The X5ii’s amp section (like the X5 and X3ii) is a very good one. Fiio had implemented a new high gain architecture – but I haven’t noticed a big difference in overall power despite the extra 40% current on-tap (according to the literature). It doesn’t seem to be translating into big volume increases compared to the X5 original anyway.
So far, I’ve tested with HD600 @ 300 ohm, and also (out of curiosity) with the T1. I didn’t worry about IEMs as I already know it has copious amounts of current available for lower impedance headphones.
The HD600 were driven well, with no noticeable loss of dynamics – especially with the bass. Switching to the T1 was a different story. Volume was around 75/120 on high gain – but the bass was slightly lacking, and the treble tended to get a bit peaky – which never happens on my desktop sources! It wasn’t terrible sounding, and with some recordings was actually very good.
With the X5ii – for most headphones (except very difficult to drive full sized), there is simply no point in having an add-on amp.
Fiio rates the battery life under current firmware at around 10 hours. I did a battery test earlier in the week on the X5ii – fully charged to fully empty. Set-up was:
- Continuous play
- HD600 playing at around 60/120 on high gain
- DN-2000J playing at around 30/120 on low gain
- Redbook FLAC
Total playback time for the HD600 on high gain was almost exactly 10 hours, and 11.5 hours for the 2000J on low gain, before the battery depleted. Small note too – the battery meter does seem to be far more accurate now. With my testing – screen was off for most of the time – so please take that into account.
Recharge time from empty to full was almost exactly 4 hours.
VALUE & CONCLUSION
When I first received the X5ii, I read the release papers from Fiio – and spent the best part of a week simply getting used to its signature and feature set. I was expecting an increase in fidelity over the X5 original, and this was pretty much what I was hearing – or so I thought.
Once I got a chance to sit down and critically compare the X5 and X5ii (properly volume matched), some of those perceived differences diminished just a little. I still think the X5ii exhibits a slightly more spatial and vibrant sound – but IMO it is not a night and day difference with the X5 original.
Comparing the X5ii and X3ii was also interesting. Again – both are similar sonically with the X5ii exhibiting a touch better overall dynamics and a cleaner more refined signature. The differences are not huge though.
Like the others in the Fiio family, the X5ii continues to bring a fantastic feature set, and this is where its true value lies IMO. Great build and form factor, very good power, options to use as DAC, line-out, and digital out, a GUI that whilst not fully polished is still very usable, very good expandable storage, and of course (IMO) really nice SQ. All of this for USD 349 makes the X5ii a really attractive option.
I still feel the X3ii offers the best overall value in the Fiio range – but for those wanting the pinnacle of sound that Fiio currently produces – the X5ii definitely delivers.
Should current X5 owners upgrade? That very much depends on what you are looking for. Some of the features (instant on, play through folders) are definitely worth having – and there is the slightly more vivid sound (sorry – but that’s the best descriptor I can give for now). There is no doubt it is an incremental step up – but IMO we’re talking a step and not a leap.
The question remains how to rate the X5ii – and I’m making the assumption that Fiio has said that the final version will have the same wheel dynamics/feel as the X3ii. So from me (with those changes) – I’d give the X5ii a solid 4.5 stars (value and features). They could easily get a 5 stars if they would finally fix the Genre / All Songs category issues. C’mon Fiio – you know you can!
Again – my apologies for the length of the review. I really couldn’t do it any other way without glossing over essential information. My thanks to Joe and James for the opportunity to be part of the review team. I will genuinely miss this unit when I send it away later this week on its New Zealand tour.