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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by joe, Sep 15, 2014
Pros - Sound quality, build quality
Cons - UI, value
Following on from quite a line of portable and desktop audio devices, Fiio has now released the X7. This is now their flagship device and a whole new beast at that. This beauty runs Android (a first for Fiio) and is equipped with some very interesting features.
First there is the ESS9019 DAC chip made by Sabre. This is not your usual run-of-the-mill DAC chip, this thing is desktop grade hardware, and is well revered for its audio quality.
But perhaps the most interesting concept is the amp-module. Here Fiio has tried something different, allowing users to swap out amp modules in order to drive more power-hungry cans, and, of course, make some adjustments to the sound signature. You see, in a perfect world an amp would only be there to provide varying levels of power output…but this is the real world, where few things are quite so black and white. Often I see people on forums asking about this or that amp, and it would seem that most of the time the recommendations tends to focus on the power output; often forgotten is the impact that an amp will have on the sound signature. And this is where I feel the amp modules will be of the greatest interest…the ability to cater to your specific sound signature requirements; whether this be to offset the signature of your cans, or to simply get a specific type of sound which complements the listener’s taste in music.
So, before I dive into the review, let me give you a little background info on myself as to better understand what it is that I look for and what my position on the X7 is.
If I had to describe my taste in music, I guess I’d say that I’m an audio purist. By that I mean my aim is to listen to the music the way it was intended; pure and unadulterated. My taste reaches far and wide, everything from jazz to classical, hip-hip to rock, acoustic to RnB. Whilst I fully understand some (perhaps most) people generally only listen to one or a few genres, it makes sense for them to get an audio setup which complements the music the listen to.
But when you’re looking to get the purest sound, it’s a whole other ball-game. This means that my setup needs to be as neutral as possible, to not emphasize or depreciate, to not add nor take away any of the sounds. I wouldn’t go out and buy a painting, and then decide “you know what this needs? More blue”...and then proceed to make my own adjustments. I treat music the same way. I want to hear what the artist wanted to portray, not to do their job for them and try to make the music better. Some people will get that and some won’t, but nobody is right or wrong either way; it’s all a matter of taste.
But, I’m also on a sensible budget. Unless I can hear a clear difference between different setups, I see no point in spending extra cash on something which is “technically better”, but doesn’t add to my experience in reality. Again, to each their own and there’s no right or wrong way.
So, the X7; let’s get on with it.
This is the second time I’m takin part in a Fiio world tour, the first having been with the X3 Gen 2. I think it’s a great concept to allow people to review upcoming products and it is indeed quite exciting to take part in. What I particularly like about taking part in these world tours with Fiio is the fact that they don’t try to sensor the reviews. They want users to give their honest opinions, and I respect that greatly.
Those who have been following the X7 thread on Head-fi may have noticed my rather strongly opinionated first impressions of the device, so this time round I will attempt to exercise more, umm, diplomacy.
I must say, I prefer the new packaging. It seems more modern and classy. Up until now much of Fiio’s packaging were red and black bokes…nothing wrong with them, but nothing that really said “premium” either. I’m not going to spend any time describing the extra bits in pieces in the box, since the main focus here is the device.
The X7 is genuinely a beautifully crafted device. Everything about it looks premium. It doesn’t look like it was designed by some Chinese audio device manufacturers, but perhaps rather a German car maker. When I first held the device, it felt solid. Be sure to hit the gym before picking it up though, as it is deceptively heavy, tipping the scale at 220g.
But for me, this is where the positives of the design end. The screen sits about a millimetre or two higher than the rest of the chassis, and just looks a bit quirky. The thickness of the entire device also doesn’t make it feel natural in the hand (granted, I don’t have large hands). On the back there is quite a “hump” which makes placing your fingers on the back feel rather awkward. I guess the weight, added with the form just makes it feel rather unstable in the hand.
Along the top of the device you’ll find a 3.5mm line-out and coaxial out combo jack. On the right is the play/pause button and a forward/back rocker. Along the bottom is the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack (which is part of the swappable amp module). And finally on the left is the micro-SD slot, power button and the volume rocker.
The side buttons do annoy me a bit. The logos printed on the device for the volume and forward/back rockers are exactly the same. One would think that Fiio would’ve used the usual “double arrows” to indicate the function of the forward/back rocker, but instead the same single arrow logo is used for both rockers. Not a major deal, but just a little detail that seems like a bit of an oversight (forgive me, I’m a detail Nazi)
Here Fiio has done something rather interesting too. You get the full on android experience, but they’ve also developed what they call “PureMusic mode”. When this is selected, the device reboots into an interface specifically designed just for music. Basically, the only app that is allowed to run is Fiio’s own PureMusic app. All other unnecessary apps and services do not run in the background…well, that’s the idea anyway. In reality this has not been implemented properly. When you have other music apps installed, for some reason they still start up in PureMusic mode when you plug in the headphones. Not the end of the world, you just quit the app…but that’s not what is supposed to happen. At first this proved to be quite confusing to a new user since 2 songs playing at the same time throws you off.
This proved to be the start of my frustration and confusion with the device. When I first loaded music onto it, for whatever reason it would scan and then display all the songs twice. So instead of showing 24 songs, it was showing 48. When playing songs as well, the timer would start at 30:00, instead of 00:00. Very odd. A factory data reset did correct this eventually.
But to be really honest, the whole PureMusic app just frustrated me. It’s not the worst interface I’ve ever dealt with (not by a long shot), but as a graphics and web-designer, I am incredibly picky about how intuitive the interface is and whether or not specific design elements make sense (have a purpose). Don’t get me wrong, things seem functional, but the whole point of a good interface is to minimize the learning curve and to not leave the user feeling confused to any extent.
A pretty UI has never been Fiio’s pride and joy, and this is definitely their best looking one to date, but I fear that a number of people would not want to use the device purely based on their experience with the UI.
In Android mode things are quite familiar. You get the usual home screen, app drawer, and settings look and feel of KitKat. Thanks to the latest firmware update (version 1.5) the Play Store is now also available so you can download your favourite players and streaming apps…but I wouldn’t bother, not with alternative players anyways.
Let’s first get the testy stuff out of the way first. I used a 48Khz 24bit 10-20,000 Hz pink noise wave to record some frequency response graphs, and the results are quite interesting. All graphs have a ½ octave smoothing applied.
Pure Music Mode
Android Mode – HibyMusic
Android Mode – Neutron
Android Mode – Onkyo Player
Android Mode – Poweramp
As you’ll see, the low and mid frequency range seem to be identical, but it’s in the highs that we see a drastic difference. HibyMusic and PureMusic mode seem to be extremely similar, however, you’ll notice that the volumes are quite different between Android and PureMusic mode. I did try to get the volumes the same, but my recording equipment picked up a lot of clipping at higher volume levels in Android Mode, and so I had to reduce the volume.
Neutron and Hibymusic seem quite similar, although it looks like Neutron has a slightly sharper roll off above 10kHz. Onkyo has an even sharper roll off, whilst Poweramp had the worst FR of all of them.
I wanted to use the Rockbox app as well, but couldn't as I couldnt see anything other than this screen when launching the app.
For the sake of another comparison, here is the FR graph of my E18+E12A stack connected to my LG G3 running Lollipop and HibyMusic
Since the E18+E12A stack is my main setup, I will compare it to the X7.
First off, the X7 does sound great, as is shown by the graphs, the FR is pretty damn good. But they also somewhat confirm what I was hearing. The X7 sounds wonderfully smooth, but just doesn’t quite have the sparkle of the E18+E12A in the higher frequencies, and as such highs seem just a tad pushed back. Instrument separation did seem a bit better on the X7 though, but the sound stage seemed a bit wider on the E18+E12A.
Honestly, that’s all I can say really, both setups sound incredibly similar, and if I wasn’t able to test them side by side, I genuinely wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Heck, even with testing them side by side, I have to really concentrate on what I’m hearing to discern a difference between them.
This has always been a concern of mine. As much as I love Android, it’s not what I would call battery friendly. I did some drain tests (until roughly 10%) in PureMusic mode to see the effects of leaving WiFi on and off.
As you can see, not a big difference, about 15 minutes. I noticed something really strange though; for some reason it is not displaying the battery usage correctly. Each time it showed that the screen was the highest battery drain, but in both tests the screen was on at most for just over 5 minutes…very strange indeed. So, a battery life of approximately 8 hours doesn’t give me much hope for the device in terms of the battery. I say this because it is currently equipped with the IEM amp module. How much faster will it run out of juice when the higher power modules are connected?
Perhaps with further firmware improvements we’ll see the device become more efficient, but who knows?
Let me be clear, I’m in a very weird state of mind right now with regards to the X7. Before I was able to get my hands on the device I read through other peoples’ impressions and reviews, and I couldn’t help but get really excited to try it out. Talks of how great it sounded, and the very “holographic” presentation it gave. I’m not saying they’re wrong, It’s just that when I compare it to my current setup, I don’t get the same sensation of awe. So when I finally got to plug my headphones in to get my fix of this awesomeness, I was left rather underwhelmed. Again, I’m not saying it doesn’t sound great, because IT DOES! But compared to my E18+E12A stack, there is absolutely nothing that makes me want the X7. I’m having a really hard time trying to justify why I would want to forget about my $320 stack in favour of a $650 device which doesn’t seem to provide me with any type of sonic improvement.
One the forum members mentioned something along the lines of “you can’t judge the sound of a device after only a few hours with it, you have to really listen to it for a longer period of time”. Personally, I couldn’t agree less. The best analogy that I can come up with is, let’s say you drive a French car, and someone hands you the keys to an Audi. The moment you climb into that car you just know it’s better put together. Everything just feels well thought out and engineered to precision. You don’t have to sit in the car for days on end to realise that, but you will appreciate it more as time goes on, and you start to realise why the German has the higher price tag. And I guess that’s where my disappointment with the X7 really comes in…there isn’t enough about it that screams at me “I’M WORTH MORE!”.
This is why I have a very weird state of mind right now. I feel both quite disappointed, and exceptionally relieved at the same time. Disappointed with what the X7 has delivered (or not delivered), and relieved that my humble E18+E12A setup still holds, what is in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck. Of course, the X7 does have a much more portable form factor, but it also couldn't hope to compete with the E18+E12A's 20+ hour battery life. But upon further reflection, perhaps the X7 is impressive after all. Perhaps it's a matter of the IEM amp module holding it back far more than I realise, and with the introduction of better modules it'll really bring the X7 to life.
The whole experience has left a rather bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. As I was discussing with a fellow reviewer, the X7 just feels incomplete. Almost as though there was a rush with the device, perhaps a deadline of some kind (maybe Christmas?) which was deemed more important than polishing the UI and ironing out the bugs. Fiio had a real chance to do something completely different here, to make a device like none other (and to some extent I suppose they have), but instead they sent out what feels to be a blueprint. What particularly annoys me is a buggy UI. UIs can be changed and perfected, so (in my opinion) there is no valid reason as to why they can’t properly test and sort out the UI before releasing the product to the consumers (especially for a $650 device). I’m talking about taking pride in one’s work, to do it to the very best of your ability. Taking pride doesn’t cost a penny.
I genuinely, honestly, truly hope that Fiio will take all the negative feedback and surprise us with a right hook to the jaw. Fiio is still, without a doubt, my favourite audio company and I will keep my hopes up that they will go up from here.
Last but not least I want to give a special thanks to Samma3a.com. For the purpose of this review I wanted to compare the X7 to the E18+E12A stack, and Samma3a gave me a 25% discount on the E12A. So thanks a lot Samma3a, it proved it be one of my best purchases yet!
Pros - android, ability to exchange amp, overall sound signature, build, screen
Cons - IEM amp is weak
Well, I can't resist adding my 5 cents about this great DAP. I won't write much, as Head-Fi already have 16 reviews of X7, so everyone who's interested in build quality, box content, UI, etc. already satisfy their curiosity. I'll try to summarise my own impressions on sound.
So happened, X7 was introduced with least powerful amplifier module, called IEM amp. It have about 100 mW @ 32Ω, which isn't much, even compared with Fiio X5-2, so X7 have a great chance to improve sound in future. Fiio promised 2 or 3 more amplifier, including powerful amp for big cans and balanced amp.
For now, I'd call X7's sound signature close to neutral, with incredible level of details and leaned toward analytical representation. In some seldom cases, player sounds a bit "dry", but it's because of no coloration in sound. I've tried X7 with my E12DIY, so I'm sure that with future amps X7 will perform even better.
Bass is tight, fast and pretty accented. It allows player to render it nicely, showing it's texture and smallest nuances of low frequency instruments. Bass punches with good power and authority, so with bass-hevy headphones it can even overpower listener, so you should listen X7 with your headphones first. For example, Dunu Titan 5 have too much slam for me.
Mids are absolutely flawless. Well-coocked Sabre inside X7 shows itself from best side, revealing even tiniest details of recording. This makes X7 very picky for recordings quality, but of course it's not a player's issue. Emotional, spacious representation of mids is an X7's best side. Scene is on wider side, and it's depth is really, really good. Please keep in mind that X7 won't add anything to records from itself, so dry, dull recordings will sound dull and dry.
Higsh will be an issue for those, who are treble-sensitive. X7 represents treble without any smoothness and without an attempt to make it less harsh then they are. With some headphones (hello again, Titan 5) it gives harshness. So, if you don't like treble, keep it in mind. If you're ok with this part of spectrum, you'll enjoy airy and light presentation of X7.
To summarise, there are some minor issues in X7's sound, but it still sounds more then great even for it's price tag, and please keep in mind, that future amp modules have a potential to greatly improve X7's sound.
Few comparisions (please note, that this is a pretty subjective opinion)
L&P L5 Pro In some sense, L5Pro is an antipode for X7. L5Pro offers more smooth, softer sound, in exchange for little loss of details.
Questyle QP1R Another raising star on DAP market. Questyle's patented amp allows this player to show great synergy with most of heaphones, even picky ones. QP1R have better trebles, but to my ears it's lacking some bass texture, compared with X7. Also, QP1R's awful scroll will kills it's usability, making it hard to use.
Cayin N6 My favourite "top-middle" segment DAP. This player have enjoying, musical representation, but have somewhat less resolution compared with X7. New Fiio's flagship have more analytical sounding.
Fiio X5-2 Former flagship now goes to middle segment, offers less resolving sound with less depth of lows, but if we keep in mind price factor, X5-2 is still a really great player.
iBasso DX80 New iBasso's middle segment DAP is a complete antipode to X7. It offers absolutely emotionless, smoothed sound without any accents. X7 with it's lows impact and straightforward treble offers absolutely different sound approach.
Pros - Enjoyable engaging sound, build, amp module, onboard memory, ongoing firmware updates, flexibility, Fiio Head-Fi presence
Cons - Competition, dropability factor!
Many thanks once again to Brooko and Fiio for arranging this tour unit.
The X7 is very well built with a functional smart phone type design, it has some heft to it and feels good in the hand. It's fairly long with the headphone jack at the bottom and physical transport buttons on the side towards the top, for in jacket use I preferred to have the transport buttons closer to the top for ease of use, this works best with headphones with a small right angle connector at the bottom. The X7 is quite heavy, smooth and slippy with a raised glass edge, if you are clumsy then seriously think about getting a case!
Due to limited time I only used the Fiio Pure Music mode (1.1).
The software is surprisingly mature with a small learning curve but very easy once you get the hang, most importantly there were no crashes, glitches or dropouts whilst playing a mixture of ALAC and mp3, solid.
As with most new software there are a few quirks and issues that Fiio will hopefully be addressing, one (major for me) issue I have is the poor support for externally created playlists
A major advantage is Fiio has a Head-Fi presence and seems to listen to its customers and offers regular updates
All listening done with JH Audio JH-13 Pro
I got the Mojo about a week before the X7 turned up, which gave me a chance to get used to its smooth slightly warmish sound against my old HM-801 which is a bit brighter. The X7 also has a similar smooth and warm sound as the Mojo.
I tried doing quick comparisons, switching back and forth between the Mojo, X7, HM-801 and iPhone - sometimes I felt the X7 was better, sometimes the Mojo, sometimes the HM-801, sometimes no difference between any of them! Disillusionment and buyers remorse set in so decided to spend the remainder just listening to the X7
The X7 has a sound that didn't immediately grab me but as time went on I found myself enjoying it more and more and was sorry to see it go in the end. It has a nice natural feel with good levels of detail retrieval. From memory, the sound is similar to the X5ii, i.e. smooth, warm, full but with a much better engaging sound stage that makes the X7 a step above.
So which is better, X7 or Mojo? dunno, it's much of a muchness, the Mojo has maybe more treble extension and I feel the X7 has a wider soundstage which gives certain genres a greater sense of space.
The X7 has now gone and I'm back to the Mojo, on reflection I probably enjoyed the X7 more than the Mojo
I briefly tried the X7 from its line out hooked up to my home h-fi rig and it's good, really good
Fiio have a winner on their hands here, once there are more amp modules available and the usb dac functionality is working then is there anything out there that is as versatile and flexible for the same price?
Sound performance is subjective and I personally feel there's quite small differences between digital devices but having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the X7, recommended
Pros - Very fast G.U.I, Built on foundation designed for FW upgrading
Cons - G.U.I is best part of device
The Review In the vid above
A revolutionary device that combines genuine high end DAP internals with a Android frame. TONS of potential.
Navigation only .
Pros - Great Sound at a Good Price - Touch Interface - Swappable Amp Modules - Very Detailed Music Reproduction - Dynamic Sound
Cons - Battery Life - One mSD Storage Slot - Button Layout
The FiiO X7 was provided to me as a part of the FiiO X7 World Preview Tour in exchange for my impressions and honest opinion of the device. It has since left my possession and is in the hands of the next reviewers. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO and at this time do not own the X7. I'd like to thank @Joe Bloggs of FiiO for the opportunity to review the X7. This review is based entirely on my impressions and your impressions may be different from mine.
About Me (Frame of Reference)
I am an audio enthusiast in my mid forties and have enjoyed listening to music since my youth with vinyl, cassettes, and later CDs and digital files. I listen to wide variety of music from a perspective of losing myself to the experience. At times I like to be transported to different states of mind or emotion in the case of classical and OST recordings. Other times I go to the venue in the case of live recordings, binaural+, or studio sessions. Some times I just like to rock out. Every time, however, I want the clearest and most natural representation of the music that I can afford. If the track has thumping bass I want to hear it. If the track is complex with many instruments I want to hear each one. I listen critically often but also appreciate timbre and musicality.
I've used Sony Walkman cassette players, mini disc players, Sansa Clip+, iPod classics, iPhones etc., over the years as my portable devices, and I have 'grown up' with headphones in my ears and players at my side. My first digital high resolution player was the FiiO X3 first generation. My current daily portable player is the AK240 and I enjoy it for its interface, musicality, refinement, and it's pairing with my JH Angie IEM.
FiiO X7 Links to Specifications and Tutorials
There are many reviews already about the X7 and since the unit is now fully released globally I won't re-hash or give outdated information in my review of a preview unit. Instead I'll provide links to the FiiO X7's product page and interface tutorials. Everything you need to know about the product can be found there.
Product Page LINK
Interface Tutorials LINK
App Installation LINK
Standard FiiO packaging here.
The packaging of the preview unit I received is pretty much what the retail unit looks like. I do notice that there are different female models on the screen of the X7 on different boxes but I have no clue which one you'll end up with. After you lift the X7 out of the box there is another thin box that contains all the accessories that come with the unit.
Included accessories - Counter clockwise from the left:
- A button navigation guide.
- Warranty card.
- Extra screws for the amp module.
- TRRS coaxial adaptor for coaxial output.
- USB Data and Charging cable.
- Extra screen protectors.
The X7 does not come with a case but FiiO has said that one is in the works and I'm sure third party manufacturers will be making cases for the X7.
Hardware Look and Feel
Size comparison to other DAPs in my collection. The X7 is rather large.
The X7 in my hand. It has some good weight to it.
I've been following the development of the X7 since it was first announced on Head Fi. There have been many designs shown, some of them brilliant, some of them a little ambitious. and some of them terrible. In the end what FiiO has come up with is a very utilitarian device that doesn't shout 'hey look at me'! It's simple and symmetrical, there's just no other way to put it. To be honest I liked some of their earlier designs but FiiO can't please everyone. What I really appreciate about FiiO is that they seek feedback from their customers and although the X7 doesn't have all the original planned features and may not be the perfect design I know that FiiO is listening. I'll touch on this more later.
Symmetry on either side. The blue cast is from the lighting.
The Volume up / down and Power buttons are along the left side of the unit while the Forward / Back and Play / Pause buttons are on the right. Each button has a good click and they didn't feel soft or loose to me. Overall I appreciate FiiO's continued dedication to including hardware buttons.
It wasn't all roses for me though. For my time with the X7 I had a hard time getting used to the symmetry of the device. Not everyone is going to find the symmetry an issue but my genetic makeup and large hands just didn't get along with the symmetrical hardware buttons. I use my thumb and fingers on both sides of the unit to brace it when I press the buttons and the first issue I had was I would keep pressing pause when trying to turn on the screen. I don't think it's a fatal flaw and I really have no suggestions to make it better as it makes the most sense in this chassis design, but still thought I should mention it.
The touch screen is fairly responsive and an entirely different world from FiiO's previous button and wheel based DAPs. There is simply so much more that a company can implement in the device with a touch screen interface over a non-touch screen device. I welcomed the change from FiiO.
Inputs, Outputs, Battery and Storage
On the bottom of the X7 is the amp module that also contains the micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The use of amp modules is where FiiO sets itself apart from other touch screen DAP manufacturers. With easily swappable amp modules you can choose the one with the appropriate output power without hiss for IEMs, or in the near future you can pick up a balanced module to output to a balanced headphone. There are many possibilities and FiiO has even hinted that they could provide an extra mSD slot in an amp module for example, and FiiO has also indicated that third party developers would be making amp modules for the X7. Also, the X7 can connect to the new FiiO K5 docking desktop amp.They certainly are thinking of covering all the users needs with the X7.
The unit I tested only had the IEM module and it's the one that will ship bundled with the final production X7 unit.
The USB acts as the data transfer port and battery charging port. You can not turn off charging when the unit is plugged in. I was getting around 8 hours on a single charge playing a variety of sample rates from 16/44.1 lossless to high resolution 24/192 files, and some DSD samples.
Headphone out and USB port. Personally, I'm not a fan of the headphone out
on the bottom of a device but there's no way around it with the amp module.
Amp module connection / removal. It's very easy to do!
The removed amp module. The connection is quite secure when attached.
The single mSD slot on the X7. Data transfer was painless when connected
to the computer.
The shared Line Out and coaxial out jack.
On the top of the unit you'll find the Line Out and coaxial out jack that uses a TRRS configuration. The Line Out pins are in the standard location but the coaxial pins are on the Sleeve and the last Ring so you'll need to use the included adaptor to RCA or a custom 3.5mm coaxial cable to connect to an external DAC that accepts coaxial input.
Software and Graphical Interface
While the X7 allows you to take screen captures I decided it would be more helpful to create a video of myself navigating around the X7. The video turned out to be 14 minutes long but if you check it out you'll get to hear one of Pink Floyd's greatest tunes and you'll see what the X7 can offer from start to finish. Of course the FiiO link I provided earlier has explanations throughout each video but I put the time in to the video so may as well post it.
You'll also see that there are some times that the X7 didn't always respond immediately to my touch. Overall though the interface is snappy and it was a treat to scroll to the bottom of a list instead of having to scroll a wheel to reach the same goal on FiiO's other wheel based DAPs.
One overall gripe I have with the X7 GUI is that it seemed like it wasn't focused enough on one goal. There seemed to be too many ways to arrive at a destination and over time it eventually became distracting. I could see how others may like the flexibility but I want more focus from a DAP. For a more focused interface I'd prefer the AK240 interface. It's relatively fast and definitely focused on one thing only.... Get the user to their music as quickly as possible with the least amount of confusion. I hesitate to comment too much on the interface as FiiO is putting out firmware releases at a very fast rate and I feel much of what I criticize will be moot in short time. Like I mentioned earlier, FiiO responds very well to their customers.
A big selling point of the X7 is the capability to use different apps like Spotify. The problem I had with the preview unit is the documentation was in Chinese and I'm an Android idiot so I didn't test any third party apps on the X7. The default music player is all I would use as I find it capable and I don't stream music.
X7 DAC Section
FiiO decided long ago that they would utilize the Sabre ESS9018S 8-channel desktop DAC in the X7. This is opposed to many other DAP makers using the 2-channel mobile version of this DAC and in my opinion FiiO has once again done a great job in the implementation of their chosen DAC chip. This desktop version of the ESS9018 certainly affords FiiO with the flexibility to use a variety of amp modules, and in my opinion, is a good choice on FiiO's part. It can natively decode DSD and PCM up to 384kHz. It can handle all file formats and has very good specifications. The key to a good DAC is it's implementation and FiiO knows how to do a good implementation.
USB DAC functionality is not yet implemented on the X7, but FiiO has it in the works for a future firmware update.
X7 Amplifier Section
As you've already read the X7 has swappable amp modules which are very easy to change with little effort. The amp module packaged with the X7 is the 100mW IEM amp module which, in my tests, sounded pretty good. It's not the best amp section I've heard and I feel it's actually holding back the fantastic DAC implementation, but still I find it more than capable. There's not much more to say other than the planned amp modules from FiiO are:
- IEM module (bundled with the X7).
- Medium powered amp module with the Muses02 opamp.
- High powered amp module with approximately 500mW power (subject to change).
- Balanced amp module with 2.5mm balanced output and 3.5mm SE output (can't use both at the same time).
FiiO X7 Overall Sound
My IEMs paired well with the IEM amp module.
When describing the sound of a player there are many factors to consider - from the files being used and how they were mastered, the headphones being used, the volume one is using, the output chosen (headphone out, line out, coaxial out) and the other gear in the chain. Also, the perspective one is coming from I feel is of great importance. If a user has never heard a very detailed and analytical source they might find the X7 to be too analytical, or too revealing of the flaws in poorly mastered music. On the other hand if coming from a perspective of highly revealing source gear and quality masters one may find the X7 to be not analytical enough (though I doubt it).
I'll be describing the signature of the X7 from the use of generally well mastered music only with my JH Angie given the supplied IEM amp module. One last note before I begin with describing the sound. If you don't like the sound signature of your headphones the X7 will not magically change them in to something else. These are my findings and you mileage may vary.
The X7 retains the general FiiO sound BUT everything is stepped up a couple awesome notches. There is a great sense of space, a refined presentation, a smooth top end, yet accurate details. The instruments have great impact while at the same time they're more separated out. It's easy to pick out instruments in the mix. The bass has weight but the presentation isn't overly warm. The mids are musical and engaging. The highs are detailed but not sharp or piercing which is very welcome given my fears when FiiO announced the chosen Sabre chip, as it can sound pretty bright with a poor implementation. What I hear is an audio reproduction that just wants to highlight everything that's in the mix without going overboard in doing so. There is a sort of holographic sound but it doesn't sound too forced. This helps me to lose myself in the mix and I enjoyed it immensely.
With the X7 it's very easy to hear tambourines, hi hats, shakers, etc.. they aren't pushed back in the overall mix. Very good micro detailing. It's very easy to pick up subtleties in the recording.
Timing is good. Balance is good. Micro detail is good. Texture is very good. Bass has a great leading edge, guitar plucks a reverberation are sharp and textured, piano has impact.
Overall excellent balance and tonality.
Does the X7 really sit in the middle of these DAPs?
I only compared the DAPs using my JH Angie because the X7 only came with the IEM module so I wanted to give it a fair comparison.
X7 vs X5ii
The X5ii is FiiO's former flagship model and it's a great sounding unit in its price bracket. However, the X7 is definitely a step up in refinement. The X7 is smoother, faster, cleaner and more accurate than the X5ii. X7 has a wider soundstage and even better instrument separation. The decay on the X7 is tighter than the X5ii. I also find the X7 to be more musical with deeper extension. In comparison the X5ii sounds slightly less resolving, slightly mushier, more smeared. It's not a huge night and day difference, but it is noticeable very quickly. For the price of the X5ii it's a very good player, just the X7 is better.
X7 vs AK240
I only compared the SE out of the AK240 given the IEM amp module in the X7 is only SE. The X7 is slightly more analytical than the AK240, more spacious. Micro detail pops out more. A similar level of capability but more holographic. More wide. More instrument detail. It's like with the X7 you are at the mixing board hearing all the instruments individually and the AK240 you are at the live event. AK240 layers the instruments together more while X7 separates them. X7 is microscopic in a way that shows you all the mix at the same level, easy to pick out. Same amount of detail but different presentation between the two. The X7 is a bit brighter in comparison with less mid bass but it sounds overall more balanced to me. The AK240 SE is more warm, even compared to my desktop gear. Balanced output changes some of this IMO.
Comparing these two DAPs I would easily put the X7 closer to the AK240 than to the X5ii in sound quality. Quite a remarkable feat from FiiO considering the price difference between the X7 and the AK240.
Line Out to the ALO Rx
As I hinted at earlier the bundled IEM module is good, but I felt that there was more to be gained from a better amplification stage and boy was I right! The DAC implementation was high-lit by giving it a better amp. I've loved the Rx since the day I bought it and having the X7 feed it was incredible. The Rx added more life and musicality while maintaining the overall signature from the X7. There was even more spaciousness and even more extension. better decay and slightly smoother treble. I really enjoy the X7 on its own with my IEM. I enjoy it more with the Rx.
Line Out to the Oppo HA-1
Since the X7 uses the same DAC as the desktop Oppo Ha-1 I was very interested in this paring. It turns out that the X7 can compete very well with its implementation of the ESS9018S. To be honest there was not a lot to it actually. They pretty much sounded the same but I feel the X7 was slightly smoother with less 'tizz' in the treble region. I could have been imagining it though. Still, I found the line out from the X7 to the HA-1 very enjoyable and up to par for expected performance.
Coaxial Out to Oppo HA-1
Shortest section ever. The x7 works as a digital transport. 'Nuf said.
This was an interesting device to test and review. It was like a moving bullseye being so new and still in the teething stages when I had it. Initially the battery indicator didn't even work. However, FiiO has been updating the X7 very quickly and released two firmwares in the short time that I had the unit. They have just released firmware 1.4 about a week after releasing firmware 1.3.... How's that for rapid progress? I'm sure that the X7 will have all the kinks ironed out very quickly and based on the sound quality it would be worth it to jump in right away. Like I said, I hesitate to say much more about the X7 as the unit I had didn't have firmware that was as fleshed out as the current version. I hope FiiO can get the interface more focused.
FiiO has come a long way in a few short years. From the X3 that almost never happened to the X7 is quite a leap for a small company. Given the X7 can play with more high end DAPs with sound quality I predict we won't be calling FiiO a small company for much longer. The X7 proves that you don't need to take out a second mortgage to have TOTL sound in a DAP. It's simply one of the best deals available right now.
Thanks for reading!
My ranking of the FiiO X7
Edit: Added the Line Out / coaxial jack picture with a brief description on the pin configuration.
Pros - Full sized and capable in built amp, clear and detailed line out
Cons - some may find it to be too large
Note: I was part of X7 international tour. I thank Fiio for giving me this opportunity to test and use potentially higher end gear for 10 days time. It is on its way to next member on tour.
I was very excited to be part of Fiio X7 international tour. However, when I learned it was going to ship with iem module, I was less than thrilled. Being mainly a full sized hp guy, I simply don't have good enough iems to test a dap that sells for $650. However, when I actually received X7 all my worries were laid to rest. IEM module drives full sized easy to drive cans with authority and ease. I used its hp out as well as line out to drive my external amps.
A pic showing gear I used to test and compare X7
WHAT i EXPECTED vs WHAT i GOT
Looking at X7 thread on headfi I see a lot of people expecting fiio to produce an Astell and Kern beater. In what metrics is not clear. To me is X7 is unabashedly fiio. Its quiet clear after reading literature supplied for tour from fiio and using it for 10 days, where main focus was while designing the payer. X7 offers a capable, no compromise built in amp. Its build is great and a step up over X5 but I dont think its the best out there. Curiously its form factor is on a bigger side. I do think to give it all functionality and great amp it has, fiio made it bigger rather than compromising anywhere. This is by no means audio jewellery and it does costs on a higher side, it has sound quality to match it.
I encourage reader to look elsewhere for in depth look over the UI. I personally listen to albums from back to back and use folder view to find music. So my expectations from UI are very low. In DAP UI I only look for 2 things:
Get the Job done.
Is Rock solid.
First point is easily achieved as its based on android. I simply choose folder view that shows all folders in memory. From there I simply browse album I want to listen to. No fuss. For second part, I used it for only 10 days and I didnt encountered any hiccups or freeze. I must say fiio's record has been less than stellar. My X5 is behaving differently to scroll wheel inputs over time. It improves with firmware update so the problem is with software.
I really wish fiio use software from previous daps wholesale and keep improving the stability of their software. But the rate at which fiio is introducing new daps with brand new uis, I dont think its gonna happen any time soon.
Fiio did the unthinkable here. Its substantially longer and thicker than X5 which people though was already on bigger side. The build is slightly improved over X5, but when E12 that sells for $130 is build so well, I expected a bigger jump. This aspect goes a long way in showing how well made budget gear is. Looks like diminishing returns is applicable to sound quality as well as build quality here. I do wish unit had round edges for ergonomic grip as well as different texture on back plate. One aspect I loved about it was vibrant, responsive screen, rather close to my smartphone than I expected. Resolution is not very high but I was impressed by big album art on now playing screen.
When talking about build, I think I can put up a lot of points like its too big, screen is raised, and screen has black borders around it etc. I personally dont think these aspects will make even slight difference over my purchase decision of an audiophile dap. One audiophile complain I do have is lack of analog volume control wheel. The price point X7 is playing at, I think a proper wheel with good knob feel should be present.
Initially I was sceptical about sabre chip used in dac. Some people have reported about some digital and bright sounding implementations using them. However the amount of warmth X7 has points towards a very nice implementation. It strikes a nice balance between earthy and ethereal sounding. It leans towards clarity in both bass and mids. Treble extension is great and is usable with neutral to warm headphones to my ears. Bright sounding hps do sound too bright to me like my Sennheiser HD700. Mids are meaty, thick, clear and smooth. Bass is reference quality with great clarity. Thickness or thinness depends on instrument being played. Has good presence and not bass light. Goes deep but not like my desktop amp.
X7 VS X5 Classic
I prefer X5 classic over X5 II. X5 classic has a very analogue sounding treble (maybe a bit shelved down) thats perfect with my hps. Newer fiio gear has different more neutral tuning than their older gear and I think X7 is a direct upgrade over X5II rather than older X5.
Out of hp out, I dont think there is much competition. Even with iem module, X7 has better authority and more effortless sound with my full sized hps. X7 lets me hear deeper into recordings, more meat around bones. Hp out of X5 sounds thinner in comparison while X7 sounds meaty and resolved, more akin to live performance with less compromises.
Using X5+E12 combination against X7, sound quality battle is very close with perhaps slight edge to stack. X7 on its own sounds effortless, thick and resolved, signs of quality amplification. I think a big size does results in space needed for good implementation as is evident with X7. X5 + E12 sounds slightly more effortless and relaxed. But its a very close call. To note I regard X5+E12 stack very highly and think it paints realistic enough picture of music that I can live with it for very long time.
Pitting X7+ E12 vs X5+E12, I think E12 hits performance ceiling with X5, which results in little improvement when switching to X7. Sound signature wise, their line out has different characteristics and allows me to compare them using same filter (or colouration). Using X5 stack, bass hits harder, depth is almost same but clarity is much better with X7. X7 also sounds more true to source and changes thickness or thinness more dramatically. Mid range is a tie on both. X7 stack is clearer and smoother while X5 stack has more realistic bass weight behind each note. Treble is subdued on X5 while its prominent and extended on X7 stack. Choose depending on your hps and taste. Timber is lot better on X7 stack with X7 highlighting inherent sound qualities and details instruments much better.
These characteristics are present with hp out of X7 as well but become more obvious with slight effortlessness of E12. Overall I would say use an external amp with X7 only if its very high quality or you want a specific colouration like tubes. X5 improves dramatically with E12 but is not the case with X7 as its in built amp is already pretty good.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
You should buy one if you mainly use flagship level amps and hps/iems. Improvements X7 brings were lot more obvious with hd 700 that with my other gear. Also consider it if you intend to use it without external amp most of the time. However its excellent line out opens potential for even greater things and lets be honest here, who expects manufacturer to cram in amp in that much space that will eke out every last bit of performance on tap from very capable dac? Though I must say fiio did an excellent job in that regards.
I have been using fiio gear for some time and I do think their stuff sounds great. They do make lots of inexpensive gear but that alone does not makes them so popular as there is lot of gear out there thats even more inexpensive. I do find their nicer gear (like X5 and E12 I have) to have a mature sound that I can enjoy for very long time. I think thats why their popularity has stood the test of time. This quality is there in X7 in spades.
Thanks for reading!
Pros - Sound Quality, Amp Module
Cons - No rubber case (pre-production sample)
The Latest DAP from Fiio, I would like to thank Joe and Paul (Brooko) for giving me the honour of auditioning this incredible piece of gadget.
I have been waiting for an Andoid-based Mid/High-Fi for quite sometimes, mainly because of the emergence of FLAC streamers like Tidal and Qobuz, and the prospects of being able to play FLAC on the go with a good DAC, as well as the prospect of having a one-for-all device (thus far, you can only do these with Android phones, but let’s not kidding ourselves here, the DAC quality on phones are better than average at best). When ZX2 was released I wasn’t really interested mainly because I’m not a big fan of Sony’s house sound
Due to the short time that I had with it, as well as being one of the first to audition (therefore I have not had the pleasure of trying the ‘unlocked’ Android as per the latest firmware), this review won’t be as detailed as I usually do mine. I will have the unit back to me again hopefully at the end of the tour leg so I can spend a bit more time with it, and elaborate on some point of the review as needed, and also, by then I should have my Onkyo DP-X1, so I can do an in-depth A/B, which should interest some people as they both are the current FOTM, and people are lining up to buy one, but not sure which yet.
Superb build quality as per the usual Fiio standard, the unit feels solid in hand, and has a nice weight. All of the buttons are positioned nicely, overall, it looks and feel like a top end product.
The only downside is the lack of rubber shell/housing/cover, just like the first generation of X5. I feel that this is necessary as the brushed metal is rather slippy, especially if the palm of the hand is dry, and it could easily slipped out of the grip and falls down. As I believe this is one of the pre-production prototype, I’m sure Fiio will address this issue and will include the said rubber casing with the final production model.
As mentioned above, I was one of the first members to review the unit, therefore my time was with the version of the firmware with the ‘whitelist’ policy in place. To be honest, I didn’t mind this at all, as I was able to find a working and reliable Android apk for both Spotify and Tidal, two of the streaming services that I use regularly. I tried and install some of the other streaming services for testing purposes (Deezer, Google Music, SoundCloud), and some of the internet radio services (RadioTunes, DI.FM, TuneIn), but unfortunately I didn’t succeed
The UI is typical Android, which I’m sure most people are familiar with, even for all of the Apple fanboys out there, at worst it will take an hour or two to familiarise themselves
This could be the potential game winner for Fiio, the pre-production review model comes with the IEM amp-module, and there will be some additional amp-module for purchase later down the track. Although details are still a bit sketchy at this point in time about what other module that Fiio will offer, I have no doubt that this will sets Fiio apart from the competitor if done correctly.
I did 2 tests on the battery, the first test was on standby with nothing running on the background, and the second test was on standby with both Tidal and Spotify running on the background. Both test yielded roughly similar results, around 30 minutes differences (11:45 and 10:45 respectively).
The battery gets pretty warm when playing continuously, but doesn’t concern me to be honest as my LG G3 phone runs even warmer
I have not had as many exposure to DAP as I had with IEM, so therefore, this section of my review is purely YMMV, as I can only compare to what I knew and/or experienced
For the purpose of the testing, the following were used as comparison tools
LG G3 with Poweramp, Tidal and Spotify running
Playing FLAC’s and MP3’s through both X5 and X7, the difference between the two is quite significant to my ear. What jumped out to me straight away is the ability of X7 to tone down sibilance, without sacrificing details. Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees is my trusty track to test sibilance, as the track itself is rather bright, and Barnesy’s signature husky voice will punish those who can’t handle sibilance, particularly when he starts belting the high notes. While the sibilance is between bearable to almost non-existence on X5, X7 just waved its magic wand and made it disappear. The track is perfectly clean, smooth, and free of distortion of any kind.
I then grabbed one of my brighter and more sibilant-prone Rooth LS5X hybrid, and anything I throw at it, X7 handles it perfectly, everything came out smooth and clean, just amazing.
Massive difference here between the X7 and LG G3, but that is understandably due to the difference in the quality of the respective DAC chips. Even comparing the sound of the streamed FLAC’s and MP3’s to my desktop setup (with Aune T1 DAC), X7 is notably smoother and cleaner
Few issues aside, there is no doubt that this unit has the potential of being an incredibly awesome DAP, particularly with its interchangeable amp module. There aren’t many competitor in the market at the moment, I believe Sony ZX2 is the only competitor at the moment, but the market is changing very soon with Pionner, Onkyo, and Echobox are releasing their own Android-based DAP within the next 2-3 months
Based on my session with the unit, I have conjured up the following suggestions, some of these may or may not have been addressed by Fiio
Google Play Store
Auto shut off option on idle
Thank you for reading.
Pros - Build quality, Interchangeable amp modules, Ease of use, Android Interface, Connectivity
Cons - Potential issues with interchangeable amp module locking mechanism, Features still in progress
This unit was in my possession for one week as part of the Australasian tour. I'd like to thank @FiiO and @Joe Bloggs for making this tour possible, and @Brooko for organizing and including me in this tour.
First and foremost, I would like to let it be known that that the tour unit I received was a pre-production review unit running beta firmware, and the retail version released in the future may differ in the hardware as well as the firmware from what was offered in this tour unit.
I listen at relatively high volume level, so my impressions will be based on this. Please be aware that there might be variations in impressions at different volume and issues present on different volume level may/may not exist on this product. As I only use IEMs, I will only comment on its usage with IEMs. No EQ/sound effects were applied throughout duration of having this unit on all devices.
The tour unit came inside a black box as shown below and will change to new packaging for international customers.
Unboxing the whole package reveals the following:
A USB charging / data cable
A digital out to coax cable
2 spare screen protectors for the X7 (plus one already fitted)
A foldout warranty card
Spare screws for interchanging amp module
The X7 feels like a solid brick, but in a good way. The design / weight / size combination makes it sit comfortably inside both your hand and your pocket. It is easy to hold and engage the functions. All ports are well labeled. The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on when powered on but is customizable with latest firmware. The side buttons are also fully customizable. Display screen is vibrant in colour and easy to read. I took the X7 out for a walk and without adjusting the screen brightness much, it was easily readable under direct sunlight.
One big selling point of the X7 is its patented interchangeable amplifier module. Currently it comes with the Standard (IEM) module: suitable for driving most IEMs, earbuds, portable on-ear earphones and some efficient full-size headphones and impressions will be based on this. However, this is also where my concern lies as this is designed to be detachable so that other future amplifier modules can be swapped by removing a couple of screws, I had difficulty removing one of the default screws and the screw head became stripped. It didn't provide enough grip and is way overtightened in the first place. The other was unscrewed very easily in contrast.
User Interface and Usability
The firmware version used at the time was still in beta, with Android version 4.4.4 and impressions were based on this. Future updates will improve aspects of the whole experience.
X7 utilises Custom OS based on Android. Those familiar with Android based phones will know what to expect here and navigation feels like any other modern Android phones. It is implemented well, being responsive to touch with virtually no lag. The Fiio music app itself was easy enough to use once I got used to it.
Wifi connection is reliable and performed well enough with streaming.
The Bluetooth does not feature apt-x codec and the drop in sound quality compared to plugged in directly into Headphone Out is apparent with slight distortion when music is played. The Bluetooth here is more like an extra feature that is present for convenience sake.
Using low gain I got about 9 hours under normal usage and continuous play. Using high gain instead I got almost 8 hours. Pretty impressive for such a small unit compared to other DAPs of similar calibre.
X7 doesn't warm up much after continuous use like some DAPs do. I only realized this is a win for Fiio users after having the likes of N6 which can get very warm and would be a bother to those who put it inside their clothes' pockets and during hot summer.
At this point in time the USB DAC is not enabled yet and future firmware releases will feature this.
Headphone Out (Unamped)
As the X7 offers plenty of juice for my efficient IEMs, I didn't test adding any extra amps hence I'll only comment on impressions formed using Headphone Out.
Using my 1964 Ears ADEL A12 with somewhat high sensitivity (16 Ohms impedance and 117dB SPL @ 1mW) and other IEMs of similar sensitivity, I don't hear any noticeable hiss against the backdrop of a very black background.
The soundstage of the X7 is oval-shaped, taking up a 3D footprint both high and deep, where it focuses more on the depth than width. It sounds intimate and yet still provides solid layering and positioning. Resolving ability is good with plenty of details and fast attack. It nails about as much detail in every frequency, meaning that music with a huge dynamic range will sound detailed, clear, and well spaced. The bass decay could be a bit longer, but bass hits hard with good impact and texture, but I wont say overly so as to affect the rest of the frequency. Only when dealing with songs with big bass that it becomes a bit too overpowering. X7 to me is a neutral sound signature leaning a bit towards musicality with a tinge of warmth and slight detail preference to the mid range. This is also reflected in its forward sounding meaty mids, with meaty as in sounding a bit thick with slight veil masking small details. Vocals are rendered with full body and realism without being digital sounding. In some songs the vocals sounds a bit shouty. Treble is smooth and a touch rolled off, slightly soft resulting loss in headroom space and airiness.
All comparisons were done using a Multi-channel Headphone Audio Signal Switcher to enable fast switching between DAPs, and a 1kHz test tone was tested using a Digital Sound Level Meter to do the volume matching between DAPs to ensure a level playing field under controlled condtitions.
Fiio X7 vs Cayin N6
Against the N6: The N6 has a slightly bigger soundstage due to having better airiness, with similar positioning and layering, but at the expense of sounding leaner in comparison and having less body, giving the X7 a sense of a more organic and fuller sound.
Ratings & Conclusion
As Head-Fi shows overall ratings for the audio gear instead of my own, here is a snapshot of what I have rated:
All in all, the X7 is a very solid DAP based on Android OS with good hardware, sound, build quality and an intuitive and well-thought menu design as well as operation and has got a good overall value. It is an awesome sounding DAP that one day, once the issues and minor caveats have been ironed out, will belong in summit-fi. The future remains bright with upcoming releases of a variety of interchangeable amp modules that will offer new dimensions and sound tweaks to the X7.
Pros - Detail retreival, Exceptional Bass and smooth Treble, Nice screen, UI is okay, SDXC extension, build quality, coax out available, amp module
Cons - feels big, heavy, battery life, not enough resistance on the button, slow charging speed, no usb dac function, a bit buggy, exterior design
I'm part of the Australia/NZ tour of Fiio X7, This review will be based on my opinion and experience over the course of 7 days with the Fiio X7, Overall experience in that 7 days has been good although I fell sick(flu) for 3 days and has some difficulties with my hearing during those period due to imbalance hearing caused by the flu. But after that the review was buttery smooth.
I use X7 on high gain everyday at home, on the trip to work by train, while I'm at work and strolling outside to get dinner, etc.
Overall X7 perform really well to fulfill my music needs for all types of activities that I did.
Headphone used in the review is Oppo PM-3 and occasionally the Baldoor E-100
My daily driver at the time of review is Iphone -> Oppo HA-2 as DAC/AMP
This review will also outline whether or not the X7 can replace my current Music Driver.
Lastly, big thanks to brooko for letting me in the tour on the last minute request.
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES
The X7 unboxing process is simple, quick and easy.
The box itself is well padded and has foam surrounding the X7 for protection.
Other than the X7 itself, there are a few accessories inside the box: Screwdriver for changing amp modules, screenprotectors(2), USB to micro USB cable, short coaxial cable with 3.5mm TRRS connector, extra tox screws(4), documentations.
BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN
The unit was ensambled nicely with no rough edges on the unit enclosed within an aluminum(I think) construction, the unit felt rigid and sturdy providing excellent protection, heat dissipation on the unit was okay, it does felt a3bit warm while running on the hand and on my pocket though.
The design of the player was not the prettiest looking player I have seen with a big lump on the back of the casing, I would prefer it if they streamline the desgin a bit more, reasoning behind this is unknown to me though, there might be a good reason behind this, but it does look stupid to me sometime.
When the unit is turned on, There will be a blue light indicator that lights up in front of the unit that as afar as I know can't be turned off, this is quite annoying sometime since I like to enjoy my music alone in the dark.
The touch screen is responsive and has enough brightness for easy use in direct sunlight.
The button was a bit annoying though since I feel that there is not enough resistance on it, I accidentally click a next button just by holding it sometime.
The X7 feels heavy and big in my pocket, You will definitely feel that there is a big lump on your pocket when walking around.
I like the position of the headphone jack on the bottom though.
UI is good for me, it is certainly easy enough to navigate through the songs, the UI design itself was okay for me but not groundbreaking, swiping motion was smooth and responsive.
Song s can be listed based on alphabetical order, artist, album, folder.
the now playing screen was pretty straightforward, skipping ti the middle of the song was quick and easy.
although I didn't use it, the 10 band EQ might be useful for some people out there.
The X7 also supports a search function which is very useful when you have a big library of songs.
This is the most stressful part for me because when I buy a high-end DAP like this, I want it to perform as an all-in-one solution for all situation anytime anywhere, the battery life was not good enough for this as I average around 5-6 hours of music playing with 100 on the volume pot to drive Oppo PM-3, I work for 8-9 hours a day with music on all the time, the X7 has always give out on me at the end of the day. Charge time is slow too, simetime I still want to use it at home but I need to charge it for a while before I do it.
It is by no means poor though, I just expect more.
IO(Input/Output) was just okay for me, it still has a line/coax out so that I can use it with external amps, but falls short of not being able to act as a USB DAC
In my opinion the sound signature of the X7 is a slight Ushape, the bass and treble feels a bit more elevated than the mids to me, but still can be classified as neutral, the detail retreval was excellent, I hear lots of little nuances that I didn't hear before in my previous set up.
The bass was deep and strong but well controlled to my ears, the treble was detailed but smooth at the same , I experience no fatigue while listening for hours.
The mids was beautiful, especially the males voice, vocals feels strong and moving.
Soundstage was good I can definitely feel an improvement from my current set up on this part although not much.
Layering and separation was excellent, I was able to point out where each sound is coming from.
The X7 is a very good Hi-End DAP for it's sound quality, It falls short of usability by being unable to act as a USB DAC and poor battery life, slow charging. for this reason I don't think the X7 is an all in one unit, it has to be able to act as USB DAC to be an all-in-one.
At the moment I can only recommend this product for people who wants the best sound quality on the go without bringing too many device to play their music, this DAP is perfect if you already has a powerful desktop DAC and AMP and wants a complimentary device for music listening on the go.
Pros - Well built, looks stunning, feels great to hold, good implementation of Android software and sounds great for the price.
Cons - Sound quality perhaps not up there with other totl daps.
I received the X7 as part of the UK/EU tour and used for the best part of 10 days before sending on to next person in the queue. Many thanks to Joe Bloggs and Fiio for the opportunity to preview the X7.
I am 44 and have been listening to portable audio since around 1985 when I started out with a Walkman, used cassette walkmans until around 1999/2000 when I bought the Rio 800(think it was this model) and so began a journey of many different DAP's from the early Ipods, Iriver H100 to many different Sony players and others that I've forgotten about. In recent years I've swapped between dedicated DAP's, DAP's with external DAC/Amps and various smartphones alone and with DAC's. For the last few months I've been using first an android phone with the Oppo HA-2 and now a Chord Mojo with either my Blackberry Priv Android phone or the AK 100mkii as a transport.
For testing the Fiio X7 I compared to the Mojo/Ak100 and Priv with and without Mojo.
Earphones used were AK Angie's, Sennheiser IE800 and Fischer Amp FA-4e-xb.
Build Quality and Software
I've always liked Fiio's build and finish on there products, the X7 is again a well built unit, feels solid in the hand as well as looking and feeling like a high end product. The brushed metal has a comforting cold feel in the hand. It also has a nice weighty feel to it, buttons are well placed and easy to operate with one hand. The screen although a lower resolution than current smartphones is more than sharp enough for a DAP and is responsive to the touch.
Those familiar with Android will know what to expect here, I've been using Android for a few years now and this is a good implementation of the software, responsive with virtually no lag. I only really used Spotify separate from the Fiio music app and had no issues with Spotify. The Fiio music app itself was easy enough to use once I got used to it, I did consider downloading one of the other music players i use but to be honest once I sussed the Fiio app there was no need.
I've always felt that Fiio products sound a little on the warm side, they have always reminded me of a Nad amplifier I had that had a similar warm tone to the music. I do prefer my music to be a little more neutral but I've never minded this slight warmness to the Fiio sound, others may hear it different though.
Sound quality is a little hard for me to judge fairly as I've been spoiled for the last few weeks by the Chord Mojo. As good as the Fiio X7 sounds it can't quite match the Mojo for overall detail and quality to my music. The advantage the X7 has of course is that it is a one box unit, when paired with my Angie's it did at times give my Mojo/Ak100 pairing a run for it's money, but just can't reach the level of slam and detail that the Mojo creates.
Putting the Mojo to one side though the X7 does sound good, mids esp vocals sound stunning. Treble detail is very good, the intro to Starman from the Ziggy Stardust album is a track I often use when trying new gear as it can for me separate good iem's from the not so good the Fiio had good separation of instruments through this little test. Bass response was also very good, nice detail and kick when tracks require it. Soundstage was good, maybe a little more depth than the Mojo combo. The power to drive my iem's was good, had to go to around 95 for the IE800 on the volume.
Overall Fiio have once again produced another great product at a great price when compared to others on the market. I have a degree of sympathy for Fiio though as they are releasing at a similar time to Pioneer and Onkyo's offerings although i would imagine that there may not be much between them from reading early opinions on both those models. I think the biggest drawback for me with the Fiio is the presence of the Mojo. If you don't mind carrying a small stack then for me there is no competition for the Mojo. I did try the X7 in USB otg to the mojo but that has not been added yet. This may be something I would consider if it was added at a later date as it would take away my current need to swap between AK100 and Priv with the mojo if I want to use Spotify etc. It would also have been nice to have everything in one module in terms of IEM and balanced.
I've enjoyed my time with the Fiio and could see myself buying it in the future.