The FiiO M5 is the company’s latest miniature touchscreen digital media player designed to fit into both the lifestyle and audiophile category. It retails for $99.99

Disclaimer: The FiiO FH7 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank FiiO for this opportunity. 

To learn more about FiiO reviews on Headfonics you can click here.

Tonality
8
Build Quality
8.5
Functionality
8.3
Software
8.3
Matchability
8.3
Rate The Gear!19 Votes
7.6
8.3
Score
$99.99

It is not the first time we see a small cubic Digital Audio Player, but FiiO truly surprised us by differentiating its latest model M5 from all competitors. Featuring not only Hi-res Bluetooth receiver function and high-quality microphones for recording the M5 also includes pedometer for sports as well as working as a watch!

Preinstalled with a clip case with an extra silicone band option, the Japan HP FES AWARD holder M5 is a fully functional and wearable DAP. The small design also does not compromise what FiiO have chosen internally either with some excellent hardware behind some good DAP functions and a level of performance above its price point.

FiiO M5

Packaging and content

The M5 comes in FiiO’s budget series signature and fairly simple white packaging. Inside you will find a USB-C to USB-A cable for data transmission and two screen protectors for the front screen. There is a removable clip preinstalled that acts as a protective case. After removing it you can find a protector film preinstalled on the rear side of the player also.

FiiO M5

Silicone Watchband

The silicone watch band is sold separately under the model name SK-M5. It is soft and light with a nice molding quality. You can hardly spot the molding line on the finish of the watchband.

The material is soft but it actually works just fine and doesn’t slide when you get sweaty. According to FiiO, the SK-M5 is now discontinued and a new model under the code SK-M5A will be replacing the SK-M5 so expect an even better version to be available soon.



FiiO M5

Design

The M5 has a very tiny form factor and much smaller than the size of M6. Honestly, it looks just slightly bigger than common smartwatches. From FiiO’s official data, the M5 weighs just 38g which is very compact and feels light in the hand.

There are 5 colors you can choose from and we received a black version for test. The M5 has a concaved top panel and at the deepest point sits the socket and buttons. This should prevent you from accidentally activating something on the go.

The front and the back panel are both fitted with 2.5D glass on CNC machined aluminum housing. It is a very clean looking design with a quality finish to match.

FiiO M5

Button layout / Control

You will find a volume bar and the power button on the top but otherwise, the M5 is very much a touch screen navigation DAP.

The buttons layout is carefully planned to save space but you will notice that any sort of dedicated ”play” button is missing. I only found out the power button doubles as the play button when I started playing songs.

You can also play/pause the current song by clicking on the power button once you connect to your phone via BT. You can answer calls by clicking it once as well. By double hitting the same button you can turn on and off the screen.

FiiO M5

Screen

Onboard under the beautiful but very small 2.5D glass is a 240*240 IPS touch panel measuring 1.54″. The screen can get very bright soit is actually not that difficult to see everything clearly under sunlight.



The touch navigation is fairly sensitive and it does feel very smooth and responsive when attempting to navigate on the M5. The only downside is that the screen doesn’t detect surrounding brightness so it cannot auto-adjust.

FiiO M5

Memory

The FiiO M5 is no onboard memory. Instead, you have a single microSD slot which officially supports up to 2TB. You will need a card for recording and also for firmware updates. There are no OTA updates, instead, you download the latest firmware from the official site and put the zipped file in the root folder of the memory card. To update, you will need to go inside the settings and manually select the firmware update.

Rather interestingly, you can hook up the M5 to your phone as an OTG flash drive device to access the memory card inside it and copy and paste songs from one device to another. Neat!

Battery

According to official specs, the M5 has 10.5 hours playback time and 13.5 hours as a Bluetooth receiver. Idle mode lasts 22 days on its 550mAh battery. That reasonable for the size of the battery which is rather small but it will vary according to your usage patterns. Leaving the screen on and BT will drain it fairly quickly. Turning the screen off, low ohm monitor usage and MP3’s will get you closer to 10 hours playback.

Hardware

The M5 uses a Qualcomm CSR8675 and AK4377 decoding chipset. Do not let the small size fool you, the M5 will support up to Native DSD128 replay and covers all hi-res audio standards including LDAC for wireless transmission. Much like the larger M6, there is only a single 3.5mm output that fits most listeners so no balanced output here.

DAC & USB host

Surprisingly this small DAP can also work as a USB-DAC or connect as the host for other USB DAC, enabled by it’s Ingenic Semiconductor’s X1000E solution.

On a Mac OS, it works right out of the box without any drivers but Windows drivers are needed unless you use a Creator’s Edition or above with Universal 2.0 drivers. The M5 drivers can be downloaded on FiiO’s official site. You can also make use of its lineout function to hook up via a 3.5mm AUX input of another amplifier.

The M5 can also host other USB audio devices so you could connect to other DAC amps, for example, the Chord Mojo. DoP/D2P options are selectable in the settings and you can also link up to other decoders using its Spdif output.

FiiO M5

Bluetooth

Receiver

The M5 will allow you to answer phone calls over a Bluetooth connection. While you are using Bluetooth mode you cannot access the local library on the M5 and can only hear the media on the host machine. When you connect to your phone via Bluetooth you can answer phone calls by pressing the play button on the M5 .

The M5 supports a wide range of codecs including SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX-HD and the latest LDAC codec. For LDAC Hi-res connections,  I am using the M11 as host and connecting to the M5. The connection is swift and there is no interference heard. The signal is also strong and it connects quite well even when I put the M11 in my bag and M5 clipped on my pocket in front. You will see ”LDAC” showing up on the top bar on the M11 when it is transferring at LDAC rates.

Transmitter

You can turn on Bluetooth transmitter function in the settings menu. The navigation is similar to a phone system and you could search other Bluetooth devices and listen from Bluetooth headsets or other receivers. When used as a transmitter the M5 supports SBC up to LDAC so Android Oreo pairings will benefit.

FiiO M5

Software Navigation

It takes around 10 seconds for the M5 to boot up and it is very smooth and snappy to navigate and enter different modes. The battery time is very sufficient for a few days of use.

My concern would be the volume buttons being a bit hard to reach but at the same time, you will not accidentally press on them. When turning off the screen during audio playback you will have to double press or else you will be pausing the song. This is a quirky feature that also takes me some time to get used to.

To fast forward/ go to next song you will need to turn on the screen and unlock from the watch screen to enter the currently replaying song page. This is a bit clumsy and I hope there is a future update with an option to choose not to display the watch screen and let the screen wake up to the playback screen directly.

FiiO M5

Click on Page 2 for Features, Sound Impressions & Comparisons

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20 Responses

    • J.T.

      I would say they are on par, similar sound signature as well. Do take a look at the up coming BTR5, just a little bit more expensive but there will be more power!

      Reply
  1. Mahir Efe Falay

    Ahh Fiio again. Doing the right stuff for its purpose. But won’t rise of wireless dac amps end the need for daps?

    I have es100 and its perfect for listening IMHO

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Don’t think so just yet. Quite apart from the fact you are stacking, you are also charging 2 devices and lowering your resolution and dynamic range with wireless unless you are using a WIFI hotspot to transport music from one source to a receiver.

      Reply
  2. receph

    Any chance you can compare the M5 with the Shanling M0 lineout sound signatures, for pairing up with an amp?

    Reply
  3. receph

    no comparison with the only competitor that looks nearly identical, with very similar features, shanling m0?

    Reply
  4. J.T.

    Sound effects alter the output curve and may introduce distortion, i prefer to untick all preset digital filters normally. Dont have a se425 around but it may really be not matching looking at the sensitivity! As you say it is a matching game … finding good synergy, matching in/output power between parings is always the key.

    For filters i tend to use short delay sharp roll off ones, sounds more natural to me 😁

    Reply
  5. TaylorD

    I’m surprised the M0 *wasn’t* in your Select Comparisons, honestly.

    M0 owner, and I was very curious about the M5 as a smaller and more multi-use package. It would also save me the trouble of buying a smart watch lol. But I’m pretty in love with the M0 still, as it’s just so damn competent and feature packed for it’s price.

    One thing I recently found out that the M0 does, that I’m curious of the M5 also does, is that if you connect your M0 to a pair of BT headphones, in my case the new Drop Move, and then connect the M0 as a USB-DAC, the wireless headphones remain connected and the M0 becomes a BT transmitter.

    Now, I knew it did that with it’s own music, but I didn’t know it would do that via USB-DAC mode. Tested with latest V3.1 Firmware. Never tested that functionality with anything below it.

    Reply
    • J.T.

      Hi TaylorD, question expected! let me just jot it down here now….

      Yes you may easily relate the size of thr M5 to Shanling’s M0 however putting the Shanling M0 and the M5 side by side you can see their positioning doesn’t really overlap. The M5 has a more consumer approach, the UI onboard is optimized for easy navigation and feels alike a smart watch. Soundwise the M0 targets more demanding users putting in higher output, with solid, energetic bass performance that could drive power hungry iems regardless of its size. Being said the M5 has a smaller output, dark background is achieved with less amping. Overall the Shanling M0 sounds more balanced, has higher seperation that works well with mid-tier, higher end earphones while the M5 is tuned to bring out details in the treble and mid lows, breathing some life into flatter tunings which you may find more engaging than the M0 especially when paired with earbuds. The clip case coming for free with the M5 is a big bonus which makes it very practical to be carried around, not to mention the watchband option.

      It would be cooler if there is more power on the M5 but for its targetted usergroup or with matching IEMs such as the OH1 and various earbuds it is handy and enjoyable for the price.

      As for the bluetooth transmitter function yes it shall send out signals from your USB input when connected as a USB DAC, will double confirm soon!

      Reply
    • Marcos

      That Bluetooth transport thing (receiving data and then broadcasting it in a combination wired-wireless/wireless wired) works only on shanling m0 so far. In the headfi it is said that the processor can’t handle it, although the FiiO support mentioned that they are still exploring if it will be possible to implement this feature in the future.

      I’m also a shanling m0 owner and I really like it, although I have to confess that I was a bit bummed by sound quality, which in most songs it seems a bit worse than my note9 own dac with Dolby Atmos (to my ears). Nevertheless, I’ve been rocking using my chord mojo wireless or a portable-ish m0 with fiio q1 mkII balanced output.
      I also miss having Bluetooth mic in for using it with my phone as the m5.

      But one advantage of shanling (at least on paper) is that it has a higher output and should do better with high impedance iems / headphones..

      What is your impressions on m0’s sound quality over your phone?

      Reply
      • J.T.

        Thanks for the note, that will save some testing effort and I do hope FiiO could bring the function to work later on!

        To me the existance of DAPs are for the power, portability and to not drain the phone’s battery. The M0 fits all these criterias while keeping the output balanced sounding and resolving.
        The M5 on the otherhand offers hands-free function that could free you from pocketing your phone, even more practical.

        Output quality on both devices could be on par to some higher end phones with audiophile grade chipsets, but i dont think it is inferior when compared to many other phones in the market that sounds veiled or obviously altered by DSP. Do bear in mind phones are always a few folds more expensive and not all implementations are done well.

        I do always love the sound on older generations iPhones though, and on android you can install UAPP or V4A etc. to boost replay/ streaming quality with parametric EQ or other means like IR correction.

    • Marcos

      Thanks a lot for the reply James! I do believe that maybe the Dolby Atmos was fooling me, or doing a more V-shaped sound. I actually noticed this difference in the timbre of Louis Armstrong in some songs in his album with Ella Fitzgerald, and also in some Casey Abrams’ song in his ‘Casey Abrams’ album. But again, maybe it’s the Shure se425 that doesn’t have much sinergy with the m0, or just not my taste in music. Who knows? hahahahahh
      To be fair my note9 does have less sibilance in albums from Chie Ayado for example… But the difference in the output is very noticeable especially when using my Sennheiser hd600.

      Quick question though to James and to TaylorD: Which digital filter do you use in the Shanling M0? I confess I’m a bit lost on this one… :)

      Thanks a lot, and congrats for the amazing work in the headfonics, James and Marcus! Btw Marcus, I bought my Shanling m0 because of you, I asked about portable daps and you advised either it or the m5… hahahah

      Reply

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