FiiO X5iii

It’s just getting better!

PROS:  design, features, accessories, storage, price.

CONS:  fw still needs some work, summit-fi look with a mid-fi sound.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer website:  FiiO, Available for sale on Amazon and Audio46.


Many of my readers can probably agree that original FiiO X5 was a gateway into the world of affordable audio quality.  While the early X3 could be considered as an underground hit, the first gen X5 went all the way to a mainstream level, getting attention of not only audiophiles, but also regular consumers.  That was 3 years ago, the time has changed, the market competition became more aggressive, the number of new releases skyrocketed, and picking your next DAP became more confusing due to so many choices.  In audio gear business, if you don’t re-invent yourself with something new to stand out from the crowd, you are not going to last for a very long time.  So, with FiiO recent announcement of their 10-year anniversary, you can get a good idea this company knows what they are doing, being in business for that long.

When it comes to their DAPs, without taking into consideration the original X3, the main design focus of the FiiO X-series was a mechanical wheel which lasted through X5, X5ii, X1, and X3ii.  The next step was a brand new X7 flagship designed with a touchscreen interface and a removable amp module – a big step forward with an attempt to capture the attention of summit-fi market.  X1ii was another bold move, replacing the mechanical wheel with a capacitive touch “wheel”, but it kept a familiar design look from the original X-series, just in a more futuristic chassis.  When X5iii was announced and its design details were revealed, it became an overnight “too good to be true” sensation, especially when FiiO shocked everyone with $399 price tag for an open Android DAP.

I’m building up my review intro, the same way how my excitement and anticipation was building up a few months ago, before I received X5iii review unit.  Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away with high expectations without realizing that we are still talking about a mid-fi DAP, not intended to go head-to-head with summit-fi competition or to overthrow its own X7 flagship.  But due to my own hype, when I finally got X5iii in my hands – I felt a bit underwhelmed with a sound, though impressed with a design.  I’m glad I took some time before jumping into the review, and I was patient to wait for a few fw updates which did improve the sound quality.  I do realize the web is already filled with dozens of published X5iii reviews, and hopefully I will be able to contribute with additional info from my perspective to complete the picture for anybody who is looking to either purchase their first or to upgrade to their next DAP.


Keeping up with a common packaging theme between their different products, you can still expect a printed sleeve box with another storage box inside of it.  The printed sleeve has an eye-popping image of X5iii which stands out with a 3D-like picture of the DAP, focusing on both a touch screen interface and a volume wheel on the left side.  The back of the box has a detailed list of the Main Features with an impressive spec.  While some other DAPs read like a smartphone spec, here there is no mistake you are dealing with a serious DAP design.  Everything looks great on paper.

The actual storage box is all black, only with FiiO name on the top of the cover.  With cover off, you will find a protective foam keeping the DAP secure inside of the precise cutout, and underneath of it a plethora of accessories.  I will talk about accessories in the next section of the review, but I do want to mention that FiiO put an extra effort to make the unboxing experience of X5iii to feel like you are dealing with a flagship quality DAP.  They set the bar high, so will be interesting to see what awaits us with X7ii.


The list of included accessories starts off with a traditional high quality usb to micro-USB cable, thus you know that FiiO is sticking with a more common micro-USB port instead of following other manufacturers who are switching to usb-C.  But I think one of the reasons for using micro-USB is to be backward compatibility with their K5 docking station which works fine with X5iii.  Also, you will find FiiO’s traditional short digital output interconnect with 3.5mm TRRS plug on one side and female coax connector on the other side.  Keep in mind, this is not a typical interconnect because FiiO design shares LO with Coax Out.  With that, all you need is to add a coax cable (not included) to use X5iii as a transport with your favorite DAC/amp.

One peculiar accessory I found was a metal key used to assist in removal of micro-SD card trays.  Just like in some smartphones and sim card trays, FiiO decided to keep both micro-SD cards sealed away from the dust under a cover inside of a small tray which pops out when you insert this tool through a pinhole opening.  You can probably use a paper clip for the same functionality, but nevertheless – this little tool looks cool.

If you are looking for a screen protector, you will find one already applied, and it’s not some cheap film protector but a high quality 7H hardness rated tempered glass screen protector.  This was a great idea because now you are dealing with a full front panel touch screen which you want to protect not only from scratches but also from accidental drops.  For those who are not familiar, in case of direct impact the tempered glass usually shatters and could be removed while leaving the glass display unharmed.  Furthermore, tempered glass feels smooth and natural when swiping your finger across, unlike some plasticy film screen protectors.  Btw, you will also find a regular film protector which is applied to the back of X5iii.

Long gone the days of the cheap black (or gray) silicone FiiO skin cases, and now X5iii arrives with 2 different cases.  One is a nice looking black pleather case with a smooth shiny surface and red stiches on the back, along with a stamped FiiO logo.  It’s not a real leather, but it has a premium look with a nice grip.  The power button is covered but easy to press, on the other side the track skip buttons are covered and easy to press, while the volume wheel and play/pause button are open.  The bottom of the case is open with a full access to both SE and BAL HO ports, micro-usb port, and LO/Coax port.

But if you want a more fun look with a fully transparent case that doesn’t hide any details of the design, you can switch to another included clear transparent case, made from a decent quality silicone material.  With this case, all the buttons are covered and still easy to press.  The volume wheel is open for easy access, and at the bottom you have an open 3.5mm SE HO output.  The balanced 2.5mm HO, micro-SD, and LO/Coax ports are covered with a clear silicone dust plugs which are attached to the main case.  You can open these ports and don’t have to worry about losing the plug.  Or, if you find yourself irritated by constantly opening one of the ports and don’t want to be bothered with unplugging it – you can just cut off that plug cover.

For me personally, as much as I like a more sophisticated look of the pleather case, I prefer a transparent fun look of the clear silicone case which also has a better and a more secure grip.  But either way, including a pleather case and a tempered glass screen protector (already applied) was a bonus I didn’t even expect.



When a company announces a new product, you can expect an original design.  But the incremental version bump usually has ties to the previous design.  X5ii was a nice refresh from the original X5 but still had a similar layout and other familiar elements, which also scaled down to X3ii and X1.  X1ii was a bold move that kept the original “look” but stepped it up with a major change when mechanical wheel was abandoned.  And of course, X7 had an all new design with a smartphone-like touch screen layout.  In contrast to all of these previous X-series releases, X5iii feels like a brand-new product.

Sized at 114.2mm x 66.2mm x 14.8mm and weighting only 186g, this CNC aluminum alloy DAP is slimmer and yet just a little taller and a touch wider than X5ii predecessor.  The switch to a full Android OS means a touch screen interface which occupies almost the entire front panel of the DAP.  The top of the DAP has no controls or ports, and the right side has a power button with a red accent ring around it and a blue power-on LED in the middle of it.  As I mentioned before, below it you will find 2 microSD slots.  Both are fully covered since now you are dealing with two separate trays, removable by pushing through the pinhole opening to release the latch.  Each card is capable to support up to 256GB of storage, so you are talking about a combined 544GB of storage (including internal) and you can also expand further with OTG storage device and “unlimited” streaming on top of that.

The left side has a beveled edge where you will find a Play/Pause hw control button at the top and Skip Next/Prev combined button toward the middle.  The buttons have a nice tactile response with a softer click response.  As expected, hw Playback control buttons are operational with a screen on and off.  Between Play and Skip buttons, you have a recessed volume wheel which sticks out just enough for you to control it with a thumb.  As you move the wheel, which has a click action as it turns, you also have access to touch screen volume slider for a faster adjustment.

The bottom of the DAP has all the available ports.  Starting from the left, you have 3.5mm single ended HO and next to it 2.5mm TRRS balanced HO.  3.5mm HO also supports headphones with in-line remote so you have an alternative way to control the playback.  Next is micro-USB port which supports everything from charging (including 2 charging modes, regular and fast 9V/12V high speed to give you easily 10hrs of playback thanks to 3400 mAh 3.8V battery), data transfer to internal memory and micro-SD cards, using it as USB DAC, connecting external OTG storage (though some of the external hard drivers might not work if they sink too much current), and also being able to use it with a docking station such as K5 DAC/amp.  Last, but not least, is 3.5mm port which you select from within Settings to operate as either Line Out to use with external amp or Digital (Coax) Out to use with external DAC/amp.

When it comes to non-touch screen DAPs, you have a lot of room for creativity to make your product stand out from the crowd.  With a touch screen, especially when it occupies the whole front view – you don’t have too much room for something original, so every little detail counts.  Unlike a blander X7 design with a symmetric hw control buttons, X5iii spiced it up with a cool looking power button, seamless microSD card trays, and an interesting non-symmetric design of the left side with hw playback buttons and analog volume wheel.  These little details make the design not only a pleasure to look at, but also a fun to use and to show off to others.

Under the hood.

Here you will find a dual (2 separate) AK4490EN 32bit DACs which have been used in many recent new DAP releases, even those with a much higher price tag.  This is not necessary the latest and the greatest DAC from AKM, but it’s certainly among their very popular models that supports all the latest PCM and DSD lossy and lossless formats, from DXD, DSD64, DSD128, WAV, FLAC, APE, ALAC, AIFF, WMA, MP3, etc., and has various digital audio filters.  It was impressive to see two of these DACs being used in an Android DAP under $400.

Furthermore, you have a quad core SoC Rockship model RM3188 long with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of build in internal storage (and as I mentioned already, it could be expanded with additional 512GB of storage thanks to a support of 2 microSD cards).  Also, you have 3.97″ touch screen with an acceptable 480×800 pix resolution and decent colors (deep colors with a good contrast).  You will also find Bluetooth BT 4.0 with aptX codec and 2.4GB WiFi.  Plus, as already mentioned, 3.8V 3400 mAh battery supporting a dual charging mode.  Playback time will vary depending on the file format, screen on time, enabling WiFi and Bluetooth, and volume level, but you can get at least 10hrs without a problem.

With all this hardware under the hood you shouldn’t have problem running the pre-installed heavily customized Android 5.1 OS (still with a bypass of Sample Rate Conversion limitation), which comes with 2 operating modes: Pure Android (w/Google Play included) and Pure Music (no other apps are running to focus all resources on a pure music playback).  Yes, you can load and run many different apps, but keep in mind that you only got 1GB of RAM and not the fastest SoC, so performance will not be a match your latest smartphone.

As far the hw audio portion of the design, in addition to a dual AK4490EN, you also get dual crystal oscillator (22.579MHz and 24.576MHz) to cover both clock rates (DSD/44.1/88.2/176.4/352.8kHz and 48/96/192/384kHz), and two dual-channel OPA1642 chips to use for Low Pass filtering and another OPA426 opamp for amplification section which supports 300mW under 32ohm load.  All this looks great on paper, but the true test is how it translates into audio performance which I’m going to cover in Sound analysis section of the review.

Page 2: GUI

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.


    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?


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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?


      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.


      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?


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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?


      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.


  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?


    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.


      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)


      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.


      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?


      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 😉


      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.


      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 .


      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.


  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?


    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…


      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?


      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.


    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?


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