Of course, all the specs and all that power need to translate into sound. These days I work on my reviews in a less analytical way than I used to and much more actual use. I find that by doing that, I get to know the products I review better and actually still notice subtle differences. As such, I have used the Angel extensively with a wide range of different earbuds, IEMs and headphones on order to get a good feel for how well it performs.
Overall, I think the Angel performs very well and is a highly versatile DAC/amp. EarMen describe the sound they are after as “neutral, natural and clean” and that is exactly how I would describe the Angel. It is a very neutral and clean presentation with a natural and realistic feel to it. Music comes alive without the Angel imposing its own characteristics onto it too much. There are still some characteristics that do come through. Most notable for me was a very tight bass. There was still plenty of depth and texture to the bass, but it was kept very well controlled. The mids felt super clean and natural, and for me this was the main strength of the Angel. Not that the mids are somehow overemphasized, rather that they were very accurate and realistic. The treble had a hint of energy to it. Nothing offensive or anything like that, just a really well-balanced touch of sparkle.
I expect that a lot of people will love this tuning. For me personally, I tend to prefer a hint more warmth and an ever so slightly smoother treble. That is however because I am used to the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, which is a $3k TOTL DAP and it is unrealistic for the Angel to perform at that level. Considering the price difference though, I feel the Angel actually gets a long way there and has its own strengths. The presentation feels crisp and clear without becoming dry, which is not easy to achieve. With everything I tested the stage felt large and airy with excellent positional information.
As indicated, I tested a wide range of different pairings from ultra-sensitive IEMs to hard to drive headphones. It was only when I brought out my most challenging IEMs that the Angel started to show the first signs of limits to its versatility. The Empire Ears Wraith are both ultra-sensitive and demanding because they need a lot of power to fully engage their estat drivers. The Angel drives them wonderfully well, but there is some waterfall hiss in the background. It is hardly noticeable while the music is playing and only becomes apparent in silent sections of the music, so not ideal for (for instance) classical music. The Empire Ears Phantom also have a little bit of hiss, though less than the Wraith. Beyond those two all other IEMs I tried, such as the 64 Audio U18s and DITA Audio Dream XLS, had a clean background. Earbuds paired great, from the easy to drive FiiO FF3 to the 300 Ohm TGX Ear Serratus. The power of the Angel is also sufficient to drive the HD650 comfortably. All this shows the Angel is suitable for a very wide range of pairings, making it highly versatile. Of course, that versatility is increased by the wide range of sources you can pair it with. Heck, because the Angel has an optical input (far too many DAC/amps only have optical output, which doesn’t make sense to me) I have been able to pair it with my PS4 and game with the HD650.
The EarMen Angel is a highly versatile, portable DAC/amp. The sound is a high-quality neutral that in my opinion gives a taste of what truly high-end neutral sources are capable of. It is a clean, neutral sound that avoids becoming dry and maintains a natural and realistic feel. It offers a lot of power and a clean background with all but the most sensitive IEMs. The Angel has a solid build quality with great attention to detail in its design.