I’m a simple man. Well, sort of. I want to enjoy quality PC audio for gaming, with my TV and games console hooked up to the same speakers, but also with the ability to use standalone music streaming from Spotify and Tidal without faffing around with different inputs. Oh, and I want it all in a device that not only looks good, but also doesn’t require years of diehard audiophile forum knowledge to set up and operate. If you can cram a screen in there for even easier operation and navigation, then congratulations — you’ve just forged my dream audio device.
Enter FiiO’s brand new (and, dare I say, rather handsome) R9 Flagship Desktop Audio Player/Streamer & Balanced DAC/Amplifier, to give it its incredibly long, but aptly descriptive name. It does all of the above and more, while remaining compact enough to happily live on a desk without hogging precious real estate.
Let’s satiate the appetite of spec fiends first. We’re looking at dual high-performance eight-channel ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DACs and high-power eight-channel THX AAA 788+ desktop-grade amplification — delivering up to 7300mW of power output. In other words, more than enough performance for most people. It also supports high-resolution PCM up to 768kHz/32-Bit, native DSD512 audio, and features MQA decoding. Throw in 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage (expandable to 2TB via SD card) and a customised version of Android easily operated via a generous 6in 1080 x 2160 touchscreen, and you’ve got yourself a very formidable performer indeed.
The aforementioned Android tweaks, by the way, are rather important, as they bypass a rather pesky annoyance found in some other Android devices which force the audio to be downsampled. That means that the R9 allows all third-party streaming apps from the likes of Spotify and Tidal, to Apple Music and Qobuz to deliver audio in their respective native qualities.
Connectivity options include Bluetooth 5.0 (AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC), Airplay, Roon, DLNA, external HDD support, optical in/out, coax in/out, phono connections, USB-C, and HDMI in/out (ARC), and more. Naturally, there’s also support for both high and low-impedance headphones as well. Launched at CES 2024 and available from mid-January for $1499/£1399, the FiiO R9 has shot straight to the top of my home audio wishlist for 2024.
Other notable FiiO CES launches include the KA17 Portable USB Headphone DAC/Amplifier which offers full support for 32-bit/768kHz, MQA, and native DSD512 Hi-Res audio files. It features single-ended and balanced headphone outputs, while its compact nature lets you enjoy a high-end listening experience on everything from Android and iOS devices, to PCs and more — made all the better by a dedicated desktop mode which bumps the power output to an impressive 650mW. Available from February for $149/£139.
Lastly, FiiO also revealed the K9 PRO ESS Skylight Edition Desktop Headphone DAC/Amplifier, complete with a transparent acrylic top panel which showcases off the impressive audio gubbins within. Featuring dual ES9038 Pro DACs, dual THX AAA 788+ amp technology, multiple inputs/outputs, and Bluetooth 5.0 with support for multiple codecs including aptX HD and LDAC, it’s capable of powering headphones with a wide range (16 – 600Ω) impedance. There’s no price or availability available at the time of writing, but we’ll see if we can dig anything up directly from the CES 2024 show floor.