Today we check out the €279 EarMen TR-Amp portable DAC/AMP for the first time before the full review.
Disclaimer: This post is part of our new First Look Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here. The TR-Amp was ent to us in exchange for our honest opinion.
If EarMen doesn’t ring a bell yet, then 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.
A while ago Auris Audio decided to enter the portable market and to do so they came up wit 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, and EarMen is doing something a like with unit names such as the Tramp 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.
Portable High Performance Audio Devices for All
The goal of EarMen is to make powerfull audio components elegantly designed for simple plug & play use. 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
In this preview we’re looking at the EarMen TR-Amp, a transportable DAC/AMP and pre-amp unit with a 3.5mm and 6.3mm output. The dedicated product page of the TR-Amp can be found here: https://earmen-shop.com/products/tr-amp
At the core of the TR-Amp we find the ES9038Q2M Sabre DAC, and the audio input accepts PCM up to 768kHz, DSD256 via DoP, native DSD512 and MQA. That’s right, the TR-Amp is a licensed and standard-compliant MQA native hardware renderer!
The TR-Amp headphone amp uses the Texas Instruments High Fidelity TPA6120 chip and it allows the music, not the amplifier, to be heard. TPA6120 current-feedback AB amplifier architecture delivers high bandwidth, extremely low noise, and up to 128dB of dynamic range
The TR-Amp is using the critically acclaimed ESS patented HyperStream© II QUAD DACTM architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. As a result the TR-Amp delivers a performance level that will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiast. TR-Amp delivers power up to 400mW, which will enable you to listen to almost all known headphones.
The battery inside the TR-Amp is a 3700mA battery which will give you up to 10h of musical enjoyment depending ont he type of headphone and file type played. A nice feature of the TR-Amp is that it has a separated power and data circuit (USB-C), meaning that you can use it all day long and that there’s no possibility of the charging interfering with your sound.
All of the TR-AMP specs of course can be found on the EarMen website.
For me this was the first solid state amplifier by the hand of Auris’ founder Miki Trosic that I listened to, so I wasn’t sure what I had to expect. His tube amp designs are all wonderful and Mr. Trosic really knows what good sound is.
In the TR-Amp this translates to a reference sound, one which is neutral, balanced and linear. The TR-Amp does not add anything to the sound but what it does is extract all the possible detail from your files and it presents the music in a dynamic and precise, yet musical way. The TR-Amp is detailed and transparent but it isn’t boring or overly analytical. EarMen has managed to make the delivery musical and you’ll experience this with every ear- and headphone you hook up to it.
I personally really like it with my (C)IEMs but another great match is with the Audeze LCD-1 headphones. The TR-Amp actually can drive both outputs at the same time. No matter what you hook up to, it will always sound clear and very clean and it will let your headphones sound they way they actually sound.
The Sabre DAC chip inside the TR-Amp is very detailed and precise, and that’s something I for one appreciate. The synergy with the Texas Instruments TPA6120 amplifier is good and as a result this is a little DAC/AMP unit that will impress many users right from the start. But especially the DAC inside the TR-Amp is exceptionally good. If you have the possibility I advise you to hook it up to your favorite amplifier, and you will be amazed of this device’s performance.
The TR-Amp is selling for only €279 Euro, and that means it is a heavy competitor to all (transportable) DAC/AMPs on the market. In our full review we’ll be comparing to a series of transportable DAC/AMPs, especially the IFI models. The TR-Amp review will also be a double review here on HFN, expect to see it online over the next few weeks.