I wasn't expecting EB01-E to blow me away. In fact, reading about the previous version almost colored my opinion, and left me slightly worried. Thankfully, SilverStone delivered something that sounds great. It's not perfect, but for a budget DAC, EB01-E is probably one of the best choices you have. Unfortunately, the lack of proper amplification is instantly noticeable, especially with cans like the HD600 or BrainWavz HM5.
Connecting via USB is decent enough, but for the best audio performance, the SPDIF input adds a lot of detail, slightly warms-up the sound, and expands the intimate soundstage.
The sound is very interesting. It's crisp, clear and detailed, but the layering, imaging and soundstage could be improved. The bass is tight, but the treble can feel sharp with certain cans (like the Amperior). It reminds me of the Essence STX II, but clearer and far more analytical.
I found the bass slightly emphasised, with a pleasant punch, and a good amount of detail, which makes cello percussion and drums particularly enjoyable.
The bass leads into the mid-range nicely. I find the mids entertaining; well textured and clean, and carrying the right presence is exactly what I would be looking for, especially when you consider the almost neutral tonality of it all. The iFi sounds slightly better when it comes to presence, but the EB01-E is not far behind.
I am not a treble-head. In fact, I am more of a mid-guy, I like detail, instruments and complexity. As such, whenever something is even slightly harsh I jump up. The EB01-E felt slightly sharp, particularly with the HD600 and the Amperior. I only let it burn for a few days, so it may mellow itself out in the long-term, but right now, the sound is slightly bright and causes fatigue after a while.
With that being said, there's a very nice sparkle attached to it, and the added transparency sure does help.
The lack of amplification hurts the overall soundstage. In fact, when I will get the chance to look at EB03, I will revisit this section and update it accordingly. Right now, EB01-E has this very "intimate" signature. The imaging is good enough, with instruments well-separated from each-other and from the vocals, but the soundstage is not that great. Essence One and iFi iDAC have these broad, holographic stadion-sized stages, whilst EB01-E feels like you're locked in the broom closet, listening to the concert.