FiiO Q15 Review – Portable Desktop-Grade DAC and Headphone Amplifier
FiiO is a reputed name in the Hi-Fi audio industry. They are among the most prominent HiFi audio brands from China. And FiiO has one of the biggest ranges of products across different price brackets. They are quite active in the industry and we usually see new and updated products from them. Today, I will review their latest portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier the FiiO Q15.
The FiiO “Q” series is meant for portable USB DAC-AMPs, and the latest Q15 is a desktop-level performer in a compact portable form factor. We get flagship AKM DAC chips along with a high-power amp section with five-level gain modes and a maximum output power of up to 1600mW.
For the FiiO Q15, the brand packed the same digital core board as the Q7, albeit with one major exception: the previous ESS DAC was replaced by top-of-the-line AKM digital to analog converters.
At the heart of the Q15, we have a set of AK4191+ 4499EX DAC chips. And if that was not enough already, the Q15 enjoys dual audio crystal oscillators with asynchronous / self-adaptive dual mode management.
In addition to that you get a workload of features, such as:
Premium discrete delta-sigma modulator with the AK4499EX
Full high-resolution PCM and MQA decoding, up to 32bit/768kHz
Native DSD support up to DSD512 and DSD256 via Dop
-145dB crosstalk and THD inferior to 0.00004%
Super high Signal-to-noise Ratio, up to 135dB
256x digital oversampling
It features dedicated Phone mode, when switched on the Q15 works on its battery and doesn’t drain power from the connected source device. This ensures cleaner performance and longer battery backup on the phone.
The Q15 achieves impressive performance with ultra-low distortion and high SNR performance. It has a dedicated Amp section that provides powerful amplification to the signal. The device has an output power rating of up to 1600mW, powerful enough to easily drive even the demanding headphones with ease.
FiiO Q15 houses Qualcomm’s latest QCC5125 high-performance Bluetooth chipset. It processes Bluetooth signals precisely and provides stable, lag-free Bluetooth connectivity with the source device. We have full support for high-res LDAC, AptX HD, AptX, AAC, and SBC transmission protocol support.
You can enjoy high-resolution audio with wireless input to the Q15. Apart from USB and Bluetooth, we also have Coaxial input on the Q15 that enables easy connection with CD Players and other devices with Coaxial output.
The Q15 features a display screen that shows various settings including active connection type, bitrate, volume level, battery, etc. For outputs, FiiO has included 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs on the Q15. 1.3’’ wide, this one gets a full-color, high-definition panel, with excellent view angles and superb UI, allowing you to navigate easily through all the menu.
FiiO developed a whole new 15-way digital-analog power supply with extensive energy storage. A cascade setup that integrates a PMIC (Power Management IC) upfront, driving two lines: one for the XMOS and the other for SPDIF, MCU, IO, etc; helped by a multi-level LDO + DC-DC converter.
An impressive set-up, capable of ample dynamic range, fitted on a beautiful black PCB, filled with 60 low-temperature drift resistors, and 28 wide temperature range NPO capacitors, that allow faithful reproduction, with “the utmost fidelity in the most demanding conditions”.
But, where the Q15 differs from its predecessor, is the inclusion of a whole new portable mode, in addition to the usual desktop mode. Simply put, this mode forces the DAC-Amp to rely solely on the integrated battery, to ensure the most advanced compatibility with your phone, and the best performance. On the other hand, if you prefer to unleash the full power of the amp, you also have the Desktop Mode – available once the Q15 gets power through a PD adapter.
FiiO also added some quality-of-life improvements, like charging protection, battery isolation, overheating/over-voltage, and a DC protection mechanism. A long list of upgrades, topped up by the new custom anti-EMI modules that ensure perfect isolation from each other and avoid the annoying buzz while playing files from your streaming app, or just when you use Bluetooth.
The new Q15 has an ultra-high capacity, temperature-resistant battery, paired with a dynamic charge and discharge temperature-based control, ensuring the audio circuit works properly all the time. And if the battery capacity has been halved by a solid 40% – 5500mAh vs 9200mAh on the Q7 – the battery life remains nearly identical with an expected runtime of about 9h.
Finally, to fill up this massive reserve, FiiO gave the DAC-AMP USB-PD compliance up to 30W charging, but the device still takes a very long time to charge, so you better keep it plugged as long as you can.
As expected, the FiiO Q15 does it all: SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, LDAC you name it, it’s supported. And if that wasn’t enough already, the Hi-Res Audio Wireless Certified logo is well-endowed at the back of the player, with the Hi-Res Audio logo.
The Q15 gets an even better chipset than the Q7, FiiO embedding the Qualcomm QCC5125, instead of the QCC5124, making the DAC-AMP compatible with a wider range of sources. Basically, with a compatible headphone or receiver, you’ll always get the best quality available, but of course, if you have a TOTL IEM or a massive can, a wired connection will always be the best one.
Desktop/Portable Dual Power Supply Mode.
Flagship AK4499EX+AK4191 DAC Chipset.
Strong Amp Section Producing Powerful Output.
Up to 1600mW Output Thrust.
USB, Bluetooth, Coaxial Sound Input.
Global PEQ Function.
High-End Qualcomm QCC5125 Bluetooth Chipset.
High-Definition Bluetooth Codec Support(LDAC, AptX HD, etc.)
XMOS 16-core XU316 USB Processor.
Supports 32-bit/768kHz PCM, Native DSD512, and MQA Full Decoding.
The FiiO Control App works in Bluetooth mode only. This means you should first put it in BT mode and pair it with your phone. No USB support like FiiO dongle DACs. Within the App, you can control the LED under the knob, channel balance, Bluetooth codecs and EQ controls including PEQ custom presets.
Within the App, you can control the LED under the knob, channel balance, Bluetooth codecs and EQ controls including PEQ custom presets. The PEQ feature works on all inputs that FiiO names global PEQ support.
The global PEQ function has 7 EQ presets and 3 customizable PEQ presets. PEQ can be used in both Bluetooth mode and USB DAC mode.
Through the precise algorithm developed by FiiO, you can adjust the output to your liking corresponding to exact frequencies, allowing you to easily play around the device and experience different signatures with a simple PEQ function.
The Q15 sounds natural, impressively clean, and accurate. It is tonally balanced, with a colorless signature across the spectrum. The Q15’s natural timbre and tonality are, in my opinion, unmatched at this price bracket.
Its sound is dynamic, detailed, and musical. The Q15 is impressive with its sound quality, offering exceptional value at its price point.
Q15 is a very transparent and detail-rich sounding DAC. This goes for clean edges and transient, but also for the rich inner-tone texture. Highs are well-extended, open, and airy, avoiding any sort of hardness or harshness. There’s nothing to complain about Q15’s tonality really, it’s a skillful balance between gentle warmth and transparency that provides a very natural and pleasant sound signature.
The low end of the Q15 is agile, rich, textured, and resolving. Dynamic and impactful, the bass delivers impressive resolution. The mid-bass is optimal, neither too thick nor too thin. Instruments like the brass family are rendered with warmth and precision, and there’s a seamless transition from bass to midrange, maintaining a cohesive sound throughout the spectrum. The sub-bass extension is noteworthy, providing a tangible rumble that enhances the overall dynamism.
The midrange of the Q15 is where it truly shines, striking an excellent balance between sweetness and clarity. Vocals emerge with definition and texture, and the detail retrieval is striking. Mid-centric instruments like guitars are conveyed naturally with excellent detail rendition.
While the upper midrange is clean and energetic, the control is quite good, with elements like cymbals and hi-hats present but not overpowering. The resolution and clarity in this range are excellent, particularly for a portable all-in-one device.
The treble is delicate, airy, spacious, and controlled. The Q15 shows excellent control across the treble range. It feels resolving and clean but never hot. The transients are fast and quick. The fine treble enhances the overall clarity as well.
The Q15 manages to extend to the highest octaves without introducing harshness, maintaining good detail and a faithful representation of harmonics. The balance across the spectrum is very good, with the extension matching the depth of the lowest and highest notes, staying true to the original recording without roll-off.
Moreover, the Q15 showcases a level of technical prowess that is exceptional for a mid-tier portable all-in-one device. While the soundstage is broad, the depth can vary with different headphones, indicating that synergy plays a role.
That said, the depth is satisfactory with compatible IEMs. The clear and airy signature, coupled with impressive instrument separation, ensures precise imaging and positioning. All things considered, the Q15 is a technically remarkable DAC and AMP combo.
Summing up, the Q15 is an impressive all-in-one portable DAC-AMP that demands consideration from any audiophile looking for high-fidelity audio in a compact package and reasonable pricing. Its great design and excellent build, cutting-edge flagship DAC chip from AKM, and features like global PEQ represent a significant value proposition in the market.
Its performance, matched with user-friendly controls and a versatile feature set, ensures it stands tall alongside competitors like the Shanling H5. The Q15 not only continues FiiO’s tradition of excellence but also raises the bar for what consumers can expect at this price point.
The FiiO Q15 is an ultimate powerhouse, a rich and smooth-sounding DAC-AMP, for a very competitive price. Gets my New End-Game award.