Disclaimer: We received the FiiO Q1 Mark II free of charge as Fiio is one of our advertisers. The Fiio Q1 Mark II goes for 99$.
Another day, another FiiO product. This time it’s all about the Fiio Q1 Mark II. This entry level portable DAC/Amp has received a significant overhaul compared to the original model. It looks nice, sounds nice and it doesn’t break the bank with just a 99$ price level.
I think there’s no need to give information about FiiO and their products anymore. If you don’t know FiiO, then you kindly need to check your knowledge as an audiophile. Let’s get into it.
Q1 MK2 SPECS
Official Apple MFi Certification
For a full run down of specs, check here: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/76/parameters
DESIGN & BUILD
The new Q1 brings the house down in terms of design. This is really elegant, simplistic and smooth. When you compare it to the Mk1, it clearly comes on top in every way you can imagine. The full black color, rounded edges, slim footprint and the stylish volume knob: all are perfectly blended together. It reminds me of the good old Headstage Arrow. It’s very suitable for stacking, like the Arrow was. That Hi-Res Audio sticker is also a nice touch.
Build quality is very good too. The MK1 was also pretty good in terms of that, but thanks to the more compact and sleek design, the Mk2 gives a sturdier impression overall. The chassis is full aluminum and I found out that it doesn’t scratch easily in normal use. Of course the device you’re going to use for stacking (smartphones especially) can get scratches depending on their build materials, so watch out for that.
The volume knob, bass and gain switches and audio jacks, all gave me a good user experience in terms of quality. So overall, the FiiO Q1 Mark II is a great device regarding structure and materials.
Like its design, the Q1 is very friendly with any device you can use it with. From tablets to smartphones and computers, all you need to do is connect the USB cables supplied in the package. However I’m going to criticize the contents of the box here a little. Since this one is targeted for the Apple IOS devices, you only get a lightning cable for USB connection. So if you want to use it with Android smartphones, you have to purchase a suitable micro USB cable separately.
I personally am a bit puzzled. FiiO supplies a USB cable for computers, and a lightning cable for Apple, but no micro USB cable for Android. The device perfectly works with Android as far as I know, so I think there is no point not to include an additional cable for Android users. Besides, I don’t think the inclusion of an additional short cable would’ve done bad for marginal costs. Of course the user can order a cable easily but I still don’t get this idea of “Apple compatibility”. It works with every device after all.
Stacking is easy with the Q1. It doesn’t add a large footprint and it looks really cool if your source device is also black. You can use the device as a portable amp with the supplied 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, or you can use it as a DAC/Amp of course, with the USB cables for PCs and Apple devices.
I didn’t test the battery life extensively but it seemed quite good overall in normal usage. I can’t specify hours but I didn’t face any problems with the battery. Unless you forget the device open, you won’t see a sudden drain.
The Fiio Q1MKII also was part of out Watch-it series a few weeks ago. In the following video Berkhan shows you the unit and how to use it
The FiiO Q1 Mark II is a very good performer in its class, just like most of FiiO’s offerings. It has a flat sound with very good mids for the price and has good technical abilities as well. But I want to highlight the progression since the original Q1 model. The new Q1 is the better sounding DAC/Amp in every way, and it’s a nice step up from “meh” to “very good”. However, there’s also a surprising downgrade but let’s not spoil that and take a closer look at the new Q1’s sound.
The bass department is not dominant and it’s quite laid back at times, reproducing a tight and linear kick. It’s neither very punchy nor rumbling, but it’s quite clean and actually very suitable for bass heavy IEMs to balance out overpowering lows. In terms of getting deep and decay it’s of course not the best out there, but I would say decay is very good for the price. For deepness? It doesn’t reach too low so it’s not amazing in that regard, but still pleasing for only $99.
Pairing with a headphone/IEM which has good amount of bass would be the best choice in my opinion. Because the Q1 chooses to be careful and considerate with its lows, you’ get a very good control at low frequencies at all times. That makes it a good companion for bassier equipment. Midbass especially is under control, therefore it’s nice to hear those instruments and vocals shine, without an annoying hump from the lows.
That becomes very blatant when you compare it to the original Q1 to Mark II in terms of bass. Q1 Mark I is messy in terms of lows, not controlled and in line like the Mark II, and of course that affects the other parts of the spectrum. Mark II is a definite upgrade concerning bass quality. Yet, I don’t recommend you to turn on the bass switch. That simply disturbs the Q1’s qualitative bass response and replaces it with a wild, boomy bass. Maybe you could find it useful in extreme situations, such as extremely flat sounding headphones but other than that, I simply recommend to leave that switch off.