FiiO Q1 Mark II Amp Review

FiiO Q1 Mark II Amp Review

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FiiO Q1 Mark II portable AMP/DAC is not aimed at a niche market in terms of features or specifications, which is surprising because it really does have a lot to offer. Nevertheless, let's present FiiO Q1 Mark II's hallmarks and shortcomings in this review.

The first generation Q1 was a decent portable DAC for around $100, but it wasn’t spectacular. The second-generation Mark II Q1 has features that other manufacturers generally consider flagships, such as 220mW of balanced output power into a 32-ohm load, support for all audio resolutions up to 384kHz/32bit, and DSD256 (direct digital streaming), and support for iOS. Features that other manufacturers generally consider to be flagships.

FiiO Q1 Mark II Portable Amplifier & DAC Review

DAC: AK4452 | Amplifiers: OPA1662 + OPA2332 + OPA926 | Output Power: 3.5 mm unbalanced (112 mW/16 Ohms), balanced (230 mW/16 Ohms) | Recommended Load Impedance: 16 – 150 Ohms | Charging: up to 4 Hours | Battery: 10 hours | Supported Resolutions: up to 384 kHz/32-bit, up to DSD256 | Weight: 101g

Pros

Cons

To be completed

Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless On-Ear Headphones
TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 - Package Accessories Bundle | Source: Taotronics
5/5
5/5

The FiiO Q1 Mark II headphone amplifier contains a rather thin white cardboard box. The printing and accessories are traditionally decent. Also, to check the originality of the product, a striped sticker covers the originality check code.

Inside, aside from the DAC itself, we find.

  • A nice little case with a strap that holds the device in place.
  • Two pairs of rubber rings to connect the DAC/amplifier to your smartphone/player.
  • Micro-USB to Lightning adapter to connect your iOS device
  • 3.5 mm jack cable (AUX) on both sides
  • Cable to connect to your computer (Mac/Windows).
  • Warranty card + instruction manual.

The included Lightning cable is a nice bonus for Apple device users, but overall you get a standard package without a lot of bells and whistles. No other cables are included, but it’s not hard to find the right cable for your Android device. If you’re using a Sony player, you’ll need to buy a separate cable.

5/5
5/5

FiiO managed to get the design just right, which makes it look premium and makes it easy to use. First of all, the Q1 Mark II is smaller than it looks in the pictures. The amplifier is a bit flatter, and the whole thing is devoid of unnecessary parts. Only the gold ring around the plug and the “massive” volume wheel show that the design gives a thoughtful approach to the development. All in all, everything is finished to a high standard, which is natural for FiiO.

The controls are pretty standard. On the front panel, there is a volume control and a power switch. It uses a hybrid control scheme where the analog potentiometer is operated and controlled digitally by reading its resistance with an encoder. This avoids spinning noise and interference between channels. There are two LEDs near the knob, one indicating that the unit is powered on and the other lighting up when the signal is in DSD format. The middle of the front panel is a universal jack that can be used as a line in or line out. There are also normal 3.5mm headphone outputs and balanced 2.5mm headphone outputs.

Connector parameters:

  • Frequency range 6 Hz ~ 80 kHz (3 dB)
  • Total harmonic distortion + noise: ≤ 0.003% @ 1 kHz
  • Channel separation: ≥ 90% @ 1 kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥ 110 dB
  • Frequency range 5 Hz ~ 55 kHz (3 dB)
  • Total harmonic distortion + noise (DAC mode): <0.003% @ 1 kHz
  • Channel separation (amplifier mode): ≥ 79% @ 1 kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio (DAC mode): ≥109 dB
  • Output impedance <1.2 ohms
  • Voltage > 4.4 Vp-p
  • Power: ≥ 75 mW @ 32 Ω, ≥ 11 mW @ 300 Ω.
  •  Frequency range 6 Hz ~ 80 kHz (3 dB)
  • Total harmonic distortion + noise (DAC mode): <0.003% @ 1 kHz
  • Channel separation (amplifier mode): ≥ 93% @ 1 kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio (DAC mode): ≥ 109 dB
  • Output impedance <2Ω
  • Voltage > 7.4 Vp-p
  • Power: ≥ 220 mW @ 32Ω, ≥ 45 mW @ 300Ω.

On the back is a MicroUSB input for charging or connecting to a source and two switches for gain and bass boost (the bass boost is perfectly implemented and useful, by the way). The new Q1 Mark II headphone amplifier has to figure out whether it is connected to a computer or a smartphone, and in the latter case, not to charge its battery, discharging the phone. With iOS devices, this works fine; people complained that sometimes the amplifier turns on the charging mode when connected to Android phones.

I’ve seen complaints that the Q1 Mark II is sensitive to background noise when used with a smartphone. Specifically, I tested it with an iPhone 8 and a Samsung Galaxy S9 while listening to music from Spotify over Wi-Fi and LTE, and there was no noise beyond the quiet background of the Q1 amp itself. This may depend on your smartphone, router, or other special circumstances, but I didn’t hear any noticeable or significant noise.

Aside from these issues, this headphone amplifier is very compact and portable. Using Shure’s over-the-ear earphones SE215 with average volume, the unit ran for approximately 10 hours, and the recharge took slightly under 4 hours.

4/5
4/5

The following headphones were used for listening: the Shure SE215, Meze 99 Classics, Sennheiser HD 660S, Bowers & Wilkins PX7, Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, Philips SHP6000, and others.

The amplifier section of the Q1 Mark II uses the same circuitry as the fresh amplifiers in the flagship X7-2 AM3A. With these DAC and USB transport improvements, the FiiO Q1 Mark 2 is quite different from the previous Q1, with which it probably has nothing in common. As a portable headphone amplifier, the Q1 Mark II outperforms the more recent FiiO X1-II and comes close in quality to the X3-III, albeit with slightly lower audio resolution. However, I don’t see the point of using the Q1 Mark II as an amplifier since most modern players have comparable power, which is why its best use is as a portable Amp/DAC with a smartphone as the source.

Bass is a bit more pronounced in the midrange, giving the sound a more three-dimensional feel. Bass resolution is standard, though limited. I wouldn’t say the bass is overly harsh, but it is much less soft or tame. The bass has enough quality to sound natural, and texture is conveyed at the right level. Powerful bass is present, but not so much that it drowns out the rest of the soundstage. Overall, it is decent for the price and gets a decent amount of emphasis. This type of bass response is common in modern models in the low to the mid-price range with normal resolution. If you like big sounds, this bass amp does a good job of “boosting” the bottom half of the frequency range.

The midrange is probably the strongest point of this amp. The DAC reproduces music in great detail without aggression or accentuating the flaws in the recording. The soundstage is slightly wider than average and slightly less deep, but the separation is very good in both directions.

The treble has a very interesting timbre, with a slight accentuation in the low register on the one hand and a softening on the other. The result is a richness of detail that never becomes boring. On the other hand, this expression cannot be described as natural. However, it is not logical to expect natural midrange reproduction with devices in the economy price range. Therefore, any attempt to make it sound more interesting than it is is an advantage rather than a disadvantage of this DAC.

5/5
5/5

Regarding headphones compatibility, this amp has enough power reserves for almost any headphone that needs to be portable. There is some noise with sensitive headphones, but it is low enough to be barely audible with less sensitive models.

As far as genre goes, the Q1 Brand II is a bit pretentious (not surprising given its price), and the material quality is about a 6 out of 10.

Playing jazz, the Q1’s unconventional configuration sounded great. Tight piano notes, tangible bass tone, and light, unobtrusive percussion were all perfect. Another good aspect of this amplifier is pop music, not just modern pop, but the kind of pop of Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and Nirvana. Most of the songs in this section have a reasonable level of musical expression and sonic entertainment.

Contemporary music also benefits from some of the features of the FiiO Q1 Mark II. Contemporary pop, dance, and electronic music is engaging and energetic. Whether you’re listening to the deep vocals of Zach Heimsey, delicate vocals, or instrumentals by Ludovico Einaudi and Ludwig Göransson, you’ll be satisfied.

4.8/5
4.8/5

The original Q1 amplifier was more of a portable amplifier with DAC connectivity. The new Q1 Mark II amplifier is a full-featured portable DAC with everything from balanced outputs to MFi certification for Apple users. Fortunately, the designers did not forget the reasonable and user-friendly price nor compromised sound quality in their quest for features.

Pros

Cons

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