Before you go to the review, let’s see a video on how to operate Fiio M5
I will first start with its power output and how in general it performs with IEMs and headphones.
As crazy as it sounds M5 drove decently my Quad ERA-1 planars and more than decently a pair of Sennheiser HD660S. Volume wise I was somewhere between 55 and 60 (60 is the max volume) with the first one and between 52 and 57 with the last one. Dynamics were pretty good, I was hearing a nice kick from fast dynamics and had a good impact as well. The more I listened the more I realized it actually sounds a bit more engaging than the mobile ESS Sabre designs, can’t explain why.
Having only 2.5 uV of noise on the headphone output it actually paired very well with FiiO’s own FA7 IEMs and with sensitive IKKO OH1. I didn’t hear disturbing hum or hiss, so M5 can be easily used with IEMs. Be advised that at only 42 mW at maximum volume it will not drive with lots authority and slam a pair of multi-driver IEM, you will still need to use a more powerful device.
However, with all that said, it sounded nowhere near dead to me even with planar-magnetics. Quad Era-1 sounded more than decent with quite some punch in the low end, crispy up top and musical in the midrange. Muddiness was not spotted and it never sounded dry or soul-less, a very nice first impression indeed.
I left it playing non-stop with a charger attached to it for about 48 hours and resumed my listening session. Truth to be told it sounded nice from the start and not a lot was changed after the burn-in period ended.
I listened to some Vampire Weekend and The Last Shadow Puppets to wake-up those faster dynamic swings and M5 performed admirably in this area. A-Punk and Aviation kicked my eardrums pretty serious and was not losing control or slam. Using easier to drive headphones like the portable Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 or the Master&Dynamic MW65 (wired) was a real treat as these mid-tiered headphones were driven nicely and everything sounded good from the get-go. Sound was polished top to bottom without obvious flaws, without peaky treble or flabby bass.
(Image Credit: Soundnews)
What was a bit unexpected is that M5 is not sounding 2D at all and most of the time it is quite open and is enveloping my head.
Listening to Loreena McKennitt – The Gates Of Istanbul was an interesting experience, once I closed my eyes I imagined I was listening to a desktop DAC+headphone amp unit as everything was present. The music was really layered and everything would come towards me from different angles. M5 is far from 2D sounding and for its size has impressive holography and an out of head experience.
In my opinion this is the strongest point of M5 as it never crowds the performance in a single blob of sound but more like decompresses everything.
If I am switching to harder to drive headphones, of course the soundstage will shrink in size and the overall airy presentation will became flatter and not as impressive.
Design and controls
The appearance is as simple as possible: and aluminum square with slightly rounded corners. There is a screen on a front panel, covered with 2.5D glass.
On the back — the same glass but of course without the screen, but with different inscriptions and logos that confirm Hi-Res of the highest standard. The player is not only small, it is lightweight, so if someone releases a ring, you can get a great key ring from it.
(Image Credit: Porta.fi)
In fact, M5 is couple millimeters smaller than its main competitor — Shanling M0, that has already been rather small.
For beauty lovers — you can choose from several colorful variant, but I think most of audience will still choose black. The build quality is very good.
There are three hardware buttons, but they are still better than Shanling wheel.
All of them are located on the upper part of the player (however, it may be not the upper part, since the player can work in any orientation), there is a volume rocker that can also switch tracks on long press and the on/off button that can block the screen on two presses and can stop and start playback on a single press.
This can be changed and adjusted in menu. The buttons are pleasant to press so you shouldn’t have any problems with blind operation. There is also 3.5 mm output on this side and it is responsible of everything — headphones, lineout and S/PDIF.
Watch Display (5 styles)
With the latest firmware, you get movement-based interaction with the M5. For example, when you swing your arm upwards the screen will automatically turn on and shows the time. There is enough brightness for you to read the time under the sun.
You can change the watch display in the setting menu and there are 5 different designs you could choose from. Design No.2 looks the best to me, as it resembles Apple’s style. You can also orientate the screen in any direction in the settings which might help with left or right arm strap usage.
( Image Credit: Headfonics)
Step Counter And Record
The M5 step counter application can be accessed from the main menu and there are two buttons to start collecting step counts and to reset it to zero. You can start counting and go back to the main menu and use other functions while it operates in the background. You will see a small walking icon on the top bar when it is activated.
When you set zero the count there will be data stored on the other page with the date you record the data so if you are doing different sports sessions you could keep the records separately.
Dual microphones are integrated at top of the M5 on each side of the volume button array. This looks quite professional not to squeeze both channels inside the same hole or do a mono-stereo conversion and the recording quality is quite decent.
You can choose the recording quality in the setting menu and the recorded file is in Wav format. There are two holes also on the silicone watchbands so it will not block the microphone when you are putting it on the strap.
UI and Functionality
Running on a custom Linux-based operating system, the M5 UI boots up fast and is responsive without any visible lag when operating. From the Home screen, swiping left and right gives you 7 menu options:
- Settings: The usual system and playback settings options.
- Recording: Using the built-in microphone, the M5 can be used to record audio.
- Step counter: The M5 has a basic pedometer built-in. It can be useful for health and exercise monitoring, especially when used in conjunction with the optional M5 silicone wrist strap.
- Category: Access to the media library where you can browse by album, artist category etc. as well as favourites and playlists.
- Now Playing: Takes you to the now playing screen where you have access to playback controls. From this screen, you can also change the play mode and add a song to a playlist or to your favourites. Additionally, a single tap on the display will show you the fullscreen album art. Swiping left gives you shuttle controls, and shortcuts to EQ, track information and delete track option.
- Browse files: Opens the structured folder navigation.
- BT receiver: Your M5 can work as a Bluetooth receiver which means you can stream music from another device or your smartphone. In this mode, you can use the M5 to answer incoming calls as well, using the built-in microphone.
( Image Credit: Primeaudio)
As you can see, there is a lot of functionality packed into this little player. But there’s more too. Swiping left takes you to the previous screen and tapping the small home icon on any sub-screen or menu will take you back to the main menu.
The lockscreen shows the current time (if enabled in settings) and there are 5 different clock faces to choose from. There is an option in the settings to wake the display when you raise your hand or double tap on the display.
Additionally, you can adjust the display orientation, which is really cool. I found this really handy because I normally clip the player to my shirt pocket and in the default orientation the headphone jack is on the top. This makes it quite awkward and I’m always worried it will fall off. So, I simply reversed the player in the removable clip case and now the headphone jack is positioned on the bottom of the player and feels much more secure. Brilliant!
An important function of the Fiio M5 is to pair with phones without the headphone port. It solves the problem of headphone talk, listening to music.
Why not just use Bluetooth headphones? Because there are still some people who are not satisfied with the sound quality and battery life of Bluetooth headset.
Phones can be connected to Fiio M5 via HD Bluetooth, directly using wired headphones. M5 is small and lightweight, can be wear on hand and will not increase any burden.
First set M5 to Bluetooth mode, open the phone’s Bluetooth connection. The phone will will automatically connect to M5 in LDAC format by default.
After actual comparison, there is no significant difference between the music played through M5 from the phone in LDAC and the music played from M5. You can call it “lossless transmission”.
*A few notes for the use of Fiio M5 Bluetooth:
Upgrade firmware and Bluetooth firmware to the latest version. The earlier version not only has stability issues, but also has blurry sound (LDAC mode).
Try to adjust the volume through the phone, do not adjust the volume on the player. Otherwise, when you go back to the player built-in music playback, the volume may be too high.
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.
Youtube ( 6 Video in total)
(By Porta. fi, remembered that? Porta fi is always active in replying every questions, so if you have any questions about Fiio M5, just leave a comment there.)
(FiiO M5 Portable Player – First Look by Currawong)
(FiiO M5 Review – Do it all DAP by Soundnews)
(Fiio M5 first look and thoughts- by knewideas)
(FiiO M5 DAP Player *Sound Test* Full Unboxing)
|Bluetooth||supports LDAC, HWA, aptXHD, aptX, SBC|
|Receiver (SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC), Transmitter(SBC/aptX/LDAC)|
|USB||Symmetrical Type C connector, USB2.0USB DAC: Up to 384kHz- 32bit/DSD128|
|Screen||1.54-inch 240x 240 touchscree|
|Charging time||<2.5h (DC5V/2A charge)|
|Battery life||> 10.5h (using earphones) > 13.5h (over Bluetooth)|
|Standby time||> 22 days|
|Battery||550mAh lithium-ion polymer battery|
|Accessories||Back Clip, USB data cable, PET screen protector (one already pre- applied)|
|Storage||micro-SD card (up to 2TB supported)|
|Power Output||> 42mW (16Q)|
|Frequency Response||5Hz~90kHz (-3dB)|
|Signal-to-noise Ratio:||> 118dB (A-weighte)|
|Output impedance||<0.5ohm (32ohm load)|
|Recommended drive loads||16~1000|