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FiiO E12 Mont Blanc

Posted

Pros: It's like an E9 in your pocket, with lower output impedance, a crossfade feature, a boost to counter sub-bass roll off, for just $30 more!

Cons: Slim, but not the easiest to use from within jeans pockets. Bass boost is subtle. Vs cheaper amps, small improvement for easy-to-drive headphones

 

Here's my long-delayed E12 review on an early pre-order model.

I waited to get a good feel with many songs before posting this, and a good feel for how the amp affects the sound presentation. I tested it with my standard playlist to get a reference point of view, but you'll see references to other songs sprinkled throughout the review that I think are relevant for illustration purposes. This is mostly a subjective review because I have few tools but my own ears, but I hope I provide enough data for others to make their own conclusions.

I tested mostly with my AKG Q701 headphones, because they are my primary headphones and notorious for their performance variability with different amps, and I also tested with my Etymotic ER-6i, because they have a remarkably flat frequency response through most of the range.

 

 

Build Quality:

Extremely nice. Think "Apple Unibody Macbook Pro" nice. The external shell is made up of 3 main parts: a solid, black, matte finish brushed metal tube, and two matching end caps. The only visible screws are two on the bottom piece. The seams between the end caps and main section have less than a hairline gap, evenly fit all the way around. Ports, switches, and the volume knob all have great looking chrome accents: the bass switch even has many concentric rings on the face of it, so you get that "CD" reflection shape on it. The volume knob is small but with a great volcanic grip, very stiffly dampened so you won't change volume in the pocket and small volume adjustments are easy. The "Power On" and "battery" LEDs are separate, the "battery" LED blinks when the battery starts to run low and "breathes" while charging, varying speed according to how much charging power the Mont Blanc is receiving.

 

Here is a video I took with my iPad of the E12 right after unboxing

 

Power:

Feiao "Depend on the test of the engineer sample, the output power @32 ohms headphones is about 1.3w to 1.4w, and @16 ohms headphones is about 900mW, so I believe it can drive almost all hard to drive headphone except some " monster " headphone like the AKG K1000."

http://www.head-fi.org/t/620339/fiio-flagship-portable-amp-mont-blanc-e12-discussing-thread-the-pre-order-unit-arrives/300#post_8879770

 

Playing on 0 dB gain setting, listening volume for me is at about 11 O'clock with my AKG Q701, 10 O'Clock with my Audio Technica AD700, and with my Etymotic ER-6i IEMs (which I am listening to as I write this), is just a bit above 9 O'clock position on the volume dial. Off position is about 6:30-7 O'Clock, and the amp turns on at about 7 O'Clock. Max is at 5 O'Clock. Happily, I cannot humanly detect a channel imbalance at listening volume with my ER-6i.

 

The amp can be used while charging, though your typical mains power will introduce a little background noise. It charges with a USB port, I think a Micro "A," conveniently the same as my phone, drawing tablet, and many other devices, but unfortunately different from the Mini usb port used in the FiiO E11. Full charging varies with how much voltage is supplied (i.e. faster from a wall socket than a computer), but should be done in 4 hours or less.

 

Output Impedance:

>0.5Ω, very good and suitable for basically any headphone.

 

Portability:

124x65.5x14.5 (mm). 159g weight.

 

Portable, but a full-sized portable. It can slip into a pants pocket, but you might feel uncomfortable with a larger music player strapped to it. It's a smidge thinner than the E17, but a cm wider and 3 cm longer. Think of it as about the size of a large smartphone (My mom's Samsung Android is bigger). FiiO quotes >12 hours for the battery, in typical use I go days between charging (I use this to amp my gaming setup in addition to listening to music). The battery LED blinks when the battery is low, but I haven't noticed any degradation of audio quality right up until the moment the power goes dead.

 

There is a slight issue of organizing the connector cable between amp and PMP. I personally think two straight plugs is the answer, with the included right-angle plug male-to-male cable cramping up the "top" plate and sticking out a bit, perhaps making it tough to have strapped to a PMP, in a pocket, and in use at the same time. Still more portable than a cassette or CD player though!


 

 

Subjective Sound opinion

 

Neutrality:

Dead honest, with almost no additional coloration over what the headphones already have (at least as these human ears can hear). My tube amp is a bit more revealing and brings your attention to micro detail and texture more, but… that might be over emphasizing, I can still hear that same detail (for example the backing sub-bass right now in Bjork's "All is Full of Love"), it's just perhaps more integrated with the rest of the sound character and thus more "musical" than "analytical." Me gusta, definitely belongs among high-tier amps.

 

Kick and Decay:

There is a nice tail off of reverb in classical songs (and obvious with the Radiohead - Lotus Flower song I'm listening to right now, sounds like it's in an empty opera hall instead of the warehouse I'm conditioned to expecting from the music video), but at the same time everything feels fast so I get a little of that "adrenaline feeling" where I can hear everything so clearly that time seems to slow down.

 

Since I got my PPU E12 on January 17, I noticed an increase in impact/kick to the urgency of notes with my Q701, but right now Van Morrison's "Oh the Warm Feeling" playing over my ER-6i sounds just "right." The Q701 varies the most with different amps, but overall with the Mont Blanc, I find the sound exciting and involving.

 

Soundstage (depth + width):

The presentation of soundstage seems to be a very good match with the Q701. I play video games with THX TruStudio Pro surround processing, and straight out of the USB sound card the soundstage seemed oval shaped, wider and not as deep, but adding the E12 rounded out the sound much more evenly circular. It does seem to stretch out and have more "air" than my iPod's headphone out. Not as emphasized as with my tube amp, but that amp may be "overemphasizing."

 

EMI & Hiss:

Mostly negligible with the Q701, hiss is inaudible until I switch to high gain mode (so quiet that the first time the E12 battery ran out, I thought my iPod had died and the amp was still on). With the 16 ohm, very sensitive ER-6i, I could hear hiss on low gain at around 12 O'clock on the volume dial… but that's way too loud for me to listen. I can't hear any noise when I call someone (with my basic phone…), even with my Ety's.

 

Comments:

There is a switch to enable a crossfeed (subtle but nice with hard panned songs), and a unique bass boost. 

 

The bass-boost is apparently under contention right now. Currently, the boost isn't about skewing the balance of frequencies towards bass... It's completely focused on the sub-bass region, reaching down to the limits of human hearing and mostly just making "atmospheric bass" more authoritative by 4 dB. It's very clean, too. Others have asked for a stronger boost that affects the mid-bass area. I like the E12's boost the way it is now, and here's why... It's unique. Atmospheric bass is a new thing to me (when I started following this thread last year, my main headphone was the AD700), and I don't know of any other amp (the E11 is close) with a hardware boost that focuses enirely on sub-bass, leaving the rest of the frequencies to ascribe to the "wire with gain" philosophy. It's a boost I feel I can leave on with almost any song or genre. With the bass boost of the E5 I also have, the boost was stronger and changes the tonal balance, but it introduced a distortion as well, and usually hurt songs with added grain instead of helping. What do you think?

 

There is also a relay circuit that causes a delay from the moment you switch on the amp to when it "connects" the headphone jack to power. This avoids the power on "POP!" and protects your headphone (and ears), a feature very common in speaker amps.

 

Lastly, when I first got the amp, I was honestly a little disappointed. It sounded technically very accurate, but there was a sort of "coldness" to the sound and I wasn't feeling very emotionally involved. Like the amp was holding back somehow. After 3 hours, I took a break and got some coffee, came back to the amp, and slowly (as I was typing to someone about it, in fact) "Q701's are digging in deeper and sounding much nicer... Ooh, right as I was typing that, the last track of "The Suburbs" was almost finished and softly hit me with a really low bass note, gave me a chill!" As I listen now, I just melted a bit at the intro to Muse's "Resistance" from the album of the same name. Back when I first heard the E12's "musical side" I put it down as my ears adjusting to the sound signature, but someone else in the E12 thread had a similar experience, and another, then JamesFiiO stated that the WIMA capacitor actually burns in over time. So, I guess now I'm a believer, lol.

 

Philosophy of Use:

So who is the E12 Mont Blanc for? 

Honestly, I think it's NOT for people who only own "made for iPod" headphones, you will hear very little improvement for your money, and something like a FiiO E5 or E11 will be more portable. If you are a bass head and you like the signature of your headphone, this E12 will drive it cleanly and with authority and perhaps with tighter detail, BUT the bass boost is subtle and won't transform a balanced headphone into a sub-monster, in the latter case another amp with more boost might be better for you. Also, someone with a hard to drive headphone may look at said high-impedance, power-hungry Studio Monitoring headphone and ask themselves, "Why do I need a portable amp for these?"

 

HOWEVER! I think the E12 is handy compared to a desktop amplifier of equal (or lesser) output power for transporting to work or packing for a vacation. The E12 is also handy if you have a lot of "listening spots" around the home, where you connect to different sources (for me: Desktop computer, Xbox, Laptop, iPod/iPad) or if you just want to listen while lying in bed. Finally, the E12 may be the only all-around amp needed, for current or future headphones (except for something like a STAX), and that, to me, represents real value.

Posted

Pros: Bass boost is pretty well implemented, powerful and good drive capabilities, nice warm sound

Cons: still won't drive everything, E12 regular edition has audible hiss which is fixed in the DIY version

So a couple of friends loaned me the E12 a month or two back and I have been listening them on various rigs and familiarising with them over a while, I'm not that experienced in the portable realm but will do my best to give you a clear picture of the sound(hopefully).

 

Design:

With the design, I find the switches mostly a pain in the arse to use because they are recessed when I use the amp with different headphones, like my hard to drive AKG 240DFs and say the more sensitive IM-70 from Audio Technica. This problem is solved in the E12DIY which sports a gain flick toggle switch at the front panel at the price of giving up all the other features of the regular E12. I really like the knobs on the amps as they still do no feel very loose after the two months I have them and they are also less prone to accidental adjustments due to their design.

 

Sound:

Without ado, I felt the Mont Blanc was pretty win(and maybe their only win product in my book) so far, having owned the E11, its a huge step up in sound and direction of Fiio. The soundstage is pretty large compared to the Project Iona I had at the point of review. Comparing the Project Iona, O2 and E12 side by side, the E12 comes of as the warmest sounding of the bunch(though they all measure flat) and also the most technically competent of the bunch. Bass wise, the E12 tops out have a more defined bass body than the O2 which sounded somewhat mushy in comparison. As it has a good amount of power, it swings between volume levels without feeling compressed and strained compared to the Objective 2 which was flat(like dynamically flat) in comparison into harder loads(it still holds true even for easier loads though). The one quibble I have is the lack of synergy/drive with a picky headphone like the HD800, which is probably due to the choice of opamp(OPA1611 iirc) used. It sounded harsh and dry into the HD800 whereas my receiver though noisier, drives the HD800 effortlessly(I noticed the same in other big amps of course) so don't be too tempted to use this into replacing a proper desktop amp. Into the AKG240DF though, I'm simply happy with the combination.

 

As for the switches, I found the gain to provide a good balance between the headphones(and the feel in-ears) I use. The bass switch is pretty good, boosting the low end of some headphones in a good way without obscuring the mids. For me, the crossfeed though a boon for some was frankly just junk for me, I think I would stick to software or higher end implementations of crossfeed. For the purist though, these added features to an extend kinda harm the sound and is the cause of the hiss in the E12, how I know? Thats because I have the E12DIY which removes all these features and changes the gain switch to a little toggle switch, I love it. For the purist, get your hands on the E12DIY especially if you have sensitive IEMs

 

Right now, I'm using the E12s as one of my reference amps given my heavily budgeted situation and will update impressions on fitting in some of the better (newer) opamps into the E12DIY and see how it goes. Other then that for the regular headphone users(portable headphones or studio cans) I heartily recommend the E12 and for those more discerning ones with sensitive cans and IEMs, I recommend the E12DIY even if you don't "DIY".

 

Associated Equipment: Creative SB1240, Stoner Acoustics UD110MK2, Ipod4g w Accudio, HD800 Rabid Dawg, AKG240DF, Audio Technica IM-70

Posted

Pros: Good battery, Sleek, Great sound improvement

Cons: None as yet

A great addition to my portable setup, it really brings my rockboxed ipod classic to life.
As this is my first amp it makes listening to my music more pleasurable.

Posted

Pros: amazing construction, neutral sounding, and it comes with many accessories.

Cons: may not have the sound signature everybody likes.

If anybody has read my reviews than you know that I'm not an audiophile whatsoever, I just enjoy listening to music and I love audio and how it works. So let's start off the review, So this is my first headphone amplifier, and I heard its a Good model to start with so I went with this model the e12.
I must say I do notice a difference in sound performance using a headphone amplifier, rather then using a normal output jack on a regular mp3 device. The build quality on this device is amazing, it's constructed out of a very strong metal, I honestly have no complaints on the construction on this device whatsoever, 
So no complaint there. And the features on this mini device is pretty cool, there's a bass boost on the side of the device for those who enjoy that sound, and there's also a cross feed feature you can turn on, It mixes the channels in both ear cups so its more of an even sound stage in both ear cups. So there's no different sound in just one ear cups, you'll be able to hear it in both the ear cups. The gain switch allows the amplification to actually take place. This device can output an impediance up to 300 ohms, This can pretty much power any headphone in the world, well almost any headphone.
The sound signature on this is fenominal I must say, I can't even explain how well this device allows headphones to sound, its just breath taking I must say. The fiio mont blanc e12 has more of a natural sound Signature, and that's pretty surprising because fiio is a company known for having a warm sound signature, but the Fiio e12 doesn't follow down that path, it has more of a flat sound, creating a natural sound; I myself prefer that, but some people may not like that, some people might like more of a warm sound, but the e12 doesn't really excel with a warm sound signature. But overall I honestly liked it and I've had a terrific music listening experience I must say. So this is my review of the fiio e12 Mont blanc portable headphone amplifier.

Posted

Pros: High power output, bassy sound, option switches, sleek looking, great universal sound

Cons: Noise during charging, option switches are recessed, build isn't totally smooth.

Introduction:
FiiO is one of the most popular companies in the world of headphone audio. Their products come with unmatched performance for the price. They want to deliver great products that fans will love by listening to them on Head-Fi and other forums and even letting the fans vote on versions. The FiiO Mont Blanc is FiiO’s new flagship portable amplifier. It boasts an amazing amount of power while still being affordable. I would like to thank FiiO for the review sample. Now let’s see if the E12 lives up to the FiiO name.
Unboxing Video
 
PLEASE read the review here:
 

Specs:
FiiO page
Weight: 159g
Input and output: 3.5mm
Impendence support: 16 Ohm to 300Ohm
Battery Capacity: 9.7 Wh (880 mAh/11.1V)
Output Power: >880 mW @ 32 ohms
THD: <0.005%

Unit Quality:
FiiO is quite famous for their great build quality in their black ‘stealthy’ looking designs. The E12 of course is no exception. The corners all come together seamlessly and it is not easily scratched. I wouldn’t recommend doing a drop test but the feeling of the E12 is just beautiful.

Accessories:
The E12 like FiiO’s other units comes with most accessories a starter would want. This includes a 3.5mm interconnect cable, a USB charge cable, User Manual, Warranty Card, Silica Gel packet, cloth carrying case, plastic dome standoffs, Binding bands, and the E12 itself. The binding bands the E12 comes with is quite large and will probably not work with most smartphones or Apple devices. It was meant for another FiiO device. I alerted FiiO of this and they said they will include normal binding bands along with the wide ones. I do not know if this is permanent or not. Some users have noted that their E12 cloth bag smells like gasoline. It seems to be the ones from Micca Store. Oil based products may have been near the E12 shipment.

FiiO also has a policy where accessories are free, which is quite nice of them. The only catch is that you must pay for the shipping which is $5. But all is well if you need more rubber domes, or interconnect cable. This program is up to FiiO and can end at any time. But as of this writing, it is in place.

Usability:
The Mont Blanc feels well in a user’s hands and has a weight of authority as well. Like past FiiO’s, you can bind it to your PMP or just use it as a travel amp. It isn’t too large, but it isn’t exactly small either. I have put the Mont Blanc through some slightly hairy situations and it has still come through unscathed. It handles like most amps basically.

But this is the section with the most problems of the E12 sadly. The E17 and E07K’s aux in matched well with the LOD and iPod’s as it allowed for the L9 to be used and to be ergonomic. The E12 does not have this. You can face the E12 both ways and try the L9 with the E12 but it still won’t work. The L11 is an option but there aren’t exactly any cheap and readily available very short interconnect cables.  If there was one, then this issue would be fixed. But the majority of those short cables are expensive. And most users seem to just use L3 and L9.

For more info on why this design is quirky, click here.

The moving parts of the E12 have a few issues. They are mainly nit-picks at getting perfection but still noteworthy to a review reader.  The sub switches of Crossfeed and Gain do feel a little sticky. The Alpen and Andes both had this. They just don’t feel high quality when you switch them. Using a pen to change the options can also get color on the switches. The bass boost switch on the other side is a bit loose. This leads to bass boost switching to be turned on when the device strap moves over it. It is a bit of a weird design in my opinion. Having switches that require a pin and then having a somewhat loose bass boost switch. The last thing is the volume pot. I’ve noticed that it will get squeaky and feel like it is rubbing against the metal on the bottom. I have to sometimes put force on pulling the pot up a bit to stop it from happening. This thing is often a problem with volume pots, but it should still be noted.

It has been also mentioned before, but the initial binding band did not work with iPod’s or other 1 cm thick or less pmp’s.

Bass Boost:
The bass boost of the E12 v1 mainly applies to the sub bass. I believe FiiO puts the number at 4-5dB increase in sub bass at around 50Hz. The E12 is a flagship amp and it acts like it. Bass Boost is put down in China as being non-purist and so here we have a new sub bass bass boost. Which is an opposite turn from the full on bass boosting usually present in FiiO devices. I would say the quality of it is very nice and adds a nice sub oomph to songs.

FiiO listened to fans who wanted a more pronounced bass boost and so from now on, a V2 model with a different bass boost will be coming out. This will also boost the mid bass but it won’t boost it to crazy amounts.

CrossFeed:
Leckerton has a great post on what Crossfeed is. Click the Blue hyperlink for it.

Well the E12 comes with crossfeed. It does what the info page says it does.

It reduces the surrounding instruments while giving you a more up front symmetrical vocal.

The pronunciation of the lows is also effected by crossfeed. They are less powerful.

FiiO E12 changes:
FiiO has since said that they will include the standard band to the E12 package along with the new bands. I do not know if they will change this later on to just one set of bands.

The bass boost will also be changed to a more pronounced one.

There have been no info on how to tell the units apart(without listening) yet. But as of February, the units on the market should be V1 sub bass boost. My review was done with V1 bass boost.

Notice:
You may have noted that I am listing a lot of nit-pick cons and quirks of the device and sparse sentences on good stuff. Well the thing is, the E12 is just a normal device. It being a normal flat working amp already makes up the list of positives. There really much to note on the E12 and its build and other things for pros as it is just a nice device already.

IEM noise:
There is some noise with IEM's. It shouldn't be a lot for most units

Sensitivity of Volume Pot:
While on the go, I have tried many times to see if the volume pot can be turned. With just one finger, the volume pot was very hard to turn. It may have been on purpose or just a by product of it being a small Alps potentiometer. Also, due to the way the volume pot is by design, it is much harder to turn at the 'beginning' but it loosens up as you go higher in volume. This also works in the interest of IEM users.


Testing:
Testing was done with IEMs such as the Heir Audio 4ai, 3ai, Tzar 350, Tzar 90, Dunu DN19, Vsonic GR07 Mk2, AKG Q701, Ultrasone HFI 580, and Sony MH1C’s.

It was tested with a Dual Wolfson WM8741 DAC lining out to the E12 with a RCA to 3.5mm cable.

Burn in:
I personally enjoyed the device more after an hour or two. But these findings have no backing data.

Power:

>880mW @ 32 ohms

Sound Section:
The FiiO E12 is a departure from how the Alpen and Andes sounds. While the former two have a warm and sweet sound that is more bass prone, the E12 goes for a more clearer sound. I would say that it is more ‘audiophile’ and more neutral as compared to the Andes and Alpen.

FiiO E12 and Audio-gd NFB 12.1

The vocals of the E12 are more laid back but more full than the Audio-gd’s. They are very smooth and the mid instruments are also much more pronounced. The background mid instruments come in a bit stronger than the audio-gd. The separation of the entire spectrum is also closer together than other various amps such as the O2 and MRB. The separation is still of course better than many amps, but it is noticeably smaller on the Mont Blanc. The Mont Blanc also has a deeper more pronounced bass hit. It is a bit looser but spread out more.

The FiiO E12 sounds much cleaner than other FiiO amps. Much more clear in the vocals and instruments. The bass has also been done well where it doesn’t give the user a more heavier hit. The E12 of course still retains the general quality of FiiO’s other products but it has upped the notch.



FiiO E12 and FiiO E11

The highs of the FiiO E11 are more harsh than the E12. They don’t hold as well. The separation of the E11 is also considerably less than the E12. Mid instruments and vocals are more congested and scrunched up. The vocals of the E11 are more forward than the mids, but the mids of the E11 are not very smooth. The lows of the E12 are also much tighter than the looser ones of the E11.

The E11 boasts of a more fun sound with a nice bass response to go with the tracks. However its vocals and highs ultimately fail the E11 in being up to par with the E12. But of course, the E12 isn’t a replacement for the E11. The E12 is the flagship series.



FiiO E12 with Custom Project-H (Objective 2 w/ Burr Brown op amp and Cirrus Logic flagship DAC)

With the DAC being the CS4398, the FiiO E12 does a good job up against the O2. The O2's vocals are more forward and louder than the E12's. The depth on the E12's vocals are also much better. The seperation and soundstage of the mids(instruments) is also superior on the O2. The O2 is just a bit sweeter than the E12. The E12, I would say is a bit colder than the O2. Of course, colder does not equal more neutral. The O2 would be the more neutral amp, but the O2 accentuates more parts of the song than the E12 does. Now you are thinking, how can the O2 be more neutral if it accentuates more things? Well neutrality is a word that goes into the best reproduction of music and how neutral will theoretically reproduce the music better. And the O2 does reproduce it better than the E12. The overal transparency on the O2 is also better than the E12. However, the units are still nice and closely matched. I'm quite surprised how close they are. To some, the distance between the two may not warrant one or the other, and to some, the distance is huge(purists). But whatever it is, I think that the E12 does a very good job against the O2. It's only that while on the go, I personally prefer a more warmer sound than what the E12 offer.

Conclusion:

I think that some of life's challenges are reviewing products. A bigger challenge would be to review FiiO products. It is hard to really criticize their products when their price is so good for what is offered. The FiiO E12 Mont Blanc is a realization of FiiO enginuity yet again. They managed to put out a product at such a low price with good hardware and sound. The E12 is not going to wow people with high end units but for the price, it is a great unit.

Price:$120

Posted

Pros: Good build quality & design, good PRAT, detailed & airy sound , good instrument separation, powerfull

Cons: none at that price

FiiO E12 Mont Blanc – Review

Hey guys,

I had my eyes on FiiO E12 for a long time now, since I’ve seen the little fellow at Sandu’splace. I remember I tried it with LCD-2 at that time and it could drive them quite nicely.

That was amazing coming from that little black box.

fiio e12 review

After that, I looked up the specs and was pleasantly surprised to see that the output power is > 880 mW @ 32 Ohms, which is pretty impressive coming from a portable amplifier powered by battery and at that size ( 124 x 65.5 x 14.5 mm )

fiio e12

E12 uses OPA1611 and LME49600 OPAMP combination. The OPA1611 serves as amplifier and LME49600 plays the role of currency outputting.

It also has ALPS potentiometer and is powered by a clean battery so it can achieve low level of distortion.

While looking at it, I saw a gain selector (0 , 16 db), crossfeed and bass boost.

Hmm, crossfeed, I have first tried a hardware level implementation of crossfeed at my first headphone amplifier the Meier Audio Corda Cantate 2.

This article is explains in detail  what crossfeed does.

The short version from wikipedia is this:

Crossfeed is the process of blending the left and right channels of a stereo audio recording. It is generally used to reduce the extreme channel separation often featured in early stereo recordings (e.g., where instruments are panned entirely on one side or the other), or to make audio played through headphones sound more natural, as when listening to a pair of external speakers.

I have felt improvements with this on, only with old recordings, like ACDC – The Razors Edge. However, overall, the crossfeed takes away from the impact/attack and details.

Some may prefer to leave it on as it is less tiring.

The bass boost is quite nice and it is felt especially with the sub bass. This is useful with headphones that lack some body or for bass heads.

The build quality of the unit is quite appealing. It is made of aluminium and has a very nice design.

fiio e12 review

 

The E12 is bigger than the E10 or E17 but still is in portable range as it is similar toSamsung Galaxy S1‘s size, smaller than Galaxy S4.

fiio e12 galaxy s4

Sound performance

So it looks very nice, has nice build quality and nice specs, but how does it sound?

I have done the tests with Burson Conductor as DAC, Audeze LCD-3Sennheiser HD800Focal Spirit One and Mikros 90.

Massive Attack – Angel

This song has some really nice sub-bass and E12 got it just right. The sound was engaging and the bass had weight and decent control. It really got me toe tapping.

Enya – The Celts

The background was black and you could actually call it blackground :D . Fiio didn’t lie about the distortion as the sound is very clean. Enya’s voice was clean and relaxing as it should.

Michael Jackson – Wanna be starting something

The PRAT was decent and the overall song was toe tapping. Michael’s voice seemed natural and without any coloration added. Because of the black background the instrument separation was quite good and the instruments were detailed and standed out.

Michael Oldfield – Cochise

The sound was spacious and the guitars from the beginning tickled my ears.The chord’s extensions were good and when the electric guitar kicked in the sound became very engaging. I would have liked a little more weight to the sound. Oh wait…I have the bass boost.  That solved my problem. The added weight was a little unnatural but it was ok overall, but to be fair my ears wouldn’t resist with bass boost on for a long period of time.

Infected Mushroom – None of this is Real

This guy is a great amplifier but this is where I felt the LCD3 and HD800 needed more. However it drove them at a decent level. They needed more for depth, punch and imaging.

On the fence:

Details

The sound was detailed and the instruments tickled your ears on many occasions.

Neutrality

It seemed to me that the E12 didn’t add any warm signature /coloration as the E17 andE10 did.

Airy Sound

The sound has a good soundstage, with a black background that leads to good instrument separation.

Conclusions

Fiio E12 Review

The FiiO E12 is a great piece of gear that deserves all your attention if you are looking for portability.

It can drive all of the power hungry iems / ciems or portable headphones out there. It can also drive the Audeze LCD3 and Sennheiser HD800 to a decent level.

I don’t think it has competition at it’s price & performance.

So FiiO strikes again with another excellent product that has no competition at that price. I like what FiiO does very much. They studied the market and filled what was missing, and did an awesome job with that.

Pros:

  • excellent price for what it offers
  • good build quality and design
  • nice features
  • airy sound with good instrument separation
  • detailed sound
  • good PRAT


As for cons, at that price I cannot find any.

I am really happy that AVstore became an official FiiO dealer and we have access to them in Romania.

Fiio E12 review

Posted

Pros: Sound stage, sub bass, clarity

Cons: Size, Volume

I am coming from a Fiio e11 which is a powerful little amp and this is an amazing upgrade. For this review my set up is a 6th Gen Nano with an L9 to the e12 switching between a pair of UE Superfi 5eb and ultrasone580s (I cant wait for my XB1000s to come in to really see how well these two can play together). The best way to describe the sound is that someone took the mids and highs and threw them all the way to the other side of the room while leaving the bass intact. The clarity and separation is greatly upgraded from the e11 I would rightfully say this amp is twice as good once you get accustomed to the sound signature  which says a lot. This definitely warrants the the price difference. The only issue I have is with the volume. First the knob is a little tighter and tougher to move than the e11. Second is the gain. I had it set to 0 and had it on full blast and though "well this isnt too special" then switched it to the other setting, 16, which I'm beginning to think is the Chinese symbol for "dear god why would anything ever have to be this loud." Another thing to consider is that this thing is pretty big. Its definitely portable for a guy wearing jeans but I dont know about for a girl's pants or use at the gym. Its about the size of two ipod touches on top of each other. 

Posted

Pros: Powerful

Cons: None

The Fiio E12 Mont Blanc is the latest amp from Fiio. Fiio is a specialist audio company that make superb audio accessories, and are well known in audio circles for making great value products with incredible sound.

The E12 Mont Blanc is a high performance portable headphone amplifier, which has a high quality built-in processor and power amplifier in a super slim body. The specifications are as follows -

Power Supply – DC5V, 2A , Frequency Response 20hz-20hz, SNR > 110db, Crossfeed Attenuation >65db, Gain >16db high or 0db low, Max Output Power 600mW at 16 ohms, 880mW at 32 ohms, 160mW at 300 ohms.
Battery Charge time approx 1.7 hours , with a 12 hour runtime
Suitable for headphones 16-300 ohms. Dimensions 123mm x 65mm x 14mm. Weight 158g

So what does this headphone amp do? In simple terms it takes the sound from your portable device or smartphone and amplifies it. More on that later.

In the box you get the warranty card, instructions, micro USB cable to charge from your computer, 2 Fiio bands for holding the amp and portable device/phone together, some soft feet, and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for transferring sound from the headphone socket into the amp.

If you have an Apple device like an iPhone or iPod you can get iPod line out cables as shown. If you have a lightning connector, your will need a 30 pin adapter or adapter cable. Taking the sound via the line out produces a much better quality.

So what makes this amp special. Firstly it looks fantastic, even better than the photos. Secondly and more importantly it has a lot of oomph and energy to make your headphones perform like you wouldn’t believe possible from a portable amplifier. You will also hear lots more detail and information in your songs that you didn’t realise were there. And the E12 does this effortlessly. Being such a powerful portable amp allows you to plug larger more demanding headphones in from 16 ohms up to 300 ohms. In addition to the extra level of information your music will come alive as your headphones are being provided with so much emery and oomph. Far more than the tiny amp in your phone or iPod. Another benefit is the volume. The E12 Mont Blanc can go much louder than your phone or iPod.

I tried using the amp with an iPod Classic and an iPhone 5. Both produced impressive results. I tried a range of music from Andrea Bocelli – Concerto One Night in Central Park, Muse – 2nd Law, Wycliffe Gordon – Dreams of New Orleans , Michael Buble – Fever, Nicola Benedetti – Silver Violin and some dance music. Vocals, instruments, speed and attack, depth and soundstage were amazing. And the amp never rang out of steam. Headphones used for sampling the amp were a pair of Sennheiser HD568.

The E12 Mont Blanc features a bass boost which is very discreet and doesn’t distort the music. There is also a cross feed and gain control should you need them. I have included some photos on main thread, page 38.



Further to my post with my initial impressions I thought I would some more feedback using specific tracks. For this test I am using an iPod Classic with a silver & copper line out cable and a pair of Sennheiser HD568 headphones. My music is ripped at mp3 320 bit rate. I have the E12 bass boost left on as the HD568 seem to sound so much better. The bass boost doesn’t seem to distort the sound, just add when the music needs some very low oomph but not in any way overpowering. Anyway here goes –

Dreams of New Orleans by Wycliffe Gordon – Chinatown – great separation of the trumpets from each side, and clear separation of the other instruments. A superb musical sounding song. The E12 presentation puts you right in the music. I feel like I’m grooving to the beat.

Greatest Hits by Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – I had to turn the volume down for this track. The E12 did everything as before, even with voices but as the songs attack changes, the E12 seems to scale effortlessly with it. In fact as the track gets louder, the E12 just exploded with attack.

Thriller by Michael Jackson – Thriller – a classic track. At the start there’s great sub bass in the cemetery. The E12 reproduces the song very accurately picking out all the nuances.

Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles – an old recording but has a superb toe tapping musicality produced by the E12.

Isla by Portico Quartet – Dawn Patrol – this track really defines just how good the E12 is sonically. The plucking of the bass strings, the deep bass, the other instruments all around too just produce an electric performance.

Fantasie by Nicola Benedetti – The Lark Ascending – the violin playing at the start is leaving goose bumps on me. The violin feels so alive. Airy. The E12 is producing a neutral but emotional sound. Mesmerising too.

Love me by Norah Jones – Norah’s voice sounds superb. Another very musical track.

I Heard Love is Blind by Amy Winehouse – Amy’s voice is so real with such precision on the guitar in the background. In fact the realism of the track is excellent.

In summary, the E12 plucks all the nuances from your music, making it sound alive with toe tapping musicality. It also does seem to have improved with low level bass after 3 hours use. It’s accurate, fairly neutral sounding and packs so much energy that your headphones perform magic.
FiiO E12 Mont Blanc
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Fiio latest portable amp.

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