Sometimes, a bit of hi-fi kit arrives that is so multi-faceted it's hard to know what to call it: DAC/Amp streamer? Music hub? Entire just-add-speakers music streaming system?
I might point you towards the Naim Mu-so Qb or Sonus Faber Omnia for products that also aim to do it all (and largely succeed), but Fiio's option is different again. While devoid of inbuilt speakers, it has every single port you could possibly wish for around the back – and almost every conceivable wireless protocol baked in, should you prefer to ditch the cables.
So let's meet the Fiio R9, just unveiled at CES 2024. It's billed as a "flagship desktop audio player/streamer & balanced DAC/amplifier" built upon the success of the R7, launched in 2023.
Equipped with dual high-performance 8-Channel ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DACs and high-power 8-Channel THX AAA 788+ desktop-grade amplification (boasting up to 7300mW of power output), the R9 is a fully loaded and versatile solution for listening to your digital audio. It also features a wealth of input and output options – including HDMI ARC – and has clearly been designed to work with a host of devices, including (deep breath) wired headphones, wireless earbuds, active speakers, smartphones, PCs, and more.
The Fiio R9 supports high-resolution PCM audio up to 768kHz/32-Bit, native DSD512 audio and features MQA decoding. Sporting 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage (expandable to 2TB via SD card), your personal collection of audio files can be played back using the pre-installed Fiio Music app. In addition, all of the best music streaming services – including Tidal, Apple Music, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Deezer, Spotify, Soundcloud and many more – can be installed directly on to the R9, either via the pre-loaded Google Play Store or Fiio Store apps.
Fiio tells us that the R9 runs on a customized version of Android and bypasses Android's SRC restriction globally, meaning the Fiio Music app and other third party streaming applications will deliver their audio in its native quality. Nothing, says the company, is downsampled as can sometimes happen on other Android devices.
Opinion: one bijou-sized Fiio screen to rule them all
Navigating around the FiiO R9 should be a piece of cake thanks to its full-color, Full-HD 6-inch touchscreen display. In addition, the R9 comes supplied with a Bluetooth remote control, but I emphatically think this is where the success of the Fiio lies – relatively big screen; bijou desktop-sized footprint.
Having tried Fiio's musical powerhouse M15S hi-res portable player, I trust what this talented audio outfit can do with power output in a small package, too. It's a tough balance to strike; when I tried two Astell & Kern players to determine where the value was, I eventually had to concede that if you possibly can, the bigger screen, power and sound quality of the more expensive model is the way to go. Obviously, the Fiio R9 is a bit different – it's a desktop option that wants to take all of your music and celebrate it, however you want to integrate it – but at this size, I think Fiio has hit a home run.
Pricing? Of course: the Fiio R9 will be available from mid-January, priced $1,499 / £1,399 (so around AU$2,660) and given its extensive connectivity and audiophile-grade chops however you choose to use it in a hi-fi sound system, that seems like a fair asking fee.
To dig down into those ports around the back, the FiiO R9's 64GB of internal storage is complemented by SD, USB, optical, coaxial, and Ethernet inputs, but the FiiO R9 also supports wireless connectivity thanks to both 2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 on board. So, I could be accessing my music files stored in the onboard memory or from an SD card; physically connected to an audio source (such as an external HDD); wirelessly sent to the R9 via DLNA or Airplay, or by using the R9 as a Roon Ready endpoint. And yes, I could even ping music to it via good old Bluetooth, from my smartphone or PC.
And we're not done! Thanks to its 8-Channel THX AAA-788+ amplifier and dual 8-Channel ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DACs, the FiiO R9 is also a meaty headphone amplifier, offering a choice of wired and wireless connections to your headphones of choice. Single-ended 6.35mm and balanced 4.4mm connections feature, as well as a balanced 4-pin XLR output. With a power output of up to 7,300mW, the R9 should be more than capable of driving both low-and high-impedance headphones.
Finally, because the R9 is able to output audio via Bluetooth using a wide range of different standards – including AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC – you can be sure you're getting the best quality connection, whatever wireless headphones you're using.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.