Here at MajorHiFi we demo a TON of gear – from budget IEMs to my latest obsession, the Final Audio D8000 Pro Edition. And we’re no stranger to our share of amps and DACs, either. For half a year now, I’ve been trying to get my hands on the Auris Audio Euterpe – a luscious $1699 tube DAC amp that debuted at NYC’s CanJam this past February. Now that day has finally come. So how does this bespoke DAC amp stack up to other models around its price point?
Auris Audio Euterpe Review: Articulate Amplification with a Bespoke Build
Named after one of the nine muses and the Greek goddess of music, the Euterpe embodies a certain aesthetic. But even its shape roughly resembles that of the lyre, a stringed instrument of Greek antiquity.
Functioning as an amp, DAC, pre-amp, and even a headphone stand, the Euterpe can fill a variety of roles. Inside the unit, an XMOS USB DAC and Sabre ESS chipset providesthe brains of the Euterpe, supporting DSD64 and DSD128, and offering up to 32bit/384kHz PCM playback.
A separate linear power supply connects to the rear of the unit, minimizing any noise that would otherwise result from an integrated supply. The cabling is tough and measures a gracious about four feet, or 1 meter. Most companies would probably opt for cheaper cabling here, but Auris doesn’t skimp on the quality – and it shows in the Euterpe’s clean sound.
Output ports on the rear of the unit also allow the Euterpe to be hooked up to an amplifier system, making it function as a pre-amp. Audio output comes in the form of a single 6.3 mm jack, but this unit seems to follow the philosophy of other high-end DACs and amps coming out of Europe right now – essentially, that if done right, single ended output can sound as detailed and luscious as balanced output.
Tubes come in the form of two PL95 tubes and an ECC 81 tube. A selector set allows you to use the PL95s as EL95s with a lower voltage.
In terms of build, the Euterpe offers a bespoke exterior with the DAC and amp innards sandwiched between two pieces of solid wood. All of this sits on a beveled metal base. On any desk, the Euterpe looks classy, dignified, and inviting. It’s the kind of equipment you just can’t wait to fiddle around with.
The Euterpe works as either a DAC or conventional tube amp, sporting both USB and RCA inputs. Using it with Windows 10 was a cinch, and pretty much plug-and-play. Once hooked up and powered on, the Euterpe drivers were automatically installed. DAC quality is impressive, with beautiful detail capture and spacial imaging.
The soft warmth of those tubes softens the edges to any tracks ever-so-slightly. This leads a deep, warm, nuanced but substantial sound. Once you plug a decent pair of cans into the Euterpe, you’ll want to lose a whole day listening to it.
As an amplifier, this unit is no slouch, either. There are two settings here – one for lower impedance headphones under 150 ohms, and one higher impedance setting for headphones over 150 ohms.
To be honest, I was a bit worried at first that the Euterpe was going to be all style and no substance. I was a little concerned that it simply wouldn’t be able to drive some of the more power-hungry cans we toss around the office.
Well, forget those worries. The Euterpe has GUTS. It can drive anything in the Beyerdynamic headphone stable, including the 600-ohm T1 2nd Gen. It can drive the LCD-4 with ease, and most other planar-magnetics besides, adding the warmth of its tubes to the organic warmth of the planar sound for an eargasmic combo.
Sound quality impresses me. For my the bulk of my listening sessions, I paired the Euterpe with the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, the Audeze LCD-4, and the new Final Audio D8000 Pro Edition. All of these headphones felt resolving enough to take advantage of the Euterpe’s revealing sound, but they also work well with that characteristic tube sound.
And while there’s never any shortage of detail, the glare is softened, so to speak, in that very tube-y way; it’s as much about how you feel the tracks as it is hearing them, and the Auris Euterpe works well in this regard.
Basically, if you’re after bit-perfect resolution you could cut glass with, look elsewhere. Fans of the a warmer, characteristically “tube” sound will LOVE this machine.
The sound quality would be reason enough to buy the Auris Euterpe, but the craftsmanship and impression of quality are the features I just can’t get over. Truth be told, there are tons of wonderful high-end amps and DACs out there. But none feel as unique and thoughtfully-crafted as this. From the finely-lathed wood exterior to the handwritten inspection sheet, the Auris Euterpe feels less like a mass-produced machine and more like a finely crafted work of art.
As mentioned, there are plenty of great amps and DACs at this price point. I think people who want a full stack could opt for the IFI iCAN Pro. With the iDSD Pro, you get a larger, more powerful stack that also delivers balanced output.
However, not everyone needs to drive any headphone ever. Nor does everyone enjoy solid state amplification. In these regards, the Auris Euterpe is less expensive, just as detailed, and more attractive.
Personally, I think if you’re splashing out $2000 or more on a headphone and want a tube amp and DAC combo that does it all without breaking the bank, the Euterpe is my new go-to recommendation.
With its mesmerizing sound, gorgeous level of craftsmanship, and multifaceted application, the Auris Euterpe provides substantial bang for your buck. While it’s not the most affordable DAC/tube amp on the market, it is one of the best looking. And, compared to other equally-premium units, it won’t destroy your bank account. Indeed, anyone looking for a wealth of power and a detailed sound should demo the Auris Euterpe.