Disclaimer: Fiio is a site advertiser and I did receive this sample for free. It is an official review sample and it has the “Not for sale” text on the back.
The last DAP review I did was of the top of the line Astel&Kern AK120ii and 240. Together they are worth about forty Fiio X1s. In a market where very expensive gear seems to sell like hot apple pie, Fiio decided to go the other way. The X1 is a High Resolution file playing DAP that only costs $99 USD. You will see I will mention that several times in this review but it is very important to keep that small price in mind. Only $99! Am I already saying it is excellent then? Not at all. There is a lot of good and a lot of bad and I will tell you all about it in over 2300 words, just keep reading till the end. The conclusion is important.
“High-Res DAP for the young”, that’s the slogan Fiio launched the X1 with. Don’t you find it’s a weird thing to state? Does it mean that a guy like me who’s in his 30s won’t like the X1? Is there an age limit to buy this thing? Of course there isn’t but it’s still remarkable. Sure they might mostly sell the X1 to younger people with a smaller audio budget and yes it might maybe be tuned more so the young audiophiles like the sound but I just gdon’t get it. But of course, who am I.
The Whole Package
The X1, the little brother of both the X3 and X5, comes in champagne or silver color and uses the Apple like spinning wheel like we saw before in the X5. I really didn’t like the buttons (or lay-out) of the X3 but the X1 is great in terms of usability. The 3.5mm headphone/Line-Out is situated on top of the player, the power and volume buttons are on the left side, the microSD slot on the other side and the main four buttons and turning wheel on the front. A lovely design that is extremely easy to use.
It only weighs 106 grams and measures 96.6 x 57 x 14mm making it smaller than a pack of cigarettes and about the same size as the Cypherlabs Picollo portable amp. The build quality of the X1 is good and it even has an aluminium frame but at the same time the player still feels very plastic like and it just looks on the cheaper side. So the build quality is good but it just shows it is a $99 player and you can’t even blame Fiio for that, especially if you look at what this little player can do: a lot!
The 2” TFT 320 x 240px screen is basically the same as they used in the X3. Coming from the exceptionally good touch screens from the Astel&Kerns and Calyx M that is quite the shock, but it does the job. For $99 I couldn’t expect more. The great part of the X1 is the user interface. Sure it will be hard to beat the interface of the AKs or the Apple iPods but it is getting closer and closer. It even is reasonably pocket friendly: you get the hang of the buttons fairly quick and when the player is in locked mode the volume buttons serve to skip tracks (long push). I’ve been using it a lot and I have nothing to complain about. It’s very well designed.
The (6 color) UI is simple but good and you can browse folders, albums, artists, genres and favorites. It shows album art, has different play modes, offers gapless playback, an EQ with presets and screen and timer settings for sleep mode. I’ve only had the UI hang up on me once but at the most unfortunate time. I was asked to bring my X1 to Canjam Europe and when the guys from Headsound.de fired it up it crashed and it got stuck on the startup screen. There was absolutely no way to shut it down and we had to look for a mini needle to push the reset button on the left between the power and volume buttons. Luckily one smart guy came up with the idea of using the end of a pin (badge) to push it and then all problems were fixed. It hasn’t let me down since. Phew! The X3 user interface isn’t the best, even after the updates. I don’t like the buttons and navigation structure and luckily for us Fiio didn’t use that in the X1. The X1 UI is easy and I enjoy using it, I have no issues at all. You will be using the top right button a lot and while some people actually complained about that I can’’t see the problem with that as it is easy to access and it’s the logical way to work the UI. I’m pretty sure that those who’ve been playing with the X1 for a while can agree with me on that. All in all, Fiio gets excellent points for the UI from me. A job well done.
More Inside Stuff
This High Res player does 192KHz/24. It does not do DSD but for this price I don’t think anyone expected it to do DSD either. It however does APE/FLAC/ALAC/WMA/WAV/MP3/AAC/OGG.
The DAC inside the X1 is the Texas Instruments PCM5142 and the amp used is the ISL28291. I’ll get back to the sound of these in the next chapter. Two weeks ago I told Nathan during the Podcast that a battery life of 10 hours for a DAP is the minimum for me. Any lower than ten and you’re not being serious (yes I’m looking at you Calyx). Fiio uses a 3.7V 1700mAh battery and it charges reasonably fast: a 3 hour charge will easily give you over 10 hours of musical pleasure and that’s just great.
Something you do need to realize is that the X1 doesn’t come with internal memory. If you want it to play songs you will have to buy and insert a microSD card. For the moment it allows cards up to 128GB so most of you won’t be able to put their whole collection on it and to me that’s a small negative point. But you know the drill by now: for this price…
The Fiio Tech guys made the X1 so that you don’t get any on/off pop noises but unfortunately it still is audible. It is not annoying, painful or damaging however and I do have to say it’s a fairly small plop when using IEMs.
Sound on Page 2!