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Review and Measurements of FiiO Q1 Mark II Portable DAC and Headphone Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and and detailed measurements of FiiO Q1 Mark II Portable DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on a kind loan from a forum member. It retails for USD $100 from Amazon including free Prime shipping. The unit is attractively packaged and similar to build quality of Topping NX4 DSD which I used for comparison. Here you see them side by side:

20180814_154449.jpg


The Fiio Q1 is about 25% smaller in volume so more pocketable than the NX4 DSD. As with Topping, they also have an excellent web page for the unit with the following rich set of specs:

1534287356479.png


The unit has both balanced and unbalanced headphone output per above. Alas, my balanced test fixture only has XLR (damn these guys for not standardizing on one connector) so I could not test that port.

Let's get into the measurements and see how she does.

Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard in high-gain mode:
Fiio Q1 Mark II DSD DAC and Headphone Amplifier Dashboard Measurement.png


Ah, just 1.5 volt output at max volume in high gain. That is well shy of 2.0 volt I like to see in RCA output of the DACs. For headphone amps I like to see even higher output. So the output power will be anemic as you will see.

SINAD (signal above power of distortion and noise) is decent at 90 dB although far shy of 104 db of Topping NX4 DSD.

Let's look at output power (expressed in volts -- Watts = Volts ^ 2/impedance):
Fiio Q1 Mark II DSD DAC and Headphone Amplifier Output Output Power vs Distortion Measurement.png


Response is exceptionally well behaved and load independent. The have made a conscious choice to limit gain and hence power and distortion. There is essentially no clipping to speak of which is very unusual for headphone amplifiers. What this means that you get the same fidelity until max volume.

Alas, power is very low with just 7 milliwatts at 300 ohms. Even at 33 ohm we don't have much on hand at 62 milliwatt.

Output impedance is very decent at 1.8 ohms or so:

Fiio Q1 Mark II DSD DAC and Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance Measurement.png


This compares to 0.9 ohm on Topping NX4 DSD though.

Frequency response is boring which means it is good:

Fiio Q1 Mark II DSD DAC and Headphone Amplifier Frequency Response Measurement.png


As you see channel matching looks excellent but let's look at it at different volume positions:

Fiio Q1 Mark II DSD DAC and Headphone Amplifier Channel Deviation Measurement.png


The FiiO Q1 Mark II nails this test with just 0.025 dB of deviation at all volume positions until the end! And this is in high-gain mode.

How does it pull this off? It uses an analog volume control but it digitizes its value and then uses that digital output to set the level in both channels. A normal analog volume control would have had different values at different positions for each channel. And a rotary encoder would have no max and min detents and probably cost more. I hope this becomes the standard solution in headphone amplifiers.

Listening Tests
I tested the Fiio Q1 Mark II using my Hifiman HE-400i. You get no sound even in high gain below 12:00 position! It would get reasonably loud but not to my satisfaction. :) The Topping NX4 DSD was in entirely different class, pushing out tons more power and authoritative bass with no distortion to speak of.

I then tested the Q1 with my sensitive IEMs and there I got plenty of volume and with the help of bass boost switch, got decent amount of that without it being bothersome.

Conclusions
I find no glaring faults in the design of Fiio Q1. It aims for a mid-level performance and it delivers that with no warts. It is best used with sensitive IEMs and people who like to listen to lower levels than I do. It is nicely made and has very rich format support including DSD. It has fantastic channel matching -- the best I have seen I think.

If you can afford an extra $50, the Topping NX4 DSD is much better performer. It has much more output, and better measured and subjective performance.

In summary, the Fiio Q1 Mark II is recommended if your demands for output power is limited.

As always, questions, comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.

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#3
Yes, Fiio really designed this model for balanced users. The original Q1 had more power running unbalanced.

I own this Q1mkII and use it with balanced cables with my HE-400i headphones and it has plenty of power. The sound is everything I could ask for.

The bass boost is smooth and natural when used on these headphones for the rare times I want exaggerated bass.
 
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#4
An unmatched channel matching :p
...(damn these guys for not standardizing on one connector)
...and recently they’ve just added another “balanced” connector the Pentaconn (4.4mm, 5 pole) o_O
If I’m right the common (or standard?) balanced connector on portable devices is a 2.5mm 4 pole
Since you mentioned it, the bass boost FR graph?
 

amirm

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#5
Since you mentioned it, the bass boost FR graph?
Yeh, I figured someone would ask for it after I realized I had not measured it. :) Will measure and post later....
 
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#7
Thanks for reviewing and showing measurements of this @amirm ! This portable is really made for balanced output. I should have sent you an adapter with it. If you want, I can send you a DIY cable I made that converts 2.5mm to 4-pin XLR female to test.

IMG_20180814_183551.jpg
 
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amirm

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#8
Thanks @antdroid. I think I have the 2.5mm balanced connector already. So I might try to build it tonight or tomorrow. If not, I will impose on you to send that one. :)
 

Blumlein 88

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#9
Good review. Fiio has a pretty good rep, and looks like they might deserve it. Everything looks pretty good within its power limitations.
 

Timbo2

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#11
Thanks @antdroid. I think I have the 2.5mm balanced connector already. So I might try to build it tonight or tomorrow. If not, I will impose on you to send that one. :)
Soldering that 2.5mm plug was an absolute PITA. I’ll be hoping good things for you.
 
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#12
Soldering that 2.5mm plug was an absolute PITA. I’ll be hoping good things for you.
I think the first time I tried to solder the 2.5mm, it was a pain since it's so small, but i've done it so many times now that I've gotten the hang of it. The XLR side is super easy at least. :)
 

maxxevv

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#13
A soldering station with clamps, magnifying lense and dedicated light will go a long way in that regard.
 

Jimster480

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#15
Well the Q1 is a product I considered too when I was looking for something portable. In the end I purchased nothing since I have my HTC10 and that seems to be good enough for the rare occasions these days that I am not home and actually have time to listen to music.
I have the FiiO K1 too for travel with my laptop so..
would be cool to see the K1 vs the Q1 since especially in single ended, it doesn't seem to have very much power at all.
 
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#16
So the Topping DX4 has more power single-ended and almost as good frequency response. But it costs almost twice as much
as this Fiio.

On the other hand, Fiio in balanced might be cheaper and have better power, but you have to make or buy $40+ balanced cables to get that power.

Can't go wrong either way?
 

Jimster480

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#17
So the Topping DX4 has more power single-ended and almost as good frequency response. But it costs almost twice as much
as this Fiio.

On the other hand, Fiio in balanced might be cheaper and have better power, but you have to make or buy $40+ balanced cables to get that power.

Can't go wrong either way?
The NX4 costs $50 more than the Q1, and the cost of the cables for the Q1 (unless you already have them) could be $40.
Making the difference be around $10.
 
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#18
So the Topping DX4 has more power single-ended and almost as good frequency response. But it costs almost twice as much
as this Fiio.

On the other hand, Fiio in balanced might be cheaper and have better power, but you have to make or buy $40+ balanced cables to get that power.

Can't go wrong either way?
You can get balanced cables for as little as $10-15. You can make them for under $10.

People spend too much money on cables.
 

maxxevv

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#19
If you already spent over $50 for a quality soldering iron and soldering workstation previously. And also given that you have the appropriate handicraft aptitude, which not everyone does though.
 
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#20
If you already spent over $50 for a quality soldering iron and soldering workstation previously. And also given that you have the appropriate handicraft aptitude, which not everyone does though.
But you can still order a 2.5mm balanced cable for $10-15. VEClan.com sells one for $5 even and have offered ones for $10 on Massdrop using the MD blue color. Amazon has a few for $15-20. Penon Audio has their own for $15. AliExpress has several as well. Many options. Most are very well constructed.
 
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