The FA-22 is a very competitive desktop amplifier. It mainly improves dynamics, tonality, transparency and imaging. Whatever you throw at it, you’ll have a great listening experience with great technicalities.
I’ve tested the amp with headphones such as the Sennheiser HD660S, HD800S, ZMF Verite Closed and Sendy Audio Peacock (review soon). Just for the sake of background blackness check, the Softears Cerberus CIEM is used. I’ve hooked the amp to the Neo iDSD in fixed DAC mode.
Once you pair your headphones with the FA-22, you’ll have better dynamics, excellent dynamic range, great coherency and balance, improved sharpness and focus. The amp also gives you a great staging performance, very good accuracy and overall a very clean and powerful output.
The immediate impression for me with the FA-22 is the bass quality and impact. The bass is very tight, punchy and fast with the FA-22 with excellent decay. The pace is very good and lows feel very natural, easy-going and smooth. There’s a great definition here with excellent dynamics. The midbass is nicely balanced with great fullness and impact. The decay is very good with great recovery. Dynamic driver headphones pair well with the FA-22 in particular.
The FA-22 provides an excellent bass harmony and its balance in particular is well done in this area. It drives headphones sufficiently and that results in a great response especially from dynamic drivers. The amp does not boost the bass response at all, but it simply improves the dynamics here with very good pace, texture, resolution and decay.
Mids are very fluid, organic and smooth. They have excellent positioning and definition. The FA-22 provides a full-sounding midrange that feels very natural and lively. This amplifier has very good harmonics and tonality as well. The mids are quite musical with a smooth approach but they have very impressive transparency overall.
Everything is under control at all times with great PRaT. The definition of instruments and vocals is simply good. The instruments have a nice fullness and musicality. The midbass control is also a contributing factor to the mids, as it allows mids to shine in their own space.
Once again, response-wise the FA-22 doesn’t push anything. The mids have their own space with a good background, just like the rest of the spectrum. What the FA-22 does best is to give all of the spectrum sufficient space so they can operate in a spacious and clean presentation.
This area is not specifically enhanced or altered by the FA-22. That’s no surprise since it simply is an amp to even out the sound overall with great balance. So the treble is not boosted, nor recessed. However, you get better control with the treble, as well as better dynamics and speed. The extension is very nice here with a good definition.
Highs are well accentuated but smooth, with good articulation and dynamism. They’re separated well with good space and air. However, this is rather a musical amp so don’t expect a very sharp treble response or boost. If your headphone has definitive treble, you’ll hear it as it is though.
Technical Performance and Pairing
The FA-22 sharpens the sound with a very good focus and imaging. Its cohesiveness and balance, together with a very consistent presentation make it an ideal companion for almost every headphone. However, it retains its musicality in a smooth way with a nice timbre.
The stage is dispersed nicely in a wide area. Layering is great with the FA-22, it has great width and depth combined. For instance; the HD660S is not a headphone that establishes a wide stage. But the FA-22 manages to ease the presentation with evening out the stage and presentation. So the headphone sounds more relaxed and spacious.
The FA-22 also has a nice separation ability that immediately relaxes the stage with good air. This I think is the most striking feature of this amplifier. It shows that particular quality with all of the headphones I’ve tested it with.
For pairing, I think you can use the FA-22 with any headphone. It even plays great with an IEM. However, since it packs a bunch of power, there’s a slight background noise with sensitive IEMs, which to me is normal. The performance, however, especially with dynamic driver IEMs, is fantastic. The amp especially likes to drive dynamic driver headphones such as the HD660S, HD800S and Verite Closed. I enjoyed it very much with those pairings.
Altough I never had a chance to test the FA-10 model (it was Linus’ review) I will provide you with a very short comparison between them. They’re selling for the same price ($749). I’ve spoken with Vitaliy from Flux Lab, and he gave me some information about this comparison.
According to Vitaliy, the FA-10 sounds more flat and linear with a slightly laid back and relaxed presentation. FA-22 sounds more focused and clear, with a better resolution across the spectrum. They’re not too far apart and it’s just a sound presentation difference overall.
The main difference however is the output power. The circuit design is different in the FA-10 for providing more power for hard to drive headphones. So let’s say if you have the Hifiman HE-6SE, you can choose the FA-10 for better performance.
The Flux Lab Acoustics FA-22 is a great performing full desktop amp with an excellent build, user experience and sound. If you’re on the lookout for a high-level desktop amp, you should definitely check this one out while considering your options.
It’s a very coherent, musical yet highly technical performer. There’s nothing in its sound that I can criticize. There are also high-end options in the market but aside from those, I think this might be the highest level before the up-to-2000$ region. This is my first encounter with Flux Lab Acoustics, but I must say I’m very impressed.