For the purpose of this review, I used a various set of IEMs and headphones. For the IEMs, I kept my good old Onkyo IE-C3, the new Fearless Audio S8F and the BGVP DM7. The headphones ? Sennheiser HD800S, Audeze LCD-X and a simple, but trusty, MSR7 from Audio-Technica.
Sound wise, the FiiO M6 was very good and the M9 great. So the FiiO M11 should be superb, no ?
Fortunately, it is! I won’t say it’s the better DAP out there, in terms of sound quality, but it easily outperforms anything in this price range. Through the balanced output, the sound stage is massive, so much it could rival A&K on this point. The layering is on par and symphonic tracks are a joy to listen to.
This is all thanks to the new circuit amplification, which delivers power with delicacy and control, even at high volume. It’s better than the FiiO X7 Mark II, for sure, even if I preferred the ESS Sabre sound signature: more linear, and somehow more… pro.
That said, the FiiO sound signature catches on immediately. Mids are onwards and give voices a subtle, sweet, emphasis. Some will say, that’s what makes the FiiO players so popular, and they’d be right. Yet, this is on point with all the other M players and I like cohesive series, like a Panini deck.
The unbalanced output doesn’t fall short. I’ve driven the Audeze LCD-X and could get the bass slam, even if going back to balanced mode makes a sensitive difference. Even when I connected my iPhone in Bluetooth to the FiiO M11, feeding the DAP with Spotify through SBC transmit, the unbalanced -> balanced switch has been clearly audible. So yeah, stay in balanced mode.
Getting a snappy player makes a huge difference, even when it’s just for music listening. Going from 16/44 tracks, to 24/96 and then going back to some AAC 256 (Spotify) seemed seamless. There was no jitter, no “pop”, no click. And you know what’s best ? Even when you stream music from the internet, there are no parasites ! At least !
So, let’s cut to the chase.
- Is the FiiO M11 better than the M9 ? Of course.
- Is it better than the FiiO X7 Mark II ? Sorry… but yes !
- Even with the new AM3D module ? That’s to be confirmed, but I even if I prefer the Sabre touch, 99% of listeners will prefer the dual AKM from the M11.
- Is it the best player of the moment ? Sound-wise only ? No, but it’s nearly unbeatable at 500$
Highs : effortless. The FiiO M11’s presentation is all about subtlety. You hear every detail and even micro details that could be heard only on top-tier players, without the grandiloquence. It gives a lot, sure, but the DAP doesn’t scream like some TOTL models. It’s a good mix of popular tuning and great characteristics. I like that.
Mids : smooth. Be it Sabre, Wolfson, Burr-Brown or AKM chips, FiiO always nailed it. Mids are sharp with superb transients, on every headphone/earphone I tried. That makes the M11 very versatile, even if some will find the sound signature a bit too “popular”. If you want crazy sharp mids, go fo Cayin or Astell&Kern, but, otherwise, this is the to-go DAP.
Lows : tighter than ever. If you compare the FiiO M11 to the M9, that might be the first thing that’ll you notice: the M11 has better bass control. It never felt like it before, but now I found the FiiO M9 lows to be lacking, both in definition and depth. The M11 goes deep down with the LCD-X, even without a dedicated module.
Noise : nothing to worry about, the residual noise is absent. Even when you keep WiFi and Bluetooth on.
It’s becoming hard to write bad things about FiiO players, even more with models like the M11. The $450 FiiO M11 is well designed, got great specs, sounds superb and… cost less than 500 bucks.
With its latest player, FiiO is pushing the last nail in the coffin, taking the crown as the best DAP in the mid-tier section. At the moment, I can’t think of any other player that can compete with the M11 : fluid UI, double micro-SD slot, solid WiFi connection with apk pure and the complete balanced layout.
Again, there are better players out there, if you focus on musical performance only. But, if you want a player, that does it all without costing an arm, the FiiO M11 is the one to go for. So just imagine if a FiiO M15/M17 were to come…
To the best DAP buy list this M11 goes!