Summary/Conclusion: Ditch the iPod and iTunes, get one of these and Foobar and take control of your music to another level.
Two years in and the only drawback is that even a 256GB MicroSD card isn't enough. I've grown accustomed to the up front planning and work that goes in to using this and it's a paradigm shift that makes me think about how music is filed. I've changed the file structure to match the X3 for maximum efficiency and convenience as opposed to letting a canned system doing the work for me. Considering I work with data all day long, it's intuitive so this is a dream.
This is just a periodic update on what I've learned so far if anyone is interested.
Update: as noted above, I'm currently running a 256GB MiniSD card which holds over 21,000 songs of varying lengths. I run v0 without question though this has the capability of handling lossless files with ease. With multiple MiniSD cards you can carry your entire collection with you. No streaming and additional data usage required.
Updated as of 6/12/17
- Sound - noticeably better than my previous mp3 player, especially with the Gain option switched to high
- Lossless capability - FLAC files do sound better (even if it is just a placebo effect)
- Slick appearance - semi resembles a more well known portable music player but this has a more industrial appearance, even with the silicone protector (see photo)
- No hard drive to die - this feeds off an SD Card limited only by the storage capacity of the card - currently at 256GB (over 21,000 tracks)
- FREEDOM - this is the best part of all; you can organize your files to your liking (I am using Foobar2000 and my files are now clean, duplicate free and organized) and the playlists are editable on the SD Card
- Shuffle feature - shuffles both the files and the tracks within playlist(s)
- Innovative company willing to listen to user opinions for improvements, constantly providing real firmware updates.
- No ads or other intrusions into your personal music space
- No account required to do stuff
- Not bound to any one music playing/organizing software
- Geeky - tagging files, bit rates, embedded artwork, file structure, m3u8 playlists (notice I said this is a Pro), you'll be hooked
- Your music will not be stolen by a corporate behemoth
- Search function has been added with the latest firmware update.
- Not as 'user friendly' as some other more well known portable music players - it requires some adjusting to get used to it but once this barrier is crossed this is less of a negative and actually quite liberating
No 'Search' function that I have found - lots of scrolling is required and there is no search by album cover that I am aware of
- Learning curve for both the Fiio and Foobar2000 but once this knowledge is acquired this becomes a tremendous pro rather than a con
- Playlists and file structure take up front planning, including properly tagging your files - however, once this is understood and the learning curve transcended this is no longer a negative and is where your freedom is found
- Need to update the SD Card every time a file is added;
this can take a while if the SD Card is pretty full. This has been noticeably sped up with the latest update.
- Playing through folders requires up front planning on how your files are tagged - it requires each disc of a multi-disc set to be named 'CD1', 'CD2', etc. (if there is a way to avoid this I haven't found it yet) - probably my biggest adjustment and where the up front planning is so critical
- Minimal instruction in the manual - there is a user/company forum that you can go to where others with questions visit; while not open source it's an open community and the company appears to be quite responsive not only to questions but to improving their product from users' voices. Updates are quite frequent and are based on user feedback, not on corporate imposition. Once again, what is at first a negative turns out to be a pro.
As you can see in the photo it will play 44.1kHz/16 bit FLAC files and it will play up to 192/24. I have MG's WGO at this rate and it is a 1.63 GB file so you can easily see why the majority are in lossy mp3 - the compressed version of this is 77.1 MB. That is a lot of lost data so we'll see what my ears tell me.
By far the best move I've made in a long time in terms of having a high quality, portable music player. I know there are many other options out there but for the price (~$200) this one is well worth it.