The acknowledgements are in order here – to Sunny of Fiio, thank you for entrusting me with this little thing. If you want to know more about this, there is a whole hoard of info available at https://www.fiio.com/bta30
About Fiio and the BTA30
After all, that’s why we’re here, ain’t it? First of all, about Fiio. They’re a Chinese Company, established since 2007, a veteran by Asian Standards. Fiio comfortably sit in that category of quality products, despite having some products that could be put in the Chi-Fi domain, based on their prices. However, they’re not afraid to push things a little higher, as the DAPs, the M11 Pro and the M15 will testify. I would quite happily put Fiio up there with Shanling, HiDisz, HiFiMan and the like, they have earnt that reputuation. I declare a vested interest in Fiio; I am an owner of the M11 DAP. I didn’t get a review model, in fact I wasn’t doing too much reviewing at the time of the M11 launch. I fancied a decent Digital Audio Player that could store all my music, with the Bluetooth Transceiver and App support. The M11 looked to be the right match. So I just went and got it. And I still have it folks. If you want to know more about the M11, I happen to have a post here on Subjective , with the usual YouTube presentation.
Expect the BTA30 to retail at around £90, that is, if you can get it at the moment. The diminutive black beasty seems to be hard to get hold of, since it’s launch in November the interest thus far generated appears to be outstripping demand. “£90?” you say! “Not worth bothering with, it’ll just be an average sounding piece of gimmicry”, you add. My reply “I suggest you read on”, so there! Look, I don’t know how they make decent stuff that can do all this, but the Chinese have proven time and time again, they can put out a Ferrari for the price of a Lada.
Here’s what you get for your money, not in any particular order of importance: an FPGA device, an AK4490 Dac Chip, Bluetooth that can receive signals from 2 devices at the same time, Bluetooth that can send to 2 devices at the same time, optical in/coaxial in/usb in digital connections, analog RCA line out, coaxial/optical digital outputs. The BTA30 can send to 3 different outputs at the same time aswell. There is a volume control for your Bluetooth or your digital stuff, there is a separate app, Fiio Control that will give extra configuration options, such as fixed volume, 100%, 70%,50%, digital filters, even the lights can be tweaked. The Bluetooth aerial can give a range of 30 metres, meaning you can use your streamer downstairs and your phone upstairs, and prance/dance/trance around your house to your hearts content. Oh yes, I mentioned in your house. So let’s now tell you what the BTA30 can’t do.
The Fiio is a Dac or Bluetooth source. It doesn’t have a headphone amp built in. Nor is it a portable device. It needs a 5V USBC connection to power it. I am presuming that with this many features, adding a headphone amp would have changed the size, price and market appeal of the BTA30.
The BTA30 in use
Is surprisingly easy. The booklet provided dashes through most things, such as pairing 2 sets of bluetooth devices so as they can run at the same time. You may be wondering why you need to transmit to 2 devices at the same time. Picture this; it’s dead quiet, it’s night time, the children are asleep, finally, and you have a need to fully unwind by watching the latest Bond or whatever with your partner. Then there’s the neighbours to think about too…. Fear not! Fiio have a solution! 2 sets of bluetooth headphones, 1 for each head. Put em on and crank it up as loud as you want! Sound too good to be true? Well, dear friend, just watch below:
Simply plug the optical out on your TV to a BTA30, and pair the 1st and then the 2nd headphone, et voilà! TV for 2. Running a smartphone and my Fiio M11 side by side proved remarkably simple. As soon as I paused my smartphone and pressed play on the M11 the BTA30 seamlessly chucked the music out to the line out/optical out/bluetooth out, barely taking a breath in the process. The pair button on the front also acts as a pause. The app was a nice little bonus, and offered a variable or fixed line output, even in increments. I found that 70% was the optimal match for feeding my AMI Musik DDH-1 Dac/Headamp. The AMI was used because it’s small, and happens to have an analog input. The unit, first on sale in 2014, combined with the Fiio BTA30, in real terms would be in the region of £300- £350 in todays prices, having originally sold for €549, and the Fiio approx £90.
The Sound Quality – v Chord Mojo
Which brings me on to the most important part of the show, the main event, the nitty gritty. What does this thing sound like? Will it reveal appalling lack of detail, output, latency or background hiss? I had no choice but to put it up against some really stiff competition; namely my favourite portable Dac/Amp ever, my very own Chord Mojo. The Chord Mojo is a different idea altogether; it’s got no bluetooth in, it takes a digital signal and you plug your headphones in, and that’s that. All we are doing here is comparing the optical and DAC outputs and sending them to a headphone output; for the Mojo , that’s the onboard amp, for the Fiio it’s the AMI. The results were intersting…
The BTA30 can go first. The Fiio has a bassy presentation. The signature still leaves plenty of clean space around the instrumentation. We can therefore discern vocals or main instrument with a decent clarity. Although the BTA30 is not quite as linear in it’s presentation as the Mojo, it offers a fun, punchy sound that never offends. The Mojo, by comparison, has a leaner bass with a faster, wider, more accurate sound. I found myself turning again and again to the sound of the Fiio, because it was less demanding of my ears than the Mojo. There was slightly less in the way of detail and micro effects weren’t as high in the signature, but there was something very engaging with the tracks I was listening to, especially rock, pop and dance, the less involving stuff. Classical and Acoustic, Blues and Jazz were a convincing win for the Mojo. I suspect that some may even prefer the sound for all genres, even though the Mojo has to be considered as technically the more proficient unit. And the headphones I used to do the test? None other than the merciless, ruthless ultra crazy high end HiFiMan Susvara planar magnetic headphones. Yes, they do work on stuff that’s less than exotica. Yes, they can produce an incredible sound, even through these 2 units. What better way to organise a contest than have something like that as a judge?
If you can find it, and you like what you’ve read, and you have a use for it that you never realised before, I don’t think you can go too far wrong with this, the latest in a long line of weird but good from a Chinese Company I have to trust for good value and good sound. I may yet be caught out by something substandard from them. But it han’t happened yet. For pure sound quality, don’t expect the DAC to reach the heights of a Chord Mojo; it doesn’t even try. But that doesn’t make the BTA30 lie quaking in the shadow of the diminutive Chord, or any other similar model for that matter; it can blow a raspberry at them from 30 metres away and still give them a run for their money!