Home Amps/DACS FiiO K7 Review – An Improvement Over The K5 Pro?

FiiO K7 Review – An Improvement Over The K5 Pro?

by Stuart Charles Black
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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…

Today’s review of the K7 will cover everything: build, features, sound, a comparison to the K5 Pro, a guide on how to run DSD files, and more. 

By the end of this article, you should have a clear idea of what it is, how it sounds, what it’s capable of, and if it’s ultimately worth a purchase based on features, versatility, and more.

So let’s dive in!

FiiO K7

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos! | Check FiiO! | Song Playlist: Here!

In The Box

Power Cable x1

Power Adapter x1

USB Cable x1

Quick Start Guide x1

Warranty Card x1

FiiO K7 Review


  • DAC: AK4493SEQ*2
  • Decoder: XMOS XUF 208
  • Amplifier: Dual THX AAA 788+
  • Outputs: 6.35mm/4.4mm
  • Inputs: USB/TOP/COAX/RCA
  • Output Power 1: ≥2000mW (32Ω, balanced/THD+N < 1%)
  • Output Power 2: ≥1220mW (32Ω, single-ended/THD+N <1%)
  • Output Power @ 300 Ohm: 560mW
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥120dB (A-weighted, UAC)
  • Noise Floor: PO<4.4μV (A-weighted, UAC); BAL < 7.7μV (A-Weighted, UAC)
  • Output Impedance: <1Ω (32Ω load)
  • Weight: 610g
  • Dimensions: About 120mm x168mmx55mm
  • Materials: Aluminum Alloy, CNC finish

What Is It?

The FiiO K7 is a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier designed to enhance audio quality and provide a better listening experience for audio enthusiasts.

It is a standalone audio device that is typically used in conjunction with a computer to improve the quality of audio output.

Key features of the K7 include high-resolution audio support, multiple input and output options, a headphone amplifier section, and various audio processing capabilities.

It is known for its ability to convert digital audio signals into high-quality analog signals, allowing for better sound reproduction, especially when paired with high-quality headphones or speakers.

Build Quality

The build of the K7 is solid and robust, with durable connections, a large volume potentiometer, and a sleek overall aesthetic.

Weighing in at 610 grams and made of Aluminum Alloy, it doesn’t feel cheap and shouldn’t be considering its price tag.

CNC Machining

The K7 also utilizes what’s known as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining in its construction.

Every detail of the K7 is meticulously shaped and crafted with the utmost accuracy and consistency, thanks to the precision of CNC technology.

This process ensures that the housing, connectors, and various components of the device are not only durable but also sleek and aesthetically pleasing.

The application of CNC machining in the FiiO K7 offers several benefits:


First and foremost, it guarantees unmatched precision and repeatability, ensuring that each unit produced adheres to the exact specifications set by the design.

This results in a consistent, high-quality product that meets the demands of audiophiles and enthusiasts.

Furthermore, the CNC construction enhances the device’s structural integrity, contributing to its longevity and robustness.

Additionally, the smooth and seamless finish achieved through CNC machining adds a touch of sophistication and elegance to the K7, making it a visually striking addition to any audio setup.

FiiO K7 Review

Having owned the K5 Pro since 2019 without a single issue, and now the K7, I’m confident that FiiO’s CNC method of manufacturing products has a lot to do with their longevity.


With an Output Impedance of less than 1, the K7’s “sound” can be classified as fairly neutral, providing a clean backdrop for your music and plenty of power.

With that said, if there’s one issue I have with the K7, it’s this:

It takes a bit of knob-turning to get to the right volume level.

This is something I’ve been noticing with FiiO since they came out with the K3, and it’s fairly irritating.

For instance,

I was shocked to find that with my K702 on low gain, I had to turn the dial to roughly 2-3 o’clock.

With the K5 Pro on middle gain, I’m only at 11, and with low gain I’m at roughly 12 with the same headphones.

I don’t know if FiiO is expecting most people to be using balanced headphones, and I suppose that’s fair.

This could simply be a matter of how they design their volume potentiometers nowadays. 

The K9 Pro’s volume knob also took quite a bit of turning to reach an acceptable level.

From FiiO’s website:

“Thanks to ADC curve reconstruction, experience a smooth 112 steps of adjustable volume free of channel imbalances and noise – ensuring that every note is faithfully reproduced.”

Aside from some clear market-speak, this seems legitimate when you consider that it matches up with my experience.

There’s virtually no imbalance at lower volumes and it’s a rather smooth turn from quiet to louder.


many people are going to be a bit disappointed in having to pump that dial, and in all honesty, I was a bit taken aback by it as well.

This reviewer on Amazon described it as a “laggy volume control” and I’m assuming he means the same kind of thing I’m pointing out.

It simply feels like you’re doing a lot of turning even though on paper the unit technically has more power than the K5 Pro.

It’s important to remember that I’m kind of nitpicking a little as you’ve still got high gain + the balanced feature which kind of mitigates the “issue” to an extent.


The K7 boasts impressive output power, delivering a significant amount of energy to drive a wide range of headphones and provide a high-quality audio experience:

Output Power 1 (Balanced)

With a remarkable output power of ≥2000mW at 32Ω when used in balanced mode, the FiiO K7 can efficiently drive demanding headphones.

This substantial power output ensures that even headphones with lower sensitivity receive ample energy, resulting in a dynamic and clear audio performance, while maintaining low levels of distortion (THD+N < 1%).

Output Power 2 (Single-Ended)

In single-ended mode, the K7 still delivers an impressive ≥1220mW of output power at 32Ω.

This also means that it can power a wide variety of headphones effectively, producing crisp and detailed sound quality while adhering to low distortion levels (THD+N < 1%).

Output Power @ 300 Ohm

When driving headphones with a higher impedance of 300 Ohms, the K7 can still produce a substantial 560mW of power, which is more than plenty.

This output power is ample for most high-impedance headphones, ensuring that they receive the necessary energy to produce sound with clarity and depth.

Before we get into the differences between K5 Pro and K7, let’s take a look at everything you can do with the K7.

Setup #1

USB into your PC

FiiO K7 Review

This is going to be the most common setup you’ll be using the majority of the time.

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 notice the halo light initiates in a rainbow of colours.

Press the input button to cycle between sources (USB, Optical, COAX, Line), and the same rainbow halo will appear after each push.

Next to the input button is your High/Low Gain switch, and beside that, the output switch.

  1. LO – This will be used with your balanced 4.4mm headphones/wiring.
  2. PRE – This is the preamp section and will be used to connect to separate active speakers like the Presonus Eris e3.5s.
  3. PO – This will be used with your unbalanced (single-ended) headphones/wiring.

The input button is a new feature that the K5 Pro didn’t have, and it’s a bit more convenient.

The other new and fairly important feature is of course the K7’s 4.4mm jack which seems to me to be a rather standard addition – especially when we consider that quite a lot of folks do indeed run balanced headphones nowadays.

Add to that the fact that 4.4mm is becoming increasingly popular.

The K9 Pro employed it, but iFi was using it in 2018 and most companies are starting to latch on.

In any event,

You’ll like this addition and find that while some of the other things (THX, colours, etc.) are a bit gimmicky, the balanced option is very nice to have.

In addition to teal, we’ve also got Yellow indicating anything above 48kHz, and Green representing DSD (up to 256). More on that in a second.

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. Go to 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, and I will put the entire process of playing DSD files with the K7 at the end if you’re interested!

In any event,

let’s take a look at some of the K7’s other features.

Setup #2

Line Out

FiiO K7 Review

The FiiO K7 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 as far as the outputs are concerned.

For that, look to an Audio Interface like the Universal Audio Volt 2 and some active studio monitors like the Yamaha HS7, or use the K9 Pro balanced with the e3.5s or any speakers that have balanced inputs.

Another option you have is to use the K7 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 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.

Note: The line feature on the front acts as the line in.

Speaking of,

Setup #3

Line In

The line-in feature on the K7 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 K7 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 K7’s RCA inputs.

Press the Input button 3 times to switch over to Line 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 K7 to the speakers, and flip the output switch to the middle setting (PRE).

To further illustrate this point,

the K7 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 K7.

You also don’t have to have your turntable plugged in via USB either since, again, the signal is being powered by the K7.

You will obviously still need the turntable connected to wall power.

Setup #4

Coax from your TV or Receiver

FiiO K7 Review

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 K7 and then press the input button twice.

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 K7 and listen to your CDs that way.

Setup #5

Optical In from a console

How To Set Up A Home Theater System For Beginners

This is perhaps my favorite method, as the PS4 is my main centralized hub for everything I watch or play.

I can watch movies, stream Max, Prime, YouTube, etc., as well as play some games.

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.

FiiO K5 Pro vs. K7

With that, do keep in mind a few notable differences between the K5 Pro and K7:

  • The K7 is slightly larger length-wise.
  • The K7 has the THX stamp. Related: What is THX AAA Technology In Audio & Video?
  • The K7 has a balanced 4.4mm jack.
  • The K7 lights up in a rainbow of colors upon initial startup (Turn the knob).
  • The K7 is a bit heavier at 610g vs. 436 for the K5 Pro. You’ll notice the K7 feels more durable in your hands.
  • The K7 displays teal instead of blue for all files below 48kHz.

Sound Differences

In short, there are none. The K5 Pro had an output impedance of roughly 1.2 and the K7’s is advertised as under 1.

This essentially means both are fairly neutral, and the difference isn’t enough to result in any sort of significant discrepancy.

Both will provide a clean backdrop for your music, but you may consider the K7 if you plan to run balanced headphones.

Final Verdict

FiiO K7 Review

FiiO K7 Review

I’ve recommended the K5 Pro and JDS ATOM as the only 2 entry-level desktop Amps you should concern yourself with, but the birth of the K7 and now K11 both throw a monkey wrench into this – at least a little.

If you don’t the need RCA inputs that the K5 Pro and K7 have, the K11 is only around $130 and has a balanced 4.4mm headphone output. It’s also more intuitive and has some other nifty features.

I like the $130-200 range that FiiO has stuck with for this line as I think the value you’re getting is tremendous and certainly worth it.

Other companies should take note.

Learn More:


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO K7 Review 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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Which of these fits your needs best? Do you think the K7 is worth the money? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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How To Listen To DSD With The K7

Most DSD files you’ll have to pay for, but there are some free downloads that I used for testing and comparing.

You get the following formats for Jenna Mammina (pictured below):

  • 24/192kHz – FLAC
  • 24/192 – WAV
  • 16/44 – WAV
  • 24/48 – WAV
  • 24/96 – FLAC
  • 24/96 – WAV
  • DSD128
  • DSD256
  • DSD64

For John R Burr’s “Quarter Tones”:

  • 16/44 – WAV
  • 24/96 – FLAC
  • DSD128
  • DSD256

The website is BlueCoastMusic.

You can see in the above image the files I used in 2019 for FiiO’s K5 Pro.

You will have to make an account, but the process is fairly painless.


  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. 

FiiO K7 Review

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).

It’s also important to note that the K7, unlike the K5 Pro, actually does NOT support DSD512 (The image above is the settings for the K5 Pro).

Below you can see the K7’s settings that do not include 512:

I spoke with Sunny over at FiiO about it and she gave me this explanation:

So they didn’t include 512. Big deal.

The majority of people aren’t going to give 2 craps about this, but as always, your mileage may vary.

People hardly ever buy FLAC CDs in the store anymore, why would they pay for some $99 downloads? Yes, that’s right, you read that correctly.

I was curious to see what they’re charging for some other DSDs on BlueCoast and it’s quite ridiculous.

I’m sure there are other cheaper downloads, and if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment down below.

Photo Gallery

FiiO K7








Power Output



  • Great build
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Fantastic overall value/price to performance
  • Clean backdrop for music


  • Volume turning may be a bit jarring

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TOAST January 11, 2023 - 5:26 pm

Cheers for another great in-depth review.
I was fortunate to get a K7 Pro as a Christmas present. Availability in the UK is very patchy at the moment.

I’ve got a query about the perceived difference between using the normal 6.35mm headphone jack versus the balanced 4.4mm. My trusty Philips Fidelio X3 is the only set in my collection that has a balanced cable, although I had to invest in a right-angled 2.5 to 4.4 adapter to get it working with the K7.
The most immediate difference I noticed was the increase in volume on balanced, with the dial placed in the exact same spot. Some very subtle differences that I’ve picked up are a slight improvement in instrument separation, and a delicate boost to the crispness + detail in the treble delivery.
Would these findings be consistent with your experience of using a balanced connection, or my are my ears picking up some bullshit, or is this something unique to the characteristics of these particular Fidelios? I know that you don’t have an X3 on hand, but you must’ve compared the two connection types on an AKG or Sennheiser in the past.


Stuart Charles Black January 14, 2023 - 1:54 am

Hey Toast!

Great to hear from you and glad you’re enjoying the K7. Your impressions are almost verbatim my own regarding balanced. In addition to the obvious boost in overall power output, I do perceive balanced as slightly cleaner and crisper, perhaps a bit better overall resolution and timbre, and all the stuff you mention.

That said, I do think it’s incredibly subtle and it still could be a placebo. That is to say that if a dac has balanced options, it’s always nice but I’m not sure I personally care all that much? It’s pretty tricky. I’m not entirely one way or the other on this, but I plan to keep on listening and see if my thoughts change any. Also, be on the lookout for an article about balanced vs. unbalanced in the near future as I think it will help a lot of folks starting out.

Do keep in touch in the meantime with any additional feedback and/or questions.

Talk soon,


TOAST January 14, 2023 - 5:35 pm

Ah, good to know that my observations are not isolated to this particular set of ears.

I would’ve gone for the K5 Pro, but fortunately remembered that there was a balanced cable, sitting unused, in the X3’s box. The K7 is a really nice bit of kit, and I’ve been enjoying using it over the past two weeks.
My X3 is now exclusively connected via balanced, and its 3.5mm cable is relegated to storage.
I wonder whether many reviewers/critics of the Fidelio X3 ever bothered to test it out via the supplied balanced 4.4mm Pentacon.

I am looking forward to reading about your more detailed impressions of Normal vs. Balanced connections.
Aftermarket/custom balanced cables look to be quite the investment, so I wonder whether it’s worth getting one for other sets in the collection. Modification to the actual headphone is required in some cases.


Stuart Charles Black January 14, 2023 - 6:09 pm

Yeah man! And don’t worry, I’m not trying to …butter you up or anything. xD

HAha *ahem*

Yeah the K7 is pretty neat and sweet. Always love FiiO products which is why I recommend them so often.

TOAST February 18, 2023 - 12:07 pm

Okay, I’m back to sing more praises for the K7 Pro, no buttering required!
I’ve been plugging in my old + formerly retired (in-ear) earphones, and the K7 doesn’t pick up any background hum or static noises from the computer.
The QOGIR E09K and K5 Pro seemed to have shielding issues, or produced internal low level feedback/vibrations.
It’s very refreshing to have a device that can output a very clean signal.

Stuart Charles Black February 22, 2023 - 4:43 pm

Can I call you powdered toast man?


K7 is awesome!! I’m listening to it now actually 😀

Rohan February 12, 2023 - 4:25 am

Hi Stuart,

Dac / Amp required for HD6xx. Mostly using through usb to connect my phone. ( Not for desktop use).

Which one do you recommend Fiio K7 or Zen Dac V2 ?

Stuart Charles Black February 15, 2023 - 2:22 am

Hey man! def K7 as it’s more versatile and better value to me. I think the V2 is a bit overpriced in today’s market but it’s still a pretty good option for gaming.

ROHAN February 22, 2023 - 5:24 am

Can Fiio K7 Drive HD6xx ? or I need to look for Amp as well?

Stuart Charles Black February 22, 2023 - 4:43 pm

K7 is perfectly fine for 6XX!! 🙂

TOAST February 26, 2023 - 4:35 pm

#Can I call you powdered toast man?#

Mmm, the site wouldn’t allow me to reply directly.
Sure, more powder the better. I remember being weirded out by that cartoon back in the Nineties.

I bought a balanced cable for the HD 599 SE, and there was no perceivable change in sonic properties beyond the large volume increase. No magic unlike the awakening of the X3.

Stuart Charles Black February 27, 2023 - 4:16 pm

Really glad you understand the simple concept that balanced isn’t going to cause any “pitching of tents.” It’s simply louder. That said, my brain kind of perceives this slightly more refined, cleaner edge, but again, this could just be a placebo.

And LOL. Same. My best friend from back then and I are actually watching through some of these old shows again like Rocko, Ren & Stimpy, etc. and *Hank Hill Voice* I’ll tell you what, there are a lot of interesting messages contained therein. An absolute joy!

TOAST February 27, 2023 - 8:42 pm

There are a rare couple of reviews/impressions where the person states that the Fidelio X3 really needs the balanced cable to truly shine. Who knows if their ears picked up some innate mojo as well.
I’d like to blame the 599 SE’s lower sensitivity and/or less technical driver…but it could all be, as you said, a placebo effect.

I had to watch all of the strange cartoons and a friend’s house; my parents didn’t have cable and therefore no access to the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon UK channels. It’s weird to look back on it, but the BBC only started airing The Simpsons in 1996!

Stuart Charles Black February 28, 2023 - 6:34 pm

Yeah I mean balanced is a strange thing. The concept of reverse polarity is definitely scientifically sound in what it achieves with regard to noise elimination, so if given the choice with say, studio monitors and an interface, I’ll likely always opt for balanced. With headphones, to me, it’s a bit different as I’m not sure if there’s enough of a perceivable difference to go ape sh** over. But if you asked me if there was? I’d lean towards yes but maybe nod and shake my head at the same time lol.

“All of the strange cartoons” LOL. That’s about right. I don’t know how old you are, but growing up in the 90s with all of those classics was incredible. And that’s not to mention other non-cartoon shows like Pete and Pete. The nostalgia sometimes gets too real.

I know I’m a product of my era like everyone else, but man, I don’t know if 90s Television will ever be matched.

And the Simpsons. Heh. That’s one of those shows that just won’t die kind of like Spongebob. If you remember Rugrats, they really tried to milk that for all it was worth but it just got so bad they had to pull the plug. Those first 3 seasons were unrivaled. Still one of the longest-running cartoons in history. I think like it’s 8th or something.

And if you couldn’t tell I’m a huge nerd about these sorts of things.

TOAST February 28, 2023 - 10:57 pm

Yeah, I think that my balanced adventures will end with getting cables for any set that’s already internally wired for it. I’m in no rush to make modifications to the K702, X2HR or HP151.

I’m currently navigating through my late thirties, so I was definitely a child of watching cartoons in the 1990s, although I couldn’t catch everything due to not having cable/satellite at home.
I burned out on The Simpsons back in the early 2000s.
The BBC only aired the early Rugrats seasons, so I never got to see how things got drawn out.
I remember being weirded out by the Red Guy from Cow & Kitchen, and wondering how this character could’ve possibly been approved for Kids TV. Johnny Bravo was also erring on the racy side at times.

Here’s a loose list of animated stuff I watched back then:

The Tick, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, The Adventures of Tintin, Babar, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, 2 Stupid Dogs, The Adventures of Mario, The Adventures of Batman, The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Biker Mice from Mars, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars!, Transformers (VHS only), He-Man, Captain Planet, Thundercats, Danger Mouse, Doug, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb & Dumber, Earthworm Jim, Eek! The Cat, The Gogs, Inspector Gadget, The Animals of Farthing Wood, The Legend of White Fang, Rupert, Star Wars: Droids, Star Wars: Ewoks, Madeline, Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, The Magic Roundabout, The Snowman, Dogtanian, Danger Mouse, Bananaman, Felix the Cat, M.A.S.K., Rocko’s Modern Life, Sharky & George, and Ulysses 31.
I’m sure that I’m forgetting several other shows…

I also watched a lot of Anime in France (Club Dorothée!), but that’s a story for another time.

Stuart Charles Black March 1, 2023 - 12:50 am

So great man! Thanks for all the cool ideas for shows to potentially watch/analyze. I’m actually starting a YouTube channel about all things film/television/cartoons. Kind of like a video essay format about different ideas and perhaps the hidden messages contained therein.

It would be really cool to explore some of these because, to be honest, I haven’t heard of some of them. People think cartoons are mindless entertainment but it goes way deeper in my opinion. You just have to be paying attention to what the creators are trying to say. Rocko is a prime example of that and I have around 7 pages of the script for the video written as of this comment. Real fun stuff!

I’ve tried to get into anime a few times and while I appreciate it, I don’t watch it nearly as much. I watched some of Death Note, DragonBall, and basically the whole Attack On Titan series, but other than that it’s sporadic. Any good rec as something to get started with?

TOAST March 1, 2023 - 9:56 pm

A few of those cartoons might’ve only been shown in the UK/Europe back then.
Good luck with the YT endeavour. That’s a lot of material to chew through.

I’m not really all that up-to-date with modern anime, as I’ve only really watched a few shows from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
Dragon Ball (plus DB Z) is an easy recommendation, and you’ve already made a start on it.
The Gundam series is great if you enjoy big robots blowing stuff up. I would recommend Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket as an entry point to the series, even if it’s considered to be a ‘side’ story.
Evangelion also features big robots, albeit icky ‘n’ gooey.
I enjoyed the silliness of Ranma ½ when I was a pre-teen.
Lupin III is very stylish.

Anime movies are usually a nice starting point, over making somebody watch multiple seasons of crazy shit.
You’ve likely viewed some of these over the years.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Akira (1988)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – prepare to weep
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Metropolis (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Stuart Charles Black March 6, 2023 - 5:52 pm

Nice! I will def keep those in mind. And thanks for the support. It IS a lot to chew through. I’m 7 pages into the Rocko script and kind of burnt out LOL. Still, I really enjoy long-form content and I know a lot of others do as well. There’s something about really pouring into an idea and fully fleshing it out that satisfies like a snickers. Or Powdered Toast Man. XD

Victor March 8, 2023 - 2:32 am

Nice review, Stuart!

Just one question… at the unbalanced output, does the k5 pro really get higher volumes?

Stuart Charles Black March 8, 2023 - 4:03 am


Thank you! This is a really weird and tough situation because I’m turning the knob less on the K5 Pro to get louder volumes and turning more on the K7. As mentioned in the review, even despite that, the K7 has more power on paper, and the potentiometer according to FiiO is designed differently so I’m pretty sure that’s what accounts for the discrepancy in real-time.

I hope that helps. I’m messing with it right now and to get an equal amount of loudness, the K5’s knob is around 2 ‘o clock while the K7’s is around 3. Both are on the lowest gain setting.

In any event, keep me posted with any additional questions you may have.


Wojciech March 17, 2023 - 5:18 pm

Ok – if I have K5 Pro – is it worth to upgrade to K7?

Stuart Charles Black March 17, 2023 - 5:47 pm

Hey there! As mentioned in the article, if you run balanced headphones or plan to run them primarily, then yeah. If not, I’d say no. They’re almost the same thing outside of that and sound identical. The other subtle differences were also outlined. Let me know if that helps.

Wojciech March 17, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Yes – thank you! I don’t own balanced headphones. Maybe only Fiio K9 Pro ESS would be a nice upgrade then.

Stuart Charles Black March 18, 2023 - 12:31 am

My pleasure! Yeah if you’re going to upgrade, I’d probably skip K7 and go straight for K9 as it offers a lot more flexibility.

Nick April 21, 2023 - 7:50 am

Question about connecting active monitor speakers Focal Alpha 80 Evo via balanced output on Fiio.
Will there be any benefit from that, and should I invest in DAC that has balanced outputs?
Right now I have these connected to Tr-Amp DAC through unbalanced RCA.

One more question about balanced output, but this one is about using it to connect to active monitors Focal Alpha 80 evo’s.

Right now I’m using unbalanced RCA from earmen tr-amp dac/amp to speakers.
Is there any logic in investing in DAC with balanced output for connecting to XLR inputs on Focals?

Stuart Charles Black April 22, 2023 - 3:11 pm

Hey man!

I saw your other 2 comments and consolidated them here + fixed the typo you mentioned about how you were utilizing FiiO’s unbalanced connections.

As for your question of if there are any benefits?

To that I lean towards yes, but they are incredibly subtle and almost marginal. In other words, it could just be a placebo but FWIW, I do feel as though balanced is slightly cleaner and more refined sounding. Take that with a grain of salt though as most of the time you likely won’t care.

That said, I do run balanced from my audio interface into studio monitors as sort of a default (but also because most interfaces only utilize balanced outs).

The science behind it (i.e. reverse polarity) is sound and correct, it’s just that in practice you may not notice it all that much unless, like me, you’re really going back and forth/attempting to hear differences that may or may not be there.

As far as FiiO and balanced (i.e. what you mentioned in your comment) it would have to be a FiiO K9 Pro if you were going to go that route. The K5 Pro and K7 don’t have balanced outs, unfortunately.

As far as headphones and utilizing them balanced, the same sort of thing applies as with speakers in my opinion. It’s definitely worth it to at least try it out and see what you think, but I’ll just tell you that I’m never going to lose sleep if I don’t have balanced cables on hand. It just doesn’t matter all that much to me since, as I mentioned, the differences are super minuscule.

Hope that helps!

Keep me posted with questions.


Jorem July 23, 2023 - 2:20 am

Hi Stuart, thank you for your content, been learning a lot about audiophile stuff here. Am planning on getting an HE400SE and seems it will require a an amp. The options I’m considering are Zen DAC, Topping DX3+ pro and Fiio K7. Saw your comment regarding the Zen so that’s out, what would you recommend over the other two? I am also just using Spotify to play music, should I just go for the cheaper and more basic DX1 or Zen Air? Thank you.

Stuart Charles Black July 26, 2023 - 2:21 pm

Hey Jorem!

My pleasure. Definitely get the K7. I haven’t heard the Zen Air but the feature set on the K7 is fantastic. It will be something you hold onto for a long time. I’ve had my K5 Pro here since 2019 or so and it gets daily use.

Keep me posted on everything!



John August 27, 2023 - 3:55 pm

Hi Stuart, just want to say thank you for your in depth reviews and quality articles, much much appreciated. Went with the K7, awaiting delivery, ‘thelp us.

Stuart Charles Black August 29, 2023 - 12:11 pm


It’s my pleasure! Please keep me posted on your findings and experience with the wonderful K7. Many blessings.


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