Home Amp/DAC Comparisons FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro Review & Comparison

FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro Review & Comparison

by Stuart Charles Black

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Big Shoutout to FiiO for sending the K5 Pro demo unit for comparison to the K3!! I am not being compensated for this review, but they were kind enough to let me keep the units. Thank you for your continued support!

Before we get started, check out Apos Audio. They are a great up-and-coming distributor with a phenomenal-looking website and excellent customer service. They also offer free shipping, the lowest price guarantee, a 2-year warranty, and a now 45-day return!

Updates

  • 11/20/19.
  • 12/22/19. Added Video Comparison/Article cleanup. Added Shoot 4 images. Added Album covers and OST.
  • 5/14/20. Added note about Tidal Exclusive Mode in the Sound Section! Thanks to STX for the comment. 🙂
  • 2/2/21. Article/link cleanup.

2,894-word post, approx. 4-5 min. read

The article still needs:

  • Stu’s Notes

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

Let’s start with a quick chart!

FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro

Title
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
FiiO K5 Pro Headphone Amps Portable Desktop DAC and Amplifier 768K/32Bit and Native DSD512 for Home/PC 6.35mm Headphone Out/RCA Line-Out/Coaxial/Optical Inputs
Preview
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
FiiO K5 Pro Headphone Amps Portable Desktop DAC and Amplifier 768K/32Bit and Native DSD512 for Home/PC 6.35mm Headphone Out/RCA Line-Out/Coaxial/Optical Inputs
Capability
Up to 32-bit, 384kHz.
Up to 32-bit, 768kHz.
Stereo Crosstalk
≥70 dB (1 kHz).
≥75 dB at 1 kHz.
Outputs
1x Coaxial, Line, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x 2.5mm balanced.
Stereo RCA, 1/4" / 6.35 mm Headphone.
DSD Support
Output Impedance
1.04 Ohm.
1.2 Ohm.
Output Power
(Single Ended): 220 mW @ 16 Ohms, 120 mW @ 32 Ohms, (Balanced): 320 mW @ 16 Ohms, 200 mW @ 32 Ohms.
1.5W @ 32 Ohm.
Inputs
1x Type-C USB.
1x Type-B USB.
Signal to Noise Ratio
≥113 dB.
≥115 dB (A-Weighted).
Total Harmonic Distortion
≤0.004%.
≤0.004%.
Power
Bus Powered, 5 VDC 500 mA.
15VDC, 1.5A.
Weight
83g.
436g.
Features
Bass Boost, Gain Switch
Gain Switch (0, 6, 12dB)
Prime
-
Price
$109.99
$175.43
Title
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
Preview
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone Amp
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
Output Impedance
1.04 Ohm.
Output Power
(Single Ended): 220 mW @ 16 Ohms, 120 mW @ 32 Ohms, (Balanced): 320 mW @ 16 Ohms, 200 mW @ 32 Ohms.
Inputs
1x Type-C USB.
Signal to Noise Ratio
≥113 dB.
Total Harmonic Distortion
≤0.004%.
Power
Bus Powered, 5 VDC 500 mA.
Weight
83g.
Features
Bass Boost, Gain Switch
Prime
Price
$109.99
Learn more
Title
FiiO K5 Pro Headphone Amps Portable Desktop DAC and Amplifier 768K/32Bit and Native DSD512 for Home/PC 6.35mm Headphone Out/RCA Line-Out/Coaxial/Optical Inputs
Preview
FiiO K5 Pro Headphone Amps Portable Desktop DAC and Amplifier 768K/32Bit and Native DSD512 for Home/PC 6.35mm Headphone Out/RCA Line-Out/Coaxial/Optical Inputs
Capability
Up to 32-bit, 768kHz.
Stereo Crosstalk
≥75 dB at 1 kHz.
Outputs
Stereo RCA, 1/4" / 6.35 mm Headphone.
DSD Support
Output Impedance
1.2 Ohm.
Output Power
1.5W @ 32 Ohm.
Inputs
1x Type-B USB.
Signal to Noise Ratio
≥115 dB (A-Weighted).
Total Harmonic Distortion
≤0.004%.
Power
15VDC, 1.5A.
Weight
436g.
Features
Gain Switch (0, 6, 12dB)
Prime
-
Price
$175.43
Learn more

Before we get into the FiiO K3 vs. K5 Review & Comparison, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

I’m Here to Help!!


Table of Contents

Specifications
Build
Features & Usage
Ergonomics & Power
Video Comparison
Photo Gallery
Sound
Final Word

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

Specifications

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: Low Pass Filter Op Amp: Texas Instruments OPA1612, Driver Op Amp: 2x OPA926
  • 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.

FiiO K5 Pro

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check Apos Audio!
  • Capability: Up to 32-bit/768kHz.
  • Stereo Crosstalk: ≥75 dB at 1 kHz.
  • Outputs: Stereo RCA, 1/4″ / 6.35 mm Headphone.
  • DSD Support: Yes, DSD512.
  • Output Impedance: 1.2 Ohm.
  • Output Power: 1.5W @ 32 Ohm.
  • Inputs: 1x Type-B USB.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: ≥115 dB (A-Weighted).
  • THD: ≤0.004%.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 80kHz.
  • Op amp: LPF Op Amp: Texas Instruments OPA1642, Driver Op Amp: Texas Instruments TPA6120
  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 5.1 x 2.2″ / 12.1 x 13.0 x 5.5 cm
  • Weight: 436g.
  • Warranty: 1 year.
  • Power: 15VDC, 1.5A
  • Gain Switch: 0, 6, 12dB

How about build?

Build

The build of both of these units is fairly solid; the K5 is significantly heavier than that of the K3 and that’s to be expected; given the K3’s much smaller footprint and a knack for portability.

The K5 isn’t hefty by any means – it’s actually fairly light for a unit of this stature, but still feels pretty solid overall. It’s a bit lighter than the iFi Zen DAC/Amp, coming in at 436g vs. 491 for the Zen. The K3 is only 82g by contrast but still doesn’t feel cheap.

At 1.08 lbs., the Zen does feel more substantial as a full-time desktop amp, but I still love the way the K5 looks and feels sitting on my desk.

FiiO K5 Pro Review

The Troops.

The K3, though light, was an upgrade over the E10K in the weight department as well. It feels a bit more robust than it’s older, more stone age looking brother. Related: FiiO K3 vs. E10K [The Definitive Guide]

Both switches on the K5 feel great to flick, while the large ADC volume knob on the front is mega satisfying to turn.

The K3’s ADC volume pot actually feels just a smidgen more robust, and both the gain switch and bass boost feel satisfying as well. The K5 Pro doesn’t have a bass boost, but like the E10K, its gain switch is a bit easier to flick on and off than the circular configurations on the K3.

Comparing the K5 Pro and the K3.

Both units come with some adhesive padding for desktop use, but the K3’s are longer cylindrical pieces vs. the button adhesives on the K5 Pro. The original E10K utilized these buttons as well, and overall I think they’re more effective. What’s cool about the K5 Pro is that they have already been fitted with some out of the box, and you have 4 more at your disposal that has been included separately if need be.

All connections on both units feel nice and robust. There’s a sense that these are indeed quality units that will hold up over time, and also work in a myriad of ways as well.

Let’s get into some features of both!

Features & Usage

I’ve always felt like FiiO gives plenty of bang for your buck in all of their products. To this day I still have an E10K sitting on my desk because it’s so valuable. I can do plenty of things with it, and the K3 only improved on that notion.


K3

The K3 has:

  • Line Out. An incredibly useful feature is that you can use the K3 as a DAC into any amp that supports line in/out. I personally have used the K3 with JDS’ Atom to fine effect, and have used the E10K with a few different amps as well.
FiiO K5 Pro Review

Here I had the Atom paired up to a K3.

  • Coaxial Out. Use this to connect to anything that supports coaxial in (TV, Receiver, etc.)
  • Optical Out. Same as above.
  • USB Audio 1.0 & 2.0. The cool thing about the K3 is that you can literally plug it in and start playing music without any drivers via USB 1.0. If you want to use USB 2.0, just go to FiiO Support, and download the USB DAC driver. Related: What is a USB DAC? 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.
  • Balanced 2.5mm Headphone Input.
  • Standard 3.5mm Headphone Input.
  • Bass Boost. The bass boost here is a little too much for my tastes, and I normally leave it off in most instances. I do think the boost on the original E10K was done more tastefully.
  • Gain Switch. You’ll need this for some harder to drive headphones, but I wouldn’t rely on the K3 for anything more than say an HD600 (300 Ohm/97dB Sensitivity)
  • ADC Volume Pot. No channel imbalance issues at lower volumes. A complaint I’ve heard quite a bit from regular volume pots of the past.
  • LED Indicator. Supports DSD, as well as file formats up to 32-bit, 384kHz. The Small Led light next to the volume pot indicates the format you’re in. Blue is 44.1 or 48kHz, Yellow is anything above 48kHz, and Green indicates you’re playing a DSD file.
  • USB Type-C Input.

So you’re getting all of that for just a hair over $100. It’s pretty amazing if you ask me. It’s just really valuable and makes a perfect entry-level foray into the audiophile world.


K5 Pro

The K5 Pro is a bit different, but still just as awesome (if not more so). Let’s take a look at what it has:

  • RCA Analog Outputs. This is a great feature in that you can hook the amp up to separate studio monitors/speakers and play the music that way. What are Studio Monitors?
  • RCA Analog Inputs. You can also use the RCA ins to receive a signal from a source (for instance a separate DAC). Right now I have the iFi Zen Blue hooked up to the K5 and I’m playing music wirelessly through my phone! Just snag a pair of RCA to RCA cables.
FiiO K5 Pro Review

Play music wireless with the Zen Blue + FiiO K5 Pro!

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Preliminary shot, setting up the Zen Blue with the K5 Pro.

  • Optical Input. This is my favorite feature of the K5, as I can output the signal from my PlayStation 4 into the K5’s Optical Input and use it as a gaming rig! What’s even better? Plug it in and sound is coming from the K5 into my headphones instantaneously. No need to even mess with the audio settings inside the PS4’s control panel/dashboard. For you lazy slobs, this is the amp to get! XD
  • Coaxial Input. Receives audio via any of your devices that support Coaxial Out (TV, Receiver, etc.)
  • USB Type-B Input. You’ll be using this most often with your computer.
  • 15 VDC Power Jack. Plug this into a wall outlet for powers.
  • Input switches. The K5 Pro comes with 3. They are labeled 1, 2, and 3, with S, L, and U next to each number respectively. 1-U is for USB, 2-L is for Line In or Line Out, and 3-S is for S/PDIF I presume (it’s labeled Coax or Optical).
  • 3 level Gain Stage Switch (0, 6, 12dB). This is my second favorite feature on the K5 Pro, and they label it with one circular dot, 2 circular dots, or 3. I’d feel comfortable driving most any headphones with this unit. On middle gain with the HD600, I’m finding there’s plenty of headroom. I’m on about 12-1 o’clock and find it more than enough. I still have one more (high gain) to play with if I need it. This will mostly be utilized with harder to drive planar magnetic headphones that aren’t very efficient. I’m thinking 91-94dB cans like some HIFIMAN offerings, AKG, etc. The HD600 sits around 97dB and isn’t too hard to drive out of most amps (even the K3 does pretty well with it).
  • 6.35mm Headphone Input.
FiiO K5 Pro Review

Back of the K5 Pro (bottom).

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Getting ready for some console gaming!

As you can see, the K5 Pro is capable of quite a bit as well. Let’s take a look at power output, and find out which one of these gains an edge (no pun intended).

Ergonomics/Power Output

To be blunt, the K3 is fairly underpowered on paper but surprisingly drives my HD600 pretty decently even despite only pumping out 220mW into 16 Ohm and 120mW into 32 Ohm. Do be aware that the gain has to be on and you’re pretty much maxing it out, but it does get loud enough.

The K5 by contrast supplies 1.5W (1,500mW) at 32 Ohm and is rated for 16-300 Ohm headphones. Keep in mind this suggestion is being somewhat conservative. As mentioned before, I’d feel just fine driving a less efficient headphone out of the K5 Pro.

The main takeaway is that the K3 really isn’t designed for higher impedance, low sensitivity cans, and I wouldn’t rely on it for most inefficient HIFIMAN’s or AKG’s. It’s just powerful enough to drive an HD600.

The K5 Pro however is built for harder-to-drive headphones and in that way should become a mainstay on your desktop for a long time!

Video Comparison

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Photo Gallery…

Photo Gallery

Click to see the K5 in action!

Shoot 1

FiiO K5 Pro Review
Getting ready for some console gaming!

Shoot 2

Here I had the Zen Blue paired with the FiiO K5 Pro, with the Zen DAC on top.

ifi Zen Blue Review
Listen.
Zen Blue ReviewZen Blue ReviewZen Blue ReviewZen Blue ReviewZen Blue Review
The FiiO K5 Pro utilizes a 1/4" headphone jack.
FiiO K5 Pro Review
The Troops.
Zen Blue ReviewFiiO K5 Pro Review
Back of the K5 Pro.
Zen Blue Review
The Zen Blue is in the middle.
FiiO K5 Pro Review
Play music wireless with the Zen Blue + FiiO K5 Pro!

Shoot 3

Here I was comparing the K5 to the K3.

Shoot 4

Experimenting with DSD and MQA files inside Tidal and Audirvana

Blue = FLAC - 16-bit / 44kHz
Yellow = Anything above 48kHz (Tidal Masters)
Green = DSD (I used 64/128/256 for testing)
FiiO K5 Pro
Lego man approved.
Couldn't get the 2 amps to stay on Green for DSD. K3 is yellow, K5 is green.
K3 is Green, K5 is yellow.

 

Now for the most important part, how do they sound in relation to each other?

Sound

  • FiiO K3 DAC Chip: AKM AK4452
  • FiiO K5 DAC Chip: AKM AK4493
  • K3 Amp Profile: LPF OpAmp: Texas Instruments TI OPA1612. Driver OpAmp: 2x OPA926
  • K5 Amp Profile: LPF OpAmp: Texas Instruments TI OPA1642. Driver OpAmp: Texas Instruments TPA6120
  • Source: Tidal (FLAC and Master Files), DSD64/128/256. 16/44, 16/48, 24/44, 24/48, 24/88, 24/96, etc.
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD600, Creative Aurvana Live!, AKG K702

Fortunately for us, this is a really easy comparison and a more significant one than I was expecting. It’s not that one was necessarily better than the other; rather they both have a different flavor, and which you prefer comes down to your sound preference.

Even when I say significant, it’s still pretty subtle of a difference in the grand scheme of things. With some tracks, you might not even be able to notice.

For instance, on A.CHAL’s “Matrix”, I didn’t hear anything vastly different going on. On Cautious Clay’s “Blood Type”, The K3 perhaps sounded slightly more open, and a bit cleaner. The K5 seemed to have a warmer tilt.

After these 2 tracks, the sound differences did start to manifest a bit more clearly.

The overarching theme was that the K5 Pro is more of a relaxed listen. It’s more melodic and fluid sounding vs. the colder, cleaner, and somewhat more brash sound of the K3.

Brash doesn’t necessarily denote a negative connotation, but in relation to the K5, it’s definitely more in your face, forward, and aggressive sounding.

FiiO K5 Pro Review

This notion was also very much apparent in Common’s “Little Chicago Boy”. It’s just edgier sounding coming out of a K3. Colder. More sterile. Common’s voice is a bit more prominent/forward in the mix as well. It kind of jumps out at you. The K5 Pro by contrast sounds warmer, more relaxed, and more laid back. It’s a more inviting sound overall.

On “Doves in the Wind”, by Kendrick Lamar and SZA, I found more of the same to be true. The K3’s vocals were more forward, with the overall sound being snappier than that of the K5 Pro.

On Odie’s “Noise” and “Night Terrific!” it’s more of the same. You can make out more of his subtle vocal inflections. He sounds a bit crisper through the K3. On the K5 pro, he comes across slightly warmer. Out of the K3 at 19 seconds (Noise), his breath can be heard a bit more clearly.

Even with all that said, the sound differences are fairly subtle but definitely more noticeable than some other sound comparisons I’ve done.

A Note About Tidal

If you’re having trouble getting the K5 Pro to display Yellow (to indicate Master tracks in Tidal above 48kHz), don’t fret! Here’s what to do:

In Tidal, go to File, Settings (or Ctrl P) > Streaming. Now scroll down until you see “Sound”. Right underneath is “Sound output”, but in smaller letters next to it reads: (More settings). Click that and you’ll see Exclusive mode. Tick that box and the color should change to Yellow, indicating the Master File is above 48kHz. 🙂 This same concept applies to the iFi Zen as well!

Thanks to STX below for that comment!!

Album List & Soundtracks

More on the way

Grateful Dead – Terrapin Station (1977) – Tidal Master

Flying Lotus – Flamagra (2019) – Tidal FLAC

Common – Black America Again (2016) – Tidal Master

Fallout 1 OST

Fallout 1 OST – Mark Morgan

Fallout 2 OST

Fallout 2 OST – Mark Morgan

Donkey Kong Country 2 OST

Donkey Kong Country 2 OST (1995)

Final Word

Which of these you go with depends on many factors that we’ve previously discussed. The K3 can technically be used with your phone (and an appropriate adapter), but you may just end up with a dead battery, as it’s bus-powered and should be used on your desktop primarily. The K5 is strictly a desktop amp and should be treated as such.

If your preferences lean more towards warm, lush, fluid, and inviting, the K5 Pro is the better option. If you like a leaner, cleaner, more sterile, and aggressive sound, the K3 performs very well. It’s just going to be snappier sounding overall, with a slightly more revelatory character. Detail-oriented cats will love the K3, while more laid back homies will prefer the K5 Pro. I also think the K5 fares better over longer listening sessions; you’ll want to kick back and let the music play without wanting to skip around quite as much.

It was really cool to be able to use the K5 with the iFi Zen Bluetooth DAC. I’m also loving the optical input, as it becomes a dedicated console gaming rig if I so choose.

If you like a warmer sound, need a great amp for PC or console gaming, and/or want to hook this bad boy up to some studio monitors, I’d invest in the K5 Pro without hesitation.

 

 

If you prefer a somewhat colder sound, own easier-to-drive headphones, and/or plan to utilize the balanced jack, the K3 makes a fantastic option. It’s also very versatile and can be paired up with any amp that supports line in/out.

 

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO K3 vs. K5 comparison.

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.

Which of these Amp/DACs fits your needs better? 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!

FiiO K5 Pro

4.95

Build

4.9/5

Sound

5.0/5

Features

4.9/5

Ease of Use

5.0/5

Pros

  • Warm, Smooth Sound
  • Versatile, Lots of Features and options
  • Very Powerful, Can drive most headphones
  • Great Build and Form Factor

Cons

  • Would be nice to have bass boost

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

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32 comments

Federico December 28, 2019 - 4:13 pm

Great comparison article Stu, tons of good information. It seems a big upgrade, I’m always more comfortable with more headroom on a hungry headphone.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 28, 2019 - 8:20 pm

Thanks Federico!! Always great to hear from you and I definitely agree. I love to have that wiggle room for sure. I’ve entered you in the giveaway too!! 🙂

Reply
Ulises Hacky December 29, 2019 - 2:32 am

Gotta take a listen on some of them sometime, thanks for the review c: one question, what do you think about the Schiit Modi 3?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 29, 2019 - 3:49 am

Hey man! Yeah the K5 Pro is my main console/desktop rig. Love it! Have not tried the Modi 3. I used to own a Schiit Magni 2 and Modi 2 but sold them. Are you in the market for an Amp/DAC?

Reply
Ulises Hacky December 29, 2019 - 6:50 pm

Yeah, but for now i’m maybe getting a portable , it might be the dragonfly red (since I actually don’t have any flac or similar song in my library and my main source for “good quality” is Tidal) , recently i’ve read that the Cobalt is better in some aspects but not worth the price increase, later i’m planning to get a desk Dac/Amp combo, I’ll be lookin’ for some decent options, but that’s for later c:

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 29, 2019 - 7:53 pm

Yeah man I def think the K5 Pro is in the running for you for future desktop along with the Zen Amp/DAC and ATOM.

I heard similar things about the Cobalt. I actually heard it wasn’t all that great, period. I have not read anything or researched it though. I want to formulate my own opinion and compare it with the DF Red.

I think the DF Red for you portable right now would be a great choice. Have you read my article? Def could use some love 🙂 https://homestudiobasics.com/audioquest-dragonfly-red-review/

Reply
Artur January 10, 2020 - 1:57 am

Hi Just bought Zen Dac. It is my first bigger DAC/AMP – before i just used portable DACs with Dragonfly Black.
Im almost happy, sound is better but just consider or may spent little more money and get something better about 300$ or just stay with my ifi Zen Dac and think for future about Amplituner?
My headphones are Grado SR80e and Shure SRH840 in plans something better (Grado 500 or Bayerdynamic 150)
K5 is same class dac as Zen?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 16, 2020 - 4:36 pm

Hey man! I personally think you should sit tight and just enjoy what you have for now considering what you have. K5 Pro will be a bit warmer sounding, a tad more relaxed and laid back. The Zen is like a cross between musical/warm and detailed. I’m currently using the K5 Pro for mostly console gaming duties. Let me know what you think.

Reply
llysender January 17, 2020 - 11:58 pm

I just got to try the zen dac and honestly I’m disappointed. The K5 pro drives hard to drive headphones like the R70X like a champ and with the zen dac the music was suffocating and struggling to get the bass and treble extension and soundstage. That being said the zen worked well for auditioning the focal cans.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 20, 2020 - 3:17 pm

Hmm. Interesting observations! I will say that the K5 Pro has a lot more power and it is easier to drive some more demanding headphones. I love the feeling of having that 3rd gain switch if I ever need it, but it mostly stays on 1 or 2. What did you think about the way each sounded? I have my own thoughts but I want to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for stopping by man!

Reply
Bran May 11, 2020 - 5:13 pm

Thanks for your awesome review, it helped me to buy the K5 pro. I’m having one issue I hope you can help with – the color light on the K5 pro doesn’t change even when listening to Tidal MASTER quality audio. Right now I have to hooked up via USB to my computer and listening with headphone output to HD 58x. Is there something I need to configure to get the improved audio quality within windows or the K5 itself?

Thanks!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 14, 2020 - 3:48 am

Hey man are you the same guy from the other comment? Sorry I’ve been getting a lot of spam lately and this comment went into the trash via some filters I have set. I always check first before deleting and saw it.

Reply
STX May 12, 2020 - 3:53 pm

Thanks for your great review, helped mw to pick up the K5 pro. My K5 pro always shows blue light when hooked up via USB on Windows 10, even with Tidal hifi or master quality. Is there some settings I need to configure on the DAC or Windows 10 so that the light will properly change based on audio quality?

Thanks

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 14, 2020 - 3:41 am

Hey man! Thank you so much! So glad it helped you out.

Tidal was acting wonky just now. Wouldn’t open at all. Usually a re-boot does the trick but I had to un-install and re-install. Seems to be fine now. Probably something to do with a firmware update is my guess. If yours ever acts up just try those things first!

Anyways, when you go into Tidal, make sure it’s set to exclusive mode. Once you do that, the color will change.

Just go to File, settings (or control P) > streaming. Now scroll down until you see Sound. Right underneath is Sound output, but in smaller letters next to it reads: (More settings).

Click that and you’ll see Exclusive mode. Tick that box and the color should change to Yellow, indicating the Master File is above 48kHz. I’m listening to a Master of Coltrane’s Blue Train!! 🙂

Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!

Also thank you for this comment. It will be really helpful for others who may have the same problem. I will put it in the article with an image or video as well!

Reply
Werner Lieske January 21, 2021 - 9:39 am

I’ll honestly admit I know hardly anything about sound as I’m not an enthusiast or an audiophile.
Last year I purchased a Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee which is rated at 150 ohms.
My soundcard is a Creative X-Fi fatality edition. I’m considering a K5 pro as I can get one secondhand on Ebay at a great price. Do you think this is worth spending money on for this headset?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 21, 2021 - 5:27 pm

Hey man! I haven’t heard that one, but it’s never a bad idea to invest in a K5 Pro, especially if you’re getting a deal. At $150 retail, it’s a steal. Anything less than that is even better. I’m using one now with the HIFIMAN DEVA. It’s just a fantastic product and so versatile. You will always have a use for it too, given it has plenty of power and can drive most headphones. A 58X would be a perfect match as well. I say go for it. You’re not going to be disappointed. They sell like hotcakes lol. Seems like every time I check, they’re sold out on various websites. Keep me posted!

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Justin May 30, 2021 - 1:19 pm

Thank you for all the articles, they’ve been immensely helpful. I bought a k3 and am waiting for my pair of 6xx’s to show up! I was testing the dac with a pair of M50X’s and I swear I cannot tell a difference between using the dac and audio straight from the computer. Is this because I won’t notice a difference on these headphones, the audio quality (just Spotify on best settings), or are my ears just dense?

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Stuart Charles Black May 31, 2021 - 3:21 pm

Thanks man and my pleasure!! Which computer do you have? That really plays a huge part. For instance, my old Lenovo T510 was awful, but my newer Lenovo X1 Extreme actually has a really good soundcard.

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yudy July 23, 2021 - 3:35 pm

hey dude awesome review. i`m totally new kind of games xixi btw i had a FiiO K5 Pro but need lil something (budget) amps. what the best to pair with K5 Pro. Thanks.

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Stuart Charles Black July 24, 2021 - 1:36 pm

Hey thank you! So you want a separate amp to pair with K5 Pro? My best budget choice is probably the stand-alone ATOM. Just use RCA to RCA from K5 Pro into the ATOM, or you can use RCA to 3.5mm.

Keep me posted!!

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Francisco Junior September 1, 2021 - 8:25 pm

Hi friend, congratulations for the review, is there any way to get me out of a doubt? What is the best dac to listen to Jazz Instrumental, John Coltrane, Michel Petrucciani, Manu Katché, Rymden, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Duke Ellington… Which dac is possible to hear a more crystalline and detailed sound from the instruments, K3 or K5? Thanks!

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2021 - 9:10 pm

Hey man! Crystalline? K3 is a tad more refined/clean sounding, while the K5 Pro is a bit more laid back/relaxed and kind of warm but still mostly a cross between neutral and warm. For detail, probably the K3 is going to be your best bet. I’ve been listening to some of those artists a lot lately! It kind of depends on the headphone though. Which ones do you have?

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Francisco Junior September 2, 2021 - 1:10 pm

Thanks my frind, yes clean sound! My headphone is OneOdio Studio Pro50( https://www.oneodio.com/collections/studio-professional/products/pro-50-black-professional-studio-over-ear-headphones ), This is my input phone, I hear it on my Acer I7 v3-571 Notebook which has the Dolby Digital Plus plugin, I use the Foobar2000 and AIMP players, I really like the result it is achieving, especially with the AIMP player via WASAPI, but I want to I can listen to SACD format with 1Bit on DSD, but my soundcard only runs at 44HKz, so I’m torn between K3 and K5, but I’ll use it exclusively for listening to JAZZ Instrumental, so from my question, I prefer to buy what of the best result specifically for Jazz! Thanks! 🙂

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Stuart Charles Black September 2, 2021 - 1:52 pm

Hey man, you’re welcome! I may actually just get a K5 Pro. More versatile and I like it better for Jazz as it’s just a tad more laid back and works better for the genre in my opinion. I keep the K5 Pro on my desktop for full-time duties (I listen to a lot of Jazz with it) when I’m not demoing other gear if that’s any indication of how much I love it. 🙂 You’re not going to regret the purchase as the value received is pretty much through the roof. You may also check my official review out as it goes through everything.

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Francisco Junior September 2, 2021 - 2:36 pm

OK, understood! Thank you very much for the information and for the review. I’m Brazilian, and here the price difference between K3 and K5 is 50% more, but it’s worth the investment, as I also have a pair of Monitors Microlab SOLO1 ( http://microlab.com/en/catalog/stereosystem/mains-connection/wired/solo-1/ ) in my desktop , I will be able to connect the monitors with the Line Out output in RCA. Thank you very much for taking my doubts, congratulations for the site!

Stuart Charles Black September 5, 2021 - 10:17 pm

Thanks man and my pleasure!

Francisco Junior September 3, 2021 - 1:06 pm

Hi my friend, I decided to buy the K5, but I have one last question, I hope you can help me, my Notebook i7 Acer v-3-571, comes with the Dolby Digital Plus plugin, and I really like the sound result. I tried to listen with the plugin disabled, but the richness of details that Dolby Digital Plus provides is impressive, and the main thing that doesn’t tire the ears, I’m listening to the phone for hours and doesn’t tire the ears, and I don’t want to miss the possibility of to be able to listen to the songs using dolby digital plus, because if I use the dac K5 as a sound card, I will lose the Dolby Digital Plus function, so now I ask you:

Is it possible, I use the K5 only as an amplifier, I connect the notebook phone’s output to the K5’s Line IN input, and use it only as an amplifier to increase the headphone gain? I ask this if I can’t adapt to the sound of the dac, as I’ve been listening to my songs with the Dolby Digital Plus plugin for 8 years, I need to get my ears used to listening songs more naturally (Flat) without Dolby Digital Plus! LOL

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Stuart Charles Black September 5, 2021 - 10:19 pm

Yeah man you can do that! That’s just one of the many reasons I love the K5 Pro haha. Keep me posted!!

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Tangerine Dreaming February 21, 2022 - 7:02 am

Hi man. Taking my first steps into getting a DAC/AMP combo and been watching a lots of your videos.
Due to budget reasons, I’ve been eyeing the Fiio K3 and K5 Pro. The price difference between those for me is around 80usd.

While I’m somewhat sure that the K3 would be fine for my usage at the moment (Music, Movies, TV, Gaming – all on PC and very very rarely on xbox), I’m a little bit worried that the amp on the K3 would not be powerful enough in the long run when I’m going to get more hard-to-drive cans. I’m currently using Sennheisers on the 50-120ohm range and everyone is saying they don’t need AMP at all.

So my question is: Is the DAC inside the K3 good enough for me to use it with a more powerful amp in the future and are the connectors in the K3 enough for such a task (meaning, I won’t be having problems connecting to an external amp)? I’ll be prolly going with something like Magni 3, ATOM AMP+, Topping L30 or similar.

OR

Should I just bite the bullet and get a better DAC/AMP combo or stack straight away? I’m really tempted on getting the K5 Pro but is it worth while now with such a low ohm headphones? I’m surely gonna get more cans in the future like HD600 or Sundara etc.

Or would you rather suggest getting a lil bit more expensive ifi Zen Dac V2 or Topping DX3 Pro+ instead of the K5 Pro?

The more I keep reading about these amps, dacs and cans the more I’m starting to get a pre-emprive buyers remorse, lol.

Any insights are very welcome.

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Stuart Charles Black February 21, 2022 - 5:30 pm

Hey there!

I really do understand your concern as I have both the K3 and K5 Pro here.

Let me start out by saying that the K3 is actually very useful for me at the moment. Right now I generally use it as a preamp into my Eris e3.5s as my K5 Pro is in the living room hooked up to my PS3 (I just recently repaired the Playstation).

For the purpose I use the K3 for, it’s great. I can watch YouTube videos/basketball games/movies, listen to Spotify, mix beats, etc. But yes, for harder to drive headphones it just won’t provide enough juice and that’s always been my main gripe with it. In other words, I very rarely use it for headphones by itself unless I’m doing a demo/comparison for someone by request.

Now, if you use it balanced (2.5mm) then it’s completely fine for most cans, but realistically 2.5mm is becoming less and less common nowadays. It seems a lot of products are going the 4.4mm route including FiiO. Their newer K9 Pro actually has a 4.4mm out on the front and they’re known for using 2.5mm in a lot of their DACS.

As for your question, yes. The K3 is also useful to me in that regard because I can easily pair it with another amp and the DAC inside is excellent. At the end of the day, I keep it around because it is very versatile.

This is a tough question as the K5 Pro is basically my top DAC recommendation for beginners (along with the Zen), and I also do generally tell people that buying one straight away instead of a K3 is probably the best option and a better plan as the K5 Pro is a lot more versatile than the K3. In other words, you’ll probably upgrade later anyway. As useful as the K3 is, the K5 Pro is even more so, and the K9 even more than that.

You’re not going to really care about the low ohm thing because of the K5 Pro’s value, so I wouldn’t really be concerned about that. You’ll always have a use for it and will love your investment as soon as you get it fired up and see what it’s capable of.

I’m going to also have to adjust my recommendation for the V2 as I think it’s overpriced now. $130 for the original was insane. The V2 At $160 I still thought was a great buy due to them making it compatible with consoles. At roughly $190 now it’s now a rip-off so thanks for reminding me. I honestly think part of it is inflation as a lot of products have increased in price, but I wouldn’t pay almost $200 for that. The newer K5 Pro ESS is $200 and like the original, it’s way more versatile and still worth a $50 increase (the original AKM K5 Pro was $150).

And don’t get buyer’s remorse. I can tell you as a guy who has demoed about 60 of these things, the differences sound-wise are fairly marginal. I mostly recommend based on features and versatility.

I hope that helped. Keep me posted with questions!!

-Stu

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Tangerine Dreaming February 22, 2022 - 7:33 pm

Thank you for the long and thorough reply.

I took a look at my local Audio shop’s selection and saw they are getting the new ESS versions of both the K5 Pro and the Topping DX3 Pro+ next month.

Prices, at the moment for pre-orders are ~180usd for the K5 Pro and ~225usd for the DX3 Pro+

With these prices and taking into consideration the fact that I probably won’t ever going to be needing/using the Bluetooth on the DX3, which one would you recommend?

My common sense points towards the K5, but as there is only a few reviews of those ESS models out there for either of the units I’m still kinda hesitant to pull the trigger.

Thank you again!

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Stuart Charles Black February 23, 2022 - 3:51 pm

You’re welcome!

Yeah, I’d lean K5 Pro. It’s interesting because as of now (subject to change) you can actually still purchase the AKM version at or in the ballpark of the original price. Regardless, I absolutely love the unit I have here and use it every day when gaming. Hoping to get the ESS soon for comparison but for me, it’s an easy decision in getting one and I think you should.

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