21 Aug 2015 17:57 IST

Strictly for audiophiles

The FiiO X5 delivers unmatched sound quality but is hampered by bad software

When the original iPod came along almost 15 years ago, it changed portable audio forever. The most expensive iPod that Apple currently sells, can take a selfie, play a video game and even track your fitness levels. But a true audiophile wouldn’t be caught dead with it.

The FiiO X5 is not an iPod. It is a high resolution digital audio player (DAP) that, according to its makers, will introduce you to new details on songs you’ve heard a million times before.

While it will support standard mp3s, the X5 is designed to play uncompressed audio formats such as FLAC, APE, DSD, AIFF, and WAV. While the digital to analog converter (DAC) on the now extinct iPod Classic could provide 16-bit sound at 44.1 KHz, the FiiO X5 can do 24-bit sound at 192 Khz.

Superior sound

The debate over whether those numbers and formats mean much to our ears will rage on until kingdom come, but what is indisputable is that the Fiio X5 produces fantastic sound. We loaded the device up with some classic rock albums from the 70s and 80s, with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album starting the rotation. With a decent pair of headphones plugged in, the difference between a lossless FLAC file playing off the X5 and an Mp3 on a typical smartphone is stark. The incredibly rich, impossibly clear output of the Fiio made our flagship phone sound like a car radio in comparison.

Inferior software

While the X5’s sound quality is significantly better than on an iPod, it is clearly inferior in several other areas. The software on the Fiio for example, can be described as spartan at best. The interface is rather clunky and often slow to respond. It clearly lacks in refinement and features with podcast support not available and the equalizer only supporting a single custom setting.

Functional design

As for the design, the aluminum frame certainly feels premium but the brushed metal look comes off a little dated. In our opinion, the device actually looks better with the manufacturer-supplied silicone cover on.

While the mechanical scroll wheel has a pleasing motion, the central button that it encircles is rather fiddly and imprecise. And why the device is so bulky despite not having any internal storage is anyone’s guess. It can support up to 256 GB of storage through two microSD slots and external storage through USB on-the-go (OTG). The X5 comes with a combined line and coaxial out port in addition to the standard 3.5mm headphone port.

This allows it to be used as an external sound card by connecting it to a computer through USB. The IPS display is adequate and surprisingly readable even under direct sunlight.

With a 3300 mAh battery, the FiiO X5 has a rated uptime of 10 hours. During our testing, it achieved that and sometimes even exceeded it a little (with gain set to low).


While the X5’s price is steep in comparison with lesser devices, it is actually the most affordable in its class. However, the cost is further exacerbated by the fact that buying an X5 calls for an additional investment on an expensive pair of headphones. The device does not ship with a pair of cans and plugging an ordinary pair of Apple earphones or the equivalent into it would render the purchase pointless.

If you’re looking for great sound above all else, the Fiio X5 is the device for you. The software leaves a lot to be desired, but as legions of audiophiles will attest, an ugly theme is easy to forget when you’re listening to near perfect audio.

Price: ₹24,499

Love: Sound quality

Hate: Software, design

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