Dongle-sized DAC/Amps have been rapidly evolving. We are now getting options that offer different features such as balanced outputs, MQA, and many more. The previous products that we have checked out, such as the Audirect Beam 2SE and ddHiFi TC44B, prove that the sound quality of these devices is getting better.
This time around, we are checking out a premium dongle that is inching closer to a true DAP killer. The product that we are checking out in today’s review is the Earmen Eagle.
For those who are not familiar with Earmen Audio, they are a company that started out with tube amplifiers and later branched out to sources such as DAC/Amps. They are based in Chicago, United States, and currently have the Earmen TR-Amp, the Earmen Eagle, the Earmen Sparrow, and their high-end tube headphone amplifiers.
The Earmen Eagle aims to take the sound quality of Earmen’s highly acclaimed products into a small form factor dongle. It doesn’t have too many features and instead focuses on delivering the best sound quality. Keep on reading to find out whether or not we think the Earmen Eagle is worth its premium asking price.
The review unit was provided by Earmen Audio. We would like to thank them for their support and for making this review possible. However, this does not influence our review in any way. Everything written here is my honest opinion.
Packaging and Accessories
The Earmen Eagle’s packaging is quite basic. It is just a black cardboard box with simple artwork and all the essential information on the back. Inside is a piece of foam that holds the Earmen Eagle, the OTG cable, and some paperwork.
I wasn’t expecting the packaging to be so simple, considering how gorgeous Earmen’s products look. You also do not get a lot of accessories, which was a bit surprising for a dongle at this price point. The only accessory that you get is an OTG cable that terminates in a USB Type-C connection.
There are no included adapters for Apple devices. Of course, it is easy to get OTG cables thanks to the Earmen Eagle’s design, which we will be talking about later. However, that cable will be a separate purchase, which will further add to the cost of the Eagle.
Overall, the unboxing experience was a bit underwhelming. However, the product is the focus of this review so let us proceed with the design and build quality.
- OTG USB Type-C cable
Design and Build Quality
Earmen Eagle Main Unit
Despite the lackluster unboxing experience, the actual product is far better than any dongle that we have checked out so far. The Eagle has everything from great looks to great build quality. I would even say that the Eagle looks far more expensive than its asking price.
The Earmen Eagle has a full glass body. Also, the Earmen logo and all the branding are underneath the glass giving the Eagle a very premium look. There are no gaps or screws to be found, making the dongle very smooth to the touch.
The only aesthetic choice that I am not the biggest fan of is the logo that lights up. I would have preferred if the logo was simpler. Of course, this does not break the design in any way, so no real complaints here.
Unlike most dongle-type DAC/Amps that are being released, the Earmen Eagle adapts the USB Type-A design that is similar to the popular Dragonfly Series. For me, this is a very good choice since you are guaranteed good stability and compatibility.
The USB Type-A connection is gold-plated and feels very sturdy. It is very rare for this connector to break, so you can confidently use the Earmen Eagle as your daily driver.
In terms of size and weight, the Earmen Eagle is certainly not the smallest and lightest dongle out there. However, this does not impact its portability. It is light enough to be carried around but still maintains some heft to give it that quality feel.
USB Type-C OTG Cable
The OTG cable that comes with the Earmen Eagle is quite decent. However, there are some issues that may or may not be isolated with my specific unit.
The USB Type-C connector is slightly twisted, meaning the entire unit will not lie flat. This is a minor issue that does not affect usability. However, I hope that Earmen will address this in future batches.
Aside from that, the build quality of the included Type-C cable is excellent. The cable is braided, and both ends are reinforced very well. I am very confident that this cable will last even when not treated nicely.
Heat and Battery Consumption
Some USB Type-C dongles are known to run extremely hot or consume more battery. The Audirect Beam 2SE that we recently checked out, for example, usually became hot in under an hour. Fortunately, this is not the case for the Earmen Eagle.
I used the Earmen Eagle as my daily driver for about a month. And during my testing, the battery drain was negligible. The Eagle did get hot but not to the point that it was distracting or inconvenient.
Features and Sound Performance
Tested with: Fostex/Fitear TE100, Fitear Room, Fitear Aya Snow, Sennheiser HD660S
The most important part of any high-resolution source is, of course, the sound quality. Given how many products we have tried at this price point, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. However, the Earmen Eagle is truly something else.
Before we delve deeper into the Eagle, let us first talk about some basic specs and features. The Earmen Eagle is powered by a single ESS ES9280 C PRO DAC Chip.
It is capable of playing 32bit/384kHz files and PCM, DXD, and DSD formats. It is not capable of natively unfolding MQA, which isn’t a big deal for me.
Also, the Earmen Eagle only features a single 3.5mm SE output. So, unfortunately, if you are using balanced cables, then you need to use adapters such as the ddHiFi DJ35A that we have reviewed. If you need a 2.5mm balanced output, you will have to upgrade to the Earmen Sparrow.
Now, for the sound quality. The Earmen Eagle easily rivals more expensive DAPs. And what blew me away was how perfect its synergy was with my higher-end Fostex and Fitear CIEMs. This was something that I have not experienced with a small form factor DAC/Amp.
When paired with the Fostex TE100, the Earmen Eagle is able to provide a massive and full-bodied sound. Low frequencies are presented with authority, and both mids and highs are crystal clear.
It isn’t adding any artificial coloration. Instead, it is allowing my IEMs to perform at their best. Of course, it still won’t match high-end DAPs. But for its price, this is as good as it gets.
Furthermore, the Earmen Eagle had a surprising amount of power. I noticed this when testing out the Eagle with my Sennheiser HD660S.
These headphones aren’t as hard to drive as the other headphones in the HD6XX family. However, most dongles that I have tried were unable to make these headphones sound great. But with the Eagle, the HD660S was already singing even at 70% volume.
With how impressive the sound quality of the Earmen Eagle is, I found myself to be using the Fiio M11 less often on shorter trips. This also makes the Earmen Eagle very viable for users who are also looking for a small form factor DAC/Amp for their laptop or desktop PC.
Audirect Beam 2SE
The Audirect Beam 2SE is another interesting dongle that we have tested. It features an ES9281C Pro DAC chip which is also from ESS Sabre. It also features several gain modes as well as full MQA unfolding. It packs a lot of features and is sold at a lower price.
However, despite having fewer features, the Earmen Eagle outperforms the Audirect Beam 2SE in sound quality, design, and build quality. The Earmen Eagle sounds more massive and more detailed compared to the Beam 2SE. It better brings out the best elements in a track and has better synergy with my IEMs.
Also, the Earmen Eagle beats out the Beam 2SE in terms of power output. The Beam 2SE has three levels of gain. However, two of them are pretty much unusable, and the highest gain option still cannot make my Sennheiser HD660S sing.
I also find the Earmen Eagle’s design and form factor to be better. The glass case of the Eagle is simply gorgeous, and the overall case design feels more durable. Also, finding adapters is a lot easier since it uses a standard USB Type-A connector.
Don’t get me wrong. The Beam 2SE certainly has lots of great features and is a good buy for its price. However, if you are purely after sound quality, then the Earmen Eagle is the better product. Learn more about the Beam 2SE in our full review.
The Earmen Eagle is, without a doubt, one of the best dongles in the market right now. The moment that I tried it with my Fostex TE100, I knew that this was something special. After all, very few products in this price range can truly make my higher-end gear sing.
Additionally, you aren’t only getting top-notch sound quality. You are also getting a gorgeous-looking product with a unique design. The only things that would have made the Eagle a complete package are features such as MQA, a balanced output, and more accessories.
But even without those, the Earmen Eagle is still an amazing product. If you are looking for a great sounding and great looking device in the sub $200 price point, the Earmen Eagle is an easy recommendation.
- Input: USB Type A
- Output: 3.5 mm Stereo
- Audio Formats:
- Supported OS:
Albums Used For Testing
- Milet – Who I am
- Babymetal – Legend Metal Galaxy
- Mamamoo – Travel
- Periphery- Periphery 3 and 4
- Blackpink – The Album
- Final Fantasy VII Acoustic Arrangements
- Square Enix Jazz- Final Fantasy VII At Billboard Live Tokyo
- Sawano Hiroyuki – Best of Vocal Works
- Yorushika – Plagiarism
- Intervals – Circadian
Aubrey has been a longtime fan of music. She plays arcade music games such as Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution. She also loves different genres such as KPOP. Ever since she discovered IEMs and Headphones, her love and appreciation for music have been taken to the next level. And as a writer, she wishes to share her audiophile journey with you.