The partabile - FiiO M11 DAP Player Review

by - February 18, 2020

The partabile - FiiO M11 DAP Player Review


Priced at about 420 USD, FiiO M11 is the next DAP from FiiO, made to compete fiercely in the midrange DAP market, having iBasso DX160, Hiby R6 and FiiO's own X5-3 as direct competitors. This being said, M11 comes with Roon, Tidal and full streaming support, so this will be a rather interesting review, seeing how it stacks when put against competitors worthy of being the best in the market as well. 





Introduction

FiiO is quite an unibliquos name by now, and they are known for making some of the most revolutionary changes to the audio market by now, having released some really interesting products throughout the time, including their FiiO X5-3, FiiO M5/M6 as well as FiiO EH3 NC Headphones recently. They were also the ones who opened the headphone and portable market in many parts of the world, including Romania, as after they entered, there have been more and more people passionate about this hobby and about music around those places. This being said, when purchasing FiiO, it is best to purchase locally to get the best support from your local seller, as FiiO is a large company from China now, and it will be much faster to get all issues solved if relying on your local representative rather than relying on FiiO's HQ in China, as you'll also have shipping to consider if you'll be purchasing directly from them. FiiO products are generally reliable and you shouldn't expect to require warranty, but if you do, usually the local agents will replace your product on spot with a new boxed one. 

It should be noted that I have no affiliation with FiiO, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank FiiO for providing the sample for the review. This review reflects my personal experience with FiiO M11. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in FiiO M11 find their next music companion.



About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging

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








FiiO's M11 comes packaged quite nicely, with a USB Type-C cable, and with a Coax adapter cable included in the package. There is also a clear silicone case included in the package, which I found to be handy, since the DAP itself has corners which I imagine would be the first to hit with other objects, if you were to drop it. 

Overall, the package is really good, FiiO style, and there's nothing missing from the FiiO M11 unboxing experience. 



What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

The build quality and style of FiiO M11 is considerably more similar to that of FiiO X5-3 than something like FiiO M6, which was much more rounded and smooth, more ergonomic, compared to X5-3, which also came in a more angular and industrial design. This being said, the DAP is made of glass, both on the front, on the display, and in the back, the frame is made of metal, the jacks are at the bottom, with a Type-C USB Jack, a Single Ended, and two Balanced output ports, and with the power button at the top. 


There is also a volume wheel on the right side of the DAP, and there are navigation buttons right beneath the volume wheel. Single-handed and blind browsing your playlist are both easy and natural, with the volume wheel having a clicky feeling, and the clicks actually corresponding to one increment in the volume. 

The good doesn't stop here, as there are two microSD slots, each supporting up to 4TB microSD cards, resulting in a huge storage. For those who encountered issues with slot #1, FiiO has posted a few firmware updates that should fix those entirely, and both slots should be working perfectly now. 

The firmware is an Android 7.0, and it is supported by a Samsung Exynos 7872 CPU, along with 3 GB of RAM, enough for you to swap between music apps and between activities on your FiiO M11. FiiO decided to include QC, or quick charge with their M11, which makes its battery life of about 12-13 real hours pretty great. The DAC is a dual AK 4493, paired with a custom version of the OPA926, designed for a true Balanced path. 


FiiO M11 has support for all the current Bluetooth codecs, including LDAC and APT-X HD LL, along with Airplay and full ROON / Tidal support. Now that I have a chance to mention this, FiiO DAPs seem to be the only ones where using Roon with the DAP works well enough for the DAP to control ROON via its hardware buttons, so applause to FiiO for this rather awesome feature. FiiO Link and DLNA are also included with M11, leaving nothing to be desired when it comes to the ways you can enjoy this little DAP. 

Of course, with the large 5.15" bright IPS Display, which is fully readable in full sunlight, and which also has beautiful vibrant colors, you can easily watch movies or play games as well, and FiiO M11 won't lag one bit, and without the whitelist app policy, as now the DAP runs a full fledged version of Android, you will have the closest thing to a smartphone that has a really amazing sonic output. 

A little feature that many probably won't notice at first is Wifi Music Transfer, which enables you to transfer your music using FiiO's music app, from either your PC or your mobile phone to your M11. The speed isn't quite as fast as using a Type-C USB cable, but it still works really nicely for when you don't want to bother. 


Speaking of the Wifi support and data rates, M11 is actually the fastest DAP I have tested currently, beating even other flagships in terms of how stable its Wifi connection is. This stays the same for Bluetooth and I can surely say, after testing, that it is even more stable than my smartphones, making M11 a really proper DAP if you rely a lot on Streaming and bluetooth. 

There's nothing left to be desired for with M11, and I can say it satisfies everyone regardless of the typical usage scenarios.  



Sound Quality

The general tuning of M11 is towards a more safe, more balanced overall sound, with good bass depth, but with a more wooly and soft texture, the midrange is softer and lacks grain, but still manages to have good speed, with the treble being a bit on the harder side, with good extension and more sparkle than what I'd call dead neutral. This means that M11 pairs best with meatier, heavier, warmer and thicker sounding IEMs and Headphones, and pairs less well with bright or dead neutral IEMs. FiiO FH5 makes a really good pairing, and so does FiiO FA7, but not FiiO FH7


The bass is what you would look for if you were a moderate to slightly heavier music lover, the kind that drops the hits a bit heavier and has a meatier feeling to it than say, a dead neutral source. This also means that the sub bass is a bit lower in quantity than the mid and the upper bass, which makes it more of a safe tuning, as having high amounts of sub-bass may throw some off, especially if the IEMs or headphones connected to it wouldn't keep up. On the other hand, this also gives some weight to each musical note, making listening to classical and orchestral music really enjoyable with M11. 

The midrange is what I would call soft and grain-free with good detail and impressive soundstage width, also presenting good speed. The only downside if you could call it that way, would be that it also has softer textures than what would typically be dead-neutral, so it compliments music that you want to sound softer more than music that you'd want to sound hard. For example, a quiet classical piece would be better complimented that a hard bass song would be. 

The treble is well extended and a touch bright, at least compared to what would be dead neutral, so most warmer and thicker sounding IEMs are complimented as well more than bright and cold sounding IEMs and headphones. The treble has a good amount of detail and comes through as slightly soft in textures, but the extra sparkle makes M11 pair much better with warmer and thicker sounding IEMs rather than colder ones. 


As for the Balanced outputs, this is one of the first times that I noticed the tuning to be slightly different on Balanced, with no noise and no hissing on either outputs, but with the Balanced sounding smoother, warmer, cleaner, more dynamic and more punchy on an overall level. The treble could be said to be more tame and less sparkly on the balanced output. Speaking of the dynamics and punchiness, the single ended output is also pretty dynamic and punchy, although the soundstage is more wide than it is deep. The stage is pretty holographic as well. 



Portable Usage

In terms of portability, M11 is pretty portable, with a good battery life, it will stay on for about 12 hours, more than most people will ever need. Of course, this is while just playing music, if you want to turn on the Wifi or even play some games, this time will lower a bit. With Wifi turned on at all times, and playing FLAC files at loud volumes, combined with some TIDAL streaming, I could get about 10 hours of battery life, more than most DAPs in Today's market were able to do. Furthermore, M11 comes with Quick charge and it will replenish its battery life in about two hours, and it will be ready to go again. 


The ergonomics are also pretty much excellent, with good pocketed usage, good blind navigation, good support from FiiO's own music app, as well as other music apps on PlayStore having good randomization algorithms, and since M11 is a full fledged Android DAP, you won't feel like you're missing on anything other apps might had had, like for example, you will also have access to Viper and other effects. 

The last part about the portable usage is about matching M11 with hard-to-drive headphones as well as matching it with IEMs. With IEMs, I noticed no hissing and no noise with Campfire Atlas, as well as FiiO FH7, so there have been no issues in enjoying M11. With larger headphones, I have been able to drive Ultrasone Signature DXP, Grado SR80e, as well as Kennerton Thror with M11, but I would say that for harder to drive planars, like Audeze LCD-2C, you will do okay with M11 only if you listen at more moderate volumes. This being said, other planars, like Rosson RAD-0 presented no issue for M11. 



Select Pairings

For the pairing part of this review, I have chosen FiiO FH7, FiiO FA7, and FiiO EH3NC. This may sound a bit odd, since I'm going for all-FiiO setups, but I found it to be quite relevant to show what FiiO purposed for us when designing M11 together with their IEMs and Headphones. 


FiiO M11 + FiiO FA7 - With FiiO FA7, M11 really sings, making them more even, and more balanced, and giving them a better overall treble sparkle, making them from a one trick pony, that has a good trick up its sleeve, as I called them in my review, into a more balanced, more pleasing experience that sounds good with a wider selection of music styles. There is no hiss, and no noise, and they sound more detailed and more revealing than when paired with a fully warm source as well. 

FiiO M11 + FiiO FH7 - With FiiO FH7, the pairing is not quite as good as with FA7, because FH7 is already a touch cold and bright, making the pairing a bit cold and brittle, but still with excellent detail and a wide soundstage, incredible instrument separation, and a great overall experience. This being said, FH7 is better paired with a warmer, more laid-back DAP, that is smoother, if you don't like a sparkly treble, like FiiO's own X5-3. 

FiiO M11 + FiiO EH3NC - Now, FiiO just released a headphone, and it has a nice price point, of just 200 USD, and they come with Bluetooth, and Noise Cancelling, being one of the headphones with the best price / performance ratios out there. This being said, the headphones sound much better without the noise cancelling engaged, but M11 was able to show a very good bluetooth range and signal stability, and the overall sound was actually great when driving them on the wire, because EH3 are quite warm and commercial / fun tuned, and M11 made them more balanced, more revealing and more enjoyable. 



Comparisons

The main competitors and comparison DAPs for M11 are FiiO X5-3, or 3rd generation, iBasso DX160, and Hiby R6. All of those are in a similar price segment as FiiO M11, and all of them are interesting to look at when considering getting a FiiO M11. 


FiiO M11 vs FiiO X5-3 - FiiO against FiiO, but a few years later. Given the fact that X5-3 has been on the market for a while now, and that it was also really well received at the launch, this is a very pertinent comparison. X5-3 has a much more limited android interface, with a less capable CPU and with less RAM, but it also had a good display. The sonics of X5-3 were much warmer, smoother, more tame in the treble, and thicker than M11, that you'd think FiiO changed the people who designed the sound and signature of their DAPs. In fact, M11 sounds much closer to the flagship X7mkii in its original configuration, with AM01, rather than X5-3. I also like how FiiO improved the Bluetooth and the Wifi modules with each generation, now M11 being in line with your midrange smartphone, greatly improving on their previous releases. 

FiiO M11 vs iBasso DX160 - Comparing these two is probably going to be the most asked question for the following few months, if not year(s). It is understood that most people who will be looking into an upper midrange DAP will be considering either DX160 or M11 as their next companion, and well, it will all come down to what is the most important aspect in a DAP for you. The two companies made sure to refine their products in such a way that they are as competitive as possible, so both have similar abilities and both have excellent hardware, so instead of mentioning what both have, I'll focus more on the differences. Here, we start with the output power, which is higher on DX160, and it has a more dynamic and punchy sound. This being said, M11 sounds wider and brighter, with more top end sparkle. The wifi and bluetooth connection power and stability are both better on M11, and quite a bit better I would say. The default software is rock stable on both DAPs, and both are pretty much Android devices with unlimited abilities. I think that DX160 is slightly more ergonomic thanks to its shape and design, but I like the volume wheels on both. If you plan on using a lot of bluetooth headphones and a lot of wifi and Tidal and such, M11 may be the better option, while if you want the more driving power, and the more natural, punchy and dynamic sound, DX160 should be your choice. 

FiiO M11 vs Hiby R6 - It has been quite a while since R6 has been released, compared to M11 which is a totally new DAP, but R6 has been quite loved at the moment of its release, and although it was released at a higher price than M11, it is similar in price to M11 at the moment of writing this review. This being said, the DAPs are quite different, and although at that moment R6 was one of the best DAPs in terms of CPU and RAM, M11 is better in every way possible, having a larger display, better CPU, and better overall Android integration. In terms of sonics, R6 has hiss with almost every IEM, having a really high output impedance, and this can be heard quite easily. On the other hand, R6 has more driving power than M11, so if you're into hard to drive headphones, R6 may still be a very worthwhile choice. 



Value and Conclusion

The value of FiiO M11 is pretty much one of the best I've seen in today's market, with the price being really good for what you're getting, which is a very potent DAP with good wifi, bluetooth, battery life, sonic quality, and CPU/RAM/GPU and Display. Basically, you get a DAP that's better or at least at the level with the average smartphone, but which has the sonic performance of a DAP, for the price of, well, a midrange smartphone. 


FiiO never fails to impress with the package and with the stuff they manage to include with their products, from the case and the high-quality USB cable, to the handy coax cable. What's more interesting is that M11 has two microSD slots, and while having a SIM Tray eject tool isn't something to brag about, the two microSD slots are something that all DAPs should brag about when they have those. 


In terms of build quality, it is a fully metallic DAP, with a larger IPS display, on which you can watch movies, play some games, and have a lot of fun with your music. What's more, balanced outputs, a good bluetooth and wifi module, and a solid overall CPU and RAM makes M11 one of the best DAPs you could get in today's market. This means that it will also be added to Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, as it really offers all you could ask for in a DAP at this price point. 

The sound is something a bit more safe, with a softer bass, softer midrange, and with a sparkly treble, making M11 pair well with most of today's IEMs and headphones, especially the thicker and warmer ones, which are the majority of midrange and high-end IEMs and headphones. In the entry-level Chifi market, there are a lot of strongly V-shaped, U-shaped or brighter IEMs, but after you cross a certain threshold, there are many IEMs and headphones that are warm, thick, and which are complemented by M11, like TheCustomArt Fibae Black, Dita Fealty, CTM Da Vinci IX, FiiO FA7, and many others. 


At the end of this review, if you're looking for a very capable smartpho- I mean DAP, M11 should satisfy your needs really well, with a good CPU, good display, good sonic abilities, balanced output, two microSD slots, and good bluetooth / wifi performance, and with a good battery life, making it one of the best midrange DAPs you can look at. 


Full 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. 


Youtube Playlist


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu


Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b


Song List


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
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us 
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong 
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw 
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare 
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
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
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 - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate 
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe 
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly 
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet




I hope my review is helpful to you!




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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for your excellent review. I am deciding on which DAP to buy from The FIIO M11, Astell & Kern Norma Ar 15 or the Sony NW 55. I have pretty much decided on the M11 as it seems to have all the features I need. I will update after my purchase on my progress and provide an evaluation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the excellent review! I'll probably get one soon, to run with my Sennheiser HD660s, I hope it's a good match!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They should make a fair pair, although if you can, M11 PRO is much better!

      Hope you'll be having lots of fun in there!!

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