Review: FiiO M9 – Wizard of the East

Sound performance

For the purpose of this review, I used my Unique Melody Maestro for IEM testing and the Sennheiser HD-800S for headphone comparison. All files were FLAC 16/44 or FLAC 96/24 from Qobuz, be it in USB DAC mode or pure player mode.

Streaming comes from Spotify in “exceptional” mode and low gain

Overall signature

Unmistakably, the FiiO M9 sounds… like a FiiO player. Even if the brand uses various DACs for all its players, I’m always surprised to find the same typical sound signature across them. A subtle emphasis on the mids, a narrower sound stage than iBasso but zero hiss whatsoever on all my IEM. 

The sound stage is still wide enough for 90% of the tracks I listened to, even if you stick to the classic 3.5mm output. The balanced output push it on higher grounds, adding a layer of depth and this should be your main choice if you have compatible headphones.

Compared to the FiiO X5 Mark III, the one that the M9 should be replacing, it’s a real upgrade. The background is much cleaner and I could hear subtle details, on the M9 that I couldn’t hear on the X5. It’s one of the most satisfying sensation, to rediscover some tracks each time you listen to them. It’s not Astell&Kern precise of course, but in this price range I’m pretty sure you’ll have a hard time finding a more coherent presentation, sonically speaking.

I tried Summer 3 from Max Richter Recomposed, a classic revisited. It’s a good test track with violin, viola and a massive dynamic range. If the FiiO M9 gave me a lot of details, it’s unharmful signature was also its flaw. The highs are a bit too smooth and you can feel a little roll-off once you’ve passed the 10kHz border, but that’s FiiO signature.

The overall signature is lush and should suit all genres, however, the M9 really shines with jazz records. I tried the DAP with a few diva tracks like Norah Jones “Sunrise” and the experience is exquisite. On modern track like The Hills from The Weekend, it works well too as the FiiO signature corrected this V-shaped song.

The output power is good for IEM or portable headphones but don’t expect to drive big cans like the Sennheiser HD-800. On mine I had to plug another amplifier to the line-out, if not the headphone would not give me any bass…

Tonality

Highs : clean but expect a roll-off after 10kHz. If you find Sabre ESS chips too harsh, the FiiO M9 would be a good choice. The highs are balanced and never felt tiresome even with hard-hitting dubstep as I listen sometimes. For a new listener or if you want to discover classical music, this player could be a potent choice.

Mids : smooth. The “plat de resistance” of the FiiO M9, excellent timbre restitution, good sound stage and all the details you would expect from a DAP. Batteries and guitars feel alive, be it rock and folk or heavy metal, voices are perfectly rendered, there is basically nothing bad to say.

Lows : a bit too soft. The FiiO M9 felt a bit shy on the lower end, the X7 Mark III or Q5 gave me a better impression on this side. If you really want to get the best of this player, plug an amp to it. It’s good but it’s not slamming as I’d love to hear, the bass seems too soft for me out of the box. Once properly amplified, it sounds much better and you really feel the potential of the M9.

Noise : good point, I never heard noise whatsoever on my IEM. If a silent background is your top priority, you should look out here.

Conclusion

A versatile player, that was the goal of FiiO with the M9. With a lot of features, Bluetooth duplex, WiFi streaming and evolving hardware/software, the brand has made big improvements from the previous generations. It’s a smaller device, definitely more portable than before, yet it feels sturdier and nimbler. I still prefer the FiiO M7 design, but it doesn’t sound as good.

Sound is very good as you would expect, the FiiO M9 carrying the brand signature. The sweet sound of numeric I should say, as the DAP never felt harsh once. If you want a bright signature, I’d suggest another brand or model as this one is intended to please none but all.

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.

 

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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?

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.