Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fiio X1

First up, no pictures here as there are so many reviews and photos of this MP3 player online.

The MP3 player that has been with me for almost 5 years, a Cowon D2+ has been having hickups lately, not reading the external sd card. Plus it's suffered lots of trials and tribulations - falling off tables etc. and having to be taken apart so as to move the buttons to their original positions etc. It's had a good long run.

While I would love an MP3 player that is top of the line, perhaps one of the Ibasso things, my mp3 player is mainly to be used at work, on trains, on planes etc so while I do want good sound quality, superb sound quality would be a waste. Hence, the X1. It's priced very affordably at USD99 (I bought it for AUD138 with shipping from Minidisk australia), and is touted to have some good quality DACs. So how does it stack up agains the D2+?

First impressions were: detailed, but not as exciting as the D2+. However, after some fiddling with the D2+ and disabling the EQ, I must say the X1 and D2+ are around the same level. Good, but different. I felt that the D2+ was slightly warmer, with a touch stronger bass response.

The X1 on the flip side, sounded sharper, more detailed. This was with my Grados SR80. I tried doing some comparisons on my daily use IEM - the Shure SE215 and kinda gave up as seriously, I find the SE215 so boring compared to the SR80. The lack of highs also put me off so I went back to the SR80s.  I tried fiddling with the X1's EQ to match the EQ of the D2+, but the differences were very minimal to my ears, unlike the D2's EQ that is very readily audible.

The main reason why I use the SE215 on a daily basis at work is because of its good insulation, and that while it is very boring (i.e. detailed), it is not tiring, as it does get with the SR80 after awhile. Also, it packs down into a tiny case around the same size as the D2+.

I'm also wondering if the X1's DAC pushes as much power as the D2+ - the D2+ has my SR80 around 15/100 of the volume, while the X1 needs about 30/100 to get the same levels.

Interface wise, the X1 has this round circular control up front reminiscent of the older ipods. It works ok, though I tend to overshoot the menus. One annoying thing I've found is that when the display is powered down, only the volume control buttons still work. I'd expect the next/prev buttons to work, but I don't think they do with the display off. Very annoying. A setting in the menus allow you to choose which buttons are active when the player has its display turned off.

One other niggle, which is not fair to the X1 as it's not a touchscreen - is that the D2+, and its touchscreen, allows you to jump to any part of the song at a touch - with the X1, you'd need to hold down the next/prev button and wait as it traverses the timeline. There is no A-B function either, so if you are a musician wanting to practice with that, no go. And yes, that's something the D2+ has. And I've only used it like once, so...

The package comes with a silicone cover (great! No need to spend $$$ on extra cases), and has the screen protector already applied. And with 2 extra screen covers too.... were they expecting this mp3 player to be exposed to lots of scratching? Like maybe cat owners? I honestly cannot see the need for 2 extras... Additionally, there are stickers to attack to the player to give it a carbon fiber look, a wood look, or an American flag look. Some kinda warranty thing in the box, as well as a usb charging cable.

What else.... oh, the X1 does not have any internal memory, and uses micro sd cards.

Overall, the X1 suits my needs very well. For the price, it is neigh impossible to complain with what it delivers.

If there is any big niggle, for me it'd be the interface. Having to press the power button just to change tracks is annoying. And the navigation on the D2+ with its touchscreen is just lightyears faster and more accurate. Again, sticker price - the D2+ probably cost twice the price of the X1 when I bought it.

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