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FiiO a company you've never heard of but they've been producing affordable pocket sized amlifiers for some time.
The FiiO E3 has been around for a couple of years now, which means now its an affordable bargain.
But first what is a pocket amplifier?
Well in the case of the FiiO E3 its a tiny black or white plastic box with a 3.5mm fly lead coming out of the bottom which plugs into your mp3 player, and a 3.5mm jack on the top (along with a tiny red LED). On the side of the case you'll find there is a battery compartment which will take a single AAA battery (I recommend using a high output rechargeable one).
There is no on/off switch, plugging your headphones into the 3.5mm jack instantly switches it on and the little red LED illuminates and away you go (the indicator is handy but there is no way of switching off short of unplugging your headphones, which is why I recommend a rechargeable battery).
FiiO claim the E3 will increase Bass an trebble and give a better sound quality even from poor quality earphones. By which I assume they mean the sub-£100 bracket or more importantly the sub-£10 bracket (I use £5 budget ebay in-ear earphones normally).
The sound quality from the FiiO E3 is definately louder, which means you can turn down your mp3 player a notch or two, extending its battery life (although obviously its at the detriment to the FiiO battery). I've also found on the ipod/itouch/iphone that there is no need to use the equaliser function (which really harms your battery life when in use).
There is a small metal bar fitted into the top of the FiiO E3 allowing you to fit a lanyard to keep the amplifier safe, although I don't use one as the device is so light it hardly impacts of useability of your earphones.
Sound quality is much more rounded, deeper, smoother, not dissimilar to an the modern range of valve amplifiers you see in electrical shops. However there is some noticeable hiss between tracks, although certainly almost inaudible in normal use.
The FiiO E3 is a very light and unobtrusive device to use, the only pain is the lack of on/off button (meaning you will discharge that rechargeable battery I told you to use frequently). Battery life isn't amazing, I find I get about 4 hours with a decent rechargeable AAA, which is satisfactory if you carry a spare (you normally charge 2 at a time anyway).
So how much will it cost me?
Around £7 online, shop around you might get one cheaper, but watch out on ebay, you might pay less but remember you might have to pay higher postage.
Would I recommend at FiiO E3?
Yes i would, why not? Its only a maximum of around £7 and the output is pretty good considering how small the unit is. Make your cheap budget earphones feel like more expensive units. I can't comment if the FiiO E3 will improve sound quality of higher end earphones (although I plan to test soon and could update this review so check back frequently).