FiiO E10 review – A lot of boxes have been ticked! Donunus October 27, 2011 DAC's, Gear Reviews, Solid State 51 Well, well, well what do we have here? A cute little thing with a volume knob, a 3.5mm headhone jack, a bass boost switch, and a line out at the back along with a coaxial digital output. We have here a DAC with a headphone amp that is powered straight from the USB port of a computer. Hmmm, I think I’ve had one of these before. Oh no, wait… that was a nuforce uDac. I once owned and loved the uDac but thought it didn’t stand the test of time due to its lack of neutrality. The uDac had great value for the price and although there were some mixed reviews around the internet, I wouldn’t knock them down for their imperfections since it was the first time I’ve seen such a cool little thing that could decently power my 300 ohm Sennheiser HD580s without the amp needing to be plugged into the wall. To top it off, at $99 no portable amp that I have ever tried came anywhere near as good as the udac at driving my 300 ohm cans. Now comes the FiiO E10. You may wan’t to know the bottom line right away and ask whether it sounds good or not. To make the long story short, the e10 kicks ass!!! You may now stop reading and order one on the spot. If you want more of the juicy details then please read on. Here are some technical stuff in case you need to know: ● Power supply: Standard MINI USB port ● Output Power: 150mW(32Ω) ● Sample rate USB decoder: 96KHz/24 Bit (Maximum support) ● Coaxial output: Stereo PCM ● Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz ● Suitable Headphone Impedance: 16Ω~300Ω ● Size: 79mm×49.1mm×21mm ● Weight: 82g The FiiO E10 tin So what you get when you buy the E10 besides the awesome E10? Well, you get the basics. The E10, a USB cable, and some rubber feet packed in a cool looking tin can. Hey, maybe I can use this tin can to use as a chassis to make my own diy amp hehehe or maybe FiiO could sponsor an E10 tin can amp building contest. Enough with that silliness, lets get to the good stuff and talk about how they sound. Right off the bat, I knew the E10 was a keeper after I started listening to my AKG k141kII cans on them. I always liked my AKGs from the day they came out of the box, but this was the first time I’ve heard them sound this clean and free from distortion. It is as if a layer of bloat and grit was turned off coming from the sound of FiiOs own E9 Amplifier. I’ve always thought the E9s were lackluster with low impedance cans like my px100-IIs but I didn’t really mind it that much since I was using my 300 ohm sennheiser hd600s with them most of the time anyway. I am not going to describe my wonderful time with the E10 and the AKG K141 in gory detail since these aren’t very popular cans that many people can relate to. The only thing you have to know is that the E10 drove the moderately hard to drive 55ohm K141s with grace and aplomb. I can only imagine how good they will be able to drive more sensitive low impedance headphones. By the way, I was using the high gain setting with the bass boost off when listening to the AKGs. I listen to my music LOUD most of the time and the E10 not only delivered while on high gain but also sounded better with that gain setting at the same time. Now lets talk about the E10s driving my HD600s. Did they do the job right? The answer is yes. The E10s are actually quite impressive with the HD600s. I can only sense a slight squashing in dynamics with the punchiest of tracks at the highest volumes. This is not even a gripe of mine though since they handle these peaks of power with finnese and no trace of any harsh clipping. This is not a feat that is usually tackled by the typical portable amp. The Nuforce uDac also had a similar way of softening the loudest crescendos by the way and that first version of the uDac was a pretty powerful little bugger at that. The thing that the uDac cannot match the e10 in is in their tonality. The E10 just has a much smoother, less grainy sound that is both less fatiguing in its lack of harshness while being airier at the same time. The uDac was dry and rolled off on top sounding more forward in the upper mids, slightly more aggressive in the lower treble while having less of that clean sparkly sheen on the topmost shelf of frequencies. As a result to the E10s lack of these peaks that the uDac had, they sound fuller and more complete from top to bottom. All this goodness that the E10 has must come at a price, Right? WRONG! The E10 is even less expensive than a nuforce uDac at the street price of around 80 USD. What about the FiiO E9 Desktop Amp? Does the E10 render it obsolete? Well, yes and no. When using a headphone like the 300ohm HD600, the E10 is still a little lacking in gain/volume for the quietest old original masterings of a few albums. These are not very common these days due to the loudness war trend but to name a few that I have came across while listening today, they would be the first original pressing of Duran Duran’s selt titled album(White album) and Clair Marlo’s “Let It Go”. With these recordings, the E9 just slays the E10 when it comes to volume and slam with the HD600s. However, the sound quality of the E10’s amp section is slightly more refined than that of the E9s. The graininess of the E9 doesn’t show up as much on the HD600 as much as when I am using my low impedance AKGs, but a hint of that graininess is still there. I think the E9’s problem may be its higher output impedance. Whatever it may be, the E10 sounds slightly better to me when the volumes of both amps are matched with either the HD600 or the K141. The sound of the E10 is a little more neutral and slightly less bassy than the E9 sourced with FiiOs D3. Don’t worry about bass though because if you feel like you need more of it, the E10 comes with a bass boost switch that can put out some clean non-distorted boom to the sound when you are so inclined. I know that you may now be asking yourself that what if the graininess of the E9 amps sound is coming from the $30 D3 DAC it is connected to? Well, I compared the D3 and the E10s DAC section by both making them run through the E9 Amp to answer this question. The two dacs are actually pretty similar sounding and both sound much smoother and less irritatingly bright than the dac section of the FiiO E7 DAC/AMP unit which is why I don’t use the E9 amp as a combo with the E7 DAC docked on top of it anymore. I can’t really even make any definitive statements about what the exact differences between the SPDIF based D3 DAC and the USB based E10 are because even the cables going from the D3 to the E9 made more of an impact to the sound than the difference between the two DACs. Even reversing my cheap straight mini to mini cables made more differences to the sound than between the D3 and the E10s dac section itself. I have a feeling that the e10s dac section may even be better than that of the excellent D3 since it is already very slightly more neutral even when using some cheap mini to mini cables against the Pro Co diy RCA to miniplug wires that i’m using from the D3. To double check if my ears were acting up, I just tried putting back my less than a dollar miniplug to RCA interconnects in between the D3 and the E9 and there it was… The mud was back. That just proved to me that I wasn’t going deaf in not hearing big differences between the two DACs. Heck, they were even more similar than comparing the sound of two interconnect cables with each other which is not even something that all audiophiles believe in to begin with. So like I said near the beginning of this review, The E10 is Brilliant! The FiiO E10 DAC/Amp would be a musical sounding audio toy even for audiophiles exposed to the highest end equipment out there. You can do far worse when buying DAC/Amps at even triple its pricetag or more. Some of this more expensive stuff out there have extra bells and whistles but forget that the most important thing that a piece of audio equipment should be doing is to deliver the music in a natural fashion. Natural Sound? Check, Power? Check, Value? Check. The E10 delivers in all those aspects and then some. Highly Recommended Indeed! Using my Sennheiser HD600s and AKG K141mkII for high and low impedance testing, these were the setups used during this review. -Laptop USB—FiiO E10 -Laptop Optical— FiiO D3 DAC— DIY ProCo RCA to minijack Cable—-FiiO E9 Desktop Amplifier -Laptop Optical— FiiO D3 DAC— Ordinary RCA to mini Cable—-FiiO E9 Desktop Amplifier -Laptop USB—FiiO E10 Line Out—Ordinary mini to mini cable—FiiO E9 Desktop Amplifier Mention of: -Laptop USB—Nuforce Udac—Sennheiser HD580(similar enough to HD600 for comparison) Join the Forum discussion on this post Donunus Thanks FiiO for making such a wonderful product at a good price! Keep it Up. Maybe you guys should start dabbling with tubes too Anonymous Kudos to FiiO for making good-sounding AND affordable products. Many audio(phile) manufacturers seem to consider their customers as milking cows and typically overprice their products by a large margin. FiiO has time and again demonstrated that it’s possible to achieve quality without excessive price premiums. Donunus I just want to make it clear that in my review when i said that the E10 sounds better with the HD600 than the E9, what I meant was they were more refined and cleaner sounding but the HD600s still benefit from the extra slam and volume that the E9s can give them so I am not selling the E9 anytime soon unless for some strange reason, I sell my hd600s or buy something like a Ray Samuels HR2 or something of that caliber. Donunus I just want to make it clear that in my review when i said that the E10 sounds better with the HD600 than the E9, what I meant was they were more refined and cleaner sounding but the HD600s still benefit from the extra slam and volume that the E9s can give them so I am not selling the E9 anytime soon unless for some strange reason, I sell my hd600s or buy something like a Ray Samuels HR2 or something of that caliber. Donunus I just want to make it clear that in my review when i said that the E10 sounds better with the HD600 than the E9, what I meant was they were more refined and cleaner sounding but the HD600s still benefit from the extra slam and volume that the E9s can give them so I am not selling the E9 anytime soon unless for some strange reason, I sell my hd600s or buy something like a Ray Samuels HR2 or something of that caliber. Donunus I just want to make it clear that in my review when i said that the E10 sounds better with the HD600 than the E9, what I meant was they were more refined and cleaner sounding but the HD600s still benefit from the extra slam and volume that the E9s can give them so I am not selling the E9 anytime soon unless for some strange reason, I sell my hd600s or buy something like a Ray Samuels HR2 or something of that caliber. Donunus As for the D3 vs E10 used as a DAC to go into the E9 amp, sorry if I didn’t make it clear but the D3 is slightly better at the moment that I don’t have quality mini to mini cables for the E10 while I have good interconnects for the D3 going into the E9. I will comment on this once my interconnects arrive whether the D3 is still better when using the same exact brand and model of wire used( DIY pro co cable http://www.procosound.com/) D_t_h_o_r_n If I wanted to run this from the Line Out dock connector on my iPhone, could I expect it to sound as good as my Cute Beyond class A desktop amp that cost about $190 USD? Anonymous I don’t believe the E10 has an analog line in, only digital via USB. Donunus It won’t work like that. This amp only has USB as an input. Donunus I’ve been using the E10 all day today with the shure srh440 and they are playing pretty loud at 4 on the volume knob. It just goes to show that the other cans have been using are pretty demanding H34d5h07 Hi, Can this drive the k701 ( both in loudness and dynamics)? Donunus I havent tried them together. I wish someone with a k701 and an E10 would chime in. Ive read impressions from a person enjoying a k701/E10 combo on headfi though. H34d5h07 Oh. I guess I need to try it out then. The thing is, I have an e9 right now and I plan to get an e10 to work as a dac while using pc as my source. If the combo doesn’t work, I was hoping that the e10 could drive the k701 by itself. The e9+k701 is actually good but I was just wondering how a lower output impedance amp (e10) would sound on the k701. Donunus Oh sonically the e10 may be better for the k701 than the e9. I am basing this on my experience with other lower impedance cans sounding a little muddy on the e9. I am not sure about the volume and dynamics though since I havent tried the k701s with them firsthand. http://www.facebook.com/Twelvebears Steve Gascoyne I’m using K701s with an E10 and the answer to both is YES. Excellent combo IMO and has made the output from my laptop very much better. The E10 does have a surprising amount of grunt for a USB powered amp, certainly more than you’ll need unless you intend to destroy your hearing anyway. Donunus I just got some Pro CO mini to mini diy interconnects (same cables I’m using with the D3 DAC) and the differences in sound between the E10 and the D3 used as DACs to feed into the E9 are even less. These two dacs are very very similar with a slight edge in clarity to the E10. I still even have to do more testing since the differences are so small using the same cables that it could just be placebo. guest123 what about a comparison to the udac2? Anonymous As soon as I get my hands on one that is a raging certainty Donunus The udac2, from what I read is a slightly more neutral yet less powerful version than the original udac. If it is less powerful than the udac 1 then it is definitely less powerful than the e10… that in itself already turns me off since I still want more power than what these can give when driving high impedance cans. Jake Great review for the Fiio, I am sure they will sell even more after this, but if it were that good everyone would have Fiio’s & nobody would buy anything better, on its own anything sounds great but its not until you experience other better amps that you would find the Fiio lacking, also long term reliability on Fiio’s is generally poor. Jake Great review for the Fiio, I am sure they will sell even more after this, but if it were that good everyone would have Fiio’s & nobody would buy anything better, on its own anything sounds great but its not until you experience other better amps that you would find the Fiio lacking, also long term reliability on Fiio’s is generally poor. Anonymous I think for the e5/6 sure handle with care but for the higher end units such as the e10 they seem pretty robust to me, so far so good on the e9/e7 combo for the last year also. Donunus I have experienced more expensive amps before. They all have their flaws. I haven’t found one that i was totally in love with yet. Headphone amps I’ve owned include the Headamp Gilmore Lite with Dedicated power supply, the Audio GD C2C, Little Dot mkII, and the emu0404 DAC/AMP among others. I don’t miss any of my old amps maybe except for the microZ OTL which was pretty darn organic but was also about 9x the price of the e10. The Gilmore lite is a good amp with good technical abilities but they were not as musical as the cheap e10 for me. The Audio GD C2C was bold and powerful but sounded like crap(unnatural/mechanical sounding), and the little dot was okay but is grainy in comparison to the e10. Donunus Oh I just remembered, I do like the b22 more than the E10 hehehe semiseco Any sound quality comparison and other experiences between the E10 and the D-zero? Anonymous For me the d zero is more neutral and airy with slight dominance of treble but still plenty tight on the bass and not lacking there. The E10 is meatier and darker than the D Zero with an emphasis on the mids and bass over the treble. The D-zero of course is mobile and the e10 is not. Sean Pham Great review. I recently bought one but I was wondering why the sound through my Beyerdynamic DT250’s become distorted when I plug in my stereo system at the same time through the line out? Do you also have this issue? http://www.facebook.com/donunus Don Vittorio Sierra Maybe the voltage swing is not enough for the beyers when also using it as a lineout. I would suggest taking out the cord on the lineout in that situation then. Anonymous Look for impedance rating and power rating and maybe output rating I look at a lot of things also like other reviews and demo’s. Power is one thing but quality of sound can be another. Donunus The High and low position is a gain setting. For the 300 ohm senn, I would definitely recommend the high position because the volume is just too low when using the low position. I would use the low position for sensitive IEMs. The power capability of an amp is the same regardless of the gain setting used, it will still distort at the same dB level when using the same headphone regardless of whether one is using the high or low setting. The catch is one might not be able to reach that point of distortion on the low setting since the volume won’t reach that high to begin with if using hard to drive cans. Paulvanopstal Hi thx for this review. Feels like small is big enough here! Did you (or anyone) try using the E10 as a pre-amp? How did that compare? Donunus the e10 can’t be used as a preamp from the line out since that is not variable. The only way to be able to use it as a preamp is by going through the headphone jack which I didn’t try since I had a feeling that wouldn’t really be a pure sounding option. I’m sure it will work, I’m just not sure if its going to be any good Ns_boora How does the e10 sound in a full separate system? At the moment am using a laptop for music Am using a 3.5mm to 2xRCA lead 3.5mm out of the laptop then the RCA into an input on my Sony Amp I see the e10 doesn’t have an RCA output, would I just use my current lead (3.5mm-RCA)? Donunus Use the current cables but plug them in the line out at the back of the E10 and not the headphone Jack. The sound will be a good improvement vs the typical laptop headphone jack. Jimmers I bought an E10 on the strength of this and one other review, the way I read it the E10 could power higher impedance phones; with everything set to max my HD650s are pretty quiet. No great problem as I don’t intend to use at home, and it seems “OK” with my PX100 (mk1) on laptop and work PC – all the same… Donunus Besides, the OS volume control having to be set to full, don’t forget there is a high gain, low gain switch under the amp. Anonymous Jimmers (me) stuffed up, used to using kernel streaming, I forgot to up the system volume control – now has plenty to drive HD650. Apologies. Anonymous You know I was about to mention the OS volume but you beat me too it Congrats on the the HD650 / E10 setup – how does it sound? L Chupanebrei Hi, i bought fiio e10 and now i think about e9. You have described the connection: -Laptop USB—FiiO E10 Line Out—Ordinary mini to mini cable—FiiO E9 Desktop Amplifier So e10 line out to the e9 line in and I must plug my headphones to e9 or e10?and another question both of usb cables must go to the PC or only one and witch? headfonics Plug your headphones into the e9 – the e10 acts as the DAC and the E9 is your amp. The usb cable goes from the PC to the E10. Donunus Yah X2 on that. USB to E10. E10 line out to E9 input. Then, E9 headphone jack. You can select low or high gain by flipping a switch at the back of the E9. Also if you have sensitive low impedance headphones, you can also try plugging them in directly on the E10… Who knows, you may even like the sound of that more than out of the E9. Just make sure you start listening with the bass boost set to off (Bottom position). Pablo Albino Great review. Is fiio e10 a good option to connect a latptop to receiver? headfonics Well you can try the coax out on the FiiO E10 and see what happens Chris I bought mine last Christmas and I’m satisfied with it. I take it with me when i travel and I’m still surprised how versatile it is for its size! I think FiiO made a great unit that cover our needs enough to not look any further for something else Maxrunner Hi All! How do you use the dac to connect to another headphone amp? headfonics Use the line out connector at the back Pingback: For Sale: FiiO E10 Olympus- Desktop DAC and Headphone Amplifier "External Sound Card"() Basti M More of a cheap advert than an actual review. Fanboi. headfonics Submit your review then I dont see why someone cant submit a review and like what they are reviewing at the same time. donunus Not necessarily a fiio fanboy. I just happened to have a lot of their products at the time and find them to be great for the money. By the way, I have tried pairing Grados with the e10 since the time I reviewed them and they are an amazing match. The model I really loved with them was the 325iS. I have never remembered enjoying those cans as much before on other amps as much as I did on the E10. The overall warmth of the e10s sound just had good synergy with the slightly bright nature of the Grados.