FiiO M11 Pro Review: Time To Move From FiiO DAC to DAP?

As a musician, I often have to download high-res recordings for reference purposes. But as an audiophile who prefers the ease of Tidal’s streaming service over downloads, I stick with a portable DAC/amp combo when I’m on the go. In fact, I use the first version of FiiO’s Q5. But FiiO may give streamers (who also download files) a reason to move to DAPs. Why? Let’s find out in this FiiO M11 Pro Review.

FiiO M11 Pro Review: Time To Move From FiiO DAC to DAP?

IN the BOX

DESIGN

DAC and Processor

The M11 Pro uses the same processor (Exynos 7872) as the M11. But the dual DAC chips have been upgraded from the AK4493 to the AK4497. Unfortunately, we, at Headphone Dungeon, have yet to have a chance to do an AB comparison between the two models. So, we can’t attest to any improved sound quality.

 Battery Life and Charging (USB-C)

In terms of battery life, the M11 Pro fails to perform better or even as well as the M11.  The Pro only delivers 9.5 hours of playtime in contrast to the original M11’s 13 hours. That being said, the M11 Pro can be in deep sleep standby mode for 55 days. In contrast, the original M11 only offers 23 days of deep sleep standby. 

The M11 Pro takes 2.5 hours to fully charge.

Buttons and Dials

In addition to the touchscreen, the M11 Pro also employs play/pause and skip buttons on the side of the player, as well as shiny gold volume dial. (Of course, all of these functions can be controlled via the touchscreen).

Touchscreen and Navigation

I found the touchscreen impressively responsive, especially when you compare it to much older FiiO DAPs. So, if you’re upgrading from the ol’ M7, for example, you’ll find the responsiveness of the of the M11 Pro remarkably better. The M11 Pro employs the Android 7.0 operating system. And it supports any 3rd party apps, such as Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Deezer, yadi yadi yada…

Resolution and Supported High Res Formats

Like the M11, the M11 Pro supports most high-res formats up to PCM 384kHz 32-bit and Native DSD 256.

But here’s what makes me want to buy M11 Pro: MQA. If you’re a Tidal streamer, this capability is a huge plus. And if you already own an older FiiO model, you’ve probably found it maddening that none of their other DACs or DAPs are able to unfold MQA.

Outputs

Like the M11, the M11 Pro offer 3.5mm unbalanced, as well as 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced output. You can also use the 3.5mm as the line/coaxial out. The M11 Pro also has USB audio out capability, using the USB-C connection.

 

Bluetooth and Supported Codecs

The FiiO M11 Pro can both transmit as well as receive Bluetooth signals. So, if you’re on the go and can’t connect to WiFi, you can use the cellular data from your phone to stream music and listen to it on your player. Neat. The only caveat is that the M11 Pro doesn’t seem to support the AAC codec. So, if you’re an iPhone user, you’re $%^& out of luck when it comes to hi-res Bluetooth receiving. The M11 Pro, however, does support aptX, aptxHD, LDAC and HWA.

Internal Storage

Here’s another reason that streamers may gravitate to the M11 Pro. The M11 Pro has double the internal storage of the M11, offering 64 GB. So, if you want to download Tidal tracks to listen to offline, you’ll have more capacity.

Memory Card

Unlike the M11, the M11 Pro only comes with one memory card slot. It seems that some folks ran into some technical issues with the dual card slots of the M11. So, the simplified design seems to make it more reliable. And, in theory, it can hold up to 2T of storage.

Additional Applications

The M11 Pro can also be used as a straight DAC. And as mentioned above, it can act as an amplifier via Bluetooth connection.

SOUND

Equipment Used

Sensitive IEM

I first hooked up the M11 Pro to my ol’ fave, the Campfire Andromeda. Besides being familiar with this IEM, I also chose it because it’s a notorious hisser. And I have to say, the noise-floor is so fantastic on this thing, and there was almost no interference to speak of.

High Impedance Headphone

To see how much power the M11 Pro had, I connected it to the 250 Ohm Beyerdynamic DT 1770. And wow…It gave me enough juice even at the low gain setting. And once I changed the setting to high gain, I got more than enough juice, though I was far from max volume. That being said, I just cleaned out my ears, using Flonase. Side note. If you have built up pressure in your ears, snort some Flonase. It will clear up your passages in minutes

Sound Signature

Let me preface this by saying that the M11 Pro comes with an equalizer. So, you’ll have some creative control over the balance of your mix. But at its natural state, the M11 Pro presents a relatively neutral sound profile. It has a buoyant and smooth feel. It’s also fantastically clean and well separated. But the low end is moderate, and in general, the bass and low mids are on the lighter side, especially when you compare it to a FiiO DAC, like the Q5. And even if you compare it to the DAC on your iPhone, you’ll hear a similar difference in low-end weight. So, it’s not a particularly warm sound. And if you like a ton of meat in your music, you might want to keep looking. But the M11 Pro remains an easy listening experience; the highs avoid any uncomfortable extension, and it has less sparkle than the high frequencies of the Q5. But the soundstage is just as spacious as the Q5, and because the separation is so good, the imaging feels super precise and multidimensional.

SUMMARY

It’s understandably annoying to FiiO fans that the brand so quickly released the M11 Pro after the very recent release of the M11. And the jury is out on how much better the M11 Pro sounds compared to the original M11, especially considering the $200 price jump. However, if you stream music in addition to downloading high-res files (and you don’t already own the M11), the M11 Pro is certainly the better option. With more internal storage and MQA capability, FiiO has finally given streamers and downloaders the best of both worlds.

You can pick up the FiiO M9 Pro here:

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