Some time has passed since I posted anything in this thread, so I figured it’s about time I updated interested readers about my life with the EM4s.
For a while I was on the verge to send my EM4s back to France for a rebuild to the EM3‑PRO specification. I mailed EarSonics and explained my considerations. They replied back that they were willing to rebuild my EM4s for (what I felt) was a very reasonable fee of 71 EUR. No questions asked. However, in the end I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I had to admit to myself that I am quite devoted to my EM4s. It’s just that coming from the SM3s, the (brain) burn in process is very, very time consuming. The sound signature compared the SM3s couldn’t be more different. No one describes the sound signature of the EM4s better than EarSonics themselves. I have reflected over their short description over and over, and it’s spot on.
“Deep and ‘clean’ lows, a "Earsonics touch" medium and treble with incredible sharpness.”
Once you get to grips with the overall sound signature, the lows are truly mind-blowing. Listening to the last 17 seconds of “Tubular World” from “The Songs of Distant Earth” by Mike Oldfield is like entering into a new sound universe. The bass is monumental, yet just as clean and detailed (sharp) as the mids and highs. Incroyable ( “incredible”, in French)! If I were to describe the EM4s with as few words as possible, I would say: “Ear openers”. The transparency and resolution is by far the best I’ve heard in anything.
“Transparency can be described as an open window to the sound. That is, as if there was nothing between the listener and the music. The hardware has disappeared and only the music remains.” (Quote from “The Ultimate Demonstration Disk”).
So, if you’re considering buying the EM4s, read the above quote by EarSonics over and over and try to image what it would sound like. Once you get your EM4s you’ll be nodding your head thinking: “Yes, that’s exactly what they said they would sound like.” Now, whether or not that kind of sound signature suits your personal preferences or not is a different story.
And now for something completely different (to quote Monty Phyton). The EM4s are my first and so far only custom IEMs. I really don’t know how many hours I spent reading reviews, considering various fabrications and models before making my call. One of those many reviews that stayed with me was Steve Guttenberg’s review of the JH Audio 16s. He writes, among many other things:
“One night a few weeks ago I was standing on a New York City subway platform when a deranged homeless man started screaming his guts out three feet away from me, and I didn't hear him! He was facing away from me, but then I noticed that everyone else on the platform started to walk away! If you want the best possible noise isolation, you need custom, molded to your ears headphones.”
Now, the first time I tried my EM4s having Steve’s review in the back of my head, they didn’t isolate near as well as I had expected. So I went to a noise place and twisted them back and forth, pressing them into my ears. Of course, while doing this the acrylic expanded somewhat from my body heat, and I eventually got the isolation near my expectations. Nevertheless, getting the desired isolation has been a bit of a problem, until just recently, when I started experimenting with various skin creams. The skin of most people is a bit oily. Mine isn’t. It so dry it almost falls off by itself (Yeah, sounds gory, but to give you a picture). So, I rub a little skin cream onto the part of the ear where the IEMs rest, and the isolation becomes perfect. Even when not playing music I can’t decipher what people are saying, not even if they are standing just a few feet away from me talking directly to me while looking at their lips. Definitely a near deaf experience. The skin cream is named “Hudsalva ‑ Försvarets”, which is Swedish for “Skin cream - Armed forces” and can be bought in Swedish drugstores. It’s supposed to be edible too, in case of emergency, but I haven’t tasted it yet. I guess it will come in handy when I’ve spent all my money on hi-fi equipment . Anyway, when applied its texture is very similar to the body’s own skin oil.
Like any other custom IEMs the design (of course!) is made to be as comfortable and isolating as possible. You’re not supposed to press them into your ears as hard as you can. You’re just supposed to twist them into place, and that’s it! So, my advice is to use some skin cream if you’re not perfectly happy with the isolation. For me it made a world of difference!
My experimenting also led me to try how the sound is affected by how I hold my body and head, and my conclusion is final. The body must be standing or sitting. The head should be held straight and upright, and preferably be tilted slightly forward. Forget lying in bed on your back (my most preferred listening position); it changes the sound signature completely. Why? Simply because when the imprints are made, the body is sitting, the head is held straight upright and is slightly tilted forward. Changing the position of the body changes the form of the ears’ anatomy, consequently the fit of the custom IEMs changes, and subsequently the sound signature changes. In this respect universal IEM’s are a lot more flexible.
I’m surprised that after having spent so much time reading about custom IEMs I’ve never read anything about of what I’ve just described. Hopefully, this post will help a few first-time users of custom IEMs.
So, will I keep my EM4s? You bet!
Wishing you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!