Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › The Fiio, the Grado, the iPod, and the Emperor's New Clothes (iPod Touch 5G -> Fiio E12 -> Grado PS500)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The Fiio, the Grado, the iPod, and the Emperor's New Clothes (iPod Touch 5G -> Fiio E12 -> Grado...

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Bottom Line Up Front... I hear NO difference with vs without amp!  Sound is indistinguishably excellent either way.

 

I just received the Fiio E12 (Mont Blanc) headphone amplifier, which I ordered for use with my iPod Touch 5 (and iPod Classic 7) and my new Grado PS-500 headphones.

 

The construction of the amp is great, and it thoughtfully includes a carrying case, embossed silicon rubber bands for binding to the iPod, charging cord, and 3.5mm male - to - 3.5mm male connector.  I also ordered the Fiio L9 line-out dock, which has the 30-pin (older-generation) Apple connector on one end and a 3.5mm male jack on the other, for connecting to the iPod Line Out (rather than the amplified output for headphones).

 

It sounds fabulous.  Its construction is excellent, with a brushed black metal case, volume control with enough turning resistance to stay put when you set it, and a switch for lower-level inputs (boost by 16 dB) and another switch for boosting bass (increasing boost from 0 dB at 200 Hz to a peak boost of + 5dB at 27.5 Hz, lowest A on the piano).

 

The bass boost is handy to compensate for a bass fall-off of the Grado PS-500 response that begins at 100 Hz and drops down by 10 dB at 27.5 Hz.

 


Fiio E12 spectrum w/ bass enhance "on" (green line, upper plot) vs. Grado PS-500 low frequency fall-off

 

The length of the Fiio E12 just matches that of the iPod Touch 5th Gen with Lightening-to-30 pin adapter (sold by Apple for $29.95 and required to convert to the 30 pin format and to reconstruct an analog line out from the digital Lightening connector output) plus L9 connector.

 

iPod Touch 5 with white Lightening-to-30 pin, Fiio L9 Line-Out Dock, Fiio E12 amp, and Grado PS-500 headphones.

 

iPod stacked onto Fiio.

 

Close-up shows Fiio E12 matching length of iPod + connectors.

 

 

In like manner, I could stack the Fiio E12 with my iPod Classic 7th gen (ie. the one with 160 GB of storage).

 


Fiio E12 with iPod Classic 7th Gen (160 GB) and Fiio L9 connector going directly into iPod.

 

In short, the Fiio E12 is everything you would expect of what is called Fiio's premiere portable amp.

 

I was so excited to try it, having spent about $135 for Fiio E12 and Fiio L9 connector.  I expected that once I introduced it between my iPod and my Grado PS-500s, the stage, microphone, speakers, miles, and years would drop away, and I would be personally hangin' with Herbert (von Karajan), giving him pointers on his interpretation of Beethoven symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic.

 

Nope!

 

I used the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc, ripped from a CD with lossless Apple compression (responding to someone telling me that the lossy Apple AAC compression would wash away any subtle improvements from an amplifier).  I matched the volume levels and did NOT turn on the bass enhance switch.

 

I listened to orchestral, vocal, jazz, and drums pieces from that disk.  I was most impressed by the last track, which is a trap drum set playing solo.  I could even envision just where each drum and cymbal was on the sound stage!

 

But I could do that without regard as to whether I had the amp in the chain from the iPod to the headphones.

 

I then tried directly from the CD player playing the disk before ripping.  Again no difference.  I tried my Sennheiser HD 598 headphones instead.  No difference.  I tried iPod Touch, iPod classic, and iPhone.  No difference.

 

The music sounded FABULOUS, with or without the Fiio E12 amp.  But I would never confuse what I heard with a live performance.  I listened repeatedly, hoping to find less "cover," more transparency, more precise positioning of musicians, better transient responses, ANYTHING.   Sometimes in my determination, I thought I started to hear an improvement when listening through the amp.  But then I would switch back to directly connecting the headphone to the iPod, and that improvement would still be there.

 

I am convinced that if I were presented with the with- and without-amplifier configurations in a blind test, I would be at about 50% correct, which is the same as random chance.

 

Is it me?  Is it the recognized fact that the iPod (particularly the iPod Touch 5th gen, with its 0.73 ohm output impedance) coupled with the Grado PS-500 headphones and their relatively low input impedance (32 ohms, in the range for which iPod is designed), is already matched well enough and cannot be improved by the amp?

 

Or is it like the Emperor whose tailor claimed he made him a very special new outfit, one that could only be seen by the cognocenti, and anyone who cannot see it should be shunned as an ignoramus (and then the tailor clad him in... NOTHING!  But everyone was afraid not to admire his new clothes).

 

Well, I can still proudly attach my iPod to my Fiio E12 portable amp with those black rubber bands and walk around in audio stores and shows, imitating an audiophile and impressing the staff (just like I wander around our college campus in my Beats headphones, convinced I am impressing the ladies with my kool rapper image!).

post #2 of 8

Head-Fi sucks:)


Edited by MarcadoStalker7 - 6/17/14 at 8:41pm
post #3 of 8
I agree. Grados are so easy to drive with portable devices. If you have a good DAP, a headphone amp is just extra weight to carry and an extra device to charge. LOL
post #4 of 8

I've been saying this for a while now. As long as the amp section of your player is sufficient for your headphones, differences between various players is minimal at best. And I say this as someone who has a good amount of money sunk in portable players and amps, so it isnt a case of sour grapes.    Possibly there is a difference, but the margin of error is much higher than the magnitude of differences we are talking about, so it is hard to really separate placebo from reality.

 

I consider myself to have a pretty good ear  for sound, and I am constantly at a loss at the magnitude of differences many people on head-fi are able to detect.    Significantly upgraded soundstage with a firmware change, devices that go from "muddy" to "superb" after 50 hours of break-in, etc. etc.

 

As for your other comment:  headphones will never sound like the real thing, unfortunately - forget live events, they dont match the visceral effect of a good speaker-based rig.   The closest thing i have encountered that gives a sense of space that starts to approach that of well set-up speakers is the HD800.    But headphones have their own benefits, and have their own place in the listener's world.

post #5 of 8

At 32Ohm, I'm not surprised that the Grado PS-500s sound great with/without the E12. You may be able to tell the difference with headphones with a higher impedance. Cheers... Brian

post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post

consider myself to have a pretty good ear  for sound, and I am constantly at a loss at the magnitude of differences many people on head-fi are able to detect.    Significantly upgraded soundstage with a firmware change, devices that go from "muddy" to "superb" after 50 hours of break-in, etc. etc.

So true. New headphones is always the best way to get a better SQ upgrade smily_headphones1.gif
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bms44974 View Post
 

At 32Ohm, I'm not surprised that the Grado PS-500s sound great with/without the E12. You may be able to tell the difference with headphones with a higher impedance. Cheers... Brian


Thank you, bms44974, for adding another arrow of ammunition to my quiver as to why I NEED a pair of Sennheiser HD 800s (300 ohms!! MUST have amp!).  I've already listed several others, and yours fill the vessel to overflowing:

 

  • German (like me!)
  • Angled to move the apparent source position to in front of the listener, rather than in the head;
  • Best square wave response and impulse response, and hence presumbably best at preserving relative arrival times of individual musical instrument sounds, thereby providing best imaging;
  • Best largest sound stage;
  • (Almost) most expensive.

 

Almost ready to buy... all I need is $1,500!

post #8 of 8

In response to kayandjohn's post:

The iPod Touch has no analog line out capability. When you use the Lightening to 30 pin adapter you are bypassing the newer improved DAC in the 5G for an older Wolfson DAC in the adapter. The amp in the 5G is also superb, only it lacks power. Unless you need more power to drive something like an HE-500, using the internal DAC and Amp. I also have an E12 for portable use, unless I need more power the 5G seems to do an excellent job. It even drives my HD600's (300 Ohms), but not as well at loud levels due to the higher voltage required by higher impedances. In both of these cases the E12 brings something to the table. In these cases I prefer doing the evil double amping as keep the internal DAC. There is no chance of jitter since everything is on the same clock. Also the noise level of the 5G is very low as is its distortion, so double amping to the E12 isn't as harmful as many might think. IMO, it's a better option than using the LOD.

I also use the 5G with the Lightning USB CCK cable to a hub, then to an Bifrost Uber USB DAC and then onto an Asgard 2 amp. That delivers improvements but ups the ante $$$.

Personally I dislike iOS, but for only using it with a DAP like the 5G, the total package is quite nice. I've listened to previous versions of the Touch, the 5G is the one that touched my ears and wallet. I've recently picked up the 5G because:

  1. Its improved sound over previous models.
  2. Neutron (Player) and Google Player (for my All Access Subscription) have been recently come to iOS.

Neutron has a funky UI, however the sound is first rate and it has a parametric EQ. I've used this on Android for a long time, sonically it's one hell of a player, highly recommended.


Edited by StanD - 4/20/14 at 8:02pm
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Headphone Amps
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › The Fiio, the Grado, the iPod, and the Emperor's New Clothes (iPod Touch 5G -> Fiio E12 -> Grado PS500)