FIIO XI: WHO STILL CARRIES THEIR MUSIC?!?!
This Guy Does!
by Oscar Parada
There are very few of us out there that love carrying our music around with us instead of streaming them. I am one of those aging dinosaurs that, when not near a laptop, desktop, tablet, etc., end up pulling out my non-ideal device that carrys my 2,000+ songs (and growing). Now some of you might be asking the following questions:
Bro...what's an MP3 player!?!?
Bro...you still carry your music with you?!?!
Bro...who or what the hell is FiiO!?!?
If you don't know what an MP3 player is...go Google it!
Yes, I do still carry around, and prefer, an MP3 player rather than listening to MY music on a streaming device.
In case you don't know by now...I'm going to be reviewing the FiiO XI (2nd Gen.) MP3 Player.
Unfortunately, when most you think of or hear the term MP3 player you most likely will think of Apple's iPod or Shuffle or Nano. Well, in case you're wondering...there are, and were, other MP3 players out there. I was one of the few who actually owned a Microsoft Zune (do you remember that?!?!?). And I actually liked the Zune considering it's poor marketing delivery that led to it's demise. I unfortunately traded in that device because I got tired of having to rely on a company's application as the only way to get my music into their device.
Now I've had a number of different MP3 palyers, including the Zune. My most recent endeavor has been with the XI from FiiO but before purchasing the XI I was doing a lot of research on a wide array of MP3 players. I've never heard of FiiO prior to my research. I was really looking at the Astell & Kern AK Jr and the Sony NWZ-A17 but the thing that I was to impressed was the size of the devices. I was looking for something a little more compact, stylish, enough memory space, and not kill my wallet.
So after weeks of researching I finally decided on the FiiO XI because of its tiny size (2.2 x 3.6 x 0.5 inches), it's lightweight (around 3.5 oz), and it's support of up to a 256GB micro SD card. There's no internal memory in this MP3 player so it's space capacity is based on the size of the micro SD card you get (I ended up getting a 256GB card). The 2' color screen has a resolution of 320 x 240 and the colors from the album art are pretty clear and I have no problems reading the text. It's got a great aluminum brush finish and I love how solid it feels in my hands. The solidity of this device almost makes me wonder if it should weigh more based on look and feel. It comes with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack that you can convert to an output line when you want to connect to a set of speakers. It also supports in-line remote control so if you have a pair of headphones that have an in-line remove you can control the volume, skip and rewind music, and pause.
Frontal view of the FiiO XI (2nd Gen.) player. You see the 2" screen with scroll wheel, menu button (top left), back button (top right), and both the back and forward buttons (both lower)
View from under the player. You see the 3.5mm headphone jack, micro USB port, and a microSD card slot with a 256GB card already occupying it.
Side view with power button and volume up and down button
Getting music onto the micro SD card was so simple because there was no special interface needed (unlike iTunes). You simple connect the XI to your system and the OS will recognize the micro SD card as just another drive. And then...you can drag n' drop. Easy!!!! If you have a micro SD adapter you can pop out the card from the XI and use the adapter to transfer your songs.
It comes with Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity so if you got a pair of wireless headphones you can connect them, I have a pair of JBL Relfect Mini headphones. If you're wondering what the music sounds like from the XI compared to, let's say, streaming from your phone or tablet I can honestly say that there is definitely a difference in sound quality. Especially when you have a good set of speakers or headphones to listen off of. I had recently connected my XI to the my parent's stereo (via Bluetooth) in their luxury SUV and the sound that was produced was just amazing (in case you're wondering I was playing "One" by Metallica). Most of my audio files come in the .mp3 format, with a few in .wav, but all of FiiO's music players support the following major lossless music formats:
By that list alone you know that this device is just built for hi-resolution audio but with all of the awesomeness that comes packed with the XI there are a few things that grind my gears. Mainly...with the interface. I can't tell you how many times my XI has almost been injected into a wall or chucked out the window of my car because of the interface. As of this writing the most recent firmware version that is available for the XI is v1.6.2. So let's take a look at the issues that I've experienced with the XI...
Delay in Playing Music After Selection
Sometimes this happens and other times it does not. When I select a song from a different artist when I'm playing another artist's song the device will just sit there for any where from 1 to 3 seconds. Now I currently have my music in the following folder structure:
Artist Folder --> Album Folder --> Song File
Could this be the reason why the interface takes some time to play the songs I want? I'm not sure because like I said...sometimes it takes time for the song to come up but other times it's almost instantaneous. So I'll go ahead and see if maybe by moving all of my music under ONE directory I could see improvement in selecting my music. When I do play music that's located in the same directory I do notice that the music plays almost instantaneously. This is definitely on my to-do list to try.
Controls Can Be Wonky at Times
This is another frustrating element that comes with the XI. There's this issue in where when you power back on the device while it's still playing, and you attempt to either pause the song, fast forward, rewind, or even back out to the main menu I would either have the volume go up/down, the song would rewind when I pressed the back button, the device would take about 3 seconds to do ANYTHING, or the device would do NOTHING.
Another PITA issue is getting the numbers screen. Before firmware v1.6.2 was released you had a good amount of users complaining that, whenever they were playing their music from the categories menu, they would receive a black screen when they press the Back button and then a random set of numbers would appear whenever you press any button. The picture below is a great example of this problem
Side view with power button and volume up and down button
Now to my delight....FiiO resolved this issue with the release of firmware v1.6.2 but the other problems still seem to be happening. This is my #1 Gears Grinder and as I said before, I was so happy they fixed this problem that the other issue that come with this device don't seem too bad to deal with anymore. Still though...I'm hoping that the developers over at FiiO continue pumping out updated firmware versions to fix the other issues.
So do I feel that the XI is a good deal for those of you who still love carrying around your music? If you can get past the twitchy interface I absolutely think that this is a great music device to carry around your music collection. For around $100 this is also something I'd recommend for you heavy audio geeks out there who love to listen to their music in any of the supported formats I mentioned above.
2" Screen displaying album art and the name of the song ("Through the Valley" by Shawn James...great song from The Last of Us)