The Fiio M11 is Fiio’s entry into the midrange DAP market. It is a device that represents Fiio’s willingness to evolve and innovate by presenting features that are not typically available in this price bracket. The M11 is also our “overall value pick” on our Best DAPs list.
In this review, I will be sharing my long-term experience with the Fiio M11. We will be going over its build quality, sound quality, and software experience. And by the end of this review, you should be able to discern whether or not the M11 is the right DAP for you. Keep on scrolling for the full review of the Fiio M11.
Disclaimer: I purchased the Fiio M11 at full retail price. We are not affiliated with the company, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
- Fiio M11 Review
- Packaging and Accessories
- Design and Build Quality
- Software Performance
- Software Bugs and Glitches
- Music App
- Wi-Fi and Streaming Performance
- Sound Performance
- Outputs and Driving Power
- Battery Life
- Albums Used For Testing
Fiio M11 Review
Packaging and Accessories
Before we proceed with the review, let us quickly take a look at what you get with the Fiio M11. The M11 comes with a black box with a clean and minimalistic design. It is very similar to what you get with most modern flagship smartphones.
Inside, you get a coaxial adapter, a micro SD card tool, a silicone case, as well as the rest of the paperwork. My unit comes with the official Fiio M11 leather case, but most units will come with a silicone case.
The stock leather case isn’t the best case that I have had. However, it feels premium enough and works well with protecting the device from scratches.
Overall, the initial presentation of the Fiio M11 is very solid and would make anyone excited to immediately boot up the device.
- Silicone or Leather Case
- Coaxial Adapter
- Micro SD Card Tool
Design and Build Quality
The Fiio M11 is without a doubt one of Fiio’s best-looking designs. Everything about it looks and feels premium. Its release has singlehandedly shaken up the competition and forced its competitors to release better-looking midrange DAPs.
Like Fiio’s previous generation X5iii, the Fiio M11 has an angular design that seems to have taken inspiration from high-end DAPs from brands such as Astell & Kern. But unlike AK’s offerings, the M11 doesn’t have sharp edges and has plenty of design elements that give it its own unique identity.
Everything about the M11’s design and build quality screams quality. The M11 sports an aluminum chassis that is well made with no visible imperfections. Its solid chassis is paired with an all-black color scheme with gold accents on the volume wheel and outputs. The look is finished off with a glass back that is protected with tempered glass.
The M11’s finish is quite resistant to scratches. However, I still advise using the included case. My unit has some small scuffs near the buttons.
One thing that users may not like is the M11’s size. It is much larger and thicker than Fiio’s entry-level offerings. For some context, the Fiio M11 is almost as big as my Huawei Mate 30 Pro smartphone but is twice its thickness.
The M11 is also noticeably larger than competing midrange DAPs such as Sony ZX507 and the Astell & Kern SR25. But with that said, the M11’s size did not bother me at all. I was still able to use and carry it around like any other DAP.
I would consider its size and thickness to further increase its premium feel. And despite its size, the M11 isn’t very heavy. There are certainly much heavier players such as the Astell & Kern SA700 and the Astell & Kern SP2000.
One thing that you won’t find with newer DAPs is the M11’s dual SD card slot. This greatly helps users with large music libraries. It also greatly helps with storage since the M11 only comes with 32 Gb of onboard storage.
I would have preferred if the micro SD card was easily removable and did not require a sim tool. But overall, this design makes the micro SD card more secure, and it makes the sides of the DAP look more flush.
One of the most striking features of the M11’s design is its gorgeous 5.15-inch 720p display. The large screen is perfect for easy navigation as well as for displaying album art. The bezels are also quite thin, which greatly helps with achieving a more modern look.
The M11’s display is quite vibrant and easily makes colors pop. The viewing angles are also excellent, which made using the M11 a treat.
It was also fairly bright, which meant that the M11 worked perfectly fine even when using it outdoors. The Fiio M11’s screen also has pre-applied tempered glass, which is a nice touch.
The limitations of the M11’s display only show when you try to watch videos with the YouTube app. However, I personally do not think this is a big deal, especially since I won’t be using this for watching videos.
But overall, the Fiio M11’s screen is easily one of the best that I have experienced in a DAP.
Volume Wheel and Buttons
One of the main issues that users had with Fiio’s previous generation DAPs was the volume wheel and buttons. I personally experienced my power button suddenly failing on my X5iii, so I am very critical of how the M11 holds up.
Fortunately, Fiio has reworked both of these and has ensured that they are durable. Even after a full year of use, the buttons and volume wheel of my M11 still feel and function as good as they did when I first got the M11.
The volume wheel on the M11 feels great. Volume steps were accurate, and I did not experience any glitches or jumps. All of the buttons felt tactile, and I did not have any misfires when pressing them.
The only issues that I had with the volume wheel and the buttons were their placements. I prefer having the volume wheel on the right side and the power button either on the left or right side. However, I did not find this to be a big deal since I was able to adapt quickly.
The Fiio M11 is one of the most feature-packed DAPs in the market. It is powered by an Exynos 7872 chip with 3 Gb of RAM and is running a modified version of Android 7.0. With its Android-based OS, the M11 is able to perform lots of tasks similar to a smartphone.
The Fiio M11 can run most Android apps, which includes popular streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal. It also features dual-band WiFi which allows it to connect with modern 5 GHz band routers.
Additionally, the Fiio M11 is equipped with a Bluetooth 4.2 chip that supports most popular codecs such as APTX, APTX HD, and LDAC. The M11 can also act as a Bluetooth receiver which essentially makes it a wireless DAC for any Bluetooth-compatible device.
Those features are already impressive for a midrange DAP. However, the real selling point here is the M11’s audio outputs. The M11 has a.3.5mm SE output, a 4.4mm balanced output, and a 2.5mm balanced output. This practically gives you maximum compatibility with any IEM or headphones.
Another neat feature that the M11 has is its MQA support. With the current version of the M11’s software, it features global MQA support. Even the stock Tidal app works perfectly with the M11 without any modifications.
The Fiio M11 has everything you would need in a DAP. We will be discussing more of the M11’s features in detail later in the review.
Software Version: Build Number 1.1.1
For me, one of the most important aspects of a DAP is software performance. Companies often neglect this and focus too much on the sound quality. Even Fiio has made this mistake with the previous generation X5iii, which was very slow and almost unusable.
Fortunately, Fiio has stepped their game up. They have equipped the M11 with very capable hardware and well-optimized software. The end result is a fast and smooth software experience that is simply a treat to use.
The M11 is utilizing a modified version of Android 7.0, which is fully optimized for audio playback. It bypasses the sample rate limitation that is found with stock Android.
Throughout my testing, I did not find any random crashes or lags with the M11’s software. It has always worked reliably both with its built-in Fiio Music Player as well as with third-party apps. And given how capable the Fiio M11’s hardware is, you can even install some mobile games.
Of course, the M11 isn’t as fast or responsive as a modern flagship smartphone. But again, this is a DAP and not a gaming phone, so do not expect to smoothly run intensive titles such as COD Mobile or Genshin Impact.
The best part about the software experience is Fiio’s support. Fiio has constantly been introducing updates that further optimize the software experience and adds new features and animations to the device.
The most notable addition was the Google Play Store. The M11 initially launched without the Play Store, which raised some concerns, especially with subscribers of Google’s apps such as YouTube Music.
But with the current firmware, the M11 fully supports the Play Store and has been working flawlessly. The software experience and the hardware used on the M11 is so good that it has been reused for Fiios’ more expensive M11 Pro and M15 DAPs.
The only criticism that I had with the M11’s software is the stock Fiio Launcher’s look. It is very similar to stock Android 7, which certainly looks a bit outdated now.
But since this is Android, you can easily replace the stock launcher and customize the looks to your liking. The M11 is able to handle these changes and will not slow down. I personally used the Niagara Launcher to make my home screen more similar to a traditional DAP.
Software Bugs and Glitches
The Fiio M11 has very few software glitches. However, I have personally encountered some issues that may or may not be isolated with my unit or the build that I am using.
The biggest issue that I have encountered is that the M11 stops outputting audio after disconnecting an external DAC/Amp. This has happened when using the USB Type-C for digital audio output. I have experienced this with my iFi Nano iDSD Black Label.
Note: The Fiio M11 was evaluated using both UAPP and the Fiio Music App.
Another key advantage with an Android-based player such as the Fiio M11 is the freedom to choose your preferred music app. The default Fiio Music app is already excellent. However, it is missing some features that I find essential, particularly the queue feature and the ability to rearrange the queued tracks.
Fiio is actively listening to the community and has been adding features to the Fiio Music App. During the past year, they have introduced new themes and features that have spice up the look of Fiio Music. I have also brought up the queue feature to their developers, and they have told me that they were working on it.
I currently use UAPP since it fits my needs. But again, you have the freedom to choose whatever app you like.
Wi-Fi and Streaming Performance
One area where I was very critical of the Fiio M11 was its Wi-Fi and streaming performance. I have owned DAPs in the past that had terrible Wi-Fi and unusable streaming apps. That completely defeated the purpose of having an Android-based DAP.
My expectations weren’t particularly high when I first tried out the M11. But to my surprise, the M11 was able to perform similarly to my smartphone. Streaming apps such as Spotify worked flawlessly. There were no random crashes, and I was able to consistently stream tracks with no issues.
And with its dual-band Wi-Fi support, I was able to utilize the faster speeds of the 5 GHz band of my router. The strength of its Wi-Fi signal was also pretty good since I did not encounter disconnections even if the router was a bit further from my location.
Tested With: Sennheiser HD660S, Harmonicdyne Zeus, Fostex/Fitear TE100
The Fiio M11 already nails everything from the design and build quality to the software performance. But, of course, the true test for the M11 is its sound quality. And fortunately, the Fiio M11 does not disappoint.
The M11 is leaning towards a brighter signature with more emphasis on the mids and high frequencies. This gives the M11 plenty of detail and clarity but does so in a natural manner. This allows the M11 to achieve a fairly accurate sound without sounding too clinical.
Of course, the bass is not left behind. The M11 may have a neutral bass response, but this does not mean that it will sound lackluster or boring,
The Fiio M11 still manages to deliver a good bass slam when a song calls for it. But it also knows when to tone it down for more mellow-sounding tracks.
However, I will say that there is a certain weakness to the rather safe tuning of the M11’s bass. This is not very apparent and will only be noticeable when compared to higher-end DAPs. We will talk more about this when comparing the Fiio M11 to the Astell & Kern AK380.
As for the mids, the M11 rendered vocals effortlessly. Mids sound perfect and are highlighted as the centerpiece of tracks. And when paired with a headphone or IEM that produces great mids, you will get a very enjoyable experience.
The M11’s focus on the highs is quite apparent, especially when compared to warmer-sounding DAPs. However, I do not consider its brighter sound to be unpleasant. Having good extension on the highs ensures that details on instruments such as cymbals are not lost.
Detail retrieval on the M11 is excellent. Its implementation of the dual AK4493 DAC chips are well done. I never felt as if the music I was listening to was lacking in any way. It is certainly a clear improvement over more budget-priced DAPs.
Additionally, just like most AKM powered DAPs, the M11 gives you several filters to play with. I personally could not tell the differences between these filters but having sound-shaping options is always a good thing.
The M11 also features an All to DSD Mode. Again, the differences in the sound are quite subtle, but it is there for you to play with.
Outputs and Driving Power
One of the biggest selling points of the Fiio M11 is the number of outputs that it has. The Fiio M11.has an unbalanced 3.5mm output, a balanced 2.5mm output, and a balanced 4.4mm output. Additionally, the M11’s 3.5mm output doubles as a line output and a coaxial output via the included adapter.
This pretty much makes the M11 the swiss army knife counterpart of DAPs. It enabled me to use any of my headphones and IEMs without the need for adapters.
But these outputs aren’t just for show. The Fiio M11 has an impressive amount of power that was able to drive almost anything that I threw at it.
I was easily able to comfortably drive my 150-ohm Sennheiser HD660S via the 4.4mm balanced output. I have also briefly tried more demanding headphones such as the Sennheiser HD650, and the M11 was still able to perform well.
Of course, the sound that I got with the M11 wasn’t as satisfying as a full-blown desktop setup. But for a portable set up the M11’s power output was very impressive, and I did not need to utilize a more powerful to get an enjoyable experience.
One downside to the M11’s powerful output is that it can be prone to hiss. This has been significantly improved with the Fiio M11 Pro that utilizes more advanced THX AAA amplifiers.
The Fiio M11 had excellent synergy with my headphone and IEM collection. And given how pleasant the M11’s sound signature is, it was able to make even odd-sounding IEMs sing.
I do not have a lot of sensitive IEMs in my collection. The only one that I was able to try with the M11 was the Campfire Audio Andromeda V1. The hiss was bearable, even on the 3.5mm SE output. However, your mileage may vary.
One aspect that lots of companies overlook with their DAPs is the battery life. Great-sounding DAPs are useless if they cannot even last throughout the day. Fortunately, Fiio knows this and has made sure that the M11 has excellent battery life.
The Fiio M11 can last up to nine hours on balanced mode and thirteen hours on unbalanced mode. This has been consistent throughout my test, and I have not noticed any forms of battery degradation.
There are, of course, some factors that can decrease the battery life, which include turning on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Additionally, turning on the All to DSD function and installing third-party apps that consume more power will inevitably bring the battery life down.
But what I like about the m11 is the amazing charging speeds and the standby mode. When the M11 is on deep sleep mode, it can last up to fifty days. I have not reached that number, but the M11 always had enough juice even when I did not use it for a few days.
In terms of its fast charging, the M11 can be fully recharged in less than two hours. I absolutely love this feature and wish that every DAP has fast charging.
With its fast charging, I never have to worry about battery life. I simply plug it in using the same fast charger that I use with my smartphone, and it is already full before I even know it.
The only issue I have with the M11 is that you cannot easily access the battery. Given the construction of the M11, its internals cannot be easily accessed. I haven’t encountered any battery issues, but it would have been nice if you could easily replace the battery without sending it back to Fiio.
Astell & Kern AK380 + Amp
One of my favorite DAPs for comparison is Astell & Kern’s timeless flagship, the AK380. Despite its age, the AK380 surprisingly holds up very well and is still the DAP to beat in the sub $1000 price point.
The Fiio M11 was surprisingly able to compete with this DAP. However, the Ak380 was still the clear winner, which just goes to show how ahead AK was even in 2016.
The main difference between the sound of these DAPs is how smooth and refined the AK380 was. The AK380 noticeably had better low end compared to the Fiio M11. It was thicker and was able to deliver a fuller-sounding experience.
Micro detail in the higher frequencies was also more apparent with the AK380. The soundstage was also considerably wider. The track that best represented Ak380’s superiority is Jenova theme from the Final Fantasy VII Remake Acoustic Arrangements.
I could feel an odd sensation. It was as if the instruments were crawling into my ears. I could just feel the intensity of the track, and it truly made me feel how the weight and seriousness that the track represented in Final Fantasy VII’s story.
The AK380 made me feel something that I did not know existed with that specific track. It was such an engaging and unforgettable experience that the Fiio M11 could simply not recreate.
In terms of amplification, the AK380 + Amp was noticeable better than the Fiio m11. It was able to drive my Sennheiser HD660S a lot better and had a more open and detailed experience.
To simplify the differences of these DAPs. the Fiio M11 presented the track as accurately as possible. The AK380 did the same but added an extra layer of depth that made the experience more unique.
The Fiio M11 still remains to be one of the best options for midrange DAPs in 2021. It has everything you will ever need from a DAP. It has great build quality, hardware, software, amplification power, and sound quality.
And the best thing about it is that it is constantly being supported by Fiio. I am confident that Fiio will keep on adding fresh features to this device as long as the hardware is able to handle it.
Of course, the M11 isn’t a perfect device. Its sound quality is pretty solid, but paying more will certainly give you better-sounding DAPs. But with that said, there are no deal-breakers with the M11, and there isn’t a single aspect of this device that underperforms in its price range.
If you are eyeing on a capable midrange DAP that is almost as good as midrange smartphones, the Fiio M11 is a strong contender. And even if Fiio releases new models, I believe that the M11 will still have a place in the DAP market.
Albums Used For Testing
- Milet – Who I am
- Babymetal – Legend Metal Galaxy
- Mamamoo – Travel
- Periphery- Periphery 3 and 4
- Blackpink – The Album
- Final Fantasy VII Acoustic Arrangements
- Square Enix Jazz- Final Fantasy VII At Billboard Live Tokyo
- Sawano Hiroyuki – Best of Vocal Works
- Yorushika – Plagiarism
- Intervals – Circadian