This article was written by Nikhil Rastogi and first appeared in Tech2 here.
FiiO, a company well known for its audio products, cater to every consumer from your casual listener to an audiophile. The M3 player which we are reviewing today is more for the casual listener, the user who wants good audio without spending an arm and a leg.
Build and Design: 8.0/10
The player is surprisingly small and light, only 9 grams light. You’ll barely feel it in your pocket or hand.
I love the compactness of design and the fact that it comes with a big 2-inch screen for a non-touch based player with thoughtful back-lit hardware buttons. You also have two hardware buttons for Power and Hold to prevent accidental key presses.
The player also comes in four different colours, Ivory white, Black, Cyan and Blue. We received an Ivory unit which looks much better than cyan or blue variations.
While digging on the FiiO website, FiiO sells a sports band too. Excellent for running, jogging, and other vigorous activities; though you’d need to buy a pair of earphones that can fit you well for such activities as the included ones aren’t in-ear design.
FiiO being quite particular about its sound has given the M3 the capability to drive small earphones to heavy duty cans if required. M3 impedance is of 16 Ohms – 100 Ohms. Most consumer grade headphones don’t go much above 38 ohms.
FiiO keeps their players up to date, unlike many other manufacturers. You have official support section that holds all the upgrade information in case you feel you need one.
Apple’s iPod has ruined us; the UI design on the iPod is superb and intuitive; on the FiiO M3, not so much. However, for a non-touch based player, it does a respectable job.
Things that I really liked in the M3, unlike iPod shenanigans, you can simply copy paste the tracks or folders quickly. It maintains the folder structure and can look within subfolders too. It automatically picks up album art, has MicroSD card support up to 64GB and has a plethora of options to control your player as per your tastes. That’s pretty neat!
FiiO M3 UI isn’t intuitive
You’ll find weirdness though, like for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where the EQ or Shuffle/Repeat settings were, until I read the manual. The main menu items are just basically icons without any text associated with them, so it’ll take you time to figure out what the icons actually mean.
And the animations are annoying; the UI insists that I see the animations complete. To an experienced user who knows what the certain key presses do, there is no way to quickly move away, you have to wait for animations to end, which can lead to extra button presses or just more time staring at the screen.
In short, this player sounds really good. You’d be surprised by it. I immediately loaded up my test tracks and compared it with a mid-ranged iPod Nano and cheaper Archos 18B Vision player which my aunt uses. And it definitely beats both these players easily. The M3 has a much better soundstage, better bass and more detail overall. The songs sounded clean, smooth and lively.
What the M3’s cannot do is give that crisp clarity in the highs which audiophiles would definitely miss. The player doesn’t aim that crowd either, this is meant to be a budget player which does the job really well and beats many other players in terms of clarity around the same price point.
It is true that the player is only part of the package, your headphones or earphones determine quite a bit of what kind of sound can come from the player. And as expected, the M3’s earphones aren’t very good. In fact, they ruin the experience that comes from the M3 player.
One thing I loved is that FiiO M3 can play almost anything thrown at it, be it MP3, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, OGG or M4A. I say almost because some songs in FLAC M3 skipped saying “unsupported file format” which is a bit strange, I can attribute this only to the particular file and the way it was encoded. For most of us, we’d have absolutely no problem whatsoever.
This little player can really go on for long. Once you fully charge it, you can run it almost a week with about two-three hours of usage daily. The rated battery life is 24 hours and it takes 2.5 hours to charge fully via micro-USB cable which all phones use.
Verdict and Price in India
Would I recommend this player? That’s a resounding yes! This player has really good sound, doesn’t bother with iTunes sync nonsense, has expandable memory, a big enough screen, is really light and costs about Rs 4,500 (street price). You’d be hard pressed to find a good alternative media player to the FiiO M3 in the market today.