If you're a hi-fi fan who's recently been spending more time outdoors "exercising" in an attempt to avoid our new era of social distancing, you may also have started to lament the lack of truly high-end audio options that nature has to offer.
Most portable players and smartphones don't have the grunt to run a proper pair of headphones – but EarMen's new TR-Amp portable DAC/headphone amp could be the perfect answer.
It'll not only drive almost any headphones – or in-ears – on the planet, it will do so at high volume levels... and for way for longer than you're currently supposed to be out there in the open air.
The EarMen brand comes from highly-respected European manufacturer Auris Audio, and was established to market the company's portable high-end audio products. The new TR-Amp is the brand's latest offering, with this palm-sized box providing a battery-powered portable DAC/headphone amp/preamplifier.
This premium little device processes all PCM audio formats up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 via DoP, native DSD128 and MQA with an ES9038Q2M SABRE DAC that uses ESS’s patented HyperStream II QUAD architecture and is equipped with that company’s Time Domain Jitter Eliminator.
The TR-Amp’s rechargeable 3,700mA battery has a claimed operating life of 10 hours, with the headphone amplifier able to deliver 400mW of power into 16 ohms for that entirely length of time. It's said to be able to drive almost all headphone designs currently available. Charging is via a dedicated USB-C port, with data delivered via a separate USB-C data port.
The amplifier section of the TR-Amp uses a Texas Instruments TPA6120 IC with current-feedback Class-A/B amplifier architecture to ensure high bandwidth, extremely low noise and up to 128dB of dynamic range.
“Using a current feedback amplifier means we can obtain a high-enough slew rate to eliminate odd-order distortion anomalies, plus deliver the current-on-demand at the output to enable the amplifier to respond quickly and linearly when necessary without distortion,” said Miroslav Milovanovic of EarMen. “It also means that the frequency response is gain-independent, which allows the full bandwidth of the amplifier to be used over a wide range of gain settings.”
Volume control is analog for both the preamplifier and headphone amplifier sections, and the TR-Amp has two headphone outputs that are able to be used simultaneously. “Play anything from MP3 to MQA, or stream from Tidal or Qubuz, you’ll always hear a beautiful, neutral sound quality,” said Milovanovic. “And no matter which headphones you connect, you’ll discover the TR-Amp delivers a performance level that will satisfy even the most demanding audio enthusiast.”
Available directly from EarMen for $249 (around £200 / AU$450), the TR-Amp is designed, produced and assembled in Europe and comes standard with a shielded female USB-A to USB-C adaptor.