Gear, Reviews

REVIEW: EarMen Eagle makes audiophile mobile audio more accessible

REVIEW: EarMen Eagle makes audiophile mobile audio more accessible

Sound impressions

If you’ve read my Sparrow review, you’ll know I gave high praise to its balanced sound quality, and while the single ended quality was still very good, balanced was clearly better. With no balanced out on the Eagle, I was worried this would mean a corresponding drop in sound quality. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Equipped with a new-generation ESS Sabre ES9281 DAC generating up to 62mW of power at 32 ohms with less than 0.002% distortion, the Eagle is no slouch when it comes to audiophile-friendly specs.  According to EarMen:

Super LOW ESR tantal capacitors, high grade components in power-supply design and four layer gold-plated PCB technology from the PC and smart phone industry, EarMen Eagle reduces the noise to minimum.

While not reaching the same sonic heights as the Sparrow in full flight, the Eagle presents a beautifully balanced soundscape that’s neither harsh nor bright, fairly neutral, and very detailed. It easily powers all my IEMs without any issues, but I wouldn’t go plugging any hard-to-drive full size headphones with any expectation other than disappointment. This is a mobile-only device, as far as I can tell, and while it will technically drive larger gear, there are far better solutions for that.

I’m not going to break down the sound character of the Eagle based on the usual bass/mids/treble delineations, because as far as I can tell, the Eagle will do very little to change the sound character of whichever IEM you plug into it. It’s very transparent, which is a good thing, and while it generously delivers smoothness and detail, that’s because it’s made well and tuned well, with quality parts, not because it’s shaping the sound in a particular way.  

The big question for most users, I would think, is if the Eagle makes sense when most modern smartphones already have fairly decent audio output, and many even come with their own headphone-friendly dongles?

For me, that depends on what type of person you are, and how seriously you take your music. Without the MQA decoding capability of the Sparrow, the Eagle won’t help you when it comes to Tidal’s MQA unfolding. But it will ensure your lossless and hi-res music files (including those from Tidal) play back at the highest-possible resolution. It will also give you the peace of mind that you’re using a recognised, high-quality DAC and amp, which can only benefit the sound, especially if you’ve invested good money in a high-quality wired earphone.

Turn the page for my closing thoughts…