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Fiio E9 *The Big Users Guide* ~ The 10 x headphone round-up ~ How does yours stack-up with the...

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 

 

 

This review came about after seeing countless posts and debate over what this little wonder amplifier

known as the 'Fiio E9' supposedly 'can' and 'cannot' do.

 

I decided to set out to my local audio store for myself and see how it would handle a bruising 4 hour

audition with 8 x headphones that span from the mid range to the top tier.

 

While it was impossible to test every single headphone known to man, I hope the following sample

sheds a tonne of light on how your headphone might stack up when used with the Fiio E9.

 

Notes:-

 

All headphones were run without activating the high-gain switch since all necessary volume

was achieved at a maximum of 12 'o clock. There is simply no need for this functionality on

the E9, it's use proved to attack the E9's weaknesses by reducing the sound-stage and congesting

the pace and rhythm. This is quite a common aspect for most amplifiers, I can second this as being

true for my Violectric V200 with most if not all headphones I've tried. Leave the gain switch alone.

 

Test Rig:

 


Fiio E9 (brand new out of the box as a demo unit for the store room, 0 hours on it)

Violectric V800 DAC

ALO Mini to RCA cable

Burson 160 standalone amplifier (this was to be my constant to check how the Fiio E9 was faring)

 

IMG_0607 (1320x990).jpg

 


Method:

 

Pretty simple, I only used 3 tracks (Cyndi Lauper's 'I drove all night', Keith Richard's 'Yap Yap' and

a Mozart Violin Concerto in G Major KV 216 Allegro from HD track.com) - each track was played

through with the designated headphone on the Fiio E9 and then played back once again on the

Burson 160, this was repeated twice and the observational notes were taken for this review.

 

Each headphone was given a final performance rating in relation to the comparison between

the amps ~ Very good, recommended, or poor.

 

 

AT-AD900

 

IMG_0611 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

This headphone fared pretty well as was to be expected being a low impedance

non-demanding headphone, compared to the Burson 160 bass impact was lessened

on the Fiio E9 yet it felt perfectly adequate for the AD900's airy character in the first

place. Volume was set at 9 'o clock for comfortable listening. The Fiio E9's warmth

made it's presence known with this headphone. Overall, a very transparent listening

experience free from any graininess. The Burson did little to run away in this match-up. 

 

Verdict: Very good

 

 

AT-W1000X

 

IMG_0623 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

Volume made it's way to the 10 'o clock position for comfortable listening levels, bass

performance was clearly superior on the Burson 160, the Fiio E9 reacting poorly to

this headphone through either the 3.5mm or 6.5mm jack, the bass was merely a

full thud lacking any sort of texture or extension. Switching over to the Burson 160,

the matter was immediately rectified and the bass was tight and prominent.

Soundstage, one of this headphone's strengths also played into the E9's weakness

for spreading and separating each note played - The W1000X also made it clear

that on some highs, the treble felt rolled off on the Fiio E9.

 

Verdict: Recommended

 

 

Shure 840

 

IMG_0625 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

We have a winner~! - This was the match of the day by far for reasons

that are beyond me. Switching back and forth with the Burson showed

very little difference. Volume was set at the 9 'o clock position.

Separation in particular was not any better on the Burson, even through

it's own low impedance jack. Performance suffered however for the 840

through the Fiio 3.5mm jack. The smaller jack in general proved to be

inferior in most occasions for all headphones tested.

 

Verdict: Very, very good ~ thinking about an 840 and E9? Go now!

 

 

AiAiAi TMA-1

 

IMG_0630 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

This headphone proved to be the difficult child today, liking neither

the Fiio E9 or the Burson, it was also the sole candidate that insisted

on hissing and making all sorts of subtle yet audible noise when not

playing but fiddling with the volume control. The 3.5mm once again

proved to be useless and so back on the 6.5mm jack the Fiio E9

was thoroughly bested by the Burson 160 in terms of detail

separation and coaxing some treble extensions from the capricious

TMA-1's. Perhaps, I've spoiled the review ~ I found the TMA-1 difficult

to like because it failed the very first essential criteria ~ clarity ~

or lack thereof in this case, it's pairing with the E9 did it no favors.

 

Verdict: Poor, but then again that may not be the E9's problem

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250ohm)

 

IMG_0631 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

Once again the E9 proved that it could drive this demanding headphone

to any volume desired, all of that even before 1 'o clock on the volume

dial. Passages felt fast through the E9 compared to the Burson's

relaxed presentation and pace. Sound stage also suffered through

the E9, it managed to draw some width but it was not as deep or

as convincing as the Burson 160. Overall, this was the first surprise

of the day in that it powered them reasonably, unfortunately the

dynamics were not up to the level of the Burson. The level of

clarity however was almost a dead-heat, once again the E9

showed excellent grain-free reproduction across the board.

 

Verdict: Satisfactory

 

 

Audeze LCD-2 (revision #2)

 

IMG_0637 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

The big Audeze LCD-2's volume was set to 11 'o clock.

Instantly being quite the mid-centric headphone, the most

apparent change was the forward presentation from the E9

- some would say, too forward, as in 'Grado forward'.

Th rich, concentrated lushness that LCD-2 is renowned for was 

diluted through the Fiio E9 - the bass impact again leaning

towards a one note thud, overall, it was all perfectly listenable 

but the Burson 160 managed to better it convincingly across

most tracks. Once again, the higher the resolution of the

track ~ the more the Burson started to lengthen the gap.

 

Verdict: Satisfactory. If you buy an LCD-2 and you cannot upgrade

the E9 for awhile, don't worry, it won't be as bad as you think.

 

 

Sennheiser HD650

 

IMG_0633 (1320x990).jpg

 

 

Volume was set to 11 to 12 'o clock depending on the track.

This was a very pleasant surprise, by now you're already guessing

my next turn on words. Yes, the Burson 160 showed more detail,

it particularly seemed to interpret guitar through the HD650 more

convincingly than the E9 in terms of tone, cymbal decay was also

more extended and satisfying through the Burson, however the

E9 on less than super high quality tracks ~ bridged the gap ~

and the HD650's forgiving signature on the E9 seemed to be more difficult

to pick on Cyndi Lauper than with some of the numbers from

HDtracks.com in 24bit/96Khz.

 

Verdict: Recommended, quite a good match ~ yes it surprised - a lot.

 

 

Sennheiser HD800

 

IMG_0640 (1320x990).jpg

 

Some Head-Fi members from the 'High End' forum may be brandishing

their torches ready for a lynching right about now smile.gif

 

Again, I cannot reiterate this enough ~ 12 'o clock on the dial and the

volume was high enough to definitely vibrate my ear drums.

 

Dynamically speaking? Ahh not so good, then again it was saved by

the fact that it's classier counterpart - the Burson 160 - did not put

up much of a show with the HD800 either. Sound stage began to

grow and emanate on the Burson while on the Fiio E9 it failed

to materialize in the first place. Still, the pace through Mozart's

Allegro was quite satisfying on the E9 and overall while it did not convey

the true ability of the HD800 ~ it did not make a mess of it as

anticipated - I can think of a few other amps for more money

that certainly have performed not as notably as the little Fiio. 

 

Yes, we're looking at you Nuforce Icon smile.gif

 

*Updated 4th December 2011*

 

* Violectric V181 replaced the Burson 160 as the comparative amp

  for the following two headphones:- Pro 900 & DT990 600ohm.

 

 

Ultrasone Pro 900

 

IMG_0663 (990x1320).jpg

 

Volume dial on the E9 was set to 9 o clock. This headphone

is renowned for it's big textured bass and somewhat recessed

mids, the V181 amplifier revealed this to be quite true, lots of

leakage over from the upper bass region into vocals. The E9

however with it's forward presentation made this less prominent

- to my ears the Fiio E9 was a better match! Alas, the Pro 900's

bass took a hit, there was less of it and the quality suffered

compared to the German V181. A real dilemma for those 

considering this combination. It will make your Pro 900 more

versatile outside of electronic beat based music but the bass

performance on it's own may disappoint. 

 

Verdict: Recommended, especially if you want to use your Pro 900

for a bit of everything, vocals were reasonable.

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT 990 (600-ohm)

 

IMG_0657 (990x1320).jpg

 

This headphone is one prickly pear having already refused to perform

with an SPL Phonitor and Sugden Masterclass HA4, this one is my

very own and I was starting to sweat after this realisation - would this

headphone like any amplifier I had on offer? frown.gif

 

Volume was set to 12 o clock on the Fiio E9 for maximum volume.

 

Thankfully both delivered in this instance, the Violectric V181 

sounded more forward than the E9 which was quite unusual

given that the Fiio has been the more forward amp in most

match-ups up until now. Transparency and background detail

also went to the V181 but the E9 held it's ground with this 600ohm

beast - keeping the DT990's attributes in check, big mid-bass to rival

the Pro 900 (while lacking the Pro's sub bass signature) and the highs

were nicely extended. The real difference was in the details, you could

hear things in the musical background on the V181 like a faint guitar chord,

a drum snare here or there, while on the E9 - that detail disappeared

completely.

 

Verdict: Recommended, it deserves the credit for powering the big

Beyer and delivering a coherent performance, no harsh highs at all

to my ears which is a revelation considering this can has a reputation

for that. 

 

 

Overall Conclusions

 

Hopefully this round-up has cleared up a few debates

 

1) The Fiio E9 will positively rip your head off with blaring volume using an HD800 on low gain after

    you pass the 2 o clock position. 

 

2) If you think of headphone amplifers as just a means of increasing volume. Then the E9 is the

    best thing since the invention of the wheel and sliced bread. Look no further.

 

3) The real picture is that once you head into $500+ headphone territory, it's not about volume,

    it's about letting those little nuances, details, tiny differences that make-up a high end headphone's

    personality to shine through the music as it passes through the amp.

 

    Sadly, this is where the E9 hits a wall, it cannot convey the true signal from a Chesky or Linn Records

    24/96 analogue signal, somewhere in it's design the message is muddled up somewhat. What comes out

    at the headphone is more often than not, perfectly acceptable ~ but it would make no sense to spend your

    hard earned cash for such headphone only to hear 80% or so of what it can do. Sound stage, detail,

    separation and especially Prat will suffer immensely.

 

 

  Fiio E9

 

  Strengths ~ Powerful, able to deliver ample volume to any headphone on the market today,

  grain-free presentation, well built, light and beyond good value for the price. Will suit a lot of

  $100-$250 headphones.

 

  Weaknesses ~ It will make any flagship loud but you're not hearing what it can do anyway,

  scratchy background noise while fiddling with volume when not playing music. 

 

I would like to extend a huge thank you to George at Addicted to Audio in Melbourne for giving

me the opportunity, time and space to conduct this 4 hour long audition today. He deserves a

big thank you for being a huge part of the headphone community down here. I'm not the only

one who appreciates this I'm sure.

 

 


Edited by Gwarmi - 12/3/11 at 3:01pm
post #2 of 52

Thanks!

A very interesting read!

And we all thought you needed massive tubes to light up those 'phones!

biggrin.gif

post #3 of 52

The e9's only limtations are the 10ohm output impendance and 43ohm on the 3.5mm jack and the -88db noise level and the noise the pot makes when adjusting it, it measures flat 20hz-20khz - 0.1db no bass or treble roll off the high output impendance might alter this on low impendance headphones below 64ohm but otherwise it will be fine.

post #4 of 52
Thread Starter 

 

I'd heard it before but today the penny really dropped - it's a cracking piece of gear for $134 over the counter

over here - I've heard so much worse at double the price.

 

AKG Q701 would've been nice to put through this test but alas it was still in transit.

post #5 of 52

interesting post! I think I will be trying out my E9 with my 650's now! biggrin.gif

post #6 of 52

Excellent write up!  Perfectly done.  I love the diversity with the multi headphone comparisons.  This could be an excellent guide for people trying to gauge whether the E9 will work well with their particular headphone.

 

Thanks for doing this wink_face.gif

post #7 of 52

I liked the Fiio E9 when I got it, The OPA2134 didn't work that well with my AKG 702's but I liked the fact it had machine op-amp sockets. So I opened it up and tried different op-amps in it, and settled with the LT 1364 with the AKG 702s which I used with the fiio E9 on High gain.  With my DT 880 pro 250, I use OPA2111AM in it or LT1364,But I still use High gain.  I did try the OPA2134 back in it but its narrowness and its  bass was mudy or boomy like sound signature made me take it back out.

 

I don't regret my Fiio E9 purchase mainly as it what I could afford, As i like the fact i can just rely on it to control the volume without having to do it on my sound card. Tho I just wish it case was more workable for rolling op-amps and bigger in-case I get around to putting Distree op-amps in it. Right now those will not fit unless I was handy with power tools which I not and tried to make a bigger case for it.

 

Tho I admit if I had a bunch of money or money income I prolly would had gotten that Matrix M amp instead because of its being bigger inside.


Edited by genclaymore - 11/30/11 at 8:32am
post #8 of 52

Gwarmi

Nice write up mate.  Bet you had fun auditioning all the gear too L3000.gif

 

I really enjoyed my E7/E9 combo when I had them - and as far as volume goes, the E9 is incredibly powerful.  This year I switched to an Audio-gd NFB-12.  Wasn't sure if it would be a side-grade or not when I did it, but ultimately glad I did.  The Fiio combo is very close in price to the NFB-12.   Like you I also found the biggest difference was in dynamics - with the NFB-12 just having more body.

 

I'll be interested to see any incremental changes when I can eventually afford to upgrade source and amp again (hopefully sometime next year).  Next purchase likely to be Valhalla/Bifrost combo.

post #9 of 52
Thread Starter 

 

 Just thinking but if anyone wants to add their headphone + E9 (picture and small review) to this thread, it could be only a very good thing as a future

 guide for newbies setting out on their first amplifier adventure.

 

 We all see the Fiio E9 questions day in, day out ~ posting up your take on things could perhaps make this a good future resource - who knows! smile.gif

post #10 of 52

Yeah, nice writeup Gwarmi. Imagine what FiiO could do if they went beyond the entry level and offered similar bang for buck in the higher end (like what Schiit are doing).

 

Btw, I'm envious of the components in your chain. You just need "better" cans. wink.gif

post #11 of 52

Now what we need is your first impressions on the headphones. biggrin.gif

post #12 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Yeah, nice writeup Gwarmi. Imagine what FiiO could do if they went beyond the entry level and offered similar bang for buck in the higher end (like what Schiit are doing).

 

Btw, I'm envious of the components in your chain. You just need "better" cans. wink.gif



Haha yes, that flagship will come one day biggrin.gif

 

Still procrastinating over which one can gets my hard earned dollars!

 

It's looking like the HD800 at the moment unless the new LCD-3 pulls a massive performance on the day when it lands in Melbourne.

post #13 of 52

Your source first approach is a good one. I wish I'd gone down that route instead of being a cheapskate and dabbling in the buy and sell of entry level. If I could hit reset and spend what I've spent to date again, I'd go with a W4S DAC2/V200/LCD-2/HD650 rig (and probably pocket some change).

post #14 of 52

Fiio E9 *The Big Users Guide* ~ The 8 x headphone round-up ~ How does yours stack-up with the E9?

This thread is a great idea! Subscribed!
post #15 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Your source first approach is a good one. I wish I'd gone down that route instead of being a cheapskate and dabbling in the buy and sell of entry level. If I could hit reset and spend what I've spent to date again, I'd go with a W4S DAC2/V200/LCD-2/HD650 rig (and probably pocket some change).



I totally agree, most people on here thought I was crackers for going source and amp plus interconnects first ~ but I wanted to push every

headphone in my line-up along the way, to see how far it could be pushed in terms of fidelity before any upgrades in ancillary gear showed

no improvement.

 

I guess that's what came out of the Fiio E9 review,

 

I'd take a HD650 plus the Burson 160 and Violectric V800 over a HD800 with an E9/E7 any day. The HD800 should really fly away with

the win but the gear will hold it back from even getting started.

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