Review: Fiio E17

Fiio E17 review
I would like to thank zococity.es for lending me this unit for review, I will try and write as honest a review as possible.

All opinions expressed are my own, and others may not agree, this is a subjective review from an average user’s point of view.

Gear used:
Toshiba NB500 – Foobar2000 – Fiio E17 – Soundmagic HP100/Shure SE425
IPod Classic 7G 160gb – Fiio L3 (DIY cable) – Fiio E17

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Specs:
Output power: >250mw (16 ohms), 30mw (300 ohms)
Headphone impedance range: 16ohm – 300ohm
Supported sampling rate (SPDIF): Max. 192 kHz/24bit
Supported sampling rate (USB): Max. 96 kHz/24bit
Size: 96mm x 55mm x 15.2mm
Weight: 112g
Charge time: 200 minutes
Runtime: approx. 15 hours
Price: $150

Packaging, Accessories + Build quality:
Packaging is very simple and sleek, a white box, which slides out to show you the carry pouch, with the E17 inside. 2 small compartments inside hold the accessories. Very nice and easy to open and use straight out of the box.

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Accessories are very good, dual layer carry pouch, optical connector, USB cable, rubber feet x6, 3.5 to RCA adaptor, 3.5mm – 3.5mm short interconnect cable, screen protector + 2 silicone amp straps. A very good package from Fiio with everything needed to get started. A iPod LOD would have been a welcome addition though.

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Build quality is very good, with the unit being brushed aluminium, all buttons are of good quality and jacks are fairly solid. Only time will tell how well it will hold up, but it feels very solid. All buttons are easily located on the front of the unit, the LED changes colour as to what your using it for.

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Usability:
This unit is very easy to use, with all inputs easily labelled, the UI is very intuitive and easy to find your way around, on first plug into my netbook, the drivers installed instantly and played instantly, not messing around with lots of settings. This product is pretty fool proof. The simple OLED screen is easy to see, and has everything you need displayed, no frills whatsoever, which is great.

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Features:
Variable gain of 0, 6 and 9db is very handy, as I have no really hard to drive headphones, gain of 0 was best, as I keep the volume on widows on full, and adjust the headphone volume from the E17, I only needed to get up to 20 at the most, it goes up to 60, 12 with the Shure’s, 18 with the soundmagic’s. So I don’t think this unit will have trouble driving most headphones.

Input buttons allows you to select what input you want, the menu has a few options, bass boost and treble boost which is handy if you don’t like to EQ but want a little bump in the lows or highs. I found these features to work well. It also has a hold switch, which helps a lot if your using it as just an amp, as you can’t accidently put the volume up.

There is also a balance setting, for those who have hearing imbalance, and a LO bypass switch (only for use with a dock).

Packed full of features, not missing anything apart from a standard LO jack, instead of having to buy the Fiio L7 dock to use the LO feature to another amp.

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Sound:

DAC:
You will need this unit if your PC/laptop/netbook suffers from a noisy headphone jack, or doesn’t have a dedicated soundcard, as this unit is dead silent. The DAC is great, and a must have feature for all of you who use headphones with computers. Sound quality of the DAC chip itself is hard to comment, as technically they should all be as neutral as possible.
With it being able to process high sample rates, this unit is great for everyone on a budget.

DAC+amp:
This is a great all in one combo, with the sound being very clean. It is said to have the same amp circuitry as the E11, which I have had, and this means that there is plenty of power, and also a slight hint of warmth. One excellent thing about this compared to the E11 is that there is no hiss, which IMO was the downfall of the E11 when using sensitive IEM’s (Shure’s are known for being prone to hiss).

This unit takes away all noise from on-board sound by extracting the digital information and converting it outside of the computer via a higher quality DAC (for those of you who didn’t know, digital audio is stored as lots of 1’s and 0’s, that are then turned into the analogue signal needed for us to hear the music DAC= Digital to Analogue Converter)

What this unit does add, is a bit more soundstage, a bit more warmth and life to the dead and boring on-board sound. And it drives most headphones a lot easier than the on-board sound card, which means the headphones will sound better as they can receive the power they need more easily.

Amp:
Also a very good portable amp to pair with any headphones as it is fairly neutral with a slight hint of warmth. It still doesn’t outdo my JDS Labs C421, but that is more expensive and was built solely as an amp, and does not have a DAC. It does fair very well though, when tested side-by-side, the C421 only had the upper hand in soundstage width, and high frequency detail retrieval (AD8620 opamp).

If you have bright headphones this would be a suitable match as you can add more bass, also it can be used the other way round with the treble boost, so it is a very versatile unit, and also there is no channel imbalance as it uses digital volume control, instead of analogue like the C421, which has some imbalance at low volumes with sensitive IEM’s + headphones.

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Conclusion:
This truly is a do it all device, it does what it says very well, and will drive most headphones with dignity.
The DAC feature is great, as if you’re just with your iPod it is a great amp, but also if you want better audio from your computer at home, this will do that too, versatility is one of its strong points.
The form factor is great for portable use, and with all the features it really is very good value for money. I find it very easy to just sit down, plug this in and enjoy the music as it should sound.

Another win for Fiio I think, bringing great quality products at an accessible price.
I may just have to save up for one of these soon, as I am enjoying it a lot.
I hope you enjoyed this review, bought to you by Oscar Stewart, any comments are welcome.

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Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)

Comments

  1. I bought the E17 and its dock following the reading of your review, in order to drive a Beyerdynamics DT770 250ohm. Its high impedance needs the gain to be on 6dB, and with a volume between 25 and 35, but the Fiio is perfectly able to drive it properly. The sound is really clear and the scene is much wider compared to listening directly plugged to the source. It's my first real step into the hi-fi world, but I really think I made a good choice.

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