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EarSonics SM3 Universal Fit IEM

Posted

Pros: Accurate reproduction of the recording with the ability to recreate the space, dynamics, bass, and everything else originally present like no other!

Cons: None

Remember those essays you had to write in grade school? Well I do even if you don't. In honor of that memory, I am going to write: What does the EarSonics SM3 mean to me?

Back in March I was going to order the EarSonics SM3 based off the few things I have read about them, even though it wasn't much. But then something stopped me. Could they really be that good, and the shipping cost was as expensive as my gateway IEM! I was not sure what exactly to expect, but did have some insider info from shigzeo, which was all positive. But were they going to be UM3X like and lacking they dynamics and excitement I want, especially for the price?

Well, a month went by and search reminded me of the SM3, and I realized I had to have them. So I placed my order. I got the FX700 two days before the SM3. Talk about too many toys at once. Upon opening the SM3, I was surprised that there was only one type of tip (Franck is going to start including a 2nd type of tip). And to be honest, at first, I was thinking "what the hell did I just spend $425 on?" Burn in, tips, getting used to the sound sig, who knows. But they sound so much better now, and clearer also.



What am I hearing? This excerpt pretty much sums it up quite well (thanks MayaTlab via KLS)
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MayaTlab View Post
I don't know about the UM3x availability in the USA.

For the Earsonics, you'll have to import them from their website :

EarSonics ® / Ear Sonics in-ear monitors / custom earphones / in ears / ear monitors / earplugs / earmolds.

Don't be afraid because of the translation - yeah, it sucks. Trust me, they're very serious and the customer service is fantastic.

Also, their price is 350 WITH TAX, and probably if my mathematical skills aren't that terrible around 290 without - still very expensive in dollars (387 + possible customs taxes).

However, I'd wait if I were you, because there are only a handful of head-fi feedbacks about them. The French forums are just raving about them about pretty much everything, but it would be nice to have different points of view. However so far I've read the following comments :

- Better details and instrument separation than the UM3x (that must really be something then)
- Soundstage as wide as IE8
- Superb imaging and depth
- "Spot on" EQ - ie very flat and neutral (though I bet we're talking about the Hi-Fi side of neutrality, that is to say rather warm but not too much)
- Very tight and controlled bass (at least tighter than IE8), with thunderous and fast impact. I haven't read anything about its texture. They have less bass quantity than the IE8, but I cannot say in comparison to the UM3x. I bet given my SM2 experience that they'll slide in between the SE530 and UM3x in terms of quantity.
- Superb mids (very likely to be the best of the current universals, given Earsonics' pedigree), and super extra ultra "liquid".
- Airy and extended treble
- Effortlessly dynamic - they sound "big", "powerful"


They also have the exact same ergonomics as the UM3x, but there isn't a version with removable cables.

On the one hand, that sounds too good to be true (hence my recommendation to wait a bit), but on the other hand, Earsonics has been around for years, is producing a two-way three drivers custom that goes head to head with the JH13 (and was designed more than four years ago) and is a very serious company - so they're totally able to pull this off.

Well, OK, so I stole a post from someone else! At least I cited the source! But seriously, IMHO these are the best in-ear monitors I have heard, bar none (with the exception of possibly the UE11 universal I heard for 20 minutes at Can Jam, but these gave me the same amazed feeling). So, lets see...
- Equal to or better than IE8 soundstage width (my IE8's were lost in the mail, so I can't compare directly)
- Equal to or better space/imaging/instrument separation than the UM3X
- More detail than the dynamics I have heard, and at least as much as the other BA's I have heard (more comparisons need to be done)
- Best of the dynamic IEM like bass impact
- Enough speed for anything I have thrown at them
- Extended treble
- Liquid mids
- e-Q7/GR8 transparency
- Dynamics and excitement when the song calls for it
- Best I have heard balance across the spectrum from bass through the treble

Did I miss anything?

So, because of what I am hearing, my other high priced IEMs are becoming expendable and unused, which means I am probably going to sell many of them, if not all after I finish my comparisons. That is why the SM3 is the "most affordable high priced universal IEM!"

 

So, I sold: CK10, GR8, FX700, e-Q7, PR1 Pro, Mingo WM2 Gold & Silver and bought the Tesla T1...and I don't miss any of what I sold!

 

And a note on the sound.  While I don't have the others to compare with (still have the CK90Pro, Copper, and RE252 for backup purposes, and out of being too lazy to sell them), I think the SM3 has grown on me/improved even more than when I did my comparisons.  Now there are many other owners that are agreeing with my findings.  Go get them, you won't be disappointed (after 2 weeks with them).

 

IMG_3371.JPG

 

A note on the SM3 vs. the T1...the SM3 can present a wider space than the T1 with some songs, and has a more true to the recording sound than the T1, as it varies widely in presentation depending on the recording.  While I have no complaints about the T1, other than really needing another amp for it, the SM3 can do things the T1 can't.  But then the T1 does present things differently and places things in a way that I can hear the individual notes and noises better sometimes.  This is due IMO to the T1 having a more constant soundstage size.

 

Comparisons:

My results from A/Bing my headphones.  I selected the best tips for each, used a few sources and my test tracks, which I am familiar with.

SM3 vs.

FX700:
Bass - FX700 has more bass and more bass reverb than the SM3. But to my ears the SM3 sounds accurate and the FX700 sounds a little uncontrolled. It is easier for me to make out the details in the bass with the SM3, and the SM3 has faster bass. The SM3 is warmer than the FX700 by a bit.
Mids - The SM3 mids make the FX700 mids sound somewhat recessed. This is because the SM3 has full mids and the FX700 presentation of the mids is more laid back.
Treble - The SM3 treble never sounds too much or too little, whereas the FX700 treble sounds like it is artificially boosted and lacks tonal accuracy.  The tonal accuracy of the FX700 doesn't really sound off until you compare with the SM3, as the emphasis can be skewed due to the comparatively compressed soundstage and boost, affecting the harmonics.  The SM3 treble is liquid, and while the FX700 treble does have much detail and is not sharp like the FX500, it lack s the liquid quality of the SM3. 
Soundstage - While the FX700 has nearly the same width as the SM3, the soundstage is comparatively flat front to back and top to bottom.
Transparency - The SM3 disappears more than the FX700, especially when there is a lot of bass and treble in songs.
Summary - The SM3 sounds more natural and balanced than the FX700 across the spectrum. The lower half of the FX700 is nice, but still not as detailed or controlled as the SM3.

e-Q7:
Bass - The e-Q7 has nice, deep bass that doesn't sound lacking, until you hear the SM3 bass, which has much more power and much better reverb. There is a very noticeable difference in warmth also, as the SM3 is much warmer. The only place where the e-Q7 may be better than the SM3 is lower mid/upper bass clarity, and only by a bit. Bass speed of the SM3 is superior to the e-Q7.
Mids - Both have very good mids, but the differences are in how liquid the SM3 mids are as well as the warmth and fullness, with the SM3 being warmer/fuller. The mids IMO come down to preference, but the more liquid presentation of the SM3 is much preferred.
Treble - I think the treble of the SM3 sounds much better than the e-Q7, and is more extended and liquid, but not smooth. The details are all there, but not etched or rough at all, just presented in a very convincing way. The e-Q7 on the other hand does not convey the realism in the treble that the SM3 conveys.
Soundstage - The e-Q7 has a similar shape to the soundstage, so both of these IEMs portray instruments with similar accuracy from a 3D perspective. But size is where these differ, which is song dependent. The more space in the song, the better they both sound, but the SM3 has more room for the space to grow. Straight out of a DAP I think the SM3 does better, but when amped, the e-Q7 can catch up for some songs. But again, when the song has a lot of space in it, the SM3 pulls away.
Transparency - This is similar, and I actually think the SM3 is a little superior due to the additional speed.
Summary - The e-Q7 is a very capable IEM, but still not quite as good as the SM3. I do really like the sound, and without A/Bing, this would be my favorite IEM (and the FX700 a very close 2nd), but with the SM3 around, the e-Q7 is expendable, as it constricts what the SM3 does and the bass or treble really don't compete.

CK10:
Bass - The CK10 extends all the way down in the bass region, but the difference in weight is huge. The SM3 has far superior weight and reverb while not giving up much in speed. Detail is about the same.
Mids - Warm vs. comparatively cold presentation. The mids do have better clarity with the CK10, but that clarity comes at a price of an analytical sound vs. a liquid presentation.
Treble - Just like in the bass region, the treble of the SM3 is vastly superior to the CK10. I used to think the CK10 treble, while not great, wasn't bad. In direct comparison, the treble of the CK10 is metallic and unrealistic sounding. And the emphasis of the CK10 is in the upper mids/treble, which makes it worse.
Soundstage - The CK10 has a very nice soundstage depth/width/height ratio, slightly better than the e-Q7 IMO. The SM3 offers that, but with a much greater absolute size.
Transparency - The SM3 is a winner here as both the bass and treble of the CK10 bring attention to themselves, reducing transparency.
Summary - The CK10 does offer one thing over the SM3...midrange clarity. However, the trade-offs for the small increase in mid clarity is not worth the comparatively poor performance in all the other categories.

MD (I had a short audition.  It was short because I did not think it compared well to the SM3):

Bass - The MD is warmer than the SM3, but the bass also sounds very uncontrolled in comparison.  The level of detail is very different between the two, with the SM3 have so much more.  While the MDs may have more bass because they keep moving and moving, the SM3 doesn't lack power in comparison.

Mids - Both have full mids, but the MD mids are more full.  The MDs have a front and center presentation that the SM3 can mimic with a few recordings that are recorded that way.  The SM3 mids are more liquid and detailed, sounding more realistic.

Treble: The SM3 treble is spot on, the MD treble is a little relaxed in comparison.

Soundstage - The MDs have a smallish soundstage while the SM3 has a much larger, more 3D and realistic soundstage.

Transparency - The SM3 is oodles better than the MDs as the lack of bass control (in comparison) makes driver placement easy.
Summary - The MDs have a mid-centric presentation with a nice midrange, but IMO are outclassed in every way.

 

Copper: Quick hit...the Copper is a very nice IEM, no doubt.  It has strengths, but compared with the SM3, I don't feel it does anything better.

Bass: Slower and more reverberant than the SM3, it isn't bad, but lacks the details and ability to have a quick attack when the song warrants it.

Mids: The SM3 mids are fuller, but at this stage with my SM3, I do not hear any veil in comparison.  The throaty mids have a natural sound to them that makes a believe out of me, while the Copper sounds like I am listening to headphones.

Treble: I do like the treble of the Copper quite a bit, but the SM3 outdoes the Copper in resolution and realistic sound of the instruments as well as more precise placement.

Soundstage: the Copper has a nice 3D presence to its soundstage, although not large.  The front-to-back and top-to-bottom aren't all that far off in proportion to the width when compared to the SM3, but the entire soundstage is smaller overall.  It does open up quite a bit with a good source/amp, but still does not reach SM3 levels.

Transparency: The Copper isn't the most transparent among the dynamic IEMs, the SM3 is at least as transparent as the e-Q7 (an I think more transparent), so there you go.

Summary: The SM3 sounds so much less like I am listening to IEMs when compared with the Copper.  The SM3 is more detailed, resolving, and has a better, wider stage.

Note (6/2/10): I put the Copper in after a long time of not listening to them and realized the above was me being nice.  The SM3 just crushes the Copper to my ears as they seem flat in dynamics, compressed in soundstage, lack precision, and have uncontrolled bass in comparison.  I remember when I thought the Copper was oh so good; perspective changes everything!

 

GR8:

To make this short and to the point, while the GR8 sounds nice, when compared with the SM3, it sounded very unnatural to my ears.  The SM3 sounded like how I would hear a live performance and the GR8 did not.  Of course, the SM3 also outperforms the GR8 in every category from a little to a lot.  Bass, mids, treble, soundstage, transparency, detail, reverb, etc.  You think of it, the SM3 was superior IMO.  But I really couldn't get past the unnatural sound in comparison with the SM3.

Posted

Pros: Resolution, sound reproduction without any additions, transparency, bass detail and texture, soundstage, realism, speed, liquid, comfortable.

Cons: Price, might not impress at first due to neutral signature.

 

Review.jpg

 

I’ve had the EarSonics SM3 for about two weeks now, and I think it’s time to give them a review (pictures can be found at the end).

 

Packaging

 

The EarSonics SM3 comes packaged in a rather small box (I was surprised to find the size of the box to be much smaller than the huge oval-shaped-unopenable-treasure-chest that my Shure SCL4’s came in). The box is about 1/3 of the Sennheiser IE8 box. Regardless, I found the small packaging to be rather neat because it made me even more curious as to how these sounded.

 

Inside the box, one finds the most minimalistic of included accessories and tips. The EarSonics SM3 comes with one pair of Comply Foam tips attached to the IEM, an extra pair of Comply tips inside the packaging, a wax remover/cleaner, a carrying pouch, and a manual written entirely in French (my High School French skills didn’t come in handy either, bummer). When I ordered my SM3, I requested some silicone double flange tips to be included, and Franck generously included two silicone tips with no questions asked.

 

The actual IEM is found inside its own compartment within the packaging, and the wiring is conveniently located inside the included pouch. I actually found the minimalistic accessories/packaging to be no detriment to the actual product, considering the gorgeous sound they reproduce.

 

Size & Fit

 

My first reaction upon holding the SM3 was: “Wow, these are so light.” They seemed almost too lightweight to be any good, I thought. They were considerably lighter than my Shures or Sennheisers. Of course, this light weight also equated to an extremely comfortable fit.

 

The SM3 fits over the ear and it is apparent that they are supposed to be worn behind the back, because of the short space between my chin and the separator when worn in front of me. The fit I had with the default Comply tips were extremely comfortable, and offered the most sound isolation. However, over time I felt that the Comply tips made the treble less accentuated and the bass less tight and more bloated. I switched to the silicone double flange tips and found the treble to come alive, and the bass to tighten up considerably. I now wear the SM3s with the silicone double flange tips and am waiting on my Sensorcom tips to arrive so I can compare.

 

The EarSonics SM3 wire is braided with absolute care. The wire has considerable stress-relief both at the IEM end and the terminating jack. The wire offers almost zero microphonics, much less than the other IEMs I’ve tried. Also, after having worn the SM3 over the ear for two weeks, the wire seems to have created a very slight (but soft) memory to my wearing style—which I actually prefer—however, it is not a stiff wire memory like the Shure SCL4 wire. All in all, the fit and comfort of these IEMs, and the care with which they were created screams precision.

 

Now, onto the most important part.

 

Sound Reproduction

 

When I first put the SM3s in my ear and turned on my MP3 Player (going ampless), I experienced a familiar ‘thud’. I flipped to a well-recognized neoclassical track, Liberi Fatali by Nobuo Uematsu.

 

My initial reaction was not a “Wow!” or anything of that nature. However, I did recognize the tremendous soundstage immediately. The track calls for a lot of instruments and treble + timbre on instruments, which all were reproduced well by the SM3.

 

I moved onto a faster, more bass heavy j-pop track, and here is where my first disappointment came. The bass impact seemed lacking to me, as someone who just came from a Sennheiser IE8. However, the vocals shined and all the instruments were so well separated that it brought back something that I hadn’t experienced for a while: balance. I was so used to the IE8’s signature, that I completely forgot about certain elements in tracks.

 

Over the next half hour, I played a variety of tracks, and listened to the SM3 very critically. It seemed that the SM3 was improving with every track to my ears. This did not make sense to me, at all.

 

It appeared that the vocals were getting wetter, more alive, and detailed. The initial bass impact that I found to be lacking was getting tighter and more textured. I recognized texture in the bass that I never found with the IE8s, the bass was rich and very, very well detailed. The highs were, however, still not as extended as I found the IE8s to be. Nevertheless, after my brief audition, I put the SM3 down and knew in the back of my head that these were going to surpass my other IEMs over time. With the half-hour brain burn-in that I experienced, I could only imagine what I was going to think of these IEMs weeks down the road.

 

Fast-forward those two weeks down the road. Here are my impressions:

 

Vocals

 

The EarSonics SM3 are incredible with vocals. My best way to describe how vocals sound on the SM3 is: natural. The EarSonics presents music as it was recorded, with what seems to be (and I really think this) no colouring whatsoever. Certain tracks that call for female vocals seemed to be so beautiful to listen to with my Shure’s, because of their squeaky clean accentuation. The IE8s also gave me a different direction with vocals, with a more laid-back sound signature which seemed slightly veiled compared to the Shure’s.

 

However, the SM3 is different from anything that I’ve heard. They do not like to add spices or toppings to the music. They only give you what is in the music and nothing more. I thought I was getting this with the Shures, but I was wrong. The SM3 WILL show you the sound of a female inhaling before singing her first notes—however, while both the Shure’s and Sennheisers did this, the SM3 did it differently. The Shures would present the inhaling almost artificially. There is little to no realism of the air rushing through the female’s throat. What I mean by this is, the bass that the air is riding on is not represented by the Shures. The Sennheisers on the other hand, exaggerate this bass. The mid-bass hump on the IE8s make almost every female vocalist sound one or two steps darker or less polished than they really do. Thus, when a female inhales before singing, the Sennheisers added bass where there should not have been bass.

 

The SM3 reproduces the bass at an inhale almost magically. There is so much TEXTURE on the bass that the air is riding upon, it is breathtaking (no pun intended). One can feel (not just hear) the air rushing through a vocalists’ throat, and can almost tell if his or her throat is dry or wet. I’m sorry if this sounds kind of disgusting to some, but I am trying to explain in full detail how the SM3 reproduces vocals. I could literally hear the air rushing through the throat and coming back out as beautiful notes. I could see that transformation from air to music that humans are able to do with their vocal cords. The bass is not missing like on the Shures, or exaggerated as on the Sennheisers. It is just right. It is real.

 

The vocals are not ‘in your face’ nor laid back. They are simply represented as how the music was recorded. Certain tracks that I’ve listened to made the vocals appear so ‘in my head’, while other tracks made the vocals appear in front of me, or way in front of me. It all depends on the track, really. It’s almost as if the SM3 is a malleable piece of mud, ready to be made into a piece of pottery. When you press play on that song, the potter goes to work and transforms the mud into the exact dimensions that blueprint (the song) calls for, giving you a piece of pottery that is solely a reproduction of what the blueprint asked for.

 

Mids (Vocals continued)

 

The mids on the SM3 are indeed something magical. They seem so effortless yet so alive, it’s quite hard to discern how EarSonics was able to create this type of sound signature. During a song, the mids are ‘there’. They are part of the music, and it is almost like a strand that you can grab and examine, and then release so that it goes back to being part of the harmony of music. The detail, speed, and realism are all there. But, it is not artificially there to impress you. It’s part of the music. It is not part of a show that the SM3 is trying to make so that it can prove itself to be the best IEM. Almost all of the components of sound are represented this way on the SM3s. They all exist in harmony with one another, but can be ‘held’ by themselves and examined, and they will each prove to be perfectly represented. This is how I would describe mids, and every other component, on the SM3.

 

They are delicate, lush, smooth, laid-back—whatever the music calls for. They will not be polished and super clean in every song, but real to the audio. But what if a song does call for the mids to be polished and super clean? You will get exactly that. The SM3 reproduces mids in this ingenious, transformational way.

 

Highs

 

Highs on the SM3 are again, perfectly in-tune with the music. They are not there to give you shivers everytime you hear a cymbal crash. If the cymbal does crash and cause you to shiver, then it means that the audio was recorded with that intention.

 

The sparkle and glimmer is all there in the highs, but only when called for. The highs will tickle you and make you grin when necessary, and remain there for your picking when the song does not require it. How are they reproduced when the song does require the highs to be accentuated? Well, simply put—brilliant.

 

The highs extend and glimmer perfectly in all the songs that call for it. They do not roll off like in the Shures, nor are they extended past their intention like in the Sennheisers. Since I listen to a lot of j-pop, the speed and sparkle of highs make for a hard combination to reproduce well. However, the SM3 does this with ease. I will elaborate on the speed and precision of the SM3 later on.

 

High notes by vocalists are so lifelike and natural it is quite amazing. You can feel the struggle of a vocalist to reach those high notes, and the consequent result of their effort. It is indeed a faithful reproduction of highs. Did I mention that the highs do not interfere with the other sections of music whatsoever while doing this? They are all in perfect balance and harmony with one another. This makes for a reproduction of music that is never artificial and never fatiguing. Overall, the highs on the SM3 is not something to be messed with. It’s amazingly well crafted and beautiful on every level. There is no harshness or sibilance to be found. It is indeed a fine, unique representation of highs on every song.

 

Bass/Lows

 

As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed with the impact of the bass initially. Two weeks later, I laughed at my naïve self. I believe brain burn-in, as well as some subtle burn-in on the crossover and drivers did this to me. The bass impact on the SM3s is thunderous, fast, tight, and CONTROLLED. Everything about the bass on the SM3 screams high-end reproduction.

 

The bass is so well textured and defined, yet at the same time so impactful and fast, that it is hard to understand how EarSonics created this type of signature using only one bass driver per earpiece. When I stated that the bass was controlled, this does NOT mean that the bass cannot be felt. It only means that the bass is rich and high-end. The bass feels so… expensive and high-class on the SM3.

 

On natural instruments, the timbre of instruments is so lifelike it is like a delicacy. The sound of a violin, trombone, or piano are perfectly represented and sustained by the bass on the SM3s. The Sennheisers that I had did this, but not to this level. I believe that natural instruments sound even better on the SM3 because of the bass detail that they reveal. The Sennheisers were not nearly as detailed on bass as the SM3s are. Combined with the massive, realistic soundstage of the SM3s (which I will get to later), the combination is deadly.

 

On hip-hop songs that are bass-heavy, the SM3 does not fail. I didn’t expect the SM3 to be able to stand through some really bass-heavy hip-hop songs, but boy was I wrong. Bass can pound your ears if the music calls for it, and it can be soft and gentle, carrying the tone of a single piano note if the music calls for it. It may be funny to describe the bass as a premium, viscous honey, but that's the taste I get with the bass on the SM3s. Quantity wise? The bass has tremendous quantity—but only if the song calls for it. It will not be there disturbing you on an acoustic passage if the guitar doesn’t have that type of bass; this is something I grew annoyed with on the IE8—bass was simply accentuated when it shouldn’t have been. The quantity of the bass, combined with the detail and speed, make for an amazing experience on any song with an underlying bass-line.

 

Did I mention the speed of the bass? It is tremendously fast. The bass can stop on a dime if necessary, and then start back with thunderous impact one second later. The bass will not smear the audio spectrum and ruin your mids and highs. Never. It will always remain harmonious to the music. One can truly appreciate bass on the SM3s because of the detail and control of it. It is not distorted, bloated, or exaggerated one bit.

 

Bass is not only there on the main sound, but on little tidbits and sounds occurring ‘outside’ the main space in the music. If there is a drum far on your right in the soundstage, the bass of the drumstick hitting the drum will also be there, in accordance with the distance from you. It is marvelous how the SM3 can recreate bass so realistically in this way. One thing that I feel I have to continuously mention is how controlled the bass is. It is almost disciplined in a way, but polished and rich. It is a classy, but fun bass. By ‘fun’, I don’t mean IE8 bass-style fun. I mean, fun in accordance with the music. If the bass on a track is accompanied by dark piano notes, you will feel the sadness in the music through the bass.

 

The bass can extend down and down. I have not heard the bass roll-off once, even on many bass-heavy tracks. The extension on the bass is again, very rich but CONTROLLED. It will not stagger and break its position. Think about it like you’re on a bike accelerating to a fast speed. If you want to accelerate very, very quickly to that top speed, your bike will likely buckle left and right a little before you reach that top speed and your bike is stable. The SM3 will not buckle while accelerating. The frame of that bike will remain perfectly straight and controlled as it accelerates to that top speed. Overall, I am extremely impressed by the richness and detail of the bass, and with the control that it has. The fact that I can feel (and not just hear) the bass when the song calls for it also makes me delighted. The bass on the SM3 is just as harmonious as the mids and highs with the music. Simply put, the bass on the SM3 is everything you would want your bass to be in music (unless you like artificially enhanced bass—or are a real basshead).

 

Speed, Precision, and Detail Retrieval

 

The EarSonics SM3 is hands down the fastest IEM I have heard to date. They don’t gasp for air with complex songs, where there is emphasis on even a 6 or 7 instruments + vocals simultaneously. Everything is effortless. What I like even more about the speed of the SM3 is the fact that everything (the mids, highs, and bass), are all there on even the tiniest note. On songs that start with a soft shrill of a violin for example, that half-second note WILL have the attack necessary, AS WELL AS the bass, mids, and highs that it should have. It is all there in even the fastest notes.

 

The SM3 is not sloppy when it comes to speed. It will not smear a note from one area to another. Everything is where it should be. A drumstick hitting a drum will have the exact precision as intended. The bass impact of the drumstick hitting the drum will also be there, as well as the consequent sound dissipating into space (this I will elaborate on the soundstage portion).

 

Attack and decay are all spot-on with the SM3. I can’t say anymore about the speed and precision of the SM3—it is fast and there is no doubt about it. The detail retrieval of the IEM is better than everything I’ve heard. The SM3 will pick up micro-details and place them exactly where they belong on the soundstage. All of the details are incorporated harmoniously on the SM3. Even in complex passages, one can hear the small details or clicks that were intended to be in the track. Even the smallest details will have their respective bass/mids/highs attached to them. It is like the SM3 does not want any note to go out there ‘naked’ into the audio stream. Everything has to have some clothing attached before it is allowed to go out in the audio stream. Overall, the speed and detail of the SM3 is the best I’ve heard to date—and this is not a statement I am making lightly. The Shures that I had were indeed very revealing, but I must say that the SM3s surpass them in every regard when it comes to detail retrieval and more importantly—detail presentation.

 

Soundstage, Imaging, and Transparency

 

This is a very important section for the SM3, and I saved this section for last because the SM3 does soundstage like no other IEM I have heard. The soundstage and imaging of the SM3 are all about real reproduction. If a song calls for a drum to be hit far far far away, the SM3 will reproduce that drum far far far away—not just far away. There is such an expansive soundstage that it is incredible. However, I must say that this ‘vast’ soundstage that I speak of is not always in-your-face as with the IE8. The IE8 has a very large soundstage, but one that is artificial now that I have heard the SM3. The SM3’s soundstage can only be utilized by the song. It is like a very, very powerful supercomputer—it’s useless to the average person but can be put to tremendous use by an engineer specializing in it.

 

The 3D presentation of the SM3 does not for one second sound artificial to me. It is how the music was intended to sound. One particular song comes to mind (Jesters of the Moonless Sky by Nobuo Uematsu), which when I played, reproduced the sound of a drumstick hitting a drum with far more detail and imaging on the soundstage level than I ever thought possible. The sound after the drum was struck created a reverberation which expanded vertically high into the air. I was astonished to find this, as I never experienced it before the hundreds of times that I have heard the track. This reverberation proved that the SM3 also had dimensions in its music. Width, depth, and height are all there for you classical music fans.

 

For songs that call for a vocalist to be nearly in front of your face, the SM3 reproduces such a sound in an almost eerily realistic manner. For songs that have fast transitions from left to right, or a sound beginning on the right and ending on the left; the SM3’s lightning fast speed combined with its soundstaging, can handle such a task effortlessly. The echo of a vocalist can stretch as wide as the song calls for, and if a song does call for such an echo, you will get shivers from how well the SM3 can reproduce it. One can tell the difference of instruments and their distances easily with the SM3’s soundstage. At the same time, it does not detract from the harmony of the music. It is all there but together with the music—not detached from it. This is what I like about the SM3, it never once sounds lifeless to me. It is there for the music.

 

Transparency-wise, the SM3 is perfect. Every single component of music is there, and can be held for examination. Not one section of the audio spectrum smears into another area where it should not be. This is perhaps one of the greatest qualities that I like about the SM3. All instruments, vocals, and sounds are independently detailed from one another, but cohesive as a whole—combining together to create a harmonious sound. There are almost no ‘layers’ to go through if you want to pick a certain click or sound, or a bass-line from the song—it’s there and it’s easy to focus upon, and consequently release. Overall, soundstaging and imaging are spectacularly realistic and well executed; together with instrument separation, speed, and detail, the SM3 does soundstage like no other—it can bring you from a concert, to band practice, to an intimate conversation—it all depends on the song and what it wants the SM3 to do. The SM3, in my opinion, is king when it comes to transparency, soundstage, and imaging.

 

Summary

 

With this long review, what is there left to say? I must say that the EarSonics SM3 clearly stands out as a universal IEM. Everything that the SM3 does, it does so well that it’s nearly impossible to find any flaw in the sound. It combines the strengths of every IEM and eliminates the weaknesses, and adds its own soundstage and speed on top of that. The detail and transparency of the SM3 alone can command its price tag in my opinion. Combined with the speed, bass detail and impact, liquid mids, and thrilling highs—it is unlike any other sound signature that I’ve experienced. In fact, I have been listening to the SM3 the entire time that I’ve written this review, and I think I have grown even more attached to these IEMs now. The SM3s sound great out of an MP3 Player, but they do fare very well with a portable amp. Although I am using a cheap FiiO E5 for now, I plan on upgrading to a much better portable amp in the future for the SM3s. I also plan to get custom tips for the SM3s to see even more of what they have to offer. If you purchase the SM3 and are disappointed at first, give them a week or two. I promise you that the sound signature will grow on you, and you will eventually not be able to put them down.

 

If you want a presentation of music that remains true to the music—and does not add any spices or special wrapping around the music, then the SM3 is your IEM. It, to me, represents that hallmark of what music should be: engaging, detailed, lively, and harmonious. All areas of the audio spectrum are represented without any detachment from the other respective areas. The EarSonics SM3 is truly as beautiful of a product as the music it strives (and succeeds) to reproduce.

 

My best purchase since I’ve been here on head-fi, hands down. Highly recommended.

 

Thank you to EarSonics for creating such a remarkable product, and remaining true to what audio should be.

 

--

 

The EarSonics SM3 retails for 345.00 in Europe & France and 288.46 worldwide, which roughly equates to (using today's exchange rate) $353 + $30 shipping = ~$383. I purchased my SM3 for $419.

 

You can find the EarSonics SM3 here at their website.

 

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Posted

Pros: Bass, soundstage,

Cons: bass kicks specifically, vocals sometimes,

Some Background:

 I’m currently 18 years old which as little as that matters to me seems to be interesting to many people in this community. I’ve always liked music...

click to read more about me... (Click to show)

...and sound equipment but I never really got into the head-fi hobby until I discovered the Live Sound field from my schools drama club. From there I began to appreciate sound quality as it was just satisfying for me both from listening but also the engineering and everlasting ability to tweak and work on such.

 

I have worked with home audio, car audio, theater/show systems, portable/personal audio, digital audio (IP-LAN(uhg…) and DSP) and lots and lots of DIY projects. I’ve gone as far to make some of my own speaker cabinets and sound systems from various components too – most notably a very large 2 driver, 4 voice coil, 16ohm, band-pass subwoofer box that I’m quite fond of for its bass quantity and quality.

 

I’ve owned many headphones/IEM and related gear. Ill list some here but this certainly isn’t all; Shure SE846, Shure SE315, Shure SE215, Westone UM3x, Westone UM3x RC, Westone UM1, Earsonic SM3, Sansa Clip Plus, Sansa Clip Zip, Bravo Tube AMP v3, Sennheiser IE80s (the fake ones) and Sennheiser HD420s

 

So while I don’t like to be arrogant I do feel qualified to judge products effectively and share my opinion and I hope you find my opinions and ideas entertaining and helpful

. 

 

 

 

Prelude:

I bought my Earsonics SM3s’ after owning my UM3x for a while because I was looking for more soundstage and everyone on the internet was like “SM3s are the god of soundstage!1!!1!11!!!”  so I figured I had to try them. I got them used for a decent price and I still have them. I do have the intention to sell as I don’t use them as much as my 846 but I do like them and would recommend them.

Apparently Earsonic created a second version of these. I have heard from some people they sound the same but also that they sound worlds different from others. I’ve never heard the second revision though.

 

Style and Shape:

They are strange and ugly looking… But they fit nice in my ears. Everyone is put off by the angles of the case but this is something you won’t notice. They are very light – lighter than my 846 by a lot and this is very nice. The cable can get kind of stiff and silly if you don’t use it often but it doesn’t bother me personally.

 

Sound:

So first off I’ll admit I wrote this review from the point of comparing the Earsonics to my Shure SE846. So there probably is some sort of bias so Ill try to remain objective.

Keep in mind that the price difference is substantial so some credit is due to the SM3. For testing I used my surface pro for sound with no EQ settings. All 320kbs tracks.

 

First with the earsonics(sm3) I noticed that the soundstage and binaural effect is very present. More so than my 846 – it was kinda fun but would also distract from the vocals which in my mind is the main focus of a song.

 

Next I noticed the bass is impressive for these IEMs. I’m so used to the bass of my 846 and the praise I often give the 846 for this that I was expecting less from the SM3. But I was pleasantly surprised by the bass quality and quantity. I did find it lacking in kick and presence at some points but for a 3 way driver system it’s hard to fault them.

 

Separation is up next. I noticed that rather than really precise instrument separation its more so an effect of separation of frequencies. It’s almost as if the volume of the drivers is set differently so that you feel like the highs are everywhere while the bass is emitting from ‘over there’ (which is interesting considering bass is not supposed to be binaural given its wave length) and the mids are just there in the middle.  This is not bad. It kind of makes for an easy listening environment and its entertaining.

 

What I did notice in accord to that is that vocals are kind of pulled everywhere. Especially more full sounding female vocalist. They don’t sound bad but I do notice that they are not as distinct and forward as on my 846. Rather they feel mixed/swirled in with the mid and upper high range. Less directional.

 

All that is interesting because somehow it makes up a very large and impactful sound stage. It almost feels kinda enhanced in the way that the soundstage is ‘boosted’ to give you more of a 3D effect.

 

Notes on EQ:

During my initial impressions I didn’t bother EQing either of my headphones but I did the SM3 later on. I found that a sub bass boost helps and just a hair of treble between the mids and highs. It gives it more of that Shure sound im used too.            

 

Accessories:

My SM3s’ were new and they came with only the box, case, and silicon tips. All of which are okay quality. I found myself using the Shure Olives I used on my 846 though for the sake of consistency and comfort.

 

Overall:

So what’s all that mean?  The SM3s’ are a solid choice especially considering the price you can get them for now. They can handle most genre but I did feel electronic music feeling kind of dull in comparison to my 846. BUT this can easily be fixed with a touch of EQ – which is kinda fun.

 

Quick impressions: (things I wrote while listening intently)

Good bass, smooth mid-range but still warm. Not bright or forward.   Highs are there but like the really high highs get louder than the rest. Kinda… Sharp?

Could be more sensitive.

 

Sounds spaceious. Drum kicks are lacking presence. Wide soundstage.  Vocals kinda bland.   Good separation of frequencies? – bass is over there. Highs are kinda… everywhere mids in the middle. Certain vocals mixed around and in the background.

Can get crowded with lots of tracks.

Posted

Pros: Among the most refined and detailed universal IEMs

Cons: Subpar clarity, obtrusive mids, missing forward projection

I've had the SM3 as a loner pair for several weeks, here's the summary of my impressions:

 

Pros:

- Very refined sound reproduction

- Bass has top quality and just the right quantity for me

- Extremely detailed and attractive mids

- Almost equally good highs that never get too sharp

- Very realistic timbre for a balanced armature based phone

- Large Soundstage

- Excellent separation

- Decent isolation

- Very good cable

 

Cons:

- Forward / in-your-face mids can be fatiguing with some music and/or prolonged listening

- Not among the best in clarity, highs are slightly recessed

- Only minimal forward projection of soundstage ("surround effect")

- Cable too short from earpiece to Y-splitter

- Only average wearing comfort

- Cheap and fragile looking housing

 

No beating around the bush, I have mixed feelings about the SM3. On the one hand I take my hat off to Earsonics for producing the most refined balanced armature based IEMs I've heard to date. On the other hand, the SM3's sound signature is a little different from what I was expecting after reading several rave reviews. They are slightly on the warmish side of neutral, and by switching between them and my other IEMs it becomes quite obvious that their mids are decidedly forward and in-your-face. In more than one way the SM3 strike me as a more sophisticated version of the SE530, a phone that I found absolutely stunning at first, but over time discovered that their sound signature was a bit too obtrusive for my liking.

 

Add in the SM3's unusual spatial presentation with only minimal forward projection of soundstage and the music occasionally coming from all sides, I'm sorry to say that as far as soundstaging is concerned, these strike me more as on-stage monitors than consumer IEMs.

1000x500px-LL-f5fc1cdf_SM3_Soundstage.jpg

 

Overall I think, even though the SM3 rightfully belong among the best universal IEMs I've heard, they are still a bit overhyped. They are a tad too warm and decidedly too mid-forward to be accurate. They have less clarity then a lot of other IEMs. Their soundstaging is a hit/miss/love/hate affair. Bottom line, if their sound signature fits your taste and you love (or at least don't mind) surround sound staging, the SM3 are for you. I didn't meet these requirements, so they were not for me.

Posted

Pros: everything

Cons: the build and the highs

 

this is a review of the famous sm3 and a comparison to the eq7.

 

 

 

PICS first:
















 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

the ortofon is one of the best among all top tier iems.
to me it is one of the hardest iem to explain.
hardest to describe.
the sound is just very hard to capture.
and turn it in words.
its warm. its cold. its bright. its everything. 
and that everything is the ortofon eq7 and your music.
what makes the ortofon eq7 stand out among the rest is its tube like sound and very sweet voice presentation.

now, the sm3, is considered and highly regarded as the best iem in all universals.
well, to some it is.
to me?
well let's see.
to ceph, my friend in headphiles, it is his cure to all the iem poisons that surrounds him.



BUILD:
The phones are shelled in a plastic case, transparent in front and black in back.
its amazing how Earsonics fitted 3 drivers inside. 
it looks like a semi-custom-shelled iem.
but, it feels cheap to the touch.
the wire and plug is very well built.
there were 3 strands that were held together to make a one single braided wire.

however, upon inspection at the phones, youll notice how fragile this iem is.
one fall, and it will surely break.
there were reports already that this iem is very prone to breakage.
so...
taking care and handling of this is critically and essentially important.

the case is sturdy and strong, but it doesnt feel classy like the ones that is included in the ortofon eq7.

NOTE:
i just wish it was made more of HIGH QUALITY material, instead of just breakable plastic, they can use hard plastic shells, or the ones that is currently use in customs...acrylics. or something made of metal...aluminum like the ortos or the zirconias of tha pannys.
the wires are already fine with me...and the case too.

bro daniel once told me...the secret to sm3s sound is its poor build.hahaha.




MATERIALS:
ipod classic EQ off
.wav format files

SONGS:
ACOUSTIC - LOVE MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS, NINA
INSTRUMENTAL - ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, CHIELI MINUCCI
LIVE - ONLY WHEN I SLEEP, THE CORRS ACOUSTIC LIVE
POP ROCK - BAD ROMANCE, LADY GAGA
JAZZ - HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, MICHAEL BUBLE (MALE VOICE)
        - COME AWAY WITH ME, NORAH JONES (FEMALE)








SOUND:

you all know sound is very subjective.
so, i only have limited experience with it.
my background for reference:
have been using the ue700 for about a year now...
mx980 earbud, by sennheiser, for 6months now.
ortofon for about a month.
a grado sr325is for 3months.

my aim is to define the sound of the sm3 and compare the voice presentation of the sm3 to the ortofon eq7.





ACOUSTIC - LOVE MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS, NINA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWh4eHoRI2o

SM3:
at first, youll hear a few number of people clapping...in a great distance.
the soundstage is very one of kind.
its special here.
its like it defines the space where the performer is.
here its like in a small room, with very few people around.
the sound of the piano here is thick and strong...textured.
and youre very close to that piano, its like its in front of you.
Nina's voice is sweet as it is... its sounds natural to me.
then, came the guitar and the thump of an instrument that i dont know, its  like youre listening to a live acoustic session.
it brings you to the space theyre in.

its like i am listening in a smokey room...
full of small band and listeners...its like the air in that room is here too...
you can feel it.
the acoustic of the room.

to define it beautifully, the sm3 is inviting/engaging and i once told the panny is dreamy, well, here youre not dreaming, its like youre in there with the performers...the voice, very few listeners and instruments have good spaces in them.
it doesnt mix the voices from instruments.
everything is clear as day.
the sound of cymbals crashing doesnt seem too lively like in my ue700, its like its there, but its not clearly defined. not lacking....BUT...
but its alright...just fine.


EQ7:
people clapping... then the space seems smaller here in EQ7 than in sm3.
its much better in sm3 to my ears.
however, NINA's voice seems...
sweet but id prefer the voice in sm3...its very natural there.
here, its limited in space, in instrument separation.
its like crowded a bit in a very small room...
theres a bite of stick pounding in the drum, the guitar is lively as well, pianos is textured too...
but ill choose guitar sounds here over the sm3.
sweet. lush and smooth all at the same time.
but space/soundstage, its the sm3.

 

 

 

 

INSTRUMENTAL - ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, CHIELI MINUCCI (guitar)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul5sVddWqj0

SM3:
rumbling then...the sound of the guitar..
strings sounds just fine.
i can differentiate clearly the front and the supporting guitar here.
the sound is relaxing as it is...
very nice.
tototot...tooowwttt...
its like the guitar is crying...
hear that?
nice.
youll be amazed by this song...on how it can bring you that emotion...
youll be swayed here...as what was meant by the artist.
very addictive here too.
the sparkle just isnt here...i wish i could hear it here so that, the sound will be more on the LIVE side. (ue700s)

EQ7:
refreshing...
something new to my ears...coming from sm3.
its like the sound here is much nicer.
airy, and theres the lushness in the midrange.
making the sound relaxing and warm...definitely engaging.
the HIGHS here is alive.
its kicking and there that bite at the top...
here i hear the sound i long for...the sound stays longer in the air...the highs...it dies with sweetness at the end, decays much better than the sm3...
it sounds cleaner in sm3, here is smoked, but...in a good way.
the guitar here is more lively.
and better.
one quality of the ortofon that the sm3 just cant simply beat.




LIVE - ONLY WHEN I SLEEP, THE CORRS ACOUSTIC LIVE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq4eeHZOpfs

SM3:
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...PLEASE WELCOME...THE CORRS!!!!"
people clapping and whistling...its like im there!
wow.
claps are everywhere...surrounding me.
unbelievable...this isnt the sound coming from an iem!!
then the stick...counting 1,2,3...then the orchestra along with the band...
Andrea's voice is very sweet and nice. very natural again...just like NINA's.
its like she is singing to me and everyone's performing around me...
you call it 3 dimentional?
yeah it is!
im in the middle of the space theyre in.
too many instruments here, from guitars to drums to violins...
some are placed far from my ears, others are in front of me...some in between.
i say, this is a very good iem that can perform unbelievable in some certain kind of tracks...
Andrea's voice is in the center in front of my face, the sound of the guitar in my right, inside my head, there are the orchestras and the back up singers...its place everything beautifully.
 

EQ7:
with the same intro, well id say the sm3 is better with all the clapping everywhere, its more lively and true in that part.
here its like youre drown by the ortos magic...something relaxing.
the sound is limited like before..
it cannot portray the sound space like the sm3s...
too bad.
but id like the sound of decays here.
sweet...very!
Andrea's voice is nice.
but id prefer sm3s version of Andrea's voice.
its more organic there.
addictive? lush? its in here.
mellow? smooth? its in here.
all coloration can be heard here to make your music more beatifully and artificially done.
but, being TRUE AND ORGANIC is in the sm3...
its there.
Simply, the ortos cant match the soundstage and deeper depthness of the sm3.
its the sm3's aura and prowess.
but coloration for goodness' sake...its in the ortos.
its more addictive there.





POP ROCK - BAD ROMANCE, LADY GAGA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I

SM3:
please dont hate me if i chose this song...i really like LADY GAGA, just much as i like MADONNA.
same as before, the sm3 wont fail you on its sweet voice presentation.
the honesty and truthfulness is all there.
no matter how big, how hard, how fast the sound is...it can do everything with flying colors.
but the highs is just right just like as before.
every details, nuances, but seems like to me...the sm3 sounds dark.
dark.
making the track uhm...lifeless.
but i dont mean it as its not a good performer, it is in voice, in soundstage.
but...here, clearly, id say...the HIGHS plays an important role in some tracks (POP, ROCK, anything with energy and with fast beats)  that needs it...the LIVELY HIGHS..
sparkling...crispiness...isnt here.
it sounds lifeless. dull.
it sounds...is this it?
is this the sm3s weakness?
well it is.
i found it at last.
i didnt notice at first. but upon listening to the middle of this song...its somewhat lacking now to my ears.
its dark and dull at this kind of tracks...
no matter how hard the sm3 tried...there isnt a lively, sweet, sparkly, crispy HIGHS.
the bass is great. deep and accurate. well defined.

EQ7:
now the eq7 goodness.
the voice is very refined.
very defined.
very nice.
oomphs are here...but sounded limited at times because its a BA, only MOVING.
i say, this can match the sm3s details...but not much..at least it can compete with bravery.
the bass doesnt go deep in the ortos as the sm3s.
the highs is of high quality...smooth and nearly earpiercing.
beware if youre sensitive to that kind of HIGHS (ala-mx980 highs)
there is this kind of sig in the ortos that makes this music...addictive air/liquidness.
and i like it, really...
strange.
but the coloration is really pleasant too at this kind of tracks...
or i say, most of the tracks i played with this iem.
it welcomes you at first sound it gives...
youre  IN-to music...that fast!
call it inviting, engaging, everything...its here.
and really, i like it very much.
something that is not present in the sm3.
the coloration.
the flavor...is enjoyable.
and it helps you to be IN to your music and long listening sessions.





JAZZ - HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, MICHAEL BUBLE (MALE VOICE)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aML0e2eZl3s

SM3:
michael's voice is inspiring.
there is a quality to it.
truthfulness to his voice.
...even the breathing, the thickness of the breath he inhales and exhales..
the texture of the words he utter/sings...
he is like singing only to your ears...privately in front of you.
i really like the sm3s presentation in voice.
very high quality and unique.
sweet and "mapapadala ka", youll be swayed.
the instruments sounds wont also fail you to be emotional along with michael's voice.
its perfectly done.
everything.
theres some crispness i hear now, that is not present in lady gaga's bad romance, pop rock track.
just lovely...

EQ7:
crispiness of the cymbals...nice.
i like it here. sweet and defined well.
michael's voice is brilliant as the sm3s.
but i will choose the ortos this time in this kind of slow jazz music.
its really UUGGGHHHHH....
hard to explain.
its addictive. 
addictive in many ways.
clearly, the soundstage may not be as perfect here as the sm3s, but the sound is so..
yummy.
so delicious.
its like in ortos, all the goodness is near you, in front of you, with the sweetness, all in your face, all you can eat, all you can hear, all you can feel.
it doesnt do honesty like the sm3s presentation.
but pianos are more alive here, the voice is great as the sm3s...but the HIGHS are again cautiously spiky at times.






COME AWAY WITH ME, NORAH JONES (FEMALE VOICE)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBKcKQHZXks

SM3:
the intro of this song is so lovely.
its like the air is welcoming you.
there is a cymbal crashing softly. very softly...
something that doesnt sound offending at your listening.
the pianos are soft as well...with a careful lightness to it.
its done with care.
Norah's voice is superb as it is.
im in the jazz club.
where i hear the lonely sound of BASS.
its like im alone and i want to cry with this music.
im IN-to the music again.
and im feeling very emotional right now.
im happy.
content.
feeling very luck at what i have right now.
i imagine myself...walking in a lonely street...under the hot hot sun. but feeling cool..because the clouds covered the sun.
and under the tree, wind blowing my way...
walking now on a greenly grassy field...
so nice.
there's a magic here in the sm3 and in this music.
and its done.
the music just died just like that.
it ended....without me noticing.
i replayed the song again...
under the power of this song again...its like im in HYPNOTIZED by its magic.
very very nice.

EQ7:
the eq7 way...now.
i hate to take the sm3 off my ears...
i wish it stayed there while listening again in this music.
im missing the sm3...now.

well, for the ortos, sorry, i played it back again...
i missed the sm3 so bad.
now, i hear clearly the softness of instruments in sm3s.
here, its like a bit veiled...off.
but the pianos is very well done.
alive. true and accurate.
the voice is just right.

upon hearing the sm3...sorry guys...im having a hard time defining the ortos right now.
its like the power of the sm3 lingers in my mind.
and im out of focus in the ortos...

well, ill press play again, and try to do it again...
sorry.

here.
the air here is much stronger, its thicker, than in the sm3.
the pianos is of much thicker here.
the sound of the bass, is audible..thick too.
the voice is nice too.
it is on par with sm3.
maybe...i forgot. sorry.
been playing this song for 3x now.
and...simply nice.
and right.
the addictive air/liquidness is helping alot to make the music enjoyable and sweet.
 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION:
well, here is where i want to give my final words on this iem...the final verdict.

the sm3 is an overall good performer, from jazz to rock.
it can penetrate you in many ways.
its musical, with the capability to portray music in its 3d space goodness.
the sound is really UP there...
UP there kind of quality.
its a TOP tier indeed.

it can do something that others just CANT.
wanna know what that is?
one is the voice.
it can match and sound more realistic than the ortos vocal presentation, the ortos main strength.

it can do the FAST TRACKS/POP ROCK kind of music easily...effortlessly and with realism.
it isnt lacking in spaces. soundstage. or instrument separation.

it can do what other universals cant.
its unlike any universal that makes the sound tuned in a small space.
here, youre IN that kind of space where the music was recorded.
wether its a THEATER, a HALL, a JAZZ CLUB...or in a STUDIO.

its like a MONITORing iem with the FUN factor.
youll hear every nuances...every bit of air, and sound...

i hear its weakness and also can be considered as its strength...being DARK.
why?
well, its really important to certain tracks to give that LIVELY sound.
being dark gives you that ...dullness and lifelessness in music.
without the help of those CRISP, SWEET, AIRY highs...it just sounded off at times.
only at times, and only at some certain tracks.

i say, this is a very very good iem that has and will shape the history of ALL UNIVERSAL iems.
the sound isnt limited.
its not an iem at all...
it produces sound brilliantly on its own ways.

you gotta respect that this iem just simply cant produce that HIGHS im looking for.
but, for long time listening, that present HIGHS can be fatiguing at times...
so...the SM3 created something better for long listening sessions.

its not very hard to love the sm3.
the fit is not a problem.
the build is....
but, im not bothered, because the future of this iem lies in RESHELLING/REMOLDING.

the sm3 is an all rounder iem.
it can play anything.
it is an iem...that shakes the universals.
and shapes the history of audiophiles.
it is like a dark as a chocolate.
oozing and bursting with sweetness...

a custom in a package of a universal.

 

 

 

NOTE:

to all the readers...sorry for my kind of style of writing.

its easy for me to take notes and read in this kind of style...

so i chose this kind of writing.

Posted

Pros: Forward Mids,accurate bass, smooth treble with no sibilance, great soundstage, detailed.

Cons: Big for small ears, Y split too short,

 

sm3 9.jpg

 

After countless hrs of research (mainly on this forum) I took the plunge and bought myself Earsonic SM3’s!  Here is my review.

 

Finish:

The SM3’s body is made of plastic which makes it very light but also seems fragile.  The cable is nice and strong, doesn’t tangle and is also very light.  The Y split on the cable is too short, makes it a little tight if you wear down the front. They come with a cool case, a couple of medium size silicone bi-flange tips, and two Comply tips (medium & large).

I must mention that I had to send my first pair back for exchange.  The right earphone wasn’t as well constructed as the left one.  The two halves of the body didn’t completely seal together on one side, there was a hairline gap where you could see into the inside of the earphone.  It didn’t affect the sound quality but I worried about it coming apart down the line so I had it exchanged.  The new pair I received did not have any issues with build quality.  I have to give the guys at Soundearphones.com props.  They really took care of me.  I had a new pair of SM3’s in hand 2 days after they received my defective ones, great customer service!

 

Fit: 

I was concerned the SM3’s would not fit my small ears because they look big in pictures.  Well, I was partly correct they are big, however, I can still wear them comfortably.  They partly stick out of my ear instead of completely sitting inside of the ear.  But they are so light that it doesn’t bother me.  I still get a great seal and can wear them all day while I work.  I found the stock silicon bi-flange tips work perfectly for me.  I get a great seal and sound isolation, which is a relief after reading endless threads on how hard it can be to find a tip that fits.  I’d like to try the Sensorcom tips just because they seem to be a favorite for the SM3 but I’m not in a big hurry since the stock ones work.

I do wish the body of the SM3 was a little smaller and had a more rounded ergonomic shape like the Westone3. 

 

Sound:

Edit 1/7/2011:

I have upgraded my source and files.  I now have a Cowon J3 32GB player and have re-ripped my CD collection to FLAC.  The difference in sound from my previous portable setup is amazing!

I cannot praise the J3 enough!  Any issues I had with my SM3's are now gone thanks to the great EQ on the J3.  It just takes a little tweaking to brighten up the SM3's and they sound perfect.

 

(Old setup)

Apple lossless -> iphone ->Fiio L3 LOD->Fiio E7->SM3’s.

 

Edit 1/7/2011

The sound of the SM3’s is smooth and detailed.  I’ve never heard vocals sound so natural and clear.   I find the bass accurate, tight, punchy, non fatiguing.  Mids are forward, smooth and full.  Treble is smooth, clear, no sibilance, non fatiguing.  Soundstage is great, it sounds like you are up on stage with the band, music projecting all around you.  Vocals are up front, and instrument separation is excellent. 

Best of all they are very musical, you can actually feel the music (at least I can), it’s hard to explain but the sound they put out is something special.

 

Conclusion:

If there’s anything I would change about them would be to make them smaller so they would fit better in my small ears.  Oh yeah and make the Y part of the cable longer as I like to wear the cable down the front instead of the back.  Other than that I think they are great and would highly recommend them!  I would like to thank this forum, without it I would have never known of these amazing IEM's!

 

Here are some albums I think sound awesome on the SM3’s

 

Coldplay- Parachutes

Coldplay- A Rush of Blood to the Head

Lenny Kravitz Greatest Hits

Beatles- 1967-1970 Blue album

Radiohead’s Greatest Hits

Incubus- Morning View

 

Edit 1/7/2011: With my new J3 all my albums sound great not just those listed above!

Posted

Pros: forward mids, non-sibilant but present highs, outstanding detail, easy to drive, more than adequate bass.non mic cable.

Cons: Expensive new, y-split is too tight.Somewhat square edges on the body may not be comfortable for some people. Feel a bit flimsy.Cable not replaceable

If you can get them for around $300 - then go for it. If you can live with the pros and cons above.

Outstanding detail, somewhat warm sound mids-wise with extended highs (not sibilant, I guess some might find them slightly recessed compared to top end sony ex700 or stax, but I can live with it. Or you can take the filters out and see whether you like them that way - the highs should become more prominent then). Good soundstage that does not sound artificial. (some people still find it weird, re: forward projection - see the other reviews)

These seemed to go well with any music I had - folk, classical - solo, voice, soloist+orchestra, many types of metal, hip-hop.
I had a chance to compare with top two westones, Se530, sony mdr7/500, and overall preferred SM3 to all of them.

For only around $500 incl my cowon d2, these can do match much of what my 1k+ Stax system or 3k+ balanced Beyer T1 systems do.

You may need to get a another set of tips, and be sure to fit them well (trim to size), otherwise isolation and comfort may suffer (not that 3 driver IEMs are that comfortable). I didn't like any of the bundled tips, but Sensorcom Double-flange alpine silicon eartips were great, after I trimmed them to fit.

edit:only 6 months after purchase, my pair failed because of the bad y-split design that lead to the wire going into the y-split being constantly tugged. So it's not only uncomfortable but poor design. Earsonics refused to honor warranty.

Posted

Pros: Great bass, smooth yet extended treble, mids, and an amazingly wide soundstage

Cons: perhaps build quality, and the short length to Y-split

I can't add much to the above reviews. They are some amazing universals. I can't understand any comments that the treble is lacking. To me, that comes from the 'trebleheads' who think the end all be all of audio is just how much extension we can eek out of the top end. Puh-leeze. There is so much more to these earphones, from the wonderfully tight and deep bass, to the natural clean mids, to the awesome detail and layering to their particular top end while remaining so supremely smooth without any hint of harshness or sibilance. The result is such a level of cohesive sound that it's addicting. 

 

Get 'em. 

 

But be sure to have access to some extra brands of tips beyond what is included, and do some experimentation. It pays off huge dividends. 

 

Freq. graph, courtesy of mr. dfkt!

 

 

arta-fr-sm3.png

Posted

Pros: Speed Speed Speed

Cons: Feels a little clostrophobic at times

I've been reading a lot about the sm3 having low bass output. These are monitor headphones, designed give a flat response. If you want more bass, simply turn up the bass levels on your equalizer and you will get mindblowing bass.

 

After a few minutes of fiddling with the equalizer you will realize that it's perfect the way it is.

 

I really do beleive there is ACTUAL burn-in. Hearing bass-heavy tracks out of the box and comparing it with bass-heavy phones (Panasonic Zirconias with shure triple flange tips), it sounded a little anemic at first. In fact I hated the way they sounded. A month later I did the same comparison and found them to be much better in bass in quality and quantity

 

The V2 fit is very comfortable. Sits right against your ear.

 

I've tried a million types of tips but double flange seems to work best (cut the tips off the Shure triple flange).

 

I've compared these to UE TF10, MTPC, Sennheiser 8s, and none seem to compare.

 

The only drawback is that it can sound a little "closed in" at times. Ran it through a Cmoy and that seemed to help. I think it would work well when paired with the ALO RX. Gotta start saving up...

Posted

Pros: Sound that puts me into bliss

Cons: Tips tend to come loose when pulled out of my ears

This is the first review I've ever written about anything, and although there are already many good reviews out there, these IEMs are so special to me that I feel I owe it to the head-fi community to write my own review. I should warn you that this isn’t an audiophile’s review, but rather about what I feel the EarSonics SM3s bring to my musical experience.

 

Before getting to the core of this short review, I'd like to give you some background on my way of thinking. I love great music. But what is great music? The answer, of course, depends on who you are. To me, great music is sound waves that give me an emotion so strong it often creates a physical reaction. If it makes me smile, if it makes my eyes fill with tears, if it makes my body dance, if it makes me feel I'm flying, if it gives me goose bumps, or what not, then to me it's great music. So, do I need great equipment to enjoy great music? Certainly not! I can enjoy great music in mono from a $10 transistor radio. However, the EarSonics SM3s certainly amplifies the musical experience, to say the very least. These IEMs are nothing short of magic. It feels like these IEMs take possession of the eardrums and integrates the sound with the brain. Everything is there, every little detail, perfectly portrayed. The separation of instruments and voices is so good I can easily choose to listen to any voice separately, however subtle. Yet, I can just as easily enjoy the entirety. Magic! Perhaps the biggest difference between these IEMs and other headphones I have is that they always make me forget that the music is electronically reproduced.

 

With these IEMs I am rediscovering my album collection. I keep hearing myself thinking things like: "Aha that is the true timbre of his or her voice." and: "Oh, I never noticed those subtle trumpets in the far right background before."

 

Another funny thing is that they seem to reduce the time length of music. The reason, of course is that the sound is so unreservedly enjoyable. Even when I really haven't got the time to listen to music, I keep hearing myself thinking: "Just another minute" over and over. This seldom happens with poor equipment.

 

As I already told you, this isn’t an audiophile’s review so I won’t go into details about bass, mids, treble, soundstage, separation, etc. Let me just put it this way. To my brain, the SM3s sound perfect, as close to live sound as I have ever come.

 

I should mention that I usually connect my SM3s to my portable amp, the TTVJ portable slim. However, connecting them directly to my iPod/iPhone works really great too. The quality is still there, but with a sound signature that is just slightly different with some songs. I.e. you don’t need an amp to really enjoy these IEMs. The TTVJ portable slim is a great amp, and I highly recommend it, but that’s a different review.

 

Would I have written this review after my first twenty minutes of listening? The answer is a very definitive no. My experience is that the SM3s need burn in (and possibly the brain as well), in my case 10 to 20 hours to become enjoyable, and another 50 to 100 hours or so to get to their near full potential. It’s probably imagination, but I think they are getting a little better every time I use them. I guess I've used them for a couple of hundred hours or so by now. To be sure, the first time I tried them, I tried them with the comply foam tips and was utterly disappointed. Absolutely nothing felt good about them. Even the thought crossed my mind that I somehow might have been conned. Later I switched to the silicone double flange tips and thought the sound was now ok, perhaps even a little better than my $60 (or so) Sennheiser IEMs, but not much. I decided to plug them in to my iPod, but not into my ears, and let them play for about some ten to fifteen hours. I then tried them on again, and what do you know, the magic was starting to emerge.

 

About the only thing that I find a tiny bit cumbersome is fitting them into my ears. My ear canals are absolutely dry (never heard the word earwax) and a bit narrow. So I always use a tiny bit of lubricant on the silicone double flange tips. As experienced IEM users already know, fitting the IEMs properly is absolutely 100 percent crucial. This just can’t be stressed enough. I’m considering ordering the custom ear molds from EarSonics. Hopefully, in my case, I then won’t need the lubricant.

 

These IEMs enrich my life. If you can afford them, buy them, and with some patience and burn in, you'll never regret it.

 

As I live i Europe, do note that the price paid includes European tax and shipping costs.

 

For some reason, and though it isn’t really relevant, I’d like to finish this review with a quote by Mike Oldfield: “I don't feel I'm a musician. I create sounds that are reflections of my emotions. To be a musician is something quite different.”

 

Update December 15, 2012.

 

512 days have passed since I wrote the above review. So, am I still as enthusiastic about the SM3 as I was then? Yes, and even more so! Since then I have also invested in Earsonics’ flagship, the EM6. In comparison, the sonic aspects of the EM6 outshine the SM3 in every audiophile term I can think of. They simply play in different leagues.

 

Nevertheless, the SM3 gets the most of my ear time, and for two good reasons. The first reason actually being one of its characteristic sound aspects. The SM3 is quite often "accused" of having a slightly veiled sound. In my opinion this is true (especially when compared to the EM6), but in my opinion this is for several reasons not a bad thing.

 

First of all, this slightly veiled sound somehow gives all music a mellow (rich, luxurious) sound. The SM3 simply sounds very “expensive”, very Hi-Fi. Also, this feature eliminates listening fatigue completely. At moderate volume levels I can use the SM3 an entire work day. The slightly veiled sound also conveys the feeling that the SM3 has “more to give”, like listening to one of the world’s greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz. Heifetz always played in a very high tempo, faster than any other violinists, but at the same time his playing was very relaxed, like he could play even faster (and maybe he could’ve). As listener this makes you feel very relaxed and able to focus on the music, rather than having to fear that something might go wrong because the performer is on the edge of his ability. The same is what the SM3 will do for you, that is, make you feel very relaxed and trust the SM3 performer. It will play (almost) anything thrown at it with ease and make it sound fantastic! The EM6 on the other hand will reveal every possible detail in the recording, and trust me, although this is the goal of the audiophile, it is not always a good thing, especially so with not so great quality recordings (although having great music). If your goal is simply to enjoy great sounding music in one of the best possible ways, the SM3 will do the job effortlessly. The sound signature takes some time getting used to, but once you do, you will hear and sense the golden liquid pouring out behind the veil.

 

The second reason to why my SM3 gets more listening time is that it is a “Universal In Ear Monitor” (UIEM). As such it is much more flexible than acrylic customs (i.e. my EM6), and isolation is really good too. This means I can use the SM3 lying flat on my back in bed, or half lying in a comfortable armchair, which are my favorite positions for listening to music. Doing so with acrylic customs just won’t work, as doing so changes the anatomy of the ear canals and consequently changes the fit and sound of the customs. I find this to be a major drawback with CIEMs and the reason I prefer UIEMs.

 

One thing I no longer completely can stand for is the name of this review: “As close to live sound as I have ever come”.  If I had written this review for the first time now, I think I would have named it: “The most pleasant sounding IEM I've ever heard”.

 

I must also mention that the bass of the SM3 is very engaging. I sometimes lack this in the EM6 which is a lot more neutral. One good example is the bass wind instruments in “Act I: Scene 3: The Window of Appearances” from the opera “Akhnaten” by Philip Glass. When heard with the SM3 the bass reaches my soul, whereas with the EM6 the bass wind instruments just reach my ears, although in all honesty, with extreme realism and precision. (By the way, Akhnaten was a pharaoh, known as “the rebel pharaoh”, in ancient Egypt, which by the way I have just visited. If you want some deeply fascinating history, see this video and then also listen to the opera.)

 

EarSonics SM3 Universal Fit IEM
Description:

-The SM3 pushes further the limits already infected with SM2 on universal in-ears. More ventilation and a wider sound image, with more tense low frequencies and treble with incredible finesse. All this with the strict neutrality faithful to EarSonics. spécifications: Sensibilité: 122 dB/mW Réponse en fréquences: 20 Hz -18 kHz Impédance: 17 ohms Driver: 3 drivers (3 way crossover) Livré avec: wipes, tool, soft bag.

Details:
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Related Media/Links:

Add related videos, links to item guides, etc.

 

 

Troubleshooting/Known Issues:

The transparent front housing and the black back housing of the headphone`s body are held together by skimpy amounts of glue. They are known to separate, this is a warranty issue. 

 

 

How To:

Advice on installation, customization, and anything else.

 

 

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