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.
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?
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.
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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