Separate names with a comma.
In-Ear item created by Aerosphere, Nov 1, 2016
Pros - Build, fit (with right tips), comfort, overall SQ, resolution, removable cable
Cons - Smooth nozzles (no lip), nozzle length means shallow insertion (could be longer), tends to be cooler, brightish signature
For larger (1200x800) images, simply click any photo INTRODUCTION I think most people will have heard about Earsonics at some stage. My first experience of their gear was years ago – when someone loaned me their SM3 for a couple of weeks. This was in my very early years, and before I'd really started reviewing. At the time I think I had my SE535 LE or SE425 as my main in-ears, and already I'd discovered that I liked a more balanced, but slightly brighter signature. And the SM3 to me were very smooth and pretty dark. They were good – but not my “cup of tea”. I read a lot of popular reviews on them – and soon decided that perhaps Earsonics just simply wasn't my type of house sound. Jumping to early conclusions can be pretty stupid – and I'm pleased to say that my latest experience with Earsonics products couldn't be more different than my earlier one.
And a quick plug here for both Nic (you know him as flinkenick) and also Max Capgras from Earsonics for making this all possible. Nic sent Earsonics my details, and I was extremely surprised when Max contacted me and asked if I'd like to review their ES2 and ES3 IEMs. I'm so glad he did too – because I really LOVE both IEMs. Read on to discover why my early impressions of Earsonics from all those years ago have been literally turned on their head.
Earsonics was formed in 2004, and are located in France. From their own website, they describe themselves as:
French designer and manufacturer of a range of in-ear-monitors tailored and universal for musicians, sound engineers and audiophiles demanding.
And they further expand by saying:
Provide quality, high fidelity audio listening. Respecting the spectral balance and musicality.
Musical sound around listening ..
I know that their earliest commercial model seems to be the original SM line, and includes the SM2, SM3, SM64. From there they have branched out into both custom monitors and also universals including EM32 / EM6 / EM4 / EM3-PRO / EM2-PRO / EM2-iFI, S-EM9 / Velvet / S-EM6, and the new ES2 / ES3. They also have two amplifiers – the AMP911 and AMP912.
But perhaps the quote that gives you the best idea of what Earsonics is all about comes from their CEO (Franck Lopez)
In a field dictated by the data sheet and the race for pure performance, we ended up forgetting the essential - what drives you to start a desire to acquire the best, for the sole purpose of creating this emotion that overwhelms you and makes you forget everything else.
Our headphones are developed in this direction, create EMOTION ...
I can definitely relate to this thinking.
You can find Earsonics on the web : Earsonics website or Earsonics on Facebook
I was provided with the Earsonics ES3 free of charge for the purposes of reviewing for Head-Fi. Earsonics does not expect the earphones back, so I acknowledge that they are freely given and I thank them for the opportunity. I am not otherwise affiliated with Earsonics in any way, nor do I make any financial gain from my contributions, and this is my honest opinion of the ES3.
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
Spoiler: Click here for a summary of my known bias
I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
For the bulk of this review - I mainly used the ES3 straight from the headphone-out socket of my FiiO X3ii + E17K, and also used (at different times) my iPhone SE, and a variety of the other DAPs I have around me (including the FiiO X7, L&P L3 and HifiMan SuperMini). Although I tested them with an amplifier, I do not think they benefit from additional amplification (I use mine mainly for consistency when reviewing and also to extend battery life on the X3ii). In the time I have spent with the ES3, I have noticed no changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that I am also becoming more used to the signature of the ES3 as I use them more often (brain burn-in).
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The ES3 arrived in black box and lid with a silver sleeve. The outer sleeve simply has the ES3 logo, the company name and a small “Made in France” text and logo on the front. On the rear is a little technical info regarding the ES3 and also the website address. The packaging measures 120 x 170 x 40 mm.
Retail outer box - front faceRetail outer box - rear faceInternal box + first view of the ES3
Removing the sleeve reveals a sturdy plain back box and lid – with the Earsonics (ES) logo on top. Removing the lid exposes the ES3 nestled safely in a foam cut-out, the Earsonics carry pouch, and (inside the pouch) the accessory pack.
The accessories include:
2 pairs of Comply tips (small and large)
2 pairs of grey silicone dual flange tips
2 pairs of black silicone tips (one pair large single flange and one pair small dual flange)
1 cleaning brush and loop tool
Information card (in French)
Full accessory packageES3 in the extremely good carry caseTips and cleaning tool
The pouch is a flat clamshell which seems to be made out of a double weave canvas type material with a more rigid inner layer sown between the two outer layers. It has a zip around the three sides, measures approx 90 x 70 x 30mm, and is semi-rigid enough to provide protection while still being very pocketable. I really like this case for use on-the-go.
All in all a reasonable overall package which should tick most people's boxes.
I've listed both the ES2 and ES3 specs as no doubt people will be looking for comparative information.
~ USD TBA
USD 399 Amazon
Dual Balanced Armature IEM
Triple Balanced Armature IEM
10 Hz – 20 Khz
10 Hz – 20 Khz
119 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
116 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
2 way passive
130 cm copper core with twisted TPU sheath
120 cm copper core with twisted TPU sheath
Standard 2 pin
Standard 2 pin
3.5mm gold plated, right angled
3.5mm gold plated, right angled
17g with incl cable and Comply large tips
19g with incl cable and Comply large tips
Plastic 2 piece
Plastic 2 piece
The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.
The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.
What I’m hearing from the ES3:
Very linear and quick bass with some added oomph in the sub-bass region
Mid bass is very flat, which does add to the impression of a quick, and lean monitor
Very flat lower mid-range, with no perceived recession or distance in vocals
Upper mid-range has an excellent (and very cohesive) rise in the presence area (toward 2 kHz) and gives a very clear and clean vocal presence.
There is a minor peak at 4 kHz and a sharper one at 7 kHz. For those who are sensitive to lower treble at 7kHz it may get a little sharp. This is an area of the frequency band which has never concerned me, but for others I know it can be problematic.
Overall it is monitor with pretty good overall balance with just a hint of a U shaped tuning (sub bass and lower treble emphasis.
One final note - the channel matching is superb - among the best I've seen from any manufacturer!
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
The ES3 has an interesting twist on a traditional ergonomic type design. It consists of a two piece hard plastic shell which has an odd shaped seam, but joins naturally into a smooth half “D” shape through the use of two micro Phillips head screws. All corners are nicely smooth, and the ES 3 fits my ears wonderfully with no sharp or protruding points. They measure approx 20mm in length at their widest point and 16mm tall, with a depth of about 12mm. The nozzle is approx 6mm in length, 4mm in width, is located at the upper front of each ear pieces and is nicely angled to fit naturally with your ear canals. The nozzles are lipless and designed to fit T100 Comply foams (which means the Shure Olives are also a good – albeit somewhat tight – fit).
External faceView from the frontInternal face (the holes are screw holes)
The external face is again smooth and nicely rounded. On the right hand earpiece are the letter ES and on the left is the number 3. At the top center (part of the outer face assembly) is the standard 2 pin connector socket. This is a standard flat socket – so there will after-market cable options for those who prefer cable changes.
The most striking thing about the ES series is the notch in the outer face, directly opposite the nozzle, and it actually looks almost like a piece has been taken out – until you notice the smooth curves and realise it is intentional. I was puzzled why the would do it until I noticed how well they fit. The notch has been designed to fit your Tragus, and it works extremely well. Brilliant design, and one of the reasons why this universal is so comfortable to wear.
View from the rearThe "notch" - brilliant design!2 pin connection system
There are otherwise no external markings or brands, and of course no vents because it is wholly a multi-BA configuration.
The cable is 1.2m in length and consists of a copper core and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) sheath. The use of TPU makes a lot of sense due to its high elasticity, high shear strength, and resistance to oil and grease. The connectors are clearly marked left (blue) and right (red) with dots on the connector housings. From the connectors is a 60mm formable ear guide which I have found really easy to use.
The cableY-split & cinch90 deg jack
The y-split is plastic with excellent strain relief, and there is a clear plastic tube for a chin slider/cinch – which again works very well. The jack is right angled, 3.mm and gold plated – again with excellent strain relief and also smart-phone friendly.
The cable itself is a twisted pair above the y-split and twisted triple below it. It is extremely supple, and while there are some microphonics, use of the cinch and cable management under clothing eliminates this to a negligible level.
For those who like to know about the internals, the ES3 employs 3 BA drivers (usual bass, mid-range and treble drivers) and uses a 3-way crossover with impedance corrector. The BA's are proprietary Earsonics drivers.
One other hidden feature of the ES3 is utilisation of shorter acoustic tubes, and also implementation of an internal diffractive acoustic chamber – which Earsonics says helps add to the overall cohesion between drivers, and also a more believable sound-stage.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the build – it seems sturdy, light weight, and above all built for comfort.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well and shallow fitting IEMs can be problematic. The ES3 is a relatively shallow fitting IEM – but because it naturally fits Shure's Olive foam tips – I can get a perfect seal every time by using the large.
Default bi-flange & T100Aftermarket Trinity Kombi & Spinfit tipsMy preferred large Shure Olives
Earsonics does include their own silicone tips - which are quite rubbery – but also gave me an excellent seal, and were (surprisingly for me) very comfortable as well (dual flange). Because of the thinner width of the nozzles, and lack of any type of lip – many of my other tips simply would not stay on. However both Spinfits and also hybrid tips (Sony Isolation or Trinity Kombi) also worked well. For me though, the Shure Olives are very comfortable and get a great seal every time.
Isolation with the ES3 will depend on the seal you achieve and type of tip (possibly also the insertion depth you can achieve). With the Shure Olives, isolation was really good, and I couldn't really hear the keyboard while I was doing the final edits. With music playing, isolation is great, and I'd have no problems using these in public transport.
In the photo above note how the notch from the ES3 perfectly fits with the ear's Tragus
Comfort for me is excellent – the ES3s are another of those designs which simply disappear when worn. In fact these rate up there with the most comfortable IEMs I've tried. They sit well within my outer ear (inside the external ear cavity – between tragus and anti-tragus), and are extremely easy to sleep in.
So the ES3 has a great build, and is extremely comfortable to wear. How do they sound?
The following is what I hear from the Earsonics ES3. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii + E17K as source, and Shure Olive tips.
For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the E17K was around 16-17/60 (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL (A-weighted) of around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
Sub-bass – well extended and there is enough rumble there to know you're covering the sub-bass nicely, but it is not the star of the show, and its not over-powering. Its an interesting signature because the sub-bass is elevated compared to the mid-bass.
Mid-bass – really linear, and if anything slightly recessed compared to sub-bass and upper mid-range. This makes for an interesting combination – because the overall signature still has enough warmth from the sub-bass, but doesn't have the traditional thump that usually comes from a slight mid-bass bump. Because of this sum tracks which are normally dark and broody (Lanegan's “Bleeding Muddy Waters”) are lacking a little – but the sub-bass still makes it enjoyable overall. Speed of the bass is very good, and of course there is no bleed at all because of the linear nature.
Lower mid-range – again very linear – perfectly balanced with the mid-bass and has great cohesion with the upper mid-range. Male vocals still have good texture and there is a lot of clarity.
Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, but it is a slow rise from lower mid-range to the first small peak at about 2 kHz, then a dip and similar rise toward 4 kHz. The result is an incredibly clean and clear vocal range, with good presence to lend a sense of euphony to female vocals – but without over-doing it and making the entire signature too lean or dry. The upper mid-range on the ES3 is (for me) one of the best qualities of this IEM.
Lower treble – there is a definite peak at around 6-7 kHz, so if you're sensitive to this area, it might pay to be cautious with the ES3. I'm not – so this tuning is generally good for me. There is some roll-off immediately after this peak, so you have a lot of clarity and definition without any real harshness or brittleness. One of my tests for lower treble is to listen to the natural decay of cymbal hits and see if it is overly truncated. highlighted or sounds natural. The treble decay seems to extend quite nicely and detail lovers will really enjoy this I think.
Upper treble – there is extension beyond 10 kHz. To be honest, I never really notice it any more – there is little useful information above 10 kHz as far as fundamentals go – virtually wall harmonics. But lovers of air will enjoy it.
Overall Signature – this is a hard one for me to classify. It's not a natural presentation – but it is relatively linear. For those who really like a clean and clear signature – which is relatively well balanced overall, and has great extension at both ends – then the ES3 will be right up your alley. But the overall signature tends to be on the slightly brighter and overly clean side of things – mainly because there is no mid-bass hump = which generally sounds more natural if its in the right proportions.
Resolution / Detail / Clarity
Excellent with micro detail, and able to resolve finer details well.
Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have good presence and really nice sense of decay
An extremely clean and clear monitor with good resolution – if at times a little spotlit.
Extremely good directional queues, and just at (and sometimes outside) the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so average to good width and depth
Spherically presented stage – with slightly more emphasis on width than depth, but definitely not one dimensional
Good immersion both with applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, and also “Let it Rain” - although does not sound as natural as it should (more etched or emphasised than natural). A genuine sense of space was apparent with both.
For those who like a linear (but brighter) signature, you will love the ES3. I find them to have a pretty good sense of overall balance with a leaning toward brightness.
The ES3's overall clarity without being harsh or too dry (at lower volumes) is one of its best points
Very good with both male and female vocals, but better overall with female IMO
Excellent if you are a low volume listener – great detail and overall sense of balance. The more you turn them up though – they can get a little strident for me.
Extremely good with female vocals, lending an air of euphony and sweetness – without over doing it. Sarah Jarosz (my latest “obsession”) sounds incredible.
Genre master for lovers of a balanced to bright signature – I enjoyed it with almost all genres tested – from classical, jazz and blues to light electronic, grunge and pop. See below for the genres it was a little weak on.
Although I really like the extension in the bass and find it quite balanced/linear, lovers of more bass or an overall warmer /thicker tonality would be best to be cautious. I found some hip-hop, electronic and trance just needed a little more impact (mid rather than sub-bass). And depending on your tastes for Rock – again some may find the bass response lacking.
While the ES3 sounds fantastic at lower volume levels (still very clear), some may find them a little bright or harsh if you listen at the higher end of the volume spectrum
The ES3 is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and I haven’t experienced any issues with the iPhone ES, or any of the FiiO DAPs. I'm at my usual 65-75dB listening level (with typical pop/rock songs) on the iPhone ES at a volume level of around 25-30%, or on the E17K around 16-17/60 on low gain. I did try amping with the E17K, FiiO's new A5, and also the IMS HVA, but noticed no obvious signs of improvement through the application of additional power.
What I did notice with the IMS Hybrid Valve Amp combined with my iPhone as transport (so using the DAC and amp section of the HVA), was the slight valve warmth (2[sup]nd[/sup] order harmonics) did tend to complement the ES3. From my tests, the ES3 neither benefits from nor needs additional amplification, but you might want to try it for tonality reasons. One of the other DAC/amps I tried combined with the iPhone ES was FiiO's Q1, to try the bass boost, and that was a really nice combo for when I wanted a bit more thump.
This is the one area where I'd imagine that occasionally people who love the ES3's overall tonality may probably want to slightly adjust the mid-bass response. For this – because all I wanted was a gradual rise in the mid-bass, I first used the tone controls on the E17K. I dialled in +4 bass and went back to some of my test tracks. It was good – but the E17K had also lifted the sub-bass further.
So I switched to the iPhone ES and using the Equaliser app I applied a gentle mid-bass hump centered between 200-500 hz. For me personally it created a much more natural overall sound – but I also have to admit that being able to rapidly switch between the default iOS music app and the Equaliser app rapidly, and I can fully appreciate how good the original tuning is as well. In fact the more I switched, and the more I got used to the default signature – the more I was growing to appreciate it. Linear, yes – natural, no – enjoyable, definitely.
This is always a hard one for a reviewer to pick. You want to show something in the same price range, and also show something with similar capabilities. Unfortunately I don't have a lot in the same price bracket – so for this exercise I chose to use a cheaper dual driver (Jays q-Jays at $299), a triple hybrid (DUNU DN-2000J at $285)) quad hybrid (DUNU DN-2002 at $379), and the only other triple BA I have (PAI Audio MR3 at a surprising $200). I'll then round it out with a brief comparison with the ES3's junior sibling – the ES2
All of these comparisons are very subjective – and influenced by my own preference, physiology and bias. Comparison was once again with the X3ii + E17K, and the ES3 had the Shure Olive tips and no EQ was used. All IEMs were volume matched with a 1 kHz tone and using a proper SPL meter.
ES3 (~$399) vs Jays q-Jays (~ $299)
ES3 vs qJaysFrequency graph comparison
Build and accessories go to the diminutive q-Jays – with their aluminium alloy build, and excellent carry case. But for all that, the ES3 build and accessory package is also excellent. Comfort could go either way – the q-Jays are so tiny they just disappear – but the last few weeks have shown me that the ES3 is also one of the most comfortable I've tried. Isolation is similar – the q-Jays does allow you to go deeper with insertion though. Both cables are replaceable and good quality, but I do prefer the 2-pin system of the ES3 though.
Sonically the two are very close with similar signatures. The q-Jays sound a little more natural and a little smoother overall. They don't have the low bass impact of the ES3, but do have a little more body and warmth through the mid-bass and lower mid-range. The ES3 is a little colder and cleaner. This is a tough one – because I love the q-Jays signature – have done since I bought them. Ultimately my preference would be for the cheaper q-Jays here – but would imagine that many would prefer the ES3. It all comes down to minor changes in presentation.
ES3 (~$399) vs Dunu DN-2000J (~ $285)
ES3 vs DN-2000JFrequency graph comparison
Both are triple drivers, but where the ES3 is totally BA, the 2000J is a hybrid. Build quality is very good on both, but the ES3 eases ahead with its replaceable cables. Accessories go to the 2000J (Dunu always seem to put together an amazing package), but the ES3 is very much superior on fit and comfort. ES3 also takes the lead with isolation.
Sonically (again) the two are more alike than different. The ES3's sub-bass is again stronger, while it's mid-bass is weaker. Both have a rise in the presence area (2kHz+) as well as a significant peak at 6-7 kHz. Both have amazing clarity and resolution. But going back and forth again, the 2000J simply sounds more natural – while the ES3 simply has a little missing in comparison (in that lower mid-range and mid-bass). Again for my personal preference the 2000J has the more natural overall tonality (although both definitely tend toward the brighter, colder side of the spectrum)
ES3 (~$399) vs Dunu DN-20002 (~ $379)
ES3 vs DN-2002Frequency graph comparison
This time the ES3 is up against a quad hybrid which I reviewed earlier this year. Build quality is good on both – the DUNU has better materials, but poorer design (fit and comfort). The ES3 definitely takes the honours on fit, comfort – and also isolation. Cable quality is very good on both, and both are replaceable.
Sonically we're seeing a similar thing. Both are relatively linear with a rise into upper mid-range, peaks in lower treble (DN2002 is at the more benign 9kHz mark). The differences are again in the sub-bass and mid-bass. ES3 is stronger in sub, and leaner in the mid-bass. The main difference again is that the 2002 appears thicker, and smoother – where the ES3 is leaner, drier, but also cleaner. Although I do like the 2002, this is one of those occasions where the ES3 signature just gels a little more overall – and combined with the superior comfort, takes the nod for me personally.
ES3 (~$399) vs Pai Audio MR3 (~ $199)
ES3 vs MR3Frequency graph comparison
Now the ES3 is up against another triple BA which I reviewed recently. The Pai Audio MR3 is in a different price bracket – but I was impressed with its performance within that price bracket when I reviewed it earlier. This time the ES3 is clear winner for build quality and accessories (as you would expect), and the cable is definitely superior on the Earsonics unit as well. Comfort, fit and isolation is excellent on both.
Sonically the two are similar but again there is the difference in sub-bass vs mid-bass, but also this time the MR3 has even more emphasis in upper mids and lower treble. They both share a peak at 7kHz, but where the ES3's is etched, the MR3 just takes it a little too far. If I had my wish, I'd love to hear a combination of the MR3's signature below 1 kHz with the ES3's signature above 1 kHz. Overall preference for me is the ES3 – BUT, if you are prepared to EQ the upper end of the MR3's signature back by 3-4 dB you go get one heck of a triple driver for an unbelievably good price.
ES3 (~$399) vs ES2 (~ $315? - needs clarification from Max)
ES3 vs ES2Frequency graph comparison
This is the one I didn't expect. Before Max sent me both, I'd read a couple of impressions from different reviewers, and the consensus had been that the ES2 was a lot darker, warmer, and the ES3 was clearly superior. And even when both pairs arrived, I spent the first two weeks with the ES3, and didn't even open the ES2 until I had the ES3's signature pretty much dialled in. I wasn't expecting the reaction I had.
But lets clear the other attributes first. In terms of overall package, they are identical – build, fit etc. Internally there are the obvious 2 vs 3 drivers, but they share the internal diffractive acoustic chamber.
Sonically the ES2 has a traditional mid-bass hump (including reasonable sub-bass extension), but doesn't have the sub-bass bump, or the extension at 7 kHz (down by about 4-5 dB at this frequency). It does have slightly more presence at 2 kHz – so at first listen it definitely appears to have smaller overall staging, and of course it is warmer and doesn't have the apparent resolution/detail of its higher spec'd sibling. But when you really critically listen, you realise the resolution is all there – it's just not highlighted to the same extent. The ES2 is smoother, warmer, and definitely not as bright. But its also a lot more natural sounding while still delivering a great deal of detail. And while it may be less linear compared to the ES3 – I'd argue that the ES2 is more balanced.
As you can probably guess – I have a definite preference here. The ES3 is a great triple BA earphone – but I think the true star in this family is ultimately the ES2 (for my preferences anyway).
EARSONICS ES3 - SUMMARY Anyone reading through the review so far could be excused thinking that at the $399 level the ES3 is good but has been eclipsed by similar IEMs at a lower price range – but nothing could be further from the truth.
The ES3 has a very good build, wonderful fit/comfort, and excellent isolation. It also has a very good accessory package including a case which I personally find ideal for day to day use. The cable is really good also, and being standard two pin, is ideal for those who do use after-market cables.
Sonically the ES3 has a rather unique signature which is essentially very linear/flat from around 200 Hz through to 1 kHz, but with a bump in the sub-bass and in the upper mids and lower treble. Extension is great at both ends of the spectrum, and the level of detail and clarity is very good. That comes at a little cost though. While the ES3 could be classified as being both linear, and fairly neutral through most of the spectrum, the missing (and more natural) mid-bass bump does mean the overall signature tends to be on the lean and dry side – and there is a cooler than warmer tonality overall.
The ES3 is a great IEM though with a lot of good going for it, and for low volume listening it is brilliant (I love it for late at night).
Personally I'd prefer a little more mid-bass, but that is simply my own preference at play – and I can hardly mark Earsonics down for it. Overall – given the complete package, its an easy 4 star recommendation. A little on the pricey side – but in this case you do get what you are paying for.
My thanks once again to Max for the chance to be able to review the ES3.
Pros - Musical, smooth, detailed..
Cons - Nothing at this price.
EARSONICS ES-2 & ES-3 “DOUBLE TROUBLE”
The review was originally posted on quantumears but I wanted to share it with Head-Fi as well.
Intro Earsonics is a boutique audio equipment company located in Castries, France. They specialize in custom in-ears and hearing protection equipments. Earsonics is a well known company around the world and they are in business for quite a long time. I first encountered with Earsonics when I purchased SM3 in 2011. God it was so good… I immediately put them on my radar. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Earsonics is an eccentric company. They have a vision. They are prioritizing personal enjoyment over the classic hi-fi norms in their earphone tunings. Their aim is a musical, smooth but detailed sound.
New ES lineup is a product of this exact idea. Crafted with this vision in mind.
In every october, Earsonics introduces a new lineup of earphones. This year, they surprised the market by choosing mid-tier their target range, which is quite extraordinary considering the dramatic price increase of the In-Ear market that causes serious financial trouble to the end user.
Specifications Earsonics ES-2
Sensitivity: 119 dB/mW
frequency response: 10 Hz -20 kHz
Impedance: 26,5 ohm
Driver: 2 drivers, 2 way crossover with impedance corrector.
Sensitivity: 116 dB/mW
Frequency Response:: 10 Hz -20 kHz
Impedance: 31,5 ohm
Driver: 3 drivers, 3 way crossover with impedance corrector.
Testing Equipment We have used quite a few gear to unleash their full potential.
List goes like this:
Lotoo Paw Gold (Main Source)
Audioquest Dragonfly Black
Accessories | Box
The new ES serie comes with an elegant, grey box.
Inside the box, there is a little carrying case and tips. Accessories are quite modest, minimal. You only get what you need.
4 Comply tips
4 silicon tips
1 cleaning tool
User manual in French
Design | Build | Fit Both of the new lineup models are equipped with the same type of housing that had been used by Velvets. The housing is made of reinforced plastic. It’s a 2 sound bore design with a diffractive acoustic chamber.
Fit is seamlessly good. You can even lie down with them without any problems. Earphones themselves are quite lightweight and low profile. They look fashionable too!
When used with thin cables like Linums, you literally forget about them being in your ear after a short time.
Sound Signature Shall we start with ES-2? The younger brother has a non-fatiguing, smooth sound signature with an enhanced low end and laid back treble.
Let’s say after an incredibly long day, you’re feeling exhausted. The audiophile inside you urges you to listen some high quality music but you are so tired that you can’t even bare the idea of hearing all the micro details, extending cymbals, crackling hihats with your Velvets or your full size HE-6. You.. you just want to listen and relax. At that point, ES-2 comes into play. ES-2 is musical, smooth and dark. You won’t get tired of cymbals or snares.. In this regard, ES-2 and SM64 is very similar. Long story short, ES-2 is a great contender for those who love lush and warm in-ear monitors. Oh, and it doesn’t cherry-pick recordings either. During the review session I find myself amazed by particularly these artists: Brad Paisley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Crash Test Dummies…
ES-3 on the other hand, reminds me of S-EM9 a lot, smooth but detailed presentation, good instrument separation, tight bass.. Meaty mids.. I can easily state that ES-3 is a lot more balanced than ES-2. It has more upper mid spark and treble extension. It feels a lot airier and energetic. In terms of technicality ES-3 is more resolving and refined than ES-2. It feels more coherent as well.
Low Freqs Bass of ES-2 is powerful, thick. Not boomy, not excessive. Given enough power, ES-2 mimics the characteristics of a dynamic driver. Airy, broad, punchy. There aren’t absurd amounts of bass that come out of nowhere. On the contrary, deep and tremendous bass only comes into play when the recording calls for it. It does not feel like it’s elevated or overly saturated. Timbre is just right. Even the micro details of sub-bass, like vibrations of the strings just before the tonal resonance, is presented delicately. I especially enjoyed listening to string and percussion instruments with the ES-2.
ES-3’s bass however, is more linear compared to ES-2. It is fast, neat, whacky. When listening to fast paced songs e.g. megadeth, dragonforce etc. bass impact stands strong and keeps up with the rest of the spectrum. It surprised me a lot to hear a bass so clean and textured in this price range. I remember the first time putting them on, the very first thing that popped in my mind was “these do not sound like they are 400€ at all!” Earphone itself can easily be compared with such high priced sets like SE846, IE800, ES Velvet, bass-wise. Mid bass and Sub bass are both very well tuned and offers a great balance. I also wanted to see how the ES-3 pairs up with cables like Linum BaX and Linum Music. After an extensive testing session with BaX, it is safe to say that the sub-bass quantity increases significantly with Linum BaX.
Mid Freqs ES-2’s mid region is warm, welcoming and full. It gives you the feeling of a crackling fireplace in a cold rainy day. ES-2 is an emotional presenter but it does not push the vocals into your face like the Westone um30. You do not lose the sense of airiness when you are listening to a romantic acoustic track with a velvety woman vocal. Long story short, the mids are meaty, lush and full. I really like ES-2’s acoustic reproduction. It’s somewhat creamy and tranquilizing.
The midrange of the ES-3 is well-positioned, neither recessed nor forward. Vocals are transparent, articulate and elegant. Mids are blending into the spectrum very well, resulting in a very coherent presentation. Upper mids are smoothened but the detail level and resolution still remain uncompromised like in every Earsonics product. This is their house sound after all. Lower midrange on the other hand, feels natural and I really enjoyed women vocals with the ES-3. (e.g. Melody Gardot, Norah Jones and Diana Krall.)
High Freqs ES-2 is on the darker side of the force. Highs are more recessed than the rest of the spectrum, but they definitely do not lack in detail and coherency. They are not prominent, they are not harsh or edgy. ES-2 is a great option if you like your eardrum where it already is. Joking aside, ES-2 has a way of throwing you hi-hats, snares, crashes like they’re literally smoothest instruments in the world. I actually love that a lot. I can literally throw any cymbalfest Dragonforce or Behemoth song at ES-2 and it just finds a way to smoothen all up and somehow rejuvenate your soul …while listening to metal. Yeah.
After some smooth afternoons together, you may want to pull the little guy into the interrogation chamber and ask it whether it is a natural sounding monitor or not. Well I have bad news for you. It is most probably not.
Comparatively, ES-3’s high frequencies are smooth but still carry great level of detail. They have good extension and resolution. Just like the upper mids, they are completely lenient. They are definitely not harsh or edgy in any way. Additionally highs never dwarf the mids, they have great control and this gives ES-3 a more coherent presentation across the spectrum.
Soundstage, Imaging and Instrument Separation – Dynamics – Speed – Articulacy Despite its powerful low end, rolled off upper-mid and polite highs, ES-2 offers quite a good headroom. Layering and stage depth is excellent for this price range. Imaging is good, reminds me of SM64. PRaT-wise, it is a relatively fast monitor, it can keep up with the majority of the tracks I threw at it, but there are still few that it couldn’t and gave up to congestion.
ES3 offers a spacious presentation which feels even greater when combined with a good player like Lotoo PG. Instrument separation is somewhat source dependant and it can be quite impressive if the source you’re using is well-matched with ES-3. PRaT and speed is something that Earsonics fans got used to and this remains unchanged with ES-3 as well. It is fast, dynamic and articulate. Both imaging and layering are also excellent and very well defined. Staging is airy and spacious. ES-3 handles congestion very well and I am quite fascinated by this to be honest.
To understand it better, please proceed to the comparison section down below.
Quick Comparisons vs. Earsonics Velvet (700€)
Velvet’s notes are lighter, less meaty. Velvet feels airier and it’s more spacious. Velvet’s bass extends better and it has more bass than ES-3 in general. Margin is not big, if you like Velvet’s bass presentation, but if you want a more balanced signature, go for ES-3. If you want more bass and less treble fatigue, go for ES-2.
Resolution-wise, ES-3 is almost on par with tight Velvet which is quite good. ES-2 falls behind a bit in this regard.
vs. Earsonics S-EM9 (1.500€)
Think of S-EM9 as the homo sapiens and ES-3 as the homo erectus. S-EM9 is the evolved and upgraded version of ES-3. Almost same signature, a lot more resolution, better EVERYTHING. If you love Earsonics products like I do, you should definitely give this speedster a chance. Its review is in the works too!
vs. Noble K10 ($1.650)
K10’s upper mids are wilder than those of ES-2 & 3. Control degrades when combined with high volumes.
Resolution-wise K10 is better and more refined. K10’s vocal presentation is more successful and feels more natural. Its bass also goes deeper and have more whack effect. ES-3’s stage is more spacious compared to the Noble.
vs. Oriolus + PW.5 ($1.300)
Oriolus’ strong suit is its natural presentation. I am afraid that many of the in-ears to this date will fall short in this regard. Nonetheless, ES-3 is faster and it’s timbre is not unnatural compared to Oriolus. For an IEM priced so modestly, it is a great accomplishment if you ask me.
vs. In Ear SD-2 (400€)
ES-2 has more bass than SD-2 and ES-3.ES-3’s vocal presentation is nearly identical but SD-2 has A LOT more upper mid spark than ES-2. ES-3’s stage is wider. Both of the ES twins have more exciting tuning than the SD-2.
End Words ES-2’s soft, smooth and lush sound signature should be considered very unique. Especially it can be an excellent companion if you enjoy acoustic music. Its percussion and string instrument presentation is very satisfying. ES-2 is a unrivalled earphone for treble sensitive audiophiles. Plus considering it’s price, it is a quite good in-ear if you like meaty mids, recessed treble and abundant bass presence.
ES-3’s smooth but also detailed sound at this resolution and separation should be considered quite extraordinary, especially at this price point. Even with the TOTL monitors, you might not get the PRaT and dynamism of the ES-3.. It can easily keep up with the fastest songs that we could find. Congestion is entirely out of the picture. To sum it up, ES-3’s 3d imaging, transparency, coherence, and capability are all excellent for the asking price.
We really recommend these gems to all Earsonics house sound fans out there!
Thank you for reading!