The X7, in the standard Fiio music app, supports playing by folders, all songs, albums, artists, genres, favorite songs and custom playlists. On rebooting the X7, if wished, will take off where you shut it down (it remembers the track and its position). Starting up and shutting down the X7 – on FW1.8 is really fast and up to now FW1.8 is the most stable FW of them all. It still has some issues with special characters etc (which Fiio is working on, check Head-Fi) and it from time to time does crash on me but it fortunately doesn’t happen a lot. The one thing that maybe annoys me most is that I can’t seem to fast forward when the screen is locked. Well that and the fact the buttons sometimes don’t immediately react when the screen is locked. The 1.8 firmware version, besides serving as a laptop DAC, also allows Over The Air (OTA) updates when connected to your Wifi network. Fiio has been very open about the FW updates and their communication on the matter has been very good. I’m sure Fiio will get everything sorted out soon. They’re even planning on including a couple of VU meters in one of the upcoming updates, something I look forward to myself.
The X7 is extremely easy to use and it’s very intuitive and logic. If you’ve ever worked with recent Android phones you know how the top down swiping works. If you haven’t, you’ll learn in just a few minutes. All the options and other menus really are as straightforward as it gets. Besides swiping down you can also swipe left to right to bring up the “next song” overview. Swiping on the right side of the screen will increase (up) or decrease (down) the listening volume. The X7’s menus and on screen buttons are as clear as they can be and the X7 is a pleasure to work with. Creating favorites and adding songs to a certain playlist is as easy as it gets. For a full overview of the different menus, I suggest checking out Paul’s extensive UI review as he did a great job on that. The main categories to navigate are: All Songs – Artists – Album – Genre – Folder View
Other X7 features I like – besides the play list function – are the gapless playback, the play through folder possibility and the auto-pause function when disconnecting headphones. The X7 also has an easy search function which comes in very handy when you have a few thousand songs stored on your SD-card and you want to listen to a specific song without having to browse through all the folders, artists, etc. I use it a lot and so far the only other DAPs offering this search were the AKs but I think it should be mandatory in each DAP. Several readers will also be happy to see that Fiio also integrated a 10 band equalizer in its firmware. The EQ has several pre-configured settings and a customizable one where you can adapt the EQ just the way you want.
With a player of this level there of course is Wifi and BlueTooth. BT is actually BT4 and not APT-X, a specific choice made by Fiio as they wanted to focus on the Wifi implementation. Wifi on the X7 works very well but I can confirm my X7 also has the “interference noise” when streaming from Spotify or youtube over Wifi. Fiio confirmed this might happen but luckily for me I hardly ever stream, this however, is something to take into account. The X7 also very easily streams songs from my DNLA network drive (NAS). It’s also supposed to work with DropBox and Cloud but I haven’t tested that.
The X7 works with AM amplifier cards just like the Hifiman DAPs do. I’m not really sure why Fiio decided to go that route, but that’s the way it is now. The AM module that comes delivered with the X7 is the AM1 which works especially well for IEMs. AM1 uses OPA1612+AD8397. AM2 is the Medium Power module (Muses02 + Buf634) and it is available for around $99USD. Later AM3 (with balanced 2.5TRRS) and AM4 (high power) will be released.
Switching the AM modules with the supplied screwdriver actually is very easy. I have two left hands and I manage to swap the modules in less than one minute, it’s that easy. At the same time the modules bother me as well: I don’t feel like carrying AM modules and a screwdriver with me all the time. For now I use AM2 at all times, even when only using IEMs. One of the things I love about the L5Pro from L&P is how well it manages and drives everything from IEMs to full sized headphones. And you don’t have to swap its internals for it to do so. Did Fiio do the right thing with the AM modules? I don’t know. It can either be seen as annoying because of having to switch them or as sublime because of the X7’s modularity. My final verdict isn’t out yet, it bugs me but at the same time I love being able to have the SE output, the balanced one, etc.
The X7 is very user friendly and the great thing is it sounds really good too. Of all the Fiio DAPs, the X7 is the one with the most detail, the best layering, the widest sound stage and the best dynamics. The overall sound signature is more to the neutral side like the AK’s but with that touch of smoothness making it a very musical player. Maybe even a bit more so than the AKs, but those have other things going for them. Besides a reasonably wide sound stage, the X7 impressed me especially with its depth and layering. To me this is the first Fiio DAP that reaches this level and that is very noticeable when using CIEMs, the X7 sounds natural and effortlessly does everything and all formats. The X7’s sound is clean, very clear and the separation is good. The level of detail is also up there with the other well-known players and I actually think it performs above its price point. Bass is nicely layered and goes reasonably deep. The mids are clear, detailed, layered and have just enough body to get that impactful and engaging sound. To me the mids are what makes the AM1 module shine. Treble is extended but it certainly isn’t its strongest point, I’d say it’s about the same level as the X7’s bass.
Fiio’s original AM1 module shines when using inear monitors but it also powers easy to drive full size headphones. Just don’t expect your HD650 to sound as good as it can sound (and should).
AM1 vs AM2
AM2 reminds me of the L&P L5pro where you get a full bodied sound, a very dark background, a lot of depth, clarity and more than enough power to drive most full size headphones. AM2 delivers the dynamics, detail and musicality of AM1 but with more power. Last year the L5Pro came out on top of the X7 because the X7 only had amp module AM1 and at that time the L5Pro did the full range of headphones in a “better” way. On AM2 the sound signatures of both DAPs are very similar but I still give the L5Pro the edge over the X7 for what depth and layering is concerned. The L5Pro also has a little more body in the bass and mids and sounds a bit tighter, showing more authority. The X7 easily wins on user friendliness though. The great thing about AM2 is that it works almost as good with IEMs as well. I’ve been using it with the Unique Melody Maestro (12-driver), the CustomArt Harmony 8Pro and the Warbler Audio and while you won’t get the same level of finesse, detail and layering like with AM1, the level still is very good to say the least. AM2 powers my HE-400i very well and I can even live with it powering my HD650. I out of curiosity also hooked up the HE-1000 and HD800 directly to the X7 and I have to say I was surprised to hear them sound reasonably good. I expected both headphones to sound a lot worse and I still wouldn’t advise using them with the X7 but it does show the potential the X7/AM2 combo has.
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