By : Theo @ Samma3a
As this is a very affordable and simple device, the BTR3 doesn’t come with much included.
The Type-C cable is nice and short but you’re very likely to just end up using one of your existing cables (assuming that you’ve got Type-C-equipped devices).
The lanyard is OK, I guess, but I personally would’ve preferred a little leatherette case or something similar to just help protect the little BTR3 from regular day-to-day wear and tear.
The BTR3 doesn’t exactly look like a ground-breaking device, but it does feel high quality nonetheless. All around the sides is metal whereas the front has a 2.5D glass panel. Using a combination of glass and metal in this way will pretty much always result in a device that looks quite premium, and the BTR3 is no exception to this. The bottom features the 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a USB Type-C port which can be used to both charge the BTR3’s internal battery as well as connecting the device to a computer after which the BTR3 can act as an external sound card for that computer. The right side houses all of the volume, play/pause, and power-buttons as well as a microphone which sits between the aforementioned play/pause and power buttons. On the front glass panel there is also a rather dark NFC logo which is to indicate that, just like the uBTR and newly-released BTR1K, the BTR3 sports easy one-touch NFC pairing. But, of course, this is only applicable to Android-users.
There’s also a faintly-visible FiiO logo which lights up and is used to indicate various statuses of the BTR3.
For example, when the device is connected to another device, then it will flash with a blue colour once every 3 seconds, whereas if it flashes red and blue alternately, that indicates that the BTR3 is in pairing mode.
But furthermore, there are various other colours that are used to indicate which Bluetooth format is currently being used. The below table provided by FiiO illustrates the meaning of each colour.
So, essentially the BTR3 pretty much looks like a slightly fatter version of the uBTR, but this is for good reason, because along with that physical size increase comes an improvement in the specs and features too.
Compared to the uBTR, the BTR3 offers compatibility with a wider range of Bluetooth formats (including LDAC and LHDC), both a bigger battery and longer battery-life, as well as a fair amount more driving power. It still won’t be enough to adequately drive more demanding headphones (especially full-sized ones), but for more portable-orientated balanced-armature IEMs the BTR3’s power should be fine.
As briefly mentioned, the BTR3 also features a built-in microphone, and this is to allow the user to use the device for hands-free calls. If you use these types of Bluetooth adapters with a phone (which most people are likely to do), then you often forgo the ability to properly take calls.
You see, if the Bluetooth adapter doesn’t have a built-in mic, or it doesn’t have an audio return channel within the headphone jack, then you won’t be able to talk to the person on the other side even if your headphone has an in-line mic on the cable.
So, by having a built-in mic, FiiO solved this issue and extend the functionality of the BTR3.
But there are also some other features that are somewhat more hidden.
First up are the volume-buttons. Not only do these act, well, as volume buttons, but they can also allow you to use the BTR3 as a remote to skip tracks. A single press changes the volume, whereas if you press and hold the appropriate button, that will skip forward or back (depending on which button is pressed).
Whilst this certainly works, it’s a less than ideal solution as it means that you have to continuously press the button to change volume. But, whatever, it’s not the end of the world, right?
The play/pause button also has a hidden feature as this button is used to both force the BTR3 into pairing mode (by holding for 5 seconds), as well as activating Siri.
And then finally, the last hidden feature is one that you won’t be able to access directly from the BTR3, but there’s also no guarantee that you would be able to access it at all.
If the BTR3 is connected to a mobile device (Android in my case), then you should be able to access some additional settings via the FiiO Music app.
Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t seem to be stable as I can’t always see the BTR3 listed in the appropriate settings panel.
If, by whatever miracle you can access the BTR3 via the FiiO Music app, then this allows you to change various settings such as adjusting the channel balance, selecting between 4 different digital filters, turning the LED indicator on or off, and you’ve also got access to a user guide.Then there’s also an equaliser option, but this isn’t available yet and so we’ll only be able to check this out in either a future firmware release for the BTR3, or after an update of the FiiO Music app.
Now, let’s take a look at the sound that this little device can produce.
Of course, as we’ve already covered, because of the size you have a physical limitation with regards to what kind of battery can be incorporated here, and as a result the BTR3 just won’t be enough to drive more demanding headphones.
Given that we can expect no more than about 25mW of power, the BTR3 is best suited for your more efficient headphones, and in particular IEMs. Pair it up with something like FiiO’s own FH5 or FA7 and you’d be hard-pressed to justify any need for something more powerful to be perfectly frank with you.
It offers you an enjoyable sound and there’s nothing really that jumps out at me that I would call a flaw. Sure, it might not have the most convincing detail retrieval, but if we consider the size of the BTR3 and the fact that we’re judging its sound quality based on a wireless Bluetooth signal, then the BTR3 is actually an impressive little device.
What’s more, let’s consider where you would use something like the BTR3. Maybe on your morning run, or at the gym, or perhaps on your daily bus or train ride. Every single one of those scenarios require portability, and absolutely none of them place you in a setting where you’d be able to perceive every little nuance of the music. And the reason I mention that is because, realistically, in such scenarios I can pretty much guarantee you that the sound quality difference between the $70 BTR3 and a similar but bulkier device costing well into a few hundred dollars is not something you are likely to notice or really care about.
And really, that’s where the BTR3 is best suited. It’s not intended for critical listening, but what it gives you is a fantastically compact, light-weight and really good-sounding device for a mere $70.
OK, so for that $70 you get a pretty decent and feature-packed device in return.
It’s an attractive device that gives you compatibility for a wide range of Bluetooth codecs, along with the versatility of using it entirely as a Bluetooth receiver, or as an external soundcard for your computer.
So far, that seems like a very decent value proposition, doesn’t it? Well, to be fair, if those are you needs and you want the device to have an ultra-portable size, then the BTR3 is a very reasonable option.
Except, there’s a bit of a problem, and that comes courtesy of the M0 from Shanling. Technically speaking, the M0 is roughly 60% bigger and 45% heavier than the BTR3, but for realistic day-to-day usage that increase in size and weight isn’t really something you’d notice.
And yet, the M0 is a device that renders something like the BTR3 practically pointless in my opinion.
The M0 can do just about every single thing the BTR3 can apart from offering you a built-in microphone for the purpose of taking calls and easy one-touch NFC pairing.
But, in exchange for lacking those 2 relatively insignificant features, what the M0 offers you is a fully-fledged touch-screen stand-alone music player.
Where the BTR3 must be connected to either a computer or via Bluetooth to another source device, the M0 has a card slot which allows you to access and play your music totally independent from another device.
What’s more, the M0 can output a little over 3 times the amount of power that the BTR3 can (into a 32-ohm load), which makes it usable for a greater number of headphones/IEMs.
With the latest software update the M0 can even show you the track and artist title of the current song playing when connected to a source device via Bluetooth. You can get all of those advantages, and it’ll only cost you a mere $40 more than what the BTR3 will.
So really, if you can stretch your budget a little bit, the M0 just makes more sense.
If you stretch your budget by yet another $40 you could get FiiO’s M6 which, again, can do almost everything the BTR3 can (except again for the calling function and NFC pairing), but it ups the ante yet again by throwing in WiFi connectivity and the ability to install streaming apps.
Sure, the M6 does in the end cost a little over double what the BTR3 does, but it’s totally worth it, in my opinion.
But of course, if you don’t need any of that, if you don’t need a standalone music player, or a touch-screen, or WiFi connectivity, or access to streaming apps…well, then it really doesn’t make much sense for you to be paying for those features. In that event, I think the BTR3 is worthy of your consideration as a quality but still affordable Bluetooth adapter for your on-the-go music needs.