Fiio E17K – Alpen 2: A Good All-Round Starter

Disclaimer: Fiio is a site advertiser and sent me the E17K free for review. The E17K retails for $139 on Amazon.com

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Fiio has been very busy with updating their product line. They first improved the E10 and E11 and now they have launched the “K” version of the famous E17, which was especially known for its DAC part.

Where Fiio in the beginning had a warmer and more bassy sound, they now are a lot more clear and detailed sounding. It wouldn’t be Fiio if there wasn’t some sort of Bass Boost function implemented. Different here is that there is no unique bass boost button, but you can increase or decrease bass (and treble) in the menu via the scroll wheel.

I received the E17K a while before it was in the shops, I think it was around November. Due to an overly full review planning I didn’t get to the E17K till early January. Only then to find out I just couldn’t get it to work. After some back and forth emailing with Fiio I finally got the E17K to work. Turned out the USB cable was faulty and of course that was solved quickly. From then on it was extremely easy to use the E17K.

The E17K Inside

The original E17 was received quite well by Mike when he reviewed it back in January 2012. At that time the E17 was partially using the same components as the E10, and it still does that today.

Out went the Tenor TE7022 USB receiver and WM8740 DAC chip and in came the SA9027 USB Receiver, together with the PCM5102, OPA1662 as low pass filter and OPA1642+LmH6643 for the Line Out. The upgraded E10K uses the same Tenor receiver and PCM5102 DAC chip. Over USB that means the E17K can handle 96kHz/32bit and 192/24 over Coax (PCM). The E17K is able to handle DSD as well but you’ll need to install the Asio Drivers and SACD plugin in Foobar.

The E17K has a digital volume control and balance, bass and treble can all be modified in the menu just like the 0-6-12 gain setting. Mike will be glad to see they kept the Treble EQ, he really loved that in the old E17. The E17K’s battery (>1500mAh) takes about 3.5 hours to charge via micro USB and that’s quite long but it does deliver 15h of listening in return. Of course the device charges when it’s being used as USB DAC.

Gone is the old docking station the first E17 had, in the future docking will have to go through the micro USB port. Like so many other companies, Fiio also decided to leave out the optical input in the updated version but I personally can leave with that decision. In return there’s now DSD and 32/96. A lot of other people weren’t too happy with this decision though.

The E17K Outside

The E17K is still small. It weighs only 110g and measures 140.1 x 62.2 x 12.8 millimeters. I think it looks quite good. Build quality is typical Fiio: Aluminum + plastic. I mean that in a good way however and I never had any reason at all to complain about Fiio’s build quality. My E10’s, I have 3, take quite the beating and they keep working as if nothing happened. If there was anything I could change on the E17K it would be the screen (so 90’s) and the plastic volume wheel. Then again for the price these things are selling there really is nothing to complain about. The User Interface/menu and scroll wheel, actually work quite well together. It’s not a difficult UI and menu options are limited but using the scroll wheel is very easy and it is very responsive. Sometimes it misses a click but I can live with that. The E17K is a lot easier to work with than the first version was: the scroll wheel with click function makes navigating through the menu a whole lot easier and more user friendly. A big improvement.

The lay-out of the unit couldn’t be simpler: 3.5mm headphone out + Line In/Out + Coax in on top. Volume wheel and menu navigation on the left side (the wheel can be “clicked” to select menu items) and power / Input selector on the front right below the screen. That basically means there now are less buttons on the front of the device compared to the original E17. Design wise it does look a whole lot better to me. “Slick” would be the right word to describe the updated E17K. Both the Line out and the 3.5mm headphone out work simultaneously, and that’s something a lot of you who use it at home in combination with powered speakers in example will appreciate as you won’t need to switch cables all the time.

Sound

The E17K can be used as USB DAC, DAC/AMP or just as an external AMP with your source.

USB DAC

When used as “DAC only” with the line out connected to my desktop amp, the E17K delivers a clear and reasonably neutral sound. Gone is the warmer sound of the “older” Fiio gear but you now in return get a more linear sound with moderate bass (for Fiio). The DAC section of the E17K is identical (sounding) to the E10K’s DAC section and we quite liked that one.

It continues after the click

Fiio E17K – Alpen 2: A Good All-Round Starter4.2 (83.83%) 47 votes
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