Today we look at the $249 USD / €279 Euro TR-Amp by EarMen, a new company on the market.
Disclaimer: The EarMen TR-Amp was sent to us directly by EarMen for the purpose of this review.
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 tube amp fans here. Their amps have won multiple of our awards, and models like the Euterpe, HA2-SE and Nirvana get praised all over the world.
We already previewed the TR-Amp in our First Look series, so if you’ve read that article already (thumbs up!), you’ll find that some parts of this article are the same.
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 3 models:
- 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 Sparrow – A USB DAC/AMP dongle and DragonFly Cobalt competitor.
When Jason Stoddard launched Schiit Audio they quickly became famous because of the particular name. EarMen is now doing something similar with unit names such as the TR-Amp and Donald Dac. The Sparrow name? Now that one is a bit different, but I’ll explain that once we feature it here on the site.
The goal of EarMen is to make powerful audio components elegantly designed for simple plug & play use (no driver installation needed). All of EarMen’s products are designed and engineered by Miki Trosic, renowned throughout the audio industry as the founder of Auris Audio. If you want to find out more about EarMen, you can do so here: https://earmen-shop.com/pages/about-us .
It’s been quite a while since I reviewed a portable DAC/AMP unit myself. Going through the archive it turns out it actually was the Chord Hugo 2, back in August of 2017. Now this doesn’t mean there’s no market for these kind of units. It just means the other writers have been covering these portable DAC/AMPs, and companies such as Fiio and iFi have produced many different ones over the years, and still do.
At the same time we have to admit that modern day portable players have gotten a lot more powerful and technical. And as such not everyone strictly needs a portable amp or DAC anymore to get the best out of their IEMs and even some headphones. For those who want more power or a better DAC compared to what is inside their phone, computer or DAP, these portable DAC/AMP units are still the way to go though. You can buy a cheap transport, hook it up to a good portable DAC/AMP and get a top level sound quality.
The TR-Amp is one of these portable DAC/Amp units and it vastly elevates your sound quality when compared to your phone and computer. I myself have mostly been using it to replace my laptop’s on-board hardware when working in the couch and in my second office. It even makes high end units shine, but more on that later in the part on sound.
The TR-Amp next to being a DAC/AMP also has a Pre Out, and you can hook it up to your desktop amplifier via RCA. So it’s a 3-in-one solution, and that for a small price.
You can buy the TR-Amp directly from Auris Audio or EarMen for only $249 USD / €279 Euro, and for what you’re getting in return that is a very fair price. Check out the TR-Amp in this short video right here, where the lovely Tijana tells you something more about it:
We’ll just highlight a few of the specs in this chapter, but you can find the full list of specifications on EarMen’s website right here: https://earmen-shop.com/products/tr-amp.
The TR-Amp has a separated power and data circuit, both over USB-C, to make sure you get the cleanest sound possible. You can charge the unit while you’re listening to it and it won’t produce any unwanted noise. The back ground is always clean and silent, and the THD+N number is impressive.
DAC-wise the TR-Amp is using an ESS ES9038Q2M SABRE 32 Reference DAC, delivering PCM up to 384kHz + DSD256 via DoP, native DSD128. The TR-Amp is a native MQA hardware renderer so you can get the best out of your streaming experience (MQA~Tidal). Amp wise, Earmen chose the Texas Instruments TPA6120 amplifier. The synergy between DAC and AMP in this unit is magical.
Power-wise the TR-Amp, with 400mW @16Ohms, isn’t the most powerful on paper, but it actually performs better than expected. We’ll get back to that part later in this article when we hook it up to some headphones.
Inside the TR-Amp you’ll find a 3700mA battery, which in theory can delver up to 10h of playtime. I have mostly used the TR-Amp when connected to a power source but when I didn’t I never found me battery to be dead.
The TR-Amp should be plug & play and you in theory don’t need to install any drivers. But you can download the Windows drivers here, if needed.
The article continues on page two, after the click here. You can also use the jumps below.