The FiiO M11 Plus LTD is the 3rd iteration of the M11 DAP that first saw the light of day back in 2019. Back then the Android 7 platform and stealthy looks with a big screen resonated very well indeed with not just the purist but also the crossover market that wanted more of the key aspects of smartphone design, namely speed.
Since then, FiiO upgraded the amplification with the M11 Pro in late 2019 to give it more of a neutral clean tonal signature whilst retaining that the solid UI fundamentals that made the original M11 so popular.
The new $749.99 M11 Plus LTD for 2021 is not an iterative launch of the same thing. In fact, you could argue this it is a whole new DAP with a bang-up to date Android platform, a fresh CPU, as well as continuing with its excellent THX amplification integration.
Not only does the new design further brush up the way the device looks, but this time FiiO is also offering some very modern upgrades on both the aesthetics and UI/UX experience including a huge redesign of their icon scheme and general layout.
The original key components on the M11 Pro are inherited from the M11 Plus LTD including dual AK4497EN and the THX AAA-78*2 headphone amps, boosting higher output along with an FPGA controlled Femtoclock upgrade that promises lower jitter.
Putting together Android 10 OS and Octa-Core Snapdragon controllers in the new M11 Plus LTD, FiiO could well be offering one of the most up-to-date and fastest DAPs in the market today.
Stealth Bezel Free framework
Measuring at 136.6mm X 75.7mm X 17.6mm the M11 Plus feels slightly bigger and heftier than the previous-gen product. It is still extremely easy to hold and once the leather case is put on, you can see they achieve a nearly bezel-free design.
The aluminum chassis in satin black finish feels exceptionally smooth, the assembly is clean and precise and there is no gap between any parts that are loose or prone to damage.
You will also find a user-defined button below the volume touch panel that you could hold and enter an express menu, all these buttons have a clean click and feel durable. The on/off button is also nicely programmed to light up in different ways, and you could also customize them in the menu.
Similar designs will also be used on the upcoming M17 flagship DAP which seems huge so the M11 Plus LTD has a more pocketable size.
“Diamond” Cut Back Panel
Aside from honeycomb-shaped buttons, the “Diamond” cut bank panel is also a key design point. Originally, I thought the triangular patterns are protruding, but it turns out to be a flat panel that reflects light like it is a piece of 3D glass stuck to the back of the M11 Plus LTD.
The way it looks is mesmerizing and will make you wonder how it is made. Photos do not do it justice and in reality, it looks luxurious and appealing. It certainly looks a lot cooler than the common carbon fiberglass panels we see on competing DAPs.
I was impressed with the large screen ratio on the M11 Pro, but FiiO has decided to push it even further, packing in a 5.5-inch screen that fills the front panel with colorful pixels.
The screen is as bright as the one on M11 Pro and the contrast is good with no obvious coloration. The pixel density is also high enough for you to look at fine details in HD videos and read subtitles clearly, especially under the dark theme mode.
The bigger screen is a very welcoming change as it does not sacrifice the form factor, so the M11 Plus LTD still feels compact weighing only 3g more than the M11 Pro.
As a bonus, FiiO has inserted a 3D rendered circuit wallpaper for the theme background picture for the M11 Plus LTD. There is even a patent on the design which isn’t surprising because the aesthetic is quite engaging and unique to the eye.
2-Way Volume Control
This is one very innovative design that reminds me of the Calyx M and the Colorfly U8. However, the FiiO player is more advanced with this particular implementation.
The volume control is not just a physical button but also includes a touch panel inside which you can swipe to change the volume. You can change the behavior of the knob in the settings (Settings->Global->Volume touch panel settings). It does emit a ticking sound when you slide on the touch panel but this can be turned off in the settings as well.
The volume adjusted with every swipe is maxed at a few dBs and you cannot accidentally bump it up too much so overall, the sensitivity is better than expected.
The 2-way control feature also adds a bit more depth to the user experience whilst at the same time creating almost a cyber-punk aesthetic to the design. Also, it allows for a bit more space for a bigger battery on the inside.
However, I have a minor complaint here, if you grab the M11 Plus LTD on the sides there is a small chance you may hold the volume button accidentally. To get around this I need to lock the buttons (in Settings->Global->Volume touch panel settings->Auto-lock after inactivity) and to set a volume ceiling.
To re-enable the function, you will need to double click on the touch panel where you disable the physical button control through the hold switch.
Keeping everything stealthy, the screwless body design has no paint-filled over the engraved indexes. All jacks are aligned on the same axis, so it looks very neat and minimalistic. The aesthetics are simple and effective, without any parts feeling excessive with its black-toned palette.
A SPDIF converter cable comes with the package so you can hook up other decoders such as the K5 Pro or your home system. The max output signal supported is 384kHz-32bit or DSD128.
There is an increasing number of 4.4mm amplifiers being released so FiiO is following the trend closely by adding a 4.4mm LO output option. This is not available on the original M11 Pro so if you have 4.4mm amplifiers in your arsenal, you can make use of M11 Plus LTD’s balanced lineout output.
There are some interesting changes regarding playback time as well as charging. The M11 Plus LTD requires 27W for the fastest charging speed whereas the M11 Pro required 18W, so you can imagine it charges up a lot faster.
With a 6000mAh huge battery inside it only takes half an hour to charge it to 70% having QC4.0 technology on board, which is scarily fast! Again, the weight is only 3g heavier than the M11 Pro, so it is definitely a lovely enhancement.
The playback hours are increased to 11.5 hours from 9.5 hours on the M11 Pro. Combined with the fact you can charge so fast, this is definitely a welcome upgrade in battery life.
Packaging & Accessories
Interestingly, the packaging is brushed up as well with some texts including the model number made embossed, with the PCB design subtly imprinted in stealthy black color.
Opening the box, you will find the M11 Plus LTD with a glass screen protector and a leather case installed so no more hunting around for protection out of the box like the M15.
Digging deeper you will find the COAX adapter, USB 3.0 cable, pin pusher. No over-packaging as usual and I like how effective and professional FiiO designs the whole unboxing experience.
The 2 pieces of AK4497EQ DAC are well-loved ex-flagship chipsets from AKM Semiconductor Inc. with a strong over-sampling feature for noise control.
The SNR on this chipset reaches 128dB and THD is as low as -116dB. The M11 Plus LTD employs a fully balanced architecture plus a dual THX AAA-78 amping stage that aims at eliminating distortion and noise floor along with enhanced SNR performance compared to older generation chipsets.
Decoding is not top-tier at DSD256 and 384kHz/32bit PCM, there are higher rates at this price point but it should be sufficient for the bulk of most media libraries.
Another important upgrade from the M11 Pro is the introduction of a Femtosecond crystal clock system which will be feeding an even more precise timing with lower jitter in the digital output.
The FPGA chipset is also custom-coded to get the digital output from the SoC and feeding it into the Femto clocks. This setup takes care of the time domain then getting accurate I2S/DSD signals over to the AKM DAC chips.
With this implementation, the output can get denser, cleaner, and more accurate. Reflected in the specs the SNR is the same as M15 at >121dB and you can also hear it sounding more precise and richer in detail than the M11 Pro.
FiiO is the first brand to have Android 10 in its DAPs and they decided to turbocharge the user experience also with the Snapdragon 660. This is the same CPU used inside the iBasso DX300 and the HiBy R8 which is proven to be quite a bit faster than the Samsung Exynos 7872 inside the M15.
The UI is incredibly smooth, and surprisingly the M11 Plus LTD does not feel hot during normal operation, though you can feel it getting warm when playing DSD or playing games.
The Snapdragon 660 is also BT5.0 and WiFi 5G capable so these are promising enhanced wireless connections. 5G WiFi is particularly useful if you have a lot of devices that operate under lower frequencies, which may introduce interferences.
The M11 Plus LTD encases a fully-balanced THX structure amplification module – AAA-78 (THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier), officially explained as the “World’s Most Linear Amplifier Technology for Headphones and In-Vehicle Audio Systems”.
Almost all THX AAA-78 equipped products have impressed me with their clean and uncolored tone, this time it does not let down either. The chipsets promise infinitesimally low levels of noise, distortion, and power consumption, also being able to output great power under low voltage power supplies.
The output rating of the M11 Pro LTD ranges from 206mW into a 32Ω load single-ended going up to 588mW balanced on the same load. Still not quite as powerful as the M15 but a little higher compared to the M11 Pro which was rated at 200mW into 32Ω SE and 550mW balanced.
The M11 Plus LTD uses a true USB 3.0 connection this time meaning faster transfer rates and more universal connectivity in 2021. You will need to install a USB driver to use the M11 Plus LTD as a decoder for the PC/Laptop and decoding does drop a little to 384kHz-32bit PCM and DSD128 in USB-DAC mode.
The sound performance on the USB connection is consistent with the onboard memory playback and latency is not too severe. You can hook the M11 Plus LTD up to the laptop for movies where the experience will be much better than the output onboard.
When connected there will be a pop-up message and you can always access it down the drag-down menu in case you mispress and skip it.
For USB-powered DACs, a separate app (i.e., UAPP) may be required, especially ones that need software volume control on the host device. And you can choose between bit native options and decoded MQA for MQA files being output on the SPDIF out.
The M11 Plus LTD also supports OTG connection. Hook up an external memory card reader to load or export media from the device and you can get files transferred to the machine lightning fast.
I am also using my DAPs to transfer and view photos I take and the writing speed on the M11 Plus LTD is incredibly fast with a USB 3.0 card reader. So much so that I am thinking of using it to do video editing as well.
Click on page 2 below for Software and sound impressions