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  1. yong_shun
    The Beginning - FiiO M6
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Feb 11, 2019 at 4:16 AM
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Attractive pricing
    Wide range of Bluetooth codecs are supported
    Pocket-Friendly
    Cons - High frequency might need more emphasis
    Introduction
    FiiO 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.

    Since I am into this hobby, FiiO always provide affordable solutions for poor students like me. I have very unique experiences with FiiO - Loves and Hates. I love the price of FiiO for sure and their passion in producing good products especially their DAPs; I frustrated with the old user interface - slow and laggy sometime.
    Last year, FiiO launched their new DAPs - FiiO M7 and M9. This launch finally mitigated the laggy interface. I am satisfied with this 2 new products, especially the bucket machine FiiO M9. Nicely done with competitive price.
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    This year, FiiO launched their mid-range DAP, M6 with an entry level pricing (SGD 279.00). Why I list this DAP in mid-range category? The features embedded in this DAP is beyond what are provided by conventional entry level DAP. Amazing right? The features are tested and will be introduced one by one in the latter part of this review!

    Design
    To describe this DAP in term of the physical appearance, I would use sleek and pocket-friendly. The design is minimalist, modern and sleek. FiiO chose to have a full touchscreen on this DAP instead of the usual scroll-wheel. Actually, FiiO has been using touchscreen frequently in the recently launched DAPs – X5 3rd Gen, X7 MkII and M7. With the touchscreen, M6 looks simpler and nicer.
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    The power on/off button is located at the top of this DAP. Unlike the recent release, M6 does not have a volume control knob. FiiO utilised physical buttons for volume control - similar to what you can find on your mobile phone. On the left side of this DAP, there are 3 buttons:
    • The Play/Pause button
    • The Volume Up button
    • The Volume Down button
    The micro SD card slot is located at the right side of the DAP. This time round FiiO chose to use a push in micro SD card slot instead of using a tray. This is easier for user to remove or insert the micro SD card. There might be some compromises – dust maybe collected if the slot is not used.

    The screen of FiiO M6 is nicely done. Adorning the front of the M6 is a vibrant, clear 3.2-inch IPS screen capable of 16 million colors and supporting 5-point touch. Although no reliable source for this, I believe M6 is utilising the same screen as M9. This IPS screen allows you to easily operate your device with its ability to show even the finest of details. Attractive colour and relatively responsive touch response as compared to a lot of the DAPs which equipped with touchscreen in the market. Unlike M9, FiiO removed all the bezel around the screen creating a bezel-less DAP - looks like a mini smartphone.
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    FiiO did not forget the back panel of this DAP too. Glass is used on the back of the DAP, making the DAP looks modern and classy. I did not expect this design to appear in a DAP which costs less than SGD300. I like this implementation!
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    Unboxing
    The bundle in the box adopted the same minimalist as the player – simple but useful:
    • FiiO M6
    • USB Type C cable
    • Quick Start Guide
    • TPU protection case
    • Screen protector (One pre-applied and one spare)
    User Interface
    In the heart of the M6 lies the Android operating system, deeply customized by FiiO. This allows you to navigate through menus at an astonishing speed and with amazing ease due to the carefully thought out customized user interface. The user interface of the FiiO M9 is smooth and user friendly. No more changing between Android mode and Pure Music Mode like what you can find in X5 3rd Gen and X7 Mk II. FiiO Music is now the core of the player. The user interface is exactly the same as the one FiiO M9 is using. This is a good decision made by FiiO – smooth and free from crashing like X5 3rd Gen. Well done FiiO!
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    Streaming Services
    The FiiO M6 does not support Google Play Store although the backbone of the user-interface is Android-based. Streaming services can be installed and supported by this DAP. It is a little confusing at first but after the first try it is pretty easy. Basically, you need to download apk file for the supported app from website using computer. Then, connect your M6 to the computer and copy the apk file to the storage. To install the app, go to file management and tap on the apk file. The app is now installed. Simple as that. I use Spotify frequently. M6 supported Spotify well. The speed is slightly slower as compared to phone, but it is considerably stable. If you need a dedicated DAP for streaming, M6 is a good choice. There is a list of available applications that are supported by this DAP on FiiO's website.
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    Battery Life
    Under normal usage the M6 can last around 13 hours. This is advertised by FiiO on the website. It is sufficient for me because I always have a habit to charge all my devices at night. M6 supports deep sleep mode. While in deep sleep (standby) mode the M6 can be still be used after a whopping 26 days! And being in deep sleep mode does not mean sacrificing convenience – just hit the power button, and the M6 instantly is ready to go. If you are pairing this DAP with a Bluetooth headphone, the battery life is around 16 hours. Not too bad!

    Bluetooth
    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 DAP can act as a Bluetooth receiver too. With the latest M6-FW1.0.1 firmware update, receiver mode supports both SBC and LDAC codec. I connected M6 with my LG G6 which supports LDAC too. There are some mismatch in the codec. It showed LDAC on my phone but SBC on FiiO. I will drop FiiO a message regarding this and update when response from FiiO is received. FiiO has very good reputation built on Bluetooth connectivity by the launch of the BTR series. It is glad to see this DAP has the capability to do this too.
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    Digital Output and Input
    The M9 utilizes the modern USB Type-C connector, which allows it to not only be used as a USB DAC but also allows output of digital audio signals to other devices through USB. Of course, USB Type-C also enables charging and file management on the M9 when connected to other devices. The M6 supports USB audio out (send digital audio bits through USB), with even support for DoP/D2P. I tested USB out of M6, it works flawlessly with the correct choice of cable.
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    The M9 can be used as an asynchronous USB DAC with both Macs and Windows PCs. With Mac computers, you can just plug-and-play the M6 with no drivers needed. With Windows PCs, a simple install of drivers by FiiO is needed. The M6 can also act as your computer's Bluetooth transmitter – simply hook the M6 up to your computer as a USB DAC, and then have the player transmit Bluetooth audio to your headset!

    Specifications

    • CPU: Exynos 7270
    • RAM: 768mb
    • Rom: 2 Gb (+ 2Gb for the system)
    • DAC: ES9018Q2C
    • Outputs: 3.5mm headphone out – line out
    • Digital Input: USB Type-C
    • Screen: 3.2″ 480×800 IPS Screen from LG
    • Micro SD: SDHC / SDXC (single slot)
    • USB DAC: Exynos 7270 Soc
    • WiFi : 2.4 GHz support
    The specification sheets can be found on FiiO Website. For those who are interested can read from there.
    https://www.fiio.com/m6_parameters

    The M6 utilised the same proven high-performance ESS Sabre 9018Q2C chip that combines a capable DAC and a robust amp in one package, the same as M7. However, FiiO redesigned and further optimised the audio circuit for M6. This results in a higher audio output power as compared to M7 - 50% higher as mentioned on FiiO website.

    Sound
    Finally, after so long we have arrived at the most important part of this review – sound performance. To examine and share this, I paired this DAP with my Campfire Nova (with Effect Audio Eros II 2.5mm terminated). I used a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter by Effect Audio.
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    M6 exhibits the house sound signature of FiiO. The overall sound signature is considerably warm and lush. The spacing and soundstage of this DAP is moderate. With my Campfire Audio, the soundstage is acceptable. For those IEMs with slightly narrower soundstage, congestion might happen but this is common issue of entry level DAPs. The pairing is very important here. The presentation is clean – without noticeable hissing or noise despite having higher output power as compared to M7. M7 is powerful and energetic. It should able to unleash the potential for most of the IEMs in the market without any problem. I will include some comparison after this part of the review.

    Lows
    The lows of this DAP is dominant. The kick at the low frequency region will satisfy bass-heads. Can you imagine the power? Although having dominance at the lows, it does not bleed towards the mids - Fast and precise. I like this approach. Depth wise I would appreciate slightly deeper implementation. The lows and mids are on the same line which making it a little congested.

    Mids

    The mids is smooth and rich. For Singaporeans and Malaysians, I would describe this as Milo "Gao". For others, this can be described as having a cup of hot chocolate. Milky and thick texture in the mids. Very relaxing even after long listening. It flows and hits your eardrum gently, giving you the aroma and feel. For those who owned a warm IEM like Shure SE215, it might be too warm and saturated. Pairing need to be done over here too.

    Highs
    The highs shy a bit on M6. Its presence shall get more emphasis. It would be better to have a little bit more space and air as well as extension as the high frequency. For those who want a bright DAP, M6 might not be suitable for you but for those who owned a bright IEM and wish to tame the beast, M6 could be your beast master.

    Comparison
    I do not have a lot of DAPs within this price range so I selected the elder brother, FiiO M7 and Activo CT10 for comparison. In term of physical appearance, M6 is definitely the sleeker and most pocket-friendly. CT10 looks cheap because of its platicky back cover and the colour combination makes it looks weird. M7 is good but the top bazel is a little bit redundant. I would appreciate if the top bezel is removed but I know this is impossible because space is needed for circuit and parts.

    In term of sounds, I find M7 and CT10 is more neutral as compared to M6. M7 has the widest soundstage among all. CT10 and M6 share second place together. Although the chip used in M6 and M7 is the same, but the design of circuit caused a major difference. Personally I prefer M7 in term of sound signature.

    Function wise, M6 exhibits the bucket machine approach from his eldest brother, M9. It has list of features that can easily kills CT10 and M7. M6 creates a strong competition with its feature-rich property and competitive pricing.
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    Conclusion
    With the launch of FiiO M6, the benchmark of sub SGD300 category is raised significantly. No features need to be compromised to lower the price. You can own a DAP with all the features you need without burning a hole at your wallet. I appreciate the hardwork by FiiO to cater different needs of audiophile community.

    On behalf of the community, Thank you FiiO and well done on the latest release of FiiO M6.
      williamclarkonet and drey101 like this.