HTC 10: The 10 may no longer be the best sounding smartphone on the market, but it is an excellent example of smartphone audio done properly. Even still, the Q1 MKII provides a noticeable upgrade and improved driving power with pickier earphones/headphones. Starting from the lower frequencies, the 10 is bolder but the Q1 MKII is slightly more neutral and noticeably more defined, making the smartphone sound quite muddy.
The HTC 10 has a pleasant but not outstanding midrange with a somewhat artificial sense of clarity and thinner vocal body. Both sources are slightly dark in tone, and while the Q1 MKII isn’t quite as clear, it sounds appreciably smoother and cleaner throughout. Highs are noticeably more prominent on the 10 though it can tire with already brighter in-ears while the more detailed yet smoother Q1 MKII finds greater listenability and refinement. The Q1 has an appreciably larger soundstage with better resolution of layering and background details.
iPod Touch 6G: The 6th generation iPod Touch is utilising the same chipset as the iPhone 6 so it should sound very similar to the 6s and dongle included with the 7 and 8. It is a clean and crisp but not particularly musical source that suffers from similar fall-backs to the 10. Bass is tighter than the HTC but also leaner, the Q1 MKII though actually slightly fuller, is more controlled and coherent with the iPod glossing over some finer details. The iPod is cleaner and more neutral than the 10 but similarly thin with lower resolution.
While the Q1 MKII is similarly balanced, it has noticeably more body, sounding more natural and musical and finding greater synergy with the majority of my iems. Highs are bright but not especially detailed on the iPod which creates a sense of forwardness that can push v-shaped and mid-focussed in-ears over my threshold of comfort. The Q1 MKII lacks this entirely, it is once again, smoother and more nuanced with more texture and detail to instruments. The Fiio also has the larger, more nuanced stage though the iPod has respectable layering.
The Q1 MKII is a considerable step up from Fiio’s previous model in both form and sound though it definitely does not make Fiio’s higher end models redundant. It’s also not the most flawless source on the market, but for a lot of people, I think it will offer more than enough performance and buyers certainly receive a lot of product for the money. The build and design are as excellent as we have come to expect from Fiio and little features such as MFI certification and a very usable bass boost make it an excellent companion to any smartphone. And in listening, the Q1 MKII continues to impress with one of the more linear, transparent sounds I’ve heard around this price augmented by a clean, clear amplifier. The option to go balanced also offers some very real benefits though at the cost of a slightly hampered TRS output. Still, the Q1 MKII is a featured, versatile and well-considered offering that has never been more relevant.
Verdict – 9/10, The Q1 MKII is one of best DAC/AMPs I’ve heard around Fiio’s asking price and a fine upgrade to even the more distinguished smartphones out there. It’s excellent build, compact design and clean but musical sound make it a perfect on the go companion.