Review: Fiio BTR1 – Wi-Wi-Wireless

Disclaimer: Fiio sent the BTR1, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review, nit picky or not. I’ve sat on it for a little more than a month. It goes for 49$, is built around the AK4376 DAC, and supports 24-bit playback among other things. You can find out all about it here: Fiio BTR1 DAC + aptX Bluetooth amp.

Relevant links:

RMAA: iPhone SE 24-bit
RMAA: Apple iPhone 7 24-bit
RMAA: Fiio BTR1 24-bit
RMAA: Astell&Kern XB10 24-bit

Not sound

Like Astell&Kern’s XB10, the BTR1 turns any wired earphone wireless. A perennial favourite cable-attached earphone of mine is Grado’s excellent GR8e, which does the mids and upper mids like no one’s business. But with my phone tucked inside a Quad-Lock case, and considering my growing animosity toward tethers of any sort, using that earphone with my handy is a chore at best, a negative insurance policy at worst.

Relegating the GR8e to home use is a waste. The only personal classic which I favour is Ultrasone’s IQ, which plugs nicely into Sony’s MUC-M2BT1, which is equal parts impressive, equal parts frustrating.

While Fiio target a different market, it’s hard to overlook the degree to which the 49$ BTR1 powers ahead of Astell&Kern’s XB10. It is more robust, a bit easier to use, looks markedly higher class, and as we will see, it performs better. Its 49$ price tag goes farther to transforming earphones into a viable wireless alternatives than any 49$ I’ve handled in a long time.

Even its package is handsome. Check out that form-fitting insert. Check out the main graphics. Fiio didn’t waste a lot of space, didn’t mash in too many non-recyclables, and even if they did, it was done with a small footprint.

A question a lot of people ask is this: how long does the battery actually last? The result of compiling multiple run-downs through diverse use-cases is that it’s A-Okay. I get about 7,5 hours playback, source material being 16-bit, 24-bit, or otherwise. That is long enough to cover most if not all of the inside-bound parts of my work day.

The BTR1’s in-line play/pause and volume ensure relative freedom from your phone or player.

Where it hiccups it hiccups big. That is: wireless range and connection reliability. In the same house where AirPods manage like 30 steps, and Sony’s MUC manages about 20 steps before working out, the BTR1 gets no farther than 5 before it loses connection with my iPhone SE, and that a best-case scenario. Even closer in, connection sometimes chips and chirps. That is, its wireless connection quality is about on par with stuff from 2012-2014. For the audiophile whose player is never a metre away, it’s not much of a problem. For the roamer, the obsessive vacuum-whilst-charging-my-phone boyscout, it will be. In practice, I’ve had no trouble with the BTR1 on the train or in a coffee shop where my phone is in my pocket. But when something with bone or brick gets in the way of the signal, it drops out at the least provocation. If you can live with that, I think the following section will light your way.

Sound and more after the jump:

4.3/5 - (15 votes)

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

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