Fiio X1 – Portable High Resolution Lossless Music Player
Master Studio-grade Sound in your Small Pocket
The Fiio X1 is part of the series of lossless audio players from Fiio. Following in the footsteps of the Fiio X5 and Fiio X3, the Fiio X1 is smaller than its predecessors but it does not skimp on the audio reproduction. It is also a very affordable media device, which delivers better audio than you would expect from the price point.
The Fiio X1 is a small lossless media player. It is affordable, and has great music. The sound quality is not a compromise for the price or the size. It is also smaller than the Fiio X5 and Fiio X3, but not in the category of clips or nanos. This is a no-frills digital audio player which delivers better quality than most other DAP’s of the same size or price point.
• Great sound quality
• Solid build quality
• Portable form factor
• Affordable pricing
• UI seems incomplete
• Wheel does not do everything
• Hard to navigate large collections
Fiio X1 Specification
Unlike other players which have integrated DAC chips, the Fiio X1 is built around the Texas Instruments PCM 51432 DAC, with a separate Intersil ISL28291 OP amplifier chip. This results in better audio rendering, surpassing most other players. The use of a dedicated DAC chip is an improvement in quality, and processing power.
FLAC files are a magnitude larger than MP3 files. In addition there is a bigger expectation of sound fidelity in lossless media players. Using a dedicated DAC chip ensures that the there is adequate throughput for the large files, as well as better nuanced output.
This digital audio player also has a wider range of supported file formats. It can play FLAC, ALAC, APE, WMA, WAV, as well as MP3, at up to 24-bit at 192 kbps bitrate. Unlike other lossless media players, it is not limited to FLAC, DSD or AAC. It can upload from a CD image, using a CUE sheet. However, it cannot upload directly from a CD image in BIN format.
In terms of audio quality, a user undergoing a blind testing would be hard put to differentiate between the Fiio X1 and other media players. A careful listening of the qualities need to be done in order to determine the sound quality. For casual listeners, the quality is better than what they are used to hearing. Hardcore audiophiles might be able to pinpoint minor quirks in sound fidelity. Bottom line is that the audio quality is levels better than day-to-day listening.
In addition, the Fiio X1 can toggle between using headphone, and line out to a dedicated amplifier. This is not a common feature for players in general. In full-size players and in computers, the headphone jack is different from the line out. In contrast, small players do not have that distinction and the headphone port also serves as the line out. There are distinct advantages for X1. By toggling between headphone and line out, the quality and power requirements are improved for both instances. Again, leading to better quality sound rendition. However, for some the sound can still make do with a headphone amplifier.
In comparison to the internals, the UI seems to need a lot more help. It does not have enough contrast for outdoor use. The navigation also needs some more refinements. It can be hard to find a particular album or song.
The X1 supports 128GB microSD cards. There was a fix in the firmware which allows support for more than 5,800 songs. However, if you have more than 5,800 songs, the navigation will be sluggish. The way that people listen to songs nowadays, there will be people who will consider this as a limitation. It is possible to synch with iTunes, but this is not a straight-forward process. You would need to copy all your songs to the microSD card on the Fiio X1, in order to synch them.
The build is made of solid aluminum. The buttons are metallic, with a rubber scroll wheel. The wheel navigation is not as refined as the iPod, and you would need to press on the buttons for the most part.
The battery is rechargeable via a micro-USB port. A single charge can last up to 12 hours thanks to a 1700mAH capacity. For practical purposes, this means that you only need to recharge once a day. It also means that you do not need to be bringing a battery pack along with you wherever you go.
With the history of Fiio, the X1 is a logical step forward: smaller, and more powerful. With this smaller package, there are also some tradeoffs. The combination of TI PCM 51432 DAC and Intersil ISL28291 OP amplifier should have delivered better sounds. However, the bass and treble are not as good as that delivered by the X3 and X5. The sound is designed to be more balanced. It is not flat, not by any measure, but it does lack the punch and refinement that has been the hallmark of the X3 and X5.
For those whose libraries are a mix of lossless and lossy files (MP3), the X1 is a good choice for a player. In addition, it can upload directly from a CD image file. Audiophiles normally backup their audio CDs to an image file, and with this feature, there is no need to split the image file into separate audio files. The X1 can read and upload directly from the CD image using a CUE sheet.
The storage capacity depends on the size of the card. It supports 128GB microSD cards, but it would be slow in navigating large libraries. It would be better to keep your libraries to less than 5,800 songs. There is no automated synch with iTunes. You would have to copy your library to the Fiio X1’s microSD card.
For the price point, the Fiio X1 delivers better than expected. It stacks up well with other more expensive brands and models.