in , ,

Potafesu 2015: attitude adjustment from the FiiO X7

  • potafesu2015The X7 is a new digital audio player from Chinese manufacturer FiiO (pronounced: “Fee-oh”). And while most of their earlier full-size DAPs offerings featured clickwheel navigation, this one does not. The X7’s Flagship status brings with it a 800 x 480px IPS touchscreen that interfaces with an Android KitKat O/S. Well, kinda.

    The X7 has a dual boot option with the best sound designed to come from a heavily customised ‘Pure Music’ mode, coded to minimise background app activity and therefore lower the electrical noise that can negatively impact sound quality. Boot the X7 back into Android for a broader selection of music app choices where FiiO give us a re-tooled Google Play Store that offers only manufacturer-approved apps. You might not get Angry Birds but Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music should all be available in time (if they aren’t already).

    File format capability runs FLAC and ALAC up to 24bit/384kHz but the knockout playback specification here is native handling of DSD up to 5.6MHz. In some quarters one must drop north of US$2K to get this feature.

    The X7 can be fed music files from its internal 32Gb, a microSD card inserted into its side, over the local network using DLNA or from cloud storage services like Dropbox*. Outputs include a 3.5mm headphone socket at one end and a 3.5mm line level output at the other. The latter doubles as an optical digital output for feeding an external decoder/amp. One can do likewise with an OTG cable attached to the X7’s USB socket that is otherwise used to charge the device. FiiO promise 9 – 10 hours’ use from a fully charge battery (3500mAh). Oh, the X7 can also transmit digital audio via Bluetooth.


    Under the hood, a Rockchip RK3188 SoC + Cortex A9 1.4 GHz quad-core processor and 1Gb of RAM marshall the operating system whilst an ESS 9018S chip handles D/A conversion. The DAC chip receives bits directly from the FiiO’s in-house coded music player – this direct hand-off bypasses Android’s SRC completely. I wonder if the new offerings from Onkyo and Pioneer can say the same (and if it really matters that much to SQ in the end)? The X7 doesn’t have the last ounce of build quality refinement as served up by its Japanese rivals but I took a quick listen to the X7 and thought it sounded quite lovely; plenty of finesse with detail delivery. The UI is also elegant and intuitive.

    Then there’s the X7’s party trick: swappable amplifier modules. Unscrew the supplied IEM module to fit another (available separately): the ‘medium class’ module uses a Muses02 op-amp, the ‘high power’ module a LME49600 and the ‘balanced’ module an IRIS via 2.5mm TRSS. Options for the end user, especially those who want more power without resorting to bricking a third party device, are what set this unit apart from the pack.

    What’ll really get your eyes-a-poppin’ is the X7’s price: US$649. That’s a veritable bargain in the context of the Sony NW-ZX2 and the higher end Astell&Kerns. The X7 also makes the Pono Player’s form factor and tiny touchscreen look even longer in the tooth. The X7 has the potential to change FiiO’s image as a provider of affordable, good sounding but ultimately clunky looking players. After all, who wants a 2002 Apple scroll wheel on a 2015 device when a touchscreen can get you there for the same(ish) cash(ish).

    I don’t need an X7 but boy do I want one.

    Further information: FiiO

    *To arrive via a future firmware update.















    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Wow.. this is the type of innovation which thrills me as well John!
      Very interested to learn more about their output interface capabilities and how it will sound as a streamer source in a high-end not only on headphones..

    2. My main reservation with all these web-connecting Android players is security and long-term app compatibility. We all know about the huge time lag, between Google releasing updates and smartphone OEMs and telcos actually having builds ready to download. It might not be an issue if your player is just playing tunes from an internal drive or SD card, but with the connected ones where you’re having Play Store, Soundcloud, Spotify, Tidal, etc accounts, I’m not so sure how things will turn out in the long run. At best your outdated Android build will just stop working with new streaming site APIs. At worst, you’d suffer some malicious attack. I’d imagine most people would want to use a DAP for far more than the average 1 or 2 year telco contract lifespan of a typical smartphone.

      • Yes, but the other, shinier side of the Android DAP coin is we get Tidal and co. out of the box. We’re not obliged to wait on the DAP manufacturer’s software team to code an app. How long have A&K been promising Tidal support? Well over a year. I saw it in action at RMAF but it’s yet to see formal release. And when streaming sites update their APIs they update their apps accordingly – I don’t see the issue there.

    3. My findings are really different from yours.

      When I tried it with a Fitear ToGo 334, the X7 sounded really dull, dry, and lifeless. The UI felt like something from 2010.

      I found Onkyo DP X1 to be the (much) better Android DAP. Smoother performance, better UI design. It also matched really well with Audeze LCD-X and Fitear To Go 334. It has sweet and intimate midrange with a just-right body. It doesn’t sound too thick or too thin, it’s just right.

      A friend of mine said that he also thinks the X7 headphone out is underwhelming, but the line out (when paired with an amp) is quite outstanding. I can’t confirm nor deny the claim as I haven’t tried the line out yet.

    4. I haven’t had any reliability issues with my ancient FiiO E17 DAC that is still feeding my Schiit Valhalla 2 with upgraded tubes, my Emotiva mini-X a-100 integrated amp, and my Elac F5 Debut speakers.

    5. When it comes to Hi-Fi, the real opponent to beat is the PONO Player via balanced. The Pono Player can deliver great sounding music to large power hungry cans (such as my HD-650 and PM-1s). The quality of sound by those headphones is far superior than the best JH IEMs I own. Consequently, due to the enormous-for-its-size power that the Pono delivers via balanced mode, the Pono is an outstanding player. The Fiio X7 or any other DAP might deliver more finesse than the Pono (or not), but quantity of (quality) power is far more important for those who seek true Hi-Fi, as most of the finesse is in the recording and not the DAC.

      IMO, when comparing DAPs, it is a must to compare them to the Pono via balanced mode.

      Charlie Hansen, owner of Ayre, was right to be so excited about his Pono.

    Toon THP-01: transformer headphones at Potafesu 2015

    DAR’s favourite bits of 2015 (Part 2)