- Good sound quality
- Acceptable battery life
- Good range of outputs
- One input
- No battery meter
- Low battery indicator only gives a few minutes notice.
- This DAC/Amp, as I understand it, the TK-2 is a collaboration between TRI and KAEI. My guess is that the name is derived from the first letter of the names of the collaborating companies. The first iteration may have been spotted on the display table at an audio show in China last year. In the limited time I have used the TK-2, it appears to me to be a more than capable portable DAC/Amp with a few minor tweaks required in future iterations.
Disclosure and Note
- The T-K2 DAC/Amp was sent to me by KBEAR/TRI as pat of the European Review Tour package. The unit will go to the next reviewer in the tour group in due course.
- All opinions I express here are my own with no influence from anyone. No one has editorial control or influence over the contents of this review. I make an effort to ensure that I give the reader factual information. I appreciate your feedback.
Point to note
- Left to me alone, I would not grade products in the manner which the Head-fi showcase is set up. However, given what exists on Head-fi, my grading is entirely based on the context of the price of the unit. I do not believe all items should be graded, at all, but if they are, it must reflect the pricing of the product. Hence my grading does not apply across the board for all products.
My setup for this review
- I paired the T-K2 DAC/Amp with Fiio M11, Samsung galaxy Note 10 plus, the Mi Mix and I used UAPP, Amazon Music and Foobar as my music players.
- THD+N: 0.005%.
- Frequency Response: 10Hz-40kHz.
- Output Power: up to 1250mW@ 32Ω.
- Impedance: 6Ω-600Ω.
- Headphone Interface: 3.5mm single-ended/2.5mm Bal/4.4mm Bal.
- Fixed LO level: 2Vrms.
- Battery: 5000 MAh with approximately up to 9 hours.
- QC 3.0 fast charging support.
- Size: 13cmx6.8cmx2.4cm.
- Weight: about 280grams.
- Accessories - Rubber bands, cable adapter for Apple products.
- The TK-2 is built like a tank but looks quite elegant in spite of its robust build. It is made of a solid single piece of aluminium, which gives it a curb weight of 280 grams with dimensions as shown above. Despite its thick proportions it feels good, solid and above all manageable in the hand. Although I have to say the heft and thickness makes it borderline manageable as a portable. In most instances most of us would either use it as a desktop DAC/Amp or carry it out and about in a bag or pocket, and it would fit into the front pocket of men’s jeans, if a bit bulky, but it fits.
Inputs and Outputs:
- The single input point is via a type C port, with an adapter for Apple users. As I understand it, the TK-2 works with IOS. I did not test it on a compatible Apple device, so I cannot comment on how the TK-2 fares with Apple products. However, it is noteworthy that one report I have heard of is that an Apple user had issues, exactly what the issue was, I am not aware so I would suggest further reading for Apple users. The unit has a second type C port for charging. I had the unfortunate issue with my Topping NX4, where I accidentally plugged in the charging cable into the data input (all it takes is a momentary lapse) so to avoid that issue, I use a magnetic type C charging point plugged into the TK-2 for my time with the device to be safe. TK-2 has a plethora of outputs, 3.5 single ended output and 2.5 and 4.4 balanced outputs.
- There was a user’s report that the included type C data cable was emitting noise. I have not experienced any such noise but I used the type C data cable for a short time. I have to say I found the type C data cable too short for my use case. In order to avoid heating and bulk I do not stack any of my devices up, I use a longer type C data cable to allow separation of the source device and amplification device.
- A quick “walk around” the unit - At the top (the orientation is obviously determined by mode of use, pocket or desktop) there is a good size volume knob which feels good and gives good feedback when adjusting blind (in a pocket or bag). For the purposes of this review, I refer to orientation above, in effect with the unit with its back on the table and the volume knob facing the user, which allows one to read all the inscriptions the right way round. I also refer to the top to denote use in the pocket where the volume knob and outputs are at the top. Firstly, the two sides have no functional items on them. The back has access to the volume knob, but nothing else. At the front you get the knurled volume knob, which is also the on/off switch shares the front (or top when in a pocket) with the three output ports. There are five light indicators at the front which indicates the quality of the file playing. At the bottom of the unit, you get two USB C ports, at either end. One for charging and the other for data input. In between the USB C input ports is the low-high gain switch which is slightly recessed to avoid accidental switching, it is nonetheless easy to switch with a short fingernail when intended.
- It allows charging when in use and in my testing there is no noise and heat is negligible during charging when in use. Charging when not in use supports fast charge, although I cannot comment on that, as I did not have a compatible fast charger for the TK-2. charging speed. My Samsung fast charger does not work with the TK-2 but that is the same with some other devices, such as an Ibasso DAC/Amp which I had to return a couple of years ago.
- One of the minor flaws, in my view, is that the TK-2 has no battery level meter to show exactly how much power is remaining in percentage terms. However, all is not lost, instead it has a battery indicator (at the top next to the volume knob) which shows as green at most times, and a red light when you have approximately 5 minutes of battery power left (depending on volume levels at which you listen). So far what I have not gathered is that the unit battery life is consistent with the claimed time of approximately 9 hours, again depending on volume levels, my guess is that this is measured at low volume. What I can say is that I have not killed the battery at one sitting in the few weeks I have had the device.
Sound Signature and Quality
- The sound is quite clean and pleasant. The output power of 1250 mW will be more than enough for most headphones and I would guess almost all earphones and earbuds. It has the option of high and low gain. High gain is automatically switched off at higher volumes to manage volume levels.
- Put simply the TK-2 is neutral. It seems to me that there is no flavouring/colouring of the sound in any way. The transparency is such that it effectively amplifies the sound without altering it….what you put in is what you get out. Put in a neutral earphone and a you get the amount of bass, mids and highs, as tuned. The effect is that the quality of the music you put in and tuning of your earphones or headphones determine what you get out of the DAC/Amp. The sound quality is also dependant on the sound you put in, that is how revealing the TK-2 is. I love the quality of sound I have got out of it so far. This is incredibly good fun and compelling when it all comes together, it all sounds so good and never seems to ran out of power.
- For my testing, on the few occasions when something was amiss, I could identify the failing within a couple of tracks as that of the recording or the earphones.
The headphones/earphones used:
- Note: The volume knob, which (as previously stated) is the also the on/off switch is off at 7 O’clock. As you move the volume knob to you get no sound until 9 O’clock. For my testing I used my Samsung Note 10, Mi mix original and Fiio M11 as my source. I set the source volume source at 50 (out of 120) on the M11, and full volume of the Mi Mix and Note 10 plus and regulated the volume using the TK-2. Although, I found after testing that I was on about on the M11, so the TK2 had much much more power to pump out.
- Caution: Be careful do not blow your ears out!
- Blon B08
- The Blon 8 were sold as a Beryllium alloy driver headphones. They clearly demand a lot of power and the TK-2 had its work cut out powering them. Although, the B8 demand a lot of power, my ears had had enough at 3 O’clock, as I got more power than my ears could take out of the TK-2. The sound signature is as dark as you would expect from a Beryllium set and the TK-2 delivered beautifully.
- Blon B20
- This is an open-back Planar Magnetic set of headphones which demand a lot of power. Lots of DAC/Amps did not do the Blon B20 justice, because the bass was subdued. However, with the TK-2 these headphones shone, particularly, the bass. At last I heard these from a portable DAC/Amp which makes the bass sound very good. My thoughts of selling the Blon B20 are on hold.
- TRI Starlights
- Another set which requires a lot of power are the TRI Starlights with the Electrostatic drivers, again the TK-2 did a very good job powering the Starlights beautifully.
Comparisons with other devices
- Fiio BTR5:
- I just love the size and convenience of the BTR5 and I am sure many of its similarly designed competitors do a similarly good job by measure of convenience, but that requires these small sized DAC/Amps to fit easily into our pockets or clip-on to our shirts and come with software which makes them so versatile. The BTR5 convenience remains intact for the most part because of its size and weight. However, for the same reason, size limitations on the power stakes the BTR5 is necessarily limited, and if the aim is to power more demanding headphones or ear.
- HA FEE HA11:
- The HA 11 has similar specifications when compared to the TK-2, both use the same ESS chip sets and give the option of single-ended and balanced outputs. In terms of size, the TK-2 has a smaller footprint by about a third but is slightly thicker and weighs a bit more than the HA11. The HA11 has Bluetooth option which the TK-2 does not have. In relation to sound, they are both neutral with tons of power in reserve for most earphones and headphones.
- However, at the advertised maximum power output, the HA11 is 1000 mW @ 32 Ohms, while the TK-2 is advertised at 1250 mW @ 32 Ohms. The prices vary with time and purchase point but generally, the HA11 comes in cheaper. However, the HA FEE is not without issues, the most notable being no battery meter, a smaller battery, and a 4 hour battery life. In terms of sound quality, I would say there is not a vast difference. These two are similar so really it is a question of which of suits your needs.
- This is a nice sounding DAC/Amp with enormous reserves of power for most use cases. I love the quality of the build, the ergonomics, the sound quality.