FiiO E12 Mont Blanc – Review
I had my eyes on FiiO E12 for a long time now, since I’ve seen the little fellow at Sandu’s place. I remember I tried it with LCD-2 at that time and it could drive them quite nicely.
That was amazing coming from that little black box.
After that, I looked up the specs and was pleasantly surprised to see that the output power is > 880 mW @ 32 Ohms, which is pretty impressive coming from a portable amplifier powered by battery and at that size ( 124 x 65.5 x 14.5 mm )
E12 uses OPA1611 and LME49600 OPAMP combination. The OPA1611 serves as amplifier and LME49600 plays the role of currency outputting.
It also has ALPS potentiometer and is powered by a clean battery so it can achieve low level of distortion.
While looking at it, I saw a gain selector (0 , 16 db), crossfeed and bass boost.
Hmm, crossfeed, I have first tried a hardware level implementation of crossfeed at my first headphone amplifier the Meier Audio Corda Cantate 2.
This article is explains in detail what crossfeed does.
The short version from wikipedia is this:
Crossfeed is the process of blending the left and right channels of a stereo audio recording. It is generally used to reduce the extreme channel separation often featured in early stereo recordings (e.g., where instruments are panned entirely on one side or the other), or to make audio played through headphones sound more natural, as when listening to a pair of external speakers.
I have felt improvements with this on, only with old recordings, like ACDC – The Razors Edge. However, overall, the crossfeed takes away from the impact/attack and details.
Some may prefer to leave it on as it is less tiring.
The bass boost is quite nice and it is felt especially with the sub bass. This is useful with headphones that lack some body or for bass heads.
The build quality of the unit is quite appealing. It is made of aluminium and has a very nice design.
The E12 is bigger than the E10 or E17 but still is in portable range as it is similar to Samsung Galaxy S1‘s size, smaller than Galaxy S4.
So it looks very nice, has nice build quality and nice specs, but how does it sound?
I have done the tests with Burson Conductor as DAC, Audeze LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, Focal Spirit One and Mikros 90.
This song has some really nice sub-bass and E12 got it just right. The sound was engaging and the bass had weight and decent control. It really got me toe tapping.
The background was black and you could actually call it blackground 😀 . Fiio didn’t lie about the distortion as the sound is very clean. Enya’s voice was clean and relaxing as it should.
Michael Jackson – Wanna be starting something
The PRAT was decent and the overall song was toe tapping. Michael’s voice seemed natural and without any coloration added. Because of the black background the instrument separation was quite good and the instruments were detailed and standed out.
The sound was spacious and the guitars from the beginning tickled my ears.The chord’s extensions were good and when the electric guitar kicked in the sound became very engaging. I would have liked a little more weight to the sound. Oh wait…I have the bass boost. That solved my problem. The added weight was a little unnatural but it was ok overall, but to be fair my ears wouldn’t resist with bass boost on for a long period of time.
Infected Mushroom – None of this is Real
This guy is a great amplifier but this is where I felt the LCD3 and HD800 needed more. However it drove them at a decent level. They needed more for depth, punch and imaging.
The sound was detailed and the instruments tickled your ears on many occasions.
It seemed to me that the E12 didn’t add any warm signature /coloration as the E17 and E10 did.
The sound has a good soundstage, with a black background that leads to good instrument separation.
The FiiO E12 is a great piece of gear that deserves all your attention if you are looking for portability.
It can drive all of the power hungry iems / ciems or portable headphones out there. It can also drive the Audeze LCD3 and Sennheiser HD800 to a decent level.
I don’t think it has competition at it’s price & performance.
So FiiO strikes again with another excellent product that has no competition at that price. I like what FiiO does very much. They studied the market and filled what was missing, and did an awesome job with that.
- excellent price for what it offers
- good build quality and design
- nice features
- airy sound with good instrument separation
- detailed sound
- good PRAT
As for cons, at that price I cannot find any.
I am really happy that AVstore became an official FiiO dealer and we have access to them in Romania.
You skipped Fiio e11 completely.E12 has more in common with e11 than e17 and e10 right?
im planning to buy a fiio device for my laptop and my audio technica m40x. should i go for the e17,e12, or e10? which one should i buy? need ur help asap.
You should go with the new E10k for now. It extremely cheap and quite an improvement compared to the old E10. E17 and e12 didn’t get the upgrade yet, but I have a feeling they will soon.
Thanks for the quick reply. I actually need something portable which I forgot to mention. The e10k is only USB powered. Im willing to spend $150 for a dac+amp so which one do you think should I buy? It doesn’t need to be a fiio brand. I just need something portable with amazing capabilities and more bang for buck.
Thanks for the quick reply. I actually need something portable which I forgot to mention. The e10k is only USB powered. Im willing to spend $150 for a dac+amp so which one do you think should I buy? It doesn’t need to be a fiio brand. I just need something portable with amazing capabilities and more bang for buck. …and which upgrade are u talking about??
Ah, if you need something portable, go with FiiO X1. It sounds excellent for the price (~100$). Will post the review soon.
I’m planning to buy a decent DAP (Fiio X1 or X3) and will be playing Sennheiser HD650s (300 ohms) or Beyerdynamic T90s (250 ohms).
As I can see the X3 in the picture,what amp do you suggest with the X3 to be used to drive HD650s or T90s at a decent level?
(my choices = Fiio E11,E11k,E12,E07,E17,C&C BH2)
Check my new FiiO X1 review. I wouldn’t buy FiiO X3 at this moment. I would wait for the new upgraded version of X3 to appear on the market. I would go with either X1 or X5. The latter has a more powerful amplification as well. I don’t have HD650 here, but I’ve tested it with LCD-X and HD800 and it was quite ok with them. However if you want more, you could add FiiO E12 to the table.
Thank you for your fast reply Dan,
I saw your X1 review 🙂
Actually I was trying to find something both as a portable music playing device and a DAC to be used in the desktop too 🙂
that’s why I was looking at the X3 🙂
but yeah I’ve heard that X5 is a very serious performer 🙂
as HD650s and HD800s are high impedance cans so E12 will work well with them right? 🙂
Hi, I wonder what kind and brand of battery used the FiiO E12 for replacement, since I live in Argentina and not very well, if achieved.
I think it is best if you ask FiiO directly.
The E12’s soundstage is small. The Graham Slee Voyager runs circles around it on that.
E12A has a better soundstage than E12 if my memory serves me right, but I didn’t hear the graham lee voyager.