Fiio X5 Portable Hi-Res Music Player

Fiio’s latest contribution to the world of sound and music came in the form of the X5 portable music player. Following on from the recent release of their limited edition portable amplifier, the E12DIY, the X5 is another statement from Fiio that they want to play at the high end of sound quality, even if the pricing is still only at the mid level (and for that we are thankful!)

Overview

  • Size:  67.6 x 114 x 15.6 mm
  • Weight:  195 g
  • Storage:  2 x micro SD (TF) card slots – max capacity 256Gb at time of launch
  • Line-out:  1.5 Vrms
  • Output impedance:  <0.26 ohms
  • Recommended headphone impedance:  16 – 300 ohms
  • Max output current:  >150 mA
  • Max output voltage:  8 V (peak-to-peak)
  • Battery life:  > 10 hours
  • Sample rates:  up to 192 kHz / 24 bit

There are plenty more specs available on the Fiio website (fiio.com.cn), but to me these are the key elements that show the general versatility of the X5. There are some further outstanding numbers such as crosstalk and signal-to-noise ratio, but there are different figures for the amped headphone out and the unamped line-out so I’ll let you look these up yourself to as not to overload everyone with numbers.

The X5 retails for around $400 and offers the same compatibility as other much more expensive players. However the question is whether it offers the same performance? I bought the X5 to replace my far more expensive RWAK100 so outstanding performance was a must and I haven’t been disappointed… for the most part.

To read the rest of the review, please head over to the new Passion for Sound site. It’s sexier and there’s plenty of great new content coming soon, but only on the new site. Hope to see you there!

 

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26 comments on “Fiio X5 Portable Hi-Res Music Player

  1. Well, any doubts I had have now all but gone. Thank you. As we already have a Fiio X3 for my wife, I was keen to get an X5 for myself but some of the other reviews had me wondering. I think I am now sorted so thanks again.

  2. I’m almost sold on the X5 + amp, especially given the flattering comparison that you make wrt to AK100. I recently acquired the HiFiMAN™ Express HM-601 Slim ( http://www.crutchfield.com/p_818HM6018G/HiFiMAN-Express-HM-601-Slim.html ) but testing it with a pair of Grado SR225i ( http://www.crutchfield.com/p_786SR225I/Grado-SR225i.html?tp=60828 ) I was in for a bitter disappointment:
    – There was obvious hissing noise (kind of like static) on the right channel (using a high-quality classical music recording).
    – HM-601 hanged when trying to play 24bit/88.2kHz FLAC files.

    More generally, the audio performance was subpar, even compared to a cheap Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip. I’m suspecting that the trouble comes from the high-impedance HM-601 (at 32 Ohm) and the low-impedance SR225i (at 32 Ohm), although I’m not ruling out systemic hardware/software issues. So I’m returning the item immediately.

    But back to the Fiio X5. I still have a couple of concerns.
    (1) You mention: “any glitches that have arisen have been due to faulty / corrupt audio files”. Did you have any trouble playing not-quite-standard 24bit/88.2kHz or similar FLAC files? Put differently, what do you mean by “corrupt audio files” and how do you detect them?
    (2) This review on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R15U2ULW1ZZ5G8/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I4Q9S32 ) reports sluggish UI response, and even audible clicks on track changes. Did you experience any such issues?
    (3) While this review ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1MBZY0PJOWZ3W/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I4Q9S32 ) reports “intermittent white noise in the left headphone”. This eerily recalls me the hissing in the HM-601 right headphone, so once more did you notice any similar behavior on your X5?

    • Hi Landroni,

      I have had no troubles with any FLAC files I have tried and although I haven’t tested specific sample rates, my collection includes everything from 44/16 through 44/24, 88/24, 96/24, and 192/24. The only issues I have had are where the album art contains empty or corrupt images. I have found these by looking at the time/date stamp on the files on the X5 and manually inspecting the tags of each file (normally only 5-10 files to check). It’s a little laborious, but results in a much tidier library so worth the effort. For the record, there are many other boutique / hi-res players out there that have the same problems or worse with imperfect file tags so I would say the X5 is on the average-to-good side of the scale, albeit not as bulletproof as an iPod.

      As for sluggish UI and glitches, these were almost all fixed with very early firmware updates and Fiio is proving very proactive in fixing any remaining bugs (which are extremely minor and don’t affect some people at all). Having come from the AK100 that had ongoing issues right up until the day I sold it, I would choose the X5 every time because of the ongoing support offered by Fiio.

      I have heard absolutely no hiss from the X5 under any circumstances or with any earphones and the clicking noise mentioned may actually be a design feature where relays disconnect the outputs to prevent popping on startup. This only happens when the plugs are removed or the player stopped so I’m not sure what the reviewer is talking about with it clicking when the volume gets too low – perhaps the song faded out and stopped just before the click was heard, but I’m just speculating. What I can confirm is absolutely no unwanted hisses or other noises, even with very sensitive IEMs and CIEMs.

      I hope that helps!

      • Excellent feedback! Thanks. It’s good to know that most FLAC resolutions are played gracefully and that FiiO is actually providing support for their products.

        In the end I opted for the X3 + E12 amp. For one it’s cheaper to begin with (and if I’m happy then later I’ll check out an X5). But the X3 also features the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip used by the AK100, so I suspect that the player should still be of very high quality (and the Amazon reviews sound rather positive). I’m only hoping that the result would be better than what I experienced with the HM-601. 🙂

  3. Re: Accessories

    Would the sound quality improve (and “darkness” increase) when using the FiiO L16 Oyaide (instead of the default L8) for line-out/line-in with the X5 & E12? Did you make back-to-back comparisons of the L8 with the L16 (the latter included in the Fiio HS6)?

    • I’d say the background stays the same, but the clarity is slightly better with the upgraded cable from the HS6 kit. I would definitely recommend an upgraded interconnect, but it doesn’t need to be a super expensive one – the L16 is just right I think.

      • Indeed, I thought as much. I’ve now waiting for an L16. 🙂 Thanks!

        PS As you mentioned in your articles, FiiO comes with an impressive (and rather exotic) range of accessories, all reasonably priced. It seems to me that FiiO has a penchant for paying attention to details (e.g. shipping by default two protective screen filters, four rubber bands, Chesky’s binaural collection, etc., etc.), and this translates into their engineering efforts, too. Given the price range for these high-quality products, it’s quite impressive how they try to turn the audiophile market into something more mainstream-ish.

      • Having now received the L16, I can confirm:
        – it doesn’t reduce the background noise (as far as I go, it comes from the E12 amp)
        – it seems to improve the quality of the sound

        It kind of begs the question as to why they’re shipping the E12 with the L8 by default; feels like it may be putting the E12 in a bad light by default..

      • Different people prefer different sounds with some prefering the standard copper over the L16’s silver-plated copper, but I agree that the L16 is an upgrade in most cases.

      • What about “burn-in”? Do cables like the L8 or L16 benefit from burn-in? (I’m asking because I had that queer feeling when trying out the L16 that the music sounded a tiny little bit more stringent, not unlike how the Grados sounded before burn-in kicked in and smoothed up the output.)

      • Some might say yes, but I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed burn-in from cables. Certainly anything with moving parts (like earphones / headphones) and circuits with capacitors definitely benefit from burn-in, but I’m not sure if a simple cable does.

  4. Hi Lachlan,

    first of all thanks a lot for all your excellent, interesting and thorough reviews! Reading your praise for the X5 line out, I was wondering how good a source the X5 line out would make for the Mainline (i.e. how much one would loose compared to your reference X-Sabre DAC on the Mainline)? I did read your general comments on the X-Sabre – X5 comparison, but I would be interesred if you have specific impressions comparing the two on a Mainline (which seems one of your favorite amps 😉 I would love to buy a reference DAC directly, but reading the praise for the X5 I am wondering whether it is really worth saving up when the X5 might be so close. Thanks!

    • Hi Lobo,

      You’re welcome – I’m glad they’re helpful.

      In terms of the X5 feeding the Mainline – it sounds very, very good. It’s not quite on par with the X-Sabre and in comparison (i.e. direct A/B swapping between the 2) you can hear a little bit of roughness in the X5’s treble, but only in comparison. Without the A/B comparison I was honestly blown away by the quality of the X5 line-out and would say it easily competes with other $400-600 DACs I’ve tried. In my experience, most DACs in the mid-level price range (i.e. around $500 give or take) are pretty similar in performance with slight differences in presentation and signature. It takes a jump up towards $1000 to start hearing significant improvements based on what I’ve heard so I would say the X5 is an excellent mid-level, multi-purpose option that doesn’t sacrifice on LO quality. If you can spend a bit more for some of the great offerings from Yulong, Anedio or X-Sabre you will hear improvements with the Mainline, albeit subtle ones.

      Good luck with your decisions!

      • Thanks a lot for your thorough reply! I have been thinking over it since then, and come to the conclusion that I will rather save up and go for a bigger desktop DAC. The mobility of the X5 is tempting, but just not important enough to me to make other compromises.

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  9. Hi there,

    Thank you for a brilliant review. I am considering the X5, mainly as a DAC/amp to play my FLACs from a PC. I have AKG K550 headphones which are awesome when connected to my Arcam A19 amp with its dedicated internal headphone amp.
    Does the X5 measure up to the Arcam (which, it is said, has an internal headphone amp equivalnet to its Arcam’s stand-alone £150 rPac or rBlink product) and also does the X5 have enough juice for these cans? I have a Cowon X9 and it didn’t enough juice for the K550s.

    Yours,
    Scot

    • Hi Scot,

      I haven’t tried the Arcam to be able to provide a comparison, but the X5 definitely drives the K550s nicely and is an excellent portable DAC. Its soundstage is a little more compact than some other options out there perhaps so it might be worth listening to a few options if that’s important to you, but in terms of detail and clarity, the X5 is top notch.

      Good luck with the purchase!

      Regards,

      Lachlan

  10. Hi, thanks for the review,
    I have the Fiio X5.
    I use ear-ins, Monster turbine (not pro version), Hippo VB, BrainwavZ S5.
    Now looking at better ear-ins and also a real headphone.
    600 dollar range max. which is already a whole im willing to spend..
    (got the Fiio only for 350 dollar)
    What could you recommend to get the most out of the fiio X5.
    Also would you find using 320KBPS mp3’s silly on this device?
    Sometimes I can’t seem to get flac quality.

    • Depending on the sound you like would change the recommendation. Also, is $600 your budget for both headphones and earphones combined (e.g. $300 + $300) or each ($600 + $600)?

      Let me know the sort of sound you’d like in comparison to the S5 as I know that one well and can use that as a reference point (e.g. tighter bass / less bass / more mids / more treble etc.)

  11. I haven’t listened to the S5 much, I got it for free with the Fiio.
    Been listening a lot with my monsters turbine and hippo VB.
    These are awesome, though hippo vb, a little too bassy at max level, but u can tone that down with the removable tips. Was more for fun level.
    Preferably I would also want to use them for gaming/movies, but music, and then mostly classical, instrumental movie/anime soundtracks would be the main focus.

    600+600 is what I have as a max aslong as it is justifieable.
    I will listen on the S5, and let you know.
    Thanks for your time!

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