If you have decided to enter the audiophile world, your smartphone and your basic headphones are not the ideal kit. This hobby can be particularly expensive, but it is possible to set up an audiophile starter kit for little money. This includes the purchase of devices that offer something for your money, such as the excellent Fiio M6. If you're looking for something even more affordable, there's the Fiio M5.
Price at Rs. At 8,990, the Fiio M5 is smaller, handier and more suitable for audiophiles. This portable device works in many ways – you can use it as a standalone digital audio player or even as a DAC or Bluetooth receiver with other devices. We tested this compact, feature-rich audio product. Read on to find out everything about it.
Fiio M5 design and specifications
Design and shape have come a long way since the days of the original iPod, and much smaller devices can do much more today. The Fiio M5 is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or sit in your pocket next to your wallet without bothering you too much. It is similar to the Shanling M0 audio player in terms of form factor, and uses a 1.54-inch touchscreen with 240 x 240 pixels for most controls.
The device has a metal frame with glass at the front and back and weighs only 38 g. The upper part has the on / off switch, a volume rocker and a 3.5 mm socket (for headphones, line-out and S / PDIF output). In addition, there are two microphones on top that are used when the M5 acts as a Bluetooth receiver and for voice recordings on the device. The on / off switch also controls playback: a long press turns the device on or off, double tapping wakes the M5 or puts it into sleep mode, and a single tap plays or pauses music.
The bottom has a slot for a microSD card and a USB Type-C port. The scope of delivery includes a USB cable from type A to type C and a plastic protective cover that also serves as a belt clip for the Fiio M5. The device is charged via the Type-C connection. You can also connect to a PC to transmit audio tracks or use the device as a DAC.
The Fiio M5 does not have built-in memory. You must therefore use your own microSD card. It supports up to the theoretical limit of 2 TB for microSD cards, which means that whatever you have lying around will work immediately. It supports a wide range of lossless and compressed audio formats, including DSD, APE, FLAC, WAV, Apple Lossless, MP3 and WMA, to name a few.
When you use the Fiio M5 as a DAC, it works immediately with Mac computers, but a driver is required on Windows computers. The device's DAC chip is an AK4377 that supports up to 32-bit / 384 kHz audio decoding and DSD128 (Direct Stream Digital). The M5 has a recommended headphone impedance range of 16-100 ohms, so you can use it to operate the cheapest headphones and headphones with medium range.
With the Fiio M5 you get a bidirectional Bluetooth connection with which the device can receive and send a Bluetooth signal. As a transmitter, the device supports the codecs SBC, aptX and LDAC – AAC support would have been helpful here. As a receiver, the device supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC, so that you can convert all wired headphones into a wireless headset.
Due to the size of the Fiio M5, it has a small 550 mAh battery and needs to be charged more often than a larger digital audio player. The device ran for about 8 hours when used as a player (both wired and wireless) and as a Bluetooth receiver, and charging took a little less than two hours when connected to a laptop. The M5 could even be charged while used as a DAC with a MacBook Air, which we found useful.
The interface of the Fiio M5 is a custom interface that we think is pretty well designed. The small screen is used optimally, the text is clearly displayed and navigation is carried out by swiping and tapping. We quickly got used to the user interface and controls, and the settings are convenient and easy to navigate.
Key features such as the Now Playing tab, the file browser and the BT receiver are easily accessible. However, you must use the Settings screen to switch between USB modes. The device must either be configured as a USB memory or as a USB device a DAC before you connect it to a computer. Interestingly, the Fiio M5 also has a pedometer and voice recorder, and you can buy a watch band to use as a kind of fitness tracker.
Fiio M5 performance
The Fiio M5 does a lot and we have tested all of its core functions. For this test, we used the device as an audio player, DAC and Bluetooth receiver. We combined it with the 1More Quad Driver headphones, the wired Sennheiser Momentum on-ear headphones and the Sony WI-1000XM2 for audio output and evaluated the DAC or Bluetooth receiver functions with a MacBook Air and OnePlus 7T Pro.
We started with the Fiio M5 as a standalone audio player with our wired headphones. While the sound signature is of course shaped by the headphones used, we have noticed a certain improvement in detail due to the superior DAC of the Fiio M5, compared to the direct connection of the same pair to our MacBook Air or Apple iPad mini (2019). Like the Shanling M0, this device does its job by simply doing its job and playing music without any real changes or additions to the output.
Supporting various formats, including DSD128, is the big selling point here, and listening to the right kind of audio tracks was a rewarding experience for us, especially when combined with the great 1More Quad Driver headphones. Aside from the details, the sound felt a bit fuller and crisper even at high volumes thanks to the boost and volume boost the Fiio M5 offers.
The AKM4377 DAC in the Fiio M5 is a little less detailed and clean than the ESS Saber 9218P DAC in the Shanling M0, but certainly a bit more powerful than the basic DACs in smartphones and laptops.
When you use the device as a Bluetooth receiver for wired headphones, the setup sounded similar to a good pair of wireless headphones like the Sony WI-1000XM2 due to the obvious loss of trust.
However, this is a great way to achieve wireless connectivity with a good pair of wired headphones. The M5 has helped maintain the acoustic signature and a good level of detail and sharpness of both the 1More Quad Driver headphones and the Sennheiser Momentum headphones. We also used it for voice calls and were satisfied with the sound quality at both ends of the call.
If you have a lot of your music on a laptop or PC, or want to use your computer as a listening device at work, the Fiio M5 may still be useful. The difference in sound quality was audible when the M5 was used between the laptop and headphones. The main changes were more details and an improved volume.
We also used the device as a Bluetooth transmitter, which is usually not the case as it negates the functionality of the DAC. Codec support for Bluetooth transmission is limited compared to Bluetooth reception – LDAC and aptX are supported, but some headphones (e.g. the AirPods Pro) used the SBC codec and did not sound as good as the direct one Pair with our smartphone or tablet. It is more convenient to simply use your smartphone or tablet with Bluetooth headphones. That said, we can't really complain about the presence of a feature in the Fiio M5, even if it's not particularly useful.
Given the fact that many people trust their smartphones on the go, the Fiio M5 is a niche product. If you value good sound or need a capable source device to pair with your wired headphones, the Fiio M5 is a good choice. It's a great entry-level device that offers great sound, many uses, and an undeniably attractive form factor.
We've tested some of Fiio's most impressive devices in the past, but the M5 isn't quite one of our favorites from this excellent Chinese manufacturer of audio devices. We weren't impressed with the battery life considering the size, and the Shanling M0 is largely just an indication that it is better at the same price. However, it is a good choice if you are looking for an affordable and compact audio player and DAC.
Price (MRP): Rs. 8,990
- Compact and easy to use
- The user interface is clear and easy to navigate
- Good file format and Bluetooth codec support
- Decent performance
- USB Type-C charging and DAC functionality
- No built-in memory, microSD card not included
- Average battery life
Reviews (of 5)
- Design: 4
- Performance: 4
- Battery: 3
- Value for money: 4
- Total: 4