TouchMyApps » Earsonics All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:00:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Earsonics SM64 reviewed at ohm-image Wed, 09 Oct 2013 00:08:08 +0000 While the bulk of shiggy’s headphone and earphone reviews have moved to ohm-image, expect a few good reviews to come to TMA. Shiggy’s most recent review is of Earsonic’s SM64. Earsonics are a favourite here at TMA and the SM64 seems to be the hit of the SM line. Why? Shiggy has this to say: … Read more]]>


While the bulk of shiggy’s headphone and earphone reviews have moved to ohm-image, expect a few good reviews to come to TMA. Shiggy’s most recent review is of Earsonic’s SM64. Earsonics are a favourite here at TMA and the SM64 seems to be the hit of the SM line. Why? Shiggy has this to say:

The SM64 delivers not only crisp mids and highs, it serves up boiling, authoritative punches that roll through most of audible spectrum. Lower mids are fast up and down. They never tangle with bass. Kudos to kick drums, bass guitar, electronic kicks, and pretty much anything with a beat from there on down. Thruma thwaaaarck! goes lower bass. Thwacka thwacka! go upper mids. Speed is king.

Timeliness – while stereotypically not very French an asset – has a pigeonhole with an SM64-shaped aperture.

Timely and taut though it is, the SM64 stops far before it ever reaches the shrill, metallic highs that has ER4 lovers all agog. Some may take issue here. Metal-tipped responses can be hugely fun. But Earsonics are a musician-oriented company; and in Earsonics 2,0, equitability takes precedence over wow.

Fans of crispy crisp crisp will probably look elsewhere for their bacon. Similarly, fans of warm fuzzies may also have to turn elsewhere. With few outliers, the SM64 sounds rather flat – and certainly crisp – at the ear.

Crispness FTW!

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Earsonics EM3Pro custom earphone in Review – quite simply the best! Tue, 10 Aug 2010 13:45:47 +0000 Earsonics have a killer lineup. Their SM3 professional universal monitor is fantastic, blowing the socks off a disgustingly large portion of the audiophile earphone market with its easy-to-drive architecture and beautiful sound. Its lofty price tag is worth it. So how about Earsonics’ top end; how ‘bout their customs? you might ask. Same old story. … Read more]]>

Earsonics have a killer lineup. Their SM3 professional universal monitor is fantastic, blowing the socks off a disgustingly large portion of the audiophile earphone market with its easy-to-drive architecture and beautiful sound. Its lofty price tag is worth it. So how about Earsonics’ top end; how ‘bout their customs? you might ask. Same old story. The triple-driver, dual-crossover EM3Pro is a beautiful product at a fantastic[er] price that should come away from a firefight with the biggest and best in the land without a hitch.

Sensitivity: 124 dB/mW
Frequency response : 20 Hz -18 kHz
Impédance: 23 ohms
Driver: Triple balanced armature drivers (dual bass, 1 high), 2-way passive crossover.
Included Accessories Replaceable “Y” cable, cleansing wipes, cerumen removal tool with brush, carrying case.

Package and Accessories
I think it’s good that we’re starting off weak here: an EM3Pro that’d look perfect in every light would be suspect. What I mean is that in comparison to its peers (especially the ACS T1), the EM3Pro looks a bit sad. Sure, its got a wax loop, a detachable cable, some clean wipes, and a box, but it’s sort of the quality of these items that counts.

Earsonics chose a decent cable and the best damn wax loop on the planet (there are really no differences), but their carrying case is bad – very bad. It really breaks the heart to open up the shipping box and find such a flimsy carrying case inside. It is built from flexible (and easy-to-chip) plastic. I took the EM3Pro with me on a recent trip to Canada. Unfortunately, the case wouldn’t fit in my carry on, so I had to check it in a very flimsy piece of luggage that just so happens to sport the same sort of plastic on its inside. Every time I hop out of a plane, that luggage is in a new state of shattered disrepair.

Fortunately, the EM3Pro box arrived safely (protected in layers of bubble wrap and fuzzy socks), but I counsel against trusting its sturdiness. Earsonics need to remedy this issue; there is no reason that a ~1000$ earphone should come packed in a box fit for nothing better than vitamins.

As always, fit depends on many items: the is getting a proper ear impression. That in place, isolation, sound, comfort, and even looks fall in line. That said, Earsonics’ material choices mean that the EM3Pro has a unique fit.

Firstly, the earphone is somewhat thicker than competitor’s earphones, losing out to the almost elephantine FitEar Private 333, but comparatively dwarfing the tiny ACS T1. It is also thicker from its concha-fastened feet to its faceplate than the Jerry Harvey JH13Pro. This isn’t a problem as the earphone, while heavier than hollow acrylic earphones from companies like Ultimate Ears and Jerry Harvey, isn’t overbearing. It feels solid and locks smoothly into place.

Unlike ACS’ earphones, it lacks a helix lock which has both good and bad points. The good is that it is easy to just slip in, the bad is that after a really really tight smile (and maybe some gas), it might dislodge somewhat from your ear. Of course, this happens with every single custom that lacks a helix lock (like 90% of the market). Next, the cable has memory wire in the first several centimeters that hook over the ear. For glasses wearers, it means annoying fit issues, but for everyone else, it means easy dangling wearing.

Finally, Earsonics manufacture their earphones with slightly shorter sound arms. In other words, eardrum-acrylic intimacy won’t happen. Personally, I prefer shorter sound arms, but some people may like a longer reach.

Finish and Build Quality
Earsonics custom professional earphones are above reproach, especially after founder Franck Lopez saw to it that all new EM3Pro models will feature countersunk cable ports. That means that pin breakage (remember the carrying case?) and otherwise cable strain should be on the down and out. Thank you Franck. This is important as many professional makers do not offer countersunk cables.

The unit itself is solid. Though extremely rare, driver rattle, which can affect hollow custom earphones from time to time, is a non-issue for the solid acrylic EM3Pro. The drivers are housed securely in a cluster in the centre of the earphone with long sound tubes extending into the sound arms from there. This method is strong, but also has some ‘issues’ that will be covered in the sound portion of this review.

No matter how well-built an earphone is, it is heeled by its cable at every turn. Earsonics, Jerry Harvey, Westone, Ultimate Ears, and many other manufacturers use the same or very similar cables. The two prongs at the end of the memory wire dig into the earphone’s body. Behind them, the cable is twisted into two wires that become three after a y-split. The plug is a heavy-duty flat box. It won’t fit countersunk headphone ports, but thanks to modern iPhones and iPod touch models, that isn’t a problem. What can be a problem is the cable itself. Twisted cables are known to unwind, getting caught on everything from zippers to drawer nobs. Be careful and the cable will last a long time. It WILL harden over time and while strong, shouldn’t be played with too much.

If you’ve made an expensive investment, treat it well. God knows you’ll have to baby it if you don’t buy a new carrying case!

Like two cheeks, the dual mid/low drivers sew up nicely

Before I get too far, I’ll just post a few of my sources and amps for reference. In case you are curious, with the exception of the HiSound AMP3Pro 2 and to some extent, the Sony A845, most were pure heaven with the EM3Pro.

iPod touch 2G
iPod nano 1G
Sansa Fuze V2
Sansa Clip V2
HiSound AMP3 Pro2
HiSound Rocoo
Teclast T51
MacBook Pro
Sony NW-A282
Sony NW-A845

Wood Audio 3
Einar Sound VC-01i
MST FiQuest
iBasso T3D/T3
iBasso P3+
iBasso D4

If you’ve sat through this far, you are in for a treat: the EM3Pro retains the modern bread-and-butter Earsonics sound that the SM3 produces so well, but it does everything better. In a nutshell, it is a warm but realistic sound that slightly favours the mid section and serves up gloriously deep bass and fatigue-free treble.

Fortunately, like the SM3, the EM3Pro is easy to drive. Plug it into anything except your mains outlet to enjoy perfect sound. Again, that fact is incredibly important, especially for stage musicians who need their monitor to sound like it’s supposed to from their mics.

Using an amp will get you a slightly wider stereo image and *maybe some more sparkle, but I fully recommend going naked (and saving the dosh) when using the EM3Pro. Of course, certain portable players such as old iPods and most Cowon players, for example, aren’t able to meet the 17Ω very well and may lose some bass presence. Of course, that bass presence happens at around 80Hz and down where the ear is straining to hear anyway, so while noticeable, this loss isn’t a deal breaker.

What you will notice is a sweet, textured bass whose loving hands apply just the right pressure in just the right spots. The throb and presence felt in the ACS T1 take back seats to cooperation and poise. Bass presence isn’t exaggerated at all though it reaches down incredibly low. The sweet spot is around 60-70Hz where lower bass and upper bass begin to plateau into a very smooth, deliberately flat frequency response.

All that isn’t to say that the lower edges of your music will lose detail. No, the EM3Pro is full of incredible detail. Just like the SM3, strings and percussion are perfect, but better yet, they are even cleaner. The sense of space between low-voiced instruments is keener, sharper. If you had doubts that the SM3 or other universal earphones would be able to separate music into succinct parts, you can breathe easy: modern balanced armature earphones are amazing. The more so with customs like the EM3Pro.

Rather than the three sound bores found in FitEar and recent Ultimate Ears and Jerry Harvey earphones, the EM3Pro has only two, but let me officially say: it doesn’t matter. Part of the reason is that the Earsoncs bore follows a longer tube back to the drivers. The ends of that tube are hard acrylic, unlike the soft rubber used by many competitors. Despite the length, sound doesn’t deteriorate; it doesn’t congeal.

Smooth though it is, bass has edge. In comparison to the JH13Pro, it is less pronounced, but hardly of lower quality. Jerry Harvey’s model is catered a little more to psychoacoustic models, favouring lower frequencies as the ear’s own equalisation takes foot. The EM3Pro favours statistically flatter response and smoother transitions. What that means for listening is a polite, tempered sound. But it doesn’t meant that edge is gone.

Particularly between bass and mid tones, the EM3Pro pronounces delineation with consonants. It will never mistake a bass note for an upper bass note. There is enough space in there to render all instruments in great detail. Again, and in particular, percussion and lower-voiced strings are perfectly voiced, with no accent.

This lends itself very well to vocals and to pop and rock music. It’s like there is a magnifying glass on the bottom 2/3 of the music that brings out the clever details of synthesizers, strings, percussions, and vocals. Beyond that is where we could get into discussion. The high end of the EM3Pro is good, make no mistake about it; but it is polite in a way that makes some other customs seem perky.

The good side is that there is no offence in the signal. You can listen for hours, days even, without the slightest side effect. And thank God, the EM3Pro isn’t dark; it never misses the ‘point’ in high frequencies. But, it doesn’t accentuate it either. You could oversimplify things and call it smooth, ignoring the fact that there are gory details all over the spectrum. But it is true that these details blend very well together. Mids and higher bass do take some precedence, but not to the detriment of treble or lower bass.

And high notes extend very well. So what is the fuss? Well, particularly if you’ve been sipping Yakult instead of milk, you will notice that the EM3Pro’s highs have less to say than the JH13Pro or the FitEar Private 333. You’d be right to say that, too; the EM3Pro presents the highs flatly as it does its mids and bass. Highs, just like bass, are harder for the ear to hear, so they may sound recessed. They aren’t; you’re just accustomed to manufacturers adding treble peaks and bass bumps to help out. Neither the addition of this equalisation, nor the absence of it is problematic. Both are just different approaches.

In some ways, I prefer the at-ear neutral sound of the JH13Pro, but in others, I prefer the milky smooth EM3Pro. Spacey genres such as trance benefit from a bit more treble sparkle, but not much. I am addicted to the EM3Pro’s paced, unruffled sound.

Headstage and Hiss
The EM3Pro finishes what the SM3 started: the construction of a vast, spacey playground for music of any sort. Somehow, besides great focus, and oddly, amidst the milky-smooth background the EM3Pro paints, instrument separation is great. So too is placement. Nothing blurs or trips up its neighbours.

Another badge of honour is that the EM3Pro, while quite sensitive, doesn’t hiss much. The JH13Pro, too, shares this trait. Of course, if you have a modern iPod, Cowon, or Zune, you won’t have to worry about hiss in the first place. But if you (like me) also own Sony’s, then hiss is a constant companion. The EM3Pro lowers this despite getting loud. My Sony A828 isn’t the bugger it was when paired with the FitEar 333 for instance.

I generally keep music set at ¼ volume on my iPod touch and even lower with my Sony with very little annoyance caused from hiss. The EM3Pro is the strong, silent type, thank God.

Out and About
So, properly fit and plugged in, how does the EM3Pro perform whilst on a walk, or on a bus? In a word: great. It isolates loads despite having shorter sound arms and being fashioned from acrylic. It also doesn’t leak at all unlike the FitEar Private 333.

The memory wire helps keep the earphone propped safely over an ear if you have to take it out to chat with someone. The only problem with Earsonics’ design is the case. I don’t recommend tossing your expensive earphones into the case and assuming they’ll stay safe in your backpack. Buy a Pelican case for 10$, or get a jewelry case for the EM3Pro – it’s worth the investment because this case really is sad.

For the price, there is probably not a better-sounding earphone on the planet than the EM3Pro. Hear me out: since it is easy to drive, you’ll get the sound you want from the most meager of sources. You don’t need an amp to bring out its ‘best’ or keep annoying hiss out of the picture. The EM3Pro is smooth, but detailed. It’s got no fuzz anywhere, but it tends toward warm. Despite a polite treble, it isn’t dark and as you can guess, is never edgy. Thanks to Franck’s new countersunk connection terminals, the EM3Pro’s pins should stay safe and last the life of the earphones. With the annoyance of the horrid case occupying the sole complaint in my complaint department, the EM3Pro is a fabulous custom earphone. Look for it in TMA’s upcoming ‘best iPhone earphones’ article.

Headphone Summary
Title: Earsonics EM3Pro Developer: Earsonics
Reviewed Ver: EM3Pro Spoeaker Type: Triple armature
Price: 744€ (~970$ USD) Cable: Twisted Rubber
  • easy to drive
  • hiss is minimal
  • non-fatiguing sound
  • excellent low-mid detail
  • counter-sunk cable contacts
  • carrying case is unfit for a ~1000$ earphone
  • memory wire can cause issues with glasses wearers

Hot damn! Headphones really are a rockin’ way to enjoy music, right? Feel free to explore TMA’s headphone oubliette

HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-cableonoff HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-case-engrave HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-case-plastic HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-glamour HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-incase HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-knowles HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-package HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-sideside-02 HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-sideside Like two cheeks, the dual mid/low drivers sew up nicely HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-topbottom HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-tube-02 HP-Earsonics-EM3Pro-tubeRead more]]> 8
Earsonics SM3 earphone in Review – 2010′s Star Child Thu, 24 Jun 2010 07:18:09 +0000 Back when Earsonics’ SM2 debuted, it rocked the professional earphone scene. Dry, neutral, detailed, powerful, and well-constfitructed (for a professional earphone), it sort of bagged the cat as it were. It was – and still is – one of the best professional earphones available. But Earsonics perfection-pursuing head, Franck Lopez, has looked to his laurels … Read more]]>

Back when Earsonics’ SM2 debuted, it rocked the professional earphone scene. Dry, neutral, detailed, powerful, and well-constfitructed (for a professional earphone), it sort of bagged the cat as it were. It was – and still is – one of the best professional earphones available. But Earsonics perfection-pursuing head, Franck Lopez, has looked to his laurels this year and debuted an even better earphone. The Earsonics SM3 betters the SM2 in almost every benchmark and along the way, has become a personal favourite of mine.

For better or worse, the SM2 and SM3 share the same desultory design. As noted in the SM2 review, this design does the job. Professional earphones truly are strange affairs, hinged by promises of quick repair (which they’ll need since they are packed in plastic). There are few exceptions to this rule. Truly, there are few professional monitors out there, but every one is constructed with the same ‘meh’ workmanship. The few well-known monitors are dominated by Westone’s otherwise excellent UM series. No thanks to that, however, Earsonics have followed Westone’s design cues. Their SM series is plastic, which is par for an unfortunately negligent course.

Snug like a bug, the SM3 fits really well

In the 2,5 months that I’ve hung onto this earphone (this review is long overdue), Earsonics have launched a few interim updates. The first is that current SM3’s ship with new dual-silicon flanges in addition to two Comply® tip sets. Comply® tips of course, isolate extremely well for stage work. A lot of audiophiles, however, prefer silicon. Franck delivered. The second change is that current SM3 models have been updated with slightly stronger construction, though you’d not know it by glancing at the two models.

stress relief is quite good

Sensibilité: 122 dB/mW
Réponse en fréquences: 20 Hz -18 kHz
Impédance: 17 ohms
Driver: 3 drivers (3 way crossover)
Livré avec: wipes, tool, carrying case, 2 Comply® earpieces, 1 set of silicon flanges

Last time around, I chose certain albums to describe the SM2’s sound. In the case of the SM3, I’ll keep it simple. I’ll reference a few favourite albums, but I want to make it clear that in many ways the SM3 doesn’t need an album to showcase what it can do. It simply and powerfully, just delivers music.

To prove that, I’ll lay out the arsenal of equipment and amplifiers I used to test these delightful earphones:

iPod touch 2G
iPod nano 1G
Sansa Fuze V2
Sansa Clip V2
HiSound AMP3 Pro2
HiSound Rocoo
Teclast T51
MacBook Pro
Sony NW-A282
Sony NW-A845

Wood Audio 3
Einar Sound VC-01i
MST FiQuest
iBasso T3D/T3
iBasso P3+
iBasso D4

Others that I spent minutes rather than hours with include the RSA SR71A, RSA Protector, (and a few home-brew Japanese headphone amps).

The grit: drivability
The SM3 is an EASY to drive earphone – it sounds great from almost any source. At 122dB sensitivity @17Ω, it can pick up a bit of background noise, but miraculously, much less than many other earphones. Therefore, my hissy Sony’s and AMP3 are remarkably ‘listenable’ when paired with the SM3. The iPod touch and iPhone 3GS of course, are remarkably ‘black’.

In other words, you don’t need a portable headphone amp to make the SM3 really sing. Firstly, the SM3 gets bleedingly-loud from any source; secondly, it simply doesn’t weigh down reasonably mature audio circuits. That isn’t to say that a portable amp doesn’t help things along. My personal (and tiny) favourite is the iBasso T3D, a perfectly balanced iem amplifier that pushes out great stereo image and perfect frequency response while maintaining a perky sound character. Paired with the iPod touch and SM3, there IS a tad more sparkle and in those frequencies where the iPod touch gets a little stuffy, the T3D opens the windows and lets the air in. For me, however, the difference isn’t worth it – and that is a good thing.

This mature behaviour is a plus, and here’s why: the SM3 is a great earphone for audiophiles who laze around on their beds with 20Kg of audio equipment digging into their sternums; but it is also a professional earphone. Stage musicians strap tiny wireless mic/amps to their sides; they don’t have the ‘luxury’ of pulling audio trailers behind them. Since the SM3 performs flawlessly from almost any source, the professional can hear her voice, her instrument with perfect clarity, which translates into better recordings/performances.

The Goo: What you’ll hear
The SM3, I think, should be Earsonics’ poster boy. It is neutral. It is smooth. It is all that. It veers away from bass-stomping. It won’t punch treble-holes in your ears. What is left is expressive, is emotional, is perfection. If touch and feel is your thing (and who doesn’t like touching?), the SM3 is your earphone. Beneath the thwap of every kick drum and under every fleshy guitar strum is sweetness that until now has played hooky from professional earphones from any manufacturer. I am quite ready to place my favourite tiara on the SM3. Percussion folks, and driving bass, are simple, ecstatic pleasures that shouldn’t be missed at any price.

Considering the SM3’s got an extra low driver packed inside its compact frame, I expected substantially more bass slam. Instead, the SM3 surprises with low end balance and midrange poise. The extra driver, triple cross over, and magical engineering smooth out the wrinkles that slightly mar the SM2.

Continuing on, Earsonics reckon that the SM3’s low frequencies are more intense than the SM2, and I agree – to a point. Low notes are clearer, for sure. But I wouldn’t categorise the SM3 as ‘bassy’, or ‘thick’ – or maybe even ‘intense’. It is just more controlled than the SM2. The SM2’s bass is chalky punkrock. The SM3 is a breathily mature.

The SM3 trumps its older sibling in vocals, in piano, and in strings. The midrange simply stands out with detail and *surprise surprise*, emotion. Go ahead, put on a soundtrack and be blown away by touch ‘n feel that the SM3 delivers. The SM3 does great credit to the Braveheart soundtrack, an album the SM2 rendered too coolly. Then, SM3 trumps jazz, vocal and lounge with fantastic atmosphere. You can practically taste the smoke and sex from a late live performance.

If you’re a Sci-Fi fan, you’ll love the SM3. This pragmatic Star Child renders the space between instruments very well. There are several reasons, but I only truly understand one: the SM3’s overall dynamics are good. There is zero blur between its two most prevalent frequencies: lows and mids and despite a somewhat subdued treble, the feel of sound hunting your eardrums from every angle is intense.

As a consequence, the SM3 rocks for trance, IDM, and electronic. Dear God: please let me explain this well… I expected there to be a rub.. I mean there has to be since the SM3 is a pleasure for organic genres. Guitar, percussion and vocals are perfect. Electronic would sound too soft, too pleading. I was wrong, thankfully. Completely and stupidly wrong.

The SM3 has the speed, space, and somehow, the raw strength to beautifully render electronic instruments in any arrangement. The SM3 carves through any electronic barrier and delivers strong, sweet bass, pace, succinct instrument separation, and smooth transitions. It is, however, quite typically a balanced armature earphone: it won’t send waves of bass turbulence into your eardrum, but what arrives is splendidly ’round’ and full. Synthetic percussion, chimes, vocals – all are pure bliss.

So, is there anything the SM3 can’t do? Naturally.

The SM3 sits at the top of its class, rendering bass, midrange, and treble smoothly. Then, there’s space, attack, and decay in dealer’s spades. But in the very same breath comes the rub: the SM3’s smoothness is also its weakness. I can’t fault it exactly, but I can assure you grit and edge are missing. If your tastes in music tip toward the high end or toward what is often mistakenly called ‘detail’, then you may find the SM3 boring. The high end doesn’t roll off per se, but it doesn’t really stand out either. On the one hand, it is 100% fatigue free, smooth, and inviting. But, on the other hand, it pats the hands of otherwise showy high frequencies, shooing them to the back of the class. Shure SE530 fans should find the SM3 a wonderful step upward as it does render highs with more poise. But fans of bitey earphones such as the Victor FX500, or Etymotic ER4S, may be put off.

For me, I’ve found a happy medium: neutral, unwrinkled frequency response, an expansive headstage, and fatigue-free listening. All of this is A-Okay even for a person who entered high-end personal audio many years ago thanks to the bitey Etymotics ER4S. However, my preferences, which tend to sidle toward the teething toddler savour a few nips here and there.

Barnone, the SM3 is the most impressively thought out earphone I’ve HEARD. It isn’t perfect, but it comes very close to perfection – especially when considering its market at large. It not only sounds great, it drives easily from any source and picks up less hiss than many of its comrades. Earsonics hit the nail on the head; they shot two birds with one stone; they baked the perfect cupcake for Oprah. The SM3 is an earphone for audiophiles and professionals – at least as it pertains to sound. Where they miss – and this is a serious miss in my opinion – is in their construction. If the SM3 was a mere audiophile fancy-pants earphone, all plastic might just be an ‘oh well’ item. But as the SM3 is also a supremely engineered tool, I’d love to recommend it to professionals. Earsonics could shut the competition down by delivering a metal or impact-plastic housing with thick walls; they could make a bold statement that sound AND construction quality are paramount concerns. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Even so, the SM3 is a great earphone and with proper care, should last a long time.

Despite my qualms about construction quality, and the fact that the SM3 eeks out a ‘mere’ GRAB, I’ve decided to brand an Editor’s Choice award across this otherwise excellent earphone.

App Summary
Title: Earsonics SM3 Developer: Earsonics
Reviewed Ver: SM3 Speaker type: Triple Balanced armature
Price: 280€ ~400$ USD Cable: twisted rubber
  • Lovely bass and midrange
  • Non-fatiguing
  • Excellent control
  • Wide stage
  • Easy to drive
  • Good cable
  • Drafty plastic construction
  • Dearth of accessories

HPR-Earsonics-SM3-filterview Snug like a bug, the SM3 fits really well HPR-Earsonics-SM3-plug HPR-Earsonics-SM3-side HPR-Earsonics-SM3-stress HPR-Earsonics-SM3-wound HPR-Earsonics-SM3-ysplitRead more]]> 18
Earsonics SM2 Inner Earphones in Review Wed, 12 Aug 2009 13:32:15 +0000 Earsonics, a French producer of professional earphones, have broken into TMA with their SM2 DLX, a dual balanced armature professional in-ear stage monitor which is priced at 280 € in France, or 268€ outside the country . It both feels and performs worthy of its asking price and comes in your choice of the following three attires: … Read more]]>


Earsonics, a French producer of professional earphones, have broken into TMA with their SM2 DLX, a dual balanced armature professional in-ear stage monitor which is priced at 280 € in France, or 268€ outside the country . It both feels and performs worthy of its asking price and comes in your choice of the following three attires: black, crystal (clear), and white. Like the UM3X from Westone, Earsonics’ top-tier universal iem has been constructed to exacting standards and utilises the same cable type: a durable, non-microphonic twisted strand design which is a benchmark for cable quality. Also, like its American competitor, the SM2 is plagued by a dearth of accessories.

Sensitivity: 119 dB/mW
Trandsducers: 2 Balanced Armature drivers
Frequency Response: 20 Hz -18 kHz
Impédance: 16 ohms
Driver: 2 transducteurs with a passive 2-way crossover
Accessories: 2 Large Comply® foams, cleaning tool, semi-soft carrying case

Package and Accessories
Earsonics’ package leads the pack in Spartan, utilitarian designs. It is a simply adorned cardboard package whose sparse amenities: two large Comply® foams, a wax cleaning loop, and carrying case, are moulded into a snap-shut plastic tray. While a dearth of accessories is strangely par for the course in many hi-end universal professional monitors, it is disconcerting considering the price.


However, Earsonic’s choice of Comply tips is a good one: the foam tip company’s products block more outside noise than any competitor’s ear pieces, are soft, comfortable, and easy to use. A word of warning however; the extremely porous foams have a few draw backs. If you use your earphones to monitor in hot, loud venues, or exercise whilst listening to your earphones, Comply earpieces’ minutely vented surface absorbs sweat. Be careful when re-situating the earphones because the foam can channel sweat into the earphone sound tube which can lead to short-circuits and/or sound blockages which are nasty to fix. Also, Comply tips wear out faster than many competing foams, losing compressibility, isolation and ultimately, utility.

review-headphone-es-sm2-case-03 review-headphone-es-sm2-case-01

Earsonics’ zipper semi-soft case is excellent. Add the extra tips and ear cleaning tool to the SM2 earphones and there is still room inside for some extras. What would make it better is an inner compartment for ear separating components.

I can admire Earsonics’ no-frills packaging for its small footprint which is easy to stow anywhere. Even the plastic tray doesn’t need scissors, knives, or can-openers to pry open. Consequently, I doubt we will see any reports of users who cut themselves while excitedly opening Earsonic’s packaging.


Build Quality
As a professional monitor, it would be a mistake to expect less than supreme construction. Earsonics have done their homework – at least most of it. There is nothing on the professional universal monitor market which stands up to their craftsmanship – unless it is Westone. The two companies utilise the same twisted cable which is both strong and exhibits nearly no touch-noise. Terminated in a block-shaped right-angle headphone plug, the jack is housed in impact-resistant plastic which is properly shrunk on to the cable with ~1 cm bumpers. Similarly, the SM2’s earpieces and y-split are shrink-bumped for strength and longevity. Stress relief is an extremely important part of protecting your investment and it is refreshing to see another manufacturer take such care with its products.

Although the SM2 utilises the same cable as the UM3X, and admittedly, looks to have a common ancestor, it isn’t quite as ergonomic. Both are comfortable and strong, but the Earsonics’ choice of angular plains is a small step down from Westone’s more natural curves. Still, the SM2 sits extremely flush in the ear and is among the better thought out designs among top-tier universal earphones. This makes cold weather wearing easier; adding a toque to your minus 20 listening wardrobe is as natural as a pair of woollen mitts and red cheeks.

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Plastic seams aren’t melted together as precisely as Westone’s UM3X, sometimes opening ever so slightly along the furrow. That said, the differences are mostly cosmetic as beneath the seams are plastic sills which effectively protect the earphone’s innards from the the environment. The SM2 indeed, is one of the most robustly-constructed earphones on the market. If the UM3X outpaces it in construction quality and ergonomics, it is by the smallest of margins, and maybe better determined by personal taste.

But both monitors are professional by design and intent. Neither stands up in build quality to the mere audiophile Audio Technica CK100. The professional market is in need of robustness, not frailty. The SM2 should last a long time, but its plastic body is its biggest enemy and if Earsonics fully did their homework, they’d have trumped Westone’s run-of-the-mill plastic shell.

Besides a nearly flawlessly constructed housing, Earsonics’ focus is obvious: excellent, balanced sound. While slightly warm in the mid region and thumping out a strong, yet balanced bass, there isn’t an overpowering frequency in the SM2’s arsenal. Its one flaw could be a slightly peaky treble which is evident in trance. Saying that, it topples many universal earphones with a large, well placed head stage and is overwhelmingly smooth and neutral.

The Usual Suspects
Ice Cube – Raw Footage
Again this album debuts to test a new earphone. The reason isn’t just because I am a fan of Cube’s smart, egotistical lyrics. Like a lot of contemporary American rap, it is completely low-fi; chalk full of poorly extended instruments, duffy bass, and to a fault, vocal-focussed engineering. Headphones which perform American rap well come in a couple of flavours. The first is the type like Monster’s Beats Tour which sound like a a flat, but powerful wall of sound. The other (in this case, the SM2), plays Raw Footage without any holds: rather, the album cries for more detail, space, and better psychoacoustics from its engineers. Despite revealing how shallowly recorded the album is, Raw Footage is amazing with the SM2.

Raw Footage is strangled by its own texture-less low end – the SM2 bottoms out beautifully, though not in a violent and detailed rumble; rather it expires in a tired, duffy sigh. Despite this album’s prejudiced engineering, it is a great experience with nearly any upgrade earphone. The SM2 adds taut, gritty edge to the veteran rapper’s ranting vocals, render bass perfectly and, among balanced armature headphones, remains a favourite of mine for American rap.

MC Solaar – Mach 6
This album remains my benchmark for well-engineered hip-hop. It is quick, lyrically tight, and varied in speed with a good selection of instruments and vocalists. Though the SM2 isn’t as hot in the mid range as some other phones, it is technically superior. Vocals are crisp, quick and beautiful, while bass is fast, punchy, and powerful. For a technically perfect performance, the SM2 hits the target, but its more neutral midrange loses some lushness compared with a midrange hothead like Mingo’s WM-2. I reference the latter earphone only to point out that there are many flavours of sound on the market. The SM-2 is superior from build to overall performance, but the WM-2’s warmth lends extra legs on certain albums which crave greater midrange room.

Braveheart – The Soundtrack
At once soft and tender, at times, this album crashes violently in sudden thundering crescendoes. Braveheart needs a delicate, yet mid-oriented earphone whose head stage is above-average and which renders bass deeply.

All things considered, there is hardly a better choice in the universal monitor market. Instruments and space are flawless. Wider stages can be found in other earphones: the Sennheiser IE8 for instance; but in the balanced armature world — a world known for excellent instrument separation and placement –, there are few to match the SM2. Bass, which thunders in and out is deep and resonant, adding emotional weight to the album, yet it isn’t overly energetic. It won’t interfere with the other frequencies, smearing mids or recovering too late.

Phantom of the Opera – The Original Canadian Recording
While the London recording is good, the Canadian version, which debuted with Colm Wilkinson and Rebecca Caine is superior. Wilkinson’s Phantom: pained, wispy and haunted is translated admirably. There isn’t a better Phantom than in the Canadian cast, however, there is a better Phantom earphone. Again, the SM2 isn’t stressed by any music in this album, but it doesn’t butter up the excellent recording. Smooth and beautiful, if your tastes are strongly mid-centric, the SM2 may leave wishing for more pain, pleading and probably, for a cheaper, less-neutral earphone.

However, back to back with the UM3X, the the SM2’s more expressive bass and clearer treble lend more to this emotional album. Both earphones are top performers – there is no denying it, but one will likely fit your fancy more than the other.

Marcus Schulz – Progression
It is hard to recommend a better benchmark trance album than this debut by the American DJ. From the deep introduction in Mainstage to the gripping melodies of songs such as Spilled Cranberries and On a Wave, the SM2 is a liquid-hot hit. Trance, a genre which sounds great from the most neutral of earphones, benefits from the SM2’s deep bass and spacious head stage. Vocals are lush, but not overly hot and musical pacing is perfect. The only problem I have encountered is that at times, the SM2 can be tweaky with electronic treble. This isn’t unique to Earsonics’ product; many balanced armature earphones can be fatiguing with this genre. That said, Earsonics’ rendering of trance is stunning and is less fatiguing than several other popular choices.


Sound – In a Nutshell
While I highlighted the above albums, I want to point out that the SM2 has no real sonic weaknesses in any genre. Its dual drivers are powerful at both extremes of the spectrum; bass is strong and detailed, revealing minute vibrations in stringed instruments, and in electronic music, convincingly deep and resolved; similarly treble is smooth, if not slightly recessed in comparison.

In a market which is endemic with campaigns which almost always suggest that more equals better sound, the SM2 proves that 1+1 can equal 3. After spending a month with the SM2, I want to recommend users to pay less attention to manufacturer’s advertising campaigns and more on their musical preferences.

The SM2’s closest relative – at least in terms of design – is the Westone UM2. Both bear dual balanced armature drivers, excellent twisted cables and robust headphone jacks. However, the SM2 is more articulate. Its bass is faster, doesn’t misstep in fast genres, and provides more detail. While the UM2 is a warm, foot-tapping earphone, the SM2 is more neutral. It compares very well with the UM3X though the two are again, different flavours.

Head Stage
While the smooth, yet detailed sound of the SM2 didn’t surprise me, its stage and instrument placement have. It betters the UM2 by a good margin and though similar in accuracy to Jays’ q-Jays, the latter is dwarfed by the scope of the SM2’s performance.

Out and About with the SM2
There is nothing really to write about. The SM2 is perfect. As I said before, its cable is nearly noiseless. Of course, the sound of your footsteps (which is transferred through your skeleton) will thump in your ears. If that bothers you, stop walking with such thin shoes – there is no inner earphone which will not transfer the sound to your ears. Outside noise is blocked to nearly null with the included Comply® ear pieces even on low volume settings and the SM2 is very comfortable.

At 119 decibels of sensitivity and 16 ohms, the SM2 will reveal hiss from your sources. With an iPod touch 2G, it’s hardly noticeable, but with and iPod nano 1G, hiss is bothersome in quiet passages. My Sony 828 has been sitting on the shelf because it is simply too noisy for serious listening.

The SM2 is a professional audio product. While it is one of the best for portable listening, musicians, who plugged into wireless amp/monitors, aren’t beset with the same worries. However, even wireless amps can be very loud, so be careful as the SM2 can very quickly become unbearably loud.


280 Euros is a lot of dosh for any earphone, no matter the market. But Earsonics reckon that the SM2 DLX is worth the asking price. So do I. If you want excellent sound, good ergonomics and nearly flawless construction, the SM2 should be on your list. Again, due to design similarity and identical cables, it is easy to draw comparisons with Westone’s excellent UM2 and UM3X. Westone’s products are slightly ahead in ergonomics, but dividing the products on lines which are defined by sound quality is more difficult. The SM2 is similarly neutral when compared with the UM3X, but has a slightly heavier bottom end and an airier treble.

Comparisons aside, Earsonics’ SM2 is a great product. It is solidly constructed and sounds great, has the industry’s best cable and a great carrying case. Though sparse on accessories, it is certainly an easy grab.

App Summary
Title: Earsonics SM2 DLX Developer: Earsonics
Price: 234-280.00 Euro
  • Small packaging
  • Snap enclosure
  • Strong, detailed bass
  • Great mids and clear treble
  • Best in class cable
  • Comply ear pieces
  • Needs more ear pieces
  • Not as ergonomic as Westone’s earphones

If you are like the geeks at TMA, you can’t get enough of headphones. Check out some of our latest reviews below:
Klipsch Image S4 in Review – Mingo WM-2 Inner Earphones in Review — s-Jays Inner Earphones in ReviewMonster Beats Tour Earphones in Review — Klipsch S2 in ReviewWestone UM3X in Review

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