FiiO M5 Ultra Portable Player Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

FiiO M5 Ultra Portable Player Review

 

Ultra Small /\ Ultra Capable

 

Introduction:

The FiiO M5 is the smallest member of the M series and is an Ultra Portable High-Resolution Audio Player, which has some nice features like Bluetooth transmitter & Receiver mode, Dual Microphones, Touch Screen, Step Counter, Asynchronous USB DAC, Native DSD and PO/LO/SPDFI support and many more.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the FiiO M5 review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

Purchase Links:

You can purchase the FiiO M5 under the following Official FiiO Online Stores;

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The device comes in a small white box which is wrapped with a cardboard box that sports the product image.

This box is containing the following items:

 

  • 1 x FiiO M5 Ultra Portable High-Resolution Audio Player
  • 1 x USB 2.0 to USB Type-C cable for file and transfer and charging
  • 1 x Transparent Clip Case
  • 1 x PVC Screen Protector
  • 1 x PVC Back Glass Surface Protector
  • 1 x Warranty card
  • 1 x User Manual, etc.

The FiiO M5 features also a black silicone watch band that you can purchase separately.

 

 

Design, Buttons and Build Quality:

The FiiO M5 is a very lightweight (about 38 grams) and small “Ultra Portable Audio Player” with a dimension of just 45.3*42*13.7mm.

The CNC machined aluminum alloy chassis of the M5 has a square shaped design with rounded corners that makes it very comfortable to hold in my hands. The color of my review unit is in black, but the FiiO M5 will be also available in red, blue, dark grey and silver color options.

On the top of the device is the 1.54 inch HD touch display with a resolution of 240×240 pixels (220.4 PPI) which is protected with a Double-Sided 2.5D full-fit tempered glass. The outdoor visibility and color reproduction is pretty good for a device in this price range.

Here is also a small LED indicator that lights up only at Bluetooth receiving mode; for example blue for SBC, cyan for AAC, yellow for aptX HD, etc.

At the back side of the M5 is also a 2.5D tapered glass surface that sports the FiiO brand logo, the Hi-Res Audio & Hi-Res Audio Wireless logos and some important certificates (FCC, CE. etc.).

On the top of the FiiO M5 is the multi functional power button, two microphones for voice conversations & recordings, the volume up/down button and a 3.5mm out that shares the Phone Out, Line Out and Coaxial Out functions.

At the bottom of the M5 is the UDB Type-C charging/Data transfer port and one microSD card slot that supports cards up to 2TB.

The right and left sides of the device chassis are plain.

The overall build quality of the FiiO M5 is solid and doesn’t show any imperfections like burrs or gaps.

 

 

 

Specifications: 
CPUIngenic X1000E
RAM64MB
DACAsahi Kasei AK4377
Bluetooth ChipCSR8675
Bluetooth4.2
Bluetooth transmitSBC/aptX/LDAC
Bluetooth receiveSBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC
Screen1.54-inch IPS Touch Screen (220.4 PPI)
Number of Colors262K
DimensionsAbout 45.3*42*13.7mm
Charging time<2.5 hours (DC5V/2A charger)
Battery life (H = Hours)>10.5H via 3.5mm Phone Out and 13.5H via Bluetooth
Standby time>22 days
Battery550mAh
StoragemicroSD card (supports up to 2TB)
Power output24mW (32Ω /THD+N<1%)
42mW (16Ω /THD+N<1%)
Frequency Response5Hz~90 kHz(-3dB)
Coaxial (SPIDF)Up to 176.4kHz-24bit/DSD64
Phone OutUp to 384kHz-32bit/DSD128
USB OutUp to 384kHz-32bit/DSD128
SNR≥118dB
Output impedance<0.5Ω
Recommended drive loads16~100Ω
Separation74dB
THD + N<0.003%(1kHz/32Ω)
Noise Floor <2.5 μV

  

Supported File Formats: 
Lossless:DSD:DSD64/DSD128(“.iso”“.dsf”,“.dff”)
APE(Fast): 384 kHz/24 bit
APE(Normal): 96 kHz/24 bit
APE (High): 96 kHz/24 bit
FLAC: 192 kHz/24 bit
WAV: 384 kHz/32 bit
Aiff:192 kHz/24 bit
Aif:192 kHz/24 bit
WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit
Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit
Lossy compression:MP3,OGG,WMA, AAC

 

 

 

Hardware and Software Features:
1. Hardware:

The FiiO M5 is maybe the smallest member of the M Series Portable Audio Player, but shows some nice hardware specs and features that I want to share know with you.

a) Processor:

Under the hood of the FiiO M5 is the X1000 CPU of the company Ingenic Semiconductor with a processor speed of 1.0 GHz. It has a very energy efficient MIPS32 XBurst RISC core with double precision hardware float point unit for low power consumption.

 

b) DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):

The FiiO M5 features the new AK4377 DAC (Digital to Analog Converters) of the company Asahi Kasei. This 32-bit advanced Digital to Analog converter with a headphone amplifier is a higher performing solution of the AK4376A that is adopted by many portable audio products.

The AK4377 is a DAC with Native DSD support that achieves -109dB THD+N and 128dB SNR and exhibits flat THD+N characteristics of -105dB or less in all audible bands, enhancing the ability to reproduce the original sound.

The AK4377 features the “VELVET SOUND”, architecture adopted in AKM premium DAC’s for high-end audio products.

 

 

c) Bluetooth Chip:

The Qualcomm CR8675 Bluetooth chip used in the FiiO M5 is a premium low-power solution designed for enhanced audio applications with support for 24-bit transmission and processing, thanks to its 120MHz DSP. This chip is also much more stable in signal strength than other competing chips, especially in situations with lots of interference.

 

2. Connectivity:

 

a) Wired (PO/LO/Coaxial/USB DAC):

The FiiO M5 has a 3.5mm (unbalanced) headphone that shares the Phone Out, Line Out and Coaxial Out output functions.

The USB Type-C female port is a multifunctional connector that works as digital out for USB DAC/USB Audio functionalities, as USB charging port and for USB data transmissions. You are also able to connect the M5 to OTG- compatible Smartphone and tablet which allows you to transfer files between both devices.

The asynchronous USB DAC function supports both Mac’s and Windows PC’s and you can also connect your Android device without the need of 3rd party software, just plug and play.

With Mac computers, you can just plug-and-play the M5 with no drivers needed. With Windows PC’s you need to install the driver, which you can find on FiiO’s website.

Either way allows you to listen file formats up to 384kHz-32bit/DSD128 quality.

 

b) Wireless:

The CSR8675 Bluetooth Chip inside the FiiO M5 works as both Bluetooth receiver and transmitter and supports codes like SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC. The Bluetooth paring was very easy and the connection quality has been worked flawlessly with my Samsung Galaxy S9+ that supports LDAC.

  • Bluetooth Receiver formats: SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC
  • Bluetooth transmitter formats: SBC/aptX/LDAC

 

 4. cVc Technology and Voice Recording Functionality:

The M5 is equipped with a dual microphone design, which features the cVc noise cancellation technology which should according to FiiO automatically adjusts the microphone and actively suppresses background noises. I have tested this feature and can confirm that it works pretty well.

In addition to being an audio player, the FiiO M5 can also act as high-fidelity sound/voice recorder.

*Recording functionality requires micro SD to be inserted into the M5.

 

 

5. Step Counter:

The FiiO M5 has a build in pedometer chip that is allowing it to display the number of steps taken, which is a useful features if you didn’t want to use an external device to count your steps while listening to your music.

PS: The FiiO M5 features also a black silicone band for this purposes that you can purchase separately.

 

 

6. Battery Life:

The FiiO M5 has a build in 550mAh Li-polymer battery and has an extreme efficient standby time which should last up to 22 days (didn’t test it) according to FiiO official specs.

The Phone Out battery life was around 10 Hours (at volume 30, Flac 16bit 44.1kHz and screen off), while the Bluetooth Playback time is around 12 – 13 Hours (at volume 30, LDAC Codec and screen off).

 

 

7. Software:

a) GUI (Graphical User Interface):

The FiiO M5 has colorful and simple to navigate GUI which is based on Linux OS instead of Android OS that we have seen on other M Series devices like the FiiO M6, M7 and M9 (except the M3K).

The “Main Menu” has 7 different categories and to switch between these categories you need to simply swipe left and right and to chose you need to touch the category icon.

Those categories are Now Playing, Settings, Category, BT Receiver, Recording, Step Counter and File Browser.

The now playing screen offers a number of details of the current playing song.

The Settings menu is allowing you to change system settings such as Brightness, Screen Timeout, USB Mode, Time Settings, Language, Recording quality and many more.

The FiiO M5 supports a number of on screen gesture controls, like for example “Swipe right from the left edge to return or exit” or “Swipe down from the top edge for a Drop-down menu for fast access to the now playing screen/previous track or next track/play or pause/adjust screen brightness”, etc.

The FiiO features also 7 different types of equalizer presets which are Rock, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Dance, Vocal and Metal. I personally don’t use the “equalizer section” of any DAP, but this a useful option for those who like such an option.

 

b) Firmware Update:

The FiiO M5 supports firmware updates, the only thing you need to do is to follow steps bellow;

  1. Please go to FiiO’s website to download the firmware.

Download link: http://www.fiio.com/supports and copy the M5.zip file package to the root directory of an FAT32-formatted SD card.

2. Insert the card into the slot on M5 (if not already inserted).

3. Go to Settings >> System settings >> System updates and click “Yes” on the pop-up confirmation dialogue.

  1. The M5 will restart and enter firmware update.

 

Firmware update improper operations during firmware update may cause the M5 to malfunction! Please read the following firmware update guide carefully before proceeding.

 

List of Features:

Here is a list of the remarkable features;

  1. All bluetooth receive codec+Lossless bluetooth transmit
  2. Recording+Bluetooth phone call
  3. Gesture operation
  4. Step counter
  5. Custom screen orientation
  6. USB Audio
  7. USB DAC
  8. Multi-style lock screen clock display
  9. Use with watchband
  10. Supports PO/LO/Spidf output

 

Equipment’s used for this review:

DAP/Phone/Tablet   : FiiO M5, Shanling M0, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
IEM’s                          : FiiO FH7, FiiO FH5, Fiio F9Pro,

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:

  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Spotify)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
  • Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kHz)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)

 

 

 

The Sound:

The FiiO M5 shows neutral tonality with a touch of warmness. The bass is fast, the midrange is fairly transparent while the treble range sounds warmish and controlled.

 

Bass:

The subbass of the FiiO M5 is not too dominant and should be enough in quantity and intensity for the average user with the exception for those who prefer a bass-head level presentation. The subbass has a slightly warm and pretty soft tonality with a moderate level of quantity and extension.

When it comes to the midbass tuning, I can confirm that the M5 offers a petty strong, pronounced and fast presentation. The tonality of this region shows also a nice warmth and smoothness. The overall presentation is quite clean and has a nice slam effect while listening to instruments such as cross drums, snare drums and other percussion instruments, without to show negative situations such as a midbass hump and mixings.

The general bass quantity is a touch higher than neutral. The amount of bass is neither too much nor too little and shows a balanced presentation.

The general bass tuning of the FiiO M5 is the pretty fast and well-controlled, especially while listening to instruments such like bass guitars, drums, contrabass, etc.

 

Midrange:

The Midrange of the FiiO M5 has a slightly warm, transparent, vivid presentation with good resolution for a DAP in this price range.

 

Vocals:

The FiiO M5 has a pretty good lower midrange depth that doesn’t sound dry or thin, which is an advantage for the male vocal presentation.

Male vocals are sounding warmish and showing an average fullness/thickness. The overall presentation of male vocals is pleasant, without to have any noticeable muddiness.

The upper midrange of the FiiO M5 is quite pronounced, which helps to increase the detail level of female vocals. Female vocals are more upfront in presentation and more detailed compared to male vocals.

Female vocals have a good level of transparency and airiness, while the general presentation is pretty soft and emotional and controlled, with the exception of soprano voices like Sertap Erener or Edith Piaf who can be sound a bit sharp.

 

Instruments:

The FiiO M5 has a good separation and fairly accurate placement of instruments without to show any remarkable mixings, while the level of airiness is on a good level. The instrument tonality is slightly warm and natural, with a full bodied presentation.

Instruments like guitars are slightly warm and a bit bright in tonality, while pianos are a vivid without to sound harsh. Other instruments such like the contrabass are slightly thick and fast in its presentation.

The acoustic guitars are lightly bassy, crisp and but soft in presentation which makes it very pleasant to listen to.

 

Upper Midrange & Treble:

The upper midrange of the FiiO M5 is well pronounced and controlled. The upper midrange transition is in fairly soft without to show remarkable negative situations such as sharpness or sibilance especially when instruments playing with high distortion.

The M5 has a good upper midrange extension. Everything from female vocals to violins is crisp, clear and quite detailed for such a small device.

The FiiO M5 has a strong and pronounced lower midrange presentation. The treble range is fairly controlled and shows a warmish and bright tonality.

There is a roll-off in the upper midrange, while the detail, intensity and extension are dropping from the lower treble in to the upper treble range.

Especially jazz instruments like hi-hats are pretty pronounced and are showing good extension. Only some instruments like crash cymbals have a slightly lower extension.

Instruments like Hi-hats in metal songs are pronounced and it’s possible to count the strokes. The extension of crash and ride cymbals is pretty good, while the presentation is quite fast and controlled. There is no interference when the piano is accelerating while listening to Jazz music; the hits are clear and distinct.

The treble range is quite airy and is presented in a fairly neutral and clear tonality, compared to the rest of the frequency spectrum.

Soundstage:

The soundstage of the FiiO M5 is neither very wide nor too narrow and shows an average performance that is acceptable for this price range. The M5 is a quite successful DAP in terms of instrument separation, clarity and positioning.

 

 

Comparison:

 

FiiO M5 versus Shanling M0:

The Shanling M0 sound more neutral and thinner compared to the FiiO M5, which has a fuller and more musical presentation.

The Shanling M0 has a higher output power than M5, while the M5 is more suitable with low ohms than M0. The Shanling M0 leads to background noise, while the FiiO M5 has a quite silent black background.

The subbass area is not the strongest ability of both DAP’s. The Shanling M0 is has a little bit more subbass depth, while the FiiO M5 has the upper hand in terms of midbass quantity and intensity. The bass of the M5 is tighter and faster than those of the Shanling M0.

The midrange of the Shanling M0 sound a bit dry compared to those of the FiiO M5 which sound slightly warmer and fuller. The midrange of the M0 is slightly more detailed. The lower midrange of the FiiO M5 shows better depth and intensity, which makes the M5 more successful in terms of male vocal presentation.

Both DAP’s have a pretty pronounced upper midrange, while the Shanling M0 has a bit more intensity, which makes it more suitable for female vocals.

Both of those DAP’s have a fairly airy and spacious soundstage presentation. The Shanling M0 is more successful in terms of soundstage width, while the FiiO M5 has the upper hand in terms of depth.

 

 Conclusion:

The FiiO M5 is an ultra compact Digital Audio Player with lots of features, which offers also a good performance in terms of sound quality with its fast bass response, fairly transparent and detailed midrange and a treble presentation that is pronounced but controlled. The ability to use the M5 as Bluetooth transmitter, voice recorder, USB DAC and even as a pedometer makes it to a little Swiss Knife for a quite affordable price.

 

 

Pros and Cons:

  • + Fast Bass Response
  • + Midrange Clarity & Treble Control
  • + Clean Output
  • + Great Battery life
  • + Ultra Portable
  • + Lots of Features (Voice Recording, USB DAC, Bluetooth Transmitter, Pedometer)
  • – Subbass & Upper Treble Roll-Off
  • – Only Bluetooth 4.2

 

 

 

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