Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fiio X5 Review: Flat Head

Special thanks to Fiio for this amazing chance to test the Fiio X5 that has not been released in global market (as of the time this review is written). X5 has been debuted as the next big thing in budget multi-functional DAP. Let's see how does it stand up to the test.


Packaging pic below is pre-release items. Final retail pack list of accessories are in list below the image.

I have to say that the accessories are quite complete, with everything you will need. The promo code is 15% off purchases from HDTracks, and is repeatable use.


The X5 gives a similarity looks to the IPod, but with more functions and slots to use. There are 2 microSD slots, Line out, Micro USB slot, and other illustrated in the pictures below.


Navigating through the X5 interface could get some used to. The top left button is the menu, top right is back, bottom left is a track backwards and bottom right is the forward. The center is clickable and the black region is actually a coarse scrolling wheel for navigations. I myself am not quite fond of such a layout, cause I intend to make press errors and get lost a while among the buttons that does different things when in different menu layouts. Later I also realized that while playing the center button can be pressed to pop up the volume dialog and use the scroll wheel to navigate audio volumes.


This category will be layout into 2 different sections. One for the DAC only on desktop config, while another on the Headphone output as a portable DAP. Coaxial is not used cause I don't have the use of it.

Line out

For the line out, I had it compared to my trusty old DACPort LX that I had for years, and find no reason of changing it. In direct comparison, LX has a much higher gain than of X5. The sound on the X5 is deeper but does require quite abit more volume on the amp to run it. 

Second point, the LX is a "right off the bat" plug and play, but the X5 needs their own driver pack to be downloaded and installed in order for it to work. It might be due to the feature of 24bit/192khz that requires the specific driver. The driver installed on Windows 7 without any hiccups. The X5 will show the sample rate of the song that is currently playing, which is a plus for me in particular.

Oh, and the X5 does charge while using as a dedicated DAC, which is convenient.
For this section, still my LX beats the X5, by gain and clarity, but technicality goes to X5. If you need the 24/192, this might be a good choice.

Headphone out

For this section, I'm using X5 with the Q460, which is my daily "on the go" headphone.


The treble on the headphone out is quite weak to say. There isn't as much clarity on the high notes as what I could hear on the Sansa Clip+ which makes me wonder how Clip+ can do something I was looking forward on the X5. The X5 is plain flat on the treble, which sounds a bit boring and lack of impact on some power  house songs. Clip+ brings the fun and energy more than X5 is able to.

X5: 0
Clip+ : 1

Vocal / Mids

Vocals are done very well on the X5, as vocals are supposed to be portrayed flat to showcase the actual voice of the singers. Any coloration beyond this point makes it sound nice, but unauthentic. Background singer voices doesn't cover the main singer's vocal, and in simple, X5 has great vocalist power for me.

The mid range area of instruments are generally still a flat, but has much more attraction for me. It's quite hard to describe it, but particularly favorite the mids on Justin Timberlake's songs and also Avenged Sevenfold.

X5: 1
Clip+: 1


Bass, I can say, is quite light weight. Not much mass on the bass region, as Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty has some serious bass pumps, and X5 just doesn't cut it. It is sometimes so light that it just feels absent. Quite sad on the case that X5 is priced in such a way that it only focuses on function and omits "taste" in their headphone output.
X5: 1
Clip+ : 2


All I can say is the X5 are for listeners who are purists to their music taste. They will demand everything is flat, so they can hear the characteristics of a mastering, but for average users, this might not be a great choice, and psychologically will make you feel that you have just wasted your money on something that dull. So, better be damm sure that flat music is what you are after, or not regrets might influence you.

At the meantime, I will stick to my Clip+ until the next big thing comes along.