Earmen - the Sparrow impressions & review



The Earmen Sparrow. Perhaps the most versatile in their portable line up. The TR-Amp being a bit larger and the Eagle more aimed at computers perhaps.
But then i tried the Sparrow with my sons gaming PC as it needs no drivers installed and we were both floored by the difference.
From flat to detailed, rich and 3D.

I think that really showed its potential.





I have a love hate relationship with dongles. Or external dac amps. For ages i swore by them as daps were in their infancy and had the worst user interfaces and all sorts of problems at the time, whereas i could hook up my ipod Touch with the Fostex hp_p1 or CEntrance Hifi-m8 v1 and Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr and instantly be in audio Nirvana.

These days of course daps have come a long way from the early days (which are not really that long ago), better user interfaces and more power. As for dongles of todays stellar calibre many of us would have been thrilled at such an affordable and small workable device to pair with our phone in the days before streaming.
There was of course the Dragonfly.

I am lazy, so as daps are much better these days i usually use one as i play my music from a micro sd card mor often than any other way.

There certainly is a place for small dongles or bluetooth dongle/dacs in todays market of streaming services and the popularity of phones as a source. Using a high quality dongle one can squeeze more out of your source - if you phone is not one of the models that chokes before it reaches the dongle.
Choose wisely.

Dongle or dap - you decide.

Sparrow is fast becoming one to love after the success i found when i connected it to my sons pc and saw his jaw drop after months of gaming from the head phone jack.



I tried connecting the Earmen to several devices without problems. I generally settled on the Hidizs AP80 as the size and form was comparable. Plus the dac in the Sparrow was a step up and made it worthwhile.
When i have used the Hidizs AP80 with other dac amp dongles it has always connected easily with no fuss, another plus there.

A key point with dongles is some of the models had a volume jump at a crucial point in the volume pot. This largely seems to have been solved across the board.



Statistics and specifications.

Would you look at that. Nothing less than a ESS ES9281pro dac. 
The TR-Amp by Earmen has the ES9038Q2M dac so you know they aren't playing around.

Balanced and unbalanced outputs.

Of course cue the ‘its not just the dac its the implementation’ which most readers already know anyway, Earmen with their roots in Auris have a rich experience to draw upon . The TR-Amp has been well received world wide and justly so.

TR- Amp review:




The Sparrow is placed between the Eagle and the TR-Amp. Priced at US$199

3.5mm single ended and 2.5mm balanced outputs. Squeee!

It includes two cables for connection to a computer or USB C to USB C device.
One could probably use the USB A to connect to a iphone via cck. But more on that later.

I vould go on. But you can read for yourself or visit their site for more information: 





I stuck mainly to IEMs for my listening sessions and saved headphones for the more beefy TR-Amp. It seemed logical.

Excellent sound is what one would expect from recent ESS sabre dacs. No more of that Sabre glare from the early days. 
And the Earmen Sparrow delivers on that.

As mentioned rich, detailed and a sphere like 3d effect is possible with the right earphones.

Umbalanced you get a standard uncolored sound. ‘Not bad, not great’, kind of inside you head.

Balanced is where it comes alive. In the sense one might think of it as not choking, or holding back the earphones. More spacious, dynamic, that 3D slightly holographic outer head sphere. Not exactly a straight sound but with a little something that gives it a bit more body and feeling overall.
All the micro goodness and various audiophile buzz words insert here.

The dac gives a certain sound, but the amp part makes a big difference. Sound stage and overall energy of an earphone can be let loose to its full potential or held back by a device.

I think the best performance on the Earmen Sparrow (for the totl iems i was using) is the balanced output.

Background noise is fairly black to non existent. 

I found a difference from the stock cable and the ddhifi usb c cable. The stock usb c cable was more thick sounding, ddhifi more natural.
*with the Hidizs. With the iphone not much cable sound difference. Go figure.

But but its all 0 and 1s etc. ok ok ✅ 

You just stay with the stock cable then.



For those who want to experiment:

ddhifi TC05 usb c cable

You might also want try the TC28i if you have an iphone unless you already have a C to lightning cable. I have a few but would have had to have dug em out. 

‘Its working, its working’. 





Stock cable above,
ddhifi cable below.




Also tested it with iphone and ipod touch (pictured)



Earmen Sparrow, ddhifi usb c to lightning adapter (TC28i) and Meze Rai Solo. Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr



With Apple CCK.



Earmen Sparrow with my sons PC gaming set up. It went from flat with hardly any details to a detailed 3D experience. Even i was quite surprised at the difference.
He was in the middle of a game and just opened his eyes and mouth wide and smiled.




All in all another solid release from Earmen. 

There are many choices to have these days in dacs and dongles. 

I could whip out a few here and exhaustively compare them, but to be honest i am already exhausted.

I like the sound i get from the Earmen. I do believe its one of the decent choices from amongst the many options out there - trusting my well tested funky ruined old ears.

I was able to listen my usual choices of music for extended periods with my favorite IEMs without any complaints. If the device or earphones sucks they soon languish on the ‘to do’ shelf. 
Even though i enjoy totl daps these days i did find myself returning easily for more of the Earmen Sparrow.

It is a dongle well done and is a decent choice amongst a sea of them.

Lifes too short to torture ones ears with bad or mediocre gear and sounds.

Teh Sparrow. I give it some stars




Thanks to Earmen for sending the Sparrow to Head pie for review

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