The Upgrade: Fiio E17 “Alpen”

As me and Lieven were talking at the end of 2011, we both agreed that the Fiio E10 was the biggest surprise of the year. Everybody was busy making USB DACs with built in headphone amps, and all of a sudden the E10 came out seemingly out of nowhere and gave us a price/sound combination that we haven’t seen in a very long time. It was somehow akin to the Grado SR60 of the old days. The E10 was such a big hit, not only because it was loved by everyone, but it happened to be very affordable at the same time. The success of the E10 was so phenomenal, the first thing I thought of when I heard about the E17 “Alpen” was, “can they beat the E10’s success”?

The Alpen was built to be a much more complete product than the E10. The most significant addition was the ability for it to serve as a portable headphone amplifier. With batteries built into the Alpen, you can unplug it from USB and take it for a spin together with your Ipod. The E10 was limited to the USB DAC/Amp functions, and the E11 amplifier only to amplification purposes. The Fiio E17 Alpen does them both, and obviously this is a good thing. In addition to that they also added features such as coaxial and and toslink digital inputs, making it one of the most affordable DAC with complete digital inputs.

A lot of features for the money, but I didn’t want to be distracted with the features. To me, it all comes down to the sound. They can make a 10-in-1 device, and the bottom line is still about the sound. Heck it can be $50 and still I’m not going to recommend it to my readers if the sound is not right. Because after all the initial hype and enthusiasm are gone, and there are newer products in the market with bigger and better numbers, all that’s left is the sound, the way it does music.

Enough crap, let’s get down to the meat. If you are an E10 owner, I need to apologize because the next paragraph is gonna hurt.

 

Now I’m really sorry to say this because I know a lot of you just bought the E10 and it would be nice to be able to sit down and chill for a while without having to worry that there are better things out in the market already. In this aspect, I think you really should blame Fiio, not me. My job as a reviewer is to tell you guys how a certain box sounds, and in the case of the Alpen, it’s clearly better than the E10. Awwww, sorry guys.

Not better in this or that, good in certain aspects but less so in others. It’s better, no matter how you look at it, even ignoring all the added features. The reality is that if you think the E10 sounds good, then the E17 is going to be a clear upgrade. Identical tonality and sound signature means that if you like the E10’s sound, the E17 does bass/mid/treble exactly the same way. The bonus is that with the Alpen, the bass is punchier (awesome!), tighter (awesome x2), soundstage is wider, and the midrange is clearer. What is there not to like?

Along with the release of the Alpen comes in a few questions that begs for a comparison between the it and other products in this price segment. I will try to do the comparison but if I miss anything, feel free to ask on the comments section.

E17 versus E7

Not even close. Aside from the improved features and specs, the E17 also blows the E9 out of the water. There is no comparison here. Tonally, the E7 sounds thin on the mids and lows, and the soundstage is not that impressive. If I can add something, also put congested mids into the list of the E7 features. The E17 on the other hand has a much bigger soundstage, and a more likeable tonality. Good full mids, good bass, spacious sound, all around musical.

E17 and E9 pairing

Pairing with the E9 desktop amp unit, you get a bigger sound with better dynamics and dynamic range. However, I don’t think the sound signature works out to be that good. It robs the E17 of the sweet full midrange and in return gives you a somewhat unpleasant and recessed mids. Yes, bigger sound and more power, but sorry I’d rather have my midrange back. In my opinion, the E9 better left paired with the E7, while the E17 better be left on its own (at least until Fiio comes out with a newer version of the E9).

E17 versus Audinst HUD MX1

Tonally they are a bit similar with their dark and warm sound signature. Technically the E17 is very good, but the Audinst is still better, though the difference is now closer than it was compared to the E10. The Audinst has been a long time favorite of mine, due to its simple design, affordable price, and overall good sound quality. However, this time the E17 again shines due to the way it does midrange: full, clear and sweet (don’t we all love full, clear and sweet sounding midrange?). The Audinst’s midrange is not as bad as the E7 and the E9 (or both of them combined), but it’s still not as good as the E17 or the E10’s midrange.

 

Continue to the next page…

4.1/5 - (15 votes)

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683 Comments

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Bevanczh

    Have you tried it with IEMs? I have the W4 and I’m wondering if it’ll be too powerful for it?

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Set it to low gain setting, and with the 60 steps digital volume control, there is no problem at all. I’m using level 19 on the volume with my JH5 custom, which is a very sensitive IEM.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Djevoultion

        Mike, 

        How does the E17 Compare with the E10-E9 Combo? 

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          You mean the E7-E9 combo?

          • Reply January 12, 2012

            Djevoultion

            Nope I’ve got the E10 and have a chance to get the E9 

            So E10 > E9

            Let me know , cheers

            • Reply January 12, 2012

              Mike

              Mostly the same impression as E17 + E9. The sound is livelier with the E9, but I don’t like the midrange. The E9 seems to rob midrange body.

          • Reply January 12, 2012

            Djevoultion

            So I’d be better of selling the E10 and getting the E17  over the E10>E9 

            • Reply January 12, 2012

              Mike

              You can keep the E10, but just don’t pair it with the E9.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Haja Randrianarison

    Should receive mine at the end othe week, sounds terrific. I’ll test it with my 1964-Q

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Awesome, Haja.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Haja Randrianarison

        I’ve been using my E10 for 2 hours with no pause now, and I can’t keep thinking “Damn it just sounds good, no way”.

        You really teased me with your review, I think the E17 will knock me up.

        I’ll compete it to the Ibasso D zero too, not the same price but seems to eager the same throne 🙂

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          No way it can beat the E10 right? I know that’s what I was thinking too before I had a listen to the E17.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Roman

    Excellent review! I was really looking forward to this product and a review. Shame on my friend whom I recently convinced into buying an E10, haha. Hope he doesn’t see this.

    You said that the Audinst HUD-MX1 was superior, but I don’t think it does justice to the E17 because the HUD-MX1 is a desktop DAC/amp that is quite more expensive. That being said, how does E17 compare to Audinst AMP-HP, which are both portable DAC/amp that are in the same price league?

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Excellent, Roman.

      The Audinst HUD-MX1 is only $30 more than the E17, and on the other hand the AMP-HP is purely a portable amp.

      • Reply January 11, 2012

        Roman

        Oh really? I thought the AMP-HP was a DAC/amp… sorry for the confusion. I guess the E17 is superior then. 🙂

        By the way, isn’t it Alpen, not Aspen? Fiio’s official website says Alpen.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Orta03

    Ha ha, was there any doubt this would be a stellar product?  Just imagine what the E15 is going to be like?  Yikes! 😛  Excellent read as always Mike.

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks, Orta. 🙂

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Erik Ho

    Do u think E10 pair with the amps like Objective2 can beat the E17?
    And which one will sounds better if both attached to a amp?

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Erik,
      The E10 + O2 will have an inferior DAC than the E17, but better amp section due to the O2.

      If both to the same amp, should be the E17 but I’m not sure because I don’t have the Fiio LOD.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Brian Ruslim

        if the USB and D/A chips in the e10 and the e17 are the same, i don’t think the line out would make a difference.

        Unless, the opamp at the line-out is different. 

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Power supply quality, circuit, PCB, all can make a difference.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Erik Wijnands

    I have a Fiio E9 and Fiio E10 and after reading your Aspen review I now really hate this blog. 😉 

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Ah the E9 and the E10..

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    GenericMav

    after gotten hit hard by iBasso (especially d-Zero), its seem FiiO finally doing back the counterattack, good review mike :]

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks GenericMav. You really think the D-Zero hits them hard? 

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Garmt

    Great review! But…

    Are there any portable amps that can take USB and a digital feed from iPhone/iPod? THAT would be awesome…

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Mike

    So I should’ve called the E17 Alpen, not Aspen.

    Thanks to Larry at the Desktop Audioblog for pointing that out. Damn I feel like a fool now.
    http://www.desktop-audioblog.com/2012/01/02/fiio-alpen-e17-one-more-mountain-to-climb/

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Peter

    Reading this…. while listening to my AudioEngine through my newly acquired e10. And as others have said, I/my wallet also hate this blog/Fiio now!!!!!

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Whizz

    Hi mike, how long does the battery last? and do you notice any difference between the toslink and USB input?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Whizz, 
      I suck at taking note of battery life (that’s why you almost never find that on my reviews). As for the toslink and USB question, the USB is better no doubt, while the toslink is slightly better balanced than coaxial. But this may be due to the quality of the transport I use for the toslink and coax (I use an Onkyo ND-S1 Ipod dock) and the USB is via a MacBook Air.

      USB has clearly more air, bigger soundstage, better ambiance and overall tonal balance is very good. Toslink and coax are more congested in comparison, lacking ambiance details.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Donunus

    Can the E17 drive orthos like the Hifimans okay? Or put it this way, is it more powerful than the E9? If not, I think the E15 may be the one I need to wait for since I may get some orthos in the near future and still don’t want to spend a fortune on some high end amp yet.

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Donunus

      Whoops I think you already answered that on your review. I think I should definitely wait for the E15

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Brian Ruslim

    Anyone know which chips are powering this thing?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      andrew_berge

      According to ClieOS on Head-Fi:
      USB: TE7022
      DAC: WM8740
      Source: http://www.head-fi.org/t/587912/fiio-e17-alpen-first-impression

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Kevin Benedict Prudon

    i think this will be my warm, dark amp :))

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Whizz

    Hi mike, does the bass boast muffled the mids and highs like the E7 on +2/+3 bass or just smooth all the way up, and how does the treble boast tune the treble, is it making the treble brighter/laid back or forward/recessed?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      At the extreme settings the bass will get in the way of the mids, though just slight. But at the lesser boost levels, sure it’s not going to be as clear as with no boost but it’s not terribly messy either. Personally I don’t get bothered by the bass boost, I think the quality is good and I use it at two or three steps up the neutral setting.

      The treble control allows you to tune up or down. That means you can have more treble quantity or less treble quantity. I’m not sure what you mean by a laid back or recessed treble. 

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Anonymous

    I love my E10. But I think the bass impact from Alpen can make my hardrock songs more energetic! I’m so impatient to try it!  d(^_^)b

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Yes bass impact is a clear improvement from the E10.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    silver_85

    Mike, I’ve an E10 and I’m really satisfied. I’ve paid it more or less 90$, 75€… what to complain if a 150€ DAC sounds better? 😉

    My next Dac must be an HUGE upgrade, idem for my next amp! So, I’m ok for a while 🙂

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Good to hear that someone can still be positive about this E10/E17 comparison. Thanks, silver.

    • Reply January 16, 2012

      Anonymous

      same here silver, got the e10 as well – but mike says its a clear upgrade so i’m having second thoughts.

      the alpen looks sexy.

      • Reply January 16, 2012

        Mike

        Well no pressure to upgrade really. I’m still happy with the E10. But doing reviews is my job so.

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Anonymous

    I pre-ordered mine for 125 with free IEMs, so I’m thinking I’ll be pretty happy then.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Really? What was the deal? 

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Anonymous

        MP4Nation’s preorder with the bonus gift and using the code you get for liking them on facebook.

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Okay that’s really nice. Thanks!

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Fabio Rocks

    2 Months ago i was torn between the fiio e10 and ibasso d0. I feel that i need the versatility of Ibasso do, on the other side i like the overall better audio quality of the fiio e10. I was freezed to buy one even for the fiio e17 and i think the time makes me right! The e17 looks like a safe bet for a lot of time. As Fiio said on this price range it’s hard to make another device that is a clear upgrade from e17, so this time the money will be superbly spend. 

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the e10 is about half the price of e17, and is a killer product. E10 owners may be happy even if the e17 comes out.If the d0 was the ibasso answer to e7 now it’s interesting to see the new ibasso shot to kill the e17 but this time it will be more harder!Mike two more things offtopic:1) You miss the V-moda crossfade m80 review?!?!?!? This is the Hottest Headphone of the moment because is a match for the hd25 and the dt1350, and the size is very very small for a headphone of this type, so it seems perfect for travellers (like me)2) Hifiman he-400 review? ehhehehehehe i know i know i have to wait:DHeadfonia is top notch!Fabio

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Fabio, 
      Yea.. the V-moda, someone tells me it’s not as great as people say it is AKA just a hype? I don’t know though, have you personally listened to it or is it just from stuff you read? 

      HE-400 review is definitely coming. 

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Fabio Rocks

        Hi Mike!

        Tyll from Innerfidelity said they are great headphones that clearly match the hd25 and dt1350. They have better bass response of the hd25, the highs are not as bright without being dark. The graph shows no peaks, so they are not harsh and there is no sibilance. 

        On the Headfi shootout 96 portable headphones reviewed they are ranked 6 out 96 with a sound score of 9/10. The hd25 sound score is 9/10 The dt1350 sound score is 9,25/10

        They need a try Mike!

        I am pretty sure to buy those headphones I will send you my impressions.

        The only serious headphone I own is the Sennheiser hd 380:)

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Yes I heard it’s pretty good in the ratings.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    TheOneInYellow

    You, sir, are going to make me bankrupt one of these days. X(

    I now ask of you to compare the c421 and the E17. No, really (pretty please…?).

    I don’t want to buy another amp so soon after I got my c421 (recieved yesterday, which is, btw, still amazing), and I enjoy using the DAC section of my Asus Xonar D2X that I don’t need the DAC functionalities of the Aspen (though I do want a desktop DAC, preferably USB based at async 24/192…).

    HOWEVER, this review SCREAMS BUY ME NOAAA!!!!!


    ….
    …..

    …Sigh…

    I’m going to have to see more reviews about the E17 Aspen and see if I should invest in the it in Feb or later, but really, this sucks.

    And then there’s the little issue of the iBasso D-Zero, the iBasso DX100, and/or me investing in either custom ear mould tips for my UE TF10’s (from ACS UK) or get a desktop amp (Objective2).

    :'(

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks I did miss that E17 and C421 comparison didn’t I? I will add it in to the review later. 

      I think the bottom line is that the C421 is a portable amp only and the OPA2227 version I tested definitely sounds better than the E17. 

      So, amp section only: E17 < C421 < O2.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Scottie

        Okay so you do still prefer the C421 when comparing the amp section of the E17 only, good to know!  I’d love to hear what you think of the other opamps available for the C421 as well.  Are you likely to get to to try the 8620 and/or 8066 opamp version(s) when you do your C421 review?

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Yes, the C421 is my favorite sub $300 amp right now. I got the 8620 and the OPA2227 and by far I like the OPA2227 better.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        TheOneInYellow

        Thanks for considering including a comparison of
        the two products!

        Well the amplifier is the most important part for me, as I value that over any
        other features when I am trying get the best audio rig possible at whatever
        budget I have, so I am extremely happy that the c421 does outperform the E17
        (though your c421, with the OPA2227 opamp, is different to mine which uses the
        AD8620 opamp).

        However, FiiO really do seem to care about consumers and the headphone enthusiasts/community,
        creating wonderful devices and ancillary equipment at very reasonable prices;
        kudos and congratulations to them! ^_^

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    putente

    Hi, Mike! 

    Great review (and pics), as usual… 😉

    Just a quick question (and maybe a strange one). How do you think this new E17 compares to a bigger (both in price and size) USB DAC /Amp combo? I’m thinking about something like a Matrix Mini-I, that you also reviewed a while back, which costs twice the E17…

    My question is if the E17 is really that good for $150 that it can be a match for something twice more expensive (and a lot bigger in size), or if it is just really good for that price range and size! 🙂

    Thanks .

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Putente,
      I don’t have the Mini-i to compare to, but based on my comparison with the Audinst HUD-MX1, I think it’s safe to assume that the Mini-i should have a better DAC section.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        putente

        ok…

        And when using the E17 with the E9, does the sound from that combo loose the E17 punchy and tight bass you mentioned?

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Yes,
          The E9 is not as punchy as the E17’s amplifier.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Dleblanc343

    Would the e17 be powerful enough to power an he500? Or is it better to stick with the e9+e10?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      I actually haven’t tested the HE-500 on the E17 since I dont’ have my HE-500 around but I will get to that next week when I do my HE-400 review. I will test them both HE-400 and HE-500 with the E17.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Dleblanc343

        Cool, anxious to see how that turns out!

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Elie Imelda Rik

    How would the sound of the e17 compare to the Matrix Mini-i?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Elie,
      I don’t have the Mini-i to compare to, but based on my comparison with the Audinst HUD-MX1, I think it’s safe to assume that the Mini-i should have a better DAC section.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Puntz

    Great review, Mike. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it, especially because it may just comfort my soon-to-be-emptied wallet a bit – I’m going to buy the Sennheiser HD650 headphones and am looking for an amp to go along with them.

    I’ve heard marvelous things about the E7+E9 combo, but now the E17 is coming out.
    Because you said you didn’t like the E17+E9 combo, would you recommend me buying only the E17? Will it be able to power the HD650 perfectly?
    Other readers, do you have an opinion?

    Thanks.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Puntz, yes the E17 has plenty of power for the HD650. 

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    dL

    Mike,

    If you plug this on a Mac, can you still change system wide volume via the OS? Or do you have to use the buttons on the E17? Does it work similar to a E7 or E10?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      dL,
      You can change the volume either from the OS or the E17’s volume. 

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Oblivio

    Great review! Can you say something about E17 against HM-101? 

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Oblivio, 
      I will add in that comparison. Thanks!

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Fright_78

    I hope this becomes available here in the Philippines before April 🙂

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    endoko

    Let’s hope the E17 doesn’t share the same quality control of the E10.

    Problems with headphone jacks, crackling noise issue are making some wait for the third revisions of the E10…

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Scottie

    Any word on what opamp is inside?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      I will ask Fiio and get back to you on that.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Chung James

        the op amp is AD8397

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          putente

          Isn’t this the same one used on the E10 amp section? So why do they sound different?

          • Reply January 12, 2012

            Mike

            Power supply, circuit and pcb design all determines final sound.

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Thanks, James. 

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Agus Purnomo

      From the official site, seems that it use the  following chips :
      – TE7022 USB Reciver
      – WM8804 SPDIF Receiver
      – WM8740 DAC
      – AD8692 + AD8397 Op-Amp

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Mike

        Thanks for the info, Agus.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Whizz

    Hi mike, any idea how the E17 stack up with DACport, I know probably not a fair comparison since it doubled the price, but I do appreciate if you could comment how close/far the E17 perform against the DACport, thanks.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      The difference would be pretty big actually.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Whizz

        I see, so the E17 is still nowhere near a high end DAC

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          It’s an excellent deal, but no still not a high end DAC. But the thing is without high end amps and headphones there is no point getting a high end DAC anyway, so for most people E17-level performance will already make a really big difference.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Kanon

    How are the DAC quality on these compared to MSII?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      The MS2 is still the better DAC.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Spencer Chan

    So, Mike, you don’t like the e17/e9 combo; but how does the e17 sound using the line out that’s on the e9 (and thus bypassing the e9’s amp, similar to using the L7)? 

    I was thinking of using my the e9->Valhalla

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      In that case you’d be better off with a stand alone DAC like the HRT MS2.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Spencer Chan

        Thanks for the input!  I already have the e9 (with my e7).

        I was waiting to see what Schiit has up their sleeves before pulling the trigger; I am looking for something that does 24/192 over both USB and TOSLINK/Coax. (So that takes out HRT’s stuff for now). 

        The e17 seems like a good bet to ‘hold me’ over….at least for another 9-12 mo….

        …this hobby is getting expensive. =x

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Or in that case you can get the E10 since it has a dedicated line out so you don’t need to use the E9 just for a line out. Plus it’s much cheaper.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Spencer,
      I tried it anyway, Fiio E17+E9 to the RSA Darkstar amp compared to the E10 and the E17 is the better DAC.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    lavi shukla

    Hi mike, nice review, i want to buy amp for hrt2, i want amp with bass boost so comparing e17 and e11, which one you think is better in terms of bass, leave the dac part of e17

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      As a whole the E11 is the better amplifier but if you’re talking strictly bass then the E17 is better. You get 5 steps of bass boost and at the max setting you get a much stronger boost than on the E11’s max setting.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Agus Purnomo

    Hi mike, I’m pretty new to these things and I just bought an M50 last month as an upgrade for (now broken) PX-100-II. 

    I know that M50 is an easy to drive headphone but do you think the sound will get better from the DAC on this? My onboard sound is very crappy and noisy. Or maybe I just save a little bit of money and get the E10 instead (or something other)?

    Also is the E17 available in Indonesia yet?

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      If your sound card is very bad then the Alpen would give you a very clear upgrade especially with revealing headphones like the M-50.
      The E17 is not yet released anywhere in the world, actually.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Peter

    Hi Mike, your reviews are always enjoyable and informative to read; thanks!

    I’d like to get your thoughts on something: I just purchase the Beyer DT880/250 ohms and was wondering how you think the pairing might be with this and the E17.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      I think it would be good.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Zohar Lee

    Hi Mike,

    How would you rate this against a p-51?

    Zohar

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Zohar,
      The P-51 is still a finer amp.

  • Reply January 12, 2012

    Whizz

    Hi mike, I’m actually pretty interested with E17 bass and treble tuning, what do you think if I upgrade the DAC section by pairing something like DACport-LX then use E17 amp. I’m gonna use it for my custom-iem, so no need for powerful amp I guess. Would like to hear your comment of those pairing, thanks.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      That can work yes. I’d probably give the E17 a try first and see if that suffice. For most people the DAC section is good enough.

      • Reply January 12, 2012

        Whizz

        Well I’d like to hear your thoughts on the pairing if you give them a go (assuming you still have the LX) and share your experience on the improvement, and yes I do plan to use the E17 first then only upgrade later on.

        • Reply January 12, 2012

          Mike

          Well personally if I’m using the LX I’d like to use it with bigger and more refined amps, even though they may not have the bass/treble controls.

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    derpatron

    In terms of bass, does the ZO2 or E17 give a greater boost? I’d be pairing them with ATH-PRO700mk2

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Terja

    Hi Mike; Have you tried the line out bypass when pairing the E17 with the E9 to see what difference that makes since you can use the E17 EQ on the E9 with that option? Am I right? Seems to me that option could transport the E17 sound signature to the E9.

    • Reply January 13, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Terja,
      Yes I did. In a way true you can pass on the EQ options, but the amplifier section is still very different (E9 is TPA6120 based) so ultimately the sound is still very different.

      • Reply January 16, 2012

        Terja

        Mike, the E9 has been described quite often as neutral sounding, so I’m wondering whether the E17 is somewhat of a colored amp (in a good way). Also, one of the things people complained about was the inability to pass the E7 bass EQ options to the E9 – which the e17 addresses. So my question is, is the e9/e17 combo worth it despite the setbacks you describe. I already have the e9/e7 and am using it to drive my Hifiman HE-500 (not the best chain but good for now you know, silver and gold and all that, lol). Is it worth adding the e17 to the mix here and removing the e7? P.S> Would the e17 be capable of driving the HE-500 on its own, eek?

        • Reply January 16, 2012

          Mike

          Terja,
          The E9 is neutral in one way but the midrange is a bit thin and I’m not comparing to mid-centric amps here. If you’d like to pair the E17 with the E9 then by all means feel free to, since you already have the E9.

          • Reply January 17, 2012

            Terja

            Thanks Mike; I think I’ll go ahead and update the pair since there are obvious advantages but sound  is primary for me. You mention somewhere that you’ll be testing the Hifiman HE-500 with the E17 at some point — looking forward to your comments on that. Thanks for the great reviews.

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    NedKelly

    Mike, you know and I know that there is only one comparison that matters : iBasso D7 vs the E17, and its the one comparison you haven’t provided.  I know you can only review the kit that people are prepared to provide, but after the omission of the P4 from your ‘Usual Suspects’ comparison, I’m afraid its starting to look like a Fiio love-in around these parts 😉

    Cheers,

    Ned

    • Reply January 13, 2012

      Mike

      Ned,
      Some manufacturers chose to make their products not available to us. Some make it easy for us. That’s the bottom line on why some things get reviewed and some don’t. Sometimes, I have friends who loan things to me and I can get the reviews done that way. You really should count the number of new products introduced every week then you can understand why we simply can’t review every single thing.
      Remember, for every article published I have to:
      1. Talk to a manufacturer, beg, bug, ask for a sample.
      2. Arrange logistics, customs process.
      3. Listen and evaluate.
      4. Brainstorm, write.
      5. Take product shots, sometimes up to 4 photo sessions for a product. 6. Post process the photos, final edit the article.
      7. Answer people’s comments on the article.

      While I’m working on this E17 article I was working simultaneously on 4 other articles. That’s why I make stupid mistakes like writing Aspen in place of Alpen.
      With this kind of a work load, I rarely have the time to email Ibasso over and over again for a sample. If you want that D7 review, bug Ibasso to send one to us and I promise you the review will be pure and unbiased.
      These are the articles I’ve written on the Ibasso. Read them and tell me I’m biased. http://www.headfonia.com/?s=ibasso

      • Reply January 13, 2012

        NedKelly

        Whoa – Mike, take a breather. Firstly, I absolutely appreciate the amount of effort you put into this – I wrote a single review for Head-Fi and swore ‘never again !’. Secondly, I believe I did try to indicate that my ‘Fiio bias’ comment was tongue-in-cheek with the smiley, and I do know how reticent they can be after Skylab’s experience a couple of years back. I dont know why you have taken this crazy workload on yourself, but your efforts are appreciated – dont let uninformed comments like mine get you down.

        • Reply January 13, 2012

          Mike

          Hi Ned,
          I know you did have that tongue-in-cheek so yes perhaps I overreacted there. Anyway, if Ibasso sends us a D7, then you’ll get your review. 🙂

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Syakir Zainol

    Vs JDSLabs CMOY? And would it be a good pairing with wth Senn HD518/558?

    • Reply January 13, 2012

      silver_85

      Fiio E10 sounds very good with my Senn 598, so, if E17 > E10… 🙂

      • Reply January 14, 2012

        Mike

        The E17 should be very good with the HD598. It’ll help a lot with the bass.

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      I will have to check on that and get back to you.

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Anonymous

    Great review Mike,
    I had a question regarding the E9, E17. I know you suggest only getting the E17, but I already own the E9. Should I just get the E17 even though I already bought the E9, or should I just get a different sound card as well as the E11? My headphones are the ATH-M50s and VSonic-Gr07.
    Thanks,
    Jordan

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Jordan,
      Hmmm you can get the E17 and use it directly from its headphone out, or pair it with the E9 and see how you like it.
      If you want to go with a stand alone DAC, you can get the HRT MS2, it is currently the best entry level stand alone DAC for the price, and add an amplifier on top of it (perhaps the E9).

      • Reply January 14, 2012

        Anonymous

        You consider the HRT S2 is better than the E17, even though it doesn’t support 24/192? Also, which setup do you think is a better price/value setup:
        1. HRT S2, E9, and E11 for about $210
        2. E17 (being used solo or with E9), and E9 for $135
        Thanks Mike

        • Reply January 14, 2012

          Mike

          Yes I think you’ve got to realize that DAC resolutions (ie 24/192, 24/96) is not the same thing as the DAC’s sound quality. The numbers only tells you that it can support a file with 24 bit depth and 192 sample rate, and that doesn’t say anything about the sound quality.
          I would probably go with the HRT MS2 and the E11. Or the HRT MS2 and the JDSLabs Cmoy rather than option 2.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            Anonymous

            I like the JDSLabs Cmoy (pretty sure that’s the portable amp I’m going to get), but can’t find anywhere to buy it (does it go by a different name?). Regarding the home Amp/Dac, I’ll probably end up getting rid of my E9 after reading more (I guess it’s impedance is too high for the headphones I have). The HRT MS2 does not have an amp from what I’m seeing, are there any you recommend? Or, do you know anything about the iBasso D12, it’s been out for a little while, but there’s one on craigslist for $200 which seems like a good price/value to me, but as you can tell I’m not very good at this stuff.
            Sorry for all the questions, D:

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            Anonymous

            I really like that C421, but does it make sense to spend $170 for an amp to power my $130 head phones?

            • Reply January 14, 2012

              Mike

              Actually that’s the way things are in the world of headphones. Good amps would cost way more than the headphones. Just a law of economics, good amps are mostly small boutique manufacturers, headphones are mass produced.

            • Reply January 14, 2012

              Mike

              But of course you’re free to get the Cmoy if you feel the C421 to be too much.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            Anonymous

            Sorry I’m taking so much of your time D:, I’ll try to make this my last post. Is it night and day between the cMoy and C421, like I’d be blown away with the C421 over the cMoy? If it’s a large difference I’d consider the extra $100.Regarding the home amp/dac do you know anything about the iBasso D12? or, do you have a recommendation for a cheap home amp to pair with the HRT MS2?
            Thanks, I hope those are my last questions

            • Reply January 14, 2012

              Mike

              Well,
              I think the differences are quite big between the cmoy and C421. The Ibasso D12 is okay, the MS2+C421 will give you a much better sound.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            Anonymous

            You don’t think a need another, different home amp to pair with the MS2, the C421 is good enough? If that’s true, I think I’ve got my combo. Seems I’ve gotten away from the subject topic lol. Thanks for all the help, it’s really appreciated.

            • Reply January 14, 2012

              Mike

              Well sometimes it would be nice to have a desktop amp for a dedicated home set up, but for now the C421 should do.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            TheOneInYellow

            [Beware, TL;DR post!].

            Just to help ‘iamnotyouithink’ (great name handler!), and I hope you do not mind me helping Mike:

            The JDS Labs cMoyBB v2.03 can be selected as either:
            – Standard, Non-rechargeable, 1x9V battery,
            – Standard, Non-rechargeable, 2x9V batteries (18V),
            – Rechargeable, 1×9 battery,

            – Rechargeable, 2×9 battery.

            If you do chose this amp, the opamp you will find inside is a beautiful
            OPA2227P, which according to me and others, including Mike (based on his
            reviews), has great PRaT factor, and I love it’s warmth. However, I
            also prefer transparency, so sometimes this opamp annoys me…
            This is also a very good option for self-customisation, as the opamp is seated on an 8-pin DIN; this means that you can change opamps to change the sound of the amp! This is known as opamp-rolling, and there are many threads and blogs about the art.
            More info on the store page (in the link that Mike posted), under the ‘Options’ tab. You can select your choice from the drop-down menu accordingly.
            If you just want to start out, then this is THE BEST AMP to go with. But please, read on…

            All my headphone amps have been from JDS Labs (two cMoyBB’s, one of which
            was custom designed for me by John Seaber himself :D), but personally, I
            vote for the the beautiful and elegantly minimalistic (aesthetically, its actually complex ‘under-the-hood’) c421 amplifier. IMO, this will give you a much longer enjoyment for a
            long period of time, but the cMoyBB’s are quite good.

            The c421 is fully rechargeable, using a 1200mAh, 3.7V Li-Ion Battery (USB rechargeable).
            The c421 is also customisable from the store page, in which you can choose one of three opamps:
            – AD8620,
            – AD8066, and the venerable and classic
            – OPA2227P.

            You can see the selections and  further info within the ‘Customisation’ tab of the store page, and just like the cMoyBB store page, you can also select your opamp from the drop-down menu accordingly.
            Unfortunately, these are soldered to the PCB circuit board, so you cannot change or use multiple opamps (on-at-a-time) as you can with the cMoyBB’s, but the performance difference, again IMO, is on the scale of one or two magnitudes; that great!

            Mike is currently writing a review of the c421, and has with him both the AD8620 and the OPA2227P. As Mike has written in his preview and on some of these comments, he prefers the OPA2227P over the AD8620.

            I choose the AD8620 before reading anyone, or even Mike’s, impressions of the opamp choices, but I am extremely happy as it works incredibly well with my AKG K 701’s, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Pro’s, and my Etymotic Research ER-6i’s.
            I prefer transparency over coloured opamps, to let my IEM’s or headphones do the colouring instead.
            HOWEVER, Mike has made me very jealous, AGAIN!!?!?!!?!! x( , and now I am seeing if I can get another c421 with the OPA2227P…wallet is very depleted… 🙁

            Finally, as is written on the store page for the c421 amplifier, you can ask for the amplifier to be sent to you in temporary enclosures until new ones of higher quality are made, and which you can receive for free (with shipping costs) in February (so JDS Labs hopes, fingers crossed).
            At the moment, the c421’s are sold out, but email JDS Labs to have a one-to-one chat with them to discuss and ask questions about his products. I always do, and it is one of the primary reasons I go back to them again and again!

            Hope this helps ^_^

            • Reply January 16, 2012

              Mike

              Thanks for the additional info. I certainly appreciate the help you’re giving me here.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            TheOneInYellow

            [Beware, TL;DR post!].

            Just to help ‘iamnotyouithink’ (great name handler!), and I hope you do not mind me helping Mike:

            The JDS Labs cMoyBB v2.03 can be selected as either:
            – Standard, Non-rechargeable, 1x9V battery,
            – Standard, Non-rechargeable, 2x9V batteries (18V),
            – Rechargeable, 1×9 battery,

            – Rechargeable, 2×9 battery.

            If you do chose this amp, the opamp you will find inside is a beautiful
            OPA2227P, which according to me and others, including Mike (based on his
            reviews), has great PRaT factor, and I love it’s warmth. However, I
            also prefer transparency, so sometimes this opamp annoys me…
            This is also a very good option for self-customisation, as the opamp is seated on an 8-pin DIN; this means that you can change opamps to change the sound of the amp! This is known as opamp-rolling, and there are many threads and blogs about the art.
            More info on the store page (in the link that Mike posted), under the ‘Options’ tab. You can select your choice from the drop-down menu accordingly.
            If you just want to start out, then this is THE BEST AMP to go with. But please, read on…

            All my headphone amps have been from JDS Labs (two cMoyBB’s, one of which
            was custom designed for me by John Seaber himself :D), but personally, I
            vote for the the beautiful and elegantly minimalistic (aesthetically, its actually complex ‘under-the-hood’) c421 amplifier. IMO, this will give you a much longer enjoyment for a
            long period of time, but the cMoyBB’s are quite good.

            The c421 is fully rechargeable, using a 1200mAh, 3.7V Li-Ion Battery (USB rechargeable).
            The c421 is also customisable from the store page, in which you can choose one of three opamps:
            – AD8620,
            – AD8066, and the venerable and classic
            – OPA2227P.

            You can see the selections and  further info within the ‘Customisation’ tab of the store page, and just like the cMoyBB store page, you can also select your opamp from the drop-down menu accordingly.
            Unfortunately, these are soldered to the PCB circuit board, so you cannot change or use multiple opamps (on-at-a-time) as you can with the cMoyBB’s, but the performance difference, again IMO, is on the scale of one or two magnitudes; that great!

            Mike is currently writing a review of the c421, and has with him both the AD8620 and the OPA2227P. As Mike has written in his preview and on some of these comments, he prefers the OPA2227P over the AD8620.

            I choose the AD8620 before reading anyone, or even Mike’s, impressions of the opamp choices, but I am extremely happy as it works incredibly well with my AKG K 701’s, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Pro’s, and my Etymotic Research ER-6i’s.
            I prefer transparency over coloured opamps, to let my IEM’s or headphones do the colouring instead.
            HOWEVER, Mike has made me very jealous, AGAIN!!?!?!!?!! x( , and now I am seeing if I can get another c421 with the OPA2227P…wallet is very depleted… 🙁

            Finally, as is written on the store page for the c421 amplifier, you can ask for the amplifier to be sent to you in temporary enclosures until new ones of higher quality are made, and which you can receive for free (with shipping costs) in February (so JDS Labs hopes, fingers crossed).
            At the moment, the c421’s are sold out, but email JDS Labs to have a one-to-one chat with them to discuss and ask questions about his products. I always do, and it is one of the primary reasons I go back to them again and again!

            Hope this helps ^_^

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            Anonymous

            Thanks Yellow (and Mike again),

            Yeah, I’ve decided I’m going to get the HRT MS2 and the C421 (although I really like the Altoids can). So you and Mike prefer the OPA227P? I read on their website that they picked the AD8620 because of their blind sound tests. Making this decision even harder D:… Also, I was wondering how well the C421 works low impedance headphones, as that’s all I have.

            • Reply January 16, 2012

              Mike

              The C421 works well with low Z headphones, no problem there.

          • Reply January 14, 2012

            TheOneInYellow

            Urghhh…sorry for the double post…not sure how that happened… :'(

            Yes, I prefer the OPA2227P on my Custom cMoyBB v2.02, and the same opamp is available on the new cMoyBB v2.03 and the C421.

            I love the AD8620 when compared directly to my NuForce Icon desktop amp and DAC (I don’t use the DAC portion), and my Custom cMoyBB v2.02; the c421 has become, for know, my reference amp.
            I also prefer transparency simply because I choose headphones/IEM’s to bring their soun sound signature to the table (hence my AKG K 701’s sound pretty amazing with the amp, but the TF10’s, with a v-sound signature and recessed midrange don’t sound quite as epic…). However, Mike has intrigued me so much, and teased me that I am missing good soundstage and mid-range/treble goodness that I really want the OPA2227P version.
            However, I really do want the c421 with the OPA2227P installed, so I shall talk to John Seaber (President, JDS Labs) about this…
            I was going to spend money on some custom mould earphone tips for my TF10’s, or get the objective2, or save up more an by a DAC/Amp combo. Now, idk… :s

            As Mike posted on FB, his full review will come about when the final, production versions of the c421 come out with the better enclosures, but many prospect buyers were able to purchase them from John between Dec ’11 to early Jan ’12; if he is out of stock, your going to have to wait till more stock arrives (again, he email him/JDS Labs).

            The HRT MS2 and the c421 (OPA2227P or AD8620, tough choice) will be a great match. I did consider the HRT, but I have eyed some other DAC’s that meet my requirements (especially for some of my music records/High resolution downloads).

            I am in the market for a new DAC to upgrade from my Asus Xonar D2X, and it must be able to go up to 24 bit/192 kHz asynchronously (USB preferred, but not a requirement) . I have selected a few, such as Schiit BiFrost (upgradeable), or the Matrix Mini-i Balanced DAC, and the Audinst HUD-MX1 (see the reviews of these DAC’s on Headphonia), amongst others.
            I favour the Matrix Mini-I as it is a one-box solution and a desktop amp, otherwise I would need to buy a DAC and a separate desktop amp (such as JDS Labs Objective 2, though Epiphany Acoustics also make one under the name EHP-O2 (links below).

            Good luck 😀

            http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=O2Full

            http://epiphany-acoustics.co.uk/our-products/ehp-o2-portable-audio-headphone-amplifier/

            http://www.headfonia.com/matrix-mini-i-balanced-dac/

            http://schiit.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=7

            http://www.headfonia.com/audinst-hud-mx1-dac/

            http://www.headfonia.com/the-new-recommendation-the-yulong-u100-usb-dac/

  • Reply January 14, 2012

    Lukeskymac

    oh great, days after I order the ZO THIS shows up…

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry about that Lukes, but new products show up all the time these days. 🙂

  • Reply January 14, 2012

    sharan .

    Mike, Can I connect directly my player(mp3/ipod/iphone) – E17 – Active speakers. Do I reqire E7, which is the right way, is it only for headphone.

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      Sharan,
      In that scenario you’ll be best not using the E17 at all. Just Ipod > Active Speakers.

      • Reply January 17, 2012

        Shar Nx

        will there be any difference in Quality of sound (output). What I heard is the signal will be too hot. 
        Which Active speakers do u recommend If I want a good stereo crystal clear sound quality.

  • Reply January 15, 2012

    KerberosWXIV

    Hi Mike, any