With the phenomenal rate FiiO keep churning out budget audio hits over the last 2 years you might be forgiven for getting lost in all the E’s and D’s yet somehow they still seem to find a niche or new ground for a new product that has us all say “Well that makes total sense” or “That is a great upgrade” and yet still maintain that almost insane price point that makes it so hard to resist.

The price to performance kings made the initial ripple with the E7 mobile AMP/DAC combo a while back and now having taken a look at the market (and the E7 again) are are now back with the E17 and once again I am sitting there going this makes total sense. iRiver H series fans take note, this may indeed be the answer to your prayers finally for using the optical out on the go without spending a small fortune. Yup only took about 8 years to get there!

Price wise its a little higher than the E7 at around $120-$150 depending on dealers but then looking at the hardware specs you are getting a lot more than what the E7 could, at least on paper.

Technical Specifications

● Output Power: >250mW (16Ω Loaded ); >20mW (300Ω Loaded)
● Headphone Impedance Range: 16 Ω ~ 300 Ω
● SNR:≥109dB(A weight)[AMP];≥104dB(A weight)[DAC]
● Distortion: ● Support sampling rate(Max):96K/24bit [USB] ; 192K/24bit [SPDIF]
● Frequency response:10Hz~100KHz[AMP]; 10Hz~20KHz[DAC]
● Battery capacity, charging time and using time:1500Mah/3.5H/15H[AUX]; 1500Mah/3.5H/15H[SPDIF]
● Size: 96mm x 55mm x 15.2mm
● Weight: 112g

Features

Thankfully also FiiO are not Apple and ensure continuity with the E17 slotting right in with no added adapters to the E9 amp. Those thinking of upgrading the E7 and worrying if it will not work with the E9 need not fear, everything is continuous in that respect.

A lot of what made the E7 so successful has stayed though with the smooth almost ipod like build quality, superior digital screen with similar menu function control, bass boost, audio jack etc. Side by side both still remarkably similar in form factor.

The new SPDIF connection on the E17

The new SPDIF connection on the E17

 

The first and most noticeable difference between the E7 and the E17 is the spdif 3.5mm jack input. If you notice in the tech specs the USB stage is also a lot higher quality than the original E7 giving 96/24 capabilities and this is expanded to 192/24 with the addition of the spdif. Just make sure you set up your PC to transmit 192/24 in your playback devices first. The accessories in the E17 box are much the same as you get in all FiiO products with the notable exception of the 3.5mm Coaxial and optical input converters allowing you to use just about any digital cable (except HDMI) you like for connecting to the E17. The SPDIF opens up a whole new world of playback for CD transports, digital boxes you name it, anything with a digital out now is fair game including my treasured iRiver H120 (140 also if your luckier).

The software also now has a nice menu controlled balance output adjuster for those with imbalanced or imperfect hearing allowing you to adjust left or right depending on your needs. The bass boost is still there but now with added treble and gain adjusters that give you much better control over the type of sound you want from the unit.

One of the most important feedback from users of the original E7 has also been addressed as well when docking with the E9. That of the control and EQ of the E17 now being functional. Previously the E7 once docked became a pure DAC with no further functionality. With the E17 I can adjust volume alongside the E9 volume as well as bring in the gain, treble and bass options whilst still being docked to the E9. Alongside its own amplification this is a welcome addition to the feature set when docked to the E9. This is achieved through the Lo Bypass switch to the side which allows the E17 to act as a pre-amp of sorts when docked with the E9 amp. You can also turn this off if you simply want to disable the E17 EQ and go for a fixed output with the E9 sound signature.

How does it sound?

 

Although externally the E17 shares much of the same characteristics as the E7 particularly in form factor, underneath it is much closer to the E10 in terms of chips used, ( USB Tenor TE7022 and DAC WM8740), and as such I found the SQ of the e17 on a standalone basis as an AMP and DAC to have more in common with the E10 than the E7. What that means is you get a slightly neutral to warm presentation with some great mids and a nice tight impactful bass extension. Compared to the E7 this is night and day to be honest. The E7 was famed for its warm, smooth but laid back (slightly weak amp) presentation that most found pleasing without jumping out of their seats. The E10 really ramped up the sound, adding a more forward presentation and killer mids and the E17 has taken this even further with a much better amp section, increased sound stage and a real sparkle that the E7 lacked.

iRiver H series bliss

Anyone with an old iRiver H120 or H140 (that’s me!) you simply must buy this now because this is the best budget dac/amp spdif combo outside of the iBasso D12 (or db2/pb2) that you can use on the run for digital playback via the spdif (optical). I waited years to be able to do that and the footprint is half the size of my DB2 and PB2 combo although sonically it is just not quite as powerful or expansive as that triple stack madness it does have a slight warmer,smoother and more musical sound than the often clinical iBasso’s. Just running Safri Duo’s “Apollo” of his Origins album gave me the shivers. This is an emotive and expansive track at the best of times but the e17 just hit the nail on the head without any nasty spikes, harshness or sibilance.

Matching this with a DAP is fairly easy though. Quite apart from the iRiver optical aural porno moments you can pretty much put any DAP on the end of this, tweak the gain, treble and bass and you can get what you are looking for.

The E9

Lo Bypass

Lo Bypass

 

Tweaking is the name of the game here because for the first time the EQ options (lo bypass) and many of the other settings on the E17 can be used to adjust the sq output of the E9. I really enjoyed that and brought a whole new fun factor to the E9 which for a while I was beginning to think was getting a bit one dimensional with some of my cans. Go for a bassy sq with plenty of gain? No problem. Give it an uber v shape sound signature with a treble adjustment? Check! I do get the feeling though that the E9 will be the next to get the logical upgrade because the e17 does seem far more advanced than the E9 right now. Gut instinct I guess but if you have an E9 don’t be afraid of getting an E17 and slotting it right in. The more detailed bass control of the E17 on lo bypass works a treat with the E9 as well it’s own amp.

What to choose?

 

Ultimately it depends on your other components but for me this is the best offering from FiiO to date in terms of the complete package. The E11 has a stronger amp section but much darker than the more balanced, smooth and spacious E17. Of course it lacks a DAC and digital inputs and cant dock with the E9 (well after a few beers maybe it can but it will be the one and only moment of crowning glory I can assure you, but I digress). The E10 is chained to your desk sadly and loses out slighty in terms of clarity so the E17 is for me the swiss army knife of mobile audio dacs for 2012 without breaking the bank. I also much prefer this to the D Zero in terms of SQ. The D Zero compared to this sounds a bit thin and slighty edgy and treble orientated though has more nimbleness in the upper range than the E17 for me. The E17 also sounds a lot more natural than the D Zero in its presentation.

The FiiO E17 is out as of now but arriving in local markets here on the Philippines in early February 2012.

You can check with the guys in FiiO Philippines on their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/fiiophil

For all other regions check out your local suppliers and re-sellers.

Join the Forum discussion on this post

About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • The Mistress

    I have to admit, whenever I see the Fiio brand, I always associate it with a bright and forward sound signature. Hence, I’ve somewhat tried to cross it off my list whenever I’m searching for a new amp or DAC. Your description of E17’s sound sig surprised me, being a natural sounding amp with wider soundstage. I’d like to consider this a nice option to replace my P4V2 or as a DAC for my Objective2 (among other options). Possibility?

    • Anonymous

      If you have hear the E11 then the E10 then you might notice that FiiO have been favoring warm if not dark signatures over their E7 and E5 type signatures of a few years back. The E17 for me sounded really smooth but much more aggressive than the E7 and as such more akin to the E10. Of course try before you buy but it surprised me also!

      • The Mistress

        If that’s the case, it can probably complement the bright sound sig of my Objective2 if I use the E17 as a DAC. I’ve always wanted to try gears leaning on the warm side. I’ve seriously got to audition this!

        • Anonymous

          Audition yes, change the house sq of your amp? Hmm….not sure about that but if the bass/treble/gain options can be used with your amp then it might help get some variety in your setup. Remember the FiiO E17 is also an amp in its own right.

  • adamct

    Two questions I would be most grateful for an answer to:

    1. Can the E17 be used as a DAC straight out of an ipad (or iphone) using the Apple Camera Connector Kit (CCK) and a USB cable? I’m not talking about using a LOD (which give an analog signal after going through the ipad DAC), I’m talking about pulling the digital file out of the ipad (bypassing the ipad DAC) so that the E17 DAC is used. I believe this worked with the E7, and want to know whether the same is true of the E17 without using a powered USB hub (some USB DACs draw too much power to work straight off the ipad without first going through a powered USB hub). So the setup would be:

    ipad –> CCK –> USB cable –> E17 –> headphones

    Can you test this?

    2. Is the E17 powerful enough to convincingly drive HiFiMAN’s new HE-400 headphones?

    Many thanks in advance,
    Adam

    • Anonymous

      Hi Adam

      Two very good questions and got you loud and clear on the DAC usage through the camera connector – I have the ipad but not the connector so give me some time to get back to you on that – .i.e go down to our local apple shop and test it tomorrow evening. The e17 uses a different DAC chip to the E7 so I won’t presume that just because the E7 worked that the E17 will work also.

      On the second point about the HE400 I dont have the HE400 unit yet with me but hope to shortly. I do have the HE4/5/5LE/6 and 300 so I can help you there. I am told that the HE400 is the easiest to drive yet so yes I believe the E17 will be able to drive it, but how convincing is another question altogether.

  • QNerd

    Is it now possible to turn them on simultaneously?

    • Anonymous

      If you mean the E9 and the E17 then the answer is yes and yes you can use all functions with the lo bypass.

  • If it sounds like the E10, then it is good, because the E10 sounds awesome. I still have my L7 dock, I should get one of these.

  • adamct

    Marcus,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my questions. I look forward to your update!

    MfG
    Adam

  • Adamct

    Any updates? 😉

    • Anonymous

      I think today will be the day Adam – just had to convince my wife to bring her ipad with her which took some amount of charm and free lunch 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Adam my local is out of stock on the cam connector so I emailed FiiO direct and they have confirmed the E17 will work as a DAC using the cam connector 🙂

      • Adamct

        Excellent! Thank you so much!

        Best regards,
        Adam

  • Mechever64

    Are you completely sure about the compatibility with the iPad Camera Connection Kit? There are some posts in head-fi.org that state the opposite based on real testing. Have you got confirmation through FiiO technical support? Thanks,

    • Anonymous

      I have confirmation from the manager of marketing in FiiO that the E17 will work as described. However since I have neither an ipad or a camera connector it is a bit hard for me to confirm and despite visits to our local store there is no cam connector in stock to try on their demo units of ipad sadly. I can only give you their statement which is yes. Has the feedback been a universal no or some yes and some no in terms of getting it to work?

      • Anonymous

        aha, it seems even FiiO got it wrong by all accounts. They have stated that the power supply for the E17 is too strong for the ipad2 so it seems sadly even with the usb charge off on the menu the ipad power drain is too high. That is a shame. Sorry guys!

        • justin lee

          hmm…what does this mean? 

          e17 not worth getting b/c if you use it with an ipad2, it’ll run the IPAD’s battery down too quickly?  

          or that it will not work with the camera connection kit, so you can’t bypass the ipad’s DAC?  

          thanks

  • Mechever64

    Many thanks for your input. In the meanwhile I have also got an answer from FiiO stating exactly the same you have posted. It is a really pitty. I have just cancelled my preorder at MP4 Nation. I’ll keep my pico headamp USB DAC…

    • justin lee

      hmm…what does this mean? 

      e17 not worth getting b/c if you use it with an ipad2, it’ll run the IPAD’s battery down too quickly?  

      or that it will not work with the camera connection kit, so you can’t bypass the ipad’s DAC?  

      thanks

      • headfonics

        Yes it means the e17 needs a higher power configuration than what the ipad can offer. The E7 is fine with the ipad.

        • justin lee

          so it’s ok just use it with the headphone jack (on ipad2…and double amp)…..and don’t even use the LOD like L9 for the ipad2….?  

          thank you.  

          • headfonics

            Yes the headphone jack is fine and eq it using the e17.

          • justin lee

            thank you.  so LOD (L9) would also be fine if you just disable USB charging on your ipad, right?  thanks

          • headfonics

            From what I gather disabling usb charging still will not allow you to use the e17 as a DAC on the ipad unless something has changed after FiiO mentioned this. I have yet to try all the combo’s out though myself.

          • justin lee

            you’re right about that.  i’m still guessing there would be a benefit of it being Line out sound instead of the headphone jack…

          • headfonics

            I think with the onboard eq of the e17 the headphone jack will still be ok and you can have fun on that.

          • London Personal Audio

             no, no, thrice no. Double amping from an Apple HO
            will always sound bad. You can’t polish a turd

          • headfonics

            I think he simply using a FiiO E17 out of an ipad and not double amping as he initially suggested. Since an E17 is both DAC and amp he can eq it in the E17 to suit his tastes. The E17 cannot bypass the Apple DAC though due to power limitations of the ipad.

  • Henry

    I wander what the DAC chip E17 uses. Will it be Wolfson WM8740?
    It would be pretty sick if they ever use the WM8741 in E17.

  • Kelvin

    Using the H120 optical out, how does the DAC of E17 fair against the D12? 

    • headfonics

      Hi Kelvin, I have not used the D12 in about 12 months at some meet so purely from aural memory is going to be tough to be honest. Are you thinking of buying one or the other?

      • Kelvin

        i’m thinking if the e17 would suffice instead of getting the more expensive dual wolfson d12 🙂

        • headfonics

          Honestly I think the E17 is pretty darn good with its more warm laid back tones and good eq. The D12 from memory is going to have excellent clarity and stronger amp but of course cost a lot more.

  • Kelvin

    to rephrase, is the dual wolfson DAC really worth it? 

  • Max

    First of thank you for the wonderful review!

    I have a cheap chinese ZTE android phone that I am using with both ATH M50 and Aurvana 3 IEMs. I have been thinking of getting a DAC/amp like the e17 both to use as an amp for the android phone (through the jack – seems usb solution for DAC usage still not possible) for volume and quality ( also as DAC for my laptot).
    Do you think it is worth it or a good idea for android? Will quality be improved? any way of getting past double amping on android?

    Thanks a million!!!

    Cheers

    • headfonics

      Yup – the new Galaxy S3 is equipped for audio usb out so an e7 is the way forward there (I believe the e17 is too power hungry for the s3). Adding an amp will help in any hone to be honest right now even out of the headphone jack.

  • shawn

    i was reading about the battery drain issue for ipad with dac will it drain ipods as well? or are ipod touch’s ok to use with the e17 dac or would the e7 be a better option?

    • headfonics

      E17 is a better performing unit than the E7 IMHO and I dont think there should be any issues using them from a touch.

  • Felix

    No harshness? I must say the sound is very cold, sharp and hurts my ears. But unfortunately the only warm sounding device I tested supposedly gets its warm and pleasant sound by heaving the wrong output impedance for my headphones… These things are crazy. It seems there is no good result to be got. There is no loudspeaker in the world that sounds this harsh. They’re all warm, heck, the real world sounds are warm. But this thing. Wow. Ouch. Sharpest sound I ever heard. (In the good but ten times as much in the bad way.) I have to turn it really low to listen to it all. Good job, I say…

    • Gosh I would very mush disagree with it sounding harsh and cold, quite the opposite which can only mean your source and cans are not the best match. Remember no amount of amping can change the tonality of your headphone. Have you looked at your EQ settings also and gain in the FiiO E17?