The current product that I have reviewed is an entry level headphone amplifier E6 by FiiO. It is the most cheapest and best selling headphone amp on the market presently. I have been using the creative headphone amp, but the only problem with that is of portability, which is why I decided to try this much talked about headphone amp.
The E6 is manufactured by a Chinese company called FiiO, which makes a wide variety of high quality audio products. However, when we compare their prices, they are at a fraction compared to the major brands in the segment. The company has come a long way in terms of quality and reputation over the years and earned a name in the headphone amps segment.
Headphone amplifiers: The Myth
It is a common belief that a headphone amplifier will only increase the volume of your headphones.
Headphone amplifiers: The Reality
Headphone amplifiers do more than just amplifying the sound signal. They improve the overall quality and punch of the music coming through the headphones. Those who have an amplifier in their cars can probably tell the difference in their car audio systems, how it sounded before and after using the amplifier.
Headphone amplifiers: The Facts
Most of you who have purchased the expensive headphones, particularly the supra-aurals/circumaurals/cans, are usually disappointed due to the low volumes or flat music that you get out from your ipod, laptop or other music devices. This is so because these headphones have large impedance. In simpler terms, the current coming out of the audio out is not enough to power the headphone speakers. As far as I have experienced, any headphone that has more than 30-40 ohms of impedance, will always sound dull when you listen them without any amp. The earphones/earbuds however have low impedance and do not require amps.
The FiiO E6
● Output power:150mW (16Ω Loaded)；16mW (300Ω Loaded)
● SNR:≥95dB(A weight)
● Frequency response:10Hz~100KHz
● Headset impedance:16Ω~300Ω
● USB power supply port: DC 5V/500mA
● Power supply mode :Built-in rechargeable lithium battery.
• Fantastic audio quality without any background noise
• 3 preset equalizers along with regular amp
• Long Battery life with inbuilt rechargeable battery
• Can be used with variety of audio devices
Design and Build
The design of the product has changed from the earlier version E5, which looked like an ipod shuffle. This version has a unique design and looks elegant. The body is made up of good quality plastic as the previous version’s metal body made it susceptible to electromagnetic interference like Wifi, mobile and Bluetooth. This version is devoid of any such interference. The bottom part has an input 3.5mm jack to attach your player or any other input device, also there is a USB port for charging through your laptop or any other standard USB charger. The right side contains the equalizer/power switch and left edge has the volume key. The top portion has the 3.5 mm jack for output to your headphone/speakers. This version also features a removable plastic clip which can be attached to the chrome joint, if you need to clip it on your trousers or pockets. The product comes with a usb cable and two aux cables (small and long). The device has a built in battery which can be charged through the supplied USB cable.
The previous version E5 had only a single setting of +3dB. In the E6, there are four equalizer settings available 0dB, -3dB, 3dB and 6dB. The equalizer change can be seen through the different colored led (blank, red, blue and purple), as shown in pictures. The 0 dB just increases the volume without creating any effect on the music signal, which is when you want to use the personal equalizer settings on your audio source. The 3 dB creates a bass boost and amplifies the low frequency range. However, mind you the bass boost is not at the cost of the mid and high range and the music does appear fuller. The best effect was however observed in the +6dB setting. It gave a dynamic bass boost and also created a clean mid and high frequency boost. The -3dB setting can be used for dampening the overpowering bass/treble frequencies if you find it intruding in your bass/treble heavy headphones. It was also good to find that there was no background interference or hissing observed with any of my devices.
I have tested these with 3 different headphones. The Audio Technica ATH-M50, Grado SR-80i and also with pathetic Panasonic SR-HT 160 headphones for benchmarking. I agree that none of these are very high impedance headphones, however the results were surprising. The ATH-M50 and SR-80i are probably one of the best headphones available in the market. I never really found the output or the thump from my iphone/ipod/android phone sufficient for these. However, when I attached them with E6 they sounded remarkable, everything was crystal clear. I could clearly make out the difference without the amp and finally I could enjoy the full range of rich and full music, that these headphones were capable of.
Ok, the best part of the testing came with my old Panasonic SR-HT 160. I had discarded these headphones a long time back because they sound totally flat. However, when I tried them with the E6, I was awestruck, as they sounded comparable to any Rs. 1000/- headphones available on the market. I could literally feel quite a punch in the music with these crap headphones even.
The quality was not exactly the same as creative x-fi, but we have to keep it in mind that this product is at one fourth of creative’s price and plus it offers portability that creative does not. If I rate sound quality of creative at 5, then this one is surely no less than 4.
Now this is a bit extreme, but I also tried these with my Blaupunkt Toronto car audio system through AUX cable and the ipod/android phone sounded amazing with that too. It won’t be wrong to say that, this small device has changed the way I listen to music everyday.
As mentioned by the manufacturers, the battery does last upto 8-10 hours without any problem. Plus I was able to recharge it though my phone’s charger which also has a micro usb charging point. So no need for separate chargers and clutter.
• The headphone music controller on the new ipod Shuffle did not work when using this amp.
• Prone to scratches if not handled properly due to glossy surface
If you believe that the music coming through your ipod stock headphones is the best it can get, this product is definitely not for you. If you are a true audiophile, and love to listen to music through headphones and can’t get enough thump or loudness from your ipod/android mobile and want to explore the full potential of your headphones, then this is a must buy. If you have invested a lot in expensive headphones and do not want another big hole (30$ at amazon) in your pocket for an amp, FiiO E6 is the way to go. This is the most affordable a headphone amplifier could get with the quality comparable to the high end amps. FiiO has definitely set a new standard for entry level headphone amps, which would be difficult for the competitors to match, at least at this price range. Overall, a 5 star product on my scale. I will never listen to music without this little masterpiece.
Availability in India
It is available at two authorized dealers of FiiO presently in India (links below). Prices are changing (due to fluctuating $ prices) so you can enquire the sellers directly if wish to purchase this item. I believe they sell it online even.
Questions and Comments are most Welcome…