Though the firmware itself is quite solid and far more stable than the DX50 was when I reviewed it, it does come with some “imperfections” such as not being able to change the volume level when the screen is off (even though the player is running and there is music playing). The absence of an onboard memory, regardless for what design decision, is also another minus that adds up to the player’s overall score. Add these to the growing list of minuses, and the X5 really needs something huge to pay back all these negatives.
It’s good to see that Fiio is constantly upping their game. However, like the X3, the X5 especially with its unintuitive controls and rather large size fails to win my heart. And though I may not be a fan of the DX50’s sound, it’s still easily the better player when you consider the total score including size, build, and UI. The sentiment is shared with a few people I had the chance to talk with over the X5. The large size (and weight too), the decision to go with the jog dial and the four corner buttons, the overall UI, the lack of internal memory, only means one thing: that I probably won’t go crazy about it UNLESS it has a sound to die for.
The decision to go with a PCM1792 is a good one and one that I approve of. I’ve always been a fan of PCM-based DACs (Everything PCM1704 from the Hifiman HM-801 to the Ayon Skylla II), HRT Music Streamers (1793 and 1794), and especially the underrated Neko Audio D100 with the PCM1794. I really enjoyed the sound of the X5, easily more than my preferred daily driver that is the AK100 Mk2. However to be honest I would still, at the end of the day, prefer to live with the Astell & Kern. The build, the size, the controls and UI being HUGE factors on day to day use. I mean, if the X5 sounds as good as the Altmann Tera or the Hifiman 801, I really wouldn’t mind adapting to the UI, but it’s not. Even as I had learned to live with the X5’s user interface and had memorised the four buttons’ functions, I still can’t feel at home with the user interface and that is my main beef with the player. Other things like 24/192 and DSD support may look good on the feature list, but frankly it’s not that big of a deal today. It’s like having the option to have a refrigerator on your new car: nice, but nothing that would affect my buying decision.
On one hand I want to congratulate Fiio for taking their DAP game even further. But in the overall score board, I still don’t consider it to be a leader in the DAP game.
EDIT 30/04/2014: Firmware Update available ! http://www.fiio.com.cn/news/index.aspx?ID=100000161765444&page=1