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FiiO M9 Android-based Hi-Res Music Player

Rating:
4.2/5,
  1. Wiljen
    Fiio M9 - Flagship features without the Price
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Feb 3, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Tons of features, good build quality, good sound quality
    Cons - Lacks the resolution of high end DAPs, Single Micro-SD slot. DSD support only to 128.
    For most Fiio Daps need little introduction. Fiio was the pioneer of bringing high quality digital audio players to the masses with its groundbreaking X1 and has been improving its line up every since. With listening preferences changing, the latest models now pack Bluetooth, Wifi for streaming, balanced outputs, and a host of features that were not even drempt of yet when the original X1 was released. To say Fiio has done a good job keeping pace is an understatement as they have released new models seemingly every 6 months or so and firmware updates even more frequently. Fiio has also kept pace with the market on its line of DAC/Amps as well as introducing a now comprehensive line of in-ear monitors. About the only things Fiio hasn't done is an over-ear headphone, and my suspicion is that day will come. When Fiio offered the M9 for a review tour, I quickly jumped in as I have owned several Fiio DAPs, Dac/Amps, and earphones and have found all to be of good value.

    This latest model Fiio M9 is an interesting product introduction. The M9 is the flagship of the M Series of DAPS that now includes the M3K, M6, and M7 beneath it. the X series is tougher to position as the M9 fits above the X1 ii and X3 Mk3, is similar in many regards to the X5 iii and sits below the Flagship X7 ii with its interchangable amp modules. I suspect the reason for this is the X1, X3, and X5 models may soon be dropped from the line-up as they overlap the M3k, M6, and M9 respectively, thus leaving the M-series as the entry level products and the X-series as the no holds barred flagship.

    As of this writing, BH Photo has the M9 for sale at $299 which puts it in the same general price range as the Opus #1, Shanling M3s, Cayin N5ii, and Fiio's own X5 iii. To say that is tough competition is an understatement as all of the listed players have some good attributes. Let's see if Fiio has managed to top them with the M9 and claim the best under $300 DAP title.


    Unboxing

    The tour sample arrived boxed in a white pressboard box with the player in a foam tray and the cables in a small box at the lower end of the box. Manuals are hidden beneath the tray. While at first the kit seems a bit sparse, it contains everything needed as the player has the screen protector and clear case already installed (this may not be true of retail packaging but it was for the tour unit so keep that in mind).

    [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG]



    Build

    The metal case is rounded on the left and squared up on the right side. The screen occupies roughly 3/4 of the total space on the front panel with a larger area below the screen that above. The Fiio LED below the screen is used as an indicator of file type, charging etc. The clear polymer case if protective of all sides except the screen and remains unobtrusive while working well.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    All jacks are on the bottom of the player as shown hear with the 3.5/Spdif to the left, followed by the 2.5mm balanced connector, then the USB-C data transfer and charging.

    [​IMG]

    All controls are on the left side, from top to bottom (left to right below) Power, volume, play/pause, forward/back rocker switch, and the Micro-SD card slot. All other surfaces are smooth.

    [​IMG]



    Internals

    The M9 uses the Exynos 7270 CPU with 768Mb of RAM powering its customized android 7 operating system. The display is an LG IPS display of 3.2 inches and provides excellent picture clarity.

    Audio playback is handled by dual AK4490EN DAC chips and an A3P030 FPGA chip that handles clocking and DSD decode (up to 128 natively). These feed a system of TI op-amps that provide both Single ended and balanced outputs as well as line out (SpDif Coax).

    Connectivity is provided by USB-C for attachment to computer or phone, 2.4gHz wireless (g,n,ac), Bluetooth 4.2 (Default SBC as well as AptX, AptX HD, and LHDC) To learn more about LHDC, click here. LDAC (the new Sony Standard), and Apple Airplay.


    Battery Life
    The M9 houses a 2350 mAh battery giving it ample power. Fiio lists playback time at 10 hours and I found this to be realistic if using the Single ended output with the screen turned off for the majority of the time. Use of the bluetooth or wifi did bring down the battery life to roughly 8 hours and the use of the balanced output also caused the battery to drain a bit quicker, but even at worst the player managed a full work day without needing to recharge in the middle. This puts it in an elite group as many players overstate their battery life considerably.



    UI / Navigation

    [​IMG]
    Boot time is between 40 and 45 seconds from the time you press the power button until it displays the time and allows you to unlock the screen. From there, we reach the Main menu shown below. It is well laid out and easy to manipulate. Inserting a micro-SD card automatically starts the scanning media task which is a nice touch as not all players do. Scanning my 256gb card with 8500 tracks took roughly 10 minutes so the M9 is capable of scanning nearly 1000 files a minute. While not the fastest I have seen, it certainly isnt the slowest either.



    [​IMG]
    If you wish to rescan files after the initial load, you'll need to open the Fiio music application. and the click the gear in the upper right corner as seen below left. This opens the "Fiio Music" Settings which is distinct from the settings button on the main menu. (This creates a bit of confusion when the manual says to look in settings as it rarely specifies which one). The Fiio music app itself is also well thought out and makes songs, artists, genres, or playlists. There is also a folder view option in the Music app as well as from the file management tab on the main menu.



    [​IMG]
    The File management application is more android oriented than the folder view in the music application as it shows songs, pictures, and documents as well as the internal storage and the Micro-SD card. Opening internal storage shows all the folders associated with android so some caution is warranted as deleting the wrong thing can impact player function.



    [​IMG]
    The Photos function in the File Management app also overlaps the Gallery Application which displays all photos (not just album art). While Gallery lets you peruse the album-art, it does not allow manipulation of those files as no options for deletion or addition are available directly from the Gallery app. This must be done through File management. (Honestly I found this the least useful menu option).



    [​IMG]
    The Technical Support button is more a collection of links than a true application. Fiio did release a major firmware revision while I was in possession of the tour sample so I did get the opportunity to use the Firmware update tool. Once connected to wifi, this was one of the easiest update processes I have used to date. No need to tether the player, no need to copy a file to an SD etc. Just connect and go.



    [​IMG]
    The Settings button is the busiest of all the buttons on the M9 with several levels of options beneath the top menu. At the top level, Wifi settings are first and very easy to use to join your wireless network. Bluetooth is equally easy to setup and pair with headphones, or you can turn on the bluetooth DAC mode and use the M9 paired to your phone to play content from your phone. I found it worked well with Spotify when tied to a LG v40.

    Audio options allow you to select line out or headphone out, change the Spdif output, set the Gain level, adjust the filters, etc. The main functions (LineOut/PhoneOut, Gain, and Filter adjust) can also be accessed by swiping down from the top on any screen.

    The next category "LED" is an oddball, it only controls the brightness of the Fiio LED at the bottom center of the player. To adjust the brightness of the screen, you'll need to instead to to the General category and select brightness.



    [​IMG]
    The KKbox option gives users in areas where KKbox is available a built in streaming service. For those of us in the US, the Tidal app is much more useful. If you scroll up from the bottom (this may take a couple tries to get right), it exposes the Tidal, NetEase, and Moov apps. Other 3rd party apps can be sideloaded to the player but Fiio has a limited list of supported apps. Hopefully others like Qubuz will join that list soon.


    Sound

    The M9 being the sub-flagship in the Fiio Line (currently on the X7 betters it), expectations were high going into my listening sessions. I was not disappointed. The M9 had no problem with playing any file type I threw at it from the lowliest Mp3 up through 32 bit FLAC and DSD128. When compared to other players on hand, the M9 was slightly thinner sounding then the Opus #1s with its dual 43198 dacs, while the AK70Mk2 seems bit more sterile by comparison to the M9. Detail levels were good on the M9, but not on par with the either the Opus or AK as micro-detail was sometimes smoothed over just a bit. The M9 did a better job of playing nice with poor recordings than either of the other two players so considering its position in the entry level line, this may have been a conscious decision by Fiio to make the M9 a bit smoother while making the X7 a bit more clinical and detailed while being a bit less forgiving of source quality. I found the M9 had no trouble powering pretty much anything I threw at it until we hit at least 300Ω or extremely low sensitivity planars like the T50rp. The M9 did struggle with the T50rp more than the HD650 but both were limited in total volume. The HD650 was very listenable at moderate levels but those wanting to "get loud" will find the M9 struggles to do so. On the T50rp, the M9 lacks the potency to get good the most of them and this pairing should likely be avoided.

    Good Pairings with the M9 were the Eartech Quint, Ibasso IT01 and 03, Flc8s. I also found the M9 paired well with the Meze 99 Classics and the Campfire Cascades for those who prefer over-ear to in-ears.



    Comparisons

    With the recent drop in price, the Shanling M3s is probably the nearest competitor to the M9. Both sport the same DAC chips, both support both single ended and balanced output and both have an embarrassingly long list of features. Advantages for the M9 are LDAC, AptX HD, LHDC, and Airplay support, full android OS instead of hiby SOC OS (M3s), and a better display. Both are great little DAPS, but the Fiio shows off the fact that it is a generation newer when compared directly to the M3s.

    The Other comparison I felt like I needed to make was to Fiio's other mid-line product the X5iii as those looking for a new DAP will likely wonder why one would choose one over the other. Again both sport dual AK4490s, but the X5iii uses the RK3188 chip (a generation older CPU) and shipped with Android 5.1 vs Android 7 on the M9. The X5iii has considerably more output power than the M9 but suffers from hiss with some sensitive IEMs as a result. The X5iii sports a larger display (about an inch larger) of equal resolution. To my eye, the M9 is a bit brighter but detail level is equally good on both models. My suspicion is we will see the discontinuation of the X5iii shortly as the M9 does a good job of replacing it. Unless that single inch of screen or marginally better output power are the priority, the M9 again shows what a generation newer player can bring to the table with way better protocol support (AptX HD, LHDC, LDAC, and Airplay).



    Thoughts/Conclusion


    The M9 offers a lot of flexibility for the price. As a DAP, it offers balanced and single ended wired use along with bluetooth, LDAC, and Airplay wireless. AS a DAC it can be used as either a bluetooth or USB connected DAC. If offers native streaming support for several of the most popular services with others being available and more to come. The Few drawbacks it does have are only having a single micro-sd slot, and lacking the resolution of the flagship daps on the market. I think both of these are forgivable considering the retail price of $299. A couple years ago, a dac with this feature set would have been a flagship and commanded nearly double the price. Today, the market for mid-level DAPS is very tight and several companies have stepped up their game to compete in a space that was originally owned by Fiio with its X3 and X5 DAPS. With the M-series, Fiio has fired back with the M6, M7, and M9 all offering fantastic value. The M9 offers most of features of a flagship in a very solidly built package at a price much more reachable than most flagship DAPs. What's not to love?
      FiiO and ngoshawk like this.
  2. bms44974
    Very nice portable DAP
    Written by bms44974
    Published Jan 23, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - versatile options for audio output (3.5mm SE/LO/SPDIF, 2.5mm BAL, Bluetooth)
    sound quality
    size
    value for price
    able to read SD cards formatted on other systems
    Cons - only 1 SD card slot
    incomplete integration with Bluetooth auto sound system
    no Viper effects
    Disclaimer: I received the M9 tour unit to evaluate for about 10 days in return for my honest opinion.

    Build:

    The M9 is small, but solidly built. The controls are conveniently placed. There are two headphone ports, one 3.5mm single-ended (SE) and one 2.5mm balanced (BAL) and a USB port at the bottom of the unit. The 3.5mm port does extra duty as line-out and SPDIF (the 3.5mm TSR to SPDIF RCA adapter is included). The USB port is Type C and operates bidirectionally as USB DAC (using driver software available at https://fiio.com/m9_faq]https://fiio.com/m9_faq[/url]), as a USB data connection, and as the M9 charging port. A USB A to USB C cable is included with the M9. On the left side, there is one slot for a micro SD card (up to 512 GB), a “back[up]/forward[down]” rocker switch for changing tracks, a play/pause button, a volume wheel, and a power/lock button. All other controls are software driven and accessible through the touch screen. Below the touch screen is a LED-enabled “FiiO” logo that, according to the User’s Guide, is blue when the unit is on, pulsing red when the unit is charging, and off when the unit is off. A clear plastic cover is provided to protect all sides of the M9 except the front touch screen that is protected by a pre-installed glass screen protector. The forward/back rocker, play/pause button, and power/lock button are under the plastic cover, but easily used. There are cutouts for the volume wheel and micro SD slot making them easily accessible without removing the cover.

    Unlike the X5ii, the SD card actually goes in the “right” side up (IMHO) and it doesn’t go into a tray like the X5iii and X7ii. There is no need for a tray extraction tool.

    The rocker bar, play/pause, and power buttons are easy to hit by accident. The rocker bar and play/pause buttons (and the volume wheel) can be disabled during screen-lock using the system settings.

    The function of the 3.5mm output port (headphone out [PO], line out [LO], or SPDIF) is controlled in system audio settings. The LO function worked well with my desktop system. By default, the volume control on M9 does not function in LO mode. This can be changed in Settings -> Audio.

    Using BAL output and volume 60 into 45 Ohm IEM (WiFi and Bluetooth off), battery life was about 10% per hour. This is consistent with the FiiO claim of 10 hours of play time.

    Operation:

    Note: I did not test the unit in USB DAC or Bluetooth receiver mode. Nor do I have a NAS or streaming subscription service. My focus was on the use of M9 as a portable audio player.

    Touch-Screen:

    Once the unit is turned on, a screen swipe is needed to open the main software interface. The same is required when unlocking the screen during operation. There are too many touch-screen operations to describe them all. In general, I found the user interface to be feature-rich, intuitive, and responsive. Some touch-screen operations were finnicky for my large fingers. This was particularly true of the sliders in the equalizer.

    Bluetooth:

    When trying to perform Bluetooth pairing, the M9 first displayed the MAC address rather than device name. The device name eventually appeared and remained after pairing. I paired with two different Sony WF1000X IEMs and my car audio system.

    On first use, there was a lot of static on some tracks when in Bluetooth output mode. This occurred with my WF1000X and in-car system. These same tracks had no static when using headphone ports. Reformatting my SanDisk microSD card as exFAT on a Dell XPS15 laptop did not get rid of the static. FiiO recommended factory reset, which seemed to resolve the problem.

    There were some issues with my in-car dash display when connected to the M9. The dash displayed track information (album, artist, track, and total track duration), but the progress indicator stayed at zero and did not advance during play. The play/pause and forward/back controls on the dash display performed as expected.

    FiiO Music App:

    I first tried the microSD cards previously formatted in my FiiO X5ii. Unlike other FiiO products (X3, X5, and X7), there is no apparent way to format the SD card. The M9 had no trouble reading and scanning SD cards formatted in the X5ii or a Windows 10 computer. Scanning was very fast (less than 10 seconds) for an SD card with about 850 files.

    The following file formats were tested and played successfully by the M9:
    • .DFF files at DSD128 and DSD64
    • .DSF files at 2822k and 5644k
    • .FLAC 192kHz 24bit, 96kHz 24bit, 44kHz 24bit, 44kHz 16bit
    • .M4A 96kHz 16bit
    The M9 did not support the one DSF test file in my library at 11289k.

    The FiiO indicator light changes color (apparently at will). I have not been able to determine if the color corresponds to any particular file type, sampling frequency, or bit depth. This behavior is not described in the manual.

    The default behavior for the app is to start on a random song after boot. This can be changed in FiiO Music settings to play the last song from the beginning or from the point the song previously stopped.

    The M9 remembers separate volume settings for the headphone out (PO) ports and Bluetooth output. Play is paused when inserting or removing plugs from the PO/LO/SPDIF port or when powering on a previously paired Bluetooth receiver.

    There are three five-band equalizer settings (Pop, Rock, and User Defined). There is a 6dB gain reduction applied when with EQ enabled to avoid clipping when sliders are max’ed out. I prefer to keep them off. “Pop” and “Rock” settings can also be customized. Gain control for the PO ports is set at the system level (not within the FiiO music app).

    Some extended ASCII characters (i.e. those above DEC 127) in album and track names do not appear correctly and may revert to “?” or the Chinese character set when encountered.

    Sound:

    Sound quality (SQ) was evaluated using wired SE and BAL headphone ports with Low gain, “Short delay Sharp Roll-Off” filter, and “Balance Boost” off.

    Heretofore, I have never noticed any difference between SE and BAL output with any other DAP. I did with the M9. There seemed to be better instrument separation and the sound stage was wider and deeper with the BAL output. I have no good way to volume match with the ER4SR, but the benefits of BAL were there for me even with the BAL volume set audibly lower than with SE (and “Balance Boost” off). When using SE output, the separation and sound stage were good and on a par with my X5ii. The BAL output on the M9 took the sound stage to a new level to me.

    The frequency response for single-ended (SE) and balanced (BAL) headphone ports was neutral and detailed. That said, I missed the Viper effects available with the X5iii and X7ii.

    The M9 amp was adequate to drive my Etymotic ER4SR and Sennheiser HD600 to good listening levels at volumes 60 and 80, respectively.

    Overall:

    For its size, this is an amazing DAP. The SQ is definitely worth the $300 retail price. I am seriously considering purchasing the M9 for the excellent sound stage with BAL output. It is a notable improvement over my X5ii. My normal listening habit is to select and play through folders on the SD card and I have encountered no problems with the user interface on either the X5iii or X7ii that I previously received for review. That said, the user interface for the M9 seems to be better designed and more responsive than FiiO’s other Android DAPs. The flexibility to format cards on other devices (including Windows 10 computers) is also an advantage. I have grown accustomed to using two SD cards with the X5ii. Nonetheless, the gain in SQ more than makes up for the loss of one SD slot and I would recommend the M9 to anyone in search of a portable DAP.

    The following albums were sampled during my review:
    • 2L Test Bench (available at http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html)
    • Adam Harasiewicz: Chopin Nocturnes & Preludes
    • Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill
    • Albert King: In Session
    • Antoine Dufour: Back and Forth
    • Antonio Pleeth: 6 Geminiani Cello Sonatas
    • Bis: Social Dancing
    • Bonnie Raitt: Road Tested
    • Calum Graham: Phoenix Rising
    • Cold Play: Parachutes
    • Creed: Human Clay; My Own Prison
    • David Elias: Rare To Go – December Solstice
    • Dirks und Wirtz: Kinski Spencer Gismonti
    • Don Ross: PS15
    • Eve6: Eve6; Horrorscope
    • Francois Sciortino: French Guitar
    • Giovanni Palombo: La Melodia Segreta (A Secret Melody)
    • Goran Sollscher: Eleven-String Baroque
    • Hoff Ensemble: Quiet Winter Night
    • Ian Ethan Case: Run Toward the Mountains
    • Jan Gunner Hoff: Living
    • Jian Wang: The Baroque Album
    • Jimmy Wahlsteen: No Strings Attached
    • Joe Satriani: Surfing with the Alien
    • John Doan: A Celtic Pilgrimage
    • Julian Webber: Elgar Cello Concerto - Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No.1
    • Laurence Juber: Guitar Noir
    • Liz Phair: White Chocolate Space Eggs
    • Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: Spin
    • Mike Dawes: What Just Happened
    • Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
    • Oslo String Quartet: The Shubert Connection
    • Stevie Ray Vaughan: Couldn’t Stand the Weather
  3. yong_shun
    The Bucket Machine
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Jan 14, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - 3rd Party Applications Supported
    Better User Interface as compare to X series
    Balanced Output
    Relatively affordable Price
    Cons - Soundstage can be wider
    Disclaimer

    I purchased this DAP with retail price. This is not a sponsored review.


    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.

    As usual, FiiO surprises the community with the launch of M9 – the TOTL DAP in the M series. M series has been in the market for long, started with M3 – an entry level DAP that is affordable for beginners. In 2018, FiiO took a big leap to add another 3 DAPs to the series – M7, M9 and M3k. I always assume that the M series is catered for beginners while the X series is designed for more serious listener. However, FiiO proves me wrong this time with the new release. The new DAPs are audiophile’s level.

    FiiO has described this DAP as a “bucket machine”. This title is named after the “Bucket Theory”. The amount of water can hold by a bucket is dependent on the shortest side instead of the longest side. To achieve an overall great performance, each composition of the DAP do play a part. Any shortcoming part will pull the performance down. Therefore, when a certain device is termed as a “bucket machine”, it generally means that it is a device that is well-balanced in all aspects with no obvious shortcomings.

    Design
    The design of this new DAP from FiiO can be described accurately with elegance. 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, M9 looks simpler and nicer.
    20190106_123406.jpg 20190106_123426.jpg 20190106_123440.jpg
    The new M9 has a gold horizontal facing volume control knob. It is attached firmly and steadily. I believe it is very durable. Besides the volume control knob, there are:
    • The power button
    • Play/Pause button
    • Next/Previous Track button
    The micro SD card slot is located after all the buttons. 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.
    20190106_123906.jpg
    The screen of FiiO M9 is nicely done. Adorning the front of the M9 is a vibrant, clear 3.2-inch IPS screen capable of 16 million colors and supporting 5-point touch. 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. FiiO chose to leave wide bezels around the screen. At the bottom of the screen, there is a “FiiO” LED indicator. Unique to the FiiO M9 is RGB light indicator status that shows what audio format you are listening to! Instantly know what audio format your M9 is playing as well as its overall status, with the indicator status showing red to remind you to charge your device. This looks cool and the LED is definitely a value add to the DAP in term of physical appearance. The wallpaper of FiiO M9 can be changed by user – this is rare!

    Unboxing
    The bundle in the box adopted the same minimalist as the player – simple but useful:
    • FiiO M9
    • Coaxial to 3.5mm adaptorUSB Type C cable
    • Quick Start Guide
    • TPU protection case
    • Pre-applied screen protector
    User Interface
    In the heart of the M9 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.
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    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. This is a good decision made by FiiO – smooth and free from crashing like X5 3rd Gen. Well done FiiO!

    Streaming Services
    The FiiO M9 does not support Google Play Store but 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 M9 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. M9 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, M9 is a good choice.
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    Battery Life
    Under normal usage the M9 can last around 10 hours. This is advertised by FiiO on the website. True, the music playtime is around 9 hours using 2.5mm balanced output playing MP3 files. It is sufficient for me because I always have a habit to charge all my devices at night. M9 supports deep sleep mode. While in deep sleep (standby) mode the M9 can be still be used after a whopping 45 days! And being in deep sleep mode does not mean sacrificing convenience – just hit the power button, and the M9 instantly is ready to go. If you are pairing this DAP with a Bluetooth headphone, the battery life will surprise you – 30 hours on SBC codec. The battery can last as long as WH-1000XM3. One point added for M9 to be the on the go choice!

    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. 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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    Output and Input (Both Digital and Analogue)
    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 M9 supports USB audio out (send digital audio bits through USB), with even support for DoP/D2P. Also, the M9 is one of the few players that can receive Bluetooth audio and output it through coaxial (SPDIF) out. I tested both USB out and Coaxial out of M9, they work flawlessly with the correct choice of cable.
    20190106_132220.jpg 20190106_131728.jpg

    The M9 contains both single-ended 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm audio jacks, for even more ways to listen with your headphones. The M9 also supports in-line controls in both CTIA (common with Android headsets) and iOS headsets. (With iOS headsets, only play/pause functionality is supported.)

    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 M9 with no drivers needed. With Windows PCs, a simple install of drivers by FiiO is needed. The M9 can also act as your computer's Bluetooth transmitter – simply hook the M9 up to your computer as a USB DAC, and then have the player transmit Bluetooth audio to your headset!
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    Specifications
    • CPU: Exynos 7270
    • RAM: 0.768 Gb LPDDR3
    • Rom: 2 Gb (+ 2Gb for the system)
    • DAC: 2x AK4490EN
    • LPF: Ti OPA 1612
    • BUF: 2x Ti OPA 1622
    • Sample rate: PCM: 8Hz – 384kHz (8/16/24/32bits) native – DSD64/128
    • System clock: Full synchronization technology with FPGA processor
    • Outputs: 3.5mm headphone out – line out – coax out / 2.5mm TRRS 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/m9_parameters

    The two AK4490EN DACs employed in the M9 feature a high signal-to-noise ratio, exceptional dynamic range, and low distortion – making for a precise yet exciting sound signature. Inside the M9 is a high-performance 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. 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 of power under a 300Ω load under balanced output.

    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).
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    Being the TOTL of the M Series, M9 exhibits the house sound signature of FiiO. The overall sound signature is considerably balance and neutral. There is slight emphasis on mids. As a Mandopop lover, I might be a little bias here. I like such tuning. 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. The pairing is very important here. The presentation is clean – without noticeable hissing or noise. This made M9 surpass a lot of players in the market because this is one of the common issues for the new players in the DAP market. M9 is power 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 FiiO M9 is different from the elder brother, X5 3rd Gen and X7 Mk II from series. Both of them from X series have more emphasis on the lows while M9 is more balanced. The lows attacks and decays in a fast pace without disturbing other region of the frequency spectrum. It is not a bass head choice but if you want a neutral and balance DAP, M9 is a good choice.

    Mids
    This is the sweet spot of this DAP. Well-tuned. M9 has a rich and smooth mids. I love how’s the vocals, for both males and females are presented – Fill with souls, full of emotions and no compromise on the synergy. Basically, nothing bad to say about this region.

    Highs
    I find there is a slightly early roll-off for this DAP. I think it will be better to extend a little bit and roll-off smoothly afterward. This could potentially cutdown the sharpness of IEMs if you are using a bright IEM. With my Nova, I wish the highs to be extended more. The highs are not harsh, very gentle to the extend of slightly shy. This will prevent fatigue causing after long listening.

    Comparison

    Opus #3
    The soundstage of Opus #3 is wider as compared to M9. In this comparison, I find M9 is a more musical DAP because Opus #3 is slightly technical and analytical as compared to M9. The presentation of details is better for Opus #3. Opus #3 does not have Bluetooth receiver mode and coaxial output, but it has an optical output. This could be a factor to be considered when user choose between this 2. M9 is thinner and more pocket friendly as compared to Opus #3. FiiO has a very good design here.
    20190106_134101.jpg

    Sony NW-ZX300
    Tough choice. I like the implementation of 4.4mm balanced output by Sony because it is more rigid at the jack. The screen of M9 looks more attractive as compared to Sony because of the choice of screen. Sony used a matt screen to prevent fingerprints collection. In term of sound, the performance for low frequency of Sony is more pronounce and present. If you love kicking at the lows, Sony will be a better choice. Both of the DAPs have Bluetooth receiver mode and can be used as USB DAC. Sony has no optical or coaxial output, so the only way is to go through the 22 pins USB out.
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    Astell & Kern SR15
    To be honest, this is an unfair comparison because the price of SR15 is almost twice of M9 is Singapore. Both players support 3rd party applications but M9 can support more variety of applications as compared to SR15. I find SR15 to be warm in the sound presentation. I am not a warm lover so I could be bias towards M9. The choice of USB port is a win for FiiO over here too. SR15 still using Micro-USB instead of the smarter and better USB-Type C. The coaxial output enables FiiO to be a great transport when attaching to external DAC.
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    FiiO X5 3rd Gen
    I always treat M9 as the upgrade of X5 3rd Gen although the price is lower. I have very bad experience with X5 3rd Gen especially the user interface - Non-stop crashing. This is disastrous. Although X5 3rd Gen supports Google play and user can download whatever applications through the service, I will rather opt for a smoother and more stable user interface which is equipped by M9. In term of sound, the soundstage of M9 is wider as compared to X5 3rd Gen. Overall, I prefer M9 as compared to X5 3rd Gen.
    20190106_133324_HDR.jpg

    FiiO M7
    M7 is the younger brother of M9 – a dedicated DAP with less function. I always love the sound of M7 – Clean and balanced. M9 has similar sound signature as M7. Go for M9 if you need streaming. If streaming is not your main concern, M7 is a good choice too. M9 has additional 2.5mm balanced output and coaxial output is supported. Value added!
    20190106_132814.jpg

    Conclusion
    Being the bucket machine, FiiO saw that there wasn't any one player that combined all of the functions people want.
    Was there a player that could transmit the HWA/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC lossless Bluetooth codecs, even when used as a USB DAC?
    What about something that also contained a highly optimized audio circuit for excellent sound quality?
    Did any players also give the user an experience worthy of a flagship, capable of many features including Wi-Fi music streaming all in a slick interface?
    FiiO sought to change that with the M9 – which does all of this and more.


    Well done FiiO!

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. misteral201103
      Solid review - I particularly liked the fact that you identify areas where you may be biased while specifying the characteristics you are drawn to. Excellent job, thank you for the insight!
      misteral201103, Jan 15, 2019
      yong_shun likes this.
    3. yong_shun
      @zeppu08 I did not have the chance to try the Hiby R3. In term of the specs and features to value ratio, Hiby R3 is more attractive as compared to FiiO M9. I hope I can have chance to compare them side by side so I can give more constructive comments.
      yong_shun, Jan 16, 2019
      zeppu08 likes this.
    4. yong_shun
      @misteral201103 It is always my pleasure to provide the community the most honest and generic insight on these gears. Thank you for your support and happy listening :)
      yong_shun, Jan 16, 2019
  4. DrKraut
    FiiO M9 - Pocket Audiophile
    Written by DrKraut
    Published Jan 6, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Nice build, Great sound, Balanced output, AptX HD, USB DAC
    Cons - Software could be better, no lock switch
    I am writing a review for the FiiO M9 Review tour. I received the FiiO M9 on Christmas Eve as a early Christmas present. I was sad when I had to send it to the next reviewer.
    IMG_3609.jpg

    I am new to the reviewing game, but have been an audiophile for almost 30 years. I really enjoy vinyl, class A amplifiers, and good tower speakers with full range sound. But I am also practical and enjoy the convenience of portability and access to virtually limitless streaming source material. The FiiO M9 definitely fills the later bill. It is a nice small package with excellent sound, battery life, and access to all sorts of source material. It’s single ended output, balanced output, and excellent Bluetooth allow for use on many different types of headphones. It can also do duty as a USB DAC/amp, Airplay receiver, and Bluetooth receiver. Overall, the FiiO M9 covers all the bases for an excellent portable setup. If I had to go on an extended trip where I could only take one audio player, I would choose an M9.

    Build and Feel

    The M9 has a solid feel with its aluminum frame, IPS screen, and very nice volume control and playback buttons. There is also a microSD card slot. I had no problem using a Sandisk 200GB card that was prewritten on my PC with all kinds of music including MP3, AAC, FLAC, ALAC, and DSD. It has three connectors on the bottom, one multi-use single ended headphone/line-out/coaxial SPDIF, one balanced output, and one USB C input/output. The headphone single-ended output supports in-line controls on headphones, and I had not problems using either IOS or Android compatible remotes.

    Hand feel is very nice and works very well holding it in my left hand to use my thumb for controlling the volume, buttons, and screen. The buttons are very easy to accidentally press, which can be a problem as I accidentally stopped or changed tracks more than I would have liked. It would be nice if there were some sort of button lock switch.

    I also ran into an issue with the M9, when held in my hand, whenever I would touch the headphone connector, which is easy when holding in my palm, the volume would rapidly change, mostly up, sometime down. [Edit: after corresponding with FiiO, they believe this to be an isolated problem with the review unit.] This is very annoying and would sometime cause the volume to exceed to ear damaging levels. I eventually had to turn off the in-line control feature in menus to alleviate the problem. Not a big deal since most of the time I use the device within hands reach anyway, but still, an annoyance and inconvenience if I want to put the device in my pocket while walking around.

    The software is very good, running a customized version of Android, and it appears to be stable. The built-in media player does an admirable job of playback; however, I did occasionally notice audible gaps when playing back some gapless material. It was inconsistent, and most likely due to not having enough a read ahead buffer, as I found it hard to reproduce, but it was occasionally noticeable. Otherwise, I think the built-in player is fine, although it is not the easiest to navigate large music collections. I didn’t see any obvious way to quickly scroll to the artist or album I wanted to listen to. But once I was there, it was pretty easy to select and play what I wanted.
    IMG_3602.jpg IMG_3608.jpg

    Usability

    I had no problem playing back any type of audio file. As previously mentioned, I had everything from 256K and 320K MP3s, both VBR and fixed, 256K AAC, Lossless ALAC, FLAC up to 24bit/96Khz, and 256 DSD. I also used the Tidal app with Lossless and Master Quality Audio through the USB DAC interface.

    The most interesting use I found for the M9 as a USB DAC for PC/MAC/IOS. For the PC, I had to load the FiiO driver on my SurfaceBook 2 to get it to work. Once I did, I was able to playback with MusicBee, the Tidal desktop app in MQA, and Google Desktop Music Player. All worked with no problem. From the Mac I used Apple Music and no driver was required. And with the Apple Camera Connection Kit, I was able to connect my iPhone and iPod to the M9. Interestingly, I was only able to use the USB 2.0 CCK, the USB 3.0 CCK did not recognize the M9. Also, I was unable to get the M9 to connect to the iPhone or iPad with AirPlay (it didn’t show up in the output list), but I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get it to work.

    Sound

    The M9 sounds great. I had no problem driving IEMs or full-size cans. I tested the M9 mostly with FiiO F5 IEMs using the balanced cable. The balanced output of the M9 is powerful and has a really nice open sound with the F5s. The F5s still sounded good with the remote single ended cable, but I definitely like the sound of the balanced output better. It was more controlled, impactful, open, and had very good definition.
    IMG_3604.jpg

    Other IEMs I used with the M9 were Shure SE215, 1More Triple Driver, and MEE A161p – all single ended. The M9 made the Shures shine with really nice impact and smooth treble. I was not a fan of the Triple Driver sound, but it did have a powerful punch but the treble was too laid back for me (that’s not the M9’s fault though, I just didn’t like the 1Mores in general). The A161s were very balanced sounding, having a good sparkle and midrange.

    I also used the M9 with my Beyer DT880s and Sennheiser HD518s. Both sounded excellent, while I had to crank the gain up to high on the DT880s to drive their 250 Ohm impedance. I didn’t notice any distortion with the high gain, and the DT880’s sounded excellent. There was plenty of sub bass and the midrange and treble were outstanding, maybe a little on the bright side (but not sibilant). There was no coloration I could discern from the M9 and the DT880s presentation was nothing short of excellent. The HD518s were also good with a fuller bass and less treble than the DT808s, but that is what you would expect. I enjoyed to listening to both sets with the M9.

    Another option I tried was Bluetooth with my Bower & Wilkens PX. The PX immediately connected with AptX HD and the sound was sublime. The PX is my absolute favorite set of cans to listen to, I love the bass presentation and the midrange and treble are just right, very present, but not overly bright. With AptX HD everything sounded as good as it did on the DT880s and HD518s. I think with AptX HD on the M9 and PX, I could finally go completely wireless.
    IMG_3607.jpg

    Conclusion

    Overall, I really liked the M9 and hate to send it to the next reviewer. I was really considering buying one, then I saw the M6, which I think might be a better fit me, being smaller and less expensive. Don’t get me wrong, the M9 is an excellent player but with a few quirks. I would like to see the volume control issue fixed. The sound is amazing, and the build is great, software is good. I think FiiO has a winner here, and if they can improve the software just a bit, it would be one of the best players on the market.

    Thanks FiiO for letting me have the opportunity to review your excellent player. I would love a chance to listen to the M6 and the FA7s.

    More beauty shots

    IMG_3611.jpg IMG_3610.jpg IMG_3605.jpg IMG_3603.jpg
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    1. hornytoad
      You can lock the buttons on the side under settings and they won’t work as long as the screen is off . Also I’ve used AirPlay with no problem .
      hornytoad, Jan 10, 2019
  5. StivVid
    FiiO M9 - the portable audio Swiss Army knife
    Written by StivVid
    Published Dec 31, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Incredibly complete list of features and specifications.
    Excellent build quality.
    Musical sounding as opposed to analytical.
    Cons - Can act erratically with earphones with in-line remotes.
    Included case is of poor quality and is too tight over the buttons.
    Long boot-up time.
    Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 12.34.25 AM.png
    I was thrilled to be included in the launch tour of the M9. I've recorded a video review which can be seen at the link below. I've tried to be as thorough as possible, but this thing literally does everything! I'm sure I missed several things. Anyway... This is my first review. Any questions or comments would be very much appreciated as I hope to have the opportunity to record more reviews of personal audio products in the future.

    Apart from the few minor gripes I had with the player, I really enjoyed my time with the M9. As with all FiiO products, it's well built, functions well, and sounds great.

    Enjoy the review!
      voxie likes this.
    1. supermanscott
      Same buggy software they've still not got working properly on the m7 after almost 9 months.
      supermanscott, Feb 15, 2019 at 9:33 AM