Fiio has been around for roughly 9 years now, and have made very steady progress with their products. Their latest release, the ‘ALL NEW X1’ is an updated version of their best-selling player, the original X1.
The new X1 brings a whole host of updates and additions to the table; some are only minor updates, whilst others are completely new.
- Headphones impedance: 16~100 Ω
- Output Impedance: <1Ω(32Ω loaded)
- Frequency response: 5 Hz~60 kHz (-3dB)
- SNR: ≥113 dB (A-weighted)
- THD+N: ≤ 0.003% (1 kHz)
- Crosstalk: ≥72 dB (1 kHz)
- Lossless formats supported: 192kHz/32bit (WAV and Aiff); 192kHz/24bit (APE fast, FLAC, Aif, Apple Lossless); 96kHz/24bit (APE normal, APE high); 48kHz/24bit (WMA Lossless)
- Lossy formats supported: MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG • Power requirement: 5V DC, 2A
Al of Fiio’s products are always packaged, at the very least, decently. The packaging for their X- series devices, however, have always had a premium edge to them, and the new X1 is no different. It doesn’t feel quite as premium as the higher tier X-devices, but it doesn’t seem like they made any silly cost cuts either. Usually, I’d say “you get what you pay for”, but that simply isn’t the case here. Compared to other devices I’ve purchased in this price range, the new X1’s packaging doesn’t disappoint. Something I did note, though, is the colour of the devices printed on the box. I haven’t personally seen the Rose Gold coloured X1, but the one on the box looks more Copper than Rose Gold. The reason I mention this is because these images are usually a customer’s first glimpse at what they’re about to buy (or considering to buy). So if there is a larger large difference, they might be left disappointed when they open the box. The silver version on the box also looks darker than what the actual device is.
What’s in the box?
- Fiio X1ii
- 2x Screen protectors (1 already applied to the device)
- USB cable
- Clear case
- 3x ‘Hi Res’ stickers
- 2x body stickers (1 x 3D black checked, 1 x 3D white carbon)
- Warranty card Quick start guide
FiiO X1 2nd Gen Unboxing Video
Fiio always includes a few interesting and appreciated accessories in their device boxes.
However, there is something I feel I have to nail Fiio on. Granted, I am quite a detail orientated person (you’ll notice in my reviews that I often pick up on very subtle imperfections), but just have a look at the ‘Hi Res’ stickers. The black part of the logo isn’t centred at all. When I first read about them including these stickers in the box, I thought it might look pretty cool to stick one on the back. But after seeing them, I definitely won’t.
Something I should applaud them on, though, is the clear case. The first X1 just had a black silicon cover; but the new X1 comes with a very minimal and unobtrusive hard clear case. I MUCH prefer this over the black silicon.
Sure, it won’t protect the device the same way that a full silicon case would, but if you’re not prone to dropping your devices you’ll appreciate this minimalistic approach. It sits nice and snug, and doesn’t seem like it’ll easily pop off. It can be a little bit finicky to remove, but not overly so.
FiiO X1 2nd gen V.S FiiO X1
The only minor issue I can see is that the sides that “wrap” around the sides of the device do not sit higher than the screen; meaning that if you were to place the device face down on a surface, it would be resting entirely on the 4 buttons.
Also included are 2 body stickers which cover all sides of the device. Personally I don’t care much for such accessories and I’m a little underwhelmed with the included ones. If I absolutely had to put a sticker kit on, I would’ve preferred a wood grain design as was included with the original X1. But that’s purely a personal preference.
Also something to note is that the 2 screen protectors that are included as extras cover the ENTIRE glass section of the front of the device, whereas the one that’s already applied only covers the screen area. Unfortunately, the screen protector is incredibly easy to scratch, and there is no protective layer on top of it (meaning that it’ll get scratched when you’re pushing out bubbles after applying it). I specifically wanted to try the larger screen protector to see if it had any negative impact on the touch scroll. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have done so.
Body and layout
FiiO X1 2nd Gen V.S FiiO X1 V.S FiiO M3
First up is Fiio’s new design; and what a beauty it is. It looks and feels MUCH more modern than the outgoing X1, and in fact more modern than any of their X3 or X5 iterations too (which all share most of the original X1’s design). In terms of volume, the new X1 is nearly 2.5 times as big as the M3, but 18% smaller than the old X1 model
One of the biggest changes are the curved sides. I remember when I wrote a review about the M3 I noted that the device felt too boxy, and that rounded edges would’ve felt more premium and comfortable. Well, it seems my suspicion was correct, and the new X1 definitely feels more comfortable.
The new X1 is also a touch smaller and lighter than the outgoing model, but oddly enough it ‘feels’ just a touch heavier than its predecessor. I think this is due to the fact that it’s more compact. The old one just felt kind of hollow, whereas the new X1 just feels more solid and premium. The front is also almost entirely made of tempered glass, apart from the rather small aluminium bezels of the body and the 4 mechanical buttons. And yes, it’s a total fingerprint magnet, as you’d expect.
Even though the body is aluminium, the coating they’ve put on is a very smooth matte finish, which makes it sort of look as if it’s made of polycarbonate. In fact, the entire design, from the curved edges to the design of the power and volume buttons, feels rather reminiscent of Nokia’s Lumia models such as the 1020.
The other major design change is the scroll wheel. I was never a fan of their scroll wheels, and this time they’ve dropped it completely; sort of. This is where I have to give major kudos to Fiio’s engineers, as they’ve managed to give us a ‘touch scroll’ experience. If that sounds vaguely familiar to you it’s because that is what Apple did with their classic iPods. What Fiio managed to do is some very deep and clever thinking: they figured out how to give us those controls, but without infringing on any copyrights. I have to admit that I MUCH prefer the new controls over the old mechanical scroll wheel.
It’s only once you pick the device up and feel the coolness of the metal that you realise that it’s actually metal. I actually like that, as I feel when a device is too shiny it can sometimes make the device look cheap.
The old X1 just looks and feels like a rush job, as thought it was created out of left over bits and bobs. It kind of reminds me of the Objective2 AMP kit; where things are kind of put together by screw, like a big boy Lego kit. The new X1, on the other hand, looks and feels like it went through careful and deliberate considerations…that it was designed and engineered. In short, compared to its predecessor, the new X1 is miles ahead as far as build quality and design is concerned. Seeing as the current X3 and X5 iterations share most of the old X1’s design, I’m tempted to say that the new X1 is Fiio’s best built device yet…or at least on par with the X7 (in my opinion).
I must admit, though, that the touch-wheel control that was found on Apple’s devices is far superior to the one found on the new X1. The X1’s just isn’t as responsive, and at times seems quite inaccurate, inconsistent, and sometimes quite sensitive. So much so that I often found myself having to concentrate on just how much I have to move my thumb; and even then it can be a hit or miss experience. It will take some getting used to.
Read More: FiiO X7 Portable Audio Player Review
Other changes include the headphone/lineout port which is now at the bottom, and the card slot which has also moved to the bottom (it was previously on the side). The volume and power buttons are still in the same place, but their shapes have been changed.
A minor issue I have, however, is their choice of paint colour for the headphone/lineout and card slot logos on the bottom. They had the same issue with the first X1. Perhaps this is only an issue with the silver model, but white on silver really doesn’t work very well. It’s rather difficult to see the logos, and if you hold it at just the right angle, they disappear completely. The headphone/lineout one isn’t that big of a deal, but for the card slot it’s incredibly difficult to see which way the card is supposed to be inserted.
It seems an old ghost is still haunting Fiio in terms of quality control, though. If you look carefully, the centre button is a little bit off centre; or perhaps the button is bang in the centre, but instead the cutout is off-centre.
I called this ‘an old ghost’ as I’ve found this on other devices too. My first generation X5 had this issue, as well as the original X1.
As you can see from the pictures, it’s not nearly as noticeable as on the original X1, but it’s still there.
Something else which bugs me (but this is entirely subjective) is that the headphone/lineout, card slot, and USB port don’t line up with one another. It just seems a bit odd (to me at least)
To some extent the new screen seems much better than the old one. It’s placed closer to the glass cover, and just looks far more vibrant and brighter, whereas the old one looked VERY washed out. The new screen is also “colder” (whites have more of a blue tint), whereas the old screen was warmer (orange tint), along with a much larger contrast ratio (perhaps too much contrast).
However, the new screen seems to be of a lower resolution. By that I mean that album art and text looks VERY pixelated compared to the old one. Or perhaps extremely over- sharpened is the more correct term to use. Here’s a comparison photo to show what I mean. Notice how the colours look great on the new screen, but the “Random Access Memories” text on the album art looks horrible, pretty much unreadable. To be perfectly honest, it reminds me of what some of the first colour screens on mobiles looked like over 10 years ago.
In the past I’ve been rather vocal about my thoughts on Fiio’s UI design. There are 2 parts to good UI design; firstly, is how easy and intuitive it is to navigate through the various menus and screens. Fiio actually does this reasonably well. And the second part is how good it looks. This is where my criticism of their UI design comes in. It just seems a bit underwhelming, nothing that makes you say, “hey, that’s kinda cool”. In short, they’ve utilised a very “safe” approach to the UI design. In fact, it looks almost identical to the UI used on their X-series devices (except for the X7). So whilst it’s not terrible, it just doesn’t seem very good either. But let’s be honest, this isn’t a smartphone, you’re not going to be looking at the screen and interacting with it all the time.
The menu structures doesn’t seem to have changed much (a few icon changes here and there), so if you’re coming from the first X1, you’ll have no problem switching over.
But, the UI does seem slower on the new model. Everything, from boot up, shut down, playing songs, updating the library, almost everything is slower (some minor, others considerably so).
Unfortunately, it seems that users won’t able to create their own themes for the new X1. I tried using the same firmware unpacking tool that was used with the previous X1, X3 and X5 iterations, but this didn’t work. Perhaps Fiio will release a different tool for this in the future.
Read More: FiiO X3 2nd Generation Audio Player Review
FiiO X1 2nd Gen V.S FiiO X1:
As you can see, the new X1 has a slightly flatter frequency response as compared to the old X1, with the biggest difference being apparent in the frequencies above 10kHz.
Please note that the frequency axis of the graph is note scaled linearly, it is intentionally set up to accentuate the dB difference in the sub-bass, low, mid, and high regions of the audible frequency spectrum. Both devices showed a mere 2.5dB maximum difference between 10Hz and 20kHz.
Initially I felt that the new X1 sound rather harsh and sibilant compared to the old X1. I’m happy to report that after a firmware update it doesn’t have that same harshness anymore. Below is an FR graph that compares the 2 firmware versions.
So not a great deal of difference apart from slightly increased dB starting from about 16Hz (which is probably completely inaudible), but the FR graph doesn’t seem to give any obvious reasons as to why or how the harshness was fixed…but regardless, I’m glad the sound has been improved.
If I were to sum it up, I feel the new X1 still has a slightly warm sound signature, but compared to the old X1 it is more analytical (which may be attributed to the flatter FR).
Details in the upper frequencies come across a bit more detailed, and overall it just sounds that little bit more balanced. So if you’re wondering whether or not to upgrade from the old X1 and the added hardware features aren’t convincing you quite enough, the improved sound will sweeten the deal ever so slightly.
Comparing the frequency response between headphone out and lineout, we can see a near identical graph. Lineout seems to be ever so slightly flatter, with the biggest differences showing up in the sub- bass region between 4Hz and 30Hz.
This is an all new feature for the X1, and I think this is a major attraction for many prospective buyers. Simply put, it does what it should, for the most part. It sounds perfectly fine, it just doesn’t support the Apt-X protocol. This isn’t really Fiio’s fault as they meet both the hardware requirements and have the licensing in order to implement Apt-X, but unfortunately Qualcomm (the owner of the Apt-X technology) does not support the operating system used by the new X1. So technically, all that’s needed is for Qualcomm to give Fiio the go ahead to use the Apt-X protocol. Who knows, perhaps in the future (hopefully) this is exactly what will happen. But bear in mind that if you don’t have any Bluetooth speakers or headphones which support Apt-X, having Apt-X on the new X1 will be of no benefit to you.
As far as Bluetooth range is concerned, I connected the new X1 to my JBL Charge 2 speaker, and the range seems to be ok. If there are no obstructions I can get the specified 10 metre range, but if there are any obstructions (walls, doors, furniture, etc), then the range seems to lean more towards 5 metres.
- Fantastic value
- Bluetooth functionality Great build quality
- Sound quality at this price No mechanical scroll wheel
- Laggy UI
- Screen appears over-sharpened Not the nicest looking UI
Look and feel: 4 / 5
Total: 4 / 5
Screen protector: YES Protective case: YES Cables: YES
Total: 3 / 3
Metal body: YES
Use of glass: YES
Comfortable to hold: YES Comfortable button layout: YES Premium look and feel: YES Excellent quality control: – Screen Quality: 7 / 10
Touch screen: –
Multiple colour options: YES Total: 13 / 18
Plays lossless audio: YES Plays 24bit resolution: YES Sound Quality: 9 / 10 Total: 11 / 12
Small size: 9 / 10
Relatively low weight: 9 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: YES
Has ultra-low power consumption mode: YES Total: 20 / 22
Can be controlled via headphone remote: YES Can be controlled wirelessly: YES
Can be controlled wirelessly while connected to other wireless device: YES Lineout: YES
Digital output: –
Balanced output: –
USB DAC functionality: –
Universally accepted PC connection: YES Accepts microSD card: YES
Multi Gain: YES
Total: 8 / 13
Easy to use: 4 / 5 Intuitive: 4 / 5 Responsive: – Interesting design: – Multiple themes: YES Total: 9 / 13
Competitive price-point: YES Relative value: 9.5 / 10 Total: 10.5 / 11
Has good reputation: YES
Sells useful optional accessories for the device: YES Provides software updates for the device: YES Total: 3 / 3
Final Rating: 8.2 / 10
Will it improve my audio experience?
As mentioned, if you’re coming from the old X1, the new version is definitely an improvement in almost every respect. The only area which I’m a bit unsure of is with regards to the screen. The over- sharpening isn’t exactly pleasant to look at. But again I come back to something a mentioned earlier; this isn’t a smartphone, you’re not going to be staring at the screen for extended periods of time. So perhaps the screen isn’t a major issue after all.
However, if you’re the type of person who is on a rather tight budget and venturing into the high resolution portable audio device territory, or upgrading from something like Fiio’s M3, you’ll be delighted with the device. It really is quite interesting and packs in a lot of useful features. Honestly, for the price, I can’t think of a more complete, better sounding device.
Just like the original X1, the new X1 doesn’t have a notably wide sound stage (not that it’s narrow by any means), nor does it reproduce the absolute finest of details, and the lows do bleed a little bit into the mids. But to be perfectly honest, since installing the new firmware, I don’t enjoy listening to the new X1 any bit less than my E18+E12A setup. But isn’t that precisely the point of all this? There are numerous tech specs that we could end up chasing; forever looking for that tiny bit less distortion, that little extra stereo imaging, a bit more dynamic range…the list goes on and on. But in the end, all that truly matters is how much the device makes us enjoy the music. There comes a point where all these tiny little difference simply don’t matter anymore. It’s kind of like trying to compare 2 cars of near identical weight and drivetrain, one with 500hp and the other with 520hp. That extra little bit just isn’t going to make a great deal of difference (if any).
The other thing you should consider is how often, and where, you would use the device. If you don’t plan on using it very often (perhaps only once or twice a week) then I genuinely don’t think you’ll need anything more than what the new X1 offers. Heck, even if you plan on using it for a few hours on a daily basis (as I have), the new X1 is still a fantastic device. But perhaps more importantly is your listening environment. Unless you’re listening in an extremely quiet environment, using a player which can reproduce the finest of details (notably louder than what the new X1 can) it simply won’t be of any benefit to you.
Sure, it’s not quite as good as the current X3 or X5 models, but it’s quite a price leap to those devices (neither of which offer Bluetooth or the same excellent design and build quality).
Of course, the price of the old X1 will now drop; so if you’re only concerned with sound quality, the old X1 might seem very tempting. But I really do feel that the new X1 is worth the extra cost.
But let’s compare the new X1 to Fiio’s other ‘ultra-value’ player; the M3. The new X1 has a better UI, can play higher resolution files (48kHz/24bit vs 192kHz/24bit), offers Bluetooth, higher power output, along with a much better design and build quality. So does that make the new X1 worth roughly double the price of the M3? I definitely think so.
I guess the other way to look at it is to say that the level of difference, in terms of sound, between the new X1 and my current E18+E12A combo is the same level of difference I found between the E18+E12A combo and the Chord Mojo. It really is pretty darn close…not to mention it’s considerably more portable. Moreover, this leads me to believe that Fiio have positioned the new X1 perfectly on the balance point between ‘bang-for-buck’ value and the point of diminishing returns.