Fiio Headphone Amplifier Review 2021: Is It Worth a Buy?

Fiio Headphone Amplifier Review 2021 Is It Worth a Buy

The Fiio a5 is a new set of headphones with a nicely designed and sturdy carrying case. It has a comfortable fit on the ear, delivers a powerful sound, and provides many options for personalization.

The cable also seems to be resistant to tangling, which is a huge plus. It feels like a high-quality set of headphones for a relatively low price. in this Fiio headphone amplifier review, Hooke Audio will show you more details about this device to consider. Is it worth a buy?

Fiio Headphone Amplifier Reviews: Fiio A5 Amp

Fiio A5 Amp

FiiO A5 Specs

  • Output Impedance: <0.3Ω
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 90 kHz
  • High impedance headphones: 16Ω – 300 ohm
  • Built-in battery: 880mAh Li-Po
  • Charging time: < 3 hours via 5V/2A charger
  • Operational time: > 13 hours

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • The FiiO A5 offers excellent sound for the price, including some brilliant detail.
  • The build quality, particularly the volume knob, is excellent.
  • ​As portable amps go, we think this is one of the better non-Bluetooth ones, and it’s at a good price, Clean Sound, Plug and Play.
  • Low gain is excellent.

Cons:

  • The A5 is old now, and the lack of Bluetooth is starting to hurt it.
  • You lose the ability to control your music with an in-line microphone.
  • ​Connecting your headphone amp and phone with rubber bands feels clunky.

What is in the box?

  • Fiio A5
  • USB charging cable
  • Mic-USB OTG cable
  • 3.5mm Audio interconnect cable 4x Rubber/silicon bands
  • 2x Silicon stacking pads/spacers Neoprene storage pouch Warranty card
  • Quick start guide

Design and Build Quality a5

Fiio A5 Amp: Design and Build Quality

The Fiio a5 are well-built headphones. They are lightweight, compact, and have an attractive design. The headphones are made of synthetic materials. The earbuds are held together by an elastic holder, which can be easily detached.

The design is very similar to the fiioh2. The main difference is that these headphones do not have volume control and a three-button remote. Instead, it has two buttons: Mute and Power/play, and an LED screen displays battery life and volume level.

For any headphone amp in this particular area to have to work, it has to be unobtrusive. At the minimum, it needs to be roughly the same size as a smartphone, able to slide into a pocket or bag with minimal issues.

The HifiBerry DAC+ is a little taller than a smartphone, but the pairing with a Raspberry Pi gives it the same level of flexibility. It can run as a standalone unit or piggyback off a Raspberry Pi that might already be present in the system.

The A5 is a rectangular block of sandblasted aluminum compact, measuring 4.9 inches long, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.5 inches deep. It’s roughly the same size as a smartphone, but it weighs in at 6 oz. FiiO put a lot of effort into making the A5 easy to carry.

Even With the Power Supply Plugged in, the A5 has a modestly small footprint, so it’s easy to fit into a pocket or bag. Also, there are no sharp edges on the outside of the unit that could cut fingers while carrying it around.

The fact that the A5 portable amps are so easy to carry around is one of its greatest strengths.

At the other end of the spectrum, the DAC+ amp has an enormous footprint, taking up almost 1/3 of a desk. To me, the DAC+ looked a bit too much like a piece of audio gear from a bit larger box store, but it has an excellent volume button and a fantastic display. It comes with remote control, too.

The DAC+ has two digital inputs: a single-ended source (USB) and an A/D converter (XLR). The A5 uses a USB connection with a limited number of resolutions and sample rates.

Volume poot change: The second is the actual pot. This is a more controversial change. I loved the old E12a pot for its grippy finish. The A5 is slimmer and doesn’t extend as far from the chassis.

It is also a bit smoother and less gritty than before. It is also more distinct and elegant than the old knob. FiiO created the knob to look like string instruments.

The dial has 56 45 degree lines laser-etched into it. It also features a red ring finish. Overall, it’s a nicer-looking knob that is slightly more difficult to use than the previous one.

Cnc Stainless-steel Jacks: The third improvement is the line-in and headphone jack. The old copper connectors are gone. Instead, CNC-milled stainless steel connectors have plastic rings that connect to the main chassis and plug the gap 100%.

These stainless steel connectors are more durable than older copper ones, and they look nicer when combined with the titanium color scheme of the review unit.

Fiio A5 Amp: Features

On the A5, it sounds pretty limited, but the unit seems quite capable for its size. It plays back files encoded at 16 bit/44 kHz, though it can only accept up to 24 bit/96 kHz input.

Theoretically, this means that we can record and playback audio files at 24 bit/96 kHz and above (though we can’t record audio at anything higher than 24 bit). However, the operating system is minimal. It only supports about 40 audio programs.

Frequency response is pretty flat and hence good: Intermodulation distortion versus output power shows a sign of good things to come for A5: The low gain mode is very quiet, almost exiting the graph at the bottom! Using 32 tones as a simulation for “music”

The gain is slightly less than one resulting in the output being slightly lower than 2 volts than it should be for this test. In actual use that is probably a good thing allowing very sensitive IEMs/headphones to be used at higher volume positions.

All adaptors for digital optical and digital coaxial lightning connection are included in the bundle, along with a T5 Torx screwdriver/screws if you need to replace the standard AM3A headphone amplifier with one of FiiO’s alternatives.

My only complaint with the unit is that its power button was not very responsive. I had to press it multiple times before it switched on, which was a bit annoying.

Fiio A5 Amp: Sound

Neutrality

Its audio quality impressed regardless of genre or style, with a delicious top end and rounded, powerful mids. The T50’s soundstage was great too, spacious and immersive.

FiiO is a stunning amp that matches the A5’s outstanding design and produces a truly fantastic sound. Every headphone amplifier, no matter how cheap, will improve the sound. The A5 is far more than we would expect.

The A5 portable headphone amp delivers a clear, natural sound that is both neutral and clean. It lets you showcase the best of your music without compromising the quality. Amazingly, almost no distortion is evident even when the high gain switch is used.

High-End (Treble)

The A5 portable headphone amplifier is not supposed to be a warm amp, so the treble is excellent. If you look at the graphs above, you can see that they are close to neutral. The treble, however, has a bit of a boost compared to the mids and bass.

Low-End (Bass)

The low end is tight and robust, with an impressive amount of impact without any added warmth. The high end is clear, non-fatiguing, and articulate. This headphone sounds best with music genres that are well recorded or mastered.

Transparency

The A5 portable headphone amplifier has a good level of transparency. The A5 has a decent level of transparency. Sources such as FiiO’s X5iii will influence the A5’s core signature. iBasso, a more linear and extended DAC, will push more detail out.

Bass boost

This is the most unattractive area of the A5 portable headphone amp, as it is more of a broadband, low-end boost than anything targeted. The A5’s bass response is amplified by the Bass boost, which introduces an additional >5dB to its volume right up until 100Hz. This is a bit too warm for me, and it makes the sound more bloated.

The graph shows that the elevated does not return to neutral. It extends well into the mid-range, smothering vocal ranges and the lower mids with that warm infuse.

Clarity is a significant issue for me, especially in the 200Hz-1k range. I would have preferred to hear this at 2-3dB, focusing on sub-bass performance and not mid-to-upper boosting.

Battery Life and Connectivity

Fiio A5 Amp: Battery Life and Connectivity

The A5 portable headphone amplifier can be powered from a USB Type-C port, but no Type-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter is included.

A USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter will also work with a 2.5mm barrel-type (i.e., plug-in) TRRS to 3.5mm stereo jack cable you can get from most online retailers for about $3-$5.

Battery life was solid, too. Charging took around three hours, and we squeezed eleven hours of life out of this at 75% volume.

That is pretty impressive. And like other Type-C earphones, the A5 is entirely water-resistant (up to 5 meters).

Fiio A5 Amplifier: Inputs & Outputs

Inputs & Outputs

Type-C version

The Type-C and USB-A versions both use a 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm jack connector, and both have a single volume switch and a single button to power the headphone on/off.

The Type-C version looks a little more premium than the USB-A version, which seems like a minor difference. The cable is well-made, and the Type-C connector has a cool metal cover over it to keep your cable from getting damaged.

The volume knob – a genuinely excellent threaded cylinder with a red accent – acts as a power button and is simple to operate even in a pocket.

USB-A version

The USB-A version also uses a 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm jack connector and has a single volume knob and a single button to power the headphone on/off.

The USB-A version feels a little cheaper than the Type-C version, with lower-quality materials and a more basic shape.

LED

The A5 portable headphone amplifier is identical in terms of I/O’s to the E12a. FiiO has kept the charging and blue-power LED indicator light configurations on the A5’s top left and gained control positioning on its front plate just beside the new volume knob.

Switches

The E12a high gain switch is still on the front plate. It’s slightly easier to access than the E12a recessed switch and has decent resistance to accidental volume control switching.

The left panel’s bass switch remains the same; it is discreet enough to avoid unintentional knocks and has enough protrusion so that it is easier actually use than the E12 recessed switch.

Charging

The left panel has a micro USB charging port located just below the bass boost functions switch. This will allow the A5 plug sockets with USB fittings to charge any 5v USB. The top panel’s LED light will blink red during charging. The speed of the charge will affect the rate.

Front Panel

The A5 back and right sides panels, as with the E12a/E12, are flush without any input or output impedance power. For the A5 portable headphone amplifier, the front panel remains the same, with the line input at the far left and centrally located headphone 3.5mm input.

The spacing is excellent. You should be able to slot in medium-thick 3.5mm plugs such as Palic while still having enough room to operate the volume pot and gain switch.

Amplification

There has not been any change in the A5’s fundamental chip use since the E12a. The MUSES02 buffer combination and the MUSES02 portable headphone amplifier are still used, but FiiO has shifted its focus to everything around these chips, including signal path, resistors, and an improved power management system.

THD

This topology will preserve the E12A’s efficient low noise floor, but it will also bring back the E12A’s missing power (-80mW) or as close as possible.

FiiO stated that the new topology would lower the THD by 33% compared to the E12a, 0.03% to 1 kHz in the A5 desktop portable headphone amplifiers. Although this is not as low as the iBasso PB3’s ultra-low THD results (less than 0.0005%), these numbers are still perfect for portable budget amps.

SNR

FiiO claimed that they had improved the SNR on A5 to 115dB, but I’m not sure as the E12a specification sheet says equal to or greater than the 115dB. So maybe real-world measurements of the SNR of E12a felt a bit lower than the paper specs.

Although it is not as good as the PB3 rating (120dB), it is still comparable to its competition. The A5 should deliver an excellent dynamic range with a low noise floor and decent power for headphones or IEM use.

Fiio A5 Amp: Accessories & Packaging

The included accessory pack comes with a velcro cable cover and a mic-USB cable to power the amp, but it consists of a manual, a pouch, or a band for the ear cups.

The packaging is pretty much what you’d expect, being that it’s still not something you’d want to give as a gift to the giver of this amp. I had to do some serious digging in the box to find the remote, which was in a separate cardboard box.

The manual is elementary but with some excellent diagrams that I found helpful for hooking up my PC to the analog outs on the amp’s back.

Who is it for?

The appeal of FiiO’s A5 will depend on the type of headphone or earphone user. The A5 is an upgrade for headphone users who miss the power and feel of the E12 but want something smoother, more refined, and less noisy.

The debate for the E12a user is more complicated. Side grading or buying the A5 has many more variables, not to mention the aggressive low gain of A5, which makes using sensitive IEMs more difficult than it should be.

The A5 is sophisticated and musical, I’ll say it. It has a warm, low-end sound with significant impact. It has a transparent sound, good mids, and good treble extension. However, it is not as airy as the E12a.

The Competition

The Competition

Although it is more expensive, the A5 updated version is the best and most obvious option. The FiiO A5 addresses most of the issues we experienced with the A5 and adds Bluetooth and in-line control.

You can even swap the amp module with another one. This makes it much more functional. It will cost you $350, but it is worth it. You might want to consider other options, such as the A5 for $130.

The BlueWave Get is a cheaper option at $99. It is smaller than the A5 and Bluetooth-equipped. It is less sturdy and has a lower design quality. Bluewave, an indie band from Montreal, operates from a small back room. It’s still a charming amp and will work well for most people who want to improve their phone’s sound quality.

The M-Audio Bass Traveler is another smaller amp. The M-Audio Bass Traveler packs seven hours of battery life into a small package.

Although we like the GET and A5, it still impresses. M-Audio is most well-known for its pro-audio gear. The design is certainly more functional than FiiO’s. But, at $29, who is complaining?

We need one more FiiO before we leave. As we mentioned, the A5 is quite a bit old. FiiO has become smaller and more agile, and their BTR1 can take on BlueWave.

It’s small, Bluetooth-equipped, and well-designed, and it’s cheap. It’s a great alternative to the A5. At $50, it’s one of the most affordable amps available (save for the M-Audio).

Content related: 

Best Headphone Amp Under 100 Dollars 2021

Conclusion

You can find many headphone amps on the market now, but A5 is one of the best select. It looks like the part is specified perfectly and is built to last. If you can live with its rather hands-around-the-throat approach to dynamics, it’s well worth considering. We hope that our review Fiio can help you learn more about this device.

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