In this article we review the $333 USD dongle sized EarMen Colobri DAC/AMP.
Disclaimer: The EarMen Colibri was sent to us free of charge in exchange for this review.
If EarMen doesn’t ring a bell yet, then the Serbian “Auris Audio” just might. In fact, if you’ve been following Headfonia you will know that we’re quite the Auris fans here. Their amps have won multiple of our awards, and models like the Euterpe, HA2-SF and Nirvana get praised all over the world.
A while ago Auris Audio decided to enter the portable market and to do so they came up with new brand name: EarMen. EarMen is registered in the US but all of their products are built and assembled in Europe to ensure the highest standards in production quality.
EarMen is all about delivering the best possible value for money and their new product line-up consists out of 6 models at this time, with a few more (CH-AMP, Stacatto) in the pipeline. The EarMen Line-up:
In this article we look at this (for now) last unit of their line-up: The Colibri!
After the Eagle and Sparrow, EarMen is back with a new USB DAC/AMP in a dongle size. The Colibri is slightly bigger than the Eagle and Sparrow but there are good reasons for that. We will cover everything you need to know about EarMen’s latest Creation.
In addition to many small portable devices on the market, EarMen wants to set the standards. Our team has specially designed balanced, battery powered device – small in size but strong in performance, which will give you a unique experience you have never had before. Wherever you go, take your music with you and feel the real enjoyment with EarMen Colibri!
For those who like watching videos, EarMen has put up a short video on what the Colibri is all about. You can look at it below and keep reading.
Let’s start with the most important thing, the brain of the EarMen Colibri. On the inside of the Colibri there’s a gold-plated PCB and like before EarMen has opted to use an ESS Sabre DAC and in this case it is the ESS line ES9281 PRO DAC. The ESS SABRE PRO series is for premium audiophile and sets a new benchmark in high-end audio by offering the highest dynamic range (DNR) with impressively low levels of total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N). Colibri supports Hi-Res PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DoP, DSD64, DSD128 and MQA. EarMen’s Eagle uses the ESS ES9280 C PRO, the TR-AMP uses the ES9038Q2M and the Sparrow uses the same DAC as in the Colibri, the ESS SABRE ES9281PRO.
The Colibri is made in Europe and it features a fully balanced 4.4mm output as well as a 3.5mm single-ended output. Input wise you have two USB-C connections, one for the data and one for power. New here is that the Colibri is battery powered: The EarMen Colibri has its own battery and will not consume the sound source battery. On top of that, battery power provides ultra-clean and stable DC current avoiding the issues of noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution. So a double win together with the ES9281 PRO DAC performance! The battery works for about 5h.
Another feature of the Colibri are that you can set the source volume on the device, but that’s not all. For Colibri, EarMen decided to implement a Bass boost as a lot of consumers love this feature. In general I am not a fan of these kind of things, but I did find myself using the bass boost on some special occasions.
If you’ve been following EarMen, then you know that the company likes MQA and all of their products can render MQA. Colibri, as a result, includes MQA Renderer technology, which can connect to an MQA Core signal and complete the final unfold of an MQA file. You of course don’t have to use MQA files, but if you like them, the Colibri has got your needs covered.
All-in-all it’s a small and complete device which doesn’t need any special drivers. You can of course update the Colibri in the future and for that you will need the updater and update file. You can find those here:
Firmware updater: https://earmen.com/manuals/SparrowEagleColibriUpdater.exe
You can find the EarMen Colibri’s user manual over here: https://earmen.com/manuals/Colibri%20User%20Manual.pdf
|Input||USB C Female / DATA|
|USB C Female / Charging|
|SE 3.5 mm|
|Power||4.4 mm Balanced||3.5 mm SE|
|up to 280mW@32Ω||up to 75mW@32Ω|
|up to 560mW@16Ω||up to 150mW@ 16Ω|
|DSD||64 / 128 DoP|
|PCM||Up to 384 kHz|
|MQA Rendering||Up to 384 kHz|
|Battery||Up to 5 hrs|
|Dimensions L x W x H||77 x 35 x 14mm|
|3.03″ x 1.38″ x 0.55″|
|Weight||51 gr / 0.11 lbs|
Box & Accessories
The Colibri comes in a very simple box, but it’s nice and it does its job. Check out the pictures.
On the inside of the box, you will find the Colibri itself as well as an artificial leather carrying case with nice white stitching. The Colibri perfectly fits inside, leaving the buttons easily accessible. The EarMen logo and LED are also nicely displayed. The only downside here is that you can’t see the port designations/naming when the Colibri is in its case. At the same time, it’s very straightforward and once you know “what is what”, you won’t have any issues using the unit.
You also get a fairly stiff USB-cable with a double USB-C termination, a warranty card and quick manual. A basic but all-you-need package.
Design, Build Quality & Lay-out
The EarMen Colibri looks like any other dongle with the inputs on one side and the outputs on the other. The Colibri looks bigger in the pictures than it really is. It measures only 77 x 35 x 14mm (L x W x H) and weighs only 51g (or 0.11lbs). That being said, it is larger in size compared to most USB-dongles in my collection. It however still is small enough to take it with you on the go.
Despite its size, the Colibri is designed to provide a powerful audio experience while featuring an attractive and streamlined physical appearance. Its high-resolution specifications will not only make your tunes sound phenomenal, but their modern style will also make them look pretty amazing.
Colibri’s build quality is excellent and comparable to that of the Eagle and Sparrow units. The body of the device is made of a full aluminum block, milled on a CnC machine, providing supreme durability. The aluminum body is beautified with a glass surface on both sides and it gives the Colibri a classy and premium look. The connectors and buttons all look and feel sturdy, the unit looks like it can take a beating. It’s been traveling with me in my bag for multiple months already and it still looks brand new (use the case!) and it works flawlessly.
The lay-out of the unit is the following:
Top: Left = Balanced 4.4mm output & Right = 3.5mm Single-Ended output
Bottom: Left = USB-C Data & Right = USB-C Charging
Front: LED indicator (see later) & Battery LED indicator
Left side: Volume up and down
Right side: Power On/Off = Play/pause & B+ Bass Boost
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