EarMen Tradutto DAC Review


Tradutto is the latest EarMen DAC and a product that touches on many of the oft-requested basics that we will detail throughout the review.  


EarMen


The team behind EarMen has been developing tube amplifiers for more than a decade, working to perfect a neutral, natural, and clean sound wrapped in a beautiful, high-quality design. 

They wanted to translate their knowledge, experience, and love of sound into something available to a larger number of people, and EarMen was born. 


Over the years they have realized that it's not just about measurements and results on paper, and they did not even want to compete with others, because they believe that perfect sound has no competition, but is a personal experience of something pure that performers bring us. Their motto is sound above all!


The world of mobile and desktop audio is changing day by day. Headphone jacks have disappeared from smartphones and device manufacturers are focusing on wireless streaming rather than the quality of the listening experience. Bluetooth earphones and headphoens offer an easy listening experience, but what about those who still prefer quality over convenience in our listening? 

How are these audiophiles and music lovers supposed to enjoy a quality wired earphone or headphone when the phone/tablet/computer we listen to our music on sometimes does not even offer the option to plug in our wired device?

With many years of experience developing award-winning, state-of-the-art sound amplification and processing devices for home and desktop sound, the EarMen team knew the market needed something new, innovative, and outstanding for those who prefer to listen to the music without a hassle and without the need of larger space. With that in mind, EarMen was born - in search of the highest quality audio experience that provides the freedom to enjoy music without limitations.

Designed and developed by Milomir "Miki" Trosic, founder of sister company Auris Audio, EarMen continues the sonic legacy that has made Auris a powerful force in the high-end audio world. 


Unlike Auris products, EarMen products were designed small enough to not take too much physical space. Despite their small size, EarMen products contain potent audio components that deliver an uncompromising listening experience backed up with a powerful amplification and premium audio processing, fully compatible with all major smartphones, tablets, and computers.


EarMen manufactures all of its products in Europe to ensure the highest standards in the manufacturing process and has offices in the EU and the US. 

Tradutto

 
Tradutto is designed from a solid block aluminum enclosure that makes it extremely durable and robust. Its compact design allows it to fit into any environment, system, or home. The circuit board is embedded in solid aluminum housing, which gives the board better protection inside the housing and additional insulation against external influences.


At the heart of EarMen Tradutoo is the extremely high-quality ESS Saber ES9038K2M digital-to-analog converter, which delivers outstanding sonic performance capable of handling digital audio files up to 32bit/768kHz or DSD512, allowing music to be fully enjoyed in high resolution with every detail. 


Tradutto uses XMOS with 16 cores (XU216), which with its excellent performance allows performing hardware decoding of MQA and other functions necessary for music enjoyment.

The clock is carefully adjusted and has minimal jitter.


The digital and analog parts of the circuit are also carefully separated from the power supply. 

Wima capacitors are implemented to achieve the lowest distortion, audio electrolytes combined with low-noise MELF resistors, and SoundPlus OPA1642 op-amps, which have proven to be excellent for neutral sound.

Highlights


Gold-plated PCB - It not only provides good, clean contact with low resistance, but also a perfectly flat surface.
  • Built-in Qualcomm HD Bluetooth 5.1 (AAC/SBC/aptX/aptx LL /aptx HD) - BlueTooth QCC5124 is designed to meet the demand for robust, high-quality, Bluetooth wireless listening experiences in small, low-power devices for longer audio playback.Qualcomm® aptX™ Audio, aptX HD, and Qualcomm aptX Adaptive Audio technologies are designed to deliver consistent, high-quality audio streaming over Bluetooth.
  • XMOS 16-core chip (XU216) - enables excellent performance in hardware decoding of MQA as well as other features necessary for music enjoyment (delivers twice the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB).
  • Tradutto is fully balanced, which means that the balanced outputs of the DAC go to the output intact and are only amplified

Operational


EarMen Tradutto is a straightforward device with easy-to-use controls. 

The front is modernly minimalistic with an OLED screen that displays all the necessary information. On the left side is the power off button, followed by the Bluetooth dial, and on the right side of the screen are the left and right input selection buttons. 


The rear panel offers USB, TOS, and coax digital inputs, followed by RCA and balanced (jack) outputs. 

The ES9038Q2M DAC enables outstanding sonic performance and easily handles digital audio files up to 32bit/768kHz or DSD512. 


In addition, the entire circuitry has been optimized to consume less current and improve power filtering, resulting in low interference from Wi-Fi, cellular and Bluetooth signals.

EarMen supports MQA: OFS (MQB/MQA Core, decoded file), MQA (MQA file hardware decoded in the device and then rendered), MQA Studio (same as MQA, only with the approval of an author or production company).


Tradutto digital optical, digital coaxial, and USB inputs - connect CD players, phones, tablets, game consoles, laptops, or other digital audio sources. 

Tradutto comes with a rechargeable (via USB C) small and handy remote control that allows you to switch inputs, turn on Bluetooth, and turn the device on and off. 

The music


It was quite exciting what EarMen Tradutto was able to do despite its compact size. 

Tradutto is an interesting chameleon that can easily show differences between different recordings without losing musicality or tampering with timbre, tone, and color. 

Here are some titles that highlight some of Tradutto's merits.


Jaco Pastorius' debut solo album is still one of my favorites for many reasons. Not just the timeless "Donna Lee," but the entire album is a different kind of instrumental journey, masterfully crafted music that showcases Pastorius' dexterity as much as the iconic Bright Size Life album he recorded with his friend Pat Metheny, or his work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, etc.

EarMen Tradutto surprises with the fusion of the bass guitar with all its peculiarities, without really losing its grip or energy. The usual energy congestion found in many, if not most, DACs under 1,000 euros was absent. 

Tradutto cemented the bass energy and all the underlying peculiarities of Pastorius playing rather exemplarily. 


Another favorite that I often use for both critical listening and pure musical enjoyment is Blue Camel, an album by Rabih Abou-Khalil. This unforgettable synthesis of Rabih Abou-Khalil's majestic oud playing, supported by the frame drum (Nabil Khaiat) and Milton Cardona's (congas) skillful and sensual playing, makes for a remarkable and unforgettable musical treat that I return to again and again. 

Blue Camel demands a full-scale unreserved dynamism and with its balanced topology, the EarMen Tradutto showed how good it is even compared to DACs that are out of the Tradutto price range. 

I was surprised by the density that the Tradutto allowed and let the acoustic improvisations blossom. 


This was also evident in Hunter by Jennifer Warnes. On this album, it's not exactly easy for any DAC, regardless of price, to balance the other instruments on the foundation of the low registers of Roland's legendary programmed drums. 

But not only that. A steadily, somewhat fast rhythm can also quickly get out of sync and seem chaotic. It requires a certain amount of "arranging" the bits in the right order to sound complete and rousing, even if you do not have the tempo in mind. 

Tradutto goes above and beyond the usual by reproducing the Roland 808 drums in a great balance with the vocals and other instruments, without compromising the overall harmonic structure.

Warren's vocals and background vocals were extended and were more forte than usual. I've marked this bold with the marker in my listening notes. 


The subtlety of the EarMen DAC was further explored with the Keith Jarrett Trio My Foolish Heart Live At Montreux

My Foolish Heart celebrates the trio's 25th anniversary with impressive momentum. I am a big fan of ECM Records' releases, and perhaps this is the trio's best production against which other attempts can be measured. The lyrical, almost telepathic swing synchronicity is unparalleled and the unique live feel of the recording provides immense listening pleasure, capturing the live feeling in exemplary fashion. 

I enjoyed Tradutto's ability to decode more than just the live spirit. The long solo sequence at the beginning of Jarrett's "My Foolish Heart" had just the right aura and the right amount of decay and delay developments that echoed efficiently in the listening room. When Peacock and DeJohnette join, the overall tonal balance can change, blurring each performer, and also smoothing out the leading edges of the instruments, making them seem less lively. On the contrary, EarMen Tradutto shaped an opulent soundscape with a wealth of information that allowed "My Foolish Heart" to be painted as a tangible sonic canvas a level or two above its price point. 

This was further evident with Anne Bisson's Blue Mind. The entire album is magnificently recorded, showcasing any DAC's spatial and dynamic capabilities at once. 


"September in Montreal" and "Camilio" are certainly the highlights of the album. There is more than just a tint of poignancy in these tracks. Still, perhaps this is the exact reason for what makes the album so different and soulful. We live in the world of dualities where joy and opposite emotions are equally represented and too often neglected for their importance to deal with. 

Blue Mind is one of those albums that allows me to quickly get deeper into the emotional bonding, horizontal and vertical extension to observe what's happening with the leading edges of the notes, as well as the full dynamic impact. The opening piece, "September in Montreal," is one of the more dynamic pieces that craves power and dynamic expression. Just watch what happens in the first minute, especially when the bass kick drum opens the track. It's a challenging turning point that sets the roadmap for any DAC ability. 

I was surprised by Tradutto's ability to deliver the depth of acoustic nodes and tone overlays far beyond the expected. The same goes for the density of the acoustic anchor points that are crucial for replication the spatiality. 

The same qualities were evident with further extended musical material without deviation. Most important of all, I was able to enjoy the music simply for what it is, rather than what it should be. More than a generous compliment for a DAC of this size and price. 

Conclusion


The EarMen is a highly successful spin-off of Auris Audio that has already made a lasting impression on the market. 


EarMen offers more budget-oriented products than Auris Audio, but not on the premise that the sound quality suffers. 


It's quite far out how much music and musical enjoyment can be squeezed out of this mighty little box, but that's exactly one of the true benefits of 21st-century technological advancement miniaturization, and high performance. Even if audio technology, with its breathtaking scaling down, is not yet at the level of the mobile phone industry, the last few years have been more of a revolution than an evolution. Especially in headphones and affordable audio devices, where EarMen is already more than just a well-known player.

 

The EarMen Tradutto was designed from the ground up to play music with as little fuss as possible. And it has succeeded in this to a great extent. 

With its refined amplifier stages and fully balanced topology, there's nothing to complain about in terms of sonic performance at this price. Quite the contrary. I applaud loudly for the sonic potency. Something like this was simply not possible a few years ago. 

The EarMen Tradutto is a no-brainer to be used as the digital hub for a high-end audio system or as a high-potency digital source for a dedicated headphone system. 


Tradotto was designed with sonic purism in mind, and if you expect it to embellish music in any way, you need to look the other way. 

EarMen's little big DAC reproduces the music as it was intended, and this is immediately and evident in both studio and live acoustically recorded music. 

In addition to the top-of-the-line gear I usually draw on for reviews, there's always a place for something that steps out of the line and shows its merits. I have often been asked to look for products that offer real value, the best value for money without compromising sound quality, and for many music lovers and audiophiles, that is exactly what Tradutto offers. 


With the EarMen Tradutto, it feels like it was designed from the start to squeeze the last bit of music out of the zeros and ones. And that's exactly how the music feels. Free of the usual digital artifacts and free of fatigue, something that is all too easy to detect even in far more expensive DACs. 

What sets the EarMen Tradutto DAC apart from its rivals. The sound! The powerful dynamics and ultra-transparent sound quality set it apart from the competitors, as does the sheer amount of detail. 

Despite its compact size, no one should think that this little big music box lacks power. On the contrary. It does, and far beyond expectations. 

So who is it suitable for? Tradutto sets an interesting tone with its compact size, highly potent audio core, and - what interests the buyer the most - its competitive price. 


Some of the Mono & Stereo readers are still at home in the analog domain, but day by day they are moving into the digital realms. They may now want to invest as much in the digital front end as they did in their beloved analog front ends, but they want to enjoy the benefits of streaming services, high-resolution files, and the software connectivity of music players like Roon. This is an important potential target audience for EarMen's proud creation. 


Anyone who already has a digital front end without streaming capability or a well-functioning CD player can also benefit from Tradutto's mighty melodious crux. The same goes for headphone lovers, owners of older generations of digital front ends and DACs, owners who are planning additional audio systems, and even gamers who want to significantly improve their sound experience. 

EarMen Tradotto is a matured, correctly sonically balanced DAC that will capture both the head and the heart. Tradutto was clearly designed for true audiophiles and music lovers, by people who appreciate the same virtues of music replay. 

Considering the price, the build quality, and especially the sonic potency, EarMen Tradutto is recommended at this price and beyond.


Altogether combining the advantages on many levels grants the EarMen Tradutto Mono & Stereo 2022 the Best Buy Product award. 

Matej Isak

Price

  • $799.00

Technical



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