BUS RIDE IMPRESSION: Fiio X5III

The Fiio X5III, or otherwise known as the X5 3rd Generation has been quite hot in the market for the past weeks since it was released. This doesn’t strike me as a surprise though, as it is quite hard to find an Android powered DAP in the market with X5III’s price tag ($459.99 at Fiio’s AliExpress official store). Currently, other Android DAPs in the market would normally be priced at around $600 at least which makes you think whether Fiio’s latest DAP outing may be short changing the consumers or may have cut some corners to get to such price. With that, I think it will be best for us to see for ourselves how it does.

Luckily, I got a loaner from a very good friend to see what makes the X5III tick the audio enthusiast masses. To begin with (and for transparency), I am not a very big fan of Fiio (in spite of the fact that my humble beginnings were littered with several Fiio devices) but I will try and see if the X5III is any different from how the usual Fiio fares do.

With this, let’s get it on and see how Fiio’s flagship player does.

Build

Quite fair enough, even if the X5III is the budget friendliest among the Android type DAPs, Fiio somehow still managed to ensure that the build was not compromised. Fact is, I must admit that the design was well thought of: seems that Fiio did dedicate some time to really work on an impressive build. The body is built with a finely sculpted zirconium which somehow reminds one of Astell & Kern’s AK380. Not that Fiio imitated AK’s design, but both looked pretty neat; kind of gives you that industrial feel. I particularly liked how the DAP felt in my hand. It gives you that secure feel that it is something you won’t worry if you cram it in your bag: you know for sure it won’t easily give in even you got your bag packed.

What’s interesting with X5III is that Fiio opted to give it multiple digital out options in the form of coaxial and USB out. This allows the X5III to be quite a versatile transport in case that you wish to use it with a dedicated DAC. Also, a line out is a good feature to allow the X5III to be connected to a dedicated amplifier in case you want to plug in some heavy hitters to play your music. Overall, Fiio did a nifty job in doing these things as these can come in handy in case you want this portable beast to be used as your desktop source.

Fiio also added a case to go with the X5III, which should be a given in the case that you are buying something worth around $400. Great thing though is that Fiio made a really nice case. Only issue that I have is that based on how the case is cut, X5III tends to tilt while inside the case. Also, I am not sure if it is just me or maybe I am not very familiar on how to use the DAP but the power button seems a bit tough to press.

FiioX5iii_case1

The addition of the balanced HP output, for me, is the stellar feature of X5III. I personally would always want to get a DAP with balanced output simply because I liked how clean a balanced output can yield sound. Thankfully, Fiio decided to go with the conventional 2.5mm jack that should allow a lot of IEMs or earbuds work with it without resorting to an adapter (damn you HM-901S). I really didn’t expect an RSA termination as it is a bit of an older termination so there you have it.

Fiio decided to go minimalist by using few buttons on X5III which is a given as it is an Android device which should have the controls readily available on the display. However, Fiio seems to take the same direction as other DAP manufacturers did by adding the pause/play/next/back physical buttons as well as the volume scroll wheel at the side in case you wish to control the DAP without looking at it.

Overall, for its price I think the X5III is built quite well. It is a huge jump that Fiio took from how the X5II was designed, to which I believe to be a good decision as the DAPs nowadays continue to pursue excellence over the rest of the playing field. Perhaps Fiio is bent on getting to be the top brand for audio players which it seems to be doing quite well.

Sound

Perhaps the great thing about Fiio X5III has got to be how friendly it can get with most audio enthusiasts, especially those who are starting with the hobby. You see, it has this inherent warmth that should be pretty engaging for most listeners while allowing a certain level of sparkle to allow higher notes to still shine yet remain comfortable. I feel that the mids though is a bit short from my personal preference but should be good enough to most listeners.

I kind of felt this is how Fiio approached the tuning for the X5III to appeal to most listeners. Perhaps to make it easy to like real quick, but to most mid-centric listeners, it might not be the best. However, I will say given the price, it should be a pretty decent option especially if paired with the right IEM, earbud or can.

For today’s test, let’s have a Trinity Audio Phantom Master be the output device for the X5III. Will also be using a Bengkel Macro Edimun V3 terminated in TRRS to test the balanced option and to let a bit of mids shine out a bit.

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (Spin Doctors, Pocket Full Of Kryptonite)

The track sounded warm with the Master, but it was with the Edimun V3 where it shone. Much as I enjoyed how thick the track sounded with the Master, the Edimun V3 was able to yield that crisp, raunchy sound of the guitars which should pretty much be the signature for Spin Doctors. Bass were tighter with the Master though, although with both, X5III sounded quite clean and natural.

Love Letters (Yamina, Love Letters EP)

Vocals sounded more pronounced with the Edimun V3 with the pianos sounding a lot more conspicuous than using the Master. Either way, X5III sounded smooth with the both pianos and voice emanating the right strike between softness and crisp, neither being overdone. The track has to be pretty enjoyable with the X5III, imaging is quite very good which would be something you would expect from a more expensive DAP. Kind of reminiscent of hearing the Aune M2Pro with this track.

With Or Without You (U2, The Joshua Tree)

Among the 3 tracks, this has got to exhibit the imaging prowess of the X5III. As simple as the composition is for the track, X5III layered the elements of the track very well, from the bass guitar to the synthesizers to the drums to the guitars down to Bono’s voice, if paired with a really capable output, the track is a joy to listen to. I did enjoy the track a bit more though with the Edimun V3 given the immaculate sound off the balanced termination.

Wrap-Up

I have yet to try a Fidelizer Audio mod for the X5III but I have been hearing great things about it sound-wise. However, one friend reported that he had a battery issue with his X5III modded with the Fidelizer but I am not entirely sure if that has something to do with the issue. Afterall, another friend had an issue with his X5III’s battery so the Fidelizer may not necessarily have anything to do with the battery issue, but I fear that the battery issue may be a common one with the X5III. Hopefully those are just isolated case otherwise it will be a big letdown for a promising DAP.

Overall, at least looking at my experience using the X5III, I will say it is a decent to good DAP. I am just not a fan of the slightly insufficient mids of the X5III, or maybe it will really depend on the IEM, earbud or can used. Eitherway, I will say the price is quite decent for the DAP, and should be a pretty good for those who wishes to start with the hobby right.

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