Fresh from the folks at FiiO, the K3 offers a small but competent USB DAC for serious listeners. At $109.99, it won’t break the bank, either. But is there a downside to this diminutive device?
FiiO K3 Review
Packaged in a low-key cardboard box, the K3 comes with a USB-C cable and some rubber feet for the bottom of the DAC.
Largely plug-and-play, once plugged into my PC, the DAC is almost immediately ready for action. A switch on the rear of the unit allows the user to set the player to USB 1.0 or 2.0 connection, depending on their setup.
Input comes only in the form of USB-C, but the K3 includes outputs for optical, coax, and a standard 3.5mm line out. All of these ports are located on the back of the unit, while the front of the K3 features headphone outputs and a volume knob.
Alongside the usual 3.5mm headphone out port, there’s also a 2.5mm balanced output. A large volume knob on the right side of the K3’s front faceplate seems to draw attention. The recessed LED light – which changes depending on audio source or lack of signal – helps with this effect.
In between the volume dial and the headphone outputs, a switch for gain and a switch for bass boost allow the user to adjust the volume output and low end of the DAC.
Internally, the FiiO K3 utilizes an XMOS USB receiver chip, allowing it to decode 384 kHz/32 bit PCM and Native DSD 256.
Working in tandem with the receiver chip, an AKM AK4452 chip handles decoding, with 32-bit VELVET SOUND technology.
You can peruse the full specs here. However, here’s our quick breackdown of the most importance specs:
- wide frequency range of 20-80,000 Hz
- low Total Harmonic Distortion at ≤0.004%
- decent power for even 250-ohm headphones like the Beyerdynamic Amiron
If the FiiO K3 seems impressive on the surface, it appears even more so once you’re listening with it. Because, just like any good DAC, the FiiO K3 seems to do its job and get out of the way. Instead of listening to the DAC, you listen to your music – with all the fidelity that the K3 has to offer.
Vocals sound precise and articulate – as much so as my usualy go-to midrange DAC, the FiiO Q5. The low end seems a little bit thick for a FiiO DAC, but refreshingly so, with just a little extra warmth. Despite this bit of extra attention to detail in the lows, the highs retain the usual amount of detail – sparkling and clean, with a natural glow that heightens strings and vocals.
For $109.99, the FiiO K3 amounts to an impressive bargain. I enjoy using it more than the Audioquest Dragonfly Black, which only costs $99 but sounds more veiled and less detailed. If you’re in the market for a $100 DAC/amp, the FiiO K3 probably gives you the best sound in that price range.
Of course, the biggest competitor here would probably be FiiO’s own Q1 Mk II DAC/amp. While more suited for portable or mobile use, it lacks the same power output as the K3, making it less suitable for larger, more power-hungry cans.
I’m usually impressed by FiiO’s solid bang-for-buck ratio, and the K3 is no disappointment in that regard. At $109.99, this inexpensive DAC/amp punches well outside its weight class for an impressive listening experience. The added outputs and the ability to decode up to Native DSD256 makes the K3 a potent hub for inexpensive audio setups, too.
Our take? Snag the FiiO K3 and start enjoying this impressive DAC as soon as possible.
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