The FiiO M11 Plus, our recommended choice of portable music player, has now returned with a brand-new ESS DAC. Aptly, the replacement model is called the FiiO M11 Plus ESS.

The global shortages have seen substantial delays in availability, particularly in digital streamers, where 40+ weeks order times are seemingly becoming the norm. This has forced many manufacturers to adapt their stock holding and component ordering and, in the case of FiiO with their portable music players, they have been forced to redesign their products around whatever components they can get access to. We are very pleased to say that this has not reduced the performance on any of their products.

ESS Sabre is one of the many well-known chipsets in the DAC world and can be found in many audio products. FiiO previously opted to use Asahi Kasei (AK) DACs for their premium and flagship products, but a fire in AK’s manufacturing plant in October 2020 means they are just now able to start prototyping microchips once again for mass production for release potentially next year.

FiiO have implemented the dual ES9068AS in their M11 Plus ESS and the ES9038PRO in their flagship M17 ESS, both from the same class-leading range of ESS DAC microchips. The two chips are also MQA compatible for accessing Tidal Masters, can play up to DSD512 and claim to offer a signal-to- noise ratio of 130dB. This is an astonishing benchmark, even the previous generation flagship, the M15, only achieved a snr of 122dB.  It is also built with Android 10, a nice uplift to the user experience and is far more responsive to touch commands than its predecessor.

Priced at £649, we think the M11 Plus ESS offers a fantastic performance at its price point and allows you to take your music library with you when you’re on-the-go, whether you are travelling or connecting it to your hi-fi system in. Its THX-AAA amplifier is capable of driving difficult headphone impedances, its balanced output allowing a further boost in performance with compatible equipment, either through its 4.4mm Pentaconn or 2.5 TRRRS connections. For more common single-ended headphones, it also has a 3.5mm minijack connector.