Over the last few years, Chinese audio maker Fiio has made a name for itself producing high end audio players, headphone amps and earphones that don't necessarily come with the expected luxury product price tags. Though its current line of portable music players certainly deliver on the audio front, they're not particularly stylish or easy to use. Hell, they even have an early generation iPod-like click/scroll wheel. The new X7 is different. Not only does the chunky smartphone-sized high resolution digital audio player feature a multitouch screen and quad-core processor, but it runs Android KitKat.

While the few specs given above may seem a little ordinary by today's smart device standards, for Fiio users this player represents a gigantic leap into the 21st century and the end of a long and patient wait. The X7 has spent some two years in research and development by the company's engineers.

It's the first Fiio digital audio player to make use of a touchscreen for user interaction, a 3.97-in, 800 x 480 resolution, 16 million color IPS touchscreen display to be precise. There are also six physical buttons present for playback control and volume adjustment.

It's the first Fiio device to run Android, specifically Android 4.4.4 with Fiio Music – though the company is keen to point out that the X7 bypasses Android's own sample rate conversion capabilities to send the digital files straight to the unit's ES9018S 8-channel digital-to-analog converter.

That means the X7 is capable of handling WAV files up to a resolution of 64-bit/384 kHz, as well as all the usual uncompressed and compressed formats supported by modern media players, including AIFF, FLAC, WMA, MP3, AAC and OGG, with native DSD64/128 and 352.8 K DXD completing the audio support profile.

The included Rockchip RK3188 SoC with Cortex A9 1.4 GHz quad-core processor promises high performance and low power consumption, an OPA1612 amplifier by Texas Instruments has been included for a stable and balanced sound, there's 1 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 32 GB ROM chip, of which about 27 GB will be available for storage. That ain't much given the often enormous size of high resolution digital audio files, but the player does have a microSD card slot that's been tested for capacities up to 128 GB.

The 130 x 64 x 16.6 mm (5.1 x 2.5 x 0.6 in), 220 g (7.7 oz) X7 embraces our modern streaming passions too, with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. A micro-USB 2.0 port caters for charging of the 3,500 mAh Li-Pol battery (which should offer nine hours of continuous use for every 4.5 hours on charge), for docking to a desktop amp, for data transfer and for operating the device as a 32-bit/384 kHz USB DAC.

Though many users will likely be satisfied with the supplied headphone amp, Fiio has included the ability to change the amp module for one more suited to a particular audiophile's taste or budget.

Headphones and earphones are plugged in via a 3.5 mm jack, with Fiio reporting total harmonic distortion of 0.0008 percent at 32 ohms/1 kHz, a frequency range of 4 Hz to 60 kHz, onboard 10-band EQ adjustment and three-level gain tweaking.

All of that essentially translates to the promise of high quality music listening and a modern user experience wrapped up in a stylish and affordable machined 6061 aluminum package. The Fiio X7 is set for worldwide availability next month for a minimum advertised price of US$650.

Product page: Fiio X7

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