Lately, it seems that almost every week there are new (or at least unheard of by most) companies releasing new DAPs (Digital Audio Players). This is great for the consumer because more products means more competition which means lower prices and ultimately better value for those who are buying. One of the latest players to crop us is NiNTAUS with their X10. The X10 comes with a 2 inch screen, line out, equaliser, native DSD support and more. Read on to find out if you should get one.
This product was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I’m not affiliated with the company and all opinions and observations here are my own, based on my experience with the product. I’d like to thank Penon Audio for the opportunity to test the NiNTAUS X10.
Play time: about 60 hours (headset volume 30 ,play lossless music)
Charging time: about 5 hours (using 5V / 1000 mA charger)
Audio formats: MP3.WMA, WAV, APE, FLAC, ACC, OGG
Menu Language: English, Russian, Chinese
Operating temperature: 0-45degree
Transmission interface: micro 5pin, USB2.0
Expansion card: support 128GB
Packaging and accessories
The unit came in a compact, plain brown box with the brand name printed on the front. Simple and effective.
Upon opening, we’re presented with the player wrapped in protective paper.
Once you remove the player from the box, underneath you’ll come across the included accessories.
Inside the box you’ll find:
NiNTAUS X10 Player
USB transfer/charge cable
16GB Micro SD Card
The included earphones turned out to be surprisingly good. These are nothing exceptional if you already have a collection of IEMs but for those that don’t, it’s a welcome addition. In fact, even if you do have better earphones already it’s still a nice touch. The IEMs are an over-ear type and made from lightweight plastic.
On the included Micro SD Card is some sample music including a mix of Chinese and English songs. Overall for the low asking price, it’s a great package that has everything you need to get up and running.
Build and use:
The player is made from CNC machined aluminium. Construction quality is very good with all smooth edges and clean lines.
Underneath the brand name printed at the top is the 2 inch TFT screen with a resolution of 320 x 240. Below the screen are metal control buttons and a plastic navigation dial. The buttons feel nice and solid with no noticeable looseness and have a crisp, tactile click when pressed. From top left to bottom right these are:
The dial has raised bumps around the outside edge to help with grip and moves with little audible clicks (physical, not software based). I find the dial to work really well and it’s easy to scroll fairly quickly through lists or one line at a time.
On the top of the player are the Power Button, headphone and line out jacks. I generally like the headphone and line out jacks on the bottom but that’s just personal preference and might be different for you.
Moving to the bottom we find the Micro SD Card slot (supports up to 128GB), the USB charge/transfer port and a reset button.
Here you can see the NiNTAUS X10 in the protective silicone case. It doesn’t look anywhere near as pretty as it does without it but it certainly will protect the player.
Right then, let’s take a look at the menu.
The options in the “Set (Settings)” menu are as follows:
And for the play settings:
The line level
As you can see the menu is a fairly simple offering. For me, it covers most of the things that I want but there are some strange omissions and shortcomings. The UI is fairly snappy, utilizing the torch 2167 processor, although when first starting playback there is a slight delay whilst the album art and track info are loading. The “now playing” screen displays album art, volume, playback/repeat mode, EQ setting, storage space, battery level, track, artist, album, file format & bit-rate and track number. As you can see there’s plenty of comprehensive information so good job on that one.
To adjust the volume you need to press any button to activate the screen (assuming the screen is off), press the volume button and then use the dial to ramp it up or down. I’d definitely prefer to have dedicated volume buttons to simplify the process. Skipping to the previous or next track is done via the Back and Forward buttons (bet you didn’t see that coming). It can sometimes be frustrating that any button must first be pressed to activate the screen before you can issue any commands. I’ve seen this before on other players (XDuoo X2 and Benjie K9) and while it’s not a big deal I still find it a little inconvenient.
The buttons can be locked by a quick press on the power button. Another quick press will unlock the buttons.
The screen is clear with good colour but it can be difficult to see outdoors on a sunny day.
To use the line out simply plug your amp or other device straight into the jack and that’s it – no need to change any software settings. Handy. Line out can be set to Volume synchronization, 0db or -6db. Headphone volume can be set to a default level or to memory where it retains the previous level used.
One major annoyance I found with the software is the resume playback on startup implementation. Upon starting the device a message will pop up asking if you want to want to resume the last played track. If you click on “yes” then it will take you to the “now playing” screen and then you need to press Play to resume playback. If you click no it will take you back to the main menu. If you don’t choose either Yes or No within a few seconds you will get taken back to the main menu AND you lose the position of the last track played. It’s a very frustrating setup. I would much prefer an option in the settings to enable or disable resume on playback and leave it at that. Oh and actually resume playback without me having to press the Play button. AAARRGH!
There’s an equalizer with 6 preset modes, including Rock, Pop, Soft, Jazz, Classical and Techno but unfortunately, no custom setting is available.
Another niggling issue is the lack of a shortcut to the home screen. From the Now Playing screen if you want to go to the home screen you need to press the Back button 4 times. Am I being anal about this? I don’t know but it just seems that there could be a better way, for example, a long press of the Menu button.
The battery on the X10 is absolutely excellent. The specifications claim that it has a continuous playback time of 60 hours playing .flac files at 30 volume. I found that with headphones and most of the earphones I tested with I like the volume closer to around 50 but even then I can go for several days of regular use before needing a charge. More DAPs need this kind of lasting power in my opinion.
Ultrasone Performance 860 – headphone
MSUR N650 – headphone
Trinity Audio PM4 – IEM
LZ A4 – IEM
TFZ Balance 2M – IEM
Shinrico E11 portable headphone amplifier
So how does the NiNTAUS X10 sound? Well its’ DAC is the new Wisdom/Xinzhihui WM8965 which I’ve never seen before but I think it sounds pretty good. It’s accompanied by TI’s TPA6530 OP-amp which, I believe is the same one used in the aigo-105. I feel that the amp might be a bit underpowered. The line-out of the X10 is noticeably less powerful than that of the FiiO X1ii. The X10 can power the Ultrasone Performance 860 fairly well but I needed to bump the volume up significantly to do so. I have doubts that it would be sufficient for a 300-ohm headphone but I don’t have one available to confirm this. The MSUR N650 seems to pair very nicely with this however with wide soundstage, clarity and airy treble.
Bass has some nice weight to it and manages to keep its nose clean. Midrange seems fairly neutral but doesn’t have the best separation I’ve heard from a DAP. Treble is nice and clear with some sparkle and airiness. Imaging with the N650 is still very good here. Overall in this price range, I think the X10 sounds fantastic.
vs FiiO X1ii
The NiNTAUS boots MUCH faster than the FiiO, weighs less and the UI feels more snappy overall. The X10’s battery will go for days after the X1ii has sputtered and failed. The FiiO sounds a bit cleaner and more neutral but I actually find the FiiO a little on the thin side when it comes to sound. The amp section on the FiiO is more powerful, for the headphone out and the line-out but the X10 has a dedicated jack for line out which is far more convenient. The X1ii has Bluetooth which is obviously an advantage but it’s also 3 times the price of the X10.
vs Benjie K9
I have a soft spot for the K9 but just like the X10 it also has some illogical UI design. However the K9 is easier to use and navigate using only its simple control pad, consisting of a circular 4 button disc and central button. The K9 lacks a line-out feature which is something I’ve come to depend on from a dedicated DAP. Sound wise the X10 pulls ahead slightly but not in a major way being a little clearer and closer to neutral and more forward in the midrange. Battery life on the K9 is pretty good, much the same as the XDuoo X2 (around 15 hours) but gets trumped again by the X10.
Recommendations for improvement
First and foremost dedicated volume buttons PLEASE. This would make such a difference, at least for me. I’d like to see a custom setting available for Equalization as well. I’m usually inclined not to use EQ but knowing it’s there if you want it goes a long way for the end-user experience. The resume last played track really needs a better implementation. In its current state, it becomes annoying very quickly. Make it an option in the settings to “On” or “Off” and if its “On”, just play the darn music already without making me press the Play button.
It would be nice to have a setting for screen brightness as well. I’d happily bump up the brightness a little and sacrifice a little battery. Lastly, I think a shortcut to the main menu would be a welcome addition, rather than having to press the Back button again and again.
The NiNTAUS X10 shows a lot of real potential and I believe with a few minor changes it could be an absolute winner. It sounds very good and has a stellar battery life. The screen is a good size and although it can be hard to see in sunlight (many more expensive DAPs suffer here as well) it has a decent resolution and bright colours. The unit looks great and feels nice to touch.
The CNC machined case is top quality and the buttons respond very well and have a satisfying click to them. It’s also fairly light – lighter than the FiiO X1ii, even though they are almost identical in size. I feel the X10 comes so close to being great for me but in a way, it still is great when you consider the low price of (currently) just $45-$60 (not forgetting it comes with earphones and silicone case).
If you’re just getting your feet wet in the audiophile world or are more experienced but need something with a longer lasting battery the NiNTAUS X10 is certainly a good Digital Audio Player for the low asking price.