Disclaimer: Fiio sent us a free sample of the E10K aka OLYMPUS 2. No secret there.
When Fiio told me the E10 would be discontinued I was in shock. The E10? One of the, if not THE best price quality unit Fiio ever made? Why?
If my memory serves me well we even named the E10 Product of the Year back in 2011. The Original E10, which we reviewed here, was one of the first compact USB AMP/DAC combos under $100 that performed really well and it kicked a lot of the +$100 units’ ass. Luckily for us Fiio didn’t really discontinue the unit, they actually upgraded it to the E10K Olympus 2. Fiio sure likes to update their existing product line.
Most of the upgrades were done inside the box but the lay-out of the new E10K has changed a little too. Compared to the original E10 (there was a design revision already) the new E10K has the gain button on the back instead of on the bottom and the Bass Boost switch now has a horizontal lever on the front. For the rest there are no changes and the E10K still has a 3.5mm headphone out on the front and a coaxial and 3.5mm Line OUT on the back. Just like before all connectors al gold plated. Build quality is the same as before too. The E10s, which I carry around a lot in my bag, can really take a beating and I doubt they will ever break. Size wise they are the same as well: the E10K still is tiny, measures 79 x 49.1 x 21 mm and weighs only 78g.
The first E10 used the very popular Tenor TE7022 USB receiver combined with the just as popular WM8740 DAC and AD8397 Opamp. It resulted in a typical warm and fun sound with good to huge bass depending on your bass boost preference. For the new E10K, Fiio staid faithful to the TE7022 USB receiver but they kicked out the warm sounding Wolfson DAC schip for the Texas Instruments PCM5102. The new Opamp now is the LMH6643. Maybe they could have also upgraded the Tenor because the E10K still won’t do 88.2 kS/s sample rates.
The E10K is still capable of doing 24/96 and puts out [email protected] (<1.04Ω). It’s suitable for 16-150Ohm headphones but it can actually even handle the 300Ohm Sennheiser HD650. Of course don’t expect spectacular sound but with the Bass Boost on, it’s quite fun to listen to. The OPA1642 is in charge of the +1/+9dB gain section but I didn’t really need high gain for any of the headphones I tried it with (more in the sound part).
As I quickly mentioned before, the general sound signature of the E10 was warm and fun with good bass body. It had full mids and a reasonably open sound with inoffensive treble. Sound stage wise it wasn’t the best and the E10 never was a king for what technicalities are concerned but overall, it was really hard not to love its sound. The E10K Olympus 2 definitely is an improvement and there’s more to love.
The Olympus 2 for starters has a whole lot less floor noise than its older brother, with my CIEMs there is as good as none. Sound stage now is quite a lot bigger and you will hear more detail from bass to mids to highs. It has a cleaner and more dynamic sound, a better resolution and especially the mids and treble section has improved a lot. It’s like a veil was lifted and an extra layer of detail and quality was added. At the same time the old E10 sounds more aggressive and more centered than the new version. It also sounds louder at the same volume setting.
One of the most important (Fiio) features is the Bass Boost. As you can see in the graph on the next page it still has quite an impact on the sound but it’s not quite the same as it was in the previous version of this unit.
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