FiiO R7 All-In-One Streaming Amplifier
Cheryl Tan samples a cute little desktop headphone streaming system, complete with hi-res digital playback…
R7 All-In-One Streaming Amplifier
US$749 | S$1,099 RRP
As serious audiophiles know, two things are necessary to enjoy this hobby – money and space. You might have enough cash for a full separates system, but if you don’t have room for the source, preamp, power amp and speakers, the point is moot. Enter the FiiO R7, a compact one-box player, streamer, decoder and headphone amplifier.
Measuring just 110x134x160mm and weighing only 1.28kg, it is tiny by grown-up hi-fi standards. Design-wise, it looks incredibly sleek and fits in very nicely on my desk. It comes in a choice of black or white finishes. The front of the unit features a large 4.97-inch 720p touchscreen display that’s responsive and bright, with three touch buttons underneath that act as the navigation buttons when using the unit in Android Mode.
To the right of this are two knobs, one for volume that doubles up as a power button, with twelve volume steps for fine adjustment. The second knob has four output mode settings: PO-PRE OUT, PO, PRE OUT and LO. PO is for just the headphone outputs on the front, which include 4-pin XLR, 4.4mm balanced and 6.3mm single-ended options. LO activates the rear output options but at a fixed volume. PRE OUT activates the rear output options but gives you the ability to set the volume. Lastly, PO-PRE OUT activates both the headphone and rear audio outputs. If you’re not planning on using the headphone outputs, FiiO includes a dust cover for the ports. Both knobs are surrounded by an LED light that can change colour depending on the sampling frequency of the music that’s playing, which is a handy touch.
On each side is a panel with honeycomb cutouts over dust protector mesh, and this serves as both decoration and heat dissipation points. It looks very neat, so I commend FiiO on how it has handled ventilation on the R7. Even after a whole day of use with headphones and speakers, the unit only felt warm and not truly hot to the touch.
Moving to the rear, and this is where we really get all the options. There’s an SD card slot which comes with a micro-SD card converter thoughtfully included, so you can pull the card from your DAP to use here. There’s also a USB 3.0 Type-C port for data transfer, USB DAC mode and USB Host functions. Under that, there’s a USB A port for USB Host interface, supporting external decoders, hard disks and more. You get two sets of RCA line outs above the three-pin XLR balanced line out. Additionally, you get TOSLINK optical in and outputs alongside coaxial electrical in and outs.
There’s even a LAN port here, so you can hook up the R7 to a network and stream music from your NAS if you have one. The R7 comes with an AC power brick by default, although there’s also a DC power input so that you can use your own power supply. Finally, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antenna is here at the back, and the R7 is Roon Ready as well.
FiiO has also packed a lot into the internals. First, there’s a 30W switching power supply with tantalum capacitors, a specially-designed metal cover over the transformer, low-dropout (LDO) regulators and more to ensure low jitter and noise, according to FiiO. This powers the ESS ES9068AS Sabre DAC inside, along with two THX AAA 788+ amplifiers.
There are five gain levels here, with FiiO claiming a 3.65W output on the highest gain level (Ultra High) with a 32-ohms load, although this is, of course, when you’re using balanced outputs. We paired the R7 with the Audioengine A2+ and Sennheiser HD660S2 for this review, and we’ll get into how it sounds in just a bit, but in a nutshell, there was plenty of power to drive the HD 660S2 with its 300-ohms impedance. The unit runs a Snapdragon 660 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and Android 10. The 4GB of onboard RAM is more than sufficient for typical music listening, and there wasn’t any lag that I noticed while using the R7.
There are eight mode options that you can use the R7 in. There’s Android Mode, which basically turns this into a DAP, as well as Pure Music Mode, which limits you to using the FiiO music application. Then, there’s USB DAC mode if you want to use the R7 with your computer or phone, and there’s also Bluetooth Receiving mode which supports SBC, AAC and LDAC reception and the R7 also supports SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX, aptX HD and LHDC transmission. Continuing on, there’s an AirPlay mode for use with Apple devices, a COAX mode, an OPT (optical) mode and a Roon Ready mode.
I mostly used the R7 in either Android Mode where I streamed hi-res music from Apple Music, or in Pure Music Mode, with local files I transferred over, and finally, USB DAC mode, which I used with my desktop. The setup was straightforward, just requiring downloading the FiiO USB DAC driver onto my desktop, and then everything else was a breeze. I had the Audioengine A2+ connected via RCA cables while the Sennheiser HD 660S2 was connected via the stock balanced 4.4mm cable to the output on the front. I did try my Noble K10 custom IEMs with the R7 on the lowest gain setting as well, using the included adapter, albeit just briefly to check for noise and the likes, so I won’t talk about it much except to say that I didn’t notice much noise at all.
The R7 does an excellent job at what FiiO bills it to do, which is to play music in an entertaining and involving way. On the player side of things, it’s well balanced, accurate and very detailed while injecting musicality into the mix. There’s plenty of power and impact with the bassline, with a full-bodied, rich sound. Listening to Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz and Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow was great, with the low frequencies really shining through.
The midrange is ever-so-slightly recessed, but you get more than enough transparency and resolution with little colouring of the original sound. Vocal timbre is gorgeous, and I found myself drifting into a daze to focus on critical listening more regularly than usual when using these and the Sennheiser HD 660S2. Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License is one of my favourite songs to listen to, and here, we get her voice coming across crisply with plenty of emotion. Elliott Smith’s Needle In the Hay is another excellent song, with the quick strums of the guitar coming across very well defined while the vocal layering is distinct and explicit.
Treble is also beautifully done, with energy, sparkle and a liveliness to strings and flutes. Something to note is that if you’re a fan of classical music and already have a favourite pair of headphones for listening, the R7 will definitely take it up a notch. The soundstage is super wide and spacious, with fantastic imaging and staging that really helped enhance the experience when I was listening to tracks like Mozart’s March in D, K. 335 No. 1 by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. And, of course, if you’re listening with hi-res files, it’ll absolutely be a better experience than with Red Book or lossy ones.
At this price point, FiiO has a winner on its hands. The R7 is a compact little device that offers excellent amplification for headphones, DSD upsampling, wireless connectivity and more. More than that, it made everything that I paired with it sound so much better. For people with limited space at home for audio equipment and not too big a budget, this is surely a game changer – and so comes heartily recommended.
After diving down the custom IEMs rabbit hole since she was 18, Cheryl has embarked on a long journey trying out as many audio products as possible ever since. She’s still waiting for the day a company can create a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound just as good as wired earphones.
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