FiiO has come a long way since its release of the classic Q3. The Q11 seems to be a cheaper and perhaps more powerful version of that now famous model. But just how powerful is it? Is there any audible noise floor? Does it enhance an IEM’s sound signature? What kind of hi-res files does it support? Calm yourself, for Christ’s sake. All of your questions will be answered below.
In the Box
USB-C to Lighting OTG Cable
USB-C to USB-C OTG Cable
The FIIO Q11 is a cute and sleek little DAC/amp. It’s also very minimalist in its design. Besides the 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm outputs, all you’re offered is a high gain switch and a volume knob. And unlike the Q3, there’s no bass boost. But for those who have only owned a dongle in the past, a full-sized portable DAC/amp that runs on its own power is a big upgrade in itself.
The Q11 employs a CS43198 DAC and dual op-amps, and FiiO has focused on minimizing noise-floor with this design. The battery lasts about 13 hours and it charged in less than a couple of hours via a USB-C input that also acts as the DAC connection. So, unfortunately, if you’re using your phone, you won’t be able to charge and transmit at the same time.
The Q11 DAC/amp supports up to 384kHz/32bit, DSD256, and lights up different colors depending on the sampling rate. (Blue for 48Hz or below, yellow for above 48Hz and green for DSD.) It apparently does not support MQA, but it did change its light yellow when I played a Tidal Master.
Finally, the volume dial has some good weight to it and turns smoothly. So, it’s quite a safe option for those who use highly sensitive IEMs.
I tested out the FiiO Q11 with a couple of IEMs – the Moondrop Kato and Campfire Andromeda – as well as the very pricey and much harder to drive planar magnetic, Yamaha 5000SE. Peculiar choice, I know. But I had to review the Yamaha anyway, so I thought I’d kill two audiophiles with one stone.
Let’s start with the IEMs. Plenty of gain when listening to the Moondrop Kato. But, comparing the Q11 to my regular iPhone dongle, the DAC didn’t do much to change the soundstage or overall characteristics of the sound. So, the Q11 feels very neutral. Perhaps it added a little smoothness, but it’s hard to say for sure. Could just be placebo. If it did enhance fluidity, the difference was minimal.
Because the Andromeda is such a sensitive IEM, I decided to pair it to the Q11 to see if there was any noticeable noise floor. This has been the case with a number of competing DAC/amps that I’ve tried with the Andromeda. But I heard no hiss at all. So, the Q11 is impressively quiet.
Finally, just to see how far I could push this little Q11, I paired it with the 34 ohm, planar magnetic, Yamaha 5000SE. I had to max the poor thing out at high gain. It didn’t give me nearly enough headroom. Funny enough, when I paired the 5000SE with the Astell & Kern AKHC2, which is just a small DAC/amp dongle, it gave me plenty of volume. That being said, the FIIO Q11 is significantly cheaper than the AKHC2. So, let’s give it a break.
The FiiO Q11 is the perfect neutral DAC/amp to pair with any kind of IEM. And even with your most sensitive earphones, you shouldn’t hear any noise. It may not do much to enhance your soundstage or improve resolution, but the fact that it can support your hi-res files as well as offer a balanced connection, is reason enough to get it if you haven’t yet invested in a DAC/amp. Still, keep in mind that if you have a headphone that requires a little more drive, you might need something bigger. But overall, for such a reasonable price, the Q11 certainly gets the job done nicely.
You can buy the FiiO Q11 at Audio 46.