In this article, we review the FiiO Q15, the brand’s new DAC/AMP selling for $399 USD.
Disclaimer: FiiO sent us the Q15, free of charge, for the purpose of this review. In exchange, we’re going to give our honest opinion, as always.
Founded in 2007, FiiO is one of the most popular brands in the audiophile world, with companies like Astell&Kern, iFi Audio, and Meze. IEM, headphone amps, DACs, and obviously DAPs, they did it all and did it well, filling each and every corner with an endless list of multi-awarded devices like the M11S, K9 Pro, or the amazing R7 – my favorite all-in-one music streamer.
And if the brand began as a Chi-Fi maker, with cheap but nice products, FiiO even decided to create a separate branch – Jade Audio – where they placed all their more affordable gears like the KA13, JW1, or FD11, while keeping the upper-level models in the ‘classic’ range, with players like the FiiO M17 or the ridiculously large FiiO Q7.
A terrific DAC/Amp nonetheless, packing two high-end ESS-Sabre DAC + THX modules, a new power-supply schematic allowing you to switch between battery or DC, and enough power to drive the Hifiman HE-6, on the go. A fantastic amplifier whose main drawback is its gigantic size – don’t expect it to fit in any pocket except a dedicated bag or case.
But, not everyone needs or wants that much power, which is why the brand is now offering a mid-level entry DAC/AMP, the FiiO Q15. It has the same design but with less power and a smaller price tag. Is it the real successor to the Q5? That’s what we’ll find out today.
Design & Build Quality
Like the FiiO M11S, the FiiO Q15 is a scaled-down version of its big brother, the Q7. In fact, from afar, it’s hard to distinguish the Q15 from its sibling, but up close the differences are much easier to spot – even more so once in hand.
Same mono-block design, directly inspired by their flagship, the M17, just slightly recessed to better fit in our hands and exert less force in our pockets. This is still a massive device though – 143 mm tall, 72mm wide, 22mm thick – that weighs 100g more than the previous FiiO Q5s, but 300g less than the Q7, a significant difference on the go!
As usual with the brand, build quality is absolutely flawless, with no gaps and premium materials everywhere your eye can see, and your hand’s touch. Front panel? Gorilla glass and aluminum. Back panel? Anti-scratch, anti-fingerprint glass. The case? Neat, CNC’ed, polished matte black aluminum. Volume Knob? A nice, recessed, grippy wheel made of aluminum.
And, if not as geeky as before – no RGB lighting – the FiiO Q15 kept the same TFT screen, that’s way too sharp for a portable DAC/AMP, enhanced by the beautiful glass panel covering the center pillar of the front panel. I love it.
Compared to the Q7, the FiiO Q15 displays some slight variations:
- there are only two headphone outputs available instead of four (6.35mm and 4.4mm)
- no Toslink input, only coax for the digital input (and USB of course)
- no DC input, but you get two USB-C ports now
- no THX logo, since there are no THX chips now
For the rest, everything is almost identical. Nothing on the right, but on the left side, you’ll find:
- prev/next buttons
- a play/pause button
- a power on/off button
At the bottom, you have:
- a USB-C port for data
- a USB-C port only dedicated for the charge
- a coaxial input, that allows you to use the Q15 with your old(er) devices
- a toggle that activates/deactivates the desktop mode
- a toggle that activates/deactivates the phone mode
Finally, on top, you have:
- a 3.5mm headphone/line output, so you can connect your headphones or a dedicated amp
- a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced headphone output that now doubles as a balanced line output
- and the volume knob, which also doubles as a button menu (long press to access the main menu)
Once again, all headphone outputs are completely blacked out and if some will like the sober presentation, others might prefer the classic gold-plated 4.4mm Pentaconn look. Personally, I prefer this presentation and the center location of the volume knob, making the Q15 a lot more natural to hold than the Q17, in my opinion.
Clearly, a screen on a DAC/AMP is just for show. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it and, once again, the FiiO Q15 definitely makes good use of its screen.
Somewhere, buried in my basement, I still have my old FiiO E07 and E17(K) which came with a blue OLED screen, so that you could tweak some settings (balance, treble/bass) or simply know the actual playing volume. A feature lost on the actual Q3 and Q5, but still available on the Q7 and BTR7 or even on DACs from other brands, like the xDuoo XD05 Plus.
But, none of them equal the quality and visual sharpness found on the FiiO Q15 / Q7 screen. If only 1.3’’ wide, this one gets a full-color, high-definition panel, with excellent view angles and superb UI, allowing you to navigate easily through all the menu. Do you need a screen this good on a DAC/AMP? Definitely not. Do you want a screen this sharp on your DAC/AMP? Absolutely yes
The article continues on Page Two, after the click here
Page 1: about FiiO
Page 2: UI, Usage, Bundle
Page 3: Technical specifications
Page 4: Sound performance