If you’ve decided to get started on the audiophile path, your smartphone and basic headphones won’t be the ideal kit. This hobby can be particularly expensive, but it is possible to set up a starter audiophile kit for a lot of money. This includes purchasing devices that offer bang for your buck, such as the excellent Fiio M6. If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, there’s the Fiio M5.
8,990, the Fiio M5 is smaller, easier to handle and better suited for the beginner audiophile. This pocketable device works in a number of ways – you can use it as a standalone digital audio player or even as a DAC or Bluetooth receiver with other devices. We’ve reviewed this compact, feature-packed audio product; Read on to know everything about it.
Fiio M5 Design and Specifications
Design and form have come a long way since the days of the original iPod, and today the much smaller devices are capable of much more. The Fiio M5 is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or to sit with your wallet in your pocket without bothering you too much. It’s similar to the Shanling M0 audio player when it comes to form factor, and relies on a 1.54-inch 240×240-pixel touchscreen for most of the controls.
The device has a metal frame with glass on the front and back, and it weighs just 38 grams. The top houses the power button, volume rocker, and 3.5mm jack (which serves for headphones, line out, and S/PDIF output). There are also two microphones on the top, which are used when the M5 acts as a Bluetooth receiver and for voice recording on the device. The power button also controls playback – a long press powers the device on or off, a double tap wakes the M5 or puts it to sleep, and a single tap plays or pauses music. .
At the bottom is a slot for a microSD card and a USB Type-C port. The sale package includes a USB Type-A to Type-C cable and a plastic protective cover that doubles as a belt clip for the Fiio M5. The Type-C port charges the device, and also allows you to connect it to a PC to transfer audio tracks or use the device as a DAC.
The Fiio M5 doesn’t have built-in storage, so you’ll have to use your own microSD card with it. It supports up to a theoretical 2TB limit for microSD cards, which means anything you have lying around will work straight away. 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.
If you’re using the Fiio M5 as a DAC, it will work completely differently with Mac computers, but it will require a driver on Windows machines. The DAC chip on the device is an AK4377, which supports audio decoding up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 (Direct Stream Digital). The M5 has a recommended headphone impedance range of 16-100Ohms, so you’ll be able to play most affordable and mid-range headphones with it.
You get two-way Bluetooth connectivity on the Fiio M5, with the device being able to receive and transmit Bluetooth signals. As a transmitter, the device supports SBC, aptX and LDAC codecs – AAC support would have been useful here. As a receiver, the device supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC, so you can turn any wired headphone into a wireless headset.
The size of the Fiio M5 means it has a smaller 550mAh battery, and you’ll find that you need to charge it more often than a larger digital audio player. The device lasted about 8 hours when used as a player (both wired and wireless) and as a Bluetooth receiver, and it took less than two hours to charge when connected to a laptop. The M5 was able to charge even when used with the MacBook Air as a DAC, which we found useful.
The Fiio M5’s interface is custom, but in our opinion it’s designed quite well. It makes optimum use of the small screen, displays text clearly and relies on swipes and taps to navigate. We quickly got used to the interface and controls, and the settings are convenient and easy to navigate.
Major functions like the ‘Now Playing’ tab, file browser and BT receiver are easily accessible, but you’ll need to access the settings screen to switch between USB modes – the key to setting the device to work as USB storage. Requires or as a DAC before being plugged into the computer. Interestingly, the Fiio M5 also has a step counter and voice recorder, and you can buy a watch-strap case to use it as a fitness tracker.
fio m5 performance
The Fiio M5 does a lot, and we’ve tested all of its core functions. For this review, we used the device as an audio player, DAC, and Bluetooth receiver. We paired it with the 1More Quad Driver Earphones, Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Wired Headphones, and Sony WI-1000XM2 for audio output, and used a MacBook Air and OnePlus 7T Pro to evaluate DAC and Bluetooth receiver functions, respectively.
We started with the Fiio M5 as a standalone audio player with our wired headphones. While the sound signature is naturally shaped by which headphones you use, we saw a slight improvement in detail as a result of the better DAC on the Fiio M5, compared to plugging the same pair directly into our MacBook Air or Apple iPad mini (2019). Like the Shanling M0, this device does its job by simply doing its job, playing music without any real changes or additions to the output.
Support for a variety of formats, including the DSD128, is the big selling point here, and listening to the right kinds of audio tracks was a rewarding experience for us, especially when paired with the excellent 1More Quad Driver earphones. In addition to the detail, gain and volume boost offered by the Fiio M5, the sound felt a bit more full and crisp, even at high volumes.
The AKM4377 DAC in the Fiio M5 is slightly less detailed and clean than the ESS Saber 9218P DAC in the Shanling M0, but it’s certainly a bit more capable than the basic DACs found in smartphones and laptops.
When using the device as a Bluetooth receiver for wired headphones, the setup sounded a lot similar to what we hear from a good pair of wireless earphones like the Sony WI-1000XM2 in apparent loss in fidelity.
That said, it’s a good way to get wireless connectivity on a good pair of wired headphones. The M5 helped maintain a fair amount of sound signature and qualities in terms of detail and sharpness from both the 1More Quad Driver Earphones and the Sennheiser Momentum Headphones. We used it for voice calls as well, and were happy with the sound quality on both ends of the call.
If you have most of your music on a laptop or PC, or prefer to use your computer as a listening device while you work, the Fiio M5 can still come in handy. The difference in sound quality was audible when using the M5 between laptop and headphones, with more detail and better volume being the most notable changes.
We’ve also used the device as a Bluetooth transmitter, which isn’t something you usually do 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 (like the AirPods Pro) have fallen into the SBC codec and don’t sound as good when pairing them directly with our smartphone or tablet. . It’s 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 on the Fiio M5, even if it isn’t particularly useful.
Considering that many people rely on their smartphones for audio on the go, the Fiio M5 is a niche product. If you appreciate good sound or need a capable source device to pair with your wired headphones, the Fiio M5 will come in handy. It’s a great device to get started with, sound good, offers a lot of use-cases, and has a form factor that’s undeniably appealing.
We’ve reviewed some particularly impressive devices from Fiio in the past, but the M5 doesn’t quite qualify among our favorites from this excellent Chinese audio equipment maker. We weren’t thrilled with the battery life, even considering the size, and the Shenling M0 is a better sign overall, even at the same price. Still, it’s a good piece of equipment to consider if you’re looking for an affordable and compact audio player and DAC.
Price (MRP): Rupee. 8,990
- compact, easy to use
- UI is clean and easy to navigate
- Good file formats and Bluetooth codec support
- good performance
- USB Type-C charging and DAC functionality
- No in-built storage, microSD card not included
- average battery life
Rating (out of 5)
- Design: 4
- Display: 4
- Battery: 3
- Value for money: 4
- Overall: 4
Buying A Budget TV Online? We discussed how you can pick the best ones on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts either RSSDownload the episode, or just hit the play button below.