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FiiO E9 Review

post #1 of 1323
Thread Starter 

FiiO E9 Review

 

First Impressions:  Hmm the shape is somehow different than what thought it would be and that dial really is big.  Not sure if I think it’s too big.  Plugging it in its immediately apparent that the little blue light is practically covered by that dial, it’s not exactly a big deal but it just seems wrong.  The rest of the thing is really quite nice, feels sturdy and solid.

 

Plugging the E7 into the top of it, it slots in nicely but then nothing happened.  So I pulled it out and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  Turns out you have to turn on the E7 separately from the E9.  I really can only assume this was an engineering issue rather a decision someone made and even though it’s not really a big deal it’s irritating.  Anyway time to let it run for a while.

 

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Lows:  On the whole the lows are ever so slightly enhanced, a little bit warm and little bit rich.  It gives a really pleasant, gentle warming that is just lovely.  Lows are smooth and deep.  Okay but I do have to moan here, why can’t I use the bass boost?  While in my head I know it must have been an engineering issue, a line out is a line out, not a let’s call it line out but hardware EQ it anyway.  So I do get why, I really do but I don’t like it.  Particularly I wanted to see what it could do with the Grado 325is with a bass boost and I can’t.  I know it shouldn’t be bothering me but it is.

 

That aside the bass does come across as wonderfully natural sounding and I suspect that added tiny hint of warmth is coming from the Wolfson DAC in the E7.  In fact the E9 in the lows sound really similar in tone to the E7.  Obviously it is far more powerful an amp so can drive things far better that the little amp in the E7 alone. 

 

Okay I still can’t get over no bass boost, v miffed.

 

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Mids:  Again the mids here really remind me of the E7 in tone but are just better.  It’s not really surprising this is the case given it’s the insides of the E7 that are doing the thinking and turning that digital signal into analogue.  That signal then skips the baby amp in the E7 and springs to life in the E9.  The description of the mids therefore is going to be rather like it was for the E7, rich and liquid with a hint of added warmth.  Not that I’m complaining it’s a very pleasant sound.  The amp also has spades of power and can drive the HD600 beautifully.  I feel like I’m not really saying much about the mids but reviewing amps I find so much harder than headphones.  Amp’s make slight characteristic changes, they nudge things in a direction rather than change how things sound.  They may enable a headphone to come to life but that potential has to be there in the first place.  Assuming that potential is there then the E9 really makes the most of that DAC in the E7 and shows up how much better the DAC is than the amp in it.  The mids are very clean, very clear and very, very pleasant.

 

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Highs:  A bit like the E7 the highs are not as shimmery and delicate as I might like but they are a big step up from the E7.  There they have far better detail retrieval but still not totally perfect.  If I’m honest they still have a tendency to edginess to emphasis detail and on the treble happy Grado’s it’s really not something that’s needed.  Sticking on the HD515 though is a different story, they don’t have the clarity of the other full size cans I have and that slight crisp edge really works for them.  In fact the E9 really does wonders for the HD515, throw enough power at anything and they tend to improve in my opinion.  I would prefer things to have a more delicate nature in the highs but I guess you can’t have everything and it’s not like they are bad or anything, just not styled how I like it.

 

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Interface:  I can’t say I really like how the E9 operates, I can’t see the on light because its hidden by the big dial (however the big dial is really nice to use) and I don’t like that turning the E9 on or off doesn’t do the same to the plugged in E7.  I know that they are all really petty small complaints but they really niggle me.

 

Power:  There is absolutely shed loads of power here.  With the HD600 on low gain, about 10:30 is as far as I get before thinking it’s getting unpleasantly loud.  Why on earth there is soooooo much power available I don’t know as I cant imagine a headphone that needs it all, I actually wonder why it doesn’t have speaker out connections, the power is there.  These have more than enough power to make even the deafest user happy.

 

Transparency:  It’s good but maybe not perfect.  That really shouldn’t be taken as a negative, more as expression of how it sounds and that’s leaning towards the warm and more intimate.  I feel like I’m re writing the E7 review here.  The Wolfson DAC is clearly at work here.  The differentiator is that the E9 can obviously drive things better.  The E9 opens things up more and makes things feel fuller and more effortless.  You get the impression there is a lot of headroom and that’s because there is.

 

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DAC:  In my opinion the DAC here is what’s in control of the sound.  As I said in the E7 review I thought the Wolfson WM8740 wasn’t the limiting factor in its performance and the E9 bares that out.  Oh and btw the Wolfson WM8740 is the same DAC that iBasso are putting in the new D12.  Yes that’s right the E7 has the same DAC as the D12.  The E9 lets you get the best out of that DAC.  It just does everything better than the 7 and lets the little Wolfson really stretch it legs.  It really all feels so organic and naturally effortless.  There is a reason people like Wolfson you know.  And to think I used to go past their big shinny glass building regularly and think who the hell are Wolfson?

 

 

Value:  Well the E9’s newness means I can’t seem to find it anywhere, I did manage to find it one place and actually in the UK too, PJBOX has it going for £75 so that seems pretty in line with the expected US$100 mark.  I’m not sure I really have to say it but it’s a FiiO and have they made anything yet that hasn’t been heralded as great value?  Tbh this could be the most interesting product they have made yet and if I recall there where stories of there going to be a speaker add on for this.  Not really sure why this doesn’t have binding post itself as the power is there but hey.  You get a lovely little slab of aluminium and it makes a wonderful noise.  I’m not sure it’s such a great value proposition if you don’t have an E7 as it would always feel like something was lacking.  However once this starts hitting the retail supply chain I’m sure ever seller will offer its as a combo deal for the 2 and there is just no way that’s not going to represent great value.

 

It would make a lovely Christmas present you know.

 

SDC11353.JPG

 

Conclusion:  I feel like I’ve been a little wishy washy about the E9 as it’s not a jump out at you product.  It doesn’t have any grandiose, dramatic OMG moments.  It just quietly does its thing and makes a beautiful noise.  To fuss, no drama it just does what it does.  It’s so subtle that its only when you compare directly to the E7 amp you can see there is that difference.  It’s just better. 

 

Now here comes the rub.  There are silly things that annoy me here and I’m not sure if they can be changed but if so, FiiO please do. The first thing is that no bass boost, now it’s something I’m willing to forgive in theory but I strangely find myself not really being able to let it drop.  I doubt I’d even use it if I had it but the fact that I can’t means I desperately want to try it.  That the bass and the way it offered three different amounts of boost was something I liked so much about the E7 even if I hardly ever used it.  I can deal with not ever having had something but it feels like it was dangled in front of me and then was snatched away at the last moment.  It makes me sad.

 

The other thing, and again it’s a small thing but why the hell won’t the E7 turn off.  Granted I don’t know how you would make it do so but the integration of the two just screams at me that it should operate in unison.  That I’ve also taken to using as a DAC/line out for my little desktop speaker set up means that stupid itunes needs to be restarted every time something has been switched off.  It’s annoying and I’m not just leaving everything on, I did for a few days and it bothered me.  I know there has to be a good reason for it but nevertheless I do not like it.

 

I feel like I’m being horribly unkind to the E9 as it really is a great device and when paired to the E7 it’s a killer combo.  To guess about the costs and let’s say £75 for the E9, actually scratch that.  Oh my, I have just noticed that PJBOX is doing the E7 & E9 combo for £114.25 (unusual figure if you ask me) which is pretty astonishing value.  Think of it like you buying a little desktop amp/DAC and you get to pull off a bit of and use it as a portable amp too.  There just isn’t anything product out there I can think of that does the same.  Hell, that’s less than what I paid for the Icon mobile once you added in shipping and Parcel Farce’s abuse fee’s.  What’s more is it sounds great and has more power than you can shake a stick at.  There is no way anyone’s buying this and complaining it’s all too quiet for them.

 

Oh and most importantly it totally fits in with the decor of my desk. J

post #2 of 1323

Blue light - Why not just put on your right side? I have no problem seeing the LED from that side.

 

Power On/Off - Is it really that much of a pain to turn off both devices? It takes a fraction of a second longer than the E7 to turn on/off when paired with the E9. Are we just getting lazy here?

 

Bass Boost EQ - you COULD use the E7 as an undocked DAC/PRE-AMP and hook it up to the E9's line in via 3.5mm cable. It gives you all the E7's function at the expense of the E9 getting a pre-amped signal and that the E7 is no longer docked. I have done this and there is no noticeable loss of SQ when comparing the E7's Bass Boost 0 vs the docked E7. Beggars can't be choosers if they want the other E7's Bass Boost levels...

 

At the price point, you are getting one HELL of an amp that can power both my K701 and DT990/600 with relative ease... I'd find it hard to believe that something in the price range can compare.


Edited by Mad Lust Envy - 11/7/10 at 8:14am
post #3 of 1323

You probably can't see the power light because it's on the left of your laptop and thus blocking your view. Mine is on the right and it is clearly visible.
 

Also there is a workaround for the bass boost; just simply connect them via 3.5mm instead of docked. Yes I know it's not using a proper line-out and not as pretty as being docked this way, but it works.

 

And maybe I'm just misinterpreting your wording; but the E7 does turn off... Just hold down the power for a few seconds. If you meant together with the E9, all I have to say is "meh."

 

I personally give my E7/E9 very high ratings especially for the price point.

 

EDIT: Mad Lust Envy beats me again... lol.


Edited by Riku540 - 11/7/10 at 8:16am
post #4 of 1323

Hahaha, same exact thoughts. XD

post #5 of 1323

you dont hear much of a difference mainly because your cans dont need extra juice to go to their full potential. But if you use cants like the beyerdynamic D990 600 ohms or the k701 you will for sure hear the difference it makes. For me it did big time!

The only thing I can criticise them about is their final inspection testing. I dont think fiio does that as for me my 3.5 mm headphone jack was faulty out of the box. However considering the price I sort of get why that is so.

post #6 of 1323

The 3.5mm jack is a bit moody on mine too. You have to kinda  work your headphone in right or you might lose one side in the sound. Certainly not an input I'd  wanna constantly connect and disconnect from too much, so I'll stick to the 6.35mm jack, as it's perfect...

 

And he's right. I tested the M50 AND Creative Aurvana Live which were low impedance cans and they didn't benefit much from the E9, in fact they sounded almost identical to when I used them with the E7. Not saying the HD600 is easy to drive themselves...

 

The E9 definitely shows it's strengths with hard to drive headphones.


Edited by Mad Lust Envy - 11/7/10 at 9:20am
post #7 of 1323

I think it could definitely be a quality inspection thing. Some of you may know I am on my second unit; the first one had a faulty dock and caused me to lose the left channel. My new one works perfectly in all connections; although admittedly I have been babying my E7/E9 in fear of something happening again.

post #8 of 1323

ordered the combo deal at PJBox (I was searching for a place to buy them and read this review)

 

hope they will be here in Holland soon, can't wait

post #9 of 1323

Proglover, I owned the DT770/80 at one time and I wholeheartedly believe the E9 will benefit it GREATLY.

post #10 of 1323
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riku540 View Post

You probably can't see the power light because it's on the left of your laptop and thus blocking your view. Mine is on the right and it is clearly visible.
 

Also there is a workaround for the bass boost; just simply connect them via 3.5mm instead of docked. Yes I know it's not using a proper line-out and not as pretty as being docked this way, but it works.

 

And maybe I'm just misinterpreting your wording; but the E7 does turn off... Just hold down the power for a few seconds. If you meant together with the E9, all I have to say is "meh."

 

I personally give my E7/E9 very high ratings especially for the price point.

 

EDIT: Mad Lust Envy beats me again... lol.



well the reason it cant go on the right is because tho cable got in the way using the mouse, i tried it there at first but had to move it.

 

oh and yes you can of course turn off manually but it niggles me that turning off the E9 doesnt turn off the E7.

 

 

i did say they were petty things but i cant help that they bother me and mar an other wise fantastic value bit of kit

post #11 of 1323

Re: Mark2410's review (the Head-Fi quoting system just doesn't work well for in-line reply comments)

My E9 sits on my right side as well, that's the only side of my desk that has any space left. LOL. But the light does bounce off of the desk so I have no trouble telling that it is on. However, it certainly would be better if it was placed higher up so it can be seen from both left and right.

I happen to have a very old E7, one where the internal DAC is operational without turning it on. So all I have to do is turn on the E9 and everything works. There has been a few revisions, the newest E7's have a red glowing FiiO emblem when docked into the E9. With regards to using the EQ - this was one of the first questions that I asked FiiO after receiving the E9 engineering sample from them. As I understand it, the dock output from the E7 takes the signal after the DAC but before the EQ/AMP stages of the E7, so it's just not possible to add in EQ to the dock output signal. However, as others have mentioned, daisy chaining the E7's headphone output into the E9's line-in will provide access to the EQ function.

Why so much power? I asked exactly the same question. In fact, I asked why even need a gain switch when even the low gain setting will all but make 600Ohm headphones too loud to safely listen to. The answer was this: the circuit and ALPS volume POT provides the best performance between the 9 and 12 o'clock position. So the gain setting should be set so that the E9's volume knob is within or close to this range for normal listening. Indeed, I now find myself twiddling with the LO/Hi gain setting switch every time I switch headphones.

I too share the sentiment on that this could be the most interesting product that FiiO has ever made released () up to now. FiiO has been really understated in their presentation of this product - no long paragraphs of flowery language, no superlatives, just a healthy dose of their typical modesty. You can tell the company is run by engineers who does not like to over promise and under deliver.

 

Great review, thanks for sharing!

 

Jack

post #12 of 1323
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad Lust Envy View Post

Proglover, I owned the DT770/80 at one time and I wholeheartedly believe the E9 will benefit it GREATLY.



 yeah, was hoping for that:)

 

it will problably be used for a Grado SR225 also in the near future..

 

Nice review by the way, Mark, thanks

post #13 of 1323

Nice Kindle tongue.gif

My plan was once to get a  Matrix M-Stage, a uDac2 and an E7 for portable use, but now I see that I can get this and the E7 for much less than the cost of the M-Stage alone. My wallet would thank me, but if I just got this would I ever be truly satisfied? I can't be sure. Certainly with my current cans, though I plan to invest in some HD 600s at some point.

I also completely understand about the niggles - exactly the kind of things that would drive me nuts, even if the amp worked flawlessly otherwise.

post #14 of 1323

Would the E9 be enough to drive the HD650 and if so, would you consider them audiophile quality?

post #15 of 1323

They're only 300 ohms and the E9 supports up to 600 no problems. Yes it will drive the 650 and yes it is audiophile quality.

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