Review: Fiio X3iii – The best sounding X3

Disclaimer: The sample of the Fiio X3iii was sent to us free of charge in exchange for this review. Fiio is a site advertiser and the sample doesn’t need to be returned after the review.

 

Fiio

The Chinese based Fiio never stops innovating and it’s one of the most active companies when it comes to product development, and most of all, upgrades. Not very long ago Fiio launched the 2nd generation of their very successful X7 portable player and now it’s also time for another update of one of their most popular players, the Fiio X3. The original X3 was launched around the beginning of 2013 if I’m not mistaken and it was one of the first DAPs as we know them today. It looked very different than what you’re used to today and I didn’t really get in to the X3 in the end. When Fiio upgraded it with the launch of the X3ii back in 2015, the look and lay-out completely changed and the scrolling wheel was introduced to the X3(ii). Now we’re almost 3 years later and Fiio has finally updated the X3ii to the X3iii, and it again looks very different, although the scrolling wheel still is here.

The web page of the Fiio X3iii can be found right here, on Fiio’s website. Fiio also has made available a comparison table between the new X3iii, the previous X3ii and the X1ii. You can find that here: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/72/comparisons

Unboxing Video

Design

If you look at the original X3 now, you’ll probably look at it as an early MP3-player that seems old, even though it dates back to only 2013. The X3ii’s design probably is the one most people think of when talking about Fiio DAPs because the X1 and X3-models look alike a lot. This design is a bit thicker and it comes with the scrolling wheel we all liked so much on the iPod Classic.

The scroll wheel was a great “invention” in the days when touch screens weren’t available yet in DAPs, nowadays however the most basic MP3-players have a touch screen already so I was a bit surprised to see the latest X3iii revision still using that touch screen. Sure it’s typical for the X1/X3 series as I said, but do DAP users still appreciate scroll wheels and non-touch screens in 2017? I personally have my doubts and I’m a bit disappointed but I do get why Fiio is still using it. Like I said it is typical of the X3(ii)-series and it probably cuts down the production cost a lot, but it also means the firmware and user interface aren’t the most modern.

I’m convinced a lot of people like it though but for me personally it’s not something that makes me want to play with the Fiio X3iii all the time. Luckily for me I only need to set it up once and then I just use shuffle all the time. The new X3iii (I chose red but it also comes in black) is lighter (126g), thinner (-20%!!) and it feels better in the hand. It also comes with a really nice red leather case which I always use but at the same time it covers the beautiful back of the X3iii. The red paint finish of the X3iii is excellent so it’s a shame it doesn’t show the back when using the case.

If you’re using the Fiio K5 docking station, then you’ll be happy to read the new X3iii will still connect to it.

Lay Out

A new version and a new layout, the Fiio X3iii isn’t only a technical update. The new Fiio X3iii measures 59mm x 114mm x 12.8mm and weighs only 126g. That makes it a light and sexy, easy usable and transportable player with a small non-touch screen sized 320×240, and that last one for me is the weakest point of the new player. Another point a lot of ink has been spilled about, is the reactivity of the scroll wheel. Seeing there’s no touch screen, the scroll wheel is the most important “button” of the players. Compared to the very first Fiio scroll wheel, the Chinese company has come far. In fact they once again managed to make it more reactive and responsive, but it of course always remains a scroll wheel.

 

On the front, under the mini screen, you find the scroll wheel and the 5 typical buttons Fiio has used on the previous models: Next/Previous/Back/Menu/Select. Did you know you can use the scroll wheel as a volume control by clicking the middle select button at the same time?

On the left side of the thin player, you find the only other buttons. From top to bottom there’s the power button, the volume up and down button and the multi-functional play/pause button you can use for playback controls, equalizer, playlists and themes. On the side bottom you have the only Micro-SD slot. On the bottom of the player you find the 3.5mm output which serves as the single ended headphone output, the coaxial output and the Line output . Next to that there’s the Micro USB-port which lets you charge the unit, connect it to the docking station or an external DAC.

On the right side of the bottom you’ll find the 2.5mm balanced headphone output. As you might have noticed all of Fiio’s latest and upcoming units will feature 2.5mm connectors, the IEMs included. James told us in May at High End in Munich already that Fiio was pulling the 2.5mm balanced card following Astell&Kern, and I applaud them for their decision. At the same time you have Sony and Sennheiser who are going the 4.4mm Pentaconn route and that for the consumer isn’t the ideal situation (think cables).

There are no other buttons on the player and you just get a beautiful case with a great paint job on the sides and the back.

The review continues on Page 2, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Review: Fiio X3iii – The best sounding X3
4.3 (86.86%) 35 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

10 Comments

  • Reply November 23, 2017

    vinc

    hi, will you do review of AK70 II?

  • Reply November 25, 2017

    SithMa

    You make wonderful reviews. I’m considering to replace my FiiO X3 2nd gen, and because you reviewed this one here and CAYIN N3, which one I should buy to replace it?
    Or maybe you know a third better option in the same price range..
    thank you!

  • Reply November 28, 2017

    blazer39

    if sound quality only matters, is the fiio x3iii worth 50$ more than cayin n3?

    also which player has smoother/less hot treble?

    i listen mostly to metal/rock

    • Reply November 28, 2017

      Lieven

      No I don’t think it is. The Fiio is smoother.

  • Reply December 2, 2017

    R.T.

    Sound quality: Worth $100.00 more than the Sony A35?

  • Reply February 17, 2018

    Swayamjeet Kar

    Would the fiio x3 mark iii be a better choice for almost the same price as the cayin n3? I already have a Fiio EX1 to go with them? And if the fiio EX1 will be better with either of these DAPs or the 1more triple drivers?

  • Reply September 3, 2018

    BeardedBetts

    So, I’ve read and reread your reviews of both the Fiio X3 Mark II and III and the Cayin N3 and I’m still torn between what to grab. The technical specs are above me, to be honest. My headphones (and ears) aren’t good enough to pull out too much difference these days (drumming and concerts have wrecked my hearing) but I absolutely hate iTunes and refuse to use it. So, iPods are a no. Always have been. My last DAP died on me a few months ago and I’m fed up with trying to use my phone. I was using a Creative Zen Vision M that I’ve had for 12-13 years ha…it’s time to move on. What I look for in a DAP is versatility and durability – everything else is a nice bonus. I love that these DAPs use micro sd cards vs dedicated on board memory. So, check.

    I’ve read reviews and it sounds like the Fiio X3 Mark III has some issues with being finicky, dropping/skipping audio, being slow, and eventually dying after a few months.

    People say the Cayin N3 doesn’t play nice with Windows 10. The price tag on the Hidisz AP60 II is a bit enticing as well, but the damn thing looks like a vape…clunky and whatnot.

    So, what would you recommend from the Hidisz AP60 II, Fiio X3 III and the Cayin N3 for someone who just wants to go for walks/car rides and listen to some prog-rock and black metal in the snow? I listen to a lot of styles of music, but for mostly prog/metal/instrumental types of music. We’ll say $200 is my price limit, but less is always nice if I don’t have to sacrifice quality/durability.

    Thank you, I know that’s probably a loaded question…

    • Reply September 4, 2018

      Lieven

      I’d probably recommend the Hiby R3 or AP80ii

      • Reply September 6, 2018

        BeardedBetts

        Awesome, thank you. Time to do some more research.

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