Sound, Power Output and Hiss.
M5 presents a balanced signature with a warm, pleasant and smooth sound. Resolution and other technicalities aren’t on the same level as DAPs that cost a little more, but it is to be expected for a device this size and price. While I wouldn’t call the sound, muddy and congested, I wish it had a slightly clearer sound, and a larger soundstage. M5 outputs sufficient power to drive IEMs in general and efficient full-size headphones. Also, it has a low noise floor that even my super sensitive IEMs don’t pick up hiss. When it comes to evaluating the sound of devices this size and price, my expectation is, it should perform at least on the same level as my iPhone dongle, if not better. In my quick comparison, M5 did pass my requirement, in fact performing better than my iPhone dongle in aspects such as, instrument separation, vividness and having slightly larger soundstage.
Features and Functionalities.
Despite its tiny form factor, M5 doesn’t compromise in terms of features and functionalities and this is the highlight of the device. The 3.5mm HO port can be set for either Headphone Out or Line Out or Digital Out, which can be found under the System Settings. Fret not, if your external DAC can only take digital in via USB, as the M5 can do Digital Out via its USB port too. M5 can also work as a USB DAC when tethered to a PC/Mac. The USB Mode setting in the System Settings allows you to choose between USB DAC mode or File Transfer mode.
On the wireless front, the M5 can act as either a Bluetooth Receiver or a Bluetooth Transmitter. Putting it on Bluetooth Receiver mode lets you pair it with a Smartphone or PC and you can wirelessly stream music to the M5. While the Bluetooth Receiver mode works well for listening to music, it isn’t ideal for watching videos/movies or playing games, as there is a slight lag with the audio. As a Bluetooth Transmitter, M5 can be paired with Bluetooth Headphones or Speakers and will act as a wireless music source. I should mention that M5 supports all the higher quality Bluetooth Audio codecs like AptxHD and LDAC for Receiving. For transmitting, it only supports SBC and LDAC.
As you can see, M5 packs pretty much all features that other larger DAPs offer and a few more. There is a Step Counter, which in my testing wasn’t quite precise. There is a Voice Recorder, which I never use. Perhaps there are users out there who might find this feature useful. A feature that I didn’t realise existed until I came across a post in the forum was, M5 can be used as a Handsfree Device for phone calls. For this, the M5 should be paired with your smartphone in the Bluetooth Receiver mode. The power button acts as the call answer/decline button. The call quality is decent and the person on the other end of the call was able to hear me clearly, as long as I held the device close to my mouth when speaking.