Fiio E10K Summary
The Fiio E10K is an affordable, entry-level DAC that, despite its low price point, performs very well with most headphones. While it isn’t packed with features, nor is it the most powerful DAC on the market, it is an extremely popular product that has set the foundation for many audio enthusiasts’ journeys.
The Fiio E10K has been on the market for a few years now, and since its release, it has established quite a reputation for itself as an entry-level headphone DAC that is more than capable of providing great results.
I picked up the E10K to test it out and see how it performs when paired with one of the most popular headphones on the market, the easy-to-drive Philips Fidelio X2HR, and something that requires a bit more of a push, the OneOdio Studio Monitor 80. The X2HR has an impedance of 30 Ohms, so it shouldn’t really need a DAC, but I found that even when used with a fairly common motherboard (MSI Z690A-Pro), they lacked volume. The Studio Monitor 80s, on the other hand, is a 250 Ohm headphone and requires a DAC or headphone amplifier to be driven properly.
The Fiio E10K isn’t going to impress veteran audiophiles compared to their daily drivers, but they do respect the E10K as an entry-level DAC that provides an affordable and effective introduction to enthusiast audio.
Unboxing & First Impressions
While the packaging is far from flashy, there’s really not much one needs from it. Inside, you’ll find the E10K, which is far smaller than many anticipate (0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11”), along with some basic extras that include a USB cable, isolation feet, manual, and a warranty card.
On the back of the Fiio E10K, you’ll find a USB-C input, coaxial output, gain switch, and a line out. On the front of the device, you have the primary headphone jack in 3.5mm, a bass boost switch, and the volume control.
Visually, the Fiio E10K is subtle but distinguished with a mild linear grain texture that runs along the DAC as well as some grooves that run up along the sides of the device, which makes it a little less likely to slip out one’s hands, though at 2.72 ounces there isn’t much risk for that to begin with.
Installation & Testing
Installing the DAC couldn’t be more simple, connect the USB cable to your source device (in my case, a PC) and plug your headphones into the primary headphone jack.
This is where the experience may differ between individuals, as your existing audio driver setup is going to determine how easy the installation really is. During my testing, I noticed that the drivers that got automatically installed for the E10K conflicted with my existing audio drivers. To solve this, I uninstalled both and then just installed the Fiio drivers. This resolved my problem, and I was able to get the audio working.
Testing With Philips Fidelio X2HR
Off the bat, when testing the E10K with the Philips Fidelio X2HR there was a noticeable increase in the volume levels. I found that without the E10K, I would max volume on windows and still not be satisfied. When routed through the E10K, I found that I would only need to adjust the volume dial about halfway on the E10K to achieve levels higher than I had directly from the motherboard’s onboard DAC.
The bass boost feature added a noticeable thump to the low-end response, which is something that the bass heads would appreciate. On the X2HR, this was very noticeable and turned them into a budget beast for EDM and hip-hop.
While a DAC like the E10K isn’t going to change too much about the overall sound signature of your headphones, the emphasis on certain frequencies can cause the impression of an enhanced sound.
My only negative experience was that I kept getting a crackling sound occasionally. This crackling issue is fairly well documented online but is often easy to resolve. In my case, the sound came from the USB cable provided with the DAC. To fix this problem, I just replaced the USB cable with one I had around and never experienced the problem again.
Testing With OneOdio Studio Monitor 80
Given that the X2HR is already easy to drive, I wanted to see the performance of the E10K on something that requires a bit more juice. The OneOdio Studio Monitor 80 aren’t the best pair of open-backs on the market, but again they are more in line with what one would be using when looking to pick up the E10K.
Again, right off the bat, there was a marked improvement when running these through the DAC instead of directly into the motherboard. There was an improvement in volume and stability. The volume change wasn’t as noticeable as the Philips, and even with the E10K, I felt like I had to use the gain feature to get them to the level I wanted them.
I think that the E10K will still be able to drive most 250 Ohm headphones, but have realistic expectations in the audio levels you’ll be getting. They are going to be loud enough for most safe listening but naturally don’t have that same deafening power we find when pairing it with a lower impedance option.
While I found that the bass boost was more noticeable on the Philips, this is also more influenced by the headphone than the DAC. The bass boost of the E10K is a bit contentious, with many unhappy with the performance when compared to something like the K3, but I personally only notice that it becomes less impactful when pushing a 250 Ohm driver.
Frequency Response Graph
Red/Blue curve: BASS=OFF.
How It Compares With The Competition
For many, Fiio primarily competes with themselves in this case, with the E10K and the K3 both being considered by new audio enthusiasts. The K3 is a bit more expensive but is still often available at under $100. While I haven’t had personal experience with the K3 yet, it is generally considered the better of the two, especially with regard to sample rate support and bass boost.
Another option that is often compared to the E10K is the Schiit Modi + Magni stack. The latter is a more expensive option and could also be considered a viable upgrade path from the E10K. The Schiit Modi 3 is the latest version out at this point and, if one has the means, could provide you with a more powerful and overall improved DAC.
Overall, the E10K should be considered by those starting their journey into critical listening or by those who simply need some more power in their headphones. It’s an extremely affordable DAC that does what it needs to and does it very well for the price point.
If you’re looking to drive high-impedance headphones, it would be worth looking into a slightly more powerful option, such as the Schiit Modi or K3 mentioned above.
Setting up your FiiO E10K
If you’re into DACs/headphone amps you’ll be familiar with FiiO and other brands like it, but if you’re new to the world of digital audio converters and do not know how to use the E10K, I’ve got you covered.
How to connect the FiiO E10K to PC
After you’ve opened up your E10K, you’ll want to use the micro-USB cable to connect it to your computer.
How to install FiiO E10K Drivers
You should see an installation popup for the E10K drivers when your DAC is plugged into your computer. If you don’t, you can find them here.
Connecting audio peripherals – What does line out mean?
Once your FiiO E10K is plugged in and its drivers are installed, you can plug your headphones into the front panel 3.5mm headphone jack of the E10K and see if your computer’s onboard DAC is being bypassed if you hear sounds, you’re all set. The line out and coaxial connection on the rear panel of the E10K will meet all your needs if you are looking to amplify your speaker setup. Be sure to consult FiiO’s website or your manual for ohm output and voltage information.