Separate names with a comma.
Universal Fit item created by average_joe, May 10, 2010
Pros - Sound that puts me into bliss
Cons - Tips tend to come loose when pulled out of my ears
This is the first review I've ever written about anything, and although there are already many good reviews out there, these IEMs are so special to me that I feel I owe it to the head-fi community to write my own review. I should warn you that this isn’t an audiophile’s review, but rather about what I feel the EarSonics SM3s bring to my musical experience.
Before getting to the core of this short review, I'd like to give you some background on my way of thinking. I love great music. But what is great music? The answer, of course, depends on who you are. To me, great music is sound waves that give me an emotion so strong it often creates a physical reaction. If it makes me smile, if it makes my eyes fill with tears, if it makes my body dance, if it makes me feel I'm flying, if it gives me goose bumps, or what not, then to me it's great music. So, do I need great equipment to enjoy great music? Certainly not! I can enjoy great music in mono from a $10 transistor radio. However, the EarSonics SM3s certainly amplifies the musical experience, to say the very least. These IEMs are nothing short of magic. It feels like these IEMs take possession of the eardrums and integrates the sound with the brain. Everything is there, every little detail, perfectly portrayed. The separation of instruments and voices is so good I can easily choose to listen to any voice separately, however subtle. Yet, I can just as easily enjoy the entirety. Magic! Perhaps the biggest difference between these IEMs and other headphones I have is that they always make me forget that the music is electronically reproduced.
With these IEMs I am rediscovering my album collection. I keep hearing myself thinking things like: "Aha that is the true timbre of his or her voice." and: "Oh, I never noticed those subtle trumpets in the far right background before."
Another funny thing is that they seem to reduce the time length of music. The reason, of course is that the sound is so unreservedly enjoyable. Even when I really haven't got the time to listen to music, I keep hearing myself thinking: "Just another minute" over and over. This seldom happens with poor equipment.
As I already told you, this isn’t an audiophile’s review so I won’t go into details about bass, mids, treble, soundstage, separation, etc. Let me just put it this way. To my brain, the SM3s sound perfect, as close to live sound as I have ever come.
I should mention that I usually connect my SM3s to my portable amp, the TTVJ portable slim. However, connecting them directly to my iPod/iPhone works really great too. The quality is still there, but with a sound signature that is just slightly different with some songs. I.e. you don’t need an amp to really enjoy these IEMs. The TTVJ portable slim is a great amp, and I highly recommend it, but that’s a different review.
Would I have written this review after my first twenty minutes of listening? The answer is a very definitive no. My experience is that the SM3s need burn in (and possibly the brain as well), in my case 10 to 20 hours to become enjoyable, and another 50 to 100 hours or so to get to their near full potential. It’s probably imagination, but I think they are getting a little better every time I use them. I guess I've used them for a couple of hundred hours or so by now. To be sure, the first time I tried them, I tried them with the comply foam tips and was utterly disappointed. Absolutely nothing felt good about them. Even the thought crossed my mind that I somehow might have been conned. Later I switched to the silicone double flange tips and thought the sound was now ok, perhaps even a little better than my $60 (or so) Sennheiser IEMs, but not much. I decided to plug them in to my iPod, but not into my ears, and let them play for about some ten to fifteen hours. I then tried them on again, and what do you know, the magic was starting to emerge.
About the only thing that I find a tiny bit cumbersome is fitting them into my ears. My ear canals are absolutely dry (never heard the word earwax) and a bit narrow. So I always use a tiny bit of lubricant on the silicone double flange tips. As experienced IEM users already know, fitting the IEMs properly is absolutely 100 percent crucial. This just can’t be stressed enough. I’m considering ordering the custom ear molds from EarSonics. Hopefully, in my case, I then won’t need the lubricant.
These IEMs enrich my life. If you can afford them, buy them, and with some patience and burn in, you'll never regret it.
As I live i Europe, do note that the price paid includes European tax and shipping costs.
For some reason, and though it isn’t really relevant, I’d like to finish this review with a quote by Mike Oldfield: “I don't feel I'm a musician. I create sounds that are reflections of my emotions. To be a musician is something quite different.”
Update December 15, 2012.
512 days have passed since I wrote the above review. So, am I still as enthusiastic about the SM3 as I was then? Yes, and even more so! Since then I have also invested in Earsonics’ flagship, the EM6. In comparison, the sonic aspects of the EM6 outshine the SM3 in every audiophile term I can think of. They simply play in different leagues.
Nevertheless, the SM3 gets the most of my ear time, and for two good reasons. The first reason actually being one of its characteristic sound aspects. The SM3 is quite often "accused" of having a slightly veiled sound. In my opinion this is true (especially when compared to the EM6), but in my opinion this is for several reasons not a bad thing.
First of all, this slightly veiled sound somehow gives all music a mellow (rich, luxurious) sound. The SM3 simply sounds very “expensive”, very Hi-Fi. Also, this feature eliminates listening fatigue completely. At moderate volume levels I can use the SM3 an entire work day. The slightly veiled sound also conveys the feeling that the SM3 has “more to give”, like listening to one of the world’s greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz. Heifetz always played in a very high tempo, faster than any other violinists, but at the same time his playing was very relaxed, like he could play even faster (and maybe he could’ve). As listener this makes you feel very relaxed and able to focus on the music, rather than having to fear that something might go wrong because the performer is on the edge of his ability. The same is what the SM3 will do for you, that is, make you feel very relaxed and trust the SM3 performer. It will play (almost) anything thrown at it with ease and make it sound fantastic! The EM6 on the other hand will reveal every possible detail in the recording, and trust me, although this is the goal of the audiophile, it is not always a good thing, especially so with not so great quality recordings (although having great music). If your goal is simply to enjoy great sounding music in one of the best possible ways, the SM3 will do the job effortlessly. The sound signature takes some time getting used to, but once you do, you will hear and sense the golden liquid pouring out behind the veil.
The second reason to why my SM3 gets more listening time is that it is a “Universal In Ear Monitor” (UIEM). As such it is much more flexible than acrylic customs (i.e. my EM6), and isolation is really good too. This means I can use the SM3 lying flat on my back in bed, or half lying in a comfortable armchair, which are my favorite positions for listening to music. Doing so with acrylic customs just won’t work, as doing so changes the anatomy of the ear canals and consequently changes the fit and sound of the customs. I find this to be a major drawback with CIEMs and the reason I prefer UIEMs.
One thing I no longer completely can stand for is the name of this review: “As close to live sound as I have ever come”. If I had written this review for the first time now, I think I would have named it: “The most pleasant sounding IEM I've ever heard”.
I must also mention that the bass of the SM3 is very engaging. I sometimes lack this in the EM6 which is a lot more neutral. One good example is the bass wind instruments in “Act I: Scene 3: The Window of Appearances” from the opera “Akhnaten” by Philip Glass. When heard with the SM3 the bass reaches my soul, whereas with the EM6 the bass wind instruments just reach my ears, although in all honesty, with extreme realism and precision. (By the way, Akhnaten was a pharaoh, known as “the rebel pharaoh”, in ancient Egypt, which by the way I have just visited. If you want some deeply fascinating history, see this video and then also listen to the opera.)
I love this product. It's so easy and comfortable to use no wonder it's ranked as no. 1.
Pros - everything
Cons - the build and the highs
this is a review of the famous sm3 and a comparison to the eq7.
the ortofon is one of the best among all top tier iems.
to me it is one of the hardest iem to explain.
hardest to describe.
the sound is just very hard to capture.
and turn it in words.
its warm. its cold. its bright. its everything.
and that everything is the ortofon eq7 and your music.
what makes the ortofon eq7 stand out among the rest is its tube like sound and very sweet voice presentation.
now, the sm3, is considered and highly regarded as the best iem in all universals.
well, to some it is.
well let's see.
to ceph, my friend in headphiles, it is his cure to all the iem poisons that surrounds him.
The phones are shelled in a plastic case, transparent in front and black in back.
its amazing how Earsonics fitted 3 drivers inside.
it looks like a semi-custom-shelled iem.
but, it feels cheap to the touch.
the wire and plug is very well built.
there were 3 strands that were held together to make a one single braided wire.
however, upon inspection at the phones, youll notice how fragile this iem is.
one fall, and it will surely break.
there were reports already that this iem is very prone to breakage.
taking care and handling of this is critically and essentially important.
the case is sturdy and strong, but it doesnt feel classy like the ones that is included in the ortofon eq7.
i just wish it was made more of HIGH QUALITY material, instead of just breakable plastic, they can use hard plastic shells, or the ones that is currently use in customs...acrylics. or something made of metal...aluminum like the ortos or the zirconias of tha pannys.
the wires are already fine with me...and the case too.
bro daniel once told me...the secret to sm3s sound is its poor build.hahaha.
ipod classic EQ off
.wav format files
ACOUSTIC - LOVE MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS, NINA
INSTRUMENTAL - ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, CHIELI MINUCCI
LIVE - ONLY WHEN I SLEEP, THE CORRS ACOUSTIC LIVE
POP ROCK - BAD ROMANCE, LADY GAGA
JAZZ - HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, MICHAEL BUBLE (MALE VOICE)
- COME AWAY WITH ME, NORAH JONES (FEMALE)
you all know sound is very subjective.
so, i only have limited experience with it.
my background for reference:
have been using the ue700 for about a year now...
mx980 earbud, by sennheiser, for 6months now.
ortofon for about a month.
a grado sr325is for 3months.
my aim is to define the sound of the sm3 and compare the voice presentation of the sm3 to the ortofon eq7.
ACOUSTIC - LOVE MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS, NINA
at first, youll hear a few number of people clapping...in a great distance.
the soundstage is very one of kind.
its special here.
its like it defines the space where the performer is.
here its like in a small room, with very few people around.
the sound of the piano here is thick and strong...textured.
and youre very close to that piano, its like its in front of you.
Nina's voice is sweet as it is... its sounds natural to me.
then, came the guitar and the thump of an instrument that i dont know, its like youre listening to a live acoustic session.
it brings you to the space theyre in.
its like i am listening in a smokey room...
full of small band and listeners...its like the air in that room is here too...
you can feel it.
the acoustic of the room.
to define it beautifully, the sm3 is inviting/engaging and i once told the panny is dreamy, well, here youre not dreaming, its like youre in there with the performers...the voice, very few listeners and instruments have good spaces in them.
it doesnt mix the voices from instruments.
everything is clear as day.
the sound of cymbals crashing doesnt seem too lively like in my ue700, its like its there, but its not clearly defined. not lacking....BUT...
but its alright...just fine.
people clapping... then the space seems smaller here in EQ7 than in sm3.
its much better in sm3 to my ears.
however, NINA's voice seems...
sweet but id prefer the voice in sm3...its very natural there.
here, its limited in space, in instrument separation.
its like crowded a bit in a very small room...
theres a bite of stick pounding in the drum, the guitar is lively as well, pianos is textured too...
but ill choose guitar sounds here over the sm3.
sweet. lush and smooth all at the same time.
but space/soundstage, its the sm3.
INSTRUMENTAL - ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, CHIELI MINUCCI (guitar)
rumbling then...the sound of the guitar..
strings sounds just fine.
i can differentiate clearly the front and the supporting guitar here.
the sound is relaxing as it is...
its like the guitar is crying...
youll be amazed by this song...on how it can bring you that emotion...
youll be swayed here...as what was meant by the artist.
very addictive here too.
the sparkle just isnt here...i wish i could hear it here so that, the sound will be more on the LIVE side. (ue700s)
something new to my ears...coming from sm3.
its like the sound here is much nicer.
airy, and theres the lushness in the midrange.
making the sound relaxing and warm...definitely engaging.
the HIGHS here is alive.
its kicking and there that bite at the top...
here i hear the sound i long for...the sound stays longer in the air...the highs...it dies with sweetness at the end, decays much better than the sm3...
it sounds cleaner in sm3, here is smoked, but...in a good way.
the guitar here is more lively.
one quality of the ortofon that the sm3 just cant simply beat.
LIVE - ONLY WHEN I SLEEP, THE CORRS ACOUSTIC LIVE
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...PLEASE WELCOME...THE CORRS!!!!"
people clapping and whistling...its like im there!
claps are everywhere...surrounding me.
unbelievable...this isnt the sound coming from an iem!!
then the stick...counting 1,2,3...then the orchestra along with the band...
Andrea's voice is very sweet and nice. very natural again...just like NINA's.
its like she is singing to me and everyone's performing around me...
you call it 3 dimentional?
yeah it is!
im in the middle of the space theyre in.
too many instruments here, from guitars to drums to violins...
some are placed far from my ears, others are in front of me...some in between.
i say, this is a very good iem that can perform unbelievable in some certain kind of tracks...
Andrea's voice is in the center in front of my face, the sound of the guitar in my right, inside my head, there are the orchestras and the back up singers...its place everything beautifully.
with the same intro, well id say the sm3 is better with all the clapping everywhere, its more lively and true in that part.
here its like youre drown by the ortos magic...something relaxing.
the sound is limited like before..
it cannot portray the sound space like the sm3s...
but id like the sound of decays here.
Andrea's voice is nice.
but id prefer sm3s version of Andrea's voice.
its more organic there.
addictive? lush? its in here.
mellow? smooth? its in here.
all coloration can be heard here to make your music more beatifully and artificially done.
but, being TRUE AND ORGANIC is in the sm3...
Simply, the ortos cant match the soundstage and deeper depthness of the sm3.
its the sm3's aura and prowess.
but coloration for goodness' sake...its in the ortos.
its more addictive there.
POP ROCK - BAD ROMANCE, LADY GAGA
please dont hate me if i chose this song...i really like LADY GAGA, just much as i like MADONNA.
same as before, the sm3 wont fail you on its sweet voice presentation.
the honesty and truthfulness is all there.
no matter how big, how hard, how fast the sound is...it can do everything with flying colors.
but the highs is just right just like as before.
every details, nuances, but seems like to me...the sm3 sounds dark.
making the track uhm...lifeless.
but i dont mean it as its not a good performer, it is in voice, in soundstage.
but...here, clearly, id say...the HIGHS plays an important role in some tracks (POP, ROCK, anything with energy and with fast beats) that needs it...the LIVELY HIGHS..
it sounds lifeless. dull.
it sounds...is this it?
is this the sm3s weakness?
well it is.
i found it at last.
i didnt notice at first. but upon listening to the middle of this song...its somewhat lacking now to my ears.
its dark and dull at this kind of tracks...
no matter how hard the sm3 tried...there isnt a lively, sweet, sparkly, crispy HIGHS.
the bass is great. deep and accurate. well defined.
now the eq7 goodness.
the voice is very refined.
oomphs are here...but sounded limited at times because its a BA, only MOVING.
i say, this can match the sm3s details...but not much..at least it can compete with bravery.
the bass doesnt go deep in the ortos as the sm3s.
the highs is of high quality...smooth and nearly earpiercing.
beware if youre sensitive to that kind of HIGHS (ala-mx980 highs)
there is this kind of sig in the ortos that makes this music...addictive air/liquidness.
and i like it, really...
but the coloration is really pleasant too at this kind of tracks...
or i say, most of the tracks i played with this iem.
it welcomes you at first sound it gives...
youre IN-to music...that fast!
call it inviting, engaging, everything...its here.
and really, i like it very much.
something that is not present in the sm3.
the flavor...is enjoyable.
and it helps you to be IN to your music and long listening sessions.
JAZZ - HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, MICHAEL BUBLE (MALE VOICE)
michael's voice is inspiring.
there is a quality to it.
truthfulness to his voice.
...even the breathing, the thickness of the breath he inhales and exhales..
the texture of the words he utter/sings...
he is like singing only to your ears...privately in front of you.
i really like the sm3s presentation in voice.
very high quality and unique.
sweet and "mapapadala ka", youll be swayed.
the instruments sounds wont also fail you to be emotional along with michael's voice.
its perfectly done.
theres some crispness i hear now, that is not present in lady gaga's bad romance, pop rock track.
crispiness of the cymbals...nice.
i like it here. sweet and defined well.
michael's voice is brilliant as the sm3s.
but i will choose the ortos this time in this kind of slow jazz music.
its really UUGGGHHHHH....
hard to explain.
addictive in many ways.
clearly, the soundstage may not be as perfect here as the sm3s, but the sound is so..
its like in ortos, all the goodness is near you, in front of you, with the sweetness, all in your face, all you can eat, all you can hear, all you can feel.
it doesnt do honesty like the sm3s presentation.
but pianos are more alive here, the voice is great as the sm3s...but the HIGHS are again cautiously spiky at times.
COME AWAY WITH ME, NORAH JONES (FEMALE VOICE)
the intro of this song is so lovely.
its like the air is welcoming you.
there is a cymbal crashing softly. very softly...
something that doesnt sound offending at your listening.
the pianos are soft as well...with a careful lightness to it.
its done with care.
Norah's voice is superb as it is.
im in the jazz club.
where i hear the lonely sound of BASS.
its like im alone and i want to cry with this music.
im IN-to the music again.
and im feeling very emotional right now.
feeling very luck at what i have right now.
i imagine myself...walking in a lonely street...under the hot hot sun. but feeling cool..because the clouds covered the sun.
and under the tree, wind blowing my way...
walking now on a greenly grassy field...
there's a magic here in the sm3 and in this music.
and its done.
the music just died just like that.
it ended....without me noticing.
i replayed the song again...
under the power of this song again...its like im in HYPNOTIZED by its magic.
very very nice.
the eq7 way...now.
i hate to take the sm3 off my ears...
i wish it stayed there while listening again in this music.
im missing the sm3...now.
well, for the ortos, sorry, i played it back again...
i missed the sm3 so bad.
now, i hear clearly the softness of instruments in sm3s.
here, its like a bit veiled...off.
but the pianos is very well done.
alive. true and accurate.
the voice is just right.
upon hearing the sm3...sorry guys...im having a hard time defining the ortos right now.
its like the power of the sm3 lingers in my mind.
and im out of focus in the ortos...
well, ill press play again, and try to do it again...
the air here is much stronger, its thicker, than in the sm3.
the pianos is of much thicker here.
the sound of the bass, is audible..thick too.
the voice is nice too.
it is on par with sm3.
maybe...i forgot. sorry.
been playing this song for 3x now.
the addictive air/liquidness is helping alot to make the music enjoyable and sweet.
well, here is where i want to give my final words on this iem...the final verdict.
the sm3 is an overall good performer, from jazz to rock.
it can penetrate you in many ways.
its musical, with the capability to portray music in its 3d space goodness.
the sound is really UP there...
UP there kind of quality.
its a TOP tier indeed.
it can do something that others just CANT.
wanna know what that is?
one is the voice.
it can match and sound more realistic than the ortos vocal presentation, the ortos main strength.
it can do the FAST TRACKS/POP ROCK kind of music easily...effortlessly and with realism.
it isnt lacking in spaces. soundstage. or instrument separation.
it can do what other universals cant.
its unlike any universal that makes the sound tuned in a small space.
here, youre IN that kind of space where the music was recorded.
wether its a THEATER, a HALL, a JAZZ CLUB...or in a STUDIO.
its like a MONITORing iem with the FUN factor.
youll hear every nuances...every bit of air, and sound...
i hear its weakness and also can be considered as its strength...being DARK.
well, its really important to certain tracks to give that LIVELY sound.
being dark gives you that ...dullness and lifelessness in music.
without the help of those CRISP, SWEET, AIRY highs...it just sounded off at times.
only at times, and only at some certain tracks.
i say, this is a very very good iem that has and will shape the history of ALL UNIVERSAL iems.
the sound isnt limited.
its not an iem at all...
it produces sound brilliantly on its own ways.
you gotta respect that this iem just simply cant produce that HIGHS im looking for.
but, for long time listening, that present HIGHS can be fatiguing at times...
so...the SM3 created something better for long listening sessions.
its not very hard to love the sm3.
the fit is not a problem.
the build is....
but, im not bothered, because the future of this iem lies in RESHELLING/REMOLDING.
the sm3 is an all rounder iem.
it can play anything.
it is an iem...that shakes the universals.
and shapes the history of audiophiles.
it is like a dark as a chocolate.
oozing and bursting with sweetness...
a custom in a package of a universal.
to all the readers...sorry for my kind of style of writing.
its easy for me to take notes and read in this kind of style...
so i chose this kind of writing.
I previously owned the UM2 for more than 3 years and had a lot of fun with it until i gave it away last year. I heard a lot about the SM3 but i never expect it to be this good. The bass, detail and soundstage surpasses the UM2 in almost every way. The bass is as much or even more than the UM2 but much faster and more controlled, smooth mids and almost no hiss. The soundstage is huge and amazing. Seriously I´d take these over everything i currently own when it comes to music listening including my Razer Mako, K701 + Heed Canamp + V-Dac.
+ Controlled, punchy bass
+ Huge soundstage, make me feel like standing right on the dance floor
+ Sound great with all kind of music
+ easy to drive, sound great straight out of my Clip
- Looks and feels very fragile unlike the UM2
- Hate the edges around the earpiece
- The V-shaped cord might be too short for some
Pros - Soundstage, deep bass, lush mids, smooth highs, comfort
Cons - hmmm...they are IEMs and not HD650's? Stock tips are just WRONG.
What's not to love about these? Ok ok...they're French. Fine.
There's not a whole lot I can add to what has come before, but...
These very much remind me of my HD650's, minus the openness of presentation. I don't find them muddy or congested, just a tad on the warmer/darker side of things, which I love. Ample and suprisingly visceral bass isn't something I was expecting from a 3xBA, but it's there in spades. Midrange to my ears is slightly accentuated but in a pleasing way. Highs are clean and slightly rolled off. Lovers of Sennheiser's house sound should love these. AKG fans, not so much. These are the polar opposites of my Ety ER4's...very fun, lively, lush and warm...not dry, sterile, analytical and boring. They are also not the miserably uncomfortable ear-spears that the Etys are either...I can wear these for hours, and even sleep with them in.
Also, regarding the "short cord" complaints...you guys DO know they are meant to be worn over the ears, with the cord behind your head, right? Slide the clear thingie up to tighten the fit to the back of the head, and you'll have a cord and fit that is totally unobtrusive and extremely comfortable.
Gripes? Well...I don't think the mids and highs benefit from a touch of EQ in order to balance them out a bit. Tone down the mids, add a little top end, and all those complaints of "too muddy, too bloaty" go away. Also, the stock bi-flange tips are ok and the Comply's are very comfy but they really wreck the sound on these. I think the users griping about muddy/bloaty/congested/blahblahblah are probably using the Complys. See below...
It took me a while to find a good pair that was a trade-off between fit, comfort, sound quality, and isolation, but once I DID, it really changed the overall SM3 sound to perfect without EQing at all. I'm using some MEElec M6 tri-flanges. These are soft silicone with a larger diameter inner tube/sound chamber, so you need adaptors (either make your own, or in my case I use the little red Monster ones). The larger space in the tips makes for a more open soundstage, and the material doesn't muddy up the lows and mids and absorb the highs like the foams do. Only drawback is they are a little thinner in construction, so they don't isolate extremely well (they DO isolate just fine, but with no music playing it's not like Etys in that you can hear people talking to you...you don't have to lip read). This is fine as they are easily the most comfortable tri-flanges I've used. For reference, I tried several different Comply models, all of the Monster Super Tips (foam and gel), Ety tri-flange, grey and yellow foams, Sony Silicone, Shure Olives, and of course the stock tips. All I can say is reserve final judgement on these IEMs until you've tried a lot of tips, and you WILL be rewarded once you find what works for you.
Doing everthing very well..
Pros - tight and deep bass, nice highs and mids, warm and clear =) the isolation is great too!
Cons - None
All I can say it this IE reminds me of my car sound system... Im lovin this...
Pros - Forward Mids,accurate bass, smooth treble with no sibilance, great soundstage, detailed.
Cons - Big for small ears, Y split too short,
After countless hrs of research (mainly on this forum) I took the plunge and bought myself Earsonic SM3’s! Here is my review.
The SM3’s body is made of plastic which makes it very light but also seems fragile. The cable is nice and strong, doesn’t tangle and is also very light. The Y split on the cable is too short, makes it a little tight if you wear down the front. They come with a cool case, a couple of medium size silicone bi-flange tips, and two Comply tips (medium & large).
I must mention that I had to send my first pair back for exchange. The right earphone wasn’t as well constructed as the left one. The two halves of the body didn’t completely seal together on one side, there was a hairline gap where you could see into the inside of the earphone. It didn’t affect the sound quality but I worried about it coming apart down the line so I had it exchanged. The new pair I received did not have any issues with build quality. I have to give the guys at Soundearphones.com props. They really took care of me. I had a new pair of SM3’s in hand 2 days after they received my defective ones, great customer service!
I was concerned the SM3’s would not fit my small ears because they look big in pictures. Well, I was partly correct they are big, however, I can still wear them comfortably. They partly stick out of my ear instead of completely sitting inside of the ear. But they are so light that it doesn’t bother me. I still get a great seal and can wear them all day while I work. I found the stock silicon bi-flange tips work perfectly for me. I get a great seal and sound isolation, which is a relief after reading endless threads on how hard it can be to find a tip that fits. I’d like to try the Sensorcom tips just because they seem to be a favorite for the SM3 but I’m not in a big hurry since the stock ones work.
I do wish the body of the SM3 was a little smaller and had a more rounded ergonomic shape like the Westone3.
I have upgraded my source and files. I now have a Cowon J3 32GB player and have re-ripped my CD collection to FLAC. The difference in sound from my previous portable setup is amazing!
I cannot praise the J3 enough! Any issues I had with my SM3's are now gone thanks to the great EQ on the J3. It just takes a little tweaking to brighten up the SM3's and they sound perfect.
Apple lossless -> iphone ->Fiio L3 LOD->Fiio E7->SM3’s.
The sound of the SM3’s is smooth and detailed. I’ve never heard vocals sound so natural and clear. I find the bass accurate, tight, punchy, non fatiguing. Mids are forward, smooth and full. Treble is smooth, clear, no sibilance, non fatiguing. Soundstage is great, it sounds like you are up on stage with the band, music projecting all around you. Vocals are up front, and instrument separation is excellent.
Best of all they are very musical, you can actually feel the music (at least I can), it’s hard to explain but the sound they put out is something special.
If there’s anything I would change about them would be to make them smaller so they would fit better in my small ears. Oh yeah and make the Y part of the cable longer as I like to wear the cable down the front instead of the back. Other than that I think they are great and would highly recommend them! I would like to thank this forum, without it I would have never known of these amazing IEM's!
Here are some albums I think sound awesome on the SM3’s
Coldplay- A Rush of Blood to the Head
Lenny Kravitz Greatest Hits
Beatles- 1967-1970 Blue album
Radiohead’s Greatest Hits
Incubus- Morning View
Edit 1/7/2011: With my new J3 all my albums sound great not just those listed above!
Pros - forward mids, non-sibilant but present highs, outstanding detail, easy to drive, more than adequate bass.non mic cable.
Cons - Expensive new, y-split is too tight.Somewhat square edges on the body may not be comfortable for some people. Feel a bit flimsy.Cable not replaceable
If you can get them for around $300 - then go for it. If you can live with the pros and cons above.
Outstanding detail, somewhat warm sound mids-wise with extended highs (not sibilant, I guess some might find them slightly recessed compared to top end sony ex700 or stax, but I can live with it. Or you can take the filters out and see whether you like them that way - the highs should become more prominent then). Good soundstage that does not sound artificial. (some people still find it weird, re: forward projection - see the other reviews)
These seemed to go well with any music I had - folk, classical - solo, voice, soloist+orchestra, many types of metal, hip-hop.
I had a chance to compare with top two westones, Se530, sony mdr7/500, and overall preferred SM3 to all of them.
For only around $500 incl my cowon d2, these can do match much of what my 1k+ Stax system or 3k+ balanced Beyer T1 systems do.
You may need to get a another set of tips, and be sure to fit them well (trim to size), otherwise isolation and comfort may suffer (not that 3 driver IEMs are that comfortable). I didn't like any of the bundled tips, but Sensorcom Double-flange alpine silicon eartips were great, after I trimmed them to fit.
edit:only 6 months after purchase, my pair failed because of the bad y-split design that lead to the wire going into the y-split being constantly tugged. So it's not only uncomfortable but poor design. Earsonics refused to honor warranty.