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Fiio Q15 – Under $500 Beast

Fiio Q15

9.0 TOTAL SCORE

Fiio Q15

Buy Now

WOW, Fiio has unleashed an absolute powerhouse with the Q15 – the ultimate Under $500 Beast! With its flagship AK4499EX+AK4191 DAC chipset and XMOS 16-core processor, this device is a force to be reckoned with. In summary, the FiiO Q15 delivers exceptional sound quality, boasting robust bass, detailed midrange, and effortlessly smooth treble.


Sound 9
Technicalities 9
Features 9
Design 9
Build Quality 9
Comfort 9
PROS
  • Exceptional Sound Quality
  • Good Technicalities
  • Plenty of Power [1600mW 32Ω]
  • Thanks to the AKM AK4499EX
  • Sleek Design
  • Great Build Quality
  • Fiio App
  • Good Battery
CONS
  • Some Might Prefer a Neutral Tuning
  • Nitpicking – No Case Included
  • Nitpicking – Size

FIIO

Since its inception in 2007, FiiO has emerged as a dominant force in the audiophile landscape, renowned for its extensive range of both budget-friendly and premium-quality products. The brand’s portfolio spans an array of offerings, including IEMs, headphone amps, DACs, and DAPs, each maintaining a reputation for excellence. FiiO has consistently unveiled cutting-edge devices that not only meet but often surpass industry standards.

Q15

We’re currently evaluating the FiiO Q15 DAC and Headphone Amplifier. This device boasts AKM’s top-of-the-line AK4191+AK4499EX DAC combination, along with Bluetooth connectivity and a significant power output. Priced at $399, it’s positioned as a high-value option in its category.

The Q15 showcases a range of intriguing hardware specifications, including the Flagship AK4499EX+AK4191 DAC Chipset, offering both Desktop & Portable Dual Power Supply Modes, a premium Qualcomm QCC5125 Bluetooth Chipset, the latest XMOS 16-core XU316 USB Processor, and a vibrant 1.3” Color IPS Display, among other features. With a 4-way balanced interface delivering an impressive output power of up to 1610mW @ 32Ω, it stands out in performance. Furthermore, it comes equipped with both 3.5mm Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced outputs, in addition to versatile input options such as USB Type-C, Coaxial, and Bluetooth connectivity.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

DAC Chip:

  • Dual AKM DAC combo: AK4191EQ + AK4499EX
  • Supports high-resolution audio decoding:
    • PCM: 8Hz – 768kHz (8/16/24/32 bits)
    • DSD: 64/128/256/512
  • Full MQA decoding for high-fidelity audio streaming

Amplifier:

  • High output power: 1600mW
  • Five-level gain modes for driving various headphones (high-impedance and low-impedance)

Connectivity:

  • Digital Inputs:
    • USB-C (supports USB Audio Class 2.0)
    • Coaxial (RCA)
  • Analog Outputs:
    • 3.5mm single-ended headphone jack
    • 4.4mm balanced headphone jack (provides higher power and cleaner audio)
  • Line Out (3.5mm and 4.4mm) for connecting to speakers or an amplifier

Other Features:

  • Full-color IPS display screen (1.3 inches) for showing audio information like sample rate and volume level
  • Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity with support for high-quality codecs: SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, LDAC
  • Global PEQ function (parametric equalizer) for customizing sound signature
  • Supports fast charging (PD2.0)
  • Battery life:
    • Up to 9 hours with wired headphones (3.5mm)
    • Up to 8 hours with balanced headphones (4.4mm)
  • Dimensions: 143.5 x 71.75 x 21.75 mm (5.65 x 2.83 x 0.86 inches)
  • Weight: Approximately 305 grams (10.76 ounces)

DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY

The FiiO Q15 has the highest build quality and exudes a sleek visual appeal, presenting a premium appearance. Its CNC-machined aluminum alloy body lends it a luxurious feel, while the rear panel, constructed from scratch-resistant and anti-fingerprint AG glass, ensures durability. With its sleek and ergonomic design, the Q15 offers a comfortable grip, enhancing its portability and ease of use.

On the left side, you’ll find a set of four buttons. The initial button functions as the power switch, while the remaining three serve as playback controls for Next Track, Play/Pause, and Previous Track.

At the front of the Q15, positioned from left to right, you’ll find the following features: a 3.5mm headphone out/Line out, a volume knob/button encircled by an RGB LED indicator light, and a balanced 4.4mm headphone out. The knob serves multiple functions including volume adjustment, input switching, and menu settings.

IN THE BOX

  • Storage Pouch
  • Short Data Cable
  • Long Data & Charging Cable
  • USB-C to USB-A Adapter
  • Silicone Pad
  • PE Film
  • Silicone Rings (2x)
  • Manual & Warranty Card

PROTECTOR CASE

Thanks, Fiio for including the protective case with our device! The case is made of good quality material, offering excellent protection for our investment. While it would be ideal for such a handy accessory to come in the package, the fact that you can purchase it separately for just $15 is a steal. Trust me, it’s worth every penny for the added peace of mind knowing that your device is safe and sound.

SOUND

The Q15 has a slightly warm and organic sound profile, delivering well-controlled audio with rich texture and intricate details. Its bass response is notably well-managed, providing impressive depth and power suitable for various headphones. In comparison, I also own a Shanling H7 device featuring the same AK4191+AK4499EX combo DACs. The H7 offers a more warm and fun sound signature, prompting a detailed comparison between the two devices in the down compare category. When paired with sensitive IEMs at lower gain settings, the Q15 produces dynamic and layered sound with an impeccably quiet background—utterly devoid of noticeable noise. While it leans towards a non-neutral amplification, with a slight emphasis on the low end, its overall sonic presentation feels natural, with exceptionally impressive technical performance.

BASS

The Q15’s deviation from neutrality is apparent in its low-end response, featuring a robust bass presence with notable fullness and solidity. While this characteristic is highly enjoyable and effectively managed, some distortion may be noticeable with certain IEMs. However, headphones, such as the Sivga Luan, exhibit minimal distortion, delivering well-extended bass, impressive depth, and a satisfying rumble.

We were truly impressed by the Q15’s bass performance, which offers exceptional quality within its price range, truly living up to our title as the Under $500 Beast!

MIDRANGE

The Q15’s midrange exudes a captivating naturalness, complemented by a delicate warmth that adds a touch of richness. This enhancement infuses midrange instruments and vocals with an inviting organic quality, ensuring a truly immersive listening experience. Vocals and instruments are rendered with remarkable clarity, offering exceptional detail retrieval and precise instrument separation. While the Q15 introduces subtle coloration in the midrange, it does so tastefully, without any hint of distortion. Female vocals are particularly noteworthy for their natural and pleasing tonality, while the lower midrange boasts impressive depth and full-bodied resonance, further enriching the audio landscape

HIGHS

The Q15’s treble performance is marked by its smooth, pristine quality, presenting a spacious and resolving sound signature. Notably, there’s an absence of added sibilance, distortions, or sharpness, ensuring a refined listening experience even in the upper frequencies. With its organically smooth and balanced treble response, the Q15 delivers a detailed and controlled sound profile, showcasing excellent synergy with a diverse range of IEMs including the SA6 MK2, Nanna 2, Blessing3, RSV, and more, across various music genres. This versatility promises an immersive audio journey, rich in nuance and clarity.

Q15 & Shanling MG600 Combo

The MG600 IEM itself offers a lively and V-shaped sound signature. When paired with the Q15, there’s an enhancement in dynamics and treble performance. Notably, the bass maintains separation from the midrange, presenting a natural and linear profile, although the sub-bass appears more pronounced with the Q15 compared to other sources. Additionally, there’s a noticeable improvement in detail retrieval and instrument separation. The soundstage gains spaciousness in both width and depth. Overall, this combination has left a strong impression, making extended listening sessions a truly enjoyable experience.

Q15 & Dunu SA6 MK2 Combo

The SA6 MK2 IEM itself leans towards warmth, when paired with the Q15, both dynamics and treble are enhanced. The MK2’s inherent slight BA timbre sees improvement with the Q15 combination. Bass gains tighter control while maintaining its impactful punch. There’s a noticeable enhancement in detail retrieval, albeit not overly significant. The soundstage showcases commendable width and depth, along with improved imaging capabilities.

STAGING & IMAGING

The Q15’s soundstage is expansive, offering a wide and immersive listening experience with a holographic depth. Instrument separation is exceptional, allowing each element of the music to stand out distinctly. The dynamic range and expansiveness of the Q15 contribute to its overall excellence in staging. When paired with open-sounding headphones, the staging width and depth are particularly impressive, creating a captivating audio environment. This effect is especially pronounced when using headphones like the Sivga Luan, which adds beautiful peripheral imaging and a deep, silent background to the listening.

The bass extends deeply, revealing layers of rich tones that add depth to the music. Vocal harmonics are beautifully rendered, adding richness and emotion to the sound. The airy quality in the treble adds a sense of spaciousness and liveliness to the overall soundstage, enhancing the immersive experience.

COMPARISONS

FIIO Q15 VS SHANLING H7

Let’s dive into the sound signature of the H7, which shares the same AK4499EX+AK4191 DACs as the Q15. Shanling’s portable devices are known for their smoothness and impactful bass, and the H7 lives up to this reputation. It offers a smoother sound with a touch of warmth and enhanced bass presence compared to the Q15. The treble sparkles with added definition, contributing to a neutral to natural coloration overall. The addition of OPA2211 op-amps further enhances its smooth and organic character.

For those who enjoy lively and dynamic listening, the Q15 may be the preferred choice due to its clarity, also worth noting that the Q15 has higher driving power. The H7 presents a mellower and smoother sound profile. Personally, I find the H7 to be more captivating and enjoyable, offering better staging and imaging. While there’s not a significant difference in detail retrieval and separation between the two units, both are conveniently portable, fitting comfortably in a regular jeans pocket, with the H7 weighing 352g and the Q15 at 305g.

Let’s explore some of the key features of both devices. Both the H7 and Q15 offer comprehensive support for DSD formats, including DSD64/128/256/512 MQA full decoding, powered by the XMOS XU316 chipset. The H7 boasts additional enhancements with powerful Texas-Instruments TPA6120A2 op-amps, OPA2211, and MUSES8920, delivering up to 1300mW of power at 32 ohms. In comparison, the Q15 provides up to 1600mW of power with its 5-stage hybrid gain adjustment.

When it comes to Bluetooth support, the Q15 supports SBC, ACC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX adaptive, and LDAC, while the H7 offers LDAC, AAC, and SBC compatibility.

The Q15 boasts a 3.8V 5500mAh Li-Polymer battery, offering up to 9 hours of playback with wired headphones (3.5mm) and 8 hours with balanced headphones. On the other hand, the H7 features a robust 6800mAh battery, providing even longer battery life. You can expect up to 11 hours of playback with wired headphones (3.5mm) and 8 hours with balanced headphones.

One notable feature shared by the H7 device is the ability to insert a micro-SD card into the dedicated port, switch to “player” mode, and enjoy music playback like a standard DAP (Digital Audio Player). Moreover, if you prefer a larger screen for navigation, the Shanling H7 can be connected via Bluetooth to your smartphone, allowing access to your entire music library through the Eddict Player app.

Now, is it worth paying $429 more for the H7?
In my opinion, NO – while the H7 offers superior features, the Fiio Q15 remains a highly competitive and excellent portable device at its price point. While the H7 may offer some improvements, it may not necessarily justify the significant price difference.

CONCLUSION

WOW, Fiio has unleashed an absolute powerhouse with the Q15 – the ultimate Under $500 Beast! With its flagship AK4499EX+AK4191 DAC chipset and XMOS 16-core processor, this device is a force to be reckoned with. In summary, the FiiO Q15 delivers exceptional sound quality, boasting robust bass, detailed midrange, and effortlessly smooth treble. there’s more, Its spacious soundstage takes your listening experience to new heights, offering crystal-clear imaging that brings your music to life. With the Q15, Fiio has truly outdone themselves, delivering a portable audio solution that punches well above its weight. We stand firmly behind our recommendation of the Q15. If you choose the Q15 for portable audio, it’s a decision you won’t regret!

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