FiiO M11 Plus LTD Review
The Collectors edition
Pros: – Balanced , musical and engaging
– Great bass performance
– Dead silent
– Holographic soundscape
– Larger display
– Fast and smooth UI
– Android 10
– Very beautiful
– Excellent build quality
– Balanced line output
– Touch volume control
– Multifunction button
– Extended play time
– Fast charging
Cons: – Heavier and bulkier than the M11 Pro
– No ambient light sensor
– Volume button very easily to accidentally press
– WiFi reception could be stronger
– Gets quite hot during use
The FiiO M11 Plus LTD was kindly provided by FiiO and doesn’t need to be returned.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
The retail price is about €750 and you can buy it from FiiO.eu
The FiiO M11 series of players was introduced back in 2019 with the original M11 and then it was upgraded to the M11 Pro.
Reviewers and users around the world loved it and it is (well , was) our favorite DAP in that critical range before reaching TOTL territory.
Unfortunately the CPU that powered the player , the Samsung Exynos 7872 processor was discontinued and FiiO engineers had to redesign it with another SOC.
Production was stopped and by the time they were ready to resume the AKM factory fire broke with the known disastrous effects.
Luckily FiiO was able to reserve some stock of the AKM 4497EQ and produce a limited edition of the new player named M11 Plus LTD or M11 Plus SS with the stainless steel casing , a total of about 5000 units.
The cpu processor was swapped for the powerful octa – core snapdragon 660 running an Adreno 512 GPU , a SOC that is powering a lot of flagship mobile phones.
Memory was upgraded from 3GB to 4GB with the ROM remaining the same 64GB while the micro SD card slot is able to offer memory expansion up to 1TB.
The M11 Plus LTD is running the latest Android 10 that is optimized by FiiO for music production but all the features are unlocked so users can customize the unit at their liking.
The audio circuit remained the same as in the M11 Pro , that is two AK4497EQ DAC chips in a fully balanced configuration feeding a differential amplifier consisting of two THX AAA – 78 (LMH6644) modules and three OPA1642 low pass filters.
Power from the balanced output is 500mW/16Ω – 560mW/32Ω making the M11 Plus LTD a quite powerful DAP able to handle various kinds of headphones.
A third , medium gain setting was added for better matching with various loads.
The M11 Plus supports 768kHz PCM , DSD512 and global MQA 8x native decoding even on third party apps.
In addition to the two balanced 2.5/4.4mm and the single ended 3.5mm headphone outputs , a new 4.4mm balanced line output was added to accommodate external headphone amplifiers and active speakers.
Both outputs , single ended and balanced can be independently selected from the drop down menu and can be configured to be fixed or variable.
For example the user can choose for the single ended output to act as a headphone jack while the balanced can be selected as a line out without the one affecting the other.
The single ended output can also be configured as a digital SPDIF so the M11 Plus can be used as a transport.
A fast USB 3.0 type C port is used for charging the unit , data transfer and USB DAC input.
Audio circuit remained unchanged but there is a considerable upgrade to the various sub-systems.
Digital data is passed through a FiiO developed 4th generation FPGA with phase locked loop technology , which works together with two custom Japanese NDK femtosecond crystal oscillators to provide a high precision and low jitter unified source clock.
The battery was massively upgraded to a 6000mAh capacity with 27W smart charging that can be fully charged in only 3 hours.
The battery is feeding a newly designed and enhanced power supply with independent linear supplies for all critical stages of the internal circuit.
Furthermore many measures have been taken to ensure excellent temperature management.
In the rare case that the circuit is overheated the player stops operation and a message appears to warn the user that the system will resume after the unit cools down.
The M11 Plus adopts a totally new internal layout and a patented modular circuit design.
Each module of the circuit has its own shielding cover , which also means that the digital and analog portions are totally separated to minimize interference.
The traditional volume wheel was ditched for a newly designed interactive intelligent volume system.
It is a unique all in one volume button plus a touch panel that brings an unprecedented volume change experience either through precise adjustments with buttons or the touch panel.
Five volume adjustment methods are supported, that is sliding on panel , buttons , touchscreen , FiiO link and Bluetooth control.
Furthermore the newly designed system allowed for more internal space in order to accommodate the larger battery.
Besides support for AirPlay and DLNA streaming , newly added is support for the AAC codec.
The Bluetooth version is 5.0 with transmission support for SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC and reception support for SBC/AAC/LDAC.
The M11 Plus measuring 136.6×75.7×17.6mm and weighing 310gr is bigger and heavier than its predecessor.
The increase in size was necessary to house the wider 5.5″ bezel-less touchscreen and the new larger battery.
While a wider screen is always welcomed and most users will be happy with it , we do feel that the smaller M11 Pro was of the perfect size and weight for everyday carry and one handed user experience.
There are two options available , the black aluminum and the silver stainless steel edition which is even heavier.
The design is the 6th generation FiiO honeycomb contrasting with the diamond cut texture of the rear cover.
It is very beautiful looking and elegant with a modern appearance and top notch build quality.
Truly impressive and eye-catching , maybe the best looking DAP in the market , we prefer to use it without the protective case.
The left side is dominated by the volume touch panel with the power on/off button above it and the configurable multifunction button below it.
At the right side we have the three play/pause , next and forward track buttons plus a hold-lock switch and the micro SD card slot below it.
The top of the unit is clean and at the bottom there are the three 2.5/3.5/4.4mm jacks and the USB C port.
A few notes about the user interface
Since this is an open Android OS player with Play store included we are not going to cover it in depth because users can easily download their favorite apps and freely customize the device to their liking.
We were very pleased with the overall user experience because the M11 Plus is super fast and responsive without any noticeable lag.
You can play games , watch movies or multitask while listening to music without the unit slowing down and affecting the performance.
The case gets quite hot after a while but the warning message was never displayed although we used power hungry headphones like the Sundara and the room temperature while testing was 31° Celsius (yes it gets really hot in the summer here in Greece).
Battery duration is advertised as 11.5 hours of continuous playback (under specific and ideal conditions) and in real life use we were able to squeeze about 9 hours with a mix of various headphones and streaming high resolution material.
We mostly tested with streaming services but we installed an SD card with 256GB of FLAC files to discover that database read time was very fast and browsing was seamless as long as the files were properly tagged.
The player also supports USB OTG function so we can hook an external USB stick and read files from it.
There are five modes available for playing music: Android , Pure music mode with the FiiO player , Bluetooth receiving , USB DAC and AirPlay/DLNA.
Choosing a mode is very easily done from the drop down menu and using the FiiO player will not allow streaming services.
From the same menu the user can select the gain , choose between the available low pass filters , configure the output mode , select the FiiO all to DSD algorithm and access the usual Android drop down menus.
The all to DSD technology is now in its third generation with 30% less power consumption and purer sound.
This kind of upsampling is not our cup of tea because we feel that it smoothes things a lot and robs the sound of it’s bite but your mileage may vary and it is a nice option to have.
We would like that the selected gain be always visible at the information bar so the user might know it at a glance.
We have also missed the double tap action to wake the screen but we have some inside information that it will be added into the next software update.
An ambient light sensor is strangely missing.
An issue regarding the volume touch panel is that it is very easily to be accidentally touched and frankly it happens all the time.
Thankfully the user can choose to completely disable it and revert to the press only buttons or choose the option to auto lock after inactivity and then double tap in order to activate it again.
Another option is to use the global lock button that disables all the actions.
Very useful is the configurable multifunction button that is to be found at the bottom of the left side.
The user can choose between the following actions
– Random next track
– Delete currently playing song
– Switch low pass filters
– Switch to EQ
– Enter USB DAC mode
– Enter Bluetooth reception mode
While everything worked flawlessly we would like to see the filter displayed on the screen while selecting because now it cycles between the available options without knowing which one is selected.
WiFi and Bluetooth performance are very good although the WiFi reception could be a little better and stronger.
What’s in the box
The FiiO M11 Plus LTD comes with a factory applied tempered glass screen protector with oleophobic layer , an exquisite custom real leather case and a USB 3.0 type C to A cable.
Full specifications are available here
Listening set up notes
In order to evaluate the M11 Plus we have used various iems from the FiiO FH5S , to the Dunu EST112 , up to the Meze Rai Penta and the Sennheiser flagship IE900.
Of course several headphones were also used like the Sennheiser HD660S , the HiFiMan Sundara , Focal Elex and the Meze Empyrean.
Although there is no doubt that someone can surely enjoy the player with mid tier stuff , it is only when using upstream gear that the M11 Plus unlocks it’s full potential.
Furthermore the use of the balanced output is mandatory for the best listening experience.
We are not implying that this is a player addressed only to the top gear owners but rather that it scales very well and the experience becomes immensely rewarding with quality earphones.
The M11 Plus is not the most powerful DAP on the market but it is not lacking either.
It can do very well with most dynamic headphones of the market , minus very high Z and also power the sensitive planars like the HiFiMan Ananda.
It was also great with the HiFiMan Sundara although we felt like that it was slightly underpowered.
The M11 Pro is (was) undoubtedly one of the best sounding players in the market no matter the price.
Thankfully , with the same internals as its predecessor it is not of a surprise that the M11 Plus sounds at least as good and maybe a little better as we are going to discover later on.
Musical , mature and thoroughly engaging the M11 Plus is balanced and natural sounding with non-negotiable linearity and ultimate transparency – precision that stays always faithful to the raw material.
Internal noise is completely absent and the player is dead silent with a pitch black background that helps for all the fine details to emerge and add infinite depth to the listening experience.
This is not an analytical player and we can hear the smaller particles of the music in a well integrated and intellectual way.
This is the kind of player that although it is not going to do anything in order to mask imperfections of the recording it still sounds good with less recorded material and just heavenly with everything else.
We feel like there is no point to split the performance into the usual frequency sub – bands.
And that is because there is absolutely no doubt that all the ordinary positives apply with an extra dosage of superlatives.
The bass that goes deep , sounds full bodied but very tight with ample dynamics and great control of the drivers as long as they are into the power range of the player.
Definition and layering are top notch with a clear and precise reproduction of all the bass heavy passages that never sound dull or congested.
This is a fast paced player with great timing that never loses its pace even under complex passages.
Notes are weighty and well rounded while they take their time to fade away over time , never sounding rushed or thin.
Mids that are present and spacious shine thanks to extra fine articulation , the full bodied notes , the clarity of the presentation and the balanced tonality that makes sure that nothing is amplified or lost in the mix.
The treble is resolving and airy with energy that adds a great sense of liveliness and crispiness but without a hint of brightness and hardness.
The presentation is smooth and controlled with great extension while staying full bodied as the rest of the frequencies with perfectly timed decay.
With the M11 Plus the music always sounds well homogenized and the frequencies blend together in the most natural and holistic way.
Furthermore the jitter free performance and the inherent quality characteristics of the AK4497 make for a sound that is almost deprived of spurious digital artifacts.
So in our opinion the strongest point of this player is not the perfectly balanced sound or the excellent technical performance but rather the exceptional textural quality of the timbre.
With great harmonic wealth and an analogue like nature to it this is one of the most lifelike sounding players of the market bestest only by few ones.
The soundstage is very extended and fully immersive with precise positioning of the performers , top depth layering and superb rendering of the recording space ambience that results in a very holographic soundscape.
Balanced line output
The balanced line output is a nice addition as it bypasses the internal amp circuit and passes all that great sound to an external amplifier or active speakers.
Signal integrity remains intact and fully balanced and we have had some great results with the M11 Plus connected to the iFi ZEN CAN our mid price reference.
As such the M11 Plus can double as an excellent standalone DAC when we have harder to drive headphones and we need to use a headphone amplifier.
The FiiO engineers have definitely managed to squeeze every last drop of the AK4497, an excellent DAC chip by nature that when masterfully implemented can sound very musical and engaging.
Compared to the M11 Pro
Leaving physical and UI differences aside , both players (as it is to be expected) sound quite close with some minor exceptions.
The Plus is definitely more silent with an even blacker background so it can resolve finer details with enhanced clarity.
The soundstage is more extended and there is the sense that the music flows with greater freedom and ease.
There is also a difference in the digital artifacts that are sparingly present in the M11 Plus.
We have to attribute these minor but present differences to the newly designed power supply and the higher quality crystal oscillators of the M11 Plus.
Since we have both players to compare we feel like the Plus is an upgrade over the Pro as it offers considerably faster and smoother user experience , it comes with Android 10 and a larger screen , it has extended battery duration and of course a slightly enhanced sound performance.
We also like the new volume control system that replaced the scroll wheel and last but not least it has the extra dedicated balanced line output which is very useful.
So current owners that love the M11 Pro sound should feel legit to upgrade unless they prefer the smaller form factor and less weight of the Pro.
At the end
Sadly the M11 Pro is long dead but thankfully the M11 Plus rose from the ashes and it has evolved to something superior.
Faster and running the latest Android with wider screen and extended battery duration plus better looks and enhanced sound performance.
Of course this is not the best player in the market but it surely sits in the sweet spot where diminishing returns start to become obscure and not worth the extra cash spent at least for the majority of the buyers.
Since the AK4497 is out of production there are great chances that the next M11 series player will have a completely different sound signature.
So if you were planning to buy a M11 Pro and you didn’t get the chance to do it by now or if you already own one and you want to upgrade without losing your favorite sound signature and of course if you just want to buy one of the best players on the market then go grab one while stock lasts.
The FiiO M11 Plus is a top of the line media player that is soon to become rare and collectible.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021