As the demand for portable music devices grows, manufacturers are trying to carve out their own niches. Since its inception Fii0 has successfully gobbled up a good part of the entry-level market, but with DAPs like the M11 the firm is obviously expanding its price-point horizons and performance capabilities upward. This review focuses on the $499 M11.
The M11 measures 5.375" by 2.75", which is about the size of my iPhone SE. It comes packaged with a clear plastic outer case that covers all but the front touch panel and supplies some drop protection and a more grippable surface. The M11 uses a customized Android 7.0 system that has various tweaks and sonic improvements over a plain-vanilla open system.
Inside the M11 is loaded with goodies including two AK 4493EQ DAC chips, an Exynos 7872 CPU, an FPBA-based system clock, “Infinity Sound” on both its unbalanced and balanced analog outputs, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of ROM, a 3800mAh battery, and 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi capabilities along with AirPlay and FiiO Link. The M11 supports PCM up to 384kHz/32 and native DSD64/128, but does not offer MQA decoding. Bluetooth bi-directional duplex support includes SBC, apt-X, apt-X HD, LDAC, and HWA. Further, the M11 can also serve as a USB DAC and USB-to-SPDIF converter.
The M11 supports Tidal and Qobuz streaming via Wi-Fi and can serve as a Roon controller or end-point. Also the “native” FiiO music app is none too shabby—it immediately recognized my NAS with music and played all files without glitches. Storage capabilities include two micro-SD slots supporting up to 256GB cards each. Output options include mini-stereo single-ended analog, 2.5 and 4.4mm balanced analog, and digital SPDIF via a supplied adapter.
Although the M11 does not have interchangeable amplifier modules like FiiO’s X7 Mark II, it does offer high- and low-gain output options that enable it to work with a wide range of headphones. In high-gain mode the M11 drove power-hungry headphones like the Abyss AB-1226 Diana Phi, while its low-gain mode proved dead quiet with high-sensitivity CIEMs like the Earsonics EM-10.
The user interface on the M11 will be familiar to Android phone users. The opening screen has the time and date and opens with a finger swipe. The opening screen offers settings, the Fiio music app, a “logger” app, and Google. A left swipe gets you to other apps, including Tidal, Qobuz, and Roon. The Settings menus include options to upsample all music to DSD, choose one of six PCM digital filter modes, choose wireless playback quality, adjust gain, designate physical button functions, and other more common Android settings. While the M11’s interface isn’t as easy to navigate as Astell&Kern’s closed UI system, it’s on a par with other Android-based players such as the Sony NW-ZX2.
Sonically the M11 was never a weak link in my portable playback chain. Regardless of what type of transducer I used, the M11 delivered pristine sonics that allowed earphones to show their individual personalities. Given the EQ features built into both Roon and FiiO’s own music app, it was easy to alter the player’s tonal balance as desired.
Are there any caveats? I didn’t find much to complain about except for the micro-SD slots; I found FiiO’s SD mounting sleds harder to use than “naked” slots. My only other reservation is that Fiio just announced the imminent release of the M11 PRO version, which adds some features, takes away an SD slot, and costs $100 more. It is too soon to tell whether the M11 PRO will be a more cost-effective, higher-performance option.
User interface preferences are highly subjective, so stating that one particular DAP is universally “the best” is impossible. But, given its array of features, build-quality, and sonic capabilities, the M11 is an impressive offering that will make many traveling audiophiles and music lovers very happy.
Specs and Pricing
Type: Portable music player
Formats supported: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, AIFF, DSD
Sample rates: Up to 384/32 PCM; DSD64 to 256
Output level: 255mW/16 ohms, 195mW (2.5V), 22mV (300 ohms); 36mW (16 ohms)
Signal to noise: 118dB
Outputs: One 3.5mm mini-stereo headphone, 2.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced, and Bluetooth with LDAC
Dimensions: 2.57" x 3.67" x 0.61"
2/F, F Building, Hougang Industrial Zone,
Shigang Village, Huangshi West Road, Baiyun District
Guangzhou City, 510430 China