Earsonics Stark

General Information

50C62AD8-9E9E-4E43-B22F-44478ED035F7.jpeg


The STARK consists of an electronic architecture with 5 drivers, including a novelty at Earsonics: a 8 mm wide vented dynamic driver. Based on a 3-way filtering that made the fame and success of our products.

The heart of the stark is composed of:
  • A new wide event DD driver for the bass register, 2 BA transducers for the medium, and 2 BA transducers for the treble.
  • The technical choice is to retain the use of balanced armature transducers for the acute and midrange, promoting high performance and level of detail while remaining musical and natural.
  • The 3 rd way for the bass has been reserved for the new dynamic driver, bringing warmth, power, as well as greater ventilation that will delight lovers of Circum helmet.
  • Our crossover impedance corrector coupled with EVS and FUSION technologies made in EarSonics, are responsible for playing the whole with rigor, musicality and Phase respect.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Sensitivity: 125 dB/mW
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz -20 kHz
  • DCR: 18,5 ohms
  • Drivers: 1 DDynamic, 4 BA drivers with 3 way crossover.
2473D16A-1E9B-4F47-8BC9-4CE6F54C260F.jpeg

IN THE BOX
  • STARK with 4C HI-RES cable
  • 4 Comply tips (various sizes)
  • 8 silicon tips
 (various sizes)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carrying box
  • User manual

6B72F53D-AB98-4349-A7E6-0C1DEA4770BC.jpeg

Latest reviews

subguy812

Reviewer: Audio Rabbit Hole
Pros: Delicious bass, build quality, inclusion of quality cable
Cons: Fit, Requires quite a bit of burn-in
Earsonics Stark Review

1.jpg

EarSonics Stark

2.jpg

EarSonics Store – Direct link to purchase

EarSonics – Homepage

A Little Technical Stuff:

Specs

  • Sensitivity: 125 dB/mW
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz -20 kHz
  • DCR: 18,5 ohms
  • Drivers: 1 DDynamic, 4 BA drivers with 3-way crossover.
-MRSP: Universal fit € 1390.00/$1500 USD at the time of review

EarSonics, a French company that came to existence in 2005, was started by Franck Lopez, who himself is a musician, a bass player. To followers of my reviews, you have read the history of EarSonics a couple of times. I have had so much exposure to EarSonics products throughout this spiral down the Audio Rabbit Hole. I give EarSonics credit or blame for my hobby and addiction. The SM64 was the first EarSonics product I heard, and the rest is history. This is a review of the Earsonics Stark, a hybrid configuration.

There has always been an EarSonics house sound, and yet that house sound has evolved, maybe matured, with the two releases before the hybrid family. The EM10(CIEM) and the Grace (Universal, shared DNA with EM10) were the first deviations from the traditional EarSonics house sound. I enjoyed the original house sound, but as EarSonics has matured, my listening has shifted as well. The smooth character of the newer house sound is comforting and sophisticated.

Stark is a foray into totally unchartered territory for EarSonics, being one of two new hybrid offerings. The Blade is 1 DD Low, 1 BA Mid, and 1 BA High, and the Stark is 1 DD Low, 2 BA Mid, and 2 BA Highs. Both offer a 3-way crossover.

I have always been a fancier of Dynamic Drivers, be that a single driver or hybrid setup. I love the tonal qualities of the bass that they are capable of delivering. One of my all-time technical faves is hybrid, the Empire Ears Legend X. Knowing I have followed EarSonics through the years, I was enthusiastic to hear their take on a hybrid arrangement. I will say that the Stark has maintained the EarSonics familiar house sound to my ears, and continues to provide a smooth tonality.

3.jpg

A Little Marketing Hype: All marketing hype is straight from company sites

HYBRID

The standard of the new Hybrid range, the STARK, benefits from efficient and mature hybrid technology.

Its goal is to deliver a refined, warm, detailed sound, based on the new hybrid process.

Whether through its ergonomics or its accessories (new high-resolution 4C silver cable), everything has been thought of to satisfy the most demanding audiophile customers.

THE HEART

The STARK is composed of an electronic architecture with five drivers, including a novelty at Earsonics: a dynamic driver of 8 minutes with large event.

Always based on a 3-way filtering which made the fame and the success of our products, The heart of the stark consists of:

A new DD driver with large event for the low register, 2 BA transducers for the medium, as well as 2 BA transducers for the treble.

The technical choice being to keep the use of balanced armature transducers for the acute and medium channels, thus promoting performance and level of detail while remaining musical and natural.

The 3 rd lane for the bass has been reserved for the new dynamic driver, bringing warmth, power, as well as greater ventilation that will delight lovers of Circum helmets.

Our crossover impedance corrector coupled with EVS and FUSION technologies made in EarSonics, are responsible for playing the whole with rigor, musicality and respect for the phase.

SPINE

The STARK electronics are maintained in an acrylic structure specially developed for the latter in order to optimize the placement of the transducers.

Why is it so important?

As for the human body, the role of this acrylic column and primordial in the functioning of STARK.

Made in our 3D machines with the acrylic material that EarSonics masters to perfection, it allows an optimized positioning of the different drivers as well as a perfect phasing. The acoustic characteristics of the material on the sound texture allow to push the final rendering to the highest level of quality.

It also includes an acoustic chamber allowing mechanical tuning and filtering of the dynamic driver, thus avoiding the use of electronic components which impairs performance.

Insert cross section drawing

METAL DRESS

The heart of the STARK protected by its metal envelope gives it elegance and extreme solidity.

Its carefully anodized zinc and magnesium alloy have been specifically chosen for its resistance to oxidation and impact.

Designed and designed by our R&D department, everything that makes it up has been carefully chosen and considered.

Thanks to its elegant silhouette and careful ergonomics, the STARK will be perfectly forgotten in the palm of your ears

4.jpg

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

Included

  • STARK with 4C HI-RES cable
  • 4 Comply tips (various sizes)
  • 8 silicon tips (various sizes)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carrying box
  • User manual
Unboxing and Accessories:

5.jpg

The box has been standard EarSonics fare quite a while now. I will include photos for you visual folks and the simplicity of the description.

I like the layout and feel of the presentation, and now that they are including the new 4C HI-RES cable, they have made a long-standing wish of mine come true, get rid of the Plastics 1 cable that they used for so many years. The stock cable is a 4-core wire braided into an ergonomic cable terminated to a 3.5mm plug. I like the 3.5mm plug as it finishes at 90 degrees. You will find no ear-hooks, only the soft, pliable cable going around the back of your ear. The cable is comfortable, and I found it to not annoy you with sound from brushing on your clothing. This cable was one of the cables included with the Grace HR. Kudos to EarSonics for including it with the Stark.

6.jpg

Feel free to check out my Grace review for more details of the unboxing or look at the photos in this review. https://audiorabbithole.com/earsonics-grace/

7.jpg
8.jpg

Build Quality and Fit:

I gave the Stark a thorough examination and decided I was wasting my time looking for flaws. These things have a build like a freakin’ tank.

9.jpg

The external shell is handsome, with the EarSonics logo jumping off of the faceplate. It is two-color, silver faceplate, and gunmetal on the body of the shell(the part with the nozzle). The faceplate is not a super sexy design, but handsome in more of a buff gym-rat with an excessive amount of testosterone. I like the look, but it is utilitarian compared to some of the ornamental acrylic designs that are popular with customs. The shell is vented to aide the DD.

Stark has very short nozzles, which allows for a more shallow insertion. I would have preferred a little more extended nozzle, and particularly a nozzle with a lip to assist in holding the tips on the IEM. Even though the shell is substantial, it somehow sports the ergonomic design to make it comfortable in my ears. The size of the shell creates sound isolation, especially when you find the correct ear tips.

10.jpg

Tips are always critical with Universal IEM’s, but ear tips on some IEM’s have a more significant impact on the sound quality. I have tired Sedna Light Short, Spinfit CP100, Spiral Dots, Spiral Dot ++, Symbio, and Final E tips. I have been rotating through these to see, which provides me with the maximum comfort and sound quality. It has been difficult to decide because each appears to have their compromises. If you asked me last week, I would tell you to choose the Final E, and today while writing, I am using the CP100 and am in a state of aural bliss. I am going to encourage you to try, try again. That said, the Stark work for me, but I am not sure that the fit is for everyone.

Stark is anodized zinc and magnesium alloy on the outside, which they claim they used to reduce oxidation and impact. It would be too soon to say if EarSonics succeeded in reducing oxidation, but I do not doubt the reduction of impact claim. The shell is the most substantial feeling IEM I have ever held. On the inside, the familiar acrylic kind of like a spine of sorts. This acrylic spine is designed in their 3D machines and helps to optimize the placement of the transducers, which allows for perfect phasing(FUSION Technology). It also includes the acoustic chamber, which allows for mechanical tuning and filtering of the dynamic driver, thus avoiding the use of electronic components, which impairs performance.

Review Setup:

The review setup utilized multiple sources, QP2R, QA361, Kann Cube, and Fiio M15.

I swapped multiple aftermarket cables, including the PW Audio 1960, Pw Audio No.10, and the stock 3.5mm cable. My favorite cable pairings, both for comfort and sound quality are the Pw Audio No.10 and the stock cable. The stock cable being a great pairing should be good news to the consumer, knowing that the purchase of an aftermarket cable is not necessary to achieve comfort and excellent sound quality.

My sample music consisted of 320kb, FLAC, 24bit, as well as streaming Qobuz, Amazon Music HD, and local files.

11.jpg

Moving on to the sound section….

I am not looking forward to writing this section. The main reason is, I have to write about a controversial and polarizing topic, burn-in. I am not here to debate or attempt to change your perspective on burn-in, only to say what I have encountered in my time with this IEM, as well as two others that come to mind.

As previously stated above, I was very excited to hear what the EarSonics twist on a hybrid configuration might sound like. On first listen, I was so disappointed and underwhelmed. The bass smeared across the entire range; the mids were so far back in the mix, and treble that peeked through was edgy.

One point that needs to make is that the Stark begs for power. You can drive it by phone and will sound just okay. For the signature to open up, two things are necessary, proper seasoning time and power.

After 50 hours, and I have more than 100 hours on them, some magic began to happen. One of the most notable transformations is, there is much more balance. Unlike the smeared, incoherent sound I heard out of the box, the sound gradually improved over the 50 hours of seasoning. It is a real lesson as to why short listen impressions are doing a disservice to consumers and companies.

While there is more balance, there still is a solid, full bass lift. Rumble and a slower decay remain. Listening to the song The Unforgiven by Metallica, the rich bass creates an impact to a usually rather flat sounding bass.

12.jpg

Another addition to the signature, post seasoning, is the bass now has a bit more punch, reminiscent of DD bass. The decay is still there, but the punch and snap add more balance in the bass spectrum. The DD adds a new dimension to the EarSonics portfolio. It adds a new dimension to the already famous Earsonics house sound and provides them with an avenue for more R&D.

The sub-bass grumbles and provides heft, but after seasoning, the bass doesn’t shield the mids or treble. I have already mentioned that the Stark loves some power, bass will open up, and the balance will ensue. Underpowered, things become more restricted, dense, and display less air. I utilize high output DAP’s, but the Stark could shine from a desktop setup. Listen to some music with a stand-up bass in the band, and the vibration will tickle your ears.

Vocals are clear but slightly pushed back in the mix with some musical selections. Male vocals sound full and natural. Listening to Paul Simon Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, you can hear a great representation of Stark’s capabilities. The sound is balanced, and the bass stays in its lane. Vocals appear a couple of rows behind the mix, and the treble percussion sparkles on the fringe. What the heck, put on the entire Graceland release and prosper.

The overall stage is a large rectangle being a touch more wide than deep, but with the proper tracks, the depth is very apparent. The stage when listening to Jazz is very accurate. I am listening to one of my favorite Jazz pianists, and it is very evident that her piano takes the stage front and center, while the percussion and cymbals tickle the far edges. Feeling the keys and their strike is a unique experience.

The mids at times sound a couple of rows back from the stage, but at other times the staging can take front and center. The mids are detailed but destined to take a backseat to the delicious bass and sparkle that the treble provides; that is just how this IEM is voiced. The mids allow the mix to showcase the details and transparency and help to give the musicality of the Stark. I have found myself bobbing my head in unison with more music than I have in a long time. Daft Punk, Giorgio by Moroder, almost gave me head-bobbing whiplash. The blending demonstrates that coherency rules here.

I have found, depending on the track, that the treble of the Stark can take you right to the edge with a sharp bite. There is a glistening on the fringe, a sparkle. With poorly mastered tracks, the bite is a bit more pronounced. That said, with well-produced tracks, the treble is seamlessly blending and intertwining with the rest of the mix. Beautifully layered throughout the experience and in tandem with the mids to create transparency and layering.

These are audiophile IEM’s without a doubt. The Stark can be classified as audiophile fun. The Stark makes you enjoy listening to your music, copious amounts of thunderous bass on Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself to Dance, and the detailed of the strings in the mids and the handclaps coming at you from the left and right, creates a fun, musical exploit. With the digitized vocal swirling around my head encouraging me to “come on, come on, come on,” incredible.

13.jpg

Pairings

Stark can be driven relatively easily with moderate volume but shines when you bump up the volume and feed it POWER. Yes, this is one of those IEM’s that you find yourself toe-tapping and head-bobbing the more volume you use.

Questyle QP2R is just one reference player and pairs incredibly well, especially from the 2.5mm balanced output. The stage is wide and extends well. The QP2R can reveal itself in a full, rich, organic tone, and with the Stark, which also share similar characteristics, the sound is decadent.

The Fiio M15 is a player that has slightly warmish overtones. I love a little warmth, and the M15 pairs exceptionally well with Stark. When listening to Ghost-Note Swagism, the stage and details abound without harshness. The M15 has the power that Stark craves. Warmth on warmth, what can be said? The mids seem a bit more represented with the M15 that the QP2R with a little more detail retrieval.

Comparisons

The only logical comparison that I own/owned is the Legend X. I will write my thoughts on the Legend X based on my notes and my memory.

Legend X

Compared to the Empire Ears Legend X. The Legend X is a bit more expensive ($2300) than the Stark at $1500. The Legend X is the most technically adept IEM I have experienced. The parallels between the Stark and X are uncanny. The Legend X was another IEM that certainly improves with a serious amount of seasoning to show its best.

The bass shares some similarities, and this is a comparison of two audiophile bass IEMs. I think it has become apparent that more drivers do not equate to better quality sound. The Legend X is Empire Ears TOTL, and the Stark is EarSonics TOTL hybrid.

Treble of the X is more mature and less dependent on quality source files to show. In other words, the X is more forgiving of poor source material that the Stark. The Stark treble can, at times, be a touch harsher than the X.

The stage of both is wide, but Stark is going up one of the best stages there is. The mids of both IEM’s are not the showcase range. The Stark and Legend X are detailed, but the Legend X has the edge in detail retrieval.

I do want to say the bass in the Stark narrows the gap in comparing the two IEM’s. Just pulling the bass entirely out of the mix, both are First Class in the sub-bass and throughout the range. I must stress, the Stark is an incredible listen, but I have just compared it to one of the Top Tier in all of the industry, and it has does an excellent job of holding its own.

You might want to own this IEM if:

+ The goal is that you want a fun, musical IEM that will have you revisiting your catalog of tunes

+ EDM and dance music are your preferred genres of music, although it excels at jazz and rock as well

+ You prefer a sound that is full of emotion

+ It is important to feel your music as well as hear it; rumble

+ You enjoy a coherent stage with layers of sound expertly intertwined

In Closing


This review was a long time in the making. Many life events, sickness, pandemics, but finally, it is complete. I want to reiterate that the Stark is such a fun engaging listen, and I haven’t seen an incredible amount of press written. It is one of those IEM’s that is a shame not to experience.

Seasoning is supercritical but with time you will be rewarded. I have tip rolled time and time again. During the writing of this review, I used the Spinfit CP100 and found great comfort and rockin’ sound.

The build quality is exceptional, and I feel the Stark could survive many accidental drops and come out unscathed. The accessories are complete, and now with the inclusion of a quality cable, it shows that EarSonics has listened to their customer base.

Incredible bass, transparency, and detail throughout the mids and upper ranges are above average. The stage is a large rectangle, and the stereo separation shows its width.

When listening to the Stark, I can’t help but think that this a significant stepping stone to greater things from EarSonics. I have always enjoyed their house sound, and now with DD and hybrid technology in their arsenal, I feel the future is quite bright for them.
M
MATWIN94
Nice review !! These IEM are really impressive and musical.. had them 6 months before I lost them in a bus (yes I did) .. the way they do this powerful and beautiful bass without touching the details and clarity above is just outstanding.. imaging and soundstage are also impressive .. the change after burn in is indeed not expected just out of the box .. a chrysalid ... bass is life
subguy812
subguy812
Thank you , I am glad you enjoyed it
M
MATWIN94
Very interesting that you compared to the EE LX .. I was actually wondering how it stack up against the champions of that signature s’ category... like the N8 also

davidmolliere

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Black background makes up for great note contrast
Very powerful, fast and well controlled bass
Energetic well extended treble with good speed
Remarkably low distorsion
Very good resolution and good imaging
Superb build quality with great isolation and good stock cable
Cons: hallow fit might be an issue for some, tip selection is key to secure fit
Stark features a bit of a specialized signature (but excels at what it does best)
Product page : http://www.earsonics.com/in-ear-monitors/en/stark/

Price : 1390€

Fit, Build & Isolation
The new hybrid lineup is a new form factor altogether for Earsonics universal IEMs : the inner part of the shell is acrylic while the faceplate is metal. Both Blade an Stark feature the same build, metal color is the only difference between the two. This is a clear departure from the legacy line up, the build quality is flawless and the Stark looks as sturdy as it comes both the metal obviously but the acrylic as well. It’s much heavier IEM than previous generations.

Fit was somewhat complicated for me, as is the case for shallower fitting IEM given my quite large and deep ear canal. Even my usual Flare Earfoams did the trick but on the go while moving it was not perfectly secure. Obviously your mileage will vary on this front but a secure and comfortable fit was only achieved with the silicon custom tips from Custom Art. On the flip side the shell density certainly does wonder for isolation and the Stark isolates much more than average provided you have a seal it’s just as good as my customs. Weight is well above average but balanced enough that it wasn’t an issue for me.

img_4769.jpg


Introduction
From its very beginning, Earsonics has always been associated with products targeted at pros : musicians, sound engineers and singers. They quickly gained a big share of the French pro market for customs but Earsonics became also well known in he audiophile world for its universal IEMs since the SM3 bestseller.I know the SM3 v2 was the first Earsonics model I owned and then I went on with the Velvet, the S-EM6 and S-EM9. I also own both their pro flagship custom the EM64 and the EM10 in the audiophile range. I have auditioned but do not own the Purple and the Grace, both universal inheriting quite a bit from their custom counterparts.

For the new generation Earsonics elected not only to totally change the build with a combination of metal and acrylic, but also – a first for the brand – no less than two hybrids offering featuring its first (8mm) dynamic driver. Stark is the flaghsip offering of the new hybrid lineup and I was curious about the tuning choices Frank Lopez had done and what the dynamic driver would bring to the table. Stark is described on Earsonics product page as « promoting high performance and level of detail while remaining musical and natural. ».

How does Stark sounds and does it hold its promise?
Let’s see!


Sound
The very first listen was a bit of a puzzle for me, as the bass was really overpowering the signature. I only had a couple dozen of hours of burn in on a fresh unit so I figured extra burn in was needed for things to settle but with a similar burn in period Blade didn’t exhibit the issue and they share the same dynamic driver unit. I put it back on burn in to reach a hundred hours.

Stark is aptly named. The first impression after this was still of a powerful and prominent but much more controlled bass. For all the greatness of both my EM64 and EM10, there is no way it can push air like a dynamic driver and it shows. Stark will bring joy to bassheads with tight, powerful, controlled bass. Stark has indeed more bass impact than the smoother Blade, but also more treble presence especially in the upper treble section.

Stark is logically more extended than its brother with an extra BA both for medium and treble. The soundstage is more expanded especially a bit taller but more importantly quite deeper. Vocals are clear but farther away and for vocal genres Blade is more engaging but Stark is more adept at Rock and Metal with its powerful bass and more bite in the treble section. Of particular note is a remarkable black background that makes up for very good contrast and Stark has an even more vivid presentation.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Stark signature !

img_4775.jpg


Bass
Stark has a strong bass presence and it does clearly define its signature. It features superb sub bass extension and presence, there is a lot of control and great power. Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” sub bass has great and satisfying physicality, highly engaging. Kat Frankie “Too Young” and Santa Esmeralad “Don’t let me be misunderstood” was another great example of Stark’s power upper in the bass range with a strong rythmic baseline.

In what I think is its predilection genre, Stark does a great job on Free “All right now”, the kick drum provides a powerful toe tapping rythmic foundation to this song. Queen’s “Another one bites the dust” or INXS “Devil inside” are other fine examples of Stark’s ability to convey a very powerful bass line. This works also great with stuff like Rage against the machine “Take the power back” and I found myself going through music genres that I have left on the side for the past few years, rekindling with playlist from my youth. The note attack is tack sharp and explosive and the (smallish) 8mm driver is also quite fast infusing great pace, rythm and timing.

Mids
Stark mids are a clear departure from what is dubbed the Earsonics house sound in the sense that it’s much less mid focused than most Earsonics IEMs. To be honest, it took me a bit of getting used to and I had to spend a bit more time figuring out Stark mids.

The midrange takes a back seat to the much more present bass and treble, the mids do features peaks to highlight vocals, electric guitar, kick drum, snares and hi hats. I enjoyed classic rock like Van Morrisson “Brown Eyed Girl” better than say one of my favorite piece of Jazz like John Coltrane “Equinox”. Not that Stark is “bad” on Jazz but I do like more bite on brass instruments and more sizzle on cymbals where Stark felt too smooth.

Interestingly vocal centric tracks highlight another side of Stark and James Blake “Vincent” or Etta James “At last” both sound great which confirms the emphasis on vocals both female and male. Both tracks are as emotional as they should be. This is less true with a bit more instrument heavy track such as Anthony and the Johnson’s “Fistful of love”, Anohni Hegarty’s voice is a bit taken over by the band instruments.

img_4774.jpg


Treble
Stark treble is key to balancing its powerful bass section : the treble is both energetic and well extended, providing more air and resolution than its little brother the Blade.

Lower treble is energetic and vibrant, snare drums are crisp cymbals with nice overtones and hi hats have good sizzle. In Radiohead “Creep”, Jonny Greenwood famous guitar tweaks is pure pleasure with the Stark with satisfying snap and sheen. The Whitest Boy Alive “Fireworks” was also one of those songs I loved with the Stark, Erlend Øye guitar is energetic and clear contrasting nicely to Marcin Öz bass line and Stark does a great job with this kind of tracks, conveying a lot of energy and rythm. GoGo Penguin’s “Raven” and Yusef Lateef “Bishop Schools” show that Stark has very good treble speed, contributing to its great PRaT.

Verdict
As a long standing fan of Earsonics IEMs, I was really curious what to expect from the introduction of dynamic drivers as the EM10 and EM64, but also the S-EM9 are more than able to hold their own in the bass department. Earsonics masters balanced armatures as well as the best in the business, what does Stark bring to the table that the all BA lineup can’t? I think you figured out that the aptly named Stark is a powerful IEM, that takes it a notch further than the EM10 in term of pure bass physicality and the EM10 is no slouch to begin with.

I have mentioned it and the tracks I have mentioned should make this clear, Stark is rockin’! It’s a bit of the suprising thing in the hybrid lineup but Earsonics chose to tune Stark a bit more specifically than the Blade which is more of a “calmer” all rounder and its bigger brother is the unruly one.

If you’re looking for an IEM that can satisfy the basshead in you with a physical, powerful well extended controlled and fast bass, smooth mids with clear vocals as well as exciting but never harsh treble then you’re in for a treat with Earsonics Stark especially on Rock and Metal! If your music genre preferences lies elsewhere then why not look at its all rounder little brother Blade?


Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the Stark, listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch using the stock cable, ISN AG8 and PW Audio n°10 upgrade cables.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Max at Earsonics for providing a review unit of the Stark . As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

img_4767.jpg


Accessories
  • STARK with 4C HI-RES cable
  • 4 Comply tips (various sizes)
  • 8 silicon tips
  • (various sizes)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carrying box
  • User manual

HansBarbarossa

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Sound, ergonomics, design, manufacturing quality, kit.
Cons: The price (although it is quite acceptable against the background of competitors).
EarSonics Stark: Five steps to spacewalk


Hi friends!

As soon as we opened the window today, our editorial office smelled the lavender fields of Provence and the room was filled with grassed purrs of Yves Montana. And all because we continue our acquaintance with extremely interesting new products from the famous French brand EarSonics!

Not so long ago, at the end of winter, the younger brother of the new EarSonics hybrid line - Blade, warmed and invigorated us with our sound. Now it’s the turn to prove himself to his elder relative: the stately and serious intellectual Stark.

Let me remind you that the French company introduced these two models of in-ear monitors to the world more recently. Both models have a similar appearance and hybrid design: Blade (2BA + 1DD) and Stark (4BA + 1DD). Interestingly, despite the rich experience of many years in the development of IEM/CIEM, Blade and Stark for Earsonics were the first hybrids. And the company approached the development of these ears with all responsibility.

I allow myself to take a short excursion into the glorious history of EarSonics, in case any of our readers are not familiar with it. ES engineers are the founding fathers who stood at the origins of creating IEM/CIEM based on balanced armature emitters. It was they, along with brands such as Westone, Shure and UE, who were the first to manufacture universal IEM and custom monitors based on 2, 3, 4 or more BA drivers / receivers.

My acquaintance with the products of this brand began a long time ago, about ten years ago, when I had the opportunity to listen to their models SM2 and SM3. A little later, I used SM64, SM2-IFI, EarSonics Velvet, S-EM6 V2, and about a month ago ES Blade. I already wrote reviews about the last four models, now the turn has come for the five-driver Stark hybrid model.

Well, one-two-three-four-five - yeah, we begin our review of EarSonics Stark!


1584337034143484.jpg



Specifications
Sensibility: 125 dB/mW
Frequency response: 10 Hz-20 kHz
DCR: 18, 5 ohms
Drivers: 1 DDynamic, 4 BA drivers with 3 way crossover.




Appearance, kit and ergonomics

These IEM are delivered in a neat black box, on the front side of which the brand name "Earsonics" is briefly and essentially in one line, its logo, the contents are indicated - "monitors" and a small French tricolor is placed. Everything is strict, stylish and to the point. Immediately obvious - made in France!

The treasured casket leaves this package. We open it, and now through two round windows the IEMs look at us. Thanks below are written thanks and good wishes from Franck Lopez - a musician, sound engineer, founding father, and CEO of EarSonics!

1584337053375926.jpg

1584337058726419.jpg

1584337067226062.jpg



In the box, in addition to Stark with a nice silver-white cable, there are three pairs of silicone tips (the fourth was inside the case), two pairs of Comply foam tips, a stylish hard case with a zipper, wipes for caring for IEM, an adapter 3.5/6,3 mm, a brush for cleaning sound tubes and a warranty card with instructions. In general, there is everything you need that you might ever need to use IEM.


1584337094815678.jpg

1584337084175712.jpg

1584337110809068.jpg

1584337121986330.jpg




Stark, like his younger brother, is completely made of metal. As far as I know, designers used anodized zinc and magnesium. The silver textured IEM shell on top is similar to the contours of intergalactic alien ships from old sci-fi films. And the inner black-matte side of the case was cut in a semicircle by three lines emphasizing the bending of the shell. In general, the construction of the Stark and Blade is similar, the difference in color, and possibly in the alloy of the material. Stark looks more elegant and expensive, otherwise everything is similar.

The outer side of the shell is colored in silver light, and in general is very similar to a bar of silver, over which skillful jewelers conjured. In the center, among graceful step forms, it contains a convex logo of the ES brand.


1584337274173818.jpg

1584337283628515.jpg

1584337292984934.jpg



On top is a 2pin connector for connecting a cable. On the back of the IEM, we can find two compensation slots designed to properly configure the dynamic emitter, and just below the screw, one of those that fastens the two halves of this intricate art object.

Inside the metal structure is an acrylic 3D core, specially designed for the new IEM hybrid line with three emitters (1 DD / dynamic 8mm fulfills Lows and 4 BA: two is responsible for Mids, and the other two is for working out Highs). Each driver has a separate camera, which allowed engineers to carefully tune the sound of each of the emitters. In addition, the new impedance crossover corrector created by EarSonics, in combination with EVS and FUSION technologies, allows these IEMs to sound without any phase distortion, clearly, precisely and at the same time extremely musically.


1584337334228739.jpg

1584337341491786.jpg

1584337349112640.jpg



The tactile feel of touching the Stark is simply amazing. These IEM are truly a work of art! It can be seen that the manufacturer did not save on materials and, more importantly, in addition to engineering concentrate embodied in complex schemes and precise details, he invested his soul in them. Although I out of habit run ahead, we will already understand this by going to the section on sound.

Despite the significant weight that is felt when you hold the IEM in your palm, in the ear the Stark it is felt very easy and comfortable. Personally, when I was wearing it for a long time, I even forgot that I have two small graceful weights in my ears.

The build quality, in my opinion, is almost impeccable, which is not surprising, because these IEMs are assembled by hand and exclusively in France!


1584337386735054.jpg



The four-core cable is braided; it is unusually light, soft and elastic. TRS 3.5mm L-shaped connector with gilding, 2pin connectors, which make it easy to pick up another cable with the same connectors for IEM, if necessary. The cable is called the HI-RES 4C Silver cable - and this is another innovation of Earsonics, which, without a doubt, is beneficial to the sound.


1584337402922815.jpg



Well, according to the results of the first part of the Stark review, no doubt deserves the highest awards. But the most important thing, as you well know, is ahead of us: we turn to the analysis of sound.

And this is the most exciting part of our review.



Sound impressions

Stark was burn-in for 50 hours before use.

Listening was conducted with: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, iBasso DX220, iBasso DX160, QLS QA-361, iFI xDSD, HIP-DAC & iFI micro iDSD Black Lable.

With all the devices, these IEMs played out well.

I recommend a responsible approach to the process of selecting tips, as this makes a significant contribution to the creation of a sound picture.



1584337423567528.jpg



I would describe the sound of ES Stark as well-balanced, comfortable, polished and natural, served in a neutral-warm manner with a slightly darkened background, a charming, thick low-frequency range, a beautiful rounded “tube” bass; smooth, with excellent refinement of micro and macro nuances, an extremely rich, detailed mids, and an unusually clean and clear high-frequency range. It is polished like sea pebbles, an adult, aristocratic and extremely naturalistic way of delivering sound.


1584337442613560.jpg

1584337450485394.jpg

1584337459928477.jpg



These IEM draws a spreading stereo panorama, harmoniously and proportionately building a virtual space both in width and in depth. The overall musical canvas looms quite integrally, in contrast, with accurate and natural transmission of sound tones.

This is a thick and fairly neutral manner, where a sound wave easily and smoothly flows from one register to another, harmoniously connecting the entire musical canvas together, and the main action, of course, belongs to the mid-frequency range. The result is a symbiotic plexus of small and large details, a wealth of timbres and a serene charm. This sound makes you fall in love and is intoxicating from the first minutes of listening!


1584337492655625.jpg



The impact is dense and powerful, going to the very bottom, while not falling very far beyond the border of the common frequency component. The bass is thick, resilient and extremely deep. He clearly wins back his own, harmoniously filling the middle with a saturated and significant substance. In general, the low frequencies here do not impose their presence, they only elegantly set the rhythm, create a light velvety background and add a comfortable mass to the overall sound. Here there is a relief, and exquisite mannerism, and charm. On the one hand, the bass lacks speed and slash a little, on the other hand, adding these elements here, we will lose the foundation, the very charmingly warm and unforgettable charm inherent in Stark.


The mids is smooth, natural, timbrally rich and textured. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. This is an extremely naturalistic and melodic manner, with striking contrast and subtle depiction, as in the engravings of Dürer, all the details of the composition, where each instrument and each played note are in their place in space.
Gracefully stringed instruments, winds and especially vocals. This is a well-balanced and at the same time emotional performance, where all the elements of the composition are served unusually accurately, large and multifaceted. Stunning smoothness, informativeness and such accurate localization of sounds in space, as if their coordinates were calculated by a supercomputer.



High frequencies are reproduced clearly and harmoniously. They are flush with the middle, and I would even say that these two registers (Mids and Highs) are one, they are seamlessly sewn together. Their quantity and quality also does not cause the slightest complaints. The register is transmitted cleanly, accurately and distinctly, without sharpness and distortion. This is an unusually reliable and maximally correct manner, with good articulation, served in a light, elegant and comfortable form. Pure harmony and nothing more.



1584337512803013.jpg




In general, an extremely lively and baroque picture is obtained: the bass, waltzing, gradually fills the musical space, saturating it with depth and rhythmic foundation, while the mid-frequency and high-frequency registers paint the main, rich in timbres, detailed and moderately emotional picture.



If in a nutshell we try to compare the sound of the two brothers, Blade vs Stark, it turns out that, in the presence of common “generic” features, the younger (Blade) produces a more vigorous, driving sound, putting main accents in the midbass and delicately highlighting the mid high and some treble. Stark, on the other hand, is endowed with a more mature, adult, larger sound, striving for a neutral manner. Harmony and richness of timbres reigns here. In my opinion, there are no winners and losers, but there are two excellent sound concepts that perfectly complement each other.


1584337528707517.jpg



Personally, I give preference to Stark, as “tasty”, not academic, analyticity is always close to me. But the youthful passion of Blade is also extremely attractive to me.


Conclusion

ES Stark is an amazing IEM model with a true French touch. This is a well-balanced, adult, rich in musical tones, unique sound.

Separately, it should be noted the highest performance (manual assembly in France!), Impeccable design, good ergonomics and a rich set.

There is no doubt that this new product from Earsonics will become one of the most revered and beloved models among audiophiles, like its hybrid brother Blade.

The only thing left to say is the price of this pleasure. In the online shop earsonics.com Stark can be bought for 1400 €. Of course, it's not cheap and not "anti-crisis", but in the audiophile's open space, where these headphones send the listener, money loses its meaning and the pure pleasure of Sound comes to the fore.

In general, if you can afford to pay for exquisite and high quality sound, then I strongly recommend ES Stark for purchase.



1584337543282108.jpg


Thanks!
Last edited:
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Excellent review, Hans!

Comments

There are no comments to display.
Top