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[Impression] FiiO E7 (warning: lot of pics!!!)

post #1 of 195
Thread Starter 
First, I want to thank FiiO for the E7 sample, especially since they took the time to make it a one-off special edition.


The full production will look the same, expect for a thicker plastic box.






Spec
Output Power: 150mW (16Ω); 16mW (300Ω)
Headphone Impedance Range: 16 Ω ~ 300 Ω
SNR: ≥95dB (A weighted) on line-in; ≥100dB (A weighted) on USB-in
Distortion: <0.009% (10mW)on line-in; <0.008% (10mW) on USB-in
Frequency Range: 10Hz ~ 1000kHz
Power Supply: Internal 1050mAH rechargeable Li-ion battery
Recharging: USB 5V DC 400mA
Size: 96mm x 55mm x 15.5mm
Weight: 100g



The inside: E7, silicone band for wrapping with DAP; a short 3.5mm-to-3.5mm interconnecting cable, about 5 inches end-to-end; a soft pouch; a heavy duty USB cable; a manual (not show).






E7, from the headphone-out's end.


From the USB / dock / AUX-in (line-in)'s end.




Want to thank FiiO again for the special edition. Nothing is different from the standard edition except for the extra printing.




The 4 buttons are very well made aluminum.


Build Quality and Accessories
Build quality is simply great - on par, if not better than, others good portable amp I have (3MOVE, iBassso T4/T3D, etc). The aluminum case is so well finished that it looks seamless on all the joins. While FiiO has always had a decent build quality on their product, E7 is simply another big step forward. The two tones OLED screen is, as expected, stunningly good to look at. It is sharp and bright. All mini jacks have metal sleeve, which also look great.

Size wise, E7 is slimmer than typical portable amp (i.e. Practical Device XM3/4/5) and about half the size and weight of 3MOVE (which is also a portable DAC amp like E7). Obviously it is not the size of an ultra-portable, but given all the features it has, I think making it any smaller will likely to be an unnecessary challenge that FiiO don't need to take on.

Accessories wise, you have the soft pouch for storage, a silicone band in case you want to warp it with a DAP, a heavy duty USB cable which is unusual (most USB cable of this type is really thin) and a manual. If there are anything missing, they will be 4 small stick-on rubber feet. The 4 hex screws protrude a little out from the back plate so they will serve as feet, but they will get scratched if you use them that way. You will be better off getting some stick-on rubber feet yourself if you don't want scratches.



From left: iBasso T3D, Linearossa W1, and E7.




Meier Audio Corda 3MOVE and E7.


E7 next to Sansa Fuze (left), Nationite s:flo2 (right), and iPod Nano4 (bottom).


Navigation
Navigation is fairly simple and straightforward. One press on the menu button goes into menu selection, and then you just go up and down and find the setting you want to change. In the setting, there are EQ (bass boost), USB charger, Sleep timer (auto off timer), Keylock (auto 'hold' function), Volume limiter, startup volume memory, and system info.

Startup volume memory is for the E7 to retain the last volume setting. If it is not turned on, E7 will reset its volume to 10/60 during next startup. I was told the firmware is upgradeable only via a special cable. My assumption is FiiO uses the dock to update firmware so basically it means at this point it is not user upgradeable. In any case, beside some small typo in the menu, the firmware seems to run very smoothly and there really isn't any real reason to update the firmware. Hopefully by the time E7 is finally released, the typo should be corrected. The keylock, or auto hold, can be set between 20 and 60 seconds, which is a bit too long in my opinion. I would like the minimum to be 10s. Once the keylock is engaged, you will need to press the menu button for a few second to unlock. When it is locked, the screen will be turned off as well. If you don't set the key lock, the screen will remain on all the time.



Startup screen. Sorry for the blurry picture as my camera was a hard time focusing on the bright OLED screen.




E7, connected to Nano4's line-out via a FiiO LOD.


SQ
First, let's talk about the line-in and headphone-out. While on early on FiiO has decide to keep the same chip set as E5 on the E7, the decision has been made in the last minute to switch from the original OPA2338UA to the better performing AD8692 by ADI. I was also told that all the coupling caps are Elna Purecap for audio instead of the less desirable tantalum caps.

When fed by iPod nano4 line-out, in comparison, E7 (no bass boost) is more neutral sounding than E5, just a tad colder than E1. E7 has a softer bass impact, but a better treble performance. It actually feel a little thin and grainy compared to the warmer, more musical sound signature of original E5 amp section because of the extra fine detail E7 has. It also has a better depth in soundstage but not particularly wide. Once switch to Bass Boost Lv1 however, E7 starts to sound warmer and acquire a better width in soundstage, while still retaining most of its crispy detail. This works fairly well with analytical IEM like RE0, while BB Lv0 sounds better with warm sounding IEM like Sherwood SE-777. Overall, I will say E7 is definitely better sounding than E5 (more) and E1 (less). In fact, I will say E7 amp section performance is getting very close to that of iBasso T4 and Linearossa W1.

Now, how about the DAC? E7 use PCM2706 as its USB receiver, but the actually decoding is done by Wolfson WM8740, which is pretty well known for having a good sound. I don't have any other DAC amp of E7 price range to compare it with (well, there is only one other DAC amp in this price range anyway), and compare it to the more expensive 3MOVE is pretty unfair since 3MOVE do have a really good amp section. But my unscientific listening does suggest to me that the DAC section is really well, better than the PCM270x-only solution used by 3MOVE or Go-Vibe USB DAC. I would have love to listen to the line-out but FiiO has decided they won't have a dedicated 3.5mm output for line-out. Instead, they prefer a dock solution (which hopefully we will see a separate cradle for it). I think it goes without saying that E7 sound much better when fed by the DAC than by Nano4.

EQ
I think the bass boost function deserves some further explanation. On Lv0, bass boost is off and the general sound signature is on the cold, analytical side. On Lv3, it is very warm, with the treble slightly roll off. In fact, it is a bit like the bass boost on E5 (signature wise), but E7 does it in a more gentle way. The actual bass boost on Lv3 isn't massive, but it does give a much warmer and fuller bottom. Lv1 and Lv2 fill in the gap between the two, with Lv1 as the warmer Lv0 and Lv2 as the more analytical Lv3. I think the whole bass boost function works more like a general EQ giving different sound signature, which I prefer over just a simple bass boost.



The FiiO family: E1, E3, E5, E7, and FiiO L1


FiiO amp with Travagan's Colors, iBasso, T3D/T4, Go-Vibe Derringer, and Linearossa W1.


Conclusion
It has been a long road of making and waiting, but finally E7 has come to live. It is almost every bit it was set out to be and FiiO has done a great job to achieve its goal of making a budget portable DAC amp with a fantastic value. I think It will be the new standard of the industry, to say the least, when it comes to measuring price/performance ratio of any portable DAC amp.

The only question left is: when will TI deliver those overdue chips to FiiO so the full production can begin?

Small update: After roughly 100 hours of burn-in, I give E7 another listening against T4 and W1 using RE252. I can't say in 100% certainty but it does feel the soundstage is opened up by a tiny bit. Still not quite as good as T4 or W1 but it is better than before as background detail is easier to notice in comparison. The overall presentation seems less grainy and edgy than before. On previous listening, I preferred T4 just a little bit over E7, but now I think the line is really blurring.
post #2 of 195
Thank you so much ClieOS for all the hard work you put in. Everyone including myself really appreciate the effort. Can't wait for the darn thing to come out now to match my Clip+. Any word on the E9?
post #3 of 195
nice review! how do you feel the E7 compares with the T3D when pairing with the RE0? i know you said the Lv0 BB on the E7 is a bit too cold for the RE0, but how would Lv1 BB on the E7 compare with the T3D when using the RE0?
post #4 of 195
Very nice, and the special edition they made for you is very cool of them. So have you noticed any burn in changes yet?
post #5 of 195
wow, it really looks like a DAP
post #6 of 195
Whoa, no dedicated line out? How did I manage to miss this in the speculation thread .

Aside from that great write-up as always. Much appreciated .
post #7 of 195
For some reason the E7 reminds me a lot of the AMP3...I wonder if FiiO will consider (or has considered) including more onboard memory (or maybe even expandable memory like microSD) so that it can be a combo AMP/DAC/DAP
post #8 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xan7hos View Post
For some reason the E7 reminds me a lot of the AMP3...I wonder if FiiO will consider (or has considered) including more onboard memory (or maybe even expandable memory like microSD) so that it can be a combo AMP/DAC/DAP

+2
post #9 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soul_Est View Post
Thank you so much ClieOS for all the hard work you put in. Everyone including myself really appreciate the effort. Can't wait for the darn thing to come out now to match my Clip+. Any word on the E9?


Poor ClieOS is busting his butt, and you want to know about the e9.............lol, me too!
post #10 of 195
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EraserXIV View Post
nice review! how do you feel the E7 compares with the T3D when pairing with the RE0? i know you said the Lv0 BB on the E7 is a bit too cold for the RE0, but how would Lv1 BB on the E7 compare with the T3D when using the RE0?
RE0 sounds better with T3D. Given that T3D is almost $50 more expensive (and without an DAC), I think the result is expectable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kshelton View Post
So have you noticed any burn in changes yet?
Haven't really notice any burn-in so far. There are one 1000uF power cap and 6 coupling caps needed to condition (I believe there are two film caps on the line-in as well), but I am not sure how much they will benefit from burn-in. If they do burn-in, all the better

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljokerl View Post
Whoa, no dedicated line out? How did I manage to miss this in the speculation thread .
Line-out has been moved to the dock connector. I asked James @ FiiO and their concern is that people connecting their headphone to the line-out to "try it out" which could possibly damage their headphone and even worst, their hearing. They have many non-audiophiles customers so the decision is made not to risk any chance. There could be a cradle (with line-out jack) released later if enough interest has been shown, or else the line-out will be left to the upcoming E9.

On extra note: Teclast T51 / Nationite s:flo2 doesn't work well with E7 - it has a fixed gain of 3dB and when paired with T51 / s:flo2 strong output on the line-out, will excess the outputting capability of E7 and start to distort on slightly higher volume. It doesn't really matter anyway since T51 / s:flo2 has such a nice headphone-out, you don't gain improvement from pairing it with E7.
post #11 of 195
oooh, that really does look really nice
post #12 of 195
NuForce uDAC killer?

Great review as usual, ClieOS.
post #13 of 195
Forgive me if I'm being ignorant, but what is the word on the price?

Also, another great and informative review ClieOS.
post #14 of 195
Thread Starter 
Price is almost certain to be around US$80~US$85 when it hits the market. FiiO is actually worrying that some dealers might want to sell it at a lower price, so you do the math.
post #15 of 195

It just looks like you have two DAPs hooked up to each other

Thanks for the impressions, ClieOS.
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