1. Barra
    5.0/5,
    "Addictive Sound Quality that Scales Impressively with External Amplification"
    Pros - TOTL DAP SQ, Value Price, Flexible AMP Modules
    Cons - UI Quirks, Battery Life, Lock Screen!!!???
    Disclaimer: I do not own the X7 yet with this being tour sample that was provided by FiiO. I will be sending this on at the end of my 10 day trial to the next participant. Thank you FiiO and Joe for including me once again as your products never fail to impress. Having said this, below is my honest opinion as always with no punches held back. But in this case, the good outweighs the bad so no worries.
     
     
    Skipping right to the good stuff, this is an awesome TOTL DAP that anyone would be happy to own. Yes, I almost immediately added my amp and stayed amped for most of the tour and yes there are quirks in the UI, but it is working very well as is if you can forgive the few nits. Having the AK100ii already, I will probably stay as is, but will certainly be picking up an X7 when I need a new DAP. The SQ to value ratio for this DAP is outstanding.
     

    Sound Quality Perspective

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

    Review

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

    Conclusion

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

    September 2016 Update - Amp Module Tour

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

    AM1 - Firmware Updates SQ Significantly

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

    AM2 - A touch More Volume

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

    AM5 - Top Dog

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

    AM3 - Ops, My Bad

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

    C&C BH2 Amp Comparison

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

    Overall

    The real eye opener was the improvement in the X7 sound quality by itself through firmware updates. Listening to the X7 with my BH2 and the HEX was magical. The DAP was great before, now it is even better and I am not a Sabre fan. I am missing the X7 sound and plotting to get one when I can get it past my wife's scrutiny. I am also looking for an opportunity to buy the X7 with the module of my choice which I suspect will happen soon.
    PinkyPowers likes this.
  2. originalsnuffy
    3.5/5,
    "Great Potential but Still in Beta"
    Pros - Clear, clean sound. Upgradable amp; stock amp is good, EQ works on hi res files that were tested
    Cons - Unstable Software; limited apps
    Introductory Thoughts
     
    I received a test unit of the FIIO X7 as part of the US tour.  I believe this unit is a pre-final production run.  
     
    Because there are a few very detailed reviews already posted, I will focus on what I think the key issues in most users minds in terms of evaluating the unit.
     
    On the plus side, if one were to look past some of the hardware design choices that I do not fully agree with and some of the firmware quirks of the unit, the audio quality of the unit is quite nice.  Even superior.  I used the line out in my car (which has a very fine system) and the open sound compared with the X3 surprised me.  I suspect that one could spend three times as much as this machine and not improve on the built in DAC very much.  I also think the stock internal headphone amp will please most users even though upgrades will eventually be available.
     
    I tested the EQ with some 24-196 files and it did function, which is a real plus compared with other FIIO units that I have tested.   Even thought I tested the EQ, I tend to listen to music "flat" and it came through well with all styles of music tested; rock, jazz, and classical.  Polka music and rap continued to elude me on this unit, but those genres have eluded me on every other unit I have used so I suspect there is no hardware solution to that problem.  The unit was tested the LZ-A2; Carbo Tenore, Shure E2C; Yuin PK3, and Phonak Audeo PFE-022.  It worked well with all of these; and the Phonak is fairly inefficient and the unit sounded good even on low gain.
     
    I did update the firmware during the test visit.   Unfortunately, some glitches that were experienced continued to persist even after the firmware upgrade.  The unit has two modes; pure audio and Android.  I had to use the unit exclusive in android mode as the pure audio mode crashed repeatedly.  Actually, I was only able to get the unit to move from one song the next automatically about half the time in Android mode; not sure what was behind that and it could well be user error.  However, if it is user error then I think part of the issue is the non intuitive user interface of the unit.
     
    As one user noted, it is possible to get into an Android mode where two apps play music simultaneously.  That is easy to fix; just swipe one app away and sanity reappears.
     
    The advantage of being Android based is that one can access streamed music from Tidal, etc.  I did test a DLNA server capability using JRiver's Gizmo, and that worked well at hi resolution on wifi.   For full disclosure, I do consulting work for JRiver but on the other hand since many apps are white listed and the APK from JRiver for Gizmo is easily located and has no charge it was a reasonable thing to use for testing.  I presume over time the Whitelist will increse in size.  I am really not quite sure whether the unit will be open to the entire Google Play ecosystem over time or remain on a whitelist basis.
     
    That does bring up my biggest question for the unit, which is where does it fit in to the music ecosystem?  It is not usable on a cell network as it has no cell capability.  Of course the unit can be tethered but that would be annoying.  In my case I would rather use my favorite streaming apps from my phone and send the music to my favorite DAC/AMP.  Right now I do that with my X3 units (both gen one and two) from time to time. If that mattered more to me I think I would pick up an Oppo HA-2 which also sounds incredible like the X7 but has Apple compatibility built right in.  But I think there is a niche of people who want to stream music from the house or office and not in a portable environment and the X7 will fill that bill well.
     
    The unit is quite solid and if you do not mind a bigger machine, it is attractive in a muscular fashion  The X7 does have a blue glow while in operation that does not seem to shut off.  This can be an issue for night listening.
     
    When the firmware become more stable the unit would move to four stars for me.  I really can't rate a unit five stars when I think the ergonomics are not ideal; the apps situation is highly limited, and at the price point the unit really should be something that one would want to keep for years to come.  I kept thinking that this is a transitional unit.
     
    Photo:  The unit showing cover art.  The unit is brighter in daylight than other FIIO units which is  real plus.
     
    IMG_1653.jpg
    violencer and RebeccaSugar like this.
  3. daduy
    3.5/5,
    "Potential to be the best Android based DAP"
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, interchangeable amp module, plays pretty much all music format, ANDROID!!!
    Cons - No Google play services at the moment of review
    Disclaimer
     
    I got this unit as part of New Zealand tour arranged by Brooko, thank you very much for including me in this tour.
     
    Introduction
     
    I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 8 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
     
    I listened to the X7 daily in my commuting from home to work and in the office for about 10 days.
     
    I am going to compare the X7 with 7th Gen Ipod Nano mostly, with a quick comparison to my HTC One M7 
     
    For the majority of my listening i am using Shure 215 on my travel and Ultrasone Pro 750 on the office, i also try out other headphones with them such as phonon SMB02 and JVC FXT90.
     
    Build Quality 
     
    Similar to the X1, X3II and X5II, I love the build quality of X7. Solid all metal body, feel good in your hand, and as a sucker for a brushed metal look, I think the look gorgeous.

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

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

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

    Sound signature, soundstage, detail retrieval are almost at the same level, the obvious difference to me is the treble extension where guitar is sounding more clear and detailed on the X7 compare to the nano, but they are very subtle and not huge differences.
     
    I also do a quick comparison with my HTC One M7, well the HTC is ok but not really a match for fiio, guitar sounds a bit twangy on the HTC compare to the fiio, and there is this hollow gap in some mids frequency on the HTC one. I am not really keen to listen to my phone while having the X7 with me so  it's easy to say the Fiio is definitely better than HTC One M7 (Please note that i am not using a stock rom on the M7, and if that affect the SQ of the M7 i wouldn't know for sure)
     
    Summary
     
    Ok, so why would i want to buy fiio X7 if ipod nano is almost as good as them? It depends.
     
    What do you need from a DAP? do you just want to listen to your MP3/itunes collection? I Think ipod will be the cheaper solution for that.
     
    However these days I personally find that I listen more to streaming service than my mp3/FLAC collection, and unfortunately I can't listen to that on my ipod nano.
     
    I think Fiio X7 is the easy answer here, to have a quality sounding DAP to listen to any streaming services available, being Android will give you any flexibility to choose your streaming service. You can also choose any traditional music player that you like, pretty much winner from both side of the world
     
    I also love the idea of the interchangeable amp module, and would really be interested to see the roadmap for future amp modules in the plan. Would be interesting if Fiio can sell the X7 at less price without any amp module attached say for head-fiers who already invest in portable amp.
     
    My only gripe with X7 at the moment, is that, I am a subscriber to google play music, and without google play service i can't listen to my google play music. So thats minus  1 star for me. 
     
    Other than that, she is definitely a keeper. [​IMG] 
  4. Vividcard
    4.0/5,
    "FiiO X7 - Peak Performance, Palatable cost"
    Pros - Sleek Design, Customization, Fantastic sound
    Cons - Raised screen, Early firmware UI could be improved, Additional amp modules cost exta
    DSC_8368.jpg
     
    INTRODUCTION:
     
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the ability to have our favorite hi res audio on the same device that allows us to find and listen to new music? A versatile device that allows the device to adapt to our needs? Enter the FiiO X7, Android based, packing some serious hardware. The X7 is designed to be a versatile all in one device for all of your music needs.
     
    A device like this being released from FiiO has a lot of potential ups, but will definitely create some pretty good hurdles for FiiO and their engineers to get past to make this the device that every person wants. Thankfully, FiiO has an excellent record with listening to the customer voice and providing features and enhancements to make their devices even more desirable.
     
    While the $650.00 price tag is definitely a high price, the features and functions packed into the device make the price well on point or even below, as most comparable devices are hitting well into the $1000 dollar range. The competition is also beginning to show their age. So does the FiiO X7 have what it takes to replace these behemoths in the ring?
    I am a 26 year old music enthusiast, audiophile, music lover, whatever your terminology is for us with empty wallets and great tunes! In my obnoxious youth I could never understand why someone would drop the cash for headphones like ours. Over time I learned the differences in not just equipment, but in source files.
    Suddenly I found myself spending some money on good gear, and over time it has developed into something more. Not only did I find myself enjoying my music more, but I found communities that share in my hobby.
    I have a very extensive and eclectic musical library. I tend to avoid rap and heavy sided metal music. Otherwise, I am game. Most of my music comes from Folk, Rock (all kinds), Alternative, Singer/songwriter, and Acapella. I would say that I am a balanced listener, with perhaps a bit of a bass-head tendency. My library is comprised of mostly legally obtained Redbook 16/44.1 with a few vinyl rips done for me by a friend.
    My DAP experience has been all across the spectrum, but has recently began the hi-fi journey. Starting with my original RCA RD2204 Lyra (the old days) and continuing to SanDisk Sansa’s, clips, Ipods, Iphones, Android phones (such as HTC one M8) and Windows Phones (Lumia 1520, 1020). Recently I have begun collecting my newer gear starting with my first Hi res dap as the X1/Q1, as well as testing the Sony A17.
    My headphone use is primarily IEM with a few cans. My primary gear currently is my Shure SE-425’s and my Hifiman HE-400’s. I use my FiiO X1 with the Q1 DAC stacked as my daily driver currently. But enough about me!
    This review was made possible by FiiO, who has provided me and other members of the tour a pre-production version of the X7. Some changes may come from the final product, and it is still receiving several frequent software updates to improve the customer experience and quality.
    In no way has FiiO provided a financial incentive, instead we tour members were given 10 days with the device to provide an honest opinion of the device. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO, and as a result my review is an honest representation of my experiences and opinion of the device. As others, I would like to thank FiiO as well as Joe and James for setting up the tour! Also a special thanks to @nmatheis for providing me with some of the screenshots I forgot to save before formatting and sending off my unit!  With that out of the way, lets dig in!
     
    ABOUT FIIO:
     
    FiiO Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. Is a Chinese based audio company established in 2007. Rather than focusing on the information you can find on the about page, let’s focus on what they don’t say. FiiO has been making audio products that have become a staple of the head-fi and general audiophiles gear. Nearly everyone on our forums has at least had some time with one FiiO product or another. FiiO has made themselves known for inexpensive, high quality gear with a knack for customer focus. I feel this has helped FiiO become a strong contender in the few years of products they provide.  If you want to know more about FiiO, please check out their about us page located below:
    http://www.fiio.net/en/about.html
     
    WHATS IMPORTANT (To me…):
     
    Like most people, when I look for a device, I have set of demands or requirements that I would like the device to meet. I have included my list below, this will help you identify what I will focus on in my review. If you find your requirements to be similar to mine, you will likely feel the same about the device that I do.
    For me, the x7 should have the following:
    1. A high build quality, something sleek and good looking, but also functional
    2. A decent battery life while understanding the limitations of the device’s extra features
    3. A simple, easy to use interface
    4. The ability to drive my gear, if possible with enough room to grow with my gear
    5. Large, expandable memory
    6. Charges with standard power cables (Please, no proprietary)
    7. Many power steps: since the device doesn’t use a physical volume knob, it needs to have enough volume steps to allow me to fine tune volume
    8. Wifi/Bluetooth connections: Bluetooth for the occasional on the go setup, and Wifi for…
    9. Streaming options! If you can use android, let us use the streaming options of our choice! Tidal, Spotify… Pick your poison.
    10. Water ‘Resistant’: Can I use this without fear in mild Oregon weather.  I don’t want to fear pulling the device out in the rain.
     
    These are the things that I felt were the most important to me prior to receiving the device. At the end of my review, I will cover if I felt FiiO hit these points for me.
     
    SPECIFICATIONS:
     
    Dimensions:
    130 x 64 x 17mm
    Price (USD):
    $650.00
    Material:
    Aluminum
    Weight:
    7.4 oz
    Supported File Types (audio):
    APE, FLAC,WAV, ALAC, AIFF, WMA (Lossy/Lossless), MP3, AAC, OGG
    Battery:
    3500 mAh (Non-replaceable)
    DAC Chip:
    ES9018S
    Amplifier:
    OPA1612
    Hi-res Ability:
    384/32bit
    Line Out:
    Yes
    Digital Out:
    Yes, 3.5mm to Coax cable (included)
    Internal Storage:
    32GB
    External Storage:
    1 Micro-SD slot up to 128GB Supported
    Screen:
    4 inch 480x800 touch IPS
    Android version:
    4.4.4
    Bluetooth Version:
    4.0+EDR
    Processor:
    Cortex A9 Quad cord 1.4ghz
    Ram:
    1GB

     
    More specs on the X7 can be found on FiiO’s own specs page located here: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/45/parameters
     
    PACKAGING AND IN THE BOX:
     
    Packaging for the device is elegant and practical. There are no wood or metal boxes or other fancy frills here. Box feels like it is of a good quality and will provide more than enough protection for the device. It also looks nice enough to draw you in. Personally I have never understood the need for a fancy box or anything. To me, this just translates into extra cost to the consumer. I’d rather keep my price low and have a better device.
     
    Upon opening the device you will be presented with your aluminum beauty, as well as a decent set of extras. One thing I have always liked about FiiO is the number of included accessories. This is a small added value, but something that has probably saved my device once or twice. Included in this box kit is the following:
     
    DSC_8361.jpg
    1. Coaxial Cable for Digital line out
    2. T5 Screwdriver (For removing and changing amp modules)
    3. Replacement T5 screws
    4. USB cable
    5. Warranty Card
    6. 3 total screen protectors (1 pre-installed, 2 extra)
     
    I did note that the X7 did not include a simple case like most FiiO products. This could be due to the nature of the pre-release box and product, or it may not be included. Remember, as this is a pre-release device, things can change.
     
    DSC_8336.jpg   DSC_8339.jpg
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     ​
     
    BUILD QUALITY/DESIGN:
     
    The X7 is really an eye catching device. It is made out of solid 6061 aluminum and feels like a very high quality device.  It feels very solid and has a decent heft for what it is. Some may consider its size cumbersome; however I use a larger smartphone, so I don’t find this an issue. The device is technically 2 parts, the top half is the screen and the actual device, whereas the bottom (Beginning just beneath the screen) is the interchangeable amp module. While the build between the two pieces is solid, I noticed some wiggling after some usage. Tightening the screws again seemed to do the trick. (***NOTE: This has been brought up to FiiO and us testers have been informed that this has been resolved in the production model’s of the device).
     
    On the bottom of the device (Technically, the amp) you will find the Micro-USB charging port and the traditional headphone port. To the left side you will find the Volume +/- and the Power button, as well as the Micro-sd card slot. The right side uses symmetrical set of buttons for track up or down, as well as the play/pause button. Finally, on the top, you will find your line out port.
     
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    DSC_8351.jpg   DSC_8350.jpg
     
    I did find that I was not a huge fan of the identical buttons on each side, as it was occasionally confusing. According to FiiO this is intended as it will allow settings to be modified for left or right hand usage. During my time I was not able to find this feature, which was sad as I am a fellow left hander. I also was not a fan of some of the other design ideas. Take for example raised screen, as it seems like it would make the device much less durable.  I would have liked to see this flush mounted, even if it meant a slightly larger device.  Finally, I would have liked to see a better implementation of the micro-sd card slot, perhaps inside the device and accessed via removing the amp module. I fear that the card may be popped out or rain may get into this slot and damage the internals.
     
    The buttons have a nice feel and are easy enough to identify. The Blue LED looks really nice, but it would be nice to be able to disable this light, as it is always on and will fade in and out during charging. (***NOTE: This has been discussed and us testers have been informed this is to be added with a later software update) The device can get warm when playing, especially with the aid of Wifi or Bluetooth. But it’s not anywhere near hot. Otherwise, I find the device to be very slick looking with a very durable feel.
     
    DSC_8364.jpg DSC_8358.jpg DSC_8354.jpg
     
    HARDWARE:
     
    As the X7 is an android based device, many of us know what to expect for minimum specs. While the X7 uses a very conservative set of hardware in terms of general phone parts. It is powered by a quad-core Cortex A9 processor (1.4GHz) and 1 GB of ram. Many of us high end users may worry about the device’s ability to keep up in a resource intensive OS like android, but due to the stripped down version of Android 4.4.4 (At the time of writing) I have no fears this will power the device. I was able to use the FiiO music app flawlessly, as well as Spotify or Tidal streaming at highest qualities. During my testing I was only able to make the device have some lag when playing both Tidal and Spotify streaming, as well as FiiO music playing at the same time, which hopefully no one plans on doing.
    You may ask what you’re paying for when you drop your wallet on this device only to find the mediocre processor and ram. The bulk of your money goes to the audio equipment, as it should. The DAC is a Sabre ES9018s. The Sabre is able to play PCM at up to 32/384 and DSD up to 127, it also sports 8 output channels. As a downside, FiiO has recognized that this is a primary battery drainer.  Regardless of this, the device is still able to maintain about 9 hours of battery life. In my testing I was able to get roughly 8.5 hours of actual listening with the screen off using FiiO music. Spotify streaming yielded about 6.5 hours.
     
    INTERFACE:
     
    Because the FiiO X7 uses Android at its core for most of the OS, it’s worth noting that most things here are pretty common of Android. Because of this I won’t dive too much into the Android side of things. Most people these days have decided whether they like Android or not. There is a pretty good chance your at least considering the OS if your reading this review.
    *Please Note: These experiences are based on the X7 version 1.0, which was the current version at the time of review*
     
    Initial bootup of the device takes about 25 seconds. Once powered on the device can begin playing music in a matter of seconds. This boot time is pretty good for a smartphone based UI. By default, the device will simply boot to the Android home screen with a few basic icons on the screen. Absent from the device will be most of the common android applications, leaving just bare necessities such as the browser and calculator. But we didn’t buy this device to check our e-mail, did we?
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-04-32.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-19-05.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-05-09.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-28-28.png  ​
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    FiiO music is located right on the main menu in the lower left by default. Clicking on the icon will open the default player. FiiO music seems to me that it is still a work in progress. Sure, it plays, and you can select music by song, artist, album, genre, or playlists. But my issue is that the app feels young. I give some leniency as the device is brand new, but as of writing the help files do not come in English, meaning we must use our intelligence and click and learn mentality to use the program.
     
    After spending some time with the program, it is relatively intuitive, there is a settings menu accessible by swiping from left to right, here you will find your gain and balance settings, ect. The folder icon in the middle accesses music folders, to the left is the current playlist icon, and to the right is apparently a DLNA icon according to research, although this does not function as of writing. There is also a search icon in the upper right that will let you hone in on a song without having to surf the menus.
     
    Some things about the application do bug me, for example, in the pictures you can see that the artist is shown, with an album art, and a play icon to the right. The very small play icon can be difficult to hit to play the artist, and clicking on the album art does nothing. You can go into the artist only by selecting the name. The same goes for album or genre selection. This can be a bit of a pain to use. I feel the play icon could be bigger, or at least less transparent. Maybe make clicking on the album art also take you into the next level as well.
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-15.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-23.png    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-09-53.png   Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-14-52.png
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    One thing I did like is that FiiO has made this device an obviously flexible device. Originally, the X7 required an app be in the “Whitelist” to be used. After some mulling over, they have withdrawn this and can now allow any app to be installed on the device. This has a bit of a positive and negative effect. As it allows us to choose apps that may not be on the whitelist, but also means that the apps aren’t tested for compatibility or negative side effects.
     
    Most common audiophile apps work without issue. Among those tested, I was able to successfully use Spotify, Tidal, Amazon music, Slacker, and Pandora using the latest APK’s (android app installer files). The issue is that there is no easy way to download these files at this time. As the X7 does not have Google play installed on the device, you cannot download the app from the play store. You must obtain the installer’s from other sources which are not always reliable.  Another thing to remember is that with the absence of the Google framework, many apps will not work. For example, YouTube, YouTube music, Google Music, and other apps that require Google framework do not work.
     
    It is hard to hold these things against FiiO, as they just recently made this change and they do not test these additional apps. Perhaps with time the Google framework or even the store will be added. Some apps will conflict with each other. For example, one thing that bugged me to the point of uninstalling an app was Tidal. The app worked wonderfully, but sometimes I wanted to use Spotify or FiiO Music. When Tidal was on, even in the background, it took over the audio controls. This meant sometimes even when playing FiiO Music if I pressed track skip, FiiO Music would pause, Tidal (which was only on in the background) would skip to the next track and begin playing. This didn’t happen every time, but when it did, nothing short of a force stop would resolve this. Eventually this lead to me uninstalling the app. Once again, I can hardly blame FiiO for this, but it would be nice if FiiO can address this if it’s caused by their equipment.
     
    Screenshot_2015-11-08-15-17-16.png    Screenshot_2015-11-18-11-11-50.png   Screenshot_2015-11-18-11-12-56.png   Screenshot_2015-11-18-11-12-18.png
     
    Finally, it is important to note that while Wifi and Bluetooth are present (and working well) on the device, they will mark a considerable drain on the battery. Sometimes the additional apps installed and just the basic android processes could do a number on the device as well. FiiO has come up with a solution for this called “Pure Music Mode”. In Pure Music mode, the device strips down Android to the core and only runs the absolute basics to run just FiiO Music. This helps the battery considerably and makes avoiding other tasks running in the background a simple task. You can even set up the device to boot in pure Android mode as well. This setting can be changed at will with the device as well, so it can be toggled as needed. It is worth noting that Bluetooth and Wifi can still be turned on or off in pure music mode.
     
    THE SOUND:
     
    So, how does it sound? The FiiO X7 has so many ways to listen to music. With numerous streaming options, it’s own player, and even additional options for dedicated players. Over my 10 day period with the device I used the device primarily with FiiO Music, Spotify, and for some time Tidal. While other apps were tested, they were only to confirm working order.
     
    For me, as well as several of the people on the head-fi forum, the sound that comes from the X7 is a very 3D sound. It seems as though all levels and frequencies are highlighted. Normally this would create a confused sound that will usually make me put down a device, but something about the way it played went really well together. I think it may have to do with the fact that while all frequencies were highlighted, they were still separated. Individual instruments were easy to pick out from even the most complex tracks. Voices stood out and clear. Treble was bright, but not to a point where a bass-head would be turned off, and vice versa.
     
    I did find that while this sound quality was found from the several IEM’s tested. (RHA 750i, Shure Se 425 and 215, ect.) Some headphones simply did not make the cut. Attempting to use my Hifiman HE-400’s I could barely get to listening volume on Spotify or Tidal. While the volume was enough in FiiO music, I found that the sound fell flat for me. Treble was pulled back from the others, making the sound a bit more veiled and muddy. It should be noted that the only amp on hand was the IEM module, and as such I didn’t place much expectation on the sound. Perhaps a full sized headphone amp module would resolve this issue. Similar sound quality is obtained from the Mad Dog Alphas.
     
    While I do not have any significantly hard to drive headphones (or IEM’s for that matter) many others have reported that even harder to drive IEM’s seem to do well with the current amp pairing. In pairing against the FiiO X7 I only had access to my smartphone collection and my FiiO X1, all of which I was able to pair with my Q1 amp. The X7 did more than well at decimating any sound quality from my smartphone. It also had the added benefit of being a separate device that didn’t interrupt my listening with badgering notifications.
     
    Comparing between the FiiO X1/Q1 and the X7 the audio quality was noticeably better, however, not as much as I was initially expecting. With the X1 the Bass is nice and punchy, without being overly so. The treble is nice but not forward, and the mids make me melt. I preferred singer/songwriter genre’s out of my stack more than the x7. But with the X7, fast paced songs were more energetic. Sibilance was practically non-existent. The X7 also has the nice ability to access both my actual files and my streaming content in one device.
     
    For obvious reasons, smartphones and the X7 sounded identical with Bluetooth headsets, This makes sense due to the way the Bluetooth audio is streamed. That being said, it is a nice, handy extra.
     
    HOW DID IT FAIR?
     
    If you’ve stuck with me this far you already know how well or not well it hit my checkboxes. But in case you wanted to skim, here is the short of it:
    1. A high build quality, something sleek and good looking, but also functional
    Yes, absolutely. It feels like a solid device. Some style choices were questionable, such as the raised screen. But overall, the device is great!
    1. A decent battery life while understanding the limitations of the device’s extra features
    9 hours is a fair deal, especially since I was very near this in actual testing. Less time came when using streaming. Would I like better battery life? Yes. But for what it is, I am pleased.
    1. A simple, easy to use interface
    It’s essentially Android, you may disagree, but I found it easy and intuitive. The FiiO music app could use some help here and there, but it’s still pre-production, and FiiO is constantly listening and updating.
    1. The ability to drive my gear, if possible with enough room to grow with my gear
    This was a tossup for me. It powered most of my gear, but left much to be desired from my HE-400 cans. A different amp module may fix this, but without being able to test this, it was a no for me. This may change however.
    1. Large, expandable memory
    32gb internal (something like 27gb useable) and supported 128GB additional, this is more than enough for me. Especially if the size is expanded in future updates.
    1. Charges with standard power cables (Please, no proprietary)
    Micro USB. Yup, were good here
    1. Many power steps: since the device doesn’t use a physical volume knob, it needs to have enough volume steps to allow me to fine tune volume
    120 Steps, more than enough to fine tune. Although changing faster using hard buttons would be nice
    1. Wifi/Bluetooth connections: Bluetooth for the occasional on the go setup, and Wifi for…
    Yes, Yes, and both work well!
    1. Streaming options! If you can use android, let us use the streaming options of our choice! Tidal, Spotify… Pick your poison.
    Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Slacker, and Pandora all tested and working perfectly. So yes.
    1. Water ‘Resistant’: Can I use this without fear in mild Oregon weather.  I don’t want to fear pulling the device out in the rain.
    Another tossup; the device feels solid and everything, but the top port for line out sometimes scares me. I’m also not a fan of the exposed micro SD card slot both due to moisture and the potential for accidental removal of the card.
     
    CONCLUSION:
     
    The FiiO X7 is a solid device that is capable of delivering a solid bang for the buck. Sleek and stylish, the Aluminum body has a natural heft that makes it feel sturdy without being obtrusive. The symmetrical button design can be confusing at first, but is easy enough to get past.
     
    Being that the device is Android based, it is very simple to navigate and will allow several apps to customize the experience for each owner. The FiiO app is still in its infancy, meaning it has room for improvement, but FiiO is listening and very receptive. With a bit of time, the preinstalled app can become something great. In the meantime it is more than usable, and if you disagree, you can always install a different app to manage your player.
     
    The sound is well hammered out and sounds fantastic. The audio is well presented and layered. Sibilance is non-existent. And the nice thing is that, if nothing else, this is one of the few things that can’t easily be changed with software updates. To know this is great out of the pre-production box is fantastic!
     
    Is the device worth the $650.00 USD price tag? This is a subjective question, but I feel that while I am not ready to put this money down yet, I can see this device being something to keep my eye on, as the Price to performance and versatility is worth every penny. If some of the promised changes appear soon, I may be adding a new device to my inventory!
     
    DSC_8370.jpg DSC_8353.jpg DSC_8380.jpg
     ​
     
    EQUIPMENT USED:
     
    Headphones – RHA 750, Shure SE 425, Shure SE 215, Bose IEM2, Beats studio wireless, Hifiman HE-400
    DAP – FiiO X1, Lumia 1520, HTC One M8, Asus Zenfone 2
    AMP/DAC – FiiO X1
    Songs – Pentatonix: Standing By, Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way, Foo Fighters: Saint Cecilia, Muse: Supermassive Black Hole, Matthew And The Atlas: Out of the Darkness
    *All songs were tested using either Spotify Premium high quality, Tidal Hifi, or Red Book lossless, usually 16/44.1*
    Peridot, Brooko and RebeccaSugar like this.
  5. twister6
    4.0/5,
    "Can X7 set the World on FiiO-R?"
    Pros - top class DAC, modular amp design, streaming capability, touch screen interface, bypass of Android SRC limitation.
    Cons - FW is still work in progress, polarizing exterior design, need to buy extra amp modules.

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

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

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

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

    Brand spirit: innovation, quality, service

    Brand positioning: HiFi with style

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Doesn't work. Sorry. Move along!
     
     
    SOUND

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

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

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

    endus, HiAudio, H20Fidelity and 7 others like this.
  7. Hisoundfi
    4.0/5,
    "Cleaning up their act: Fiio's X7 revisited with AM1, AM2 and AM3 amplifier modules"
    Pros - Android Market, Amplifier module options (primarily the AM3), Phenomenal sound quality, Offers a lot for the asking price
    Cons - Still some minor software bugs with Android applications, Not the fastest and most responsive processing power
    20161023_190426.jpg
    At the time this review was edited, the Fiio X7 was listed for sale on Amazon. Here is a link for purchases of not only the X7, but the somewhat recently released amplifier modules and accessories that I will discuss as well:
     
    Fiio X7:
    https://www.amazon.com/X7-Hi-Res-Lossless-Player-Titanium/dp/B017SBSOB0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477112078&sr=8-1&keywords=fiio+x7
     
    High power amplifier module, AM5:
    https://www.amazon.com/Power-Headphone-Amplifier-Module-Titanium/dp/B01F1L2V5Y/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1477153040&sr=8-4&keywords=fiio+x7
    1. MUSES02 operational amplifier for voltage amplification
    2. TPA6120A2 buffer stage
    3. Ultra-high current drive (250mA) and ultra-low noise and distortion
    4. Separate positive and negative pole power supplies
    5. Power Output: >500mW (16Ohm @1kHz)

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

     
    Introduction
    I’m not a huge follower of DAPs for the most part. I have several reasons for this. In today’s day and age the smartphone is taking the place of most DAPs. Yes, you can argue this philosophy and say that DAPs offer better file support and more premium chips. I can counter this by saying that phones like the 32 bit DAC of the LG V10, or audio oriented HTC 10 and ZTE Axon 7 are coming close and in some ways trumping what many DAP manufacturers are offering.
     
    The other argument is that it’s important to separate the smartphone experience from enjoying a high fidelity audio experience. We live in 2016 where Tidal and other streaming services are very relevant. Not everyone thinks we should only shell out a small fortune for FLAC and DSD downloads. On top of this, we want to be able to utilize modern technology and apply it to our music experience. We live in a world that is going wireless. We are almost all online, using smartphone applications on a regular basis.
     
    So what should be the next step? What does the audiophile need in today’s day and age? At what point are we sacrificing sound quality for technology and vica versa? I guess that comes down to what your individual preferences are.
     
    For me, I try to find players that take the best aspects from each piece of electronics and combines them into an all-in-one solution. I want FLAC and DSD playback, I want DAC/Amplifier capability, I want bluetooth, I want the ability to drive any in-ear monitor or headphone I have. I want third party streaming services and a easy to use interface. Simply put, if I’m going to shell out cash on a DAP, it’s going to be on something that takes my music listening experience beyond my LG V10. This is no easy feat. The V10 is an incredible device for audiophiles.
     
    When Fiio first introduced the X7 I was enamored by the concepts going into the device. From what I heard and read about the unit, I assumed this was going to be the answer to my desires when it comes to DAPs. I volunteered to lead off in the X7 launch tour November of last year, and was honestly disappointed. The integration of Android was not the greatest. I enjoyed the stock application and the sound quality, but was let down by the fact that the Android market was not installed, forcing users to search for and install APK files to stream music. The new amplifier modules were not released, and the unit had some design flaws that made me concerned. I wrote a three and a half star review (which could have easily been a three star review). At the time, the X7 was an incomplete product that didn’t live up to the hype.
     
    Months passed after that review, and I was left wondering if Fiio was putting more touches into the product with upgraded firmware and hardware. When I saw Jack from TEKFX at the Axpona Audio exhibit in April of this year, I had a chance to revisit the device. There were some pleasant surprises, with the most noticeable one being the implementation of the Android market. When I saw this upgrade, as well as new amplifier modules I knew that my review was outdated and my previous experience would do the X7 an injustice to potential buyers. I showed Jack the review and discussed that it would be nice to right the wrongs in my review just as Fiio had done by making improvements to the unit. Jack agreed to loan me an X7 to test and review, along with the AM2 and AM3 amplifier modules. I am now ready to shed new light on the revamped X7.
     
    The X7 has a plethora of reviews so at this point I don’t feel it’s imperative to break things down or go as invasive as an inaugural review. If you need to go step by step of each aspect of the device please reference one of the following reviews:
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14456
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/fiio-x7/reviews/14660
     
    As for the edit to this review, I will leave my initial review in small font at the bottom of my edit, and point out why I am not only increasing the rating, but also explain the reasons why.
     
    ANDROID MARKET
    20161023_190510.jpg
    Look, I get it, some people don’t want a second cell phone. Still, Android market is awesome and having the ability to easily download and install our favorite music streaming applications is important. For me, my favorite streaming application is Google Music.  For others it’s Tidal, Spotify and Pandora as well as many others. The list goes on and on. Long story short, the APK days are over for the X7. We have Google Play services, and access to hundreds of applications. Having applications went from being a pain in the butt to a pleasant experience and opportunity to customize each X7 owner to customize their music experience.
     
    NOTE: Although this is a huge improvement from what I’ve experienced in the past, it still has some bugs. Google Play services crashes from time to time. The device doesn’t have the processing power to handle a bunch of applications, so X7 owners still must choose the ones that matter most and keep their app cache under control without overloading the X7 and making it lag out. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that Fiio can address these bugs with future firmwares.
     
    ACCESSORIES
    Fiio launched the X7 with the AM1 amplifier module. Yes, it sounded really good with in-ear monitors, but to be honest the buck stopped there. There wasn’t a lot to say beyond this. Today, Fiio offers an accessories line that gives X7 owners an opportunity to customize their product. Let’s go over each accessory.
     
    FIIO K5
    The X7 has a place to call home when it reaches the desk of audiophiles, and it’s called the K5. No, I don’t have a review sample, but seeing it at shows I’ll say the thing makes sense. It operates as a docking station for the X7, allowing owners to use it for music playback, file transfers, and a charging station for the X7. It’s an all-in-one desktop companion\solution. Kudos for this Fiio, you done good with this one!
     
    AMPLIFIER MODULES
    20161023_190342.jpg
    *Fiio X7 with AM2 (left) and AM3 (right) amplifier modules installed
     
    There are now four amplifier modules to choose from. This has taken the stock player with AM1 chip and made its driving power much more versatile. Let’s take a brief look at each module.
     
    AM1
    The AM1 is the stock amp that comes with the X7. It is the “low power” module. I consider this module to be ideal for in-ear monitors and low impedance headphones. You aren’t going to get the most out of your power hungry high impedance cans with the AM1.
     
    AM2
    This is the “medium power” module, offering increased power over the AM1. I would recommend this amplifier who listen to mostly full size headphones that aren’t incredibly power hungry. This module offers a little too much power for sensitive in-ear monitors IMHO.
     
    AM3
    Of the amplifier modules I was able to sample this one is by far my favorite. The bottom of the modules comes with two different outputs. One is a 2.5 mm balanced output that  has some serious output power (540mW, 32 Ohms @ 1kHz). There is also a 3.5 mm single ended output that puts out less power (250 mW, 16 Ohms @ 1kHz). What does this mean? It means that with the right jack used and possibly adapter applied, you can drive just about anything. And for the balanced output? It sounds awesome! Of all the things that Fiio has done to improve the X7 this module is right up there with the application of the Android Market. The combination of these two things makes the X7 one of the best players you can get your hands on in today’s market.
     
    AM5
    I didn’t get my hands on the AM5, but from the description I can draw a conclusion of it’s capabilities. Pushing 500 mW at 16 Ohms, I assume this unit will push almost any high impedance headphone, but will be too much power for most low power earphones. If you plan on using your X7 with your pairs of 300 Ohm and above headphones and not much else, you should consider this module.
     
    CASES
    When the X7 tour was going on, there was virtually no accessories that came with the X7. Anyone who has had a chance to hold the X7 in their hand would understand my concern in regards to the device’s build The thing is built like a small brick and feels very solid in the hand, but the glass screen goes right to the edge of the device. Combine the X7’s weight with the screen design, and it gives the impression that it’s one drop away from the screen cracking. I had to baby my review sample the last time I had it. Now, there’s case options for the X7 that will make the X7 better withstand daily abuse and the test of time.
     
    Conclusion
    The accessories options make the X7 more expensive than the stock unit, but it puts the option out there for you to customize your device. The X7 is not yet what I would consider perfect. I don’t think the button layout is ideal, and there are still some minor software bugs that need to be worked out. On top of all of this, the processing power of the X7 should be more powerful. At the end of the day, when used in Android mode the X7 slower and less responsive than most of today’s smartphones. However, when used with just the stock player it works phenomenally. Speaking of which, the stock music application is awesome. Those who don’t want the Android Market and music streaming aspect to be a part of their listening experience will really enjoy the stock music application.
     
    I personally feel the X7 was rushed to market. Review tours were conducted before the X7 was a complete product. With the added accessories and Android Market, the X7 is an entirely different device, and something I can now say I recommend. In all honesty, at the moment and in terms of price to performance, the X7 and AM3 is one of the best deals around in my opinion. It gives me that “best of both worlds” approach when it comes to what I look for in a DAP
     
    20161023_190731.jpg
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
     
    Here is the original review written in November of 2015. Please note that this was the initial impressions posted. Let it be more of a flashback to remind you of how far the X7 has come since its release:
     
    We’ve been waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    And waiting…
     
    But finally it’s here! The X7 is finally happening! I have been anticipating this for a looooooong time!
    20151110_102704.jpg
     
    We’ve participated in the threads. We’ve read the speculations and rumors. We’ve also read the online pissing contests and arguments made by some Head-Fi participants. It’s been quite a roller coaster to this point!
     
    I’ve made some outrageous claims as far as what I’d do to be a part of the initial beta tour. Luckily, I didn’t have to eat any turds, slap my mama, or name my next born child FiiO in order to be a part of this tour (thanks guys)
     
    And now, finally (and thankfully) I have the honor and pleasure to experience the X7 and share it with the Head-Fi community. Here we go….
     
    First and foremost, thank you to all the good guys at Fiio for your patience and consideration. Thank you for the opportunity to try the new X7 out, and also for letting the Head-Fi community be a part of this endeavor from the very beginning. There aren't many companies that allows the suggestions and input of the Head-Fi community weigh so heavily in the outcome and development of their products. Big ups FiiO!
     
    I was given an opportunity to sample the X7 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with FiiO.
     
    Before break into the package, let it be known that this is a BETA TESTING TOUR. In the fifteen days I’ve had with the product, I’ve downloaded three firmware updates, and I’m fairly confident that this isn’t going to be the last firmware installed before the official U.S. release of the X7. I don’t consider this to be a comprehensive review, but more of a initial impressions write up.
     
    The X7 came in a simple black box with a picture of the X7. The  back of the box had a listing of the X7 key features written in both Chinese and English. Also included in the package was a separate paper folder addressed to “X7 Reviewer” from Fiio, explaining the process and story behind the Fiio X7 project along with key features. This is a great read that I suggest ALL reviewers on this tour take the time to flip through.
    20151114_072403.jpg  
    *Front
     
    20151114_072414.jpg
    *Back
     
    20151114_073832.jpg
    *Supplied Accessories
     
    Key Features (as noted by FiiO)
    *FiiO’s first Android-based DAP
    *Android DAP that bypasses Android’s sample rate conversion
    *First DAP with Android/Pure music mode switch
    *High-impact 3.97” 480X800 multitouch functions
    *1 GB RAM, quad-core Cortex-A9 for smooth music under all circumstances
    *RK3188 SoC+ES9018S DAC+OPA1612 buffer, no compromises throughout the audio chain
    *Highly Customized music APP
    *Symmetrical button layout enabling custom button mappings
    *Patent pending exchangeable headphone amp module; docking connector to desktop amplifier
    *Supports WIFI/Bluetooth 4.0 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), expanding your music horizons wirelessly
    *6061 aluminium + advanced CNC processing, pursuing perfections from materials to machining
    *Ergonomic body design, well sized and shaped for single-handed holding and operation
    *Innovative mirror finished edge + reflective status light
    *Well-sized 3500mAh battery for 9 hours of playtime
    *Two years of research from FiiO’s professional audio development team
    *FiiO’s quality assurance
     
    FiiO has broken away from its conventional scroll wheel operation and vanilla user interface. This is Fiio’s attempt at a touch screen DAP. The device on a whole is heavy and feels very solid, like a brick of metal in the hand. All materials are top notch. Aluminum housing and a solid screen I would assume is gorilla glass. There are three buttons on each side and are mirror images of each other on each side. The left side is volume and power. The right side is skip tracks and play/pause. SD card access is located on the left side of the device.
     
    20151114_073101.jpg
    *Left Side
     
    20151114_073053.jpg
    *Right Side
     
    NOTE: Although I find the X7 to be a sturdy build, the raised glass screen is a big red flag for me. It appears to be a drop away from having a cracked screen or some sort of damage. I am hoping that FiiO releases a shockproof case for the X7 to give reassurance to owners who have concerns of how the X7 will handle being accidentally dropped.
     
    NOTE: I was disappointed that the X7 didn't have an analog volume pot. To adjust the volume when the screen isn't active I have to repeatedly press the volume button. I personally feel that all higher end DAPs need to have an analog volume pot. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Firing up the unit you are greeted with a custom Fiio welcoming screen which leads to the typical folder style menu of most android devices. However, the folder selection is minimal and only features the folders essential for running the Android operating system. I’m not going to focus on the function of these folders, as there are many other things to cover in this review. Just know that they are basic Android folders and a tab for the FiiO music application.
     
    Using Android OS in a high fidelity DAP creates it’s own set of problems. Android has a process of downsampling music to a lower bit rate to cooperate with the rest of the operating system and its applications. What Fiio has done with its music app is created a way of taking over the Android audio subsystem, allowing the app to play all music files in their native form. With this being said the X7 is able to play every file format I threw at it, including DSD and FLAC.
     
    20151105_113701.jpg
    *Tapping on the album artwork displays the file's bit rate.
     
    The X7 has one GB of RAM, which by today’s standards isn’t very much, especially considering we are dealing with an Android device. To counteract this Fiio has two modes of operation. If you want to maximize the RAM users can disable various Android operations by using “Music Mode”. This can be accessed by pulling down from the customized menu from the upper right hand part of the screen, selecting the Music Mode button, then rebooting the device. There are also several other options on this display. This menu is hidden by dragging the menu back up to the top. The android version of this screen can be accessed by pulling down the menu screen from the top left (displaying all running apps). This menu is also closed the same way.
     
    20151105_113036.jpg
    *Left Side Drop Menu
     
    20151105_113018.jpg
    *Right Side Drop Menu
     
    The display of the X7 isn’t the sharpest display I’ve seen, and not on par with most current Android Phone releases, but I find it perfectly adequate at the same time. Colors are sharp and vibrant and It works pretty well outdoors. Contrast was excellent.
     
    20151113_095247_HDR.jpg
    *The X7 has a blue light under the screen that stays on the entire time the unit is powered up (even in standby mode). I’m hoping FiiO will provide an option to turn this light off, or at least dim the light.
     
    20151105_105552.jpg
    *The top of the unit has a line out that works as a standard line out, or as digital coaxial line out (when used with the supplied digital coax adapter). Because the DAC and interchangeable amp module is so good, I see no reason to use this beyond plugging the X7 into a external stereo system, or to a high power desktop set up.
     
    20151105_105607.jpg
    *I assume the X7 will be able to be used as an external DAC/Amplifier to be hooked up to computers and other sources, but as of my last day with the unit I wasn’t able to do so. What you see here is the Micro USB input for charging and data transfer, along with the 3.5 mm headphone jack.
     
    The X7 is a mixed bag for me in terms of operation. While I was hoping for more in terms of Android support, but there’s no denying the sound quality this thing can pump out.
     
    The Fiio Music Application
    20151105_093917.jpg
    *Single Song Menu (note the various sort order options on the top of the screen)
    *Alphabetical options from left to right are Single Song, Artist, Album, Genre, File Folder (SD or Internal Memory)
     
    The Fiio music app is a nice app, but still has its fair amount of bugs. Although not perfect, I didn’t have too many problems with the user interface. I think their concepts are clever and well thought out. After installing my preloaded SD (supports up to 128 GB) card I was able to access all my music via a folder tab on the app. The X7 identified and played every music file I had loaded on my SD card, including FLAC and DSD.
     
    What struck a nerve was the file sorting order. I assume the normal way of navigating through in most cases should be Artist/Album/Song. What Fiio does is Artist, then goes to a list of all songs from that artist regardless of album. There was a button option on the upper right hand part of the screen to sort them into album after choosing the artist, but I found this to be an annoyance and unneeded extra step towards the same outcome. I’m hoping this is fixed.
     
    NOTE: If you do want to access the memory card the exact way it was loaded (Usually will be Artist/Album/Track) it can be done via a folder tab in the upper right corner of the music sorting options file by accessing the internal memory or SD card. Choose the SD card option and files will be displayed just as they were initially loaded on the card.
     
    Another bug was that after playing music with the Fiio music application for an extended amount of time the app simply would not close. In order to get back to the android home screen I had to turn the X7 off and back on. Also, after playing music for a considerable amount of time after the screen has gone blank, the play and pause but was unresponsive. These are both minor and I assume FiiO is going to fix both with their next firmware update.
     
    There are some other bugs with the Music application but I consider them to be minor. One thing I would hope to see with a firmware upgrade would be to see FiiO make the volume adjustment a sliding adjustment by pressing on the displayed volume and dragging this number up or down, similar to A&K DAPs.
     
    NOW, let’s discuss the good things about the user interface I really enjoyed. Aside from the identified Artist/Album/Song issue I’ve brought up, the rest of the sorting options and displays are pretty masterfully done. When playing a song from an album (in single song display mode) I can access songs from the designated sorting order by dragging my finger from the left border. In this there was the equalizer, bluetooth, favorites, delete and information tab as well as Play, Pause and Skip tracks options. Dragging a finger from the right side of the screen during this display accessed the on screen volume control.
     
    There didn’t seem to be much in lag or delay when selecting tabs. I did however have instances when I would press on the screen and it didn’t register and I would have to press the tab again.
     
    The Fiio app equalizer is pretty cool. It’s a ten band equalizer that shows a smoothed rendering of your settings on the top of the display. There are several preset displays aside from whatever custom setting you would want to apply.
     
    20151105_114842.jpg
    *Ten band equalizer with smoothed over setting display up top
     
    There is a settings menu on the music application that is pretty fantastic. Key features are an on  and off timer, gapless playback option, gain settings, play through folders, and UI personalization.
     
    With all the identified negatives being said, please don’t let that take away from the thing that will make the X7 truly special. The sound quality of the X7 is FANTASTIC, despite the fact that at first listen it seemed a bit sterile to my ears.
     
    The X7 came shipped with the IEM amplifier module, which is replaceable with separate amplifier modules that will Fiio will be offering. While I feel this amplifier didn’t unleash the full potential of the X7, I could tell by listening to it that the X7 used the ES9018 chip masterfully.
     
    20151114_074234.jpg
    *Detached (and interchangeable) Amplifier Mudule
     
    One thing I did notice while using the X7 is that it will get pretty warm if you keep it in your pocket while listening to music. In the winter it will make a great pocket hand warmer. In the summer it will be as welcomed as a loud and stinky fart in the middle of church service.  
     
    With the IEM amplifier configuration the X7 sits right in the middle of warm and cold. It is a very neutral, transparent and detailed sound. I feel the X7 was able to make even my my worst bit rate files sound almost like they were upsampled to sound their best potential. The X7 seemed to be able to handle sibilance better than other players I have used.
     
    Because the X7 came with the IEM amp module I used mostly in-ear monitors and easy to drive headphones. There really wasn’t any type of “synergy” type of things to speak of. The X7 is brutally honest with whatever you’re using with them. Bright earphones will be bright, warm will be warm, neutral will be neutral and so on. I could see this making a great device for review purposes because of this neutral and pretty colorless presentation. I made sure to use several in-ear monitors, and my favorite pairings with the X7 were more neutral monitors like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Carbo Tenore.
     
    Android Functionality
    This is where I must admit I was pretty disappointed. Simply put, the X7 has an Android operating system, but doesn’t utilize Google Play Services or the Google play store, leaving me wanting more, much more than what my options are in terms of applications beyond the stock Fiio music application.
     
    Applications are can be downloaded via APK files (bypassing the Google Play Services and Play Store). If you are wondering what APK files are, here is a link:
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_application_package
     
    The drawback to this is that it leaves it up to the owner to search and download APKs. This also means that updates will have to be searched and installed by the owner without any notifications of updates being available.
     
    Only particular applications will work. If an application needs Google Play Services to operate they won’t work on the X7. For example, when I tried to install Google Music, upon installation I was prompted with a notification that I wouldn’t be able to access all features of the application. I was able to open the app and listen to music that was installed on my device, but I couldn’t access my online music library or stream music from the web.
     
    20151105_111610.jpg
    *Shucks...
     
    On a more positive note, I was able to install and use Tidal and Spotify with no problem. All streaming worked flawlessly. There are many apps that will work with the X7, including some streaming apps (via WIFI). My time with the device was limited, so I can’t elaborate too much. Just know that the APK compatibility is a work in progress. If Google Play Services and Android Market are not going to be available on the X7, I’m hoping FiiO will make an APK directory for X7 owners, making downloading and installing applications a more convenient and enjoyable process.
     
    20151105_112836.jpg
    *Tidal on full display
     
    Conclusion
    At this point the X7 is still a work in progress rather than a finished package, so I can say that in the short time I’ve had with the unit there is not a final verdict from me.
     
    I think FiiO has taken a huge step forward in terms of product development by breaking away from their conventional style of DAPs, offering a more modern device with improved sound quality. However, this is also coming with it’s own unique and new set of challenges for them to face moving forward.
     
    Android’s operating system and WIFI capability is going to give Fiio further opportunities to update and improve their product via firmware updates, even after the device is sold and in the owner’s hands. That combined with the chipset and interchangeable amplifier modules, they’ve created a very versatile and awesome sounding unit. Their fidelity rivals rivals just about any portable I’ve heard to this date.
     
    What leaves me on the fence is the Android aspect of this device. I am left wondering how the masses feel it competes against the likes of the players like the HUM Pervasion, Five year old Sony F series walkman (and inevitably dropping price of the ZX1 and ZX2), newly released and similarly priced ONKYO DP-X1,  as well as other Android based DAPs that are yet to be released. Please note, this has nothing to do with Fidelity and it’s performance in terms of sheer sound quality. It has more to do with the players ability to combine the full Android experience with the type of phenomenal sound quality that the X7 has. With today’s technological advancements in mobile devices, my next purchase will be based on what DAP can best integrate both aspects.
     
    To summarize, the X7 is a DAP will play up to approximately 150 GB of music (between internal and maximum SD capacity) and make it sound phenomenal. They offer their own new and pretty well designed stock music application that many will enjoy. The ability to download and install APK files and stream music is an added bonus. Some will not care for the fact that FiiO doesn’t offer the full Android experience (Google Play Services and Android Market) while others will applaud it for the exact same reason. Rather than being an android device with phenomenal sound quality, it is a phenomenal sound quality device with limited Android APK file capability.
     
    Kudos to FiiO for their hard work on the X7 project and choice to take a step forward in terms of technology. I look forward to seeing what is to come with future firmware updates and alternative amplifier modules.
     
    20151105_105451.jpg
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
     
    NOTE: The bottom half of this review is the initial impressions posted in November of 2015. Please read the top of the review to see the changes and improvements made to the device. 
    Brooko, H20Fidelity, DougD and 4 others like this.
  8. Brooko
    4.0/5,
    "Fiio X7 – Potential End Game DAP"
    Pros - Sound quality, build, form factor, ease of use, interface, features/versatility, connectivity
    Cons - UI features missing/incomplete, on the largish side (physically), battery life
    x727.jpg
    For larger images - please click individual photos

    INTRODUCTION

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

    THE REVIEW

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

     

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

    BATTERY LIFE

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

    CONCLUSION / SUMMARY FIIO X7

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

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

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

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

       
    7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
      For me yes.  I tested most formats, but most of my listening was actually AAC256, and I had my entire library at my disposal.
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