At CanJam NYC 2022, we were afforded the opportunity to try a number of new brands from Eastern Europe including Ferrum which is being manufactured in Poland by HEM; the Warsaw-based company was the former manufacturer of Mytek Audio which decided to open its own facilities in Poland and Brooklyn where the company is based. HEM is no longer involved with Mytek and currently represents Ferrum and Clarus in Europe.
Poland has become a hotbed of new high-end audio companies taking advantage of newfound interest in Eastern Europe and the modernization of its economy. The Warsaw Hi-Fi Show is now the second biggest high-end audio trade event in Europe.
Depending on the situation in Ukraine/Russia in Q4, we may take the opportunity to attend this show for the first time and I promise to put my Polish language skills to some use.
Ferrum and Mytek are excellent examples of this new generation of Polish engineering in the audio space and portend only good things about the viability of the category in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic.
Ferrum is celebrating its second year and used CanJam NYC 2022 to introduce its third product; the rather minimalist ERCO DAC/Headphone Amplifier.
The name ERCO (pronounced as ERT-so) is taken from the Esperanto word for “ore.” Like Ferrum’s own name, it pays homage to the rich history of iron mining and metallurgic craftsmanship that has been a specialty of the Warsaw area for centuries.
Priced at $2,395, the ERCO is Ferrum’s most feature rich and expensive product to-date. It includes a DAC and borrows technology from Ferrum’s flagship headphone amplifier called the OOR ($1,995 at Audio46). Although OOR costs less, that’s mainly because it forgoes a DAC in favor of using higher end parts and refinement for the audiophile purist.
Either headphone amp can be used with Ferrum’s HYPSOS hybrid power supply ($1,195) that claims to combine the best features of both linear and switching power supplies. The HYPSOS can also power other brands with a simple revolution of a knob. This software based operation is unique to HYPSOS and said to be an industry first.
The ERCO’s DAC utilizes uses a custom designed ESS Sabre ES9028PRO chipset and includes support for MQA, DSD and 32-bit/384kHz PCM digital audio playback.
The rear panel features a USB Type-C port which allows it to be easily connected to computers and smartphones. Optical and Coaxial digital inputs are also available for connectivity to CD players and other audio sources.
My listening impressions are based on a 30 minute listening session with both Meze Audio and Audeze headphones which was largely favorable; the ERCO is a smooth customer in the treble with very little excess energy and I found the overall tonal balance to be quite warm.
In some ways, it’s the exact opposite of the some of the Mytek equipment that I’ve listened to over the years. The Mytek gear is more incisive and faster sounding with almost every type of music. The biggest differences would be the overall clarity and sensation of power with similar headphones. My preference would be the Mytek sound with darker sounding planar headphones but that’s just me in this case.
“Ferrum’s team has deep and intimate experience with digital-analogue conversion,” said Roy Feldstein, managing partner of VANA, the brand’s American distributor. “For ERCO, they rewrote the code for the specialized ARM processor from scratch to optimize all digital ports (USB, coaxial and optical S/PDIF) for audio and make MQA function more efficiently. Ferrum’s long-running relationship with industry leader ESS led them to choose one of their DAC chips for this design.”
Proprietary, Fully Balanced Amplification — A premium IC power design, built around a quartet of Linear Technology LT1210 current feedback amps, was fine-tuned with discrete elements to mirror the OOR’s performance as closely as possible.
Smart Integration — The new DAC circuitry is married with flagship technologies developed by Ferrum for its siblings HYPSOS and OOR. Like the OOR, ERCO has a truly balanced topology that incorporates the critical technologies from OOR’s headphone amplifier and power section designs.
Suited for High-End Personal Audio — The ERCO’s promise is the same as Ferrum’s other designs: No coloration, low distortion, high dynamics, no fatigue — a transparent sound signature set against a background of absolute silence.
Inputs/Outputs — ERCO features one analogue input (RCA) and three digital inputs (optical, coaxial or USB-C). Connect your favorite headphones to the balanced 4.4mm or unbalanced 6.35mm headphone jack outputs. Alternatively, use ERCO to connect to powered loudspeakers via the XLR or RCA outputs.
Optimized Digital Inputs — Specially programmed USB, coaxial and optical S/PDIF ports, optimized for audio.
Truly Balanced — Like the OOR, ERCO’s signal path is balanced all the way through from the early D/A stage (and becomes truly balanced using the RCA inputs).
Optimized MQA — ARM-optimized MQA decoder and renderer.
Made for HYPSOS — Though ERCO offers excellent out-of-the-box performance, it is made to excel above and beyond when used together with HYPSOS.
Price & Availability
- Ferrum ERCO Headphone Amp DAC is available now for $2,395 at audio46.com.
- Ferrum OOR Headphone Amp is available now for $1,995 at Audio46.
- Ferrum HYPSOS Hybrid Power System is available now for $1,195 at Audio46.
|Headphone output gain:||Balanced -5.8 dB, +6 dB, +17.8 dB;|
single ended -11.8 dB, 0 dB, +11.8 dB
|Balanced -4 dB, + 6dB, +16 dB;|
single ended -10 dB, 0 dB, 10 dB
|Operation:||Fully balanced, |
proprietary IC power amp
|Fully balanced, |
proprietary discrete power amp technology
|Power inputs:||5.5/2.5 mm DC connector center positive; |
proprietary FPL 4-pin DC connector (FPL)
|XLR, RCA, 2.5 mm DC connector centre positive;|
proprietary 4-pin DC connector
|Analog inputs:||RCA (Consumer level; Pro option with future software update)||Balanced 4-pin XLR, 6.35 mm jack|
|Digital inputs:||USB-C (all formats); S/PDIF optical (up to 24-bit/96 kHz, DoP64); Coaxial (up to 24-bit/192 kHz, DoP64)||–|
|DAC chip:||ESS Sabre ES9028PRO||–|
|PCM sample rates:||44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96 / 176.4 / 192 / 352.8 / 384 kHz||–|
|DSD sample rates:||2.8224 / 3.072 / 5.6448 / 6.144 / 11.2896 / 12.288 MHz||–|
|MQA:||Decoder and renderer||–|
|DAC resolution:||PCM up to 384k@32bit; DSD up to 256 (11.2 MHz / 12.2 MHz)||–|
|Headphone jack outputs:||Balanced 4.4 mm (TRRRS); unbalanced 6.35 mm (TRS)||Balanced 4-pin XLR, 6.35 mm jack|
|Line outputs:||Balanced XLR; unbalanced RCA (both Consumer level; Pro with future software update)|
|Volume control:||Analogue with bypass option (bypass for line outputs only)|
|Frequency response:||10 Hz – 30 kHz (+/- 0.05 dB)10 Hz – >200 kHz (+/- 1 dB)||20 Hz – 100 kHz 0.1 dB|
|Output power unbalanced:||300 mW into 300 Ω; |
1.7 W into 50 Ω
|400 mW into 300 Ω, |
2 W into 60 Ω
|Output power balanced:||1.2 W into 300 Ω; |
6.1 W into 50 Ω
|1.600 mW into 300 Ω, |
8 W into 60 Ω
|THD on balanced output:||< 0.00018% / -115 dB, 1 mW into 16 Ω;|
< 0.00018% / -115 dB, 100 mW into 16 Ω
|THD on unbalanced output:||< 0.00032% / -110 dB, 1 mW into 16 Ω;|
< 0.00057% / -105 dB, 100 mW into 16 Ω
|Dynamic range analog:||130 dB (A-weighted)|
|Dynamic range digital:||120 dB (A-weighted)|
|Input impedance:||47 kΩ||94 kΩ|
|Output impedance unbalanced:||22 Ω on pre-amp||22 Ω on pre-amp|
|Output impedance balanced:||44 Ω on pre-amp||44 Ω on pre-amp|
|Output impedance Headphones:||< 0.3 Ω||< 0.3 Ω|
|Power consumption:||Idle <15 W||Idle <15 W|
|Power adapter:||100-240V AC to 22-30V DC||100/240V AC to 22-30V DC|
|Dimensions (W x D x H):||21.7 cm x 20.6 cm x 5 cm / 8.6” x 8.1” x 2.0”||21.7 cm x 20.6 cm x 5 cm / 8.6” x 8.1” x 2.0”|
|Weight:||1.8 kg / 3.97 lbs||1.8 kg / 3.97 lbs|
March 7, 2022 at 1:19 pm
Cue Charlie Brown, missing the football and flying through the air – “AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGH!”
Even though ’tis missing Vu Meters, this DAC/Amp is gorgeous to behold and yes, would that ’twas I that be holdin’ it. As always, looks matter. The first thing we notice about some thing or some one is its looks.
Rare exceptions for me include the last time I attended T.H.E. and I heard piano coming from a room. Not “recorded” piano, mind you. Piano. I walked toward the sound and upon entering the rather large room I found no piano.
Just people and some equipment and a pair of speakers that should have been called “Mansfields” after the loverly and gracious Jayne. With good reason. They were large, beautiful and made me smile just looking at them. I heard the music first and followed it. The sound was the lure and the hook was set when I saw the “Mansfields”.
I can not afford this piece of perfection but neither am I jealous of those that can. What is that saying…”Jealousy is when you count someone else’s blessings instead of your own”? Indeed.
Fortunately I can fall back upon my disdain for a certain “feature set” that I am honor bound to eschew. Honor bound with a sense of humor. Yup.
I still want those “Mansfields”…
March 7, 2022 at 2:36 pm
The Mytek stuff is better.
And it has meters. Digital ones but it does look cool from across the room.