April 14, 2016

(The article was written by Rezaul H Laskar & originally published in Hindustan Times here)

My smartphone tricked out with a couple of music playing apps is a nifty portable audio player. But there are times when I want something closer to the sound on my home rig

However, that would mean adding a DAC-cum-headphone amplifier to my phone and carrying around both devices– not a very comfortable solution.

That’s where something like FiiO’s M3 portable digital audio player comes in. This is ultra small – measuring 74mm x 39.7 mm x 9.1mm and weighing in at just 40 grams.

The M3 (provided for review by Headphone Zone) has impressive specs – capable of driving headphones with impedances ranging from 16 ohms to 100 ohms, 8 GB of internal storage, a micro-SD card slot with support for up to 64 GB of additional storage, and support for lossless FLAC, APE and WAV files.

It was very easy to fill the M3’s internal storage with 24bit/96 kHz FLAC files after hooking it up to my PC. I then hit play and...nothing.

That made me take a deep dive into the M3’s manual on FiiO’s website, where I found out that the handy little player only supports FLAC and APE up to 16bit/48kHz.

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Once I had deleted the larger lossless files and put in several MP3s at 320kbps and FLACs ripped from CDs on the internal storage and a micro-SD card, there were no more problems.

The M3’s controls are minimal – six hard buttons on the front screen for controlling playback and other functions, a 60-step digital volume control and a 2-inch display that won’t win any prizes but gets the job done nicely.

The player takes just a few seconds to get up and running after being switched on. A short press of the menu button brings up options such as the lists of songs and artists, and a longer press brings up options such as playlists, track information, an equaliser with seven modes and settings.

The M3 comes with a pair of earbuds but I didn’t bother trying them out. You’d do a whole lot better investing in a pair of IEMs to use with this player.

The M3 was ok with MP3s but it excels with FLAC files. The M3’s sound was so dynamic, punchy and open that I hardly used my smartphone during my daily commute on the Delhi Metro.

The M3 worked great with several IEMs and didn’t do badly even with over-ear headphones though it struggled a little to drive the larger cans.

Battery life was above average, with very long standby time. The M3 is no great shakes in the looks department but at just Rs 4,999 (the player sells for less on some e-tailers), it’s hard to quibble about such things.

If you’re looking for a portable audio player that’s easy to carry around, has good sound and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s hard not to recommend the FiiO M3.


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