FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. has revealed some details about the new FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player for the first time. In addition, they provide an outlook on how they assess the market in the portable hi-res audio player segment, which is obviously on the verge of a radical change.
For years, FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. has been regarded as a proven specialist in the field of personal audio devices. Hardly any other company has such a broad range of solutions in headphones, portable hi-res audio players as well as portable D/A converters, portable headphone amplifiers and last but not least Bluetooth DAC/amps. In addition, FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. is clearly a technology-driven company, a technological pioneer that reacts very early to various developments and offers corresponding solutions.
It is therefore very important for FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd to make assessments about the development of the market, as James Chung, CEO of FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd, is now doing.
Challenges for the entire industry
James Chung’s assessments are also interesting from the point of view that they also give an insight into the challenges currently facing the industry as a whole, not just FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd.
For example, the CEO states that it will be possible to bring lower numbers of units to market this year in some areas. The current situation around essential components is very tense, and this of course also affects FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. This is particularly true for integrated circuits, especially D/A converters, where it is sometimes necessary to fall back on existing stocks, which are of course only available in limited quantities.
The tight situation regarding the availability of essential components also has an impact on pricing, and no manufacturer is immune to this.
Accordingly, the existing product structure has to be adapted and the future positioning of the product range has to be aligned accordingly. Some models, especially in the lowest and medium price ranges, will therefore only be continued as long as there is still demand, although it is already foreseeable that this will decline.
In the entry-level segment, for example, portable Bluetooth DACs/amps dominate, so that it is becoming increasingly difficult for manufacturers of portable hi-res audio players to achieve lucrative margins, not least due to the aforementioned price pressure with constantly rising development and production costs and simultaneously lower unit numbers. In this segment, as described, not only are some models being discontinued, but planned products are also sometimes not being pursued further.
FiiO M11S, FiiO M11Plus and FiiO M15S
Nevertheless, James Chung has for the first time announced information about which solutions can be expected this year, directly reflecting the estimates just mentioned. The FiiO M11S, FiiO M11Plus, FiiO M15S and FiiO M17 models are to be presented this year. However, some of them will only be available in small quantities for the time being, especially the models at the upper end of the scale.
FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player
The CEO of FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. does not disclose too many details, but the information about the FiiO M17 is a little more detailed.
This solution is called the FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player, which means it is a completely new product category. Up to now, FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. has focused exclusively on truly portable solutions; here it is to be a kind of desktop audio solution.
They are planning a desktop-level digital audio streamer and amplifier in the form of a portable device, is the description of this new product. During the development, they tried to implement the inputs and outputs of a desktop device as far as possible, in addition to the function and performance.
Thus, the new FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player will feature no less than four headphone connections, namely a balanced 2.5 mm jack, an unbalanced 3.5 mm jack, a balanced 4.4 mm jack and last but not least an unbalanced 6.3 mm jack. In addition, there are unbalanced and balanced analogue outputs in the form of 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack and 4.4 mm 4-pin jack respectively, as well as a coaxial S/PDIF interface. According to the company, there were even plans for an additional optical S/PDIF interface, as can be seen in the product photo on this page. This was one of the first concepts, but due to various construction problems and the rather low demand from customers, it was discarded.
In addition, there is of course a USB port in the proven manner, designed as a USB-C interface, which can also be used for USB audio, among other things. The FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player thus mutates into an excellent D/A converter on a PC or Mac.
At the heart of the new FiiO M17 Portable Desktop Player is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC platform. This provides sufficient performance for processing high-resolution data in a wide range of formats as well as smooth operation. Even a dedicated GPU for a high-resolution display with the possibility of hardware-supported video rendering is offered here. In addition, this platform naturally also provides all relevant modules such as WiFi according to IEEE 802.11ac as well as Bluetooth 5.0. The converters are likely to be based on a dual DAC configuration based on ESS ES9038PRO. According to the information currently available, the output stage will be based on a THX788PRO amplifier, whereby a particularly high output power of 1,200 mW is promised in order to be able to use any headphones, including complex high-end hi-fi solutions, without any problems.
Further details will be announced in the coming weeks, according to the company, but no big surprises are to be expected, as the existing solutions of the Chinese specialist can be used as a reference point.
Getting to the point
The market in the field of personal audio devices is in a state of upheaval, this can be stated quite clearly. The product range of specialists such as FiiO Electronics Technology Co Ltd. will therefore be somewhat different in the future. In the case of portable hi-res players, the focus will probably be on solutions in the middle and upper price ranges. In the lower price range, on the other hand, the offer will be significantly smaller; here, portable D/A converters and headphone amplifiers already dominate, which are used as playing partners for the smartphone or users rely on high-quality Bluetooth headphones for their smartphone anyway, which in turn serves as an interface to streaming services.