FiiO M9 Digital Audio Player Review
FiiO M9 Review
A Real “All in One” Device
The FiiO M9 is the new member and top tier model of the M Series (Micro Portable Music Player). The M9 features the same Exyons Chip you can find on the M7, but has two AK4490EN (Dual) Digital to Analog Converter’s (DAC) a more sophisticated PCB Board and is capable to run third party Online Music Streaming applications such like Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Roon, Deezer and many more.
Some Short information’s about Fiio:
FiiO is a Chinese HiFi brand that was established in 2007 and has experience in researching and developing countless portable music products of different types, and sell FiiO-branded products through sales agents worldwide. The brand name FiiO is composed of Fi (fidelity from HiFi) and iO (number 1&0), representing the real feeling and convenient life that digital brings to life.
Meanwhile, the Chinese “飞傲” is the transliteration of FiiO, indicating the positive and innovative spirit as thriving as spring.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the Fiio M9 as review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered, opinions about the product.
You can purchase the FiiO M9 under the following Official FiiO Online Stores;
Package and Accessories:
The device comes in a relative small white card-box that sports the product image.
The box is containing the following items/accessories;
- 1 x Fiio M9 Digital Audio Player (DAP)
- 1 x USB mini to USB Type-C cable for data cable and charging
- 1 x Transparent silicone case
- 1 x Coaxial Cable
- 1 x Warranty card
- 1 x User Manual, etc.
The transparent silicone case that is included to the standard package is a nice addition. There is also a leather case which is sold separately.
Design, Buttons and Build Quality:
The FiiO M9 is a small (60 x 106 x 13.3mm) and relative lightweight (133 grams) device, which has an anodized aluminum chassis that is available in two (2) different color variants for now. Those are grey (silver) and black like my review unit that has the same color and surface finish such like the M7 and the smaller brother M3K.
The device has a solid appearance and is pretty well made without any noticeable gaps or openness and the edges/corners of the device are slightly rounded to avoid sharpness that makes the device more comfortable to hold in my hands.
The left side of the FiiO M9 has a rounded design, while the right side has an typical edgy design same as the FiiO M7 has.
On the front of the device is the 3.2’’ LG IPS Touch Screen with a resolution of 480×800pixel. The screen comes with a pre-installed screen protector that is made of glass, which is a nice addition. The screen is pretty sharp, is fairly readable under direct sunlight conditions.
At the bottom of the screen is a RGB light indicator that shows what audio format you are listening. This indicator is reminding also (light up in red) when you should charge your device.
The right side of the device is plain, no buttons, no card slots, etc.
On the Left side are 3 physical buttons, those are the power button, play/pause button and the next/fast – back/fast rewind buttons.
There is also a volume wheel in gold color which has a 120 steps digital potentiometer. This volume wheel (knob) is very responsive.
Here is also the one micro SD card slot dedicated for storage expansion, which supports micro SD cards up to up 2TB (theoretically).
The top of the device is plain.
At the bottom are the 3.5mm PO/LO/ SPDIF coaxial output, the 2.5mm balanced headphone output and the USB Type C port that serves as data, digital out and charging port.
On the back side of the device sports the FiiO logo, the Hi-Res Logo and some certification detail of the device.
- Model : FiiO M9
- Operating System : Highly Customized Android OS
- Screen : 3.2’’ LG IPS Screen (480×800pixel)
- CPU : Exynos 7270 14nm (4 core design) 1GHz
- ROM : 4GB (2GB available to user)
- RAM : 768MB
- Expanded Memory : 1 micro SD card slot up 2TB (theoretically)
- Bluetooth : Bluetooth V4.2，LDAC/aptX/aptX HD/SBC
- Bluetooth chip : SAMSUNG S5N5C10B01-6330
- WiFi : 2.4G，WiFi transmission supported
- DAC : AK4490EN x 2 (Dual DAC)
- AMP : OPA1612 LPF & OPA1622 BUF x 2
- Frequency Response : 5Hz~80 kHz（-3dB）
- THD+N : ＜0.002%
- SNR : ≥118dB (A-weighted)
- Phone Output : 3.5mm Single Ended
- Output Power : 125mW@16Ω / 170mW@32Ω / 19mW@300Ω
- Output Impedance : <2Ω
- Line Out : SPDIF output
- USB In/Out : USB Type-C USB2.0 Charging/Data trans./USB DAC/USB Audio）
- Balanced Out : 2.5mm Balanced
- Output Power : 125mW@16Ω / 195mW@32Ω / 24mW@300Ω
- Output Impedance : <2Ω
- Gain Settings : Low & Gain
- Battery : 2350mAH
- Battery Life : 10h Single-Ended, 9h Balanced, 30h Bluetooth
- USB Port : USB Type C
- Size : 60mm*106mm*13.3mm
- Weight : 133g
Supported File Formats:
- APE(Fast): 192 kHz/24 bit
- APE(Normal): 192 kHz/24 bit
- APE (High): 192kHz/24 bit
- APE (Extra High): 48kHz/24 bit
- APE (Insane): 48kHz/24 bit
- FLAC: 192 kHz/24 bit
- WAV: 192 kHz/64 bit
- Aiff：192 kHz/24 bit
- Aif:192 kHz/24 bit
- WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit
- ALAC LAC A Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit
The FiiO M9 comes with a number of nice hardware specs and one of those is the Processor. The processor inside the FiiO M9 is the Samsung Exynos 7270 SoC (System on Chip) processor that we also know from the FiiO M7, which is using the same one. I am not a fan of the RockChip processor and it is nice too see a more stable and power efficient SoC in new devices of FiiO.
This processor is made on the 14nm FinFET process, which should consume according to FiiO, approx. %20 less power than older chips with 28nm process.
The M9 has an eight-layer HDI (High Density Interconnect) PCB with a thickness of 0.08mm. While the M9 PCB is more complex than the one in the M7, it also allows more components to be integrated into a smaller space, leading to a smaller PCB and a smaller device overall. Thos type of a PCB is maybe common for modern Smartphones, but to see such more sophisticated parts in devices like Digital Audio Players is a nice step for this industry.
The onboard storage capacity of the Fiio M9 is in total 4 GB, but 2GB’s are reserved by the operating system. The FiiO M9 has also 1GB RAM (random access memory) of which is 768MB free for use.
The FiiO M9 is a Digital Audio Player with a 3.2” IPS screen of the company LG. The resolution of this screen is according to FiiO specs 480×800 and has a pixel density of 292ppi.
The screen is quite responsive and has a color reproduction of 16 Million colors and looks even better than the FiiO M7. The maximum brightness is pretty good for indoor (home, office, etc.) usage and shows an average performance under direct sunlight conditions, which is noticeable better than the M7.
This touch screen offers also a 5-finger multi-touch supports, which allows the user to use gestures such like pinch to zoom.
B) DAC Section:
The FiiO M9 has dual AK4490EN DAC’s (Digital to Analog Converters) of the company Asahi Kasei. The AK4490EN is a 32-bit 2ch DAC with low distortion characteristics and wide dynamic range.
This DAC has five types of 32-bit digital filters that can be selected from the FiiO M9 over the settings filter menu.
Built-in dedicated FPGA
Inside the M9 is an A3P030 FPGA, responsible for ensuring your music (whatever sample rate) is played back accurately by stabilizing digital clock signals. The FPGA also decodes DSD64/128 in hardware, which the M9 supports in ISO/DFF/DSF formats.
FiiO M9’s audio circuit has a special design to support balanced and single-ended outputs. The TI OPA1612 is used as the LPF, while the TI OPA1622 serves as the current buffer. To achieve single-ended and balanced output, there are two OPA1622 op-amps used that provide up to 77mW (Under balanced output) of power under a 300Ω load.
The FiiO M9 has three different wired connection options. Those are the 3.5mm unbalanced headphone out, the 2.5mm balanced out and the USB out. The 3.5mm headphone out is acting as Phone Out, Line Out and SPIDF (Coaxial) Out.
The M9 can be used as an asynchronous USB DAC with both Mac’s and Windows PC’s. With Mac computers, you can just plug-and-play the M9 with no drivers needed. With Windows PC’s you need to install the driver, which you can find on FiiO’s website.
The FiiO M9 has a build in WiFi antenna which supports 2.4GHz routers and WiFi transmission. WiFi transmission Works via DLNA which supports Windows for now, but according do FiiO it will support more in the future. Oder wireless features such like AirPlay support for Apple devices and FLYLINK for Android operating services, which is an answer to HiBy Link, will come with future software upgrades.
Furthermore, WiFi and Android OS mean you have the option to use online streaming services with the FiiO M9.
The M9 uses Bluetooth 4.2 and supports virtually all Bluetooth formats including the high-resolution ones for your ultimate listening pleasure, including: 24-bit aptX HD (also backwards compatible with aptX), LDAC, and HWA.
The M9 can also act as your computer’s Bluetooth transmitter, you need to connect the M9 up to your computer as a USB DAC, and then have the player transmit Bluetooth audio to your headset. Supported codec’s are LDAC/aptX/aptX HD and SBC.
The FiiO M9 has a build in 2350mAh Li-polymer battery that should last for under normal usage for around 10 hours. My test results are showing that the battery life of the M9 over the 3.5mm (with volume at 45, file format 16bit/44Khz Flac, gain at low and with FiiO FH5 earphone) is about 9 to 10 Hours, while I am getting around 8 – 8.5 hours over the 2.5mm balanced out.
There is also a deep sleep (standby) mode that allows de device to work for 45 days.
The FiiO M9 has a highly customized Android operating system, which is quite simple to use and navigate. The UI is pretty fluid with minimal/low lags and should satisfy most of its users.
The Main Menu shows you some icons/shortcuts like FiiO Music, File Manager, Gallery, Technical Support and Setting. The M9 is also coming with pre-installed online music applications like Kkbox, Tidal, Moov, etc. But you can also install other third party (only white listed apps) such like NetEase Cloud Music, Spotify, Qobuz, Roon, Deezer, Joox, ES file manager, Bandcamp, and Sony headphones.
The best thing about the M9 is that you can download your Spotiy, Tidal contents to the device or memory card to use it aslo in offline mode.
The Fiio Music Menu gives you access to the Fiio Music Application.
After you select the Fiio Music menu, you will land to the Fiio Music Selection Menu, where you have access to your songs with in categorization, like All songs, Artist, Album, Playlist, Genre or via Folder selection. There are also some shortcuts like recently played, Most Played etc.
The Fiio Music Menu is simple and user friendly. The M9 has no physical back button, but you can use the back icon or simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen to the top that reacts as back command, which is quite useful.
There is a 10 Band Equalizer for manual settings and some ready to use settings like rock, pop, jazz etc., which don’t like to use in any device.
If you select the File Manager icon, you will land in to the menu where you have direct access to shortcuts like songs, pictures and even documents. You have here also direct access to your internal and external storage.
The Technical support icon on the main menu gives you access to the FW update option.
You can select OTA updates or choose Local updates. OTA updates requires a stable WiFi network, and once you press the “check for updates” button, M9 will automatically look for updates online.
The Status Bar on the top of the screen indicates the working status.
The Settings icon allows the user to enter in to the settings menu that should be quite familiar for Android users. Under this menu, you can find the settings for WiFi, Bluetooth, Audio, LED, Key-Lock, General, Factory Reset, etc.
The Audio setting is allowing you to change the output from Phone Pout to Line Out, or you can change the gain of the device, balance and many more.
Equipment’s used for this review:
DAP’s : FiiO M9, Cayin N5II
IEM’s : FiiO FH5, Campfire Audio Atlas, Fiio F9Pro,
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Spotify)
- London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
- Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Minor Empire – BulbulumAltinKafeste (Spotify)
- Leonard Cohen – You Wnt it Darker (Spotify)
- Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Casey Abrams – Robot Lover (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
- Future Heroes – Another World (Tidal Hi-fi)
- Lorde – Team (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
- Opeth – Damnation (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
- Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
The FiiO M9 sounds a bit warmer than iBasso DX80 and is noticeable warmer and more full bodied in its presentation than the FiiO X7 (first generation).
The general tonality of the FiiO M9 is on the warmer side of neutral and shares the same musicality with other “FiiO M” Series DAP’s.
The subbass of the FiiO M9 is pronounced, has good depth and extension. I can feel the deep and powerful subbass in some of my test tracks like Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angel” and Armin Van Buuren’s “Vini Vici”.
The subbass shows a soft character with a warmish tonality that has an above average quantity and rumble.
The speed and tightness of FiiO M9’s bass is on a good level and is successful in tracks who need an above average speed performance. The FiiO M9’s deep, powerful and well-extended bass performance offer a pleasant listening experience from instruments like contrabass to bass guitar.
The Midbass range of the FiiO M9 is well developed, powerful and at the same time musical. It is neither fast nor too slow and shows an average speed. Instruments such as cross-drums or trumpets have a fairly pronounced, warm and soft midbass tonality and show no negative situations like midbass hump or hollowness.
The midrange of the FiiO M9 is on the warmer side of neutral and shows a musical presentation. A big plus point of the M9 in this range is that it doesn’t shows issues such as sibilance with male and especially with female vocals.
The FiiO M9 has a mildly pronounced upper midrange, therefore the female vocal presentation is fairly soft, warm and with a fully tonality without any annoying or ear-piercing harshness. The female voices are showing in general an average airiness and clearness. The extension and ups and downs of soprano female voices are slightly shorter than desired due to the slightly pronounced upper midrange.
The FiiO M9 has a quite successful lower midrange depth that is more pronounced than the upper midrange, which makes the male vocals presentation more detailed than those of the female vocals. The male vocals have a fairly deep, soft and moderately thick tonality and they’re no negative conditions, such as hollowness or harshness, on the contrary they sound musical and pretty pleasant.
The instrument presentation in the midrange is neither thin nor too thick and sounds close to natural and fairly musical to my ears. The FiiO M9’s general instrument clearness and airiness is on a good level due to the pretty wide and deep soundstage. The guitars are slightly warm and bassy, with a pretty sweet tonality, while pianos are soft and musical without to be overly bright or too harsh.
Since the FiiO M9 is a Digital Audio Player, which does not have a very pronounced upper midrange, there is no harshness, over brightness and mixings in fast recordings, on the contrary it sound quite soft, mildly warm and musical and shows good control.
However, this tuning leads to a noticeable short extension with female vocals and instruments such as violins. Overall, the overall detail level and the airiness of the FiiO M9 in the upper mid-range are rather moderate.
The FiiO M9 has a lightly warm tonality with a smooth treble presentation. The treble is slightly laid back in its presentation, which makes the overall treble presentation of the M9 fatigue free and ideal for longer listening periods.
The lower treble (presence) shows moderate emphasis, while the upper treble region (brilliance) is mildly pronounced. The lower treble region is more pronounced and detailed than the upper treble region.
The treble extension of the FiiO M9 is somewhat short, while the amount, airiness and intensity are at an average level, which is the result of a slight roll in this frequency range.
The FiiO M9 has a suitable stage for a realistic instrument placement and is neither too closed in nor very wide. The soundstage shows more depth than its width and there is enough space and air between the instruments and the vocals.
Cayin N5II versus FiiO M9:
The Cayin N5II is a slightly bright sounding DAP with a lightly warmer than neutral tonality, while the FiiO M9 shows a warmer, fully sounding presentation that is both musical and entertaining.
Both DAP’s showing an adequate subbass depth, while the FiiO M9’s subass has additional depth and extension and is superior in this regarding.
The Cayin N5II has a pretty linear bass response, while the FiiO M9 shows a bit more bass than linear and is shows also a more powerful and pronounced presentation. The Cayin N5II on the other hand has the upper hand in terms of bass speed, which makes the N5II slightly more successful and detailed in fast tracks.
The Cayin N5II has a lightly warm, transparent and detailed midrange, while the FiiO M9 shows a softer, slightly thicker and more musical presentation. The lower midrange of the M9 has more depth and shows also a thicker character that makes it more successful with male vocals than the Cayin N5II that is missing some depth.
The upper midrange of the Cayin N5II has more emphasis than those of the FiiO M9 which makes it slightly more detailed in this area, while the FiiO M9 has the upper hand in terms of control. The N5II is more successful with female vocals especially in terms of detail and extension. The overall presentation of female vocals is slightly more transparent and clean with the N5II.
Both DAP’s successful in terms of instrument presentation. The Cayin N5II has a slightly more transparent and detailed instrument presentation, while the FiiO M9 sounds warmer, softer, forgiving and musical. The N5II is a bit better in terms of instrument definition and separation.
The treble range of the Cayin N5II is more upfront, brighter and neutral compared to those of the FiiO M9 that sounds more relaxed and warmish in this frequency region.
When it comes to the treble extension and sharpness I can say that the Cayin N5II is slightly better, especially with instruments like cymbals, violins or side flutes that need additional treble. The FiiO M9 is forgiving and smooth in this area, which makes it to the better choice for those who are sensitive and listening to long periods.
Both of those DAP’s have a pretty successful soundstage performance and a fairly precise instrument placement. The main difference is terms of depth and wideness The FiiO M9 is superior to the Cayin N5II in terms of soundstage depth, while the Cayin N5II has the slightly wider soundstage. The general soundstage presentation of the N5II is airier in a small margin.
The FiiO M9 is a multifunctional device that supports many wired and wireless connection options, third party streaming applications and a simple but functional UI. People who are looking for aadevice, with online streaming capabilities, a solid build quality, balanced out, Bluetooth DAC and a fairly detailed, musical and forgiving presentation will love the FiiO M9 for this price range.
Pros and Cons:
- + Sound Quality
- + Musical Presentation
- + Black Background
- + Bluetooth DAC, USB DAC, Balanced Out
- + Third Party Application (also with Offline Mode)
- + Simple and useful UI
- + Build Quality
- – A tad more sparkle and air could be nice
- – Not the largest soundstage
- – Low internal storage capacity (only 2GB)