Another DAC? you might say to yourselves. In fact, this is the companion to the Sony SRS-X11 because the FiiO K1 is about the same size as a flash drive just as the X11 is a fairly small and therefore portable speaker in the way my Logitech X300s aren’t quite. Portability is the key to this.
The sound seems fairly decent for such a small DAC, but not as good, I think, as the E17K (which, in turn, is possibly not quite as good as the PHA-1A). It’s powered by the laptop, but doesn’t appear to be demanding, although I’d have to try it on battery power only to see whether it had any significant effect.
The K1 can only be used with a laptop or PC, and since I originally wrote this, I can now confirm that with a female USB to male micro USB adaptor, the K1 can be used with an iPod Touch, although not a Nano, which doesn’t recognise the device. Nor does it work with my phone, but I wouldn’t expect it to.
It has 16-bit modes from 32KHz to 96KHz and 24-bit modes from 44.1KHz to 96KHz (according to Control Panel), and uses the same DAC chip as the E17K.
The question is what sort of device this ought to be attached to. The Realtek card on my machine has 16/24-bit modes running from 44.1 to 192KHz, although the acid test is how this or the K1 handles the production of CD-quality music. With all other things being equal, on the basis of a wholly unscientific test, I could distinguish no real difference between the music being played through my Sony X11 speaker whether the K1 intervened or not.
If your headphones don’t have their own external volume control (or a proprietary one such as my Momentums, which have a controller that only works with iPods), then the system volume needs to be turned right down. I find <= 5% about right.
In my unlearned judgement on this matter, I’d guess that you would have to own a laptop or PC with a dismally bad sound card for the K1 to be a valuable addition. It might be more useful if it was connected to, say, an iPad or some sort of tablet where the quality of the sound card might be wanting, but the statements I’ve seen on line about the allegedly poor quality of sound production from laptops are unquestionably complete nonsense being written by people who think they know a thing or two about the matter.