Most companies in the personal audio industry stick to making headphones and earphones. This makes sense, because a lot of people these days use smartphones and computers as audio source devices, and all you need is the output device — that is, a good pair of headphones. Then there are companies like Fiio, which look beyond the normal. Fiio does manufacture headphones and earphones, but it's also very well known for making very good equipment to go with them, such as audio players, amplifiers, and DACs.
Today, we're reviewing an interesting new product from Fiio called the BTR1K. This device serves two purposes. The first is as a Bluetooth receiver, letting you use your favourite wired headphones over Bluetooth with your source device. The second is as a standalone digital-analogue converter (DAC), improving audio output from a PC or laptop. We put the Fiio BTR1K to the test to see how well it performs at both these tasks.
The Fiio BTR1K is a simple product with only two functions, as stated above. Because of this simplicity, it doesn't need to be very large. Indeed, the device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and light enough to clip onto your collar when in use.
The body of the BTR1K is made of an aluminium alloy, and a clip at the back lets you attach it to your clothing or backpack. The sales package includes a charging cable and a ribbon for carrying the device or attaching it to a bag, along with instruction manuals.
The front of the Fiio BTR1K has a large power button and an indicator light that glows in different colours depending on the mode and Bluetooth audio codec being used — light blue for SBC, cyan for AAC, purple for aptX or aptX Low Latency, and white for USB-DAC. In the case of wireless use, the codec in use will depend on your smartphone or source device, while DAC mode will need you to connect the device to your computer and set it as your active audio output device, if necessary. You can then connect regular headphones or earphones through the BTR1K's 3.5mm jack.
The Fiio BTR1K has buttons to control volume and playback on its side. The device has a Qualcomm QCC3005 chip with Bluetooth 5.0 and a built-in amplifier, as well as an AK4376A 32-bit DAC. It supports the SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency codecs. There's also NFC for quick pairing, and the devices uses a USB Type-C port for charging and DAC connectivity.
The BTR1K has a microphone with Qualcomm cVc noise cancellation technology for voice calls, and a 205mAh battery that is claimed to offer up to 8 hours of wireless use. During our review, we were able to match this figure easily.
We used the Fiio BTR1K (as a wireless receiver) with a OnePlus 6T and (as a DAC) with an Apple MacBook Air. We used the 1More Triple Driver earphones and Sennheiser Momentum on-ear headphones with the BTR1K in both cases. With the OnePlus 6T, the Fiio BTR1K automatically selected the aptX codec for audio transmission, but we could manually set it to use a different codec through the developer settings.
The device functions as advertised — we were able to use our wired headphones and earphones with the OnePlus 6T through Bluetooth, giving us the convenience of wireless connectivity with better headphones. This is a dongle-free solution to the lack of a 3.5mm jack on the device, and you get the benefit of a better DAC than the one in the USB Type-C-to-3.5mm dongle as well.
The connection between our smartphone and the Fiio BTR1K was stable, and the better DAC on the Fiio BTR1K largely took advantage of the sound quality and sonic characteristics of the headphones, despite being bridged over a wireless connection. With the Sennheiser Momentum on-ear headphones, the sound was clean, with strong responses across the frequency range and a wide soundstage, which came close to the typical listening experience we would get when the headphones were plugged directly into the 3.5mm jack of the Apple MacBook Air.
Using the Fiio BTR1K as a standalone DAC made a bigger difference to the overall sound, and it is superior in quality to the one in our MacBook Air. The sound felt more open, with a lot more punch and drive to the bass. Listening to Feed Me's Crazy Maybe was much more enjoyable with the Fiio BTR1K added to the setup, thanks to a much better defined low-end and mid-range, along with a more open soundstage.
We also tested the Fiio BTR1K's built-in microphone on voice calls, using the Sennheiser Momentum with its standard audio cable because it doesn't have an in-line remote and microphone. Even with the BTR1K placed about one foot away from our mouth, sound was clear for the other person on the call, making the device an excellent hands-free device that can be used with even a basic pair of headphones or earphones.
The Fiio BTR1K wireless audio receiver and DAC is a niche product, since it is not strictly required when using standard wired or wireless headphones. However, if such a product is what you need, then the BTR1K is among the best affordable options for the purpose. You could also use it at home, adding wireless connectivity and convenience to your regular wired active speakers.
The additional functionality as a DAC adds to the utility of the Fiio BTR1K, and indeed, it can be considered a very good DAC even if you choose to not use its wireless receiver functionality. At Rs. 3,890, it's a decent deal, and a good way to affordably improve both wireless and wired audio quality with compatible devices.
Price (MRP): Rs. 3,890
Ratings (out of 5)