Fiio RM1 Review – A Sign of Good Things to Come

Intro –

There are many gadgets that are desirable but not practical; gadgets that are briefly enjoyed then forgotten over time. The RM1 is a very interesting product from Fiio that is quite the opposite, few people wanted the RM1, but It`s something almost anyone could benefit from owning. So what is it? The RM1 is a Bluetooth remote that pairs with any Bluetooth able device and controls various music navigation functions (vol-+, skip track, play/pause). It works in conjunction with smartphones, cars, speakers and even Bluetooth headphones. The RM1 carries an RRP of $25 USD which is within the impulse buy price range. Fiio is a well-known audio company and the RM1 represents a departure from their usual products. This poses a few questions: Does the RM1 still represent the fantastic value that Fiio products are known for and does it carry the quality we`ve come to expect from a Fiio product?

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Fiio very much for providing me with an RM1 in exchange for my honest opinion. I am not in any way affiliated with Fiio and will be as objective as possible in my review.

 

About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

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Packaging –

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The box is a big step up from the EM3 but still behind the level of finish provided by Fiio`s higher end devices. The box is a nice size, easy to ship but still premium though the print is a little washed out. There is a small authenticity marker on the side and some summary information on the rear.

Removing the front face reveals the RM1 in a card-board inset with a small tray above housing some accessories.

The unboxing experience is very apple-esque and intuitive. Below the RM1 is the remote housing and papers and above it is the steering wheel mount, wrist strap and a CR2016 battery. There is also a battery inside the RM1 itself so I appreciate Fiio including an extra battery, they can be hard to find in some areas.

Overall for $25 USD, the unboxing experience and accessories are pretty great. Unfortunately the packaging must show off the product, not the other way around and the logo cluttered front presents a bit too generic for me. Perhaps the well-designed images on Fiio`s website set my expectations too high.

 

Design –

What does carry Fiio`s signature level of finish is the RM1 itself. The RM1 is constructed from a tactile sand-blasted aluminium outer ring combined with matte plastic faces that are easy to grip and rubberized front buttons.

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The front buttons feel great, clicky with well-defined pressure points and plenty of travel, you don`t get that mushy feeling from low quality buttons nor that overly stiff feeling invoked by an overly thin plastic cover. I do agree with twister6 upon the rear power/pair button, it`s a bit small but after the first pair, you can use any of the front facing buttons to power on the device, making this issue redundant. Aesthetically, the RM1 has a handsome design; chamfered edges reflect light and guide the eye whilst a very premium rubberized face continues the feel to the digits.

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It is very compact and light enough to forget about in a pocket or bag. The RM1 can be a little awkward to hold on its own, even for my relatively small hands. It does have a strap loop to prevent accidental drops but for long term use, the RM1 is much more ergonomic within the remote or steering wheel housings.

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Both the remote and steering wheel housings are made of a soft, flexible plastic similar to that employed in watch bands, just much thicker. They don`t scratch the RM1 and are easy to equip/remove. A ridge that runs the perimeter of the RM1 seats solidly within the accessory housings and the RM1 is very unlikely to fall out unintentionally, even in a moving vehicle.

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The remote accessory is easy to hold and doesn`t add too much weight to the RM1. It is angled at the bottom for more comfortable holding, also making the device a bit easier to pick up too.

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The same goes for the steering wheel holder. It is flexible and will attach firmly around pretty much any steering wheel.

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Both have the Fiio branding moulded into their faces and continue the design language of the RM1 itself with chamfered edges and an imitation sand-blasted finish on the faces.

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Both holders have a small hole in the back for easier removal of the RM1 unit, you simply bend the housings, push the RM1 through the hole and it snaps out. There is also a small ring that runs around this opening, preventing accidental pressing of the power/pair button. They are well moulded and have no sharp edges, very well implemented on a whole.

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Apart from that, the mechanism to replace the button cell battery is very well designed. A small lip holds the battery whilst a shock absorbent foam ring prevents the battery from falling out of the device. The door spins shut with a well defined click, it isn`t overly hard to remove unlike most devices. A micro USB port would fit on the device but I doubt a LiPo cell and charging circuit would fit. The battery life is long enough that a non-rechargeable battery isn`t too much of a concern.

I`m very happy with the build and design of the RM1, both the device and accessories are of great quality and I`m sure both will last a long while. To put it simply, other makers would ask well over twice the price Fiio is charging for something this well finished.

 

Usage –

The RM1 is quite smart and very easy to use. Turning it on for the first time, the RM1 goes into broadcast/pairing mode and is easily found by any device supporting Bluetooth 3.0 and above. The RM1 pairs quickly and works with minimal latency. After the first pair, the RM1 attempts to connect to paired devices for 5 seconds, displayed by a solid LED, then goes into broadcast/pairing mode again to pair new devices, displayed by a flashing LED. Although this is very simple and straight forward you`ll still need to read the manual to understand this process. Luckily it is in perfect English and is quite intuitive.

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Using the Bluetooth 3.0 standard, in theory should produce longer runtimes than previous standards and the RM1 should last for around 1 month. So far, it`s been working fine during the past week of heavy usage. I was really surprised when all functions of the RM1 worked with properly with Android and Windows. Usually the volume buttons only work with iPhones/iPods and Macs, but the RM1 properly changed volume on my HTC M8, where the volume buttons usually change tracks or don`t work at all.

It also worked perfectly with my laptop running windows 10. I was able to use all of the features within VLC, Foobar and iTunes. This is surprising as the Bluetooth controls on my Denon envaya mini don`t work on my laptop at all. The remote didn`t work with the in-browser Spotify however it worked perfectly with the application.

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I`m a university student and often have many lectures open at the same time on my laptop, most in split screen with a matching word document on the other side; it can get pretty messy. I leave music playing in the background through Foobar or Spotify and If I want to change a track, I have to move around in excess of a dozen windows. I just learnt to put up with it, but found it so much more convenient leaving my music playing in the background while working in another window and simply changing tracks through the RM1 instead of alt tabbing through all my windows. The RM1 has been very useful here, It helps me maintain my train of thought and keep all my lectures and notes aligned in split screen. When not in use for a while using Windows, I noticed that the RM1 disconnected and went into pairing mode. I`m not sure about the cause, but it was easily fixed by restarting the RM1.

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Another scenario where the RM1 has been surprisingly useful is in my Garage. I have my Edifier E25`s playing music from Spotify in the Garage while I exercise and the RM1 makes it much easier to navigate through my playlists and adjust volume between songs. For my uses, the RM1 replaces the stock Edifier E25 controller, it provides similar functionality with volume control with the added functionality of play/pause and the ability to skip tracks.

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The RM1 is also marketed as an in-car utility, mounting easily onto a steering wheel or even bike/motor bike handle bar. The arm that holds the RM1 is flexible enough to stretch around large diameter wheels but also firm enough not to fall off. The RM1 is very light and didn`t move around when I turned the wheel rapidly during parking, etc. It doesn`t actually pair to the car, but your device which you can use as a source for your car`s stereo system. The RM1 worked flawlessly here too.

The only criticisms I have are minor or unrealistic at this price point. The first is that I wish Fiio had implemented an orientation locking mechanism, the OCD in me keeps adjusting the RM1 to be completely straight within the remote housing, though the round design does work well with the steering wheel mount; you can mount the RM1 at any point and have it orientated correctly. The button plate could also be a little thicker or employ a filter similar to Xiaomi`s portable batteries to prevent bleed from the LED (seen above), it`s not a big deal, but would provide that final added touch.I also would have liked some sort of IR blaster function such as that on some smartphones where you can record commands, such as powering a TV on or my Edifier speakers for example through the one remote. It would have been nice, but the RM1 uses Bluetooth so that is completely unrealistic, perhaps in an RM3 later down the road?

 

Verdict –

The RM1 is a device that I keep finding more uses for as time goes on, it`s quite brilliant. I really like what Fiio is doing, they`re innovating and branching out into useful areas beyond pure audio. It`s this kind of thinking that produces successful products, not just performance or the ever present game to one-up the competition.

 

Accessories – 10/10, The included accessories are useful and of high quality. The car mount and remote housings are both very practical in everyday scenarios whilst the extra battery and wrist strap are nice added extras, good job Fiio.

Design – 10/10, An aluminium housing adds a bit of flare whilst a silky rubberized finish produce a very nice look and feel. The RM1 is robust and portable, perfect for its intended uses. The buttons are tactile and the status LED is very visible but not intrusive. The mechanism to change the button cell battery is much better implemented than on most devices. Markings are clear and resist fade.

Usage – 9/10, Works well in all the scenario`s Fiio intended and a few more. Nice and compact for use while driving, intuitive and easy to orientate through the LED light at the top. Remote housing works well

Value – 10/10, At $25 USD, the RM1 is a value champ. Although some might argue of limited functionality, the RM1 really is quite useful in many different situations, say a party for example. It is of great quality and comes with plenty of accessories.

Overall – 10/10, The RM1 is the perfect embodiment of simple but effective, just don`t expect a game changer.What Fiio offers with the RM1 isn`t even the exciting part, what the RM1 represents is an innovative future for Fiio, much like what HTC has done with the Vive. I`ll look forward to more products like this from Fiio in the future. The RM1 is a keeper.

 

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