Having released a multitude of digital audio players for entry, mid and now hi-fi consumers, Fiio are a company dedicated in maximising value for money propositions with a strive for continual improvement.
Their latest breed of players include the Fiio M11 Pro digital audio player which improves upon the M11 Pro with an all new carefully implemented dual AK4497EQ DAC chipset, balanced amplifier module configuration and upgraded clock system. The ‘Pro’ moniker highlights Fiio’s aim to redefine audio standards and provide offerings for all spectrums of the budget.
Priced at $649, the M11 Pro retails at the same price at the original X7 2nd generation. However, it features a larger 5.15 inch display in 720p resolution. The aim being to entice users with a familiar UI experience without sacrificing on battery life.
The M11 Pro has an appealing design which hosts elegance in its simplicity. The large screen estate on the angular design is one its striking features and it looks both premium and solid in its aesthetics and feel. This is substantiated by the rear glass panel which adds an element of class and ergonomics to the overall design with its carbon fibre texturing.
The left hand side houses a golden volume wheel, a play/pause button and back/forward button. The scroll wheel is reminiscent of Questyle’s styling and indeed matches the PRO moniker seen on the bottom of the left hand side of the device.
The top houses a single on/off button with a blue LED surrounding it. The right side features a micro SF slot which supports up to 2 TB of external storage on top of the 64 GB internal storage which comes with the device. On the bottom, there are a plethora of outputs including the 3.5 mm output for headphones/ line-out, as well as the 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm balanced outputs. There is also the USB type C connection which works for both output of sound as well as for charging purposes.
The screen of the M11 pro uplifts the player into modern standards with a highly immersive borderless design featuring a large color gamut, 1440 x 720 screen resolution, 10 point touch and high pixel density. While the screen lacks 1080p/4K resolution, Fiio have opted for a lesser but perfectly acceptable resolution to prolong battery life and focus on the truly important part of this device – its sound. The touchscreen is a much welcomed feature that this product has which puts it leaps and bounds ahead of the Questyle QP1R and 2R in the aspect of intuitiveness and user interface.
The User Interface
Like the original X7, the M11 Pro is an Android-based DAP and boots in much the same way as an Android smartphone does. What is different here is that Fiio have removed the Google play store functionality and have instead built a Fiio marketplace where apps such as Tidal, Spotify and Deezer can be downloaded.
The M11 Pro uses Android Nougat 7.0 as its primary OS and the UI feels very fluid and responsive overall. The design element feels much cleaner and cohesiver than the X-series before it and is definitely a right step forward in the modern arena of DAPs. Overall, it is impressive to see how far Fiio have come with the user interface side of things.
Fiio have opted to feature two AK4497EQ chips instead of the M11’s AK4493EQ. The Pro packs in an all new amplifier topology including dual THX AAA-78 amps which are said to be more powerful and efficient than the OPA926 dual amps before it. The overall sound is said to be more precise and natural compared to the M11. With an 8 stage amplification, 6 layers of gold-plated PCB and 4-way independent power supply, Fiio certainly mean business. The Pro also includes MQA technology and supports up to 384 kHx PCM as well as native DSD256. The player also is the first to make use of the Samsung Exynos 7872 hexa-core processor to aid in delivering an extremely fluid and responsive user experience.
Despite featuring a battery worth 4370 mAh, the Fiio M11 Pro only deliver around 9 hours of playtime next to the original M11’s 13 hours. However the M11 Pro has a much more extended standby battery of 55 days compared to the M11’s 23. It also takes 2.5 hours to charge the audio player to full capacity.
The M11 Pro offers a clean and resolute sound with a linear presentation extending from top to tail. The THX AAA-78 amps help to instil this presentation amongst a black backdrop aiding the refined sound delivery.
Bass performance is accurate with a fast decay and responsive handling times. Compared to the Questyle line of DAPs (QP1R and QP2R), the Fiio M11 Pro has a lighter bass with the former sounding more mid-bass heavy and musical. However, the neutral signature is revealing and transparent making music sound true to source as well as transducer.
The midrange frequencies are equally painted in the same linear and balanced picture as the lower basslines. Both micro and macrodynamics are excellent and even though the presentation is slightly mid-forward, there is a good sense of imaging, separation and depth.
Compared to the ESS Sabre chips of Fiio’s yester-generation products, the new AK4497EQ chips induce a more natural presentation that sounds a tad more relaxed. However, treble details are still retained and there is some ever so slight treble sparkle that pushes the M11 Pro to sound more analytical than musical.
The M11 Pro synergised well with a number of IEMs owing to its low and high gain settings. It was able to handle more sensitive monitors without creating hiss as well as less sensitive ones by delivering spades of power output.
Overall, Fiio have created a strong contender within the realm of digital audio players. The M-series of DAPs takes it a step further with an even more cohesive UI, beautiful aesthetics and strong sound profile. Many users such as myself are happy with the inclusion of streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify which not all DAPs have the functionality to offer. Coupled with the powerful amplifiers and neutral but refined sonic presentation, the M11 Pro is an all-in-one solution equipped to service the modern audiophile’s needs. It will be intriguing to see what the Chinese audio firm will be next to release. Do stay tuned …
Fiio M11 Pro Digital Audio Player