Pros: Sound quality from top to bottom
Cons: Build quality
Lows: 4.5/5 (probably would be 5/5 with amping)
Bass: 5/5 (swooshy style, though)
This is all to say that the Earsonics SM64s are perhaps the best IEMs I have ever heard, and I was always a big IEM person.
Let's be short about this:
It absolutely slaughters the Shure SE530, SE535 line (which was an old-time favorite for me). It also is a large improvement over the famed Earsonics SM3s.
When I first received the SM64s, I was extremely disappointed. The sound was really bad. The sound was very muddy, the bass was extremely bloated and overbearing. There was a lack of energy everywhere along the spectrum. In my quest to figure out what was wrong (I didn't want to buy Westone 4s either; I had already spent so much damn money), I went out and busted $25 on Shure yellow foamies. The sound increased by maybe 10%-15%, but it was still bad.
Having owned the Sm3s, I suspected that it had to do with the filter located in the spout of the IEMs. However, as a fairly new product that isn't nearly as popular as the SM3s in terms of name, no one had really jumped the gun to modify their SM64s and take out the filters. One evening, in a rage about how bad my SM64s sounded, I said "screw it, let's take 'em out." So, I took out the filters.
The sound changed 100%. The IEMs sound NOTHING like they originally did with the filters. Now, it became the *best* IEMs I have ever heard:
It is extremely transparent and clear. Everything has remarkable resolution. The last time I heard this resolution was when I had the UM3Xs, but the UM3Xs just aren't as good as the SM64s overall. I thought that in order to get technical prowess, you'd have to give up musicality. Somehow the SM64s seem to have reached this godly plateau of high technicality and good sounding music. It has a perfectly transparent sound. I can't even say that it's very colored or warm; it is almost perfectly neutral.
The SM3s sounded super fun, but they were very siropy and thick. The SM64s sound nothing like the SM3s in that way; they have fantastic detail from top to bottom.
Soundstaging is great; for IEMs, the SM64s have a large soundstage. It does not sound congested at all. It's a perfect balance between spacious and intimate. Like I said, it's perfectly neutral; everything about this IEM is just spot on.
This is giving me problems describing the sound, because there's nothing else to say except for it's completely neutral and spot on. Maybe it leans slightly more intimate than spacious, but really, it is in such stellar balance that people used to SM3s or SE530s might call these spacious. It's just perfectly situated.
It is a perfect balance between forward and laid back. If I had to compare with my big cans, it occupies the middle ground between my LCD-2.2s (which were very forward) and my HD650s (which were so mellow you wanted to fall asleep). This sits right in the middle of the two; it's forward enough to be fun, but doesn't stress you out. It's laid back enough that everything sounds effortless and easy-going, but without rocking you to sleep and coming off as without energy.
I seriously struggle to imagine how a universal IEM gets any better than this. I got to try out some AKG3003i for a few minutes at a fellow HeadFiers house, and from what I recall, these sound just as neutral as the 3003is. Maybe the 3003is had a larger suondstage and the SM64s are a tad more intimate, but these sound so transparent. There is absolutely NO veil; you hear everything with remarkable imaging and clarity.
Bass quantity was reduced upon taking out the filters. But it's still very much there, and will satisfy anyone who's not an explicit bass head. Bass is more than the SM3s and extends deeper. I don't care that much for bass, however, so this is not that important to me. It has a swooshier sounding bass, however. I think the UM3X punch is better, but some people like the more laid back swooshy sounding bass. This is just personal preference.
Instrument separation is good; it doesn't rip things apart, but it's definitely articulate. For instance, the UM3Xs rip things apart, whereas these bring them apart enough to appreciate every string, but is smooth enough to give a coherent sound.
Weakest part of the sound is probably the highs. Maybe could do with a tiny bit more energy, but only at the risk of becoming fatiguing. The lows also could also use a little more power. Remember, though, my entire test has been unamped. I reckon if these were amped, the lows would have enough power, and perhaps all my super minor suggestions would be satisfied.
SE530s/535s: These eat the SE530s alive. Sonically, it is just better in virtually every way. It has greater technical ability and is clearly superior in virtually every way, except for maybe vocals (which the 530s are just beautiful at).
UM3Xs: The SM64s is perfect for any fan of the UM3X (like myself) who still has a few qualms with the UM3X sound. This is basically everything you wanted your UM3Xs to do. Good separation, very high technical ability, transparent, but not cold, flat sounding.
SM3s: Better in every way. The SM3s are veiled and muddy; these are not at all. The SM3s were good generalists, but if you listened to carefully, you knew that the mids weren't as good as the others. You knew the highs were rolled off, and resolution was lacking. The SM64s, I'm not sure what tops them (especially at this price range).
Tips on tips. Well, I am using the Westone star tips right now, which reduces bass quantity a bit and makes everything sound a little brighter. However, I only am wearing them because I can't be bothered to start burning through my Shure yellow foamies just yet. I think the best tips for these are the Shure yellow foamies, followed by the Westone stars. Everything else sucks (especially the ES complys).
Whoops everything in its price range; I think it can contend with the super expensive universals. I honestly have no intention of buying other IEMs ever again, unless there's some serious new technology that comes out and blows me away. If I am to upgrade, it would have to be up to the likes of the Shure 846s, which I've not yet had the pleasure to listen to, or customs.