If you don’t feel like reading everything I’ll make it very clear (and short) for you: The Fiio X7ii, together with the X5ii, is my favorite Fiio DAP. I personally think that the new X7ii with the ESS9028PRO DAC chip and the new AM3A balanced module is the best sounding Fiio DAP on the market. Is it perfect? No, not yet. As I said earlier both the single ended as the balanced output still are a tad noisy with sensitive gear but this issue (some people don’t hear it) has already improved quite a bit compared to the X5iii and X7 (less power). If you can look past the noisy output then you get a clear and clean presentation of sound, which is precise and energetic.
You get a good level of detail with excellent separation and enjoyable layering and in this price segment the new Fiio X7ii for sure is a top contender (see comparisons later). Gone are the days where Fiio delivered extra bass and a warm smooth laid back sound. The AM3A delivers clarity with a tuning that’s more to neutral side and the X7ii presents it in a clean but musical way. I would never call the X7ii warm or smooth, but as a flagship it of course wasn’t intended to sound that way.
From bass to treble the X7ii/AM3A combo has a linear presentation with no real boosts anywhere. Bass is tight, very fast and has a neutral amount of body. Bass has good detail but at the same time it’s not the very best, the same goes for depth and layering. It’s detail, clarity and tightness over depth, sub bass and body. Like the bass section, the mids section has a neutral tuning where speed, separation and detail are most important. If you’re looking for smooth, deep and layered mids, you might have to look elsewhere. Clarity and dynamics are the key words here. The voices are a little more in the front but it makes them engaging and precise. If you’re looking for soft and smooth jazz voices you won’t find them here, but you’ll get excellent fast and energetic vocals when listening to rock and metal.
The treble section continues this trend of clarity and precision. I feel treble is further extended than the bass with more sparkle to it. It’s presented in a clear, clean and energetic way. It’s not the most refined, detailed or – again – layered – treble but that of course wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the X7ii/AM3A tuning. Treble is neutral and never harsh or sibilant but I can image some listeners already finding it too intense.
2.5 & 3.5
Some people don’t believe in balanced but if you’ll give it a chance you will hear that the balanced output sounds more natural, with better separation, dynamics and a wider presentation. Sure it might seem like you lose some bass impact but basically this is because you have a wider, less intimate stage. It however is bound to be more noisy on the Fiio, compared to its single ended output. I for one prefer the balanced output over the SE one with my collection of monitors.
Power wise, the AM3A isn’t number one and if you’re looking to drive a low sensitivity full sized headphone, you better look in to using the X7’s “old” power module.
In order for your X7ii to work on your Windows pc, you’ll need to install some drivers and the Fiio Control Panel. Installation is easy and I didn’t encounter any issues getting it recognized by my pc or Roon. The only think I’d like to alert you of is to not put in your IEMS (not in the player or your ears) as the X7ii while connecting the DAC makes very high ton bleeping sounds and pops. You’ll curse the first time and even more so the next, but from that point on you won’t forget. Again, I hope this is an isolated issue with my sample.
Sonically I can refer the previous chapters on sound as the USB DAC function sounds exactly the same as the X7ii in standalone mode.
Here’s where it gets a little more tricky. Getting the X7ii to work as source for other DACs isn’t always evident, but that most likely isn’t the Fiio’s fault.
Chord Mojo: Easily connects over USB, coax and optical without any issues.
Chord Hugo 2: Easily connects over USB, coax and optical without any issues.
ALO Audio CDM: The CDM only has one digital (USB) input but my non-modded version doesn’t connect to the new Fiio X7ii
RHA DACAMP L1: The L1 unfortunately doesn’t connect to the X7ii over USB but it does connect using the optical input
So if you’re planning on using the X7ii with your DAC of choice, I suggest reading up on it first, just to make sure it will actually work. Of course the best thing you can do is try for yourself but I know that isn’t always a possibility.
With the Hugo, Hugo 2 and Mojo I have always preferred the coaxial input over the others, at it has a little more body and I find it the most analog sounding. It’s no different this time with the Fiio X7ii, but in all fairness the X7ii/Chord combo also sounds really good using the USB or optical output.
The part on Sound continues on Page 4 of the review, HERE