This mechanical keyboard has a headphone jack that you might actually want to use

This mechanical keyboard has a headphone jack that you might actually want to use

The KB3 is a new mechanical keyboard from audio brand FiiO with a built-in headphone jack that stands a good chance of sounding better than the 3.5mm output found on a desktop or laptop computer. This is because the headphone jack not only passes through analog audio from your computer, but is connected to a DAC and headphone amplifier built into the keyboard itself.

So instead of having a headphone cable running across your desk to reach your device, or cluttering up your workspace with a separate DAC and headphone amplifier, all of this hardware could theoretically be integrated directly into the keyboard under your hands. And it comes from a company that knows a thing or two about audio (even if its keyboard-making abilities are less proven).

I can see the argument that you’d get better results from buying gear like this separately, but the KB3’s audio and keyboard specs don’t have any major red flags for an all-in-one at this price. On the audio side, the keyboard is equipped with dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 DACs and supports up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 audio. Besides the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, there is also a 4.4mm balanced output. Tom’sHardware He notes that the audio specs appear identical to FiiO’s $80 KA13 headphone amplifier.

The peripheral doesn’t seem to be any slouch in the keyboard department either. It’s gasket-mounted, with hot-swap switches (which means it can be replaced without the need for soldering), supports both Mac and Windows, includes RGB lighting, and is compatible with the popular VIA configuration software. It’s available in a stripped-down option that comes without switches or keycaps, but if you want to include them, you’ll get Gateron G Pro 3.0 Yellow switches and what appears to be a set of clear keycaps. It uses a common 75 percent compact layout, similar to what you’ll find on a lot of laptops, and of course there’s a dial at the top right for the volume control.

FiiO isn’t the first brand to have thought of building a 3.5mm headphone jack into a keyboard. For example, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 can plug into your computer’s 3.5mm jack and pass audio through to a port on the keyboard itself. But the general wisdom is not to rely on headphone jacks like these because of the audio interference that passing the analog signal through the keyboard might add. By taking a digital audio signal from a computer and converting it using a built-in DAC, the FiiO’s approach is similar to the Moondrop Dash, another modern keyboard with a built-in headphone jack.

FiiO sells the KB3 via AliExpress, where it can be had for $129.99 without switches or keycaps, or $149.99 as a fully assembled model. It’s also available as a wireless keyboard for $129.99 fully assembled, but that model doesn’t have any of the interesting audio features.

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