FiiO D3 DAC – It’s a Keeper!! Donunus September 19, 2011 DAC's, Gear Reviews 37 The FiiO D3 is a straightforward SPDIF DAC that takes in coax and optical inputs and churns out RCA analog for a stupidly low price of $30. I’ll admit this was the first time I’ve seen such a cool looking little straightforward DAC in this price range and couldn’t help but be a little skeptical at how they would perform. I mean, can we really expect anything good coming out of a $30 DAC? In the case of the D3, take out that $30 from your pockets and buy one ASAP because it sounds really good! Let take a quick lot at what you get for $30 before plugging it in: Package The FiiO D3 box Most certainly a neat and tidy package this is a small unit with direct and informational dressing. No over the top marketing hype, it simply says what it does and at $30 that is the most important message. The Package Inside you get the unit, a power cable (since it is externally powered), a manual and that’s all she wrote folks! Cables and accessories you will have to supply yourself. Bear in mind that cables you and I are thinking of probably cost more than the D3 itself so this makes sense. I also think people who get the D3’s value are people with cables, no matter how good or bad they are and understand the use of the D3. Technical Specs Power supply – DC5v Output amplitude – 1.6v (0dB Fs) Frequency Response – 20Hz – 20KHz Signal to Noise Ratio – > 90Db Crosstalk: 75dB Total harmonic distortion: <0.01% (10mW) Size: 61.6mm x 49.1mm x 21mm Weight: 50g Hooking it up! The first thing out of the box I did was test out the D3 as a DAC out of my laptop to replace FiiO’s own E7 DAC section that was docked on the FiiO E9 Headphone Amplifier. The D3 is connected via the toslink connection from the laptops headphone/optical jack then connected to the E9 via the minijack input at the rear of the amp. For doing the comparison, I switched between the two dacs by changing my hardware output options on my Audio settings section of my computer. The D3 in action What did I hear? Well, I already did a review of the E7/E9 combo and found everything to be really good especially for the price but there was a brightness that bugged me a little. I blamed the E9 for this brightness since I thought the E7 wasn’t bright at all when used as a standalone unit. It turns out I was mistaken about the E9. It is a better amp than I previously thought it to be. I found that it was the E7 that caused the brightness in the sound of the combo that I didn’t like. I guess the E7’s DAC needed to be a little bright if paired with its slightly dark sounding internal amp so that it can sound good as a standalone DAC/AMP but when paired with the neutral E9, that added brightness is not needed any longer. When the D3 DAC is used with the E9 Amplifier instead of the E7, that brightness that bothered me is now gone. The sound out of the E9 when using the D3 as a DAC is smooth. My HD600s sound detailed yet are no longer bright with the D3. Bass and lower midrange is also improved with the D3 against the E7. I am really loving the D3/E9 pairing right now. I used to use an old Pioneer integrated amplifier out of the E9’s RCA output to warm up the sound of the E7/E9 combo but with the D3 in the picture, I no longer need that Pioneer to improve on the bass and get rid of some brightness. Besides being a DAC for the E9 Headphone Amplifier, I also tried the D3 out of a Pioneer DVD player connected to my speaker setup for watching movies. This time I connected the DAC using the coaxial digital input. What I found was that my system sounds a little more natural now than it was without the D3. It doesn’t sound like much of a description with lots of flowery words to tempt the readers but you have to understand that the system it is being used with here is not a detail monster. Basically I feel that paying much more for a DAC for this particular system may actually just result in money being wasted. What the D3 does is make the sound more natural in the upper mids to highs in this setup and for $30, that is good enough for me. To people that want a bright amp to simulate more detail, don’t get the D3. Or get the D3 just to see what I mean, heck its only $30. To people that have headphones like the Shure SRH940 where I feel there to be a need for more warmth and less brightness, definitely give the D3 a try. Heck, I love them even with my warm sounding hd600s. The D3 adds meat to the sound and the tonality makes the soundstage more deep than wide when compared to the E7 as a DAC. The FiiO D3 DAC is a keeper! Now I need to get better interconnects than the ones I am currently using! Donunus After the satisfaction with the d3, I am also very curious about the E10 now. FiiO can’t stop churning out these goodies fast enough. Donunus By the way, I just want to say that those rubber feet don’t come with the D3. Those are spares from my E9 http://twitter.com/James_fiio FiiO Thanks for the review. Donunus Its been a pleasure reviewing your products. I don’t have to cringe and think of good things to say about them because they are really overachievers at their price points. Keep up the good work FiiO! Donunus To add to my review, I went to my friends house with more transparent speakers than me (Magnepan MMGs) and we tried the D3 over there. We set up the D3 connected via Optical and Coaxial inputs and compared it to the RCA output of a Pioneer Elite DVD player output going toward his Adcom preamp/power amp. To make a long story short, The D3 slayed the pioneer. Coming from the D3, the Pioneer Elite player made the maggies sound disjointed and less coherent. The sound becomes like a CD recorded to a good cassette. Out of the D3, the sound becomes coherent, bold, and natural. I preferred the optical input a little to the coax too because the latter adds a little unwanted bass bloom to his system. The Optical input felt a little faster sounding although directly switching between coax and optical makes the optical seem less good because of the slightly bassier output of the coax. We also did blind tests switching between optical and coax and I could tell between them 100% of the time so that eliminates placebo from the picture. There is no way I can test the coax on my pc for comparison on my hd600 though because I only have optical on my laptop. No worries, the test on the Maggies made me satisfied with the optical input already that I don’t really mind if I can’t use the coax. One thing I didn’t take into consideration though is the digital cables used. Although digital cables shouldn’t make a lot of difference in the sound, I still can’t confirm 100% whether the differences I was hearing comparing coax and toslink were due to the cables used or the type of input itself. Donunus LOL Imagine that. A Full sized Pioneer Elite Model DVD player sounding like a cassette against the D3. This is nuts! The best thing in audio one can buy for approximately $30! Donunus I just got some new interconnects and the sound quality went up in transparency and realism by an important margin. The D3 was good with cheap cables, now with the pro co DIY cables, I don’t even expect any $200-$300 dac to be able to outperform these. Dleblanc343 wow, i want one now! I have the e7/e9 combo, and if you recommend this over the e7, for 30 bucks, why not? Though, I don’t find the highs bothersome the way it is now. I guess the d3 is a better dac than the multi-function e7 Donunus Even with a cheap rca to mini cable going into the e9, the d3 already is smoother and more balanced than the e7 IMO. With the new Pro co DIY cables I am using, the sound improved even more. http://twitter.com/James_fiio FiiO FiiO , listed beside Apple, Sony on Amazon best sell list, ranked #83. can’t believe it Pingback: Fiio D3: Cheap DAC on the way - Audio & Video Forums() Donunus The D3 is very close in sound to the E10 as a DAC by the way in fact, the interconnect cables used to go into an amp make more of a difference in the sound than comparing the e10 and the d3 using the same brand of wire. waters Can the USB also act as an audio input from a PC/laptop instead of just power? Anonymous It most certainly can act as an audio output by streaming audio data to an external DAC for conversion to analog sound – a whole generation of digital audio is now built on that principle. Donunus Yes you can use the usb to power up the D3. Donunus You can’t use the USB for Audio on the D3. Its only used for powering up the device. Laughingbuddha 01 Sounds like you don’t rate the E7 but I have one here and compared to DACS like the X Aune with it’s array of connectivity options the E7 demonstrates better sound balance clarity and control ! http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/05/fiio-e7-usb-dac-amp.html Donunus The D3 sounds better than the E7 for me. Laughingbuddha 01 Well I am starting to agree here having listened to both D3 and E7 although waiting to test this against a Heed Dactlius 2 card built into my Heed Si just waiting for a SACD Player to arrive so I got a good high res recording to play from the same source with the same interconnects using coax spdif through both DACS are 192/24 be interesting to see which is better of course this is a huge difference in price between the D3 (€24) and Dactlius 2 (€349) card but both so in some way it’s an unfair comparison or is it ? Perhaps the D3 will come out trumps ? If the D3 comes owners of the Heed Dactlius 2 upset here haaa !!! Donunus That would be an interesting comparison. let me know what your findings are when you get to do that Laughingbuddha 01 Is their upsampling with the D3 I’m assuming it’s a pure converter but with the E7 seems to be more going on except that has a WM8740 Wofson onboard and the D3 a WM8805 the latter is an S/PDIF Interface Receiver. Any idea what the difference is ? Jab2944 I have just purchased a new Samsung HD plasma TV which has only an optical digital audio-out (5.1) socket. I am looking for a device that can convert the audio-out to a 2-channel stereo (RCA plugs) so that I can use my current stereo receiver for sound. Will the FiiO D3 meet my needs? Donunus It will work if you have some sort of setting on your plasma TV to set the digital output to PCM/2ch Robert Chitoiu Does anyone own the Peachtree DAC-IT? The price difference is huge, but I wonder how they compare in quality… Anonymous Hi Robert, I know a guy who owns one in Canada but he doesn’t own a D3 hehe… I think they retail them around here locally (the peachtree) so maybe someday I can grab one for review. Gdkiv can i connect the e9/d3 set to my logitech pc speakers? the pc speakers are connected to my pc with normal 6ch direct cables.. my pc only have direct and spdif out, but the logitech speakers have coaxial and optical input. or do this d3-e9-headset combo need to be connect directly to the computer/music player and not through another music system? all this is new to me, but i am looking into getting a good sennheiser 650 headset rig. so i am trying to find the best e9 with dac combo and still be able to play music through my computer but unsure of all this cables and inputs stuff, because i have never had a headset setup before. i think my wish would be to have the e9 (heard the senn 650 needs power) with a good dac but still have the e9 bass boost, and usb connection. any tips and help would be greatly appreciated Donunus With the speakers, The d3 won’t be able to give you 6 channels. It would be good for when you get the hd650s though Prakhar Yadav So basically the audio input is from the headphone out jack and the power is from the usb? Pingback: Fiio – D3 « Computer Audio() Pingback: Fiio – D3 | DACinfo() Typhoon859 How does it compare to the L.O. of the E17? That’s the most interesting thing currently I think. If someone made/can make a comparison, that would really be great! Thanks! headfonics It is a pity we didnt have that query a year or so ago as we cant do the comparo anymore on account everyone stole the best gear But my guess is the E17 will have a superior line out given the D series is FiiO’s lower grade product line. Typhoon859 I’m not sure I understood you correctly; your gear got stolen, along with it the D3? From what was mentioned, the L.O. of the D3 is comparable to that of the E10 so in terms of that, one can’t be too sure. I’m also not sure the E vs. the D represents exactly the grade of their product line, especially considering the claimed superiority in quality of the E7 for instance. -Thanks for the response! headfonics Thats the official FiiO roadmap – D for consumker, E for audiophile, we get our insight direct from FiiO. The D3 came out long after the E7 though. As for lost gear, nah small joke as in our buddies tend to borrow lots of the stuff and a bit hard to compare now what we dont have at hand. Typhoon859 Ah, ok. I see. I gotcha. Well, with that being the case, I guess that which you mentioned can be safely assumed. Precisely HOW they compare on the other hand is a different story. I think it would still be an interesting comparison to make. Thanks again for the input! headfonics You are welcome. Given the rapid evolution of their products I would suggest having a lot at whats next in the lineup which is the E18 and the X5 Typhoon859 Indeed. I am certainly looking forward to it.