Pros: Lots of features, great build, neutral sound, bass boost, Android support
Cons: Sonic deficencies, I/O clutter, plastic top bezel, awkward usability depending on usage
FiiO has come a long way in recent years – quickly developing and releasing well-valued products – with its line of amps and DACs. Today, we have one of the newest additions to the FiiO family; the E18 Kunlun. FiiO’s Kunlun is designed as a computer and Android-device USB-DAC and portable-amplifier. At $160, can the E18 perform its duty?
There are a million ways to describe a FiiO – good sounding being a common one – but having a sexy build always is one of the first. The E18 uses the stealthy milled-aluminum look of the E12, in addition with a top control bar surrounded by a silver strip.
The silver strip, build-edges, and control-panel plate are plastic. It’s hard to tell on first look, because they blend in so well with the metal. It looks good, as the black plastic provides a matte complementing-gradient to the shiny metal. I would personally say that the plastic seems strong enough – albeit a tad lightweight for me - for the purposes of the E18.
The feel of all the buttons is impeccable. There is a satisfying ‘click’ followed by every push. It isn’t loud or hard to press, but neither is it squishy. They don’t have much wiggle-room and are machined out of aluminum; which is a standard FiiO trait.
The body of the E18 is probably the most eye-catching part. The stealthy black metal –silkscreened with FiiO’s legendary logo – and its control scheme intimidates and excites me. It looks busy at first – there seem to be so many buttons – but once you play with it for a bit, you’ll know that it isn’t nearly as domineering. But, what really takes the cake is in how well the metal is kept. The E18 has been traveling with me - surrounded by other sharp-metal amps - in a small pouch. Despite this, its metal body still looks as fantastic as the day I got it.
Overall, the build of the E18 is quite nice. The metal looks great and matches its cousin – the E12 Mont Blanc – while still having adequate space for the components inside. I would rather they have used metal for the plastic parts –despite plastic being a better ‘shock barrier’ – but it still works well without any problems.
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