FiiO and its sub-brand Jade Audio have come together to release a brand new product, introducing the FiiO x Jade Audio KA13 dongle DAC-AMP.
After nearly two years under fine polishing by FiiO engineers, the KA3 portable DAC-AMP has been upgraded to the KA13 as a mini desktop-class DAC and headphone amplifier. It combines new design language, new technology, and robust performance, configurations, and experience in one. FiiO focuses on creating a more omnipotent and comprehensive USB dongle that can provide users with a full range of high-quality experiences.
USB dongles are characterized by their small size and small output power, but the KA13 is bound to break the rules and achieve a breakthrough in power in a small space. It adopts the “Desktop Mode” which was generally seen in FiiO’s high-end products to achieve robust performance nearly equal to a desktop device and make the KA13 come with the highest output power among USB dongles.
With the “Desktop Mode” on, the maximum sustained undistorted output power of the balanced port goes up to 550mW per channel, which is nearly equal to a desktop device, so that it can drive most headphones.
The listening experience is subjective, but the configuration can be truly seen and is the basis of a good sound. FiiO has chosen a better configuration for the KA13 in USB dongles at the same price range — dual high-performance low-power consumption DAC chip CS4313 + dual low-noise Op-Amp chip SGM8262. The dual-core golden combo features excellent performance and indicators with superior resolution.
With support for 32bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256, the KA13 despite its tiny size is capable of highly-detailed sound. In addition to high output power and configurations, FiiO also attaches great importance to user experience. Being carefully crafted, the KA13 is outstanding in all aspects.
FiiO x Jade Audio KA13 has an exquisite build and finish. The device looks spectacular with a premium metallic chassis and an ambient glass window. Through this glass window, RGB lightning is visible. that can be customized using the FiiO Control media application.
FiiO KA13 boasts a superb build with a metallic chassis that also has an ambient light window. This ambient light can be adjusted using the FiiO Control media application available on smartphones. The KA13 has complete integration with the FiiO Control media app and various settings such as gain level, audio filter, ambient lights, etc. can be easily adjusted using the application.
FiiO KA13 supports both single-ended and balanced headphone connections with 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs. The 3.5mm output also supports SPDIF output. FiiO x Jade Audio KA13 has a detachable connector cable design. Users can use the device with different devices including Android, iOS, PCs, Laptops, etc. FiiO has officially released the KA13 in two color options, black and silver.
I would like to thank FiiO for providing me with the review sample of the KA13.
FiiO Control App
With the FiiO Control App, you can set the RGB lights, SPDIF output, and audio filters. Same as the FiiO Q11. App support is not as feature-rich as the FiiO KA5.
So, how does FiO’s new USB dongle compare to its smaller brother, the KA5 (265mW), and its big brother, the Q11 (650mW)? Does it offer the same performance as the latter in a smaller form factor? Here is the quick answer. The KA13 is the dongle DAC version of the battery-powered FiiO Q11 as specs go with just 100mW less power. But it also has a slightly better sound overall being a dual DAC dongle vs the single DAC of the Q11.
And, if not undoubtedly less powerful than the Q11, I found the KA13 keener to my ears. Better dynamic range, and a blacker background, with the same level of clarity and accuracy, which makes it a far better choice for IEM users. Compared to the Q11, the KA13 gives you a more natural presentation while still retaining discrete micro-details at low volume.
Head to head with the Q11, the KA13 appeared more natural. The KA13 keeps the upper hand here, thanks to its sharp, accurate rendering of female and male vocal ranges. Yes, in case you haven’t listened to any of FiiO’s latest products, you’d be surprised to find out how linear and analytical they all sound. The KA5 was mostly neutral, with a wide soundstage and surprisingly good layering – and the KA13 follows the exact same way.
Lows are deep and fast. FiiO did an excellent job here with lots and lots of power, so you can reach that deep low, on the go. Going balanced makes a world difference here, and I strongly advise you to pick the 4.4mm pentaconn whenever you can, if you like your bass tight and steady. The lows are deep and fast, attaining the lowest notes and sub-rumble fitted.
The mids are open, linear, and natural. Mids are open and linear. Vocals and acoustic tracks are an easy job for the KA13, even more so once paired with a good set. Vocals and acoustic tracks are an easy job for the KA13, even more so once paired with a good set like the YanYin Canon 2. Paired with the right headphones/earphones you can spot each instrument and each singer with ease and there is no channel imbalance to ruin the experience.
The highs are clean, sharp, and detailed, with a good level of air outlined by low distortion and a linear signature. Despite being sharp and clinical, the trebles are not hissy and still sound softer compared to the ESS Sabre found in other devices.
The KA13 offers a very high level of resolution and delivers one of the sharpest highs you could get in this price range. There is a good level of air, no distortion and those trebles never get hissy, even when you crank up the volume. The treble is crisp and bright, adding a sparkling finish to the sound without any hint of harshness.
And if the previous model Q11 already surprised me with its output power, the KA13 raises the bar even higher, driving my IEMs almost effortlessly with such a light body. I’d have been really curious to try the desktop mode, but as for now, I don’t have any high-power demanding earphones under my hands. But I can report that in desktop mode the power output rises significantly, about x 1.5 more at least, depending on your earphones.
For smartphone listeners, this is a significant improvement, even when compared to small dongle DACs, better dynamic range, deeper bass, cleaner high-mids, and a leaner sound signature.
So, let’s sum it up, for the price, in the sub $100 category, the FiiO KA13 is my new champion. Build quality is exquisite, the power is impressive, the sound is superb and the dual power output mode is more than welcome.
USB dongle DAC-AMPs usually are chosen and used for driving IEMs or not-so-power-hungry headphones. But with the new KA13, the circle widens. Bring on your power-hungry gear, desktop power on the go!