FiiO BTA30 (Bluetooth DAC/preamp)

IryxBRO

500+ Head-Fier
FiiO BTA30 – great all-in-one Bluetooth solution
Pros: good sound, two-way Bluetooth, aptx-HD, LDAC, good signal strength
Cons: USB DAC is limited to 16bit/48kHz
Since the first encounter with devices by FiiO we had a strong feeling of playing with something accomplished, well put together to the extent that missing some additional functions fade away under the tons of positive experience of working with such devices. At the first glance FiiO products doesn’t scream of its superiority in the related niche, but when digging deeper suddenly comes the understanding that there are lots of interesting functions wisely developed and perfectly integrated inside its logics. Recent FiiO UTWS3 (universal Bluetooth ear guides) with its totally revised functionality became the revelation for us for its stellar performance, now comes another Bluetooth device – BTA30 – which leaves pleasant aftertaste and becomes a part of Hi-Res setup.


FiiO BTA30 is a desktop USB DAC. Although, despite being able to accept and process audio data over USB, its main purpose and virtue is to act as Bluetooth audio transceiver. Not only it received Bluetooth audio, decodes and converts it to analog on RCA outputs but also is able to pack and send audio data over Bluetooth. Anyway, details would show up later in this article, let’s go over device specs first:

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FiiO BTA30 specs:

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As seen from the list above, Bluetooth part is based on mighty CSR8675 (5.0) and supports most sophisticated codecs such as aptX HD and LDAC. Not many standalone or portable devices, apart from Hi-Res audio players or expensive DAC/amps, would license SONY LDAC codec and have this feature. Moreover, in case of BTA30 it is bidirectional – those codecs are also used to pack and send audio data to other Bluetooth equipped devices. Furthermore, instead of using DAC abilities of CSR8675 chip, FiiO processes audio through AK4490 DAC, CT5302 DSP and uses OPA1662 as operational amplifier. Such architecture is far more superior than using Bluetooth chip alone which results in much more resolving and accurate sound competing with many Hi-Res DAPs.

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Packaging and design:

FiiO BTA30 comes in relatively small box with outer cover and stiff inner base. Cover contains prints of the product, logos, technologies, trademarks and company contacts. Besides that, there is a counterfeit item protection sticker at the top right corner at the back.

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Soft foam insert securely holds BTA30 inside, all accessories are located in a separate box underneath. Full list of items in the box:
  • BTA30 with antenna
  • 2 protective caps for optical ports
  • 4 extra rubber legs (stickers)
  • USB A – USB type C cable
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What is missing in this bundle is a power adapter. Supposing that BTA30 would be commonly used as desktop Bluetooth transceiver, it would require external USB power. Since it can be powered with any source device over USB, we would recommend to use any adapter with 5V, >=1000mA output and better if it would be linear (for less amount of interference).

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FiiO BTA30 design is perfectly clean and accurate. Perimeter unibody frame acts as a chassis for top glass and bottom plastic covers. Facing edge is not overloaded with the control elements, labels are neat.

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Here you would find main power and Play/Pause (Pair) sensor buttons along with MODE 3 positional slider switch and smooth volume control knob. Back side is responsible for all inputs/outputs (USB type-C, separate optical IN/OUT, combined coaxial IN/OUT, Line OUT) and antenna. By the way, top glass panel is covered with protective film from the factory. Bottom cover equipped with 4 silicon legs which hide chassis screws.

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Personally, we love this kind of neat design with high quality crafting of each element. Everything is accurately assembled with no gaps between main body parts. Nothing rattles and squeaks.

Device in use:

One note for the future users: since the antenna is detachable and has female SMA port, not only we can remove it, but also there is a possibility to enlarge the distance of Bluetooth reception/transmission. Stock antenna is ~2 – 2.5dB whereas most of the current home WiFi routers would use 5dB instead. Such 5dB SMA antennas for 2.4GHz would also fit this unit. Although, as a rule – never switch Bluetooth transmission mode ON when antenna is not attached. This might burn RF amplifier elements. It is better to always use this device with the antenna in place.

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There are a lot of usage scenarios, thanks to the functions integrated to this outstanding device. We would point out each one:
  • As desktop DAC/preamp for active speakers or home audio setup. In this case we can connect BTA30 from any audio source over USB/COAX/Optical and use Line OUT (DAC MODE).
  • As wireless transport for other DAC – connecting audio source over Bluetooth and sending this data over COAX OUT/Optical OUT (BT RX MODE)
  • As wireless receiver for active speakers or home audio setup – connecting audio source over Bluetooth and using Line OUT (BT RX MODE)
  • As wireless transmitter for Bluetooth devices – connecting any audio source over USB/COAX/Optical and sending data over Bluetooth (BT TX MODE)
  • We can even build a wireless bridge (if we have 2 BTA30 devices) – one BTA30 would be in BT TX MODE and taking data from any source over USB/COAX/Optical and the other BTA30 would be in BT RX MODE and sending data to any source over COAX/Optical or just converting and amplifying through LINE OUT.
In those scenarios which do not require source to be connected over USB – we should supply power from a separate power adapter.

Most of the operations are straight-forward. Supplying the power and pressing power ON/OFF switch at the front would indicate in device power state with a dedicated LED. Press once to switch on and hold a bit to switch off. Constant emerald – power ON. At the same time, LED above Play/Pause button would indicate other states according to the position of MODE switch and audio sampling rate. It would request pairing with fast change between GREEN and RED, active connection with single or double GREEN flashes and different other colors for sampling rate (look at the table above).

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In case of USB connection, BTA30 would identify itself as FiiO BTA30 under Windows 10 environment. We haven’t found any ASIO drivers on FiiO website and this device is natively supported in modern OS. Although, the output quality in device functions are limited to 16bit/48kHz. Optical and coax inputs would process much better quality (24bit/96kHz optical and 24/192 + DSD64 DOP coaxial), pack it to or unfold it from Bluetooth data or just decode for Line OUT. So, to get the most, it is really better to use BTA30 as DAC with Optical / Coaxial inputs/outputs or Bluetooth.

In case of Bluetooth – it gets more interesting. Not only you can pair with BTA30 from any Bluetooth equipped source, but you can also use FiiO Control APP for Android/iOS and have the additional tuning and functionality. Here is the list of what this app can do:

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  • Change status indicator light colors / disable it
  • Auto-power on function
  • Select Bluetooth codecs for TX and RX modes
  • Select DAC inputs
  • Select between 4 LPFs
  • Adjust or fix volume
  • Adjust source volume
  • Change channel balance
  • Enable digital upsampling
  • Select streaming quality of selected codec
  • Show the guide
  • Change device name
  • Reset pairing
  • Clear settings to defaults
  • Power off the device
Moreover, this app works with BTA30 even if it stays in DAC MODE.

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We had no problems with sound hiccups or any kind of interference with the stock antenna connected to a regular smartphone 10 meters behind 1 concrete wall. Strong reception/transmission quality that can be improved with third-party antennas. Audio lag while streaming video from a smartphone is present but not large and comfortable. What the the most important – the output power of BTA30 (3Vrms) is totally enough for active speakers to sound very loud. Many current portable Bluetooth receivers are not capable to supply enough power and active speakers would increase noise floor when trying to a amplify incoming signal to an appropriate level. Absolutely not a problem for BTA30 and this is one of the main reasons why BTA30 suits out setup.

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Pairing is fast, further connections are lightning-fast. No clue about multipoint function (seems none) but BTA30 stores more than 5 different devices (which we’ve tried so far) in its memory and connects to the first discovered after enabling Bluetooth on anyone of those. No need to pair previous devices again.

Since there is a choice of TX or RX modes for Bluetooth, we cannot simultaneously receive audio from a source and send it to the end gear. Such capability is met only in some recent feature-packed DAPs.

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Volume knob feels nice and smooth, has special surface finish to add some additional grip and utilizes full mechanical travel. It can be disabled through FiiO Control app.

Since there is no battery inside – we should not be worried of leaving BTA30 ON or on charge. Nothing heats up, nothing drains down.

Sound quality:

To carry out adequate test we have decided to describe the sound of BTA30 in comparison to other desktop DACs/amp such as Tempotec Serenade iDSD and Hidizs Sonata DH1000.

Speakers: Edifier M1100.

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Lows and midbass:

BTA30 is quite resolving on lows – more than average amount of textures and details. It acts on bass delicately with good control on outlines and good balance with other ranges. Extension of lows is very good, bass is decaying neither too fast or too slow. Great clarity, good volumetric feel and separation from mids and treble. Bass is totally perceptible, enlarges the stage and has no extra emphasis. Mid bass is similarly good: the amount of dynamics is perfect for good articulation and energy.

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Mids:

Mids retain most of the resolving potential and sound neutral in overall. Vocals are quite thick and full-bodied. No emphasis is made on female vocals and upper treble range instruments feel naturally bright but not screaming. Voices sound natural and have pleasing warmth. Good instrument separation. In overall, mids feel smooth, little bit warm and natural, with adequate resolution and with no piercing peaks.

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Treble:

Treble sounds balanced to mids and lows but its extension, clarity and presence would depend of the type of connection. In DAC mode treble is clear and crisp, not hidden by other sounds. Extension and micro-dynamics are both great, not too cold or vivid. With Bluetooth connection (RX or TX) treble gets slightly less extended and crisp. Like a thin blurring layer has been added to clean window. Nothing strange for the regular Bluetooth sound. In overall, this range is accurate and perfectly balanced to other ranges and allowing long listening sessions.

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Compared to Tempotec Serenade iDSD:

Serenade iDSD is not equipped with Bluetooth and can be used only as DAC/preamp or amp for the headphones. This makes iDSD and BTA30 quite different in purpose and gives some advantages in sound to iDSD. It sounds slightly better and more extended on treble if to compare BTA30 in Bluetooth mode. It also gives a better understanding of quality of the sound when connecting headphones which is not possible with BTA30. But with the same active speakers, both devices sound virtually the same.

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Compared to Hidizs Sonata DH1000:

Another device that is not equipped with Bluetooth and made for portable use with headphones. This allows to perceive sound quality more delicately until connected to active speakers. With this type of connection, DH1000 sounds similarly detailed but more thin on mids, resolving and putting more emphasis on treble. Lows are not that well-developed as with BTA30, thus loosing stage size and extension. It is better to leave DH1000 for headphones only, while BTA30 really shines in desktop setup.

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Conclusion:

All of our initial expectations of what desktop Bluetooth transceiver should be were met by FiiO BTA30. It is perfectly built piece of technology, with neat design, smooth operations, lots of functions and good sound quality. Bluetooth performance is stellar due to its sustainability to RF interference and signal quality, the best so far among all tested devices in both TX and RX modes. A spoon of tar is present in a form of limited USB DAC processing ability but it goes beyond the main purpose of BTA30 and compensated by other more capable interfaces. In overall, this Bluetooth DAC/preamp is great and would fit nicely to any home setup, enabling wireless audio feature and incorporating best widely used Bluetooth audio codecs that are currently available.

FiiO BTA30 is available at AliExpress store: LINK

FiiO BTA30 is available at Amazon store: LINK
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