The Latest Must Have: The Fiio E10 USB DAC/Amp -updated-

fiio_e10_07
Comparisons to the Audinst HUD-MX1 and the Fiio E7

The E10 is not exactly as resolving as the Audinst HUD-MX1 because as soon as I change to the Audinst, things sound more spacious with better air and instrument separation. Though honestly speaking, the difference in technicalities is not quite night and day. And if the Audinst is priced at $189, I would rank the technicalities of the E10 at around $120-$140. What keeps me holding on to the E10, however, is the bass section and the midrange. Though I never feel the Audinst to be lacking on those areas, but next to the E10 with its fuller mids and lows (even with bass boost off), the Audinst seemed to be overly laid back and lacking PRaT. The E10 however very easily got my attention with its full sounding vocal and punchy bass.

Comparing to the Fiio E7, and again I easily prefer the E10 by a large margin. Fuller mids, fuller bass, better vocals with the E10. The E7 on other hand sounded thin in the mids and lows and though the midrange seemed clearer, at the same time I also hear the midrange to be more constricted on the E7. Well, midrange is where the soul of the music lies, and so it’s a very easy choice between the E7 and the E10. You know what the best news is? The E10 actually will retail for $80, cheaper than the E7 and significantly cheaper than the Audinst.

According to James at Fiio, they were able to sell the E10 for a lower price than the E7 as they didn’t use an OLED screen, MCU, battery, and the dock that the E7 has. What’s more, the TE2077 receiver on the E10 is capable of 24/96 over USB and indeed it works at 24/96. Another function that you get with the E10 is that you can use it as a USB – S/PDIF converter, a handy feature considering the price of the E10.

Genre Bandwith

So I’m listening to the E10 with a wide variety of music from Incubus to some local Indie band, to Gorillaz to Jazz at the Pawnshop to Mandarin Female Vocals. The E10 may not have the refinement of higher end DAC/amplifiers, but this thing certainly can cover many different genres of different recording qualities, and make a good music out of them.

With fast-paced music such as Muse and Incubus, sometimes I may wish for a slightly thinner bass in return for better articulation, say like from AMB Labs’ Mini 3 portable amp. But the thicker bass of the E10 actually does a pretty good job of keeping up with the pace, delivering the PRaT, and remaining articulate enough without smearing the bass notes. And the good thing is that the thicker and fuller bass notes of the E10 gives it a wider genre bandwith than say the more articulate bass of the Mini 3, which I sometimes feel to be slightly thin.

Toe tapping is definitely happening with the E10, paired with the Sennheiser HD25-1 and some good Rock music. Play a good quality recording such as Jazz at the Pawnshop, and I’m in for an even more jaw-dropping experience. How can an $80 box that doubles as a headphone amplifier and USB-S/PDIF converter sound this good?

Headphone Pairings

I’ve only had the E10 for a short time and so I haven’t quite tried it with a lot of headphones. I did try the E10 with the Audez’e LCD-2 and found the pairing and driving power to be very good. At high gain I’m getting a comfortable loudness at only level 3 on the volume control. The 600 Ohms Beyerdynamic T1 sounded good at level 5 on the volume control. If I switch to my JH5Pro, all I need to do is switch the gain level to low, and I’m good at around level 2 on the volume control. What’s more, the E10 shows very minimal noise level at the maximum volume level, and this is with the JH5Pro which is an extremely sensitive IEM (no amplifier I tested has ever shown to be dead quiet, at maximum volume, with the JH5Pro). At level 2 on the volume control, the E10 is dead quiet with the JH5. The Gorillaz, with the JH5 and the Fiio E10 is just sublime. The soundstage is very wide, I almost get a full round-the-head feeling with the recordings on Plastic Beach. Awesomeness.

24/96 for $80

The TE2077 receiver chip used in the E10 is supposedly capable of driverless 24/96 data transfer over USB. On my Mac, I can’t seem to get it to work at 24/96. I can get it to work at 24/48, or 16/96, but not at 24/96. I don’t know why this is, maybe an issue with the USB hub I’m using. The guys at Fiio however confirmed that it should work at 24/96 over USB. Update: smooth 24/96 playback after I bypassed the USB hub I was using. Seriously with a good recording, the E10 is just mind-blowing for $80.

End Words

I should stop now. The Fiio E10 is a winner product, and at $80 I think everyone should get one just to see how far sub-$100 DAC boxes have progressed. And I don’t care if you have a $1,000 DAC on your home system because the E10, plugged into a laptop, and a good headphone at the output, is a superb, simple, fun sounding product.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tomy.todorov Tomislav Todorov

    Thanks for the replay dalethorn. I’ll try to give more clues about what I’m looking for. When I’m listening to rock music with vocals I find my TMA-1 loud enough directly from my laptop jack, in terms of quality it’s ok I even find it too bright for my taste and do some eq so I don’t think I’m into “airy” headphones. My complains come when I want to listen to bass heavy electronic music and I like to listen that kind of music really loud and not only hear but feel the bass.I’m even planning to buy Pro700 MK2 because I want something darker with more bass than the TMA-1 just for electronic music. The power of my laptop is insufficient for this purpose so right now I’m using Mackie Blackjack usb audio interface. The headphone amp is very loud but above one particular level it becomes to distort badly, maybe this is because it has 25ohms output impedance which is to high for my low impedance headphones (I read that it should be 8 times lower than the output impedance of the phones). So I am looking for usb powered dac/amp which is smaller than the Mackie, it is as loud with hard hitting bass but without distorting. As for listening to rock music I find the loudness and quality sufficient directly form my laptop.

    • dalethorn

      The USB-powered DACs will not work for you according to this description. The distortion you heard is not likely due to impedance, it’s due to lack of power. An impedance mismatch would more likely just make the bass mushy. You may find a USB-powered DAC/amp that goes loud without obvious distortion, via soft clipping. But soft clipping just limits the volume so hard clipping doesn’t occur.

  • Calvin Purnomo

    Is it possible to use this little fellow as a standalone DAC? Since I’m planning on hooking it up on my bright-ish SSMH, in order to give it a little warmer feeling? Or is it automatically bypassing the volume when used on line out? Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I don’t remember precisely if it bypasses the volume control, but I think it does since I’ve used it as a stand alone DAC before.

      Your other choice is to go with the e07k, but you need to get an additional line out adapter from Fiio to get a pure line level signal from it.

      I think they’ll pair well with the ssmh.

      • Calvin Purnomo

        Ah yes, thanks for the reminder! Didn’t realized that there is newer affordable fiio DAC+amp combo!

        comparing those two (E10 vs E07k) which one to go? I suppose E07k should be a refined one since it’s newer?

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        I can confirm the LO bypasses the volume control, I use it like that in my living room

        • Calvin Purnomo

          Does the E07k also do the same when used on LO? The so called L7 Adapter is still needed eh? or The L7 is just for active speaker use?

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            I don’t remember the specs that well, I think you still need the L7

            • Calvin Purnomo

              Ah, just did some reading a bit, yes apparently I need the L7. I thought the 3.5mm port near the usb port is the Line Out. It’s the Line In!
              Pretty curious design, E07k has 2 headphone out port, while not having 3.5mm Line Out.

              Anyway, putting the need of adapter aside, E07k is the one to buy instead of the older E10?

              • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                Well the E10 is going to be cheaper, I think. The 07K is better, you should read the review, I believe I talked a little bit about it to the E10 and E17.

                • Calvin Purnomo

                  I’m sold already on E07k. Been able to get it for good price. Will try it as a amp first I guess, while waiting for the L7 adapter. I suppose maximum volume (0db) output from headphone out is almost the same as the line out? Or is it “processed” a lot from the circuitry?

                  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                    I can lend you an L7 if you want to swing by Jaben STC

                    • Calvin Purnomo

                      my E07k and L7 just arrived! I’ll test it right after I got home. Anyway, just noticed from the spec, that E07k isn’t optimal to drive my 250Ω Beyer 880, it’s slightly out of its optimal impedance rate (16Ω – 150Ω). Is it really okay?

                      Although I’m planning on using it as standalone DAC for my SSMH anyway..

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      You should be okay. I’ve used with the 300Ω Senns.

  • Digo

    Hello Mike.
    Could you recommend me a DAC up to $ 200 for hi-fi system – Q Acoustics Q2050i and Yamaha A-S500. My goal is to improve the sound quality.I will listening a electronic music (house, deep house, tech house). I would greatly appreciate for your help

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Digo,
      Mostly all the DACs reviewed here should give an improved sound quality.

  • Ashur

    The USB receiver chip should be TE7022 not TE2077 ^^

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thank you for the correction, Ashur.

  • Ludo

    I have a MacBook Pro (early 2011 version) and a Beyer DT 880 (250 ohm). Am I going to see a difference with this E10 ? Or not ? Thanks.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Ludo,
      Usually the on board sound card is not that good. How do you find the sound of the 880 to be with the macbook?

  • Crax

    Hello Mike, I am looking for a ideal USB DAC to drive my Shure SE535. I
    understand I don’t need it to be very powerful because SE535 are highly
    sensitive, but I want it to have no background noise at low volumes. My
    HP Probook is dreadful at this. I’ve been looking at Fiio E07K, E10, E17
    and just don’t know which one would be the best in terms of SQ. Can you
    help me, please? I’m also open to different options with a maximum
    price of 200$.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Please go with the 07K it has an extremely black background.

      • Crax

        Thank you very much for your answer.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          You’re welcome

          • scaalp

            I not agree with this advice, the background is not black with se535 and a Fio E07k

  • Rinfinite

    I’m thinking of getting the E10 for my Sennheiser HD518 but I don’t know if I’ll get any improvement. They sound great using the Encore ENMA DAC http://www.encore-usa.com/ph/product/ENMAB-8CM which seems to drive them fairly well, 35% volume is borderline deafening already.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Alright I really can’t say if you’ll get an improvement too as I don’t know what the Encore sounds like.

  • TheAnimator

    Does anyone know if this works with windows 8?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I can’t test it but I suppose it does

  • Apogee

    I really want Fiio to release a E010K with a better dac, more power and a 1/4inch headphone output.

    • Dave Ulrich

      isn’t that the e17?

  • John Junior

    Hi, I found a pretty great deal for Fiio E10 and at the same time great deal for Ibasso D2+ Boa. Headphone is HD600, FA-003, Senn Amperior but for portable use I think I’ll be with Amperior most of the time.Wonder if I should get FiiO E10 or D2+ Boa.

    And can FiiO use as a standalone amp for Note 2?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Well the Fiio E10 doesn’t run on battery, you need to get it hooked to the USB port for power so it looks like the D2+. I’m not too familiar with that model but that was one of the more popular IBasso models in the old days, before Ibasso started releasing new amps every few months.

      • John Junior

        Alright sir. Thank you. After all the consideration, I get FiiO X3 because someone just sell me for about $120 and they can be use like E17. I hope the battery won’t let me down after few month usage.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          That’s great

  • ciptadi s

    Hi Mike which one you would personally choose, fiio e10 or topping d20?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Technically the D20 is better. I just don’t like the sound very much. And I like the E10’s USB-powered simple set up.

      • ciptadi s

        Great! Thanks Mike..

  • meh

    u didnt really clarify the e11 vs e10 part, is mostly the bass the different from the both?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I find the E10 the more fun one. The E11 I actually never use

      • meh

        tested it(e11), yea the bass is rather loose to my liking, separation is below par(IMO), and slight loose/distortion on some highs, the others are okay
        *pair with dt880

        i dont think i going to keep the e11 for long xDD

      • meh

        can i know wat cable u use in this review, is it the stock fiio cable that included or custom cable?

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

          Stock Fiio usb cable

          • meh

            after few month reading here, i just realize that there were post about burn-in,low-high gain,cable etc..
            i think u should put the link of those in the recommendation part(maybe..)

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

              if you find me all the info I will add it ;)

              • meh

                at least the current page is good enuf, it keep thing simple and more as a guideline

  • DecimationPro

    I’m happily nodding my head to the beats of the music… as long as they were not Beats Audio I am happy ;)… I will be buying this for my HD598’s, good review, thanks for it!

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

      Thank you!