EarMen Colibri

General Information

Latest reviews


Reviewer at hxosplus
The Hummingbird
Pros: + Neutral and transparent
+ Natural timbre and minimal digital glare
+ Bold and dynamic with excellent detail retrieval
+ Spacious and wide soundstage with accurate imaging
+ Crystal clear and dead silent without EMI interference
+ Battery powered, will not drain your phone battery
+ Can be used and charged at the same time
+ Excellent build quality
+ Hardware controls and well implemented bass boost
+ Comes with a carrying case and a high quality USB cable
Cons: - Somewhat lean and dry sounding
- No accompanying application for selecting low pass filters and gain
- Short battery duration
- No Bluetooth or other bells and whistles
- USB cable is too long and stiff
- A shorter USB cable should have been included
- At this price point you can find a variety of portable devices with greater functionality
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for a honest review.
I didn't receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don't use affiliate links.
The Colibri is priced at $333 and you can order it from the EarMen online shop.


Auris Audio is a well known company from Serbia that specializes in tube headphone and stereo amplifiers that are positioned at the higher-end of the market.
Miki Trosic, the founder and lead designer for Auris Audio, together with the rest of the team knew that the market needed something new, innovative and outstanding for those who prefer to listen to music while on the go.
With this thought in mind, EarMen was born - on a quest to deliver the highest quality audio experience while granting you the freedom to enjoy your music without limitations.
EarMen is by now a well established brand among audiophiles on the go and they have already released some very successful products like the TR-AMP, the Sparrow and the Eagle.
The first one is a portable battery powered DAC/amp and the other two are USB DAC dongles.
All of them were reviewed for Hxosplus printed edition, the TR-AMP review is available online and you can read it here.
EarMen has lately released another two portable DAC/amps, the Colibri and the Angel, while they are now expanding into desktop gear with products like the Tradutto DAC and the CH-Amp.


EarMen Colibri

The Colibri is a small sized, battery powered USB DAC/amp featuring the ES9281PRO DAC chip from ESS which has an embedded headphone amplifier.
The chip is mounted in a gold plated 4-layer PCB while super low ESR tantalum capacitors and high grade components in the power-supply are used for a low-noise design.
The DAC can decode up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128 and is a full MQA renderer while it is plug & play without the need to install any drivers.
There is no wireless Bluetooth connectivity nor an LCD screen, things are kept as minimal as possible for the least interfere and the best sound quality.


Battery benefits

USB DAC dongles that draw power from the host device are very handy because of their ultra compact size.
But they drain your phone's battery and I bet that there are a lot of you out there (including me) that you actually prefer their battery powered siblings.
Firstly they don't drain your phone's battery that is saved for other important tasks and secondly they provide much more clean and stable power to the internal circuit.
Also they are more immune to RFI/EMI pollution for a better sound quality.
The Colibri internal battery is not a large one so don't expect marathon sessions, it can keep the Colibri running for about 4-5 hours while it can be fully charged in an hour.

Design and controls

The chassis is made from a single piece aluminum block milled on a CNC machine, providing supreme durability.
Then the front and the back face of the aluminum body are beautified with an added glass surface that gives the Colibri a luxurious and beautiful appearance.
The size (77x35x14mm) of the Colibri is somewhat larger than most USB dongles without a battery but it still is compact enough to carry around in your pocket and use it with a phone while it is surprisingly lightweight at 51g only.

The upper part houses two headphone outputs (4.4mm true balanced and 3.5mm single ended) while at the bottom there are two USB type-C inputs, one for charging and the other for data input.
In this way the Colibri will not draw power from the host device while it can be charged and used at the same time.

The front face has an EarMen logo LED that changes between various colours according to the working status and the incoming sample rate.
White is connected, green is decoding PCM/DSD, magenta is MQA and red is disconnected.
If you enable the bass boost then the current color will become brighter.
When the battery needs to be recharged then the LED will start flashing.
When you connect the power cable then the data USB port gets illuminated by a hidden red LED.

The Colibri has hardware buttons that are used for controlling the various functions.
At the right side there are the On/Off, which also acts as Play/Pause during playback, and bass boost buttons while at the left you will find the volume up and down buttons.

(sidenote - The original plan was to release the Colibri with a tiny LED at the right bottom of the faceplate to indicate the remaining battery duration but this was abandoned and in the final product the main LED also acts as a battery charge reminder)



The Colibri comes together with a faux leather carrying case and a USB type C to C cable which is of a very good quality but quite stiff and too long for portable use.
A second, shorter, cable should have also been included.


Power output and noise

Before listening I installed the latest firmware update, something that is obligatory in order for the Colibri to be properly functioning.

With 280mW/32Ω and 560mW/16Ω on tap from the balanced output, the Colibri is powerful enough to handle all your IEMs and not very difficult full sized headphones.
It had absolutely no problem driving the Sennheiser HD660S and Focal Clear Mg.
With the Sennheiser HD650 I reached for 90% of the available volume but without clipping the amplifier.
I don't own very sensitive IEMs but with the Meze ADVAR and the FiiO FDX, the Colibri was dead silent without any internal noise or EMI interference.
I have also used a very short USB cable and the Colibri was free of EMI interference even when placed near to a cell phone.


Listening impressions

The Colibri has an absolutely linear frequency response with the famous ESS technicalities and great transparency.
It is neutral, accurate and balanced while retaining an engaging and musical sound presentation.
The Colibri is not artificial sounding, timbre is natural and lifelike, the DAC chip is masterfully implemented so digital artifacts are kept to the bare minimum.
The sound is not glary nor stiff but the overall character is more lean than full bodied, especially in the treble which sounds a bit dry.
So there is a chance that the upper part of the frequency spectrum might get some extra projection but it should not be confused with brightens or any associated harshness.
The relative lack in body weight and lushness is compensated by the really excellent imaging, the extra airiness and the precision of the positioning.
The Colibri is good with everything you throw at it and very special at handling large scale works where every single instrument is kept under the light, every last note is heard and the music is presented in its full glory.
Not only for the fidelity and the imaging precision but also thanks to the large dynamic swings, the impactful presentation and the soundstage integrity.
Like while listening to this new version of Mahler's fourth symphony where the full orchestra was magnificently contrasted with the charming solo voice.

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The Colibri is bold and exciting, not laid back or relaxed, it is fast and agile with excellent timing and sharp transient attack.
The bass is very tight and controlled with excellent layering, the mid range is crystal clear, rich and well articulated, the treble is luminous and full of energy while detail retrieval sits at the top of the competition, offering a very deep gaze into the recording without becoming too analytical.
The bass boost is a really nice addition because it is well implemented with a mild and controlled effect.
You get a touch of extra low end emphasis and more weight without sacrificing overall clarity and mid-range integrity but you lose slightly in control and speed.


Compared to the EarMen Sparrow

Both devices use the same DAC chip but the Sparrow doesn't have an internal battery nor hardware buttons so it is considerably more compact and lightweight but it trades the 4.4mm output for a 2.5mm one.
The lack of the internal battery is the major difference that affects the overall sound performance.
The Sparrow has to rely on the host device's dirty and noisy power supply while the Colibri has a regulated battery based supply that offers clean power.
As a result the Colibri is dead silent and more immune to EMI interfere, something that cannot be said of the Sparrow which is not so silent with sensitive IEMs while it is quite susceptible to interference from the phone antenna
Moreover the higher voltage output of the Colibri power supply takes full advantage of the ES9081PRO internal amplifier, offering twice the power from the balanced output.


Sound-wise they both share the same balanced sound presentation with great transparency and technicalities but the Colibri is the bolder and more dynamic one with wider soundstage, fuller sound and deeper detail retrieval.
The Colibri has a more controlled and smoother treble response while the overall texture is more natural and convincing.
The Sparrow is really good and among the best USB DAC dongles but if you don't mind the extra bulk of the Colibri and the need to charge, then you get a device with an enhanced overall performance.


In the end

If you don't mind a somewhat bulkier USB DAC dongle and the need to recharge then the EarMen Colibri is a solid choice.
It offers the usual EarMen stellar sound performance while it is lightweight and compact enough to carry it in your pocket.
Powerful enough to drive a variety of full sized headphones it can act both as a portable USB DAC dongle and a desktop DAC with all the benefits of the internal battery power supply.
There are cheaper and more inclusive competitors, like the FiiO BTR5 that is also a Bluetooth receiver but the Colibri has a refinement and a desktop like presentation that is hard to beat.

Test playlist

Copyright - Petros Laskis 2022.
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This is beautiful, if there was bluetooth it’d be an instabuy for me
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This is as pure as possible.
For Bluetooth you have to look something like the FiiO BTR7/5


500+ Head-Fier
Flying I Go
Pros: Delicate sound, with a neutral-analytical tendency, but very mature, with great resolution and definition.
- Great fidelity and balance between the three bands.
- Adequate size to hold a battery.
- Still has a beautiful and attractive design line.
- Very successful addition of controls.
- Very good power level.
- Ultra low impedance, which makes it very suitable for very sensitive and difficult to drive headphones.
Cons: Battery life.
- The power specifications are lower than my measurements.
- The box specifies the output voltage as 2V(SE)/4V(BAL), when in fact it is 1.5V(SE)/3V(BAL).
- There is no ASIO driver.
- There is no short USB cable, the long one is rather stiff and it is only Type C to Type C.

Once again, I am flattered to be able to review an EarMen product. This time, it's the recent premium battery-powered balanced headphone/preamplifier DAC/AMP called the Colibri. Actually, it''s a doped-up EarMen Sparrow: its aesthetics are very similar, but it includes elements that enhance its body and performance. It has a battery that gives it a battery life of up to 5 hours. It incorporates on/off, volume (+/-) and bass boost buttons. The balanced output is now 4.4mm and there is an extra USB Type C port for charging the battery. For all these reasons, the size has been increased, but the dimensions are still contained, only slightly larger than a traditional dongle. EarMen has opted to continue using the ES9281 PRO chip as the DAC, which allows it to support playback of files up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DoP, DSD64, DSD128 and MQA. The Colibri is still quite a powerful device, capable of providing up to 3V on the balanced output and 1.5V on the SE output. In the following review we'll look at these and other goodies from this new little portable audio device.

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  • ESS Sabre ES9281 PRO DAC.
  • Hi-Res audio 32bit/384kHz PCM, DoP, DSD64, DSD128 and MQA.
  • Balanced 4.4mm output up to 4V (3V according to the web), 280mW at 32Ω, 560mW at 16Ω.
  • Single Ended 3.5mm output up to 2V (1.5V according to the web), 75mW into 32Ω, 150mW into 16Ω.
  • THD Balanced 4.4mm output: 0.002%.
  • THD Single Ended Output 3.5mm: 0.001%.
  • Battery life up to 5 hours.
  • Dimensions: 77x35x14mm (3.03" x 1.38" x 0.55").
  • Weight: 51gr (0.11 lbs).

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The EarMen Colibri comes in an eminently black box, with dimensions 194x145x46mm. On the main side, a real image of the device can be seen on the right-hand side. On the left side, in white lettering, you can see the brand logo, the name, the model and a description of the device. On the back, the Colibri is shown on all sides, as well as its specifications. With the cardboard cover removed, the box is completely black, with an even darker inscription of the logo and brand name. After lifting the lid you can see the instruction manual, a warranty card and underneath, the Colibri inside a dense, grey foam mould and a couple of other accessories, which are in a recess, on the right. The complete contents are:

  • The EarMen Colibri.
  • A black synthetic leather case with clip.
  • One USB Type C - Type C cable, textile covered, 1m.
  • An instruction and specification manual card.
  • One warranty card.

There is no short USB Type C - Type C cable and no USB Type A connection. The textile covering of the cable is nice, but it feels a bit stiff.
The leatherette case is quite nice, but the clip gives me a mixed feeling: I know it can be very useful for hanging in a pocket, but I don't know how practical it is attached to a phone or DAP. On the other hand, placed on my desk, connected to my PC, such a clip is not the most suitable thing to leave on the table. There are no markings on the case either, so we have to know all the connections and buttons beforehand. On the main side, there is a circular cut-out that reveals the LED with the operating logo.
The packaging is rather large for the size of the device.

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Construction and Design

The Colibri measures 77x35x14mm and weighs 51g. It is slightly larger than a normal dongle, but it has a battery, so the size is contained. It still looks very similar to the Sparrow: it is a complete aluminium block, machined on a CNC machine. It has two glazed sides. On the upper face, at the top, is the brand name, in silver. Two thirds of the way up is the logo (in white), which in turn is the operating LED. At the bottom is the model, also in silver. On the rear face there are many silver inscriptions: at the top is the list of compatible files, in the centre the Hi-Res logo, at the bottom the brand name. Along the perimeter, there are the descriptions of the buttons and USB inputs. There are 4 round buttons, two on each side. On the left are the volume buttons. On the right, at the top is the on/off button and at the bottom, the bass boost button. On the same side, at the bottom, is the serial number, in small white letters. On the bottom edge, on the left is the USB Type C female data connection and on the right, the charging connection. On the top edge are the audio outputs, 4.4mm on the left and 3.5mm on the right. The balanced connector is gold-plated, while the SE is not.
The design is beautiful, sleek, attractive, and continuist. The glazed surfaces attract fingerprints very much. The weight is restrained and I don't understand why the SE output is not gold-plated.

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As usual with Earmen, the Colibri is compatible with Android (via USB OTG cable), DAPS and PC with Windows 10. It does not support older versions of Windows. It does not have ASIO drivers. It will also connect to an Apple IOS smartphone, but it will require a suitable cable which is not included (Lighthing to USB). Apple MacOS is also supported.

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To switch on the device, press the power button for 3 seconds. After switching on, the front LED will flash after 3 seconds to indicate the battery status:

  • 1 flashing: the battery has a charge <25%.
  • 2 flashes: the battery has a charge between 25% and 50%.
  • 3 flashes: the battery has a charge between 50% and 75%.
  • 4 flashes: the battery has a charge between 75% and 100%.

The front LED has the following indications:

  • White: Connected.
  • Green: PCM, DSD, DXD.
  • Magenta: MQA Rendering.
  • Red: not connected.

When the bass boost button is pressed, the front LED glows brighter.
The volume buttons allow you to control the volume of the connected source, be it a smartphone, DAP or PC. A short press of the on/off button pauses playback. Another press resumes playback.
With the current firmware, the operation is quite stable, although I have sometimes encountered a little hesitation in its operation, especially when starting playback. At this point there is a fade in. But the complete use is not completely smooth. In any case, these small details are insignificant.

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I had seen a discrepancy between the output voltage specified on the website and the one specified on the box. After measuring, the website is right: the maximum voltage for the 3.5mm SE output is 1.5V and the maximum voltage for the 4.4mm Balanced output is 3V. Well, it's actually slightly lower in both cases, but I don't think my measurement system is ultra-accurate in this respect either.
What does seem clear is that the output impedance is ultra-low. The maximum voltage measured for 33Ω and 100Ω loads, both SE and BAL outputs, yield the same voltage value as no load, implying that the impedance tends to zero. This is undoubtedly a great data that determines that the Colibri is very suitable for use with very sensitive, low-impedance IEMS.
The current delivery limit, on the other hand, remains at that magical 90mA in normal ambient conditions. This indicates that the specified power is higher than the actual power in the measured cases. On the other hand, the device is still very powerful, I just think that the specifications are based on the theoretical voltages and not on the actual current delivery, as is often the case.

No load SE

The voltage at 1kHz is 1.43V.


15Ω SE

The voltage at 1kHz is 1.35V, which gives a power of 120mW and the magical current value of 90mA. The power value falls short of the theoretical 150mW at 16Ω, a figure which, on the other hand, cannot be achieved with a maximum of 1.5V output, but with 1.55V and almost 97mA of current.


33Ω SE

The voltage at 1kHz is 1.44V and a power of 63mW is obtained. Again, the power figure is below the specified 75mW, which again requires a voltage of 1.55V.


100Ω SE

The voltage at 1kHz is 1.44V, achieving a power of 21mW.


No load BAL

The voltage at 1kHz is 2.89V.



The voltage at 1kHz is 1.30V, which gives a power of 110mW. Actually, the power is far short of the specified 560mW. At what point can the Colibri deliver 190mA at 3V, for a load of 16?



The voltage at 1kHz is 2.89V and a power of 250mW is obtained. On this occasion, the current is 88mA. That's close to the 280mW specified. But a quarter of a watt is a great figure.


100Ω BAL

The voltage at 1kHz is 2.89V, achieving a power of 83mW.


Frequency Response

Note: Bass boost deactivated.
Completely flat in the audible range, with very slight dips at the extremes. Note that both outputs overlap across the entire volume range, implying that there is no crosstalk.

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Note: Bass boost on.
Bass boost implies an increase of just over 3dB, between 10Hz and 150Hz, with a rapid drop down to 300Hz.

Earmen Colibri Bass ON.png


Note: For the sound description I have never activated the bass boost.
Earmen has used the same DAC as for his previous Sparrow dongle, the ESS Sabre ES9281 PRO. And indeed, the sound has very similar characteristics. But this time, I find the Colibri has a more distinct Sabre character, being more neutral and somewhat cooler. It is clear that the frequency response is completely flat and that the ultra-low output impedance means that the connected headphones are respected as much as possible. This is something that seems simple, but not all audio devices combine the basic parameters of flat response and very low output impedance. Earmen's devices do, and the Colibri is excellent in this respect. The result is a very clean, clear, crystal-clear sound, although perhaps a little thin in the mids and highs.
The bass has a technical nuance that adds precision and speed, generating a delicate, high-resolution texture that is far removed from an analogue feel. It's not that the sound comes across as harsh or digital, but it does offer a sense of perfection and restraint that is on the edge of naturalness. The level of depth achieved is undeniable and the Colibri will be able to handle the sub-bass with remarkable technical ability, endowing a speed and dryness of punch that will enhance the natural conditions of many IEMS. The sense of cleanness and accuracy in low end development is evident, generating a specific and thorough bass, whether from the SE output or the BAL output. The balanced output is even superior in this respect. Thanks to the great control the Colibri gives to the low notes, the lower range has a finite feel, limiting depth and expansiveness. Yet the perception of cleanliness, clarity and great technical performance add extra separation, layering and layering to the range. Undoubtedly, the Colibri improves bass decay, which is faster. In this way, transients are perfected and the interband zones are rendered well-defined and neat. It is clear that the low end is not the most analogue a source can generate, but if you are looking for bass with a clear tendency towards perfection, the Colibri is in that game. And the descriptive level achieved with it is likely to offer a different point of view, rich in detail and nuance, than other sources I am used to. Undoubtedly, it is a reinterpretation of the bass, endowed with an elevated richness, where textures, beats and physical sensations acquire a distinctive and very enjoyable dimension.
The mid-range runs along very similar lines. However, the Colibri's edge is slightly to the detriment of the corporeal sensation offered by the central range. The density of the midrange is restrained, so instruments and voices feel a little thinner. It's not that they come across as thin, light or bland, I think the more appropriate word would be delicate. Yes, the central band is still drawn with great precision and resolution, but its interior is subtle and fragile, yet at the same time complex and very descriptive. Both voices and instruments are completely imbued with intrinsic detail, forming an exquisite, light, glassy unity that takes on a sense of brittle vulnerability, but never breaks. It is in this way that a sense of clarity and transparency reigns supreme, as well as a stellar separation. The Colibri will be able to extract the tiniest nuances from the recordings and the connected headphones, all without falling into a totally aseptic, clinical or merely analytical sound. The difference is in the richness it brings to the music, in the sense of fragility and intrinsic detail that each note possesses. The effect of all this is a central band that is executed in a very pure and free manner, where there are no strings attached, the elements sound clean, very transparent, but never blurred, as there is no loss of musicality at any point. It is true that those looking for warmth will not find it, but neither will they find an abrupt or harsh sound, in any way. As I say, they will have to adapt their ears to a singular purity, full of idiosyncrasy, capable of providing a sonority worthy of the best fidelity, but with a different personality.
The highs of the Colibri are the result of the mature conjunction of a device with a high technical and analytical capacity, a high level of resolution, precision and splendid control. It is spectacular to observe how the high range is reproduced with a level of brilliance and finesse, without ever losing balance or musicality. The treble is drawn at that crossover point, between crunch and harmony. Really, the result is neutrality, but enhanced, augmented and extended. Little more I can say. The top notes are fast, they fade quickly, they have no aftertaste and their brightness is ephemeral. Moreover, they are perfectly defined and emphasised in their sweet spot, they have the finesse and delicacy of the rest of the bands and that is something that, for this band, has more positive consequences. In no case is it a sharp sound, and that is the best thing. No one range overpowers the other. The sound is balanced in that sense and each band uses its delicate power to bring out the best in itself, bringing its best qualities to enhance the musical richness and level of fidelity. This is how the treble is vivid, pleasing and expansive.
But if there is one area where the Colibri is not so good, it is in the area of three-dimensionality. While its level of separation is excellent, this does not help it to generate an ethereal and immersive image. The feel of the scene is quite frontal, with very good height. This aspect is surprising, and how the voices benefit from it. But there is no intimacy in the recreation either. The voices have a good sense of distance, without being congested by excessive closeness. In that sense, both the instrumentation and the voices enjoy that sense of freedom, transparency and cleanliness, which achieves a unique and separate identification within the image. But just as the width is vast, the depth is not perceived as exaggerated, nor is there a vaporousness that expands the elements on a three-dimensional level. It is as if the great capacity for definition were sufficient to fix the elements in their positions. On the other hand, thanks to this ability, the location of the elements is totally unambiguous. You can't have everything, but what the Colibri offers is highly enjoyable. Even so, the first sensation I had with the Colibri in comparison to other dongles, including the Sparrow, was that the sense of grandeur of the scene, which together with the excellent level of transparency and silence between elements, was a differentiating element of its high sonic category. The final conclusion is served, his scene is big, but it lacks an enveloping, steamy, three-dimensional level, even if its separation is almost exceptional.

Comparative note between SE and BAL output: Balanced outputs are almost always better. This case is no exception. Although I find the SE connection quite good, I am migrating the vast majority of my preferred IEMS cables to use balanced outputs. My feeling is that the Colibri's 4.4mm connection shows the true capacity of its delicate and smooth character, conjuring a wider soundstage, sharper separation and extra transparency. The differences lie in sensations that are hard to describe, but which make me feel better and enjoy the music even more.

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Earmen Sparrow

The Sparrow is one of my favourite dongles and is my benchmark for comparison. Its sound level and power are quite impressive. It is worth remembering that, according to my measurements, through the 3.5mm SE output and at 33Ω, it delivers the same power as the Colibri. However, the Sparrow does offer 2V on SE and 4V on BAL. On the other hand, for the balanced output, the little Sparrow breaks the deck by offering 2V at 33Ω (120mW). Still, the difference with the Colibri is here: the big brother gives it all in the same conditions, reaching 250mW. Impressive.
Looking for the 7 differences in sound between one and the other can be very entertaining. In many situations, the behaviour is similar. But I find the Sparrow slightly warmer.
In the low end there is more substrate, body and density in the Colibri, as well as more complexity in its presentation. When headphones with good low-end potential are plugged in, the better descriptive ability, the more delicate and richer texture offered by the Colibri is revealed. The Sparrow's bass punch is powerful, but more concise, its development is simpler and not as expansive as the Colibri. This greater low end travel adds to its complexity, bringing a more flavoursome and lush feel to the Colibri's low end.
I think the Colibri's midrange is where the differences are most pronounced, in its favour. The sound of the Sparrow feels a little harsher and less refined. Whereas the Colibri achieves a point of superior softness and sweetness, without losing an iota of the technical competence it possesses.
The idea of delicacy is shown with greater emphasis in the upper zone of the Colibri, separating it from the greater roughness of the smaller Sparrow. It is clear that this continues to refine the Colibri's sound compared to its smaller sibling. The simplicity of the little one is also felt here and the Colibri is able to extend the treble a notch further, lingering a little longer in the ambience. Again, the Sparrow seems to have a faster decay, but this detracts from the descriptiveness of its representation. The Colibri's treble manages to recreate itself in a softer, but also richer and more respectful timbre.
In terms of staging I find the performance offered by the Sparrow drier. There is a touch of freshness in the Colibri that brings a superior vibrancy, something that offers superior dynamics and a greater sense of movement. This is how the image feels more realistic and somewhat superior. In terms of separation of the elements, the greater simplicity of the Sparrow limits the perception of a darker background and more obvious distance. The Colibri, with its greater sweetness and delicacy, has that point of greater resolution that widens the space between the notes.

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I can't help quoting Miroslav from Earmen, in his presentation of the Colibri in the Head-fi.org thread: the Colibri is a Sparrow on steroids. Fortunately, this is not about adding such substances to a device, but about expanding an already quite good base: that of that little Sparrow. The little dongle was already a sound reference in its price range and adding superior functionality such as a volume control, a battery, on/off/play/pause control and bass boost only completes an intrinsically very good product. It is true that the aesthetics have been maintained and, in this respect, there is no major evolution. But there were few dongles as small and refined in this respect as the Sparrow, so what was the point of changing the image?
Successfully, the Colibri has two USB Type C inputs, one for charging and one for data. It has also opted for a balanced 4.4mm output, as is the current trend. It has limited its output voltage, but has increased its power compared to its smaller sibling, which is an achievement, demonstrating better performance in its electronic design.
In terms of sound, which matters most, the added steroids have not implied a higher level of loudness, but a greater delicacy. Technically, the Colibri is a step ahead of the Sparrow, it is also more refined and sweeter, achieving a higher and more noticeable value of definition, resolution and richness in the texture. In fact, the Colibri is a logical evolution within the Earmen sound: to add musicality and delicacy to a sound with an analytical tendency, to make it more attractive and universal, approaching a superior fidelity.

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Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis

  • HiBy R3 Pro
  • Hidizs AP80 PRO-X
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
  • Penon ORB
  • Penos Sphere
  • Penon PAC
  • NiceHCK M5
  • ISN H40
  • Rose QT9 MK2
  • Letshuoer S12
  • Dunu Falcon Pro
  • Rose Martini
  • TFZ Tequila Pro
  • Hidizs MM2
  • Yanyin Aladdin

Earmen Colibri 17_r.jpg


  • Construction and Design: 89
  • Packaging and Accessories: 68
  • Connectivity: 75
  • Operability: 78
  • Sound: 90
  • Quality/Price: 85

Earmen offered me this model, in exchange for writing an honest review. I want to make it clear that all my opinions written in this review have not been conditioned by this fact, nor will I ever write anything that I do not really think or feel here. I will only write about my personal opinion in relation to the revised product.

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Purchase Link


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You can read the full review in Spanish here:


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You can read my comparison of the EarMen Colibri and the iFi xDSD Gryphon on my Hungarian blog here.
Use Google Translate to read it in English.
My opinion:
The Colibri is excellent sounding device, it's SQ is very close tho the Gryphon!
Best genres are rock, jazz, electronic music, blues, pop.
For classical music Gryphon was a bit better.
However ergonomic design would have been better on the Colibri (e.g. button layout).
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Reviewer at Ear Fidelity
EarMen Colibri
Pros: Great build quality
Neutral yet musical
Good value
MQA support
Pair great with most IEMs and headphones
Excellent case
Cons: The included cable is good quality, but it's basically useless (too long and stiff)
Rather big to use with a phone in your pants
Two USB ports impossible to distinguish with the case on


I’m going to start this review with a fun fact – We’ve reviewed three EarMen products so far, and ALL OF THEM have won Ear Fidelity awards. The latest one, a DAC called Tradutto hasn’t been moved from my desk ever since I got it in November 2021, and that’s really something.
So, today we’re reviewing a new EarMen product, so we should expect another extraordinary device.
The market for dongles is constantly growing and more and more people get to use dongles on the daily basis nowadays. While I’m more of a DAP user myself, I’ve bought the new MacBook Pro lately, so a dongle was definitely a good idea to get. While I can’t call the Colibri a “classic” dongle because of its size, it’s not a stationary DAC/AMP either, so…dongle it is for now.



The unboxing experience of the Colibri is good. It comes packed in a rather big box that is well-made and quite aesthetic. Inside, apart from the Colibri itself, you’re getting an artificial leather carrying case that is protective and nice feeling. It’s not too tight nor too loose, giving you a good sense of confidence while handling the Colibri.

Next up, you’re getting a USB-C cable, which is a bag of mixed feelings for me. It is really well-made, but it is rather long and stiff, which makes it hard to use with laptops and just a pure horror with phones. For the cable to be usable in the use-case scenarios of this DAC, it should have been a lot more flexible and less stiff.

Design and Build​


The build quality of the Colibri is (as we’re used to with EarMen devices) fantastic. It uses premium materials such as a full aluminum block miled on a CNC Machine sandwiched by two glass panels.
As for the design – it’s a dongle, and it looks like a dongle. It is really big for this kind of device, making it rather hard to use in a pocket with a phone without sticking them both together. As for using it with a laptop, its size is more than comfortable and just simply not a problem at all.
The Colibri is battery-powered, which means that a vast majority of its internals is occupied by a large battery. This gives us two USB ports, one for charging, and one for audio which is not super convenient, as you have to know which one is which (the label is on the back glass panel and you’re not able to read it with the case on). It would have been better for EarMen to use colors instead.
On the top, you’ve got two headphone outputs, a 3.5mm and a balanced 4.4mm output. No 2.5mm balanced, it’s finally dying and fading away, good.
On both sides of the Colibri there are two buttons for changing the volume, switching the bass boost, and turning the Colibri on/off. Lastly, this device is Made In Europe.



The Colibri uses an ES9281 PRO DAC chip, and here’s what EarMen got to say about it:
“The heart of the Colibri is the flagship of the ESS line ES9281 PRO DAC. The ESS SABRE PRO series is for premium audiophile and sets a new benchmark in high-end audio by offering the highest dynamic range (DNR) with impressively low levels of total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N). Colibri supports Hi-Res PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DoP, DSD64, DSD128 and MQA . In short, all in one solution.”
The Colibri can output up to 280mW into 32Ω which is rather impressive for a device of this size with a built-in battery. While it won’t be enough for hard-to-drive planners, it surely is powerful enough for most IEMs and many headphones.



Okay, this review has been pretty straight to the point so far. This is because I believe it’s a rather simple device both in terms of its design and functionality. Let’s jump right into the sound paragraph now.
The overall presentation of the Colibri is neutral and engaging at the same time. I believe that EarMen has mastered this kind of sound signature with their portable devices like the TR-Amp, Eagle and now the Colibri.

The bass of the Colibri is linear and neutral, but thanks to the addition of a bass boost, you can make it more physical and powerful with a single click of a button. This is a great option to have, especially in a device with neutral tonality. This gives you an option to slightly tune the sound to your liking.
No matter if you turn on the bass boost or not, you’re getting a highly technical, fast, punchy, and detailed bass response, just a different quantity.
The midrange is very neutral and universal, but not the most engaging. While the Tradutto has an absolutely beautiful and lush midrange presentation, the Colibri is much more technical and analytical sounding. Luckily, it’s not harsh or boring, giving you an exciting and quite fresh type of sound. One of its biggest strengths is definitely the sense of dynamics, with its grandiose note delivery and ability to get really dynamic.
The treble is the aspect that is rather controversial in most of the devices similar to the Colibri. I just feel like such a portable and small device cannot output a really high-quality treble response, and the Colibri partially confirms that. Partially, as it is really detailed and it offers great resolution, but it’s a rather thin and not tonally correct sounding when compared to some high-end equipment. However, for this kind of device, it still sounds marvelous.
If you’re somewhat used to EarMen’ devices then you’re probably aware of the fact that they really know their stuff when it comes to the soundstage. It’s not a surprise that the staging is the biggest strength of the Colibri, tied with its detail retrieval. It offers a natural, airy soundstage with great imaging and separation, something that doesn’t sound like a dongle whatsoever. Pair it with a good staging IEM like the Unique Melody MEST and you’re getting a really fantastic soundstage delivery worth of being called extraordinary.


MacBook Pro 2021 (14′, M1 Pro)

Okay, before you go all nuts on me for comparing this $300+ USD DAC/Amp to a laptop, hear me out. The newest MacBooks sound absolutely great for a laptop, and they should have always done that.
So, is the Colibri better in terms of the sound quality? Yes, it is. It’s more detailed, faster, meatier, and has better staging capabilities. Is it worth getting the Colibri if you have the 2021 MacBook? I would say definitely, I definitely use it whenever I feel comfortable with it, craving for that better audio quality over the onboard (and a really good indeed) DAC/Amp.
Cayin RU6


These two really trade blows a lot. They offer a completely different approach to tonality, resulting in a totally different type of experience.
The RU6 is all about its timbre, warmth, R2R-ish texture, and sweetness, it kinda sounds like a pillow.
The Colibri on the other hand wants to take you dancing, and it won’t be a slow one…you’re getting in Pogo style, quick and aggressive.
I would say that they both play in a similar league when it comes to the technicalities, with the Colibri slightly edging the Cayin mainly due to its tonality. While their power ratings are somewhat similar, the Colibri has more meat to work with harder-to-drive headphones. It handles the Arya SE beautifully, which I would not say about the RU6. They’re different, choose what tickles your fancy, you can’t go wrong with either, or both actually.



Thanks to its technical and neutral character, the Colibri pairs well with most IEMs, except the most aggressive and bright ones (don’t plug Cayin Fantasy into it…please). Its detail retrieval and resolution do wonders when paired with high-end IEMs. The Colibri actually sounds fantastic with my new Fir XE6, a $4000+ CIEMs…
As stated previously, it works well with some over-ear headphones as well. The Hifiman Arya SE, Meze Elite, Edition XS all sound great when the size of the Colibri is regarded.



The EarMen Colibri is a really good-sounding device, but its size and functionality put it in a somewhat weird category. Too big to be a true dongle, too weak to rival the best portable DAC/Amps…and it paradoxically sits in a sweet spot. It’s just perfect for business trips, hotels, and laptop work on the go, giving you a significant boost in audio quality while taking next to no space in your backpack/suitcase. It is just that for me. I travel with my backpack that has a lot of things inside, like my camera, lenses, laptop, gimbal, hard drives, etc. The Colibri takes literally no space inside, and it just gives me that great audio performance whenever I’m in the mood for some music.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Unique Melody MEST, Final A8000, Fir Audio M5 custom, Fir Audio XE6 custom, Effect Audio Axiom, Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, Hifiman Arya SE, Hifiman Edition XS, Meze Elite
  • Sources– Poco X3 Pro, MacBook Pro 2021 M1 Pro, Cayin N3Pro, Cayin RU6
Big thanks to EarMen for providing the Colibri for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. EarMen hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.
@Sphere 57 I had a hard time deciding whether to call it a dongle or a DAC/Amp, does the lack of battery make it not a dongle? Don't know the terms of naming it :D
Sphere 57
Sphere 57
There are no rules I suppose. Earmen call it a DAC/amp, which is what they also call their 'Eagle', I would call that a dongle. Maybe strictly speaking a dongle should have a built-in cable?

Dongles must always dangle, but is everything that dangles a dongle?🙂


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