Review: Fiio Q1 – The Entry DAC/AMP

Disclaimer: Fiio sent us a free sample of the Fiio Q1 DAC/AMP for review, it doesn’t need to be returned

Q1

Fiio’s product line changes all the time. They’re adding new products, updating old products (-k) and creating new “letters” faster than Lucky Luke’s shadow. After the E07, E10 and E17 getting K versions, Fiio now has removed the E07K from their product line up and they have replaced it with the Q1. That now makes the Q1 the most entry product in Fiio’s line-up, being available for $69.99. The Q1 can be used as an AMP/DAC combo, a DAC only or an amplifier only.

Fiio has always been known for their budget gear and their excellent price/quality ratio. Budget quality gear is what made Fiio big and loved worldwide and I am glad to see they are still focusing on this part of the market as well. Lately they have been going more upmarket to Medium-Fi as well with the earlier released X5SG DAP and the upcoming X7 DAP.

The Q1 comes delivered in Fiio’s new style of boxes and as accessories you get two silicone mats, two rubber bands, a USB cable and an awesome little InterConnect (IC – see pics). Most people have been buying the $4.99 JDSlabs IC but now Fiio has one too and it’s wonderful. I always found the original 10cm 3.5mm IC to be a bit long for a double stack but now they have this. I haven’t seen it pop up in their web shop though, so maybe it is only supplied with the Q1 for now.

The Q1 now is E17K’s little brother and if you remember well I earlier this year called the E17K a “Good All-Round Starter”. A lot of people will be interested in this starter AMP/DAC and because of that huge lower end fan base, Fiio has a really good reason to make this a good sounding unit.

The Tech

Unlike the E17K (for now Fiio’s TOTL portable AMP/DAC) the Q1 uses the Texas instruments PCM5102 DAC chip and the amplifier is Maxim’s MAX97220. I’m not sure Fiio has ever used these in their products before but that does mean you will get “only” 24/96 and not 32/96 like the E17K does. The PCM5102 also doesn’t support DSD, so if that’s your thing you’ll have to look at the $126.49 E17K.

Size wise you can compare the Q1 to the E11/E11K, only this time the Q1 has more of a “flask” shape with curved surfaces. It is still small, weighs only 100g and measures 97mm x 56mm x 13.1 mm. The potentiometer used is not ALPS but TOCOS and I have to say that with my head- and earphones, the channel imbalance at very low listening level was reduced to a minimum. That’s great news for sensitive IEM users.

The battery used inside the Q1 is a 1400mAh battery that is supposed to give you over 30h play time I personally have not tested that as I as good as always had it connected by USB in my office, but those are very impressive numbers. I suppose this is in amplifier only mode and not when the DAC is running but it still is a big number. The battery charges in under 4h as well and the Q1 works perfectly fine while it is charging.

It wouldn’t be Fiio if there wasn’t a Gain and Bass Boost implementation. Gain using the Aux in is -7dB / 4.5dB and when using the DAC it is -3.5dB / 4.5dB. Q1’s bass boost is 0 / +5dB and that’s only half of what Fiio normally has in store for their BB. The Q1 has a 0.3Ohm Output impedance and delivers >190mW(32Ohm) and >75mW (150Ohm) with a recommended load of 15 to 150Ohm.

The Q1 doesn’t officially run on android but it seems it will work with a series of phones, there are no promises however.

Build quality and comfort

While the Q1 looks like the E11/E11K series, its form factor is a little different.  The new Q1 has a flask shape and while it aesthetically looks good, you have to use the plastic mat provided to use the Q1 on your desk. If you don’t, the volume control wheel will touch the desk it is resting on and turning the pot will result in the Q1 moving left or right. I usually tend to sticking 3M rubber feet under the units but that’s a no go with this shape. Of course it won’t be any issue when you use the Q1 as a portable amp and you can easily put the silicon mat between your source and the Q1 to keep it in place and to prevent both units from getting scratches.

For $69.99 the build quality is decent and unlike the old plastic E11, the Q1 has a full aluminum feel and finish. Besides the plastic like gain, charge and bass boost buttons I can’t see how this unit could have been even better built. I have to admit I dropped it a few times already but the Q1 still looks (and works) like new. In the future I don’t think Fiio will ever disappoint with the build quality of their products, they pretty know what their clients expect.

Q1 Lay-out

Besides some printing there is nothing to be found on the top and bottom of the unit. On the small front plate you have the bass boost switch on the left side, the protected volume control in the middle and the 3.5mm headphone out on the right. In between the headphone out and the volume pot is a mini LED that will shine blue (operational), green (charged) or some kind of purple (charging). On the back of the Q1 you will find the micro USB port, the 3.5mm in/output, the gain switch and the charge switch.

It’s a pretty basic unit but all buttons and switches are perfectly accessible and not in the way of other buttons. Maybe Fiio could have made separate line in and outputs but there’s probably not enough room to do that.

Q1’s Sound is right after the click HERE or below

Review: Fiio Q1 – The Entry DAC/AMP3.7 (74.71%) 34 votes
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