Sound Impressions

Tonality & Presentation

The Q1 Mark II is a little more refined and balanced sounding than the older MK1. It still delivers what I would term as a smooth presentation and generally sits more on the musical side of tuning than anything reference or analytical sounding.

Tonally, the Mark II does draw from the AM3a in many respects such as the planted full sounding but not overly cooked low-end, a neutral to natural instrumental timbre as well as a forward vocal presence. There is also a slightly emphasized lower treble that adds a bit of percussive snap and contrast before the response drops off a little bit towards the final octave.

The X7 Mark II with the AM3a is always going to deliver a lot more detail than the Q1 Mark II 1 with a similar amping stage so do not think you are getting a budget X7ii performance. That ES9028PRO is a stunning DAC for resolution whereas the AK chip in the Q1 Mark II is more about musicality. If you enjoy a warm to natural sounding responses with decent body then the Q1 Mark II will give you that.

Balanced

Going balanced is my preferred route and you can tell FiiO made a point of referencing their F-series IEMs with the Q1 Mark II in mind because they do sound excellent paired together.

A few things to note going balanced with the Q1 Mark II. I generally found a snappier bass response as well as a more holographic staging quality with a bit more lower treble presence and clarity. There was also a slight improvement in instrumental separation leaving more breathing space for vocals to shine.

Matchability

Note the setup used to test the Q1 Mark II with an iPod Touch 6th Gen using the supplied lightning cable. Source tracks were a mix of ALAC, MP3, and Flac (3rd party flac player).

Although the Q1 Mark II does not come with a short OTG cable it will plug and play just fine with Android platforms that support digital audio out as well as MACs and Linux platforms. For Windows, you will be required to download a driver to make full use of the Q1’s decoding capability. It will also pair just nicely with FiiO’s own X3iii Linux based media player using its line out.

ADC Volume adjustment

Typically analog amps or amps with analog volume controls will have a level of imbalanced in their control that digital amps do not have. If you ever worked with the Sony A35 you will be familiar with its steady channel balance and quite gain control compared to noisier and awkward balancing of cheaper analog competitors.



FiiO has worked on a hybrid version of their ADC volume control which basically re-samples the ADC curve to produce a smoother response from zero upwards.

Performance

Does it work? For channel balanced using my most sensitive IEM, the Andromeda, it works very well indeed. Zero left or right bias and a very smooth gain control.

However, noise is not completely absent (balanced output) but then its always a challenge for amps when they meet the Andromeda, its a freak of nature. Let’s just say it is low with a hint of an audible signal on zero so not completely quiet. Other very efficient IEMs such as the 5-ohm 111dB Westone W80 were much quieter on the Q1 Mark II in terms of background hiss though there was clearly an audible signal at zero volume.

Regular Efficiency

On normal efficiency entry-level IEMs such as the F9 and the Oriveti BASIC no such issues with noise in either unbalanced or balanced output and a nice black background. I also got some nice control on the volume on both dynamic driver IEMs with a lengthy gain rise on low volume which I appreciated coming from the more abrupt and aggressive A5.

Higher Impedance

On higher impedance budget IEMs such as the CL750 from RHA I was actually quite impressed with the Q1 Mark II’s dynamic range and again that smooth pot control eliminated low volume channel bias.

The CL750 generally needs decent amping to be driven optimally so I have always tended to use this on more powerful mid-fi amps such as the Duet whose darker tonality takes the edge off the brighter top-end of the CL750 quite nicely. The Q1 Mark II doesn’t quite have the same dynamic range and resolution but it does deliver a smooth and enjoyable presentation with the CL750 which I did not expect.

Power

Efficient planar and portable headphones around 32 ohms or less actually did ok with the Q1 Mark II. Mind you most of them do need to be used in high mode to get the most out of the Q Mark II’s generally weaker amp output if not using balanced.

Hifiman Edition X V2

That full-bodied sound actually paired quite well with the likes of the Hifiman Edition X V2. It is not the most resolving and perhaps a bit behind in dynamics compared to high-end sources and DAPs but I can’t fault the tonal response and generally easy-going nature of the Q1. The only thing missing is the lower treble body which tends to get a bit brittle on the V2.

Audeze SINE

Audeze’s very efficient portable SINE headphones didn’t perform too badly either. Again, that level of resolution and general detail in note texture wasn’t as prominent as I would normally look for on more resolving platforms so do temper expectation.

What I was looking for was a tinny sound or loss of dynamic range and thankfully the SINE/Q! Mark II did not suffer from those pitfalls in poor amping. I would also suggest avoiding the bass boost on headphones (and IEMs for that matter) that are already full sounding as it tends to just give it a bit too much bass bloom, particularly the SINE.

Meze 99 Neo

One killer pairing with the Q1 Mark II was the Meze 99 Neo. I say that in deference to its genre suitability which I tend to find favoring modern RnB, pop, and EDM. It is a super easy to drive headphone. The Q1 Mark II on low gain had no issues driving it. That full-bodied signature of the Q1 Mark II paired very well with the low-end bias of the Neo to deliver some a nice swagger with the likes of Clairy Browne and We are Twin.

Select Comparisons

Sonic Infinity Encore mDSD

$99

Technical

The mDSD is one of the best value USB sticks out there that will work on iOS, Android and USB-DAC out from most platforms. At $99 it will decode up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD 256 much like the Q1 Mark 2 with its more than capable Sabre ESS 9010K2M DAC chip.

The mDSD amp stage is lower at 40mW into 32 Ohms compared to the Q1 Mark II’s unbalanced output at 75mW into 32-ohms and the even healthier 220wW from the balanced output. The mDSD lacks a line-in, balanced output, bass and gain options but it does offer SPDIF output with the 3.5mm jack dualing as a digital output which some might find rather handy.

Sound

Those expecting a clean Sabre sound will be disappointed for whilst the mDSD is more linear generally than the Q1 Mark II it’s not a sterile or flat sound.

The top end is smooth with perhaps less emphasis on the lower treble than the Q1 but it is more extended with a bit more sparkle. The low-end is not quite as elevated, perhaps a little more linear than the Q1 fuller more impactful low end. Mids on the mDSD are also a little more linear with vocals less forward sounding than the Q1 but there is not much in it.

Staging on the Q1 and the mDSD both have decent depth though I suspect people will be drawn to the planted heavier low-end of the Q1 Mark II which has more mid-bass warmth. Both have similar levels of sub-bass presence once you dig beyond that mid-bass impact.

Title1

NuPrime uDSD

$179 

Technical

The uDSD is a little more transportable than portable and does not operate under its own power requiring instead a 5v USB current. Unlike the Q1 Mark II, it cannot be mated with smartphones or other DAPs. It competes with the Q Mark II as a DAC/Amp connected to a computer.

Like the other compared products it also sports an ES9010K2M Sabre DAC chip so decoding capabilities are the exact same up to DSD256. The uDSD has a rated power output of 140mW into 32-ohms. That is more powerful than the Q1 unbalanced but lower than the 220mW into 32-ohms balanced output.

What it does have in its favor is its ability to output an analog dual RCA line-out as well as coaxial output. The RCA outputs offer a reasonably decent 2Vrms (DAC out) on a fixed line level signal. The coaxial output includes an impressive DSD via DoP up to DSD 11.2MHz output.

Sound

The dynamics on the uDSD are sensational. This is a high energy snappy solid state sound. It may not have that smooth warm to natural and frankly more forgiving sound of the Q1 Mark II but its more aggressive and lively presentation is a little more engaging.

Where are the differences? The Q1 Mark II has a bit more bass quantity, particularly in mid-bass warmth but the bass texture and definition of the uDSD is a little better. For me, the uDSD is a little more accurate.

Instrumental timbre on the uDSD is a touch more neutral than the richer body of the Q1 Mark II. Vocals are also a little more forward on the Q1 Mark II compared to the uDSD. Both avoid sibilance nicely though the uDSD has a more forward and energetic treble response. Of the two you could argue the uDSD is a touch brighter as a result.

Staging wise the Q1 mark II favors depth over the uDSD which has more of a bias to width and height much in keeping with the iBasso D14 which has a similar Sabre DAC implementation.

iBasso D14

$229

Technical

The D14 likely would be a level up from the Q1 Mark II and with a price tag to match. However, stylistically its old school and a lot bigger and blockier than the Q1. Takes me back to the gold old days of stacking with a worn out Cowon S7. Score 1 for modernity and FiiO.

Like the mDSD, the D14 has a Sabre32 ES9018K2M packed inside capable of decoding up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256. So far so good for the Q1 Mark II in terms of decoding competitiveness. Score draw.

Both have a line out, both can charge via USB, both can operate on OTG, lightning to iOS as well as connect with computers for USB-DAC duties. The D14 though has SPDIF input so it can accept a wider range of sources such as AK DAPs than possible with the Q1. Away team advantage.

The D14 will give you above 20 hours as an amp and around 10-13 hours using the DAC which is broadly in line with the Q1 Mark II’s smaller battery’s performance. Split decision.

The big D14 advantage is the power which is rated at 400mW into 32-ohms compared to the Q1 Mark II’s max balanced output of 220mW into 32-ohms. Technical knock-out but in the mandatory re-match the Q1 Mark II is substantially quieter than the D14 with IEMs.

Sound

With the F9 in low-gain, you have tons of wiggle room for microvolume control with excellent channel balance and an even rise in gain. The Q1 Mark II has a slightly superior channel balance and a very similar level of volume control. Noise on the D14 is higher though with sensitive IEMs though both are impeccable with FiiO’s own F9 which for me is the sweet spot. Both do well with dynamic driver IEMs.

The D14 delivers a more open and slightly cleaner sound with a lighter quick-paced presentation than the smooth and full-bodied sound of the Q1. The staging on the D14 emphasizes height and width whereas the Q1 Mark II delivers a bit more in depth.

The Q1 tends to shoot more for the mid-bass emphasis with a full sounding vocal delivery. The D14 is tighter in the low-end, a bit more defined also and delivering a far more open and airy sound. Vocals are a little more refined on the D14, perhaps a shade less body in exchange for more accuracy. Both have a smooth treble response, however, the D14 has a bit more sparkle and definitely more headroom.

Our Verdict

The Q1 Mark II is a clever evolution from the original. In comes a more refined design that mates better with smartphones and DAPs and also a more versatile range of power settings with balanced and unbalanced options. The power is not huge but its more than enough for most IEMs which is exactly the target market that FiiO should be capturing with the Q1 Mark II.

It retains and enhances on that versatility that marked it out as being a very worthwhile purchase as your first upgrade from “stock whatever” in your phone box. You still get line out, OTG and USB-DAC but now you can add in MFi for iOS and DSD playback capability.

I struggled to find a pairing that can beat the Q1 Mark II at this price range. In fact, I was starting to bring in higher priced units such as the D14 from iBasso to get a feel if this can do the business. It is not that far off which shows you just how far we have come in terms of bang for buck in the last year or two. Balanced output and native DSD at a sub $100 price point. Lucky, lucky budget audiophiles!

Technical Specifications

General
Model Q1 Mark II/ FQ1222 Color Black
Weight About 101g Dimensions About 99mm x 59mm x 12.5mm
Audio Input Micro USB/3.5 mm Jack Headphone Output 3.5 mm stereo jack
Balance Headphone Output Supported (2.5mm balanced headphone jack) Recommended Headphone Impedance 16~100Ω(PO)

16~150Ω(BAL)

Bass Boost 0/5.4dB Channel Imbalance 0.2 dB
Power Input DC5V 2A recommended Battery Capacity 1800mAh
Charge Time ≤4h Battery Life >20h(AUX IN)

>10h(USB IN)

USB DAC Up to 384kHz/32bit supported DSD Support DSD64/128/256
Line output specifications
THD+N <0.003% (1 kHz/10kΩ) SNR ≥110 dB (A-weighted)
Frequency Response 6 Hz~80 kHz(-3dB) Channel Separation >90 dB (1 kHz)
Headphone out specifications (3.5mm headphone out jack)
Output Power 1 ≥112 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%) Output Impedance <1.2Ω (32Ω loaded)
Output Power 2 ≥75mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%) Channel Separation ≥79 dB (1 kHz,AUX IN)
Output Power 3 ≥11 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%) THD+N <0.002% (1 kHz, AUX IN)
<0.003% (1 kHz, USB IN)
Frequency Response 5 Hz~55 kHz(-3dB) Peak Output Voltage >4.4 Vp-p
SNR ≥116 dB (A-weighted, AUX IN)
≥109 dB (A-weighted, USB IN)
Max. Output Current 150mA (For reference)
Gain -2.5dB (G=L)
3.2dB (G=H)
Max Input Level 3.4V
Balanced headphone out specifications (2.5mm TRRS headphone out jack)
Output Power 1 ≥240 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%) Output Impedance <2Ω (32Ω loaded)
Output Power 2 ≥220 mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%) Channel Separation ≥93 dB (1 kHz,AUX IN)
Output Power 3 ≥45 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%) THD+N <0.002% (1 kHz, AUX IN)
≤ 0.003% (1 kHz, USB IN)
Frequency Response 6 Hz~80kHz(-3dB) Peak Output Voltage >7.4 Vp-p
SNR ≥115 dB (A-weighted, AUX IN)
≥109 dB (A-weighted, USB IN)
Max. Output Current 150 mA (For reference)
Gain 3.2dB (G=L)
9.1dB (G=H)
Max Input Level 3.4V
FiiO Q1 Mark II Review
3.7 (74.67%) 15 vote[s]

Share the news!
  • 203
  •  
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    206
    Shares


59 Responses

  1. Headfonics

    Use a drumbrella? Just kidding, do you mean the q1 mark II is draining your smartphone battery? The Q1 mk2 is setup for Apple not android so it has a bit of an issue with the battery drain. To solve this a few people have reported changing the cable to a Fiio CL06 cable to sort out the issue. Hope that helps.

    Reply
    • SIDDHI

      What do you mean the Q1 is draining the phone’s battery?
      It’s self powered (built-in battery) and doesn’t draw any power from the portable device it’s connected to.

      Reply
      • Marcus

        The battery requires charging, phones can charge devices such as this. The advice I gave is also the standard FiiO advice. Sadly the original posters comment is gone when we changed the comment system.

  2. Headfonics

    Kyle my apologies if we answered this before or missed it altogether as I cannot see a reply to it on our screen. I think the E10k may be more powerful but its not as well rounded or as modern in terms of decoding as the Q1. It should work very well with the IT01 and Fh1, the DT770 not so sure if high impedance, if 32 ohms then fine.

    Reply
  3. Kyle

    How does the fiio q1 markii compare to the fiio e10k? I have the dt770 80s, ibasso it01 and fiio fh1. I like that the q1 can be used with my phone and computer and has a battery but is the e10k more powerful? Does the q1 work well with laptops? This would be my first amp/dac. Thanks! great review by the way.

    Reply
  4. LiftedAndreaS

    I’ve had my FiiO Q1ii for about 2 and a half months now, just been using it purely with my gaming laptop and honestly I cannot believe how good it is for the price! Now, what everyone says is true, this DAC is far from analytical or extremely detailed. However, its just so sweet and musical. You can literally get lost in your favourite music, the world drifts away from you until you’re like a supernova flying through space on a pillow of marshmallows. Its just beautiful!

    PS. I mainly listen to orchestral/epic/uplifting Trance.

    Reply
  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. wan

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

    Reply
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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.

  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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.

  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.