Audiophiles like to get gear that solely takes care of a single perform, basking within the glory of stacked interconnected models that kind their dream sound. However FiiO is clearly taking a unique strategy from the basic stack, responding with its two TOTL music supply models: the M17 DAP and the K9 Professional Desktop DAC/Amp.
After reviewing the M17, which was designed with the aim of being the ‘one cellular system that does all of it’, we’ve got the pleasure of now wanting intently on the K9 Professional, which will be seen as a desktop system that does all of it. Can it actually redefine the basic audiophile’s thought of ‘the larger the stack, the higher the sound’? Let’s dive in to seek out out.
FiiO’s Constant Flagship Design Language
Ever for the reason that M11 Plus DAPs, till the M17, FiiO designed their merchandise with polygonal steel circumstances which have aggressive 45-degree chamfers. So once I noticed the K9 Professional for the primary time, its chamfers felt like seeing an previous pal, and it is an apparent addition to the FiiO household of excessive constancy sound supply units.
Your entire K9 Professional feels extremely strong and feels prefer it’s machined out of a strong block of aluminum. The anodized matte black end is cool and easy to the contact, and at roughly 6 lbs, 7″ x 7″ x 3″, the K9 Professional is across the dimension and weight of a mini-PC. In comparison with the Schiit Jotunheim 2, it is taller, deeper, and narrower. It isn’t small, however encompassed within the K9 Professional, there are numerous inputs and outputs, together with a Bluetooth receiver. Within the conventional audiophile approach, you are in all probability taking a look at some 3 to 4 layer stack to realize such functionalities. So all-in-all, the aesthetics is a chic addition to any desktop, whereas letting individuals know that you simply’re severe about your music.
The centerpiece of any DAC/Amplifier is an outsized quantity dial, and the K9 Professional went for a stainless-steel quantity knob that is coated with a PVD mirror end. Across the 45 mm knob FiiO has added a RGB LED lighting that may both be biking by means of colours, used as a music decision indicator, or turned off altogether from the FiiO Cell App.
Intensive I/O Port Part
Coming again to the K9 Professional I/O ports, in typical FiiO trend, they’ve been made for units which have excessive efficiency in addition to excessive versatility.
At first, is after all it is headphone outputs. Most headphone amplifiers maxes out at two output ports, whereas the K9 Professional supplies three outputs: a typical 1/4″, balanced XLR 4, and a balanced 4.4 mm output. The latter port is frequent amongst Chi-fi headphone amps, however unusual amongst most different amps. It has solely just lately began to catch on with legacy corporations like Sennheiser’s HDV 820.
Why is the inclusion of the 4.4 mm output vital? As a result of, with its clear, low noise flooring output, it utterly opens up the realm of IEMs and different delicate earphones. With these three ports, the K9 Professional covers the total spectrum of headphones and earphones, from high-impedance cans, all the best way as much as delicate balanced armatures in CIEMs, and each balanced and unbalanced cables – with out using particular adaptors or cables. This makes the K9 Professional essentially the most versatile amp to have, and I hope this may turn into the long run development for headphone amps.
Secondary to its major perform as a headphone amp, on the rear of the K9 Professional there’s a vary of enter and output choices. The digital inputs embody USB-B, Bluetooth with antenna, Coaxial and Optical port. There may be additionally an added aspect USB-C enter that enables for simple connection for cellular units or computer systems with a USB-C or Thunderbolt output.
Collector’s Merchandise: The AK4499EQ DAC Chip
As much as the time of the writing of this text, although the AKM Semiconductor have resumed copy as they begin to ship samples of latest merchandise, with mass manufacturing deliberate for Q3 2022, the AKM DAC chips together with others will nonetheless run in shortage. That’s very true in terms of the AK4499EQ DAC chip that’s used within the K9 Professional, making it a collector’s merchandise.
Optimum for Headphones
How does the uncommon chip outfitted DAC/Amp carry out actually? It is one factor to cite numbers by means of lab exams, however fairly one other to hearken to it in particular person. To expertise its sound, one additionally must pair it up with totally different headphones, which then presents a unique consequence.
I examined the K9 Professional with a wide range of earphones, together with the Audeze LCD-2C with and and not using a balanced cable, Sennheiser HD 660S, UE LIVE CSX, UE 11 CSX, Sennheiser IE 900, beyerdynamics DT 900 Professional X and even an previous pair of Koss KSC75. Conclusively I discovered that the outcomes various, and it is essential to seek out the very best pairing to get the very best expertise.
Total, I discovered that the FiiO DAPs just like the M11 Plus or M17 nonetheless supplied a greater listening expertise for IEMs. Despite the fact that the K9 Professional has a low noise-floor and has no noticeable distortion on earphones, the staging and sparkle in its sound remains to be higher on the M11 plus and M17. That mentioned, when the K9 Professional is matched with the fitting headphone, I discovered it to be among the finest sounding setups I’ve heard in all my time as an audiophile.
Finest Pairing Sound
For anybody who has learn my evaluate on the Sennheiser HD 660S this is able to not come as a shock, however I consider I’ve struck gold in terms of headphone DAC/Amp pairing. When utilizing the included 4.4mm balanced cable that comes with the HD 660S and with the K9 Professional, one thing superb occurs, and I’ve had occasions once I did double takes as a result of it is arduous to consider how good the ensuing sound is.
The soundstage is the very best that I’ve heard, the open-back HD 660S pushed by the K9 Professional sound is immersive and clear, and the staging in addition to instrument separation takes on a brand new depth. Every instrument is introduced so clearly that I’m able to hear the nuance in every be aware, which is then layered on different devices. Due to this, I discovered myself not needing or wanting to place any kind of equalization, since each a part of the music may already be heard distinctly.
Despite the fact that I’ve used setups that is properly over $5,000 in worth, particularly the Focal Stellia with the Arche DAC/Amp, which produced an amazingly life like and dynamic sound, this setup, being nowhere close to that worth, is producing a comparable end in staging and realism.
The arrange is not with out its limitations, although. It shines essentially the most in terms of acoustic set ups like reside bands, jazz, orchestral music. However for music that makes much less use of soundstaging, like digital and hip-hop music, its energy is much less apparent. I’d say this setup can also be much less suited for many who prefer to EQ their music, as its pure sound turns into out of stability when tweaked.
Although a veteran at high-end transportable DAPs, the K9 Professional is FiiO’s first stab at high-end desktop DAC/Amp. The premium all aluminum alloy construct and chrome steel quantity knob have made it a pleasure to have a look at within the workspace. It is plethora of I/O ports ensures that it may be the one system that you simply rely on for many, if not all of your listening wants.
Geared up with the top-of-the-line AK4499EQ DAC chip, when paired with the proper of headphone, the K9 Professional proves to supply among the finest, if not the very best listening expertise. And for that, FiiO has struck gold by producing one other product that’s reasonably priced, but matches its dearer competitors in efficiency. For that, we’re awarding the FiiO K9 Professional the IBTimes Distinctive Worth badge.
David is a tech fanatic/author who is usually on the transfer, however for the reason that pandemic is on a mission to discover devices to enhance his ‘dwelling work’. This can be a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes evaluate sequence on devices for Residence Productiveness.