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FiiO E5 Headphone Amplifier review

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
FiiO E5 Headphone Amplifier

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • 20-hour battery life
  • Significantly improves sound in many setups
  • Cheap

Cons

  • No auto switch-off function
  • Results vary depending on setup
  • Ships with low-grade connector cable

Key Features

  • Rechargeable lithium battery
  • USB charging
  • Belt clip
  • Hold function
  • Bass boost
  • Manufacturer: FiiO
  • Review Price: free/subscription

It's safe to say that the FiiO E3 produced a bit of a stir amongst headphone enthusiasts when it emerged last summer. While there were headphone amps designed specifically for DAPs and PMPs, like the awesome Graham Slee Voyager, the E3 was a tiny, AAA battery powered marvel that you could pick up for under £10, and one which has a noticeable, positive effect on many combinations of DAP and headphone or earphone. Sure, you could get better quality from a home-built Cmoy amplifier (see A Fire in the Head for details), the E3 was smaller, lighter, cheaper and consistently good (the quality of a Cmoy, of course, being dependent on the expertise of its builder). The facts all won the tiny amp a tidy cult following all of its own.

Now the small Chinese company is back with what you might call the E3's bigger brother. It's more expensive, but also more polished - every inch a more grown up little amp.

Let's start with the physical design. To say that the E5 looks a lot like the last-generation iPod Shuffle is an understatement; it's a bit squarer, but boasts a similar metallic construction, very familiar curves and the same metallic sprung clip. It's light, but also tough. The overall feel is much more solid than the rather plasticky E3, and weight-wise there's little in it once you take the E3's AAA battery into account.

What's more, where the E3 had an 3.5mm mini-jack input, a 3.5mm output and that was it, the E5 comes with actual, honest to goodness features, namely a power button, digital volume controls and a switch to flick between a flat, 'clean' sound and one with the bass taken up a notch. On top of this, the E5 has one other strong improvement: a built-in Lithium Ion battery, good for up to 20 hours of use.

On the negative side, there is one area where FiiO could still pay a little more attention. The headphone output on your iPod, Walkman or alternative has to connect to the E5 through a 3.5mm to 3.5mm interconnect, and while it's good to see two supplied this time around - one 15cm, one 80cm - the actual cable is thin, lightweight stuff, even if the plugs are now gold-plated. When you consider that the product's being marketed to people who care about audio quality (albeit at the budget end) this is a minor embarrassment - but a forgiveable one given the low, low £20 asking price.

Still, in most respects this is one of the most practical and easily portable headphone amps around. Using the longer cable you can happily stuff your player in a pocket or your bag and clip on the E5, using it almost like a remote to control volume or mute the sound, and unlike most of the competition it's so unobtrusive that you needn't know it's there. My one complaint? Unlike the E3, it doesn't switch off when you remove your phones. If you don't want to drain your battery while not in use, you need to remember to turn this little baby off.

ilovethemonkeyhead

March 15, 2009, 11:12 am

i vote for an "audiophile" subsection here.

Andy0d2

March 15, 2009, 3:02 pm

seconded

Ohmz

March 15, 2009, 4:23 pm

Thirded. Even though I'm not an audiophile.

Francesco Mastellone

March 15, 2009, 7:09 pm

Fourthed? I'd call it flac though, seeing how this is the mp3 section =p

ilovethemonkeyhead

March 15, 2009, 11:30 pm

"FLAC = FREE LOSSLESS AUDIOPHILE CODEC"





=P

comedian

March 16, 2009, 3:49 am

Heh, this was not a review I was expecting to see here today, good work chaps.

Hugo

March 16, 2009, 1:53 pm

Shouldn't you be dead? But yes, we're trying to up the variety a bit.

Mikko Lahti

March 16, 2009, 2:34 pm

Yes, unexpected but great a review. Based on this, I immediately checked a Finnish auctionsite for FiiO products, and I got very lucky, now I'm waiting for my E5! (I'm thinking it will fit perfectly for my workout rig, with iriver H320 and Sennheiser CX 380 Sport II IEMs)

comedian

March 17, 2009, 1:29 pm

It's a great amp for a Sansa Clip and Phonak Audéo combo.

Mark Booth

March 17, 2009, 9:53 pm

Nice but one HUGE problem...... in fact huge is an understatement unless I'm missing something. Read on.





Saw the review and thought a good impulse buy so why not. Arrived today and I now see the recommended retailer is out of stock so well done TrustedReveiws on creating the business.





Plugged it in with my Bose on ear phones and there is a noticable difference. Well pleased! However, there is a HUGE problem.... almost of the gargantuan proportions of the new iPod shuffle having prorietary headphones and no buttons. The retailer says this on their site:





Ultra small, lightweight design for MP3 player, laptop or mobile phone.





So why does my iPhone interfere with it? Almost permanent interference when browsing the web even holding it as far away as the cable will reach. Surely this is a major design flaw? I can't beleive it's not magnetically shielded!

ilovethemonkeyhead

March 18, 2009, 10:19 am

the amp wouldn't be magnetically shielded - most aren't. my graham slee voyager doesn't seem to be, and i paid a lot more for that than you did - even used.

Rickysio

March 18, 2009, 4:26 pm

@Mark





For all your equipment, I can't believe you're using an iPhone in conjunction.





iPhone's frequency range sucks. While it isn't the worse, there have been much better. Like, the 5800, with that incredibly smooth frequency curve, or the Xperia X1, just to name a few.

Mark Booth

March 18, 2009, 5:49 pm

Why wouldn't an amp be shielded? All decent iPod/iPhone docks are because they "have" to be. I know this is a cheap device but it claims compatibility with mobile phones and to me they have made a false claim.





Having looked on the forums I see people have complained about the E3 hoping the E5 would be better, and even the Voyager is prone to interference. I almost bought a Voyager too so glad i didn't now.





With respect to those complaining about my poor audio source I use an iPhone as a single covenient day to day device especially at work to drown out the open plan noise. At home I listen to a Marantz CD63 KI Signature & Sonos, Audiolab 8000A, and HD600 cans. A little old I know but might try a Vogayer with this setup. The E5 offers slight improvement on HD600 + iPhone but not enough to be good enough.

Ed

March 18, 2009, 6:13 pm

The Xperia X1? Are you kidding me? That thing sounds awful. It's plagued by background hiss for a start.

Rickysio

April 25, 2009, 3:27 pm

http://i.gsmarena.com/vv/revie...





Perhaps you need to get another Xperia...

laserguide

October 28, 2010, 10:23 am

Has anyone used this amp with Denon AH-C551's ? I know the author of the above review didn't think the sound was great. Also how about Grado SR80's ? I currently use a little dot micro + but it's a little too bulky for using on the go.

Ohmz

February 24, 2011, 1:19 am

I just received this amp in the mail (payed $25 for it) and I have to say it's great!





This is my frst time using a headphone amp and the sound quality difference is very noticeable.





The bass boost works really well and all of my music just sounds so much more alive.





I'm using a Sansa Clip + with Sony MDR AS50G headphones on the go and then Shure SRH440 at home.





Really well worth the money, wasn't sure I'd go for it, but I'm glad I did.

jonlim

April 10, 2013, 12:38 pm

can i use this for my razer tiamat 2.2 then connect to pc ? need rep ty

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