FiiO X7 Mark II Smart Hi-Res Music Player

Average User Rating:
4.85/5,
  1. chengsta
    4.5/5,
    "Great for iems"
    Pros - Long battery life
    Fast UI
    The ability to make playlists directly from the player itself
    You can still import playlists if you want
    Pure music mode
    Very detailed
    Big soundstage
    Android (aka viper effects, thank you lord!)
    Balanced output is insane
    Cons - 1 minute boot up time
    Plugs for unused ouputs from the x5 don't work for the x7 mk2, it'll just think something is plugged into that port
    Coming from the X5 v1, the X7 mk2 is so much better in every way. Comparatively the UI is so much faster, and I love the touch screen. Even using the balanced output which is supposed to draw a lot of power, I can get 10 hours out of the player before it needs charging.

    Sound: The X7 mk2 is more dynamic, neutral, and the soundstage is wider than the x5. In fact since I've started using the balanced cables....my jh16's that I've had for 4 years now became so airy that I thought for sure I lost my seal on them....till the bass hit, BOOM hard and deep as usual. That's when I realized that the seal wasn't broken. Also, at that moment, I knew that the x7mk2 was on a whole different level. It was what I had been looking for all along: A player that was crystal clear while still delivering the mega bass that doesn't muddy/interfere with the mids and highs; just like a real speaker setup with a separate subwoofer.

    As a bass-head, I've resigned myself to settling for the sound of 'all music is being played through the subwoofer.' AKA really warm signature from portable setups. I wanted crystal clear mids and highs too damn it! Oh man the x7 mk2 delivers. With the x5, I always wondered if there was something more. With the x7 mk2 in my posession, I just KNEW it was the one. I am so satisfied that I am confident I will not upgrade from the x7mk2 until it stops working, and when it does I'll probably get another x7mk2.

    But wait, what?! Other people are saying that the F7 mk2 is a clear, detailed, but cold/thin and siblant player! How can I as a bass-head fall so head-over-heels in love with it?! Well my friend, let me tell you about my lord and savior, Viper Bass. Or rather viper-effects. Viper effects is built into the player, but you have to pay 50cents to activate each effect which is totally worth it (I wonder why fiio couldn't just charge an extra $3 and sell the x7mk2 with it already activated?). Also, it's not siblant at all to me, the treble is just right.

    If you try to EQ bass on your fiio x7 mk2 through the normal player settings, it will distort and suck crap. EQ on the fiio player sucks in general. In fact, if this didn't have viper bass built in, I'd have rated this player a 3 star instead and then back-packed my headstage arrow 6 to it. However viper-bass does it right, it amplifies the bass up to 18 or so db (should you so wish) without distortions, and no it's not a gimmick. It's damn awesome. It puts out more bass than my headstage arrow 6 amplifier, and with better texture and detail. And when I hooked it up my amplifier just to compare, it sounded like 'music was playing through a subwoofer', which I thought I had to settle for. No, now I can have the crystal clarity AND insane bass (no warmth, no V shaped signature) of a high end audio system. And I only need the x7mk2 to do it, I no longer need the headstage arrow amp. My search for audio nirvana has ended (somewhat, as I just ordered the kaiser encore C because I just have to have new things. I am satisfied with the jh16 and honestly don't see how it can get better but i'll find out in 3 months).

    The music I listen to is EDM, pop, rock, metal, folk, orchestra, classical, and just beautiful solo vocals. The x7 mk2 does them all so beautifully. The bass just disappears when it's not needed with my settings.

    The only complaints I have about the player is that it gets uncomfortably warm and the battery life goes down if you play music from the memory card. Also, the bootup time is nearly 1 minute long, but it's totally worth it as I only turn it on once per day.
  2. F700
    4.5/5,
    "World class DAP with a bit too much sibilance"
    Pros - UI, Portability, Built, Soundstage, Speed, Leather case
    Cons - Sibilant at time, needs a bit more power for my taste
    Short review of the FiiO X7 Mark II.

    I had the opportunity to take part to the « review tour » of the flagship DAP from FiiO, here on Head-Fi. I therefore got the FiiO X7 Mark II for loan. What follows is just my honest opinion and is based on my tastes and my ears, which I trust, after having spent five days with the device.

    Listening music with the FiiO X7 Mark II was a pretty good experience. I own 2 other DAPs, a FiiO X5III (linked to A5 amp) and a sony NW-ZX300 (JP version). I mainly am listening to electronic music (ambient, drone, techno, house), pop/rock (male vocals, classics from 80s and 90s), soul, OST and a bit of jazz.

    Music format used for the listening: AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and DSD

    Headphones/IEMs used: Sony XBA-Z5, Sony N3AP, Sony MDR-Z1R, Audeze LCD-X, MEZE 99 Classics

    The DAP with the Sony N3AP (not displayed) and a SE silver Lavricable
    [​IMG]

    PROS

    • Snappy UI
    • Build
    • Detailed sound
    • Wide soundstage
    • Android implementation
    CONS
    • Sibilant at time
    • Sounds a bit thin with some music needing weight in the sub-bass (could be a « pro » for some people)
    • Separation/imaging could be better
    • AMP module lacks a bit of power and drive in comparison to the X5III/A5 combo
    Comparison with X5III/A5 combo

    UI -> X7 Mark II (just incredible how fast and responsive the device is)

    Build -> Draw

    Portability -> X7 Mark II

    Power -> X5III/A5 (by a margin)

    Battery life -> Draw

    Features -> X7 Mark II (way faster)

    Imaging -> X5III/A5 (a real strength from that combo)

    Soundstage -> X7 Mark II (just a bit)

    Speed -> X7 Mark II

    Global sound signature -> X5III/A5 (smooth, detailed, layered, slightly warm yet precise and not veiled at all)

    Price/quality ratio -> X5III/A5 (excellent!)

    WINNER: X5III/A5 combo, « foto-finish » win, just because the sound is just perfect to my ears with that set-up. I am pretty certain that 90% of the people will choose the FiiO X7 Mark II over the X5III/A5 combo without hesitation, because it makes almost everything right, is much more portable, has a crisp, clear and open top-end, and finally, shows what a DAP in 2017 can really do. You cannot go wrong with the X7 as long as you can deal with some sibilance at time.

    Comparison with Sony NW-ZX300

    UI -> X7 Mark II

    Build -> NW-ZX300 (japanese black version is a gem and IMO nothing can compete here, just the top tier A&K maybe and the 1W/1Z)

    Portability -> NW-ZX300 (small, light yet powerful and stylish with the sony leather case)

    Power -> NW-ZX300 (cleaner at higher volumes)

    Battery life -> NW-ZX300

    Features -> X7 Mark II (Android, streaming services)

    Imaging -> NW-ZX300 (smoother and less sibilance, better separation as well)

    Soundstage -> X7 Mark II

    Speed -> X7 Mark II

    Global sound signature -> NW-ZX300 (balanced output with the Z5 is audio heaven for me at the moment)

    Price/quality ratio -> Draw, depending on the needs and priority of the user

    WINNER: NW-ZX300. The size, the built, THAT sound and the balanced output.

    End words

    The FiiO X7 Mark II just failed to give me goosebumps, when my 2 other DAPs succeeded in that important task, right from the start and just because of really specific feature and sound characteristics. At the price, the FiiO X7 Mark remains a very competitive offering I think. It has a lot to offer and a lot to like. Very fast UI, nice screen resolution, wide soundstage, premium built, detailed sound and portability are the strengths of that DAP. I give 4.5 stars, because I like the X5III/A5 and the NW-ZX300 slightly better overall.

    The FiiO X7 Mark II is a very capable DAP, packed with features, and definitely deserving a listening session if you are in the market for that kind of toy.

    Thanks for reading!
  3. frfrtx
    5.0/5,
    "A Great DAP"
    Pros - Very good sound detail, clarity and ability to drive full size headphones (Shure SRH1540’s with balanced cables on high gain in my case). Played music from a JRiver Media Server without issues. A “tested” battery life of almost 10 hours when playing under ideal conditions through efficient IEM’s and the unbalanced headphone port.
    Cons - Difficult and time-consuming copying of songs into the Fiio X7 MKII’s main memory. Did not play gapless HD tracks without the occasional soft pop. A few other software “glitches” detailed in the review below.
    Summary

    I really like the Fiio X7 MKII. It has a nice sized, very readable screen with options for different displays of the music being played, dual micro SD slots, a couple of options on included cases, good build quality and feel, and the option of balanced output with higher output than the unbalanced output. It has a few software peculiarities that I learned to get used to, but the occasional soft pop between gapless tracks will need a firmware/software change to really fix.

    Test Equipment and Music

    I used full sized closed-back Shure SRH1540’s, A&K IEM T8iE MK II’s, and Panasonic IEM EAH-Z70’s. The Shure and A&K’s have 2.5MM balanced cables. The gain on the X7 MKII was usually set to low on both the Shure and A&K’s, but was set to high gain for some music tracks with more bass. The Panasonic’s have a 3.5 MM unbalanced cable.

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    The music that I listened to for the testing was a mix of high resolution 24bit/88.2kHz, 24bit/96kHx and 24bit/192kHz flac tracks. Music genres were Jazz, Bluegrass, Blues, and Rock. All listening testing was through the balanced port. The battery test was through the unbalanced port and included high resolution and CD resolution flac tracks. All music listening and the battery test were done in Pure Music mode. I also compared the X7 MK II to an AK70 that I own.

    The Testing Process

    Battery Test

    The battery test was very simple. The X7 MKII was started playing music at 100% battery. The music files played were 160 GB in size, which were about half high resolution flac and the other half CD resolution flac. All the songs (about 4000) in the player were played randomly. Gain was set to low and the music was played though the unbalanced port to the Panasonic EAH-Z70’s. The volume was set to 45. The screen brightness was set to the lowest value on the X7 MKII, and the screen was only turned on only for a few seconds every hour to check the battery level. The battery dropped at a relatively linear rate of about 10 percent per hour. After nine hours the battery showed 9 percent and the test was stopped to prevent any possibility of damage from a 100 percent battery drain. Although this was not how an X7 MKII would be typically used, because of very minimal screen usage, it did show that under the most ideal conditions the X7 could play music for almost ten hours.

    About half way through the battery test the X7 completely stopped playing music in the middle of a song. This error was not found until playback had been stopped for about 20 minutes. The music player was restarted. The stopping and restarting did not seem to have affected the relatively linear progress of the battery drain of about 10 percent per hour.

    Sound Quality Test

    As a general rule I find that high resolution music sounds better to me than 16bit/44.1kHz music. I think this has more to do with additional detail available with 24bit information rather than the higher frequencies. All listening testing was with HD resolution music, and all listening was with the Shure SRH1540’s and the A&K IEM T8iE MK II’s with balanced output from the X7 MKII.


    For critical listening on the X7 MKII I listened to:

    Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms, listened for bass detail.

    Eric Clapton, Just One Night, listed for Eric Clapton supporting guitar and vocals in “Setting Me Up.” Albert Lee has lead guitar and vocals on this song.

    B.B. King, Live At The Regal, listened for guitar details. B.B. played notes, not chords.

    Muddy Waters, Folk Singer, listened for guitar and vocal details. This album is much more acoustic rather than electric guitar. Buddy Guy also plays on this album.

    Allison Krauss, New Favorite, listened for vocal details. Allison’s beautiful voice really shows on this album.

    Tierney Sutton, Dancing In The Dark, On The Other Side, and Something Cool; listened for vocal details. Tierney really shows her great voice with a wide variety of songs on these three albums.

    Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else; Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out; John Coltrane, A Love Supreme; Ray Brown Trio, Soular Energy; and Sonny Rollins, Way Out West; listened for musical detail (note decay), instrument separation, and sound stage. High quality recordings of jazz performances come very close to giving me the feeling of listening to a live performance. Listening to them helped me more than any other genre appreciate the musical quality of the X7 MKII.

    Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon, listened for gapless playback, especially between “On The Run” and “Time.” Unfortunately, always heard a slight pop.

    Except for slight errors in gapless playback, the X7 MKII produced excellent sound with all my listening tests. It has great sound quality and detail. All the details that I was listening for in my HD music, the X7 MKII reproduced in spectacular fashion. I really love it’s sound.


    Comparison to A&K AK70

    I own an A&K AK70 and listened to it back-to-back in comparison to the X7 MKII. For the music that I listened to, I had enough SD memory capacity to make this comparison possible. For almost all the HD music that I listened to, the AK70 and the X7 MKII produced similarly pleasing and detailed music reproduction with both the Shure SRH1540’s and the A&K IEM T8iE MK II’s.

    There were two exceptions. The AK70 had no problems with gapless playback. The X7 MKII reproduced bass much, much better with the Shure SRH1540’s on songs that had a significant amount of bass. This was really apparent when playing Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms. The output from the X7 MII was with the balanced output with high gain to the Shure SRH1540’s.


    Connection to External Music Server

    I have a media server that runs JRiver Media Center software and had no problems connecting the X7 MII via wifi and playing music from the JRiver software. The way my system is configured, music via wifi never sounds as good music played directly on a device, so I did not perform any critical listening tests of the music from the server.

    Firmware/Software Issues

    In the process of copying songs to the X7 MKII and testing it, I found a few firmware/software issues. The most import one to me that needs fixing is the soft pop between songs on gapless playback. I feel confident that Fiio will fix this in future release.

    Before beginning testing of the X7 MKII, I copied about 45 GB of HD music to the player. All the other music that I used was on a 128GB micro SD card. I had multiple interruptions caused by the X7 MKII when copying music directly to the player. It was very frustrating and caused the transfer to take much more time that it should have. I did not have problems when only copying a single album at a time.

    When running my battery life test on the X7 MKII is stopped playing in the middle of the test. This was the only time that the X7 MKII stopped like this.

    When starting a song or restarting a song after a pause, the X7 MKII had about a ¼ second delay before starting the song. After I figured out that this was occurring, it did not cause me any difficulties when listening to the X7 MKII.


    At the very beginning of a song, when only a few sends of the song had been played, hitting the prior song button on the side of the player would cause the player to skip to the previous song rather than the song currently playing. Like the ¼ second delay, After I figured out that this was occurring, it did not cause me any difficulties when listening to the X7 MKII.


    Final Comments

    I very much appreciate Fiio providing the X7 MKII for testing and review. I really do like the sound quality, screen size, user interface, ability to drive my Shure SRH1540 headphones, and large music capacity of the player. Anyone considering a player in the $600 to $1,000 range should seriously consider the X7 MKII.

    Fred Woolfrey
    Rockport, TX
    12 Nov, 2017

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  4. bms44974
    5.0/5,
    "Awesome SQ and DAP functionality"
    Pros - SQ, ease of use, feature-rich UI
    Cons - incompatibility with Dell XPS15 (9550)
    Disclaimer: I received the X7ii tour unit to evaluate for about 10 days in return for my honest opinion.

    Build:

    The X7ii is solidly built and has a substantial feel. The controls are conveniently placed. Moving the power button to the top near the right side was a big improvement for me (it was on the right side near the top on X5iii). The volume wheel is easy to use and I rarely move it accidently when handling the unit. The play/pause button is easy to use when the screen is asleep. I occasionally skipped forward or backward when picking up the unit or holding the unit and wound up disabling the rocker using custom keylock settings in the system options menu.

    The unit came with a plastic case that covers all but the screen, volume wheel, USB, line-out, and 2.5 (balanced) and 3.5mm (single-ended) headphone ports. Small flaps cover the power button, play/pause, and forward/back rocker. My USB charging cable was a bit large and I had to take the case off to use the USB port, but the USB cable that came with the unit does fit with the cover on. There is no way to access the SD slots with the plastic case on.

    SD cards are not inserted directly into the X7ii, but must be placed in pop-out trays. A small stylus is provided to facilitate tray removal. The trays could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how often you switch cards. The cards will fall out of the trays if ejected with the face of the unit up. I strongly suggest turning the unit over when ejecting and replacing SD card trays.

    Operation:

    I had previously stripping embedded album art from files and including a single file (cover.jpg) in each album subdirectory. The X7ii displayed album art with no problems. My music is structured with directories for each artist and subdirectories for each album. Connecting the X7ii to my laptop (Dell XPS15) was not possible due to an incompatibility previously noted with the X5iii. After formatting two cards in the X7ii, I mounted them on my laptop and copied the library directly to the SD cards. I encountered no problems reading the library from both SD cards. Album, artist, and genre tags functioned as advertised. And a pleasant surprise, within artist, albums and tracks were sorted properly by track number (not by name as with the original firmware in the X5iii).

    Most of my files are in FLAC format, but the X7ii had no problems with the few 64 and 128 bit DSD (DFF and DSF format) and ALAC (*.m4a) files that I threw at it. The only exception was 11289k DSF file in the 2L Test Bench set (see below). The 2282k and 5644k versions of the same recording worked flawlessly.

    The FiiO music app is feature-rich and the learning curve was not too steep. I activated WiFi to enable some Viper effects and tested Bluetooth connectivity with my Sony WF-1000X earphones. Both worked well, but I kept them off most of the time to increase the battery life which was quite good for an Android device. I almost liked the battery information in the Android setup, until I realized that the battery usage accounted for only totaled 40% of what was used. There are clearly some categories missing from the battery menu (i.e. power drawn by AM3A). With 53% battery left, the utility estimated ~4h left leading me to believe that 8h is a reasonable expectation for battery life. In standby mode (i.e. no music playing), the battery went from 80% to 40% over the course of about 10h. The 2.0A charger for my Android phone worked fine to charge the X7ii (40% to 100% in just over 90min).

    As alluded to earlier, the only major problem I encountered was the known incompatibility of X7ii with the USB ports on my Dell XPS15 (9550) laptop. This issue have been noted before for the X5iii and I had to load music on the SD cards on my computer. I did not install and test the Windows 10 driver for the X7ii because of the USB compatibility problem (and I have a desktop DAC and would never use the X7ii in DAC mode).

    Sound:

    The X7ii has lots of detail without being fatiguing. The sound stage is wider than my X5ii and the instrument separation is outstanding with well mastered source material. The X7ii/AM3A drives my Etymotic ER4SR with authority both single-ended (SE) and balanced. Apart from the need to reduce the volume with the balanced cable, I could not tell much, if any, difference in the two headphone outputs. The AM3A (SE) had a more difficult time driving my HD600s, but full volume (120) was well above my tolerable listening level. Where volumes from 45 to 55 were good for my ER4SR (SE), the HD600s required 90 to 100 to achieve the same volume (slightly higher when EQ was turned on. There is a -6dB gain reduction applied when with EQ enabled to avoid clipping when sliders are max’ed out.

    I tried several of the free Viper effects. The one I found most useful was the Playback Gain. It takes a few moments to analyze the source, but does an adequate job of adjusting volume on different albums/tracks. It may not be quite as effective as embedded replay gain, but it served the function with only minor volume adjustments between loud and soft tracks. Viper Playback Gain reduced the need for excessive volume fiddling on ER4SR and HD600. I paid the $0.49 to enable the Viper Bass and found that I quite liked the “Natural Bass” setting as it had minimal impact on the mids and highs.

    Connected to my Creek 4330SE amp and Epos M2 speakers, the line-out on the X7ii was not as transparent (almost muddy) compared to my computer with Foobar 2000 and USB to iDAC. This was surprising since the X7ii/AM3A/ER4SR (and HD600) combo was on a par with (or slightly better resolved) than my computer setup.

    Overall:

    This is an amazing DAP. The SQ is definitely worth the $650 retail price. I could do without Android and all the battery wasting overhead, but the SQ and FiiO music app are worth it. This would be my first choice for a DAP if not for the fact that I already have the X5ii, a very find DAP in its own right. The X7ii is notably better, but I can’t quite convince myself (or my wife :wink:)that it is worth the price to upgrade.

    The following albums were sampled during my review:
    • 2L Test Bench (available at http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html)
    • Adam Harasiewicz: Chopin Nocturnes & Preludes
    • Antoine Dufour: Back and Forth
    • Antonio Pleeth: 6 Geminiani cello sonatas
    • Calum Graham: Phoenix Rising
    • Dirks und Wirtz: Kinski Spencer Gismonti
    • Don Ross: PS15
    • Earl Klugh: Whispers and Promises
    • Francois Sciortino: French Guitar
    • Giovanni Palombo: La melodia segreta, A Secret Melody
    • Goran Sollscher: Eleven-String Baroque
    • Hoff Ensemble: Quiet Winter Night
    • Jian Wang: The Baroque Album
    • Jimmy Wahlsteen: No Strings Attached
    • John Doan: A Celtic Pilgrimage
    • Julian Webber: Elgar Cello Concerto - Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No.1
    • lan Ethan Case: Run Toward The Mountains
    • Laurence Juber: Guitar Noir
    • Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: Spin
    • Luca Stricagnoli: Luca Stricagnoli
    • Lucas Michailidis: Laughing at the Thief
    • Mike Dawes: What Just Happened
    • Oslo String Quartet: The Shubert Connection
    • Peppino D'Agostino: Acoustic Guitar
    • Peter Ciluzzi: Still Without Words
    • Sarah Mclachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
    • Spencer Elliott: Some Forgotten Color, Unspoken
    • TRONDHEIMSOLISTENE: In Folk Style, Souvenir I & II,
    • Vladimir Horowitz: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #3
    • Yo-Yo Ma: Bach Cello Suites Nos. 1, 5 & 6, Rachmaninov Prokofiev Cello Sonatas, Mendelssohn Piano Trios, Op. 49 & Op. 6
  5. TomKorn
    4.5/5,
    "“Left-hand goosebumps”"
    Pros - Amazing sound quality
    Cons - Some usability issues
    “Left-hand goosebumps”

    IMG_8631.jpg

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    Retail price in Switzerland

    699, - Swiss Francs which is 100 Francs more than the old model.


    Accessories in the box

    IMG_8599.jpg

    X7 MK II Player
    transparent soft plastic (silicone?) case
    faux black leather case with red stitching
    an (oddly large) screwdriver for switching amp modules
    1 piece of metal cladding for older amp modules
    micro USB charging cable
    Coax-adapter


    Review gear

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    FIIO X7 Mark II and FIIO X7 (old model) for comparison purposes

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    AKG 701 over-ear headphones (62 ohm)

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    Beyerdynamic T51P on-ear headphones (32 ohm)

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    Campfire Audio Lyra II in-ear monitors (17 ohm)


    Music selection

    Rock/Metal

    Korn – MTV unplugged
    Alice in Chains - MTV unplugged
    The Doors – Best Of

    Singer/Songwriter/etc.

    Andreas Vollenweider – Vox
    Mercedes Sosa – Misa Criolla Live

    Orchestra/Classical Soundtracks

    Howard Shore – Lord of the rings OST
    The Witcher 3 OST
    The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim OST
    Ramijn Djawadi - Game of Thrones OST
    Hans Zimmer – Interstellar OST
    Johann Johansson – Arrival OST
    Harry Gregson-Williams – Metal Gear Solid 4 OST
    John Williams – Indiana Jones Collection OST
    John Williams – Star Wars Collection OST

    Jazz/Blues


    Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles
    Tom Jones – Praise & Blame
    Sara K – Hell or High Water

    Rap/Hiphop


    Ana Tijoux – 1977
    Wu Tang Clan – The Saga Continues
    Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty Remastered


    Intro

    I have to admit it.

    I was very skeptical as to what degree the new X7 MK II would sound better than the old one. Sure, I imagined it to be a logical but incremental update you would expect for a predecessor of a flagship device.

    That’s why I refrained for quite a while from buying one. Also, I was waiting for a review device promised to me by FIIO. In the end my curiosity got the best of me and I went ahead and bought a MK II when one was suddenly available in a small store in Zurich.

    As I said, I really didn’t expect too much of an improvement, but boy was I wrong!

    Back home I put the MicroSD card from the old X7 into the new MKII and started listening. After a few minutes I realized that my arms were covered in goosebumps. For me that’s a safe sign that something exceptional is just happening.

    Shortly put: The X7 MK II is not a small but a substantial upgrade over the X7 sound quality wise! I would say it punches a whole level above the old model.

    In this review I am focusing on sound quality and usability only since I never use any of the many other features of this Player.


    Sound Quality

    Highs

    Crystal clear but not harsh with a lot of resolution

    Mids

    Voices nicely centered and just slightly elevated

    Bass

    Substantial but controlled with well-defined sub-bass

    Instrument separation

    Excellent, the best I heard so far in a DAP

    Soundstage

    Realistic but not overblown depending on headphones

    General Tonality

    Neutral but not all analytical.



    High-res Files

    I would like to take this opportunity to specifically address this matter and I am happy for any feedback from anyone who reads this.

    High-res Files have become more and more common and there is obviously a lot of money involved. But does anything above 16bit/44kHz actually sound audibly better?

    I have been asking myself that question for quite a while now. Pretty much all my audio equipment is able to reproduce high-res audio. My main audio system has cost me a fortune. I have bought several albums in high-res quality formats. But somehow, I cannot hear any notable difference between the same piece in CD quality and (ultra)high-res. I even have a special test-album where every song exists in a variety of quality-steps up to the highest possible format.

    You may now say that my hearing is just bad, but I can assure you that it is excellent. At least I can tell the difference between an MP3 file and an uncompressed/lossless one.

    I strongly believe that the recording/mastering of a musical piece defines the quality in the first place and not the ultimate resolution.

    The best recordings I possess are from “Stockfish Recordings”. They all are only in CD quality and still way better than any of my (ultra)high-res recordings! As long as you are human and not a bat, I doubt that anyone could hear a notable difference in a blind test.

    However, the MK II is equipped with an ESS 9028pro DAC and therfore capable of playing even the most demanding high-res formats.


    Comparison with X7

    IMG_8626.jpg

    While the old X7 sounds quite sonorous and “full”, the X7 MK II has a similar and yet different tonality. It appears to be a bit leaner first, but at the same time presenting a lot more resolution throughout the whole spectrum.

    Highs have added “sparkle”, mids are more clearly separated and lows are tight but at the same time going down deeper with a nice sub-bass roll-off.

    The instrument separation is excellent and a lot better than with the original X7. I can hear subtle details that I cannot with the old model which was already very good.

    All in all, the sound of the MK II is more detailed and engaging than that of the old X7. You could also say it is more coherent.

    I cannot comment about all the streaming features and DAC functionality this device is capable of because I only and exclusively use it in Pure Music Mode.

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    IMG_8620.jpg

    Amplification

    I tested the MKII with 3 different headphone categories: IEM / on-ear / over ear. According to that order the demand for amplification is rising. Even though the AKG 701 (62 ohm) needed roughly twice the power of the Campfire Lyra IIs (17 ohm), the X7 MKII had no problem driving them. I can only assume that you won’t have any issues with most headphones and if so, there is still the option to install a more powerful amp-module form FIIO.


    Usability Hardware/Software

    Software

    With the update to Android 5.1 on the old X7, FIIO introduced a new bright-colored theme rather than a new or revamped UI. The new theme is the default theme on the MKII, but it is possible to switch to the old dark theme.

    What changed? Well, I did not realize any changes regarding navigational structure of the UI. As I wrote above, it’s mostly about new colors and icons. Personally, I prefer the old theme which, in my opinion, feels subtler, more refined and overall better fitting the looks of the players.

    (1) Navigation works pretty well aside some minor annoyances where I for instance don’t really know how to get back to the album I’m playing when I have navigated to the home menu. I do wish FIIO would have taken the time to really refine the UI so that “dead-ends” like that do not exist in the first place. Beside that the whole UI feels more responsive and fluent than on the old X7.

    (2) I realized, that when using 2 SD cards, the second one (32GB Sandisk Pro) isn’t always recognized properly by the player and sometimes the FIIO music app crashes while trying to detect new songs on the card. Formatting it did not improve the situation but I believe this is just a small software glitch that will be fixed by FIIO soon.

    Hardware

    (1) Button Placement

    Here lies the biggest culprit in my opinion and I’m not gonna lie – it’s almost a showstopper for me: The button placement. In contrast to the old model, all buttons on the MKII are placed on the left side of the player.

    IMG_8645.jpg

    As a right-handed person, am I really supposed to operate the volume wheel with my forefinger? And the other buttons with all the other fingers like I am playing a trumpet or flute or something?

    When grabbing the device with my right hand, it is near impossible for me to not accidentally hit the pause/play or forward/backward buttons. I am trying to actively learn a way to grab the device safely but this is causing some mayor annoyance. Why, FIIO? Maybe they only employ left-handed engineers and/or testers… Well, at least that’s good news for every left-handed person reading this review: This is the best sounding player you will ever find!

    (2) Volume Wheel

    Another little thing is that the volume wheel’s rasterization is somewhat “mushy”. I would prefer a more defined, “clickier” implementation if you know what I mean.

    IMG_8637.jpg

    (3) SD-card slots

    While it is definitely nice to have 2 SD-card slots in the MKII, I would have preferred the old solution without the tray/cover. Sure, there is no opening spoiling the appearance of the player like in the old one. Maybe FIIOs designers were also thinking about keeping possible dust out of the device, I can’t say.

    IMG_8608.jpg

    For me, it was just easier to simply pop out the card, put it in my laptop to copy new music onto it and put it back into the X7. Plus the transfer speed was substantially better than using the USB cable.

    Since I am a UX/UI designer myself as well as a heavy user of course, all those things really matter to me as they will probably matter to other users too.


    Bottom line

    If you are interested in ultimate sound quality like me, you can’t go wrong with the FIIO X7 MK II.

    Honestly, I cannot imagine a device for a similar or even twice the amount of money that would sound (substantially) better. Though I never heard the likes of Astell & Kerns TOTL players…

    You are looking for a mobile DAP with high end sound for a still reasonable price (and are left-handed)? Look no further.


    Sound quality (50%) 5/5

    Functionality (20%) 5/5

    Usability (20%) 3/5

    Accessories (10%) 4/5


    Overall 4.5

    images

    1. IMG_8634.jpg
    2. IMG_8637.jpg
    3. IMG_8645.jpg
    Brooko, csglinux, JaeYoon and 2 others like this.
  6. ExpatinJapan
    5.0/5,
    "A bearable lightness of being"
    Pros - Good UI, great clarity and detailing, neutral and transparent, swappable amps
    Cons - A little less depth, imaging, sound stage and inner details than higher range daps.
    FiiO X7 Mark 2 Review
    - Expatinjapan


    [​IMG]
    FiiO X7ii, Advanced AcousticWerkes W300U and a Double Helix Cable.


    FiiO X7 Mark 2 review
    -expatinjapan

    Visit the FiiO site for a full breakdown of all its features.
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/71
    An "Android based high resolution audio lossless playback portable music player".

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 or the X7ii is the latest Dap from FiiO, aiming to be an improvement on the earlier X7.

    Like many others I have a long history as a consumer of FiiO products from the first A5 amplifier to their cables.
    Read the (partial) FiiO history here https://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/06/fiios-foundations-brief-history-of-fiio.html.

    I tried many of their earlier daps the at Tokyo audio shows but the sound signature at the time was on the warm side and not to my taste, plus I was yoked to the Apple and external DAC/amp train by that point.
    Later Daps revealed a scroll wheel, but by then I was using ipod touch with its touch screen or a repurposed old iphone 4.

    Head pie eventually reviewed the FiiO M3 https://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/02/fiio-m3-portable-music-player.html when it came out around the same time as the initial X7.
    I was tempted to request a review unit of the X7 but thought I would go for the entry level item (M3) as that would appeal to many readers and it hadn't got as much attention.

    When the new series of touchscreen FiiO daps with a lighter, towards neutral sound signature to them started to be released it piqued my interest. FiiO later offered to send the FiiO X7 Mark 2 to Head pie for review. I was excited.

    Unboxing and build
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    A pin to release the slot for the Micro SD cards - Two slots, one pin.

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    An ad booklet for the dock and other various FiiO products, the X7ii wrapped safely

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    The leather case supported by a foam insert and a warranty
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    The back of the case, I love that red stitching

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    A screwdriver and extra screws for the amp. Very important


    [​IMG]

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    A USB charge and data transfer cable, a COAX cable
    and a side piece for X7 amplifier installation to retain a smooth outline.

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    Warranty and a quick start guide

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    The FiiO X7 in its plastic case alongside the leather case.
    A tempered glass protector screen is already installed at the factory.

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    The plastic case is very unobtrusive. I think FiiO did a really good job on it.
    Looking at the photos now I am tempted to swap out the leather case
    and slip the X7ii into its plastic sheath.

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    Single ended headphone jack and Balanced jack

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    Power button and Line out/Coax/ Optical out

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    Play/pause button, volume wheel and REV/FF.

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    Micro SD memory card slots. Easy peasy.

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    Nekkid FiiO X7 Mark 2

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    Hot slots. You can insert large size cards and maximize over the internal 64GB. Two slots, one dap.

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    The familiar pull down Android basic menu.
    The FiiO X7ii has a few different shortcuts on it than some other recent daps.

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    Power button and Line out/Coax/Optical out jack.

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    FiiO X7ii and Campfire Audio Nova.
    The Nova with its XXx signature pairs well with the X7ii and its neutral
    with a slight rise in the highs.

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    Looking gorgeous in the leather case, The Pixies 'Bossanova` playing through
    the Campfire Audio Vega with Symbio Mandarine tips.

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    Mazzy Star, nuff said!

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    FiiO X7ii and ATH-ESW11 Ltd Ed with book pron.

    Specifications
    Main Unit:
    Name / Model No. X7 Mark Ⅱ (FX5321) Operating System Deeply customized Android 5.1.1
    CPU Model RK3188 No. of cores 4
    CPU operating frequency 1.4GHz DAC ESS9028 PRO
    Keyboard Virtual QWERTY keyboard Input method Touchscreen
    Special features Dual Android / Pure Music operating modes, symmetrical remappable keys, USB DAC, docking connector, etc. User Interface Android 5.1.1 / FiiO Music
    Chips used SoC:RK3188, DAC:ESS9028 PRO, LPF: OPA1612x2, OP: Customized OPA926x2
    Connectivity:
    WIFI 5GHz/2.4GHz IEEE802.11 b/g/n standards supported Bluetooth Bluetooth V4.1,aptX supported
    USB Micro USB2.0

    Display screen:
    Display size 3.97 inches Number of colours 16.7 million colors
    Display type IPS TFT Viewable angle 178°
    Resolution 480×800 Pixel density 233 ppi
    Touchscreen Yes

    Storage:
    RAM 2GB Total ROM 64GB
    Storage expansion type Micro SD ROM available to user About 55GB
    Maximum storage expansion 512GB (256GB x 2)

    Buttons and ports:
    Buttons Side buttons + side volume wheel+ touchscreen Custom key mapping N/A
    Headphone out 3.5mm standard headphone output jack Balanced output Supported (2.5mm balanced headphone jack)
    Line out/Digital Coaxial out/Optical output Standard 3.5mm port (shared LO/Coaxial out) USB connection Micro USB2.0 (charging / data transfer / docking function / USB DAC)
    General:
    Color Titanium Dimensions about 128.7mm(H)×67.2mm(W)×15.5mm(D)
    Weight about 212g Volume control 120 steps +/- button control (via analog-domain controller
    Recommended headphone impedance 16~150 Ω (Headphone out)
    16~300 Ω (Balanced out) Equalizer 10-band EQ (±6dB), 9 presets+custom preset, ViPER Effect
    Bass boost N/A Treble boost N/A
    Balance control 10 dB Gain control Low/High
    USB DAC Up to 192kHz/24bit supported

    Power specifications:
    USB power adapter DC 12/1.5A, 9V/2A, 5V/2A recommended Battery Internal 3800 mAh High-voltage quick charging Li-polymer battery
    Charging indication via LCD display and pulse LED Charging time <100 min (DC 12V/1.5A)
    <2.5 h (DC 5V/2A)
    Battery indication Yes (accurate battery % readings)

    Battery Life & Test Conditions:
    3.5mm headphone output:>8 h
    Volume 62 Gain Low
    Load M3 open earbuds (27 Ω) Screen OFF
    Test File MP3 44.1kHz/16bit (Download link) EQ OFF
    2.5mm TRRS balanced headphone output:>7 h
    Volume 51 Gain Low
    Load 32Ω Screen OFF
    Test File MP3 44.1kHz/16bit (Download link) EQ OFF

    Others:
    Firmware Upgrade Supported both via zip file(inernal memory or external micro SD card) and OTA Font size Changeable
    Third-party apps support No limit (recommended to install the apps listed on FiiO Market)

    Line output specifications:
    THD+N <0.0008% (1 kHz/10kΩ) SNR ≥119 dB (A-weighted)
    Frequency response 5 Hz~70 kHz(-3dB) Dynamic range >114 dB
    Channel separation ≥103 dB (1 kHz) Line level >1.8Vrms
    Headphone out specifications (3.5mm headphone out jack):
    Output power 1 ≥200 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%) Output impedance <1.2Ω (32Ω loaded)
    Output power 2 ≥150 mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%) Channel separation ≥73 dB (1 kHz)
    Output power 3 ≥17 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%) THD+N <0.003% (1 kHz)
    Frequency response 6 Hz~60 kHz(-3dB) Peak output voltage >6 Vp-p
    SNR ≥116 dB (A-weighted) Max. output current >150mA (For reference)
    Balanced headphone out specifications (2.5mm TRRS headphone out jack):
    Output power 1 ≥380 mW(16Ω / THD+N<1%) Output impedance <1.7Ω (32Ω loaded)
    Output power 2 ≥400 mW(32Ω /THD+N<1%) Channel separation ≥97 dB (1 kHz)
    Output power 3 ≥63 mW(300Ω / THD+N<1%) THD+N <0.003% (1 kHz)
    Frequency response 6 Hz~60kHz(-3dB) Peak output voltage >10 Vp-p
    SNR ≥119 dB (A-weighted) Max. output current >150 mA (For reference)

    File format support:
    Lossless:
    DSD:DSD64/128(“.iso”,“.dsf”,“.dff”)
    DXD:352.8kHz
    APE FAST/High/Normal:384kHz/24bit(MAX)
    APE Extra High:192kHz/24bit(MAX)
    APE Insane:96kHz/24bit(MAX)
    Apple Lossless:384kHz/32bit(MAX)
    AIFF:384kHz/32bit(MAX)
    FLAC:384kHz/32bit(MAX)
    WAV:384kHz/64bit(MAX)
    WMA Lossless:96kHz/24bit(MAX)
    Lossy compression:
    MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG...

    [​IMG]

    FiiO AMP AM3A
    The FiiO X7 Mark2 comes with an updated and improved version of their early AM3 amp, the AM3A.
    Thankfully and wisely the original X7 series of amplifiers are compatible with the X7 Mark 2 so one has more choice as to which amp to use. Taking into consideration, balanced vs single, less or more power, warmth vs neutrality.
    I find the AM3A amplifier to have sufficient power for IEMs certainly, and other in ears, portable headphones and have read reports of satisfied users with more power hungry headphones.

    Is it the Dap or the Amp module that is being reviewed? Thats the difficult part for me. I have only one amp unit and none other to compare with. No doubt users or reviewers of the X7 original will be able to answer those queries.
    I find the sound from the X7 mark2 and the AM3A to be on the neutral but not reference side of things, it seems to veer upwards a slight bit towards the high end.

    Update: After the most recent firmware release of late September 2017 I have found the sound to be evened out, and more body to the music and a sense of underlying power to it all.

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    I`ve always been a fan of the AD8620 amplifier.

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    Price
    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 is $649.00 on Amazon.com

    Which as an average price (as prices of daps vary country to country) is quite a decent one in todays market for one as many options and features as the X7 Mark 2 possesses.

    As always check whether the vendor is a officially supported retailer.

    [​IMG]
    FiiO X7ii, Jomo 6R and VE Monks.

    Sound
    I gave as per usual a period of grace to let the FiiO X7ii settle in, to please the adherents and supplicants on the altar of burn in and in the process soothe the heathen non believers because they don't adhere to that particular philosophy as they'd be satisfied from day one. Once again everyone is happy. Don't mind.
    A variety of headphones and earphones, places and situations were used during the review process.

    [​IMG]
    fiiO X7ii, Jomo 6R and a Double Helix Cable.

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 is a detour away from much earlier offerings from FiiO (with perhaps the exclusion of the X7) moving towards a more neutral sound signature.
    The first firmware went a bit too far to the right on its first excursion and had a wee too much extension in the highs which left the lows a bit thin and with out much body and thickness in the mids.

    Update: After the most recent firmware release of late September 2017 I have found the sound to be evened out, and more body to the music and a sense of underlying power to it all.

    [​IMG]
    Testing against some of the recent big boy daps. Opus#2 and DX200.

    I found the FiiO X7 Mark 2 to be a closer relation to the Opus#3 in terms of sound than other daps I have lying about.

    Whilst I did the comparisons with other daps I SPL volume matched and had a headphone switcher and various earphones/iems at hand etc.

    The Opus#3 although possessing a quite different (BurrBrown) dac it had a similar trasparency, commitment to detail and separation.
    For both have great central vocals, sound stage certainly doesnt disappoint and ui and overall music response is fast.

    The slightly higher priced Opus#2 and DX200 surpass it in more micro detailing, layering, timbre and a larger and defined sound stage.
    But that is to be expected and the jump between them can be quite noticeable to the trained ear, it is also incremental to an extent and takes nothing away from the FiiO X7 Mark 2 decent performance.


    [​IMG]

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 falls within its asking price of around US $649.00 quite well.
    It is by no means a cheap dap in build or performance. FiiO has a long history of making decent audio products at a decent price, so dont get misled by the price.

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 is a dap that has first of all a noticeable transparent, neutral clarity to it. There is a freshness to the music, with an exquisite separation between the instruments.
    There seems a lightness to the music, a bounce which encourages enjoyment and not an over analytical ear. Nor are any shortcomings hidden by a smooth warm dac or sound signature, more it is tuned in such a way that one can easily sit back and merely enjoy it.

    It is neutral yet also has a dynamic sound, once again clarity, separation and detail being the most noticeable features.

    [​IMG]
    FiiO X7ii and Shozy Hibiki

    Wifi reach
    I have snazzy slippery fast 1GB high speedy Gonzales Japan internets. So results may vary elsewhere.
    I gave it the old youtube test (the router is on my houses second floor) I started the furtherest away on the ground floor at the opposite end of my house and found it smooth with no connection problems.

    Also outdoors it stretched as far as my ipod touch with no problems, the Buffalo routers extreme reach seeming to be the only barrier.
    I havent really listened to youtube music on a dap before and it was pleasant and pleasing.

    [​IMG]

    Overall
    I was pleased to hear the new FiiO X7 Mark 2. I thought it was a vast improvement sonically on earlier models I had listened to.

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 is a gorgeous looking dap when fully unclothed of its leather case, although it also looks stylish in it too. No doubt some may prefer the clear case. Audio pervs. Although it does have that Bladerunner macintosh jacket look to it. Supaa kewl.

    I would prefer to leave it without the case, as I would also like to with other daps I have at hand - but protection against bumping and accidental drops are paramount. So I keep it on (leather case).

    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 fits nicely within the palm of ones hand, the weight is similar to other daps of this size. It feels solid in its build.

    The RK3188 CPU and 2GB RAM, as compared to the X7 1 GB certainly shows in the speed of the UI and experience of the daps touchscreen. Very fast and fluid.

    The DAC ESS9028 PRO certainly is an improvement over the ES9018S Dac of the X7 and is also a DAC chip that many other dap makers of late seem to be turning to and using also. It certainly takes care of any of the past Sabre glare issues.
    Definitely more detailing, resolution and depth.

    Dac functionality isn`t completely functional as of this writing, although some users on Head-fi have found a safe work around.

    I was in two minds about its sound as I routinely switched from Opus#2, Alien+, Opus#3 and the DX200 during the listening portion of the review process. Some days I would carry 3 daps and 6 earphones with me on my daily commute just so I confirm what I thought I was hearing as I was in the depths of a three way dap review. Those being the Opus#2, Alien+ and the FiiO X7 Mark 2, each being stellar in it own realm but each bringing a little something different to the table.

    I found the FiiO X7 Mark 2 on its earlier Firmwares to be fairly neutral, transparent, detailed and with decent separation, but with a slight twinge in the upper reaches. Maybe a result of DAC choice, firmware or going to the other extreme from the earlier FiiO warmish in house signature sound.
    later when I updated to the more recent Firmware of late September 2017 I noticed the highs had been tamed somewhat, or the over all body had been bought up to match. It definitely seemed to have the appearance of more power after the update, before it sounded a little bit thin and lacked a certain beefiness.

    The X7 Mark 2 is generally neutral, linear and seems to handle the highs well. It departs from the earlier darker sound of earlier FiiO daps perhaps partly in a change of Dacs from AK to ES/ESS and by way of intentional design.

    Resolution and separation are great, but not excellent in comparison to daps at a higher price point. Though this is to expected. Although it does pack plenty of detail and dynamic range it offers an enjoyable musical experience whilst staying true to the recording.


    The FiiO X7 Mark 2 is a stylishly designed dap with clean modern lines. Choosing the naked, clear case or leather bondage look give one aesthetic options.

    The sound certainly is high quality and complements a large range of tastes and earphones.

    It doesnt have a total black background and exhibits a slight faint hiss noticeable with sensitive iems from the balanced port which disappears as the music starts.

    The choice avaliable of amp units for power or sound signatures makes it versatile and more customizable to suit the users personal needs and preferences.

    Although not able to punch it out with some of the other bigger daps on the market it holds its place well. It is a dap I can easily take out and listen to for a day without disappointment or fear of missing out.
    FiiO X7 Mark2 is one of the recent jewels of the many starred Dap releases of 2017.

    I remember the earlier Hi-Res dap releases of various companies and stayed until recently on the apple plus external dac train.
    Many of these companies Daps seem to have reached a stage of beauty and near perfection in the last two years.

    FiiO with their release of the X7 Mark 2 certainly stands with the best of them. It is a mature dap for a matured market which seems to be finally coming of age.
    A top dap in the upper middle segment of the market.

    The bearable lightness of being a neutral, well balanced dap, with enough space, detail and clarity to please, and enough body to match.

    [​IMG]


    Thank you to FiiO for sending the FiiO X7 Mark 2 to Head pie for review.
  7. hansonsc56
    5.0/5,
    "If you love music, this is the one"
    Pros - The sound. Separation, clarity, depth. New Control button layout. 2 MicroSD slots. and the Sound. Did I mention the sound?
    Cons - Sorting of album titles beginning with the word "the".
    Here’s my review of the FIIO X7 Mark II.

    My background:

    I’m a 62 year old who listens and plays music all of the time. I’ve played guitar for over 40 years, as well as years on bass and some drums. I play in a church group as the bass player and lead guitar (when called for). A few years ago I filled in for the drummer for a year. My wife plays piano and we have a Steinway grand in the house. I am an avid collector of guitars (acoustics, electrics and bass). I also bought a lot of ride cymbals looking for that perfect tone (for me, it’s the ride in Brubeck’s “Take Five”). For snares I wanted the Steely Dan “Black Cow” sound.

    The point of this is that I am very familiar with how instruments sound when you play them. In terms of audio equipment, my goal has always been: “If they recorded it, I want to hear it”. So, I am always listening to hear TONE. Whether it is a Goodall Guitar (Doug Smith on “Alone at Last”, a Fender tweed (a lot of people), the sound of really good set of Hi-hats clicking, etc., I wanted to hear it like I was in the room.

    As having a family limited my listening to my stereo (SONY ES series through KEF 104/2 Reference), I moved to headphones. When the Ipod came out I downloaded my CD collection to the computer and Ipod. I loved the portability and accepted the sound. I invested in some better IEM’s (some old Sony’s, Monster Cables Miles Davis Trumpets, and others). Then I read an article on CNET about Neil Young’s PONO player. Lossless tracks seemed the way to go. The article noted that while the PONO wasn’t available yet, this small Chinese company, FIIO had some great products at very reasonable prices.

    I first bought the X5 version 1. Started converting my CD collection to FLAC files using Exact Audio Copy. It was like taking cotton out of my ears. I subsequently added a FIIO Montblanc amplifier and the sound was even better. My biggest frustration with the X5 was that the interface was not as easy to navigate as the Ipod’s. When the X7 with Android came out, I jumped on it (I am an Android guy not IOS).

    When the new X7 Mark II came out, is signed up for the review tour. Which brings us to why you are hopefully still reading this. My review will be mostly about the sound. Other reviewers have done the unboxing thing, frequency graph’s, specs, etc., so if you want that info go read those reviews.

    My process.

    I decided to do a blind comparison with my X7. I had a duplicate Micro SD card that I put in the MKII. For the test, I only used FLAC files that I had made from CD’s. The lineup included:

    Steely Dan, Aja, “Peg”

    Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees, “Lido Shuffle”

    Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, “Time”

    Dave Brubeck, Time Out, “Take Five”

    Bob Marley, Legend, “Jammin”

    Paul Simon, Graceland, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”

    Jeff Hamilton Trio, Red Sparkle, “Red Sparkle”

    We would cue up the song in both devices and my son would insert the headphones (Grado 325’s) into one of the DAP’s play a minute of the song and then switch to the other devices. I could not see which one he was playing. We matched the volume on both devices (the MKII AM3 probably had an advantage over the X7 AM1, but I was comparing the “stock” models). I would tell him which one I liked better.

    The pieces I chose were selected because of their production, complexity, and that I really liked them. Right from the start it was clear that one device was better than the other. It was the Mark II. I don’t use (or in some cases understand) the language of some reviewers. I don’t understand what “effortless” means. So I will use my own standard/language. I do understand what soundstage separation refers to and I do see that as a required factor.

    The differences were at times astounding, on “Peg” I was finally able to hear Michael McDonald’s multiple harmony parts, which in the past sounded like one voice. On many records, I could hear the ride cymbal’s wash like I had hit it myself. When playing an instrument, you hear the instrument “in it’s space”. There are overtones, harmonics, finger sound’s on strings, resonances, etc. the difference between a snare with a piece of gaffer’s tape stuck to it or not. A tube amp like a great fender tweed has an aura of tone. With the Mark II these were all there much clearer than on my beloved X7. The instruments were all amazingly clear. On some tracks, I was able to hear separate instrument parts that had always sounded like one part (listen to Springsteen’s “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”) On Peter Gabirel’s “In your Eyes”, the very subtle talking drum part in the left channel was extremely clear and realistic. Snarky Puppy’s “Lingus” sounded like I was in the room.

    Drum sounds were like I was sitting on my throne. Bass sounds were “right there”.

    So, I had a clear favorite in the race. I decided to enlist my son and wife (also musicians) to have them do a little blind testing. Both of them found the Mark II to be better than the Mark I. For my wife, I cued up Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart/Hogwood version). It clearly was better on the Mark II.

    During my review period, Tom Petty passed away, so I listened to his music this week…a lot. His great music was blessed with great production which really came through on the Mark II.

    I used a variety of headphones and IEM’s for my various listening. Most of the times I used my Grado 325’s. For the IEMS, I mostly used my KEF M200s, which I use when I really want to hear the bass player. Also used FIIO EX-1’s and Etymotic ER-4’s. Towards the end of the review, I started using my KEF M500’s. KEF is a gear British Speaker company, and I have loved my aforementioned 102/4’s. The M500’s emerged as my favorite way to listen to the Mark II’s.

    Pet Peeve: I wish that the file sorting would be truly alphabetic. I finally figured out that albums are sorted by title and artist. In the section of albums beginning with “The”, this can be tricky. CD 1’s and 2’s are sometimes separate and hard to find. Not knowing the artist subsort, I spent a lot of time searching through the “The’s”.

    I also really liked the new volume wheel. It was easier to use than the screen swipe option. The power button on top was also much better. The two Micro SD card drives are a big plus, particularly as my one 256GB card is almost full. The soft clear case is better than the hard one that came with the X7.

    Without being too technical, the Mark II amplifier section is a big advancement over the X7. All I have to do now is convince Santa that I have been a very good boy and should get one of these under the tree on Christmas
  8. emptymt
    5.0/5,
    "Fiio X7 II: An Impressive DAP"
    Pros - Balance and clear sounding, smooth, detailed, 2 microSDs, accessories, flexible output selection, price, durable.
    Cons - Software Bugs, runs warm, the finish can still be improved, ok only battery life, big bezel on the screen.
    Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Fiio for making this awesome DAP at an affordable price and rich features, and also to @Fiio for organizing the tour.

    This review will focus on the sound quality and not so much about other aspects, so I'll make the other sections as brief as possible.

    INTRODUCTION

    I'm an Indonesian working as a Web/PHP Developer in Melbourne, Australia.

    Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.

    When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM, etc at the moment, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet

    Starting from almost 2 years ago I've been really hooked in metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead but I don't know about that, I also listen to other genres occasionally.


    I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
    - Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, everyday anytime anywhere)
    - Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Radiohead or something like it)
    - Pop (90s stuff, rarely)
    - EDM (Mostly trance and it's sub-genres)
    - Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
    - Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop or rock, guitar is used all the time, sounds natural and relaxing, however, mastering of the song is not very good, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
    - KPOP
    - JPOP and JROCK/Visual Kei, whatever you call it (mostly the older stuff)

    I used the Fiio X7 II for about 2 weeks not including transit times, everyday at work and at home on weekend, I will also make some comparisons to my other gears that i have.
    I only use the unit in SE mode as I don't have a connector with 2.5mm balance to be used together with the fiio for my headphones.

    EQUIPMENT USED FOR REVIEW/COMPARISON WITH THE DAP
    - Shozy Stardust
    - Meze 99 Classic
    - Sony MDR Z1R
    - Focal Utopia
    - Chord Mojo
    - Cavalli Liquid Carbon (X7 II as DAC)

    PACKAGING

    the box is black with black cover with the picture of the player itself, opening the box you are greated with the player nicely guarded with thick foam at the top and the accessories at the bottom.
    20170924_163501.jpg 20170924_163510.jpg

    ACCESSORIES
    Silicone case
    Leather case
    USB cable
    Coaxial cable
    MicroSd pin
    Screwdriver for the amp unit
    Spare sideguard for the amp unit
    Pamphlets and documentation

    The Fiio X7 II
    20170924_163047.jpg

    The Build Quality is very nice, and also clean, nice colouring for the unit with sturdy construction, unfortunately the X7 II will only be available in silver colour unlike it's little sibling.
    This is due to the amp module being silver in colour, so having different colour on the player will not match aesthetically.
    20170924_163100.jpg
    It is a little thick, but not overly so and still comfortable on my side pocket.
    Nice screen with good brightness to be used outdoor very easily.
    All the button are nice and tactile although some accidental click has happened while in my pocket
    Some minus point include some mismatch in color at the back of the unit where there is a grayish pannel, possibly for better bluetooth reception.
    There is no option to turn off the blue lighting.

    At the top of the unit there is the power button and combo Line/Coax/Opt out.
    20170924_171400.jpg

    At the bottom of the player you got some socket to connect to the amp unit and at the bottom of the amp unit(AM3) is the micro USB port for charging and data transfer duties, I'm a little disappointed that Fiio does not use USB C here, hopefully this will be rectified for future release.
    Other than that you will find 3.5 SE jack and 2.5 balance jack.
    20170924_171430.jpg

    On the right, You will find 2 Micro Sd slots which is super nice and is probably one of the best features of the unit.
    20170924_171423.jpg

    On the left is the play/pause button and also next and previous button, and also the volume wheel that has a satisfying click when you operate it.
    20170924_171414.jpg

    The player itself is very responsive to touch, just like the X5 III, it is snappy enough, although some lag is still there and is subject for improvement in the next iteration.

    UI & FEATURES

    At the home screen, you will find your usual android interface here, you can find menus and apps such as clocks, gallery, internet, etc and some Fiio specific apps such as the Fiio Market and Fiio Music Player itself.
    20170924_171437.jpg 20170924_171445.jpg 20170924_171710.jpg

    There are 5 Navigation modes available:
    - Folder
    - Artist
    - Songs
    - Genre
    - Playlist

    For other navigation except folder, you need to scan your library first for it to work.
    I'm a big fan of Folder navigation since I like to group all my musics in folders based on my preference, I normally listen to music album by album, so It is very good that Fiio has included this feature in my opinion.

    You can then access you on-board memory or to your sdcards(2) to play your music, for some reason the second slot takes longer to load, so put all your favorite music in the first slot as it is always ready.
    20170924_171823.jpg

    You can also change the setting in the device, such as wifi, bluetooth, brightness, etc.
    On the audio side, you can adjust gain and balance, filter mode, output mode, etc. This is also accessible in the music player itself.
    20170924_171728.jpg 20170924_171941.jpg 20170924_171932.jpg 20170924_171854.jpg
    20170924_171453.jpg 20170924_171500.jpg 20170924_171851.jpg

    Other than the standard stuff, Fiio has also supplied the unit with Viper Effect, although i didn't use it.
    20170924_171947.jpg 20170924_172001.jpg

    The Output mode is smart, the moment you plug in your cable to the combo jack, it will know what connection is being used, although I only use it in line-out to my LC.

    Battery Life
    In my opinion the battery life is one of the sacrifice of using desktop class DAC in a portable solution, I found the battery life to be ok at best, although it is not the worse thing ever since it supports quick charge, but in the events where you forgot to charge over night, it may be abit hard to have music ready for the rest of that day until you find a charging socket.

    Some bugs/querks/annoyance of the unit
    I found some bugs trough my use of over 2 weeks, here they are:
    1. The screen sometime freeze while you're swiping around in the folder mode while the music is playing, it will be stuck like that for like 5-7 seconds that it will work again.
    2. the play/pause button sometimes does not work properly when pausing, instead it replays the current song.
    3. There was 1 time where the music stops half way and then skip to the next track.
    4. There was 1 time where the music app auto quit/crash while playing music.
    5. the blue light can't be turn off
    6. the unit runs really warm sometimes, it can get a little uncomfortable in your pocket.

    Sound Quality

    The Signatures
    The Fiio X7 II is neutral, I would say with just a slight touch of warm to the low frequencies, very slight though, chord mojo is quite a bit warmer than this, but people say that it is only slightly on the warm side, so I hope you get the picture here.

    The Bass
    The Bass has a very slight emphasis to it in my opinion, but I like it, the drums is still tight and has excellent body, it never ever sounds thin, however you can definitely hear the texture of every hits, it is detailed but does not sound too clinical and instead it has the fun factor, the musicality is there and combines very well with all the capabilities of detail extraction that goes deep, to top it off the resolving ability of the Dap is top notch too, in avery fast blastbeats drum hits, it sounds distinct and fast and it has never sound like the notes are diffuse together, this is bass done right, Fiio has always impart some warm to it's product, but the tuning this time is the best implementation so far from all their products I have heard.

    The Mids
    The mids is detailed, resolving and articulate sounding, it has just the right combination of body in it's tone, not too think and not too thin, therefore it is very easy to make out what the lyrics is in a song, as the syllables are very clear sounding.
    In Metal music, Shriek, Scream and Growl vocal technic is a norm, it's often hard to understand what's being said, and for this type of vocals the X7 II shines, the articulation is in effects here, it is easier to hear the lyrics and also the bites, raspiness, and coarseness of the vocals is full on, you can hear the crackle of the vocalist really clearly without sounding sharp, even some Black metal track that I tried that I know has some sharp shrieking to it sounds more bearable in this, very good performance here.
    For femail vocals, it is very sweet, again as a Metalhead i use one of my metal collection to test this out, This time Lisa Johanson from Draconian, She just sounds so smooth and sweet, the timbre is emotional in a sad song, it makes me feel a little sad sometimes, but it's very enjoyable to me as it makes me feel something.
    Another case for clean vocals, this for Male is Steven Wilson, In "Drive home" track, he sounds so emotional but relax at the same time, it makes me feel good and relaxed too and just enjoy the music, until the emotional guitar solo in the middle of the track presents the climax of sorrowful and anguish emotion that sounds like the guitar is crying, suddenly the relaxedness is change to something else entirely, and this is a good thing.
    The guitars is another part where the X7 II shines, the bites of the electric guitars is strong and full, you can hear the sound change from the time the player picks the string until it fades away, the notes lingers well and the decay is there and present, it's really easy to spot the deacy amidst of what is happening in the tracks.

    The Treble
    The treble is smooth and sparkly, detailed and generally, the least forward frequency in the sound presentation, it is not rolled off or toned down at all, the bass and mids is just more prominent and more forward.
    The tizz in cymbal hits is smooth and has nice decay, it lingers and fades very naturally and there is no sharpness to it.
    The DAC in use is Es9028PRO which is a Sabre DAC, Sabre DAC has some specific characteristics to it that can sound glare-ry at times, however I have not heard one here, it just sounds natural and energetic, exist when called open and execute superbly.
    I found the treble to be Dynamic in it's presentation, generally it is not as forward as the bass and mids, however often time in the climax of the song where it employs the cymbals a lot, i found it to step forward to balance out the other frequencies, this is very enjoyable and helps maintain the atmosphere of the tracks, when it's calm and solemn it does not offend, when it's lively it's energetic and full of energy.

    The Soundstage, Imaging and separations
    The soundstage presentation is good, the airiness combined with black background gives it a spacious feeling as if there are some empty space between each instruments, i found it to have similar width, depth and height, so it's quite spherical and is not the wide x-axis type, which is my preference.

    Pairing

    Shozy Stardust earbud
    20170924_165108.jpg

    The stardust has an excellent synergy with the X7 II, the bass hits are tight and the mids are detailed and musical, treble is smooth and sweet and not fatigueing.
    Soundstage is good and airy, the treble dynamic certainly helps the Shozy abit here as it is a little rolled off.

    Meze 99 Classics
    20170924_165155.jpg
    This is an excellent pairing, the 99 classic is a bassy headphone, theoretically a neutral source with heaps of details will be an excellent pairing, which is the case here. The Meze is warm and sweet but can sound a little muddy on the vocals for some tracks, the Clarity and articulation of The X7 II helps a lot here, I found the vocal more resolving and more articulate, while the bass controlled, the treble sttill retains the original signature of the headphone a slight roll off at the top fo fatigue free listening.
    The meze can be modded to support balance connection fairly easily, this will be interesting to try.
    For people that does not like IEM, this will be a good option.

    Sony MDR-Z1R
    20170924_170835.jpg

    The Z1R is not a hard headphone to drive The X7 II has enough power to drive it fully without external amplification, I found the Z1R retains much of it's qualities and signatures without moch change. What can be noticed though is the detail and articulation prowess of the source feeding it, The bass has it's signature boost down low while being controlled, Mids still has good body, sweet and relaxed laid back feeling.
    Overall the X7 II drives the Z1R excellently.

    Focal Utopia
    20170924_170959.jpg

    Another High-End headphone that is not hard to drive, just like the Z1R, I found the Focal Utopia to be fully driven from the X7 II, Soundstage is intimate but spherical, Vocal is clear, articulate and is vivid and is extremely detailed, Bass is controlled and tight with very fast speed, Treble is detailed, smooth and just want to please, there is no harshness and sibilant, everything is there and I found this pairing to be an excellent one.

    AS DAC
    Cavalli Liquid Carbon (X7 II -> LC) vs (Mojo -> LC)
    20170924_164750.jpg 20170924_164808.jpg

    As DAC, The X7 II is more of a neutral source, with very minimal coloration to it and relies on it's technical capabilities to resolve the music, compared to the mojo->Lc combo, the mojo combo sounds thicker and warmer, more body down low, while the X7 II is thinner and less body, and more focused on exposing the details compared to the full on pleasing nature + detail of the mojo->LC combo.
    I actually think that the X7 II -> LC combo is more to my liking, as the LC itself is already warm, and the mojo -> is even more warm which can be bad sometimes.

    Comparisons

    Chord Mojo
    20170924_164759.jpg

    Other than the Ibasso DX200, the mojo is the other main competitor to the X7 II in my opinion, They are price close to each other, but one is a DAP with DAP's flexibility while the other is a DAC that has a lot of power and can therefore drive more powerful headphone than what the X7 II can.

    The question is, which is more important for you? Flexibility or more power?
    And then you have to ask, what kind of tonality works for you, do you like warm presentation?
    If you have no exact preference to the questions above than it is down to the performance and technicalities.
    I'm probably the first person that says this, I think The X7 II is really, really close to the mojo, I'm not even sure, but to my ears the amount of details is about equal in my opinion, and in some situation probably exceed the mojo.
    I don't find myself missing anything with The X7 II, everything in my music that I heard in my mojo is there too with the X7 II, there are some difference though.

    To try to illustrate the difference, in my opinion The mojo in general is warmer and can be said to sound more analogue compared to the X7 II which is a little more digital if compared side by side, but that warmness in the mojo presents details in a different way than the X7 II, the X7 II presents it as it is there and the detail is trying to appeal to you, like saying "Hey!, I'm here, look at me!" and it feels more noticable, while with the mojo, the detail is there, but you can miss it while your listening to it due to its warm enjoyment, more like saying "Hey! I'm here too if you need me", now if you are a detail person you would want to hear everything, in this case than the X7 II is for you, if you just want to enjoy music without being bothered by it then you go for the mojo.

    But then, there is a value proposition to it, in order for the mojo to play music, you either need a PC or phone, so it's not as flexible, and even then you need cable to connect them together, but you may say "ah, wait there is the Poly!", yes, with the poly your mojo is on another level now, it will have a better interface than the X7 II as you are using a phone, you also has more power on tap, virtually capable to drive any headphone there is except the HE-6 and big planars, but then, it will be even more expensive and is in a nother ballpark comparing to the X7 II's price, so in my opinion, The X7 II presents better value while being flexible and has similar if not better performance/general usability result depending on your preference.

    Summary
    For the price of the DAP, it is a complete deal for me, it sounds great, good portability, ok battery with quick charge, 2 micro sd's, durable build, and great value for money.
    I would really recommend this DAP for anyone looking to purchase Hi-Res portable DAP or DAC/AMP combo.
  9. csglinux
    5.0/5,
    "A lot to love; not much to dislike"
    Pros - Improved DAC, faster WiFi, double the storage capacity, hardware volume wheel, compatibility with X7 amp modules, optical output, FiiO music app, TPU case and screen protector pre-installed
    Cons - A few minor software bugs
    The latest X7 Mark II from FiiO represents a step-up from the (already great) X7 in almost every regard. I would like to sincerely thank FiiO for allowing me to be part of the North American tour group. The loaned unit I received was returned at the end of my allotted time with the device, so my review was not in any way influenced by FiiO.

    Please note that to save me from carpal-tunnel syndrome I'm going to refer to the X7 Mark II as the X7ii throughout most of the rest of this review. I'll also be referencing the original X7, X5iii (third generation X5), X3ii (second generation X3) and X1ii (second generation X1).

    What's in the box?

    Briefly, here's what you get:

    box.jpg

    Out of the box, the X7ii comes already seated in a clear TPU case with a screen protector already applied. These are really nice touches. The TPU case is similar in design to that which came with the X5iii and, in my opinion, is a step-up from anything that was available previously for the first generation X7. An alternative black leather-effect case is also included in the box, but to me, this looks a little cheap; I much prefer the TPU case. (FiiO - any plans to sell these parts separately?) Aesthetically, FiiO has the X7ii just about right. I love the volume control on the side, and the fact that the power button, now placed on the top, isn't as easily pressed by mistake when you're reaching for controls on the other side of the device (play/pause and track forward/reverse). The screen is similar to that of the X7, but doesn't protrude out as far, giving a sleeker overall look. The X7ii is overall slightly shorter and thinner than the original X7, but amazingly, FiiO has designed the X7ii so that all the amplifier modules from the original X7 will fit and work perfectly with the X7ii. FiiO also include a small fillet of metal which sandwiches against the side of the amp to blend in with the ridged left-hand edge where the volume, play & track controls live.

    Wonderfully and amazingly, all functions on an Android cable remote now work properly! (play/pause, track forward/backward, volume up/down, including holding down to rapidly raise/lower volume). Thanks FiiO :)

    A big feature that many will appreciate is two microSD card slots, supporting up to 256 Gb each (and possibly higher, with the imminent release of SanDisk's new 400 Gb cards). These fit in little SIM-like trays on the right side of the device. These look sleek, but remember that you will now need a paperclip or tray-removal tool every time you want to swap out a microSD card.

    Amps

    The X7ii comes with a new AM3A amp with both single-ended (3.5 mm) and balanced (2.5 mm) outputs. Given that all existing X7 amp modules would work with the X7ii, it's perhaps a little strange that there is no option (as there was with the X7) to buy the unit alone, i.e., without an included amp module. I hope that option becomes available later. The AM3A amp sounds great. From what brief A/B tests I was able to do through the balanced output via hot-swapping with AM3 (from the original X7), I couldn't tell too much difference in sound, beyond the fact that the AM3A balanced output has a slightly higher noise floor than that of AM3 (both have very quiet noise floors via the single-ended output). I'm aware of headfonic's review where they claim the AM3A has a quieter noise floor for IEMs because of the reduced power, with respect to the original AM3 amp. I can only tell you that is not the case for the unit I got, at least when listening via my SE846. You do need to be prepared for a little bit of a bump in the noise floor with the AM3A amp - though it's not as bad as that of the (otherwise great-sounding) QP1R. The strange circuit noise I occasionally noted on the X5iii single-ended output is thankfully gone on the X7ii.

    Software

    It would be fair to say that FiiO's X7 came with some software bugs and glitches. The original X7 was their first Android player and the software was continuing to evolve at and beyond launch. As a result, there were some notable issues initially, such as a failure to scan large music libraries, strange characters in file names and a period of time where gapless playback wasn't available in the more stable Android 5 system. Since then, FiiO has launched the X5iii and now the X7ii which have all been able to lean heavily on these earlier software developments and improvements, to the point that the X7ii feels much more stable right out of the box. That's not to say it is completely free of issues though...

    Gapless playback isn't on by default, but needs to be turned on in the FiiO music app. It didn't work for me at first - there was a notable click between tracks, but this seems to have been fixed via a FW update to 1.0.0. At least, it's been working for me. (I'm aware that others are reporting the occasional click between tracks.)

    The FiiO music player app is just awesome - it's easily my favorite Android music player. I'm still desperately hoping FiiO will one day release some version of this on the Google Play store, because I'd love to have it on my phone. That's not to say it doesn't occasionally crash and force you to restart it, but for the most part the odd crash has been tolerable.

    Sound output via the FiiO music app takes a second to start on playback, or on scrubbing forwards/backwards in a track. Most of the time the pause is just silence, but sometimes you get a blast of high-pitched electronic noise. When scrubbing forwards/backwards in a track, that first second before playback starts at the designated track position is actually the tracking continuing at the last position when play left off (prior to scrubbing). In both cases, it's as if the X7ii is flushing its old playback buffer.

    The idle power-off timer doesn't currently work at all. If you go past the allotted time, the player doesn't power down until you go to power it up again by hitting the power button (not having realized it never powered off in the first place). This can make the (relatively slow) start up just that bit more painful. I disabled the idle power-off until (hopefully) this feature can get fixed via a future firmware.

    Fiber-optical Toslink output is a great new feature in the X7ii and it has worked perfectly for me, up to 96/24 PCM. Beyond that, rather than reporting it cannot output higher sample-rate PCM (or DSD), you just get weird garbled artifacts or digital noise from your external DAC/amp. (A graceful exit and error message would be preferable?)

    WiFi is much stronger than in the X7, with support for 5 GHz networks, which really makes a difference in transfer speed. Unlike the X7, the X7ii appears to have zero RFI or EMI noise and no interference from nearby cellular radios either - great job FiiO :) One small caveat - I was unable to get the X7ii to connect to my smartphone's mobile hotspot when using WPA2-PSK encryption. It works with no WiFi encryption, but that's probably not a smart idea these days. I reported this issue to FiiO and they've said they're looking into it. I have occasionally found it useful to run Tidal via my smartphone's internet connection when out and about, so I hope this can be resolved at some point.

    Digital-out via USB is something that was supposed to work, but is a giant crapshoot right now. It doesn't sound all that good anyway, but it also seems to get punctuated with interference, dropouts, and then it fairly reliably freezes the entire player. After one such episode it took me an entire day to get the X7ii to start charging again. I thought I'd broken it :frowning2: I eventually got it charging again, but have not tried USB digital output since. Digital output via coax works just fine:
    KSE1500.JPG

    BTW, the above setup sounds amazing, but takes quite a while to hook up. But even the quick, convenient, portable setup below sounds really, really good:

    x7ii.JPG

    Sound

    Here are a couple of frequency-response measurements I made comparing X7, X7ii and QP1R using SE846 and FLC 8S IEMs:

    DAPS_SE846.png
    DAPS_FLC8S.png

    The wild impedance swings with the SE846 always cause some surprises and you can see the FR is in both cases more dissimilar with the X7ii than either of the other two DAPs. I did most of my listening with the FLC 8S via the balanced output.

    Even though I was a big fan of the X7 with AM3, I always felt that its resolution and clarity didn't quite match that of my QP1R. With the X7ii, I no longer have that problem. Relative to the X7+AM3, the biggest change in sound I hear with the X7ii+AM3A is an increase in clarity. Sub-bass slam is perhaps still slightly less than that of the QP1R, but not to any meaningful level that I'd feel like I was missing something (like I was with the boring-sounding DX200). There is also a slight intonation issue I can hear with the new X7ii DAC, but it's something I only hear in the occasional bass note, it's not a deal-breaker and it's something I suspect most people would never pick up. In trying to track down the reason for the improved resolution with the X7ii, I swapped the amps over to run the AM3A from the X7 and the AM3 from the X7ii. The X7ii+AM3 still sounded notably cleaner. Hot-swapping the amps on a single device didn't yield any obvious changes in sound - both amps sounded pretty transparent. The amps are also fairly close in output levels, with the X7+AM3 needing volume level 39 to reach 85 dB on my FLC 8S with my white noise test track, and X7ii+AM3A needing volume level 42 to reach the same SPL. In conclusion, the ESS9028PRO DAC in the X7ii seems to be the most important and significant cause of the sound upgrade. I think X7 owners looking to see a significant improvement in sound quality by simply purchasing an AM3A amp are going to be disappointed.


    There are some interesting points you can note from FiiO's specifications:

    DAPs Compared by Spec:
    S/N

    THD+N

    Z-out
    FiiO X7ii+AM3A: 3.5 mm SE
    >=116 dB

    0.003% (into 32 Ohm @ 1kHz)

    < 1.2 Ohm
    FiiO X7ii+AM3A: 2.5 mm BAL
    >=119 dB

    0.003% (into 32 Ohm @ 1kHz)

    < 1.7 Ohm
    FiiO X5iii
    >=115 dB

    0.003% (into 32 Ohm @ 1kHz)

    < 1 Ohm
    DX200 2.5mm balanced output
    125 dB

    <0.0002% (into 64 Ohm @ 3Vrms)

    0.15 Ohm
    DX200 3.5mm single-ended output
    122 dB

    <0.00032% (into 32 Ohm @ 1.8Vrms)

    0.15 Ohm
    QP1R

    0.0006% (@ 1 kHz)

    <0.19 Ohm
    AK380 2.5mm balanced output
    117 dB

    0.0007% (@ 1 kHz)

    1 Ohm
    AK380 2.5mm single-ended output
    116 dB

    0.0008% (
    @ 1 kHz)

    2 Ohm
    FiiO X7+am1
    >=115 dB

    <0.0008%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <0.2 Ohm
    FiiO X7+am2
    >=118 dB

    <0.001%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <0.5 Ohm
    FiiO X7+am3 balanced output
    >=115 dB

    <0.0008%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <0.3 Ohm
    FiiO X7+am3 single-ended output
    >=115 dB

    <0.001%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <0.3 Ohm
    FiiO X5ii
    >=117 dB

    <0.001%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <0.3 Ohm
    FiiO X1ii
    >=113 dB

    <0.003%
    (into 32 Ohm
    @ 1 kHz)

    <1 Ohm


    Curiously, despite the apparent improvement in resolution from the DAC, relative to the X7+AM3, the X7ii+AM3A has a higher output impedance and higher THD+N. I understand some folks argue these metrics are totally unimportant (in which case, why give them?!) and I would agree we need better ways of assessing THD+N at more than just one sine-wave frequency and at more than one output level, but it feels like we're in an Escher painting where the water is forever flowing downhill... The measurements are the same (or worse) than those of last year's model, but trust us - it sounds better! I have to admit, the X7ii does sound better than the X7. It also sounds better than the DX200 that used the same ESS9208PRO DAC chip. But I wish we had a better way of measuring these changes so that we don't have to rely only on subjective impressions.

    Summary

    The FiiO X7ii is a fantastic product and great value for money. It competes with the best DAPs I've heard (at any price) and has a richer feature set than any other DAP I'm aware of.

    In the past, I've been critical of certain FiiO products. For example, I raked the X3ii over the coals for what I felt at the time was an expensive way to add very little (if any) sound-quality improvement over that of a good modern smartphone. Just when it seemed that all these devices (pagers, mp3 players, phones, GPS navigators, etc.) were converging into one device (i.e., the smartphone), Apple went and did something completely lame, dumping the headphone jack, forcing the use of Bluetooth and/or proprietary digital ports that require licensing - and giving up any pretense about caring more about audio than they do about money. Prior to this point, devices like the X3ii offered increased storage, a bit more power, but - to my ears - an unconvincing jump in sound quality - all of which required you to carry and charge another device. The X7ii leaves all these issues in the dust, with a meaningful boost in sound quality, a huge boost in storage capacity AND the ability to reliably stream (without interference noise) via third-party Android applications through a desktop-quality DAC. This is, in my opinion, exactly the right move from FiiO. However, given the surprisingly-good sound quality from the FiiO X1ii, this creates a rather awkward middle ground for the X3ii (or upcoming X3iii?) and now the X5iii as well. The X1ii is small enough that it could replace a phone when you're running or doing the yard work and don't want to haul around an enormous phablet (which most smartphones are becoming these days). The X7ii, at the other extreme, can afford to be bigger and bulkier because of the massive range of features, inputs/outputs and boost in resolution. I loved the X5iii's DAC, design and form factor, but was less impressed with its amplifier. The fact is the sound quality of the X1ii and X7ii are so good, I see little use for those in-between devices, i.e., the X3 and/or X5 DAPs.

    If you're considering an X7ii, I can strongly recommend pulling the trigger. If you can't afford an X7ii and are thinking about an X3(ii or iii) or X5iii instead, I strongly recommend saving up your pennies until you can afford an X7ii.

    For existing X7 owners (like me), this could be tough for your wallet. While the X7 does most of what the X7ii does, including the important parts (such as streaming via Tidal), the small differences add up. The one big new feature I can't easily forget after my time with the X7ii is the bump in sound quality as a result of the new DAC. Even though I've been very happy with my X7, I suspect I'm going to have to buy myself an X7ii at some point in the near future...
    HK_sends, Hawaiibadboy and St3ven like this.
  10. ryanjsoo
    5.0/5,
    "Fiio X7 Mark II Review – Believe/Defy"
    Pros - Balance, Transparency, More spacious soundstage, Zippy UI, Improved screen, Well positioned controls, Balanced output from factory, 5Ghz WiFi and Apt-x BT support
    Cons - Amp modules require an additional purchase, Battery life is on the shorter side, TRS output has limited power output,
    Introduction –

    I think a lot of buyers have a certain faith in Fiio as an audio manufacturer; we always have a basic security knowing that we’ll receive a well-performing device that offers pleasing value for money. However, with the X7, their former flagship audio player, Fiio really reached beyond the status quo, providing a true flagship experience at a premium but well-justified price point. And hot on its heels was the X5 III, an Android based sequel to the wildly popular X5 that arrived to a mixed critical reception. While I found the X5 III to be a nice device for Fiio’s asking price, it did fail to encapsulate the profound value of their past offerings.

    But I would argue that the X5 III was never intended for greatness, it was a midrange device designed with a budget in mind rather than peak performance so to speak. And that’s where the X7 II comes in; Fiio released the new X7 just a few weeks ago, presented as thoroughly redesigned inside and out while maintaining compatibility with accessories for previous devices. As a true flagship, designed to maximise performance without compromise, many were excited to see what the Chinese company could produce and whether the device could live up to the legacy of the original. With such fervent anticipation, can the X7 II recapture the glory of Fiio’s early flagship players? Let’s find out.



    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Sunny from Fiio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the X7 II for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the DAP free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.



    Accessories –

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    The X7 II is very nicely presented with a two tone box with bold, punchy renders and some specifications. Inside is a protective hard box that slides open to reveal the player with a tempered glass screen protector and transparent TPU case pre-installed. Underneath are some additional accessories similar to those included with the X5 III and appreciably improved over the setup included with the original X7.

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    The included TPU case is pretty nice, slim and clear to showcase the striking design of the X7 II underneath. I appreciate that the ports no long have flaps like the X5 III, it makes the player that much more convenient to use. Otherwise, the case is well moulded and buttons remain clicky and easy to discern when the device is pocketed. Fiio provides buyers with an additional faux leather case that features a more premium aesthetic and perhaps a little extra drop resistance.

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    The X7 II also comes with a 3.5mm to coaxial cable, micro usb cable, T5 screwdriver for swapping amp modules and a small metal plate that buyers can mate to an X7 amp module to keep the design looking congruent. There are also some basic instructions and warranty papers for peace of mind. Overall, Fiio provide a nice setup with the X7 II, the included TPU case is actually useable and the leather one is a nice bonus. The extra amp plate and tempered glass screen protector are also a really nice addition, I’m happy Fiio didn’t skimp on the accessories given the X7 II’s price.



    Design –

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    As mentioned in Fiio’s promotional material, the X7 II is a comfortable fusion between the X5 III and the original X7, sporting a very similar design to its predecessor with that angled ridging on the left-hand side. But that’s not to say that Fiio simply stuck that control bar onto the side of the original X7 and called it a day, while they may not be radically different, the X7 II has been considerably reformed and refined. And like these models, the X7 II has impeccable build quality with a full aluminium build, lustrous chamfered edges and super tight tolerances to every angle. The X7 II also maintains the modularity of the X7 with swappable amplifier modules and due to some smart engineering on Fiio’s behalf, the X7 II retains compatibility with the original amp modules designed for the X7.

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    The X7 II is a handsome device and very much an improvement over the X7 is almost every way. Starting with dimensions, the X7 II has been slimmed down by a millimetre so the screen lies flush with the front of the device, it’s subtle but makes the entire device look that much cleaner. The X7 II is slightly shorter but is a tad thicker on behalf of that angled side bar. Fiio has also updated the finish of the device, their new flagship sports a finer sand blasted finish that feels softer and more tactile in the hand. While the X7 II retains the plastic antenna window of the original, the back of the device is appreciably more uniform and refined as a result. And in culmination, these styling tweaks make the X7 II look considerably thinner and sleeker than the X7 even though their dimensions are mostly similar.

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    When it comes to machining and materials, the X7 II tells much the same story as before. Despite being slightly smaller, it is not a light or particularly compact device but one that has incredible rigidity and durability. From perfectly machined chamfers to that strikingly angular control bar on the left side, the X7 II is both bold and handsome. Furthermore, the device’s taller, smartphone-like dimensions conformed excellently to my smaller hands. But perhaps the biggest difference between the X7 II and the original X7 is its updated control scheme. The X7 II forgoes the symmetrical controls of the original in favour of a more separated layout that avoided any accidental presses in my testing, much improved over the X5 III and its more delineated controls are easier to operate than the X7 when in a pocket.

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    The right side is now completely dedicated to two micro sd card slots with integrated trays like the X5 III, an improvement over the single exposed slot of the original.

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    Meanwhile, the left side now houses a volume wheel instead of the rocker of the original with a track skip rocker just below and play/pause button just above. The wheel is similar to the X5 III, very nicely knurled and thoroughly premium, but it is still a bit insensitive for larger volume adjustments when in my pocket (though Fiio have a digital slider on the screen to speed this up).

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    The power button has also been relocated to the top right corner, it is larger and more distinct, no longer suffering from accidental presses in my pocket. I also noticed that the buttons are far clickier than before with greater travel, they feel far more tactile than those on the X5 III and original X7. The outputs have also been updated, at the top, the X7 II retains the line out/coax output of the original, however, at the bottom, users will notice that the X7 II now comes with a balanced output from factory in addition to a regular 3.5mm jack.

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    The X7 II also retains exactly the same modular interface as the X7 which maintains compatibility with the AM1-5 modules. Of note, the added ridge on the side is just a metal plate that slots into the main housing and screws onto the side of the module.

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    The X7 II does stick with a traditional micro-usb connector to maintain compatibility with DK1 and K5 though reversible micro-usb cables can be easily found online should you want that functionality.



    Usage –

    The X7 II marks Fiio’s third Android based DAP with a modified version of Android lollipop (5.1.1 at the time of review) running on the same RK3188 SOC as the original X7. However, Fiio have clearly learned from past mistake, the hardware has been revised and the software has matured over the years creating a considerably more refined experience. As such, the new X7 is instantly the fastest Fiio device and perhaps the fastest Android based DAP I’ve used, and the improvement is much larger than the mild spec bump would suggest. Namely, Fiio have upgraded the RAM from 1GB to 2GB however, the X7 II is so much faster than other Android DAPs, I’m sure Fiio have done some other tweaks, perhaps refining the governors and memory management to achieve better performance. Whatever the reason, the X7 II no longer experiences freezes like the X5 III and X7 and feels very snappy to use if not Google Pixel or HTC 10 fast. The DAP also comfortably multitasks and both browsing and music streaming are much faster and smoother to navigate yet alone a combination of the two that would seize up an X7 completely. The X7 II does still suffer from the occasional stutter and hiccup, but for vast majority of my month of testing, the X7 II provided a fluid and responsive experience without any prolonged freezes.

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    And beyond basic hardware, that smoother UI now looks a lot better too, the screen on the X7 II is hugely improved over the original and X5 III as well. While not dedicated for video, I still think a good screen is imperative for what is inherently a visual based operating system and luckily, the new screen pops with much higher saturation, deeper blacks and notably improved max brightness. As such, album art is more discernible on the device’s smaller 4” 800×480 display and legibility when under direct sunlight is completely adequate. Videos are also well serviced in a pinch and the X7 II has impressive vibrancy and immediacy to visual elements. In addition, the touch screen itself supports multi-touch and was just as responsive as a modern smartphone in my testing, there was no latency like the AK Jr or Hidizs AP100. Of note, the X7 II actually forgoes a few of the lesser known features of the X7, no longer is the device equipped with an accelerometer and ambient light sensor so the screen has to be manually rotated and adjusted. I didn’t find this to really affect my experience with the device too much but it is something to consider if you’re upgrading from the X7 and appreciate this functionality.

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    Users with large music libraries will be delighted to hear that RAM isn’t the only component that’s been upgraded, the X7 II now comes with double the internal storage featuring 64GB of NAND flash (55GB user available) and two micro sd card slots. While I would have liked a faster storage solution, the X7 II is just slightly speedier than the X5 III in write performance but identical in read, I didn’t find the internal storage to bottleneck the device in any way and those faster write speeds did aid large file transfers from my laptop. What hasn’t improved are the Micro SD card slots which are just as sluggish as before. The slot barely reaches above 10MB/s so it’s a waste to purchase a faster card for the X7 II since it won’t be able to take advantage of that extra speed. However, again, the X7 II had no issue navigating my 100GB ~8000 file music library of 320kbps MP3’s and Lossless files. Fiio’s music app scans the device storage every time a music file is copied over, building up a cache that speeds up navigation. While it take a second for album arts to load, general usage was slick and smooth.

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    And on the note of Fiio’s music app, the app has been slightly revised though that could be brought to Fiio’s older players via a software update. It is mainly a cosmetic update though some functionality has been added such as an extended menu on the now playing screen. Otherwise, the app operates almost identically, albeit smoother on that revised hardware, with the same swipe based interface and layout.

    [​IMG]
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    The new skin does look cleaner though and I think Fiio’s player is one of my favourites amongst other Android based DAPs, especially Chinese ones which tend to be a bit convoluted. One new feature that I did notice, was that the new music player now remembers the user’s last position in an album/song list where on previous devices it would reset back to the beginning. The app also stays open in the background so music doesn’t stop if you accidentally close the service in the multi-tasker.

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    Perhaps the biggest reason why Android is so appealing is its wide application support, especially with regards to music and video streaming. Again, Fiio have made nice progress with the X7 II by implementing 5GHz WiFi. If your router support it, the X7 II will provide noticeably faster download speeds and lower latency when streaming since the 5GHz WiFi spectrum offers vastly lower interference than 2.4GHz in addition to potentially higher throughput. Potential buyers will also be delighted to hear that the X7 II is much better shielded from EMI noise; where the original X7 had some buzzing and fizzling when WiFi was active or a phone placed beside it, the X7 II experiences no such issues. I did notice the occasional blip though they were very low in volume and very infrequent, I only detected trace noises from my most sensitive IEMs. That being said, Fiio sent out a firmware update while I was testing the device that seems to have addressed that issue. Firmware is easily upgraded from the technical support app though users can also receive updates over the air.

    [​IMG]
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    And plugging the DAP into a computer reveals the same USB DAC functionality as the other Fiio DAPs. The X7 II isn’t plug and play, I was required to download a driver from Fiio’s website, but if you currently have a Fiio DAP, the X7 II will run just fine on the pre-installed driver. USB DAC functionality was reliable in my testing, the device quickly connected to my laptop and audio was routed through with no complications or glitches.

    [​IMG]

    Battery life is actually reduced from the X7 and X5 III despite using a larger 3800mah battery. The X7 II is rated for around 8hrs of playback and 7hrs when running balanced. In normal use, primarily using the Fiio music app and Spotify, I was able to consistently achieve that 8hour figure though users could definitely exceed that by exclusively using Fiio’s app and disabling all wireless radios. The player also charges rapidly since it supports Qualcomm quick charge 2.0 like the X5 III, it did indeed top up a lot faster than the original X7 though a QC adapter is not included in the box. Apt-x Bluetooth also makes a return on the X7 II, unfortunately not 5.0 but that’s likely a limitation of the RK3188 chipset. The device paired quickly and maintained a reliable connection, range was also above average and latency when using an apt-x enabled headphone was minimal.


    Sound –

    The X7 II is Fiio’s flagship DAP and from basic perusal of its specifications, it seems very competitive with current devices and appreciably updated from previous generation players though real world testing will reveal whether Fiio’s implementation stacks up. At face value, the X7 II may seem comparable to cheaper devices such as the Oppo HA-2SE with it SABER 9028 DAC chip, however, the Fiio player implements the Pro variant as opposed to the Q2M; the X7 II is using the desktop chip, not the portable variant, translating to higher audio quality at the cost of a considerably higher power consumption. So while the Oppo HA-2SE sounded very similar to the 9018 based HA-2 to my ear, the X7 II provided a comfortable performance advantage over both my HA-2 and original X7. The X7 II also comes with a completely new amplifier module, the AM3A. Utilizing the AD8620 OPAMP, it is a slightly more engaging module than the old AM1 and AM2, the output power is also notably improved over the stock AM1 that came with the 1st generation X7, especially the balanced output which benefits from a 50% power increase over the TRS output. And this technical prowess underpins a delightfully natural sound that is markedly less “digital” than previous players, I think a lot of buyers who had issues with the X5 III will find the X7 II a large upgrade. You can see the full list of specifications and supported file types over at Fiio’s website here.



    Amp –

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    As with the original X7, the II utilizes a modular amplifier system that enables users to switch between various power outputs tailored towards various uses. However, the X7 II comes with a completely new module, the AM3A, that is markedly more versatile than the AM1 that came preinstalled on the original model, featuring increased power output, a more engaging tone and a balanced output. The AM3A is a very nice sounding module with plenty of power output for any portable earphone/headphone in addition to some easier to drive full-size headphones. It forgoes the very smooth, lush tone of the Muse based AM2 in favour of some added clarity and engagement. However, Fiio’s new amp module still does a fine job at keeping that Saber glare in control, the X7 II has a noticeably smoother upper mids/lower treble transition than the Oppo HA-2 which makes it the more refined source. This is also likely due to Fiio’s particular implementation of the 9028 DAC chip yet it’s still good to see that users can extract great performance from the stock setup since the X7 II is a flagship device. In terms of noise, the AM3A is a little noisier than the AM1 and AM2 which isn’t terrible since both of those are almost dead silent. With my Campfire Jupiter, probably one of the most hiss sensitive earphones out there, the AM3A produced a light hiss that was quickly masked when music was playing, even at lower volumes around 10 of 120 steps. By contrast, the AM1 and 2 are just barely audible. The AM3A also produces a notably wider soundstage than the AM2 which is only compounded upon by the superior DAC chip in the X7 II.



    DAC –

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    The 9028 Pro is a really excellent DAC chip that compounds on the strengths of the 9018 and in Fiio’s case, tones down that Saber glare in favour of a more neutral, linear sound. The X7 II is a very balanced source to my ear and an exceptionally transparent one that allowed the strengths of whatever earphone/headphone I was using to shine through. I’ll talk about the X7 II’s sound-staging first because the player really surprised me. Plugging in the Master & Dynamic MH40, and the X7 II offered notably improved space over the X7. Width is excellent, depth is very good and separation is among the best I’ve heard from a portable source. This is especially clear when listening to more complex tracks or slightly darker, more laid-back headphones like the MH40; where the MH40 can sound a little congested or distant with inferior sources, they simply sound spacious with the X7 II. The Fiio didn’t drive the M&D’s quite as well as the iFi Black though it was surprisingly close in terms of space, separation and imaging with a more linear tone to top it off.

    And speaking of tone, the X7 II is a very linear, neutral and transparent source, one of the most immediately balanced I’ve come across. However, it is also an engaging source and this response starts with their bass reproduction where I recruited the help of the ultra-dynamic Cardas A8. The X7 II delivered excellent extension into the lowest of lows, sub-bass was super tight and rumble was textured. Steely Dan’s “I Got The News” was snappy and visceral with drums linearly feeding into mid-bass riffs. The X7 II also delivers a very nice midrange, they retain that smoother tone of the X7 with a little extra clarity on top. As such, the X7 II is more engaging, it isn’t quite as lively as the iFi Black but mids are clear and transparent. Vocals also have great definition and a very natural tone that was free of any grain; whether I was listening to modern pop or the mellow tones of Utada Hikaru, the X7 II produced excellent layering and clear separation of instruments. The X7 II isn’t an analogue sounding source, but it doesn’t sound overly digital to my ears either. Highs are probably the biggest upgrade over original X7 and other 9018 based sources. I didn’t notice any glare to the X7 II, upper mids are natural and treble well integrated, a step up over the Oppo HA-2. When listening to the exquisite Campfire Jupiter’s, the X7 II invigorated them with quite an effortless sense of detail combined with great treble texturing and separation. Furthermore, the X7 II provided great treble resolution and a little more shimmer than the most smoothed off X7.



    Comparisons –

    Chord Mojo:

    The Mojo is the source that so many others aspire to be, and while it may no longer be the outright industry leader around this price, it is still a venerable and versatile device. Off the bat, what impressed me most about the Mojo was it’s very organic, natural tone combined with excellent detailing that prevented it from ever coming off as dull or congested. The Mojo also has exquisite resolution that really slices through any congestion and its excellent soundstage only serves to enhance this impression. The X7 II is similar in a few ways and quite different in others. To my ear, the X7 II is the more neutral source where the Mojo seems to have a slight sub-bass emphasis and a little extra body by comparison. The X7 II is also the airier source, I personally prefer its more balanced tones to the Mojo as addictive as it may be. However, the Mojo is still slightly more detailed and simply cleaner in is presentation; while the X7 II can sound quite effortless with the right source material, the Mojo is more consistently resolving and composed. I suppose some would say the X7 II sounds a little more digital but I would hardly consider it to be in isolated listening. Both are also pretty similar in terms of sound-staging, perhaps the Mojo images slightly better but the X7 II provides a truly commendable performance here too. The Mojo also has a notable advantage when it comes to output power with around double the power of the stock module. Despite this, the Mojo has minimal hiss with sensitive IEMs, both sources were similarly quiet. That being said, I did prefer the Mojo when listening to my HD700’s, they were simply more spacious and organic sounding though that could also be as a result of their better synergy with the Mojo’s tonality.



    iFi iDSD Black Label –

    The iFi Black is a terrific source, and certainly, one of the most engaging I’ve personally had experience with. The Black has excellent power to its lows and bundles of both clarity and resolution to its highs without sounding too overzealous. Furthermore, the DAC is loaded with features, the most notable to me being the inclusion of iFi’s iEMatch which makes the Black similarly versatile to the X7 II and Mojo despite having by far the most output power of the bunch (a staggering 4W into a 16ohm load, 10 times the X7 II’s more powerful balanced output). Of course, the Black is also the largest device and doesn’t have any sort of processing or interface like the X7 II, but it is a very real competitor and I’m sure many would like to see some comparison in this review. In terms of tone, the Black is the more vibrant of the two sources, their power, even though iems and portable headphones really gives sub-bass some extra kick though bass remains very tight and dynamic. Again, I do think the X7 II is the more objectively balanced source though the iFi’s sound doesn’t come with any notable caveats unless you have a really treble forward earphone. Otherwise, the X7 II is a little tighter and more defined within the bass response at the cost of that visceral impact and power though both are very textured. Mids are fabulous on both, the iFi has some extra clarity, the X7 II is more natural and perhaps less digital. The Black does have really exceptional space due to its stratospheric high-frequency reproduction that the X7 II can’t match though the X7 II is still a more spacious source in the grand scheme of things. The X7 II does sound slightly cleaner on account of its smoother sound though it doesn’t flatter laid-back earphones/headphones like the Noble Django quite like the Black even if resolution is excellent. Treble will be the most polarizing aspect of the Black, it is very well detailed and clarity makes other sources sound thoroughly lifeless by comparison, however, for a lot of earphones like the ie800, Black can push things just over the comfort limit, at least for my ears. I think this will depend a lot on your specific uses and sensitivity to higher frequencies because the Black is a little airier and clearer than the X7 II in their highs but the X7 II is undoubtedly the more natural, neutral sounding source.


    Fiio X7 –

    I will be testing the X7 with my preferred AM2 module since it offers power more in line with the AM3A. I understand this does not make for a perfectly fair comparison but I didn’t want a $100 module to bias my impressions of a $650 device. Unsurprisingly, the X7 and X7 II are similar sounding sources, neither are as vibrant as the iFi Black nor as lush as the Chord Mojo though both do sound a little smoother, very neutral and transparent. The X7 II has more resolution throughout and is noticeably more separated in all areas which is probably its largest advantage over the X7. This makes the X7 II sound immediately more effortless and composed during more complex tracks; each element has a nice, defined space where the X7 had some smearing between instruments and vocals by comparison. Tonally, both are also very similar, if I had a main complaint with the X7, it’s probably that their sound was a little smoothed off and lacking some engagement. The X7 II adds just a hint of vibrancy over the old X7 which is a very welcome change, namely, the X7 II has more upper midrange clarity. The X7 II’s improved treble separation also aids micro-detail retrieval as the X7 could blend these finer elements together. In addition, cymbals sound thinner and less textured on the X7 while the X7 II tends to sound more lifelike and immediate.

    Lower mids are also a little muddy on the X7, to a very small extent of course, but their full-bodied sound could sound a bit too thick on already fuller earphones like the Cardas A8. The X7 II by comparison, is the clearly more transparent, linear source with increased clarity throughout. While I would have been inclined to call the X7 II the slightly smoother device, it is not lacking resolution or bite, quite the opposite. Pinky pointed out the description I was looking for, the X7 II is less digital sounding than the original, a common complaint of Fiio’s players but not one that I really appreciated until I heard the X7 II and Mojo. To describe that in a bit more depth, the X7 tends to sound slightly grainier even though it is a smoother, more laid-back sounding device, this was most noticeable to me when listening to vocal tracks. And switching between both devices also reveals that the X7 II has a larger soundstage in both width and depth. Vocals aren’t as intimate but extend a lot better which, combined with their improved separation, makes the X7 II the more immersive player. Bass also gets a little nudge, especially with regards to really low content. The X7 II has more defined bass in general due to its increased resolution though I noted the biggest difference with sub-bass rumble that was appreciably more textured and visceral on the X7 II. So ultimately, the X7 II is a great upgrade to an already very impressive sounding source and it doesn’t have any immediate shortcomings by comparison.



    Fiio X5 III –

    The X7 was already an appreciable upgrade over the X5 III, even though it was an older device, so the X7 II marks a significant step up as far as the differences between DAPs go. From the outset, the X7 II is cleaner and more transparent with greater resolution. The X5 III has a slightly fuller low-end in addition to a more aggressive lower treble and upper midrange, however, the X7 II is just as engaging to my ear. The X5 III suffers from some muddying of lower mids and has some crunch in the highs when the track gets complex. This is especially noticeable on already more aggressive earphones like the Dunu DK-3001 where some smearing is evident. The X7 II, on the other hand, remains more composed, it is clearly more refined and balanced sounding while also maintaining an advantage in resolving power. The X7 II also has considerably less hiss with sensitive IEMs; where the X5 III was almost unbearable with my Campfire Jupiter’s, noise on the X7 II is just audible. The X5 III does have more power output, I did find them to do a pretty good job driving my 150ohm HD700’s though the X7 II has the ability to produce significantly more power, it just requires the additional purchase of an amplifier module. I still find the X7 II to be the more versatile player since I mainly use in-ears and though the X5 III has more output power, I found a more agreeable experience with the X7 II simply due to its superior resolution and transparency. As a result, the X7 II finds better synergy with the majority of the gear I have, it is neither overly full nor does it have any notable glare to its higher registers, the X7 II is simply a nicely balanced, refined source. And finally, coming to soundstage performance, the X5 III actually did have more space than the original X7, but the X7 II is more evenly matched. In addition, the X7 II is more rounded so imaging and centre image are more accurate. While I would still give the X5 III a slight advantage on width, the X7 II is ultimately the more immersive, realistic sounding player.



    Verdict –

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    As listeners and enthusiasts, we want to find connection to emotion and music. Perhaps that explains so many’s affinity towards analogue audio. The X7 II may be expensive, but it provides a delightfully neutral yet natural listen that also provides an abundance of technical ability. It isn’t as purely resolving as the iFi Black Label nor is it quite as detailed and effortless as the Mojo, but the X7 II is more balanced and dare I say transparent than both. Those modular amplifiers also grant it with versatility that rivals these models though at an additional cost to the consumer. And apart from sound, the X7 II provides a huge upgrade to usability over last generation Android DAPs, it is zippy and well thought out with no experience shattering glitches or freezes. The upgraded screen and storage options are also a nice bonus on top of an already compelling experience. While the X7 II is priced like a flagship, the sonic performance and user experience that it provides very much live up to that asking price.

    Verdict – 9.5/10, The X7 II marks a return to form for Fiio, compounding on the strengths of their previous flagship while addressing a lot of their weaknesses. While amp modules are an added cost, the X7 II’s included unit is far more versatile than the AM1 included with previous devices. The user interface is also hugely improved and the controls and ergonomics are similarly a step above.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please have a look at my website for more just like it:
    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/fiio-x7-mark-ii-review-believedefy/