August 17, 2014
0.51 x 3.59 x 2.2 in
Portable headphones amps need to do 3 things well and the FiiO A3 review does all of them, very well.
I purchased the FiiO A3 when I was travelling on planes, trains and automobiles an insane amount. I was in the top 1% of travellers globally by distance (App in the Air). It wasn’t my first FiiO nor will it be my last.
When I owned Headphones Canada, FiiO were one of our best selling DAC, DAP products along with AudioQuest DragonFly, Chord, the DacMagic from Cambridge Audio and iBasso. Peter Fan was a legend to work with when they were launching the X7II, X3III and Q1II.
The main reason I chose the FiiO A3 was
- Size (and durability)
- Sound Quality
- Battery life
These three elements were crucial, especially when I was travelling on 17.5 hour flights to Dubai.
So let’s get into it and have a look at the specs and the reasons why I think this is still a powerhouse, bestselling, portable headphone amp.
A sleek, hardy and powerful little unit that will increase your listening pleasure
The FiiO A3 is a great little unit if you’re looking for a portable headphone amp that can handle up to 150 ohms resistance.
Great for IEMs, CIEMS, or any wired headphones that you feel could use a boost, regardless of source, and assuming you don’t need DAC capabilities (this is analog only).
It’s been a faithful companion. I have said there are no cons but actually, if there was one it would be that its so compact I lost it for a few months only to discover it was looking at me from my gadgets drawer the whole time.
Sneaky little A3…
- Pre-amplifier: OPA1642
- Power amplifier: AD8397
- Bass Boost: Yes
- Gain Boost: Yes
- Battery Life: 16 Hours (1400mAH)
- Power supply: Mini USB port
- Frequency Response: 20Hz~20KHz
- Weight: 92g
- Charging Time: ~240 minutes
- Size: 91.2mm x 56mm x 13mm
- Recommended Imedance (what to match with it): 16~150 ohms (Ω)
What’s in the Box?
- A3 Portable Headphone Amp
- Short 3.5mm cable (to connect source to amp)
- Rubber band to bind it to the source
Stuff I like
- Build Quality – tough little unit
- Nice feel to responsive switches and volume
- Packs a punch, audibly that is
Stuff I like less
- None of note. Honest.
Comparable products to consider
Long in tooth now but still worth a look if you need a DAC Amp. Especially if your buying second hand or on sale.
So, I’ve as previously mentioned I’ve been travelling with the FiiO A3 for many years. You might ask, ‘Why review it now, man?’ and my answer would be that some of my favorite headphones, HiFi and life tech gadgets never seem to make it to review.
It’s like I’m so relaxed using them in a frictionless way that they never seem to come to mind for review.
The A3 was one of these gadgets where I would use it on flights, trains and buses all around the world but it was unassuming, performed without a glitch so it never made for review. I think sometimes I only review the things people ask me to review and forget my own devices.
If I’m really honest I also didn’t review it earlier as I lost it for a while…
What’s so good about the FiiO A3?
The form factor is excellent. It’s small but powerful and can clip onto almost any smartphone you can imagine without adding too much bulk.
Remember this is designed as a portable headphone amp first and foremost so it is best paired with a mobile source – iphone/dap/walkman/cd player etc.
The iPhone XR in these photos shows you what a tidy package it is.
I would have taken a picture with my iPhone 12 but I was using it for the photos…you know how it goes, first world problems.
So, the size is good.
The Bass boost could be thought of like a physical switch for an EQ adjustment.
For headphones that might be lacking bottom end, or for source tracks that might need some more oomph in the sub frequencies, the Bass Boost switch will list those bass and sub-bass frequencies up to be more present.
This is mainly because I am not a fan of inflated or sculpted bass. But, just know it’s there if you need it.
The Gain switch increases the volume and power output of the A3.
This is particularly useful for high impedance or low sensitivity headphones.
The low gain setting is suitable for low impedance and high sensitivity earphones.
The volume goes all the way to 11.
Just kidding, it actually only goes to 9 but that’s almost irrelevant really.
What I do love about the volume pot is that the travel on it is really nice.
There is a tangible and audible ‘click’ when you turn it on (which is done by turning the volume dial up).
It would be fair to say that my custom in-ear monitors are quite easy to drive, despite having 8 BA drivers in each ear.
This meant that the direct impact from my sources, including an Astell & Kern Junior, iPhone and Macbook Pro was improved but it wasn’t the impact I experienced compared to trying them with a set of HD 600.
The HD 600 are a 300-ohm headphone which is a significantly higher resistance which is actually higher than FiiO recommend but you can still notice the difference with the A3.
The below is the frequency response charts FiiO produced of the Fiio A3
With the DT-1990, a 250-ohm headphone (still above the recommended 150-ohm limit) there was also a nice lift in the overall sound. Fuller, richer and it made for more enjoyable listening. I did find I had to turn it up somewhat higher to achieve this purpose though.
In terms of portability I think the photos make it clear how small it is to travel with, whether that’s while commuting, long-distance or even if you were keen to use it during sports in a small pack, belt or running case.
The build quality is solid. It’s a small steel unit that can take the hits. The switches and volume dial are intelligently positioned and designed in such a way to stay out of the way.
This means you don’t catch them on clothing etc. or risk breaking them when it’s bouncing around in your bag.
Another example of size is in the below photo where you can see I used to travel with it most. My Custom IEM case was large enough to accommodate my IEMs and the A3 together.
Summing it up
The FiiO A3 is a great little unit. Small, portable, easy to use and easy to travel with.
It sounds great, is well designed and still deserves to be noticed.
After having owned and used it for over 3 or 4 years, I can attest to its functionality.
While the newer FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC AMP Headphone amp is a good alternate newer alternative if you also need a DAC, the A3 is a simple source of amplification for your headphones that is at an awesome price.
Highly recommended. Questions? Let me know in the questions below.
This post was last updated on 2022-09-26 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.