FiiO X5iii

GUI.

If you already have X7 and familiar with this original Android debut from FiiO, you will feel like at home navigating around X5iii.  As a matter of fact, anybody with Android smartphone experience will be able to quickly find their way around X5iii.  After all, we are talking about modified Android 5.1 OS, including pre-installed Google Play Store.  Also, like X7, you have 2 operating modes: one Android mode where you can load any app, including FiiO Music one, and the other one is Pure Music mode where you only have FiiO Music app running as the main interface to preserve the resources, thus you can’t run any other 3rd party apps.

Regardless of modes of operation, you still have access to the notification bar where you have shortcuts to Adjust brightness of the display, turn on WiFi and Bluetooth (as well as get into detailed setup of each), switch between Android and Pure Music modes, select between LO and Coax digital out, switch between L/H gain, select AKM DAC filter setting, switch usb mode between USB DAC or Storage, and get into the setting of various power-off timers.  These are all shortcuts, but you can also access all this functionality directly in Settings (upper right corner icon), like in any Android smartphone.

Also, regardless of Android or Pure Music mode, the main audio playback app looks and functions the same.  In my opinion, FiiO Music app interface is a little confusing for the first-time user, but after a while you get used to it.  The first screen is partitioned with an artwork thumbnail of the currently played track at the top of the display, along with Audio Setting icon, Search icon, and Play icon to take you to a full Playback screen.  Below it, you have shortcuts to Playlist/Favorite (has a list with tagged Favorites and Custom created playlists), Local Music (where you can sort by Songs, Artists, Albums, Genres, and search by Folders), and DLNA (where you can search for corresponding server).  Underneath, you also have separate links to Recently played, Most played, and Recently added tracks.  This view could be customized in setting, but not by much.

Personally, I wouldn’t have made this as my main Screen of Music app, and instead would use the full Playback screen once you start the music app.  Also, you always must go back to this main screen if you want to access Audio Setting menu.  Perhaps the problem here is that I have too many DAPs in my review collection, and there is too much variation between GUIs of each one to the point where every time I get my hands on X7 or X5iii, I must re-calibrate my brain to a different interface.  If you are frequent to using X5iii or X7 as your daily source, this shouldn’t bother you.

On the other hand, I really do like the layout of the main Playback screen.  Here the top half is occupied by either song’s artwork or a default graphics (if artwork is not embedded), and you have an icon in the upper left to get back to the main screen or in the upper right to search for a song.  Tapping on this part of the screen will switch to Lyrics view, if one is available, and will give you options to search for lyrics, album art, zoom in/out, etc.  The next click on that upper part of the screen will display a detailed song info, and one more click gives you a cool analog VU meter which is my favorite view.

Below that screen you have a scrub bar to fast forward through the song by dragging to a different point in song’s timeline bar.  The lower half of the screen have playback touch controls with Play/Pause in the middle and current song time position and a total time above it, and skip Next/Prev on each side.  Also, to the left of Play you will find EQ button which takes you to paragraphic EQ screen with 10 bands (31Hz, 62Hz, 125Hz, 250Hz, 500Hz, 1kHz, 2kHz, 4kHz, 8kHz, 16kHz) and pull-up menu with 8 genre-specific presets (all could be customized further), and separate custom preset.  Of course, you also have a Reset button to zero-out everything.  Next to EQ button you will find Bluetooth enable button, and in the same area to the left there is Play mode icon to switch between play through, crossfade, loop all, and loop single.

To the right of Play, you will find “heart” icon to add the currently played track to Favorites list and another icon to add it to a Custom playlist.  One more “blue” icon with dots gives you an option to either delete the song or find detailed info about the song.  Furthermore, if you slide you finger along the right edge of the visible part of the Playback screen, you’ll activate a volume up/down touch swipe control.  Also, swiping the screen to the right from the left edge will bring up a list of all the songs in the current directory so you can quickly scroll and select one.  These are all great features, and the only thing which is missing – the icon to get to Audio Settings menu which you must go back to the “greeting” screen to access it.

The Audio Settings menu is quite extensive with Off Time (for music app), different ways to Scan for songs (including option for specific folder or skipping tracks with a short duration), Media Library update (manual or auto), Personalizing the “greeting” screen with different shortcuts, activating in-line remote (to support CTIA), Gapless playback enable, Gain setting, Channel balance (L/R), Customizing album art, Customizing volume, Resume options, Play through folder (enable/disable), Lockscreen album art and lyrics, Theme selection (switched between two), Max volume setting, Reset Database, Auto Search for lyrics and album art, and Help and About the App.

One interesting setting is VIPER effects, part of famous VIPER4Android ROM created by XDA-Dev members.  Some of these effects are free while others need to be purchased, and it was cool for FiiO to include them as part of their Android customization.  Here you will find Playback Gain control, FET compressor (purchase), Spectrum Extension, FIREqualizer, Convolver (purchase), Field Surround, Differential Surround, Reverberation, Dynamic System, Tube Sound (purchase), VIPER Bass (purchase), VIPER Clarity (purchase), Auditory System Protection (purchase), AnalogX (purchase), and Master gate.  Some have a more noticeable effect on the sound while with the others are subtler, but either way you get more tools to tweak the sound.  Too bad it was a tease to include effects which require to be purchased.

Overall, you can get a lot out of this interface, but if you are new to FiiO Android daps or used to audio apps on your smartphone, you could find FiiO Music app to be not as intuitive at first due to multiple screens, hidden swiping, different shortcut icons, etc.  But sooner or later you will get used to it, or you can just download and install your other favorite Music apps from Play store.

The only thing that bothered me was a delay when you click (hw) Play button and must wait a few seconds for a response.  Since the fw is still work in progress, I’m sure it will be fixed in one of the upcoming updates, but for now it left me a bit frustrated.

Page 3: Sounds analysis, Comparison, Pair up, Wired/Wireless, and Conclusion.

39 thoughts on “FiiO X5iii

  1. What an overwhelming, but wonderfully done review. I wish I could be as insightful as you in the future as I’m basically a toddler in the audiophile world and just starting to take interest in enhancing my music experience.
    I’m a fan of Above and Beyond. I also listen to orchestra, masters of classics, jazz, blues, soul, bossa nova, lo-fi, trip-hop, and a lot of female vocals.
    Which DAP, amp, IEM combo should I get if I just want a relaxed bass, a wide soundstage, and great instrument separation?
    Thank you in advance.

    Like

    1. There are multiple dozens of daps and hundreds of iems, at least you don’t have to worry about external amps – for portable setup you just need dap + iem. You mentioned your music preference, but how about your budget? Now, this is very important part of decision. How much do you want to send on dap and iem?

      Like

      1. hi twister6! thank you very much for the quick reply. I think a sub $1000 set-up would be fine for now to test the waters.

        I’m considering either the iBasso DX200 or the FiiO X7 mark II, Status Audio open back headphone, any sub $100 IEM. I have no idea what amp to use though.

        Like

      2. While dx200 has an edge in sound over x7ii (just got x7ii for testing a few days ago), new x7ii is a better value and it will support Google play and all the apps without a need to side load anything. Plus, either dx200 or x7ii have interchangeable amp modules so you don’t need to buy anything external. With iems, you gotta raise the price bar. Maybe start with 3way hybrids, like it03 or new Primacy. Thats under $300. So if you go with $650 x7ii, you have $350 budget for iems to fit under $1k.

        Like

      3. Reading all the reviews I can find about your recommended IEMs, I am now leaning towards the new Primacy. I only need to decide whether I would go with the X7ii or the DX200.

        As I have previously stated, I want my music to produce a relaxed bass, a wide soundstage, and have great instrument separation.

        How significant is the difference if I splurge a bit on the iBasso instead?
        I am no rookie when it comes to Android, so sideloading apps will not be a problem. I also read on some site that the sound signature changes with different firmwares (ex: Lurker0, WindowsX).

        With these considerations, should I still go with the X7ii or will the difference be minimal that the FiiO will still be the better option.

        Like

      4. based on a pure sound quality and from a little bit of time I spent with X7ii after a short burn in, I still find the sound and the technical performance of dx200 to be superior.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hi, I have a Cayin N3. I am looking for a better purchase sound-wise. Between the Cayin N5ii and Fiio X5iii which is a better sounding device considering that X5III uses dual-dac?

        Like

      6. Between these two, N5ii is a better sounding for sure. Read N5ii review on my blog, in there on page 3 I have a detailed comparison of N5ii vs X5iii.

        Like

      7. Thank you for the response. It has been mentioned that there is higher noise floor on Fiio x5iii. Is the noise heard when music is playing or is the noise heard when the music is only paused or stopped?

        Like

      8. the level of audible noise has to do with sensitivity of your iems (something like Andromeda is not going to pair up well), but you will mostly hear it when music stops/idling or when you are playing instrumental or vocal tracks which are not “crowded” with a heavy instrument arrangement. Noise is always there, and even if you don’t hear it – it contributes to a warmer sound of the dap.

        Like

      9. Thankyou I have one more question. Is the difference between quality between X5iii and N5ii just a matter of different sound signature-(as X5iii makes the sound lush not through refinement but through manipulation, so is it possible that N5ii also makes the sound more clinical not through refinement but through manipulation) or are they genuinely inferior/superior? I have an Audio Technical M50x so I thought that the X5iii will counter its bright tonality better than N5ii or could N5ii+M50x just sound better? I am indecisive because X5iii has a dual-dac as opposed to a single dad on N5ii.

        Like

      10. Hi, I have a Sennheiser hd 598(50 ohms) and X5iii. Which is a better sonic match for the X5iii between Cayin C5 and Fiio E12A? Don’t have choice to buy A5. Only either C5 or E12a.

        Like

      11. Hi, I have one last question sir regarding the E12A.
        Can the Fiio E12A power a Sennheiser hd 598 to full potential or is it wiser to go for Fiio A5?

        Like

      12. it should. HD598 is only 50 ohms with 112dB sensitivity, so you don’t need to push it as hard as some other 300 ohm or 600 ohm full size cans.

        Like

  2. Great review! May I ask how you’d compare X5-3 to iBasso DX80? From what I can guess, both are on the smooth/warm side.

    Having DX80 (and liking it), I’m not sure if something like X5-3 or Opus #1 might be a step forward?

    Like

    1. If you don’t care about Bluetooth or loading streaming apps (X5iii is android based with BT and WiFi) – then, there is no need to upgrade. Opus#1 will be a side grade.

      Like

      1. Thanks a lot! BT/apps are not necessary. Speaking of SQ, which DAPs would you suggest as the next step? Or investing into some higher-end IEMs should be done first? (My best ones are ATH-CKR10, KEF M200 and Lear LHF-AE1d)

        Like

      2. All depends on your budget. Many speak highly of zx300, Sony’s latest budget with 4.4mm balanced port, actually there zx300a variant that cost even less. Plenue R is very good, excellent battery and you get BT as well. Their dsp effects are mind blowing. FiiO X7ii is good and you can get a great deal on it. All these choices under $700, I believe.

        Like

      3. I have a Fiio X5iii and Cayin N3. I have observed that the headphone output volume with the M50X reaches a satisfying level of power at about 75 on high gain on X5iii. On my Cayin N3 I used to get a satisfying volume power at 60 in high gain. I am wondering why there is such a big gap between N3(60) and X5iii(75) despite X5iii being much more powerful. Is it normal or can there be something wrong with my X5iii’s headphone out. Can you shed some light on this?

        Like

      4. does the same volume ratio stays true when you try other IEMs or full size headphones? It probably will vary. One source of the difference is that manufacturers have different ways of measuring output power (and output impedance), where FiiO spec has a higher value but it might not be a true RMS measurement (vs Cayin). Then, in theory, power rating is a function of voltage and current, where you could have one source with lower voltage and higher current resulting in higher output while the other one having higher voltage and a lower current (to save battery life) which calculates to lower output power. But some headphones need higher voltage or higher current to drive their transducers to full potential. Plus, the difference in output impedance, even a small one, could also influence the change. There are many variables, besides just a power number 😉

        Like

      5. Thanks for responding. yeah it must be fine, I found the same ratio between X5iii and N3 on your respective pair-ups in your reviews of the two players.

        Like

      6. Thank you sir for the response. I will go for E12a with X5III. I am hoping the set-up will outperform a standalone Cayin N5ii .

        Like

      1. Hi, yes I have tried Ve Monk plus and Brainwavz Jive. Both earphones need about 20 volumes more on high gain on X5iii vs High gain on the N3. When I was going through your review I found a similarity. Your review of X5iii mentions similar volume gap of about 15-20 steps between N3(m) and X5iii(low) gains. The results are same for all earphones in my experience. I am just wondering if my headphone output is not damaged.

        Like

  3. Thanks for the great review. I own the Fiio X5iii but find the quality increase vs my iPhone 6S too little. I listened to the A&K AK70 MKii and Kann and really liked the sound with the Mr. Speaker Aeon Closed. I am building my lossless collection but still want to stream. I wanted to get the Kann but am put off by design, weight and the lack of Spotify. Now I am leaning towards the DX200 since Fiio disappointed me. Since I cannot listen to it I am not sure if it will be the jump in SQ I expect from such an investment. Amy thoughts?

    Like

    1. going to either X7ii or DX200 will be a noticeable leap in sound quality. And, DX200 with its latest amp modules like amp3, amp4, and amp5 widens a gap between x7ii even further. X5iii is not that bad, just a smooth warm tonality which lacks that “wow” factor when you are expecting a more detailed sound. Plus, hissing kills its pair up with sensitive multi-BAs…

      Like

      1. Thanks for the quick response. The DX200 is a good choice then but it is also the max I want to spend. Where does the “wow factor” start in your view?

        Like

      2. DX200 w/amp4, but amp module is an additional expense AND amp4 is 4.4mm so you will have to invest into new cables or use existing 2.5mm cables with 4.4mm adapter, like ibasso own cb02.

        Like

    1. it has been awhile since I used x5iii (i don’t use it due to a high noise floor and strong hissing with most of my iems). But if I recall correctly (and I could be wrong :)), isn’t pure music model disables some of the android functionality for audio playback where you don’t have wifi/streaming?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s