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.