Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 [Definitive Guide]

Shout out to my good friend Luke Wagoner in providing the NX4 for demo purposes!!

Updates

  • 12/4/19. Added Photos. Article clean up.
  • 12/17/19. Added Video Comparison.

2,660 word post, approx. 4-5 min. read

Article still needs:

  • Comparison Chart
  • Stu’s written notes
  • Video Comparison

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!

Before we get into the Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 Review & Comparison, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

I’m Here to Help!!

Table of Contents

Specifications
Build & Design
Features & Usage
Ergonomics/Power
Video Comparison
Photo Gallery
Sound
Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

Specifications

FiiO Q1 MK II

  • Price: Check Amazon!
  • Support: 32bit/384kHz and DSD64/128/256.
  • Inputs: 1x Micro USB, 1x 3.5mm line input (also functions as an output)
  • Outputs: 1 x 3.5 mm line output (also functions as an input), 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output, 1 x 2.5 mm balanced jack
  • Bass Boost: 0/5.4dB
  • Recommended Headphone Impedance: 16 to 100 Ohms (PO), 16 to 150 Ohms (Balanced)
  • Power Input: 5 VDC, 2 A recommended
  • Battery Capacity: 1800 mAh
  • Battery Life: >20 hours (auxiliary input), >10 hours (USB input)
  • Output Power: 3.5mm jack – 112 mW (16 Ohms / THD+N <1%), 75 mW (32 Ohms / THD+N <1%), 11 mW (300 Ohms / THD+N <1%) 2.5mm jack – 240 mW (16 Ohms / THD+N <1%), 220 mW (32 Ohms / THD+N <1%), 45 mW (300 Ohms / THD+N <1%)
  • Charge Time: ≤4 h
  • THD + N: <0.002% (1 kHz, AUX input / line output)
    <0.003% (1 kHz, USB input)
  • Output Impedance: 3.5 mm Jack: <1.2 Ohms (32 Ohms loaded)
    2.5 mm Jack: <2 Ohms (32 Ohms loaded)
  • Frequency Response: Line Out: 6 Hz to approximately 80 kHz (-3 dB)
    3.5 mm Jack: 5 Hz to 55 kHz (-3 dB)
    2.5 mm Jack: 6 Hz to 80 kHz (-3 dB)
  • SNR: ≥115 dB (A-weighted, AUX IN)
    ≥109 dB (A-weighted, USB IN)
  • Maximum Input Level: 3.4 V
  • Channel Imbalance: 0.2 dB
  • Gain: 3.5 mm Output: -2.5 dB (G=L), 3.2 dB (G=H)
    2.5 mm Output: 3.2 dB (G=L), 9.1 dB (G=H)
  • Maximum Output Voltage: 3.5 mm Output: >4.4 V p-p
    2.5 mm Output: >7.4 V p-p
  • Maximum Output Current: >150 mA (for reference)
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.5″ / 99.0 x 59.0 x 12.5 mm (approximately)
  • Weight: 3.6 oz / 101.0 g (approximately)

Topping NX4

Headphone Amplifier

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check Drop!
  • THD+N (A-weighted): <0.0009% at 1 kHz output = 140 mW (32 ohms), <0.0037% at 20 Hz–20 kHz output = 140 mW (32 ohms), <0.00046% at 1 kHz output = 57 mW (300 ohms), <0.0005% at 20 Hz–20 kHz output = 57 mW (300 ohms)
  • SNR (A-weighted): >120 dB at 1 kHz
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz–100 kHz (+/- 0.55 dB)
  • Output level: 8.3 Vpp at 32 ohms gain = L, bass = off; 16.4 Vpp at 300 ohms gain = L, bass = off
  • Noise: <2.5 uVrms at gain = L, <6.4 uVrms at gain = H
  • Channel crosstalk: -96 dB at 1 kHz
  • Channel balance: 0.038 dB
  • IMD CCIF: -100 dB at 300 ohms, -94 dB at 32 ohms, CCIF (19.5 k/1k)
  • IMD SMPTE: -103 dB at 300 ohms, -96 dB at 32 ohms, SMPTE4:1; -108 dB at 300 ohms, -98 dB at 32 ohms, SMPTE1:1
  • Output impedance: <0.4 ohms
  • Gain: 0 dB / 8.8 dB
  • Bass: 0 dB / 0.4 dB (70 Hz)
  • Output power: 293 dB x 2 at 32 ohms, THD+N <1%; 114 mW x 2 at 300 ohms, THD+N <1%
  • Adapter impedance: 16–300 ohms

DAC (Line Out)

  • Compatible: 44.1–768 kHz / 16–32 bit, DSD 64–256 (DoP), DSD 64–512 (native)
  • THD+N (A-weighted): <0.0008% at 1 kHz
  • SNR (A-weighted): >119 dB at 1 kHz
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz (+/- 0.041 dB)
  • Output level: 2 Vrms at 0 dBFS
  • Noise: <2.2 uVrms
  • Channel crosstalk: -108 dB at 1 kHz

Physical

  • Power input: DC 5V/1.5A (PC’s USB 0.5A is okay)
  • Line in/out: 3.5mm
  • Headphone output: 3.5mm
  • USB DAC input: Micro-USB
  • Battery capacity: 2,400 mAh
  • Charge time: <4 hrs
  • Playback time: >28 hrs (headphone amp mode), >7.5 hrs (USB DAC mode)
  • Power LED: Blue light (lights red to indicate low battery)
  • Charge LED: Light red when charging, light green when charge is complete
  • DAC LED: Blue means valid connection and playing PCM format, red means playing DSD format
  • Dimensions: 4.3 x 2.7 x 0.6 in (11 x 6.8 x 1.4 cm)
  • Weight: 5.2 oz (148 g)

How about build?

Build & Design

The Topping NX4 weighs in at exactly 5 Oz. on my scale, or 147g. The Q1 is a bit lighter at 3.6 Oz., or 101g.

The builds of both are very solid, with the Q1 MK II being a bit more narrow by contrast. Both are roughly the same height, with a slim, compact form factor. Each resembles a deck of cards in size.

The volume pot on the front of both is situated in roughly the same spot, but the NX4’s hearkens back to the Oppo HA-2’s volume knob with that sand paper type grip. The Q1’s has a similar grip, but has that red ring around it with a circular white dot to indicate where you are on a clock.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1

FiiO Q1 vs. E10K vs. DragonFly Red

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II

The NX4 also has a dot but it sort of blends in with the amp in a darker silver color.

On the Topping, the “NX4” is engraved in the middle, and it says “DSD (Direct Stream Digital)” near the back where the micro USB slot is located. “Topping” is written right above the Volume pot on the NX4 as well. Both volume pots double as the on switch.

On the Q1, you’ll see the “FiiO” logo appear near the front, and it’s a bit easier to read. The only other words that appear are the “Hi-Res Audio” logo near the back of the Q1 MK II.

On the front of the NX4, we’ve got a standard 3.5mm jack, a Line Out jack, bass boost, and gain switch. On the back there’s a micro USB port for charging, and one for connection to your PC or phone via the provided Micro USB to Micro USB cable. Also provided is a small micro USB cable for your PC.

FiiO Q1 MK II Review

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at what’s in each box:

NX4

  • The Amp/DAC
  • Micro-USB to NX4 DSD
  • Type-C to NX4 DSD Cable
  • Rubber pad
  • USB charging cable
  • 3.5mm cable
  • Rubber band
  • Velcro feet
  • User manual

Q1 MK II

  • The Amp/DAC
  • 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.
  • Warranty and Instruction Cards.

On the front of the Q1 MK II, there’s the standard 3.5mm jack, a balanced 2.5mm jack, and a 3.5mm jack compatible with DSD.

The back of the Q1 MK II contains the bass boost, gain switch, and micro USB slot for connection to your PC.

The power light is also situated a bit differently. On the NX4, it’s right over top of the gain and bass switches. On the Q1, it’s right next to the volume pot (left).

FiiO Q1 vs. E10K vs. DragonFly Red
Dusty.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK IITopping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II

FiiO Q1 vs. E10K vs. DragonFly Red

All of the connections, switches, and knobs feel great on both. The difference is that the gain and bass boost on the Q1 is a bit irritating to switch on and off because:

  1. It’s on the back and sometimes you’ll have to turn the unit around to get to it.
  2. The switches themselves are round and kind of flat. They are sometimes difficult to switch on and off.

The NX4 makes it easy because they are on the front and resemble the little sticks that were present on the FiiO E10K. They are a lot easier to get to, and to flick on and off.

With that, let’s get into features & usage..

Features & Usage

Both of these can be used with a separate amp via the line out, both support DSD, both have a gain switch and bass boost, both are Amp/DAC combos, and both have the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

The difference is that the NX4 does not have the balanced 2.5mm jack. Depending on your needs or what you have on hand, it may or not matter. I personally do not have balanced headphones or balanced cables so it’s not really a big deal.

The DSD light on the NX4 is also on the back, so to verify you’ll have to turn the unit around and play a DSD file to make sure it works. It will turn Red when a DSD file is playing.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Playing a DSD file.
Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Playing a standard PCM file.
Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Low Battery.
Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Battery Charged.

On the Q1, it’s on the front.

A few other quick things to mention about the NX4:

  1. The power LED light (on the front) will be blue. It will light red to indicate a low battery. Once the battery is dead, music will stop. No warnings, buster.
  2. The charge light will turn red when charging, and will switch to Green when finished.
  3. The DAC light on the back will be blue to indicate you’re playing a PCM file. It will turn Red when playing a DSD file.
Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
The Topping NX4, part of this complete audiophile breakfast.

With that, how about Ergonomics and Power? Which of these provides more?

Ergonomics/Power Output

When I first reviewed the FiiO Q1 MK II, I dogged it quite a bit for it’s lack of power out of the unbalanced jack.

Since then, the amp has grown on me considerably, as I’ve come to realize that power output specs are a tad overrated sometimes. I’m able to comfortably drive an HD600 with the Q1, but I wouldn’t rely on it for anything less efficient than around 300 Ohm/97dB Sensitivity. It really just makes the cut, but does get plenty loud enough with gain on paired up to the 600’s.

The HD600 technically requires around 20mW from an amp, for clarity’s sake.

Here are the numbers out of the Q1:

Unbalanced Headphone Jack:

  • Output Power 1: >112 mW (16 Ohms / THD+N <1%)
  • Output Power 2: >75 mW (32 Ohms / THD+N <1%)
  • Output Power 3: >11 mW (300 Ohms / THD+N <1%)

Balanced Headphone Jack:

  • Output Power 1: ≥240 mW (16 Ohms / THD+N <1%)
  • Output Power 2: ≥220 mW (32 Ohms / THD+N <1%)
  • Output Power 3: ≥45 mW (300 Ohms / THD+N <1%)

As you can see, it pumps a bit more into the balanced jack.

Conversely, the Topping NX4 is rated for anything 12-300 Ohm, and powers an HD600 with relative ease.

Maximum Output Power for the NX4:

  • 293 mW @ 32 Ohm
  • 114 mW @ 300 Ohm

The Topping is simply more powerful than the Q1 here. If you’re looking to use less efficient planar magnetic headphones like HIFIMAN’s Sundara, 400i, etc., or really inefficient dynamics like AKG’s K240, K701, K702, etc., then the NX4 is what you’ll want to invest in. What is a Planar Magnetic Driver?

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Seems appropriate.

It’s going to have a much easier time driving various types of headphones, but I probably wouldn’t rely on it full time for anything over 300 Ohm. That said, sometimes specs don’t tell the whole story.

A great example is when I was somehow able to drive an AKG K240M (600 Ohm) out of an E10K to semi-listenable levels. It wasn’t at all the most ideal pair, but it did get loud enough and that’s the main takeaway.

Video Comparison

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Photos..

Photo Gallery

Click to see the NX4 in action!

FiiO Q1 MKII

All of that’s well and good, but how do they actually sound in comparison?

Sound

This is a pretty easy comparison, as the sound profile of both the NX4 and Q1 is fairly different.

The NX4 is definitely more of a sterile, neutral, and colder sound. It’s very crisp and balanced sounding. It reminds me a lot of what you get with any of JDS Labs’ offerings; very true to the source and clinical without being harsh or fatiguing.

The Q1 is the opposite; it’s got a warmer tilt to it, and sounds very laid back by contrast. I wouldn’t call it gooey like a tube amp, but it’s kind of a cross between a solid state and tubes. You’re still getting some really nice detail, but it’s definitely more relaxed and lush sounding.

An Amp like the Q1 MK II pairs very well with an HD600 because it kind of tames down that forward mid-range issue. Still, I’m listening now with the NX4 and HD600 and find the pair to be exemplary together.

The bass boost on the NX4 provides some nice extra weight and impact, but doesn’t get in the way of the overall soundscape.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II
Om nom nom toppings nom nom.

Likewise, the Q1’s is very good as well, providing an extra 5.4dB. Overall, I think the NX4 handles the bass boost a bit better. Sometimes it feels as though the Q1’s boost is a bit much, sounding a tad more bloated by contrast.

With the NX4, what you hear is what you get – it’s very true to the source but sounds infinitely crisp and snappy. With an Output Impedance of less than 0.4, you’re getting consistent sound output across many different types of headphones and Impedance loads. What is Output Impedance?

I particularly loved the crisp, bold flavors on The Fugees’ “Ready or Not.” Ticking the bass boost switch adds some wonderfully full bodied sound that really snaps with the HD600. Ricrardo Robecchi agrees:

The bass boost switch adds a significant amount of sub-bass thump, especially in the lowest frequencies. It helps bass-shy headphones or gives an additional serving of punch and depth to neutral sound signatures. Using relatively bright headphones such as the Venture Electronics Monk Lite, the difference is night and day: the bass boost gives the sound depth and body that would otherwise be missing. The effectiveness and the end result of the bass boost is ultimately dependent on the headphones and on the listener’s taste; technically speaking, anyway, it is a good implementation that does not generally make bass overpowering and bloated, but it just adds to what is already there.Ricardo Robecchi, Soundphile

Stu’s Notepad

  • The Roots – Things Fall Apart (1999). Extremely crisp and hard hitting album from start to finish.
  • John Coltrane – Blue Train (1957). Tidal MQA. The song Blue Train @ :44 sounded like a knock at the door. Very good depth to the image. The whole album provided a really good Soundstage overall.
  • Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975). Tidal MQA. Stevie Nicks’ Landslide starting @ 1:35 sounded incredible. So much detail and intimacy. The guitar really came alive. Tears were had.
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015). The NX4 rendered the esoteric album beautifully considering how much there is going on.
  • Fugees – The Score. “Ready or Not” + Bass Boost sounded extremely full bodied with loads of flavors and aromas. Like Folgers.
  • The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Tidal MQA. The detail present in this album, particularly “Day in the Life”  (my favorite Beatles track) was astonishing. I’ve never heard the song quite this revealing. Clarity was unreal, with the middle section being especially noteworthy. After the lyric “I’d love to turn you on” you can actually hear someone counting, as the song crescendos back into the next verse, which I have never heard in all my time listening to this track. There are many more examples of micro detail present that really tie the song together as well. It was an immensely enjoyable listen from start to finish. Is good you like!

Album List

John Coltrane – Blue Train
The Roots – Things Fall Apart (1999)
Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Fugees – The Score
Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

So what’s the final word?

Final Word

The biggest difference between these 2 amps are:

  1. Power Output
  2. Overall sound portrait

If you’re planning on powering more demanding headphones and/or prefer a more neutral output, the NX4 is your homie.

 

Check it out on Drop (Formerly Massdrop!)

 

If you’re more of a beginner, don’t need as much power for your less demanding headphones/IEM’s, and like a warmer/more laid back vibe, the Q1 is your boy. Also of note is the fact that the Q1 pairs up very well with IEM’s like the Tin Audio T2. Roughly $150 will get you a spankin’ good time. I used this pairing on a trip to the beach and it was really loads of fun.

 

Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II Review & comparison.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Which of these Amp/DACs fits your needs better? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

 

Topping NX4

4.95

Value

5.0/5

Sound

5.0/5

Durability

5.0/5

Form Factor/Ease of Use

4.8/5

Pros

  • Great Build and Form Factor
  • Clear, crisp, and tight sound
  • Rugged and Durable
  • Easy to Use
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Battery Life could have been a bit better

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