Fiio BTR1 Pros&Cons

Pros 

  • Very respectable sound quality
  • Sleek and minimal
  • Well-designed

Cons 

  • Sound Effect button not particularly useful
  • Limited power output

Fiio BTR1 Specs

  • Headphones impedance: Up to 100Ω
  • Output impedance: <0.02Ω
  • Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz
  • SNR: ≥95dB
  • THD+N: <0.04% (1 kHz)

Packaging 

The BTR1’s packaging is pretty synonymous with what we’ve seen on other products recently released from Fiio. A mostly black and white colour scheme was been used on the outer sleeve, with the only colour really being the blue of the Bluetooth logo on the front. next to the Bluetooth logo is the “Qualcomm aptX” logo.

btr1-box

Opening up the main packaging reveals the BTR1 surrounded by a layer of protective foam. Underneath the foam layer is yet another box, which contains the accessories and literature.
btr1-open-box

 

What’s in the box?

  • Fiio BTR1
  • Short Micro-USB charging cable
  • Lanyard
  • User guide
  • Warranty leaflet

btr1-box-contents

Accessories 

Well now, the BTR1 is a relatively simple device, and as such Fiio have not really included much with the device. the lanyard is a nice touch though, should you wish to hang the device around your neck. But if we’re honest, what else could Fiio have included that would make sense? Perhaps some kind of protective leather case? Maybe. But that would probably hinder the use of the spring-loaded clip on the back of the BTR1.
Nope, Fiio did a perfectly adequate job here.

Design

Ok, first off, Fiio’s online marketing almost seems a little misleading.
Sure, the female model they used is quite a stunner…but either she is a hobbit, or the BTR1 used in the pics is a pre-production model. Because, really, the BTR1 looks a bit smaller in person than what it does in the pictures.

btr1-model

It’s a fantastically compact little device, occupying a smaller footprint than even Fiio’s super-mini M3 player.

btr1-m3-sizeDesign-wise the BTR1 does share a few similarities with Fiio’s K1 DAC/AMP. Most notable are the pinstripe-ish lines. But other than that, it’s pretty much an all-new type of device for Fiio. The body is almost entirely made out of metal, save for the areas whereby the Bluetooth signal needs to pass through.
fiio-btr1-top
The BTR1’s internal audio goodies consists of a very nice AK4376 DAC chip and CSRA64215 chip to handle the Bluetooth connectivity. In terms of power, the BTR1 isn’t particularly powerful, only capable of outputting up to 30mW into 16Ω, which is exactly the same as Fiio’s i1 DAC for iOS devices, and half of what the M3 is capable of outputting into 32Ω.

As mentioned previously, the BTR1 does support AptX (but not AptX HD, unfortunately), which is a very welcomed addition. This is something particularly interesting and important, as the lack of AptX support is something that has bitten Fiio in the past with their X1 2nd Gen, as well as the recently released X3 Mark III.

Read: Fiio X3iii (Mark III) Music Player Review

The front of the device houses a multi-function button, as well as an indicator LED toward the bottom. This button functions as a power button, as a play/pause button, to answer/end calls, to activate pairing mode, as well as to activate/deactivate a special sound effect mode. And then, in the centre of the BTR1 is a green LED which only lights up if the sound effect has been activated. The LED toward the bottom of the BTR1 is used to indicate info such as whether or not the BTR1 is connected to another device, pairing mode, and a low battery warning.
btr1-front

The left side of the BTR1 has a volume rocker, which can also be used to skip forward or back, as well as fast-forwarding or rewinding a track.

btr1-leftThe top is where you’ll find the headphone jack, and the bottom houses the microUSB charging port.

btr1-jackThe rear has a large shirt clip, which unfortunately doesn’t seem perfectly sturdy, as there is a bit of wiggle, but certainly doesn’t seem like enough to really cause a functional problem. Almost underneath the clip, toward the top edge, is what seems to be a MIC hole.

btr1-clipOverall it seems that Fiio actually did a great job with the design of the BTR1. They’ve kept it minimal, and the amount of functions they’ve been able to assign to the multi-function button is particularly impressive.

Using the device

Ok, so using the BTR1 is pretty simple. To turn the device on, simply hold the multi-function button in for 3 seconds. However, the BTR1 would of course need to be paired with another device. So, instead of holding the button in for only 3 seconds, hold it in for 5 seconds to get it into pairing mode. To turn the BTR1 off at any time, simply hold the multi-function button in for 3 seconds.
To answer/end a call, or play/pause, the button needs to be pressed a single time.
The volume buttons will increase/decrease the volume with a single click,
However, it should also be noted that the play/pause function of the multi-function button, as well as the skip and ffw/rwd functions of the volume rocker will only work with devices that also support inline remotes. the Hidizs AP60, for example, does not support inline remotes, and so the play/pause and skip functions do not work with it, but the Shanling M2s fully supports it.
Bluetooth range is also excellent when there are no obstructions, but when introducing obstructions (even your own body), the range does drop pretty quickly. This doesn’t seem to be so bad that it would make the device unusable in real-world day-to-day scenarios though.

Read: Shanling M2s High Resolution Mini DAP Review

Sound

Of course, like nearly every other Fiio product, there is the question of “how does it sound”?
Thankfully, Fiio have done a tremendous job. Not only does the BTR1 sound good, but it sounds surprisingly good.
For many people, especially those who are just starting to dip their toes in this wonderful albeit confusing world of Hi-Fi, there will come a time when you have to ask yourself “do I get a DAP, or a DAC?”. Do you want to have all your music on your main device (mobile phone) and just occasionally connect an extra device (DAC) to enjoy better sound quality, or do you want your music to be completely untethered from your mobile phone? We’ve got an article about just that here.
The BTR1 falls somewhat in the middle of that conundrum. If we were to only consider sound quality alone, then no, the BTR1 is no substitute for a quality DAC. However, let is also consider its price point. At an MSRP of just $50, the closest competitor in Fiio’s lineup would be the X1 2nd Gen, but it also costs double that of the BTR1.
To be perfectly honest, in terms of sonic quality, the BTR1 seems to be pulling ahead of the X1 2nd Gen. It’s actually rather remarkable to see what Fiio have managed to achieve with such a tiny device.

btr1-f9
In a direct, volume-matched fight whilst using Fiio’s F9 IEM, the BTR1 just sounds cleaner, clearer, and more neutral. In contrast, the X1 2nd Gen does sound fuller, but at the same time warmer, softer, and more rolled off. That fullness may very well be due to the fact that the X1 2nd Gen is capable of outputting more power, hence the bass frequencies have a bit more drive.
And really, this is where the compromise is going to come into play for many people. The fact is, the BTR1 cannot provide a great deal of power, which means that you’d be limited to using only low impedance headphones/IEMs. This would be less of a limitation with a DAP, even the X1 2nd Gen.
It should also be noted that the BTR1 was tested whilst connected to the Shanling M2s via AptX, rather than regular ‘ol SBC. When not using AptX, the BTR1 sounded pretty much on par with what the X1 2nd Gen had to offer. And this is something that will also need to be taken into consideration then – if your source device is not capable of taking advantage of the AptX codec, then you really aren’t going to reach the BTR1’s full sonic potential. It should be noted that the BTR1 does not support the ACC codec)

Lastly, the “Sound Effect” function engages a little audio trickery to make the sound stage wider. Personally I’m not a fan of what it does, and I feel that a bass boost would’ve been more useful to a greater number of people…but I could be wrong on that.

Value 

Ok, this was a little tough at first. Personally, I really love the BTR1. I feel that Fiio did a great job with the design and shaping the sound of the device. It’s sleek and minimal, and does damn fine job with audio – it’s just a cool little gadget. Essentially it allows you to turn any set of headphone/IEMs into a wireless set. Well, almost, as the BTR1 doesn’t exactly provide a great deal of power.
But then comes the question of “what’s the point of the BTR1, who is it for?”.
There are 2 uses that I can think of.
The first would be for cycling. Let’s say you use one of those saddle or top-frame bags, and you put your phone in that bag as you don’t want to carry the phone on your person in case you need to bail. Well, in that case you obviously couldn’t have any IEMs plugged into the phone. So in that scenario, sure, the BTR1 would work rather well. But in any other case where you would be carrying your phone on your person anyways – what use would the BTR1 be?
I then went over to Head-Fi to ask for some user opinions and why they chose to use the BTR1.
So, the second scenario would actually perhaps be more relevant as it might very well turn out to be a daily application with recent iPhone models (and others, should more manufacturers opt to remove the headphones jack from their devices). The BTR1 could very well prove to be useful in the absence of a headphone jack. Fiio does also make the i1, if a wired connection would be preferred, however, if you wanted to listen to music whilst charging your device, well then the i1 could obviously not be used. In that scenario, the BTR1 could prove to be rather useful. But of course, in the case of an iDevice, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of neither the AptX codec.

But then it hit me – Apple may very well be paving the way for headphone-jack-less phones…in which case we’d see more and more manufacturers opt for this design on newer devices.
And there in lies the beauty of the BTR1…I honestly couldn’t care less if they removed the headphone jacks. A year ago I thought it would be incredibly stupid for any manufacturer to remove the headphone-jack from their device, but given the BTR1’s sound quality and wireless convenience, I’m very much ready to ride this new jack-less design wave. No, the BTR1 isn’t going to replace a quality external DAC, but it’s already a really nice step up from the sound quality produced by the vast majority of mobile phones out in the wild.
Then there’s also the convenience of being able to leave our source device connected to a charger, but still have the freedom to roam around freely (whilst remaining within range, of course). And seriously, it’s $50…that’s pretty much a steal.

Rating

The TECH MERIT rating system is designed to take as many aspects of the device into account as possible. As such, we have a basic rating, as well as a final rating. The basic rating rates the product purely as a high quality portable audio device, and is generally a good indicator of how it stacks up to its rivals in terms of standard features and specs. The final rating, however, grants bonus points for any extra features and specs that aren’t quite as common, and is a great way to judge the product as a complete package.

Packaging
Look and feel: 8 / 10

Included Accessories
Protective case: –
Cables: YES

Build
Quality control: 9 / 10
Seems durable: YES
Use of metal: YES
Relative silence when inserting cables: 10 / 10

Sound
Sound stage: 8 / 10
Detail retrieval: 8 / 10
Sibilance: 9 / 10
Instrument separation: 8 / 10
Neutrality of sound signature: 9 / 10
Plays lossless audio: –
Plays 24-bit: –
Hiss: 10 / 10

Portability
Small size: 10 / 10
Relatively low weight: 10 / 10
battery life more than 8 hours: –

Value
Competitive price-point: YES
Relative value: 10 / 1


Basic Rating: 8.8

Bonus points
Has a screen: –
Ability to EQ: –
Bass boost: –
Various digital filters: –
Number of cables included: 1
Number of gain positions: –
Fast charging: –
How premium the case feels: –
Bluetooth: YES
Apt-X: YES
Premium look and feel of the device: 8 / 10
Number of digital connections: 1
Number of analogue connections: 1
Power adapter included: –
Balanced output: –
WiFi: –
Dual DAC setup: –
Premium DAC chip(s) used: YES
Plays DSD: YES
Plays 32-bit: YES
Wireless connection quality: 9 / 10

Final Rating: 9.2

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