Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Amp suggestions - cheap and small
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Amp suggestions - cheap and small

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

New to Hi-fi - been lurking for about a week or two - although lurking suggests I was much more laid back in my reading. Anyway...


Will be getting some ATH M50s soon, but the portable I plan to use it with, my 4th gen iPod Nano, is a little ****ed up. The audio jack doesn't work. So I'll be bypassing that and using a LOD cable. I'll be able to use it also with the next generation iPhone I plan on purchasing (horray for the return of Wolfson) so I'll get some better quality (or so I've read) - if I find this not be the case, I guess I'll just not use it when said source upgrade rolls around. For now, I'll use LOD out of necessity - it'll be cheaper than jack replacement even if possible - the part was in high demand for 4th gen Nanos - only can find 5th gen replacements. Not sure if compatible. But I digress.


With a LOD connection, if what I've read is correct, I'll need some external hardware to control the audio. So one of those cheap sub $25 dollar amps from Fii) seems to be an option. Again, use it for now play with it, ditch both later if I don't need em.

It'll be driving, as I said ATH-M50s (And in the future, possibly their Pro700Mk2s - or some Etymotics, but that's too general) so not much power is required - if it must mess with sound balance, benefiting the recessed mids is the most helpful alteration. But distortion and some of this buzz from some of the considered amps are not favorable at all, and loss of clarity/detail.


Up for consideration at this point:


FiiO E1 - integrates both the LOD connector and Amp/volume controls


FiiO L3 + E5 - cheap, possibly better build? But not as flat.. or am I mistaken?



FiiO L3 + E6 - slightly more expensive but from what I've seen just overall better than the E5. Half as much high volume buzz/hiss one reviewer claims (during quiet sections particular noticeable)


Or something I haven't seen yet?


Buddy of mine is offering this accessory: http://i.imgur.com/8ELXy.jpg
Would this essentially be a simple volume control connected via LOD?

post #2 of 6

Fiio L9 would be cleaner. less poking out bits.


I had the fiio E5, it was a good start, the reviews on E6 seem good.


I have the E11 now, is that within your budget?

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Not really looking for anything too bulky or expensive. E11's not in the budget - started working just recently (not as young as that might make seem, just pretty lazy and not-committed to the job hunt), not too many hours a week due to significant class load, so at the end of the month not much money to spend on an amp compared to everything else. But I do like what I hear about the E11 -better than the E7 to some, and cheaper. Still looks like a quality product, if not more (too bad it doesn't have a home-use dock as far as I know unlike the E7).


Actually the E11's only around $50? It might be doable, once I get my paycheck that is.. but would it be worth twice the price of E6 I guess is the question. And also the added bulk - it notable can't clip and looks to be bigger than the iPod nano I'd use it with first.

Well the E6 might be the route to go for me (afterall, you get what you pay for, right? So get the best I can for my limited budget at the moment). It does offer a sorta balanced mode anyway.


Although I was hoping to see if certain of these amps/other solutions are more passive in their approach to the sound - if they don't try to alter it really, and just present it with more power, than it's done it job. So something either flt, or complimentary to the lack of mids in the M50s and the Mk2's I am considering later. 

post #4 of 6

perhaps look in the E6 thread and see if anyone has made a E6/M50 compatibility test, If not pop the question there.


It could be a good cheap start, the E6, good size for the nano.

post #5 of 6

I like CMOYs with the M50, as I find they tame the highs and bass.

Edited by Anathallo - 10/1/11 at 8:18am
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Forgot I was posting in my request/suggestion thread and not the more general E6 thread. Probably post a link over there.


This is added in after writing this rambling thing: The E6 most sucessfully deliver on the ability for me play audio, bypassing a non-functional 3.5mm jack, and do so in a pacakge that is well built and not cheap looking at all - it you'll be pleased with is physical design. The sound performance I go into detail here. Overall everything sounds sharper and more forward I might say, although probably not the right word (lively, just more weight behind it. It does what an amp does - deliver enough power for headphones to play to their ability- and should be plenty enough for easier to drive headphones). However there are some parts that aren't so hot I encountered with my setup - the great thing about the E6 however is that your variety of settings give you the flexibility to find something that works for you - and then everything is great. And with a better setup while it might not be the star player it will support your other hardware well.


And now onto specifics:


Ended up ordering the E6. The came bundled with an L1 cable which I needed - any iPod LOD cable, really, and free shipping. All told, 32.50 - the best offer I could find with this amp and a cable, accounting for shipping.


Initial impressions? Even with my current phones, a broken pair of NC-7s, where the cancellation feature doesn't work anymore, I can sense more transparency compared to using the normal headphone jack (which is now broken on the Nano I'm dealing with at the moment, main reason for getting a LOD  in the first place and subsequently an AMP). Oh, and the hiss I was intially worried about, which was a significant factor in steering me a way from the E5? Not a problem.

In lower bitrate songs, such as 64kbps (yeah I know.. only 3 tracks. At least good for comparison) the sound still is.. I guess very closed in. No sense of sound stage, dead and just not exciting. No life to it - artificial sounding or otherwise. That said, this amp even manages to make the songs sound somewhat better than I remember - however maybe it's a byproduct of my more critical listening than in the past but I can also detect further imperfections in the song from the compression. This applies to 128 kbps files as well, but of course to a lesser severity.


I can't say that I like EQ1 for the most part - EQ2 shares some of the problems and is of course louder, but the upper mids (maybe I'm mistaken about how far low this extends) - treble boost with EQ2 makes it somewhat more balanced and the issues with EQ1's bass boost that EQ2 shares are less notable - these issues being that while the bass is of course, more prominent, there's an off sounding rumble in some songs (this I suspect may be the headphones at fault) and definitely a boomy quality that wasn't there before, that is to say full (is warm applicable here? I'm new to this but I hear that being used quite often as a description) and muddled a bit. The overall impression of EQ2 however is more like a "vivid" sound - posessing obvious emphasis, but not wholly unpleasing. I can say from current impressions that I'll be using EQ2 much more often and EQ1, rarely, if at all.

EQ3 is interesting - it's EQ1 but just -3dB. My very first reaction was that the sound has less impact, (unaware this was simply an overall volume drop), and perhaps it was just from experiencing the bass-heavy settings just before hand, but it seemed the upper range was more clear and had a dominance - although it was just really a return to balance. The impression still stuck though when going back to the flat default setting.



A snippet of a review from Trusted Reviews, which I find matches my impressions well:

It doesn't send to have the soundstage-enhancing effect of a more powerful amplifier, but does tighten-up the bottom end a bit. This can improve coherence in music, and naturally gives bass response a quality boost. Some sets also showed an increase in dynamics, giving the impression of an overall more "vivid" sound.
This is what it sounds like without any of the EQ settings engaged, using the FiiO E6's vanilla mode if you will. With a prod or three on the power slider you can access the unit's three additional modes, -3dB, 3dB and 6dB. The original FiiO E5 only had the single 3dB setting.

The two signal-boosting modes can roughly be described as bass boosts. They aren't hugely invasive, instead adding a little warmth to the low-end and low mids. We found that the 3dB setting muddied the sound ever-so slightly, making the treble sound a little recessed, but the 6dB setting pumps-up the high-end as well as the bass - although the figure is doubled, the bass doesn't. The sound scales-up naturally, leaving no bass bloat, as long as there wasn't any originally.


The big surprise of the FiiO E6, though, is that we found the -3dB setting to be the most useful. You might assume robbing the sound signal of power would leave it sounding weak and brittle, but it comes in very handy when trying to tame a pair of earphones with just too much bass - commonplace in affordable 'phones. This setting can also help relax treble frequencies with too much fatiguing "zing" or harshness.


Can't wait to hear this proper when my replacement cans come in (M50s) - I also suspect that even on some higher kbps songs in my library there was some ugliness in the sound that I was just not aware of prior - however, on a good setup this might sound fine and clarity is not intended. Certain other instruments in contrast are more articulated, on the upper range, but this can be a bit unpleasant. I also have come across comments saying that amps under go burn-in as headphones too? If so, I am hopeful for how that might also further improve the E6's performance and change my impressions. Possibly a update to this post/another reply in this topic when I've been using the m50 phones for a while.. although really, I can't fairly address either product in a proper review as not enough good test equipment is around. Although with the M50s added I can basically compare the difference between a entry-level enthusiast headphone versus what basically performs like a run of the mill $20 dollar headphone from Sony - (and not tremendously better when new either).


Hopefully resisting the urge to be quite as wordy as was here and shorter/ more concise.


Summary/End of Impresions....


Wow, that was rather lengthy, even without the redundant quote. Sorry if I goofed up with some terms, but as long as my initial experience has added to the knowledge and opinions of this amp I'm satisfied - of course I was just a bit excited about getting to play my new little piece of tech, a stepping stone into a higher quality audio.

....Final Thoughts, not directly review related, more on FiiO's products in general:

I don't see myself getting a more serious amp in the future due to awkwardness and portability issues of a larger model - but seeing what FiiO has done with the E6 building upon the E5, and how the new E11 has impressed people for such a cheap more serious amp, I can't wait to see what FiiO comes up with next in the more portable category and if another manufacturer emerges to compete with them.





New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Headphone Amps
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Amp suggestions - cheap and small