[size=24.57px]Earsonics S-EM9 "Coup de Grâce"[/size]
The review was originally posted on quantumears but I wanted to share it with Head-Fi as well.
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 a long time.
On 30 September 2015, Earsonics introduced their flagship earphone, S-EM9.
S-EM9 utilizes 9 balanced armature drivers to create a sound that is both smooth and impressively detailed. It indeed has a quite unique configuration. 1x low 4x mid 4x high.
First time hearing about this, questions pop’d in my mind “How can only 1 bass driver provide rich and deep totl-quality bass” After listening to it, this was certainly not the case. We’ll get to that later!
- Sensitivity: 121 dB/mW
- frequency response: 5 Hz -20 kHz
- Impedance: 38,5 ohm
- Driver: 9 drivers, 3 way crossover. 1x low, 4x mid. 4x high.
- MSRP: 1490€
- Lotoo Paw Gold (Main Source)
- Audioquest Dragonfly Black
- Plenue P1
- Linum Cables
Accessories | Box
S-EM9 comes with a sturdy, stylish 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
- 3.5mm to 6.3mm Adapter
- Carrying Case
- User Manual in French
- Stock Cable
Design | Build | Fit
IEMs themselves are completely handcrafted and they are made of acrylic.
They have a glossy, black finish with red 9 on the left earpiece, white ES artwork on the right earpiece. They feel sturdy and durable.
The very first time I picked up one of these into my hands, I was literally utterless. I couldn’t believe this thing had 9 drivers in it. It’s so compact, it’s.. Incredible.
We got used to huge shells such as K10, Solar, Angie.. S-EM9 is quite compact compared to them. The only complaint that I have is the short nozzle. Remember S-EM6? It had a long nozzle and everybody had perfect fit with it. That is sadly, not the case with S-EM9. That short nozzle turns fit selection into a first class problem. To be completely honest, I tried many tips. If you have big ear canals like me, you’ll more likely to prefer large spinfits or the stock double flanges.
Tips & Cable Improvements
Tip rolling is real and it’s extra important with short nozzle earphones such as S-EM9.
I have tried many tips including, Spinfits, RHA, Ortofons, Comply, Shure, Westone and many more generic brands.
I personally like Ortofons but they cripple bass response by a small margin. Earsonics double flanges are better bass-wise. As for cables, please, S-EM9 deserves a better cable. Upgrade as soon as possible. The impact is ASTRONOMICAL. My recommendation would be a hybrid or not so lush copper cable such as the PW.5. IMO, silver cables mess with S-EM9’s polite presentation. So that’s a no.
I’ve used SM3, SM64, S-EM6, Velvet.
They all had one thing in common. They were smooth. So smooth that you could wear them all week long and they would never disturb you in any way.
S-EM9 is no exception.
“Yes but what about details, what about technicality?”
You may ask.
I asked the same question myself.
From my very own perspective, S-EM9 is the Earsonics’ “chef-d'œuvre”
Their ultimate masterpiece.
Earsonics products were always musical, always smooth and dynamic.
But technical? Only minority of them. They had enough details, they had decent technicality.
Earsonics were not into those kind of stuff, they focused on personal enjoyment instead.
With the creation of S-EM9 on the other hand, is perhaps Earsonics saying that they can create a monitor, which is both musically and technically advanced.
A sound that doesn’t reinvent the earsonics house formula, but rather refines it..
Let's move on.
Think big. Impactful. The bass rolls in like a thunder storm, but only when the song calls for it.
The control of frequencies is something that I truly admire S-EM9 for. From 20 to 250hz, bass never bleed into the mid section. Its bass is somewhat weird. It’s neither in Armature Village, nor in Dynamic Village. It’s BA-like with my metal tracks and it’s dynamic like with my EDM tracks. I am quite confused to be honest. When I am listening to Kygo, Avicii, Spirit Catcher etc, its bass immediately reminds me of the Oriolus, when I am listening to Dragonforce, Opeth, Megadeth, Graveyard etc, I become certain that it’s a BA iem.
You could say that S-EM9 evolves and responds to the track you are listening to.
I’ve literally had goosebumps throughout the entire track of “Stolen Dance” from Milky Chance.
Furthermore, the quality of the bass is also impressive.
Midrange of S-EM9 is smooth and delicate. You will never hear harsh vocals.
Tonal balance is great. It’s natural. It’s not saturated. It’s clear,
Upper mids have the traditional ES dip but it’s minimal. I am sure that many people will not notice it right away. Trust me, it’s there, and it’s a great touch.
What does it do? Well, if you are a metalhead like I am, you know that certain IEMs iems with hot treble and upper mid section, will tire you after some listening sessions.
S-EM9 having this dip, reducing the snare and hihat hotness, puts them in a perfect position where you can both enjoy the details of it and also listen to them for long sessions. The dip is not big like in SM64 so it does not harm the upper mid extension of the S-EM9.
And yes, it’s Sorcery.
Most detailed highs I’ve ever heard. Period.
The resolution is very impressive. The treble extension is ample but very well-defined.
At first listen, S-EM9 may sound like a bright monitor because of the treble transparency.
Spending some time with it will help you understand how smooth and polite it sounds. The magical part is, ES did not crop out the frequencies in order to make it “polite”. The high frequencies are blending into the spectrum perfectly, resulting in a very coherent, harmonic presentation.
5 hours of non-stop EDM? No problem! 6 hours of Mike Portnoy’s hi-hat beating? No problem!
Soundstage & Imaging | Instrument Separation | Dynamics & Speed
S-EM9 is the fastest monitor I’ve ever heard to this date. This is not very surprising because many ES IEMs have great dynamism. Velvet was quite energetic, ES-3 is articulate and fast…
Of course S-EM9 is not an exception.. It is blazing fast, coherent, articulate.
I spent enough time listening to metal genre with it and its attack-decay is quite unique.
Its imaging is accurate and precise. Soundstage however, is good enough for an IEM. I can’t really say that it’s very expansive but it’s good enough. Plus, instrument separation is so good that you won’t look for an expansive staging. Instruments certainly have more than enough air between them and S-EM9 handles congestion effortlessly.
vs. Earsonics Velvet (700€)
S-EM9’s bass is similar to Velvet’s but S-EM9 does not have a mid-bass dip like the Velvet. S-EM9 is more natural, detailed, bodied and coherent. Its resolution and separation is superior as well. Velvet has a wider soundstage resulting in slightly airier presentation.
vs. Noble K10 ($1.650)
S-EM9 has a wider soundstage and better separation. K10’s upper mids are more energetic resulting in slightly clearer mid region. K10 has a better soundstage depth. Its unstable upper mids can emphasize snares and hi-hats tad too much, resulting in unwanted congestion during fast paced tracks.
vs. Oriolus + PW.5 ($1.300)
S-EM9’s treble is more refined, detailed. S-EM9 is dynamically superior, Both monitors’ mids are meaty and their timbre is natural. Oriolus is quite fast for a hybrid monitor. It’s not as fast but the margin is small. Oriolus’ wind instrument reproduction is somewhat more realistic.
vs. FitEar TG334 ($1.399)
TG334 has the most beautiful mid reproduction I’ve ever heard. Especially woman vocals. Engaging, intense, emotional. In this regard, this earphone knows no rival. In nearly every other regard, S-EM9 is superior. It is faster, its resolution is higher, it is more detailed, more coherent..
TG334 sounds veiled compared to S-EM9.
vs. Rhapsodio Solar + 2.98 ($1250)
Solar is a great contender. Its male vocal and guitar reproduction is quite impressive. Solar has a slightly bigger soundstage but S-EM9 feels airier. Also, S-EM9 tolerates congestion little better than Solar. S-EM9 is faster and it is dynamically superior.
vs. 64 Audio U12 ($1599)
U12 has even more polite highs and upper mids. It loses some clarity but it’s a good alternative to S-EM9. Its mids are meaty, lows are deep and strong. It’s quite suitable for EDM.
U12 handles congestion almost as effortless as S-EM9.
vs. Lear LCM BD4.2
Lear has a brighter sound signature.. Its notes are thinner, and it is more transparent.
Lear’s bass is more airy but it feels a lot slower compared to S-EM9’s blazing fast bass response. Listening to Metal and other fast paced genres with Lear is quite tiring due to its bright tuning. S-EM9 handles congestion a lot better than Lear.
vs. Earsonics ES-3 (399€)
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 the ES house sound, you should definitely give this speedster a chance.
S-EM9 is an extraordinary monitor. Its presentation is unique and it deserves much more attention. Its PRaT & Dynamism is unrivaled. Yes, it requires a good cable, yes it demands some tip rolling but trust me it’s definitely worth the effort. Give this speedster a chance!