Earlier in the year FiiO upgraded the E9 with the E09k and it mostly took into account newer trends in portable or fixed small desktop audio as well as feedback from FiiO fans and owners so when they announced the E07k or the Andes I had a feeling this was a similar undertaking with the upgrading of the portable amp/dac E7. The E7 has been one of the most popular units ever released by FiiO and in many respects allowed them to forge a reputation with their fans for quality on a budget and give them the confidence to run with a lot of other concepts which have become successful edition such as the E11.
Tinkering with a winning formula is fraught with risk, especially a product that just seems to sell and sell but having received the E07k and hearing that it will completely replace the E7, i.e. they wont make the E7 anymore, I feel a bit happier that the E07k will not confuse everyone and it does indeed include a lot of important upgrades that keep it highly competitive for an insane price.
So what has changed?
Output Power: 250mW (16Ω); 220mW (32Ω); 36mW (300Ω)
Headphone impedance (Recommended): 16 Ω ~ 150 Ω
Support sampling rate (USB decode): Max. 96KHz/24Bit
Battery Capacity: 1200mAH
Playback time: 24H
Op amps: AD8692 and MX97220
Sample Rate: 24bit/96KHz
USB receiver: TE7022
From the outside the E07k looks very similar to the older E7. Both are the same in size and the E07k also sports a clean minimalist front with side button functionality which includes volume control, menu and the power on and off buttons. The front glossy facade is slightly shorter on the E07k than the E7 with a bottom partition in the plate sporting the FiiO branding. There is only a minor decal difference around the reset button on the top of the E07k with everything else more or less the same in positioning and functionality. The E07k inherits the more industrial tighter build quality of the E17 than the more older gen iphone type curving of the E7.
The headphone jacks are different though. The E7 was famous for its dual headphone jack functionality and this is retained but the jacks now are much stiffer and more durable looking. They are initially very tight when connecting any jack but after a few inserts they soften up a touch but watch out for partial insertion initially as the final push requires a bit of effort before they soften up properly. On the side of the new E07k you will find a lo bypass filter and a hold button which are new editions and more in line with the E17 functionality though with the E17 the hold button is on the front and not the side.
On the inside of the E07k we have the big selling point – the USB receiver sampling rate has now doubled to 24/96 from the previous 16/48 which keeps the E07k right on the heels of the more recent competitor models offering similar sampling rates and on the same level as the E17. Those with FLAC or hi-res audio files will certainly welcome that move and combined with the E09k present a very competitive budget desktop solution.
Regarding compatibility the latest FiiO update makes things pretty clear. Most all of the E7/E07k will work with the E9/E09k except for production models prior to September 2012 and you can visit www.fiio.com.cn to check out how to find out if your E09k is an older or newer model. The older ones according to FiiO have “noise issues”. I cant confirm that sadly as my E9 is long since gone but thankfully the E09k will take it just fine.
One of the parallel attractions of the E7 has also been retained and that is compatibility on ‘usb on the go’ or through a cam connector with ipads, iphones and the latest android phones such as the Galaxy 3. The E7 worked a charm but sadly the E17 power demands meant that it could never get going. The E07k by all accounts is compatible though depending on the ROM thus far for Android. Sadly I don’t have a cam connector for the ipad but hoping someone will chime in and clarify is everything as they say is good to go.
The E07k has also had a big software upgrade and now basically contains all the same functions as the E17 including right & left channel balance settings, bass and treble adjustment, line output, gain selection. Personally I have found these on the E17 to be very well executed and it is no different on the E7. Still the same use of menu and volume buttons for navigation so those already familiar with the E17 will have no issues with navigating the menu system of the E07k. Those who enjoy the EQ aspect of the E17 will feel right at home with the treble and bass options and believe me they do make a sizable difference especially if using it in combo with the E09k desktop amp.
The internal amp has now also gone from 150mW at 16ohm and 16mW at 300ohm to 250mW at 16 and 32mW at 300ohms which is a pretty decent upgrade and should give a better show at some of the harder to drive headphones. Considering the E17 comes in at 290mW at 16ohms the E07k is not that far behind now in terms of amp powering capabilities though the E17 has the nod in terms of quality due to the superior AD8397 opamp chip. Both use the WM8740 DAC so no change there.
Its still the same wonderful laid back warm audio presentation of the E7 ( and in most parts the E17) with a bit more power in the upgraded amp from what I can tell. The EQ and gain functionality adds a lot of depth and flexibility over the older bass boost functionality of the E7 allowing you fantastic control over the level of coloration you want to bring into your setup. It’s not as dark as the E11 thankfully and not quite as detailed as the E17 (this is marginal but the superior opamp gives the E17 the edge) but outstanding for the price. The upgraded sampling rate is the big feature here and you are going to hear the quality shine compared to the lower 16/48 rate of the E7.
The FiiO E07k is an excellent upgrade on the aging E7. It brings all the latest features of the E17 including functionality and design as well as compatibility with the E09k desktop amp in a slightly cheaper package and slightly lesser amp than the E17. The upgraded sampling rates will certainly be more attractive to audiophiles on the go and keeps it up to speed with competitors newest releases. The competition is stiff though and with the Schiit Modi and Magni at $99 a pop just announced FiiO will have a fight on it’s hands to retain the budget crown for 2013.