Review of FiiO X5 digital audio player (DAP) w/lots of pics!!!


  1. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    *** UPDATE *** Now available directly from Miccastore: http://www.miccastore.com/fiio-portable-high-resolution-loseless-music-player-special-bundles-available-p-118.html

    This is a review of FiiO X5 digital audio player (DAP). FiiO

    I have shared with you a lot of different headphone reviews, especially of audiophile quality, because I consider headphones to be very important part of our lives. Many people's entertainment world evolves around their smartphone that we use to listen to music, to watch movies, to stream videos, to play video games, or to communicate with others. We have consolidated a lot of the other gadgets into this one universal device with headphones being a gateway to our entertainment world. That is why I put a high value on quality of the sound. Typically with high quality headphones you end up rediscovering sounds all over again and hearing new details for the very first time. To my very pleasant surprise, when I received FiiO X5 DAP - I actually ended up rediscovering my headphones, all over again!!!

    It's great to have a portable entertainment system where you can do everything, but often NOT everything could be done at it's best because we are limited by the hardware. Sure, you can build a library with only lossless format files and you can get the best pair of audiophile grade headphones, but you are still limited by a path of digital files converted into analog sound to drive your headphones. You can get a quality audio app and even external amp, but the source of your audio will still come from a smartphone with every electronic component cramped in there, without any proper power filtering, and with low bit resolution and low sampling rate to deliver that sound. Yes, it's very convenient and you can significantly improve your sound quality by using, for example, Neutron MP app, external usb OTG DAC/amp like E18, and quality headphone cables and headphones (RC-SE1 cables with W40 IEMs in my current setup). This is a very adequate setup even for an audiophile, but there is still room for improvement. Nothing will match a dedicated Digital Audio Player (DAP) where from step one you will be processing your music source at the highest sampling rate with a highest bit depth resolution!!! There is a number of such DAP players available on the market, but often they cost north of $700 with a higher quality ones starting at $1000. That is why FiiO shook audiophile world when they introduced their next flagship X5 DAP priced at $350. This is my first experience using DAP, since I don't count my previous iPods or Sansa players as quality audio sources; and I can tell you with certainty that listening to X5 and Sansa Clip+ is like night and day. Let's take a closer look to find out more about X5.

    There is no question you are dealing with a premium product the second you see their package box. You are greeted by a high res 1:1 scale picture of X5 on the front cover, and the back of the box has all the main function highlights. My review sample also had a sticker on the back mentioning that DSD playback and USB OTG support will be added in future firmware updates. Out of the package box, the actual X5 is stored inside of another "gift" box which is built out of sturdy carton with a nice foam padding inside to hold accessories as well. It's not exactly intended for traveling, but it definitely comes very handy to store X5 when not in use (the same with E18 and its storage box). Once you get a chance to hold X5 in your hand, you do realize it's not exactly lightweight at 210g (that's including 2 loaded micro-SD cards and silicone protection skin), although it's on par with typical smartphone weight. It was very clever for FiiO to include a high quality silicone protection form fitting sleeve. It enhances the grip, covers up aluminum CNC unibody to protect from scratches (although some might argue you would rather show it off!), and covers up volume and power buttons, as well as covering up Line out and Coax out ports leaving only headphone port exposed so there is no confusion which 3.5mm port to use. Furthermore, it comes already with pre-installed screen protector covering its gorgeous 400x360 res 2.4" IPS screen, and 2 more screen protectors for spare. Other accessories that come with X5 are high quality usb to micro-usb charging/data cable, 3 push plugs for each 3.5mm port, coaxial cable adapter, USB OTG cable, micro-SD card reader, and detailed easy to read manuals. I'm sure some will prefer to take X5 out of silicone protection sleeve to show off it's sexy aluminum brushed body, the same finish used in E18, but for others - you have an option to cover it.

    Unboxing

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    Accessories

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    Inside of silicone skin

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    Out of the skin

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    Of course, the biggest eye candy of this design is the mechanical control wheel. What looks like a miniature DJ spinning record is one cleverly designed control to scroll through the available menu options, song selection, and other controls. Some people mind find it resembles a classic iPod from a distance, but only by geometry of the circle. This is an actual mechanical wheel you can spin with your thumb and which provides a very tactile response and control of your selection. In the middle of the wheel you have a multifunction Ok/Play/Pause button, and at the corners of the wheel there are 4 other multifunction buttons to enable various controls and selections. In theory, you can use these 5 buttons without even a need for a wheel, but being able to scroll through selection or menu items or to adjust the volume with a wheel is just super cool! It gives an analog touch to the control and makes it feel more premium. At the same time, it's nice to know that function of analog wheel is duplicated with extra buttons which comes especially handy when you want to control your X5 without looking at the screen (skip, fast forward, pause, etc.).

    X5 is not just an eye candy outside, its a power house inside. In order to handle every available lossless format (DSD, APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, WAV) and all MP3s without skipping a beat, X5 is equipped with a dual core 600MHz Ingenics CPU which supports 192k sampling rate with 24B resolution. It also has asynchronous USB DAC functionality where you can use it as an external DAC for your laptop or computer. The internal power distribution uses quad-balanced power supply architecture to avoid any coupling noise from capacitors. Remember, power supply reference is very important in order to process a clean signal without any distortion. Also, it uses a very advance DAC/pre-amp/amp audiophile grade path (from reading digital audio to analog headphone output) with some of the top electronic components available on the market. And this is not just a statement. FiiO actually provided a detailed diagram of that path with part number of every component used in their circuit to support their claim. They even have a detailed screen shot with a layout of their PCB. These guys are definitely proud of their achievement and have nothing to hide!

    The storage for your music media is provided on two removable micro-SD cards. With a current firmware support, you can use 2x 64GB cards for a total of 128GB storage, and future fw upgrades promise a support of 256GB and 512GB. If you think about it, this is solid state storage, not a mechanical hard drive or internal memory that can never be upgraded or replaced. Here you have a total control of your storage with a smallest footprint media. You can either copy files using provided micro-SD adapter or connect X5 to your computer (select Storage instead of DAC mode), and copy files directly to your DAP. Once USB OTG connection will be available, most likely you will be able to connect an external usb storage, such as HDD or usb flash drive. Btw, when you are using X5 as external usb DAC or connected to copy files, it charges the device automatically. With a 3700 mAh internal battery, you get up to 15hr of interrupted play (which is going to be available with future fw update), while currently it works for approximately 11-12hr. Although charging from PC usb port is possible, I would recommend using external 2A wall charger for a faster speed.

    Once the battery is fully charged and you are ready to go, turn the power on and enjoy what comes up next! The crisp high resolution IPS screen has fantastic colors and highly visible from wide angles. It bring up a great visual since X5 is capable of displaying the song artwork or using a default background when playing your tunes. Also, there is an extensive amount of customization with a lot of options of how you want your DAP to function, under System Settings, to how you want it to play your songs, under Play Settings. It felt almost like I'm using my smartphone, the level of customization was that detailed. It even included a full readable manual of how to use X5. There are a lot of ways how you can play the songs, browse by favorites, play by category, browse folders, by artist, by album, etc. There is also a fantastic 10-band graphic EQ to fine tune your sound with included presets or by customizing it on your own, but in my opinion leaving it at Normal is the beauty to enjoy it's pure sound. I was very pleased to hear neutral signature of this DAP without any coloring of enhanced bass or treble, at least to my ears. This becomes especially apparent when you start switching your favorite set of headphones between different audio sources. The sound really comes alive!!! I can even tell you that listening from my Note 2 w/E18 and comparing it to X5, I found X5 to have a bit wider sound, more sparkle in high, better extension and control of lows, and overall a little bit more details across the whole frequency spectrum. Without a doubt, headphones play a significant role in sound quality, but if you are not driving it with a clean source - you can't polish a turd lol!!! If you look at the spec of X5, it has some very serious power of 460mW@16ohm and 28mW even at 300ohm driving the most demanding high impedance audiophile headphones. It also has low/high gain setting to boost output by additional 6dB, and with Line out you can even drive an external amp, if you desire.

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    Overall, to say that I was impressed with FiiO X5 would be an understatement. Since the day I got it, I have been trying to find every possible excuse to use it. This brings me to one very important question, why would I want to set aside my current setup of Galaxy Note 2 and E18? What I discovered, my current smartphone total integration has its positive and negative sides. It's convenient, no doubt about it. But in order to enjoy your music to a full potential, you need to tune out the outside world. Doesn't matter if you are listening to EDM, Pop, Rock, Rap, R'n'B, or Jazz or Classical. If you are relaxing and want to enjoy listening to the sound, you don't want to be interrupted by another email or text message or social media update or reminder to update an app. Smartphone is a jack of all trades, while X5 is a master of one - the PURE SOUND QUALITY. Based on what I have seen and heard while using one, and read from other audiophiles on head-fi.org, FiiO X5 achieved and mastered that goal quite well at the price which is a fraction of competition. In my opinion, if you decided to invest into high quality audiophile equipment and spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to achieve your goal - this little DAP will be an excellent investment. Or, if you are saving money for $700-$1000 DAP, don't be cautious by $350 price tag of X5 and give it a serious consideration!

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  2. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    For those who are interested, X5 is officially released and shipping worldwide!!!

    For US, you can check now: Micca Store and also soon to be available on Amazon.
  3. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    I don't have to tell you how much I love my X5. I stopped listening to music from my laptop or my Note 2 or other mp3 players, and it's all good when I'm using X5 at home. But when I want to take it to work or somewhere else on a go, I get paranoid how to pack it. The good news is that soon FiiO will be releasing a series of new X5 accessories, including different cases, but those are not available yet.

    For the last month I have been searching high and low to find a storage/transportation case for X5 and couldn't find anything until I came across a series of Micro Cases from Pelican. I'm sure a lot of your are familiar with Pelican cases, but for those who are don't, check out their website: Pelican Cases, Backpacks, Coolers, Flashlights - PelicanCases.com - they are worldwide known for tough rugged protector cases and shipping containers. Prior to this find, I wasn't aware they make such small cases, down to Micro series. Though I knew the dimensions of X5 and their Micro Series 1020 model (Pelican 1020 Case - PelicanCases.com) to be a perfect fitment, I also got for review 1010 model (Pelican 1010 Case - PelicanCases.com) just to be sure, and as it turned out it was a bit too small but still great for other gear storage (like headphones).

    What sets these Pelican cases apart is their extremely durable construction and IP67 rating. These cases are water resistant, dustproof, crushproof, and come with lifetime guarantee. They have an easy open latch, stainless steel hardware, removable rubber lining (which also works as o-ring), and one way air valve. As a bonus it comes with a carabiner, and there are two slots for lanyard attachment. One thing to keep in mind, X5 will be a little loose inside of 1020 case. This allows to add a few of your favorite IEMs and some cables, thus preventing it from moving around. Otherwise, you can add another piece of foam inside, or place X5 facing down toward the rubber lining to protect the screen and the scrolling wheel. Either way for about $15 (for 1020) and $13 (for 1010), it's a fantastic storage/carry option for X5 and your other small music accessories.

    Here are the pictures.

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  4. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    After doing a little mini-review of Pelican 1020 case for X5, I was suggested to get Pick'n'Pluck kit. I also got another case with a different color liner, so figured to post a few more pics. Basically, pick'n'pluck kit is perforated sponge material that you can shape for any opening. Since I'm using 1020 with X5, I didn't have to pluck anything and instead using it as a spacer to hold X5 firmly inside. Only $5 : Pelican 1022 Pick 'N' Pluck Foam - PelicanCases.com

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  5. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    A quick update I got from TekFX/Miccastore.

    X5 is finally back in stock and now they updated their order Page with Bundle options: http://www.miccastore.com/fiio-port...c-player-special-bundles-available-p-118.html

    where you can add HS stacking kit (for E12) for only $8, or add/purchase E12 in a bundle for $100, as well as adding HS8 silicone skin (red, blue, or yellow) for $3. They also have an option for 64GB Sandisk microSD for $36.
  6. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    This is a review of FiiO X5 official accessories. FiiO - coming in a few days to Micca Store

    X5 is one amazing Digital Audio Player, and FiiO was generous enough to include a few basic accessories together with a player. Though a few screen protectors and basic gray silicone case was a good start, now FiiO released an official line of accessories to dress up your X5 in style!

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    HS8 Silicone rubber case has the same design and quality of material as the included case, but now you have a selection of 4 additional colors, with blue one shown below

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    HS11 Back Cover is a minimalistic protection for those who don't want to hide a beauty of brushed metal finish and just want to protect the back and the sides of X5 from scratches. It wraps securely around the player, has clear light tinted sides, matte back finish, and a perfect cutout for volume up/down buttons. This back cover leaves top and bottom of X5 open for a full access to all the ports and power button.

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    HS9 Leather case has a synthetic smooth finish leather on outside and soft micro-fiber material on inside which protects X5 screen, wheel, and top buttons from scratches. Actually it looks like X5 holder inside of this leather case is a Back Cover securely attached to the case. It has a darker tint than stand alone back cover to match the darker color of the "leather". The cover of the leather case wraps around and closes securely with a magnetic strip. One unique feature of this case is an elongated bump inside the case which aligns with a volume buttons opening of the holder. So while being closed, you can push on outside of the case to change the volume or perform functions assigned to volume buttons.

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    HS7 Carry case is a dual-layer hard protective case with a double zipper and attached carabiner. The hard shell of the case feels secure enough to be placed in a backpack or carry bag or luggage when you are traveling. Also, it will protect your X5 if you want to clip the case to your backpack. Each inner side of the case has a net-woven pocket, and one additional smaller pocket for your SD cards on the right side. The pockets are generous enough to store X5 with a case, and even has a little bit of room for a short cable. This case makes a perfect companion to carry X5 together with a portable AMP like E12.

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  7. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    Some of you might be wondering how come I reviewed every single X5 accessory except for HS6 kit.

    HS6 kit, FiiO which is also available from MICCA Store (Micca Store : $14.99 - FiiO HS6 Stacking Kit for FiiO X5) official FiiO distributor in US, is designed for a clean interconnect of X5 to E12 amplifier. Both of these modules have a similar footprint, and it works out perfectly without a need for any sticky/velcro interconnect or use of rubber bands covering the screen and controls of X5. The design is very simple and quite brilliant where you have a slim plastic frame you place on top of X5 and use included pair of rubber bands to attach to the hooks at the corners of that frame. You also get 6 stick-on rubber feet to use as spacers between X5 and amp. But the star of this kit is 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio jumper cable!!!

    This cable alone worth every penny of this HS6 kit, which btw is under $15. The cable is made out of top class Japanese made pure PCOCC-A single core copper and braided shielding with silver plated OFC copper. The cable is short enough and for convenience the shielding already has a "memory" bend wire effect. The result? A serious improvement in sound quality in comparison to a regular 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. It was nice for FiiO guys to include basic black shielded cables with X5 and other amps/dacs, but those are generic cables. Switching to a cable from HS6 kit made a definite improvement in sound quality with additional level of details across entire frequency range.

    Though I don't have E12 amp, I just received E11k and been using it with this cable. Also for demonstration of how it works together, I used E18 in my testing. In every case, the sound improvement was evident.

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