Disclaimer: FiiO sent us the $99 USD Fiio M5 for the purpose of this review, free of charge. In exchange, we’re going to give our honest opinion, as always.
Last time, we reviewed the FiiO M15, the TOTL player of the brand. This time, we are reviewing the FiiO M5, the BOTL of the brand. Flexibility, that’s how we do at Headfonia.
From its creation in 2007, FiiO has been pushing further and away to become one of the top players. And you know what? After more than 10 years of hard work, I think they achieved their goal as the once unknown brand is now on every mouth and ear.
A few weeks ago we reviewed the FiiO M15, the TOTL, the Behemoth, with a dual AK4499 and enough power to drive your Hifiman HE-6. If this player stood at the apex of FiiO’s line-up, the one we’ve received this time stands at the opposite side of the scale. So, please welcome the FiiO M5, the most affordable player of the brand, priced at just $99 or 99€.
The FiiO Series
The FiiO M5 is the baby player of the bunch. If you thought the Fiio M6 was small, this M5 is there to prove you wrong. Good news, this is the player we are about to review, so for now, I’ll keep it short, and let you read.
The FiiO M6 is, in my opinion, the best option available in this price range. It’s small, powerful enough to drive most portable headphones, has a WiFi + Bluetooth connection and it costs less than a cheap smartphone.
To auto quote: ” Let’s cut to the chase: for 150€, the FiiO M6 is a no-brainer. It blends good performance – neat design – great battery life – extensive capability and it can even be connected to another DAC through USB.”
The real question now is : should you get a FiiO M5, or the good old FiiO M6 ? We’ll see that in a minute.
The FiiO M7 introduced the new M series. It is one of the classiest players available in my opinion. It’s basically an Astell&Kern AK120ii but cheaper and lighter. Lieven made a comprehensive review of this player and said :
“Even though the Fiio M7 isn’t the typical audiophile DAP, I have really enjoyed using it to get to work and back home. Yes, it’s a “back to basics” device but it comes with an FM Radio, looks great and most important of all, it sounds more than just good. I’m pretty sure normal consumers will be blown away with its performance, both in usability as well as with its sound.”
If it’s cheaper than the M9, it’s more expensive than the M6 without the benefits. There is no wifi connection, no streaming support and the only plus is the FM Radio embedded (and design). So yeah, it’s an odd player.
The FiiO M9 shares the same SOC with the M7 and M6, but gains a dual DAC for better sound performances. Like the M6, you get an access to most streaming apps (Qobuz, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify), as long as FiiO white-listed your app (Tune-in doesn’t work for example). Still, for less than 300€/$, it’s still a solid choice thanks to the dual AK4490EN chips and versatile connectivity.
What did I say in the review? “Access to third party-apps and Bluetooth duplex alone, make it a top choice for me. For 299€, it’s simply the most versatile audiophile player you could get at the moment. The perfect blend of audiophile prowess, compact design, and Swiss-knife capabilities. Get this and a Q5, you’ll be fully equipped for years.”
And, now that FiiO removed the whitelist app limitation, you can try to install even more audio app. Like Roon, Plex or Tune-In. Spoiler alert, the last one doesn’t work.
The FiiO M11 is, for now at least, my favorite DAP from this generation. It has got a dual-SD slot, two AK4493EN chips, a super widescreen with a full-android experience and all-in-all, it’s one of the best bangs for a buck player of the market, with the Shanling M6.
A quote : “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.”
Personally, the FiiO M11 remains my to-go player. The sound isn’t quite as good as the M11 Pro or M15, but combined with a good pair of IEM’s, I get around 11-12h of continuous playback. Plus the fact that you can add a second micro-SD card, one for offline streaming apps, and one for your own music catalog.
In fact, I liked it so much that it ended up in our Best DAP Buy List.
FiiO M11 Pro
If the M11 is not enough for you, now there is the FiiO M11 Pro. If they look the same, the brand upgraded the player with a set of AK4497EN DAC and two THX-78B chips, wee! The catch? The price raised up to 699€/$ and more importantly, there is only one SD Slot!
Did I like it? “This new M11 Pro costs 200$ more than the classic M11 and it ditched the second micro-SD slot. So, if you’re on a budget or need a vast amount of storage, you may want to stick to the first version. That said; if sound quality is your main concern, all of those changes are of no concern.”
Definitely the best choice (for now) if you want to get the best performances, at a reasonable price. The FiiO M11 Pro sounds awesomely flat, with superb soundstage in balanced mode. If you want the top-tier sound, with mid-tier price, get this one.
The FiiO M15 is the top dog of the brand. Dual AK4499 chips, a powerful amp circuit able to handle big cans, and the TOTL case that goes with it. All for a nifty $1500 price tag.
Did we review it? Of course! Did we like it? A snippet for you here: “For IEM and less-demanding headphones, check out the M11 Pro or the Shanling M6. Those are less expansive options and, to be honest, I had as much fun listening to them as with the M15. So yeah, it’s the polished player FiiO ever made, but for me, it lacks that subtle magic I found in their low-tier products, such as the K3 and M6. Maybe the M15 Pro ?”
If I expected more of the FiiO M15, it’s still a true TOTL player at the core. The sound performances remain one of the top-tier DAP, even if not equal to the Astell&Kern SP2000 of course. Yet, if I had to choose between the Futura SE1000 and the Cowon Plenue L, I’d get… the M15!
And now, it’s time to review the smallest one of the bunch : the FiiO M5
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