Android 7 from what I read on a german forum
and around 1400 US $
Android 7 from what I read on a german forum
FiiO e17k / Alpen 2
The FiiO e17k, often referred to as the Alpen 2, marks my first foray into being an audiophile. I purchased it Fall 2018. Nearly 17 months later, it remains. All other gear from that time is past tense. This diminutive dac and headphone amplifier survived.
The FiiO E17K is a portable headphone amplifier and digital to analog converter (DAC). It’s an entry-level product aimed at users that want more than their mobile phone or on-the-go listening device can offer. For the price, the FiiO excels at what it is.
Originally released in 2014, the e17k was the latest release of the e17 series. The e17k remains a solid competitive device even as the 2010s give way to the next decade.
- 32bit/96khz USB audio
- DSD decoding
- Coaxial input
- Line in/Line out 3.5mm port
- Adjustable Bass (±10dB) and Treble (±10dB)
The FiiO e17k is neutral, almost to excess. Despite trying it with nearly a dozen headphones in the past year (Drop TH-X00 Mahogany, Drop K7XX, Moondrop KXXS, Monoprice M1060C, Focal Clear, Focal Elegia, Focal Stellia, Audeze LCD-i4), it remains consistently neutral. The rated impedance is between 16-150, making it suitable to drive most IEMs and less demanding modern, full-sized headphones. Obviously, this amp isn’t suitable to drive any hard-to-drive headphones or high-end headphones and most people will never use it that way. In case you’re tempted, don’t be.
My favorite pairings are the Moondrop KXXS, Focal Elegia and Drop TH-X00. It really shows off the full range of the KXXS and can extend even further with a little treble boost. The e17k lets the Elegia be elegant and neutral, while allowing me to elevate the bass as needed. This headphone was the best application of bass boost of any that I tried. It balances out the TH-X00 into a well-rounded can, but will leaving you wanting in bass for hip-hop and R&B even after the bass boost.
The EQ settings are adequate for the price. Increasing the treble works, but rarely is it necessary. The e17k does a solid job at stepping aside and letting natural treble show itself, but any attempts to make it standout will result in a shoulder shrug. When using the bass EQ on most headphones, I felt myself going “did that do anything”, waiting another second, and then going, “yes it did.” But it’s akin to the difference between food flavoring and the actual flavor. There is no substitute for what isn’t already there and any attempts to replace it are artificial. Most times, I tinkered with EQ and then went back to accept the FiiO E17K for what it is.
The gain is effective and I recommend experimenting with the +6DB gain.
The e17k slots easily into the palm of your hand. The brushed metal texture of the housing, the multi-functional wheel, the inputs and outputs all feel of quality. The accompanying case and FiiO-branded rubber wraps are quality and durable accessories that provide excellent value for a product in this price range.
The e17K includes:
- carrying pouch
- right-angled 3.5mm line out cable (FiiO L8)
- micro USB cable
- coaxial line out adapter
- 2 rubber wraps
- silicone feet
The scroll wheel menu navigation didn’t impress me or frustrate me. It’s easy to navigate and like good user experiences it fades into the background, never asserting itself between me and my listening experience. All buttons have their own tactile sense to where you could easily use the device from your pocket without having to look at it.
The device housing reflects the simple, metallic design language of FiiO, balancing between simple function and a clean aesthetic. I like it but could see if some people though it was clinical.
I have the iFi xDSD and the FiiO clearly bests it for tactile sensation. The touch of the FiiO is most memorable. I enjoy pushing its buttons, rubbing my finger along the scroll wheel, and touching the textured housing. It all feels right. Most FiiO products excel in this area and that’s to be lauded. It’s an area where most low-to-mid-fi vendors fail.
During portable use, the 15-hour rated battery life has never been an issue. It charges quickly and drains slowly.
Where the device fails has been in two areas. The right-angled 3.5mm line out cable, sold as the FiiO L8, is flimsy and not durable enough for regular portable use. It’s a functional solution that is helpful with connecting to my iPhone during portable use, but not resilient to the rigors of portable use. It’s probably adequate for this price range but is a significant miss for a product that wants to be portable. The USB connection is recessed and not all USB cables can fit in it, making it less ideal for switching between systems regularly.
The FiiO was my first mobile setup and remains my primary work desktop setup.
I work in a large office building and share an office with another colleague. I try to lay in the background and listen to my music, always via Tidal Hi-Fi, and avoid calling attention to myself. The FiiO lets me do all that while providing a high-fidelity music listening experience at the office. When I need a miniature super-portable setup, I take the e17k and Moondrop KXXS from the desk and I’m off with no fuss. It’s simple, elegant and it sticks with you.
And that sums up the FiiO for me. It doesn’t get in the way and doesn’t add much to my listening experience, but deliver simple quality in a durable, well-rounded, affordable package. It has more talented peers, but it’s reliability and quality make it stand out when you do think about it, but the rest of the time, it goes unnoticed and that’s okay.
Note: All images courtesy of FiiO. My e17k has seen far too much use to be suitable for images.
Nice review. It’s certainly a great portable package.
I’d like to give my review/impressions of the FiiO BTR5. Hopefully this is the right place and format to do this, please correct me if it is not.
I’ll start with my personal use case for the device. Currently this is my day to day listening device for my IEMs while I’m at work, running errands, or exercising. In the office i use it for about 9 hours off and on through out the day. I use both the 3.5 and 2.5 jacks with my Blon bl03s, and iBasso IT03’s respectively. I have been using this device regularly for a little more than 2 weeks.
The device feels solid but also lightweight. Glossy finish on the front and back, which is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Also seems like it may be prone to scratching but I keep it in a leather case. Sides are a matte finish, in the leather case I have they top and bottom are exposed and it does not seem to be scratched anywhere, I generally keep the device in my pocket. It also includes a plastic clip. The clip seems fine but I choose to use the leather case instead.
The device uses a multifuntion button along with volume and power controls to navigate. You can also control various settings through the FiiO app. My device did not come with an instructions manual for whatever reason but it was easy enough to find online. Pairing is fast and simple and when using it as a USB DAC it disables charging as to not put strain on the battery.
In comparison to my onboard 3.5mm in my phone (samsung s7) it is a huge leap in clarity and detail. Sounds very crisp and clear, close to my desktop setup which is a JDS El II stack. I have not tried to power headphones with it but it handles my 2 current IEMs with no issue. Volume on 3.5mm is usually in the 30’s whereas on the 2.5 it is in the low 20’s.
As stated earlier i use this throughout my work day which is 9 hours total. it is not running the whole time but it is generally paired to my phone for the full 9 hours. I would estimate in a work day there is about 3-4 hours of actual playback listening to music and videos. By the end of the work day it is usually at about it’s last 2 bars which is enough for me to use it in a quick 30 minute run.
I really like this device, I don’t really have a good reference to compare to other similar devices but I can say i feel the money invested (120 USD at the time of writing) was well worth it. The device works great, is easy to use, and has a ton of features, many of which i do not utilize. I would rate this very highly if it fits your needs for a portable dac/amp. As my first and only experience with a FiiO device I find this unit to be exceptionally good. feel free to ask me any questions about the device.
Hi and welcome @twopapercaper. Great writeup/impressions. I like FiiO too and they supply decent quality entry level products. Some their iems seem to be doing well too.
Thanks Paul. yeah I have seen some of their IEMs getting good reviews it also seems like the FH7’s are kind of a gold standard for their price range. I’m also very interested to see if they make some improvements to the utws1 in a future revision or upgrade as well.
Yes I agree. I would like to hear the FH7’s. They seem to get a lot of love.
Purchased the btr5 and love this little device, small size is great for on the go.
Congratulations and enjoy your purchase.
Thank you, it sounds fantastic with my Andromeda & Solaris. I don’t hear any hiss witch is great.
Could you compare your e17k and xDSD sonically? I have the original e17, and have been thinking about an upgrade (candidates are xDSD, Chord Mojo, and Grace m9xx). I understand the feature sets that each offer, but a sonic comparison would be most welcome.
If you happen to own Fostex Th-X00, Meze 99, or Oppo PM3, those are all headphones I’ll be using.
The xdsd is warmer and more colorful. The fiio is flat and neutral. I like the coloring (bass, layering of instruments, and intimacy) of the xdsd. The fiio in my opinion is technically capable but not as enjoyable. I felt the fiio did not do enough for the fostex. I sold my fostex prior to the xdsd but I imagine the xdsd would have been a lot of fun with fostex.
Thank you for that comparison!
I have an e17k sitting in a drawer somewhere. It was good for its time, and respectable for the price even now. However, it is several years old and I outgrew it myself. Any recent DAC is likely to provide a noticeable upgrade, even within the FiiO family.
I forgot to mention the FiiO Q5S — that was on my list too.
So, I found a Grace m9XX in like-new, going for less than half of msrp, and I decided to spring for it. I haven’t done any blind testing yet, but my initial impression is very positive. It seems to have a blacker background than the e17, giving a greater sense of space around the instruments. Based on what I read of the Q5S, it may have offered something similar.
I’ve been using my FiiO e10k dac/amp combo now for a few months. I’m really happy with what I get out of the e10k, although I have not paired with a demanding headphone (running hd599 now).
I’m just getting into audiophile headphones, so I suspect the e10k is not my end game. But for me as a beginner, it does a really good job for the price.
Has anyone used the fiio control app? I see there’s digital filters. Any idea which is the best one?
Fiio M11 Plus Limited Stainless Impressions
In many ways, the m11 plus was a revelation. It taught me quite a bit about my values in sound and portability. I am a difficult person to please. As I look to enhance my sound journey, I am constantly trying to find a balance of something that makes me want to listen to it, and something that it is practical to use.
Why did I get a dap?
I have this dream of not using my phone to source my music. Primarily because I am a heavy phone user and wires get in the way. Apps get in the way of consistent sound. I’d like to do all that while also increasing sound quality.
I also need the source to be mobile. I get far more listening time if I use portable gear. This is why I originally stopped using a desktop stack while working. I don’t stay in one place.
I also only stream. So DAP that can stream.
Why did I get this dap?
Because I was running out of options that can stream apple music losslessly. That narrows you down to a small selection of daps. If you want a contemporary dap, that pool is down to maybe six options while being very liberal with the term “contemporary”. The dx160, dx300, m11 plus, hiby r6 2020, hiby r8 and n6ii are the six specific ones I have on my radar. I have also tried a few lesser daps to narrow myself to these. As of this impression of the m11 plus, I have now tried the first 3 daps in that list. Let’s just say the ibasso options didn’t make the cut.
What did I use?
I listened with my hp-2 ultra and Dunu Zen. Nothing else.
Opening the box and starting setup was no issue at all. It was already fully up to date on firmware and signing into google was simple. No weird stuff about the wireless or funky behavior. It’s snappy enough to not be annoying. And I think android 10 is just smoother than 9 so it seems to be better than the dx300 in that respect.
I use apple music. I no longer use Amazon HD at all with lossless available in the apple ecosystem. Apple Music on android is not nearly as smooth of an experience as on the iPhone. Dumb little details just aren’t as polished. So far, it hasn’t effected usability, but it’s noticeable as a long time apple user. I also had to join the beta to get losslees. I did and it is working.
But, let’s be clear: Apple has a bug when you do offline downloads on an iphone, sometimes you can only play the first 15 seconds of those songs. So, android apple music is ahead in the game currently? (there are ways around this issue, but credit where credit is due).
The heat box
It ships inside the included leather case. At time of writing, I have not taken it out of said case (I will for photos). But, it definitely feels like it is necessary. Which is unfortunate as I bought the stainless steel version so that it could look pretty.
And it is hot while running. The leather case is uncomfortably warm. I am glad I am not touching the raw unit. In fact, there may be a problem here, but I will give it a few days of normal use before I start getting pissed at it. Update Below
The Beatles Suck
So, one thing I immediately miss from the qudelix is cross feed. It makes older music that use one channel for an instrument become tolerable. And, honestly, I just leave it on a bit of cross feed all the time, and I feel like it improves things on most music. It was noticeable how much more annoying music like that sounds on the m11 plus.
To Play or not to Play
Thus far, I have not had any issues with buttons. Like, a whole hour, and I can play, pause, skip and turn the screen on and off. Crazy. I will say that the buttons … ( excuse me, need to skip the beatles. again ) … are really easy to hit in this case. So, I went from daps where buttons never work, to one that gets triggered all the damn time. Great.
Thankfully, the overly sensitive volume slider can be locked in multiple ways, one of which will likely work for you. Leave it on, double tap to activate, use the hold switch or turn it off entirely. Double tap to activate has been fine. The other buttons I just have to learn to grab the thing right. And that probably isn’t a big deal.
The silly slider
The purpose of the slider is to control volume. And when not getting accidentally triggered it is quite nice. I think this may be an improvement over the wheel on other daps. With buttons on both ends and a large sliding area, you can move quickly, slowly, or incrementally with ease. The only thing I would like is control over the sensitivity. I would make swipes on it attenuate volume much faster. Or better: relative to the speed of the swipe.
I also want to say: Having a lot of volume levels is really good. Micro adjustments are nice. On the down side, I have to move it in 15-20 step chunks to make it really change volume. So I do a lot of fast sliding or button holding. I still prefer this to the wheels.
Can it go to 11?
Well, power. This is another area of relative disappointment compared to the qudelix. This thing supposedly has 588mw into 32 ohms vs the qudelix 240mw into 32 ohms. And if I hadn’t read that, I wouldn’t know it. Now, I know power is exponential. And you need double the power for every 3db of volume or some such. So, I guess it makes sense that it can only go a bit louder when pushed hard. It certainly couldn’t do what the signature did to the Zen.
Is it the energizer bunny?
I don’t think so. In fact, I have battery life concerns while streaming. But this needs more time. In addition to overheating concerns. Update Below.
Does it even make music?
Let’s be blunt: I have heard things I like more than the qudelix. This just isn’t one of them. For nine times the price, I honestly wanted a little bit of immediate “yeah, that’s the stuff”. I think, I would honestly rather have a topping dx3 pro at two different locations in the house + ipod touch.
I have developed a rule. If I need to a/b test to find the differences, I don’t care about them. I honestly can’t say that anything jumps out at me. I sometimes think there is a touch more nuance in things like acoustic guitars with female vocals. But then I pick 10 seconds and go back and forth a bunch of times, and I can’t find a difference that couldn’t be attributed to volume being louder on one device or the other. The only thing that jumped a bit, is a slight bit of smoothness (like a fraction of the micro signature) in the overall presentation.
People talk about this dap having pretty good soundstage. I think qudelix crossfeed kind of ruins that. I think that contributes to the qudelix just sounding so good. It brings a bit of a “speaker” feel that a good dac can’t best.
I don’t know if this is condemnation of the m11 or praise for the qudelix.
Diminishing Hopes for a Dap
It seems to me that diminishing returns hit way harder on sources than they do on headphones. I know I tested between the qudelix and micro signature and found the signature to be a step up. But couldn’t say why. Same with dx300.
I will say, this is the first dap that didn’t piss me off in the first five minutes of usage. I think that’s a combination of not sucking and my expectations being much more relaxed. I honestly had a good idea of what I was getting here. I have heard these specific 4497 chips, and this specific thx amp in several other products. It’s fine. But I was honestly expecting a bigger bump over the qudelix.
Update: But does it burn you?
Yes, yes it does. In 30-45 minutes of listening (particularly with it in my pocket) it gets so uncomfortable hot that I can’t leave it in my pocket. And touching it while this hot was not enough to actually burn, but I did jump my hand back.
At the same time, for obvious reasons, the battery life was laughable. I didn’t do a full test, but whatever was making it obscenely hot was obviously also draining the battery like crazy. 100-56ish in around 80 minutes.
When it got this hot, it is also possible it was skipping. I say possible, because I couldn’t completely rule out accidental button pushing at the times that it happened.
What will I do?
Even if the battery/heat issue is something that I could figure out and address, I simply wasn’t in love with the sound. But this dap helped me concretely identify why I don’t really love any daps.
For me, a dap is competing with two devices. The first is the qudelix. The second is the ifi idsd micro signature. Daps are trying to be a swiss army knife for me. But, honestly, they do the job of neither particularly well. It’s neither functional nor convenient enough to compete with the qudelix and certainly not good enough to compete sonically with the signature. Is it worth it just to get music source off my phone? … No.
I originally planned to compare it to the jot 2 (with 4490) that is incoming. My measurement for new gear is: Does it bring me joy? This one was a no. And I decided not to spend time on it.
I have already packed it up and sent it back. I have no further plans to try any dap. I do not believe they are the right fit for me.
Shut up. I’m a slow learner.
Thank you. I have never found a use case that would work for me in buying a DAP. So someday, I will probably use yours if I decide to pull the trigger on something after 1) fixing my Sansui integrated amp, 2) buying Magnepan .7 for the office, and 3) finally figuring what to do about replacing my aging Rectilinear III speakers in my main system in the living room.
My wallet, on the other had, may not thank you as much.
I have had my M11 Pro for a couple months now and thought I would post my thoughts.
I originally had all my music on my Note 9 but began to realize whatever phone I get next will likely not have a headphone jack. For me bluetooth is an absolute last resort - give me wires any day. I still have an old iPod and enjoyed having a dedicated audio device back then - I was already saving up for a new pair of headphones to upgrade from my Sony MDR1AM2 - I wanted a single device that would store all my music, be at least somewhat future proofed that I could bring back and forth to the work office and my backyard where I like to chill with the dog.
The M11 jumped to the top of my lists pretty quick just based off the fact that it had all three headphone jack sizes from the get go, had at least one micro sd slot and (after google updates) would be able to connect to the streaming services that I use.
I wasn’t originally planning on getting the Pro version but once I decided on getting a set of ZMF headphones, I decided I probably wanted every bit of power that thing could squeeze out - soon afterward I found one on eBay barely used for $400 (the price of a regular M11) and jumped on it.
I have been very happy with it overall - I knew going in that it didn’t have the best battery life ever, but I am rarely somewhere out of reach of either a charge cord or one of the battery packs I have (the samsung portable 10,000 mah wireless charger is great) so that wasn’t a real big deal for me. I have really enjoyed having a physical volume wheel/knob again after so many years of phone screen controls.
Overall I am very happy with my purchase - my music library definitely sounded better out of the Fiio than my Note 9, regardless of whether I was using my little AKG earbuds, the Sonys or my ZMF. The M11 Pro has no problem driving the ZMFs - i use High gain mode and run it on the balanced 4.4mm connection - I rarely turn the volume up out of the 70s (usually in the 60s) and it goes up to 120. Layered vocals and layered electronics in particular sound incredibly clear and distinct.
The unit does run a little warm, but I didn’t experience anything like mr Dynamic had with his M11 Plus in his very detailed post above.
Just thought I’d throw my two cents out there as a, currently, quite satisfied Fiio user.