Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" November 2020 iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, Ventura 13.3, 40GB RAM), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 switch, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund/Job 225 on subwoofer; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf + sound|kaos DSUB15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to COS Engineering D1, iFi iDSD Pro Signature or Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th Anniversary firmware; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossie L2 Signature or icOn 4Pro, icOn 4th-order/80Hz active filter; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF, Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; DAC: legacy Auralic Vega; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1; Headphones: Final D-8000
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC/headamp: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €699
Dog on a leash. Stationary DAP on AC. That's FiiO's R7. It's the 720×1280 5-inch screen of a classic digital audio player which then grew an asymmetrical love handle to add those controls and frontal ports then stacked itself 7 deep as its name foretold. Replacing a DAP's batteries with unlimited wall juice means higher power, no playtime issues. Growing cubic inches allowed the engineers bigger and more parts. It gets us a mobile-typical Snapdragon 660 processor and Android 10 OS; proper 6.3mm, XLR4 and 4.4mm headfi ports; Toslink/coax i/o; dual RCA line outs even full-size XLR. There's RJ45 for hardwired LAN mode, a USB host port, USB-C for USB DAC/host functions and an auxiliary 12V/3A DC input for fans of external linear supplies. There's also an SD slot with included micro adapter for up to 2TB of onboard music. There's 64GB of internal flash memory; and 4GB of RAM for the operating system. There's even an optional €25 Bluetooth remote. Inside sits an ESS9068AS converter for 384 PCM and DSD 256 including an option to resample PCM to DSD on the fly; a pair of discrete op-amp THX AAA 788+ headphone drivers; and geek gems like elite Panasonic PPS film capacitors. In high-gain balanced mode we tap a whopping 3W/32Ω. That's a virile hookup with beastlier loads. Driving the lot is a 30-watt choke-filtered SMPS with 12V rails. There's also one flat and one 5° angled plinth. Either attaches via included double-sided tape. A hooded WiFi/Bluetooth antenna tucks onto the back out of sight. You say black, I say white for the finish; in aluminium not plastic.
Regular readers know. Because ours is a WiFi-allergic crib without hardwired LAN on the 2nd floor, my upstairs system starts with a Shanling M3 Ultra loaded with 256GB SD card. It outputs USB-C to a Soundaware D300Ref USB bridge. That forwards 6m AES/EBU to a Sonnet Pasithea DAC. The layout has the Shanling DAP on a smartphone stand right next to my chair, the premium DAC between the speakers farther off than you'd run USB. In pure transport mode, the Shanling's budget status registers nada. It just spits out digits without any moving parts whilst running off batteries. Reclocking its stream with the ultra-cap powered D300Ref adds the audiophile polish. Replacing Shanling's classic DAP with FiiO's homie type in identical SD transporter mode would add unlimited playtime without recharging; and serious headfi. At least that's what FiiO promised on the tin.
Would reality have other ideas? Let's start with my own ideas. As you might have gathered from the R7's packed functionality given just 11 x 13.5 x 16cm and 1.3kg, it can do many network-related things far beyond my intended usage. Having bought this unit, my brief for it was just twofold: 1/ SD transport via USB to serve the upstairs speaker system; 2/ server/streamer headfi mode via SD card and XLR4 out into Meze 109 Pro. For comprehensive reviews covering more functions, do look elsewhere.
Space is the final frontier not only with Star Trek. It also factors with packaging electronic parts at safe operating temps. This breakdown video had us appreciate how FiiO exploit their massively expanded depth over a standard DAP or smartphone. With e-tailers from Amazon to audiophonics.fr selling it, I ordered mine at fiio.eu. I'd have preferred white but that version was back-ordered. Black remains the old black. On branding, FiiO combines Fi for fidelity with iO for 1+0. Hello high-fidelity digital expertise. The firm established in 2007 in China's Guangzhou. In the DAP space they've become one of the big players. With FiiO's catalogue having added these active micro speakers, their marketing positions the R7 as a do-it-all desktop hub. By placing it at the head of a big system, I expand upon their vision. You could rightly say that now circumventing their modern networking literacy makes mine a super-niche and functionally quite illiterate application. Dumber is smarter?
FiiO's take-over-your-desktop concept includes these 3½" two-way active monitors and their own full-size headphone. Customizable LED bling is part of the positioning.
That's really the entire rationale of my brief writeup: to run the R7 as serious offline source which fellow WiFi haters could love who want a compact server/streamer in rooms without hardwired Internet. Our kind must get creative to keep up with today's WiFi-everything culture and enjoy some of its benefits without the accompanying headaches and mushy-brain syndrome. Now a touch screen, Android 10 with custom music-player skin, SD storage and a plethora of outputs on wall power all for just €699 mean one effective antidote. R7 for Rx? For me it all hinged on the USB-C port's ability to stream out to a DAC or USB bridge so the R7 itself could sit right next to my seat for hands-on control over local file storage.
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