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Old 07-18-2011, 10:41 PM
h1a8 h1a8 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 479
Default First impressions: fiio e11 vs. digizoid zo

I now have both. Although I had them for a short period of time I have to say that both are pretty good. On flat they sound very similar. With 1 click on the zo I get a little more bass than the fiio on level 1. With 2 clicks the ZO's bass is about the same in quantity as the fiio's on level 2 (just a tad thicker midbass on the ZO though). Now the zo is a little deceiving. It supposedly has 32 levels but the first two levels yields about a 6.5db gain in deep bass while the last level (red) yields only a 13db gain in deep bass (I used rmaa with denon load just to be sure of what I was hearing). That means the clicks above 2 increases the bass by a smaller and smaller amount each step. So normally, judging from the first two clicks one would automatically and wrongly think that 32 clicks would be insane bass due to the steps being the same quantity (they're not).

Now, I have fairly bassy phones (denon d2000, mdr v6, ultrasone hfi-780, etc.) so I don't fully know from first experience what both of these amps will do to bass anemic phones. I heard from pming different people that the zo really couldn't do much for the ath ad700 but improve it's bass a little. It went from unlistenable (0 bass) to barely listenable (some bass). Now for those that are not familiar with the ath ad700 it is famous for having almost 0 bass.

Both devices have a fairly clean sound up to level 2 (with music with average bass), the fiio is much cleaner with sony line out though. The fiio e11 was also significantly louder than the zo with its high gain on. That means it can drive headphones better. The zo is smaller but both are extremely light. I really thought the zo was going to outclass the fiio e11 but it clearly doesn't. If the zo's bass sounds better than the fiio's then I can't tell and it must sound better only marginally. Personally, the areas where I think the zo beats the fiio is in compactness (it is smaller) and when it comes to having a player with no good bass boost feature coupled with a phone that have anemic bass. The sony players provides excellent clear bass already that can compliment the fiio if more bass is needed. The zo does indeed stay surprisingly clean (midrange stays clear without distortion) for very high levels of bass through many songs.

If I can only have 1 then I would choose the fiio e11. This is because I have phones with good bass already and don't need much more bass (if any) but rather just an amp with line out feature. Trust me, the line out from the sony a845 through the fiio sounds better than headphone out with the zo. The fiio is also louder and can drive more power hungry headphones better than the zo can. I think someone said the zo can drive the HD650 (not sure). Well if that is the case then so can the fiio e11 but better.

With that said, having both working together is awesome. Both coupled together (with the zo as the preamp) drives the hell out of all my phones. My phones are now super loud at a low volume level and still have amazingly clean sound (even checked the rmaa just to be sure).
Working together these can even amp the infamous akg k701 well. I'm really amazed.

A cheaper route though would be two fiio e11s ($130 total) vs. one fiio and one ZO ($165) or two ZOs ($200). Plus two fiios would be even louder than the other combinations. Also two fiios working together can amp the bass even more than the what the zo can all by itself. I might have stumbled on to something here. You guys should try it out. Do you have some incredible hard to drive phones? No problem, just either use two fiio e11s or one fiio e11 with a ZO.

In summary, I love both of them dearly and plan to keep both, even if I had no intention of using both together. With either you can't go wrong and both are huge bargains (I can't believe the fiio e11 was only $65 though). I'm pretty sure that most can't tell the difference between line out and headphone out sound anyway so don't let my line out stuff scare you from the ZO since it sounds amazingly good and clear as well. If anyone has both the ath ad900 and either the fiio e11 or ZO then please may you comment on it. These are the headphones I am trying to get with a passion.

EDIT: Here is some rmaa results. All test were done with the denon d2000 (25 ohm) as a load. Sony's line out does a similar thing as the Hifiman with the treble (a small gradual roll-off).

Last edited by h1a8; 07-30-2011 at 06:28 PM.
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