My readers commonly ask me where they should first upgrade their audio chain; their earphones, player, AMP and even source files. I would never recommend DAPs on account of their inefficient interfaces and unrefined software; I’ve personally always had a much more pleasing experience using my Android or IOS based device with an external DAC/AMP combo. Fiio had stopped surprising me in this regard, I had come to expect great products for affordable prices at every release but somehow every new iteration of their devices failed to really grab my attention. But with the X5 III, I feel that Fiio have really invigorated the DAP market with the move to a more conventional touch-based operating system while retaining familiar (not to mention very high quality) analogue controls. Fiio have also outdone themselves in sound quality which is pretty fantastic. The X5 III also boasts an incredibly solid build, one that is much improved over past Fiio devices in addition to a pretty solid display that is well served by its conservative quad core chipset.
Accessories – 10/10, Fiio have never skimped on their accessories and the X5 III exemplifies their need to go above and beyond in this regard. I appreciate the addition of a slim TPU and protective Leather case from factory, both accessories most manufacturers charge considerable amounts for after sale. In addition, Fiio provide the user with some great quality cables and even apply screen protectors from factory. Nice job Fiio!
Design – 9/10, The build is as solid as any HTC device I’ve owned in addition to the class-leading HA-2. The finish is also much improved, the device feels much more unified though the glass back attracts smudges as one would expect. The edging on the glass panels could do with a bit of work (could be more rounded), but the chassis is quite exemplary overall, easily superior to almost any other Chinese player I’ve felt and much improved over Sony’s plastic frames. The controls are all pronounced and well delineated. The volume wheel is nice and clicky with a strong texture that avoids accidental presses by design. The play/pause and track skip buttons could both be located better, requiring conscious effort to avoid accidental presses.
Sound Quality – 8.75/10, I do still prefer my HA-2 (mainly midrange), the X5 III is close, more musical and also far more fully featured. It does lack that effortlessness and silky detail that the HA-2 regularly glimpses and Mojo commands, but every other aspect of the sound is sublime, it’s just not otherworldly. Lower mids in particular, are a bit muddy and the high end can sound more granular than other high-end sources. Bass is nice, full and very articulate, upper mids are also smooth and very natural. It’s a lush sound that is also aggressively detailed, something that I’m sure many people will love.
Verdict – 9.25/10, The X5 III is ultimately another well-rounded, fully-featured and competitively priced device; except this time, there are no software quirks to hold back my recommendation. If devices such as the iPod Touch have survived this long, then I can see a place for this device in today’s market. Its standout sound quality is immediately superior to even the best smart devices, its dimensions are very portable (even if it is quite thick) and the playback controls make a world of difference when on the go, even if those controls have some placement issues. While I would like to see a faster wireless implementation and a processor that is perhaps 1 generation ahead of that implemented, the X5 III is still vastly faster than any proprietary player. If you’ve been looking for a great DAP without the software quirks that plague so many, the X5 III should on your watch list, it brings many of the features that the X7 pioneered to a more palatable price.