First Impression: Fiio X3 DAP

fiio_x3_94Q0991


Disclaimer: Lieven and I both received a free Fiio X3 from Fiio. The Headfonia Store does sell some Fiio products, as well as other popular products mentioned here such as Astell & Kern, Altmann Tera, Hifiman, Fostex, etc.

This is a double review. Normal text is Lieven’s. Italics are Mike’s.

Intro

I have been a fan of the Fiio sound ever since I  listened to the great Fiio E10 Dac/Amp and everyone knows Mike likes the Fiio sound as well. I bought, own and still daily use a couple of these units at home and at work: the price-quality ratio is excellent and I love the dark sound signature. I’ve been looking for a new affordable portable player to keep me entertained during those daily 2 hour train rides from home to work because the (great sounding) iPod+CLAS+C5 combination just is too big to carry around the whole time (not even mentioning the weird looks you get).

The X3 at this very moment has only been available in mainland China and some samples have been sent to out to reviewers, these last units have a special version of the firmware: the FW1.00Beta. This will not be the firmware version the end consumer will have when their units arrive as there will still be several changes according to Fiio. (I could post a list in the comments if anyone’s interested)

The Looks / The Unit

The X3 comes with a couple of accessories like a screen saver, a silicone case and a couple of cables. The unit itself is black, weighs only 122gr and mesures 1.6cm – 5.5cm – 10.9cm, incorporating a 240×320 resolution screen. It actually is thicker as some of  the official pictures make it look but the overall size is great.

It’s a functional shape and size, but hardly inspiring in terms of aesthetics and definitely not as good as it looks on the 3D renderings. Being used to the build quality of the Astell & Kern AK100 and AK120 players (Headfonia Store is a huge Astell & Kern reseller), the Fiio really doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same class but obviously that’s a stupid comment as the Fiio retails for 1/3 the price of the AK100. A more valid comparison is to the popular Cowon players as the X9 that retails for $199 and is heaps ahead of the X3 in terms of build quality, screen size and technology (touch screen and UI).

Using the X3

This review would get huge if I would describe every single menu item the X3 offers. On top of that, as I said, this is a 1.00Beta version of the firmware and the UI will have several changes in the next version anyway. Overall the menu structure is not too difficult and complicated, it’s pretty obvious where you will find the different lists, options etc. I can’t really complain about the User Interface but if I have to say something it would probably be that the navigation structure by artist/album could be better but that will probably be the case in a later firmware version. Besides that the only two other things I’ve noticed so far are that the controls become slower when accessing the bigger FLAC files on a fully packed X3 and that you sometimes get a small pop when switching tracks. Important to mention is also the +6dB high gain setting which I tried with the LCD-2. I’m walking a head of Mike’s sound impressions but this is one of the first times I found high gain to sound acceptable. I switched back low gain immediately though, it just sounds better and more relaxed.

What I do appreciate is the quality of the screen, the UI navigation and the responsiveness of the UI. Again not quite AK quality screen, but it’s a good quality screen and I like how the UI is quite responsive and snappy. The UI graphics is pretty good as well and though the positioning of the buttons can be made to be more intuitive (+ shaped, for instance), overall I’d give an 8/10 for the UI.

The local enthusiasts were excited to hear that the X3 sample unit has finally landed and so I invited them to play with it on the store, despite the local distributor not yet having a unit. Most of the comments were positive but there was a comment mentioning that there is a lag when moving between songs though it doesn’t happen all the time. Perhaps it’s a function of the file size (I had mostly AIFF and WAVs in the player) or the caching side of the player hitting the limit. While not super speedy as the Altmann Tera, I personally have no complaints about the speed of the UI. It works just fine in my opinion.

When it comes to functionalities, the X3 doesn’t disappoint and it shows that Fiio’s R&D put a lot of thoughts into deciding what they deemed necessary into the player. USB charging is a standard feature these days and I’m happy I see it in the X3. Huge battery inside the X3 by the way, 3000mAH that allows for a roughly ~11 hours playback. I’m also happy that Fiio used a standard 3.5mm connector for the line out rather than going with their proprietory docking. There is a mandatory hold switch which is a must have on DAPs. A microSD external slot for storage expansion (up to 64GB), a 3.5mm headphone out and finally a not-quite-industry-standard 3.5mm coaxial out (Fiio supplied a 3.5mm to RCA coaxial adapter) so I can use the X3 as a digital transport. Superb and more than I can ask for. For browsing the files, you get the standard browse by Album/Genre/Artist or through folder browsing. The player also provides shuffle functions. A bass treble control that goes from -10 to +10 without getting distorted in either ends. Gapless Playback, Memory Play, Balance and Gain. The player also supports up to 24/192 files. Really, everything you can ask for in a player.

 

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While I was pretty skeptic about the controls based on the pictures, I can now only say the button lay-out works fine and can easily be operated with one hand once you’ve figured out and memorized the menu structure somehow (takes only 30 minutes of playing with the unit). As everyone knows by know the X3 offers loss-less playback for APE/FLAC/ALAC/WMA/WAV and supports the usual AAC/OGG and MP3 formats.

Inside the unit you can find a Wolfson WM8740 chip like inside a lot of other devices on the market, the op-amp selected by Fiio is the AD8397 giving it the Fiio sound signature. Bass and treble as Mike mentioned are adjustable hardware-wise in stead of software/DSP-wise making it “much more natural sounding” according to Fiio. I’ve been playing with this and I really liked the outcome, especially for the bass part. The X3 also has a 3.5mm Line Out output so you can connect it to a (portable) amplifier and of course you can use the X3 just as a Data Storage Unit and connect it to an external dac with a coaxial cable (supplied!). The Fiio website isn’t that clear on output power as they state two different numbers @ 16Ohm: 300mW and >540mW so maybe this will get cleared up in the near future.

 

Sound Impressions on the next page…

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

147 Comments

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    Mike

    Fiio: “We plan to release the 1.1 firmware on 1/7/2013 and you can download it on our website. There are some new features of new firmware:

    1, support AIFF, FLAC, APE, WAV, WMA cover display.

    2, Fixed the bugs that the output channel is reverse when used digital out.

    3, Suport AIFF.

    4, The tags display of WAV, AIFF.

    5, Increase the operation speed when there are too many songs.

    6, Fixed the bugs of the charging display.

    7, New UI.

    8, Added deleted function.

    9, Support extra cover files in Jpg, Bmp, Png format.

    10, Support Japanese, French, Korean, German, Spanish.

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Good writeup!

    Be sure to compare it to the Sansa Clip!

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Mike

      I did. Didn’t think it was worth writing about the specifics.

      • Reply June 26, 2013

        anon

        Why so? Too close too call sound wise?

        • Reply June 26, 2013

          Mike

          Yeah the Sansa Clip is actually better than the X3, Altmann Tera, Hifiman 801, Astell & Kern etc.

          That’s why I keep stock of the Clip at the Store in case some people who actually knows the fact about the Clip refuses to buy an Astell & Kern.

          • Reply June 26, 2013

            L.

            Funny one 😀

            • Reply June 26, 2013

              Mike

              Yeah and I laugh so hard whenever I manage to get someone to buy an $1K player that doesn’t really sound any better than the Clip. AND comes with no screen too!

              The joy of tricking people into wasting their money is priceless.

          • Reply June 29, 2013

            Anthony

            I just read this one, laughed really hard. Since two of the previous joke when i am in store is about the same ones

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Rūdolfs Putniņš

      Btw, I’m pretty excited about using the X3 as a digital transport on my main rig. Would save me from turning on the PC.

      • Reply June 26, 2013

        L.

        yes indeed it would, good use of the X3

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    Elie Hendriks

    I now use a Sansa Clip and the Fiio e07k with the Fidelio s2 in ears. Would this be a significant upgrade in your opinion?

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Mike

      Definitely. I’m a big fan of the Clip but it doesn’t really have strong technicalities.

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    Jerry

    Guys, my FiiO E17’s balance control does not allow for settings beyond about 50% (to my ears). In other words, even when setting one channel to the maximum level of loudness using the balance control, it is still only about 50% louder than the other channel. Is this also the case with the X3 or has FiiO fixed this limitation?

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Mike

      Good question let me try that out really quick.

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Mike

      Jerry,
      Yes they haven’t fixed that. Let me send an email to Fiio about this.

      • Reply June 26, 2013

        Jerry

        Thanks for the quick reply Mike! Sure hope FiiO does something about this 🙂

        • Reply June 26, 2013

          Mike

          I’ve sent the email.

          Hopefully it’s just a quick fix.

          • Reply July 7, 2013

            Jerry

            Hey Mike, I’m wondering if there are any updates on this issue? Did FiiO respond in any way?

            • Reply July 9, 2013

              Mike

              Jerry,

              Here is the response from Fiio:

              “Your suggestion is so workable for us , and we will try our best to fix it on our final version.

              Have told James , and he asked me to say thank you for you , and he said that we should try our best to do it well .”

              • Reply July 9, 2013

                Jerry

                Oh wow, fantastic 🙂 Cheers

                • Reply July 9, 2013

                  Mike

                  Yeah hopefully we will see your suggestion being implemented in the final version

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    George Lai

    I shall sit on the fence until the ADL X1 is launched and compared. As an iDevice user, I just can’t bear the thought of something that doesn’t sync with iTunes. As Lieven correctly points out, my own iPod + CLAS + “amp” is a wee bit too bulky for traveling but I believe I could live with an iPhone + X1 combo for that. Meanwhile, good article as always.

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      L.

      thanks George. I forgot to mention I’m fed up with using iTunes just for the ipod as I’m a Foobar user

      • Reply June 26, 2013

        George Lai

        Yeah Lieven I do agree that iTunes can be cumbersome but with 270 GB of music (2 iPods) and a Mac-based collection I’m just too lazy to re-do all my music. I actually tried using BitPerfect (after reading a Headfonia article) but it doesn’t seem to work well with my Macs so I gave up. I can live with Apple Lossless for a selection of my favorite CDs. Even if my fave albums of the 90s didn’t coincide with your recent posting. Ha Ha.

        • Reply June 26, 2013

          L.

          I’m still shocked about that 😉

          • Reply June 26, 2013

            George Lai

            Ha Ha. Don’t be. Different types of music makes the world go round. I’m in my 50s and most of my music are 60s and 70s stuff. An era where one or two hit songs doesn’t entitle you to put out a greatest hits album. And where the music you put out is more important than how you look or dance. 90s stuff would then be U2, Clapton, etc.

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    zerokam

    mike , L. the double-review is kinda confusing to read . i dont think italic+normal is enough to distinguish each review . maybe you should add another thing like Bold/different font/colours. just a feedback 🙂

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      L.

      Well, partly that’s the goal. it should read as one review, we’re not really touching the same aspects of the X3, besides some sound impressions. But thanks and we’ll see what we can do!

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      Mike

      Alright, thanks for the feedback. I think I can change it to a different color

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    dalethorn

    Two questions: If the sound quality of the X3 is well below the others in detail etc., would you still get the full benefit of the difference between a CD rip to WAV and a 320k CBR MP3 made from that WAV? Other question: What’s the default memory, how big can it be internally, and how big total with all memory options? And are there memory “pages” or is it seamless as one big storage area when memory is maximized?

    • Reply June 26, 2013

      L.

      Memory is 8gb internal and up to 64 on a sd card. You can choose what menu to play from if you want.

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      I tried the external memory slot and it wouldn’t recognize my 64GB. Not sure if it was the format or the folder structure but I tried updating the media library a few times and still no go.

      As for the files, I have no clue. I rip all my CDs into AIFFs and WAVs so…

      • Reply June 27, 2013

        dalethorn

        I had only one 64gb MicroSD, by Sandisk. It was a nightmare, special format of some kind. I finally got it formatted as Fat32, but it never worked – would accept a variable number of files then error out, so I sent it back.

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    Adrian Pang

    Don’t think the Hifiman players could compete with the X3 – Do they also have digital out?

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      They don’t except the flagship 801. But I don’t think that’s a big factor in DAPs.

  • Reply June 26, 2013

    admiralwiem

    Mike, you photos @.@”. The bokeh @@”. Freaking awesome! Btw nice review mike ;).

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      L.

      Thanks. Mike’s pics are nice indeed.

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks man. 50mm 2.5 macro lens

      • Reply June 27, 2013

        admiralwiem

        50mm 2.5? Hey was that the one with manual focus you bring to the store a few weeks ago along with your 1Dx?

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Jeffrey Coleman

    There are many feature that impress me with this new entry into the DAP marketplace. The fact that there is a true line out and digital out as well is welcoming. Having over 64gigs in a $200 player is impressive too. That is if the card can be read at reasonable speeds. Other players seem to struggle with that. I’m also wondering if this player is going to be a “FLAC first, and every other format second”.

    But, I’m not going to over judge this device. After all, its still “kinda” beta.

    Kudos to Fiio for their first DAP. I think it already has its place set. And now to await the X5…

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      L.

      X5 in 2014 I suppose

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Michael

    Well-done duet review, thanks 🙂 May I ask how X3 competes soundwise with E17? And do you think it’s worth replacing Cowon D2+ with X3?

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      L.

      Thanks Michael. I hope Mike can answer this as I don’t have the E17/D2

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      X3 is more laid back and the sound is cleaner than the E17. Resolution and micro details better on the E17.

      The D2, I don’t have one around for a comparison but the sound signature is very different. D2 is much brighter than the X3. You’re welcome to try the X3 maybe just for a different sound.

      • Reply June 28, 2013

        Michael

        Thanks, Mike, maybe I’ll wait for X5 in this case.

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Hoang Nguyen Minh

    Hi MIke, How about the quality of coaxial out of X3 If you pair it with different DAC? Thank you !

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      It was okay, I tried it today with the Violectric V800/200 combo. A bit sub par for a digital transport.

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Anthony

    hey mike! its a pity i am in bali, or otherwise i wiould rush to your store to get a listen, not that interested to buy though, will wait for x5, or the dx50, or even would take alook at the older generation higher end players, i want to scale up from my ak100 if i am going to buy a new dap

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks Anthony, do come by if you’re in town

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    willy vlyminck

    I think the X3 can be huge succes, not all of us can afford the Astel and kern playtoys or are willing to. The only Thing what could improve is that there is Wlan to stream spotify, because this is exact what the latest Sony has and the Apple top products.It is not fair to make comparisions to Players than cost 3x the Price of the FiiO. I think it is great product for it´s Price,apart from the Wlan failing, and I will sure buy one and use with my Yamaha in-ears. I am sure Van Der Graaf Generator will sounds great:-)

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      L.

      Oh my…
      thanks for the link.

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      admiralwiem

      That was hardcore. Anyone interested to try that with a super-pricy opa627 ? 😉

      • Reply June 27, 2013

        Mike

        You should see the mod I did on my grace m902. Replaced two SMD opamps with Burson discreets. Talk about a bigger sound.

        • Reply June 27, 2013

          admiralwiem

          Oh my, that’s awesome man. I’d like to hear it someday on the store then ;).

        • Reply June 28, 2013

          Rūdolfs Putniņš

          Cool! I dremeled out the silly discrete output buffers on my Parasound D/AC-1600 and swapped them for ultra clean OPA134/BUF634 composite buffers. Talk about night/day difference!

  • Reply June 28, 2013

    Eli

    You mentioned the Westone 4R. Any plans to review it?

  • Reply July 2, 2013

    L.

    Firmware 1.2EN is now available but you need a TF card to install it. Guess what I can’t find… We’ll keep you posted

    • Reply August 19, 2013

      L.

      1.25EN is now available

  • Reply July 9, 2013

    Eric Thompson

    So will the extra resolution on the A&K and such be noticeable on modern studio recorded 44.1/16bit recording’s? or do you need higher quality tracks? I want something better than my current iPod to E17 set up but mostly listen to rock bands studio recorded CD’s and electronic stuff. I’m not huge into dark sound sigs like mike, if something sound harsh I usually change my headphones not the DAC but I like my E17

    • Reply July 11, 2013

      Mike

      Yes the AK would still be better for a lot of studio recorded stuff but there are some very awful recordings out there and for those the less resolving the gear, the better it seems.

      • Reply July 11, 2013

        Eric Thompson

        Ok, I thought you guy’s liked the AK100 from what I gathered but never read the review, I read the AK100 review after this one and well you guys don’t seem to really like it lol.

        What would you recommend for a high end portable player? I mean even thought the AK is more detailed and more money you would rather have a X3? That’s what I gathered

        • Reply July 11, 2013

          Mike

          You really should read the AK100 review first.

          • Reply July 17, 2013

            Eric Thompson

            I did read the AK100 review I meant I never read it when it came out, I didn’t read it until after I read the X3 review. It’s just doesn’t seem like the X3 will be much of an upgrade from a iPod into a E17, but you guys don’t really like the iBasso or the AK100 so I’m a bit hesitant to buy one.

            • Reply December 24, 2013

              Vito Mirr

              For whatever its worth by now: I have the ak100 and the x3. I agree with the notion that the ak100 has better perceived detail and image specificity, it is very artificially rendered though. To it appears that the attacks and transients are electronically exaggerated to create the impression of better “prat” factor. The same amount of detail is available on the x3 if you pay enough attention and your headphones are resolving enough. I personally cannot stand the ak100, even for “audiophile” recordings. It turns them into an analytical bore fest.

              • Reply June 28, 2014

                Eric Thompson

                I’m thinking X5 now if something from ibasso or hifi-man isnt “better”. The AK stuff is just way to much money.

  • Reply July 14, 2013

    (Club House) Fiio X3

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  • Reply July 24, 2013

    saeed zolfaghari

    hi! and thanks for your impression
    if i understand correctly, you mentioned that x3 is darker than ipods and clip
    if it so, can you say how good eq setting can change the sound signature?
    is it worth to buy that and changing the sound signature with EQ and still have better SQ than ipods or clip?
    thanks man

    • Reply July 24, 2013

      L.

      EQ on the X3 allows a change for Bass and highs, it’s pretty limited. If you want to change the sound signature that bad, maybe this DAP isn’t for you. think about it 😉

      • Reply July 25, 2013

        saeed zolfaghari

        thanks

    • Reply July 24, 2013

      Mike

      Like what L said,
      The EQ will give you more/less treble/bass. Aside from that the X3 definitely has better technicalities than the iPod and the Sansa. The iPod has more treble quantity but I can hear better clarity on the X3.
      Cheers

      • Reply July 24, 2013

        saeed zolfaghari

        thanks, for the clarity purpose:
        has (x3 + eq) similar treble quantity as ipod or clip?

        • Reply July 24, 2013

          Mike

          Yes you can adjust it to be brighter or darker

          • Reply July 25, 2013

            saeed zolfaghari

            thanks for your patient

      • Reply July 24, 2013

        dalethorn

        This is interesting – X3 has less quantity of treble but more clarity. That sounds like a winning combination.

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  • Reply August 19, 2013

    9homme

    Hi Mike,

    Currently, I’m using this combo:

    Galaxy S4 -> [send digital signal via micro usb otg] -> iBasso D-Zero

    Do you think that selling iBasso D-Zero and using standalone X3 is a good idea?
    Could you compare the sound signature & quality difference between them?

    Thank you so much

    • Reply August 21, 2013

      Mike

      I would definitely go for the X3 just for simplicity and portability. Using an Android OTG set up is a mess as I use an S4 myself.
      Sound signature is darker, cleaner and more laid-back on the X3.

  • Reply August 21, 2013

    rich

    I read that the LG’s new G2 cell phone has a music player that can play 24bit/192Hz. Go to LG’s website to confirm this surprising specification. It can also play many lossless formats.

    On top of this, there is a very powerful battery life for long hours of use.

    This is an alternative to the X3 etc.

    It seems that Android phones are in to niches to further sales.

    • Reply August 21, 2013

      Mike

      Nice. It’s 5.5″ right?

      • Reply August 22, 2013

        rich

        It is 5.2 inch to be exact.

  • Reply August 22, 2013

    L.

    In one of the upcoming reviews I will talk more about the Line Out of the X3, and how I don’t like it.

  • Reply August 29, 2013

    Earfonia

    Nice review as always! I has Fiio X3 for 2 weeks now, use it everyday with different IEMs, also tested with some headphones. I found X3 sound signature to be natural bright, to me it is not laid back, but also not forward, quite natural presentation. As for IEMs, I’ve tested with Triple Fi 10, Klipsch X10, JVC HA-FXC80, JVC HA-FRD80, Yamaha EPH-100, and Superlux HD 381F.
    For classical recording, best pairing is with JVC HA-FRD80 (similar as HA-FXD80-Z), this pair is really superb sounding for classical.

    For pop, jazz, and other closed miked modern recording, Yamaha EPH-100 gives the best sound, nice bass, full bodied and rounded vocal, soft and smooth treble that never have any problem with sibilant. Superlux HD 381F also pairs nicely with X3, but EPH-100 sounds nicer with better detail.
    With big headphones, somehow I haven’t got much luck, T1, HD800, HE5-LE, all sounded too bright, lacking of bass and dynamic. But X3 is pretty nice with Shure SRH-840.
    That’s my 2 weeks observation with this nice player 🙂

  • Reply September 1, 2013

    George Lai

    Hi Lieven, your comment re the CLAS combo being too big for commuting is something I remembered from the original review. Now that you have had the X3 a while, I’d like your thoughts on these questions:
    1. The review mentioned the Cowon X9. That has over 100 playback hours?
    2. Some early comments talked about the difficulty of using certain storage cards. Is that still an issue today?
    3. Any difficulties to transferring music to this using a Mac?
    4. When you have an external card, is it one seamless total capacity or must you choose internal vs external?

    As you know, my comments are of a Mac user and the almost faultless Apple UI. I have been chatting with Mike this week and he knows I just received my ADL X1, so the challenge is really iPhone + ADL X1 versus Fiio X3 + iPhone. One can’t leave the iPhone at home. Either way it is still two boxes. The combo is really for when one is out and about so ultimate sound quality is not the issue.

    Cheers.

    • Reply September 1, 2013

      L.

      Hi George,

      The Cowon isn’t mine but I would think so. I didn’t have any problem with the sd card and I ordered a cheap 32GB one I won on ebay for $10. I’ve only used a pc but Mike has used a mac without any issue, firmware updates are easy too. You can use both the internal and external memory at the same time

      The X3 is a nice player but it isn’t high fi. the ipod + cass is a few levels up but it’s a lot bigger. So maybe if you want hi fi, look at the AK or something

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      The X3 is not at the same level as a CLAS combo, as much as I like that player. I strongly suggest the AK100 if you want to keep things small.

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        George Lai

        My wallet will also be smaller after the AK100. But thanks for the suggestion, Mike.

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Mike

          Don’t give me that wallet rubbish, George. Not with you.

          • Reply September 2, 2013

            George Lai

            🙂

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      The X3 is not at the same level as a CLAS combo, as much as I like that player. I strongly suggest the AK100 if you want to keep things small.

    • Reply September 10, 2013

      ohm image

      I know you didn’t ask me, but I hope I can offer some additional help.

      The X3 is much much much smaller than the CLAS/amp/device combo. It is smaller than an iPod Classic.

      3. I’ve found that it connects and disconnects from the Mac at will. This happens even during transfers. To play it safe, I transfer only one album or small playlist at a time. All of it drag and drop from iTunes to the corresponding X3 folder.

      It is a very, very fine player.

      My biggest concerns are its poor hardware interface (buttons, layout placement) that are unfriendly to years of sound design principles. I’ve written more about it here: ohmage to the Fiio X3

      • Reply September 10, 2013

        George Lai

        Hi, thanks for the comments. When you say drop from iTunes, is that from the iTunes app itself on the Mac, or from the iTunes music folder in a Mac’s Finder? I think one of my concerns is the fact I’m always fiddling with my music collection on my Mac. The last couple of days I upgraded some old CDs to Lossless or 320 Kbps from the original 128 Kbps (when my Mac had smaller storage) as well as reclassified some genres of music. I did that on iTunes on the Mac and then just synced to two iPods, two iPhones, an iPad and that was it. Just like that.

        • Reply September 10, 2013

          ohm image

          Hello again, George. I mean from iTunes. You can’t sync from iTunes but you can select exactly what you want, then drag from iTunes into the folder of your choice on the X3.

          I don’t sync my iPhone/pod with iTunes. It is all manual. Probably, it is because my music collection is way too large and I’m comfortable playing the same music in and out, day to day.

          16 GB iPod, manually managed is very similar to the X3, except that where I don’t need to make corresponding folders on the iPod, I do have to on the X3.

          A bit more labour, but compared to the time you will spend enjoying the music, not a problem. The interface is kludgy in comparison, though. In particular, the position of control buttons and their dual nature, is a real drag.

          But, the performance is great.

          • Reply September 10, 2013

            George Lai

            Hi again. Thanks for clarifying. The fact I can drag from iTunes will be a big help. I have a large collection too hence the use of genres to decide which music goes where. Thanks.

            • Reply January 24, 2014

              L.

              I have all my DAPs on shuffle play at all time, to me it doesn’t matter how the albums are listed 🙂

              • Reply January 24, 2014

                George Lai

                Hi L, I guess since I tend to listen to whole albums, shuffle play is not for me. If I use shuffle play on songs, I could have Alicia Keys followed by Alice Cooper, which is a bit jarring to say the least!

                • Reply January 24, 2014

                  L.

                  That’s what I like about Shuffle Play: the surprise and variety

                  • Reply January 24, 2014

                    dalethorn

                    I tag all my music on the main players (iPad 128 gb, iPhone, iPod etc.) as “Artist – Song”, so I can find anything instantly, and play things in album order or my preference. When I need to preserve a track order per artist, the tag reads like “Artist – 01-Song”, “Artist – 02-Song”, and so on. Then I have several of the iPod Shuffles where I put a playlist of songs (not the playlist itself) onto each iPod, and since those Shuffles are color coded by genre or mood, just grab the one (or 2 or 3) I want for the walkabout. If I switched from Apple, I think I’d do the same thing – get several players and play by sequence or shuffle, depending whether it’s a mix of songs or a symphony that’s split into “tracks” that need to be sequenced. I had more hopes for the X3, but considering the total investment that includes several 64 gb MicroSD cards, it’s not flexible enough for a majority of my requirements. When I used to listen to commercial radio, to ‘pop’ music stations, the bouncing back and forth between extremely different genres was a big headache, and having shuffle on a main player with many genres would necessitate using playlists and shuffling those. So I use the actual iPod Shuffles instead.

          • Reply January 22, 2014

            George Lai

            Hi again. Now that I’m considering the X5, can I clarify again regarding dragging from iTunes. If I just drag whole albums into the X3, does the X3 then be able to show lists by albums as well as lists by artists automatically a la iTunes? I’m assuming of course that the X5 is similar. Thanks.

            • Reply January 24, 2014

              ohm image

              Here’s where the X3’s firmware is hit and miss. I have dragged many albums which simply work, and others that jumble themselves into a category of … nothing, for which I must later hunt down individual names.

              To be safe, do the annoying thing of creating folders and dragging content into them. Or, tag everything cleanly with an audio file tagging system. It is one of the reasons that I am stuck permanently on iPod; it just works.

              • Reply January 24, 2014

                George Lai

                I guess I’ll stick with my iPods and iPhones then. Way too many songs to spend my time creating folders etc. Thanks.

    • Reply September 10, 2013

      ohm image

      I’m replying here in order that our conversation won’t wrinkle to the side too much. As long as you make folders that correspond to the music or playlists you are dragging from, the X3 should run fine.

      Playlists will sort according to different criteria so the order of your playlist will change, but the content should stay the same.

  • […] 109 mm x 16 mm Weight: 122 g For photos & description, please google. Review: Clieo's Review Headfonia's Review Sales term: Self collection either at Braddell MRT (Noon til late, Mon-Fri). Weekend & PH, […]

  • Reply October 30, 2013

    Guest

    Mike, I have been intensely absorbing what I can from Headphonia and I must say, I am enjoying my lurking around.

    With the SR80i and HD518, is the X3 more than enough for these, or do I need something else like Fiio’s E12 to make the most of the X3? I have a Senn HD-239 for my on-the-go listening. Classical, Movie Soundtracks, R&B are my usual playlist. I just want to enjoy the listening experience and have desire to keep “moving up.” If I can save enough, the HD-650 should be my last stop.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply October 31, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Mon,
      Thank you, I am glad you are enjoying the site. 🙂

      I think a better suggestion would be to either get the E07K or the E17K I think those pair with the Senns and the Grados better.

      • Reply January 2, 2014

        oldandcurious

        Hello again Mike. It took me awhile to read a lot more here and there. Since I am not an “audiophile,” the “growing up pains” of X3 convinced me that yes, the E17K for my *simple enjoyment*, is the simplest route. Thank you for direction.

        The X5 appears to be worth saving up for though.

        I enjoy your site very much. The photography too 🙂

    • Reply October 31, 2013

      Mike

      And also with the E07 and E17 you may be able to use the onboard E7K/17 DAC, let me check on that and get back to you.

  • Reply December 15, 2013

    Dave Ulrich

    How is the line out on the X3?

    • Reply December 16, 2013

      Mike

      It’s very good.

    • Reply December 28, 2013

      Josh Cuz

      Very good

  • Reply December 28, 2013

    Josh Cuz

    At the beginning of 2/10 songs, there is a pop and a delay for take half a second.

    • Reply December 29, 2013

      dalethorn

      I don’t have my X3 yet, and I wonder about those pops. I get pops in several tracks with other players, so I wonder if it’s in the X3 or maybe it’s in the music and other players suppress it?

      • Reply December 29, 2013

        George Lai

        Slightly off topic but in the case of an iPod there can be a slight pop at the start of a new track but I believe it’s amp-dependent as I only hear it occasionally on my ADL X1 amp and none of my other countless amps. Turning off sound check on iTunes (one of the suggestions I found in Google) and the iPods seems to have minimized it so now I very rarely hear it on my X1. As I said it’s slightly (or very) off topic but I’m just inclined to believe it’s the amp and not the player. Happy New Year, Dale.

        • Reply December 29, 2013

          dalethorn

          Very on-topic I think – thanks George, and happy New Year to you.

  • Reply January 2, 2014

    dalethorn

    My X3 is unusable because it takes 30 seconds for it to see the first file on my 64 gb Fat32 MicroSD card. I can’t get to the files that begin with ‘J’ or any other letter immediately like I can with i-devices. My files are sorted A to Z like “Aberdeen – Fine Day” to “Zola Jesus – Hey You”, so without the nasty task of making folders (which probably would make things worse and a huge headache in management), is there any way at all to get directly to a track beginning with ‘J’, ‘K’, etc.? I’m not sure playlists are a solution because I like to skip around irrespective of alphabet, genre, or anything else.

    • Reply January 2, 2014

      L.

      Do you have the latest firmware Dale? Honestly I couldn’t reply, mine is always on shuffle when I use it. But to tell the truth, I always end up using my ipod, Cypherlabs and amp combo and never the X3.

      • Reply January 2, 2014

        dalethorn

        Yes, I did update the firmware first thing, and that went well. The delay may have something to do with reading headers on the 1024 FLAC tracks. But that’s just half of the problem. The other half is getting to a new track quickly. If I could do that I could get by OK with the first issue, the delay. The sound is interesting – I haven’t got it figured out yet, but I can tell already where a better player would have a smoother sound. Still a good sound for portable use though.

        • Reply January 2, 2014

          Io

          I think one really don’t need 1024 FLAC tracks…. Just saying…. Not trying to attack you or anything. Why don’t you try around 500 tracks? I think that is more that sufficient really. It will greatly reduce the delay.

          • Reply January 2, 2014

            dalethorn

            The delay is the small problem – getting instantly to any track is the big problem.

            The reason I have only 1024 is because I haven’t gotten my other 1200 tracks in high-res format yet, so I will need to eventually have about 2500 tracks. My wife has 6000 tracks, so she would like to go high-res also.

            • Reply January 2, 2014

              George Lai

              Hi Dale. I guess that’s why I’ve never dared to try an X3 or DX50 or AK100/120. I love how my 40,000 tracks on two iPod Classics can be retrieved instantly in whichever manner I want. They’re in various resolutions and in a way I’m thankful I can’t tell the difference between 320, FLAC, ALAC, etc. Maybe one day I could but until these other players work faultlessly, I’ll stick with my iPods.

              • Reply January 2, 2014

                dalethorn

                Well, I am glad you replied with that info, George. I’ve been looking at the possibility of getting a new iPod classic (or whatever it’s called) in the 160 gb size from the Apple store. I was wondering, do you know if the headphone out has the same impedance as the iPhone5 or iPod Touch? We had a problem with bass muddiness with either a B&W P5 or ATH ESW9 with the old iPod Classic. And can I presume that the dock connector would work with my FiiO LOD cables to the FiiO amps (or other analog amps)? Thanks!

                • Reply January 2, 2014

                  George Lai

                  Hello Dale, I’m not sure if the headphone out on the (yes) iPod Classic has the same impedance as I always use the 30-pin line out. All 30 pin LOD cables can be connected to all analog amps but again, most of the time I connect the 30-pin LOD to USB In on MFI-certified DAC/amps like the Cypher Labs Theorem for example. The iPod can’t even be switched off as it goes into standby and is “Instant On”. I doubt I could stand waiting for 30 seconds.

                  • Reply June 28, 2014

                    Eric Thompson

                    The AK100 or 120 has to do this better doesn’t it? and has up to 128gb of storage

                • Reply January 22, 2014

                  George Lai

                  Hi Dale, how’s your experience with the X3 three weeks later? The X5 looks tempting!

                  • Reply January 22, 2014

                    dalethorn

                    I haven’t really used it. Since I don’t maintain formal playlists, getting to any track out of a thousand tracks is a chore. Then another problem – my i-devices allow me to use a nice equalizer to fine-tune certain headphones with small adjustments, but the X3 doesn’t support that.

                    • January 22, 2014

                      George Lai

                      Thanks for the prompt reply, Dale. I guess I’ll stick to my iDevices. Cheers.

              • Reply January 3, 2014

                dalethorn

                I could never tell the difference between an accurate WAV rip from a CD and a 320k CBR MP3 converted from that WAV, by direct comparison. But I think I understand now – it has to do with my ability to concentrate around my auditory blind spot (similar in principle to the visual blind spot). Anyway I find it much easier to tell the difference if I get 2 identical iPods and amps, and load one iPod with the WAV files and the other with the MP3s. Then I shuffle the iPods so there’s no way for me to tell the difference, and play one through then switch to the other and play it through. Maybe just 30-60 minutes of music on each, and play where it’s extremely quiet – for me late at night at home.

            • Reply January 2, 2014

              Io

              I agree totally with George and I think it will do you better in fact to get iPods rather than DAPs.

      • Reply June 28, 2014

        Eric Thompson

        Lol why is that? even over the AK? I currently have an iPod+E17 but I really want more storage space… or if I didn’t have all the iPod crap on there. A music iPod and a game/movie iPod? lol

        • Reply June 28, 2014

          L.

          AK and CL are more on less on the same level

  • Reply January 8, 2014

    cyborg32

    How if X3 combine with other FIIO portable ampls? will that improve the sound quality?

    • Reply January 9, 2014

      dalethorn

      Were you intending to use the X3 as a transport only, or as transport-plus-DAC?

  • Reply January 27, 2014

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Used my X3 for a week. The verdict so far is that the UI is usable though much less functional than any of the Rockboxes. I use a 16GB card and I haven’t encountered any slowdowns.

    Soundwise I find the player to be very pleasant and a step-up from any of the usual smart-devices. The headphone output isn’t truly neutral, but none of the colourations stand in the way of the music. Line out is much better and for more serious semi-portable use I’d add a quality amp in the mix. The digital output isn’t much to write home about, but it’s usable. At home I very much preferred the USB from the PC on my Stello DA-100 Signature to the X3 coax. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as I’m pretty sure the 3,5mm mono jack is less-than-perfect for high frequency signal transmission where impedance matching is a must to avoid jitter inducing wave reflectance.

    For my Earsonics Sm3v2 I really like the headphone out and it was adequate with the Paradox as well. Maybe in some future I’ll swap the output opamp for something fancier, but now it’s good as it is.

  • Reply June 1, 2014

    Shay

    Hello
    I wish to ask how the X3 stands up against the X5 in the Bass sound ?
    Is it heavy then the X5, cleaner and so
    I use the B&W P7 as my main headphone

    • Reply June 28, 2014

      Eric Thompson

      good headphone

  • Reply June 6, 2014

    dennisksc

    should i go for e07k/e09k combo or just buy the x3?

    • Reply June 6, 2014

      dalethorn

      The source you use with the FiiO’s will give you a lot of flexibility and control, and you give up a lot of that with the X3, but you gain the convenience of having a single small device.

      • Reply June 6, 2014

        dennisksc

        So are you saying that x3 doesn’t work that well as a USB dac compared to e07k and such?

        • Reply June 6, 2014

          dalethorn

          The X3 certainly has a DAC, but it’s not any more separate from the X3 than the DAC in an iPod is separate from the iPod (and you can use the iPod’s DAC separate from its amp via the LOD).

          So if you wanted to improve your sound using the X3 and a separate amp, you could, but that would mean the X3 as a good portable player now becomes a kludge instead of a good portable.

          I’ve done many things like that, but have never been happy with the results. Using the E07k/E09 makes more sense. Putting it differently, I would use an iPod alone, or an X3 alone, as a portable player, but for indoor hi-fi I would prefer to output the portable player digital data into a good DAC-plus-headphone-amp.

          When the signal leaves the portable player across the USB cable etc., there’s no harm to the signal because the

          • Reply June 6, 2014

            dalethorn

            because the asynchronous DAC will clean up the data as it arrives. It’s what’s between the DAC input and amp output that makes the real difference, and if those are well matched (especially combos that eliminate the DAC output jacks and wiring and amp input jacks and wiring), then you get the cleanest possible signal. And that’s the reason you’re using components like that in the first place – to get the best possible sound.

  • Reply July 26, 2014

    oldandcurious

    Hello again Mike.

    As a “reader” of this very informative site, I started “collecting things,” that eventually led me to get the Fiio X3, the E07K and last month, the HD600. My budget-constrained question is, of the following that are locally available from my corner of the globe, which would be the wiser choice in terms of sounding “good enough” for my HD600. Preferrably, one that will take at least a year before I dare think of the next step-up –

    E09K, and for some more bucks, below do share very similar pricing from where I buy my “stuff.”

    02+ODAC
    ALO’s The Island
    Rega Ear Headphone Amplifier

    If the X3’s DAC is decent – I have none really to compare it with – I can save some more and just consider:

    X3 as DAC + “name the budget amplifier here.” And/or,
    E07K + L7 + “name the budget amplifier here” is also one my options.

    My HD600 plugged into the headphone out of my old Aiwa midi-component is very pleasing to my ears as it is. Classical music comprises 80% of my listening habit; The rest is divided more or less equally by Jazz fusion, R&B and vocals.

    Thank you.

    P.S. Anyone can chime in.

    • Reply July 26, 2014

      L.

      Then keep the XR + Dac and get a JDSLabs C5 or Duet ot Picollo

      • Reply July 26, 2014

        oldandcurious

        Thanks. The JDSLabs C5 is available from where I post this reply.

  • […] me voy a comprar otro celular porque todavia me siento satisfecho, el reproductor seria este: Fiio X3 DAP Review Espero que alguien me pueda ayudar ya que busque como dije pero no encontre informacion, desde […]

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