Part 3 of my amplifier round up features the Fiio E11 portable amplifier, Fiio’s mid-range product in its dedicated portable amplifier line. In this review, I’ll be comparing it to the JDS Labs CMoyBB, one of my favorite portable amplifiers and a similarly priced product.
Read on for my impressions of the Fiio E11 portable amplifier.
Design and Build Quality
Designed with lightweight plastics, the Fiio E11 is likely even lighter than you’d expect upon first picking it up. While its design is a bit more plastic than I’d like and doesn’t feel as solid next to the Altoids tin clothed CMoy (much less the all-aluminum construction of the C5), it doesn’t feel especially fragile. The amplifier is rather slim, smaller than the JDS Labs CMoyBB and C5 and is very pocket friendly.
The E11 boasts a similar aesthetic design to the iPhone 4 and 4S (though obviously made of inferior materials) with its black plastic covering and surrounded by a silver plastic rim. The knob is quite solid and surrounded by a protective rim of its own which goes a long way toward preventing accidental volume adjustment in a pocket and is really rather ingenious.
The removable battery is very convenient for users who wish to carry around multiple batteries for continuous use or simply being able to swap it out for a higher capacity battery. Unfortunately, though, if you’re hoping to charge the battery and listen simultaneously, you’re going to be disappointed as the E11 cannot play while charging over USB.
Included is a 3.5mm right angled interconnect cable, a set of black Fiio branded rubber bands, a USB charging cable and a set of adhesive rubber feet.
Gain and Hiss
The Fiio E11 has a variable gain and, interestingly enough, two power modes. Upon taking off the top cover, one can access the removable battery and underneath it is a switch to toggle between high and low power. The amplifier defaults to low power but I switched it to high power for my tests which, surprisingly, boosts gain a bit but not output power.
Hiss levels were relatively minor and about the same as the CMoyBB but can’t match the dead-silent operation of the (granted, much more expensive) JDS Labs C5 or O2. Despite that, I don’t really penalize the E11 too much as its hissing is minimal and won’t likely be noticed once music starts.
Slightly warm and full sound but with a flat frequency response that rolls off gently at the highest of highs. Very good sound with the bass boost options off but with them on, especially the second option, the sound gets a little muddy as the lower mids are boosted alongside the bass. But, as a whole, I’d say the Fiio E11 sounds very good next to my first real amplifier, the JDS Labs CMoyBB 2.02 though I feel that the CMoy sounds slightly more spacious and open than the E11 and its bass boost sounds ever so slightly cleaner.
Nonetheless, the Fiio E11 is a capable portable amplifier that should suffice for the amplification needs of the masses and provides ample amplification for just about anything short of high impedance Sennheisers or Beyerdynamics. Its bass boost is implemented well enough and adds sufficient thump to the low end that, like the CMoyBB, is quite addictive and fun. Personally, I thought the first EQ setting was much better than the second as the second boosts the bass so much that it ends up being more distracting than enjoyable and coming from a basshead, that’s saying something.
Available for around $60, the Fiio E11 is a very solid and compact portable amplifier and one I think has a number of features that will appeal to both casual listeners and audiophiles alike. Though I personally prefer the JDS Labs CMoyBB, the E11’s additional driving power and two EQ settings make it a good alternative and a good portable amplifier for the price.