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FiiO EM3 Open Earbud Earphones with In-Line Microphone (Black)

Rating:
4.02/5,
  1. Type35
    Fiio EM3 and Other Affordable Earbuds
    Written by Type35
    Published Oct 11, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Fiio sent me the retail version of the EM3 to review a while ago. I’ve had these earbuds for over a year so I am quite familiar with the way they sound. They retail for $10.

    Setup for this review:
    Source: HP laptop running on battery and with wireless LAN turned off.
    Media player: Foobar 2000 with full RAM buffering running in native ASIO mode.
    DAC: LH Labs Geek Out 450 with 15dB to 18dB digital attenuation and FRM filter (Frequency Response Mode is a linear phase slow roll-off filter).
    Headphones: Fiio EM3, Apple earbuds and earpods, Edifier H180, VE Monk, Blox BE3.

    EM3 fit and finish:
    Overall packaging is excellent. There is a unique code to verify that the earbuds are genuine. Three pairs of full foam earpads are also included. The connector is an L-shaped jack and there is a one-button microphone / remote (which I never used). The shell has the shape of a rocket exhaust nozzle. I am not a big fan of this design option: it’s not uncomfortable but the earbuds do not fit as snuggly as they would with something like a standard Sennheiser shell.

    Fiio1.jpg Fiio2.jpg

    EM3 sound signature:
    With full foams, bass is overly boosted and boomy, vocals are muffled, soundstage is very distant and tiny. Why on earth is Fiio including foam earpads in the packaging? Many people will put them on without afterthoughts and will be robbed of the sound potential of the EM3. If you intend to use foams, stick with Apple earbuds.

    Without foams, tonal balance and clarity improve quite markedly. Highs can show some trace of sibilance. Bass is now snappy but lacks some weight (not a good match for EDM or rap lovers). Bass and treble extensions are nothing to write home about. Soundstage stays stuck between the ears (no outsized outward projection). Vocals seem a little bit recessed. The overall sound signature can be described as clean and neutral.

    With donut foams, one could hope that this is the miracle solution that lands on middle ground between full foams and no foams but this is unfortunately not the case. The results with donut foams are much closer to full foams than without foams so the sound takes a turn for the worse. Since donut foams are not as sturdy as full foams they are also more likely to fall and get lost. This configuration is not recommended either.

    I tried an easy mod to see if I could improve the sound of the EM3. With vents taped over and without foams, the soundstage increases dramatically but the treble gets boosted and vocals are pushed forward. The resulting sound is very fatiguing. With vents taped and full foams, bass is further increased but vocals are again pushed forward. The sealed enclosure gives a certain “boxy” coloration to the sound. The overall tonal balance becomes unnatural. In a nutshell, no luck on finding a quick fix.

    Fiio3.jpg Fiio4.jpg

    Comparison of EM3 without foams to other earbuds:
    Apple earbuds without foams and earpods:
    This one is straightforward: except for build quality, the EM3 are simply better earbuds than the Apple ones.

    Edifier H180 with full foams:
    In many ways, the H180 sounds like what the EM3 with foams should have been: a fun v-shaped sound signature. The bass is elevated and a bit boomy but it gives more body to the sound. Treble is not overly refined but it's by no means harsh either. It is not as boosted as the bass and gives the impression of clarity. The form factor of the earbuds is extremely comfortable and fit snuggly against the ear concha. Edifier packaging, fit and finish is on par with Fiio. Price is also equivalent.

    VE Monk with full foams:
    This comparison is for the original Monk (now discontinued), not the current Monk+. The Monk is more mid-centric than the Monk+. Compared to the EM3, the soundstage is wider and vocals are more natural. There is a bit more clarity. Bass and treble are more extended. The cable seems sturdier and the use of standard Sennheiser shells makes the Monk more comfortable to wear. At the same price as the EM3, the VE Monk (and Monk+ for that matter) is the better buy.

    Blox BE3 with full foams:
    This is not exactly a fair comparison since the Blox costs about four times what the EM3 goes for. It is also a rather artisanal product with very limited distribution. However, I wanted to include it in the review to understand what the next level in quality brings to the table. The overall sound signature is relatively similar but clarity is improved and details become more readily apparent. You also get an easier sense of flow in the music, everything sounds less forced and more natural. These earbuds are a little more dynamic and better controlled.

    Fiio EM3 review takeaway:
    Were it not for the VE Monk, the EM3 would have been a perfectly acceptable product at its $10 price point. A much better option is looking into Fiio IEMs line-up which delivers excellent sound and really good value (much better than what Xiaomi / 1More has to offer at comparable price points, but that’s a story for another review).
      JohnVoight likes this.
  2. audiophilefan
    Fiio EM3 - Everyone's Daily Driver
    Written by audiophilefan
    Published Feb 6, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Mic button, fatigue-free sound, great soundstage, durable, affordable
    Cons - lacks bass slam, treble could use more detail
    BACKGROUND
     
    I needed a pair of mobile headphones. I wanted to use something while walking to the transport station or while commuting. I needed something that are not very isolating so I’m still aware of my surroundings. I value safety more than sound in this case. I also needed something with at a mic button so I can take in calls while listening (this pauses the music of course). With these considerations, an earbud fits the bill. And among the budget earbuds, the Fiio EM3 may be the best choice at the time of this review. I owned the X1, A3 (E11k), and the E12 prior to this purchase and I can say that I’m a fan of the quality and value of their products. Let’s get to the review then.
     
     
    PACKAGING
     
    The EM3 comes in a decent package given its price. What you get:
     
    1. The earbuds
    2. 3 pairs of full foam covers (total of 6)
    3. A warranty certificate
    4. The box can be used as storage if you want. The item is pretty secure inside.
     
    For the price point, the packaging looks well thought off, which is very good.
     
     
    BUILD QUALITY, DESIGN, AND COMFORT
     
    Build quality is above average, at least compared to original earbuds from Samsung or Apple. The wires are thicker overall and strain reliefs are present. The wire, as Fiio indicates, is tension-protected. I presume it can take a beating but I can’t confirm that since I’m always careful with my gear. The L-shaped jack is a welcome addition too.
     
    Isolation is below average, which is good for my uses. I believe that it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings to avoid accidents (e.g. hear a car honk when crossing the street, etc.). If complete isolation is important to you, this is something you need to consider.
     
    The mic works well and can also be used for pausing and playing music. Play and pause functions are not very reactive and you need to press a little bit harder and longer than usual, which could be a design demerit.
     
    Comfort is excellent. The earbuds are on the smaller side but the shell themselves are very evenly smoothed out that you won’t feel any pain wearing them for hours. For larger ears, they sit in more securely with the full foams but for small to average ears, wearing them naked will be ok.
     
     
    SOUND
     
    Burn-in: 50 hours (can’t detect much difference in the sound so they may not need too much burn-in)
     
     
    SET-UP USED:
     
    1. Lenovo K4 Note Smartphone (with Wolfson 8281 Audio Hub)
    2. Dolby Atmos engaged (gives a more accurate perception of soundstage)
    3. Stellio music player EQ is off
     
     
    LOWS
     
    I believe this is where it lacks the most. Bass is there but it’s barely there. The expectation is it should be able to provide some slam with rock and other faster music genres but it doesn’t really. The bass is a bit slow. To its merit though, this is highly “EQable”. And it will also benefit with an amp that has a bass boost. I imagine it would sound nice with those.
     
     
    MIDS
     
    Mids have decent clarity and smoothness. It’s not forward, nor it’s recessed. If anything, I believe it’s flat or not boosted, which is good.
     
    NOTE: Using the full foams can muffle or suppress the mids quite considerably. If you can find donut foams for these, they might benefit from those more. To their merit though, the foams included are very durable and you can stretch them confidently when putting them on.
     
     
    HIGHS
     
    Same quality as the mids, I believe they’re not boosted. They’re just right. They sound natural but not very detailed. A little bit more detail and extension would’ve been nice.
     
     
    SOUNDSTAGE
     
    This is where the EM3 really shines. Separation is better than any earbud I have tried. And the soundstage is really wide. It’s an out-of-the-head experience similar to open-back, full-size headphones. Because of this soundstage, these earbuds are really good for movies too. The Dolby Atmos technology really shines with these.
     
     
    OVERALL PRESENTATION
     
    I can say that the EM3 is tuned more for the masses than it’s tuned for audiophile. As a result, you get a sound that is easily likeable by a lot of people, but may be less engaging for listeners who has more experience with other gear. On the other hand, it’s a fatigue-free sound that you can enjoy music with tirelessly for long hours. They’re very easy to drive but might benefit from bass boost from portable amps.
     
     
    CONCLUSION
     
    The EM3 is a very good value given it’s added mic feature and a likeable sound overall. Highly recommended for someone looking for a fatigue-free, reliable daily driver.
     
    Happy listening every one! :)
      Dobrescu George likes this.
  3. Joeng Zeon
    Get much more than you pay
    Written by Joeng Zeon
    Published Dec 9, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Clear and enjoyable sound, good sound stage and separation, nice bass, comfortable fit
    Cons - Loose fit
    I love the openness and light weight of earbuds, unfortunately those earbuds I tried such as OMX95, MX375, were lack of bass and musicality. Then I found Fiio EM3 is under $10 and got good review, so I got it a shot.
     
    Look
    EM3 is cheap, but they don't look cheap, better than MX375. Easy going design, no logo from beginning to end. Cable quality is as good as Sennheiser CX300. No problem to plug them in those devices with thick cases. I can tell the L and R easily even in the dark, thanks to its in-line remote on the left.
    It has a vent in the back, on each side of buds. Once I cover the vents, the sound change into less bass, and the sound image goes strange. Same situation as I cover the open back of my HD700.
     
    Sound quality
    Momentum 2 is my usual headphone. When I switched to EM3, I didn't feel a big drop. EM3 deliver quite open sound with musicality. Wide sound stage and very good bass response. Very satisfied.Curiosity drove me to buy VE Monk+ as well. Monk+ sounded full in mids, gave me a bassy feeling in the beginning, and yet I found the taste of bass were different. Monk+ tended to show the upper bass, and EM3 would show more lower bass. It got benefit from that when I played the soundtrack of movie <Lucy> and <Sherlock Holmes>. Monk+ also sound narrower, most of energy concentrate around mid range, some times when the vocal came in, I was hard to move my attention to instruments.
    (Comparison above used each own provided foam cover.)
    1. vapman
      can you compare to monk+? :)
      vapman, Dec 10, 2016
  4. crabdog
    FiiO EM3 - The perfect companion for your smartphone
    Written by crabdog
    Published Sep 18, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Airy, warm sound, low price, microphone, inline remote, comfort
    Cons - Recessed highs, low noise isolation
    Introduction:
    Most people reading this need no introduction to FiiO as a company. They have firmly established themselves in the audio market with their DAPs, DACs and amplifiers that are top quality at affordable prices.
     
    Website: http://www.fiio.net/fiio
    http://www.fiio.net/en/products/52
     
    Originally made for the FiiO M3 portable DAP, the EM3 is a budget oriented earbud that comes with an inline remote and microphone. Designed primarily for use with low powered DAPs and smartphones I was curious to see how it compared to the venerable VE Monk. Let’s see how it fares.
     
    20160914_161155.jpg
     
     
    Driver
    14.8mm dynamic
    Sensitivity
    109db
    Impedance
    47 Ohms
    Frequency Range
    20Hz-20KHz
    Cable
    120cm
    Plug
    3.5mm gold-plated (L-shaped)

     
    Disclaimer:
    The FiiO EM3 was sent free of charge for the purpose of this review. I’d like to thank Sunny and FiiO for the chance to test these earbuds.
     

     
    20160914_161118.jpg       20160914_161136.jpg         ​
     

     
    Packaging, build and accessories:
     
    The EM3 comes in a slim, compact, white box. On the front is a picture of the earbuds along with the FiiO slogan “Born For Music and Happy”. On the back you will find specifications and some QR codes which will take you to the website and Facebook pages.
     
    Inside the box you’ll find the earbuds, 3 pairs of foam covers and an instruction booklet.
     
    As for the earbuds themselves, they’re a glossy black plastic that feels fairly durable and of higher quality than you might expect from something of this price. They look like most typical earbuds but from certain angles remind me of something you might see in a science fiction movie – like alien stingray-shaped spacecraft. However, they’re fairly low-key as appearance goes, from a distance they look like most other earbuds.
     
    There are strain reliefs attached to the bottom of the earbud’s stem, leading to the cable which is feels durable and doesn’t tangle too easily. On the left side is the inline single button remote and microphone. Using the microphone with my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 the quality is good with voice coming through loud and clear.
    Just below the microphone is a hard rubberized Y-splitter and at the end of the cable there’s an L-shaped 3.5mm plug that also has a good strain relief.
     

     
    20160911_115803.jpg       20160911_120050.jpg       20160911_120242.jpg
     ​
    20160911_115835.jpg       20160911_115918.jpg       20160911_120118.jpg
     

     
    Fit, comfort and isolation:
    I find the EM3 to be very comfortable as many earbuds are. They’re just the right size for my ears and with the included foam covers stay in place really well without ever feeling like they will fall out. The stems on the bottom of the earbud make it very easy to adjust the position when putting them in your ears.
     
    Being an earbud the sound isolation is almost non-existent. This can be a problem if you’re in a noisy area or in transit but at the same time it’s this aspect that makes earbuds sound so airy in their presentation and gives them a large soundstage.
     
    Sound:
    The sound of the EM3 is V-shaped, warm and non-fatiguing. While not the cleanest of sounds it’s perfectly suited to long listening sessions.The bass on these is well done, having some weight behind it but remaining controlled and in good proportion to the other frequencies. It’s a little on the woolly side but never gets out of control. Mid-bass is perhaps a little too forward and can sometimes dominate the music and muddy the midrange. The midrange is warm and inviting in the EM3, though at times it struggles with the slightly bloated mid-bass. There is a good amount of detail present here and I find these well suited to rock music and electric guitar.The treble plays a very passive role on the EM3, being slightly too recessed for my preference. Extension is decent but I would like the highs to be more forward to add some liveliness and sparkle and also to help balance out the exaggerated mid-bass.
     
    Comparison:
    EM3 vs VE Monk.
    Well you all saw this coming I’m sure. The VE Monks have stormed the globe with their low price and great sound. With the EM3 FiiO is targeting the same demographic so a head to head was inevitable.
    The Monk doesn’t have a microphone which might be a major factor for people deciding between the two. I find the Monk to be more forward in the mids and having a bit more clarity but the EM3 carries a stronger bass. The VE Monk sounds a bit more natural but the two have many similarities. The EM3 comes in a nice retail box compared to the Monk’s plastic bag which would in my opinion make them better suited as a gift and it also has the advantage of the inline microphone which is an important aspect for smartphone users. They both offer excellent value and it most likely would come down to personal preference and features (remote/microphone).
     
    eh.jpg
     
    Conclusion:
    The FiiO EM3 is an excellent value earbud that should be an upgrade over most of the ones that come bundled with smartphones. It has a great microphone which is a big advantage for many in its target demographic along with a warm and inviting sound. As always, price is a significant factor in my review scores and the EM3 comes in at a budget friendly $10-20 range. If you like the comfort and airiness of earbuds and like to have a microphone handy when using your smartphone then these are a great companion to have.
      Brooko likes this.
  5. Brooko
    FiiO EM3 – All-rounder and constant companion
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jul 10, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, tonal balance, value, comfort, included microphone and on-cable control, good build for the price
    Cons - L/R markings hard to see, included foams slip off
    EM300.jpg

    For larger views of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

     ​

    INTRODUCTION

    If you'd asked me my thoughts on ear-buds a few years ago – I would probably have turned up my nose a little, and my thoughts would have been cast back to the cheap buds you'd get with your MP3 player. Even when Apple started with their first ear-buds, they were lacking bass and nothing to really write home about. All that changed when I was introduced to Venture Electronics ear-bud range (Monk, Asura and Zen), and I learned just how good a properly tuned ear-bud could be. So when Sunny from FiiO reached out to me and asked if I'd take their EM3 ear-bud for a test-run, I was interested to see what they'd managed to create and also how it compared with the VE Monk and Monk Plus – which to me are now the gold standards for budget ear-buds.

    ABOUT FiiO
    By now, most Head-Fi members should know about the FiiO Electronics Company. If you don’t, here’s a very short summary. FiiO was first founded in 2007. Their first offerings were some extremely low cost portable amplifiers – which were sometimes critiqued by some seasoned Head-Fiers as being low budget “toys”. But FiiO has spent a lot of time with the community here, and continued to listen to their potential buyers, adopt our ideas, and grow their product range. They debuted their first DAP (the X3) in 2013, and despite some early hiccups with developing the UI, have worked with their customer base to continually develop the firmware for a better user experience. The X3 was followed by the X5, X1, X3 2nd Gen (X3ii), X5 2nd Gen (X5ii), M3 and X7. They also have a full range of amplifiers, DAC/amps, cables and now with the EM3 they have entered the ear-bud market.

    FiiO’s products have followed a very simple formula since 2007 – affordable, stylish, well built, functional, measuring well, and most importantly sounding good.

    DISCLAIMER
    The EM3 was provided to me gratis as a review sample. I have made it clear to FiiO in the past that I did regard any product they sent me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. I will continue to use the EM3 for follow up reviews and my own personal use. This is one of their items I would definitely buy from FiiO but they have insisted any future review models are mine to keep (they will not accept payment). So I acknowledge now that the EM3 I have is supplied and gifted completely free of any charge or obligation. I thank FiiO for their generosity. I own and have paid for the E7, E9, E11, E11K, X1, and X5 in the past. 

     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. 

    I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5 Pro and L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays).
    I’ve used the EM3 from a variety of sources, but for main body of this review, I’ve used it primarily with my FiiO X3ii combined with the E11K amp, my iPhone and the tiny FiiO M3. In the time I have spent with the EM3, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation – except for when I have changed variables such as covers.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    The EM3 came in a smart little white printed retail box measuring 45 x 145 x 21mm. The box has a picture of the EM3 on the front, and specifications and QR codes (auto links to their various social media and web portals. There is also an authenticity sticker.

    EM301.jpg EM302.jpg
    Front of the retail FiiO EM3 box
    Rear of the retail box

     

    Opening the box reveals a slide-out inner tray which contains the manual + warranty, EM3 ear-buds, and a small box with three sets of black foam covers. A translucent frosted cover keeps everything nicely contained.

    EM304.jpg EM305.jpg
    Interior of retail box and contents
    Accessories


    So a very minimal accessory package (which is OK considering the price), and the foams (and spares) is a welcome addition at this price point.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From FiiO)

    Type
    Open dynamic ear-bud
    Driver
    14.8 mm dynamic
    Frequency Range
    20 Hz – 20 Khz
    Impedance
    47 ohm
    Sensitivity
    109dB (1mW)
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated, right angled jack
    Cable
    1.2m, TPE outer coat, ofc copper
    Weight
    Approx 14g with single full foam covers
    IEM Shell
    Polycarbonate / hard plastic


    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
    The EM3 departs from the generic style of flatter ear-buds, and almost looks like a crossover between traditional styles and Apple's ear-pods. The face looks very much like a more traditional flat face, but from there the acoustic chamber extends to a more conical shape, and then to a more traditional arm extension to the cable. The front face measures approx 16mm and is fully covered in a mesh screen to protect the drivers. The housing is conical and measures 16mm deep. The cable exit/arm measures 20mm brining the overall length of the shall to approximately 30mm. The shell is a black glossy hard polycarbonate plastic and feels reasonably sturdy. There is a very small (and difficult to see) L/R marking on the arm, above what looks to be a second bass port (the first is on the conical housing).

    EM307.jpg EM308.jpg
    Front face and mesh
    From the rear

     
    At the cable exit, there is good rubber strain relief. The cable is reasonable thickness, and at first glance looks a bit flimsy, but looks can be very deceiving. FiiO has sheathed the ofc copper cable in a very low noise TPE cover, and this adds high tensile strength and durability. It is quite satiny, and not prone to tangling.

     
    EM310.jpg EM309.jpg
    Cable exits
    Side view

     

    Approx 11cm from the cable exit on the left hand side is a single button remote and microphone. This unit hangs just under my jaw (so ideal height for the mic). The on cable controls work perfectly with my iPhone 5S, allowing play/pause (one push), next track (two pushes), and previous track (three pushes). A single long push also activates Siri which is really handy. I also tried them with my wife's Galaxy, and everything worked perfectly except for the previous track (3 pushes) – it simply advanced the track and either paused or played (depending what was active). With the FiiO M3 and X1, the buttons also worked perfectly.

    EM312.jpg EM311.jpg
    Single push button on-cable control
    Microphone port

     
    The microphone is crystal clear for calls, as is the audio, and the M3 has become my default for use my iPhone 5S. I always have it in my work briefcase, and if I know I'm expecting a call it is my first choice of headset.

     
    Below this (about mid-chest) is a generic rubber y-split. It has no strain relief, but none is probably needed, as this section of the cable usually hangs unencumbered, and the TPE sheathing should be pretty protective anyway. The cable terminates at a 4 pole gold plated right angled jack with very good strain relief.

    EM314.jpg EM313.jpg
    Jack
    Y-split

     
    My only critique would be the hard to spot L/R markings (which is somewhat mitigated by the control always being on the left side)

     
    FIT / COMFORT
    Since I've been testing the various ear-buds from Venture Electronics, I’ve been using ear-buds a lot more than I used to. The fit on the FiiO was a little harder to get used to because of the deeper housing, but after a little practise it became easier. Naked does seem to fit extremely well, although I sometimes have to adjust the angle to get a more consistent sound. I did try the included black foams, but I soon found that because of the shape of the housing, when removing the ear-piece I would often leave the cover in my outer ear (annoying).

    EM306.jpg EM318.jpg
    Included black foams
    Tin foams from the Monk Plus or VE Expansion Pack

     
    I've played around with fit a lot since I've had them – and while I really enjoy the sound of the EM3 without covers, ultimately a thin cover does help consistent fit. The trade-off is a warmer sound (which some will probably prefer anyway). You could also use fins from the new VE expansion pack, and I would recommend anyone with a FiiO EM3 who wants to experiment with cover combinations to give this pack a try - there are plenty of options.

     
    EM315.jpg EM316.jpg
    VE Expansion Pack
    A multitude of different options for getting the right fit, comfort and sound

     
    Basically the fins sit over the housing, with the fin part angled upward and forward. The ear-bud body sits normally in the concha cavum (tucked inside the tragus and anti tragus), and the fin lies alongside the anti helix and basically locks against the concha cymba. This drastically aids stability and consistency, and if you are careful, allows you to angle the EM3 perfectly to meet your individual preference. It also allows a slightly better seal (by widening the body) which also affects bass response.

     
    EM317.jpg  
     
    EM319.jpg
    The VE rings fitted
    Foams go over the top - perfect!

     
    My preference at the moment is using the VE rings (to keep the foams on), an using the very thin VE foams over the top. As far as isolation goes – it is an ear-bud – so any isolation is minimal.

     
    FREQUENCY GRAPHS
    The one thing I've learnt over time is that everyone has very different preferences, very different physiology, and very different experiences with different covers. This makes it really difficult as a reviewer as all I can relate is my own experience. The issue remains of how to show differences between the cover options, but also remain consistent.

    So I jury-rigged a simply but reasonable effective attachment mechanism whereby I could couple the ear-bud to the Veritas coupler consistently and with the same pressure each time (in this case enough to hold in place but no more). What I've been trying to do is emulate the fit of the ear-bud. with and without covers.

    The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. I must stress that they aren’t calibrated to IEC measurement standards, but the raw data I’m getting has been very consistent, and is actually not too far away from the raw data measured by other systems except for above 4-5 kHz where it shows significantly lower than measurements performed on a properly calibrated rig. So when reading the graphs, don’t take them as gospel – or at least remember that the area above 4-5 kHz will be significantly higher in actuality. It is my aim to get this system calibrated at some stage in the future.

    EM3nocover.png EM3hookandcover.png
    EM3 with no cover - thin foams have similar response - note channel matching
    Using ear-hooks and EM3 black covers (too much warmth)

     
    Further in the review I’ve added comparisons to the VE Monk and Monk Plus as well as comparative measurements. One thing to take into account with all graphs in the review is that they will give very different reading dependent on the degree of seal you achieve. So use them as a comparative guide for discussion – but individual fit and experience will vary.

     
    What I’m hearing (no covers or thin foams fitted):

    1. Slightly warm and smooth signature – with decent bass response.
    2. ​Bass overall is more mid-bass centric than sub-bass oriented, but there is enough sub bass to give a very gentle rumble if you get a good enough seal.
    3. Mid-range is reasonably well balanced (for both male and female vocals), and there is enough of a lift in the presence area to give female vocals life and sweetness.
    4. Treble is a little subdued, but there is a peak in the lower treble at around 7 kHz which does give cymbals and hi-hats some shimmer and decay.
    5. Overall warm, a little smooth, but with enough detail to make them enjoyable.
    6. Note that most of the above was with the very thin red and blue covers from the Monk Plus – without any covers at all I get a little more treble, and a little less bass.
       
    I also tried them with a pair of ear-hooks and the default black covers. The first thing I noticed was an increase in bass, and also a little less in both the mid-range and lower treble. For my preferences, I don't really like any more bass, or less upper end – they just end up sounding a mid overly warm and veiled. So for me, any thicker foams than the VE new Monk Plus red and blue thin foams are to be avoided.

    Another point to note is the extremely good channel matching (shown in the graph). Any small variations could also be the seating on the Veritas coupler (really hard to get consistent with ear-buds).

    The best way to get to an ideal for your own personal preferences is to simply experiment. Get an expansion pack from VE (Venture Electronics) and try each cover by itself or in combination with other covers. It costs next to nothing and is quite an interesting exercise.

    I've also included graphs for the EM3 vs both Monk and Monk Plus below. I'll talk more about them in the comparison sections. Each have their strengths and each can change dramatically with different covers and hooks. The irony here is that really speaking the graphs are going to be meaningless except as a very rough indicator. This is mainly because it is the combination of cover and your own physiology which work together to create a semi-seal. And this can dramatically affect the entire response curve.

    EM3vsMonk1.png EM3vsMonk2.png
    EM3 vs Monk original
    EM3 vs Monk Plus

     
    POWER REQUIREMENTS

     
    The EM3 are 47 ohms, and with their sensitivity of 109 dB they can easily be driven well out of most portable devices without the need for any further amplification. Saying that though, I have enjoyed the EM3 immensely with the FiiO X1 or X3ii paired with FiiO's own E17K (or the IMS HVA).

    EM320.jpg

    To give you an idea in order to achieve an average listening SPL of 65-70 dB at the ear (plenty of volume for me)
    1. FiiO X1 – 30-32/100 low gain, no replay gain or EQ.
    2. FiiO X3ii – 41-43/120 low gain, no replay gain or EQ.
    3. iPhone 5S – approx. 7/16 (45%) clicks of volume.
    4. FiiO M3 (tiny $55 DAP) – 18-20/60 volume.
       
    I used a calibrated SPL meter – but just an average reading on the same piece of music each time (a weighted). As you can see – all the devices had ample volume left on the pot.

    When I tried amping with E17K and HVA – there was a slight change of tonality with the HVA but I noticed no increase in overall dynamics – naturally YMMV.

    EQUALISATION
    After a while getting used to the EM3, I've found no real need to EQ (using the Monk Plus foams). I did want to try lowering the mid-bass and seeing what that would do, so I used the X7 and AM3 module and simply dropped at 62 and 250 Hz by about 2 dB and the slider at 125 Hz by around 3 dB. They were only minor changes, but to me I actually preferred the original signature. All I can conclude from this is that frequency response from the coupler is probably giving me a better seal than what my ears are providing – and what I'm hearing is a little closer to neutral than the graph would suggest.

    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the EM3. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). For my testing I used the FiiO X3ii + E17K, no EQ, low gain, and a volume at around 20/60 on the E17K giving me an SPL ranging from about 65-75 dB (a weighted) at the ear. I used the Monk Plus thin foam covers because they suit my ears the best.
    EM321.jpg

    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and most can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Tracks used: Gaucho, Sultans of Swing

    1. Reasonable balance with slightly heightened mid-bass and a little accentuation in the upper mid-range
    2. Good detail retrieval, and I didn't find the mid-bass too problematic
    3. Cymbals have good presence and decay – they aren't highlighted though
    4. Guitar can be slightly sharp with the upper-mid boost
    5. Resolution is good without being a detail monster (micro details are still present)
       
    Sound-stage & Imaging (+ Sibilance)
    Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain

    1. Nicely open sounding
    2. Good sense of width and projection is out of head
    3. Sense of depth is a little limited
    4. Imaging is good and overall separation of instruments is much better than the low cost would indicate
    5. Immersion is good (applause section of Dante's Prayer) with impression that crowd is either side of you – but a little lacking in depth though
    6. Sibilance is revealed in “Let It Rain” - but not magnified (surprising for me as normally a peak around 7kHz can trigger some heightened sibilance). The overall holographic nature of the track “Let it Rain” is very well portrayed though – really enjoyable.
       
    Bass Quality and Quantity
    Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals

    1. Mid-bass has very good impact for an ear-bud.
    2. Bass slam is just a little flat and not really boomy at all. No signs of bleed. Into the mid-range.
    3. Good projection of bass timbre and texture (Mark's vocals in “Muddy Waters”). Mark's vocals have great overall presentation, and I really enjoyed the dark and broody nature of this blues track on the EM3.
    4. Enough sub-bass for rumble to be audible, but slightly subdued (“Royals”)
    5. Again good separation between mid-bass thump and vocals (“Royals”). Ella's vocals are very clear and slightly euphonic. Love this tuning with this track.
     
    Female Vocals
    Tracks used : Aventine, Strong, For You, Human, The Bad In Each Other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Don’t Wake me Up, Ship To Wreck.

    1. Excellent transition from lower-mids to upper-mids. Aventine was brilliant and this is often a hard track to get right.
    2. Euphonic presentation with good air and a touch of sweetness to female vocals
    3. Beautiful contrast between vocals and lower pitch of instruments like cello (Aventine)
    4. No signs of stridency, and played all my female vocalists exceptionally well. In a quiet setting I would have no issues listening to the EM3 for hours with my favourite female artists.
    5. Really good contrast with rock tracks (Feist, FaTM) with a bit of bass slam.

    Male Vocals
    Track used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Hotel California, Keith Don’t Go, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.

    1. Again a lot of really good dynamic slam from the bass, and nice contrast with a slightly sharp upper mid-range (providing good presence with lead guitar and with brass instruments)
    2. Male vocals have plenty of body – maybe not as much presence as female vocalists – but not really lacking.
    3. Older rock tracks like 10CC's Art for Art's Sake were exceptional – clear, dynamic, and detailed
    4. Brilliant with acoustic rock too – Hotel California was spacious, clear and the live version was a joy to listen to. I'm enjoying male vocals with the EM3 – good timbre and tone.
    5. Pearl Jam was brilliant – the EM3 portrayed Vedder well. Excellent texture and tonality. Good clarity on cymbals too which are quite prominent with this track.

    Other Genres

    1. the EM3 seems to handle all forms of rock really well, and particularly Alt Rock (Floyd and Porcupine Tree). I think its the combination of tonal balance and clarity.
    2. Really enjoyable with both Blues and Jazz and again I'm struck by the overall balance. The mid-bass could effectively come down the smallest of notches to make it perfect – but there is great detail overall. Sax is really smooth (Portico Quartet), and I'm loving the contrast with double bass and cymbals
    3. Quite good with both Hip-hop and Electronic, and very enjoyable with trance (its not visceral though). Could probably use just a little more impact with these genres, but doesn't sound too thin or anaemic. Lighter electronic (the Flashbulb) was incredibly good.
    4. Pop was good – Adele live at the Albert Hall was pretty epic, and although the mid-range was accentuated a bit, it wasn't overly strident or shouty. Indie was really good. I thought it might come across as a bit bright, but I ended up really enjoying both Band of Horses and Wildlight.
    5. Classical was really good with the EM3 and I really would recommend them. Enough space (width) to really captivate for larger orchestral pieces (a little more depth would have been the icing on the cake). Brilliant with solo cello (Zoe Keating) and thoroughly enjoyed Opera with them also (Netrebko/Garanca). Tonally very easy to listen to while conveying instruments with enough realism to allow you to get lost in the music.
     
    COMPARISONS
    The obvious questions here will be how the EM3 compares to VE's original Monk and Monk Plus (with all 3 sitting nicely in the budget segment). I also added a small section on the Apple Ear-pods, and also FiiO's own earphone which they included with the M3 DAP.

    For the comparisons, all were driven out of the FiiO X11 with E17K. I used the same tracks, and volume matched as well as I could with an SPL meter (difficult due to the shape). These views are incredibly subjective – your own experience may draw different conclusions

    EM3 vs Monk Original
    EM325.jpg

    The original Monk was priced at around USD 5.00, so they are in a similar value segment. If you bought the extension pack with the Monk, you would get copious accessories for a matched price (around USD 10.00) – so on accessories the Monk + Expansion pack wins easily. My advice is to buy a VE expansion pack if you intend to buy the EM3. Both are built well. The Monk's generic housing and sturdier cable do feel a little more robust though. The EM3 has the remote and mic – which for my use cannot be understated. With fit, I do find the slightly flatter generic body of the Monk to fit a little better – although both ultimately are pretty comfortable.
    For the sonic comparison I am using the Monk with full foams, and the EM3 with the light VE foams (both are my own preferences). Both have a similar overall signature in this comparison with a slightly warm full bass, and forward mid-range. The biggest difference is that the Monk actually has more mid-bass and slightly shaper mid-range. It is also more forward sounding – the EM3 just sounds a little more spacious in this configuration. The EM3 is a little flatter and a little brighter sounding overall (less bass emphasis) – and this gives the feeling of a slightly more balanced sound. The funny thing about going back and forth with these two is that it depends on which on you are used to. If you listen to the EM3 for a while and switch to the Monk it does sound overly warm. If you do the opposite, the EM3 sounds overly bright. Both sound pretty balanced when listening to them individually (after your ears adjust).

    EM3 vs Monk Plus
    EM324.jpg

    I won't repeat the comparison on build, fit, accessories etc – as it is essentially the same as the original Monk. Monk Plus does have the translucent housing and is tuned differently to the original Monk. But in most other things they are essentially identical.
     
    Sonically I prefer the Monk Plus with do-nut foams so that is what I sued in the comparison. Again the Monk Plus is warmer and fuller on the bass (particularly mid-bass) although it does lose a little to the better sub-bass extension of the EM3. Monk Plus is also more etched and vivid in the upper mid-range (even more so than the original Monk) and I find it can be a little peaky as times – something I don't find with either the Monk original of EM3. The Monk Plus is a little more V shaped where the EM3 is flatter. Both sound pretty good – and again it is a matter of acclimatising to their individual signatures.

    Note On EM3 in comparison to VE range

    If I was to choose on my own particular preferences – I'd actually probably lean toward EM3 > Monk Original > Monk Plus. Start moving up the chain though with the VE offerings (Asura & Zen) and the EM3 soon gets left behind (not really a fair comparison). What is interesting is that the EM3 with thin foams sounds very similar tonally to the VE Zen 2. It just doesn't have the Zen 2's resolution and depth of stage.

    EM326.jpg

     
    EM3 vs Apple Ear-pods
    EM323.jpg

     
    The Ear-pods from Apple have been my go to for phone calls for the last 2-3 years. In that time I've gone through a couple of pairs (cables eventually failed), but in the time I've had them and for the use they've had, they have been pretty good value. I've used them for music too – and IMO they are undeserving of the bad rap they get. I wear them with Earksinz and foams over the top, and they are comfortable, well balanced and pretty good for purpose. They have the advantage of having controls on cable which I do miss on the EM3. In terms of build quality I'd rate them about even – though I do hope that FiiO's long term cable quality is better than Apple's. In terms of sound the Ear-pods have decent bass response but it is a looser and boomier. The EM3 is smoother and more well balanced (the Ear-pods can get a bit strident and peaky comparatively). The EM3 represent far better value for me overall (cheaper and better sonically).

    EM3 vs Included FiiO buds from the M3
    EM322.jpg

    This is an interesting one. Build quality is practically identical, and the only difference I can see is in the colour -and the fact that while the on cable button works, the microphone doesn't. Sonically (both with light foams from VE) they sound pretty much the same to me. The sense of balance seems the same anyway. If anything the EM3 might be very slightly smoother, and the M3 buds could be a shade brighter – but I'm not sure if that is fit or cover variation, or me imagining things. One thing is for sure – if you like the buds from the M3 – then the EM3 will add a working microphone. And this makes (for me) all the difference for day to day use with my iPhone 5S.

    FiiO EM3 – SUMMARY

    The EM3 at $10.00 represents extremely good value for money in my opinion. It appears to have a good quality build (only time will tell), is comfortable to wear, and fits me pretty well (with appropriate foam covers). Its a little short on accessory options compared to the VE range – but VE is probably an anomaly here and sets the bar higher than most other manufacturers for cover options. To get the most out of the EM3 I recommend also buying a VE expansion pack. It is worth it.

    Sonically the EM3 has a slightly warm low end, and slightly bright upper mid-range, but funnily enough it is less V shaped than the VE Monks and for me (with VE thin foams) is really nicely balanced across the frequency range. The biggest compliment I can give its sonic signature is that it is actually pretty close to what I hear from the VE Zen 2. It just doesn't have the Zen's resolution or sound-stage width and depth.

    For me the real strength of the EM3 (aside from value and sonic ability) is the inclusion of the on cable control and microphone. I've been on the hunt for a replacement for my Ear-pods and the EM3 fills that gap nicely (and cheaper to boot).

    Ultimately personal preference is going to dictate what each individual will like, and choice of covers and anatomy will play a big part. For my preferences I'd rate the EM3 as being equal to both Monk and Monk Plus in ability – and I actually prefer it to both.

    Like the Monk and Monk Plus, it is difficult to know how to score these. They are not perfect, so its hard to justify 5/5 – but then I look at the price, and ask myself again how I could give any other score for something which provides so much sonic ability for so little value. But to be fair, I'm going to give a 4.5 - simply because to get the best out of them I do need to go to alternate cover options, and also because with the shape – having covers slip off is not an infrequent occurrence.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Thanks to Sunny from FiiO for giving me the chance to hear these. I'm suitably impressed, and I've also been surprised how much I use and will continue to use these. You can make a couple of improvements on them though – and I'd be prepared to pay a little more if they were implemented.

    1. Either add a rubberised section around the face so that covers will stay on, or maybe even a lip.
    2. Look at including a few different foam cover types
    3. Volume controls if you come out with a premium EM3 would make these almost perfectly
     
    So are these just about my ultimate smart-phone ear-buds? Yes they go very, very close. The ultimate for me though would still be the VE Zen2 with on-cable microphone and controls. Until then though the EM3 is a worthy budget substitute.
    EM328.jpg
    1. Willber
      Excellent and comprehensive review - thanks.
      Willber, Jul 10, 2016
    2. earfonia
      Nice and comprehensive! 
      I agree to this:
      "The irony here is that really speaking the graphs are going to be meaningless except as a very rough indicator. This is mainly because it is the combination of cover and your own physiology which work together to create a semi-seal. And this can dramatically affect the entire response curve."
      earfonia, Jul 14, 2016
    3. goodyfresh
      Another great review, Paul! :)
      goodyfresh, Jul 15, 2016
  6. Zelda
    REVIEW - Fiio EM3
    Written by Zelda
    Published May 26, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - SQ for the price; very enjoyable presentation; comfort
    REVIEW - Fiio EM3
     
    em33.jpg
     
     
    Fiio is not a company that needs any introduction. Known for its wide and affordable large Amp and DAC line, and well regarded since the release of the first DAP model, the X3 a couple of years ago. Recently the first and low budget oriented earphone, EM3, was released, and it'd be covered in this review.
     
    em31.jpg
     
     
     
    Specifications:
     
    Driver: Dynamic 14.8mm
    Freq. range: 20-20000Hz
    Sensitivity: 109dB
    Impedance: 47Ohm
    Weight: 13.6g
    Cable: 1.2m 
    Plug: 3.5mm, CTIA standard
     
    Price: U$D 15 (MSRP); $10 from Amazon US.
     
    Website:
     
    www.fiio.net
    www.fiio.net/en/products/52 (EM3's page)
     
    em32.jpg
     
     
    Accessories:
     
    3 pairs of foam pads
     
     
    Build & Design:
     
    For the low price the Fiio EM3 is fairly solid, nothing outstanding but feels solid enough for daily use. The shells are all-plastic and well shaped and the angled plug is well relieved. The cable is not too springy, though it carries a strong memory effect and lacks a chin slider (but even if it had, it'd be limited by the mic/control).
    As for the microphone use, it worked fairly well and loud from a Samsung Galaxy and Google Nexus.
     
    em34.jpg
     
     
    Fit & Comfort:
     
    The EM3 shape is quite ergonomic, doesn't have an angle shape, but it is very easy to fit and stays in place, especially with the foam pads on. Well suited for medium to small ear size, though larger ears might find them a bit small. The mic/control is well placed so it doesn't tend to get in the way while moving/walking around.
     
    em35.jpg
     
     
    Sound:
     
    The Fiio EM3 presents an easy-going and fairly well-balanced signature for an entry earbud. It has a friendly slight v-shaped sound that matches its price tag, and not just as a very good replacement or upgrade over any stock earphone included on many portable players or mobile phones, but rather as very good sounding earbud itself.
     
    The bass of the EM3 is very easy to like, it is fairly well weighted and full in body and remains under control without any overemphasizing the mid-bass frequencies. The low end of the EM3 is a bit thicker than the old Ubiquo ES703 but maintains a soft character when compared to higher priced sets such as the VE Asura. The EM3 is a bit more extended and has a smaller mid-bass hump than the VE Monk, resulting in a thinner bass presentation. Depth is a very positive trait and layering is above average. Overall it is a fairly present and yet relaxed bass response with a nice 'fun' factor.
     
    The midrange of the EM3 is warm and a bit distant as the usual v-shaped response. Despite the limited mid-bass intensity the midrange is still full and well rounded from low to upper regions. Bass bleed is minimal. While vocals quality and texture can't match the full and sweeter ES903 with its more midrange focus, it's better and more competent than the ES703, and less dry than the Monk. There's still some amount of grain at the upper mids, which make the EM3 somehow uneven and less realistic. The clarity and resolution are very good, but the EM3 is not very forward when presenting micro details. It's better suited for pop, rock or metal genres than classical or jazz recordings.
     
    At the top end there is a fair amount of treble energy but nothing harsh or aggressive at moderate volumes. The treble is sparkly and lively enough but limited in extension, though nothing wrong for a budget oriented and more laid back earphone. On the whole, it is still more focused towards the low end with surprisingly overall detail is good. Soundstage width is decent, and the v-shaped signature tends to give a more spacious impression. Being slightly less dark than the Monk, the EM3 also seems to have more air and manages to sound less closed.
     
    EM3 vs. VE Monk:
     
    The most obvious question that anyone should be asking is, how the low priced Fiio EM3 fairs against a favorite bang-for-back as the VE Monk. Well, they have both the Pros and Cons but compare pretty well to each other. The Monk is noticeably better built with a tougher shell and thicker, though less behaved yet tangle-free, cable. On the hand, the EM3 wins in terms of comfort and fit, and it also includes a control for mobile devices. Lastly, in SQ score they very similar but different in signature and presentation. The EM3 is sounds more v-shaped with a deeper sub-bass and softer mid-bass. Mids are sound more distant but carry a bit more sparkle on the treble, with slightly more extension. The Monk is more mid-bass and midrange focused with more laid back highs, but still sounds bigger and more forward next to the EM3. Also, the EM3 might sound a bit more spacious, but the Monk is more natural. In the end, it's a matter of taste, but for their low price they're more than worth their little money.
    Personally, while I could prefer the VE option, I still find the EM3 compares well to the (once owned) old Yuin PK3 and a total upgrade over the Sennheiser MX471/581.
     
     
    Conclusion & Value:
     
    All-in-all, Fiio's first earbud try is a good contender and all-rounder option in pretty every aspect. Build is fine and it is very comfortable. And most importantly, the sound is very enjoyable and of very good quality making it a great value earphone.
     
    Many thanks to Fiio for the review unit.
  7. ezekiel77
    FiiO EM3: The Reign of the Ultrabudget (plus Budget Shootout with some KZs)
    Written by ezekiel77
    Published May 22, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Balanced tuning, full luscious mids, good treble, wide soundstage, comfort, outstanding value.
    Cons - Foams muffle sound drastically, bass quantity, uninspiring design, tangly cables.
    Introduction
    Of course you’ve heard of FiiO. Nearly every audiophile I know who works their way up the chain has owned or heard a FiiO product before. They are the cherry-poppers of head-fi, luring you into giddy audio goodness with promises of “value for money” and “price-performance ratio”. I had my cellphone, and then my cherry was popped with the X3. Good DAP, fond memories… you never forget your first one. Now FiiO is branching out to new terrain with the EM3 earbuds, with a jaw-dropping price tag. The EM3 was provided as a sample to me in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Sunny of FiiO for the opportunity.

    Equipment Used:
    Astell & Kern AK100ii
    Chord Mojo
    FiiO EM3
    KZ ED3c “The Acme”
    KZ ED9
     
    Albums Listened:
    Amber Rubarth – Scribbled Folk Symphonies
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    Jacky Cheung – Black and White
    Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
     
     

     
     

    Packaging and Accessories
    Straightforward and simple. FiiO EM3 comes in an attractive little rectangular white box. Slide it out to reveal the earbuds, 3 pairs of foam covers and a manual. Bare bones, but on par with $10 KZ earphones (also a box with some tips). Would have preferred a case or even a small pouch, but alright I’ll get my own. Pfft.

    Design, Build Quality and Cables
    “You can have any colour as long as it's black.” They have a low-profile, understated elegance about them. Matte and glossy plastic make up most of the earpieces, easily the best-looking part of the buds. The Y-split, microphone and jack look generic, with no signs of FiiO branding anywhere. Not one to show off to your friends then. The cables tangle easily, and the thinner cables above the Y-split kinks after some use. Not sure how it will affect longevity, but build quality does not inspire confidence. Positives? Unlike Apple earbuds, they won’t turn grey after prolonged use.

    Fit, Isolation and Comfort
    These are my first earbuds since throwing away the Apple ones nearly 5 years ago. Wearing the EM3 for the first time my mind raced like Doge. Much comfort. So lightweight. Very like. Wow. No wonder an earbud revival has been going on. These feel like nothing in your ears and I can go about my housework while wearing them. Unless you are an actress in a shampoo commercial, they will stay put in your ears. Isolation is not an issue with earbuds because there isn’t any. But marks won’t be deducted of course, same way you can’t ask a cat to bark. Meowarf.

     
    IMG_20160520_183819.jpg


    Overall Signature
    The EM3 has a neutral and balanced signature. The overall presentation is forward, with a wide soundstage but very little depth. The mids have a slight lift for more tonal body and luscious vocals. The lower treble is also boosted for clarity and excitement. Positioned as an all-rounder, for long pleasurable sessions. That’s what she said. The following impressions are made with the foam covers off. Absolutely leave the foam covers in the box. EM3 works best au naturel. When worn nude the mids are nice and centre, treble is light and airy, and well, the bass, uh, does its job. With the foamies, everything is muffled and the sound is sluggish and boring, a literal veil across the audio spectrum. Our opinions might differ depending on foams on/off but to me foams on was unlistenable.

    Bass
    Going in I knew the bass couldn’t go toe-to-toe with IEMs. Earbuds are fundamentally different after all. But I was surprised to hear a good quantity of bass for earbuds (the only point of reference I had were Apple earbuds after all). Quick and smooth, they have good detail and layering, but definitely not for bassheads. The bass slam is heard but not felt at all, and decay seems rushed. Not too fun, but in return, no bass bleed. In Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder”, the bass sounds flatter compared to the dynamism and immersion I was used to. I can even say the bass takes a backseat compared to the mids and treble. Subbass is soft and gentle, you feel it just a bit, like Antman’s role in the Avengers. Doesn’t make a true impact, but at least you can tell if he’s gone.

    Mids
    Well-done mids are gorgeous. In ballads, acoustically-driven tracks or anything with vocal emphasis, they shine. Upper and lower mids are smooth and emotive, with a natural timbre. Vocals male and female are sublime. Jacky Cheung, a veteran balladeer from Hong Kong (whose fanbase consists mostly of 30-something Asian dudes like me) sounded so real he gave me manly, mustachioed chills. Amber Rubarth sounds rich and welcoming. Pianos, violins and guitars sound full and luscious. Details lack ever-so-slightly in service of smoothness however, but the tuning in the mids itself is already worth the price of admission. Like a softened photograph, charmingly inoffensive but calming and soothing. Well done, mids are gorgeous!

    Treble
    FiiO could have gone for a safe, all-too-accessible tuning and smoothed out their treble so everyone would go home happy with an inoffensive sound. But us sparkle-seekers, we have needs too, and I’m glad FiiO didn’t ignore us. This all-rounder has quite the treble! Thanks to its thin notes, clarity and articulation of individual notes are very good. The thin notes also lend airiness into the sound, but can contrast with the full mids sometimes. There is quite some sparkle and shimmer, which can get tizzy and hot, but only rarely. The treble brings some urgency and excitement, Fleetwood Mac’s “Secondhand News” sounded very sprightly. The tuning is likeable, but will turn some treble-sensitive listeners off, you do have the foams to augment the sound though. I wouldn’t, but you already know that.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    Earbuds have a wide soundstage built-in. Me likey. Largely aided by the prominent treble, the soundstage is left-to-right spacious, think GR07 wide and you’re not far off. The forwardness of the signature means the sound is in-your-head, par for the course in budget-fi. Notes vary from the thinner bass and treble versus the fuller mids. This might take some getting used to, but the good news is the EM3 rarely sounds congested or slow. Imaging is decidedly 2D, with good space and definition in instruments from left to right, and that’s it. No depth nor height to speak of to my ears. All in all satisfyingly wide, but no miracles.
     
     
    IMG_20160523_084730.jpg
     

    Comparisons (aka the ultrabudget-fi shootout):
    KZ ED3c “The Acme”
    The Acme is, to me, the perfect execution of $10 earphones. A small soundstage, but the tonality, balance and tuning is spot-on. Bass has tons more quantity than the EM3, boosted to super fun (too fun?) levels, and the subbass rumble really makes its presence felt. There’s quite some bass bleed to the mids, but it’s much too addictive for me to defend it. The mids are forward too, and despite the bass bleed carves out a prominent sound of its own. Notes are slightly thinner and not as euphonic as the magical mids of the EM3, but I would never call the Acme “V-shaped”. On its own it’s pretty good, but the EM3 really showed how much better budget-fi mids can be. The treble is thicker but harsher than the EM3. Decay is slower, so the hotness can get out of line sometimes. The boomy bass takes some weight off the treble, and it’s a balancing act which succeeds for the most part. For soundstage, the Acme is no match for the airy and wide EM3. The fullness of the Acme’s entire spectrum congests things. Overall though, both are well-balanced IEMs and I’m happy with either. EM3 is obviously more proficient with mids and soundstage, but the Acme’s bass, balance and fun factor shows them a thing or two.

    KZ ED9 (Gold nozzle)
    For comparison, ED9 takes the Acme sound and attempts to make it airier. The result is a lift in the mids and lower treble, a decrease in the midbass hump, thinner notation overall for a more spacious presentation. It largely succeeds but a few sacrifices were evident. Against both the EM3 and Acme, ED9 sounds like the over-caffeinated one. Very exciting but with a hot treble that’s too fatiguing for long sessions. EM3’s treble sounds subdued next to it. The ED9 mids suffer the most, sounding unnatural because of the emphasis in the upper mids. They tend to sound hollowed out and lacking body, not a match for either the EM3 or Acme by a long shot. The bass though, strikes a perfect balance between the flat EM3 and aggressive ED3c and comes out on top. No bass bleed to speak of. The separation and imaging is the best of the bunch due to the thin notes and fairly wide stage. The stage size is nearly as wide as the EM3 and slightly deeper. Think of the ED9 gold nozzle as the middle road between Acme’s tonality and EM3’s airiness, but the mids do take a big knock.

    These are my impressions for the mini ultrabudget-fi shootout. They cost less than $15 apiece so all offer tremendous value. The ED9 even comes with tunable nozzles for two distinct signatures! My mind boggles at how that was accomplished.

    Bass: ED9 > ED3c > EM3
    Mids: EM3 > ED3c > ED9
    Treble: ED3c = EM3 > ED9
    Soundstage: EM3 = ED9 > ED3c
    Separation/imaging: ED9 > EM3 >ED3c
    Balance/tuning: ED3C > EM3 > ED9
    Overall: EM3 > ED3c = ED9
     
     
    IMG_20160523_082230.jpg
     

    Conclusion
    The earbud revolution is ongoing, arguably kickstarted by the $5 VE Monk, followed by a host of challengers, pretenders and usurpers. I’m glad to have tried the EM3 for perspective, to be able to see how far they have come along since the days of stock Apple earbuds. The EM3 is a wonderful pair of earbuds with fantastic mids, good treble, and a wide stage. For my taste if the bass quantity is increased slightly they’d be perfect. But there’s no doubting that for the astonishing price tag they are well, well worth your money. Aw heck, get all three pairs from the shootout, with spares too! The <$15 segment has never been more varied or exciting, and the EM3 is one of the ultrabudget earbuds you should give more than a second look.
      Wokei and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. Wokei
      good review bro...enjoy it
      Wokei, May 23, 2016
    2. egosumlux
      Very nice review Kudos my friend!!!
      egosumlux, May 23, 2016
    3. ezekiel77
      Thanks dudes.
      ezekiel77, May 26, 2016
  8. jules64
    OK BUT NOT GREAT
    Written by jules64
    Published May 22, 2016
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Comfortable, clear sound
    Cons - Poor mic, loose fitting, foams make muddy, no discernible bass for classical
    While these are good, they are not much better than many others available out there. I tried and returned, the lack of bass was just to annoying. Not enough sub-bass for classical without amping. Honestly, I retried my Philips SHE2005s and found them as good across the spectrum of ranges and sound, and the bass noticeably superior. Also warm without being muddy.I wear the the Philips with no foam and they fit well, the EM3 was loose fitting. Yes slightly louder thanks to the 47 Ohm rating, but overall not a reason to keep. So I don't get the hype on these. They are good, just not good enough.
  9. Niyologist
    Fiio EM3: The Budget Tier's Delight.
    Written by Niyologist
    Published May 11, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Deep and Punchy Bass. Smooth, Clear and Full Bodied Sound. Wide and Airy Soundstage. Nice Comfort. Excellent Build Quality. Great In-line Remote/Mic.
    Cons - Shallow Stage Depth. Veiled Midrange. Below Average Noise Isolation.
    INTRODUCTION
     
    Over a month ago, I became curious about the Fiio EM3 because of the great feedback it was getting. So there was a review sign up for the EM3 and I decided to get involved to give my feedback on the Fiio EM3. Thank you Sunny from Fiio for making it possible me to obtain the review unit for my feedback. 
     
    Once I got the Fiio EM3, I used my Xuelin 770C w/the Topping NX2 amp to audition it for a few hours. Then I memorized the initial sound quality. Afterward I had the Fiio EM3 burn in for over 50 hours through my PC. The Fiio EM3 sounded a bit claustrophobic at first. Then it really opened up after 50 hours. The bass was very dominant too, but then it settled down quite a bit. Making the rest of the frequency sound clearer. I will get into that more soon, but first I need to talk about the build quality. 
     
    ABOUT FIIO: 
     
    For over nine years. Fiio has provided great customer service and excellent audio items at an affordable price. Their most quality items mostly come from their line of DAPs, Amps and DACs. Recently they have dabbled in the line of IEMs and Ear buds. Their latest Ear bud is the Fiio EM3. 
     
     
     
    DESIGN/BUILD QUALITY 
     
    I must admit. Pretty impressive. I have owned a few earbuds in the past. The JVC Gummies, Sony MDR Earbuds and Sansa Fuze Earbuds. Their sturdiness pales in-comparison to the EM3. The cables are thicker and the strain reliefs are thick and more flexible. So basically I'm not concerned about using them on a daily basis. The Fiio EM3 also has an In-Line Remote and Mic on the left cord above the Y-Split cables. Due to that placement, it will be very easily to know which is the left side or the right side. The earbuds also have a L or R marking engraved on the bottom of each earbud. The a distinct bump on the left side and right side of the earbuds that's placed just below the L and R engraved markings. The earbuds are arched at a 100 degree angle for maximum comfort and better fit. The jack is a 3.5mm Gold Plated Stereo Jack and the cable is made out of TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) for enhanced durability. 
     
    FIIO EM3 ON THE AURAL LIFE EARPHONE STAND
    P_20160511_182032.jpg
     
    LEFT EAR BUD
    P_20160511_182248.jpg
     
    RIGHT EAR BUD
    P_20160511_182258.jpg
     
     
    IN-LINE REMOTE AND MIC W/GOLD PLATED 3.5MM STEREO JACK 
    P_20160511_182943.jpg
     
    P_20160511_182952.jpg
     
     
    FIIO EM3 PACKAGING 
    P_20160511_185430.jpg
     
    P_20160511_185558.jpg
     
    FIIO EM3 MANUAL
    P_20160511_185650.jpg
     
    FIIO EM3 ACCESSORIES
    P_20160511_185746.jpg
     
     
     
     
    NOISE ISOLATION
     
    Obviously not that great. The EM3 are earbuds, so they do not block out external sound away from your ear canals. So do not push the volume too high for the EM3. The SPL is at Rock Concert Levels (109 dB). Speaking of which.
     
    SPECIFICATION
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The Fiio EM3 has a large 14.8mm Dynamic Driver. Comes with extra foam ear pads and along with a very responsive In-line remote and mic. I used the In-line remote on the ASUS ZenFone 2 with Poweramp and it came in handy. I pressed it three times for previous track. Two times for next track and one time for pause or play. The mic is very good as well. I pressed the button once for beginning or ending a call and my voice was heard pretty well through the mic. The impedance is 47 ohms. For my ASUS ZenFone 2, that really wasn't much of an issue. It was still able to drive it. Although at times I desired more volume, so I used my Topping NX2 for better results. Otherwise the ASUS ZenFone 2 has a sufficient amount of power for the EM3.  
     
    COMFORT
     
    The comfort is excellent. Just as good as the Titan 1 and it sits firmly against my ear canal. Sometimes I don't even notice that it's there. Thanks to the foam ear pads. 
     
    SET-UP USED
     
    Initial: Xuelin 770C>Topping NX2>Fiio EM3
    Afterward 50 hours of burn in: Xuelin 770C or ASUS ZenFone 2 w/Poweramp>Topping NX2>Fiio EM3 NO EQUALIZER USED.
     
    SOUND QUALITY: 
     
    Bass: It has very good extension. The bass can often go deep in the sub bass region and doesn't sound muddled or distorted in anyway. The impact is strong with music that requires strong bass slam. Otherwise it's controlled and has a good amount of rumble. 
     
    Mids: The mids are clear, but most of the time it sounds like there's a layer of fog in front of the vocals and instruments. The details in the mids didn't take too much damage from the veiled mids. Whenever I listen to The Rippingtons, I can hear the natural tone of the guitars and saxophones very well. Towards the upper mids, there is no sibilance to be found. It's mostly like due to the warm nature of the airiness and the relaxed demeanor of the midrange.
     
    Treble: This region is fairly smooth and extended. Like the mids, it's not peaky nor is it sibilant. It also sounds a bit dull, but it gets the job done. The rendering of detail is rather nice. Not overly impressive though. It's just above the $20 price tag. 
     
    SOUNDSTAGE
    It's quite wide and large. The airiness makes the EM3 feel roomy and the movement of airflow can be quite dynamic. The depth is quite limited though. Making the sound presentation 2D-ish (2.5D) and intimate.  
     
    ACCURACY
    Due to the slightly thick warmth of the sound and the shallow stage depth. The accuracy is good, but not mind blowing. Fast paced music is sluggish with transitioning at different positions throughout the stage. Otherwise it's acceptable. 
     
    CONCLUSION:
    Once again Fiio proved that you can get premium quality for an affordable price. The EM3's nature of smooth and full bodied sound can be complimented well both my 770C and ZenFone 2. The comfort is quite good, yet the noise isolation can be troublesome in noisy environments. The stage depth is very close and upfront and the mids are veiled. Besides all of that, the Fiio EM3 is quite the budget tier performer and should not disappoint for bassheads. Those that are into heavy treble or demand for better noise isolation may not enjoy this. Otherwise for $15, it's hard to complain with what the Fiio EM3 is capable of. 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    1. seanwee
      Nice writeup!!!
      seanwee, May 12, 2016
    2. Niyologist
      Thanks seanwee. I really enjoyed using the Fiio EM3.
      Niyologist, May 12, 2016
  10. twister6
    Budget earbuds to consider!
    Written by twister6
    Published May 4, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - slim comfortable design, neutral signature with a smooth warm tonality, in-line remote/mic, budget price.
    Cons - intermittent driver flex (could be just my pair), lack of isolation (typical for earbuds).

    I would like to Thank FiiO for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    Manufacturer link: http://fiio.net/en/products/52, also available on Amazon.
     
    * click on pictures to expand

     
    I've never been a fan of earbuds for two simple reasons - most of them don't fit me well and many I tried have a sub-par sound quality.  There is nothing I can do about the fit (it's my ear anatomy), and as a result of the fit - the sound quality is often compromised due to lack of seal.  Thus I try to stay away from earbuds all together, but recently made an exception when I discovered VE Monk and Zen.  Those restored my faith in earbuds sound quality, though don't have the most ideal design, just like majority of other common earbuds.
     
    When FiiO announced EM3, right away I had a deja vu moment since I recently reviewed their M3 budget audio player which came bundled with a pair of an identically looking earbuds, down to in-line remote/mic, though in a white color.  Before I received my review pair of EM3, I revisited M3 earbuds just to refresh my mind, and was pleased to reconfirm their comfortable fit.  Now I just had to wait for EM3 to arrive so I can hear how they sound.
     
    Unboxing and accessories.
     
    Consistent with all of their releases, regardless if it's a flagship or an entry level, these sub $15 budget earbuds arrived in a nice sturdy packaging box with a clear picture of EM3 on the cover and a detailed spec on the back.  I'm sure without the box or maybe using clamshell sealed plastic packaging, price could have been easily under $10, but FiiO likes to keep a consistent image across their product line without cutting the corners.
     
    With a top cover off, unboxing continuous with a nice presentation of EM3 under a frosted cover and a small accessories box with 3 pairs of foam ear sleeves, the only included accessory.  I didn't expect anything more or less considering budget price, and as a matter of fact I personally would have been OK with just a plain plastic packaging to bring down the price even lower for a more shocking price/performance ratio.  Just my personal opinion.
     
    fiio_em3-01_zpslacjafax.jpg   fiio_em3-02_zpsejk7hro3.jpg
    fiio_em3-03_zpss92bdp7n.jpg   fiio_em3-04_zpst7n87yl5.jpg
    fiio_em3-05_zpsdamz3aqa.jpg   fiio_em3-06_zpsqp4qvlcz.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    Starting with a headphone gold-plated jack, I'm glad they decided to implement L-shaped type.  It's so much easier to deal with, especially when you have a smartphone or a DAP with a headphone jack at the bottom, meaning less wire bending.  The housing of the jack has a nice rubbery grip and a decent strain relief.  The cable is thin but strong, with a nice rubbery shielding.  Y-split is small and rubbery as well, but lacks strain relief.
     
    The left side of the cable after the split has in-line remote with a mic.  It's universal with just a single multi-function button, making it independent of Android and iOS different volume control implementation.  Here you have a standard single click Play/Pause which also controls picking up the phone call, double click to skip to the next track and triple click to go back to the previous track.  I verified it with both my Note 4 and my kids iPod touch, and everything works as expected though triple-click worked more consistently with iPod rather than Note 4.  Play/pause is also compatible with video playback apps, including YT, as well as FiiO DAPs which support it.
     
    Going up to earpieces, you have a traditional plastic neck/tube which blends into the shell and usually functions as a handle to assist in insertion/removal of earbuds due to their small earpiece.  You will also find a small rubbery strain relief in there, and each side is marked with corresponding L/R designator.  This marking is very hard to see since it's stamped into the black plastic, rather than painted, and even the right side ID bump is hardly noticeable when you touch it for blind id.  In this case I'm just using in-line remote as a designator since it's located on the left side.  Perhaps making ID bump more noticeable would be a good idea.
     
    The shell design actually looks pretty cool with some sexy slim lines, definitely not like standard earbuds.  I see there is a pinhole on the inner side and another vent on the top of the shell.  FiiO calls these earbuds "open", and these vents should be contributing to both low end control and soundstage expansion.  One thing I also assumed is that vents should take care of driver flex.  Unlike some other earbuds with a plastic driver cover, here you have a metal mesh.  Metal mesh by itself is more prone to flex, and coincidentally after awhile I started to notice an intermittent driver flex in my right earpiece.  Sometime I have to push it into my ear a few times until I hear the pop which fixes the channel imbalance due to flex.  Coincidentally, I still have an old pair of original iPod touch earbuds that have the same metal mesh cover and they have a similar driver flex which causes intermittent imbalance.
     
    Last, but not least, is a very important part of the design - the fit.  Here, I happy to say that EM3 is just perfect!!!  I wasn't born with ears intended for a traditional earbuds fit, but the slim design of EM3 fits them like a glove.  There is no need for any foam sleeves or sports fins - the fit was comfortable and it stayed secure in my ears.
     
    fiio_em3-07_zpsvypo3cpv.jpg   fiio_em3-08_zps0cblcxvy.jpg
    fiio_em3-09_zps2x3ztyw0.jpg   fiio_em3-10_zpsgwvif3wo.jpg
    fiio_em3-11_zpspyyaqv2t.jpg   fiio_em3-12_zpsiucafffv.jpg
    fiio_em3-13_zps5dpipris.jpg   fiio_em3-14_zpsxnb9xkcr.jpg
    fiio_em3-15_zpsgstfssdo.jpg   fiio_em3-16_zpsh6h1clfv.jpg
     
    The fit.
     
    fiio_em3-19_zpsoai68fm0.jpg
     
    Sound analysis.
     
    As I mentioned before, I'm a bit skeptical about earbuds sound quality, and part of it has to do with a poor fit where I can't get a good seal and end up with a lack of bass.  With EM3 slim design, this is no longer a problem because they go deeper into my ears and form an acceptable seal with ear canal.  I found no need to use foam sleeves, and as a matter of fact they muffle the sound.  Also, I did put these earbuds through about 50hrs of burn in to exercise its dynamic drivers.
     
    After the burn in, I hear a warm, thicker sound, with a good amount of sub-bass rumble and a nice mid-bass impact.  Not the most articulate bass, definitely on a looser side, but I was happy to hear a bass coming out of earbuds!  Lower mids have fuller body which along with more bass makes sound a little more congested but not muddy, and upper mids are clear and smooth, making vocals sound natural and very pleasant.  Treble is clear and well defined, though not crisp, lacking some airiness, and not as extended.
     
    Soundstage is above the average in width and only average in depth and height, making sound presentation more intimate.  But overall sound is open and wide, just keep in mind they have next to nothing isolation and a little bit of sound leakage - typical for earbuds.  While some might consider it as negative, this is one of the benefits of earbuds where you can hear music while still being aware of your surrounding.
     
    I was a bit worried about EM3 spec and their 47 ohm impedance, and I did notice it required a few extra clicks of volume in comparison to other IEMs, but it wasn't too bad and I had plenty of volume adjustment headroom with my Note 4.  Obviously, no issues with any of the DAPs.  In terms of pair up, EM3 sound signature has better synergy with neutral and brighter sources, while my "darker" laptop output made sound a bit more congested.
     
    Comparison to other earbuds.
     
    I don't have too many earbuds for comparison, but very fond of VE Monk and Zen, where it obviously makes more sense to compare with a budget Monk.  Also, I still have an old iPod earbuds, and I thought to add FiiO's M3 earbuds for comparison would make sense as well.
     
    In comparison, FiiO earbuds included w/M3 sound warmer, have narrower (in width) soundstage, a touch less treble, but otherwise they are very similar, including an identical design with in-line remote, just in white.  Also, due to impedance difference, M3 requires lower volume setting in comparison to EM3 when playing from the same source.
     
    fiio_m3-04_zpsnjmsudvx.jpg   fiio_em3-22_zpsaefqv3il.jpg
     
    In comparison, Monk sound is more transparent, cleaner, has less sub-bass (due to seal because of a slightly large shell) but still a fast punchy mid-bass without any spillage into lower mids, lower mids are leaner, upper mids are as smooth and more detailed with natural delivery of vocals, treble is clear with a little more sparkle, a little better definition, and slightly more airiness. Soundstage is as wide, but also taller and deeper than EM3.
     
    fiio_em3-17_zpspzyiefud.jpg   fiio_em3-18_zpsfbno4hkt.jpg
     
    In comparison, Apple iPod earphones soundstage is narrower, bass is not as tight, sound is not as detailed, and overall I hear it being more congested.  EM3 really steps it up in a comparison, opening up the soundstage, having more punch in the bass, better retrieval of details in mids, and more definition in treble.  I can't compare new earpods because they don't fit me well.
     
    fiio_em3-20_zpsglxyxe6e.jpg   fiio_em3-21_zpskuimb0aw.jpg
     
    Conclusion.
     
    I'm definitely warming up to earbuds, but only consider them for convenience rather than long term use.  I still prefer IEMs due to their better seal, more secure fit, and higher res sound.  But earbuds are very convenient when you are in a situation where you want to listen to music or to pick up a call and need to be aware of your surrounding environment.  Having a good sound quality is just a bonus, and when you factor in a budget price, now you are also talking about price/performance ratio where FiiO EM3 definitely scores high!  I do have to be honest, $5 VE Monk Plus is still hard to beat, especially in sound quality, but EM3 offers a damn good alternative with an addition of in-line remote/mic and a slimmer more comfortable design.  As a matter of fact, I would recommend to get both!
      Hisoundfi likes this.