Earmen Sparrow English Review


Hawk or Sparrow?




Construction and Design
Packaging and Accessories




  • Enormous sound quality by balanced output.
  • Tiny size.
  • Power for your size.
  • Very attractive external design and construction.
  • Internal construction and components chosen to maximise sound Quality




  • It is not compatible with versions of Windows prior to Windows 10.
  • It does not have ASIO drivers.
  • The high power that the device can develop implies a consequent higher power consumption, in the devices to which it is connected.
  • It does not have a Lightning to USB Type C cable.
  • Absence of silicone cover for protection.
  • The connectors are not gold-plated


Purchase Link




Link to the Store






Earmen is a very curious brand, which never ceases to surprise me. When you enter its website, you can see its design, how it is built, its photos and, of course, its products. And they are the true soul of their philosophy: «Enjoy Music Without Limitations», «Simply Is The Best», «Portable High Performance Audio Devices for All», «Portable Audio Freedom For All»… These are some of the phrases that one can find, browsing their site. After reading its «About» section, several things strike me: It is not only a «new» brand, but its staff has «decades of experience in developing high-end audio amplification and processing equipment». The products have been «designed and engineered by Milomir «Miki» Trosic, founder of sister company Auris Audio». It is based in the United States, specifically in Chicago, IL. But they are manufactured in Europe, specifically in Serbia, as you can read on the box. Finally, Earmen’s motivation is based on satisfying those audiophiles who run away from Bluetooth technology and are looking for the best listening experience. We (of course, I include myself in them), don’t care about cables, we care about quality. But size does matter and so does ease of use. And don’t forget about design and elegance. In this sense, Earmen has hit the nail on the head, providing products of the highest quality, impressive and simple in design, trying to reduce the size and operation to the maximum. This is why Earmen is a very serious company, but also one with a great sense of humour: from Chicago to Europe, including the name of its products: Donald DAC, TR-Amp, Eagle, Sparrow… (Clear allusions to politicians, cartoon characters, predators that eat dragonflies, etc…), Earmen, never ceases to surprise me.

On this occasion, the product that I am going to review fulfils all the features of Earmen’s philosophy: Sparrow is tiny, beautiful, powerful, simple and sounds… Well, I will explain that below, along with other things, of course.

I want to thank EarMen for giving me this great opportunity to enjoy their products in exchange for my humble opinion.





  • DAC: ES9281PRO
  • Dynamic Range: 124 dB
  • THD+N: -112 dB
  • Input: USB Type C female
  • Output: 3.5mm Audio, 2.5mm Balanced
  • Power Output 2.5mm: 2.0 V RMS at 32 Ω. 4.0 V RMS at 600 Ω.
  • Power Output 3.5mm: 1.4 V RMS at 32 Ω. 2.0V RMS at 600 Ω.
  • Audio formats: DSD 64/120 DOP. DXD 384/352.5 kHz. PCM up to 32 bits 384 kHz. MQA Rendering up to 384 kHz.
  • Weight: 12 gr.





The Earmen Sparrow comes in a relatively large box for its size. Its dimensions are 204x124x23mm. It is black with white letters. On the main side is the logo, brand and model, on the top. In the centre there is a realistic photo, at real size, of the main face of the product and its top and bottom views, where the connections are located. Below, in smaller letters, you can read the description of the product. The box is sealed in cellophane and has a tamper evident on each opening. On the back side are the product characteristics, the different logos of the supported audio formats, a QR Code and an EAN13, as well as the origin, place of manufacture and the brand’s WEB address.

On the inside of the box, there is little: a large soft foam mould, which contains two USB cables (Type C to Type C, both cores and Type C to Standard-A). The size of both cables, not counting the connectors, ranges from approximately 76mm of Type C to Type C to 84mm of PC cable. As a curiosity, it is recommended that the connector that has the inscription in white letters, of the brand, be connected to the DAC/Amp. Finally, there is also a guarantee sheet and instructions with the specifications.

The presentation is sober, elegant and the accessories are the minimum required. Some silicone or plastic cover, would not have been bad, to avoid scratching the product and protect it from possible falls.



Construction and Design


The Sparrow is a tiny, lightweight but sturdy aluminium tablet, whose structure has been manufactured using CNC technology. The size is 42x22x8mm. Both sides are protected by glass. All its edges are rounded. On the upper side you can read EarMen above and Sparrow below, in almost silvery letters. In the centre is the white logo of the brand. Below it there is an LED that lights up in different colours, to indicate its status. On the back side, at the top is the MQA logo, in the middle is the Hi-Res logo and below is the logo of the brand, model, CE certificate, where the headquarters is (Chicago) and where it has been manufactured (Europe). On the upper edge is the USB Type C female connection and on the lower edge, the two headphone sockets, the 3.5mm on the left and the 2.5mm on the right. Neither connector is gold-plated. Neither are the cable connectors. Their sleeves are made of black aluminium. Its cables are covered with a braided textile fabric.

The interior is protected from interference, thanks to its aluminium construction. Its PCB is made up of 4 gold-plated layers, with the intention of avoiding losses in sound quality. They also use Super LOW ESR tantalum capacitors, to reduce noise to a minimum. But the star product inside is the Sabre ES9281PRO chip, top of the range of the ESS series. This DAC is the first USB product to have integrated hardware to reproduce MQA, as well as reaching 124 dB in dynamic range and having a THD+N of -112 dB.

As a particularity, many components have been manufactured in companies close to its centre, except the components Made In China.

After all this information about the Sparrow, it is worth mentioning the fantastic and delicate finish of its chassis, its small size and its insignificant weight. It is hard to believe that something so small has so much power, in addition to the two headphone outputs. It is clear that in that body it has not been possible to include volume buttons, nor any other extra functionality, other than that of decoding and amplifying the sound in the best possible way.





Earmen Sparrow is a DAC/Amp with USB connection. Connected to a personal computer or laptop, either Windows 10 or Apple macOS, it does not need drivers and becomes a powerful sound card. On the other hand, it is not compatible with Windows 7 or Windows 8. It also does not have ASIO drivers. It can also be connected to an Android or Apple iOS smartphone. Some Androids may require a USB OTG cable. In my case, with my Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro, I have only needed the Type C to Type C USB cable, which comes as standard. Similarly, with the iPhone, the Lightning To USB Adapter cable may be necessary.

It can also be connected to a compatible DAP. Of the ones I have, it is compatible with the Tempotec V1-A and with the HiBy R3 Pro, this being the source with which I have obtained the best sound. Connected to my laptop with W10, using Foobar2000, I had to configure it as WASAPI (event) to work properly. With my Smartphone and the APP HiBy music it works deluxe, being able to choose the volume in the most appropriate way.

The conclusion in this section is that the ease of use has predominated, compared to a more optimal sound quality, connected to a PC. The absence of drivers allows for such ease of use and installation, but it is clear that the ASIO drivers provide a superior exclusivity of use than WASAPI. On the other hand, as a user (still) of W7 for its stability, ease of use and other personal issues as a code programmer… I have to criticize the impossibility of using the Sparrow on my main computer.





The Sparrow continues its philosophy of ease of use: it has no buttons, no battery and there is only a multicolour LED on the top. It lights up white when connected, green when playing PCM/DXD/DSD, magenta with MQA and stays red to indicate it is not connected.

According to my tests, the Sparrow has two modes of automatic gain. It seems that if it is connected to the source device with no load connected, it is put in high gain mode, being able to obtain the maximum possible voltage. If, on the contrary, you first connect a headphone and then connect it to the source, the Sparrow calibrates the connected impedance, setting itself in the corresponding mode. In any case, and due to the high power that Sparrow is capable of developing, I recommend that the volume of the source is low so as not to damage the connected headphones.

The absence of volume buttons can be an advantage or a disadvantage. Such absence benefits a unique volume control from the source. If you have a volume control, my advice is that you should turn the source to maximum (provided this does not cause a negative influence or decrease in quality) and control the volume through the device. If it had volume control, it would have been compatible with the DAP xDuoo X3II as well, since it detects it but sets its output via USB always to maximum volume, as if it were a fixed line output. In this case, the absence of volume controls on the Sparrow implies a disadvantage. In all other cases, for me, it’s an advantage.





It is a pleasure to be able to say that Sparrow’s measurements are those specified, at least what can be seen with my humble system of measurements. For the 3.5mm output, you can see that at 32Ω, the Sparrow delivers that 1.4V RMS without any saturation in the signal, during all the frequency spectrum. With 100Ω connected, 1.8V RMS is reached from 150Ω at the specified 2V RMS.


Measures to 32Ω (Audio output 3.5mm):


In the first image, saturation at maximum volume is observed to 32Ω, but, after lowering the volume slightly, a clean signal can be observed at 1.4V RMS.



Measurements to 100Ω (Audio output 3.5mm):


Something similar to 100Ω. The first capture shows a slight saturation at maximum volume and after lowering it a little, it is observed that the measurements are precise at 1.8V.



Measurements at 300Ω (Audio output 3.5mm):


No problem to 300Ω.



Measurements at 620Ω (Audio output 3.5mm):


Also not to 620Ω.



Measurements without load (Audio output 3.5mm):



Measures to 32Ω (Balanced Output 2.5mm):


The same applies to the 2.5mm balanced output. In the specifications, it says that 2V RMS is delivered to 32Ω and so it can be seen. The first picture shows saturation at maximum volume and after adjusting it, you can see a clean signal at 2V RMS.



Measures to 100Ω (Balanced Output 2.5mm):


The same applies to 100Ω. With the maximum volume, it is saturated and after lowering it, it reaches those 3.3V specified.



Measures to 300Ω (Balanced Output 2.5mm):


No problem to 300Ω to assume the 4V RMS.



Measures to 620Ω (Balanced Output 2.5mm):


4V RMS also to 620Ω.



Measurements without load (balanced output 2.5mm):


Of course, the measurements without load are the same.



The frequency response is flat, with a very slight drop at both ends.



Comparative frequency responses with other devices, whether dynamic drivers or pure BA drivers, per SE or per balanced output, show no alteration in their frequency response.



Note: during the measuring process I have brought the Sparrow to its maximum power during all the time I have been testing. I have been able to observe that the device has heated up in a bearable way, without its temperature being high, just warm and never dangerous.




Earmen Sparrow demonstrates excellence in sound by its balanced output, which unfairly dwarfs the quality of the 3.5mm output. The sound from the SE output seems excellent to me, but from the balanced output it is superior. In addition, the Sparrow scales in quality, the better the source. The difference, in this respect, is clearly audible, between the Tempotec V1-A and the HiBy R3 Pro. The bad thing is that I can’t count on better sources to check how far the quality of this tiny DAC/Amp can go. Even so, I can’t complain about the sound offered either. With my Smartphone the sound is at the doorstep of the one obtained with the HiBy R3 Pro, which is a great achievement. Those who want to use their mobile device as a source can enjoy the enormous sound quality. Having tried all these options, including the connection to my Windows 10 laptop, I prefer to make the sound considerations with the HiBy R3 Pro.

As a personal advice, I prefer the sound that is achieved by connecting the headphones to the Sparrow first and then to the source. In this way, the gain adjusts to the connected impedance, achieving a better volume range, a more adequate, linear and somewhat less bright sound, such as warmer and more natural volume influences? It is possible, but I find that the Sparrow fits very well with IEMS, by means of this method.

The sound profile of the Sparrow is almost neutral, although I think I find a slight warmth in its overall staging, even though SABRE is behind it all. And I find that the combination of this warmth and the analytical character of this DAC, gives it a different personality, which gives it a plus in its appeal. Above all, the sound is distinguished by its superior cleanliness, spaciousness, airiness, vast width and very good definition. This mix of warmth and analytical character is emphasised in the 3.5mm output, while the balanced output, on the other hand, has a more analytical profile offering the highest resolution and definition, as well as a more ethereal, volatile and separate sound. The result is a sound that sticks to me like sand in Vaseline. A quick switch between the 3.5mm output of the Sparrow + HiBy R3 Pro vs HiBy R3 Pro by SE, makes me realise how good this little thing is. In these intangible terms of definition, resolution, separation and spatiality, the Earmen Sparrow takes the R3 Pro to a much higher level. What a great match!

The lower SE zone is slightly warm, very well defined, compact and tight, quite rich and with an ideal texture, a mixture of descriptive roughness and definition in its curves. The layers are remarkably explicit and the evolution of the bass can be followed from its beginning to its final decay, in great detail and separately. The Sparrow’s spatiality and separation allows it to isolate the bass, independently of the headphones connected, and to follow it in its complete path.

The balanced output increases the level of spatiality, recreating a greater sense of depth and even gaining in speed of generation. Hits are executed with greater precision, being even more compact and contained, achieving a mix of viscerality and surprising finesse, improving the level of enjoyment with respect to the SE output. The lamination of the different bass layers is represented in a way that can be seen individually, in a staggered and sequential way, in a kind of slow motion, surpassing the similar sensation produced by SE, adding even more nuances and details, both in its texture and in its body.

The mid-range by SE still shows the initial character: slight warmth, moderately analytical sound, high clarity and cleanliness of sound. The voices are drawn very precisely and very sharply, with ample detail and nuances throughout. The resolution is very high, but despite all this cleanliness, the scene is perceived as wider than three-dimensional. The tonality is vivid, without any hint of darkness. The sound is quite dynamic, with body, but open and clear. The great sensation of separation allows to give a space for each instrument, voices and other details, without sounding congested at any moment.

When you switch to the balanced output, the definition increases, achieving a more analytical and precise sound. It is also more powerful and has more punch. The mids have a more concise body, are more impressive, with a closer presence and in the foreground, making the details splash with immediacy and enhanced realism. It seemed that it was difficult to improve the means offered by SE, but fortunately this is the case. The voices sound more spatial, their recreation has a more three-dimensional body and greater height. Their edges are polished and their definition reaches a higher level. The increase in analytical capacity is clearly felt. But the sound is not simply surgical or flat, it is definitely more complete, complex and large, occupying a larger space in which more edges, borders, profiles, roughness, texture and, above all, air can be accommodated.

The treble at the SE output is quite controlled, despite being explicit and well-defined, but it lacks edges with higher resolution and a little more air. The control I’m talking about prevents the crunching from being complete and the feeling that they could go a little further but they don’t, staying a little flatter and producing less space.

This feeling disappears when connected to the balanced output, as if removing a delicate and invisible filter. Now, the treble appears in its ultra-clear version, with ideal separation and no limit to its projection. It is as if the notes have been sharpened, separated and cleaned with a triple layer of shiny wax. The result is a bright, luxurious, airy sound with a very dark background and absolute silence in it. But the best part of it is still its control: having tried the most critical headphones in this respect, there is no hint of harshness in the recreation of the treble, but the Sparrow manages to get the best out of each one, without losing energy, nor overcoming the barrier of natural and delicate fidelity.

After these considerations, it is almost not worth talking about scene and separation, because I have already commented that both parameters are outstanding by SE, superior by balanced output. But, especially, I want to emphasize the sensation that is produced in the lower area, when the balanced output is used: the first sensation that can be observed is that the bass is reproduced with greater depth. But, in addition, this deep zone seems to widen and become more spherical, expanding as if it were a funnel. The distance, separation and lamination of the different bass layers can be noticed. In the mid zone, the representation of the voices acquires a realism that manages to recreate them with a more complete body, as well as a closer, almost tangible, height and presence. In the high zone, the increase in the amount of air influences the perceived separation and better definition of the treble, its more optimal and realistic brilliance and its better projection.





Qudelix 5K


It may seem a bit of an unfavourable comparison, considering that the 5K is worth half as much, but performance is really very high and that is why I have such a fondness and predilection for it, also because of its enormous versatility. In that aspect, the Sparrow cannot compete with the Qudelix (Bluetooth connection, volume controls, simultaneous sources, exclusive control APP…). Even in power both devices measure very similar, giving, in my measurements, slightly higher values in the 5K, when using impedances lower than 100Ω.

But in sound the price difference, this time, justifies the Sparrow. I could start at the end, stating that the balanced output of the 5K is close to the level of the Sparrow’s SE output, but still with reservations. Qudelix could present the end of the road for most average listeners. But Sparrow brings a higher level, both in definition, resolution, scene, amount of air, space and silence. The differences between the two arise in these parameters, as the sound profile is similar, it should be remembered that both have Sabre DACs. But the performance in the Sparrow, is simply better. A quick change between balanced outputs with the same headphones and the same source (HiBy R3 Pro), allows to verify that the cleanliness of the sound is greater in the Sparrow. Also its spatiality and depth, something that can be seen in how the lower zone is able to expand in a way that is unattainable for 5K. In that sense, the Sparrow demonstrates its power to recreate a very wide and enormously airy scene, with a lot of depth and that width that is demonstrated, even in the distance and the remoteness. And also the height plays a fundamental role in this aspect. Sparrow’s enveloping feeling makes the voices appear closer, wider, present, complete and complex, with greater resolution. In the same way, the bass takes advantage of the Sparrow’s depth and level of resolution, to be recreated with a power, restraint, compactness and texture that the Qudelix fails to draw. In the upper zone, the amount of air provides the Sparrow with an ideal space for the reproduction of its precise, sharp, delicate, energetic, high and transparent highs. In the 5K there is less air and the sound is more compact and cohesive. This means that the treble has that entrapment that prevents it from expanding completely, something similar to what happens with the Sparrow because of its SE output.

Finally, in defense of my dear Qudelix 5K, I want to stress again that the better the source, the better the Sparrow scales, which is not the case with the 5K. However, when both are used as DACs connected to the PC, the sound quality is quite equal, being slightly superior the Sparrow. Not bad for the price of both devices.





With the Earmen Sparrow I have managed to hear the sound I have been looking for many times, the one that has made my critical sense fade away and I only pay attention to the music. And for this alone the Sparrow already costs every penny of its price. On the other hand this DAC/Amp is insultingly tiny, defying all logic in terms of power and sound quality. So much so, that if I lose it, I’m disgusted…

Earmen has created a device that is totally oriented towards the portable Hi-End: practical, simple, tremendously effective and, above all, spectacular in sound. A product that could perfectly be the paradigm of what I try to look for in my humble blog: absolute quality in sound, at the best price. At first sight, its value seems high. But once it has been fully tested, one only has to surrender to the evidence and even acknowledge that the sound is above its price. Bravo Earmen! Thank you very much for creating devices like this!



Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis


  • HiBy R3 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
  • Tempotec Variations V1-A
  • OurArt QJ21
  • Ikko OH10
  • BGVP ArtMagic VG4
  • ISN H40
  • NS Audio NS5 MKII Extra Bass
  • Tin HiFi T4
  • Tin HiFi T2 Plus
  • Takstar Pro 80
  • SoundMagic HP150