In today’s article, I’m reviewing the FiiO JadeAudio KA2 dongle DAC and headphone amplifier. The KA2 features dual CS43131 DAC chips and a 4.4mm balanced headphone output. It supports up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256. The price is $50.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by FiiO for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
FiiO JadeAudio KA2 Review
A dual-DAC dongle at this price is one thing. Sounding this good is another.
The KA2 comes in the same style box as the KA1 and KA3. Inside the box, you have the KA2 DAC and a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
If you’ve seen the FiiO JadeAudio KA1 or KA3 there’s nothing new to see here. The KA2 has a blocky, utilitarian design with a ring LED on the front. The KA2 has a fixed cable just like the KA1. It looks sturdy enough but if anything were to happen to the cable you’d have to replace the entire unit.
The chassis is made from a block of aluminium and sports the same black and gold colourway as the previous models. There are, however, significant changes compared to the KA2’s siblings. First of all, this dongle has a single balanced 4.4mm headphone output. Furthermore, the KA2 forgoes the Sabre DAC in favour of dual CS43131 DAC chips.
The same DAC chip configuration is present in some of my favourite dongles, like the xDuoo Link2 Bal and Moondrop Dawn. So how much power does the KA2 have? Well, it pushes a modest 153mW. While it’s more than enough power for most IEMs, that number is lower than many of the KA2’s competition.
With support for up to 32-bit/384hKz and DSD256, the KA2 is ready to handle just about any music file you throw at it. The ring LED glows different colours depending on the current sample rate. They are as follows:
I’m yet to hear a dual CS43131 dongle that I didn’t like and the FiiO JadeAudio KA2 joins the list of good ones. As usual, I was almost deafened the first time I plugged the device into my laptop and got blasted with 100/100 Windows volume. I really wish I’d remember to adjust the volume each time I test a new dongle or that manufacturers would put an advisory sticker on them to remind me.
Once my ears had recovered, I got down to listening. The KA2 has the signature characteristics of the 2x Cirrus Logic DAC sound i.e. transparent, detailed and smooth. There was more than enough power for everything I plugged in, including the Hifiman Sundara. In fact, anything over 40/100 volume was painfully loud.
The imaging is excellent. Listening to Arne Domnerus Group’s “How High the Moon” it feels as though I’m sitting at a table just in front and slightly below the stage. I can clearly hear other members of the audience behind and to either side of me.
Firing up “Air Song” by Solar Fields I was impressed by the fullness and power of the kick drums. The soundstage is vast and expansive, especially with the Hifiman Sundara. Little ticking noises and twangs circle around my head while the main synthesizer sits firmly centred in the middle. Despite the simplicity of the song, there’s a lot of subtle complexity in it as well and I can enjoy every element of it with the KA2.
There’s not even a hint of background noise, even with sensitive IEMs. KA2 handles vocals perfectly too. Playing through “All is Quiet by the Wall” by Caligula’s Horse, KA2 handles the dynamics of the song like a boss. From the calm verses to the belting in the chorus, the vocals sound natural, uncoloured and articulate. The hi-hats and cymbals sound airy and lifelike, trailing off naturally into the ether.
When I was asked to review the FiiO JadeAudio KA2, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea until I learned that it had different DAC chips than the KA1 and KA3. When I learned that it had a dual CS43131 configuration, I went all in. I was not disappointed.
The KA2 resides in the top echelon of sub $100 dongle DACs thanks to its solid build and performance but mostly due to its fantastic audio quality. Recommended.