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.
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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