Comparison & review of 3 portable amplifiers: FiiO E11 / Soundmagic A10 / DigiZoid ZO2

Introduction

What started off by a 1 line sentence to a PM, ended up being a review
I don’t have much experience with amps – apart from the FiiO E1, E3, E5, and nor do I have that much “burn-in” time with all these amps – but thought to share my opinions. Of course they might change, but I doubt it.

I was in the “market” for a portable amp. Now when I mean portable, I mean it. I didn’t want to be carrying around a E7 which is bigger and wider than my actual phone – this is not, for me at least, the definition of portable.
Its like saying headphones are more portable than IEM’s (like the Denon AH-D2000’s vs the Future Sonic Atrio M5/MG7’s)

I also wanted something that could provide me with bass – although it wasn’t the first requirement (portability was) – it was still something I was looking for, to give my Denon headphones that extra boom-box feel

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Price

All are reasonably priced, but here are the RRP’s
-E11 = £45 (I paid £45)
-A10 = £65, but can be bought from hong kong for $65 from MP4 Nation (I paid £65)
-ZO2 = £75 (I paid £45)

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For individual reviews of each:
DigiZoid Z02
Soundmagic A10
FiiO E11

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FiiO E11

Pros
-Drives headphones much better
-Clean sounding
-High and Low gain options
-3 settings (EQ0, EQ1, EQ2), where EQ1 adds a little bit of bass, and EQ2 adds a lot more
-Accessories are nice: Nice sturdy/well built wires that come with it + rubber band
-Protected volume controls
-Replaceable battery
-Low EMI

Cons
-Isn’t really portable in my eyes, it’s bigger than my phone for god sake!
-Doesn’t really have that much impact on SQ, keeps it as near to the source as possible
-Slight hissing noise when on standby

Unboxing video:

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Soundmagic A10

Pros
-Brings a warm sound signature, which I feel in love with (really depends on how you see it)
-Small and portable
-Looks aesthetically pleasing
-Doesn’t need to be switch ON or OFF, plug in and out – like the FiiO E3, useful if you are forgetful
-Bass boost setting
-Pouch is included in the package, and is a quite nice one too – big enough for your phone + A10!
-LOD for iPod users
-2 way splitter provided

Cons
-EMI is quite strong
-Brings a warm sound signature (really depends on how you see it)
-Quite a loud sound/pop when connecting the amp to the source, it really should be switched off before plugging it in, or else it will hurt your ears!
-Placement of the volume wheel – it really doesn’t have any resistance to it, thus could be accidentally cranked up in your pockets if you’re not careful

Unboxing video:

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DigiZoid ZO2 v3

Pros
-Ultra portable, and very lightweight
-Amazing bass contour levels – adds a lot of bass if needs be -> literally as they say “your portable sub woofer”
-1 button does it all, which I find very convenient – adjust volume, gain settings, bass contours, on/off switch (can be seen either way as a pro or a con)
-LED light is nice (again can be taken both ways)
-Low EMI

Cons
-1 button does it all, adjust volume, gain settings, bass contours, on/off switch (can be seen either way as a pro or a con)
-LED light is nice (again can be taken both ways)
-Sound is a little more muddy than the E11 -> not as clean
-Does not drive well at all on low gain – if anything it decreases the overall volume from source (high gain solves it, but still)

My video review of the ZO2:

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Size Comparison

Head-to-head comparison

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Individual pictures with a ruler

FiiO E11
9.4×5.3×1.3cm

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Soundmagic A10
7x5x1cm

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DigiZoid ZO2 v3
6.8x4x0.9cm

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Driving power

1. ZO2 on PURPLE – thus highest LOW GAIN setting
Is the same as:
-E11 on notch 3 – on LOW GAIN
-A10 on 0.75-1 wheel scroll

2. ZO2 on PINK – thus HIGH GAIN setting
Is the same as:
-E11 on LOW GAIN with 7 sound
-A10 is not as loud as the ZO2, around 0.5 wheel away from being as loud, but the A10’s is maxed, and isn’t as loud as the ZO2 on HIGH GAIN

Now the BASS TESTS:
-A10 with XB Bass ON = ZO2 on: Yellow with a hint of green
-E11 on EQ1 = ZO2 on: 2-3clicks from default green colour setting. So a little yellow tint, but still green
-E11 on EQ2 = ZO2 on: Yellow with a hint of green (same/very close to A10)

None of these amps distorted at any volume, nor with any of my earphone or headphones.
The ZO2, when tuned to the red contour, does compromise a little bit of the mids, but that’s to be expected – especially on earphones.

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Final thoughts and conclusions

I found it, the ZO2. It was my initial intention to get the ZO2, due to its characteristics. Its small size, and bass boost abilities which are unheard of from something so small.
I was never in the “market” for a amplifier, and only an amplifier. If I wanted that, I could have used my E5 (which has not been used for over 6 months, possibly even a year, due to having Voodoo Control app on my Samsung Galaxy S (which has bass boost + volume boost internally, yes its amazing I know, its like a built in E5)

So, when I heard the E11, I wasn’t that impressed, it just sounded like my source, but a tiny bit more “cleaner sounding”, and due to its size, it felt useless for me – I would never carry it outside, its just too big for me, personally

When i heard the A10, I fell in love with it, it gave a nice warm sound sig.
Not VERY noticeable at first, but when you compare it to the E11, you realise it straight away. The A10 was great, but compared to what it offered, especially for the bass settings, and due to its lack of EMI shielding, the ZO2 came out winner.

I’m VERY great-full to the awesome community at Head-fi, because without it, I wouldn’t have found a ZO2v3 from user dannybai for the very cheap price of $65 shipped to FRANCE. If it weren’t for him, I would have never heard the ZO2 and might have settled for the A10 or had to pay £75 (almost double) to get it brand new from digiZoid!

So overall it really depends what you want.
They are all 3 great and brilliant amps – worth their RRP? Well depends on how much you need an amp….

-If you are looking for something really to give you that extra power, then the E11 will suit you perfectly.
-If you are looking for something to give you warmth, with a little punch when needed, then the A10 is for you
-If you are looking for a disgustingly good bass booster that adds 0 distortion to your earphones/headphones (although this may vary from audio equipment – heard problems with the Ultrasone Pro 900’s for example) and something VERY small, literally put your 2 fingers together – that’s the size of it – then the ZO2 is for you

All depends on taste and preference, like any audio equipment, amps are no different.

I hope this helps!
TotallydubbedHD

6 thoughts on “Comparison & review of 3 portable amplifiers: FiiO E11 / Soundmagic A10 / DigiZoid ZO2

  1. lolszorzs

    This helped me decide what I’m going to get, since you laid it out side-by-side, even the little details. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. youssef zaaou

    thanks for great comparison,I was going for the fiio e 11 but now Im getting the sound magic a10:)

    Reply

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