I heard it first at Axpona this year with my Mr.Speakers Aeon Flow Closed and right away I went straight to listening to it with a few other dynamics. An in those short few moments with my own Aeon Flow Closed and some ZMF Dynamics I could tell this was a game changer. I've yet to come across another non hybrid all in one tube design that pairs nicely with both my planarmagnetic Aeon Flow Closed and a ZMF, so this was one of the few products there that grabbed my attention!
Design and Build Quality
In terms of design though overall I felt the Auris team really designed this product for a more modern ever evolving marketplace, which makes sense. In speaking with the Auris team their goal is really to combine beautiful aesthetics with traditional audiophile fidelity in such a way to gain both the approval of those concerned with performance and those who look first at aesthetics! Both spousal personalities or varying members of the household as it were.
They create products that not only perform well technicality but also fit into a well designed existing living spaces within a home or office, spaces that have maybe in the past been inaccessible or rather unable to support space for some of the larger more industrial looking products that are abundant throughout the Audiophile Community and marketplace!
Euterpe is an all in one unit, so both a Dac, Preamp and Headphone amp with both digital and analog inputs. I had no issue feeding digital input into Euterpe from both my Cellphones, Tablets, Laptops and desktop computers. An best of all I didn't have to download a single driver! I also found it worked seamlessly with a variety of playback applications, from Tidal, to Spotifiy on Mobile jRiver and FooBar on desktop plus quite a few other video apps, platforms and programs!
The hardware itself is sandwiched between two beautiful pieces of hardwood with four metal bars at the top to protect the delicate tubes beneath. Really a beautiful marriage of function and aesthetics! Additionally the volume knob feels smooth and house the power switch within it's rational axis and each of the input jacks are solid with no wiggle.
That said again Euterpe is both pleasant to listen to, pleasant to look at and pleasant to own and integrate! As an all in one it takes up very little space, it also doubles as a headphone stand eliminating the need for more hardware in existing spaces and best of all it's powered by a dedicated linear power supply unit.
An what I love about the LPSU is the rather long cord it has, again the Auris team designed the product to be incredibly easy to work into existing spaces and having taken the unit to about 6 head fi meets I always found Euterpe to be the easiest product to get set up and tear down! Again very little fuss or effort is needed to get Euterpe up and running.
Overall Euterpe is lean and transparent without a cold or dry presentation. I found it most similar to something like a Schiit Valhalla but with a bit more detail and slightly more natural tonality.
The only real issue I had with it's tonality was a slight top end emphasis evident with some of my brighter headphones like my Sony MDR V7 or Superlux HD 668B. But for the most part it was airy without coming across as bright.
It presented bass with a polite but evident authority without any emphasis or added weight and heft.
Mid-Range tonality was even and the envelope featured a slight emphasis on release, this emphasis really helped to maintain a rich fullness without coming off as thick or smeared. Additionally this slight emphasis allowed for a vivid attack and presence without sounding shouty.
Finally while it was often airy and well extend up top, though there were times where it was a touch overemphasized. While this helped darker headphones have a more lively presentation with brighter more "fun" sounding headphones some tracks were a bit too hot for my tastes. Still I had no issues enjoying all genres of music including Heavy Metal, though tracks that are mastered less than ideally or have some purposeful top end emphasis like Drum n Bass were again sometimes mildly fatiguing with some of my brighter headphones.
Details, dynamics and precision in the sound stage were excellent tho I find it best to draw comparisons to my existing equipment to really ground it's technical performance.
Modi 3 & Schiit Lyr 3 with Electro Harmonix 6SN7
Overall I did find Euterpe had a cleaner more focused envelope
- Less added body or no emphasis on decay and sustain
- Natural but not "thick"
- Of both texture in the lows and through the mids and top end
- Vibrator in stringed instruments and vocalists was cleaner
- Fret and string noise for larger stringed instruments and electric bass was more defined
- Able to more clearly discern pattern or "beat" shifts in drumming
- More vivid PRAT again able to resolve quicker more subtle changes in rhythm, pace and timing
- Better or more apparent micro detail or resolve of transients throughout the spectrum
The only drawback to Euterpe VS Lyr 3 and Modi 3 was in the lows, one of the things I love about the Lyr 3 is the added heft and authority it brings! A real sense of power without sounding bloated, it makes even my HD 600 really KICK.
Planarmagnetic Headphone Pairings
That and one of the only faults of Euterpe is be all end all power, as much as I loved it with my Aeon Flow Closed and Hifiman HE 4XX it did slightly dull the overall dynamics of each of those headphones. Where as with more powerful hybrid tube designs like the Lyr 3 and Ember II I get a slightly fuller more robust dynamic range. Still unlike other non Hybrid tube design's I've heard in the past, Euterpe didn't soften the overall texture of individual instruments or smear in the bass with more efficient planars like Aeon Flow Closed and Hifiman HE 4XX. Plus these days with an abundance of more efficient and non traditional planarmagnetic designs like that of the Meze Empyrean I don't see this lack of power as a huge problem. Though owners of more traditional planarmagnetics like Hifiman HE 6 or something like my own Hifiman HE 560 V1 and 2012 PreFazor Audeze LCD 2 will find the more powerful line of dedicated amplifiers offered by Auris to bring out the full potential in those less efficient more difficult to drive headphones.
JDS Labs EL Dac & Ember II [With Noise Nuke] + Heavy Modded SET Tube
Again the lack of power was evident for less efficient planars when compared to the Ember II , but as with the previous comparison Euterpe brought a more detailed presentation with overall better technicalities and more even tonality.
An actually I was surprised at how similar the voicing of Euterpe was to my own modded APPJ PA1502A SET and when I fed analog in from EL Dac to Euterpe [bypassing it's internal DAC] I found the performance between the two amps on par, though Euterpe is blacker during quite passages, more resistant to outside noise and hum with some low impedance dynamic headphones. That and it's build quality and literal between your fingers feel are vastly improved. Combined with it's much smaller the footprint and linear power-supply even as just an Amp Euterpe proves itself much more practical to own and operate than my own heavily modded SET.
Though my modded APPJ PA1502a SET Tube Amp was the result of months of research and tube rolling and some luck in terms of picking the right components to get the desired improvements I wanted over the rather lackluster stock performance. But again with Euterpe the performance is outstanding with 100% stock components so there's no guess work or time spent experimenting with tube rolling and the like.
RME ADI 2 + Amplification
While functionally different, I did find the overall technicalities of Euterpe to be only marginally better than RME ADI 2 with ATOM and my RME ADI 2. The real benefit of the Euterpe here though was it's slightly more natural tonality and ever so slightly more spacious presentation, and both amps have around the same power output and handle planarmagnetics similarly.
However the big difference here is the DAC Performance,
Compared to my "reference" system I did find Euterpe to fall slightly behind in terms of resolve, detail, tonality and sound stage precision. An frankly feeding the digital out of my RME ADI 2 into the analog of Euterpe was at best a marginal improvement. The only noticeable difference was less slightly fatigue when listening with my brightest headphone out of my own modded SET.
However in terms of costs my complete system is a a bit more than Euterpe and has some digital interface hardware in the form of a Schiit Etir feeding exclusively COAX into my DAC plus a lot of back-end power filtering hardware in the form of both power conditioners, aftermarket cables and a single massive stage LC filter "Noise Nuke" for use with my Ember II. Both amps also have modifications and tubes hand picked for my DAC and collection of headphones, I also have two different tubes for Ember II depending on the voicing or presentation of the planarmagnetic headphone I'm listening too.
My point here, in terms of be all end all resolve and detail it is possible to piece together something better for less than the cost of Euterpe. An many of you likely will, part of what I enjoy about this hobby is exploring, tinkering, modding and experimenting. Chasing down what ever I could to get the most of my system as a whole. With each incremental improvement carrying onward each time I drop in new components, but compared to just simply purchasing and owning Euterpe this method is hardly cost effective, quick or straight forward. Heck for this review I had it plugged right into an outlet on my wall using a regular or basic power cable. Still I'll touch on what I feel is the real value or Euterpe later in this review in my conclusion.
Dynamic Headphone Pairings
Overall I really felt Euterpe performs best and most consistently with dynamic Headphones especially those above 80 or so ohms. I did have some slight hum with 32 ohm Dynamics such as the Grado White but such hum wasn't always present with my own Symphones Magnum V7 Build, but my HD 800, HD 600 and AKG K702 had zero hum or noise what so ever! Euterpe proved to be entirely black and silent during any and all quite portions of music.
Still the output impedance is listed as "32-80" on the Low Gain setting and "150" for the High Gain setting, so I cannot say for sure how it will interact with all lower impedance dynamic drivers. I will say I didn't hear any audible low frequency boost as a result of high output impedance.
Aside from being ever so slightly bright with HD 800 and K702 on some less than perfect or hot recordings, I thoroughly enjoyed Euterpe with all my more resolving dynamics! I did find it to be much to bright with my Superlux HD 668B but that headphone has a lot of top end emphasis no matter what it's sourced from.
I in particular really loved the sense of depth Euterpe brought to my HD 600, with the Modi 3 and JDS Labs EL Dac systems the HD 600 sounded a bit shallower. However similar to my own reference system, I found Euterpe really allowed the HD 600 to present a more real sense of how the recorded space sounds.
I particularly enjoyed how far back the release and reverb of the cello reached into the room while listening to Sarah Jarosz's "Simple Twist of Fate."
With my HD 800 I appreciated how the Euterpe was able to bring both a sweetness and immediate sense of tactility to the guitar track in Marta Gomez's Celito Lindo.
I also loved how full yet still dynamic and explosive War from Explorations in Space and Time was with my AKG K702.
Really again the amp was quite transparent and maintained a consistent presentation with a variety of dynamic headphones with some brightness only evident with a headphone that itself places some emphasis in the top end.
What I absolutely LOVE about Euterpe it's beautifully straight forward implementation within a space and effortlessly high fidelity presentation. When I started this hobby I worked around 30 or so hours and attended college, I had much more time to research and experiment.These days I work around 70 hours a week, I'm no longer living with parents with just a tiny bedroom all to my self. Rather I've a full furnished apartment, a small dog and friends I like to entertain with little to no free time to spend reading and researching online like I used to.
Granted the young college kid I was continued on in life and eventually worked to furnish an entire dedicated room for all my Gear. But had I started this hobby now at this point in my life I likely would have gravitated to a cheaper single bedroom apartment with a bigger kitchen and purchased Euterpe for it's beautiful wood finish and straight forward ease of use alone. An in my eye's the real value in Euterpe is as an all in one, it's beautifully assembled, and it fits right into an existing multi media system. In my own home I can feed analog line in from the digital receiver partnered with my TV and use the Pre-Amp to function alongside my 2.1 Sound System to enjoy movies and television and also run the digital connection out form my laptop and tablet to enjoy my high-res music collection.
I don't quite feel it's suited to those of you with large collections of headphones each needing vastly different amplification needs. Nor those of you who like to tinker, mod and experiment. However I am confident that for those of you who love music, the design and layout of your home as it is but and are still interested in high fidelity play back but don't have the time, nor space to piece together large complex multi-component systems Euterpe is the perfect all in one. It's overall transparent presentation pairs well with many of the well established high fidelity dynamics, such as those form the ZMF and many of the newest cutting edge planarmagnets like Empyrean. Add in it's simple plug and play USB interface and you'll be hard pressed to piece together a better system without having to devote the needed time, expense and space to house a complex and well matched system of individual components!