The UI and features

(note I am reviewing with firmware 1.23 released July 2013)

The only UI to date FiiO have done before is the E17/E7 basic interface and it is done reasonably well but creating a DAP UI and accommpanying navigation toolset is a whole different ball game. DAP UI is a game changer for Apple with the click wheel and a kiss of death for some like Cowon on some of their models so I am pleased to say that FiiO kept everything pretty simple much like the Hifiman HM series DAP menu system only a bit snappier and a bit more in-depth with a nice evolution of the E17/7 options into a much more comprehensive UI map. A simple UI will always win over an ambitious and complicated UI. The faster you learn a UI the more likely you are to come back to it again and again for regular everyday use and the quicker you can set it up for your preferred playing options.

I included a pretty comprehensive you tube video on the UI to show you every in and out you can do with the FiiO X3 UI and menu system as well as the button configuration and what you can do with each button. Thanks to Boweness006 for such an in-depth video and saving me page upon page of explanation.

DSC_2696

Those who have used the hifiman or old style wheel based ipod classic or even the Rockbox OS will be quite comfortable with the menu based UI. Lack of touch demands a simple control interface and most of the buttons have a dual or even triple function such as the bottom right for play/ok and power or volume up and down or menu up and down. It wont take that long to get to grips with the button functions in all honesty. The physical buttons are quite sturdy also and I dont see them falling off or loosing any pressure sensitivity.

The X3 has an internal memory of 8Gb which seems a bit tight but to the left side it has an open microsd card slot which can take up to 64gb on FAT32 format much like the AK100 though sadly lacking dual slots for 128GB potential which would have been killer. This does allows a pretty decent library to build up easily and FiiO takes care of that by allowing you to browse via a generic file browser that allows you to drill down from folder to file or a tag rader library. The tag reading library, (category) is pretty accurate and doesnt miss a file does but does in fact miss a critical step in browsing in the genre category by going genre – file which is very hard to navigate as I get a huge list of files to work through in alphabetical order. That is not going to work if all my genre is the same. Next time I would like to go from genre, then artist, then album and then file – much more logical UI structure there for song choosing. In the end I stuck with “browse Files” as my main library explorer since I am pretty anal about tagging anyway and I knew everything would be easily found.

The X3 will work with most major library managers such as Media Monkey, Windows own Media Player and Winamp to name a few and will play just about any file type you throw at it including:

APE (Fast):192K/24B;
APE (Normal):96K/24B;
APE (High):96K/24B;
FLAC:192K/24B;
WAV:192K/24B;
WMA 9.1 LOSSLESS:96K/24B;
Apple Lossless:192K/24B;
MP2, MP3, AAC, ALAC, WMA and OGG


Considering the price point that is pretty impressive variety of file types and saves me a lot of bother converting into one standard format or another. Mind you most of my stuff is in FLAC now so playback at 192/24 for $200 is where this little player steals a march on many other players around the same price point.

I really did enjoy the little mini EQ menu otions of the treble and bass but I wish it was in the same spot as the gain and balance under player settings. Perhaps even it’s own sub-menu would be perfect. This the E17 thinking evolved for the X3 and they work really nice. Not Cowon levels of EQ options but noticeable. The gain is basically low and high, low is just fine, particularly for IEM’s and other sensitive cans. The balance option is another offshoot from the E17/07k and for some that I know offhand this is going to be music to their (left or right) ears.

Rated at around 10 hours, the battery life of the X3 is fair given the myriad of high end bit rate files you can play on it and has the edge over its nearest competitor the Hifiman 601/2 by one to two hours. My initial tests confirmed around 9-11 hours with a mix of the sampled files on the internal memory including ape, wav, flac and mp3.

Continue to next page for sound impresisons….

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24 Responses

  1. Yash Garg

    Hi,

    I bought the X3 + Brainwavz R3 off of MP4nation and am quite happy with it. However, I think the player can do a bit better than what I get off the R3s. Could you maybe suggest a pair of ‘brighter’ earphones? Not sure if I should go for cans or IEMs, it would be great if you could shed some light on the subject.

    Reply
  2. oldandcurious

    Hello again. You already know that I am enjoying my X3 and I am eyeing the X5 :)

    Aside from some vocals, R&B, movie soundtracks, I tend to listen mostly to classical music, leaning on the strings and baroque.

    Never planning to tread along the expensive upgrade path, I need to ask this budget-inspired question –

    Since you had the pleasant experience of testing the X5, what are your thoughts on X3+E12 “versus” the X5 by itself? Because if the difference is not night and day, I am thinking if it is more wallet-friendly to just to get the E12 for my planned upgrade to HD600 or HD650.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Magnus

    Hi there,
    Hate to lower the tone (geddit?) but does anyone know if this thing has a file limit on its ID3 database? Whilst I have some favourite stuff ripped to high bit rates I have a fair few standard MP3s and have bumped up against limits before.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Not thats a really good questions and something I have not thought about in a long time. I loaded most of my MP3’s with pretty complete tags but most of the time I do my own tagging and not source from the databases online.

      I have loaded mp3 so far on it without issues but you know the old story – “your mileage may vary” and never more the case when I opened up my library in linux and everything just went belly up on the tags.

      Reply
      • Magnus

        My most recent problem was with the Sansa Clip Zip. I bought a 64gb card reformatted it and loaded it but the native software couldn’t cope with my 8000 odd tracks. Sorted it by installing rockbox which also improved the sound somewhat but I’m looking at this as a step up and there’s no option but to accept the onboard firmware. It’d be a shame to have all that capacity on the player/card but not be able to use it all.

      • headfonics

        Actually I just remembered I stuck in my fat32 64GB microSD card from my Ak100 into my X3 and it worked fine, but being flac I am not sure how many tracks that ended up being – it was fully loaded though.

      • Magnus

        Probably way below 8000. Maybe I should contact FiiO direct. I’ll let you know what I get back.

      • headfonics

        I popped an email to Sunny in FiiO also sometimes I see James and Sunny in my chat online I can ask also. Good luck.

      • headfonics

        Got the reply Magnus :)

        It is unlimited.

        Please the choose the upgrade the lib by Manual once you have installed other songs inside.

        Thank you very much !

        ************

        That should provide comfort.

      • Magnus

        He got right back to me too.
        Thanks to both of you. Now I need to find my credit card…

      • headfonics

        Nice haha.. good luck and let us know how it works out :)

  4. Davidson Sacluti

    Would this be a “good” buy as a transport ?
    Thinking of upgrading my Ipod Video as portable source.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Honestly no idea as I dont have the Studio V 3rd Anniversary and not likely to.

      Reply
  5. Michael

    Thanks for the review. How would you compare X3 to E17 soundwise? And what about the well-known Cowon D2+?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      NOt that different to be honest, though the E17 might have a slight edge on the amping but of course it cant store music etx. The D2+ I have not tried but I do have the X7 in my collection and I would say based on that the X3 is warmer and more analog than the digital Cowon though I love the BBE in Cowon which is fun to play around with and more advanced than what is available on the X3.

      Reply
  6. Kevin

    Which one is more relevant? OK source with GOOD amp, or GOOD source with no amp?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Hi Kevin – every source needs amplification to get the sound out or else its just a DAC or transport with no end product.

      Me personally I would have to view it in context of the headphone – if its a 32ohm easy to drive headphone then great DAP or DAC/Amp combo is better, or to be more precise a DAP with a really well implmented DAC chip.

      Once you go up the power ladder the amp gets more and more important but it still only amplifies the quality of the original signal.

      For instance the HE6 planer is a great headphone that needs a ton of power that only something like a Mjolnir or Ef6 or Darkstar can get the best out of even with amazing sources.

      Reply
      • Kevin

        Cheers for the info!
        Thanks for the write-up! Very helpful indeed :)

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