“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Fiio X5 2nd Generation Digital Audio Player Preview

By Smit Patel


  • Product Name: X5 2nd Generation Digital Audio Player
  • Manufacturer: Fiio
  • Review Date: August 21, 2015 09:00
  • MSRP: $349
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool

  • Model/Number: X5 (X5 2nd gen)
  • Colour: Titanium
  • Dimensions: 109 mm × 63.5 mm × 15.3 mm
  • Weight: 165 g
  • Display Screen: 2.4", 262,144 color HD IPS screen with 400x360 pixels
  • Line Out: Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
  • Digital Out (Coaxial): Standard 3.5mm Port (Shared line out / S/PDIF coaxial out)
  • USB DAC: Supporting up to 24bit / 192kHz and DSD (driver installation required)
  • Headphone Port: Standard 3.5mm Headphone Port
  • Drive Ability: 16~150 Ω
  • Volume Control: 120 steps digital potentiometer
  • Equalizer: 10-band equalizer (±6dB)
  • Treble: N/A
  • Bass: N/A
  • Balance: 10 dB
  • Gain: 3.6dB (Gain=L) 9.1dB (Gain=H

Headphones have played an integral part of entertainment and with the strong growing interest of dedicated forums, many people have joined the effort to find the “end-game” headphone; one that makes no compromise but simply delivers the best sound possible. However, this represents only half the search for there is also the necessity of a dedicated source capable of not only driving the headphone but also complementing it. For a time now, the demand of portable audio players has been on the rise partially due to the ease of convenience and the ability to achieve hi-fidelity audio anywhere at any time. Enter Fiio, a company which are well-known among audiophiles due to their budget to mid-fi offerings.

Particular of interest has been the Fiio X series, a chain of digital players which have substituted the common iPod and smartphone with the intention of making hi-fi accessible to the budding audiophile. The latest to be released and their current flagship, the Fiio X5 2nd Gen.

Design and Accessories

From the bat, I am incredibly impressed with the design of the Fiio X5SG. Featuring brushed stainless steel and sloped bezels the device looks premium and well-built. Next to the iBasso DX90, the Fiio incorporates a better and more cohesive design language which justifies its $349 price tag.


Starting with the top of the device, there is the coaxial output port where users have the ability to play music stored in the X5SG on an external device with a coaxial input port. On the right hand side, there is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.


On the bottom of the device, there are dual micro SD ports which can each hold up to 128GB.

It is important to note that the device does not come with on-board storage so a micro SD needs to be purchased separately. In between the ports, there is the USB micro socket which is used for the transfer of data and storage.


On the left side, there is the power button and volume keys which also double as next and previous buttons when held. I must say that Fiio have added a nice little touch with the LED power button which lights up blue when powered on, red when charging and green when fully charged. Little additions like these really add to the futuristic look of the device.

The body of the device contains a screen and mechanical scroll wheel for navigating around the user interface (UI). The wheel is very smooth and provides good feedback with the right amount of force needed to scroll through tracks and options. Whether or not a touchscreen should have been implemented is subject to debate, but in my opinion, the wheel is a good alternative. One disadvantage however, is that when there are albums with long lists of tracks, the wheel will take some time to get to the desired song. For this reason, Fiio should perhaps incorporate both a touchscreen and wheel to give users the best of both worlds.

Surrounding the scroll wheel are 5 navigation buttons including the settings button, return button, rewind/fast forward and the play/pause center button. The rewind/fast button also doubles up as a next/previous track button when pressed with a single stroke. All in all, the buttons have a round design and are beautifully presented. No complaints here.


Included within the packaging is a USB charging/data cable, a digital out to coax cable, 2 spare screen protectors, a warranty card, quick start guide and 3 patterned stickers for personalization (though I feel this would make the Fiio seem a bit tacky).

Screen & User Interface

The 400 x 360 2.4 inch HD color IPS screen packs in more pixels and resolution than the iBasso DX90. This is evident in bright sunlight where the text on the Fiio is much more legible to read with stronger contrasts than the iBasso model.


As mentioned before, the scroll wheel operates smoothly with good feedback. Screen loading times are relatively fast and there is a consistent theme in mind.

Speaking of the user interface, the home screen consists of 5 categories including: “Now Playing”, “Play by category”, “Browse files”, “Play settings” and “System settings”. Each category leads the user to further screens which are both consistent and better presented than the DX90. Fiio have done a good job here to try and make the user experience a more intuitive one than both its competition and previous generation devices.

A point to note is that unlike the DX90, there is no hardware button for the gain switch. Instead, it is embedded as an option in the play settings along with a myriad of others such as the equalizer, gapless playback and resume mode etc.

Overall, I am pleased with the user interface although that is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement because there certainly is. The option of a touchscreen, for one, and an iPod-like UI, would have the potential to make the experience much better.


Behind the brushed stainless steel chassis, Fiio have chosen a PCM1792 DAC ship which supports native DSD decoding. This is the same as the original Fiio X5. Where it differs however, is that the new Fiio X5SG now uses an OPA1612+BUF634 amp combination. Though the amp is suitable and drives a wide range of headphones, the iBasso DX90 offers a more powerful amp capable of driving relatively high impedance high headphones.

Though where the Fiio falls short compared to the DX90 it certainly makes up for in battery performance. Employing a relatively large 3300mAh capacity, it trumps the meagre 2100mAh offered by iBasso’s DX90. I have found that I generally get 11 and sometimes even 12 hours of playback and the battery does not drain as fast in standby as that of the DX90.

Sound Quality

To test out the sonic characteristics of the Fiio X5SG, I used multiple IEMs including the Rock-it Sounds R-50, DUNU DN-2000 and Fidue A73. These IEMs were consequently compared with fellow Chinese company iBasso’s DX90 DAP.

The tonality of the X5SG is generally that of neutrality although a dash of warmth and musicality can be discerned. There is a good amount of detail and richness which is different to the DX90’s more analytically resolving signature.

From the low-end, bass is well presented with great extension, texture and control. On the high-gain setting, bass slam becomes more hard-hitting and impactful. Both the DX90 and the X5SG do well on this aspect but differ slightly in speed with the DX90 having a slightly faster bass decay.

Mids are also very neutral and smooth. Compared with the DX90, they are more forward in the presentation and marginally less transparent. This can be heard on Avicci’s “Addicted To You”, where the iBasso presents with a more intelligible vocal range which is more resolving than what is heard on the Fiio.

The treble is well extended but smoothed over resulting in consequently less airiness than the DX90 model. The DX90 wins out here for my personal preferences, but for those wishing for very smooth extension, the Fiio X5SG might be a better option.

Finally, we come onto soundstage and imaging. From listening to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, the Fiio X5SG boasts plenty of detailing with great levels of separation and soundstage width. Vocals are presented as slightly mid-forward and there is a touch more intimacy compared to the DX90. Ultimately, the soundstage width and separation on the DX90 eclipses the X5SG though we are not talking about a night and day difference here.   


Overall, Fiio – a company relatively new to the DAP industry, have made a solid contender. Arguably, one of the best for its price range. They have drawn influences from Astell & Kern’s build quality and the sonic stylings of competitors to deliver a very good portable player. I am always impressed with companies that go that extra step in seeking audiophiles’ input on how they can streamline their products. Fiio have done just that by taking into account user preferences and consumer opinions in popular audio forums. It shows that the company has a willingness to learn and to strive for the best they can achieve while satisfying their supporters. A Hi-Fi sound is what you will get with the Fiio X5SG but whether or not the scroll wheel or the non-iPod like interface appeals to you is another subject matter entirely. Regardless of this, Fiio’s latest offering will only set you back $349; a very reasonable price for the performance you get.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.