Why Buzz.ie fell in love with the Fiio K3 headphone amp and DAC
Listening to music on a computer, mobile phone or tablet is often a frustrating and less than pleasurable experience.
That can be the case even with an expensive set of top quality headphones.
Smartphones have become incredibly powerful computers capable of so much – but even those that cost in excess of €1,000 paired with a €400 set of headphones struggle with decent audio delivery.
There is a simple solution. Invest in a separate headphone amp or digital analogue converter (known as a DAC).
Yes, it’s another device to remember to carry around, but if you like your tunes it’s well worth the effort.
I’ve recently been testing the K3 from Fiio, a Chinese company founded in 2007 that now offers a wide range of audiophile products.
The K3 costs less than €100 but it will revolutionise your audio experience. It works as a headphone DAC/amp combo or as a straight DAC for an external amp or speakers.
This compact little machine fits in the palm of your hand. It is about half the size of a smartphone and comes with Hi-Res audio certification.
The unit weighs just 82g so you won’t notice it when carrying around.
It looks sleek, with curved edges and a robust all-metal construction.
To use the K3, just connect your phone, tablet, Mac or PC to it and then connect it to your headphones.
It is powered directly from the USB Type-C connector that connects to your computer, tablet or phone.
There is no requirement for an additional power supply.
You can use the K3 with your computer or phone and plug in your IEMs or headphones, but you can also use it to output to an external amplifier or speakers.
In USB 1.0 mode the K3 supports many older computers and phones and works as a plug and play device.
You’ll get best results with a higher quality set of headphones. Your music will be transformed and will never be short of volume. The high output comes with low noise and low distortion.
You will notice the cleaner background, the wider soundstage and the increased audio quality and richer detail.
Bass is tighter and the mids and top ends are both sharper and more rounded. Stereo separation seems enhanced.
Lower end can be boosted by 6db with the bass boost on. It is a useful feature, but it’s not one you will need to use all the time.
There is an LED on the front that indicates the sample rate the K3 is playing. It lights blue when the source material is up to 48 kHz, yellow when it is above 48 kHz and green during DSD playback.
There are two headphone port options: 2.5 mm balanced output and standard 3.5 mm single-ended output.
You can also use the K3 as a digital connection between your computer and receiver or amp using the optical out or coaxial out ports.
The device comes with a USB Type-C cable. The K3 may be designed primarily for desktop use, but it is one of my favourite portable gadgets of 2019 so far.
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp costs £84.99 from Amazon.co.uk