EarMen products have been reviewed many times here, always scoring great. Their Tradutto DAC is still my favorite after months of using it. EarMen is always spot-on when it comes to timbre, sounding both technical and musical at the same time.
It’s just one of these brands that never disappoints. Their products are just great to listen to, never sounding too extreme or too laid-back. This is probably due to the fact that EarMen origins from Auris Audio, a high-end manufacturer of tube amplifiers and such. They truly know how to tune a product.
Let’s go back in time for a second. In May 2022 I was visiting Munich High-End show. EarMen obviously has been there, and I was very excited to meet and greet with some staff that I haven’t met yet. I’ve known Miki Trosic for many years now, as we’ve met a couple of times at the Warsaw Audio-Video Show.
I was very pleased to meet Miroslav and Filip from EarMen, they are so friendly and kind, always open for a chat! Seriously, I could have go grab a drink or ten with them, they are so friendly, but I’m not sure if I’d survive that.
After checking out their new CH-Amp amplifier and Staccato streamer, Miroslav asked me to wait a minute. He then came back with something in his hand. He handed me this mysterious package and said “This is for you, feel free to review this when the time comes”. You guessed it…inside was the brand new Angel.
I immediately asked Miroslav if he has any demo units at the show to try right away, and he had. It was paired with Meze Elite, so I gave it a go. This brief test made me even more impatient to get back to Poland and try the Angel more.
I’ve received the Angel with no packaging and accessories, so sadly I cannot comment on these. Knowing EarMen, the packaging will be of great quality and you’ll be getting some USB-C cables in the box, and maybe some other accessories.
You’ll have to wait for other reviews or some unboxing articles to get to know what you’ll be getting with the Angel.
Design and Build Quality
The Angel looks like a bigger brother of their TR-Amp (review here). It’s quite large, blue, and built like a tank.
Let’s start with the design. While I’m not personally a fan of colorful devices, the Angel just looks brilliant. It’s painted in metallic blue and it doesn’t look too flashy at all.
The photos on the internet show the Angel having a big, black volume knob. My unit has a shorter, silver one. I don’t know which one you should expect if you’ll be ordering this device. My guess is that it’s going to have a black volume knob, and the silver one was just a prototype in my case.
Let’s get to the build quality. The Angel is literally a tank. It feels dense, well-made, and very substantial. The only thing I don’t really like is that it has some sharp edges. Nothing too extreme though, you won’t be cutting your hands while using it.
The Angel weighs 340g and it’s not the lightest device you’ll find. If you like to put DAC/Amps in the pocket of your pants, I think that this will be an overkill. However, if you want more of a transportable device for your trips, hotels, trains, etc, the weight and size of the Angel will not be a problem.
On the back of the device, you’ll find two USB-C connectors. One is for charging, and the other one for data, so you can definitely use the Angel while charging, or just leave it plugged in all the time if this will be your desk scenario DAC/Amp. Next to the USB-C connectors, you’ll find a digital in, an unbalanced line out, and a 4.4mm line out for your balanced devices.
On the front, apart from the volume knob, you’ll find a Direct/Pre Out selector, a button activating Gain+, and two headphone outputs (3.5mm and 4.4mm). The volume knob works well, it has a lot of steps, so you’ll be able to find a perfect volume for yourself.
The EarMen Angel is impressive when it comes to technology.
First of all, it’s fully balanced, offering a balanced headphone out as well as a balanced line out. It packs a lot of power, thanks to using a 2-cell battery. How much power you’d ask? 8.5Vrms out of its 4.4mm headphone out with gain+ with a dynamic range of 119dB. This is very impressive.
Its DAC section is built around ES9038Q2M chip and it’s capable of playing DSD512 native/DoP256, PCM 768 , and it also supports MQA Studio.
Let’s get back to the battery for a second. The Angel has a two-cell battery 2x3000mAh, so you’ve got plenty of playtime with a lot of power available. As I said previously, it has a dedicated charging USB-C port, so you can use it while charging, or just keep it plugged in all the time for infinite battery life.
The Angel also has a Gain+ option, giving you crazy flexibility when it comes to pairing with different headphones. It doesn’t matter if you’re using sensitive IEMs or some power-hungry planar-magnetic headphones, the Angel can run both without breaking a single sweat.
Lastly, you can use the Angel as a Pre Amp for your big boy stereo setup, and you can choose between single-ended and balanced, which also improves its functionality. I’m currently rebuilding my stereo setup so I wasn’t able to test it though, but seeing the performance of the Angel via headphone out, I’m pretty confident that it’ll sound incredible as a Pre Amp.
At the end of the day, EarMen products have always been about sound quality. This brand just really knows how to create devices that sound impressive and natural at the same time. The Angel is their most ambitious device so far, so I was very excited to see how high can they score when it comes to sound quality.
Luckily, the Angel is not just about the numbers and impressive tech. It also sounds incredible with a very natural timbre, also offering enough power to drive most headphones in the world.
The bass is hard-hitting, big, saturated, and just extremely tight. Because of that great power output, the Angel is capable of taking full control over the headphones’ driver, resulting in a highly detailed and crispy bass delivery. Low frequencies are big and bold, but there’s no muddiness whatsoever. The Angel is a portable DAC/Amp that truly sounds like a stationary device, with that powerful sound packed with resolution. A couple of years ago, portable devices always sounded like portable devices, but these times are gone now. With the newest technology, portable (or transportable) devices can have a lot of power at their disposal, leading to sound that is by no means small or weak.
Back to the Angel though, the bass delivery sounds just about perfect with every headphones I tried it with, IEMs, planar IEMs, planar full-sized headphones, etc. It runs the Final D8000 Pro and HEDDphone with authority, not leaving anything to be desired, especially considering it’s a portable device. IEMs like my Fir Audio XE6 or Campfire Supermoon sounds incredibly tight and big at the same time, giving you a very physical and clean bass response that sounds just impressive.
The midrange is very clean and neutral, and everything sounds incredibly natural. There’s no coloration, leaving the room for your headphones to dictate the timbre of vocals. The entire midrange is packed with details and resolution, and the separation is outstanding. Once again, it doesn’t sound like a portable device whatsoever, it’s that impressive.
If you’re following Ear Fidelity for a while, you know what’s coming now…my flagship vocal text, a song called “A Thousand Shards Of Heaven” by Lunatic Soul. Mariusz sounds lifelike and very airy with the Angel, so the final outcome will depend mainly on your headphones of choice. Luckily, the Angel is transparent sounding, so it won’t make your headphones sound “different” than they should. Of course, there are some people that prefer a warmer or brighter tonality, but they won’t find it here. There’s just a hint of warmth in it, but I definitely won’t call the Angel warm-sounding. What’s very important though, is that everything is well separated and there’s a lot of room in the sound, so it doesn’t sound unnaturally condensed, like a lot of portable devices a few years back.
The treble is superbly clean, extended and rich sounding, without being peaky or sharp. The amount of resolution it outputs is so high, that there’s basically no grain or splashiness. Of course, if you’ll pair it with a sharp pair of headphones or IEMs, the final sound will be sharp as well, as the Angel doesn’t hide anything. Its treble is not smooth, or delicate, it’s just packed with details and transparency. I always found portable DAC/Amps to sound grainy and boxy in the treble, but the Angel definitely doesn’t follow that trend. Also, the transition between the midrange and the treble is very consistent, leading to female vocals sounding beautifully natural and rich. Additionally, the entire treble response has a proper weight to it, so percussion cymbals sound natural and thick, just like they should.
The soundstage is pretty much limitless. Depending on your pairing, you can get a more intimate experience, or a vast soundstage with huge depth. The imaging and separation are both accurate and natural, not sounding crowded at all. It’s not a DAC/Amp that will increase the size of your headphones soundstage, but it will not limit it either. Its job is to ensure that you’re getting as much realistic experience you can. Because of its fantastic resolution, the Angel is able to give you a great staging in both music and gaming, so it can also be used while doing some competitive gaming sessions.
Just as I wrote at the beginning of this review, the first pair of headphones I tried the Angel with was the Meze Elite, during the Munich High-End show. After playing with this pairing more, I realized how incredibly wise the guys at EarMen are for choosing these headphones.
This pairing is just brilliant. Everything about it just sounds right, the tonality is neutral and sweet at the same time, and the detail retrieval and resolution are both fantastic, just like the Angel was designed to go with the Elite. Also, this DAC/Amp is everything the Elite needs when it comes to power output, so you’re getting an incredibly vivid, dynamic, and full-bodied sound that is hard not to love with the Elite.
This setup sits right in the middle between technical and relaxed sound signatures, it’s just in the right place. It’s never tiring, sharp, or forced, yet it has an impressive technical performance, while also being highly involving. This is definitely my favorite.
Final Audio D8000 Pro
Both the Angel and the D8000 Pro are pretty neutral and great when it comes to technical performance. In this pairing, you’re getting a fantastic detail retrieval and resolution with a flat frequency response for a very natural type of sound.
The soundstage is huge, imaging very accurate and the instruments have a natural tonality throughout the whole frequency response. While you’re still going to get better results when pairing the D8000 Pro with a high-end stationary amplifier, the Angel lets you use them for trips, bedside listening, or just simply walking around the house. This is a very good combo for everybody looking for a very neutral and snappy type of sound performance.
Fir Audio XE6
The Fir Audio XE6 is the best IEM I’ve ever heard and owned. It has that huge and incredibly physical bass response and a beautiful tone throughout the entire frequency response, and it’s also absurdly detailed.
The Angel is a wonderful device to pair the XE6 with. This pairing sounds fun, impressive, and lifelike. The timbre is dictated by the XE6, so you’re getting that natural, rich sound, while the Angel is just making sure that these IEMs are getting all the information from the recording. The dynamics, detail retrieval, and pace of this pairing are unreal, one of the most epic and fun experiences I had with IEMs.
Campfire Audio Supermoon
This pairing is just a dream for detailheads. The resolution and detail retrieval are both spectacular, giving you an incredibly clean, crispy sound with A LOT of information.
What’s worth noting – I stated in my review of the Supermoon that this CIEM is quite demanding when it comes to power, and they tend to sound warmer and smoother when underpowered. Totally not the case here, the Angel makes these things fly, so you’re getting all that goodness from that great planar-magnetic driver.
The sound is also highly texturized, so it totally won’t satisfy you if you want a smooth and relaxed type of sound, because this is quite the opposite. If you want to experience the music through textures and details though, this is just marvelous.
Let’s compare the Angel to its smaller brother from the same mother, the Colibri.
The Angel is basically the bigger and better Colibri. It has a lot more power, it’s more detailed, more engaging, and just better in every aspect. The tonality is similar, but the Angel has more body and is more natural sounding, also because of its much better dynamics.
It’s easy to hear that EarMen sticks to their house sound, as their only device that really sounds different when it comes to tonality is the fantastic Tradutto DAC. The rest of their devices are neutral and musical sounding, and both the Angel and the Colibri are no different. It’s actually surprising how much better the Angel is when compared to the Colibri, but looking at the size difference, it shouldn’t be, to be honest.
If you’re using some efficient IEMs only, the Colibri is probably everything that you need, but if you’re into some more demanding stuff as well, the Angel is an obvious choice, as far as the price difference is manageable for you.
Burson Playmate 2 (V6 Vivid Opamps + Burson Supercharger)
Let’s compare the Angel to a big-boy stationary AIO that is fully packed with upgrades. The Burson Playmate with V6 Vivid Opamps and the Supercharger is a force to be reckoned with, offering a fantastic detail retrieval and a thick, musical sound signature from its Class-A output.
First of all, the Playmate 2 is more powerful than the Angel. While the difference on paper might not be that substantial, the Class-A output of the Playmate 2 is just very powerful. Still, when comparing a big, stationary device with something as portable as the Angel, we have to give credit to the latter.
When it comes to tonality differences, the Playmate 2 is definitely warmer, thicker, and bigger-sounding than the Angel, while the Angel is more about neutral tone and crispy midrange performance. As far as detail retrieval and resolution are considered, these two are not vastly different, I would say that they play in a similar league when it comes to technical performance, with a slight advantage to the Playmate 2. Still, we’re comparing two different types of products, so it’s still very impressive to see the Angel being a worthy opponent to such a brilliant, stationary AIO.
I’ve never been a fan of portable DAC/Amps, to be honest. They always sounded like portable devices, and I didn’t see the point in using them regularly.
This changes today, as the Angel sets the bar for me when it comes to portable DAC/Amps under $1000. Its impressive technical performance, neutral sound signature, brilliant build quality, and incredibly vivid, lively sound make me want to use it more and more. It has enough juice for most headphones, yet it’s still great with IEMs. I use it a lot with my MacBook Pro, whether I’m listening to music, video editing, or just consuming content online. If you’re looking for a portable device that sounds like a proper stationary amplifier, the Angel is your guy.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Final D8000 Pro, Meze Elite, Hifiman HE-R9, Fir XE6, Final A8000, Campfire Audio Supermoon
- Sources– MacBook Pro 2021, Yulong Aurora, Burson Playmate 2 (V6 Vivid + Supercharger), Earmen Colibri
Big thanks to EarMen for providing the Angel for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. EarMen hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.