This thread is for open discussion of various portable bluetooth receiver dac/amps from manufacturers like Fiio, Shanling, Radson, Hiby, etc. Feel free to add reviews, impressions, ask questions and provide general discussion about these products. To kick off the thread- Battle Royale of the tiny Bluetooth DAC/AMPs Bluetooth devices have come a long way. Nowadays sound quality is pretty good across the board and untethering your in-ears from your smartphone or other source device is a liberating convenience. Other the last few months I’ve been able to collect a few different makes and models and thought it would be useful to provide a comparison. Note: All were purchased at retail by me with the exception fo the UP2; it was provided as a review sample from Shanling. First some boring but informative specs about each model: Shanling UP2 - $79 Bluetooth 5.0: Qualcomm CSR8675 Codecs: LDAC, HWA LHDC, apt-X HD, apt-X Low Latency, apt-X, AAC and SBC Chipset: ESS ES9218P Sabre DAC/AMP Casing: Aluminium frame with glass panels on front and back Clip: Removable/slip-on Buttons: Single multifunctional wheel USB DAC: Yes Battery: Up to 11 hours, 200 hours standby Volume: 64 steps Output Impedance: 0.25 ohm Smartphone App: coming soon Hiby W5 - $109 Bluetooth 5.0: Qualcomm CSR8675 Codecs: UAT, LDAC, apt-X HD, apt-X Low Latency, apt-X, AAC and SBC Chipset: ESS ES9218P Sabre DAC/AMP Casing: Plastic and stainless steel Clip: Clip-on Buttons: Single touch USB DAC: No Battery: Up to 5 hours, 20 with charging case, 100 hours standby Volume: None Output Impedance: under 1 ohm Smartphone App: Yes Radsone Earstudio ES100 - $99 Bluetooth 5.0: Qualcomm CSR8675 Codecs: LDAC, aptX-HD, aptX, ACC and SBC Chipset: (2) AKM AK4375a DAC/AMP Casing: Plastic Clip: Built-in; Spring loaded Buttons: 1 volume rocker, 1 track rocker, 1 power button USB DAC: Yes Battery: Up to 14 hours single ended Volume: Analog Output Impedance: 0.5 ohm single ended ~1 ohm balanced Smartphone App: Yes Fiio BTR1K - $49 Bluetooth 5.0: Qualcomm QCC3005 Codecs: aptX, aptX low latency, AAC and SBC Chipset: AKM AK4376a DAC/AMP Casing: Plastic Clip: Built-in; Sprint loaded Buttons: 1 volume/track rocker, 1 power button, 1 multifunction button USB DAC: Yes Battery: Up to 18 hours, 140 hours standby Volume: 32 steps Output Impedance: 0.3 ohm Smartphone App: No Note: scoring is only meant to convey the differences in each category. It isn't really meant to combine each for an overall grade. Clip: Effectiveness and Quality BTR1K: 5 Built-in and sprint loaded. Clip is metal and feels robust. Tighter clip action than ES100. Easy to use and operate without looking. It just feels durable and well made. Inspires confidence! ES100: 4 Built-in and spring loaded. Seems decently built but have seen pictures of broken clips. Fiio clip feels more robust. Easy to use and operate without looking. UP2: 2.5 Unfortunately it’s not spring loaded, however the end is turned up with a large gap for easy slipping over a belt or jean pocket without looking. Feels slightly thin and not inspiring but hasn’t broken yet Can be removed. W5: 1 Broke in the first 10 minutes of ownership. The clip clips onto the W5 with two really thin plastic arms. Barely turned up on the end and almost impossible to put on a jean pocket without looking. Will break if it even looks a man’s belt. Worthless. Hiby should get a 0 here; 1 is being very generous. Casing: Aesthetics, Look and Feel UP2: 4.5 Feels great and looks great. Certainly looks premium next to the others. Feels like it will survive many falls, although the glass may scratch up. BTR1K: 4 Looks way better than you’d think a plastic casing would. Actually it almost looks like it’s metal and feels really durable. Fiio proves just because something is cheap in cost, it doesn’t have to look and feel cheap. ES100: 3 Looks cheap and feels cheap. Matte plastic is screaming 1982. At least it doesn’t look like an adult toy. While nothing to write home about, it does feel like it will last through average handling. W5: 2.5 From the Hiby Kickstarter campaign: “Embracing new technology inside and outside. HiBy W5 hops in the futuristic spaceship design, symbolizing the bold and innovative guiding philosophy of HiBy”. Uh, let’s not pretend, this thing looks like an adult toy. -Insert crude joke here- The stainless steel bottom is a nice aesthetic feature, as is the glossy black plastic top but the shape is off putting. Not sure I’d want to leave out on my desk for coworkers to see. Usage: Buttons and Operation UP2: 5 Unbelievably simple. One multifunction wheel for all operations. Long press for on/off; rotate for volume that is incredibly granular (64 steps!); double click to skip; single click to pause. You get the idea. This is my benchmark for easy to use. So easy a caveman could do it. Really, nothing more needs to be said. It just works and works well. BTR1K: 4.5 This was my previous benchmark on practical usability until the UP2 arrived. 1 large on/off button on the front; 1 small pause/play button on the side and 1 volume rocker on that same side, that also changes tracks with long presses. Could be simpler by consolidating the 2 buttons into 1. Otherwise very easy to operate blindly. ES100: 3 This is the only one with 2 headphone jacks. 1 for single ended (3.5mm) and 1 for balanced (2.5mm). Bizarrely they put these headphone jacks on the side; one on each side. So now your straight plugs will stick out from the side of the device. Lovely. And if you use a right angle plug, you either have to rotate it up, so the cable comes towards you from the top or otherwise it will cover the separate volume or track rockers on the sides. Come on man. When looking at the unit, the volume rocker is on the left side and track skip rocker is on the right side. Once you clip it your pocket or belt, the volume rocker is… hold on, let me figure this out. Here I’ll just feel for it. Wait the rockers are nearly flush, I can’t really feel what’s what. Dammit, let me take this thing off my belt and see what I need to press. Oh and there’s a little on/off/pause/play button on the balanced side, which is on the… sigh, I need to look again. The analog volume granularity is really good though. Lots of granular volume steps. W5: 1 There are no buttons and rockers where Hiby comes from. Apparently no user acceptance testing either. This is a touch interface. A very poor touch interface. Good luck turning it on. Supposedly a single tap for 2 seconds turns it on. I usually have to tap half a dozen or more times to turn it on. I’ve been tempted to see if a giant smash against the floor will work better. Once it’s on, it seems to be better responsive to taps. Single taps for pause/play and multiple taps for track selection. There is no volume control; you will need to use your phone to control volume, which is disappointing because I hate the volume increments on my iPhone (fix this already Apple!) Sound: Tone and Quality Note: I'm an Apple user, so all SQ thoughts are based on the AAC codec to my iPhone XS UP2: 4.5 The UP2 is the warmest of the four but the warmth is subtle and pleasing. The UP2 also has the strongest bass rumble, which helps deliver a more macro-dynamic presentation that is equally satisfying at lower and higher volumes. The UP2 also has very good treble sparkle and presence without ever being fatiguing. While ultimately I’d prefer a tonality without the warmth, the UP2 remains my all round favorite due to the more dynamic, richer and exciting presentation regardless of volume. ES100: 4.5 The ES100 is probably the most neutral in tonality of the four, however it also has the meatiest midrange of the bunch as well. Notes are thicker and richer than the W5 and BTR1K by a noticeable difference and it just sounds more realistic than those two. While it has similar note richness to the UP2, the Shanling does portray a bigger low end. While the ES100 doesn’t strike me as having a sparkly top end compared to the UP2 and W5, it’s certainly not lacking in treble presence; it just sounds a hair more subdued next to it’s meaty midrange. W5: 4.0 The W5 sounds relatively bright next to the UP2 and ES100. While brighter, it’s a very well done treble presentation that is exciting and realistic. While I never found it fatiguing, its note weight is thinner overall and can sound too thin with some IEM signatures. It has deep bass that nearly matches the UP2 with less warmth. When the W5 synergizes with an IEM like the Tanchjim Oxygen, the SQ appeal is undeniably good, but a the end of the day, it’s just not as all round friendly like the UP2 and ES100. BTR1K: 3.75 The BTR1K also has a thin midrange, which contributes to thinner note weight. Overall the BTR1K is fairly mild mannered and never offends, if a bit boring at times. It pairs better with thicker signatures like the Final Audio E1000. Occasionally the synergy with an IEM’s midrange will come across with uncanny clarity and resolution, like the Massdrop Plus, but ultimately I still find myself craving an more realistic note weight and richness. Wrap Up: Parting Thoughts At the end of the day, all these bluetooth dac/amps are very good performers and most can be had a very favorable price points. It’s not that one performs significantly better in sonics than the others but the slight tonal differences do add to perceived timbre realism and overall listening satisfaction. In fact I’d say the difference are so small, that the overall operation of the device will heavily influence my desire to use a given device. As good as the W5 can sound at times, it’s user experience is one of the worst I’ve ever encountered. It’s just not good functioning device and I have no desire to ever reach for it. The UP2’s ease of use makes it edge out the ES100 as my go to device. The UP2’s simplicity is an absolute joy to operate and simplicity matters to me, particularly on the go. That being said, I’d certainly not argue with anyone that finds the ES100 more sonically pleasing and therefore their preferred choice in a small bluetooth device. If you’re on a shoestring budget, there’s really nothing to complain about on the Fiio.