FiiO X5 – Review

You remember FiiO X3, right ? Well, FiiO shipped yet another great product on the market, the FiiO X5,  X3′s big brother.

I always loved the products from this company as they really have a very good price/performance ratio.

FiiO released some excellent products, especially for the price, during the last few years, filling a part of the market that was previously kind of empty. While the products were excellent for the price, I cannot say any of them were WOW material.

Well, with X5 they made their way into this category as well.

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From the first moment I’ve seen it I loved it more than X3. It really looks better, with a more appealing design and better build quality.

The enclosure is a lot more sturdy and thicker than the one of X3. Also the finish is better and more pleasant to the eye.

The new menu is ok after a while, but until you get used to it it’s a little cumbersome, as it isn’t so intuitive as it should be. The buttons don’t have any writing on them and you must go through a trial and error until you really get used to it and start using it with ease.

One thing that I love about it is that you can use it as USB DAC with your computer. It also has a coax output so you could plug it in almost any system and listen to your music with it. Besides that it also has a lineout, so you could use it as a clean DAC in another system.

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Technical specifications

Let’s look into the specs a little as I’ve seen some really interesting things there.

  • The X5 has a dual core Ingenics 4760B CPU, clocked at 600 MHZ. Ok, now even my portable music player has a dual core  cpu… Interesting times we live in .
  • The new DAP supports the following lossless formats:  DSD, APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, WAV and other non lossless.
  • It can also be used as an Asynchronous DAC with your computer, supporting 192k/24B playback.
  • If you are asking what DAC chip X5 uses, it is the PCM1792A DAC, the top of the line from Texas Instruments.
  • Quad-Balanced power supply : “Using a quad balanced power supply the X5 achieves bipolar output without using coupling capacitors.”
  • Supports up to 256GB (128GB×2), will support for 512GB, 1024GB, etc. with future firmware upgrades
  • The X5 comes with three output ports: headphone out, line out and coaxial digital output.
  • Senior Air CNC aluminum unibody enclosure
  • Battery capacity: 3700mAh 3.7V lithium polymer battery providing up to 12~15 hours of playback time

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Listening Impressions

The tests have been done with Decware Taboo MK3Audeze LCD-X with Toxic Silver WidowBurson ConductorAudiobyte Hydra-X,  Focal Spirit Classic.

So, yes I have used it with LCD-X and I must say that this combo really impressed me.

Let’s get into some songs and see how it performs.

Andre Rieu – Granada

What struck me from the first seconds was a very spacious and holographic soundstage. The guitars and other instruments really tickled my ears, being in perfect harmony with each other, being on their own precise layer and with a lot of space between them.

Chesky Vivaldi – Allegro ( La Caccia )

Again a very large & 3D scene was presented in this song. I’ve really lost myself in the song with it and this doesn’t happen to me with any product. I loved every instrument as they had a very very good amount of detail and energy attached to it. The separation of instruments and imaging was top notch as their position was very clear. The attack of the chords was explosive and full of life. The treble is very extended without hearing any type of harshness on this song.

Apocalyptica – World Collide

The guitar from the beginning was subtle but had a very good impact and detail showing a fast and impactful bass. When the drums began there was an explosion of energy. While the passage was very crowded, the X5 did an exemplary job on not blending all the instruments together. It actually felt like it played with ease without struggling a bit.

Leonard Cohen – Here It Is

The scene was very deep and the instruments in the back showed that very well while giving a very spacious and 3d feeling. The voices were very well layered themselves, presenting a detailed and pleasant texture and timbre. Leonard’s voice was presented with accuracy, showing it’s very unique qualities, but lacking a little from the weight it has on Conductor’s DAC for example.

Mike Oldfield – No Man’s Land

It started with a very interesting bass presented very well by the FiiO X5 with a fast and controlled grip. FiiO took away the emphasis on midbass it had on older products leaving space for faster and cleaner sound. It really amazed me again how it leaves such space between layers and instruments. The guitar in the back gives you a very nice feeling leaving the impressions that you are in a very large concert hall.

Zdob si Zdub – Nistru

The details presented are amazing with X5. All the instruments have a life of their own and they are very apparent on every layer from the first row till the last one. The extension and plucks of the guitars tickled my ears again. The cymbals were very present and sparkly but sometimes a little more than they should be but I think it is the song’s fault.

Lindsey Stirling – Crystalize

The violin is just amazing & clean, sparkling with detail and life and flying with ease from one layer to another. The bass was very clean and fast with good extension and punch.

Infected Mushroom – Vicious Delicious

Let’s see how the bass really stands. Well, I think this is the best bass I have ever heard from a FiiO product as it was very clean, fast, impactful and with good extension. The energy of the song was very contagious as it had a very good PRAT that invited you to head bang.

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Summary

Bass

FiiO took away from the mid bass emphasis their products usually have, leaving behind a cleaner, faster and more detailed bass but still with very good impact and extension.

Mids

I loved the instruments and voices on X5, especially the female voices that were very clean and detailed. Leonard’s voice was detailed as well and with a good texture but it would had been nice if it would have had a little more weight.

Treble

The treble on X5 is very well extended and detailed. With some recordings it might get a little tiresome after a while, as if the recording has a bright tendency, the X5 will show you that and won’t keep that hidden from you. However, I don’t find it bright, just true to the recording and unforgiving in this department.

Details

This is the most detailed FiiO I have ever heard. It really amazed me in this regard as you can hear every chord and pluck, or every instruments from an orchestra, even the ones that are more subtle.

Instrument Separation & Imaging

The X5 really astonished me in this department as well as it does a very very good job here too. I have never heard the instruments blend in the same layer, not even in the most crowded passages. The layering is very well done with a lot of air between them and every instrument.

Soundstage

The soundstage is just amazing. It just opened up my focal spirit classic as I have rarely heard it before. From the first seconds I have started listening to it I noticed the very spacious and airy presentation. The scene is very deep and wide, but the good things don’t stop here as the sound was also 3d, giving a holographic feeling to the sound. The x5 has a more spacious and holographic sound that my full blown size Burson Conductor.

Transients

One other strong point of X5 are the fast  transients, as the sounds have an exploding attack and fast decay. This leads to a fast and energetic sound.

Dynamics

I really liked how the instruments from the further layers still had life and presence, showing good dynamics.

Transparency

I feel that this is the most transparent product from FiiO and that it offers a very clean window into your music.

Neutral

FiiO took away from the warmer color of their first products, giving a more neutral presentation that is more suitable and easier to match with a larger variety of products.

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Conclusions

FiiO did an excellent job with the X5 stepping into an upper layer of this market. This is by far the best product they ever made, being a huge step forward from X3.  FiiO is my first recommendation when I am talking with a friend that wants to get into this hobby as it is an excellent start with decent performance and all that at a normal price.

Everyone who bought a product from FiiO was very pleased by it, but never amazed by it.

I have lured some friends to listen to X5 + Focal Spirit Classic at work and from the first 5 seconds I have read  the astonishment and pleasure on their faces. One of them said that it was the clearest sound he ever heard ( on Vivaldi ) and that he felt like in the concert hall.

I was trying to concentrate at work on a problem and I lost myself into a song with the X5 and Spirit Classic. This never happened to me with E17. Ok, don’t get me wrong, as E17 is very good for it’s price and still enjoyable, but not at this level, as the X5 is in a total different league, getting into enthusiast’s department.

I think that the X5 has a very transparent sound that opens a clean window into your music.

It really impressed me with both LCD-X and Focal Spirit Classic as it was a wonderful match for both. Yes, it can drive LCD-X and I never felt it was underpowered with it. Of course you could get better amplification, but I found X5 to be sufficient for my needs with the LCD-X.

Focal Spirit Classic really opened up with it, offering one of the best soundstage I have ever heard from those headphones.

It wasn’t so good with LCD-3 and HD800 as these headphones need more power, but I still think that it offers a very good and clean amplification section.

This is a very exciting period we live in. I see progress everywhere, and yes, even in audio. A lot of very nice products are rising,  the X5 being one of them, marking the progress in this domain.

Pros

  • Very good build quality and appealing design
  • Good and clean amplification
  • Very good transparency
  • Neutral presentation
  • Fast transients with exploding attack and fast decay
  • Very good details
  • Good dynamics
  • Excellent & holographic soundstage
  • Excellent instrument separation and imaging
  • Energetic sound with good PRAT
  • You can use it as USB DAC
  • Has Coax out and lineout so you can use it easily in other systems
  • Very good price (350 EUR) / performance ratio
  • It supports all important file types

Cons

  • Cumbersome user experience until you get used to it
  • Unmarked buttons
  • No internal storage

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