EarSonics SM3 Universal Fit IEM

Average User Rating:
4.21667/5,
  1. trebla
    3.5/5,
    "Nice headphones, musical and fun sounding, the V1 was frail"
    Pros - Nice tone, detailed highs, sounded fun!
    Cons - Build on the V1
    I really liked these headphones, they sounded more lush and substantial. When compares to other headphones I've owned in this price range I often chose them for their fun sound signature and cool looks. Easy to drive and sounded fully alive out of an ipod though they sounded kinda 'scratchy', switched to a Cowon J3 for a couple months but preferred ipod. They benefited from an amp but only in a minor fashion, the Ibasso D10 Cobra seemed a little too powerful in the low end which resulted in a bit of quietness in the high end with the J3s. In conclusion these headphones are source-picky, since they sure are sensitive and generally easy to drive. I liked them most out of my iphone, which was a treat.

    Very musical nice sounding; lush and with great detail. I very much liked their color and presentation of the music. Totally great! 
    The SM3 V1 had quirks which ended up compromising the headphone's usefulness. The stems where slick and the earplugs just slipped off at the end of their life. The cables where stiff platic and the housing cracked open (covered by warranty)
    Would recommend the V2 highly! 
  2. mrstrangeguy
    4.0/5,
    "Esoteric, unique, but is it timeless?"
    Pros - Relaxing sound signature done right, one-of-a-kind staging, Very even tonality
    Cons - Notably Recessed Treble, Unique presentation may not be for everyone, Clarity is just 'ok'
     
    Build/Accessories:
     
    The Earsonics SM3 is a triple balanced armature IEM, with one driver for the lows, one for the mids, and one for the treble region.  the shell is clear acryllic on the outside, and black on the ear-facing side, as seen from the picture, on both the inner and outer sides, there are physical "ES" letters engraved into the housing, an understated touch that many modern IEM manufacturers can learn from.
     
     
    IMG_20170224_0022421.jpg
     
     
    The cables are non-removable, which was the norm when this IEM was released but is rather archaic nowadays, luckily, the cables themselves are nicely braided, with what appears to be thin, but tough material, there is no memory wire section (I don't mind either way but some prefer this way) and a thoughtfully designed y-splitter. Microphonics are little to non-existant when worn in the default over-ear style.
     
    IMG_20170224_0034551.jpg
     
     
    The accessories for the IEM include:
    - 3 pairs of bi-flange silicone tips (S, M, L)
    - 2 pairs of Comply tips
    - 1 filter cleaning tool
    - 1 zippered carrying case to store them when not in use
     
     
    Ergonomics/Usability
     
    The housings are made of plastic, in a flat and boxy way, with squared-off corners that seems anachronistic given the designs coming out nowadays, these would be major marks off for ergonomics if not for a saving grace: the shells themselves are very small compared to modern competition, which means that these should fit in most ears without the edges causing discomfort, YMMV though. Also of note: Isolation is decent, but not great.
     
    Sound
     
    All listening and comparisons were done on the Hifiman HM650 (Balanced)
     
    Bass:
    Not what I expected at first, and definitely not what most would have in mind for "BA" bass. The bass is somewhat pronounced above neutral with good extension, and unlike the vast majority of its BA brethren, has great sustain and weight, which gives music great foundation and body that's rare with a lot of more modern BAs, and more akin to a dynamic driver in this regard. Unfortunately, this comes at the exchange of the speed and crispness that many high-end BA IEMs possess lower in the region. While the bass is pronounced, the rounded note presentation also means that it doesn't slam as hard, nor reveal as much texture as a quality DD IEM can, overall a nice, unique presentation.
     
    Mids:
    Leading on from the bass, there is some warmth in the lower mids, with the rounded note presentation also being a prominent feature of the mids. There is virtually no unevenness in this part of the frequency range, with vocals from both genders getting equal (good) treatment, sounding smooth, full-bodied and musical. The rounded note presentation, however, means clarity takes a step backwards, which may give the false impression that the SM3 are not particularly detailed, when it is actually pretty detailed in the mids, it's just that it takes more effort to notice the details. Which is just as well, since the other nice properties of the mids should be enough to compensate most of the time.
     
    Treble:
    Arguably the weakpoint of the SM-3's presentation, there is a clear recession from around 4-5k onwards before rising up to the 10k mark. The recession in this area means that some instruments have off timbre, electric guitar riffs lack crunch which gives them energy, while cymbals can sound dull and lack shimmer, for those that have experience with headphones from the Audeze LCD series, the treble is tonally akin to those headphones. On the upside, the recessed treble means that the SM3 is very forgiving of poorly mastered recordings, where harsh treble and sibilance may be an issue with more revealing gear.
     
     
    Soundstage:
    The uniqueness of the SM3's presentation is most apparent with the way staging and imaging is presented. The soundstage is not particularly wide, even by IEM standards, but depth is top-notch, making for a stage that is nearly spherical in nature, almost unheard of in the land of Headphones/IEMs. Which gives the feeling of music that envelops you, which may be a 'love it or hate it' feature, that aside, imaging is pretty good, with individual musical elements getting there own spots, but in a way that may not be the most accurate to the recording, an analogy would be staring up at the night sky and looking up at the stars, while each star is clearly seperated from the others, it's very hard to discern the relative distances of the stars from you, that would be analogous to the staging of the SM3, with each star being a musical element.
     
     
    Comparisons:
     
    IMG_20170224_0035451.jpg
    EX1000 on the left, SM3 Center, Jupiter on the right
     
    Below are comparisons to various IEMs that I have experience with through ownership and A/B comparisons.
     
    Sony MDR-EX1000
    A legendary Dynamic IEM that is still seen a benchmark to this day, they are nearly polar opposites with the Earsonics in terms of tuning. Immediately, the most striking difference is that the Sony's have a much more energetic presentation and thinner notes, courtesy of significant treble emphasis, which includes prominent lower treble peaks that will put off a LOT of people. Needless to say, the Sonys are much more fatiguing and can be brutal with songs that the Earsonics has no problem handling, but in exchange, get stunning clarity and resolution through all frequencies in return. Bass is relatively shelved down on the Sonys, but provide marvelous texture and timbre that leaves the SM3 in the dust. (16mm dynamic driver doing wonders). Headstage is massively wide (in IEM terms) on the EX1000, bringing with it great imaging, but losing some intimacy in relation to the SM3. Macrodynamics on the EX1000 feel effortless in a way that can make the SM3 (and most other IEMs) feel compressed. Isolation and wind-noise are big disadvantages to the EX1000 for outdoor use.
     
    Campfire Jupiter
    Another Multi-BA (almost) flagship, but 5 years later. First impressions comparing the Campfire Jupiter to the Earsonics SM3 shows how much technology has progressed in the timeframe, the mids on the Jupiter are significantly cleaner, effortlessly retrieving microdetail not apparent in the SM3. The bass is more typical "BA" style in the best way possible, being extremely quick, utterly devoid of any bloat which may crop up with the slower bass of the SM3. The treble is also masterfully tuned on the Jupiter, providing plenty of sparkle and air lacking in the SM3 while being nearly as forgiving. One of the few spots where the SM3 claws back points is in the upper mids, which are very even on the SM3, but not so on the Jupiter, which can cause some weirdness with female vocals and a few instruments. Staging on the Jupiter is far more conventional, with excellent separation and imaging that handily trounces the Earsonics SM3's efforts, but loses the enveloping sensation that makes the SM3 so special.
     
    Summary
     
    Many years have passed by since the SM3 was getting top billing as a flagship, and the world of IEMs has moved on, for better or for worse, despite being surpassed, in both aspects of build and sound performance, there are still some intriguing qualities to the SM3 that make it, if not timeless, at least an interesting footnote that should be remembered.
  3. heovuitinh
    5.0/5,
    "good"
    Pros - good
    Cons - good
    good
  4. Mitchell4500
    4.0/5,
    "The sound stage is good. But its swirly"
    Pros - Bass, soundstage,
    Cons - bass kicks specifically, vocals sometimes,
    Some Background:

     I’m currently 18 years old which as little as that matters to me seems to be interesting to many people in this community. I’ve always liked music...

    ...and sound equipment but I never really got into the head-fi hobby until I discovered the Live Sound field from my schools drama club. From there I began to appreciate sound quality as it was just satisfying for me both from listening but also the engineering and everlasting ability to tweak and work on such.

     

    I have worked with home audio, car audio, theater/show systems, portable/personal audio, digital audio (IP-LAN(uhg…) and DSP) and lots and lots of DIY projects. I’ve gone as far to make some of my own speaker cabinets and sound systems from various components too – most notably a very large 2 driver, 4 voice coil, 16ohm, band-pass subwoofer box that I’m quite fond of for its bass quantity and quality.

     

    I’ve owned many headphones/IEM and related gear. Ill list some here but this certainly isn’t all; Shure SE846, Shure SE315, Shure SE215, Westone UM3x, Westone UM3x RC, Westone UM1, Earsonic SM3, Sansa Clip Plus, Sansa Clip Zip, Bravo Tube AMP v3, Sennheiser IE80s (the fake ones) and Sennheiser HD420s

     

    So while I don’t like to be arrogant I do feel qualified to judge products effectively and share my opinion and I hope you find my opinions and ideas entertaining and helpful
    . 

     

     
     
    Prelude:
    I bought my Earsonics SM3s’ after owning my UM3x for a while because I was looking for more soundstage and everyone on the internet was like “SM3s are the god of soundstage!1!!1!11!!!”  so I figured I had to try them. I got them used for a decent price and I still have them. I do have the intention to sell as I don’t use them as much as my 846 but I do like them and would recommend them.
    Apparently Earsonic created a second version of these. I have heard from some people they sound the same but also that they sound worlds different from others. I’ve never heard the second revision though.
     
    Style and Shape:
    They are strange and ugly looking… But they fit nice in my ears. Everyone is put off by the angles of the case but this is something you won’t notice. They are very light – lighter than my 846 by a lot and this is very nice. The cable can get kind of stiff and silly if you don’t use it often but it doesn’t bother me personally.
     
    Sound:
    So first off I’ll admit I wrote this review from the point of comparing the Earsonics to my Shure SE846. So there probably is some sort of bias so Ill try to remain objective.
    Keep in mind that the price difference is substantial so some credit is due to the SM3. For testing I used my surface pro for sound with no EQ settings. All 320kbs tracks.
     
    First with the earsonics(sm3) I noticed that the soundstage and binaural effect is very present. More so than my 846 – it was kinda fun but would also distract from the vocals which in my mind is the main focus of a song.
     
    Next I noticed the bass is impressive for these IEMs. I’m so used to the bass of my 846 and the praise I often give the 846 for this that I was expecting less from the SM3. But I was pleasantly surprised by the bass quality and quantity. I did find it lacking in kick and presence at some points but for a 3 way driver system it’s hard to fault them.
     
    Separation is up next. I noticed that rather than really precise instrument separation its more so an effect of separation of frequencies. It’s almost as if the volume of the drivers is set differently so that you feel like the highs are everywhere while the bass is emitting from ‘over there’ (which is interesting considering bass is not supposed to be binaural given its wave length) and the mids are just there in the middle.  This is not bad. It kind of makes for an easy listening environment and its entertaining.
     
    What I did notice in accord to that is that vocals are kind of pulled everywhere. Especially more full sounding female vocalist. They don’t sound bad but I do notice that they are not as distinct and forward as on my 846. Rather they feel mixed/swirled in with the mid and upper high range. Less directional.
     
    All that is interesting because somehow it makes up a very large and impactful sound stage. It almost feels kinda enhanced in the way that the soundstage is ‘boosted’ to give you more of a 3D effect.
     
    Notes on EQ:
    During my initial impressions I didn’t bother EQing either of my headphones but I did the SM3 later on. I found that a sub bass boost helps and just a hair of treble between the mids and highs. It gives it more of that Shure sound im used too.            
     
    Accessories:
    My SM3s’ were new and they came with only the box, case, and silicon tips. All of which are okay quality. I found myself using the Shure Olives I used on my 846 though for the sake of consistency and comfort.
     
    Overall:
    So what’s all that mean?  The SM3s’ are a solid choice especially considering the price you can get them for now. They can handle most genre but I did feel electronic music feeling kind of dull in comparison to my 846. BUT this can easily be fixed with a touch of EQ – which is kinda fun.
     
    Quick impressions: (things I wrote while listening intently)
    Good bass, smooth mid-range but still warm. Not bright or forward.   Highs are there but like the really high highs get louder than the rest. Kinda… Sharp?
    Could be more sensitive.
     
    Sounds spaceious. Drum kicks are lacking presence. Wide soundstage.  Vocals kinda bland.   Good separation of frequencies? – bass is over there. Highs are kinda… everywhere mids in the middle. Certain vocals mixed around and in the background.
    Can get crowded with lots of tracks.
    soundstige likes this.
  5. Gilly87
    2.0/5,
    "Have to put the warning out there"
    Pros - Great all-rounder, enveloping presentation with captivating mids, punchy but unintrusive bass, and delicate treble, moddable filters
    Cons - AWFUL DURABILITY AND CUSTOMER SERVICE, will hiss with most sources, distorts at medium-high volume, awkward plug, short cable
    These were my favorite sounding universal IEMs, and my praise for their sound can be read throughout the most recent iteration of the SM3 appreciation thread, but I feel a strong need to let people know about the durability issues with Earsonics products, and the company's treatment of customers as a whole.
     
    My first pair of SM3 V2s lasted about 3 months before half of the right shell came off while walking down the sidewalk. I pinched the IEM gently by the shell to pull it out of my ear, and it just came straight apart. I got in touch with Earsonics customer service, and shipped them to France for about $60 with the assurance that they would be repaired at no additional cost to me. The repair took about 3 weeks, and it was over a month before I had my SM3 back in hand, only to have them fall apart in exactly the same fashion the first time I used them. I sent them back again, and had to pay repair costs this time, because Earsonics decided it was my fault, despite being within the warranty period. Again I was patient for a month, and got them back, only to have them fall apart a THIRD time. This time I demanded a full replacement; I had to climb to the top of their sales ladder before Max, their manager, gave me a replacement, along with self-righteous admonishment that I would not receive such treatment in the future. I sold my replacement, still sealed in plastic, but the Head-Fier I sold my pair to had build issues within a few weeks of purchasing them from me, and was denied ANY kind of service despite being well within the warranty period; I had to email Max again and threaten to do exactly what I am doing at this moment in order to get my buyer a replacement. 
     
    I tried other universals, but unfortunately I was addicted to the SM3s sound, so I eventually sold off my other IEMs and repurchased the SM3. Fast forward a year of using them as sparsely as possible, and almost exclusively at home to avoid any issues, and despite my highest efforts, they fell apart a FOURTH time. And then I was done.
     
    If you own the SM3, just look at them, touch them, and if you forget for a moment that you paid $350 or more for this product, you will see that they are made out of the same kind of plastic as those cheap toys you get from the little machines you put a quarter in and turn the knob. iBuds and Skullcandies are made from more durable material, and, in my experience, hold up much better.
     
    For those looking for alternatives, I am now in love with my UM3X and do not have, nor foresee, any durability issues; the shells are made of sturdy plastic and seem well-built, and the stock cable is more flexible with a less awkward plug. They also don't distort at higher volumes. If I could have the Earsonics house sound without distortion or hiss, a less claustrophobic presentation, and the build of Westones, I'd gladly pay $400, maybe even more, but as a complete package, the UM3X destroy the SM3 in my opinion.
    zzhi36 likes this.
  6. Techno Kid
    5.0/5,
    "One of the best"
    Pros - SQ, 3D imaging, cohesive soundstage, isolation
    Cons - fit could be bad for people with small ears
    I'm not going to go into a long review on here (thats for my blog) but I have to say the SM3 V2 (which is the same thing but with a better housing and removable cable) is easily one of the best universals you can get.  From the punch bass, crisp yet never harsh highs, those wonderful forward detailed mids to the above average soundstage and the amazing 3D imaging there's nothing I can find wrong about how they sound.  I love the warm smooth mids that have as much detail in them as an IEM I've heard, even as much as the very resolving Heir 3.Ai.  The one thing that may be a problem for some would be the new housing on the V2 because it is quite large and it just fits on the inside of my ears which aren't small but other than that the new build on them is great.  The removable cable is a big plus and is the same as the UE and Westone cables so after market cable will be no problem at all.
     
    All in all these are a fantastic IEM and I'd recommend them to anyone wanting a warm detailed IEM with great imaging.
  7. chaselee122
    0.5/5,
    "NONONONO EarSonics SM3v2 NONONO"
    Pros - Sound, Comfortibility of fit, Sound isolation
    Cons - Design, Materials used , Shorting out
    After more than a week of research, I purchased these monitors solely based on the reviews I read on this website. Although am NOT a music professional, I do enjoy quality products such as these. Having to wait as long as I did for them to ship to me, out in Afghanistan, was like waiting to open Christmas presents in the morning. I was pretty excited, to say the least.
     
    Upon first inspection, I first unboxed them and saw the cheap plastic that supposedly houses the "magic" parts inside the ear. I was moderately concerned that I might break them or drop them and be out of $350 USD, but I looked beyond it and tried them out.
     
    Next, I go to plug them into my ipod to realize they did not fit as snuggly as I had hoped. They didn't fall out of the ipod or anything, but they didn't feel like they were securely connected, either. I inspected the connection to find more of this cheap plastic being used in the connection assembly. Again, I was moderately concerned that I have spent $350 USD on this "PLASTIC" set of monitors from France, but I looked beyond it and tried them out.
     
    WOW! That was what came out of my mouth when I turned them on. Amazing clarity and satisfaction warmed my soul, and I melted into my music for hours.
     
    Skip forward a week and more than 100 hours of use.
     
    I lift my wrist, slightly moving the braided cable, and BAMM! Sound cuts out of the right ear monitor. Anxiety and slight panic rolls over my body. Have I broken them? Have they become disconnected from the ipod somehow? Were they connected as they should be? No, NO, Yes. Everything was connected as they were when I first plugged them in, but there appears to be a short in the braided cable. I ensure the connections again and give it another go, this time only moving the cable around. Same short!  
     
    Now what do I do? I have discarded the original box, hoping I wouldn't need another set for another few years. Based on these reviews, I felt obigated to share my story with you all and sorrowfully suggest NOT purchasing these monitors.
  8. hma101
    5.0/5,
    "SM3 V2 Review"
    Pros - Speed Speed Speed
    Cons - Feels a little clostrophobic at times
    I've been reading a lot about the sm3 having low bass output. These are monitor headphones, designed give a flat response. If you want more bass, simply turn up the bass levels on your equalizer and you will get mindblowing bass.
     
    After a few minutes of fiddling with the equalizer you will realize that it's perfect the way it is.
     
    I really do beleive there is ACTUAL burn-in. Hearing bass-heavy tracks out of the box and comparing it with bass-heavy phones (Panasonic Zirconias with shure triple flange tips), it sounded a little anemic at first. In fact I hated the way they sounded. A month later I did the same comparison and found them to be much better in bass in quality and quantity
     
    The V2 fit is very comfortable. Sits right against your ear.
     
    I've tried a million types of tips but double flange seems to work best (cut the tips off the Shure triple flange).
     
    I've compared these to UE TF10, MTPC, Sennheiser 8s, and none seem to compare.
     
    The only drawback is that it can sound a little "closed in" at times. Ran it through a Cmoy and that seemed to help. I think it would work well when paired with the ALO RX. Gotta start saving up...
    Syros likes this.
  9. alphaman
    1.5/5,
    "Why all the fuss over THIS earphone?"
    Pros - rich, detailed mids; stock tips
    Cons - a lot of stuff ... see below
    IEM refs (own): Senn IE-8, Shure SE530, EC2, Teclast R8 (came "free" with T51 DAP).
     
    This is a work-in-progress review. I'm waiting for sonove or Inner Fidelity or other unbiased 3rd-party (= those who don't profit from the sale of this 'phone) to measure them before I write a detailed review; scientific metrics/measurements are extremely important for double-checking one's hearing :wink: IAC, lots of other reviews of the SM3 already ... so no point re-reviewing (note: I mostly disagree with others' positive (esp. rave) reviews of this model -- I suspect these cans may have gained their high reputation based on the psycho-somatics of multiple, highly-positive reviews [which may themselves be due to "feedback"/bandwagon effect]).
     
    I let them burn in over 100 hrs, but sound charac. did not change all that much (compared to dynamics). For important-to-a-balanced-review reasons, I also waited several months (post-purchase) to post this review. (I withdrew participating in this models dedicated thread to disconnect from emotional bias).
     
    No beating around the bush ... HUGELY DISAPPOINTED (especially after so many glowing reviews)!! ...
    This model's worst sonic aspects: pronounced, fwd metallic+UNnatural treble; too mids fwd FR (waiting for measurements; suspect it may indicate diffuse field curve); compressed dynamics (esp. macro-dynamics); poor on harmonically-complex + dynamic music (e.g. Mahler, Enigma);  lack of PRAT (pace, rhythm, acceleration, timing --- e.g., the subjective ability to induce toe-tapping); sonics change too drastically based on tip type.
     
    Even with relatively big discount from SoundEarphones, I now consider them way over-priced. 
     
    EDIT 2011-12-20:
    OKAY FOR: chamber music, slow jazz, ambient/space electronic. NOT GOOD FOR: Big band, large orch., complex multitrack (Enigma, Delerium, Way Out West)
     
    More later ... meanwhile, see the SM3 v2 thread for some of my other comments.
     
    EDIT 2012-02-26:
    For roughly the past 2 mos., I've been listening to the SM3v2 with their in-line (fabric) filters removed. Although this made the sound quite forward and detailed (some may even qualify it as "shouty"),  filter removal pretty much makes me retract most of my above criticisms. My long-time fave IEM, the IE-8, now takes a back seat in most departments INCLUDING bass. The BIGGEST improvement was my pet peeve (and what I feel many head-/earphones lack in): PRAT. 
    See my posting on SM3 filters here
    BOTTOM LINE: The SM3v2 is my go-to IEM!
     
  10. Benjerry
    5.0/5,
    "Best sounding universals I own"
    Pros - Superb SQ & Isolation (Captivating sound quality), Marvelous mids, most realistic piano keystrokes I have heard
    Cons - Needs to adjust nozzle angle to get more impactful bass, uncomfortable fit, SM3 Version 1 looks better
    Best sounding iems- SM3 deserves it's top tier status; they easily beat lesser iems and even sound more impressive than other top tiers I own. (I was blown away on first A/B attempt with my ie8; they make the IE8 sound boring)
    They performed admirably in all genres of music, however I prefer my ie8's soundstage presentation a bit more. Nevertheless, I was so impressed by the sound quality these that I bought them as an upgrade to my IE8. (was demo-ing westone 4, Ortofon e-Q5 at the same time against my IE8)
    However, they are slightly uncomfortable for to wear over the ears and the short Y connector hugs your neck. Can be painful and annoying to wear for prolonged listening

    Btw please check out my review of the JVC (Japan Victor Company) HA FX700, Sennheiser IE8.