One of the questions I often get when recommending a portable music player is whether they don’t already have everything they need on their mobile phone, or what these devices can do that Apple’s latest iPhone can’t.
It is there when I try to explain to them (not always with the expected success) what are for me the four great advantages that these players have. First of all, a sound quality superior to that of any mobile phone, no matter how expensive it is. For this they are usually equipped with internal components designed specifically for that: to make the music sound better.
Second, and unlike virtually every smartphone on the market, these players support high- and ultra-high-resolution audio files, in a huge variety of formats. In addition, they usually have a user interface specially designed for audio playback, with advanced options that allow you to work with equalization, gains, different types of headphones, etc. Finally, both for storage and for autonomy, they tend to be more attractive options for the person who spends a good part of their day listening to music.
And to the question of whether we did not already have all this in the iPod and other classic MP3 players, the answer is what you are imagining: No. All these arguments do not usually convince, truth be told, the majority of the people with whom I have the opportunity to chat on this subject. However, from time to time, I can exchange impressions with music lovers, authentic audiophiles for whom to invest the 600 euros (approximately) that this FiiO M11 S may be more than justified.
Portability is not incompatible with quality
Perhaps some of you remember the analysis that we published about the FiiO M17 a few months ago. The essence of that device was similar to that of this FiiO M11, which is presented as the “little brother” of the previous one. And it is that although of course the M17 left us very good sensations in terms of power, build, and overall quality, it just kept on coming. HEr more of a portable than a portable player: Too big and heavy to be able to use it comfortably outside the home.
So the first thing we are going to notice about this M11, if not its lightness, at least is that it weighs half as much as the previous one: 310 grams compared to the 610 grams of its older brother. In addition, and although both the width and length of the M11 is only slightly smaller, the thickness is also reduced by almost half (from 28 mm to 17 mm). That being said, outwardly what we have are two frankly similar devices that really only differ in their connectivity options, with the largest having up to three independent line outputs and going down to two in this model. With an internal storage capacity of 32 GB (perhaps the weakest point of the player), however, we have the possibility of expanding this capacity by using microSD cards up to 2TB or even connect an external hard drive through its USB-C connector (which we will also use to charge the device or to synchronize our files.
On its 5.5” IPS screen (1440x720p) we can manage this FiiO M11 based on Android 10 in five different ways: pure music (based on native device software), Android (mode in which we can install applications such as Spotify or Tidal), USB-DACs (which will change its use to become a portable DAC – for example for our computer), receiver bluetooth (if we want to connect it to speakers that do not have this feature), or receiver airplay.
As in almost all the devices of the Chinese brand, what we find in this M11 is a balance between top-level components and a more or less adjusted price. And here that balance is achieved with a DAC ES9038Q2m×2, amplifier OPA926*2 and the processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 660. While the processor does match what we found in the M17, in that one what we had inside was a tremendous desktop with a separate unit Saber ES9038PROone of the highest performance solutions on the market that we can find for audio processing of up to 32 bits.
And here, of course, we don’t go that far, but it’s not necessary either, since the power levels of the DAP reach 550mW, also having three gain levels that facilitate its use with high impedance and high sensitivity headphones. As a complement, it incorporates the technology All to DSD, by which PCM audio signals are converted to the DSD format during the digital/analog conversion process, which allows you to experience a natural and clear sound and which, in its third version, consumes 30% less energy. Also fans of “saving space” storage, will like to know that the device also has support for decoding tracks MQAfor a reproduction in master quality but with manageable files.
To feed “the beast” it has, in the first place, a battery of 5.300mAh with 27W fast charge for QC2.0/3.0/4.0 and USB PD fast charge. All this translates into a player capable of delivering music for up to 10 hours continuously and more than 1,000 hours on standby. This It translates, when we add all the elements involved, into a precise, elegant sound quality, with great detail and clarity in the midrange and treble and compact depth in the bass, without us having perceived any degree of distortion even in the heaviest tracks. .
On the other hand, in its work as a DAC, the M11 is capable of reaching rates up to 384 kHz/32 bits in its USB DAC function, supporting a wide variety of formats via USB connector including DSD128, DoP/D2P and native DSD.
As we have previously pointed out, the FiiO M11 offers the user up to five different modes of use, thus becoming a small-great Swiss Army knife for fans who want to squeeze the most out of their music collection.
With Android 10 at the heart of this device, it is true that we will be able to count on the most popular applications when, for example, playing our music in the cloud or on the different streaming platforms. In the “Pure Music” mode, however, we still think that the company should make more efforts to improve the translation of certain menu items and offer a more precise explanation of the different technical options offered when playing the files, somewhat obscure for those who do not have certain previous knowledge.
We have an example of this with FiiO Link. What the company puts in our hands in this case is a small utility that allows us to control our FiiO device remotely from an Android/iOS phone, which is very useful when, for example, we connect the player to external speakers. And yet, this is something that we must discover on our own since neither the instructions that accompany the device nor the menu guide us on what it is for.
And this is a warning to boaters. Chinese brands like FiiO have matched (and sometimes surpassed) established names in the US or Europe in build quality, component quality and audio experience… but they still have to learn when it comes to building user interfaces… already that the experience can be somewhat frustrating in some cases.
If you have come this far, it is probably because you are seriously considering the possibility of getting a portable HiFi player. And surely you have come to the conclusion that this FiiO M11S has a lot in its favor and little against it. And you can’t go wrong if… you’re picky about the audio quality you want from your headphones but you’re certainly not willing to spend a fortune.
So if balance is the word you’re looking for, the M11 S is for you. It is not perfect of course and as we have pointed out, its software has to improve… but when you overcome a small learning curve between the different menus and options it offers, it will give you a lot of joy. FiiO M11 S is available for 549 euros.
Audio quality and features9