With the M11 Plus LTD, FiiO has succeeded in creating a truly superbly equipped and, above all, great-sounding product. When used with an equally good headphone or speaker, this player shows what it’s made of. This portable HiRes-capable device has a contemporary design and reproduces music in a lively and classy way, regardless of the format. The M11 Plus LTD also fits in well at home and can be used as a main station or integrated into an existing system – with a local music library or by integrating various streaming services. This device is a champion in its class, which at 799 euros, can be recommended without reservation.
With the M11 Plus LTD, FiiO has made a major sonic leap. Audiophile sound quality is no longer exclusively reserved for at-home listening. This portable device, which can also be used excellently at home, plays every format with an ease and nonchalance that is beyond reproach and deserves an unqualified recommendation.
At first glance, celebrating the release of a new portable music player in 2021 seems a bit retro. However, a second look at this generation of devices sees that they not only have up-to-date features, but also audiophile qualities. Therefore, portability, streaming and high-resolution music are by no means mutually exclusive. The FiiO M11 Plus LTD, the limited-edition successor to the M11 Pro, combines all these aspects and offers even more …
Since they were founded in China in 2007, FiiO has specialised in high-quality and portable music products. Their broad product range includes headphone amplifiers, converters and digital audio players with high-quality standards, which also apply to repair returns and resource consumption – remarkable in this age of the throwaway society.
As with our previous portable music player reviews, the first question to ask is: what is the added value compared to a smartphone? At the very least, the device should be durable enough for everyday use, as well as compact, portable and lightweight. The issue of different audio formats and high-resolution codecs should already be evident.
As soon as you unpack this device, you get the impression of a classic product. The inner box is in a slightly glossy black with a printed texture reminiscent of letterpress printing. In contrast, the packaging for the manual and cables inside comes in matt black cardboard with silver lettering. In the middle of all this, the M11 Plus is housed in a stylish black leatherette case that has an extra robust finish in vulnerable areas such as the corners and back. The overall package makes an impression of value and sophistication that bodes well for the quality of the technology inside.
The dimensions of 136.6 x 75.5 x 17.6mm are roughly the same as the Samsung Galaxy S7. The only difference is that the device is almost twice as thick. This is reflected in a weight of 310 grams. Accordingly, the M11 Plus can’t be considered lightweight, as it weighs about twice as much as current smartphones.
When taken out of the imitation leather case, the device has slanted edges; curves have been deliberately omitted.
The back of the FiiO reinforces this impression with geometric reflective surfaces. The almost frameless 5.5-inch touchscreen is made of tempered glass, while the back is made of carbon fibre with coated glass. The device sits comfortably in the hand and creates the distinct impression of high quality. I’ve completely forgotten my old Apple iPod Classic. A contemporary device with forward-looking ideas and fresh design has arrived.
The transfer and control functions are positioned on the left and right outer sides, while the connections are at the bottom. From left to right, there is a balanced input and headphone output (4.4 mm) and a balanced headphone output (2.5 mm). This is followed by a USB-C port, which is used for both charging and data transfer. Furthermore, this port enables USB audio in high quality. Last but not least, a 3.5 mm combo connector has been integrated, which functions as a headphone jack, line output and coaxial S/PDIF output.
On the right, in addition to the transfer functions, there is also a hold switch for locking and a slot for a memory card in microSD format. The power and lock screen push buttons and a multifunctional button have been placed opposite. In between, the volume is controlled via a slide and push control, which is conventionally operated by pressing each end and adjusted in between via a slider. This gives the user a free choice of operation between dedicated buttons and the IPS touchscreen (1,440 x 720 pixels).
The FiiO M11 Plus is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC with a frequency of 2.2 GHz and eight processing cores. This also provides the graphics unit Qualcomm Adreno 512 GPU with four GB RAM and 64 GB internal memory. The storage capacity can be expanded up to 2 TB via microSD. In addition, the chip offers integrated WiFi, Bluetooth 5 and the USB audio interface.
Five operating modes
The M11 Plus offers five modes. The Android 10-based Modus Operandi imposes no restrictions on the user and offers a choice from the plethora of streaming services such as Tidal or Qobuz, as well as the freedom to choose apps. This also includes controls for hi-fi and AV components and even smart home devices. Seamless integration into existing systems is therefore ensured.
Pure Music mode works with the FiiO Music app, which automatically disables all other apps on start-up to ensure the best possible output quality. This mode bypasses the limitations of the Android operating system and any associated potential disruptions to sound quality.
If you appreciate the luxury of Apple products, you will be pleased with the AirPlay mode. It allows the M11 Plus to connect bi-directionally with Apple devices so that it not only receives but also acts as a transmitter.
A further highlight is the USB DAC mode. This allows the unit to be used as a high-quality converter with a computer or in a home system. Accordingly, the music library on your computer can be played back in high resolution. Furthermore, the unit can also be used as a central USB music storage device. In this case, the music is forwarded via USB to an external D/A converter or the integrated coaxial digital output. Finally, there is the “Bluetooth Receiving” operating mode, which enables wireless music reception. So a smartphone could send music to the M11 to benefit from its better conversion.
The M11 Plus LTD is equipped with two AK4497EQ D/A converters from AKM. The system is based on a dual DAC design and is intended to deliver the best possible quality for finely resolved and detailed sound. The technical specifications speak for themselves: The converter allows a maximum of 32 bits and 384 kHz as well as DSD 256 with a signal-to-noise ratio of 131 dB. Such values are usually expected from converters used in recording studios. It also supports the decoding of MQA files in 8x mode, which, according to the manufacturer, achieves sound reproduction in mastering quality. Of course, the unit also plays back lossy formats such as MP3 and AAC.
A special feature is the THX AAA amplifier circuit, which is familiar from cinema sound reproduction and is subject to strict testing. This is to ensure that each THX-certified module operates with high sound quality. In balanced mode, two amplifier modules work in parallel; this allows for a much better dynamic gradation. Another aspect of this technology is the selection of the finest electronic components with the lowest tolerances.
In addition to wired playback, the M11 Plus LTD also offers a bidirectional wireless connection for sound playback. The developers rely on Bluetooth 5.0, which has a high range and interference resistance and outputs the formats SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC on the transmission side. In addition, the device can also serve as a high-quality Bluetooth receiver with the formats SBC, AAC and LDAC. As a streamer, the M11 Plus LTD uses WiFi 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz formats and supports AirPlay.
For long listening sessions on the go, the manufacturer has given the device a battery with 6,000 mA capacity. This offers a maximum runtime of 11.5 hours, depending on the volume and the headphones used. The Qualcomm QC2.0/3.0/4.0 and USB Power Delivery 2.0 fast-charging formats are used to charge this huge battery, so the battery is fully charged after three hours.
Naturally, the most important thing is the sound. And this is exactly where the M11 Plus LTD comes up trumps. The neutral Funk MTX Monitor preamplifier served as a playback device so we could make direct comparisons. Other playback devices were a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 streamer/network player, a CD player (NAD 512) and a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S7). The headphone section was covered by models from Stax, Focal and Sennheiser. Last but not least, a Lavry DA11 served for our transducer evaluation.
The starting point for this series of tests was initially the playback mode based on Android 10. The playback of the different audio formats is fluid, dynamic and invites you on a musical journey. However, switching to the Pur Music Mode reveals the real character of the M11 Plus LTD. The played music sounds more relaxed and offers added value in all musical parameters. The significantly wider dynamic range is noticeable. Where in the Android mode only limited dynamic gradations could be heard, here a larger dynamic space opened up between the instruments. “Pianopianissimo” was reproduced really softly instead of being just immediately below “piano”.
Significant differences also emerged in the depth of the room. Spatial representations were rendered as more clearly outlined and the positions of instruments in the virtual space were more tangible.
Old restored recordings from the seventies benefited from the previously mentioned high resolution. The instruments were less glued to each other, but surrounded by more airy space. As a result, they not only sounded more precise but also benefited from a clearer pitch reproduction. Suddenly I recognised the bass I cherished from vinyl recordings in Pur Music Mode – well-defined, mono-compatible with punch, and without ever booming. But contemporary digitally recorded music also benefited from Pur Music mode. An almost uncanny precision in the mid frequencies immediately revealed wrong mixing decisions. The sound image is transparent and reveals any microdynamic changes. And the treble range does not lag behind either. With good sound mixes, one is rewarded with silvery, shimmering highs and a sound image that is open at the top. Conversely, nothing is glossed over: cymbals that are too shrilly mixed are mercilessly presented.
At no point was there any doubt about added value compared to a smartphone. In comparison with a Samsung Galaxy 7, it was obvious after only a short playback with music from different genres. The differences in dynamics, spatial depth and sound colours were clearly audible and unmistakable.
- Ear couplingAmplifier
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 90.000 Hz
- Impedance16 - 300 ohms
- Weight without cable310 g
What's in the box
- 3.5 mm to coaxial adapter
- USB 3.0 cable (USB-C to USB-A)
- Pin for ejecting the microSD card holder
- Black leatherette case
- BT codecs (Transmit): SBC, aptX HD, aptX, AAC, LDAC
- BT codecs (Receive): SBC, AAC, LDAC
- BT version: 5.0 (2-way)
- DLNA, AirPlay, NAS: UPNP
- WiFi: 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz