The E09K from Chinese manufacturer FiiO is a desktop amplifier that’s designed to bring a bit of sparkle to music sound quality when listening through headphones. It’s ideal for music lovers or guitar players who like to listen to their tunes nice and loud at night without having to compromise on sound quality. The E09K is an updated version of the E9, adding some new features and addressing some of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor.
As a ‘desktop’ amp, the most obvious use is with a PC or laptop, bypassing its soundcard altogether and upgrading sound quality in the process. But to do you have to combine it with FiiO’s £99 E17 ALPEN headphone amp/USB DAC, which can be conveniently docked into the recess on top of the E09K.
The E09K is a beautifully made device. It’s fashioned from high quality materials, including a solid and sturdy aluminium casing, topped off by a chic brushed black finish and alluringly curved edges. And at 149 x 96 x 56mm it’s a compact unit that won’t take up much space on your desk.
The front panel is dominated by a massive volume dial that spins with what Partridge would call a ‘nice action’. Next to it is a switch that allows you to select between the dock or the auxiliary input. On the other side of the dial is the all important 6.3mm headphone jack. A small blue light denotes that the unit is s
Flip the unit 180° and there’s a decent range of connections. You get three pairs of gold-plated RCA jacks (as opposed to the 3.5mm outputs on its predecessor) – one is an aux input for external audio devices, one is a volume controlled stereo pre-out for driving power amps or active monitor speakers, and the other is a fixed stereo line output. These are covered by red and white rubber caps, which keeps them protected when not in use.
There’s also a Type B USB port for directly connecting a PC or laptop (a Type A to B cable is supplied) but don’t forget that you’ll need to dock the E17 in order to enjoy USB music playback. Also on the rear is a gain switch that provides a level boost for high impedance or low sensitivity headphones. The E09K’s power adapter plugs into the back.
The dock connector on top of the unit is sunk into a recess just wide enough to fit the E17. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of iPod dock, which it isn’t – although FiiO does sell a range of iPod/iPhone line out dock cables that can be used with its headphone amps, again for a potential step-up in sound quality.