EarMen is the derivative brand of Auris Audio with a focus on portable audio designed to bring world-class sound to a more portable form factor. While the earlier EarMen offerings have consisted of USB DACs and Amps of a smaller footprint, they have recently released the EarMen CH-Amp which is a balanced capable amplifier designed to be used as part of a desktop set-up.
At $1480, the EarMen CH-Amp is aimed at the mid-fi price range with a desktop-class tack setup designed to power all the modern sets of headphones. The CH-Amp comes complete with a PSU-3 linear power supply and a 3.8W maximum power output.
The EarMen CH-Amp arrives in premium shelf packaging with a depiction of the stacked amplifier as well the power supply amidst a speckled pattern backdrop. The outer sleeve covers a black magnetic latch which houses foam filler inserts that cover the CH-Amp stacked unit. There is ample layers of protection for the unit here which EarMen have done well to avoid damages and scuffs in international transits.
Also included is the PSU-3 linear power supply, a remote control as well as the user manual. Overall, the packaging is reminiscent of Fiio’s take on their premium range – clear, easy to decipher and uniform in appearance.
The Design & Build
It was interesting to see just how compact the EarMen CH-Amp was in real life as in certain pictures – it does seem larger in appearance. This is a welcomed changed given how less of a footprint it covers based on some larger alternatives such as Schiit’s Mjolnir 2 & Gungnir Multibit stack.
The units are milled from a full aluminum chassis and are uniform black in appearance. Overall, the units look smart and both possess rubberised feet allowing the venting holes to offload heat. The design language is clean and industrial looking with some pointed edges and angular designs compared to some chamfered edges present in other stacks.
At the heart of the CH-Amp unit is an OLED display with a triangular array of buttons comprising a select button, gain button and IR receiver. Besides this, is the volume knob which doubles as a power switch and mute button.
At the back of the device, the Ch-Amp hosts a range of input and output options including a balanced 4.4mm input/Pre Output and RCA Single Ended Pre Output, a Line 1 and Line 2 RCA Single Ended Input. The PSU features a Power Supple Unit Input Voltage Selector and Inlet.
Changing the input modalities can easily be done by pressing the select button at the front of the device or with the supplied remote control. When restarted, the CH-Amp defaults to a balanced input mode with the volume near zero.
The useful addition of the remote control is quite rare to find in an amp, especially of the EarMen CH-Amp’s size. It displays an array of buttons which are also found on the front of the device including an ON/OFF button, Mute, Select buttons, Volume buttons and USB C Charging Port.
The CH-Amp is a fully balanced headphone amp as well as pre-amp – delivering up to 3.8W output power. The device incorporates a composite op-amp which aims to improve circuitry performance and off better DC output-offset. The SoundPlus OPA1642 operation amplifers together with MELF low noise resistors are Earmen’s way to get a neutral sound. The Ch-Amp boasts remarkable specs with an extremely low total harmonic distortion as well as excellent signal-to-noise ratio.
The separate PSU-3 is a linear power supply offers protection against current overload, short circuit and thermal overload. According to Earmen, it is made without compromise using the best components and latest circuit design for a simple, reliable and minimal noise design.
The Earmen CH-Amp offers a cohesive and mature sound with a great sense of space and scale amidst a pitch-black background. It is natural with some hint of warmth as well as excellent technicalities.
At the lower end, the Earmen CH-Amp presents a visceral bass that follows suit from its natural timbre while excelling in dynamics and punch. The CH-Amp delivers great sub-bass region with plenty of texturing as well as a thick presentation. All the hallmark traits of resolution and musicality are present here and the CH-Amp has certainly delivered well on this aspect.
Moving on to the midrange – the CH-Amp delivers a mature sound with excellent transparency, center staging and depth. It leans towards a more neutral tuning with excellent staging and a black background. Notes feel natural and effortless in the overall sound mix. One thing to note is that because the CH-Amp is transparent – it will play up to the strength of the headphones without adding any ill-perceived colorations.
At the higher end, the CH-Amp follows suit with its transparent, dynamic and precise sound. While this section is spacious and airy, there is never any stridencies or glare that ESS-Sabre DACs often portray.
Soundstage & Imaging
The Earmen CH-Amp is spacious and airy in nature with good proportions of sonic projections. It is not the widest sound but has adequate width and depth with excellent layering capabilities.
Chord Mojo 2 ($725)
The Mojo 2 represents the company’s popular portable DAC-Amp with fulfils a smaller footprint than the Earmen Angel before it. On the face of it, the CH-Amp offers better three-dimensionality and a more neutral and transparent sound compared to the more musical sounding Mojo 2.
Of the two, the Earmen CH-Amp delivers a more perceived open and spacious soundstage. The Mojo 2, however, is able to deliver a great analog sound from its more portable form factor.
EarMen Angel ($799)
While the EarMen Angel is a more portable DAC/Headphone amplifier, it was interesting to compare it with the CH-Amp owing to it being from the same audio brand. Sound wise, the CH-Amp is the more natural of the two with the Angel placing a bit more emphasis on defined leading edge transients and brightness. Both offer good staging but expectedly, the CH-Amp is the more airy and spacious of the two offerings.
Both the CH-Amp and Angel have very low distortion with a pitch-black background. While
The Earmen CH-Amp is an excellent proposition from the audio brand with its mature and cohesive sound. It is a good fully balanced headphone amplifier which allows transducers to shine with a transparent and smooth approach. It is also impressive to see the pitch-black background alongside the detail that the CH-Amp exudes.
With its excellent workmanship and aluminum chassis, the CH-Amp stands product in any desktop audio set up. Particularly impressive is its use of a linear low noise power supply which use some of the best components and latest circuit design for optimal efficiency.