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Fiio KA13

Fiio KA13

Disclaimer: Fiio graciously provided the product for an honest review. We want to emphasize that we don’t have any affiliate links. A heartfelt thank you to Fiio for affording us this wonderful opportunity.

8.3 TOTAL SCORE

Fiio KA13

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Fiio KA13

The FiiO KA13 emerges as a noteworthy and innovative addition to the already saturated USB DAC dongle market, particularly in the sub $100 category. It boasts exceptional build craftsmanship, demonstrating a superior level of quality. Its performance is ultra-linear and neutral, setting a remarkable standard in the category.


Sound Quality 8
Design 8
Build Quality 9
Features 8
PROS
  • Neutral with no added coloration
  • Unmatched power capabilities for the cost
  • Doesn't heat up, even with prolonged use
  • Eye-catching clear window with appealing ambient lighting
  • Outstanding build quality
CONS
  • Significantly increased power consumption in desktop mode
  • Dry texture for those who prefer a warm sound
  • The features of the FiiO Control app are somewhat restricted

FIIO

Since its inception in 2007, FiiO has emerged as a dominant force in the audiophile landscape, renowned for its extensive range of both budget-friendly and premium-quality products. The brand’s portfolio spans an array of offerings, including IEMs, headphone amps, DACs, and DAPs, each maintaining a reputation for excellence. FiiO has consistently unveiled cutting-edge devices that not only meet but often surpass industry standards.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Colors: Midnight black, Dawn silver
  • DAC chip: CS43131 x 2, Op-amp chip: SGM8262 x 2
  • Supported audio formats (up to): 384kHz/32bit, DSD256
  • USB connector: Type-C USB2.0
  • Dimensions: About 56.3 x 22 x 10.5mm
  • Weight: About 18.5g (excluding cable)
  • Output power 1: 170mW+170mW (32Ω single-ended/THD+N < 1%)
  • Output power 2: 550mW+550mW (32Ω balanced/THD+N < 1%)
  • SNR 1: 23dB (32Ω/A-weighted/single-ended)
  • SNR 2: 22dB (32Ω/A-weighted/balanced)
  • Noise floor: PO < 1.7pV (A-weighted);
  • BAL < 3.1pV (A-weighted)
  • Output impedance 1: < 1.70 (32Ω load/single-ended)
  • Output impedance 2: < 1.80 (32Ω load/balanced)
  • THD+N: <0.0005% (32Ω/single-ended) THD+N: <0.0005% (32Ω/balanced)
  • Price: $79

KA13

The KA13 is equipped with two CS43131 DACs and two separate SGM8262 OP Amps as its main internal components. These enhance the output stage, allowing the KA13 to achieve a maximum output of 550mW per channel on the balanced 4.4mm output.

This positions the KA13 dongle as one of the highest performers in terms of raw power output among dongle DACs to date. While many rely on less than 300mW per side, the KA13 surpasses this figure. However, it’s important to note that power in watts is not the sole factor determining performance. The KA13 also boasts specifications that complement its output, including a 1.7µV noise floor, a 122 dB SNR rating, and 0.0005% THD.

DESIGN

Offering a choice between two captivating color options, the KA13 presents itself in a stunning dawn silver theme and a sleek all-black variant. Despite their differing hues, both versions share consistent dimensions, showcasing meticulously CNC-carved aluminum shells that undergo an anodization process. These precision-crafted shells house advanced electronics and are seamlessly sealed with ambient light window glass.

Positioned on the same side of the chassis, the volume control buttons and the desktop mode switch offer a seamless user experience. A single press on the buttons effortlessly modifies the volume, while a continuous press swiftly navigates to the next or previous track. This thoughtful arrangement on a singular side of the device streamlines accessibility, ensuring intuitive control for users.

BUILD QUALITY

In keeping with the brand’s commitment to excellence, the FiiO KA13 stands out for its impeccable design. Crafted with precision, the black/silver anodized aluminum body exudes a flawless aesthetic. The tempered glass at the bottom elegantly showcases the Jade Audio logo, subtly embedded underneath. The 4.4mm Pentaconn and 3.5mm ports, both in black, seamlessly blend into the chassis, exhibiting a perfectly flush profile. To enhance the overall visual appeal, the device features a screwless design, adding a touch of sophistication to its tactile experience.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES

  • 1 x USB-A to USB-C cable
  • 1 x USB-C to USB-C cable
  • 1 x lightning to USB-C cable

Ensuring comprehensive connectivity right out of the box, the package incorporates a USB-C to full-size USB Type-A adapter, providing versatility for various devices. Alongside this connectivity solution, the box encompasses a quick guide for swift setup and an after-sales booklet, which impressively caters to a multitude of languages. This inclusive approach not only enhances the user experience but also reflects a commitment to clear communication and support for a diverse user base.

SOUND

This dongle exhibits a notably neutral character, refraining from excessive coloration in the frequency response and allowing the connected transducer to impart its unique tonal nuances. It demonstrates commendable performance with a well-defined sub-bass and extended upper treble. The timbre maintains a natural quality, avoiding an overly sterile sound, although the note weight leans slightly towards the thinner side. Fortunately, users can fine-tune this aspect by experimenting with the filters available on the FiiO app, providing a customizable audio experience.

In terms of power, the FiiO KA13 doesn’t disappoint. With the desktop mode engaged, it claims its position as the most potent DAC/Amp in the comprehensive Jade series. A notable achievement surfaces when driving demanding headphones like the Hifiman Svanar, known for its substantial current requirements. Unlike its predecessor, the KA13 effortlessly delivers authoritative bass and crisp highs, showcasing its prowess in handling challenging audio scenarios.

BASS

Boasting massive power and formidable lows, FiiO has undoubtedly mastered the low-end spectrum in their recent models, with the KA13 standing out as a pinnacle of achievement, surpassing all its predecessors in my listening experience. Even in single-ended mode, the FiiO KA13 maintains impeccable composure, delivering bass that is both tight and responsive. However, it’s when you engage its 4.4mm Pentaconn output that the performance ascends to an unparalleled level. Here, there are no traces of shallow echoes or any dragging sensation, showcasing the dongle’s capability to articulate bass with precision and depth.The bass presentation on the KA13 is distinctive, characterized by a quality that I can best describe as a more bouncy bass.

HIGH

The highs on the KA13 are characterized by cleanliness, sharpness, and intricate detailing. There’s a commendable level of airiness, all delineated by low distortion and a linear signature. Despite their sharp and clinical nature, the trebles manage to avoid any hissiness. This balance ensures a crisp and clear representation of the higher frequencies without compromising on a smooth and pleasant listening experience.

MID

The KA13 exhibits a subtle warmth in its tonal signature, providing a touch of color without veering too far from neutrality. As anticipated, its presentation is open and linear, showcasing a more sterile quality for those who appreciate precision. Notably, the KA13 effortlessly handles vocals and acoustic tracks, especially when paired with a high-quality IEM, reaffirming FiiO’s consistent excellence in this domain. The DAC/AMP combination maintains the brand’s reputation for delivering exceptional audio experiences. The soundstage is expansive, allowing voices to gracefully glide into the ears, contributing to a captivating and immersive listening encounter.

It effortlessly handles vocals and acoustic tracks, and this capability is further heightened when paired with a quality set like the Thieaudio Hype 2. The synergy between the KA13 and the Hype 2 results in a smooth and natural rendition, enhancing the overall listening experience for these genres. The combination brings out the subtleties and nuances in vocals and acoustic elements, delivering a captivating and authentic sound reproduction.

LOW

The low frequencies on the KA13 exhibit impressive depth, speed, and excellent control. However, the texture may not be as full-bodied and weighty, leaning more towards a slightly dry and lean quality. FiiO has still done an outstanding job by providing abundant power, enabling you to access those deep lows even on the go.

Opting for the balanced output, particularly the 4.4mm Pentaconn, makes a substantial difference, and I highly recommend choosing this option if you prefer a bass response that is tight and steady. In this configuration, the lows on the KA13 maintain their characteristic depth and speed, effectively reaching the lowest notes and delivering a sub-rumble that is well-fitted and impactful.

POWER

Engaging the desktop mode unleashes the formidable power of the FiiO KA13, delivering an impressive 550mW at 32Ω through its balanced output. This level of potency positions the KA13 as a compelling alternative to entry-level desktop units, rivalling the performance of some desktop or battery-powered devices. The clarity and strength it brings to the audio experience are unmistakable.

However, for users employing IEMs, the non-desktop mode in low gain proves to be more than adequate. Interestingly, the low gain setting in non-desktop mode is finely tuned with a higher gain compared to other dongles featuring a similar two-gain switch. Even in this configuration, the balanced output manages to supply a robust 170mW at 32Ω, showcasing the KA13’s versatility in accommodating various audio setups with precision and power.

This dongle stands out as the most powerful I’ve encountered in quite some time. Surprisingly, even when utilizing the single-ended port, the FiiO manages to extract an impressive amount of power from the USB source, showcasing its robust performance and efficiency.

CONCLUSION

The FiiO KA13 emerges as a noteworthy and innovative addition to the already saturated USB DAC dongle market, particularly in the sub $100 category. It distinguishes itself as one of the most powerful dongles I’ve come across ever.

It boasts exceptional build craftsmanship, demonstrating a superior level of quality. Its performance is ultra-linear and neutral, setting a remarkable standard in the category. The technical prowess exhibited by the KA13 is outstanding, further reinforcing its position as a top contender in its class. While I recall experiencing the KA5 a few months ago and my memory is not vivid, I vaguely recall being slightly more impressed at that time. There isn’t a significant gap between these two devices.

If your primary goal is to maximize power output within a specific budget, the KA13 is undoubtedly a powerhouse that excels in this aspect. It caters to users seeking robust performance and innovative features in the sub $100 range, making it a compelling choice in the competitive market of USB DAC dongles.

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