FiiO X3 II – Review

I’ve been expecting the updated version of X3 for a while now. Since I’ve reviewed FiiO X1 and liked it more than X3, I was already sure that the latter will be replaced by an updated version soon.

Well the time is here as the second generation X3 is here, ready to be reviewed.

Introduction

FiiO X3 2 Review (7)

At the first glance, it looks very similar to X1, but it has a sturdier build quality. Even the user experienced was improved, especially by the rubber menu wheel which is considerably more precise and easier to use overall, quite better than the one in X5 actually.

One thing that I love about the second generation X3 is that the size is extremely nice for portable use. This alone may make the X3 2 a very strong contender of X5.

Let’s get more into the spec sheet. What I found very interesting is that FiiO chose to use a  Cirrus Logic DAC chip. If you are wondering, it is their first implementation of that chip. If you didn’t see this coming, FiiO chose the flagship that Cirrus Logic has to offer, the CS4398.

This chip can be found in more expensive DAC implementations, but I find this to be irrelevant from my perspective, as from a price level above, I wouldn’t buy a DAC that has a cheap “normal” DAC chip, even if it is considered to be the flagship in its category.

If it helps you, X3 can play natively DSD 64 and 128. I myself, didn’t hear a DSD record to be clearly better than a very good PCM record and I am talking in general not specific to FiiO. So I still consider this marketing.

Maybe I didn’t find the right dsd records to beat the good pcm records that I have. I am not discarding this as a possibility.

The amplification is done by the chain OPA1642 * 2 and LMH6643 by Texas Instruments components.

X3 is the only DAP from FiiO that has two crystal oscillators that are used for maximum precision, one for multiple of 44.1Khz and one for multiple of 48Khz. Therefore the player supports music in lossless format up to 24bit/192Khz and DSD64/128 files – both streams natively decoded.

Listening Impressions and Tests

The tests were performed with  FiiO X5, FiiO E12A, FiiO X3 2, Focal Spirit Classic.

FiiO X3 2 Review (10)

Rodrigo y Gabriela- “Hanuman”

X3 2 had a great start on this track. The first thing I noticed was the powerful impact it was capable of. The second and very important thing was that notes had more presence on the lower end. I loved how  every chord had a powerful attack and a natural and full decay.

Hugh Laurie – Six Cold Feet

The qualities described above were noticed here as well. The drum and guitars had a powerful and tactile impact. Another very important thing I noticed was that the voice presented detailed textures leading to a closer more rugged and real life like presentation.

Leonard Cohen – The Traitor

I love the sound of the new X3 2. The sound is more natural and everything comes in a very fluid and smooth way. I loved the details on this song on both guitars and voice. The guitar plucks are full bodied, well extended and tactile, while the voice is very present, detailed, well textured and natural sounding.

Vivaldi – Autumn – Allegro (La Caccia)

This track sounded better than I expected. The instruments were natural, well extended and detailed. The cellos had body and presented visceral sound while the violins and other instruments were also impressive through their detail and extension. The soundstage was quite well defined with very good depth and width and good height.

AC/DC – Thunderstruck 

As before, X3 2 impressed me with the voices and their rugged and guttural presence. The guitars were full of energy and vibration. It was like they moved the air near you. The song was extremely energetic and fun as everything was impressive, from the punchy drum, the extended and tactile electric guitars, to the guttural and natural voice.

Summary

Bass

The bass is very interesting and I love how it extends on the lower notes, leading to a full sounded experience. The  punch powerful and the control is good. It’s not a lazy bass that bleeds into other frequencies. I never felt that and I love how well it integrates with the rest of the frequencies.

Midrange

The midrange on X3 2is awesome. I feel that the instruments and voices have very good extension, textures and details.

Treble

The treble on X3 2 good as well. It has good detail, extension and sparkle. I never felt something bright or displeasing to the ears.

Voices

The voices are incredible on X3 2. I was surprised to encounter such presence and textures on this little DAP. When needed the voices were rugged and guttural and made me realize that x3k reproduced them with the singers’ bodies attached to them.

Natural Tonality

This was a very nice surprise as I never expected such sound from X3 2. This might be the most natural DAP I have listened from FiiO until now. I feel that the tonal accuracy of the instruments and voices is very good.

Transients & Tactility 

The transients are very natural with strong attack and detailed, full but natural decay. This is one of the factors that leads to a tactile and visceral sound that I always liked.

Soundstage

The soundstage is well put together with very good depth and width. I feel that the soundstage is also natural, presenting good holography and scenic presence.

Details & Transparency

The details on this little thing are very good and I think that they are quite in the same league with X5. The same thing applies to the transparency, as X3 2 is capable of very clean sound.

FiiO X3 2 Review (4)

Compared to X5

FiiO did it again. Overall I found myself liking the new X3 2 more than the bigger and more expensive X5. Why? Well, there are some things that I appreciate more on X3 2. The lower end is more complete on the little brother, while X5 leaves me wanting more on that region.The transients are more powerful  on X3k, presenting stronger attack and more extended and natural decay. The voices on X3k are considerably more present and better textured. The soundstage on X5 is a little taller, while the one on X3k is deeper and wider.

In the other departments like details, transparency and instrument separation, they are very comparable and technically in the same class in my opinion. I am not even comparing the new X3 2, with the older X3, as I think that the new version is considerably better than the older one.

X5 has more details in the upper midrange and treble regions, while X3 2 seems to be more present/detailed on the lower region : bass and lower midrange.

This is a very interesting moment, as I remember saying that I liked X1 more than the old X3. Considering that overall I ended preferring the X3 2more than my X5, I would say that it is safe to assume that a new version of X5 is on its way.

Conclusions

Not the first time I’ve seen this company grow through its products. I am always excited to hear one of their new models. Not only they never managed to disappoint me until now, but they always managed to impress me, always bringing impressive sound quality at a very competitive price.  X3 2 is just as I expected to be and beyond. I ended up liking it more than the current version of X5 overall in both sound quality and ergonomic use.

Pros:

  • Very good Bass response with very good kick, extension and speed.
  • Very nice midrange, full of details, textures and naturalness
  • Extended treble, good sparkle and natural tonality
  • Natural tonality
  • Very Good Transients and Tactile presentation
  • Natural soundstage with good depth/width
  • Very Good Details & Transparency
  • Very nice & ergonomic design
  • Very Good Price/Performance Ratio

Cons

  • Only one SD card slot
  • X5 still beats it in details on the upper midrange and treble

FiiO X3 2 Review (1)