Introduction to the EarMen Staccato review
Welcome to a yet another EarMen review at Ear Fidelity. This is one of few companies that never disappoints when it comes to the quality of their products, and today we’re taking a look at their streamer Staccato, which is a part of the Eisa award-winning stack consisting of the Staccato, Tradutto and the CH-Amp.
This is a big step for EarMen, since they only released DACs, Amps, and DAC/Amps in the past. Expanding their lineup with a streamer required a lot of development and money to make it happen. But, this is a company that is definitely looking towards dominating the market in the future, and they have everything needed for that.
EarMen’s strength is in their sound department, as every single EarMen device we’ve tested (and we’ve tested almost all of them) sounds magnificent, with a very mature tuning and great technical performance.
Nonetheless, the streamer market is a crowded, and a hard one. It’s not just about the sound, you have to focus on functionality and on ease of use. After all, this is a device that is meant to make your setup more functional and convenient, rather than simply upgrading the sound quality. Right?
Well, that’s partially true. Coming with a device like this is actually a great idea by EarMen, as most of stationary headphones users use a PC or laptop for playback. While this is convenient and it doesn’t cost anything if you already own a PC, it also has its drawbacks, mainly in audio quality.
The Staccato promised to expanse the functionality of the stack by letting you stream music losslessly. Let’s see, if it is a worthy investment at $999.
When it comes to the unboxing experience, I somewhat feel that everything has been already said in Tradutto and CH-Amp reviews.
Nonetheless, to point this out, the Staccato comes in a big, quality box which is definitely protective enough for long journeys onto your doorstep.
Inside, apart from the Staccato itself, you’ll find a short manual, a Bluetooth antenna and a power supply. What’s important though, you have to remember that if you’re using the reviewed Staccato as a part of the EarMen stack, you’ll be plugging the streamer right into the PSU-3 that is being supplied with the CH-Amp.
There’s nothing really more to say about the unboxing experience here. We’ve all already got used to EarMen quality packagings and the Staccato continues on this trend. This is by no means a luxurious type of experience, but you shouldn’t be really expecting that.
Design and build quality of EarMen Staccato
Just like other EarMen devices, reviewed Staccato is extremely well-built and great looking. It’s a rather minimalistic design that just goes well with every type of devices and on every desk.
The Staccato itself is rather heavy and very solid feeling, the CNC machined aluminium used for the chassis feels extremely dense and highly protective for the valuable interior of the streamer.
Yes, it is a very basic looking device with no screen and no controls on the front panel, but I don’t think it’s a con whatsoever. You operate the Staccato by the dedicated EarMen app, so why would anyone need anything more on the device itself.
Most importantly, as a part of a stack, the EarMen Staccato looks absolutely gorgeous when used that way, this is a small footprint kind of stack that will easily fit on every desk, offering a vast functionality and an exceptional sound quality.
What’s also important, is that the stack is so heavy that you don’t need to hold it while plugging or unplugging your headphones, which might be frustrating. I’ve been using the EarMen stack for the last few months and I’ve been extremely happy with it. It looks great, is a joy to use, and most importantly, the sound quality coming out of this thing is just exceptional.
Tech and I/O
Let’s start this paragraph with I/O. Reviewed EarMen Staccato has two types of digital outputs: coaxial and optical, which you can use to connect the Staccato to the Tradutto DAC or any other DAC on the market to be specific. There’s also a USB on the back, but keep in mind that it is an input only.
Apart from the digital outputs I already mentioned, the rear panel also has an ethernet port that supplies up to 10/100Mbps.
Sadly, the ethernet cable is the only way that you can connect the Staccato to the internet, as it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi connection. This might come as slightly controversial, knowing that many less expensive streamers do offer Wi-Fi connectivity, so bear that in mind that you have to use the Staccato near your router or use an access point.
And this is by far the biggest con of the Staccato. After unboxing it I immediately found a place for the stack near my TV, but after realising that I do not have the Ethernet access there, I had to change my plans. Since then, the EarMen stack stands on my desk and it ain’t moving nowhere anytime soon.
Actually, some high-end streamers also lack Wi-Fi connectivity, as this is often considered as problematic. A wired internet connection is always more stable than Wi-Fi, so if you are able to do it, a cable is always a better choice. However, it would have been nice to have an option of a wireless connectivity, since you’ll be able to place the stack in your home more freely.
The EarMen Staccato is able to provide a playback of up to 32bit/384kHz, as well as DSD 256. This means that you won’t have any problems while playing all sort of audio files.
Oh, and to make that extremely clear – reviewed EarMen Staccato has no built-in DAC, so you have to plug it into one via one of digital outputs. Since this is a part of a stack, you’re most likely going to plug it into the Tradutto DAC, which is an extremely great device on its own.
EarMen Staccato also has a Bluetooth connectivity for you to stream music via your phone, but what’s worth mentioning is that it’s Bluetooth 4.2.
What I would have liked the EarMen Staccato to have is to offer Roon Ready as well as Airplay functionality. These are two options that are very popular and they would have increased the the functionality of the streamer even more. Luckily, both can be added in a future software update, so EarMen…those are my suggestions.
Operating the reviewed EarMen Staccato
Setting up the Staccato couldn’t have been easier, which is a good thing. After powering on the device and plugging in the ethernet cable, the Staccato instantly appears in the EarMen app, and that’s basically it when it comes to the setup itself.
While using the Staccato, you can play music via Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, DLNA and Bluetooth. Additionally, there’s a USB input on the back panel which can be used to play music from a hard drive. To be honest though, most of you will probably use Tidal Connect or play local files via DLNA.
Operating the EarMen app is a blast. The app is clutter-free and it works really fast and snappy. It doesn’t freeze, it’s convenient and easy to use and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.
How does the EarMen Staccato sound?
Okay, I have to admit, writing this review up to this point wasn’t exactly easy for me. Hear me out…I’m an old-school type of guy when it comes to audio, I still prefer DAPs with no android, and I mostly listen to music through my PC using local files via the JRiver app.
If I want to get some streaming done, I mostly use Apple Music via my MacBook that is plugged directly in a DAC, and it’s been working for me for years. That’s why I’m not entitled enough to go in-depth about the full functionality of the Staccato and to address the quality of the app for example.
However, what I can definitely tell you about is the sound. And that is what I’m going to do in a second. Additionally, I would like to focus on the entire part of the EarMen Staccato being so easy to use, that even a streaming noob like me can use it effortlessly. The setup is so easy and Tidal Connect works so easy that trust me, you’ll manage to use it with no problems.
So, let’s get to the most important part of this review, which is the sound quality of course. There must be a reason for you to drop a thousand dollars on a streamer that doesn’t even offer Wi-Fi, and let me tell you that the sound quality IS the reason here.
Playing the same files through a PC and via using the EarMen Staccato it’s very easy to hear the differences. Listening through the Staccato gives you a much cleaner, crispier and less noisy sound, and the difference is much bigger than I expected.
It all comes to the fact that a PC is not a dedicated audio equipment, and it has a lot more functionality to do than a simple audio streamer. Because of that, not only the software is made for audio playback, the true problem lays in hardware that has a lot of unnecessary (at least for audio) elements that generate noise and is simply harming the delicate audio signal.
When using the Staccato, none of these problems are present, and you can immediately hear that your audio signal is just cleaner, more dynamic and more lively sounding. I’m actually highly surprised how prominent the difference is. This difference alone made me stop using my PC as the source and now I’m mainly using the Staccato while listening to my stationary system.
Actually, the EarMen Tradutto/Staccato/CH-Amp has been occupying the most important place at my desk and getting a lot of listening time for the past couple of months. Everything, including the functionality, ease of use and sound quality is absolutely exceptional and this stack has been my audio reviewer work tool ever since getting it.
What’s also immediately apparent is the absolute lack of background noise. This is especially important if you’re using IEMs at your desk, as the cleanliness of the signal is the easiest to appreciate while using high sensitivity IEMs, such as the newest Campfire Audio Solaris Stellar Horizon (review coming soon!).
Hard to drive over-ear headphones are great to appreciate the Staccato as well, I tried it with my Feliks Envy and HiFiMAN Susvara setup as well and was absolutely delighted by the audio quality, but more on that in the pairings part of the review.
To summarise, the Staccato might not be the strongest when it comes to its functionality, especially since it lacks Wi-Fi, but the sound quality this little guy offers is absolutely striking, and when used as the complete EarMen stack, this just doesn’t get any better when talking about a complete audio package.
While the Staccato is a standalone streamer that can be used as one, it truly wants to be a part of the EarMen stack.
Starting with the design that is coherent across the entire line, making for a fantastic looking stack with great size, ending up with great functionality and astonishing sound.
The overall sound of the stack is delightfully natural, dynamic and lively, with great technical performance and an ability to pair well with every headphone and IEM I’ve tested it with.
Both the detail retrieval and resolution are fantastic with nothing left to be desired, especially considering the price for the entire stack. This setup doesn’t focus too much on technicalities though, but rather on creating a musical spectacle. I really like that kind of approach to the sound, because at the end of the day, we’re not measuring devices. We’re people that seek emotions, and the EarMen stack is just brilliant at doing that.
Feliks Audio Envy + HiFiMAN Susvara
For this review to be complete, I had to test the Staccato with a different setup than just the stack itself. I’ve chosen the best of the best that I have, which is the XIAudio K-DAC, Feliks Audio Envy and the HiFiMAN Susvara. This is truly a TOTL setup that will show you absolutely everything when it comes to audio performance, both subjective and objective.
The functionality of the setup is complete, as the Staccato doesn’t suffer anything while not plugged into the EarMen stack, so we can just get this out of the way right away.
When it comes to the sound though, this setup shows even more than the EarMen stack, and here the Staccato shows its superiority even more. The sound becomes crispier, cleaner and more punchy, with literally no drawbacks when compared to a PC.
This shows that the Staccato is a fantastic addition to any headphone system, especially high-end ones that will be able to highlight its great black background and cleanliness of the signal. EarMen has something that’ll be useful for everybody here, and this is easily a winner.
EarMen Staccato review — summary
The EarMen Staccato is a great way to improve the sound of your headphone system, while also providing good functionality. You’ll be able to stream your music from streaming services or just your local discography, and it’ll do it with an exceptional quality.
If you’re still using your PC to play your music just like I did for years, you should definitely consider testing the Staccato and you’ll be surprised how much better the sound gets when compared to a PC. While the lack of Wi-Fi could be a deal-breaker for some of you, its focus on audio quality will surely reward you that slight inconvenience.
Big thanks to EarMen for providing the Staccato 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.
Founder of Ear Fidelity. I’ve been into audio for many years, working in production, distribution, retail, and marketing throughout my career. Now trying to revolutionize the art of reviewing audio gear, but one thing will never change: Music is the most important.