At present Fiio is something of a bandwagon in the Chifi audio realm. Audiophiles seem to trust this name more than any other brands.
Hence, they often confuse themselves with each new release of fiio products like the DAPs.
So, which one would you prefer when it comes to the latest fiio m17 vs m15?
Fiio M17 has been updated to the Android 10 version from m15’s Android 7.0. Therefore, you’ll be able to launch any of the apps offered by Google play store in the M17. Moreover, M17 will provide more transient and smoother sound performance than M15. However, on technical gains, these two don’t differ much.
Sounds cool? If so, stay with us to get a more in-depth discussion about these latest digital audio players.
We’ll be showing you both sides of the coin in the following sections.
So let’s dig deeper!
- Brief Comparison
- Build Quality
- Tech Inside
- Graphical User Interface (GUI)
- Sound Performance
- Our Recommendation
- Wrapping Up
We’ve seen the IEMs from the same brand like moondrop starfield and aria differ in terms of significant features.
Likewise, audio players like fiio m15 and its upgrade m17 also have some subtle differences.
That’s why we’ve concisely sketched a comparison table for you. Have a look at it-
Are you intrigued to know more about these two DAP side-by-side? Then you’re in for a treat here.
Because in the next sections we’ll go through some heated debates.
But before that have a look at the graph below to get some more comparative insights.
I guess things are looking pretty good so far, aren’t they? You are yet to discover more surprises ahead. So stick with us!
However, if you’re in a hurry then directly move to our recommendation section to make a decision.
Opening a Fiio DAP box is somewhat like unrevealing Russian matryoshka dolls. After swimming through some boxes I finally got to the one with the M15.
Along with the DAP you’ll find a pin to slide out the memory card tray plus a 3.5mm coaxial adapter.
The adapter will help you in case you want to use the dap as a digital transport for another DAC.
There’s also a Type-C USB cable and an additional glass protector. But I assume the manufacturer has already used the protector in the front and back.
Up until now the m17 also comes with the same accessories.
But the thing that’s comforting is that the M17 comes with an amazing leather case. On the other hand, this case is missing in the M15. That’s why using the M17 is safer than the M15.
However, if you’re looking for a durable case for your M15 then we’ve got some recommendations.
These cases will help you to carry the shiny aluminum DAP in your pocket without getting any bezels.
However, no matter how strong and durable the case you get, don’t carry your DAP and keys in the same pocket.
Now with each M17 you’ll get two boxes together and that’s where fiio pushed the packaging game even further.
In the second box, you’ll find a multi-function dock (DK3). It works as a simple stand or a cooling port to balance out the device’s temperature.
However, with a USB cable, you’ll also get a switching mode power supply with the M17. It connects to it via a two-pole DC connector.
The DAP market is growing so fast with some ground-breaking releases. In that case, Fiio is surely affecting the market.
But are their DAPs’ built quality improving with each release? Let’s find out!
Both M15 and M17 are distinguishable products that set them apart from the other cheap DAPs.
They are designed with a polished look without any rough edges. Moreover, their comfortable and humane design is, therefore, a huge plus point.
However, the M17 is much bigger and heavier than the M15. Also, there are tons of more ports and switches in M17 than M15.
But you should understand that M17 isn’t just any other DAP. It’s designed for higher-end portable or desktop headphones and IEMs.
Besides, you’ll also notice some RGB lights on M17’s side which are missing in the M15. Under these lights there are some air vents.
These vents help to push warm air coming from the device outside its case to cool it down.
In my opinion, both the M17 and the M15 are beyond stunning from an engineering outlook. You won’t find this much similarities while comparing between two DAPs from different brands, such as FiiO M17 and SP2000.
Layout and Buttons
The M17 might seem a little beefy and less user-friendly compared to the M15.
Each side is crammed with switches, docks, and inputs-outputs. Therefore, sometimes you can pass over browsing its menu single-handedly.
However, let me remind you again Fiio M17 isn’t an average player to use in a random park.
Thus all the buttons and ports here have some crucial roles and are necessary.
You’ll get all the basic buttons in both the M17 and the M15. Such as the play/pause buttons, previous, next, and power on/off buttons.
Also, there’s a single micro SD card slot and USB Type-C port.
Nevertheless, you’ll be able to locate three headphone outputs on M15. The first one is a single-ended 3.5mm (1/8”) output.
The remaining are more substantial balanced outputs appearing in 2.5mm and 4.4mm types.
On the other hand, the M17 comes with four headphone outputs. They are 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced outputs and 3.5mm and 6.35mm single-ended outputs.
However, you can use the 3.5mm and 4.4mm as a SE or BAL line-output to a desktop incorporated or headphone amplifier.
I found the display panel on the M17 better than the M15. For me, the resolution, color and contrast are well put and sharper in the M17.
You might’ve seen the 5.15” 720p screen on M15 and 5.5” 720p screen on the newer M11 Plus.
However, M17 hopped to a much larger and sharper 6” screen. It favors an outstanding resolution of 1080 by 2160 pixels in the same 18:9 aspect ratio.
Improving its screen size, Fiio eliminated a lengthy chin found on M15. Therefore, it leaves the full panel for its incredible LCD screen.
Besides, like the M15 it obtains an IPS panel with huge viewing angles.
Thus, the M17 has a bright and high-quality display that stimulates a dramatic contrast ratio.
That’s why it’s more definitive and impactful than the ones set up on M11 Plus and M15.
M17’s black and white grades are better. However, those aren’t really in the exact category with a flagship OLED fitted smartphone.
Contemplating its case measurements, I acknowledge a 6” screen was a smart option.
Now it’s large enough for multitasking, web-browsing, music streaming and light gaming on the go.
Nevertheless, I would still choose to do all these on my smartphone. So that I can have an extended battery life.
In this case, the 5.15” inch display is big enough on the M15 for comfortable music or web browsing.
At the same time neat enough to allow the battery to be concentrated on more significant things. For example, the audio decoding and signal amplification system.
Let me start with a fun fact! FiiO M11 PRO comes with a 4370 mAh battery and M15 includes a massive 7490 mAh battery inside.
On the other hand, the M17 comes with an even bigger 9200 mAh battery.
Being said that, M17’s huge digital and analog segments were developed for desktop-class gadgets.
So it was necessary to shove an enormous battery inside. For that reason alone, the M17 employs the largest battery I’ve noticed on portable devices.
However, the M15 can go lullaby for about 75days whereas the M17 can drift off for about 42 days.
So, if deep sleep is substantial to you and you despise those boot times, then M15 is perhaps the best. It’ll save battery life relatively longer than the M17.
Nevertheless, both M17 and M15 operate for a long time with high impedance headphones. They’ll offer you about 8.6 hours of listening spree.
With fiio FH9 IEMs, I’ve got around 8.5 hours since mid-gain was more than sufficient for ultra-sensitive IEMs.
Fiio has always been consistent with its top-notch technical specs. Hence I was hoping after the M15, the M17 will also come with some surprises inside it.
Before discovering the techs inside let’s have a look at a tweet by fiio’s official handle. It’s confirming some of the techs and features of M17.
So, excited to know the truth? Let’s unravel it together!
M15 has employed the exact quick and reputable 6-core Exynos 7872 SoC like M11 and M11 PRO. At that moment, this was the quickest one in any DAP at any expense.
However, FiiO already walked away from the aging Exynos 7872 SoC. With M17 you’ll get a newer and quicker 8-core Snapdragon 660.
At the core of the M15, you’ll get two flagship AK4499 DAC chips. They’ll handle the digital processing.
So far, AK4499EQ is the only commercially produced chip that contested and even exceeded some of the specifications of the powerful ES9038PRO DAC chip.
Now here’s the fetching part! At the core of the M17, you’ll get two desktop-grade ES9038 PRO DAC chips.
They even guarded the entire digital panel and amp stage by curtailing inner and outer electromagnetic interference.
To be honest, even significant desktop DAC designers aren’t giving such attention and thinking towards their gadgets.
When building a top-end digital to analog converter, the setup of the DAC is the next most crucial component.
This is where both M17 and M15 kick in!
They use two tailored femtosecond crystal oscillators from NDK. These oscillators completely protect the setup of the DAC.
This system eventually leads to higher accuracy, to lesser noise, and definitely to a cleaner sound.
RAM size is at 3GB in M15 and built-in ROM memory is 64 GB too. This is where you can keep all your special tunes.
However, FiiO has boosted the RAM size from 3 GB (on M15) to 4 Gb in M17. It’ll help you with multitasking, web-browsing.
Moreover, you can use numerous apps in the background without spoiling your listening experience.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell apart my Xiaomi Mi10T from the M17. They both play and react to my requests immediately.
Also, I’ve never felt hesitancy in many weeks of examining.
However, the built-in ROM memory remained 64 GB in M17 as well. Nevertheless, because of the Android 10 being launched on the same ROM, there are just 46 Gigs of storage left.
Contemplating its cost, I anticipated a greater capacity ROM memory.
But hey! I think it’s okay. Because you’re getting MicroSD cards up to 2Tb in size in M17.
For the first time with M15, Fiio has embedded “active servo power” technology to the final amp stage.
This enables the power output to shift relying on the user’s selected settings.
When connected with IEMs, you can fix the M15 to be advanced for as little jitter as possible.
Nevertheless, if you need to pair with your hard-to-drive 300 ohm headphones, you can allow big driver mode.
It’ll turn the M15 into a power giant that can nudge such headphones to their boundaries.
However, going ahead to the amp stage of M17 bettered itself compared to M15. FiiO really outperformed themselves this time. They assembled customized modules named THX-788+.
Do you wanna know the great part?
Those modules are settling in a portable battery powered device. This is something that was unusual before.
It seems that FiiO’s M17 is presently the most dominant DAP in reality.
Besides, M17 delivers 1.5Watts each channel in 32Ω via its balanced outputs.
On the other hand, 3 freaking Watts per channel in DC mode. Therefore, M17 can effortlessly run all your desktop headphone assortment.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
On the latest FW 1.0.2, M17 GUI comes off to be smoothed, running much quicker than M15.
Also, I didn’t experience any disturbance or downshift even when running 32 bit Hi-Res or DSD content on M17.
If you are interested in how much quicker M17 plays than its antecedent M15 you can run a test. You can test with the latest version of GeekBench 5.4 on both of them.
Here’s what I’ve found after running the test. Have a look at the picture below-
I think those scores are countering for themselves. You can see the M17 is twice as quick than its antecedent M15.
Previously comparing IEMs like fiio fh3 or moondrop starfield, we saw how much they differ in sound quality.
Likewise, if you want to find the substantial difference in audio players you need to observe their sound performance.
So let’s find out these two DAPs’ (M15 and M17) performance quality in the next part.
IEMs & Headphones Pairing
I got a little worried when I found two ES9038 PRO DAC chips and THX-AAA-788+ modules inside M17.
I thought it might sound futile and distant, whereas the M15 preferred a mild and softer sound signature.
However, I felt super relaxed after trying a batch of IEMs and a tonne of desktop class headphones.
I nearly couldn’t distinguish them, as the M17 sounded precisely as neat, accurate and incredibly lucid.
Nonetheless, the difference between M17 and M15 was larger than appearing from any other DAP made by FiiO to M15. The leap in sound quality was significant at the very least.
The M17 sounded relatively vast and surrounded. There were apparently more layers of music, more air in between the notes than the M15.
M15 already invested some occasional glance of a desktop sound.
However, M17 took that idea ahead. It sounds really like a decent high-end DAC paired with a good-quality THX-AAA headphone amplifier.
The M17 adds just a sprinkle of essence and midrange composure. Hence it doesn’t sound pricking or detached in the long run.
I don’t think its predecessor M15 is this slow or gentle sounding. But good gracious, M17 hits right above the boundary when it comes to momentary response.
M17 sounds quicker, hits harder down low. At the same time it withers all that instantaneously, never lasting for a microsecond longer.
I was actually in awe when I drove the M17 with big artillery headphones.
So with M17 FiiO achieved an outstanding feat.
Wireless Headphones and Speakers
M15 paired great with EH3NC wireless headphones.
Moreover, by moving to Bluetooth device control in the FiiO Music app you could fix any scene of EH3NC on the go.
Therefore you’ll be able to sync them immediately with M15. Also with M15 in my bag, you’ll never lose a beat.
The high-end wireless loudspeakers like KEF LSX seem to connect to M15.
Thus you’ll be able to stream Hi-Res content promptly from M15 to LS50W without any issue.
Even with a Bluetooth connection, your apartment would seem small to you. Because the M15 in hand never loses the connection with the speakers.
However, with M17, Fiio ultimately shifted from that aging Samsung Bluetooth chip to…. drum roll …. the recent grants of Qualcomm.
In all fairness, when it comes to Bluetooth, Qualcomm is the best chipset period!
Like M15, as a sender, I connected M17 to the FiiO UTWS3, driving various pairs of IEMs.
However, I noticed the pairing process was easier and more straightforward with M17 than M15. Its BT connection was strong and durable.
Also all the top-class IEMs I tried sounded amazing via Bluetooth.
As a receiver, I connected my smartphone to the M17. In this case, I used the Qobuz app and delivered all that data to it.
Again, the pairing process seemed easy-peasy. Moreover, the BT connection was solid even from 20 meters away in an empty space.
Soundstage Size and Depth
At first, M15 felt effective and instinctive sounding. However, when the M17 drove hard loads, it was even more remarkable here.
M17 provided an extraordinary transient response. Particularly when it comes to bass impact, it precisely bangs like a well-rounded desktop headamp.
M17 has more bass layers and profoundness that can’t be found on M15. The M17 was bold and extensively close-fisted sounding down low.
M15 was great when it came to specifying the region of the notes and scale.
However, M17 had a darker stage and that somehow boosted the air bumps between the notes. There’s more vacant room in between them and the packed music doesn’t push up-front as much.
I don’t need to highlight it but the M17 was better sounding than the M15 in all aspects.
Be it width, height or depth, M17 seemed to be instilling more tone with an incredible sense of comfort.
When it comes to sheer resolution and detail retrieval, M15 pales in comparison. It isn’t even a debate, as M17 was much more comprehensive and resolute.
No matter how tough its predecessor struggled, the smallest nuances were missing on M15. M17 does certainly sound like a well-rounded desktop DAC in this section.
M17 is crystal clear, unforgiving at times. If you like imagining, be it as it is, then M17 will effortlessly deliver all that input to you.
You wouldn’t be required to shut your eyes and use particular headphones or IEMs. Its detail would be too apparent from the beginning.
The SoC of the M15 is the main culprit that M15 is still at Android version 7.0. Therefore, it’s not supporting Google Play Store.
Nonetheless, on its primary menu, there’s an Applications bubble that you can enable.
Here you can launch the most crucial apps like music streaming ones. Other apps like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, or even third-party APK markets like APKPure or CoolAPK.
With the help of the latter two, you can willingly download and launch most of the Google Play Store apps.
However, with M17, Fiio departed from the old Android 7. It hopped numerous ages to Android 10.
It says that now you don’t need to depend on APKPure or CoolAPK anymore for the recent software upgrades. You don’t need to use the Applications bubble outside China anymore.
Because you can now use the official Google Play store and launch any 3rd party app they offer. M17’s UI is somewhat similar to a current smartphone.
It actually runs like my phone, it boots swiftly, shuts off immediately as well.
More importantly, it installs any app relatively quicker than M15. You’ll be able to multitask much easier with it.
Going from FiiO Music, to Qobuz, Tidal, Roon or Spotify could be performed in a moment.
Besides, you’ll be able to play natively DSD files. Then multi-function like a pro, this is something that M15 wasn’t achieving so easily.
Okay, so the M15 costs somewhat around $2100-2200 and M17 around $1700-1800 in the US.
This makes the M15 more expensive than M17, although the latter one is an updated release of the first one.
Honestly, though, I feel like the M15 is sorta out of place. You see, Fiio has always been that name that maintained some truly decent products.
At the same time, it exemplified that you really don’t need to pay a pool of wealth to buy an amazing gadget.
However the M15, in this term, contradicted the above-mentioned notion. The notion of stuffing in a tonne of details into an absolutely well-built but cheap device.
So, should you upgrade this expensive DAP?
If you’re a devoted IEM listener and you already own the M15, I don’t see any point in upgrading to an M17.
Well, it’ll definitely sound nicer, however, the technical gains are perhaps not that different.
On the other hand, if you occupy a huge assortment of IEMs, portable and desktop headphones, then the M17 is the right choice. It’s like a huge upgrade from all perspectives.
Here’s our recommendation in a nutshell-
Does Fiio M17 have DC power mode?
Yes, fiio M17 has DC power mode. In easy words, from a 1.5 W per channel, M17 is now offering around 3 W of natural power. In this procedure, Fiio suggests engaging its dock and permitting its exhaust fan.
How’s the battery life of Fiio M15?
From a reasonable 9.5 hour battery life of M11 PRO increased to more than 15 hours on M15. With a 90 dB SPL the battery falls down to approximately 12 hours on the 3.5mm jack.
I’m hoping you no longer have any doubts about fiio m17 vs m15. With unlocked Android 10 and faster UI I would definitely keep the M17 above the M15.
Nonetheless, both of the DAPs have great tonal balance and bluetooth support.