EARNiNE EN210

Average User Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. HiFiChris
    4.5/5,
    "EARNiNE EN210: full, warm, cosy, dark & mellow"
    Pros - •surprisingly impactful bass for a lower-price multi-BA in-ear
    •warm and harmonious sound with good texture
    •good resolution and separation
    •quite circular sounstage
    •great cable
    •beautiful visual appearance and design
    •great build quality
    Cons - •not for those who aren't looking for a thick, warm sound
    •extension past 10 kHz quite limited
    Preamble:

    Originally posted on my German audio review site, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the latest in-ear creation from EARNiNE, the EN210.


    Introduction:

    While there are probably a few dozen, if not even hundred companies that make dynamic drivers for in-ears, earbuds and full-sized headphones, there are only a handful of manufacturers of Balanced Armatures. The two best known BA makers are Sonion and Knowles, but there are also other brands such as the TSST that develop and manufacture those micro drivers that were originally first used in hearing aids in-house.

    TSST, which stands for “Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology”, is a joint venture between the two eponymous companies. “EARNiNE”, which went bankrupt but was revived thanks to caring employees, is their brand of in-ears that feature their in-house designed and manufactured Balanced Armature drivers.

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    I already reviewed their EN120, a single-BA model with a remarkably neutral, flat tuning and great technical performance that definitely exceeds the surprisingly low price, and its only real flaw was a sharp resonance buildup in the highs as well as slightly sub-par sub-bass definition.

    Now a new in-ear was added to EARNiNE’s portfolio, the EN210, a dual-BA in-ear that is priced very competitively as well.

    Currently there aren’t really any overseas distributors of EARNiNE’s products, but I was told that the company is planning on selling their in-ears directly on ebay in the not too distant future. //edit: I was just informed that the EN210 is now already available and selling on ebay in EARNiNE's own store: https://www.ebay.com/itm/142606965479


    What tuning philosophy does the new dual-BA in-ear EN210 follow and how does it perform? Well, that’s what I answer in this very review.


    Full disclosure: After having been in contact with them a few months ago when the revived company wasn’t fully up and running yet and after having reviewed their EN120 that I was offered by the Tony Song Corporation, I was contacted by EARNiNE who told me that they were going to send the EN210 to me once it is ready. I was then sent the sample at no cost, for the purpose of an, as always, honest, unpaid and unbiased review whose content and outcome is not influenced or restricted by the manufacturer or any third person, no matter how it would turn out.


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: ~ $90 in Korea
    Driver Type: Balanced Armature
    Drivers per Side: 2
    Acoustic ways: 2 (full-range, woofer)
    Sensitivity: 100 dB +/- 3 dB at 1 kHz
    Frequency Range: 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
    Impedance: 21 Ohms +/- 20% at 1 kHz
    Cable: 1.2 m, twisted, permanently attached


    Delivery Content:

    The cardboard box and printed slipcase are nothing that truly stand out or is special, but that’s also not what you would usually expect to get at this price point. You also don’t expect to get a genuine van Gogh when you go Ikea-shopping for a painting, do you?

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    Anyway, included in the box, apart from the in-ears, are one pair of foam ear tips, three pairs of silicone tips, a manual and last but not least a protective, zippered storage/transport case.


    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    It doesn’t happen too often that budget-priced in-ears leave me excited when it comes to design and build, but in case of the EN210, this definitely was the case when I first opened the cardboard box.

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    Not only has the EN210 got a unique styling despite featuring rather compact universal fit shells, but its brown-ish grey, transparent colour along with the golden EARNiNE logos looks quite nice and classy as well and weirdly attracts me. And what really makes me personally love the EN210’s design are its rubberised side-marker dots on the inner side of each shell, with a green dot on the left and a red one on the right shell. I don’t know why, but there is just something about this design and the side-markers (that are actually cover plugs for the screws that hold the shell together) that really makes me love it – maybe it’s just the harmonious, earthy colour and interaction of the different colour nuances that you don’t see every day.

    Build quality in general is really good, with proper strain relief on the very nice (but non-detachable) cable with three twisted conductors below the y-splitter. That cable is rather similar to Westone’s cables as well as the Plastics One and therefore very flexible, and the in-ear’s nozzles are made of silver metal. A chin-slider is also implemented to the cable.

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    The compact, squared, zippered carrying case with the EARNiNE logo on top of its lid is nice as well and not only protective but also soft on the outside and inside, and features a little storage pocket inside, too.


    Comfort, Isolation:

    The EN210 has got shells that are rather small and have got nozzles that are ergonomically angled wherefore chances are little that the ear pieces won’t fit and seal well in your ears. EARNiNE’s in-ear certainly fits and seals extremely well in my large ears and ear canals, that’s for sure.

    The EN210 has to be worn with the cable guided around the ears, which is the common standard for most higher-priced and professional in-ears as it improves the fit and drastically reduces microphonics (cable noise) that are not present at all thanks to the light, flexible cable.

    Noise isolation, as expected due to the closed shells, is really good.


    Sound:

    My main source for listening was the iBasso DX200 (AMP1 module).

    I only used the largest included silicone tips.

    Frequency response measurements can be found here: frequency-response.blogspot.com

    Tonality:

    Okay, the EN210 is tuned quite differently from the EN120 that took on a remarkably neutral approach with one resonance in the highs. Indeed, the EN210 is tuned quite a bit differently, featuring a rich, full, warm, dark and relaxed sound signature that avoids any harshness but might also be perceived as a bit veiled and lacking some sparkle if you are generally not really interested in dark, warm, full and cosy sounding in-ears.

    At first listen, the EN210 showcases a surprisingly full and thick bass for Balanced Armature standards – it clearly doesn’t reach basshead dynamic driver levels in terms of elevation, but is still meatier than many other in-ears with Balanced Armature woofers on the market, especially at this price.

    The mids, especially lower midrange, are on the full-bodied, warm and dark side. They are not neutral or flat. They are not recessed. They are close in the mix and rather intimate. Voices are definitely on the warmer side, both male and female. If you are not into full-bodied, warm and cosy lower mids, look away. If you want a sparkling, airy upper midrange, look away, too. But if you like warm, full, cosy and dark sounding mids, the EN210 is right for you.

    The EARNiNE’s highs are generally on the darker side, too. They take a step back for a more de-fused, inoffensive, mostly edge-free presentation.

    Tonally, the EN210 therefore reminds me of a much better-made version of the Brainwavz M100, an in-ear that just went a bit too far when it comes to darkness, to the degree that it became (very) muffled sounding. Not so the EARNiNE – both in-ears share tuning similarities in the bass and lower midrange, but differ in the highs. While the M100 is just too dark and muffled up top, the EN210 is just dark and inoffensive but not really muffled sounding. Higher notes are still present but in the background. Therefore I think that the EN210 achieved just that what the M100 failed to do.

    Around 700 Hz, the lows’ emphasis starts to climb, with an already full and warm lower midrange as well as lower root, with the highest point being reached at around 90 Hz with an elevation that is about 10 dB compared to an in-ear that is diffuse-field neutral in the lows, such as the Etymotic ER-4S/SR, and about 7 dB more than still very neutral in-ears like the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered or EARNiNE’s own EN120. This elevation is kept upright down into the sub-bass without really rolling off.

    Lower mids are warm and full, like a soft, cosy blanket in front of an inviting fireplace in a wooden cottage up in the hills on a snowy winter night. Sure, vocals are generally and undeniably on the warm side. Acoustic instruments sound full and warm as well, but not to the extent of showcasing too much unrealism or unpleasantness (unless you generally don’t like (very) warm and full sounding in-ears and headphones). Female vocals might be perceived as lacking a bit of air though, which is due to a slight notch around 2 kHz – but then again it is nice to see an opposite pole to the many (mainly) Asian in-ears with a bright, elevated upper midrange.

    The highs are generally in the background and laid-back, creating a somewhat dark general presentation and sensation. There is a bit of unevenness around 3 (here’s a slight bump that brings voices more forward in the mix but definitely doesn’t brighten them since female vocals are on the warm and dark side, too), 6 and 9 kHz when listening to sine sweeps, with an even roll-off in the super treble above 10 kHz (wherefore you don’t really get any subtle sparkle and air). The treble is therefore not as even and realistic as the much more expensive UERRs’ or more comparably priced Brainwavz B200’s or Rose Mini2’s, but that’s what one doesn’t really expect for the price anyway. Since it’s mostly in the background and on the darker side though, the bit of unevenness the EN210 carries in the highs when listening to sine sweeps doesn’t come across as unnatural, sharp or edgy at all anyway. Quite the opposite is actually the case and the treble is de-fused and well-tamed (definitely don’t expect a sparkling, bright and airy presentation here – cymbals and violins are inoffensive, smooth and laid-back).

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    So who is the EN210 for?

    It was not made for bassheads – while the lows are definitely strong and impactful, they might still lack two or three notches for that.

    It was definitely also not made for those looking for a neutral or bright tonality, since the EN210 is anything but that.

    It wasn’t made for those looking for a v-shaped sound signature either.

    Nope, the EARNiNE EN210 is an in-ear that was made for those who want a thick, warm, cosy, mellow, bold and dark sounding in-ear with a treble that is de-fused and never bothering.

    Resolution:

    The EN210 is not on the same performance level as some of the higher-end dual-BA in-ears such as the InEar StageDiver SD-2 or Eternal Melody EM-2, but that was rather foreseeable anyway. What it does though is outperforming some of the better single-BA in-ears below $100, with slightly cleaner separation and more headroom. Yeah, in the more entry-level focussed price range, the EN210 is a really strong contender.

    What you definitely get with it are the clean, tight and fast transients that you would expect from a better Balanced Armature in-ear. It is thick, it is warm and it is dark, however it never loses focus and doesn’t become wobbly, woolly or undefined sounding.

    Starting with the bass, it is definitely a bit more on the softer, slower, body-focused side for Balanced Armature standards, having more of a dynamic nature and texture. Transients and control still make somewhat clear that the used woofer is a BA driver though, and it outperforms some similarly bassy single dynamic driver in-ears at the same price point when it comes to bass details and control with quick and complex passages and tracks.
    Sub-bass definition, unlike the EN120 whose sub-bass sounded somewhat undefined, is by the way good.

    Midrange and treble details are certainly there – don’t be fooled by the tuning. They are just not in the foreground but instead pushed more into the background due to the choice of a dark tonality. The EARNiNE EN210 is no aggressively or analytically detailed in-ear. It doesn’t even want to be that. Instead, it is forgiving and cosy.

    Note separation is good, too – definitely not the sharpest and ultra-cleanest sensation, but not a weakness or imprecision either.

    Soundstage:

    The EN210 has got a rather circular soundstage with just a slight tendency to being oval, with good overall height.

    In absolute terms, it has got about average expansion, but for the price of this dual-BA in-ear, the size is more than just average with an expansion to the sides of about one finger’s thickness more than the base between my ears.

    Separation, layering and placement are adequately precise and better than one would probably expect them to be for the price, although in ultimate terms the EN210 is rather on the lower middle side of the scale for multi-BA in-ears in this regard. It doesn’t sound muddy or foggy, however it lacks the ultimate sharpness that some of the higher-priced multi-driver in-ear offerings have.

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    In Comparison with other Dual-BA In-Ears:

    Brainwavz B200:

    Now with the reduced MSRP and removable cables, the B200 has become even more of a great deal than it already was with its original MSRP and permanently attached cables. It heads into a smooth, somewhat warm tonal direction with good tonal balance and performs really well on the technical level.

    The EN210 carries slightly more bass slam than the B200. Its lower mids are also warmer and its upper mids a bit darker than the Brainwavz’; generally the EARNiNE’s midrange appears a little closer, more intimate. In the highs, it is the EN210 that is tuned darker than the B200, especially in the upper highs that sound more subdued in comparison (especially noticeable with cymbals that are audibly “splashier” on the B200 compared to the EARNiNE’s presentation).

    Both in-ears are rather close when it comes to detail retrieval, which means that both are really good technical performers for the reasonable price they are sold for.

    The B200 has got the slightly tighter bass while control is similar, along with note separation that is a bit cleaner as well, while the EN210 has got the slightly higher midrange resolution.

    The B200 has got the slightly cleaner soundstage and separation while dimensions are about similar (the Brainwavz’ is only slightly wider and higher).

    Apple Dual-BA In-Ears:

    Often overlooked, the Apple in-ears are actually nice and competitively priced in-ears that, while ultimately lacking the coherency and bass quality of a good single-BA in-ear, resolve well for the price, especially in the higher frequency range where they don’t really lack behind higher-priced multi-BA in-ears at all. If a good fit and seal can be obtained, their sound signature heads into the slightly warm-ish side of balanced in the lows, and they would get a score of 4 out of 5 stars if I were to review them now (things where they are slightly lacking behind good single-BA models are their lows’ resolution compared to the highs’, and to a smaller degree coherency compared to a good single-BA model even though their treble resolution and averaged general detail retrieval somewhat outperforms many single-BA in-ears in the same price range of up to $100).

    I bought my Apple in-ears for €72.99 on Amazon (sold and fulfilled by Amazon), and I clearly advise potential buyers to also get them from a trusted reseller such as Amazon (sold and fulfilled by Amazon), the Apple Store or any physical outlet that is an Apple reseller.

    Quite obviously, the EARNiNE has got the superior cable with higher flexibility.

    While the Apple in-ears have got a rather subtly implemented warmth and bass lift that’s more on the balanced to neutral side, the EN210 has got the bigger, bolder bottom-end tuning with a good bit of more warmth and fullness.

    The Apple IEMs have got the more neutral, flat midrange tuning while the EARNiNE’s is definitely on the warm, dark and cosy coloured side.

    In the highs, the Apple in-ears are rather neutral with a bit of a relaxation dip in the middle treble, which is something that is what you commonly find in most in-ears. The EN210 is darker and more laid-back in the highs than the Apple IEMs that appear noticeably brighter and splashier in the upper highs, even to the extent of becoming a little metallic and sometimes slightly sharp in comparison.

    The EARNiNE has got the somewhat superior bass texture and details, which is also true for the lower midrange where the Apple in-ears always lacked a bit behind their highs when it came to detail retrieval. The EN210 also sounds more coherent with the more even distribution of its resolution – with the Apple dual-BA in-ears, it’s a little like if you can hear where one driver stops and where the other starts when it comes to detail retrieval.

    Simply put, from the sub-bass to lower mids, it’s the EN210 that wins when it comes to resolution, whereas the Apple in-ears feature the higher minute detail retrieval and cleaner note separation from the central mids up into the super treble.

    The Apple in-ears have got a bit more spatial width whereas the EN210 features the cleaner separation and somewhat more precise placement of instruments.


    Conclusion:

    The EARNiNE EN210 is a beautiful, well-built, rather wallet-friendly dual-BA in-ear with a great cable and was tuned for those who are looking for a full, warm and dark sound signature without any bothering treble brightness. It also performs well on the technical level wherefore it is a good in-ear and a rather easy recommendation for the price, but definitely not a model for those who fear fullness, warmth and darkness when it comes to tonality or those who want a flatter, more neutral midrange reproduction.

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    - - -

    On a related, subjective note, I personally really like (dare I say “love”?) the EN210’s sound signature and quality for the price enough wherefore it goes on my list of products that I subjectively love and hate (definitely not as one of my main IEMs, but more as a “sidechick”). Yep, there are also some dark, warm and full sounding in-ears and headphones that I personally really appreciate from time to time. Definitely an enjoyable and smooth presentation overall.