What’s so amazing about the FiiO K5 Pro? Is it really as good as they say it is?
You’ve come to the right place. I’m here to give you my review of the FiiO K5 Pro!
In this article, I’ll tell you the K5 Pro’s key features and see how it stacks up against similar products.
Ready to improve your sound system? Let’s begin!
FiiO K5 Pro: Main Features
The FiiO K5 Pro is the brand’s first integrated desktop DAC/AMP.
Best known for its power, the K5 Pro has what it takes to satisfy your in-ear monitors and headphones!
I think most audiophiles are attracted to the K5 Pro because it’s budget-friendly.
At its price point, you’ll be surprised by the quality of its best and most lauded features!
Front and Back Panels
The K5 Pro innovates the brand by leaving out its signature docking station from its design.
In its place is a straightforward input/output system with several options found in its panels.
Despite being packed with tons of options, I found the K5 Pro intuitive and easy to use.
The Pro unit’s front panel is slightly hollowed and screwless, containing THREE MAIN PARTS:
- VOLUME POD with a LED-backlit indicator (red, blue, yellow, or green lights) of your designated sampling bit rate
- INPUT TOGGLE for USB/coaxial and RXA line-in
- GAIN CONTROL for power-hungry headphones (+0 dB, +6 dB, +10 dB)
These selections minimize compromising dynamic range AND fidelity, especially for sensitive IEMs.
The Pro unit boasts a simple yet complete panel with all of the input and output jacks you could ever need, including:
- Coaxial/Optical in
- RCA line in/out
- USB in
Another thing I like is that it’s easy to upgrade the power supply!
The FiiO K5 Pro is also a preamp: you can hook it up to separate unbalanced speakers.
All you need to do is use the RCA outputs to bypass the gain switches.
This will give you access to both volume control and headphone output at the same time.
To maximize your experience, I strongly recommend disconnecting your earphones beforehand.
ADC Volume Control
The ADC digital volume control is a new feature that eliminates channel imbalance issues.
This is an upgrade to achieve more precise lower volume control for sensitive IEMs.
Granular and precise control like this is just one of the reasons why I like the K5 Pro. It’s more than just a powerful headphone amplifier!
Owning A FiiO K5 Pro: Pros and Cons
There are A LOT of things that you should look at before purchasing the K5 Pro from FiiO.
Here’s a quick overview for you to digest easily!
- Powerful and Balanced Sound
- Clear and Crisp Sound Quality
- Versatile Setup and Durable Build
- Flexible File Compatibility
- High-performing DAC
- Low Gain Sensitivity for IEMs
- Line Out Tolerance
Overall, the K5 Pro is an AMAZING DAC/amp for your speakers!
Regardless of its drawbacks, you are STILL guaranteed quality that is UNRIVALED among similarly-designed products.
Let’s Deep Dive Into the Specs of the K5 Pro!
FiiO K5 Pro Technical Specifications
- Weight: 436 g
- Dimensions: 122 x 130 x 55 mm
- Price: From USD 199
- Output Impedance: ≤ 1.2 Ω
- Output Power: 1.5W @ 32 Ω
- Recommended Headphone Impedance: 16-300Ω
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio: ≥115 dB (A-Weighted)
- THD: ≤ 0.004%
- Frequency Response: 20Hz to 80kHz
- Power: 15VDC, 1.5A
- Gain Switch: 0, 6, 12dB
- DAC: AK4493
- Capability: Up to 32-bit/768kHz
- Stereo Crosstalk: ≥ 75 dB at 1 kH
- VP-P Max Output: 20 V
- Inputs: Type-B USB, S/PDIF, lineout
- Outputs: Stereo RCA, 1/4″ / 6.35 mm Headphone
- DSD Support: Yes, DSD512
Quite a lot to take in?
Then let’s discuss what each of these specifications could mean, shall we?
The K5 Pro comes with A LOT of inclusions right off the bat. It is properly packaged in a simple yet sturdy cardboard box.
Inside the box, you would find the following:
- External power supply
- Power cord with a country-appropriate plug
- USB cable
- Optical S/PDIF plug
- 6.3 mm jack adapter
- Silicone pads
I think it’s amazing that the Pro comes with all these freebies, especially since it’s marketed as a budget device!
Everything that you would need for everyday use is immediately included!
However, you might have to purchase a separate remote control for a more convenient experience.
The Pro model doesn’t disappoint: it’s durable in every sense of the word!
Even more notable, however, is how it is extremely light!
I actually recommend being careful and holding it down as you plug or unplug the Pro unit. Fortunately, it has padding that helps it adhere to surfaces more securely.
And really, that’s all you need to know about its build quality: the K5 Pro is a reliable and portable DAC/amp unit!
Design & Ergonomics
The K5 Pro’s build quality extends to its design, too:
- Material – Aluminum
- Shape – Parallelogram with rounded corners
- Color – Dark gray
Given its portability, you can see that the K5 Pro is designed to be aesthetically pleasing when placed beside your audio devices.
I found its simple appearance helped complement and complete the rest of my setup. Of course, you may want your speakers to be the star of the show, and that’s fine!
Now I’ll cover its controls, and how they’re integrated into the Pro unit’s panels.
This panel has three main parts:
1. Volume Control Pod
The volume control works well in the ANALOG DOMAIN of your digital inputs.
Moreover, you can easily adjust these with the NJRC NJW1195 volume control chip:
- Noise Floor of -118 dB
- Volume Increments of 0.5 dB
Likewise, you may simply turn the knob over to the ZERO position to turn the system OFF.
This part of the panel involves a multicolor indicator around the control wheel that shows the RESOLUTION OF THE SIGNAL of your device’s digital and optical input.
- Blue Lights indicate sampling up to 48 kHz
- Yellow Lights indicate sampling above 48 kHz
- Green Lights indicate music from native DSD files
These LED lights may be faint for you to notice, so keep an eye out for them for better audio quality!
2. Gain Control
You can set up your output’s gains using any of these three settings:
- +0 dB
- +6 dB
- +10 dB
A simple rule of thumb that I follow is to use the high gain only with the most demanding headphones.
The lower gain works similarly with more sensitive IEMs, despite a poorer performance from the K5 Pro.
Moving on, the unit’s mid-gain range can guarantee a good balance between tonality and dynamics.
These gain controls allow for smoother sound despite your changes from high to low volume and vice versa.
3. Input Toggle
Of course, you’ll be able to SPECIFY your digital inputs from this panel!
You will also find a port to connect a 6.3 mm headphone output.
Speaking of inputs, the back panel is where you’ll be able to see all of these jacks and ports:
- Optical Input
- DC 15V Power Jack
- RCA Inputs
- RCA Outputs
- Coaxial Input
- USB Type-B Jack
One glance at this list should tell you: The K5 Pro is EXTREMELY VERSATILE.
Specifically, these RCA outputs make the K5 Pro DAC headphone amplifier a great preamplifier — signifying its ability to work as a DAC/amp combo unit.
I experienced (and you can expect) clean, crisp, and tonally neutral sound from the FiiO K5 Pro.
More than this, you can expect:
- No coloration and distortion
- Warm and smooth tones
However, you may also notice some problems related to sounds:
- Very faint background noise on sensitive devices
- Poorer performance at low gain
These problems, however, aren’t that apparent on MOST headphones. I’d chalk it up to a result of the K5 Pro’s volume control using less power.
To better understand the DAC/amp’s capabilities, let’s look at the various aspects of quality!
As mentioned, you can expect warmer and smoother tones from the Pro K5.
A more advanced chipset from FiiO works by providing you with better control over the lower frequencies of your sounds. The noise floor is also considerably low.
Overall, this creates a resolution that is deep and strong.
I was pleased by the bass quality of the FiiO K5 Pro; it’s GREAT!
It gives the already great sound ample depth, richness, coherence, and weight.
You’ll find that the kicks from the bass have the right amount of driving power to produce a textured listening experience.
You can rely on the K5 Pro from FiiO to have a CLEAR mid-range. Of course, this is where DAC/amp devices should perform the best.
The Pro unit does as much by presenting all frequencies with equal priority.
The treble is where I started to have a few problems with the sound.
- The treble produces a harsh digital sound character.
- The produced sound accentuates the highs, leading to a colder quality.
This results in unnatural sounds when using the K5 Pro.
It’s also why not all headphones work well with the K5 Pro.
Regardless, you’ll still get a crisp and linear sound when using the device as a digital-to-analog converter.
Moreover, the treble extension is enough to not have a compressed listening experience.
Compared to pricier units, the K5 Pro from FiiO has the following properties:
- High Gains are sharper, less natural, and thinner in sounds.
- Pro Overall Sound is more unbalanced.
That said, you can depend on the soundstage to have ample depth and expression.
The FiiO’s K5 Pro is definitely still unbeatable for its price.
What’s especially great about the K5 Pro is how its various connection options allow for different setups, depending on what you need!
Here are four possible setups I’ve tested out that you can explore!
Setup #1: PC Use Through USB Input Connection
If you simply want to use your DAC/amp combo unit for your PC, then you just have to follow these steps:
- Plug the ends of the USB cord into your K5 Pro’s USB input port and PC device.
- Plug the K5 Pro’s power jack into a wall outlet.
- Turn the volume knob on.
- Wait for the BLUE LIGHT and select the K5 Pro option
- Start playing music from your application of choice.
Your K5 Pro unit will then register different light colors on your FRONT PANEL depending on the sound’s sampling bit rates.
Setup #2: Line In and Line Out
If you want to MAXIMIZE your preamp features, then you can connect your K5 Pro to separate unbalanced speakers:
- Plug the ends of the RCA cables to your K5 Pro’s RCA outs and chosen speaker’s input ports.
- Set your K5 Pro up to the 2-L switch on your designated panel.
- Start playing music from your application of choice.
Just remember to CONNECT YOUR SPEAKERS with each other.
Alternatively, you could also use the K5 Pro as a DAC into a separate amplifier. Most of these should already have built-in ports for Line In (3.5 mm) or RCA In.
Just remember that this is still not a balanced setup.
Setup #3: Coaxial Output from TV or Receiver
There is a specific option for you to hook this up:
- Plug the ends of the coaxial cable into the K5 Pro’s coaxial input, and the receiver.
- Set your Pro K5 unit up to the 3-S switch (S/PDIF) on your designated panel.
- Start playing music from your receiver or device of choice.
Simply output your sound through this connection!
This is a popular setup, especially if you like to listen to your CDs immediately and with better quality.
Setup #4: Gaming Setup
With a wider soundstage, better driving power, and more dynamics, the gaming experience is immaculate!
- Plug the ends of the optical cable into the K5 Pro’s input port and the gaming device’s optical output port
- Plug the Pro K5 unit’s power jack into a wall outlet
- Start setting up your game from your device.
The right headphones can turn your gaming session into an EXPERIENCE!
The immersion that the K5 Pro provides can drive headphones for such uses while satisfying its demands for more power.
This resulting sound resolution is perfect for playing games or using applications like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube, among many others!
FiiO K3 vs. K5 Pro: What Should You Settle For?
I’ll get straight to the point: the K5 Pro is SUPERIOR if you’re looking for a DAC/amp for your headphones.
You can easily expect MORE OUPUT POWER from the K5 Pro’s chipset.
The FiiO K3 is the better option for a more BALANCED portable unit.
To settle the debate on what you might need, I’ll give you a quick rundown on how the Pro K5 fares against the K3.
Build – Winner: Tie
The K5 Pro and K3 have similar quality builds, which isn’t surprising. After all, they come from the same manufacturer.
However, I’ll dissect them further:
- Weight: The K5 Pro is heavier at 436 g than the K3’s 82 g.
- Shape: The K3 has rounded edges, giving it a modern look compared to the Pro’s boxy shape.
- Usability: The K5 Pro’s flick experience for its gain switch slightly edges out the K3’s equally satisfying switches and knobs.
- Padding: The K5 Pro has button adhesives, while the K3 has longer cylindrical pieces suitable for desktop use.
At the end of the day, it all depends on what you value!
The K5 Pro is heavier, but it makes up for it with stability. Plus, they both adhere to surfaces easily.
But in the end, consider your needs!
- Choose the K5 Pro if you want a MORE STABLE SYSTEM.
- Choose the K3 if you prefer PORTABILITY.
Features & Usage – Winner: K5 Pro
The K3 packs in some POWERFUL features.
However, the K5 Pro was designed to build on those features for a more advanced FiiO unit.
That said, it wouldn’t hurt to explore the classic features of the K3, since I think they’re still pretty great!
Sampling and LED Lights
Powering the K3’s volume controls results in visual indicators in the form of LED lights:
- Blue Lights if the music source is below 48 kHz sampling
- Yellow Lights if the music source has 48 kHz sampling
- Green lights if the music source has native DSD playback
- Red Lights for driver problems
Not too different from the K5 Pro, right?
The K3 just lacks the different functions and settings that the newer model has.
Moreover, you can easily address the driver problems of both units in a variety of ways:
- Reinstalling the Driver – Do this after verifying the status and reconnecting the unit.
- Switching to the USB 1.0 Connection – This will allow you to use the plug-and-play function on Windows, especially for signals below 48 Hz.
Otherwise, you can simply unpack and use your K3 and K5 Pros immediately after purchase! This is more applicable to iOS systems that don’t require separate drivers.
One of my favorite things about FiiO is that they value COMPATIBILITY with audio devices.
The K3 alone can amplify headphones of different kinds, like:
- 3.5 mm Terminated Earphones
- 2.5 mm Terminated Earphones
- Portable Headphones
- Headphones Amplifier through Lineout Connections
Similar to the K5 Pros, just remember to DISCONNECT YOUR EARPHONES before making a lineout connection.
I strongly recommend this, because forgetting this step can damage your earphones and your unit’s volume control.
Ergonomics/Power Output – Winner: K5 Pro
The K3 is smaller in size. This already gives the K5 Pro the edge of VERSATILITY.
But more than that, the K3 isn’t designed for higher output impedance. It boasts a power output that’s just enough to run powered speakers:
- Output Impedance: ≤ 1.04 Ω
- Output Power: 1.2W @ 32 Ω
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio: ≥113 dB (A-Weighted)
- THD: ≤ 0.004%
- Power: 5VDC, 0.5A
In contrast, the K5 Pro is marketed as more suitable for harder-to-drive headphones.
Additionally, the K3 boasts a simple and intuitive panel system supporting its portability.
- Bass Boost Switch
- Gain Knob (Low and High)
- Volume Control Knob
- Balanced Socket (2.5 mm)
- Socket (3.5 mm)
- Line-out 3.5 mm
- USB 1.0/2.0 selection button
- USB AUDIO 1.0
- USB AUDIO 2.0
- USB C socket
- COAX out
- OPT out
From this list of functions alone, I hope you can see how simple it is compared to the FiiO’s K5 Pro.
That said, the CLEAR WINNER is the K5 Pro!
Sound – Winner: K5 Pro
The K5 Pro offers you a more relaxing listening experience.
With a more advanced chipset, it produces SMOOTHER sounds compared to the K3’s more aggressive beats and punches.
Here are their specs side-by-side:
- DAC Chip: AKM AK4452 (FiiO K3) vs AKM AK4493 (FiiO K5 Pro)
- LPF Op Amp: Texas Instruments TI OPA1612 Op Amp (FiiO K3) vs. Texas Instruments TI OPA1642 Op Amp (FiiO K5 Pro)
- Driver Op Amp: 2x OPA926 (FiiO K3) vs. Texas Instruments TPA6120 (FiiO K5 Pro)
These Op Amps clearly show the difference in the expected output of their sounds.
However, I’ve found that both of them have their own unique sound!
- The K3 can be a more OPEN listen.
- Whereas the K5 Pro is a FULLER experience.
The K5 Pro is a clear winner!
Alternatives to Check Out
Yes, the K5 is what the K5 Pro was based on.
The K5 has a GOOD price-to-quality ratio: you get what you pay for!
- Simple Design
- Docking with FiiO DAPs
- Portability and Intuitive Use
- Low Output Impedance
- Three Gain Settings
Compared to the K5 Pro, you can expect to have a balanced 3.5 mm output port.
You can also expect a cooler sound experience from the K5.
Overall, K5 may experience more connectivity and power output issues with the K5. But it’s still a GREAT alternative to consider!
Lotoo PAW S1 DAC/AMP With EQ
The Lotoo PAW S1 is a great alternative if you value your EQ profiles!
The S1 is portable and not disruptive to your overall setup as a dongle. It also has excellent build quality.
Whil I think its driving power is a little lackluster, the rich and full-bodied sound I got out of it was still pretty good.
Find the right cool-sounding earphones, and you’ve got yourself an amazing combination!
AudioQuest DragonFly Black Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphones Amplifier
The DragonFly Black is the most affordable model from AudioQuest’s DragonFly series!
It boasts a HIGH-QUALITY amplifier for a headphone and analog volume control with the following qualities:
- ESS 9010 DAC chipset
- 1.2 V output power
These produce a naturally detailed sound thanks to its minimum-phase filtering capability.
Moreover, the power is enough to drive modern high-powered headphones.
Overall, I recommend the DragonFly Black as a great alternative to the K5 Pro’s more detailed and controlled bass quality.
The Earmen TR-Amp is a portable integrated headphone DAC/preamp that has the following premium qualities:
- ES 9038 Q2M chipset
- MQA capability
- 400 mW output power
It produces quasi-neutral sounds with just the right amount of power.
In other words, it’s a VERSATILE unit that you can use with almost any kind of device! It can easily drive headphones up to 300 Ω.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that it doesn’t have a gain switch, and it’s powered by a non-serviceable battery.
iFi Zen DAC – HiFi Desktop Digital Analog Converter
The iFi Zen DAC is another Desktop DAC/Amplifier used for music or gaming.
Here are some of its key features:
- Seamless volume controls
- MQA capability
- Connections for balanced output, RCA analog, USB Type-B, and pre-outs
- Ports for 5VDC power jack, 1/4″ headphone jack, and 4.4mm balanced headphone jack
I recommend using the iFi Zen with studio monitors and speakers as a preamp.
Overall, it’s a solid unit with an extremely durable build!
So, Is The FiiO K5 Pro A Good Investment?
The simple answer? YES!
I hope you’ve noticed how widely tailored it is towards a vast majority of users. Not to mention it’s affordable, too!
Let me summarize my key points to convince you further!
- Warm and Crisp Sound – It’s striking just how powerful and balanced the quality from this FiiO model is despite its output impedance.
- Versatile Setup and Compatibility – With all its ports for an optical cable, USB cable, and the power cable, you’re guaranteed connections with various auxiliaries.
- Durable Build – It’s made out of PREMIUM materials and is lightweight enough for you to customize your working setup every now and then.
Compared to dongle-like DAC/Amps, there are arguably more connections being made with this unit.
If you can overlook the faint background noise that results from some compatibility issues, then you can say that the K5 Pro is definitely the PERFECT desktop DAC/Amp for any user!
Get the FiiO K5 Pro!
I really can’t say anything more!At an affordable price, the K5 Pro can be your very first integrated desktop DAC/Amp to experiment with your wanted sound experience.
While it’s great for beginners, I’d also argue that you can stay with this model, even in the long-run; it’s just that good!