Home Amps/DACS FiiO K5 Pro Amp/DAC Review & Setup

FiiO K5 Pro Amp/DAC Review & Setup

Is FiiO's K5 Pro THE Best Value Combo Amp/DAC For Your Desktop?

by Stuart Charles Black
FiiO K5 Pro Review

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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

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-C 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
Amazon Prime
Price
$149.99
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-C 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
Amazon Prime
Price
$149.99
Learn more

FiiO K5 Pro

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

In The Box

FiiO K5 Pro

15V DC Power Adapter &

USB Type-B Cable

1/4″ Adapter

Extra Rubber Feet

Quick Start Guide

Warranty Card

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Specifications

  • 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?

FiiO K5 Pro Review

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.

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.

Build Quality

Let’s get out of the way one of the only minor nitpicks I have with this Amp/DAC combo unit; it’s light.

Extremely light.

Underwhelming, even.

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’s feathery.

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.

He’s cut.

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

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Front Panel

The Volume Potentiometer on the front is large and in charge like Ms. Puff. It’s round and thick.

DUMMY THICC.

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.

Back Panel

FiiO K5 Pro Review

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.

Setup #1

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.

Exclusive Mode

  1. Click on the 3 bars in the upper left corner inside Tidal.
  2. File > Settings > Streaming.
  3. Scroll down to where it says “Sound” and “Sound Output”.
  4. Click (More settings) to the right.
  5. 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.

FiiO K5 Pro Review

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.

Steps

  1. Sign up for an account at bluecoastmusic.com using your email address
  2. Go to the https://bluecoastmusic.com/free-downloads page and ‘Add to cart’
  3. Complete the checkout process (you won’t be charged anything, but you will get a link in your account)
  4. While you’re logged in, go to your “Downloads” tab and you’ll find the link to download
  5. Download the folder to a location you can find on your computer. It will be a ZIP file
  6. Unzip the file and the files should be inside. Extract the files
  7. 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:

  1. Extract the zipped files you downloaded from BlueCoast to your desktop.
  2. Open the Audirvana app.
  3. Click Settings in the upper right-hand corner.
  4. Click Library, then click “Add Folders.” Select the appropriate one.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Setup #2

Line Out

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:

This is not a balanced setup. For that, you’d look at something like an Audio Interface and some JBL LSR305s, or use the K9 Pro balanced with the e3.5s.

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.

Speaking of,

Setup #3

Line In

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.

Setup #4

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.

Setup #5

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:

Gaming

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.

Sound

FiiO K5 Pro Review

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.

Why?

Because it performs just as well as many other higher-priced offerings but can be bought for a fraction of the price.

Sound Comparisons

iFi Zen vs. K5 Pro

FiiO K5 Pro Review

I’ve been using both of these since 2019, and they sound very similar.

The Zen specifies an output impedance of less than 1, but you probably won’t be able to tell that much of a difference in terms of detail, tonality, timbre, etc.

Most of those discrepancies come down to the headphones in question (and the track, really) and much less the DAC or Amp.

However,

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)

FiiO K5 Pro Review

JDS ATOM HEVI Review

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?”

“Like how?”

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)

S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier Review

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.

For clarity, I was using a DragonFly Red into the SH-9.

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.

Final Verdict

FiiO K5 Pro Review

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.

Learn More:

 

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!!

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.

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,

 

 

-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 Quality

4.8/5

Sound

5.0/5

Features/Versatility

5.0/5

Ease Of Use

5.0/5

Power Output

5.0/5

Pros

  • Plenty of Power
  • Incredibly Versatile
  • Can play most any high quality files
  • Relaxed but still crisp sound
  • Perfect Gaming Rig

Cons

  • A bit light

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44 comments

egeokan December 10, 2021 - 9:18 pm

Hey bro do you remember me? did you try the red with k5 pro(especially with mid gain)? if you didnt ill still love you 🙂

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 11, 2021 - 3:27 pm

Omgsh man thank you for the reminder from YT! Haha. I tend to get distracted 😉 I just plugged it up! So the Red into K5 Pro via 3.5mm to RCA. Listening with the 400se on mid-gain (as this headphone is very inefficient).

After going back and forth with the Red into the K5 Pro vs. Just the K5 Pro, I’d probably not even bother with the Red as a pairing DAC. I found myself turning the volume up a little more with the Red into the K5 Pro which I found strange. I don’t know why this is the case, but the K5 Pro on its own sounds better. Both instances are smooth with a hint of warmth, but the Red + K5 Pro doesn’t really make the K5 Pro sound more neutral or even better; in fact, it sounds a bit worse which I was also surprised by. So in short, one or the other, but not both.

Hope that helps! Let me know and looking forward to chatting.

-Stu

Reply
egeokan December 13, 2021 - 11:07 pm

thank you sooo much for your effort man thank you for your time :))))

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 14, 2021 - 2:18 pm

My pleasure man! Keep me posted/updated 🙂 Talk soon!

Reply
Eunice December 27, 2021 - 3:32 am

Hi can I use the k5 pro to connect to 2.0 speaker (Edifier e25hd) and an headphone?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 27, 2021 - 7:50 pm

Hey Eunice! Yes. You would just use RCA to 3.5mm and flick the input switch depending on what you’re listening to.

Reply
alex February 5, 2022 - 1:24 pm

hey man,

will you test the new fiio k5pro ess version

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 7, 2022 - 2:55 pm

Hey man! Yes hopefully soon! 🙂

Reply
Betty February 16, 2022 - 7:53 pm

Hello!

In your review you stated that “Note: The line feature on the front acts as the line in and out.” and that flipping the input switch from say 1-USB to 2-Line sends the signal to the speakers.

I have the k5 connected to my PC via USB and the presonus 3.5’s via RCA to RCA as you mentioned. However, when I flip the switch, the k5 disconnects from the pc obviously and the speakers get no signal?
I have to leave it at 1-USB and turn the speakers on or off + disconnect my headphones. Ideally this would be done with just the flip of the switch on the k5 as indicated in your review. This does not seem to work though.

Do you have any suggestions / am I doing something wrong?

Thanks for your time man!
Enjoyed your review and bough the presonus set up to use with my k5 because of it!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 16, 2022 - 8:49 pm

Hey Betty!

You’re welcome 🙂 Glad to help.

Thank you for the question as it’s a good one. I goofed on that when writing this. The line function is actually for the line in from say a USB turntable. You’re right in the sense that for line out to speakers, you’d keep it on USB and then just turn the volume down on the Eris’ if you want to use headphones, and disconnect your headphones if you want to listen on speakers.

Going a step further, let’s say you wanted to listen to that same vinyl through speakers instead of headphones. Simply run RCA out from the K5 Pro to the Eris’, keep the switch on line, and disconnect your headphones.

I just snagged a pair of e3.5s as well! I need to review them soon. I was also able to use them balanced with the newer K9 Pro which was a lot of fun. Thank you again as I went ahead and edited this to reflect the change.

I hope this helped. Keep me posted with any questions!

-Stu

Reply
Harry February 19, 2022 - 9:55 pm

Hi,
Was wondering what model of the K5 Pro you have reviewed here?

The original K5 Pro (AKM 4493 DAC chip) – Discontinued.
or
The newer K5 Pro ESS (ES9038Q2M DAC chip) – Current.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 21, 2022 - 4:37 pm

Hey Harry!

This is the AKM version. I should have an ESS one coming soon so stay tuned for that review and comparison 🙂

Reply
Ubail March 3, 2022 - 5:02 pm

HI, can the K5 pro amplify a turntable that does not have a built in preamp? Thank you very much. I love your site.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black March 7, 2022 - 9:34 pm

Hey Ubail thanks for the love! That’s a great question. From my understanding, no, unfortunately. You will need a phono preamp to connect before running it into the K5 Pro. Something like the Project Phono Box MM would do the trick.

Reply
Devin March 12, 2022 - 3:52 pm

So I just bought the FIIO K5PRO to give life to my DT 770s. I noticed there is not a line out for TRS cable to interface. Will an RCA to TRS cable work for a separate interface to get a balanced chain into my Yamahas? I am also wondering if it would even work with this amplifier. I am almost regretting not buying the cheap behingers since the design is pretty simple. Headphones to Amp to Interface. Thanks for your time and awesome review!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2022 - 5:49 pm

Hey man!

Unfortunately no. You’d have to ensure you’re going balanced to balanced so the K5 Pro won’t work in that regard. The K9 Pro is what I would recommend as an upgrade since it does have the balanced outs and is my top recommendation overall.

That said, the K9 may be overkill for what you’re doing but you’ll need the balanced outputs (from something) regardless.

Thank you for the kind words and keep me posted with any questions!

-Stu

Reply
Mac April 6, 2022 - 9:37 am

Hey Stu! Thanks for the recommendation, I got my K5 Pro ESS today and it sorted a lot out. Sounds great!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 6, 2022 - 1:42 pm

Hey Mac!

So great to hear. Keep me posted on everything and thank you for your continued support my friend!

Reply
Tangerine Dreaming April 12, 2022 - 12:14 am

Been using my K5 Pro ESS for couple of weeks now and I love it.

Thank you again!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 12, 2022 - 1:26 pm

Nice! You’re very welcome 🙂 Reach out any time!

Reply
diane April 24, 2022 - 2:56 pm

Ye not impressed mines DOA got old fiio of 10 years still works but only got coax so i wanted optical, well it lights up but no sound yes i did optical separate so coax and optical not plugged in together yes i read the manual aswell what there is of it, yes i configured and check all sound settings, no go, no go optical so i thought i’d try coax and no go for that, so the the old fiio of 10 years is still going strong seems they don’t make them like they used too, they lost a customer for good now.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 28, 2022 - 2:30 pm

Hey Diane!

You probably just got a lemon. It happens. Technology is never perfect. Mine has been going strong for a few years now.

Reply
Brian May 1, 2022 - 7:32 pm

So I bought Senn HD6XX to mix rock/punk/alternative music and have a Focusrite 2i2. Read that you “need” an amp/dac for these headphone so I got the K5Pro ESS. Is this enough? What do you mean by “not balanced?”
Do you recommend something else?
Also, how do I connect the amp/dac to the Scarlett?
Thanks

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 2, 2022 - 7:58 pm

Hey man! Yeah you do need something and the K5 Pro is great so I wouldn’t stress about it. Which part of the article specifically are you referring to? My top recs are K5 Pro, ATOM, and G6 so you’re in the right area. Zen used to be but for now, it’s a bit overpriced. If you wanted something more neutral than the K5 Pro, the ATOM is my top neutral rec. Again though, K5 Pro is great for the 6XX so don’t worry too much. From what I remember when I owned the 1st gen 2i2, it only has balanced outputs so you can’t connect it to the K5 Pro.

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Tim May 20, 2022 - 1:14 pm

Hi Stu, I bought an ifi zen DAC v2 to drive AKG 702s but I’m left wanting for just a tad bit more volume. Does k5 pro provide more power? Thanks

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Stuart Charles Black May 20, 2022 - 2:16 pm

Hey Tim! Yeah, it does. You’ll have a 2 gain stage and I pretty much never even have to use the second one (middle). I mostly always keep it on the lowest setting.

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snaz February 27, 2023 - 4:40 pm

Hi Stu
I have decided to buy the K5 pro to pair with my Senn 6XX . Can / should i use balanced cables to connect the 6XX to the K5 Pro ?
Cheers
sp

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Stuart Charles Black February 27, 2023 - 5:19 pm

Hey Snaz! Unfortunately, you can’t use the K5 Pro balanced. For that, I’d consider the updated K7. Keep me posted with any questions you may have! If you were wondering about a cable for the 6XX/K7, it would be a balanced 4.4mm like this one.

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snaz February 28, 2023 - 11:59 am

Hi again Stu – cheers re: signpost to K7 review ….
One more question re: going FiiO :
They’ve not got bluetooth – Is the sound in a blue tooth ear bud adjustble via a bluetooth enabled amp/dac ? If so is the workaround for no bluetooth-FiiO connecting it to a 3rd party (dac ??) with bluetooth capability ? ( I think you mentioned connecting bluetooth / wireless into a gear-chain which inc. a FiiO …) …. / or which balanced bluetooth amp-dac in this budget bracket(ish) would you recommend looking at, if in-deed such a thing exists ! cheers again

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Stuart Charles Black February 28, 2023 - 6:45 pm

Hi Snaz!

My pleasure.

That’s a great question. I’m not sure but I’d lean toward no because you’d have to pair the Buds with the Dac and the dac is meant to pair with your phone while the buds themselves are also meant to pair with a phone.

So you’d just use the dac’s volume control with a standard set of wired headphones/buds. I hope that makes sense. I will have to look into it more though.

My favorite Bluetooth DAC is currently the FiiO BTR5. Check it out here!

And FiiO does have a Bluetooth DAC in the K9 but it’s rather pricey. Still my top rec for people who want the all-in-one full-featured product.

Hope that helps. Let me know!

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snaz March 1, 2023 - 2:04 pm

Hi one more time …..to clear up the odds n sods ….
1. Are you were now recommending Hidizs S9 Pro Combo amp-dac over the DragonFly Red due to price ?
2. On balanced cables – i’m getting 2 opinions from you: ‘yes sir-ree’ and ‘not alot of difference’ – any last thoughts ?
3. One last techie clear up: Still a bit confused on what is transmitted across bluetooth on a bluetooth amp/dac and what the info chain order is:
Is it: pc/device > sound file > bluetooth transmission of audio data file > something (is this the dac bit ?) – something (is this the amp bit ?) > headphone cable > headphone ?
Or is it something entierly different ?
4. So the last decision is regard to HD 6XX and sound: you’re repeat recommending JDS Atom tie in to 6XX. Price wise the k5/k7 is similarish to the K3+jds Atom (…amp or dac ?) – Can i lay out all these 3 as options or whould you still prioritise any above the other concerning sound specifically ?
I think that’s it ! Thanks for your time ….. Here’s a remarkable story i recently heard in exchange :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAb5WpRkuB8&t=8s&ab_channel=DogmanEncounters Starts at 10 mins-25sec
cheers for your time – appreciated !

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Stuart Charles Black March 3, 2023 - 4:03 pm

Hey man!

1. Yes. Much better value. You’re basically getting the 9038 chip present in the Cobalt for a third of the price. The Red (9016 chip) now sits in an awkward price range but I still have one. I would just not really tell people to buy it anymore. I recommended the Red a lot in past articles so there are bound to be some that I haven’t updated yet.
2. Can I nod and shake my head at the same time? There’s a difference to me but it’s small and could be a placebo.
3. That seems right but I need to research it more.
4. Sound specifically? Not enough of a difference to go crazy over but the ATOM will be a bit more neutral and “true to the source.” Still an almost marginal difference. I still lean toward K5/K7 because it’s all in one and more versatile than an ATOM. Still love the ATOM though.
5. LOL did we talk previously about this sort of thing? Because it’s such a huge coincidence that I’ve been super into like Bigfoot/random huge thing that tries to be unseen lately and unexplained things in the woods for lack of a better way to put it xD. Such mystery. Many dogmen. What do. I will check that out now. Check out this doc I came across: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqf_o1N0o2A It’s super awesome and the end credit song is so amazing.

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snaz March 3, 2023 - 6:18 pm

oh yes …. suddenly there’s a bigfoot up my tree everywhere.co.uk ! – to be honest ……. bigfoot in the UK ……. i dont want to put my not so big foot in it ……. but, that said, there are wackily coherent dogman tales in the north east and Scotland which can raise an eye brow ..
yes the EM track was ‘moody’ ( EMM over EDM ) – i got quite into blue grass listening to all the american tales ….
I think i’ve alighted on K5 after much reading here – the last bit hanging around is no mention of the Topping equivs here at all – do you have any final comment (i promise !) on these as they’re available at Amazon UK – Model D1 / Dx1 – any other (?) – they get thumbs up typically due to the handheld remote but unsure about sound / with HD 6XX – last thoughts – if any – appreciated.
Cheers once again

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Stuart Charles Black March 6, 2023 - 7:32 pm

Hey! Listening to that Dogman podcast btw. Great stuff! It was so powerful when he was talking about how the female looked at him and was trying to like, telepathically communicate to him that it was going to be okay and not to freak out. I couldn’t imagine having an encounter like that. Dogmen seem even scarier than your traditional Sasquatch!

Glad to know you’re going for the K5! As for Topping, I’m not a huge fan. They seem a bit shady on their power numbers. When I saw that they advertised peak power on some of their products and not continuous, I was a bit apprehensive about recommending anything. That plus I heard their QC isn’t the greatest in the world. I’d stick to JDS and FiiO primarily. iFi is also good but a lot of their products are becoming overpriced now.

And no worries man! Here to help. Keep me posted!!

-Stu

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sp March 6, 2023 - 7:52 pm

Thanks – ive orderd the K5 at current price – no probs – so thats my dive in for now –
Cheers for all the help btw – looking at software next …. reading yr home studio guides for now – – i agree re dogman – what ever – the best of those are the most riveting action-horror stories i’ve ever heard in my life. …beat video games and movies hands down – cheers for now sp

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Stuart Charles Black March 6, 2023 - 8:10 pm

Awesome man! Def keep me posted on the K5 and your impressions, as well as anything DOGMAN related lol. xD

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sp March 9, 2023 - 6:18 pm

Hi there,
back again with an update and advice request:
Got the k5 today with also 6xx and the plug and play was a breeze so got sound going…
1. Is sound the same quality regardless of the gain setting ? I’ve read it warms up with higher gain settings but i’m nore concerned about if quality is effected ?
2. The 6XX seem ok to me – they’re a bit tight on the head – ALSO i’ve heard 6XX/650 etc need ‘burn in’ time. If so what sort of timeframe / amount of listening hours does that require and what sort of change/improvement occurs after that ?
3. My HP laptop has a sound option called ‘Wndows sonic for headphones’ which kinds of spaces/clarifies/airates the sound. Without it the sound is a bit dull/flat with the 6XXs. When mixing – is it ok to have the ‘Windows sonic for headphones’ on ? see: https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-windows-sonic-for-headphones-4776289
There is also an inbuilt laptop ‘to purchase’ Dolby Atmos and also something called DTS Sound Unbound as alts to the free ‘Windows sonic for headphones’ – i’m just trying to figure out what the right starting point is for mixing tracks from samples. Is it best to start from nothing / flat/dull or do the enhaancer options help me mix more clearly ?
Cheers !
ps i noted you’re ex-art skool (?) / Cheney post modern irony etc – SNAP ! Tho i educated in London in the 80s and came of age with Damien Hirst and YBAs if you know their stuff … later gen than yours i think ….
Cheers –

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Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2023 - 4:06 pm

1) I’m mostly just using gain for loudness. In my opinion, no, it doesn’t affect sound quality.
2) I’m not a huge proponent of Burn-In, but it’s a bit of a grey area. Check this article out for my overall thoughts!
3) Never used that! I will have to look into it. If it helps clarify your mix better, why not? That’s so cool! I sample too. What are you sampling? I mostly like flat because it’s not unnecessarily accentuating anything in the mix. This is why the 6XX is so good.

Here’s some anecdotal evidence. I gave my brother in law 3 headphones to try: HE400se, K702, and HD600. He’s not an audiophile but rather a guitarist, musician, engineer, and what have you. He knows nothing about higher-end headphones and just wanted something good to mix with. I told him nothing about the headphones’ sound signatures and didn’t give him any opinions about any of them to keep it as unbiased as possible. I asked him to try all of them and let me know which he liked best. After a few weeks, he told me hands down HD600 because it’s the flattest.

So yeah, you have great headphones on your hands and I would stick with them.

Me personally? I like K702 and HD600/6XX. 400se would be a bit tougher to mix on because of the mid-range dip after 1k.

And yeah man! I need to get back into painting. I really enjoy doing a lot of different things and it can be both a blessing and curse. In other words, I like to dabble so sometimes things get put on the back burner for awhile. If you have any ideas for conceptual paintings let me know!

And yeah, we did study Hirst a bit in school. Great artist!

Talk soon,

-Stu

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sp March 15, 2023 - 1:31 pm

Thanks re: signposting and feedback
1. I’m building emmersive long play originating with blue grass jam band samples slowed down to tap into their world music multi-referencing vibe – Billy Strings is a good example. The often hyper bpm tempo of bluegrass slowed down starts to tap into British and Euro folk, gypsy and indian subcontinent as well as african and east asian traditional string – i’m also throwing in some 20th Black american Funk and hip hop as well as native indian pow-wow vocals – the idea here is that before Jim Crow absolutely segregated musical discourse, bluegrass was on course to be a dialogue about world music and in its early days was exactly that – one of the few places people of whatever race could actually exchange cultures and influence each other freely in a time of slavery. So i’m sort of revisiting that and seeing what happens. Just starting now …

3. Re: painting ! Geees well – i never got on well with painting but i always loved hanging out in painter’s studios – good conversationalists . Also when i work in film and theatre – the scene painter dock is always a chilled place to take refuge. Painters are inherently zen but painting is a bit laborious if you over think it i thought …. You’re feeling out for ideas ? Maybe you mean feedback ? – You obviously have innate subversive perspective and you’re maybe a bit of a wigga ? You’re pics of african americans even look kind of like you ! – I was wondering if you’re a jewish wigga but your name isn’t jewish sounding it’s more anglo-saxon. I reckon you could make some interesting paitings abut wiggafication …. persoanlly im curious bout bigfootication and shorthanded speech …. i have a few long time wigga friends tho – my (punk) generation tended to do rasta over here – you’ll most probably hate me now – oh well you dit aks ……. me im multi racial anglo-irish french-german sri lankan by blood and adoption raised in London so ive a job just keeping to plain old queens english ….

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Stuart Charles Black March 20, 2023 - 6:11 pm

Nice! Sounds great man.

If you have links to any of your stuff now or in the future, would love to hear.

I’m super into sampling like Classical, Soul, Jazz, really anything that sounds good. One of my best compositions was a Mogwai sample and to this day no one has been able to tell what it is which is cool. I like that aspect of sampling. The more you can disguise it, the better. That said, my formula has always just been to sample what touches my soul; I don’t really care about much else. I just want to make the most head-banging beat possible.

What’s a “Wigga?” xD

Re: painting. Yeah, and the problem is that I overthink certain things so it doesn’t help at times. But yeah I’m trying to come up with interesting ideas of stuff to paint. I’m def a conceptual painter so i’m super into ideas about society, current or past events, etc.

Painting can be laborious but I had a great teacher once who told me that the best paintings are the ones where you’re painting the fastest you can go without thinking too much about it. At least that’s what has worked for me. Once I start to slow down and be too detailed is when I start to de-rail. Loose is always best for me. The problem, again, is I’m always thinking so deeply about things that it kind of slows progress down.

Anyway, I’m wondering if you can spot any of this in certain paintings vs. others. I’m not going to point anything specific out, but to me there are some discrepancies.

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sp March 22, 2023 - 12:06 pm

Hi –
‘certain paintings vs others’ ……wasn’t sure if you meant your own vs anybodys ! …
All your painting brush work reminds me of a certain style that came out of London in recent decades, particularly from women.
It’s a certain loose ‘un-serious’ ‘toungue-in-cheek’ style evoking the trend for hyper irony and subversion of power but at the same time re-engages with classic modes of subject matter and the repossession / democratisation of the brush mark. Which all sounds very over-thought – yet gave rise to a new naivety which at best, is a beautiful and sometimes intense and profound hi-art lite joke….
Your work reminds me most of Elizabeth Peyton – but there are shades of Tracey Emin and Jenny Saville too. You seem preoccupied with portraiture – hence me hyping your identity homework – looking up Wigga 😉
Does conceptual art still rule ? What comes next ? Special mention to Martin Creed’s Work No 79: ‘Blob of Blu Tack on a World Tour’.
So what is there to conceptualise in ….. is it NC ? … i wonder – talking of which…. heard on a current audio book – ‘Bigfoot : Terror in the Woods Volume 8’ a most touching story about “3 Boys Saving a Bigfoot From Quick Mud” in Hobucken NC (Note suggested “painting” “title” – should i commission this i wonder !?!) ) i…. my adopted parents were both raised in the city of Oxford in Oxfordshire , 50 miles from London. If the county of Oxon had that kind of lore,……. it might feel like God (am athiest) gently and amsusingly cuffing me on the cheek …..

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Stuart Charles Black April 10, 2023 - 4:45 pm

I really appreciate that breakdown! It’s very humbling and I actually got an idea for a painting that I’m going to start working on soon! Well, I had a rough idea already but kind of finalized it in my head. So thanks!

Aside from that, your thoughts line up with many others who have analyzed my work over the years. Upon graduation, my painting professor urged me to move away from the “political joke” as he so lovingly referred to it; at least when using actual names of famous people.

I may or may not continue that.

He felt as though my work was more powerful when I addressed topics in a way that’s more ambiguous (see this one for example) rather than simply using a “likeness” or well-known entity as the basis for the project. I agree and disagree at the same time.

I would love to know what your opinion is on this. And I will def check out those artists!!

I do think conceptual art still rules – for me anyway. The most flattering comment I ever received was when a well-respected, gifted artist referred to me as “Banksy with a Canvas.”

Now, if I was relying on my paintings to keep the lights on and bread on the table, I’d probably start doing more generalized stuff like portraits, landscapes, etc. But I don’t have to. I believe that would cheapen and in effect diminish my joy for painting as purely an art form.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy those things or don’t ever plan to do them (landscapes, etc.), but to me, conveying a message about something I deem important is much more valuable in the grand scheme of things – whether I’m “remembered” by anyone or not.

Oh and by the way, I’ve been on an obsessive “Dogman” kick for the last month or so LMAO. It’s so interesting! Did you hear this one? If I already sent it to you I apologize HAHA. What audiobook is that Bigfoot story on and do you have a link? That’s awesome that it’s from NC. May have to visit Hobucken soon.

It’s also on the way to the beach I think. I have probably passed through it before but can’t remember the town specifically. I do remember Kinston, NC which is one of the most fascinating to me due to its “Walking Dead” vibe and overall drab, depressing emptiness. I would love to do a documentary on that actually…

And I’m a former Agnostic turned Christian by the Grace of God if you were curious…

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Riz August 4, 2023 - 5:23 am

Hey man thanks for this content, I bought the Fiio k5 pro ess, is usb better than optical in terms of sound quality?

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Stuart Charles Black August 5, 2023 - 8:08 pm

Riz,

You’re quite welcome!

Hmm. That’s a great question. I don’t typically use Optical when I’m on the PC. I really only use it when gaming or watching film with a K5 Pro. That said, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. I’ve been going back and forth between them for some time and never really noticed any notable differences. Meaning, I’ve used the K5 Pro on my desk, then for gaming, repeat, etc. and never once was like “Wow, I think the optical is sounded sounded better (or worse). I’ve also demoed a $4000 optical cable and was pretty underwhelmed. LOL.

Hope that helps! Let me know.

Cheers,

-Stu

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