I was a lucky chap with my old netbook. The Asus EEE 901 had a smashing soundcard and a good turn of volume. It made listening to music streamed over our network or via Spotify a pleasure as I didn’t have to crank the volume right up. Sadly the touchpad buttons went after a couple of years of hard use, so when Expansys did an offer on a newer EEE, this time the 1215, for a very reasonable £150, I ploughed in and made my replacement purchase.
Overall I’m happy with the 1215. It’s not as small or portable as the 901, and it’s not as sturdy as a result but it’s the best of the rest and was a proper steal at that price. The one area it has badly let me down in though is the sound. The clarity is fine but the volume is so low, even with a big pair of over the ear ‘phones with a battery powered bass boost, the sound is alarmingly quiet.
Fortunately I remember a tiny little device I bought a couple of years ago but found I had no practical use for- the FiiO E5 headphone amplifier. It’s about the size of one of those rectangular ipod shuffle clip things, and indeed has it’s own metal clip. There are 3 ports on the thing, a mini USB for charging, an input and output for a 3.5mm earphone jack, an on/off button, a volume rocker and a lock slider. The only other thing is a bright blue LED to show it’s on. Talk about minimalist!
The size and utilitarian design of the device shouldn’t fool you though, it’s awesome. In a blink of an eye, and the plugging of a couple of cables, the pressing of a switch and so on, my EEE1215 has gone from weedy near silence to an impressive distortion free wall of sound. A quick google has shown the sound level is an issue with the 12xx series of EEE PC’s, whether this an issue with EU sound regulations or an oversight in the design process I don’t know but what I do know is a few quid on a Fiio pocket amp is well worth the investment. The FiiO E5 (and subsequent models) are available online, Amazon sell the FiiO for a more than reasonable £13.75