Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › First Impressions: Firestone Audio's Fireye Mini (not Fireye 1)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

First Impressions: Firestone Audio's Fireye Mini (not Fireye 1)

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm sure just about everyone is familiar with Firestone Audio. They've recently come out with a miniature ultraportable amplifier that has been highly praised by the audiophile community in its native Taiwan -- the Fireye Mini. Currently, it is selling for 800 NT in Taiwan, which is less than $27 USD, although I've heard that it will retail for ≥$60 overseas. Firestone seems to have a lot of confidence in this product.

 

It appears that Firestone's Australian distributor has begun to sell the Fireye Mini down under, but as far as I'm concerned, it has yet to show up on North American shores, and no one on Head-Fi seems to have posted anything about it, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to give everyone a first look.

 

FireyeMini_Front

The Fireye Mini. Lives up to its name -- a size comparison with the Fischer Audio DBA-02.

 

 

Before I begin, I want to make a disclaimer; this is my first and only portable amplifier, so please take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I don't know what the performance of similar products out on the market are, save for the FiiO E1 and E7, which I listened to only once each.

 

INTRODUCTION

Alright, the Fireye Mini. It is a TINY amp, and should definitely be one of the smallest out on the market. Basically, you take a FiiO E3, cut it in half lengthwise, and you get the Fireye Mini. It it housed in a jelly flexible shell (like some iPod cases) and comes in a multitude of colors -- Grey, Red, White, Purple, and Green. I bought mine in Red. The overall feel of the product is reminiscent of the Travagans "dogbone" amp, in form and function. At the top of the body, there's a loop that makes the Fireye Mini easy to carry around a key ring.

 

When you open up the cardboard box, you see that the Fireye Mini comes with a short 4" 3.5mm cable with L-shaped terminations on both ends, and another short USB-to-miniUSB cable for charging purposes, as well as a warranty card (1-year limited) for those of us in Taiwan.

 

FireyeMini_Contents

The sparse included contents of the Fireye Mini.

 

BUILD QUALITY

Firestone is known for building pretty sturdy products --- the Fireye Mini isn't one of them. In order to keep costs down, Firestone did not use any plastic hard shell to house the electronics. Rather, everything is just housed in the soft jelly housing, unsealed. The PCB board is laminated with a thick plastic sheeting, but heaven forbid you spill anything on it, or sit on it. I'm assuming that Firestone just thought this thing would be so cheap that people would just go ahead and buy another one if a freak accident happened.

 

FireyeMini_innards

A look at the inside circuitry. (Not my photo. Taken from a Taiwanese forum, www.mobile01.com)

 

USAGE CHARACTERISTICS

The Fireye Mini is strictly plug and play. There is no volume attenuator, so LOD cables are not recommended. The 3.5mm headphone plug is in the center of the left face of the amp, with the line-in port to its left. When you plug your headphones or IEMs in, a blue LED comes on the bottom-right corner, indicating that the Fireye Mini is on and amplifying its input signal. At the bottom of the amp, there is a miniUSB power input. Most people claim that on a full charge, the Fireye Mini can be used for 12 hours continuously without any trouble.

 

FireyeMini_Plugs_labeled.jpg

Another look at the miniscule Fireye Mini. Line-In and Headphone-Out are labeled on the bottom face (not shown).

 

SOUND QUALITY

As I've mentioned, I haven't listened to many portable amps so I can only compare it to the E1, which is slightly pricier here in Taiwan. To me, the E1 was very underwhelming. While attached to my iPod Touch 2G, the E1 didn't seem to amplify anything at all. Nothing sounded any different.

 

I can say is that the Fireye Mini feels significantly better as a portable amplifier. There seems to be better bass energy, better high end sparkle, and a noticeably more expansive soundstage --- pretty impressive for something so small. It doesn't seem to extend too far down low, and there's a slightly warmish coloration and very slight reverberation to every note, but because of that, there is a definite airiness that is constantly present, giving better instrumental separation to my music.

 

It's no wonder that it has been selling like hotcakes in Taiwan; here, audiophiles rate it better than the Fireye 1 and the FiiO E5. Is it better than the E7? No, of course not, but we're comparing apples to oranges here. Even so, when I listened to the E7 through its line-in off my iPod, it didn't particularly wow me all that much.

 

FireyeMini_Setup

The Fireye Mini set up for music output off an iPod Touch 2G. The blue-lit LED indicates that headphones are plugged in.

 

To me, the best part about the Fireye Mini has been the soundstage. Sonically, the Fireye Mini has definitely been a pleasant experience. Again, I don't have enough experience with the various ultraportable amps out there to know which one truly is the best, but I don't demand extreme accuracy with my portable rig; I have my desktop setup for that. Rather, I need an amp that gives me a palpable dB boost, and improves the relatively bland sound characteristics of my iPod Touch 2G to make it sound more spacious, clear, and less fatiguing. The Fireye Mini does all of these things. Fit and finish aside, this tiny little amp has promise to be a hit with not only the Taiwanese but with all Firestone aficionados across the globe.

 

Here's to hoping the Fireye Mini makes it stateside in the near future. beerchug.gif

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Audio Performance (Using a 1kHz Sine Wave, 2Vrms Output, 24-bit/48kHz)

Frequency Response (from 40 Hz - 15 kHz): 40 Hz +0.1 dB, 15 kHz -1.67 dB

Noise (1 kHz, A-Weighted): -110.5 dB

Dynamic Range (1 kHz, A-Weighted): 110.4 dB

THD %: 0.0068%

Stereo Crosstalk: -96.0

post #2 of 15

Great review. I love Firestone's product range, so imaginative and this looks superb.

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

So far, battery life is about 10-12 hours on a single charge, and charging from empty only takes about 2 hours off a normal 110V AC outlet. I'm quite satisfied with the amp as a whole, but one thing is that it's so small, I don't quite know what to do with it! Do I strap it onto my iPod with a band, or do I let it hang? I haven't quite figured out how to position it...

post #4 of 15

don't you think you should be using a line out from the ipod?

 

http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-L3-Line-Cable-iPhone/dp/B003UCESP8/

 

the way you have it setup you're amplifying the amplified signal from the headphone jack

LOD means the DAC is doing all the work.

 

 

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by variable455 View Post

don't you think you should be using a line out from the ipod?

 

http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-L3-Line-Cable-iPhone/dp/B003UCESP8/

 

the way you have it setup you're amplifying the amplified signal from the headphone jack

LOD means the DAC is doing all the work.


Er, no, you've got the wrong idea. First of all, whether or not you use the headphone out or a line-out from the dock, the iPod is doing all of the digital-to-analog conversion. Yes, an LOD will be cleaner because you are getting a line level (bypasses the volume control) analog signal, but you CAN'T adjust volume with the Fireye Mini, so unless you have an in-line resistor/potentiometer that lowers the volume, you'll be getting ridiculous SPL out of the Fireye Mini if you use the LOD. That's why I used the 3.5-to-3.5 cable. I'm controlling the volume with the iPod. Yes, it's not an ideal analog signal, but I want to preserve my hearing.

 

There are only two portable products that I know of that can pull digital information straight off an iPod for D/A conversion (Apple encrypts the information, so products need a license, or use a camera kit) and they are the Fostex HP-P1 and the CypherLabs Algorhythm Solo.

 

post #6 of 15

I wandered into the place where they make these today (just moved to Taipei).  I've never really even thought to use an amp (mostly because they are so big and bulky).  This thing was dope, the girl at the desk said a new one was coming out but I wanted to see if you were still happy with this or should I look else where?  

 

 

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spookycrackers View Post

I wandered into the place where they make these today (just moved to Taipei).  I've never really even thought to use an amp (mostly because they are so big and bulky).  This thing was dope, the girl at the desk said a new one was coming out but I wanted to see if you were still happy with this or should I look else where?  


Welcome to Taipei. I actually sold mine a couple months ago because it wasn't getting much usage and even at that size, I found that it dangled awkwardly from my iPod and bounced around when I walked on the streets, so it was much less practical than I'd hoped they be.

 

Yes, I tested out a couple of prototype variants for the new 'Fireye HD'. I have no idea if it's the direct replacement for the Fireye Mini, as its footprint is quite a bit larger, but since it is a prototype board, I assume that the form factor hadn't yet been decided.

 

BTW, how'd you 'wander' into Firestone? Seems like a highly unlikely place to just happen onto, unless you live next door or something... I'd actually want to 'wander' in there one of these days as well, heh.

post #8 of 15

 

Thanks for the welcome, what sort of music do you listen to, that obviously makes a big difference.   Yeah I was thinking about tossing it my pocket actually, that and using it w/ my macbook pro (i'm guessing my largest source of multimedia entertainment here?)

 

Did you buy a new portable amp or did you just go w/out?  I'm still considering using the fireeye mini.  I would have bought yours too bad.  Maybe there was a translation issue but the store I wandered into was at Taipower MRT, exit four next to a bunch of scooter repair shops.  Even if they don't make them there, they have a ton of high end headphones and amps.  Worth checking out, lots to demo for sure.  I spent an hour or so there. 

 

Is there anyplace you'd recommend I check out while i'm here. 

 

 

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spookycrackers View Post

Thanks for the welcome, what sort of music do you listen to, that obviously makes a big difference.   Yeah I was thinking about tossing it my pocket actually, that and using it w/ my macbook pro (i'm guessing my largest source of multimedia entertainment here?) Did you buy a new portable amp or did you just go w/out?  I'm still considering using the fireeye mini.  I would have bought yours too bad.  Maybe there was a translation issue but the store I wandered into was at Taipower MRT, exit four next to a bunch of scooter repair shops.  Even if they don't make them there, they have a ton of high end headphones and amps.  Worth checking out, lots to demo for sure.  I spent an hour or so there. Is there anyplace you'd recommend I check out while i'm here.


Sent you a PM... these issues are better addressed that way.

 

post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

I got to see another iteration of a working prototype for the 'Fireye HD'.

 

It's a very nice little portable amplifier, but it will be quite a bit more expensive than the tiny Fireye Mini. The rumour is that it'll sell for around 9000 NT, which is about $300 USD.

 

As expected from this massive price increase, the feature set is very well-appointed, such as selectable gain, bass boost (which is not quite refined at the moment), a very long-lasting Li-ion battery, and an attractive, slim metal, machined case.

 

The performance is also quite good. In the short time I had with it, it had very clear, airy vocals that sat very well with my tastes.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Firestone is releasing a new portable amp and DAC/amp, the Fireye HD and Fireye DA, due out in mid-May.

 

I'm assuming the Fireye HD is going to be very similar to the prototype that I heard a few weeks ago, and I'm also assuming that it will be available overseas as well. I don't know the details of the Fireye DA, but the Fireye HD has adjustable gain and bass boost. Unfortunately, the bass boost function of the prototype board was a bit bloated, but hopefully the production version will be better.

 

FSA Fireye HD & DA


Edited by tomscy2000 - 4/30/12 at 2:44am
post #12 of 15

Will something like this interfere with the microphone capability on the headset?
I realize the hot-buttons on the headset (for controlling phone functions) will no longer work.

But will it also interfere with the full-duplex functionality needed for voice/data transmission?

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CZ Eddie View Post  Will something like this interfere with the microphone capability on the headset? I realize the hot-buttons on the headset (for controlling phone functions) will no longer work. But will it also interfere with the full-duplex functionality needed for voice/data transmission?

 

Er... yes, AFAIK, no amp will pass through any mic/volume controls. To maximize sound quality by minimizing interference and crosstalk, amps are designed to be a one-way street. The only time remote controls work are when they're directly plugged into a smartphone or iDevice.

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post
 

 

Er... yes, AFAIK, no amp will pass through any mic/volume controls. To maximize sound quality by minimizing interference and crosstalk, amps are designed to be a one-way street. The only time remote controls work are when they're directly plugged into a smartphone or iDevice.

 

Well, thanks... but if you will, I'm not asking about controls (see my original post).  I'm inquiring as to whether voice is full-duplex or not.  

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sorry for not being clear. No, voice would not be transmitted. Any amp would reduce the signal path to a singular unbalanced audio signal. If it doesn't transmit control signals, it wouldn't transmit microphone audio, because that's all done on the fourth leg (TRRS). If there were amps that did preserve any of this functionality, voice or controls, they'd advertise it as such, but I doubt anyone is that ambitious.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Headphone Amps
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › First Impressions: Firestone Audio's Fireye Mini (not Fireye 1)