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EarMen Tradutto Review (DAC)

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 140 72.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 45 23.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 6 3.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 3 1.5%

  • Total voters
    194

Doodski

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He had a ax to grind because ASR did not contact Earmen and get a 2nd unit for test. Very annoying prick he was.

Motivation and character covered.
I said it like it was. You can check out the commentary at the YouTube webpage under the video too.
 

Honken

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Are they? Seems like Soundstage got the full 4 volts output via the balanced connector and the filter seems nowhere as slow either.

I'm no graph reading expert, so I could very well misread the data provided by both. If I am not reading the data wrong though, that to me raises more questions. I can get that a RCA connector can come loose during shipping, but the filter should stay the same between units, no?
 

Killingbeans

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EDIT: Please disregard this post and the one above. Had just gotten out of bed when I wrote it and wasn't quite awake yet :oops:
 
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Honken

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I looked at the graph named 'Wideband FFT spectrum of white noise and 19.1kHz sinewave tone (Slow filter)', perhaps I am reading that wrong?
 

MC_RME

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Most of the measurement differences could be explained by Amir's Pentaconn to dual XLR (Frankenstein) adapter either shorting one phase per channel, or not connecting it. Output level will be 6 dB lower (as it is), common mode noise will not be suppressed (see all the needles at the higher end), SNR will loose 6 to 9 dB (would match the other measurements then), Multitone would be better etc.

Uncancelled noise may also be the reason for the strange slow filter measurement. But there are two more possible explanations: too high level causing overload (the known ISP effect with raised out-of-band noise), or that unit has a (hidden?) way to choose between various filters..
 

Hemi-Demon

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The amount of ads and pop-ups on that site make me nauseous. I wonder why none of his results are using the USB input? His unbalanced numbers pretty much match Amir's on the working channel The balanced output data is definitely mismatched for some reason.

The manufacturer should mail a new unit to ASR. I don't get why these manufacturers don't send the equipment to ASR versus all these other review sites that require crazy kick backs and ad fee arrangements. Even a poor review will help their companies improve.
 
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KSTR

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Most of the measurement differences could be explained by Amir's Pentaconn to dual XLR (Frankenstein) adapter either shorting one phase per channel, or not connecting it. Output level will be 6 dB lower (as it is), common mode noise will not be suppressed (see all the needles at the higher end), SNR will loose 6 to 9 dB (would match the other measurements then), Multitone would be better etc.

Uncancelled noise may also be the reason for the strange slow filter measurement. But there are two more possible explanations: too high level causing overload (the known ISP effect with raised out-of-band noise), or that unit has a (hidden?) way to choose between various filters..
Spot on analysis. The higher distortion and the needle floor is a giveaway that the "balanced" signal was only one phase from the ES9038q2m's outputs.

Company specs the output to be 4 volts but I am only getting 2.2 volts. Not sure if this is a problem with the unit or the adapter I have.
"Not sure?"... so why publishing a review with likely flaky measurements? Just to get it out of the door?
The sad point is that you seem to have lost interest in digging in deeper when something is at odds with expectations and experience. It doesn't look like you're still having much fun in doing this and inquisitiveness has worn off.
There might be reasons but if so, they still are no excuse IMHO, given the responsibility.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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The manufacturer should mail a new unit to ASR.
I have been communicating with the company. They have sent me their measurements and while there are some differences (likely due to level issue with my balanced testing), I showed that similar issues as I pointed out exists in their measurements as well. I have given them helpful links to solve the IMD hump issue and explained to them the lack of competitiveness of their achieved performance (again, with their measurements).

I appreciated them reaching out to me and have encouraged them to post their detailed measurements.

So at this point, I don't see the value of testing another unit.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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"Not sure?"... so why publishing a review with likely flaky measurements? Just to get it out of the door?
The sad point is that you seem to have lost interest in digging in deeper when something is at odds with expectations and experience. It doesn't look like you're still having much fun in doing this and inquisitiveness has worn off.
Owner was on a short clock to return the unit (was shipped to him even though he cancelled the order). I did not know that the company had chosen to use Pentacon for balanced output and used what I had around. I noted this clearly in the review. Company should have included an adapter to XLR to avoid this kind of thing. It is not like Pentcon to XLR is a common thing so users could run into similar issue.

There simply was no time to go and buy or build a new conversion cable. So I noted what I did and post the results so that the box could be returned and not incur $800 cost.

And no, nothing was at odds here. SINAD of balanced output was close enough to RCA output to place the product in the category it is: simply not competitive with other products in its price class and even lower.
 

KSTR

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I'm appreciating your answer but do not find it satisfying.
And no, nothing was at odds here. SINAD of balanced output was close enough to RCA output to place the product in the category it is: simply not competitive with other products in its price class and even lower.
I don't object to the competiviness aspect of the review, performance to price ratio sure isn't the best even when the balanced measurements would have been more correct. ESS Hump then still is very likely to be present, just at a lower level.

I would say the one-dimendional SINAD-centric view showed its drawbacks. Balanced FFT was full of tells that something might be fishy. Especially when compared to the SoundStage measurements where one can see the expected cancelling of higher even order harmonics.
 

Hemi-Demon

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I have been communicating with the company. They have sent me their measurements and while there are some differences (likely due to level issue with my balanced testing), I showed that similar issues as I pointed out exists in their measurements as well. I have given them helpful links to solve the IMD hump issue and explained to them the lack of competitiveness of their achieved performance (again, with their measurements).

I appreciated them reaching out to me and have encouraged them to post their detailed measurements.

So at this point, I don't see the value of testing another unit.
That is awesome that you are engaging with them. I hope they listen and improve the next batch. Great job on your part
:D

Can you post their stock press release measurements, so we can all compare?
 

Hemi-Demon

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Spot on analysis. The higher distortion and the needle floor is a giveaway that the "balanced" signal was only one phase from the ES9038q2m's outputs.


"Not sure?"... so why publishing a review with likely flaky measurements? Just to get it out of the door?
The sad point is that you seem to have lost interest in digging in deeper when something is at odds with expectations and experience. It doesn't look like you're still having much fun in doing this and inquisitiveness has worn off.
There might be reasons but if so, they still are no excuse IMHO, given the responsibility.

How many devices have you sent in for measurements lately to support the site? Also why are you attacking Amir's personal happiness because this piece of equipment didn't perform very well. That seems a bit of a leap.


If I was a manufacturer, I would have immediately sent a new unit to ASR to counter the broken rca unit. That's not Amir's job to fix their QC and also troubleshoot their software issues.
 

KSTR

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How many devices have you sent in for measurements lately to support the site? Also why are you attacking Amir's personal happiness because this piece of equipment didn't perform very well. That seems a bit of a leap.


If I was a manufacturer, I would have immediately sent a new unit to ASR to counter the broken rca unit. That's not Amir's job to fix their QC and also troubleshoot their software issues.
The broken RCA is completely unrelated to what I wrote. And which software issue are you talking about,?

I did not attack Amir, rather I politely worded my informed opinion about what I see is going on (and not for the first time): Lacking thoroughness. I'm not alone with this opinion, btw.

I'm one of the members here that actually produce expert technical content and by that I think I have supported this forum professionally. Sending items for review is beginner level.

Feel free to think I'm an arrogant a**hole and put me on your ignore list ;-)
 

MalinYamato

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the EarMen Tradutto stereo DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $770 from the company direct.

View attachment 184018

The Tradutto is extremely heavy for its size, having been machined out of solid metal. The corners are a bit sharp though for my taste. A chunky machined remote is also included:
View attachment 184019
The remote is rechargeable which is nice. What is not nice is that it has no volume controls (nor does the unit itself) so I don't know about its usefulness. On a desk I can just hit the same buttons myself. Another odd thing is using 4.4mm pentacon for balanced output. This kind of connector is use for balanced headphone output sometimes but hardly ever for line out. Sadly the company doesn't include an adapter for it to dual XLR.

Out of the box, one RCA channel was not working. I could feel the connector moving left and right and I could briefly get it to work if I held on to the cable. The other one did not feel very secure either.

EarMen Tradutto Measurements
Let's start with RCA output:
View attachment 184020

As you see, one channel is dead. That aside, note that the output is nearly 2.2 volts meaning it will be louder when you compare it to vast majority of DACs out there that output 2 volts. In subjective testing this could cause people to think the fidelity is better for Tradutto even though it is not.

I used a Frankenstein pair of adapters to go from Pentacon to 4-pin XLR and from there, to two 3-pin XLRs:

View attachment 184021

Company specs the output to be 4 volts but I am only getting 2.2 volts. Not sure if this is a problem with the unit or the adapter I have.

Distortion dominates the SINAD score, landing an average rating:

View attachment 184022

In its price range though, competitors do far, far better.

Dynamic range is along the same lines:
View attachment 184023

Multitone performance is decent:
View attachment 184024

Intermodulation distortion vs level shows classic ESS DAC IMD "hump" which other companies have solved for a long time now:

View attachment 184025

I expect a perfect response in this price class when it comes to jitter but we don't get it:

View attachment 184026

Linearity is also non-competitive:

View attachment 184027

There is only one filter and its response is poor:

View attachment 184028

This causes THD+N vs frequency to look really bad at low sampling rates:

View attachment 184029

Increasing the sample rate to 192 kHz eliminates the effect of the filter but still leaves us with non-competitive performance.

Finally to squash any comments about tonality being different, here is the frequency response:

View attachment 184030

Conclusions
A no frills desktop DAC with near perfect objective measurements goes for $150 or even less these days. The Tradutto charges five times as much but delivers worse performance. Money was spent on case and such which don't add value to performance of the unit. And frankly don't make it look any nicer either. Functionality is poor as far as lack of volume control. There is not one thing you can hang your hat on that would say you should buy this device. In a competitive market, it has no place.

I can't recommend EarMen Tradutto DAC. Company needs to do far better to improve performance and functionality.

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What does a headless panther mean? Does it indicate that the product did not make it to your list?
 
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