Fiio X7ii £600
FOR Good sense of rhythm; clear midrange; punchy bass AGAINST Sound could use more space; build isn’t perfect
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