The Mojo is the source that so many others aspire to be, and while it may no longer be the outright industry leader around this price, it is still a venerable and versatile device. Off the bat, what impressed me most about the Mojo was it’s very organic, natural tone combined with excellent detailing that prevented it from ever coming off as dull or congested. The Mojo also has exquisite resolution that really slices through any congestion and its excellent soundstage only serves to enhance this impression. The X7 II is similar in a few ways and quite different in others. To my ear, the X7 II is the more neutral source where the Mojo seems to have a slight sub-bass emphasis and a little extra body by comparison. The X7 II is also the airier source, I personally prefer its more balanced tones to the Mojo as addictive as it may be. However, the Mojo is still slightly more detailed and simply cleaner in is presentation; while the X7 II can sound quite effortless with the right source material, the Mojo is more consistently resolving and composed. I suppose some would say the X7 II sounds a little more digital but I would hardly consider it to be in isolated listening. Both are also pretty similar in terms of sound-staging, perhaps the Mojo images slightly better but the X7 II provides a truly commendable performance here too. The Mojo also has a notable advantage when it comes to output power with around double the power of the stock module. Despite this, the Mojo has minimal hiss with sensitive IEMs, both sources were similarly quiet. That being said, I did prefer the Mojo when listening to my HD700’s, they were simply more spacious and organic sounding though that could also be as a result of their better synergy with the Mojo’s tonality.
iFi iDSD Black Label –
The iFi Black is a terrific source, and certainly, one of the most engaging I’ve personally had experience with. The Black has excellent power to its lows and bundles of both clarity and resolution to its highs without sounding too overzealous. Furthermore, the DAC is loaded with features, the most notable to me being the inclusion of iFi’s iEMatch which makes the Black similarly versatile to the X7 II and Mojo despite having by far the most output power of the bunch (a staggering 4W into a 16ohm load, 10 times the X7 II’s more powerful balanced output). Of course, the Black is also the largest device and doesn’t have any sort of processing or interface like the X7 II, but it is a very real competitor and I’m sure many would like to see some comparison in this review. In terms of tone, the Black is the more vibrant of the two sources, their power, even though iems and portable headphones really gives sub-bass some extra kick though bass remains very tight and dynamic. Again, I do think the X7 II is the more objectively balanced source though the iFi’s sound doesn’t come with any notable caveats unless you have a really treble forward earphone. Otherwise, the X7 II is a little tighter and more defined within the bass response at the cost of that visceral impact and power though both are very textured. Mids are fabulous on both, the iFi has some extra clarity, the X7 II is more natural and perhaps less digital. The Black does have really exceptional space due to its stratospheric high-frequency reproduction that the X7 II can’t match though the X7 II is still a more spacious source in the grand scheme of things. The X7 II does sound slightly cleaner on account of its smoother sound though it doesn’t flatter laid-back earphones/headphones like the Noble Django quite like the Black even if resolution is excellent. Treble will be the most polarizing aspect of the Black, it is very well detailed and clarity makes other sources sound thoroughly lifeless by comparison, however, for a lot of earphones like the ie800, Black can push things just over the comfort limit, at least for my ears. I think this will depend a lot on your specific uses and sensitivity to higher frequencies because the Black is a little airier and clearer than the X7 II in their highs but the X7 II is undoubtedly the more natural, neutral sounding source.
Fiio X7 –
I will be testing the X7 with my preferred AM2 module since it offers power more in line with the AM3A. I understand this does not make for a perfectly fair comparison but I didn’t want a $100 module to bias my impressions of a $650 device. Unsurprisingly, the X7 and X7 II are similar sounding sources, neither are as vibrant as the iFi Black nor as lush as the Chord Mojo though both do sound a little smoother, very neutral and transparent. The X7 II has more resolution throughout and is noticeably more separated in all areas which is probably its largest advantage over the X7. This makes the X7 II sound immediately more effortless and composed during more complex tracks; each element has a nice, defined space where the X7 had some smearing between instruments and vocals by comparison. Tonally, both are also very similar, if I had a main complaint with the X7, it’s probably that their sound was a little smoothed off and lacking some engagement. The X7 II adds just a hint of vibrancy over the old X7 which is a very welcome change, namely, the X7 II has more upper midrange clarity. The X7 II’s improved treble separation also aids micro-detail retrieval as the X7 could blend these finer elements together. In addition, cymbals sound thinner and less textured on the X7 while the X7 II tends to sound more lifelike and immediate.
Lower mids are also a little muddy on the X7, to a very small extent of course, but their full-bodied sound could sound a bit too thick on already fuller earphones like the Cardas A8. The X7 II by comparison, is the clearly more transparent, linear source with increased clarity throughout. While I would have been inclined to call the X7 II the slightly smoother device, it is not lacking resolution or bite, quite the opposite. Pinky pointed out the description I was looking for, the X7 II is less digital sounding than the original, a common complaint of Fiio’s players but not one that I really appreciated until I heard the X7 II and Mojo. To describe that in a bit more depth, the X7 tends to sound slightly grainier even though it is a smoother, more laid-back sounding device, this was most noticeable to me when listening to vocal tracks. And switching between both devices also reveals that the X7 II has a larger soundstage in both width and depth. Vocals aren’t as intimate but extend a lot better which, combined with their improved separation, makes the X7 II the more immersive player. Bass also gets a little nudge, especially with regards to really low content. The X7 II has more defined bass in general due to its increased resolution though I noted the biggest difference with sub-bass rumble that was appreciably more textured and visceral on the X7 II. So ultimately, the X7 II is a great upgrade to an already very impressive sounding source and it doesn’t have any immediate shortcomings by comparison.
Fiio X5 III –
The X7 was already an appreciable upgrade over the X5 III, even though it was an older device, so the X7 II marks a significant step up as far as the differences between DAPs go. From the outset, the X7 II is cleaner and more transparent with greater resolution. The X5 III has a slightly fuller low-end in addition to a more aggressive lower treble and upper midrange, however, the X7 II is just as engaging to my ear. The X5 III suffers from some muddying of lower mids and has some crunch in the highs when the track gets complex. This is especially noticeable on already more aggressive earphones like the Dunu DK-3001 where some smearing is evident. The X7 II, on the other hand, remains more composed, it is clearly more refined and balanced sounding while also maintaining an advantage in resolving power. The X7 II also has considerably less hiss with sensitive IEMs; where the X5 III was almost unbearable with my Campfire Jupiter’s, noise on the X7 II is just audible. The X5 III does have more power output, I did find them to do a pretty good job driving my 150ohm HD700’s though the X7 II has the ability to produce significantly more power, it just requires the additional purchase of an amplifier module. I still find the X7 II to be the more versatile player since I mainly use in-ears and though the X5 III has more output power, I found a more agreeable experience with the X7 II simply due to its superior resolution and transparency. As a result, the X7 II finds better synergy with the majority of the gear I have, it is neither overly full nor does it have any notable glare to its higher registers, the X7 II is simply a nicely balanced, refined source. And finally, coming to soundstage performance, the X5 III actually did have more space than the original X7, but the X7 II is more evenly matched. In addition, the X7 II is more rounded so imaging and centre image are more accurate. While I would still give the X5 III a slight advantage on width, the X7 II is ultimately the more immersive, realistic sounding player.
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