For most of the world, the smartphone is now well and truly the primary source for music. But however good your smartphone and earphones might be, you will be stripped of some elements from the track. But you can regain a lot of these lost richness by yoking a headphone amplifier between the phone (or whatever the source might be) and the headphones.
What are headphone amplifiers?
First things first. Not everyone needs a headphone amplifier. This is for a niche market that wants to get more out of their music, those who want to hear it the way it was created with nothing lost in between. Also, most good music players comes with integrated amplifiers, so don’t buy one to run with your iPod.
The tech that goes behind how amplifiers work is not that easy to understand. But if I dump it down, an amplifier is a device that lets you make the maximum use of your headphone by giving it more power and reducing the impedance levels. Let’s leave it at that and those who want to understand more can do their own research. Ideally a headphone amplifier will give you more volume, controls on bass, treble and balance while offering much richer music.
FiiO Andes E07K
FiiO is a Chinese company that specialises in making accessories for music lovers. The company is now selling most of its products in India through e-commerce players like Amazon . Since a high-end amplifier can cost over Rs 20,000, the Andes USB DAC (digital to analog converter) amplifier can be called a mid-range option.
It is a handy compact size and comes with a LED display that show the volume levels and other controls. It has one input jack and micro-USB port for charging. The one thing I love about this amplifier is that fact that if offers two output ports. You can adjust treble, bass, balance and gain.
But the key feature is the audio quality, and that is stunning. I tested the amplifier using a Bose QC25 noise cancelling headphone. I started by watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones on my desktop. Let me tell you, there is a lot of stuff we end up missing because the audio is compressed. I could hear the houses walk behind me and the dragon flap its wings, all of which would be stripped off without this extra boost. I then tested with Kyama’s audiophile playlist . It is hard to describe the depth the amp brings to music you are so familiar with. There are some bits you never heard, there are some bits you thought sounded differently. This is an audiophile’s dream.
The only issue with using the Andes with smartphones is that it is almost as big as one. So if you are thinking of taking one along for your morning walk, then think again. But don’t twice if you settle down once in a while on the couch to listen stuff from your phone, tablet or laptop. Also, the 1200 mAh battery takes well over an hour to get to full charge which could give up to 20 hours of playback. It is another gadget to be juiced up, so remember that.
A must buy for people who love their music and have the time to indulge themselves. Also once you get used to an amplifier, you will never listen to music without one again.
FiiO Fujiyama E06
If the Andes is too big to be carried along with your smartphone, the Fujiyama E06 is made to be used with one. It is the size of a keyring and can be looped to a phone or even the earphone cords easily. It comes with a LED indicator to show charge. There are small indicators for EQ levels and a hold button to stick one volume. But there are compromises for portability and you will need to understand what each colour indicator stands for. Also there are limited controls.
This does given an improvement in audio quality. It is not as much as the Andes for obvious reasons, but there is more depth when the Fujiyama comes in between. However, I was not impressed by the battery life. The company claims 10 hours, but I managed to get only half of it. It could be because it is hard to figure out if the battery has been fully charged.
But buy this is only if you get time to listen to music only on the move. If you love music, then push yourself and get the Andes. You will not regret it one bit.