Functionality

DAC

FiiO has upgraded the DAC in the new X1. Gone is the older TI PCM5142 and in comes the new and higher end TI PCM5422 DAC chip. Both are delta sigma line drivers but the PCM5422 adds a little bit more dynamic range to the performance of the X1 DAC stage as well as offering a higher SNR performance by 2dB over the old chip. It also introduces a full differential line output compared to the older PCM5142 to give you a better line out performance with it’s Differential DirectPath™ Ground Biased Output technology which was not present in the previous X1 DAC design.

Outside of the SNR and architectural improvements, the Gen 2 DAC offers the same codec decoding performance. No, it will not natively decode DSD or even downgrade to PCM. The highest you can expect from the X1 2G is still a very respectable 192kHz/24 bit decoding rate for FLAC and a slightly improved 192kHz/32bit for WAV files (192kHz/24bit on Gen 1). Note there is still no DAC function also on the new X1. Given its entry-level positioning, this comes as no surprise. If you want a DAC out function for your PC or MAC you will have to go up a level to the X3 Gen 2 and beyond.

Amp

The amp stage of the X1 Gen 2 remains unchanged with the same Intersil ISL28291 buffer chip and an OPA2322 opamp that was present in the original X1, however, reading the details there should be a quieter on-off mechanism with less chance of pop as FiiO has upgraded the original ISL54405 analog switch to a newer SGM3712. Power ratings should remain unchanged for the x1 2G with the same staging components though FiiO has confidently stated that the implementation should result in an increased sense of depth and low-end response on the new X1 2G’s presentation.

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Bluetooth

The hot word of late 2016 (Thanks, Tim Rice, but really no thanks), BT gadgets and devices got a shot in the arm with the announcement of the iPhone 7 without a headphone jack. The timing of the inclusion of BT functionality within the X1 2G is both fortuitous (or canny given a number of leaks on this in the press) and progressive.

Progressive given the fact the X1 Gen 1 can now operate wirelessly with both headphones and transmitting audio to other setups such as car audio as well as integrate with FiiO’s own BT remote control, the RM1. Fortuitous due to the iPhone 7 now accidental hero status as the BT champion for the masses. Chances are high someone will have a BT earphone somewhere next year.

I also love the concept of the in-vehicle mode where the BT signal powers down the X1 when the car itself is turned off and when you turn on the engine (and the audio system) the X1 2G powers up again. A very nice feature indeed. If you want to connect something like the RM1 the process is quick and efficient though, even with fw1.2, it is not always consistent with other 3rd party devices such as my ZTE Axon 7 though the Axon7 can find and link to the X1 2G but with little or no services thereafter.

No AptX

Sadly, aptX is missing and instead we have the “standard” BT 4.0 protocol inside the X1 Gen 2. What does this mean? The lack of aptX is apparently due to the inability for Linux to integrate the aptX platform into its MIPS architecture. Audio is, therefore, good but not as dynamic and uncompressed sounding as aptX and you will notice the difference if you are coming from an aptX capable platform such as the Creative E5 amp.

BT 4.0 is superior to say AD2P but distance and connection are shaky at times which reminds me a bit more of the AD2P setup in the old AK100 MK1. Testing gave me about 5m max with a one wall barrier or 3m with a two wall barrier which is considerably shorter than the Creative E5 (10m). Shame really but then do remember Cayin made that omission also on their fabulous i5 so I am hoping that doesn’t become a deal breaker.



Software

Platform

FiiO has switched from the UCOS platform previously used on their X1 first generation player to a new Linux-based platform. UCOS (µC/OS) is a pretty old system now, going on almost 35 years since its inception and designed for embedded systems. The last iteration, UCSO III being introduced in 2009 and has found a welcoming arm from industries such as the medical profession and aviation. It has suited many a DAP in the last several years also with the core system cropping up in one skin or another.

Firmware Safety

Given this is an entry level device you could argue that it is the safest place to switch to a new OS and see how it goes. The simpler the feature set the quicker you have time to correct errors, debug and release something better. The new firmware that is ‘put to bed’ on the X1 will have a solid applicability and transferability to any newer edition of the X3 and X5 should they be launched with Linux also. Newer features might also be easier to build into the OS given the expansive nature of Linux.

When The New Is Old

Yet for all this platform transfer the user experience remains on familiar territory. The port of the UCOS OS has been largely untouched with an almost duplicate design and workflow meaning those deciding whether to move from the X1 first gen to the newer edition should be immediately comfortable with the UI.



Features such as the arc design home screen menu, the five different key areas of operation (Now playing, Category, Browse files, Play Settings, System settings) , the top notification bar are all still there. The ability to theme the UI with different colors (6 in total) still remains as a fun option as well. Everything that was therefore before is here now on the new X1.

New Features

BT

So what is totally new? Well for one the new BT option in the system settings is probably the biggest new menu option on the X1 2G. You can turn it on or off via the system menu and after a few seconds you will see the Bluetooth icon appear in the notifications top bar. The option to connect and review your existing connections are right below the BT on off menu option. This gives you an almost system like control over playback, especially when combined with FiiO’s own RM1 remote and the DK1 multifunction dock.

In-Vehicle Interfacing

The second major new feature in the settings option is that of the USB Mode selector which offers two options; storage and in-vehicle. The in-vehicle should allow a direct interface with audio head units USB ports for displaying of folder and media data should you wish to use that rather than BT mode.

Embedded Quick Guide

The inclusion of an embedded quick start guide in the system settings was a nice little after though it’s not immediately obvious where to find it. Rather than its own separate section, it’s under the label “About X1” and second workflow screen beyond the initial display of memory capacity and firmware version.

Speed

Moving to a new platform and the first question on my mind was how fast is it and if it was buggy or not. The previous X1 did alright actually but it was at the end of a long cycle from the X5 and X3 so I knew what I was getting. Out of the box, the X1 Gen 2 with the original firmware was a touch laggy, particularly with media scanning and BT functionality. Firmware 1.2, which is the current one available at the time of writing, speeds things up a little but there is still some lag such as selecting a track and the track actually starting, boot up from standby when BT mode is on and turning off and on options in main settings whilst music is playing.

Boot Up and Power Down

Boot time on the new Linux platform is remarkably similar to the old Gen 1 at around 7-8 seconds and puts it on par roughly with the rest of the X DAP range. Given its only out I do wonder if that means there is room for an even faster boot up with future firmware.

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Boot from hibernation is roughly around 1-2 seconds depending what functionality you have turned on before it went to sleep. One thing to note if you hit the sleep standby mode with Bluetooth switched on it will take 10-15 seconds longer to resume from hibernation than with BT switched off. That’s something that needs to be worked on in future firmware updates. Powering down is pretty nippy at around 2 seconds with a “See You” flash screen as it turns itself off.

Media Management

Category Scanning

Scanning on the new X1 was pretty slow by mid-fi DAP standards taking an almost glacial 10 minutes to find and categorize 2250 FLAC tracks from the SD card. Compare that to Cayin’s $499 i5 which takes about 20 seconds you can pretty much forget about rapid file transfer, update and go. Instead, make a cup of tea and come back later. That being said once it is completed I found it pretty accurate in tag reading and most, if not all, tracks were correctly classified.

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File Browser

However, if you have a good folder and file management system then using the File Explorer will give you instant reward by allowing you to power up and search through your folders on the memory card right away. Personally, I prefer this method to using the Category method simply because FiiO has yet to produce proper drill down category browser in categories such as genre which gives me a flat list of about 500 songs per genre rendering browsing rather unuseful. I still believe it should be Genre – artists – album – songs but this is a dance I have been doing since 2013.

Page 3: Sound Impressions & Comparisons

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56 Responses

  1. Cristian Bonnin

    Buenas cómo les va? Acabo de comprar un X1 2 generación, q auriculares alambricos me recomiendan?

    Reply
  2. Trygve

    based on this review I decided to buy one (Gen 2) to replace my iPhone SE {playing AAC files (VB)] as a music player.
    Loaded in a few Hires (24-96 flac + 24-48 flac) of Pink Floyd. Same files I have on my iPhone, but there “downgraded” to AAC (lossy).
    But what a dissapontment.
    Music sounds flat and lifless. No punch in the bass. No dyamics.
    I used my well trusted Klipsch X-10 for the test. Also tested my Sennheiser, but same result.
    The music sounds better and more dynamic on my iPhone ES (128Gb) than this player.
    Bummer. 125 euros out of the window.

    Reply
  3. Drew

    Hey OP I have been reading up about DAPS this past week. Seeing my beloved and trusty iPod Classic died after so many years of service. Now I am looking for its replacement and I was so surprised that this business has gone to Hi-Res Audio.
    To make the long story short… the only available brand in my country is FiiO.
    Is this DAP better than the entry level Cowon & OPUS DAPS which I can purchase in Korea (Free Delivery)?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      No it is not better. The entry level Cowon and Opus are mid-fi level hence the big price difference. If you are prepared to spend more for an Opus#1 then you should be looking at the FiiO X5iii. The X1 is budget level.

      Reply
      • Drew

        Thanks HF!
        Ok so… which is futureproof between the FiiO X5iii vs Cowon Plenue D if I am going to go for these mid-fi level hardware? The X5 is around $300.00+ here and the Plenue D is currently on sale for about $200.00. I hope it can outlast the one its gonna be replacing.

  4. Charlie1

    DON’T BUY THE FIIO MP3 PLAYERS. I BOUGHT THE X1 VERSION 2. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO SYNC. DON’T BELIEVE TECH SITES; THEY SEEM TO HYPE EVERYTHING.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Perhaps you missed the part were we mentioned the sync issues?

      “Media Management

      Category Scanning

      Scanning on the new X1 was pretty slow by mid-fi DAP standards taking an almost glacial 10 minutes to find and categorize 2250 FLAC tracks from the SD card. Compare that to Cayin’s $499 i5 which takes about 20 seconds you can pretty much forget about rapid file transfer, update and go. Instead, make a cup of tea and come back later. That being said once it is completed I found it pretty accurate in tag reading and most, if not all, tracks were correctly classified.”

      Note sure where we hyped that aspect.

      Reply
      • Charlie1

        I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE IN GENERAL, BUT I DISAGREE ABOUT THIS PRODUCT. I EVEN PAID THE $20 FOR DAPPER, A SYNCING SOFTWARE FIIO RECOMMENDS, AND I SPENT A LOT MORE THAN THE TIME YOU ALLOTTED, TO NO AVAIL. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THE MANUFACTURER TO MAKE THIS SO DIFFICULT. NO IPOD IS LIKE THIS.

      • headfonics

        Well I can only report the actual physical time it took for those tracks to sync, anything else wouldn’t be the truth :)

        I suspect there maybe other factors such as power of PC, usb transfer speed, file size, codec etc that can influence the final outcome. But we were clear that this is a very slow process.

        May I suggest you go with the N3 instead? its fast and easy to work with at that price range and we did rank it higher.

      • Charlie1

        My criticism of your website has to do with the fact that the syncing issue is actually much worse than you found. Do you have the courage to repost this thread. What I’m saying about the Fiio, and websites failure to document how bad it really is are both true. It’s all over the web.

      • headfonics

        I am not entirely sure what you mean by that, your post is right there on the page and we posted our honest results and found them to be accurate, it’s really slow. I don’t see how that contradicts or disavows your findings in any manner.

      • Charlie1

        Oh, if I’m mistaken I apologize: I got an email that my comment had been removed.

      • headfonics

        Nope, all your posts are here and can be seen, we always encourage users to post their impressions as things can vary from one user to another. I consider myself a user first, reviewer second so it all goes into the pot for people to be able to make an informed decision. Cheers!

      • Charlie1

        Thanks, but I think I’ll stick to ipods, and just make sure I have enough of them in case any poop out. I’m happy with my Fiio headphone amp, and very surprised by the X1.

      • headfonics

        I use an iTouch from time to time, its ok but the lack of native FLAC playback holds it back. Have a look at the new FiiO X3 3d gen, might be just what you are after.

      • John

        Syncining…?
        Why?
        I’ve noticed slow performance immed while trying to copy files via USB.
        So what, take out SD card and dump your files directly to SD card, no sweat.

  5. jaxager

    I was thinking about getting one until I read that it doesn’t have Apt-X. What? This is a high resolution player and it doesn’t have Apt-X? This makes a tremendous amount of difference in wireless sound quality. Bummer. Guess I’m sticking with my 1st generation X1.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Yes apparently it’s a licensing thing combined with complexities of integrating it with their new Linux OS for the X1ii so it won’t happen sadly. Right now the best bet is the Hidizs AP60 or Cayin N3.

      Reply
  6. Halldór Freyr Sturluson

    got them for christmas from my wife and i decided to get these rather then x7 because of the price and also because i think in the next year or 2 bluetooth will come even better (24) and and i got them with the A5 amp, and i have to say its the best sound i have ever heard, using my Koss bt540 with lineout and its sounds great, listening now to Awake from Dream Theater and hearing new stuff i never heard before. and i cant even turn them all the way up with the gain on high, so maybe next thing is buying even better headphones, still the Koss are very good and comfortable. So i think im getting more hooked on audiophile stuff, its worth it thats for sure.

    Reply
  7. John

    Just received one of these units from Amazon this week, and this review is right in line with my brief experiences thus far. Charged it up last night, and it did take quite some time to load a 128gb card that was just about full. Well worth it though, listening to some Fleetwood Mac FLAC files on my lunch break with Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 via bluetooth. Very pleased with the sound quality, and looking forward to wired listening next. Great way to get the feet wet in the lossless media player pool without breaking the bank.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Good job John and glad your thoughts matched mine. I was not so fussed on the Gen 1 but the 2nd gen is a good leap up in audible quality, or perhaps simply more to my taste. Just don’t go changing cards too much :)

      Reply
      • John

        I have a Fiio a3 amp as well, I’ll try playing through that this weekend as well and see how it sounds :)
        I missed the part about changing cards in the article, I’ll have to go back and look at that.

      • headfonics

        oh for the card changing that just means building a new database and that is kind of slow.

    • Philippe Kervran

      It s a good news for me to read that is possible to connect a momemtum headset via bluetooth. I hope to find the solution.

      Reply
  8. pyktures

    Hi Headfonics,

    I’m currently using an HTC One M8 + Shure se215 special editions.

    I’ve just stumbled upon this review while looking for the X3ii and the X1ii. Now I can find the X3ii for about 170US which puts it quite close to X1ii. I’m wondering what’s around for the same budget as the x3ii if any. My uses would be for quality music listening at work without much else functionality that improves on the HTC One M8.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Off the top of my head, the Cowon Plenue D, Hidizs AP100, Shozy Alien for DAPS but if you want OTG for your HTC you can also look at the iBasso D Zero MK2 which is even cheaper.

      Reply
      • pyktures

        Just ordered a Cowon Plenue D, will get it monday and update it to firmware 1.14 :) Looking forward in hearing it.

  9. Halldór Freyr Sturluson

    very good review. i have been looking at these players for little more then a week now like crazy and i think x7is the one i want, but still im thinkin about buying this one now because its cheaper and has the both way bluetooth so it will be great in the car also and maybe it will get aptx. And if it will work well then i will buy the newer model of x7 when that will be out or whatever comes then, because i see on the internet that next year or years will be very big in the bluetooth department, so maybe its to early and expensive to buy x7 now if there will be a new one next summer. but i have been looking at the new sony nw-35 too and it looks great and has great battery and all but im thinking about x1 ii with A5 and then the remote and dock with it. do you think its a smart move to go this way right now? go cheaper and wait a little bit more for the expensive ones to get even better? then x1 ii would be great to have in the car. thank you for the review.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Thanks Halldor for the feedback. Yes, the Sony nw-35 caught my attention also and its a nice price though not as cheap as the X1 2gen. Your question is an eternal question and almost always it will result in an upgrade at some point. Now I do not honestly see FiiO releasing any improved version of the X7 for now or 2017, perhaps instead a module or two with certain characteristics. You can of course use the dock with the X7 as well as the X1 which is the beauty of the FiiO system. Should you have both the X1 and X7? I say if you can afford the X7 get that instead and spend the $99 from the X1 on a nice AM3 module for the X7 and stick in the multifunction dock and RM1 for another $50. You will not need to upgrade any further if you stay within the FiiO ecosystem. Cheers.

      Reply
      • Halldór Freyr Sturluson

        i know, its the same with most gadgets, you can always wait for something better or always go little bit more expensive to get better equipment. but i think right now this would be good choice, but still i want the x7 hehe. but i think there will be better bluetooth sound soon and probably better batteries like in the sony phones too. but thanks for the answer and i will think about this for few more days.

  10. Cristian Micu

    how many years would you think you’ll use one of these players until it gets useless because of something not working (most probably the contacts on the headphones plug or the not replaceble battery), and obviously you cant do or cant afford repair but buy another

    in the 80’s you could go old with a stereo, and those cost as much or less than these

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I still have my Nakamichi DR-3 cassette deck :) Excellent machine but it does need servicing and maintenance as does most things and cost a ton more than $99 when it came out. Hard to say with FiiO DAPs, depends on usage conditions I guess. Their first DAP the X3 has only been out for 3-4 years but still going strong here.

      Reply
  11. Feldman-Haim Blues Explosion

    Are those battery life figures based on lossless or mp3 playback?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Ratings on paper are usually based on optimal conditions such as low bitrate files and LCD off without much button mashing so the more you do of that the lower the battery life becomes but with the X1 the drop isn’t huge, maybe like an hour or two from the headline figure. Mind you it is early days with the firmware and FiiO usually optimize battery life in future updates of their daps.

      Reply
      • Feldman-Haim Blues Explosion

        I’m still on the fence. Do I get this now in the hope that any issues are eventually fixed or do I get an already established player? I’m split between either this, the x3ii or a cowon plenue D.

      • headfonics

        The X1 does not have a built-in DAC out function nor can it decode DSD native like the X3ii. The X1 is still an entry level DAP with line out only.

      • Feldman-Haim Blues Explosion

        My needs are basic. I literally just want to listen to lossless music on go the via a dedicated player that has good playback and UI. What attracts me to the cowon. Plenue D is the UI and huge battery life. What attracts me to fiio products is the relatively cheap cost.

      • headfonics

        The D is $199 though and not much more than the X3ii , personally I like the looks of the D over the X3ii but I believe next year they will bring out a new x3 so that might have a bearing.

  12. Swaraj Kumar

    I have ATH-M50x and Beyerdynamic DT 770 pro 80 ohm. Wanted to buy an amp and a hi res music player. My budget is around $300. Should I go for Fiio E12 + X3 2nd gen or E17K amp dac or creative sound blaster E5? Please suggest any other combination in my price range. Thanks!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Well if you want an amp and a hi res player for that budget then the new FiiO A5 and/or X3ii or X1 would fit inside the budget. The E5 has more features but it has a slightly metallic peaky treble performance and the E17k is just an amp/DAC and you would still need a hires player.

      Reply
      • Swaraj Kumar

        What about X5 2nd gen? It can be used as both hi res player and a USB DAC, right? Is it value for money? Can you suggest few other hi res players under $200?

      • headfonics

        X5 2nd gen is not under $200 unless you buy it used and abused. X3ii is under $200. Check out the Plenue D also from Cowon.

      • Swaraj Kumar

        Okay, which one would you recommend between X3 2nd gen and Plenue D?

      • headfonics

        Plenue D for me simply because the x3 2g will be replaced next year

      • Swaraj Kumar

        Next year when? Do you have any idea? Can you recommend some good hi res player for $300? How was your experience with X5? Is it a good buy for its price range?

  13. Adam Pennington

    I’ve read impressions on head-fi and they don’t instill much confidence in the X1II. Mainly the UI lag being awful and shotty bluetooth connectivity. Can you elaborate on these two things? Thanks

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Thanks for stopping by Adam, I actually wrote a few paragraphs on BT performance on page 3 and the entire page 2 is on UI and its performance thanks

      Reply

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