Hello E17 Users:
I have some concerns about the automatic input mode selection with the E17's current firmware release. I am writing this to document my experience for other Head-Fi'ers and for FiiO to have a look at, just in case other E17 user's are scratching their collective heads about why their input mode keeps changing when "docking" the E17 while using the "OPT" input mode...
FiiO, I hope you are able to read this and find a way to patch and fix & release an updated firmware revision for the E17 Alpen DAC/Amplifier to eliminate this glaring issue.
This is some info regarding issues with the E17 and "docking". Primarily the issue is with "automatic" input mode selection, or the LACK of "correct" input mode selection for OPT when the input stream is ACTUALLY SPDIF/TOSLINK (Optical).:
The Dock(s) that affect the E17 and exhibit this "abnormal" or "non-expected" usage behavior are: L7 Line-Out Dock, and E09K (and I would assume that the E9 and any other FiiO Dock device that the E17 can plug into would cause this), however I can only confirm, due to User Reports about the L7, and E09K at the time of this writing.
You plug the E17 into a "Dock", OR you plug in an L7 "Line-Out Dock" into the FiiO Dock Port of the E17. You would then expect the E17 to "automatically" detect, select, and "LOCK" the _correct_ input mode (in the case of SPDIF/TOSLINK (Optical bitstreams, where you already have the input mode set to "OPT" prior to "docking"), and switch on the input stream to your selected volume settings, "open" the audio stream, and begin playback (if the audio stream is "playing" currently).
You plug the E17 into a "Dock", or you plug in an L7 "Line-Out Dock" into the FiiO Dock Port of the E17. You would then expect the E17 to "automatically" detect, select, and "LOCK" the _correct_ input mode (in the case of SPDIF/TOSLINK (Optical bitstreams, where you already have the input mode set to "OPT" prior to "docking"), then you "dock" and surprise surprise, the E17 for no apparent reason you can fathom, changes the input mode from the _correct_ "OPT" input mode to the _incorrect_ "USB" input mode instead of confirming the _correct_ "OPT" input mode and providing the "LOCK" status message.
Why this is "BAD":
The E17 is very very versatile. It is conversely, NOT a swiss-army-knife requiring a PHD, or some other college degree to actually operate. It barely requires you to look at the manual more than once in most cases. It's more of a "simple yet multifacted tool" than "some complicated toolbox with a bunch of thingers you have to remember how to use". I'll take this moment to say, "Thank You, FiiO."
Here's "Why" this "behavior" I'm describing, documenting, and pointing out is "bad" for the overall utility of the device and its User Experience; It breaks the "Dead Simple to Use" paradigm.:
EACH time you "dock" the E17 you MUST MANUALLY re-select the _correct_ input mode. Again, with the E17's current firmware, EACH TIME you "dock" the E17, it WILL SWITCH input modes IF you are using an SPDIF/TOSLINK (Optical) bitstream, and have the input mode _correctly_ set to "OPT" on the E17 _BEFORE_ "docking". WHEN you "dock" the E17 will _incorrectly_ SWITCH input modes FROM "OPT" to "USB" instead of providing the "LOCK" status message confirmation. THEN YOU ARE FORCED to MANUALLY re-set the input mode from the _incorrect_ input mode of "USB" back to the _correct_ input mode of "OPT" to regain access to the SPDIF/TOSLINK (Optical) bitstream, which is usually Already Playing, and this forces you to Miss Portions Of Your Audio Content, which is a "very bad behavior" from a usability standpoint.
How this Affects ME, and How I think it Affects MOST USERS (In General):
Okay well I suppose I would have to call the behavior I have described, from the failure to "LOCK" onto the existing "OPT" signal, to the incorrect switching to "USB" input, being forced to manually reselect the proper input, and missing whole chunks of ongoing audio, while being inconvenienced by something that should never have happened in the first place a pretty severe and glaring !! FLAW !! on an otherwise relatively "perfect" / "braindead simple" to use device.
A few other adjectives I would use to describe the E17 overall are that it is attractive, stays-out-of-your-way kind of "tool" for generally fantastic sounding, versatile, inexpensive, and (aside from this GLARING issue) headache-free audio use that is easily reccomendable to newbies or experienced users. It would be nice to see this problem fixed. I think anybody who has had the misfortune of encountering this problem would like it fixed also.
For The Record:
I would like to state to the Head-Fi community and to FiiO that the E17 Alpen has become an indespensible day-to-day device (especially for netbooks / laptops / iRiver H120/140 devices) that I find tremendously usable, useful, and enjoyable. Not to mention I think it sounds rather good, irregardless of its pricepoint. Most pleasing is the cleanliness of the sound (for its price/perf ratio & implementation) and the digital EQ with programmable independent bass AND treble levels is quite uniqe and fun. Thanks, FiiO.