To be an audiophile (i.e. a person who loves quality of recorded sound as much as music itself) used to be an expensive, time consuming hobby. To build a perfect sound rig required knowledge of signal chains, a variety of boutique components and a physical space to fit it all in. A daunting prospect to get your head around if ever there was one. Yet there were always those to take up the challenge and defy the odds; these pioneers treated it like an art and elevated the simple pleasure of listening into a full blown passion, creating a vibrant culture in the process. Magazines on the subject gained readership and many a debate was had over which speakers were best, would CD replace vinyl and what was the ultimate op-amp combination. Still, the cost remained and the technical limitations at the time kept it that way. Fast forward a decade or two and, though technological advances had lowered costs, the prices for equipment continued to put off potential audiophiles. However, with the rise of portable lossless digital music and advances in digital storage capabilities, a gap in the market opened. FiiO stepped in. Established in 2007, this Chinese electronics company immediately set about researching and manufacturing high quality audio gear for those on a budget. The plan was simple, give the customer what they wanted at a price they can afford; then, listen to feedback and make future products better. It was an incredibly successful strategy, quickly gaining FiiO a devoted following and respected place in the hearts of audiophiles worldwide. It’s a respect greatly deserved; read any review of any FiiO product and you’ll see ‘amazing value for money’ somewhere in the first paragraph. This focus on functional quality is reinforced by the company aspiration to ‘raise the reputation of: Made in China’; an aspiration that, through clever product choices and brilliant customer interaction, they are well on the way to achieving. So if you are new to this young, exciting brand let us at AVShop take you through the key product ranges. It’s never been easier to become an audiophile!
The FiiO X3ii
The FiiO X3ii Second Generation[/caption] The X series includes 3 models of high-resolution digital audio player; X1, X3II and X5. The entry level X1 is a brilliant way to begin your high fidelity audio adventure. Selling for as little £99, it packs a serious punch with its PCM5142 digital-to-analogue converter and an Intersil ISL28291 digital amplifier buffer (components that convert digital information into an audio signal and then refine that signal into a true representation of the sound). The recent addition X3II is a midrange player though, this being FiiO, performs far better than the price point would have you believe. Far from being a beefed up X1, the X3II has a unique digital architecture to reduce jitter and conversion artifacts (which alter the sound) to nominal levels. Finally, the flagship X5II completes the range by upping the power, resolution and doubling the storage capabilities of the previous players. All FiiO DAPs support a full range of lossless files (DSD, APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, WAV, AIFF and more) and have expandable memory using microSD cards.
The FiiO E06
The E series contains the workhorses of the FiiO range, external headphone amplifiers. If you’re unsure whether an extra amp is needed then have a quick look at our ‘Beginner’s guide to headphone amplifiers’. One thing is for certain, with the E06 Fujiyama only £20.99 you might as well have a listen to hear what all the fuss is about. This lightweight yet powerful little unit is perfect for casual listening and powering mid-level headphones. Up a grade lies the E11k Kilimanjaro 2, an efficient and refined amp that retains the bass boost and boasts a c.16 hour battery life. The E12 Mont Blanc is the last dedicated headphone amp but comes in two forms, one all-round amp and one special edition model dedicated to in-ear monitors. Alongside these models FiiO also manufactures two hybrid headphone amps/DACs; the E17k Alpen 2 and the E18 Kunlun. The added features of these increase their versatility beyond the portable and with the flick of a switch can function as an outboard USB digital-audio converter for your computer. The E18 can also be used in a similar manner with mobile phones whilst also acting as a reserve battery in the process. Should you require something a little more stationary then there is even the E10k Olympus 2 desktop amplifier, integrating seamlessly with your desktop via USB. Needless to say, this range is one of the most varied FiiO offers.
The D series of DAC units is small but useful to anyone interested in a more extensive home audio set-up. The D03k Taishan is a pure DAC that can take a digital signal (as supplied by most modern televisions) and convert it to L/R audio for an external amp/speaker set-up. A useful bit of kit that opens a far greater variety of home audio/cinema set-up.
The FiiO L17
The L series is FiiOs take on that often overlooked yet crucial element; connecting cables. Using ultra-pure PCOCC-A (copper) wire manufactured by Furukawa Electric, FiiO has managed to minimise signal loss within an audio chain. The variety of cables can connect Apple devices (L3, L9), Sony Walkman (L5, L50), Optical TOSlink devices (L12, L12s) and any number of items with a 3.5mm input/output jack.
The FiiO RC-UE2
The FiiO RC-UE2[/caption] These useful aftermarket headphone re-cables use 8 strands (with 11 cores each) of silver plated copper woven together to form an elegant yet tension resistant cable for top range in-ear and over-ear headphones. The full range supplies replacements for the following headphones: Westone UM3XRC & W4R, JH Audio JH13 & JH16, Earsonics SM6 (RC-WT1); Westone UM Pro series, W series AC series and ES series (RC-WT2); Shure SE215, SE315, SE425, SE535 (RC-SE1); Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10, SuperFi 5EB, SuperFi 5 Pro, SuperFi 3 Studio (RC-UE1); and Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10, 5EB and 5 Pro (RC-UE2). Over-ear cables fit the Sennheiser HD 598 / Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and 40x (RC-HD1); and the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 & M-80, Philips Fidelio X1 and Sony MDR1R series.
The FiiO SK-M3 Sports armband for the M3 DAP
On top of all these innovations in design, FiiO also provides a full complement of accessories for its products; most notably the X series. Stacking kits (HS-12, HS-15, HS-6) hold your X series player and amplifier together whilst a variety of cases help minimise scratches and dents. I hope that’s helped lift the veil a little. This young but talented company seeks only to change the way you enjoy music.