FiiO BTR5 - Review

BTR5 main specs: bluetooth 5.0 with AAC, SBC, AptX, AptX LL, AptX HD, LDAC supported codecs (transmission distance is up to 10m, less in practice), NFC, up to 9h battery life, 1.5h charging time, 3.5mm unbalanced + 2.5mm balanced output, microphone, two Hi-Res audio certifications, asynchronous DAC.

Unfortunately, most headphone users have no idea about the fact that their headphones can provide a better sound quality. Actually, the difference is very high, it's unbelievable. It's like you're using new headphones from a PRO class, that's a few levels up from your old headphones. How is it possible? Via a DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) device. If it has an amplifier built in function, then it's perfect.

FiiO BTR5 is a portable headphone amplifier that has two build in DACs. Yes, two... Its little brother is called FiiO BTR3 (and has a single built in DAC), but the difference is very high, in the advantage of BTR5. I bought it from a local store after reading many reviews for several months about FiiO FH5 earphones. Actually I bought the earphones in same package with BTR5 and a high quality balanced cable (to enjoy at maximum the pleasure the listen my favorite songs). And I don't regret...

FiiO BTR5 - sound quality

I was very curious to feel the difference when listening music without and with the BTR5 headphone amplifier. And it's huge! First I tested my new FH5 earbuds without BTR5 on my laptop, smartphone and tablet. The sound was good, but not impressive. Actually, I was a little disappointed by me new earphones: I had a lot bigger expectations related to the sound quality, especially because I listened songs from Spotify (premium account) and TIDAL (HiFi and Master streaming quality).

But everything totally changed when I replaced the original cable of earphones with a high quality balanced cable and connected it to the BTR5 amplifier. The new experience were unimaginable. I never heard songs in that way. I couldn't imagine that tracks have such sounds - it was far beyond the clarity of sounds, it was an unbelievable pleasure to hear the sounds produced by the instruments from each track. You can focus your attention on each instrument. If you'll close your eyes, you can "see" (by hearing) the instruments displayed on scene. There is no hiss or other parasite sounds, no interferences. When a track is paused you have no background noise. Your ears can't feel it.

Anyway, from curiosity I tested the original cable of my earphones (with BTR5), and... the difference is significant. The stereo experience, the soundstage is more reduced. The sound is not so opened like when I used the balanced cable.

BTR5 - features

Because the package had no instructions about how to use it, I concluded that its buttons have to be very intuitive to use the BTR5 amplifier. Yes, these are intuitive, but not very. Actually I searched on Google about how to pair it to my laptop. Then everything was used based on my intuition, due to my past experiences with other bluetooth devices.

I wrote above it's a portable amplifier with two built in DACs. You can use BTR5 to transform your wired headphones into wireless ones, or you can use this device as a DAC by connecting it to your laptop / PC via USB.

It has two outputs: one of 3.5mm (not balanced) and one of 2.5mm (balanced). The output power is 80mW for the 3.5mm connection and 240mW for the 2.5mm connection. You can't listen to maximum volume when you'll use the 2.5mm output. Actually, I never used more than 45% of volume of the amplifier, because it starts to hurt my eardrums. Ah... I forgot to mention that this device has an independent volume from the source of sound.

It provides a GAIN option (L and H). I use it on H (high) because it lets me the impression it sounds a little better. Also, there is a FILTER option, that offers several filters (for bass if I correctly understood), but I don't hear any differences when I change the filters. And this problem was noticed by a lot of other users (in the internet). I love the bass and I would be curious to select from different types of bass. The option to modify it is also available via the FiiO app (for Android), but even there I can't get any noticed differences. Probable it's a problem related to the latest (and previous?) firmware release.

There is an EQ option, that provide several presets for several music genres.I don't like any of them. This is because I connect the FH5 earphones to BTR5 (the FH5 earbuds are IEM = in-ear monitors, aka earbuds usually used by artists while performing in studios and on scenes). If I would use an EQ filter, then while some frequency ranges are boosted, others are suppressed (more or less). It will kill the pleasure to listen to a musical composition as it was created. The all instruments can't be heard individually in the song, the soundstage is affected if the EQ is involved. But for other people it's not a problem.

The Dimmer can help to setup the luminosity of the display. The Car-Mode can be activated or not (it's intuitive for what purpose). The Charge function can be activated or not (it helps when the BTR5 device is connected to PC via USB). And the U-Audio feature will help you to activate the USB1.0 or USB2.0 standard (USB1.0 allows you to connect to any PC or laptop, including Mac, while USB2.0 asks you to install a driver for Windows users). Anyway, the USB2.0 option provides you a great sound experience, but for this you have to install a driver from FiiO, created for Windows OS.

I almost forgot to mention that BTR5 provides some minimal useful information about the bluetooth codecs, volume, battery, sample rate, etc. Also, it can be used for calls (the calls are very, very clear, because there are used two microphones - one mic us used for noise cancelling).

BTR5 problems

What I don't like at BTR5, related to portability, is that its battery offers an autonomy of up to 4 maybe 5 hours on balanced connection, and a little more for the unbalanced connection. In my case I use a balanced connection, the AptX codec, the GAIN setup on H, and a level of 30 - 35. Anyway, the autonomy is not reasonable for this device. It's the biggest lack of BTR5. You have to use a portable charging battery for long trips or office.

A little good side is that it takes up to one hour and thirty minutes for a full charge (when the battery charging level is almost zero). If you'll use the device as a DAC via USB (and if the Charge option is ON), then you don't need to rely on battery.

Another problem I had (once in 2 months), it was when the BTR5 not responded after I walked for several minutes in my apartment, away from my laptop (so it was disconnected from it and continuous tried to reconnect). The BTR5 device display remained black and I had no chances to turn it on (or to get any response from it). After I initially thought its life ended and I was very upset, I started to search on Google what is the possible reason. And I found it: it freezed. All I had to do were to press the power button for at least 10 seconds. After that my device restarted and I was happy again. Everything was back to normal.

Also, the bluetooth connection is poor when it riches obstacles or after 3 - 4 meters direct connection. It's a problem that becomes annoying when you have to move a few meters away from the device that is connected to your BTR5 portable amplifier.

Should you buy it?

Yes!... from a lot of reasons:
- it's a portable dual DAC that can be connected via bluetooth (it gets a better sound than any true wireless earphones that will be invented in next years);
- the sound is incredible (no wired wireless or true wireless earphones can match it);
- it helps you to transform your wired headphones into wireless ones;
- it can be transformed into a Hi-Res DAC when connected via USB;
- no other device match its benefits, at least not until now.

HQ Headphones: FiiO BTR5 - Review
FiiO BTR5 - Review
BTR5 main specs: bluetooth 5.0 with AAC, SBC, AptX, AptX LL, AptX HD, LDAC supported codecs (transmission distance is up to 10m, less in practice), NFC, up to 9h battery life, 1.5h charging time, 3.5mm unbalanced + 2.5mm balanced output, microphone, two Hi-Res audio certifications, asynchronous DAC.
HQ Headphones
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