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Big thanks to the folks at FiiO for sending me this demo unit. I am not being compensated by them for this review in any way. I’m simply giving my impressions of the Amp/DAC. Read on to find out what I thought!
- 2,444 word post, approx. 5-6 min read.
- 6/29/19. Added Shootout with A3 & Q1 MK II.
- 9/12/19. Article Cleanup. Also, check out my comparison to the upgraded FiiO K3!
- 5/18/20. Article Cleanup.
- 6/10/21. Article/link cleanup.
5 reasons you should consider purchasing an E10K.
- It has an excellent build, especially for a unit under $100.
- It’s got a lot of power for such a small unit; 200mW into 32 Ohms. It can power my HD600/650 pretty well even without the gain switch on.
- It’s versatile, with a gain switch, bass boost, micro USB, Coax, and even a Line Out. You can use it as a DAC into another amp, a converter (more on that in a bit), or as a dedicated desktop Amp/DAC.
- It will improve the sound of your headphones immensely if you’re used to bad digital to analog converters. What is a USB DAC?
- Its price to performance ratio is phenomenal.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the FiiO E10K USB DAC Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Table of Contents
Click any of these to navigate the page!
Features & Usage
My Video Review
In the world of Amps and DACs, Amp/DAC combos, separate amps, separate DACs, and all of the options available, one thing becomes clear if you’re new to the hobby:
Wow. That was an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.
It’s true though: companies, people, bloggers, reviewers, and the whole slew of the information age has actually contributed to humans being more lost than when they started!
There’s simply too much to choose from nowadays. Buy this, not that! My amp delivers optimal sound quality! That one is OK, but mine is the ultimate! If you live in America, there is an overabundance of EVERYTHING, yet people are as depressed as ever.
I promise this wasn’t intended to get philosophical, but bear with me.
There’s an overabundance of Food. Lysol spray. Laundry Detergent. Coffee. Smartphones. Laptops. Hand soap. Deodorant. Toilet Bowl Cleaner. You get the idea.
It’s like when Bubba explains Shrimp to Forrest at 1:17. Haha.
I legit have 15 cans of Glade in my apartment simply because I can (Haha. No pun intended). It may sound ridiculous, but guess what? It is. I’ll never have to buy another can of it ever again though! Don’t ask me why I did that. I was having a weird day in 2015 while Christmas shopping. Now it’s years later. And I still have Glade. Ok, I’m done.
With all that said, there is also an overabundance of Amps.
Big amps, small amps, versatile amps, USB amps, non-USB amps, Amps that sing you a lullaby. Amps that don’t. Amps that come with a side of fries. Amps that don’t lie. Amps that brew you a cup of coffee. Amps with Toffee. Wow. It’s like lick-able wallpaper.
The snozberries taste like snozberries!
It’s just too much.
If you’re a newcomer to the hobby or a budding audiophile, it can be hard to decide which amp to buy.
Fortunately for you, I’m here. My main job is to sift through the madness and find out what’s good and what’s not. What can be held on to and what can be discarded? I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t claim to have the most experience. But I have a lot of experience with various equipment, and I know what sounds good and what doesn’t.
- Price: Check on Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Capability: Handles PCM Files up to 24-bit/96 kHz.
- Stereo Crosstalk: > 70 dB.
- Outputs: 1x Coaxial, Line, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Output Impedance: 1.04. What is Output Impedance?
- Output Power: 200mW@32Ω
- Output Voltage: 7.39Vp-p.
- Inputs: 1x Micro USB.
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >105dB.
- THD at 1V output: <0.006%@1KHz.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz -20KHz.
- Dimensions: 79mm x 49.1mm x 21mm.
- Weight: 79 grams.
- Warranty: 1 year.
- Power: Bus-powered.
- Features: Bass boost, Gain switch.
The Build of the E10K is exceptional for an Amp/DAC in this price range or otherwise. Holding it in your hand feels solid, and I even dropped it on a hardwood floor by accident!
The brushed aluminum chassis held up remarkably well, and I was able to resume music listening in a snap without freaking out and having to pay FiiO for a broken amp. 😛
In addition to that, the volume knob, bass boost switch, gain switch, and headphone jack all feel very rugged. The volume knob in particular has a satisfying click when you turn it on for power.
All inputs are of high quality here.
The only minor concern was the micro USB jack. It feels a bit Piggly Wiggly at times, or jiggly. Like Jigglypuff. Thankfully there’s no effect on sound and I’m not finding it cutting out or anything. Still, something to keep in mind.
Design-wise, FiiO hit this one out of the park!
BUILD SCORE: A+
The features of the E10K were touched on above.
It provides a gain switch and bass boost, both of which come in handy.
The gain switch is great for more power-hungry headphones like an HD600 or 650, while the bass boost adds some oomph if you desire a bit more low end.
Both do their respective jobs in a very tasteful way.
For instance, I have the HD650 plugged into the E10K at the moment. Without the gain switch or bass boost, volume reaches an acceptable listening level at max volume (8) and sounds very pleasant. I don’t feel the need to turn it up anymore, but I desire to because I like to live life on the edge. Lol. Not really. I’m just a writer man.
Learn more about the #2 Gold Standard: Sennheiser HD650 Review!
So I want more volume.
Whatever will I do?
Turn that gain switch on, baby!
With the gain switch on, I like the volume between 5-6. It provides just the right amount of extra zest. I do not, and should not push it to 8. We like to live life on the edge, but in moderation. This isn’t a heavy metal show, friend.
With the bass boost on, you can push it a bit more. The extra emphasis tames the mids/treble a bit to where you can comfortably dial it to about 6-7.
Loveeeeeee that gain switch!
A lot of this will depend on the song, how well it’s mixed/mastered, the quality of the file itself, etc. But those figures above are about right and provide a nice range of what you can expect with something like an HD600/650.
Learn more about the #1 Gold Standard: Sennheiser HD600 Review!
People may scoff at this pairing, but that’s because they are lame and probably have never even tried it. A lot of folks claim that the E10K can’t drive either of these, but they’re lying and probably never even tested it out first hand.
Lieven at Headfonia agrees:
The E10K is also very versatile as well. Let’s take a look at some of its other uses.
You can use it as a standalone DAC using the line output, or as a USB headphone Amp, and also as a USB to coax converter.
With the Objective 2
Basically, I can use a separate Amp like the JDS Labs 02 with the E10K. I would take a 3.5mm to 3.5mm interconnect cable such as this one, and plug it into the line out on the back of the E10K. The other end plugs into the front of the Objective 2 and voila! It’s a stand-alone DAC.
With the Magni 2 or 3
I can also use the E10K as a DAC and hook it up to my Magni 2 or 3. You would simply use an RCA to mini cable such as this one. Plug the 3.5mm cable into the E10K like before, and plug the RCA males into the back of the Magni.
As a Converter
Also, some DACs only have coax and Toslink capabilities. If your computer doesn’t have those, you can use the E10K to convert the signal from USB to coax and then connect the other DAC to the E10K.
So it would look like: E10K from PC/Laptop via USB > E10K via coax out > another amp that has coax in > to headphones via 3.5mm or 1/4″.
I also came across an amazon review that claimed you could plug this right into a PS4 and use it for Gaming. I was surprised to find out that it is indeed instantly recognized and you can plug your headphones right in.
The only issue is that the volume isn’t loud enough even turned all the way up with the gain switch ticked (I’m using high sensitivity headphones as well).
What it boils down to is that the E10K was not designed for use with a PS4. Because of that, the console won’t deliver an adequate amount of power to the unit. If you need something specifically for gaming, the Creative SoundBlasterX G6 is what you’re after.
The only solution I can think of right now is something like a coax to optical converter, but I have yet to try it out.
All in all, I was really impressed otherwise. This thing is like a multi-tool and can do quite a lot.
FEATURES & USAGE SCORE: A
Is the E10K efficient at what it does?
I would say it’s extremely efficient. The E10K powers 99% of headphones with relative ease. I would steer clear of anything over 300 Ohms, as I don’t think it would suffice.
For virtually anything else, you’re golden.
The FiiO E10K Olympus 2 features a new and improved LMH6643 chipset that improves upon previous versions by supplying even more power and a better overall transient response.
It’s super quiet too. With no music on, the noise floor is very low and I hear no audible ambiance or white noise.
This is an Amp/DAC that requires no extra batteries, as it’s powered via USB to your laptop. It’s the perfect small desktop Amp, but also works incredibly well on the go.
Like the Audioquest Dragonfly Red, I can pack it up in my laptop with zero hassle. It’s very portable!
Unfortunately, you cannot use it with your phone, so if you need something for that purpose I would recommend the Dragonfly Red.
Learn more: Audioquest Dragonfly Red Review!
The E10K is an Amp/DAC meant for Laptops and Desktops, but it’s very versatile.
ERGONOMICS SCORE: A+
My Video Review
Please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂
Shootout with A3 and Q1 MK II
Also did a shootout with a couple of other FiiO offerings! If you’re interested, here’s the article: FiiO A3 vs. Q1 vs. E10K
Click to see the E10K!
The best part of the E10K is the crisp, neutral, and honest sound it provides.
As of this article, I still run an old Lenovo T510 laptop, and the internal Soundcard is pretty poopy. What is a Soundcard?
A poopy Soundcard suffers from all of your typical crappy problems: Low volume, noise, interference, etc. The E10K is the perfect solution for those looking for an upgrade from that type of dire situation.
See what others are saying about it!
It seems to add clarity, dimension, a bit of extra Soundstage, and improves upon dynamics and speed (known as transient response). You’ll likely be floored by the improvement, and may not upgrade for quite a while (if ever)! What is Soundstage?
Simply put, the sound is very immaculate and likely to impress you to a startling degree. I’ve heard plenty of headphone Amps, and the E10K really holds its own against some of the higher-priced models.
It faithfully stays true to the incredible sound of the HD650. Timbre, resolution/clarity, great imaging, and warmth are all hallmarks of a great sound, and the 650 doesn’t fail to deliver. The E10K does a fantastic job of sticking to the script and not altering the soundscape in any way. What is Timbre?
Any Amp/DAC under $100 that can do this deserves high praise and is most certainly worthy of my money.
SOUND SCORE: A+
I have to give the E10K a perfect A+. The only thing I would change about it is making it compatible with a phone, but that’s it. There’s nothing else about it that disappoints me in the slightest.
It does exactly what it’s advertised to do, which is to provide an upgraded sound from your Laptop or PC’s crappy signal. It also works phenomenally well on the go, as I’m sitting here typing this away from home on my laptop and listening to Spotify. It’s portable, convenient, and extremely versatile as well, with an almost impeccable sound and excellent build.
There’s not much else to say about this little buddy…
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this FiiO E10K USB DAC Review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,