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on 4 December 2013
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UPDATE 01/02/15 - I've only just remembered to update this review, very sorry! I actually got rid of this beauty a few months back as a fantastic deal had arisen to swap for the AK100 which uses the same sound card, but is triple the price - justified by apparent clarity tweaks, design and touchscreen etc. I don't actually regret my decision, but i would have regretted it hugely if the price i paid was full whack. With a price three times higher there is room for skepticism. The X3 is so laid back and fun that you can listen to music for hours. There is no denying however that the AK100 sounds more refined, has a blacker background and is marginally nicer to operate. Is that what we all want though? For true audiophiles the AK100 should be strongly considered if you can bear the price tag. For people who are looking for fun please look no further than the X3. Sometimes I just crave for pleasurable listening for hours and not the often clinically cold sound signature of the AK100.

Listening to a live performance of Ben Howard - Move like you want to, for example, is simply incredible on the AK100. The X3 sounded almost veiled in comparison which is not ideal in my opinion for a live performance. All studio songs by Ben Howard however sounded more fun on the X3, often bringing a smile to my face. The AK100 seems to be like the school teacher nobody liked but everybody knew they were exceptional at their job. I often sit back and relax whilst listening, but I won't be smiling. As much as I appreciate the near perfect sound it doesn't thrill me like the warmth of the X3 did.

If you believe you will be getting 3x more bang for buck with the AK100 you've hoodwinked yourself much like I did. The sound is fairly similar in dynamics as they do both use the same Wolfson sound chip, by proxy it cannot be significantly better for a price tag that commands £400-500! If you are looking for something marginally better in terms of quality and clarity and a few hundred quid is a dip in the pocket, opt for the AK, but for those of us who are looking to lay back and kick it to something with a bit more musicality then keep the X3 on the cards. If you've read my full review its important to consider than not only the X5 is now out but also their smaller brother the X1 is now out as well. My intuition would tell me the X5 will be similar to the AK100 in terms of clarity but not as gun ho in removing the fun factor.

At the end of the day it boils down to what you're buying this for. For fun and musicality the X3 is better, and for clarity and definition I would suggest the AK100 is. Neither is a poor player by any means and in terms of sound quality they both blow the Ipod range out of the water. Remember to pair with a decent set of headphones and use lossless music and you won't go wrong in purchasing either.

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I dont consider myself an audiophile as such, but i love good sounding music - to the point where i've had sennheiser momentums, currently have some fidelio l1's which are amazing, and a range of less exciting headphones ranging from £30-250.

I suppose what i never really considered was just how well good headphones, or hell any headphones, might sound when plugged in to an exceptional source. I was using my ipod, yes DAP and DAC people out there my ipod, to listen to the vast majority of music on my headphones.

I can tell you now the sound quality on this X3 is exceptional. Blows the ipod out of the water. I dont care that its four times as thick, more clunky and only plays music in comparison to my ipod. Sound quality is paramount to me and this delivers it. For those who have good headphones and haven't really considered how much a good player can make a difference, i can tell you now it is unbelievable.

My Fidelio's have always produced a fairly good soundstage, bass response is below par and can vary track to track but the definition and depth they produce is fantastic for the price. Listening on the ipod was pleasurable. Listening on the X3 was crazy. i was blind and now i see. I was deaf and now i hear, you get the jist. Just a crazy amount of good.

The soundstage is the very first thing i noticed to massively open up, instrument separation is excellent and everything is so crisp. The mids are blended superbly and come through powerfully, and for the first time since wearing the fidelio's the bass actually sounds incredibly punchy and smooth. the definition is incredible, simply incredible. For those who have the X3's you'll know what im talking about when creepy Dr. Chesky walks up to you and whispers in your ear. For those who don't its an binaural audio test which displays the accuracy of voice representation, where a man walks from 30 feet towards you on one side and eventually whispers in your ear. At the time of trialling this i was sat in bed grinning at the footsteps and then was creeped out when he started whispering because it was so damn real.

A worthy note to take on this though is that it WILL pick up bad files. I'm talking MP3's here. A few days ago i blindly thought that 320kb/s held a good level of clarity, which i suppose they do. But lossless files sounds exceptional (WAV and FLAC files etc) so make sure you have some at your disposal to put onto your X3, i had to convert a lot of my CD's to lossless formats before putting them on, but the difference is so worth it. This does take a lot of storage space however and the 8GB doesnt cut it. I found that 3.5GB was already used when i bought my X3 with software and hardware i assume, amidst the 27 odd tracks already downloaded on the X3. I will shortly be buying some SD cards i think.

Build quality seems sturdy enough, i removed my silicone case and screen protector because i wanted to see the product in its pure form. Now i dont want to put them back on because i quite like the feel of the product as it is, it feels sturdy enough to be protected from plenty of bumps and knocks, perhaps even a few drops, not that any would be intentional.

The navigational system is very easy to pick up and works. it is a bit slow at times but as i said before, im here for sound only so i really am not fussed as long as i can find my tracks (which i can). Charging is a breeze, takes 4 hours roughly through a mains charger and about 7 through the computer according to the FiiO manual. I found mine took about 4 hours to charge from dead, so this seems perfectly correct. Apparently use can last 10 hours, i haven't had this long enough to fully test and i've been constantly plugging it back into the computer to add files (and hence charging it) so i cant really comment on longevity yet.

Another note to make however is that after some research, the successor to this the X5 will be released early 2014. Sources do say it will be nearly double the price but its worth considering if you're thinking of getting one of these nonetheless. Perhaps i will have to upgrade when it comes out! Until then, this is the beast to get. If you want a step up from the ipod there is no question about it. Get it
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on 19 October 2014
Fantastic! Ignore all the silly moans about not being able to use 64gb cards, I inserted one and it was formatted straightaway in the Fiio and there is no need whatsoever to download any software to do otherwise, formatting took about 20 seconds if that. I assume that newer models have up to date firmware anyway.
Sound quality is superlative with a magical dynamic range which will leave you questioning any other device you have ever owned, ripping at lossless flac will do the business easily. The user buttons are easy to work out and the menu does what it says, no fancy touch screen nonsense to cloud the issue. If you are after a truly great sounding portable player then bin those ipods now, this one knocks them into touch and then some.
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on 30 September 2013
This is an excellent piece of kit, and well worth the cost. Just be aware that if you use a 64GB memory card, this must be formatted as FAT32, NOT exFAT. Windows 7 will only allow you to format in exFAT, which the player cannot read. HP have a downloadable utility that will allow you to format in FAT32 format.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2015
Don't mess around when you receive this. Charge it up. Plug it into your computer and drag across your favorite albums from your ITUNES file (or any mp3's). Plug headphones and find out how to play (not straightforward!) and press PLAY. There will be time later for updating firmware/reading manuals/memory cards you need to HEAR this. There is over 4gb of internal memory free to get you started (10gb but only about 4gb available due to programs and sample music). If you are a long time Apple supporter you will notice the difference in sound. So much better. I wasted over an hour messing around with downloads of manuals and firmware. Didn't get me anywhere so I just did the above and WOW! To me all that matters is the sound, that is why I bought it. It's workings are horrible (especially if you are used to Apple). But once you've found play you won't care!

update 17/01/2014
Now had this marvelous piece of equipment for 5 days and can't put it down. Eventually the memory card arrived, 64gb. into the slot and it installs by itself (no idea why we get all those instructions!). Discovered lossles files for the first time, that improved the sound even more. I have decided to use Wav files because when I compared with the other lossles one there was a slight increase in quality. Easy to use ITUNES to transfer tracks to this machine. Simply right click on the track in your ITUNES file and select 'convert to wav'. Takes seconds. Then simply drag and drop into the X3. Marvelous!
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on 1 March 2016
just the job
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on 20 October 2014
Excellent quality music, really well made and easy to use. The software upgrade instructions were clear andit worked fine when I downloaded it. The player picked up the micro sd card straight away so I have 32Gb of music space available plkus the internal storage. It's probably the way I store my music as simple mp3 files but the music on the sd card doesn't appear as genres, albums etc, on the home screen just in the 'folders'. Overall I am very pleased with it. The quality of the music is excellent, I often run it through a FiO portable amplifier which makes it even better.

It comes with an authentication scratch pad to upload and check authenticity. Also comes with a silicon case so you don't need to order this separately.
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on 30 November 2014
I nearly sent this back but am glad I persevered. It took a bit of research and effort to get everything working as designed. First the good news.
- The sound is superb. I'm no audiophile but it's so clear and detailed and with decent volume. That alone makes it worthwhile
- It's a neat small package. It's solid and build quality seems good. There are no compromises, you aren't paying for wifi, video players etc. Just high quality music reproduction
- It has line out as well as headphones so you can get decent volume through hi-fi or even a small portable speaker. I looked at similar priced quality music players ( Cowon etc up to Sony at nearly £100 more) and I couldn't find one with this facility)
- It does support removeable SDHC cards even over 32Gb - I now have it working with 64Gb (not hard when you know how, more below) so you can load plenty of lossless files
- Supports multiple file formats
- Fiio support (by email) is very helpful and quick apart from the obvious time difference
- Yes the interface is rudimentary but that didn't bother me. The interface works and it is totally open so I can copy music from both my Windows and Linux machines no problems. I don't know about Apple.

It ONLY plays music. It doesn't do anything else. But if you are considering buying this you probably knew that.
What I had to do to make it work as designed was:
- It will probably be sent with hold on. Until you spot this it is impossible to progress. I wasted an hour until I spotted that!
- Firmware 3.2 works but is limited as I found it impossible to update the media library. This is an irritation as it means you can only play music direct from folders. So you have to scroll through every album and can't for example scroll through artists. The solution is to go back to 3.0. This is slightly tricky as Fiio website has the link but to a site in Chinese. If (like me) you can't read Chinese it takes a few guesses as to which button to press
- SD cards MUST be formatted in FAT32. This is an issue as Windows won't format volumes >32gb as FAT 32. Annoying if, as suggested by Amazon, you bought a 64Gb card with your X3. I formatted in my camera which worked but again not fully as the X3 couldn't update the media libary and would only play direct from folders. The full solution is to download fat32format.exe from www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk - this formats the 64gb card as 64gb in exactly the right format and Fiio can create a media library from it
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on 1 December 2014
There are more comprehensive reviews on the actual sound quality and features of the device so i'll keep my comments brief. The Fiio X3 was a bit of a side project for me. I have a Beresford TC-7520 desktop DAC/headphone amplifier and some Sony MDR-1R over ear headphones. The sound produced is nothing short breathtaking. However, i do dislike having to be forced to sit at a desk to listen to my tracks via pc.

So i set aside a few of my finest english pounds to see how close portable audio can get to a desktop setup. Im not going to beat around the bush so ill just say that portable dacs and amps (in this price range) are still not going to be able to compare to the performance of a desktop dac/amplifier. This was never expected or promised but i was just curious and thought i would mention it.

At the very least i wanted an X3 to stop me using my phone for audio when out and about or pottering around the house. I think this is where the X3 really shines. No longer do i have to consider what audio circuitry is in a phone when choosing one. Neither is my phone battery flat when i need it because its been playing audio. Thanks to the x3's awesome battery i can have audio playing pretty much all day without bother.

I dont have much to compare the X3 to (except my desktop setup) but i have found the iphone to have a great sound. I listened to a few tracks on a friends iphone (sorry didnt catch the exact model) and was very impressed. So one of my requirements was iphone quality dac but with a more powerful amplifier. Again, i feel the X3 has delivered that and more.

The sound is warm, a touch too warm for my liking but still good. Listening to Line out reveals a really nice DAC sound so i would say that the amplifier section is the weakest link in the chain. Again, we have to remember the price and its small form factor so im completely ok with it.

A lot of people give the UI a bit of a hard time but as i only do folder browsing and am not the type of person who skips songs like a mad man ive never really had a problem with it.

In summary i would say it beats most if not all phones when it comes to sound quality. If you have a desktop setup be prepared to take a drop in sound quality but you gain the freedom a portable device gives you.

Anyway, theres nothing here that warrants me to knock off a star so 5 stars it is.

***UPDATE 27/12/14***

I have updated the review as my previous review mentioned a slight niggle with the sluggish UI. After update to 3.3 FW the UI is now super fast. The update also included a graphic equalizer so alls good.
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on 3 December 2014
Superb. Easy to add media and easy to select artists/albums for plat\yback. I don't use playlists so I cannot comment on how the player functions with user-defined playlists.

Sound quality is excellent. I have loaded the player with lossless FLAC files and up to 96/24 bit studio masters. I own high end Hi-Fi (Linn) and this player sounds on a par through a decent set of headphones. I use AKG K550's and PSBM4U 2 headphones and both sound fantastic.

I definitely recommend this player. The quality is hard to beat at this price point
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on 27 October 2014
Everything you play through this will sound beutiful. The Fiio is the perfect way to redoiscover music in Flac, and it is simply stunning. If you do buy this remember to update the firmware; available from Fiio's website BUT: In order to do so youn must load it onto a Micro SD Card. I tried to do so with my 128gb MSD, but it wouldn't reconise it was there. I scavenged a 2gb SD card from an old phone and then updated it no problem, and then the 128gb card was working.

There are three things which really do suck about the Fiio though. I can overlook these things becase of the great audio quality, but...
1. The Fiio diesn't orginise items by metadata. When putting album on, be sure the number the file name.
2. No playlist support. The only way to make playlists is to make sepaerate copies of songs in a seperate folder. This isnt very data efficient though.
3. No Shuffle.

Still nice, but just don't expect an iPod with Flac support.
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