B9Scrambler

Headphoneus Supremus
Earsonics Corsa: Keeping The Competition On Their Feet
Pros: Built like a tank – Refined, neutral-leaning tune – Beautiful, comfortable design
Cons: Part fitment not quite up to snuff – Underwhelming cable – May be too large/heavy for small
Greetings!

Today we're checking out the triple armature Corsa from Earsonics.

If you've been following the high end portable audio market for a while now, you're likely familiar with Earsonics. The French outfit founded by Franck Lopez in 2005 has been catering to professional and enthusiast markets alike for over a decade. They currently offer a variety of universal and custom-fit earphones featuring both hybrid and pure armature setups.

The Corsa that we're looking at today is a universal fit model containing three proprietary balanced armatures per side; one for the lows, one for the mids, and another for the highs. While the exterior of the shell is all-metal, the interior has been borrowed from their hybrid lineup and is dominated by a 3D printed acrylic structure in which the drivers and crossover are securely housed.

With a neutral-leaning signature, the Corsa is squarely aimed at audiophiles looking for a balanced audio experience. Does the Corsa deliver the goods? I spent the last few months finding out.

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What I Hear

Ear Tips: The stock ear tips are fine but I definitely recommend upgrading if you want the best possible sound and fit. My preferred alternative is the Spinfit CP145 in small size. It provides extra fit depth, a reliable seal, and outstanding comfort. The medium bore does little to affect the sound, retaining the impressive balance the Corsa is capable of. Sony Hybrids and Final Type E are also good choices since they provide a similar experience to the CP145. Both provide a slightly more shallow fit with the Sonys having reduced durability, so I'd stick with the Final tips if you have the option. The smaller bore of these tips also warms up the signature a hint which might be more suitable to some listening preferences. I had no luck with any wide bore tips. Foams sound similar to the small bore tips mentioned above, but with a mild hit to midrange clarity..

The Corsa is tuned to be a well-balanced performer with no particular area being significantly more emphasized over another, though, I found the treble region to be the least emphasized. The presence region sees a shift in bias over the brilliance region. Detail and clarity are good but not class leading with notes having a solid weight and density to them. The most impressive part is how well-defined and controlled the upper ranges are, ensuring the Corsa avoids adding any splash or sloppiness to the presentation. It works just as well with electronic tracks such as Gramatik's “Bluestep” as it does with jazz on Otis McDonald's “A Walk Down 7th St.”

The midrange is a gem to my ear, even if it's not the most detailed I've heard. Vocals are thick and weighty with plenty of emotion and body to them. Their default positioning is just outside the ear which allows the Corsa to accurately display the most intimate moments of a track, such as the vocals during the closing moments of Culprate's “Undefined” where the artist feels like she moves in and starts whispering mere centimetres from you. This region isn't particularly warm though, with a slight dryness to everything that isn't entirely unlike releases from EarNine and some of Sony's earlier all-armature products. This leaves the timbre relatively accurate, but not quite spot on. Still very pleasing in general though, at least to me. Plus, I'd much rather have this than any amount of the plasticy quality to hear from some balanced armatures.

The low end will certainly be light on bass for those used to products with a dynamic driver handling this region. Extension is quite good with the Corsa able to reproduce the deep rumble in the opening of Kavinski's “Solli”, but anything much deeper than that will result in rapid roll off. Mid-bass is quick and punchy with excellent control and texture. It just doesn't move air like a dynamic so the physical aspect is missing somewhat. That should be expected given the drive tech being used. If you need some extra low end emphasis, with a few extra dB added in via EQ the Corsa can slam pretty well, though it's certainly nothing a bass forward listener is likely to be content with.

The Corsa's sound stage is relatively expansive and indeed a strong point. Width is good with sound and effects easily able to spin off into the distance. I found the Corsa to be a solid pairing for both competitive and casual gaming. It was relatively easy to follow the opposition thanks to the accuracy of imaging and depth, aspects which also help keep music tracks from sounding congested. Instrument separation and layering are good too, but the denseness of the overall presentation limits what the Corsa can do. It's not really noticeable until directly comparing with more analytic-focused products though.

Overall I have really enjoyed the Corsa's mature tuning. I appreciate that Earsonics refrained from falling into current trends, like a boosted upper mid, or adding lean treble spikes to add energy, or bumping up the low end to the point where it dominates the tune. The result isn't something that will necessarily blow you away out of the box, instead growing on you over time.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Fearless S6 Rui (389.00 USD): Like the Corsa the S6 Rui contains only balanced armatures, but doubles the quantity to six per side vs. the Corsa's three per side. Where the Corsa offers a relatively flat signature, the S6 Rui bumps bass and treble quantities to offer a more lively, vibrant sound. This is immediately noticeable in the low end. Both mid- and sub-bass regions are more emphasized giving the S6 Rui a thicker, warmer, punchier presentation. While the drivers on both products are quite nimble the Corsa provides improved texture and detail. If EQing bass quantities to match, the Corsa also sounds better controlled and more accurate. Leaning into the midrange, I perceive vocals on the Corsa to be more prominent thanks to the lessened bass and treble quantities in comparison to the S6 Rui. Both male and female vocals from the Corsa are more dense and weighty with a more realistic reproduction, though detail and clarity are a step behind what the Fearless offers. Neither suffers from sibilance. The S6 Rui's stronger upper mid presence gives it a notable edge in terms of aggressiveness with the attack of drums and other percussive instruments. Heading into the upper ranges shows the two taking on very different qualities. The Corsa is thicker and more relaxed with a cleaner, more defined note presentation. Notes attack and decay at a more leisurely pace which once again gives it the edge in realism, though for my tastes the S6 Rui's extra brilliance region energy is more to my tastes. Unfortunately for the S6 Rui, it produces more grain and sounds quite a bit less refined. When it comes to sound stage the Corsa provides a more spacious presentation. The default vocal positioning of the Corsa is just outside the outer ear while it's quite a bit closer on the S6 Rui. Both have a well-rounded stage, it's just overall more compact on the Fearless which in my opinion plays into it's more aggressive tune. Imaging is quite nuanced and accurate on both with smooth channel-to-channel transitions. I wouldn't give either an advantage here. Layering and instrument separation go to the S6 Rui, however, thanks to its superior clarity and detail everywhere but in the low end.

When it comes to build they're both good examples of their respective material choices, though I'd have to give the S6 Rui the nod. Since the S6 Rui is 3D printed and all one piece, fit and finish is flawless. That said, I dislike the way the 2-pin connectors fail to sit flush against the body, unlike on the Corsa where the design is more cohesive and offers better protection from potential damage. Fearless' cable is also an improvement with additional and more flexible strands, stiffer, more supportive preformed ear guides, and beefier hardware, though strain relief is more effectively applies to the Corsa's cable. The lack of a chin cinch on the Fearless also cannot be overlooked. Comfort is quite good on both thanks to similar, low profile designs. The S6 Rui has the advantage here too though thanks to a significantly lower weight. Isolation is also better on the Fearless which is unvented, though this does lead to pressure build up with certain eartips which can be unpleasant.

Overall I find these two products to cater to different crowds. The Corsa is the better pick if you're looking for durability and sonic accuracy while the Fearless S6 Rui is more stylish and provides listeners with a more traditionally consumer-friendly sound; aka. somewhat v-shaped and Harman-esque. They each have their place in my listening rotation.

FiiO FA9 (499.99 USD): [Switches set to OFF/ON/OFF] Like the S6 Rui in the previous comparison, the FA9 contains six armature per side vs. the Corsa's three. In addition, the FA9 adds in a crossover-based tuning system that subtly adjusts treble and either bass or mid quantities. For ease of comparison, I'm comparing with the FA9 set to my preferred configuration, as noted above.

Starting with the low end, the FA9 has more emphasis along with improved extension. It's not quite as articulate or as well-textured resulting in it coming across smoother but also less dynamic. Nice for electronic music, but falls behind the Corsa with live instrumentation. Speed on both is equally excellent with neither getting caught up on rapid notes. The midrange of the Corsa is thicker and more forward than that of the FA9 but lacks the raw clarity and detail. It's cooler tonality and a slight breathiness applied to vocals also leaves it sounding a hint less natural, something that carries over to instruments as well. Treble of the FA9 is more emphasized, notably the brilliance region, giving it a brighter, more energetic sound. Instrumentation in this range stands out more on the FA9 and depending on your tolerance, the extra shimmer and sparkle can leave it more fatiguing than the Corsa. Adding to this notes are cleaner and better defined on the Corsa which sound looser and less well controlled on the FA9. Staging size is in the FA9's corner. While depth is similar, width is quite a bit more impressive. A default vocal positioning resting even further out of the ear than the Corsa's helps with this perception. Technical performance rests solidly in the Corsa's hands with it providing more nuanced imaging. Channel-to-channel movement is cleaner and easier to track with subtleties being more obvious than on the FA9. The same goes for track layering and to a lesser extent, instrument separation.

When it comes to build much of what I said about the S6 Rui applies to the FA9. The quality of the 3D printing is basically flawless. Fit and finish is immaculate. The FA9 utilizes MMCX connectors instead of 2-pin and while they're not perfectly flush with the body upon being plugged in, they're at least as well integrated as the Corsa's 2-pin connectors and do not look at all out of place. When it comes to the cable there are aspects of both I like. The FA9's hardware is beefier and in general feels more robust, especially the 90 degree angled jack. The cable is made of 8 strands with a reasonably stiff sheath, so it lacks the flexibility and comfort of the Corsa's lighter, less intrusive cable design. While both earphones are nice to wear for fairly long periods, comfort for me is better on the Corsa. The FA9 is similarly large but the sealed design causes discomfort due to pressure build up if I'm not careful when inserting it and the nozzle angle also doesn't feel quite as natural.

Overall I prefer the Corsa. The FA9's tuning feature doesn't add much to the overall experience and while I like how smooth and refined it sounds, I prefer the Corsa's additional micro-detail, less fatiguing nature, and improved technical performance in terms of imaging, layering, etc. The Corsa is also more comfortable and while fit and finish is a step back, the metal shells should make it more durable long term.

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In The Ear The Corsa's shells are all metal, which is very obvious the moment you pick them up. They carry a lot of weight, which makes sense given they're also larger than your average in-ear. The weight isn't really an issue when it comes to fit, but we'll circle back to that. Construction quality is top tier with the shells having an organic, shapely design. The inner ridges, rear ventilation, and face plate design containing the Earsonics logo are all well-formed and free of unrefined edges. While the nozzle is unfortunately lacking a lip for holding tips on, it is quite long. This helps ensure there is enough friction present to hold most third party tips in place when inserting and removing the Corsa from your ears. My preferred tip, the Spintfit CP145, fits and holds on just fine. Where the Corsa is a step down from other products in this price range is in part fitment, namely how the face plate interacts with the main body. The gap between the two is prominent and uneven with glue peeking through in some areas. There is also some overhang around the front of each ear piece where the face plate is a bit longer than the rest of the shell. It's nothing I'd worry about and doesn't take away from the visual appeal. That said, it certainly gives the impression that the Corsa is more of a boutique product which makes sense given it's handmade and not mass produced on an assembly line.

The cable isn't anything particularly special and comes across underwhelming given the asking price of the Corsa. That said, it's not a bad cable and sells by itself for 99 USD. It's a simple quad-strand, silver-plated, braided design with Kevlar reinforcement that doesn't look or feel too dissimilar to the silver-plate cables KZ has been including with a number of their recent products. The cable is quite slender and has fantastic aluminum hardware at the compact, well-relieved angled jack, y-split, and the 2-pin plugs. Tangle resistance is pretty decent for a thin cable, it transmits barely any noise during movement, and it retains little memory of bends. Leading up to the earpieces are preformed ear guides which I am always a fan of, though I wish they were slightly stiffer. The light weight of the cable is overwhelmed by the heftiness of the earphones themselves and as a result, the flexible ear guides do little to help stabilize the earpieces during heavy movement. Thankfully, the Corsa uses a common 0.78mm 2-pin design so finding a replacement better suited to ergonomics of the Corsa is quite straightforward. KBEAR's outstanding 8-core silver-plated copper cable gets my recommendation as an affordable (~30USD or less) replacement for the Corsa's stock cable.

When it comes to ergonomics Earsonics crafted a thoughtfully designed shell. While the size will be limiting factor for those with smaller ears, for everyone else I suspect it will be quite comfortable to wear. The inner half of the shell is smooth and well-rounded, completely free of any sharp edges which could cause discomfort. The bulbous shape feels form-fitted to the outer ear and spreads the weight of the earpieces fairly evenly across the surface of your skin. If the Corsa were lighter, I'd easily be able to wear it for an entire 8-hour work shift with no complaint. As-is, I find the areas the earphone touches getting slightly sore after a couple hours, requiring a few minute break to mitigate. If taking the health of your ears and hearing seriously, you shouldn't be listening for hours on end anyway. Isolation with silicone tips is below average. Unlike most all-armature earphones I've come across which are fully sealed, the shells of the Corsa are heavily ventilated with two large, vertical vents on the rear of each earpiece. While this does reduce the Corsa's ability to passively block outside noise, it does improve comfort by ensuring there is no pressure build up when they've been inserted into your ear. If you need to boost isolation tp more average levels, the included Comply foam tips works wonders.

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In The Box The Corsa arrives in a very understated package. On the front of the matte black sheath the logo is oriented vertically, along with 'monitors' written horizontally beneath it. France's flag can be found centred along the bottom. To the rear of the sheath is a sticker with the model name and a barcode, along with some additional branding tucked in the bottom left corner. Sliding off the sheath reveals a black monolith of a box with ES written in contrasting glossy font. The rest of the box is featureless. Flipping back the magnetically sealed flap you are greeted by two small viewing windows for the earpieces. Courtesy of Frank Lopez, their CEO, a paragraph in French thanks you for purchasing an Earsonics product and welcomes you to the world of professional audio.

From here you might wonder how to get to the earpieces taunting you through their viewing windows. Sliding your fingers down the right edge of the box reveals a small cutout enabling you to remove the main insert like a drawer. This reveals an ES branded carrying case, two pairs of Comply foam ear tips, and a cleaning brush. In all you get:
  • Earsonics Corsa earphones
  • Clamshell carrying case
  • HI-RES 4C cable
  • Cleaning brush
  • Comply foam tips (s/m)
  • Single flange silicone tips (m/l)
  • Bi-flange silicone tips (s/m)
Overall a very simple, clean design for the packaging that uses fewer materials than much of the competition. Since mostly cardboard is used, you won't be tossing it in the garbage and can instead recycle. In terms of accessories, this kit is fine. Comply tips are pretty much the defacto standard for foam tips so you can't go wrong with them. The included silicone tips are the same generic sets you've seen with countless other products, at a wide variety of price points. They work but you'll be tempted to replace them with something more premium out of the box.

Final Thoughts The Corsa is a high performance earphone with a closer to reference-style sound than similarly priced, competing products I've tried. I appreciate its extremely balanced presentation which doesn't place significantly more emphasis on one frequency over another. While this means it lacks the out-of-the-box wow factor of products with more aggressive, coloured signatures, those same products lack the long term staying power and versatility of something like the Corsa which only gets better over time.

I also love the physical design which not only looks wonderful and is quite comfortable, but should also be very durable long terms thanks to the use of metal instead of the plastic and acrylic designs more commonly used by the competition. The accessory kit is a bit of a letdown though, so expect to factor in the cost of third party ear tips, and possibly a more suitable cable if you find the included one a bit too light for the hefty ear pieces.

Overall I find the Corsa to be an outstanding earphone, one that finds itself as a personal favourite that will absolutely be sharing listening time with some of my other preferred all-BA sets, like the Campfire Audio Ara and Astrotec Delphinus 5. Great work Earsonics.

Thanks for reading!

- B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Max with Earsonics for reaching out to see if I'd be interested in reviewing the Corsa, and for arranging a sample. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Earsonics or any other entity. At the time of writing the Corsa was retailing for 399 EUR (~460 USD). You can check it out here: https://www.earsonics.com/in-ear-monitors/en/corsa/

Specifications
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 119dB/mW
  • Impedance: 31ohms
  • Drivers: 3BA with 3-way crossover
Gear Used For Testing Huawei P40, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark's Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

Attachments

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ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Great review, sir! Well deserved!

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
The balancer
Pros: - Warmish overall presentation
- Resolving and detailed
- Great integration between mids and lows
- Transparent
- Tight bass
- Excellent build quality
- Good quality cable
- Nice selection of ear tips and carrying case
- Made in France
Cons: - Bright top end and forward upper mids may not suit everyone
- Timbre lacks in coherency
- Bass is not full bodied
- Bulkier and heavier than the competition
The Corsa was provided by Earsonics in order to be reviewed for Headfi and hxosplus website.
They never asked for a favorable review and as always this is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.

Introduction

The French brand Earsonics is pretty well known among Headfi enthusiasts around the world but let us copy - paste some useful information from their website.

Earsonics was founded in 2005 by Franck Lopez, a musician and sound engineer, who, unhappy with the quality of in-ear monitors available at the time, decided to create his own.
In 2006, he began to offer his creation for sale and, enjoying immediate success, Earsonics was born.
Franck then decided to release a mainstream model which would appeal to markets outside of France: the SM3.
In 2012, Earsonics launched the first universal 6 driver earphone in the world, the S-EM6.
From its very beginning, Earsonics has always been associated with professional musicians, and it is by developing products for this industry that it has been able to offer earphones of exceptional quality to the discerning public.
For Earsonics, the most important criteria about listening to sound is absolute precision – just like the original recording, no effects or modifications – just reality.

The brand is offering most of their products both in custom and universal form and lately they have expanded to include wireles earphones.

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The Corsa

The Corsa which is the latest addition in their catalog is a three way full balanced armature set up.
It uses three proprietary drivers designed exclusively for Earsonics: one for the lows , one for the mids and one for the highs.

They have implemented an impedance corrector crossover , coupled with EVS and FUSION technologies made in EarSonics, as well as their exclusive TRUEWAVE system incorporating the output cannula.

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The outer shell is made from anodized zinc and magnesium alloy while the internal electronics are housed inside a new 3D full Acrylic structure that brings sound rigor and phase control.

Impedance is 31Ω and sensitivity is 119 dB/mW.

The design , manufacture and packaging of Corsa are entirely carried out in France in Earsonics' private labs.

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Cable

The detachable cable is a four core design featuring the 2 - pin connector system.
The plugs are well made and they fit snugly into the shell sockets.
The cable itself is of good quality but the white color doesn't match that of the shell so we do think that a black one would be a better choice.

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Accessories

Inside the box we are going to find four comply and eight silicon tips of various sizes plus a cleaning tool and a carrying box.

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Build quality and fit

Build quality is just excellent and the Corsa looks and feels premium with a minimalistic industrial design and a matte , non shiny surface.

Truth is that the Corsa is a little bulky and weighty but thanks to the anatomically shaped outer shell and the extended nozzle we were able to get a good and comfortable fit.
Users with smaller ears may find it more difficult to get used to it and the increased weight can cause ear fatigue after a prolonged time of use.

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Listening impressions

The Corsa is easy to drive so it is going to be happy with just a quality USB dongle like the EarMen Sparrow and the THX Onyx that we have used for the greatest bulk of the listening tests.

The Corsa is a slightly warm and musical sounding earphone with increased upper - mid and treble energy that adds a brighter and detailed top end.

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The Bass is the typical balanced armature type with an agile and fast paced response that sits on the leaner side of things rather than being full bodied and weighty.
Tuning is balanced with good sub-bass extension and no traces of mid-bass bloat while masking is minimal , so various low register instruments sound well defined with nice layering and separation.
Bass is very tight and dynamics are present with a wide range of contrast that builds up an enhanced sense of realism although we would like it to be more controlled.

Mids are warm and balanced but there is a noticeable upper-mid emphasis that favors the top register of instruments and vocals of the region that have the tendency to become shouty.
Timbre is quite natural and organic with satisfying harmonic wealth and a full bodied note texture although upper-mids can sound a touch out of tune and slightly metallic.
Clarity is good but not crystalline and we would have loved some finer articulation but truth is that we didn't bother a lot since we were busy enjoying the thoroughly integrated and well blended sound between lows and mids.

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Treble is definitely emphasized and prominent, giving a brighter and forward top end to the Corsa but thankfully not reaching harsh or piercing territory.
There is a great sense of clarity and transparency while we get an excellent portion of detail retrieval without becoming too analytical.
One issue is that there is a loss in timbre quality and the higher frequencies don't sound very well integrated with the rest of the audible spectrum.
Treble seems to stand detached and projected with a leaner texture and an overly rushed sound decay splitting the performance into two parts with uneven tone grades.

The soundstage is open and spacious , well proportioned without being artificially stretched.
Positioning of the instrumentalists is precise with good layering and depth for the category while there is a remarkable feeling of the inherent reverb and echo of the recording location.

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At the end

The Corsa is trying to balance the warmish and organic sound signature with the luminous and highly detailed top end and it quite succeeds without becoming overly bright or clinical.
Quite versatile and suitable for most genres, it combines a musical and engaging character with good levels of transparency and clarity in a spacious and open presentation.
It is not perfect and driver integration with timbre cohesion could be better but still it is a great mid-priced offering with virtues that should appeal to a certain audience.
Build quality is top notch , cable is of high quality and accessory pack is full, making for an appealing offering made in France.

Test playlist

Copyright - Laskis Petros 2021
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