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Will Chinese manufacturer FiiO have a runaway success with their new budget X3 digital audio player? Noel Keywood thinks so.
Little hi-res players like the FiiO X3 I am reviewing here aren’t so common as yet but they’re an intriguing proposition for any hi-fi enthusiast. Aimed at headphone users and the portable market, they also have a Line output to drive a hi-fi. You can think of them as a high-quality ‘CD player’ then, a portable one.
The iBasso DX50 portable audio player I reviewed last month (p34, December 2012 issue) seemed like a real bargain, costing just $239 direct from the factory in China.
The FiiO X3 is also from China but costs around £150 from on-line retailers like Amazon. So if buying direct from China makes you fearful, and Amazon is a name you know and trust, the X3 may interest you.
£150 is a new, low price point for a portable potentially able to deliver sound quality better than any CD player, as well as far better sound than portables like the iPod.
I suspected there would be hidden drawbacks because this player is one-quarter the price of the market leading Astell&Kern AK100 from Korea — and of course well below the cost of hi-fi CD players too.
But what I found surprised me. The X3 isn’t as slick as the £1100 Astell&Kern AK120 I use as a high-resolution audio player, but it is impressive at one-tenth the price.
As portables go the X3 is small, measuring 110mm high, 55mm wide and 18mm deep. That makes it the size of a small mobile phone – old sort with no screen! – and easily pocketable. Weighing 125gms on our scales, it isn’t especially heavy either and won’t be punching a hole in your pocket.
Unlike the iBasso DX50, but like the AK100, 120 and Colorfly C4 Pro I have reviewed, the X3 has a non-replaceable internal battery charged through its USB socket. It is a 3000mAH, 3.7V lithium polymer cell.