Review: Fiio X5iii 3rd Generation – The one that could

Disclaimer: Fiio sent us the X5iii – 3rd generation Digital Audio Player for free. It doesn’t have to be returned as Fiio is a Headfonia partner.

 

Fiio

It’s been hard to keep up with Fiio lately and it seems plenty of new products and updates will see the light in 2017. This time however they’re back with a major update of one of their most successful DAPs, the Fiio X5. The original X5 DAP was launched late 2013 or early 2014 and it wasn’t before May/June 2015 that it got an update with the X5ii. Now we’re almost two years further and Fiio is back with another edition of their X5. This time however it is a major overhaul with a completely new DAP as a result. Fiio however still is the Price/quality king although they have been launching more expensive items as well.

The X5 always was extremely popular and a lot of people have been waiting for this new unit. The expectations as usual were/are high but just looking at the specs and possibilities this 3rd gen absolutely is a mid-fi killer DAP.

Fiio DAPS & X5 series

Where are the days that Fiio released the X3, the first of their DAP series. In the meantime Fiio now has a whole series of DAPs with the M3, X1, X3, X5 and X7. It’s a fact that everyone wants a piece of the DAP pie, but it rarely happens that one company has five different DAPs in their product lineup. This review was based on weeks of intensive daily use of the X5iii (not a tour model or shop audition).

The X5iii

The beautiful new X5iii is available in two different colors: titanium and black. Like the X7 DAP, the new X5iii is an Android based player (5.1 to be exact) and Fiio gives you the choice to use it in either the Android or Pure Music mode.

The X5iii comes with the golden High Resolution sticker and unlike the Fiio X7, it doesn’t use swappable amplification modules. You however do get a 2.5mm balanced output next to the regular 3.5mm SE output, and I personally am glad to see that.

Size wise, but we’ll get back to that later, I think the X5iii’s size is just right. It measures 114.2mm x 14.8mm x 66.2mm and sports a 480 x 800 touch screen. Yes, it perhaps looks a little like the AK380 but I don’t have any objections to that as they’re both part of the prettiest players on the market club.

The X5iii of course also can be updated by OTA (Over The Air) and the FW-version this review is based on is the latest 1.1.1 FW. I haven’t tried updating by OTA to be honest as the download from Western Europe was rather slow but you can manually download the FW from the Fiio Dropbox account and install it. (Drop zip file in root and click support-update). The Fiio X5iii DAP is very affordable and it will (only) set you back $399 USD / €449 Euro. Remarkable.

Tech Stuff & Specs

The new Fiio X5iii uses double AK4490 DAC chips and those are the exact same ones Astell&Kern use in their TOTL AK380 series. That doesn’t mean a thing though as it is all about the implementation and use of those chips. In a Facebook post (source unknown) someone even promoted the X5iii using the AK380 comparison.  This DAC chip can “do” 32/768. Next to that the X5iii uses a quad core RK3188 processor and two separate crystal oscillators. One for DSD/44.1/88.2/176.4/352.8kHz and one for 48/96/192/3814kHz. Then there are two dual OPA1642A chips for low-pass filtering and dual OPA426 chips for amplification.

The Fiio X5iii comes with BlueTooth 4.0 (aptX) and 2.3GHZ Wifi. Its screen measures 3.97” and it’s a full touch screen. It shares the 480 x 800 screen size with the AK380 as well.

Specs wise the X5iii has -112dB Total Harmonic Distortion and 120dB SNR. All tech spec can be read in detail on the following page: See: http://www.fiio.net/en/products/65/parameters. The X5iii is developed to be use with ear- and headphones from 15 to 150Ohm.

BQ, Design, Layout

The Fiio X5iii looks beautiful and I love the design. We’re not the only who do actually, Fiio already won an IFI design award for the X5iii. The features Fiio likes to point out are the concealed double MicroSD slots, the volume knob, the N° 180 zirconium sand body and the leather case.

Not only does the X5iii look nice (the illuminated power button is so sexy), it’s also easy to use with one hand (more on that later). On the right side of the player you have the power/screen button and the double hidden SD slots. On the left side of the player you’ll find the pause/play button up on top with the volume wheel right below that. The BCK/FWD keys are situated under the volume button. On the bottom of the player you – from left to right – have the 3.5mm single ended headphone output, the 2.5mm balanced headphone output, the USB port and the 3.5mm Line Out/Coax out.

Size wise (114.2mm x 14.8mm x 66.2mm) it to me is perfect although something smaller like the AK70 is even easier to use on the go. The build quality of the X5iii is exemplary. No sharp edges, only 186g, good grip, easy located buttons. (1 handed control) I love how the FWD/BACK buttons feel when you push them and using the X5III simply is a joy. The only thing I’m not the biggest fan of is the volume wheel. When turning it, it doesn’t always have the same amount of resistance and the clicks feel a bit weird. It works flawlessly though. I’ve been using the X5iii for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been carrying it around without the leather case it came with. The X5iii can take a beating but I wouldn’t drop it too often as both the back and front might not survive the drop.

All in all I’m very satisfied with the build quality, design and the button lay-out (although it occasionally happens that you accidentally click the FWD/BCK when you want to click the power button. It’s just a matter of grip though). The X5iii’s UI’s user-friendliness is covered in one of the next chapters.

The story continues on Page 2, after the jump below or the click HERE: https://www.headfonia.com/review-fiio-x5iii-3rd-generation-the-one-that-could/2/

Review: Fiio X5iii 3rd Generation – The one that could
4.2 (84.8%) 50 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

35 Comments

  • Reply March 2, 2017

    Kasperr

    How does it sound compared to ibasso dx80?

  • Reply March 3, 2017

    Jeff

    I’d like to see a review of the native FIIO player app. Artist-Album drill down and how you add albums to the play queue, display the current play queue, clear the play queue, etc…

  • Reply March 4, 2017

    Marco Angel De La Torre Camacho

    Im going to buy this X5iii, i dont have heavy to drive headphone, but i always hear improvement on dynamics and control when using more powerfull amps (on inears, headphones and full size speakers) So when you compare it alone and with the A5 attached, sound this way? or the internal amp is enough to make them sing at their full potential.
    =)

  • Reply March 6, 2017

    Juan Luis

    X5iii can drive a beyer’s like 1990pro/Amiron Home? Its a good pairing?

  • Reply March 6, 2017

    Lieven

    It can but it’s not the best. The X5iii & Amiron is better than the DT1990 but I would suggest an external amplifier, a good one, especially for the PRO models

    • Reply March 6, 2017

      Juan Luis

      So what headphones are best paired with the x5iii (excluding iem’s)? I appreciate your coments!

  • Reply March 6, 2017

    Lieven

    A whole lot but that depends on budget, other amps/gear, musical preference, etc

  • Reply March 10, 2017

    Alexa Man

    So how it sound comparing to Astell&Kern Ak70? I mean resolution, clearer presentation, more good mids? Or both almost same musical? Still doubt what to choose. What you prefer about sounding between Fiio X5iii and AK70? Thanks for your answer.

    • Reply March 10, 2017

      Lieven

      Didn’t I compare both in the review and in some comments? See Page 3

      Astell&Kern’s AK70 is more expensive but it does have a perfectly silent and great sounding balanced output. It’s also faster and more reactice when using it but it’s an Android version that (besides Tidal) doesn’t allow you to install any other apps. IF you don’t need all the customization options and you have extra money to spend, the AK70 could be more interesting. If you want something more versatile, the Fiio X5iii is the one to get.

  • Reply March 11, 2017

    Alexa Man

    Yeah, thank you i saw that, but my hope was that you compare them in details. Fiio has two DACs, and Ak70 has one DAC, however resolution remain the same?

  • Reply March 15, 2017

    J M Russell

    does this drive anything above 150ohm i.e. hd650 to a listenable standard

  • Reply March 16, 2017

    Lars

    Hey there guys! Need some guidance: if you would be able to get the x5iii and the x7 (with am1) for the same price, which one would you opt for?

    I can also add to the mix that you have
    – Sennheiser Momentum M2 (wired)
    – AKG 7xx
    – Grace design m9xx for desktop

    Which would you go with?

  • Reply March 17, 2017

    Dave

    I have just bought the X5 gen 3 and the only gripe i have with it is the fact that the connections are all on the bottom. I prefer if I’m holding it in my hand to have the cable coming out from the top. Also when listening to music i have mine set on Random mode, but when swiping in from the left it lists all the music in alphabetical order instead of the order it will play them in, a sort of play queue if you like. I’m using it with the A5 amp with the bass boost on as i use the Grado RS2i headphones which are a little bass shy. I love the sound.

    • Reply June 13, 2017

      Elton

      Devices with headphone jacks at the bottom are designed to let u slip the device into your jeans/pants naturally and conveniently, that’s why apple moved the headphone jacks of their iphones to the bottom for a few generations before going totally wireless

  • Reply April 11, 2017

    Andrés

    Is the sound significativelly better than an iphone 6? Is it worth the investment?

    I generally use my iphone 6 + B&W P7

    Thanks!’

    • Reply April 12, 2017

      Lieven

      It depends how you want to use it. I would maybe add something like a DragonFly in stead of getting the X5iii

      • Reply April 15, 2017

        Alejandro

        Thanks!
        I was told that fhe dragonfly will not make a big difference, but the chord mojo would change my life lol.
        So, which path do you suggest to go: x5iii or chord mojo + iphone6s?

        • Reply April 16, 2017

          Lieven

          That’s tough. The RED will make a difference as well though. if you son’t need the functionalities of the X5iii I would go for Phone and Mojo. I never use my phone as source so I would end up with X5iii and the Mojo. HAve you seen the Cayin N3 though? IT’s a great transport for the Mojo

  • Reply April 16, 2017

    Alejandro

    thanks again for your input.
    I found this review (https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R19151QX6T3OJA/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B016W1X94O), so I will go with the mojo. Maybe I will finish buying the x5iii in some months too 🙂

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    John

    Hi.
    I’ve been trying to get the USB OTG function to work but I get a pretty consistent amount of scratching in the background with Fiio’s music app. When I tried Hibby I got no sound what so ever. I too have a chord mojo that I would like to connect to.
    When trying the coax I have a Fiio L16 cable which supposedly does not work anymore with this model. So frustrating.
    Could you recommend an after market cable like the L16 that would work with the Gen 3.

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    Lieven

    Are you on the latest FW? Are you using an OTG approved cable?
    The coax cable is included with the Fiio devices

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    John

    Yes, I am on the latest firmware.
    I’m not sure what an OTG apporved cable would be.
    I have the red Mini to Mini USB cable from Taiwan which was talked about here by another poster. A recommendation for a cable I could buy here in the States would be great.
    I did manage to get Hiby to play through the USB, but again with lots of scratching going on in
    the background.

    Thanks so much for helping me out.

    J

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    John

    Re The coax cable supplied. Is it the Coax to RCA? If so, I need Coax to Coax.

  • Reply April 29, 2017

    John

    Re the micro USB cable the brand is;
    ASEN AVANZATO X-LIMIT USB OTG Micro-Micro USB CHORD MOJO HUGO

    So I presume it is OTG compatible.
    I would really love this feature to work on the FIIO X5 rev 3. Not sure that it is currently.

  • Reply May 4, 2017

    Newob

    AK series and X5iii 3rd gen are not using the same DAC chips. AK series use AK4490EQ whereas X5iii 3rd gen uses AK4490EN. AK4490EQ is more premium.
    links:
    http://www.akm.com/akm/en/aboutus/news/20150514AK4490iriver_001/
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/65

  • Reply May 9, 2017

    Gary

    Can you rate songs on the x5 like you can with the iPod?Know it’s not a huge issue but it would be useful if you could.

  • Reply May 11, 2017

    Alex

    Would the x5 III pair well with any of the following headphones/earphones?:

    1. Bose Quietcomfort 15
    2. Samsung Gear Iconx wireless Earbuds
    3. Ultimate ears 600 noise suppressing earphones

    Thanks

  • Reply May 29, 2017

    IAN

    Hi Lieven,

    Do you have any thoughts on X5iii compare to AK300 in term of sound quality ?

    Does dual DAC really make a huge difference for X5iii compare to single DAC AK300?

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Lieven

      it’s not just about having 2 dacs, it’s about how they were implemented. Personally the 300 never convinced me and I prefer the AK70 and even the AK120/240 (and AK380 & SP1000)
      The X5 does have more possibilities and with some updates can be a really good dap. The X7.2 is also coming out just fyi.

  • Reply July 2, 2017

    Mark

    Thanks for your review. If I respectfully may please, I really need help with my following inquiry…..

    I realize that you can’t extract various components that are non-existent from a song in a compressed mp3 file/format, since it’s not a ‘lossless’ file. And even though I see this X5 III as more suited for lossless files to truly get the fully enhanced effect, but….., can it at least improve the trebles and mid-ranges of a compressed mp3 file to a certain degree?

    A lot of my 256kbps iTunes songs are quite dull and muffled, thus wanting an equalizer that his X5 III has (which my iPod Classic does not have) to enhance the trebles and mid-ranges.

    Or, is it the equivalent of trying to suck blood from a stone and not worth the investment, since the compressed mp3 songs will have lost a lot of the original components of a lossless file? Therefore this device cannot improve upon something that is no longer there in the song. ???

    I would really appreciate an honest answer where I don’t feel like I’m being persuaded to buy it through an Amazon affiliate link. I’m not at all implying you would be ‘dishonest’, as that’s what I’m saying whatsoever.
    But other reviewers I could tell, were hyping up the device in order to get a sale, that’s all.

    Therefore, thank you for your kind understanding. 🙂

    I would be extremely grateful for your kind thoughts Sir.

    Thank you for your time. :)

    • Reply July 2, 2017

      dale thorn

      Do not make the mistake of assuming that your MP3s are dull and muffled because they’re compressed. Those are bad masterings, period. The treble-bass-midrange balance does not change by MP3 compression, nor does compression change the overall character of the music.

      • Reply July 3, 2017

        Dave

        What he said.

        • Reply July 3, 2017

          Lieven

          Dale is right concerning the balance. My answer is about the detail

  • Reply July 2, 2017

    Lieven

    If you’re starting with low quality input (your 256 files), it will be hard to get out what isn’t there to start with. The X5III might make them sound different (I’m not even saying good) but what’s not there can’t be decoded.

    I would advise upgrading your library

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