Fiio M15 First Look

Fiio M15

Working with the M15 is a pleasure. It’s fast, very responsive and it can do everything. I love the Android OS as you can use your phone gestures/controls, you know where all the settings are and you can install all your favorite applications. First thing I did was install Tidal, ROON remote and Spotify. Lovely.

 

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“A 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced connection?” is often the question but Fiio had a better idea. They did both and they even threw in an unbalanced 3.5mm output as well (also LO).

Battery-wise Fiio has got everything covered as well with the huge 7490mAh 3.8V Li-polymer battery. I haven’t been using the M15 long enough to fully test the battery life, but this might just be the longest lasting DAP in my collection. To be confirmed after more testing.

I mentioned it before already, but the M15 comes with a customizable button. Some might need it, others might not see the use. I personally love having a programmable shortcut you use a lot, so extra points for usability. Another thing I love, but it isn’t new, is how Fiio looks for the album art and lyrics when you’re connected to the internet. Useless for some, USP for others.

So is everything sunshine and rainbows? No, but it’s close to being perfect. Two things have come up so far. The first issue I have found user-wise so far, is the fact that the volume – even on low gain – gets very loud very quickly. This is important to know for those who use very sensitive monitors or for those who listen at low volumes. Luckily there’s no channel imbalance at all.

The second issue is that the M15 quickly gets warm. Warm, not hot, but if it’s in your pockets you will for sure notice and feel it. It never gets hot though and maybe it’s because there’s no case keeping the warmth inside, but it’s something which is good to know.

Versatility

Nothing new here, A Fiio DAP running on Android can do it all.

A small list?

  • Airplay
  • Line Out
  • DLNA
  • DAC
  • MQA
  • High Quality BT
  • Fiio Link
  • Music WiFi transfer
  • Etc
  • Etc
  • Etc

OK, maybe Fiio forgot something but I haven’t seen many flagships able to do all that. Again, for the full list of features check the M15 home page on Fiio’s website.

Fiio M15

Sound

And then there is the M15’s sound. Is it good and flag ship worthy? Yes it is. Did I expect it to be better? To be honest, I did. But I’m used to listening to the SP2000 which is over double the M15’s price, so that’s not really fair either.

After a few days of listening I wouldn’t say the M15 has a fully neutral tuning. For that the bass is a little big and the sound has a bit too much body. But it’s not that this is a warm sounding or smooth sounding DAP, this is not the case either.

The sound from top to bottom is very clean and clear but the bass and full mids are present at all times. Most people tend to like that, so for most of you this will be good news. The M15’s sound stage width and depth is good, but at the same time it’s not spectacular either. There are several DAPs on the market that score better in this regard, and especially regarding the depth.

Same basically goes for the layering, note separation and airiness. It is good but not the best and here it’s mostly the spaciousness in the mids which is limited, giving you a more intimate than open presentation. The level of detail is good, the pace is good and the dynamics are good. Note extension and decay aren’t the M15’s strongest points however.

There are good things to say of the M15, a few less good things and things I really wish would be better. For the first case I really have to mention the vocals as Fiio has done an incredibly good job on them. Especially female vocals such as Adele, Angèle, Amy Winehouse, Melody Gardot and Anna Ternheim sound natural and at the same time romantic. Love it. In the last case I’m mostly talking about the level of energy, excitement and overall, cross-genre musicality. For some reason, after these first days of listening, I just can’t find the pleasure with my favourite tunes as much as with say the PAW 6000, the WM1A/Z or the AK DAPs (CUBE, SP1/2000).

Fiio M15

On top of that the M15 – without case – also tends to pick up interference from my phone, so I have to keep both units apart at all times. Bummer.

Conclusion

It’s too soon to tell how the M15 will be assessed in a few weeks time (by Nano). I’m pretty sure its performance will improve even more over the next few days while I keep it running, and of course my brain and ears still need some adjustment to this new Fiio tuning as well. At the moment the Fiio M15 hasn’t fully convinced me yet, but it wouldn’t be the first time a unit completely grows on me after a few weeks. We’ll see.

Nano is a big fan of Fiio’s tuning though. For him and for you this just might be the perfect tuned DAP. Keep your eye out for the full M15 review soon, by a different set of ears.

3.7/5 - (82 votes)

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

20 Comments

  • Reply January 17, 2020

    Dmac

    Samsung are using these chips in phone’s and Fiio for some reason can’t get the Google play store,M11 sounds great,but I’ll pass on this one.

  • Reply January 17, 2020

    Claudio

    I always love when companies release new products and probably the M15 sound great but I think Fiio needs to take more time betewen their new models. The M11 pro is consider a new product yet and now they released the M15 and probably in four more months they will release the M15pro and so on. As an owner of the M11 pro and sony and Astell & Kern DAPs I think FiiO is far to get their sound. M11 pro sound great for me is a great DAP with high end components but it’s missing something, maybe a “FIIO sound” like AK or Sony. Will they finally achieve this with the M15? I don’t think so. Probably the sound will be better than the M11 pro but won’t be enough to reach the level of AK or Sony DAPs in sound terms.

    • Reply January 19, 2020

      Jon

      Fiio’s CEO has actually hinted on headi board they will not produce an M15 pro version. It seems this would be the end of the road for the flagship player. I don’t blame them, that was HiBy’s own marketing team strategy to come up with that designation, to me, just one more way to confuse people like the venerated Microsoft gang. If you really want to use the designation Pro then make sure it correspond to commercial audio bespoke products.

  • Reply January 17, 2020

    DAP Fan

    “At the same time, it’s light…”

    Unless final release spec has changed from late 2019 discussions, the M15 is, AFAIK, 310g.

    310 grams, for goodness’ sake!

    Yes, there are heavier DAPs on the market (which I don’t consider worthy of being considered portable – more like TRANSportable), but just because heavier DAPs exist, does not legitimise the assertion that 310g is ‘light’.

    Lieven, a lot of people (including me) are going to struggle to take you seriously, in future, if you continue making such absurd assertions.

    Even Fiio themselves appear to be embarrassed at how much of a brick this thing is – at the time of this writing, I can’t find the weight listed on Fiio’s own M15 specifications page! http://www.fiio.com/m15_parameters

    • Reply January 18, 2020

      Lieven

      I’m used to the AK380, CUBE, SP1000, WM1Z and SP2000. The M15 is light believe me

  • Reply January 17, 2020

    Steven Zore

    I thought the M11 pros mids were too forward, seems the same here.

  • Reply January 18, 2020

    Zaak

    Thank you for this article and thank you to the rest of the people who posted messages.

    I own a FIIO M11 Pro, it was waiting for a purchase of the AK SP2000.

    Now with the FIIO M15 which shares the same components on the AK SP2000. My questions is:

    1) Do you think they are equivalent ?
    2) If the answer is negative because in favour of the AK SP2000, do you think the price difference deserves this ?

    Thank you

    Zaak

  • Reply January 18, 2020

    Phong Ngo

    Thanks for the thoughts, Lieven. I know Nano will be doing the final review, but it would be great if you could post some followup thoughts when/if you get more time with the M15.

  • Reply January 20, 2020

    Sp12er

    sure feels like they’re just filling them packaging with “spes” and hype word like :wood: just for to come up in reviews and pics of the unboxing.
    just hope the inside of the actual device isnt just spec padding as well.
    There’s a lot people should expect from 1400 USD

    • Reply January 22, 2020

      Lieven

      Agreed, but people also expect it to sound better than the AK SP2000 because it uses the same DAC chips. Sigh.
      The M15 was hyped a lot, but it for me sound-wise hasn’t delivered (yet?)

  • Reply January 23, 2020

    jason81

    I tried M15 today, hmm I think Fiio needs to change there sound tuning engineer.
    Sounds from M15 was not special at all for me. It should give us much impact than this.
    It doesn’t seem like sound improvements there. They need to update M15 sound signature to make their flagship extra ordinary compared to M11 PRO and M11.
    I and my friends did blind test M11, M11 PRO, M15. At same level of volume, 5 of 9 pick m11 pro was best, 3 pick m15, 1 was m11. In my personal opinion, they have to do something on M15. It is a very good DAP for sure but not as their specification.

    • Reply January 23, 2020

      Lieven

      I agree the M11 Pro is more impressive sound wise. But who am I

  • Reply January 23, 2020

    виталий цицюрский

    https://soundwavestore-company.ru/articles/fiio-m15-review
    reprint of your review on this site. And your site is not listed

    • Reply January 23, 2020

      Lieven

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention

  • Reply January 23, 2020

    Near

    “but there are many much more expensive DAPs on the market which perform and deliver a whole lot less”

    Love the quote.

    Care to name a few examples?

  • Reply January 23, 2020

    Andres

    M15 vs DX220 ?

  • Reply January 24, 2020

    Murray Winiata

    Unfortunately the output impedances are quite high – 1.4ohm for SE and ~3ohm for balanced. Need to match with transducers accordingly – the comments in the first look article above look like this may not have been taken into account (too much bass and ‘body’). Definitely a weakness here, but personally I’m interested for commentary when paired with headphones properly matched to the output impedances.

    • Reply January 26, 2020

      Lieven

      A DAP flagship has to be able to cover everything

  • Reply January 27, 2020

    Murray Winiata

    Sure, as I said, definite weakness in the spec where OI is concerned, I’d still like to know how it sounds with headphones compatible with the OI (in my case I’d be using with full size cans, so despite OI that is not really acceptable in a device at this level I still have an interest in it).

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