Fiio X7 Review

Fiio X7 Review

Personal audio players have slowly been losing their appeal, thanks to improvements in audio quality and increasing storage capabilities on smartphones. Options such as the Lenovo Vibe X3 even have special components and functionality meant to improve audio output, and an increasingly large number of smartphones today support high-resolution audio formats up to 24-bit/192KHz.

Despite this, there’s still a booming market for high-resolution audio players, and there’s one particular manufacturer that has achieved a lot in this field. Chinese audio specialist Fiio has been at the forefront of pushing high-quality audio players to users, and has a product range that goes from the affordable Fiio M3 to the high-end Fiio X7, which we have on review today. This super-premium high-resolution audio player costs Rs. 42,299, runs on Android 4.4, and offers listeners the promise of the ultimate personal audio experience. We put it to test.

Design and specifications
While the older Fiio X1, X3 and X5 have all stuck to a standard design formula, the Fiio X7 changes things significantly for the range. The new flagship product disposes of the track-dial of the earlier models, replacing it with a 4-inch 480×800-pixel capacitive touch screen. The device is also much larger, thicker and heavier as a result. Many who saw it mistook it for a rather unique-looking smartphone.

Made entirely of metal, the Fiio X7 weighs 220g and feels substantial and solid to hold. There is a big chin below the screen, which is where the detachable amplification unit sits. The device comes with the basic AM1 unit, which is ideal for standard in-ear monitors and capable of driving headphones within an impedance range of 16-300Ohms. Although Fiio has detailed different amplifier units, including more powerful ones that will be able to drive high-impedance earphones comfortably, availability information is still unknown. However, the basic amplifier can potentially amplify high-end headphones as well, although it won’t do quite as good a job as a dedicated headphone amplifier.

fiio_x7_side_ndtv.jpgThe device has physical buttons on both sides, with power and volume on the left, and play/ pause and next/ previous on the right. There is a microSD card slot on the left which is exposed. This has both pros and cons; you can quickly swap out cards if you choose, but this also makes it a bit easier to lose your microSD card. The top has a socket for line/coaxial out, while the bottom has a 3.5mm socket for ordinary headphones and the Micro-USB port for charging and data transfers.

The Fiio X7 uses a Rockchip RK3188 1.4GHz SoC with 1GB of RAM, and also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Thankfully and unlike previous Fiio X-series players, the X7 also has 32GB of in-built storage, and can read microSD cards up to 128GB. It has a 3500mAh battery that ran for about 8-9 hours on a full charge while playing high-resolution audio files. Despite the relatively large battery, the device has smartphone-like battery life, even though it doesn’t have mobile radio.

fiio_x7_buttons3_ndtv.jpgOne of the biggest changes in the Fiio X7 is the fact that it runs Android 4.4, a marked improvement over the proprietary interface of the previous models. The software can run in two modes: stock Android mode, which resembles a typical Android interface, and Pure Music mode, which disables most of the Android interface, leaving only the Fiio Music app and basic settings active.

The Android interface is simple and functional, resembling stock Android with on-screen soft-keys and a typical app drawer and pull-down menu. There are two app stores in place: the Google Play Store and Fiio Marketplace. Strangely, no app from the Play Store will actually install, so the Android operating system on-board is incredibly limited. There are a handful of apps on the Fiio Marketplace that do install, but these include services such as Tidal and Spotify which aren’t available in India, and a handful of apps in Chinese languages. In these circumstances, we found it easier and more convenient to use the Fiio X7 in Pure Music mode.

fiio_x7_buttons1_ndtv.jpgThe Pure Music interface is simplified to deactivate all Android functionality except settings and basic connectivity, especially if you don’t intend to stream music and want to use the device to play stored music. The app itself is a huge improvement over the previous devices, as it lets you search individually, create playlists and browse around your library easily. The ability to control with touch makes all the difference in simplifying basic navigation.

The Fiio X7 uses the ESS Technology ES9018S digital-analogue converter, which is considered one of the best portable DACs in the world. It supports 32-bit-384KHz audio files, and can read a wide-range of audio formats including dsd, dxd, Apple Lossless, aiff, flac, wav, wma, mp3, aac, wma and ogg. You can pretty much play any popular audio format on the X7, and that’s a great thing. The box comes with only a USB cable, and doesn’t include a charging adapter, headphones or a storage card. The latter two are understandable and you’re likely to have your own, but the lack of a charging adapter at this price level is bothersome.

We used the Fiio X7 with an assortment of headphones, including the B&W P3, Trinity Audio Delta andAudio Technica ATH-WS770iS, along with an Android smartphone, Windows laptop and the Fiio X1 for comparison. Focus tracks for the review were Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, Enigma’s Age of Loneliness and Azari and III’s Reckless With Your Love (Tensnake Remix).

Starting with Ice Ice Baby and the Trinity Audio Delta, we were immediately treated to incredibly true-to-life sound that accurately maintained and promoted the sonic nature and qualities of the headphones. Building on the fantastic tone and drive of the Delta, the X7 showcased how it can be bassy when needed, neutral when required, clean, tonally solid and incredibly accurate. The low bass notes of this hip-hop classic were rendered beautifully and accurately.

fiio_x7_withtrinity_ndtv.jpgMoving on to Age Of Loneliness and the B&W P3 headphones, we found that the Fiio X7 succeeds in digging out a little bit more detail than the X5, which is surprising because of how good the predecessor was. However, the differences are subtle, and the increase in price isn’t really justified considering the improvement in sound is incremental at best. There are definite improvements in amplification and interface, so this will be a better option if you use premium high-end headphones. Provided you have the right pair of headphones that suits your tastes, the Fiio X7 is supremely entertaining to listen to.

Finally, with Reckless With Your Love and the bass-happy Audio Technica ATH-WS770iS, we enjoyed a sonic signature that was loud, powerful, aggressive and incredibly fun. The soundstaging and imaging was spot on. This is reference-grade audio at its finest, making everything sound true to the recording, realistic and tonally superior. In conclusion, the Fiio just about exceeds the capabilities of the Fiio X5, offering value additions in the form of a better interface, build, and specifications.

The idea of spending flagship smartphone money on an audio player won’t agree with the vast majority of people, and we expect that everyone but the audiophiles won’t even give the Fiio X7 a second look. Additionally, there isn’t much of an improvement in pure performance over the much cheaper Fiio X5. However, if you are an audiophile and have equipment that compliments the quality of the Fiio X7, this should be a no-brainer of a purchase.

The Fiio X7 is the pinnacle of personal audio, and represents the true capabilities of portable high-resolution audio. It’s unflinchingly loyal to the recording and headphones, and brings out the best in any audio set up. If budget is no bar and quality sound is your goal, the Fiio X7 is the audio player you want.

Price (MRP): Rs. 42,299


  • Looks and build quality are fantastic
  • Sound is true to the recording and headphones
  • Good touch screen interface and controls
  • Excellent file format support
  • Superb DAC


  • Battery life is a bit weak
  • Very heavy and bulky
  • Android user interface is limited in functionality
  • Expensive

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4.5
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for money: 2.5
  • Overall: 4

Missed the news? Here’s a list of all phones launched at MWC 2016 on one handy page – or catch our full Mobile World Congress coverage.


Review: The Danish Girl, About a Transgender Pioneer

Review: <i>The Danish Girl</i>, About a Transgender Pioneer
  • Genre:
    Biography, Drama
  • Cast:
    Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard, Sebastian Koch
  • Director:
    Tom Hooper

The Danish Girl, Tom Hooper’s new film, is a story of individual struggle that is also a portrait of a marriage. In this respect and others it resembles The King’s Speech, Hooper’s earlier historical drama, a multiple Oscar winner a few years ago. In that case, the union of George VI and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was the foundation on which the tale of George’s elocutionary striving was built. Here, the marriage is bohemian rather than aristocratic, but the stakes, while personal, are every bit as profound and consequential as the matters of state that drove the monarch to the microphone.

When we first encounter Gerda and Einar Wegener, played by Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne, they seem perfectly matched. Both are painters, living amid the soft colors and sea air of Copenhagen in 1926. Gerda is a portraitist, while Einar’s landscapes – drawn from his childhood memories of the fjords and marshlands of Vejle, a town on the Jutland peninsula – have brought him a measure of fame. Like many couples who share a profession, they provide each other with support as well as a bit of competition. Their best friend, Ulla (Amber Heard), a dancer, marvels at their mutual devotion, which combines the easy, egalitarian warmth of friendship with the heat of sexual attraction.

But their relationship turns out to rest on a false premise. Through a process that is by turns wrenching and exciting, Einar discovers that the man the world has always taken him to be is not the person he truly is. What begins as an experiment and a bit of a game – dressing as a woman for the Copenhagen artist’s ball, wearing one of Gerda’s camisoles under his clothes – becomes an existential transformation. For a while, Einar and Gerda pretend that Lili, his female persona, is Einar’s cousin, visiting Copenhagen from the countryside. Henrik (Ben Whishaw), a self-described “romantic,” falls in love with her. But Lili is not Einar in disguise: The truth is exactly the reverse.

Written for the screen by Lucinda Coxon and based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same title, The Danish Girl is a fictionalized biography of Lili Elbe (as Einar Wegener came to be known), one of the first people to attempt sex reassignment surgery. Lili’s encounters with prevailing medical wisdom, culminating in her meeting with a sympathetic doctor (Sebastian Koch), form a harrowing subplot. And her bravery makes this film a welcome tribute to a heroic forerunner of the current movement for transgender rights. It’s impossible not to be moved by Lili’s self-recognition and by her demand to be recognized by those who care most about her.

But it’s also hard not to wish that The Danish Girl were a better movie, a more daring and emotionally open exploration of Lili’s emergence. As it is, the film, like its heroine for most of her life, is trapped by conventional expectations and ways of being. If, that is, Lili is really the heroine at all. The film’s title phrase is uttered on screen once, by Einar’s childhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), a Paris art dealer, in reference to Gerda. And it is Gerda’s ordeal that provides the narrative with its emotional center of gravity.

When The Danish Girl was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, Kyle Buchanan, writing for Vulture, complained that it was part of a trend of “queer and trans films that are actually about straight people.” Not that the emphasis on Gerda’s experience is illegitimate. She is called upon to support the man she loves as he erases himself from her life, and Vikander registers the anguish and ambivalence, as well as the passionate loyalty, that Gerda feels as Einar gives way to Lili.

But unlike Jill Soloway’s Amazon series Transparent, which embeds gender transition in a dense and detailed weave of family relations, The Danish Girl takes place in the airless, elegant atmosphere of quality filmmaking. Every scene is wrapped around a neat nub of feeling. The dialogue is carefully balanced between modern sensibilities and the imaginary language of Fancy Old Europe, which is really just English spoken in a variety of lovely and heterogeneous accents.

Hooper’s tasteful, earnest, didactic style – magnified by Alexandre Desplat’s decorously overwrought score – does the film no favors. And the asymmetry between the central performances doesn’t help, either. Redmayne is a master of technique, adept at significant gestures, freighted glances and the kind of showiness that masquerades as subtlety. As a result, the passage from Einar to Lili is almost entirely a matter of artifice and surface. Einar’s fingers brush against the ballerina’s dresses hanging in Ulla’s studio. Redmayne alters the angle of his neck, the rhythm of his walk, the timbre of his voice and the set of his mouth. It’s all very impressive, as it was when he traced the progress of Stephen Hawking’s neurological illness in “The Theory of Everything.” But like that much-praised performance, this one does not take us where we need to go, which is inside the character’s mind and spirit.

Vikander, in contrast, acts from the inside out, with an openness and spontaneity that is especially rare in movies like this one. Whether she is painting, smoking, embracing her husband or offering her hand to the woman who replaces him, Gerda is the one figure on screen who seems to breathe the sharp air of reality. The others have been painted, with practiced skill and impeccable intentions, by numbers.

The Danish Girl is rated R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).
Sex, not to be confused with gender.


Neerja Movie Review

<i>Neerja</i> Movie Review
  • Genre:
  • Cast:
    Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Shekhar Ravjiani
  • Director:
    Ram Madhvani


Defying every norm laid down in the mainstream Bollywood rule-book, Neerja coaxes a riveting two-hour drama out of a real-life tale of extraordinary courage.

For those old enough to remember how the hijacking of the 1986 Pan Am flight 73 panned out, the details are obviously all in the public domain.

Yet, the need to bring the story of Neerja Bhanot to the big screen cannot be questioned, especially from the point of view of a younger audience.

In this shrill era of arrogant, aggressive nationalism, the qualities of genuine humanism that this spirited film celebrates deserve to be brought to the fore and embraced.

Neerja not only places a woman at its centre, it also showcases the pluck of a flight attendant who makes no distinction between nationalities when her passengers face a grave threat.

She goes out of her way to try and save everybody on board – Indians, Americans, Pakistanis and Brits – without any thought of the cost that she might have to pay.

Director Ram Madhvani opts for just the right emotional amplitude to bring to the screen the exceptional tale of a brave fashion model and flight attendant who, hours shy of her 23rd birthday, laid down her life to save over 350 passengers.

Neerja needs to be applauded for avoiding the garish and gratuitous bells and whistles of commercial Hindi cinema.

It plunges headlong into the life of a bubbly 1980s girl who flies in and out of the country for a living while successfully pursuing a thriving modelling career.

The protagonist, whose personal life revolves around her doting mother (Shabana Azmi), supportive father (Yogendra Tiku), and her milk-white Spitz, is a diehard Rajesh Khanna fan.

Her obsession with Kaka allows a pivotal allusion to ‘Zindagi badi honi chahiye lambi nahin, Babumoshai’ to be woven into the screenplay (written by Saiwyn Quadras).

The transience of existence and the sheer senseless of the violence that snatches away promising lives is contrasted with the large-hearted cheerfulness of Neerja.

There is no way of telling how rough her life has been in the past few months as she looks to make a fresh beginning.

She has a male friend, Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani in a special appearance), who might have been her ticket to a second chance in life had fate allowed her a longer stint on earth.

In the early minutes, the film cuts back and forth between Neerja’s chores in the run-up to the last flight of her life and scenes showing a quartet of Palestinian desperadoes prepping for the fateful strike on Pan Am flight 73.

In the time between the plane taking off from Sahar International and reaching cruising altitude, two pithy flashbacks reveal two crucial details of Neerja’s life – an arranged marriage gone sour and her deep bonding with her journalist-father.

But what holds one crucial part of Neerja together is its sensitive and insightful mother-daughter relationship.

It is a film about a hijacking and a girl who did not let gun-toting and explosives-laden terrorists cow her down in the course of a hold-up that lasted 16 hours.

But without the light that it throws on Neerja’s upbringing, it would be just another story of courage under duress. It is much more.

Neerja is a portrait of a family which, like any other Indian family, had to grapple with the notion that a girl-child is vulnerable in our society and, therefore, in need of more protection than her two brothers.

The heroine of this film is a woman of substance who follows her heart and, barring a brush with the boorish husband from whom she breaks free, gets what she wants.

Her mom worries endlessly about her, but cannot stop her from taking wings and flying away in the directions that she loves.

You are doing so well as a model, give up the job of an air hostess, her mother suggests. Neerja’s response is simple enough: “I love my job.”

She loves her calling so much that even when she is put to the sternest test, she sticks to its spirit, taking over the stewardship of the cabin in her capacity as head purser when armed terrorists barge into the plane at Karachi airport.

It is only Neerja’s first flight as head purser, but she leads by example, alerting the pilots in the nick of time and thereby helping them get off the plane through an overhead cockpit hatch.

Without pilots in the cockpit, the wings of the terrorists are literally clipped.

Hindi cinema has of late developed a fondness for real-life role models, but few of these films achieve any degree of verisimilitude, obsessed as they are with dumbing down the story with an eye on a wider audience.

Madhvani does nothing of that sort and is none the worse for it. He has able allies in DoP Mitesh Mirchandani (who captures remarkable depths and details in closed spaces) and editor Monisha Baldawa (who gives the film its pace).

The three main actors in the cast – Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Yogendra Tiku – are on top of their game.

Sonam is of course the lynchpin. Even when pushed well out of her comfort zone, she is completely convincing and real as the bubbly youngster with nerves of steel.

Shabana Azmi informs her role with subtle nuances that add startling layers to the characterization.

Yogendra Tiku, a competent actor who rarely gets the play he deserves in Hindi cinema, conveys the welled-up emotions of a father egging her daughter on to be in control of her own life.

If it is going to be just one Hindi film this week, make sure it is Neerja.

It is a powerful story that tugs gently and delicately at the heartstrings.

It does not go overboard on attacking the lachrymal glands. But when it does, it is bang on.


Five Key Takeaways From Our LeEco Le 1s Review

Five Key Takeaways From Our LeEco Le 1s Review

LeEco’s budget Le 1s smartphone has received tremendous response from consumers in India, according to the company. The first flash sale of the LeEco Le 1s last week saw 70,000 units going out of stock in just 2 seconds, and the claims for the second flash sale were equally impressive.

The Le 1s packs a fingerprint scanner, full-HD display, and an all metal body that will keep feature-obsessed consumers happy. To recall, the Le 1s comes to India carrying a price tag of Rs. 10,999. If you are thinking of buying the smartphone, here are five takeaways from our LeEco Le 1s review to help you decide.

1) Good build quality
The Le 1s is made almost entirely of metal, save for two plastic strips running along the top and bottom of the rear for the various antennas to work. The front face is pretty slick, with black glass surrounding the screen and extending all the way to the two sides. The Chinese company at the India launch had stressed that the Le 1s is the first phone featuring a silver mirror-finished fingerprint sensor lower down and in the middle on the back panel.

(Also see: Le 1s full specifications)

2) USB Type-C and quick charging
LeEco (the company formerly known as LeTV) was one of the first companies that launchedsmartphones with USB Type-C ports last year. Type-C has been undoubtedly been displacing Micro-USB this year but LeEco is still ahead of the curve here.

The company ships a non-standard USB cable with a modified type-A plug on the charger end. It works like any other USB cable, except that you don’t have to worry about which way is up. In order to achieve this, the plug’s inner tongue has been made really thin, and we hope it won’t snap. During our review, we found out that the Le 1s quick charging feature saved the day – the device comes with a really bulky charger, but it paid off when we were able to boost up to a double-digit battery percentage in just a few minutes. To recall, the smartphone sports a 3000mAh battery.

3) The software needs some work
One of the biggest surprises during our review was the Le 1s’s software shortcomings. It runs the dated Android 5.0.2 with LeEco’s heavy eUI skin. The company skin dispenses with the app drawer, much like other phones from Chinese handset brands, and there weren’t as many customisation options.

The most difficult thing to get used to was that all shortcuts and quick settings were moved to the app switcher screen. It looks like a mashup of iOS 7’s Control Centre and app switcher and is functional enough, but it seems as though LeEco wanted to be different just for the sake of being different.

There were not many preloaded apps – Yahoo Weather, and an app called My LeTV which is a gateway to the company’s cloud storage and security services. The phone was also surprisingly sparse when it came to settings and enhancements. Overall, the software experience was a bit of a let-down, making the whole experience felt unpolished.

(Also see: Le 1s Sale: What You Need to Know)

le_1s_rear_gadgets360.jpg4) Impressive performance
During our detailed review, we liked using the Le 1s for the most part, and it did feel good in the hands as well. We were happy to note that the phone didn’t get too hot in use, even after gaming and running stress tests. Only a bit of warmth could be felt towards the top of the rear. We were pleasantly surprised by the phone’s speaker, which pumped out pretty loud and rich sound.

5) Average camera
The camera on the Le 1s is pretty average in terms of performance. In our review, we saw primary camera struggled a bit with detailing and exposure. It however managed to pull off quite a few good shots including close-ups which were the best, though there was still noise and murkiness to natural textures. Low-light shots looked impressive at first but were completely unusable if enlarged to actual size. You’ll be fine if you only want to share photos on social media, but not for anything beyond that. Videos were also adequate for a phone that costs this much.