FiiO Q15 DAC/Amp Review | Powerful

FiiO Q15 review featured

In this article, I’m reviewing the FiiO Q15 DAC and Headphone Amplifier. The Q15 features AKM’s flagship AK4191+AK4499EX DAC combo, Bluetooth connectivity and a massive power output. It’s priced at $399.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by FiiO for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

FiiO Q15 DAC/Amp Review | Powerful
Verdict
Add your rating here!1 Votes
Pros
Powerful output
Transparent but soulful sound signature
Good soundstage depth
Phone and Desktop power modes
5 gain modes
Cons
Somewhat large for a portable DAC
4.5
Our Score
WHERE TO BUY

FiiO Q15

In the Box
  • Q15*1
  • Dual Type-C fast charging data cable*1
  • Dual Type-C short data cable*1
  • Type A-C adapter*1
  • Storage bag*1
  • Silicone pad*1
  • PE film (pre-applied)*1
  • Silicone ring*2
  • Manual*1
  • Warranty card*1

Features

Starting with the DAC, the FiiO Q15 is equipped with the popular flagship AK4191+AK4499EX combo with an SNR of ≥123dB. Then there’s the XMOS 16-core XU-316 enabling support for up to 768kHz/32bit PCM, DSD512 and full MQA decoding.

A Qualcomm QCC5125 handles Bluetooth connectivity with support for SBC, AAC, aptX/aptX LL, aptX HD and LDAC codecs. There are 5 gain levels and 6 digital filters to choose from as well.

A full-colour IPS display shows useful information such as volume level, current sampling rate, gain and battery level and allows you to navigate the system menu. The screen orientation can be rotated upside down or right side up, so it’s always visible no matter how you position the device.

There are 2 dedicated power modes: one being Phone Mode, utilizing power from the internal battery without affecting the phone’s battery life. The other one is desktop mode which bypasses the battery and enables the maximum power output of up to a crazy 1600mW.

Design

The FiiO Q15 is built like a tank. It’s somewhat big and hefty, weighing in at about 305g but it feels well-constructed and rugged. It can fit in larger pockets but that becomes more challenging when you have it attached to a phone.

There’s a glass panel running down the front of the unit, giving it a premium look. The LCD screen is located in the top part of the panel.

On the back end of the device are (from left to right): Phone mode switch, coaxial input, USB decoding/charging port, USB charging port and Desktop mode switch. I like how the USB decoding port can also charge the device. The second charging port is only necessary when using Desktop mode, where it bypasses the battery and delivers maximum power to the device.

On the front end of the Q15 are (from left to right): 3.5mm headphone out/Line out, a volume knob/button with a surrounding LED indicator light and a balanced 4.4mm headphone out. The knob is used for volume adjusting, input switching and menu settings etc.

There are 4 buttons on the left side. The first one is the power button and the other 3 are playback controls with Next track, Play/pause and Previous track. They’re a little difficult to find because they sit flush with the chassis but you get used to it fairly quickly.

FiiO Control App

You can access more features by using the FiiO control app. With the app you can set the balance, EQ and parametric EQ. Note that the PEQ only works when using Bluetooth or the USB input.

Battery Life

The FiiO Q15’s 5500mAh lithium polymer battery life is around 9 hours but this will depend on factors like headphones used and volume level etc. That should get most people through a day but if you need to recharge you’ll be waiting at least 3.5 hours (PD fast charge). In Desktop mode, the Q15 bypasses the battery altogether but in Phone mode, it uses its built-in battery exclusively to save your phone battery.

FiiO Q15 with HyBy Digital M300 DAP

Sound

The Q15 has a slightly warm and organic sound signature, not unlike other AK4191+AK4499EX combo DACs I’ve tested previously. It has a muscular effortlessness to it but is still able to tread lightly when playing delicate music passages.

There’s loads of power on tap so things like the 350Ω FiiO FT3 headphones pose no problem regarding driveability (hovering around 50 volume in High gain). Heck, with 5 different gain levels, the Q15 can adapt to just about anything, whether they be headphones or sensitive in-ear monitors.

The end-to-end extension is excellent. Bass notes are full-bodied and dig deep. Hihats and cymbals float off into the ether with a natural decay. Q15 leans a little on the warmer side of neutral. It enhances the warmth of acoustic tracks and adds a pleasant smoothness to vocals. But despite its soulful nature, the Q15 preserves the integrity of the audio, allowing you to pick up on all the intricate details.

The combination of warmth, transparency, and clarity makes this a versatile and enjoyable device across multiple music genres. While playing Elfenberg’s ‘Cuzco’ with the FiiO FT3 headphones, the bass notes thump powerfully, creating a visceral impact, while the acoustic strings and percussion instruments maintain a remarkable clarity.

Listening to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘London, 1988’, the soundstage unfolds with a captivating sense of depth and dimension. The orchestration is deftly spread throughout the stereo field, constructing a grand and panoramic sonic expanse. As the strings, piano, and other instruments come to life, their positions are distinctly defined and I can perceive the arrangement with each section occupying its own designated space.

Comparison

xDuoo XD05 Bal2 review featured
xDuoo XD05 Bal2

The xDuoo XD05 Bal2 (review here) features dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips and 1500mW output power. Both of these devices have a muscular, self-assured audio character. The XD05 Bal2 has a more neutral presentation, giving it a leaner tone and slightly better micro-detail retrieval.

When it comes to features, the xDuoo only has 2 gain modes compared to 5 on the Q15 but it has a bass boost. The xDuoo has a wider array of connection options with AES, Aux, Coaxial, Bluetooth and USB inputs. Both units have multiple digital filter options.

These are both fantastic units and I think they’re neck-to-neck when it comes to audio quality. Considering the sound, battery life and build quality are so good on both of these, the deciding factor when choosing which one to buy will come down to connectivity and features.

Fiio Q15 display

Verdict

I think the FiiO Q15 brings a lot to the table for its asking price. It has great build quality, good usability, and loads of output power and it sounds fantastic. Its versatility shines whether on your desktop or paired with your phone or DAP. The inclusion of a screen is a thoughtful touch, providing valuable information with just a glance. If you seek a portable DAC/Amp that effortlessly handles a diverse range of audio demands, the Q15 is an excellent choice. I wholeheartedly recommend it and am giving it our coveted recommendation award.

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