How does it sound?
I won’t make you wait for it but this is where the X5 SG positively surprised me, and how. Like I said, the original X3 never convinced me. The X1 was a bit warm and bass heavy, the X3SG was better and was really nice sounding to be honest but was still missing some detail, etc. The new X5SG still isn’t the best player I have ever listened to but to me it certainly is the best sounding DAP in Fiio’s product range and maybe even the best in Mid-Fi. That means a lot coming from an iBasso DX90 fan, that’s for sure.
The JZ4760B+SA2000+PCM1792A+PGA2311A chip combination –with DSD decoding – works great. The headphone output stage employs two BUF634U for current buffering, supplying up to 250mA current output (an improvement over X5 1st gen).
I love the way the new X5 SG sounds and to me it is the best tuned Fiio DAP so far. Its sound stage is quite wide and Fiio managed to give the X5SG a lot of clarity and a great sense of air between the instruments and notes. There is a good depth but it’s not the strongest point of the player. Compared to the iBasso DX90, the X5SG is about the same in this regard.
Gone is the time when I said Fiio was strongly bass focused. Fiio has clearly been improving on that and their latest releases all prove that. I’m known for not easily finding a unit to have too much bass but tastes evolve and the X5SG’s bass tuning is exactly how I like my bass for the moment: clear, tight, punchy and fast. Present but not overly so. Again the layering isn’t quite there like in the higher level DAPs but I really like how it does bass. The mids section of the new X5 is really spacious and clear sounding and bass isn’t running in to the mids at all. The upper mids and treble are really good to my ears and they’re the strongest points of the X5SG. Precise, great detail, never hash and at the same time it’s really sparkling making the X5SG sounding more lively as ever before.
The overall tuning I would say is neutral with a flick to the warm side. Clarity over smoothness and warmth. Yup, the X5SG is a well-balanced excellent sounding player.
I have to say I didn’t really use the Line Out on the X5SG a lot as the Headphone Output supplied more than enough power for most of my headphones but more on that in a bit. The only amplifier I did use with it is the PlusSound Cloud Nine amp which will be featured here next Thursday. Pairing an external amplifier with the X5SG is easy. I’ve always been a fan of Fiio’s Line Out and like before it sends a noiseless clear and well detailed quality audio stream to your amplifier. When you switch the LO to Coax (it’s the same 3.5mm output) you have to use the supplied 3.5mm to Coax adapter. While I’m a big fan of the normal LO I can’t get to like the coaxial output in combination with my Chord Hugo. To me it seems the coaxial is taking away bass body and musicality and that’s not doing the sound any good. The other thing is the X5SG can’t send DSD over DOP to the Hugo and you will get a PCM signal instead unless you incorporate the DSD in a FLAC file.
I’m sure some people will also use the X5SG as a USB DAC but I haven’t really tested it as such. I look at is as a nice extra but I don’t feel DAPs should be used as “desktop” DACs, but who am I.
Head- & Earphones
The first full sized headphone I plugged was the 300Ohm Sennheiser HD650. Contrary to the original X5, the Second Generation is optimized for 16-150Ohm and that shows. While the HD650 can certainly be driven by the SG on high gain it really doesn’t sound its best. You can feel the HD650 is not getting what it needs and especially the low end suffers from that. The X3SG does slightly better with the HD650 which is a bit surprising as it also is optimized for 16-150Ohm.
The Hifiman HE-400i was completely different and the new X5 drives it really well. While it was possible in low gain I did prefer high gain for a better use of the volume pot. The HE-400i sounded powerful, had more than enough low end and came out very musical. The HE-400i is a terrific headphone and you will absolutely love it with the X5SG’s character.
The X5SG surprised me most when I plugged in the Audeze LCD-2. I never expected it to drive the 2.1 this good but it did, and that even in low gain. You have to understand it doesn’t sound like when I’m using my Violectric V281 but the sound, coming straight out of a DAP, is remarkably good. There’s enough detail musicality, air and low end to make the X5SG and LCD2 a very enjoyable combination. The new Audeze EL-8 headphones both sounded really good on the X5SG as well. These headphones aren’t that hard to drive and even in low gain they sounded really clear, tight and detailed. A double EL-8 review will be posted in the short future.
Last sound part and Conclusion on the last page