FiiO, an audio-only company has several music players from the budget M3 to their ultra-high-end X7 players. Today we have the mid-ranged M7 with some impressive looking tech in it, let’s see how it performs.
Build and Design: 6/10
The FiiO M7 player is solidly built — a tough exterior shell which can certainly withstand a few bumps. The silver metallic finish is certainly attractive and adds to the minimalistic feel of the player.
The M7 looks very much like a thick phone and behaves like one too. It’s got everything but calling features in the device, and this includes a 4-core 1.4 GHz (Exynos 7270) processor, 768 MB RAM, 3.2-inch screen and SD card support. This has better specs than the first budget smartphone I used back in 2011.
Sadly, it's built on Android 5.0 and behaves disappointingly like an Android system that has a player in it rather than a ‘player-first’ music player which is supported by an Android system underneath.
Everything from the installation of the Samsung mobile driver to get it working on the PC to the actual workings of the player was usable but neither elegant nor intuitive in many cases. Something as simple as an EQ setting I had to hunt for till I by chance came upon it. Using the EQ was even tougher with the forcible hold and slide mechanic, on top of that, there's no landscape orientation support to expand the screen efficiently to view the text.
What the FiiO M7 has is excellent tech in terms of hardware, with a capable processor, ES9018Q2C DAC for 384kHz/32bit PCM with SNR of -112 dB, and the motherboard design (FPGA) that enables native DSD, DFF/DSF. Everything that a geek would enjoy. What it certainly lacks is a good UI experience to go with it. In the day and age of touchscreen phones/apps, it is no longer an excuse to cobble together just a working UI and push it out. All that FiiO needs to do is at the very least copy a good player’s UI/workings, such as Poweramp from the Play store.
What I liked, but funnily my colleague didn’t, was the volume scroll on the side, which is quite precise with its one-click scrolling. The other buttons are — play/pause, forward and backward and they're all quite intuitively usable.
Features and functions
What is admirable is that FiiO really went all out and included a lot of features and functions in the M7. It has Bluetooth 4.2 with aptx, aptx HD and LDAC codec support for high-quality wireless listening and a full-fledged radio with a nice interface.
In the box
FiiO M7 comes with a protective case, a special USB cable and a quick guide which funnily says “Born for Music & Happy”. I guess something got lost in translation.
Overall, the sound of the FiiO M7 is clean, warm and smooth. By no means is it flat or clinical which means that it has bass and mids bumped up a bit, but not overly-exaggerating the frequencies. A truly listeners’ music player where one would enjoy the music.
The sound through the player is pleasant, not sibilant at all. Even when listening to hard rock or metal genres, it didn’t fatigue or irritate the ears.
While the sound quality is quite enjoyable without additional EQ tweaking, I did feel it lacked a certain amount of sharpness to it. This, of course, isn’t apparent by itself unless compared with another source.
What FiiO M7 does lack is the handling of the equalizer. I’m surprised as to how much it sucks. There are no preset EQ settings except a few and manually changing EQ is a chore as the slider system just isn’t workable enough. A regular budget player or a free smartphone app can handle this better than the M7.
The 1,880 mAh battery of the player lasts really long, you can get 15 to 20 hours or so depending on the playtime, while in standby, the battery drains very little and can last even longer.
Verdict and Price in India
There’s a lot to like about the FiiO M7 player. It has good sound, can power higher-power 100-ohm headphones and has excellent hardware in it. For the bad part, its interface and usability is something one must put up with, it leaves a lot to be desired.
For Rs.17,000 (Rs.20,000 MRP), I’d expect a lot more of the player than just good hardware. In comparison, a mid-sized smartphone with a good music player app will keep you happy, though the audio wouldn’t be as clear and smooth as the FiiO M7’s.
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