Review: Fiio A5 – The New E12 aka My Fav Fiio Amp

Specs

Fioo is proud enough to mention the 33% lower THD rating compared to the original E12 and the improved signal-to-noise ration of 115dB in their marketing communications. Like the E12A, the A5 doesn’t come with a cross feed option. Power wise the A5 comes in second as the original E12 was more powerful. You’ll find however that the A5 has plenty of power to drive almost anything. The A5is over 800 mW(32Ω/THD<1%)  and ≥150mW(300Ω/THD<1%).

The full list of Specs is below:

Accessory wise the Fiio comes with a whole bunch of stuff:

  • 2 silicone patches to put between the A5 and your source, so they would stay in place and not scratch each other. I myself stick 4 3M bubble feet underneath the A5
  • 2 sets of Fiio labeled stacking bands
  • 1 Micro-USB charging cable
  • 1 of Fiio’s awesome ultra-short 3.5mm ICs (interconnects)
  • A typical E12/A5 soft carrying pouch (which I personally do not like at all)
  • There might be Hi Res stickers in the box.

Sound

According to Fiio:

“A gain level close to that of the E12 but with improved channel balance, lower noise floor and a purer sound.”

When plugging in my Jomo Samba – it is great for testing units – I was pleasantly surprised:

  • No crackling noises (like on the X5iii)
  • An almost non-existing “plop” when turning on/off the A5
  • Complete silence, no hiss or floor noise whatsoever
  • A completely silent volume control

There still is very light channel imbalance in the beginning of the pot but even at my lowest listening volume this wasn’t audible anymore. The volume pot itself – in low gain – has enough headroom to set the right volume. It does get loud quickly but no to that you would accidentally hurt your ears by spinning the dial too hard. So far the Fiio A5 is perfect.

With a lot of people preference in sound changes over the years. That can simply be because you hear things different getting older or it could just be that your taste has evolved. Many many years ago I would have always had the Bass Boost on the Fiio devices set to “on”. In fact it would be stuck there with all of my gear but nowadays that no longer is the case. Fiio is famous for their bass boost though and a whole lot of people buy it especially because of this feature. What BB does in the A5 is add +5dB of gain and it just makes bass body increase exponentially. If you’re a bass lover, you’ll absolutely dig it. If you’re not you’ll probably find the A5’s BB ads mid body as well and you will notice that it makes bass run into the mids. You do get a big and bold sound with great impact tough, there’s no denying that. Unfortunately this does has a negative impact on the audible detail and the precision level. But again, if you’re all about the bass, then you’ll have a smile from here to Tokio. With a headphone such as the AudioQuest NightOwl in example, bass became way too present for my personal taste. But I’m sure some people want just that.

With the Bass Boost turned off you get a more neutral sound and lighter sound where the mids sound a bit thinner with forward vocals. I’d still put the A5 on the warmer side of neutral though, even though this isn’t a really warm sounding amp with the BB of. With BB on it does sound warmer. I do find it to have Fiio’s typical darker sound signature but it isn’t like in the good old original E10 days. Speed is good but it isn’t the fastest sounding solid state amp either. Amps like the Duet and Vorzuge – which I know cost 5 times the A5 – logically perform better in this and all areas. But speed is good just like the level of detail is. You won’t get the very best but for the $129.99 price tag you’ll be very happy.

The sound stage level, just like the detail, is good for the market this amplifier is in. Again it isn’t the widest and certainly not the deepest but it’s good and perfectly in line with the A5’s price. Separation and spaciousness are good though, so the A5 doesn’t immediately give you the impression of a congested and concentrated sound. Without the bass boost, the bass has a rather neutral presence but it has good body and impact at the same time. It’s slightly more than “neutral” bass and that means no one will be complaining about being it too much or too little. Bass is fairly tight but not the most detailed or layered, it’s more the impact/presence kind of bass.

I absolutely loved the rich mids of the E12A and I like them again now. Like I said, the mids do sound a little thinner with forwarded vocals without the BB. Turn it on and the mids become a lot thicker while the voices stay forward. For my personal taste the mid body could have been just a little bigger and the voices a little softer/more natural, but we all have our own preference. I find the mids to go deepest with the best layering. Treble is good, soft and easy to like. Fiio isn’t a brand that’s famous for treble extension and it’s no different with the A5. Treble isn’t offensive and the delivery is smooth yet energetic enough to contrast the bass and mids, especially with the bass boost activated.

Comparisons and pairings on the next page, after the CLICK

Review: Fiio A5 – The New E12 aka My Fav Fiio Amp
4 (79.51%) 41 vote[s]

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

46 Comments

  • Reply February 10, 2017

    Eugene

    Thank you for the great review, Liven.

    I have Fiio X5 II paired with Fiio E12A and Sennheiser HD600 (AKG 712 Pro, Beyerdynamic 880 250 Ohm). For comfort listening and to enjoy music I never turn volume knob of E12A more than 11a.m. (high gain), so I have plenty of headroom. These headphones do not sound underpowered or distorted for me (even current hungry AKG).

    Will I notice any significant difference with A5?

    • Reply February 11, 2017

      Lieven

      I’d stick with the 12A. Great amp and the A5 won’t offer you a lot more.

      • Reply November 12, 2018

        Indrajit

        How does A5 compare with Schiit Magni amplifier? Driving power is not an issue as I have a Sennheiser HD 598(50ohms) to drive

    • Reply January 21, 2018

      Rifle

      Hi, I have the E12 but it hisses on my iems too loudly when line out from my DAP. Should I go for the E12a or the A5(considering same price bracket) as I will be keeping the E12 for myself. Thanks in advance!

      • Reply August 24, 2018

        Mike lloyd

        E12A as your IEMs appear very sensitive. Love mine….

  • Reply February 10, 2017

    Eugene

    Sorry, Lieven, I misspelled your name in my previous comment.

  • Reply February 10, 2017

    Carter Dotson

    Thanks for the review! I actually picked one up already, but it’s always good to hear that I’m not crazy based on my impressions! Anyway, how would you compare this to the Cayin C5 amp? Was thinking about picking that one up instead, as I really like the sound of this amp with my HD580, but I prefer an airier-sounding amp with my NightHawk Wood.

    • Reply February 11, 2017

      Lieven

      I’m sorry but Nathan has the C5, not me.

    • Reply August 24, 2018

      Mike lloyd

      Doesn’t the Cayin have a high’ish output impedance, making it unsuitable for low impedance headphones?

  • Reply February 13, 2017

    Wim

    OK not suitable for my 300ohm HD580, the search continues, difficult as I don’t want to spend a lot for a portable amp… Any recommendations always welcome!

    • Reply February 14, 2017

      dale thorn

      What DAC are you feeding into that amp?

    • Reply February 15, 2017

      Carter Dotson

      I think the amp has plenty of power for the 580, it sounds great with my 580. And I don’t think that you’re realistically going to find a portable amp with that much power period, or at least not without buying maybe a Chord Mojo, maybe? The DACport HD might be a decent pickup for you depending on what your source is.

  • Reply March 28, 2017

    Juan Luis

    Hoy its soundstage compared with Cl Picollo?

  • Reply April 7, 2017

    Terence

    Would this amp make a difference when used with the X5 iii ? Or does the X5 iii not really need a separate amp?

    • Reply April 29, 2018

      Alejo

      I was wondering exactly the
      same…

  • Reply May 14, 2017

    Mihnea

    Hi.
    Would you recommend it paired with a Fiio X5 3rd gen or is the player enough?

    thanks

    • Reply May 14, 2017

      Lieven

      Depends on what you need to drive

  • Reply June 6, 2017

    RS

    Will it be great with beyer DT 990 pro 250 ohm?

  • Reply June 26, 2017

    Ruslan

    Hello! is it worth buying for Fiio X3-II and ATH-MSR7?
    sorry for my english 🙂

  • Reply August 7, 2017

    Angga

    I have HD650 and E17K. Planning to add A5 or E12A to this setup, is it worth?

    • Reply August 7, 2017

      Lieven

      I’d save up for something like the C5/EL/Picollo/duet/CV5

      • Reply August 8, 2017

        Angga

        So Cayin C5 is better than Fiio A5? (the other option were too expensive for me)

        • Reply August 8, 2017

          Lieven

          it is, but I am talking about the JDSLabs C5

  • Reply August 8, 2017

    Angga

    Oh sorry, my bad.
    But JDSLabs C5 already discontinued, right? How about JDSLabs Objectice2?

    • Reply August 8, 2017

      Lieven

      2nd hand market 🙂
      We’re not fan of the O2 amp, sorry.

  • Reply August 8, 2017

    Angga

    Oh okay then.
    Thank you, Lieven.

  • Reply August 13, 2017

    Kyle Stevens

    How does the Fiio A5 work with the HD650? I also have HE 400i which I think the A5 will power sufficiently I’m just worried about the HD650s.

  • Reply August 13, 2017

    Lieven

    It works but the HD650 deserves better

    • Reply September 16, 2017

      Kyle

      Hopefully by the time I get my headphones I’ll have a Dark Voice

  • Reply August 17, 2017

    Martin

    I have the Sony player: NWZ-A17 and for headphones: Sony MDR 100AAP (not the best but still i like them) .With who amp should i pair them ? A5 or E12 ?

  • Reply August 30, 2017

    Alex alex

    I have X5 ll +E12A and I use it with westone um pro 30 & audio technica PRO700, abd plaining to buy HD 650 too. If i could change E12A for new A5 , should I do this?

    • Reply August 30, 2017

      Lieven

      No I wouldn’t upgrade

      • Reply August 30, 2017

        Alex alex

        Ok, thanks

  • Reply November 21, 2017

    rio

    hello , I’m an e12 fanboy since a long ago, but unfortunately I must sell it because of some reasons (hissing is one of them) now I’m searching for an amplifier that warmer than e12 , is a5 a good option for me? my friend said it’s more fun than e12a

    • Reply November 23, 2017

      Lieven

      E12A is dead silent though

  • Reply November 29, 2017

    Beaters

    I have dap Fiio X3 III + MDR 1000x worth it for Ampli A5 ? Thanks

  • Reply March 24, 2018

    Palash

    Cayin C5 vs Fiio A5 . Whcih one to choose.

    • Reply March 25, 2018

      Lieven

      It’s a tough call. We”ll know more soon

      • Reply August 5, 2019

        Ronaldo

        Any updates? I will be pullimg the trigger on either one very very soon. Thanks in advance.

        • Reply August 5, 2019

          Lieven

          I’d go for the Cayin but have you seen the Fiio Q5s?

  • Reply April 25, 2018

    Giorgio Deleo

    Is a worth buy to drive at the best my Sennheiser HD 580?

  • Reply April 29, 2018

    Alejo

    Hello Lieven,

    I have a X5 III and B&O H9I; does it really make a difference adding this A5 to my setup? Will I have better sound? Or will it be louder only? Some months ago I bought a Chord Mojo and I paired it to my iphone6s with Bowers and Wilkins P7: I didn’t notice any difference in sound (it was louder only)…

  • Reply May 31, 2018

    Firman

    Does it worth to buy this if I already have LG V30 as my source? I am using Sennheiser HD 6XX. Will it make a big difference?

  • Reply January 8, 2019

    Heru Pranyoto

    Compare FIIO A5 to Cypher labs Picollo AMP, which is better to pair with FIIO M6 which is small size DAP like Picollo.
    I expect better sound resolution (detail, staging and separation) also higher output power than the stock of the FIIO M6

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