E7 - first AMP/DAC - good entry level value

A Review On: FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier

FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier

Rated # 3 in Amp/DACs
See all 19 reviews
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Design
Quality
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $87.00
Brooko
Posted · 49 Views · 5 Comments

Pros: Clean SQ (dac), good build quality, value, versatility

Cons: Bass boost can be boomy, tends to be cold/analytical, can sound a little 'thin'

This is my first AMP/DAC, so unfortunately I don't have anything to compare it with. I'm also using a mid-range set of Shure IEM's (SE420) and a lower range set of Sennheiser eh250 cans. For a source, I have a Cowon iAudio7, an iPod Touch 4G, and the PC just has a Realtek onboard sound chip.

It didn't make a huge difference as an amp - but the dac is quite clean and better than my netbook's integrated audio. To be honest, there isn't a great deal of difference with my main PC's integrated onboard though.

The design of the E7 is very simple. It matches up with my iPod Touch 4G really well for size (I also bought the L3 LOD). The controls are very simply and easy to use. The tactile buttons for volume are well placed and easy to locate and use. I really like the dual 3.5mm h/p outs.

The included extras are good as well. I did buy the LOD separate - but included in the pack is a 3.5-3.5mm LO/LI cable, a free L2 3.5mm cable, a plush 'velour' carry case, a well fitting silicone cover, a fitted screen protector and a spare, and a band for keeping your DAP and AMP together.

On to the SQ. After charging the E7, I plugged it into my iPod using the LOD, and then (in turn) my SE420 and after the eh250. All my files are ALAC (lossless). The first thing I noticed was a slight increase in clarity - everything just seemed to be a little crisper. I'm not sure I this is just the E7 or the LOD, placebo (not properly volume matched) or a combination of everything. But I am enjoying the new sound for now.

EDIT - after a lot more experience with other amps (and other cans) - I now suspect any improvement from the iPod was likely to be expectation bias (placebo).

Anyway - where the E7 shows an improvement is as a DAC - if you have issues with onboard sound. I use Linux at home, I plugged the E7 into a USB port, and it was immediately recognised and usable. I then started to play a few of my favourite songs (again all lossless - FLAC). Improvements were negligible with the main PC - but the sound was cleaner on the netbook (no interference/noise).

The E7 does have a bass boost option - and while it seemed to work well on the first level (quite subtly) - the level 2 and 3 bass boosts became a little boomy, I ended up not using it as the bass punch already present was enough for me.

Now I'm just waiting to pick up my next cans (Shure SRH 840's) in a few weeks time. I'm interested to see what the E7 does with these!

For a beginner's first DAC - I'd recommend the E7 as a value for money option - IF you are having issues (noise) with current onboard sound. The amp section is really a bonus. Anoter bonus is being able to pair the E7 with the E9 for a desktop solution.

EDIT >> After being able to compare to other amps
As an update to my initial review - while I still agree with everything I initially wrote, I'd like to comment that compared to subsequent amps I've owned (E11, PortaTube and Audio-gd NFB-12) the E7 - even in combo with the E9 - sounds a little cold and thin. I know I do prefer a slightly warm signature (definitely a mid-range fan), so this may have a bearing. After comparing the E7+E9 to the Audio-gd, I definitely prefer the NFB-12. It has more body. Subsequently I've altered my rating slightly - but still consider it good entry level for what the E7 does offer at the price.

Please note - it's value is very dependent on your onboard sound - improvement if your onboard is inherently noisy - not much if onboard sound is clean.

5 Comments:

Can you comment on how this little amp/dac works with the 840's? I think my 840's sound great by themselves but am wondering if the sound can get even better with it (on a lap top using the "Beats Audio").

thx.
Hi Gimpy
I primarily bought the E7 as a DAC. I was using onboard sound - and the idea of having a portable DAC with the benefit of also trying a portable amp as well was just too good to pass up. As a DAC - the E7 is very clean and a real step-up from my onboard sound. On my netbook the difference has been very, very noticeable. It just sounds so much cleaner and clearer.
Using the SRH840's - straight from my iPod Touch 4, and concentrating on two songs I'm really enjoying at the moment -
Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" and Florence & The Machine's "Howl"
* I agree the 840's don't need amping, they are great as-is.
* They are very clear, mids are great, highs are clear
* Bass can sometimes be a tiny little boomy on some tracks. To be honest, I didn't notice this until I A/B'd with the E7.
Adding the E7 via LOD
* To my ears the clarity rises a notch.
* The bass tightens - tracks I mentioned above both definitely improve.
* If anything - I'd describe it as quite transparent & simply "clean"
* There is definitely some instrument separation - everything sounds "more natural"
Some of the improvement could be because I'm bypassing the HP out on the Touch with the LOD. But I'm enjoying an improvement anyway. It could be placebo (I'm a realist) - but I'm certain that for me the sound is better - and that's all that matters.
The other advantage at the moment is that I also have the ATH AD700's. With these, the E7's bass boost function s wonderful. I only raise it a notch - but it adds some needed extension to the 700's bass and makes them incredibly enjoyable.
The final thing - and another reason I bought the E7 - scalability. I've already bought and am waiting on the E11. It will be my portable. I then will purchase the E9 and couple it with the E7 permanently (just for the PC - or netbook when I travel).
Anyway - sorry for the novel. For my ears, and paired with the 840 - it's worth the money.
I just revisited this review - and I guess it shows how little I knew when I wrote it. It's amazing what perspective will give you.
I've left the original reply I posted for gimpy - but I now realise it for what it is - over-exuberance with a new toy - and a case of expectation bias. The E7 is great if you have a noisy onboard. For portable use (DAP rather than netbook) - there are better options - the amp is simply to weak to really drive a lot of harder to run cans.
Could you please list here another "better options"? :)
What's your use and budget? Do you need a dac, or would you be using it as an amp only? Need more info if I was to give you any recommendations. PM me if you want.