Review: Fiio X7 – Fiio’s Number One

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.

Fiio X7 VU meters

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.

Fiio X7 EQ

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.

Sound

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.

Fiio X7 VU Size

AM1

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

Fiio X7 Amp Modules

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.

Sound continues after the click HERE or below

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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.

45 Comments

  • Reply March 3, 2016

    Headfonia_L.

  • Reply March 3, 2016

    Brooko

    Fantastic review Lieven. Covered everything, and agree that The X7 pushes the envelope in that it lives comfortably with the kilobuck DAPs.

  • Reply March 4, 2016

    Xactoc

    Long yet great review! One question: how does X7 sound better than Mojo?

    • Reply March 4, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Thanks. It has better layering, depth and timbre. I’n not a big fan of the rather boring sounding Mojo

  • Reply March 4, 2016

    lowbies

    Hai Lieven, have you tried Hifiman 901S?
    Can you compare it with Fiio X7, they shared the same DAC chip (ES9018) but the 901S use 2 chips and X7 only 1 chip.
    Thank you

    • Reply March 4, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I’m sorry but the 901S never came to us. Hifiman doesn’t seem to seek reviews of it

  • Reply March 5, 2016

    Athos

    Great review and wonderful DAP.
    On the first page you said the battery is 3500mAh, and then 3700mAh on the specs. Which one is correct?

  • Reply March 6, 2016

    Jann

    Hi.
    Thank you for the review!
    I have an AUDIO VALVE RKV mark II amplifier (tube) + Fiio X7 + K5.
    I wonder will I get a really good sound quality if I will buy a pair of Sennheiser HD 800? Can my Fiio X7 + K5 replace a good quality (for HD800) desktop DAC or I have to buy one?
    Thanks for reply.

    • Reply March 7, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Why not X7 + Audio Valve? You don’t have to buy an external dac but there sure are better dacs then the X7. Depends on what you want and what your budget is

  • Reply March 8, 2016

    theswordofdoom

    “With a Violectric V281/V850 setup and the K5 in your living room, you tend to use that instead of the X7.”

    Dude, when are we going to see the V850 review? I took your recommendation on the V281 and am absolutely loving it. Concero HD is my current DAC, and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it, but I am assuming the V850 would be a pretty awesome upgrade for me? If you can give me an idea I would probably pull the trigger on a V850. Thanks dude!

  • Reply March 13, 2016

    Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    Considering the price of X7 + AM2 and X5SG + Cloud Nine , which combination provides the best value for money ?

  • Reply March 15, 2016

    Alex Ignatiev

    Hi! Could You help me a little? Going to change my sony nwz-a15 for something better(around 1000$). At the same time I have VorzAMP Pure II +. Thinking of L&P L5Pro( but someone said VorzAMP Pure II +doesn’t imrove L&P L5Pro much) So maybe I should take Fiio X7 or something else to my VorzAMP Pure II +? Thanks in advance.(also going to buy DUNU DN-2000J )

    • Reply March 15, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I can’t fully agree, a Duet or vorzuge will definitely improve the L5Pro when using it with full sized cans. the X7 + Vorzuge will also be very good!

  • Reply March 27, 2016

    Matthew Thomas

    Which of the three DAPs would you recommend with Shure SE425 and Chord Mojo?

    -Questyle QP1R
    -L&P L5Pro
    -Fiio X7 with AM2

  • Reply March 28, 2016

    Aaron

    Hi Lieven, do you think it it would be a big difference between Fiio X7 Dac and Similiar priced desktop Dac? Can you compare X7 and e10K dacs? Thanks.

    • Reply March 29, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Yes of course there’s a difference.
      X7 vs E10K is like Porsche against Daewoo

      • Reply March 29, 2016

        Aaron

        Do you talk about dac performance between them? I dont really care about either amp. Do you know any similiar sounding stand alone dac as Fiio X7? Whoud it be a good purchase if i whould use it mostly as dac?

        • Reply March 29, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          You can do that, but like I mention in my reviews, I wouldn’t buy a DAP as DAC

  • Reply April 12, 2016

    sulbh

    How does it compare to ibasso dx90?

    • Reply April 12, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Wider, deeper, more details and better layering. I always loved the dx90 but it is a bit “old” by now

  • Reply April 17, 2016

    Kiki Galuh

    i’m looking for more slim look dap for sport user..can u recommen something?
    lately i saw more bulky outlook and a little a bit look heavy.
    thx..

  • Reply April 21, 2016

    Ant

    I’m excited to see how this compares to the L&P L3

  • Reply May 20, 2016

    Ant

    Hey, how does the x7 pair with the harmony 8 pro? I’ve been ising the dx90 with the alo rx iem amp. I’m thinking about moving to the x7.

    • Reply May 21, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I haven’t used that combo. You would need the AM2 module for sure. The RX is a great amp, if you change it would be to get a better DAC and more modern DAP

      • Reply May 22, 2016

        Ant

        Thanks for the help man. So the AM1 doesn’t have enough power for the Harmony 8 pro?

        • Reply May 22, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          Power it has, the sound of AM2 just is better for iems

  • Reply May 21, 2016

    Dreamriser Kit

    Hello Lieven, may I ask you to compare AM2 to Cypherlabs Picollo? I already have Picollo and wonder if I need AM2. My headphones are ATH-M50X and Fidelio X2. Thank you.

    • Reply May 21, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      If you have the picollo I wouldn’t bother getting the AM2, unless you don’t want to stack up. AM2 is lighter, less body in bass and mids but is maybe more layered

      • Reply May 21, 2016

        Dreamriser Kit

        Thank you sir!

  • Reply May 22, 2016

    Darren How

    I have an E17K Portable Amp, will it be able to stack with the already available amp paired in the X7?

    • Reply May 22, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      only if you use the line out of the of the X7. I don’t think you can bypass the X7 DAC by USB, probably not

  • Reply May 25, 2016

    Mark Gagas

    Hey guys. I just ordered the X7 with the AM5 amplifier. Using it to
    drive some Klipsch in ear buds which I know won’t be an issue. I also
    have the Sennheiser HD800 which is what I got the AM5 for. Overkill or
    good to go? On a side note a have the Audioengine D1 for my desktop. Any
    use for running these together or could I run the X7 as the DAC
    instead? Thanks for you input. Can’t wait to try this thing after all
    I’ve read!

    • Reply May 25, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I haven’t even unpacked the AM5, sorry. I found the HD800 to sound OK with AM1 so AM5 must surely be better.

      If the D1 has a line in you can use the LO from the X7 and use that DAC

  • Reply May 27, 2016

    Yaroslav

    Hi, I’m considering getting X7 or ak100 II to use with Westone UM Pro 50. Can you please recommend which of them will be a better fit for these IEMs or maybe there’s any other DAP I need to check? Thanks.

  • Reply November 27, 2016

    Etienne

    Hey guys,
    I’m contacting you to have some advice. I was using an old ipod touch + a JDS Labs C5D Amplifier + a Philips Fidelio X2. I just wanted to upgrade my player and get rid on the way of the iThings and especially Itunes that I hate.

    So basically I bought a Fiio X7 !

    My question is now more about the Amp. The JDS Labs C5D is really doing a great job and I really like the way it sounds. The only problem with it is the battery autonomy and the fact that you cannot charge it while listening music. Anyway, the question is which Fiio additional Amp should I pick to have the same kind of sound.

    I’m not a specialist so my question is maybe a bit stupid. I’m mainly listening to blues, rock and metal, I don’t know if the kind of music could influence the Amp choice.
    By the way, I used to have the bass boost switched on on the C5D.

    I guess the best would be to try both but they are not cheap.

    Thanks a lot for your help

    • Reply January 15, 2017

      Lieven

      Excangig your C5D with a Fiio amp sounds more like downgrading to me. THE E12(A) is a nice amp but I wouldn’t get rid of my C5D for that. The portable amps I most of the time recommend are the Duet, Vorzuge, Picillo but they’re not cheap.

  • Reply February 12, 2019

    Bruce White

    Would love to know what you think of the Fiio X7(AM3) now, especially if it only sold for $300.

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