FiiO M7 - Versatile in Bluetooth

by - October 11, 2018

FiiO M7 - Versatile in Bluetooth

FiiO M7 is a great little DAP from FiiO made with one thing in mind, to be truly portable. We're going to compare it to similarly priced Players, as well as test its sonic performance, since its price indicates it to be at least a midrange DAP.  








Introduction

FiiO is ubiquitous in the audiophile industry, everyone knowing them for their great products, amazing customer support, and for always offering an excellent price. It is much better to have FiiO (as well as other known companies with good customer support) products and their excellent support than having to deal with companies that offer no support and send you through tens of hours of talking with their customer support, where you may never get a solution. We know firsthand that FiiO does offer excellent support, and they will always find a solution that is good for the customer. M7 makes an interesting entry, as FiiO was never known for their bluetooth products before, M7 being the first FiiO product to feature all the important Bluetooth Audiophile Protocols, as well as the promise of an excellent sonic performance, as well as software support, in a  really tiny package. Of course, we need to test those things by ourselves, especially with FiiO sporting many promotions and bundles including M7, and their best-selling IEMs, FiiO F9Pro. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by FiiO or anyone else. I'd like to thank FiiO for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with FiiO's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with FiiO M7. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in FiiO M7 find their next music companion.



About me

https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/about.html



Packaging

First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:








The package of M7 is pretty much essential, but all-inclusive. It comes in a nicely designed package, and it comes with a silicone case, as well as a USB cable. There is a screen protector applied on the display from the factory, thing which is quite lovely. Besides the case and the USB cable, as well as the manuals, there's not much included in the package. Happily, not much else is necessary for one to enjoy this one little DAP, and we feel FiiO did a great job at including stuff one may require, without going over-the-top. 



What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/what-to-lookl.html



Technical Specifications








Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

The build quality is quite amazing, the whole device is made of metal and glass, with certain plastic patches, clicky and satisfying buttons, and the device is well put together. 

At the top of the device, there is a power button, as well as the Single-Ended Line-Out / Headphone combo jack. There is a volume wheel on the left side, as well as the seek / music control buttons, and there is a USB Type-C port at the bottom of the device. 

We are quite happy that FiiO switched over to Type-C rather than using microUSB USB ports.








M7 comes with a display protector made of glass installed on its display, thing which made us quite happy. The display is rather bright on typical light conditions, and it is readable in full sunlight, but we wish that future display panels used in Players would be even brighter. The display is crisp and sharp, both fonts and cover art looks nice. 

The firmware is quite different from other FiiO DAPs, this time FiiO having done an amazing job with the firmware, developing a user interface and operating environment for M7 themselves, instead of having Hiby do it for them. The firmware is average in speed, but it is rock stable, we haven't had a single crash. IT is mostly intuitive, and it holds all the features most people will require for their DAP, including easy access to Bluetooth, EQ, and all of the bells and whistles FiiO included with M7. 

The back of the device has a large plastic area at the top, where the antennas are, for better Bluetooth reliability. 




If there's anything we aren't sure about, that is the aesthetic of M7, it is a beautiful device, and it is very ergonomic once in hand, but many people may have the tendency of holding it upside down the first few times, as most devices tend to have the larger area without display at the bottom rather than at the top. The only other slightly satisfying aspect of M7's shape is the fact that it has corners. We prefer our DAPs (Digital Audio Players) without any corners, and with less sharp edges, for both their ergonomic protection while in a pocket, and for better comfort. In this aspect, M7 is rather thin and slim, so we can look the other way when it comes to corners and sharper cuts, but less corners and less edges mean better ergonomics for the user in general. 

Now, when it comes to bluetooth, FiiO embedded a truly amazing BT module in M7, having a really strong BT signal, as well as support for all those popular and new BT options, and being rock-stable in APT-X, as well as all the other modes we tested it in. There's almost no delay when using bluetooth, and in all honest, M7 is simply crazy fun to use as a bluetooth transmitter with its small size, and snappy performance. 



All in all, we feel that FiiO did a lot of effort in designing M7 to be as ergonomic as possible, and in making it reliable. It reaches the golden standards of build quality, aesthetics and firmware. 



Sound Quality

For the sonic impressions, we had a serious amount of burn-in, and we used M7 via its headphone port, connected to a multitude of headphones and IEMs. We have tested the bluetooth abilities of M7, but the sonic signature there will be determined by the DAC and AMP modules embedded in the headphone, not on M7. 





So, when connecting a headphone to the headphone port of M7, you will hear everything. A truly transparent and clear window that has no errors, it is so transparent that you'd be quite impressed this is possible at this price point. The word that would best describe M7 is neutral, it is neutral from the bass to the midrange and the treble, everything is neutral, no warmth added, no brightness added, everything is perfectly neutral. This also means that it works quite well with anything you're going to connect it with, being quite versatile. 

Starting with the bass, it is neutral, quick and quite deep. The bass is fast enough to be impressive when it has to, but also deep and explosive when the music calls for it. While not warm or tilted towards any direction, the bass is most fun and pleasing to listen to. The fact that there's no tilting towards a warmer or a colder sound means that M7 is very versatile in pairings with IEMs and Headphones, so you don't have to worry about pairing and synnergy. 

The midrange is also quite interesting, as it is rather neutral, well toned, has just the right amount of thickness, and it has a nice amount of texturization. In all honesty, the detail level is great for the price point, and we couldn't find any negatives to the sound of M7.

The treble of M7 is very neutral and well-extended, which is quite different from the smooth experience FiiO X5-3, but similar to X7mkii's treble. The highest notes can be heard quite easily, and there is enough air to consider M7's sound to be truly neutral. 



Considering the way M7 is tuned, it is basically a clean window without any tint or color, it is as transparent as we've seen for this price point, and if you're looking for a honest representation of your music, M7 should be able to help you a lot. 



Soundstage

The soundstage of M7 is good for the price point, but not quite that large compared with premium DAPs like X7mkii, being clear that it is in a different price range. Instrument separation is quite good on an overall level, instruments are separate and sound distinct from each other, the biggest throttle point for instrument separation being the headphones and IEMs rather than M7 in most pairings you will do. 



ADSR/PRaT

The ADSR and PRaT (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, and Pace Rhythm and Timing) characteristics of FiiO M7 are great for the price point. The overall PRaT is natural to slightly quick, textures are clear and vivid, micro textures are audible, although they are not overexpressed. 



Portable Usage

FiiO M7 makes a statement in what a portable DAP is by having a tiny size, a great battery life, and even having connectivity with almost any Bluetooth device, including the latest Bluetooth protocols made for high-quality music. 

The screen is bright, not overly bright, but readable in full sunlight in a Summer Romanian day. 




The overall device is smol, lightweight, the navigation is rather intuitive, every feature works the way it is supposed to, and the bluetooth has a strong signal that doesn't break while walking or jogging, making M7 an ideal player for those actions. 

The silicone case helps with keeping it outdoors, and it will protect M7 if it takes a hit to the ground, making a great addition to the package. 

We tested the Bluetooth stability and interference while taking a jog through the Politehnics Park in Bucharest, where we run for a good 15 minutes, and we go near a power transforming station, and below high-tension wires. We can happily say that we detected no signal degradation with M7 during this test. 



M7 can also do FM Radio, if you want to switch to something more tradition for a change, and it can also do DSD Decoding, so you can enjoy everything, from the lower resolution FM Radio, all the way to high-resolution music. 

The battery life is better than average for a DAP, with up to 20 hours quoted by FiiO with their average usage tests, and with about 10 hours in our tests, with high volumes, max screen display, and with a lot of screen-on-time. We'd like to see longer battery lives in the future, in all devices, but most music lovers prefer their devices smaller, and this is why most companies tend to include smaller batteries with their offerings. 



Select Pairings

Please note that for any pairing, the IEM has more impact on the final result than the DAP, the best DAP being one that is as transparent as possible - FiiO M7 being rather excellent in this sense. 



FiiO M7 + FiiO F9Pro - FiiO F9Pro has a unique balanced-neutral sound that was loved by many around the worlds, and it is understandable that it has a great synergy with FiiO M7, sounding as clear, as crisp and as balanced as ever. Some listeners may still prefer to employ a little EQ to warm up FiiO F9Pro's sound a bit, but we feel that with M7, you get a really well-priced, interesting and intriguing experience. 

FiiO M7 + FiiO FH5 - FiiO FH5 has taken a different road from F9Pro, featuring a much stronger bass, much warmer overall sound, with more thiccness, less treble quantity, but with the same nice extension, and with a little midrange peak that brings the voices forward more. FH5 also has a smaller soundstage, but much better instrument separation when compared to F9Pro, which makes it quite an experience in its own right. FH5 sounds quite nice with M7, another pairing that is not only well-priced, but also has a nice weight, nice impact, nice thiccness, and a clear overall presentation. 

FiiO M7 + Etymotic ER3XR - ER3XR is a different IEM from FiiO's offering, by having a much more linear bass, a similarly intimate soundstage like FH5, but with more focus on the midrange, as ER3XR also has less treble than FH5. It is basically, an amazingly well-done midrange IEM with a lot of midrange. A good reason to test how M7 sounds with ER3XR is that ER3XR is quite good at revealing the PRaT and ADSR of a source, basically showing how well a source handles textures and actual revealing abilities. In all fairness, FiiO M7 is at least as good as most DAPs in this price range, being quite amazing how much FiiO was able to do for the 200 USD that M7 costs. 



Comparisons





FiiO M7 vs Cayin N5ii - Now, this one is rather interesting, because with the sales going on for N5ii, it may be found at prices with only 50% more than M7 in some places, and the two are somewhat similar in shape, but quite different in actual operation. N5ii had a much higher price at release, but with the current discounts, we're sure people may be considering both as their future music companions. Let's begin with the obvious, they look similar in design. In fact, M7 is so similar to N5ii that coming from one, the other feels quite native in one's hand. There are some differences in the way the volume wheels are implemented, but you're basically looking at two devices that look pretty much the same. Going to the user interface and software, the two are rather different, N5ii providing support for Streaming services, Wifi, as well as Bluetooth, where M7 has the advantage of providing much stronger bluetooth support when it comes to newer and better Bluetooth protocols, but it doesn't have any Wifi. On the other hand, if we're talking about the storage abilities, N5ii has two microSD slots, while M7 has one. The displays are hugely different, N5ii's display being blue-tinted when compared to M7, which has a pretty naturally-colored display. N5ii has a 2.5mm Balanced output. The sound is actually different between the two, and although they have a similar amount of driving power, M7 feels more neutral, where N5ii is a bit warmer, a bit wider, and a bit more forward. M7 feels a bit more neutral, a bit more laid back. If you want two microSD slots, Wifi, and if you don't mind having a slightly blue-tinted display, then N5ii makes a great choice, while if you only need one microSD slot, but you want the latest Bluetooth Protocols, you want a better display, and if you don't need the Balanced output that N5ii has, but M7 doesn't then M7 makes an excellent overall choice. 

FiiO M7 vs Opus #1s - We picked Opus #1s because, like M7, it is a rather minimalistic DAP with no Wifi, being more of a typical usage-scenario DAP. The two devices are a bit away in price, but they are a bit away in performance as well, Opus #1s being much stronger in its driving power than M7, having a warmer sound, more control, a slightly smoother tone, and a wider soundstage. M7, by comparison feels more neutral, a bit more intimate, and doesn't have the driving power of #1s, rather, being better oriented for IEMs, where #1s can surely drive some big headphones as well. The buttons on the two DAPs are really nice, but if you like having a wheel for controlling volume, then M7 features one, while #1s only has buttons for you to control the volume with. On the other hand, #1s has a larger display, and a brighter display, if you need to see your device well in full sunlight, while M7's display is smaller and not quite as bright. Opus #1s has a Balanced output, while M7 doesn't have one. If you need more driving power and a warmer sound, #1s is a great option, but if you want a more neutral sound, along with a smaller device, but with excellent Bluetooth abilities, then M7 still makes an excellent choice, being about half of the price of #1s. 

FiiO M7 vs HIFIMAN Megamini - Megamini is a similarly shaped device when compared to M7, but it has no touchscreen, relying on buttons rather than a touchscreen. At the same time, Megamini is priced at half of M7 at the moment of writing this review, and we can say, without a doubt, that as far as the user experience goes, M7 is infinitely better. Megamini is incredibly minimalistic, having no advanced features, no Bluetooth, the buttons feeling slow and taking a lot of time to browse large lists of music. Megamini also has certain limits to the maximum microSD card size, that FiiO M7 doesn't have. When it comes to the sound, though, Megamini surely isn't anywhere to be complained about, at only half the price of M7, being pretty much one heck of an experience. FiiO M7 tends to be heavier than Megamini, if ultimate portability is a concern, but M7 has a volume wheel if you like controlling the volume with a wheel. There are some differences in sonics as well though, Megamini being warmer, wider and more powerful in its sound, M7 being more intimate, more neutral, and a tad less strong when compared to Megamini. Even so, if you need Bluetooth, and proper touchscreen navigation, then M7 is a much better option, while if you need a great sound that is warm-ish, wide, and powerful, then Megamini still is an interesting choice. 



Value and Conclusion

We've been reviewing a device that costs about 200 USD at the time of writing this review. This places M7 in the area of entry-level DAPs, as well as midrange DAPs. M7 has to justify its position in a market that's quite full of great little devices, so we'll start a little recap on what we've been saying so far. 



Starting with the package, M7 feels well packaged, and it comes with things you may find handy. It doesn't come with a wall charger, but we feel this is for the better, considering that this is supposed to be a global DAP, and many countries have many types of plugs. In fact, it charges just fine from any of our wall chargers, so you don't need to worry about that. There is a silicone case included in the package, as well as a USB cable, which you will find handy. 

The portability of the device is quite excellent, and so is the user experience, with FiiO M7 sporting all of the big Bluetooth protocols, including the latest and best sounding ones, as well as a single microSD slot, where you can fit microSD cards as big as they exist on the market, which at the moment of writing this review is about 512GB. 



If you're a fan of a clean, crisp, clear and transparent sound, then FiiO M7 will make a great companion, as it is as transparent as we've heard, without any kind of tilting towards warmth or brightness. The soundstage size is quite commendable for its price, and the instrument separation is great. If anything is questionable for M7, it is how it manages to be so different from FiiO's house sound, which used to be warm for this price range, but nevertheless, we're quite happy with it, and we feel most music lovers will be, as it will not color the sound, and it will leave all coloration to be done by the headphones / IEMs. 



In the end, if you're looking for a mini DAP, something that is truly portable, something crisp and transparent, something little but strong, then FiiO M7 makes a great choice and should bring you lots of happiness for a good while. 


Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy. 

Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage 
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead 
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir 
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Manafest - Impossible 
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us 
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong 
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw 
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop  
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source 
Fall Out Boy - Immortals 
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Tommy Gun
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
Skillet - What I Believe






I hope my review is helpful to you!



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