Home Amp/DAC Guides FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. BTR15: The Good And Not So Good Changes

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. BTR15: The Good And Not So Good Changes

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

Today I thought I’d rank FiiO’s BTR series and give you the skinny on which of them is most worthy of a purchase in today’s overcrowded DAC market.

Think of this guide, similar to FiiO’s K Series, as a sticky post that will ebb and flow as I gain new experiences, adjust my recommendations, and so forth.

You can see what I’ve demoed here.

Companies typically come out with a lot of upgrades and also discontinue older units, and I’ll be here every step of the way to sort everything out for you.

Whether you’re just getting your feet wet with audio, or need a rock-solid recommendation, I got your back!

With that, let’s dive in shall we?

What Are They?

I suppose it would be helpful to clarify what exactly we’re working with here.

The BTR series from FiiO represents their portable Bluetooth DAC/Amp lineup, meaning they are combo units that function as both a digital-to-analog converter + headphone amplifier rolled into one.

If that wasn’t enough, you can also use these as a preamp into separate speakers like the Presonus Eris e3.5s via the 3.5mm headphone output jack. 

I tend to recommend things with tremendous value, and that’s why I’m excited to discuss these. They provide excellent bang for your buck, but which of them should you roll with?

Let’s take a gander.

#3

FiiO BTR3K

Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

In the Box

BTR3K

User Guide

Warranty Cards

Hard Plastic Case for on-the-go

Lanyard

USB-C Charging Cable

  • Profile/Sound: Fairly neutral

Specifications

  • Output Power (Unbalanced): Up to 30mW (32Ω), Up to 3.1mW (300Ω)
  • Output Impedance: < 1Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz (±0.5dB)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): ≥120dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: < 0.003% (1kHz)
  • Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Supported Bluetooth Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, LDAC
  • DAC: Dual AK4377A
  • USB DAC Functionality: Up to 384kHz/32bit (PCM), Native DSD up to DSD256
  • Battery Life: Up to 11 hours
  • Charging Time: Approximately 1.5 hours (DC 5V, 500mA)
  • Dimensions: 60.9mm x 19.1mm x 12.7mm (excluding back clip)
  • Weight: Approximately 23g

Profile/Sound: Fairly Neutral

  • Playlist For All 3 Discussed Today: Here

I first demoed the BTR3K alongside the venerable Koss KPH30i a few years back, and boy howdy it didn’t disappoint.

It’s certainly the smallest out of the lot, and unfortunately, outputs the least amount of power.

On the front, there’s a 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm jack for your headphones.

On the side,

we’ve got a power button, volume buttons, and a mic button for calls if you need to make a ransom handoff.

On the top,

there’s a USB-C charging port which you can also just plug into your laptop and listen to music with.

Just hold the top button to power the BTR3K on. It will cycle Red and Blue to indicate it’s waiting to pair.

Go into your phone’s settings and press search. It will show up as “FiiO BTR3K.”

Verdict

If you’re on a mega-tight budget and only have headphones with super low impedance/high sensitivity, the 3K is still a feasible option I suppose.

Just know that I’m not officially recommending it anymore because of the next item on the docket.

#2

FiiO BTR5

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

In The Box

FiiO BTR5 Portable DAC & Amplifier

USB Type-C Cable

2.5mm to 3.5mm Single-ended Adapter

Silicone Case

Lanyard

User Manual

 

At A Glance

  • Model: FiiO BTR5
  • Dimensions: 72mm x 32mm x 11mm
  • Weight: Approx. 43g
  • Body Material: Aluminum Alloy
  • DAC Chip: ES9219C*2
  • Output Power:
    • Balanced Output (2.5mm): 240mW (32Ω load)
    • Unbalanced Output (3.5mm): 80mW (32Ω load)
  • Output Impedance: Less than 1Ω
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): ≥120dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: <0.002% (1kHz, A-weighted)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz (-3dB)
  • Bluetooth Chip: Qualcomm CSR8675
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.0
  • Supported Codecs: aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC, SBC
  • Battery Capacity: 550mAh
  • Battery Life: Approx. 9 hours (single-ended) / 7.5 hours (balanced)
  • Charging Time: Approx. 1.5 hours (using 5V/500mA charger)
  • USB Port: USB Type-C (charging and data transfer)
  • Headphone Outputs: 2.5mm balanced, 3.5mm unbalanced
  • USB DAC: Up to 384kHz/32bit, DSD256
  • NFC Pairing: Yes
  • OLED Display: Yes

Profile/Sound: Fairly Neutral

The slightly larger BTR5 picks up where the 3K left off, only now you’re getting a lot more power in the package; 80mW into 32 Ohms and 90mW into 16 Ohms Single-ended, while the balanced jack supplies 240mW into both 16 and 32 Ohms.

Contrast that with the BTR3K:

  • Unbalanced provides only 25mW into a 32-Ohm load and 50mW into a 16-Ohm load.
  • For Balanced you’re looking at 78mW into 32 Ohm and 40mW into 16 Ohm.

That’s quite dismal, and thus why I have since retired the 3K from my recommendations.

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

With the BTR5, you’ll have plenty of headroom and won’t have to worry about maxing out with 99% of headphones.

The other thing you’ll notice is that the BTR5 is a bit heavier than the 3K and also larger in length, width, and height.

In addition to that,

the BTR5 displays sample rate, volume level, and battery level with a short press of the power button.

The 3K does not have this feature.

That said, I’ve talked ad nauseam on why DSD/high PCM doesn’t matter, and if you’re interested in that, click here.

Before I go on a rant, I’ll just say that 16/44, and 24/44 are perfectly fine and there’s no reason to pursue files above that.

Other than that, both the 3K and BTR5 gather plenty of fingerprints, have both 2.5mm and 3.5mm headphone outputs. both support up to 32-bit/384kHz as well as Native DSD up to 256, and both can be paired with 2 devices at once.

There’s a charging port on the bottom, a display, volume buttons, a reset button, a power button, and a call button.

Other Similarities

  • Both have the CSR8675 Bluetooth Chip
  • Both are BT5.0
  • Both have In-Line remote control support
  • Both support USB Type-C
  • Both are aluminum alloy+Glass
  • Both have an App control
  • Both support the same formats: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX LL

Differences

The displays on both are a bit different.

The 3K will flash blue twice while it’s waiting for a pair, but the BTR5’s display is mostly blank. The BTR3K is also Matrix OLED vs. the RGB LED of the BTR5.

Other Differences

USB Interface

  • BTR5: Xmos xuf208, 384kHz/32bit; DSD256
  • BTR3K: CSR

In simpler terms, CSR in a DAC stands for “Current Source Register.” It’s like a setting that controls how much electric current flows out of the digital-to-analog converter (DAC). This current determines the voltage of the analog signal produced by the DAC.

By adjusting the CSR register, you can precisely control the strength of the signal the DAC sends out, which is important for things like sound systems, measuring instruments, and other electronics where accuracy is key.

USB Audio Class

  • BTR5: Class 2
  • BTR3K: Class 1

Dual Audio Clock

  • BTR5: FGPA+45.1584M/49.152M
  • BTR3K: 24.576M/22.5792M

Gain

  • BTR5: Hi/Lo
  • BTR3K: No Gain Function

Noise Floor (Balanced Out)

  • BTR5: 3.3μV
  • BTR3K: 2μV

Crosstalk (Balanced Out)

  • BTR5: 123dB (1KHz)
  • BTR3K: 118dB (1KHz)

SNR (A-weighted)

  • BTR5: 121
  • BTR3K: 122

Phase Shift (Balanced Out)

  • BTR5: 0.08deg (10KHz)
  • BTR3K: 0.03deg (10KHz)

Battery

  • BTR5: 550mAh
  • BTR3K: 330mAh

Related: What Is An mAh Battery?

So yeah, there are some subtle differences between the 2 DACS, but at the end of the day, they have very little to no bearing on any real perceivable discrepancies in sound.

Speaking of discrepancies, does the BTR15 represent a significant change to the lineup?

#1

FiiO BTR15

Price: Check Amazon | Official Review: Here!

In The Box

1x BTR15

1x Type-C to Type-C Data Cable

1x USB-A To USB-C Adapter

1x Removable Back Clip

Quick Start Guide

Warranty Card

At A Glance

  • Bluetooth Chip: QCC5125 (CPU+DSP dual-core architecture)
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.1
  • USB Chip: XMOS XU316
  • DAC: ES9219MQ*2
  • Bluetooth Codecs: AAC/SBC/aptX/aptX LL/aptX Adaptive/aptX HD/LDAC
  • USB DAC: Asynchronous 384kHz/32bit, DSD256
  • USB DAC driver-free mode: Supported
  • Display: 0.96-inch 96×96 resolution OLED
  • Headphone outs: Single-ended 3.5mm + Balanced 4.4mm
  • Dimensions: About 32.0mmx72.2mmx12.5mm
  • Weight: About 37.3g
  • Charging Time: <2h
  • Battery: 550mAh high-temperature resistant lithium-ion
  • Battery Life: About 8 Hours
  • Output Power 1: L+R≥125mW+125mW (32Ω single-ended/THD+N < 1%)
  • Output Power 2: L+R≥15mW+15mW (300Ω single-ended/THD+N < 1%)
  • Output Power 3: L+R≥340mW+340mW (32Ω balanced/THD+N < 1%)
  • Output Power 4: L+R≥50mW+50mW (300Ω balanced/THD+N < 1%)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~50kHz (-0.8dB)
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥122dB (A-weighted)
  • Noise floor: PO < 2μV (A-weighted); BAL <2.7μV (A-weighted)
  • Output Impedance: PO < 1Ω (32Ω load), BAL < 1.5Ω (32Ω load)
  • THD+N: <0.0008% (1kHz/32kΩ)

Profile/Sound: Fairly Neutral

Differences

The BTR15 essentially looks about the same as the BTR5, with a few notable changes:

Balanced Output

FiiO went ahead and replaced their long-time 2.5mm jack with a 4.4, and I have no issues with it as most companies are following suit.

That is to say that 4.4 is becoming just about the most common way to enjoy a balanced connection through headphones. If it was a bit of a chore to listen this way a few years ago, it’s become easier than ever before.

Mode Switch

In addition, we now have a mode switch on the right side of the unit that provides 3 different options: PC, Phone (Wired), or Bluetooth (Wireless).

I like the convenience of this as it’s super simple to get up and running no matter where you are.

Weight

One difference I’m not too fond of is that the unit, while not feeling quite as cheap as the Hidizs S9 Pro, is notably lighter than the BTR5. This isn’t quite a dealbreaker, but let’s just say I’m not a fan.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about FiiO products is that they feel incredibly durable and built to last like Duralast.

The BTR15? Meh. It just feels a bit cheaper, but I’m probably not going to lose sleep over it.

Interface

The other thing that bothers me is the incredibly stone-age-looking text on the front.

It’s just.. ugly.

If that wasn’t enough, the front screen is visible as an unintentionally retro-looking box that looks like some throwback to the ’80s.

By contrast, the BTR5 was clean, elegant, and essentially disappeared into a uniform look when powered off or idle.

The BTR15, to me, is a pixely-looking mess, and I’m normally quite fond of the old-school/retro vibe.

Here it seems like an accident rather than a well-thought-out implementation.

I’m kind of nitpicking a little, but, being a snobby graphic designer, it’s something that immediately jumped out at me.

You feel me?

With all that said, yeah, it’s a bit easier to read, so if you’re 80 years old you’ll probably really like it.

Jack Placement

This is something I actually just noticed while taking the pictures for this review.

The 3.5mm and 4.4mm text for each of the jacks is upside down. Kind of a nitpick, but also kind of bothersome. Does it affect my listening experience? No. But it does seem a bit sloppy.

Glass

FiiO says the glass encompassing the unit is now “Dual Curved Glass” which has been hot-bent and embedded on both the front and rear of the unit.

From FiiO:

Not only does this make the device easier to hold, but it also gives the BTR15 a more attractive and 3D appearance. Together with the aluminum alloy middle frame, they make the BTR15 a comfortable device to handle – you won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up.<span class="su-quote-cite"><a href="https://www.fiio.com/BTR15" target="_blank">FiiO</a></span>

*extreme eye roll*

Yeah, that’s just a bunch of marketing speak but if you enjoy that sort of thing, more power to you I guess. To me, it doesn’t matter in the slightest and isn’t any easier to hold than the BTR5.

Note: I was able to put the unit back down. xD

Power Output

The BTR15 offers significantly more power both balanced and unbalanced, boasting 250mW at 32 Ohm vs. only 80 for the BTR5.

THD+Noise

The BTR15 comes in at <0.0008% vs. <0.002% for the BTR5. Inconsequential really, and doesn’t have any effect on sound as you’d never be able to notice such tiny % differences.

So, as with the BTR3K vs. BTR5 comparison, there are some differences between the BTR5 and 15, but again, nothing noteworthy enough to say there’s a definitive difference in “sound”.

What’s Stayed The Same

  • I’m not sure if the BTR5 was Asynchronous, but the BTR15 is, and all 3 (3K, 5, 15) support 32-bit/384kHz files + DSD256.
  • Both the BTR5 and BTR15 contain the ES9219 chip, but the implementation is a bit different. More on that in a sec.
  • Both have an Output Impedance of less than 1.
  • Both have a 550mAh battery.
  • Both utilize aluminum alloy bodies.
  • Both have mode features like Gain, Filter, EQ, Car Mode, etc. Just search “FiiO Control” in your App Store.
  • Both have a USB-C slot for connection to Phones and PCs.
  • Both can take calls.

Chip Implementation

The ES9219MQ and ES9219C chips are both digital-to-analog converters (DACs) developed by ESS Technology.

The 9219MQ chip is designed for mobile applications, featuring a compact form factor and low power consumption, making it suitable for smartphones and portable audio devices.

The 9219C chip is tailored for high-end audio equipment and offers enhanced performance characteristics, such as improved signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range, but the difference, specifically with regard to SNR, is rather small (2dB).

While both chips offer high-quality audio output, the ES9219C emphasizes premium audio performance, while the ES9219MQ prioritizes efficiency and portability.

Final Verdict

As much as I complained about the aesthetic/interface of the updated BTR15, the power output got a boost and I like the inclusion of the 4.4mm jack since that’s primarily how I listen balanced.

So there’s no real reason to recommend the BTR5 unless you’re one of those weirdos who still listens balanced via 2.5mm.

Hey, I’m not judging you. I still have a 2.5 cable for my HD600; so there’s that.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either the BTR5 or BTR15, but again, I’m not recommending the 3K anymore.

The BTR5 happens to be my #1 portable option, and even though the 15 edges it slightly in some ways, I still think the 5 is a fine purchase and I probably won’t go editing the dozens of articles and change anything – at least for now.

The difference in price between the 5 and 15 is something like $30 (Subject To Change), so just go with the one that fits your situation!

If you listen balanced via 4.4mm, go with the BTR15. If you listen balanced via 2.5mm, go with the BTR5.

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. BTR15 Shootout and came away with some valuable insight.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Could you see yourself with a BTR15? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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5 comments

Clark February 12, 2024 - 6:10 pm

Hi Stuart,

Great review! Can you also let me know which one of these have a better microphone?
I’ll get either BTR5 or BTR15, but as I search on the net seems it got a noise cancelling microphone on the BTR5 but not on the BTR15, cause I need to make phone calls with it on a noisy situation oftenly, thanks.

Best,
Clark

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 13, 2024 - 3:45 pm

Clark,

Thank you! What a great question. I actually gave the BTR5 to my mom so I don’t have it at the moment! I just reached out to FiiO and will let you know what they say!

-Stu

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 19, 2024 - 2:46 pm

Clark, FiiO was away for a week or so but I received a response to the email on 2/19. All they said is that “the BTR15 mic is a bit better.” Hope that helps!

Please let me know.

-Stu

Reply
Clark February 21, 2024 - 3:34 pm

Thanks Stuart, you really help me to decide, thanks a lot!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 21, 2024 - 4:51 pm

My pleasure man! Reach out any time.

-Stu

Reply

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