How does it sound?

At the heart of the X3 lies an E7/07k tonality and that does not suprise me in the slightest given this has been FiiO’s house sound for quite sometime. Dont expect AK100 levels of resolution or DX100 levels of power but what you do get is a nice warm laid back tonality with next to no background noise or hiss for sensitive earphones, a well defined mid section, good tight bass without being too dominant (you can eq that if you wish) and a slightly rolled off treble. This is in no way a dark sounding DAP with an attenuated treble but it does lack a touch of sparkle on the top end articulation that higher end models can produce such as the DX100. The X3 is all about tonality over detail for me compared to the Hifiman, iBasso and Ak100’s of this world. You are going to pay more for those and you would rightly expect more but if you want something a little more forgiving with nice tonality that is flexible across a wide range of genres then the X3 is going to please a lot of listeners.

What I did notice and enjoyed about the X3 sound presentation was the fantastic depth it achieved combined with a very noise free background. Without ever creating the largest soundstage the X3 is able to give a really strong account of itself in good depth and fine instrument position and layering without loosing any richness in the tonality. It is not an overly forward or aggressive presentation and combined with the hiss free background I really took to the FiiO X3 on vocals and jazz with some of my more considered IEM’s such as the Final Audition FA-BA-SS which is so painfully transparent I am almost reluctant to try anything less than perfect with them but with the FiiO it sounded rather more forgiving. The Merlins, perhaps not the most detailed at the top end, did ok also but the FA IEM’s, with their more balanced approach, were the better match for me.

DSC_2718

The X3 has actually quite a decent amount of internal amping capability compared to some other similar priced DAP’s. I dont think for the majority of on-the-go headphones you will need too much amping to be honest. Amping is only really necessary if you want something slightly different or a higher dose of power for more demanding planers or high impedance headphones or the inefficient AKG 7 series drivers (make the K501 part of that bunch also which hit 80% on the volume marker with a slightly underwhelming bass reproduction). Portable mid-fi did just fine though with the Marshall Monitors (less the felts), P5, M80 and the inefficient Philips Downtown all being easy to drive and all sounded true to form. If I had to pick one I would stick with the M80 overall as the best compliment out of those tested to work with the presentation of the X3.

Overall I had to say I enjoyed the musical and warmish tonality of the X3 though duly noted this is no AK100 tamer in terms of resolution, detail and top end articulation, it does come out a lot better than the lower end iPod classics in stock mode which can sound a little too digital, clean and at times thin sounding and have nowhere near the driving power of the X3. Of course you can slap an ipod now on the back of the superior Cypher Labs SOLO CLAS or Fostex HP-P1 but then you have that fat stack to carry round and an empty bank account as the final payback.

Continue to next page for some conclusions….

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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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