I’ve owned several FiiO DACs and so when the new K3 was launched, I was naturally very keen to try it out. The K3 is a desktop DAC/amplifier, and it is a successor to the very popular E10K.
Despite the very affordable prices, FiiO manages to make very good audio gear, particularly portable ones, for the discerning music listener. Their products are well-known to be very good value. The new K3 is another such example. Apart from DACs and amplifiers, FiiO also makes digital audio players, and more recently, in-ear headphones too.
While the new FiiO K3 is very small, it still counts as a desktop unit because it is meant to be used with a computer rather than a smartphone. It is not self-powered, the requirement that is usually demanded for use with smartphones. However, with dimensions measuring just 70 x 58 x 22 mm and weighing 82 grams, the K3 is definitely small and light to carry around. It’s definitely portable enough to bring around to use with your laptop computer.
The all-aluminium body of the FiiO K3 looks very good. A departure from their previous designs, FiiO has put rounded sides on the K3. The construction is excellent. All the knobs and buttons are well-made, and overall the whole body is very robust.
The FiiO K3 is connected and powered by USB Type-C. It’s good to see FiiO has made it a point to use the new interface, because now in 2019, Micro-USB is getting stale.
The USB Type-C port on the back is accompanied by a 3.5 mm line out jack, RCA jack for coaxial out, and TOSLINK optical out. There is also a slider switch to toggle between USB 1.0 or USB 2.0 audio.
With the coaxial output, the K3 supports up to 192k/24-bit and DSD64 DOP audio, while with the TOSLINK optical output, you get up to 96k/24-bit.
On the front, there is a large power and volume knob, a 2.5 mm audio jack for balanced output, a 3.5 mm audio jack for single-ended output, a gain mode switch, and a bass mode switch.
The gain switch allows you to choose between low gain and high gain, while the bass switch lets you turn on or off base boost. Bass boost adds about 6 dB to the bass to mid regions.
While in operation, there is some cool lighting around the volume knob. Different colours are used to indicate audio sources up to 48 kHz, at 48 kHz, or DSD playback. The knob feels very good and it allows for very precise volume adjustments, due to the use of ADC volume control.
Sound quality coming from the FiiO K3 is excellent. Music sounds more refined and open with my JH16 IEM. The background is absolutely quiet, while the bass is tight and controlled. It’s not hard to tell it’s an upgrade from the E10 or E10K. If you have been listening directly from the 3.5 mm headphone jack of your computer or laptop, comparing with the K3 will be like night and day.
You’ll probably get even more mileage with the 2.5 mm balanced connection. Unfortunately, I was unable to test that out.
Internally, the FiiO K3 uses an XMOS USB receiver chip, capable of decoding up to 384 kHz / 32-bit PCM and native DSD256. Digital processing is carried out by a highly-capable AKM AK4452 DAC, and output amplification is handled by 2x OPA926 amplifiers. The FiiO K3 can deliver 220 mW at 16Ω / 120 mW at 32Ω on the 3.5 mm single-ended output, or 320 mW at 16Ω / 200 mW at 32Ω on the 2.5 mm balanced output.
In the box, the FiiO K3 comes with a USB Type-A to Type-C cable, and plenty of rubber bumpers to stick on the K3. The rubber bumpers protect the K3 from whatever surface you place it on (or protect that surface from the K3).
The FiiO K3 is available at a recommended retail price of S$189 (including GST) at authorized retailers including AV One, Connect IT, Stereo Electronics, E1 Personal Audio and Treoo.com.
The FiiO K3 is a tiny, well-built, and very capable DAC that should impress most people looking to up the audio quality from their computers.
- Small, well-built, aluminium body
- Versatile modes (gain, bass, USB mode)
- DSD256 support
- Both single-ended and balanced outputs
There isn’t really a con to talk about with the FiiO K3.