Enter a world where audiophile listening can be taken with you everywhere you go. Mobile solutions from a handful of experienced companies that deliver an option small enough to slide right into your pocket. Companies like Sony, Astell&Kern, Opus, and FiiO. They all have such solutions, and we get to talk about the latter of them.
In the past, we developed a liking toward FiiO’s M9 player, which provided a wonderful portable solution for hi-res formats. It has since proven to be a great benchmark solution for various headphones and made its way into other similar stories. Now, we have been testing out their new flagship model that recently released, the FiiO M11 Pro, which proves itself well as an audiophile’s best pick within their lineup (no contest).
Like the M9, the M11 Pro is a master of many functions. It provides an excellent solution for a hi-res DAP (digital audio player) for both wired and wireless devices alike and then extends itself as a USB DAC, Bluetooth receiver, and more.
A familiar design for a portable player packing a full touch-screen interface. It features a 720p screen that looks amazing to the eyes. No need for 1080 or 4K since this is all about dedicating the resources and budget to audio before anything else. This also helps to improve on battery life since you do want it to last all day no matter the day’s usage.
The top features a power button for turning the player on and off with or waking the screen when it is idle. Then on the left side, you have a play/pause button, a volume wheel, and a toggle (up and down) button that controls things like track selection/skip/previous.
The right side of the player features a micro SD slot (or TF card) for expanding the memory with, that supports up to 2TB. It is a tray-style slot that is similar to many smartphones, which requires a small paperclip-then tool for sliding it out with. The player also natively has 64GB of space inside, providing plenty of space to get started before you do get your hands on a card. All-in-all, giving you all of the space needed for a huge library of music of any format.
The bottom side of the player features a 3.5mm output for headphones (PO) or line-out (LO), and you can select what it is being used for in the settings., It also offers a SPDIF digital-out using a provided digital coaxial adapter (for feeding the digital input of a receiver or amp). We’ll explain that last part in a moment. There is also a 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced output.
Then you have a USB-C connection that works in both directions (output of sound as well as charging for the internal battery).
Quite similar to a smartphone in shape and size, it is a bit larger than the M9 and a little heavier too. Of course, this doesn’t take away from its enjoyment in any way because you can only imagine the upgrades inside that led to this.
It doesn’t come with a case like the M9 does sadly, which was a surprise. It would have been a nice touch to find a screen protector and a simple silicone case inside the box. Thankfully, this doesn’t take away from quality and function in any way.
Android 7.0 is the magic behind the interface, with extended support for Android in general, including access to the Google Chrome browser. So if you are connected to Wi-Fi, you will also be able to search the web. You have access to the store, allowing you to download additional apps and services, extending upon the media you have access to playing.
Getting started is pretty simple. When you turn it on for the first time, it asks you to choose a language, but then you are right into using it. There is no need to have to log into your Google account for Android or anything. You, of course, need to log into the various streaming services, but that’s it.
It does come preloaded with a number of apps already, some more familiar than others. There is FiiO’s own FiiO Music app (player), as well as a file manager, image gallery, settings, and technical support. You then have 3rd party streaming apps. The store features a list of approved/whitelisted apps that will work, along with the downloads on their site. Apps like Amazon Music, Deezer, Spotify, Tidal, and more. There are even third-party app stores you can download and browse.
Inside of the player, it features two Japanese AK4497EQ DACs by AKM (Asahi Kasei Microdevices), providing great digital to analog results. It also packs two powerful fully balanced THX AAA-78 amplifiers. It offers support for just about every hi-res format out there. From individual track files of every kind (ie, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless, MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC, APE FAST/High/Normal, APE Extra High, APE Insane, and Apple Lossless) to ISO files, DSD and more. In fact, it supports DSD256, where the M9 was limited to DSD128.
You have wireless support that includes FiiO Link, AirPlay, DLNA and WiFi. This also includes bi-directional Bluetooth support. You can connect wireless headphones to it directly, but it can also be used with a computer as a Bluetooth transmitter while using it as a USB DAC, giving the ability to use wireless headphones with your computer. On top of this, it also acts as a Bluetooth receiver, which means you can connect the player to a stereo and transmit Bluetooth music to it from a mobile device (this is where that coaxial connect comes into play).
Bluetooth functionality is enhanced thanks to support for multiple Hi-Res and lossless Bluetooth codecs, including SBC, aptX/aptX HD, LDAC, and LHDC. This way, wireless music sounds nearly as enhanced as your wired headphones. In fact, depending on the headphones, you might find yourself quite surprised by the result.
Now, speaking of USB DAC, like the M9, it can be connected to a computer and used as an external DAC solution. Especially useful for computers that don’t already have DAC support (typically high-end systems can come with DAC chipsets onboard the motherboard or a soundcard). Given, the chance of getting native support in a PC that comes anywhere close to this place is rare. So this is a great feature to have in your pocket that can be connected to nearly any modern computer for enhanced media playback (with one exception).
The exception is the fact that it is best used for music without any video involved. There is a slightly noticeable delay (latency). So this can be noticeable when watching movies, music videos and so on. The slight delay isn’t going to kill you–it’s just noticeable. So for some, this could become distracting if they are OCD about things like this.
So you have Hi-Res digital music player, Wi-Fi streaming with apps, external USB DAC for computers, Bluetooth receiver and transmitter for computers and stereos, and you can connect Bluetooth headphones directly to it. This is no normal portable music device. It’s more like a “portable do just about anything you’d like device” that supports nearly every Hi-Res format out there.
The M9 was a player that sounded fantastic. This M11 Pro, however, is a player that just woos you into a deep music coma that you don’t want to come back from. It competes against just about every sub $1,000 portable DAP solution we’ve seen. We’ve debated over what models we prefer more than this, and the answers all point to brands like Astell & Kern (and a price tag that reaches much further than this one). That says a lot for FiiO’s ability to stand out.
We, of course, spent hours listening to our endless supply of Hi-Res music, covering FLAC, APE, DSD and more. Its ability to deliver these kinds of formats is superb no matter the genre. The only thing you’d find yourself swapping out is the headphones you have plugged in (since a pair of headphones isn’t necessarily good for everything you want to listen to). Finding the best match between headphones with this DAC was quite fun.
It pairs well with their FH5 Quad Driver in-ear buds, as well as many other fantastic headphones, like the Meze Audio 99 Classics, Bowers & Wilkens’ P9 Signature headphones, and beyerdynamic’s DT-880 headphones (despite a drop in volume since we tested this using the 600 ohm SE Premium BT-880 model).
It doesn’t just stop there though. Using it as a DAC to listen to music videos on YouTube comes with a lot of shock value. I know I said don’t watch videos with it as a DAC, but if you just listen to the music itself coming from YouTube’s platform…wow. MP3s sound amazing. Everything sounds amazing.
Bluetooth sounds amazing as well, although, in the end, you will still go with wired if you are looking to bring out the very best in the player. Still, if wireless is your thing, you won’t be disappointed at all.
Its performance as a USB-DAC is more than noticeable, enhancing the audio of any computer system. Again though, you will experience some latency when it comes to watching videos. It isn’t as bad as the M9. In fact, the latency is less than a second from what we’ve seen, making it much more tolerable. However, in the end, it is still all about the music by itself. It would be quite difficult to find a motherboard with onboard DAC support that can perform any better than this. You’d have to go with a soundcard like a flagship model from Creative and yet you still won’t be able to match up to this.
You do of course have to go into your sound device settings in your computer to make sure you have the proper resolution configuration selected so that you can get up to 384kHz/32 bit out of it.
You get close to 10 hours of audio playback via its 4370 mAh battery and many more hours while in standby. In fact, it far surpassed the M9 when it comes to standby battery life. We were able to let it sit around for a few days until we came back to it to find out the battery had drained less than 10%.
The Android interface is also incredibly fast for a portable player like this. It’s all thanks to a Samsung Exynos 7872 2Ghz multi-core processor and 3GB of RAM. A admirable upgrade if compared to the M9.
They still need to work on 3rd party apps and streaming. We’d like to see additional support for some of the popular streaming apps. Maybe a wider selection of Hi-Res player apps to compare and contrast playback with. A case and screen protector would also have been great, given the price of the M11 Pro is $649.99.
This DAP goes beyond being a good Hi-Res portable player. Like some of their other models, the ability to go wired or wireless, and then be used as a Bluetooth receiver or transmitter for computers and stereos/AVRs, and then be used as a USB-DAC for your computer, and then, and then, and then (etc). It just really sells itself well when it comes to options and flexibility all around. Of course, most importantly, it sounds amazing paired with your favorite pairs of reference/audiophile headphones and buds. The fact that you can throw literally any Hi-Res music format at it (including ISOs), and then listen to an MP3 and still be amazed, is a huge win for this model. It doesn’t come with a case or screen protector this round, and there is still some latency when it comes to audio/video while using it as a USB DAC (although it isn’t nearly as noticeable with this model), but there is no doubt about how much improvement there is between this and the M9. An absolutely fantastic portable solution for any pair of headphones up to 250 ohms. We’ve had a lot of fun with this one, resulting in a near-perfect score from us.
|Buy from Amazon | Buy from B&H|
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- CPU: Exynos 7872
- DAC: AK4497EQ*2
- USB DAC: 384kHz/32bit
- DSD: DSD256
- USB: Type C USB2.0
- Display size: 5.15 inches
- Dimensions: About 130mm×70.5mm×16.5mm
- Weight: About 232g
- Charging time: <2.5h (QC2.0, 18WFast-charging)
- Battery capacity: 4370mAh
- Battery life: 9.5 hours
- Output power 1: 200mW(32ohm/PO)
- Output power 2: 550mW(32ohm/BAL)
- Frequency response: 5Hz~85kHz (-3dB)
- SNR :=<118dB (A-weighted?)
- Output impedance: <1.1ohm (32ohm)
- THD+N: <0.00084% (A-weighted)
- Peak Output Voltage: 11.87Vp-p (BAL)
Co-Authors: Ryan Sanders, James Hrenak
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.
Don’t forget to subscribe for a chance to win cool prizes!