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FiiO E07K - Operation, Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
FiiO E07K

Summary

Our Score:

9

FiiO E07K - Operation

The crisp, bright OLED display illuminates blue and orange and shows the current volume in large digits, as well as the treble and bass levels, the current input (USB or AUX), sleep timer, charging status and the battery level.

Hit the menu button and a list of options appears – bass, treble, gain and balance adjustments, which weren’t found on the original E7, plus sleep timer, display and volume settings. Gain can be set to 0, 6 or 12dB, while bass and treble levels range from -10 to 10dB.

Using the volume and menu keys to navigate is a little odd and fiddly, but you get used to it. A tiny light on the front glows blue when activated or red when switched off.

FiiO E07K

Setting up the E07K with a PC is quick and painless. Connect the two using the USB cable and wait for your PC to automatically install the drivers, then select the FiiO in the ‘Devices’ section of Windows Media Player. Voila, you’re ready to go.

FiiO E07K

FiiO also sells a range of cables and accessories to make it easy to connect other devices. For example, the L3 lead connects an iPod’s 30-pin port to the FiiO’s 3.5mm input jack, while the L7 slots into the bottom of the E07K and provides a line output for active speakers.

FiiO E07K

Additionally you can dock it on one of FiiO’s desktop headphone amps like the E09K and increase the power. In this setup the E07K acts as the DAC while the E09K provides the muscle. Docking it blocks the E07K’s USB connection but there’s one on the E09K.

FiiO E07K - Performance

Hooking up the E07K to a common or garden laptop brings about a significant improvement in sound quality through our Sennheiser HD598s. Switching between the laptop’s own headphone output and the E07K, the latter delivers a more neutral sound with much crisper, more polished high frequencies than the more aggressive top end of the laptop’s soundcard.

Vocals sound rich and smooth, enhanced by tiny nuances that make everything feel more believable and involving, such as breaths or the little smack as the singer opens their mouth. The stereo image is expansive, which works beautifully with live material as it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the performance.

There’s a definite step up in detail. The brass section really stands out and it easily picks out faint background cymbals and hats. The gentle applause and hushed crowd voices are audible amid the live music, adding to the sense of immersion.

FiiO E07K

It’s also a dab hand with low frequencies, which means that basslines and kick drums sound tight and punchy without overpowering other sonic elements. Playing about with the bass and treble settings garners satisfying results, even though it’s a fairly hit and miss method of tweaking the EQ. The gain settings can add extra punch but its naturally fulsome output meant we had it at zero most of the time.

Lossless FLAC files obviously show off the FiiO in its best light but it’s perfectly capable of making 320kbps or even 192kbps MP3 sound great. If al you care about is pristine sound quality then the FiiO is more than capable of delivering it.

Verdict

Despite its low price tag, the E07K doesn’t skimp on build quality or performance, and for that reason it’s astonishingly good value. There’s a palpable boost in sound quality and its spec improves on that of the original E7, adding 96kHz/24-bit support via USB, bass/treble adjustments and a hold switch. There are plenty of sockets too, and the ability to dock it on the E09K could be useful if you want a further upgrade in the future. If you’re pondering whether to choose this or the £99 E17, there’s very little to choose between them in terms of performance, design and operation, so if you don’t need the SPDIF input and its true high-end 192k support then the cheaper E07K will do nicely.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Usability 8
  • Value 9

torjs99

January 27, 2013, 11:52 am

If you are using good quality headphones on your laptop get yourself a usb headphone amp as it will improve the sound quality no end (as long as the source files are high quality mp3 or flac etc. GIGO!)

Simon

January 28, 2013, 10:12 am

The only way you're going to get a "boost" in sound quality, as torjs99 has already said, is by using this thing as effectively an alternative sound card via USB. It can't improve upon an analogue signal it receives through that little 3.5mm jack, other than by making it louder or colouring the sound, which is of course completely subjective. Some PMPs offer fairly crappy EQs, so arguably that's one advantage a headphone amp might be able to offer, assuming it has a better one.

To be totally honest, I've always found these things a bit of a con, at least when it comes to their use with portable audio devices. The internet is awash with the usual magical audiophile claims, from people who spend more on cables than most people spend on an amplifier, but it's mostly complete tosh.

I actually made a couple of my own headphone amps a while back in penguin mint tins. Can't remember what the circuit was called but it was quite popular on the net at the time. It was good fun, and i recommend it on that basis, but not to somehow magically make your iPod sound better.

The caveat to all of that is if you're using high impedance cans with a PMP, which it just can't drive to reasonable volume levels.

EDIT: Another slight caveat is if you're taking a line-level out from the PMP and going into the headphone amp. You're by-passing the power stage of the PMP when you do that and instead using the headphone amp for your volume. The headphone amp might have better SNR or a flatter frequency response, so this might, in theory, give you a "better" overall sound. As i said above though, "better" is mostly highly subjective. A flatter frequency response sounds worse to most people, because they prefer, for example, more bass. I'd also point out that PMPs are devices engineered for playing music. They're designed to give you a good balance between quality and size (good ones are, anyway). So whether you'd be able to pick up on any slight improvements in sound quality offered by a relatively inexpensive and small headphone amp vs. the power amp in the PMP, is debatable.

torjs99

January 28, 2013, 2:58 pm

Simon, the E17 has a optical in which would allow you to use its dac. I'm not sure which, if any pmp or phone have an optical out. Do the new apples have this with their new connector? My E17 is a bit underused in this respect as i use my sennheiser CX980's with my phone.

Simon

January 29, 2013, 9:41 am

Didn't the original magnetic disk based iPods have optical outs? For some reason I'm under the impression they did. I think I remember reading that the new lighting connector does have pins for a digital line-out, but don't quote me on it. Then it'd be up to whatever adapter you plug in to it whether that becomes coax/RCA or optical. I imagine coax/RCA would take less space. Not sure if any other PMPs have digital line outs either. I suspect the vast majority don't unfortunately.

Again though, it's another oft-quoted audiophile myth that the DACs in most consumer grade audio equipment are terrible and it's worth spending a small fortune on a standalone one. I wouldn't expect there to be a significant (if even audible) difference between the headphone out of a good quality PMP, and a hypothetical digital line out from the same device into a separate DAC/amp. This is especially true in the most common use-cases for PMPs, i.e. less than ideal listening environments.

In any audio set up, be it for headphone listening on the go or lounge listening at home, the place you should spend the majority of your money is on speakers/headphones. They are the component which makes the single biggest difference to sound quality. And provided you aren't using extremely cheap nasty hardware, doubling the cost of your amp, or using a standalone DAC, will make little to no audible difference.

EDIT: just to clarify, for listening at home, not "cheap and nasty" is probably £200 ish for a CD player (maybe £300 at most) and £500 - £1000 for an amp depending on power requirements. Anything more than that the law of diminishing returns applies. Then, if i had the cash, I'd spend another £1000 on speakers :D

torjs99

January 29, 2013, 1:56 pm

If money's no object then we'd be better off buying something like the 'Astell and Kern AK100' (Can we have a review please?)

Simon

January 29, 2013, 2:33 pm

Yeah that'd be interesting. I've read mixed reviews. Audio quality is supposed to be great, but the device is said to be hobbled by impractical design decisions. I'd also be interested in ABX volume matched tests with something like the AK100 vs a "normal" high-end consumer PMP, just to evaluate whether the difference was really worth paying so much extra for.

torjs99

January 29, 2013, 4:28 pm

yeah two seconds buffering between songs would be a major pain. Something that they could fix in the firmware though.

Simon

January 30, 2013, 8:54 am

Yeah I listen to a reasonable amount of dance music and it completely ruins mixes, especially more complex ones with a lot of cuts. What I'd really like is a PMP which is hifi grade with either wifi or 3G which has a spotify client. A bit like a portable Sonos I guess. Hopefully spotify will one day have a lossless service too, which would go nicely with hardware like that. At the moment, i just stream the "extreme" quality (which im lead to believe is 320kbps) through my nexus 7. I actually find the sound quality pretty good via some Audio Technica ES7s.

Darren

February 7, 2013, 9:56 pm

Galaxy S3 has USB host capability which will work with the DAC so there should be no inferior 3.5mm sound

felix

February 17, 2013, 1:55 pm

Just as a little titbit: I bought an ODAC+O2 combo, intended to deliver pitch-perfect, neutral sound quality for a (relatively!) affordable price (more than twice as this), because I wasn't satisfied with Fiio products and got sound-greedy... Guess what, I can't hear a difference (that matters or convinces). Of course now I regret paying so much, because I first bought Fiio products (also tried Creative - not bad either) precisely because I never intended to go so high and thought they were more than good enough. And yes, they were. I even dreamed of this scenario shortly before getting it after a long wait... It even sounds kind of dull, maybe more in the background than some others - I can imagine someone thinking they would need to buy something "proper" after hearing this.
So there, have fun and rest assured that most of it is probably just in your head or doesn't matter anyway or is rather due to your headphone (Sennheiser HD 595)....

Grarg

March 26, 2013, 12:50 pm

"Again though, it's another oft-quoted audiophile myth that the DACs in
most consumer grade audio equipment are terrible and it's worth spending
a small fortune on a standalone one." Without commenting on that, in my experience most cheap consumer laptops, many desktops and not to mention tablets have terrible sounding 3,5mm outputs - bad sound and often HORRIBLE noise levels if using IEMS or just normally sensitive cans. My last laptop was not possible to use for music listening without getting annoyed by the noise and sound quality. But I believe they're more about solving problems you have with your audio source than making a decent one better.

Kosty007

December 28, 2013, 3:15 pm

Monster Inspiration with Fiio e07K. I received this Fiio as a Christmas gift and boy does it make a big difference with my Inspirations (active) headphones. I usually run my music through my Note 2 and found that the volume was just not loud enough. After adding on the Fiio, it made a huge difference. Not only by just the volume but the clarity as well. I could hear each note a lot clearer than I did before. I have always been into music and though that this device would not make that much of a difference but it does. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get better sound. period. The size of the device is a little awkward but you can get use to it. The battery life I cannot comment on as it has not gone through a complete cycle yet. I do a lot of traveling and I am excited to see how these will work on the plane etc. this device is cheap, works great, and best of all... it has taken my audio world to new heights. (download flac!)

Gabriel

February 22, 2014, 10:14 pm

Good to get real feedback instead of the usual placebo filled crap we get from "audiophiles" which is another name for a music lover that got delusional with gear lol

Andre

June 30, 2014, 8:40 pm

Hello, This request is a bit out of order but I didn't know who to turn too. I am severly hearing handicapped. I need a portable amp for my cell phone. All the hard of hearing sites don't cover the problem. Will this amp work for me or is there an amp that is made specifically for the hard of hearing. I need to be able to adjust my base and treble and adjust my balance since my hearing loss is different in each ear Thanks Andre

Dave

July 21, 2014, 6:35 am

samsung phones come with a widget called "adapt sound" its a hearing test, different ears/frequencies, adjusts your output accordingly. something like that added a regular amp might help.

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