FiiO M6 featured

FiiO M6 DAP Review – Pocket of Gold

Tested at $164
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Our Score

The FiiO M6 is the latest Digital Audio Player (DAP) from FiiO and the third in their M Series. This handy gadget is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7270 processor, plays Hi-Res music files, supports high-quality Bluetooth music streaming and even has Wi-Fi.

That is just scratching the surface. The M6 has a huge list of specs and features that we’ll look at more in depth below. Are you ready to take your music to the next level? Let’s get started.

Pros
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled
  • Can be controlled from you phone via FiiO Link
  • HD bezel-less IPS display
  • Can also be used as a USB DAC
  • Low noise floor
  • Supports micro-SD cards up to 2TB
Cons
  • Search functionality not the best
  • Slight audio delay when connected to PC as external DAC

This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

Package and Accessories

The FiiO M6 arrives in a small, white box with a cardboard sleeve. It’s mostly plain with a colour image of the DAP on the front. Below the sleeve is the actual box with the red FiiO logo on the top.

Once you open the box, you’re presented with the M6 and if you’re like me, you might be surprised how small it actually is. Here’s what you get in the box:

  • FiiO M6 DAP
  • Protective silicone case
  • Screen protector
  • USB Type-C charging and data cable
  • Quick start guide and warranty

That doesn’t seem like a lot but I think it’s a solid package. I love the fact that FiiO includes a silicone case. I get rather miffed when DAPs don’t offer any protection out of the box – especially the more expensive ones, so to see one here is refreshing. It’s only rudimentary but it does the job and you can always buy a more premium one later if you want to.

Accessories including USB cable and screen protectors

Build Quality and Design

The FiiO M6 is a cute little palm-sized device (53.3mm×92.5mm×11.5mm) that is very easy to grip, even for those with small hands. To put that into perspective, it’s only about 1/3 the size of my Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

It has a CNC aluminium alloy body with 2.5D glass on the front and the back, similar to many modern smartphone designs. On the top edge is the Power On/Off button, which also doubles as the screen On/Off button and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

FiiO M6 with silicone case

On the left side are 3 buttons which are (from top to bottom): Play/Pause, Volume Up/Skip Track, Volume Down/Previous Track. The buttons feel sturdy and have a reassuring tactile click. Over on the right side is the Micro-SD card slot, supporting cards up to 2TB. Finally, on the bottom is the USB Type-C charging/data port.

This DAP feels great in your hands and is easy to keep a hold of, especially with the provided silicone cover attached. The curved corners and edges, along with the diminutive size make it comfortable to hold and easy to put in a pocket. Overall, the device feels light but strong and well-constructed.

The glass back of the M6 next to silicone case
Internals

Powered by the dual-core 1GHz Samsung Exynos 7270 processor, the M6 is built for high performance and low power consumption. In charge of audio decoding is the highly acclaimed ESS Technology SABRE9018Q2C. This DAC delivers a DNR of up to 121dB and THD+N of  –115dB and can handle up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM.

You can check out the full technical specs over on FiiO’s website: https://www.fiio.com/m6_parameters

Connectivity and Battery Life

Connectivity is fire on the M6. The bi-directional Bluetooth 4.2 paired quickly and easily with everything I threw at it, including my smartphone, the Astrotec S60, the Earstudio ES100 and the FX-Audio D2160 DAC/Amp among others. Not only that but let’s not forget the M6 has 2.4G Wi-Fi too.

All the latest and greatest Bluetooth codecs are supported, including LDAC, HWA, aptX, aptX HD and SBC. Airplay with Apple devices is supported and FiiO link works too, allowing you to control the M6 from your smartphone with a synchronised view of the playback.

The 1600mAh Li-polymer battery is rated for up to 13 hours of playback time or 26 days deep standby time. This will vary depending on your use – if you’re streaming over Bluetooth or playing DSD files at high volumes then expect the battery to drain faster. Charging time via the USB Type-C port takes less than two and a half hours.

Screen
The beautiful IPS display of the M6

The M6 has a 3.2 inch 480 x 800 IPS HD touchscreen. It has wide viewing angles, good pixel density and colour. This is hands down one of the best quality screens I’ve seen on an entry-level DAP; fonts are clear and easily readable and album art looks crisp and detailed with good colour reproduction.

The screen’s responsiveness is excellent too and even with my large fingers, I have no trouble navigating through the menus and interface.

Lock screen while playing music
As a USB DAC and Jukebox

The M6 can also be used as an external USB DAC, supporting up to 192kHz/24 bit decoding. After installing the Windows driver, I hooked it up to my PC and it was recognized immediately. There is a slight delay in the audio when watching video so it’s not ideal for that purpose but it is great for music and will almost certainly be better than your laptop’s onboard solution.

When connected as a USB DAC, the M6 can also work as a Bluetooth transmitter of all formats. With this you can play music from your computer and send it to a Bluetooth amplifier or headphones.

Want to use your M6 with an external DAC? You can do that too. Using the USB Type-C port on the M6 it can act as an audio digital output with native DSD support up to DSD128.

UX

The FiiO M6 runs on a heavily customized Android system so it will be familiar to most people while at the same time being very versatile. The Exynos 7270 processor works a treat and the UI feels snappy and responsive.

Navigating through the system feels intuitive and there’s no noticeable lag. Swiping up from the bottom left of the screen takes you back to the previous level and swiping from the right takes you straight back to the Home screen. Left and right swipes work too, depending on the application you’re using.

FiiO Music App

The FiiO Music app is one of the highlights of the M6. This is a full-featured player that’s packed with functionality and works really well. Gapless playback is supported and works perfectly, as does the breakpoint resume and ReplayGain.

There is a light and a dark theme available and some other neat features such as WiFi song transfer and DLNA streaming. You can also create your own playlists within the app, define the playback mode and adjust EQ settings to your liking.

The only quibble I have with the FiiO Music app is the global search function. It acts rather strangely and could use some tweaking. Someone mentioned this in the M6 thread on Head-Fi and after testing I can confirm. Rather than fumble my way through the explanation I’ll just quote “salla45”:

I can’t get my head around it… I type, say “Genesis” in the search box. It kindly shows me a couple of TRACKS with the word genesis in them, then the fact that there 132 tracks of the ARTIST genesis, and finally one ALBUM called genesis. If i click on the ARTIST icon (Imagining in some other logic based universe that it would go to the artist, genesis), it immediately starts playing the 132 genesis tracks. I can see all the tracks in a big “playlist” but it doesn’t even mention which album they are from.

salla45

This should be fairly simple to fix with a software update so here’s hoping FiiO gets on board and improves the search functionality soon. Fortunately, I usually just browse through the album list manually so this does not affect me but when I do start using very large SD Cards with a huge library of music I hope to see the search working more logically.

Third-party Apps

One of the strengths of Android systems is support for third-party apps and there are some really good ones white-listed for use on the M6. These include Spotify, TIDAL, NetEase Music, MOOV, Qobuz, Amazon Music, SoundCloud and more.

I tested TIDAL and Spotify and both work great. This and the other apps open up so many possibilities for the M6 and while using it I haven’t missed any of the features from my higher-tier DAPs (except perhaps a balanced output).

Sound

FiiO has been in the music business for some time and they sure know their way around audio circuitry. The M6 has a neutral and transparent signature and feeds a clean and unaltered signal to your headphones or earphones and lets them do their own thing.

One of the standout strengths of the M6 sound is its low noise floor. Even with sensitive multi-BA IEMs, I’ve never heard a whisper of hiss from the player. It might not be as resolving as some higher-end DAPs but for an entry-level model, it certainly performs as well as you could hope.

Soundstage is pretty good, again not like what you might hear from a high-tier AK or Soundaware DAP but definitely better than your average smartphone or laptop. Considering the size and price of the M6, I think it performs really well when it comes to sound quality.

Pairing

FiiO FA1

It’s no surprise that the M6 sounds fantastic paired with FiiO’s own FA1 single balanced armature earphones. The FA1 is already a great sounding IEM but there does seem to be some extra synergy when used in conjunction with the M6.

This little single balanced armature earphone is easy to drive but it is also fairly sensitive. Fortunately, the DAP is whisper quiet thanks to it’s very low noise floor. The FA1 responds well to the M6 and the 2 together would make an excellent starter rig or affordable Hi-Res kit for audiophiles on a budget.

RevoNext QT3s

The QT3s has modest power requirements but this quad driver hybrid IEM also scales quite well with its source. It sounds fantastic with the M6; the dual dynamic drivers flaunt their powerful but tightly controlled punchy bass while the dual BA drivers produces a smooth midrange and crisp treble.

The M6 has more than enough power for these earphones and I never feel it necessary to push the volume past 50%. Since the QT3s has a warmer tonality, the M6’s transparency makes for a great match.

Meze 99 Classics

There’s enough power on tap to push the 99 Classics way past what is a comfortable listening level for me. The bass has its usual heavy raunchiness and punch and the M6 has no trouble making these headphones sing. Again, the M6’s neutral signature works great with these warm headphones. In fact, it sounds very similar to FiiO’s K3 desktop amp with the 99 Classics, albeit slightly less resolving.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

In this match-up the M6 performed surprisingly well. Although I have to push the volume up to near max on quieter tracks, for the most part, it pushes the DT 990 Pro really well. Bass sounds full and controlled, vocals are vibrant and articulate and the treble is energetic and well-defined.

Adding a portable amplifier might show some benefits for this setup but in a pinch I would not be mad if I had to listen to the M6 and DT 990 Pro all day.

Comparisons

Shanling M0

Another miniature wonder and favourite of mine, the M0 contains much of the functionality that the M6 has except for third-party app support.

When it comes to sound, the M0 has a touch more weight in the bass while the M6 puts some emphasis on the midrange – or the midrange sounds more forward because of the M6’s neutral bass (take your pick). Listening side by side, the M0 is a little bit more coloured in comparison while the M6 is more neutral.

There’s very little difference in it though and both sound awesome, especially considering their small footprints. The M0 has the advantage of being truly minuscule and costing a bit less. The M6, on the other hand, has the edge in user experience, easier navigation and third-party apps.

Conclusion

I’m stunned at the sheer number of features implemented in this device and its ease of use. It’s well built and it has a stunning display. It has a responsive interface, decent battery life and it sounds great.

For the price, you’re getting a very solid player that would be absolutely perfect for a first time DAP buyer or for more experienced users looking for a portable, inexpensive daily carry. The FiiO M6 is the perfect compromise between portability and usability. For my tastes, this is currently the best entry-level DAP on the market. Period.

Reader Score
[Votes: 3 Average: 3.7]
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