Box & Accessories
Let’s start of with how the Tradutto arrives. For $799 we expect to get a nice box, but what EarMen did here is very impressive. It’s the kind of packaging you’re used to from the higher end, more expensive brands so that for sure is an added bonus. Don’t take our word for it, check out the pictures in this article and this unboxing video.
As you will see, you get the following accessories:
- Cleaning cloth
- Remote control (rechargeable battery)
- Tradutto (with BT antenna)
- Soft carrying pouch
- USB DAC cable
- Power supply
Design, Build Quality & Lay-out
Absolutely great looks and top build quality level, that’s all I can say about the stunning Tradutto. As mentioned, the chassis is built from a full block of aluminum, which makes it extremely durable and robust. The compact design (150x30x150 mm) makes it fitting to any setup. The only downside is that it with its 550g isn’t very heavy and as such it will move around when you connect or disconnect any cables, without holding the unit in place.
The build quality and the product’s finishing is at a very high level, but we already saw that before with EarMen’s other products. And at his price level, we honestly wouldn’t accept anything less. Not only the outside has been taken care off, EarMen also meticulously designed and produced the internals. The PCB is embedded in a solid aluminum housing, giving the board greater protection inside the housing and additional insulation from external influences. We already spoke about the Sabre chip, Wima caps, Melf resistors and OPA1642 operational amplifiers.
All connectors and buttons, including those from the remote control, feel sturdy and they look like they will last a very long time.
Lay-out wise you get the following with the Tradutto:
The front of the Tradutto from left to right gives you the following: Power button (with the IR receiver for the remote above), the Bluetooth button, the small screen with EarMen logo and the Left/right buttons to select your source.
The left and right side are fully blanco while you on top have a beautiful cnc’d Tradutto logo. The back of the Tradutto from right to left has the following: 4.4mm balanced output, RCA single ended output, coaxial input, TOSlink input, USB input, the BT antenna and the power connector.
Tradutto has a simple lay-out and EarMen and the biggest surprise is that EarMen opted for a 4.4mm balanced output instead of an XLR output. But they of course did that to save space.
The EarMen Tradutto is extremely easy to use as it is a simple device without elaborated options and filters. Basically all you need to do is get your connections right at the back and that’s it. When using a Windows PC, don’t forget to install the ASIO driver. (The driver is linked to earlier in this article)
To make it even more easy, EarMen added a remote control which allows you to control everything from a distance. This is very handy when you’re using it in your living room setup in example. The remote has a rechargeable battery inside, so extra points for EarMen in this regard.
Selecting the source is extremely easy as well as setting up the Bluetooth reception. After multiple weeks of use, the only two things that bother me are the fact that the Tradutto for the price doesn’t come with 4.4mm to 4.4/XLR cable, and the fact that you can’t control the volume on the DAC side. This though is understandable looking at the design and Tradutto not being a pre-amp, but it does bother me in my desk setup with my speaker amp being out of reach to change the volume. What I do like is its ease of use, the fact that the Tradutto goes to standby before shutting down and of course its sound quality.
Let’s find out more about the latter!
Sound – General
So far we have been very pleased with the sound quality of EarMen’s DAC (/AMP) units such as the Eagle, Sparrow and TR-AMP. Even the very affordable Donald DAC positively surprised us. The Tradutto is their first real DAC only, and looking at EarMen’s achievements since the brand was launched, our expectations were very high. The description below is with the USB-input. Amps used are the Auris Headonia, Violectric V590, Ferrum OOR and the Chord ANNI.
To be honest I was a little disappointed when I found out the Tradutto was a pure DAC only (no pre-amp or streamer), but that quickly faded when I heard how Miki tuned the ES9038Q2M DAC chip in the Tradutto.
The ESS Sabre chip is doing an excellent job when it comes to precision, detail retrieval, refinement and dynamics. EarMen has made sure the implementation doesn’t alter the sound and so in this regard it is a more neutral tuning. There is no added body (Of course it depends on what you feel is a neutral/normal amount of body, but I have listened to many different DACs, and I really wouldn’t say the Tradutto has added body in the presentation), no bass boost, no treble forwardness or anything particular. Balanced and linear is how to describe the Tradutto. It also sounds very natural, and the background is completely noise free. With its high level of transparency, the Tradutto really lets you hear what your amp is adding to the sound (or not). If you anywhere read that the Tradutto is warm and full, it’s probably because the amp they used has these characteristics.
Tradutto is not overly analytic but the technical level is good. You get a clear sound with excellent separation and extension. Tradutto sounds natural and effortless but it at all times is musical. Words such as “dry” and “cold” can’t possibly be used when describing Tradutto’s performance. “Musical” on the other hand, is something this DAC is at all given times. Don’t mistake this for softness and smoothness though, as this is not present in Tradutto’s delivery. Bass has a good impact and kick, treble is easy on the ears but energetic and the mids are natural with nicely blended vocals.
Sound-stage, spaciousness and note extension-wise, the Tradutto scores well and on par with DACs at this level, but it’s also here where higher end DACs score/perform better. Same goes for the depth and layering actually: it’s good but there’s room for improvement when compared to higher end devices. This is not a point of criticism though, as it is very normal and logic. The difference has to be somewhere.
For me the four key points to remember are the neutrality, transparency, linearity and musicality.
The article continues on the third page, right here.