Fiio is one of the most recognizable names in the hi-res audio scene, and the manufacturer is known for its value-focused DACs and IEMs. I’ve reviewed a lot of the brand’s latest launches over the last 12 months, including the fantastic BTR7 Bluetooth DAC, high-end K9 Pro DAC, FA7S and FD3 IEMs and a couple of portable DACs.
Fiio also has a range of portable music players, with the M11S being the latest offering in the range. Think of these portable players as a derivative of the iPod, but for lossless music. You get all the features you need in a single package: the M11S has a 5-inch screen with a 720p resolution, is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 and has dual Saber ES9038Q2M DACs that deliver native 24-bit/384KHz playback and DSD256 along with MQA decoding.
The M11S connects over the single-ended 3.5mm port, and you also get balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm ports. What’s particularly interesting here is that there’s also Bluetooth, and the M11S can transmit wirelessly via SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX HD, LDAC and LHDC. The best part is that it runs a clean version of Android out of the box and with full access to the Play Store, so you can install your favorite streaming service without any hassle.
I’d like to talk a little about the design of the M11S before I get to its audio characteristics. Fiio overhauled its design language in 2022 and is aiming for a consistent aesthetic across its entire range, and it’s immediately apparent when using the M11S. It has the same angular lines and rectangular sides and is similar to the K9 Pro in this respect. Other Fiio products like the Q7 and R7 share a similar aesthetic, so it’s good to see Fiio unifying the design language throughout its portfolio.
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The design itself looks very good and the matte finish on the sides makes it easy to hold and use the M11S. There are physical music playback buttons on the right, power button and a large volume rocker on the left, and a MicroSD slot that can hold up to 2TB — this is very useful if you have a large offline music library and want to access it on going The ports are at the bottom with the 3.5mm jack located to the left of the USB-C port and the balanced 2.5mm and 4.4m ports to the right.
While the 5.0-inch screen feels small compared to the Galaxy S22 and even small phones like the ASUS Zenfone 9, it’s the ideal size here. That doesn’t make the M11S unwieldy, and there’s enough screen real estate to browse your music library and control music playback. The M11S is pretty chunky at 18.5mm, and that’s down to the audio hardware and the large 5300mAh battery under the hood. That said, it’s not too heavy at 271g and you get a clear case in the package to protect the device in the event of a tumble.
The metal chassis is durable and feels built to last, and in the six months I used the M11S, I saw no issues with build quality or button tactility. Rounding off the design, the screen isn’t particularly vibrant here, but it’s serviceable for use. Fortunately, you get Gorilla Glass covering the front and back glass panes.
Coming to the ports, the M11S is capable of delivering 300mW over the 3.5mm jack at 16Ω, which drops to 200mW at 32Ω and 23mW at 300Ω. The balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm ports have more power, rising 670mW at 32Ω, 550mW at 16Ω and 90mW at 300Ω. There’s plenty of headroom here to drive IEMs and full-sized headphones, and I didn’t encounter any drawbacks with the audio gear I have. You get three gain settings here – low, medium and high – and for most IEMs the low gain setting was just fine.
As for the sound itself, the M11S delivers a dynamic signature with lots of character in the low-end, lively mids with good timbre and excellent vocal clarity, and a clean treble with good extension. There is plenty of layering and dynamics in the sound, and the mid-bass is wonderfully detailed, delivering a clean low-end with good presence.
The quiet floor means you won’t hear any hiss even with sensitive IEMs, and this hasn’t been a problem in my tests. The M11S came into its own when used with the Audeze Euclid, allowing the IEMs to deliver a lively sound that is thoroughly immersive.
On the software side, the M11S has vanilla Android 10 with access to Google Mobile Services. This means you get the Play Store out of the box and you can install all your streaming services you want. You also get the option to install anything else you need, but given the older hardware and limited memory, you’re better off using the M11S purely for music streaming – even the best budget Android phones have better hardware in these days.
Fiio has its own storefront that lets you install e.g. Qobuz and Tidal and this was handy for my use as Tidal is not officially listed in the Play Store in my country. Otherwise, you’re looking at a vanilla interface with no changes, and given that my daily driver has been running Android 13 for four months now, the design of the overview menu and notification pane feels archaic.
That said, there is system-wide dark mode and I saw no slowdowns while using the M11S – quite an achievement considering the hardware on offer. The player is powered by Qualcomm’s 14nm Snapdragon 660, and the last phone I used that ran the platform was Xiaomi’s Mi A2. There’s 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, and while that would be a bad combination in a 2023 phone, it’s perfectly fine here.
You also get Wi-Fi connectivity and AirPlay/DLNA streaming, so if you’re like me and have your music library stored on a home NAS server, you’ll be able to access the files directly. While I use USB Audio Player Pro on my phone, the built-in Fiio Music tool was brilliant for playing music from the NAS – it has a nice interface and handles media playback with ease.
There’s a 5300mAh battery under the hood, and the M11S delivers over 15 hours of music playback. It should be more than sufficient for weekly listening sessions, and the only downside here is that it takes an agonizing three hours to fully charge the battery. I use phones with the same battery size that charge in under 30 minutes, but then again, the M11S isn’t a device you need to charge daily.
I use the K9 Pro with the Focal Elex when I’m at my desk, but for most portable listening I turned to the M11S as my player of choice. It drives all the audio gear I have in my house with little to no effort, it produces a balanced sound that makes IEMs like the Audeze Euclid shine, and it has more than adequate battery life.
More than anything, the M11S has been my go-to choice over the last six months because of how easy it is to use. I find using the M11S more convenient than pairing a Bluetooth DAC like the BTR7 with my phone and playing music that way.
The main differentiator is that, unlike my phone, there are no errant notifications on the M11S, so I can just listen to the music without any distractions. At the end of the day, that alone makes it a worthy recommendation, and if you want a hi-res music player that sticks to the basics and just gets out of the way, you’ll love what the M11S has to offer.
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With a robust feature set that includes balanced ports, wireless connectivity, clean Android interface with access to all your streaming services and great sound quality, the Fiio M11S is the ideal high-resolution music player.