Hello, I just joined a minute ago and the message from the mods said to post any questions I have here. I'm not an audiophile I hope to never be one, but I'm looking to get either a fiio e11 or e7. I like the fact that the e7 has a built in DAC, especially because I'll probably use it with my laptop. However, I will primarily be using it with my Samsung Galaxy Note II, which does have USB-out capabilities for a DAC but I'm not sure if I'll be able to tell a difference from the e7 and one that's built in. I've heard that even though the e11 is only an amp, some people seem to think it has a better sound (better bass in particular which is extremely important to me). I listen to metal, rap, classical, older singer/songwriters, country, and punk mostly, but I guess that list doesn't really narrow it down much... I have spent a couple hours reading a few similar threads and researching but nothing has really been able to answer my question Any suggestions?
Fiio e11 or e7 for Galaxy Note II
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Then check out this portable amp shootout (see the ratings after the reviews). The E11 is clearly the better headphone amp.
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Thanks for the replies. I actually did stumble upon that very well-done and comprehensive comparison a few weeks ago when I was researching the ZO2 (before I realized that: 1. it's not available anymore because they're making the ZO3, and 2. it really doesn't seem worth the money). Now that you mention it, I have seen a lot of people talking about how they were excited about the S3's and Note II's coming out, but I haven't seen anyone talk about actually successfully using one for that purpose since they came out. It's looking like the e11 is my best bet. That comparison said it might be a little much for sensitive IEMs, and coincidentally, a pair of somewhat respectable IEMs in the < $100 range was going to be the next thing I started researching after I decided on an amp, so I guess I'll have to be careful to make sure that whatever pair I pick makes a good match for the e11. Thanks for the help, I've read so many good things about the e11 that I think it was the one I really wanted in the back of my mind but it seemed hard to pick it over one with a DAC in the same price range.
If you by chance have rooted your phone and have some minor computer geek skills, you can turn up the headphone amp a little. Apparently, the gain configuration on the Note 2 was neutered a little. It's an easy mod: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1931970&nocache=1. I tried the minor mod setting increase, and it added a few db of headroom.
Also, if you get IEMs that are fairly efficient (but not ultrasensitive like some of the 120+db sensitivity phones as with some of the Shures--those are problematic with many sources/amps), you might find that a headphone amp doesn't really add anything because you'll be double amping the headphone amp in the Note 2--won't improve the sound quality. I think I get better sound out of the Note 2 by itself over using my C&C BH portable amp. The only time I use the amp is with my HE-400s because they have very low sensitivity. Afterall, the Note 2 is well known for being one of the best sounding smartphones on the market.
In other words, the reason to get an amp (without a DAC) is either (a) the Note 2 won't drive the headphones loud enough with extra headroom to handle the dynamics or (b) because the Note 2 can't handle the impedance of the headphones. So you might be better off to look for IEMs first and see what you think about the volume you get out of them and the Note 2. Carrying around an amp (and charging it too) is a hassle. I'm much more in the camp that says find the IEMs that work well with the phone