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

Versatility

Like with the X7, Fiio has created another versatile portable player. Besides the obvious fact that it is a portable high resolution audio player, you can also use the X5iii as a USB-DAC (24/192 driver to install Windows). You either have the choice of using the X5’s headphone out or the 3.5mm Line Out function. The X5iii also supports USB OTG, meaning you can pass the digital signal over USB to another DAC (see tests results below). The same USB-port also allows you to dock the player in the Fiio K5 Docking station.  And if that still isn’t enough, you can also use the 3.5mm coax out. The only downside the X5iii has is that it doesn’t have a balanced 2.5mm Line Out function, like the AK’s.

As the Fiio X5iii is only going for $399/€449, we can forgive this shortcoming but it would have given the X5III even more value.

Memory & Battery

The Fiio X5iii comes heavily loaded with memory. The DAP has 1GB RAM and you get 32GB of internal memory to work with (26GB to the user). The X5iii accepts dual MicroSD cards of 256GB giving you well over 500GB of total storage. That means there’s more than enough room on the DAP for all your high resolution music. And if that isn’t enough there’s always Spotify or Tidal you can work with. And Last.fm scrobbling, not an issue.

The X5iii is equipped with a 3.8V / 3400mAh battery. In theory this battery should deliver over 10h of play time but in reality I haven’t gotten close to the 10h mark. With the screen turned for the VU meter, or lyrics and using high res files, I out of experience get closer to 7 – 8h of playtime. You do get double charging options however (USB or 9-12V) and recharging the battery goes quite fast.

Memory wise we couldn’t ask for more but I would have loved to get 10h out of one charge without worrying.

UI & User friendliness

The X5iii comes with an excellent touch screen and as I said the button layout is excellent. Usability of the X5 is very good and you don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to understand, it’s very straightforward and it’s as good as the same as the X7’s UI. You can either use Fiio’s native music app for playing your music or you can install a 3rd party app like Hiby in example. It all works.

Some positive points:

  • The main menu of the X5iii can be customized to your liking
  • You get a 10 band EQ with 9 prefixed settings
  • There’s built in Viper Effect software (partly free)
  • You can play back music from the Cloud directly or from a network server using DLNA
  • An excellent choice of filter modes
  • Two gain setting
  • Gorgeous new lock screen with album art (fw 1.1.1)
  • Playback pauses when the headphone is disconnected
  • The volume control has 120 steps
  • Installing and using Spotify, Youtube and Tidal in Android mode is a piece of cake. Streaming goes without any issue.
  • Lyrics can be displayed or you can choose the hypnotizing blue VU meters.
  • On the latest FW, the player – when connected to the web – searches and downloads the correct Album Art and lyrics of your music. The result of this search does depend on your file’s tag quality but I am very pleased with this. The idea behind this is great, just don’t expect all your local music to be found.

Some points for improvement

  • Updating the media library from a new 200GB memory card isn’t the fastest with the Fiio music player. The Hiby player updates it a lot faster.
  • Like with each player there still is room for gapless play improvement
  • It’s impossible to fast forward music when the screen is locked
  • The USB OTG function isn’t fully available yet but it will be in the next FW update according to Fiio. I did get the Mojo working with both the Fiio and Hiby music app but some occasional cracks were audible. I couldn’t get it to work with the Hugo or C5D yet and only partly with the RHA DacAmp L1. I’m sure this will be improved with further updates.
  • It sometimes takes two seconds to switch to the next song after you clicked the button. Sometimes it works perfectly fast, and sometimes it doesn’t. I still haven’t fully figured it out but the last FW update did improve the switch speed already. I’m sure Fiio can get this sorted out with a next update. (confirmed by fellow reviewers)
  • When FLAC or DSD is playing and you have paused your music, the screen goes black after a while. When clicking the side play-button to restart the music, it takes about 4 seconds before you hear any music (when the screen is still active, this doesn’t happen). There are a few more of these “lag” cases like this, in example when you’re using the search function on a fully loaded 200gb card. The X5iii just isn’t the most reactive/responsive DAP, let’s hope FW upgrades improve it. (confirmed by fellow reviewers)
  • The leather case is covering up some buttons and that’s not nice to use

Using the X5iii is easy, straightforward and now faster thanks to the last update. While the FW still isn’t perfect with things like music sorting and lag, the player is still is an absolute joy to use. The X5iii together with the AK70 and AK380 are my favorite players for daily use. The Cayin i5 also is a very good player with a very good UI but it doesn’t work as easy size-wise and button-layout wise as these three players do. Great job, Fiio.

Accessories

Accessory wise Fiio pretty much always delivers. With the X5iii you get one USB cable, one typical Fiio Coax Digital adaptor, one tempered glass screen protector (pre-applied in  the factory) and a leather case. While the Fiio leather case is OK’ish (it’s not the best) I mostly end up using the player without case.

When I did use a leather case I want the buttons to be freely accessible. I don’t like it when they’re covered under the leather. With cases like the Cayin i5’s I don’t have a problem and my favorite cases are those of Miter. I’m actually using those for my AK70, AK380, this Fiio X5iii and my Mojo.

You can find all about how it sounds on the next page, after the CLICK: https://headfonia.com/review-fiio-x5iii-3rd-generation-the-one-that-could/3/

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

38 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 May 16, 2018

      Indrajit

      Hi, How does Fiio x5iii compare sonically with Cayin N5ii?

  • 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

      Lieven

      Not really optimally

    • Reply December 17, 2017

      pablo luis rey

      may be to late… but x5iii + a5… yeaaaaah1

  • 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

  • Reply January 13, 2018

    g_t_j

    Lieven,

    From what you say, the Hifiman RE-00s or Ety’s EP4P will sing with the X5iii!
    Isn’t that the case?

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