tl;dr: Clean and powerful output for a mobile DAC/AMP. The price is very reasonable. However, it gets warm and chews through your phone’s battery fast, even on idle.


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Unboxing Fiio KA3

Important Specs

  • Outputs: 3.5mm and 4.4mm (Balanced)
  • Single-ended output power: 130mW @ 32 ohm, 7mW @ 600 ohm
  • Single-ended output impedance: less than 0.5 ohm
  • Single-ended noise floor: less than 1.7 uV
  • Balanced output power: 240 mW @ 32 ohm, 28 mW @ 600 ohm
  • Balanced output impedance: less than 0.7 ohm
  • Balanced noise floor: less than 2.9 uV

Why Fiio KA3?

  • I want a more stable connection between my DAC/AMP and my mobile devices. Bluetooth (Fiio BTR5 2019) is not stable.
  • I want to plug my DAC/AMP in when I am at my desk, but I do not want to ruin the DAC/AMP’s battery.
  • I want to try the “hi-res lossless” audio to see what’s the fuss about. Ironically, Apple’s dongle cannot play hi-res lossless.
  • I want something powerful enough to drive my Final E5000 and Senny HD560s properly.
  • I want something more rugged than Apple dongles.

How does KA3 perform?

KA3 is a highly dynamic source that greatly extend soundstage, but not analytical …

Just kidding. It’s a DAC/AMP, not magic.

As a DAC/AMP, KA3 does an excellent job. My Andromeda couldn’t pick up any hiss or noise, showing that KA3 is a very clean and quiet source. It’s output impedance is low enough that the Andromeda sound warm and relaxing, i.e., the way it’s supposed to sound.

Power-wise, KA3 drives E5000 and HD560s, my most power-hungry transducers, properly. Whilst it is true that both of these make loud sound with Apple dongle, they don’t sound as clear, separated, and snappy as with KA3. I don’t think KA3 “improves” these transducers, but rather gives them the proper power for them to run properly. This “scaling” is an exception rather than a rule. Most of my IEMs show no difference whatsoever moving from Apple dongle to KA3.

KA3 has some drawbacks:

  • It gets warm. Not alarmingly hot, but a bit too warm for an electronic device. I think it is because KA3’s metal shell acts as a heat sink.
  • It drains battery fast, even on idle. So I have to unplug it from my phone when I don’t use it.
  • It is way too powerful for sensitive IEMs like Andromeda.

How does KA3 compare?

KA3 is a good source. The difference between this DAC/AMP and bad sources like Xiaomi Mi A1, Nintendo Switch, and Macbook Pro 15 inch is day and night.

However, I did not find any noticeable difference between KA3 and other good sources like BTR5 and Apple dongles. Final E5000 and Senny HD560s are the only exceptions where Apple dongle cannot power them properly.

Should you get KA3?

If you use case is similar to mine, then yes, I think KA3 is a good deal.

If you hope to improve your listening experience substantially, you should buy new IEM / headphones or learn to EQ your existing gear instead of buying a new source.