In this review we review the FiiO M11S selling for $499 USD.
Disclaimer: FiiO sent us the M11S, free of charge, for the purpose of this review. In exchange, we’re going to give our honest opinion, as always.
Founded in 2007, FiiO is one of the pillars of the portable audiophile world, with companies like Astell&Kern, iBasso, and Meze. IEM, headphone amps, DACs, and obviously DAPs, they did it all and did it well, filling each and every corner with an endless list of multi-awarded devices, like the K9 Pro, BTR5, Q3, or the M11.
And if the brand began as a chi-fi maker, with cheap but nice products, FiiO has been constantly moving upmarket and, nowadays, it’d be hard to truly label them as “chi-fi”, rather than Hi-Fi – especially with players like the FiiO M11 Plus ESS.
A very nice player, I considered “one, if not the best player you can get in this price range” at the time, which led to an “Headfonia Award” for best DAP, thanks to its dual-mono circuit, combining ESS DAC and THX amps.
But, like the M11 Plus LTD before, or the M17 – the brand flagship – the player remains a relatively expensive player, especially for newcomers, with a market price of $749. And, if FiiO has no plans to replace the M6 / M7 / M9 anytime soon, many of us were waiting for a more affordable model, like the first M11.
And so, here it is now, the new FiiO M11S, the first real successor of the brand mid-range DAP.
The FiiO M11 Series
Few players have experienced as many variations as the M11. Since its first appearance in 2019, this player has seen no less than five variances:
- the original M11, packing a dual AKM AK4493 and a dual micro-SD slot
- the M11 Pro, same design but dual AKM AK4497EQ and THX AAA amps modules
- the M11 Plus LTD, introducing a new design, a faster CPU, and the same audio circuit found on the M11 Pro
- the M11 Plus ESS, same as the LTD but with a dual ES9068AS chip instead of the AKM (for obvious reasons)
- the FiiO M15, not a real variation, but think of it like a FiiO M11 Pro +
But, as you’ll see in this review, FiiO is now opening a new chapter in the M11 story, as the FiiO M11S introduces the third generation of the mighty player.
Design & Build Quality
For the third time, the brand did a complete revamp of the original design, giving the FiiO M11S a new frame that borrows from each and every generation. In fact, this new player, with its thick body, kind of reminds me of the old-but-mighty FiiO X5 Mark III, one of the first models from the brand embarking a touch-screen, together with the FiiO X7.
As usual with the brand, build quality is absolutely flawless, with no gaps and premium materials everywhere your eye can see, and your hand’s touch. Front panel? Gorilla glass. Back panel? Same with a sumptuous deep-black finish. The case? Neat, CNC’ed, polished matte black aluminum. Volume Knob? Gone, replaced by a sensitive/clickable surface with a carbon-fiber cover.
Size-wise, the FiiO M11S is kind of a surprise, if a tad smaller and narrower than the M11 LTD, the new player is also thicker, and heavier. It’s now 134mm tall, 75mm wide and 18mm thick, so just 0,4mm more, but with the added weight, this new DAP psychologically feels twice as denser than before in the hand.
Even though compared to modern smartphones, size is not a real issue, and I had more problems fitting my iPhone 13 Pro Max in my jeans pockets, than the player.
At first look, the FiiO M11S layout didn’t change one bit, but as we’ll see, those are welcome updates.
On the left side you have:
- the classic power on/off button
- the volume control that can be operated by clicking
- and a blank button working as a mighty “do-it-all” button
On the right side, you’ll find:
- prev/next and play/pause buttons
- the micro-SD card opening (it’s not a tray anymore!)
And finally at the bottom you have:
- a 3.5mm headphone/line/digital output, so you can connect your headphone, a headphone amp, or even a DAC,
- a 2.5mm balanced headphone output, a classic
- 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced headphone output that now doubles as a balanced line output
- a USB-C port
Once again, all headphone outputs are completely blacked out and if some will like this sobriety, others will prefer the classic gold-plated 4.4mm Pentaconn look. That said, the two real updates here are the new Balanced output, which could be useful for anyone using an amp with the aforementioned port, and the new all-in-one button, absent from the first-gen FiiO M11.
With a smaller body, the screen is now naturally smaller too.
Yet, with a 5.0 inch wide IPS screen (0.5” smaller than the M11 Plus), boasting the same 16,7 million colors, “retina” 300PPI definition thanks to the 1280×720 resolution, and a 88% screen-to-body ratio. FiiO is proud to announce a borderless screen – if you omit the little black bar at the bottom of the player.
And if smaller than before, the screen remains in the top range with a large viewing angle, fast refresh rate, and vivid colors, boosted by Android 10 and a faster CPU. If you want to get a better screen, you’ll have to check out higher-end models like the M11 Plus ESS, or the wondrous DX320.
Inside the box
In the box you will find :
- the FiiO M11S
- a clear case
- a USB-C cable
- some documentation
- a tempered glass directly applied at the factory
Dire? Yes. But I’m a big fan of the silicon case + tempered glass combo, which makes the device almost crashproof.
The article continues on Page Two, after the click here
Page 1: about FiiO
Page 2: UI, Usage, Bundle
Page 3: Technical specifications
Page 4: Sound performance