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Amp/DACs item created by nightmancometh, Nov 15, 2013
Pros - Good sound, good build, great battery
Cons - Volume knob
I really liked the sound. I'd been using my Galaxy S4 for mobile listening and adding this DAC/amp made a definite improvement in sound quality. Detail improved, most noticeably in the lower bass region and the sound stage got a tad wider. The battery life was great and I liked being able to charge my phone from it. I thought using the bands to strap it to my cell phone might turn into a PITA, but I found it was reality easy to deal with - YMMV. Overall, I was pretty happy, except if I moved around my pants pocket would rub up against the volume knob and change the volume and that just gets on your nerves after a while, so I'm returning it.
That said, I was impressed enough with the product that I'll probably exchange it for the e17.
Pros - Sound, neutrality, portability
Cons - RF shielding, cheap looking materials
I'm a huge fan of Fiio products. I've had the E6, X1, X5, E12, and took part in the X3 2nd Gen world tour (and soon the X7 tour). To me they produce device capable of stunning sound at a very reasonable price point.
A few weeks ago I decided that I'm in the mood for a change. As I started travelling more I got tired of lugging around 2 extra devices for my music; it take up extra packing space, and it's extra stuff to charge. I genuinely liked my X5, E12, M40X combo...but I needed something a bit more practical in terms of travelling.
So I decided to give the E18 a try, and boy am I glad I did. To me, it just makes more sense to hook up the E18 to my LG G3, rather than the X5 and E12, seeing as I'd have my phone with me anyways.
* Build Quality *
At first glance, I liked the build quality. Pretty much identical to the E12. I also liked the fact that the volume knob wasn't as stiff as that of the E12. But, this is where I started getting annoyed. That plastic silver band that runs along the top of the control panel. This is a request to Fiio (in fact, to all manufacturers)...please, PLEASE for the love of all that is holy, stop using chrome painted plastic. It looks cheap and tacky. You might think it gives your devices a more premium look..but it doesn't, it gives it the exact opposite effect. The only place that chrome is ever acceptable is on old muscle cars.
My other slight annoyance was with the play and skip buttons. While they do give a really solid click, perhaps too much so. It's difficult to describe it...it's almost as though the click is so solid that it makes the rest of the device sound empty, like the click is echoing in the body.
The jack holes also don't line up quite perfectly with the cutouts in the shell.
But perhaps the thing that annoyed me the most was the fact that this device is marketed for use with phones. Yet this thing picks up a whole load of wireless interference. This (to me at least) says that this device was not well designed. One of the most crucial elements was completely overlooked.
* Sound *
However, when we get to the sound aspect, the device shines.
Compared to my X5 and E12 combo, the E18 sounds more detailed, and each instrument can be heard more clearly. It also provides a great sense of space. I actually never noticed how warm the X5 and E12 combo was until I listened to the E18. Thankfully, though, the E18 doesn't sound overly bright, there's no harshness in the upper frequencies.
Bass does sound more pronounced and deeper on the X5 and E12 combo though, but the E18 just sounds more natural. If you've ever listened to an acoustic guitar or drums being played live (not amplified in any way), the E18 sounds like it has a more honest reproduction of those sounds.
* Conclusion *
I like it, and I'm going to keep it. It's a pity that the device was so poorly designed, both from an aesthetic and practical standpoint. But the clarity and detailed sound makes me smile, and that's the final deciding factor. I enjoy it so much so, that I've sold my X5 and E12 combo.
Something I'm quite unsure of, however, is how the DAC is supposed to work. I had assumed that when you plug it into the phone OTG style, that the E18 would be handling everything with regards to sound. However, I can still adjust the volume from the phone, and also the equalizer settings. That, to me, says that the sound is still being decoded and running through the phone's amp. Perhaps I'm wrong (hopefully someone with knowledge on this subject can inform me of what's going on).
Pros - flexible usage, android integration, sound level and quality, size & weight
Cons - additional device (carry, charge)
FIIO E18 on Amazon.fr: 159,00€
FIIO L9 Cable on Amazon.fr: 18,13€
TIP: 1st buy the E18, take it to the Phone shop, try the devices they sell.
Many modern high-end phones support it without extra software, BUT MANY DO NOT support Audio USB OTG!!
Check the list on the FIIO website + try on the phones you would consider.
Kit, so you know where I come from:
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 Ohm
AKG K551 38 Ohm
Pioneer DJE-2000 in-ear's
iPod Classic 160GB
FIIO E18 Amp/DAC for Android, PC and Mac (in combination with Samsung Galaxy 5S) + 30pin L-Cable for my iPod
(I use the FIIO E18 as DAC + Amp on the Samsung S5)
In my PC, ASUS Xonar Xence (can drive up to 600 Ohm without problem)
Logitec Z5500 Speakers via SPDIF
We all know about the iDevice music scene, for Android we get a bit less news I have the impression.
Hence my write-up ...
My Android Setup, in detail:
- Samsung Galaxy S5
- 128 GB microSD
- FIIO E18 (DAC + AMP)
- PowerAmp Pro app for listening
- iSyncr (bought full version), this has a PC and Android part/module.
- iTunes + other + Loss-less CD conversions + FLAC Downloads
The FIIO E18 in different combinations:
Great device, bought through Amazon.
Use with Galaxy S5:
I attached the E18 to my Galaxy using Velcro. I tried the rubber bands, but they hinder the usage of the large screen.
The Velcro also allows me the quickly put together my small stack and disassemble it when needed.
The E18 is connected with the micro-USB cables that came with the device (2 cables in the package).
I find the sound very clear, no parasites from the phone.
A very neutral sound, and very nice amp. The E18 drivers all my headsets with pleasure, from the 250 Ohm Beyerdynamic to the 38 Ohm AKG K551.
The E18 has a great battery life. Not once i had to recharge during the day. Easily runs for 2 or even 3 working days for me.
Aside from being a nice compact Amp/DAC I can also use the E18 to recharge my Samsung should the need arise.
For playback I use PowerAmp Pro (payed version, 2.99€),
This is a great software, easy navigation and features, many, many skins for the people that like that. (I got a nice "metal" skin, simple and clean)
It scans through my 3000 songs in a few seconds, so no hassle. Album art etc are nicely presented.
The EQ allows for tuning to your own taste, it allows for small changes and tuning to the headset, music or your personal liking.
There are also quite a number of preset EQ settings, something i found usefull to quick-check results and for testing settings, a reset button brings it all back.
Or, with the EQ on/off button, leave the settings but disable/enable the EQ.
Once tuned as you prefer the EQ profiles can be saved for later reuse and you can create a EQ for every headset/situation.
It is also possible to save the EQ settings to a specific album/song should you wish that.
To sync to music to my Samsung I use iSyncr (payed version, 3.99€),
This software is of high quality, easy to use. It has a PC module and a module for your device.
You can synch over USB and/or over WIFI (and your internal LAN, it finds your PC).
iSyncr can sync the music, playlists, broadcasts, podcats etc from your iTunes lib and from other locations.
You can even sync more then 1 itunes store ... sometimes handy.
iSyncr can sync on a schedule (like every 1 hour) or on manual command.
Stream to Media Devices, I use BubbleUPNP (payed version, 3.49€),
This software allows me to stream to any media device over WIFI. I have a LG Media player that is UPNP and that is connected to my HiFi chain.
Simply select the source, that can be the phone itself, my NAS, my PC with FooBar 2000;
Then set the destination, again my phone, or PC or the LG Media player.
The volume rocker on the phone then controls the volume of the destination player.
Total cost for all this great software: 3.49€ + 3.99€ + 2.99€ .... all bases covered for 10.47€!!
Use with Laptop:
Here again I can listen to all my music in top quality, using any of my headsets.
Same device, same simple installation, plug in to a USB port and I have a high quality DAC and Amp.
On the PC and on my laptop I use the Foobar 2000 software (+ installed ASIO driver).
I can use the same Velcro to stick the E18 to the back of my laptop screen.
Use with my iPod Classic:
Using the FIIO L9 30pin L-Cable I can use the E18 as AMP for my iPod.
Combining the stack ... you guested it ... using the Velcro!!
Pros - Powerful amp with low distortion and many uses good sound quality
Cons - not compatible with most android devices without usb audio player pro app
This is my first review on head fi so here we go. So I bought the fiio e18 to use with my Samson sr850 headphones and my Toshiba excite pure tablet and I must say I am enjoying every moment of my music with this device. Although I had to buy USB audio player pro to use it because my tablet does not support audio to USB out it was well worth it. With this device I can turn up the volume when I need it and use the bass boost for fun and it also gives my Samson's a major push which is something my tablet could not do.
I use 320 kbps music and I listen to mostly dubstep and with this amp/DAC my music has never sounded the same. For the price I think it is well worth it for starter audiophile like me although my headphones are not exactly audiophile they come very close especially with this device. For anyone who is just starting out and wants a killer experience with their android device this is the amp/DAC to get. You will not regret it but also make sure to only use high bitrate music and mid fi headphones to really get a kick otherwise you are wasting your money. I also want to add that in my opinion this amp/DAC is more for headphones that have a less colored sound so if you are expecting it to alter the sound don't be surprised because this amp/DAC is ment to just give the headphones a more accurate rendering of the music. Being said that I don't own a fiio Alpen e17 but I think the Alpen e17 would go better with a more fun headphone because of the bass and treble settings. I think that's why the fiio e18 has less settings and more focus on its inner qualities.
Pros - Lots of features, great build, neutral sound, bass boost, Android support
Cons - Sonic deficencies, I/O clutter, plastic top bezel, awkward usability depending on usage
FiiO has come a long way in recent years – quickly developing and releasing well-valued products – with its line of amps and DACs. Today, we have one of the newest additions to the FiiO family; the E18 Kunlun. FiiO’s Kunlun is designed as a computer and Android-device USB-DAC and portable-amplifier. At $160, can the E18 perform its duty?
There are a million ways to describe a FiiO – good sounding being a common one – but having a sexy build always is one of the first. The E18 uses the stealthy milled-aluminum look of the E12, in addition with a top control bar surrounded by a silver strip.
The silver strip, build-edges, and control-panel plate are plastic. It’s hard to tell on first look, because they blend in so well with the metal. It looks good, as the black plastic provides a matte complementing-gradient to the shiny metal. I would personally say that the plastic seems strong enough – albeit a tad lightweight for me - for the purposes of the E18.
The feel of all the buttons is impeccable. There is a satisfying ‘click’ followed by every push. It isn’t loud or hard to press, but neither is it squishy. They don’t have much wiggle-room and are machined out of aluminum; which is a standard FiiO trait.
The body of the E18 is probably the most eye-catching part. The stealthy black metal –silkscreened with FiiO’s legendary logo – and its control scheme intimidates and excites me. It looks busy at first – there seem to be so many buttons – but once you play with it for a bit, you’ll know that it isn’t nearly as domineering. But, what really takes the cake is in how well the metal is kept. The E18 has been traveling with me - surrounded by other sharp-metal amps - in a small pouch. Despite this, its metal body still looks as fantastic as the day I got it.
Overall, the build of the E18 is quite nice. The metal looks great and matches its cousin – the E12 Mont Blanc – while still having adequate space for the components inside. I would rather they have used metal for the plastic parts –despite plastic being a better ‘shock barrier’ – but it still works well without any problems.
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