EarMen Eagle: When an Eagle soars, you pay attention.
Pros: EarMen build
Cons: Compared to others, maybe pricey?
One-dimensional, unlike Sparrow
EarMen Eagle ($129): When an Eagle soars, you pay attention.
Intro: I have had the pleasure of auditioning the Auris Audio Euterpe as my beginning to the Auris/EarMen world. Following that were the fantastic TR-Amp and Sparrow products from EarMen. When Miroslav contacted me to audition and review the Eagle, I wholeheartedly agreed as the TR-Amp is my go-to portable desktop amp and the Sparrow travels with me everywhere in my go-to bag. With a couple of differences, one could rightly think of the Eagle as a slimmed down version of the Sparrow. But it isn’t. Using a slightly “lower” Sabre chip along with a single 3.5se headphone jack, the Eagle also connects by USB-A.
While the unit on hand was given to me, it is understood that the Eagle may be asked back for at anytime or sent to another. Until then the unit is mine to keep, but not sell. All that will be provided by me is an open, honest review. I would have it no other way.
|Output:||3.5 mm Stereo|
|Stereo 3.5mm:||16 Ω||32 Ω||150 Ω|
|Power:||1V/62 mW||1.4V/62 mW||2V/27mW|
|DSD:||64 / 128 DoP|
|PCM:||Up to 384 kHz|
|Dimensions L x W x H||55 x 22 x 8 mm / 2.16” x 0.86” x 0.31”|
|Weight:||15 gr / 0.033 lbs|
|Supported OS:||Win10, Apple iOS, Apple macOS, Android|
Chip: ESS ES9280 C PRO
In The Box:
USB-A to USB-C cable
Whizzer Kylin HE01 ($79)
Bonus IE & BIE Pro ($20 & $69)
Empire Ears Hero ($1349)
iPhone XS Max
EarMen Sparrow ($199)
Buena Vista Social Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Lumped together, those who are familiar with EarMen will know the unboxing is simple and straightforward. A foam insert holds the Eagle and the case. Easy and well protected.
Build is as expected with the other EarMen products. Simple and well built. Small and portable, one could easily connect it to your Smartphone without bother. Hooked to your laptop, it takes up minimal space and could easily take up less if needed. Not as slippery as the appearance would suggest, the Eagle is a good-looking device, and their logo lights up to represent the color of the frequency response given; range dependent upon DSD, DXD & PCM.
One of the best aspects of an EarMen product is the ease of use aspect. For MacBook’s, the unit is plug and play. Some PC’s do need a driver installed, but I do believe that is changing. Ease of use is an EarMen staple and one could rightly state they were at the forefront of plug and play dongles.
One can now choose from roughly 50+ dongles as this seems to be the latest trend. One of the first (and still quite good, with their second iteration) was the Audirect Beam. Rough around the edged, it gave the user a quick boost of audio quality for their Smartphone. Ranging in price from $10 to a couple of hundred, the plethora offered is mind boggling. A user is currently sifting through many for a quite large review (some I have never heard of…) and while I applaud the effort, find that by the time it is done will be outdated and quite hard to discern differences. Good on him though, and I wish him luck. As for the EarMen, without volume controls you are limited to the volume control mechanisms of your device. No worry as the boost of power from the Eagle is minimal (sub-70mW at best). The real benefit is the audio support of a better DAC set up. And while many Smartphones are fast approaching audiophile territory you really cannot hook your Smartphone up to a DAP or laptop without it looking silly (and rendering it essentially useless as a device).
This is where the Eagle can come in. Giving a cleaner sound with a slight mid-forward and up push, the Eagle is meant for commuting or high-noise backgrounds. Providing excellent air between the notes and very good clarity, the Eagle does its job.
I will state upfront that I really like the Sparrow and the TR-Amp. The Sparrow allows me to utilize my 2.5bal cables on my Smartphone making for a quite pleasant listening experience. The TR-Amp doesn’t need it. Power is its game. And here is where the least expensive of the three can really make its mark. Simple of operation and use, it provides about 70-75% of the sound that the Sparrow does for $70 less. Still over $100, to me that price is warranted for the sound is so good. Chan Chan from the Buena Vista Social Club sound rich and vibrant with that mid-forward push. The users will have to decide at what point they stop, but when you reach a certain “affordable” level are you really getting the benefit or not? I have another dongle in for review and will of course compare it; but not here.
I find the soundstage expansive and high, with excellent depth across the board. The Eagle is one fine dongle and works to enhance the source you are hooked to. Going back to back with the Sparrow, my ears are not good enough to gauge a difference when utilizing the 3.5se on each. Take that as you may. What I can say is that the Eagle works to present the music closer to how the artist intended, with a slight boost of mids. That does carry over into the treble section as well, but I never found it to be tiring or tiresome. Meant to provide a cleaner platform for the sound as it travels the path from source to your ear, the Eagle does just that without bother.
As stated, many new Smartphones have latched onto the better audio quality from within, reaping the benefit from what I respectfully call the “normal consumer.” But in conversation with reviewer peers, we have noticed the sheer explosion of dongles of late. Much like the silly driver war of five years ago, and the mega-priced DAP’a of the last two years, manufacturers are realizing that an affordable easy to use dongle may be their meal ticket. Will this render DAP’s to the dinosaur historical elegy? It might make a dent in the low end for the normal consumer who might have been thinking about an affordable DAP because their geek audio friends espoused the virtues of those; but I think that misses the point.
As stated in another recent review, the sole purpose is to enjoy your music, no matter the source. If you are happy with that, then you are satiated and satisfied. If you want to spend mega, then do it. But having affordable, utilitarian options such as a dongle make perfect sense for the consumer and the manufacturer. It is a win-win.
What should you spend? Well, that is up to you. Go cheap if you wish, but many have espoused the virtues of a certain order Odonata, infraorder Anisoptera brand. I have not had the pleasure of hearing those but am thoroughly satiated with the EarMen Sparrow and Eagle. To me they set the bar early, and still do. The saying, “you get what you pay for” certainly rings true and you must be the judge of whether the cost is justified. I think it is, for the Eagle will stay with you a long time and across many devices, even when those devices are upgraded. The Eagle is my benchmark at this price and should be given a serious look if you are in the dongle market for its cleanliness of sound and opening of soundstage from normal Smartphones.
I thank Miroslav for the continued support. I am a fan of their products, and wish them continued success. The products are worth it.