Now lets get to the good part of the review. Lets talk about the sound of the thing. I was first impressed by the original E10 for its great bang for the buck factor even though it may have lacked some technical prowess over more expensive dac/amps but with the E10K Olympus 2, FiiO has managed to improve on the E10 successfully by adding more extension to the highs and better dynamics without losing the musicality of the old version. I don’t have the old E10 with me anymore to compare them side by side, but the new version seems to be less bloated in the midbass region and more accurate in its tone on top of the more extended treble reproduction. I would think that with all these improvements, the price would increase as well but lo and behold, FiiO has decided to keep these guys priced the same as the old ones.
Bottom line is that if one wants a dac/amp “on the cheap” meaning the sub 100 dollar range to use with a computer via usb then I can’t think of a better sounding all in one device than this. In fact, I have owned many higher end units at thrice the price or more that can’t even touch the natural tonality that these FiiO’s can give.
I have however found another highly popular amp that I have stuck with for a long time due to its great value which is better sounding to me than the E10K Olympus 2. This amp that I speak of is the JDSLabs O2 which I am currently using with a Schiit Modi DAC. FYI cables used are the audioquest tower for the interconnect cables and schiits own pyst USB wire for the computer to DAC end. I say the sound is better because I feel that the Modi/O2 combo is better than the E10K Olympus 2 when it comes to the technical aspects of the sound. The Modi/O2 just has a tighter sound with more tactile sounding instruments without breakup. The E10K in a direct comparison sounds like a portable while the Modi/O2 combo sounds more like a desktop in its dynamics due to the fact that it just sounds less strained without giving as much of a hint in softening transients as much as the e10 does.
Don’t get me wrong, the E10K has a very good amp for sensitive headphones like the Audio Technica M50 that I have on my head right now but it still doesn’t have that extra jump factor that the Modi/O2 starts to have that makes one feel that they are getting a taste of the higher end rigs. It is sort of like comparing a 320kbps mp3 file vs the original cd that it was ripped from. The original will always be slightly better than the lossy file but sometimes the difference is too small to matter. The Schiit Modi/JDS labs O2 combo with the cables I have is around $300 vs the 75 to 80 dollar price of the e10 so its not really comparing apples to apples. I don’t think the differences will be that big anyway for those gunning for a dac/amp in this price range. Let’s put it this way, The Modi/O2 combo’s difference in sound vs the FiiO E10K Olympus 2 is waaay less than the difference between the E10K against my laptops headphone jack which is total garbage against that of the FiiOs.
Pros and Cons
In case I missed anything, here is an outline of what the E10 is lacking from the more than 3x the price Modi/O2 combo with the cables I used.
1. The E10 is less airy in the highs
2. The E10 is less dynamic meaning less differentiation between quiet and loud parts of a song
3. The E10 is less tactile sounding due to a softer transient response
4. The E10 has a more compact soundstage yet not by too much. (Sometimes it can be a good thing to keep the sound more coherent)
But then again…
The E10k mids have some accessible magic due to the coherent soundstage. This will of course depend on headphone synergy as well and after listening to the E10k, the Modi/02 combo can sound clinical!
Against the first E10 model:
1. The new E10 has more extended highs and is less bloated in the midbass region.
2. The New E10 is more dynamic
3. The new E10 sounds snappier and less sleepy maybe due to the more extended highs. I don’t have them side by side so I’m not sure but it could just be due to a better transient response on the new model as well.
4. The new E10 has even better value for the money vs the old version.
Click next page for final thoughts…