Review: FiiO BTR1 Bluetooth Headphone Amplifier
Wireless fidelity for the masses?
I’d like to start this review by stating that I’m a bit of an audiophile. FiiO BTR1
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here — I don’t need hugely expensive equipment to listen to my music. However, I do want the sound that I hear to be a certain way. Whether from the Pioneer amp I used to have that imbued a certain warmth to everything that I played on it or the clean, clinical Yamaha equipment that my father owns, there has to be a certain level of fidelity for me to enjoy listening to music. A few simple rules: Separates not all-in-ones, external soundcards, copper speaker wire, and above all — wired, never wireless.
This has served me in good stead for all of my adult life, so when I heard that FiiO was coming out with a Bluetooth Amp/DAC that promised high-fidelity sound, I just had to review the FiiO BTR1.
The external design keeps well with FiiO’s range, with the understated minimalism that they’ve been known for. Most of the body is aluminum, with a small plastic area on the bottom to let the Bluetooth radio transmit. It has volume control on the side, a multi-purpose button on the face, and a high-quality omnidirectional microphone. One thing of note is that it’s still usable while it’s charging, so this could easily be an all-day device. The clip on it is very sturdy, I didn’t have any slippage issues with any of the fabrics or bags I tested it on. FiiO also includes a small lanyard to accompany the device, if you prefer.
With mobile devices removing 3.5mm headphone jacks, and the overall trend across the industry to wireless connectivity, this device fits a current need. Current Bluetooth headsets are okay for calls but aren’t that great for music, and until that changes people are clinging on to their favored wired IEMs. This enables them to use the IEMs of choice, while still being able to use the latest mobile devices. With the BTR1 supporting Bluetooth 4.2, aptX and SBC, it’s about as futureproof as any technology and I can see it having a niche in the market for some time.
In my usage of the FiiO BTR1 over the last month, I’ve used it with all the devices I use wired headsets with currently to try and build up an overall picture of how well it fares. I have a high-end Sennheiser headset for my computer for gaming mainly, and Pixel XL as my primary mobile device for calls and workout music. I have a few go-to albums that I use to test any new audio equipment I get, so these got queued up and I paired the BTR1 to the adapter in my PC. Listening to DJ Shadow — Organ Donor, a track I’ve heard countless times before, it was like listening to a new track.
The separation between channels showed me a few audio pans that I’d not noticed before. Portishead — Wandering Star was full bodied, with a depth of timbre that I’ve only heard on large systems before. It was like I was rediscovering the music, and also my IEMs. Switching to gaming, with Dragon Age Inquisition, both the background music and sound effects were clear, with a 3D soundstage that very easily let me pick out where they were coming from.
I also used my Sennheiser headset with the BTR1, with them being 50 Ω they weren’t able to get to the volume of the IEMs but they were beautifully clear with balanced mids.
I’m not completely ready to give up my wires just yet, but if this is a taste of what is to come from wireless fidelity — I look forward to that day with open ears.
You can find the FiiO BTR1 on Amazon.
A sample unit was provided to KnowTechie for the purpose of this review. Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here for more.