FiiO is on fire!
Last year was a big one for the manufacturer of portable audio equipment, as they released several great products, including several IEMs, Headphone Amps, their First Over-Ear NC Headphone, Android DAPs, and much more.
As far I’m concerned, the crown jewel of these new releases was the product I’m reviewing today, the FiiO M11 Pro Hi-Res Digital Audio Player. It’s an upgraded variant of the popular FiiO M11 Android-based music player.
The M11 already had a beautiful stainless steel chassis, a stunning nearly bezel-less screen, a ton of outputs, and an excellent processor, so for the Pro, they upped the ante on components affecting the sound. The M11 and M11 Pro look identical save the gold plated “PRO” affixed to the side of the latter.
The review sample I have was sent to me by FiiO in exchange for an honest review, and that is what follows.
Build and Features:
As I said earlier, the M11 Pro builds on the previous M11 with upgrades that mainly affect sound quality. For the Pro, they dropped in upgraded AKM DAC chips replacing the 2 AK4493EQ with 2 AK4497EQ that incorporate Velvet Sound technology. BTW, there are six selectable DAC filters to tailor the sound.
Along with the new DAC chips, FiiO also upgraded the amp section with a Dual THX AAA-78 amplifier module in a balanced configuration. This setup is similar to the one used on the AM3D AAA THX Amp Module made for the FiiO X7 and X7 II, except it’s built-in to the DAP, instead of an add-on unit.
The THX AAA-78 is built for lower distortion at the same power rating than the TI amp circuit employed in the M11, meaning that you should have a “blacker” or less noisy background when playing music.
Fiio further tweaks distortion levels by adding dual independent crystal oscillators in an all-new upgraded clock system. They are there to reduce “jitter,” otherwise known as phase noise.
The upgraded components tell one side of the story. The other side is fantastic build quality. From the first time I held the M11 Pro in my hand, I knew it was something special. It’s a hefty device, with glass panels front and back, tightly fitted to a stainless steel frame.
The M11 Pro is truly state of the art, with a super sharp 5.15-inch IPS 720P touchscreen. The colors are so vivid, and the viewing angles are excellent. You have to turn the player almost totally sideways before you lose a lot of brightness.
Upon turning it on, the Samsung Exynos 7872 processor combined with the 3GB of RAM boots up the player quickly, and I experienced absolutely no lag when jumping from menu to menu or app to app.
Android 7.0 Nougat runs the show, and while it’s not the latest and greatest version, it does the trick. There’s no Google Play here, so you have to depend on third-party app stores, app sideloads, and FiiO whitelisted apps like TIDAL, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.
When it comes to features, there’s not much this thing doesn’t have.
As far as connections go, they are numerous, with a set of 2.5mm/3.5mm/4.4m (single-ended/balanced/coax) outputs framing a USB-C quick charge 2.0/digital output (up to 32 bit/384 kHz) port. The USB digital out means you can use the M11 Pro as a nice USB DAC for your laptop.
There’s also a ton of wireless capability, including AirPlay/DLNA/Dual-Band WiFi transmission and BT 5.0, with just about every codec imaginable, including HWA/LDAC/aptX HD/aptX/SBC for transmission.
The M11 Pro also functions as a high-quality Bluetooth receiver/amplifier, using SBC and LDAC on that side.
On the storage front, there a generous 64GB of built-in space and up to 2TB (theoretical) expandable storage via a Micro SD. Of course, those cards only go up to 1TB right now, but according to FiiO, this player will support the bigger cards when available.
There’s a massive 4370 mAh battery, with an average of 9.5hours battery life, and 55 days deep sleep standby time. That’s about the same as the non-pro version that has a smaller 3800 mAh pack. Why?
Well, according to FiiO, the THX amp draws a lot of power, so that’s why the bigger battery doesn’t provide an increase in longevity. But at least they increased the battery size over the 3800 mAh pack in the M11, giving you a similar battery life on the Pro version.
What we dig:
The M11 Pro seems to be the culmination of all the stuff FiiO learned over the years making Digital Audio Players. It takes a lot of the cool features FiiO introduced in earlier products and darn near perfected them.
It’s super fast and smooth when playing music, switching apps, etc., something you couldn’t say about some earlier FiiO Android players.
I love the amazing array of features, like the USB DAC option, the ability to use it as a Bluetooth headphone amp, and the digital output. Combine the digital out with the Fiio Link smartphone remote control, and you can use it like a streamer connected to an external DAC.
As you would expect with a DAP above $500, file format support is extensive…here’s a list…(by the way, it also decodes MQA on the FiiO Music and TIDAL apps)
|File format support|
|Lossless:||DSD：DSD64/128/256（”.iso”, “.dsf”, “.dff”）, DST iSO
APE Extra High：192kHz/24bit（MAX）
What to look out for:
I’m not sure why, but when transferring files to the player via USB, it was painfully slow. It was slow to the point I just put the files on the card with a card reader and then inserted the card back into the M11 Pro. Downloads to TIDAL were pretty fast, however.
Even though the THX Amp has a lot of clean power, I found the sound to be anemic with anything but the most sensitive Planar Headphones. The player is rated for headphones between 16-150 ohms out of the single-ended output, and 300 ohms out of the balanced out.
Who’s this for?
I think this would be a great fit for any audiophile looking for a high-end Android music player (that sounds better than a smartphone) without the high-end price. For what you get in terms of zippiness and build, the price is reasonable. If you spend any less, you may get choppy performance and/or sub-par sound.
For my sound tests, I tried the M11 Pro in many configurations. For the most part, I used it alone with the Simgot EK3 IEM, and the paring was magical. This DAP is very flat sounding, which is cool because it allows the headphones or earphones you are using to shine.
The only thing I would watch out for is using them with a clinical, forward headphone like the ones from FOCAL since the M11 Pro has a pretty forward sound. Warmer headphones are the best.
The THX AAA Amp circuit was super quiet, and I was able to hear deep inside of recordings. When I put on the 24/96 recording of The World’s Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings Vol. 2 from Chesky Records, I was delighted by how realistic the texture of the vocals was using my Drop/Sennheiser HD58X headphones.
When I compared it to the sound from LG V40, the sound on my phone was broader but more diffuse. The phone had more headroom and power to drive the HD58X, but the M11 Pro seemed to have more finesse. The timbre of strings and drums were more fleshed out, but the V40 had a warmer, more open, and dynamic sound.
When it came to using more power-hungry headphones like the Mr. Speakers AEON Flow Closed, I found the FiiO K5 Pro DAC/Amp to be a good match. I like the sound of the DAC in the DAP better than the one in the K5 Pro, so I just used an AudioQuest 3.5mm to Stereo RCA cable to connect the two.
FiiO did an outstanding job with this one. So good, in fact, I really can’t wait to see how they one-up it with the recently announced M15 DAP. The $649 FiiO M11 Pro Android Hi-Res Lossless MP3 Music Player is speedy with a crisp sound, and it seems like FiiO threw everything but the kitchen sink in there. If you’re looking for high-end performance without the $1000 price tag, check this player out. Highly Recommended!