FiiO takes aim at Astell & Kern with new brutalist-build hi-res audio player

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything new from portable audio specialist FiiO, but it’s back with a bang – specifically a new portable music player that may give high-end rival Astell & Kern plenty to think about.

With its sleek angled corners, the minimalist design of the new FiiO M11S isn’t the only similarity with A&K’s output, with comparable file compatibility, built-in streaming apps and a dual DAC configuration akin to the South Korean company’s much lauded A&norma SR25 MKII high-res audio player – albeit with a significantly cheaper asking price. 

Running on Android 10, the M11S boasts a 5-inch HD touchscreen display and two high-grade ES9038Q2M DAC chips – one for each stereo channel.

Alongside support for high-res audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz, there’s also MQA compatibility for high-res Tidal Masters playback. The M11S also comes with a pretty comprehensive list of supported streaming codecs, with LDAC, aptX HD and LHDC Bluetooth compatibility, alongside DLNA and AirPlay streaming. 

Apps can meanwhile be installed for high-res streaming service like Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music along with Spotify.  

The M11S comes with a regular 3.5mm headphone jack, along with 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced headphone outputs, plus a dedicated line-out. The player can  handily be used as a USB DAC for your desktop PC or laptop, as well as a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver for portable devices like tablets and smartphones.

FiiO claim the M11S has “one of the lowest noise floors” in a portable music player at just 1.9uV, despite a claimed power output of 670mW at 32 ohms, thanks to an “innovative” new headphone amplifier circuit.

The built-in battery lasts for a claimed 14 hours, while there’s onboard storage of 32GB that’s expandable via a micro SD card slot up to a further 2TB.

The M11S is available now direct from FiiO for £489 / $499 (opens in new tab) (which is around AU$736). 

Analysis: this new FiiO may open up an affordable audiophile price war

FiiO M11S product image

(Image credit: FiiO)

We’re well used to Chinese tech brands undercutting their Korean and Japanese counterparts, but the launch of FiiO’s M11S feels different, largely due to the fact that no corners appear to have been cut on its spec sheet.

At just under £500 it’s by no means a cheap device, of course, but with it being almost £200 cheaper than Astell & Kern’s similarly featured A&norma SR25 MKII, it’s likely to have a fair number of cost-conscious audiophiles considering making the leap to a dedicated hi-res digital player not made by A&K.

We can’t wait to put it through its paces and see how it matches up to A&K’s brutalist baby, and see if it also makes our list of best MP3 players. Watch this space… 

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Kevin Lynch

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