FiiO BTR5

Nealz

Head-Fier
Fiio BTR5 vs Shanling UP4: Battle of the Wireless DAC’s
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Introduction: I think the biggest reason behind this write up is that I myself have spent countless hours on various Facebook audio enthusiast groups, online forums, YouTube channels & even Reddit trying to find out if the Shanling UP4 or Fiio BTR5 will be better for me. Thanks to many users who owned both sharing their opinions I came to the conclusion that UP4 would be ideal for my type of usage, which was mostly budget or mid-range IEM’s not hard to drive headphones or even very expensive IEM’s.
But some of my queries went unanswered like the difference between single ended (3.5mm jack) & also what kind of muddiness was caused when pairing UP4 which is a warm tuned source with another warm tuned IEM? Well, I am hoping to answer these queries for you here, as I have had the chance to test out both UP4 & BTR5 for a whole day.
Let’s get some of the basic facts out of the way, Shanling UP4 costs about $80 whereas Fiio BTR5 costs about $100 to $110 depending on the market. I am not going to dive into a specs comparison, as both of these devices have been out in the market for quite a while & even if you are not aware of the specs, google is your friend, finding a comparison between the two is pretty darn easy. I would like to point out something which is not in the specs though, which will highlight Shanling’s dodgy marketing strategies right from the very beginning. They have put two high-res stickers on the back of the UP4 indicating that this device supports high-res audio output both wired & wirelessly. Well one of them is false as admitted by Shanling themselves on head-fi forums, the UP4 only supports 16-bit/48 kHz audio file playback when connected as a wired DAC either to your phone, laptop or PC. And in order to qualify as high-res audio output the minimum requirement is usually 24bit/96 kHz audio file playback support. BTR5 on the other hand supports both 32bit/384kHz & DSD file playback, UP4 also does not have support for DSD playback in USB DAC mode. Neither has support for MQA rendering/decoding.

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Connectivity: Nothing much to talk about here both has support for the range of standard Bluetooth codes: AAC/SBC/aptX/aptX LL/ aptX HD/LDAC, LDAC being the star of the show. Both use the same QUALCOMM’s CSR8675 chip for their connectivity features & both claim 10-meter range for their Bluetooth connection range.
Ergonomics: UP4 wins in this department hands down being the smaller & more lightweight device. It’s simply easier to handle being only 37 grams. Although credit where credit is due, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the Fiio BTR5 compared to the pics & videos it felt much smaller in the hand, in real life. The BTR5 weighs about 43.7 grams.

Battery Life: When used on LDAC codec with full volume on the single ended port I would get about 4 to 5 days’ worth of battery life form the shanling UP4, used for about 4 hours each day. Using LDAC codec with the volume on about to 95 to 100%, using the device for about roughly 3 hours each day the owner of Fiio BTR5 reported he is getting 3 to 4 days’ worth of battery life. In both cases we charged our respective devices to 100% and depleted the battery all the way to 0%. Specs wise the UP4 & BTR5 has a 550 mah battery but I reckon the reason UP4 is doing better in term of battery life is cause BTR5 has that extra mini-OLED display to power. We did not get a chance to observe the battery life using the balanced port on both of these, but an educated guess would be that UP4 will do better here as well has it has a lower output power compared to the BTR5.

Build Quality: Both uses a mixture of plastic & glass in their body. Both feel premium to the touch & comes with a plastic cover in their respective boxes to protect these devices from falls, scratches etc. Although I would like to point out that the build quality of the Fiio BTR5 is noticeably better than Shanling’s, as the UP4 has some cosmetic defects in most of their units, the finishing between the glass & plastic is improper.

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Sound/Tuning: The UP4 is a warm sounding source with a slight boost in the low end, the mids are thick & even though the sound is a bit colored it doesn’t sacrifice details. Meanwhile BTR5 is a neutral source with very good amount of detail retrieval & excellent sound stage. I have seen many reviewers say that the BTR5 can be a bit boring to some folks cause of its neutral presentation compared to the more lively UP4, but I could not disagree more with this statement. I have tested both UP4 & BTR5 with various IEM’s like Final E3000, BQEYZ Spring 2, Moondrop SSR etc & only with SSR the warm signature of UP4 helped tame its shoutyness in the vocals, other than that in all instances the BTR5 sounder much cleaner & more detailed to me.
Performance/Power:

Single Ended (3.5mm Jack): The BTR5 is quoted to provide 80mW (32Ω loaded) & Shanling UP4 is quoted to provide 91 mW@32Ohm Single-Ended. So naturally me or anyone else would be inclined to think that the UP4 is the clear winner based on specs. Wrong! In both Bluetooth & USB DAC mode the Fiio BTR5 consistently outputs louder volume levels compared to the UP4, testing a wide variety of IEM’s. So again, that Dual DAC boasting mode is just for show it seems as BTR5 is able to output more power in its single DAC mode compared to the Dual DAC mode of the UP4. Although I would like to point the difference in volume level/output isn’t much, BTR5 is at best 20% louder in the single ended mode compared to UP4, but the difference is definitely noticeable.

Balanced (2.5mm Jack): Although I personally don’t own any IEM’s with a balanced cable yet, I did have the chance to try out the BQEYZ Spring 2 on both the UP4 & BTR5 using the balanced port at a local retail shop & the difference in power output is quite huge. You need to drive the volume of the UP4 all the way up to 100% to catch up with 60% volume of the BTR5. Although usually with budget & mid-level IEM’s you generally don’t need that kind of power but using the balanced port does improve the soundstage, detail retrieval, mids etc on both of these DAC’s. Specs wise UP4 provides 160mW (32Ω loaded) & BTR5 provides 240mW (32Ω loaded).

Software: The Fiio app wins hands down in this department, as the Shanling app feels very bare bones with some very basic functions available to the user. Fiio on the other hand has some fancy features like Car Mode, DAC clock driver, output & sensitivity controls etc. Although I didn’t notice any differences when playing around with the output & sensitivity controls in the app, but that might be cause the IEM’s which I have tested so far aren’t that sensitive to begin with. Both UP4 & BTR5 don’t support Equalizer when using LDAC codec, this a major bummer for the BTR5 especially given its price point.

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Conclusion:
Well, I have tried to make this comparison review as detailed as possible in hopes that future buyers won’t have to go through the same hassle I had to go through when making a decision between these 2. I might have sounded a bit harsh on Shanling regarding the whole high-res business, I can tell you right now that in real life the difference between 16 bit & 32 bit playback isn’t that noticeable. But its not a matter of performance but a matter of principle, Shnaling seems like a brand to me who are more interested in fake marketing than actually making a product with awesome performance. Fiio BTR5 beats UP4 in both single ended & balanced mode, it has a much cleaner sound with greater details & a wider soundstage. Overall, this is an easy win for the Fiio BTR5 at least in my books, that extra $20 to $30 dollar price difference is totally worth it.

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Best Thus Far – FiiO BTR5 LDAC & aptX HD Bluetooth Receiver Review
Pros: + Build Quality
+ Sonic performance
+ Supports all BT Codecs
+ OLED display, glass front, metallic body
+ No dropouts with the BT signal
+ Nice plastic case from the get-go
+ Pairs well with most IEMs, even some easier to drive headphones
Cons: - Sounds better on wired than wireless
- Not the longest batt life.
---Photos do not load well from Wordpress, still sorting this out, please read it on my website to also see the pics, link: https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/2020/12/best-thus-far-fiio-btr5-bluetooth-receiver-review.html ---

Best Thus Far – FiiO BTR5 LDAC & aptX HD Bluetooth Receiver Review


BTR5 is probably the most complete Bluetooth DAC/AMP on the market right now, and it costs 110 USD at the moment of making this review. This means that it will get compared to Earstudio HUD100, Lotto Paw S1, and Topping E30, all of which are close enough in price to make good competition. The most important pairings will be with iBasso AM05, Final B3 IEMs, and Meze Rai Penta IEMs. Most of those are far more expensive than BTR5, but we’ll explore together why we actually want to use it with pretty high-end or at least high-quality IEMs and even headphones.





Introduction

I have a long history of reviewing small and diminutive things, and if you check my Youtube Channel, there’s a long list of written reviews that will be coming soon, many of which on pretty portable stuff. BTR5 can be considered the most complete overall because it has the best driving power, widest codec support, paired with most ergonomic shape and design, making what I would call the best overall Bluetooth DAC/AMP. I want to mention this, but FiiO offers a much better warranty through their local agents, and it is not recommended to get the products straight from them, if you want to avoid costs like taxes, shipping costs, and their local agents usually offer excellent warranty conditions and support.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with FiiO. I’d like to thank FiiO for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with FiiO BTR5. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in FiiO BTR5 find their next music companion.





About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html





Packaging

First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:


The package is minimalistic. As I presented in my video review, it doesn’t have quite that much for either, but FiiO has been smart about it, and since they wanted to make the units themselves as cool as possible, they included cases with both, and we’re talking here about transparent plastic cases so you can clip either to your shirt and clothes.

You get all the cables you may need with both, or better said a charging cable, but I would recommend considering getting an aftermarket OTG and a longer USB cable, at least if you’re planning on going the BTR5 route, it is worth the extra if you want a better sound.





What to look in when purchasing a high-quality entry-level Bluetooth DAC/AMP

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html







Video Review

FiiO BTR5:




Build Quality/Aesthetics/Functionality


The build quality of BTR5 is unquestionably nice, it is a metallic unit, ergonomic and with a glass display. Beneath the glass, you can find an OLED display which helps you set it up and control it, it has two headphone outputs, one in balanced and one in Single Ended, and it has volume buttons. It has a Type-C USB port, and it also has a microphone so you can take phone calls while using it, even if your earphones do not have a mic.

The usage is fairly simple, the bluetooth connection is probably the most reliable I’ve seen so far in the entire world, and I paired it with Huawei P20 or Xiaomi Note 9s. I am getting a signal that’s good enough for running, sprinting, or using BTR5 as a Bluetooth receiver while driving, having an AUX connected between it and my car’s RadioHead. Just for a test, I could get a full single with no dropouts while having my smartphone 15 meters away from BTR5, and having two thick walls between them.


The battery life is also great, really close to what FiiO advertises, as I’m getting around 8 hours, while listening loud and using high-quality codecs like LDAC. You can use it wired, as a USB DAC, working like this with both smartphones and a windows computer. The sonic quality is quite a bit better when using it as a USB DAC regardless what it is connected to, so if you can take a wire, don’t avoid it, BTR5 will sound better. The bluetooth support is great, we have LDAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency (for gaming), and aptX HD. Pretty much full plate.

FiiO pretty much stretched the budget as much as they physically could to put everything that was humanly possible in both modules, making them the best versions they could.

The one feature that I like quite a lot about BTR5 is the EQ support, straight from the unit. It is handy, and having the volume buttons together with the play/pause button for navigation works just fine.

Even compared to most other Bluetooth receivers, at least those I tested so far and which I’m working on reviewing, BTR5 is the better unit almost every time. I would and did use both as affordable desktop DAC/Headphone Amplifiers, especially on-the-go and for laptops being top notch.





Sound Quality

Now, the sound quality will be different between the wired and wireless mode, but depending on what music style you enjoy the most, the differences may be too small to notice, especially on-the-go. I tend to max out the volume while taking a walk, which is why I noticed the differences quite a bit. If you prefer to listen quieter, you may not notice the differences, and with commercial music, as well as classical, there are less differences between the wired and wireless mode than with metal, rock and complex EDM.


The main signature would be a full sounding, deep, energetic signature, with no particular coloration, but excellent dynamics and very low distortions. I could use it with any headphone as long as it is decently easy to drive, and only LCD-2C was harder to drive, pretty much everything easier to drive than it being a no-trouble for BTR5.

The bass is deep and full, slightly warm, and natural in speed. It hits quick enough for death metal and technical deathcore, but also can be slow enough for jazz and classical. For most headphones and IEMs, there is enough bass by default to satisfy my needs, but you can always engage some EQ if you want a bit of extra thickness. BTR5 favors neutral, natural, V-Shaped, and bassy IEMs / Headphones, but does not necessarily favor bright sounding ones.

The midrange is quite colorful, natural in the overall signature, with a ton of texture, and a very wide soundstage. The dynamics are also top notch, the best I’ve heard in many devices, and the best I heard at this price point so far. Especially on wired, you can hear a lot of detail, and BTR5 can easily compete with something like M9, and edges to being close to M11, this making M5 and M6 a bit obsolete, if you don’t need the music player function and want to use your smartphone as a music source. Of course, music players still have a place in this world, as I don’t want to be bothered by calls and notifications all the time, and if you’re using it in Bluetooth mode, you can hear some difference in the overall detail level, especially with complex music.

The treble is natural, sparkly, without being grainy or splashy in particular. The treble extension is top notch, it has enough detail and clarity to make an excellent DAC/AMP, and I am in love with having the full range of my treble when listening to music.







Comparisons

The comparison list includes even Lotoo Paw S1, but Topping E30, which is a standalone DAC, and Earstudio HUD100, which is a similar product to BTR5, but which falls short when it comes to having bluetooth, as it has no bluetooth support, only a wired connection.


FiiO BTR5 vs Topping E30 (110 USD vs 130 USD) – Topping E30 is actually just a DAC, and this is a bit of an excuse. But it comes with a remote, and needs a wall power, or an external battery to work. The main reason I included it here is that a lot of you guys have been asking me whether it is better to get BTR5 and use it as the main DAC for your system, and to answer that question easily, it depends on whether you want a DAC or a DAC/AMP. BTR5 sounds more punchy, more detailed and more dynamic than E30, but it doesn’t have a true line out, so it also has more distortion, where E30 is cleaner if used as a standalone DAC. E30 is also more convenient for desktop, where BTR5 is a crossover device that works well for everything, from desktop to portable.

FiiO BTR5 vs Lotoo Paw S1 (110 USD vs 170 USD) – Lotoo Paw S1 has pretty much all of the features that BTR5 has, including EQ, but not the bluetooth support. The decision here is a bit more complicated because S1 has a slightly better driving power, more detail and clariry, and a bit more detailed, while being a bit more musical in the midrange. The largest impediment in recommending it is the higher price point and lack of bluetooth, which means that you can always go for BTR5 if you want bluetooth, and if you want to spend a bit less on your DAC/AMP.

FiiO BTR5 vs Earstudio HUD100 (110 USD vs 140 USD) – Earstudio HUD100 is quite overpriced considering the competition it has to fight, and BTR5 is the next example of a DAC/AMP that beats it big time, in everything, from the driving power, dynamics, detail, clarity, support, including bluetooth support, and even when it comes to ergonomics and design. HUD100 can have a more musical sound, but having a much lower driving power means that it is harder to recommend it over BTR5.







Pairing

The pairing list includes iBasso AM05, Final Audio B3, and Meze Rai Penta.


Although all of those are IEMs, I tested and can confirm that BTR5 works exceptionally well for headphones too, so you can always plug in your HIFIMAN Deva or HIFIMAN Sundara, FiiO EH3NC, MAS X5h, Grado SR80e, Brainwavz HM100, and pretty much any other headphone, as long as it is about as hard to drive as Deva, which is the hardest to drive headphone that I’ve been able to enjoy with BTR5.

FiiO BTR5 + iBasso AM05 (110 USD + 300 USD) – AM05 is a brighter, more detailed sound IEM, but with a musical midrange, and with a kick for being unique. Having only BA or balanced armatures, it needs a very low background noise, paired with a good amount of power to stay controlled and have the lowest possible distortion, and that’s where BTR5 is perfect, it has no distortion, it has a musical and colorful midrange, and the treble has enough sparkle to be engaging and interesting, without being grainy and harsh. Making the best combo out of two companies that are direct competitor, that’s what I call fun.

FiiO BTR5 + Final Audio B3 (110 USD + 500 USD) – Final’s Audio B3 IEMs is also a magical one, being V-Shaped but having a good amount of detail, clarity and punch. They only need a source that is able to control them, especially at loud volumes, as otherwise they can easily distort. It mainly means that it is a slightly harder to drive IEM, but not hard to get loud, rather hard to get loud and clear. BTR5 is perfect, they sound perfectly clear up to the maximum, with no distortion, no issues, and I could actually say that this pairing became a personal favorite for many evenings, where B3 sounded so musical and sweet in the mids, and wide & punchy overall.

FiiO BTR5 + Meze Rai Penta (110 USD + 1100 USD) – Meze Rai Penta is quite an expensive IEM, and the first I reviewed since rebuilding the website onto the new platform, but one that I really enjoyed for a long time. There’s something magical about the way they deliver the midrange, without being fatiguing, but also without being boring. There’s a magical musicality, and just like Dunu DK-4001, it pairs nicely with BTR5 because it spices them up a bit, giving them more sparkle, more dynamics and more punch, along with a better overall treble sparkle, and a deeper, fuller bass. Great tiny DAC/AMP to drive such a high-quality flagship IEM.







Value and Conclusion

The price of FiiO BTR5 is pretty high for a portable DAC/AMP, and if you’re first reading or hearing about it, you may be a bit reticent when it comes to a bluetooth receiver, but it is totally worth it. I can and did for a while use it as the only DAC/AMP in my house, including using it portably, while out and about, and using it as my main desktop DAC/AMP.


The package was not great, and I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by it, especially since FiiO used to be known for their great packages, but at the end of the day, that case was everything you could need for using and enjoying FiiO BTR5.

After you unbox it and see the unit, your opinion may improve in a matter of seconds, with a metallic body, glass display, glass display protectors applied from the factory, curved surface, volume and navigation buttons, and with an OLED display, BTR5 having everything you may desire from a BT receiver. Even the software and bluetooth support is excellent and you have everything from the rare aptX LL to LDAC to AAC and everything in between.


The sound is also dynamic, punchy, colorful, detailed and vivid. So much so, that if you have IEMs, and if you’re a beginner in this hobby, there’s a 50% chance you’ve been recommended to get BTR5 at least once so far.


Before the conclusion of this review, I want to add BTR5 to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, it is truly the kind of DAC/AMP/BT Receiver that I can easily recommend to both newcomers and veterans, it is practical and a great value, which says everything about it.


At the end of this review, if you’re looking for a way to use your phone to listen to music, and have it sound as close as possible to perfection, if you mainly use IEMs, but also sometimes use headphones, even some moderately hard to drive, and if you want a full plate when it comes to features, codecs, EQ, and a balanced output, FiiO BTR5 is totally the way to go.




Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.


Youtube Playlist
Tidal Playlist

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

I hope my review is helpful to you!
















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Kentajalli

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Very capable
Sound quality
Sufficient Power output
battery life
Cons: Media buttons are fiddly
Media buttons don't work in USB mode
(Neutron Media player, latest q-Jays and Ultimate ears UE700 in ear plus an older over the head Beyer HiFi headphones)

Got mine a few days ago, struggling around to find an OTG cable to get it connected. (why don't they include one?) not even realizing it has Bluetooth!
Fiio looks good, similar to a decent mobile phone with all the glass and metal, but that clip cover thingy as useful as it is has sharp edges! I had to tame them down gently with a fine sandpaper. the new official leatherette case would be lost on me, the clip is more practical, unless they make it REAL leather (hell with skin friendly) and add a clip, then I would get one.

- On Bluetooth mode:
Managed to get it connected without fuss. It connects at LDAC 24bit 96kHz by default and even if I change it on my phone to 48kHz (Huawei mate 20 pro) it won't remember the setting next time, disconnect and on reconnect goes back to default, though I could change it again.
At 990kb/s sound is quite good, but range is not! even putting it next to my phone, sometimes handling the device causes dropouts but not often. I suppose it would work fine with phone in one pocket and Fiio in another, but across the room or next room it is a no, unless you drop it to 48kHz (that's why I was trying) or choosing adaptive connection or 660kB/s (phone settings, software, developers options).
The sound quality was head and shoulders above Huawei's own little USB dongle (actually Huawei sound on dongle is crap!) - but for 90 quid I was expecting a bit more than simple audio upgrade and Bluetooth convenience.
So on my Neutron (https://neutronmp.com/) I enabled high resolution Bluetooth function and tried again, OK sound got a bit better, but hey 90 quid? I wanted more .....

- On USB OTG;

So got my utility blade out and cut open couple of USB-C cables I had laying around to get the connections. You see I had to make my own.
Let me ask you something, what good is a 4 inch OTG cable? who would put a rubber band over his phone and a DAC (or any other device) to walk the streets??
I am 60 years old, and I wouldn't! It’s just not practical.
So I soldered the little resistor (to make it an OTG cable) used a cable from an old throw away pair of earbuds (you only need 4 connectors anyway) and made my own 2 foot very thin OTG cable . this allows me to put my phone in one pocket and clip the Fiio on my shirt or coat - much neater!
Fiio once it is setup correctly (on Neutron) with USB cable is much better! at this point I knew I was not sending it back.

I can only compare it to my older beloved Fiio E18 Kunlun. (as I don't have anything else. For some reason the Kunlun does not connect to my Huawei, but does connect my LG G6+. In a word, BTR5 is better than E18. the ultimate sound quality is better.

Both of my in-ear headphones internally use the same balanced armature devices (speakers) originally meant as hearing aids, but they do sound different (loading, crossover etc.), technically qJays are not as efficient as UE700's - and UE700's sound a bit more bassy when qJays are a bit brighter with cleaner highs. - on BTR5 they both sound very good but less different - qJays seem to have more bass with still clean highs - UE700's highs cleaned up and the bass has more definition now. Compared to the best of Bluetooth mode, USB is a fair bit better.

With larger headphones:
Trying out my insensitive 300 Ohm Beyer dynamic headphones, it was obvious the power was not there to drive them, sound was hollow and not enough volume. My Leema DAC can drive them pretty well, so nothing wrong with the headphones.

On balanced output:

Finally I decided to try the balanced the balanced out ! to see what the fuss is about.

Since Jays have dropped the price of remote (unbalanced) cables for the qJays to only 5 euros, I decided to order some and rewire my existing straight cables to balanced mode.
I needed a 4 pin 2.5mm jack. I found one, on my cable pile from an old car reverse camera setup I had bought from eBay a while back.
Again cut it open with my sharp utility knife to expose the jack, cut the earphone cable near its original 3.5mm jack to expose the wires, and managed to solder it on.
BTR5 specs says it can put out more power in balanced mode (240mW against 80mW) - but the loudness did not go up as I plugged in, in fact I can not say the general sound quality in terms of definition or tonality changed all that much - what did change was the stereo imaging!
Specially at lower frequencies, such as cellos or bass, there was a certain sense of left and right positioning, cellos were more to the centre-right rather than all over the place.
To my surprise the whole stereo picture in my head had a more air to it, I could pin point instruments better, perhaps tiny irrelevant noises like a player's sigh or chair leg moving on the floor could be heard which told me - this was a live performance. For that alone balanced was worth it.
Over all I am happy with it. I have not charged it in three days, and it still has juice left - perhaps it is charging itself from my phone, I don't know.
Now I know it is worth £90.

Though I shall only use Bluetooth mode every now and then - you see I am a HiFi buff, for as long as USB is better, I see no point to use anything less, unless I am going to bathroom or start cooking!

IMG_20200507_202517.jpg.jpgIMG_20200507_202557.jpg.jpg
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S
szore
Nice.
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
This maybe of interest here.
ES9218P
is stereo. BTR5 uses two, so basically has four mono DACs.
For unbalanced, one chipset is used (two DACs), this is why the battery lasts longer, one DAC for left another for right.
However under balanced mode, the second chip comes in (2 X two DACs) here each stereo chip outputs either left or right channel, so we have 2X right channel, and 2X left channels.
before processing, the polarityis reversed on one of the DACs, meaning we have left and reversed left (and right).
Now at last stage, these outputs are subtracted from each other (left) - (-left) = 2 X left - equally (right) - (-right) = 2 x right . this is why BTR5 has more power in balanced mode and uses more power.
since identical chips have processed the same data twice, it is argued that the diffrences must be noise and distortion, by subtracting the two, you double the signal compared to noise and inherent errors should cancel each other.
S
szore
Fascinating, thanks for that!

NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Great sound, Powerful Output, Full physical control, Both balanced-unbalanced output, Battery life, Stable connectivity, USB-DAC, Gain, Value, Portability
Cons: USB-C to USB-C Cable not included, Not very sexy plastic clip
FIIO BTR5 REVIEW

P1050167



SOUND: 9/10
CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN: 8.5/10
VALUE: 9/10
FIIO is a well know Chinese audio company that does not need an introduction. In fact, they are the only ‘’ChiFi’’ company that is easily accessible here in Canada, as we can even find most of their products at Best Buy and such.


Another thing that FIIO is known for is to launch new products faster than anyone else. In term of Digital Audio Player, this can be hit or miss due to how fast android based DAP world evolve. They are no slouch with Bluetooth DAC-AMP too and launch in the last 2 years four of them which include super budget UBTR, budget-friendly BTR1, it’s upgraded version BTR1K and the mid-tier BTR3. None of them really triggers my interest until they launch the extremely promising BTR5 model, which I will review today.

Why is it the only FIIO Bluetooth DAC-amp that sincerely intrigues me? Well, it’s because my benchmark is the excellent Radsone Earstudio ES100. I don’t want to downgrade and it’s exactly that the BTR5 promise: a step up from ES100 in terms of sound quality, battery life, connectivity, construction, and amping power.

The FIIO BTR5 uses high-end dual sabre es9218 DAC that promises low impedance output and extremely low harmonic distortion. It can deliver tremendous power output from it’s balanced out. It uses the latest Xmos XU208 chip that permits to take full advantage of its USB DAC-AMP connection. It uses the latest flagship Bluetooth chip Qualcomm CSR8675 so you can use any codec you want including Ldac. And this is just an introduction of what is hidden in the sleek BTR5 body.

Let’s explore this little but powerful marvel in this review.

You can buy the FIIO BTR5 for 149$ directly from HifiGO Store HERE.


DISCLAIMER: I wanna thank HifiGO for sending me the FIIO BTR5 at my request. I choose this product myself, because of how promising it looks. I’ve not affiliated in any way with HifiGO and keep my full independence of views in this review.

INTERN

For its size, the BTR5 has a lot of nice hardware hidden in its body. Begining by dual sabre ES9218P DAC, which promises highs dynamic and reference decoding, FIIO really pushes the sound boundaries both for portable Bluetooth and USB dac-amp purpose. The use of flagship Bluetooth chip CSR8675 promises the highest quality of sound transmission and the independent control chip XMOS XUF208 can give you the support of the highest sample rate up to native 384kHz/DSD256. As well, it uses a dual independent crystal oscillator with FPGA clock management to limit any clicking or signal instability. In fact, the BTR5 is so fully packed of high-quality audio implementation one would think it could be either buggy or affect battery life but be reassure, it doesn’t.

UNBOXING

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Packaging is well presented in a plastic box, but really, there not alot of accessories apart from instruction manual, a must needed transparent plastic protective case that act as clip belt too and a USBc to usb cable. The problem is about the lack of USBc to USBc cable, wich is necessary to connect the BTR5 to your phone or tablet. As well, the plastic protective case look little cheap, affecting overall esthetic of the product.

CONSTRUCTION


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The BTR5 is made of double-sided hard 2.5D glass taking in a sandwich it’s all-metal body. Audio port are made of plastic, not metal, but feel of good quality enough. Button too are made of the good plastic quality and click weel without being too loose or too tightly implemented. Though quite small with its 7cm body length and 3cm large, it has some weight to it too (43g) which explain why a clip is even more useful. The clip isn’t particularly sexy, it’s all standard thick transparent plastic, while it does its job, I feel one drop on hard floor might break it. The little screen is very welcome and shows brightly any option you choose with OLED light. All in all, construction has an elegant design, is smooth in hands and feels of great quality and durability.

CONTROL
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Unlike some portable DAC-AMP that lack control buttons for either volume or tracks skipping, the BTR5 offers you full physical control including being able to change the sound filters, gain and even EQ preset. The fact you can control everything without the need of using your phone or an app is really welcome freedom because though I’m a big fan of Radsone ES100, I always wish it has gain buttons. All options can be trigger with 4 buttons, but it’s so simple I will let you discover these by yourself.

AMPING POWER

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I feel this review will be non-stop raving about how perfect is the BTR5 in every possible way. You need a powerful Bluetooth dac-amp? You find it with the BTR5 that will be able to even push your power-hungry cans at full potential with its 240mW with 2.8V at 32ohm. Yes, this means it can drive most headphones properly up to 300ohm (depending on their sensitivity). I was blown away to discover it deliver a full dynamic sound for my hard to drive Hifiman Sundara. It must be noted that high output power can be only achieved with BALANCED output, as the unbalanced 3.5mm output delivers just a respectable 80mW with 1.6V output. To give you an example of single-ended output power of portable dac-amp, the Radsone ES100 deliver 1.1Vp at 16ohm, Audirect BEAM deliver 48mWat 32ohm and FIIO BTR3 only 25mW at 32ohm, so indeed, BTR5 is among the most powerfull amping in both balanced and unbalanced output.

CONNECTIVITY

With the NFC technology, it’s made easier than ever to connect to your phone. But it’s as easy to connect even without this tech because once you connect it one time to your laptop, phone or dap, it will connect automatically to it if Bluetooth is available. One you power ON the BTR5, he has only one mission: connect to something. Be aware, he’s good at it, so if you have multiple Bluetooth availabilities like 2 phones and a laptop, it might connect automatically the one you don’t use! He’s in a hurry to connect to anything and blow your mind with its sound!


The signal is very very good, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, it’s both stable and powerful. I do not encounter clicking or sound cut apart if I go very far or behind a lot of walls, because again, we cannot hide in a bunker at 50 feet from the audio source, but sure at 10 meters even with some walls here and there.

BATTERY LIFE

A lot of times, company state battery life that doesn’t stand the test of reality, Radsone being a good example with their ridiculous 14H statement (it’s more like 5-7H). With BTR5 we have a solid 9H of autonomy, but this can extend easily if you use it as USB DAC for your laptop, because it can charge while playing music. This is another big plus from this device. As well, the big advantage of battery-powered dac-amp is that if you hook it to your phone (and choose the option to NOT charge it), it will not affect it’s battery at all.

SOUND

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The FIIO BTR5 is among the rare DAC-AMP I can safely consider as capable in terms of sound and amping as a 200$ DAP. When connect through USB, it can even be compared with lot of sub-500$ mid-tier DAP. It sounds more dynamic and fuller than my Xduoo X20, as good in tonality and timbre but cleaner than my Xduoo XD-05plus and yeah, better than my oh so beloved Radsone ES100 (i say it). I would not call the BTR5 as perfectly neutral but inject with extra thickness and weight in the attack in a very nuanced and revealing macro-musicality. I would put this type of energic sound rendering in the middle of sharp reference ultra-transparent sound of Ibasso DX90 (dual ES9018 DAC) and thickly textured sound of Xduoo XD-05plus (AKM4495 DAC). It really finds the sweet spot between neutrality and fun, thickness and richness, precision and musicality.
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SOUNDSTAGE is of average wideness, with good deepness and tallness and must of all an holographic presentation where the instruments have sens of relief, giving tactile rendering to sound nuances.
TIMBRE is slightly thick, but keep a good sense of transparency due to its lush texture.
TONALITY is natural, not clinical, cold or overly warm. It has a hint of extra treble.BASS is well-textured, with sharp separation between the sub and mid-bass. It is rather flat without a drastic extra boost in the lower end but still offers a weighty, thick presentation.
MIDS is very clean and well centered, even flatter than bass and treble. It flows naturally and has high definition and resolution that tend to sharp their presence.
TREBLE is full and dig a lot of details without unbalancing the sound. It tends to add layers in the back and show you nuance in music you might have never noticed. I feel it have perhaps a little boost in upper highs, which can expose extra micro-details.


PAIRING

HIFIMAN SUNDARA
I wasn’t expecting the BTR5 to be able to drive properly this capricious and rather hard to driver Planar Dynamic Headphones, but it really power it at full potential even if I have to crank up the volume up to 55 of 60 steps. If it wasn’t properly amped, it would sound dry and thin and unbalanced, here we have a full-bodied sound, with excellent separation, the bass extend well even if it do not gain extra. I don’t say it’s the pinnacle of pairing, no, for that I use 2000mW Xduoo TA-10 or even more powerful vintage Sansui Solid-state amp, but the sound is dynamic, the imaging is open and everything flow musicaly, the background isn’t the blackest one but overall clarity is great and definition have nuanced meat to it. I’m extremely impressed by this ultra portable pairing.


FINAL AUDIO A8000
These are rather sharp sounding iem with high clarity and transparency, what the BTR5 do is adding some warmth to tonality and thickness to timbre. The A8000 upper mids feel more rounded and vocal fuller. The dynamic gain in weight but lose a little transparency and resolution. Bass too gain in thickness, transforming the A8000 into a more fun sound signature than the serious one we can get with reference highly resolved DAP like Ibasso DX90.


MOONDROP STARFIELD
The Starfield benefit from a dynamic audio source and indeed BTR5 delivers just that. As a smooth sounding IEM, a too warm of flat sound source will make them sound not enough lively, with BTR5 the bass gain in weight impact, mids which are already full of presence gain in lushness and attack, treble which is rolled off suddenly dig more micro details, that does not affect balance, just enrich whole sound experience subtly.


AUDIOSENSE T800
The T800 can be very sensitive with impedance output and need low harmonic distortion to shine due to its 8 balanced armature. I was worried the BTR5 impedance would be too high for them but I test them both balanced and unbalanced and can confirm the sound is great, free of any tonal imbalance or distortion. Layering is clean, the soundstage is vast, the bass is perfectly controlled and not boomy like with too powerful, unclean or high impedance DAP or DAC-AMP can do. This pairing is excellent and perhaps the best one after Ibasso DX90.

COMPARISONS:

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VS RADSONE ES100 (100$):


In terms of construction, the ES100 is all plastic, feeling a little cheap aside from the BTR5, but it’s near 2 times smaller AND weightier, making it more portable, as well, the clip is made of metal and part of its body. The battery life of ES100 is around 6H, which is notably inferior to the BTR5. In terms of decoding, again, it loose as it only can decode 48khz-16bit. In terms of power, it’s quite similar, but BTR5 is a hint more powerful, especially in an unbalanced way.


SOUND is quite different from these 2. One using dual AK4375a and the other dual ES9218P. I find the ES100 slightly brighter, more vivid and transparent sounding than the BTR5. As well, it’s more neutral and dry. Timbre is less thick and natural with the ES100, and the definition is less well rounded too. Bass is less weighty and punchy, again, more flat and dry. Mids are a little more forwards, but not as lush and full sounding than BTR5. Treble dig as many details but tend to not be as layered as the BTR5, still, imaging is more accurate with the ES100. The soundstage is very similar, but extra transparency of ES100 gives a wider and airier feel.


VS TEMPOTEC IDSD PLUS (140$):


So, this isn’t a Bluetooth DAC-AMP but portable USB DAC-AMP. The IDSD is like 4 times bigger and 3 times heavier. It has both 3.5mm and 2.5mm output like the BTR5. Now, it uses excellent dual ES9018 dac, so, this will be hard to beat for the BTR5. To be honest, BTR5 sounds 95% as good as the Tempotec, but have slightly lower macro-resolution. The biggest difference is in overall ultra-clean clarity that Tempotec achieve, making it more reference sounding than BTR5. As well, if more neutral, the bass is not boosted and more transparent. Sound is a little more analytical, and timbre a little less thick. For example, the vocal has more decay and realism, while with the BTR5 its more present and less transparent. Treble is a little more delicate and metallic in upper highs with the IDSD too.
All in all, these 2 sound near the same, and BTR5 sure win in term of value, portability, versatility and power output (balanced, as it loose against the 120mw unbalanced of IDSD).

CONCLUSION

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Can we ask for more, really, can we?


The FIIO BTR5 exceeds what we can expect from a sub-200$ Bluetooth DAC-AMP, both in terms of sound quality and amping power.


I have tested many portable DAC-AMP, and to me, this do-it-all product is as exciting in 2020 as the Radsone ES100 was in 2018. Right now, it’s the very best Bluetooth DAC-AMP you can get to cover all your audiophile need. With its long battery life, small size, solid construction, stable connectivity and it’s numerous control options like amping Gain, Sound Filters and EQ preset, the BTR5 is the pinnacle of portable DAC-AMP from FIIO.


If you search for the most versatile DAC-AMP option that can cover all your portable and desktop need, I think the FIIO BTR5 can be enough to make you discover the joy of audiophile sound on a budget. In some way, the BTR5 makes most DAP obsolete because everybody has a phone nowadays, and you can now transform it into a high-end digital audio player. I would never have thought to say this one day, but this is pure truth: the BTR5 sound as good or better than a lot of pricier DAP.
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NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
@MikonJuice I URGE you to do so. BTR5 use dual dac only with balanced output. Its not only near 3 times more powerfull but more dynamic, cleaner and more nuanced-detailed. I would not have give 5 stars if on tested singled ended.
NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
oh and Starfield benefit from amping. By the way, try Inversed KZ eartips with those. Youll be blown away.
NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
Pros: Good sound quality. Separate voice call and sound level features. Adjustable "sound" via digital filters and distortion controls. Car mode. Charging on/off options. USB-C.
Cons: A higher-power single-ended output instead of the unnecessary balanced output would make more sense at this price point.

FiiO sent me this unit for review. I wasn't expecting much from the BTR5 given its size and price, but it surprised me at how good it sounds, both wired and wireless. At least via the balanced output it has quite a bit of power, way more than enough for IEMs (which were driven fine from the 3.5mm port) and enough even for common, easy-to-drive headphones, as long as you don't intend to blast your ears out (which I never recommend).

The main benefit to the BTR5 over other Bluetooth devices is the smart phone control via the FiiO player app. Among the many features, you can control whether it charges from USB, useful if connecting to a phone that you don't want to drain power from. You can also control the digital filters and control the 2nd or 3rd order harmonic distortion to make the sound slightly "warmer" or "brighter". It also has a "Car Mode" where it will switch on and off when it receives power from the USB input.

Sound-wise, while it isn't going to be as refined-sounding or as detailed as the big DAPs, like the M11, it did best the M5 in my listening, with something of a "lively", but not harsh sound that worked well with even Campfire's Andromedas. This can be tamed very slightly via the digital filter and distortion controls in the app. With less expensive IEMs, the differences between the BTR5 and the bigger DAPs was reduced, making it a great value option for owners of the FH5, FH7, or sub-$200 IEMs, as it controlled the bass of dynamic driver IEMs very competently.

The 2 Ohm output impedance lowers the level of hiss with very sensitive IEMs, but didn't affect the tone of the Andromedas, unlike my 10 Ohm iPhone 6, which causes them to lose bass.

The BTR5 has a full range of Bluetooth codec support. Handily, codecs can be disabled in the FiiO app, so if, say, LDAC isn't being reliable for you with a particular device, you can disable it. APTxLL (Low Latency) is also supported, so if watching a movie or playing a game, it reduces the annoying lag.

My only real gripe was with the balanced output. I think it would have been better at this price point to have a high-powered SE output, and forgo the balanced output altogether. Money saved on the BTR5 is lost when one has to buy an aftermarket cable to use it to its full potential.

From a full rating of 5 stars:
Minus 1 star for the necessity of having to spend money to re-cable your IEMs/HPs to balanced to get the most out of the device, which I think is a negative at this price point.
Minus half a star for some minor issues with the iPhone FiiO app.
Plus 1 star for the extra features such as car mode, APTxLL, and charge control.
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Kentajalli
Kentajalli
. . . stunning styling. No way in hell I'm listening to a $100 dac!
Can't argue with that.
But I wasn't suggesting you partner yours with BTR5.
I am sure A&K or others can come up with high-end DAC/amp's suitable for your IEMs.
It was the second box and needlessness of it.
But hey individual preference ...
S
szore
That's what it's all about!
Jaysound
Jaysound
Got my BTR5 and am loving just about everything about it!

I wear it on the back of my waist-pack belt when practicing tai chi etc, with my phone on the right hip also on the belt.

The button controls are easy enough to handle even on the back of my belt and do all I could want. And the inline controls on the IEMs work flawlessly as well.

The SQ is superb!

I wish the display was bigger, but that's my only complaint.

I hope I can find a guide with explanations of what the various filter and EQ settings actually do.

I did the firmware update first thing out of the box (though I didn't even check to see if the existing firmware was already the most recent -- I just applied the update). I haven't installed the app and haven't read any reason to do so as yet.
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