I'm old, and thus prefer my music to be either pressed onto vinyl or carefully filed into folders on hard drives.
Ever since I started using Roon for managing and playing music, I've been more aware of the advantages of using higher-res, lossless files. I'm no audiophile, but I do enjoy music more when it sounds good. By "good" I mean better than streaming Spotify to AirPods with an iPhone.
I've been gradually re-ripping my CDs to FLAC files, and I pay for the Sublime+ subscription of Qobuz. This means I have access to pretty decent sources. What I've been missing is decent playback when at a computer or out and about.
To solve the playback problem, I bought a FiiO M9 DAP. The FiiO is a mid-range digital audio player that can also be used as a DAC when plugged into a computer. I've missed using a DAC since my little HRT MicroStreamer stopped working last year.
The M9 also handles every kind of Bluetooth there is, including the new lossless codecs like HWA, aptX, and LDAC.
I inserted a 256GB MicroSD card and loaded it up with all the Hi-Res files I have. I'm not qualified to do a real review of the M9, but I can sum up what I've found so far.
It sounds very good. I'm no expert, but I hear quite a noticeable improvement over my usual listening setup. I'm using it with a pair of Grado SR-80 headphones and everything sounds larger and more defined. I have a set of FiiO FA1 in-ear monitors arriving soon and I look forward to trying those as well. At some point I should find a good set of Bluetooth headphones in order to take advantage of all that lossless, wireless magic. Not sure I'm ready for wireless music listening, yet.
What I like about the M9
- Its size is a nice compromise between too bulky and unmanageably small.
- I like how it looks. One side is curved and the other is flat. It uses gold around the headphone (3.5mm unbalanced and 2.5mm balanced) jacks and also the thumbwheel used for controlling volume. I think it looks cool.
- It came with a snug, clear, silicone case (which I won't use, but it's nice to have the option)
What I don't love about it
- The M9 runs a custom version of Android and if this represents the Android experience, I pity anyone using Android devices. Taps don't always register, gestures are inconsistent, and there's a general lagginess that can be frustrating. Since I mostly just fire and forget, I'll be able to live with it.
- Battery life isn't great. It's spec'ed at 10 hours of listening time. I'd like more. Sleep time of 45 days is quite nice, though.
- The sleep/power button could be easier to find and press. I understand why it's more flush with the body than the other buttons, but I find myself having to look and confirm that my thumb is in the right place.
I chose the M9 because it was recommended by a few people I trust and reviews all seemed very positive. At $299 it isn't ridiculously expensive, either.
One thing I didn't do while looking for a new DAP was spend time comparing different options. The idea that "Comparison is the thief of joy" rings more and more true lately. I just picked one that seemed like a decent choice and went with it.