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EarSonics SM3 Appreciation, Discussion, & Review Thread - Technically Best Universal? (see first...  

post #1 of 2831
Thread Starter 

Post #1: My story

 

Post #2: My comparisons

 

Post #3: My ear tip chart

 

Review by SolidVictory

 

Review by shigzeo (Touch My Apps)

 

Review by dfkt (Anything But iPods)

 

EM3 Pro vs. JH13 thread - included because the descriptions of the EM3 Pro sound is similar to what I hear with the SM3

 

EarSonics website (in English)

 

Check your shipment from EarSonics here

 

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


Edited by average_joe - 6/28/10 at 3:45pm
post #2 of 2831
Thread Starter 

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.


Edited by average_joe - 6/2/10 at 1:00am
post #3 of 2831
Thread Starter 

SM3 Tips: because tips are important to getting the best sound out of any IEM...

 

NOTE: the more I try different tips, the tips with large openings sound less warm and the treble is more prevalent, sounding more balanced.  All of the long, thin opening tips can sound very warm and treble lacking, depending on the insertion angle.

 

SM3 tips.jpg

 

Tip Notes  seal   isolation   comfort   sound 
Sensorcom Single flange he bottom flange is full silicon and they have a wide opening.  When I used a spacer for my right ear, they seal fine and give a nice airy sound.  But because of the spacer, the tip came off in my right ear.  I need a smaller space (space made from the multifiliment stalk) 5 5 8 6
Sensorcom Double flange As you can see in the background of the pic, these have a long stalk.  The opening is large, which is a good thing. These work well for me some of the time, but bend other times.  I need to cut them down a little bit and see if that helps. 8 6 7 8
Sensorcom Puresound hese are contoured to the ear, ribbed for, well, a seal.  These have large openings.  After finding the right angle, these are much better.  But they make the sound warm and there must not be a great seal, as the deep bass and dynamics aren't as prevalent as some of my other tips. 7 9 8 6
Sensorcom Curved profile Similar to the Puresound but without the ribs and a little harder silicon.  These come in a set of four sizes, and you need to buy 2 (one for each ear, unless your ears are different sizes).  These have large openings.  My left ear loves the large, this is ultra comfortable and seals real well.  My right ear is another story as it must be at an odd angle. Day two of using these and now I can get a good seal with both ears.  It helps to lubricate the tips before insertion. 7 10 9 6
Sensorcom multifiliment Closest to a triple flange, but soft and easy on the ear.  These have a long stalk and a small opening.  I cut off a bit of the stalk for my left ear, and these seal real well.  But these must bend in my ears since sometimes they have less treble than others.  But their treble is always less than the other tips with a wider opening. 10 8 5 2
Ear Plug Superstore triple flange The Ear Plug Superstore triple flange is a Shure copy.  The small opening seems to be a limiting factor with these tips, as this tip does not work with my ears, creating a dark, muffled sound. 7 7 4 1
Ety triple flange cut to bi-flange Similar to the above tip.  Bi-flange is too small and won't seal. 0 1 N/A 1
Stock foam SM3 tips Pinched before insertion, and pushed the tip down below the nozzle.  These are very comfortable, but seem to reduce the liquid sound of the treble a little bit as well as attenuate the treble.  The treble also sounds a little less detailed and the presentation less airy. 8 9 10 4
MC Triple Flange (need spacer) I use a Shure olive core as a spacer due to the shape, and these stay on OK.  They have a wide opening.  Extremely comfortable with all the details really coming through, however, they can be bent during insertion, causing a dark sound.  When inserted properly, these give me by far the best sound.  Punchy, dynamic, fun, detailed, great treble.  They have it all except isolation, which is fine with me for my typical use.  If I need more I will just throw some foam under the largest flange. 10 5 10 10
MC gel under silicon (need spacer)          
MC super tip (need spacer)          
Shure black foam AKA Olive (large) Shallow insertion with a wide opening.  The sound is tipped toward a warmer presentation.  Treble is still there, but there is added warmth.  The bass power is very prevalent. 10 10 5 4
Ety foam (large) I installed them backward so the opening was larger and so there wasn't a wall of foam.  Sound is excellent with great impact, balance, and detail, but they do give up a little in the naturalness of the sound.  These feel great and work great, but don't isolate as well as the olives. 10 9 10 6
Ety Glider Nice shape with a small opening.  Sound is very good, but the treble isn't what it is with some of the others. 8 8 10 6
Shure black foam AKA Olive (regular) Shallow insertion with a wide opening. Too small for my ears. 1 2 9 4
Shure foam          
Atrio foam          
PFE with Foam These have a mid sized opening, and are shallow insertion tips.  They are comfortable with good isolation, but just don't seem to fit well for me. 8 10 9 3
Head-Direct RE Bi-Flange (spacer needed) Large opening, huge bi-flange that should fit all larger ear canals.  Used these over olive cored.  Sound is very good, but lacking the increased dynamics of the MC triple flange tips. I need more time with these tips, but very promising. 10 7 10 9

Your results may vary.

 

 

Not included in this list as all need spacers and didn't achieve desired results: bi flange, standard silicon, sony hybrids, large MC silicon.  One tip I may try is the RE series large bi-flange in a spacer...


Edited by average_joe - 5/19/10 at 2:50am
post #4 of 2831
Looking forward to this...
post #5 of 2831
I'll be looking forward to your comparison between those top tier IEMs you have
post #6 of 2831
Even though the cost to ship this is almost as much as I paid for my main earphones (CX400s), the $40 shipping to the US isn't exactly the deal-breaker in the equation...the total price of $421 is. It will likely be months and maybe even years before I'd consider investing that much in a pair of IEMs. Being relatively new to the hobby, I think I'll enjoy spending some time testing out the many good offerings that appear to be out there that can be had for $160 or less...even $80 or less, and get to know the kind of sound I'd really like best. Right now, I know enough to know that I don't know enough to know that the SM3 would even be the sort of sound I'd enjoy the most amongst the competition at its price point.

But I like to think ahead. It certainly appears to be one of the holy grails out there. And given that I spent over twice as much on my speakers, I might actually rationalize making a leap to this level sooner than I'd think. Yet for the near future at least, I believe trying to rationalize the $40 shipping might end up being the deal-breaker after all. So any word on how long before Earsonics plans to set up a US distributor and I have to potentially worry about actually considering these with any degree of seriousness?

My wallet is sincerely hoping there are no plans anytime soon.
post #7 of 2831
Let us know your impressions Joe,I was looking and asking about this iem two days ago.
Don't forget the pics ofcourse
post #8 of 2831
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrist-Fi View Post
So any word on how long before Earsonics plans to set up a US distributor and I have to potentially worry about actually considering these with any degree of seriousness?
uhm... never. They don't even have a distributor in France, their home country.
post #9 of 2831
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilney View Post
uhm... never. They don't even have a distributor in France, their home country.
Looks like my wallet got it's wish, then...for now.
post #10 of 2831
you need to add "....this week." to the end of the thread title.
post #11 of 2831
I was thinking of opening similar thread
post #12 of 2831
Thread Starter 
@Wrist-Fi: I had fun getting here, but now that am here I wonder why it took so long, and if I had just gone for the customs (which are the next step), would I have been lost in my music for much longer than the past few weeks? Whatever, it was a fun journey, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way and am happy where I am today

@Bennyboy71: I am hoping at least it reads "this month!" But what else is there, the new 4 BA Jay?

And in appreciation, let me make some general statements (which just got me in trouble in another thread)...

The SM3 is like the UM3X, except with a much larger soundstage and more dynamic and fun! Note: I have not heard the UM3X in quite some time.

Feed the SM3 well mastered/high bitrate tracks and you will be rewarded.

Due to the SM3 having both great soundstage width as well as a 3D presentation which leads to great instrument separation in a large space, I am hearing details in my music not for the first time, but for the first time sounding as good as they are sounding! Everything sounds more realistic!
post #13 of 2831
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KLS View Post
I was thinking of opening similar thread
Well then, lets have some appreciation, discussion, and reviews!
post #14 of 2831
Great job Joe. I'll be chiming in as well with comparisons to the SM2 and others.

Personally, I enjoy how machined their sound is. If there is such a thing as machined neutrality, it is the SM3. But my favourite aspect is how easy they are to drive. Pretty decent without an amp, but with one, they 'open' up a bit in crosstalk etc. Do I use one with them: no.
post #15 of 2831
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
Great job Joe. I'll be chiming in as well with comparisons to the SM2 and others.

Personally, I enjoy how machined their sound is. If there is such a thing as machined neutrality, it is the SM3. But my favourite aspect is how easy they are to drive. Pretty decent without an amp, but with one, they 'open' up a bit in crosstalk etc. Do I use one with them: no.
Looking forward to your additions to this thread!

And if anyone missed it, here and here are my quick thoughts on how the SM3 compares with the FX700.

And I use an amp with them from my iPod since the line out signal is much cleaner than the HPO. More on this later

And to take more from my other thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444 View Post
Interesting impressions, thanks Joe! Sounds to me like the SM3 have more forward mids, because you're saying they sound fuller and calling the FX700 lean in comparison. This cannot be due to bass presence, because the JVCs have plenty of upper bass and give vocals enough chest. To my ears the mids on the FX700 are quite natural (a main ingredient of their great timbre) and neither lacking nor obtrusive. That's why I wonder, is the SM3's midrange comparable to the SE530 or CK100 (read: very forward)?
Quote:
Originally Posted by average_joe View Post
First, my definition of mid-forward is the mids are placed closer to you than the rest of the spectrum, and being laid back is defined as the opposite. I term the FX700 laid back, the SE530/GR8 mid-forward (I am going by the SE530 off memory, and believe the GR8 has a very similar sound signature). The e-Q7 is a little mid-forward; the SM3 is as close to neutral as I have heard.

This to me is one of those things where everything seems great until you hear something better. I remember thinking just how good the NE-7M was, how could things get any better. And then I heard the PFE!

Then there is location of the presentation. Laid back usually translates to being further back in the audience, and mid-forward translates to being up front and personal with the focal point of the music. That is how I hear the FX700...further back in the audience. And the GR8/e-Q7 are all up close, yet vary specifically in exactly where depending on the song. The SM3 is closer to the e-Q7/GR8 than the FM700.

For me the SM3 balance across the spectrum has been redefined neutral for me. Now you may or may not like the way the music is presented, and prefer a laid back, more distant presentation, or a more up close and personal presentation of some of the others, but for me, the SM3 hits home.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › EarSonics SM3 Appreciation, Discussion, & Review Thread - Technically Best Universal? (see first post for reviews and info)