There have been a few portable DAC/Amps from Fiio that have come out, and I’ve been a fan of what they’ve released so far. The Q7 is one of the meatiest and priciest amps from this line, and now Fiio looks to offer up something more economical. Fiio has launched the Q11 and I’m happy to be able to try it out. It costs only $89, so there doesn’t seem like much to lose with this model. Is it worth giving a shot?
What You Get
- USB-A to C cable*1
- Type-C to Type-C OTG cable*1
- Type-C to Lightning OTG cable*1
- Silicone strap*1
- Silicone pads*1
- User manual*1
- Warranty card*1
When I first took the Q11 out of the box, I was surprised by its size and sleekness. It’s both slim and lightweight, with a black aluminum chassis inlaid with gold accents. The Q11 is one of the smoothest portable DAC/Amps I have come across, and it feels great to hold in your hand. Everything about its construction screams elegance, and for the price, it is quite impressive. The window exposing the circuit board bathed in a blue or yellow LED light is an added aesthetic flourish that gives the Q11 a more stylish look. Minimal plugs are used, leading to its polished design, but it does provide you with most of the components you’ll need on a portable DAC/Amp. You’ll get both 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone jacks, as well as a high/low gain switch, and an easy-to-use volume knob. On the back of the device, you’ll see a USB Type C slot that acts only as a means for data transfer.
The Q11 sports a high-performance CS43198 DAC, along with dual op-amps that use high-precision crystals and a low-noise power supply. With this DAC, you’ll be able to listen to PCM up to 384kHz/32bit, and DSD256. You’ll be able to indicate your sample rate through the LED light on the exposed circuit board. Blue indicates PCM up to 48kHz, yellow indicates PCM above 48kHz, and green indicates DSD playback.
I mainly used the Q11 with my PC running Tidal, testing out the balanced 4.4mm headphone jack with a couple of IEMs. I know this is a fairly budget-friendly product, but to hear what the Q11 was capable of I ended up using a few different high-end IEMs. That, and I really just couldn’t help myself. The first set of IEMs I tested was the Empire Ears, Odin. It’s no secret that the Odin is already capable of a premium sound, so I wonder what a portable amp like the Q11 could add to it.
As far as loudness goes, the Q11 supplies the Odin with a ton of gain. Each range of frequency feels even with how much volume is distributed. With the Odin, I kept the Q11 parked near eleven o’clock Nothing is really subtracted from the soundstage, and the individual sound elements display a clearer distance between each other.
The imaging naturally distinguishes every movement with marginally improved articulation, but every tiny bit of detail that the Q11 reveals still makes a difference. With the Odin, I never felt the Q11 favor any particular range of frequency. One of the best attributes of the Q11 seems to be its noiseless presentation. It fills all the gaps and provides roominess for the frequencies to properly express their character. However, the Q11 doesn’t really add to that character much. I thought this might just be my pairing with the Odin, so I switched to a much more affordable pair of IEMs to see if I could get more out of the DAC/Amp.
The Sennheiser IE 200 is what I ended up going with, and while spatial properties were definitely improved, it still left out textural qualities. Great power from the amp was still present, but the timbre of the frequencies seemed even flatter here. The treble seems to have slightly more of an uptick, but it still feels rather plain. I think the Q11 offers enough substantial drive and spaciousness to make up for its lack of flavor, so any minimal coloration you may hear is really just an added bonus.
Even though the Q11 might not totally enhance the detail of your headphones, it’s still a highly effective potable system for your IEMs. It houses a ton of power, more than you’d expect for just $89.99. This is also one of the nicest portable DAC/Amps that I’ve used, both in look and how natural it feels to hold in your hand. Attaching the Q11 to the back of your phone might feel cumbersome, but it’s lightweight enough to not add any extra heft. No matter how you use the Q11, I think you’re getting a great amount of usability for the price, and I think it asserts a great amount of value.
The Fiio Q11 is available at Audio46.