Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Headphone Amps

EarMen Angel Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier: Review

Can the rather basic EarMen Angel DAC/headphone amplifier compete with the best from iFI and Chord? It might be a better option for some with really difficult headphones.

EarMen Angel Portable Fully Balanced Hi-Res DAC/ Headphone Amplifier

A number of years ago, I was one of the first reviewers to be sent a production sample of the EarMen Sparrow and TR-Amp and felt that the latter was one of the best portable DAC/headphone amplifiers on the market; tone, presence, and its overall flow combined with a ridiculously low price of $249 USD made it one of the easiest products to recommend. It’s still a fantastic buy.

The new EarMen Angel is both a reflection of the current market and a genuine alternative to the Chord Mojo 2, iFi Diablo, and CEntrance M8v2 at a much more expensive asking price of $799 USD.

The Angel is manufactured in Europe and it is telling that almost all of its portable models have been named after winged creatures; that they chose such a heavenly name for it suggests a few things about its tonal balance.

Does the EarMen Angel find its mojo in the clouds or get a tad toasty with El Diablo smoking it with a wide variety of headphones?

EarMen Angel and TR-Amp front
EarMen Angel and TR-Amp (Front)


Unboxing the Angel reveals a rather compact DAC/headphone amplifier finished in a most striking blue anodized finish; iFi and EarMen have ditched more traditional finishes on some of their most recent offerings and it was a wise move.

The Angel is roughly the length and width of an iPhone 14 and almost 1-inch thick; the overall dimensions are 6″W x 2.5″H x 1″D and that makes it considerably larger than any Dongle DAC on the market.

What stands out almost immediately is the weight when removed from the packaging; 340 grams is not light for a portable DAC/headphone amplifier so you are unlikely to carry this in your shirt pocket.

The packaging includes the DAC/headphone amplifier, S/PDIF adapter, USB Type-C cable, and manual. Most users will want to add a USB OTG cable for connecting a phone or DAP as their primary source.

We recommend DD-Hifi for this as their products are over-built and under-priced.

It is also worth noting that with the assigned power and USB data ports, users wishing to charge while listening will require an additional cable. Some might find this inconvenient, but I prefer it because it means that when connected to a DAP or smartphone, the Angel cannot draw power from the device itself.

EarMen Angel and TR-Amp rear
EarMen Angel and TR-Amp (Rear)

Looking more closely at the Angel, we find that its physical construction is very similar to the TR-Amp with an aluminum tube body and front and rear plates attached by stainless allen head screws.  

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The design makes it easier to replace the battery yourself if that becomes an issue; whilst owners of the Chord Mojo 2 have to send the unit back to the manufacturer for replacement.

The sides of the chassis are also indented which makes it easier to grasp if you are carrying it in your hand.

EarMen designed the Angel as a desktop DAC/headphone amplifier and there are pre-installed feet at the corners on the underside of the chassis to prevent the unit from scratching your desk or table that it may be sitting on.

EarMen Angel Portable DAC Amp Front
EarMen Angel (Front)
EarMen Angel Portable DAC Amp Rear
EarMen Angel (Rear)

All of the inputs are on the rear panel including a pair of USB Type-C ports for charging and data, one pair of line outputs (3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced), and a single S/PDIF input.

The switch for selecting between the headphone amp (direct) or pre-amp (pre-out) has moved to the front panel of the unit. The front panel features a 4.4mm headphone port, 3.5mm headphone port with an LED indicator, gain button, and a large silver anodized aluminum volume knob at far right.  

The volume knob also serves as the power on/off switch.


Inside the unit, we find an XMOS USB receiver handling the input duties followed by an ESS9038Q2M DAC for decoding. This combination gives the Angel the ability to handle up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512 (and lower) as well as 16x MQA. 

The DAC feeds a fully balanced and differential amplifier section that can realistically be thought of as dual mono because the two channels are handled in parallel independent paths.  

EarMen Angel Portable DAC Amp Package Bottom

EarMen even hid a linear power supply in the unit to further improve the sound quality and dynamic range of the unit and it shows with the 120dB dynamic range and 0.004% THD+N. 

This is more impressive when the 8.5Vrms output level on high gain is included in those numbers; the single ended output delivers 7.2Vrms which gives the Angel enough power to drive even low sensitivity planar magnetic headphones like the Fostex T50rp Series with ease.

The unit has dual 3000mAh lithium batteries that provide 7 hours of playtime when using the balanced outputs at moderate listening levels.

EarMen does not specify battery life as it is highly dependent on listening levels, pre-amp vs head-amp, and single-ended or balanced output.  

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

In my tests listening at lower levels using the single-ended output, we were able to extend the battery life beyond 8 hours on a full charge. The charging time for a full drained unit is roughly 3 hours with a PD capable charger.


InputsUSB C FemaleData
 USB C FemaleCharging
OutputsSingle End3.5mm
Audio FormatsDSD256 DoP / Native DSD 512
 DXDUp to 768 kHz
 PCMUp to 768 kHz
 MQA Rendering,  MQA Full decodingOFS, MQA, MQA Studio, MQA Auth
EarMen Angel portable DAC Amp with Astell&Kern Kann MAX Alpha DAP
EarMen Angel portable DAC Amp with Astell&Kern Kann MAX Alpha DAP


I connected the Angel to my Astell & Kern Kann Alpha DAP using the previously mentioned USB OTG cable and broke out my Campfire Andromeda IEMs to test the single-ended output. 

With that much power, I was slightly concerned about hiss with sensitive IEMs. I also tried the Ultimate Ears Live and the new Letshuoer Cadenza (review coming soon) before switching to headphones. 

I tried the Beyerdynamic T5p, Fostex TH610, and HiFiMAN R9 closed back models and the Sennheiser HD6xx, HiFiMAN Ayra, and Neumann NDH-30 open back headphones to give the EarMen a wide range of challenges.

The Angel didn’t falter with any of the earphones or headphones I tried. On low gain and with volume turned well below the 50% mark, the Andromeda sounded quite good with no discernible hiss. 

The other IEMs all stayed with low gain and required only slightly more volume to achieve normal listening levels and it left a lot of headroom. Make no mistake, this may be a portable device but the output quality and power is capable of rivaling many desktop units.

Moving to headphones I found that I could still stay with low gain for all but the least sensitive models where the gain+ setting provided a bit more headroom.

The sound will fool some who expect the 9038 chip to sound a bit on the cool and thinner side; the Angel has a slight warmth to it that gives an otherwise very clean and accurate presentation a bit more weight without obstructing detail. 

The sound is quite organic with lush vocals and fluid strings. Piano is realistically represented as well. Somehow Earmen has found a way to take the organic sound of the TR-Amp with its Ti DAC and transplant it into the Angel with its ESS chip.

Bass response with most headphones was robust, well defined, and very detailed; it was my initial thought that the Angel was voiced to add additional emphasis in the low end, but the longer I listened with multiple sets of headphones and other portable units, it became clear that EarMen has built a portable headphone amplifier that can deliver more power and control in the lowest octaves compared to its rivals.

When you use the Angel with more difficult dynamic or planar headphones, you begin to realize that your headphones are capable of very strong low end response and that you’re not experiencing that with other products.

Portable DAC/headphone units don’t always reproduce music with the strongest dynamics and the ability to transition from the quietest moments in a selection to the loudest and most challenging is often undervalued.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The Angel might be one of the best in that regard; its ability to handle the changes in complex tracks and properly drive your headphones without ever sounding distorted or unable to keep instruments and vocalists in the right spots as the music becomes more demanding is superb.

EarMen Angel with Package


It’s fair to highlight the features offered by the competition including the ability to add Bluetooth and sound sculpting options, but do they really sound that much better?

The EarMen Angel is a more basic unit even with the pre-out feature, but it accomplishes everything it was designed to do exceptionally well. The controls are simple and easy to figure out, the battery performance is excellent, it can drive almost everything, and its sound quality rivals a number of more costly desktop units in a much smaller package.

Those looking for a portable DAC/headphone amplifier that can work with a wide variety of headphones, drive active loudspeakers, and become a reliable hub on the desktop that offers some of the best sound quality you can find at the price — need to put the EarMen Angel at the top of their audition list.

If the original EarMen TR-Amp impressed you — the Angel is a significant upgrade.

Where to buy: $799 at

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Headphone Amps

The iFi Audio iDSD Diablo 2 portable DAC/Headphone amplifier is the first to offer support for Bluetooth aptX Lossless.

Headphone Amps

More power, improved connectivity, and hi-res support for every relevant codec makes the iFi hip-dac 3 a real bargain at $199. iPhone 15 users...

Headphone Amps

Powerful, highly resolving, and one of the most understated looking stacks of high-end headphone gear around. The EarMen Tradutto stack is the real deal.

New Products

Wood ear cups, nanometer thin diaphragm, and they are easy to drive. The new HiFiMAN Arya Organic are also $300 less than the Stealth...

Headphone Amps

Not even its weight and somewhat unwieldy form factor can take away from the fact that the iFi hip-dac2 is one superior portable DAC/headphone...

Earbuds & In-Ear Headphones

$2,299 USD for IEMs? The Letshuoer Cadenza 12 might be one of the best we have heard in many years. Reference quality? Read on.


Do you hate using Dongle DACs because they drain your phone's battery? The Hidizs DH80s uses its own battery and can drive your IEMs...


CanJam NYC 2023 was a resounding success. A game changing event that proves high-end audio needs to evolve or miss a golden opportunity.


ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2024 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

SVS Bluesound PSB Speakers NAD Cambridge Audio Q Acoustics Denon Marantz Focal Naim Audio RSL Speakers