Fulla E Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by dematted, Nov 15, 2021.

  1. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Well, there's been a lot of buzz about this cute little box, but surprisingly enough, I don't see a thread on it here. I bought a B-stock unit from Schiit after hearing some trusted SBAFers say a few too many nice things about a product that's about a tenth or a twentieth the cost of a lot of the gear we purchase here, so I thought I would buy one to see what the hype was all about. A few days later, my B-stock unit from Schiit arrived, and I was quite surprised at just how tiny this little thing is...

    99F47D12-E7D6-4CD5-AC34-749ED3F59F73.jpeg

    Yeah, it's small, especially compared to the Mjolnir. But it packs a good punch. I'm going to discuss the dac here, as all my headphones are higher impedance, and so aren't really a good fit for the amp. According to some others, the amp works great with low impedance phones, though they'll have to verify that with impressions.

    Anyways, the dac. This is, to my knowledge, Schiit's first ESS implementation, so it's something of an augur for things down the road - Modi E and Modius E and all of that exciting stuff.

    I'm going to talk about this with one headphone - GenG, and two amps of Schiit's, the Mjolnir 1 and Lyr 3. I'll be comparing to the Modi 3, and using the USB out of a macbook air. I'm powering both with independent power supplies, but they're nothing fancy: just phone chargers and the like. Basic, I know, but I'm getting back into the audio game right now, so give me some time to throw all my money away.

    I actually first had some trouble getting this to work as a dac. When I hooked up the pre-amp out with a TRS to RCA cable, no sound came out of the Lyr 3. It turned out that some kind of relay had been stuck, because when I plugged a headphone cable and out of the main jack once, it started working (thanks to some folks on the ETA discord for helping me figure this out). Interesting, and potentially something to know about.

    Onto the important stuff. With the Lyr 3, I much preferred the Fulla E to the Modi 3. These are very different sounding dacs, though I do think that the Fulla E is in general a superior product. The most immediate improvements I noticed were an increased sense of air, space, and layering, and less of a softness to the mid-range in particular. Treble sounded simultaneously more extended and less digital. This help opened the GenG up a lot in the upper frequencies. Bass is also tighter and harder-hitting than on the Modi 3, which has more of a sense of haze there.

    The one area where I preferred the Modi 3 at times is its presentation in the mid-range. Here, it has a notably sweeter, warmer sound, with lower-mids sounding a tad elevated vis-a-vis the other frequences, and with more of a sense of roundness to attacks. This all leads to a somewhat more romantic sound, where the Fulla E plays it a bit more straight. While the fulla e does sound clearer at times because of this, it also often sounds a bit more one-dimensional in the way it presents images in the mid-range. In particular, it feels like mid-range images lack some depth and texture when comparing to the modi 3, even if they are sharper.

    As far as staging goes, the Fulla E presents a wider stage, and instrument images also tend to be larger on the Modi 3. This lends itself better to a feeling of saturation and fullness, but it also leads to a bit of congestion on the Modi 3 which the Fulla E just doesn't have. Fulla E also layers instruments with a good deal more confidence and effortlessness, leading to a sonic landscape that is more intelligible and well-delineated.

    Oh yeah, let's talk about the treble. I think the treble on Fulla E is better, but there's also just...a lot more of it. This is a bright dac. It's not bright in the "Bass-light" sense - in fact, bass seems slightly more present than on the Modi 3 - but bright in more of a "treble around 5-9k really jumps out at you". In fact, the sound may be a bit V-shaped because of this. With the Mjolnir 1, this got to be a little overwhelming, and at times it sounded as if the bass and treble energy were crowding out vocals. As a result, I found myself reaching for the Modi 3 sometimes even though at a technical level, it is definitely not up there with the Fulla E in most respects.

    Let's talk about some of those other technicalities. In terms of sheer sense of clarity, the Fulla E is definitely a tier above the Modi 3. Things sound cleaner and clearer. I'm not sure if it's actually more resolving, though; it could just be that its tonal signature and transient profile give it a more "hi-fi" sound. Dynamically, it's a clear step above the Modi 3, especially when it comes to the sense of macrodynamics. Here, I felt that the Fulla E was mostly keeping up with the Mjolnir 1, while the Modi 3 was holding back the amp's abilities.

    In terms of transients, this is a mixed bag. I feel like neither dac is particularly good at representing decay trails and the "plankton" that comes with them, though the Fulla E has a bit more sharpness and bite to its attacks. Still, I felt that some of this sharpness was a tad unnatural at times, particularly in the lower to mid treble, but I still preferred it to the softness and haze that made the Modi 3's sense of attack sound simply blurry.

    Overall, this is a really impressive dac for the price, especially since it comes in a combo unit. Of course, component matching is important, but overall, I'd take this above both a Modi 3 and a Modius' balanced outputs (though it might not be a technical improvement to Modius, certain parts of the way that dac presented bass really irked me). Just don't put this in a system that's already on the brighter side of neutral or which has any notable recessions in the mid-range you're looking to patch up. This won't help, and will probably aggravate any problems you have.

    Oh, and don't think I've forgotten my favorite part of these reviews:

    upload_2021-11-15_16-4-18.png

    Cheers!
     
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    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
  2. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I really like the Fulla E for what it is. Lately I've been using it as my bedside DAC/amp with the UM 3DT and it's just a pleasing presentation, not too in your face or laid back, kind of a goldilocks thing. This makes me very curious what a Modius E might sound like, as that could be a real heavy hitter for the price.
     
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  3. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    I've been using mine with the PS5 and a pair of HD600s and I couldn't be happier. It's a great little unit that has given me no problems with the finickiest of my uses (PS5, Android device, M1 Mac).
     
  4. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    Leaving this here as a data point for other folks interested in using the Fulla E with their iPhone: I bought the Fiio LT-LT3 lightning to USB C cable hoping to bypass the camera kit. It does not work with my iPhone 12 Pro and Fulla E, even when using a dedicated power supply. The Fulla is recognized, but I get an error that says "This accessory requires too much power." If anybody knows of a lightning to USB C cable that does work, let me know. I'm trying to avoid adapter-itis, if possible.
     
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