Now without further ado, let’s get rolling shall we?!
A few people have been asking me about the differences between the iFi Zen and FiiO K5 Pro, so I thought I would make a big shootout and also include the ATOM and Bravo Ocean in for good measure!
The reason being is because all four of these amps come in at similar price points, all are meant to be used on your desktop exclusively, and all have similar outputs and inputs, generally doing many of the same tasks that you may call on them for in studio.
The Bravo Ocean is a bit different in some ways with regard to the type of Amp that it is, and we’ll get into that as well!
By the time you’re finished reading this article, you should have a clear idea of what it is that might suit your needs best.
So with that, let’s get into what’s in the box!
In the Box
16VAC Power Adapter
24V DC Power Brick
FiiO K5 Pro
K5 Pro Amp/DAC
USB Type-B Cable
15V DC Power Brick
1/4″ headphone adapter and extra rubber feet
Quick Start Guide and Warranty Card
USB Type-A Cable
RCA to RCA Analog Cable
Warranty and Instruction Cards
With that out of the way, how’s build on each of these?
Right off the bat, the ATOM is the lightest out of this bunch, coming in at a modest 9.3 Oz. (264g) approximately.
In order from lightest to heaviest:
JDS ATOM – 9.3 Oz. (264g)
Bravo Ocean – 11.1 Oz. (324g)
FiiO K5 Pro – 15.4 Oz. (437g)
ifi Zen – 18.1 Oz. (516g)
Knobs, buttons, and connections:
JDS ATOM – Good, if a bit flimsy. Buttons on the front move around a bit inside of their respective slots. Connections on the back are all solid. Volume pot feels more like a flimsy piece of plastic than I prefer, but still fine. No fingerprints.
Bravo Ocean – Front panel yields a very industrial type of look. ON/OFF switch and Volume Pot feel very solid. 1/4″ jack and 3.5mm jack on front are both robust. Back panel all good. No finger prints.
FiiO K5 Pro – Feels a tad light for it’s size, but still solid. Imagine this as a very lean soccer player who moves around with agility and finesse. Volume pot feels nice to turn. Switches on the front all feel great. Back panel looks solid. Some fingerprints.
iFi Zen – Extremely robust. Volume pot is a dream to turn, and sort of resembles a polygonal type of feel. Buttons and jacks on front are all solid. Back panel very good. No fingerprints.
Connections: 1x pair of RCA Analog Inputs and Outputs. Line input. 24V DC power jack, 1/4″ headphone jack, 3.5mm headphone jack.
DSD support: No.
MQA support: N/A. If you run it out of something like a DragonFly Red or K3, then yes it will will run MQA files as those Amp/DAC support it. If you run it out of a regular DAC, then no.
Power Output: Not Specified.
Hook it up to studio monitors/speakers and use it as a preamp.
Use it as a dedicated Amp (with separate DAC) on your desktop for music or gaming.
Hook it up to your PS4 (with the help of an OL DAC + Optical) for gaming or any DAC that has an optical input.
Use it in conjunction with pretty much any DAC via it’s RCA inputs and line input.
As you can see, the Bravo Ocean behaves in a similar way to the ATOM and does pretty much all of the same things. The only real difference is that it’s a Class A Tube Hybrid Amp, and thus gets extremely hot. Please make sure to turn it off when not in use unless you want your house or apartment to burn down.
Lol. It’s not that serious, but should be done as a precautionary measure regardless. In fact, this thing gets so hot that you can’t really keep your finger on it for more than a few seconds if it’s been on for awhile.
As you can see, the K5 Pro is a bit more valuable in a home listening environment because it can do a few more things. Because it’s a combo Amp & DAC rolled into one, you can use it with a separate amp if you want later on down the road. It also has the Coaxial Input for use with anything in your home theater. Pretty nifty indeed!
I’m going to throw in the DragonFly Red as well here.
I went back and forth on a Master of “Come Together” by the Beatles (A song I’m very familiar with) through the AKG K702. The K5 Pro sounded slightly warmer and maybe a bit less expansive, while the DF Red sounded a bit more open and airy than the Zen. The Zen being kind of in the middle of the 2. It was a really marginal difference though and could be my imagination.I’ve always perceived the DF Red to have very good sound staging and expansiveness throughout the frequency spectrum. It just seems like everything has a bit more life to it.
So the differences between the Zen and K5 Pro aren’t that notable, but the difference between the DragonFly Red vs. the Zen and K5 Pro are. The DragonFly does sound very open, airy, clean, and crisp. It’s like walking outside to a cool morning breeze in the fall.
The Zen and K5 Pro are definitely warmer and more laid back, with less expansiveness. If the Zen is warm and more lush sounding, the Bravo Ocean + DragonFly Red is a little more open and crisp.
Listening out of the Zen is sort of like a warm hug, whereas the Bravo + Red is more akin to opening a window in your home and letting some air in. The image is a bit wider and has more room to breathe.
The ATOM is certainly the most neutral, crisp, and clean sounding Amp out of this bunch. I remember the first time I heard an Objective 2. The incredible spacing made it almost feel as if you were listening in a studio environment rather than through headphones. More of the same applies here with the ATOM. It’s extremely clean like Windex homie!
I think what you ultimately decide on is more a matter of warm vs. cool preference and what you hope to accomplish in your studio space.
Let’s take a look at a video and some images before we get into the final word!
Don’t forget to leave me some love!! <3
With that, what’s the final word?
Recommendation & Final Word
As alluded to above, what you go with here depends on your unique situation, whether or not you want to use a separate DAC, whether you’ll be console gaming, your sound preference, etc. etc.
With that said, the K5 Pro is the standout from this bunch because it can basically hook up to anything inside of your home studio or home theater listening environment and comes packaged as a combo all in one Amp + DAC. No need to freak out! 😛 It’s definitely the most versatile out of these as well, and sounds fantastic to boot!
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.