Home Amps/DACS FiiO K11 Review: An Unbeatable Value In 2024?

FiiO K11 Review: An Unbeatable Value In 2024?

by Stuart Charles Black
>AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.<

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

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

In this FiiO K11 review, we’ll discuss everything from build, features, sound, versatility, how it compares with other DACS, its overall value in the current overcrowded market, and more.

By the time you’re finished reading the article, you’ll have a clear understanding of the K11 and if it’s ultimately worth a purchase.

If it’s not, I’ll point you in the direction of something that is.

Deal? Cool.

Let’s dive in!

FiiO K11

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

In The Box

FiiO K11 Desktop USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)

USB-A to USB-C Cable

Power Adapter

Power Cable

1/4″ Headphone Adapter

Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty

FiiO K11 Review

FiiO K11 Review

Specifications

  • Colors: Obsidian Black, Midnight Silver
  • Main Control Chip (single-chip microcomputer): GD32F303RET6
  • DAC: CS43198
  • Supported Audio Formats: 384kHz/32-Bit PCM, DSD256
  • USB Connector: Type-C
  • Display Type: Custom LCD
  • Dimensions: 147x133x32.3 mm
  • Weight: Around 407g
  • Power Supply: DC 12V 2A external adapter
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 50kHz (Attenuation < 0.2dB)
  • SNR: ≥123dB (A-weighted)
  • Noise Floor: PO < 2.8uV (A-weighted); BAL < 4.9uV (a-weighted)
  • Output Impedance: PO < 1.2Ω (32Ω load); BAL < 2.4Ω (32Ω load)
  • THD+N: LO < 0.00035% (1kHz/10kΩ)

Power

  • Single-ended: 520mW @ 32Ω, THD+N <1%) (32Ω/single-ended/high gain)
  • Single-ended: 60mW @ 300Ω, THD+N <1%) (300Ω/single-ended/high gain)
  • Balanced: 1400mW (32Ω, THD+N < 1%) (32Ω, THD+N <1%) (32Ω/balanced/high gain)
  • Balanced: 250mW (300Ω, THD+N <1%) (300Ω/balanced/high gain)

What Is It?

FiiO K11 Review

FiiO K11 ReviewThe FiiO K11 is a truly balanced Headphone Amplifier + DAC rolled into one.

Continuing FiiO’s long line of K Series products, the K11 is the latest in a group that includes the K3, K5 Pro, K7, K9, and K9 Pro iterations; all of which are Amp/DAC combos.

The DAC portion of the K11, otherwise known as a Digital-To-Analog Converter, takes the 1s and 0s that your computer understands (binary) and converts them into language that your brain can understand (analog).

The amplifier portion amplifies the sound for your listening enjoyment.

If you’re a beginner reading this, an Amp/DAC combo is convenient because you don’t have to worry about purchasing the components separately.

Build & Aesthetic

FiiO K11 Review

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the K11 is how slim, sleek, and utilitarian it looks, resembling a JDS ATOM 2 in appearance, only smaller.

Opting for a simpler design than their ever-popular K5 Pro/K7 models, the K11 is smaller in stature, weighs less, and looks incredibly modern.

In fact, if you’re an Apple slob, you’ll probably really appreciate its minimalist appeal and clean overall look.

On the underside, you’ll find a built-in rubber pad in the shape of an Octagon which helps prevent the unit from sliding around.

FiiO K11 ReviewFiiO K11 Review

After testing the K11 out for a few weeks, I think the pad works very well but certainly isn’t perfect. Because it’s on the light-ish side, it will move a little from time to time.

The top reveals FiiO’s newly designed logo; an RGB-illuminated configuration containing Six LED Strips that change color according to sample rate.

The brightness, color, and light patterns are all adjustable using the Multi-function knob/encoder on the front of the unit as well.

Front Panel

FiiO K11 Review

FiiO K11 Review

FiiO K11 ReviewSpeaking of, the front panel contains the 6.35mm, and 4.4mm headphone jacks in addition to the LCD screen which allows you to view sampling rate, volume, gain, or output mode.

The volume potentiometer on the far right, as just alluded to, acts as a volume knob + Multi-function knob.

 

Let’s dive in and learn more about how it works.

To start, make sure the supplied Power Adapter is plugged in. Depending on your source, you’ll either be using the supplied USB-C to USB-A cable for connection to a PC/Laptop, or an Optical Cable for use with a console.

Note: FiiO does not include an optical cable in the package.

The K11 works with PS3 and PS4 per my tests, but it’s also compatible with PS5 and Switch according to FiiO’s website.

For consoles like the PS3 and PS4, simply run an optical cable from the back of the console into the K11’s optical input. There is no need for a USB connection if using it this way.

Just make sure you’re in the right mode. For optical, it should be set to PO (Pre-Out) mode.

To turn on the unit, press and hold the Volume Pot. A long press also turns it off.

FiiO K11 Review

 

To cycle through modes, press and hold again to enter the menu settings.

From here you have a bevy of options at your disposal.

Use the volume dial to cycle through the different modes. Once you’re on a mode you want to adjust, press once.

Now use the dial again to adjust inside that mode.

Let’s use the RGB Lighting Mode as an example.

The LED light feature contains modes 0-8.

  • 0 = Sample Rate Format.
  • 1 = Red
  • 2 = Blue
  • 3 = Cyan
  • 4 = Purple
  • 5 = Yellow
  • 6 = White
  • 7 = Green
  • 8 = Colors Cycle

This is a cool feature that adds a bit of flair to the experience, and yeah, I’m talkin’ about Ric.

 The following 2 modes are pulse and brightness respectively, so FiiO went all out with the customization here.

For brightness, there are 5 settings, and Pulse can either be turned on or off.

Aside from that, there are a plethora of modes to experiment with, all of which follow the same protocol as above:

Filt: Digital Filter

Options include the following:

  • Minimum phase fast roll-off filter,
  • Fast roll-off, phase-compensated filter
  • Minimum phase slow roll-off filter
  • Slow roll-off, phase-compensated filter
  • Wideband flatness filter
  • Non-over-sampling filter

UAC: USB Working Mode

Options include UAC1.0 and UAC2.0

LCD-b: Display Brightness

Options include 1-3 levels adjustable

LCD-T: Screen Timeout

Options include 1/2/5/10/30 minutes adjustable, “0” means constantly on.

Update: Firmware update entrance

Short press the volume knob to enter the menu.

Select “Y” (yes) on the “Y/N” menu to enter the firmware update mode.

RESET: Factory reset

Short press the volume knob to enter the menu.

Select Select “Y” (yes) on the “Y/N” menu to factory reset the K11.

FW Vxxx

Firmware Version

RETURN

Return to the homepage.

Back Panel

FiiO K11 Review

The back contains a pair of RCA line outputs for use with separate speakers like the Presonus Eris e3.5 or you can also use the K11 as just a DAC into a separate headphone amplifier.

Next to that is the Coaxial in/out which facilitates the connection of devices like CD/DVD players, gaming consoles, or soundcards through a coaxial cable, allowing the transmission of digital audio signals for enhanced audio quality and compatibility with various audio sources.

Beside that is the optical input which functions similarly to the coax.

Finally, on the leftmost side are the USB-C input and DC 12V power jack.

Power Output

First off, the K11 has more than enough power for any headphones you may have lying around.

Let’s get into specifics:

  • Single-ended: 520mW @ 32Ω, THD+N <1%) (32Ω/single-ended/high gain)
  • Single-ended: 60mW @ 300Ω, THD+N <1%) (300Ω/single-ended/high gain)
  • Balanced: 1400mW (32Ω, THD+N < 1%) (32Ω, THD+N <1%) (32Ω/balanced/high gain)
  • Balanced: 250mW (300Ω, THD+N <1%) (300Ω/balanced/high gain)

If you haven’t jumped on the balanced bandwagon, you probably should!

Never before has it been easier to listen this way, and yes, there is a marked difference.

Resolution, timbre, and overall separation of sounds all get a fairly significant boost + you’re getting the added benefit of more power and headroom. 

What’s not to like?

Sound

FiiO K11 Review

Speaking of things to like, you’ll really enjoy the black background that the K11 provides for your headphones.

Because it has an advertised output impedance of less than 1.2 Ohm, you’ll be getting a signal that’s neutral, clean, and free from distortion.

Comparisons

Before we get into some comparisons, I want to make a few things clear for those who are new, based on my personal experience with 65+ amps and dacs as well as utilizing my common sense.

Be very wary of reviewers who use lots of word salad when describing the “sound” differences between DACs and amps.

This is a huge red flag because it essentially means they are placing all the emphasis on the DAC being responsible for what they’re hearing and not the source file and headphones.

In reality, a DAC/Amp has very little bearing on what you’re hearing. Its job is to convert information and simply portrays what’s already there, good or bad. 

So when you hear or read something along the lines of “The K11 (or any DAC) really opened up the Soundstage”, or “It really improved the Timbre” or something equally as asinine, I’m telling you right now that it’s a load of rubbish and those people are Grade-A wankers; likely looking to make a quick buck off you.

K11 vs. ATOM 2

JDS Labs ATOM 2 ReviewIs it as clean as the ATOM 2? 

I’d have to say no.

In switching back and forth, you can clearly hear the ATOM 2 comes across as a bit more transparent and open, but the difference is pretty subtle and you’d never know unless you have a bunch of amps lying around to compare (as I do).

That said, I do prefer the “sound” of the ATOM FWIW; i.e. I enjoy a very clean, somewhat sterile but not too cold, sound out of my Amps.

In other words, I like to hear everything in its most raw state. 

Your mileage may vary, so if you’re like me, go with the ATOM. If you like a smidgen more warmth, the K11 is great and still very neutral overall.

K11 vs. iFi Zen/Zen V2

iFi Zen DAC V2 Review

These 2 sound very very similar – almost identical actually, and in my mind, it’s because both have a pretty similar output impedance; a factor that does greatly affect “sound” differences between DACs.

K11 vs. Universal Audio Volt 2

Again, very similar “sound” here, and not much else to comment on.

K11 vs. K7

FiiO K7 Review

Earlier I used the ATOM as the amp and K7 as the DAC using LO (Line-Out). Here I switched the K7 to PO (Pre-Out) and used its amp section.

The sound is almost identical to the K11.

K11 vs. DragonFly Red

The difference here is similar to the difference between the ATOM 2 and K11. That is, the DragonFly is going to sound a bit colder/more sterile/neutral by contrast.

The Sabre chip, to me, is another factor that plays into the slight “sound” differences between DACS, and I’ve been saying as much for many years now.

It’s subtle, but the K11 is ever so slightly less open, crisp, etc.

Please remember that in the grand scheme of listening to music, these subtleties are of little consequence, but they can and will manifest in small ways.

Gaming Impressions

I tested the K11 with an old favorite in Fallout 3 for PS3 and played some COD4 remastered on PS4.

In both scenarios, you can expect more of the same; a clean, transparent sound output and an honest representation of gunfire, explosions, dialogue, etc.

Potential Drawbacks

FiiO K11 Review

Clipping Issue

Apparently, if you play “Retronik” by The Swing Bot, there’s a clipping issue, and it also applies to heavy bass drops and/or scenes in movies with loud sounds.

The user claims that every bass hit gets “censored” by the amp.

I went ahead and tested this with every single amp I compared above, and there’s no issue. The song sounds exactly the same through each device.

So I don’t know what that’s about. Perhaps he got a lemon or it’s just some sort of strange placebo.

Delay

Another claim is that there is a delay when you press play, with the K11 taking around 2 seconds to start.

I can confirm that this is true. It only happens when switching from a different source (i.e. DragonFly, or any amp) back to the K11. After that, playback is normal.

And yes, despite this being a small caveat, I believe FiiO should fix it via Firmware Update.

Windows OS Volume Control

Something interesting I read on Amazon is that if you connect the K11 to a Windows PC via USB, the Windows volume control doesn’t work.

I tried the K11 and some other DACS and can confirm this is also true, but it may or may not matter much to you. For me, it’s not a big deal, but again, your mileage may vary.

Value Verdict & Closing Thoughts

FiiO K11 ReviewAll of the following is super important, so stick with me and listen as I unpack everything.


Well, FiiO has done it yet again, and I’m starting to get REAL tired of having to adjust my recommendations. xD

If you’re familiar with my philosophy, I always recommend DACS specifically based on value; i.e. how versatile the unit is and how it’s priced in comparison to other products. This will never change because it’s something that I truly believe in. 

In other words, I have a zero-tolerance policy for overpriced crap, so if you’re ever in the market for something, come here first and I’ll give you the real 411.

Example:

The Burson Playmate 2, AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, and Hidizs S9 Pro all share the same 9038Q2M chip; a highly sought-after DAC chip in audio and one that I do prefer based on some of the things we discussed in this article. 

Outside of that, the “sound” of a DAC, to me, is almost completely arbitrary and I clarified my thoughts on why in the comparison section.

So, if the Burson is upwards of $600, the DragonFly Cobalt is $300, and the S9 Pro is around $120, which one do you think I’m going to recommend?

But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is that the K11 dumps on pretty much all DACS in this general price range due to price alone.

FiiO K11 Review

For a measly $130, you’re getting a truly balanced system, neutral profile, with a convenient front-lit interface/display, RCA outs, an optical input, a coaxial input, and a combo unit (Amp/DAC rolled into one), in addition to all the nifty extras we discussed earlier (cherries on top, sure, but I’m a still a sucker for things that light up).

It also requires no drivers in USB DAC mode for Windows 10.

If you’ll recall, the 1st edition iFi Zen has a similar feature set and originally retailed at the same $130 price point. I recommended it for some years until iFi decided to bump the price up to around $200.

To me, FiiO is a lot like HIFIMAN, in that, they typically offer much better prices for audio things that have become fairly ubiquitous.

That is to say that in this day and age, there’s no reason you should have to spend a lot of money on an entry-level DAC anymore.

A DAC to me is about as common as a can of Coke; they’re everywhere and all pretty much have the same general ingredients.

Now, is this a huge problem?

In my opinion, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t weed through the sea of oblivion to find worthy products.

That’s what I’m here for and also what I’ve become known for. 

If you’re new and reading this, I hope I’ve shed some light on the industry and why it’s important to understand what goes on behind the scenes.

In other words, yeah, the K11 is cool, but it’ll probably be replaced soon.

There’s nothing I can do about the problem of oversupply, but for now, the K11 is a fantastic option and the one to get if you want to save some money.

Of course, this may change in the future, and I’ll update the article if something better (read: cheaper) comes along.

That said,

Does FiiO have me by the balls?

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Sure they do. I sell around 15-20 K5 Pros a month, so I’m pretty sure they leverage any influence I have to sell newer products at cheaper prices.

And I’m fine with that because I’m not shilling overpriced trash to people. As long as they do their part in selling great products at affordable price points, I’ll do mine.

Also, remember that this could entirely be a coincidence.  

My top recommendations for folks starting out have always been the ATOM Stack ($200+), K5 Pro ($150), and SoundBlaster G6 (gaming w/mic, $130 or thereabouts).

The K11 at its price certainly has something to say about that and is a pretty easy sell at the end of the day. 

Learn More:

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO K11 Review 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!!

What are your thoughts on this unit? The industry as a whole? I would love to hear from you. 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!

Photo Gallery

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

You may also like

Leave a Comment