FiiO E12A Mont Blanc Portable Headphone Amplifier for IEM Special Edition

Tayyab Pirzada

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Fuller sound for IEM's, great bass boost, very portable
Cons: Could be thinner

The Fiio E12A Mont Blanc portable headphone amplifier is a great amp for IEM's and earbuds. The sound signature is slightly on the warm side, and presents a much fuller sound and wider soundstage than normal when using it with my AK Jr player. I particularly love the bass boost as it adds extremely clean sub-bass which doesn't bleed into mids, and is still acceptable in quantity (I believe it's +5 dB or so). The sound differences are not drastic, but they are noticeable if you A-B test the AK Jr and the E12A. I love the sensation that the sound has become fuller. For the interconnector I used the Fiio L16 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm silver interconnector.

Design-wise it looks really good, especially with the AK Jr.
Overall a great amp, and especially useful for IEM's and earbuds in particular (for which it is made for). I use the earbuds I have on low gain, but that's because they are all low impedance. I will test a 300 Ohm earbud soon on it and see how it holds up.
  • Like
Reactions: Sp12er3

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Pros: Very good Sound Quality, Great soundstage, no Background noise, Has enough power, helped with harsh treble, Great battery life!
Cons: Might be too smooth for some, IEM synergy dependent
I'm a game developer who loves music. I would not name myself an audiophile, but a music and electronics enthusiast. I love listening to all types of music, from classical to cabaret, rock, metal to electronic, trance and trap. Check out the games I'm working on at
I had bought Fiio E12A in addition to my Fiio X5 (now X5ii), which is my DAP, DAC and source of enjoyment.
I will post my impressions towards Fiio E12A used with fiio x5 as a DAC, through line out using the interconnect that came with E12A. I will be using Sennheiser ie8 and Ultrasone Dj One Pro as the main headphones I'm testing E12A with. In addition, I also bought Sennheiser ie800 in the meanwhile and I'll be adding my impression on the new combo.
E12a comes in a cardboard box, and it comes along with:
- Rubber bands X4
- Rubber feet X6
- Carry pouch (Fiio does not advice to use e12a inside the pouch, but rather carry it within. E12A can get hot as it cannot disperse heat well that way)
- Manual
- L shaped Interconnect
- Usb charging cable (The cable is a power only cable)
- The cardboard box can be used to carry it in the backpack (i actually use it this way)
Build quality:
Fiio e12a is made of metal, it's color is silver, it looks very nice. The surface has a metal texture and while it's turned off is cold to the touch. It is solid in hand, the volume knob feels really solid and firm, is not loose and you have to use just the right amount of force to turn it to feel right. High/Low gain settings is a nice thing to have, the button feels really nice, clicks in place and doesn't wobble. The on/off bass slider is also a very nice touch, feels really nice to touch, it is not loose, nor too tight,
Maybe that it is my opinion, but i really like it as a device, and the touches on it's looks.
It weights a little, and I probably wouldn't use a stack for jogging, but i use X5+E12A for walking, using a side bag. It works out for me, but the stack weights a little. You might get a few strange looks pulling out your stack in public, but that's part of the fun! There are stacking kits which you can use for E12A and X7 for example that make stacking a much easier job.
Main features:
- Best SQ for iems and easy to drive headphones i had tested so far at this price range and 3X the price range (more on this later)
- Bass slider for adding some bass on/off. This does not distort at all with my headphones, i was shocked how much i am using this thing
- Low/High Gain (i am using it only on low gain, i get more than enough volume for my full headphones and iems.
- Volume knob
- Line in, headphone out 3.5 jacks (i like the fact that the jacks are quite tight and have a )
- Power microusb port - used only for charging.
- 2 leds, one that confirms that it is on (blue), and one for low battery indicator(red). 
- Reset pin hole.
Sound quality:
Bass is extremely clean, it works very good with techno tracks, metal and every other genre. It does not roll off, and is very transparent. Speed of attack is very good, it sounds very natural.
When i turn the bass slider on, the frequency response is not linear any more, but it adds some "meat" to the music. Everything sounded better with bass slider on with my Ultrasone dj one pro, but was overkill with sennheiser ie8. It remained very fast, transparent, the bass was just louder, but a very good quality bass, not bleeding into mids or distorting at all. 
This is one strong point of E12A. I have been searching for such clean and crisp mids. It really makes male and female voices shine, and just every instrument has a much better texture. Imagine the vibration that comes from a guitar note, it is much more vivid using e12a, much more alive; Almost like you're able to hear the strings directly, not a recorded version of them. It made some of my acoustic tracks shine, like Bitter Ruin, i could really hear fingers run down on the strings of the acoustic guitar. 
In "One more soul tot he call" and "Hell frozen rain" from Akira Yamaoka and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn i could really hear her catching breath at times, the emotion of the song is entirely true to the sound. 
Word of caution, it is very revealing, you will hear most every little detail that was recorded (if the headphones can retrieve it).
In one word treble is well extended, but it is smooth. It is never harsh, nor sibilant. Some people really love treble this way, I sometimes add more 16Khz using X5's eq function. This is nice, because I like my music with a little more harsh treble, I want the cymbal crash to feel harsh and abrasive, where E12A reproduces it smooth, presenting them in a friendly way.
I had noticed no listening fatigue even after a few hours of listening using E12A.
+Soundstage / Separation / Micro Detail
This is probably the strongest point of E12A. The soundstage is amazing, it was way bigger than anything i had tested at it's price all the way up to 3X it's price. In fact, this was the major selling point for me, I really love the sensation that music comes from all around you. I'm a bit fan of Sennheiser HD800 and all I can say is that it makes ie8's soundstage extend much more than some full headphones I had tested. It also helps my Ultrasone Dj One Pro. Soundstage is so good that it happened to me to sit in the room, listening to certain tracks and hear sounds coming so vivid from a certain part of the room, that i had taken my headphones off and looked to that area, searching to what could had caused that sound. Quite the experience.
Part of the soundstage is the background noise, which is black. Pitch black. Not a single thing that was not in the recording. This is good for revealing details, and soundstage. In fact, I can compare the black background to some of the most expensive equipment i had tested.
Separation is very good, i am able to point to nuances of singular instruments in busy orchestral works.
+Driving power
In my tests it had no problems driving anything that was under 300OHM impedance. It drives with the same ease sennheiser ie8 at 16 OHM and Ultrasone dj one pro at 64OHM. There is absolutely no hiss with a sensitive IEM like ie8, and there is more than enough power for a power hungry headphone like Dj One Pro. E12A can also drive ie800 very well, making a perfect companion for both IEMs and full sized headphones
I had bought it for 210$ which I consider a fair value. It does better even than more expensive portable devices and it holds it's ground against desktop devices for driving in ear monitors and low impedance headphones.
I would advice anyone who wants a black background, one of the most expansive soundstages and very good detail retrieval, with zero distortion to go and test E12A. You will be pleased with what you hear.
The entire review and photos were taken while using Fiio X5 with a Fiio e12a stack.
Fine print : I had tested it against very expensive devices, and i still choose to buy E12A. I mean, devices 12X it's price. But i do not want to start an argue over this statement. 
This is how i take the stack with me when i go outside to take a walk.
Impression after a long time of usage:
- I can say that most people would more than happy with it. It is mid and bass centric, so treble is smooth. Most people really love this feature. It makes music organic, natural and tube-amp-like. This is a pro and a con (I wanted more treble for example

- Battery life was very good, and did not degrade at all after one year of usage or so. If you forget the volume knob turned on, it will drain itself, so better watch out for this.
- I used to use it while charging without any problems.
- About portability, I also bought some other cables for interconnects, and, to my surprise, I was extremely happy with another Fiio interconnect, the straight one, L2. Using it on the street was not a problem by any means, and I also strapped it to smartphones, and Fiio X5II, and it would remain quite portable. I would not pocket the stack though, so using a side bag might be the most productive solution.
- Works extremely well with ie800 and I recommend E12A for TOTL IEMs.
Hi and thanks for the great review. I am thinking of getting one of those  to pair with my Fiio X5, which I use in combo, mostly, with ATH M50X, and, ocassionally, with Senn HD595. How does the SQ through HO compare to that of LO using the E12A? Would that be much of an upgrade, would you say ?
Thanks a lot for a reply
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
The sound with using E12A is more organic, warm, with less harsh treble, and it kind of sounds similar to very expensive tube amps. 
It can sound more detailed, but closer, with treble being much smoother. 
It is best to listen to one before buying. 
Hi and thanks for the reply.


twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: solid build, sleek design, great battery life, excellent sound sig
Cons: specific for IEMs and power hunger-less full size headphones
This is a review of FiiO E12A portable headphone amplifier.
I mentioned this already in a few of my latest reviews of various portable headphone amps: there is a big misunderstanding of headphone amplifier purpose. I'm not going to pretend to be a seasoned know-it-all audiophile since portable headphone amps is my new venture, but I can tell you with certainty it's not just about a boost of output power or being able to drive high impedance cans. Today a lot of headphone manufacturers, regardless of full size or in-ear, like to cater to portable audio sources such as smartphones which doesn't usually have too much of driving power. So it's not just about a driving power, but also about creating a new exciting synergy when paired up with different sources that take your sound to a whole new level. Here is what I found when I got a chance to test the latest portable amplifier from FiiO.
Arrived in a small packaging box similar to other FiiO products, you get a basic picture of the amp on the cover and a brief spec listed in both English and Chinese on the back. Inside of the packaging box, they choose to include another more sturdy gift-box which always adds a premium feeling to a product. After taking the top of the box off, you are greeted with E12A in a titanium color finish displayed inside of a form fitting foam cutout. Beside included detailed manual, underneath of the amp you have a box with accessories including usb to micro-usb charging cable, 3.5mm right angle L8 line out short cable, two sets of rubber bands for mounting/attachment, and 6 stick-on rubber bumper dots. Also, a neoprene storage sleeve was included - a nice way to keep your amp protected from scratches while traveling and also to store LO and usb cables inside. And speaking of traveling, I always appreciate when manufacturer implements a standard micro-usb charging port which allows you to use any smartphone phone charger.
Dressed in a full alloy metal shell, E12A feels very solid, no flexing or bending. The only minor detail I noticed in my sample was a bevel level of the amp body shell being a few mm shorter in comparison to the metal end caps. But overall it has a very durable aluminum alloy unibody chassis with a solid build and premium quality titanium color finish. The back of the amp has a pair of easily accessible screws to take the amp apart, if needed for troubleshooting (perhaps, access to a battery), though I wouldn't recommend it because you will void the warranty. The front has 3.5mm Line In and Headphone Out gold plated jacks, H/L gain toggle switch, and a meaty ALPS volume potentiometer with a solid grip. The unit turns on by twisting pot clockwise past Min marker where a dot indicator helps to keep a track of the dial position. Once you turn it on, you are greeted by a blue led power indicator on the top side of the amp. The remaining port/control are on the side where you have micro-usb connector for charging and Bass boost on/off toggle switch. The only comment here, when I was using FiiO HS6 stack up kit for X5, I had to be careful to position rubber band to keep bass boost switch clear from interference. Not a show stopper if you do it carefully or you can use an included rubber band for direct mounting without a kit.
So what are the benefits and what kind of sound enhancement can you expect using this new E12A portable headphone amplifier? Keep in mind, this is just an amplifier and not a DAC converting your digital music content to analog. The purpose of this amp is to take analog signal in, process it, and output analog signal out. This is typically taken care of by using different combinations of op-amps and output buffers. Though you certainly can use this amplifier connected to headphone output (HO) of your source, you will be faced with a double amping effect where your analog input was already processed by another amp. In my opinion, unless you are using external amp to boost output signal where it's absolutely necessary, to appreciate a true beauty of such amplifier enhancement you need to drive it from LO of your original source. Therefore, for my testing I was using FiiO X5 dap and put E12A against X5 own built in amp as well as FiiO E11k and Cayin C5 external amps.
In general, I found E12A to be a relatively neutral amp with a sound signature more toward a brighter side. Paired up with X5 from LO and in comparison to direct HO output of X5, the sound is more detailed, more textured, with a tighter bass, and a wider soundstage. This just speaks of a better quality of amp/buffer used in E12A in comparison to built in X5 amp. Don't get me wrong, X5 is a fantastic DAP with an excellent sound, but when you start comparing - you draw a conclusion based on your preference. A lot of people are impressed with E12A use of highly regarded MUSES02 op-amp and LME49600 buffer combo, and output power of 420mW/16ohm and being able to drive headphones with up to 150ohm impedance (recommended, though I'm sure it can drive higher impedance as well), a battery that can last over 20hrs, and extended list of other impressive specs. It's all very important, but at the end what counts to me is how it sounds. Using ATH-IM03 IEMs for my testing I was very impressed how sound was transformed between IM03 connected directly to HO and then connected to E12A from LO of X5. As I mentioned above, I was able to appreciate everything from enhancement in tighter and more textured bass, to a better layering and separation and a better retrieval of details.
Curious how it compares to its smaller sibling, I also tested E12A next to E11k and found E11k to sound warmer, less detailed, narrower in soundstage, and with a slightly different bass texture (expected at half the price). Also, bass boost on E11k had less impact (a bit scaled down quantity in comparison to E12A). Of course, a more interesting comparison was done next to Cayin C5 amp I recently reviewed. I thought these will be competing against each other due to similarities, but instead found them complementing each other with a different sound sig. The most obvious difference is C5 soundstage being wider/deeper in comparison to E12A. Also, E12A sounds more neutral and natural while C5 sounds thicker with a slight sound coloration which I wouldn't even notice without this comparison. Both have a solid black background. Also, to my ears E12A has a slightly better separation and layering sounding a bit less congested in comparison to C5. Furthermore, C5 bass boost affects both sub-bass and mid-bass, while E12A mostly sub-bass. Also, E12A battery life is probably close to double of C5. In general, C5 is more universal and more powerful to drive any kind of headphones, while E12A is appropriate for more efficient headphones and longer extended listening.
Overall, I was VERY impressed with FiiO E12A portable headphone amplifier and how well it paired up with various sources and headphones, though I preferred to use it in my ultimate setup with X5+E12A+IM03 with FiiO L16 LO cable and Lunashops silver-plated headphone cable for IM03. E12A has an excellent solid build, a very modern sleek design, a great battery endurance, and a fantastic sound quality due to a selection of highly regarded op-amp and buffer combo. I don't have E12 or E12DIY models for comparison, but I'm very pleased with performance of E12A and for now keeping it as a permanent companion for my X5. I have no doubt it will pair up great with other DAPs as well. After all, it's not about bad or good amplifier, but rather finding a perfect match when pairing it up with your audio source.
Here are the pictures (click to enlarge).
Design details
A happy family, E11k / E12A / E18
E12A next to Cayin C5
With FiiO HS6 stack up kit
How does the amp in the Oppo HA2 compare to this amp? I believe you reviewed the oppo ha2 too?