The Fiio E7 is a very cheap USB DAC and one of the cheapest USB DACs I have used to date. I bought this to partner with the Fiio E9 (review to come) headphone amplifier as I wanted a knob or dial to adjust the volume on my headphones as opposed to having to control the headphone volume with my computer on my Apple Mac Mini. I find that I’m listening to headphones more and more and I wanted to get better sound out of my Mac. Little did I know how versatile this USB DAC and headphone amplifier is:
The front side of the DAC/Headphone Amp offers what is either a love it, or hate it mirror finish. I’m not keen on it due the fact that the mirror finish attracts fingerprints easily, and if you’re using this more as a portable headphone amp for your ipod or smartphone this could be a consideration.
Fiio E7 Input Options
As the photo above shows there are three different ways to get your music to/through the USB DAC/Headphone Amp.
The first is an AUX input that consists of a 1/8 headphone jack allowing you to plug any source into the DAC as long as it has the standard mini headphone jack size for it’s output (or, you can convert it to this. Up next, is a proprietary input jack that can accept accessories such as the Fiio Line out adapter.
There’s also a line in connector that’s proprietary for connecting to the Fiio E9 headphone amplifier. This allows you to easily dock the Fiio E7 into the Fiio E9. According to the website this is supposed to make the Fiio E7 sound even better – probably due to the more power in the Fiio E9
Lastly, the mini USB input for connecting the Fiio E7 to your computer for use as a small headphone amplifier/DAC.
Fiio E7 Output Options
The flipside of the E7 from Fiio is where you connect your headphones into. A nice touch is that there’s two headphone jacks on the top. If you plan on using this as a USB DAC I suggest you spend the few dollars and invest in the Fiio Line Out Dock that plugs into the Fiio’s connector on the bottom of the DAC and offers a mini USB input and a true Line Out connector instead of using the headphones. It’s clear that with the omission of the line level output as standard equipment that Fiio designed the E7 with the intention of using it as a headphone based unit first and a desktop DAC second. But with a few bucks spent (under $10 online) you can fix this.
Fiio E7 Volume and Controls
On the left side of the small DAC and headphone amplifier are four buttons that are pretty self explanatory. Volume Up and Down, Menu Options and Exit and Power.
Fiio E7 Operation and Menu Options
Menu Button: Click it once to enter the menu, and twice to enter submenu or to confirm your menu choice. Speaking of choices, the Fiio E7 offers a few different options to control this tiny headphone amp and DAC:
EQ/Bass Boost. There’s 3 different levels of bass boost from 1 to 3. I found I like the 1 setting. A true audiophile would have a straight and no processing, but I find for headphone use especially it’s nice to add a bit more bass.
USB Charging You can choose to turn off the charging when USB is connected. I don’t see a reason why you would need to switch this off, but there you go.
Sleep Function. To save battery life set the Fiio E7 to sleep from 10 to 90 minutes at ten minute intervals. Or, turn off the sleep function completely.
Keylock. Set the Fiio E7 to lock the buttons after a specified time interval from 20 to 60 seconds.
Maximum Volume. This is a very useful to save damage to your ears that could be permanent. You can set the volume from 20 to 60 (the maximum volume) I found using my headphones I rarely went past 20 so there’s lots of extra power to spare assuming you’re using relatively sensitive headphones.
Volume Memory You can choose to remember what volume you last had when you turned off the Fiio E7 or you can choose not to.
Fiio E7 Features and Specifications
The Fiio E7 is one of the best selling headphone amplifiers due to the fact that for the price, this is best value for a feature packed yet portable DAC that’s just as comfortable with home use as it is portable.
USB Audio Decoding The problem with the digital audio converter in your iPod or notebook is that the part is not the same high quality as the parts inside the Fiio E7. But with the portable headphone DAC, you can set your computer’ operating system to output the sound via USB which the Fiio can then decode.
Name Brand Chips for Decoding The Fiio E7 ships with the Texas Instruments 2706 chip for a USB receiver and for the digital to analog conversion it’ powered by Wolfson DAC chips – the WM 8740
Built In Headphone Amplifier and Pre AmpThe Fiio E7 pre-amp section is powered with a Texas Instrument TPA6130A for processing and an AD8692 chip for headphone amplifier section.
Standard 3.5mm Line In Jack I had already mentioned this earlier as this is a great way not only to hook up your iPod or iPad to the Fiio, but also any item that can outuput sound via a very standard and popular 3.5mm headphone port.
Dual Headphone Outputs A great way to share your music with others.
Digital Volume Control offers fast and precise volume adjustment
Built In Equalizer with 3 different levels of bass boost
Built In Battery offers up to 80 hours of use, and full charge from USB port in less than six hours.
Specialized Docking Port for connecting the Fiio E7 to the Fiio E9 for even greater versatility and performance.
Aluminum Case and Small Size 96mm x 55mm x 15.5 mm and weight of just 100g allow it to easily be portable with lightweight and strength of the aluminum case.
USB Charging Option This allows you to turn off the USB charging for even greater performance by allowing you to turn off the charging circuitry completely via a menu option. This prolongs the battery lifespan and allows you to achieve even cleaner sound.
Volume Memory and Maximum Volume Protect your ears and pick up where you left off when you turn the Fiio E7 back on.
Automatic Keylock Assures you won’t bump the buttons when it’s in your pocket
Sleep Timer Saves you on battery life.
Fiio E7 Technical Specifications
No Drivers Needed. Will play fine with all Windows Software and Mac OS too.
Output Power 150mW at 16 Ohms and 16mW at 300 Ohm
Headphone Impedence Range 16 Ohm to 300 Ohm
Signal To Noise Ratio 95db on Line In, 100db on USB In
Total Harmonic Distortion .0009% on Line In and .0008% on USB In.
Frequency Range 10Hz to 100KHz
Recharging USB 5V DC 400mA
What’s in the Box
Fiio E7 Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier
USB 2.0 Cable – USB Mini to USB A
Rubber Band. This allows you to wrap this around your iPod or Smartphone and have both the Fiio E7 and your source in one easy group.
Soft Velvet (faux, I bet) case to protect your Fiio E7 from scuffs and scratches.
Rubber Bumper Case protects the Fiio E7 from bumps when used as a portable DAC/Headphone Amp
3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. Connect on end to your iPod headphone jack and the other end to the AUX input on the Fiio E7. (You’re better off buying the Fiio L9 L-Shaped iPod Cable for your iPod. This allows a better output on your iPod and bypasses the iPod’s DAC)
Using the Fiio E7
Now that we’ve looked at the specs and stats of the Fiio E7, how does it sound?
I found the sound to be accurate in both use as a headphone DAC (I used the Fiio E9 for the amplifier section, bypassing the Fiio’s amplification) and as a DAC for my home music server via the USB input and both sound great.
The sound is very accurate so if you have an inferior recording, it will show. This DAC does not hide or color the sound I have found. For the money I spent on the Fiio E7, this might be the best USB DAC I have used and reviewed to date. With a street price well under the $99.99 MSRP this is a cheap USB DAC and headphone amp that offers great value for those wanting more power and better sound for both their Apple iPods, or home music server systems.
The one thing I could do without is the mirrored finish as it collects fingerprints very easily, Not photographed is the included cleaning cloth to help with this though. Fiio E7 comes with an amazing amount of free accessories too allowing multiple uses and configurations when out and about or use at home with 2 different cases. It’s light, has oodles of power (I never made it past 1/3) has decent specifications when it comes to distortion and well, just sounds great.