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Review: FiiO X1 II

FiiO X1 II

A review of the FiiO X1 II DAP, successor to the best-selling FiiO X1, from which it sets itself apart by a new design, a new DAC and the integration of a Bluetooth transmitter.

FiiO X1 II: presentation

The FiiO X1 II has been designed to play audio files stored on a microSD card. Compatible with PCM files up to 24 bits/192 kHz, this DAP can read the majority of formats: FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, MP3, AAC and OGG, for example. It features a microSD card reader and handles a maximum capacity of 256GB. All you need to take along thousands of HD audio files and tens of thousands of CD-quality audio files wherever you go. Its integrated battery boasts an autonomy of around 12 hours (verified) when used with a pair of headphones with an impedance rating of 32 Ohms at a volume of about 30 (out of 100 increments). The LCD color display shows the menu browser, information relating to the file being played and, when available, the album cover. A Bluetooth controller enables audio streaming in SBC format to any pair of headphones, speaker or car radio implementing Bluetooth technology.

FiiO X1 II

The FiiO X1 II is particularly compact

FiiO X1 II: DAC and headphone amplifier

The chip responsible for converting digital audio signals into audible sound is signed by Texas Instruments: specifically, a Burr Brown PCM5242 model which is compatible with PCM signals up to 32 bits and 384 kHz (however, FiiO’s OS only handles sampling rates up to 192 kHz). Programmable (by the manufacturer), this DAC enables the integration of personalized digital filters and is equipped with its own synchronization system. As a DAC exclusively designed to process PCM signals, it doesn’t handle DSD signals. The OP amplifier is a low-noise model produced by Texas Instruments (OPA2322) capable of generating up to 2×90 mW when used with a pair of headphones with an impedance of 16 Ohms.

This power reaches approximately 70 mW into 32 Ohms, or enough to easily power most high-sensitivity headphones. The FiiO X1 II is not, however, designed for headphones with a high impedance rating (> 150 Ohms) and low sensitivity (< 100 dB/mW).

FiiO X1 II

The FiiO X1 II’s headphone output can be used as a fixed line level output

FiiO X1 II: ergonomics

The FiiO X1 II DAP features a navigation wheel paired with a micro driver which emits low clicking noises as the wheel is being used. A selection key can be found in the center of the wheel, while four small buttons along the outer rim allow the user to navigate through context menus, return to the previous screen and switch between tracks during playback. The power button and volume control can be found along the DAP’s left panel. The microSD card reader is situated on the device’s bottom panel, next to the micro USB connector and the headphone output. The micro USB connector allows files to be copied to or from a computer and also serves to recharge the battery. On the other hand, the FiiO X1 II does not propose a DAC USB mode – a function currently only available for the FiiO X3 II and above. The headphone output doubles as a line output, which can be activated as a fixed line level output in the device’s menu.

FiiO X1 II

The device’s volume control is comfortable, smooth and straightforward

FiiO has made considerable changes to its OS, but the FiiO X1’s DNA is still present. Since the display is not tactile, the wheel must be used to navigate through the different menus, and there is sometimes a delay between the commands and the display. The interface is rather intuitive, without being on par with that of a player running on Android, evidently. The screen’s quality is average and bright enough to be read in outdoor environments if the backlight is set to 10. Audio files are categorized by album, artist and genre, with the possibility to select favorites or upload playlists (previously created on a computer). Browsing by folder is also possible. Playback settings propose “repeat” and “shuffle” functions, with the possibility to pick up playback wherever you left off.

A gapless mode can be activated (no delay between tracks) or deactivated. In the same manner, continuous playback of all folders on the microSD’s card can be activated.

The integrated equalizer allows the user to change the levels for frequencies at 62 Hz (lows), 160 Hz (upper bass register), 400 Hz (low-mids), 1 kHz (mids), 3 kHz (mids), 8 kHz (upper mids/highs) and 16 kHz (highs).

FiiO X1 II

The navigation wheel allows the user to go from one line to the next, and it makes low clicking noises at each increment (cannot be deactivated). The text in the title bar is scrolling.

FiiO X1 II: test conditions

To begin, we downloaded the latest version of the FiiO X1 II’s firmware, then copied it to our microSD card’s root directory. The update started once we turned on the player by simultaneously pressing the power button and the button on the upper left quadrant of the navigation wheel. The update only lasts a couple of minutes. We then copied about 200 FLAC files onto the card which we had inserted into the player. Files are automatically and quickly indexed (only a few seconds in our case).

FiiO X1 II

The FiiO X1 II’s display during the firmware update

We tested the FiiO X1 II DAP with a pair of Meze 99 Classics headphones as well as a pair of the new Sennheiser HD599 headphones.

FiiO X1 II: listening impressions

The FiiO X1 II DAP provides an authoritative and powerful restitution, while nonetheless offering – surprising at this price point – a lot of space. The sound layers are not squeezed together, even at high volume. Tones are beautifully reproduced, thanks to a tasteful restitution of differences in volume and notes that slowly fade out. The lows are balanced, as the upper bass and infrabass registers are restituted with an equal amount of energy. Depending on the recording, the lows can reach impressive levels, a sign of solid amplification.

The mids are very smooth and clear, with a slight emphasis even, without any ill effect for the layering of the soundstage, which is in fact this player’s principal quality.

Percussion instruments are delicately restituted. The highs are slightly bright, but very well integrated thanks to their excellent timing. The FiiO X1’s sound signature is not the most neutral, but it is always spacious and coherent. We appreciated being able to listen at high volume, as this DAP pampers the listener’s ears while never failing to entertain.

FiiO X1 II

Hurdy Gurdy Man, Donovan (FLAC 16/44)
Very difficult to restitute properly, since all the instruments, as well as Donovan’s voice, have been processed with saturation and echo. The FiiO X1 II’s restitution is nonetheless serene and pleasing.

Time is Running Out, Muse (FLAC 24/96)
The compressed mix squeezes the sound layers together and it isn’t always easy to understand the entirety of the sound engineers’ work. The listener follows one instrument after the other, but rarely all instruments at once. A considerable feat for the FiiO X1 II, which succeeds in putting space between the vocals and the instruments to instill this high-paced track with a sense of unity. It would be a lie to say that it wasn’t exhilarating.

Where I Want To Be (California), Lilly Wood and the Prick (FLAC 16/44)
A lot of weight and articulation in the rhythm section. With the help of the Meze 99 Classics, the FiiO X1 II massages the eardrums with expertise. Each breath the singer took was clearly audible.

Welcome to My World, Depeche Mode, Alive in Berlin (FLAC 24/96)
The FiiO X1 II delivers an unusual wealth of details for a player of this range. The recording of the public is remarkably well mixed with the music, and we hear (more than guess) words as they are spoken and shouted.

Abacab, Genesis, (FLAC 24/88)
The FiiO X1 II judiciously untangles narrow soundstages, letting the listener follow Phil Collins’ drum hits, at once heavy (snare drum) and delicate (cymbals). The bass drum attacks benefit from an excellent sense of timing and an appreciable amount of generosity in the infrabass. Mesmerizing.

Casta Diva (Norma), Maria Callas (FLAC 24/96)
The FiiO X1 II fully demonstrates its flair for spatialization and high resolution, and the choruses are well defined. The full dynamic range is efficiently reproduced. Amazing depth for the double bass, whose notes are all easily heard.

FiiO X1 II

FiiO X1 II: conclusions

What we liked: the timing and the spaciousness of the restitution, the equalizer, the finish quality

What we would have liked: a more reactive interface

The FiiO X1 II DAP provides unexpected melodic qualities for a player at this price point and clearly positions itself on the same level as much more expensive models. Apart from its skill for audio restitution, its compact format makes it easy to bring wherever you go. It can be paired up with any of the aforementioned headphones, as well as other models, including the Yamaha EPH-100, RHA MA750 and Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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