FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 Review

 

 

FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 Review

 

  

Introduction:

The brand new KA5 is FiiO’s (Jade Audio) latest flagship Ultra Portable USB DAC/Amplifier that utilizes a dual CS43198 DAC chip, which is able to process high-resolution audio signals including PCM up to 32-Bit/768kHz and native DSD256 signals. The device features a dual independent amp chip design for a pretty powerful amplification. Moreover, it has both a 3.5mm Single Ended and 4.4mm Balanced headphone outputs with SPDIF output support that are integrated in to an All-Aluminum Chassis with multifunction physical keys and a useful OLED Display.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the KA5 Ultra-Portable USB DAC/Amplifier as review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered, opinions about the product.

 

 

Price & Availability:

The original actual price of the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is 129.99 US$. More information’s can be found under the link below;

  

 

Package & Accessories:

The FiiO KA5 comes inside a relative small rectangular box that is wrapped with a fancy looking cardboard sleeve that reflects the company’s new package design. It shows the illustration of the device and some branding (Hi-Res, MQA, ESS) on its surface.

Inside the box are the following items:

  • 1 x FiiO (Jade Audio) KA Portable USB DAC/Amplifier Dongle
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB Type-C Cable
  • 1 x USB Type-C to Lightning Cable
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB A adapter
  • 1 x Some Print material (User Manual, Warranty Card)

 

Design & Build Quality:

The KA5 is the company’s latest flagship USB DAC/Amplifier Dongle that is that reflects   FiiO’s new design language. It’s a pretty small device with a rectangular shape that measures about 56.3*22*12mm and weights juts approx. 19grams. The KA5 has a very well made All-Aluminum Chassis is of high quality.

On the front of the device is a tempered glass panel that sports an OLED display, the new FiiO brand logo and a HiRes Audio branding. The OLED screen is a nice addition that displays the actual sound Signal Format, the Volume and Gain level, Digital Filter, USB and Volume Mode.

At the bottom is another tempered glass panel that has the Jade Audio logo and some product related certification brandings (Hi-Res, etc.) behind it.

The right surface features two multi-functional hardware buttons one that is dedicated for play/pause and menu select purposes, while the other one is a two way volume, track and navigation button. FiiO offers an A/B Volume adjustment mode. In A mode, the short press will change volume and the long press will change the tracks, in B mode, the short press will change track and long press for volume change. This adjustment can be made using FiiO Control Application, which is a very nice addition.

On the front of the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 are the 3.5mm Single Ended and 4.4mm Balanced outputs that are located on a metal plate with a nice golden surface finish.

The rear surface features the USB Type-C digital interface that is located right at the center of a metal plate in gold color.

 

 

Technical Specifications:


 

 

Hardware Features:

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is an Ultra-Portable USB DAC/Amplifier in form of a Dongle that is features some impressive hardware components that are integrated in to a 6-layer immersion Gold Plated PCB in order to archive ultra-low noise and excellent sound performance that I will now list for you below.

 

DAC & Amplifier Section:

FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is equipped with a dual CS43198 DAC chip setup that is able to process high-resolution audio signals including PCM up to 32-Bit/768kHz and native DSD256 signals with Low Noise-Floor and low distortion ratings. The Signal to Noise Ratio of the KA5 is about ≥124dB over the Single Ended output, while the 4.4mm Balanced Out offers an even more impressive result with ≥128dB @32ohm. The KA5 offers also a very good performance in terms of Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+N) with just 0.00037%.

 

The DAC offers 5 digital filter that are listed below;

  • Short Delay Sharp Roll-Off
  • Fast Roll-Off, Phase-Compensated
  • Short Delay Slow Roll-Off
  • Slow Roll-Off, Phase-Compensated
  • Non Over-Sampling (NOS)

FiiO offers two DAC working modes that are Class AB and Class H mode that you can access directly from the device menu or over the FiiO Control APP.

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 offers a very clean and dark background with almost zero hissing that makes it do a source ideal for the use with both sensitive In-Ear Monitors and power demanding headphones. The device is equipped with dual Independent 8261 AMP chips that are able to deliver up to 265mW @32Ω over the 4.4mm Balanced output, while the 3.5mm Single-Ended output offers up to 122mW power at 32Ω of load that is quite impressive.

The KA5 offers also SPDIF output support over its 3.5mm output that can be selected over the Menu or FiiO Control application, which is a nice addition.

 

Device Compatibility & FiiO Control Support:

The FiiO KA1 is compatible with a wide variety of platforms such like Android OS, Apple iOS, Apple iPad OS, Windows 10, Mac OS or newer systems. The KA5 is fully compatible with the FiiO Control APP that enables the user to change different settings on the device including digital filter, Volume control settings, Gain settings, OLED display settings, etc.

 

Equipment’s used for this review:

  • DAC/AMP’s                : FiiO KA5, Hidizs XO
  • IEM’s                          : FiiO FH7S, FA7S, FiiO FD3
  • Headphones              : HiFiMAN Edition XS

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:

  • Adele – My Little Love (Spotify)
  • Randy Crawford – On Day I Will Fly Away (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Hayley Westenra – Odyssey Album (Dezzer HiFi)
  • Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sarah McLachlan – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Payer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Sonya Yoncheva – (Giuseppe Verdi) II Trovatore, ActI (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • George Michael – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Heroes (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man ((Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Bro Safari, UFO! – Drama (Deezer HiFi)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Daft Punk – Doin’ it Right (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Jo Blankenburg – Meraki (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royals (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Toutant – Rebirth (Deezer HiFi)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Gogo Penguin – Murmuration (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
  • Charly Antolini – Duwadjuwandadu (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Ferit Odman – Look, Stop & Listen (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Deezer HiFi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Lunatic Soul – The Passage (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Deftones – My Own Summer (Shove it) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
  • Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Spotify)

 

 

The Sound:

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is an Ultra-Portable USB DAC/Amplifier in form of a Dongle that offers an impressive sound performance for its size as well for its price. The KA5 stands out with its very natural, neutral and highly dynamic overall presentation. The very clean and dark background of the device creates ideal conditions to pick up the finest micro details, which is an impressive ability for such an Ultra-Portable Dongle.

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 review has been written after a burn-in period of approx. 70 hours. My sound experiences below are mainly based on auditions with IEM’s like the FiiO FH7S, FA7S and FD3. Digital Filter Set to Short Delay Sharp Roll-Off, DAC Mode set to AB.

 

 

Bass / Midrange / Treble / Soundstage & Imaging:

The lower frequency region of the FiiO KA5 stands out with its pretty natural, linear and detailed response with all earphones and headphones I have paired the device. The coloration of is in general this area quite minimal. The subbass region has been shown with a efficient level of rumble, extension and depth, which was pretty audible when paired with the FiiO FH7S and FA7S in songs like Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right”, Lorde’s “Royals” or Massive Attack’s epic song “Angel”.

The midbass region on the other hand is produced in a pretty clean, controlled and detailed manner. This area shows just a low amount of coloration that adds some musicality and fullness without to sound overdone. The general midbass presentation is nicely dynamic fast and controlled in songs like Gogo Penguin “Murmuration” and “Raven” or Charly Antolini’s “Duwadjuwandadu”, especially when paired with the FiiO FH7S.

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 offers a pretty transparent and airy midrange presentation from the lower midrange up to the upper midrange register. Vocals and instruments are produced in a quite detailed and natural manner. The KA5 shows just a small grade of coloration in the upper midrange register that adds some additional clarity and presence without to sound overdone.

The lower midrange region is produced with a good level of depth, body and intensity that adds vocals and instruments a nice sense of musicality, when I listen to the KA5 with both the FiiO FA7S and FH7S. The upper midrange of the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is slightly pronounced and yet pretty controlled. This tuning is avoiding the occurrence of sibilance and harshness while listen to female voices or instruments such like violins, side flutes or pianos. Female voices such like Adel, Diana Krall and Sertap Erener are do sound pretty lively, transparent and clear, without to show any remarkable sibilance or harshness.

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 shows a relative neutral and moderately bright treble character, which creates good conditions to produce a decent sense of airiness and sparkle. Instruments such like percussions are produced with a good level of resolution and extension. Crash and ride cymbals are reproduced in a pretty fast and controlled manner, without to show any remarkable negative situations such like over-sharpness, while hi-hats sound distinct and have a do have an efficient grade of extension.

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 offers a pretty natural and airy soundstage atmosphere that creates good conditions for a quite precise placement and separation of instrument & vocal. The general soundstage performance of the KA5 is quite solid for a product at this price level, especially when it comes to the wideness of the stage. Moreover, the KA5 shows also a good amount of neutral air between the instruments, which is another remarkable plus point.

 

Comparison:

FiiO KA5 versus Hidizs XO:

Both the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 and the Hidizs XO do offer a decent sound performance for such Ultra Portable USB DAC/Amplifier dongles, especially at this price levels. However, the KA5 shows immediately that it is the device with a more mature overall sound profile, which shows in general a more natural timbre and a higher grade of resolution and technical performance.

The lower frequency region of the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 shows a better sense of dynamism and resolution. Both deices are pretty equal when it comes to the authority and extension of this area, while the KA5 has the upper hand in terms of layering and clarity.

The midrange of the Hidizs XO is pretty transparent and detailed, while it sounds a bit digital to my ears in direct comparison to the FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 that has a more neutral and natural tonality and timbre when I do listen to instruments and vocals.

The treble range of the KA5 shows a slightly better sense of extension, separation and dynamism, while both devices are pretty similar in this area when it comes to the authority and detail retrieval. The KA5 offers a bit more airiness and sparkle that the Hidizs XO is missing.

When it comes to the soundstage performance I can say that the KA5 is superior in terms of wideness, while the depth of the stage is pretty similar on both devices. The KA5 shows a slightly more spacious and airy atmosphere.

 

Conclusion:

The FiiO (Jade Audio) KA5 is an Ultra-Portable USB DAC/Amplifier that comes with some interesting features such like a Dual DAC and Amplifier section, Multifunctional buttons, a useful OLED Display and both a 4.4mm Balanced and a 3.5mm Single Ended output. But the most important part is the impressive sound performance of the KA5 for its size as well for its price, which stands out with its pretty natural and highly dynamic overall presentation. The very clean and dark background of the device creates ideal conditions to pick up the finest micro details, which is an impressive ability for such an Ultra-Portable Dongle. All this features do make the KA5 to a device that I do highly recommend!

 

Pros and Cons:

  • + Very Good Overall Sound Performance
  • + Dynamism and Technicality
  • + Dark and Clean Background
  • + OLED Display & Hardware Buttons
  • + Powerful
  • + Compatible with FiiO Control App
  • + SPIDF Output Support
  • + Excellent value for your Money

 

  • – Slightly amount of coloration in the Upper Midrange Register (not a real con)
  • – A protective case would be welcome

 

 

 

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