Portable DAC Showdown: SoundBlaster E1 vs. Schiit Fulla

I own two portable DAC/Amp combos, and now I’m going to compare them to each other. It’s really hard to tell the difference sound-wise between comparable DACs, but fortunately these two models have enough differences in their featuresets to make this article feasible.

SoundBlaster E1

Image for post
Image for post

The E1 is a very versatile little device, and it retails for around $49. It comes in black and black, and also black. It has a built-in microphone, and two headphone jacks. One of the jacks can be retasked to support either a headphone or microphone connection. It has a built-in battery for portable amp use, and the built in mic works with your phone if you want to use it for chatting while wearing a regular pair of headphones. This same function allows you to turn any headphone into a gaming headset.

Schiit Fulla

Image for post
Image for post

The Fulla is on closeout sale for $59, straight from Schiit or from Amazon. It’s made mostly from aluminum, and it has a nice big analog volume knob on it. It also has a USB jack, a 3.5mm headphone jack…and that’s it.

Listen, you should probably just buy the E1. It’s cheaper and has more features. But here we go anyway!

Sound Quality

These both produce full, accurate sound on any device I’ve thrown at them. The E1 has a slightly more “pleasant” sound, maybe? A little more gentle, smooth, and warm. If you prefer precise clinical accuracy, you might enjoy the Fulla’s sound more.

The E1 is also limited to 24-bit, 44khz audio. So if you’re looking to play back hi-res files, it won’t do that. The Fulla can go all the way to 24/96.

The Fulla has a more aggressive gain on its knob, and a slightly more obvious channel imbalance at the bottom of the pot. They both have a low output impedence.

Winner: Tie. It’s going to be down to personal preference. Fulla wins if you need hi-res audio support.

Features/Build

Fulla’s one bit strength is that it’s built from solid aluminum. The volume knob feels nice and it’s easy to use. The E1 is built from plastic, plastic, and plastic…

But it totally crushes it in the features department. Unless you really need hi-res audio.

With the E1 you get an exceptional built-in mic. Seriously. I’ve used it to record material for broadcast. You get a battery for those times where you might just want a portable amp without a digital connection. You get a second headphone jack. You get access to Creative’s SoundBlaster software, which includes EQ options and virtual surround sound.

The Fulla uses an older “mini” USB port, whereas the E1 uses the much more common “micro” port. The E1 includes a much longer cable in the box, and if you ever lose it, you probably have a million other micro USB cables lying around.

I had to buy a special longer cable to use the Fulla with my desktop PC.

Winner: E1 by a landslide, plastic and lack of hi-res support notwithstanding.

Final Thoughts

Okay, I really like the sound and the feel of the Fulla. I said as much in my review. I spent most of that review being in love with its aluminum and its impressive power output. Now, that new luster has had time to fade. It has totally decent sound quality. But features…it has none of those. And even on closeout, it’s more expensive than the more-fully-featured SoundBlaster E1.

The extra oomph in the power output of the Fulla also makes it easier to hear USB power noise and other undesirable artifacts. Which I mentioned in my review between gushing about the aluminum.

Pro-tip: If you ever have the choice between technology without any useful features and something with useful features, you should probably get the one with features. Especially if it’s cheaper.

Please click the little heart if this helped you out! It makes it easier for other people to find this article.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store