Current testing methodology is v1.2
March 17, 2022
0.79 x 1.97 x 3.94 in
When I owned Headphones Canada, I sold a lot of FiiO gear, and I’ve always been a huge fan.
I still have the old A3, which is probably due for an upgrade because it’s had a few hard knocks but still continues to go strong.
They’ve always been such a great brand that has always produced solid gear and generally tried to keep it at an affordable price for audiophiles and budget audiophiles.
Speaking with FiiO recently, they offered to send me the KA1 and see what I thought of it, which has left me feeling like doing a really long review.
FiiO JadeAudio KA1 Headphone Amp + Dac
The KA1 is a tidy little package that punches out some decent sound
The KA1 surprised me with the oomph and clarity it gave to some of my higher impedance headphones. The DT 1990 Pro and HD 600 definitely took a step up.
I love the small form factor and price. It’s easy to add one or two of these to your collection and have them permanently connected to your laptop, pc, mobile device etc.
Especially travel friendly.
- Cable Length: About 70mm
- DAC Chip: ES9281AC PRO
- Input Type: Type-C or Lightning
- Output: 3.5mm headphone jack
- Audio Format Support: PCM 32bit/384kHz | DoP DSD64/128 | Native DSD64/128/256
What’s in the Box?
- 1 x KA1 Headphone Amps Amplifier DAC
- 1 x USB-A adaptor
Stuff I like
- Small form factor
- Strong output
- Good clarity and lift across the whole sound stage
- Affordable enough
- Included USB-A adaptor so I can use this on my M1 Macbook Air and older Macbook Pro
Stuff I like less
- The USB adaptor doesn’t seem to work for all, but it worked for me.
- Could always be ‘bigger’ in overall presentation
Where to get it
Comparable products to consider
Portable USB DAC DS1 compatible with various systems like Android/iOS/Windows/Mac.
Headphone amps with 2 headphone outputs, a 3.5mm single-ended and a 4.4mm balanced output.
But to be honest, there’s only so much I can say about the KA1, and it’s really all good.
Before I go into the tech specs and sound, let me tell you how I discovered the power of this little unit.
KA1 Brings new life to older headphones
I have a set of Fostex TH-X00s, which I got off massdrop years ago, and unfortunately, the spring and screw on one of the ear cups have broken. It was kind of my fault, I was trying to put them in a case that was too small.
You can’t make cans fit in cases that are too small.
These were my go-to work headphones. I absolutely love the close-back deep sound, and they made me smile pretty much every time I put them on.
So when those broke, I decided to take my Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro to work, because they really are as close to my in-game headphones, I just usually reserve them for at-home listening.
I plugged the DT 1990 Pro into my MacBook in one ear, and disappointment washed over me.
I sat there for quite a while trying to remember why I liked them so much, but why they sounded so sad – this continued for a few days.
Many of you audiophiles already know what my problem is, but I’ve been a little bit busy and distracted, and I’ve been going through a lot of headphone reviews lately so it took me a while to wake up.
I forgot that there was one key ingredient that was missing for the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, and that is they are 250 Ohm headphones and my MacBook is really not going to have the “Oomph” required to put them at their best.
I still hadn’t really figured this out when the KA1 arrived, and I immediately unboxed it and plugged it into the MacBook using a USB-C connector and then plugged my DT 9090 Pro into it, and it was like Christmas had come early.
It wasn’t just that the DT 1990 Pro had come back to life with the FiiO KA1.
They had come to life in a way that exposed new and exciting dynamics in these headphones.
The longer I listened, the more I couldn’t believe how clean, crisp, balanced, and powerful the FiiO KA1 made the sound signature in these cans.
I just can’t stop lining up headphones to try with these to see if there are any new discoveries and some old favorites like the HD 600s and the budget range in the one audio monitor headphones, which also have quite a high impedance build quality.
The build quality of the KA1 from what I’ve used so far is really good.
They’ve packed a whole lot into a very, very small unit which is nicely housed in a very strong little metal body.
I’ve seen comments that the twisted table can take a bit of wear and tear and begin to unbind over time, but I’m not sure that that would necessarily cause a problem for listening.
It would just be aesthetically that the wires become separated.
It’s highly unlikely with the way I’ll be using the FiiO KA1 that this will happen, as I’ll typically use it at work or at home because this is the USB-C model and all of my listing devices with USB-C are in those two locations.
There is a USB-A adapter that you can use on the USB-C model if you have an older MacBook, which I do have at home, as you’ll see in the HD photos above.
The FiiO KA1 comes in two models: one, is a Lightning cable adapter at the end, and the other is a USB-C.
The cable link is about 70 mm, which you’ll see in the photos. It’s quite short, but it’s long enough for what you need.
It’s super light and only weighs about 10 grams. The whole thing is about 40mm x 15mm x 8mm.
The DAC chip is an ES 9281 AC Pro, and as you can see, it has a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The output power is about 45mW @ 32Ω.
The audio format support is impressive, handling PCM up to 32-bit and 384kHz, and it’s able to process DSD files 64, 128 DOP, and natively DSD 64,128, and 256.
It’s hi-res audio certified, has support for MQA rendering, and it’s compatible across Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac.
The thing I really love about this little unit is that even though it’s small and compact, there’s still room for a little bit of bling.
The RGB status light indicator on the unit will change color based on the audio format and sampling rate that the unit is processing at the time.
- If it’s 48 kHz or below, it’ll be blue.
- If it’s greater than the 48 kHz sampling rate, then the LED light will be a yellow color.
- If it’s processing DSD, it will be green.
- If it’s rendering MQA, it will be purple.
This is quite cool, especially when you like playing around with different audio files to see just what color will show up.
Obviously, I’ve only been playing around with Spotify because I think that most people will use this portable DAC Amp on the go on their smartphones, although now that I’ve seen how powerful it is, I’m already loading on a bunch of lossless files to have a go at with Vox, and it would be fun trying to get this little LED to change.
As I mentioned, it comes with a Type C or a Lightning cable adapter, and you can get an additional adapter inside the box for a USB-A connection.
I am really impressed with this little unit. It’s absolutely transformed a couple of sets of cans that I own, and the power and processing formats that it can deal with are just brilliant.
It’s so small that it will be portable to carry around wherever you go, and my intention is to get a Lightning Cable version so that I can take it with my iPhone when I travel.
I’ll have one for my desk and one for travel.
The sound is big, dynamic, and bright, and I think will add a real next-level feel to pretty much any cans you plug into it, especially those that have higher impedance.
I think this will probably get my Portable DAC of the Year Award for this year.
It’s not perfect, it’s not the most powerful, but I do love the build quality, form factor and resulting output.
If you’ve got any questions, fire away in the comments below.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2023-03-20 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.