The UI

The OS

For the X7 FiiO have chosen Android 4.4.4 as the core OS and have also produce a “Pure” mode as an alternative to the basic Android platform which converts the X7 into purely a DAC without all the bells and whistles of Android. As such, those coming from smartphones, tablets and other devices using Android will be very familiar with the basic setup and navigation of the X7 which also means a lot of ‘try it and see’ proprietary OS pains they experienced from the previous X series will evaporate immediately. Android is a rock solid platform right now in terms of stability and UI familiarity.

Apps

That being said during the launch FiiO have wisely (yes I know we all want to try anyhow) streamlined the apps you can download and use on the X7 in order to hold the spec sheet largely true in terms of battery performance and platform stability. Apps such as Spotify and Tidal have only been recently added to the X7 platform and the app platform has been opened up. Side loading apps is possible but please remember these are largely untested on the X7. Personally if I have WiFi and high end decoding I want to try a lot of streaming so I hope FiiO will throw some more apps on the list that we can all enjoy here in the West.

DSC00885

Right now you can download and use 24 apps right now. Highlights include:

  1. HibyMusic
  2. Baidu IME
  3. TTPod
  4. NetEase Music
  5. Spotify
  6. Tidal
  7. Rockbox –
  8. Poweramp
  9. Neutron
  10. Moov
  11. KKBox
  12. JooX
  13. Onkyo HF Player

There is still largely focus on the Chinese market so here is hoping once the X7 hits international markets the white list of apps will be expanded to include more popular apps that we know about. For home brew and DIY guys there is the usual APK side loading (drag and drop and then install) while we wait.

The Modes

You can operate the FiiO X7 also under two different types of modes. These modes are stock Android mode and Pure Music mode. These two can be setup in the settings menu and with a swift reboot you can either enter into what looks like generic Android with the music mode as a separate app or alternatively boot into the Pure Music mode which will render the X7 as a pure DAP with no added extras from Android.

You will see very little of the Android UI here, its basically a skinned theme purely for music. The story on this one is basically the less apps and commands running the better the audio performance will be, the longer the battery life also.  I can see that being relevant for long travelling where you want to relax but the tinkering soul in me will stick to Android and charge it later, too much fun with the various apps, WiFi and streaming to care a jot about battery life.

Booting and Home

Unlike the previous X editions, this is a heavy weight OS and as such the X7 takes quite a bit longer than the 8-10 seconds of the X3/5ii, though thankfully power down is pretty rapid at around 2-3 seconds or less. In all from the long press on the power button to the lock screen it took around 18-20 seconds to boot up. If you are coming from a smartphone this is pretty normal actually but if you are coming from an X5ii be prepared for a slightly longer boot up cycle.

DSC00885

The home page is standard Android and thank you FiiO for not infesting it with bloatware more familiar with Samsung territory. Yes, you can read email, check the web if you wish with the apps but here on the home screen you get what you need – a clock app, apps marketplace, support app, gallery app, settings, web browser, FiiO Music app and file browser. Below are the usual Android task, home and return icons for navigation and drill downs.


Settings

You have a few types of settings you can access depending on what mode you are operating on and what app you are using. The core settings is the very typical Android settings menu with a few tweaks. You can tinker with WiFi, BT, display, storage, apps and security as well as get info on your battery health, change your boot mode and upgrade the firmware. Within sound settings you can also adjust your line controls including your multifunctional output, the gain level and your left right balance which are all very FiiO flavors from their original X series DAP’s.

DSC00894

In Pure Music mode you hop right into the music player app with a settings icon in the top left corner. From there you can adjust settings such library updating, scanning, UI tweaking such as icon display, activating the remote, gapless playback, gain, balance and play features such as play through folders. You can also access the same menu when you are in the FiiO Music app but it is specific to the app only, other apps may operate differently depending on how you set things up. Clicking on the Pure Music menu options though is essentially a short cut into the Android sound main settings so once you click on it there and then go back to Android proper after a reboot those settings should remain in effect.

Media Player(s)

This paragraph can run and run because not only do you have the FiiO Music app and Pure music mode but the app list of differing media players approved by FiiO is growing all the time. When I started writing this review Spotify and Neutron player where not on the list, they are now. I could get sucked into talking about app after app but I will highlight what I think are the most critical ones for my own personal use – HibyMusic, FiiO Music and Spotify. All run just great by the way in terms of zero lag with perhaps Spotify form the lock screen to active screen having the tiniest bit of lag but nothing hugely noticeable. The odd time I have had to have a more focused swipe to open up from the lock screen.

HibyMusic is a fantastic standalone app that basically drives all loseless audio formats either out to your headphone jack in regular use or via OTG if USB digital audio is activated. Gapless playback is supported, media scanning is fast and accurate and I actually find the UI of HibyMusic to be superior at the time of writing to FiiO Music own developing app but things could change in future firmware updates. With WiFi also HibyMusic will allow private streaming if you open an account on their site or log in via Facebook.

Playback

The X7 has a number of ways in which you can control playback. You can access it on the lock screen with a simple play/pause, forward and back such as you would find on a typical Android setup. You can also access and control similar playback functionality with the hardware buttons to the left and right depending on how you have these buttons setup.  The final way is app dependent so it can vary.

For the stock FiiO Music app (or the Pure Music mode), clicking play on a track from the library does not automatically bring you to a play screen but instead gives you a small dashboard at the bottom of the screen. By clicking on the artwork you can then progress to the main play screen which shows quite a range of options including:

  1. EQ
  2. Search (top right corner)
  3. BT On and ability to connect to another BT device such as a BT headphone
  4. time lapsed on track
  5. Add to favorites
  6. A pop up menu to delete or click on info (a dangerous combination for the fat fingered users if ever there was one)
  7. Loop, random. play through folders function
  8. Track previous or next selection
  9. Add to playlist
  10. Click on artwork for lyrics option

DSC00891

There is a lot happening the playback screen and it will take a few plays to get used to all the options available to you. There is a certain amount of presumed intuition when it comes to navigating from the play screen on the X7. Thankfully though the menu items are well spaced out and easy to access unlike the older AK models or the DX90 so there is a lesser chance of hitting the wrong button but that delete and info popup panel is something I would like to see rearranged in future firmware to avoid accidental deletion.

Media Library

For FiiO’s own FiiO Music app there is a slight learning curve in how you control and use the media library. Its complex in its presentation and some of the icons in use are not immediately obvious as to what they can do. For instance, the folder icon is local music referring to music on your memory card or internal storage. Click on that and you get a secondary set of options denoted by a musical note, singer, a box with another note inside it, a guitar and finally another folder icon. Clicking on these doesn’t necessarily reveal itself as to what you have clicked either on the next screen. It is by a process of scanning the screen do you actually come to the conclusion that the first is the complete song list, the second is the Artist list, 3rd is Album, 4th is genre and the last is your physical storage links to your folders and tracks.

DSC00902

Once you start using it over and over again things are second nature but for those uninitiated it takes some getting used to. A small label here and there in a future firmware might help. Contrasting this with HibyMusic and you get pure labels which are much easier to navigate and understand with the added bonus of small acronyms denoting if the track is hi res or DSD or lower in the track details before you click on them. It is a good thing I suspect you can have more than one app to suit your own playing and browsing style on the X7 whereas you were pretty much stuck with the singular style from the proprietary UI on the earlier X series DAP’s.

The Media Library is a mixture of old habits and new visuals. It looks nice, loads fast, most of my media was accurately scanned (one or two didn’t file correctly) within a few seconds and album artwork showed just fine. Good job there. However, the old habit just will not go away on the FiiO Music app of this really flat library experience in terms of drill downs. If you select artist you get a list of artists, select one and you go straight to the list of songs. If you have more than one album per artist it will not divide them by albums. This to me is a missing feature and one that FiiO have not addressed on any of their DAPs to date. Artist>album>song – it makes sense. It is worse for Genre mode as I have one genre with a ton of albums so I get a huge list of songs instead of genre>artist>album>song.

Now in the X5ii you are screwed if you want something different to the stock media library, its either that or a file search. Thankfully this is Android so I can pop into Rockbox, Neutron or Poweramp and get the setup and media library drill down that I need. That is the power of the X7, don’t like it? Change to a new app.

Page 3: For Sound Impressions

The X7 DAP by FiiO
4.8 (96%) 5 vote[s]

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40 Responses

  1. Ted B

    Which amp module would be best paired with the RHA 10i iems?
    Would it be to bass heavy with amp module 2?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Well the AM2 is probably the one people gravitate to for a little bit more body and musicality but not as aggressive as the AM5. Personally, I find the AM3 smoother and more neutral with the bonus of balanced output if I choose to use it.

      Reply
  2. Glenn Bailey

    Hello, so I’ve been looking at getting a DAP for over a year now and I really like the fiio x7.

    I was going to purchase one about 5-6 months ago but due to work commitments I decided I’ll wait until my work schedule was quieter.

    After doing a bit more research I started reading reviewers complaining about apps not working, the x7 freezing and there not being much in support or firmware updates.

    These reviews are pretty recent. I’m finding alot of good reviews for this DAP but they are reviews from 2015 when it was released. It’s now 2017 and I want to know if these problems are actually happening or if it’s just happening to unlucky people.

    I’m a bit of a perfectionists so I want everything to work as it should and not have any issues especially if I’m paying out £500.

    Due to reading these bad reviews I have been a little put off the x7 and started to look elsewhere. However I’m still seeing bad reviews for newer machines, for example the astell and kerns ak70.

    I Guess what I’m asking is, since reviewing the x7 have you found any problems with it, and maybe some other machines to look at.

    I’m fairly new to the DAP scene and I don’t know the lingo that we’ll but after reading your indepth review of the fiio x7 and the latest amps Im falling back in love with it.

    I have a good feeling you will answer my question with a decent answer. Thanks

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I have not had one single problem with my X7 since the day it has been released and there have been 3-4 firmware upgrades for it, maybe a minor one recently to allow you to download streaming files to a memory card. Then again I use it as a DAP to listen to music so my app downloading is quite limited but thus far I have tested wifi and Bt with no ill effect. I suspect quite a lot of issues arise from those who tend to love downloading apps above and beyond what the X7 was purposed to provide.

      I would say this, the X7ii will be out in 2017, maybe you want to wait and see?

      Reply
      • Glenn Bailey

        Thank you very much for replying, this has restored my Interest in the x7.

        I didn’t realise the x7 ii was being released in which case I shall wait for that and wait for your review.

      • headfonics

        Have a look also at the X5iii just released at $399, we are currently testing it and its a nice smooth sound. We are hoping the X7ii is killer with the latest sabre dac in it and follows the X5ii in form factor also.

      • Glenn Bailey

        Thank you, I’ll have a look now. So many to choose from just wanna make sure I get the right one for my needs and don’t have any regrets.

  3. Antoine B.

    OK… I decided to go all-in! My Sony NW-ZX2 and Hifiman RE-600 are now on ebay and I have ordered the X7 and UE900s… Hopefully for a happy future!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      What amp module did you choose? The AM1 standard IEM amp will not be much of an upgrade on the ZX2, My suggestion is the AM3 module.

      Reply
      • Antoine B.

        I had to take the standard AM1 at first, but I plan to get the AM3 indeed. Do you think changing to a TRRS cable will also make a big difference versus using the AM3 single ended?

      • headfonics

        Unbalanced is smooth and easy going, nice tone. Balanced injects vibrancy and dynamics. I think the X7 comes without amp modules for less and then you can buy an AM3 without needing to buy an Am1.

      • Antoine B.

        Couldn’t find it without amp here in Japan, but I got a relatively good price, so I can add the AM3 quickly. Now I just need to find the right trrs cable for the UE900s. Any suggestions?

      • Daniel Kasztan

        That’s exactly what I did. I decided to buy x7 am3 with westone um 50 pro. Haven’t tested it yet. It comes tomorrow. All after reading your reviews. I hope it was a good choice. Thanks a lot.

      • headfonics

        Let’s hope so :) Let us know how you got on.

      • Daniel Kasztan

        Hi Marcus. I’m glad you’re curious how it goes. Well x7 is gorgeous and um pro 50 are excellent but…I realised that in ear monitors are not the best choice for me. I tested lower price headphones Dr dre beats and some others and I need to admit that sound is much more enjoyable for me. It means I must buy new headphones but… I don’t know which ones couse I don’t know the stuff like you do. Any ideas which ones would be the best (good is not enough for me) for x7 am3? Thanks a lot.

      • headfonics

        Well if you like that type of sound I suggest the Sony MDR-Z1000 as a higher quality sound. It is discontinued I think but you can get it right now on Amazon for $300

      • Dmitry Dicom

        Fiio has offer for ones who got X7 with AM1 module, basically you can get any other amp module for half the price, i.e. $50, I received mine yesterday. Ypu will have to send email to them with your info, and security code from the box of your player for them to verify you really have x7 with am1… find info on web, I saw it on head-fi somewhere…

  4. Bob

    How do you compare it with the Continental Dual Mono about the tonality, the bass and medium quantity?

    Reply
  5. Carlos Sanchez

    What would you recommend as an amp to pair with the Fiio X7 for driving Shure 846’s? Oppo HA-2?

    Reply
      • Stephen

        Why would you need the AM2 module with the HA-2? Wouldn’t you use the line out?

  6. Nicolas

    Hello Marcus,

    First of all, thank you for this very comprehensive review. Since you also reviewed the Celsus Companion One, i would like to know which one you consider as the best sounding( Clarity, soundstage, best fit for Jazz&Classic for instance)? Considering the new modules of amplification being almost on market, the amplification of the Fiio x7 should be sufficient to drive properly my Shure SRH-1840 and my Music Two from Custom Art.

    I thank you in advance for your help!
    Nicolas

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Have not tested the One in a while but I seem to remember it being a very naturally tuned ESS chip and amp so let me check that out as my next review is the amp2 module for the x7

      Reply
  7. Paulo Abreu

    Great review, thanks! I own Ultimate Ears UE900 IEM, based on specs, do you think they are a good match for X7? Anyone you know have listened them on X7?

    Reply
      • Paulo Abreu

        Thanks. Well, meanwhile world did a few turns and I lost my head for a A&K Angie II – Wow… Wow… :-)

  8. Fantome Prime

    First of all: Well done on the review. I’m in the market for DAP and this review was very informative. I am however in the need for that a bit of advice. How does the Fiio X7 compare to the AK 120 II? I realize this might be a dumb question seeing that the AK is roughly twice the price of the X7 , but since its been some time since the release of the AK 120 II, do you think the cheaper but newer X7 provides comparable audio performace as the older AK or are they just different tiers?

    The reason I ask is that I recently bought myself a pair JH Audio 13Pro’s and was searching a good quality DAP for them.I was recommended the AK120 II by a friend saying it has a similar sound signature to the AK 240 but is ~800 dollar cheaper. I was considering buying it till i saw this review and was wondering if I could get similar performance for less.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Good question and sadly I dont have an ak120 II to compare but I do rate it more holographic and resolving than the original AK120 that i do have.

      Reply
  9. Bo Hejselbæk

    This is my next. But Id like it to run GrooveMusic for occasionally streaming. Can anyone confirm if its one of the whitelisted apps or if it can be sideloaded?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      MS Groovemusic loads fine as an APK under firmware v1.5 but not under fw1.3 so you need to make sure you have the latest X7 firmware.

      Reply
  10. kimir

    What other options exist that are android based? I do a lot of streaming (like Tidal/Spotify) as well as offline use, and the only other option I can find is the ZX2, which is double the price.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Perfectly valid question actually and I will be able to update you on that next month when our Mojo arrives.

      Reply
      • headfonics

        The Mojo and the X7 might be even better :) I dunno it al comes down to the tonality of the Mojo and if you like or not, I will find out next month. Dont forget the iphone plus mojo is probably twice the price of the X7.

      • Fernando Perez

        I already own the Iphone, so Mojo in the near future and who knows, maybe a X7 later to have more options.

        Thank you guys, I really enjoy your reviews.

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