1. Hitec
    3.5/5,
    "FIOS X7 - First Impression - Pros/Cons"
    Pros - Smooth mids, Firmware Updates OTH, layered tones
    Cons - Bluetooth headphone distortion, EQ level jumps, unresponsive soft buttons
    My experience involved using a Sennheiser HD700 and a Parrot Zik 3.0 headphone with all kinds of music.
     
    Headphones plugged into the X7:
    The HD700, and Zic 3.0 have sounds that are completely different on the X7.  The HD700 sounds excellent with perfectly layered,
    robotic,  precision sound, while the Parrot is a little wilder sounding on the X7.  The Parrot looses musicality because of the fun it has with low bass,
    elevated highs, etc.  I think the Parrot is more fun with the X7 when you just want to hear the party and not necessarily the
    delicate passages of the music.  I would like to take the Parrot and the X7 on vacation together.
     
    What was enjoyed:
    Ok, I really enjoy listening to that top of the line DAC.  The music was so smooth and nice sounding.  I tried hooking the line out to my external sound system,
    and it was so good, that you could crank it to the max and not hear any apparent distortion.  I want to get a SPDIF to Toslink to test that out later.
    The source for the music in the X7 must be very clean 'cause I didn't hear it break up at all.  Also, the system seemed pretty linear.  Each increase in
    volume produced the same linear output and sound at all frequencies.  Plugged into a headphone, this thing sounded pretty great.  The X7 sounds somewhat
    like the Sony PHA3, but the PHA3 just sounds like it has more power, and seems to have larger images, and slightly more space, while the X7 seemed to have more
    multiple layered sounds in the music, and a slightly richer midrange.  I think more power to the X7 will have these DACS sounding very close.
     
    What I did not like - bluetooth sound:
    Well, the Parrot Zik 3.0, in addition to plugging in, can also go Bluetooth wireless.  Dam*&^, this thing was almost perfect for me.  Bluetooth
    has a non-stop BACON FRYING at the low high freq. ranges.  Also, the music across the frequency range is not as clean.  It sounds cheap.
    But wait, when you plug directly into the  X7 it is a completely different ball game - it sounds terrific.  I tried to go to the bluetooth settings to turn off the telephone bluetooth
    checkmark, but that did not help.  I tried resetting the entire device, and updating the firmware all over again - nothing, same problem.
    I connected the Zik 3.0 bluetooth headphone to my PC, and VOLA!  The bluetooth connection sounded outstanding, and the bacon was finished cooking!
    Apparently, the X7 to Zik 3.0 headphone sounds BAD!, while the PC's bluetooth connection to the Zik 3.0 headphone sounded SUPERB!
    CAN THIS BE FIXED?  Makes me think the bluetooth audio on the X7 is not great.  I already returned a pair of headphones for this, but now I know that it is the X7,
    and depending on responses here, I will be returning the X7 until it is fixed.  I mean the difference between the PC's bluetooth, and the X7 is night and day!
     
    EQ selector icon unexpectedly raising volume:
    I can't get a hold on this, but at times, when I touch on the EQ icon to go to the EQ, the overall volume increase.  This is with or without the EQ set to on.
    I wouldn't have a problem with this, but I am wondering, if there was volume available, then let me have it already, don't raise the volume
    when I select the EQ icon.
     
    Soft buttons unresponsive at times:
    I think this is just an Android thing, but it happens.
     
    I can live with most of these things, except for the Bluetooth - dangit!!
     
    Anybody, please advise...
  2. chowmein83
    4.5/5,
    "Desktop-class sound in your pocket"
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, overall feel of UI, immense future potential, price
    Cons - Some UI issues, screen is only OK, some functions have yet to be implemented
    EDIT 2/22/2016: I’ve updated the review with some notes on DLNA (under Wi-Fi and Bluetooth section), USB DAC, and the user interface due to the new FW 1.8.
     
    Table of Contents
    • Introduction
      • A special note
    • General Usage
      • Build Quality
      • Ergonomics (physically)
      • User Interface
      • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, DLNA
      • USB DAC
      • Battery Life
    • Sound Quality
      • Comparisons (volume-matched)
      • Comparisons (non volume-matched)
    • For whom is this good for? And the Competition
    • Conclusion
     
    (Before I even begin with the introduction, I want to warn the reader that my review is somewhat lengthy. So I have included a table of contents above which you can click on to jump to whichever section you want. I’ll also include a tl;dr summary at the beginning of each major section.)
     
    Introduction
     
    Tl;dr: FiiO lent me the unit for my honest opinion, and a bit of background about myself. Also a special note regarding this review compared to others as of January 2016.
     
    A little bit about me: I consider myself to be a relatively inexperienced audiophile, having only taken this hobby seriously for the past 2 or 3 years. Funnily enough, I actually began to take an interest in my headphone system with the purchase of a FiiO E7. The next logical upgrade from there was the FiiO E17, which I appreciated but soon found it a bit lacking in sound quality after I was exposed to other audio equipment. Now, after having been away from FiiO for a while I’m now looking for a great sounding DAP, which FiiO’s X series of players seem to be.
     
    I tend to like a neutral sound signature, perhaps with a bit of warmth. But if one were to ask me to pick between a very warm or a very bright sound signature, I’d go towards the brighter one. I actually like full-sized headphones more than I do IEMs, but for this review I focus more on the X7’s performance with IEMs. I like a large variety of music including rock, pop, jazz, classical and orchestral, J-Pop and J-Rock, and C-Pop.
     
    A special note…
     
    Before I go into the review proper, I wanted to mention this. Since I was fortunate enough (maybe?) to be the last one in the tour group to receive the X7, I have been able to use the X7 on the latest firmware as of this moment (February 2016) which is FW 1.8. Thus, I hope to give a better picture on how the X7 performs now compared to the other earlier reviews.
     
    Phew, that was a long introduction. Let’s get into the actual review, shall we?
     
    IMGP09052.jpg
     
    General Usage
     
    Tl;dr: Great build quality and mostly good ergonomics. The X7 feels quick and responsive. UI is mostly great, but due to some minor issues not yet perfect. Some of the ergonomic and UI issues can and will be solved with future updates. Battery life is decent, but not mind-blowing.
     
    Build Quality
     
    Nobody is going to mistake the X7 for a cheap device once they actually feel it. The machined aluminum looks and feels classy. The amp module tightly screwed in isn’t loose and really feels like it was originally part of the whole. Some people have raised concerns about the raised screen, but honestly I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with it – it doesn’t impede usability nor does it look cheap to me.
     
    The one thing I am lukewarm about is the screen - it’s merely OK. Compared to other Android and Apple devices, the X7’s screen looks a bit washed-out. Contrast is ok (so blacks look a bit gray) and colors seem a bit faded out. To be honest, I actually think (based on memory) the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen screen had better contrast and slightly more vibrant colors. However, due to the screen being an IPS panel, viewing angles are pretty good though you will notice colors getting somewhat darker at extreme angles.
     
    Overall, FiiO’s reputation for great build quality is once again on show here.
     
    Ergonomics
     
    First off, the player feels great to hold in the hand. The machined and smooth aluminum feels good and doesn’t make the X7 too slippery in the hand. The size is also great – due to the 4 inch screen and relatively narrow width, one-handed usability is excellent. The X7 is a bit tall, but this is due to the amp module so it doesn’t affect general usage.
     
    While the device is thick compared to other smartphones, it still fits easily into the hand. The X7 surprisingly also doesn’t get very hot in the hand while using it – it seems to only get hot when connected to a beefy charger.
     
    IMGP08522.jpg IMGP08572.jpg
     
    Some size comparisons. Left pic: HTC One M7 on left, FiiO X7 on right
    Right pic: FiiO X7 on top of HTC One M7. The X7 is slightly smaller than the 4.7 inch smartphone.
     ​
    IMGP08632.jpg
     
    HTC One M7 on left, FiiO X7 on right. The X7 is much thicker than the typical smartphone.
     ​
    I would like to call special attention to the symmetrical side buttons. The buttons protrude just enough to feel, have satisfying tactile and audible feedback, and are easily accessible. However, having owned many smartphones with the volume buttons on the right, I found myself getting confused and accidentally hitting the track skip forward and backwards buttons on the right when I really wanted to change the volume (the buttons for those are on the left on the X7). This is not a huge problem, and it will be solved with a future firmware update that incorporates mapping those side buttons to user preference. But it is something that I wanted to point out at this time.
     
    User Interface
     
    Is the X7 responsive? While you don’t need lots of RAM and an extremely fast CPU to play music, I do know that Android is fairly unforgiving to slow hardware. However, I’m glad to say that the FiiO X7 is extremely responsive and quick even with its weaker CPU and only 1GB of RAM. FiiO has optimized its version of Android 4.4.4 pretty well, so loading and switching between apps is quick. And it doesn’t crash and freeze much now. There are exceptions though, like with one time I connected a 64GB USB stick full of music while in the FiiO Music app and that pretty much froze the device.
     
    Also, as of FW 1.5, the Google Play Store and framework seems to be implemented so that one can easily get their apps. The X7 has also worked with every app that I have thrown at it, including stuff like Google Play Music. Occasionally, the “Google Play Services has stopped working” message will come up, but it’s a minor annoyance that can be brushed away with a quick tap.
     
    So it feels snappy and actually works. What about the actual user interface? I want to make some comments here, but I will not go into an in-depth overview of everything it has – there are other reviews which do a much better job than I ever could.
     
    FiiO’s version of Android is mostly stock Android, so most Android users will probably know how to navigate around the X7. That’s good. I also like how the X7 now automatically prompts you to reboot to switch between Android and Pure Music modes, saving us from confusion. However, I would have liked FiiO to tell us during initial setup that pulling down the top of the screen from the left (goes to notifications) and right side (goes to quick settings) yields different results. Most builds of Android I’ve seen don’t do this.
     ​
    As for the FiiO Music app itself, generally I like it. The help screens mostly do a good job of telling you how to use it, and the app itself is fairly intuitive. The good thing is that FiiO has been listening to user suggestions and is still constantly improving it. For instance, hitting back/rewind after the current track has played for 10 seconds or more goes back to the beginning of the track now (instead of going to the previous track), and by default tapping on an artist in artist view leads to a list of albums instead of a list of songs.
     
    However, I still have some issues with it. For example, while search works quickly and effectively, its behavior is kind of strange. Why is it that when we tap on an artist in search, that it starts to play tracks by album order? Why is it that when we tap on an album in search, that the first song alphabetically in the album starts playing? Not only are these behaviors different from other music players, it also is inconsistent.
     
    One last thing I wanted to mention is the lock-screen. The lock-screen as it is right now is kind of confusing, because the music control buttons that show up by default are only for FiiO Music. So it’s possible to have Spotify be playing and then accidentally also play something from FiiO Music at the same time because you hit play on the lock screen. It would be nice if the default set of lock-screen music controls does whatever you want on the music app you were last or currently using.
     
    While it seems like I have a lot to complain about the X7’s user interface, in reality these issues are relatively minor and don’t get in the way much. And what I brought up as problems can all be solved with software and firmware updates.
     
    Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, DLNA
     
    Wi-Fi strength on this device is ok. I would imagine it is good enough for most people if they are around some decently strong Wi-Fi, but the X7 may struggle with some places with troublesome signal. The X7 seems to get less signal and slower Wi-Fi than other Android smartphones in my testing. However, it should be good enough for most music streaming.
     
    Bluetooth works well on the X7. It doesn’t have aptX so you’re not going to get the best quality sound, but Bluetooth signal on the X7 was as strong as any other smartphone out there.
     
    As of FW 1.8, FiiO has implemented DLNA into their music app. However, for some reason I cannot get it to work properly. If I set up DLNA with Windows’ music sharing feature as shown in FiiO’s own guide, I can’t get any music file to show up. If I set up DLNA through foobar2000 using a plug-in, I can only get lossy files to show up and play (which it then does flawlessly – however album art doesn’t show up, which other apps can do). That is, WAV, FLAC, other lossless formats, and even DSD doesn’t show up in that case. Perhaps others have had better luck in getting DLNA through the FiiO music app to work. However, I do want to note that third party DLNA apps on the Google Play Store (such as BubbleUPnP) do work perfectly.
     
    USB DAC
     
    FiiO has implemented USB DAC functionality as of FW 1.8. As long as you are only listening to music on your computer, it works well. For Windows 8 and later, you still have to disable driver signature enforcement to get the driver to install, but this isn’t hard (especially for those who already own FiiO’s other DAPs). After installation, I found the driver to be stable and work well on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 – no causing the computer to crash or anything, no incompatibilities with any of the apps I tried.
     
    However, the USB DAC function still isn’t perfect as of FW 1.8. One problem is that DSD doesn’t work properly over USB. For some reason, DSD shows up as 24 bit 176.4 kHz music on the X7’s USB DAC screen when being played, and is played at an extremely low volume with lots of white noise. However, the bigger problem is that there is currently lots of lag/delay to the sound when the X7 is used as a USB DAC on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 (and from other reports on Mac too). Unfortunately, this makes using the X7 to watch movies or to play video games on the computer impossible. Playing music is still okay though. The good news is that FiiO has already acknowledged this delay problem and it will probably be fixed in a future firmware update.  
     
    Battery Life
     
    While I wouldn’t say that the X7 has great battery life, I do think it has good battery life that’s in line with FiiO’s other players.
     
    Below, I have some screenshots of how long the battery lasted in several different usages. All tests were done with the X7 on low gain at a volume level of 55 driving the Etymotic ER4PT (except for the line-out and Bluetooth cases).
     
    First from the left on the 1st row is the battery time from the X7 in Pure Music mode and in airplane mode – a little over 8 hours.
     
    Second from the left on the 1st row is the battery time from the X7 in Pure Music mode and in airplane mode hooked up to a Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon headphone amp through line-out. It reads a little over 10 hours, though you could probably add an hour or so to that since I accidentally left on Bluetooth at first.
     
    Third from the left (the right-most) on the 1st row is the X7 in Android mode and in airplane mode but with Wi-Fi turned on (Android allows you to do this), streaming from a DLNA server using the BubbleUPnP Android app. About 7.5 hours here.
     
    Finally, the bottom (2nd row) picture shows that the X7 had about 66% battery left after about 10 hours on Bluetooth in the FiiO music app. I gave up testing Bluetooth battery life testing after this point because I didn’t want to recharge my Bluetooth receiver after it died first. It’ll last pretty long under Bluetooth.
     
     
     
    Overall, the X7 has decent battery life that should be enough for many people unless you’re listening to music for long periods of time without access to a charger.
     
    Sound Quality
     
    IMGP09322.jpg
     
    Tl;dr: The X7 sounds great. DAC section sounds especially great – can go against desktop equipment here. IEM amp module also handles IEMs and some full-size headphones pretty well, though I hesitate it to call it the best for those.  Holds its own in terms of sound quality against its DAP competitors.
     
    Headphones primarily tested with: Etymotic ER4PT (with P-to-S converter) and Klipsch Image X10.
     
    Enough about general usage. How does it sound, you may ask?
     
    Overall, I find that the X7 has a neutral tone, with perhaps a very slight bit of warmth. This allows it to pair well with warmer headphones like the Klipsch X10 – the neutrality prevents the X10 from sounding too muddy and bloated, but yet still maintains the X10’s overall warm nature. However, with something like the Etymotic ER4S, the neutrality may be too much of a good thing – I can easily see how some people would regard this pairing a bit fatiguing (but not sibilant) depending on the music being played.
     
    I actually think that this brightness is probably due more to the amp, as I found the DAC section mostly neutral. While we are on the subject, the IEM amp module seems to handle in-ear monitors pretty well. The X7’s amp could slightly enlarge the soundstage of my 50 ohm Klipsch X10’s and give it better separation while also giving it hard-hitting bass. The X7’s amp also allowed the clarity, separation, and detail retrieval of the 100 ohm Etymotic ER4S to shine through. Easy to drive full-sized headphones like the Sennheiser HD598 are also pretty good on the IEM amp – huge soundstage and excellent imaging, though the bass here doesn’t come out as much as I have heard on the best amps. It also actually did a fairly good job with the Hifiman HE-400i, though it was lacking bass. But the X7’s IEM amp module didn’t do such a great job with the Sennheiser HD700 – it was a bit lacking bass and was somewhat grainy, though interestingly it made the HD700 less fatiguing like only good amps can do.
     
    Since I don’t have any other portable amps to compare to, I won’t be doing amp comparisons in the next section. However, I do want to say the X7’s IEM amp is not far behind the single-ended out of the Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon when driving IEM’s – its slightly less deep in the soundstage, a bit fuzzier in its imaging, and a bit behind in detail retrieval, but the overall feeling of a 3D soundstage is quite comparable. I do like the slightly warmer tone of the LC though.
     
    Speaking of soundstage, I really like the X7’s take on this. While its soundstage is fairly wide, it’s also pretty deep. When combined with the excellent layering, separation, and imaging, the X7 presents a truly 3D soundstage that makes songs come to life as you easily pick out all of the sounds around you.
     
    Lastly, the X7 has very good, even excellent detail retrieval. While detail is somewhat put into your face, it’s a lot less so compared to other ESS Sabre implementations I have heard. I would say that it only sounds that way though if you have heard other audio gear that presents the same amount of detail but is less forward about it (like with highly expensive audio gear that costs much more than the X7).
     
    Comparisons
     
    Volume-matched comparisons
     
    The comparison here was done under volume-matching with a C-weighted SPL meter.
     
    Vs. the NuForce UDH-100
     
    IMGP09682.jpg
     
    I think I should give an introduction to the NuForce UDH-100 here, since it isn’t very well-known. The UDH-100 is a discontinued $650 MSRP amp/DAC combo. The DAC section should be very similar, if not identical to the NuForce DAC-80 ($800 MSRP) and to the NuForce DAC-100 ($1100 MSRP, discontinued). The X7 has quite the fight here.
     
    I am only comparing the DAC sections of the X7 and the UDH-100 here.
     
    As for specific methodology, I compared the UDH-100’s AK4390 DAC chip to the FiiO X7’s ESS ES9018S using the Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon amp. Headphones that I used to compare the two DACs were the aforementioned IEMs and the Hifiman HE-400i and HE1000, and the Sennheiser HD700.
     
    The DAC sections: The two DACs have similar tonality to each other. Both are mostly neutral, but with a tiny hint of warmth. Detail retrieval and separation are about the same for both DACs. However, imaging (both horizontal and depth-wise) seems to be slightly more precise on the UDH-100. On vocals and certain notes, the X7 also seems to have a slightly harsh and brittle edge that is not present on the UDH-100 – but this is not easily noticeable. Vocals seem to have a bit more body on the UDH-100.
     
    However, all of the differences I just mentioned are really quite minor. What’s more noticeable is the bigger soundstage and better quality bass on the UDH-100. The soundstage is noticeably wider on the UDH-100. Bass seems to dig deeper and is slightly more nuanced/textured on the UDH-100.
     
    Overall, to my ears the X7’s DAC is very close to the one in the UDH-100 in terms of sound quality. The UDH-100 still has some traits that propel it above the X7 in terms of DAC quality, but the X7 is still very impressive for keeping up with a not inexpensive desktop DAC.
     
    Non-volume matched comparisons
     
    Normally, I try to volume-match any comparison I make for a review. However, in this case I was able to compare the X7 to some other DAPs in relatively good conditions outside my home – but that meant not having access to my trusty SPL meter. So I tried to do volume-matching by ear, which isn’t ideal but should be better than nothing at all.
     
    Hopefully people find this section interesting and helpful.
     
    Vs. the FiiO X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen
     
    Comparisons between the two DAPs were done with an Etymotic ER4S and a Sennheiser HD650.
     
    The X7 surprised me because it was a noticeable jump in sound quality over the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen. Not only was detail retrieval and separation slightly greater on the X7, bass was also definitely more controlled on the X7. The X7 also had a noticeably more 3D soundstage due to the greater depth (while width was about the same) and more precise imaging. All of these traits were noticeable even when comparing the X7 with the IEM amp module to the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen. While each of these aspects are minor individually, together they add up to make for noticeably richer listening experience on the X7 over the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen – even on the IEM amp module. With the future, more powerful amp modules, I expect the X7 to have an even more noticeable jump in sound quality compared to the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen with harder-to-drive headphones. This is based on having listened to the medium power amp, which only served to further tighten and deepen the bass on the HD650 while also very slightly expanding the soundstage on that headphone.
     
    Vs. the Onkyo DP-X1 and Pioneer XDP-100R
     
    I listened to all of these DAPs out of their single-ended headphone jack, all with the Etymotic ER4S.
     
    First off, I thought the X7 to be simply better than the Pioneer. While detail retrieval levels and imaging between the two DAPs were about the same, I thought the X7 had a noticeably deeper and 3D soundstage. Separation on the X7 seemed to be somewhat better too. Both had a similar tonality though, with the Pioneer perhaps being slightly brighter.
     
    However, the Onkyo DP-X1 is much more of a match to the X7 in overall sound quality. Honestly, I believe that the X7 and the DP-X1 are pretty much equals in just about everything – detail retrieval, bass quality, 3D soundstage, etc. The only major difference I could find between the two players was the tonality – the X7 is more neutral while the Onkyo adopts a somewhat warmer tone. The Onkyo paired very well with my ER4S (probably even better than the X7), but I think the X7 has the potential to pair well with more headphones than the DP-X1. Some headphones could definitely get a bit too warm with the Onkyo.
     
    IMGP08472.jpg
     
    For whom is this good for? And the competition.
     
    Tl:dr: Anybody who can tolerate touchscreens and wants serious sound quality in their pocket should consider the X7, even with other great choices on the market.
     
    First of all, anybody who can’t stand touchscreens at all really should not be looking at the X7 – there are other great-sounding players out there that don’t use touchscreens, some of which are from FiiO themselves (X3ii and X5ii) and other brands (Hifiman HM901S, anybody?).
     
    But for everybody else, the X7 is great-sounding touchscreen DAP. It feels fluid and responsive, has lots of connectivity options for multiple usage scenarios (line-out for hooking up to a bigger sound system, Bluetooth for some cars, etc.), and most importantly sounds really good. Battery life, while not great, is also decent enough for most people I imagine. I mean, who has a commute that lasts 7-10 hours the X7 can play music for? Or does anybody actually listen to that much music at work all the time without a charger? I’m not saying that there aren’t people in that situation, but I would think that most people don’t fall into those categories.
     
    Also, people who already have other FiiO products like the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen could seriously consider upgrading to the X7. Not only are you getting noticeably better sound with the X7, it also comes with an entire well-implemented touchscreen interface. I think that warrants the extra $300 USD for the X7 over the X5 2[sup]nd[/sup] gen.
     
    Finally, we consider the competition. I’m not going to talk much about much of Astell and Kern’s lineup nor the Sony NW-ZX2 since I haven’t listened to them a lot. I’ll just say that the X7 is significantly cheaper.
     
    But let’s look at some more similarly priced DAPs. First the Pioneer XDP-100R. If you buy the XDP-100R in the US through Amazon, as of this writing it costs $699 USD. While the Pioneer does have a better screen, two micro SD slots (the X7 only has one), potentially better battery life, and faster hardware (arguably not very useful), I found it to have inferior sound quality. Personally, I’d go for the slightly cheaper X7 at $650 USD because it sounds better while maintaining most of the same functionality. Of course, you could import the Pioneer through PriceJapan for $565 USD, making it cheaper than the X7. However, you would have to go through more hoops when using your warranty. And the X7 has more future potential due to the changeable amp modules.
     
    And then there’s the Onkyo DP-X1, which has a MSRP of $899 in the US. That makes it quite a bit more expensive than the equally great sounding X7, although the DP-X1 has more micro SD slots, better screen, potentially better battery life and faster hardware. You could also get it through PriceJapan for $643 USD as of this writing. Is the DP-X1 really worth that extra money (if you get it through retail channels) or the potential extra hassle in warranty claims (if you import it)? That really depends on the person, and I could see why someone would go for the Onkyo because it does sound as good as the X7 while having some advantages over it. Also, again the X7 has more future potential due to the swappable amp modules.
     
    Conclusion
     
    Tl;dr: The X7 is a value-packed and highly recommended digital audio player.
     
    I think this review has gone on for too long, so I’ll end with a brief summary. The FiiO X7 is a fantastic sounding, great feeling, competitively priced, snappy Android-based touchscreen DAP. It currently does have some minor ergonomic and UI issues, but most of these will probably be solved with software updates. One thing it really has going for it is its immense future potential in terms of both software updates, and in hardware (the more powerful amp modules).
     
    Overall, I’m going to give the FiiO X7 4.5 out of 5 stars for now due to it being a well-executed overall package that’s just a bit short. Once FiiO adds more functionality (mapping of the side buttons, USB DAC, etc.) and fixes its UI problems, it’s definitely worth 5 stars. Definitely recommended.
     
    Thanks for reading this long review of the X7!
     
    IMGP09142.jpg
    Joe Bloggs, Brooko, cleg and 10 others like this.
  3. h1f1add1cted
    4.5/5,
    "Currently without competition in its price range - well done FiiO"
    Pros - Sound quality, design, hardware buttons, modular amps, allround functionality
    Cons - FiiO Music user interface, non-removable battery
    FiiO X7 Review
     
    First I need to thank FiiO that I could attend the FiiO X7 World Preview Tour ( http://www.head-fi.org/t/782490/fiio-x7-preview-world-tour-tour-impressions-rolling-in ). My FiiO X7 is a preview demo unit and will be go to FiiO back after the review time is gone.
     
    001_x7_2.jpg
     
    Specifications:
     
    Internal storage (onboard): 32 GB
    Internal storage (extension): up to 200 GB (microSD)
    External storage: USB OTG up to 2 TB
    AMP: power (standard IEM AMP M1) 220 mW @ 16 ohm / 110 mW @ 32 ohm / 12 mW @ 300 ohm
    DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018S
    Battery life: around 9 hours
    Supported formats: MP3, AAC,ALAC, WMA, OGG, APE, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, DXD, DSF/DFF* (*up to DSD128 )
    Outputs:
    1x 3,5mm (~ 0,2 Ohm output impedance)
    1x 3,5mm (coaxial and line-out combo output)
    Inputs:
    1x microUSB
    Additional connection :
    - WiFi
    - Bluetooth without aptX
    - Modular amp system (optional): Medium-power AMP M2, Balanced AMP M3 or High-power AMP M4
    - Optional FiiO K5 docking station, more information here: http://fiio.net/en/products/46
     
    Packaging:
     
    - warranty card
    - 2 additional screws for the amp module
    - coaxial adaptor
    - USB cable
    - screen protectors
    - short guide
     
    Soon there will be two leather cases available (LC-X7A and LC-X7B), more information here: http://fiio.net/en/story/376
     
    002_zb_x7.jpg
    Default packaging from the FiiO X7, sadly no matte screen protectors, which would be a real benefit for outdoor usage against the sun on screen.
     
    First impression and look and feel:
     
    The FiiO X7 offers a real high build quality, the aluminium case is in the colour Titan and offers additional a very snappy surface feel. With a weight of around 220g and the sizes of 13 cm x 6,4 cm x 1,66 isn't the FiiO X7 not one of smallest and lighted DAPs on the market. For me personally its positive since I got a very pleasant handling and the feedback from the 6 hardware buttons from the FiiO X7, which will be in future firmware upgrade switch able like for left or right handed usage. Optically is the FiiO real eye candy to me, the display which is on top of the case isn't for sure all people taste, but I really find that matches to the entire design very well.
     
    003_x7_1.jpg
    The scratches did someone from my preview group. What a same for the beautiful device.
    004_x7_3.jpg
    Simply to see its a preview demo unit - X7 debut World Tour 2015.
     
    Operation/options/mobile usage/battery life:
     
    I used the FiiO X7 with its current firmware 1.5 ( http://fiio.net/en/story/372 ), pre-installed was version 1.1. The German translation is not finished yet, sometime some strange words used instead, or simply they kept the English word for it. The little blue LED can be customized in the software settings (brightness level, pulsar, permanent light, or off). The FiiO X7 firmware is based on Android 4.4.4 with Google Play Store connection. As far I know FiiO is working on Android Version 5 too - but for the sound quality it doesn't matter which Android version is used in this case. You have on one side, the Android mode which all typical operations and functionally allows what you can do with Android. On the other side you have the for musical only operation mode, the so called Pure music mode. FiiO has spent a own developed customized music app (FiiO Music - used in version 1.7), which completely bypassed Android typical re-sampling/down-sampling actions, short SRC ( https://source.android.com/devices/audio/src.html ), to offer bit-perfect, native playback of all supported formats. This app works in both modes without limitations. Additional as mentioned on beginning FiiO heavily optimized Android, that the FiiO X7 has native 44 kHz, instead of mostly typical 48 kHz on Android devices.
     
    Short RMAA measurement for comparison:
     
    16 bit/44 kHz:
    005_16bit_Apps_Compare.png
     
    006_16bit_Apps_Compare_Detail.png
    FiiO Music vs 3rd party music apps. Like you see with 16bit music with the native 44 kHz implementation from the FiiO X7 no quality loose is happen.
     
    24 bit/44 kHz:
    007_24bit_Apps_Compare.png
     
    008_24bit_Apps_Compare_Detail.png
    FiiO Music vs 3rd party music apps. Like you see depending of the implementation in real world, trough SRC the sound quality can be decreased if you use 24bit music, but Neutron offers a real great deal with exemplary performance, like the FiiO Music app.
     
    Android typical the control is smooth and fast and absolute self explaining. The FiiO Music app is easy to use and after a couple of minutes you know all functionality and options. From the control I see some room for improvements, I personally prefer the user interface and control of Neutron.
     
    The used 1.4 GHz clocked Rockchip RK3188 quad-core SoC, with 1 GB of RAM and the 3.97” IPS display with 480x800 and a pixel density of 233 PPI is for all applications more than enough. A higher pixel density would only cost more battery life and offers no real added value to draw like album covers. From the 32 GB of internal storage you can use slightly over 27 GB. FiiO shows support for 128 GB microSD cards, but a 200 GB microSD works fine too.
     
    The volume levels can be adjusted in small 120 steps and this in every app. The amp gain can be switched on the software between low and high. The 10 band equalizer should be more than fine for the most user (I never use EQ at all), if not you can use other apps instead with i.e. parametric equalizer and others (like Neutron). A hint on this stage, by default any other app than the FiiO Music app has an built-in 6 dB attenuation to prevent clipping and that all apps sound the same.
     
    What at first directly catches the eye from the design of FiiO X7 is its modular amp module. The idea is not completely new, some Hifiman DAPs offering switch able amps, but the solution of the FiiO X7 is very smart done.
     
    009_x7_amp.jpg
    With only two screws you are able to swap the amp section of the X7.
     
    Here is a overview over all amp modules for the FiiO X7, like you see for all needs or wishes, no need for external amps anymore:
     
    010_FiiO_AMP_Modules.png
    By default the IEM AMP M1 module is shipped with the FiiO X7.
     
    The pricing for the amp modules should be move between 70 to 100 Euros per module. It should be on the beginning some introductory price, where the price should be between 35 to 50 Euros. But please note I only converted Yuan to Euro, what the prices will be for us (Germany) I don't know yet. But in any case, the small additional costs for a balanced or very powerful amp module is out of competition if you see what a dedicated balanced amp or a very powerful amp costs you normally. Source: http://fiio.net/story/367
     
    The battery life from the non-removable 3500 mAh battery is in real world with the paired IEM AMP M1 module with my custom IEMs around 9 hours, which fits very well with the manufacture statement. You have long display on times and massively use WiFi / Bluetooth the life varies finally. The charge time for a entire full charge takes under 4 hours with 2A wall charger.
     
    The WiFi with 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.11n standard is stable and more than enough for streaming apps like Spotify or Qobuz. MFI or RFI noise interference I couldn't see regardless if I use my most sensitive IEMs.
     
    Since the Bluetooth module (Bluetooth V4.0 + EDR) from the FiiO X7 don't come with AptX, it has some incremental sound quality decrease. For my test I have chosen my Creative Soundblaster E5 with the FiiO X7, in the opposite I have used my Sony Xperia Z1 compact which have AptX – the differences you can hear, with a regular 16bit FLAC music file – without AptX minimal less dynamic and slightly taller sound stage, with the same source material, same player app (Neutron) and same output level. No big differences of course, because I have heard with other Android devices much more worse results in a very bad meaning. In this particular case with the FiiO X7 its not a deal breaker that no AptX is onboard, since its such a small real world difference.
     
    011_BT_test.jpg
    Wireless music listening no problem with the FiiO X7.
     
    Sound quality/performance/compare:
     
    Lets come to the most important attribute of a DAP - the sound. Before I start my (best possible objective) comparison, I want to share that I measured all my sources with a multimeter (UNI-T UT139C) with a 1 kHz sinus 0dBFS test signal for scaling all to the (best possible) same loudness level for listening.
     
    Direct comparisons:
     
    FiiO X7 vs iBasso DX50 + Chord Mojo
     
    With the Custom Art Harmony 8 Pro and Etymotic Research ER-4 (OE Edition) is the stack of iBasso DX 50 + Chord Mojo, with its higher transparent and even more detailed playback, added with larger sound stage in advantage. Its not like day and night differences, but with these two high resolution IEMs quite easy noticeable.
     
    With the LEAR LHF-AE1d and Custom Art Music One, the differences slightly smaller, but still you hear it, because the Mojo offers his real strengths with IEMs.
     
    With the Sennheiser HD 800 on the other side, I can't hear any difference between those two, in this case I don't see a better or worse.
     
    Put all together is the FiiO X7 on top notch with these stack which is really impressive, only for the last couple of percent if use high quality IEMs, has the stack a small benefit, but with regular headphones fades this advantage.
     
    012_vs1.jpg
    Lots of toys for the comparison, the differences of the source are really small. Small benefit with IEMs for the stack.
     
    FiiO X7 vs iBasso DX50 + iFi audio micro iDSD
     
    Quite interesting comparison – because the iBasso DX 50 + iFi audio micro iDSD and the FiiO X7 sounds absolutely identical with the before mentioned IEMs. Both offering such a high quality playback of the music.
     
    But after I swapped to my Sennheiser HD 800 in other hand, we have now small plus points for the stack. Because the headphone earns a better bass response, higher transparency and a little larger sound stage. But again this are only small differences, but you can hear it quite easy.
     
    In summary the AM1 amp modules in high gain is enough to drive the Sennheiser HD 800, but I really would know how the more powerful amp modules would be match for the FiiO X7.
     
    In this comparison plays the FiiO X7 again head to head with these stack, but now its completely opposite, that regular headphones getting the last last couple of percent trough a better amp, because with IEMs I have zero differences.
     
    013_vs2.jpg
    Lots of toys for the comparison, the differences of the source are really small. Small benefit with headphones for the stack.
     
    Line-out performance:
     
    Since the line-out of the FiiO X7 offers fixed 1.4 Vrms I tried it to pair with my Stax SRS-002 set. The amp SRM-002 matches very well and very great that with the lower line-out level of 1.4 Vrms, I can adjust the volume quite good in great range. The most problem I have with industry standard 2 - 2.1 Vrms output is, that it's too much power for lower volume for this Stax set. That's the reason why I “normally” use the Stax amp with my other gear with double amping to have a lower input level. But great from FiiO to have this lower line level, perfect performance for my SR-002, sounds on top wit iFi audio micro iDSD and Chord Mojo.
     
    stax_1.jpg stax_2.jpg
    Love this baby Stax airy sound, still unique sound signature for IEMs.
     
    Other audio perfomance:
     
    Best hiss performance, a ranking list, for dedicated DAPs (a small selection):
     
    FiiO X7 > FiiO X3 (1. Gen) > iBasso DX50 > Shanling M2
     
    The FiiO X7 paired with the default IEM AMP M1 modules has very very great hiss levels, even on very sensitive IEMs. The hiss performance is shortly on top like my reference device for this attribute – the Chord Mojo. The IEM module makes his naming very proud.
     
    The output impedance again, I have measured with a multimeter (UNI-T UT139C) and a DIY mini jack without resistance and after with DIY mini jack with a 33 ohms resistance and afterwards I calculated 0,5153 V - 0,5005 V = 0,0148 | 0,5005 V / 0,0148 = 33,818 | 33 / 33,818 ~ 0,9) and I get around 1 ohms. But please note measure tolerances because the manufacture value of around 0,2 ohms can be very right to me.
     
    My RMAA measurements I have done with my Creative E-MU 0404 USB Audio Interface:
     
    014_24bit_X7_FG_compare.png
    The FiiO X7 with and without load. For test I used my 8 driver IEM, the frequency response is ruler flat and only a very inaudible 0,2 dB roll-off.
    015_24bit_X7_outputs_compare.png
    The line-out, like the headphone output, from the FiiO X7 very flat and neutral.
    016_X7_test.jpg
    The test equipment for measurement and comparison.
     
    Also the other technical specifications I have confirmed with my measurements, in some cases better as FiiO mentioned.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    FiiO offers with the X7 a really great sounding, flexible usable Android based, with modular amp module system and docking station a smart all-rounder DAP. Put all things together its a very interesting DAP with good attributes/performance/functionality and a awesome design. I need to admit its not so easy to give the FiiO X7 away, because its a all-rounder with small footprint which is the current flagship from FiiO and a really a good deal imho.
     
    [​IMG] 
  4. jjacq
    3.5/5,
    "Killer DAP for the price"
    Pros - android, streaming, dedicated app, amplifier modules
    Cons - a little bit big, small storage, firmware issues
    2016-01-0215.21.26.jpg
     
    Design:
    The DAP definitely has a solid build to it. Very good in terms of its weight which kind of reminds me of the FiiO X5 when I owned it but almost all touch screen. I like the build quality a lot and the screen is wonderfully spacious. It is a tad bit big to my liking but that is probably because I’m already used to the form factor of my own DAP. I personally am not a fan of the buttons as it is hard to distinguish what side I am pressing if I want to change the volume or change the song. It would have been ideal if FiiO had used another mechanism for the volume control or used different buttons altogether to avoid confusion. Even when I have the DAP right next to me, I can’t just grab it and change the song without having a second look to make sure I am not increasing the volume.

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

    Final thoughts:
    The X7 is truly a flagship in its own right and it can definitely compete with the more expensive AK DAPs. While I do enjoy the sound from it, the dealbreaker for me would be the small storage of 32gb internal and the interface which can be remedied with future firmware updates. I wish that FiiO had made the button layout more ergonomic and I would’ve been happier with a smaller device. Optical out would also be nice. I look forward to the modules FiiO would be releasing for it as well. 
  5. m1ku
    4.0/5,
    "A special kind of DAP?"
    Pros - build quality, audio quality, modular amp
    Cons - usability can be better
    _DSC9713.jpg
     
     
    Before we start, I have to mention that this X7 is a loan unit from Fiio for the world tour. Thanks again to Fiio, Head-Fi and Joeblogg to make this event possible.
    Since the X3K review, I am still an amateur on the subject of sound quality, so I will do my best describe my experience.
     
    Since I have started looking around at different kinds of music player, I think the X7 is the first of the kind that used Android OS as their software bases and allows users to use their own prefer applications for music playback.
     
    Packaging
    The unboxing is very similar to the X1 and X3II. It comes with
     
    1. MicroUSB charging/data syncing cable
    2. 3.5mm to coaxial adapter
    3. Two screen protector
    4. T5 screws
    5. T5 screw driver
    6. Warranty card
     
    This time though it did not come with a silicon case.
     
    _DSC9705.jpg
     
    Build quality
    The build quality is as usual, very nicely done. The aluminium housing is very sturdy. Nowhere in the device that shows low quality or cheaply made. The most favourite part about the exterior of the device is the buttons. They give a light click which can be satisfying to press.
    The size of the device is designed specify for single handed use. With a good amount of thickness and the right size of the device made it stays in my hand very securely.
    At the bottom of the device, it has an empty block. It is the modular amp that Fiio says will allow user to swap out with a different amp for a different sound signature. It reminds me of the RHA T10 of their "Interchangeable tuning filters". This would be an interesting idea to look forward to.
     
    _DSC9727.jpg
     
    _DSC9728.jpg
     
    _DSC9729.jpg
     
    _DSC9730.jpg
     
    _DSC9731.jpg
     
    _DSC9732.jpg
     
    _DSC9733.jpg
     
    Usability
    In the build quality, I mentioned that I really like the buttons, but usability wise, it can be better. Along with the review unit, there are some documents related to the making of the device and it was explained the reason behind the parallel buttons. Even so, I would prefer the buttons to be different on both sides for the ease of blind clicking.
     
    UI
    Overall the UI is pretty clean. Throughout the time I’ve used the device, I have only used the default music player. The text are clean to read with the good contrast between the background colour. Swiping from the very left in the music player reveals its settings. One big problem I have notice is the register point of touch can be a bit hard to get to use to since the screen is small, in turn each elements are scaled down. Would be better if the buttons are a bit larger or increase the register point a bit more. Other than that, the UI is well-done.
     
    eq1.jpg
     
    eq2.jpg
     
    musicplayer1.jpg
     
    musicplayer2.jpg
     
    sidesettings.jpg
     
    Battery Life
    I would consider it to be average. Since It has a lot of functions disabled. The battery life lasts longer than my phones. My last check before fully charge the device, it ran almost 14hours at 14% battery. I've also notice there are more battery drain when wifi was turned on, but I did not really use those functions so I can't really say much about it.
     
    batterylife.jpg
     
    runningapps.jpg
     
     
    Sound Quality
    Gear used: K7xx, SE215
    Throughout the 10 days, I did not change the EQ since I have very little knowledge about it. Everything is kept at default besides switching the gain to low.
    The vocal is pretty imitating even on the K7xx, especially the female vocals. I would say the instrument separation is pretty good which of course, better than my X1. I can really hear the better separation on the X7 with classical and jazz music. For some reason, the X7 give me a softer more comfortable feeling when listening to Jazz music such as the one by KoolKlean. While listening to classical music, it has more soundstage than my Fiio X1.
     
     
    [So far, I've only got a little improvement on evaluating on the subject of sound quality. If you have read until here, thank you very much for the patient. Feel free to provide any feedback!]
    Hawaiibadboy likes this.
  6. fleasbaby
    4.5/5,
    "Weekend at Bernie's..."
    Pros - Mature, detailed, beautiful sound
    Cons - New f/w for FiiO, therefore needs work
    I remember when the FiiO X3 came out. It was an idea that had originally been shelved, but was later resurrected, and released. In retrospect, I see it as FiiO’s opening shot, an exploratory probe in to the world of DAPs. After cutting their teeth using the X3, FiiO moved swiftly and decisively. The X5, X3ii and the X5ii followed in quick succession, each a step forward, a refinement of firmware, UI, build and in the background, subtle, but still there, sonic changes (the biggest was the switch from the X3’s warm sound signature, to the more accurate, clearer sound of the X5).
     
    Now FiiO has released what I predict will likely be their next opening shot…the X7 looks like it will be an exploratory probe into the world of higher-end DAPs. Among many other firsts, most notably, it is their first player to use an Android interface, have wi-fi and use a touch screen. It also borrows a concept I haven’t seen done by anyone other than Hifiman and expands upon it. It has swappable amp modules.
     
    I have had the good fortune to get a week with a tour unit, sent around the world for a few folks to have the opportunity to review the X7 and share their thoughts. I have not been paid for this review, and will not be keeping the tour unit. I am not affiliated with FiiO in any way and am a strictly independent listener. I use 16/44 FLAC files for all of my listening and my tastes run from jazz and the blues through to leftfield and experimental electronic music, with a lot in between.
     
    My last moment spent with a FiiO player was when they sent an X5ii around the globe for reviewers. It was at that time I succumbed to a temptation, a dark horse I had not anticipated meeting or running off with. In fact, I planned on buying an X5ii. I was distracted at the last minute by the Pono, and have ever since been enjoying its numerous delights. Time has rolled on and I am still entranced by it.
     
    I have spent the last few days listening to the X7 and the Pono, and can honestly say I have enjoyed listening to the X7. It has been a delightful experience. I can’t help but feel though, that I have been holidaying away from my wild co-ed apartment in the city with my quiet, wealthy uncle out in the suburbs. Compared to the Pono, the X7’s sound signature is polite, accurate, reliable and completely relaxing. The unit drove several different headphones and earbuds very competently. I had the good fortune to test it with Hifiman Edition X (also a tour unit), a pair of Magnum V6 drivers in Black Limba and Rosewood cups of my own making, the VE Zen (both the 1.0 and 2.0 version), the VE Monk, the Blox M2C and BE3, the T–Peos Altone 200 and the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
     
    With the Edition X especially I felt like I could quietly slip back into a comfy chair, drink a cup of tea and let myself maybe take an afternoon nap. Aurally, everything was in its place, neither aggressive nor shrill and immaculate in its presentation. This is a stark contrast to the Pono. Usually it has me up, tapping my toes, looking for an alcoholic beverage and cruising my music collection for fast, rollicking tracks.
     
    Like that wild co-ed apartment in the city though, the Pono lacks some amenities that one will always have when visiting that quiet, orderly, wealthy uncle. Want wi-fi access and streaming (Tidal, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime…)? The X7 can help with that. Want access to the Google Play store? The X7 will sort it out for you. Bluetooth? The X7 again.
     
    All of this makes me see the X7 as not necessarily better or worse than the Pono…just…different. It aims somewhere else in the DAP market, and hits it squarely in the chest. The average person who uses something like the Pono frequently eschews streaming services in favor of local media. They don’t see the attraction of using an app to tweak sound performance, or feel any desire to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The X7 gives you all of this and more.
     
    One day, sonically speaking, I’ll be ready to give up my hedonistic ways, and move out to the suburbs, live a quiet life, and settle down. And when I do, the X7 will likely be my first choice for where I want to be. I am sure I am not alone in this, in fact I am sure there are many making that life-choice right now. The X7 is 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a small town somewhere pleasant in a nice climate.
     
    It has a few odd little firmware quirks and the UI does take a little while to get used to, but other than that its build is solid and sexy, it sounds great and will be customizable when those amp modules start coming out…and FiiO is usually very quick to take feedback and fix firmware issues rapidly…
     
    Buy without fear if you’re looking to settle down comfortably [​IMG]
    RebeccaSugar likes this.
  7. lalala6
    4.5/5,
    "X7 - FiiO's best effort yet!"
    Pros - Design, build quality, ease of navigation, DAC implementation, overall sound, value for money
    Cons - Minor UI quirks, IEM module does not unleash X7's full potential

    FiiO X7 Review by lalala6​

     
    IMG_20151214_224509.jpg
     
    Disclaimer: This X7 is a preview unit kindly loaned to us by FiiO for the X7 world tour. A big thanks to Joe and team for organizing this tour and letting many people experience the X7 first hand!
     
     
    About Me
     
    I have been an avid audiophile for 3 years and counting. Starting from portable and then branching to desktop, I have slowly accumulated more and more gear, buying and selling stuff to try to find the perfect collection of IEMs, headphones, amps and sources for my musical needs. I listen almost exclusively to Japanese music, mainly Anime songs, J-pop and Japanese indie (doujin). But even within those genres, there are many musical styles resembling many different genres, like rock, metal, acoustic, ballad, jazz, piano, and even classical. I believe most of the music I have are well mastered, and I know a bad recording when I hear one.
     
    Since this is a DAP review, I thought I should share my experience with DAPs. I currently own an iBasso DX80, and have owned in the past many DAPs; namely every single DAP that FiiO released before X7, iBasso DX90 & HDP-R10, Cayin N6, HiFiMAN HM-650, Walkman Z, F & A series. While I have never heard the ultra-expensive DAPs like Astel&Kern, I consider myself quite well-versed on DAPs and know how a good DAP should sound like.
     
    Gears used in this review:
     
    - FiiO X7 with IEM amp module (duh)
    - FiiO E12DIY with OPA827 + LME49600
    - IEMs: Audio Technica ATH-CK100 & CKR9LTD, DUNU DN-2000, JVC FX850
    - Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD2000, Fostex TH-X00
    - Other DAPs: iBasso DX80
     
     
    Packaging and Accessories
     
    IMG_20151214_225323.jpg
    IMG_20151214_225530.jpg
     
    The X7 comes in a simple black box with minimal text or decoration. Opening it reveals the unit, and underneath it is a box containing the manuals and accessories. While it does the job well, for $650 I was hoping for a fancier packaging that will properly convey the class of FiiO’s flagship statement DAP; maybe something like the HDP-R10 packaging. Well, considering the amount of features and quality packed into the X7, I guess we can’t complain.
     
    For accessories, it comes with two screen protectors, a USB cable, coaxial cable, screwdriver and spare screws for the amp module. The retail version will also come with a transparent case.
     
     
    Aesthetics and Build Quality
     
    IMG_20151214_224605.jpg
    IMG_20151214_224710.jpg
     
    The X7 has a very modern and sleek look, with its minimalist design, brushed aluminum and metallic body. High points for visuals right there. The build quality is equally as impressive. It feels like a solid and expensive chunk of metal in your hands, with absolutely no creakiness or moving parts inside. Buttons are tactile and clicky. The X7 is something people would be proud to own.
     
     
    Removing Amp Module
     
    IMG_20151214_231342_HHT.jpg
     
    The amp module is very easy to remove. After taking out the screws on the sides of the X7 with the provided screwdriver, the module can be detached smoothly, and can be inserted as just smoothly. While this is a very easy operation, having to keep that screwdriver near you can be cumbersome for some and this means you cannot swap modules while on the go as you risk losing the screws or the screwdriver. I would prefer a lock-in system where no screws are involved.
     
    One thing that irked me is the “T5” wording below the screws on the amp module. Not sure if this is just on the tour unit, but there is no need to label what size the screws are on unit itself. Just leave it as information available in the manual, for those who are inclined to know. You don’t see Apple labeling what type of screws they use on the iPhone, do you?
     
     
    UI and Navigation
     
    IMG_20151214_225105.jpg
     
    The X7 runs on Android 4.4, and the OS works pretty much flawlessly. If you have used an Android smartphone before, you will have no problems picking up the X7 and using it. There are two modes, the Android mode and Pure Music mode. The music player is just an app in Android mode, while in Pure Music mode it runs just the music player, making it work like a dedicated DAP. Navigation in the FiiO Music app is fast, smooth, logical, and overall an enjoyable experience.
     
    However, there are some minor quirks in the UI that needs correction, and I have made a list of suggestions to improve the UI:
     
    - Delete button revealed too easily when accidentally swipe left, breaking the momentum of scrolling. Suggest to put delete button together with the three buttons revealed when swiping right.
    - In the Now Playing screen, a tiny accidental swipe on the album art changes the track too easily. Suggest to change tracks only with a longer and more deliberate swipe on the album art
    - Top part of the album art is cut off in the Now Playing screen. Suggest option to hide the notification bar.
    - In the built-in settings in FiiO Music app, allow user to toggle the Gain, Balance, and In-line Remote right in the app instead of directing them to Sound Settings whenever those are clicked.
    - In Sound Settings, capitalize LO and SPDIF, and rename 'Lrbalance' to 'LR Balance'
    - Put an indicator whenever EQ is enabled, either on the Now Playing screen or on the notification bar.
     
     
    Battery Life
     
    The battery life of X7 is decent for a DAP. I could get around 7-8 hours of playback on a single charge in Android mode. While this isn't impressive numbers by any means, having to power a high-end desktop DAC while also powering the SoC and amp module yet managing to squeeze out average DAP battery life is a win in my book.
     
     
    Sound
     
    Here comes the part you have been waiting for – how’s the sound quality?
     
    Well, I’m not too good at expressing sound in words, but I’ll try my best.
     
    The X7 with the IEM amp module can be characterized as having a warmish neutral sound. Bass is slightly elevated above neutral, creating the warmth that is in line with FiiO’s house sound. While the X5II is a departure from the house sound with an airier and more neutral signature, the X7 makes a triumphant return to their signature sound, and does it better than any FiiO DAPs before it could. The flagship Sabre ES9018S DAC really helps in this, bringing tons of micro-details, superb dynamics, and impeccable staging to the table. I can say the DAC is extremely well implemented in the X7, and is the best line-out I’ve ever heard from a DAP.
     
    Here I shall describe in detail the sound with the stock IEM module.
     
    Lows
     
    The bass is smooth, detailed and goes quite deep. There is a slight mid-bass bump creating a punchy sensation to the sound. Overall decent sounding lows, but could do with more definition and texture.
     
    Mids
     
    The mids are definitely the standout of the X7. Amazingly intricate, smooth and yet full of micro-detail and texture. Very dynamic and musical sounding, slightly forward in a nice way. On intimate recordings, the vocals are lush, detailed and incredibly expressive. Several times I had goosebumps while listening to vocals with the X7. For sure, one of the best DAPs for mids without having to spend much more.
     
    Highs
     
    The highs are very well controlled with no sibilance or harshness in the sound. Despite having a Sabre DAC, it is surprisingly smooth, and has no edginess in the treble that is common in many Sabre implementations. Might lack sparkle or excitement coming from brighter DAPs, but it is good for controlling bright IEMs. With warm IEMs I sometimes crave for more treble. Quality-wise it is very good and extends well, just not very noticeable as it sits behind the rest of the spectrum.
     
    Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
     
    Decent width but awesome depth, very 3D sounding; an inherited characteristic of the ES9018 DAC inside. Precise imaging and amazing instrument separation. One of the only DAPs I’ve heard that can give you such a believable, realistic stage and incredible layering. I could close my eyes and literally hear where the instruments are in the mix.
     
     
    Line-out
     
    IMG_20151214_224638.jpg
     
    Utilizing the X7 line-out to the E12DIY, everything gets improved to a mind-blowing degree. From a tighter, more defined bass, an even more dynamic and colorful mids, a more present and sparkly treble, to a huge increase in soundstage and separation. This shows just how capable the DAC in X7 is, and I can’t wait to see how the other amp modules will pair with it. If my E12DIY with the X7 is any indication, a better amp module will skyrocket its performance, putting the X7 squarely among the best of DAPs, regardless of price.
     
     
    Comparisons
     
    Vs DX80
     
    The DX80 has a leaner, more analytical sound compared to the X7. Surprisingly, the DX80 boasts much better lows, the bass being tighter, more refined and textured over the X7. In fact, the DX80 might have the best bass quality in DAPs under $1K, so it’s a bit of a tough fight there. Otherwise, the X7 beats it in all other areas. Mids on the X7 are more detailed and musical relative to the laid-back mids on the DX80. Highs, while lesser in quantity, are smoother and more refined than the DX80’s. Soundstage width is about the same, but the X7 definitely owns it in depth and height. The X7 is also more revealing and transparent, but that’s expected as it is twice the price of DX80.
     
    If the X7 had the bass of the DX80, it would be the perfect DAP (for my tastes).
     
    IMG_20151214_230723.jpg
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    Overall, I think the X7 is a good first attempt at a flagship Android DAP from FiiO. The design is wonderful and well thought out, the UI is fast and visually pleasing, the navigation is logical and a breeze to operate. Unfortunately, during my time with the X7 I did not try to download and use streaming apps, so I’ll leave the experience of streaming with the X7 to the other reviewers.
     
    Soundwise, FiiO set out and crafted a sound which I think will appeal to many customers. With the prospect of sound improvement and tuning with different amp modules, the possibilities are endless and a great fun to tinker around with. Thanks to an extremely well implemented DAC section, you are bound to have great sound no matter what amp modules or portable amps you pair it with!
     
    Finally, a BIG thank you and kudos to FiiO for being such an awesome company, listening to your customers’ wishes and making the best DAP you could for us! I wish you all the best and look forward to what amazing products will come from FiiO in the future.
  8. piksnz
    4.0/5,
    "Excellent value for a player of this premium quality"
    Pros - Wireless streaming service, value for money, excellent DSD sound quality
    Cons - UI Improvements, 16bit, mp3 files sound similar across their lineup.
    Fiio X7 video review
     
    [​IMG] 
    Brooko likes this.
  9. DougD
    4.5/5,
    "Yet another review of the FiiO X7 on World Tour - a very nice piece of gear"
    Pros - Sound quality is excellent; value
    Cons - UI is functional but somewhat limited; the placement of the pause button
    Quick review of the FiiO X7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    *---- about me -----* 

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

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

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

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

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

    * earlier today when the Wi-Fi was turned on, the X7 told me that firmware 1.5 was available and could be installed. I didn't avail myself of that invite ... something for the next person to do, if feedback on the update suggests it's essentially bug-free ... but nevertheless that's a neat capability for the X7 to have. Especially if it goes through a period of regular firmware updates as more capabilities and fixes are added. 
     
    * Loaded up a bunch of xmas and "regular people" tunes on a new micro-SD card in preparation for the annual xmas "obligatory 2 day holiday tour around the state to visit various relatives." Was thwarted in my effort to share good music cheer because the X7 and my vehicle (2013 Honda Odyssey) were not able to to find each other to make a BlueTooth connection. Was on the road and didn't get to fiddle with it much. (Unfortunately, I had assumed the BlueTooth would work, and neglected to also bring a line-out cable as a backup. Whoops. Had to listen to the radio, how retro 20th century. Under my reindeer antlers headpiece, I was secretly embarrassed by this technology failure. Fortunately, the wifelette was pre-occupied with hitting the travel schedule.) 
     
    * Battery life: I didn't really time it, but from my experience 8-10 hours seems a good guess. And remember, I'm using cans that need more power than IEMs would. That's enough for me, anytime I know I'm going to be unable to recharge for more than 8 hours, I have a number of cheap "recharge your mobile device via USB" batteries I can bring along. (They're a commodity accessory now, $10-$15 for 3000 to 6000 mAh.)
     
    * Recharge via USB --> fast. I'd guess it took less than 2 hrs to go from 6% to 100%, while the X7 was playing.
     
    * USB connection to PC. Worked fine for a while. Plug in the USB cable, and up popped a "Connect in Android mode" screen. But that is not happening now, in either Pure Music or Android mode. Don't know if I inadvertently turned something off on the X7 or on my PC. Regardless, loading tunes onto a card is usually faster for me if I plug the card directly into a card-reader on the PC rather than use a USB cable to an external device anyway, so I generally do not move tunes via a USB cable.
     
    * re-scanning the list of tunes: the X7 took 80 seconds to scan the internal storage and a 128-GB card, and to register 2,930 tracks. I was happy with that. (The track count for that size card is kinda low, because I put a large number of high-rez files on the card for testing purposes, and of course those files tend to be much larger than normal 16/44.1 redbook files.)
     
    * I LOVE that FiiO isn't burdening the X7 with a ton of expensive internal storage. With a card slot, we get essentially unlimited storage capacity, as much as anyone wants to buy, and can purchase whatever size cards offer the best capacity vs price trade-off, any given time. To me, at the moment the 128-GB cards are still the sweet spot. Because the X7 rescans a memory card so fast, swapping a new card in is no big deal. (Unless you drop the old one on the floor of a crowded public transit bus in the dark, etc. Some free advice: don't do that.)  Two card slots would be nice, but it's not essential.
     
     
    *----- bottom line ---* 
     
    I like the FiiO X7 a LOT. Even with the IEM amp module, SQ was excellent on full-size headphones that are reasonably well-matched. Super as a transport to desktop gear. No show-stoppers in terms of usability from my point of view. Its functionality with Tidal is making me re-think about the fun and usefulness of wireless streaming, which up to now frankly I had not seen much point to.
     
    Will it rip the guts out of the market for top-end A&K models? Don't know, but it will certainly push them as "a value proposition." Hate that phrase, but it fits here.
     
    How does the X7 compare to other hot new DAPS, such as the Questyle Q1PR, the Onkyo DP-X1, or even the LG-V10 ? Don't know that either, haven't had a chance to play with any of them.
     
    But I would say that if SQ is your #1 consideration, which IMO it certainly should be, then the X7 is most certainly a very serious contender, as is. 
    Peridot likes this.
  10. PinkyPowers
    3.5/5,
    "Taking on Giants - A Review of the FiiO X7"
    Pros - Impressive soundstage. Smooth, refined audio. Impeccable detail. -touchscreen-
    Cons - GUI. Incomplete firmware. Battery life. Hardware buttons. Raised screen.
    20151218_230317_zpst1of8lze.jpg

    ::Disclaimer::
    I managed to insinuate myself into the North American tour for FiiO’s new flagship audio player. I receive no payment for this review, and have no affiliation with the company… yet. I’m trying to convince James Chung I’m his long-lost son/grandfather/aunt. Fingers crossed! My participation in this tour was permitted only under the mandate that I share my opinions openly and honestly, for good or ill. Let’s all of us take a moment to sit and read and see if I can do that.

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

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

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

    20151225_164707_zps8bdpdenx.jpg

    20151225_164305_zpsauu779mv.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    20151217_193909_zpsgiinsukb.jpg

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

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

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

    Now… let’s talk about sound.

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

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

    20151220_204122_zpsmogihrcr.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-

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