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Fiio Jade Audio Q11 Portable DAC/Amp: An Affordable External Sound Card

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

If you’ve been looking for a way to increase the quality of your audio and take full advantage of your headphones, in-ear monitors (IEMs), or gaming headset but don’t want to spend more than $100, the Fiio x Jade Audio Q11 is a device you definitely don’t want to pass over. This portable DAC/amp connects to your PC, Switch, PS5, smartphone, or tablet and instantly takes over all of the processing duties, providing you with a crystal clear sound and plenty of power to get your cans sounding their best. At only $89.99, it’s a great value that can provide an instant boost to your gaming and music listening experience. 


Current Price: $89.99 (Amazon)

Fiio x Jade Audio Q11 - Upgrading Your Audio, PC and Beyond

When it comes to personal audio, the headphone jacks built into most devices usually aren’t very good. That applies to laptops, desktops, consoles, controllers, and more. This isn’t because the products themselves are poor, it’s because audio quality is rarely the first thing on the designer’s mind. Quality sound matters, but it comes after performance, graphics, cooling, and any number of other factors. 

When it’s finally considered, the actual audio components usually aren’t chosen for their sterling sonics: they’re chosen for cost efficiency within the whole package. And once the audio circuitry is designed, it’s placed right alongside other noisy electronics, increasing distortion and background noise. Sometimes this is so subtle you don’t even notice it until it’s not there.

Like with a device designed for audio from the ground up. That’s where the Q11 comes in. 

The Fiio Q11, produced with the company’s new Jade Audio moniker, is an affordably priced external DAC/amp. In PC terms, it’s an external sound card with expanded personal connectivity and an exceptionally small footprint. At roughly the size of a deck of cards and able to stand on its side, it takes up hardly any space on your desk but offers a sonic improvement that extends to everything from games to music and even movies. It’s an across the board bump. 

What’s even better is that it can also be used portably. You can plug it into your PC when you’re playing games at your desk, your Nintendo Switch or PS5 on the couch, your laptop at work or school, and even your tablet. There’s only a single USB port, but when you’re using it with your PC, it charges alongside your listening, so it will never run dry in the middle of your day. On its own, I found the battery lasted for around 15 hours of mixed use. 

Fiio x Jade Audio Q11 - Solid Build Quality, Easy to Use

It also feels very well made in the hand. It uses a fully aluminum chassis with a smooth scrolling metal volume knob. There are some stylish stripes on the front but I especially like its little view window into the components. The circuit board is lit with a LED that indicates the quality of your current audio connection (blue = 48kHz, yellow = higher than 48kHz, green = DSD). It’s a small touch but definitely looks neat.

The top edge of the DAC is where you’ll find most of your connectivity and controls. It comes with a 3.5mm single-ended port and a 4.4mm balanced jack. I would have liked to have seen a larger 6.35mm jack for over-ear headphones since it has the power to run many leading sets, but I expect this would have increased its size, and its pocketability is one of its strongest suits.

There’s also a gain switch on the front, flanking the volume wheel. The Q11 offers low and high gain modes and toggling the switch presents a big bump in volume, so be sure to turn down the volume before toggling high gain. I found that low gain was sufficient for most IEMs on the single-ended and balanced connections. This is especially true if you’re connecting with the balanced jack, as it provides substantially more power and volume headroom.

Using the device is truly as simple as plugging it in. It’s automatically detected and takes over audio processing from the host device. It also supports the Fiio app when connected to a smartphone, which provides some additional options, but these are optional. You can dig in and change aspects like its filtering mode and UAC settings, or control the LED if you’d rather it not illuminate, but it’s also possible to ignore the app entirely and just enjoy enhanced sound quality without any additional considerations. 

Fiio x Jade Audio Q11- Internal Components, Plenty of Power

Internally, the Q11 uses a Cirrus-Logic DAC chip. In particular, it’s the CS43198. This chip supports audio resolutions up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256. This is perhaps where the Q11 shows its budget leaning the most. More expensive options from Fiio, even in the portable space, push this resolution up to 784kHz. There’s also no MQA support for Masters tracks on Tidal. 

Practically speaking, the resolution is high enough that it’s a) most likely going to surpass the built-in audio on your host device, and b) that you’re not likely to notice a difference in bit-rate and sampling even in a side-by-side test. Much more impactful that these sheer numbers is that the audio circuit is designed with sonics first in mind (the Q11 has one job while your laptop, PC, console, etc. has multiple) and that it’s removed from the rest of your system. It offered a noticeable improvement compared to my MSI MEG ACE motherboard, which was well over $500 and promised high-res audio on the box. This $89.99 DAC trounces it.


It’s also worth noting that the Q11 doesn’t offer any kind of wireless connectivity, which is a bit of a bummer. You can’t have it all at this price, but Bluetooth would have been very nice to see and would be one of my most requested features in a revision. 

Turning to power, however, this little unit packs a punch. Over its single-ended connection, it’s able to output 165mW into 32 ohms with less than 1% of total harmonic distortion. That’s enough to drive even the most demanding IEMs to ear-shattering levels, as well as most headphones. Its balanced connection jumps this all the way to 650mW at 32 ohms. If you’re planning on driving very demanding headphones, you’ll want to connect using its 4.4mm port, but I suspect most people will be perfectly fine using the standard 3.5mm jack.  

Fiio x Jade Audio Q11- Sound Quality 

The Q11 is exactly what you would hope it would be for the use case described here, but it’s in this section I think it’s also important to talk about how it compares to some other DAC/amps higher up in Fiio’s line. 

Speaking broadly, what you would hope for a product like this to be is neutral. You don’t want a DAC to color your sound. You want it to pass through your audio with excellent clarity, to reveal more details, to extend and build upon the strengths of your headphones or headset. Coloration, or altering the sound, is the domain of equalizers, which some DACs offer (but the Q11 does not). 

In that regard, I was very impressed. There is no coloration that I could hear. Some DAC/amps add a bit off bass warmth or crispness in the highs. I didn’t notice that here. What was immediately noticeable, however, was how much quieter the signal was. My gaming PC isn’t noisey. There’s no discernible hiss. And yet, swapping to the Q11, the noise floor is even lower which allows you to hear smaller details that would otherwise get lost. There’s more clarity and more dynamic range. 

And just as importantly, there’s more headroom. Many gaming headsets and headphones sound their best when they have ample volume headroom, provided by more power. That’s available in spades here. Its 165mW/650mW isn’t the most powerful but it’s enough that everything from my Turtle Beaches to my $2,000 HIFIMAN Audivinas sounded great on it. It has the “oomph” to push headphones to their potential while also providing noticeably more detail across the board. 

Now, compared to some of Fiio’s more expensive DACs, there are trade-offs. The Cirrus-Logic chip is perfectly fine but dropping some size, the battery, and the view port with the KA3 nets you an ESS DAC chip with a higher resolution. Stepping up to the Q3-MQA gets you better DSD support and, of course, MQA. Higher price points get you things like dual-DAC setups for better measurements and THX amplifiers. It would be disingenuous to imply that the Q11 is all you need if you want the absolute best sound — Fiio has options that scale up in both price and performance. 

But that’s not what the Q11 is about. It’s about the instant upgrade from integrated audio, plus the ability to take that enhanced sound everywhere you go. It’s about being affordable and made to last. It’s about being a great value while also sounding good. And on that level, it’s a success and an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a small footprint, great sounding, audio enhancement they can simply plug in and begin enjoying.

Final Thoughts

For its intended audience, the Fiio x Jade Audio Q11 is an excellent option. It nails the balance between price, performance, and sound quality. I love how small and versatile it is. You can slide it into a pocket and use it everywhere you enjoy headphones, IEMs, or a gaming headset — including gaming consoles. And since it’s so simple to set up and use, you don’t need to waste time with more than a single wire and tedious menus. You plug it in and go, getting right to its enhanced clarity, dynamic range, revealing things you may have never noticed in your music and games. At $89.99, it’s a very good value and a solid buy for anyone looking for a quick upgrade to their listening experience. 

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.

8.0 Great
  • Durable, pocketable design
  • Lots of power over its balanced connection
  • Versatile connectivity with different devices
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Neutral sound signature
  • No 6.35mm connection
  • No MQA or wireless connectivity


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