The King of portable Bluetooth DAC/amps
Pros: + Neutral and transparent sound
+ Highly resolving and refined
+ Not clinical or artificial sounding
+ Dynamic and impactful
+ Powerful THX headphone amplifier
+ 10 band user configurable equalizer
+ Excellent Bluetooth performance
+ USB DAC function with charge on/off button
+ 1.3″ IPS color screen
+ Build-in microphone and car mode
+ FiiO Control application compatible
+ Excellent build quality
+ Comes with two cables and a protective case
Cons: – Larger and heavier than the BTR5
– Mediocre battery duration
– Menu not that easy to read
– Lighting cable is extra
– The material and the color of the case are poor choices because it gets easily stained and shows dirt
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The price of the BTR7 is $199.99 and EU customers can order it from here.
FiiO is a milestone company in the personal audio industry with thousands of satisfied customers around the world and I doubt that there is a need for lengthy introductions.
Let’s go straight to the BTR7 which is the flagship, portable, Bluetooth DAC/amp of the company ahead of the BTR3K and BTR5.
The brand new FiiO BTR7 is designed with an innovative 3-level audio architecture including the high performance DAC section, a low pass filter and THX amplifiers.
It houses two ES9219C DAC chips from ESS to do the decoding while it is the first portable Bluetooth amplifier to utilize two THX AAA-28 amplifiers in a fully balanced configuration.
There are two headphone outputs, one 4.4mm balanced and one 3.5mm single ended.
When used for USB audio the BTR7 relies on the XMOS XUF208 chipset as the receiver with support for 384kHz/32bit PCM, native DSD256 and MQA 8x.
The latest Qualcomm QCC5124 Bluetooth 5.1 chip, with its dual DSP and dual-core CPU architecture, ensures stable connection and support for the high resolution codecs LDAC and aptX HD.
The BTR7 uses an 880mAh capacity battery, which supports wireless charging, to provide power to the separated analog and digital sections with no less than 13 discrete voltage regulators.
Battery duration is good but not exemplary, it provided about 6 hours of use from the balanced output with mixed Bluetooth and wired connection.
The BTR7 features a 1.3″ IPS color display with a new colorful GUI that presents the configuration menu and other important information.
The screen is not that large so the lettering is tiny but it offers good visibility and it gets the job done much better than the screen of the BTR5.
The BTR7 has a built-in microphone so you can use it for making phone calls and it even supports earphones with CTIA in-line controls.
Appearance and user interface
The BTR7 design deviates from the other products of the series as it now much resembles that of the FiiO digital audio players like the M11S.
It certainly looks better and more modern than the BTR5 but it is slightly larger and heavier.
Still, it is very compact and lightweight to carry it around with you inside a pocket.
The chassis is made from laminated aluminum alloy with excellent finish and workmanship.
This is a well built and sturdy device that looks beautiful and has nice ergonomics.
The BTR7 has a multifunction button for powering and entering the menu, a play/pause button that is also used for making menu selections, a volume adjustment button that is also used to navigate through the menu and a charge on/off switch.
All of them are located at the right side of the chassis and are very easy to use with your right hand.
Volume is independently adjusted in 60 discrete levels and with the charge button set to off you can use the BTR7 as a self-powered USB dongle so it will not drain your phone’s battery.
FiiO Control application
The BTR7 supports the FiiO Control application which allows for further customization and allows OTA firmware updates, a function that I have tested and worked flawlessly.
You can set various parameters like what the buttons can do, select the input priority between Bluetooth and USB, select the boosted gain mode, power off timer and others.
All selections are permanently stored in the memory so you can use the BTR7 without further connecting it to the Bluetooth.
The BTR7 has a 10 band equalizer with pre-gain setting which is applicable to both USB DAC and Bluetooth modes.
There are seven preset modes and three user configurable that can be customized through the FiiO Control application and then are permanently stored in the device memory so you can use them from the internal menu of the BTR7 without the need to further access the app.
Inside the box you are going to find a type-C USB cable for charging, a short type-C to C data cable and a gray-colored protective leatherette case.
The Apple edition also has a type-C to lightning data cable and it is more expensive than the regular one.
The BTR7 was left playing music for about 80 hours in order to settle down.
The latest firmware v1.85 was installed.
I have used various headphones and earphones but mostly the Sennheiser HD660s, the Meze ADVAR, the FiiO FDX and the brand new FH7S.
All headphone cables are of pure silver and made by Lavricables.
Power output is really impressive for such a dongle, with 320mW/32Ω from the balanced output, the BTR7 is quite powerful and it drove the HD660s not only painfully loud but also with good authority and grip.
I never needed more than 40 steps from the 60 and I also had good results with the HiFiMan Susvara although I engaged the boost mode just to have all the juice on tap.
Low gain has an impressively low noise floor and you can use it with more sensitive earphones without worrying about hiss.
Sound quality is excellent, the BTR7 is crystal clear, neutral and transparent with excellent linearity and premium fidelity.
At the same time it manages to sound quite musical, engaging and certainly not clinical or artificial.
It is even slightly warm and it ranks as one of the least digital and etched sounding implementations of the ES9219C I have ever tested, a DAC chip that can be notoriously bright and harsh.
The BTR7 is a lively sounding DAC with fast transient response and a firm, well controlled bass which is distinguished by its layering and definition.
The texture is full bodied and not lean as someone would expect while dynamics are stellar.
It seems that the extra THX amplifiers are doing some great job into adding impact, weight and thrust into the sound.
Mid-range is not dry and sounds well articulated with a mostly natural timbrel that gives music a good sense of realism.
The treble is resolving and refined enough with good detail retrieval, excellent clarity and a smoothed texture without causing listener fatigue despite being mildly forward and sparkling.
Another area where the BTR7 seems to benefit from the THX amplifiers is the soundstage which is expanded and wide with spacious and precise allocation of the performers.
It is not that holographic but it still manages to sound large with acceptable depth layering for the price point.
Bluetooth sound performance
The BTR7 is firstly and foremost a Bluetooth DAC/amp and most people are going to buy it for wireless mostly use rather than wired.
And they shouldn’t be worried at all because the Bluetooth connection is fast, stable and reliable with good working distance and an excellent sound quality.
With the LDAC codec enabled, the sound performance gets so close to the wired that you shouldn’t even bother with the hassle of the cable, at least while on the go.
You can spot the usual treble compression and some loss of overall fidelity but other than that the result is pretty spectacular.
Even with more demanding material like high resolution classical music, I didn’t find much to complain about, at least while I was not in critical listening mode.
Compared to the BTR5 (original version)
The BTR7 is finer sounding, it has better clarity, greater definition, it is more resolving and extended to both ends of the spectrum, it has higher quality texture, more natural timbre and greater dynamics.
It can drive demanding earphones and if you don’t mind the extra bulk then sound-wise it is a definite upgrade.
I don’t have the BTR5 2021 version which uses the same DAC chip as the BTR7 but I doubt if it can compete with it in raw power, shear dynamics and overall realism.
Compared to the EarMen Colibri ($333)
Another pretty interesting comparison is with the EarMen Colibri which despite not having Bluetooth connectivity is $133 more expensive than the FiiO BTR7.
So why would someone, who needs a self-powered device, buy the more expensive Colibri over the BTR7?
One reason would be that it is a slightly more compact and lightweight although differences are not that big.
Another one would be brand fanboyism, not all people like FiiO.
Or the preference for minimalist circuit designs, the Colibri cuts down all unnecessary features for the best possible sound quality.
The last one would be the just slightly more transparent and refined sound quality of the Colibri and its ability to push more current into 16Ω loads from the balanced output, where it can ditch 560mW against the 235mW of the BTR7.
But other than that, the BTR7 is definitely the more feature inclusive device with an equally stunning sound quality and a more friendly price.
In the end
The FiiO BTR7 is a portable, USB DAC dongle which perfectly integrates excellent Bluetooth and wired sound quality with great power output in a sturdy and well built body which is not too bulky.
You can carry it all day long without the need to use a cable and then you can use it as a USB DAC when back at home.
An excellent solution that will equally suit the beginner as his first do-it-all portable source and the advanced user who seeks wireless connectivity without sacrificing sound quality.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2022.