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Fiio BTR7 Portable Bluetooth Amplifier Review

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

While wireless headphones seem to be taking over the portable audio market, there is still a big audience that craves the higher fidelity of wired headphones. With headphone jacks all but eliminated on modern phones, there needs to be a solution that goes beyond the simple dongle. The Fiio BTR7 is exactly such a device, opening up the doors to high-resolution audio over Bluetooth, plenty of power for in-ear or demanding over-ear headphones, customizable on-board EQ, and can even be used with your laptop or gaming PC to instantly upgrade your gaming audio. Coming in at $199.99 to $209, the Fiio BTR7 is an excellent choice to upgrade your listening experience.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $209.99 (Amazon
  • Display: 1.3-inch IPS color screen
  • Charging: Wired and wireless charging
  • Bluetooth version: 5.1
  • Bluetooth chip: QCC5124
  • DAC chip: ES9219C x 2
  • Amp chip: THX AAA 28 x2
  • Battery capacity: 880mAh
  • Power output (3.5mm): 160mW
  • Power output (Balanced): 320mW
  • Audio format support: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive,LDAC

Fiio BTR7  - What Is It?

The Fiio BTR7 is an audiophile-grade portable Bluetooth amplifier that can also operate in wired mode. It’s small enough to slide into your pocket but powerful enough to drive many full-size over-ear headphones.  It’s a device designed to be your daily companion, taken on the go, so you can listen without sacrifices. When you’re home, it plugs into your PC and acts as an external sound card to enhance your computer’s audio. It’s a versatile little device that’s able to fill a surprising number of roles. 

The BTR7 is a middle-ground type of device. It’s for listeners who have wired headphones that they love but still want the freedom to use their phone without a tether hanging from it. In my own experience, I initially doubted whether I would find devices of this kind worthwhile. You can, after all, just plug in a dongle or full-size DAC and be done with it. But, the BTR7 allows you to have the unencumbered freedom of wireless with the high-fidelity sound only wired headphones can provide.

To deliver a high-quality listening experience that trumps average TWS earphones, the BTR7 is outfitted with a high quality DAC and amp system and is supported by the latest high-res Bluetooth codecs. It uses dual ESS ES9219C DAC chip and XMOS  XUF208 processor capable of delivering 32-bit/384kHz audio, DSD256, and MQA 8x decoding for Tidal’s highest quality Master Quality tracks. This is paired with a pair of THX AAA-28 amplifiers to deliver up to 160mW of power through its single-ended 3.5mm connection and 320mW through the balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn output. 

Like any high quality DAC, it’s about more than simple components. Fiio has integrated these chips into a well-considered audio pipeline. Splitting the audio into a dual-amp, dual-DAC design reduces crosstalk and distortion and increases dynamic range. There are also more than a dozen voltage regulators to ensure that the power delivery is clean and stable.

Whether or not you’ll have ears capable of hearing those benefits is up to question. But, the point is that the BTR7 is sufficiently over-built to the point where you can count on clean, clear audio. Every bit of detail your headphones are able to produce can be delivered by this amp, so you can plug in without fear of your headphones performing below their potential. 

The other half of the equation is how it handles wireless. Bluetooth audio is notoriously compressed compared to a wired connection, and to overcome this Fiio has implemented Qualcomm’s QCC5124 Bluetooth 5.1 chip. It offers a stable connection that didn’t falter once during my testing, but even more importantly, supports high-res codecs like aptX, aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, and Sony’s LDAC. That covers the basis for virtually everything and opens the door to the highest resolution currently possible over Bluetooth. It’s good enough that I can’t hear any difference between LDAC wireless and using the BTR7 in dongle mode, and really does become a “zero sacrifices” listening solution.

Of course, anytime you’re going wireless battery life becomes a concern. Inside its small 1.6 x 3.3 x 0.6 inch frame, it features an 880mAh battery. Fiio rates this at about 9 hours of use on a single charge. I found that this depended on how I was listening. LDAC definitely uses more battery and will drain more quickly. It’s able to recharge in about 90 minutes when connected with a wire or three hours if you use Qi wireless charging. 

Along the right side of the unit, you’ll find your controls. There are four buttons altogether and each performs multiple functions. The +/- buttons control your current volume but can also be held to skip or repeat tracks, or tapped to navigate the settings menu. The unlabeled button above them is dedicated to play/pause, answering and ending calls, raising your smartphone’s digital assistant, confirming selections, and putting the device into pairing mode. The power button double can be held for two second to open the settings menu or moving backward throughout its menus.  

On the very top is a tiny microphone that’s used for taking calls. On the bottom is a charge switch to choose whether you want the BTR7 to accept power through its USB Type-C connection or to act as a dongle for your phone or PC.

These features also come in handy for the new Car Mode. The device can be paired with a car to send audio through your vehicle’s speakers. When in this mode, it can also power on or off with your car.

While there are plentiful features inside the amp’s settings menu, many are available within Fiio’s Control application, and I would highly recommend anyone considering this device to give it a download. Not only does Control allow you to change basic parameters like Low and High gain modes, it also allows you to adjust the function of the volume buttons, enable distortion compensation, and balance out volume and call volumes using convenient sliders.

Most interestingly, the application also allows you to adjust EQ settings with a full parametric equalizer. This was a highly sought after feature in prior BTR devices and it’s great to see it finally implemented here. Using a parametric equalizer, you can retune a headphone to match whatever sound signature you desire and compensate for qualities you may not like (lowering treble peaks, for example). It provides a powerful way to fine tune your headphones and earphones to bring them to their full potential.  Most importantly, the equalization applies to all audio being output from the device, so individual apps can’t bypass it. It’s a system-wide EQ.

The presentation of these EQ settings is a bit confusing, however. At first glance, it appears like you’re only able to save one custom profile. That’s a major limitation if you have more than one set of headphones you like to listen on. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Each of the BTR7’s preset EQs can be edited and saved, bringing the total to eight customizable EQ profiles. The only downside is that you’re unable to rename the presets, so you’ll need to remember which preset goes for which headphone.

It’s also worth remarking on just how premium the device feels. It features a full glass front and back with an aluminum chassis. It’s small, but manages to feel quite high-end, akin to Fiio’s excellent M11 Plus ESS we reviewed back in March. I love that it has a small, full-color screen so the app is truly an option versus a necessity to make basic changes. It also comes with a leatherette case for added protection. It’s a very nice package, all around. 

Fiio BTR7 - Listening and Daily Use Impressions

A device like the BTR7 needs more than just great sound quality to survive (which it has). It also needs to be easy to live with, be reliable, and feel consistently great to use. To test it, I've spent the last two weeks living with it as a daily driver. I've taken it to and from work, out on errands and even use it around the house. 

Living with the BTR7 is completely painless, and in a way, freeing. Like the iFi Go Blu, once it’s connected to your phone, it’s small enough to slip into your pocket and almost forget it’s there. While it’s a bit larger than that device, I was able to slide it into my back pocket and go about my business, controlling everything else on my phone. With a traditional dongle, you’re left with a pigtail hanging from your pocket or stuffing a wire in alongside your phone, hoping you don’t break anything. Here, you have the wire but since it’s separate from the phone is easier to manage and feels less like a tether. 

The sound quality is excellent. THX-AAA amplifiers are known for their neutrality and that’s definitely the case here. They don’t add any coloration to your music. The sound of your headphones is completely clean. If you’re looking for added warmth like the Go Blu provides, you’ll need to turn to EQ to add that in. 

While that might sound like a negative, I truly don’t think it is. We often choose our headphones based on their unique sound characteristics (the same applies to gaming headsets too). The Fiio BTR7 allows you to hear the headphones alone, without getting in the way and adding its own spice. 

This can be revealing if you’re used to a source that does color the sound. In cases where your headphones may be lacking something, the parametric EQ (PEQ) swoops in to compensate. PEQ allows you to fine tune the sound with a much greater degree of control than you’ll find on most headphones. You can keep things simple and choose a preset you like, or go in and edit exact frequencies, customizing the Q-depth and plus or minus 12dB. The only thing you can’t do is create bass or high pass filter shelves — which is a notable limitation.

Just because the BTR7 doesn’t color the sound doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact it, however. The DAC and amp combination is very detailed. It’s great for listening sessions where you really want to slip away and be able to hear every detail, whether that’s fingers on strings and the exact pitch of a stick hitting a cymbal, or the sound of tinkling bullet shells and approaching footsteps. The noise floor is also dead silent, so when things are quiet, they’re really quiet.

I was also impressed with just how much power it can provide. 160mW out of its 3.5mm connection is very good for a device this size and 320mW balanced is even better. Fiio recommends headphones up to 100 ohms of impedance from its single-ended output and 150 ohms from balanced. That kind of wattage is enough for everything this side of demanding planar magnetic headphones. Both my HD6XX and HD58X headphones ran beautifully on it.

Final Thoughts

At $199.99 - $209.99 depending on the retailer, the Fiio BTR7 is an expensive but very premium device. Despite that cost, I found it to be versatile and useful enough to justify the price. The biggest reason for this is its versatility. Thanks to its high power output and ability to quickly swap from smartphone to PC, it’s able to deliver excellent sound everywhere from the grocery store with your favorite IEMs to your gaming PC with your best gaming headset. 

When you’re on the go, it’s small enough to slip away and still leave you free to use your phone unencumbered. Compared to the Go Blu, it’s a bit larger and lacks equivalent features to X-Bass and X-Space, but one-ups it in power output, app support, custom EQs, and a more premium look and feel. If you’re looking to upgrade your sound, either for your phone or your computer, don’t go with one or the other. Go with the BTR7 and upgrade both at the same time. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Great power output
  • Balanced headphone support
  • Wide ranging high-res codec support
  • Onboard volume and media controls
  • Dead silent noise floor
Cons
  • App feels rough around the edges
  • Unable to rename edited EQ settings
  • No high or low shelf filter options


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight