Bluetooth, Earbuds, Headphones, Reviews

Earmen Eagle

Earmen Eagle DAC

Earmen Eagle

EarMen is an audio company from Chicago, Illinois that has been manufacturing tube amplifiers and DAC devices (like the EarMen Eagle) for over a decade.  Their products strive to provide a clean, natural, and neutral sound in an elegant package.  The founder of Miki Trosic is the founder of Auris Audio and is lead designer and engineer of EarMen.  The vast majority of the EarMen products are created to enhance your listening experience within a small form factor to be discretely tucked into a pocket.

We deep-dive the Earmen Eagle DAC along with provide a quick overview of the Earmen portfolio of products to give you an introduction to their technology.

The EarMen Series

EarMen has a suite of eight products that include the following products for a wide variety of customer needs and applications across the audiophile spectrum:

EarMen Tradutto: Hi-Res, fully balanced DAC device

Earmen Tradutto

EarMen TR-Amp: USB DAC – Headphone Amp

Earmen TR Amp

Earmen Staccato: Network Streamer

Earmen Staccato

Earmen Sparrow: High performance USB DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp

Earmen Sparrow

Earmen Colibri: Battery powered, portable DAC, Amp, Preamp

Earmen Colibri

Earmen CH-Amp: Balanced Headphone Amp, Preamp, Desktop

Earmen CH Amp

Earmen Angel: Hi-Res DAC – Headphone Amp

Earmen Angel

Earmen Eagle: High performance USB DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp

Earmen Eagle

Earmen Eagle Review

The EarMen Eagle DAC is a pocket-sized, high performance USB compatible DAC and Headphone Amp that is designed to be compatible with Andriod and Apple devices.  EarMen Eagle uses SABRE DAC via the ESS ES9280 C Pro to provide high audio performance with Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N < 0.002%).  Additionally, the Eagle Hyperstream modulation to create a stable sound field and next-level sound quality.  Net-net, the engineering specs provide exceptional Sonic Purity as well as Natural Sounds.

Low-Noise DAC Design

EarMen Eagle uses a Super Low ESR tantal capacitor along with top-end components (power supply and gold-plating PCB) in an effort to reduce the noise to a minimum. We found the result of this attention to detail to enhance the details in our listening experience across our portfolio of Hi-Res music files.

Gold Plated Printed Circuit Boards

EarMen Eagle’s printed circuit board (PCB) is gold-plated on all four layers via exact pattern plating and CNC machining.  This manufacturing process is unmatched in the industry in terms of quality and overall performance.  Engineering tests at Earmen have shown that gold-plating across the applicable layers of the circuit board results in the minimum loss of sound quality.

EarMen Eagle Design

Miki Trosic and the entire team of audio engineers have several decades of combined experience and have created a small, powerful DAC with a robust sound quality.  The EarMen Eagle DAC is built to be compatible with Windows 10, Apple iOS, Android, and Apple Mac-OS.

EarMen Eagle weighs in at just a few ounces, yet it has a robust aluminum enclosure and gorgeous design details with glass. It gives you the feeling of a premium device. EarMen Eagle’s compact design makes it easy to use wherever you need.

EarMen Eagle Specs

With a weight of a mere 15 grams, the dimensions of the EarMen Eagle is 2.16″x 0.86″x 0.31” (LxWxH).  This is by far the smallest DAC we have tested.  The Eagle is built in a sturdy, black matte finished exterior in a unibody aluminum case. CNC-machined in one piece to ensure a snug fit and good thermal dissipation.  The tempered-glass covers each side of the device with a super-smooth, bonded tempered glass.

The EarMen Eagle input is USB A with 3.5 mm cable stereo output.  At 16 Ω, the Earmen Eagle uses 1V/62 mW of power with <0.002% THD.   Moving to 32 Ω, the Eagle consumes 1.4V/62 mW with less than .002% of total harmonic distortion.  Lastly, at 150 Ω the Eagle uses 2V/27mW of power with under .004% THD.

The EarMen Eagle Audio Formats include DSD, DXD, and PCM. The specs for each is listed below:

  • DSD 64/ 128 DoP
  • DXD 384/352.5 KHz
  • PCM up to 384 KHz

Plug and Play Usage

The Eagle driver is already installed and ready to use. This connection can be used immediately and easily work with smartphones and professional audio equipment alike.

Earmen Eagle Design & Performance

Qualitative Construction

The EarMen Eagle is a well-built solid device with no gaps, loose plugs, or screws as they are embedded under the mirror-plate. The LED remains hidden beneath the logo until the device is connected to the source which is sleek.  As you analyze the hardware, it is important to closely inspect the USB-A-to-USB-C adapter for its simple genius.

The EarMen Eagle is simple yet refined.  A USB-A connector can be found on one side that allows you to connect your DAC to a phone, desktop computer, tablet or other device.  On the other side of the Eagle, you will find a 3.5mm jack for headphones.

Inside the Eagle bundle, you will find three things:

  • EarMen Eagle DAC
  • USB-C-to-USB-A Adapter
  • Quick-Start Manual

EarMen Eagle UI & Usage

The EarMen Eagle has a built-in driver akin to many modern day USB-DACs.  We tried connecting the Eagle to an iPhone, PC, Android, and iPad with no issues.  All quickly loaded and were ready for usage without hassle.

EarMen designed his own printed circuit board to guarantee the highest quality regardless of the source. As mentioned before, the PCB of the Eagle is 4-layer gold-plated to allow for super fine details by adding Super Low ESR tantalum caps and high-grade components to the power-supply layout.

Testing the Eagle, we found the PCM sample rate 8Hz – 384kHz (16/24/32bits) and native DSD64/128/256.  The Eagle’s frequency response was 20Hz – 20kHz (+/- 0.5dB).

EarMen Eagle Sound Performance

To start, we experimented with the EarMen Eagle DAC on Sennheiser HD 800S and Sony Z1R headphones.  The baseline was established by playing music files on a Microsoft Surface Pro in DAC mode using a USB connection.

The Eagle performed well allowing us to hear high tones and nuanced details.  However, when compared to the TR-Amp and Sparrow devices from EarMen the Eagle could not achieve the same level of accuracy.

We then decided to pair the Eagle DAC with the MEZE 99 Neo headphones and notices a more relaxed result with a well-balanced soundstage and robust bass.  It turned out to be an exceptional combination much to our collective surprise.

Eagle Tonality

We found the tones of the Eagle to be clean with quick trebles.  The Sabre’s sound signature was evident from the word go and never felt underwhelmed nor aggressive during our test with the FiiO FA7 or AirPods.

EarMen Eagle vs Sparrow

After analyzing both the EarMen Eagle and Sparrow, we discovered overlap in common traits.  The sides of both DAC devices have a sleek aluminum structure on the sides created by CNC milling with elegant glass plates on the back and front.  The aluminum and glass plate combination make the devices strong yet lightweight for maximum portability.  The smooth edges and overall design make both the EarMen Sparrow and Eagle attractive, functional devices.

As we drill-down in the technical specs, both the Sparrow and Eagle have a world-class Sabre DAC chip that includes the HyperStream(r) II modulation.  Both feature a very low Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR), tantalum capacitors, and a 4-layer gold-plated PCB (Printed Circuit Board).  The net-net result of these high-end specs yield maximum noise reduction and jump in nuanced details.  Sparrow goes a step further by supporting MQA rendering and Qobuz high resolution playback not found in the Eagle.

The EarMen Sparrow and Eagle sound virtually identical utilizing the 3.5mm audio format.  The Sparrow does offer a 2.5 mm balanced output not found in the Eagle. The 2.5 mm balanced output provides nearly twice the power of the 3.5 mm output which is impressive.  A critical listen allows you to ascertain the sound quality does take a notable step up when utilizing the 2.5 mm balanced output.

How you connect your Sparrow and Eagle devices to a laptop, smartphone, or computer differ from one another.  The Sparrow uses a USB C to USB A cable or USB C to USB C cable while the Eagle connects via a USB A.  While the difference may not be discernable, it comes down to a matter of preference and utility versus an overall deal breaker.

Eagle and Sparrow DACs offer a great, tight bass signature with a supple amount of middle bass and sub bass.  We found the vocals from both male and female singers to be pleasing with a nice balance of timbre and tonality.  The large soundstage of both devices was deep and wide with quality dynamics.  Reproducing the entire sound spectrum in an articulate manner was a giant leap from the single dimension output from a smartphone.

In the end, the power of the Sparrow can make things a notch better if your headphones have a high impedance or low sensitivity.  All else being equal, we tested and enjoyed both the EarMen Eagle and Sparrow devices as stand-alone devices and when comparing the two side by side.

EarMen Eagle vs Dragonfly Cobalt

The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt is a portable Amp/DAC that was introduced to the market in 2012 and has continued to iterate every passing year.  The DragonFly is easy to use and ranks among the top we tested. The Cobalt’s design and build quality are excellent and looks great.

Specs for the DragonFly Cobalt include a native resolution that runs to 24-bit / 96kHz and with the same 2.1V output as the DragonFly Red. Cobalt is direct-coupled with high output to supply ample power for a wide variety of headphone devices.

With the volume set to 100%, we found the Cobalt’s 2.1V sufficient to power pre amps, receiver inputs, and integrated amps alike. The Cobalt’s amp is the ESS Sable 9601 with a PIC32MX274 chipset and reduced current draw while increasing processing speed by over thirty percent.

All in all, the DragonFly Cobalt and EarMen Eagle stack up well to one another from design and performance to ease-of-use and cost.  Testing both on a variety of devices, we found well-balanced sound signatures, a robust soundstage, and performance to be impressive.

Conclusion: EarMen Eagle

EarMen has released a trio of impressive products in just a few months. By leveraging the insights and engineering prowess of the Auris Audio family of products, the EarMen Eagle is on par with the Sparrow and TR-Amp.  The Eagle is a quality, pocket-sized DAC that performs alongside AudioQuest and NuPrime in this product category.  As a great all around DAC, its hard to go wrong with the EarMen suite of products.

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