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Fiio Q15 - The All-in-One DAC/Amp for Any Situation?

Five or six years ago I purchased a Fiio A5 portable amplifier. I loved that little amplifier and it went with me everywhere. Over the years, Fiio has made many other portable amps with improvements and additions that have turned them into all-in-one solutions for portable power listeners. Fiio has even pushed the envelope so much on these devices that they can be used as desktop DAC/Amps.

Today we are going to look at the newest Fiio, the Q15. Does it have what it takes to be an all-in-one solution for both portable and desktop?

A BIG thanks to Fiio for providing the Q15 for review, much appreciated.

You can purchase the Fiio Q15 here (non-affiliated link):

In this review, I will be giving you my impressions of the Fiio Q15 in the ways that I used it. There were a lot of inputs and outputs that I didn't use or test.

With all that said, let's talk about the Fiio Q15.

Fiio Q15 has a lot of specs and extras packed inside; here's a quick glance at some of the specs.

The Fiio Q15 is available in two colors, Titaninum Gray and Black; we've got the black variant in for review.

The Q15 is a chunk of metal with a glass insert that houses the screen.

One side houses the power, forward, play/pause and back buttons. The top has a large multi-function volume knob between the 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs.

The bottom has the phone mode, coaxial, USB C decode & Charge, USB Charge and desktop mode.

Glass runs down the length of the Q15 but only the portion closest to the volume knob is the display.

On the other end of the glass by the inputs you find a Hi-Res sticker; it's got to sound good!

To access the menu of the Fiio Q15 all you have to do is press or hold the volume knob.

Pressing the volume knob brings up the input selection screen.

Pressing and holding the volume knob brings up the extensive menu.

The display is crisp and clear, making it very easy to read. You can adjust the dimmer brightness, idle time and screen timeout in the menu section. You can also adjust the rotation of the screen depending on how you hold the Q15, but sadly there is no option for auto rotation.

Other menu options that you can change in the menu are; gain level, output type (line out or phone out) for se and bal, Lineout fixed or variable, Max volume level (0-120), Ultra High Gain (auto or manual), Filters (fast, slow, mini, mini slow, super slow, low dispersion), U-Audio (UAC1.0 or UAC2.0), PEQ Mode (off, jazz, pop, rock, dance, r&b, classic, hip hop, user1,2,3), Language, Factory Reset, Version, Telec.

The Fiio Q15 has several ways that it can be powered.

The Q15 sports an internal 5500mAh lithium-polymer battery that can be charged fully in about 3.5 hours, it will last about 8-10 hours with moderate volume levels. The battery life can vary drastically if you listen with loud volumes on higher gains and are streaming Bluetooth.

The nice thing is that Fiio has included Phone mode which will force the Q15 to use its internal battery so that it will not drain your phone battery when connected via USB-C.

Another option is desktop mode which allows you to use an external USB-C charger and you will bypass using the internal battery. In desktop mode, the Q15 does have a little better sense of clarity and precision, especially noticeable with extremely revealing IEM and headphones.

You can also charge the battery and listen to music at the same. This comes in handy if you have your laptop plugged in and you connect the Q15 to the USB-C. Of course, you can always use the internal battery this way as well. Both USB-C ports charge the Q15 but only one decodes music.

The Fiio Q15 has the ability for user created PEQ. You can use the Fiio app to create your personal PEQ files and upload them to the Q15. This isn't something that I tested.

The Fiio Q15 also has preset PEQ and Filters. As with all devices, the differences are subtle but noticeable. I used the Fast filter and turned off the PEQ.

Inputs of the Fiio Q15 consist of USB, Bluetooth and Coaxial.

Nice touch by Fiio to include coaxial input so you can connect something like a cd player and use the Q15 as your amplifier. I didn't test using Coaxial input. Bluetooth was smooth to connect and use. No issues with connectivity, lag or stutter. I was pleasantly surprised at the Bluetooth experience and that doesn't happen often for me. I mostly used the USB connection with my phone and laptops with desktop mode enabled. No issues whatsoever with Audirvana as it located the Q15 immediately. Tidal and AmazonHD apps also connected easily.

The Fiio Q15 boasts 1600mw of power. I gotta say this is rather impressive for a portable device. There are 5 levels of gain that will get you up to the 1600mw on balanced output. The output impedance of the Q15 is low which allows for it to play well with those pesky sensitive IEM's. Astonishing how well the Q15 powered some planar headphones. Most of the headphones required to be on medium or higher gain setting but there was plenty of headroom left on the volume knob. Only the more demanding headphones were somewhat troublesome for the Q15, this little device will power most anything out and about. A few of the headphones that sounded really good on the Q15 were the Fiio FT5, Audeze LCD-5, Hifiman Arya Stealth, Rode NTH-100, Austrian Audio Hi-X60, Sennheiser HD8xx, Sennheiser HD660s2, Aune AR5000 and Audeze LCD-2 Closed. IEM also sounded amazing on the Q15. The lower gain settings worked well with even my more picky, sensitive IEMs. A few IEM that sounded really good with the Q15 were the CTM Da Vinci X, I/O Volare, Westone Mach60, ADV-Sound M5-12D, ThieAudio Oracle mkii, ThieAudio Hype4, SoftEars Studio 4, JQ 4U Pro, Tin Hifi T2, Tangzu Wan'er.

So how does the Fiio Q15 sound?

The Q15 utilizes the AKM AK4499EX and AK4191EQ. The Q15 supports native DSD 512 decoding, MQA and PCM up to 192kHz/24bit.

Please keep in mind that the impressions of the Fiio Q15 are an overview of how it performed based in general on all my gear. Some of the impressions were more or less depending on what gear was used.

The bass of the Q15 is an extended, controlled, authoritative neutral, natural presentation. The sub bass has plenty of rumble and grumble. The mid bass has a lot of grunt and groan. The upper bass has good presence without bleeding into the mids. The bass hits hard, heavy and with authority, but stays controlled at all times. Plenty of body and note weight without sounding to thick or thin. The bass has accurate heft when delivery kicks, slams, punches and strikes. The bass has accurate speed for the varying moments in tracks. There is plenty of space between instruments and vocals, nothing is trying to crowd or cramp. The bass is both neutral and natural. The entire bass presentation of the Q15 sounds tonally accurate to reality.

The mids of the Q15 are special in my opinion. The mids are like the bass in that they reproduce a neutral, natural sound. The tone and timbre of instruments and vocals sound realistic without an extra colorization. Mids flow from the lower to higher sections with balance and cohesion; no aspect of the mid is trying to outshine another. The mids are engaging and connect the listener to the music with a captive authority.

The treble of the Q15 is extended, controlled and exquisite. Their is plenty of air and space in the treble. But it also has an accurate amount of sparkle and energy. All the while it is exquisitely natural. The treble is cohesive and balanced with a delicate but authoritative presentation. The treble of the Q15 never ventures into fatiguing or aggressive mode but yet gives you everything you want and then some. The treble is like the mids and bass in that it reproduces a neutral, natural sound. The body and note weight of the treble is accurately reproduced. There is good space with energy and emotion.

The technical abilities of the Fiio Q15 are quite impressive. The stage width of the Q15 is what I call natural; it portrays venue sizes well from small to grand without sounding artificial. Images track accurately from side to side without any gaps or stutters. Placement of images is accurate and precise; images can be locked on and tracked and placed with laser precision. The depth of the stage is deep; you can look a few rows into the stage and place images in front, back and to the sides of each other. Layering is excellent as nothing tries to crowd out another. Detail retrieval is exceptional for the price point and for being a portable device. The Q15 will not disappoint when it comes to giving you the lowdown of a track; you won't miss anything. Resolution of the retrieved details is also exceptional; there isn't any smearing, glaring, smudging or harshness unless it is in the track. Tone and timbre is amazing; everything sounds natural. I was consistently surprised at how realistic everything sounded with note weight, body, heft, tone and timbre.

So I don't have anything like the Fiio Q15 in house to compare it. The Q15 is the only portable DAC/Amp currently in house. I have reviewed a few others in the past on the channel but nothing recently and nothing that I remember well enough to offer a fair comparison.

So here are a few thoughts about how the Q15 compares to the other Fiio desktop DAC/amps I have in currently. The Fiio Q15 is like the best of the K11, K9 AKM and K19 in a small package. You get the musicality of the K9 AKM, the analytical tendencies of the K11 and the cohesion and balance of the K19 rolled into a powerful, portable unit.

So in conclusion, does the Q15 have what it takes to be an all-in-one solution for both portable and desktop? Yeppers! The Q15 is an amazing device that excels in both a portable and desktop setting. The advantages of the Q15 over a USB-C dongle are numerous. The Q15 is able to stand toe-toe with some of the best desktop DAC/Amps and even offer some extras that some desktop gear don't include.

I can't put enough words in this document to state how much I am impressed with the Fiio Q15. I highly recommend it! The Fiio Q15 will be sticking around for personal listening and testing purposes The Fiio Q15 is worth the hefty price in my honest opinion.

I am not a professional sound engineer, producer, musician, or vocalist, etc. I have not done any scientific research, measurements, or in-depth testing of any kind; just my own listening, comparing and internet reading/research.  I have limited, real-life experience with recording, mixing and mastering gear.  I have been involved since my teenage years with various churches as an amateur sound booth technician.

Please take these thoughts, opinions and reasonings as just that, my honest audiophile thoughts, opinions and reasonings.

Twitter: @TalkDbs

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