Pros: Great performance/price ratio; multifunctional; large number of audio input options
Cons: Not the best option for those wanting a pristine and highly-detailed sound; some crackling/distortion when using with Mac computers
I picked up a FiiO E17 when en route Germany to stay there for the 2012 Christmas period and the early days of 2013. I wanted to do some video editing work and listen to music when over there but didn't want to be without the stalwart reference quality Lavry DA10 which I didn't want to travel with on that occassion, so I decided to give the E17 a try.
Prior to owning the E17 I owned the FiiO E7, which was my first DAC and one I enjoyed very much, though wanting a more neutral sound than the E7 provided I upgraded from it. Since buying the E17 a few years after owning the E7, I was initially very impressed with the relatively more neutral-sounding E17, an all-in-one DAC/Amp with a clear overall sound and inbuilt EQ functions that I have enjoyed using, particularly when wanting more bass when listening with the HD 800
When I compared the E17 and my DA10 - a DAC/Amp costing many times the price of the E17 - the difference wasn't as night and day as I imagined it might be. The DA10 has much more high-end treble detail, which by comparison sounded a bit fuzzy on the overall less clear sounding E17 (I write this from memory as at time of writing I'm unable to use the DA10 with my laptop - more on that later in this review), but overall and considering the price of the E17, it does a great job of creating a cleaner-sounding listening experience than plugging directly into the headphone output of my laptop. The E17 also serves as a nice enhancement to my iPhone when I use the E17 as a headphone amplifier, but to be honest, when I'm out and about and listening to music I tend not to analyse the sonics of what I'm hearing and more often enjoy the music without feeling the need for a headphone amplifier as I'm happy with the level of amplification my iPhone already provides.
For Xmas 2012 I received the gift of a Sony PS3 and since returning to my place in the UK, the E17 has lived for many hours as part of my PS3/TV setup, which is currently also my main home cinema rig. Like how the E17 provides a clearer sound in relation to plugging into the headphone socket of my laptop, the E17 removes virtually all of the distortion I experienced when connecting my hi-fi amp directly to my TV, without a DAC in the audio chain. Adding the E17 to that setup has turned out to be a great value and cost-effective component contributing to a much more transparent listening experience than what I experienced when using my bookshelf hi-fi speakers and headphones without a DAC. For me, the E17 would be worth the money I paid for it if I just used it as part of my PS3 rig, but it does oh so much more.
To expand on what I wrote above, I have been unable to use my Lavry DA10 with my laptop due to snapping a headphone plug off in my laptop's headphone socket, and have been resorting to the USB-connected E17 when listening to music, editing video content, and other audio-listening-related purposes, and to be honest, since using the E17 I haven't missed my DA10 that much, though I would prefer to use the DA10 due to the enhancements in listening quality it provides. But really, considering the performance/price ratio of the E17 and what a versatile multifunctional device it is - and one with a large number of audio input options - I consider the E17 to be the best value head-fi component I have yet purchased and give it my highest recommendation to anyone (particularly those new to the 'head-fi hobby') willing to spend ~$150/£100 to investigate the benefits a great value DAC/Amp can provide.