Introduction:

After a long period of waiting, finally FiiO X5 sees the light of the day and it is being presented for the first time in Las Vegas at CES 2014. Received feedback was excellent and the next step was launch in limited quantities to the Chinese market at the beginning of this year. For a worldwide launch the company decides to wait a bit for a reaction from internal market for the desire to further improve and refine it’s software and resolve some of it’s bugs. The unit tested by me has the first FW version and it is very likely that the units that will be sold will be better optimized and even sound better.

Approximately one month I have been playing with the new X5 and I’m still comparing it with X3 and with anything I could find around.

Even from the first contact with the player you realize that it is made entirely from the scratch as against X3. It’s construction is superlative and practically I have nothing to reproach. It is made entirely from metal, only the menu wheel has a rubber exterior. The display is far better than that found in X3. It’s dimensions increased significantly, it’s more massive and weightier, this is the only price paid for a better quality.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-2

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-6

FiiO engineers were seriously in a hot pursuit, a lot of effort was put into menu and software implementation, this can be seen in faster response time and easier to navigate menu compared to X3.

Device itself is an all-in-one, it’s a high performance DAC that can be connected to a PC/Mac, a high resolution player that knows to decode PCM signal up to 24bit 192Khz and even DSD (in a future firmware update), it’s also a potent headphone amplifier and a digital transport (coaxial out) to a better, higher performance DAC (for ex. for Chord Hugo).

Besides headphone out, there is also a line-out for using other external headphone amps, or to connect the player directly to a stereo amplifier. It should be noted that X5 doesn’t have it’s own memory , that is why it has two micro SDXC slots. The player supports newer generation of micro SDXC cards, so you can have a totally of 256 Gb of PCM/DSD music. In the future, when bigger capacity cards will be available it could reach the mind blowing 512 Gb of memory capacity.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-5

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-8

This time the menu is faster, we can select the desired gain, browse by artist, by playlist or by folder (I used this one). You can do your own playlist with favorite tunes, there is a built in EQ, there is also a custom one, I leaved it at normal, this way I like it best. For those who are not purists EQ is a pleasure to use with its 10 band EQ, it’s quite complex for a portable device.

Menu wheel is receptive, but sometimes not very precise and the buttons around it form the X letter (forward, backward, back to menu, favorites/shuffle button).

Regarding it’s design, FiiO was inspired by DJ decks, personally I think it’s a cool design, I hoped for a touch based menu wheel (as iPod classic have), but that one is an Apple patent, not gonna happen on other non-Apple devices.

Ok, let’s get to the most important thing.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-9

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-10

Audio performance:

When I heard X5 for the first time it was a magical moment, knowing very good what FiiO had done till this moment I had my expectations, but truth do be told they were surpassed.

I declare, without any hesitation,  there is no doubt, X5 is the best product that FiiO has ever made. X5 sounds better that any other DAC they made until now (including E17, E18) and much better sounding than X3. I will try to describe as detailed as I can my impressions.

At majority of FiiO reviews that I have done at the end of the article I would put at cons the lack of details/resolution and of air between musical notes – those small details separated FiiO devices from other more expensive devices. Well, dear audiophiles, X5 is everything I wanted and maybe even more.

When I listened to favorite tunes of Gothart, that are pretty complex, with a lot of voices and instruments I heard a sound that I am hearing mostly from expensive or very expensive equipment.

I have obtained a complete 3D stage, stereo image was very well defined, I was hearing accurately from where every sound is coming from. The sound became holographic and alive, a thing that you never hear from a 200 gr device. The size of the stage it’s a lot larger than that found in X3 or E17.

Apart from it’s large soundscape I heard a lot of air between instruments, that pause between notes, that void space that makes you taste from the favorite voice or instrument, and you make it with such an ease that I wonder every  time how they did it. I have a lot of tunes in which in some parts of the song I like a single instrument, even if 4 or 5 other instrument are played in the same time, with X5 is so easy to focus on that instrument. When I’m listening to X3 I can easily talk to someone without a problem, but with X5 when I press Play I just fall silent, the sound just steals my attention.

X5 sounds natural and easy on the ear, it is totally ear fatigue free, you can listen to it for hours without any problem.

With exception of E18, the rest of FiiO DACs sound pretty dark and/or overly warm, the sound being focused mainly on bass and mids, but high frequencies being washed out and put on the second plan. X5 is completely different than that, it sounds balanced, detailed, natural, very alive and not a single frequency stands out, everything is in it’s place.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-11

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-13

I started listening to the excellent music of Silent Strike, 3AM album.

I can congratulate the boys from Silent Strike, an excellent album and a great recording and mastering, it’s a reference for testing bass.

On Off Course Final and Electric Chick – I heard a deep bass, with a powerful kick, attack was fast, reverbs and distortions were not heard – a very good sign.

Distortions usually start from low frequencies and if I cannot detect them there it’s a sign that the device is well thought and put together. Bass is pretty impressive and doesn’t need any EQ, but surely bass lovers can use some to better tune the sound to personal preferences.

Bass together with the airy and holographic presentation fascinated me the most.

I also like the new Black Sabbath remasters, bass guitar sounded so authoritative and so well, that at a time when I was focused only on it a thought passed through my mind: where are the rest of the sounds? Incredible reproduction, deep bass, fast reverb, nothing to complain about.

For testing mid frequencies I used mostly rock and folk music.

Mids sounded pleasant, even sweet I would say, but not overly creamy/juicy. Male voices (upper bass/lower mids) had authority which I liked, female voices sounded melodious and I liked that they never mixed with the rest of musical notes.

String instruments and piano I also liked a lot, there were placed very well in a 3D field and sounded detailed and well defined.

High frequencies were the biggest improvement compared to rest of FiiO electronics. Those sound better than on X3, for jazz and classical music lovers X5 is an aural delight.

I understand very well what X3 owners say when listening to this music genres, the lack of sparkle in the highs region, lack of detail and of an airy sound were the points where X5 just excels.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-14

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-15

Headphone amplifier performance:

In terms of brute power X5 is almost on the same level as X3, offering more than ever necessary for majority of portable headphones. I used some Sennheiser Amperior, Sony MDR-1R and Ultimate Sound 3D with great success. All three were used in low gain, I touched high-gain only when tried heavy artillery, Audeze LCD-3, LCD-X and Sennheiser HD800. A big plus for X5 represents the performance of the built in headphone amp.

I personally think that having a player such as X5 you would never need additional power, all tested portable headphones were driven very well. Sennheiser HD650 and HD800 dynamic headphones had enough volume, but didn’t sound to their full potential, but maybe at 80% probably yes.

Audeze LCD-3 sounded in despair, without control, I’ve got a pale and slow sound, but let’s be serious, who would ever wear a pair of LCD-3 on the street?

For the power hungry ones, FiiO though prepares a special combo made from X5 and E12, that will provide enough power even for LCD-3 planar magnetics.

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-3

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-17

Interesting comparisons:

I will not bore you how X5 compares to X3, iPod, Sansa Clip/Fuze because it will be a boring comparison and we all know the results already.

Out of curiosity I compared the DAC performance of X5 with that of Burson Conductor which I own.

The small X5 sounded approximately the same. I found interesting that from X5 I’ve got a more 3D sound, more holographic, with an overall better stereo imagine. Conductor sounded as I would sit in first row from concert hall, a less holographic experience. Detail retrieval was slightly better on Conductor, but X5 was very close performance wise. As a whole X5 sounded very close to Burson Conductor, I am speaking DAC wise only, because Conductor destroys X5 when it comes to raw power. Given the fact that X5 is a portable device of 200 gr and Conductor has more than 5 kilos, it’s quite obvious who has better driving capability.

Unfortunately the firmware update for DSD playback is not out yet, so I could not test this feature yet, but if it sounds as good as PCM music then it’s a must buy product.

Conclusions:

A DAC, a headphone amp, a digital transport and a high resolution audio player all are words that define X5.

It’s spartan design and semi-industrial looks may not please everyone, placing of buttons and menu wheel may not be appealing to someone, but if you are interested in audio performance only, then X5 delivers on all aspects.

When it comes to playing music I have nothing bad to say about it.

At 350 Euros, official price of X5 in Europe, it’s the new audiophile bargain by FiiO.

Yes, it’s more expensive than the rest what they did until now, but it’s very likely that you will not find the same quality, comparable features and audio reproduction at double the price! When I think that this sound reproduction I can get with me anywhere I put myself just one question: what does future holds to us, it can be better than this?

Pros:

–   Hi-res support for 24 bit PCM and DSD files (in a near future)
–   High capacity micro SDXC support
–   Extra features in a small package (DAC, transport, line-out)
–   Robust build, good finish
–   Comes with extra accessories
–   Extra detailed sound, spacious, holographic stereo image
–   Naturalness, very good dynamics
–   Incredibly price/performance ratio (Astell who?)

Cons:
–  Wheel precision
–  Lack of an on-board memory
–  Buttons not marked what they exactly do

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-21

Fiio X5 (1 of 1)-22

28 COMENTARII

  1. Tot fara crossfeed. Neinteresant pentru mine (si pentru multi altii) produsul. Au primit destul feedback legat de asta, dar se pare ca degeaba.

    • Poate intr-un viitor firmware update, daca ii spamam la greu 🙂
      Foloseam crossfeed doar pe The Beatles (stereo remaster) si The Doors si in general doar pe muzica veche unde abia experimentau mastering-ul in stereo, pentru inregistrarile moderne nu prea vad rostul crossfeed-ului.

  2. Pai sunt melodii unde sunetele pe cele 2 canale sunt atat de diferite intre ele, incat devine derutant. De multe ori pe un canal e un instrument, pe celalalt canal e alt instrument. Pe boxe auzi ambele instrumente cu fiecare ureche in parte, difera directia si cativa dB, pe casti practic asculti absolut altceva decat ce au intentionat cei care au facut muzica.

  3. Curious – in playing 24 bit/192Hz FLAC files from HDTracks the X5 has a frequency range on 20 – 20,000 Hz does this limit information presented form the FLAC file on the X5? Would a 18 – 25,000 Hz player be able to fully display the information available in the lossless file?

  4. Now that the X5 is in stock in US stores, do they have upgraded firmware to accomodate playlists, and address some of the problems that were presented on numerous sites during the initial evaluation process. What was original firmware version and what is the version currently sold by US retailers?

    • Hey Bob,
      The best ears on the planet can hear around 25 hz – 19 khz and this is only until around 25 years old.
      I hear till around 17 Khz, it is useless to put some information in lossless audio files in a freq range where we couldn’t hear it.
      18 – 25 Khz is pure marketing and will for sure not sound better, actually Sennheiser HD800 headphones on the paper have a freq response of 14 – 44 Khz, can it really play all that spectrum? We don’t know, cos we humans do not have such good hearing skills. X5 is a great piece of equipment, if you have a chance to try one, please do it, you will be stunned.

  5. I’m looking at upgrading to the x5 from an ipod classic, because it seems to have everything all under the one roof, I’d buy a fiio headphone amp but it’s too much to carry around. So if I get an x5 I won’t need an amp because the output is the same as an amp or would having a separate amp still give me better sound?

    • Hey Bradley,
      Its a BIG step up from iPod classic in every possible way.
      With X5 you will not need a separate portable headphone amp, X5 has plenty of power even for my Audeze LCD-3.
      I’m using it almost every day, and every time I’m amazed how good it sounds.

  6. I’m debating between the iBasso DX90 and the Fiio X5. How is the UI and responsiveness of the X5? I currently have the Astell & Kern AK120 Titan and it’s massively slow at scrolling. Probably a weak processor in the AK120. But scrolling speed is like 50% of an iPod Classic. So how would you say the UI and responsiveness compared to an iPod Classic?

    • Hi Jackie.
      UI is quite fast, much faster with 2.0 firmware released two months ago, it’s not as fast as an iPod Classic/Touch but it is not bothersome to me, for me it’s more than ok.
      As for SQ I didn’t try an AK or iBasso yet, so cannot comment on that.

  7. An excellent review and absolutely stunning photos. Nice job Darku. This is the first time I have read one of your reviews and I am impressed. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your kind words. Photo shots were done by my friend Savu, he knows his stuff very well.
      I’m hoping to write few reviews very soon, this fatherhood thing is taking all my free time…

    • For me it was a clear improvement, especially wider soundstage, airier presentation and more micro-details with X5.
      I think it’s worth 100 USD.
      Besides you will be using just one device to listen to music (X5) instead of 2 devices (E18 and smartphone)

    • Hi Anthony,
      Actually I have X1 right in front of me, listening to it for almost 2 weeks. It is very good, but nowhere as good as the X5. If you want the best then go for X5.
      In the end X1 is their entry level model, it sounds good, I quite like it. However X5 sounds great, it’s much better sonically.

  8. Salut!

    mi-am cumparat si io un x5 si suna intradevar bestial; au facut o treaba excelenta cei de la fiio si o sper si mai excelenta 🙂 avand in vedere posibilitatile practic nelimitate de programare a procesorului; am si io o intrebare : caut niste casti inear cu flat response pt x5, ceva in jur de 400ron…vreo sugetie?

    multumesc!

  9. Salut Darku

    dupa cateva studii si analize vreau sa te intreb despre :
    1.etymotic er4s (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1853877,00.asp, http://www.head-fi.org/t/506087/review-etymotic-er4p-er4s-the-living-legends)
    2.Denon AH-C120(avstore)
    se pare ca livreaza flat/like studio sound, dar diferentele dintre ele sunt atat la pret(as da cei 10mil pe etymotic dar…)
    cat si-n specificatii de raspuns in frecventa:
    1.etymotic: 20-16KHX
    2.denon:10-24khz

    ce ma sfatuiesti?

    multumesc!

    PS:
    am studiat si ce mi-ai recomandat tu, dar:
    1.Sony XBA-H1necezita se pare urechi mari, iar io nu am 🙂
    2.Shure SE215 ramane ca o altenativa, dar nu prea stiu cum mi s-ar potrivi in ureche (am ochelari si se pare ca firul e over the ear)

    ps2:
    acele specificatii in frecventa chiar sunt reale sau marketing?

    ps3
    daca ai o adresa unde putem sidcuta mai mult…ti-as fi recunoscator

    multumesc mult!

  10. Salut,
    Daca vrei studio like, clar mergi pe Ety.
    Le-am ascultat ceva timp in urma, erau liniare si flat, aveau un fel de adaptor de impedanta, schimba amprenta sonora destul de mult cu si fara. Denon scoatele din ecuatie, sunet departe de flat.
    Cand ma gandesc la sunet flat ma gandesc la casti pe armaturi (balanced armature driver), sunt o tona de producatori (Shure, Etymotic, Westone, Ultimate Ears, Aurisonics ar fi cam cei mai cunoscuti), alege in functie de buget, pacat ca nu avem toate aceste produse si in Romania, ideal ar fi intai sa le asculti.
    Raspunsul in frecventa este praf in ochi, nu spune mai nimic, de obicei pretul spune 80% din ce pot castile in sine…
    Am ascultat casti 20 Hz – 20 Khz care spulberau casti 4 Hz – 44 Khz ….
    Impedanta si volum per mW imi spune mai mult decat raspunsul in frecventa.
    Iti dau un mail imediat.

  11. Hi Darku,
    Nice review.I am in India,I have Ipod Classic first Generation 60GB,since 2006.I saw FIIO from net since then I am reading so many reviews.I have doubt regarding X5 or E12 Mont Blanc which is suitable for Ipod Classic.Can you please tell me X5 is used only for Amp or DAC or charging?.Or else,E12 Mont Blanc can do the job as well as AMP?.
    Thanks,
    Sarat

  12. Salut, eu am un x3 si sunt super multumit de cum suna, nu il folosesc pentru casti ci pentru a asculta in masina si uneori in casa caci am doar un final nu am preamp… te rog spune-mi cu cat este mai bun x5 la sound quality.

    multumesc

    • Salut,
      Cu parerea de rau X5 spulbera X3-ul cam la orice capitol. Design mult mai reusit, navigarea mai usoara si cel mai important aspect, sunetul este mult mai echilibrat, mai natural si mai detaliat. Daca X3 ti se pare foarte bun, atunci X5 este genial, are scena mult mai larga, se aud detalii noi care pe X3 lipsesc, totul este mai aerisit si mai holografic.

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