The E7 and E9 have been out for a while now, the E7 last year and the E9 at the turn of this year and whilst we have had one chat or another about them as individual units with individual qualities I had struggled to find something comprehensive about them as a combined unit in terms of a comprehensive review. Yes plenty of opinions but nothing beats first hand experience.
Output power: 150mW into 16 Ohm, 16mW into 300 Ohm
SNR: ≥95dB for AUX, ≥100dB for USB
THD: <0.009% (10mW, AUX) <0.008% (10mW, USB)
Frequency response: 10Hz – 100kHz
Suitable headphone impedances: 16 – 300 Ohm
Power: 1050mAh Li-Ion battery, rechargeable over USB
Display: 128x64px two-color OLED
I had always though this has to be a winning deal for the price and when the two of them can be slotted together for less $200 to produce a desktop amp and DAC with a ton of I/O's will tickle me pink I just had to check this out with the help of my learned audiophile colleague - "The Don" - take it away Don!
(Written by Donunus)
In this review, I am going to be writing about two headphone amplifiers. One is the FiiO E9 desktop amplifier and the other is the FiiO E7 portable amp with a built in USB DAC. Besides being two amplifiers with differences in features and functionality, they are also capable of working together as one stationary DAC/Amp unit.
As I am writing this right now, I am listening to the E7/E9 combo unit through a pair of AKG K44 headphones. These are another bang for buck set of headphones that I felt would fit in a potential target audience for this setup, though colleagues have mentioned it can can excel with much higher end such as the Beyer DT1350, ATH – AD2000 and beyond. After listening to the E7 and E9 combo I have no reason to doubt them.
In relation to my sonic and musical tastes, let me say that I really want the sound to be as neutral and natural as possible lacking any grain, dryness, and basically just having just the right amount of attack and decay to measure perfectly when the square wave of any frequency is measured. Basically, what I want is the typical audiophile Holy Grail. I really want the equipment to sound as nonexistent as possible in that they don’t add or subtract anything from the original recording making all that is left while listening to be just the music, no headphone sound but just pure unadulterated Music! I listen to a very wide variety of music genres so everytime I review a particular headphone for example, I make sure to run it through as many songs in as many genres as possible.
Now you might be asking yourself “If Donunus likes a perfect uncolored sound then why does he have such cheap headphones?” Well, the answer is simple. Nothing is perfect! In the end, even if I had the best and most expensive thing out there, it is still going to be put up for sale in the future. Just like everything I have had in the past (maybe 90% of all well known good headphones in the $500 and below pricerange and a few more expensive ones), they will not be good enough to keep forever and will annoy me with their true colors at one time or another. Just like my everchanging musical tastes, I get tired of a familiar sounding coloration pretty fast. Since perfection does not exist, I tend to gravitate toward cans that have sins of omission rather than ones with a more imposing character that draws attention to itself.
The E7 and the E9 are not giant killers but until now, I am still having a hard time letting go of my combo because I am still not sure how they can be beat for their price and versatility factor. Yes audiopilia on a budget never sounded this good!
Although the e7 is a little dark sounding, it is a subtle rolloff and is a much lesser evil for me than some other amps at even double or triple the price. Compared to my old pa2v2 portable amplifier, the E7 is a mile higher in quality and features, Its not even a contest. Ive also compared the e7 with an Ibasso d10 for example and the latter sounded grainy and unrefined in comparison and I think the D10 is at least three times the E7’s price! The E7 is really clean sounding to me and I could only imagine something much more expensive to beat it in its combination of good sound quality and overall features. Add to that the Insane battery life and we have a winner. Just for the sake of adding more info here, I’ll just post that Ive used an E7 with the Sennheiser hd250, hd558, hd555, hd595, PX100-II, Audio Technica ESW9, ES7, AD700, Denon D1001, Koss Portapro, some IEMs, and a bunch more cans that I can’t remember at the moment.
Now lets talk more about the E9. When we compare the sound of the E7 versus that of the E9 both using the E7’s DAC section, the E9 is a monster! It sounds more powerful than the E7 and has more bass volume and punch and has slightly more treble but has a less fine granularity vs the smooth fine grained headphone jack of the E7. The E9’s grain is not really something one should worry about though and the fact that it can play at insane volume levels with pretty good sound quality is something to think about in the bang for the buck factor of this amp.
About the grain part, I’ll just say that there are not too many desktop amps that are less grainy than the E9 for under $500 from the amps that I have tried before. I remember my Audio GD C2C before not sounding as good as these E9s to me feeling like the detail was washed out on that C2C. It had a mid treble brightness and recessed mids that was a big enough problem for me making me sell them really fast. I also had a Little Dot mkII before which sounded better to me than the C2C musicality-wise but they were even grainier sounding than the FiiO E9 regardless of what tubes were used on them. I actually liked the Little Dot mkII also but they only worked well powerwise with higher impedance cans like hd600s. I did not feel them to be an upgrade from a portable player when using Koss Portapros or Grados whereas the E9 is great for low impedance cans like these low impedance AKG K44s I’m using right now.
The bottom line is that the extra punch and volume that the E9 can give all my music make them well worth the price of admission.
Great words from a wise sage indeed.
In my own time with the E9/E7 combo I have to say it really is the sum of the parts that make this setup punch way above it’s price and individual weight. With its low physical footprint and easy setup they are a joy to use for me personally considering most of my amps are either in the $500 plus range throwing out 2.5watts of power meant only for inefficient orthos. My initial demo consisted of the ATH-AD2000 and boy did they excel on this setup being an easy to driver monster set of cans, the Beyer DT1350 barely touched 10am on the dial on low gain and again it just was a wonderful experience. Of course they fall short on the HE6 but then I was not expecting miracles – close enough though!