It’s hard to underestimate the role Fio has played in the affordable hi-fi market. the launch of their devices has become a long-awaited event for thousands of music lovers around the world. the e12, a portable headphone amp that goes by the codename “mont blanc,” is no exception.
fiio e12 is a portable headphone amplifier. It doesn’t have a dac function like the e07 and e17, which makes it even better in its main function, sound quality. The amp is a combination of high quality lme49710 and lme49600 op amps from texas instruments used for low distortion sound.
Reading: Mont blanc headphone amp
portable amplifiers are primarily used to increase the volume of headphones. Other than that, some of them are designed to improve sound quality and be considered effective. here, the device adds a lot of warmth to the recording and makes it a joy to listen to by providing good dynamics, good musicality, and easy-to-understand, lively music. this headphone amp packs a lot of punch, but details and soundstage aren’t high on the list; Also, if the sound signature of your headphones is warm, pairing them with fiio e12 could spoil your music enjoyment.
fiio e12 portable headphone amplifier review (mont blanc)
specs fiio e12 mont blanc
amplifiers: lme49710 & lme49600 | volume control: alps potentiometer | output power: 880 mw/32 ohms | recommended headphone impedance: 16 – 300 ohms | charge: 2.5 hours | battery: 12 hours | frequency range: 20hz – 20khz | signal/noise ratio: ≥ 110 db | thd: <0.005% | weight: 159 g
The amp comes in a nice shiny box. Inside (in addition to the amp, of course), you will find a protective sleeve made of thick black material, two rubber rings to connect the amp to the player, a USB charging cable, a short connection cable with two 3 l connectors, 5 mm, a mini-jack adapter, instructions and a set of different self-adhesive stamps to stick on the amplifier.
The case is made of a thick material. this is very useful for transporting the amplifier and reduces the possibility of mechanical damage. the front of the case has been cut out to allow free access to the potentiometer knobs, headphone outputs and line inputs.
design and ergonomic design
fiio paid attention to the content of this high-end headphone amp and the build quality. unlike the fiio e11, which has part of its chassis made of plastic, the mont blanc e12 compact headphone amplifier is made of aluminum, giving it a high-end look. the sleek black aluminum is horizontally textured to create a stylish and functional material. this texture makes the bulb feel good in your hands. the metal keeps your hands cool and adds authenticity to the design. the casing is all black except for the logo at the top and the service information at the bottom.
controls are kept to a minimum, with no screen and just two LEDs for display, operation and ports; They are located on the front panel, with a blue LED that indicates that the device is working and a red LED that the battery is low.
There is a bass boost button and a mini-usb port for charging the fiio’s battery on the left. on the right side, there are two recessed switches:
- loop-through, which, when activated, allows the signal to bypass the amplifier, which is useful when the battery is low and there is no way to recharge it.< /li
- cross-feed, which offers a better listening experience even for songs with a weak sound stage.
bass boost is surprisingly good, with a mere 16db bass boost. It makes up for what many headphones lack and doesn’t overcrowd the mids and lows. this is probably one of the best implementations of this function.
This amp has two 3.5mm phone jacks on the front panel, connected to switches to control input and output volume. the volume control is analog and very compact. from an ergonomic point of view, this solution works perfectly. the relay avoids tapping on power up, so switching from “off” to sound takes less than a second.
beautiful on the outside, but you should know that all the magic happens inside: the e12 is built with the best components: two op-amps, lme49710 and lme49600, wima capacitors, a high-performance bipolar power supply and an alps potentiometer – the best of the best.
This powerful circuit board allows the amplifier to drive high-impedance headphones and charge a powerful low-current (5-volt) battery for up to 12 hours of playback and 3 hours of music playback. The chip also allows it to “adapt” to different charging currents, from a 450mA USB port to a 2A iPad charger. in the latter case, the charging time is only 3 hours.
When you listen to it, you’ll be amazed at the powerful and vibrant sound without feeling overwhelmed. For a portable headphone amp, the Fiio E12 works great even with full-size hi-fi headphones like the Sennheiser HD650 or Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro. the apparent dynamics are similar to those of a desktop amp, at least in the lower mids.
The e12 has excellent bass control, which packs a nice punch and can be refined as needed. Even when boosted with the switch on the left side of the unit, the bass is powerful and well-controlled, with convincing power and energy. it adds volume and weight but does not change the substance. It’s not incredibly hi-fi, but it’s definitely above the midrange and many high-end portable amps.
the midrange is quite full, dense, saturated and even a little dark, in the style of a good tube. on the other hand, the midrange is nicely detailed and does a great job with rhythm and rhythm, freedom and ease, and perfectly balances vocals and instruments. As a result, the e12s mont blancs sound more direct, engaging, heavy, and detailed than when the source (in this case, a file player) is connected directly to the headphones. the difference is measurable and huge.
the highs are more varied and revealing while being cleaner and richer, slower to descend and faster to decay, dynamics that ensure a high fidelity sound. the amplifier doesn’t compromise the audio spectrum by trying to create “airiness”; the fiio e12 doesn’t feel like it’s spilling out on the soundstage. the amp’s buzzing sound is its main selling point, so if you need a big stage, this amp may not be for you.
For under $200, the fiio portable amp seems to have few weaknesses. you might complain about the lack of audiophile bass, the highs being a bit dry, or the mids a bit dark, but I don’t think that’s fair.
since this amp does a great job as an amplifier, it plays music very well. yes, some details are missing, like the lcd screen or the implementation of the built-in dac. some of them are unnecessary, and if they were included, the device would be more expensive. however, the sound quality is much better than the e11.
Simply connect your audio source to the amp using the breakout cable, plug the headphone jack into the fiio, set up your music, and turn on the e12 amp. Please note that this amp model does not have a built-in dac and therefore cannot be used as an audio interface for your computer.
a minijack to minijack cable is included, but there is no lod (line out cradle) cable to connect the ipad/ipod pin output to the amp’s minijack line out input. we find lod cable to offer better sound quality and worth the investment.
For the price, this amp is probably unbeatable. The Mont Blanc FIO E12 offers a beautiful finish, quality design, excellent power reserves, spirited delivery, and an exceptional experience in almost every genre it plays. The durable look of the black anodized chassis is impressive, while the rich, clear sound enhances your music with beautiful stereo tones and controlled bass.
Although it’s best to use this portable headphone amp with a pair of high-quality in-ear monitors, the fiio e12 is a solid solution for many other types of headphones; it can even keep up with sennheiser hd 800 s, sennheiser hd 660 s, beyerdynamic dt 990 pro, meze audio 99 classics, hifiman sundara.