In my opinion, for a headphone decoding amplifier to take over more of our use scenes, it has to strike a good balance between portability and sound quality. Just like the FiiO KA2, the price of less than $50 maximizes ease of use and cost performance, allowing music lovers to experience introductory HiFi at a very low cost.
FiiO KA2 specs and features:
- Dual CS43131 DACs
- 4.4mm balanced out
- Supports FiiO Control APP
- Supports up to DSD256 and 32bit/384kHz PCM Hi-Res audio
- 5 selectable digital filters
- $41 – Check latest price on AliExpress or Amazon Germany, Amazon US, Amazon UK or other Amazon countries
01/ Gained weight, but still very light weight
JadeAudio KA2 is FiiO‘s third decoding amplifier product after KA3 and KA1. Also targeting the entry-level market, FiiO KA2 and FiiO KA1 were basically developed at the same time. The FiiO KA1 is a 3.5mm single-ended output, and the FiiO KA2 is a 4.4mm balanced output. And the two products are more compact and portable than the FiiO KA3.
The same as the FiiO KA1, the FiiO KA2’s packaging and the front and back of the product are printed with the FiiO & JadeAudio dual-brand LOGO. As a young fashion technology brand under FiiO, JadeAudio has higher cost performance and stylish design as its main selling points.
In terms of appearance, the FiiO KA2 is a little fatter than the FiiO KA1 in terms of body shape. In other respects, the difference is minimal, with a tough shape, a metal casing, and a ring-shaped RGB indicator. The weight of the FiiO KA2 is about 12.3g, which maintains the most important portability of a small decoding amp.
So in terms of daily use experience, one of the biggest advantages of FiiO KA2 is that there is no obvious sense of weight after plugging in earphones. Compared with other full-size small decoding amp products I have used before, this can be said to be absolutely lightweight and portable.
You know, mobile phone manufacturers are trying their best to make their products lighter to improve the one-handed operation experience. In my opinion, the weight of the external decoding amp is controlled below 20g, which is not too burdensome for daily holding and operation (mobile phone).
02/ Dual DAC architecture, the headphone driving force is greatly improved
If you only look at the appearance, you may think that the JadeAudio KA2 is a headphone jack version of the JadeAudio KA1, but it is not.
Let’s first take a look at the core parameters of FiiO JadeAudio KA1: ES9281AC PRO decoding chip, which supports up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 audio source decoding, with an output power of 45mW (32Ω).
Let’s take a look at FiiO JadeAudio KA2: dual DAC architecture, two CS43131 decoding chips, up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 audio source decoding, providing 5 kinds of digital filter adjustment, the output power reaches 153mW (32Ω).
In contrast, it can be seen that FiiO has made a big upgrade in the architecture of JadeAudio KA2 this time. The dual DAC is more suitable for the 4.4mm balanced headphone jack, and the price of less than $60 also highlights the high cost performance of the FiiO KA2.
Since the JadeAudio KA2 uses the same cable fixed input as the JadeAudio KA1, considering the users of the two camps of iOS and Android, the JadeAudio KA2 also provides two interface versions of Lightning and Type-C. At the same time, a USB A adapter is also included in the package, which is convenient for connecting with a laptop or other desktop devices.
03/ Neutral sound style, better driving force of multi-unit earbuds
Next, let’s talk about the expressiveness of FiiO KA2 in terms of sound. In fact, for a decoding amp at this price, what users are most concerned about is how much substantial improvement it can bring to the sound.
In my experience, compared to the direct drive of the 3.5mm interface of laptops and desktops. The boost that the FiiO KA2 can bring is a very clean background and barely audible noise floor. In addition, there is more driving force (especially for hybrid drivers or multi-unit armature earbuds). Do you think this is a substantial improvement? (I think yes)
The reason why it has a greater driving force is that the FiiO KA2 adopts a dual DAC architecture + 3 times the output power of the FiiO KA1, making it easier to drive some hybrid drivers or multi-unit armature earbuds. For example, with earbuds such as FiiO FH9 or DUNU EST-112, you can get clearer and stronger sound performance. Therefore, for some earbuds that are not easy to drive, you can directly consider the FiiO KA2 or FiiO KA3 with greater driving force.
Of course, the FiiO KA2 also lacks in sound performance, especially in terms of resolution and dynamics. I think its performance is still far from some mid-to-high-end full-size decoding amps, but compared to the direct drive of mobile phones and laptops, the improvement of sound details is still relatively obvious.
The sound style of the FiiO KA2 still maintains the neutral, tri-frequency balanced characteristics of the series. In my opinion, this tuning style is more to the taste of the average user, and it also means that you can match more different earbuds. For headphones with a 4.4 balanced interface, enthusiasts like to replace the cables for earphones, and with FiiO KA2, it can bring more playability.
Overall, the FiiO KA2 adjusts the tri-frequency sound to have certain characteristics while taking into account good portability and greater driving force. It is more harmonious when combined together, and the sound bottom transparency is good, and the details are better displayed. In my opinion, the overall sound style adjustment of FiiO JadeAudio KA2 is very suitable for listening to POP, rap, ACG and other styles of music.
04/ Conclusion & Purchase Suggestion
At present, FiiO KA series has launched KA1, KA2 and KA3, and I have also experienced these three products. Finally, I would like to briefly talk to you about my evaluation of these three products, as well as purchase suggestions.
In terms of vertical comparison, users who want to experience the entry-level HiFi at a very low cost can choose the FiiO KA1 (the cheapest price of $45). Advanced users with 4.4mm balanced headphones can consider FiiO KA2 (dual DAC, better driving force). If you want to be compatible with more platforms, pursue playability, and further improve the sound quality performance, the FiiO KA3 is undoubtedly more cost-effective (single-end & balanced dual interface, the price is less than $75).