This week we reviewed the FiiO M6 DAP. It is the entry-level model and smallest member of the Chinese manufacturer’s M range of digital audio players. The FiiO M7 and FiiO M9 DAPs’ younger sibling has plenty of selling points. It features a powerful DAC, Bluetooth compatibility, is certified Hi-Res Audio and offers a generous battery life. Here is an overview of this stylish little DAP which sells for less than 150 euros.
FiiO M6: presentation
The FiiO M6 DAP features the same ESS Sabre 9018Q2C DAC as the FiiO M7. It is therefore compatible with PCM 24/192 and DSD hi-res audio files. Featuring a version of Android optimized for music playback, it is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7270 processor. The Exynos 7270 is an energy efficient dual core model mostly used in smart objects, but in the M6 it is rather sluggish. We’ll go into more detail on this later.
The FiiO M6’s 2 GB of internal memory can be supplemented with a micro-SD card (max 2 TB). Its USB port allows the DAP to be used as an asynchronous USB DAC, with a MAC or PC computer. It is also compatible with Bluetooth and handles aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs. Lastly, it is equipped with a Wi-Fi network controller, therefore reading files shared on a home network and accessing online music services such as Deezer, Spotify and Qobuz are not a problem for this DAP.
FiiO M6: packaging and accessories
The FiiO M6 DAP comes in a cardboard box on which a photo of the device is printed to scale. The manufacturer has also added the Hi-Res Audio and Bluetooth logos, as well as the logos for the aptX/aptX HD and LDAC codecs handled by the M6. As well as the DAP, the box contains a clear protective case (already on the DAP), the USB-A to USB-C charging cable, documents relevant to the player, and that’s it! If by any chance you wish to connect this DAP to your computer and hi-fi system or amp to use it as a USB DAC, you will have to acquire a mini-jack to mini-jack cable (such as the NorStone IRK 280) or a mini-jack to RCA (the Real Cable iPlug J35M2M, for example).
FiiO M6: perceived quality
Right off the bat, we were impressed by the design of the device. The FiiO M6 DAP is very compact but sits comfortably in your hand. Thanks to its petite size, it can even be slipped into the small watch pocket in a pair of jeans! The aluminum chassis gives the device a certain charm. The black plastic buttons on the top (power) and the left side of the DAP (volume and return) have no play and respond instantly. The 3.2” touch screen takes up about three quarters of the front of the device. When turned on, it offers a stunning display, even if it is very bright and reflects a lot of the ambient light. Outside in the sun, you will have to find the right angle so that it is clear to read.
FiiO M6: software interface
Among the shortcuts on the home screen you can find a file manager, access to the photo gallery (rather trivial), the technical support where you can update the firmware, and the settings. You have to go into the submenu of these settings to activate the USB DAC mode and AirPlay.
At the FiiO M6 DAP’s core is the proprietary FiiO Music music player. You have to use this app to scan and play the tracks stored in the DAP’s internal memory and memory card, but also to access DLNA servers present on the home network if your music is stored on a NAS.
Usually, the FiiO Music app allows you to either access all of your tracks directly, or browse by artist, album or genre. It is possible to create playlists and directly access files containing the audio tracks.
Though functional and pleasant to use, there is some latency when navigating through the different menus. We noticed a more or less significant delay from entering a command on the touch screen to it being triggered. It’s not a huge problem, but it does come as a bit of a surprise when you are used to the responsiveness of recent smartphone screens.
FiiO M6: installing the applications
The Tidal, Moov and KKBox online music services pre-installed on the FiiO M6 DAP. However, it is possible to install other apps, including Spotify, Qobuz, Deezer, Bandcamp, Amazon Music, SoundCloud and even TuneIn Radio to enjoy online radio stations on the DAP. But as there isn’t an application store on the device, you have to go through the manufacturer’s website (fiio.com/newsinfo/139014.html) to retrieve the corresponding APK files. These are actually the official installation files that are downloaded then installed via the FiiO M6’s file manager. We were able to install Deezer very easily to enjoy our subscription and access all of our playlists and favorite tracks.
FiiO M6: our listening impressions
François’ opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)
I mainly tested the FiiO M6 DAP in wired mode, using the Focal Stellia headphones, Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones, as well as the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear and Shure SE535 earphones. Note that the M6’s rather limited amplification power requires the DAP to be paired with headphones and earphones that have a high sensitivity rating (100 db or more) and, ideally, with an impedance under 32 ohms.
I listened to CD and Hi-Res quality audio files stored on the DAP’s internal memory and micro-SD card, as well as Deezer via a WiFi connection (Netgear Orbi router). I also tested the FiiO M6’s USB DAC mode with Hi-Res playback on Foobar 2000 (ASIO) installed on a PC (Windows 10).
The FiiO M6 DAP covers a very broad frequency range and offers a relatively balanced restitution with a lot of brightness. The lows are punchy, rather deep and organized: quite tame with the Focal Elegia headphones and Shure earphones, more energetic and demonstrative with the Sennheiser Momentum headphones and earphones. Vocals are expertly structured, well-placed, not too forward or withdrawn: this is very pleasant on acoustic recordings (guitar/vocals or piano/vocals) which aren’t tiring to listen to. The highs, very detailed, provide a lot of clarity, but sometimes have a tendency to hiss. This is quite obvious when using the Stellia and the Shure SE535s whose frequency response (which is almost perfectly neutral) accentuates this feature. It isn’t as apparent with the Momentums whose tonal balance, a little lower, compensates for this sibilance. That said, the restitution remains detailed, and attacks are distinct and well-timed. Stereo spatialization is fairly impressive, the depth too, even though we would have liked the music expand a little more freely.
Clément’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)
In USB DAC mode and paired with the RHA T20i in-ear headphones, the FiiO M6 demonstrates a lot of energy and provides a restitution that highlights the mids and highs. With recordings that are particularly bass-heavy, the M6 allows you to achieve a more coherent overall sound. As for the rest, it is recommended to use an equalizer to balance out the frequencies and avoid fatigue over time. The FiiO M6 DAP features a wide array of functions and provides a DAC USB mode that will improve the sound on the vast majority of computers. However, for a more detailed and soft restitution with a USB DAC or portable headphone amp, the FiiO Q1 Mark 2 is more suitable.
Anaïs’ opinion (son-Vidéo.com Grenoble)
Tested with the iBasso IT01 earphones and the B&W PX Bluetooth headphones (aptX HD).
Tracks played (non-exhaustive list):
– Black Magic Woman / Santana
– Waiting Here / The Avener
– Fairground / Simply Red
Before listening to the M6, I was initially very surprised by the physical aspect of the device: robust, with a minimalist design, elegant, and above all very light! Track scanning is carried out quickly and the DAP rapidly provides a clear, precise and detailed sound. Tones are rich, vocals are warm and highlighted without detriment to the depth of the soundstage. I was impressed by the excellent spatialization of the instruments, and I promptly found myself at the center of the soundstage, especially when listening to Santana’s Black Magic Woman. The lows are present, without taking over, and remain punchy. At this price, the FiiO M6 is an affordable little DAP that packs a punch!
FiiO M6: Verdict
The design is simple yet practical, the finish is elegant and the FiiO M6 DAP’s compact size truly won us over. Its “Android Audio” interface, also refined, is intuitive and functional. It doesn’t confuse the user and concentrates on the most important aspect: playing music.
The sound signature of the headphones or earphones that you choose to pair with this DAP should be carefully considered so as not to accentuate the sibilance. Choosing warm-sounding headphones or earphones, that have more bass and are less expressive in the highs will help calm the FiiO M6’s overzealous restitution. You could opt for a pair of Sony MDR-1AM2 or Grado SR-80e headphones for example, or even the Yamaha EPH-100 or Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear earphones. In any case, you can also rectify any issues by using the FiiO Music app’s built-in equalizer.
For less than 150 euros, the FiiO M6 doesn’t have any serious competitors except the Shanling M1.
What we liked:
- The pleasant to use and intuitive simplified Android interface.
- The presence of a USB DAC mode.
- Bluetooth compatibility for aptX, aptX HD & LDAC codecs.
What we would have liked:
- For the sound to have been less bright.
- A more reactive interface and screen.
- An app store to install applications without having to use the file manager.