FiiO X5 Lossless Portable Digital Audio Player & DAC
The FiiO X5 is the new contribution from this great brand; the company which is making a huge name for itself by bringing high quality budget-priced items to the market. Almost a year ago we were all taken aback by the arrival of the X3 which has certainly shaken up the digital audio player (DAP) market, but now FiiO has X-ceeded itself with the X5.
After coming to know the FiiO X3‘s sound quality, it was a little difficult to imagine how it could be bettered; both in terms of sound quality and power. The X5 creates a certain expectation as it’s larger. It is still pocket-sized, but it certainly makes for a pocket which is full.
Unlike the X3, the X5 has no internal storage so a micro SD card is required to get started. However it has 2 slots for these cards, so there’s a potential 128Gb storage capacity with current firmware/size limits.
Price – £289.95
- Fantastic Sound
- Two Micro SD slots
- DAC capability
- Powerful amplification
- Wobbly wheel
- Auto hold – no manual hold button
- No internal memory
- Relatively bulky
- Supports High-Definition192kHz/24bit audio
- Lossless Playback for DSD/APE/ FLAC/ALAC/WMA/WAV
- High-Quality DAC Functionality
- Headphone Out, Line-Out and Coaxial Digital Output
- Dual Card Slots with 1024GB Memory Capacity (with future firmware updates)
Appearance takes priority over usability for perhaps the first 30 minutes of use; the buttons are not marked and the user can feel a little helpless initially. This soon passes, but the wheel remains a point of contention; its build does not appear to sit well with the rest of the device. It’s very light and wobbly, with a rubber touch wheel to select options or tracks on the screen. Notches or slight clicks are encountered as the wheel goes round, but these tend not to be linked so much with what is happening on the screen. A ‘two click’ turn of the wheel may not necessarily move you along by two options so watch the screen. It can be frustrating if the required option is just one ‘click’ away; it seems that a gentle turn of the wheel can turn into a few gentle turns, as the selected option doesn’t change, or changes too far. Fortunately the lower two buttons on the front of the X5 can be used to scroll through these items, so it’s not something we’re stuck with using.
Sticking with the wheel, the centre acts as a ‘select’ button for the X5; however it is machined and is uncomfortable to touch with the thick skin on my thumb. It’s worth it though. Also I was a little concerned that there appears not to be a space where I can throw a band over and have it strapped to my FiiO E12 – the X5 is full of buttons, screen and wheel, but I have found that a band can be placed over the wheel area and operation is not affected. Maybe the addition of an E12 is overkill however; having tried the X5 now, my demanding 600 Ohm AKG K240 DF headphones sound fantastic straight out of the headphone socket.
There is no ‘hold’ button on the X5, there is a simple timer function (from 30s to 120s, or off) which renders the screen blank and most of the buttons inoperable, until the power button is pressed. I noticed that the volume buttons turn into ‘track skip’ buttons in this state.
The screen shows a little more of the track titles than the X3 when browsing, for example I am able to read the full title of Duran Duran’s ‘Is There Something I Should Know’ but no band name is present in the filename. Compilations may still require guesswork as to the track title, or you might want to encode your files with the ‘Track Artist’ after the ‘Track Title’ so song names can be read with no problem. Also the screen is less square than that of the X3; it’s wider, but only the top half of any cover art is visible when tracks are playing as it gets stretched to fit across the screen. Not a real issue, but Sweet’s ‘Desolation Boulevard’ cover isn’t the same!
I tried the X5 against the X3 with the HiFiMAN HE-400; despite their 35 ohm impedance, these are thirsty headphones and can really take some power to get them up to their full potential. The X5 felt a little more relaxed, more analoguish, more controlled. It appeared to go a little louder as well, although the two models are evenly matched. Both the X3 and X5 powered the HE-400 adequately, although a little more headroom (on both players) might be nice with quieter tracks.
Next, a high quality dynamic headphone was tried – the Beyerdynamic T1. With this headphone the differences were harder to spot between the two Fiio players but the X5 appeared to give a slightly wider and more spacious presentation; the X3 had a little more bass impact or ‘slam’ to it.
FiiO has beefed up the bass/treble setting of the X3 with a full equaliser in the X5 model; there are now 10 bands between 31Hz and 16kHz, the frequency bands roughly double in breadth as they move up through the frequency spectrum; ie. 31Hz, 62Hz, 125Hz, etc. The steps in terms of EQ volume are very fine indeed, so this is a useful tool to anyone wanting fuller control.
In all, the X5 is a winner if you have headphones which can reveal its audio quality. If you plan to stick with sub-£100 headphones or only have portable uses, you may as well save your money and get the X3. If you’re confident that your equipment can get the best out of the X5, then that is what I recommend – it is a clear improvement over the X3 and the extra money spent will not be in vain.