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What a disappointment!

A Review On: FiiO e10

FiiO e10

Rated # 11 in Portable Amps
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Design
Quality
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $50.00
colgatetotal
Posted · 21981 Views · 12 Comments

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: Overly dark sound, bass boost affects lower mids

Got this for a friend off the FS forum, but decided to use it myself for a few days. This was supposed to be the uDAC killer? Really?

 

My unit (first edition) is presented well and looks to be built all right, though there have already been three revisions and reports of numerous problems with the jack on the forums. So it gets 3 stars there from me.

 

Clarity is the main issue for the Fiio E10. The upper bass is boosted a little, and the mids around 2500hz are recessed a little. This is enough to create a veil on most of my non-bright headphones. It does tame a Grado very well, however, and the E10 is a nice match for it. It sounds okay until you hear the competition in the same price range.

 

My HP Touchpad (Beats Audio processing disabled) and NuForce uDAC1 actually sound better than it. This comes as a surprise, since there's at least multiple reviews that state the E10 sounds better than a NuForce uDAC2. Not to my ears, it doesn't. The uDAC1 has significantly more bass impact, percussion impact, soundstage, and airiness. As for the HP Touchpad, it actually has a superior Wolfson DAC compared to the iPad, and it really does give the uDAC1 a run for its money. The HP Touchpad has the best clarity and overall sound quality of the three. It's too bad I can't use it as a dedicated DAC.

 

(Upon research, the HP Touchpad uses the newer Wolfson WM8958, while the Fiio E10 uses the older WM8740. This may explain the reasoning behind the HP Touchpad's superior sound; it just has a better chip.)

 

The bass boost is a nice idea, until you realize it boosts the 200hz-500hz range. This is way too much, as most headphones are close to neutral there. Most of the bass help is needed below 100hz. Had the bass boost only affected frequencies below 100hz, it would've been suitable. However, as it stands, it turns the sound into mudville. Sadly, and I hate to admit this, but the Beats Audio processing on the HP Touchpad boosts the bass in a more subtle and ideal way. Guess the Beats brand does something right.

 

So pair it up with your favorite bright headphone, like a Grado. But if you try pairing this up with a less-bright headphone like a Sennheiser, you might be getting a sound that's just too dark. This isn't much better than integrated sound on your computer, to be quite honest, though it'll boost the volume to levels that integrated sound cannot.

 

I am astounded as to why this product gets so much praise, but I guess the dark signature just isn't for me. All that negative publicity surrounding the nuForce uDAC really hurt its standing, but I must have been lucky with my uDAC1, since I really do believe it sounds better than the E10. The Headfonia review (http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/) hinted at the worse soundstage and airiness in its review, but still recommended it over the uDAC2. However, I believe these issues are too significant for the people who prefer a brighter sound signature.

 

One last thing. The E10 doesn't have the channel imbalance issue that the uDAC1 and uDAC2 have at ultra-low volumes.

 

(Tested with: Sennheiser HD595, Grado SR225i, Sennheiser CX980, Koss KSC35, Audio-Technica M50)

12 Comments:

Thanks a lot for the review. What you described about the bass boost feature of the FiiO E10 really hit home for me. I find that it overly darkens music when paired with the Creative Aurvana Live's, which I think have significant bass to begin with. However, I appreciate the weight they had to Grado SR60is.
Judging the E10's DAC I disagree that it's not a significant improvement over onboard audio--at least Intel HD Audio. I immediately noticed an improvement to the sound out of my netbook. I later compared its Line-Out to the Xonar DX's (bypassing the amps of each) using MDR-V6s and the level of detail the two provided were very similar to my ears.
I don't think anyone debates that the uDAC SOUNDS good - it just has a host of problems - there shouldn't be a volume control on a DAC, massive hiss issues when volume is turned up - and a lot more I can't remember off the top of my head. But for its price, it does a great job as a headphone amp/dac all in one.
Are you sure it's that dark, with a clean signal, no effects applied...
By the way, with the Yulong U100, my laptops headphone jack sounded better, I was very disappointed and sent it back to China, which cost me $40 extra.
The E10 is a budget product. Given it cleans the signal from my PC and can drive at least my K400 is enough.
If you have high expectations buy something that is made for a more discerning audience. For the price, finish and capabilities the E10 is a good product.
Seems like iBasso D-Zero is the winner then, after all it's a portable amp too.
Well, yes, the E10 is a budget product. That's why I tested it against the uDAC1 and a bunch of midrange $200ish headphones that would be typical for the target buyer (exception: the KSC35 is a $50 on-ear). I could've gone down to the local audio shop and plugged an HD650 or HD800 into it, but who'd actually pair a high-end headphone with a $100 combo dac/amp?
The E10 has much more prominent hissing and clicking when the dial is turned to 8 (maximum) than the uDAC at maximum. However, the E10 doesn't suffer from channel imbalance that the uDAC has at ultra-low volumes.
It's just sad that a $150 HP Touchpad has a better DAC, though, to be fair, the HP Touchpad was once a $600 product and has the advantage of using a DAC chip that was released this year. Hopefully someone can make a DAC passthru app for it or something.
Hmmm, all I can say is that I find the E10 on sound sounds a bit bright and the bass does not sound as emphasised as on the E11. But given it sounds clean in general and is perfect for its function I cannot complain...
It's not correct to say the WM8958 is a better chip than WM8740, that's like saying the WM8994 used in some smartphones is a better chip than the WM8741.
Just because Wolfson released a new chip designed to save battery life doesn't make it better than the one used in $2000 DAC's.
I'm not sure if this review is placebo or not, the frequency response of the E10 is pretty dead-flat, like any good DAC/Amp, there shouldn't be any overly dark sound or any noticable enhanced bass unless your unit is broken such as the bass-boost switch or just poor synergy like output impedance or a sound you're not used to, or it's smooth instead of detailed and you're calling that dark.
Anyway, I think headfonia called this DAC/Amp a killer, like a $500 product type thing, so one of you has to be very wrong, could be him, I dunno.
All I know is the Fiio E6 is garbage, that's the only Fiio I have.
By the way, there's nothing wrong with pairing a $100 DAC/Amp with a $1000 headphone.
As for uDAC killer... well I think they measure poorly on paper and in dScope, they are designed by ear, not with data, something like that.
I've just picked up an E10 and have it paired to a set of Grado PS500s (so yes, some folks do pair a cheaper DAC with good headphones). It sounds good to me....better than my old E7/E9 combo for sure (which sucks, as that cost more than twice as much). It has a more sterile sound than when I run right from my Onkyo receiver (TX-SR876), which has a surprisingly good headphone section (and fantastic DAC)....but the E10 sounds WAY better than an $80 DAC should. Also, one of the local shops here is big on Peachtree...and I listened to several Grado sets on that stuff and I think the E10 sounds as good at 5-10% of the price.
kiteki: Even if the DAC is flat, I'm reviewing it through the headphone out, since it's a combo unit. Besides, the reduced soundstage and airiness in the E10 was also mentioned in the Headfonia review, so I'm pretty sure I don't have a broken unit. I've also been to a head-fi meet so I'm aware of what high-end audio is supposed to sound like. As for the Wolfson DAC, only Wolfson really knows what's going on, as the WM8958 doesn't have a full spec sheet like the WM8740.
chrispyG: That's great! I thought the E10 paired well with my Grado SR225i, so I'm happy that you found a good match. It's just that I couldn't get it to sound good on my M50 or CX980 at all, which are two of my darker headphones.
Thanks for the comments, everyone!
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