Thanks to the pioneers of smartphone-esque music players for veering the world from hi-fi players experience into an Android-based smart audio player.
One of those pioneers is Fiio M11 Portable High-Resolution Audio Player, which is more like a smartphone and a hipster alternative to all gauche Apple and Sony PMPs.
Fiio, a digital audio obsessive brand, is living a double life for over a dozen years; in China and throughout Asia, the brand is known to be the frontrunners in the digital audio players and peripheries.
You must be thinking, why do we even need to have a FiiO M11 Pro or any other audio player as half-decent smartphones are capable of streaming, storing a few tunes, streaming, and sounding less as atrocious as they do?
The obvious answer is the sound quality; smartphone audio offers a cliche experience, whereas FiiO is ready to serve you the à la carte option.
- Clear and crisp audio quality
- User-friendly software experience
- Availability of USB DAC, AirPlay, and DSD
- Extensive functionality
- Bluetooth format compatibility
- No Google Play support
- Thicker and heavier design
- Battery-life is somewhat OK
- Only for Android 7.0
- Issues with memory card slot
Design and Built
When compared to other Fiio DAPs, the Fiio M11 is thicker and heavier; this audio player boasts a 5.15-inch IPS display with a 720p resolution, enclosed in an HD territory. The best thing about this player is its bright and sharp screen; even the viewing angles are also better, good enough to watch videos.
To make it more appealing, its inputs – 2.5mm jack, standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 4.4mm jack to go with a USB-C port – are arrayed at the bottom.
There is a play and pause button on the left edge along with a volume dial and track navigation. On the right edge, there are two microSD card slots; both can handle as high as 2TB, respectively.
Caveat: Users have reported having issues with some high-end cards in slot 1, which is acknowledged by Fiio; if you have a limited music library, it’s an internal storage of 32 GB (only 26GB is usable).
Stress not, physical controls are a few; most interaction is done via the touchscreen.
On the audio side, Fiio offers dual AK4493EQ DACs, with enough amplification and power – to use just about any pair of headphones.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the overall look is its fantastic screen-to-body ratio, though a power button is placed at a strange place, but if you think deeply, having the power button on the far left of the top edge makes sense to you too.
The best thing about this is that you can use any headphones you want with the FiiO M11 audio player without the need for an adapter.
In terms of hardware, the M11 is running a Samsung Exynos 7872 hexa-core CPU chip in conjunction with 3Gb of RAM, clocking at 1.6GHz (for 4 little cores) and 2GHz for the other 2 big cores.
For the audio specifications, you will be treated with a pair of AK4493EQ DAC chips, which is enough to decode up to 384kHz/32-bit PCM files and up to DSD256.
Software and Connectivity
Unfortunately, with FiiO M11, you will not get Bluetooth 5.0. Instead, it is compatible with Bluetooth 4.2; it means you are still getting access to AptX and LDAC formats.
FiiO is OK with all the key lossless codecs, including aptX HD, aptX, LDAC, and LHDC; the notably missing thing is AAC over Bluetooth, though it works with AAC as a format.
Being friendly to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi signals, it was easier for the M11 to become a receiver of the audio coming from an iOS device or Mac computer.
It means you can play tunes from Google Play Music, Apple Music, or just about any other source; this player is good for streaming FLAC and WAV files, thanks to its DLNA and UPnP support.
You can always connect something compatible with FiiO M11, using its coaxial-to-3.5mm adapter.
The M11 player runs on Android 7.0 Nougat; sadly, there is no Google Play Store to download apps. Instead, it has its own market, which boasts many popular music and streaming apps, including Tidal, Amazon Music, SoundCloud, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn Radio, and Moov.
Don’t worry, with the Chrome browser preinstalled; you can easily surf over YouTube and Netflix.
M11 possesses a larger 3800 mAh Li-Po battery that can play up to 13 continuous hours of music playback; turning wireless radios might decrease these numbers, so use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when needed.
The best thing – you can keep M11 in deep-sleep, a kinda stand-by mode, for up to 50 days!
On the go, I listen to M11 via the 2.5 mm balanced out with the FiiO’s very sensitive FH7 and FA7 IEMs, especially in noisy situations and at home, with my Quad ERA-1 planars, using the 3.5 mm SE output.
With FiiO M11, you can drive at about 110 for high dynamic range tracks as older jazz about 105 volume with modern tunes; even after about two days of non-stop burn-in, you will be happy to realize that FiiO runs with a much wider sound yet with the cleaner presentation.
M11 has a layered and spread out sound system; you will feel more like a pumped-up desktop DAC/Amp than as a portable one.
The depth is also crazy, even in terms of frequency response, M11 won linearly, with just a tiny accent in the mid-bass and upper treble.
As far as midrange is concerned, M11 really shines as it is a bit fuller, thanks to it being denser and has more meat to the bone, even voices, pipes, strings, piano, and so on also felt melodious and soul-reaching.
Add to that; its treble is also outstanding in performance – it has more “zing” rather than a whole lot of “SSSsss” that’s a good thing in my book.
FiiO implemented an interesting feature that you will find in Settings > Audio > All to DSD, enabling DSD will convert all PCM audio data streams to DSD format via the digital to the analog conversion process. With it enabled, all your sounds run smoothly, more natural without touching the transient response.
Make sure that enabling DSD will consume more power and dissipate more heat (M11 will get warmer to touch).
FiiO M11 is one of the really high-end DAPs with the fastest CPU and SoC. It offers three headphone standards and has the best Bluetooth chip capable of LDAC, aptX-HD, and HWA. To set off the limited ROM, the smart audio player offers two microSD card slots.
Sound-wise it boasts a high-quality DAC/Amp unit coiled with impressive traits like impressive depth, wide soundscape, and pin-point accuracy. Being one of the best alternatives to desktop DAC, M11 Transparency, and detail retrieval are of higher levels.
Overall, FiiO M11 feels quite impressive, solid as a brick; overall, it is a beautiful machined aluminum device with edges, follows a huge glass sheet on the back covering and a huge bezel-less screen. Though industrial a bit, its looks are minimalist but feels a bit heavy yet classy.