For many people our home computers work as multi-media centers, but at a certain point many of us move beyond just a single source point. We transcend in a sense to bigger and better systems! Tho equally as often those of you with existing Hi-Fi systems may be looking to add digital connectivity to your current set-up.
Regardless of where you are in your journey to assemble the perfect set-up for your needs the Euterpe from Auris Audio is an excellent option for your system! Euterpe has been designed as an ideal multi-function centerpiece with a USB Dac, an analog input option, ultra-linear tube headphone output and pre-amp output. Plus it also serves double duty as an elegant headphone stand.
Lossless streaming platforms boast an ever increasing selection of songs but I still have a lot of music that's exclusive to physical disc. Within my home Euterpe made it easy to enjoy my collection of CD's and full lossless streaming thru Qobuz with the use of either Euterpe's Ultra-Linear tube headphone amp or our GS-X Mini with Euterpe as a tube-pre. Swapping between the two was simple with just the slip of a switch!
While using Euterpe's pre-amp outs I set it's volume knob at the fully clockwise position for what is effectively a line level out, I then partnered it with our DAC-T 24 Stepped attenuator on the GS-X Mini as this gave me the highest level of fidelity overall.
Our listening set up for this review featured tracks played either locally from existing Android devices or through a local Ethernet network via the iFi ZenStream using it's USB Digital out into Euterpe. Our track-list was as follows:
As a whole Euterpe has an exciting seductive presentation with excellent extension, texture and body. The ESS Sabre Dac adds a level of clarity and definition that is complemented by the warmth of an Ultra-Linear tubestage. Plus you have the option to roll different power and driver tubes to make small adjustments to the presentation. While I found the stock tubes present the most balanced overall tone for use with the internal headphone amp, I enjoyed switching over to Mullard Power tubes with a GE 12au7 driver. Which lowered the noise floor a bit, brought a more natural slightly intimate presentation to the headphone amp while adding an effortless quality to the entire system including whatever was fed the pre-amp outs.
With GS-X Mini attached to the Pre-Amp output I found the two combined created a beautifully complimentary sound signature as a complete system. Euterpe brings a lush romantic presentation alongside the spacious and powerful sound of the GS-X Mini. Side by side I found these two together were perfectly suited to all genres of music with whatever headphones I threw at them!
Having both an option for Digital and Analog "input" allowed me to do a direct comparison of the DAC section of Euterpe VS the iFi ZenDac Signature V2. While both options function as a Pre-Amp and only the iFi unit has an existing fixed line level out option. So I ran Euterpe with it's pre-amp stage set fully clockwise at "max" volume which effectively simulates a line level out. I appreciated the rich full bodied sound of both units but found that Euterpe had a slightly deeper stage with a little more nuance and detail. While the differences weren't massive they were noticeable.
However, what really caught my attention was the difference each unit had with the GS-X Mini. I already love ZenDac Signiture's full bodied tone, well layered stage and detail! It's even got fully balanced output so I can run right into the XLR inputs on GS-X Mini... however using Euterpe as both a Dac and Tube-Pre sounded heavenly! For me the real value of it was that little touch of magic it brings to any system it’s a part of!
Serving effectively as a "Tube-Dac," given that I ran Euterpe's Pre-outs at line level, the GS-X Mini presented sound with a deep, precise and cohesive stage. I enjoyed all of GS-X Mini's slam but with a slightly extended decay which gave me an opportunity to follow reverb trails deeper into the audible space as they fell into silence. There was a new found effortlessness that only served to improve dynamic contrast and detail while retaining a vivid presentation of textures and tactility. I found this combination to be a clear step above the ZenDac Signature and overall this is my absolute favourite DAC pairing for our GS-X Mini!
For the most part I preferred using Euterpe's Pre-Outs into GS-X Mini with Planar-Magnetic headphones as I found this combination better preserved texture and impact in the sub bass! For Dynamic headphones like the HE R10D that have some slight low frequency roll off I loved the intimate and airy presentation of Euterpe's included 1/4" out.
I was a bit shocked at how complementary Euterpe was with the HIFIMAN HE R10D. Alice in Chains's Jar of Flies is one of my favourite albums to listen through for evaluations. "Don't Follow" opens with a beautiful acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement. About a minute in and we're greeted by a second vocalist and a harmonica. Then finally for the last 90 or so seconds we hear the whole band, drums, electric bass, guitars, harmonica and vocalists all combined!
R10D on Euterpe's 1/4" out has a slightly mid forward presentation with beautiful sparkle and a gentle roundness in the lows. As a whole the slightly softer but still energetic presentation highlights the mood of the track and tone of each instrument. The guitar's full bodied lows are complemented by the sparkle and gentle bite of each pluck of it's strings. The harmonica wails with a rich tone and bright shimmer, and each vocalist's voice is weighty and clear with a heartfelt intimacy. The drums and bass guitar come into the mix placed slightly further back but still vivid and clear. Euterpe's headphone out maintains excellent air but it's seductive tone proves incredibly complementary to HE R10D pulling the amazing guitar and vocal work of this track into focus! With GS-X Mini, R10D's slight mid bass hump relative to it's rolled off sub-bass became more obvious. While the staging was spacious and well layered I just didn't find R10D quite as engaging despite the more linear presentation of this pairing. I personally enjoyed R10D the most with the slightly more intimate presentation of the Euterpe! It really complimented R10D's strengths while minimizing it's drawbacks.
With the LCD-4z I did prefer the presentation of the GS-X Mini off Euterpe's Pre-Outs. This Audeze open back already has a beautiful dense tone and with GS-X mini's spacious but still linear presentation 4z maintains amazing balance. On Euterpe's 1/4" out I found the 4z a bit too smooth and intimate. The GS-X Mini, however, allowed it to maintain a clean tactile edge but also the deep impact of the bass guitar while preserving the rich full bodied tone of the acoustic guitar and vocalists. With our GS-X Mini and Euterpe everything was exactly where it ought to be, presented with stellar tone and proper weight and just the right amount of air and sparkle when needed.
Swapping over to "No one but you" from the Goat Rodeo Sessions, I appreciated the weight and texture the GS-X Mini system retained. The deeper low piano notes kept a rich tone with amazing tactility, heft and vivid reverb trails. Where as with Euterpe's 1/4" vocals were pushed a bit forward with a lovely body and sweetness. Overall I appreciated what both systems did with the 4z for this piece of music!
I ended my sit down with LCD-4z with Zeppelin's "Bring it Own Home" and again each system had a slightly different presentation. With Euterpe Robert's voice was denser and a little closer and the harmonica was smoother with a little more sparkle. On the other hand GS-X Mini maintained the clarity and edge of the guitar licks and electric bass with improved tactility and vividness! This particular master is right from off the original tape and GS-X Mini retains much of the "raw" sound of this pull and preserves the unique sound of recording space! Euterpe's headphone amp on the other hand, smooths over a little bit of this texture and pulls Robert's voice forward. With both system's tho there's an ever present energy and captivating sound!
Wrapping up my listening session I swapped over to the Meze Elite. Again I appreciated the differences in presentation Euterpe offers thru it's internal 1/4" out and when paired with GS-X Mini thru it's Pre-Outs.
Using the internal amp Elite had a smoother, lush seductive presentation. Low notes were a little fatter, vocals sweeter and it's top end had amazing sparkle and air! It reminded me of a more refined Empyrean. On the other hand with GS-X Mini Elite was more linear, deep extended bass with intense slam and texture, a nuanced mid-range with a natural tone and timbre alongside a well extended top end!
I started my sit down with some Jazz, "Mingus Medley" from the Windmill Saxophone Quartet. With Euterpe's 1/4" the brass sounded gorgeous. Perfectly natural with just the right amount of bite, toms were dense with good body and the cymbals were slightly pulled back but it worked well for the track's composition. My only gripe was the kick drum was a tad to slow. Flipping over to the GS-X Mini that kick drum gained some needed speed and tactility. The percussion as a whole was a little more cohesive and the brass a smidge sharper. In a sense Euterpe slowed things down a little and put the brass in focus, where as GS-X Mini keep better time and presented the entire mix more evenly. So I appreciated having both options as there were some days where I was drawn into that slightly slower lush sound right from the 1/4" out and other days where I really feeling the lively linear presentation of GS-X Mini.
Now to finish my listen I picked "Monument" by Fates Warning. This prog-metal track sounded best with the GS-X Mini! The mix is a gorgeous combination of outstanding vocals, sweet guitar riffs, aggressive drumming and fast rhythmic bass lines. Truly this track came to life with GS-X Mini! While I appreciated the focus Euterpe put on the vocals and guitars I didn't quite enjoy the more laid presentation.
Functioning as a stand-alone all in one or the centerpiece of a larger system we feel the Auris Euterpe to be excellent It's combination of both Digital and Analog inputs make it easy to blend into existing systems while providing options for anyone wanting to add future components to a new system. Plus with some tube rolling options it's easy to fine tune it depending on your preferences. All in all this all in one is delightful to listen to and operate. It earns an easy recommended all by itself and but especially alongside our GS-X Mini.
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