The Play Settings menu includes settings for:
- Play mode (normal, shuffle, repeat track, repeat all). These can also be accessed in play mode with the upper left button.
- Resume mode (off, same song, and same position in song)
- Gapless play back
- Setting maximum, default, and fixed volume
- Gain switch (3.6 or 9.1dB)
- Equalizer – 10 band, with 9 presets which can all be edited.
- L/R balance setting (now 10 dB each side)
- Play through folders setting
The equalizer is the same as the one found in the original X5 and newer X3ii. The option to actually change the presets to your own liking is incredibly handy – and if you’re comfortable with editing the firmware, you can actually customize the names as well.
Engaging the equalizer automatically drops the output by 6dB (actually 5.9 dB according to my SPL meter) to reduce the chance of clipping. This time the equalizer can be used with both digital (coax) and line-out, but is not engaged when playing hi-res tracks (DSD, or anything over 88.2 sample rate).
The other settings all work really well, and what I really appreciate is the option to use set volumes (I default to around 30/120) on start-up, so there are no “accidents” with a sensitive IEM and using the last setting for full cans when you last switched the X5ii off. I do notice that utilization of this feature is not really necessary for me any more though, as I typically never turn the unit off now that it has the deep sleep mode (more on that later).
Folder mode is once again brilliant and I still pretty much use it as my default on all Fiio devices. The addition of being able to play through folders (automatically advance from one to the next) is also a killer feature, and one I use all of the time.
For those with large libraries, I definitely recommend multi-level folder management to make browsing quicker. I split my library into alphabetical groups of 3 (A-C, D-F, G-I etc), then list artists under those folders, and albums under the artists. I’ve also seen others do similar with genre, and even year – it just depends on how well you want your library managed. I have over 450 albums now, and I can usually get to the exact album/song I want (using folder browsing) within a relatively few wheel turns and button clicks.
A warning for those used to touch screens, or Apple type GUIs though – if you don’t want to spend the time setting things up properly, you will be disappointed. There is no accelerated scrolling – so if you have a large library and a single major hierarchy with a lot of folders – chances are you’re going to get sick of the wheel pretty quickly.
Like the other Fiio DAPs, the X5ii sorts alphanumerically, then alphabetically. So for my album files – I use “01 name”, “02 name” etc. If I have a 2 disk album, I’ll use “1.01 name”, “1.02 name” etc then “2.01 name”, “2.02 name”. Again, a little forethought with library management works wonders.
Category (or tagged) mode
In category mode (or tagged mode) you can play by song, artist, album, or genre, and there are also options for favourites and playlists. Choosing artist brings a natural hierarchy of album then track (works well). Album brings in track underneath the album chosen. Selecting by genre collects all the tagged genres together, but then lists everything in one massive selection by number first, then alpha – so for me, all my “01 filename” tags get bunched together, then “02 filename” etc. Unless you plan on putting things in shuffle mode, it makes the genre selection useless. It needs to be sorted by artist and album first. Likewise, choosing by song just lumps everything (in the wrong order) into one directory. Good if you simply want to shuffle every track in your library – useless otherwise. This is why I primarily use folder mode.
Fiio has now had two years with all of its DAPs using the same format with tagged browsing – so realistically I don’t think it is going to be changed any time soon. This is actually a great pity as it is genuinely holding all of their DAPs back (IMO) from achieving “legendary” status. Because of the limitations, the only time I use tagged mode is to play by genre, or to shuffle every track ion the library.
I haven’t used favourites or internal playlists much as they still have to be manually added track by track. I found this laborious right from day one, so I simply use an external database and editor to create external playlists. This takes some getting used to, but ultimately works very well. I save the playlists to my root directory – or you could put them in a single folder – then access them by folder mode. One thing that does irritate me with playlists is why (after scanning the database) my external playlists don’t appear in the “Playlists” category. It’s not hard to navigate to them in folder mode – but this is something that could be improved.
The upper left button brings up a context menu (that is dependent on the menu you are in). When you’re in play mode, this is a quick way to access track playing modes (including repeat, shuffle, add to favourites, and delete). From the main menu it brings up the play settings options.
The upper right button is a back button which puts you back to your last menu choice until you reach the main menu screen. Pushing it again from there will take you to the now playing track window. Pushing and holding will immediately take you to the main menu.
The bottom two buttons are forward, back / up, down / fast forward, rewind / next menu item / previous menu item – depending on your application.
The middle button is simply to select (i.e. action button). If you want to change volume – hold this button in (when screen is active) and the wheel volume control is activated.
Overall the UI is reasonably responsive – but can sometimes have some small lags between button press and actual action (this includes the wheel). One way to make this better is to have no art in the tags, and just have a single album art picture in each directory.
Overall – if the Apple (think latest Touch or iPhone) UI is a 10 (and that’s what I’d give it) – this initial fw release would come in about a solid 7-8 for me. It’s very usable, and has plenty of features. I do think it could be (and should be) improved though – especially with the Song and Genre tagged selections.
Comparisons on the next page