Enter the FiiO X1. It's perfect for both, those who want to take the plunge into the world of hi-res music, and those who want their collection to go wherever they go on the cheap.
Yes, it might be a pain to carry multiple devices, but you can't have your cake and... So, it's time to give your ears a treat and that smartphone some rest.
Classic design (literally)
Your friends might embarrass you for buying a cheap rip-off of the iPod Classic, but you can avoid that by slipping on the black rubberised casing that comes in the box. However, the reality is that it does look like a knock-off of the Classic, with just a few more buttons added to the mix.
The jog wheel physically moves and the selection button at the centre of it feels cheap and a tad wobbly. The buttons for back, menu, fast forward and rewind seem pretty solid. The left side houses the power and volume buttons, while on the right is a naked microSD slot. On top is where you plug your headphones into the 3.5mm output that also levels up as a line-out. The bottom has the micro USB charging port.
The X1 has a 240x320p TFT display that is just about average and gets the job done. Lucky then for our retinas, the X1 doesn't support any video formats. Overall, the metallic matte finish and the aluminium bits look pretty decent for something that doesn't cost a bomb. Even the construction and build of the plastic body is pretty solid and feels like it can survive a few drops. We're not testing that though. The box also has three stickers for the X1 that look quite tacky.
Great performance for the price
High-resolution music, in itself, is meant to sound good and that's the whole point of high-quality files and a high-resolution player. The FiiO X1 sounds good for the price it comes at. Of course, it won't offer the same quality as its bigger and more expensive siblings, but it's impressive on its own.
The FiiO X1 has a very neutral approach to music. It sounds better than the iPod Classic and the iPod Touch. The Texas Instruments PCM5142 DAC paired with the Intersil ISL28291 digital amp offers a nice level of detail along with a very balanced and natural sound. However, there are some issues with fluidity in some of the more demanding audiophile tracks, which at this price can be forgiven.
The X1 can drive headphones with impedance ranging from 16 to 100 Ohms, which means you will have to get an amp if you have anything above that. The X1 doesn't get along too well with active noise-cancellation headphones too. We tried it with three different headphones and the X1 didn't impress much, resulting in a thin sound with a thick and ill-defined bottom-end.
There is a seven band equaliser with a 'custom' mode that allows you to tinker the sound according to your liking. However, it doesn't have a vast noticeable impact on the output, but it's an option if you want it. A gapless mode that works very well is also available.
We could get just a tad over 10 hours of playback from the FiiO X1. The tiny blue status light at the bottom makes sure you don’t forget to switch the thing off.
The not so Fiiotastic bit
Well, for starters, there's no internal memory. The X1 supports microSD cards up to 128GB, which will cost you extra money. In fact, some of them cost as much as the player itself! Secondly, there are no bundled earphones or headphones. If you don't have a pair, you'll have to keep some cash aside for those too.
Even the software upgrades are to be done through the memory card. Talking about software, there are some minor niggles there as well. It feels outdated and there's no search option, which leaves you scrolling endlessly. Imagine scrolling through 128GB of music! Yes, you will have muscular fingers. Apart from that, it's fairly simple and straightforward.
This is a great player for the money. Yes, it is not perfect and you basically get what you pay for. There’s no internal memory available and there are no earphones included either, so that might cost you a bit more.
Compared to the cost of other high-res music players like the Pono, Astelle & Kern and Sony, the FiiO X1 is way cheaper. It is a very good option for those who want to move on from their iPods or those looking for their first hi-fi music player.
FiiO has done it, it has brought high-res to the masses. We have no reservations in recommending this little tune puter.