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I do want an external dimension to the set-up. That's all
What other gear do you have?
If it’s mostly IEMs and easy to drive headphones (like the 598), then consider the E12A Mont Blanc. It will drive all that stuff just fine, longer battery life than the A5, it’s the same size, and it has some of the same hardware as the A5.
Most importantly, if you have any really sensitive IEMs, the E12A wont hiss (whereas the A5 might).
I own both the A5 and E12A. Both are great. They do overlap somewhat, but where the A5 is superior is driving difficult-to-drive full size headphones (which the 598 is not).
So my advice?
A5 if you have IEMs that are NOT sensitive AND you have hungry or very high end headphones (planars, electrostatics, flagships like HD800, Sony Z1R, etc).
E12A if you have any IEM (including super sensitive ones) AND you have easy to drive dynamic headphones (<64ohm; although you should consider both impedance and sensitivity).
I have only the HD 598. I simply don't use in-ears. I am just concerned about E12A's ability to push 598 to its limits vs the A5 or the Magni. Also wonder if the A5 on 'high gain' can hiss with the 598 with the 598's impedance and high sensitivity.
You don't need an amp as previously is written keep your money to buy hd600 then you will need an amp
I had the E12A for years as my primary amp. It has driven every headphone I own or have owned perfectly fine, including the HD598, Fidelity X2, 600ohm Superlux HD660, etc. The full list of gear is in my profile.
And as others have mentioned, the HD598 needs no amp and is powered just fine by your FiiO DAP. I owned the 598 for years.
I only added an A5 to the stable because I came across a great deal, and because I will eventually buy some planars and electrostats. Otherwise, I still use the E12A to this day.
As I mentioned previously, either E12A or A5 are more than enough for your HD598 (as is your FiiO DAP by itself). Be aware that adding an amp is just more bulk to haul around, more cables, more stuff to charge, etc. It gets old, believe me. And it can color the sound by being an extra processing step in the chain.
But, if you’re insistent on getting an amp, based on what gear you use I would get the E12A Mont Blanc for the significantly longer battery life. It is so close in sound to the A5, that in a blind test you will be unable to tell the difference.
Thanks for responding. Based on your experience with the E12A and 598, do you think adding a E12A to X5iii line out brings significant improvements vs the X5iii h.out?
I don’t have an X5iii, so I can’t speculate about that DAP.
But I can speak from my experience, which is an xduoo X3. I forget the exact power output rating of the xduoo X3, but it is no slouch. Anyways, in my experience I feel it does improve the end result.
But the improvement may not be ‘more power’. Some of it could be nothing more than a smoothing of the output voltage. Or some of it could be coloring from the op amp. But regardless, I prefer the sound when using the E12A or A5 vs when not using it.
Is it necessary? Absolutely not, as the X3 does just fine by itself (on most headphones, including the HD598).
Is it a “significant improvement”? No, it’s a minor improvement.
Keep in mind that in audio, many things we do are small incremental improvements:
- A better cable = incremental improvement (which is debatable)
- An ear pad swap = incremental improvement
- Using flac or DSD vs 320k MP3 = incremental improvement
- Using an amp vs no amp = incremental improvement
It’s the sum of all of those little changes that can (possibly) add up to a “significant improvement”.
It’s not going to be a miracle that turns a screechy dollar store headphone into a flagship.
Yes, I think E12A was a bit better than X5-3, although something like FiiO Q5 is much much improved. I'd even say A5 is better added to X5-3, more neutral, more treble sparkle, much better treble extension.
E12A is smooth up top, similar to X5-3, so it may not be quite that much better...
Thank you. Seems A5 is the way to go.
Excited and proud to add an A5 to my setup. Probably unnecessary but it will help with any future cans needing power.
LG V20 > Aclear > A5
Is there any advantage of going USB-C out of the phone, vs the headphone jack?
The only reason you'd want to go USB-C out of a phone is because you want to use an external DAC vs the one already in the phone.
Yes, such as the DAC chip in the USB-C adapters. I don't know anything about the DAC in the V20, nor whether it is better or worse than the DAC found in, say, the Google Pixel adapter.
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