There has been a lot of enthusiasm about audiophile accessories and the USB DAC and amplifier market is booming with a boom of chi-fi dongles and Bluetooth receivers but there are some hardcore brands too. EarMen is one of those brands and they don’t really worry about anything else but sound. Incepted in USA and made in Europe the Brand maintains a lot of quality with its build and QC.
EARMEN (with its parent company Auris Audio) have a handful of DAC-AMPs in various prices, starting at as low as $99 and going as high as $9899 they have covered most of the price brackets. TR-Amp is one of their entry level DAC/AMP which sits just above the Donald DAC and Sparrow DAC/Amp with a price tag of $249. It can be bought in two color schemes (I would have loved the RED one but it’s about sound isn’t it?). The good thing about the TR-Amp is the built-in battery which enables it to be used with DAPs and mobile devices when not being used with the PC. It houses one of the best DAC chips available in the market with tuning from Auris Audio.
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As of now I have a few DAC/AMPs to compare the TR-Amp with. Both the Ifi HIP DAC and Sound Blaster E5 are very similar to the TR-Amp with their usage.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-
The TR-amp has a fairly simple packaging. Thankfully opening the box is not complicated but it needs a bit of force to take out the foam it is stuffed in. Underneath the foam it has a neat looking carry case to carry the DAC/amp when on the move. The list of accessories includes A USB A to C cable, a rubber band, a cable tie and an instruction leaflet. All of these are placed inside a paper box under the foam.
I would have loved a shorter cable and a USB A to C OTG adapter inside it because without the OTG adapter the device cannot be used with portable devices unless you have an extra PD cable.
BUILD, CONTROLS and USAGE:-
There is barely any DAC/AMP which is built badly but the TR-Amp definitely finds itself among the best. It uses CNC aluminum milled enclosure. The full metal jacket keeps it safe from any type of damage. There are no loose parts to worry about, put in inside the pouch that comes with it for more security. The size can be a small problem for some but with a dimension of 129/66/30mm and weight of just 240g (slightly more than modern day mobile phones) it is not exactly heavy or big. It can be tossed into the back pack and carried around without problem.
The front end of the TR-Amp houses the Power/volume knob and both the 6.5mm and 3.5mm headphone ports, one interesting thing about the ports is that both can be used simultaneously. The back has two USB ports, one for charging and one for audio-in denoted as DATA, thanks to separate ports the DAC/AMP can be used round the clock without a break (it can charge while being used). The RCA pre-out is placed on the other side and the direct/pre-out analog switch is placed in between.
Operating the TR-Amp is very simple. Just plug and play with mobile phones and Mac OS PCs with the help of a OTG cable or adapter and the TR-Amp is ready to roll but to use it with Windows PC, a driver can be downloaded from the product page. The Pre-out uses the TR-Amp as a pre-amp and can be used to plug it into a power amp or speakers.
When it comes to the amount of controlling buttons or switches the TR-Amp has only two and one of them will barely be used once you have set your mind on the use of it. The other switch is for selecting Pre-out/Direct output. Pre-Out explains itself, direct is to be used with the PC or mobile phone Via USB.
The company claims that it has no heating issues but it does get warm to the touch after an elongated period of usage.
EarMen have a lot of confidence in the TR-Amp and back it up with a 2 years warranty.
The TR-Amp uses top quality components. It houses the ES9038Q2M DAC chip. In their words:
“The EarMen TR-Amp is created in collaboration with Auris Audio, one of the best audio companies in the world. It ensures that you always get an amazing balanced sound. This is a feature-packed battery-powered Amp that can drive almost any headphone (even two at a time) up to 400mW. With the ES9038Q2M SABRE Reference DAC, you can achieve high-end audio from your portable music source. It supports PCM up to 384kHz, DSD256 via DOP, native DSD128, and MQA. It utilizes HyperStreamO II QUAD DACTM architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator that delivers high-grade sonic performance making it a must-have Amp for the discerning audio enthusiast.”
Along with the top end DAC chip the TR-Amp sports a high-fidelity TPA6120 chip from Texas Instruments for high-end sound with clarity. The TPA6120 current-feedback AB amplifier architecture allows the Amp to offer a dynamic range of 128dB, excellent bandwidth. It uses Super LOW ESR tantal capacitors, high grade components in power-supply design and 4 layer golden plated PCB technology from PC and smart phone industry to reduce the noise to minimum improving super fine details, especially with Hi-Res Audio.
TR-Amp makes use of the critically acclaimed ESS patented HyperStream© II QUAD DACTM architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, EarMen TR-Amp delivers a performance level that will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiast.
It also supports Tidal MQA streaming from mobile devices let it be android or IOS devices. TR-Amp also supports Qobuz high-res playback from IOS, Android devices and MacOS and Windows PCs.
TR-Amp is a lot more powerful than its size suggests. There are more powerful options in the market, like the Xduoo XD-05+. With an output power of 400mw at 16ohm and 350mw at 32ohm it is more than capable enough to drive demanding headphones without much problem. Don’t expect it to drive the demanding planar headphones and the TR-Amp will not disappoint. Thanks to the portable nature of the device I assume the TR-Amp will be mostly used with IEMs. It uses a lot of filters and shields to reduce noise but just like any powerful DAC/Amp it has a hint of floor noise with the most sensitive IEMs. When used with not so sensitive IEMs there is no noise to worry about. Headphones barely have any problems either.
The TR-Amp has a built in battery with a 3700mah capacity which is good for around 10 hours of usage. I found it reaching around 11hrs with earphones and just more than 9 hours with the HM100 and M12s. If binge watching is on the cards, plug in the charger for an uninterrupted experience.
Charging it with a 10w charger takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes.