FiiO X5 III Review

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FiiO X5 III Review

Today the clouds parted and some harps started playing.  On my desk appeared the FiiO X5 III, FiiO’s new high-end Digital Audio Player.  I’ve been aching to get my mitts on one of these babies since they were announced.  However, one question has been eating at me:  at $399, how much of a punch does this posh portable player pack?

FiiO X5 III Review

FiiO X5 III Review

So sexy.  And I’m not even talking about Miss Earphones there.  

The FiiO X5 III succeeds the older FiiO X5 II as a mid-range model in the Chinese audio company’s lineup.  Like the much-lauded and higher-end X7, the most arresting feature about the new X5 is its 3.97” touchscreen – replacing the classic iPod-esque controls of yore.  Handling the X5 III, though, reveals an almost complete re-haul of its predecessor.  The left hand side of the unit features a more tactile volume control dial, as well as dedicated buttons for pausing and playing, and skipping tracks.

The bottom of the unit sports a micro USB port for charging (and for using the X5 III as a DAC), a 3.5mm single-ended headphone port, a 2.5mm balanced headphone port, and a digital coax/line out port.

The power button has now been located to the right side of the unit, along with two ports for microSD cards – complete with small plastic trays to keep the memory cards in place.  While the maximum amount of expanded memory remains 512 GB, the new X5 also sports 32 GB of internal memory.

Inside the box, you’ll find a leatherette carrying case (in addition to a clear, rubberized protective shell), and charging cable, and a nifty tool for removing the memory card trays.

Specs

Color: Titanium/Black
Dimensions/Weight: 114.2mm(H)x66.2mm(W)x14.8mm(D)/186g
Display: 3.97″ IPS TFT touchscreen, 480×800 pixels
Material: CNC aluminum alloy
Buttons: Left (Play/Pause, Previous and Next), Volume Knob (Volume Up and Volume Down), Right (Power)
DAC: Dual AKM AK4490EN DACs
SoC: Quad-core Cortex A9 SoC Rockship RK388
RAM: 1 GB
Storage: 32 GB internal storage
Storage expansion: Dual MicroSD card slots supporting up to 512 GB (256 GB x2)
Battery: Internal 3.8v 3400 mAh Li-polymer battery

As you can see from this short specs list, the FiiO X5 III doesn’t skimp on hardware.  With dual DACs and a quad-core processor utilizing 1 GB of RAM, this player is kicking ass and taking names.  Of course, all of this would seem a lot less impressive if it weren’t for the X5’s connectivity capabilities:  built-in wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 APTX.

Sound

With impressive clarity and exacting definition, the X5 III delivers an amazing sound.  It pretty much takes the cake as far as FiiO products are concerned – though I’m not too sure how it compares to the X7.  But compared to the rest of the lineup, this player is richer, smooth, quicker, and sleeker than anything else.

The similarities between operating systems on my old X5 II versus the new X5 III allowed me to use the same microSD card.  At first, this had me stoked.  And then I realized that the exacting audio on the X5 III renders most of my MP3 files obsolete.  Suddenly, I can hear artifacts, noise, and every other tiny imperfection.

Of course, the upshot of this remains better sounding FLAC and WAV files.  To be honest though, the sound quality you’re getting with X5 III would be wasted on anything less.

Compatibility

This player will drive any headphone between 16 and 150 ohms.  I’d still like to try this out with a Sennheiser HD 800S, but I’d pair it with a decent DAC, first.

And speaking of DACs, the FiiO X5 III doubles as one – provided you download and install the appropriate drivers.

As a player, though, compatibility is pretty much wide-open in terms of files:  DSD, DXD, APE, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, WMA, MP3, AAC, and OGG are all compatible.  As I mentioned before, lesser-quality recordings will really show off their imperfections, but the richer tracks in lossless formats are to die for.

Other Observations

The X5 III offers two modes of operation.  Music-only mode uses internal memory and expansion slots and focuses on speedier playback and processing.  Android mode allows a wifi connection, along with various apps to stream music from the interwebs.

While not too much larger than the older X5 II, the X5III is just a shade lighter.

Between the sleek new exterior, more tactile interface, and easy-to-grasp operating system, this player feels amazing to use.

Final Analysis

With a decent price tag of $399, the FiiO X5 III costs a fair amount.  But thanks to an amazing sound, comprehensive compatibility, an outstanding operating system, and wireless capabilities, this DAP is dope.  Rest assured, if you’re in the market for a portable player and you haven’t tried the FiiO X5 III, you’re doing it wrong.