Thought this new IEM could use an appreciation thread! Just got mine a week ago and I'm loving mine! Here my review of which can also be seen on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/EarSonics-SM64-Universal-In-Ear-Monitor/dp/B00B77T1SC/ref=cm_cr-mr-title
The Earsonics SM64 is a beautiful IEM, it may looks like a “Westone” copy but is really far different. This phone isn’t a “value” headphone per-say, but those that make the splurge will be happy they did, as it’s articulate, slightly warm, immersive and has a gorgeous soundstage.
I sold my Westone 4 and a full size can to acquire these. Yes I miss my Westone 4 and thought I might regret it but after having this IEM for a few days and comparing it with my Heir 4ai quite a bit I am not sorry I made the choice. Throughout this review I will make comparisons to the Westone and the 4ai as those are my two points of reference.
I should also mention that Earsonics has so far done an “update” to this IEM. They are not calling it V2. It seems every IEM sold after JAN of 2013 is the revision version. Apparently you can send the earlier version and get it modified.
Pretty simple packaging. You get a nice pocket size zip case, a cleaner, and some various silicone tips and Comply tips. The P-Series tips that come with this are not my favorite as they provide VERY deep insertion to the point where I find them slightly uncomfortable. To make my favorite Comply 500’s work I cut the bore out of the silicone tips and put it inside of the comply 500.
I compared it between the p series comply and no discernible difference in sound can be detected. Soundstage is very similar if not the same. All listening was done with the comply tips.
The fit is very similar to the Westone Headphone’s, the one thing I do appreciate is that they include bendable plastic ear holders on the headphone cord so that you can mold then around above the ear. My Westones did not have this and one problem I always had with them is the cord would fall over my ear. Not a problem here.
The cable is wound around itself, westone style, I’ve only had this a few days but it hasn’t unwound at all.
The sound has not changed in approx. 50 hours of use.
This is the best all-around balanced armature I have used. I have owned at one point the entire westone line including the Westone 4, and currently own the Heir 4ai. As many know, it’s not the amount of Armature units, but how they are implemented. There’s a three-way cross-over here and it has proven for a very cohesive sound. Each frequency is smooth, yet detailed with a high amount of clarity. The bass is slightly impactful and full with a nice reverb quality that stays in it’s range.
LOWS: No leakage into the mids, what-so-ever. I am used to slightly warmer sounding IEM’s like the Westone’s. There seems to be a very slight bump in the VERY low sub-bass frequencies that is very pleasing but once over 100 HZ it is very clean and flat. By personal preference I actually add a little in the EQ to the mid-bass to provide a slight amount of warmth.
The bass quality is tight with a hint of loose warmth almost like the hifiman re262. The difference is that quality and quantity is better than re262. I really appreciate the fact that EarSonic’s made the bass sound a little more like a dynamic driver. It makes the sound slightly more analog which is to my liking. The control and separation of the bass is what makes this section special. It really does act like having a good sub-woofer in a full system. It interrupts when called upon in a charming and pleasing way, but when it needs to purr just to add to a vocal it does so. Very cohesive, very clean, a little dynamic.
This isn’t a bass-head IEM. It won’t blast you away, but it will suit anything from EDM to bluegrass.
In comparison to the 4ai, this actually is more controlled within the frequency range, with slightly more quantity. The quality is about the same, but the 4ai has more mid bas which adds a pleasant warmth to the 4ai. I like that this section is flatter on the SM64 as I would prefer to EQ this in instead of having it already present.
I haven’t heard the SM3 which came before this but the only complaint I ever really heard from reading was that the mids were slightly veiled, which is what led me to go for the SM64 instead of the SM3.
The mids here was ever so slightly forward but the quality of them is astounding. For me this is what really sets the EarSonics apart from the Westone 4. The Westone 4 has beautiful mids but they are ever so slightly congested. The Westone does every really well, but doesn’t astonish me in any one area. The Earsonics have a touch of warmth but emphasize clarity, and a hint of weight in the mids. This makes for an IEM that does female and male vocals remarkably well.
The soundstage becomes quite apparent here too, as many times IEM will have soundstages that are either more tall or more wide in presentation which makes for a less cohesive sound. The EarSonic’s have a very round soundstage that has incredible detailing that adds to its width, but also just the right amount of distance and reverb that puts the listener at the center point of the theatre instead of too close or too far away.
In comparison to the 4ai it’s really a toss-up. As they both have incredibly beautiful mids and soundstages. The main difference is the 4ai comes across as slightly smoother and liquid, where-as the SM64 provides a slight bit more clarity in the upper mids. This can possibly be contributed to the slight dip the 4ai possesses in 4K area. But nonetheless I haven’t seen a freq. curve for the SM64.
This is where EarSonics hit it out of the park. An extreme amount of clarity, separation, and imaging, without any hint of sibilance, peaks, or discontinuity.
I can hear the banjo player move his fingers along the strings, the right amount of reverb recorded by the studio engineer, and the distance the singer is standing from the mic.
The treble and high frequencies are smoother than any IEM I’ve heard and this includes the 4ai by a very small margin. It doesn’t make the SM64 better to listen to, as depending on one’s taste it’s a toss up.
The SM64 doesn’t add air to the music, it just present it in an effortless and beautiful manner. No earphone I have does this as well as the SM64. The TDK IE800 does this remarkably well too, but compared to the SM64 it is strained and artificial sounding. The natural quality of the treble is astounding.
COMPARISONS TO THE HEIR 4ai
The main differences between the two are:
- Slight mid-bass in the 4ai that adds nice warmth that isn’t as present in the SM64.
- Slightly more bass quantity in the SM64, although when Eq’d the bass quality and quantity is remarkably similar.
- Upper mids are more liquid and even on the SM64 while the lower mids are more liquid and even on the 4ai.
- Slightly more “air” in the 4ai generally, but it seems to be a slightly more focused on higher frequencies, while the “air” within the soundstage is more “even” with the SM64.
- Separation and Imaging is slightly better on the SM64 to my ear, but it’s a close race.
- Spectrum and frequency range is equal.
NOTE ON AMPING:
These do have an impedance of 98 I believe, and when tested without my C421 JDS Labs amp, they sounded a little sloppy and most noticeably thinner on the low end. The upper mids became a little "grainy" and both sides of the frequency spectrum and the soundstage were seemingly lessened. These WANT THE POWER! They actually sound best the best off my Schiit Lyr! If you have a powerful desktop amp I'd urge you to give it a run. These are just as finicky power and source wise as my HIFIMAN RE262, which was a nuisance to match up. The Mullard CV2492's sounded especially incredible with these. They actually warmed up the lower mids a tiny bit too.
I'd be interested to hear others notes on source and what they find best with these incredible IEM's.
That’s all for now I will add more if I see fit.
I’d love to see someone do a comparison between these, and the FITEAR 334. Has anyone compared the Heir’s to the FITEAR?
Thanks for reading, these are highly recommended!
I don't have any pics so I'd love it if somebody could post some!
Great post below from page 81 by "AERO DYNAMIK," I feel it deserves it's place here since it's a great summary of the thread:
Lasting Impressions from This Thread
If I were an IEM noob having read all posts in this thread, I believe I would be rather hesitant to buy the SM64. If I were a noob I believe my lasting impressions of this thread would be …
- that the SM64 is flawed by a serious suck out at 5 kHz,
- that some filters (“what’s that and where do they sit!?”) need to be removed using some tool that I don’t have or know how to use,
- that I must spend extra money and time on third party ear tips to get it to sound right,
- that the probability is rather large that it will fall apart if I actually use it or that it will be faulty already from the start, and
- that I might need to invest in a more powerful digital audio player or an amplifier to make it sound loud enough.
I would probably, no, I would most likely think – “Nah, there must be better options!”
So, let me comment on this…
An Electroacoustic Abomination – About the 5 kHz Dip/Scoop/Suck out
So, is the 5 kHz suck out really there? Yes, no doubt about it! Can it actually be heard? Again yes, and very definitely so when listening to a slow sine wave! Can it be heard while listening to music? Well it is there so of course it affects the sound. So, does it degrade the musical experience? Well, that is the million dollar question! Considering how well the SM64 performs overall I’d say this technical aberration probably has a very limited overall influence on the sound signature. If it was possible to eradicate this suck out it would probably change the sound signature to some extent, but personally I’m not convinced that it would be for the better. I just don’t think I would want to take the risk. It is simply not a big deal, not a big deal at all unless you consider a flat sounding frequency response more important than the IEM’s ability to convey a truly musical and engaging experience, which in my opinion the SM64 definitely can.
In this context and as bric-a-brac it is interesting to note that there is probably no musical notation ever written to sound at 5 kHz (at least not for any common instrument, be it a violin or electric guitar). For example, the highest note that can be played on a violin is roughly the note B7 (see the above image) at 3951 Hz. That would be at the very end of the fingerboard on the E string, i.e. the thinnest string. So, I think we can pretty safely conclude that the risk of actually hearing this suck out while listening to any kind of sustained note being played on an instrument or sung by a singer is non-existent. It affects other more subtle aspects of the sound.
Because of this 5 kHz suck out, Rin Choi dubbed the SM64 an abomination! Considering the many honourable SM64 reviews written by some pretty renowned reviewers - such as for example ljokerl and average_joe, to name just two - goes to show what happens when measuring is used as the cardinal resource to validate and review the performance level of an IEM. Indeed, there are IEMs that measure really well but still fails to recreate the kind of emotional response that live music can. The Philips Fidelio S2 is in my opinion an example of that. What we see here is a clash between those who predominantly consider sound reproduction a science and those who consider it an art, the latter being the domain of the SM64.
I can see why one would be tempted to route to the scientific approach if perfect sound reproduction is the objective, but my gut feeling tells me the methods applied are insufficient. I am rather pessimistic when it comes to the possibilities of ever being able to reproduce sound perfectly; my simple argument being that sound is too complex to be measured (at least with today’s methods) and that only “this violin” can sound exactly as “this violin”. However, there are makers who are able to design IEMs that are capable of recreating – at least to a large extent – the same kind of emotional response that live music does, and the SM64 does a rather unique and very, very fine job at that.
Conclusively, for those who predominantly consider sound reproduction a science rather than an art, the SM64 may not be the right cup of tea. However, for those on a quest for an IEM that is able to deliver the same kind of emotional response that live music can do, I suggest trying the SM64.
Some owners have removed the filters but the effect on the sound signature is obviously inconclusive; some enjoy it while others don’t. The only thing certain seems to be that removing the filters does change the sound signature to some extent.
As can been seen in the above picture the filters aren’t filters in the traditional sense but simply a pair of very thin hollow metallic cylinders (these filters look rather thick in the picture, but I’d guess they’re only a tenth of a millimetre or so). For this reason I would be surprised if the effect of removing the filters would be very significant at all – be it good or bad - for most listeners.
It has been suggested that the filters can be removed by using the filter removal tool from Etymotic Research. However, having tried this myself I’ve found it less than ideal. The SM64 filters are metallic whereas the Etymotic filters are plastic. I think there is a risk the filter removal tool might damage the filters and/or the bore of the SM64. And, as the filters aren’t designed to be removable I do recommend leaving them in.
Personally I have not had any problems with build quality on my IEMs from EarSonics. I now have in my possession the SM3 v1, the EM6, and the SM64 v2 and I have a history of the EM4. It does not contradict that there are problems with build quality and quality control but personally I have not experienced any, and reasonably carefully handled, I really see no reason why they should break. Also, all my communication with EarSonics (e-mail and phone) has been very smooth.
Third Party Ear Tips
The stock tips are quite excellent. I definitely feel that the stock double flange silicone tips yield the most enjoyable sound. The stock foam tips improve isolation and they sound almost as good but at the expense of a tad bit less clarity. An advantage of the foam tips over the silicone tips is that they will fit any ear. There is no real need for third party ear tips unless you enjoy experimenting or you can’t get the stock double flange silicone tips to fit. In that case I too would recommend the Phonak Audeo silicone tips. To these ears they sound more or less identical to the stock double flange silicone tips but are easier to fit perfectly and give perhaps a tad bit better isolation.
Impedance and Amplifying
Some posts give the impression that the SM64 needs a lot more loudness than lower impedance IEMs. This is not my experience, at all. With the exception of my ALO Rx MK3-B amplifier I’ve had no problems with any of my sources, from my iPod Nano to my desktop amps. The problem with the ALO Rx MK3-B amp is that is makes the SM64 hiss quite a bit, but then again it makes my entire range of IEMs hiss so the SM64 is no exception. Anyway, the SM64 certainly doesn’t need an amplifier to make it loud enough, and I really don’t think it is more affectable to amplifying than any of my other quality IEMs. A smart phone is quite enough to make the SM64 expose its potential and should suffice for most needs.
Ljokerl’s SM64 Review
ljokerl; for many years one of the most respected IEM reviewers on Head-Fi scores the sound of the SM64 to 9.3. Considering that he scores the venerable FitEar To Go! 334 ($1345) to 9.5, the AKG K3003i ($1299) to 9.4 and the more than legendary Etymotic Research ER-4S ($239) to 9.1 basically makes the decision to buy the SM64, as far as sound is concerned, a no brainer if your budget is $399. ljokerl scores the sound of a few other universal IEMs to 9.3 as well but they are all more expensive. I feel ljokerl’s SM64 review is pretty much spot on, but right now I’m so excited about the emotional response that the SM64 creates in me that I feel I could sell the other mentioned universal IEMs and not miss them too much.
The EarSonics’ house sound
This post is not meant to be a review but for those with experience of the SM3 and/or the EM4 I’d say the SM64 takes the best of both worlds. The out-of-head experience of the EM4 and the authority of the SM3. Like the SM3 the SM64 - despite being a lot more clear/transparent sounding - is never intrusive the way the EM4 sometimes can be. This means I can enjoy the music of for example Kraftwerk, Pink, and Daft Punk through the SM64 in a way and for much longer than with any of my other IEMs. The SM3 is very non-intrusive as well but is overall less enjoyable than the SM64. The SM64 definitely shares blood with the other EarSonics IEMs.
So, to be able to truly enjoy the potential of the SM64 do I need to…
- worry about the 5 kHz suck out? No!
- remove the filters? No!
- find third party ear tips to make it really sing? No!
- worry it might fall apart if I use it? No!
- pair it with an amp because of the high impedance? No!
Just plug it in and feel your toes start tapping. It’s all very simple!
Thanks for reading!
Edited by zach915m - 8/25/14 at 11:45am