FiiO M17 Review: Dual ES9038PRO+Power Supplies Desktop-Class Player

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When I visited FiiO about two years ago, I saw the prototype of this machine. Later, FiiO took its engineering machine form to show for more than half a year, and not long ago, this product was finally officially launched for sale. It is FiiO’s new-generation flagship player, and it is also the first flagship player of FiiO with a price of US$1,800 —— FiiO M17.

FiiO M17

The $1,800 FiiO M17 is the most expensive product in FiiO’s history, as well as the largest portable player in FiiO’s history. When I saw this size, the word “national brick” that no one mentioned for many years appeared in my mind. Therefore, the positioning of FiiO M17 is also “portable desktop-class”, and for me, I have not really used it as a portable player, but more in the office environment or at home as a desktop player listening scene.

Been using the FiiO M17 music player for about two weeks. Compared with other products, its review I wrote a lot slower. This is not because of laziness, mainly because I really like this product, and secondly because it has a lot of selling points and surprises. I have been in this tangled state for a few days, what should I write?

Therefore, in this review, I will select the parts that I think are important and must be mentioned, and talk about my favorite product in the history of FiiO.

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Powerful configuration in a huge size (Configuration & Design)

For a player with a size of 157*89*28mm and a weight of 610g, of course there must be a lot of “materials” in such a huge size. The first and most obvious one is a 5.99-inch 1080P incell display, which is one of the largest screen sizes in the industry.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

Inside the huge size, it is equipped with dual ES9038PRO decoding chips, dual THX AAA-788+amplifier modules, dual power supply systems, and Qualcomm QCC5124 bluetooth chip. Even the battery has a capacity of 9200mAh. As for the function of supporting mqa decoding, which was already configured on the previous generation model, it is of course still equipped on the new flagship FiiO M17.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

Another advantage of the large size is that there is enough space to put down various interfaces. So at the top of the fuselage, you will see the industry’s first player that “collects” the four commonly used headphone ports. FiiO M17 music player is equipped with four types of ports: 6.35mm single-ended, 4.4 balanced, 2.5 balanced, and 3.5 single-ended. No matter what headphones the user uses, it can be easily connected to listen directly.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

The bottom of the fuselage is equipped with dual Type-C ports, a coaxial output port, and a 12V DC power input port, and both the DC port and the Type-C port can directly charge the player. The Type-C interface also supports QC3.0 and 4.0 fast charging protocols and PD2.0 and 3.0 fast charging protocols. That is to say, if you have a fast charging charger, using Type-C also has fast charging efficiency. The dual USB interface is also designed for different usage scenarios. USB3.0 supports the input and output of USB audio, and can do high-speed data transmission and fast charging protocol. The USB2.0 interface also supports USB Host output, and can be connected to other decoders or mobile hard drives.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

The last interesting thing is that this product is also equipped with a total of three sets of RGB lighting effects on the sides of the fuselage and the knob, which can display the current code rate, charging and other functions. Of course, if the user doesn’t like it, it can be turned off. And the machine is also given a bracket, but it is not a wireless charger, but a cooling base with a fan. Because the FiiO M17 has an original hidden function, that is, when the user is connected to the DC power supply, the “Super Big-ear Mode” can be unlocked by turning the switch on the right side to the bottom. You can get the amplification gain of desktop equipment, and the gain of this unit will also be improved, which can easily drive most of the headphones on the market. And this bracket fan is prepared for this mode. But in fact, I tried it and found that the heat of the player is not too big.


Reference headphones and audio sources

As a flagship player product, I deliberately found a variety of different headphones for reference. The first is the most familiar and easy-to-drive QDC VX custom version, followed by the 7 Hz Timeless planar earbuds, Sennheiser HD25 and Beyerdynamic’s just-released DT700 PRO X closed-back monitoring headphones. For the different gains of this player and the assessment of the driving ability for various headphones.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

As FiiO M17 is an Android platform player, we still use streaming media player software as the main idea. The listening platforms mainly use two platforms: qobuz and Apple Music, both of which use lossless format streaming.

FiiO M17 FiiO M17

The following listening sense is also mainly aimed at the four gains of low, medium and high and big-ear mode in portable mode. For the super big-ear mode connected to the DC power supply, the Beyerdynamic DT700 PRO X and the Sennheiser HD25 are mainly used as references. Although there is a big gap in the requirements for driving, I hope that we can have a more comprehensive understanding of this mode through two different headphones.


Sniffs the rose of voice performance (Sound Quality)

First of all, in terms of sound style, FiiO has always been a “balanced” sound style. It’s hard to pick out any obvious sound problems with FiiO’s previous products. But another problem with this kind of equalization is that it is inevitable that the sound lacks some character or style. And like I said at the beginning, the reason why FiiO M17 is my personal favorite is because it has a different sound from the previous FiiO players. This is FiiO’s biggest change in the player’s sound, and at least for me, I like it more.

FiiO M17

What is this change? I’d rather subjectively say it’s become less “balanced”, or less boring. The sound of FiiO M17 is a more flesh-and-blood sound with its own style of expression. There has been obvious improvement in the atmosphere part of the mid-low frequency, while the sound style and transparency of FiiO’s consistently high-quality sound are maintained in the mid-high frequency. And because of the increase in size and the number of components, the new FiiO M17 is obviously more “confident” in terms of sound. It’s not because of the simple subjective impact of the larger size, the larger power supply makes the overall sound even better.

FiiO M17

For classical music, FiiO M17 has reached a new level of FiiO player in all aspects of spectacle and atmosphere. The overall warmth and huge dynamics make it seem like it doesn’t seem like a FiiO player. And whether you use armature headphones or over-ear dynamic headphones, the sense of fast and powerful energy will be very obvious and direct. As for the overall style, the sound of the FiiO M17 has also become warmer thanks to the changes in the dynamic and energy sense of the mid-low frequency. For such dynamic and driving potential performance, it is more like the style that a player of this size should have. But at the same time rough, the details and imagery of the sound are also extremely transparent and overtones.

FiiO M17

In addition to the low frequency and dynamic parts, if you play back some small-scale songs or piano-like songs, the FiiO M17 will still show a consistent high level, but it is still different from the previous FiiO products. The middle and high frequency parts are not so straightforward, with a hint of loose and smeared texture. But this smear is not a “paste” that sacrifices detail performance, but more of a silky and supple feel. Because of the existence of this style, it also makes the details in the music appear more natural, not directly in front of you, but naturally revealed, you can feel it but you will not feel dizzying.

The performance of popular vocals has become more emotional because of the changes in the three-frequency distribution and overall style, and the image of the vocals is more realistic. If the recording of the album itself is good, the singer’s vocals are a little closer to the performance, and the dynamics and energy of the vocals also become better. For rock, rap, and electronic music types with more low frequencies, the texture of low frequencies becomes faster and neater than classical music. In classical music you get excellent enveloping feel, and in this type of music you can hear deep enough extension and quick rebound, with excellent quantity and texture.


Super big-ear mode for more energy reserve

For the super big-ear mode, let’s talk about it separately. After connecting the 12V DC power supply, turn down the switch on the right side of the fuselage, and the system interface will pop up a window prompting you to unlock the super ear mode. After clicking on it, the system will automatically adjust the drive mode to super large ear mode, but don’t worry about the volume.

FiiO M17

First of all, the most important thing is that this is not an imaginary mode that increases the loudness gain without a brain, but a mode with stronger overall power reserve and energy. Although the sound will be louder than the previous four gains in terms of loudness, the increase in loudness is not even as large as the gap between the previous four default modes.

The real improvement of the super big-ear mode is mainly due to the more details, greater dynamics and better control of the low frequency part that can be clearly felt for large headphones. But the overall sound style has not changed much. It maintains all the characteristics and styles of the FiiO M17 mentioned above.


Summary

The FiiO M17 is undoubtedly my favorite player. A product that I listen to almost every day from the time I received the player to the present. For players and even the entire portable HiFi industry, a comprehensive and balanced tuning is of course a more acceptable and almost error-free way. But when such “lazy” products become more and more, it becomes a bit boring. For the FiiO M17, it is definitely an “interesting” product. Of course, it can also be said that when comprehensive and balanced in a certain index basis and aesthetic understanding, it will inevitably move towards a sound orientation with style and attitude. Then the FiiO M17 is the first FiiO product like this in my heart. I also hope that FiiO will bring more powerful and interesting products like the M17 in the future.


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