Tonality8
Build & Functionality8.5
Matchability8.5
Value For Money9
8.5
Our Score
$99.99

It has always been FiiO’s legacy and their building blocks to have a solid line-up of budget amps or amp/DAC. From the E07k to the E11 and more recently the Q1 and A5 in 2015 there has always been a strong company presence in the sub-$100 category.

The recent launch of the Q1 Mark II amp/DAC aims to retain the company’s presence as the entry gate for budding new audiophiles whilst at the same time keep their competitive edge with some new and interesting features.

At just $99, FiiO has kept the fundamentals and purpose of original Q1 much the same but this time around there is a much more cohesive set of features that fit very much into what FiiO call “Infinity sound”.

What Is The Pitch?

Infinity Sound

The Q1 Mark II is one of the cornerstone products released by FiiO in the summer of 2017 under their branding moniker, “Infinity Sound”. There are a few talking points behind that phrase but the biggest highlight is the adoption of a balanced output or in the case of their IEMs, the inclusion of a balanced cable.

Offering a balanced output under $100 opens up a whole new marketing pitch and, if done correctly, a higher level of performance from source or IEM. The Q1 Mark II balanced output is not just a cheap split design either with the same amplification setup as the X7 Mark II AM3a module which I really dig for its IEM handling and musical signature.

Smartphone Friendly

The second major pitch of the new Q1 Mark II is more the sum of the parts rather than one distinct feature. Essentially the Mark II is being pitched as the perfect compliment to iOS.

Pretty much everything is being geared to make it a natural choice for that audience. This includes the price point, the new design, the improved volume and channel balance control and most importantly the official MFi Certification from Apple.

Build

Just to note the unit we received is a pre-production sample and there will be some minor changes in the final retail unit to include the LED power button light from blue to green, the labeling color of each output or input and a more comprehensive manual guide in 8 languages.

Form Factor

Flatter shape

FiiO has done a good job fixing some of the previous issues I had with the hip-flask form factor of the Q1 mark I. Out goes the slightly raised chassis and in comes a smaller, thinner and flatter rectangular form factor. At once the Q1 Mark II becomes a lot more stacking friendly for smartphone and budget DAP uses looking to strap on the Q1ii to the back of their source. Shape-wise it’s a bit more uniform also and easier to work with smooth curved sides compared to the older edged cornering.

Lower Profile

Weight wise the Q1 Mark II is about the same at 100g, however, the dimensions are a bit more streamlined than before. The new Q1 Mark II measures in at 99mm x 59mm x 12.5mm compared to the older 97mm x 56mm x 13.1mm. It is a bit longer and wider but more importantly it is not as tall and that lower profile makes it the better mating partner for ever slimmer smartphones.

Smaller Pot

The volume potentiometer is a new design and somewhat smaller than before. The form factor is an obconical or inverted cone type shape similar to that found on their A5 analog amp with 45-degree lines etched on the outer ring for better grip.

There may be some concerns from old Q1 users that the smaller pot may present some ease of use challenges on the go or behind a smartphone in a stack. Despite its diminutive nature, it is surprisingly easy to grip and use. It’s dual function of powering on the device also comes with a reassuring mechanical click noise as you power it on. What I do miss is the old bumper guard form the Mark I which I always valued for the protection they offered from accidental volume knocks.

Materials

FiiO has retained the all-metal shell of the original Q1 (front and back panels are plastic) but in some ways, they have enhanced it. Alongside the form factor changes for better stacking and handling, they have also added an anodized sandblasted finish to the outer shell for easier gripping. The metal exterior is claimed by FiiO to also protect the device from EMI generated by smartphones that can interfere with audio quality when in use.

Inputs & Outputs

There have been a few changes in the input and output layouts to accommodate the new 2.5mm TRRS jack output on the front panel as well to tidy up the port alignments given its smaller chassis depth.

To the rear, the line out of the old Q1 is now pushed to the front to make way for a gain switch to the far left. The Mark I bass boost has been pulled from the front panel and re-positioned to the far right on the rear panel with charging DAC/out micro-USB port remaining central.

FiiO has resisted moving to USB-C for their port connections so there is not a huge amount of future proofing. Micro-USB is still their mainstay for all their digital products at the time of writing.

The front panel is now a lot busier in terms of inputs and outputs, It is also a bit classier looking with gold plated 3.5mm unbalanced and 2.5mm balanced outputs to the far left and a switchable line in/out jack in the middle. Towards the right, there are two LED lights. The first denotes when DSD decoding is active and the second just behind the volume pot will glow green indicating power on.

Battery Life

The battery in the Q1 Mark II has gotten a slight upgrade to 1800mAh compared to the previous 1400mAh. However, the rated battery life has dropped from 30 plus hours to 20 plus hours as an amp and 15 hours to 10 hours using the DAC.

I suspect this may be a conservative estimate based on the upgrade in DAC chip from the very low powered cheaper PCM5102 to the more capable AK4452 combined with the 2.5mm balanced output drawing more power. higher sampling and bit-rate converting capability such as DSD combined with balanced output will likely give you those shorter hours.

Charging time is around 4 hours or less which is in line with the previous Q1 Mark I’s recharge rate.

Functionality

DAC

The Q1 Mark II had ditched the more limiting Texas Instruments PCM5102 DAC of the Mark I and elected instead to use an AK4452 for DAC duties.  Previously the Q1 topped out at 96kHz/24bit decoding however with the AK4452 the Mark II is now capable of a much more competitive 384kHz/32bit decoding as well as native DSD converting up to DSD256. That is as good as it gets at this price point.

Amp

Now, this is where I find things quite interesting. Previously the Q1 packed a fairly moderate Maxim MAX97220 amp stage capable of 190mW on a 32Ω load. The Mark II now uses the OPA926 amp chip which is the same one found in the all-new AM3a amp module.

Granted the resolution might be lower than a X7ii/AM3a combo but the amping refinement should be a big step up from the Mark I.

Numbers

Amping numbers on the Mark II are also slightly different to the Mark I. The Mark I was fixed at 190mW into a 32Ω load. On the Mark II, it’s now lower for the 3.5mm output at 75mW into 32Ωand 112mW into 16Ω which should suit efficient IEMs better.

Balanced on the other hand is a jump up to 220mW on a 32Ω load and a fairly healthy 240mW into a 16Ω load. Balanced should also give you a bit more reach for harder to drive headphones than the old Mark I was ever capable of.

The only caveat with this switch is the slightly higher output impedance of the new amp design. The 3.5mm output is just on the edge of where I like it to be at <1.2Ω whereas the balanced output is higher at <2Ω. Compare that with the Mark I 3.5mm output which was at much lower < 0.3 Ω.

Accessories & Packaging

FiiO has re-designed the packaging again for the Q1 with a more compact retail box and now sporting the “Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad” moniker that you can use once you have gained MFi certification. It could mean you can find the FiiO units popping up in some Apple-related stores moving forward.

Inside you receive a range of rubber straps and a silicone resting pad to assist you in stacking with your source of choice. In terms of included cables, you will receive a short micro-USB to lightning cable and a right-angled 3.5mm short IC. You also receive a standard USB-A to micro-USB 1m charging/USB-DAC for connecting to PCs. Macbook USB-C users will have to port it.

FiiO has also redesigned their pouches and moved away from the padded cases found with the A5 to a more flexible porous mesh pouch similar to the ones you find with ALO Audio amps. I love these pouches for their looks as well as their excellent durability. They do actually protect the Q1 Mark II from accidental knocks rather better than you would think.

Page 2: Sound Impressions & Comparisons

48 Responses

  1. James

    Hi there, if i were to use either the mDSD or the Fiio with my HD6XX, mostly either on my iphone or my xps 13, which would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Honestly, neither if the intention is to amp out from them. Instead, I would buy the Q1 Mark ii and FiiO A5 as a dac/amp combo and properly power the HD6XX.

      Reply
      • James

        Would you say that its more important to get the amp than the dac then?

  2. Joseph

    You mentioned that this dac/amp is geared for IEMs. I am looking for a good portable amplifier for my Beyerdynamics DT-1350s and I liked the DAC functionality this option provides but at the end of the day getting the best enhancement to sound quality is all I really want – within a $150 budget.

    Would you think this amp to be better or as good as the A5? Are there any amps you like better within the $150 price range? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Why not get both? The Q1ii is a DAC/Amp not just a pure amp like the A5. Personally, I would hunt down a FiiO e12a amp cheaper on eBay and pair it with the Q1ii.

      Reply
      • Joseph

        Thanks for the tip! I’ll look into this and likely start with the Q1 Mkii.

  3. wan

    HI. I’m using ue900 earphone and iPhone. does this filo compatible with me device? tq

    Reply
  4. Gianluca

    Thanks for this greatly informative article. How well do you think this could do with a pair of Hifiman He400i? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  5. Ayush

    Would this go well with my Shure SE846? How would this compare to the slightly more expensive Sony PHA1A? Or would you recommend any other DAC? Please, let me know. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Odysseus

    Very informative article!
    I assume that I can connect my HD 580 headphones to both the balanced and single-ended output, correct? Is the power enough in the single-ended case? If I want to use the balanced output, I just need to replace the cable of my headphones, right? I am between this model and the e17k but I understand that it’s a good idea to go for this one…

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Hi you can connect both balanced and unbalanced, just not at the same time and with the right jacks :) I would pick this over the E17k but I can’t be sure how well it would drive the HD580 as I do not have one to test.

      Reply
      • Odysseus

        Thanks!
        My HD580s need 11 mW, 1.82 Vrms and 6.1 mA, to arrive to 110 dB SPL [300 Ohms impedance, 105 dB (1 Vrms) sensitivity].
        From Q1 Mark II’s specification, for the 3.5 mm output:
        – ≥11 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%)
        – >4.4 Vp-p (=> 1.555 Vrms)
        Does this mean that the Q1 Mark II cannot give the required voltage, at least in the case of the 3.5 mm output? I understand that there are no issues if I use the 2.5 mm balanced output.

  7. Bruno

    Which headphone and amp you would pair with a Philips Fidelio X2, I would prefer under 100$ like this product but if you think there is a huge leap in performance I am willing to spend more, I am looking for a good sound stage mainly for gaming because my taste in music is thrash ;) also sorry for the bad english.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      I would pick the iBasso D14 or the Oppo HA-2SE for the X2 personally. I prefer the DAC inside for gaming. You need quick paced detail and they both have it.

      Reply
  8. Borne

    Hi, Is it compatible with Spotify on Android, using it as DAC with micro-USB plug?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      It will depend on the Android phone. FiiO has not been specific on this because the variations are too many on Android. I tested it with an Axon 7 and LG G6 and it worked. Not you need an OTG cable, not a regular USB cable.

      Reply
  9. Alain L.

    quick question: will both outputs be driven (balanced and single ended). My intent is to use this as a dual output while travelling with my other, while watching movies/viedo etc.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      You mean two headphones in same time to share? That I have never tried before but given one socket is 2.5mm you do need one of your Jacks to be 2.5mm.

      Reply
  10. Wade

    Hi Marcus,

    Quick question. I’m new to these amps/DACs and was considering buying a FiiO E17K. How your you rate the Q1 Mark II against it? I have a pair of Audio Technica M50x headphones and an iPhone 7 Plus. My concern with the E17K is all the extra bits and bobs your required to buy to get it working for Apple devices. I plan to change later on in life from apple, but unfortunately am unable to at this time.

    Reply
  11. John

    Hi. I’m about to buy Oppos PM-3 Headphones and i was wondering if i should spend $300 dollars on an Oppo Ha-2se, or if should go for the cheaper option and buy the Fiio q1mk2. Do you thik the Fiio is worth it ?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      I would advise the HA-2SE. It has more power than the Q1 Mark II and a better DAC implementation. Noise is not an issue with a planar and whilst the PM-3 is efficient it also does enjoy a more powerful signal.

      Reply
      • John

        *sight* i guess the real question is: In case of not being able to afford the Oppo ha-2se is the Q1 mk2 a good option ? On a side note, i own iphone 7. Looking for an amp/dac that’s compatible.

  12. Ben Cherian

    I unfortunately end up at this forum and i was very much happy to see the second page of article because i need it for my Meze 99 Neo and you have said everything how it will sound.
    I hope it will be good choice maybe even than dragonfly black. I don’t like ess sabre analytical sound. I rather enjoy listening music.

    Reply
  13. Ptereodactyl Nölff

    After reading your review, I ordered this DAC/AMP. I found stumbled across headphonics last week. I’m excited to hear what it can do. It’s being delivered today.

    Reply
  14. George

    Hi Marcus, I tried the Fiio Music Player app as well and that stutters too for both .dff and .dsf songs. I guess we can only expect so much. Thanks anyway.

    Reply
  15. George

    Hi Marcus, the light for DSD did light up when I tried with Onkyo HF Player (paid version). The songs stutter perhaps because one album is 1.7GB and my iPhone is an older 6S.

    Reply
  16. George

    Hi Marcus, Okay I got the DSD green light to come on with Onkyo HF Player (paid version) just for kicks. Occasional stuttering on some songs as the album I tested with is 1.7GB on my iPhone 6s.

    Reply
  17. George

    Could you add some recommendations for third party apps that can add FLAC and DSD fils to an iPhone that will then play through this Q1 Mk II?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      I used ‘flac player’ but I paid for that a long time ago. Normally I just type flac in iTunes search box and see what apps they suggest now.

      Reply

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