAP. For a more focused interface I'd prefer the AK240 interface. It's relatively fast and definitely focused on one thing only.... Get the user to their music as quickly as possible with the least amount of confusion. I hesitate to comment too much on the interface as FiiO is putting out firmware releases at a very fast rate and I feel much of what I criticize will be moot in short time. Like I mentioned earlier, FiiO responds very well to their customers.
 
A big selling point of the X7 is the capability to use different apps like Spotify. The problem I had with the preview unit is the documentation was in Chinese and I'm an Android idiot so I didn't test any third party apps on the X7. The default music player is all I would use as I find it capable and I don't stream music.
 
 
X7 DAC Section
 
FiiO decided long ago that they would utilize the Sabre ESS9018S 8-channel desktop DAC in the X7. This is opposed to many other DAP makers using the 2-channel mobile version of this DAC and in my opinion FiiO has once again done a great job in the implementation of their chosen DAC chip. This desktop version of the ESS9018 certainly affords FiiO with the flexibility to use a variety of amp modules, and in my opinion, is a good choice on FiiO's part. It can natively decode DSD and PCM up to 384kHz. It can handle all file formats and has very good specifications. The key to a good DAC is it's implementation and FiiO knows how to do a good implementation.
 
USB DAC functionality is not yet implemented on the X7, but FiiO has it in the works for a future firmware update. 
 
 
X7 Amplifier Section
 
As you've already read the X7 has swappable amp modules which are very easy to change with little effort. The amp module packaged with the X7 is the 100mW IEM amp module which, in my tests, sounded pretty good. It's not the best amp section I've heard and I feel it's actually holding back the fantastic DAC implementation, but still I find it more than capable. There's not much more to say other than the planned amp modules from FiiO are:
 
- IEM module (bundled with the X7).
- Medium powered amp module with the Muses02 opamp. 
- High powered amp module with approximately 500mW power (subject to change).
- Balanced amp module with 2.5mm balanced output and 3.5mm SE output (can't use both at the same time).
 
 
FiiO X7 Overall Sound
 
X7_Angie.jpg
My IEMs paired well with the IEM amp module.
 
When describing the sound of a player there are many factors to consider - from the files being used and how they were mastered, the headphones being used, the volume one is using, the output chosen (headphone out, line out, coaxial out) and the other gear in the chain. Also, the perspective one is coming from I feel is of great importance. If a user has never heard a very detailed and analytical source they might find the X7 to be too analytical, or too revealing of the flaws in poorly mastered music. On the other hand if coming from a perspective of highly revealing source gear and quality masters one may find the X7 to be not analytical enough (though I doubt it).
 
I'll be describing the signature of the X7 from the use of generally well mastered music only with my JH Angie given the supplied IEM amp module. One last note before I begin with describing the sound. If you don't like the sound signature of your headphones the X7 will not magically change them in to something else. These are my findings and you mileage may vary.
 
The X7 retains the general FiiO sound BUT everything is stepped up a couple awesome notches. There is a great sense of space, a refined presentation, a smooth top end, yet accurate details. The instruments have great impact while at the same time they're more separated out. It's easy to pick out instruments in the mix. The bass has weight but the presentation isn't overly warm. The mids are musical and engaging. The highs are detailed but not sharp or piercing which is very welcome given my fears when FiiO announced the chosen Sabre chip, as it can sound pretty bright with a poor implementation. What I hear is an audio reproduction that just wants to highlight everything that's in the mix without going overboard in doing so. There is a sort of holographic sound but it doesn't sound too forced. This helps me to lose myself in the mix and I enjoyed it immensely.
 
With the X7 it's very easy to hear tambourines, hi hats, shakers, etc.. they aren't pushed back in the overall mix. Very good micro detailing. It's very easy to pick up subtleties in the recording. 
 
Timing is good. Balance is good. Micro detail is good. Texture is very good. Bass has a great leading edge, guitar plucks a reverberation are sharp and textured, piano has impact. 
 
Overall excellent balance and tonality. 
 
 
DAP Comparisons
 
DAP_Comparison.jpg
Does the X7 really sit in the middle of these DAPs?
 
I only compared the DAPs using my JH Angie because the X7 only came with the IEM module so I wanted to give it a fair comparison.
 
X7 vs X5ii
 
The X5ii is FiiO's former flagship model and it's a great sounding unit in its price bracket. However, the X7 is definitely a step up in refinement. The X7 is smoother, faster, cleaner and more accurate than the X5ii. X7 has a wider soundstage and even better instrument separation. The decay on the X7 is tighter than the X5ii. I also find the X7 to be more musical with deeper extension. In comparison the X5ii sounds slightly less resolving, slightly mushier, more smeared. It's not a huge night and day difference, but it is noticeable very quickly. For the price of the X5ii it's a very good player, just the X7 is better.
 
X7 vs AK240
 
I only compared the SE out of the AK240 given the IEM amp module in the X7 is only SE. The X7 is slightly more analytical than the AK240, more spacious. Micro detail pops out more. A similar level of capability but more holographic. More wide. More instrument detail. It's like with the X7 you are at the mixing board hearing all the instruments individually and the AK240 you are at the live event. AK240 layers the instruments together more while X7 separates them. X7 is microscopic in a way that shows you all the mix at the same level, easy to pick out. Same amount of detail but different presentation between the two. The X7 is a bit brighter in comparison with less mid bass but it sounds overall more balanced to me. The AK240 SE is more warm, even compared to my desktop gear. Balanced output changes some of this IMO.
 
Comparing these two DAPs I would easily put the X7 closer to the AK240 than to the X5ii in sound quality. Quite a remarkable feat from FiiO considering the price difference between the X7 and the AK240.
 
 
Line Out to the ALO Rx
 
LineOut_Rx.jpg
 
As I hinted at earlier the bundled IEM module is good, but I felt that there was more to be gained from a better amplification stage and boy was I right! The DAC implementation was high-lit by giving it a better amp. I've loved the Rx since the day I bought it and having the X7 feed it was incredible. The Rx added more life and musicality while maintaining the overall signature from the X7. There was even more spaciousness and even more extension. better decay and slightly smoother treble. I really enjoy the X7 on its own with my IEM. I enjoy it more with the Rx.
 
 
Line Out to the Oppo HA-1
 
LineOut_HA-1.jpg
 
Since the X7 uses the same DAC as the desktop Oppo Ha-1 I was very interested in this paring. It turns out that the X7 can compete very well with its implementation of the ESS9018S. To be honest there was not a lot to it actually. They pretty much sounded the same but I feel the X7 was slightly smoother with less 'tizz' in the treble region. I could have been imagining it though. Still, I found the line out from the X7 to the HA-1 very enjoyable and up to par for expected performance.
 
 
Coaxial Out to Oppo HA-1
 
CoaxialOut_HA-1.jpg
Shortest section ever. The x7 works as a digital transport. 'Nuf said.
 
 
Final Thoughts
 
This was an interesting device to test and review. It was like a moving bullseye being so new and still in the teething stages when I had it. Initially the battery indicator didn't even work. However, FiiO has been updating the X7 very quickly and released two firmwares in the short time that I had the unit. They have just released firmware 1.4 about a week after releasing firmware 1.3.... How's that for rapid progress? I'm sure that the X7 will have all the kinks ironed out very quickly and based on the sound quality it would be worth it to jump in right away. Like I said, I hesitate to say much more about the X7 as the unit I had didn't have firmware that was as fleshed out as the current version. I hope FiiO can get the interface more focused.
 
FiiO has come a long way in a few short years. From the X3 that almost never happened to the X7 is quite a leap for a small company. Given the X7 can play with more high end DAPs with sound quality I predict we won't be calling FiiO a small company for much longer. The X7 proves that you don't need to take out a second mortgage to have TOTL sound in a DAP. It's simply one of the best deals available right now.
 
 
BlueGold.jpg
 
 
Thanks for reading!
 
 
 
My ranking of the FiiO X7
 
ScreenShot2015-12-18at3.11.50AM.png
 
 
Edit: Added the Line Out / coaxial jack picture with a brief description on the pin configuration.
 
leobigfield
leobigfield
Great review!
hakushondaimao
hakushondaimao
Nice job, Craig. Thorough, but easy reading.
Arctican
Arctican
Great review! I also do concur with your review points.
 
I just bought this great DAP yesterday, and boy, I am a little nuts now on how great the X7 sounds. The instrument separation and "effortlessness" of its sound reproduction is phenomenal.
 
I was lucky to audition this side by side with Hifiman's HM901s. Though the HM901s is more robust-sounding, detail retrieval is almost at par (if not better) with the HM901s. 
Pros: Full sized and capable in built amp, clear and detailed line out
Cons: some may find it to be too large
Note: I was part of X7 international tour. I thank Fiio for giving me this opportunity to test and use potentially higher end gear for 10 days time. It is on its way to next member on tour.
 
INTRODUCTION
 
I was very excited to be part of Fiio X7 international tour. However, when I learned it was going to ship with iem module, I was less than thrilled. Being mainly a full sized hp guy, I simply don't have good enough iems to test a dap that sells for $650. However, when I actually received X7 all my worries were laid to rest. IEM module drives full sized easy to drive cans with authority and ease. I used its hp out as well as line out to drive my external amps.
 
 
 
DSC_0005.jpg
A pic showing gear I used to test and compare X7
 
 
WHAT i EXPECTED vs WHAT i GOT
 
Looking at X7 thread on headfi I see a lot of people expecting fiio to produce an Astell and Kern beater. In what metrics is not clear. To me is X7 is unabashedly fiio. Its quiet clear after reading literature supplied for tour from fiio and using it for 10 days, where main focus was while designing the payer. X7 offers a capable, no compromise built in amp. Its build is great and a step up over X5 but I dont think its the best out there. Curiously its form factor is on a bigger side. I do think to give it all functionality and great amp it has, fiio made it bigger rather than compromising anywhere. This is by no means audio jewellery and it does costs on a higher side, it has sound quality to match it.
 
UI
 
I encourage reader to look elsewhere for in depth look over the UI. I personally listen to albums from back to back and use folder view to find music. So my expectations from UI are very low. In DAP UI I only look for 2 things:
 
Get the Job done.
Is Rock solid.
 
First point is easily achieved as its based on android. I simply choose folder view that shows all folders in memory. From there I simply browse album I want to listen to. No fuss. For second part, I used it for only 10 days and I didnt encountered any hiccups or freeze. I must say fiio's record has been less than stellar. My X5 is behaving differently to scroll wheel inputs over time. It improves with firmware update so the problem is with software.
 
I really wish fiio use software from previous daps wholesale and keep improving the stability of their software. But the rate at which fiio is introducing new daps with brand new uis, I dont think its gonna happen any time soon.  
 
BUILD
 
Fiio did the unthinkable here. Its substantially longer and thicker than X5 which people though was already on bigger side. The build is slightly improved over X5, but when E12 that sells for $130 is build so well, I expected a bigger jump. This aspect goes a long way in showing how well made budget gear is. Looks like diminishing returns is applicable to sound quality as well as build quality here. I do wish unit had round edges for ergonomic grip as well as different texture on back plate. One aspect I loved about it was vibrant, responsive screen, rather close to my smartphone than I expected. Resolution is not very high but I was impressed by big album art on now playing screen.
 
When talking about build, I think I can put up a lot of points like its too big, screen is raised, and screen has black borders around it etc. I personally dont think these aspects will make even slight difference over my purchase decision of an audiophile dap. One audiophile complain I do have is lack of analog volume control wheel. The price point X7 is playing at, I think a proper wheel with good knob feel should be present. 
 
SOUND QUALITY
 
Initially I was sceptical about sabre chip used in dac. Some people have reported about some digital and bright sounding implementations using them. However the amount of warmth X7 has points towards a very nice implementation. It strikes a nice balance between earthy and ethereal sounding. It leans towards clarity in both bass and mids. Treble extension is great and is usable with neutral to warm headphones to my ears. Bright sounding hps do sound too bright to me like my Sennheiser HD700. Mids are meaty, thick, clear and smooth. Bass is reference quality with great clarity. Thickness or thinness depends on instrument being played. Has good presence and not bass light. Goes deep but not like my desktop amp.
 
X7 VS X5 Classic
 
I prefer X5 classic over X5 II. X5 classic has a very analogue sounding treble (maybe a bit shelved down) thats perfect with my hps. Newer fiio gear has different more neutral tuning than their older gear and I think X7 is a direct upgrade over X5II rather than older X5. 
Out of hp out, I dont think there is much competition. Even with iem module, X7 has better authority and more effortless sound with my full sized hps. X7 lets me hear deeper into recordings, more meat around bones. Hp out of X5 sounds thinner in comparison while X7 sounds meaty and resolved, more akin to live performance with less compromises.
Using X5+E12 combination against X7, sound quality battle is very close with perhaps slight edge to stack. X7 on its own sounds effortless, thick and resolved, signs of quality amplification. I think a big size does results in space needed for good implementation as is evident with X7. X5 + E12  sounds slightly more effortless and relaxed. But its a very close call. To note I regard X5+E12 stack very highly and think it paints realistic enough picture of music that I can live with it for very long time.
 
Pitting X7+ E12 vs X5+E12, I think E12 hits performance ceiling with X5, which results in  little improvement when switching to X7. Sound signature wise, their line out has different characteristics and allows me to compare them using same filter (or colouration). Using X5 stack, bass hits harder, depth is almost same but clarity is much better with X7. X7 also sounds more true to source and changes thickness or thinness more dramatically. Mid range is a tie on both. X7 stack is clearer and smoother while X5 stack has more realistic bass weight behind each note. Treble is subdued on X5 while its prominent and extended on X7 stack. Choose depending on your hps and taste. Timber is lot better on X7 stack with X7 highlighting inherent sound qualities and details instruments much better.
 
These characteristics are present with hp out of X7 as well but become more obvious with slight effortlessness of E12. Overall I would say use an external amp with X7 only if its very high quality  or you want a specific colouration like tubes. X5 improves dramatically with E12 but is not the case with X7 as its in built amp is already pretty good.
 
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
 
You should buy one if you mainly use flagship level amps and hps/iems. Improvements X7 brings were lot more obvious with hd 700 that with my other gear. Also consider it if you intend to use it without external amp most of the time. However its excellent line out opens potential for even greater things and lets be honest here, who expects manufacturer to cram in amp in that much space that will eke out every last bit of performance on tap from very capable dac? Though I must say fiio did an excellent job in that regards.
I have been using fiio gear for some time and I do think their stuff sounds great. They do make lots of inexpensive gear but that alone does not makes them so popular as there is lot of gear out there thats even more inexpensive. I do find their nicer gear (like X5 and E12 I have) to have a mature sound that I can enjoy for very long time. I think thats why their popularity has stood the test of time. This quality is there in X7 in spades.
 
Thanks for reading!
Pros: Sound Quality, Amp Module
Cons: No rubber case (pre-production sample)
FIIO X7
 
FiioX7-1.jpg
 
 
INTRO
 
The Latest DAP from Fiio, I would like to thank Joe and Paul (Brooko) for giving me the honour of auditioning this incredible piece of gadget.
 
I have been waiting for an Andoid-based Mid/High-Fi for quite sometimes, mainly because of the emergence of FLAC streamers like Tidal and Qobuz, and the prospects of being able to play FLAC on the go with a good DAC, as well as the prospect of having a one-for-all device (thus far, you can only do these with Android phones, but let’s not kidding ourselves here, the DAC quality on phones are better than average at best). When ZX2 was released I wasn’t really interested mainly because I’m not a big fan of Sony’s house sound
 
Due to the short time that I had with it, as well as being one of the first to audition (therefore I have not had the pleasure of trying the ‘unlocked’ Android as per the latest firmware), this review won’t be as detailed as I usually do mine. I will have the unit back to me again hopefully at the end of the tour leg so I can spend a bit more time with it, and elaborate on some point of the review as needed, and also, by then I should have my Onkyo DP-X1, so I can do an in-depth A/B, which should interest some people as they both are the current FOTM, and people are lining up to buy one, but not sure which yet.
 
BUILD QUALITY
 
Superb build quality as per the usual Fiio standard, the unit feels solid in hand, and has a nice weight. All of the buttons are positioned nicely, overall, it looks and feel like a top end product.
 
The only downside is the lack of rubber shell/housing/cover, just like the first generation of X5. I feel that this is necessary as the brushed metal is rather slippy, especially if the palm of the hand is dry, and it could easily slipped out of the grip and falls down. As I believe this is one of the pre-production prototype, I’m sure Fiio will address this issue and will include the said rubber casing with the final production model.
 
UI/SOFTWARE/FEATURES
 
FiioX7-3.jpg
 
Android OS
 
As mentioned above, I was one of the first members to review the unit, therefore my time was with the version of the firmware with the ‘whitelist’ policy in place. To be honest, I didn’t mind this at all, as I was able to find a working and reliable Android apk for both Spotify and Tidal, two of the streaming services that I use regularly. I tried and install some of the other streaming services for testing purposes (Deezer, Google Music, SoundCloud), and some of the internet radio services (RadioTunes, DI.FM, TuneIn), but unfortunately I didn’t succeed
The UI is typical Android, which I’m sure most people are familiar with, even for all of the Apple fanboys out there, at worst it will take an hour or two to familiarise themselves
 
Amp Module
 
This could be the potential game winner for Fiio, the pre-production review model comes with the IEM amp-module, and there will be some additional amp-module for purchase later down the track. Although details are still a bit sketchy at this point in time about what other module that Fiio will offer, I have no doubt that this will sets Fiio apart from the competitor if done correctly.
 
Battery life
 
I did 2 tests on the battery, the first test was on standby with nothing running on the background, and the second test was on standby with both Tidal and Spotify running on the background. Both test yielded roughly similar results, around 30 minutes differences (11:45 and 10:45 respectively).
 
The battery gets pretty warm when playing continuously, but doesn’t concern me to be honest as my LG G3 phone runs even warmer
 
SOUND
 
I have not had as many exposure to DAP as I had with IEM, so therefore, this section of my review is purely YMMV, as I can only compare to what I knew and/or experienced
 
For the purpose of the testing, the following were used as comparison tools
  1. LG G3 with Poweramp, Tidal and Spotify running
  2. Fiio X5
  3. Dunu DN-2000J
  4. Rooth LS5X
 
Music Files
 
Playing FLAC’s and MP3’s through both X5 and X7, the difference between the two is quite significant to my ear. What jumped out to me straight away is the ability of X7 to tone down sibilance, without sacrificing details. Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees is my trusty track to test sibilance, as the track itself is rather bright, and Barnesy’s signature husky voice will punish those who can’t handle sibilance, particularly when he starts belting the high notes. While the sibilance is between bearable to almost non-existence on X5, X7 just waved its magic wand and made it disappear. The track is perfectly clean, smooth, and free of distortion of any kind.
 
I then grabbed one of my brighter and more sibilant-prone Rooth LS5X hybrid, and anything I throw at it, X7 handles it perfectly, everything came out smooth and clean, just amazing.
 
Streaming Services
 
Massive difference here between the X7 and LG G3, but that is understandably due to the difference in the quality of the respective DAC chips. Even comparing the sound of the streamed FLAC’s and MP3’s to my desktop setup (with Aune T1 DAC), X7 is notably smoother and cleaner
 
CONCLUSION
 
FiioX7-2.jpg
 
 
Few issues aside, there is no doubt that this unit has the potential of being an incredibly awesome DAP, particularly with its interchangeable amp module. There aren’t many competitor in the market at the moment, I believe Sony ZX2 is the only competitor at the moment, but the market is changing very soon with Pionner, Onkyo, and Echobox are releasing their own Android-based DAP within the next 2-3 months
 
Based on my session with the unit, I have conjured up the following suggestions, some of these may or may not have been addressed by Fiio
  1. Rubber case/shell
  2. Google Play Store
  3. Auto shut off option on idle
 
Thank you for reading.
Pros: Build quality, Interchangeable amp modules, Ease of use, Android Interface, Connectivity
Cons: Potential issues with interchangeable amp module locking mechanism, Features still in progress
IMG_20151109_182420az.jpg
 
Disclaimer
 
This unit was in my possession for one week as part of the Australasian tour. I'd like to thank @FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for making this tour possible, and @Brooko for organizing and including me in this tour.
 
First and foremost, I would like to let it be known that that the tour unit I received was a pre-production review unit running beta firmware, and the retail version released in the future may differ in the hardware as well as the firmware from what was offered in this tour unit.
 
I listen at relatively high volume level, so my impressions will be based on this. Please be aware that there might be variations in impressions at different volume and issues present on different volume level may/may not exist on this product. As I only use IEMs, I will only comment on its usage with IEMs. No EQ/sound effects were applied throughout duration of having this unit on all devices.
 
Packaging
 
The tour unit came inside a black box as shown below and will change to new packaging for international customers.
 
Unboxing the whole package reveals the following:
 
IMG_20151109_175352z.jpg
 
  1. Fiio X7
  2. A USB charging / data cable
  3. A digital out to coax cable
  4. 2 spare screen protectors for the X7 (plus one already fitted)
  5. A foldout warranty card
  6. A screwdriver
  7. Spare screws for interchanging amp module
 
IMG_20151109_175906z.jpg
 
Build
 
Front View
IMG_20151109_180650_crz.png
 
Back View
IMG_20151109_180754_craz.png
 
Top View
IMG_20151109_180508z.jpg
 
Left Side
IMG_20151109_180445z.jpg
 
Right side
IMG_20151109_180452z.jpg
 
Bottom View   
IMG_20151109_180501z.jpg
 
The X7 feels like a solid brick, but in a good way. The design / weight / size combination makes it sit comfortably inside both your hand and your pocket. It is easy to hold and engage the functions. All ports are well labeled. The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on when powered on but is customizable with latest firmware. The side buttons are also fully customizable. Display screen is vibrant in colour and easy to read. I took the X7 out for a walk and without adjusting the screen brightness much, it was easily readable under direct sunlight. 
 
One big selling point of the X7 is its patented interchangeable amplifier module. Currently it comes with the Standard (IEM) module: suitable for driving most IEMs, earbuds, portable on-ear earphones and some efficient full-size headphones and impressions will be based on this. However, this is also where my concern lies as this is designed to be detachable so that other future amplifier modules can be swapped by removing a couple of screws, I had difficulty removing one of the default screws and the screw head became stripped. It didn't provide enough grip and is way overtightened in the first place. The other was unscrewed very easily in contrast.
 
IMG_20151109_182627az.jpg
 
 
User Interface and Usability
 
The firmware version used at the time was still in beta, with Android version 4.4.4 and impressions were based on this. Future updates will improve aspects of the whole experience.
 
X7 utilises Custom OS based on Android. Those familiar with Android based phones will know what to expect here and navigation feels like any other modern Android phones. It is implemented well, being responsive to touch with virtually no lag. The Fiio music app itself was easy enough to use once I got used to it.
 
Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-37-56.png
 
Wifi
 
Wifi connection is reliable and performed well enough with streaming.
 
 
Bluetooth
 
The Bluetooth does not feature apt-x codec and the drop in sound quality compared to plugged in directly into Headphone Out is apparent with slight distortion when music is played. The Bluetooth here is more like an extra feature that is present for convenience sake.
 
Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-35-50.png
 
Battery Life
 
Using low gain I got about 9 hours under normal usage and continuous play. Using high gain instead I got almost 8 hours. Pretty impressive for such a small unit compared to other DAPs of similar calibre.
 
X7 doesn't warm up much after continuous use like some DAPs do. I only realized this is a win for Fiio users after having the likes of N6 which can get very warm and would be a bother to those who put it inside their clothes' pockets and during hot summer.  
 
Screenshot_2015-11-09-13-34-01.png
 
USB DAC
 
At this point in time the USB DAC is not enabled yet and future firmware releases will feature this.
 
Sound Impressions
 
Headphone Out (Unamped)
 
As the X7 offers plenty of juice for my efficient IEMs, I didn't test adding any extra amps hence I'll only comment on impressions formed using Headphone Out. 
 
Using my 1964 Ears ADEL A12 with somewhat high sensitivity (16 Ohms impedance and 117dB SPL @ 1mW) and other IEMs of similar sensitivity, I don't hear any noticeable hiss against the backdrop of a very black background. 
 
The soundstage of the X7 is oval-shaped, taking up a 3D footprint both high and deep, where it focuses more on the depth than width. It sounds intimate and yet still provides solid layering and positioning. Resolving ability is good with plenty of details and fast attack. It nails about as much detail in every frequency, meaning that music with a huge dynamic range will sound detailed, clear, and well spaced. The bass decay could be a bit longer, but bass hits hard with good impact and texture, but I wont say overly so as to affect the rest of the frequency. Only when dealing with songs with big bass that it becomes a bit too overpowering. X7 to me is a neutral sound signature leaning a bit towards musicality with a tinge of warmth and slight detail preference to the mid range. This is also reflected in its forward sounding meaty mids, with meaty as in sounding a bit thick with slight veil masking small details. Vocals are rendered with full body and realism without being digital sounding. In some songs the vocals sounds a bit shouty. Treble is smooth and a touch rolled off, slightly soft resulting loss in headroom space and airiness. 
 
Sound Comparisons 
 

 
All comparisons were done using a Multi-channel Headphone Audio Signal Switcher to enable fast switching between DAPs, and a 1kHz test tone was tested using a Digital Sound Level Meter to do the volume matching between DAPs to ensure a level playing field under controlled condtitions. 
 
Fiio X7 vs Cayin N6
 
IMG_20151109_183156az.jpg
 
Against the N6: The N6 has a slightly bigger soundstage due to having better airiness, with similar positioning and layering, but at the expense of sounding leaner in comparison and having less body, giving the X7 a sense of a more organic and fuller sound. 
 
IMG_20151109_183019az.jpg
 
Ratings & Conclusion
 
As Head-Fi shows overall ratings for the audio gear instead of my own, here is a snapshot of what I have rated:
 
2015-12-14_042636.png
 
All in all, the X7 is a very solid DAP based on Android OS with good hardware, sound, build quality and an intuitive and well-thought menu design as well as operation and has got a good overall value. It is an awesome sounding DAP that one day, once the issues and minor caveats have been ironed out, will belong in summit-fi. The future remains bright with upcoming releases of a variety of interchangeable amp modules that will offer new dimensions and sound tweaks to the X7. 
 
IMG_20151110_203356_crz.png
RockStar2005
RockStar2005
fnkcow, 
 
Great review!
 
I have 2 questions: 
 
1) Has FiiO released an update for the X7 that INCLUDES aptX yet? Or any word on that? 
 
2) Any update on the interchangeable amp module/mod? If so, where can people buy one??
 
Thanks!
RockStar2005
RockStar2005
3) Also, will the current IEM amp mod the X7 comes with be strong enough to play a pair of headphones with 102 db sensitivity and 32 ohms LOUD??
RockStar2005
RockStar2005
*32 Ohms impedance 
Pros: Detail retreival, Exceptional Bass and smooth Treble, Nice screen, UI is okay, SDXC extension, build quality, coax out available, amp module
Cons: feels big, heavy, battery life, not enough resistance on the button, slow charging speed, no usb dac function, a bit buggy, exterior design
Disclaimer:
I'm part of the Australia/NZ tour of Fiio X7, This review will be based on my opinion and experience over the course of 7 days with the Fiio X7, Overall experience in that 7 days has been good although I fell sick(flu) for 3 days and has some difficulties with my hearing during those period due to imbalance hearing caused by the flu. But after that the review was buttery smooth.
 
I use X7 on high gain everyday at home, on the trip to work by train, while I'm at work and strolling outside to get dinner, etc.
Overall X7 perform really well to fulfill my music needs for all types of activities that I did.
 
Headphone used in the review is Oppo PM-3 and occasionally the Baldoor E-100
My daily driver at the time of review is Iphone -> Oppo HA-2 as DAC/AMP
This review will also outline whether or not the X7 can replace my current Music Driver.
 
Lastly, big thanks to brooko for letting me in the tour on the last minute request.
 
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES
The X7 unboxing process is simple, quick and easy.
The box itself is well padded and has foam surrounding the X7 for protection.
Other than the X7 itself, there are a few accessories inside the box: Screwdriver for changing amp modules, screenprotectors(2), USB to micro USB cable, short coaxial cable with 3.5mm TRRS connector, extra tox screws(4), documentations.
 
BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN
The unit was ensambled nicely with no rough edges on the unit enclosed within an aluminum(I think) construction, the unit felt rigid and sturdy providing excellent protection, heat dissipation on the unit was okay, it does felt a3bit warm while running on the hand and on my pocket though.
The design of the player was not the prettiest looking player I have seen with a big lump on the back of the casing, I would prefer it if they streamline the desgin a bit more, reasoning behind this is unknown to me though, there might be a good reason behind this, but it does look stupid to me sometime.
When the unit is turned on, There will be a blue light indicator that lights up in front of the unit that as afar as I know can't be turned off, this is quite annoying sometime since I like to enjoy my music alone in the dark.
The touch screen is responsive and has enough brightness for easy use in direct sunlight.
The button was a bit annoying though since I feel that there is not enough resistance on it, I accidentally click a next button just by holding it sometime.
The X7 feels heavy and big in my pocket, You will definitely feel that there is a big lump on your pocket when walking around.
I like the position of the headphone jack on the bottom though.
 
UI
UI is good for me, it is certainly easy enough to navigate through the songs, the UI design itself was okay for me but not groundbreaking, swiping motion was smooth and responsive.
Song s can be listed based on alphabetical order, artist, album, folder.
the now playing screen was pretty straightforward, skipping ti the middle of the song was quick and easy.
although I didn't use it, the 10 band EQ might be useful for some people out there.
The X7 also supports a search function which is very useful when you have a big library of songs.
 
BATTERY LIFE
This is the most stressful part for me because when I buy a high-end DAP like this, I want it to perform as an all-in-one solution for all situation anytime anywhere, the battery life was not good enough for this as I average around 5-6 hours of music playing with 100 on the volume pot to drive Oppo PM-3, I work for 8-9 hours a day with music on all the time, the X7 has always give out on me at the end of the day. Charge time is slow too, simetime I still want to use it at home but I need to charge it for a while before I do it.
It is by no means poor though, I just expect more.
 
IO
IO(Input/Output) was just okay for me, it still has a line/coax out so that I can use it with external amps, but falls short of not being able to act as a USB DAC
 
SOUND
In my opinion the sound signature of the X7 is a slight Ushape, the bass and treble feels a bit more elevated than the mids to me, but still can be classified as neutral, the  detail retreval was excellent, I hear lots of little nuances that I didn't hear before in my previous set up.
The bass was deep and strong but well controlled to my ears, the treble was detailed but smooth at the same , I experience no fatigue while listening for hours.
The mids was beautiful, especially the males voice, vocals feels strong and moving.
Soundstage was good I can definitely feel an improvement from my current set up on this part although not much.
Layering and separation was excellent, I was able to point out where each sound is coming from.
 
CONCLUSION
The X7 is a very good Hi-End DAP for it's sound quality, It falls short of usability by being unable to act as a USB DAC and poor battery life, slow charging. for this reason I don't think the X7 is an all in one unit, it has to be able to act as USB DAC to be an all-in-one.
At the moment I can only recommend this product for people who wants the best sound quality on the go without bringing too many device to play their music, this DAP is perfect if you already has a powerful desktop DAC and AMP and wants a complimentary device for music listening on the go.
Pros: Well built, looks stunning, feels great to hold, good implementation of Android software and sounds great for the price.
Cons: Sound quality perhaps not up there with other totl daps.
Disclaimer
 
I received the X7 as part of the UK/EU tour and used for the best part of 10 days before sending on to next person in the queue.  Many thanks to Joe Bloggs and Fiio for the opportunity to preview the X7.
 
Introduction/About me
 
I am 44 and have been listening to portable audio since around 1985 when I started out with a Walkman, used cassette walkmans until around 1999/2000 when I bought the Rio 800(think it was this model) and so began a journey of many different DAP's from the early Ipods, Iriver H100 to many different Sony players and others that I've forgotten about.  In recent years I've swapped between dedicated DAP's, DAP's with  external DAC/Amps and various smartphones alone and with DAC's. For the last few months I've been using first an android phone with the Oppo HA-2 and now a Chord Mojo with either my Blackberry Priv Android phone or the AK 100mkii as a transport.  
 
For testing the Fiio X7 I compared to the Mojo/Ak100 and Priv with and without Mojo.  
Earphones used were AK Angie's, Sennheiser IE800 and Fischer Amp FA-4e-xb.
 
 
Build Quality and Software
 
I've always liked Fiio's build and finish on there products, the X7 is again a well built unit, feels solid in the hand as well as looking and feeling like a high end product.  The brushed metal has a comforting cold feel in the hand.  It also has a nice weighty feel to it, buttons are well placed and easy to operate with one hand.  The screen although a lower resolution than current smartphones is more than sharp enough for a DAP and is responsive to the touch.  
 
Those familiar with Android will know what to expect here, I've been using Android for a few years now and this is a good implementation of the software, responsive with virtually no lag.  I only really used Spotify separate from the Fiio music app and had no issues with Spotify.  The Fiio music app itself was easy enough to use once I got used to it, I did consider downloading one of the other music players i use but to be honest once I sussed the Fiio app there was no need.
 
Sound Quality
 
I've always felt that Fiio products sound a little on the warm side, they have always reminded me of a Nad amplifier I had that had a similar warm tone to the music.  I do prefer my music to be a little more neutral but I've never minded this slight warmness to the Fiio sound, others may hear it different though.
 
Sound quality is a little hard for me to judge fairly as I've been spoiled for the last few weeks by the Chord Mojo.  As good as the Fiio X7 sounds it can't quite match the Mojo for overall detail and quality to my music.  The advantage the X7 has of course is that it is a one box unit, when paired with my Angie's it did at times give my Mojo/Ak100 pairing a run for it's money, but just can't reach the level of slam and detail that the Mojo creates.
 
Putting the Mojo to one side though the X7 does sound good, mids esp vocals sound stunning.  Treble detail is very good, the intro to Starman from the Ziggy Stardust album is a track I often use when trying new gear as it can for me separate good iem's from the not so good the Fiio had good separation of instruments through this little test.  Bass response was also very good, nice detail and kick when tracks require it.  Soundstage was good, maybe a little more depth than the Mojo combo.  The power to drive my iem's was good, had to go to around 95 for the IE800 on the volume.  
 
Conclusion
 
Overall Fiio have once again produced another great product at a great price when compared to others on the market.  I have a degree of sympathy for Fiio though as they are releasing at a similar time to Pioneer and Onkyo's offerings although i would imagine that there may not be much between them from reading early opinions on both those models.  I think the biggest drawback for me with the Fiio is the presence of the Mojo.  If you don't mind carrying a small stack then for me there is no competition for the Mojo.  I did try the X7 in USB otg to the mojo but that has not been added yet.  This may be something I would consider if it was added at a later date as it would take away my current need to swap between AK100 and Priv with the mojo if I want to use Spotify etc.  It would also have been nice to have everything in one module in terms of IEM and balanced.
 
I've enjoyed my time with the Fiio and could see myself buying it in the future.
M
McCol
It would be the Mojo.  Its all round SQ is more impressive than the X7. Also seems more powerful although I dont have any real difficult to drive phones to test this.
Emmett62
Emmett62
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@peareye I just bought the mojo and have had it for a few days. 
 
I'm just getting into the audiophile hobby/setup and need an all around setup. I have no home dac/amp setup, no mobile setup, just my phone (LG G4) and a recently bought BeyerDynamic DT-1350 (nice deal too). 
 
I was disappointed with the mojo because of the interference I heard when it was in close proximity to my mobile phone. When using my phone as transport via spotify or local files, I needed to have it in airplane mode or else I would occasionally hear static, crackles, pops, and buzzes. So - if I wanted great sound I needed my phone to be on airplane mode indefinitely while listening, which isn't practical. 
 
My alternative was to return the Mojo and swap it for the X7. Now my phone is a phone, and the x7 will be my DAP. Once the K5 is released I'll toss that into the mix to get a respectable at-home setup as well. 
 
If you have a mobile source that is not your phone which can serve as transport, the mojo is a great option. The static to me was distracting enough that I actually preferred using my phone directly rather than adding the mojo. 
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.  
 
 

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.
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Barra
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.
ptolemy2k6
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
ade_hall
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
Pros: Clear, clean sound. Upgradable amp; stock amp is good, EQ works on hi res files that were tested
Cons: Unstable Software; limited apps
Introductory Thoughts
 
I received a test unit of the FIIO X7 as part of the US tour.  I believe this unit is a pre-final production run.  
 
Because there are a few very detailed reviews already posted, I will focus on what I think the key issues in most users minds in terms of evaluating the unit.
 
On the plus side, if one were to look past some of the hardware design choices that I do not fully agree with and some of the firmware quirks of the unit, the audio quality of the unit is quite nice.  Even superior.  I used the line out in my car (which has a very fine system) and the open sound compared with the X3 surprised me.  I suspect that one could spend three times as much as this machine and not improve on the built in DAC very much.  I also think the stock internal headphone amp will please most users even though upgrades will eventually be available.
 
I tested the EQ with some 24-196 files and it did function, which is a real plus compared with other FIIO units that I have tested.   Even thought I tested the EQ, I tend to listen to music "flat" and it came through well with all styles of music tested; rock, jazz, and classical.  Polka music and rap continued to elude me on this unit, but those genres have eluded me on every other unit I have used so I suspect there is no hardware solution to that problem.  The unit was tested the LZ-A2; Carbo Tenore, Shure E2C; Yuin PK3, and Phonak Audeo PFE-022.  It worked well with all of these; and the Phonak is fairly inefficient and the unit sounded good even on low gain.
 
I did update the firmware during the test visit.   Unfortunately, some glitches that were experienced continued to persist even after the firmware upgrade.  The unit has two modes; pure audio and Android.  I had to use the unit exclusive in android mode as the pure audio mode crashed repeatedly.  Actually, I was only able to get the unit to move from one song the next automatically about half the time in Android mode; not sure what was behind that and it could well be user error.  However, if it is user error then I think part of the issue is the non intuitive user interface of the unit.
 
As one user noted, it is possible to get into an Android mode where two apps play music simultaneously.  That is easy to fix; just swipe one app away and sanity reappears.
 
The advantage of being Android based is that one can access streamed music from Tidal, etc.  I did test a DLNA server capability using JRiver's Gizmo, and that worked well at hi resolution on wifi.   For full disclosure, I do consulting work for JRiver but on the other hand since many apps are white listed and the APK from JRiver for Gizmo is easily located and has no charge it was a reasonable thing to use for testing.  I presume over time the Whitelist will increse in size.  I am really not quite sure whether the unit will be open to the entire Google Play ecosystem over time or remain on a whitelist basis.
 
That does bring up my biggest question for the unit, which is where does it fit in to the music ecosystem?  It is not usable on a cell network as it has no cell capability.  Of course the unit can be tethered but that would be annoying.  In my case I would rather use my favorite streaming apps from my phone and send the music to my favorite DAC/AMP.  Right now I do that with my X3 units (both gen one and two) from time to time. If that mattered more to me I think I would pick up an Oppo HA-2 which also sounds incredible like the X7 but has Apple compatibility built right in.  But I think there is a niche of people who want to stream music from the house or office and not in a portable environment and the X7 will fill that bill well.
 
The unit is quite solid and if you do not mind a bigger machine, it is attractive in a muscular fashion  The X7 does have a blue glow while in operation that does not seem to shut off.  This can be an issue for night listening.
 
When the firmware become more stable the unit would move to four stars for me.  I really can't rate a unit five stars when I think the ergonomics are not ideal; the apps situation is highly limited, and at the price point the unit really should be something that one would want to keep for years to come.  I kept thinking that this is a transitional unit.
 
Photo:  The unit showing cover art.  The unit is brighter in daylight than other FIIO units which is  real plus.
 
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Pros: Sound quality, build quality, interchangeable amp module, plays pretty much all music format, ANDROID!!!
Cons: No Google play services at the moment of review
Disclaimer
 
I got this unit as part of New Zealand tour arranged by Brooko, thank you very much for including me in this tour.
 
Introduction
 
I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 8 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
 
I listened to the X7 daily in my commuting from home to work and in the office for about 10 days.
 
I am going to compare the X7 with 7th Gen Ipod Nano mostly, with a quick comparison to my HTC One M7 
 
For the majority of my listening i am using Shure 215 on my travel and Ultrasone Pro 750 on the office, i also try out other headphones with them such as phonon SMB02 and JVC FXT90.
 
Build Quality 
 
Similar to the X1, X3II and X5II, I love the build quality of X7. Solid all metal body, feel good in your hand, and as a sucker for a brushed metal look, I think the look gorgeous.

They are bit thick compare to my HTC One, but shorter and about the same width. Due to the thickness of it, I don't think they will fit in your jeans pocket (well maybe they will but I really wouldn't recommend it). While commuting I always put them in my jacket and they fit fine in there.
 
Interface
 
I will talk a little bit about the build in Fiio Music player here. I must admit the first time I used them i found them a bit confusing, I got the impression that they are trying to cram a lot of functionality and features into the music player, which is great, however resulted in a bit complicated user interface.
 
After a couple of days using them i kind of get used to it and don't have any issue anymore.
 
But this is Android, if you don't like Fiio music player you can download others, Neutron, PowerAmp, you name it, is just a click away (hopefully if google play service is working).
 
I exclusively use the Fiio music player just because i don't see any reason to use the others, they play anything i throw at them, MP3, FLAC, APE, CUE. No lag, no crash, just chugging along nicely for me.
 
Sound Quality
 
Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? I would say they sound neutral with a slight boost in bass and treble. They are transparent enough that when i change my headphones i can immediately hear the difference in the sound signature.

I also find that i enjoy the sound coming out of the X7 more than X5II, it just sounds good and engaging straight away, 1st impression is really good.
 
The X7 come with an IEM Amp module, which is quite good for IEM, but I found them a bit lacking in power for the Ultrasone pro 750. They can get loud enough (around 90 on the volume level) but it's just not sounding as sweet as when I used my project sunrise amp, but hey it's not fair to compare the IEM amp module to project sunrise.
 
I also tried the line out paired with headstage arrow 2g and find them really good sounding, probably better than the IEM amp module, however for majority of the listening i use the IEM amp module just because it's less hassle.
 
As mentioned above, i am comparing them to 7th gen ipod nano, please note that this comparison is purely for sound quality only, in term of functionality and flexibility  no way the ipod can wins again fiio, although they win in size and weight obviously.
 
I use Fiio headphone switcher to quickly compare the sound between the ipod and X7, the primary music for comparison is Acoustic Alchemy - Red Dust & Spanish Lace Album
 
So how do they fare againts 7th gen ipod? well to my surprise they sounded really really similar. This reminded me to the experience back when i am comparing X5II with 5th gen ipod.

When i first listen to Fiio X7 i thought they are the clear winner compare to ipod nano, however when i use the headphone switcher to quickly change source, i found that they are on par.

Sound signature, soundstage, detail retrieval are almost at the same level, the obvious difference to me is the treble extension where guitar is sounding more clear and detailed on the X7 compare to the nano, but they are very subtle and not huge differences.
 
I also do a quick comparison with my HTC One M7, well the HTC is ok but not really a match for fiio, guitar sounds a bit twangy on the HTC compare to the fiio, and there is this hollow gap in some mids frequency on the HTC one. I am not really keen to listen to my phone while having the X7 with me so  it's easy to say the Fiio is definitely better than HTC One M7 (Please note that i am not using a stock rom on the M7, and if that affect the SQ of the M7 i wouldn't know for sure)
 
Summary
 
Ok, so why would i want to buy fiio X7 if ipod nano is almost as good as them? It depends.
 
What do you need from a DAP? do you just want to listen to your MP3/itunes collection? I Think ipod will be the cheaper solution for that.
 
However these days I personally find that I listen more to streaming service than my mp3/FLAC collection, and unfortunately I can't listen to that on my ipod nano.
 
I think Fiio X7 is the easy answer here, to have a quality sounding DAP to listen to any streaming services available, being Android will give you any flexibility to choose your streaming service. You can also choose any traditional music player that you like, pretty much winner from both side of the world
 
I also love the idea of the interchangeable amp module, and would really be interested to see the roadmap for future amp modules in the plan. Would be interesting if Fiio can sell the X7 at less price without any amp module attached say for head-fiers who already invest in portable amp.
 
My only gripe with X7 at the moment, is that, I am a subscriber to google play music, and without google play service i can't listen to my google play music. So thats minus  1 star for me. 
 
Other than that, she is definitely a keeper. 
 
daduy
daduy
lol i was surprised as well, definitely not expecting that, would be interested to hear other opinions if they have nano as well :)
gearofwar
gearofwar
Your X7 definitely needs to undergo some burnt-in process as for most Daps. Early period might make the sound congested and worse...
daduy
daduy
Hmm...good point, i will keep that in mind if i am doing another review next time, thanks for the feedback! :)
Pros: Sleek Design, Customization, Fantastic sound
Cons: Raised screen, Early firmware UI could be improved, Additional amp modules cost exta
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INTRODUCTION:
 
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the ability to have our favorite hi res audio on the same device that allows us to find and listen to new music? A versatile device that allows the device to adapt to our needs? Enter the FiiO X7, Android based, packing some serious hardware. The X7 is designed to be a versatile all in one device for all of your music needs.
 
A device like this being released from FiiO has a lot of potential ups, but will definitely create some pretty good hurdles for FiiO and their engineers to get past to make this the device that every person wants. Thankfully, FiiO has an excellent record with listening to the customer voice and providing features and enhancements to make their devices even more desirable.
 
While the $650.00 price tag is definitely a high price, the features and functions packed into the device make the price well on point or even below, as most comparable devices are hitting well into the $1000 dollar range. The competition is also beginning to show their age. So does the FiiO X7 have what it takes to replace these behemoths in the ring?
[size=1em]I am a 26 year old music enthusiast, audiophile, music lover, whatever your terminology is for us with empty wallets and great tunes! In my obnoxious youth I could never understand why someone would drop the cash for headphones like ours. Over time I learned the differences in not just equipment, but in source files.[/size]
Suddenly I found myself spending some money on good gear, and over time it has developed into something more. Not only did I find myself enjoying my music more, but I found communities that share in my hobby.
I have a very extensive and eclectic musical library. I tend to avoid rap and heavy sided metal music. Otherwise, I am game. Most of my music comes from Folk, Rock (all kinds), Alternative, Singer/songwriter, and Acapella. I would say that I am a balanced listener, with perhaps a bit of a bass-head tendency. My library is comprised of mostly legally obtained Redbook 16/44.1 with a few vinyl rips done for me by a friend.
My DAP experience has been all across the spectrum, but has recently began the hi-fi journey. Starting with my original RCA RD2204 Lyra (the old days) and continuing to SanDisk Sansa’s, clips, Ipods, Iphones, Android phones (such as HTC one M8) and Windows Phones (Lumia 1520, 1020). Recently I have begun collecting my newer gear starting with my first Hi res dap as the X1/Q1, as well as testing the Sony A17.
My headphone use is primarily IEM with a few cans. My primary gear currently is my Shure SE-425’s and my Hifiman HE-400’s. I use my FiiO X1 with the Q1 DAC stacked as my daily driver currently. But enough about me!
[size=1em]This review was made possible by FiiO, who has provided me and other members of the tour a pre-production version of the X7. Some changes may come from the final product, and it is still receiving several frequent software updates to improve the customer experience and quality.[/size]
In no way has FiiO provided a financial incentive, instead we tour members were given 10 days with the device to provide an honest opinion of the device. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO, and as a result my review is an honest representation of my experiences and opinion of the device. As others, I would like to thank FiiO as well as Joe and James for setting up the tour! Also a special thanks to @nmatheis for providing me with some of the screenshots I forgot to save before formatting and sending off my unit!  With that out of the way, lets dig in!
 
ABOUT FIIO:
 
FiiO Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. Is a Chinese based audio company established in 2007. Rather than focusing on the information you can find on the about page, let’s focus on what they don’t say. FiiO has been making audio products that have become a staple of the head-fi and general audiophiles gear. Nearly everyone on our forums has at least had some time with one FiiO product or another. FiiO has made themselves known for inexpensive, high quality gear with a knack for customer focus. I feel this has helped FiiO become a strong contender in the few years of products they provide.  If you want to know more about FiiO, please check out their about us page located below:
http://www.fiio.net/en/about.html
 
WHATS IMPORTANT (To me…):
 
Like most people, when I look for a device, I have set of demands or requirements that I would like the device to meet. I have included my list below, this will help you identify what I will focus on in my review. If you find your requirements to be similar to mine, you will likely feel the same about the device that I do.
For me, the x7 should have the following:
  1. A high build quality, something sleek and good looking, but also functional
  2. A decent battery life while understanding the limitations of the device’s extra features
  3. A simple, easy to use interface
  4. The ability to drive my gear, if possible with enough room to grow with my gear
  5. Large, expandable memory
  6. Charges with standard power cables (Please, no proprietary)
  7. Many power steps: since the device doesn’t use a physical volume knob, it needs to have enough volume steps to allow me to fine tune volume
  8. Wifi/Bluetooth connections: Bluetooth for the occasional on the go setup, and Wifi for…
  9. Streaming options! If you can use android, let us use the streaming options of our choice! Tidal, Spotify… Pick your poison.
  10. Water ‘Resistant’: Can I use this without fear in mild Oregon weather.  I don’t want to fear pulling the device out in the rain.
 
These are the things that I felt were the most important to me prior to receiving the device. At the end of my review, I will cover if I felt FiiO hit these points for me.
 
SPECIFICATIONS:
 
Dimensions:
130 x 64 x 17mm
Price (USD):
$650.00
Material:
Aluminum
Weight:
7.4 oz
Supported File Types (audio):
APE, FLAC,WAV, ALAC, AIFF, WMA (Lossy/Lossless), MP3, AAC, OGG
Battery:
3500 mAh (Non-replaceable)
DAC Chip:
ES9018S
Amplifier:
OPA1612
Hi-res Ability:
384/32bit
Line Out:
Yes
Digital Out:
Yes, 3.5mm to Coax cable (included)
Internal Storage:
32GB
External Storage:
1 Micro-SD slot up to 128GB Supported
Screen:
4 inch 480x800 touch IPS
Android version:
4.4.4
Bluetooth Version:
4.0+EDR
Processor:
Cortex A9 Quad cord 1.4ghz
Ram:
1GB
 
More specs on the X7 can be found on FiiO’s own specs page located here: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/45/parameters
 
PACKAGING AND IN THE BOX:
 
Packaging for the device is elegant and practical. There are no wood or metal boxes or other fancy frills here. Box feels like it is of a good quality and will provide more than enough protection for the device. It also looks nice enough to draw you in. Personally I have never understood the need for a fancy box or anything. To me, this just translates into extra cost to the consumer. I’d rather keep my price low and have a better device.
 
Upon opening the device you will be presented with your aluminum beauty, as well as a decent set of extras. One thing I have always liked about FiiO is the number of included accessories. This is a small added value, but something that has probably saved my device once or twice. Included in this box kit is the following:
 
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  1. Coaxial Cable for Digital line out
  2. T5 Screwdriver (For removing and changing amp modules)
  3. Replacement T5 screws
  4. USB cable
  5. Warranty Card
  6. 3 total screen protectors (1 pre-installed, 2 extra)
 
I did note that the X7 did not include a simple case like most FiiO products. This could be due to the nature of the pre-release box and product, or it may not be included. Remember, as this is a pre-release device, things can change.
 
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 ​
 
BUILD QUALITY/DESIGN:
 
The X7 is really an eye catching device. It is made out of solid 6061 aluminum and feels like a very high quality device.  It feels very solid and has a decent heft for what it is. Some may consider its size cumbersome; however I use a larger smartphone, so I don’t find this an issue. The device is technically 2 parts, the top half is the screen and the actual device, whereas the bottom (Beginning just beneath the screen) is the interchangeable amp module. While the build between the two pieces is solid, I noticed some wiggling after some usage. Tightening the screws again seemed to do the trick. (***NOTE: This has been brought up to FiiO and us testers have been informed that this has been resolved in the production model’s of the device).
 
On the bottom of the device (Technically, the amp) you will find the Micro-USB charging port and the traditional headphone port. To the left side you will find the Volume +/- and the Power button, as well as the Micro-sd card slot. The right side uses symmetrical set of buttons for track up or down, as well as the play/pause button. Finally, on the top, you will find your line out port.
 
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I did find that I was not a huge fan of the identical buttons on each side, as it was occasionally confusing. According to FiiO this is intended as it will allow settings to be modified for left or right hand usage. During my time I was not able to find this feature, which was sad as I am a fellow left hander. I also was not a fan of some of the other design ideas. Take for example raised screen, as it seems like it would make the device much less durable.  I would have liked to see this flush mounted, even if it meant a slightly larger device.  Finally, I would have liked to see a better implementation of the micro-sd card slot, perhaps inside the device and accessed via removing the amp module. I fear that the card may be popped out or rain may get into this slot and damage the internals.
 
The buttons have a nice feel and are easy enough to identify. The Blue LED looks really nice, but it would be nice to be able to disable this light, as it is always on and will fade in and out during charging. (***NOTE: This has been discussed and us testers have been informed this is to be added with a later software update) The device can get warm when playing, especially with the aid of Wifi or Bluetooth. But it’s not anywhere near hot. Otherwise, I find the device to be very slick looking with a very durable feel.
 
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HARDWARE:
 
As the X7 is an android based device, many of us know what to expect for minimum specs. While the X7 uses a very conservative set of hardware in terms of general phone parts. It is powered by a quad-core Cortex A9 processor (1.4GHz) and 1 GB of ram. Many of us high end users may worry about the device’s ability to keep up in a resource intensive OS like android, but due to the stripped down version of Android 4.4.4 (At the time of writing) I have no fears this will power the device. I was able to use the FiiO music app flawlessly, as well as Spotify or Tidal streaming at highest qualities. During my testing I was only able to make the device have some lag when playing both Tidal and Spotify streaming, as well as FiiO music playing at the same time, which hopefully no one plans on doing.
You may ask what you’re paying for when you drop your wallet on this device only to find the mediocre processor and ram. The bulk of your money goes to the audio equipment, as it should. The DAC is a Sabre ES9018s. The Sabre is able to play PCM at up to 32/384 and DSD up to 127, it also sports 8 output channels. As a downside, FiiO has recognized that this is a primary battery drainer.  Regardless of this, the device is still able to maintain about 9 hours of battery life. In my testing I was able to get roughly 8.5 hours of actual listening with the screen off using FiiO music. Spotify streaming yielded about 6.5 hours.
 
INTERFACE:
 
Because the FiiO X7 uses Android at its core for most of the OS, it’s worth noting that most things here are pretty common of Android. Because of this I won’t dive too much into the Android side of things. Most people these days have decided whether they like Android or not. There is a pretty good chance your at least considering the OS if your reading this review.
*Please Note: These experiences are based on the X7 version 1.0, which was the current version at the time of review*
 
Initial bootup of the device takes about 25 seconds. Once powered on the device can begin playing music in a matter of seconds. This boot time is pretty good for a smartphone based UI. By default, the device will simply boot to the Android home screen with a few basic icons on the screen. Absent from the device will be most of the common android applications, leaving just bare necessities such as the browser and calculator. But we didn’t buy this device to check our e-mail, did we?
 
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FiiO music is located right on the main menu in the lower left by default. Clicking on the icon will open the default player. FiiO music seems to me that it is still a work in progress. Sure, it plays, and you can select music by song, artist, album, genre, or playlists. But my issue is that the app feels young. I give some leniency as the device is brand new, but as of writing the help files do not come in English, meaning we must use our intelligence and click and learn mentality to use the program.
 
After spending some time with the program, it is relatively intuitive, there is a settings menu accessible by swiping from left to right, here you will find your gain and balance settings, ect. The folder icon in the middle accesses music folders, to the left is the current playlist icon, and to the right is apparently a DLNA icon according to research, although this does not function as of writing. There is also a search icon in the upper right that will let you hone in on a song without having to surf the menus.
 
Some things about the application do bug me, for example, in the pictures you can see that the artist is shown, with an album art, and a play icon to the right. The very small play icon can be difficult to hit to play the artist, and clicking on the album art does nothing. You can go into the artist only by selecting the name. The same goes for album or genre selection. This can be a bit of a pain to use. I feel the play icon could be bigger, or at least less transparent. Maybe make clicking on the album art also take you into the next level as well.
 
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One thing I did like is that FiiO has made this device an obviously flexible device. Originally, the X7 required an app be in the “Whitelist” to be used. After some mulling over, they have withdrawn this and can now allow any app to be installed on the device. This has a bit of a positive and negative effect. As it allows us to choose apps that may not be on the whitelist, but also means that the apps aren’t tested for compatibility or negative side effects.
 
Most common audiophile apps work without issue. Among those tested, I was able to successfully use Spotify, Tidal, Amazon music, Slacker, and Pandora using the latest APK’s (android app installer files). The issue is that there is no easy way to download these files at this time. As the X7 does not have Google play installed on the device, you cannot download the app from the play store. You must obtain the installer’s from other sources which are not always reliable.  Another thing to remember is that with the absence of the Google framework, many apps will not work. For example, YouTube, YouTube music, Google Music, and other apps that require Google framework do not work.
 
It is hard to hold these things against FiiO, as they just recently made this change and they do not test these additional apps. Perhaps with time the Google framework or even the store will be added. Some apps will conflict with each other. For example, one thing that bugged me to the point of uninstalling an app was Tidal. The app worked wonderfully, but sometimes I wanted to use Spotify or FiiO Music. When Tidal was on, even in the background, it took over the audio controls. This meant sometimes even when playing FiiO Music if I pressed track skip, FiiO Music would pause, Tidal (which was only on in the background) would skip to the next track and begin playing. This didn’t happen every time, but when it did, nothing short of a force stop would resolve this. Eventually this lead to me uninstalling the app. Once again, I can hardly blame FiiO for this, but it would be nice if FiiO can address this if it’s caused by their equipment.
 
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Finally, it is important to note that while Wifi and Bluetooth are present (and working well) on the device, they will mark a considerable drain on the battery. Sometimes the additional apps installed and just the basic android processes could do a number on the device as well. FiiO has come up with a solution for this called “Pure Music Mode”. In Pure Music mode, the device strips down Android to the core and only runs the absolute basics to run just FiiO Music. This helps the battery considerably and makes avoiding other tasks running in the background a simple task. You can even set up the device to boot in pure Android mode as well. This setting can be changed at will with the device as well, so it can be toggled as needed. It is worth noting that Bluetooth and Wifi can still be turned on or off in pure music mode.
 
THE SOUND:
 
So, how does it sound? The FiiO X7 has so many ways to listen to music. With numerous streaming options, it’s own player, and even additional options for dedicated players. Over my 10 day period with the device I used the device primarily with FiiO Music, Spotify, and for some time Tidal. While other apps were tested, they were only to confirm working order.
 
For me, as well as several of the people on the head-fi forum, the sound that comes from the X7 is a very 3D sound. It seems as though all levels and frequencies are highlighted. Normally this would create a confused sound that will usually make me put down a device, but something about the way it played went really well together. I think it may have to do with the fact that while all frequencies were highlighted, they were still separated. Individual instruments were easy to pick out from even the most complex tracks. Voices stood out and clear. Treble was bright, but not to a point where a bass-head would be turned off, and vice versa.
 
I did find that while this sound quality was found from the several IEM’s tested. (RHA 750i, Shure Se 425 and 215, ect.) Some headphones simply did not make the cut. Attempting to use my Hifiman HE-400’s I could barely get to listening volume on Spotify or Tidal. While the volume was enough in FiiO music, I found that the sound fell flat for me. Treble was pulled back from the others, making the sound a bit more veiled and muddy. It should be noted that the only amp on hand was the IEM module, and as such I didn’t place much expectation on the sound. Perhaps a full sized headphone amp module would resolve this issue. Similar sound quality is obtained from the Mad Dog Alphas.
 
While I do not have any significantly hard to drive headphones (or IEM’s for that matter) many others have reported that even harder to drive IEM’s seem to do well with the current amp pairing. In pairing against the FiiO X7 I only had access to my smartphone collection and my FiiO X1, all of which I was able to pair with my Q1 amp. The X7 did more than well at decimating any sound quality from my smartphone. It also had the added benefit of being a separate device that didn’t interrupt my listening with badgering notifications.
 
Comparing between the FiiO X1/Q1 and the X7 the audio quality was noticeably better, however, not as much as I was initially expecting. With the X1 the Bass is nice and punchy, without being overly so. The treble is nice but not forward, and the mids make me melt. I preferred singer/songwriter genre’s out of my stack more than the x7. But with the X7, fast paced songs were more energetic. Sibilance was practically non-existent. The X7 also has the nice ability to access both my actual files and my streaming content in one device.
 
For obvious reasons, smartphones and the X7 sounded identical with Bluetooth headsets, This makes sense due to the way the Bluetooth audio is streamed. That being said, it is a nice, handy extra.
 
HOW DID IT FAIR?
 
If you’ve stuck with me this far you already know how well or not well it hit my checkboxes. But in case you wanted to skim, here is the short of it:
  1. A high build quality, something sleek and good looking, but also functional
Yes, absolutely. It feels like a solid device. Some style choices were questionable, such as the raised screen. But overall, the device is great!
  1. A decent battery life while understanding the limitations of the device’s extra features
9 hours is a fair deal, especially since I was very near this in actual testing. Less time came when using streaming. Would I like better battery life? Yes. But for what it is, I am pleased.
  1. A simple, easy to use interface
It’s essentially Android, you may disagree, but I found it easy and intuitive. The FiiO music app could use some help here and there, but it’s still pre-production, and FiiO is constantly listening and updating.
  1. The ability to drive my gear, if possible with enough room to grow with my gear
This was a tossup for me. It powered most of my gear, but left much to be desired from my HE-400 cans. A different amp module may fix this, but without being able to test this, it was a no for me. This may change however.
  1. Large, expandable memory
32gb internal (something like 27gb useable) and supported 128GB additional, this is more than enough for me. Especially if the size is expanded in future updates.
  1. Charges with standard power cables (Please, no proprietary)
Micro USB. Yup, were good here
  1. Many power steps: since the device doesn’t use a physical volume knob, it needs to have enough volume steps to allow me to fine tune volume
120 Steps, more than enough to fine tune. Although changing faster using hard buttons would be nice
  1. Wifi/Bluetooth connections: Bluetooth for the occasional on the go setup, and Wifi for…
Yes, Yes, and both work well!
  1. Streaming options! If you can use android, let us use the streaming options of our choice! Tidal, Spotify… Pick your poison.
Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Slacker, and Pandora all tested and working perfectly. So yes.
  1. Water ‘Resistant’: Can I use this without fear in mild Oregon weather.  I don’t want to fear pulling the device out in the rain.
Another tossup; the device feels solid and everything, but the top port for line out sometimes scares me. I’m also not a fan of the exposed micro SD card slot both due to moisture and the potential for accidental removal of the card.
 
CONCLUSION:
 
The FiiO X7 is a solid device that is capable of delivering a solid bang for the buck. Sleek and stylish, the Aluminum body has a natural heft that makes it feel sturdy without being obtrusive. The symmetrical button design can be confusing at first, but is easy enough to get past.
 
Being that the device is Android based, it is very simple to navigate and will allow several apps to customize the experience for each owner. The FiiO app is still in its infancy, meaning it has room for improvement, but FiiO is listening and very receptive. With a bit of time, the preinstalled app can become something great. In the meantime it is more than usable, and if you disagree, you can always install a different app to manage your player.
 
The sound is well hammered out and sounds fantastic. The audio is well presented and layered. Sibilance is non-existent. And the nice thing is that, if nothing else, this is one of the few things that can’t easily be changed with software updates. To know this is great out of the pre-production box is fantastic!
 
Is the device worth the $650.00 USD price tag? This is a subjective question, but I feel that while I am not ready to put this money down yet, I can see this device being something to keep my eye on, as the Price to performance and versatility is worth every penny. If some of the promised changes appear soon, I may be adding a new device to my inventory!
 
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 ​
 
EQUIPMENT USED:
 
Headphones – RHA 750, Shure SE 425, Shure SE 215, Bose IEM2, Beats studio wireless, Hifiman HE-400
DAP – FiiO X1, Lumia 1520, HTC One M8, Asus Zenfone 2
AMP/DAC – FiiO X1
Songs – Pentatonix: Standing By, Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way, Foo Fighters: Saint Cecilia, Muse: Supermassive Black Hole, Matthew And The Atlas: Out of the Darkness
*All songs were tested using either Spotify Premium high quality, Tidal Hifi, or Red Book lossless, usually 16/44.1*
Vividcard
Vividcard
@Brooko I realized after posting my review that I couldn't help but notice our reviews look very similar in design and layout. Like minds sir, like minds!
bmichels
bmichels
let's hope that soon there will be a power-amp module for hard to drive headphones, and may be also a module that will include additional memory or additional micro-SD cards.
Vividcard
Vividcard
I wouldn't put tons of faith on additional cards or such. But maybe with new firmware we can get official support for 200+ gb micro SD.
Pros: top class DAC, modular amp design, streaming capability, touch screen interface, bypass of Android SRC limitation.
Cons: FW is still work in progress, polarizing exterior design, need to buy extra amp modules.

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

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

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

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

Brand spirit: innovation, quality, service

Brand positioning: HiFi with style

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn't work. Sorry. Move along!
 
 
SOUND

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

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

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

Vividcard
Vividcard
Great review, Side note however, Regarding the Artist selection option. You can go down into album or song lists. However, you can not do so pressing the album art. Instead you have to choose the name of the album. Art is just there to be pretty, name dives deeper, and ultra-tiny play button plays the album.
nmatheis
nmatheis
Thanks for clarifying that @Vividcard. I swear I was clicking all over the place trying to drill down but missed that somehow. Since there was already a (barely visible) play icon, the most intuitive place seemed to be the Album Art. I really wish FiiO had gotten an English translation of the Pure Music's Help Guide out before my time with the X7 ended. Oh well...
allinhead
allinhead
hi nmatheis, nice review.
could you say few words  between x7 and n6 just about sound pls
thanks
Pros: Android Market, Amplifier module options (primarily the AM3), Phenomenal sound quality, Offers a lot for the asking price
Cons: Still some minor software bugs with Android applications, Not the fastest and most responsive processing power
20161023_190426.jpg
At the time this review was edited, the Fiio X7 was listed for sale on Amazon. Here is a link for purchases of not only the X7, but the somewhat recently released amplifier modules and accessories that I will discuss as well:
 
Fiio X7:
https://www.amazon.com/X7-Hi-Res-Lossless-Player-Titanium/dp/B017SBSOB0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477112078&sr=8-1&keywords=fiio+x7
 
High power amplifier module, AM5:
https://www.amazon.com/Power-Headphone-Amplifier-Module-Titanium/dp/B01F1L2V5Y/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153040&sr=8-4&keywords=fiio+x7
  1. MUSES02 operational amplifier for voltage amplification
  2. TPA6120A2 buffer stage
  3. Ultra-high current drive (250mA) and ultra-low noise and distortion
  4. Separate positive and negative pole power supplies
  5. Power Output: >500mW (16Ohm @1kHz)

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

 
Introduction
I’m not a huge follower of DAPs for the most part. I have several reasons for this. In today’s day and age the smartphone is taking the place of most DAPs. Yes, you can argue this philosophy and say that DAPs offer better file support and more premium chips. I can counter this by saying that phones like the 32 bit DAC of the LG V10, or audio oriented HTC 10 and ZTE Axon 7 are coming close and in some ways trumping what many DAP manufacturers are offering.
 
The other argument is that it’s important to separate the smartphone experience from enjoying a high fidelity audio experience. We live in 2016 where Tidal and other streaming services are very relevant. Not everyone thinks we should only shell out a small fortune for FLAC and DSD downloads. On top of this, we want to be able to utilize modern technology and apply it to our music experience. We live in a world that is going wireless. We are almost all online, using smartphone applications on a regular basis.
 
So what should be the next step? What does the audiophile need in today’s day and age? At what point are we sacrificing sound quality for technology and vica versa? I guess that comes down to what your individual preferences are.
 
For me, I try to find players that take the best aspects from each piece of electronics and combines them into an all-in-one solution. I want FLAC and DSD playback, I want DAC/Amplifier capability, I want bluetooth, I want the ability to drive any in-ear monitor or headphone I have. I want third party streaming services and a easy to use interface. Simply put, if I’m going to shell out cash on a DAP, it’s going to be on something that takes my music listening experience beyond my LG V10. This is no easy feat. The V10 is an incredible device for audiophiles.
 
When Fiio first introduced the X7 I was enamored by the concepts going into the device. From what I heard and read about the unit, I assumed this was going to be the answer to my desires when it comes to DAPs. I volunteered to lead off in the X7 launch tour November of last year, and was honestly disappointed. The integration of Android was not the greatest. I enjoyed the stock application and the sound quality, but was let down by the fact that the Android market was not installed, forcing users to search for and install APK files to stream music. The new amplifier modules were not released, and the unit had some design flaws that made me concerned. I wrote a three and a half star review (which could have easily been a three star review). At the time, the X7 was an incomplete product that didn’t live up to the hype.
 
Months passed after that review, and I was left wondering if Fiio was putting more touches into the product with upgraded firmware and hardware. When I saw Jack from TEKFX at the Axpona Audio exhibit in April of this year, I had a chance to revisit the device. There were some pleasant surprises, with the most noticeable one being the implementation of the Android market. When I saw this upgrade, as well as new amplifier modules I knew that my review was outdated and my previous experience would do the X7 an injustice to potential buyers. I showed Jack the review and discussed that it would be nice to right the wrongs in my review just as Fiio had done by making improvements to the unit. Jack agreed to loan me an X7 to test and review, along with the AM2 and AM3 amplifier modules. I am now ready to shed new light on the revamped X7.
 
The X7 has a plethora of reviews so at this point I don’t feel it’s imperative to break things down or go as invasive as an inaugural review. If you need to go step by step of each aspect of the device please reference one of the following reviews:
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14456
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14660
 
As for the edit to this review, I will leave my initial review in small font at the bottom of my edit, and point out why I am not only increasing the rating, but also explain the reasons why.
 
ANDROID MARKET
20161023_190510.jpg
Look, I get it, some people don’t want a second cell phone. Still, Android market is awesome and having the ability to easily download and install our favorite music streaming applications is important. For me, my favorite streaming application is Google Music.  For others it’s Tidal, Spotify and Pandora as well as many others. The list goes on and on. Long story short, the APK days are over for the X7. We have Google Play services, and access to hundreds of applications. Having applications went from being a pain in the butt to a pleasant experience and opportunity to customize each X7 owner to customize their music experience.
 
NOTE: Although this is a huge improvement from what I’ve experienced in the past, it still has some bugs. Google Play services crashes from time to time. The device doesn’t have the processing power to handle a bunch of applications, so X7 owners still must choose the ones that matter most and keep their app cache under control without overloading the X7 and making it lag out. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that Fiio can address these bugs with future firmwares.
 
ACCESSORIES
Fiio launched the X7 with the AM1 amplifier module. Yes, it sounded really good with in-ear monitors, but to be honest the buck stopped there. There wasn’t a lot to say beyond this. Today, Fiio offers an accessories line that gives X7 owners an opportunity to customize their product. Let’s go over each accessory.
 
FIIO K5
The X7 has a place to call home when it reaches the desk of audiophiles, and it’s called the K5. No, I don’t have a review sample, but seeing it at shows I’ll say the thing makes sense. It operates as a docking station for the X7, allowing owners to use it for music playback, file transfers, and a charging station for the X7. It’s an all-in-one desktop companion\solution. Kudos for this Fiio, you done good with this one!
 
AMPLIFIER MODULES
20161023_190342.jpg
*Fiio X7 with AM2 (left) and AM3 (right) amplifier modules installed
 
There are now four amplifier modules to choose from. This has taken the stock player with AM1 chip and made its driving power much more versatile. Let’s take a brief look at each module.
 
AM1
The AM1 is the stock amp that comes with the X7. It is the “low power” module. I consider this module to be ideal for in-ear monitors and low impedance headphones. You aren’t going to get the most out of your power hungry high impedance cans with the AM1.
 
AM2
This is the “medium power” module, offering increased power over the AM1. I would recommend this amplifier who listen to mostly full size headphones that aren’t incredibly power hungry. This module offers a little too much power for sensitive in-ear monitors IMHO.
 
AM3
Of the amplifier modules I was able to sample this one is by far my favorite. The bottom of the modules comes with two different outputs. One is a 2.5 mm balanced output that  has some serious output power (540mW, 32 Ohms @ 1kHz). There is also a 3.5 mm single ended output that puts out less power (250 mW, 16 Ohms @ 1kHz). What does this mean? It means that with the right jack used and possibly adapter applied, you can drive just about anything. And for the balanced output? It sounds awesome! Of all the things that Fiio has done to improve the X7 this module is right up there with the application of the Android Market. The combination of these two things makes the X7 one of the best players you can get your hands on in today’s market.
 
AM5
I didn’t get my hands on the AM5, but from the description I can draw a conclusion of it’s capabilities. Pushing 500 mW at 16 Ohms, I assume this unit will push almost any high impedance headphone, but will be too much power for most low power earphones. If you plan on using your X7 with your pairs of 300 Ohm and above headphones and not much else, you should consider this module.
 
CASES
When the X7 tour was going on, there was virtually no accessories that came with the X7. Anyone who has had a chance to hold the X7 in their hand would understand my concern in regards to the device’s build The thing is built like a small brick and feels very solid in the hand, but the glass screen goes right to the edge of the device. Combine the X7’s weight with the screen design, and it gives the impression that it’s one drop away from the screen cracking. I had to baby my review sample the last time I had it. Now, there’s case options for the X7 that will make the X7 better withstand daily abuse and the test of time.
 
Conclusion
The accessories options make the X7 more expensive than the stock unit, but it puts the option out there for you to customize your device. The X7 is not yet what I would consider perfect. I don’t think the button layout is ideal, and there are still some minor software bugs that need to be worked out. On top of all of this, the processing power of the X7 should be more powerful. At the end of the day, when used in Android mode the X7 slower and less responsive than most of today’s smartphones. However, when used with just the stock player it works phenomenally. Speaking of which, the stock music application is awesome. Those who don’t want the Android Market and music streaming aspect to be a part of their listening experience will really enjoy the stock music application.
 
I personally feel the X7 was rushed to market. Review tours were conducted before the X7 was a complete product. With the added accessories and Android Market, the X7 is an entirely different device, and something I can now say I recommend. In all honesty, at the moment and in terms of price to performance, the X7 and AM3 is one of the best deals around in my opinion. It gives me that “best of both worlds” approach when it comes to what I look for in a DAP
 
20161023_190731.jpg
 
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
 
Here is the original review written in November of 2015. Please note that this was the initial impressions posted. Let it be more of a flashback to remind you of how far the X7 has come since its release:
 
We’ve been waiting…
 
And waiting…
 
And waiting…
 
And waiting…
 
But finally it’s here! The X7 is finally happening! I have been anticipating this for a looooooong time!
20151110_102704.jpg
 
We’ve participated in the threads. We’ve read the speculations and rumors. We’ve also read the online pissing contests and arguments made by some Head-Fi participants. It’s been quite a roller coaster to this point!
 
I’ve made some outrageous claims as far as what I’d do to be a part of the initial beta tour. Luckily, I didn’t have to eat any turds, slap my mama, or name my next born child FiiO in order to be a part of this tour (thanks guys)
 
And now, finally (and thankfully) I have the honor and pleasure to experience the X7 and share it with the Head-Fi community. Here we go….
 
First and foremost, thank you to all the good guys at Fiio for your patience and consideration. Thank you for the opportunity to try the new X7 out, and also for letting the Head-Fi community be a part of this endeavor from the very beginning. There aren't many companies that allows the suggestions and input of the Head-Fi community weigh so heavily in the outcome and development of their products. Big ups FiiO!
 
I was given an opportunity to sample the X7 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO.
 
Before break into the package, let it be known that this is a BETA TESTING TOUR. In the fifteen days I’ve had with the product, I’ve downloaded three firmware updates, and I’m fairly confident that this isn’t going to be the last firmware installed before the official U.S. release of the X7. I don’t consider this to be a comprehensive review, but more of a initial impressions write up.
 
The X7 came in a simple black box with a picture of the X7. The  back of the box had a listing of the X7 key features written in both Chinese and English. Also included in the package was a separate paper folder addressed to “X7 Reviewer” from Fiio, explaining the process and story behind the Fiio X7 project along with key features. This is a great read that I suggest ALL reviewers on this tour take the time to flip through.
20151114_072403.jpg 
*Front
 
20151114_072414.jpg
*Back
 
20151114_073832.jpg
*Supplied Accessories
 
Key Features (as noted by FiiO)
*FiiO’s first Android-based DAP
*Android DAP that bypasses Android’s sample rate conversion
*First DAP with Android/Pure music mode switch
*High-impact 3.97” 480X800 multitouch functions
*1 GB RAM, quad-core Cortex-A9 for smooth music under all circumstances
*RK3188 SoC+ES9018S DAC+OPA1612 buffer, no compromises throughout the audio chain
*Highly Customized music APP
*Symmetrical button layout enabling custom button mappings
*Patent pending exchangeable headphone amp module; docking connector to desktop amplifier
*Supports WIFI/Bluetooth 4.0 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), expanding your music horizons wirelessly
*6061 aluminium + advanced CNC processing, pursuing perfections from materials to machining
*Ergonomic body design, well sized and shaped for single-handed holding and operation
*Innovative mirror finished edge + reflective status light
*Well-sized 3500mAh battery for 9 hours of playtime
*Two years of research from FiiO’s professional audio development team
*FiiO’s quality assurance
 
FiiO has broken away from its conventional scroll wheel operation and vanilla user interface. This is Fiio’s attempt at a touch screen DAP. The device on a whole is heavy and feels very solid, like a brick of metal in the hand. All materials are top notch. Aluminum housing and a solid screen I would assume is gorilla glass. There are three buttons on each side and are mirror images of each other on each side. The left side is volume and power. The right side is skip tracks and play/pause. SD card access is located on the left side of the device.
 
20151114_073101.jpg
*Left Side
 
20151114_073053.jpg
*Right Side
 
NOTE: Although I find the X7 to be a sturdy build, the raised glass screen is a big red flag for me. It appears to be a drop away from having a cracked screen or some sort of damage. I am hoping that FiiO releases a shockproof case for the X7 to give reassurance to owners who have concerns of how the X7 will handle being accidentally dropped.
 
NOTE: I was disappointed that the X7 didn't have an analog volume pot. To adjust the volume when the screen isn't active I have to repeatedly press the volume button. I personally feel that all higher end DAPs need to have an analog volume pot. Your mileage may vary.
 
Firing up the unit you are greeted with a custom Fiio welcoming screen which leads to the typical folder style menu of most android devices. However, the folder selection is minimal and only features the folders essential for running the Android operating system. I’m not going to focus on the function of these folders, as there are many other things to cover in this review. Just know that they are basic Android folders and a tab for the FiiO music application.
 
Using Android OS in a high fidelity DAP creates it’s own set of problems. Android has a process of downsampling music to a lower bit rate to cooperate with the rest of the operating system and its applications. What Fiio has done with its music app is created a way of taking over the Android audio subsystem, allowing the app to play all music files in their native form. With this being said the X7 is able to play every file format I threw at it, including DSD and FLAC.
 
20151105_113701.jpg
*Tapping on the album artwork displays the file's bit rate.
 
The X7 has one GB of RAM, which by today’s standards isn’t very much, especially considering we are dealing with an Android device. To counteract this Fiio has two modes of operation. If you want to maximize the RAM users can disable various Android operations by using “Music Mode”. This can be accessed by pulling down from the customized menu from the upper right hand part of the screen, selecting the Music Mode button, then rebooting the device. There are also several other options on this display. This menu is hidden by dragging the menu back up to the top. The android version of this screen can be accessed by pulling down the menu screen from the top left (displaying all running apps). This menu is also closed the same way.
 
20151105_113036.jpg
*Left Side Drop Menu
 
20151105_113018.jpg
*Right Side Drop Menu
 
The display of the X7 isn’t the sharpest display I’ve seen, and not on par with most current Android Phone releases, but I find it perfectly adequate at the same time. Colors are sharp and vibrant and It works pretty well outdoors. Contrast was excellent.
 
20151113_095247_HDR.jpg
*The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on the entire time the unit is powered up (even in standby mode). I’m hoping FiiO will provide an option to turn this light off, or at least dim the light.
 
20151105_105552.jpg
*The top of the unit has a line out that works as a standard line out, or as digital coaxial line out (when used with the supplied digital coax adapter). Because the DAC and interchangeable amp module is so good, I see no reason to use this beyond plugging the X7 into a external stereo system, or to a high power desktop set up.
 
20151105_105607.jpg
*I assume the X7 will be able to be used as an external DAC/Amplifier to be hooked up to computers and other sources, but as of my last day with the unit I wasn’t able to do so. What you see here is the Micro USB input for charging and data transfer, along with the 3.5 mm headphone jack.
 
The X7 is a mixed bag for me in terms of operation. While I was hoping for more in terms of Android support, but there’s no denying the sound quality this thing can pump out.
 
The Fiio Music Application
20151105_093917.jpg
*Single Song Menu (note the various sort order options on the top of the screen)
*Alphabetical options from left to right are Single Song, Artist, Album, Genre, File Folder (SD or Internal Memory)
 
The Fiio music app is a nice app, but still has its fair amount of bugs. Although not perfect, I didn’t have too many problems with the user interface. I think their concepts are clever and well thought out. After installing my preloaded SD (supports up to 128 GB) card I was able to access all my music via a folder tab on the app. The X7 identified and played every music file I had loaded on my SD card, including FLAC and DSD.
 
What struck a nerve was the file sorting order. I assume the normal way of navigating through in most cases should be Artist/Album/Song. What Fiio does is Artist, then goes to a list of all songs from that artist regardless of album. There was a button option on the upper right hand part of the screen to sort them into album after choosing the artist, but I found this to be an annoyance and unneeded extra step towards the same outcome. I’m hoping this is fixed.
 
NOTE: If you do want to access the memory card the exact way it was loaded (Usually will be Artist/Album/Track) it can be done via a folder tab in the upper right corner of the music sorting options file by accessing the internal memory or SD card. Choose the SD card option and files will be displayed just as they were initially loaded on the card.
 
Another bug was that after playing music with the Fiio music application for an extended amount of time the app simply would not close. In order to get back to the android home screen I had to turn the X7 off and back on. Also, after playing music for a considerable amount of time after the screen has gone blank, the play and pause but was unresponsive. These are both minor and I assume FiiO is going to fix both with their next firmware update.
 
There are some other bugs with the Music application but I consider them to be minor. One thing I would hope to see with a firmware upgrade would be to see FiiO make the volume adjustment a sliding adjustment by pressing on the displayed volume and dragging this number up or down, similar to A&K DAPs.
 
NOW, let’s discuss the good things about the user interface I really enjoyed. Aside from the identified Artist/Album/Song issue I’ve brought up, the rest of the sorting options and displays are pretty masterfully done. When playing a song from an album (in single song display mode) I can access songs from the designated sorting order by dragging my finger from the left border. In this there was the equalizer, bluetooth, favorites, delete and information tab as well as Play, Pause and Skip tracks options. Dragging a finger from the right side of the screen during this display accessed the on screen volume control.
 
There didn’t seem to be much in lag or delay when selecting tabs. I did however have instances when I would press on the screen and it didn’t register and I would have to press the tab again.
 
The Fiio app equalizer is pretty cool. It’s a ten band equalizer that shows a smoothed rendering of your settings on the top of the display. There are several preset displays aside from whatever custom setting you would want to apply.
 
20151105_114842.jpg
*Ten band equalizer with smoothed over setting display up top
 
There is a settings menu on the music application that is pretty fantastic. Key features are an on  and off timer, gapless playback option, gain settings, play through folders, and UI personalization.
 
With all the identified negatives being said, please don’t let that take away from the thing that will make the X7 truly special. The sound quality of the X7 is FANTASTIC, despite the fact that at first listen it seemed a bit sterile to my ears.
 
The X7 came shipped with the IEM amplifier module, which is replaceable with separate amplifier modules that will Fiio will be offering. While I feel this amplifier didn’t unleash the full potential of the X7, I could tell by listening to it that the X7 used the ES9018 chip masterfully.
 
20151114_074234.jpg
*Detached (and interchangeable) Amplifier Mudule
 
One thing I did notice while using the X7 is that it will get pretty warm if you keep it in your pocket while listening to music. In the winter it will make a great pocket hand warmer. In the summer it will be as welcomed as a loud and stinky fart in the middle of church service.  
 
With the IEM amplifier configuration the X7 sits right in the middle of warm and cold. It is a very neutral, transparent and detailed sound. I feel the X7 was able to make even my my worst bit rate files sound almost like they were upsampled to sound their best potential. The X7 seemed to be able to handle sibilance better than other players I have used.
 
Because the X7 came with the IEM amp module I used mostly in-ear monitors and easy to drive headphones. There really wasn’t any type of “synergy” type of things to speak of. The X7 is brutally honest with whatever you’re using with them. Bright earphones will be bright, warm will be warm, neutral will be neutral and so on. I could see this making a great device for review purposes because of this neutral and pretty colorless presentation. I made sure to use several in-ear monitors, and my favorite pairings with the X7 were more neutral monitors like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
 
Android Functionality
This is where I must admit I was pretty disappointed. Simply put, the X7 has an Android operating system, but doesn’t utilize Google Play Services or the Google play store, leaving me wanting more, much more than what my options are in terms of applications beyond the stock Fiio music application.
 
Applications are can be downloaded via APK files (bypassing the Google Play Services and Play Store). If you are wondering what APK files are, here is a link:
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_application_package
 
The drawback to this is that it leaves it up to the owner to search and download APKs. This also means that updates will have to be searched and installed by the owner without any notifications of updates being available.
 
Only particular applications will work. If an application needs Google Play Services to operate they won’t work on the X7. For example, when I tried to install Google Music, upon installation I was prompted with a notification that I wouldn’t be able to access all features of the application. I was able to open the app and listen to music that was installed on my device, but I couldn’t access my online music library or stream music from the web.
 
20151105_111610.jpg
*Shucks...
 
On a more positive note, I was able to install and use Tidal and Spotify with no problem. All streaming worked flawlessly. There are many apps that will work with the X7, including some streaming apps (via WIFI). My time with the device was limited, so I can’t elaborate too much. Just know that the APK compatibility is a work in progress. If Google Play Services and Android Market are not going to be available on the X7, I’m hoping FiiO will make an APK directory for X7 owners, making downloading and installing applications a more convenient and enjoyable process.
 
20151105_112836.jpg
*Tidal on full display
 
Conclusion
At this point the X7 is still a work in progress rather than a finished package, so I can say that in the short time I’ve had with the unit there is not a final verdict from me.
 
I think FiiO has taken a huge step forward in terms of product development by breaking away from their conventional style of DAPs, offering a more modern device with improved sound quality. However, this is also coming with it’s own unique and new set of challenges for them to face moving forward.
 
Android’s operating system and WIFI capability is going to give Fiio further opportunities to update and improve their product via firmware updates, even after the device is sold and in the owner’s hands. That combined with the chipset and interchangeable amplifier modules, they’ve created a very versatile and awesome sounding unit. Their fidelity rivals rivals just about any portable I’ve heard to this date.
 
What leaves me on the fence is the Android aspect of this device. I am left wondering how the masses feel it competes against the likes of the players like the HUM Pervasion, Five year old Sony F series walkman (and inevitably dropping price of the ZX1 and ZX2), newly released and similarly priced ONKYO DP-X1,  as well as other Android based DAPs that are yet to be released. Please note, this has nothing to do with Fidelity and it’s performance in terms of sheer sound quality. It has more to do with the players ability to combine the full Android experience with the type of phenomenal sound quality that the X7 has. With today’s technological advancements in mobile devices, my next purchase will be based on what DAP can best integrate both aspects.
 
To summarize, the X7 is a DAP will play up to approximately 150 GB of music (between internal and maximum SD capacity) and make it sound phenomenal. They offer their own new and pretty well designed stock music application that many will enjoy. The ability to download and install APK files and stream music is an added bonus. Some will not care for the fact that FiiO doesn’t offer the full Android experience (Google Play Services and Android Market) while others will applaud it for the exact same reason. Rather than being an android device with phenomenal sound quality, it is a phenomenal sound quality device with limited Android APK file capability.
 
Kudos to FiiO for their hard work on the X7 project and choice to take a step forward in terms of technology. I look forward to seeing what is to come with future firmware updates and alternative amplifier modules.
 
20151105_105451.jpg
 
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
 
NOTE: The bottom half of this review is the initial impressions posted in November of 2015. Please read the top of the review to see the changes and improvements made to the device. 
Pewterlocks
Pewterlocks
For all of you talking about the " playstore app" not able to be used. Try downloading the aptoide app,it is a stand alone app store like the play store. All the apps are free, as it is run like a file sharing site,but Aptoide has their own security which moniters,imho quite well,as i have never had an issue with apps from the Aptoide store.
Where you may run into problems is when you start adding more store into the Aptoide collective,but the Aptoide security clearly marks every app\ store with the applicable warning.
This is a quick write up regarding Aptoide,feel free to contact me for more info.
Hisoundfi
Hisoundfi
Greetings all who read this review. An edit has been made to note the improvements Fiio has made to this device. Please read the top portion of this review to note the changes made.
Brooko
Brooko
Vince - the AM5 has no issues driving sensitive earphones either. The volume control has enough play, and the amp is sufficiently low noise that it can be a jack of all trades. You do trade off some battery life - and the amp is a little warmer than the AM1/AM3
Pros: Sound quality, build, form factor, ease of use, interface, features/versatility, connectivity
Cons: UI features missing/incomplete, on the largish side (physically), battery life
x727.jpg
For larger images - please click individual photos

INTRODUCTION

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

THE REVIEW

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
 
The X7 arrived in a smart black retail box with a printed outer sleeve.  The box measures approximately 110 x 180 x 60mm. On the front of the sleeve is a picture of the X7, and logo referencing the highest sampling rates (DSD and 384/32), and on the rear of the sleeve are the specifications in English and Chinese.
 
 
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Front of the retail box
Rear of the retail box
 
Removing the sleeve reveals a plain back two piece box, which when opened reveals the X7 securely held in a foam surrounding. Underneath the X7 is a second box containing he accessories, as well as a printed navigation guide – showing he X7’s main controls.
 
The accessories include:
  1. A USB charging / data cable
  2. A digital out to coax cable
  3. 2 spare screen protectors for the X7 (plus there is one already prefitted)
  4. A foldout warranty card
  5. A screwdriver and spare screws for changing the amp sections
 
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Box in profile
First opening of inner box
Accessory package
 

The entire package is practical, covering almost everything you initially need for the player, and the only other things I would have personally liked to see included would have been some sort of protective case, and maybe the little Fiio USB card reader (which was included with the original X5) – which I have found extremely handy over the last couple of years.
 
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
 
The tables below list most of the relevant specifications.  I have (as a comparison) also listed specifications from Fiio’s former flagship (X5ii) and also the new L&P L5 Pro, which sits in a very close price bracket to the X7.
 
 ​
Fiio X5ii
Fiio X7
L5 Pro
Approx cost
 USD 349.00
USD 650.00
USD 809.00
Dimensions
~ 109 x 64 x 15mm
~ 130 x 64 x 17mm
~ 125 x 65 x 18mm
Weight
165g
210g
217g
DSD support
ISO, DSF, DFF up to 128
ISO, DSF, DFF up to 128
ISO, DSF, DFF up to 256
Lossless PCM support
APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, AIFF
APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, AIFF
APE, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, WV
Lossy support
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
MP3, aac, ogg vorbis, WMA
Use as external DAC?
Yes
Not yet implemented
Not yet implemented
Battery
3300 mAh
3500 mAh
Not stated
Play time
10 hours+
9 hours
Up to 12 hours
DAC chip used
PCM1792A
ES9018S
AKM Verita 4490
Main amp chip
OPA1612
OPA1612
1812O
S/N (H/O)
≥117 dB (A-Weight)
115 dB (A-Weight)
Not stated
THD+N (H/O)
<0.001% (1 kHz)
<0.0008% (1 kHz)
Not stated
Output into 16 ohm
>436 mW (THD+N<1%)
Not stated
Not stated
Output into 32 ohm
>245 mW (THD+N<1%)
>100 mW
Not stated
Output into 300 ohm
>27 mW (THD+N<1%)
Not stated
Not stated
Highest resolution
192 kHz, 24 bits
384 kHz, 32 bits
768 kHz, 32 bits
H/O impedance
<0.2 Ω(32Ω)
<0.5 Ω(32Ω)
Not stated
Line Out
Yes, shared with digital out
Yes, shared with digital out
Yes, shared with digital out
Digital Out
Yes, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
Yes, 3.5mm to Coax (cable supplied)
Yes, 3.5mm
Internal storage
None
32 Gb
32 Gb
External storage
2 x Micro sdxc up to 256Gb
1 x Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
1 x Micro sdxc up to 128Gb
Screen
IPS 400x360
480x800 touch IPS
480x800 touch IPS
Shell / Casing
Aluminium alloy
6061 Aluminium alloy
Aluminium magnesium alloy
 
I’ll also touch on the other features as we continue with the review.
 
BUILD / DESIGN
 
The build on the X7 (IMO) is excellent.  Fiio were kind enough to provide some background information on the design and build, and I would encourage anyone with a review unit to take some time to read through the Preview Reference and also the “Making of X7”.
 
The X7 is CNC cut out of a solid block of 6061 aluminium (the same as used in the iPhone 6S chassis). It is then polished, sandblasted, brushed, colour anodized, and then further diamond cut for the high quality finish. All edges are either rounded or bevelled. It is a rectangular shape (130 x 64 x 17mm). The top section (where the Wifi and Bluetooth modules are kept) is slightly thinner.
 
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The X7 - beautifully simple design
Left side - volume, screen/power button and micro SD slot
Bottom and left hand side
 

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

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

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

One thing I have noticed is that the review unit can get mildly warm while sitting in a pocket while it’s playing.  Not burning, and nothing to be concerned about (IMO) but it can warm up – so worth noting.
 
So for general build and design I have no real critiques at all.  Exactly what I would expect from a  high quality DAP.
 
DESIGN – INTERNALS
 
Although you can’t see them, it is probably a good idea to mention the internal electronics. The DAC used is a Sabre ES9018S capable of DSD up to 128, and PCM up to 32/384. Fiio mentions in their release notes that the reason they chose this DAC is that it had the best measurements, and their goal with the X7 was best fidelity. It comes with 8 output channels, which can be combined  for 4x multiplier of performance parameters for two channel applications. They openly say that the drawbacks with the chip are high cost and high power draw – but with a 9 hour battery life, they are happy with the performance.
 
The OP amp is based around the 1612 buffer for stability and a very balanced sonic output.
 
At its core is the RK3188 SoC, and this was chosen mainly for the technical support that is available with this SoC, and the ease of having Fiio’s software designers being able to find solutions without any language barriers during development.
 
The processor used is a quad-core Cortex A9 with 1 Gb RAM which I’ve found to be pretty snappy with next to no lag (maybe ½ a second when first pushing play). It runs at a 1.4 GHz clock speed, which when combined with the RK3188 SoC keeps power consumption low for longer run times.
 
At its heart, the X7 runs an Android operating system (based on Android version 4.4.4) and has its own Fiio designed player application.
 
UI (USER INTERFACE) / USABILITY
 
Please note that this is with the released firmware 1.0 stable released Nov 3, 2015.
 
I really didn’t know what to expect with the Android system, as although I’ve run a lot of Unix based systems, my phone is Apple, and my main machine is a Windows PC. The system though is pretty easy to navigate around, and although it’s not perfect yet, it already is a far nicer and easier interface than the X3ii or X5ii.
 
No obviously I can’t run through all of the available features – as with only a week before I’ve had to move it on to the next reviewer, there simply isn’t enough time to cover them all (and I’m still learning).  So I’ll try instead to cover the main points – please excuse the number of images.
 
In Android or “Full” Mode
On first powering the X7, you get a pretty simple unlock screen, which after swiping, takes you to the main X7 window.  From here you have access to the browser, the Fiio app, support, settings and any other apps you choose to install.
 
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Lock screen
Main menu
All songs - ordered alpha numeric
Artists
Default scrambles songs by same artist
 
Swiping down on the left side of the screen gives you an event summary and also allows you to quickly switch between apps. Swiping down on the right side of the screen gives you access to the various Android settings – including Wifi and Bluetooth.
 
At the bottom of the screen (always) is a menu bar with a “back” a “home” and a “window” (what’s running) touch emblems.
 
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Under artist you can access album
Album view
Genre view
Genre scrambles tracks too
Accessing folder view
 
Going into the Fiio app (default music app), you can select to play by Song, by Artist, by Album, by Genre, and by Folder. There is a touchable search button at the top which allows full searching of the database (brilliant).  Unfortunately, as good as the system is, Fiio still has the same issues with lumping everything together (no order).  Where hierarchy should be Genre > Artist > Album >Track (in # order), it once again stops at Genre > All Songs, or Artist > All Songs.  There is a button which allows you to bring up the albums, but then all you can do is press play on the album – you can’t go into a track list. It is frustrating, and I hope Fiio fixes it – but they’ve been waiting on this fix with the X1, 3 and 5 series for up to 2 years – so I’m possibly not as confident as I would normally be with some of the other features which need work. Folder mode works brilliantly though, and I still use the Fiio app (a lot) because most of the time I’m playing full albums anyway.
 
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My folder structure
Artists
Albums
Tracks
Main play screen
 
From the now playing screen, you get an icon in the top left which gets you access to music settings, a search icon in the top right, and then below the album cover the track numbers, song title and artist name.  These are actually inside a moving highlighted “track position” bar which can be tapped or swiped to go a particular section of the track being played. Below this is access to EQ, a Bluetooth icon (which I haven’t been able to work out yet), play/pause button, favourites button, play mode button (repeat, random etc), forward/back button, and add to play list button.
 
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Lyrics screen
Track info screen
Equaliser
Hidden presets (just swipe to find!)
Volume control
 
Swiping the album cover forward or back will advance or reverse one track.  Swiping up or down on the extreme right will change the volume.  Tapping the album cover once brings up a lyrics screen if it is included in your tags, tapping again brings up an info screen with further info on album, artist, track, bit rate and sample rate. Tapping a third time takes you back again to the now playing screen.
 
The equaliser is 10 band, and while not parametric is very configurable, and I’ve found it extremely handy. I couldn’t quite work out why there was just one user option and then one preset each side, but then I found that if you swipe up, there are actually 9 presets in all, and all are user configurable. There is 12 dB +/- available for tinkering, and using any of the presets drops the volume by 6dB (to stop clipping).  The interesting thing (not sure if this is a glitch or intentional) but the X7 remembers volume, so I have it on the user set one switching on/off at the same volume which is actually really handy.
 
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Left swipe down info screen
Right swipe down Android settings
Lock screen when playing
Apllications screen
Neutron player
 
Rather than take you through all of the settings, I’ve just shown a list of screen shots and captions which should be able to give you an idea of what is available (or at least what I’ve discovered so far).
 
During my testing of the default app, I played as many formats as I could – including MP3, AAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, APE, and DSD, and with the lossless files I checked playback of redbook, 24/88.1, 24/96 and 24/192.  There were no issues playing any of the formats, and the EQ worked fine for me – even with the higher resolution files.  There was no skipping – and features such as gapless (tested with Pink Floyd) and folder playback worked with no issues. Gain appears to be around 6dB between low and high.
 
Other Screen Shots:
 
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Neutron lists
HibyMusic - Artists
HibyMusic - Albums
HibyMusic - Genre
Albums in order! Nice
 
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3 music apps
Search function
Battery summary
Android settings
Android settings 2
 
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Sound settings
Graphical settings
Storage summary
Fiio app settings
Fiio app settings 2
 
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Essential settings (blue dots)
Gain settings
Connexting to computer
Updating
Updating - navigate to file
 
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Find the download file
Click the upgrade
The upgrade runs automatically
Folder browsing
Installed app summary
 
Pure Music Mode
This can be engaged instead of full Android mode, and it simply runs the X7 just with the default Fiio app available – all other functions turned off.  Wifi and Bluetooth can still be activated, and you still have access to the player settings – but access to most of the Android systems is turned off.  This really simplifies the player, and I can see it being the default for a few people (potential power savings) if Fiio fix the few bugs in the UI.
 
Other Apps
I haven’t installed a lot, but it has been a pretty painless exercise – and this is for a non-Android user.  Thankfully the support on these forums has been really good – so I was able to install Spotify and then Tidal (I don’t have a Tidal account so this was more to ensure it could be installed).  I also took the time to install Neutron (download and manually installed) and HibyMusic (through Fiio’s whitelist). Both work really well – and give you the proper sort functions using the library – so this is a really good option if Fiio’s development takes a while.  I won’t spend time on the features of each application, but both have the normal features that you’d expect – including EQ, folder play through and gapless, and Neutron even has replay gain.
 
Software Upates
I was really surprised how easy these are.  Download the zip file.  Connect the X7 to your computer.  Copy and paste the zip file (I just use the downloads folder).  Now from the home menu, tap Support, Update, navigate to the folder, select the update to apply, tap OK and let the X7 do the rest.
 
ISSUES / BUGS /MISSING FEATURES
 
A couple of the things I’ve noticed which will no doubt get ironed out over the coming months:
  1. I tried to change the default language to English NZ, and next thing I knew everything was in Chinese.  Thankfully I was able to reset – and get English back by returning to English US as default.
  2. The play / pause physical button works every time pausing music, but sometimes (after the player has been off for a while) pressing play again doesn’t work, and I have to turn the screen on manually to restart. The light is still on – so I guess it has gone into stand-by mode.  I haven’t had enough time to really nut this one out yet.
  3. The battery indicator can be a bit hit and miss, showing full for long periods, then all of a sudden going down rapidly.  This seems to be a lot better after the latest updates.
  4. Sort order (covered previously) with the default Fiio app.
  5. Use as DAC only doesn’t work yet
  6. From Artist you get to options – album or track.  The problem with this is that all the tracks are mixed up, but if you take album, there is now ay I can see to get track listings.  You can press the play button on the right, and it will start playing the album, but then there is still no way to get the track list (counter-intuitive).
 
There are probably a lot of other smaller things as well – but as I’ve been concentrating on cramming as much listening as possible, I’d really need 3-4 weeks of through testing to really try and make a decent list. All-in-all though the GUI is a joy to move around in, intuitive for the most part, and where Fiio’s app is weak (sort order), applications like Neutron and Hiby Music easily fill that gap.
 
POWER OUTPUT
 
Fiio publishes the output power with the IEM module as “­>100mW (32 ohm load).  They also recommend headphones of 16-100 ohm with this amp module. Now I know Fiio have tended to be reasonably conservative with published data in the past (which is a good thing), so I’ll relate actual user experience.
 
With the 320 ohm VE Zen Earbuds, low gain, volume at 75/120 was enough to give average SPL’s in the mid 70’s, and at full volume it was hitting mid-90’s (again, low gain, and measured with a calibrated SPL meter.  At no stage do they sound weak or under driven.
 
Next up was the 300 ohm HD600s, and they required 85-90/120. Did they sound as good as out of the micro iDSD?  Well actually once volume matched – yep, they actually sounded every bit as dynamic as they did out of the iDSD.  In fact I really loved them out of the X7.  They were getting close to the limit of the X7’s capability though, and with Classical I was pretty close to 100/120 to get the listening level I prefer. So loud listeners are likely to need a little more than the X7 can deliver.
 
What this does show though is that the amp on X7 is actually very capable, and for easier to drive loads – especially IEMs and portable headphones , you’re going to have no need for an amplifier add-on.
 
FWIW – Classical tracks with the X7, and this was measured with an SPL meter just to approximate as close as possible to my normal low to mid-70 SPL listening (low gain):
  1. Adel U6 – 60/120
  2. DN2000J – 60/120
  3. DUNU Titan1 – 65/120
 
So ample amplification in my purely subjective opinion.
 
SONICS
 
So Brooko, you’ve rabbited on for ages about build, gui and features, how does the X7 actually sound?
 
Some of you may find this section a little limited, so I’ll give you some insight into the way I’ve changed my opinion on how to describe the sound with any competently made DAC, DAP or amplifier.  The problem with trying to break the sonics down to bass, mids and treble is that DAP / DAC / amp is designed (or should be designed) to be essentially flat across the frequency spectrum. If it has enhanced bass, then isn’t it adding colouration that should come from the headphones or EQ or recording?
 
Likewise, I won’t comment a lot on soundstage, as this is primarily a by-product of the actual recording, or the transducers you’re using.
 
So how do I go about describing it?  Well I can’t measure it this time (I’d need to be able to isolate the signal from the X7, and Fiio hasn’t unlocked the stand alone DAC functionality yet). But judging by the correspondence from Fiio, and their own measurements, I’m pretty confident the X7 will be very linear in its measurements, so you’ll be left listening to the recording pure and simple (and isn’t that what we all want?).
 
So instead, I’ll just say that I really love the sound from the X7, and give you my (very) subjective impressions of the X7 compared to my other DAPs.
 
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X7, X5 classic and X5ii
X7 and E17K (line-out and coax testing)
X7 with Adel U6 (just one of the many combos I tested)
 

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

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

BATTERY LIFE

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

CONCLUSION / SUMMARY FIIO X7

Well I’ve had the X7 for just on 8 days so far, and my one regret is that I haven’t had more time with it (work commitments).  But every spare moment I’ve had it playing a variety of headphones, and I’ve managed to go through at least 4 battery charges so far, so that would indicate at least 40 hours + of listening and tinkering time.
 
The X7 has a wonderful overall build – solid, nice feeling in my hand, with nicely laid out controls and a very clear and easy to read screen – even in daylight (it’s not perfect – but easy enough to read in direct light).
 
The gui is Android based, intuitive for the most part, and very easy to operate. Fiio’s actual music app is still effectively in beta, so it is a work in progress. The biggest issue I have with it is the default sorting where songs are jumbled together rather than having a strict Genre > Artist > Album > Track# sorting hierarchy.  Besides the DAC implementation, in my view this hierarchy issue should be the number one issue their software engineers should be working on.
 
But being Android, it is easy enough to install alternate music players, and both HibyMusic and Neutron work really well.
 
The X7 sounds neutral, detailed, but also has a hard to describe quality – an expansiveness and layering – which just pulls me into the music.  Last night in my final session, while I was finishing my last critical comparisons, I was sitting on the sofa, with the X7 and Adel U6’s, and playing around with Genre. I pulled up Classical (I think I might have been testing dynamic range), and before I knew it, 2 hours had gone, and my wife had gone to bed without me.  I actually remember saying goodnight to her – but the rest was pretty hazy. The fact that it was Classical – something I might listen to for 30 minutes to an hour at most – speaks volumes about the musicality of the X7 to me. I find it difficult to put into descriptive words, apart from saying it truly sounds wonderful.
 
At USD 650.00 this is not a cheap player – but I’m already thinking about either selling some gear, or speaking VERY nicely to my lovely girl.  She’ll tell me I have enough players (DAPs), but my answer will be simple – “not like this hon, not like this”.
 
Four stars for the missing features and functionality – but the X7 is 5 stars in the making.
 
I don’t want to let this go on tour tomorrow

 
FINAL THANKS
 
Again – my apologies for the length of the review.  I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over information, and I still haven’t covered a lot of what I would have liked to.  My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the early review team.  I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away next week on its NZ tour.
 
AND WHAT ABOUT MY CHECKLIST
 
Back at the start I listed what I looked for ina  new DAP.  So how did the X7 go?
 
  1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
    Definitely ticked this box - a pure joy to listen to music with the X7
     
  2. Good build quality
    Extremely good build quality - definite tick.

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

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

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

     
  7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
    For me yes.  I tested most formats, but most of my listening was actually AAC256, and I had my entire library at my disposal.
ehjie
ehjie
Congrats on ur new portable hi-fi source... the review was excellent
RaviM
RaviM
Great review, Can you use Spotify in offline mode so the data is stored on the device?
Brooko
Brooko
Hi RaviM - I haven't tried, and I no longer have Spotify on the X7.  Might be a question to ask in the X7 thread, as I'm sure someone there might be using Spotify Premium.
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