Review Price £64.96
Also included with the SoundMAGIC A10 amplifier is a short 3.5mm cable, for connecting the device to your media player, a Y-splitter cable enabling the A10 to output to two players at once and an iPod dock connector. This latter inclusion is particularly well-considered, as iPods provide a line-level output via the dock, letting you bypass the internal amp and just use the A10 - on other players you'll be amplifying an already amplified output.
A perfect test for this amp are the AKG Q701s, which an iPod struggles to drive using its standard headphone jack. Connect them up to the A10, in turn to an iPod nano via the dock connector, we observed an immediate improvement in not only the volume available, but also the quality of the output.
In a word you could describe the output of the nano and A10 combo as smoother - the overall feel is slightly less clinical than the iPod alone. A set of Shure SE425 and Grado GR10 in-ear 'phones - more likely candidates for a portable headphone amp - appreciated the extra power provided by the A10, too, with their already detailed and expansive sound filling out a little, and faint background details coming into the foreground just a bit more.
The tone of the A10 is warmer than than our FiiO E7, although whether that's a bad thing or not will be a matter of preference. Plus, at this level of portability and this price point, it's nigh impossible to find a totally neutral amplifier. The low-end can be boosted further if you want to with an XB switch on the side of the A10 but we never felt the need to use it, and it doesn't give much of a boost anyway (we could see it being useful with headphones that have a weaker bass response than those we were using).
The A10 isn't as good value as the competition, as it lacks the FiiO's built-in DAC. However, the SoundMAGIC amplifier is significantly smaller, and more portable, so it proves a different enough proposition not to suffer from its reduced feature set. Just bear in mind you're paying more for less - both feature and size-wise.
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