FiiO KB3 Review

FiiO KB3 review featured

In this article, I’m reviewing the FiiO KB3 Mechanical Keyboard. The KB3 features dual CS43131 DAC chips, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs, a gasket mount design and Gateron Gpro 3.0 switches. It’s priced at $129.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Linsoul for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

FiiO KB3 Review
Verdict
The FiiO KB3 is an excellent keyboard with fantastic built-in audio.
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Pros
Bass extension is excellent
Neutral sound signature
Strong spatial imaging
Audio output power
Great typing experience (Gateron Yellow switches)
Satisfying typing sound profile
VIA compatible
Cons
Transparent keycaps might be distracting for some
Plastic outer casing
4.5
Our Score
WHERE TO BUY

FiiO KB3

Design

If you follow Chinese HiFi (ChiFi) at all, you’re probably familiar with the FiiO name. Established in Guangzhou, China in 2007, FiiO has risen to be one of the most popular brands in portable ChiFi.

FiiO has traditionally specialized in portable audio, making products such as earphones, DACs and digital audio players (DAPs). As time goes by, FiiO continues to push its boundaries and branch out into other areas of audio such as speakers and full-size headphones. And now they’ve brought us the KB3 audiophile keyboard.

Built around an aluminium alloy top case and acrylic frame, the KB3 feels substantial in the hands. It’s a 75% board with 81 keys and 9 layers, including sound-absorbing and damping materials.

At the top right corner of the board is a vivid red volume knob. The knob is knurled aluminium and feels as good as it looks. It also acts as a button to mute/unmute the audio output.

There’s a USB-C port on the back where you plug the board into your PC or MAC and there are 2* USB pass-through ports. But it’s the left side that will interest audiophiles because that’s where the 3.5mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced headphone outputs are located. The 3.5mm output supports TRSS headsets so the KB3 is perfect for communicating in gaming or video conferencing.

Lastly, the KB3 supports the VIA software, meaning you can remap keys, create macros and custom RGB settings.

FiiO KB3 RGB transparent keycaps

Typing Experience

The keycaps are transparent smoky grey colour and they look fantastic when the RGB lights are shining through them. Just like the Gateron switches, the keycaps are hot-swappable so you could change them out for another set if you desire (but these look so good!)

This keyboard must have been constructed with audiophiles in mind because the keys sound fantastic straight out of the box. It’s one of the most satisfying-sounding keyboards I’ve typed on when it comes to sound profile.

This is the first time I’ve used Gateron yellow switches and now I can fully understand why they’re so popular. They’re linear so they don’t have tactile feedback or an audible click. Combined with the sound-damping foam silicone dampener, they play a big part in creating the KB3’s awesome typing sound.

Audio Components

This wouldn’t be an audiophile keyboard without a solid DAC built-in and for that purpose, FiiO has outfitted the KB3 with dual CS43131 DAC chips. The board supports up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256. Astute readers might notice that KB3 has the same DAC components as the FiiO KA13 so you can start to see the value this product delivers for the price.

Paired with the dual CS43131s are 2* SGM8262 op-amps and together they deliver 550mW of output power. That’s enough juice to run all but the most demanding headphones.

Power and Pairing

The KB3 has loads of power on tap and even headphones like the 350 ohms FiiO FT3 are easily driven. Using the 4.4mm balanced output with the FT3, I had the volume set to between 25-40/100 and that was more than loud enough for me. It was a similar story with the Sennheiser HD650 and I never felt like I needed any more power.

At the other end of the scale, in-ear monitors (IEMs) pair perfectly with KB3 too. I was a little concerned that the implementation inside the keyboard might introduce noise from the switches and RGB but that wasn’t an issue. I couldn’t hear any background buzzing or hissing, even with sensitive IEMs.

Rear USB ports

Sound

Gear used for testing includes the Sennheiser HD560, FiiO FT3 and FiiO FH3. I found the staging and detail retrieval were slightly better when using the 4.4mm balanced output but the 3.5mm output still sounds great.

If you’re worried about what kind of audio quality you can get from a keyboard then let me assuage those concerns. The experience is rousing and KB3 sounds as enthusiastic as it looks.

Listening to Anathema’s “Untouchable Part 1“, with the FiiO FT3 headphones, I was immediately swept up by the natural resonance of the acoustic guitar and richness in the male vocals. When the kick drums came in I was thrilled with their depth and impact, while at the same time impressed by the instrument separation and cohesion during the busier segments.

The same DAC and headphone combo is adept at nailing the timbre of instruments too. I was completely engrossed by the piano during the soothing opening of Ludovico Einaudi’s “Love is a Mystery” and also relieved when there were no signs of sharpness during the animated middle section.

Overall, the FiiO KB3 has a neutral sound with excellent bass extension and a balanced character. The soundstage has moderate dimensions but offers a good sense of depth and strong imaging, making it great for gaming and music alike.

FiiO KB3 RGB effects

Verdict

The FiiO KB3 is somewhat of a niche product but one that I hope to see growing down the line. As a keyboard, the KB3 looks and feels fantastic and the sound profile of the keys is excellent right out of the box without the need for any modding.

Some might not love the flashy RGB lighting but they can be turned off or you can dim the brightness. I’d love to try it with some opaque keys with transparent symbols and because the keys (and switches) are hot-swappable, it’s something I might consider down the road.

In regards to the KB3’s audio quality, it’s fantastic. FiiO has basically taken a KA13 and fitted it into the keyboard. The result is a neutral sound signature with powerful lows, natural mids and smooth highs.

If you’re into either keyboards or audio or both, the FiiO KB3 warrants your attention. I love it as a concept and I love it in practice. Considering it costs less than a standalone FiiO KA17 dongle DAC, it’s fantastic value.

Specifications
  • Type: USB/DAC – Mechanical Keyboard
  • Model: FiiO KB3
  • Chipset: 2x dual Cirrus-Logic CS43131
  • Op-Amp: 2x SGM8262
  • USB Chip: Savitech SA9312L
  • Frequency range: 20 – 40 000Hz
  • Compatibility: PCM up to 32bit/384kHz – DSD up to DSD256 – DSD DoP up to 128
  • SNR: 122dB (32 ohms)
  • Output voltage: 2.3V (single-ended) / 4.2V (balanced)
  • Output power : 170mW @ 32ohms (single-ended) / 550mW @ 32ohms (balanced)
  • THD: < 0.0005%
  • Output impedance: < 1.7 Ohm
  • Noise floor: <2.5 uV
  • Size: 329mm x 140mm x 43.5mm 
  • Weight: 1060g
  • Socket: USB-C

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