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Fiio E11 Review (and comparison E7 - amp section only)

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
The purpose of this thread is to collect my thoughts after 4 days with the E11 - and give my opinion on both the E11, and give a comparison with my E7.  Note that I'm comparing the E7 as amp only.  I still regard it as a very good entry level DAC - and I'm still definitely continuing to use it for this function.  Unfortunately I don't have enough experience to compare the E11 to other amps - so I'll have to leave it to others to respond as they see fit.
The E11 ->
For photos on the unboxing - and excellent impressions from Tai (ClieOS) - as well as being the main inital thread - go here : http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/552605/fiio-e11-the-initial-impression-final-thought
The E7 ->
Gear used in the review:
Fiio E11
Fiio E7
iPod Touch G4
Shure SRH 840
Audio Technica AD700
Music used:
All ALAC lossless - 
Adele (album '21') - "Set Fire to the Rain"
Amy Winehouse (album 'Back To Black) - "You Know I'm No Good"
Diana Krall (album 'The Girl In The Other Room') - "Love Me Like A Man"
Florence & The Machine (album 'Lungs') - "Howl" 
Julia Fischer & The Russian Philhamonic (album Tchaikovsky's Violin concerto in D) - "Melodie" 
Nils Lofgren (album 'Acoustic Live') - "Keith Don't Go"
I've chosen these tracks because I know each of them really well & each provide a basis for trying to contrast the two amps so I could draw a comparison.
The Specs:
Tai's review has far more details than this one on the specs - so I'll just limit myself to physical dimensions and main audio components.
The E11 measures approx 92 x 15 x 13mm (this includes the volume pot - in reality the main body is closer to 85mm in length).  The E7 is 96 x 55 x 15mm.  The E11 weighs 65g.  The E11 weighs 100g.
The E11 has a 3.5mm line in, a single 3.5mm H/P out, a mini USB slot for charging, and a manual volume knob.  It also has a hi/lo gain switch, 2 stage EQ (bass boost) off/1/2, and internal power switch mode (for high power).  The E7 has a 3.5mm line in, dual 3.5mm H/P out, mini USB for charging and also to enable the DAC function, a digital volume control, and 3 stage bass boost off/1/2/3.  The E7 is primarily a DAC that can be used as a portable amp - and can dock with the much more powerful E9.  The E11 is a stand alone portable amp.
The internal amp for the E11 is an AD8397 with TLE2426 + OPA690.  The E7 uses an AD8692 with a TPA6130.  (Someone let me know if I have that info wrong - I did a lot of googling).
The battery life for E11 is quoted as +10 hours.  The battery life for the E7 is quoted as 100 hours.
Accessories / Build
The E11 comes with a mini->mini interconnect, a USB charging cable, and a silicone band for holding your portable player and amp together.  It is all packed in a 85 x 115 x 22 mm metal box - which is sure to come in handy for cables etc.
The E7 came with similar mini->mini interconnect, a USB charging cable, and a silicone band - but also included a rubber/silicone molded protection case, and a velour pouch.
The E11 is very light 65g, and smaller than the E7 - both in footprint and thickness.  It literally gets lost when paired with my iPod.  The casing is aluminum top and bottom cover, with plastic around the side (grey) - but it is very nicely put together and feels quite sturdy.  The volume pot moves smoothly - but requires some force to change voume (so it's not going to 'accidently' blow your eardrums out while it's in your pocket).
The E7 is a little heavier at 100g.  The casing is brushed aluminium and it has an OLED screen.
The overall finish is very well done on both amps - nicely rounded corners, very good tactile buttons.
*The bass boost is off for both the E7 and the E11.  I am using the E11 on low power mode, but high gain on*
The Bass Boost / EQ Function
I'll get this out of the way first - as it's the only time I'll refer to the AD700 in the review. I used the bass boost on the E7 with the AD700 to supply a little bit of bass impact that these cans sometimes (IMO) need.  With the E7, there are 3 levels of boost.  I generally use the 1st level only - as it adds some low and mid level bass without overpowering the entire spectrum.  I find the level 2 and 3 bass boost to simply be too overpowering.  With the bass boost on 1, Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" gains a nice punch, while still retaining clarity and timbre in the vocals.  Going any higher than this just colours the overall sound too much.  With no boost - the AD700's unfortunately remain quite grainy and thin.
Comparatively with the E11, I memdiately notice that the AD700's are not quite so grainy (with no bass boost) - I'll allude more to this later.  Switching the boost to setting one definitely gives subtle boost at the bottom end - but it sounds more as if it's targeting only the  lower bass - there is very little colouration anywhere else in the spectrum.  Interestingly, level 2 gives another subtle boost - but again doesn't colour the rest of the spectrum.
So - IMO, the E11 bass boost has things exactly right.  Targeted where needed, and not colouring or muddying the rest of the spectrum.
Footnote - I don't use the bass boost on the E7 or E11 with either my Se425's or SRH840's - simply because IMO it's not needed.
For this I'm using Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain".  I use this rather than something with a lot of cymbals etc - mainly because her voice often reaches up to the upper registers - and it gives me a good point of reference - listening to the changes and contrasts.  The E7 delivers beautifully - it sounds very clear, and transparent on the SRH840's.  The only issue I have is occassionally the E7 delivers the top end a little too coldly and clinically - which on the well balanced SRH840's can lead every now and again to a strident treble (only with the high notes).  With the E11, the whole upper tone - while still clear and enjoyable is just a little warmer - and for my tastes much more pleasant to listen to.  There is no hint of stridency - yet I don't feel as though things are overly coloured either.  Switching to Juila Fischer - with the E7, this is rendered absolutley beautifully.  The violin simply feels extremely life like (and yes I've heard violins live).  Again at the very highest points, there can be just a touch of stridency.  It's not piercing - but it's there.  With the E11, there is the same clarity with the recording - but again the touch of warmth is noticeable.  If anything the E7 is probably closer to the true sound if it wasn't for the strident peaks.  But of the two - the E11 is simply more enjoyable to my ears.
Back to the E7 again - this time with a duo - Diana Krall's "Love Me Like a Man", and Nil's Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go".  Krall's velvety tones are simply wonderful and nicely contrast with the piano that is rendered really well. Switching to the E11 for contrast - once again, the first thing that I notice is the difference in warmth.  Both deliver the test tracks with marvelous clarity, tone, and smoothness.  I just find that with the 840's, I'm constantly enjoying the E11 more.  I guess with this review, I'm learning more about my own musical tastes than anything.  Kralls sultry-smooth vocals are as enjoyable as ever with both - but I'm often finding myself tapping along to the E11 because I get lost with the music.  Switching to "keith Don't Go" (I love this album - if you like acoustic guitar, it's a must buy), once again the similarity of two amps is very apparent.  They are both very, very transparent - with the difference being the E7 being a touch more clinical, and the E11 having the slightest touch of warmth.
For this I'm using FATM's "Howl" - simply because I love the song, and it has a very strong back beat.  With the E7's and the 840's, the bass is tight, carries great impact, and presented really well.  It is not over emphasised, nor muddies the rest of the spectrum.  Switching to the E11, and once again both the similarities and the contrasts are immediately apparent. The bass is presented almost exactly the same - but the warmth of E11 again just tames the highs a little more, and for me, the experience as a whole becomes more balanced and enjoyable.
For all of the above comparisons, I was using the E7 at around 16/60.  The SRH 840's are ridiculously easy to power - and the iPod Touch G4 obviously gives a good signal from it's LOD.  Comparatively the E11 is set at just under 2/8 for it's volume.  It's hard to say which will deliver more power by listening - because with these cans, any higher than the settings I have becomes uncomfortable.  All we can reply on is the stated specs:
E7 can deliver - 150mW (16Ω); 16mW (300Ω)
E11 can deliver - 300mW (16Ω); 35mW (300Ω) (with high voltage setting enabled)
E11 can deliver - 120mW (16Ω); 13mW (300Ω) (with low voltage setting enabled)
So it appears that depending on the setting you use - the E11 should be able to comfortably power some cans with a lot higher imnpedence // or a lot higher power requirement.
I've reread my review several times. and I can't help feeling a little let down that I kept repeating the same things.  The thing is that these two amps (for the price) deliver an extremely clean, clear and transparent signal.  They are also very similar in delivery with the main difference that the E7 appears very transparent and a touch cold/clinical, while the E11 is very transparent but a touch warm - if that makes sense.  I think the main thing is that if I just had the E7, I would be perfectly happy with what it delivers.  Couple the DAC - and for the money it is a fantastic package.  But for me - portably - I just find the E11 more musically pleasant.  I get lost in the music a little more.  With the smaller form factor, the lighter weight, the more specific bass boost, and the fantastic price point - and Fiio have what I am sure is the equivalent of Joker's "sonic diamond" rating.
If I remember correctly, Tai (in his review/impressions) described the E11 as close to having wire-with-gain.  I can really understand this now - although there is colouration with the warmth.  In other comments I remember one poster saying the E11 is a dark amp - personally i don't find this at all.  It''s too transparent (to me) for that.
FWIW, I've also used the E11 with my SE425's a lot over the last few days - and again while they do not need an amp, they pair very nicely with the E11.  I enjoy the sound more in tandem with the E11 than from the iPod Touch alone.  I've lost count of the number of times I've suddenly discovered myself tapping along to a favourite song as if it's a newly discovered masterpiece.
For those looking for primarily a DAC (desktop/netbook), for the money the E7 is a great option - with the added bonus that it makes a nice portable amp as well.  Mine will now stay on my desk awaiting the E9.  The E7 would also be great if you already own warmish cans, and want to add amplification without further colouring your current signature.  For those looking for a portable amp which will give great transparency with a touch of warmth - the E11 is a superb option.
Thank you Fiio for making great quality audio attainable for those of us who are living on a budget.
EDIT - UPDATE 1st March 2012
I've had the E11 over a year now - and I still use it when the mood takes me - I still like it's warmth, and occasionally use it's bass boost feature. My cans have changed quite a bit - I now have HD600, MS1i, and HM5 and for IEMs use Brainwavz B2 and (recently) Shure SE535 (Spec Ed).
What I need to comment on and make plain in this thread is a couple of issues I have noticed over time with the E11.
[1] Jack quality. While the input jack is still nice and tight, the output is actually quite loose. I'm not having any issues with connection drop-outs or anything - just thought it should be noted. If internal access to the jacks was relatively easy, I'd simply bend the metal connectors a little to tighten it. Unfortunately, I can't see a way to access them - so for now I'm just relatively careful how I handle it.
[2] Some weird noise / static from time to time. The E11 is not good in this area. I've noticed over time that I tend to get odd bursts of static when using the E11 with both iPod and iPhone (both via LOD). At first I thought it was my LOD - so I replaced that, but to no avail. Then I read about others who have had the same problem. Next, I started using the iPod in 'flight mode' - so all wireless signals are turned off. That seemed to work so far. Personally I have no problems with this - I pair the iPod with the E11 most of the time - and I don't need wireless (it's purely there for the music). For my iPhone, I usually operate ultra-portable (no amp) so no issues. But if you do have an iP4 and wireless connectivity is a must - be aware that you may have issues with EMF/electrical interference on the E11. I'm not the only one who has reported it - so just something to be aware of.
**UPDATE** - on Voldemort's blog he tested the E11 and found "Significant RF leakage from DC-DC converter into output" - this may be the cause of the static bursts after all.  Anyway - next trip overseas, I'm going to see what else is around.  Most of the time it doesn't bother me - but sometimes (particularly with IEMs) it gets annoying.



**UPDATE 19 March** - static either worsening, or maybe I'm just noticing it more.  In any event - I can no longer recommend the E11.  Static / noise now very annoying.  I've stopped using it.  Shopping for something else now ..... **


Turns out it can't be RF leakage from the DC-DC converter - as the frequency would be inaudible (96Mhz).  So I'm stumped as to what causes the weird static bursts.  In the end I gave the unit away.

post #2 of 41

Excellent review man, exactly what i was looking for. 

post #3 of 41

Dude, thanks you for this, i have Ipod touch G4 as well and its great that i can actually see what E11 setup looks like with pics and impressions of the two paired.


With even the same Incase slider too hehe tongue_smile.gif Nice with 2 silicone bands, wonder if they sell separates, i would guess any size silicone band would do though.


Question, is the volume hard to toggle on E11 or Touch screen easy accessible or any other problems of that nature?


Still on the fence whether i want to get the E11, having to lug that setup around in my pockets will be cumbersome.



Oh btw, im pretty sure its ClieOS that uses his "Sonic Diamond" rating, not Joker hehe




post #4 of 41

Nicely done - thank for contributing to Head-Fi. I especially like your photos, as mine are total crap.  redface.gif

post #5 of 41
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys.  Am learning as I go along.  Just wish I had more experience with other gear so I could give more of a comparison.  That will come in time.



The volume control is firm.  It's harder to turn on and off when it's paired with the iPod - as it needs a firm twist.  Once it's on though - I can adjust it relatively easily - just rolling it firmly with my thumb.  The band they include (I'm using the one from my E7 as well) is really a little loose with the Touch - it still slides a bit.  Somewhere along the line I need to either source (or make) a leather pouch that can hold both while still giving access to the Touch's screen.  Either that or go the velcro route (seriously considering that option).  I actually find it OK to carry around "paired" - I guess because I was getting used to the E7 in the same manner.  This current set-up is a lot more pocket friendly.  Oh and apologies to both Joker and ClieOS if I got the quoter wrong ;)



Thanks.  I'm hoping someone who owns a similar ibasso etc can compare it with the E11 eventually.  It's something I'd have liked to do as the whole review is just a little weak comparing only to the E7.  It was almost like comparing twins (boy/girl) redface.gif



Just another note from continued listening - as this may describe things better than I did above.  I'm listening to "The Sound of Muzak" by Porcupine Tree while I'm typing - and the resounding descriptors at the moment would be clear, detailed, warm ....... and sweet.  Nothing too tart or tangy - if that makes sense.  It's just a very, very enjoyable audio experience.




post #6 of 41

Dont be too concerned about the need for comparisons with non-Fiio amps : there simply arent very many amps in the E11/E7 price range, and trying to compare the E11 with something like the P4 would be grossly unfair to the Fiio. I was a massive cynic re Fiio until I bought the E9 - I still dont know how they pulled that one off for the price.

post #7 of 41

The black portions of the case, evertthing except the gray running around the sides is aluminium, not plastic as stated. Easy to see on the battery cover and I checked the top cover as well. Otherwise great review and I agree on your take of the E11.

post #8 of 41

Very nice review.. I was about to order the E11 but with Canada post workers on strike I will have to wait for that to end before ordering it now.. mad.gif

post #9 of 41
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

The black portions of the case, evertthing except the gray running around the sides is aluminium, not plastic as stated. Easy to see on the battery cover and I checked the top cover as well. Otherwise great review and I agree on your take of the E11.

Thanks for the correction John - I'll change the review.  I popped the cover again - and although it feels and looks like well molded plastic, I can see now that you're right.  It's quite thin aluminum but very sturdy.


post #10 of 41

Aluminium is what you want for RF rejection. I'm sure the cover was chosen for more than cosmetics.bigsmile_face.gif

You can get rid of the slight warmth by flipping the side switch to the L gain position but on good sources it will not be quite as good overall as it's a hair grainier and less insightful. They likely decrease the gain with higher feedback.

Edited by goodvibes - 6/4/11 at 5:22am
post #11 of 41

i was planning to buy the e7 and e9 combo, but your review, and others, made me think.


would it be possible to couple the e7 and e11 for portable use too only use the e7 dac and the e11 amp section or would it just mess  up the sound?


or in this case would it be better to go in a totally different way, like a ibasso d4 or d3?

post #12 of 41
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Drowner View Post

i was planning to buy the e7 and e9 combo, but your review, and others, made me think.


would it be possible to couple the e7 and e11 for portable use too only use the e7 dac and the e11 amp section or would it just mess  up the sound?


or in this case would it be better to go in a totally different way, like a ibasso d4 or d3?

Can you clarify what your audio chain would be?  When you mention "E7 DAC" & "portable" - I want to make sure you're not getting confused.


E7 - is primarily a portable DAC for laptop and desktop use - it provides an alternative to the computer's inbuilt sound card.  That's how I use mine.  For additional desktop amplification, you can add the E9 (dock the E7 to the E9) to get a very clean DAC and great amp.


The E7 can also be used as a portable amp for pairing with a DAP (digital audio player) - preferably by utilising it's line out dock (LOD).


E11 is a portable amp for pairing with a DAP (digital audio player) - preferably by utilising it's line out dock (LOD).


I couldn't see the point in trying to pair an E7 and an E11 - for a portable (as in DAP) setup - you can't use the DAC in the E7 - assuming you using an iPod or similar.

post #13 of 41

I originally bought the e7/e9 combo. I have been given the chance to return my E7 and get the E11 in its place.


For my home/desktop setup currently settled on the Asus STX with the FiiO E9 and it sound great. I don't really see myself using the E7 DAC portion other than at work from time to time (this will soon be replaced with my LOD'd, rockboxed iPod and FiiO E11) so there really won't be any loss in quality at work.


Given that the E7 DAC portion won't really be used at home or at work, would you guys recommend me swapping for the E11?


I own Ultrasone Pro900's (modded to tighten bass and remove some sibilance via a hybrid kees/markl mod)


I really like the sound from my desktop setup and would like the solution that sounds close to that.




post #14 of 41
Thread Starter 

If you don't need the E7's DAC, then the E11 is definitely the way to go IMO.  As a portable amp, it's smaller, more powerful, and adds a touch of warmth which really sweetens the highs (great pairing with my SRH840).  It still retains a lot of transparency though - so it's not going to colour things too much.  For portability, it's a really good little entry point amp.

post #15 of 41
From some of the comments that you make is it fair to assume this is your first review?

If so, you did a great job. Nice pictures, explained what equipment and music you used and particularly detailed.

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