Fiio X7ii £600

FOR Good sense of rhythm; clear midrange; punchy bass AGAINST Sound could use more space; build isn’t per­fect

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Hi-res Music Players -

Fiio’s X7ii is a jack-of-all-trades. Want some­thing that can han­dle your hi-res au­dio and also stream­ing ser­vices? Check. What about stream­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and dig­i­tal in­puts? Dou­ble check. It seems it can do it all.

But a prod­uct that spreads it­self too thinly risks mak­ing com­pro­mises and while the X7ii has an im­pres­sive ar­ray of fea­tures and a sturdy build qual­ity, it’s per­haps not quite as bom­bas­tic as a por­ta­ble player should be.

The main qual­ity that makes the X7ii stand out from the pack is that it looks and feels like a smart­phone on steroids. It’s got a nice weight to it, a line-out con­nec­tion so you can feed your hi-fi, jacks for 3.5mm and 2.5mm head­phones, and a par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing click­wheel vol­ume con­trol.

The soft­ware pow­er­ing it is very close to the An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem you’ll find on a mo­bile or tablet. This al­lows ac­cess to ev­ery app on Google’s Play Store through the X7ii’s dual band wi-fi, which means you get au­to­matic lyric and al­bum art­work de­tec­tion, down­loaded when the player is con­nected to the in­ter­net – a nice touch.

Strangely it’s more com­fort­able when held in your left hand, with the but­tons and vol­ume wheel be­ing on that side. South­paws might be happy, but for most right-handed peo­ple it’s more in­con­ve­nient than most. And build qual­ity is a bit patchy, with the case sides not lin­ing up quite as well as we’d like.

A trio of clocks

As far as play­ing hi-res mu­sic goes, though, the X7ii has no prob­lems. It will play up to 64-bit/384khz WAV (for FLAC or Ap­ple Loss­less files, the max­i­mum is 32-bit/384khz) and DSD128 mu­sic; Fiio has also packed three clocks into the X7ii – one for 44.1khz, one for 48khz, and one for 384khz – which should mean a more ac­cu­rate dig­i­tal-to-ana­logue con­ver­sion and, ul­ti­mately, bet­ter sound. Bat­tery power comes in at 3800MAH, which, by our es­ti­ma­tion, should give you around 10 hours of life. And, with two Mi­crosd card slots on top of its 64GB of stor­age, you have 576GB of space for all your tracks (so around 800 al­bums).

We load it up with a hi-res file of Bob Mar­ley and the Wail­ers’ No Woman No

Cry (Live At The Lyceum), and the player doesn’t shy away from high­light­ing Mar­ley’s wail as he comes in above the chant­ing crowd. The X7ii gives a good ren­di­tion of the croak­ing, snappy qual­ity to his singing, and the claps from the au­di­ence are com­mend­ably crisp.

This player has no trou­ble keep­ing each el­e­ment or­gan­ised, al­though we’d like a lit­tle more spa­cious­ness. Mid­way through the song, when other singers join him and the crowd for the cho­rus, the X7ii man­ages to keep the voices dis­tinct – but it has more trou­ble re­veal­ing the scale of this live show.

Rhyth­mic – but vi­brant?

Chang­ing to David Bowie’s Black­star re­veals the X7ii’s sense of rhythm, too. Drum­beats shoot up on your left, rapidly switch to your right, and then dis­ap­pear as quickly as they ap­peared. Each is de­liv­ered with a good amount of punch no mat­ter whether it’s a smaller bash from a snare, or a larger thump from Mark Guil­iana’s kick drum.

We stream Tay­lor Swift’s Shake It Off through Tidal and there’s still a de­cent amount of in­sight to the midrange – her gig­gle at the start of the track is nat­u­ral, and the harsh­ness to her vo­cal­i­sa­tions are high­lighted with­out be­ing prom­i­nent.

What lets the X7ii down, though, is that it’s not a par­tic­u­larly vi­brant player. Michael Jack­son’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough doesn’t jump as well as it should, re­veal­ing the X7ii’s lack of dy­namic drive. The scream that kicks off the song is rel­a­tively re­strained, and the high­fre­quency synths that streak through the songs aren’t as cut­ting as they should be.

To some ex­tent, the X7ii is most hin­dered by its some­what ‘in-be­tween’ price tag. The ex­tra cost doesn’t trans­late to enough of an im­prove­ment in sound qual­ity over the cheaper A&K AK70. And those who can spend more can al­ways go for the im­pres­sively ca­pa­ble Astell & Kern Kann in­stead.

The po­si­tion­ing of the but­tons and click-wheel means the X7ii is more eas­ily used in the le hand

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