rasmushorn

Headphoneus Supremus
EarMen TR-Amp
Pros: Very attractive price point. Good value for the money. Powerful and tight sound. This dac/amp excels in pace, rhythm and timing.
Cons: If you are looking for a very neutral dac/amp this will not be it.
EarMen TR-Amp

The TR-Amp impresses right from the first moment of listening. I have only had it for less than a week and it has become the most enjoyable DAC/Amp I have. In fact I have already sold my Chord Mojo and my iFi hip-dac after the TR-Amp arrived. I got more money for my 3 year old Mojo than I gave for the brand new TR-Amp. The Mojo never really gave me the same musical enjoyment as the TR-Amp does or maybe I just need some fresh air and the TR-Amp helps a lot with that decision. Nothing bad being said about the Mojo, it is a well designed product - except for the ball-buttons. I never used the optical input on the Mojo, so USB from Tidal is enough for me and what I am using from my iPhone and when at the office. The Mojo has served me well and has been with me on many adventures.

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TR-Amp blows new sparkling life into my headphones. Specially the Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro and Etymotic ER4XR are really driven well with the TR-Amp. There is more micro-detail, more slam and punch. More air and a less fatiguing sound than the Mojo. TR-Amp is less in-your-face and it feels more relaxed. Listening to Tidal Masters is super satisfying and simply better sounding to me than the Mojo - for the headphones that I use. It was an easy goodbye to the Mojo for me.

I used TR-Amp with my newly purchased Grado Hemp as the first headphone to try it out with. But that combination was just too much bass. The Hemps is a dark sounding headphone on its own. On some tracks bass was way too much for my taste with that combination. The Grado SR225e is a better pairing with TR-Amp. TR-Amp is not as neutral as the Mojo but adds a bit more musicality to the sound, yet offering the same level of resolution and it just plays all file-formats I have from HD Tracks or other high-res files.

It is immediately clear, that this amplifier does not a have a perfectly neutral sound but color the sound a bit with a V-shaped signature. Bass and treble are lifted slightly, but without leaving the mids out of the picture. Vocal music is still close and intimate sounding but with a real weight to it and the Mojo sounded thin and lifeless in direct comparison. TR-Amp will probably not pair well with all headphones. ER4XR, DT-1770 Pro and SR225e are what I would call bright to neutral and for them, TR-Amp is a nice combination.

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The best pairing for me, that I think I will use when travelling is Etymotic ER-4XR. The bass is never too much but driven with the right weight and control. This combination is very good. Tight, high resolution and lots of air and instrument seperation. Another fantastic combination is with Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro. This will probably become my favourite combination for the office after I got the TR-Amp. They sound so good together.

The worst pairing is with the Grado Hemps. Just too much bass and not a good synergy to my ears.

The TR-Amp has enough power to also make my headphones grow and scale up in a way that opens up the music. I think it might even be as pleasurable to listen to as my desktop amp, the Meier Classic ff. I only miss the crossfeed function from the Meier amp to avoid listening-fatigue but compared to the Mojo, the TR-Amp is much less fatiguing after long listening sessions.

My iFi hip-dac has also been sold after getting the TR-Amp. TR-Amp is just better with all my headphones and the battery life of the hip-dac was too short for office use since it could not last a full working day. As far as I can tell the TR-Amp can play between 8-10 hours after a full charge. The hip-dac was down to around 6 hours.

Hip-dac was also not able to kick life into the music like TR-Amp is. I really liked the design of the hip-dac and hip-dac was easier to use for portable use, but for walking around and commuting I only use my AirPod Pros anyway. Changing from TR-Amp to hip-dac made the hip-dac sound a bit lifeless and flat. It did not take me long to discern, that I might as well put the hip-dac up for sale as well. In all fairness I never got to try the 4.4mm balanced output from the hip-dac but only the normal 3.5mm jack. I just don’t want to buy new cables for all my headphones and my DT-1770 Pro cannot be balanced unless it is modified with cables in both sides. My Grado’s also cannot go balanced without an expensive modification. So, I could not get to hear the full value of the hip-dac and just another reason that the TR-Amp suits me better.

The last portable amplifier that I will keep, is my old trusted reference, the Meier Corda Quickstep. The Quickstep in direct comparison with the amp-section in the TR-Amp, is a win for the Quickstep just because the signature is more neutral but the TR-Amp is more engaging and musical.

For testing the TR-Amps DAC-section alone, I have been using the DAC with the line-out into the Quickstep and it is more neutral with less bass but with the same level of power and detail-level. The Quickstep is also a better pairing with the Hemps.

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I really think TR-Amp is a bargain for me and I can trim down my collection of portable amps. 249 Euro and with free shipment, this is a super good deal.

cqtek

500+ Head-Fier
Put A Sabre In Your Heart
Pros: Construction and design.
- It has one of the best SE audio outputs in its price range.
- Impressive quality/sound/price ratio.
- A lot of power for a portable device.
- Quality of the components used.
Cons: Measurements taken at low frequency, below 200Hz, at maximum power, with impedances below 150Ω, are not clean and distortion can be observed in them.
- No gain selector for low impedance headphones, as a protection measure, because small movements of the potentiometer, imply a high change in the output voltage.
- Absence of balanced output.
- It is not possible to replace the OpAmps.
- Only a rubber band is provided for attachment to other sources.
Introduction

Again, I will look at a product of the American brand, based in Chicago, which manufactures in Europe, specifically in Serbia: EarMen. This time it is a USB DAC headphone amplifier with battery, which can be used as a preamplifier. EarMen continues to rely on SABRE chips, mounting the ES9038Q2M, a reference DAC designed for use in mobile and portable devices. Thanks to it, the TR-Amp is able to handle a large number of formats: from PCM 32bit/384kHz, MQA and DSD128 natively, as well as DSD256 via DoP. TR-Amp is a quite powerful device, capable of delivering 400mW to 16Ω. It has two front audio outputs: 6.3mm and 3.5mm both SE. It has fixed and variable line RCA output, selectable by a switch. Its battery is 3700mA and its chassis is completely made of aluminium, selectable in passion red colour. Next, we will see the rest of the characteristics and benefits of this appetizing product

Disclaimer: I want to thank EarMen for giving me this great opportunity to enjoy their products in exchange for my humble opinion.

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Specifications

  • DAC: ES9038Q2M
  • Dynamic Range: > 107 dB
  • THD+N (2.7V, 32Ω): <0.005%
  • Input: USB Type C female, compatible with PC, iPAD/iPhone, Android
  • Type C female USB input for separate charging. Can be charged and played simultaneously.
  • Output: Parallel 6.3mm Stereo, 3.5mm Stereo
  • Line output: fixed RCA 2V, PreOut 3.4V
  • THD+N Fixed line output: <0.005%
  • SNR Fixed line output: >114dB
  • Dynamic Range Fixed Line Output: > 107 dB
  • Channel spacing Fixed line output: > 107 dB (1kHz)
  • THD+N PreOut output: <0.007% (2.8V)
  • SNR PreOut output: >114dB
  • PreOut Output Dynamic Range: > 107 dB
  • Channel spacing PreOut output: > 103 dB (1kHz)
  • Power: >2.5V/400mW to 16Ω, >3.4V/350mW to 32Ω.
  • Audio Formats: DSD 128 Native/DSD 256 (DoP) DXD 384/352.8 kHz. PCM up to 32 bits 384 kHz. MQA Rendering up to 384 kHz.
  • Battery: 3700 mAh / up to 10 hours duration.
  • Weight: 240 gr.
  • Dimensions: 129x66x30mm.

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Packaging

TR-Amp comes in a black, rigid cardboard box, 170x133x67mm in size. It comes wrapped in cellophane and is sealed with a holographic tamper evident. On the upper side there is a drawing of the DAC in white lines. In the centre, the logo, brand and model, in letters of the same colour. All the lateral faces have the same design. The back side has more information: a description of the product, some specifications, many logos on the supported formats and the brands of some of the components used. There are also drawings of the front and rear profiles of the TR-Amp, as well as a QR code, an EAN13, the EarMen web address, the CE certificate and the location of the brand. Of course, the Hi-Res Audio logo is also shown.

After opening the box you can see the top of the TR-Amp embedded in a dense black foam mould. Under it there is a black cardboard box, which contains the rest of the accessories. In short:

  • DAC/Amp TR-Amp
  • Mesh textile bag for protection and transport.
  • Standard-A to USB Type C cable.
  • Warranty card.
  • Instruction manual.
  • Black rubber coupling strip.
  • Velcro tape.

Although the content is not very extensive, I can't think of many more accessories. The protective rubber feet are already attached to the product. Perhaps an extra rubber band would have been nice, to provide a better and firmer grip, in case of use as a portable amplifier. The USB cable is a bit long and a bit shorter would have been nice. The carrying bag is quite nice and protects more than it looks. Although not as much as a hard case, of course.

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Construction and Design

This device is designed as a tank. The aluminium used is thick, very very solid, with a micro sandy texture. It is painted in a very striking passion red. 8 allen screws seal the front and rear panels. It is very easy to dismantle the TR-Amp and see its inner plate. You can see that the interior is quite hollow. On the front side there is a 6.3mm Stereo output, a 3.5mm Stereo SE output. Both can be used simultaneously. The silver potentiometer is located on the right side. Its texture is similar to the aluminium surface. Between it and the 3.5mm output, located in the centre, there is a small hole through which you can see a multicoloured LED. On the back side, from left to right, are the USB type C connectors for charging and data, in a rounded box, lowered from the surface of the aluminium plate. Next is a toggle switch, which allows you to select the line output mode, either direct mode or Pre Out. Finally there are the left and right RCA connectors. None of the connections are gold-plated. All the inscriptions and icons are made in white ink. On the top side there is the logo of the brand and its name. On the lower side there are 4 transparent silicone rubber feet, glued on near each corner. Along the side of this face you can read the brand's web address, the model, different logos of the regulatory certifications, the origin of the headquarters and its place of manufacture. In this case it says that it is manufactured in Europe, there is no mention of Serbia anywhere.

The shape is quite classic, with a few touches that move it away from a common parallelepiped: its edges are rounded, the upper face is slightly curved, the screws are placed in some lowered corners so that they are level with the front and rear surfaces. The sides are not flat but have a fairly wide and profiled U-shape.

The design is very solid and robust, somewhat heavy and large for portable use. Its dimensions bring it close to a small Smartphone, but not negligible in thickness: 30mm. Its weight of almost a quarter of a kilo does not accompany portability either, but does not limit it absolutely.

The vivid red colour highlights its beauty and makes it a very attractive device, which does not go unnoticed.

Inside, the new SABRE ES9038Q2M, one of the market's reference DACs, has been used. The capacitors are still the Low ESR of tantalum, located in the power supply. The battery is 3700 mAh, which provides a duration of up to 10 hours. The chip used for the amplification is the famous TPA6120 from Texas Instruments, whose type AB amplification architecture has a very low noise and 128 dB dynamic range. The rest of the components used are of the highest quality and the board on which they are mounted has 4 layers of gold-plated PCB.

Once again, nothing was left to chance when it came to manufacturing this desired DAC/Amp. Well, e.g. yes... A balanced output would have made a big difference and would have made it a definite product.

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Connectivity

The TR-Amp can be connected to PC, iPAD/iPhone, Android. It is compatible with Windows 7 onwards, thanks to its ASIO drivers. They can be downloaded from here:

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0250/1758/1634/files/EarMen_Win-1.rar?186

It can also be connected to any Smartphone. I have personally used it with my Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro and the APP HiBy Music, without any problem. I have also been able to pair it with several DAPs, such as the Tempotec Variations V1-A, the HiBy R3 Pro and the xDuoo X3II. Although the TR-Amp, connected to my PC sounds excellent, making a great pair.

The fact that it has a battery gives it a plus of portability, while allowing to preserve the charge of the source device.

As a purist, I'm fond of using ASIO drivers, as it happens in this case. The driver installed is from XMOS and in my Windows 7 it's recognised as "USBAudioStDriver_30E7" within Foobar2000.

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Operativity

Its use is extremely simple, just connect the source to the USB Data input and turn the device on by turning the potentiometer. If headphones are connected, the music will be played there. Both headphone outputs can be used at the same time.

It can also be used connected to a built-in audio amplifier via its fixed line output or to a power stage as a pre-amplifier, among other uses. Using the selector on the back, you can choose one functionality or the other.

It should be noted that it has an additional USB Type C input for independent battery charging. The TR-Amp can be powered from its own battery, without the need to be connected to a power source. However, if your battery is empty, it can be charged while playing music.

On the front side there is a small LED that indicates its status:

  • White: The device is on.
  • Green: Connected / PCM
  • Magenta: MQA
  • Cyan: DSD
  • Red (blinking): The battery is below 20%.
  • Blue (blinking): On charge.

Among the supported formats, specified above, it should be noted that it supports the reproduction of Tidal Masters (MQA) from IPhone or Android devices. In the same way, it also supports the reproduction of Qobuz Hi-Res.

Due to its great power, used with IEMS or low impedance headphones, care must be taken when moving the potentiometer, because the volume increases quite easily. Small variations in the potentiometer can mean a noticeable increase in voltage, bearing in mind that the maximum is almost 3.5V.

The battery seems to last as long as it promises, but as a stationary device connected to the PC, I must comment that even though nothing is being played, the TR-Amp consumes equally. So, if you forget to leave it on and come back after a few hours, your battery may have run out.

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Measures

As usual, I have measured the TR-Amp with my humble measuring elements, reproducing pure tones of amplitude 1, generated in FLAC at 96kHz. The tones are reproduced from 20Hz to 20kHz and then measured with the oscilloscope. An attempt is made to subject the device to the worst conditions, i.e. maximum volume, or an attempt is made to measure the values shown in the specifications, in order to check their accuracy.

No load

With the potentiometer set at maximum power, a frequency sweep is performed. It can be seen that the voltage sometimes exceeds 3.4V.

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15 Ohms

In this case Earmen specifies that the TR-Amp is capable of providing a voltage of over 2.5V to 16Ω, which is 400mW. I do not have fixed resistors from 16Ω, but from 15Ω (capable of supporting 3W), so I have placed the potentiometer in 2.4V at 1kHz, making a frequency sweep from 20Hz to 20kHz. In the images you can see that, at low frequencies, there is a clear distortion, which is corrected as the frequency increases, disappearing to 150Ω.

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33 Ohms

At 32 Ohms, the specifications indicate that the power is greater than 3.4V/350mW. In this case, my measurements have been made with 3W fixed resistors and 33Ω.
Placing the potentiometer at 3.4V approximately, at 1kHz, you can see that there is a slight saturation (first image). In this occasion, the specification of 3.4V at 32 Ohms is fulfilled with a clear distortion in all the frequency range. It has been lowered to 3.1V at 1kHz to make a sweep from 20Hz to 20kHz. It improves after going down to 3.1V, with distortion below 200Hz.

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62 Ohms

Frequency sweep at maximum volume from 20Hz to 20kHz
Distortion below 200Hz is observed.
3.4V at 1kHz is reached without visible distortion.

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100 Ohms

Frequency sweep at maximum volume from 20Hz to 20kHz
Distortion below 200Hz is observed.
3.3V at 1kHz is reached without visible distortion.

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150 Ohms

Frequency sweep at maximum volume from 20Hz to 20kHz
No visible distortion in the entire range.
3.5V at 1kHz is reached without visible distortion.

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300 Ohms

Frequency sweep at maximum volume from 20Hz to 20kHz
No visible distortion in the entire range.
3.4V at 1kHz is reached without visible distortion.

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620 Ohms

Frequency sweep at maximum volume from 20Hz to 20kHz
No visible distortion in the entire range.
3.5V/1kHz is reached without visible distortion.

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The frequency response of the TR-Amp has been measured at various voltages, without any alteration being noticed. It is very flat, with a very slight 0.1dB drop between 17kHz and 20kHz.

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There are no alterations in the frequency response of the connected headphones with respect to my reference DAC, the Burson Audio Playmate.

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As a conclusion it should be said that the TR-Amp, when brought to full power, with low impedances, has visible distortion below 200Hz, while above, the waves are clean. On the other hand, from 150Ω, there is no trace of this distortion in the whole frequency range. This indicates two things: that this device is clearly aimed at headphones with higher impedances and that, possibly, there is a current limitation in its operational amplifiers. On the other hand, the figure of 2.5V to 16Ω is totally disproportionate, since there are few headphones of that impedance that demand so much voltage. The same happens with 32Ω, in which case the voltage is even higher.

Sound

Once again, Earmen has put its trust in SABRE and has mounted its ES9038Q2M reference DAC for mobile devices, on the TR-Amp. Its sound profile is neutral, slightly bright, but energetic, thanks to the great thrust provided by its power. It has a great dynamic and, despite its high power, it is worthy of having a remarkable dark background. With IEMS, it is easy to fall into the temptation of volume, but you have to carefully adjust the potentiometer, to place the precise voltage and get the best out of them, without overdoing it. At that point, with a little time and attention, one can realize that this is one of the best SE outputs in its price category. Once again, SABRE shows, and a lot of it. The level of transparency, clarity, detail, depth and separation offered by the TR-Amp puts it somewhere between neutrality, naturalness, a more analytical approach and a more relaxed sound. The scene is drawn vastly, with very good depth and adequate height. The three-dimensionality is not as explicit as I would have liked, but it appears more natural and calm, without an ethereal feeling. Scene and separation go hand in hand and, on this occasion, they do not tend to be very far apart, which implies a more cohesive and realistic scene, where one does not perceive such a high distance as in other scenes. In this way, the background is not so dark, nor is it so visible to the naked eye. Thanks to the power of the system, especially in the low area, the depth is high and the bass reaches far, but without that sense of expansion the distance, which allows the scene to be even wider.

In the lower zone, the most recognisable is the power the TR-Amp has: plug in your best bass headphones and enter a totally absorbing dimension, full of strength, power, depth and control. It's a well-known fact that power without control is useless. But bass without respect, either. And EarMen knows that well: despite all this power, TR-Amp is able to focus all that flow in the low zone, without the rest being harmed. The capacity of resolution and definition is clearly evident in this sense. All ranges are perfectly defined, details in place and the scene naturally packing to sound. It is perhaps not the most spectacular sound at first sight, but one that dazzles with time, that is enjoyed slowly, savouring it with the best headphones and the best music. Returning to the bass, its impact full of controlled fury is a magnet for bass-lovers. Its texture has a vigorous roughness, and there is a balance between the smoothness provided by the speed of the notes and the viscerality of the beat, generating a rich and exciting undulation. The mixture of fury and descriptive level does not imply a crushing of the planes, far from it, but the depth is raised to accommodate all of them, with their corresponding distance, but with a faster and more ephemeral reaction. Good control is demonstrated in this sense, the decay of the notes is fast, without sediment and with a great recovery. The bass generated have a lot of air and are never compressed, proof of which is the ease with which the high details and nuances are able to mix with each other, instead of displacing them.

The middle zone is mainly clear, very well integrated between bass and treble, flowing through to provide body on one side, tonal richness and a high descriptive level on the other. In this way, the mids benefit from both adjacent ranges, to emerge with a backing that enhances their inherent virtues. On this occasion, the voices do not have a very differential treatment, but rather neutrality places them on a par with the instruments, both in distance and in presence. This doesn't mean that the sound is felt in a V, far from it, it is just respectful in all its range, eminently relaxed in this aspect. Above all, a great level of natural fidelity is felt, a sound where the nuances fill, accompany and extol, but without restoring the importance of the voices or instruments. In spite of this, the ensemble is not really perceived as being close, nor in the foreground, thus limiting a more exhaustive capacity for analysis, a greater clarity that is more differentiating and open, which projects the mids to a more protagonist and perceptible level. In spite of being SABRE, the mids are characterized more by their musicality than by an analytical aspect.

In the upper zone I have found that the synergy with the headphones becomes more important, than in other devices I have tried. Some shiny headphones have become even hotter, while others that are a little more linear have gained in sparkle, or rather, liveliness, that which I have previously called slightly shiny. It's true that volume plays an important role in this: a higher volume over excites the more sensitive ranges and they become more persistent, less bearable. And the TR-Amp, with its power, can encourage that tendency. So, watch out.

Going back to the treble, that brilliance has more to do with clarity and light, than with an eminent presence of the upper zone. Nor does it have to do with enormous resolution or definition. The highs are not really perceived as very crisp or closely drawn or finite. They are somewhat drier, cohesive, rounded at their highest peak, making them more secure. The speed is also not perceived as exceptional, as well as its energy level. Everything is combined to offer a natural, unforced appearance, with a notable amount of detail, but without being exceptionally defined or with an absolute resolution and separation, which would allow the high notes to be broken down to a micro level, raising the range to a higher analytical level.

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Comparisons

Burson Audio Playmate (Con V6 OpAmps)


The Burson Audio Playmate is my reference DAC/Amp. It has 4 OpAmps Burson V6 installed (2 Vivid and two Classic). It has a headphone input, something that allows me to make my IEMS measurements, connecting my IEC60318-4 microphone to it. The DAC used is the SABRE ESS9038. Its specifications mark 1.8W for 16Ω and 2W for 32Ω. With the standard OpAmps, my own measurements do not come close to those values. When I installed the OpAmp V6, things improved a lot, getting closer to the real values. This means that the operational amplifiers are the clear difference in amplification. Although the superior power of the Playmate is due to the fact that it also uses a later class A transistorized amplification. That's why it's a pity that the TR-Amp doesn't allow you to change the installed OpAmps. Another big difference between both products is the price. Initially, the price of the Playmate with the standard OpAmps is $399. It is currently available for $359. But the product to be compared has the OpAmps V6, which increases the price offered to $539. The TR-Amp costs $249 and uses the new ES9038Q2M. The Playmate is not a portable product and has many more options, no battery, two gain modes, a control screen, can be used with remote control, choice of filters, 100 volume steps, etc. The power, the power supply and the impressive circuitry used, justify the price increase. But what about the sound? I have really needed to use several headphones and squeeze my brain and ears, using the 'nirvana' mode, to be able to search for the 7 differences. Using parallel hearing, allowing ultra fast switching between both sources, with the same volume, the same headphones and the same musical passages, to neophyte ears, I would say they sound the same. Looking for a higher concentration I have managed to find minimal differences, which can be key. They are those differences that our brain processes and leaves in its auditory memory, but which are complex to detect a priori. Let's go with them:

The tone in both devices is almost the same. The Playmate offers a slightly wider and more open, more volatile sound. However, the sound is more fluid in the TR-Amp, better mixed, both the details and the ranges are interwoven in a more harmonious way than in the Playmate, where there is no such respect, being its exposure somewhat harder. The sound in the TR-Amp is more relaxed and musical, while the Playmate is somewhat more direct and marked. I prefer the energy and texture of the bass in the TR-Amp, it sounds softer, more delicate and deeper. The Burson develops the sharpest sounds, with a more abrupt profile, somewhat more analytical, but less subtle. In the middle zone it seems that the Burson has slightly closer voices, with a slightly more balanced presence with respect to the low zone and also with respect to the high zone. TR-Amp offers a subtly more relaxed midrange. The same is true of its treble, which sounds softer and less marked, where Playmate offers a stricter and more underlined definition, while TR-Amp plays them freer, looser, but less strict, defined and detailed, although this difference is very small. As I've already mentioned, Playmate has a greater tendency to create a slightly larger scene, especially in width and height, with a little more separation. TR-Amp has a little more depth, a greater sensation of energy that collects its sound, concentrating it slightly. However, I maintain that its mix is more fluid, being perceived as more delicate, with a more pleasant and respectful interlacing between them.

It should then be noted that, despite the similarity of both sounds, there may be slight nuances between different connected headphones, which tip the balance towards one or the other. There is no clear winner, I am happy with both. However, it is worth noting that the EarMen TR-Amp has an excellent price/performance ratio.

Finally, I would like to mention that the ASIO XMOS driver is the same for both.

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Conclusion

The TR-Amp is the second EarMen device that I have tested and I have enough to be an avowed fan of this brand: I will wait impatiently for each new product that is launched on the market. And no wonder, because the TR-Amp has a sound that clearly points higher than its price. Built like a tank, with that impressive red colour, this DAC/Amp stands out beyond its own construction and design. It has a battery and exclusive charging port, direct line output or as a Pre-Amp, 3.5mm and 6.3mm parallel audio output. And a great power. You only miss the balanced output. However, it has one of the highest quality SE outputs in its price range. The TR-Amp is a device that is going to put its direct competitors on the spot. And in quality/sound/price ratio it is already better than many. Keep an eye on this brand and give your vote to TR-Amp!

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Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis

  • HiBy R3 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
  • NF AUDIO NM2
  • NF AUDIO NM2+
  • BGVP ArtMagic VG4
  • ISN H40
  • NS Audio NS5 MKII Extra Bass
  • Tin HiFi T4
  • Tin HiFi T2 Plus
  • OurArt QJ21
  • Ikko OH10
  • JH TriFi
  • Toneking tk12s
  • Takstar Pro 80
  • SoundMagic HP150

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Ratings

  • Construction and Design: 96
  • Packaging and Accessories: 75
  • Connectivity: 85
  • Sound: 93
  • Quality/Price: 94

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Purchase Link

You can read the full review in Spanish here

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justrest

500+ Head-Fier
Earmen TR-Amp & Donald DAC
Pros: TR-AMP: Sound quality, build quality, price and performance ratio, volume knob, powerful amp, battery life, both 6.3mm and 3.5mm output.

Donald Dac: Great sound at this price, build quality
Cons: TR-AMP: none at this price
Donald Dac: no accessories,
Before starting this review, I would like to share technical aspects and package details. Also, I would like to thank to Earmen for this great opportunity.

EarMen TR-Amp
EarMen Donald DAC
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Specifications:

TR-AMP


PCM 32bit /384kHz

DoP DSD256

Native DSD128

MQA rendering

SNR of +128dB SNR A-Weighted,

-112,5dB THD+N,

400mW into 16 Ohm

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Donald DAC

Supported formats:

PCM 384kHz/32bit

DSD – DXD – MQA Rendering

DAC: 32 bit Cirrus Logic CS 43198

USB: XMos 2XX

Input: USB-C – DATA/Power Supply – USB-C – External Power Supply

Output: RCA

You can check out for more details on Earmen website.

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Package Details:

Both TR-Amp and Donald Dac come with a simple cardboard box and the opening experience is not breathtaking. Tr-Amp has 2 different color options with red and black. Red looks pretty sexy with that shiny aluminum. TR-Amp comes with a USB-C cable and a beautiful mesh pouch. Donald Dac comes with the only unit and there are no other accessories inside. They trying to lower cost, so it is pretty understandable especially see the 99$ price tag.

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Design;

TR-Amp:


The whole body is aluminum, including the volume knob, and build quality is top-notch. Most of the Dac-Amp device coming with aluminum chassis but not everyone looking and feels great in hand. Weight is 240 grams which is not the lightest but heavy either. You can easily stack with your DAP or other portable sources and use it without and carrying problem.

There is 2 USB-C port at the back, one for charging one for data, which means you can connect to your computer via USB-C cable that comes with TR-Amp. Also, it is not common with most of the dac-amp but it has line-out jacks behind the devices. It gives you more flexibility for sure. Front of the device, there is a volume knob and 3.5mm and 6.3mm headphone jack. Yes, it has a 6.3mm headphone jack which is surprising to see it in such a small unit like this. TR-Amp has a 3700mah battery inside which provides is 9-10 hours of playing time depending on your volume level, but it is a pretty decent result.

There is no need to install its software to use it. It is a plug and plays but you can download and install on to your computer if they need it. Here is the link for the software for the Windows users. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0250/1758/1634/files/EarMen_Win-1.rar?186

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Donald DAC:

The body is made of metal and plastic but it doesn’t look and feels flimsy at all. It is super light; I mean really really light. You might ask yourself if there are any electronic parts inside of the unit or not. There is no physical button on the unit. It is activated when it gets the signal from the source. Its dimension is L * H * W (mm) 114 x 80 x59 which is a pretty small unit, you can put it on your desk with its small stand, it will hide very well.

Like TR-Amp, there is 2 USB-C port at the back, one for power, one for data. And also, it has a line out output. There is no battery inside, so it gets the power from the charging port. Since it doesn’t come with the cables, you might need 2 USB-C cables to use it with your computer if you are not planning to use line-output.

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More Details:

TR-Amp:


TR-Amp using ES9038Q2M SABRE 32 as a dac inside. This is the highest dac of the Sabre up to date. It supports PCM up to 384kHz, DSD256 via DoP, native DSD128, and MQA which is fantastic. I don’t want to bother you with lots of numbers and specs but it has so many high-quality components inside. You can check out their website for more details.

TR-Amp has up to 400mw power amplifier inside which is it can drive all IEM’s in the market without any issues and also will be enough for most headphones. It drives my HD6XX, HE4XX, and Elear without any power issues. It is not super powerful but it is pretty enough for most gears. Also, the background is black and hasn’t heard any hiss with my sensitive IEM.

While listening it will charge the battery, so you can enjoy your music by the time it’s charging. And as far as I see I haven’t seen any warming issues with the device. With Mojo it gets like a frying pan.

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Donald DAC:

Donald DAC using Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC and I don’t remember if I listen to any Cirrus Logic dac before. It is supporting PCM resolutions up to 384 kHz and 32 bits, DXD (352.8 kHz / 24-bit), and MQA like TR-Amp. It supports almost every format without any problem. I’ve played many formats without getting any problem which is good news. I’ve received so many issues with some DAC that I’ve.

This is not a battery powered unit, so you have to connect sources to juice up the device, but you can use as a portable dac with a powerbank. Actually, it is super light, so you can take advantage of its lightest form factor to carry a powerbank. It is always good to have some options.

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Sound:

TR-Amp:


Treble is soft and gentle with a touch of warmth. It is not super-extended, shrill, and sharp, it is more like creamy and soft notes accompany with natural tonality. It is detailed and good in resolution but it is not making obvious all the details in the music. It is not surgical sharp trebles, more or less It is average in quantity that doesn’t push your earphone to extend more. It is very clear and there is plenty of air between the instruments. I’m pretty impressed when I listened to my test track Le Trio Jeobran – Douja. Still, it is missing some excitement and dynamism but it is all about preferences. The synergy between earphones and source is very important. For example, Nocturnal Atlantis with TR-Amp are not the best pair in my collection, on the other hand, Hyla Audio Sarda is matched fantastically with TR-Amp. Trebles become more controlled and clean presentation of Sarda level up. Overall, I like trebles but it is not the best area of TR-Amp.

The smooth presentation continues on mid frequencies as well. Mids are so beautiful, natural, and musical. All the instruments and vocals are clear and the detail level is fantastic. Mids are slightly laid back but still, it is close to the stage. Especially vocal performance. But I am not talking like Chord Mojo forwardness. There is a very clear space between instruments and easy to pinpoint in the soundstage. Imagining and layering are also above their price tag. Airy mid-performance help to open the stage and gives a very fresh listening experience. I will compare with Chord Mojo but when I listen to it side by side, I can see why I don’t like Mojo’s mid frequencies. It makes narrower the stage makes it darker. TR-Amp is very clear and performing great in this area.

Bass is not huge in quantity but it goes down really well. The sub-bass region making a great job and you can hear the sub-bass impact. But of course, it is not in the bass-head level. Bass doesn’t dominate the other frequencies and it is well controlled, but it is not best in terms of tightness either. It has great details and layering and also it is not shy in the amount. I like to hear sub-bass rather than mid-bass and most of the devices hit from the lower mids. Thanks to TR-Amp that it reaches and digs pretty deep I heard nice impactful bass with my dynamic driver earphones. Hyla Audio TE-05 is like heaven with TR-Amp. TE-05 has slightly overpowered bass and TR-Amp adds great balance and makes It more controlled. It is absolutely making some touch in the bass area but as I said it is all about synergy.

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Donald DAC:

Treble is prominent and well present with Donald Dac. It has a good extension with sparkle as well as slight sharpness with some tracks. Treble is bright and even sharp sometimes, but of course, the earphone that you use has a big role here. It is not sharp or edgy but it is very close to that limit. Detail wise it is surprisingly detailed and the resolution level is really great for a budget-friendly device. It will be better by the time with burn-in. Now, I’ve approximately 100 hours of use with it.

Mid frequencies are slightly dry and seem lifeless but it is also very detailed and close to the reference sound. I’ve used my JDS Labs O2 as an amp during the test and I like the synergy between those two. Mids are slightly thinner on lower mids and the overall sound is clinical and there is no coloration. The detail level is really great. It reminds me Topping D50s in this regard with its reference like sound. Vocals are laid back and men’s vocals are slightly on the thinner side. Female vocals are better and it is more accurate in tonality.

Reference like-sounding affects bass response as well. Bass is tight and controlled and there is absolutely no overpower no matter what you listen to. If you paired with bassy headphones or earphones it will be shine. Bass is fast and accurate in tonality and no exaggeration by any means. It doesn’t dig deep in sub-bass but still has a good response.

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Comparison:

TR-Amp vs Chord Mojo:


There is nothing much to say about Chord Mojo and no need to introduce it because it is a well known and super popular device in the community which it deserves. Mojo is smaller in size and a super versatile device with its power and compatibilities. Both devices have metal constructed body and high quality in material. Battery performance is close but Tr-Amp provides 2 more hours which is slightly better than Mojo. Both devices are powerful enough to drive all IEMs and some headphones on the market but Mojo has much more power in its small body, surprisingly isn’t it! But Tr-Amp pretty enough to listen with most headphones, except some hard drive gears. Sound-wise, Mojo is more mid centric, closed and smooth Dac-amp while TR-Amp is more open sound with a great top to the bottom performer. Trebles are more prominent, extended, and detailed on TR-Amp. Separation and micro details are slightly more audible and better on TR-Amp. Mojo is smoother and slightly dark in the presentation. It is not dark but when you do some A-B it feels like that. Mojo trebles are more relaxed and laid back, its detail level is also good. The mid section is where the difference is more noticeable. Mojo has much more forwarder in presentation, and it dominates the overall sound signature. Also due to its forward character, it is romantic and more in your face, especially in vocal performance. TR-Amp is slightly laid back and more like a V-shape mid-presentation. Vocals are stepped back and sound is so fresh. Actually, I like Mojo’s powerful, forward mid-presentation but it also compresses all sound and feels soundstage is narrower. Also, there is some mid-hump which is obvious with some tracks. Bass performance is better on TR-Amp, it goes deeper and more authoritative. Mojo bass mostly coming on lower-mid and it is not as deep as TR-Amp. The soundstage is wider on TR-Amp. All the instruments spread out on stage and give more airy feelings. Overall, I like Mojo a lot and it is absolutely a keeper for me, but I like TR-Amp more with its open sound with better details performance.

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Donald Dac vs Emotiva Big Ego:

I’ve been using Emotiva Big Ego for almost 3 years and I still like it with its clean sound. It is a usb-powered device like Donald Dac but the price is more than double. I f I remember correctly it was 279$ but it is not on the market anymore. It has an old Usb-b socket for powering and connection and also has optical out. It is a full metal body like Donald Dac it is very light as well. Their sound signatures are similar but they are different in some areas which I will tell the differences. Trebles are similar in quantity but Donald is slightly brighter and sharper while Ego is more relaxed and tamed. It is hard to notice but their resolution and details level is the same. Donald gives better clarity, so it may be a little bit better. Mids are similar in tonality and slightly thinner in notes. Emotiva has a better soundstage and mids are slightly more open and spacious but not by far. Vocals are clean and clear on both device and it has similar texture and tonality. Bass is where they are differing mostly. Ego has more quantity and natural tonality. It goes deeper and hits harder. On the other hand, Donald has a dry and neutral bass response which gives a flatter presentation. Donald shines with bassy earphones and it has better speed and tightness on bass response. The soundstage is par, but Donald is airier and more open. Both devices are great it is hard to choose which one is better. As I said many times, it is all about synergy and match.

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Donald Dac vs Audioquest Dragonfly Red:

These are two different animals in terms of size and usability, but I would like to compare it anyway. Dragonfly Red (DR) is usb powered plug and play usb memory size dac. It is very popular and so many peoples love it, including myself. The retail price of the DR is twicer expensive than Donald Dac. No need to compare its size. DR is so small and easy to carry, even it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans. Donald dac is much bigger in size. But also, it provides extra connectivity like line-out. Both devices required usb power to work, so they don’t have a battery inside. Sound-wise, DR is more open and airier but also it is more sterile and clinical. Donald Dac is more musical, less bright, and a touch of a warm sounding device. DR has more sparkle and extension on trebles which brings more details while Donald Dac is doing the same thing more smoothly. Trebles are softer and easier to listen to with Donald. DR gets tiring with some treble sensitive iems with its sharp trebles. Mids are more bodied and smoother on Donald Dac and vocals are more forward with better natural feelings. DR is more refined and slightly laid back and it is thin in the presentation when I compare with Donald Dac. I really like the vocal performance of Donald Dac. It has a better texture and organic presentation. Bass is slightly deeper and more powerful on Donald Dac. DR is more controlled and tighter and gives better details.

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Verdict:

I haven’t heard Earmen brand before and these are the first products that I am reviewing. Both TR-Amp and Donald Dac are absolutely fantastic devices for the price and TR-Amp could be the most underrated device of the year in my humble opinion. It is better than most devices that I’ve heard under 500$, moreover, it is surprisingly cheap. Sound performance is fantastic which is my Mojo sitting in my drawer since I got the TR-Amp. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Mojo and it is Hulk of the small size dac-amp category with its pure power, but I like TR-Amp sound more, and it becomes my favorite at the very first day. Overall, with top-notch build quality with a great sound performance, this baby deserves much more attention.

Donald Dac is another winner for the price. It is clean and clear sounding Dac combine with great details and resolution. Competition is pretty tough in 100$-150$ range and there is so many good devices out there, and Donald Dac is absolutely one of them that you have to consider.

rev92

100+ Head-Fier
EarMen TR-Amp
Pros: Beautiful color
Great build quality
Price to performance ratio
Comfy, natural sound signature
Power
Cons: Needs two USB cables
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EarMen TR-Amp is a mobile DAC/AMP with a lot of power, two headphone outputs and MQA decoding. It is priced at 249$.

Sound quality for the price
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Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Build quality
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Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Value
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Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Packaging



To be honest, that’s my first contact with the Earmen company and I was surprised in a positive way. The box is really well made, with an outline drawing of the TR-Amp on the top, logo and product name on the sidewalls and the all needed info on the bottom of the package. Looks cool to me
Inside you can find the TR-Amp itself, a soft pouch, one USB-C cable (but I’ll talk about that in the third paragraph), one rubber band and some paper stuff.

Build quality



EarMen TR-Amp’s handcrafting is exquisite. The whole device is made of metal, painted red, which, depending on the light shimmers from burgundy to bright rose. Honestly, painting an audio device red might be quite risky, but damn, it was well worth the risk this time, it’s such a beautiful looking little champ. The potentiometer is turning on the device and the scale isn’t linear. All connectors are great, stiff and tight enough.

Functionality

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TR-Amp is decoding MQA files so the master quality on tidal isn’t a problem anymore. You can use two pairs of headphones at the same time. A lot of my friends were looking for an option like that with great sound quality, so here they are. Just connect them to the 6,35mm and 3,5mm jack. A wonderful option for watching a movie or listening to music with someone. I love it.
The only thing I don’t understand at all is that you have to use two USB-C cables to use TR-Amp as a stationary DAC. One for data, second for charging. For me, it’s great, because my USBs are problematic but I don’t see any other advantages, especially if there’s just one cable included.

The battery life is great at around 11 hours of playback at 1/3 of the volume.

Sound



I felt in love with EarMen TR-Amp after the first few seconds of listening to it. It sounds natural-neutral I would say, depends on the headphone used. When using RCA outputs it is even better than the jack output. In overall it sounds very detailed, with such a wide, deep soundstage and comfy smoothness. One thing I can complain about is a hum in the background on high sensitive IEMs with armature drivers. It worked really great with the Meze Rai Solo, Fyne F500 and DT990 Pro, I didn’t like it though with Fidelio X2HR or Nighthawk, it’s too smooth for my personal taste, but I’m sure a lot of people love this type of sound.

The bass is really deep, slams hard but as mentioned above, it is delicately softened on the headphone output. Subbass is here only on some headphones, like DT770 Pro, cheap Bqeyz KB100 and things like that. Philips Fidelio X2HR lacks subbass here, it is more recessed than Topping DX3 Pro. I’m not a fan of subbass though, so I won’t complain about that, especially when the higher parts of bass are really great. Using the RCA outputs, my Fyne F500’s bass is really thick, with a lovely, charming and warm sound signature that makes me want to listen to it more. And once again, punch is great with really fast decay and roll-off that doesn’t feel dry.

All vocals are again very detailed with awesome separation. The whole midrange on RCA steps at the front, without nasal sounding. The jack output is more recessed in the midrange, but it’s not a huge difference. It is smoothened, but it’s not on the FiiO M15 level, I would say the sound signature is similar to Topping D70 but more neutral. Female vocals are also mainly delicate but voiced consonants can be a lil bit too sharp on higher volume levels (this problem doesn’t occur on RCA output).
Honestly, I’m not sure if there is a song that sounds bad for me, I’ve checked many music genres, from the Dead Can Dance, through Dua Lipa straight to Heilung. Everything was really good.

Treble is really natural. It doesn’t shine so often, and usually it’s playing accurately. It definitely doesn’t hide in the shadows, I would compare its playstyle to the vinyl record- soft and delicate, without any sharp edges. They may occur only on really bright and cruel headphones which are hard to drive, like some HifiMan planars, but I wasn’t able to check that combo, that’s only my guess. Overall, the TR-Amp is closer to the RHA DACAMP L1 than Fiio Q5s in the treble.

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The soundstage is really wide and deep for a portable device. It is way better than Zen Dac, and slightly better than FiiO Q5S when it comes to its size. The imaging and holography are on the barely lower level compared to Q5S, although it is really great. It happens to be misleading in games as I am missing front and rear. In music it’s great, no problem with trickiness, every instrument is huge, has its own shape, but the separation is still on a very high level, same for the black background.

Summary



EarMan shocked me at the beginning, I thought it’s impossible to a make a portable DAC/AMP with such a good soundstage, neutral sound signature with analogue smoothness. TR-Amp has it all and that makes it a really great device, quite universal and powerful. It is also really well made and decodes MQA. Nothing to complain here, wonderful device. Definitely recommended.



Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Meze Rai Solo, Audeze LCD-3, Brainwavz Alara, Fyne F500, Rai Penta, Shozy Form1.1, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, Bqeyz KB100
  • Sources– DX3 Pro, Little Dot MK IV, Topping DX7s, Nuforce HA-200, DACAMP L1, Chord Mojo, FiiO Q5s, iFi iDSD Nano BL, Aune X1s
Remember to visit us at ear-fidelity.com
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ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
EarMen TR-Amp: A fantastic portable amp, worthy of a dekstop as well.
Pros: Price
Portable
Build
Real volume knob!
Quality sound
Power!
Battery
Cons: "Somewhat" limited source options (I never had a problem)
Tough market point.
Plain looks? (who cares)
EarMen TR-Amp: A fantastic portable amp, worthy of a dekstop as well.

EarMen TR-Amp ($249):

EarMen

TR-Amp

A huge thank you to Miroslav from Auris Audio, the parent entity of EarMen for the review unit. After auditioning the Euterpe on a smaller tour, I greatly appreciate the support. The Euterpe was really good (in fact a peer picked one up as a result of the tour), and with the line-up Auris/EarMen has, my expectations are high.

It is understood that the unit may be asked back for at any time, but until then the TR-Amp is mine to keep, but not resell. That is really, really uncool.
*Due to COVID-19, the delivery was delayed a bit, but through the process, EarMen were a superb company with which to deal. Professional throughout the whole process, and I thank them for that.


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Introit:

Founder Miki Trosic, of Auris Audio wanted to develop a more affordable, portable line of wares. Utilizing their ties to full sized amps the company had produced such wonders as the affordable $1500 Euterpe, to the Headonia 2A3 at $9900, to the Forte 150, a $17,000 tube amp. Seeing a need for affordable high-performing portable gear, EarMen was formed and tasked with making the best portable DAC’s and amps possible. In an ever increasingly crowded market, this would be a tough draw. But Auris is widely respected in Europe for quality craftmanship (the Euterpe was stellar) and sound, which is desired, the chances of success were good.

Auris

And their history:

Founded in 2013, Auris Audio’s mission was then and to this day remains, to fulfill the desires of the most demanding audiophiles and delight both listener’s ears and visual senses. We decided to invest long-term ideas, experience and resources in the unification of retro design and the future of audio sound quality.
Based on experience in designing amplifiers and other electronic devices, Auris Audio’s philosophy is rooted in Superior design, natural materials and skills of making, which give us the right to claim that our products are handcrafted with soul.

Following his dream, founder and CEO of Auris Audio, Mr. Milomir Trosic, had only one thing in mind, the end-user and his satisfaction. His leading motivation has been to achieve constant fulfilling of desires and needs of audiophiles by giving them the full enjoyment in the smooth and detailed sound. Guided by this light motive, the team of dedicated engineers, audio designers and craftsmen are all committed to making Auris Audio dream come true.


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From the TR-Amp page:

TR-Amp’s great characteristics are available by using the best components and materials.

  • NEW ES9038Q2MSABRE32Reference DAC Industry’s highest performance 32-bit mobile audio DAC with unprecedented dynamic range and ultra-low distortion
  • Super Low ESR tantal capacitors in power supply
  • Includes a high level EarMen shielded female USB-A to USB-C Adaptor
  • 3700mA battery with up to 10h of music enjoyment
  • Separate DATA and Charging USB type C ports allows you to use it all day long in your system
  • Analog volume control for Preamp and Headphone amp
  • Double Enjoyment with 2 pairs of headphones simultaneously
  • Analog switch for Direct DAC or PreAmp function
  • ALL METAL aluminum housing eliminates external noise sources
Specs:

PCM 32bit /384kHz
DoP DSD256
Native DSD128
MQA rendering
SNR of +128dB SNR A-Weighted,
-112,5dB THD+N,
400mW into 16 Ohm
350mW into 32 Ohm
*The TR-Amp supports both Tidal Masters (MQA) and Qobuz (losslessc 16-bit CD-resolution) streaming services, at the highest audio quality possible based upon subscription.


In The Box:

TR-Amp unit
Carrying bag
USB-A to USB-C charging cable
Instruction manual
Rubber band for stacking


Gear used/compared:

HEDD HEDDphone
Audeze LCD-3 w/WyWires Red 2.5bal
Verum Audio Verum 1
Dan Clark Aeon RT Closed
Vision Ears Erlkönig
Empire Ears Legend X
MacBook Pro
XDuoo x10t ii
ifi xDSD
Dethonray HA-2
ifi micro Black Label


Songs:

Dave Matthews-Come Tomorrow, Away From The World
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World, Midnight Radio
twenty one pilots-Blurryface, Trench, Regional at Best
Van Morrison-Three Chords & The Truth
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Ziggy Marley
Damien Marley
Bob Marley
Santana
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Whatever my fancy of the moment
Tidal Premium


From the TR-Amp page: “Three key features make current-feedback amplifiers outstanding for audio. The first feature is the high slew rate that prevents odd order distortion anomalies. The second feature is current-on-demand at the output that enables the amplifier to respond quickly and linearly when necessary without risk of output distortion. When large amounts of output power are suddenly needed, the amplifier can respond extremely quickly without raising the noise floor of the system and degrading the signal-to-noise ratio. The third feature is the gain-independent frequency response that allows the full bandwidth of the amplifier to be used over a wide range of gain settings.”

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Build quality:

Coming in a fairly plain black box, the EarMen TR-Amp is highlighted by specs on the back and a picture of the unit on front, in white outline lettering. Tastefully simple, and a note of what might be coming. Simple in design, but worthy in listening.

An aluminum frame wraps around two Allen-keyed ends, much like you might find on a Burson amp/dac. With “lips” to help hold the critter, I never once felt the construction was weak or slippery. Fairly svelte in size, the TR-Amp has a volume knob on the front along with a 6.35mm and 3.5mm single-end jack each. Sitting in four rubber feet, the TR-Amp sits up enough where you need not worry about your headphone jack hitting the surface (think ifi Hip-DAC that does…). Unassuming again and piquing my interest. The back has two USB-C connections; one for charging and one for data. Separate discreet inputs allow one to listen and charge at the same time without the power port inhibiting audio quality.

To the right of the USB-C ports lies a toggle for “direct” or “pre-out,” since the TR-Amp can be run as a pre-amp as well. I will try this with a couple of my amps hopefully. Further right (as far as you can go on the back, lies the RCA L/R for Line Out, which is used for the pre-amp connectivity. Simple again, but I do wish for a few other connection source abilities. No digital connectivity puts this behind the ifi micro xDSD and XDuoo TA-30 desktop. Something to think about, but again this is market for portable AND desktop use so limitations should not really bother you. Plus, to me sometimes complexity gets in the way of sound or battery use. Here EarMen focus on the sound first and foremost. Can’t fault them for that.

Not included in the box are connectivity cables. Zero, zilch. My feeling is that EarMen are leaving it up to the users, since they will most likely have the necessary cables. I will admit a single USB-C to USB-C would have been appreciated for data use. No bother, as luckily, I have the excellent DDHiFi USB-C to USB-C cable as well as a couple of others. For this test, the DDHiFi was used exclusively. A separate “mini-review” will be forthcoming surrounding the DDHiFi.

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Sound (based upon connectivity options listed above):

Since the TR-Amp is marketed as a portable/desktop/battery-powered amp/pre-amp I will try to cover all bases. Starting with my MacBook Pro was the easiest option, so I will start there.

Having the excellent HEDD HEDDphone in house at the same time allowed me to gauge how the TR-Amp works with a hard to drive headphone. Pushing the Tidal volume all the way up in app, I still had to run the TR-Amp at about 50% volume to achieve any semblance of good sound volume. I believe 1130 on the knob was a competent volume, which was loud enough to gauge qualities, but not too loud.

From my HEDD review: Sorry for the digression, but first the MBP/TR-Amp combination on the same song (Dave Matthews, Drunken Solider) gives a more “analytical” sound, without being antiseptic. Often when listening to less expensive equipment from a certain area, the sound is crisp and clean, but antiseptic. Not so here. Without the deep feeling of lushness though, the sound came across crisper, with a bit better separation of note. A thoroughly enjoyable sound nonetheless, but I preferred the warmer tone of the TA-30. That is more my preferred sound. But, the TR-Amp is a small marvel in itself, presenting the sound naturally without adding any tonality to it. Timbre is very, very good as a result. I could gladly listen to this set up at work, should the workstation be set for an open back headphone such as the HEDD is. Hearing Dave’s gravelly push mid-song is almost painful. But in a sympathetic way. You feel his consternating emotivism of the song and that is the point. Laid bare, you cannot separate yourself from the song. Maybe a bit less so than the TA-30, but seemingly more immersive due to the cleanliness of presentation.

Based upon that, the TR-Amp equated itself well with my MBP. It is more neutral, and “analytical” without being sterile. The DAC of ES9038Q2M SABRE Reference quality does indeed give “high-end dimension” as noted by EarMen on the product page. But this is done without the sterility of some. The acute nature of sound coming from the TR-Amp, is refreshing from this standpoint, but not the quality of more expensive DAC/amps. It is not meant to be though, since cost certainly plays an effect. I will state that this combination falls slightly behind the crisp natured sound of a comparable Burson. But the Burson is not portable, and it could be due to other inside characteristics. The TR-Amp is quite good here, and I thoroughly enjoy it in this combination.

Throwing the Vision Ears Erlkönig on signature-1 (most bass and added mid push) the warmer tonality is appreciated, and the TR-Amp comes across as quite competent. A good complimented signature comes from this trio. Full-sized headphones can also bring this personality out of the TR-Amp such as the LCD-3, which can be driven loud enough for my tastes when subbed into this. And yes, the quality of sound is good. Using the Sabre DAC allows the tone of source to come through, but “cleaned” up a bit, as the DAC is of a much higher quality than the MBP’s audio.

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I was also able to get about four hours of dedicated listening out of this before the need to charge came about. I do not know at what level the battery was coming into this, so I hooked up my portable charger and kept playing. No problem whatsoever. I did note noise when turning the volume up at low levels, and a channel imbalance until both channels “kicked in.” This has happened in other units I own and has never bothered me, since the playing volume is above that sound. The ifi Black Label does the same thing.

Playing MQA from Tidal was competent and musical. Tidal Premium is one of my go to sources of music in tests, since many will use a streaming source while at work or home.

Hooking the TR-Amp to the XDuoo x10t ii turntable next, I was able to use the USB-C connectivity. With simple plug-and-play capabilities, I appreciated the connectivity. Listening to Clear from Twenty One Pilots excellent Regional At Best album, I immediately noted a darker tone to the music. The x10t ii is a turntable only, not changing the tunes at all. Still at 44.1kHz sampling, I found it a bit odd that the tone was darker than the warm signature of Tidal Premium. Running the TR-Amp volume up to 1130, I found the sound rich and vibrant at the same time. There was more background noise here between songs, but once the song started, the noise was gone. Moving on the Van Morrison’s Three Chords And The Truth album, the top end seemed to come back. Since it was FLAC at 96kHz, this could have something to do with it, as well as the album in general being on the brighter side. His voice can pierce a hole in a bomb shelter, and here I had to turn the volume down. Not a bad thing on March Winds In February, and I really enjoy the album. I simply could not take the voice at those same high-volume levels. The pair worked well together in their simplistic connection and playing. Here the xDSD can change the tone due to the 3D and xBass+ options. The pair as is was quite good, and I did not miss the ability to tailor. Sometimes simplicity does win out. Moving on to Car Radio, the sound was also vibrant, with a good holographic feeling due to the recording. This is a tune, which can vary so quickly, it is a good judge of character of source and playing unit (Erlkönig still). Quick tight bass, without bleed and thorough, rich vocals highlight the song as is, and the XDuoo/EarMen duo portrayed this accurately and without fuss. The duo could fairly easily drive the HEDD as well, and the LCD-3 even better, since it is an easier to drive unit. I appreciate that simple nature and the plug-and-play ability across many IEM’s and headphones.

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Comparisons:

EarMen TR-Amp ($249) vs ifi Hip-DAC ($149):

This one will be quick. Even though the diminutive ifi is cheaper, and has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, it never really wowed me like previous ifi iterations. There is a reason I have many ifi units. I like them very much and spent my money on them after listening. This is one, I would skip and move right on to the TR-Amp, even if it does not have all of the capabilities. The TR-Amp fills a niche better in my line up than the ifi does. It would be somewhat superfluous if I added the Hip-DAC. The xDSD is better, and worth the extra cost to me.

EarMen TR-Amp ($249) vs ifi xDSD ($399):

Speaking of the xDSD, this was one of my first portable units. Compared to the xCAN, I appreciated the better DAC in the xDSD, even if it had “a bit less power.” It was and is plenty powerful, and I have not missed the 2.5bal connectivity at all. The comparison to the TR-Amp is a tough one, though. Both are portable. Both are battery powered. Both get my music loud enough to make my ears hurt. Both provide excellent to very, very good sound. I would consider the xDSD a step ahead of the Tr-Amp soundwise, though. A bit darker from the start, you can add bass and a near-holographic sound, which indeed raises the price. But, to me that along with the added capability of digital connectivity makes it worth it. But, ifi does not recommend charging and listening at the same time, while you can on the TR-Amp. That alone makes it a huge positive.

EarMen TR-Amp ($249) vs Dethonray HA-2 ($299):

This one will be based upon amp alone. The HA-2 is an affordable dream. Paired with the already excellent DTR1, it can easily drive the LCD-3 or HEDDphone. With a low/high gain as well you can add even more verve to the already loud sound. It also had no noise from the volume knob. If it were based upon amps only, the HA-2 would be a tough choice to beat. It is really, really good. With the ability to be used as a pre-amp and the excellent DAC, the TR-Amp makes up that difference.

EarMen TR-Amp ($249) vs ifi micro Black Label ($599):

My first “portable” amp purchase before the xDSD even, I called it “transportable.” Bigger and bulkier, the BL rides many characteristics that at the time had manufacturers scrambling just to keep up. I have yet to have a headphone in-house that makes the BL struggle. I’m sure there are some, but not even the harder to drive HEDD caused issues. There is a reason the highest mode is called “Turbo.” It means extra, and the BL obliges. That setting is not for the faint of heart, nor sensitive IEM’s/headphones. You will lose your hearing. Add in filters surrounding BitPerfect, and the ability to also be used as a pre-amp, and the BL is to me STILL hard to beat. A darker signature, and a bit of distortion at insanely high-volume levels are its only flaw. But one really, REALLY should not be listening at that level. I use mine in a stack with the ifi iTubes2 and iDAC2 making a very formidable stacked unit.

But glowing aside for the BL, the TR-Amp competes very well because it is about sound and costs less than ½ the price. That can be huge as well as the portability aspect. If EarMen was trying to knock the king off its perch, this would be considered a near-miss and one in which ifi better take note.

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IEM’s/Headphones:

As mentioned earlier, I had no trouble driving pretty much anything in house right now. I did have to raise the volume pretty high in concert with the HEDD, but I expected that anyway. The LCD-3sounds quite good out of the TR-Amp, taming its somewhat darker tonality. This would be an excellent rotation with the aforementioned BL and xDSD (and will be). Since I have the Vision Ears Erlkönig for only a few more days, I used it the majority of the time. I had no issues whatsoever, and the noise between tracks did not bother me. Utilizing the changeable nature of the signatures allowed me to tailor to the music quickly, thus negating the one possible limitation of the TR-Amp; it cannot change the music, the source or do any EQ as well as the listening device in this instance. And that is OK in my book.

Finale:

I will admit this came across as a harder to write review. It really should not have been because of the (mentioned often) simplicity of the TR-Amp. It hooks up, it plays, and it works. Gauging sound across its competitors was a bit harder. Most that I included have more options. Kind of like a plain Subaru Forrester, versus the Limited Luxury version.They can both keep you from getting stuck in the snow or sand, but the “luxuries” that come along for the ride may be more beneficial to some.

I have always thought of myself as liking the simple nature of technology and gadgets. But I will admit that when new “toys” come out, I am a gadget-loving person. Seeing what that new filter can do gets me thinking. Seeing which chip works better is something of late I have tried to take note. But here, with the TR-Amp all of that melted away. I simply plugged it in and listened.

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rasmushorn
rasmushorn
This makes me want to buy one.
B9Scrambler
B9Scrambler
@rasmushorn I could think of many worse ways to spend your money, lol.

voja

100+ Head-Fier
Built like a tank, versatile like a Swiss Army knife
Pros: Build quality
Made in Europe
Versatility & performance
High quality components & chips
6.3 mm output and 3.5 mm output
Can be used as a Pre-Amp
Can drive two headphones at the same time
Can be used and charged at the same time (you need an extra cable)
Long lasting battery life
Portability
Price and value
Cons: The only con that is related to the TR-Amp itself is that it isn't a perfect match for higher sensitivity headphones (they will pick up noise)
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The TR-Amp was a sample provided to me by EarMen. It represents nothing more than a device to me, and that's how I will be judging it as.

I am not affiliated nor sponsored by EarMen, neither was there any outside force affecting what was said in this review. Do not take my positive experience the wrong way, everything written in this review is exactly how I feel about this device, it is 100% my honest opinion & experience. I stand behind what was said in this review, I spent several weeks A B testing a single note or instrument for dozens of times - if I heard a difference, I took notes and written the exact thing that I heard. This A B testing can be read in my Sennheiser HD 598 review on Head-Fi, so make sure to check the "Updates with TR-Amp" section in that review. Those are my speculations & observations in real music. You will find it easy to follow since I added very accurate minute marks to the reference songs that I was talking about. This is a very important notice, because, before you get the idea that I am writing *poetry* without backing up, you should read that specific review - the majority of this review was based on my experience of HD 598 + TR-Amp, so I find this crucial to understand everything said in this review.

The review is based on the 5 months that TR-Amp was used as a daily driver.

Enjoy the review!
All the photography used was made & edited by me.
Whether it’s their genius and sneaky model names, or the devices themselves, EarMen is doing it right, and I love it! There is a great challenge in succeeding when you are a fairly new company to the market - it’s hard to reinvent the wheel. Auris Audio is only 7 years old, it’s a fairly young company, yet they did it their own way and succeeded in doing that. If you are not familiar with Auris Audio, you may be asking “What is Auris Audio and why is it relevant to EarMen?”. First, let’s make this clear: Auris Audio is the parent company which mainly specializes in manufacturing high-fidelity and luxury amplifiers, and EarMen is their sub-brand that focuses on more budget friendly (without compromising quality!) portable devices.

Auris Audio is globally recognized for their authentic luxury amplifiers. The combination of leather & wood has become Auris Audio’s trademark - once you see it, you know it’s Auris. Founded in 2013. by Mr. Milomir Trosic, Auris Audio has achieved major recognition and success, well deserved success and recognition. Both Auris Audio and EarMen focus on producing quality products - they prefer quality over quantity. You will notice that they haven’t just released a large quantity of models, but rather focused on putting out fewer quality product ranges (both EarMen and Auris Audio), and this is something that I respect on a high level. How many times did you come across a company with dozens of different models and product ranges of a relatively similar product? I can tell you that the answer is probably more than necessary. Both Auris Audio and EarMen have focused on using the highest quality components from the best companies - Electro Harmonix, Tung-Sol, JJ Electronic, Sabre, XMOS, Texas Instruments, Cirrus Logic, they have it all. Last but not least, Auris is known for manufacturing, assembling, and designing their products in Europe - not only that, but all products from Auris Audio are handcrafted.

What an introduction, impressive isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at what the TR-Amp has to offer.

Those who read my articles will know that I do not speak upon something if I do not hear it. How can I write about something that I cannot hear? Sound is something you hear, so using nice descriptive words without backing them up is pretty pointless - it is not a physical thing, you cannot touch it or see it, therefore you cannot use descriptive words… it’s not quite objective. TR-Amp has become my favorite portable amplifier, and it’s for a reason. This little guy has a lot to offer, he may be small, but many agree that it’s sound performance is outside of it’s physical size - some went as far to say that it is bigger than bigger amps. It’s small, yet robust. Easy to carry around, yet delivering a very mature sound performance.

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sᴇɴɴʜᴇɪsᴇʀ HD 598 ᴘᴀɪʀᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ TR-Amp

Unboxing


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Side (the same logo appears on all sides of the box)



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Back-side

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Box that holds the accessories
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Accessories
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Formal format of what you get
1x TR-Amp
1x USB A to USB C cable (I have the normal cable, some people received the Revox cable - it’s flat and textured)
1x rubber cable holder (features EarMen branding all around)
1x mesh carrying case
1x cable tie


Built like a tank

When you pick the TR-Amp up, you know you are holding a well machined and well-built product. You can clearly see that EarMen built it to last. With an all CNC machined aluminum housing, you can be sure that it can withstand some serious abuse (although you should be responsible and take care of your devices!). I was very pleased to see that there wasn’t a single plastic part used for the construction, it greatly contributes as to why it is so robust and solid. All the ports are secured in place; no rattle, no issues. This is a segment that EarMen nailed, and I hope to see more products like the TR-Amp.

What is worthy of mentioning is that it’s designed, made, and produced in Europe. I can say that this is something you will notice straight away, the precision is there. For such a low priced product, it’s pretty nice to see it being entirely produced in Europe.

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Design and features

Minimal. Sharp. Clean. Seriously though, there isn’t much to speak upon - a very well designed product that has a great shape. I am also a big fan of the EarMen logo on the top, I am assuming it was laser etched since I couldn’t damage it even when I purposely scratched it with my fingernails. The volume knob has a gorgeous texture, turns very smoothly, and also locks in place nicely (when you turn it on/off). The 4 legs at the bottom are also something that is a neat touch - I am assuming they are made of some type of rubber, and they help the TR-Amp to stay in place. One thing that I did notice is that the LED lights bleeds through the 3.5mm port (@Aibo also noticed this)

TR-Amp is a little guy, but it uses the highest quality components that contribute to it’s big sound. Utilizing the ES9038Q2M SABRE Reference DAC (known to be the highest performance 32-bit mobile audio DAC) and the Texas Instruments TPA6120 amplifier, it supports 32bit/384kHz PCM, DoP DSD256, Native DSD128 and MQA audio formats -

Formal format:
DSD DSD 128 Native / DSD 256 (DoP)
DXD 384/352.8 kHz
PCM Up to 384 kHz
MQA Rendering Up to 384 kHz

Specifications:

On the front you will find two outputs: one 3.5 mm and one 6.3 mm. I am very happy to see this combination, although it would be interesting to see a 2.5 mm (balanced) and 6.3 mm together. Luckily my HD 598 has a 6.3 mm jack, and I always pair them up with the TR-Amp. Now what’s special is that you can use both the 3.5 mm & 6.3 mm simultaneously. This can be quite convenient if you have somebody who wants to join your listening session, but also if you are testing two different headphones.
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Battery

TR-Amp has a built-in battery which allows it to be used as a portable AMP/DAC. EarMen claims it hold up 10 hours. I myself am not the type of person who measures minutes or the time I spend on listening to music.. I just listen and enjoy music, but you can definitely find that other people did find the TR-Amp lived up to its claims. The 3700 mAh battery allows you to use the TR-Amp on the go - without wasting your devices battery (your laptop’s/phone’s battery). You will notice that on the back there are two USB C ports: one says “DATA”, and the other “CHRG”. As you can guess, you connect it to DATA when you want to use it, and when you want to charge it, hook it up to the CHRG port. EarMen gave me the official statement that you can use the TR-Amp and charge it simultaneously, but you will need an extra cable to do that. I don’t know how safe it is, but I did notice that the TR-Amp would heat up once it is used like this. I don’t know about you, but 10 hours seems to be more than enough time to enjoy music on the go.

Performance

After trying several headphones, earphones, and IEM’s, I can easily say that TR-Amp is a killer performer. While I would avoid pairing it with any planar-magnetic headphones due to their power hungry nature, TR-Amp is a no brainer for dynamic drivers.

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Lows

One of the most fascinating things about the TR-Amp is the ability to extend the dynamic range, especially in the lower range. The “no turning point” was when I first paired the Sennheiser HD 598 with the TR-Amp. Without a quality source, the HD 598 sounded very dull.. and it’s nothing new that it has pretty light bass. TR-Amp was able to bring out the life out of it. It sounded like a completely new headphone. All of a sudden I was able to hear the sub-bass notes, and the mid-bass had more weight and definition.

To get a true understanding of what this little guy is capable, I suggest you carefully read my Sennheiser HD 598 review.

Here is a very self explanatory quote from the review - “Not only is there more space for the lower frequencies to breathe and overall have more space for full-body sound, but there is just so much more definition and presence in the lower notes”

This will particularly change the listening experience for those who primarily listen to music where the bass is present (e.g. electronic music). Though I don’t primarily listen to techno or electronic, “Smoking Mirrors” by Lee Curtiss was where I first heard the impact TR-Amp makes. It was day and night - the absence of the lower notes without it would make the track feel lifeless.

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Bᴀssᴏ SR2 ᴘᴀɪʀᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ TR-Amp

Mids

Perhaps the most significant region that the TR-Amp has effect on is the mid-range. It’s also one of the more interesting fields - the tonality remains untouched, it’s rather the dynamic range that gets expanded. By this I mean that that both the lower and higher mid-range gets expanded, more frequencies are reproduced. It’s very subtle the way it does this, yet it’s something that you will crave for without it.

The biggest difference is in instruments and vocals. You can imagine how important is to hear the full frequency spectrum of a vocal or an instrument. Something as “subtle” as the absence of the highest/lowest notes can significantly alter the way they sound. Using the Sennheiser cans as my reference again, the way that vocals had sparkle and bottom end extension is something that wasn’t there beforehand. In the same way, instruments like the piano sound better, especially lower and higher notes. Overall, the mid-range is fuller and has the full-body presence.

As you already know, the human voice is a very complex thing - it differs from person to person. It also consists of several different frequencies. Cutting off any of these frequencies will take away from its true tonality. While you can immediately hear the absence of sparkle, you will have a harder time hearing the absence of sub-frequencies from a vocal. It’s definitely easier to notice if a bass guitar doesn’t have enough definition or body, but vocals - not so much. However, once you hear that this subtle frequency is actually there, you will crave for it. What I am trying to say is that once you hear the difference with the TR-Amp (or any other source), you won’t be able to enjoy the music as much without it.

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sɪᴠɢᴀ ᴘʜᴏᴇɴɪx ᴘᴀɪʀᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ TR-Amp

Highs

Those who have read my previous work will know the importance of sparkle to me. I have an emotional connection & response to higher frequency spectrum, particularly the top top-end (aka sparkle). It’s the element that I have a stronger bond than anything else in music. There is something special about the tingly feeling in your ears, especially in the peaks of vocals & instruments.

While some people may enjoy when there is no edge to music, it’s not quite natural to take the edge away where it was meant to be. The mixing & mastering engineers have a particular sound they want to be there, and additionally removing it with coloring just isn’t natural. Whether it’s Freddie Mercury, Gloria Gaynor, Jeff Buckley, or Céline Dion, having the sparkle in vocals is very important.

In particular, acoustic guitars, electronic guitars, and violins are the instruments where sparkle plays a major role in their timbre. “Soldier of Fortune” by Deep Purple, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd, and “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin are all great examples. Mouth harmonicas are also instruments that need to have sparkle for higher notes - “Stop Trying to Be God” by Travis Scott is a perfect example. Stevie Wonder’s harmonica hits the peak several times, and the sparkle of the upper notes should be clean and definitely making your eyes squint when you hear it. It’s safe to say it’s on the edge of being piercing. Removing the upper notes will alternate the authentic sound, especially because it was meant to sound bright.
Any of Jo A Ram’s violin covers will lead you towards the right direction. Her cover of “Still Loving You” is a perfect presentation of both sparkle and talent.

TR-Amp maintains a clean performance. It doesn’t necessarily lean towards the bright side, but it definitely lets the higher notes to be more present - this is something I first heard with the Sennheiser HD 598. It played a major role in listening to vocals.

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Soundstage & separation

By now you can see that the TR-Amp makes a big impact by increasing the whole dynamic range. However, I wasn’t expecting the soundstage and separation to improve. Let’s visualize the sound presentation (from headphones) as a box. In a medium sized box you can pack a good amount of information (frequencies and details). If you increase the size of that box, you will have a bigger box. It’s self explanatory, isn’t it? The space for the frequencies is limited to the size of the box. But the question is what you get from the increased size. You can not only pack more frequencies and detail (in other words resolution), but also increase the space between those frequencies in a way that you can distinguish them from each other - essentially, there is more room. The increased space results to higher resolution and better separation. You can conclude that the higher resolution leads to a fuller sound, as though each element has more detail & information.

This is exactly what I experienced when I first paired up my HD 598's with the TR-Amp. More detail, more room, and fuller sound.

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Conclusion

At just $249, the TR-Amp is one of the most essential amps I have come across in this price range. It’s pretty much the perfect amp for those who are looking to make their first purchase in portable sources. Like a Swiss Army knife, it does everything - you have a 3.5 mm input, a 6.3 mm input, can use both of the inputs simultaneously, is built like a tank - no need to worry about damaging the chassis, has a long-lasting battery… and can be charged and used simultaneously (if you have an extra cable). I don’t know about you, but I cannot see what else you could be asking for at this price point. Not to mention that you can also use it as a Pre-Amp.

It’s a high-end device at a correct price. Made in Europe, best chips used - I mean, it has everything. This little guy surprised me quite a lot. It’s a no-brainer for those who will be using dynamic headphones (it works wonders with Sennheiser), but I was proven that it can also drive planar mangetics (Hifiman Deva).

I am seriously disappointed to see this product not being discussed enough - it’s safe to say it’s quite underrated. I used it with 5 different headphones: The relatively easy to drive Sennheiser HD 598, the harder to drive Sennheiser x Drop HD6XX, the planar-magnetic Hifiman Deva, the quite sensitive iBasso SR2, and the Sivga Phoenix with a lower impedance. This shows the versatility of the TR-Amp. Although it’s noticeable cheaper than the mentioned headphones, it still doesn’t fail in its performance in any point. While with the HD6XX and the Deva you will be pushing it to the max volumes, at no point does it distort or anything of that kind - it remains a clean and pure sound performance. The only thing that I would pay specific attention to is the sensitivity. More sensitive headphones, like the SR2, will pick up audible noise, so look out for that.
I had an experience with a $50 - $100 cheaper AMP/DAC combos, and they struggled to keep up with all these headphones. I won’t drop any names, but I can say this - the cheaper devices gave a horrific performance with the Hifiman Deva. They distorted the sound so much (particularly lower frequencies) that they sounded like the headphone was blown out. I didn’t face anything of that sort with the TR-Amp, which shows both its quality and versatility.

I follow a very simple yet powerful concept - If I don’t hear it, I don’t write it. Surely the case with the TR-Amp was that it completely blew me away, hence the praise. It packs quite a serious performance in a small package (for a reasonable price). I don’t understand why this device isn’t getting any attention, but I did my job to express my experience with it. Considering the versatility, performance, build quality, and features, I can easily call the TR-Amp an easy recommendation in its price range, but also as my personal favorite. However It’s the expansion of the dynamic range as a whole that had me in love with it. There is nothing more enjoyable than being able to hear more detail to music, more frequencies that you didn’t hear before.

Hopefully you learnt something about EarMen and who they are, but also about why I like the TR-Amp so much. I have to give credit where credit is due.

I would like to see a future model that has both the 3.5 mm and 6.3 mm outputs, but also with a balanced output (2.5 mm or 4.4 mm) - or an entirely balanced device. I think it would be nice to see an amp/dac from EarMen that has the power of the TR-Amp but has the ability to handle higher sensitivity headphones. Besides that, this is a pretty spot on source.
Headphones:
Sivga Phoenix
Sennheiser HD 598
Sennheiser HD 6XX
Ollo Audio S4X
Hifiman Deva
iBasso SR2
Dekoni Audio Blue

IEM’s & earbuds:
Jade Audio EA3
KBEAR TRI i3 (picked up some noise, it’s a planar magnetic… so it’s pretty self explanatory)
KBEAR Diamond
Hifiman RE600s V2
Hifiman RE800 Silver
Audiosense AQ3
BQEYZ Spring 1
BQEYZ Spring 2
Venture Electronics ZEN LL (earbuds)
Fiio FD1
& possibly more that I cannot remember
Last edited:

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
VICTORIOUS MACHINE - EARMEN TR-AMP DAC/AMP REVIEW
Pros: + Build Quality
+ Price / Performance Ratio
+ Natural Sound
+ Separate Charge / Data USB Ports
+ Volume wheel that is analogue
+ Works with Everything
+ Great Driving Power
Cons: - Needs two USB Cables at the same time
- USB Cable in the package works only for charging, no data cable included
- Only comes with 1 rubber band in the package
- No Balanced Output
- No Auto-OFF Feature, so it can drain entire battery if you forget about it
- A bit thick and unpractical for portability
VICTORIOUS MACHINE - EARMEN TR-AMP DAC/AMP REVIEW
by George Dobrescu - July 31, 2020

Earmen TR-AMP is a really well-priced DAC/AMP for those who need a ton of power, but also great sonic performance on the go. It is currently priced at 250 USD, which makes it a direct competitor to iFi xDSD, which is priced at 400 USD, FiiO Q5s, which is priced at 350 USD, and even something like FiiO M11, which is a full standalone DAP, priced at 420 USD. The pairings list will include HIFIMAN Deva on cable (350 USD), Dunu DK-3001 PRO (470 USD), and Final B3 (500 USD), all of which are pretty interesting transducers by themselves.




Introduction

Earmen is a new company, with very few products released so far, but they are part of the Auris Audio group (which includes Earmen and Auris Audio), and they have the support of great people, not to mention experience in creating and designing audio devices. Especially now, that the quarantine is still ongoing, they proved to be real champs, delivering fun and excellent audio experiences to everyone around the world, despite the odds. Even better, I can vouch for Earmen products to be of awesome quality, easy to use, and versatile, and that their support works nicely, and if you are to have issues with their devices, they'll surely be there to help, having up to 5 years of warranty for their products.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Earmen. I'd like to thank Earmen and Auris Audio for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Earmen TR-AMP. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Earmen TR-AMP find their next music companion.



About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging


First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:








The package is actually pretty good, it is a smaller package, but you get a USB cable, a little textile pouch, and a silicone strap for strapping the Earmen TR-AMP to a smartphone. This is not a great package when compared to FiiO Q5 or Q5s, but it is still pretty good for beginners.

The cable is for charging only, it does not work for Data and you need a separate cable for using the TR-AMP to a smartphone or to your computer. I do not recommend using the pouch for the TR-AMP while it is turned on, because it may cause it to overheat. Also, since the input is at the back and the headphone output at the front, using that pouch while it is turned on it is pretty much impossible.



What to look in when purchasing a high-quality entry-level DAC

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Technical Specifications






Build Quality/Aesthetics/Functionality

If you haven't already, please also watch my video review about the TR-AMP, it should explain many things about the device, as well as details about the shape and ergonomics of it. You can find it here: . I really recommend wathcing my Youtube video reviews if you're curious about a little pre-article input about everything that is going to receive a review, as well as many exclusives.



The case of the DAC/AMP is made of metal, and it has a volume knob at the front, which has a bit of channel imbalance at the beginning. This means that the TR-AMP is mostly usable after 9 and half a clock.

The TR-AMP has separate charging and data USB Type-C ports, which is excellent, this also means that you can use it without charging, so smartphone users don't have to worry about the TR-AMP draining their batteries, and it has a PRE-Direct setting too, which basically enables or disables the volume wheel when using the RCA Analogue outputs at the back. Oh yes, there are analogue outputs too, if you plan on using it as the main DAC in your full sized system, which I actually recommend because the implementation of the ESS ES9038Q2M is excellent, it supports both DSD and PCM signals, and even has MQA support.

The sides of the unit have little ribs for better ergonomics, and the top of the unit has the Earmen logo, while the bottom has tiny rubber feet, which help with stacking the unit with a smartphone, or sitting it on a table.



The front of the unit has the volume wheel, which also acts as the on/off switch (when you turn it to minimum, it turns off the unit). The front also has two headphone outputs, one in the 6.3mm large format, and one in the 3.5mm smaller format. There's a LED showing whether the unit is turned on at the front too, and that LED also shows what format is currently being played. There are some minor errors in the machining process, as you can notice from the photos, but those are really minor, most of the device is made perfectly.

I said in my video that it doesn't quite work with smartphones and Android, but not it seems it is working just fine, so I cannot tell what happened in my initial testing, there might have been a bug that went away by itself, everything is working perfectly with the TR-AMP and a series of phones I tried it with.

The volume can get extremely loud, and it is able to somewhat drive HIFIMAN HE6SE, it is actually more than able to drive HIFIMAN Arya, and Kennerton Thror. It can easily play tennis with Underwood HIFI LSA-HP1, and it is also able to drive IEMs, even flagships, like the Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X, and even more sensitive ones like FiiO FH7 and Campfire Atlas.



There is a bit of hissing with very sensitive IEMs, but it is there only if you listen very carefully, or if your IEMs are really good at revealing hiss, otherwise it is mostly dead silent.

I have not noticed overheating, even when using it at almost the maximum volume, for hard to drive headphones like Ultrasone Signature Studio or HIFIMAN Sundara, for long periods of time.

Since there is no true battery indicator, I can go by my own personal tests, and I can safely say it has about 8 hours of battery life, give or take. I depleted the battery once or twice, and this is a big point, it doesn't have an auto off mode, so if you're using it as your DAC in your large system, it will deplete the battery unless it has power plugged in the charging port too.

Having both power and data cables plugged in at the same time does not affect the sonic quality, it doesn't sound worse if it is being charged while it is being used, so you can safely leave the power cord on at all times if you don't want to have any hassle with the charging part and if you don't want to deplete it.



Video Review




Sound Quality


The sonic performance of the TR-AMP is actually quite incredible, and as a little surprise, it will make it to Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, and the sonic quality is a big reason for this.



I noticed that it sounds the same when driving IEMs like the Da Vinci IX, and IMR R2 Aten, but also headphones like Brainwavz Alara, and Rosson RAD-0. It is very versatile, and there are very few things it won't drive, and the biggest plus is that even when compared to some of the direct competitors, like the iFi xDSD, which can drive almost everything, the xDSD has some distortion at the absolute maximum volume, while, side-by-side, the TR-AMP is crystal clear and clean at the absolute maximum volume. This is something I noticed with the HPA-3U from Matrix, it sounds great up to half of the maximum volume, but distorts badly afterwards, where the TR-AMP has no distortions and sounds perfect all the way to the maximum.

The sound can generally be described as mostly natural, with slight hints of warmth in the bass, and in the midrange, the treble is natural, there's no sibilance or harshness, but it is not smooth either, it is pretty much perfect. The speed of the bass is natural too, not too quick, not too slow, and everything about the sound of TR-AMP gives off a sensation that it sounds natural. It won't appeal to speed addicts and to those who want to hear more detail than there is, but it can handle even multiple basslines well, and it doesn't complain even when you push its limits by playing some technical death metal or speed / thrash metal.

The midrange is natural, with a very slight hint of warmth. The soundstage is fairly wide, and it has good extension in every direction, including depth, with an actually excellent presentation of both male and female voices. TR-AMP tends to sound a touch sweet, as it was geared slightly more towards those who love musical presentations rather than those who wanted a fully analytical presentation. In fact, it manages to have one of the better signatures from the entry-level price range, and if you're not a fan of really bright tunings, it should serve you well.

The treble is fairly natural too, it doesn't have any special spice or pinches, but the extension is good, and it doesn't have a smooth tuning either. In fact, if you're looking for natural all across the range, TR-AMP delivers just that, and even when it comes to the dynamics, they are natural, the sound is especially dynamic, but it isn't muted or flat either, everything about the TR-AMP just shows a perfect blend of a natural presentation and great price/performance ratio.



Comparisons

The main comparison points are iFi xDSD which is priced at 400 USD, FiiO Q5s, which is priced at 350 USD, and even FiiO M11 which is priced at 420 USD. There's a trend here, and all of the comparisons include devices that are priced higher, and this is because the TR-AMP actually stands a chance against those.



If I was comparing it to things that are cheaper, like the NextDrive Spectra X, or even fairly well-matched DAC/AMPs like the xDuoo XD10 Poke, the TR-AMP does really well, but it looks like most people have been seeing it as an alternative to the higher-priced DAC/AMPs out there rather than another entry in its own price class.

Earmen TR-AMP vs iFi xDSD (250 USD vs 400 USD) - xDSD is the first DAC/AMP that people want to compare with the TR-AMP, and the main reason is that the xDSD has been really well received, but so is the TR-AMP, and since the xDSD easily gets scratches, people have been thinking of replacing the good old xDSD with something else entirely. The TR-AMp has less versatile features, no x-Bass, no 3D soundstage options, but it has better outputs if you want to use it as a DAC for a large system. It is harder to scratch and damage than the xDSD. The input on the xDSD is in OTG mode, so any OTG adapter works, while for TR-AMP you need special short Type-C to Type-C cables for portable usage, which are not included in the package. The sound is more natural for the TR-AMP, it has better driving power, and it is lighter, more quick and more snappy for xDSD. Out of the two, xDSD has a bit more detail and clarity, but it also sounds a bit brittle, where TR-AMP has better body and a much more natural overall presentation, with a stage that is both wide and deep, while xDSD feels wider than it is deep.

Earmen TR-AMP vs FiiO Q5s (250 USD vs 350 USD) - Although FiiO Q5s has many modules you can connect to it, and it also has bluetooth, it is also a bit more expensive than the TR-AMP, and Q5s has a leaner sound with less impact than TR-AMP. In general, TR-AMP can drive harder to drive headphones than the Q5S, and this was more noticeable with Beyerdynamic Amiron in particular, where Q5s played it pretty bright and lacked body, while the headphone sounds deeper, more mature and full with the TR-AMP. With IEMs, I prefer Q5s most of the time, because it tends to have even less hissing than the TR-AMP, and it has a bit more detail and clarity. TR-AMP is a touch more versatile if you plan on using it as a DAC for your full-sized system, especially because it has RCA outputs, where you need more cables and a more complicated setup with Q5s for the same purpose.

Earmen TR-AMP vs FiiO M11 (250 USD vs 420 USD) - FiiO M11 is a full-sized DAP, and it can very well act as the source for TR-AMP, but the interesting part is that when comparing them side-by-side, I don't necessarily like M11 better, because it has a pretty bright treble, and it has a more bright overall midrange, and less bass, which makes me prefer the TR-AMP when pairing it with V-Shaped IEMs. M11 works better with really warm sounding IEMs, like the Dita Fealty, or Beyerdynamic Xelento, but for most others, TR-AMP manages to have better driving power, more control, and to sound more natural, with a better depth to the stage, and with slightly more control and a deeper, stronger bass with more impact. The dynamics are similar between the two, and using TR-AMP is less convenient than having a standalone DAP, but it is cheaper and can sound better.



Pairing

As far as the pairings go, TR-AMP could drive pretty much anything. You name, it can drive it. This includes some pretty big and bad boys, and headphones which are considered difficult, but also plenty of common headphones, so even Sennheiser HD660S, Sivga P-II, and OLLO S4X headphones are really easy for TR-AMP. Then, there's the large list of IEMs that it can drive, because it has a smaller 3.5mm output, and that includes entry-level IEMs like the AVARA NEO, midrange like the oBravo Cupid, and even flagships like the Rhapsodio Zombie. This being said, if you need a 4.4mm balanced output, you either have to go with a simpler setup, like the Lotoo PAW S1, or a full-sized DAP like the FiiO M11 PRO.



For today's pairings, I went with HIFIMAN Deva on cable, Final Audio B3, and Dunu DK-3001 PRO. Those have made my days really fun, and even though you could easily drive Rosson RAD-0 and even Audeze LCD-2C from the Earmen TR-AMP, those are the ones I used the most.

Earmen TR-AMP + HIFIMAN Deva (250 USD + 350 USD) - Deva sounds a bit better on cable than it sounds with the Bluemini if you pair it with a high-quality source, and TR-AMP is just that type of source. The sound is a bit warmer than with the Bluemini, but also a bit more natural, the midrange is a touch more open, and everything sounds a bit more controlled. You can notice the overall detail and refinement being a bit better with the TR-AMp is paired with Deva, rather than when it is paired with a lower-power source, as Deva is fairly hard to drive, just like Sundara and most HIFIMAN Full-Sized Headphones.

Earmen TR-AMP + Final Audio B3 (250 USD + 500 USD) - Final Audio B3 is like a magical IEM for me, because although it relies only on BA Drivers, and it doesn't have the best headroom out there, when paired with the right DAC/AMP, it shines so bright that I can't stop listening to it. Happily that's only a bit about the actual tuning / signature, because the B3 is not exceptionally bright with the TR-AMP, and instead the midrange is natural, well composed, clean and the treble has a bit of that magical sparkle that makes rock and metal exciting, without making everything sibiland or harsh. The bass is also surprisingly good, because B3 has a weaker bass with some sources like the original FiiO M11, but with TR-AMP, it has a good extension and control, it can play multiple bass lines at the same time, and it even has a beautiful impact when the songs calls for it.

Earmen TR-AMP + Dunu DK-3001 PRO (250 USD + 470 USD) - With DK-3001 PRO, which is a bit V-Shaped, I was able to figure both that the TR-AMP has very low overall hissing with sensitive IEMs, and also that it pairs well with IEMs that are quite a bit more expensive than it. Honestly, I would gladly use it with flagships too, like the Lime Ears Model X, or the Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X, but ast the same time, the pairing with DK-3001 PRO convinced me that TR-AMP has a really beautiful midrange presentation, with a natural, clean mid, fatigue-free, grain-free presentation, and although it is not the brightest around, it can have a nice treble sparkle, without come through as being sibiland, harsh or splashy, the treble is just the right type of natural for me.



Value and Conclusion

TR-AMP has a funny name, and the whole company idea was to make a prank on the President of the United States, naming their products Donald and TR-AMP, but even as a joke name, they still invested in making those products pretty good, so I'm still going to give the TR-AMP a heads-up for having excellent overall value, and I'm still going to take it seriously, although at times it feels like the naming scheme was both a marketing thing, but also a test to see how far they could have taken the joke.



The build quality of the TR-AMP is no joke though, it has two headphone outputs, two Type-C inputs, one for power, and one for data, so you can listen while charging it without affecting the sound. It also works with Windows, Android and pretty much everything, and it has RCA analog output, so you can enjoy it with your desktop setup, without having to worry about anything. If you want it to act just as a DAC, you can select between Direct and Pre Functions so it can even act as a preamplifier, making it a seriously versatile device.



The sound is natural all-around, with a natural bass, midrange and treble, the soundstage has a natural expansions, and although it is not a detail master, it makes for one of the most honest presentations you can find at this price point, and can still drive almost anything you pair it with, including hard to drive headphones like HIFIMAN Arya, Crosszone CZ-1, and even Final Audio E5000, but also easy to handle IEMs like Campfire Atlas, FiiO FH7, and HIFIMAN RE2000 Silver.



Before the end of this review, I will add Earmen TR-AMP to Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, it is simply good enough, and has a good enough price to be the kind of device I want to share with everyone for a long time from now on, and it allowed me to start my video editing with jokes and better editing, so if you haven't checked my youtube channel already, but if you like memes and funny content, please give it a go: https://www.youtube.com/c/AudiophileHeaven



At the end of this review, if you're looking for a really natural sound, a versatile device, a well made device, and if you don't mind the name being a bit of a joke, the Earmen Tr-AMP is seriously good, and has been, for the past three months, the device that never left my desk, simply outstanding, tiny, and practical for both driving IEMs, Headphones and even for using it as a DAC in larger systems.



Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.

Youtube Playlist


Tidal Playlist

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

Song List

Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet


I hope my review is helpful to you!



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Last edited:
Mshenay
Mshenay
"a bit thick for portable..." My old school portable tower would like a word with you lol

Great review and write up man thank ya
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
@Mshenay - Thank you very much for your kind words!!

Mshenay

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Exciting Presentation,
Lean Tonality
POWER,
Plug n Play
Cons: BRIGHT


TR-Amp is a new portable Dac/Amp from Earmen priced at 249.99 via their website, for those who don't know Earmen is the portable division of Auris Audio. Based in Serbia Auris develops a wide array of tube amplifiers and digital audio products built around the idea that equipment should not only sound beautiful but look just as good!

Now I've had a chance to hear and review a few products from Auris including the Euterpe which I also helped organize a US Tour for. As a fan of their products I'm happy to now have a chance to review their Earmen TR-Amp! While I did receive the unit from them at no cost, I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Build & Function
Overall I found TR-Amp to be perfectly seamless in real world use. With my android devices I had no issues getting bit perfect playback through USB Android Player Pro with both Qobuz and Tidal. Power is built into the Volume knob with a nice bit of initial resistance to prevent accidental switching on or off. The pot it self has a suitable taper and I didn't have any issues getting the volume to a level that I wanted with a variety of headphones.



While not seamless the screws are recessed and sit flush with the chassis. The overall fit and finish feels good in the hand. Both the 6.5mm and 3.5mm outputs have a nice firmness to them.


I'm also a big fan of the individual USB C inputs for power and data. It works well functionally and adds some long term durability I feel is worthwhile on an all in one portable. The addition of RCA line out's is also greatly appreciated and a refreshing feature to see at this price point!


My only qualm with TR-Amp is the size, while I'm used to carrying much larger portable systems I can't say that everyone will be as accustom to something this large. Still I didn't find it to be cumbersome to carry with me around and outside of my home.

Sound Quality & Headphone Pairing

I find that overall the TR-Amp has an energetic presentation, with average staging, detail and depth. What stands out to me the most is the power output! I've not come across a lot of devices in this price point that pack the sheer heft TR-Amp does.

It's presentation has a vivid sense of attack and decay with an abundance of texture tho there were times I wasn't able to discern the sustain and release of sounds as much as I'm used to. Tho I didn't find the envelope distracting nor particularly offensive. All in all I find it's rather complimentary to a lot of today's more popular headphones in and around the $500 price point, which I think is a rather smart tuning decision by the Earmen team!

TR-Amp & LCD 2C

The thick full bodied Audeze LCD 2C finds it self fully complimented by TR-Amp. The added focus on attack and decay help to balance out the some-what excessive release in LCD 2C's envelope.

I had no issues with noise nor a lack of gain either, all in all the energetic TR-Amp was an excellent match for the more laid back Audeze LCD 2C.

Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed

TR-Amp's powerful amp stage and low frequency control complimented Aeon 2 Closed hefty bass, how ever I found the pairing had a slight glare in the mid range and top end that I wasn't a fan of.

Fans of an IN YOUR FACE presentation and aggressive envelope will likely appreciate this pairing.

Once again TR-Amp proved more than capable to handle Aeon 2 Closed's low sensitivity and hunger for current!

TR-Amp & HD 600

Unfortunately TR-Amp was not a good match for HD 600, there was too much harshness in the upper mid range and top end. HD 600's rolled off sub-bass was not complimented by TR-Amp either as it's relative Mid-bass "hump" was emphasized.

I will say tho it's likely HD 650 would prove far more complimentary, it's darker top end and fuller bass would appreciate TR-Amps energetic and aggressive presentation to help define it's envelope.

Product Comparisons
Something I appreciate is how difficult it was to find something priced around TR-Amp that had both it's feature set, connectivity options and overall power. This it to say there's not really anything quite like TR-Amp under $250, specifically the RCA out is what has really set it apart. Some background for myself, my first "Audiophile" system when I was a student was portable based, a DT 880 with a Hifiman HM601 and a JDS Labs cMoy BB. I later added a Indeed G3 Hybrid Tube with some mods that I fed line out from my HM 601. Back then I would have LOVED to have a RCA out on my portable, seeing as my time was evenly split between home and campus.

Even now often times I recommend portable DAC/Amps and DAPs to new community members who like my self are split between home and everywhere else as having one device to interface with all your sources makes more sense then recommending a full desktop set up as your first.

Still these comparisons will only be again'st other portable DAC/Amps. If you do NOT need a portable I strongly suggest you NOT buy a portable product. In today's market $250 will get you a better sounding desktop set up than any portable product... period!

These comparisons where made level matched with my HD 600 and Aeon 2C, each headphone presents both a different load for amplification and has a different tuning so I felt they'd help me gleam how well competing portables do with a wider array of headphones.

TR-Amp vs xDSD

For this comparison I did keep xDSD set to it's "listen" filter with the xBass and 3D+ deactivated.

Overall my only qualm with xDSD was it's output power, a minor deficiency that was only evident when I pushed the volume to around 91 dB peaks [ 85 dB average] with Aeon 2 Closed. At that volume level there was a slight bit of distortion in the bass, especially with Electronica or any tracks with a heavy Synth Bass presence.

HD 600 had no qualms on xDSD either and frankly sounded more correct off of it. An while TR-Amp performed better at keeping texture and control in it's low frequencies at higher output levels I didn't feel it out performed xDSD anywhere else in terms of overall sound quality.

Geek Out v2+ vs TR-Amp

Unfortunately there was no upside for TR-Amp again'st the GOV2+, well it has a line out, but other wise it presented no sonic benefits.

Still GOv2+ is more or less unavailable at this time, while it pops up second hand from time to time around $300 or so the manufacturing company doesn't service them and so it's difficult to say long time how it will age. So yea technically GOv2+ is the far better listen, but I find it's not playing nicely with my newer android devices, even on my older LG V20 where it works well I still have the occasional drop out while playing local files. Which is enough of a frustration to limit my own personal use of it in my own home!

So while I found higher priced products did better than TR-Amp I again feel it's still an amazing product, so much so I couldn't find anything worthwhile comparisons around it's price point.

Conclusion


TR-Amps straight forward plug and play integration with Android, powerful output and energetic tuning I feel make it an excellent portable DAC/Amp especially when paired with a darker more lush sounding headphone like HD 6XX or Audeze LCD 2C. I personally pair my Ether CX with TR-Amp any time I want to stream Qobuz off my cellular devices and just mellow out in my living room.

All in all I give the TR-Amp my highest recommendation! I feel it's tuned smartly and presents and amazing value.
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Aibo

Head-Fier
Pros: Punchy and exciting presentation
Excellent detail retrieval
Balanced tonality
Equally capable DAC and AMP sections
Cons: USB input only
TR-Amp is brought by EarMen, a newly established brand on the market, but make no mistake it is not an inexperienced one. The founder and lead engineer behind it is Milomir Trosic, known better as the face of a more luxurious brand Auris Audio. But let us get back to the thing at hand. I’m interested to see how one of EarMen’s first products performs so let’s dig in.


BUILD AND FEATURES
TR-Amp is a portable DAC and headphone amp. It is quite small in size but made of thick aluminum. When picked up it leaves the impression of a well made, solid, and sturdy device.

In the front, there are two headphone outputs. A 6.35 mm and a 3.5 mm one can be used in parallel. Volume knob also doubles as the power switch. In the back, we find a pair of RCAs. Using the switch next to them you can opt to use them as a direct-out or preamp-out. Volume control for both preamp and headphone out is done in the analog domain. Two USB-C ports are used to provide separate signal and charging paths.

TR-Amp 01.jpg

TR-Amp 03.jpg

In the heart of the device, there is a well known ESS Sabre 9038Q2M DAC chip. Texas Instruments’ TPA6120 is used as a headphone amp and allows up to 400 mW at 16 Ohms. According to EarMen, those are backed up by some quality components like super-low ESR tantalum capacitors in the power supply and gold plated PCB. Lastly, an inbuilt 3700mA battery allows up to 10h of music playback. Worth mentioning is that the device can be normally used while charging.

Format support is rich with TR-Amp being able to play PCM up to 32bit / 384kHz, up to DSD128 native and DSD256 DoP. To sweeten the deal for streaming fans even MQA compression is supported.


SOUND (HEADPHONE OUT)
I hooked my Hifiman HE4XX to it and the first impression was that TR-Amp sounds bigger than it looks. Rich and punchy bass-line is the first thing to notice. Bass can go deep and kick hard but it never loses its grip and overstays its welcome. Above the bass region, everything continues in a similarly punchy fashion. The midrange sounds crisp with clear and energetic edges. The same goes for the higher region, it is crisp and sharp with respectable extension. Fortunately, sharpness is not overemphasized and it never steps onto a nasty, thin, and grainy side of things.

No matter what I’ve put on my playlist, TR-Amp remained a lively performer. Thick bass, slam, and energy of every note combine into a very rhythmic and exciting listen. All of it makes for an addictive experience, and more than once I caught myself tapping my foot or nodding my head in rhythm. This made me thinking about how this unit sounds bolder than the power rating numbers are suggesting.

TR-Amp 02.jpg

SOUND (LINE OUT)
Putting TR-Amp in my main setup consisting of Cyrus 8vs2 and KEF LS50, and choosing a Direct position on the back switch, I’ve started testing its DAC capabilities. All of the qualities mentioned above in the headphone-out section are present on RCA-out as well.

TR-Amp sounds as you would expect a well-executed Sabre DAC to sound. The soundstage is spread decently wide but not too deep. Being laid back, soft, and refined is not high on the list of TR-Amp’s priorities. What it offers instead is upfront and really engaging presentation. Bass has kick, the midrange has focus and intensity. Vocals are firmly fixed and etched in their spot. I can’t detect any coloring taking place and both male and female vocals sound natural. Edges are clear and energetic, making string plucks sound very exciting. All of this makes listening to a song like Nick Drake’s Free Ride an elevating experience.


COMPARISON
Fiio K5 pro sounds a bit soft and blend after TR-Amp. It has more power at hand but as long as you don’t have a super hungry set of headphones, TR-Amp will provide bolder and more resolving sound. It’ll also infuse every note with more energy and surround it with crisp transients that K5 pro simply can’t match.

Schiit Modi 3 and Magni 3‘s bass control seems a touch muddy and sluggish in comparison. Going beyond the bassline, TR-Amp’s overall clarity and exciting presentation are out of reach for this aging stack.

Topping E30 proved to be a good competitor to TR-Amp’s line-out. E30 has a more relaxed presentation and a slightly wider sound-stage. It is also capable of producing a bit more texture and air in the mid to high range. That helps in conveying the sandiness of Norah Jones’ vocal a bit better. TR-Amp punches back with firmer bass grip, better attack, focus, and bolder edges. These traits also help it to be more rhythmic than E30. Trying to decide which one is a more capable DAC proved to be difficult. In the end I do prefer TR-Amp by a smidge. That said, each has its own set of strengths and depending on personal taste some of you might feel differently.

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CONCLUSION
EarMen TR-Amp is a well-rounded product that offers a well-balanced and exciting presentation. If you’re planning to use it as a DAC/AMP or just a DAC doesn’t make much difference as it’s equally capable on both fronts. EarMen might be a new name on the market, but if TR-Amp is anything to go by you should keep an eye on their future releases – I now that I will.

. . .

All my reviews at https://iiwireviews.com/

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lambdastorm
lambdastorm
I really like this review, to the point and concise! I myself is torn between the Earmen Donald DAC and the E30. If sometimes in the future you can get a Donald DAC in your hands, it would be great!
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B9Scrambler

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Lots of power – Clean background – Works well with sensitive earphones – 1/4” jack - Can charge while listening
Cons: Sound stage can sound slightly compressed with some pairings – No Type-C to Type-C cable included – Somewhat big and heavy for portable use, but still doable
Greetings!

Today we're checking out the TR-Amp from EarMen.

EarMen is a relatively young brand with an established history, coming out the gates as the more affordable arm of the Auris Audio brand. These products have been designed and engineered by Miki Trosic, the founder of Auris Audio, and as such have a strong foundation on which their principles are grown.

EarMen is “...on a quest to deliver the highest quality audio experience while granting you the freedom to enjoy your music without limitations...” with the TR-Amp leading the charge. It achieves this through quality components like the ES9038Q2M SABRE Reference DAC. This chip utilizes ESS's HyperStream© II QUAD DAC with 32-bit audio and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator for plenty of driving power, yet not at the expense of a low noise floor. It supports a wide variety of high quality audio formats, like DSD, DXD, PCM, as well as native MQA delivery for the most discerning of listeners. You can use it as a portable amp/DAC, as a pre-out for a desktop amplifier, and even power up to two headphones at the same time thanks to the dual outputs (1/4” and 3.5mm).

The TR-Amp is an affordable (249 USD), feature and technology rich device with power to spare, doing it all either as a mobile device, or nestled in with the rest of your hifi setup. Let's check it out in greater detail, shall we?

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Packaging and Accessories The TR-Amp comes in a fairly standard matte black lift top box. On the top of the lid is a wire frame style image of the device with the brand and model information in the middle. Around the sides the branding and model information is repeated. Flipping the box over you find some specs and heck of a lot of acronyms and logos, such as those for DSD, DXD, PCM, MQA, XMOS, ESS, Texas Instruments, and the obligatory Hi-Res Audio logo. Lifting off the lid the TR-Amp sits comfortably nestled within a foam insert. Lifting them out a secondary box resides underneath which contains the rest of the included items. In all you get:
  • TR-Amp
  • Remax USB-A to USB-C cable
  • Rubber band
  • Mesh carrying bag
  • Information sheet
Overall a very basic unboxing experience, but with some high quality inclusions. First is the carrying bag. Rarely are these included with a portable amp in my experience. Given the TR-Amp is a little larger than others, it's nice to have something to store it in while not in use to ensure it doesn't get scratched or damaged. The Remax branded USB cable was a surprising inclusion too. Remax made some excellent earphones back in the day (and maybe they still do). It seems they make some gorgeous cables too. It is thick and durable with stylish end caps and feels like something that is going to last a lot longer than the relatively basic cables that most brands include with their products.

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Build The TR-Amp is crafted from CNC milled aluminum and comes in either silver, black, or the stunning red you see in this review. Build quality is exceptional with clean edges and minimal gaps between the end plates, main body, and ports, though tolerances could be a tiny bit better. Light from the LED bleeds around the nearby 3.5mm port where there is also a bit of wiggle room. You can see the ports shift when plugging cables in and out. Certainly nothing to be concerned about, but noticeable none-the-less. Neatly engraved logos and markings for the various ports, switches and knobs can be found around the device, with an EarMen logo dominating the top.

On the front of the device from left to right you find a 1/4” single-ended TRS jack, a 3.5mm single-ended TRS jack, a pinhole for the internal LED notification light, and the volume knob. On the back are two Type-C ports set within a glossy black plastic insert (one for charging, one for data transfer), a Pre-Out/Direct DAC toggle switch, and the L/R line out ports. On the bottom you find four clear rubber feet that do a fantastic job at keeping the TR-Amp from scratching your phone, desk surface, etc. and ensure it remains stable and in place during your listening sessions.

Dual Type-C ports is a welcome addition since it enables you to charge while listening. Since the data and charge ports are on separate circuits, you don't have to worry about noise being introduced into the listening chain. Another nice feature are the dual headphone outs that can be used in tandem, so if you're listening along with your significant other or a friend, you don't need to share headphones as long as you've both got a set. Just be sure to bring along a 1/4” to 3.5mm adapter because you'll probably need it, and try to listen with headphones of similar sensitivity. There's only one volume knob after all. The TR-Amp also works as a pre-amp, bypassing the ES9038 DAC thanks to the Pre-Out/Direct toggle switch out back

Battery Performance The TR-Amp's 3,700mA battery is rated for up to 10hours of use. I've been seeing between 8.5 to 9 hours on most runs meaning the TR-Amp is the perfect companion for a solid day at work. I can start listening at the beginning of a shift, and ride it all the way to the end. That said, when the power dies it is very sudden, and if doing so while gaming your computer might trip up and freeze temporarily while shifting over to an alternate output source. At least mine did while I was in the midst of a heated ARAM battle in League of Legends, thereby causing the death of poor Trundle. Rest in peace little buddy. :'(

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Sound Quality and Device Pairing The TR-Amp features the highly respected Texas Instruments TPA6120 chip designed around a current-feedback AB amplifier build. Since I'm casual scum when it comes to explaining and/or understanding the tech behind DACs and amps, I'll let EarMen take over in describing why the above matters. This next bit has been borrowed from the TR-Amp's product page.

Three key features make current-feedback amplifiers outstanding for audio. The first feature is the high slew rate that prevents odd order distortion anomalies. The second feature is current-on-demand at the output that enables the amplifier to respond quickly and linearly when necessary without risk of output distortion. When large amounts of output power are suddenly needed, the amplifier can respond extremely quickly without raising the noise floor of the system and degrading the signal-to-noise ratio. The third feature is the gain-independent frequency response that allows the full bandwidth of the amplifier to be used over a wide range of gain settings.

What this translates into during my time with this device is that the TR-Amp sounds very clean regardless of the headphone with the only hiss/static present coming from the volume knob itself when making adjustments. That applies even to very sensitive, hiss-prone iems like the Campfire Audio Solaris. The background on this thing is dead silent. It can also drive pretty much anything, including demanding headphones like the Susvara from Hifiman. That behemoth draws distortion out of all but the most powerful of devices, especially at higher volumes and on bassy tracks, yet the TR-Amp takes it on without batting an eye. I don't have an earphone in my collection that even begins to test the TR-Amp's limitations.

The TR-Amp has a slightly coloured signature that adds some warmth and additional low end emphasis to whatever it is you're listening to. While some might scoff at this, I think this sort of tuning makes sense for a device intended to be used in a portable manner. Bass is usually the first thing to suffer when out and about in the real world, so a slight bump to those regions helps counter that. That additional emphasis is minor though, so the TR-Amp is still more than suitable in quiet environments. It works just as well as a compact desktop amp or as a companion for your laptop.

Extension at either end is excellent with no detectable roll off. Notes attack with vigour and decay realistically, so should you pair the TR-Amp with something sluggish or soft, or extra quick and snappy, those qualities are retained. When it comes to staging qualities, the TR-Amp results in some mixed feelings. On one hand, imaging remains sharp and nuanced but with some pairings the sound stage has a habit of shrinking slightly. Track layering and instrument separation remain positives, and I never noticed instruments compressing into each other or fighting for space, at least not with products where this isn't already an issue.

When using the TR-Amp as a pre-amp via the line out ports in the back, the signature is altered into something a little more “hifi”. The added warmth heard while using the headphone ports is gone, replaced by a subtle lift in the mids and treble. This makes the TR-Amp a little sharper and more accurate, and adds is some airiness compared to using the regular headphone ports. I quite like using it in this mode paired to my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp as it compliments that device's smooth, analogue signature.

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AKG K553 Pro (32ohm, 114dB): A few short months after getting the Dunu Titan 1 in 2015, the AKG 533 Pro was ordered through then-named Massdrop. It has remained one of my reference headphones ever since thanks to the well-balanced and detailed signature, and a sound stage that defies the closed back nature. Plus, it looks cool as hell. Through the TR-Amp the K553 Pro feels even more balanced thanks to the additional low end power EarMen's device brings to the table. It warms up the signature a bit, improves sub-bass emphasis, and makes the K553 Pro a better all-rounder. The sweet mids remain in place, treble still attacks cleanly and with purpose, and the sound stage is still large and in charge. Wrap the cable up, strap the TR-Amp to the back of your source device, and wander out into the world with one of the the best performance for your dollar portable hi-fi setups out there.

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Yamaha YHD-2 (125ohm, 97dB): For a nearly 40-year old headphone, the YHD-2 I picked up for next to nothing at the local Value Village still makes for a satisfying listen. Through the TR-Amp the YHD-2 has a very intimate sound stage, especially when compared to the iFi hip-dac and TEAC HA-501, yet it still does an excellent job of moving sound around this compact space in a manner that feels reasonably natural. Instrument separation and layering somewhat crumble on multi-tiered tracks, but keep things simple and you're in for a good time. These two sound especially satisfying when paired together on synth wave tracks, such as GUNSHIP's “Dark All Day”. The gorgeous mids of that track and the TR-Amp mash together perfectly, backed with some truly visceral texturing in the low end and saxophone. Treble beyond 6k isn't really a thing on the YHD-2, so it sounds about as mellow here as it does through anything else.

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Meze 99 Neo (26ohm, 103dB): The 99 Neo is about as warm and mid-bassy as I'd want to get when pairing a headphone with the TR-Amp. Through this device, the 99 Neo's low end is plenty authoritative. Mid-bass puffs its chest with a thumpy, punchy presentation and sub-bass that almost feels like it reverberates around inside the cups. The midrange sees a nice lift compared to other sources in my possession. Since the 99 Neo's mids are warm and lush, this is very welcome. Treble remains mellow and relaxed with tight, clean notes and similar levels of roll off that I'm used to through my TEAC. The 99 Neo's sound stage seems like it opens up quite a bit when paired with the TR-Amp, though imaging, layering and separation aren't enhanced at all and feel a little left behind.

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Hifiman Susvara (60ohm, 83dB): The Susvara is a very demanding set of headphones. That said, the TR-Amp is more than up to the challenge. When paired with the Susvara, at high volumes many amps tend to distort on deep bass notes, including my main squeeze the TEAC HA-501. Not an issue with the TR-Amp. The Susvara sounds every bit the top tier headphone it is. Bass is deep and punchy with outstanding control. The midrange is forward and lush with the outstanding timbre I expect. Treble is crisp and tightly controlled. Outstanding clarity and texture is present top to bottom. About the only area that sees any compromise is the sound stage which doesn't feel quite as spacious as it does with other amps, like my desktop TEAC HA-501. The TR-Amp also isn't as smooth and organic sounding as that device either, but the EarMen costs half as much and is a portable device so the compromise seems fair. I'm honestly just impressed it runs the Susvara at all, let alone as well as it does. The TR-Amp will also drive the Susvara to volumes I am not at all comfortable with. Staying within my limits I am unable to hear any distortion or signs of EarMen's budget wonder struggling.

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Final Thoughts The TR-Amp gets a pretty easy recommendation from me. The plug and play nature of the design means it is very intuitive and easy to use. It has enough power, and clean power at that, to drive anything tossed at it; headphones, earphones, earbuds, whatever. It does not matter what it is, the TR-Amp can probably run it just fine. It also supports the high end audio formats people demand nowadays, like Tidal's MQA of which the TR-Amp renders natively. While it is a bit of a chunky beast and is probably used best as a small desktop device or as a compliment to your laptop, it's not so heavy and unwieldy to be unusable as a portable DAC/amp strapped to your DAP or phone. Just make sure you've got a spacious pocket available to accommodate it.

The only thing I would like to recommend to EarMen is that they include a short Type-C to Type-C cable in the box. Since this is intended to be used as a portable device, it only accepts input via Type-C, and most modern DAPs/phones are capable of audio output via Type-C USB, not including one of these cables is a missed opportunity. It limits a buyers ability to take advantage of one of the most powerful aspects of the TR-Amp, that being its portability, at least until they go out and source one of those cables themselves.

Overall, the TR-Amp is a very satisfying device. It is affordable, powerful, flexible, and does nothing but enhance your listening experience.

Thanks for reading!

- B9

Disclaimer A big thanks to Miroslav with Auris Audio for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the TR-Amp, and for arranging a sample for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions. They do not represent EarMen, Auris Audio, or any other entity. At the time of writing the TR-Amp retailed for 249.00 USD: https://EarMen-shop.com/products/tr-amp

Specifications
  • DAC: ESS Sabre 9038 which supports DSD, DXD, PCM, MQA, and XMOS
  • USB Decoder: XMOS
  • Audio Formats: DSD 128 native, DSD 256 (DoP), DXD 384/352.8kHz, PCM up to 384kHz, MQA rendering MQB (MQA core)
  • Dynamic Range: > 120dB
  • Frequency Range: 10Hz – 50kHz
  • Battery: 3,700 mAh (during charging use 5v, min 2A adapter)
  • Dimensions: 129x66x30 mm / 5.08”x2.6”x1.18”
  • Weight: 240g / 0.53lbs

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soulven
soulven
Can anyone tell me since I'm not very keen with these DAC & Headphone specs is TR-Amp ideal to run Hifiman Ananda (Sensitivity: 103 dB, Impedance: 25 Ohms) or is it to much?
Kevin Lee
Kevin Lee
It's fine. TR-Amp is good with Meze Empyrean too. I find it match the Planars HP especially.
LarryMagoo
LarryMagoo
Does anyone know if a Portable AMP/DAC has two way Bluetooth? Bluetooth Input (from phone) Bluetooth Output for Wireless Headphones?

Maybe I'm dreaming but this would be great as I think the future of portable cans is to make them True Wireless and have total wireless Input and Output!!! I've been walking the dog with the new Sony WH-1000XM4's playing from my phone and they sound pretty damn good!
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