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Fiio K7 Full Balanced Desktop Amp/DAC Review: Not Just for Audiophiles

An Affordable, High-powered, Audio Upgrade for your PC

Christopher Coke Posted:
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Hardware Reviews 0

Fiio first rose in the audio scene thanks to its line of portable DACs and amps. It’s fitting, then, that one of its most exciting products this year is a fully balanced hybrid DAC/amp designed to take your PC’s audio to the text level. Coming in at only $199, it has a top quality AK4493S DAC for high-quality, interference free audio processing, whisper-quiet and exceptionally powerful THX-certified amplifiers to drive everything from sensitive in-ear headphones and gaming headsets to gold-tier audiophile headphones, and connectivity options that even offer support for speakers. 

At the current price, this is the new go-to option for a combined DAC and amp and a great way to upgrade your listening experience for games, music, and everything in between. 

Specifications

Current Price: $199.99 (Amazon

Fiio K7 - What Is It?

The Fiio K7 is both a high quality DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and an amplifier, all within a small, desktop-friendly box. Its purpose is simple: to take over all of your PC’s audio processing; to move it out of the noisey confines and electrical busyness of your chassis, and hand it over to a purpose-built tool where every component is designed to make your audio sound better than ever before. The K7 is hardly the only device of its type — there are even gaming-centric DAC/amps on the market — but it’s one of the absolute best choices you’ll find at its price point no matter what you might be listening to. 

In fact, that seems to be the core philosophy behind its design: to over-deliver for the money. Inside its shell, it uses dual AKM AK4493S DAC chips, audio processors that have been hard to come by since the company’s terrible fire in 2020. It pairs those with a pair of THX AAA-788+ amplifiers to deliver a surprising amount of power. From the front, you can connect single-ended headphones using the 6.35mm port or balanced headphones from the 4.4mm Pentaconn jack. Whether you’re playing games on a standard analog gaming headset or listening to a high-end pair of audiophile headphones, the K7 is ready and able to deliver.

At only 4.7 x 6.6 x 2.2 inches, it can slide under most monitors. On the front is a large digital volume wheel that clicks to turn the unit on and off, so you won’t have any trouble making adjustments even while it’s tucked out of the way. To the left of the wheel are switches to swap between Low and High gain, as well as to select your output between headphones, line out, and acting as a preamp for speakers. Next to these is a small button to select your source (which, for most people will be USB). To the right are your 6.35mm and 4.4mm balanced outputs for different types of headphones. 

Around the back are all of the inputs and preamp/line-out. The device can accept coaxial, optical, and USB inputs, as well as stereo left and right channels through the line-in. It comes with a USB cable and a power adapter, but if you want to use the other connections, you’ll need to supply your own cables. 

The construction of the K7 is also top-notch. It uses a full aluminum chassis and feels quite robust. The knob has a satisfying click when turning on and off and is tight without any wiggle. The switches all feel solid too. Only time will tell about its long-term longevity but is appears to be well-made and designed. 

Inside that shell, the DAC and amp come ready to play. To ensure each channel is truly balanced and free of any crosstalk, Fiio has implemented two AK4493S DACs. These chips support PCM audio up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 over USB (note that there is an error in the specification table in the section above).  As you listen from different sources, an LED ring around the volume wheel will change color to indicate your current sampling rate (blue is 44.1 and 48kHz, yellow is anything higher, and green is DSD audio). 

The K7 is really out to impress with its amplification system. It uses the same THX AAA-788+amplifiers as the most expensive K9 Pro. The THX AAA amplification system has been highly regarded because of its excellent power output, neutral sound that doesn’t color your headphones, vanishingly low distortion, and exceptionally quiet performance. Fiio has also implemented the entire power delivery system in multiple independent stages to decrease noise even further. 

What does this mean? First off, that the K7 has power and volume headroom to spare. It’s able to output 1.2 watts into 32 ohms from its single-ended connection and a full two watts from its balanced port. That's more power than most headphones need these days, especially gaming headsets, but by providing ample headroom, you'll ensure that you'll be hearing the absolute best sound quality and dynamic range your headphones are able to produce. Everything from whisper quiet footsteps to bombastic explosions will come through absolutely pristine. The AAA-788+'s low noise floor works in tandem here, removing any white noise that may exist at the bottom of the track, revealing tiny details you may never have appreciated before. 

For music, the effect is even more noticeable. It’s akin to jumping from a standard-definition TV to high-definition for the first time. You’ll hear textures and micro details that never jumped out at you in the past. Clarity becomes the name of the game. This is even true of sensitive in-ear monitors (IEMs) that would usually have hiss with such high power output. Not so on the K7. 

To set your mind at ease, Fiio has also built multiple protection systems into the device. It comes equipped with overheating, overloading, and DC protection systems. You won’t need to worry about your device facing an early demise because of a misconfigured setup or heat causing component to degrade. 

The amount of features, power output, and caliber of components at play here are downright surprising at $199. It’s a high-value purchase that even puts staple recommendations like the Magni/Modi stack from Schiit Audio on notice. 

Fiio K7 - Performance and Listening Impressions

With all of that out of the way, it’s time to get into listening impressions. The first thing I wanted to check here was how versatile the K7 was. It’s very common for high powered amplifiers to not work well with in-ear headphones. The amount of power tends to create a hiss that you can hear under games and music and really makes them unusable. 

I didn’t need to worry. On its low gain mode, the K7 plays very well with in-ear monitors. You won’t need to turn the gain up very much, but it’s possible to have an enjoyable listening experience that’s just as quiet as amps designed for sensitive IEMs. The implementation of the power delivery system and choice to use THX AAA-788+ amplifiers really pays dividends here. 

Onto gaming. The ample headroom of the K7 brought my selection of gaming headsets to life. Whether it was my more affordable HyperX Cloud Alpha or my more expensive Corsair Virtuoso XT, I was able to hear more detail across the board. For the Cloud Alpha in particular, it was like a hazy veil had been lifted. I was easily able to pick out the direction of enemy footsteps in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2022). Even in single-player games and MMOs, the K7 seemed to open up the soundstage. Audio cues sounded clearer on their own layer, which enhanced my immersion.

For music, the K7 is outstanding. I tested it with a mix of IEMs from the Moondrop KATO to the 7Hz Timeless and was able to enjoy the intimate, detail-rich listening experience only great IEMs can provide. Later, I swapped to high-power planar magnetic headphones and dynamics like the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Open X and the Sennheiser HD6XX. There’s enough headroom on the K7 to drive just about anything, and to do it cleanly with a minimum of distortion and self-noise. It’s excellent at this price.

The amp and DAC circuit both present audio cleanly. There isn’t much coloration happening to the music or game audio at all, so you can hear exactly what the headphones are able to deliver. It’s very neutral to my ear. With that in mind, that added power really allowed the bass performance of my headphones to shine with tight, fast response. Likewise, its silent noise floor increased the dynamic range, bringing out those microdetails I so enjoy.

I was also very impressed at its versatility for different inputs and outputs. It comes with an adapter to plug in 3.5mm or 6.35mm headphones and with the flip of a gain switch, you can make sure that you have enough power even for demanding cans like the DT-990 Pros. Being able to send audio to the unit through Coaxial, Optical, or RCA in addition to USB, as well as outputting to speakers, is also a very nice touch. 

Taken as a whole, the K7 is an exceptionally good “all-in-one” solution for newcomers to the audio hobby, as well as normal PC users who want their investment to last years into the future, no matter  how they choose to upgrade their rig.

Final Thoughts

The Fiio K7 is simply an outstanding option for anyone looking to upgrade their desktop audio. You don’t need to be an audiophile to enjoy what it’s able to deliver. I could nitpick that it doesn’t have a “middle” gain stage or MQA support, but those are acceptable sacrifices if we’re getting such outstanding performance and listening options. Fiio really knocked it out of the park with this one. If you have $199 and are looking for an excellent audio solution, look no further: this is it. 

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.

9.5Amazing
Pros
  • Plenty of power in balanced or single-ended
  • Works with headphones, IEMs, or full speakers
  • Perfectly sized for a desk
  • Illuminated volume wheel is information and looks nice
  • Easy to setup and use
Cons
  • No MQA
  • Only two gain stages


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