While we still have no idea when Spotify will launch its Hi-Fi service, between Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, and Amazon Music HD, there’s no shortage of streaming services jumping on the Hi-Fi bandwagon. There is only one problem with that; You need an external DAC to take advantage of any of these Hi-Fi levels. There’s nothing new about using external DACs and amplifiers to get the most out of your music, but on the phone? Big music streaming services are pushing portable hi-fi, and you probably don’t have what you need to enjoy it.
A DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) takes digital audio files and converts them into a smooth analog signal for the speaker drivers in your headphones or earphones. There is already a DAC in your smartphone, but not all DACs are created equal. The chips in the $130 2021 FiiO BTR5 are much closer in quality to those you’ll find in a desktop DAC. This makes it able to handle files with larger sample rates and higher bit depths, and also helps you get better sound from lower-resolution files. However, the Bluetooth accessory is still $130, so we’re clearly in audiophile territory here.
The FiiO BTR5 brings desktop-quality sound to your smartphone and brings high-quality Bluetooth codecs to your wired enclosures, but it’s the choppy Android support for USB DACs that holds it back.
- Brand: FiiO
- Supported Formats: MP3, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, DSD, MQA
- conductor: USB-C, 3.5mm, 2.5mm Balanced
- Weight: 44 grams
- battery: 550 mA
- Maximum resistance: 150 degrees (balanced) 100 degrees (unbalanced)
- Coding: AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD, LDAC
- bluetooth: 5.0
- bluetooth or wired
- Hardware Support for MQA
- 2.5mm balanced output
- Amp is powerful for something this small
- The screen is small, and it can show more information
- EQ is Bluetooth only, does not work with LDAC
- Needs counter-intuitive setup to get the best quality out of it
- You may need a third-party music app for unparalleled quality playback
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
The BTR5 acts as a DAC for playback, but that doesn’t mean you have to plug it in to use it. In wired mode, the BTR5 replaces the fragile 3.5mm adapter that came with your phone (if you’re lucky). It is also a wireless Bluetooth receiver that can deliver high-quality sound to a pair of premium wired headphones.
It has taken a lot of design notes from modern smartphones. It has the same glass sandwich design we’re all used to, with curved edges. while he Do A screen behind this glass face, it occupies only a small part of the available space. It doesn’t need to be too big since it should only display basic information like battery and volume levels, what Bluetooth codec it’s using, sample rate, or whether it’s decoding an MQA file. It would be nice if the screen was bigger so it could display more data, but not knowing the sample rate of MQA files or the current bit depth isn’t the end of the world.
All the controls are located on the right side, along with a microphone. In wired mode, the volume button only adjusts the volume, but in Bluetooth mode, it can skip tracks back and forth. The power button pulls up the screen so you can see the current battery level and sample rate or if you’re decoding an MQA file. In wireless mode, the screen will only tell you which Bluetooth codec is used. Holding down the power button will bring up the menu so you can do things like toggle charging or change EQ modes. The unmarked button is only used for menu navigation in wired mode, but it is the play/pause/assist and answer/reject button in Bluetooth mode.
The top of the BTR5 shows an unexpected audio feature in the way of an additional headphone jack. This isn’t for two people to listen to at the same time — I just tried it to see if it would work. This socket is actually for a balanced output. In addition to having a smaller jack, balanced cables also isolate the left and right audio channels to reduce interference. The BTR5’s balanced jack is designed with higher headphone impedances in mind, at a maximum recommended 150 ohms, in contrast to FiiO’s 100 ohms recommendation for the 3.5 mm jack. I tested it with 250ohm Beyerdynamic DT770s, and it looks like I’m bypassing the BTR5.
The base model BTR5 comes with a Type-C to C cable and a Type-C to A cable, which is everything you need to use it on Android, Windows, and into your car’s USB Type-A port. The Apple version includes a Type-C to Lightning cable and costs an additional $10. This might sound expensive for a short cable, but the cheapest Lightning to C OTG cable I could find was $16, so if you have an iPhone or iPod touch, an extra $10 isn’t a bad deal.
For anyone feeling nostalgic for fun packages and Walkmen (me), you’ll be glad to see that FiiO has included a belt clip for the BTR5. In wireless mode this was a good way to hook my headphones in one place so they wouldn’t bother me while I’m on my phone, but it can be cumbersome in wired mode whenever I need to take your phone out. Nobody forces you to use the clip, but that’s better than letting it hang or float in your pocket.
Software, sound and battery life
When I say the BTR5 has desktop sound quality, I’m not exaggerating. It is similar to a entry-level DAC in the same price range. There are obviously trade-offs when compared to a desktop setup, but sound quality isn’t one of them.
There are two different apps that integrate with BTR5. Fiio Control allows you to change settings and set up EQ profiles. While the BTR5 has a lot of easily accessible options in its menu, the Control app lets you do a lot more than that, like enforcing certain audio codecs. The FiiO Music app has the same controls as in the settings menu, but it is also a music player. Both apps work well, and the placement of their app controls is a good consideration for anyone who wants to listen to everything they have through their favorite app.
As mentioned earlier, the BTR5 can be used as a USB DAC or Bluetooth receiver. As a USB DAC, it supports sample rates of up to 384kHz at 32-bit, but there is a caveat about that. There is no one universal way that all Android devices interact with external DACs, so not every phone will automatically hand over decoding to a USB DAC, and many will only choose to use the internal DAC. This isn’t FiiO’s fault, it’s just a weirdo with Android at the moment. With the right phone, the music on the FiiO BTR5 sounds flawless.
Support for MQA tracks on Tidal and other services is one of the main selling points of this device, but you’ll only hear high-quality audio if your phone is connected to the DAC properly. Unfortunately, you won’t know if that’s the case until you try. I tried BTR5 with PC, Mac, iPhone and many Android devices. I only had issues getting hi-fi quality sound from android devices. Samsung seems to have handled this well because they already sell devices with external DAC chipsets, so if you have a Samsung, none of this likely applies to you.. Using an app like USB Audio Player Pro completely circumvents this issue, but it’s frustrating to spend 12 Another dollar on an app to make the $130 DAC work properly with MQA. This is a huge request since MQA is not lossless.
As a bluetooth receiver, things a lot More clear, thank God. With aptX HD and LDAC support, until aptX Lossless becomes more and more popular, you won’t be able to get a better Bluetooth audio experience than this. Between the two, LDAC has more bandwidth, so you’ll probably want to opt for that. At a maximum speed of 990 kb/s, according to Sony, only LDAC barely Bandwidth required for FLAC files that do not lose CD quality, which aptX HD does not provide. There will be some loss if you go with files with a larger bit depth or higher sample rate, but this is the same for all Bluetooth devices at the moment.
FiiO claims a battery life of nine hours and a full charge in an hour and a half, and that sounds realistic from my testing. There is room for significant variance depending on factors such as the volume level and the impedance of your headphones. This is a bigger concern in wireless mode, because you can easily get a BTR5 charge from your phone while you’re using it.
Should you buy it?
It depends. I honestly love the sound quality I get from the BTR5. My wired desktop headphones sound a mile better on Bluetooth than any of the other Bluetooth headphones, and it wasn’t the norm for me to spend more than 12 hours a day with the headphones once I started using the BTR5. I think it hits the perfect crossover of desktop sound quality and a size convenient enough to bring anywhere. me Wants To recommend this to everyone but it took a lot of troubleshooting due to Android patched DAC support. It’s tricky when most people listen to lower quality audio. The FiiO BTR5 is a good product, but only worth it for audiophiles.
Buy it if…
- You have an Apple or Samsung device, and you want to get into hifi music and lossless music
- Want to take your music lovers’ experience on the go.
Don’t buy it if…
- You want to try plug-n-play without problems
- Your streaming service doesn’t support third party players, and you don’t have a Samsung phone.
We hope you like and discuss the items we recommend! AndroidPolice has affiliate and sponsorship partnerships, so we receive a share of the revenue from some of your purchases. It will not affect the price you pay and help us provide the best product recommendations.
About the author