From entry-level offerings to recent mid and hi-fi propositions, Fiio have extended their reach to all budgets within the audio-fi terrain. Coupled with this, their vision of continuous improvement and attention to customer feedback has culminated in the second generation of the already well-received and successful Fiio X7 digital audio player.
The new Fiio X7 2nd Generation (X7ii) borrows visual and firmware cues from the recently released Fiio X5iii. However, with more refined internal components and a more accessible design language than the original X7, this digital audio player is set to disturb the current digital source landscape. Featuring a 3.97” IPS multi-touch screen, the X7ii aims to represent a fine balance between hi-fidelity and consumer intuitiveness.
Priced at $649, the android-based player is a welcomed addition to this new era of amp-adjustable DAPs which aim to capture the wants and needs of all audiophile enthusiasts.
The Fiio X7ii, like the original X7, is crafted from solid aluminium that is anodised and diamond cut to provide a premium look and feel.
With regards to the weight, the X7ii measures in at 200g which is 10g lighter than the original X7. In addition, the new DAP shaves a few millimetres in the dimensions of height, width and depth compared its predecessor.
The left hand side houses a new volume scroll akin to the one used in Questyle’s QP1R DAP. Accompanying this volume scroll is the play/pause button as well as the fast forward/skip buttons. Fiio have made the right choice in removing the symmetrical buttons from the left and right hand sides of the device as it was very easy to press the wrong button when attempting to pause a track with the original X7.
The right hand side of the device houses two microSD card slots which support up to 256 GB of storage each.
On the top of the device, is the 3.5mm line/coaxial output and the power button. On the bottom of the device is the charging port in the centre, a 3.5mm headphone out jack on the far left and a new balanced port (AM3A module).
On the front surface of the device is a 480 x 880 multi-touch IPS TFT screen that is roughly the same size as the original Fiio X7 DAP. There is still the pulsating blue LED lights beneath the screen which can be switched to solid or pulse in the settings option.
Overall, the design is outstanding. Fiio have taken the right step in taking cues from the design language of the Fiio X5iii and made an extremely ergonomic product that does not compromise on build material.
As mentioned, the screen is a 3.97 inch 480 x 880 multi-touch IPS display that sits more flush with the body of the Fiio X7ii.
Fiio have cleverly compromised a HD display and adopted a 480p screen which packs in more pixels than its predecessor. The reason a 720p has been avoided was due to battery drainage issues as well as the X7ii device being designed more for the purposes of audio rather than a multimedia entertainment device.
With that said, the 480p screen is by no means lacking and is certainly respectable. The option for a touchscreen puts the user interface leaps ahead of Questyle’s QP1r and iBasso’s DX90 outdated scroll-wheel and hardware button system.
The User Interface
Like the original X7, the operation system of the X7ii is a slim-downed version of Android which removes all the unnecessary elements such as the camera app, recorder app, email, play store and maps dialler etc. However, the play store app can be downloaded in the latest firmware and all apps are able to be downloaded with Fiio’s cautionary disclaimer that some may impact on sound.
The new X7ii also launches with the latest version of Android KitKat 5.11 which is the standard for all of Fiio’s app. The new firmware allows the Fiio X7ii to bypass 3rd party apps hijacking the sample rate conversions and enable a more seamless music listening experience.
Overall, the UI is incredibly intuitive and fluid as this is what most of us on Android smartphones are used to. Features are generally tidier and cleaner as there are certain options (EQ settings, favourite tracks, Bluetooth etc) which hide under a single button umbrella. With that said, the X7ii’s Pure Music mode is similar to that of the X7’s but now supports 3 central icons which are easy to understand.
Fiio have chosen to adopt the ES9028PRO – a high end DAC which is more expensive than the previously used ES9018S iteration. The DAC has also been seen to be used in other flagship DAPs such as iBasso’s DX200 and Oppo’s Sonica. On Fiio’s preamble, the ES9028 is said to come with 8 output channels, which can ganged together for a further 4x multiplier performance. It is impressive that despite the higher cost of this chip implementation, Fiio have managed to bring the device to the same price category as its predecessor.
Equipped with the X7ii is the all-new AM3A modular amp which boasts both single-ended and balanced output connections. The amp is said to provide superior audio quality whilst maintaining a lower noise floor than the original AM3 amp. The amp also uses the acclaimed AD8620 wide bandwidth JFET amplifier chip along with the tailor-made OPA926 op-amp to present sound in the best possible light.
Memory storage and RAM capabilities have also been improved from Fiio’s original X7 with 2 GB of RAM support on top of 64 GB of on-board storage.
The battery of the Fiio X7ii comes in at 3800 mAh, a 300 mAh increase compared to Fiio’s X7 and 500 mAH increase compared to the Fiio X5 2nd Gen DAP. This allowed me to get a solid 9 hours with average daily testing and 10 hours with reduced brightness, no Wi-Fi and Pure music mode. It is important to note that battery life does decrease with balanced output use but only by an hour or so.
Another welcomed change is that that X7ii is capable of rapid charging (9/12v) and can charge in about 1.5 hours compared to the standard 2.5 hours.
To start off with, the sound impressions are all done with Fiio’s X7ii stock AM3 amplifier module (which can be disassembled with the provided screwdriver).
Immediately, the ES9028PRO chip offers a compelling balanced sound signature with a well-rendered frequency representation. Compared to the Fiio X7 with AM1 & AM2 modules, the Fiio X7ii/AM3a is more refined and intelligible with better musical detailing and separation whilst still retaining that neutral sound signature.
With the AM3a, the bass performance is more taut and cleaner than the slightly boomier Fiio X7’s rendition of low-frequency notes. However, there is more impact and sub-bass authority on Questyle’s QP1R DAP. Compared to the X5 3rd Generation DAP, the X7ii boasts better instrument separation, detailing and a generally cleaner lower-end performance.
Fiio have taken this refined signature to the mid-section with better positioning and resolution. Often at times, the Fiio X7 while neutral felt slightly thicker in lower-mid to mid-range frequencies. The X7ii betters this aspect by adopting a linear and cleaner approach with more room for vocals to shine as they were intended. The clean macro-dynamics and neutral imaging is excellent allowing a wide variety of music to shine.
Often at times, the original X7 sounded more musical and less detailed than the Questyle QP1R. However, this changes with the X7ii which shares much of the same higher resolution that the QP1R offers. The Q1PR still does edge the X7ii in micro-detail retrieval despite a possessing a slightly smaller headspace.
The upper midrange to treble frequency range of the X7ii is clean, with more sparkle and energy than Fiio’s X7. This is a well-implemented DAC.
Although the Fiio X7ii shares much of what made the X7 a successful DAP, they have taken it one step further by implementing a more resolute and spacious sound without resorting to the ESS sabre glare that DAPs such as the DX90 are often culprits of.
With regards to pairings, the X7ii synergised well with many of the IEMs thrown at it including the Rock-it Sounds R-50, DUNU Titan 3, Earsonics Velvet and DUNU-2000.
Overall, the Fiio X7ii is another extremely solid iteration that has improved upon the shortcomings of the X7 predecessor. The sound signature has now been uplifted in both resolution, space and micro-detailing. The improved ergonomics and slightly more compact form factor are also another step in the right direction.
It is impressive that Fiio have managed to curb the price of the X7ii to the same level as that of its predecessor ($649). With the ability to interchange amps, use streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify and listen to headphones in the balanced setting, the X7ii represents a powerful all-in-one solution that represents $649 well spent.
Fiio X7ii Digital Audio Player
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