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FiiO X7 Mark II Review

Sound Quality

I have mentioned earlier that FiiO upgraded the DAC chip to the ES9028 PRO DAC chip from ESS Technologies,  a chip typically use for desktop implementation.

The ES9028PRO SABRE digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is a 32-bit 8-Channel DAC chip featuring ESS’s patented 32-bit HyperStream DAC technology. The ES9028Pro registers a dynamic range (DNR) of 129dB and offers an impressively low total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) at -120dB.

FiiO’s implementation of the ES9028PRO is that of a stereo configuration where the DAC will output to the respective left and right analogue amplifier circuits. While this is a single DAC design, it is interesting to observe that the resources meant to handle 4-channels are now utilised on a single channel.

Using Android 5.1.1, FiiO was able to bypass Android’s audio re-sampling (ASRC) coupled with efforts have put in place to reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI). Seven specific areas of the PCB shielded independently, areas of utmost importance such as the main control area and the op-amps are double shielded.

FiiO X7 Mark II Internal Components

The greatest enhancement for the FiiO X7 Mark II is the implementation of three separate crystal oscillators – one for DSD and 44.1 kHz multiple sampling rates, one for 48 kHz multiple sampling rates and one for 384 kHz sampling rate. This allows for reduced jitter across all sampling rates while increasing clock precision and stability towards a more accurate conversion of signals from digital to analogue.

All efforts towards the reproduction of analogue audio signals as close as it is to the original.

The X7 Mark II has a signal to noise ratio of 119dB @ 1kHz on the single-ended output and 116dB @ 1kHz on the balanced output with an output power of 2.1Vrms and 3.5Vrms respectively.

As the X7 Mark II features interchangeable amplifier modules, the observations below are based on the bunded AM3A amplifier module. I will be following up with a review featuring the different amplifier modules with the X7 Mark II next week.

When I first heard the X7 Mark II during the product launch in Singapore, I was surprised by the sound quality and I still am today. There are no perfect devices in this world, so while the X7 Mark II with the AM3A is impressive, is it the best I have heard? No. Is it the best I have heard at this price point? Yes.

The combination delivers with a basis of clarity and dynamism, ensuring a musical listening experience layered with depth coupled with excellent sound separation and imaging made possible by detailed resolution.

At the low-end, the tightness of the bass is evident, extending from the sub-bass which is well rounded and subtle. Coupled with clarity and dynamism, there is just enough resolution to provide a degree of layered depth across the lower frequencies.

Clarity and dynamism continue to be the area of emphasis at the mid-range. This ensures that the mids are more upfront and intimate, with dynamic vocals that are energetic with clarity suitable for genres such as rock and the very many variants of metal. The mid-range is in your face with a generous amount of airiness to impress.

Coherent with the rest of the spectrum, the high-end continues to emphasise on clarity and dynamism. There are images of treble extensions with lots of energy but there is just not enough sparkle. Like the rest of the spectrum, while the sound quality impresses, it also leaves you wanting more. Particularly on the resolution end, I would have likened more details to provide more depth to the imaging, particularly in the mid-range.

In general, the X7 Mark II has a neutral sounding signature with a slight but noticeable prominence of warmth. It is balanced, clear, and dynamic, something you would expect of a Flagship DAP.

Part 1: Introduction, Design and Build
Part 2: Usability
Part 3: Sound Quality
Part 4: Product Specifications
Part 5: Review Ratings, Summary

Author

  • Goh Beng Yeow

    Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

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Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

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