New Fiio K5 Pro

This seems fairly interesting. I wonder how it will match up against other budget dac/amps in it’s price bracket

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I saw this on Reddit the other day. It looks really promising as an all-in-one desktop solution. At present, there just aren’t a lot of (i.e., any) good sub-$200 all-in-one desktop solutions. The Topping DX3 Pro is normally $220 but can sometimes go on sale for $170; however, word on the street is that a silent revision of the DX3 Pro is out that swaps the amplifier for a less powerful one with a higher output impedance, thereby, in my opinion, ruining the device.

I like that the K5 Pro has a 6.35mm output and the 1.5W into 32Ω spec certainly piques my interest if they can do it while keeping the distortion in check at higher volumes. As the cherry on top, it also appears to have a line out rather than a pre out. This could still change, but I’m hoping it remains a line out because it seems like everyone puts pre outs on their shit and I prefer to use passive speakers with a standalone speaker amplifier.

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Fiios K3 is a great all in one desktop entry level product

It’s USB-powered. USB power only goes so far as the power output specs for that device illustrate. I also get turned off whenever I see balanced outputs on budget gear or, frankly, any gear since I’m of the opinion that balanced is a marketing gimmick and horrific waste of money.

Well it is a budget option. Someone buying an amp/dac combo like that will only need it to go so far. The USB 2.0 output spec allows around 2.5 watts, so that’s plenty of power for this price range and the type of use case with low tier headphones. It’s not meant to be a be all end all. Other devices like the audioquest Cobalt accomplish great sound only out of USB power, so I don’t think that’s a real fault at this price, TBH it’s most likely a selling point for the people who would buy this. Balanced isn’t that bad either, especially since it’s come down in price so much that its relatively the same price to get a balanced as unbalanced. While I won’t comment on the sound quality, there usually is a nice power bump along with it.

Edit: I wouldn’t really say balanced is worth it at this price range thought

I don’t know the precise power specifications of the USB 2.0 standard, but what I do know is that you will not find a USB-powered DAC/amp that comes anywhere near 2.5W or even 1.5W into the standard 32Ω load. The FiiO K3 only manages 120mW. One of the most powerful USB-powered DAC/amps is the Schiit Fulla 2 and even that only does 360mW into the same load. The E10K? 200mW. The SMSL M3? 108mW. All of the basic $100-ish standalone headphone amplifiers with a basic wall wart or power brick are capable of delivering at least 1W into 32Ω according to their spec sheets, with some of them claiming 2W. If that could be done through USB 2.0, it would have been done long ago.

Of course, the entire device can pull 2.5w. I must have worded it strangely, because in no way was I implicating that 2.5 w would go towards the headphone jack. I was just explaining that USB provides enough power to run a decent device off of USB and power most headphones fine

If the device’s other functionality can all be powered by USB, that’s fine and I have no qualms about it, but the fact remains that most solutions with a wall wart or power brick are capable of delivering a lot more power. I have a FiiO E10K myself as a small, transportable solution for LAN parties and I’ve taken it to work in the past as well, though I would never use it to drive my DT 1990 Pro. I’m not knocking them as viable solutions, but, for something more permanent, I think having its own power supply—whether internal, wall wart, or power brick—is a must in order to drive a wide variety of headphones without breaking a sweat. Having that versatility is really important for newcomers to the hobby. The fact that this K5 Pro has its own power supply is what really differentiates it from the K3 and E10K more than anything else.