Many of you will be listening to music on your Mac with headphones, so you may find this review interesting. FiiO is a manufacturer that specializes in small amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) which, despite their small size, greatly improve audio quality. We have already talked in Apple about a portable amplifier of this brand for the iPod. Today we’re going to talk about a n headphone amplifier with USB connection and that has some quite interesting features, the FiiO E10 , and as you can see in the pictures that accompany the input has a really small size.
In this entry “In depth” we will see what it offers us and how it sounds.
When I received the product for testing I was really surprised by the small size of the package and its lightness. In the pictures of FiiO’s website you really don’t get the idea of how small it is, probably because there is no reference element in the images of their website. Once you open the can in which the amplifier comes, a detail by the way if what we want is to take it with us to use it with a laptop, we find some brief instructions, a USB cable for its connection to the computer, two sets of black silicone legs to be able to stick them underneath and the amplifier.
One of the biggest advantages of the FiiO E10 is that both the power supply and the connection to the computer are made through the USB cable, so we do not need any power adapter. In addition, on the rear side we have an audio output labeled as Line Out and a coaxial digital output.
On the front we have the headphone connection, a switch to boost the bass that we will talk about later and the audio volume control of the headphone output, which has an excellent quality to the touch and has a quite linear and noiseless behaviour. The case is made of black anodized aluminium and is really nice. At the bottom we find a switch labelled Gain that allows us to change the amplification level, +3dB in the L position and +10dB in the H position.
Why is an FiiO E10 interesting? The first thing is to have an independent audio output. This way, we can have the audio sound of iTunes or the player we are using through it, and the rest of the system sounds through the default audio output. Thus, if we want to enjoy music without canceling possible warnings from Skype or messaging programs or system warnings we can do without scaring us and without having to be changing the preferences of these applications with some utility such as Soundflower or BitPerfect application, which we talked about last month at Apple. The second and fundamental reason is that the audio quality is excellent for its price. I have tested the FiiO E10 with the SR60i Grades and with the Ultimate Ears 700, and in both cases the sound quality is really remarkable, much better than the standard audio output of the Mac. The DAC used by the E10 is the Tenor TE7022L USB with a sampling rate of 96kHz and 24 bit. The amplifier is an AD8397 that gives excellent quality for portable amplifiers.
The frequency response is quite flat, but if we want to boost the bass by moving the switch on the front we will get some more bass with very little distortion. It really sounds great with all the music I’ve “plugged in” to it. And speaking of plugging in, you don’t need any kind of controller or software. Just plug it into your Mac and it will be automatically recognized and you can set it up in System Preferences->Sound.
The price of the FiiO E10 is 64.95 euros, so the price-quality ratio of this small but bulky amplifier is really good. It has nothing to envy to other much more expensive headphone amplifiers. Recommended, especially if you have decent headphones and use it with music in a lossless format like FLAC.
We thank Axel from ZocoCity for sending us an E10 for evaluation.