How fast time flies…

I remember the moment when I first time listened to a FiiO E10 together with my friend Savu and both had quite a shock. Connected to a HD555 and later to a HD800 it sounded very nice at that time for an absolute tiny price that drove top of the line Sennheiser headphones decent enough.
Two years have passed and FiiO did another surprise to us, I have on the test table new E10K  and E11K devices from FiiO.

I’m glad that at last the testing period ended and both products are publicly announced; now I can freely speak about them.
For about 6 months I was some kind of alpha/beta tester for E10K and I can tell you that I had a small contribution at the end result, I kept my mouth shut but now I have a big relief that at last I can speak about them.

Fiio E10k (1 of 1)-11

Let’s take them one at a time:

From a hardware point of view and from the sound perspective E10K it’s a BIG step forward compared to the old E10. I personaly would change it’s name, it’s not a simple update, it’s a radical change from any point of view.
E10K have now the gain switch on the back, bass switch remained on front, 1/8 headphone jack is now more stable and you can connect bigger aftermarket cables with bigger jacks.
Volume pot it’s more pleasant to turn, front LED doesn’t blind you at late night listenings and mini USB was changed for a micro USB port. Apart from that it looks basically the same, same brushed aluminum design.

Fiio E10k (1 of 1)

The changes inside of the device it’s quite more complex:

Often-used Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip was dropped for a new chip from BurrBrown – TI PCM5102, a chip that I see quite often in new devices (Arcam rPAC, few Audio-GD devices, Meridian Explorer and many others). New chip is an interesting one for many reasons.
Firstly it doesn’t need a clock generator or a master clock, therefore simplifying a lot the circuit design, the signal path automatically is shorter, which theoretically means a purer, clearer sound.
New chip is capable of 2V Rms output power on line-out without a need for an additional circuit, it’s a very accessible and high performance chip that was a logical move if the target is a better price/performance ratio.

The analog part is also totally changed to the old E10.
Power op-amp was changed from AD8397 to LMH6643, it’s the same that we saw in E18 and X5, much more expensive products that offer an airy/detailed sound compared to old FiiO electronics.
There is also an OPA1642 that does the gain duties and a LM2663 that is a voltage regulator, an important chip to obtain clear and a linear voltage for the rest of the device.
E10K also used a low-pass filter and an advanced bass boost circuit. The noise at the headphone jack is very small at <15 uV RMS and even smaller for the line-out at the back <10 uV RMS.

The power was raised a bit, from 150 to 200mW in 32 Ohms, offering a better grip for hard to drive headphones.
Ok, big words and serious changes in this new device, on paper everything sounds great, let’s see how it sounds in real life tests.

Fiio E10k (1 of 1)-2

Sound performance:

I don’t even know where to start.
For starters I let the device burn-in for 4-5 days connected to an iMac playing some lossless music of all kinds.
After those 4 days I installed a new software player Amarra 3.0 and after that I don’t know what happened.
Or 10K is indeed that good, or that Ammara 3.0 did some magic tricks, but I’ve heard a sound which I usually hear in much more expensive devices.
I started to check where my cables were connected, are they connected to another DAC, or another amp?
No, it was E10K and it sounded really great.
A radical change to the old FiiO sound and especialy to the former E10.

I’ve got clearly a more detailed sound, more airy, controlled bass, faster mids and hights, without being sibilant or obtrusive.

I quickly connected the rest of my other headphones, I have connected some active speakers, the same story on all of them: I like a lot what I hear.
I’m glad that I have a small contribution to the end product, the prototypes sounded less impressive for sure.
As for music I started with “Doi” album from Vita de Vie, then after tried Cabaret by Gothart, followed by Rodrigo y Gabriela and finished with some jazz and classical music, the end result was identical on all music.

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)-5

OK, let’s elaborate a bit:

I remember clearly that older E10 sounded intimate, warm and round, cutting a bit of frequency extremes, calming the highs and sub bass going not that deep, but it was emphasizing mids and upper bass. It offered a pleasant sound, quite romantic I would say.
The main purpose of sound engineers for the new products was naturalness and creating a real, palpable sound, more detailed, with better and deeper extremes.
I can say that that goal was achieved.

Bass now hits harder, I hear a heavy sub bass and a better controlled one, it’s faster and has a better kick.
Listening to old albums of The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers was a joyfull experience. My smile reaching the ears with continuous headbang, this is how I would characterize the experience.
Bass switch is now much better implemented, it’s quite subtle, around 3dB in the sub bass arrea, not more. I personaly turn it Off as a purist and I like it more this way, but for modern music listeners that switch will stay more in “On” position for sure.
Also as a good bass test I use some tunes from old Black Sabbath albums.
Geezer Butler knows his stuff, at the start of some tracks I hear how he powers on the guitar amplifiers without touching the strings yet, the same thing I can hear on Rage Against The Machine. That low sub bass and hidden detail was heard on E10K, how happy I was at that moment.

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)-4

Mid frequencies were more or less identical to E10.
They sounded sweet, calm, pleasant and romantic. The sweetness of E10K sound is coming from it’s mids for sure. I feel a slight emphasis on mids, but not as much as in case of E10, that one was extra syrupy.
Male voices have a good tone and a nice texture, female voices felt more outlined, more present, can’t explain the phenomenon.
On mids I felt a slight grain of the sound, like a small background noise. There are fine details that I’ve heard thorough test, it may go unnoticed in everyday life.
In any case the grain is much lower than that found in E10.
The noise floor is also lower and the background is blacker compared to older device. E10K sounds more real and natural and quite balanced across the board.
It doesn’t accentuate mids as much, it’s more neutral in this regard, that’s why I can recommend it now also for jazz and classical listeners.

High frequencies are easy and light on the ear and are not strident or pushy.
They have some more air compared to the old model, more information in this range. If I would compare the sound as a video experience, then E10K looks like a Full HD 1080p movie and E10 looks like something between a DVD and a HD ready 720P movie.
E10K is more fresh, livier, airier that pushes more information to the listener.

1111111

Indirectly stereo image and stage size was changed also.
More air between the instruments resulted a more holographic stage, and more precise stereo image. Location of audio instruments across the imaginary sound field is easier to detect. In a complex track I can easily listen to just a single instrument that I like and now it’s easier to do it without any eardrum fatigue.
Of course it doesn’t offer a complete 3D and holographic sound reproduction as multi-thousand dollar devices do, but at this price I really don’t have something to blame.
All this pros are without a doubt due to better amplification stage as well, maybe because of this I hear a better grip of the sound, a higher precision and a faster rhytm.

For Sennheiser Amperior, Sony MDR-1R and Ultimate Sound 3D it was a feast, all of them sounded good. On US3D I had a lower noise floor and on the rest I had a higher control on the volume pot. Oh and another thing, I didn’t touch high gain setting. On low gain I didn’t go more than 60% on volume pot, on high gain it could drive Sennheiser HD650, AKG K702, Beyerdinamic DT880, Audio-Technica AD1000 or even some Audeze LCD-2 at a more than decent volume without a major penalty to dynamics and clipping. I do not encourage to buy an E10K alone for this kind of headphones, but for a limited budget or as a temporary solution it could be a real bargain.

E10K connected through line-out (unamped signal) to some Audioengine A5+ active speakers resulted a sound above expectations. Lower noise floor on line-out really said it’s word.
In both cases it doesn’t need any driver, just select it as the default device in software player or from sound settings on the output device and voila!

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)-6

 

Let’s talk a bit about E11K as well:

E11K is a portable headphone amplifier and it doesn’t have a DAC/sound card inside. The first E11 (the old one) didn’t impress me much, because of this at that time I decided to not write something about it. It was made from plastic, sound was quite muddy, grainy, without air, bass was overly boomy, exactly the sound that I do not like.
The new E11K is in another league.
Now it’s entirely made from aluminum, looks elegant and attractive. I really like how it looks, the placement of ins and outs on opposite side to the volume pot it’s a very good idea.
On the street when it’s connected to a portable device (phone, portable player) when you change volume, bass or gain switch you don’t touch the interconnect cable anymore or the jack of the headphone cable. Many times it happened to me when using other amps to de-attach the interconnect cable or to disconnect the headphone, because of ins and out being very close to volume pot or bass/gain switches. It was very uncomfortable, for big hands it’s a nightmare, that’s why putting ins and outs on the back is the greatest idea ever, at least for me.
When doing test with 3 to 5 different headphones it could be a little inconvenient, but on the move, let’s be serious who would use 3 or more headphones and switch between them every 5 minutes?
On/Off LED is also on the back, late night listeners rejoice!

12131414

The amp itself now screams quality and beautiful design, it’s quite thin, like a modern smartphone.
Power rating is quite serious for a box so small, it offers 450mW in 16 Ohms and 260mW in 32 Ohms!
This power is due to meticulous use of good op-amps.
OPA1642 works as a voltage amplification (exactly what a preamp does) and AD8397 works as a current amplification (exactly what a power amp does).
AD8397 is quite famous in headphone amp world, because of serious power ratings and other pros. I encountered it in many top designs and in expensive headphone amps (Headamp Pico as an example).
A big upgrade compared to the old model is also the ability to use it when it’s recharging, a feature that original E11 did not have.

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)-2

Lets get to the most important part, sound performance:

Differences between E11 and E11K is like from sky to earth. I don’t want to comment much about the sound signature of the old E11, but E11K is entirely another animal.
The power was increased by 50% (450mW vs 300mW), total harmonic distortion (THD) was drastically lowered (0,004% vs 0,009%), battery lasts a lot longer (17 hours vs 10 hours) and sound quality is infinitely better compared to the original E11.
The sound itself resembles a lot to that of E10K, it’s even a little better.
Especialy I feel an even airier and faster sound, a clearer impact to the eardrum and a better control of the headphone drivers.

Out of curiosity I connected it to the line-out of E10K and obtained a sound that I liked more than with E10K alone.

At least for headphone users E11K looks like a potent headphone amp.
Larger soundstage of E11K jumped at me imediately, the sound is projected further away, everything is even more airy , stereo image is more precise and slowly becoming 3D.
It sounds deeper and larger, spatiality is enhanced.
The intimate sound of E10K disapears on E11K, sound is more distant now, as I
would be in the 10th row of the concert hall compared to 3rd row with E10K.

Besides this I hear a slightly less sweet sound, more natural and more neutral.
Mid freqs, especialy voices are not coming in your face and I don’t hear that slight grain. Voices are not on forefront anymore and are not as syrupy.
E11K offers a sound that is more closely to the original recording than with E10K, I personaly like E11K presentation a little bit more. All in all those are all major differences that I can detect.

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)-3

Bass switch is it also very subtle as with E10K, it changes slightly the sub bass region and doesn’t mess with the rest of the spectrum, I leave it on “Off” position.
The headphone listening experience was more pleasant on E11K, supreme control, spatiality, a more 3D imaging and superior power output really stood out.

As a matter of fact the tiny E11K has more power than X3 and X5 players from FiiO that are also powerfull enough. I personaly would not connect E11K to one of those players, but to ordinary portable sources, phones and iPods it should be an excelent pairing. Most likely E11K would be a great pairing with the new X1 player, the entry level portable player from FiiO.

Who wants to walk with an LCD-3 on the street I would highly recommend the much more powerfull E12, but don’t forget to have 2 bodyguards nearby as well .

From my point of view FiiO did it again, launching 2 devices with a hard to beat price/performance ratio.

Fiio E11k (1 of 1)

Conclusions:

Did you ever thought that a relatively new manufacturer, that 3-4 years ago nobody knew can beat the crap out of the big audio brands and of every sound card manufacturer available on the market that are double the price? I do not…

Both devices have my highest recommendation. People that just are starting this long, beautiful and costly journey of high quality music listening at a PC or on the go, don’t look any further. FiiO E10K offers the best sound for the price paid for anything I have heard until today.
For power hungry dudes as me, that want to fry their portable headphones with a big smile on their faces E11K would do it. Apart from few extreme cases, you will not need more power for your portable headphones.

Competition? Taking notes?
I don’t know what they are doing, but at the current worldwide situation I expect merchantability of these products at a 100 to 1 ratio compared to established and expensive DACs.

Pros (E10K):
– Good build quality, elegant design
– DAC, headphone amp and a S/PDIF interface in a single box
– Pleasant sound, naturalness and a slight sweet tonality
– Frequency spectrum is much improved comparing to the old model
– Details, airiness and incredible speed for the price
– Tiny price for a great performance

Pros (E11K):
– Good build quality, excellent positioning of In and Out jacks
– More neutral and precise sound
– Deep and large stage, 3D stereo image
– Detail extraction is very good
– Smooth sound, everything just flows
– Extra power for any portable headphone

Cons:
– Slight grain in the mids

Equipment used for review:
FiiO E10K, E11K, E10, E11, X5, Sennheiser Amperior, Sony MDR-1R, Ultimate Sound 3D, Audioengine A5+, a lot of good mood and great music. Oh, and lots of cool beers too.

Darku out!

69 COMENTARII

  1. I read your review on e10 and there you were comparing it to the stx, and stx won in some categories.
    How does the e10k now compared to the essence stx?

    • You are right.
      For me E10K beats Essence STX on every aspect, I really like what they did to E10K, I don’t know nothing better at even double the price of E10K

    • Hi Alex,
      Sorry for a late reply (holydays..).
      You mean only the amp section of the E17 I suppose.
      E17 sounds warmer and thicker, with more pronounced bass and mid section. E11K is more balanced sounding, nothing really stands out, everything is at it’s place, I like E11K more, it also sounds larger with bigger scale and a slight better pin point imaging.
      I however know that many may prefer the E17 sound..

  2. Thank s the review! Nice review and pretty much agrees with my initial thoughts of the E11k too. Amazing sound quality. Fantastic amp and value.

  3. Hello. I very much appreciate your impression on these two budget-friendly but not-skimping-on performance Fiio duo Ks 🙂

    My experience on my 3-day old E11K is similar to everyone who have bought this. It is definitely an improvement on the older version that I still use. But I am more interested though on your impression on the DAC section of the E10K.

    I also have the E09K+E07K and JDS’ O2. I use my X3 as DAC with the O2 at home and the Fiio bundle at work. So far, I am enjoying the X3(DAC)+O2 with my HD600. My HD518 and SR60i sounds good too for the kind of music and the volume I can listen to.

    My question is, am I better off with the E10K as my other DAC for the O2? Or, am I missing a „lot” if I choose this instead of the ODAC? The idea and the friendly-cost of the E10K+E11K at work sounds intriguing. Less clutter on my work desk.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Hello,
      I never used an ODAC, so cannot tell anything about it.
      But X3 vs E10K as a DAC is a tricky question. Overall I like E10K more, but X3 is in the same league, it is just different sounding, but not worse or better. X3 is still warmer and more mid centric with not so nice soundstage and air, E10K has more air and slightly bigger stage, it is also neutral-ish sounding, not as warm as X3.
      Changing X3 for a E10K will not be a big change, it will be a side step, different approach to the sound.
      E10K however is a steal at 60 USD, you cannot go wrong with it.
      Thank you for your kind words too!

  4. […] 2 by FiiO | Headfonics Review Fiio E10K – Reviews de foreros – ReproductorMP3 y auriculares FiiO E10K and E11K ? Premium sound for a tiny price – Sound News Review of FiiO E10k usb DAC and headphone Amplifier w/lots of pics!!! – XDA Forums Y un video del […]

  5. Hello.

    So, if have understood… As I have Fiio X3, you would recommend me to buy Fiio E12 instead of E11K/E10K?

    / Why? Because there is not a big difference between X3 and X3+E10(/1)K combo? 🙂

    Thanks in advance

    • Hello,
      If you want a real upgrade go for an X5 and look no further. E10K is kinda a side step to X3 and not quite better, it is just different.
      X5 however is completely on another level, everything is better with a X5.
      If you do not use hard to drive headphones, E12 or E11K are not really needed.

  6. I just recently bought Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro – 80ohms version and i am hesitating between Fiio e07k and Fiio e10k. If we ignore the portability of e07k for a moment, which of these two provide better sound quality/detail, etc? On the technical specs I see that e07k slightly higher s/n ration 108vs105db and go a bit lower of the frequency range 10hz vs 20hz (DT770 range 5Hz -35kHz). Overall, which of the 2 you believe is a better match for this headphones?

    Thanks in advance for your reply and keep on doing same good reviews!

    • Hello,
      I would go for E10K, for me it’s better even than E17.
      DT770 have already great bass response, you don’t really need more oomph that E07K provides in that region, E10K will make overall the sound faster and more controlled, exactly what DT770 needs.

  7. Hi, can you test the E10K using a OTG cable connected to an Android tablet / smartphone?

    I would like to know if it works.
    I’ve tested the E07K with an OTG cable to the Samsung Note 2 and it works.

    I would like to get the E10K if it does work over OTG.

    Thanks.

    • Hello,
      E07K has its own battery and will not draw any energy from your phone via OTG, E10K is bus powered and doesn’t have its own battery, it will not work with your phone sadly.

    • Actually, depending on your phone, it WILL work with OTG. My e10k works perfectly fine with my Nexus 5 as it’s able to provide 5v@500mA just fine. HTC phones tend to not have this capability, but Motorola and Samsung usually can.

      Your mileage will vary, but it WILL work with a OTG cable provided your phone will supply power.

      That said, you can also get something like http://www.amazon.com/Micro-Cable-Power-Galaxy-Samsung/dp/B00CXAC1ZW , which supplies power to the device. Might make things a bit too complicated cable-wise, though.

  8. Hi, just read the review of this device and need to ask this. few days ago I bought Sennheiser Momentum over-ear to use it with my PC, Realtek ALC1150 but volume is way too low compare to my old beats studio with the same ALC1150. so would this E10K do some magic to improve the volume level as well as sound quality because this Realtek is really a crap with Senn. thanks

    • Hi Chris,
      E10K is Exactly what you need. It will improve the sound quality and because it uses a powerful headphone amplifier, you will have around 400% more volume with E10K than with on-board sound card.
      Just select it as your primary sound device and you can rock on.
      Cheers!

  9. Hello,
    I have owned a pair of Philips Fidelio X1’s for a few months now (which I am very pleased with) and I have been on the look out for a DAC/Amp combo. I’m currently using the Asus ‘Supreme FXIII’ built in audio on my motherboard (supposedly one of the better onboard solutions) and I was wondering if the E10K would offer much of an improvement over this? Thanks.

    • Hi Luke,

      Yes, E10K will be quite an improvement vs any built in audio, if you want even a better device, check newest E17K (review will be posted soon) that sounds even better. I really like both of them.
      No offense but your X1 deserve a better digital to analog converter, built in audio on any motherboard is a big bottleneck for any high quality headphones or speakers.

    • Hey Charles,

      I’m not sure E10K will work with Android smartphones, It was designed to work with PC’s only, it may work but I am not sure.
      E18 was designed to work with smartphones, you should check it out.

    • Hi,
      First and foremost E11K and E10K are very different devices, I don’t quite get your question. Could you please elaborate a bit?
      E11K is a portable headphone amp and E10K is a desktop DAC (external sound card) and a desktop headphone amplifier in one little box.
      IF you are interested only in the quality of headphone amplification, then yes, E11K will sound better than internal amp of E10K.
      More detailed, more spacious, more air around the notes, less grainy sound.

  10. Thanks for your answer ! E10k and E11k cost the same price 60/70 $. I wonder with which amp I will have the best sound quality with my laptop and q701. My files are almost in FLAC format. So, the E11k even if it doesn’t include a DAC like E10K, will sound better ?

  11. I recently bought an Audio technica Ath- M50x pair and using them with my laptop on board soundcard (realtek). I want to improve the audio quality. Which one I should I buy. Fiio E11k or E17K or E10k.

    I need some good soundstage and some bass (as m50x are dead flat.)

  12. Hi Darku and congrats for your great review. Only one question. I need a headphones amp under 100$ for my Grado sr60i and AKG 550 headphones where the digital source is going to be a Sony s790 blu-ray player. It’s for a little audiovisual system with a sony 24″hd tv. The question is, considering my player is going to be that sony bluray player and that i will play there almost any music format from mp3 to cd,.dvd and bluray discs, what is going to be my better choice, the Fiio E10k or the 11k?. If the 10 k can only be used with Pc computers it’s clear I can only use the 11k.

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Biber,
      E10K doesn’t have an auxiliary input (no analog input) – you cannot use is as a headphone amp only.
      E11K can do that, however you should know that it is battery powered, if you want an even better one, take a look at E12A. If you want a stationary unit that is affordable and good quality, then go for E09K.
      Hope that helps.

  13. Hi,

    I need an advice from you: I have as sound source few devices (laptop, Android smartphone, iPad) and I want good quality music.
    As headphones I use Sennheiser Cx300II and Creative Aurvana Live.
    My questions:
    1. is it worth buying an amplifier (E11K)?
    2. Is it worth buying a combo DAC+AMP (E10K or even E17K)?
    Will the sound improve noticeably on the 2 pair of headphones I use?
    10X

    • Hello,
      Instead of buying just a headphone amp that will basically amplify the dirty signal from you laptop/smartphone/tablet, I think you should go with a DAC/headphone amp combo – cleaner sounds, with dedicated electronics that decode the sound and amplify it
      Some work only with PC’s, other work with smartphones and tables, choose one DAC/Amp what suits your needs.

  14. Darku, can I replace the hdmi sound link from my laptop to my a/v receiver with an E10K coaxial intermediary link between laptop and receiver, so that I get the E10K benefit of sound enhancement to my home theater speakers while retaining the hdmi video to my HDTV?

    • Hi Brian,
      Tough question, you should ask at Fiio support, maybe they can help.
      The thing is I don’t know if E10K with coaxial out will send any other audio signal except a stereo one, I don’t think it will work with multichannel audio (Dolby, DTS, etc). It can be used as a S/PDIF converter only to feed the digital stream to another DAC.

  15. Hey! I’m new to all things audio. Do you think my smartphone will be compatible with the fiio e10k? Is it even worth the amp/dac combo? Or is the e11k enough. Thanks!

    • HI Manuel,
      I would go with E17K now (newer model) and later would buy the successor to E09K (I presume it will be called E09S or E09 II).
      I like E17K better than E10K, looks nicer and sounds better.

  16. I cant think of ONE reason to put the jacks on the BOTTOM of the device, it`s ridiculous!
    Having them there, means that you can`t have this amp in your pocket, because you wont be able to change the volume without taking it out, which is gonna be a hassle..
    How this is intended to be practical on the go, I do not understand.
    It could probably be nice when it`s lying on a desk or a table, but how are you supposed to change the volume when having this in your pocket?
    I mean that`s where it`s supposed to „live” right?
    So angled connectors only if you want to use this on the go, that severly restricts the selection of both jack to jack and ESPECIALLY what cans you can use.
    I have NEVER owned on-ears, over-ears OR around-ears with an angled jack..
    Sure, many in-ears have them, but those usually don`t need an amp anyway..
    For this reason, as well as for the increased output level, I`m going to get an E12 instead, even if it is twice the price.
    Having the volume control in the BOTTOM of my pocket just won`t be practical, and I will never restrict my options to angled jacks only either.
    Just my2c`s :/

  17. Great review 🙂 i got a Sennheiser HD439 recently 🙂 but the sound could be louder and improved. I already did the bass mod but cant feel it much :/ Its actually louder on my android than in my pc.
    Im thinking in buying fiio e10k or fiio e11k. What do you think its better for me? I game a lot on pc, and listen a lot of music on the PC too xd. Can i use 11k to improve sound on pc or only e10k with DAC can do it?
    If not for my android which one is better?
    Thanks

  18. This is quite a review. I recently got a pair of k612 pros. I was told I needed to get an amp, would the E10K be good for these headphones?

  19. First of all congrats for the reviews. Here is my question. I have a fiio x3 ( 1st model) and soon i will receive Beyerdynamic dt 880 250ohm so i need an amp. I would like the e11k. For home use, i have a roland usb interface and also a micromega mydac for the speaker system. Can i connect the e11k via rca to minijack cable to the dac to get a dac and amp combo? Also can i connect it to the roland usb interface headphone out to get the sound more amplified? Tks

  20. This review convinced me technically to purchase an E11K this sells in the Philippines like Php 2,999 at Lazada. I started moving to BT and Portable Audio since I am always on the move. A couple of weeks back I got my first FiiO an X1 at Php 5,999 same supplier I thought having a „discrete” amp outside it would be doubly in purpose – pair with an X1 and/or improved old laptop audio out with it. X1 just by itself can drive my loaned NTune DJ quality Monster Headphone superbly enough but I am sure it can still push it more with stacking a E11K rev.2 judging from this review!

  21. Hi,

    I primarily listen to music through the Audio Technica ATH M-50x. I would like an amp to power my Motorola Phones through the M-50x. Will the E11K do the job?

  22. hey darku,

    first i would like to thank you for this excellent review 🙂
    however you recommended not to pair e11k with fiio daps..can you elaborate more on that?

    im planing to buy e11k and pair it with my fiio x3ii, headphones im using are Grados and Phillips shp9500

    • Hey Moe,
      That is right.
      I do recommend X1 to be used with an E11K (now its called A3), as X1 has a weak headphone amp inside.
      However X3II as well as X5II are completely different animals.
      Those two DAPs do not need an additional amp to shine at its best. E11K(A3) will not improve the already great performance of X3II and X5II.
      SHP9500 are kinda easy to drive, X3II is more than enough for that particular headphone.

    • Hey,
      Never heard a LMH6643 so cannot comment on it.
      However I’ve heard AD8397 multiple times, it a very neutral Op-amp, good linearity, nothing really stands out, I like it quite much since it is „very honest” with source material.

  23. You mentioned LMH6643 as a replacement for AD8397 in the article. I confirm Kunlun has the first as a buffer that is pin to pin compatible with the later. I’m trying to change it on the amp section and I wonder if the combination of pcm1798 opa1642 ad8397 is a winner for oppo pm 3. I like the out of the box stage of kunlun but I wonder if a bit more juice will help the heights, without ruining its „native” strengths.

      • It will break the magic of pcm1798 then, but given the limited choices I have I will give it a try. I was looking for opa426 spec (fiio x5) but nothing. I was wondering if the Soic8 package observed in the pics can be acquired by a fiio distributor, separately :))

        • I doubt a FiiO distributor can sell some op-amps to you, you would have better luck with Farnell or Mouser – they both sell op-amps worldwide.
          What device do you want to upgrade?

  24. Well, I was a bit unclear: it seems OPA426, the buffer section inside of Fiio X5 is hard to get. You cannot even find its specs, actually . I’m trying to replace LMH6643 inside Kunlun (Soic8) and right now AD8397 looks like a better performer to me.

    • I rectify: AD8397 seems like a better performer to me against LMH6643 at least in terms of output current, the domain where I’m trying to find whether or not it has an influence on overall sound signature. Of course the other characteristics of opamp may be dominant which may be a reason why Fiio selected LMH6643 opamp for. I guess that’s why I was asking for an opinion on „how it sounds”?!? I guess it is only the implementation that will reveal the real character of the change, as it depends on so many factors after all… Thanks for your replies> Happy Easter!

  25. I have replaced the part in my Fiio Kunlun. Since I have no means to compare side by side now, I can only tell the modif sounds pretty good on my PM3 – the acoustical memory is pretty short as we know.

    • Hi Simona,
      Nice seeing you around, nice chat as usual.
      Soundwise I’m glad you like the change.
      Regarding short auditory memory…by theory it should be this way, but in practice I hear differently.
      I notice bigger changes when I swap my audio devices once in a few minutes (15 minutes) or even hours, If I swap them in a matter of seconds I get confused fast, and can’t say exactly say what is better or worse.
      I also do remember clearly how a piece of audio gear sounds even after few months (but only if I heard it long periods of time, on multiple types of music genres).
      But you know, everyone tests differently and hears differently 🙂 I do it my way
      Sorry for not replying on Easter, I was far away from internet or mobile devices

  26. Thanks for the reply. I think I will try this therapy of staying away of electronics for a while – sometimes I feel I’m overwhelmed by technology needs – performing regular checks and trials really takes me away from what is really important in life.

    • For the last few months I have serious health issues (the reason there are no new articles lately), mostly because of work but also because I stay 12 hours a day in front of a PC.
      If you can, have some days off and stay away from electronics and internet and choose a place with lots of nature around you and clean air. It worked for me, I was very relaxed afterwards. Take care of yourself 😉 leave the sound tuning for the cold days of winter.

  27. Hope you recovered by now _ if not I wish you getting well soon!
    Just for the record – I have protected the output of AD8397 chip against short circuit. 🙂

  28. Got rid of the 10ohm protection/channel – it may be only a psychoacoustics marginal conditions, inline with the high-strung nature of AD8397, such as the need a rush of adrenaline level thinking that you may forget to turn the thing off before removing your headphones that makes me perceive a more transparent sound. To me, for the available amp voltage headroom it seems necessary to have the least resistance added, even if they say that pure resistive transducers like PM3, should suffer in any case. What is your perspective over the output impedance of the amplifier influence on a higher sound THD (especially for lower freq) and in correlation with the rail/current sink/source capabilities of the amplifier?

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