FiiO AM2 - Medium Power Amplifier Module for X7

General Information

Medium power amplifier module for the Fiio X7 Digital Audio Player


Dimensions ~ 64 x 25 x 16mm
Weight 32g
Voltage amplification Muses02
Current Drive Buf634
S/N (H/O) ≥118 dB (A-Weight)
THD+N (H/O) <0.001% (32Ω/1 kHz)
Output into 16 ohm >350 mW (16Ω/1 kHz)
Output into 32 ohm >300 mW (32Ω/1 kHz)
Output into 300 ohm >30 mW (300Ω/1 kHz)
H/O impedance <0.5 Ω (32Ω)
Peak output voltage >8.8 Vp-p
Peak output current >250 mA
Channel Separation >72 dB (32Ω/1 kHz)
Play time 8 hours+

Latest reviews

Pros: Alternative source, Great sound
Cons: Price is a bit high for a module
This will be a short review as there are a few other reviews that go into great depth listing all of the specs. I mainly joined this tour to basically get another chance at the X7 and try the amp modules. When I first joined the tour for the X7 when it first came out I did not have a great experience as the UI still was not stable. Now, the UI seems a lot better which also translates to a better user experience. The sound with the AM1 was ok it was a bit sterile with my setup and did not really compare the two. I used the AM2 the majority of these tour and absolutely fell in love with the sound. I really could not put this down and used it a lot. I mainly was comparing this to my Onkyo DP-X1, I downloaded Tidal HIFI and loaded all of my songs on to the player mainly using my Alclair RSM CIEM.
The X7/AM2 is a bit more musical then the DP-X1 and is easily enjoyable for hours on in. There is great bass and clarity at the same time never overpower nor bleeding into the highs. I actually considered buying this with the AM2 skipping buying the AM1 as that sound sig was not to my liking. What more is there to say, great buy to change the X7 for the better.
 
The X7 with AM2 is a great buy, I wish it had 2 mSD slots (wishful thinking for the X7-2) as you can never have to much memory. 
Pros: Better sound quality than AM1, overall build quality
Cons: Slightly lower battery life, color doesn’t exactly match rest of X7
Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Specs
  • Build Quality
  • Battery Life
  • Sound quality
    • Volume-matched Comparisons with other amp modules
  • Conclusion
 
(Before I even begin with the introduction, I wanted to say that the above table of contents is for your convenience. I’ll also include a tl;dr summary at the beginning of each major section.)
 
Introduction
 
Tl;dr: FiiO lent me the unit for my honest opinion, and a bit of background about myself.
 
[size=11.0pt]A little bit about me: I consider myself to be a relatively inexperienced audiophile, having only taken this hobby seriously for the past 2 or 3 years. Funnily enough, I actually began to take an interest in my headphone system with the purchase of a FiiO E7. The next logical upgrade from there was the FiiO E17, which I appreciated but soon found it a bit lacking in sound quality after I was exposed to other audio equipment. Now, after having been away from FiiO for a while I am now back with their X7 DAP.[/size]
 
[size=11.0pt]I tend to like a neutral sound signature, perhaps with a bit of warmth. But if one were to ask me to pick between a very warm or a very bright sound signature, I’d go towards the brighter one. I like a large variety of music including rock, pop, jazz, classical and orchestral, J-Pop and J-Rock, and C-Pop.[/size]
 
This review is specifically about the AM2 amp module designed for the FiiO X7 DAP. For a review of that particular player, you may want to click here for my review or take a look at the many other reviews of the X7.
 
I would like to thank FiiO for letting me demo all of the X7 amp modules in exchange for my honest opinion!
 
IMGP1027.jpg
 
 
Specs
 
Before we go onto the rest of the review, let’s post some specs for comparison, shall we?
 
Amp Module
AM1
AM2
AM5
AM3 Balanced
AM3 SE
Voltage Amplification
OPA1612​
MUSES02​
MUSES02​
OPA1622​
OPA1622​
Current Buffer
AD8397​
BUF634​
TPA6120A2​
OPA1622​
OPA1622​
Output into 16 ohms
>200 mW​
(16Ω/1 kHz)​
>350 mW​
(16Ω/1 kHz)​
>800 mW​
16Ω/1 kHz)​
>420mW (16Ω/1kHz)​
>250mW (16Ω/1kHz)​
Output into 32 ohms
>100 mW​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>300 mW​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>500 mW​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>540mW (32Ω/1kHz)​
>190mW (32Ω/1kHz)​
Output into 300 ohms
>10 mW​
(300Ω/1 kHz)​
>30 mW​
(300Ω/1 kHz)​
>55mW​
(300Ω/1 kHz)​
>70mW (300Ω/1kHz)​
>25mW (300Ω/1kHz)​
Output Impedance
<0.5 Ω (32Ω load)​
<0.5Ω (32Ω load)​
<0.5Ω (32Ω load)​
<0.3 Ω (32Ω load)​
<0.3 Ω (32Ω load)​
S/N Ratio
≥115 dB (A-weighted)​
≥118 dB (A-weighted)​
≥120 dB (A-weighted)​
≥115dB (A-weighted)​
≥115dB (A-weighted)​
THD + N
<0.0008%​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
<0.001%​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
<0.001%​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
<0.0008%​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
<0.001%​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
Channel Separation
>73 dB​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>72 dB​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>72 dB​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
>110 dB​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
≥72dB​
(32Ω/1 kHz)​
Peak Output Voltage
>5.2 Vp-p​
>8.8 Vp-p​
>11 Vp-p​
>11 Vp-p​
>7 Vp-p​
Max Current Output
>250 mA​
>250 mA​
>250 mA​
>160 mA​
>80 mA​
Battery Life
9+ hours​
8+ hours​
6+ hours​
>6 hours​
>6 hours​
 
Build Quality
 
Tl;dr: Great build quality. Not much to complain about, except perhaps the color doesn’t exactly match the rest of the X7.
 
The AM2 amp module continues the tradition of great build quality as found in the rest of the X7. The metal feels smooth and polished, with no rough edges. AM2 snaps in easily and is flush to the rest of the X7’s body, where it remains tight and secure once you put in the included screws.
 
It pretty much looks like it belongs with the rest of the player, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a much darker shade of grey compared to the rest of the X7’s brighter silver color. Honestly, this isn’t such a big deal for me since I’m not looking at the player for much of the time, but it is a bit weird to see three different shades of grey on the back of the player when AM2 is attached (one at the top, one in the middle, and AM2 on the bottom). There’s also the fact that you won’t notice this at all if you buy a cover for the X7.
 
Pretty much no complaints from me here.
 
IMGP1032.jpg
 
 
Battery Life
 
Tl;dr: You take a bit of a hit to battery life compared to AM1, but to me it’s a good compromise between driving power and power consumption.
 
Unfortunately, more power on tap means that the battery life will inevitably suffer. However, in the AM2’s case this isn’t as bad as you might think it to be.
 
I conducted my battery life testing under the following conditions: the X7 powering the Etymotic ER4S at low gain at a volume level of 39, using the FiiO Music app in Android mode, and with the screen, pulsar light, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth off. The music the X7 cycled through was mixture of CD-quality and high-res FLAC, as well as some DSD tracks. CD-quality FLAC tracks made up the vast majority of the music.
 
Under those constraints, as seen in the screenshot below I managed to get 7 hours and 41 minutes of playtime. In comparison, with the AM1 amp module volume-matched and under the same conditions, I got 8 hours and 22 minutes of playtime. With the AM2 amp module under the same conditions and volume-matched, the X7 could play for 7 hours and 41 minutes. With AM3 SE powering the same headphones volume-matched and playing under the same conditions, the X7 could squeeze out 7 hours and 14 minutes out of its battery.
 
In my opinion, this isn’t bad at all, considering I get decently more power to drive headphones but lose less than an hour of battery life. However, there’s no doubt that if you want the most battery life at all costs, get the AM1.
 
AM2ER4S.png
 
 
Sound Quality
 
Tl;dr:  The AM2 does very well with IEMs, and decently with moderately power-hungry full-size headphones. It’s a clear step up from AM1, however as expected it does lose out to AM5 and AM3 balanced.
 
Headphones primarily tested with: FiiO EX1/Dunu Titan 1, Etymotic ER4S, Hifiman HE-400i, and Sennheiser HD700.
 
Ok, enough with the build quality and battery life. How does it sound, you might ask?
 
I would say that the AM2 has a mostly neutral tone, perhaps a bit “relaxed” or some might call that a bit “warm.” Despite this overall character, AM2 is still quite detailed and has pretty good separation. This, combined with the moderately wide but with good depth soundstage, means that the AM2 provides some very good imaging (horizontal sounds) and layering (easily perceiving how close or far away sounds are). Another way to say all of this is that AM2 presents a convincing and coherent 3D soundstage.
 
AM2 also has enough power and finesse to drive almost all IEMs and even enough power to drive moderately power-hungry full-size headphones adequately, if not perfectly. For example, the AM2 drove both the FiiO EX1 (16 ohms) and the Etymotic ER4S (100 ohms) without hiss and without lacking power. The AM2 also powered my Hifiman HE-400i and Sennheiser HD700 pretty well, though by comparison to the AM5 amp module the AM2 did lack a bit here.
 
Volume-Matched Comparisons
 
All comparisons here were conducted under volume-matching with a C-weighted SPL meter.
 
Vs. AM1
 
The AM1 in comparison to the AM2 has a slightly wider soundstage. It also sounds “brighter” and a little more “metallic” and “brittle.” The AM2, in contrast, sounds somewhat “warmer” but also more natural in that notes are still as detailed without sounding like the detail is forced. This also means that stuff like vocals are given more “depth” and nuance on AM2. AM2’s soundstage is also very slightly narrower but also slightly deeper, making for a more 3D soundstage in which it is easier to perceive depth and layering of notes.
 
Separation and bass response sound about the same to me on AM1 and AM2. Perhaps some might say that the AM2 sounds “bassier” because of its more relaxed mids and treble.
 
All of the aforementioned characteristics are audible even on something as easy to drive as the FiiO EX1 IEM. The extra power also makes it so that the bass is more prominent and notes are less strained and grainy on full-size headphones being powered by the AM2 compared to the AM1. Overall, I think the AM2 sounds better than the AM1 no matter what headphone or IEM you are using.
 
Vs. AM5
 
AM2 and AM5 for the most part sound very, very similar. However, notes seemed to be a bit clearer, perhaps sharpened up a bit (but not overdone) on AM5. This can, for example, make wind instruments seem a tiny bit airier and vocals a bit “breathier.” AM5 also perhaps has a slightly wider soundstage, but depth of the soundstage is comparable between the two. I must emphasize that all of these differences are relatively minor.
 
To be honest, there’s not much improvement (if at all) in going to AM5 over AM2 for IEMs, even for harder-to-drive ones such as the ER4S. However, there seems to be an audible, if not major, improvement in using AM5 over AM2 to drive full-size headphones – for the HD700 and HE-400i, I thought I heard on AM5 that notes were slightly less grainy, slightly more open-sounding, that there was slightly more hard-hitting bass, and with slightly more separation.
 
So AM2 or AM5? Honestly, I think the biggest difference between the two is really how much power each can provide, and so this really depends on what type of headphones you listen to. If you mostly listen to IEMs with perhaps the occasional moderately power-hungry full-size headphone, go for AM2 because it has better battery life. If you frequently listen to hard-to-drive full size headphones, go with AM5.
 
Vs. AM3
 
First off, overall AM2 sounds very similar to AM3 in terms of soundstage size, detail retrieval, separation, imaging, etc. Perhaps AM3 is very slightly “sharper” and clearer sounding than AM2, but honestly I could just be imagining it.
 
As for AM3 SE vs. AM2, the AM2 is as capable as AM3 SE in powering IEMs (even more power-hungry ones). I honestly can’t tell much of a difference here.
 
However, for full-size headphones, AM2 actually comes out ahead. AM2, to me, simply produces less grainy notes and better-controlled and better-textured bass than AM3 SE when powering larger headphones.
 
But with AM3 balanced, the tables completely turn. (At least with full-size headphones, since I don’t have any balanced IEMs to test with.) Notes sound more airy and less constrained than on AM2. Bass is also deeper, more well-textured, and better-controlled. AM3 balanced’s soundstage is also slightly wider and deeper, and separation on AM3 bal. is also noticeably better (which also leads to better imaging and layering/depth perception).
 
So if you are planning to just use single-ended headphones, go with AM2 since it sounds just as good or better (depending on the headphone) with better battery life. But if you want to get the most out of your larger headphones, go with AM3 balanced.
 
IMGP1034.jpg
 
 
Conclusion
 
Tl;dr: The first and last sentence of the next paragraph.
 
At only $99, the AM2 amp module is a relatively affordable way to not only give your X7 a bit more power to drive a wider range of headphones, but also a boost in overall sound quality. If you really want the most out of battery life for the X7 and mostly use IEMs, get the X7 with the AM1 amp module as it provides the best battery life and it does still sound pretty decent. However, if you don’t mind somewhat lower battery life, get the AM2 as I do think it gives a noticeable increase in sound quality no matter what headphone you use. The AM2 very well may be the most suitable amp module for most people, as to me it gives the best combination of battery life and driving power.
 
Thanks for reading this (somewhat) long review of the AM2 amp module!
Walderstorn
Walderstorn
Very good comparison, this will help lots of people.
ReizeiMako
ReizeiMako
Excellent review. Easy to read and cover everything I want to know. Thank you.
Pros: more powerful than AM1 module, improves sound quality, robust plug’n’play without powering down X7.
Cons: price, slight reduction in battery life.

I would like to Thank FiiO for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.
 
I haven't seen AM2 being featured yet on FiiO website, and only found a link to http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1232533-REG/fiio_am2_amplifier_for_x7.html where you can pre-order it.

 
This is a short review of FiiO AM2 amplifier module intended for use with their flagship X7 DAP.  Paul (@Brooko) already posted a comprehensive review HERE which I highly recommend for others to read.  Due to an overload with all the reviews in my current queue - I made a decision to write a shorter impression sharing my thoughts about using this replacement amplifier module.
 
One of the benefits of X7 modular design is being able to swap amplifier modules (AM) in order to accommodate headphones with different power requirements.  It's definitely a great idea, but at the same time I think it did hurt X7 a bit during its introduction with a default IEM (AM1) module.  A lot of people judge the product based on the default configuration without realizing that upgrade can scale up the sound quality.  Don't get me wrong, original AM1 module has enough juice to drive most of the IEMs/CIEMs, efficient headphones, and even some not so efficient ones to a decent loudness level.  But for my personal taste I found low gain setting of AM1 to lack the energy and the excitement even with my IEMs.  Purely subjective opinion, but I always had AM1 on high gain, because I liked the improvement in the tonality, the texture, and the dynamics of the sound it brought to the table.
 
Using AM1 was not a show stopper, but I did get excited when I learned that medium power AM2 will feature MUSE02 opamp ICs, the same one used in E12A portable amplifier which I still hold in high regard.  As a matter of fact, I even remember when testing X7 w/E12A connected to LO how great it sounded paired up together (more body and wider soundstage).  Of course, just an opamp chip itself doesn't guarantee an identical sound improvement, but MUSE02 has its own characteristic and "coloring" which I definitely like and was looking forward to hear integrated with AM2.  After all, X7 is about a portable pocket friendly design, and I personally don't want to carry it stacked up with additional external amp.  That's where the beauty of modular design comes into the picture - you just remove one amp module and replace it with another one, integrated seamlessly with a footprint of X7.
 
Unboxing & accessories.
 
I know, some of you are thinking - unboxing of an add-on accessory which comes with its own accessories?  Well, if you are familiar with FiiO products, you will know they take a lot of pride in presentation and packaging of everything they sell, regardless if it's a flagship DAP or a cable or just an add-on amp module.  AM2 arrived in a nice little box with a cool artwork image on the cover, focusing on the bottom part of the X7.  Inside of it, there is a storage tin box with a precise foam cutout where you will find AM2 module.  Presentation is first class, even for small product like this.  The tin storage box can be used for your original AM1 module, or for anything else if you remove foam insert.
 
That would have been plenty, but FiiO also included more accessories.  You get a pair of mounting T5 screws, as a spare replacement.  You don't really need it since you already have a pair holding AM1 in place, but nevertheless - in case if you drop or loose one during replacement, now you got spares.  And very thoughtfully, you get 5 theme stickers for amp module.  I have reviewed X7 sticker accessories HERE, and made a comment that if you going to apply these stickers and replace AM module later - the bottom of X7 will be naked.  FiiO thought of everything, and added all the required stickers for the amp module to match the ones you already applied (if you have).  This is a very thoughtful idea.
 
fiio_x7_am2-01_zps37je5bne.jpg fiio_x7_am2-02_zpseut90qom.jpg
fiio_x7_am2-03_zpss1hbv0p6.jpg fiio_x7_am2-04_zpsszk30ahg.jpg
fiio_x7_am2-05_zpsckhtoc4p.jpg
 
Design.
 
Here you will find no surprises - it's a mirror image of the original amplifier module, just a slightly different darker color shade.  Not sure what was the purpose of the color change, or maybe because my X7 unit is part of the first batch build intended for reviewers where the color was a few shades lighter.  But either way, I don't apply stickers and I use FiiO genuine case with my X7, so color difference is irrelevant to me.  I also noticed an updated print on the back, indicating this is AM2 model.
 
Of course, the main difference is inside where FiiO updated opamp from OPA1612 to MUSES02 (the same one used in E12A).  This is not a high power update, thus a reason why FiiO refers to this module as medium power, and we are still waiting for balanced output module and high power module to be released in a near future.  According to the comparison spec of AM1 vs AM2, the power increase is load dependent, approximately 1.75x more with 16 ohm load (200mW to 350mW) and up to 3x more with 300 ohm load (10mW to 30mW).  Obviously, 300 ohm is not the limitation since I was able to drive my 470 ohm R70x and Momentum 2 Wireless (in wired), both with an authority.
 
Another interesting fact, module replacement is fully plug'n'play compatible.  You don't need to power down your X7, just take off the screws, unplug the module, and carefully plug the new one in - X7 recognizes the new amp module and changes notification bar id from AM1 to AM2.  To be on a safe side, you can always power down X7 before you replace the module, but just wanted to mention that plug'n'play does work.  Also, keep in mind with a higher power module, especially when you run it in a high gain, expect a battery life penalty where I noticed a reduction on average of about one hour or less.
 
fiio_x7_am2-06_zps2wyojgln.jpg fiio_x7_am2-07_zpsic401gxm.jpg
 
Sound analysis.
 
Instead of going through every headphone and noting the difference, I decided to summarize my finding across my usual suspects, such as R70x, PM-3, MSR7, ZEN 1.0, ES60, DN2kJ, and U12.
 
X7-AM1:
 
Low Gain – detailed sound but lacks some energy and overall not as dynamic.
 
High Gain – sound is more detailed and I hear more transparency and clarity, great low end and treble extension, excellent layering/separation, not as much body and the sound is more analytical and neutral.
 
X7-AM2:
 
Low Gain - soundstage expands with more width, there is more weight in the low end with more sub-bass; lower mids have more body but I felt like there was a bit of a bleed from the bass which made sound warmer and even a little more congested.
 
High Gain - the same soundstage expansion, low end is a bit tighter and feels more controlled, lower mids still have more body but the sound also has more clarity, more dynamics, even some slight improvement in layering/separation.  To my ears, in high gain the sound is not as congested as it was in low gain.
 
Comparison to K5 and E12A.
 
fiio_x7_am2-08_zps97ca2szf.jpg
 
 
X7-AM2 vs X7 w/E12A - nearly identical sound signature and tonality, similar soundstage expansion except w/AM2 I hear it a bit wider.  The main noticeable difference to me is in X7 w/AM2 bass is faster, tighter, and a little more articulate, while w/E12A it is slower and not as tight.
 
X7-AM2 vs X7 w/K5 - w/K5 soundstage is noticeably wider, while depth/height is the same. Everything else, including speed and tonality, is the same.  Of course, K5 can go up in power to drive even the most demanding headphones, thus X7-AM2 with K5 is one heck of a combo.
 
Conclusion.
 
I know a lot of X7 owners will have a question if they should upgrade to AM2 module or stay with AM1.  It’s an easy decision if you feel like you’re running out of juice with X7 and don’t feel like carrying your DAP strapped to an external amp.  AM2 can give you that extra boost, especially if you have higher impedance cans.  But if you are listening to more efficient headphones on the go and higher impedance full size at home – perhaps it makes more sense to invest into K5 docking amp which cost almost the same as AM2 module.
 
The question becomes a bit more challenging to answer if you are satisfied with AM1, similarly to my situation where I was happy using it in high gain.  Extra power aside, it all comes down to a personal sound preference.  I find AM1 to sound a little thinner and colder and more analytical which pairs up fantastic with neutral and warmer headphones, though no slouch with bright analytical headphones as well.  Stepping up to AM2 will give sound more body, more weight, improves low end control, and to my ears makes soundstage a little wider – not too much but just enough to notice.  AM2 improvement brought the sound closer to K5, though K5 sound is still wider.  Thus, you have to decide if you want to keep your sound improvement portable and go with AM2 ($99) or compliment your X7-AM1 with a desktop K5 docking amp ($109).
Brooko
Brooko
Nice Alex - covered some of the bits I missed.  If you want to, copy and paste my table - always helps having the specs up, and it'll save you some time :) 
twister6
twister6
@Brooko : your review was a great source to find those specs, so I just "paraphrased" it :wink:  You covered everything, so I just wanted to add a bit of my perspective to compliment it :)
 
@avitron142 : it's all part of FiiO "ecosystem".  I think FiiO got the right idea when they recently mentioned about possibility of selling X7 with a dummy amp module where you can just use it docked with K5 or use LO with external amp and can save yourself money by not purchasing X7 with a default IEM module (I hope they will move forward with this decision).  Then, you can make your own decision if you want to invest your $100+ into AM1/AM2/AM3/AM4 modules or K5 docking amp.  But in my opinion, I think their upcoming balanced output Amp Module with both 2.5mm TRRS and 3.5mm TRS will make the most sense, I think it will be the most popular option.
majo123
majo123
thinking of clicking buy on this one , but i was wondering do you think the pinnacle p1 iem improve / benefit in any way with the AM2? know they like some power,i like them with the AM1 and mostly use x7 on the go, will definitely be investing in the k5 for at home in the future when i do want to use full size cans. bought the p1 on your review and was very pleased! but do you think AM2 is worth my buy...thanks

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