In this article we review the FiiO M17, the brand’s TOTL DAP selling for $1,799 USD.
Disclaimer: FiiO sent us the M17, 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 or the M11S – a new affordable alternative.
A mid-range player, packing two ESS-Sabre DAC + THX modules and a faster Qualcomm SOC, to top the old FiiO M15. But, the brand was still missing a flagship, one that could challenge the likes of iBasso, who gave us the wondrous DX320, or Astell&Kern and its SP2000T (now SP3000).
And so, FiiO’s engineers went back to their workbench, to design and develop a true Top Of The Line Digital Audio Player, namely, the Fiio M17. A player that would “redefine portable expectations” and even “surpass highly regarded desktop systems” – but in a compact package.
And, if no one would consider the FiiO M17 “as compact”, sound-wise, the brand really pushed everything they can into their new player. Enough to take back the crown? That’s what we’ll see now!
The FiiO DAP Series
FiiO M11 (Pro/Plus/S)
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 +
- the new FiiO M11S, the first real replacement for the FiiO M11, featuring a dual ESS DAC, the new Qualcomm SOC, and a retail price below 500€
Boxing in a completely different category, the FiiO M17 is the brand’s latest player. It introduces a whole new generation of portable players with improved performances, a bigger screen, a bigger case, and geeky features like RGB lighting or a separate DC input.
A TOTL player that enhances everything FiiO developed for its M11 ESS, pushing every component to the limit. So much, that the M17 even comes with its own ventilated cradle, in case you wanted to unlock its full power – no joke!
Design & Build Quality
For the M17, FiiO started from scratch, with one and only purpose: to get the best possible sound out of their new player. Spoiler, they succeeded, but at what cost…
If I found the iBasso DX320 huge already, compared to the FiiO M17 it now looks tiny. Clearly, FiiO went bonkers with this new player and this is, by far, one of the bulkiest, heaviest, player’s cases I’ve encountered in a while. A thick black slab of aluminum, with sharp corners and RGB-lighted vents on its side edges – yes, like a gaming PC.
Size-wise, the M17 is… gigantic. 156.4 mm tall, 88.5mm wide, 28mm thick, and a total weight of 610g, without the leather case. This is almost twice heavier than the FiiO M11S I reviewed last time and approximately 30% bigger, giving the TOTL word a real meaning now. To be fair, the iBasso DX320 is a tad taller, and almost as thick, but in the hand, the FiiO M17 feels like you could go to space, and use it as a tool in case something bad happens.
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 diamond-like finish. The case? Neat, CNC’ed, polished matte black aluminum. Volume Knob? Massive, with a long, smooth course that allows you to find the exact right volume, every time.
So yeah, it’s a big baby, but one made to outlast you.
At first look, the FiiO M17 layout looks a lot like the one you’d found on the M11 plus, with a few additions.
On the left side, you’ll find:
- prev/next and play/pause buttons
- the micro-SD card opening (it’s not a tray anymore!)
- a blank button working as a mighty “do-it-all” button
- A hold switch to lock every button
On the right side you have:
- the classic power on/off button
- the volume control +/-
- a DC/Batt switch in case you’re using the DC power supply
At the bottom, you have:
- a blue USB-C port for data transfer and charge
- another USB (Host) in case you’d like to use the FiiO M17 as a digital source
- A DC input if you want to bypass the battery and rely on the power supply
- A coaxial input/output, that allows you to use the player either as a DAC, or a source
Finally, on top you have:
- a 3.5mm headphone/line output, so you can connect your headphone or a dedicated amp
- a 2.5mm balanced headphone output, a classic
- 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced headphone output that now doubles as a balanced line output
- a 6.35mm headphone port for your biggest cans
Once again, all headphone outputs are completely blacked out and if some will like the sober presentation, others might prefer the classic gold-plated 4.4mm Pentaconn look. Bonus point for the 6.35mm jack output, it’s not something you usually see on a DAP!
With a bigger body, the screen is now naturally bigger too.
With a 5.99 inch wide IPS screen (1” bigger than the M11S), boasting the same 16,7 million colors, “retina” 300PPI definition thanks to the 2160×1080 resolution, and a 92% screen-to-body ratio. FiiO is proud to announce a (nearly) borderless screen – if you omit the little black bar at the bottom of the player.
And if bigger than before, the screen is also better with larger viewing angle, faster 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 the wondrous DX320.
Inside the box
The FiiO M17 is (un)surprisingly well-dotted. In the box you will find :
- the FiiO M17
- a leather case, with an aluminum grill
- a USB-C cable
- a micro-SD card ejector pin
- an external DC adapter
- and finally, the mighty cooling stand fan
Yes, you read that right, the M17 comes with a cooling stand fan, or a ventilated cradle if you prefer. Powered by a USB-C port, this dock is dedicated to users that intend to use the player in a desktop setup, hooked to a power amp or a high-end headphone, like the Meze Empyrean. Sadly, the port only comes with a sole USB-C port and no bypass, so you won’t be able to charge the player AND refresh it with a single cable… but apart from that, it’s a really cool addition to the bundle.
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