I miss Pono, but the BTR 7 isn't bad

Ages ago I got to hear Neil Young’s Tobleron shaped Pono player at a convention. What I remember most vividly is how it transformed my IEMs into sounding like full sized cans. In a round-about way that brought me to discovering Ayre. The Pono used a discrete diamond output stage designed by Ayre and I spent some time auditioning the home gear after that as well.

To make a long story short I’ve gone through several Fiio outboard headphone amps since Pono vanished and kind of by accident ordered the BTR7. The BTR7 is not the full fledged player like an iPod or Pono but it connects to your phone via Bluetooth or PC via USB.

It’s. Not. Bad.

The BTR7 uses a pair of THX AAA amplifiers and can drive balanced headphones as well as traditional IEM’s. It also has a microphone built in so you can use it for hands free calling.

The thing the Pono did really well was make my IEM’s sound a lot deeper, more realistic bass. The BTR7 compared to several samples I have around here, including the previous generation BTR3 does the same thing. Something I never thought I would hear again without a diamond stage output.

It also has much better battery life than my BTR5.

Point is, if you are looking for an inexpensive ~$200 BT capable headphone amplifier I highly recommend the unit.


Thanks for sharing this Erik. Seems like a very attractive unit and price point. As a different alternative and one that likely skews warmer/fuller sounding by virtue of its use of an AKM DAC chip, the Xduoo XP-2 Pro is worth a look if your tastes or setup might match better with that sound profile. At $150 it’s a little cheaper and a bit more powerful if that matters. Personally I’d probably skew to the BTR7 as I tend to prioritize neutrality and detail, but the Xduoo is another good option depending on sound preferences.

Whatever portable amp/DAC you choose, if you’re using an iPhone or iPad as a source I’d highly recommend ditching the Apple Camera Adapter and getting this silver dongle from LavriCables. I experienced significant increases in detail, transparency, 3D imaging, and soundstage expansion and overall sense of space. At $78 it’s a great bang-for-the-buck and substantial upgrade. Not sure if they make an Android version, but as LavriCables is open to custom builds it’s certainly worth asking. Anyway, just my $0.02 FWIW.