Home Amp/DAC Comparisons FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 [Which Is Best For YOU?!]

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 [Which Is Best For YOU?!]

We'll also cover the DragonFly Red and iFi's Go Blu in this portable DAC comparison

by Stuart Charles Black
FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

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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. 

Updates:

  • 10/10/20. Article Posted.
  • 2/2/21. Article/link cleanup.
  • 2/10/22. BTR5 impressions added. Images coming soon.
  • 2/14/22. Images added.

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Table of Contents

Click to navigate the article!

FiiO BTR3K Overview
FiiO BTR5 Overview
BTR3K vs. DragonFly Red
BTR3K vs. BTR5
BTR3K/5 vs. Go Blu
Final Word
Photo Gallery

Today we’re going to take a look at the BTR3K and see how it compares with the BTR5. We’ll also throw in comparisons to the DragonFly Red and iFi’s Go Blu which seems to be a close competitor to FiiO’s Bluetooth on the go variety of dacs that have been very popular as of late.

Towards the end, I will provide a value judgment and tell you which I’d personally go with!

Let’s dive in!

FiiO BTR3K

Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H!

In the Box

BTR3K

User Guide

Warranty Cards

Hard Plastic Case for on the go

Lanyard

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.

People who don’t like the form factor of the BTR3K tend to look like this.^

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 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. 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!

FiiO BTR3K Review

FiiO BTR3K Review

Glassy and classy asf.

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 two separate devices at one time.

Say whaaaaat?!?

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 on 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.

FiiO BTR3K Review

Let’s take a look at the BTR5.

FiiO BTR5

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos! | Check B&H!

In the Box

BTR5

Quick Start Guide

Warranty Card

Hard Plastic Case for on the go

USB-C Charging Cable

USB-C to USB-C Cable

Differences

Right off the bat, you’ll notice the obvious elephant in the room – the BTR5 has a lot more power than the 3K. With my 400se and 3K, I’m pretty much maxed out. There are perhaps 1 or 2 volume clicks of headroom left.

Specs indicate that the BTR3K Unbalanced provides 25 mW into a 32-Ohm load and 50 mW into a 16-Ohm load.
For Balanced you’re looking at 78 mW into 32 Ohm and 40 mW into 16 Ohm.

By contrast, the BTR5 provides 80mW into 32 Ohms and 90mW into 16 Ohm Single-ended, while the balanced jack supplies 240mW into both 16 and 32 Ohm.

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

What you will be doing is maxing and relaxing, but we’ll get to that soon so chill tf out for now okay?

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 upon a short press of the power button. The 3K does not have this feature.

Also, the 3K only supports up to 16-bit/48kHz while the BTR5 boasts 32-bit/384 as well as DSD. Related: What Is DSD In Audio?

While I do value higher bit-depth (more information being sampled), the sample rate is a little more tricky and files around 48kHz may be all you ever need given the Nyquist Shannon Theorem.

In other words, companies may advertise higher sample rates as a way to indirectly say “The product performs better”, but it’s much harder for our brains to process/perceive speeds that high due to the limitations of human hearing.

Similarities

Both are seasoned fingerprint gatherers, both have 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended connections for your headphones, both can be paired with 2 devices at once, and both generally function in about the same ways.

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

A small note of difference is 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.

As for the rest of the functions, I’ll just attach an image as it’s all in the quick start guide and fairly self-explanatory.

But who cares about all that nonsense. How does it sound!?! Tell me how it souuuuuuuuunds!!

Sound

BTR3K vs. DragonFly Red

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.

FiiO BTR3K Review

By and large, the BTR3K bears many of the same similarities as its 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 maybe 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 so, with the 3k you’ll mostly want to stick with lower impedance, higher sensitivity cans like the Philips SHP9500/9600, Koss KPH30i, M50x, etc.

FiiO BTR3K Review

The gang’s all here.

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.

BTR3K vs. BTR5

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

It’s interesting to me that the BTR5 boasts an ESS9219C chip because, in theory, it should sound cleaner and more sterile than the BTR3K’s AK4377A.

I’m not sure if this specific ESS chip is a bit different from the one present in the DragonFly, but the point is that I didn’t hear much in the way of sound difference between the 2.

Foxing’s “Night Channels” may sound ever so slightly more lively and with perhaps a tad too much sheen over hi-hats and cymbals, but it’s extremely subtle and won’t be discernable to the majority of people. Upon further listening, I noticed that this trend has continued.

The Foreign Exchange’s “Come Around”, a song I’m very familiar with, sounds more lively during the intro. The BTR5 seems to push the instruments forward whereas the BTR3K’s sound feels a tad recessed and a bit more laid back.

Ultimately it’s still very subtle and probably won’t matter much to the majority of people and I could just be imagining it knowing the BTR5 houses the ESS chip. It’s hard to say. If you have experience with these, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

BTR3K/5 vs. Go Blu

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

Again, not too much in the way of difference in sound here, which is again, rather surprising. I did hear a slightly clearer presentation with the DragonFly Red, but that’s to be expected and my impressions of that have remained constant for a few years now.

The Go Blu, even with its Burr Brown chip, sounds remarkably similar to the BTR3K/5. For this comparison, I used Chelsea Cutler’s “Deserve This”, a well-recorded track with clear vocals and not too much going on in the intro.

What I found was that her voice sounded exactly the same on the Go Blu, BTR3K, and BTR5. The 3K may come across a tad warmer than the Blu, but it’s almost a wash.

I went back and forth for quite a while and my impressions didn’t change much at all, so I’m not going to overthink it and neither should you.

The ultimate point I’m trying to make with regard to the sound of these 4 is that I would likely have a pretty tough time determining which is which if I was blindfolded. I could probably point out the DragonFly Red, but the other 3 would be a lot tougher to sort.

In other words, again, it doesn’t matter much. We’ll make a value judgment based on price and features to determine which of these is the best purchase.

Final Word

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

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.

While the 3K is a great value and was my previous choice, I think I’d rather have the extra power/headroom that the BTR5 provides. In other words, if you bought the 3K because it’s cheaper, you’d likely upgrade later anyways after needing the power for more demanding headphones.

The DragonFly Red is around $200 and I tend to recommend it a lot, but you may opt to save some money here and go with the BTR5.

Likewise, the Go Blu is around the same price and does provide the XSpace and XBass, but those aren’t worth $70 especially considering XSpace essentially changes nothing within the sound profile.

So, interested in a well-priced Bluetooth DAC?

 

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. DragonFly Red vs. iFi Go Blu comparison/review/shootout thingie-ma-bob, and are better equipped to make a purchasing decision!

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 BTR5? 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!!

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Photos..

Photo Gallery

Click to see it in action!

FiiO BTR3K Review
The gang's all here.
FiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K ReviewFiiO BTR3K Review

BTR5 Update

FiiO BTR3K

4.8

Build

5.0/5

Features

5.0/5

Sound Quality

5.0/5

Value/Accessories

5.0/5

Power Output

4.0/5

Pros

  • Neutral, clean sound
  • Extremely versatile
  • 2.5mm and 3.5mm options
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Pretty insane value for the price

Cons

  • Power output a bit low unbalanced

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6 comments

C July 12, 2021 - 10:12 pm

Wow, great article. I had bought the HD6XX due to one of your youtube videos and had bought the Dragon red. I started reading your articles and they seem a lot more in-depth. Now I have 2 days to return my dragon red if I wanted to. So for the HD6XX and future proof I wanted to run it by you if that BTR3 is the best choice. I was thinking of BTR5K to get the best out of the HD6XX but unsure if that is even necessary. Also, read on Reddit the BTR5 doesn’t connect to the PS4 or Nintendo Switch, unlike the BTR3? Hopefully, I’ll get a response soon enough.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 13, 2021 - 1:35 pm

Hey C!

Thank you so much. Means a lot as I’ve been working diligently to craft better articles and content. This article will actually be updated/made better. The camera is kind of on its last legs but hopefully, I’ll be getting a new one soon.

The 3 definitely has less power than the Red. If you’re going to switch, I’d go for the BTR5 for sure. I wouldn’t take any chances with a 6XX although you could probably get away with it. I don’t have the 6XX on hand now but I plugged in my HD600 into the 3k and it’s comfortably loud enough but you won’t have any headroom. A lot of people including myself can stand no headroom lol. If that sounds okay to you, go for it, but I’d get a 5.

For PS4 and Switch, have you considered a G6?

Reply
C July 13, 2021 - 9:12 pm

O.K that’s what I thought. I was hoping the 3 would do fine for portability purposes with a Switch. I saw your other videos and made the G6 my top pick for desktop/semi-portable amp/dac; Mainly for my laptop. Don’t remember from the article/video if can connect to a receiver though? Overall I think it will still fit my main needs and price area. But, popping that puppy out on the plane and carrying it around can be a bit much lol. But returning the DFR and getting the BTR5 gives me a $100 savings. BOOYA!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 14, 2021 - 2:27 pm

Haha yeah! I may actually start recommending the BTR5 a bit more as it’s more versatile and affordable than the Red, but I still love the Red. Both share the Sabre ESS chip IIRC which is interesting considering FiiO mainly opts for the AKM varieties but there was that whole thing with the fire as well lol (at the AKM manufacturing facility). I think that happened after if I’m not mistaken.

Keep me posted on the G6! It’s actually super easy to carry around because it’s small, light, and completely plug and play. That’s one of the main reasons I love it so much.

Reply
Chris W February 13, 2022 - 1:27 am

Great article Stuart, thank you. Amazingly timely and super helpful as I am in the midst of deciding between iFi Go Blu, BTR3K, and BTR5. Price is a consideration but in the context of my intended use case which is primarily to drive IEMs while in transit or flying where portability and battery life are strong factors though I will also use it with my laptop as well. Did you test with any IEMs or was it mostly cans’. Your comment on power/headroom has me thinking.

your tests are with cans vs IEMs, is that right?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 14, 2022 - 4:16 pm

Hey man, thank you! And my pleasure. My tests were with cans. Generally speaking, IEMs are pretty efficient but which ones do you have? If you have something with a high Sensitivity rating you may only need a BTR3K. If you do plan on using the DAC with actual headphones, I’d definitely get a BTR5 unless your cans are also very efficient. Most stuff I use isn’t and/or has a high impedance so the BTR3K is not really an option. It gets loud enough but as mentioned in the article, I’m mostly maxing out and have only a couple of ticks of headroom left.

Reply

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