Fiio KA17 Review

Fiio KA17

For the nerds out there, here are the full specs.

Technical specs

  • Type: USB DAC
  • Model: FiiO KA17
  • Chipset: 2x ESS Sabre ES9069Q
  • Frequency range: 20Hz – 40 000Hz
  • Compatibility: PCM up to 32bit/768kHz – DSD up to DSD512 – MQA Renderer
  • SNR: 123dB (3.5 mm) / 126dB (4.4 mm)
  • THD (normal): < 0.0005% (balanced) / < 0.0015% (single-ended)
  • THD (desktop mode): < 0.0004% (balanced) / < 0.0015% (single-ended)
  • Output power (normal) : 140mW @ 32ohms (single-ended) / 300mW @ 32ohms (balanced)
  • Output power (desktop mode) : 270mW @ 32ohms (single-ended) / 650mW @ 32ohms (balanced)
  • SNR (normal): 120dB
  • SNR (desktop mode): 123dB (single-ended) / 126dB (balanced)
  • Crosstalk (normal): 80dB (single-ended) / 110dB (balanced)
  • Crosstalk (desktop mode): 75dB (single-ended) / 114dB (balanced)
  • Size: 64mm x 27,7mm x 12,7mm 
  • Weight: 33,5g
  • Socket: dual-USB-C
  • Price: $149

Sound performance

For this review, I chose to pair the FiiO KA17 with the FiiO JH5, the HiFiman Svanar, the FiiO FA7S, and the lovely Beyerdynamic’s DT 900 Pro X – the same in-ear/ headphones I used for my KA5 review.  If the Hifiman is a bit too higher-end for this DAC, the FiiO is more than adequate and paired quite nicely with the KA17, and regarding the Beyerdynamic, I’ve got not much to say: it’s amazing for the price.

As for the source, I kept my MacBook and iPhone, combined with the ddHiFi TC28i and FiiO’s default cables, For the files, I mainly used Apple Music Hi-Res stream and Spotify, as I ended up using the KA17 almost exclusively on the train, or at the office.

Overall signature

So, how does FiiO’s new USB dongle compare to its smaller brother, the KA13, and contender like the HiBy FC4? Very nice actually, thanks to many sound tweaks, a major tonal upgrade and lots (and lots) of power!

In fact, power-wise, when used in desktop mode, the FiiO KA17 can now be crowned the most powerful USB DAC dongle that I ever reviewed, outperforming the iBasso DC06 – my previous reference. This time, even the infamously insensitive Hifiman Svanar – which needs a LOT of current to be correctly driven – sounded like a proper one. In comparison, almost all of the IEMs I paired with the FiiO KA17 scaled quite nicely, but was more than happy to be driven in “regular” mode, instead of the desktop one. On daily basis, even if you were to stick with the single-ended port, you’d be surprised by how much juice the FiiO was able to extract from the USB source.


Head to head with the KA13 though, the new models easily takes the edge with better texture and cleaner lows, whatever the volume. Paired with the DT900 Pro-X, that was even clearer on tracks like Deep in Fear from Nightwhisper, where the stacking of sound layers appeared more vivid, more precise. Same on A beautiful mine from RJD2: the drums were a lot more life-like and every rimshot ringed in my ears for a lot longer, with less fatigue. 

As usual with FiiO’s latest creation, the render remains precise and dynamic, so bad recordings are not welcome, but compared to the KA5, this one appears to be a little less… unforgiving. There is a room of improvements here and there, without any real downsize: better dynamics overall, better bass control, improved high-mids, and even paired with high-end headphones like my Audeze the result were stunning more than once.

Again, if the previous model already surprised me with its output power, the FiiO KA17 raises the bar even higher, driving my headphones almost effortlessly in desktop mode – and even without sometimes. Add to that the 4.4mm Pentaconn output paired with the volume control + screen , and for my use, this one is simply perfect: I could switch between each of my three reviews IEMs/Headphones, and check what volume level I needed to drive them correctly. 


Unsurprisingly the small DAC was able to drive my Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X more than comfortably, giving me more headroom than before, through the 3.5mm headphone output. Once again, paired with this headphone, the result was simply stunning with deep lows, crisp highs, and a wide(r) soundstage, definitely outperforming the HiBy FC4 and FiiO KA13, by quite a margin.

But, if you can drive big planars like the Audeze LCD-X, or power-hungry IEMs like the Svanar, this is still a pocket-sized dongle, one you should pair with portable headphones, like the Meze 99 Classics. With that one, the end result was superb and the sheer sound pressure of the combo gave me real goosebumps. For a small on-the-go combo, it’s utterly impressive. This was especially true with dynamic, bass-hitting, tracks like The Age of Love remix from Charlotte De Witte & Enrico Sangiuliano, where some drums seemed to pop up right into my face.

And, fed with high-resolution files, the FiiO KA17 offers a very high level of resolution and scales up amazingly. The mids are clean, sharp and detailed, with an exceptional level of air outlined by low distortion and a linear signature – even if low-mids tends to appear slightly more present than usual. Moreover, the tonal signature differs from the usual mid-centric one found on the KA3/KA2/KA1.

Despite being sharp and clinical, the trebles are not hissy but kept the classical ESS peak around 8-9kHz. The lows are deep and fast, attaining the lowest notes and sub-rumble fitted so you can reach that good old toe-tapping Oomph. Truth be told, that might also be thanks to the DT900 Pro-X but, if you haven’t listened to any of the modern FiiOs, you’d be surprised to find out that the previous mid-focused signature is now gone.


Still, on the long run, the FiiO KA17 remained very neutral, with a super wide soundstage and very good layering: with the right headphone/earphone you can spot each instrument and each singer with ease and there is no channel imbalance to ruin the experience. Better dynamic range, blacker background, with the same level of clarity and accuracy, which makes it a far better choice for IEMs users.

On top of that, and as promised in the product sheet, the KA17 is absolutely dead silent, even with sensitive IEMs like the FiiO FA7S. That may be the dual board conception, or the multi-level power supply, but whatever that is: it works.

A real upgrade and an excellent DAC/AMP in every regard sonically. Even more for the asked price!


Highs: just on spot. The KA17 shows an ever so slight upper-mid boost, as all ESS DAC usually display. If that gives a sensation of precision, it can also lead to some sibilant on sensible headphones, but fortunately none of that was found on the DAC, and even when I pushed the volume up to unsafe levels – which can happen very fast in desktop mode.

Good test track : Anthler – Polynation

Mids: open and linear, with more air. Vocals and acoustic tracks were an easy job for the KA17, even more so once paired with a good IEM/headphone. FiiO has always nailed this part and the DAC/AMP makes no exception: the soundstage is wide and voices gilded easily into my ears, especially paired with the Audeze LC-X, as the two devices seemed to pair really, really, well. Of course, you could also pair the KA17 with the FD7, a more adequate combo in terms of size and price

Good test track: Between a smile and a tear

Bass: powerful lows. FiiO has nailed the low end on their last models and the KA17 sits on top of the pyramid. Even in single-ended mode, the FiiO KA17 never lost composure and always offered a tight, fast bass – but going through its 4.4mm Pentaconn output really pushes things on a superior level. There is no shallow echo nor dragging sensation, and with Dolby Atmos tracks on Apple Music, the whole new 3D effect gave a completely different experience, for the best. A must try!

Good test track: Orbit – Rezz



Let’s be simple: the FiiO KA17 is the best dongle-sized DAC/Amp that the brand has to offer nowadays.

Sound-wise, it’s better on every level, polishing the previous formula with various enhancements like tougher lows, a wider soundstage, and a desktop mode that unlocks a level of power usually found on… desktop devices. And if the sound prowess were not enough already, you can top that with praise-worthy build quality, an Oled screen that truly works, and a conception design that makes it the perfect companion for any of your digital sources – my Steam deck loves it.

A fantastic device that truly feels like an upgrade compared to the KA13 and KA5, making it the perfect addition to your portable setup. A must-have going directly onto my recommended list!

Pros :

  • sleek design and OLED screen
  • low power consumption and exceptional power reserve in desktop mode
  • superb sound with enhanced performances compared to the KA5
  • Many software options, via app or the device

Cons :

  • low mids can be a bit too pronounced
  • no USB-C to 8-Pin cable (unless you own an iPhone 15)
4.9/5 - (17 votes)

A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.


  • Reply February 29, 2024

    György Kurucz

    Can you compare with cayin ru7? Which better dongle?

  • Reply February 29, 2024


    From a technical perspective, the sound quality, imaging accuration, layering, separation, details, and soundstage are better and wider, more open and airy than my Mojo 1.

  • Reply February 29, 2024


    How is Fiio KA17 vs Fiio BTR7?

  • Reply March 3, 2024


    Incorrect. Spdif is available via 3.5mm se.

  • Reply March 13, 2024


    How does it compare to a Bluetooth like btr15 or BTR7? Thanks

  • Reply March 15, 2024


    How does the PEQ work on the KA17? Do I have to open the FiiO app every time I use it to toggle EQ on, or are my presets stored automatically in the device?

    And more generally… does the PEQ work? Does it negatively impact sound quality?

  • Reply April 2, 2024


    Will it be able to drive HiFiMan Edition XS?

  • Reply April 4, 2024

    William T

    There is a mistake in this paragraph. It references the wrong model number.

    “On top of that, and as promised in the product sheet, the KA5 is absolutely dead silent, even with sensitive IEMs like the FiiO FA7S. That may be the dual boa”

  • Reply April 10, 2024


    is that balanced mode actually balanced? i thought that only works with xlr, right? pseudo-balanced, perhaps?

  • Reply April 12, 2024


    What would be a good IN-EAR with neutral signature for this dongle, costing $150 or less?

    • Reply April 14, 2024


      I’d say the moondrop stellaris. I’m planning on getting it along with the KA17. Seems like the budget rig to rule them all.

  • Reply April 15, 2024


    *end game* budget rig to rule them all

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