Cons - Gain switch and crossfeed are recessed (needs pointed object to switch)
I needed something to power my Superlux HD330. My smartphone back then is a Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8. Audio from the phone is quite clean and decent but I did not think that it's powering the 150 ohm HD330 properly. It's loud enough at close to max volume but "loud" is not necessarily equal to "properly driven". Long story short, I sold the A3 (E11K Kilimanjaro) a few weeks earlier and upgraded to the E12 Month Blanc. Mind you, it's twice the price of the A3 but is it worth it? Find out below.
The E12 comes in a premium package that looks and feels nice. What you get:
Inside the box is a black cardboard container that has a black, rough leathery finish. Really nice.
The E12 protected by a foam on the cardboard cover
A short interconnect. Really good for clean-looking stacks.
Rubber pads for stacking (I believe these are better than rubber feet)
Rubber bands also for stacking
A soft carrying case for the E12 if you want to carry it solo (non-stacked)
Quick start manual and warranty certificate
SPECS, DESIGN, AND BUILD QUALITY
The design is intuitive enough. Now that it has been discontinued, its page is no longer available at Fiio.net. Please check the details here to see specs, buttons and ports placements, and how it can be stacked. My only gripe would be the recessed gain and crossfeed switches. I understand that the gain might be recessed for safety purposes. With 850mW of output power, it's dangerous to accidentally switch to high gain for the risk of hearing damage or even gear damage if the headphones are sensitive enough. But the crossfeed function should be accessible enough. Or they could've tightened the gain switch to avoid accidental switches. Just my two cents.
Crossfeed does what it does but I don't think it's very useful. It's supposed to work for older recordings, especially for older jazz recordings where a lot of musical elements are too separated to the right or left channels. I get that but in my opinion, it takes away the "authentic" sound and feel of those recordings once crossfeed is engaged.
As usual with Fiio, build quality is really solid. It's hefty in a sense that you feel you're holding something significant. The brushed aluminum finish also helps minimize scratches and is very durable, not a scratch after a few months of use.
IMPORTANT NOTE: After a few on/off switches to the device, I noticed a second "click" sound after the actual "click" when turning it on. At first I had my unit replaced by the seller. When the new unit also had this issue, I decided to contact Fiio. It turned out that due to its beastly output power, Fiio implemented a relay switch to avoid on/off transients from creating unwanted (or even headphone-damaging) "pops". I'm sure that seasoned audiophiles around here already know this but I just wanted to share it to regular music lovers like myself. Just be assured that your unit is not defective if you experience the same.
I agree with one of the masters, Brooko. Amps shouldn't be tested for the usual sound elements (lows, mids, highs, soundstage, etc.). Headphones should. But the question is, should they be tested for sound improvement? In a sense, yes. If a headphone is properly driven, then you might observe improvements in those elements.
So is it worth twice the price of the Kilimanjaro? A resounding yes! It's very neutral to my ears. I mean, the A3 has some warmth...or so I thought since I tested the E12 and noted the difference. Thereafter, the A3 sounded warmer than I first heard. And the soundstage! The improvement in instrument separation is significantly noticeable. How about the bast boost? In my opinion, bass boost for both the A3 and E12 are cleanly implemented, where it adds the needed impact and warmth to some recordings but do not bleed to other frequencies. Due to the improved soundstage though, it sounds cleaner on the E12.
Pair it with anything and I'm pretty confident, what you feed is what you get, with more neutrality and a clearer perception of soundstage than you previously heard.
On my last review (I believe it's the Superlux HD330), I told the community that I won't be reviewing anything anytime soon since I'm back to my old music lover self (non-audiophile). Oh well, I enjoy this stuff. And though I'd like to stick with best-value budget gear, I felt that I owe it to the community to express my thoughts on the E12.
At the time of this writing, I already sold the E12. Now I have my sights on the A5. Specs are very tempting but I don't have the need for it yet.
The E12 is truly a worthy flagship. Does it make the A3 obsolete? No, definitely. The A3 is still a great-value (as Fiio decided to keep it in circulation, together with the A5). But a the top of Fiio's portable amps, the E12 was the undisputed king. Highly recommended. Grab it while you still can!
That's about it, plain and simple. Next stop - my review on the Fiio EM3.
Pros - Organic and very enjoyable at conveying the recording.
FiiO Mont Blanc for IEM E12a $159.99
When you pick up the Mont Blanc you feel like you have something substantial in your hand. Not that is is overly heavy, no, it is conveys the impression that this thing is meant to last, is not some cheap plastic wrapped trifle and it is a compact well made amp that looks like you could take it with you to a zombi outbreak. And this is important, how it looks and feels but we also want something that performs, that sounds good, the boosts our enjoyment of music that isn’t just another addition to be set on the shelf or sold off when the mood strikes. So I put the Mont Blanc, referred to MB from here on, to the test, the musical test.
There is little music I don’t enjoy, if it is well recorded from classical, jazz, western, rock, a lot of rock and even new age on occasion. The MB fed by the X5 or the X1 (the X1 is a fun little dap that for 119 dollars is a great buy), revealed plenty of layers to the sound.
For monitors I used the RE 600, PortaPros, ESW10 Jpn and the JH13 Pros. I find these give me the range I need but will add that the MB had no trouble powering the Fostex TH900.
With jazz I often enjoy Scott Hamilton’s, No Bass Hit for the drum solo. The MB kept pace with this. The drum strike and decay was conveyed and even on the louder passages, there was no collapse of the sound field. There is a whir of the tape machine while recording this CD and I suppose it was analogue or some fan somewhere but it requires resolution to ferret it out. There is a short quiet period in the drum solo and during this time I could hear the faint whir, which gets to the bottom of detail resolution.
Hall acoustics on live recorded music like Neil Young’s 92 recording of all acoustical instruments is pulled in but not in like close but in like you feel you are really hearing the event. People sounds, claps, the “we love you” all comes through without having to listen hard, it is resolved, present and felt on a emotional level.
I noticed that the high frequencies do not have a stridency that can be noticed on some amps, they are clean and the mid frequencies are full but not overly so. Bass, clean and the notes do not bleed into the other frequencies, which is so important to get right. I won’t say this sounds like my desktop amps but so what, it conveys the music, the song the fun and takes a good dap to another level and it can give you a little different flavor for an already fine integrated amp section.
It is important to note that this is not a cold sounding amp. It has an organic slightly warm tone that enhances many musical pieces and with so much digitally recorded music, this is a plus. The strum of the guitar comes across like you often hear if you listen live. It isn’t just metal wires on a guitar, it is the waves of notes influenced by the acoustical space with the sound reverberating within that space and this is important as it adds to the life and enjoyment of what you are listening and after all, that is what this is all about.
I want to add this amp is easy to charge from the USB provided connection, solid as a small monolith of aluminum and I would think, lasting as long as you want to enjoy music and along with my impressions of a fine sound is a recommendation!
Pros - Bass boost is pretty well implemented, powerful and good drive capabilities, nice warm sound
Cons - still won't drive everything, E12 regular edition has audible hiss which is fixed in the DIY version
So a couple of friends loaned me the E12 a month or two back and I have been listening them on various rigs and familiarising with them over a while, I'm not that experienced in the portable realm but will do my best to give you a clear picture of the sound(hopefully).
With the design, I find the switches mostly a pain in the arse to use because they are recessed when I use the amp with different headphones, like my hard to drive AKG 240DFs and say the more sensitive IM-70 from Audio Technica. This problem is solved in the E12DIY which sports a gain flick toggle switch at the front panel at the price of giving up all the other features of the regular E12. I really like the knobs on the amps as they still do no feel very loose after the two months I have them and they are also less prone to accidental adjustments due to their design.
Without ado, I felt the Mont Blanc was pretty win(and maybe their only win product in my book) so far, having owned the E11, its a huge step up in sound and direction of Fiio. The soundstage is pretty large compared to the Project Iona I had at the point of review. Comparing the Project Iona, O2 and E12 side by side, the E12 comes of as the warmest sounding of the bunch(though they all measure flat) and also the most technically competent of the bunch. Bass wise, the E12 tops out have a more defined bass body than the O2 which sounded somewhat mushy in comparison. As it has a good amount of power, it swings between volume levels without feeling compressed and strained compared to the Objective 2 which was flat(like dynamically flat) in comparison into harder loads(it still holds true even for easier loads though). The one quibble I have is the lack of synergy/drive with a picky headphone like the HD800, which is probably due to the choice of opamp(OPA1611 iirc) used. It sounded harsh and dry into the HD800 whereas my receiver though noisier, drives the HD800 effortlessly(I noticed the same in other big amps of course) so don't be too tempted to use this into replacing a proper desktop amp. Into the AKG240DF though, I'm simply happy with the combination.
As for the switches, I found the gain to provide a good balance between the headphones(and the feel in-ears) I use. The bass switch is pretty good, boosting the low end of some headphones in a good way without obscuring the mids. For me, the crossfeed though a boon for some was frankly just junk for me, I think I would stick to software or higher end implementations of crossfeed. For the purist though, these added features to an extend kinda harm the sound and is the cause of the hiss in the E12, how I know? Thats because I have the E12DIY which removes all these features and changes the gain switch to a little toggle switch, I love it. For the purist, get your hands on the E12DIY especially if you have sensitive IEMs
Right now, I'm using the E12s as one of my reference amps given my heavily budgeted situation and will update impressions on fitting in some of the better (newer) opamps into the E12DIY and see how it goes. Other then that for the regular headphone users(portable headphones or studio cans) I heartily recommend the E12 and for those more discerning ones with sensitive cans and IEMs, I recommend the E12DIY even if you don't "DIY".
Pros - amazing construction, neutral sounding, and it comes with many accessories.
Cons - may not have the sound signature everybody likes.
If anybody has read my reviews than you know that I'm not an audiophile whatsoever, I just enjoy listening to music and I love audio and how it works. So let's start off the review, So this is my first headphone amplifier, and I heard its a Good model to start with so I went with this model the e12.
I must say I do notice a difference in sound performance using a headphone amplifier, rather then using a normal output jack on a regular mp3 device. The build quality on this device is amazing, it's constructed out of a very strong metal, I honestly have no complaints on the construction on this device whatsoever,
So no complaint there. And the features on this mini device is pretty cool, there's a bass boost on the side of the device for those who enjoy that sound, and there's also a cross feed feature you can turn on, It mixes the channels in both ear cups so its more of an even sound stage in both ear cups. So there's no different sound in just one ear cups, you'll be able to hear it in both the ear cups. The gain switch allows the amplification to actually take place. This device can output an impediance up to 300 ohms, This can pretty much power any headphone in the world, well almost any headphone.
The sound signature on this is fenominal I must say, I can't even explain how well this device allows headphones to sound, its just breath taking I must say. The fiio mont blanc e12 has more of a natural sound Signature, and that's pretty surprising because fiio is a company known for having a warm sound signature, but the Fiio e12 doesn't follow down that path, it has more of a flat sound, creating a natural sound; I myself prefer that, but some people may not like that, some people might like more of a warm sound, but the e12 doesn't really excel with a warm sound signature. But overall I honestly liked it and I've had a terrific music listening experience I must say. So this is my review of the fiio e12 Mont blanc portable headphone amplifier.
Pros - High power output, bassy sound, option switches, sleek looking, great universal sound
Cons - Noise during charging, option switches are recessed, build isn't totally smooth.
Introduction: FiiO is one of the most popular companies in the world of headphone audio. Their products come with unmatched performance for the price. They want to deliver great products that fans will love by listening to them on Head-Fi and other forums and even letting the fans vote on versions. The FiiO Mont Blanc is FiiO’s new flagship portable amplifier. It boasts an amazing amount of power while still being affordable. I would like to thank FiiO for the review sample. Now let’s see if the E12 lives up to the FiiO name. Unboxing Video
PLEASE read the review here: http://www.pandatechreview.com/fiio-e12-review/
Unit Quality: FiiO is quite famous for their great build quality in their black ‘stealthy’ looking designs. The E12 of course is no exception. The corners all come together seamlessly and it is not easily scratched. I wouldn’t recommend doing a drop test but the feeling of the E12 is just beautiful.
Accessories: The E12 like FiiO’s other units comes with most accessories a starter would want. This includes a 3.5mm interconnect cable, a USB charge cable, User Manual, Warranty Card, Silica Gel packet, cloth carrying case, plastic dome standoffs, Binding bands, and the E12 itself. The binding bands the E12 comes with is quite large and will probably not work with most smartphones or Apple devices. It was meant for another FiiO device. I alerted FiiO of this and they said they will include normal binding bands along with the wide ones. I do not know if this is permanent or not. Some users have noted that their E12 cloth bag smells like gasoline. It seems to be the ones from Micca Store. Oil based products may have been near the E12 shipment.
FiiO also has a policy where accessories are free, which is quite nice of them. The only catch is that you must pay for the shipping which is $5. But all is well if you need more rubber domes, or interconnect cable. This program is up to FiiO and can end at any time. But as of this writing, it is in place.
Usability: The Mont Blanc feels well in a user’s hands and has a weight of authority as well. Like past FiiO’s, you can bind it to your PMP or just use it as a travel amp. It isn’t too large, but it isn’t exactly small either. I have put the Mont Blanc through some slightly hairy situations and it has still come through unscathed. It handles like most amps basically.
But this is the section with the most problems of the E12 sadly. The E17 and E07K’s aux in matched well with the LOD and iPod’s as it allowed for the L9 to be used and to be ergonomic. The E12 does not have this. You can face the E12 both ways and try the L9 with the E12 but it still won’t work. The L11 is an option but there aren’t exactly any cheap and readily available very short interconnect cables. If there was one, then this issue would be fixed. But the majority of those short cables are expensive. And most users seem to just use L3 and L9.
For more info on why this design is quirky, click here.
The moving parts of the E12 have a few issues. They are mainly nit-picks at getting perfection but still noteworthy to a review reader. The sub switches of Crossfeed and Gain do feel a little sticky. The Alpen and Andes both had this. They just don’t feel high quality when you switch them. Using a pen to change the options can also get color on the switches. The bass boost switch on the other side is a bit loose. This leads to bass boost switching to be turned on when the device strap moves over it. It is a bit of a weird design in my opinion. Having switches that require a pin and then having a somewhat loose bass boost switch. The last thing is the volume pot. I’ve noticed that it will get squeaky and feel like it is rubbing against the metal on the bottom. I have to sometimes put force on pulling the pot up a bit to stop it from happening. This thing is often a problem with volume pots, but it should still be noted.
It has been also mentioned before, but the initial binding band did not work with iPod’s or other 1 cm thick or less pmp’s.
Bass Boost: The bass boost of the E12 v1 mainly applies to the sub bass. I believe FiiO puts the number at 4-5dB increase in sub bass at around 50Hz. The E12 is a flagship amp and it acts like it. Bass Boost is put down in China as being non-purist and so here we have a new sub bass bass boost. Which is an opposite turn from the full on bass boosting usually present in FiiO devices. I would say the quality of it is very nice and adds a nice sub oomph to songs.
FiiO listened to fans who wanted a more pronounced bass boost and so from now on, a V2 model with a different bass boost will be coming out. This will also boost the mid bass but it won’t boost it to crazy amounts.
Well the E12 comes with crossfeed. It does what the info page says it does.
It reduces the surrounding instruments while giving you a more up front symmetrical vocal.
The pronunciation of the lows is also effected by crossfeed. They are less powerful.
FiiO E12 changes: FiiO has since said that they will include the standard band to the E12 package along with the new bands. I do not know if they will change this later on to just one set of bands.
The bass boost will also be changed to a more pronounced one.
There have been no info on how to tell the units apart(without listening) yet. But as of February, the units on the market should be V1 sub bass boost. My review was done with V1 bass boost.
Notice: You may have noted that I am listing a lot of nit-pick cons and quirks of the device and sparse sentences on good stuff. Well the thing is, the E12 is just a normal device. It being a normal flat working amp already makes up the list of positives. There really much to note on the E12 and its build and other things for pros as it is just a nice device already.
IEM noise: There is some noise with IEM's. It shouldn't be a lot for most units
Sensitivity of Volume Pot: While on the go, I have tried many times to see if the volume pot can be turned. With just one finger, the volume pot was very hard to turn. It may have been on purpose or just a by product of it being a small Alps potentiometer. Also, due to the way the volume pot is by design, it is much harder to turn at the 'beginning' but it loosens up as you go higher in volume. This also works in the interest of IEM users.
Testing: Testing was done with IEMs such as the Heir Audio 4ai, 3ai, Tzar 350, Tzar 90, Dunu DN19, Vsonic GR07 Mk2, AKG Q701, Ultrasone HFI 580, and Sony MH1C’s.
It was tested with a Dual Wolfson WM8741 DAC lining out to the E12 with a RCA to 3.5mm cable.
Burn in: I personally enjoyed the device more after an hour or two. But these findings have no backing data.
>880mW @ 32 ohms
Sound Section: The FiiO E12 is a departure from how the Alpen and Andes sounds. While the former two have a warm and sweet sound that is more bass prone, the E12 goes for a more clearer sound. I would say that it is more ‘audiophile’ and more neutral as compared to the Andes and Alpen.
FiiO E12 and Audio-gd NFB 12.1
The vocals of the E12 are more laid back but more full than the Audio-gd’s. They are very smooth and the mid instruments are also much more pronounced. The background mid instruments come in a bit stronger than the audio-gd. The separation of the entire spectrum is also closer together than other various amps such as the O2 and MRB. The separation is still of course better than many amps, but it is noticeably smaller on the Mont Blanc. The Mont Blanc also has a deeper more pronounced bass hit. It is a bit looser but spread out more.
The FiiO E12 sounds much cleaner than other FiiO amps. Much more clear in the vocals and instruments. The bass has also been done well where it doesn’t give the user a more heavier hit. The E12 of course still retains the general quality of FiiO’s other products but it has upped the notch.
FiiO E12 and FiiO E11
The highs of the FiiO E11 are more harsh than the E12. They don’t hold as well. The separation of the E11 is also considerably less than the E12. Mid instruments and vocals are more congested and scrunched up. The vocals of the E11 are more forward than the mids, but the mids of the E11 are not very smooth. The lows of the E12 are also much tighter than the looser ones of the E11.
The E11 boasts of a more fun sound with a nice bass response to go with the tracks. However its vocals and highs ultimately fail the E11 in being up to par with the E12. But of course, the E12 isn’t a replacement for the E11. The E12 is the flagship series.
FiiO E12 with Custom Project-H (Objective 2 w/ Burr Brown op amp and Cirrus Logic flagship DAC)
With the DAC being the CS4398, the FiiO E12 does a good job up against the O2. The O2's vocals are more forward and louder than the E12's. The depth on the E12's vocals are also much better. The seperation and soundstage of the mids(instruments) is also superior on the O2. The O2 is just a bit sweeter than the E12. The E12, I would say is a bit colder than the O2. Of course, colder does not equal more neutral. The O2 would be the more neutral amp, but the O2 accentuates more parts of the song than the E12 does. Now you are thinking, how can the O2 be more neutral if it accentuates more things? Well neutrality is a word that goes into the best reproduction of music and how neutral will theoretically reproduce the music better. And the O2 does reproduce it better than the E12. The overal transparency on the O2 is also better than the E12. However, the units are still nice and closely matched. I'm quite surprised how close they are. To some, the distance between the two may not warrant one or the other, and to some, the distance is huge(purists). But whatever it is, I think that the E12 does a very good job against the O2. It's only that while on the go, I personally prefer a more warmer sound than what the E12 offer.
I think that some of life's challenges are reviewing products. A bigger challenge would be to review FiiO products. It is hard to really criticize their products when their price is so good for what is offered. The FiiO E12 Mont Blanc is a realization of FiiO enginuity yet again. They managed to put out a product at such a low price with good hardware and sound. The E12 is not going to wow people with high end units but for the price, it is a great unit.
I had my eyes on FiiO E12 for a long time now, since I’ve seen the little fellow at Sandu’splace. I remember I tried it with LCD-2 at that time and it could drive them quite nicely.
That was amazing coming from that little black box.
After that, I looked up the specs and was pleasantly surprised to see that the output power is > 880 mW @ 32 Ohms, which is pretty impressive coming from a portable amplifier powered by battery and at that size ( 124 x 65.5 x 14.5 mm )
E12uses OPA1611 and LME49600 OPAMP combination. The OPA1611 serves as amplifier and LME49600 plays the role of currency outputting.
It also has ALPSpotentiometer and is powered by a clean battery so it can achieve low level of distortion.
While looking at it, I saw a gain selector (0 , 16 db), crossfeed and bass boost.
Hmm, crossfeed, I have first tried a hardware level implementation of crossfeed at my first headphone amplifier the Meier Audio Corda Cantate 2.
The PRAT was decent and the overall song was toe tapping. Michael’s voice seemed natural and without any coloration added. Because of the black background the instrument separation was quite good and the instruments were detailed and standed out.
The sound was spacious and the guitars from the beginning tickled my ears.The chord’s extensions were good and when the electric guitar kicked in the sound became very engaging. I would have liked a little more weight to the sound. Oh wait…I have the bass boost. That solved my problem. The added weight was a little unnatural but it was ok overall, but to be fair my ears wouldn’t resist with bass boost on for a long period of time.
This guy is a great amplifier but this is where I felt the LCD3 and HD800 needed more. However it drove them at a decent level. They needed more for depth, punch and imaging.
On the fence:
The sound was detailed and the instruments tickled your ears on many occasions.
It seemed to me that the E12didn’t add any warm signature /coloration as the E17andE10did.
The sound has a good soundstage, with a black background that leads to good instrument separation.
The FiiO E12 is a great piece of gear that deserves all your attention if you are looking for portability.
It can drive all of the power hungry iems / ciems or portable headphones out there. It can also drive the Audeze LCD3 and Sennheiser HD800 to a decent level.
I don’t think it has competition at it’s price & performance.
So FiiO strikes again with another excellent product that has no competition at that price. I like what FiiO does very much. They studied the market and filled what was missing, and did an awesome job with that.
excellent price for what it offers
good build quality and design
airy sound with good instrument separation
As for cons, at that price I cannot find any.
I am really happy that AVstorebecame an official FiiO dealer and we have access to them in Romania.
I am coming from a Fiio e11 which is a powerful little amp and this is an amazing upgrade. For this review my set up is a 6th Gen Nano with an L9 to the e12 switching between a pair of UE Superfi 5eb and ultrasone580s (I cant wait for my XB1000s to come in to really see how well these two can play together). The best way to describe the sound is that someone took the mids and highs and threw them all the way to the other side of the room while leaving the bass intact. The clarity and separation is greatly upgraded from the e11 I would rightfully say this amp is twice as good once you get accustomed to the sound signature which says a lot. This definitely warrants the the price difference. The only issue I have is with the volume. First the knob is a little tighter and tougher to move than the e11. Second is the gain. I had it set to 0 and had it on full blast and though "well this isnt too special" then switched it to the other setting, 16, which I'm beginning to think is the Chinese symbol for "dear god why would anything ever have to be this loud." Another thing to consider is that this thing is pretty big. Its definitely portable for a guy wearing jeans but I dont know about for a girl's pants or use at the gym. Its about the size of two ipod touches on top of each other.
Pros - It's like an E9 in your pocket, with lower output impedance, a crossfade feature, a boost to counter sub-bass roll off, for just $30 more!
Cons - Slim, but not the easiest to use from within jeans pockets. Bass boost is subtle. Vs cheaper amps, small improvement for easy-to-drive headphones
Here's my long-delayed E12 review on an early pre-order model. I waited to get a good feel with many songs before posting this, and a good feel for how the amp affects the sound presentation. I tested it with my standard playlist to get a reference point of view, but you'll see references to other songs sprinkled throughout the review that I think are relevant for illustration purposes. This is mostly a subjective review because I have few tools but my own ears, but I hope I provide enough data for others to make their own conclusions. I tested mostly with my AKG Q701 headphones, because they are my primary headphones and notorious for their performance variability with different amps, and I also tested with my Etymotic ER-6i, because they have a remarkably flat frequency response through most of the range. Build Quality: Extremely nice. Think "Apple Unibody Macbook Pro" nice. The external shell is made up of 3 main parts: a solid, black, matte finish brushed metal tube, and two matching end caps. The only visible screws are two on the bottom piece. The seams between the end caps and main section have less than a hairline gap, evenly fit all the way around. Ports, switches, and the volume knob all have great looking chrome accents: the bass switch even has many concentric rings on the face of it, so you get that "CD" reflection shape on it. The volume knob is small but with a great volcanic grip, very stiffly dampened so you won't change volume in the pocket and small volume adjustments are easy. The "Power On" and "battery" LEDs are separate, the "battery" LED blinks when the battery starts to run low and "breathes" while charging, varying speed according to how much charging power the Mont Blanc is receiving. Here is a video I took with my iPad of the E12 right after unboxing
Power: Feiao "Depend on the test of the engineer sample, the output power @32 ohms headphones is about 1.3w to 1.4w, and @16 ohms headphones is about 900mW, so I believe it can drive almost all hard to drive headphone except some " monster " headphone like the AKG K1000." http://www.head-fi.org/t/620339/fiio-flagship-portable-amp-mont-blanc-e12-discussing-thread-the-pre-order-unit-arrives/300#post_8879770 Playing on 0 dB gain setting, listening volume for me is at about 11 O'clock with my AKG Q701, 10 O'Clock with my Audio Technica AD700, and with my Etymotic ER-6i IEMs (which I am listening to as I write this), is just a bit above 9 O'clock position on the volume dial. Off position is about 6:30-7 O'Clock, and the amp turns on at about 7 O'Clock. Max is at 5 O'Clock. Happily, I cannot humanly detect a channel imbalance at listening volume with my ER-6i. The amp can be used while charging, though your typical mains power will introduce a little background noise. It charges with a USB port, I think a Micro "A," conveniently the same as my phone, drawing tablet, and many other devices, but unfortunately different from the Mini usb port used in the FiiO E11. Full charging varies with how much voltage is supplied (i.e. faster from a wall socket than a computer), but should be done in 4 hours or less. Output Impedance: >0.5Ω, very good and suitable for basically any headphone. Portability: 124x65.5x14.5 (mm). 159g weight. Portable, but a full-sized portable. It can slip into a pants pocket, but you might feel uncomfortable with a larger music player strapped to it. It's a smidge thinner than the E17, but a cm wider and 3 cm longer. Think of it as about the size of a large smartphone (My mom's Samsung Android is bigger). FiiO quotes >12 hours for the battery, in typical use I go days between charging (I use this to amp my gaming setup in addition to listening to music). The battery LED blinks when the battery is low, but I haven't noticed any degradation of audio quality right up until the moment the power goes dead. There is a slight issue of organizing the connector cable between amp and PMP. I personally think two straight plugs is the answer, with the included right-angle plug male-to-male cable cramping up the "top" plate and sticking out a bit, perhaps making it tough to have strapped to a PMP, in a pocket, and in use at the same time. Still more portable than a cassette or CD player though! ----- Subjective Sound opinion Neutrality: Dead honest, with almost no additional coloration over what the headphones already have (at least as these human ears can hear). My tube amp is a bit more revealing and brings your attention to micro detail and texture more, but… that might be over emphasizing, I can still hear that same detail (for example the backing sub-bass right now in Bjork's "All is Full of Love"), it's just perhaps more integrated with the rest of the sound character and thus more "musical" than "analytical." Me gusta, definitely belongs among high-tier amps. Kick and Decay: There is a nice tail off of reverb in classical songs (and obvious with the Radiohead - Lotus Flower song I'm listening to right now, sounds like it's in an empty opera hall instead of the warehouse I'm conditioned to expecting from the music video), but at the same time everything feels fast so I get a little of that "adrenaline feeling" where I can hear everything so clearly that time seems to slow down. Since I got my PPU E12 on January 17, I noticed an increase in impact/kick to the urgency of notes with my Q701, but right now Van Morrison's "Oh the Warm Feeling" playing over my ER-6i sounds just "right." The Q701 varies the most with different amps, but overall with the Mont Blanc, I find the sound exciting and involving. Soundstage (depth + width): The presentation of soundstage seems to be a very good match with the Q701. I play video games with THX TruStudio Pro surround processing, and straight out of the USB sound card the soundstage seemed oval shaped, wider and not as deep, but adding the E12 rounded out the sound much more evenly circular. It does seem to stretch out and have more "air" than my iPod's headphone out. Not as emphasized as with my tube amp, but that amp may be "overemphasizing." EMI & Hiss: Mostly negligible with the Q701, hiss is inaudible until I switch to high gain mode (so quiet that the first time the E12 battery ran out, I thought my iPod had died and the amp was still on). With the 16 ohm, very sensitive ER-6i, I could hear hiss on low gain at around 12 O'clock on the volume dial… but that's way too loud for me to listen. I can't hear any noise when I call someone (with my basic phone…), even with my Ety's. Comments: There is a switch to enable a crossfeed (subtle but nice with hard panned songs), and a unique bass boost. The bass-boost is apparently under contention right now. Currently, the boost isn't about skewing the balance of frequencies towards bass... It's completely focused on the sub-bass region, reaching down to the limits of human hearing and mostly just making "atmospheric bass" more authoritative by 4 dB. It's very clean, too. Others have asked for a stronger boost that affects the mid-bass area. I like the E12's boost the way it is now, and here's why... It's unique. Atmospheric bass is a new thing to me (when I started following this thread last year, my main headphone was the AD700), and I don't know of any other amp (the E11 is close) with a hardware boost that focuses enirely on sub-bass, leaving the rest of the frequencies to ascribe to the "wire with gain" philosophy. It's a boost I feel I can leave on with almost any song or genre. With the bass boost of the E5 I also have, the boost was stronger and changes the tonal balance, but it introduced a distortion as well, and usually hurt songs with added grain instead of helping. What do you think? There is also a relay circuit that causes a delay from the moment you switch on the amp to when it "connects" the headphone jack to power. This avoids the power on "POP!" and protects your headphone (and ears), a feature very common in speaker amps. Lastly, when I first got the amp, I was honestly a little disappointed. It sounded technically very accurate, but there was a sort of "coldness" to the sound and I wasn't feeling very emotionally involved. Like the amp was holding back somehow. After 3 hours, I took a break and got some coffee, came back to the amp, and slowly (as I was typing to someone about it, in fact) "Q701's are digging in deeper and sounding much nicer... Ooh, right as I was typing that, the last track of "The Suburbs" was almost finished and softly hit me with a really low bass note, gave me a chill!" As I listen now, I just melted a bit at the intro to Muse's "Resistance" from the album of the same name. Back when I first heard the E12's "musical side" I put it down as my ears adjusting to the sound signature, but someone else in the E12 thread had a similar experience, and another, then JamesFiiO stated that the WIMA capacitor actually burns in over time. So, I guess now I'm a believer, lol. Philosophy of Use: So who is the E12 Mont Blanc for? Honestly, I think it's NOT for people who only own "made for iPod" headphones, you will hear very little improvement for your money, and something like a FiiO E5 or E11 will be more portable. If you are a bass head and you like the signature of your headphone, this E12 will drive it cleanly and with authority and perhaps with tighter detail, BUT the bass boost is subtle and won't transform a balanced headphone into a sub-monster, in the latter case another amp with more boost might be better for you. Also, someone with a hard to drive headphone may look at said high-impedance, power-hungry Studio Monitoring headphone and ask themselves, "Why do I need a portable amp for these?" HOWEVER! I think the E12 is handy compared to a desktop amplifier of equal (or lesser) output power for transporting to work or packing for a vacation. The E12 is also handy if you have a lot of "listening spots" around the home, where you connect to different sources (for me: Desktop computer, Xbox, Laptop, iPod/iPad) or if you just want to listen while lying in bed. Finally, the E12 may be the only all-around amp needed, for current or future headphones (except for something like a STAX), and that, to me, represents real value.