FiiO Q5 Review – A State-of-the-art Bluetooth Headphone Amplifier with aptX and DSD Technology

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The subject of this review fits well with the company's previous accomplishments - FiiO's mobile DAC/AMPs have always impressed with their creative features and compact size. This time, the FiiO Q5 Bluetooth headphone amplifier comes with the flagship CSR8675 chip from Qualcomm for the wireless interface, supporting Bluetooth 5.0 and standard codecs, including aptX. It also uses the popular XU208 chip for USB for the maximum possible resolutions for the DAC.

With advanced wireless capabilities, a sandblasted aluminum chassis, exemplary build quality, and top-notch sound with either 2.5mm balanced or 3.5mm unbalanced output, the Q5 Bluetooth headphone amplifier should likely be a must-have for anyone who uses a smartphone as an audio source. It is very likely to be an excellent device. But it’s worth taking a closer look and unveil all the information we find in this review.

FiiO Q5 High-end Bluetooth Headphone Amplifier Review

DAC: 2x Asahi Kasei AK4490EN | USB receiver: XMOS XU208 | Bluetooth chip: CSR8670, LFP 2x OPA1642 | Volume control: NJW1195 | OPAMP: AD8620+OP926 | Bluetooth technology: 4.2 with aptX, AAC, SBC support | DSD support: DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 | Sampling support: 32 bit/384 kHz (USB), 24 bit/192 kHz (coaxial), 24 bit/96 kHz (optical) | Battery: 3800 mAh – 3.5 hours with 5 V/2 A | Gain control: Low and High | Bass boost: Single Stage | Dimensions: 124 x 64 x 16 mm | Weight: 195 g

Pros

Cons

Visually, the device follows the lines of its predecessor, with a very similar aluminum body with leather inserts. Despite the slim form factor, FiiO has been creative with materials and textures, giving the Q5 a classic modern gadget look. This “exclusive” look is complemented by a traditional high-quality fit and finish.

The controls are located on both sides. On the right is the volume control, which also acts as an on/off switch. Below is the input selector button and four indicators showing the selected source (USB, line level, optical, coaxial). If you press and hold this button, the LEDs also indicate the approximate battery level for a quick check. The volume control has a high-quality potentiometer, which turns quite loudly and doesn’t skip. Traditionally, newer FiiO devices use a hybrid PG circuit here, where the resistance of the potentiometer is read by the ADC and fed into a separate volume control circuit to ensure perfect channel balance and no noise when you turn the knob.

The other side contains the playback control knob, while the middle knob turns Bluetooth on/off and enables pairing mode. At the top are the gain and bass boost switch and two jacks for line out and universal input (line, coax, and optical).

At the bottom is the amplifier module, which determines the number and type of headphone outputs. In the AM3E, the designers tried to provide the user with all possible outputs: 3.5 mm and two balanced, 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm. It also has a MicroUSB input for charging and connecting the DAC to a signal source. The use of the old connectors is obviously intended to maintain compatibility with the old K5 and DK1.

On the front panel, above the amplifier, there is a multicolor display that shows the current Bluetooth codec and the sample rate of the signal being sent to the DAC. This display is not particularly bright, so it won’t bother you while you work, but you can turn it off in the application if necessary.

The quality of the Bluetooth module is also quite high, with a range of up to 10 meters, undisturbed by thin walls, and you can select any codec, except for HWA and LDAC quality. If your source supports Bluetooth 5.0, the communication quality will be even better.

The FiiO Q5 has a battery life of about 10 hours as a DAC/AMP and about 20 hours as a portable amplifier. In other words, the battery life is typical and quite acceptable for a powerful device with quality DAC circuits and amplifiers.

The Q5’s power reserve should handle most headphones. It runs smoothly, and in most cases, you don’t even need to turn up the high gain; the Q5 runs at a very decent level (especially with the balanced outputs). Another advantage is the almost total absence of noise when connected by wire, even when using high sensitivity IEM headphones. Unfortunately, there is some discrete ambient noise when connected via Bluetooth, but this only occurs during pauses between songs, so I’m inclined to consider this a very good result.

The FiiO Q5 supports aptX, a lossless codec for high-resolution music playback over Bluetooth, but at this price, aptX HD is already a welcome addition. The device is MFi certified, and the Q5 can work with iOS without additional adapters.

Most FiiO music players can connect to the Q5 via Bluetooth control (no USB, unfortunately). By doing this, you can also see the exact battery level and Bluetooth codec in use and turn off the indicator light, disable USB charging to prevent the Q5 from draining the signal source, enabling the EQ, and set the sleep timer delay.

The addition of an automatic switch is a very good idea to avoid forgetting to turn off the DAC and running out of power. It turns off when there is no signal, and to turn it on, you just need to reset the volume knob.

The Q5 is the best piece of FiiO hardware I’ve encountered to date. I didn’t expect it to sound this good. The signature in USB DAC/AMP mode is neutral and somewhat bright. The sound is very clean, direct, and has a good resolution. The sound signature is analytical and clean but not lean, harsh, or lifeless; the FiiO Q5 has tight bass with enough energy and weight to keep the user engaged.

Bass

The Q5’s bass is fast, with good weight and depth. If you’re used to full-bodied basses and volume, or some emphasis in the lower part of the range, you won’t get that with this combo. Nevertheless, the bass has good texture and instrument separation for this price. Bassy headphones won’t become lean, and musical genres based on low frequencies won’t lose character.

Mid-range

The mid-range is also presented neutrally. Vocals and instruments in this frequency range reproduce every nuance perfectly, and the excellent uncompressed 3D soundstage and emotional tones will satisfy all listeners who like beautiful and melodic music. The resolution is high, and the sound is never softened or smoothed out. There is plenty of detail, the sound is not dull in the midrange and treble, and when it needs to be, it is adequately saturated in the midrange and bass.

Treble

The FiiO Q5’s highs are also rich in detail and have good resolution. High-frequencies benefit from a good presentation formed of multiple layers and development of the dynamics – good attack, but only decent decays. The highs are fast, with a strong emphasis on brass, strings, vocal, and guitar, and carefully conveys drum cymbals. In general, people sensitive to high frequencies won’t appreciate this DAC/amp combo (with a careful selection of headphones, the combo might works wonders). Still, the Q5 is a good choice for fans of natural treble expression.

Genres

Classical, jazz, blues, and rock are genres in which the Q5’s neutrality stands out: exciting percussion, powerful pickups, and a wide variety of details give character to the melodies; in more complex genres like R&B and soul, the Q5 headphone amp can sound a bit dull. This may sound boring, but it always brings out the artist’s voice, emotion, and melodic detail. In addition, the instruments are well placed and audible.

This makes the Q5 absolutely versatile, no matter what kind of music you’re playing. In terms of sound signature, this amplifier impresses with a more balanced, neutral, and linear presentation.

With Bluetooth, the sound quality is even poorer; the Bluetooth connection is not the same as a USB transmission, just a little less. The Bluetooth sound is still good, although its characteristics are slightly different; the sound is more balanced and linear. The highs are a bit softer, the sound is warmer, and the soundstage is a bit smaller. The dynamics are still present, the resolution and details are not lacking, but it is less analytical. The signal is also less clean. There is a little more interference with the wireless transmission.

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