Review of FiiO player M9 — modern features without sacrificing sound


FiiO continue to promote successfully found a niche of players with chipset the Exynos. The first such model in the face of M7 showed the strengths of the platform, but did not give what users most wanted: streaming. To fix this is designed model M9, which offers not only advanced, but also superior sound.

Not related to the audio hardware has remained almost the same as the M7, with the addition of the WiFi module, responsible for communication with the outside world. The rest is the same: Exynos 7270, a little less than a Gigabyte of RAM, about two gigabytes of ROM, the touch screen from LG, the Bluetooth module with support for all conceivable codecs. For the audio portion of this model is the solution already tested by the company in practice: a pair of AK4490EN and the balanced amplifier on the basis of the OPA-shek. The decoding signal is engaged in a “specially trained” FPGA-shka. With the price of approximately $300, very good equipment.

Specifications

  • CPU: Exynos 7270 @ 1 GHz
  • DAC: 2 × AK4490EN
  • OH: OPA1612 + 2 × OPA1622
  • RAM: 768 MB
  • Built-in memory (user accessible): 2 GB
  • Expandable memory: MicroSD up to 2 TB
  • Wireless interfaces: WiFi 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Codecs Bluetooth: HWA, LDAC, aptX, HD aptX, SBC
  • Input: USB-C
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm (nauchnikov, linear, coaxial), 2.5 mm balanced
  • Screen: 3.2″ IPS 480×800
  • Battery: 2350 mAh, Li-Po
  • Charging time: < 2 hours
  • Operating time with one charge: >10 hours (normal exit) > 9 hours (balanced output), 30 hours (Bluetooth)
  • Dimensions: 60 mm × 106 mm × 13 mm
  • Weight: 133 gr.

3.5 mm naushnikov output

  • Output power: ≥170 mW @32Ω, ≥19 mW @300Ω
  • Frequency range: 5 Hz ~ 80 kHz
  • The ratio signal/noise: ≥118 dB
  • Output impedance: <2Ω
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: <0.002%
  • Channel separation: >72 dB
  • Peak voltage: 6.5 Vp-p

2.5 mm “balanced” output

  • Output power: ≥ 220 mW @32Ω, ≥77 mW @300Ω
  • Frequency range: 5 Hz ~ 80 kHz
  • The ratio signal/noise: ≥113 dB
  • Output impedance: <2Ω
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: <0.002%
  • Channel separation: >98 dB
  • Peak voltage: 7.1 V p-p

Packing and delivery

Someday I will find a suitable thesaurus to dilute the once hackneyed “minimalist packing and standard”. The outer “skin” made of thick white paper and decorated with the image of the player. Inner box, also white, but it went the cardboard down tight. In it, besides the device itself, the afflicted will find:

  • USB C power cord
  • adapter for coaxial output
  • silicone case
  • warranty card and manual

Spare protective glass in a box with no accessories, but one, just glued at the factory, complete the number.

Of course, I would like to see in the list case more impressive, but obviously he fell victim to the struggle for the cost of the device.

Design and management

For many years now, FiiO looking for “his” design, trying out different campaigns. M9 looks like it tried to combine two “typical” for the company decisions. The left side of the aluminum body is made rounded (M3K FiiO X1-II), the right (and everyone else) — totally smooth (FiiO M7, X7). I’m not a strong aesthetic in design, so I appearance of liked player, he is comfortable and quite functional, and the build quality is not satisfactory. The model is available in two color variants: black and silver.

Almost all controls are located on the left side: memory card slot, dual button navigate tracks, play button-pause, the volume wheel and power button and screen lock.

Bottom-placed inputs and outputs: 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm and USB C. “Balanced” 2.5 mm output here is the “not universal”, but is only good for sound output on the headphones. 3.5 mm output, in addition to nauchnikov, can serve as a more linear and coaxial. USB used for charging, memory access, signal output to external DACs and connect in DAC mode the M9.

Since I remembered about the charging, full charge battery is gaining around 1 hour 50 minutes, it lacks a little less than 10 hours with normal headphones (MEEAudio P1 with 3.5 mm output), with “balanced” connection time is reduced by about 1 hour. Wireless headphones player can broadcast more than 20 hours, but it all depends on the codec used.

The main part of the front panel is the screen, it has a normal range of brightness (even the sun is still readable, albeit not particularly contrast), good viewing angles and color reproduction. Below the screen placed a led indicator, made in the form of the company logo: it changes color depending on the bitness of losing the signal or used Bluetooth codec.

Firmware

From the point of view, we have the same customized Android 7, which we saw in FiiO M7, with the exception of FM radio and the possibility of installing several additional programs through APK files. As player resources are limited, the developers decided to limit the installed program “white list” known-supported solutions. The device to preset NetEase Cloud Music, MOOV, Tidal and KKBOX, however, you can delete them. In the list of “extras” are allowed including Spotify, Qobuz, Roon, Deezer, JOOX, ES File Manager, Bandcamp and Sony headphones. Set, of course, not huge, but the most popular “audiophile” streaming services are here present. Many will miss Google Music but it does not work without all of Google, and it’s not just a problem with the license, but also very challenging work to support.

In General, I support the decision from the white list (Tidal and Bandcamp is, and nothing else), FiiO reasonably insure from fans to download torrents and mine PPC directly into the player. In addition, the white list is promised to expand.

Immediately after loading, the user encounters is already familiar from the M7 launcher with two columns of icons. At this time the list is scrolled, as more applications than fit on one screen. First place traditionally is FiiO Music, he has become so familiar that I’m not even going to waste time talking about it. In short — it is quite convenient and the most functional player that offers nearly all of the existing opportunities. If you need a more detailed description, you can see an overview of any of the Android players, the company released recently.

Also “on Board” M9 has a file browser, gallery containing mostly album art, and app support, there are links to the documentation and FAQ as well as the option that firmware upgrade.

The last of the “standard” apps is settings. Here, too, everything is quite familiar, configured, and audio options (codec, Bluetooth, filter and DAC) and system-wide (brightness, key lock, etc.). The main problem is that the Music player FiiO is very deeply integrated in the firmware and is responsible for many functions, so some of the options switches the interface, and some — in the settings menu. This in itself is slightly confusing, but for example, in the case of the Bluetooth codec is becoming very much a weird form: all the codecs except HWA switch in system preferences, and the HWA is activated through the settings FiiO Music. Yes, I understand that the developers of the company use a common code base, and this is the Music supports HWA and the “regular” Android phones, where is add menu item in system settings is impossible. But in this case the source is controlled by FiiO, therefore, to complicate the life of developers easy users I think it’s a good idea.

However, I can’t call it a critical problem, remember the location of the settings is unlikely to be a problem for users not suffering from mental disorders. Besides, you should thank the developers for the fact that places are settings for only two.

But, of course, the most interesting — installed apps. For obvious reasons, 3 out of 4 “complete” program immediately went to uninstall, and to the remaining Tidal I added Dizzer and Bandcamp. Here I would like to share some valuable experience, but the apps “just work”, as well as on any smartphone, bringing the sound without problems and complaints. So there is a definite “pass”.

In General, when basic usage scenarios, the firmware has proved to be stable and reliable. The lungs are occasionally observed Tidal braking in, but this is obviously the conscience of the developers of the client. No noticeable bugs I’ve seen, although, judging by the complaints on the network, recently surfaced some problems playing MP3 in VBR, but they are already fixed in the latest beta.

In accordance with recent trends player just Packed with features (and FiiO continue to add them), to cite just a few examples. You can use the M9 in the role of a Bluetooth receiver, while the company’s promise to add LDAC in the next month. For users of Apple technology in the near future will add support for AirPlay, allowing you to broadcast with improved quality over WiFi. Nice M9 to manage the role of digital transport signal can be output via both USB and coax. You can even adjust the player to the role of Converter USB-Bluetooth.

Sound

To listen to the device used the following headphones: iBasso IT04, 99 Meze Classics, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Andromeda Audio, Unique Melody Mason V3, HUM Pristine and others.

Overall, on a serve, the player was “average”: good detail without turning into a dry monitormost, slightly heightened with emotion, but without passing the point beyond which begins the sound is unnatural.

Bass is well detailed, resolution and depth is not a record but pretty good is perhaps the most appropriate epithet would be “better than average”. Bass has good weight, so, when necessary, able to show the character, playing beats and rolls. LF there is not a monitor, so the player is more focused not on the lovers of dryness, and those who need a little bit to add “meat”, however, the additive here is minimal.

Mid serves no attempts to portray neutrality and superdetail. The resolution is quite good, but accentuate microcontrast there is no player emphasizes the energy of the track and is committed to feeding the material whole, without unfolding it into components. The nature of the instruments transmitted reliably, and the emotion in the vocals a little more focus, especially the low male voices. Imaginary scene a little more than average in width and about average in depth, but segregation plans and the positioning of the sound sources reliably.

HF have a normal, but not maximum length. In fact, the design of the edges of the frequency range — the main thing that distinguishes the sound of the M9 from more expensive counterparts. Vernacularly range pleases a decent resolution as well as practicing attacks and attenuation. The stratification is very simplified, but that’s to be expected. Tweeters sound very natural and provide the desired level of lightness.

The outputs of the player are slightly different on the pitch, I tried to describe the “average option”, while the balanced output offers a little more dense and massive sound, and a 3.5 mm plays a bit legkovushka and airy. The difference is not great, but still audible, even in blind tests.

Very briefly describe the comparison of the M9.

Range FiiO Very roughly speaking, the M9 is superior to everything below X5 the third generation: he is the best X3 and X1, well, expect replays M7. However, the latter remains for a long time of work and the price. M9 offers a very balanced sound than often can not boast of the different generations of the “triplets” and “units”.

FiiO X5-3 With a slight “rounding”, these two player can be put on a conditional level, the difference in sound is primarily in the flow, the X5 plays a more massive and solid, while the M9 is closer to neutrality (though not reaching it).

iBasso DX120 Despite similar prices, these players to describe other than “entirely different” will not work. Neutral detailed iBasso having a small slope in light flow and just painted and emotional M9 sound like a mirror reflection of each other. However, here we should not forget about the non-audio capabilities, starting with power and ending with the streaming.

Lotoo Paw 5000 Mk II Perhaps, that the engineers of this company was the first who was able to achieve the most “emotional” sound that we are seeing in the M9. In a similar General manner, Lotoo better study the edges of the range and emotion in the midrange, while the M9 offers a little better control in most parts of the range, and more holographic stage.

Compatibility

This player FiiO decided not to experiment with the idea of “put not powerful but long lasting device” and made the M9 quite a decent “exhaust”, are able to shake even a very tight headphones especially with balanced output. The price for this was a small background noise on the 2.5 mm output, however, is not the most sensitive headphones it was almost inaudible. Holders of the same super-sensitive models as always advise to get an attenuator.

Genre player is quite versatile, of course, for super-audiophile recordings it is not perfect, but it is obvious even in his price range. The quality of the material M9 applies not critical, somewhere at 6/10.

A few traditional tracks-examples

Disturbed — Down With the Sickness is One of the few bands that can be attributed to the nu-metal genre, but the manner of their vocalist does not cause me an instant desire to turn the sound off. The music itself is not generally complex, and would not be a problem for any normal player, but the transfer of the vocals — the problem is a little more complicated (although, of course, is the binomial theorem) and then the M9 shows itself at a good level.

Dead Can Dance — Emmeleia Despite the fact that the last album of DCD is already out, and he has a very good example I’ll take from it. Released in 1993 track at first looks simple but actually it requires a certain player level, not allowing to merge vocals in the monotonous hum and then the hero of today’s review again falls in the dirt display.

Air — Electronic Performer Well and finish our selection easy serving of electronic madness, rushing from the melancholy piano with recitative vocals to almost noise inserts. Even these contrasts new from FiiO to cope with the emotion (or in this case underlined the lack of them).

Insights

FiiO clearly understand what is needed for a modern market and M9 confirms it: compact, convenient, good sounding player with a very attractive price and lot of modern features that integrate it with other components of the media system of the user.

And what are the criteria of choice of player for you? To discuss this and any other question portable audio can in our Telegram chat.

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