FiiO New K3 DAC/Amplifier Review
FiiO New K3 (2021) USB DAC/AMP Review
The FiiO New K3 is the successor of the original K3, which is a USB DAC/Amplifier that comes with some impressive specs such like Flagship-grade ES9038Q2M DAC Chip, Premium XMOS USB receiver, 3.5mm SE + 2.5mm Balanced, Coax+ Optical Line outputs and many more.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me the New K3 as review sample. I am not affiliated with FiiO beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered, opinions about the product.
The actual price of the FiiO New K3 is about 109,99 USD. More information’s can be found under the link below;
Package and Accessories:
The FiiO New K3 came in a small box that is wrapped with a cardboard sleeve, which has the product illustration and some brandings on its surface.
This box contains the following items:
- 1 x FiiO New K3 Portable DAC/AMP
- 1 x USB A to USB Type-C cable for file transfer and charging
- 2 x Silicone Stacking Pads
- 1 x User Manual & Warranty card
Design & Build Quality:
The FiiO New K3 is desktop type USB DAC & Amplifier that is pretty small and lightweight with only 82grams. It has a robust CNC machined all-aluminum body with a black finish that has input/output and control interfaces on the front and rear side of the body.
The sides of the device do have a curved shape that makes it comfortable to hold in your hand. On the top of the device are the FiiO and the Hi-Res Audio logos in white color.
At the rear side of the device are two screws, the USB 1.0/2.0 switch, 3.5mm analog lineout, and digital inputs such like USB Type-C, Coaxial and Optical.
The USB Type-C port works as both Power and Digital input interfaces.
On the front of the device are the 3.5mm single ended output and the 2.5mm balanced headphone outputs.
Here are also the analog volume/power on of potentiometer and two more switches, one for the bass boost and one for high/low gain selection.
The ADC analog potentiometer has a nice red ring on the front and offers a nice grip. The potentiometer is surrounded with a LED indicator that lights up in different colors (blue, red, green, etc.) and gives information’s of the actual operation/codec status.
At the bottom of the device are some industrial certifications and product related labels.
The overall build quality of the New K3 fulfils the expectations from a devices at this price level same like other FiiO products.
- Model : FiiO K3 (2021)
- DAC : ES9038Q2M
- LPF : TI OPA1612
- AMP : OPA926×2
- XMOS : XUF208
- DSD Support : DSD64/128/256
- USB In/Out : USB Type-C (Data/USB DAC/USB Audio
- Digital Inputs : Usb Type-C, Coaxial, Optical
- Analog Inputs : 3.5mm Line-In
- Analog Outputs : 3.5mm Single Ended & 2.5mm Balanced
- Weight : 82g (incl. battery)
A) ES9038Q2M DAC Chips:
The FiiO New K3 features the ES9038Q2M SABRE32 Reference DAC is a high-performance, 32-bit, stereo audio D/A converter designed for: audiophile-grade power sensitive applications such as digital music players, Blu-ray players, audio pre-amplifiers and A/V receivers, and professional applications such as recording systems, mixer consoles and digital audio workstations.
The ES9038Q2M is equipped with the ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream® II DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator and delivers a DNR of up to 128dB and THD+N of –120dB, a performance level that will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiasts.
The ES9038Q2M inside the New K3 handles up to 384kHz-32bit PCM, DSD256 via DoP.
The LED Indicator that surrounds the ADC Potentiometer shows up the following sampling rates:
- Blue : Sample rates at 48KHz and below
- Yellow : Sample rates above 48KHz
- Green : When playing a DSD track
B) Amplifier Section and Audio Parameters:
The FiiO New K3 is equipped with both 3.5mm (TRS) Single Ended and 2.5mm (TRRS) Balanced Outputs that do offer pretty low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) that is ≥121 dB for the Single Ended and ≥119dB for the Balanced output.
The New K3 offers 120mW @ 32Ω (THD+N＜1%, USB DAC) over the 3.5mm Phone out and 220mW @ 32Ω (THD+N＜1%, USB DAC) over the 2.5mm Balanced outputs.
The FiiO New K3 has also a very clean background with very low white noise production, which makes it ideal for the use with sensitive In-Ear Monitors.
The 3.5mm line out is driven directly by the OPA1612 op-amp, to ensure as little sound quality reduction as possible. The line out output is also adjustable with maximum power output up to 2Vrms, to ensure compatibility with a wide variety of active speakers and external amplifiers.
PS: When using the line out, please disconnect any headphones
Here are some detailed Audio Parameters:
|Parts of parameters of Line-out output|
|THD+N||＜0.0012% (1kHz/10kΩ/A-weighted)||SNR||≥121dB (A-weighted)|
|Channel separation||≥94dB (1kHz/10kΩ)||Noise floor||＜1.8μV (A-weighted)|
|Frequency response||20Hz~20kHz (-3dB)||LO output level||2.0Vrms (1kHz/10kΩ)|
|Parts of parameters of headphone output (3.5mm)|
|Output power 1||≥220mW (16Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||Output impedance||＜1.0Ω (32Ω)|
|Output power2||≥120mW (32Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||Channel separation||≥80dB (1 kHz/32Ω, USB DAC)|
|Output power3||≥13mW (300Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||THD+N||＜0.0012% (1 kHz/32Ω/A-weighted)|
|Noise floor||＜2μV (A-weighted)||SNR||≥121dB (A-weighted)|
|Frequency response||20Hz~20kHz (-3dB)||Peak output voltage||＞5.6Vp-p|
|Parts of parameters of balanced headphone output (2.5mm)|
|Output power 1||≥344mW (16Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||Output impedance||＜2Ω (32Ω)|
|Output power2||≥220mW (32Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||Channel separation||≥113dB (1 kHz, USB DAC)|
|Output power3||≥26mW (300Ω/THD+N＜1%, USB DAC)||THD+N||＜0.0014% (1 kHz/32Ω/A-weighted)|
|Noise floor||＜3μV (A-weighted)||SNR||≥119dB (A-weighted)|
|Frequency response||20Hz~20kHz (-3dB)||Peak output voltage||＞7.9Vp-p|
C) XMOS XU208 for Native DSD:
The FiiO New K3 is equipped with the same XMOS XUF208 USB chip as found on FiiO’s flagship DAC/amplifier, allowing it to easily support decoding up to 384kHz-32bit PCM & DSD256.
The XMOS USB receiver chip inside the new K3 directly converts any USB audio input to digital signals output via the coaxial and optical connectors, allowing you to connect to speaker systems, amplifiers, or other external decoders.
The volume knob does not control digital output volume. The New K3 can also output digital audio signals up to 192kHz and DSD64 over DoP. Please adjust the settings of the device you are connecting the NEW K3 to if the device does not support the digitally output format.
D) USB DAC Function:
The USB DAC Audio function of the FiiO New K3 works with MAC’s, Windows PC’s (over USB 1.1), Android and iOS device without the need of installation of any driver. But, if you want to use the device with a Windows PC for the first time at USB2.0 mode, please go to FiiO’s website to download the driver and follow the corresponding instructions to install the driver.
- Download link: http://www.fiio.com/supports
Equipment’s used for this review:
- Sources : FiiO New K3, ASUS TUF FX504GD
- IEM’s : FiiO FD5, FiiO FA9, FiiO FH5s Pro
- Headphones : SIVGA SV021 Robin, Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- 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)
- David Bowie – Heroes (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- 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)
- U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Spotify)
- Charly Antolini – Duwadjuwandadu (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)
- Bro Safari, UFO! – Drama “Party Favor Remix” (Deezer HiFi)
- Christian Reindl (Lucie Paradise) – Cernunnos (Spotify)
- Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Deezer HiFi)
- Really Slow Motion – Deadwood (Deezer HiFi)
- Jo Blankenburg – Meraki (Spotify)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Lorde – Royals (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- 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)s
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
- Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Spotify)
The New K3 surprised me immediately with its sound presentation that performs definitely much above this price point. It offers a pretty coherent, detailed and natural presentation along with a great sense of dynamics with all In-Ear Monitors and Headphones I have listen to it.
PS: This review has been written after a burn-in period of about 100 hours. My sound experience below are mainly based over the 2.5mm Balanced output paired with In-Ear Monitors like the FiiO FD5, FH5S Pro and FA9.
The new K3 is able to produce a very pleasant to listen to bass response when paired with IEM’s like the FD5, FA9 and FH5s Pro. The New K3 sounds pretty detailed, controlled and impactful in this area without to get boomy (bass switch off), along with a good sense of decay and extension. The FD5 sounded quite successful in the subbass area while listen to songs with complex passages such like Gogo Penguin’s “Raven”, Lorde’s “Royals” without to show any remarkable mixings.
The midbass region is reproduced in a pretty balanced and natural manner, with good level of tightness, impact and intensity. The New K3 shows a decedent sense of resolution, speed and clarity in this area, especially when paired with the FH5S Pro. Songs like Bro Safari, UFO’s “Drama “Party Favor Remix” or Jo Blankenburg’s “Meraki” did sound highly entertaining, with good level of impact and intensity, while complex bass passages in Gogo Penguin’s Raven have been reproduced pretty clear, controlled and detailed.
The sound engineers from FiiO did managed to get out the best from the ES9038Q2M DAC chip for this little desktop DAC / Amplifier. The midrange area shows a decent sense of clarity, airiness and detail retrieval especially for a product at this price level.
Both vocals and instruments do sound pretty musical, realistic and natural manner depending on the earphone/headphone that you listen to the New K3. Male vocals are produced with good sense of clarity and detail retrieval and doesn’t show any negative conditions such like muddiness or mixings when I do listen to the New K3 with the FD5 or FA9.
Female vocals on the other hand do have a good level of intensity, extension and transparency, without to show any remarkable negative situations like sibilance or sharpness.
The instrument presentation of the New FiiO K3 sounds quite airy and clear. The fact that instruments don’t play too close or too distant to each other, makes it to a pretty balanced and musical sounding DAC/Amplifier.
For example, instruments like acoustic guitars do have a slightly warm, bassy and bright character when pair it the FiiO FD5 IEM, especially towards the top end, while violins and pianos do sound relative bright and pretty lively.
Upper Midrange & Treble:
The New FiiO K3 offers a good sound performance in the upper midrange and treble area. The transitions from the upper midrange towards the treble region are pretty controlled. For example, the upper midrange transitions of cymbals, drums or guitars in metal songs like Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets”, Slayer’s “Angel of Death” and Rush’s “Leave That Thing Alone” do sound quite detailed and clear.
The treble range of the New FiiO K3 sounds in general fairly controlled and suitable for fast and complex genres like trash metal music especially when I pair it with the FA9 and FH5S Pro. For example; the cymbals in trash metal are pretty fast and pronounced, while the hi-hats are slightly recessed, but clear and controlled. The general airiness and brightness of the treble range is on a good level which does increase the detail overall detail retrieval.
The treble performance and character of the New K3 is suitable for a wide range of genres, form jazz to acoustic music, from electronic up to classical music, which is a very good ability of such a small desktop DAC/Amplifier at this price range.
The New FiiO K3 shows a sufficient soundstage atmosphere for a relative precise placement and separation of instruments and vocals. The soundstage has a moderate sense of depth and wideness.
The New FiiO K3 is another solid product of the company that immediately surprised with its sound performance and functionality. It is small, lightweight, fairly powerful and comes with lots of input and output options, which makes it to a very versatile DAC/Amplifier. The sound performance is definitely another strength of the New K3 that shows a pretty coherent, detailed and natural presentation along with a great sense of dynamics with all In-Ear Monitors and Headphones I have listen to it. All this ability’s makes the New K3 to a highly recommended device, especially at this price range.
Pros and Cons:
- + Natural & Detailed Overall Presentation
- + Very Clean Output
- + Small & Lightweight (can be carried anywhere)
- + Input (USB Type-C, Optical, Coaxial) & Output Options (3.5mm SE 2.5mm Balanced)
- + Price Performance Ratio
- – Soundstage could be slightly wider and deeper
- – Nothing remarkable for such a reasonable price
Thank you for the Read!