Fiio introduced the first-gen BTR5 back in 2020, and the Bluetooth DAC went on to become one of the best-selling options in the sub-$200 category. It's easy to see why: the BTR5 featured a good ESS DAC, had enough power to drive most IEMs and headsets, and came with a suite of AptX codecs along with native 24-bit audio decoding over wireless.
There wasn't much missing on the BTR5 to start with, and Fiio rolled out a new variant — dubbed the BTR5 2021 — at the end of 2021 with a newer ESS DAC and the addition of MQA rendering. The latter point is particularly useful for me as it makes the BTR5 2021 ideal to use with Tidal. What's that much more alluring is that Fiio didn't increase the cost here, slotting in the BTR5 2021 at the same $130 retail figure as the first-gen model.
I used the BTR5 2021 for over three months now, connecting it to a multitude of sources including the best Android phones — Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Pixel 7 Pro — and it is one of the easiest ways to stream high-res music off your phone. If you're looking to get your hands on a portable DAC, here's what makes the BTR5 2021 such a great choice.
Let's start with the design. The BTR5 2021 has a diminutive size that makes it ideal for portability, and although it is aimed at the budget category, the build quality is rock-solid. The DAC has slightly curved sides mated to a metal chassis, and the best part of the design is a 0.49-inch (64 x 32) OLED panel at the front that shows connection status, codec currently in use, volume, and battery level. You can also adjust settings on the device, including adjusting the EQ, changing filters, and enabling car mode.
As for ports, the BTR5 2021 has an unbalanced 3.5mm jack alongside a balanced 2.5mm port, and there's a USB-C port at the bottom that's used for connecting the DAC in wired mode and for charging. You'll find the power button and volume rocker on the right, and an action button for confirming changes to the settings, music playback, and taking calls. You'll find dual mics as well on the right, and it is useful for making hands-free calls.
The BTR5 2021 weighs just 43.7g, and the package contains a hard shell case that gives the DAC a little more resilience against daily wear and tear. It has a 550mAh battery that's touted to last up to nine hours, but in my usage, I got just under six hours of use when using the 3.5mm jack and streaming with AptX HD. That's still more than adequate for daily listening sessions, and the DAC charges over the USB-C port. A full charge takes just over 90 minutes, and there is no fast charge here.
Switching over to connectivity, there's a Qualcomm CSR8675 module that handles the wireless side of things, and it offers Bluetooth 5.0 along with all the codecs you could ask for: SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX LL, AptX HD, and LDAC. The DAC goes up to 24-bit/96kHz over wireless and 32-bit/384kHz when using it in USB DAC mode, and with wired connectivity you get 16x MQA and DSD256 decoding.
The DAC has a power output of 240mW at 32ohm via the balanced connection, going down to 80mW at 32ohm for the 3.5mm port. The 122dB sensitivity at 32ohm allows the DAC to drive just about any IEM and most headsets, and you won't find any issues here. On that note, the Bluetooth 5.0 connection you get with the DAC is rock-solid; I didn't see any connection issues in the three months I used the BTR5 2021. Furthermore, there's NFC here and it works with Fast Pair to connect to your Android device in just a few seconds.
A nifty addition with the BTR5 2021 is the ability to adjust the EQ; while you get some customizability on the device itself, you'll need to use the Fiio Control app to unlock the full potential of the feature. You get a 10-band EQ, ability to select Bluetooth codecs, change button settings, and a lot more.
Coming to the sound signature, the BTR5 2021 has a warm sound that is inviting, and it follows a V-shaped signature, focusing on the low-end and highs. That said, you still get a lot of character for the mids, with vocals coming across with plenty of clarity. The bass is tight and refined, with excellent detail retrieval and a decent amount of rumble that's enjoyable across a wide variety of genres.
The mids are balanced very well, and there is enough energy and resolution here for acoustic instruments to shine. The treble is balanced and natural, with a good extension and no harshness to the sound. Sibilance is controlled nicely, and overall the BTR5 2021 does what any good DAC should do: it gets out of the way and lets the IEMs shine.
Overall, the design of the BTR5 2021 is elegant, and the DAC looks and feels like a product that costs a lot more than $120. I get the same feeling with the sound characteristics and feature-set; the sheer number of wireless codecs available here means you won't have any issues playing high-res music wirelessly, and the wired mode gives you a little bit more with regards to MQA and DSD.
If you want a Bluetooth DAC/amp that's designed for portable use and offers stellar sound and all the wireless codecs you need, Fiio's BTR5 2021 is still the default choice for under $200.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.