Part of the “Before You Buy” Series
Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…
In the quest for an informed decision on whether the K5 Pro is worthy of your investment, this article is your comprehensive guide.
We’ll begin by exploring what the K5 Pro is, examining its build quality, and then delving into its features and connections.
Next, we’ll explore the various ways in which you can harness its potential, including a step-by-step guide on using it with DSD files.
As we continue, we’ll venture into the realm of its sound quality and discuss how it fares for gaming.
To wrap things up, we’ll conduct a comprehensive comparison to see how it stands among its peers.
By the time you reach the conclusion of this article, you’ll have all the insights you need to confidently determine whether the K5 Pro merits a spot in your audio setup.
With that, let’s embark on this journey of discovery together and unlock the secrets of the K5 Pro.
At A Glance
FiiO K5 Pro
In The Box
FiiO K5 Pro
15V DC Power Adapter &
USB Type-B Cable
Extra Rubber Feet
Quick Start Guide
- 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
What Is It?
The K5 Pro is a versatile digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier designed to enhance the audio experience for users seeking high-quality sound output.
- Recommended: What Is a Headphone Amp?
It serves as an intermediary device that connects to various audio sources, such as computers, gaming consoles, media players, or smartphones, and converts digital audio signals into analog format.
With multiple input and output options, the K5 Pro is compatible with a range of audio equipment, making it a valuable component for audiophiles and music enthusiasts looking to elevate their sound quality and headphone performance.
Let’s get out of the way one of the only minor nitpicks I have with this Amp/DAC combo unit; it’s light.
When you pull it out of the box, you’re expecting it to be heavy like the iFi Zen, but it’s just not.
It doesn’t quite feel like a toy, but it’s getting there.
In one video I made the analogy of a nimble, lean soccer player.
He has 6 pack abs and some muscle, but he’s not jacked if that makes sense.
The K5 Pro is like that.
It’s built well and feels solid, but it lacks that heaviness factor.
Still, it won’t matter much as the unit will just be sitting on top of your desk.
You’re not going to be moving it around a whole lot unless you take it back and forth between the living room and desk area. More on that later.
Features & Connections
The Volume Potentiometer on the front is large and in charge like Ms. Puff. It’s round and thick.
Turn the knob until it clicks, and you’re greeted with a blue (or red) halo light. More on that in a jiffy.
There’s also an input switch and a 6dB/12dB gain switch to the left. Both of these feel solid enough and I haven’t had any issues since receiving the unit in 2019.
On the right, there’s your 1/4″ single-ended headphone jack. Pretty standard stuff.
This is where the fun begins.
On the back, we’ve got an optical input, the DC15V power jack, 1x RCA Input, 1x RCA Output, the coaxial input, and the USB Type-B jack.
One of the main reasons I recommend this thing so much is that it’s incredibly versatile.
Let’s take a look at every possible setup there is with the K5 Pro and learn more about everything it can do.
USB into your PC
This is going to be the most common setup you’ll be using roughly 90.19574839% of the time.
Yeah, I aced math. WHAT OF IT?
Just plug one end into the back and the other end into a USB slot on your PC.
Now plug the supplied power jack into a wall outlet.
Turn the volume knob on.
From here, you’ll likely see a red halo light which either means you’re on the wrong input, or you haven’t adjusted the audio settings on your PC.
If it happens to be on the correct input, the blue light will appear.
If the unit is recognized (and it will be), you’ll see “FiiO Q Series” as the name of the K5 Pro. Select that.
The halo light will remain red, but don’t panic just yet.
Tick the leftmost switch all the way down to the bottom position where it says “1 – U” (indicating USB).
Now go into your music App of choice and press play on a track. The light should turn blue.
In addition to blue, we’ve also got Yellow indicating anything above 48kHz, and Green representing DSD (up to 512).
If you want to play files above 48kHz in Tidal, you can. You’ll just have to enable exclusive mode.
- Click on the 3 bars in the upper left corner inside Tidal.
- File > Settings > Streaming.
- Scroll down to where it says “Sound” and “Sound Output”.
- Click (More settings) to the right.
- Now just tick the button to exclusive mode and the formats will change according to the file.
Now the Halo light will turn yellow for any master files inside the program.
DSD is a bit of a different story.
Most DSD files you’ll have to pay for, but there is a free library of songs that I used for the purposes of testing and comparing.
The website is BlueCoastMusic.
You will have to make an account, but the process is fairly painless.
- Sign up for an account at bluecoastmusic.com using your email address
- Go to the https://bluecoastmusic.com/free-downloads page and ‘Add to cart’
- Complete the checkout process (you won’t be charged anything, but you will get a link in your account)
- While you’re logged in, go to your “Downloads” tab and you’ll find the link to download
- Download the folder to a location you can find on your computer. It will be a ZIP file
- Unzip the file and the files should be inside. Extract the files
- Use your software player to play and figure out what plays and what doesn’t play in your system.
You’re not quite out of the woods yet.
Now that you have some DSD files, you’ll need a special player to play them.
I’ve found that the best option is Audirvana. You can set up a free trial here.
After it’s downloaded, follow these steps:
- Extract the zipped files you downloaded from BlueCoast to your desktop.
- Open the Audirvana app.
- Click Settings in the upper right-hand corner.
- Click Library, then click “Add Folders.” Select the appropriate one.
- Click the Audio Tab. IMPORTANT: Do not use WASAPI or you won’t see the correct halo colors on the K7. You must use the ASIO driver. If you can’t click it, just press the unlock button at the bottom right corner to release exclusive mode. Audirvana, like Tidal, locks exclusive access to the audio output for optimum quality. Other applications are silent as long as this access is locked. This can be a bit of a pain, but once you get used to how it functions it’s not too bad.
- Play a file and enjoy!
If you don’t use FiiO’s ASIO driver, you’ll notice the DSD64, 256, and 512 options (above) will be greyed out and the color will only change to Yellow (indicating anything above 48kHz).
Below you can see the halo light is green indicating DSD. Pretty cool!
The FiiO K5 Pro also acts as a preamp, meaning you can hook it up to separate unbalanced speakers!
Pretty neat. Just snag a pair of RCA to RCA cables and make sure to use the RCA output.
Then get a pair of Presonus Eris E3.5s (as an example), and plug the other ends into the inputs on the speaker.
You will need some speaker wire to go from the left to the right speaker, but it’s pretty straightforward and Presonus supplies some in the package.
Once you’re all set, keep the switch on USB and turn the volume up on your speakers. You can also listen with headphones as well.
For that, just turn down the volume on the speakers.
Keep in mind:
Another option you have is to use the K5 Pro as just a DAC into a separate amplifier if you like to experiment with different setups.
You’re likely not going to do this right away, but it’s always a neat feature to have.
Just connect the RCA outputs from the K5 Pro to a separate amp that supports either line in (3.5mm) or RCA in.
Most amplifiers have a combination of one or both. An example would be JDS Labs’ ATOM, which has both.
The line-in feature on the K5 Pro is also very useful in that you can use it as just an amp from a separate DAC.
Are you beginning to see the possibilities?
Any DAC that has, you guessed it, a line out or RCA outs will work here, and again, all of them either have one or both.
An example would be something like JDS’ ATOM DAC.
With Your Turntable
But wait, THERE’S MORE.
One of my favorite pastimes is spinning vinyl. The K5 Pro has you covered here as well, but it’s even simpler than you think.
Just use the RCA cables from your turntable and plug them into the K5 Pro’s RCA inputs.
Flip the switch up to “line” (middle) and voila, you’re listening to your favorite records.
You can also listen to the Eris’ mentioned earlier in this turntable setup.
Simply run RCA to line (or RCA to RCA) from the outputs of the K5 Pro to the speakers, keep the switch on line and unplug your headphones.
To further illustrate this point,
the K5 Pro doesn’t have to be plugged in via USB with this method since the signal is coming from the turntable and is only amplified by the K5 Pro.
You also don’t have to have your turntable plugged in via USB either since, again, the signal is being powered by the K5. You will obviously still need the turntable connected to wall power.
Coax from your TV or Receiver
This is one I personally haven’t tested yet, but the concept is simple.
If your TV has a coaxial output (and most do), simply plug the other end into the coaxial input on the K5 Pro and then flick the switch up to “3 – S” (indicating S/PDIF).
If you have something like a CD Player hooked up to your receiver, you can then output the sound from the receiver via coax into the K5 Pro and listen to your CDs that way.
Optical In from a console
This is perhaps my favorite method, as the PS4 is my main centralized hub for everything I watch or play.
The setup is simple.
Just run an optical cable from the back of your PS4’s optical out into the input on the K5 Pro, also making sure the K5 Pro is connected to wall power.
Now you’re READY.
Check out this graphic I did of all the different things you can do with it:
While we’re at it, we may as well discuss how the K5 Pro does for gaming.
I really love this setup with a headphone like AKG’s K702, K712, etc.
Single-player gamers and FPS homies need apply.
There’s plenty of immersion, and lots of power to go around. With the K5 Pro, you’ll always have a lot of headroom for even the most demanding of headphones.
I will say that the details and extra layers of sound you’ll hear have mostly to do with the great Soundstage apparent on the K702, but having a K5 Pro at my disposal has become truly invaluable.
- Headphones used: Sennheiser HD600, AKG K612, AKG K702, AKG K712, AKG K240M, Koss Porta Pro, Koss KPH30i, Koss KSC75, Philips SHP9500/9600, HD58X, HD560S, etc. I’ve pretty much used every headphone I’ve had on my desktop dating back to 2019 when I first received the unit.
- Source(s): Tidal Hi-Fi, Spotify Premium, FLAC, Lossless, DSD.
- Playlist: >Here!<
The sound itself coming out of the K5 Pro strikes a nice balance between warm and crisp.
At 1.2 Ohm output impedance, it’s not entirely neutral nor does it sound overly warm.
The K5 Pro has been an excellent performer for me since FiiO sent it over.
When not demoing other products, I’ve used it almost every day and love it.
Because it performs just as well as many other higher-priced offerings but can be bought for a fraction of the price.
iFi Zen vs. K5 Pro
I’ve been using both of these since 2019, and they sound very similar.
Most of those discrepancies come down to the headphones in question (and the track, really) and much less the DAC or Amp.
because both use DAC chips that aren’t really known for their sterility (AKM in the case of the K5 Pro, and Burr-Brown for the Zen) they both are going to sound semi-close to neutral but not entirely neutral.
Any perceived differences are fairly subtle in passing and I wouldn’t become too concerned over it – especially considering both have almost identical Total Harmonic Distortion numbers: <0.005% for the Zen, and <0.004% for the K5 Pro.
They both also have similar Output Impedances.
K5 Pro vs. ATOM (Amplifier only)
JDS’ original Objective 2 was my previous standard for great sound and a neutral profile before they decided to discontinue it.
If my memory serves me right, it had somewhere in the ballpark of a 0.1 Ohm output impedance.
The ATOM follows suit, but it’s a bit less sterile coming in at around 0.5.
You can probably guess how it sounds in relation to the K5 Pro.
A bit more neutral, crisp, and sterile for sure, and the difference this time around is more noticeable than it is with the Zen/K5 Pro comparison.
So the K5 Pro and Zen are a smidgen warmer, while the ATOM leans cool.
“Are you cool, man?”
So the ATOM is incredibly clean and immaculate sounding while the K5 Pro leans a tad warm – i.e heading in the direction of a semi-tubey type of sound (perhaps a Tube hybrid) but still nowhere close to an actual tube amp.
The other difference is that the ATOM is just an Amp and needs a separate DAC to function. Just snag an ATOM DAC to keep it nice and organized.
FiiO K5 Pro vs. S.M.S.L SH-9 (Amplifier only)
Does the SH-9 sound any better than a FiiO K5 Pro; an Amp/DAC that does not utilize THX?
I went back and forth extensively trying to discern any differences, and I couldn’t.
Both are very clean sounding, but the K5 Pro may be, again, a tad warmer.
This is likely due to its somewhat higher output impedance at 1.2 Ohm. The SH-9 is advertised as close to 0.
FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro
For those wanting a full A/B comparison: FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro Review & Comparison
The differences between these 2 are pretty subtle, but again, the K3 is slightly more open-sounding and a bit cleaner.
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 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.
Voices may come across as more prominent/forward, as in the case of Common’s “Little Chicago Boy”.
AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. FiiO K5 Pro
If the K3 was a bit more open and crisp than the K5, the DragonFly Red takes this sentiment and magnifies it even more.
Out of the 65+ Amps & DACS I’ve heard at the time of this writing, the DragonFly Red is certainly the most open and cool sounding out of them all.
It kind of mimics the effect of Scout Mode on the G6, but you don’t have to flick a switch to experience it.
It’s airy, crisp, and some would say a bit overly sterile due to what is known as the “Sabre Glare”.
I can certainly see where those people are coming from, but I still enjoy the sound immensely, and thus, I recommend it a lot.
I believe the sound of the ESS Sabre chip does tend to outperform others, and this is one of the very few instances where I can say that the difference is more apparent than with other DACS per my own experience.
The K5 Pro by contrast is smoother, warmer, and slightly hazier.
I would liken the DragonFly to opening your window and letting a cool breeze in on a Spring or Fall day.
Sounds are spaced out a bit better, and the overall feel seems grander and more encompassing.
The K5 Pro is absolutely the best entry-level desktop Amp/DAC recommendation I can make, and I hope I’ve helped you clarify exactly why.
If you’re looking for a combo setup you’ll hang on to for a very long time, look no further.
The K5 Pro is the one.
I say that with years of experience dating back to 2017 and trying over 65 Amps & DACS at the time of this writing + many folks have come back to me saying the same; that it too is their daily driver and they couldn’t imagine life without it.
If you do plan to run balanced headphones, definitely check out FiiO’s K7.
So.. are you ready for the next article in the Before You Buy series, click below, and let’s dive in!
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO K5 Pro Amp/DAC Review & Setup, and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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What do you think of the K5 Pro? Does it seem like a sound investment? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,