Wednesday, January 2, 2013

[Impression] FiiO E07K ‘Andes’

Almost three years ago when E7 was introduced, it was one of only two sub-$100 portable amp / DAC options in the market, and it pretty much out-marketed the competition right away. E7 is originally designed to solve the low sound quality issue related to nettop and netbook due to their miniature size. But with the decline of these tiny PC, E7 becomes lesser relevant and begin to show its shortcoming, especially its lacks on driving power when user are adapting it for other usage beyond just nettop and netbook. E07K is basically FiiO’s answer to bring E7 up-to-date while still maintaining the same low price at $89.

Input: USB and AUX
USB Support (max): 24bit / 96kHz
Channels balance: +/-10dB (5dB to either Left/Right)
Gain selection: 0dB, 6dB, 12dB
Digital Volume Control: 0 – 60 step
EQ: Treble - +/-10dB; Bass - +/-10dB (in 2dB step)
Line-out: Bypassable to pre-out (with FiiO L7 or E09K)
Output Power: 250mW (16Ω); 220mW (32Ω); 36mW (300Ω)
Headphone Impedance Range: 16 Ω ~ 150Ω
SNR: ≥108dB (AUX in)
THD: under 0.005%@1KHz
Frequency Range: 10Hz ~ 220kHz (amp); 10Hz ~ 20kHz (DAC)
Input Sensitivity (0/6/12dB gain): 2.75V/1.38V/690mV
MAX input Level: over 4.5 Vrms
MAX output voltage: over 7 Vp-p
Crosstalk: over 71 dB@1KHz
Screen: 1 inch two tones OLED
Power Supply: Internal 1200mAH rechargeable Li-ion battery
Battery life: over 20 hours
Recharging: USB 5V, Less than 180mins to full.=
Size: 96mm x 55mm x 15.5mm
Weight: 102g

Don't worry about the bubble. It is on the protective film that is meant to be removed before installing the screen protector.

Build Quality and Accessories
As with all FiiO products, build quality is pretty good. One of the more obvious improvements from E7 to E07K is the use of new headphone jack. The old headphone jack is considered to be pretty good as well, but occasionally it does fail in too much stress (such using a big 3.5mm plug, like ViaBlue). The new jack is much tighter and hopefully it will take stress better as well. Beyond that, E07K looks as good as the previous E7 and the current E17 as far as build quality is concerned.

Accessories wise, you will get a soft pouch, a silicone case, 3.5mm interconnection cable, an USB charging cable, a few sticky rubber feet and two screen protector. While it is norm for FiiO to include these many accessories, many portable amp rarely comes with half as much things. However, I do have one complain about the screen protectors – they are slightly wider than the screen and therefore you must trim some edges away to make it fits perfectly, or else dust will be collected over the edge. Hopefully this will get corrected in the future batch.

Besides having only USB- and AUX-in, plus the fact that all the buttons are located at the side like E7, most of the basic navigation and setting are the same as E17. This is probably because the E07K borrows quite a few of the circuit design over from E17, including the ‘hold’ and ‘LO Bypass’ switches and the volume control / EQ mechanism.

Most of them are not hard to understand so I am not going into the detail. The few things I do want to make a note are: Hold key will disable all buttons as well as the screen, so use it to avoid the OLED screen from burning out. You can set the display to auto turn off with a timer as well. LO Bypass lets you switch between outputting fixed line-out sign or pre-amp signal (with EQ effect and volume control) via the FiiO dock connector. You will need either L7 adapter or E09K to get to the signal. If you wish to use E07K as a pre-amp to control volume (or EQ) to another amp or active speaker, do get a L7.

Dual headphone-out, same as E7.

Battery Life
Battery is claimed over 24 hours, which is a significant reduction over the E7’s 100 hours. But given E07K is much more powerful than E7 and packed more hardware, something have to give. The upside is that 24 hours is still quite long, so you won’t need to charge it every day.

Gain, Hiss and EMI
Unlike E7 which fixes at 5dB, E07K can go much higher in gain. However, if you are using a line-level input, I’ll suggest you stick to 0 gain setting, which should give you the cleanest signal. If you find the volume to be not enough, then increase it to the next higher setting.

Hiss on E07K is almost as good as E17 as there is minimum to no hiss on zero gain with the hiss prone Shure SE530. With 6dB gain, hiss is only barely audible over 55/60 in volume. With 12dB gain, hiss became noticeable pass 40/60. Since it is impossible to use SE530 on 12dB gain with volume 40/60, as it will be too loud, hiss really won’t be much of an issue. Any headphone that needs the 12dB of gain won’t be sensitive enough to pick up any hiss as well.

EMI is an non-issue for E07K, which is dead silence even next to a ringing cellphone.

Bit Depth and Sampling Rate
With the use of Tenor TE7022 as USB receiver (like E17), E07K now supports 24/96 decoding over USB without any special driver. As far as real SQ goes, getting higher bit depth or sampling rate don’t actually improve SQ by much, but it is always good to know you have more than enough for future compatibility. Just be sure to set your PC right so it will enable 24/96 decoding as well.

A tiny blue LED indicating power on.

RMAA measurement doesn’t show any problem at all. The DAC output is flat and so is the amp section. Beyond that, other parameters such as noise and THD are very well behaved as well. Crosstalk into a 16ohm load is around -61dB, which is respectable. Output impedance is an impressive 0.09ohm. Plenty of power into a 47ohm fixed load and even better to a 23.5ohm fixed load, showing it should drive low impedance load just fine. It also output slightly higher power than E17, which confirms the spec FiiO has listed.

Frequency Response of E07K with USB DAC driving a 16ohm load.

Unfortunately my E7 has bitten the dust due to battery issue (my fault for not charging it regularly), so I can’t compare E07K to E7. But my E6, which I consider to be a class better than E7, is still alive and kicking, so that will be what I’ll compare E07K, as well as iBasso D-ZERO in objective listening.

As far as circuit design is concerned, E6 and E07K actually share a common root. The basic topology is similar between the two, but E07K uses MX97220 instead of the TPA6130 as its main opamp. While MX97220 is a big step-up power wise, it is a small step-up SQ wise. The biggest difference is that E07K is noticeably richer and warmer in tone, even though the FR curve is just as flat as E6. While it handles layer and depth better than E6 and give just a tab more texture, the richer tone gets into the way of sounding transparent.

D-ZERO is intended by iBasso to be E7 killer – and for most part it is. The only issue is the $125 D-ZERO is a bit too pricy to compete on the $89 E7’s level, and probably less when competing with E07K as it is still the same $89 with added features. Both D-ZERO and E07K actually offer comparable sound quality where both acts only as DAC. Of course, D-ZERO doesn’t support 24/96 decoding while E07K does, but this doesn’t matter when the music is 16/44.1. Amp section however, D-ZERO is still a hair ahead of E07K. While E07K does offer excellent extension down to sub-bass (where D-ZERO has a roll-off), its warmer tone doesn’t give a very good rendering of space. This is where D-ZERO really excel over E07K. While the difference between D-ZERO and E07K isn’t nearly as big as D-ZERO over E7, it is still noticeable.

Overall, E07K is an improvement over the original E7 but still an entry level amp in SQ. The amp section is by far the biggest (and probably only) limiting factor. Without saying, E07K won’t be able to match the SQ of FiiO’s own E17 even though the two share many similarities. However, that should be quite evidenced by the fact that E17 is almost twice as expensive and offer even more features.

Even though all the following RMAA results are freshly measured, for the most parts they do look like the same as E17. Not surprising since E07K’s EQ and volume control use the same design as E17, which include treble and bass EQ, as well as pan / channel balance control.

Some of the treble EQ.

Some of the bass EQ.

Graph on the top: Pan control (channel balance) on one side. Graph on the bottom: How treble and bass EQ interact.

E7 was once said to be E5 with an USB DAC. I guess in a way E07K can be said to be E6 with an USB DAC as well. Even though the SQ has been improved and many features have been added, for the most part E07K is still an entry level portable amp / DAC much like E7. If you only want a good amp or DAC under $100, there are other options worth exploring. But for an all-in-one solution, E07K is probably the only one in town. Well, the only one in the sub-$100 price range anyway.

A thanks to FiiO for the sample.


taurusthree said...

Thanks for review, what do you think about connecting to it 250 Ohm phones?

Tai / ClieOS said...

The problem with higher impedance headphone generally lies in volume and dynamic. Basically it all related to the output voltage. As long as the sensitivity isn't particularly low, E07K should be able to drive a 250ohm to decent loudness, but might not be enough if you need to get really loud.

taurusthree said...

Btw, I enjoy your blog, greets from Armenia! :-)

justblue said...

Is it FiiO E10 level in terms of SQ (higher/lower?)? What's your opinion?

Tai / ClieOS said...

The DAC section is close to being the same. The amp section is little better on the E10, so get the E10 if you don't intend to use it as portable.

Chris Wen said...

Thanks for the review! This is indeed another nicely built product from FiiO. Personally, I hope their upcoming E12 could be a nice amp in SQ. Then I would consider collecting one.

Anonymous said...

Using this to drive 250 ohm beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro and it has ample power with the gain set at 0

george buchs said...

Hi I have monster turbine IEM and iPod nano 6th gen I was wondering if I got fiio E11 would it allow me to go louder with less distortion and give better sound over all.would it help the soundstage as I find it not great. is the fiio 11 worth buying also my music is 320kps thanks

Tai / ClieOS said...

Never listen to Nano 6 before so I can't say for sure - but Turbine isn't exactly a demanding IEM so I won't expect a huge improvement via amping. But in most cases, you will find some improvement simply because an amp will offer better control. Again, it is hard to say for sure unless you have tried it.

george buchs said...

Hi I am looking for a new pair of IEM I had monster turbines but lost them I am looking for a pair that sounds as good if not better.I use an iPod with 320kps songs.listen to r&b rap hip hop and house dubstep budget is 100-200 can you please help me thanks

Tai / ClieOS said...

Haven't heard Turbine before, so it is hard to say for sure what IEM will be more of a direct upgrade. I am just going to put out a few of the better sub-$200 IEM that I think will fit your music genre: Rock It Sound R-50 is good choice, and TDK BA200 if you like a smoother and bassier sound.

george buchs said...

Hi I would like to know if the uiltimate ears 700 are good for hiphop,rap,r&b,house and dubstep music.I use a ipod nano 6th gen with Fiio E6 my music is 320kps.I had monster turbines and was very happy with them till i lost them and do not want to buy them again so thought I would go for something else.So what I really want to know is how do they compair to MT.I have heard there bass is more natural then MT and that they have better mids and treble.Is there barely any bass compared to MT.Will they sound good with the music I like the ipod and fiio amp I use.Also do you know how they compiar to the TDK BA200 as the ultimate ears 700 are alot cheaper.thanks

Tai / ClieOS said...

Never heard the Turbine so I can't compare them.

I can tell you UE700 is a good all-arounder and good for its current price. It shares the same sound as VSONIC GR01, but less refined. BA200 will be better sounding than UE700, offering a warm sound, bigger bass but smoother treble. If you have limited budget, get the UE700 then.

george buchs said...

Thanks for answer which would have that bit more bass the ue700 or ba200 as the ue700 are cheaper.Alot of people say they both have not much bass is this true

Tai / ClieOS said...

That depends what you'll refer as being 'a lot', as some people need crazy amount of bass to say something isn't bass light. For me, it is quality over quantity. As far as UE700 goes, it is about neutral amount of bass, but pretty good in quality. BA200 on the other hand is definitely good in bass, both in quality and quantity. It isn't a bass monster but it is far from being neutral or bass light.

george buchs said...

Ok final question with the type of music i listen there a big difference between the ba200 and ue700 is the ba200 worth a extra 80.Do the ue700 sound "bare" in a way.Also would the FIIO E6 help the ue700 bass wise thanks

Tai / ClieOS said...

There is a big different in sound signature, but the actual SQ different isn't as big as $80 would have suggested. Still UE700 strikes me as an IEM that doesn't really excel in any particular area. If I have the money, I'll always get the BA200 first.

Yes, E6 will help UE700 in bass.

george buchs said...

thanks I have been told of another 3 pairs of IEM they are Yamaha EPH-100 and the Klipsch Image X10 and SE215 what do you thing of these for the type of music i listen too are they any good

Tai / ClieOS said...

I listened to X10 a long time ago, and only remember it beign fairly mid centric. SE215 is a good all-arounder so it should fit your need. EPH-100 is more colored sounding compared to SE215, but offer a fun, rich and bassy signature. If you are not looking for accuracy, it will be a better choice than SE215 for your music.

george buchs said...

Thanks I prefer the way the eph 100 sit in the ear rather than over so will probable go for them thanks for your help.Is it a dynamic driver in the eph100 or ba driver.Do you think the ba200 are better than the eph100 .thank you so much

Tai / ClieOS said...

EPH-100 is dynamic driver based.

BA200 is a level above EPH-100.

locoroco said...

As for the amp aspect, any noticeable difference between this E07K and E11? should I jus keep my e11? thanks!

Tai / ClieOS said...

E11 sounds better than E07K as far as the amp section is concerned. If you are only using it as amp only, then you should keep your E11.

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