Review: FiiO M11 Pro

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Retailed at €699, the FiiO M11 Pro is a more high-end version of the FiiO M11 DAP. It uses a double AKM AK4497EQ DAC (PCM 32-bit/384kHz / DSD 256 playback) and incorporates an amplification stage developed by THX and characterized by very low distortion. As a reminder, these are the same circuits that equip the FiiO AM3D amplification module mainly used with the FiiO X7 Mark II DAP.

One of the FiiO M11 Pro DAP’s main advantages is its USB DAC mode for high resolution playback of files stored on a computer. The M11 Pro is a portable device that is also suited to home use.

Like the M11, the FiiO M11 Pro features three headphone outputs, two of which are balanced, to power either a pair of hi-fi headphones or a pair of IEMs. Thanks to its Bluetooth controller (aptX HD and LDAC) it can also stream music wirelessly to Bluetooth headphones. The FiiO M11 Pro DAP can be connected to a computer via USB to be used as a USB DAC. Its 64GB of internal storage (52GB of which are available to use) can be extended thanks to the Micro-SD port.

Do the two AK4497EQ DACs and integrated THX amplification circuits make the FiiO M11 Pro a step up from the FiiO M11? Find out in this review.

FiiO M1 Pro: the brand

Founded in 2007, the Chinese brand rapidly forged itself a solid reputation thanks to the excellent value of its DAPs and portable headphone amplifiers.

The manufacturer’s first portable digital audio player was released in 2013. The FiiO X3 featured a Wolfson WM8740 DAC. It offered an excellent battery life, produced a sound on par with the best music players of the time and was one of the first models to provide a USB DAC mode. With the FiiO X3, the Chinese manufacturer made a striking entrance into the HD DAP market.

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The FiiO X3 is optimized for Hi-Res audio file playback: Wolfson WM8740 DAC, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), WAV and APE playback up to 24-bit/192kHz, powerful amplification (540mW into 32 ohms).

In 2015, FiiO launched a new DAP with a large tactile screen: the FiiO X7. The X7 was a small revolution as it integrates an Android operating system (modified for audiophile use). It also features an interchangeable amplification section. The user can therefore choose between different amplification modules with output powers adapted to different types of headphones or earphones. FiiO provides the FiiO AM3D module that already exploits the THX AAA (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) amplification technology also present in the FiiO M11 Pro DAP.

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The FiiO X7 incorporates a version of Android 5.1 optimized for audio. Its ESS Sabre 9018S DAC handles Hi-Res Audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz.

More compact and lightweight, the FiiO M3 was released the same year and was designed solely for portable listening as it doesn’t provide a USB DAC mode. Compatible with WAV, FLAC, APE, MP3 OGG, WMA and M4A AAC files, it can also decode files in FLAC format up to 24-bit/48kHz and WAV files up to 24-bit/96kHz.

FiiO M3
Compact and lightweight, the FiiO M3 has a large screen and a touch interface.

Today, FiiO offers a very wide range of digital audio players with models to suit all budgets and requirements.

Ranking just below the FiiO M15 recently released by the Chinese brand, the FiiO M11 Pro sits at the second position in the “M” DAP range that also includes the FiiO M3K, FiiO M5, FiiO M6, FiiO M7, FiiO M9 and FiiO M11 models.

FiiO M11 Pro: packing & accessories

The FiiO M11 Pro DAP is packaged very similarly to the FiiO M11. Inside the box, the player is wrapped in a small plastic packet. The screen and the back of the DAP are both covered by a protective film.

The FiiO M11 Pro’s packaging is pretty much the same as the FiiO M11’s. It is a shame that the manufacturer doesn’t include a protective case.

It comes with a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, a mini-jack to coaxial RCA cable (for the digital output), a tool to open the Micro-SD tray and a printed user manual. Unlike the FiiO M11, the FiiO M11 Pro doesn’t come with a protective case, so be careful of scratches and fingerprints!

FiiO M11 Pro: presentation

The FiiO M11 Pro is almost identical to the FiiO M11, both in terms of design and features. Certified Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio Wireless, the FiiO M11 Pro DAP swaps the M11’s two AKM AK4493EQ DACs for a superior version: it features two AKM AK4497EQ chips that handle PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD files (64/128/256) and MQA files (8x). The FiiO M11 Pro is also equipped with three headphone outputs: two balanced and one unbalanced.

The back of the FiiO M11 Pro bears the labels Hi-Res Audio, Hi-Res Audio Wireless and THX AAA-78.

It also features an aptX HD and LDAC compatible Bluetooth emitter/receiver to stream music wirelessly to Bluetooth headphones and to receive music wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet.

The FiiO M11 Pro has double the internal storage of the FiiO M11, going from 32GB to 64GB, 52GB of which are usable. This memory can be extended using a Micro-SD card with a maximum capacity of 2TB.

The FiiO M11 Pro’s Micro-SD tray can hold a card with a maximum capacity of 2TB.

With a WiFi connection, the FiiO M11 Pro can access several online music services. Lastly, with its USB-C port the player can be used as a USB DAC once connected to a computer.

Design

The FiiO M11 Pro DAP is identical in appearance to the M11 with the exception of the inscription “Pro” on the left side and the THX logo on the back. 

The FiiO M11 Pro is the FiiO M11’s twin and can only be differentiated visually by the inscription “Pro”.

It has the same aluminum chassis, large touchscreen, sharply angled edges, notched volume wheel in an indentation on the left-hand side, memory card slot… 

Double AK4497EQ DAC

The FiiO M11 Pro integrates two AKM AK4497EQ D/A converters that are imbedded in an entirely symmetrical structure. Compared to the FiiO M11’s AK4493EQ converter, which is from the same Velvet Sound series, the improvements mainly concern two points: the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) which goes from 123dB to 128dB and the distortion, which is reduced from -113dB to -116dB. 

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The FiiO M11 Pro DAP features two AK4497EQ DACs.

THX amplification

The FiiO M11 Pro also differs from the FiiO M11 regarding its amplification section which uses two THX AAA-78 modules. Developed by THX in collaboration with the American integrated circuit manufacturer Triad Semiconductor, these amplification modules are characterized by their high output power, moderate energy consumption and extremely low distortion. They are also renowned for their perfect neutrality.

The THX AAA-78 amplification modules power the two balanced headphone outputs (one in 2.5mm mini-jack format and one in 4.4mm Pentaconn format) as well as the unbalanced 3.5mm mini-jack output.

The manufacturer recommends using headphones with an impedance between 16 and 300 ohms for the balanced outputs, and headphones with an impedance between 16 and 150 ohms for the unbalanced output. These characteristics allow the FiiO M11 Pro to be paired with the vast majority of earphones and hi-fi headphones on the market. Lastly, a coaxial line output is also included should you wish to use the DAP with a hi-fi amplifier or an external DAC, for example.

Customized Android 7.0

Like the FiiO M11 DAP, the FiiO M11 Pro uses a customized version of Android 7.0 (Nougat) optimized for musical playback. Consequently, the audio streams are sent directly to the DAC without any modifications. As a result, you can enjoy the smooth and familiar interface of the OS, including touch navigation, without any sound limitations. 

FiiO M11 Pro
The FiiO M11 Pro player’s home screen is very similar to that of Android smartphones.

Still no Google Play Store on this FiiO DAP, but several Android-compatible apps can be easily installed via the FiiO Market store, notably online music service apps such as Amazon Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Roon, Spotify or Tidal. It is also possible to download TuneIn to listen to web radios, as well as SoundCloud.

The FiiO Market store is accessible when the FiiO M11 Pro is connected to the internet via WiFi and allows you to download several music apps.

Three other app stores are available, including APKPure, for access to a wider range of apps. Once downloaded, the app stores simply need to be uncompressed using the DAP’s file manager. Consequently, we were able to download Netflix to watch an episode of the excellent series Godless. Note that the Netflix app downloaded via APKPure is a recent version that isn’t compatible with Android 7. Once we installed and launched the app, we were redirected to the Netflix online support page which provided us with a compatible version of the app to download.

When logged in to your account in the Netflix app, you have access to your recommendations, playlists and recently watched titles. The FiiO M11 Pro’s screen is very responsive and instantly responds to every tactile command.
The FiiO M11 Pro’s screen isn’t quite big enough to fully enjoy images from the series Godless, but the color rendering is excellent (the actual result is much better than this photo suggests). However, be careful of reflections and fingerprints! It is best to watch videos in the dark.

Music mode

Just like with the FiiO M11, it is possible to switch from the Android interface to the FiiO Music interface, which is designed solely for music playback, at any time. To do so, simply swipe downwards on the touchscreen then select “Android Mode”. The DAP then prompts you to switch from Android mode to music mode. You then only have access to music stored on the device and shared over the local network when the DAP is connected to the home WiFi network.

In only a few seconds, the FiiO M11 Pro can switch from Android mode to FiiO Music mode.

Large touchscreen

The FiiO M11 Pro features the same 5” 18:9 format screen as the M11. Bright and nicely contrasted, this touchscreen provides 1440 x 720 pixel HD resolution and a precise display that makes it easy to read the information on the screen. The display of album artwork benefits directly from the vibrant colors.

However, it suffers from the same major flaw as the M11: its shiny coating acts like a mirror, making it difficult to read text in bright environments. This flaw has also been found on many other DAPs, such as the FiiO M9 and the FiiO M7.

The FiiO M11 Pro’s screen provides excellent lisibility, but the shiny coating acts like a mirror in bright environments.
The screens of the FiiO M11 (left), FiiO M9 (center) and FiiO M7 (right) DAPs all suffer from this “mirror” effect.

Responsive interface

Like the FiiO M11, the FiiO M11 Pro DAP integrates a Samsung Exynos 7872 hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, ensuring smooth navigation and a responsive interface. It is much more pleasant to use than the FiiO M6 and M9 DAPs whose touch screens and interfaces are much less responsive. 

When turned on for the first time, the FiiO M11 Pro gives you the choice between two navigation modes for the Android interface. The first has a classic navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, the second uses gesture control. It is possible to switch modes at any time via the Settings/General/Navigation Control menu.

Power supply

The FiiO M11 Pro uses a rechargeable 4370mAh battery that provides a maximum of 9 hours and 30 minutes of continuous playback via the 3.5mm mini-jack output (8h30 with the balanced outputs) and up to 55 days of autonomy in standby mode. The battery is charged by connecting the included USB-C cable to a powered USB port or to a mains/USB charger. 

USB DAC mode

When connected to a computer’s USB port, the FiiO M11 Pro DAP can be used as a USB DAC in asynchronous mode. This means that its internal clock handles sending the packets of digital data to the convertor. Jitter is considerably reduced, providing a more precise and soft restitution.

In USB DAC mode, the FiiO M11 supports most audio formats: FLAC, WAV, WMA, AIFF, APE, etc. up to 32-bit/384kHz; DSD 64/128/256 in ISO, DSF and DFF. It is important to note that it is necessary to install a specific Windows software driver stored in the player’s memory to play Hi-Res Audio files with a sampling rate higher than 24-bit/96kHz.

The FiiO M11 Pro used as a USB DAC.

Connectors

The FiiO M11 Pro has three headphone outputs: an unbalanced 3.5mm mini-jack output and two balanced 4.4mm mini-jack outputs (Pentaconn). The unbalanced output has an output power of 294mW (16 ohms) and can drive both earphones and hi-fi headphones. This connector can also be used as a coaxial S/PDIF output. The balanced outputs have an output power of 550mW into 32 ohms.

The FiiO M11 Pro’s different connectors can be found on the bottom of the device. To the left, the two balanced headphone outputs (4.4mm Pentaconn and 2.5mm mini-jack), in the middle the USB-C port, and to the right the 3.5mm mini-jack headphone output. Note that the FiiO M11 Pro DAP’s USB-C port can be used to charge the battery and to connect the player to a computer so it can be used as a USB DAC.

Key specifications

  • DAC: 2 x AK4497EQ
  • OS: Android 7.0 (customized version)
  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 7872 (14nm)
  • Certified Hi-Res Audio & Hi-Res Audio Wireless
  • Bluetooth, AirPlay and DLNA compatible
  • 5” touchscreen

Compatible audio formats

  • DSD: DSD64/128/256 (“.iso”, “.dsf”, “.dff”), DST ISO
  • DXD: 352.8K
  • APE FAST/High/Normal: 384kHz/24-bit
  • APE Extra High: 192kHz/24-bit
  • APE Insane: 96kHz/24-bit
  • Apple Lossless: 384kHz/32-bit
  • AIFF: 384kHz/32-bit
  • FLAC: 384kHz/32-bit
  • WAV: 384kHz/32-bit
  • WMA Lossless: 96kHz/24-bit
  • MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC…

Measurements

  • Unbalanced output max output power: 294mW (16Ω/THD+N<1%)
  • Balanced output max output power: 550mW (32 Ω /THD+N<1%)
  • Frequency response: 5Hz to 86kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 118dB (unbalanced) / 119dB (balanced)
  • Balanced output THD: < 0.00108% at 1kHz/32 ohms
  • Unbalanced output THD: < 0.00084% at 1kHz/32 ohms
  • Balanced output channel separation: 108dB
  • Unbalanced output channel separation: 72dB

Connectors

  • 1 x USB-C
  • 1 x unbalanced 3.5mm mini-jack and coaxial S/PDIF headphone output (adapter included)
  • 1 x balanced 2.5mm headphone output
  • 1 x balanced 4.4mm (Pentaconn) headphone output
  • 1 x microSD memory card slot

Network connectivity

  • WiFi: 2.4/5G
  • DLNA & AirPlay compatible

Bluetooth 

  • Version 4.2
  • Emission and reception
  • Supported codecs: LDAC, aptX, aptX HD, SBC

Power supply

  • 3.8V Li-Polymer battery
  • Capacity: 4370mAh
  • Battery life: up to 9 hours and 30 minutes (55 days in standby mode)

General

  • Dimensions: (WxHxD): 70.5 x 130 x 16.5mm
  • Weight: 232g

FiiO M11 Pro: listening conditions

For our review of the FiiO M11 Pro, we first paired the DAP with the Sennheiser Momentum M2 Wireless headphones in both wired and Bluetooth (aptX) mode.

The FiiO M11 Pro DAP with the Sennheiser Momentum M2 Wireless headphones using an unbalanced wired connection.

We also used the FiiO FH7 in-ear headphones with their original cable (unbalanced, 3.5mm mini-jack), but also a balanced FiiO cable (2.5mm mini-jack).

The FiiO M11 Pro DAP with the FiiO FH7 earphones (original unbalanced cable).
The FiiO M11 Pro DAP with the FiiO FH7 earphones (balanced FiiO cable).

We listened to Hi-Res files (FLAC and DSD) stored on a memory card inserted into the DAP and played via the Qobuz app (HiFi Sublime+ subscription). We were also able to enjoy our Deezer playlists (Family subscription, MP3 320kbps). To do so, the FiiO M11 Pro DAP was connected to the local WiFi network using a Netgear Orbi router. 

We also tested the DAP’s audio DAC mode by connecting it to a computer (Windows) using the included USB cable. To do this, we first had to download the drivers provided by the manufacturer. They are located in the DAP’s memory and are accessible via the file manager once the device is connected to the computer via USB.

We listened to high resolution FLAC and DSD files stored locally via the Foobar 2000 app, as well as our test playlist in the Qobuz Windows app (Wasapi Exclusive mode).

FiiO M11 Pro: listening impressions

The sound provided by the FiiO M11 Pro is very similar to that of the FiiO M11 with the same smoothness and overall balance. However, the integration of AK4497EQ DACs and THX AAA-78 amplification modules provided more precision and detail. The lows also seemed deeper and slightly rounder. The smooth and natural restitution was still present.

Tonal balance

This was one of the strong points of the FiiO M11, which impressed us with its neutrality. The FiiO M11 Pro was in the same vein and didn’t highlight any frequency range in particular.

The mids were nicely textured, structured and nuanced. The DAP’s smooth and natural sound signature was appealing. They seemed to be more clearly outlined than those provided by the M11. At the top end of the spectrum, which was precise and detailed, the FiiO M11 Pro proved to be incredibly smooth. This frequency range wasn’t too bright and displayed no sibilance, illuminating the soundstage beautifully without ever being tiring.

The FiiO M11 Pro in USB DAC mode (Qobuz on a PC running Windows 10) connected to the FiiO FH7 earphones using a balanced connection.

The lows were deeper and slightly rounder than those of the FiiO M11, but they were still tight and well positioned. The FiiO M11 Pro is capable of fully exploring the lows and packs a punch when the associated headphones or earphones can handle it. But this is never done at the expense of the rest of the frequency range and the lows always remain distinct and nuanced.

The spatialization of the different elements of the soundstage was still convincing, both in width and in depth. The instruments seemed to be more clearly outlined than with the M11.

Balanced output and Bluetooth

Like with the M11, the FiiO M11 Pro’s balanced output provided softness and precision, but also more impact in the lows. The sound seemed more natural than it did with the unbalanced output.

The sound quality via aptX Bluetooth was rather good, but paled in comparison to the sound offered by this DAP’s different headphone outputs.

FiiO M11 Pro: compared to…

FiiO M9: Also equipped with an Android interface and a touchscreen, the FiiO M9 uses a double Asahi Kasei AK4490 DAC. Regarding the user experience, it suffers from being compared to the M11 Pro due to its slower processor, which often makes navigation arduous. The FiiO M11 Pro’s screen is bigger with superior definition. As a result, the M11 Pro’s interface is much more responsive and smooth. The features are similar, including the possibility to access the apps of leading streaming services. 

There is nothing wrong with the sound provided by the FiiO M9, which makes full use of its double AK4490 DAC for a rich and balanced restitution. However, the gap between the M9 and the M11 Pro is significant. The latter’s AK4497EQ DAC and THX AAA-78 amplification results in superior precision, increased detail and a more spacious soundstage, as well as more power and energy.

FiiO M11: There are a lot more similarities than differences between these two FiiO DAPs which share the same chassis, screen and features. Nonetheless, the improvements made to the double DAC and amplification are audible. Even though the difference in performance between the FiiO M11 and the FiiO M11 Pro is not enormous (no wow effect), the FiiO M11 Pro is more impressive than the M11. The sound is globally richer and more detailed, the voices and instruments better outlined. 

FiiO M11: conclusion

The FiiO M11 Pro DAP is an interesting improvement of the M11, taking its qualities and enhancing them. Softness, balance, dynamism and precision are still present with this portable digital audio player which provides a spacious and efficiently spatialized soundstage. 

The use of a double AK4497EQ DAC and THX AAA-78 amplifier modules allows the FiiO M11 Pro to gain more precision, sharpness, detail and sonic richness without losing any of the qualities that made the FiiO M11 so attractive.

What we liked:

  • The smooth interface and the responsive touchscreen
  • The numerous features, including the USB DAC mode
  • The rich, detailed and natural sound
  • The deep bass

What we would have liked:

  • For the screen to have been less reflective
  • For a protective case to have been included, like with the M11


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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

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