This is a non-technical review of the FiiO e17 AMP & DAC. This means, I will not detail the specifications of the device nor will I be running any technical tests/show graphical results of technical output on the technical performance of the e17.
If you are looking for such a review, I recommend you have a look on Head-Fi. This review is purely based on my personal experience as a normal user, using the e17 on various devices with various headphones.
The FiiO e17 AMP & DAC is one of the most versatile and value for money portable AMP & DAC available. It takes practically every type of input out there; and as its name suggests, it is BOTH an AMP and a DAC.
The FiiO e17 has top notch build quality, a brushed finish, an LCD screen, various connection sockets along the top & bottom edges; and ultimately looks like an old school MP3 player – which in my books looks pretty sleek.
However, there’s two aspects that I did not like, it’s quite bulky and heavy; and you’re supposed to strap this on to the back of your smartphone and carry it around with you – not very portable is that?
I used the FiiO e17 in various combinations with the following gear:
- Sony MDR-1RBT
- ThinkSound ts02+mic
- Bose AE2w
- Retina MacBook Pro
- Nokia Lumia 800
- Sony Xperia Z
- Nokia Lumia 925
- Surface Pro
- Beats by Dr Dre Tour with ControlTalk
- Sennheiser HD448
In all the combinations I tried, the e17 improved the sound quality, particularly when the music was turned up. However, I would like to point out that the improvement between the different combinations were quite different and using the e17 as the DAC also improved the sound quality.
The combinations of using MP3 files with a bitrate below 320kbps and sub-$200 headphones barely had any sound quality improvement, the most notable improvement is the noise distortion required a higher volume.
The best combination I found was the Sony MDR-1RBT with FLAC files and having the e17 also play the role of the DAC (with the output settings set to 24bit/96kHz). In this combination, I feel as if I’m in the studio with the artist. You can clearly hear a separation between each of the instruments and the singer’s voice.
I found my time with the FiiO e17 very enjoyable and would happily recommend it to others as a USB DAC/AMP for use in the office/at home. The bulky design and extra weight makes it not very good for on-the-move applications.
Finally, if you do not have any $200+ headphones or your music files are not in a lossless format then don’t bother.