FiiO’s second member of the USB audio adapter series, the KA1 is our guest for a review. The KA1 inherits the design style of the KA3 and has a compact body, just 40x15x8mm, even smaller than many USB flash disks.
Employed in the KA1 is the ES9281AC PRO chip from ESS, which combines a USB audio interface, DAC, and amplifier into one package. When combined with the multi-layered HDI gold-plated PCB it is on, a highly capable low-noise power supply system, and a low-jitter independent crystal oscillator, the result is lower crosstalk and higher efficiency through lower power consumption.
Meanwhile, the KA1 has been officially certified by MQA to be truly capable of MQA rendering. It includes MQA Renderer technology, which can connect to an MQA Core signal (from TIDAL streaming service, FiiO Music App or any other MQA enabled music services or media players) and completes the final unfold of an MQA file. The FiiO Music App has basically completed an account registration and MQA subscription.
The difference between the KA3 and KA1 is that each KA1 comes with a fixed cable with either a USB Type-C or Lightning port, which can save more internal space and make a more compact body. As a result, there are two editions of the KA1, Type-C and Lightning editions. Each includes a corresponding adapter. By using this adapter, you can connect the KA1 to your computer.
In addition, the KA1 is made of aluminium magnesium alloy. The all-metal sealed construction also makes for strong anti-interference. The KA1 has a silver-plated monocrystalline copper cable. Two colours are available: Black/Dark green.
What’s in the box
Body dimensions: About 40x15x8mm
Cable length: About 70mm
Weight: About 10g
Colours: Classic Black, Dark Green
DAC chip: ES9281AC PPO
Input: US3 Type-C or Lightning
Output: 3.5mm headphone jack
Output power: 45mW
Audio format support: PCV 32bit/384kHz DoP DSD64/128 Native DSD64/128/256
Price: 49.99$ (34.99$ as I’m writing this review)
I would like to thank Fiio for providing me with the review sample of Fiio KA1 USB DAC (no affiliate link).
The Fiio KA1 is entirely silent, with no hiss or any background noise even with low impedance and sensitive IEMs. It sounds quite neutral with no dramatic colouration to the sound, which is a very good thing as an end result. The KA1 reaches deep on low frequencies and is very controlled on both sub-bass and mid-bass with a warm tonality. Drum kicks, bass guitar notes sounding right on the spot, no significant change compared to my desktop setup, except the amount of scaling of course, which is hard to expect from portable DAC/AMP like Fiio KA1 with 45mW(@32Ω) output power. But don’t get me wrong, KA1 is capable to power most of your IEMs and low impedance headphones.
Going into the mids, the vocals continue with a natural and well-balanced sound. Both male and female vocals keep their natural tonality and instrument their life-like timbre. This is the point where I am describing the sound signature of the IEM and not the Fiio KA1. Hereby I can say that the Fiio KA1 does not change the sound of the earphone in a way that I can hear.
The treble region has a very good amount of transparency and extension with no loss of energy and air. Very slight bright tonality, especially when you listen to MQA tracks, crisp and nuanced, without stepping into any kind of aggressive behaviour. The Fiio KA1 also has enough air and space between instruments and vocals which leads to a good level of separation and soundstage.
If you are planning diving into the Hi-Fi world with a tight budget, the Fiio KA1 USB DAC should be your number one item on the list. I can’t think of a better alternative with its current discounted price of 34.99$. Its sound performance easily competes with bigger brothers on the market.