The Earwerkz Legend R is by far the most sensitive monitor in my collection. It picks up hiss like it’s its favorite thing to do. The Legend R doesn’t even like the Astell&Kern players and till now the only almost quiet player I got to use the Legend R with without external amplifier was the iBasso DX90, one of the quietest players on the market. Well the X5SG is even quieter and I haven’t really noticed any floor noise with any of my gear and that’s simply awesome! Of course the X5SG doesn’t have any problems driving any of my custom and universal monitors. There are a whole lot of earphones that sound good with the new X5 but one IEM I particularly like with it is the Alpha & Delta AD01. It’s a brand new dual Dynamic Driver universal IEM that focusses on bass and clarity and while it doesn’t have an audiophile tuning, it has been extremely fun listening to it. RHA’s brand new T20 with the reference filters to me wasn’t the best match. I had to switch to the Bass filters to make the T20 enjoyable to me but in all honestly I only just unpacked the T20 and from what I’ve read they take a while to sound their best, so there’s still hope.
Friends & Competitors
I’ve spilled it already, the X5SG is Fiio’s best DAP for me. The X3SG sounds a bit heavier, it has more body but at the same time it also has (too much) floor noise which the X5SG doesn’t have. The X5SG is clearer sounding, has a blacker background and shows more space between the instruments. The X3SG is the warmer and more musical sounding player and it also has a tad more focus on bass. The X5SG is the most correct sounding DAP in Fiio’s lineup but I do have to give the edge to the X3SG for what timbre and layering is concerned, the X5SG misses out on that a little. The X1, like The X3SG also is noisier and it’s even warmer sounding with more bass focus. Soundstage and detail level is lowest and there’s quite a big gap in sound quality between both players. With the X1 and X3SG I preferred using the LO with an external amp and with the X5SG this isn’t the case at all. iBasso DX90’s sound is closest to the X5SG’s but the DX90 has the better UI and touch screen. Sound wise I actually find both DAPs to be very close to each other, the X5SG’s attack might even be a bit better and it maybe is a tad more clear sounding but both players are very close to each other and I’m not sure I would easily name the right player in a blind test. I do prefer the Coax out on the D90 though. I hope to receive the AK Jr soon so I can test it against Fiio’s latest. Until it does my ranking based on SQ is:
X1 – X3 – X3SG – DX90 – X5SG – AK120ii – AK240. The X5SG and DX90 switch places when you throw the UI and touch screen in the mix.
Looking at the specs the X5SG surprised me a little as some of the specs of the earlier players are better, yet I find this to be the best sounding Fiio DAP so far. If we’re just looking at sound quality it even bests the DX90 and that’s quite the accomplishment. In the mid-fi market it has become a serious contender for the aging DX90. The DX90 is getting a FW update one of these days but there of course won’t be a night and day difference in how it sounds. (the X5SG will get one too one of these days). Just looking at usability the DX90 still is the best for me, sound wise however the new X5SG is the winner.(unless you’ll be using the coax out)
Compared to the higher end DAPs, what I still miss in the Fiio X5SG is more timbre and layering over the full spectrum in combination with a higher detail level. The X5SG has a high price/quality ratio and it sounds darn good, superb even for its price. I’m not saying the X5SG is flawless but in the Mid Fi segment this is the new DAP to beat. If you’re looking for a new DAP I would save up and get the new 5SG instead of the X3SG, the price difference isn’t that big but the difference in sound surely is. Those of you who made it to the end of this extremely long double review will see Paul and me don’t fully agree as he would still recommend the X3SG over the X5SG. That’s the beauty of a double review: not everyone looks for the same things and this gives our readers an even better view on things. Anyway, I love what Fiio has done and is doing with its DAPS and I expect a lot from the upcoming X7.