Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
on 4 December 2013
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.
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