There are two ways you can put the E1 to use, you can use it as a sound card for a laptop or you can use it as a headphone amplifier for anything (with a focus on mobile phones and tablets). Because of this I had to go through my testing twice when doing audio testing. Once hooked to my laptop as a sound card and the second time to my Nexus 4 as a headphone amp. Starting with USB mode I ran through our standard benchmark suite of music (Bone Thugs N’ Harmony – Tha Crossroads, Eric Clapton- Tears In Heaven, Nat King Cole and Natalie – Unforgetable) Each song is selected to listen for different aspects like the bass in Tha Crossroads combined with the singing to see if the bass washes anything out. The E1 performed great with each song, a major improvement over the stock audio on my laptop. Next I tested the E1 with the opening of the new(ish) Star Trek movie, the opening fight scene has a whole range of sounds and each was livid and in your face, just like the movie itself. I also jumped into a quick game on my laptop to see how well the directionality was with the E1. Once again the E1 made me reliese how bad my onboard sound was more than anything else. The only issue I ran into on my laptop was a slight white noise sound when running through the E1. It was never noticeable in testing but when sitting idle I did hear it.
I next went through the same song benchmarks using my Nexus 4 to see how well the E1 performed as a headphone amp. The audio quality wasn’t as good as using it via USB but the difference was very slight. This is because you can only clean up and amplify a poor quality signal so much and the Nexus 4’s audio quality was mediocre as best. The headphone amplification was so good that it lead to me having to turn down the volume, could hear my earbuds in the other room when I accidentally left them playing, even with it turned down halfway. I didn’t have any issues with the white noise like I did with the USB testing.
What really stood out to me with the E1 is just how portable it is. You can easily clip it to your shirt or pants and when you need to put everything away it takes up very little room in your pocket or laptop bag. The battery life was good at about 8 hours away from USB. If you used this as a sound card and as a headphone amp you might not ever have to worry about the battery life as it will get charged when plugged into your laptop. Just don’t be like me and forget to turn it off each time killing the battery overnight.