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Why all the fuss over THIS earphone?

A Review On: EarSonics SM3 Universal Fit IEM

EarSonics SM3 Universal Fit IEM

Rated # 7 in Universal Fit
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Price paid: $350.00
Posted · 424 Views · 9 Comments

Pros: rich, detailed mids; stock tips

Cons: a lot of stuff ... see below

IEM refs (own): Senn IE-8, Shure SE530, EC2, Teclast R8 (came "free" with T51 DAP).


This is a work-in-progress review. I'm waiting for sonove or Inner Fidelity or other unbiased 3rd-party (= those who don't profit from the sale of this 'phone) to measure them before I write a detailed review; scientific metrics/measurements are extremely important for double-checking one's hearing ;-) IAC, lots of other reviews of the SM3 already ... so no point re-reviewing (note: I mostly disagree with others' positive (esp. rave) reviews of this model -- I suspect these cans may have gained their high reputation based on the psycho-somatics of multiple, highly-positive reviews [which may themselves be due to "feedback"/bandwagon effect]).


I let them burn in over 100 hrs, but sound charac. did not change all that much (compared to dynamics). For important-to-a-balanced-review reasons, I also waited several months (post-purchase) to post this review. (I withdrew participating in this models dedicated thread to disconnect from emotional bias).


No beating around the bush ... HUGELY DISAPPOINTED (especially after so many glowing reviews)!! ...

This model's worst sonic aspects: pronounced, fwd metallic+UNnatural treble; too mids fwd FR (waiting for measurements; suspect it may indicate diffuse field curve); compressed dynamics (esp. macro-dynamics); poor on harmonically-complex + dynamic music (e.g. Mahler, Enigma);  lack of PRAT (pace, rhythm, acceleration, timing --- e.g., the subjective ability to induce toe-tapping); sonics change too drastically based on tip type.


Even with relatively big discount from SoundEarphones, I now consider them way over-priced. 


EDIT 2011-12-20:

OKAY FOR: chamber music, slow jazz, ambient/space electronic. NOT GOOD FOR: Big band, large orch., complex multitrack (Enigma, Delerium, Way Out West)


More later ... meanwhile, see the SM3 v2 thread for some of my other comments.


EDIT 2012-02-26:

For roughly the past 2 mos., I've been listening to the SM3v2 with their in-line (fabric) filters removed. Although this made the sound quite forward and detailed (some may even qualify it as "shouty"),  filter removal pretty much makes me retract most of my above criticisms. My long-time fave IEM, the IE-8, now takes a back seat in most departments INCLUDING bass. The BIGGEST improvement was my pet peeve (and what I feel many head-/earphones lack in): PRAT. 

See my posting on SM3 filters here

BOTTOM LINE: The SM3v2 is my go-to IEM!



WOW! And, to think had strongly considered these before pulling the trigger on a UM3X purchase last night. No buyers remorse here.
For me I just got a nice sound out of the SM3 with tips that are short and with large openings. In my oppinion the stock tips degrades the sound of the SM3. Today I tested the Sony hybrids using the core of a comply tips that come with the IEM and I liked a lot. I took this picture http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6073/6127149437_2c41209646_b.jpg
SoulSyde: Don't know about UM3X ... never heard them nor any other Westone phone ... they may v. well sound worse (to my ears, anyway).
rmappita: I tried other tips, too, including Comply memory foams meant for Shure 530 and Shure orig. Yellow foam. I don't feel they change the FUNDAMENTAL charac. of this model's "core" sonic "profile." Bottom line: tips selection (as noted in my review and noted by others) affects (varies) the sonic subtleties/nuances of this model too much (not a good thing, because tip choice should only be for comfort or degree of isolation or canal diffs. among users) but the charc. sound is not really affected (e.g., no way to rescue the above-noted congestion or nasality).
Update - Although the UM3X are very-very detailed I felt like they lacked the "fun" I usually look for in an IEM. I purchased a pair of SM3s to I can do a side-by-side comparison. The lesser pair will be going back for a refund (less the 15% restocking fee). We'll see which is the most ideal for me.
I think you might find this review rather interesting. Here is a small excerpt:
"---first time I stuck the SM3 into my ears, my initial reaction was that I absolutely despised their sound. All I heard was a muddy, veiled mess with exaggerated lower midrange, yet lacking deep bass, and no treble at all. I was shocked to say the least. Since the SM3 use balanced armature drivers, I knew they won’t change much – if at all – with some driver break-in, contrary to how many dynamic driver phones behave.---"
Update #2 - I purchased the SM3 v2s and did a thorough A/B test between the two:
I didn't necessarily despise the SM3s, but the UM3X were better IMHO.
At the end of the day, I sent the UM3X back too due to cable issues with them. They have been replaced with SE535s which I will be keeping and am very happy with.
I guess we have diff. expectations/tastes!
I have the SE530s, which are VERY similar to the 535s ... and if I HAD to choose between the two -- (i.e. at gunpoint over other, far better IEMs, like Senn IE-8) then I'd opt for SM3.
I haven't hear the UM3X, but I doubt I like Westone or just about any armature-based IEM over even cheap dynamics. E.g., i prefer the $29 Beta Brainwavz over SM3/SE530 -- ANY effing DAY ;) -- and even prefer its bass slightly over my overall ref. IE-8.
Aero Dynamik: I don't know what to make of that CONFUSING + LONG-WINDED, anythingbutiopd review you quoted. At first, the reviewer hates it ... and then voila (via "brain burn-in" or something like that), the ES3 magically transforms into one of the best IEMs ever?? WTF.... Like effing 'Cinderella'! Time to step out of the efff-fairy tale, folks, and onto something better .. like Sony EX1000, perhaps.
I've read your impressions of the V2 and I hear nothing you describe at all. They handle complex music as good or better than any of the 30+ IEM's I've heard/have/had and the mids sound fantastic. These are the best IEM I've heard and I've heard and have had quite a few.
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