FiiO X5 3rd Gen (FiiO X5iii): Stream of Consciousness Impressions & Review

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by Torq, Mar 21, 2017.

  1. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    FiiO X5 3rd Gen (FiiO X5iii) – SoC Impressions & Review:

    Overview:

    I’m going to approach this in, primarily, a “stream of consciousness” and “progressive experience” fashion. Which means I’ll be adding posts to the commentary as I find things, good or bad, worth commenting on. And, periodically I’ll merge things back into the main post as a proper review. However, for now I’m going to start with my initial thoughts from the first day or so of playing with the thing.

    For reference, and before I get started, my primary portable player is a Sony NW-WM1A. I am not, in anyway, dissatisfied with the performance of that. My fiddling around with the FiiO X5iii is purely in the interests of seeing if it’s a viable dual-slot/streaming capable companion to the Sony. The Sony NW-ZX2 is, perhaps, a more logical alternative, but it’s a single card-slot unit again, so before I go down that path with a second player, I wanted to try out a dual-slot model.

    So, here I am, with a fresh, shiny, black FiiO X5iii in my paws … with a simple side-by-side shot of it with the Sony unit. More pictures will follow, for now this is just for context/provenance:

    X5iii-and-WM1A.jpg

    Features:

    Let’s start with a summary of the units headline features:
    • Dual AKM4490 DACs (w/ selectable filters)
    • Dedicated 44.1/48 KHz clocks
    • 300 mw output @ 32 ohms
    • SE and balanced output (2.5mm TRRS)
    • Works as a USB DAC (not tested this yet)
    • Dual microSD card slots (2x 256GB)
    • Bluetooth 4.0 (w/ AptX)
    • WiFi
    • Quick-Charge support
    • Android 5.1 as the base OS (w/ heavy customization)
    Now, with any Android-based audio player I come into things with relatively low expectations in terms of ease-of-use, fussiness, UX consistency, overall stability and, most importantly, concerns about forced sample-rate conversion (a feature of any player that uses the stock Android audio stack), and odd behavior with third-party player apps.

    Which means that perhaps the single biggest, and best, feature for this unit is that FiiO have taken the time to re-plumb the audio stack. There’s no forced sample-rate-conversion here, even for third party applications. Full kudos is due here, as many other manufacturers have half-assed things here – with unpleasant results.

    So, your TIDAL streams will play at 16/44.1 and not get mangled up to 16/48. Your native files in other resolutions will also play, without fuss, at their native sample rates.

    We’ll see how this pans out, sound-quality wise, over the next few days but it is, at least, the right place for a manufacturer to start with an Android-based player.

    Build:

    Quite nice actually … physically and aesthetically. Sockets seem firmly anchored (unlike, say, the Onkyo DP-X1). The unit feels reassuringly solid. It comes in at 192g with both card slots filled, which is about ¾ the weight of the Sony unit, and it’s about ¾ the physical volume as well, so the sense of solidity is very similar.

    The card slots use something similar to the SIM-card trays in the iPhone. This means they’re entirely internal and protected … but also that you need a tool to get at the cards inside (one is supplied, and you can use a paperclip in a pinch).

    The screen is essentially that same as that on the X7. It’s a 480x800 unit, is nice in indoor situations but lacks some brightness when used outdoors (reflections/glare are also a bit of a problem here). I could say the same about the screen on the Sony unit in regards to trying to read it outdoors.

    A “glass” screen protector is pre-installed on the unit and a plastic sheet over the back.

    Charging & Battery Life:

    This unit charges off the typical micro USB connector. With normal chargers it’ll take about 4 hours to go from empty to full. With a “quick” charger (e.g. a 2A amp-capable Anker) that comes down to about 90 minutes. And that’ll get you about 8-10 hours of playback – my first run, playing a mix of local files, lasted almost exactly 8 hours driving IEMs in SE mode with WiFi enabled (for no reason other than I hadn’t turned it off).

    I’ll give this more specific attention after a few cycles, but right out of the box it’s yielding obviously better battery life than the Onkyo DP-X1 ever managed for me.

    Physical Controls:

    The layout of these is a bit less than ideal. The power/wake button (which is always illuminated when the unit is powered on, it seems) is a bit squidgy and activating it reliably generally results in you pressing one of the three buttons on the other side of the player (Play/Pause, Forward, Back).

    The volume wheel is nicely protected and has good tactility, but operates a bit too slowly for rapid changes – so make sure you turn things down before you start listening! If the screen is on when you touch it, it brings up an onscreen volume controller which is much more rapid and direct in operation.

    User Interface & Operating Modes:

    You can run the player in “Pure Music” mode, or “Android” mode. In the former, you simply get the UI for the built-in music player. The switch between modes only takes a second or so (no reboot is required). It’s hard to say what’s really being changed, other than how you interact with the device, but at best it appears to simply stop all unnecessary Android processes/apps in “Pure Music” mode.

    In “Android” mode it is a conventional Android device, albeit with a completely custom audio-stack, which avoids all the general Android audio nastiness. So far this seems to work very well with third-party players (no sound-quality issues with TIDAL or Spotify).

    UI responsiveness is typical “modern Android on decent hardware”. It’s generally quite fast and fluid, with the occasional stutter – most noticeable when scrolling. There’s little in the way of lag (so far), and it’s feels a little more responsive than the WM1A. However, and I’m not sure whether this is down to the screen protector/backing cover messing with the capacitive screen (which does happen), touches sometimes are not recognized.

    It’s worth stating that I’ve seen this before with other similar units and in those cases the issue generally went away with the protective backing removed – I’m not doing that here until I am sure I am going to keep the unit (which is, currently, mostly dependent on firmware fixes).

    Listening/Sound:

    This is where I’m going to say the least for now and, I expect, the most as we go along.

    Hiss:

    With very sensitive IEMs (EE Zeus R, SE846), there's a little audible hiss. I'm quite sensitive to this (in terms of being able to hear it, not in whether it bothers me or not); I can, for example, hear hiss with the SE846 driven from a Chord Mojo. The output stage is apparently turned off when the unit isn't playing music. But when it engages, a moment or two before a track starts, the change is apparent. And, again, at the end of your track or playlist, there will be a couple of seconds where no content is playing but the output stage is still operating ... and when it switches off the hiss instantly vanishes.

    This has not been any kind of issue in actual listening so far, but it's one of those things that comes up a lot (my bad for not mentioning it right out in the first post).

    In comparison the WM1A is completely silent.

    Quality & Signature:

    For now, I’ll say that this is clearly an AKM4490-based device, “Velvet Sound” and all. Whether you consider that a good thing or not is going to be something of a personal preference. And even then, what “Velvet Sound” actually yields is somewhat dependent on which of the 4490’s built-in filters you select (there are 5). These do result in readily audible changes.

    At this point I find the thing quite enjoyable to listen to, currently using Empire Ears Zeus R (non Adel) IEMs*. While “Velvet Sound” is not my preferred presentation or signature (the WM1A is more to my liking), it is, at least, a relatively musical presentation even if not a strictly neutral one.

    Firmware/Software Issues:

    In order to be clear about what they are and, if possible, provided work-arounds or other useful information, I’m going to keep these in a separate post and will update it/remove items from it as they’re either discovered or fixed.

    --

    *More IEMs/headphones will get paired up with it, and commented upon, as I unpack them.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017
  2. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    FiiO X5 3rd Gen (FiiO X5iii): Notable Firmware/Software Issues

    Firmware issues with music players, especially the early iterations, tend to be pretty common and are usually quite rough around the edges. While the Sony WM1A really only suffered with some UI lag in this regard (subsequently addressed in v1.10) other players I’ve had through my hands have not faired nearly so well. The iBasso stuff, for example, has been particularly obnoxious in this regard – to the point where I’ve never been able to one of their units to scan my library successfully.

    The FiiO X5iii is not going to break and molds or knock-down any preconceptions in this area – it definitely has its share of firmware issues and bugs – some of which are embarrassingly obvious and will be encountered very readily. To say there are “rough edges” here would not be unfair, nor would the suggestion that some of them aren’t just rough, but are downright sharp.

    Note that this is not meant to be a complete catalog – just the ones that I’ve personally run into and/or that are particularly annoying.

    General “Off-by-One Errors”:

    These are errors where a value or count is off by + or – 1 (generally resulting from mixing 0 and 1 based numbering/indexing schemes). So, you might see a -1 when you expect a 0 or 10,001 when you expect 10,000 etc.

    Library Scanning:
    • Stops at 10,001 tracks – presumably due to a specific 10,000 track limit and an off-by-one error in the display (there are lots of these). Waiting on a response from FiiO is this is a bug or intentional (since there is a known bug with large libraries).
    Album Art:
    • Random tracks from the same album, all using the identical embedded album art, will sometimes display with no art at all even when other tracks in the album are displaying correctly. This display is consistent, so it’s reasonable to assume something in the files is triggering this – but the WM1A, Roon and Audirvana all display these specific items correctly.
    • Scrolling quickly can result in the art for one item being incorrectly displayed (duplicated in place of what should be shown) for the next. Once that happens, restarting the player app seems to be the only fix.
    Playback:
    • If you start playback of an album from album view and then change to another album, then anytime you hit one of the track-skip buttons (physical or software), it’ll go back to playing a track in the first album you played. I can find no way around this currently, short of restarting the player app (not the whole device). Update: This does not seem to happen all the time; I've not nailed down exactly what triggers it.
    • Attempting to play a DSD256 file causes an exception and crashes the player. While DSD256 is not specifically supported (FiiO only claim up to DSD128 or “double rate”) it would be nice if the player either a) simply didn’t let you attempt to play such files or, better still, b) down-sampled them on-the-fly to something it can play.
    Storage:
    • Some music players, and other file-system tools, will currently not see the 2nd card slot. This is definitely the case with UAPP. The cause is that the 2nd slot is not registered in the "External Storage Folders" collection, so when those mount points are enumerated, it's not there. This could be a simple off-by-one-error or something more involved, so hard to say if it'll get fixed or not.
    • I've mentioned it elsewhere, but I'll re-iterate that this thing seems to like FAT32 best as the card-storage format. This is a pain for Windows users with large capacity microSD cards, and is less than optimal for large cards anyway (and also has either a 2 or 4 GiB individual file-size limit, depending on your OS). It works with exFAT or NTFS, but more issues are reported there and those formats cannot be used for firmware upgrades.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
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  3. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    And the first thing I forgot and will go back and add ...

    With very sensitive IEMs (EE Zeus R, SE846), there's a little audible hiss. I'm quite sensitive to this (in terms of being able to hear it, not in whether it bothers me or not); I can, for example, hear hiss with the SE846 driven from a Chord Mojo. The output stage is clearly turned off when the unit isn't playing music. But when it engages, a moment or two before a track starts, the change is apparent. And, again, at the end of your track or playlist, there will be a couple of seconds where no content is playing but the output stage is still operating ... and when it switches off the hiss instantly vanishes.

    This has not been any kind of issue in actual listening so far, but it's one of those things that comes up a lot (my bad for not mentioning it right out in the first post).

    In comparison the WM1A is completely silent.
     
  4. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    With WiFi enabled, but not connected (i.e. while driving around doing some gear shuffling), and with the player left on but in "sleep" mode, the battery dropped about 2% over the course of an hour. I'll have to test it with the radios (WiFi and Bluetooth) off, in sleep mode, overnight and see how that fares (this was a particular problem with the DP-X1).

    And my second, non-contiguous, battery life "test" yielded about 10 hours, with a similar mix of Redbook and higher resolution/DSD files, into the same EE Zeus R IEMs. This was with WiFi enabled, again, but with no streaming.

    Paying additional attention to the units "hiss", it's a bit more obvious when the output stage turns on/off than I first thought. Not quiet as low in level as Chord's Mojo. I'd put it between that and the GOV2+ Infinity/Meridian Explorer 2 right now ... but I'll compare it directly in a bit.
     
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  5. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Yes, I know ... updates are slow for a "stream of consciousness" type "review". This is entirely down to me still being embroiled in the "moving process". I got the basics of my new "home office" (which is where my primary headphone rig will be living) in place today, and should have everything else back up and running by the end of day tomorrow.

    In the mean time, I've continued listening to, and playing with, the X5iii.

    I have to say that I quite like this little thing. The sound is engaging, if not entirely neutral. I wouldn't classify it as a reference-device. But it is eminently musical, engaging and very pleasant to listen to. With the EE Zeus R, imaging is very impressive. Bass is exciting and, with the right filter selected, does not exhibit quite the bloom that, say, a Bifrost 4490 or AK3XX will do (which some will love and others will loathe). General tonality is very good. Presentation is smooth, clean and so far without any signs of fatigue.

    Other things to note ...

    Battery life ... in "sleep" mode (i.e. just leaving the player alone), with the radios (Bluetooth and WiFi) turned off, nets about 1% battery life loss per hour. That's better than most of the competition. And, since the power-down/power-up time of the device is actually pretty quick (the very FIRST boot only took 62 seconds ... and it's faster now) this is not a concern at all.

    I've gotten past the library scanning issues. I'm not 100% sure what fixed that (changing the file system on the SD-cards, deleting the entire application history for the FiiO music app etc.), but I've added some more files and now have successfully indexed >16,000 tracks. Performance remains the same regardless of whether I have 500 tracks or 16K on the player - which is really nice.

    FiiO have been VERY engaged in trying to resolve, or capture debugging info for, the issues I'm seeing in the firmware. They've contacted me directly and seem to be taking the issues, and getting a resolution, very seriously. I did not expect that.

    Right now, I'd have to say that this is the best Android-based player that I've had my hands on both in terms of overall fit, finish and functionality but also in terms of sound quality. I'll save proper commentary there until I've done more listening, but so far I'm not finding much lacking. And it is EXTREMELY refreshing not to have to revert to UAPP to get consistent quality out of the thing,

    And I'll go as far as saying that using this as a transport (which it can do) into something like Chord's Mojo would be pointless. At least for me. I think this sounds better than the Mojo, without the need to stack anything. Yes, Mojo is about twice as powerful (I still need to do tests with full-size cans and in balanced mode), but the X5iii is more engaging, properly extended, has better treble, more slam down low and runs for longer than the Chord box.

    More to come ... but for $399 ... there's a lot to like here.
     
  6. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    So far I've not been able to come up with any additional issues or negatives with the X5iii - and I have been looking.

    I have enjoyed another day of listening to it, while moving my computer setup. And it'll have to stand duty this evening for more listening as I didn't get to move my main headphone rig as originally planned.

    I'll stick to my statement that, so far, it's the best Android-based player I've gotten time with. It's easily ahead of the Onkyo DP-X1 in everything except for MQA support and the ability to play DSD256. Neither of these are actual issues for me, nor I suspect, most people here. Compared to every iBasso I've used, whether new or after months on the market, this is a better player and the firmware is already in better shape than the best I've seen from the iBasso stuff.

    Unlike with EVERY other Android-based device I've used, with the X5iii I have not felt compelled to try any third-party player applications, excepting the streaming clients for TIDAL and Spotify - both of which and operate seamlessly with the new audio stack. Which means unmolested native-bit-rate playback for everything. This is a major win over most Android players (and phones), and one of the most attractive features about the device (I know, I keep going on about it).

    After the original AK120, with the Wolfson 8740 DAC chips, I went off A&Ks players. The CS4398 based stuff (100ii, 120ii, 240) left me completely cold. The 3XX series faired better, comedy-pricing excepted, but I would put this new FiiO up against the 3XX series and expect the FiiO to come out ahead. It certainly isn't upsetting my SE846 the way A&K's players somehow manage to do (no doubt a function of OI).

    Right now, the only current players I can name that I like better are the two new Sony WM1A/Z units. The ZX2 may be better too, but I've not heard that at present. The new Sony's do exhibit much better battery life, feel more polished in operation, sound better, though of course they're significantly more expensive.

    There's a good few things I still need to explore:
    • I need to do some tests with TIDAL and off-line files, as many Android devices suffer issues there.
    • Test with full-size headphones and see how it fares there (the WM1A does a very nice job, in high-gain and using the balanced output).
    • Compare balanced vs. SE.
    • Try and get both AK3XX and Sony ZX2 to compare directly against.
    • See what other players I can line up for back-to-back comparison (Looto, Cayin, Calyx M).
    • Play with the EQ functions.
    • USB DAC tests
    • Test as a transport (COAX out etc.)
    • Bluetooth range test (the Onkyo DP-X1 I had couldn't hold a connection beyond about a foot and a half).
    • Explore other features.
    Absent finding a show-stopping firmware issue, and if the price sticks at $399, I think this is going to be quite hard to beat.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  7. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I expected to dislike this thing ... perhaps even wanted to (for myriad legacy reasons).

    And the truth is that I can't.

    Listening to it in moderate isolation ... i.e. with only the WM1A to compare to right now, it's been very enjoyable. Not as enjoyable as the Sony, but not so far behind that I would think anyone spending $400 on the X5iii would be, in anyway, disappointed by it's raw sound. And it's definitely among the more musical AKM4490 implementations that I've heard, even with the "Velvet Sound" stuff.

    I'm anxious to get my rig up and running today so I can directly compare it to my other gear, but so far it's one of the better DAPs I've heard and, random firmware issues aside (none of which are currently deal-killers), one of the best value ones I've had in my paws as well. And, while it's possibly due to the selectable filters, this is a lot more fun to listen to than, say, the Bryston BDA-3.

    If you dislike the 4490's native signature you're not going to find much here that works for you. For me, where I prefer the 4399 in terms of neutrality and honesty, the 4490 is still an enjoyable listen - just not as enjoyable as the best 4399s I've heard (perhaps why Gungnir still runs the 4399 series converter) especially with bass presentation. But those deliberate tuning issues really don't stand out here.

    So starting from poor expectations ... now I find myself hoping that it doesn't fall apart when it comes to non-IEM use and/or comparison of the DAC aspect in a bigger rig.
     
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  8. Ice-man

    Ice-man Friend

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    Thanks @Torq !! I've wanted to get some good impressions before pulling the trigger on this. I'll keep following this thread for another week or so first.
     
  9. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    Now that the c-c-c-c-c-combo has been broken, I've heard the X5 iii briefly, sounds sweet and euphonic (I believe I was on short delay slow Roll-Off Filter), with no immediate sins of omission. Pretty nice to just listen to, something I can't say about the X1 or the X3.

    Color wise, there's a pretty dope looking red model out as well, although I still prefer it in black. The case is sort of annoying since it's open on the bottom and while the unit is fairly snug it isn't snug snug, and could possibly slide on its own.

    The button layout is suboptimal, and the volume control is slow on the uptake, but works well enough since I typically minimally adjust my volume.

    I'm a folder browsing, music only, kinda guy, so I do actually like iBasso's UI more since it scrolls long names automatically since I've yet to trim some file names (they go "Album - Track No - Track Name" and I can only see "Album - Track No" on the X5 iii.).
     
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  10. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    The thing definitely has distinct signatures, depending on the filer mode selected. The "Velvet Sound" philosophy and architecture actually works there ... even if it's not necessarily a desirable thing across the board.

    Glad it's not just me that was having issues with both of those elements. Although I've found it rare that I've gone to turn the volume down, which is a good sign from a long-term fatigue perspective.
     
  11. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    For those that don't want to step up to the WM1A/Z I really can't find much to fault here (the WM1A w/ EE Zeus R is quite a formidable combination).

    ZX2 is still an unknown for me ... and, while my principal interest there is in a streaming-capable player that's as close to what the WM1A* can do as possible, part of the point of the X5iii for me is the ability to mount more storage for local files.

    I think, at least within the bounds of how I've tested/listened so far, FiiO have actually nailed it. At it's price I can't see anyone being disappointed here and, if things keep on the way they've been going so far, I'll likely be able to remove the price qualification.
     
  12. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    Ugh. I've played with about every brand of DAP out there excluding Fiio. I've never heard a single Fiio product, and you're making regret that.
     
  13. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Well, to be fair, my previous experiences with FiiO gear have been ... fucked up in one or more areas. Be it firmware or results, they've always fallen short of "usable" let alone "desirable" for me (YMMV). And to be clear, I've only played with their DAPs (so can't say much about their amps etc.). But in this case it seems everything has come together, they've learnt from their previous products, and they've delivered not only a very pleasing result but at a really good price point too.
     
  14. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    That's nice to hear. Much of the DAP market has been falling short in one area or another. It's been nice to see a few manufacturers lead the way in certain areas, which I hope will clear up some of the crap out there. I remember when Intel entered the SSD scene back in 2008 the whole SSD scene was a mess. Even if it wasn't financially prudent for Intel to enter the SSD game for the long run, it made sense for them to step in clean up the mess, as SSDs were the answer to the HDDs that were bottlenecking their CPUs' performance, and no one (that I can recall) was doing it correctly.

    On note of smaller manufacturers, I've been liking what I've seen from Shanling recently. I just wish their M1 sounded a lot better than it does, but everything else on it is a solid platform for them to build on for future models. The Shanling distributor mentioned to me that features on the M1 will be used as a platform to refresh the M5 model this year. I'm looking forward to hearing that revision.
     
  15. DigMe

    DigMe Needs a baby bottle

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    I thought you were liking the M1. Is the sound acceptable as a transport into 3rd party DAC?
     
  16. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    FiiO has one of the largest distributor networks for an niche product manufacturer vis-a-vis iBasso et al (excluding Sony, of course), so it shouldn't be very hard for you to find a place you can give it a try @Vansen. Haven't heard the X7, but the X5 iii is the first FiiO DAP (out of the X1, X3, X5, X5 II) I'd actually consider buying.
     
  17. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    I do like it, but I use it as a transport. The M1 works with any portable DAC I've plugged into it. I spent a bunch of time with it on a Dragonfly Red and GOV2+ infinity as well as an army of other devices at Canjam. Yggdrasil and Gungnir Multibit are the only DACs that I have found that do not work with it, as they draw too much power. I'm sure if you put a powered hub in the middle, it would work.
     
  18. Chris1967

    Chris1967 Friend

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    I have the Fiio X5 gen3 for a few weeks now.

    My previous Fiio product was the original X3 the first DAP in the world to play 24/192 files. These days i only use that one as a transport for my Mojo. Very happy with it had absolutely no problems with it, except a battery change.

    My experience (listened on two occasions at shows) with the X7 was not good so i gave that one a skip. I am allergic to Sabre sound in general.

    I am very happy with the new X5. I agree with most Torq says. Although i never have library problems because i have my stuff sorted only music files and just one jpeg front cover picture.

    The sound is very smooth but not lacking detail and makes it a perfect companion for long listening sessions without fatigue. I find many similarities to the Questyle CMA 600i i tested a while back. It must be the AKM velvet sound chips that produce this (at least to me) very pleasant sound.

    There are surely some problems with the firmware at the moment and also with the driver, but it doesn't make me feel bad, after all as a straight forward dap it plays and functions beautifully.

    It has a different presentation to the Mojo and i am still making my mind which one i prefer... at the moment i like both but obviously new toy gets most if not all the listening time.

    As a transport via the spdif coaxial it is very good and together with my supercharged (alla dimdim) Soekris sign magnitude r2r dac plays on par with my OdroidC2 music streamer.

    Usb otg to the Mojo has a lot of interference and some distortion (not good).

    Line out is quite nice and directly to my Schit Mjolinir gives a nice match and counteracts the Mjolnir assertive character.

    I have not tried balanced yet waiting for the 2,5 jacks to make a cable or two.

    With Sennheiser HD800 (anaxilus 2 and sdr) sounds excellent although some more power might be best for transients and control, otherwise i am very pleasantly surprised by the matching.

    I use RHA T20 in ear but i want to upgrade soon. With these it also matches well.

    I got the Bluetooth remote controller which works quite well and is essential for use in the car, or on main system via line out.
     
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  19. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    A new firmware update was released today (now at 1.1.4) which seems to have addressed some of the issues I first encountered. The funky navigation issue that came up when using the track skip/transport buttons after playing another album is fixed (or at least I can't make it occur now). I don't think this update includes the fix for the Android folder size limit causing issues with scanning, but my particular scanning issue was resolved earlier (and rescanning today worked perfectly).

    Scanning speed is a fairly consistent 2,000 tracks/minute. You'll see a brief pause in the progress every 5000th file. And occasionally progress will slow markedly for a few tracks here or there.

    Bluetooth operation works nicely. The unit proudly announces when its connected to an aptX device as well, with big Qualcomm logo popping up just to make sure you know you're in aptX land. Connecting to my MDR-1000X was as easy as is expected of any Android device. Sound quality here is nominally better than driving the same headphones via Bluetooth out of an iPhone 7. However, it's not quite on the level the MDR-1000X can reach with the LDAC implementation on the Sony WM1A.

    Range with Bluetooth has been a major bugbear for me with DAPs prior to the Sony (which easily manages it's claimed range and then some). The X5iii exhibits no issues with range that I can find. 25 feet away through walls was working fine (the Sony manages 35 in the same situation, provide connection priority is selected and not quality priority). Walking around with the unit in my pants pockets (any) yields no dropout or quality issues at all (a far cry from the Onkyo DP-1X, which would yield drop-outs if I so much as turned my head, even with the player in my front shirt pocket).

    Using the SE output, driving full-sized headphones works quite nicely. With the Utopia the results are very enjoyable even in LOW GAIN mode and it does a believable job pushing the HD800S. Switch to HIGH GAIN and things get a lot more convincing. Where as in low gain the Sennheisers aren't driven with as much authority as I'd like, I'd have to be very nit-picky to say the same in high-gain mode. No doubt the maximum available voltage swing of 8vp-p isn't hurting here.

    Despite being less powerful, I feel the X5iii does a better job natively driving the HD800S than the Mojo did. Will have to try with the Abyss and LCD-4 in a bit.

    Interestingly, FiiO claim that the SE output is about 20% more powerful than the balanced one, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when I test the balanced output into the full-sized headphones - particularly the higher impedance stuff.

    Switching to high-gain with my hiss-prone sensitive IEMs did not result in any audible increase in hiss or noise. I'll need to do some critical listening to see if I wind up preferring one mode over the other with those (it's clear that the harder to drive full-size headphones benefit from high gain). It'll also be interesting to see what effect it has on battery life.

    FiiO continue to be very responsive and engaged with regards to resolving issues and, right now, even adding features.

    Since the behavior of the unit is proving to be the best Android DAP experience I've had so far - and by a considerable margin, I'm going to stop specifically trying to break the thing and focus a bit more on just the sound now, comparing all of the filter modes and doing some critical listening to see if my currently favorable impressions change and to try and provide more detailed insight into what you might expect to hear.
     
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  20. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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