No complaints other than price: FIIO E17 Alpen USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Review
Introduction of Fiio E17 Headphone Amplifier and USB DAC
Fiio E17 is an integrated DAC and portable headphone amplifier that gives a very good first impression. It’s well packaged in a small recycling box and comes with some handy accessories, such as the bundled HIFI cable and rubber bands to let the amp and source player tightly banded. With the built-in battery, it is capable of amplifying the analog sound signal from any source devices such as Walkman, CD player and smartphone. It can also serve as DAC through the mini USB slot to a computer or notebook deliver excellent music as an outside sound card. One S/PDIF slot makes sure it can work with some hi-end devices.
Design and Interface
E17 has a slim body, 96* 55.3* 15.2mm, included in a rectangular aluminum box like all its cousin E07, E07K and E12. The case is addressed through delicate and precise drawing process. The most prominent part in appearance is the two color OLED screen. That is almost the trademark for FIIO portable amplifier. Although the display area is a little bit restrained, but it ensures all the useful information will be shown, and it matches up with the body’s harmoniously. In order to obtain the visual coordination, there are not many buttons on the front. Each one of them has two level definitions that mean you cannot set it with just one hit. It maybe somewhat complicated at the beginning, but you can handle it through just a few practices.
As a versatile amplifier with DAC device, E17 has a branch of I/O interfaces for both the top and the bottom side. At the top, we get two 3.5mm interfaces, headphone and S/PDIF respectively. Something need to be mentioned is this integrated s/PDIF digital coaxial and optical input interface, that is certainly not a revolutionary design, it does provide us more playability and save this gadget a lot of space, which is crucial for a portable pocket device. Headphone output interface is for dual-use as well. There is a two-stage switch on the right side of the body. It enables you to switch between headphone mode and Line Out mode.
Interfaces arrangement at the bottom side is also compact. A mini USB slot on the left is for digital audio input and charging function. When connected to the computer, the built-decoding capability will be performed. Intermediate multi-pin slot is for FIIO own L7 or E9 Desktop Headphone Amplifier. The universal 3.5mm analog input port is on the right. It is very easy for users to connect a variety of portable music players or desktop audio sources. Choose "Omnipotent" to describe the E17 connectivity cannot be overstated. With all these interfaces, it can be attached to the majority of source devices on the market.
• Sample rate: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96kHz, and 192kHz (SPDIF).
• Bit depth: 16bit and 24bit, which thanks to the Tenor TE7022L USB receiver chip.
• Input Interface: USB, AUX (standard 3.5mm audio input interface), SPDIF (optical and coaxial integrated),
This is the place where most people praise, in such a limited volume, FiiO E17 offers so various types of interfaces. You may figure out all suitable interfaces for every source device is here.
• Output Power: 250mW (16Ω); 30mW (300Ω),
So FiiO E17 is suitable for low-impedance and also high impedance headphones. In face 250Ω headphones can get the full power from this little amplifier.
• Output Impedance: 0.1 ~ 0.6Ω,
This is why I gave up DAC port for low-impedance headphones, the headphone impedance output impedance if more than 1/8 of the sound will begin to affect the performance of the frequency. My personal preference is greater than 1/ 20, so you can get a higher damping impedance headphones.
• Background noise: in the low gain, FiiO E17 can say is extremely quiet. At high gain and high volume you will hear a slight background noise, but that will be only seen for high impedance headphones. So all in all the background is on the brink of silence.
For those users who love high quality music the Fiio E17 can accept 192K / 24bit (SPDIF) sample rates through the SPDIF connection. With a USB connection, the limit is 96K/24-but – there’s a good chance you cannot notice that difference between them. For a portable decoder, such a sample rate is already quite high and should nicely tickle most ears.
In the course of testing, We choose iMac pro connected via USB slot as the main music source, As addition also the linear input port connection with iPhone, i9300 and other popular portable devices. Sony Z1000, AKG Q701 and Hifiman HE-400 have been driven to different music as the main playback devices. E17 comes with a default +6dB gain input sensitivity level. If you are required to drive some low sensitive yet high impedance headphones, adjusting gain to +12DB is suggested. So the sound will be more solid, detail rich and full layered. Background noise control of E17 is very good. Even in some highly sensitive headphones while noise is rarely noticeable. Only at the +12dB gain, load volume greater when feeling a little, but it was already far beyond the normal volume, so it does not annoy much.
At the beginning, you will discover that E17 is a very balanced amplifier without obvious trends to treat sound. It just gives out clear and transparent music with enough details. While after a couple days you will find its own characteristics: the more solid and full frequency, better intensity and more dynamic and transient performance in low-frequency. Possibly in order to better transition bands and suitable for a long time listening E17 intentional makes some decays of high frequency to make is delicate and not sharp. Because of this E17 tastes a slightly warmer sense of hearing.
As an entry-level portable headphone amp, it is hard to announce that E17 has an extremely good performance. Nonetheless, it can drive all kinds of headphones even those high impedance ones. The sound is very clear and transparent. For those who need an integrated headphone amplifier and DAC Fiio E17 is undoubtedly a very worthwhile purchase It comes with a much bigger soundstage, good bass, spacious sound. In terms of designing and input interfaces supporting, portability and accessories it provides a very striking price for only about 100 bucks.
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