It’s easy to say that most of us remember our 1st time moments, they only not help us have an emotional attachment to the moment but to the things involved in the moment as well. I could still remember when I was younger and joined some local audio meet and have a taste of what audiophile’s love and are passionate about. One of the 1st audiophile brands that I was able to encounter on the said meet was FiiO. A company based off CN that started in 2007 with an aspiration of raising the reputation of the often misunderstood “Made in China” statement.
It has been quite a while since I have used a FiiO music player, the last being the X1 1st gen and with the audiophile scene being too competitive as of date forced companies to follow the traditional smartphone trend of releasing different lines of products annually. One of these recent releases of FiiO is the M3K music player, sent in as a loaner review unit from Holysai Thailand (FiiO’s official distributor) in exchange for an honest review, there were no monetary factors involved. The FiiO M3K is priced at $70 worldwide and 2,490baht in Thailand. You can check it out off Holysai’s official website.
The FiiO M3K’s tagline of “Affordable Musical Bliss” will be put to the test and will indeed answer some of our questions of how affordable is defined by FiiO standards and how far have they’ve come with regards to their aspiration of raising the reputation of “Made in China”.
Specifications and Packaging
FiiO M3k Spec sheet:
- SoC (Main processor): Ingenic X1000E
- DAC: AK4376A
- Screen: 2.0 inch IPS display
- Operation: touchpad + capacitive touch buttons
- Dimensions: 90.8mm x 44.2mm x 12mm
- Weight: 77.5g
- Charging time: <2.5hours (DC5V/2A charger)
- Battery life: >24hours
- Standby time: >38days
- Battery: 1100mAh lithium-ion polymer battery
- Storage: micro-SD card (supports up to 2TB)
- Power output: >25Mw (32
- Frequency Response: 5Hz-90kHz (-3Db)
- SNR: >117Db (A-weighted)
- Output Impedance: <1 (32 load)
- Recommended drive loads: 16-100
- THD + N: 0.004%(1kHz/32)
- Noise floor: <2uV
The FiiO M3K came in a white cardboard box which features the M3K snapshot upfront and the Hi-Res certification, the minor product details and specifications. Inside this white cardboard box is a black cardboard box which when opened immediately shows the FiiO M3K which is protected by a clear plastic wrap while being housed in a black rubber silicon case. The accessory set is minimal here which is completed with a M3K manual, warranty card and charging/data transfer cable. The addition of a silicon case is commendable for a $70 music player, even the xDuoo x3ii for $120 didn’t come with one.
Build quality, User Interface and HandlingWith an all-aluminum body and tempered glass combo, the FiiO M3K right off the bat makes its owner engage a premium feel for just $70. The curved sides also aids for easier handling along with a the silicon case which I preferred to use rather than a bare M3K as it still retains some sharp edges along the top and bottom sides. The front of the M3K is where the tempered glass takes its abode which supports the 5 touch pad controls which has white backlights (next/previous track, confirmation, back, and menu keys). Underneath the tempered glass front too is the 2 inch IPS display which gets bright (10 levels) enough when I used it outdoors, there were some struggle with it however it was when the sun is fully out which is where the alternate capacitive touch buttons (lock/unlock, volume up/down and pause/play) plays it role. The decision to place all the capacitive touch buttons on the left side of the M3K worked great for a right handed guy like me and I hope it would work well with a left-handed individual as well.
The M3K’s UI is straightforward and simple with absolutely zero learning curve unless you haven’t used any sort of music player, dedicated or even an app on your mobile device. There are 5 main categories (Browse Files, Categories, Recording, Play Settings and System Settings) to navigate. One thing I immediately noticed when using the M3K was it didn’t automatically update its music library when I plugged in SD card even after checking that the “auto-update library” was turned on so I had to do it manually (FW1.3.0). The ability to do audio recording was a nice feature as well with the microphone on the M3K strategically placed on the top portion of the sides with discreet grill cutouts which the black silicon case also emphasized, the recording is decent at best even when using the High option, but the functionality is there. The presence of custom EQ’s are also present and can be user modified based on preference and since yours truly isn’t a fan of EQ (for now) then we’ll leave it at that.
Day to day usage of the M3K has been great personally as it fits easily on any portable space that I usually have and I was a fan of the black silicon case that was included with its exceptional job of keeping the M3K well protected and avoid the usual slippery effect on most all metal devices except when showing off which renders the case, disposable. The capacitive touch buttons had great tactile feedback when pressed and easy to be added on your daily muscle memory routine. The touchpad was where it got tricky for me as I often find myself using the IPS display itself completely forgetting it isn’t a touch display, the touch display controls were reliable though and had on point response, users with bigger hands might struggle, and that’s given though with the M3K’s small footprint.
Stability and ConnectivityThere were zero instances of UI freezes, sudden shutdown, track stoppage encountered with the M3K when I had it with me which is praiseworthy enough and hits that “raising the reputation of Made in China” aspirations that FiiO has, it’s still possible though that minor UI stability issues will occur which all electronic device eventually encounter every now and then. The stability aspect of the M3K gets an excellent thumbs up for me.
The FiiO M3K sports the already outdated Micro USB-B for its charging, data transfer and external DAC (192 kHz/24bit) functions which for $70 is really not a downside, what more if they made this Type-C. Beside this charging port is the dedicated Micro SD-card slot which supports up to 2TB of storage expansion as well as OTG support for Android devices. Completing the trio of ports on the bottom of the M3K is the 3.5mm audio jack and has a gold-plated metal reinforcement which once again a nod to that “raising the reputation of Made in China” aspirations. The connectivity options that the FiiO M3K offers almost made me check the Bluetooth function which seemed natural to be featured in a device this well-built until I realized this thing is just $70.
Sound Quality and Battery LifeThe FiiO M3K supports almost all the lossless formats such as APE, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, MP3, OGG, M4A, ALAC, ISO, DFF and DSF. It also made the move to get Hi-Res certification for the user’s peace of mind and for what’s worth, that’s cool. With all the formalities out of the way, the FiiO M3K sounded clean and almost clinical for the duration that I had it me, the clarity of delivery for each frequency is rendered exceptionally with no noticeable changes in tonality. If your mobile phone (assuming the $70 target market) is heavily leaning towards either the warm or bright signature, the FiiO M3K indeed offers a fresh musical experience than you are used to. I wouldn’t recommend the M3K for those looking for specific sonic changes in either the low end, midrange or high frequencies. A different story altogether if you are looking for an affordable clarity-based music player.
With an advertised battery life of 24 hours, FiiO indeed meant business with the M3K. For the full month that I had the M3K, I was only able to charge it 3 times! 1 tried pushing the M3K to its limits by charging it at 100% and by playing a 16/44 track until either reaching a battery drain or getting it to warm, getting too warm came 1st at almost 8 hour non-stop audio playback and still managed to clock in at 34% battery status. That’s already an impressive showing although I still believe battery life is still relative to the user’s musical preference and usage behavior. How the M3K performed without issues from its UI flow and battery life performance further reinforces the fact the FiiO is indeed going the right way.
FiiO has had a lot of audiophile products released and discontinued from the time that I 1st encountered their philosophy and while I was busy with my own audio journey, it’s nice to see FiiO still going strong all the while as well. The FiiO M3K didn’t only deliver to their “Affordable Musical Bliss” promise for the M3K but it also gave nod to their “raising the reputation of Made in China” aspirations. It delivers a clean and straightforward sound approach on a sturdy build with a reliable and stable UI and impressive battery life for a price that is well, affordable.