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Portable Amps item created by LFF, Oct 21, 2010
Pros - Sound quality! Synergy with natural sounding headphones.
Cons - Looks.
****Note**** As always, these are strictly my opinions. I try to present these products as honestly as possible and try to describe them as best as possible. As always, YMMV. ****NOTE****
FISCHER AUDIO MYSTIFY PORTABLE HEADPHONE AMP
Frequency “flatness”: +/- 0.5db
Dynamic Range: 110 db
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.001%
Intermodulation Distortion: 0.005%
Stereo Crosstalk: -85 db
Max. Undistorted Output (50 Ohm load): 1.5 W
Included Accessories: Mini to mini cable, charger.
EQUIPMENT USED ON THIS REVIEW:
Sources: Rockboxed Clip+, Rockboxed iPod 5.5G, Sony D-25s, Denon DCD 1560, computer
Cables: ALO Cotton Dock, UE Mini to Mini, Fischer Audio Mini to mini, DIY
Other amps: Joe Grado HPA-1, RSA Hornet, RSA Shadow, Heed Canamp, EMU-0404 USB, Yamaha Receiver, Fisher 500-C.
My mastering rig
Music: Way too much to list…..
The portable world has been filled with options since way back when. Today, the options are virtually limitless with so many options available in the DIY world as well as on the manufacturing end. Portable amps are one of those options that seem limitless.
Enter the Fischer Audio Mystify. The Fischer Audio Mystify is small and fairly light. Housed in an extruded aluminum chassis with a screw-on faceplate and rear panel, it measures roughly 3.5” by 2.75” by .75” and weighs less than an ipod. It feels light, especially when compared to other portable amplifiers of the past. However, there are even lighter and smaller amps available so why do you want to spend your money on this new kid on the block? Well…let’s find out why you should or should not….
Fischer Audio…the crowd pleasing company!
If you’re not familiar with Fischer Audio then you must be hiding under a rock. Fischer Audio might be new to Head-Fi but they have been causing a stir worldwide with many of their IEM’s and headphones. Not only do they sound good but there is an IEM or headphone for every individual and at every price point. This doesn’t mean they charge a whole lot either….all of their products are priced very competitively.
As of today, they not only carry headphones and IEM’s, but are also introducing a portable amplifier, the Fischer Audio Mystify, to their Master Series line-up.
The Fischer Audio Mystify doesn’t really look impressive. The dimensions do not make it the smallest nor does it qualify it for one of the biggest. It’s also not the heaviest nor the lightest. Battery life is about 8-9 hours with full size headphones. The toggle switch has three positions, On, Off and Charge. The volume knob might be a little long, the LED’s are rather standard and the toggle switch looks awkward and the design is more DIY than German engineering. However, if you know anything about Fischer Audio, you know that packaging isn’t their main concern.
A rose by any other name…..
What’s in a package? Trick question so don’t answer! I don’t care much for the looks of components and audio gear. If I did, I would probably own Dr. Dre Beats or Skullcandy headphones to impress people with my fashionable gear. I would probably also own a Bose home theater system. Why don’t I own such fashionable gear? The answer should not surprise anyone here. I only care about the sound quality!
The sound of the Fischer Audio Mystify is great….really great. I connected the Fischer Audio Mystify to my Clip+ using the included (…that’s right…Fischer Audio includes a mini to mini) mini to mini powering my beloved Grado HP-1000 headphones. I was shocked by just how good the music sounded. Not wanting to believe the great sound from such an amp, I switched it up using different headphones and IEM’s. The shock took a while to go away.
I decided to plug in my favorite IEM’s at the moment, the DBA-02’s, and the result was just magical synergy. I was instantly transported to Capitol Studio’s back in the 1950’s. The ambiance, the energy and people were all there…I swear I could almost smell them. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I guess you just had to be there. Regardless of whether the Fischer Audio Mystify has a miniature flux capacitor within it and whether it will work for you or not, it completely worked for me, taking me back to a time when real musicians worked with real talent. I could visualize Harry “Sweets” Edison taking a solo, I could see Frank singing with style, I could feel Dean Martin smile while singing. O….M….G..!
Well, sure we know it’s a portable amp and it will do well with IEM’s but what about full size headphones. Could the experience with the HP-1000’s be a fluke? I rushed over and pulled out my new FA-002W-OW headphones to see just how well the amp would synergize with those. Once again…O…M…G..!
If you think this small amp will make a full size headphone sound tinny and craving power, you haven’t heard the Fischer Audio Mystify being played with FLAC files. With the Fischer Audio Mystify and natural sounding full size headphones like the Fischer Audio FA-003, the Fischer Audio FA-002W-OW and the Senn HD-600 , music takes on a body that any man or woman with a passion for music would crave. The naturalness and dynamics within certain pieces of music is special and something that the Clip+ and iPod lack on their own. You don’t really notice it either until it’s pulled out from under you! The Fischer Audio Mystify does indeed mystify, especially when you notice how much the bass response is improved upon. Some of that natural ambiance and bloom that goes away is completely restored. This isn’t to say that these things are EQ’d for but rather it takes an already great sound and gives it a much needed push to bring it from great to amazing much like a high-end tube amp.
The bass and ambiance are the ends of the spectrum. What about that crucial mid-range where the soul of the music lies? The Fischer Audio Mystify really impresses with its naturalness. In other words, it doesn’t hype up the midrange or obscure it. I think the Fischer Audio team knows that the midrange is critical and focuses on preserving that natural sound. It’s almost as if they want that to be their sound signature. Vocals sound amazing and completely natural. For example, listen to Susan Wong’s “Close To You” and you will notice that it sounds great on any system. However, with the Fischer Audio Mystify and some natural sounding headphones, Wong’s voice is exquisitely delicate, airy and carries across some analog warmth that most people are hard pressed to find even with some tube amps. Without the Fischer Audio Mystify in the signal path, great recordings still sound great but include it in the signal path and the clarity once thought not to exist is sure to impress not only for seemingly appearing from nowhere but also for how natural it actually sounds.
Not to be fooled by superb recordings, I put on some mediocre recordings. I played “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It’s not mediocre but the master tape apparently went through so many dubs that its actual physical quality was degraded quite a bit. The result is that there is quite a bit of distortion on the master tape. You can’t really tell unless you have a good system or really pay close attention with IEM’s. I played it going from my Rockboxed Clip+ -> Fischer Audio Mini to Mini -> Mystify -> FA-003’s. So, was the distortion there? Yes, it was there and completely present in the same amount as my mastering system. That doesn’t say much until you consider the fact that my mastering system is worth a whole lot more than the small semi-portable combination. It sounds even better with the DBA-02’s!
I decided to listen to some of my demo material and some other amps I have available and do some comparisons. Some of these amps are considered state of the art and some are still beloved by many here on Head-fi. Time and time again I played the same song on different set-ups. My conclusions are that the Fischer Audio headphones definitely have some synergy with the Heed Canamp. I have said this before. However, with the Fischer Audio Mystify that special synergy is taken to another level. I don’t know why and I wish I knew more about electrical engineering so I could understand why. Keep in mind that most of the amps I own are home amps. While some of the portables I own and have borrowed are great, what puts the Fischer Audio Mystify above them all is the natural synergy they have with natural sounding headphones. The UE-10, the DBA-02, the FA-003, the FA-002W-OW, the HP-1000 and the Senn HD-600 all sounded so darn good with the Fischer Audio Mystify.
Fischer Audio hasn’t come out and said that the Fischer Audio Mystify is in the same league as X or Y amp. In fact, a careful Google search reveals they haven’t said anything at all about the Mystify. I’ll be the first to say that the Fischer Audio Mystify is in the same league as some dedicated home headphone amps and when used with natural sounding headphones, it’s in a league which few combinations have reached for me.
Shut up and tell us the sum of it all……
As with everything, which portable amplifier is the best really depends on your requirements and budget. If you’re not listening to music on the go and have power hungry headphones like the HD-800 or AKG-1000’s, the Fischer Audio Mystify is obviously not for you.
If you’re like me and frequently find yourself on the road or stuck at the mall waiting for your wife, having a great sounding portable headphone amplifier that can easily fit in your pocket is a real blessing.
The cherry on top of this sonic treat is just how darn good the Fischer Audio Mystify sounds. I have yet to hear another portable that synergizes so well with natural sounding headphones and IEM’s. Even among all the options out there, I truly believe there is a place for an amp that sounds this good. Even better is that you can take this thing anywhere and enjoy it to your hearts desire.
How much does it cost? I have no idea because Fischer Audio hasn’t answered my emails (probably busy cooking up other nice stuff). I don’t know the details but I would personally value it at between $375.00 - $450.00 USD. Would I recommend it at those prices? NO. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! Owners of the DBA-02, JH-13, UE-10, FA-003 and fans of natural sound signatures take note! You must, MUST, give this amp a try. It really does have a special flavor with natural sounding IEM’s and headphones. If it’s less than $350, then IMHO, it’s a bargain considering I have heard much more expensive tube amps that do not sound this good. If it’s more than $450.00, then Fischer Audio has missed the “bargain” mark in my opinion.
I also want to point out that while the little power toggle switch looks awkward and weak, it’s actually quite functional and very strong. It’s also very easy to find in your pocket and when there is a mini to mini plugged in, it’s unlikely that something in your pocket will be small and strong enough to break it. I found it super easy to reach in without looking and turn it off when I was done. I really love this little amp! I really wish this thing had a DAC so I could use it with my laptop on the go. Now that would be phenomenal!