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Big thanks to the folks at FiiO for sending me this demo unit. I am not being compensated by them for this review in any way. I’m simply giving my impressions of the Amp/DAC. Read on to find out what I thought!
So as for the question of does it have enough power?
I’ve demoed a lot of amps at this point, and the differences in sound between them are pretty subtle. For the most part, something around $100-200 is going to be just fine for the majority of people and I stand by that wholeheartedly.
There are some amps in higher price ranges that get my highest endorsement (The Chord Mojo is a fine example), but by and large you’re not going to be able to tell a huge difference between most solid state Amps and DACs below that price range.
People like to make being an audiophile this hugely complicated thing when in reality it’s just not. The Law of Diminishing Returns runs rampant in this hobby, and prices get ridiculous fairly quickly.
Find a good combo of Headphone + Amp + Source (Like Tidal) that isn’t going to leave you pan handling at your towns busiest intersection, and call it a day. Lol.
That’s my opinion. Let’s get into the FiiO Q1 MK II and find out if it’s worth your money!
The Q1 feels substantial in your hand, and is heavier than my favorite budget desktop, the FiiO E10K.
It feels slimmer, sleeker, and longer, length and width wise. It’s roughly the size of a deck of cards.
Image Coming Soon!
The volume potentiometer feels incredible to the touch, and very solid. This doesn’t feel like it’s price would indicate.
All of the switches and jacks on the unit feel good as well. It seems like great care was taken into designing the unit as well as using high quality materials.
BUILD SCORE: A+
Let’s talk about features..
Features & Usage
First of all, it comes with:
Lightning cable for use with your Apple products/iPhone, etc.
3.5mm interconnect cable for use with your Android phone.
Micro USB cable for use with your Laptop/PC.
4 Rubber Bands.
A Drawstring Carrying Bag.
A Silicone Base Pad or Rubber foot.
There’s a few options at your disposal here. On the back, you’ve got a micro USB slot for your laptop, a gain switch, and a bass boost.
On the front, there’s a 3.5mm jack for your headphones, a 3.5mm line out with DSD compatibility, and a 2.5mm jack that you can use with balanced headphones, or an adapter in order to provide more power for your headphones with 3.5mm jack.
Talk about sample rates, DAC Chip, DSD, Sony Walkman compatibility, separate multipurpose 3.5mm jack as both a line input and a line output.///
I enjoy both the bass boost and gain switch. The bass boost is done very tastefully, but unfortunately the gain will have to be on full time with this unit. This is my biggest complaint with the Q1 overall. It just doesn’t have enough power.
7mW into 300 Ohm to be exact. That’s pathetic. A unit like the Oppo HA2 provides 30mW into 300 Ohm. The Sennheiser HD600 requires 20mW to sound loud enough.
Still, someone looking to buy a Q1 will likely be more of a casual listener than an outright audiophile. Even so, you do have the option of getting the adapter, which doubles the power output. So total you’d get around 220mW into 32 Ohm.
The E10K for comparisons sake provides 200mW into 32 Ohm and I’m able to drive both the HD600 and 650 fairly easily.
Aside from all that, there’s another complaint I have.
The location of both the gain switch and bass boost are kind of cumbersome to get to when you’re in the middle of a heated music listening session. Add to that both switches are entirely too small. So not only do you have to reach around back to get to them, but it’s fairly difficult to even flick the switch.
On the E10K, the gain was on the back and the bass boost was on the front. However, both switches were the perfect size and super easy to flick. This is because they stuck out so you could easily get your finger on it.
On the Q1, the switches are flat as a pancake, round, and small. Just not an ideal combination in my estimation. I found myself turning the unit around and using laser like focus just to switch on the bass. I have pretty big hands and fingers, so that didn’t help either.
On the plus side, using the Q1 with my phone was a pretty fun time. I took a trip down to the beach with mom in January, and used the provided rubber bands and 3.5mm interconnect cable provided.
I mostly used the unit with the Tin Audio T2 which made a pretty sweet combination. Being that the T2 is low impedance and high sensitivity, it worked very well with the low power output of the Q1. As I mentioned before though: The gain had to be on full time, and it took turning the volume most of the way up just to get it loud enough. In fact, you likely won’t hear anything until the knob gets to around 2 o’ clock, which is quite shocking to me.
So all in all, the power dilemma plus the annoyance of the switches brings the score down a bit.
FEATURES & USAGE SCORE: B-
Let’s take a break and watch a video!
My Video Review
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Photo Gallery (Coming Soon!)
Click to see the Q1!
So how does it sound?
The sound of the Q1 is pretty neutral and smooth. I really enjoyed it.
It’s hard to actually describe the sound of an Amp/DAC since the differences between them are very subtle. Related: What is a USB DAC?
There’s not much I can really say. I think the Q1 is a fine choice for someone with low impedance, high sensitivity headphones. However, if you ever plan to upgrade it simply won’t work in my opinion, at least as far as using it without an adapter.
With an adapter, you’re getting more power but it’s an inconvenience to have to buy it. Most people aren’t going to want to purchase something separate after they’ve already invested in the Amp/DAC.
I just want to be able to quickly and easily plug my headphones in and get a fantastic sound. With the Q1 as is, that’s not entirely feasible.
SOUND SCORE: A
What’s my final grade?
I’m going to give the Q1 a B+ today.
I like the fact that I can use it with my phone and have it as a desktop amp. It’s built very well, and has some nice features and connections. It’s pretty versatile in that you can use it with your PC/Laptop, iPhone, or Android.
The downsides in my opinion are lack of on-board power without the need for an adapter, the location and size of the gain/bass boost. The fact that I’m not hearing music until around 2 o’ clock on the dial is a huge problem, regardless of the extra power available with a dongle.
If you’re a casual listener and need the best option for both your phone and laptop, I the Audioquest Dragonfly Red is the solution. It’s the size of a thumb drive, but packs a ridiculous amount of power (2.1W), and the sound is gorgeous.
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.