So how do these guys stack up?
Both devices sound great — either will improve on the sound quality of your source component alone, be it a media player, mobile phone, or desktop computer, and allow you to make use of a much wider variety of high-quality headphones with those devices than you otherwise could. Want to take your Sennheiser HD-650 on the road? Either will let you drive it nicely with your iPod. And that, for many, will be enough reason to pick one up. Also, since they work nicely on your desk and play while charging, it's quite simple to keep either one topped up and ready for on-the-go listening.
On sheer range of features, I'd have to give the nod to the E17, and as I'd mentioned above, you can pick up the E17, an E9, and a full range of accessories (and maybe some music as well) for the price of a Stride. That said, if you're picky about your levels (and it's certainly worth being so when you've got headphones on) you might prefer the feel of the Stride's analog volume controller — and I'd certainly understand, especially if you've got a bit more cash on hand. It's clearly the audiophile pick of the two, and given the Furutech heritage, that'll appeal to many. FiiO has a fine reputation in the headphone enthusiast community, however, and for those with a wide variety of I/O needs and not a lot of money in the bank, the E17 —with or without the E9 — will serve you and your favorite headphones just fine.
An addendum for on-the-go high-rez fans: sadly, neither the E17 or the Stride would work directly with my iPad2 via the Camera Connector Kit. Both devices reported over USB that they required too much power. I'd really love to find more portable, battery-powered 24/96 capable DAC/headphone amp combos that'd function in this application, but for now it looks like the HeadAmp Pico may be the only reliable contender in that admittedly small field.
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