Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10 Review – A Muscle Car for your headphones

Overall Score 98/100
Sandu Vitalie Amplifiers

My Video Review:

It all started about half year ago when I had a long conversation with Vitaliy Barchan of Flux Lab Acoustics about his company, about new products, about the hard times of a newly opened business and the struggle to win the hearts of the potential customers. We talked a lot about the upcoming IRIY line of DAC and headphone amps and about their future projects. Months passed; he came back asking what was the most powerful headphone amplifier I ever tested. It was the Audio-GD Master 9 and the Burson Conductor 3 Reference I replied, at about 8 to 9 Watts of power those things could literally drive passive speakers with a special adapter. He disappeared the same way he came and much later on I was informed that they will be releasing a very advanced DAC with streaming capabilities via Ethernet and via Wi-Fi, it could even use external flash or HDD drives filled with music, it could be easily controlled by a web interface that would work with any PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The cherry on top? Sixteen watts of power into thirty-two Ohms! You read that right, 16 juicy Watts on both the 6.35 mm (14”) and on the 4-pin XLR jack. With numbers like these, this mysterious device that still didn’t have a name, would instantly become the most powerful headphone amplifier ever built and the most interesting all-in-one device for the new generation of audiophiles. I was quoted a less than $1500 price and that was the moment my enthusiasm level reached the top floor of the building.

Flux Lab Acoustics team was teasing me for months about what would in the end be called FCN-10 streaming DAC and headphone amplifier. It is targeted as an affordable solution, firing shots at the current production top of the line DAC and headphone amp units.

When you have numbers and promises like that, you start wondering, what’s the drawback? I keep wondering. I know there must be something. Then I’m being bombarded back with specs like Toshiba bipolar transistors, an all-discrete design, 64-step relay-controlled volume attenuator, premium components from the likes of Nichicon, Nippon, Takman, Fujitsu-Takamisawa and a custom toroidal transformer that I’m normally spotting in multi-thousand audio gear. Could it be true? A truly high-end piece from any point of view with a mid-fi price attached to it?

Let’s find out!

Unbox Therapy

It came in a really huge and heavy box, even the customs personnel didn’t believe my declarations that there is a headphone amplifier inside, they opened the box for inspection thinking I’m having a portable nuclear reactor somewhere in there. Anyways, FCN-10 came double boxed as all devices of this size should normally come. The smaller product box is filled with white foam for extra protection. Underneath the unit you can spot a smaller accessory box, inside it a USB Type-B cable can be spotted, together with a power cable, an Ethernet cable and a Wi-Fi antenna that also works as a signal booster.

FCN-10 comes in two variants: in 230V or 115V AC input, if you want the best possible power supply and

power filtering, then a universal power supply is not an option and Flux Lab Acoustics knows that. Since FCN-10 can’t work as a preamp for your speaker rig and since it can be controlled by your smartphone too, I get why they dropped the idea of developing a remote for it.

Design & Build Quality

It might look small in photos but in reality, FCN-10 is a beast of a unit. Measuring 315 (L) x 310 (W) x 70 (H) mm and having about 5.6 Kg (~12.35 lbs) in weight, it’s not your typical DAC/headphone amp unit and arranging it on your desktop might pose a small issue. On the right side of the case, exactly behind the 4-pin XLR output sits a huge heatsink that cools down the final output transistors, you can see it through the holes in the case, that is one of the reason FCN-10 shouldn’t stay on any other audio component that dissipates heat and nothing should stay on top of it for a much better heat dissipation. I counted 12 powerful output transistors – that is a first in any headphone amplifier and after about an hour of work, it gets pretty hot on the right side due to that extreme power output. Lesson is simple: nothing should stay on top of it.

Controls & Connectivity

The front panel is milled on a CNC machine and the rest of the body is wrapped in a black-metal case (not the musical genre). Device itself looks simple and really straightforward. On the front you will find an On/Off switch, an input selector: AUX will make it work as a headphone amp only, USB will engage the USB DAC and headphone amp section and LAN will engage the Ethernet and later on the Wi-Fi input (after making all the Wi-Fi settings), LAN will also engage the USB ports on the back, making it work as a simple digital music player. Next switch will change the gain position from low, mid and high – pick the one that works better with your headphones. In the middle you can spot the volume wheel that offers 64 steps of precision volume adjustment by using mechanical relays – meaning that at any volume position the balance between the channels will be perfect and since it’s an analog volume control, not a single bit of information will be lost in the process – quite neat. Flux Lab Acoustics team didn’t want to force you on using the 4-pin XLR jack, so they decided that both jacks will output the same power. It’s a single ended amplifier and the 4-pin XLR jack was put there mostly for convenience and for better compatibility with the rest of your headphones.

I’m really glad that on the back, it has a simple DAC output via RCA – meaning you can use it as a pure DAC with a fixed volume position, or you can use it as a pure headphone amp by using the Auxiliary input (RCA in), then you have two USB type A inputs where you can connect two flash drives or external hard drives, below them you have the Ethernet input followed by the Wi-Fi antenna socket and by the AC inlet.

FCN-10 looks really simple and once you learn all its tips and tricks, it’s becoming easy to use and really straightforward.

Tech inside the FCN-10

Flux Lab Acoustics didn’t spare a dime when it comes to internal components. I opened it up and tried searching for some unknown brands, but alas, all I see are high-grade components carefully selected to fit their designation.

I’m really glad that wireless PCB and the power transformer are isolated by a big metal wall, so those will not pollute the digital or analog side of the PCB.

I will start with the power supply, before the raw AC power gets to that big and oversized power transformer, first it passes through filtering stages and voltage regulators. I spotted multiple filtering stages, including some poly caps along the way. The Ethernet and wireless card stay near the PS, can’t say much about it since all those chips are unknown to me, I can only tell that FCN-10 supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi only and does not support 5 GHz Wi-Fi.

I was taken back a bit by the DAC board, since it is much bigger in size compared to the DAC board of say the Burson Conductor 3. Most of the hard work is done by two newer generation AKM AK4493 DAC chips that are replacing the older generation of AK4490 that are still powering thousands of DACs at this moment. AK4493 is part of the Premium range of DACs, featuring Velvet Sound Technology which is trying to mimic some of that R-2R goodness. Flux Lab went with two pieces so that they could squeeze the best out of them, they offer exactly 3 dB more of dynamic range when they work in mono configuration and they offer a couple of dB less when it comes to channel crosstalk. Again, I see a lot of voltage regulators and filtering stages for the digital board. The USB input board was supplied by Amanero Technologies, I can spot 3 crystal clocks on one side of the board, meaning one crystal clock was most probably used for DSD material, these guys are not playing around.

As for the amp stage which covers the biggest surface area of the unit, I spotted four of the biggest poly caps (50V, 6800 uF) I ever seen in a DAC/headphone amp unit, I can see another board bolted to the huge heatsink where most of the output transistors are located. Two output transistors are located on the main board, probably pre-amplifying the signal for the next 10 output transistors that are bolted to the heatsink.

As I told you before, FCN-10 will output some 16 watts of mind-blowing power, backed up by a huge power bank to deliver all that power in an instant to your precious headphone drivers.

Remember the special volume pot I was mentioning above? The relays that are making the 64-step volume potentiometer work are located under the DAC board. It’s so satisfying playing with the volume wheel, it works as a stress reliever too, it is kind of cool hearing those mechanical noises of the relays. Do note, you can hear them only by staying close to the unit, you will not hear that noise with your headphones.

So, in the end, both the digital and analog sections are done at high standards and there is little to complain about in a unit like this one.

Test Equipment

I decided testing the FCN-10 with a plethora of headphones, ranging from tiny and ultra-sensitive IEMs, to portable over-ear headphones and to heavy duty desktop and low sensitivity headphones as Audeze LCD-4, Hifiman Arya, Erzetich Phobos and Quad Era-1 planar-magnetics. Since I needed to know how cool is the DAC section of FCN-10, I powered it later on by my personal favorite Matrix Audio Element X. Testing out the quality of its internal headphone amplifier, it was compared to the best out there like the Benchmark HPA4, SparkoS Labs Aries and Burson Conductor 3. Flux Lab FCN-10 will not be spared, it will be tested, compared and re-tested with everything at my disposal.

OK everybody, it’s time to hit some ear-drums!

Sound Quality

I. Tonality & Timbre

I can summarize the overall sound quality with just three simple words: Ho! Lee! Schiit!

I always believed there is a very strong correlation between output power of a headphone amplifier with the actual slam it could produce, especially when it comes to low-end rumble and impact. In a real-world situation, I could never test my claims because all of the best headphone amplifiers are offering somewhere between 6 and 9 watts of power into the same impedance, not much of a difference in power – so the difference in terms of slam was there but only in small portions. Remember when I posted my Benchmark HPA4 review I was raising it sky high as the best amplifier when it comes to slam - the actual punch it could produce with engaging music. All my words are still standing but I think I will redraw my words of it being the hardest slamming amplifier. Ladies and gents, we have a new winner on our hands. From the first seconds of pressing play, FNC-10 felt like the ballsiest and the hardest slamming headphone amplifier I put my hands on. Forget everything you know about headphone amps, FCN-10 is still a different type of beast. This is not a joke, if you are into fast and engaging type of music, maybe aggressive type of music, think electronica, rock and metal, then most probably FCN-10 is the one to win you over with its pugilist approach of rendering all that music. Think about receiving a serious hit in the ear-drums every time a drum note hits, think about getting those bass notes deep in your thoughts, think about having the raw energy of a rock concert in the comfort of your home, think about toe-tapping like a madman with a smile like that of Joker. That type of performance. As of right now, I can clearly see a very strong correlation between output power and the actual slam and punch an amplifier can produce and FCN-10 is the best example for that.

Let’s say that this one made me listen to music for about one week without writing a single word about it, normally my evaluation should be done by now. I’m trying to gather my thoughts, I say one more time, one more song and after pressing play, it throws me into my chair, into my word, into my musical nirvana and I just stay there feeling like the most powerful being in the universe. At that point I can’t and I don’t want to stop from listening. This is what I’m talking about, this is why I love listening to headphones, so much raw energy, so much headbanging and so much positive vibes, it always makes my day. Will some speakers ever awake the same feelings? Probably, but not today.

II. Background Noise, IEM compatibility

This is the most powerful headphone amplifier out there, so as it was the case of Burson Conductor 3, I expected a dirtier background with sensitive IEMs at my normal listening levels and some gremlins in my tunes harassing my listening pleasure. I engaged low gain and I connected the most sensitive and the most revealing IEMs at my disposal: FiiO FH7. From all those 16.000 mW of power, only a single one is needed in achieving the ear-bleeding level of 111 dB of volume. What I want to say is that FH7 has a sensitivity of 111dB per 1 mW and an impedance of 16 Ohms. It’s the easiest load you could possibly have, they can be driven even by smartphones or by anything that has a headphone jack, including your grandma’s radio.

Armed with a MiniDSP EARS, I could actually measure the volume level at which I’m listening. The absolute highest volume I could listen to is 100 dB for a few seconds, that equals the ~12 o’clock position on the volume wheel on the low gain setting. Up to that point, up to 100 dB the background is noise-less, free of any gremlins, just a pitch-black background filled with nothingness. Past that point, a faint, barely audible hiss would be heard if the music is paused. Obviously, nobody can listen to music at that volume so I’m very glad to report that FCN-10 works absolutely great with IEMs. Another great thing is that there is plenty of volume up to the 12 o’clock position, more exactly 32 clicks, if you like to listen to music at low volume at night or maybe this is the only way you listen to music, the volume rises gradually and slowly with FCN-10, making it perfect even for low volume listeners!

Now, the greatest part is that I never really heard the FH7 sounding this way, honestly, I’m raising my right hand right now and I’m putting it on my heart. I knew they were good when it comes to slam, to punch and in general in terms of speed FH7 were always really great. However, when I wanted to seriously rock-out listening to some hard-slamming music, I would always use one of my planar-magnetic headphones, as they always punched better and infused more dopamine into the bloodstream. When I connected FH7 to FCN-10, I couldn’t believe my ears, how much FH7 had changed, almost to unrecognizable. That incredible slam and punch, moved over to those tiny drivers of FH7, they were moving some serious amounts of air, that slam was unbelievable, coming out of from those tiny drivers. FH7 became as fast, as punchy and as mean as its much bigger musical creatures. I no longer need to reach for the LCD-4 or Quad ERA-1 if I want the deepest, the hardest slamming and the most controlled bass. Great IEM compatibility and probably the best sound I ever heard from an IEM.

III. Resolution & Transparency

When I was talking with Flux Lab team, I casually asked why going with the AK4493 and not with something higher performance. That question quickly escalated into a long conversation and they made me remember that I’ve listened to terrible DAC designs which are using top-of-the-line chips and I listened to top-of-the-line DACs which are using entry level chips, that is a very good lesson as everything is in the details and I still don’t judge a book by its cover.

When I listened to FH7 on such a monstrous amplifier, it already showed signs of great potential, having such a clean background, free of any grain and imperfections will directly affect the performance of the DAC. Since those AK4493 are working in dual mono mode, Flux Lab guys are basically squeezing the best it can offer and is making it behave above the level of a single AK4495 and about on the same level with a single AK4497 DAC chip put on a reference board! A very clever design decision if you ask me, I never thought that something like that could be possible.

FCN-10 is great at showing you all the micro or macro-details you could possibly want. Listening to Roger Waters – Déjà Vu (Is This The Life We Really Want? Tidal / Spotify) the clock on the left is so vividly played, the guitar sounds amazingly clear and there is a gentle note hidden deep in the recording that is inaudible on mediocre audio systems, it is a brush touching a drum, it happens few times in the song. FCN-10 is rendering it clean, precise and gentle, exactly how a top performing DAC should sound.

IV. Transient Response

I jumped directly to Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman (11:11, Tidal / Spotify), I don’t know exactly who from these two beautiful souls is slamming that guitar so hard, I’m feeling that slam almost with my whole body which obviously is not happening. This track is incredibly engaging and hard slamming every second, mind you this is all happening with two acoustic guitars and yet so much joy and so much power, high sound pressure level and dynamics can be obtained with two simple guitars, it’s mind boggling!

Listening to Echoes from the album (Mettavolution, Tidal / Spotify) which by itself can be considered as an instrumental masterpiece, having almost 19 minutes of constant toe-tapping action, at the 12:00 mark there is a powerful slam hitting the strings that carries an enormous amount of air and a strong punch into the eardrums, the slamming intensifies and past the 14:00 mark I almost want to lower the volume because of those high dynamics that are relentlessly increasing pace. When I moved to Mombasa by 2Cellos (Celloverse, Tidal / Spotify), I’ve felt the same jumpy notes that were hitting much harder than I ever remembered, this song sounded super wide, big, airy but also incredibly powerful and motivational. Some simple cellos shouldn’t sound as engaging, as powerful and as fast? Or maybe they should?

I want to point out that with a potent amplifier, you don’t really need some boomy songs or some bass filled electronic music to feel the speed and the punch it can provide. FCN-10 is a true testament and my future benchmark when it comes to pace, rhythm, timing and slam. Yes, my friends, it was able to outperform my personal favorite Benchmark HPA4 when it comes to speed, fast decay and most importantly in the slam department. It changes some of my headphones so much, that I wanted to listen to all my headphones and test their newest limits that I just discovered. There is indeed a strong correlation between output power, transient response and control of the driver. I never felt such an iron grip over the drivers of the big four planar-magnetics. They never sounded loose on this one, but always snappy, ballsy and fearless.

V. Soundstage & Depth

Listening to the beautiful songs of Eluveitie – Brictom, followed by Omnos (Evocation I, Tidal / Spotify) performed in long forgotten Gaulish, which I’ve listened to many times before are rendered bigger, airier and wider spread compared to the best out there like SparkoS Labs Aries and Benchmark HPA4. Using traditional instruments you normally associate with folk music, plus some unusual ones like bag-pipes or even better hurdy-gurdy, with a capable audio chain I am literally transported back in time. FCN-10 was able to widen the stage, add a bit of air between all those crowded notes and make everything more manageable and easier to follow and focus on something particular. FCN-10 is definitely sounding bigger, more imposing and deeper than most of the solid-state amplifiers I had the pleasure of testing. I can definitely say it belongs to the same group as Burson Conductor 3 and Audio-GD D38 which to this day sounded as the deepest of and airiest solid-state amplifiers I had the pleasure testing.

With such an amazing slam, pushing big amounts of air in an instant it’s such an easy task for it, add that dual mono AKM chipset which is notorious for having a wider soundstage and we have a winner on our hands not only in terms of speed and punch but also in terms of stage size and depth. FCN-10 is without a doubt one of the most impressive solid-state all-in-one units when it comes to depth information, pin point location of a particular note in a 3D field and obviously in terms of stage size. Even Hifiman Arya with its wide frequency response and linearity started sounding tall (as it normally behaves) but also super wide. The void space between my left and right ear somehow increased and there is just more music in that space. I’m just looking at a much bigger picture where the notes are placed more comfortably for me to pick and analyze. Think of going to a regular movie theater and then going to an IMAX movie theater, it’s a completely different experience and so is with FCN-10.

VI. Frequency Response

I’m experiencing a deep, controlled and sustained sub-bass that is always clean, layered and very present if the track is asking for it. Sub-bass and mid-bass information is a big part of that slam and punch I experienced before, so it is just natural having a more than impressive bass performance. The most difficult frequency to move at the right speed is the lower end and yet FCN-10 does it so easily and so bravely. Listening to all kinds of electronic music feels very natural on this unit, since it really excels and plays it so vividly clear, so detailed and so controlled. Two headphones from my stable are performing great in terms of bass quantity but not that great when it comes to its speed and punch, I’m talking about Meze 99 Classics and Sennheiser Momentum 2 over-ear headphones. These are sounding smooth and mellow most of the time, but on FNC-10 it’s like their drivers and magnets were improved with faster ones, both sounded snappier offering juicier dynamics, improving the speed and decay of the notes. Sometimes there are amps that are offering decent amounts of bass in terms of quantity and quality, sometimes there are good or even great amps offering amazing low-end energy and rumble. FCN-10 could easily be considered as the best or among the best amp in terms of low-end energy, punch and detail - it is that good.

An AKM based DAC and an all-discrete amplifier would always impress a midrange addict like myself. It’s on the fuller and meatier side of things. Be sure to expect a really nice midrange presence, deep and textured voices, amazing guitar plucks and a lot of naturalness. Having such a huge power reserve and a nice power filtering, the purity of female voices wasn’t touched and the heavy tonality of male voice was preserved to the smallest details. Even listening to some of the older recordings where a dry midrange would appear, FCN-10 would somehow counterbalance that issue, will infuse a bit of its medicine, improve the midrange presence and make it more believable and real. From dry to wet, from thin to full-bodied, all discrete bipolar transistor amps always had a natural way of playing all my tunes. FCN-10 is a natural performer when it comes to frequency response, it’s a child’s play for it really.

Moving on to the treble region is done in a smooth and natural fashion. It doesn’t show flaws or any kind of dips in the treble or anywhere in the frequency region. It has an extended treble region but at the same time, it’s a non-aggressive and calm type of treble. By calm, I don’t mean a lesser engagement factor or some lesser dynamics, I just mean less bright and harsh compared to a drier sounding amplifier. I stressed this unit for about 2 weeks listening to all kinds of music, including aggressive music where treble was recorded in a raw manner without too much mastering behind it. Treble intensive music will be played back much easier for the human ear, but obvious flaws as heavy distortions or clipping will not be cured. I consider FCN-10 as having a perfect balance of treble extension, naturalness and crispness. It doesn’t sound as textured and defined as a THX AAA based amplifier, but on the other hand I can easily finish a rock album without it becoming stressful or ear fatiguing in the process.

VII. Power Output

This is a super interesting topic and there is no other way in saying it. FCN-10 is without a doubt the most powerful headphone amplifier I ever tried at my place. In terms of raw power and ultimate control, it outperformed all the best ones I listened to. If you need a single amplifier that could drive anything from small and super-sensitive IEMs to big cans like Hifiman Susvara, HE-6, Audeze LCD-4 or Abyss AB-1266, then this is it. Listening to all my IEMs and to dynamic over-ear headphones like Sennheiser Momentum 2 and Meze 99 Classics, I never touched other gain settings except for low gain, because I could blow my ear-drums even with low-gain if I wanted. Even with the Erzetich Phobos, with its huge ear-cup design and magnet structure, I didn’t need to engage the mid-gain position because low-gain offered all the volume and dynamics I could think of. Only Hifiman Arya, Quad Era-1 and Audeze LCD-4 needed the mid-gain position which actually never went past the 1 o’clock position on the volume wheel! I tested the high-gain only with LCD-4 and only briefly just to get an idea about the volume and how much is there left of it. Let’s say that with all my cans, I don’t think I ever passed 40-45% of its power output. It’s mighty powerful and it’s controlling extremely well all that power. It is against loose, slow or muddy presentations. It wants to hit and run, it wants to increase those dynamics to unrecognizable, even with your tiny IEMs. I suspected there will be some drawbacks of having so much power under its hood, but in reality, there aren’t any drawbacks. If you stick to the low gain, IEMs are powered noise-free and with absolute blackness, if you go higher in gain, just be sure to lower the volume first. If you crave for power, for absolute control, for the punchiest slam I ever encountered with my headphones, then FCN-10 is the one that deserves your attention and your hard-earned money.

VIII. Comparisons

It is amazingly complicated choosing the right unit that could stand a chance to the Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10. My favorite Matrix Audio Element X has the same streaming capabilities, a slightly better DAC section, but a much weaker headphone amplifier, so I can’t compare the two.

KECES S3 has a more than decent DAC section and a pretty good amp section, but again I feel that FCN-10 is better in terms of sound and in terms of functionality.

I can’t compare the SparkoS Labs Aries and the Benchmark HPA4 to the FCN-10 because both units are just amps and do not have a streamer or a DAC section.

Probably the only device that I could compare to is the Burson Conductor 3 Reference, so here we go!

Burson Conductor 3 Reference or in short C3R ($1800) VS Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10 or in short FCN-10

In terms of features, C3R is having an LCD screen where you can choose the selected input, it has slightly more digital inputs including a Bluetooth input. It can be used as a DAC + preamp in a speaker-based setup. Burson guys went with a dual ESS 9038Q2M setup which in their case worked absolutely great with their class-A amplification and with their discrete op-amps.

FCN-10 might not have an LCD screen, an optical, coaxial and Bluetooth input, but on the other hand, it has a full blown streamer inside working via Ethernet or via Wi-Fi, it can accept music from external USB flash or HDD drives and play it back without the need of an OS or computer. It supports DLNA and AirPlay, you can even link a Tidal, Qobuz or Google Music account to an app like Bubble UPnP and control everything with your smartphone. To me, FCN-10 is a much more advanced unit in terms of features and believe me or not, via DLNA and Wi-Fi it sounds slightly better than via USB, because it bypasses the Operating System and some of the drawbacks of the USB connection (cable quality, USB noise and latency).

In terms of power, C3R is offering about 7.5 Watts and it drove all my headphones with absolute control and authority. I didn’t like how it played with my sensitive IEMs, because at any volume position, even at the lowest, I would spot a noisier background making it absolutely unusable with IEMs, some readers even reported a bad compatibility with big and sensitive headphones like Focal Stellia. All in all, I really liked how C3R performed with the big cans, I really liked that the Burson team chose to go with an ESS chipset to counterbalance the warmth of its discrete amp section.

From the first second, FCN-10 feels more powerful, dynamics are just through the roof with this one, it is oozing bad attitude from it, it sounded nastier from the first second. It slammed harder, it offered better dynamics, they rose higher and faster with my music. I felt a slightly better engagement factor and it made me feel like the king of the hill. Both units are using dual-mono DACs so in terms of depth and soundstage I would put them both on the same boat, with just a mention that FCN-10 sounded by a hair deeper and wider especially with live music. In terms of frequency response, they both offered everything from the lowest notes to the highest octaves, so it’s a tie. As for the ultimate refinement and detail retrieval, I’m again placing the FCN-10 slightly above the C3R just because it offers a clearer background with small and big cans and as a direct result it sounds more transparent, airier and more detailed.

The things I liked more about C3R is that it offered an LCD screen, it has a optical input, so I can use it with my TV and my gaming console, it has a coaxial input, so it can be used with digital transports, with an audio receiver and also that metal remote was helping a lot especially in a speaker based setup where C3R would work as a DAC and preamp.

Everything else, I like a lot more on the FCN-10. Having more power on tap, clearer power for super sensitive loads, more advanced streaming capabilities, an internal music player, linking some Hi-Fi streaming services to it and playing it back with just a smartphone - it’s a really big thing for me and I can only congratulate the Flux lab Acoustics team for having such a nice unit at such an attractive price point. I think I found a new champion when it comes to DAC/headphone amp combos and it could probably wear that crown for a very long time.

Conclusion

Here is the thing: Flux Labs Acoustics is a fairly new company, if it wants to capture your attention it needs to do it in style, with some interesting products at affordable price points. It needs to do it how no one did it until now. I’m serious, can you point me out to a unit that works in dual DAC configuration, that has a powerful Wi-Fi and Ethernet streamer, that is DLNA and AirPlay compatible, that offers gobs of power that could literally drive the most demanding headphones out there, that is super quiet and clean sounding at less than $1500? I don’t know any. The cherry on top is that going past all the cool features and things that can be done with it, it sounds bloody amazing from the first second of pressing play. This was the second unit that I wanted to listen to without any kind of burn-in, I was just glued to my chair for a few hours straight after receiving it. It was simply a roller-coaster with all my headphones. Considering everything it does in such an easy and elegant manner, I consider it being dirt cheap and it’s probably the best kept secret of the headphone world at just $1350. Go, tell others, this one will not be forgotten soon. You can get it directly from their web-store right here.

Oh, one more thing, if you don’t really need the DAC section or the wireless streamer, you can go for the amp only version called FA-10 at $749. It is exactly the same unit, without the digital boards and digital inputs.

PROS:

  • Nice looking device, great build quality
  • Perfect channel balance with a 64-step relay-based volume attenuator
  • Simply put, it is the most powerful headphone amplifier on the planet
  • The best dynamics, slam and punch I encountered in a headphone amplifier, it’s the hammer hitting the anvil and you feel somewhere between them
  • With great power comes great responsibility as if offers an iron grip and control over the headphone drivers
  • FCN-10 with throw a really big picture in front of the listener, with a big soundstage size pushing in all possible directions
  • Very good depth, with accurate pin point location of musical notes, 3D sounding all the time
  • Linear and really extended frequency response, there aren’t drops or rises, just a linear FR
  • At low gain, lacks background noise at the listening level even with sensitive IEMs
  • Lighting fast transient response
  • Great tonal balance, it sounds natural, life-like and full-bodied
  • Amazing when it comes to music streaming via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • A drool inducing performance on all fronts
  • If you are serious about your headphones, it’s the best value as of right now

CONS:

  • Hot to the touch after an hour or so (don’t block the upper ventilation holes)

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

  • DACs: Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10, Denafrips Venus, Matrix Audio Element X, Burson Conductor 3 Reference
  • Headphone Amps: SparkoS Labs Aries, Benchmark HPA4, Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10, xDuoo TA-30, Burson Conductor 3 Reference
  • Integrated Amps: Hegel H190, KECES E40
  • Power Amp: KECES S125
  • IEMs: FiiO FH7 & some lower tiered ones
  • Portable headphones: Sennheiser Momentum 2, Meze 99 Classics
  • Full-sized headphones: Audeze LCD-4, Erzetich Phobos, Hifiman Arya, Quad ERA-1
  • Loudspeakers: Buchardt S400, KEF LS50W
  • Interconnects: QED Reference (x2), Aune AL3
  • Speaker cables: Kimber PR8, Audioquest Type4
  • Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier (x2)
  • Balanced Isolation Power Conditioners: PLiXiR Elite BAC400, KECES BP-600

Overall score 98/100

Features 100/100
Power Output 100/100
Resolution 97/100
Dynamics 100/100
Frequency Response 97/100
Stage Size 97/100
Build Quality 95/100
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