Review: FiiO M9 – Wizard of the East

The Fiio M9 portable player is the successor of the nice M7 DAP. In this article we look at the newest Fiio DAP.

 

Disclaimer: The FiiO M9 was sent to us free of charge in exchange of an honest review. The MRSP is 299€ as I’m writing this and you can get it from Fiio’s official dealers.

About FiiO

Since 2007, FiiO has always aimed to become one of the top brands in the audiophile game. Based in Guangzhou, China, they rose steadily and somehow achieved their goal : Being available all over the world and build products known for their excellent performance/price ratio. If the FiiO X3, X3 Mark II and X3 Mark III were outdated in terms of UI, the latest FiiO M7 has become one of the best choices in the 200€ DAP range.

Sleek design, great sound, solid UI and low price, FiiO marked all the good points.

Today, we are reviewing the FiiO M9, who’s supposed to be the top player of the new “M” range.

 

The FiiO DAP Series

FiiO X3 Series

In 2013, FiiO launched its first DAP : the FiiO X3. It was not specially pretty, didn’t have Bluetooth or WiFi and got a strange layout with misplaced buttons. It was bulky, the screen was tiny with a massive gap between the glass and tft screen. Compared to the iPod, the king of of the DAP, it looked rather outdated but it had two advantages : it was 199€ and it used a Wolfson WM8740 Chip.

When the audiophile world were waiting for the Pono, the FiiO X3 appeared as the first true mainstream audiophile player. Sure there was already some Rio Karma or Hifiman HM-801 out there, but compared to them the FiiO was both cheaper, lighter and much more user friendly.
It sold like hot cakes and put the brand under the spot.

The second generation trade the odd design for an iPod mimick. A physical scroll wheel surrounded by buttons with a 3:2 screen. It was an evolution more than an evolution but people liked the low price/high value ratio. And so on with the Mark III, still available up to this day, even if the FiiO M7 is a better deal now.

FiiO X5 Series

Bigger and beefier than the X3, the FiiO X5 was a double down version DAP. Double micro-SD slot, double amp, double the size and double the price. The first generation used a Burr-Brown chip and was much more powerful than the X3, allowing the use of meaner headphones.

There were a few accessories to bundle the FiiO X5 with the FiiO E12, the headphone amplifier. It was a nice audiophile sandwiches providing enough power to virtually drive anything, for a little price. At the time, it was one of the best budget combo you could get, even more if you took account of the double micro-SD slot.

The scrollwheel was not the easiest one to use and was prone to failure overtime. Issue corrected with the X5 Mark II, smaller and easier to use, and the X5 Mark III finally ended with a full touchscreen and android OS. This one is still available with most retailers but it should be replaced by… the FiiO M9 !

FiiO X7 series

The FiiO X7 and FiiO X7 Mark II were (or are) the pinnacle of the brands. They offer a removable amp system, the best DAC, a beefier SOC and a better screen. Even for today standards, they offer great performances for the price, the Sabre ESS DAC offering the wide dynamic range we all crave for.

In term of sound, the difference between the first generation and the second isn’t that much. The X7 Mark II got a second micro-SD slot, a classy volume wheel and a faster SOC. It’s compatible with the FiiO K5 and DK1, two docks for line-out or pre-amp giving you a more versatile experience.

FiiO M7

Introducing the total revamp of the FiiO Line-up, the FiiO M7 is one of the classiest player available in my opinion. It’s basically an Astell&Kern AK120ii but cheaper and lighter. Lieven made a comprehensive review of this player and he really liked it, go read it here.

The player is available around 200€ and is a real step-up from the FiiO X3 Mark III. The UI is faster, the sound is better, and it’s simply improve all the features in every ways.

Casing

The FiiO M9 is a nice little player, the full-aluminium body feels light yet sturdy. There is no crack and no gap on any place you can see or touch, FiiO even removed the screws ! Compared to the FiiO M7, I still prefer the prior one though. The M7 feels more balanced with its rectangular shape and right-positioned scroll-wheel, the M9 inaugurating a new design.

The left side of the player is rounded, getting all the buttons and scroll-wheel, where the right side kept the simple straight design. Visually I’m not really convinced, it reminds me of the last Onkyo DAP but in a FiiO robe. That said, the quality of the build has progressed by leaps compared to the old generation.

The FiiO X3 and X5 were a good choice in the 200-300€ price range thanks to their good sound/price ratio, yet they were bulky. Plus, the choice of a central scroll-wheel to mimic the iPod was not the best option if you had a massive music base. The more conservative format of the FiiO M9 combined with the touchscreen feels both nicer and simpler.

Layout

“Goodbye central scroll-wheel, you are now moved to the left corner.” I’m not entirely sure that’s how it went, but I’m pretty sure some FiiO engineers thought that. It’s clearly the most distinctive feature of the FiiO M9, visually speaking, the golden scroll-wheel.

A noticeable scroll-wheel for the volume and a red ring on the power button, it’s a gimmick first introduced on the FiiO X5 Mark III. Only the wheel survived on the M9, which is strange since the FiiO M7 kept both of them. Another strange quirk: where the M7 had a wide and flat scroll-wheel with the famous red lining, the M9 got a fully golden wheel, rounded.

Its neat design is underlined by the whole design of the M9 but if you’re right-handed, it feels a bit awkward. The volume wheel fits perfectly under my thumb, when the player is backward. If you’re left-handed it’s perfect and maybe that was the goal : to make the first left-handed audiophile player.

On the lower end, the layout is made of :

– 1x 3.5mm headphone/line/coax output.Single ended to suit the majority of headphones/earphones. For those who rely on external amplifiers, this is the port you have to use.

Surprisingly, this Output also works as the coaxial Output, to plug an external DAC and keep the M9 as a source only.

– 1x 2.5mm TRRS headphone Output. The one to plug your balanced headphones/earphones to. This FiiO didn’t succumb to the 4.4mm sirens yet, which is a good news for me not much for some of you.

All the outputs got a nice golden ring, like the iBasso DX120, which doesn’t make a big difference sonically speaking, but adds a nice touch of luxury, like the volume wheel. Next to those outputs, you have the all new usb type C, supposed to be the next generation all-in-one connector. The integration is perfect and you won’t have to worry about loosly connection in the future.

All the buttons are put on the left side of the Fiio M9. From up to bottom you have: 

  • the power/sleep button, 
  • the volume wheel, 
  • the play/pause 
  • the next/preview track control

A little issue I had with the power button : if you use the silicon sleeve, each time I removed it I powered on the player unintentionally. 

Overall, it would be unfair to criticize the design and layout of the FiiO M9, even more when you know it costs only 299€. In this price range, it’s one, if not the best build I’ve come across these last months. If the IBasso DX120 feels sturdier, the M9 is much sleeker.

Screen

The FiiO M7 amazed me with its screen but I felt less convinced by the M9. The size of the screen is roughly the same but the bezels are HUGE. In a world of border-less screens, be it smartphones or TV, the M9 feels inadequate with half a bezel half a centimeter wide left and right, up to a full inch on the bottom. I would have preferred a bigger screen, even if at the end FiiO would rise the MSRP.

Contrast-wise the M9 is ok but the screen brightness is not very high. In a well lit environment the screen will look pale and lavish. In your classic work space or at home, you may not see the difference. It’s still better than FiiO X5 Mark III or X7 Mark II screens, especially the viewing angles. The resolution makes up for the sheer size of the screen, everything looks crisp and sharp, as it should be.

Also, you can finally change the wallpaper, with any picture you have stored in the FiiO M9 memory. It’s a small detail but it’s not so common, even with modern DAP.

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Review: FiiO M9 – Wizard of the East
4.1 (81.4%) 43 votes

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

    20 Comments

    • Reply November 27, 2018

      User

      Worst review ever

      • Reply November 28, 2018

        Lieven

        Thank you. Come again.

        • Reply December 28, 2018

          neverenoughbackups

          i found it to be an enjoyable, enlightening read. thank you for all of your thoughts and words.

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        Love your opinion, I’ll improve to make the next one the #2 worst review ever 😉

    • Reply November 27, 2018

      Parta

      I have a Fiio Q5, is it an upgrade if i buy the M9.

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        Honestly, I don’t think you’ll hear a big upgrade. The FiiO Q5 has a better amp circuit IMO and is one of the best performer in FiiO range. The M9 is more if you want an all-in-one player instead of a bulky DAC/AMP.

        I would have kept the Q5 if sound is your main concern, the M9 if you want to carry one device only.

    • Reply November 27, 2018

      Juan Luis

      So the dx120 and n5ii have better sound quality? I have a cayin n3, but i need to upgrade for my Meze 99 Neo and Dunu Falcon C.

    • Reply November 29, 2018

      Rob

      Hi reviewer. This was an interesting and informative review, thanks. Your writing is unfortunately full of grammatical errors, which reduces the quality of the reading experience. I’d be happy to do a quick edit on your next review before you post it if interested. Cheers.

    • Reply December 10, 2018

      Raphael

      Thank you for the great review. I have a question regarding the M9 vs X7ii. Which would you choose if you could buy either one for the same price? I use streaming services a lot.

      Thank you 🙂

    • Reply December 15, 2018

      Craig Burdick

      Your review was somewhat interesting if not overly thorough but due to extremely amateur writing, I just could not continue. Before you get bitter and lash out, understand this; I want nothing from you or anyone. I am neither affiliated with nor interested with, in any way, this website. You are (if you choose) fortunate that I saw your review and although I didn’t get what I’m certain you wanted me to get from it and because I am a professional writer and I make a fair $265K per year doing it and I know with absolute certainty of the hardship that awaits you if you continue on this path and fail the heed the warnings you will read here. I would rather you not contact me unles it is to say thanks in one form or another. Again, I will never want a nickel from you….ever. Likely hard to believe in this high crime area we call the Internet but it is the honest to god truth. You appear as a young person in desperate need of some mentoring. Alright, if that didn’t qualify me for what I’m about to tell you, you have already deleted me and my message. OKAY, HERE YOU GO: I must tell you, and I simply cannot imagine that I am alone here that the quality of your writing leaves much to desire and I’ll also tell you, that is putting it softly. Simply and honestly, if this is your career and you are serious about it, you have two simply options and the first is spend a great deal of your time and energy doing whatever it takes to improve, even master your command of the English language. Demonstrated improvements in these basic English language skills are not important, no, that doesn’t sum it up correctly, they must be approached as though your very career as a writer in the English language has zero chance of moving forward without a swift and immediate change just as I have laid out. As it is, your English comprehension, vocabulary, grammar and certainly your writing skills will cause the loss of AND failure to retain more readers, not to mention you wil immediately lose credibility of the many employers you will likely visit who will never take the time to tell you the constructive truth. This Constructive truth and the (hopeful) wholesale improvements that YOU will make are the beat chance and the best advice you will ever hear if this is a viable career for you. I see this often with amateur writers but have NEVER done this before…ever! Why YOU? Why today? Because I recognized your passion for that player, I understand the amount of knowledge that is required to prepare and publish a technical story like that. You can do so much better for your readers. Believe me, you will be handsomely rewarded (in much more exciting ways than money alone could ever bring). If you opt to not “hear” what this person here (Me), a complete random stranger who would like nothing more than to someday, somehow know that this 2 hours (that’s how long I’ve been at this my friend) I dedicated out of my life for a fellow complete stranger actually did help. I promise you, I will never want anything beyond that. I wish the best for you! Happy Holidays

      • Reply December 24, 2018

        Steve Johnson

        ” ………..interesting if not overly thorough but due to extremely amateur…….”. Missing a comma after “thorough”.

        “You are (if you choose) fortunate that I saw your review and although I didn’t get what I’m certain you wanted me to get from it and because ……..”. Convoluted.

        “……honest to god truth”. Capitalize ‘God’.

        “……the quality of your writing leaves much to desire”. Re-write “much to be desired”

        “….if this is your career and you are serious about it, you have two simply options” …??

        I could go on, but I really can’t be bothered.

        I’m a manual worker with a college education. If even I can spot the tremendous amount of grammatical errors, missing or wrong punctuation and general bad syntax in your reply, then it’s possible your employer may wish to hire me for $250k a year.

      • Reply December 28, 2018

        stillneedmorebackups

        Dear Craig, try reading a book; you’re full of shit.

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        Amen to that !

      • Reply January 11, 2019

        Ryan Maximus

        You are a professional writer? Your writing is chock full of grammatical errors too, and you have the nerve to criticize this guy? Buzz off doofus and nice try trying to convince everyone of your superior writing prowess because you failed miserably. Oh my, my writing is full of punctuation errors too I better buzz off too. Simpleton.

    • Reply December 30, 2018

      Ano Senah

      Thanks for the article, I have the Fiio M9, I also have an onkyo dpx1 and a chord mojo. I agree with your review you have confirmed my own impressions in regards to this unit. To listen I use several “cheap-ish” iems and headphones, (sennheiser HD 6xx, sony mdr 1000xm2, Sony MDR-XB950 bt), (fiio FH5, RHA t20i, KZ ZST, jabra elite 65t active and one more triple driver) I feel the sound quality is not as good as the oknyo dpx-1 in general but where I give the fiio full marks in portability and ease of use and once amplified by the chord mojo 😁 it takes on a new demension and becomes excellent. I have no doubt this is due to the power and prowess of the chord mojo, it works well stacked and is not too bulky to pocket when stacked 😉. Where the fiio M9’s excellence shines is as a portable small and pocket friendly DAP. Grabbing it out of your bag having left it there for the whole week without charging it and it still has over 50% battery, going to the gym or for a run with Bluetooth headphones or iems and still having excellent sound quality is great, (I drive to work so I don’t to use it much for commuting during the week, besides my car audio is amazing so I don’t need it). Going a quick walk you almost forget you have it in your pocket, it’s just so convenient. In my humble opinion it’s the best portable DAP of 2018 out there considering the following factors price point, Bluetooth functionality, streaming services, portability, battery life, scalability (usb c-chord mojo) no frills simple software.

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        Can’t agree more, the FiiO M9 outperforms most of the player in term of power consumption.
        You can get better sound in more expensive player, but I don’t think you can get a better all-in-one device in this price range.

        And yes, it’s perfect for everyday use 😉

    • […] reviewed the FiiO M9 a few time ago. Spoiler alert : I really liked it. It’s a great piece of hardware, combining […]

    • Reply January 16, 2019

      Jose A Carranza

      Thank you so much for the information, I do understand Google Music is not an option (unless you can just download the APK but I am not sure if this is part of the white-list thing) I am just curious as I use a Chromecast Audio through a oldish Denom receiver at home and I cast music and I have no problems with high resolution files be it FLAC or WAV, but I am just curious to know if I would still be able to just stream my library with this device over the Chromecast, Tidal would be terrific if it can just get my library synced with Tidal. For some reason my phone is not compatible with the Android Tidal Music app. I’ll have to look into more but I surely appreciate any information you may have about this.

      Thank you again for the great review!

    • Reply January 18, 2019

      Im.Kz

      Hi, I’ve been using AK Jr & Cayin C5. Do you think it worth to upgrade to M9? Does M9 support spotify and tidal? Thanks in advance

    • Reply January 29, 2019

      Alessandro

      But then, at the end of the day, does this M9 sound like?

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