Fiio E11 Portable Amplifier

fiio_e11_08
COMPARISONS (vs E7, T3D, JDSLABS CMOY)

The sound quality was quite good, though being mostly similar to the Fiio E7’s amplifier section (the E7 has an onboard DAC in addition to the amp). The E7 was a little more open sounding with a bigger soundstage and livelier treble, where the E11 is darker and fuller on the mids and lows and being smoother sounding overall. The most significant improvement come with the overall power output of the E11, where it clearly beat the E7’s fairly limited voltage swing.

Compared to the Ibasso T3D, the Fiio E11 again comes out as being darker and bassier sounding of the two, where the T3D had a fuller midrange and a more sparkly lower treble. Soundstage width is narrower on the T3D, but the T3D clearly has a much better depth and a cleaner separation than both the Fiio E11 and E7. Perhaps the killing blow on the T3D is the recessed vocal presentation which kills the presence on a lot of Rock & Pop recordings.

I also compared the E11 to the JDSLabs Cmoy (stock configuration) and found the JDSLabs to sound significantly bigger and grander, both in the soundstage and the overall sound presentation. The JDSLabs also had a smoother sound throughout the frequency range and is clearly my favorite of the bunch, except when I need to drive the monstrous HE-500 headphone, in which the E11 is the only one that can do the job. Many amp builders swear by the quality of through the hole parts when compared to SMD ones, and in this case I think it’s what’s contributing to the overall bigger and smoother sound of the JDSLabs, despite being based on a much simpler design when compared to the E11’s three-channel design.

Left to right: Ibasso T3D, Fiio E11, Fiio E7, JDSLabs Cmoy.

 

LOW/HIGH POWER SWITCH

Between the low and high power switch, I’m getting a smoother sound (especially on the midrange) with the switch on high power. It’s quite noticeable on the HD800, and less so on the JH16Pro. However, as the difference is quite slight, I’d probably recommend using the low power setting to conserve battery life.

High and low power switch hidden under the battery.

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

How the E11 manages to drive the HE-500 out of that tiny 3.7V mobile phone battery is beyond me, but I just love taking the pairing to meets and see people’s impression as they are listening to the HE-500 being driven from this tiny amplifier. I begin to think about running some pseudo-balanced set up (balanced amplifier without balanced signals, using ground signal to feed the inverting amplifiers) with the E11 and see if it can drive the HE-6 with the authority of some of the bigger amps I’ve used. Crazy idea, but one that is worth exploring.

There are some slight “bugs” while using the E11, such as the inability to use the amplifier while charging. Also, the amplifier refuses to be powered on after the battery has been fully depleted and recharged. I need to “restart” the circuit by taking the battery out and back in. Overall they are minor inconveniences to me, though it would be nice to have them corrected on the newer versions.

At the moment I’m being torn between the JDSLabs Cmoy and the Fiio E11 as the JDSLabs clearly gives me the better sound, but the E11 having the functionality (rechargeable battery, USB charging) and form factor that I want in an amplifier. I think having to change 9V batteries after a few days of use is going to be a big turn off for most users, while the difference in sound quality may not matter as much, depending on the headphone that you’re using. But at the moment, the E11 definitely is my amp of choice when compared to the Ibasso T3D and the Fiio E7.

Gears used for review
Headphones: Fostex TH-7B, Sony ZX700, Sennheiser PX100-II, HD25-1, HD800, JHAudio JH16Pro
Source: Hifiman HM-602, Ipod Classic 120GB

 

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  • Kiwidave

    Hi, came across your site only on Monday — but boy, what a resource. So much information  – am going into overload now re selecting an appropriate set of Sennheiser’s.

    Anyway – I have just purchased a Fiio E11 an am impressed big the with it’s performance. So far have tried it with my Nuforce uDac 2 –> rca to 3.5 mm / Macbook Pro using Audirvana Plus and 24 / 96kHz files — the E11 improves the sound majorily. (Am driving into my iPhone Bose  MIE2i’s — looking g for replacements as these are “worn out”).

    Have also being trying it out with a gen 2 iPod shuffle :-) — no contest re sound. Will be using it with my iPhone 4 once I can find a LOD that fits with my case.

    This is the second Fiio product I own, I also have a Fiio D3 dAC am using with an Apple TV2 to drive into some B&W MM-1s. Also impressed by it’s performance — and it’s price.
     

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Good to hear you’re enjoying the site and the E11!

  • Tavs

    Hi Mike,

    I consider buying a Beyer DT 880 (600 ohms version). Do you think E11 can get enough “power” to feed it?
    If not will it be better with the 250 ohm version?
    (source will be a macbook or cowon j3 according to your advice)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I didn’t try it specifically with a 600 ohms Beyer, but since it was able to power the heavier HE-500 headphone (much heavier than a 600 ohm beyer), I think it should be good for the DT880. 

      What I’m worried about is the refinement of the amplifier. It may not be refined enough for the DT880.

      • Tavs

        Thanks. I may give a try. I will upgrade then for sure (if not satisfying).
        Once again thanks.

        • Tavs

          In fact my question comes from your article about E10 where you wrote: “The 600 Ohms Beyerdynamic T1 sounded good at level 5 on the volume control”. As amplification part on E11 is better than on E10 it lead me to my 1st question.
          Do you think it is a “non working” thought?

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            In that case I did try it with the T1. 

            Been doing so many reviews it’s hard for me to remember which amp/cans I use during the review. Sorry

  • Nicolai Schill

    Hi Mike,

    first of all congratulations for your fantastic website! I really appreciate it. Now my question:

    I own an ipod classic 160 GB and Klipsch Image x1 (or Image S2) IEMs and think of buying a Fiio E11. Does this make sense with such “cheap” IEMs (but for my ears very good sounding)? Would the sound be better or just louder?

    Many thanks in advance and many greetings from Germany

    nicpizza

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Nic, 
      I think the amplifier wouldn’t be necessary. The IEMs are extremely easy to drive, even an iPod would do fine.

      • Nicolai Schill

        Hi Mike,

        thanks for your response.

  • http://twitter.com/janitra Janitra Ezra Putra

    Hi Mike!

    I would like to ask about your opinion if I pair this one up with my MS1i.
    Do you have any experience with that?

    Thank you.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Janitra,
      I haven’t tried that, but I think the pairing should be good.

  • asvestion gipson

    Hello ,recently bought a pair of Audio-Technica
    ATH-M50 for home music production but i am also using them as main
    headphones for my desktop.
    I never owned before a good pair of headphones so i never used
    headphones amplifiers before thus i am not really aware how much
    improvement would have and what amp will be good for my case. Does the E11 is good enough for my ath-m50 or do you have anything better to suggest at near the same price?
    Also am not sure if it’s important but i would like to mention that since i
    am using them as monitoring headphones i wouldn’t want the amp to colorizing my headphones, my first priority is a close to natural
    sounding.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi,
      So you’re plugging the M-50 directly to your mixer? Usually that works fine enough and yes that’ll give you a more direct signal path hence less coloration.

      • asvestion gipson

         no unfortunately, i am using them direct from my on-board sound-card

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Alright. I think if you’re getting a good sound out of it, I wouldn’t bother adding the E11.
          The thing is these portable amps are primarily designed for music listening. So they would color the sound a little bit. What you want is a transparent headphone amp and that usually costs a lot of money. $1K+

          • asvestion gipson

             Thanks alot for the response Mike, Do you think it would be better if i bought a portable audio interface? do you have any suggestions?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              A friend I know uses a Focusrite box for his recording stuff, and it was quite a transparent system:
              http://www.focusrite.com/products/

              The one he uses is no longer listed there though, perhaps an old product.

          • asvestion gipson

            well, thanks alot for the the help..

            The FocusRite Saffire PRO 14 seems like it is a real value for money as I’ve seen from reviews

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Awesome. Sorry couldn’t give you much help.

  • Romain Martin

    Hi,

    First, thank you very much for all your work and reviews !I am new in the world of IEM, head amp…etc. I used to have entry level head like the Klipsch S4i.I really want to invest in a very good quality system when I travel and move. I want to use my Iphone 4 with Spotify (160 to 320kb mp3’s). I listen mostly electronic music (not hard one) and rock (Stones…etc).At the moment and according to many tests and reviews, I am planning to invest on Earsonics SM1/SM2 with a Fiio E11 (Iphone dock connected with the Fiio L9 cable).What do you think about this setup ? Do you have any suggestion or better ones for in-ear or amp with an Iphone with a correct budget ?Thanks in advance,

    Regards,

    Martin

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Romain, 
      That sounds like a good set up. I’m not too familiar with the SM1/SM2. I’ve only listened to the SM3. You have to remember that each IEMs have a different sound signature and you need to find out what’s best for your type of music. 

      What type of electronic music, specifically?

      • Romain Martin

        Thanks for your reply Mike !

        I listen to middle range RPM electronic music with deep bass and distorsion like Digitalism, Pantha du Prince, Justice…
        It is just a question of money actually and I read that SM3 could be a bad choice if the player is not a perfect one (like the Cowon J3). Many people told that Iphone was not that good but I can’t change it right now, all my music is HD streamed (Spotify….).

        That is why I chose SM1 or SM2 !

        Regards 

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I have no experience with the SM1 or the SM2 but generally the bass will be stronger on the three drivers model so I think you should go for the SM3, or the UM3X. Personally I think the bass on the UM3X is better than the SM3 for those electronic music.
          I would disregard the comments about needing a perfect player for the SM3.

  • internetshortage internetshort

    Hey Mike,

    Would there be a noticeable deference if I pair my E11 which aim about to buy with my Sennheiser HD 448 ? 

    Because it is not a really powerful headphone compared to other headphones.  

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Maybe just a little difference? I’m not sure the HD448 is very easy to drive.

      • internetshortage internetshort

        Well it is. It has very little impedance. It is optimized for iPod. 32 ohms :/ 

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    Yes I’ve used the HD448 before. As I’ve said, maybe just a little difference.

  • ebm_electro_industrial_lover

    I’m planning on getting the e11 to use as a bass booster more than as an amp as my headphones are quite easy to drive (Koss portapro , yeah I know kinda cheap and not that much “audiophile” but , I love them…).
    The thing is that my Ipod Classic , whereas it gad a good storage capacity is really anemic and sick-ey sounding and the EQ’s on it are quite crappy.
    Do you think it’s a good idea for me to buy the e11 just to use it as a bass booster ?
    Or is their any device on the market that are specificaly designed to serve as a bass booster/EQ ?
    Thanks , best regards for France.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Try the Digizoid Zo. It’s not a pure bass booster like what you ask, but it’ll give you more flexibility.
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-smartvektor-digizoid-zo/

      • ebm_electro_industrial_lover

        Many thanks to you Mike , the Zo looks really interesting from your review , it might really be something I could like.
        Now , I juste have to find a seller who stocks it here in France …
        Do you know if the Zo is even available to the europeen market ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ceyer-Solomon-Waki/1454420202 Ceyer Solomon Waki

    Hey Mike,
    I’m coming from the Digizoid Z02, would this be a good step up in terms of sound stage, cleanliness, and clarity. Also, does this have any background dampening effect? I’m looking to pair this with the M50, HD25, Miles Davis tribute, Se215, and maybe soon the upcoming m-100.

    BTW, a non-secular question, do you have anything planned for the M-100?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      If you really want to improve the soundstage, try the JDSLabs Cmoy instead of the E11. The E11 is more powerful but the JDSLabs Cmoy has a better soundstage and clarity. The Zo actually sounds cleaner than both of them (if you use the word clean the same way I do).
      What is background dampening? Sorry I’ve never heard that before.

      The M-100 we’re still not sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jorelle04 Jorelle Marquez

    Sir, what can you say about matching this E11 with my Shure SRH550dj?
    What headphone amp do you suggest I use? I only have around 50-80 dollar
    budget. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jorelle04 Jorelle Marquez

      And I’ll be using it with my iPod Classic. Thanks sir! :)

  • http://twitter.com/e30ernest Ernest Ramos

    Hi Mike,

    Good review! I only recently learned of portable headphone amps and it got me interested. Do you think this would pair well with my Shure SE425 driven by an iPod or an Android phone? I’m looking to boost some of the bass and treble a bit and hopefully improve clarity and soundstage. The earphones are great but on this device they sound a bit muffled and I’m wondering if an amp would be the answer.

    Thanks for your input!

  • http://www.facebook.com/doorlessgamer DoorlessPlastic Di

    would e11 enough to “drive” akg k702??I just want to know it have enough volume for gaming or not serious music listener??
    sorry if i have bad english : D

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I’ve never tried it with the K701/2, however the E11 was able to drive the Hifiman HE-500 which is a much, much harder headphone to drive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003992054760 Copper David

    Hi Mike, I just discovered your website few days ago. It is great and infromative. I have a question about headphone amplifier. Crrently I have Apple iPod Classic and I listen with a genuine Beats Pro headphone. Will E11 improve my listening experience ? Or you have better suggestion?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I am going to suggest trying different headphones first. The Beats headphones have always been very efficient and easy to drive. I think you’re not going to need an amplifier for them.

      If you like bass, then you can start with something like the:
      http://www.headfonia.com/bass-to-the-power-of-two-pro700-mk2/

  • Benjy

    Hi Mike,
    This is a great review and I was wondering if you would suggest that the E11 is much better than the E6 for my system- running a Cowon c2 through Shure 440s, which I got as I felt they were the most versatile (in my budget) and I only want one pair of ‘phones. I would like a little more warmth and power for rock music and a slightly livelier sound when listening to recordings from the 20s. It’s a £30 difference here in the UK.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lightlibulb Light Lotus Lettuce Li

    hello. i would like to ask if the e11 is compatible with Sony MDR-XB700 headphones. i usually listen to linkin park and the script. can fiio e11 give me better output (sound quality) to my sony headphones?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AllanDaluz Allan Daluz

    hi mike can i hook these amp to my ipod shuffle?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes definitely

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

  • Paul

    How’s the sound of the HD 25-1hooked up to fiio e11? Can that amp make the HD 25 fuller sounding?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Paul it should add some bottom end and low midrange body.

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.labsan Paul Ignacius Labsan

        Ah thanks for the reply! Got another question though, will it tame the highs quite well? I’m having problem with its highs, it kinda piercing my ears ’til it bleed (just an exaggeration)..thanks in advance!

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes it happens to tame the highs as well

          Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

          • Paul

            Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tylan.carino Tylan Cariño

    is this good for ath-m50? to boost the bass?

  • Vincent

    Hi mike, I have been reading your reviews for a while, I think they are very good.

    I bought a pair of k242 hd and I am trying to understand if I need an amp.
    My main source is my laptop. I borrowed an e7 for a couple of weeks and surprisingly I could not ear any differences between the following configurations:
    -headphone out from the laptop
    -laptop usb > e7
    Is it possible that my laptop is so good? Am I already getting the best out of my cans with the laptop?
    Would I benefit from the e1 or e17?
    Thanks

    • dalethorn

      The E17 will not improve the laptop sound much. But a good mini-DAC like the Microstreamer or Audioengine D1 will be much better.

      • Vincent

        That’s a different price range though

        Would you use no amp at all with the microstreamer?

        • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ulrich.7 Dave Ulrich

          No. The microstreamer has a build in amp. Although, to be honest with you, I preferred the e10 to the D1

          • Vincent

            All the suggested device are more expensive than the e17. Some even 3x. But not within my budget.
            I recently read some reviews on the HUD-mini do you think is powerful enough for my headphones?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              The Fiios are actually more powerful than the HUD-mini

        • dalethorn

          Same answer on amp as Dave, although I found the E17 to be clearly inferior sonically to the Headstreamer, the Audioengine D1, the Dragonfly, and the Microstreamer, all of which sounded similar to each other.

    • icecoffemix

      Have you tried using E7 exclusively for some days then switch back to your laptop?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Vincent,
      I can’t say what exactly happened with the laptop and E7 comparison. Maybe the laptop is great yes.

  • George Lai

    Hi, what is the purpose of the low/high current switch under the battery? And how does this work with the low/high gain switch on the outside? Thanks.

    • Mark Ferrosa

      You get a smoother sound with better mids on (internal switch) high set. Mike wrote about it.

      • George Lai

        Thanks Mark. I missed that. Cheers

  • Gabriel

    How would you compare the bass boost on the E11 to the JDSLabs cMoy (granted the E11 is a two step boost)?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      They are roughly the same.

  • tuan

    Hello!
    Can you help me? plssss
    E07K vs E11
    Who win in bass questions? Who have more treble soft?
    TY!!!!

    • dalethorn

      Would you rather have one bass switch, or fully adjustable controls? How about a volume knob versus digital buttons? Anyway, the E07k is much newer and probably better quality. I use my E07k every day. And it’s also a USB DAC.

  • Stephen Lumsden

    Hi

    I am looking at the E11 to go with my AKG 420 and iphone and may be Nexus 7 as the sound is not too high when listening to classical on the train (I listen to spotify and Itunes and intend on listening to apple lossless files also for classical). I intend on getting some Philips L1 or M1s as I can get a good deal on these, most likely the L1s. I also have AKG 530s for home use listening to my Arcam Solo. Is the E12 worth the extra money over the E11? Also I have gigaworks T40s on my PC and am thinking of getting an E07K/E09K combo to improve sound until I upgrade to some better speakers for listening to classical on lossless files, but may be I am thinking just to save some money, buy the L1s and E11 and upgrade my PC DAC speaker setup later on.

    Decisions, decisions, any advise would be appreciated.

  • Pedro Oliveira

    Wich would be a better match for the following headphones….

    Hd25, amperior, momentum over ear, hd598 and dt770 32ohm…

    Mostly for rock, pop and edm…

    The fiio e11 or the fiio e07… ?

    Cheers…

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Of these 2 the E11 but I would wait for the E11K, it’ll be released in a couple of weeks

      • Pedro Oliveira

        Thank L…. The thing is…. I can get the fiio e11 and e07 for 25 euros each…. :-D
        Good deal right? The e11k must be much more expensive also no?

        The hd25 gets more fun with the e11? The bass gets much fuller? How about the soundstage? Hoew does the e11 would work on the 32 dt770? That way the 32 ohm dt770 would be fun enough to play some edm or the bass is still too light?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          The E11 isn’t the greatest of amps, it’s mostly body and volume. You won’t get increased sound stage or level detail. It would work fine to give the DT770 even more body and bass

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          Personally, in spite of the cost, I’d suggest the E12. The DT770-32 can benefit from the extra power and headroom.

  • Tim Schutte

    I use this with my WS99 and man this is sheer fun my god d^_^b And a good headphone gives proper soundstage and detail in my eyes…..so with the E11 it becomes a real bass monster!!!