Fiio Q1 MKII Review – Balance and Harmony

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Design –

The Q1 MKII departs from the original Q1 with a much more refined, coordinated aesthetic combined with a generally more svelte design. Gone is the silver capped flask housing of the Q1 in favour of a slimmer, flatter design that is easier to live with during daily use. Due to its more conventional shape, the DAC/AMP no longer rocks on flat surfaces and more comfortably sandwiches behind a flat backed smartphone. The machining and finish are all a few steps up from the original model too, creating a product that feels markedly more complete than its predecessor.

The Q1 is available in both silver and matte black and I have to reiterate what a compact unit the Q1 MKII is, it truly surprised me. In addition, its insignificant weight at just over 100g and rounded edges that don’t catch on clothing during portable use, allow the new Q1 to find practicality both at home and on the go. Furthermore, the DAC’s anodized aluminium constructed (with exception of the plastic plates on either end), are reassuring of the device’s longevity. This construction is topped off with tight tolerances between seams and smooth machining to every edge that belie the Q1 MKII’s conservative asking price, this is a nice looking device.

And onto the physical features, the main outputs are located at the front of the DAC; a regular 3.5mm out and 2.5mm TRRS balanced output on the left and a line-in jack in the middle that enables the Q1 MKII to be used as an external amplifier. On the right is the volume knob that doubles as a power switch and a notification LED that denotes power and charging/battery status. One of my main issues with the original design was its volume knob that protruded slightly from the housing, causing volume to shift when the DAC was shifted sideways. The new knob no longer suffers from this issue and its position is easier to manipulate.

The Q1 MKII also has a DSD indicator light to ensure that the source player is providing the DAC with the full resolution file since some players will downscale those files. On the rear are two metal switches with a tactile concentric texture that enable users to toggle bass boost and adjust gain between low and high. In the middle is a regular micro-usb plug for charging and data input.

 

Usage –

The Q1 MKII requires users to download a driver before first use though those who have used other Fiio DACs/DAPs will be able to plug and play. And when paired with a smartphone over USB OTG, the Q1 MKII instantly connects, I didn’t find it to be nearly as picky as prior Fiio DAC’s perhaps due to some power consumption adjustments. The Q1 MKII also has an in-built MFI certified camera connection kit of sorts like the Oppo HA-2 that makes it ideal to pair with Apple devices. Fiio are kind to include a lightning to micro-usb cable out of the box though android phone users will have to purchase a separate cable/adapter. When stacked with my smartphone, the Q1 MKII produced no EMI noise.

Despite the Q1 MKII’s slightly larger battery capacity (1800 vs 1400mah), the original model actually finds better longevity by a fair margin. The Q1 MKII manages a passable but not outstanding 10 hrs of playback time or 20 hrs as an amplifier only. This contrasts to the 30 hrs of battery life provided by the original model. In use, the Q1 MKII does handily exceed Fiio’s rating but I wasn’t able to squeeze more than 12 hrs of life when used as a DAC/AMP at low-medium volumes. Luckily, the Q1 MKII charges quickly and runs off the USB port when connected to a computer. And while the Q1 MKII lacks a switch to enable/disable charge over USB, the Q1 MKII didn’t suck power from my HTC but rather ran on its internal battery, something that bothered on the HA-2.

The Q1 MKII also has some other handy features that make it an excellent choice for sensitive iems. Chiefly, it makes use of digital compensation to provide better channel balance at lower volumes as opposed to other amps with a traditional analogue volume pot. As a low volume listener, I did appreciate the added control, my Oppo HA-2 was barely usable at lower volumes due to channel imbalance. The pot is also very fine grained but its 45 degree angled ridging and spot on resistance mitigate accidental pocket volume changes.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

17 Comments

  1. Colin on

    Hi, do you think this dac would work fine with Hifiman He400i? Thanks!

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Colin, the Q1 MKII doesn’t have a huge amount of driving power and its smoother sound may not be the best match for the HE400i. If your current source is already relatively clean such as an iPhone, etc, then you can consider an amplifier, I feel it will provide a bigger difference in that scenario.

      • Colin on

        Thank you really much!

  2. Mitchings on

    When using the Q1 MKII in DAC-only mode with the line-out going to a separate amp (I’m using and original Cayin C5), does anyone else find it is still dependent on the volume control being turned right up and that both the bass boost and gain boost switches still effect it..?

    I haven’t had this happen with any prior DAC/AMPs being used in DAC-only mode, is this a quirk of a dual line-in/line-out connection or could it be an issue? I assumed that as long as it is turned on, it would provide a line-level signal that was unaffected by the amp controls; however, turned on but with the volume knob down there is no signal, it has to be turned right up to provide what sounds like an appropriate line-level level.

    It sounds good, but this just seems odd and I wanted to make sure I’m getting the full potential; and that there isn’t some sort of double-amping going on.

  3. Javier Alvidrez on

    Hey Ryan, have you paired the Q1 MKII with the iPod using any 64 audio IEMs? I’m planning on getting the U6 model and would like an idea of what to possibly expect… thanks!

    • Ryan Soo on

      Hi Javier,

      I feel the Q1 MKII offers a nice upgrade over iPods. It’s pretty well suited towards the U6, perhaps it will sound slightly smoother up top. The Fiio’s lower output impedance will surely help with a 6-driver IEM.

      Cheers,
      Ryan.

  4. Shimo on

    Hi Ryan,

    where can get the Q1 mark ii in silver? Is it even available yet? When will it be released?

    THanks
    Breg

    Simon

  5. Alsokung on

    Hi RYAN SOO,if i owned q1 marki should i upgrade to markii ?,i use with fiio a5

  6. Yon Yonson on

    Hi Ryan, nice review. I am currently using a CCK to a Q1 Mk. 1 and then through my Fiio E12 Mont Blanc for home use only to my Q701’s. I find the soundstage on the E12 really nice, despite the bulky setup – do you think i’d benefit from ditching these for an all in one Q1 Mk. 2? Should i wait for the Q5? Thanks!

    • Ryan Soo on

      The Q1 MKII has a nice soundstage and a clean sound. It’s form factor and price are its greatest assets, driving power is not, making it better suited for portable use with IEMs. If you want to replace your entire setup, I would recommend waiting for the Q5, the amp on the Q1 MKII is less powerful than that on the original yet alone the E12.

      • Yon Yonson on

        Many thanks for your helpful comments!

  7. om on

    compare fiio q1 mkii with fiio btr1

    • Ryan Soo on

      Will do!

      • om on

        thanks for quick reply
        😉

  8. Bryan on

    Hi, Ryan
    Have you come across the Topping Nx4, I would like to know what you think about it. It seems like a good product with way better drive power, and snr.
    Pls do review it whenever you get the opportunity.

    • Indrajit on

      Hi can you compare FiioQ1 markii with Cayin N3 considering only their sonic qualities. I mean to ask how the Cayin N3{3.5mm) without any external amping competes with FiioQ1(balanced) ?

      • Ryan Soo on

        Sorry, I haven’t tried the N3 or the Nx4, but will look into those models in the future.

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