FiiO M5 Review

I have an iWatch. And when I go for a run (let’s just pretend that I run), it’s nice to be able to control my music from my watch. The only problem is, I’m still lugging my iPhone around in my fanny pack. And during such activities, I really start to miss those little iPods. The Shuffles and such. Well, FiiO is helping fill the niche that Apple lost with the release of the FiiO M5. How does it perform in terms of sound, design and functionality? And is it worth 100 bucks? Let’s find out in this FiiO M5 Review.

FiiO M5 Review

DESIGN and FUNCTIONALITY

Size and Portability

At 44mm x 42mm, the M5 is about the size of the larger Apple iWatch, though wider in depth. And actually, you can get a watchband for it. After a little searching, I found one on this site: https://www.hifisound.de/Hifi-Components/Multimedia-Components/Streamer/FiiO-SK-M5-Watch-stripe-for-FiiO-M5-Player-black.html. Otherwise you can stick with the included clip. And I recommend using the included screen protector film.

Bluetooth Capabilities and Supported Codecs

The M5 also works as a Bluetooth receiver. So, for example, if you want to listen to Spotify streaming from your phone. You can connect the M5 wirelessly to your mobile device and listen from the M5. Also, say you’re moving around and don’t want to be attached to your phone. But you would still like the options of answering calls. You can connect the M5 via Bluetooth to your phone and receive calls from the M5 using you earphones and the mic on the M5 device. 

You can also transmit a Bluetooth signal to another wireless device, such as your wireless headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. 

In terms of hi-res Bluetooth, the M5 receives aptX, aptX HD, AAC, LDAC and SBC. And it transmits SBC, aptX and LDAC.

DAC

The M5 uses the AKM AK4377 DAC chip, which can support up to 384kHz/32 bit and native DSD files. The M5 can be used as a straight DAC if you prefer to hook it up to an amp. You can also bypass the DAC on the M5 and run the files through DAC Amp combo. 

Storage

While the M5 has no internal storage, it can support up to a 2TB micro-SD card. Can’t wait till those come out. You might want to note that the M11 had some trouble supporting anything above 512 GB. Not sure if the firmware update fixed that. But I was only using a 64 GB card for the M5. So, in practice, I don’t know how far you’ll be able to push it.

Step Counter

Now, this is very iWatchy; count your steps and keep a log to regret your lack of activity during the previous week.

Recorder

The M5 has a voice recorder function. And the mic is quite sensitive. So, you can leave it on a conference table and easily pick up a conversation from a few feet away.

Battery Life and Charging

You can expect around 10.5 hours of playtime and about 13.5 hours if you’re using the M5 as a Bluetooth receiver. The M5 employs a USB-C connection for charging. Of course, the USB-C connection also supports other functions, such as USB DAC and USB audio output.

Equalizer Presets

The M5 offers a few equalizer presets optimized for different genres. So, although you won’t get full creative control over your balance, at least you can choose between a neutral sound or more dynamic profile.

Navigation

The screen is quite sensitive, and I definitely found it more responsive than FiiO’s oldest DAP models. Most of the functions are controlled via the touchscreen, though there are two main button controls on the top of the player. The button on the right powers the player on and off when you hold it down. And when the M5 is on, a single press of the button pauses/plays the track. Double pressing the button will turn the screen on and off. (The screen automatically switches off after a while to preserve battery life). To the left of the right button you’ll find the volume control. But you’ll also be able to adjust the volume on the screen dial.

If you swipe left and right, you will navigate through the different features offered, like the Bluetooth receiver, recorder and file browser. You’ll also be able to navigate songs by category, such as artist, song or album. Furthermore, you can create playlists, just like you would on a platform like Spotify or Tidal. The only thing I couldn’t figure out how to do was fast forward or rewind through tracks. As far as I could tell, you could only skip back and forth through tracks. So, if anyone finds this functionality, let us know.

File Format Support

In addition to lossy files like MP3, the M5 also supports the following lossless files:

DSD:DSD64,128(“.iso”“.dsf”,“.dff”)

APE(Fast): 384 kHz/24 bit

APE(Normal): 96 kHz/24 bit

APE (High): 96kHz/24 bit

APE (Extra High): not supported

APE (Insane): not supported

FLAC: 384kHz/24 bit

WAV: 384 kHz/32 bit

Aiff:192 kHz/32bit

Aif:192 kHz/24 bit

WMA Lossless: 96 kHz/24 bit

Apple Lossless: 192 kHz/24 bit

SOUND

I paired the M5 with the Campfire Andromeda because that’s an IEM I’m really familiar with. The M5 seems to present a very unadulterated sound. Clean and well-separated, there’s no contrived warmth. And neither the low frequencies or the highs feel artificially extended or colored. No harshness in the upper-mids, which is a pet peeve of mine. I did a couple of comparisons with other FiiO products. To get a sense of the sound profile, I compared the M5 to the FiiO Q5 because, again, I’m so familiar with it. Unsurprisingly, the soundstage is not as vast. But in terms of balance, there’s nominal difference. Also, even on the very sensitive Andromeda, there was little noise to speak of. 

SUMMARY

I think FiiO is going to sell a lot of these cute little players. For active audiophiles (and there are so many of us), the M5 is a great DAP option, especially when you compare it to other brands that sell DAPs of a similar size, like the Shanling M0. The M5’s build quality is far more solid, while the functionality is also superior. The M5 is also a few dollars cheaper. And when you take into consideration the fact that the M5 both transmits and receives Bluetooth, it’s unarguably a great deal.

You can find the FiiO M5 for the best price here:

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Amazon

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