The Q1 DAC/Amp by FiiO
Tonality7.5
Build8
Matchability8
Value for money8.6
8Our Score

You could be forgiven if you thought FiiO has been all about the DAP’s over the last few years when in actual fact the portable amp is what gave FiiO it’s name and for many years was their bread and butter to the aspiring budget audiophile. Things have been a bit static over the last year or two as the X series gathered momentum with only the E series being revised and upgraded and the D series falling back as bit. Well now comes a brand new letter, the Q, and out of the blue the Q1. Normally you get a bit of advance notice on any new FiiO units due out but this one landed on my desk a few days after the FiiO team said “Hey what about the Q1?”. It’s a much shorter PR cycle this time and the Q1 is already out on the shelves.

Of course recently you would have seen their line-up due out over the next few months and it is very exciting indeed with the X7, M3 DAP and an all new dock for the X Series DAPs all due out. The Q1 comes in at the lower end of the scale at $69.99 and is DAC/Amp much in line with the form factor of the old E11 and E11k series amps, but of course with a DAC thrown in. Given the price it is clearly targeting the first time upgraders and possibly pitched as a direct competitor to the iBasso D-Zero Mk2 which retails slightly higher at $120.

What You Get

The Q1 comes in much the same package as the E11k and E17k with their new slim pack white cardboard sleeve housing the unit box and accessories. The Q1 external packaging print contains almost very few details about what the DAC or Amp can do, the unique selling points which the X series had save for dimensions, output power, color and S/N specs. No mention of the DAC decoding, battery life and bass boost. Now this not altogether new as the E series has a similar approach but personally I would like to see FiiO be a bit brasher in their packaging print and point out what the Q1 can do, much like what Creative did with their new E Series which screamed features.

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Inside you get a few new things plus some usual things alongside the unit itself. The same old is the USB Cable and rubber straps, always a requirement especially with a built in DAC in tow. But the new things are very interesting indeed. The first is doing away with the little rubber feet and switching to a silicone mat. I am in two minds on this. I love the silicone feet to be frank and considered it vital to prevent scratches but I understand that might be challenging given the flask form factor of the Q1 and having a curved base. But the silicone mat for me is a bit cumbersome to carry around all the time unless permanently sandwiched between the Q1 and whatever source you are working with, such as maybe a FiiO X3ii. If you are stacking it works a charm, if you are not it’s just one extra thing to think about.

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The second big addition is just brilliant and that is the super short IC that I know our local groups have been buying in bulk from JDS LABs over the last year or so. The FiiO short IC is a 3.5mm to 3.5mm one inch cable and the build quality is vastly more robust than the JDS version which I mothballed recently due to the fear of it snapping if any tension was applied. Short IC’s such as this need to be strong and the FiiO one is just that. The benefits of a short IC are clear. That small profile keeps your whole stack clean and free of entanglement making headphone and IEM insertion a breeze and packing the stack a piece of cake. Thank you FiiO for throwing this one in as stock and please do this from now on, it is a very welcome addition.

Build Quality & Features

Form Factor

The Q1 itself is very reminiscent of the FiiO E11k with a touch more premium finish at the front and back with silver brushed metal face plates. The hip flask form factor which the E11k took its cue from is much more in evidence with the Q1. The Q1 is also plastics free, sporting an all metal body which should give it ample protection when strapped to RF heavy devices like mobile phones. The top and sides are free of buttons, switches and LED lights with only the front and back plates housing all the functionality.

DSC00671

Front

The front panel also acts as a protector panel to a very nicely crafted medium sized analog pot right in the middle. The pot also doubles up as the power on/off with a very reassuring click based resistance switch when turning it round from the zero or off position. It’s a little bit flatter and less protruding than the pots on the E12 and the E18 but the grip is solid and easy to manipulate. To the right you have the on off LED light and a 3.5mm jack output for the IEM or headphone of choice and to the left you have a solid looking bass boost switch

Rear

At the back you have a micro USB port which acts as both your charger and DAC interface. The choice to charge or use as a DAC is controlled by a switch on the far right of the rear panel. To the far right of the rear panel you have a lineout/line in 3.5mm jack port and the high/low gain switch.

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Inside

The Q1 utilizes a Texas Instruments PCM5102 DAC chip for decoding purposes and a Maxim MAX97220 for amping. The PCM5102 is a very cost effective DAC solution that is easy to implement and integrate. It needs very few components to make it work, and only needs a single 3.3V supply so the choice seems logical for the price of the Q1. It can handle up to 96kHz/24bit decoding on most major codec outputs from compatible digital sources with a reasonable 190mW load into 32ohms. Eagled eyes readers will note that the amp used by FiiO here is the exact same Maxim MAX97220 used by Creative in their budget E1 amp we reviewed last year and an amp module often favoured by Creative in their gaming hardware. The Q1 is rated as suitable for headphones and IEM’s from 16-150ohms which is consistent with the FiiO X5ii and X3ii rated power handling for cans and IEM’s.

The Battery

The battery is a 1400mAh li-poly battery which, on paper, puts out a class leading 30 plus hours of playback time. That is a very handsome performance indeed for a 1400mAh rating. Now with the DAC in full swing I suspect those numbers will drop a bit especially if your tracks are all 96kHz/24bit and the bulk of the 30 hour rating is amp only. Indeed the rating drops to 15 hours with a DAC. Even so that is way ahead of many similar units such as the Creative E1 rated at 25 hours and the Creative E3 at 17 hours for pure amping. It even outperforms the 1400mAh in the E11k which is rated at 16 hours. The iBasso D Zero MK2 DAC is rated at 10 hours when using the DAC which is 5 hours less than the Q1 but note though it has a 120 hours rating using the amp only compared to the Q1 rated 30 hours which is out of this world.

OTG and DAC

Just for the record the Q1 does not officially support OTG but with a number of apps it will indeed function with OTG digital audio such as HibyMusic or Onkyo. The Q1 also does not come supplied with an OTG cable but understandable given it does not officially support it. A second quick note that unlike the XMOS powered DAC’s of the X series the Q1 is just a simple plug and play DAC with a PC which saves a lot of time downloading drivers.

Page 2: Sound Impressions

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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • imbasaurus

    Hi Marcusd how does it pair with X1? lost my E11k and planning to use this as replacement. or i am good with just X1?

    • headfonics

      I think the amp is an upgrade on the X1 amp, little bit cleaner and more neutral. I would grab the Q1 and pair it for now, even on analog, rather than replace the e11k

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  • Paul

    Hi, thanks for the review. I like neutral and very detailed sound – do I have any better options under $100? I think this one might be too warm for me…

    • headfonics

      Its not that warm to be honest, but for a DAC/AMP under $100 this good thats very hard to find. The original iBasso D Zero Mk1 is quite neutral to bright almost – have you tried that?

      • Paul

        Hmm, can’t find that one for sale… I could only find Mk2, but that’s already above my budget 🙁
        Anyway, I think the Q1 is just what I’m looking for – I don’t need much warmth or bass, I just want the sound to be detailed and a big soundstage. I couldn’t find anything as good below the $100 mark, except X1. But since the Q1 appears to have about the same quality, is cheaper, and also doubles as DAC, it wins hands down. Thank you for helping me choose a source, it’s really important to me.

        • headfonics

          No worries, post your impressions when you get it.

          • Paul

            Hi, so I haven’t bought this yet, as I didn’t really have the time to go to that shop (the only one that sells FiiO here), but I have considered another option, the E10k. As far as I know, there is no direct comparison that has been made between these two, but some people are saying that the E10k has superior quality. I know it doesn’t have a battery, but if it’s a significant quality difference, I could just get an externally powered OTG cable and a “lipstick” charger. Do you know anything about how these two would compare? Thank you for helping me, I really appreciate it.

  • Fèlix Mirano

    Hey, I just got this and I’m a little dissapointed so far.
    I’m using my V-MODA M100’s and the sound improvement seems to be of only 25% with the Q1’s.
    I was looking for something that would make my headphones sound like a big concert hall or like a banging club with a lot of sound and a bit of bass.
    However, the Q1’s isn’t able to do that for me.
    The sound did improve when I used this app called DFX enhancer, which makes the Q1’s sound 35% better.
    Overall, I’m not really satisfied with it and I think I might just return it to amazon.

    • headfonics

      Hi Felix

      Yeah the M100 might not be the best match, especially if you are thinking of puishing the sound out a bit and producing a slightly more layered approach. Have you tried the iBasso D14?

      • Fèlix Mirano

        I have not, but I looked it up and it’s out of my budget at the moment.
        I’m going to give the FiiO E12 Mont Blanc a try.
        Hopefully with them my V-MODA’s can much louder than with the Q1’s.
        I’ll update back when I buy the E12’s.

        • headfonics

          The E12 is still quite bottom heavy and I am not sure its the best fit either for what you are looking for but if you can try and return then go ahead. My preference would be an E12a actually, its more articulate in the mids and treble and more linear than the E12.

  • MJLav

    The simple solution to the silicone pads is to simply stick one on with double sided tape on the side that will contact your phone. This is not rocket surgery.

  • Swaroop Anil

    Any idea how this pairs up with Audio Technica ATH-IM02?

    • headfonics

      will give it a go this weekend

      • Swaroop Anil

        Would you also be able to suggest a decent budget DAC/AMP for the IM02 since it’s very picky?

        • headfonics

          What kind of budget are we looking at here for a DAC/AMP?

          • Swaroop Anil

            ~$100. Did you try the Q1 with IM02? How was the combo?

          • headfonics

            Damn I keep forgetting about testing this – bear with me for a short while longer, maybe tomorrow.

          • Swaroop Anil

            sure… but while you are at it, could you also test it with the E17k? I like my IM02s but they tend to get a tad too bright at times causing listening fatigue. Looking for something which can address these little quirks while enhancing the SQ. Thanks in advance…!!!

          • Swaroop Anil

            Hey there… I know it’s been a while. I hope you had an opportunity to test im02 with the Q1. Please share your experience. Also it’d be great if you could suggest a few more options for IM02

          • headfonics

            Yeah it sounds ok and other options should be an e12a and e17k if these are in your budget.

          • Swaroop Anil

            Could you please point out the differences between the 3 options? I won’t be having an option to return the product once I buy it. So want to be sure.

      • Hey, any chance that you played around with this? I’ve got a Creative E5 and I’m not sure how well that will pair with the IM-02s, been thinking about picking up the Fiio Q1 for them.

        • headfonics

          The E5 has a slightly harsh top end that wont mesh well with the IM-02 though it is more resolving than the Q1 tonally, the Q1 might be a better fit.

          • Thanks a million for the response, I’m probably going to have to pick up a Q1, then. I like my E5, but I bought it early on into the hobby, and wishing I had gone with some different choices instead. Seriously appreciate your response, looking forward to when Santa delivers my IM-02!

          • headfonics

            You are welcome and have fun 🙂

  • Bharath Yelavatti

    how does this power beyer t51i..connected to iPhone 6+..? Does this add lot of clarity and boost.. from what i am listening… ?

    • headfonics

      Never listened to the beyer t51i nor do i have an iphone 6 🙂 but going on basic principle the answer should be yes as the q1 amp is better than the iphone amp.

  • Lvnatic

    Will the q1 have any impact on the sennheiser momentum 2.0 over year? I’m mostly looking for punchier bass and volume increase. I’m using them on an iPad air 2 and galaxy note 3.

    • headfonics

      Yup it will be an upgrade powerwise than the note and ipad internal amp.

  • ninja

    Hello, will the Q1 work with windows phone? I’m using Nokia Lumia 920 and I want to buy this dac/amp.

  • Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    If we compare only the sound quality with other dac / amp and daps of fiio , with which it shares more similarities ?

  • Nigel Youell

    I have a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones. My main use is on airplanes watching movies on my iPad (3rd gen with old style connector). I need a clearer louder sound. It would seem that the Q1 has a better DAC than my iPad so I would like to take a digital audio signal from my iPad into the Q1. Can I do this and what cables do I need? Also do I need a specific version of IOS?

    • headfonics

      The QC15 with active noise has a dark and veiled sound period, the Q1 on the ipad will certainly be an improvement but there are still limitations and you wont really change that signature. I had the Q3 back years ago, great isolation but the shelved down treble and muffled mids where hard to adjust to.

  • Ballog

    If possible could you compare the Q1 to the Shozy Lancea or Cozoy Aegis (or Astrapi)?

  • Aysêynârys

    the plates on the top and bottom are definitely plastic

  • Dario Padula

    Hi there, Thanks for your review!
    I have a sony NWZ-15 with a pair of yamaha EPH-100 and i’ve some problem with volume (too low), so I was wondering which DAC/AMP should I get spending a maximum of 200 euros, is the Fiio Q1 a good option in this price range or should I get something else?
    Thanks in advance

    • headfonics

      The Q1 is good but if 200 euros is your budget i would suggest going up a notch to the IBasso D14 which is far superior.

      • Dario Padula

        Thanks for your reply!
        Do you think that with D14 would be a good portable-set? or should i upgrade my earphones too(in order to enhance the amp and the dap)?

        • headfonics

          ah the never ending upgrade syndrome – upgrade one bit you then have to upgrade another bit until whammy! You spend 500-1k without blinking 🙂 D14 is an excellent mid-fi amp and DAC for me personally. I would tread cautiously on upgrading your earphones. Enjoy the system first then demo and see if it is worth it.

  • Millo Muniz

    Please excuse my ignorance, as far as the E17 supporting DSD… and the Q1 not, how will that affect the sound quality since I do “stream” music from a “hifi” digital streaming service; (Tidal). I currently use the A3/E11k with my android phone as a source and am looking to maximize the sound from my AKG K182 “mid-fi” headphones. I understand most aftermarket DACs’, by default, produce better sound than comes from an cellphone, but how much better would the E17 sound incomparison? sound stage? clarity? I’m thinking of taking the next step up and don’t mind spending a bit extra to get there. On another note, any advise on some really good sounding headphones/earbuds? Currently considering the Hifiman RE-400’s, Fiio EX1’s, OneMore’s “dual” or “triple” driver IEM, and any other’s in that general category… maybe even the Flare audio R2a’s, ect…

  • Alexandre Magalhães

    I would like to empower the bass in my V moda M100, this Q1 could improve the bass for the motherboard sound card of an windows laptop and an Galaxy S6 ? If not, any suggestion to amp that could get all the bass that the V moda can deliver?

    • BoyBalastog

      Because the Q1 is a DAC as well as an amp, plugging it by USB to your laptop would bypass your on-board sound entirely, since DACs act as external sound cards. I can’t speak much for how the Q1’s generally warm sound signature would affect the V-modas, but I use my Q1 with headphones that’re on the brighter side, and it balances out well. Effect on bass isn’t extreme, if that’s what you’re looking for, but in my experience it does add some subtle but well-controlled extra punch to the low-end even with bass boost off. From what I can tell, the bass boost can add further volume to the low frequencies without affecting the rest of the frequency range, but I personally don’t use it. Regardless, a dedicated DAC-amp is a good upgrade for the usually inadequate on-board audio on most devices and the Q1 is a great portable starter for the price.

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