After more than a few months, I finally have the FiiO K5, which gives me some control over the volume of sound from my various headphones and earphones.
The K5 is a little smaller than I was expecting, having the footprint of a small speaker, but that’s a good thing. The less real estate a device takes up the better. In fact, it sits neatly on top of the P3s, keeping it well out of the way. It’s not a portable device, but it is easy to disconnect and move somewhere else.
On the front there are switches for the input (dock or line); gain (low, middle, high); the volume control knob with its bright blue light; and the socket for the headphone jack. This is one of those fat ones, although I can’t imagine too many people have them any longer, and at least FiiO supplies an adaptor for a normal-sized jack plug. The volume control only works with the headphone socket.
At the back there are connection for power; a USB connection to a computer (which appears to be data only); two RCA in-ports (which can be used to connect the K5 to a DVD player, for example) and two out (which I have connected to the P3s); and two ports for balanced output (if you have such a thing). The manual also refers to a dock in-port, but this model doesn’t have one, which, according to the website, has since been removed (without the manual being updated). On top is a little lid which conceals the connection for the E17K or X5. These, especially the latter, need to be pushed down firmly to plug them in.
When the K5 is connected to the laptop with the USB cable, this is purely for data transfer, not being a line-in source as I thought. The X5 will not be usable as a music player if the laptop is connected to it, but it’s possible to copy music to the DAP and recharge it. In DAC mode, the X5 functions like the E17K, processing music.
And how does the music sound? Very nice. If my ears are not misleading me, the K5 definitely has something to add to the quality of music, by giving it a certain breadth. The E17K no doubt helps, and possibly having the P3s connected with a pair of RCA cables instead of the RCA-to-3.5mm jack cable (although I wouldn’t push that too far).
Using the line-in ports with the PHA-1A or the iPod Touch (married to the Dragonfly Red) definitely has a beneficial effect on the sound. There seems to be a greater clarity and richness overall.
It’s possible to connect three pairs of speakers all at the same time by using the balanced outputs as well as the RCA cables. It may not result in true surround sound, but it certainly has an immersive quality to it. Unfortunately, I can’t reproduce this in the study because there’s just not the space. Overall, the K5 is extremely versatile in what it can be connected to.
The forward socket is best with headphones. In conjunction with the Edifier Auroras, the volume was feeble, but that improved when I connected the speakers to the RCA sockets at the back using an appropriate cable.