Review: Fiio X7 – Fiio’s Number One

DAC & Others

With firmware 1.8 the X7 also became a USB DAC and in combination with the Fiio K5 that makes the X7/K5 a desktop quality (mid fi?) setup. I have to admit I’m a sucker for the Sabre chips but at the same time I don’t really see myself using the X7, or any DAP for that matter, as a DAC in a desktop system. That being said, the DAC is pretty darn good and Sabre is known for its detail and clarity, so a quality sound is guaranteed should you go that route.

Fiio X7 9

The X7 can of course also be connected to a Hugo/Mojo or any other external DAC by Coax. That way you’re actually bypassing the X7’s DAC and I myself only do that when I really feel like using the Hugo with full sized headphones like the LCD-2, HE-1000 and HD800. I don’t use the Mojo in this way as the internal DAC and amp of the X7 is just as good, if not better. The only time I use a DAP as a source connected to a DAC is when my laptop isn’t at home, then I tend to use the AK120II and V850 DAC connected by optical. When the misses is out, I spin records on the 1Xpression Carbon Classic by Pro-Ject Audio using my speaker setup.

The Fiio X7 DAP is very versatile and you can use it as DAP, DAC or as a transport. No matter how you use it, you get a top quality sound that, to me, often surpasses its $650 price tag. The Earphones I used most with the X7 are the Maestro, the Aether, the Warbler and the Jomo5. I can’t really say there was one specific monitor I especially liked with the X7 as I found them all to sound really good. Full sized headphones used are the Hifiman Edition X, the good old LCD-2, the Sennheiser HD650 and the HE-400i. While some combinations surprised me more than others I can’t say I used the full sized headphones for anything but testing. With a Violectric V281/V850 setup and the K5 in your living room, you tend to use that instead of the X7.

Comparisons with other DAPs

Fiio X5SG: The JZ4760B+SA2000+PCM1792A+PGA2311A chip combination in the X5SG works great and the X5SG up to now was my number 1 Fiio DAP as it has the best detail, clarity, best sound stage, best separation off all Fiio DAPs and it sounded most neutral. Well the X7 does all that and more, especially in the layering and timbre category the X7 scores big. The difference between both players, to my ears, isn’t small and comparing it directly against the X3SG wouldn’t be fair. The X5SG is available for around $339USD and that still makes it the recommended player if you’re on a smaller budget.

L&P L5pro: As I already mentioned, the X7 with AM2 sounds a lot like the L5Pro. The L5Pro has a little more body in bass and mids and sounds a bit tighter, showing more authority. I still give the L5Pro the edge over the X7 for what depth and layering is concerned but AM2 does a great job of sounding almost just as good. The L5Pro is priced around $800.

Fiio X7 AM Modules

L&P L3: Luxury & Precision’s new L3 is a DAP made especially for IEMs. That means it in theory should be compared to the balanced AM module but, just like the L3, it hasn’t officially been released yet. L3’s balanced output is very good (even right out of the box) and it reminds me a lot of the Cayin N5’s balanced output. These both have excellent layering, the right amount of space, good separation and a wide and deep layered sound stage. The L3 excels in “holographic soundstage”, delivering a very natural sound. On some devices (like the AKs in example) I often find the balanced output to be bass light and even more often the mids and bass miss body but this isn’t the case with the L3 and N5 and that’s why they’re so addictive. In my non review time I most often find myself using a balanced output and I really look forward to see how Fiio implemented it as it will be their first time (if I’m not mistaken). The L3’s price is still to be confirmed but it will be somewhere between $300 and $400.

Cayin N5: I think the Cayin N5 goes for about half the price of the X7 and it resembles the sound signature of the (L5pro and) X7 on AM2. The N5 has more body in bass and mids but the X7 is more refined, has better detail from bass to treble and has better layering with more space between the instruments. The Cayin N5 is a really good sounding player but the difference in price does show the difference in sound quality as well. The N5 goes for $349 on Amazon.

AK120ii: The big advantage the X7 has over the AK120II is that it has AM2 and AM4. I often find myself using external amps with my AK DAPs where I don’t have to do that with the X7. We don’t know yet how well AM4 will do with the orthos or other harder to drive headphones but I’m sure it’ll be easier for the X7 than for the AK120II. The AK still has the edge over the X7 for what detail, precision, sound stage and layering is concerned but the X7 simply drives your headphones better. The X7 will also sound more musical because it sounds just a tad more smooth/warm than the AK120II which rather has a “light” presentation. I’ll be very interested to see how the balanced module does against AK’s balanced output (which to me is just a tad bass light). The 120II still goes for over $1500.

Fiio X7 8

iBasso DX80: For the moment the DX80 isn’t here. My first unit unfortunately had some issues with clicks, plops and playing at an accelerated speed and the second unit hasn’t gotten to me yet. With all these great new DAPs I’m not really in a hurry though, the DX80 didn’t impress me as much as any of the DAPs mentioned in this review. It’s a shame really as I really like their discontinued DX90. The new DX80 goes for $389 on Amazon.

End Words

The Fiio X7 is great player: it sounds oh so good (even in its leather case), it’s extremely user-friendly, it’s well built, it’s customizable because of the Android system and behind it there’s a company that listens to the consumers. Fiio also keeps improving the X7’s performance by regularly releasing new firmware updates and the support for the X7 is guaranteed seeing they most likely will release an X7SG at one point in the future. The use of AM modules can either be seen as brilliant or annoying but that depends on what you want your DAP to do. The Fiio X7 is also versatile as it can be used as DAP, DAC or just as a source. Then there’s also the K5 DAC/AMP that transforms the X7 in a desktop system, and that’s something that will convince a whole lot of fans to get the $650USD X7.

The Fiio X7 to me isn’t the ultimate or end game DAP as others have called it but it is a very² good DAP and it certainly performs better than its $650USD price point would suggest. With the X7, Fiio voluntarily stepped down the “Budget King” throne as this DAP clearly is no longer budget friendly in Fiio’s norms. If you look at the fact that the X7 sounds extremely well for the price it’s going for, it takes that throne right back though.

Now when is that AM3 coming out?

Fiio X7

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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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