FiiO KA3 Decoding Amp Review: Sound more suitable for mobile phones

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There is no doubt that “small tail” has become a popular new category in the current portable playback market. Various portable players and earbuds manufacturers are launching their own small tail products. For FiiO, the most popular brand of music players in China, it was only last year that it released its first “small tail” product, the FiiO KA3.

FiiO KA3

After using it for about a week, I also have some thoughts on FiiO’s first portable decoding amp all-in-one. For the FiiO KA3, it is not strictly FiiO’s first “small tail” product. Many of FiiO’s previous Bluetooth decoding amp products also support wired connection, but the “small tail” in the traditional sense with a single function, the KA3 is indeed the first one.

FiiO KA3

As a product priced at $72, FiiIO KA3 is a very competitive product in the market, both in terms of interface and functional parameters. As for the performance of product strength? Let’s take a look at my experience together.


Simple and exquisite appearance design

For the appearance of FiiO KA3, there is not too much design language and features. The body adopts an all-metal design, and you can see the logos of FiiO and Jade Audio. This is also the first product of FiiO to use dual logos. In terms of decoding chip, it is equipped with ES9038Q2M chip from ESS, which supports up to 32Bit/768kHz&DSD512 decoding capability.

FiiO KA3 FiiO KA3

In terms of interfaces and indicator lights, there is only a simple small ring light on the fuselage, which uses different colors to show the bit rate of the music being played. In terms of interface, TYPE-C interface is adopted, which can support the use of three mainstream platforms of computer, Android and IOS. The headphone jack is equipped with a 3.5mm single-ended jack and a 4.4mm balanced jack.

FiiO KA3 FiiO KA3

In addition, if you are an Android phone user, you can install the FiiO Control APP to set the output impedance matching and gain of the FiiO KA3, so as to obtain a sound performance that is more suitable for your headphones. However, the app is currently only available on the Android platform.


Reference device and playback APP

For portable decoding amps, the reference source device is my Huawei Mate 40 PRO smartphone. Headphones mainly refer to Sennheiser HD25, various earbuds of FiiO and qdc VX earbuds.

For music APP, the main reference is FiiO Music APP and USB Audio Player PRO. The former can directly listen to local files and bypass the SRC of the Android system, while the latter can directly bind the Tidal and Qobuz accounts to listen, and can also bypass the system’s SRC in the state of streaming media. Apple devices play directly with Apple Music.

In terms of music, I mainly choose classical music and some popular music albums.


A sound style more suitable for mobile phones

In terms of sound performance, FiiO KA3 is not a sound style of FiiO brand in our traditional impression. But I think this is a sound style that is more suitable for listening with a mobile phone. The FiiO KA3 has a warm, thick sound that is closer to the mid-low frequency. For the generally thin and digital sound of mobile phones, FiiO KA3 can well neutralize some of the sound drawbacks brought by mobile phones.

FiiO KA3

The mid-low frequency of FiiO KA3 is the part that can most “catch” users. Whether it is the rhythm of pop music or the envelopment of classical music, the low-frequency performance of FiiO KA3 can impress users deeply. For driving dynamic earbuds and small head-mounted headphones, the FiiO KA3’s performance is warm and low-end, but the overall sound is never “stuffy”. The mid-high frequency also has good sound detail and transparency, but the low frequency will leave a deeper impression on the user. Regardless of whether it is on a 4.4mm interface or a 3.5mm interface, driving dynamic speakers is a better sound performance in my opinion.

For armature earbuds, there will be some changes in the sound style of the FiiO KA3. While the mid-low frequency remains excellent, the low-impedance armature earbuds become brighter at high frequencies. If you like excellent low frequency and bright and clear high frequency performance, then using FiiO KA3 with armature earbuds will bring a different sound style than dynamic earbuds.

But whether it is dynamic earbuds or armature earbuds, the low frequency of FiiO KA3 is enough to impress users. In terms of sound field and sound detail performance, it also has a good performance in this price range. In terms of product drive versatility, dynamic earbuds and armature earbuds will have some differences in mid-high frequency. But for the overall sound style, it doesn’t have much impact.


Conclusion:

As FiiO’s first portable decoding amplifier, there is no doubt that the FiiO KA3 has delivered a satisfactory answer in terms of price, interface and sound. For the FiiO KA3, the price of $72 with a 4.4mm balanced headphone jack is also very cost-effective in the industry. And for mobile phones, the warm and thick sound style is very clever, and it is also my favorite way to match the sound style.


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