FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. DragonFly Red [Which Is Best For YOU?!]
Big shoutout to FiiO for sending this unit, and for their continued support! I am not being compensated for the review, just giving my thoughts and opinions.
1,995-word post, approx. 4-5 min. read
10/10/20. Article Posted.
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Is the BTR3K a sound investment for the on the go audiophile looking for a true wireless Amp/DAC solution? Does it make a good desktop Amp/DAC? How does it compare with the DragonFly Red sound wise? Is it powerful enough to drive most headphones?
All of these answers and more, comin’ up!
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Now, let’s talk about the FiiO BTR3K and compare it to the DragonFly Red and BTR5. Do keep in mind this won’t be a full A/B vs. the BTR5 as I haven’t received it yet, but we will talk about power output discrepancies between the 2 which is very important nonetheless.
Let’s dive in!
In the Box
Hard Plastic Case for on the go
USB-C Charging Cable
Build & Features
We’ll start with build and features. This wireless Bluetooth Amp/DAC is a little bit longer and larger than the fan-favorite DragonFly Red, but has a glossy finish that will leave more fingerprints than a dumb criminal at a murder scene.
It’s rather glassy and sleek looking. Most people will adore its small form factor and elegant look. If you don’t, you’re probably a weenie.
On the front, there’s a 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm jack for your headphones, and on the side, we’ve got a power button, volume buttons, and a mic button for calls if you need to make a ransom hand off.
On the top, there’s a USB-C charging port which you can also just plug into your laptop and listen to music with. More on that later.
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.”
Now we’re ready for la musica!
Any time the device has been completely disconnected (i.e. your phone is off, etc.) it will flash twice every 2 seconds. Just hold the second button from the top to re-enter pairing mode.
When you plug it into your laptop, it will flash blue twice every 2 seconds and land on red for 2 seconds. Now just look for it in your sound panel, select it, and play a track. It will then turn white. If you pause the track, it will resume the blue/red cycle after about 45 seconds to a minute. Play the song again and it goes back to white.
I’m not going to get into all the rest of the technical mumbo jumbo. Just read the manual, homie!
It’s really simple and straightforward. You can take calls with this thing, and it can pair to 2 separate devices at one time.
Yeah, that’s right you heard me correctly.
“Yo dog we heard you like listening to music at the same time someone else is on the same dac, so we made an amp/dac that allows you to listen to music at the same time someone is else on the same dac, and we made that joint wireless so you don’t even need wires neither.”
The BTR3K is super convenient for on the go homies as well.
You guys know me. I mostly listen to music at my desktop or when I’m at the gym, completely wireless with Bluetooth. I personally hate carrying around a phone and a DAC, and pretty much never do. The BTR3K is a product that I would absolutely carry around with me, and I do when I’m driving at night.
It even comes with a plastic belt clip. Just put the DAC inside the clip’s holder and attach it somewhere you know it won’t fall off. I attached it sideways to my belt loop and that seems to work really well when I’m sitting in my car seat.
Originally I tried to attach it vertically to my pants, but it kept popping out because I’m kind of fat, but only when sitting down alright!
Aside from that silliness, the BTR3K supports your standard codecs:
For SBC, a blue light pulsates when listening to music.
For AAC, Cyan.
For aptX or aptX LL, Purple (as in the case of my phone).
For aptX HD, Yellow.
And for LDAC, White.
But who cares about all that nonsense. How does it sound!?! Tell me how it souuuuuuuuunds!!
The sound of the BTR3K is fairly neutral to my ears but does have a touch of warmth. It mostly does sound about the same as the DragonFly, but you’ll notice the Fly is a bit more open and cool sounding.
By and large, the BTR3K bears many of the same similarities as it’s older brothers: E10K, K3, and K5 Pro. Just steady, solid, great sound. Detailed, crisp, lively, and clean.
The vocals on the DragonFly Red seem to be a bit more prominent than they are on the BTR. They’re pushed slightly more forward. This is still a very minor discrepancy and may be my imagination.
Still, I find the sound of the BTR uncomfortably close to being just as good sound-wise. If I’m being honest, it pretty much is. There’s nothing about the more expensive Fly that I would say is better than the cheaper FiiO.
In fact, the BTR3K has quite a lot going for it:
It’s small, compact, and lightweight. You can carry it anywhere.
You don’t need an adapter for your phone should you want to pair it on the go. If you have a phone with aptX HD (or any other superior codec), it’s quite close to having Hi-Fi, audiophile quality sound in your pocket.
It can be used with your laptop, which is my preferred method.
It can take calls.
It has a 2.5mm balanced jack. That’s a great feature for these newer up and coming snobs who won’t settle for anything less than the best!
Lastly, you can download the FiiO control app and you’ve got a super slick interface at your fingertips. Adjust the EQ, volume, and customize the DAC in many other ways just using your phone.
It also utilizes volume control separate from your source’s volume. From Soundphile:
Volume adjustment is independent from the source device, whether the BTR3K is connected via Bluetooth or USB. In both cases it keeps its own volume that’s distinct from that of the source; this is especially useful if your device does not have fine-grained volume levels.Riccardo Robecchi, Soundphile
The only thing I can think of that the Fly provides that the BTR doesn’t is more power unbalanced. Soundwise? The 3K sounds just as good at roughly $130 less. It’s pretty astounding actually. Yes, the Red is a bit more refined; female vocals sound a tad more fleshed out and articulate. The overall sound is a little more revealing and clear, like a cold water splash in the morning.
But like I’ve said a thousand times in other articles and videos, you’re not going to know or even care. I’m afforded the luxury of being able to discern these marginal differences because of all the gear I have at my disposal.
Even with the Koss at a somewhat higher 60 Ohm impedance, you’ll notice yourself pushing the volume more so than you would with something in the 32 Ohm ballpark. With the 9600, I’m at 28/32.
I tried the HD600 with it, and while it does get loud enough, you’re maxed out with no headroom. Not the most ideal scenario, as you’ll most certainly want to raise the volume some more.
The 3K pushes 25mW at 32 Ohm.
Balanced is 78mW at the same impedance.
For comparison’s sake, the BTR5 provides 80mW at 32 Ohm, and 220mW balanced. For that, you’ll have to spend an extra $30-40.
Even for people who don’t utilize the 2.5mm jack, the 3K is still a tremendous value and will work with a plethora of different headphones and IEMs. With a balanced cable? What more could you ever ask for at a measly $70 (approximately). It’s a snap purchase if I’ve ever heard of one.
There are many products I’ve come across in my time demoing audiophile gear. There aren’t many that I could see myself owning and using for long periods of time.
The 3K happens to be an Amp/DAC that would get a ton of use from me outside of my studio, and for that it’s invaluable. In fact, the only thing I could think of during my time listening with it was: “Man this packaged with a KPH30i would make a fantastic Christmas gift for my family and friends.” People who don’t really care about hard to drive audiophile headphones.Those looking for an incredible overall package and value. It’s just a match made in heaven, really.
For less than $100, you’ve got a pretty insane set up that rivals a lot of higher priced gear. Please though, do NOT buy this unit if you plan to power more demanding headphones. For that, look at the BTR5.
So, what are you waiting for? Click on over to my store and check out some of the idealists. I’ll have this BTR3K and KPH30i linked there as well.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. DragonFly Red comparison/review/shootout thingie-ma-bob, and are better equipped to make a purchasing decision!
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Could you see yourself with a BTR3K? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.