Fiio is not a well-known company, but its E5 headphone amplifier is a great cut-price product. Housed in a tiny chassis, it delivers a noticeable volume and bass boost, and its battery life is gratifyingly long.
The E5 is 44 mm long, 38mm high and only 12.6mm wide. This means it will slip into any space an MP3 player will, while the rear-mounted clip means it can easily be attached to a shirt hem or bag strap. We used it with an Apple iPod touch (2nd Generation) which dwarfed it in size.
Despite its diminutive size, the E5 is loaded with technology. The top of the device houses small power and volume control buttons and a headphone jack. The bottom is home to the 3.5mm input and USB port. The latter charges the inbuilt lithium battery, which lasted 20 hours in our tests.
Despite being a relatively simple and cheap device, we thought the E5 looked stylish, with unobtrusive brushed black metal and matte white accents. While it might not suit everybody's tastes, we think of it as geek bling — the sight of this headphone amplifier hanging off your Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi will surely impress those in the know. And that is what's important.
Using the E5 is a trouble-free procedure. Once the amplifier is charged, simply plug your MP3 player into the input jack using one of the included cables (either 1m or 20cm long), turn on the E5 and start listening. The volume control covers a wide range, so apart from changing songs there is no need to delve back into your pocket to grab your MP3 player. You can mute the volume by pressing the power button once — useful for unexpected conversations or train announcements.
As well as being easy to use, the E5 is also a pleasure to listen to. Apart from the useful volume boost — almost a necessity when using high-impedance headphones like the AKG K701 — there is a noticeable bump in bass levels. Treble is slightly recessed by comparison, but this does not introduce muddiness into audio.
Even with the stock Apple ear-buds — not the highest quality earphones we have had the pleasure of using — the sound is still altered. Bass is more pronounced and mid-range notes clearer thanks to the improved head-room and power boost.
Frankly, for the asking price you would be hard pressed to find any other headphone amplifier, let alone one that does as good a job as the Fiio E5. The amplifier is distributed locally by Meizu Australia and can be purchased from the PMPStore.