FiiO Q3 Portable DAC/Amplifier Review

 

 

 

 

FiiO Q3 DAC/Amplifier Review

 

Introduction:

The FiiO Q3 is the new member of the Q Series Portable DAC & Amplifiers, which offers some very interesting specs like a THX AAA28 Amplifier Module, AK4462 DAC Chip, XMOS208 Chip, 3.5mm Single Ended / 2.5mm + 4.4mm Balanced outputs and Native DSD support up to DSD512.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the Q3 as review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered, opinions about the product.

 

 

Purchase Links:

The FiiO Q3 is available under the following official FiiO Online Stores;

 

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The device came in pretty small box with the FiiO brand logo on the top that is wrapped with a cardboard in black color with the illustration of the Q3 and some brandings on the top.

 

This box contains the following items;

  • 1 x FiiO Q3 Portable DAC/AMP
  • 1 x USB A to USB Type-C cable for file transfer and charging
  • 1 x 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm Cable
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB Type-C Cable
  • 1 x Lightning to USB Type-C Cable
  • 1 x Protective Pouch
  • 1 x Silicone Stacking Pad
  • 4 x Rubber Stacking Bands (2x with Small & 2x with Bigger Diameter)
  • 1 x User Manual & Warranty card

 

 

 

Design & Build Quality:

The FiiO Q3 is a portable USB DAC & Amplifier that is pretty small and lightweight thanks to its dimensions with about 105x59x12.5mm and total weight around 110grams.

The FiiO Q3 is also a very well made device same as other FiiO branded product that I have reviewed or experienced before. It features a CNC machined aluminum alloy chassis with a sand blasted surface that has a black finish.

The sides of the device do have a curved shape that makes it comfortable to hold in your hand. On the top of the device are the FiiO and the Hi-Res Audio logos in white color.

At the rear side of the device are two screws, two switches (one for bass and one for charging on/off), the multifunctional button for “Gain” & “DAC Filter” selection and the USB-Type-C port for both data and charging purposes.

On the front of the device are the 3.5mm single ended phone/lineout, 2.5mm & 4.4mm balanced outputs and the volume potentiometer that turns also the device on and off.

The potentiometer has a nice red ring on the front and offers a nice grip.

Near the potentiometer is an LED that lights up in different colors (blue, red, green, etc.) and gives information’s of the actual operation/codec status.

At the backside of the Q3 are some industrial certifications and the THX AAA detail in white color.

 

 

Technical Specifications:
  • Model                         : FiiO Q3
  • DAC                            : 2 x AK4462
  • XMOS Chip                 : XMOS XU208
  • DSD Support              : DSD64/128/256/512
  • AMP Module               : THX AAA28
  • LPF                              : 2 x OPA1662
  • USB In/Out                 : USB Type-C (Data/USB DAC/USB Audio)
  • Battery                        : 1800 mAH
  • Battery Life                 : 19h (AUX IN Balanced), 10h (USB IN Phone Out), 8.5h (Balanced)
  • Size                             : about 105x59x12.5mm
  • Weight                        : 110g (incl. battery)

 

 

THX AAA28 AMP Module – 3.5mm Headphone Out:

  • Frequency Response  : 20 Hz~80 kHz
  • THD+N                       : 0.0012% (Phone Out) / 0.0015% (BAL Out)
  • Output Impedance     : Phone Out 1.2Ω (32Ω loaded) / Balanced Out 3Ω (32Ω loaded)
  • SNR (A-weight)          : ≥114dB Phone Out / ≥113dB Balanced Out
  • Output Power PO      : 150mW@16Ω / 160mW@32Ω / 19mW@300Ω
  • Output Power BAL     : 180mW@16Ω / 300mW@32Ω / 35mW@300Ω
  • Channel Balance        : ≤0.2 dB
  • Recommended Impedance   : 16 ~ 300Ω (BAL) / 16 ~ 100Ω (PO)

 

 

Features:

 

A) Dual AKM  DAC Chips:

The FiiO Q3 features 2 (Dual) x AK4462 DAC (Digital to Analog Converters) Chips of the company Asahi Kasei. AK4462 is a power efficient VELVET SOUND DAC with decoding support up to 768kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD512.

 

B) THX AAA28 Amplifier Module:

The Q3 features the THX AAA28 amplifier module with THX’s patented feed-forward error correction topology that offers low distortion and high power output. The SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) value of the 2.5mm & 4.4mm Balanced Outputs are about ≥113dB.

 

C) XMOS XU208 for Native DSD:

The Q3 comes with the same XMOS XUF208 USB chip as found on FiiO’s flagship DAC/amplifier, allowing it to easily support decoding up to 768kHz/32bit PCM and DSD512.

The XMOS XU208 is a 32-bit multicore microcontroller that brings the low latency and timing determinism of the xCORE architecture to mainstream embedded applications.

 

D) Amplification & Connectivity:

The FiiO Q3 comes with the new THX AAA28 amplifier module that promises high power with low distortion. Q3 is able to produce 150mW@16Ω, 160mW@32Ω & 19mW@300Ω over Phone Out, while the Balanced Outputs deliver 180mW@16Ω, 300mW@32Ω & 35mW@300Ω.

The USB DAC Audio function of the FiiO Q3 works with MAC’s, Windows PC’s (over USB 1.1), Android and iOS device without the need of installation of any driver. But, if you want to use the device with a Windows PC for the first time at USB2.0 mode, please go to FiiO’s website to download the driver and follow the corresponding instructions to install the driver.

 

E) Battery Life:

My results are pretty close to the specs that have been shared by FiiO, which I think are pretty good for such a small device. I have tested the battery life with the FiiO FH3 and FiiO FH7 In-Ear Monitors under the following condition;

 

  • Line-In                         : up to 18 Hours
  • USB Out (PO)              : approx 9 Hours
  • USB Out (Balanced)    : approx. 7.5 – 8 Hours

*Volume about %50, @ Low Gain

 

F) Interference Shield:

The FiiO Q3 comes with a high strength all-aluminum body that has an additional copper-nickel shielding, which offers 360° radio frequency absorption, even when you use the device side by side or stacked with a source like a Smartphone or Tablet.

 

 

Equipment’s used for this review:

Sources                     : FiiO Q3, FiiO M6, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, iPad Air2
IEM’s                          : FiiO FH7, FiiO FH3, FiiO FD1

 

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • George Frederic Handel –Sarabande in D Minor (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • The Dave Brubeck Quarted – Take Five (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • No Doubt – Hella Gut (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kpbs)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)

 

 

The Sound:

The FiiO Q3 is a DAC/Amplifier with a close to neutral and detailed presentation that offers a good level of treble detail, sharpness and extension, with nice amount of airiness.  The Q3 shows in general a pretty natural and linear tuning in any frequency region.  The overall toning on the other hand is neither too sterile/dry nor to warm.

PS: The review is written after a burn-in process of about 70 hours mainly based on my experiences with the FiiO FH3 and FiiO FH7 In-Ear Monitors.

 

3.5mm Single Ended versus 2.5mm/4.4mm Balanced:

Both the 2.5mm & 4.4mm balanced outputs of the FiO Q3 do offer a darker background and slightly more dynamic and powerful presentation compared to the standard 3.5mm single ended output. The subbass has more depth and intensity. The 3.5mm Single Ended output shows a softer tonality and a shorter treble extension. If you have an earphone/headphone with highlighted treble response, the 3.5mm SE output will offer a better synergy.

 

Bass:

The FiiO Q3 shows a good level of subbass depth that will meet the expectations from a DAC/Amplifier. The bass quantity will be quite enough for most listeners and genres, while you have the option to increase the quantity to a next level (about 6dB) with the bass boost switch. But to be honest while the boost doesn’t affected the midrange (with exception of a slightly midbass hump that was somewhat noticeable with male vocals) and treble to much, the bass sounded a bit less controlled and loose to my ears.

It is very enjoyable to hear the deep and rumbling subbass of the Q3, especially in songs like Massive Attack’s “Angel” and Portishead’s “It Could Be Sweet”.

FiiO Q3 has a fast, pretty emphasized and controlled midbass performance, without to show remarkable negative situations such like a midbass hump or mixings. The Q3 offers a sufficient level midbass quantity and intensity for most listeners, inclusive bassheads, and is able to produce soft or strong bass notes depending of the record.

The bass response is very fast, from percussion instruments like drums up to the guitars in metal music. Electro- and Bass guitars do have a good level of rumble, speed and depth, while the bow pulls of the contrabass that can produce a high level of rumble/vibrations are pretty audible.

The FiiO Q3 can handle the kick and drum beats of trash metal in terms of bass speed and tightness, so it will satisfy the listeners with its dynamism.

 

Midrange:

The FiiO Q3 offers a pretty detailed and natural midrange character, with a good level of airiness and clarity. The midrange is soft but also lively that doesn’t tire your ears.

The Q3 has a deep pretty deep lower midrange presentation that is neither far recessed nor too much highlighted. Male vocals do sound very clean, have good depth, and do sound quite vivid and clear. Female vocals on the other hand are reproduced in a quite transparent, airy and detailed manner, with good level of extension and control. Those who listen to female vocals a lot will find what they are looking for in Q3.

The instrument tonality of the Q3 is neither bold nor too dry or thin and can be in general described as pretty natural, while the timbre of instruments is clear and distinct. Instruments like guitars are slightly bright and do have good extension, while the violin performance of the Q3 in terms of emphasis, extension and detail retrieval is very successful.

The FiiO Q3 is also a quite successful DAC/Amplifier when it comes to the separation an placement of instruments and vocals.

Upper Midrange & Treble:

The FiiO Q3 has a clear, strong and sharp upper midrange presentation with transitions that are in general fairly controlled. The upper midrange of the Q3 is well-tuned and doesn’t show any unnecessary over-sharpness/brightness that could tire your ears over time. From female vocals up to instruments such like violins and pianos, the extension, emphasis and detail retrieval of the Q3 is pretty good.

The FiiO Q3 has a close to neutral, transparent and bright treble presentation with good level of airiness and extension. I really enjoyed the treble tuning that is smooth but don’t falls short in any register of this region. Every song, from Chopin’s “Nocturn” to Gogo Penguin’s sharp jazz, sounded successful in terms of treble extension, intensity and sharpness, which brings me to the conclusion that the Q3 performs above its price range when it comes to the treble performance.

The lower treble region is slightly more emphasized and detailed compared to the upper treble area, which sound otherwise pretty good in this regarding. The general treble presentation is controlled and well adjusted, so that it doesn’t tire your ears even after longer listening periods. Instruments like hi-hats pronounced and do shows a good level of extension, while crash and ride cymbals are fast and detailed. Treble range has a very good speed in metal and jazz music and shows a good amount of intensity and brightness in genres such as EDM or Pop without to disturb your ears.

 

Soundstage:

The FiiO Q3 has a pretty large stage for a precise and clear placement and separation of instrument and vocals. The neutral tonality and the wideness of the stage do help to make a quite spacious and airy atmosphere. The soundstage shows a good level of wideness, while the depth is on an average level.

 

 

Conclusion:

FiiO offers with the Q3 a very compact and affordable DAC/Amplifier with great specs like the THX AAA28 Amplifier Module or the XMOS208 Chip for Native DSD up to 512x and lots of output options that has been crowned with a sound capability that performs wide above its price tag.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Natural Presentation & Timbre
  • + Bass Response
  • + Midrange Tonality
  • + Treble Control & Extension
  • + THX AAA28 Amplifier Module & Good Shielding
  • + Lots of Output Options (3.5mm SE, 4.4mm & 2.5mm Balanced)
  • + Build Quality

 

  • – Bass authority when Bass Switch is On
  • – Bluetooth Connectivity would be great (maybe not a real con)
  • – No Protective Silicone Case included

 

Thank you for the Read!

 

 

 

 

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