Amplitude & Bluetooth Chipset
FiiO’s UTWS3 was the most powerful True Wireless IEM Adapter that we’ve reviewed and now the UTWS5 has that title thanks to its new audio circuitry. The UTWS5 can deliver a whopping 33mW (32Ω) into your IEMs. In comparison, iBasso’s CF01 delivers 9mW (32Ω) and FiiO’s older-gen UTWS3 delivers 25mW (32Ω). The UTWS5 has enough power to feed your most demanding IEMs. As you can see, this is a solid improvement over the UTWS3. The new chipset also increased the signal-to-noise ratio from 100dB to 109dB and reduced the noise-floor from <8uV to <4uV according to FiiO. FiiO’s expertise on Bluetooth devices keeps getting better and better, every passing year. The Bluetooth chip is also one of the industry’s better chips for ultra-portable devices. Qualcomm’s premium tier QC5141 supports SBC, AAC, aptX, and AptX Adaptive. AptX Adaptive supports a maximum bitrate of 420kbps. It is no LDAC as you can see here but indeed a step towards it. I would at least want to see AptX HD (576kbps) with this version though.
As for the signal stability, the UTWS5 is great. I had no issues with it, even in crowded areas where a lot of signal pollution is present. It pairs with my phone seamlessly, as soon as I open its case. It goes into hibernation as soon I close the lid of the case. There is no delay here. It’s super-fast and that’s extra nice. Apart from that, the new chipset comes equipped with a feature that’s called ”third-gen TWS mode”. According to FiiO, it helps reduce the latency and instability of the signal, allowing seamless switch between the adapters. The activating/deactivating and pairing/unpairing process is much faster thanks to this new premium chipset.
Let’s talk a bit about latency. The latency issue is a general issue with all Bluetooth devices. The chip manufacturers are working to eliminate the latency issue, but the higher the bitrate, the worse the latency. This means, we, the audiophile bunch should probably need to wait a couple of years to finally be able to get the perfect hires-ish experience out of the wireless products, latency-wise. Frankly, if you are planning to game with the UTWS5 while using the AptX Adaptive codec, don’t. You’ll have to switch to SBC for better latency. Note that with YouTube App and other video apps I had no major latency issues while using the AptX Adaptive codec.
The UTWS5 comes with full FiiO Control App support. The app features over-the-air updates so you can upgrade the firmware wirelessly without all the computer hassle. This is very nice because FiiO has a good support track record and they release hotfixes regularly. The app can be used to change button functions, adjust the idle power-off setting, change DAC’s filter, and adjust the volume of the playback or call. FiiO also promised 10-band EQ support for the UTWS5 but if you don’t want to wait, you can check this EQ app that I use regularly with my Bluetooth-enabled devices. Apart from those, UTWS3 had 26-step volume control and FiiO improved this after user feedback and introduced 32-step volume control with the UTWS5. The FiiO Control app remembers your setting per device and it automatically adjusts it when you connect to the unit. Additionally, the multi-purpose button on the device can be used to play/pause the playback, skip to the previous or next track, activate your voice assistant, answer or reject calls.
The UTWS5 has a good microphone layout, however, as with all TWS earphones and adapters, the mics are physically away from your mouth and that’s a big challenge for manufacturers. Nearly all of the traditional rodless true wireless earphones we have reviewed this year suffer from the same problem. The UTWS5 is no different. It performs okay in silent environments, however, with background noise and chatter, the call quality deteriorates. Overall, I’d say it’s satisfactory compared to many offerings in the market but don’t expect the call performance of TWS earphones with long rods.
Sound & Performance
It is obvious that sound quality is as important as the signal stability, build quality, and features of the device for FiiO. With the UTWS5, FiiO managed to squeeze independent DACs into the small chassis of the adapters, aiming for maximum performance and power. The new AKM DAC sounds great to my ears, powerful, dynamic, and clean. The device feeds all of my earphones with ease and I can’t really crank up the volume without physical pain, which is great because last year we had adapters that offer 1/10 of power that UTWS5 is offering right now.
To my ears, UTWS5 sounds a little warm in the midrange and low end. The presentation is sweet and musical, offering good amount of detail. I have compared the UTWS5 side by side with the UTWS3 and found out that UTWS3 is somewhat more linear compared to the UTWS5 and sounds slightly more analytical. The UTWS5 has more body in the bottom end and it has a rounder sub-bass presentation. Impact-wise it hits harder and deeper. The UTWS3 sounds more linear, slightly thinner, and more energetic in the upper mid area. The UTWS5 has bolder note weight, the instruments feel thicker and sound more authoritative, especially in the midrange. Male vocal presentation impressed me as it is vital for DACs to have an adequate note thickness for male vocals to be reproduced as real as possible. The UTWS5 has a great treble presentation with expansive highs and the detail level is satisfactory. I have tried the UTWS5 with various earphones including Tanchjim’s Darling, Fostex’s TM2, and a couple of other earphones featuring multiple BAs.
As with the UTWS3, I can also say that the UTWS5 does a great job of liberating IEMs from their cables. It does not heavily saturate the signature of your IEMs so you get to enjoy what you love about them, without cables. The resolution is satisfactory and technically you don’t feel like it is bottlenecking your IEMs. Of course, with clinical IEMs like Pears SH-3, it is not possible to get the same level of performance of your desktop rig or high-end DAP from the UTWS5 but it does an adequate job of reflecting the signature of the IEM. You feel the technical difference more via highly detailed multi-BA IEMs but to my ears, the UTWS5 sounds great for the asking price. At the moment, it has no rivals that feature the same kind of performance and practicality and I expect that to change. We, as consumers, like the competition because it drives companies to do better. I hope to see LDAC adapters soon and FiiO could definitely be the first one to achieve that feat. Compared to its current rivals, UTWS5 performs and sounds great. It is the most advanced TWS adapter on the market right now and FiiO seems eager to hold this title.
BTR5 2021 is a wireless Bluetooth DAC & AMP with LDAC. It serves a similar purpose to the UTWS5 but is not completely ‘wireless’. I personally think it’s a great device. In fact, it is a device that we have deemed worthy of the HFN recommendation award.
Despite having a small chassis, the BTR5 2021 is a device that plays well above its price with its 9219C dual DAC configuration, can also be used as a DAC on a computer with a good USB controller, and offers comfortable use during the day with its great battery life. If we need to compare BTR5-2021 and UTWS5 in terms of sound quality, I’d say that the BTR5 performs better than the UTWS5. The BTR5 sounds cleaner with a better tonal balance and the resolution it offers with its tiny case is certainly impressive. It has a faster, tighter bass response with better texture, it has cleaner and more articulate mids, it has more energetic and expansive upper midrange while offering excellent control. The treble feels more natural and it easily reaches the top octave without any crispiness or unwanted hotness. Additionally, it has slightly better stereo imaging as well. If you are not worrying about the wire-free experience, the BTR5-2021 could be a better option for you.
FiiO’s UTWS3 was already a very successful device. With the UTWS5, they have accomplished something quite difficult by pushing the boundaries of wireless technology. The UTWS5 offers a stable connection, a great sound, and a comfortable fit. It also has a great build quality and a solid set of features. The output power is certainly impressive when you take its size into the consideration. The device feels well made all around. FiiO’s app support and OTA updates save you a lot of clicks and time, providing a much easier firmware update process.
The only thing I can say negatively about the device is the same as what I said in the UTWS3 review. Yes, APTX adaptive is a good development, but we as audiophiles still expect better. In the future, we would like to see a device made by FiiO that offers these great features and also supports LDAC for maximum wireless audio performance. Apart from that, UTWS5 is a brilliant device and it does its job perfectly fine.
Page 1: FiiO, FiiO UTWS5, Packaging & Accessories, Build Quality & Design, Fit & Comfort, Battery Life
Page 2: Amplitude & Bluetooth Chipset, FiiO Control, Call Quality, Sound & Performance, Conclusion