Review: FiiO E17 Alpen 2, Portable Headphone Amplifier USB DAC

If you mix your music on headphones, can this device help you hear better?

Item: FiiO E17 Alpen 2, Portable Headphone Amplifier USB DAC

Price: $139 (US), £109 (UK)

Mic Rating: 4.5/5

At A Glance: The E17K Alpen 2 headphone amp is the new version of FiiO’s popular portable headphone amplifier. The E17K contains a built-in Digital to Analog Converter [DAC] for your computer or netbook along with a high-quality amplifier stage designed to power almost any headphone on the market. This means you can use it to power professional quality headphones for mixing and listening to music – something that is generally impossible to do well with laptops integrated headphone output. It connects via USB in and should work with all computers, and its internal battery should allow for up for 15 hours of play time between charges.

High Notes: The device features a variable gain switch (providing a +0dB/ +6dB / +12dB boost) to enable it to work with both professional and consumer headphones. Its brushed aluminium casing is smaller than an iPhone – making it easy to fit in your laptop case. The E17 features a high quality Digital to Analog Converter [DAC] that can handle “hi-rez” files up to 24/192k via coaxial S/PDIF input or 24/96k via micro-USB connection. As well as working with headphones, there is also a line-out to enable you to connect active studio monitors to your laptop though their high-quality convertors. There is also the option of listening to high-quality DSD files (with AISO driver and SACD plugin) via the device.

Off Pitch: The device is only suitable for high-quality listening or mixing; not for recording.

VoiceCouncil Reviewer Says: If you do a lot of mixing of music on your laptop (or just like to listen to music), then the FiiO E17 Alpen 2 offers a much higher quality headphone amplifier and DAC than you are likely to find on your laptop. For laptop producers on the move this could be the perfect solution; however if you want to record audio into your laptop from a microphone or such you will need to look at an interface with more functions. For simply listening to music via headphones, the interface offers an enjoyable experience and there are built-in bass and treble boost EQ controls if you wish to adjust the tonal balance slightly. Overall this is a great device for people who want to hear good quality music reproduction and for those who make music on their laptop who do not need to record sounds from the outside world.

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