Better, But: Fiio X5

fiio-x5

I love the sound of the new Fiio X5. A clear upgrade from the X3, the X5 sounds so much more cleaner, more spacious, and a blacker background too.

The first comparison I did was with my daily driver portable player, that is the AK100 Mk2. I enjoy the X5’s sound more than the Astell & Kern AK100 (Mk1 or Mk2 variants) though I have to admit that the Astell have more steps, more resolution, and easily sounds richer in the small details. For some reason the X5’s sound is less tiring and more analog. Certainly the Fiio sounds darker in tonality, though the brilliant clarity still shines through the black background of the music. It’s undeniable that the AK100s is a step up in resolving micro details, portraying ambiance, and seems to have far more steps in the gradients from soft to loud passages, but these strong points fail to dull the X5’s sound quality. The X5 felt more analog, somewhat like a poor man’s Altmann Tera. The superior depth of the X5 combined with the wider soundstage and blacker background, makes the music more palpable than on the AK, even if the X5 doesn’t resolve as much micro details as the AK. The X5 also sounds more planted on the low end, and I’m not talking bass presence here (though the Fiio’s bass slams harder), but rather a feeling of weight that gives each note in the music a more realistic feel.

The dynamic range is better on the AK (the steps from soft to loud passages), but the dynamics or the explosiveness is far stronger on the X5, even when driving easy IEMs from the lowly Visang, Ocharaku’s Donguri, to the mighty FitEar MH335DW. My verdict between the AK100 (Mk1 or Mk2) and the X5, in this case, is that while the AK resolves more, the X5 makes a more lifelike music.

Talking about the X5 and the Ibasso DX50, I easily would choose the X5’s sound over the DX50 every single time. The DX50 is clean, smooth and spacious, but as I’ve written on the DX50 review, I find the dynamics and dynamic range rather constricted on the Ibasso. I don’t know what caused the Ibasso to be like that, but it severely hurts the performance of the DX50. Side by side with the DX50, the X5 matches everything that’s good about the DX50’s sound, while adding more depth, dynamics, and range. It’s a clear win for the Fiio.

Just to give an idea of where things stand now in terms of SQ, it’s: X3 < DX50 < X5 < AK100 Mk1 < AK100 Mk2

Now I want to move on to talk about other aspects of the player.

The player is rather big and in person it’s definitely bigger than it looks on pictures. For some reason, I know we use to live with players like the HM-801 and not complain. But these days, the AK is my benchmark player in terms of overall day-to-day usability and the X5 comes out a little too big. Not HM-801 big that I’m going to get mocked carrying it around, but the X5 definitely doesn’t win any favours from me just because it’s so big by today’s standards. I think the DX50 is the maximum limit of what I’m willing to live with these days when it comes to portable players.

The build quality is good and I love the semi-gloss finish on the front and sides, but I can’t understand why Fiio has to finish the back with that hairline anodised finish that falls totally out of place in this piece of sleek modern design. As nice as the overall player is, it doesn’t feel as refined as the Ibasso DX50 or Astell players and so in that sense it’s still fairly disappointing to see the X5 that looks very nice in the computer renderings coming out not as refined as I had hoped.

The user interface is another “why” point for me. Why oh why do they have to try so hard to make an UI that’s simply not intuitive to use? Or why oh why do they have to try to mimic Apple: the king of the UI world? It’s like going to the Voice and choosing a song usually sang by Michael Buble. You know you’re just gonna make yourself sound worse than you really are.

In comparison, the Ibasso DX50 is very easy to use with its large Play/Forward/Back controls on the front. One of the beef people have with the X3 is in its controls and the way the buttons are laid out, and the X5 seems to be repeating the same mistake. Who designs the UI for Fiio, by the way?

The Jog dial on the X5 rotates a little too loose to navigate the menus and songs, and one control that I expect it to do, it doesn’t: volume level. We all know how jog dials rotate to adjust volume levels as we all grew up with the Ipod. That should be the one thing they implemented, then they can afford to loose the volume button on the side too! And don’t get me started about the four corner buttons that nobody knows what they do when you press them. Yes, eventually you’ll figure the four buttons out, but why do they have to make it so un-intuitive?

Read more on the next page

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  • Dave Ulrich

    That’s too bad. I was really hoping for this one to be a home run.

  • George Lai

    If only Tim Cook was a Headfonia reader. It takes so little to just upgrade the DAC and amp in an iPod Classic and make an iPod Pro.

    • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

      You will be remembered for this one…

      • George Lai

        My claim to fame ;-)

  • GettCouped

    Mike may not be ecstatic over the product, but it is a great product. It all depends how much value you place on appearance and adjusting to a new UI.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Well said.It looks like it’s mostly the UI that kills it for Mike. Personally I don’t need much UI as I just put it on shuffle all the time

      • George Lai

        I don’t use Shuffle except when I’m in the gym. I listen to one whole album at a time so what is crucial for me is, firstly, how easy is it to transfer albums from iTunes on a Mac, and secondly, how easy is it on the X5 to sort through list of albums or list of artists?

      • GettCouped

        Agreed, shuffle is all I need as well.

        Food for thought. I think Mike placed a tiny too much emphasis on embedded internal storage. However, FiiO has dual TF card slots. This currently allows 128 GB and up to 512 GB with future updates. It also allows you to choose the class (speed) on your flash memory. Yes that increases the price, but the option of completely swap-able storage, at the speed and size (128GB now 512GB later) you wish to invest, is something that, to my knowledge, no other DAP offers right now. In my opinion, that is a great value and feature on the X5.

        I think Mike makes a great point. Many people expect homeruns, but I think we should be satisfied with consistent improvements and hopefully some innovation.

        • Dave Ulrich

          Mike wrote his review based on what is important to him. From reading the review, I’m not sure they would bother me as much as they did him, but he did a good job with both the strengths and weakness as he saw it.

          • GettCouped

            Just for clarity sake, I think it is a good review.

    • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

      If I may, UI tells a person where a company is and where they will go. If a company flip-flaps all over the place and remakes UI from one device to another, it means you, as the customer, have to relearn a new interface each time. It also means that the company has no cohesion. It’s not a looks thing, it really is a support/ergonomic thing.

      Fiio could have designed a UI that works and then is adaptable to their brand, rather than designing a UI that works on one device only and is completely different to another device from the same company. When you have little design cohesion, you have little to hold to into a plan. You are listless.

      Anyone can make a good-sounding player. Very few can make a good-sounding player into a player that anyone would want to use. The X5 may be a great sounding player. The X3 sure is. But why remake completely from device to device?

      The reason is that the first device was so ill conceived from a haptics standpoint that had to. First, make a great-to-use design, that anyone can pick up and figure out. Then design products around that interface so that your great sound can be great to use.

      Do NOT remake and redesign every generation in order to fit your bill as a maker of bold things that fit in your hand and sound good. That is the biggest problem with audiophile DAP makers. They have no idea of how to make something work well.

      • GettCouped

        I think you do not give credit to how difficult UI design is.

        The X3 was FiiO’s first DAP and the X5 is their follow up. They are trying to figure out their own identity and create a unique but intuitive interface. Also, you have to market the product in such a way that people want to learn it. Half of the success of Apple is great design and the other half is great marketing and branding that makes people want to learn their design decision.

        “Fiio could have designed a UI that works and then is adaptable to their brand, rather than designing a UI that works on one device only and is completely different to another device from the same company.”

        This statement makes UI sound like a checkmark on a list rather than the extreme undertaking that it really is.

        • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

          It is an extreme undertaking, but the creating of an excellent audiophile device that meets demands of both sound fans and fans of music and simplicity in haptics, are also a lot of work.

          The current players are very nice sounding players, but not a one handles as simply as a CD player does. Again, anyone can design a good-sounding player. So it should be the primary goal to create a very good handling interface first that will be a joy to use. Then, adapt your feature/sound set around what you offer the customer that truly is unique.

          • GettCouped

            I think the primary goal of a music player is to play music. Sorry for being the devil’s advocate, but there are limited resources and UI designers are VERY expensive and very hard to find. Also, It is very unfair to minimize the effort and undertaking into mass-producing a high quality, great sounding, but low cost device, comparatively speaking.

            FiiO is known for making extremely high value and well built audio enabling devices. That’s what they are good at. This is their first generational foray into UI design and there will obviously be a lot of learning and growing going on.

            No UI starts out perfect. Iteration is the key. I think looking at the X3 UI and comparing it to the X5 is a preliminary look at FiiO’s direction. Let’s face it there isn’t a large enough sample size that can show a complete direction in UI.

            There are companies that have been making DAPs for a decade and still have terrible UI design. All we can hope for is that we deliver good feedback to FiiO and they are able to decipher our, largely ametuer, pain points and interate on their current design either through firmware upgrades or the next X7, X5.2 etc

            It is pertinent to really think about the company you are speaking of and the strengths they have demonstrated to formulate a reasonable expectation of their products.

            I would like to say that I value our conversation and I think it is a healthy debate in expectation and empathy of FiiO as a company.

            • dalethorn

              I don’t care that much about the UI per se, but I find it disturbing that everyone is ducking my question: Can I skip from the ‘B’s to the ‘S’s directly without scrolling or having to do massive useless work building playlists? I want to play some tracks beginning with “Beethoven” then skip immediately to “Sibelius”. Can I or not?

              • GettCouped

                Why are you reposting your question in this tree? Why are you framing your question with a dismissive and demanding tone? Do you expect people to reply when you are showing this behavior?

                • dalethorn

                  Just answer the question and quit trying to evade the question with this sort of distraction. If you know that what I ask is impossible, just admit it.

                  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                    Come on guys, take it easy we’re all nice people here.

                    Dale you have no idea how much I appreciate your work in the comments section, I really do and thank you for everything. but in al honesty that post had an aggressive ring to it. i would reply to it if I could but I don’t have the X5, sorry man. Keep up the nice posts

                    • dalethorn

                      It does seem aggressive since I’ve posted it several times in several forums, and so far, nobody will deal with the question. Thanks anyway.

                    • Dave Ulrich

                      Possible you have stumbled onto a massive conspiracy. The fate of the world could be held in the balance by that question.

                    • dalethorn

                      So instead of answering a very simple question, you choose to insult the readers here?

                      Edit: For non-US readers, injecting “conspiracy” into a discussion is an insult.

                    • Dave Ulrich

                      I meant that as a joke… I have no experience with X5, or else I would answer.

                    • dalethorn

                      Thanks Dave, but given what L said and the other person’s nervousness, I just wanted to be very careful to keep this one on topic. Cheers.

                    • GettCouped

                      I’m not nervous. It was just your interjecting into a conversation with a very aggressive nature. If people aren’t responding to you, perhaps you should evaluate how you are communicating. Assuming people are dodging your question or even understand your frame of mind and past experiences without communicating, is strange.

                      “I don’t care that much about the UI per se, but I find it disturbing that everyone is ducking my question: Can I skip from the ‘B’s to the ‘S’s directly without scrolling or having to do massive useless work building playlists? I want to play some tracks beginning with “Beethoven” then skip immediately to “Sibelius”. Can I or not?”

                      You respond to a conversation and say you don’t care about it. You say we are ducking a question you haven’t asked us directly yet. Then you give much finality of “Can I or not” without even knowing if we have even used the devices.

                      I hope this can be helpful to you to so you can improve your communication to get answers to your questions.

                      Personally, I haven’t even touched the X5 and it isn’t even out in the US. So maybe that is the reason people aren’t answering your specific question.

                    • dalethorn

                      Wow – we’ve gone from defensive to downright hostile, haven’t we? Now I have to wonder about your agenda. Something tells me it’s not about informing people of things. Informing is what I do, and that I do for free as well as giving away a lot of gear.i

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      Dale, replied on the original question. Bottom line, no I haven’t found a way to navigate by alphabet.

                    • dalethorn

                      Thanks Mike. I expected it would be a simple technical question, but it grew into something else entirely. I had asked another famous reviewer several times elsewhere, and got several answers, but none that addressed the question. Perhaps this is an inherent limitation of portable players that don’t provide a virtual alpha keyboard?

        • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

          Couped, I’m replying here so that the tree doesn’t dive off the page too much. I think we agree in a general sense. As an employer and a sometime interface designer, I understand how big the job is. I understand that there are very few good, simple, ergonomic UI designs out there.

          I also agree with all the positives you list for the Fiio brand. I have dug Fiio amps since their first E series. Iteration is key, but so is patience. I think that too many audiophile companies look at what is released on the market and think, “I can do that, too,” rather than releasing only when a product is fully ready.

          By ready, I mean as easy to use as a circa 2002 iPod was. No one is expecting the same great iTunes integration, but as a customer, I think it is fair to expect an audiophile company (who is focused on audio products for music lovers) to design a simple interface for the music lover, not for the tech lover. The problem is that many if not most audiophile DAPs face is that they are catered to tech lovers.

          And there is always rockbox, though that necessitates opening the hardware to the community and opens a whole other bag of worms.

          I value Fiio’s work very much. The X3 came to market too soon. X5 is closer what could be considered a benchmark product, but it is still too far from the goal of melding simplicity and quality.

          EDIT: all of that is to say that iteration is great, but MK2’s and MK3’s that make up for a MK1’s product faults, are not good for the company’s image or for the customer, who must purchase a MK2 to get what s/he expected early on. Patience and perseverance are hard virtues to implement into a hardware line, but they are of paramount importance.

          • GettCouped

            Interesting. I just had a thought. What if it isn’t that the DAPs are catered to tech people, but created by technical people?

            • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

              I think that any DAP out there will have to be created by a technical person. Not anyone can whip up an amp/DAC/software/hardware interface. In fact, not every technical person can, or should.

              If possible, a completely tech illiterate person should stand on the design board with a goo word to say: ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to designs that are obviously engineered with the techy, who just wants the power, in mind. Give the power, but don’t take away from the accessibility of the design.

              • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                And don’t forget apple probably has hundreds working on their gear, unlike Fiio

                • dalethorn

                  I’m a long-time developer, and what goes on in development is not what’s described in most cases here. The best developers are not that expensive – just read Dilbert and you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of what really goes on. Graphic UI has been worked over and beaten to death for decades now, so the reasons offered for lack of functionality are pure speculation, and usually wrong. Companies who issue these products, whether Apple or FiiO, have their own reasons for what goes into the product, and those are always bureaucratic decisions that wouldn’t translate well for customers. In fact, the more expensive developers are the ones with a good song and dance, but they’re rarely productive. Most of them juggle multiple projects to maximize their personal take, but the projects suffer from lack of attention and competence.

                  • bladerunner6978

                    yes, and that is most evident by the multitude of “crap” out there today.

                • bladerunner6978

                  I agree,
                  That pretty well sums in ALL up in a nutshell, and apparently, according to a couple reviewers of the X5, over at head-fi, when you scroll the dial-wheel to the right, the icons/coverflow go to the left instead,… ? I mean, wtf is that. That’s not a bug, or issue, that is plain horrible UI design.
                  steering-wheel in car ? -need I say more ?

                  I have had my iPOD Classic-160Gig since ’07, but now, all I want is at least 96/24 capability along with full flac support, AND lots of cheap storage, BUT, it’s gotta have a bullet-proof “UI” -or forget it.

                  Apple had got it right for over 10 years, and that is more than enough time for these $1000/DAP mf’ers to give us something that is atleast BETTER!, especially in “UI”.
                  But this is also the conclusion, they can NOT really do it. why? -I dunno.
                  It’s hard to improve on an already perfect “UI”, such as Apples.
                  But for gawd sakes, can they atleast DO THE SAME !?, and lets be done with it.
                  Nobody, (except for spoiled little Junior’s) is gonna spend $1000 on a DAP that is still not quite ready yet with ti’s “UI”. It’s regurgitated crap -done the not so right way, yet again.
                  get it? “…not quite right…” -just like Supertramp has already told US, once already.
                  How many times do these vulturous DAP-makers need to hear the continuous writing on “The Wall” ?
                  ;)

                  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                    That’s quite the rant, but a good one for that.

                  • SallyMaeSusan

                    Having thoroughly done my research, there is NO way I’m going to buy into the Hi-Res market; Monty on xiph.org killed that one off in one excellent and scientific essay (‘Why 24/192 downloads are very silly indeed’).

                    • Dave Ulrich

                      I agree. They are expensive and they take up more space. It’s all about how well it was recorded.

              • bladerunner6978

                LoL, this UI talk reminds me of something my mom said to a home Contractor/Builder years ago, “… you nevermind your big ideas about our Kitchen, or Bathroom. The problem with older houses is that they were designed by men, who neither know how to design a kitchen nor how to use it, and neither know how to design a bathroom, nor clean it !…”
                haha, the Contractor’s face went red, and he never came back, anyway, it was funny at the time.

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  unless you just use shuffle on DAPs like me :D

      • Rinx7

        Fiio is working on making a unified UI system using the scroll wheel and the UI that they are using currently in the X5. They have plans of releasing a newer version of the X3 called the X3K that uses the scroll wheel the same UI as the X5, and have another player in development called the X1 that will also have a scroll wheel and the X5 UI.

        If anything with the X5 Fiio is taking the first step in consolidating their UI and building a brand image for their portable players. I think it is understandable that the UI of the X5 has some quirks with tagging, sorting and usability, but they haven’t messed up with where it really counts which is with base platform stability and performance a field where many other “audiophile” DAPs falter. Most of the current problems that the UI can be worked around and are likely to be fixed in the near future since the core software itself seems rather stable.

        • http://ohm-image.net/ ohm image

          I am most glad to hear this. It would have been even awesomer had they worked on it prior to the X3, but I’m glad to hear that they are attempting to unify the series. Easy to use controls, great handling, great file/browsing support, and great sound a great player do make.

          • Rinx7

            Yeah I think the reason that the X3 did use it is that the design for it is actually quite old. Apparently the design of it actually predates the E17.

      • George Lai

        And on a totally unrelated note, (okay slightly related in a tangential way), I just bought 3 Philips-branded silicon cases for the old iPod Video which fits my 3 iPod Classics for US$2.37 (a blister pack of 3). It’s great Apple did not “remake and redesign” each generation of the iPod ;-)

  • dalethorn

    When I have a thousand tracks alphabetized from A to Z, can I jump immediately to any track beginning with ‘A’, or ‘J’, or ‘W’ — without having to scroll through a long list? In other words, just like Apple players.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I haven’t found a way to do that. Have to scroll manually. Maybe I’m missing something, check the HF thread?

  • Dave Ulrich

    How is the headphone out on the X5? With what headphones does it work well.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Tried it with LCD-2, HD650, HD25-1, all were properly powered with the X5 but I’ve been listening too much with expensive amps it’s hard to be impressed.

      The X5’s HO is more powerful than the AK players though

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    I just READ that you can adjust the volume with the wheel Mike. You have to push it for a second and then the Volume interface pops up in locked mode.

    Not sure if that changes your idea of the player, probably not.

    The Head-Fi people in the X5 thread don’t like you saying it’s isn’t that good of a player, especially your AK100 comments are not appreciated lol. “He hated it and now he loves it” kind of stuff.

    I believe you about the UI because the X3’s UI isn’t great either, I can’t comment on the sound though but I am hooked on ipod + Cypher Labs anyway. One of the best setups.

    • Dave Ulrich

      Mike isn’t the only one I heard say that the AK100 mk2 is a noticeable improvement over mk1. Of course, you guys can’t say ANYTHING right it would seem sometimes…

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        That’s life. Haters usually are more vocal ;-)

  • 1lazysheep

    why oh why did you spend almost the entire article comparing the X5 ($~350) to the AK100 ($700)? i would think that a DAP costing TWICE as much would be better in almost every way. i understand the AK100 is your daily DAP, but wouldn’t be more fair/relevant to compare it to other DAPs in the same price range as the X5 (i know there are more than just the DX50)?

    both my MKV GTI and the Ferrari 458 Italia are gas-burning vehicles that lean towards performance. however, i would never compare the Italia (if i had the chance) with my own car and be critical of my GTI because it doesn’t perform as well or doesn’t look as good. the Ferrari is in another league and comparing it to my GTI would be ridiculous.

    i’ve been a reader of this blog a long time. this is the first article i’ve thoroughly NOT enjoyed. it seemed rushed and is NOT a fair comparison. i know you can do better.

    • D.r. Hilerio

      The AK100’s street value is closer to $500. Besides that, I think it’s very fair to compare the top DAP’s at the moment. Just to get a true sense of what value you are getting for the price in the mid-tier to $1000 bracket. Also, I don’t think the sweet spot in terms of the price for a top DAP under $1000 is settled. With the release of the X5 and DX90, hopefully that sweet spot gets lower and lower, which is better for the consumer.

      • 1lazysheep

        besides ebay, i haven’t seen it for less than $700 online (MKI). if you can show me where i can get one for $500 (new, from an authorized dealer), i would seriously consider buying one.

  • D.r. Hilerio

    Thanks for the invaluable DAP comparisons. I’m personally deciding between the X5, AK100, and the upcoming DX90, which I hope you are planning to review in the future.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Dr.

      I have no sight of when the DX90 will come to my hands. Will definitely keep an eye for it.

    • K.

      Hello, I was just wondering if you had in the end decided on a DAP, and which criteria you used….thanks

      • D.r. Hilerio

        I held off purchasing a DAP and got a smartphone (Note 3) instead, which can play mastering files and sound decently with the M100 and Momentum. I do have my eye on the ZX1 because it does appear to have strong built, UI, battery life, file capacity and some say similar sound to the DX100, at least, in terms of sound stage and tonality. Just lacks some power.

        • K.

          Thanks for the reply D.r. I found that quite a few smartphones do play well with the M100 (thanks Mike!) but not so much with others, hence the hunt for the perfect DAP ;-). I have tried the ZX1, quite liked it, but wasn’t in complete awe, mostly because I find that with the music I listen to, I needed something warmer. Good luck!

  • Peter

    How about the one from Sony, any comparisons made?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I still dont have the Sony on hand, sorry

  • Turok Rock

    For the first time ever, I am sorry that I read your review.

    It clearly shows how “Profit Margin” changes people, Bye headfonia.

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/661411/fiio-x5-thread-info-updated-on-jan-17th-2014/4365#post_10256056

    • Tronco

      Mike made a clear statement about the sound quality and the UI (Sound ok, UI not). Why does there have to be a “Profit Margin” reason? If there was, he would be recommending the HM-901 which is the most expensive DAP in the shop. And for sure he wouldn’t mention the Altmann Tera.

      You can agree with his view or not, but I don’t think your comment is fair.

      • Turok Rock

        Yes thank you for letting me know that, I respect your opinion and I said what I felt after reading the review , twice.
        His review was not “Fair”.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          You’re making no sense man. Sorry

          • Turok Rock

            No need to be sorry, we are here to read and comment .

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Goodbye Turok. If you can’t handle your fav product getting a not so great review you better stay away indeed. How hard is it to understand the store and site are not related? Do you really think Mike would just push the most expensive product whether it sounds good or bad? Come on…

      • Turok Rock

        X5 is not my favorite, The ZX1 is.

        • GettCouped

          Well, when you start the post conversation in the manner you did, what would you expect the response to be?

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            I’m a fan of your replies overall. keep up the posts

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Bye Turok.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        Done.

  • SallyMaeSusan

    Thanks for the review; it read well.
    There generally seems to be a consensus that many of these devices fall down on the UI.
    All of this continually steers me towards something like an AK10, when and if they make it compatible with 30 pin, so I can feed it with my Classic or iPhone.
    My worry is, that even the AK10 will not sound sufficiently better; I’m referring to the luke-warm reception given to the AK100 by PC Magazine…

    • George Lai

      Instead of the AK10, consider the slightly more expensive ADL X1 which can take Lightning and 30-pin using any standard non-proprietary cable.

      • dalethorn

        I ordered the Beyer A200p today, which is the U.S. version of the AK10(?) – so I’m going to find out if I can mate it with my 30-pin devices.

        • George Lai

          Yes I believe the A200P is an OEM version made for Beyer. I gather from some other website that “Also, EU buyers beware: the EU version of the A200p has only 150 mVrms and is only recommended for ≤ 32 Ω, whereas the US version has 1,7 Vrms and is recommended for ≤ 600 Ω (source: beyerdynamic.de)”. I’d be surprised if you can mate it to the 30 pin but good luck.

      • SallyMaeSusan

        Thank you, George; I’ll check it out.

        • George Lai

          And it’s the only DAC Amp I know of that if you connect your iPhone headphone out jack to it, you can still make and receive calls. Of course in that case you won’t be using the X1 DAC.

  • bladerunner6978

    The Ibasso DX50 maybe easier to use but look at it’s price LoL – 899 smackeroo’s ?! -well now, that is just a ridiculous amount of money.

    The X5 is atleast thankfully the same price as an iPOD Classic 160-Gig. -except that the X5 has infinitely better quality.
    I just wish they would also put a “real” harddrive in these things, similar to the iPOD-160Gig, instead of these plastic sandisk cards that can break off in it, …

    • Dave Ulrich

      The dx50 is $240. Where is it $899? I think the X5 looks very interesting, although I do agree about the lack of built in storage.

      • bladerunner6978

        Thanks,
        my bad, sry I meant the DX100.
        Actually in CAN, the DX50 is around $400 ?, but still I can’t even find it now, on amazon(.ca).

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I know what you’re saying, DAP prices are going through the roof lately. I never got used to the X3 because of the UI and the SQ. So I still use an ipod and Cypherlabs. In that regard I can’t fully agree the Fiios sound better cause in that setup the idevice is only a storage unit

      X5 storage: Dual TF card slots – Supports up to 256GB (128GB×2), will support for 512GB, 1024GB, etc. with future firmware upgrades

      • bladerunner6978

        thanks,
        btw, FAT32 is useless on anything bigger than 400Gig ? unless there is easy to “partition” it prior ?
        I still don’t get it, why, oh why, do all these DAP makers stick with this FAT32 crap?.
        Why not NTFS, or better yet, why not ext2/3/4, or even xfs.? -they’re ALL free to use and implement, except of course for ntfs.

        • inquisitorthreefive

          I’m a little late to the party, but whatever. First off, I think you’re mixing up things with FAT32. FAT32 can support partition up to 2 terabytes, but has a maximum file size of 4gb. There was a 32gb partition size limit in place on Windows… XP, I think it was, in order to force people onto NTFS.

          But it doesn’t really matter. The newer flash cards such as Micro SDXC use exFAT, which allows for files and partitions of immense size, many terabytes in both cases.

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            I’ve had several ex-Fat cards – 64 and 128 gb sizes, and while they can be formatted as Fat32, they suffer from buffer overruns and errors when copying large amounts of data to them in one session. An example would be 1000 files, each just 5 mb in size. I haven’t tried that using the native ex-Fat format, but I suspect the errors would occur there too. These cards were probably QC’d for camera use or other ad-hoc file accumulation, and copying large amounts of FLAC etc. files to an ex-Fat card at one time might not have been in the design.

            • inquisitorthreefive

              I think you’re probably right that bunches and bunches of files copying at once probably weren’t in the original design specs. However, I’ve done some of that mass copying as well, having to rebuild my whole music collection from an old Ipod classic and moving to an SD-card based solution. The only time I’ve had similar problems has been with counterfeit SD cards which sort of loop back and overwrite earlier data despite their “larger” size. Any chance you’re running into something similar?

              • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                I’ve had every flash card made since the early 90’s, and this behavior occurred occasionally with the early flash cards, but since then most all flash cards have been reliable, with the exception of the MicroSD in sizes of 64 gb and higher. The 128 gb MicroSD was delayed a long time beyond the announce date – more than a year, so I have a feeling they got it to the level of “good enough” and then pushed it out the door.

                If a user is going to copy a good-size collection of lossless files to MicroSD’s that are ex-Fat natively, I’d suggest monitoring the copy process carefully, then verify the files after the copy is done. The copy program may also make a difference. I don’t use the Mac copy since the Mac O/S creates an unacceptable number of temp files on the media.

  • zeissiez

    Earlier when I was using Westone w4r, I did an AB comparison of X5 and AK100, and I concluded that X5 was lacking impact in the bottom, while AK100 was more energetic. However, when I got my Shure 846 last week, and I found X5 is actually a DAP of one level up in SQ compared to AK100. The soundstage is much wider, and the background was darker , the sound is less congested and transparency is at a higher level. Having said that, I don’t think X5 is a good match for w4r, as w4r is very neutral and the bass impact is a bit lacking. However, X5 and 846 are a match made in heaven!!! 846 is already warm and thick enough, and the bass for me is a bit too standout from the mid and high on other DAPs. The X5, being neutral and very clean and having a big soundstage, provide a good match and balance with 846, making the overall sound very balance, big sounding, highly transparent and at the same time fun. About the size, I think there’s is no getting away from it, after using HM901, AK100, DX50, C4, X5, I have come to the conclusion that bigger DAPs always sound better than the smaller DAPs. So I have to accept the big size.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thanks for the informative post

  • George Lai

    I saw an X5 at a shop this afternoon and played with it. I deliberately did not ask for advice just to see if the UI was intuitive. Suffice to say it wasn’t so I didn’t even bother to plug in my headphones. It is still the iPods and iPhones for me. Whatever people might say about their sound quality (perceived or otherwise) doesn’t bother me the least.

    • dalethorn

      For outdoor use or on public transport the i-device SQ should be fine. How much fine detail can you hear on the bus anyway? At home I plug in the AK10/Beyer A200 DAC for the fine detail. I do wish I could afford the Theorem720 because it’s better, but after a few bars of Raw Power by Iggy Pop, the fine details seem to melt into the background, so maybe the AK10 is good enough.

      • George Lai

        Indeed Dale Indeed. For example when I’m listening to old Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf recordings, it’s more a question of amp power if I’m using harder-to-drive headphones than DAC quality, SQ, soundstage etc etc so an LOD out of an iDevice into an amp is more than enough.

        • George Lai

          And just a few minutes ago, I was enjoying a track on my iPod and wanted to listen to it again. The screen was already off but I just click on the 9 o’clock part of the iPod wheel and Bob’s your uncle as they say. What price simplicity? Wonderful.

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            and it does that even in shuffle mode!!

            • George Lai

              And you can feel the wheel when the iPod is inside your pocket too.

              • dalethorn

                The modern iPods and iPhones are far better than most people realize. Here’s just a few things: The HP pocket computers (AI language no less!) are available now as mere apps on i-devices. The Audioforge EQ app isn’t limited to mere tone balances – it will remove the ‘closed’ headphone colorations. Document storage by (example) Air Sharing allows reading all formats I deal with, and even transfers other files like huge zips to computers that aren’t connected to the Internet. Photos can be loaded in alphabetical order in any number of folders, making it easy to find a photo in the midst of thousands in a couple of seconds. Sound quality is good, and can be connected to DACs and many other amps. Personal videos, music videos, …. any videos can be stored together as “home videos”, all in one place, in alphabetical order for instant recall. Mail accounts can be configured without tech knowledge, and they can all be on one Mailbox list for instant access to any account. Passwords are never a problem since the passwords are sent automatically each time you open mail. The telephone on iphones. Full and complete dictionaries. Full Internet (except for sites that prevent full screen access).

      • George Lai

        Hello Dale. The iRiver website has a firmware update for the AK10 for 24bit/96KHz support if using FLAC player or Onkyo HF player on an iPhone 5. I’ve updated it and now it’s outputting my 44.1 and 48 KHz MP3 and AAC files as 96 KHz PCM. I don’t know what it all means though. http://www.iriver.com/company/notice_view.asp?sno=76&irTop=0

        • dalethorn

          Sometimes the up-rez can sound better depending on the algorithm that interpolates the data, and the ‘magic’ they apply for smoothing the edges. Just don’t ask anyone for details on those algorithms. I always play WAV format when it’s available, since I don’t trust dynamic decompression to be perfect. My players barely get along with WAV tracks and the usual 1000 ms buffers without glitching, and adding a decompression burden puts another possible glitch in there. At least with the AK10 it’s less of a computer than computers (i.e., so far until they put a regular operating system in).

    • Raskoln

      Yeah the whole point about devices like iPods is their user-friendliness in having lots of music in one ‘place’ & ease of access to that music. Surely it should be obvious to any manufacturer that that ease of use/access is the first priority BEFORE turning to sq. That’s simply the nature of such devices, & also surely it’s not a big deal to get right. Not that I know anything about programming, surely we’re just talking about a basic filing system. How can one go wrong?

    • SallyMaeSusan

      Jim Rockwell has some exceedingly positive things to say about iPods and iPhones.
      I too still enjoy all my music directly off pods and phones but make the most of it with good quality IEMs and well mastered recordings in ALAC or AAC/256.

      • dalethorn

        The sound quality and soundstage of an iPod/iPhone improves greatly with just an inexpensive headphone amp like the FiiO E07k, using an LOD cable from i-device to analog (Aux) input. Then there is another jump in quality of detail, easily noticeable, using a decent DAC/amp like the Beyer A200p or AK10. But I never use those amps in outdoor portable mode, because those extra details are buried in the much higher outdoor ambient noise level.

      • George Lai

        Agreed. And I leave the FLAC and DSD listening for home use.

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  • Matthew Wingert

    Given the X5’s price ($350 USD), audio file format support including ALAC, standalone DAC feature, build quality, and SQ, I could stand the learning curve of the FiiO UI. Also, there is a good chance the UI will be tweaked for more ease of use in future firmware upgrades given customer and reviewer feedback.

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    Fiio has now released an update for the Firmware:

    http://www.fiio.com.cn/news/index.aspx?ID=100000161765444&page=1

  • Chi-Hwa Michael Ting

    Trying to understand what the conclusion means in the context of my use in this audio hobby. The X5 is 1/2 the price of the AK100mk2 and more to the sexy ZX1. Sounds like the SQ isn’t far off would you say the X5 is a good choice considering the price if one just wants to enjoy music at this quality and able to carry a decent sized library? There is no point to look for a better UI than Apple, but when each GB cost so much and working with large files, its $ we all rather spend on other gears. I don’t really think iDevice strapped with a DAC/amp with interconnect that looks like C4 is exactly portable and cost effective.

  • Harry

    For all those who compare this player to iPod. Even don’t try.

    I compared SQ. The difference is huge.

    If you need fancy toy buy an ipod if you need good sound then buy something like this device.

    UI is not that bad. I read reviews for this device and expected something really terrible. But it is NOT. It IS good. It took me one single evening to learn all those buttons and to be familiar with this player.

    Actually I hate iPod interface. I hate itunes. I’d rather open any file browser and copy my files without silly synchronizations e.t.c.

    • Al McDowall

      “I’d rather open any file browser and copy my files ”

      This this this. A million times this. I know how I want my stuff organised, just let me take care of it. +1 to you Harry.

  • Eric Thompson

    That EQ! Does it work good? The AK’s only have a 5 band.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I don’t even use the EQ on my AKs

    • Al McDowall

      Hey man, sorry this is so late, just trawling around looking at X5 stuff.

      So, the EQ. I’m on the latest firmware and (I’m sorry to say) basically no it doesn’t.
      There are all sorts of reasons and caveats which you can read elsewhere but the simplest explanation is this:

      The EQ will certainly affect the sound but due to the way it cuts the overall level and however they process the frequency changes, it’s not in a good way. I have played and tweaked and massaged and at the end of it all, I’d rather leave the EQ off.

      That said, the sound reproduction is just lovely! The only thing I would like to do is occasionally add a little bass. Just a little more, that’s all!

      So my solution will be to make a CMOY amp with a bass boost option. You could invest in one of the Fiio amps to achieve the same result (plus the extra power of course) but I can’t justify the purchase. The sound from the X5 is plenty loud, beautiful and clean. A slightly wider sound stage and a touch more bass (on occasion) are all that I would ask but I’m nit-picking.

      Brilliant player, very very pleased I bought it!

      • Eric Thompson

        So basically its just like apples EQ

  • Eli Segal

    Hi!

    Today, I’m using iPod+71A combo and I really like the sound signature, I also like the way that 71A handles bass which helps to refine the bass on my MDR1R.
    But, this combo is big and heavy and I want something smaller and lighter when I’m not home. I’m using HD25/MDR1R/SE215 on the go and HD650/MS1 at home (I don’t mind using an amp when I’m home)
    What do you think would be best for me? X5? AK100? staying with my current rig?

    Thanks!
    Eli

  • Eyal1983

    Hi!
    Is there a solution for viewing files NOT in English ? (for ex. HEB)

  • Eric Thompson

    DX90 review in the loop? or new hifi-man stuff?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      yes

  • Dragi Matic

    Is this comments section hijacked by a Ifanboys ?! The fact that you even mention any I device commenting on a Hi Fidelity player review says it all. If you are so damn happy with the sound of an Ipod gwhy are you even here?

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Do you mean that Headfonia is supposed to be elitist?

      • Dragi Matic

        Not necessarily. However, you can’t be serious about great sound of you try to line Ipod against serious music listening devices. I agree that Cowon X7,X9 and Ibasso DX 50 can drive you nuts, but where they excel is when you hook then up to the good pair of headphones and load them with high quality files. Ipod can’t do that without help by external amps, therefore had no place amongst HiFi gear.Flashy UK UI is not everything.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          I agree the iPods are not very hi-fi as is. Even using an external amp from the LOD the sound improves a lot, and improves a lot more if using a ipod-compatible DAC. Then the sound isn’t bad, but a good USB DAC/amp that can play hi-rez files is still better. So once you hear that you won’t like the ipod alone. I use an ipod touch and iphone with DACs and amps, but I would not use it alone unless it were on a train or plane – but then you’d need the amp anyway just to get enough good sound above the noise. Even with all of this though, if I encountered someone who had only $500-$600 to spend and they asked if they should buy a Beyer T70p to run off the ipod alone, or should they split their money and buy a $250 headphone and $300 or more music player like the FiiO X5, I’d suggest that they at least consider buying up on the headphone and saving for a better music player, since otherwise they’d be stuck with a lousy headphone for a year and they might not even be able to resell it. You really have to think of the customer and their budget, and advise them on the consequences of splitting their budget when it might be a short-sighted purchase.

  • Jorgitos

    God what a terrible review. No specs. Just fluff. Whatever.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The specs can be found everywhere. And yes, this review Mike did was somewhat different. But do you really want to read all the boring stuff all over again and again?

      Also, thanks for the nice comment.

  • Vaibhav Pisal

    will fiio x5 power shure srh1840 sufficiently?

    also is x5 more refined than alo island or resonance labs herus?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I can only say the herus dac is better

  • Jeremy Laurenson

    For Mac there is a small app called Dapper that will allow you to sync from iTunes to the X5

    http://www.map-pin.com

  • Al McDowall

    As I write this I’m listening to my X5 powering a pair of ATH M50s. Modest set up, nothing super flashy or expensive. I love the sound I get. I could do with a slightly wider sound stage and the option of a touch more bass, but really the sound from the X5 is amazing – especially considering the price of the unit.

    I’ve had no problem figuring out and ‘learning’ the functions for the four buttons (really? you had to ‘learn’ four buttons?) and although the UI is a big adjust (I’m used to Android, so this is much more…mechanical) it didn’t take me long to get used to it. I love that I can view my songs by Artist/Album/Genre but I can still use the folder view to navigate my collection – and that means I can set it up exactly as I wish. For example, I have New Favourites/Old Favourites/Jazz/Live/Unlistened and that way I can very quickly drill down to whatever I am looking for.

    With the X5 I have basically rediscovered the joy of music. I think it’s one of the best purchases (along with the cans) that I’ve made in the last five years.

    • Al McDowall

      Forgot to say that with the latest firmware, I am able to access previous track, next track and alter the volume – all without the screen being on.

  • jaka satria

    how the comparison between x5 and dx90?

  • http://www.photosbyphoenix.com Phoenix

    Hi there, I know this is now an old thread, but I’m hoping someone who’s been using the X5 for a while can advise. I’m loving the sound of the unit, and it is pretty much exactly the improvement to sound I was looking for over and above the X3. And the UI, while not perfect is certainly better, and with some tweaking, very useful.

    What I can’t seem to get it to do is to ‘see’ all the songs on both TF cards and play the song selected whichever card it’s on. I can select artists from the menu, but only ones from one TF card. Having to keep switching between the cards to find the album, band or song I’m after feels like I’ve got two units in my pocket, not one. If I split the artists A-M and N-Z on each card, then if I were to select shuffle, I’m never going to hear anything from the other half of the alphabet. If I mix them up a bit, I’ll never find anything.

    Am I missing something? Any suggestions?