Home Amp/DAC Comparisons FiiO K3 vs. E10K [The Definitive Guide]

FiiO K3 vs. E10K [The Definitive Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
FiiO K3 vs. E10K

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If you’re having a tough time trying to decide between these 2, I understand your dilemma.

Investing in one could end up being a complete waste of time and money, and we want to avoid that… at all costs.

In this article,

we’ll take a deep dive and look at it from all angles, and by the end, you should have a great idea of which is most worth a purchase.

So stick around!

Big thanks to FiiO for sending the K3. I am not being compensated for this review/comparison, but they did allow me to keep both units.

Let’s start with a quick chart!

Comparison Table

Title
FiiO Headphone Amps Portable DAC USB Type-C coaxial 384kHz/32bit (E10K-TC black)
Our Pick
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
Preview
FiiO Headphone Amps Portable DAC USB Type-C coaxial 384kHz/32bit (E10K-TC black)
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
Input
Micro USB
USB Type-C
Features
Bass Boost, Gain Switch.
Bass Boost, Gain Switch
Supports DSD
Sample Rate Support
PCM files up to 24-bit/96kHz
Up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB 2.0
Balanced Input
Outputs
Line Out, Coaxial Out.
Line Out, Coaxial Out, Optical Out.
Output Impedance
1.04
1.04
Power
200mW into 32 Ohm
Single Ended (220 mW @ 16 Ohms, 120 mW @ 32 Ohms). Balanced (320 mW @ 16 Ohms, 200 mW @ 32 Ohms).
Color
Black
Black
Weight
75g
83g
Prime
-
Price
$59.99
$92.84
Title
FiiO Headphone Amps Portable DAC USB Type-C coaxial 384kHz/32bit (E10K-TC black)
Preview
FiiO Headphone Amps Portable DAC USB Type-C coaxial 384kHz/32bit (E10K-TC black)
Input
Micro USB
Features
Bass Boost, Gain Switch.
Supports DSD
Sample Rate Support
PCM files up to 24-bit/96kHz
Balanced Input
Outputs
Line Out, Coaxial Out.
Output Impedance
1.04
Power
200mW into 32 Ohm
Color
Black
Weight
75g
Prime
Price
$59.99
Details
Our Pick
Title
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
Preview
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
Input
USB Type-C
Features
Bass Boost, Gain Switch
Supports DSD
Sample Rate Support
Up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB 2.0
Balanced Input
Outputs
Line Out, Coaxial Out, Optical Out.
Output Impedance
1.04
Power
Single Ended (220 mW @ 16 Ohms, 120 mW @ 32 Ohms). Balanced (320 mW @ 16 Ohms, 200 mW @ 32 Ohms).
Color
Black
Weight
83g
Prime
-
Price
$92.84
Details

Before we get into the FiiO K3 vs. E10K Amp/DAC comparison review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

You’ve come to the right place!!


Table of Contents

Click to navigate the article!

Introduction
In the Box
Specifications
Build & Features
Ergonomics
Video Comparison
Photo Gallery
Sound
Stu’s Notepad
Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

Introduction

Every once in a while a company releases a true upgrade to an already existing fantastic product.

In this case,

it happens to be a company that’s really grown on me in recent years.

FiiO makes wonderful products at affordable prices that appeal to beginner enthusiasts looking to get sucked into the audiophile rabbit hole _I MEAN_ get their feet wet into the audiophile hobby. xD

In all honesty,

I’ve pitted the E10K up against both a DragonFly Red and Oppo HA-2 and the difference almost wasn’t enough to warrant the price jump from about $75 (E10K) to $200 (DragonFly Red) or even $350 for the HA-2.

Do note that the HA-2 has been discontinued but I owned one for a while and absolutely loved it (Life sometimes sucks and you have to sell your belongings to make ends meet, lol).

Yes, the E10K sounded slightly grainier but you would never even notice unless you had the other 2 amps right there as a buffer and were vigorously going back and forth.

Furthermore,

what if your ears are lying and there’s not any difference?

That you’re almost trying to conceive of something perceivable and sort of trick yourself into preferring the more expensive option over the cheaper model?

It’s hard to say.

I think there are subtle differences between some Amps and DACs, but the Law of Diminishing Returns becomes even more apparent than it does with headphones;

that’s to say, from Amp to Amp you’re really going to have to try hard to notice a measurable difference.

Regardless,

I did find the K3 to have some of those sorts of improvements, technically as well as sonically.

I’ll outline everything for you today!

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Let’s open the boxes, shall we?

In The Box

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

In the Box

FiiO K3

Bolded are the differences.

With the K3, you’re getting:

  • The Amp/DAC.
  • 4 adhesive strips (2 pairs). Put these on the bottom to protect the unit while it’s on your desk.
  • Type-C USB Cable.
  • Quick Start Guide.
  • Warranty Card.
FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

With the E10K:

  • The Amp/DAC.
  • 4 button adhesives (1 pair + 2 extras). Put these on the bottom to protect the unit while it’s on your desk.
  • Micro USB Cable.
  • Quick Start Guide.
  • Warranty Card.
FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

Being how much of an upgrade the K3 is, FiiO really kind of skimped on accessories here.

There’s no optical cable, no coax, no short 3.5mm to 3.5mm line out, no RCA to mini, nothing.

It’s a bit of a pain to have to purchase any of those separately, but I digress…

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What about specs?

Specifications

FiiO E10K

Price: Check on Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!

Specifications

  • Capability: Handles PCM Files up to 24-bit/96 kHz.
  • Stereo Crosstalk: > 70 dB.
  • Outputs: 1x Coaxial, Line, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack.
  • Output Impedance: 1.04. What is Output Impedance?
  • Output Power: 200mW@32Ω.
  • Output Voltage: 7.39Vp-p.
  • Inputs: 1x Micro USB.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >105dB.
  • THD at 1V output: <0.006%@1KHz.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz -20KHz.
  • Dimensions: 79mm x 49.1mm x 21mm.
  • Weight: 79 grams.
  • Warranty: 1 year.
  • Power: Bus-powered.
  • Features: Bass boost, Gain switch.

FiiO K3

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

  • Capability: Up to 32-bit/384kHz.
  • Stereo Crosstalk: ≥70 dB (1 kHz).
  • Outputs: 1x Coaxial, Line, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x 2.5mm balanced
  • DSD Support: Yes, 64/128/256.
  • Output Impedance: 1.04. What is Output Impedance?
  • Output Power (Single Ended): 220 mW @ 16 Ohms, 120 mW @ 32 Ohms.
  • Output Power (Balanced): 320 mW @ 16 Ohms, 200 mW @ 32 Ohms.
  • Output Voltage: 7.39 Vp-p.
  • Digital Outputs: Coaxial: RCA for 192 kHz, Support DSD64 DOP
    Optical Out: Up to 96 kHz.
  • Inputs: 1x Type-C USB.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: ≥113 dB.
  • THD: ≤0.004%.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 80kHz.
  • Op amp: 2 x OPA926.
  • Low-pass filter: TI OPA1612.
  • USB chip: XMOS XUF208.
  • Dimensions: 2.8 x 2.3 x 0.9″ / 70.0 x 58.0 x 22.0 mm.
  • Weight: 83 grams.
  • Warranty: 1 year.
  • Power: Bus powered, 5 VDC 500 mA.
  • Features: Bass boost, Gain switch.

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Let’s get right into build and features!


Build & Features


The build quality of the K3 feels more solid to me than the E10K, but it’s somewhat of a marginal difference.

The E10K weighs in at 75g and the K3 is +7 or 8 at 82/83g.

My scale weighs it in at 83.

Still,

I feel as though if I were to actually purchase the K3, it would be more justified.

It feels really nice in your hand, with a matte black finish and smoother overall character.

The E10K’s finish is a somewhat rougher feel but doesn’t collect fingerprints and marks as easily as the K3.

Something to keep in mind.

Length and height-wise,

they are pretty much exactly the same, but the K3 is wider and thus a tad bulkier even though it doesn’t really come off as a bulky unit.

It’s also contoured and rounded off, lending itself to a more elegant, modern look than the older and boxier E10K.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO has laser engraved the Hi-Res Audio symbol on the top of the K3.

The E10K doesn’t have this (being that it’s older), but both have the FiiO logo.

The difference is that on the K3 you can read it when the unit is facing you and it’s towards the front.

On the E10K, it’s upside down and towards the back.

I think you’ll agree:

the logo makes much more sense where it’s situated on the K3, and just looks more professional in conjunction with the Hi-Res Logo.

Front Panel

On the face of the K3, we’ve got the ADC Volume Pot/Power On which is a nice upgrade from the older E10K Pot.

The difference here is that the E10K was numbered 0-8 with an OFF indicator in text as well.

The other difference is that the Pot on the K3 is now a digital control, meaning you won’t get any channel imbalance issues at lower volumes.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

The power-on indicator on the K3 also doubles as a sample rate indicator.

  • Blue = 44.1kHz or 48kHz.
  • Yellow = Anything above 48kHz.
  • Green = DSD.

The K3’s knob is not numbered, but is slightly larger in circumference and made of aluminum.

Instead of numbers, we’ve got one small circular white dot to indicate where you are on a clock.

This hearkens back to the FiiO Q1 Mark II, which has the same white dot (albeit a smaller knob) and the red piece behind the pot.

I’m thinking FiiO is aiming to streamline the design of all their amps to make them more consistent in look/feel across the board.

This time around,

both the gain switch and bass boost are on the front, which makes tinkering with the sound a whole lot easier.

I do find the switches on the E10K to be easier to flick, but the way they are situated on the K3 is much more convenient.

I simply put my index finger on the top of the unit and use my thumb to adjust.

With this,

you also don’t have to turn the unit around to figure out if you’re on low or high gain like you may with the E10K.

We’ve also got another addition though:

the 2.5mm balanced jack in addition to the standard 3.5 mm.

A quick note about the 3.5mm jack: It’s a bit more of a chore to plug in my headphones than it is with the E10K.

With the E10K, the transition is smooth and makes a satisfying click.

With the K3, I’m kind of having to labor just a bit more to get the headphone jack in.

Somewhat minor, but still should be noted.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

You’ll know what I mean when you receive the unit.

It could be that because it’s brand new, it needs some time to get acclimated.

It just seems like the hole could use some gunk or something. 😛

In any event,

if you have balanced headphones, the K3 supports DSD64/128/256 which is a nice added touch.

My regular readers and subscribers already know how I feel about DSD, so instead of boring you to tears, click that bad boy if you’re interested.

Back Panel

On the back is where the fun starts for me.

The first main difference is that FiiO switched from micro USB to Type-C which is probably a good decision.

Micro is okay, but their jacks were somewhat unreliable over the long term.

This is something that wasn’t an issue for me until it was. 

In other words,

the jack ended up failing which is apparently pretty common for cheap micro USB cables.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

In short,

you’ll appreciate FiiO making the switch here.

It doesn’t feel Piggly Wiggly this time around.

Type-C is extremely rugged and doesn’t move around at all inside the unit.

USB 1.0  & 2.0

Right above the Type-C jack is a small switch that reads USB 1.0 and 2.0.

The cool thing about this is that when you plug the K3 into your PC, it’s instantly recognized and ready to go without a driver for USB 1.0.

I’m now running Windows 10 on a Lenovo X1 Extreme and the setup was flawless.

The K3 is recognized right away, ready for music.

If you want to use USB 2.0, just go to FiiO Support, and download the USB DAC driver.

Then simply turn the unit off and disconnect everything (basically a reboot).

Now you can use USB 2.0, which supports DSD256 and up to 32-bit/384kHz.

The USB 1.0 section only supports up to 24-bit/96kHz files.

Line Out and Coax

The K3 has kept 2 of the best features apparent in the E10K which made it one of the most versatile units I’ve tried.

Both the Line Out jack and Coax are still available this time around, allowing you to use the K3 in many different ways.

Let’s take a look:

Just a DAC or Just an Amp

If you ever want to upgrade Amps, the K3 works as a DAC or just an Amp.

Depending on the unit, you have some options:

  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm Line Out. Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward. Plug one end into the line out of the K3, and the other end into the line out of a different amp. Plug the K3 into your PC via USB and turn it on. Now turn on the other amp and plug your headphones into that. You’re ready to go! With this option, you can connect the K3 or E10K to almost anything.
  • RCA to mini (3.5mm). If you have something like a JDS ATOM, you would just run the 3.5mm into the back of the K3, and the RCA’s into any of the aforementioned amps. Another great option that I’ve used in the past with the E10K.
  • Coax. Use this to connect to any DAC of your choice.
  • Optical/Toslink. Use this to also connect to any DAC of your choice via SPDIF.
  • Line Out to powered speakers. Just use 3.5mm to RCA or 3.5mm to 3.5mm into speakers like the Presonus Eris e3.5 or something similar.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

As a Converter

Also, some DACs/Amps only have coax and Toslink capabilities.

If your computer doesn’t have those, you can use the E10K/K3 to convert the signal from USB to coax and then connect the other DAC to the E10K.

So it would look like this: PC/Laptop via USB > E10K/K3 via coax out > another amp that has coax input > headphones.

Optical & Gaming?

The optical port is a nice touch I suppose, but it’s optical OUT, meaning you can’t use it with a console.

If you’re reading this and need a DAC with optical input, look to FiiO’s K5 Pro.

With its optical out, you can hook it up to something like a receiver or speakers that have optical in.

E10K & Gaming

With the E10K, you can use it for gaming and it’s recognized instantly.

The problem?

You won’t get any headroom and it just barely reaches an acceptable listening level.

I maxed out the volume on my PS4 settings and had to tick the gain switch just to get it loud enough with the V6 and even then it’s not enough.

If you don’t have a DAC handy for gaming, you may as well just plug your cans into the controller for the time being. You’ll get a louder sound and the quality is just as good!

With your phone

The K3 can technically be used with a smartphone, but depending on the make and model, you may get an error like “this device needs too much power.”

The good news is that if you have a phone with a Type-C port, this USB Type-C to USB 3.1 Gen1 Female Adapter Cable should work. 

Both are bus-powered, so using them with your phone is technically possible, but you’ll be draining your phone’s battery since neither has batteries of their own to draw power from.

With the K3,

the above-linked adapter will work but with the E10K, you’ll have to use something else as it’s micro and not Type-C.

This is all I could really find on the matter: FiiO E10K for an iPhone 4S.

It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.

Onwards…

Both of these units are desktop Amp/DACs primarily, so do keep that in mind.

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Let’s talk a bit about Ergonomics and Power Output!


Ergonomics


I feel like I’m about to get a bit disappointed again with regard to power and the K3.

The 600 technically requires 20mW to sound loud enough but I find with the gain on I can reach a nice level despite the low output.

With the K3 out of the single-ended 3.5mm standard headphone jack, we’re only getting:

  • 220 mW @ 16 Ohms.
  • 120 mW @ 32 Ohms.

Out of the 2.5mm balanced:

  • 320 mW @ 16 Ohms.
  • 200 mW @ 32 Ohms.

The original FiiO E10K provided 200mW @ 32 Ohms, no questions asked.

It seems like FiiO has geared this newer iteration of the E10K toward the budget-minded audiophile who may be more inclined to purchase lower Impedance IEMs or Headphones.

That’s fine,

but being a desktop amp/DAC I would have liked to see it provide a bit more power just in case we want to upgrade headphones down the road and not have to replace the unit.

NanoTechnos, in his FiiO K3 Review over at Headfonia agrees:

“The Fiio K3 supports both single-ended and balanced output. Still, even in balanced mode, the output power isn’t very high with 200mW @ 32ohm. If you plan to use big cans or drive planar headphones, I think you’ll feel more comfortable with an additional headphone amplifier connected to the line-out.”

The option for balanced is nice though, so if you upgrade, just make sure to get a balanced headphone with balanced 2.5mm cables.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

Even with all that said, I’m listening with the HD 600 right now and I’m getting plenty of volume without the gain turned on!

It’s even got some headroom to spare. So maybe specs are overrated sometimes.

Do note that you won’t hear anything until around 2 o’clock, but the knob turns quite a bit (to about 7 ‘o clock).

So you’ve got quite a bit of wiggle room here.

I haven’t needed gain at all with the 600’s which is a welcome surprise.

The K3 does support up to 32-bit/384kHz, which is a welcome upgrade from 24-bit/96 out of the E10K.

At the price point of just a hair over $100, this is fantastic in my eyes and adds a lot to its value.

Some other small differences between these 2 I mentioned in the Specs section at the top:

  • The K3’s frequency response is 20Hz – 80kHz vs. 20Hz – 20kHz for the E10K.
  • Total Harmonic Distortion. With the K3 it’s ≤0.004% vs. <0.006%. A small difference but you may notice the K3 is a tad cleaner. More on that in the Sound section!

Both have an Output Impedance of less than 1.04 or thereabouts. What is Output Impedance?

Video…

Video Comparison

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Photo…

Photo Gallery

 

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Audioquest DragonFly Red
A Great Desktop Setup.
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FiiO K3 vs. E10K

Last but not least, sound.

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Sound


  • K3 DAC Chip: AKM AK4452.
  • E10K DAC Chip: Burr-Brown PCM-5102.

Listening Tests

Sony MDR-V6

The sound of the K3 and the E10K is a bit interesting to describe.

I feel like it’s very similar, but there are times when the K3 is the clear winner.

With certain tracks, there’s just this sense that the K3 performs better.

On Michael Jackson’s “Baby Be Mine” off of 1982’s Thriller, The E10K sounded good but perhaps not as lively as the K3, which felt more like you were in a live setting rather than listening through a device.

 

The K3 also sounded more organic and natural.

It’s like the E10K had this ever-so-slight layer of fog over the sound.

As if it wasn’t given ample room to breathe and express its creativity.

The impact and weight of the K3 are immediately apparent at the start of the song.

The kick drum and hats were crisper and more lively.

The instruments (especially background ones) were also more fleshed out, and as a whole, the song breathes more naturally.

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

Out with the old, in with the new.

This same sort of phenomenon is apparent on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

There was so much more micro detail present with the K3, and even more so than the song normally provides (which is quite a lot).

Dreams is a fairly detailed song, with a lot of layers, subtle sounds, and an almost elusive nuance that sometimes can go unnoticed.

The K3 brings out everything that this song has to offer with effortless grace.

 

I did find Stevie’s voice to be a bit too forward paired with the MDR-V6, whereas with the E10K, it may be slightly pushed back and less aggressive.

Still, @ 24 seconds you can clearly hear her breath out of the K3 which is something I haven’t caught with other headphones and amp set-ups.

The decay of her voice is also on point, trailing off beautifully while also painting for you a clear picture of her unique vocal inflections and subtleties.

I feel as though the K3 gives you a deeper glimpse into the soul of the artist, while the E10K lacks a bit of weight and body.

This is especially apparent to me during Mick Fleetwood’s opening drum fill.

It just didn’t sound as full as it did on the K3.

I found both to have an ultra-low noise floor, with dead silence while nothing is playing.

I personally cannot perceive a difference, but your mileage may vary.

Bass Boost

I found the Bass Boost on the K3 to be slightly disappointing on some tracks, to a welcome addition on others.

I really think it depends on what you’re listening to.

On Mariah Carey’s Fantasy, the +6dB boost was really muddy and disappointing, whereas on the E10K, it was done much more tastefully.

On “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” from The 1975, it seems like I could make out the background voices easier.

They sounded more clear and more transparent.

Even so, out of the E10K, the song sounded about the same otherwise.

 

Chelsea Cutler’s “Out of Focus.” –  The K3 rendered the song a bit more detailed and articulate, especially the background voice in the beginning.

On this track, in particular, the K3 perhaps pushes the mids back a bit and the treble is less harsh/sibilant overall.

Out of the E10K, the song seemed more forward, but a bit less refined.

It’s a little more grainy by contrast, but the difference isn’t monumental.

The vocals seem more forward on the E10K with this song, but it ends up being kind of annoying.

 

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

Sennheiser HD 600

Out of the 600’s I listened to quite a lot of tracks on both.

So far I have gone back and forth rather extensively with 2 (more to come).

With “French Riviera” from Cautious Clay, I didn’t find too much of a difference.

The E10K was maybe not as refined sounding, but it’s very subtle.

On “TOOGOODTOBETRUE” from Gallant (feat. Sufjan Stevens and Rebecca Sugar), the E10K was perhaps slightly more sterile/cleaner sounding while the K3 was a bit warmed over and smoother sounding.

This is kind of a running theme but:

What was most incredible to me was Soundstage on the song “Lights Out” by SONN, Ayelle out of the K3. What is Soundstage?

I’ve never experienced that great of width and depth on the 600s.

They are infamous for having a more narrow image, but this time around I was so startled by what I perceived as a knock on the door @ 0:38, that I ripped the headphones off in a panic and checked to make sure I wasn’t about to get murdered in my apt.

Mind you I was listening fairly loud at night as well.

Words cannot express how real it sounded.

Even after knowing it was part of the track, I kept replaying it and it would kind of startle me again and again, to the point of discomfort.

You’ve absolutely got to hear it for yourself.

Stu’s Notepad

Here are some notes I jotted down whilst listening to both!

Keep in mind I’ve demoed many songs with both amps, but only really vigorously went back and forth with these.

I’ve had the E10K since September/October of 2018 so I’m very familiar with how it sounds.

I’ve also had ample time listening to songs out of just the K3.

FiiO K3 vs. E10KFiiO K3 vs. E10K

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What’s the final word?


Final Word/2023 Update & Beyond


When it’s all said and done, I probably wouldn’t purchase either of these if I had to do it all over again; not when there’s the K5 Pro which is a much better overall value and something you’ll likely hang on to for quite a while before getting the upgrade-itis. 

That is to say that the K5 Pro is my #1 desktop recommendation for people starting out.

It’s versatile, has plenty of power, and can connect to pretty much anything.

Learn More:

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO K3 vs. E10K Comparison/Review.

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

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.

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Would YOU bypass these and take a chance on the K5 Pro? 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!!

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22 comments

Ricardo Pinheiro December 5, 2019 - 11:59 am

Hi, how are you?

I have the Dt 880 600ohms that I use with a Atom Amp, but sometimes I want to hear them on my living room through my laptop and I don’t want to change everything from one room to another. Do you think the k3 would provide enough power? I used them with the Fiio e10k and the sound is loud enough for me, even with the gain off.

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Stuart Charles Black December 5, 2019 - 8:51 pm

Hey Ricardo! That’s a toughie. I may not rely on the K3 for the 600 Ohm 880 as it can barely drive an HD600. I mean it does get loud enough, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything over 300 Ohm. The 600 Ohm K240M did pretty well with the E10K surprisingly enough, and your testimony about the 880 600 Ohm kind of mimics that, but the K3 is kind of under powered. I really wish FiiO put more into it to be honest. It’s kind of irritating, but: If you could somehow run balanced cables with the 880 I would def say go for it as the balanced jack does provide more power.

If you’re looking for something for your living room, why not check out the iFi Zen? I just did a comprehensive written review and video on it. Check it out and let me know what you think: iFi Zen DAC/Amp Review. It’s basically a steal at this price, crazy good build, lots of options, works with Tidal MQA, etc. It’s only a tad more than the K3 and will power your 880’s really well.

Let me know your thoughts!!

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mehrdad February 25, 2020 - 12:54 pm

hi
I have hd58x 150 ohm . I want to buy e10k or k3 and want to use it with se3.5 mm out put not balance .
can k3 drive it with 3.5 mm out put ? because i read k3 just in balance can drive hd660s 150 ohm .
thx

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Stuart Charles Black February 28, 2020 - 3:29 am

Hey man! Yeah the K3 will work. It can drive my HD600’s at 300 Ohm so I think you’ll be just fine. Let me know what you decide!!

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Shakeeb Hassan April 8, 2020 - 11:28 am

Thanks for the detailed review! It’s nice to read articles in this day and age.

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Stuart Charles Black April 8, 2020 - 5:06 pm

You’re welcome Shakeeb! Did you decide on one of these?

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serkan cesmeciler April 24, 2020 - 5:37 pm

hey is K3 good work for akg k710 62 ohms headphone

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Stuart Charles Black April 24, 2020 - 8:39 pm

Hey man do you mean the K712? or K701?

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Krzysztof April 27, 2020 - 8:16 pm

Hello !
My name is Kris and I come from Poland!
I’m writing this message using “google translator”, so there may be translation errors ..
I am a fan of your site 🙂 It contains a lot of valuable information.
I have a dilemma / problem ….
I have AKG K702 headphones, I am looking for a cheap dac / amp for them, it must be cheap.
What will bring better e10k effect, which is stronger, but maybe it sounds worse, or K3, which is weaker, but it sounds better? E10K is cheaper in my country, but I also care about the quality of the sound. Are they different perceptible or subtle / minimal?
I hope that the message written by Google Translator will be understood.
Greetings!
  Yours sincerely, Kris

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Stuart Charles Black May 4, 2020 - 5:42 pm

(Translated below) – For others reading this and interested in the differences:

Hey Kris!

The translator worked perfectly!!

I actually have a K702 right now on my desk and I’m about to fire it up just for you! I also just did a Creative G6 Article/Video and compared it with 6 other dacs (including both the K3 and E10K). Check that out for sure!

The basic gist of it is that the E10K does sound ever so slightly more abrasive and grainy than the K3, but it’s such a minuscule difference that you’re not going to care or even know. Why is that? Well because I’m fortunate enough to be able to sit down with 7 amp/dacs and go back and forth exhaustively with them in an attempt to pin point small discrepancies. The result? Those differences are very subtle. If I ONLY had the E10K around and no other dac as a buffer, I wouldn’t even notice that slight hint of grain because I wouldn’t have anything else to compare it with.

So in short, the K702 does get loud enough on the E10K on low gain. It’s a comfortable level, but I do like to have gain on and some headroom. The E10K provides that with the gain on.

My test tracks for you:

Chon – Nayhoo
Alaina Castillo – Ocean Waves
Emily Krueger – Stuck
Emily Krueger – 5 For Ya
The 1975 – Love It If We Made It
Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
Led Zeppelin – Hey Hey What Can I Do
The Who – Baba ‘O Riley

First off, yeah, both are on low gain and the E10K def pumps more power. To get a good feel for these, I will put both on high gain and then calibrate the volume levels.

What you’ll find by and large is that the sound of these 2 is not that different. I’ve demoed them on many occasions now and my impressions are always the same: The E10K is slightly more open sounding, a tad crisper, and the vocals are a smidgen forward. The E10K sometimes seems like it’s trying really hard to impress you whereas the K3 is a little more “shy and reserved” if you will. Timid. Smoothed over. More refined. Classier. Insert some word salad adjective here. It’s just not enough of a difference for me to really care that much, and that’s always been my main take away.

I really hope that helps man!

Let me know 🙂

===========================================

(Przetłumaczone poniżej)

Hej Kris!

Tłumacz działał idealnie !!

Mam teraz K702 na biurku i zamierzam go odpalić właśnie dla Ciebie! Właśnie zrobiłem Artykuł / wideo Creative G6 i porównał go z 6 innymi przetwornikami DAC (w tym zarówno z K3, jak i E10K). Sprawdź to na pewno!

Zasadniczo chodzi o to, że E10K brzmi jeszcze trochę bardziej szorstki i ziarnisty niż K3, ale jest to tak niewielka różnica, że ​​nie będziesz się tym przejmować, a nawet nie będziesz wiedzieć. Dlaczego? Cóż, ponieważ mam szczęście, że mogę usiąść z 7 wzmacniaczami / przetwornikami cyfrowo-analogowymi i iść z nimi wyczerpująco tam iz powrotem, próbując wskazać małe rozbieżności. Wynik? Różnice te są bardzo subtelne. Gdybym miał TYLKO E10K w pobliżu i nie było innego DAC jako bufora, nie zauważyłbym nawet tej lekkiej nuty ziarna, ponieważ nie miałbym nic innego do porównania.

Krótko mówiąc, K702 robi się wystarczająco głośno na E10K przy niskim wzmocnieniu. Jest to komfortowy poziom, ale lubię mieć zyski i trochę miejsca na głowie. E10K zapewnia to z włączonym wzmocnieniem.

Moje tory testowe dla Ciebie:

Chon – Nayhoo
Alaina Castillo – Fale oceanu
Emily Krueger – Utknęła
Emily Krueger – 5 dla ciebie
The 1975 – Love It If We Made It
Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
Led Zeppelin – Hej Hej, co mogę zrobić
The Who – Baba ‘O Riley

Po pierwsze, tak, oba mają niskie wzmocnienie, a E10K def pompuje większą moc. Aby dobrze się z nimi poczuć, nastawię oba na wysokie wzmocnienie, a następnie skalibruję poziomy głośności.

Ogólnie rzecz biorąc, przekonasz się, że dźwięk tych 2 nie różni się tak bardzo. Demonstrowałem je już przy wielu okazjach i moje wrażenia są zawsze takie same: E10K brzmi nieco bardziej otwarcie, jest nieco ostrzejszy, a wokal jest lekko przesadny. E10K czasami wydaje się, że naprawdę próbuje ci zaimponować, podczas gdy K3 jest trochę bardziej „nieśmiały i powściągliwy”, jeśli chcesz. Nieśmiały. Wygładzony. Bardziej wyrafinowane. Classier. Wstaw tutaj słowo przymiotnik do sałatki. Po prostu nie jest dla mnie wystarczająca różnica, aby naprawdę mnie to obchodziło i to zawsze było moje główne zajęcie.

Naprawdę mam nadzieję, że to pomoże człowiekowi!

Daj mi znać 🙂

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Stale July 14, 2021 - 12:05 am

Gosh, you are so right about that knocking sound in Lights Out. Crazy! Esp. the unexpected one right at the end…

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Stuart Charles Black July 14, 2021 - 2:32 pm

Hey! It’s interesting you mention that because lately, I’ve been noticing that it seemingly has a lot more to do with how the song was recorded and mixed. I say that because even with headphones that have meh Soundstage, those sorts of things still manifest and jump out at you. I’ll give you an extreme example. I use the Skull Candy uproar wireless (old ass mediocre headphones) for the gym sometimes because I bought them like 5 years ago and they’re still going strong even despite lots of abuse. The Soundstage on them is terrible, but I heard that song at the gym randomly on Spotify and it sounded the exact same. It freaked me the f out lol.

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Steve August 17, 2022 - 1:58 pm

It’s probably binaural audio recorded with two mics. If you have Tidal there’s a headphone test album called “the ultimate headphone test” by “myNoise” track 9 on there is an example of binaural recording and still scares the hell out of me XD

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Stuart Charles Black August 17, 2022 - 2:35 pm

Hey man, thank you for the comment! What are you referring to exactly? I can’t remember what I wrote in this article lol.

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Sharifi June 18, 2022 - 12:03 pm

Hi, would you please tell me how does fiio e10k compare to fiio x5 2nd gen DAP in terms of sound quality? I am very satisfied with the sound of x5 2nd gen and I want to have a USB powered amp/dac with the same sound quality. You mentioned that the difference between e10k and fiio k3 is minimal. In my country, e10k is cheaper and I can afford it. Anyway I can also buy k3 but if e10k is similar to x5 2nd gen in terms of sound quality, I don’t want to spend more money. Thanks for your answer.

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Stuart Charles Black June 20, 2022 - 7:29 pm

Hey Sharifi!

Unfortunately, I have not heard the X5 DAP. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

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Sharifi August 14, 2022 - 9:24 pm

Hi again. I have 4 more questions. I will be thankful to you if you answer all of them. 1_ I realized from your comparison that fiio k3 beats fiio e10k in terms of sound quality even with single-ended output although it has less power, am I right? 2_Fiio has released e10k TC recently, have you ever heard it, is it an upgrade for the original version? 3_ You mentioned that e10k sounded more sterile in some tracks, what do you mean by sterile? 4_ Is e10k an upgrade for all smartphones and laptops in 2022 in terms of sound quality? Thanks a lot

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Stuart Charles Black August 15, 2022 - 2:51 pm

Hey Sharifi!

I haven’t heard TC. It’s the same as the regular only it uses a Type-C connection. K3 sounded marginally better but it’s probably my imagination so I wouldn’t worry about it. Sterile = clean. E10K nowadays is probably not much of an upgrade from most smartphones and laptops to be honest with you. I wouldn’t go into analysis paralysis about any of this.

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Dimitar August 22, 2022 - 10:47 pm

Dear Stu,

This is Dimitar from Sofia, Bulgaria. I’m a hobby musician but only entry level audio fan (I’m nowhere near audiophile understanding and honestly this is not my goal, I just want to enjoy good music on decent gear). I just purchased a K3 and am about to purchase some a pair of HD600 🙂 However…I was very worried after reading many people comment on the rather low power (I was initially going to purchase other headphones with lower impedance but kind of made a bit of an impulse decision with the K3 and afterwards finally decided to get the HD600 as well). So here are my questions and I would be extremely thankful if you could answer:

1. Do you run your HD600s balanced/did you do so during this review?
2. If so – what cable do I need to get for the K3? I’m very confused by this and can’t seem to find the correct cable…
3. Finally – I’m very much into classical music (I study and play the flute) and looking for the best headphone at around 300-$400 for this kind of music (so good, detailed mids, nice soundstage, nice imaging etc…all the fancy stuff). However, I also listen to other genres, such as rock, some jazz, some hip hop sometimes. Do you think the HD600 would be a good choice for my first pair of really good headphones? I was looking at HiFi Man Sundara or He400, also Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X (don’t like the other options because of the non-detachable cable), AKG 702, Shure SRH840 and Sennheiser HD 560 S. Also Meze 99 Classics.

Thanks for your help, buddy! Hope you stay healthy and happy and keep these great videos and reviews coming 🙂

Best wishes,
D.

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Stuart Charles Black August 24, 2022 - 2:04 pm

Hey Dimitar!

Thank you for such a nice comment!

As for your questions:

1 & 2) I did not at the time of this review but now I have balanced cables and fortunately for you, can quickly do a test as the K3 is sitting on my desk running my e3.5s. The cable was one I picked up from my cousin but just search for a “2.5mm cable for HD600” or something and you should be fine.
3) I love Classical as well! I think the 560S, HD600/6XX, the K702, or 400se would be great choices for all-around cans although I think the 560S is likely going to be the best for Classical out of those. It’s balanced with a great mid-range but also has just the right amount of bass shelf which really helps for Classical. The only real problem (and you’ll see this in the comments of the review) is that the 560S sometimes just sounds… eh it’s hard to describe. Perhaps a bit dull?

In any event, I don’t know what you think about this but I’ve always found that headphones with a bit of extra bass help to mitigate the volatile nature of classical (the loud/quiet conundrum), but also I think classical was just meant to be listened to without anemic sounding bass. I had read that somewhere years ago and it started to make sense as I got more experience with headphones and the genre.

What do you think and what are some of your favorite artists?

Talk soon,

-Stu

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Dimitar August 26, 2022 - 7:31 am

Hey Stu!

So nice to read your answer! Looking forward to how it went for you with the balanced cables but I actually ended up buying the Q3 model instead of the K3 and so far I’m really enjoying it. What do you think of the Q3? I got it since I believe it has a bit more power and also supports 4.4 balanced which people say is good. I will, however, get some proper new cans very soon.

Interesting that you mention the bass situation since I also think that dull headphones are a bit boring. However, I still think I will end up with the HD 600 since from what I read on your website and on YouTube and some other guys’ channels it seems like the must have headphone that everyone should have in their collection. Plus, I do listen to other genres as well obviously, not just classical.

Favourite artists of me would be Mozart, Bach, Debussy, CPE Bach, Telemann, Haydn, Chopin…I don’t know, I like so many of these guys 🙂

When it comes to more modern music I’m listening to many artists actually but one thing I would recommend that you check out is the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album “Trough the Roof” – really good music, makes both artists shine. I actually went to their concert in Columbia, MD this June – at the Maryland Post Pavilion. This was my first time in the US and we went to the gig the first evening so it was great!

Best wishes,
Dimitar

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Stuart Charles Black August 28, 2022 - 1:39 pm

Hey man!

Haven’t gotten a chance to demo the Q3 yet, but hopefully soon.

I’m having a tough time deciding whether or not balanced cables really make a difference. I want to say maybe slightly? But the difference is really subtle, and a lot of times it could just be a simple case of volume discrepancy; that is, balanced will always provide more power and sometimes it’s just a matter of “it’s louder.”

I’m aware of the science behind them as I had a pair of balanced monitors for many years, but I’m not sure I really care all that much about having balanced cables on headphones if that makes sense. I sort of just shrug my shoulders.

I was hoping you’d say Debussy!! I absolutely love him. I like the others you mention too but there’s just something about Claude and the nostalgic vibe his pieces exude. I will have to check out the album you mention. I was a big rock fan in my younger years. I don’t listen to it as much anymore, but every now and then it’s nice to revisit some old favorites while discovering new stuff I never heard before. My friend is great for that; he knows all these obscure rock bands that no one ever heard of xD

So glad you had fun!! What are your thoughts on the U.S.?

Talk soon,

-Stu

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