FiiO Q5S Type-C Review
A Masterpiece refined
Pros: – Reference quality sound
– THX-78 Balanced amplifier
– Powerful and dynamic
– Bluetooth 5.0
– LDAC and aptX adaptive
– 4 different inputs
– USB type C
– Full of accessories
– Compatible with all the amp modules
Cons: – Battery duration could be better
– Without 2.5mm balanced output
The Q5s TC was kindly provided by FiiO and is still under their ownership.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
FiiO Q5s (Type C) is a new version of the very popular Q5s.
There are only two differences between the two versions.
Differences between Q5s TC and Q5s
1 – The Q5s TC includes the standard THX amp module AM3D 3.5mm+4.4mm (the Micro USB port is changed to Type C port), while the Q5s includes the AM3E (2.5+4.4+3.5+Micro USB port).
2 – Change of the Bluetooth chip from CSR8675 to QCC5124 which supports the new aptX adaptive. Besides, EQ adjustment is available under all Bluetooth codecs, esp. LDAC.
But it no longer supports HWA.
All supplied cables are changed accordingly to type C versions.
Please be careful because as FiiO has stated the AM3D module with the type C port is not sold separately.
So if by any means you need a type C port then you must buy the new version Q5s TC.
Of course the AM3D module is available with the micro USB port so current owners of Q5s can add the THX amp module sans the type C port.
The Q5s Type C is compatible with all the existing amp modules of FiiO.
For the new readers that are not familiar with the Q5s let’s remember the specifications.
The Q5s Type C is FiiO’s flagship dac/amplifier with bluetooth support and a retail price of about $400 or €420.
It features two AKM 4493EQ dacs in dual mono configuration aided by six carefully implemented op-amps for a truly balanced audio design.
Four channel analog volume control with Panasonic film capacitors and high grade audiophile power supply help a lot with the performance.
The analog , digital , low pass and amplification circuits are independently powered and isolated from each other for the best in class results.
The Q5s Type C utilizes the XMOS XUF 208 USB decoding chip paired with precise clock management system allowing for support up to 768kHz/32bit PCM and native DSD decoding.
The AM3D is a THX AAA certified module with two THX-78 amp blocks in a fully balanced configuration for superior audio performance with low distortion and higher power output.
The Q5s Type C is rated at 560mW/32Ω for the balanced out and 210mW/32Ω for the single ended one.
The new Qualcomm QCC5124 chip supports bluetooth 5.0 with the high resolution formats LDAC and aptX HD plus adding the new aptX adaptive switching from low latency to high quality on demand.
The analog potentiometer volume knob aided by ADC curve reconstruction technology eliminates low volume channel imbalance thus allowing for greater precision in adjusting the volume in tiny steps.
The Q5s Type C is compatible with the FiiO Control app which allows for greater flexibility and customisation.
We can adjust various parameters such as charge function on/off , RGB light on/off , low pass filter selection , custom equalizer etc.
Full specifications are available here https://www.fiio.com/q5stypec_parameters
The Q5s TC features an all aluminium sandblasted body carefully finished with CNC manufacturing process with an added layer of PU leather at the back to help stability.
Dimensions are about 124x64x16mm with a weight of 195gr.
Handling and feeling are very good with a nice touch to the hand although our specific unit had some sharp edges.
The Q5s TC packs a lot of hardware inside so weight and size are a little increased but we can still count the device as a portable one.
Looking at the unit from the top we will find the low/high gain and bass boost switches plus the line out and combined cox/optical/line in jacks.
The one side sports three buttons that can be used to control our music playback under bluetooth mode.
We get the previous/next song button plus the play/pause middle one that also acts as the pairing button when it is long pressed.
At the other side there is one button plus four small LEDs that indicate the chosen input.
Pressing the button once will cycle through the inputs and long pressing will display the remaining battery at four levels of 25% each one.
At the bottom of the device between the main body and the amp module there is a six color RGB led that can display various functions such as sampling rate or bluetooth codec.
The amp module itself has a 3.5mn and a balanced 4.4mm output but sadly no 2.5mm and the type C USB port that is used for charging and data.
The Q5s TC has a clever auto detect function that can cut charging current when the device is connected to a phone.
This feature is compatible with iOS phones and for Android we have to do it manually from the FiiO Control app.
The internal battery is a huge one measuring 3800mAh and it can power the device for about 7 – 8 hours of real life use.
As always FiiO is very large with the supplied accessories.
We get a USB A-C charging cable , dual USB C , lighting to USB C , 3.5mm line , coaxial patch cable , optical adapter , 4 binding straps , non slip pads , screwdriver for the modules and a carrying pouch.
We have tested the Q5s TC with all the possible configurations except the line in and with the latest firmware applied.
Setup is very easy and hassle free both for cabled and bluetooth operations.
Plug in the USB C to C cable and you are good to go or press the bluetooth button to enable it and get into pairing mode.
The best supported codec is chosen automatically.
We have used various headphones at our disposal such as the Sennheiser HD660S , the Hifiman Ananda and HE400i 2020 or even the Meze Empyrean.
Several iems as the FiiO FA9 were used to further test the noise floor.
With the very efficient Soundz Ultra (https://www.soundzcustom.com/ultra/) 10Ω/119dB we didn’t hear any kind of noise.
Driving ability from the balanced output is very good and the FiiO Q5s TC can drive all the above mentioned headphones with ease and headroom so it can be sufficient for most use cases.
One further note is that although the Q5s TC and FiiO M11Pro share the same amp module with the same specs for some strange reason the Q5s TC appears to be more powerful.
The overall sound signature of the Q5s TC is of absolute reference quality with a perfectly flat and neutral response.
Extension to both ends is good with great bass and all the needed brilliance and detail up top.
Don’t expect the Q5s TC to change your headphones signature but on the contrary it is the perfect tool to listen to the pure truth from the source to the transducers.
The Q5s was already very good but the Q5s TC is even better thanks to the THX AAA amplifier.
We are not necessarily fans of the THX technology but we surely are of FiiO’s implementation of it.
They manage to squeeze every bit of the performance in a perfect combination with the AKM dacs.
Bass is full bodied but still very tight with excellent layering and audiophile quality.
It is hard hitting without any added reverb or echo and can naturally portray even the busiest of the passages.
Mids are of course perfectly flat and crystal clear but they are not dry at all as they sound fully engaging with a weighty presentation.
The timbre is very natural and the instrumental tone is perfect so if you are up for some warm or coloured kind of sound just look elsewhere.
The same applies to the higher registers which are precise and very naturally toned.
Thanks to the exemplary clarity aided by the black background we can dig up all the micro details which are very well implemented into the whole adding to the great sense of reality.
The soundstage is presented in an effortless way with ample space and precision and with the right headphone the experience can be very lifelike.
The THX module as was the case with the M11Pro or even the budget Q3 is an excellent performer with unrestrained dynamic behavior serving its duty silently letting the dac be the first actor than itself.
The bluetooth implementation is truly remarkable and with the LDAC codec engaged you will have a really hard time to tell the difference between wired and wireless.
We liked it so much that combined with the ease of use we preferred the bluetooth mode most of all.
The bass boost function is by now a very mature analog circuit implemented by FiiO and gets its job done without any major drawbacks.
We get about +6dB of extra bass with an added mid bass rise and a slight decrease in overall clarity.
Further sound tweaking can be achieved through the FiiO Control app with the fully customizable equalizer and the six different low pass filters.
As is the case with all the inherently balanced designs of FiiO (and not only) like the Q3 or the M11PRO while the single ended out is already good enough it is the balanced that it is exceptional and of the utmost quality.
Both sound and power wise.
So we would recommend going balanced to truly enjoy the Q5s Type C in it’s full glory.
At the end
The million dollar question is can you improve an already excellent performer?
Well it seems that the answer is yes at least in the case of the Q5s TC as it takes from the already magnificent Q5s and manages to squeeze even more reaching out for perfection.
There is not much left to say than that the Q5s TC is a true reference quality portable dac/amp with bluetooth support and a flagship desktop performance at a very competitive price.
It should definitely be at your shortlist as it is one of the best available options at the market right now but even if you already own a Q5s then we suggest that you should try the separate AM3D module despite its dated micro usb port.
Highly recommended without any hesitation and if you decide for it then hurry because we are afraid that due to the recent AKM factory fire this one is going to be discontinued.
The test playlist – http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2020.
I have still the q5s tc on duty and find it stillnrelativeli good with my headphones , i probably like very much the AK chip sound signature . Do you think that more recent daps offer better sound or do you think it is still more of a sideway / choosing and favoring one of them , even (to the 3 years old fiio q5s tc)?
I think that the FiiO Q5S TC is one of the best sounding DAC/amps and still one of my favorites.
Recent products from FiiO, like the Q7 or the M11 Plus ESS are very good from a technical perspective and maybe better in this regard for the Q5S TC but they have a different sound character, not as warm and musical as the AK chip.
I wouldn’t be harried to change the Q5S TC unless you need more power or more transparent and technical sound.