FiiO M5
James Tan 2019

FiiO M5 Review

Features

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.

FiiO M5

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.

Recording

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.

FiiO M5

Sound Impressions

Although M5 has so many functions the hardware does not seem to be compromised. The M5 uses a non-integrated, highly power-efficient chipset with separated AKM 4377 chipset that enables up to DSD128 hardware decoding and a stunning >118dB S/N ratio. The solution covers higher resolution codec including DSD64/128 and AIFF also ISO files with CUE support.

On paper, the S/N ratio is very good for a device at this price and remarkably the noise control on the M5 is done well listening with sensitive IEMs. Output impedance is<0.5Ω and power output at 16ohm load is ≥42mW, quite low compared to the bigger brother M6.

With the lower output power, I would recommend pairing with more sensitive IEMs, especially ones that aren’t focusing on the treble. I tested the M5 with a handful of IEMs and turns out I prefer hybrids in most cases which compensates the bass and at the same time outputs brighter treble. Entry-level dynamic IEMs with a balanced tuning will also work well, you will hear clean vocals and with some elevation in the tuning, the upper mids sound very clear without fatigue.

FiiO M5

Synergy

Paired with ikko OH1

I assume OH1 will sound veiled on M5 being underpowered but its lifted bass actually compensates what the M5 lacks. The combo sounds full in bass and vocal is positioned more upfront with good energy. There is some good synergy between this pairing surprisingly and you may expect similarly tuned hybrid IEMs, for example, Oriveti OH300 to work their magic on M5.

The overall sound performance with this combo is enjoyable and engaging with a focus on the mid-lows, works great for game music/ dance music.

Paired with Final B3

The B3 is one of the latest Final audio works in beautiful rose gold finish. Since the other hybrid ikko OH1 works well with M5 I was curious to try the B3 on it and it did produce pleasing results and more than I expected.

The vocal on the B3 sounds natural and smooth with good weight and decent headroom. The very upper-pitched vocal range is still a bit shy but for powerful voices, it sounds lush and clear. With less bassy tracks / good recordings there is ample resolution and tonal balance. Overall, I quite enjoy the magic this combo sparks.

FiiO M5

Paired with FiiO FA1

The FA1 sounds fairly balanced with the M5. The bass punches light and you can hear the upper frequencies rolling off with lighter voices. It is a fast-paced yet a cheerful tuning that brings out extra details in the mid-highs region.

Nevertheless, the vocal is positioned somewhat far off. Whilst the presentation with this pairing enlarges the staging it may be a little bit hollow for tracks that have loose bass.

Selective Comparisons

FiiO M6

M6 is released not long ago and you may be questioning which one to choose. In fact, they are very different in structure and vary in function. The hardware on the M5 and M6 are completely different. The M5 uses an Ingenics solution, AKM DAC, CSR Bluetooth chipset and the M6 sports Exynos processors, ESS DAC, and a Samsung Bluetooth chipset.

The M6 has a nicer screen, faster OS, onboard 4GB ROM versus no onboard ROM on M5. There is a more precise volume control on the M6 with 120 steps doubling M5’s 60 steps. It looks like the M6 is superior in every dimension, however, the M5 as a USB DAC supports a higher bit-rate with DSD128compared to the M6’s 24/192 in DAC mode only.

The user experience with the M6 as a music player is also superior as you can view the playlist a lot easier. The M5 works better as a multifunctional wearable device and still sounds engaging with the right choice of earphones.

The M6 doubles the battery size and output power also supports streaming via different apps. You can hear the stronger output power of the M6 comparing both players with the same IEMs especially dynamic IEMs.

Shanling M0

You can easily relate the size of the M5 compared to the Shanling M0, a big hit since its release that has decent power for demanding in ears or even small cans. Putting the Shanling M0 and the FiiO M5 side by side there are some hints suggesting their different positioning.

The M5 has a more consumer-orientated approach with minimal physical buttons whilst the M0 features an avantegarde design with a cool volume knob. On both models UI, navigation experience and screen responses are similar.

Soundwise the M0 targets more demanding users with its higher output circuitry. You will hear solid, energetic bass impact along with the ability to drive more demanding iems regardless of its size. The newer contender M5 focuses on multifunction, packs in a stereo recorder, stepcounter, watch display and maintains a darker background with lower output power.

In comparison, the Shanling M0 sounds more balanced, has the better separation that works well with mid-tier, higher end earphones. The M5, on the other hand, boosts some frequencies to bring out details in the treble and mid lows, carefully compensating its lower output to pairs well with sensitive gear. The tuning on the M5 helps to breathe some life into flatter tunings, which some may find more engaging than the M0.

The user experience and newer functions puts the M5 into my daily carry. Soundwise it doesnt necessarily replace the M0 and in fact they complement each other with different signatures and power ratings.

HiBy W5

The HiBy W5 is equipped with Hiby’s UAT technology enabling 192kHz playback and a lot of custom settings. As a dedicated receiver, the W5 has a smaller profile, tuning is cleaner and more powerful (80mW per channel @32ohm compared to M5’s 24mW @32Ω from official data).

The FiiO M5 packs in a lot more useful features and does feel like an entirely different product. The W5 is developed for better output power but you will still find M5’s output comfortable for pairing sensitive IEMs with it.

FiiO M5

Our Verdict

At $99.99, the FiiO M5 packs in professional and industrial design, also a very complete DAP experience with advanced Bluetooth capabilities.

The clip case tagging alone makes it a practical high-resolution Bluetooth receiver while you can wear the M5 to the gym with the extra watchband and stream from your phone. Along with the SHanling M0 and the Hidizs AP80, the M5 is perfectly suited for use at the gym or for active lifestyles.

From the start, I didn’t have much expectation on the sound output and to my delight, it pairs quite well with some hybrids and dynamic IEMs. Considering the price it offers a lot of usable scenarios for both casual and audiophile users.

FiiO M5 Specifications

  • Processor: Ingenic X1000E @ 1 GHz
  • RAM: 64MB
  • OS: Linux
  • DAC: AK4377
  • Bluetooth interface: CSR8675
  • Bluetooth version: 4.2
  • Supported codecs: SBC, aptX, LDAC — передача, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC — receiving
  • Screen: 1.54, IPS TFT, 240×240
  • Memory expansion: MicroSD up to 2 TB
  • Battery: 550 mAh, Li-Po
  • Playback time: >10 hours on 3.5 mm output, >12 hours Bluetooth (SBC), >13 hours Bluetooth receiving (SBC)
  • Max resolution: 384 kHz/32 bit, DSD128
  • Format support: DSD (DSF, DFF, ISO), APE, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, AAC
  • Output power: ≥42 mWt @ 16Ω, ≥24 mWt @ 32Ω
  • Frequency range: 5 Hz ~ 90 kHz (–90 dB)
  • Noise level: <2.5μV
  • Output impedance: <0.5Ω
  • THD + noise: <0.003%
  • Channel separation: 74 dB
  • Signal/noise ratio: ≥118 dB
  • Dimensions: 45 mm × 42 mm × 14 mm
  • Weight: 38 g
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