In this review we take a close look at the EarMen CH-Amp headphone amplifier and pre-amp, selling for €1.480 Euro or $1,480 USD.
Disclaimer: The EarMen CH-Amp unit was sent to me directly by EarMen in exchange for our honest opinion about the upcoming unit. This is the first CH-AMP review worldwide.
If EarMen doesn’t ring a bell yet, then the Serbian “Auris Audio” just might. In fact, if you’ve been following Headfonia you will know that we’re quite the Auris fans here. Their amps have won multiple of our awards, and models like the Euterpe, HA2-SF and Nirvana get praised all over the world.
A while ago Auris Audio decided to enter the portable market and to do so they came up with new brand name: EarMen. EarMen is registered in the US but all of their products are built and assembled in Europe to ensure the highest standards in production quality.
EarMen is all about delivering the best possible value for money and their new product line-up consists out of 9 models currently.
The EarMen Line-up
- The Donald DAC – A USB-DAC only with an RCA output to hook up to your dedicated amplifier
- The TR-Amp – A portable DAC/AMP solution
- The Eagle – A single ended USB DAC/AMP dongle and DragonFly Cobalt competitor.
- The Sparrow – A single ended and balanced USB DAC/AMP dongle.
- The Tradutto – An ultra-high resolution fully balanced compact DAC with advanced BT streaming capability.
- The Colibri – A dongle sized transportable DAC/AMP with volume control, lots of power and double outputs
- The Angel, a fully balanced portable DAC/AMP
- The Staccato, a streamer from the Tradutto range
- The CH-Amp – A mini sized fully balanced amplifier from the Tradutto range
In this article we look at the EarMen CH-Amp, it’s the first ever review of this unit and it from now can be bought from Earmen’s shop!
CH-Amp Intro & Price
The EarMen CH-Amp is part of the EarMen desktop range, like Tradutto, Staccato and the PSU-3 which comes with the CH-Amp. Check out the full system pictures in this article. The EarMen CH-Amp AMP/PREAMP with PSU-3 is selling for $/€1.480 USD/Euro. In the box you will find: one EarMen CH-Amp, the PSU-3 linear power supply, one remote control and the user manual.
The full EarMen stack with the Power Supply, DAC ($/€799), streamer ($/€999) and AMP/PREAMP in total costs €/$3.278 Euro/USD. That’s not peanuts but you do get a high-end, full component stack. It’s all you will ever need, a full range/complete setup.
In Europe you can buy the unit here. In the US, you can buy the unit here. EarMen has been showing their production runs frequently on social media and the shop is now opeened especially for this review! The CH-Amp can be seen starting from the 1m.04s time stamp.
In this article we are looking at the newest member of the desktop family, the CH-Amp. As you know EarMen likes giving their units rather funny names, but in this case, it really is a well-chosen name. Keep reading. We will look at the last member of the family, the Staccato streamer, soon!
The EarMen CH-Amp is a fully balanced headphone amp as well as a pre-amp, it can deliver up to 3.8W output power. Fully balanced means that the balanced outputs from the source go to the output intact, only amplified. From the Single-end input, the signals are converted to balanced, without phase shift (phase imbalance), so that the obtained + and – signals are perfectly in phase. A Composite Amplifier Topology is implemented in the CH-Amp. EarMen states that composite op-amp brings the best of both worlds with excellent DC and AC characteristics. These amplifiers offer several advantages over other types of amplifiers. We quote EarMen:
“Power amplifiers typically use thermal feedback loops, thus causing serious errors while driving heavy loads. These errors occur due to self-heating. The use of the composite can remove such errors and improves the performance of the circuitry. The composite amplifiers also offer better DC output-offset. The excess of the load placed on the output transistors does not affect offset voltage.”
EarMen’s engineers also use WIMA capacitors as well as audio electrolytes in combination with MELF low noise resistors and SoundPlus OPA1642 operational amplifiers which – according to EarMen – proved to be great for getting neutral sound. The EarMen CH-Amp has excellent signal-to-noise ratio and THD characteristics, excellent frequency response and a lot of power where the characteristics of the device are changed very little even at high loads. Check out the specifications later in this article.
The EarMen CH-Amp has three important features: preamp outs, a gain switch, and a remote control. The CH-Amp has balanced and single-ended preamp outputs, so you can connect to powered monitors for a complete system. Note that you can use only either your headphone output or the pre-amp. You can’t use them at the same time. The gain switch gives you better control of both output level and impedance, for better matching to your headphones. The CH-Amp comes with a small aluminum remote control. The Tradutto alone also comes with a remote, but the remote that comes with the CH-AMP/PSU-3, works for both the CH-Amp as well as the Tradutto. Easy! The remote can be charged via USB-C.
Before we dive into the CH-Amp review, let’s check out the extra low-noise linear power supply first.
According to the EarMen designer, the PSU-3 is made without compromise, using the best components and the latest circuit design. EarMen Linear power supply is reliable, simplistic and produce minimal noise. You can only use the EarMen PSU-3 for the EarMen Tradutto, CH-Amp and Staccato. It comes with a standard power cable (which I replaced with an AudioQuest NRG-Z3 cable) and four IC cables to connect the PSU-3 to all the units. (You only need 3). The EarMen PSU-3 is designed to get the best characteristics and efficiency for the EarMen units. It also has a protection against current overload, short circuit and thermal overload according to the highest safety standards.
I do recommend unplugging your ear/headphones and turning off the separate units before powering off the PSU-3. Not doing this will be audible in your ear/headphones, and we don’t like that.
The article continues on the second page. Click here or use the jumps below.
Page 1: EarMen, CH-Amp, PSU-3
Page 2: Ch-Amp Design, Build quality, Lay-out, specs, Sound Pt. 1
Page 3: Sound Pt. 2, Comparisons, End words