DAC, DAC and double DAC.
With the SD card for the Walkman running out of space, I decided to be extravagant and buy a FiiO X5 (2nd gen.), which has slots for two SD cards. I need bigger SD cards, but the only ones I can get from a reliable source are 32Gb apiece.
What I didn’t know was that is can also be used as a DAC with a laptop, which means that it frees up the E17K for use with the iPods while the PHA-1A can remain more or less permanently attached to the Walkman. I can swap the X5 with the E17K when I get round to listening to the music on the former. It has a PCM1794a chip, which appears to be better than the PCM5102 in the E17K (but I’m not sure whether such a comparison is valid; see below).
The X5 is a very good, but quite hefty digital music player-cum-DAC. Unlike the slim Walkman, it’s wider and thicker, but unlike the latter, there seems to be no need to attach it to the E17K. On this point, I’m uncertain. It also has the options in the menus of preventing the thing from playing everything endlessly, an option which the Walkman needs, but doesn’t have.
The controls are good – around the central ring, which is turned to select menu items – are buttons for menu, back, and skip forwards and skip backwards, while start and pause are controlled by the centre button. Spinning the central ring is a little fiddly, but this is a minor issue. It pity the E17K doesn’t have similar controls instead of the temperamental wheel at the side.
It’s less a matter of what the X5 does play than what it doesn’t play, which appears to be a very small list of file types. Like the Walkman, I’m using it as a FLAC player, leaving my MP3s on the iPods, and any Apple music on the iPod Touch.
However, there would have to be one quirk. If you stop the X5 part way through and album, it appears not to remember where it stopped, and then reverts to a general list of tracks when it’s restarted. There may be some menu option for this that I’ve overlooked, but it seems strange for the X5 not to resume from precisely where it was stopped.
18.12.16. I was right. Unlike the Walkman, there is an option to tell the X5 to resume from where it was paused or stopped.
02.01.17. And now the third gen. version of the X5 is out. From what I can tell, it’s trying to be an iPod Touch with an Android OS. This one has both on-board storage (32Gb) and an expansion slot or two, Bluetooth 4.0, and a side-mounted volume control wheel, which, I’d hope, is less temperamental than the E17K wheel. ¥2490 according to JingDong, which is, I think, about ¥400 more than I paid for mine.
X5 DAC mode vs. E17K.
An unscientific comparison between the X5 in DAC mode and the E17K suggests that there’s little if anything in it. I attached both devices to the laptop and switched between them with a certain amount of interruption while listening to various pieces of music through my RAR P3s. As I said, I couldn’t detect any significant difference. The E17K might’ve had a slight edge, but I’m not entirely convinced. I don’t know whether the X5 is meant to be comparable to the E17K in performance as a DAC.