Nowadays, any portable music player entering the market will have to face some serious competition from smartphones. In fact, these generalists are quite capable of doing the same job: keeping a vast music collection, providing access to online services. And they don’t even sound too ugly. So why would anyone need a FiiO M11 Pro?
The obvious answer that FiiO insists on is sound quality. In this sense, the FiiO M11 player is considered by many music lovers to be one of the best devices of this class in its price category, and now the M11 Pro is intended to further strengthen the company’s position in the market.
Design and construction
It is not easy to make a premium product in a compact form factor. But FiiO has managed to make the M11 Pro look expensive while still keeping it small and lightweight. This player still fits easily in your pocket, and at 71 x 17 x 130mm (W x D x D) and weighing 232 grams, it’s even smaller than many of the competition. The design and build quality of the M11 Pro is flawless, however, making it feel like a slightly bloated smartphone.
This impression is further enhanced by the large 5.2-inch touchscreen with Gorilla glass on the bezel. With a resolution of 1440 x 720, the display looks sharp, yet bright and responsive. It is flawlessly integrated into the FiiO aluminum body, the back of which is also covered with Gorilla Glass. Of course, Gorilla glass is very durable, but it can still be broken, so be careful. But in general, this solution makes the player pleasant to the touch.
There are few physical buttons on the player and basically its operation is controlled through the on-screen menus. But on the left side of the case there are buttons for “play / pause” and “go forward / backward”, as well as a volume control wheel. Above is a backlit on / off button, and on the right is a microSD card slot.
At the bottom of the FiiO you’ll find a USB-C connector for charging and using the player as a USB DAC. The player has several outputs for connecting headphones: a regular 3.5 mm jack (which can also be used as a digital coaxial output), and balanced 4.4 and 2.5 mm jacks for compatible headphones. Thus, the Pro prefix in the name of this model justifies itself.
While the M11 Pro looks pretty attractive, it can’t be said from its looks that the player is worth the price. To do this, we will have to look inside its case.
FiiO is powered by a 4,730mAh battery that can be fully charged in less than two and a half hours and will last for 10 hours of listening time. The player’s internal storage is 64GB and can be expanded by as much as 2TB if you buy the appropriate SD card. Thus, even though the Android 7.0 operating system takes up quite a lot of space, FiiO can store a vast collection of audio files in High resolution formats.
The player uses two dual mono AKM AK4497EQ DACs and a THX AAA amplifier. Hence, the M11 Pro can handle files up to 32bit / 384kHz, and even high impedance headphones shouldn’t be a problem for it.
First of all, there are many options for connecting your FiiO player. Bluetooth is included with support for Sony LDAC and aptX HD technologies, and DLNA and Apple AirPlay compatibility further enhances your experience.
Dual-band Wi-Fi and Android 7.0 platform allow you to install any music streaming application, but only when using the APK Pure service. The more familiar Google Play Store player does not support FiiO.
Music stored in the device’s internal memory is played by FiiO’s own music app, unless you select another software player. In my opinion, the FiiO Music player is logical, stable and sounds pretty impressive.
Even though Android 7.0 is not the newest operating system, it is more than capable of providing fast and stable player performance. And deep within the M11 Pro’s menus, you’ll find several settings to further optimize its performance. Turn on the Pure Music setting, for example, and only the FiiO Music app will be active. Or select All to DSD to convert all PCM audio files to DSD (more on this in a moment).
No audio device is perfect, and of course the FiiO M11 Pro has its drawbacks. But in almost every aspect of how music sounds, it is as far removed from smartphones as a superyacht is from a rowboat.
The 24-bit / 192 kHz Domino track from Van Morrison’s His Band and the Street Choir is a good choice to start testing. FiiO showcased here a pinpoint and detailed scene, and a truly musical sound. In terms of rhythm transmission, everything was also great. The music sounded fast and at the same time absolutely controllable.
For all the vigor of the sound, the detailing was excellent, and the bass remained deep and informative. At the same time, the pressure and percussion of the bass are also impressive, but the lows do not interfere with the perception of sound in the rest of the frequency range. The bass is always exactly as much as you need.
At high frequencies, the sound is just as free and they are not limited by anything – but, again, the M11 Pro is not exaggerating anything. It simply reproduces all the details, accurately conveys the attack and decay of sounds, without adding anything from himself.
In the midrange, the player is also very accurate. There is an immediacy and a sense of space in the way FiiO reproduces vocals that allow precise positioning of performers in the scene. Thanks to its even tonal balance, the M11 Pro confidently conveys all the nuances of music recording.
Listening to a larger recording of We Will Always Love You from The Avalanches and Blood Orange (via Tidal Masters) allowed FiiO to showcase his analytical skills. This recording sounded with all its peculiarities, which, however, did not make it annoying and, on the whole, the composition left a pleasant impression. This player can turn up the heat when you need it, but at the same time, no music sounds too annoying on it.
And yet the M11 Pro is not a perfect performer. While its soundstage is focused and accurate, it doesn’t have the same breadth and breadth as some of its competitors. And although the inclusion of the All to DSD mode slightly expands the stereo picture, it does not have the best effect on the sound synchronization of FiiO, as well as on its battery life.
But that’s all that can be added to the list of shortcomings of this model. Otherwise, the FiiO M11 Pro is almost perfect.
The reasons for spending money on the FiiO M11 Pro are pretty obvious. It’s worth buying if you want to enjoy mobile music listening with the same quality as home music. Buy it when you need a high-quality sound source in High resolution formats, wherever you are. However, do not forget that this model has strong competitors.
Astell & Kern, for example, makes several models of portable music players, some of which are very expensive and some of which have strange names. Astell & Kern A & norma SR15 comes to mind, which although it has a price comparable to FiiO, does not have the same lightness and musicality of sound.