Fiio K5 Pro but not?

From reviews and posts, I think the Fiio K5 Pro is perfect for me, but I have some issues with it.

First off, really the killer, is that my 2.1 setup is powered, which is perfect for the pre-outs on the K5. My problem is there is no headphone/out switch or even separate volume knobs.

Secondly, I’d like it to have balanced headphone out as well as unbalanced. This is not required.

So my requirements are:

  • A DAC+Amp
  • Clean and relatively neutral sound
  • A pre-out (not line out)
  • Nice big knob (or separate knobs for the out and headphone)
  • Desktop form factor (heavy and solidly built)
  • Balanced and single headphone out
  • A switch between headphone and pre-out (can be auto with headphone jack sensing)
  • USB
  • Able to push at least 80ohm headphones
  • Relatively cheap ($200)

Features I don’t need that the K5 Pro has, coax and optical.

I do know of the JDSLabs Atom stack, but I’m not a huge fan of stacks and the plastic build of the Atoms.

Any other suggestions? I’m thinking of even finding or DIYing a cutoff switch for the pre-outs.

ifi Zen Dac? Checks off most of those boxes.

The headphone to preout switch is actually a rare feature that is present in only a handful of amps within that price point. I personally think the fiio k5 pro is pretty much the best option for your situation compared to its competition like ifi zen, smsl m3. (if you don’t have headphones that use balanced, no point getting it since it’s just going to cost you more). Though if you can stretch your budget to $220, then the topping dx3 pro well known to be the best dac/amp combo under 300.

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It doesn’t have a switch for headphone or pre-out:

I can stretch it $20 more dollars sure, but have any thoughts on issues with the headphone high gain?

The dx3 pro measured to have 123mw at 300 ohms and 570mw at 33 ohms. This should handle everything up to 300 ohm cans. If you’re rocking 600 ohms or super hard to drive planars like t60rp, I’d probably get topping l30 which has a front hp/preout switch but is a separate amp and costs $140 by itself or the magni3/heresy.

The Klipsch Heritage Headphone Amplifier.

I know I’m breaking the “relatively cheap” requirement already by mentioning this, but I still feel it’s worth putting it out there in case you ever find a deal on it or if you raise your budget.

I’ve been testing it on and off during a few occasions since my brother owns one. It’s a fantastic little unit with probably the most satisfying knobs and switches on any amp I’ve had the joy to listen to (bar some really vintage stereo amps). It’s one of those things that makes you wish they just sold the switches on a Fidget Cube, oddly satisfying :grin:

I would have probably gone for it myself, if it wasn’t for the fact that it cost double what the SMSL SP200 does. So yeah, the price speaks against it, but it ticks all the other boxes.

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I am by no means an expert, but for 200 (or even 300) this is impossible.

@Ahobaka mentioned the Klipsch, and that is the cheapest I found to tick all boxes.

The other options I found (all out of budget):

If I get rid of the balanced requirement and just have single ended, would it be more possible? If so, with what?

There aren’t many options that meet those requirements, but especially at the price point. The JDS Labs Element II comes close at $400 new, maybe a bit less if you can find used, but it’s single ended only. Something like the Sennheiser GSX1000 would be similar, but only single ended and lower performing than the Element. Closer to your target price, though. Otherwise, at $300, you have the Schiit Asgard 3 with DAC module. There’s not an actual pre-out switch, but it will cut the pre when headphones are plugged in. It’s possible to find one b-stock or used for a little less.

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The new Topping L30 coming soon is a 130$ headphone amplifier with a pre-out switch.
Goes with the Topping E30 DAC, for 130$ too. Includes a remote.
So, 260$.

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But for balanced, for ~373$, there’s the Topping DX7s.
You can control the inputs/outputs via the knob or the remote.
You can probably get this one, used, for less, on US audio mart (etc) too.

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So this is what I have found that looks like it will fit what I’m looking for. More specifically a pre-amp out with headphone switching. I’m listing them here for more myself, but I’m sure others might find it helpful. I’m going to try to change the title to make it a little easier to find. Can’t.

All of these I have confirmed, in various ways, have a pre-out (where the volume changes the output on the back), have a way to play headphones without the speakers also playing, are good at being dac/amps, and basically fit my price range.

None of these are balanced, which would be nice but it’s only icing. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get balanced at the price point I am hoping for.

These are ordered by price, which are round figures (assuming prime or free shipping).

Best fits (single unit):

  • MOTU M2 2x2 - $170
    • Pros:
      • 2 XLR/TRS +48v mic inputs w/ direct monitoring (not that I need them)
      • Midi (not that I need it)
      • Control volume independently
      • Cool UV Meter
      • Great knobs
      • Balanced pre-amp out
      • No extra power brick
    • Cons:
      • Not specifically made for this, may not measure well.
  • Topping DX3 Pro - $220
    • Pros:
      • Remote
      • Bluetooth
    • Cons:
      • Not a fan of the Topping display, at all

Best fits (stacks):

  • JDSLabs Atom AMP + Fiio D3 - $120
    • Pros:
      • D3 is small enough to hide so not really a stack, but still a stack.
      • Cheapest option
    • Cons:
      • Have to use optical or coax
      • Audio of the D3 may be an issue, but I trust Fiio
  • Monoprice Liquid Spark + Fiio D3 - $150
    • Pros:
      • D3 is small enough to hide so not really a stack, but still a stack.
    • Cons:
      • Have to use optical or coax
      • Look of the Spark is meh
      • Audio of the D3 may be an issue, but I trust Fiio
  • JDSLabs Atom AMP/DAC stack - $200
    • Pros:
      • Probably best measuring amp
      • Additional 3.5mm input in rear
      • I like the look of both
    • Cons:
      • Build quality… the plastic case, light weight, and wobbly knobs bother me
      • True stack, will have to make room on my desk
  • Monoprice Liquid Spark + Atom DAC - $220
    • Pros:
      • ??? - Not sure
    • Cons:
      • Mismatching looks for more money then pure Atom stack
      • True stack, will have to make room on my desk
  • Topping E/L 30 stack - $260
    • Pros:
      • Actual switch for pre-amp, not jack sensing
    • Cons:
      • L30 not out just yet, so don’t know how they will be
      • Most expensive
      • Not a fan of the Topping display, at all

Let me know if I’m missing any options. I’ll update the thread as to what I chose.

For the Atom knob, this helps (a lot). I bought a silver one (not in the list?). Also, blu-tac.

DX7s “dropped” at 350$.

I just got the Motu M2 2x2 as the features were too many compared to others.

I’ll make a thread with a review once I get it as it’s on backorder everywhere (I got it at Sweetwater). I also got a condenser mic that seems like a very good deal, if I have the available interface, I might as well get something for it.

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