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Review: Cardas Ear Speakers EM5813 Model 1

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  1. notaris
    Review: Cardas Ear Speakers EM5813 Model 1
    Top tier!

     

    Introduction
     
    It is quite possible that the name Cardas is not recognizable by people interested in earphones, and not without a reason. The Oregon based manufacturer is known for a number of high-end audio products, in particular, for cables of all kinds, but not for earphones. This was the case until recently, when the Company presented its first earphone, or better ear speakers, model: The EM5813 Model 1.
     
    Without listening to EM5813, you realize that it is a high quality product, by just looking at it. The housing, the eartips, the cable, and as one suspects, the driver, all are top-notch. Of course, this is not by accident, as George Cardas, the owner of the firm, did not follow the pattern of other well-known manufacturers: Buy a good OEM product, make some cosmetic changes, and market it as your own. Instead, he decided to completely design EM5813 from scratch, and “completely” is the critical word here, as George Cardas was personally involved in almost every aspect of EM5813.
     
    em5813.png

     
    General description

    The earphones housings are made of solid brass and polished to a beautiful shiny finish. They feature firing vents, and they feel quite heavy, which is obviously due to their thick walls, and they are probably designed that way in order to provide a rigid “home” for the drivers. The latter are of dynamic type, and quite big, 11.45mm; this allows them to sport strong neodymium magnets, with diaphragms made of a thin-film material by the exotic name of “polyethylene napthalate”. So, George Cardas did not follow the trend of many other nanufacturers, who use a multi-driver design, but chose instead to use a single driver which reproduces the whole acoustic spectrum, thus avoiding communication problems between the different drivers.
     
    41srEge7oYL.jpg
     
    [​IMG]
    In the description of EM5813, it is written that “the EM5813 mirrors the human cochlea and tympanic membrane”, and also that “the hearing system, musical chords, and these Ear Speakers are reflections of the Golden Ratio”, which is not quite understandable, although this “Golden Ratio” feature is underlying many other Cardas designs. Also, not clear is where the EM5813 are made, as the parts are coming from many places around the world. Here is what is written: “Components of the E5813 were manufactured in Oregon, California, and The People’s Republic of China. Custom alloys were sourced from Italy, Germany, and the U.S., magnets from China, and thin film from Japan”,  while some of the assembly work was done in the US and the main one in China. So, a truly international product!
     
    What is certain is that George Cardas paid attention to every little detail and for that reason it took him years to develop the EM5813. It is quite impressive that he intervened in the internal part of the drivers: Certain parts are made of special alloys, in an attempt to better control the magnetic fields in them. And the EM5813 are supplied with special eartips: They are dual-flange eartips with thin walls offered in two forms, vented (of blue color) and non-vented (of white color). Clearly, nothing was left to chance.
     
    51i7BCKt4oL._SL1270_.jpg
     
    [​IMG]
    A special mention should be made for the eartips. As there was written in the previous paragraph, they come in two forms vented (blue) and non-vented (white), which has to do with the EM5813 performance (more on that later). On top of it, both sets come in one size, apparently, in an attempt to apply the “one-size-fits-all” principle. Now, althought this one size might fit most listeners, it certainly does not fit all. So, it is probably a good idea that in the future Cardas supplies EM5813 with the usual three size eartips (S, M, and L) in both the vented (blue) and non-vented (white) forms (see the note in the accessories and fit section).

    One thing that should be added is that the accessories provided with the EM5813 are rather minimal (more on that in the accessories and fit section).

     

    Sound quality

    The first thing one would notice with the EM5813 is that a maker can design a great sounding set of earphones by using either dynamic or balance armature drivers. Undoubtedly, these two kinds of drivers have different characters, and it could very well be the case that certain listeners prefer one over the other, but the real truth is that each kind has given us great sets of earphones. One such example is the EM5813 which uses a single dynamic driver.

    Of course, as it was mentioned above, George Cardas did two things: First of all, he custom designed the drivers, paying attention to every little detail, instead of using some OEM ones. Furthermore, he chose to use a single, instead of a multi, driver design, thus avoiding the usual coherence problems among different drivers. As a result, the EM5813 sound shows amazing integrity.

    However, in order to enjoy the EM5813 finesse one has to have a proper fit, and this could be a little (or more than a little) tricky. As there was written above, Cardas did a very honest attempt to apply the “one-size-fits-all” principle, but, unfortunately, this does not work with all listeners, so one might find himself to try a bit (or a little more) in order to achieve a proper sealing. This is maybe the most important issue with the EM5813.

    Once the earphones are “in place”, then their sound is very alive and musical, compared with some other sets whose sound is reference like but rather sterile. If I am allowed to give you an analogy in loudspeakers, it is the difference that one experiences between a good quality pair of speakers and some nearfield monitors. Of course, don’t get me wrong: EM5813 gives you plenty of details and in a very accurate way. However, it does not sacrifice naturalness for excessive accuracy. In other words, if you are looking for simply the most detailed and accurate earphones on earth, then EM5813 is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want a set that brings you the liveness of music, then EM5813 will leave you completely satisfied. The only other, small, drawback that I could add is some roll off at the top end of the high frequencies.

    Another important question is, how tonally balanced is the EM5813? This is a bit trickier than the resolution and clarity issues, as it is more dependent on proper fit. Assuming that one has achieved the latter, then, with the vented (blue) eartips, I did detect some, although not dramatic, mid forwardness, which is after all not that bad as the mid frequencies is where the most of the music lives. On top of it, I have spotted some touch of bass. Maybe all this makes EM5813 so alive and musical. If you want to avoid this extra touch of bass, then you just have to replace the vented (blue) eartips with the non-vented (white) ones, in which case you also get a more airy and (an impression of) a bit less accurate presentation. Nonetheless, choosing between the two kinds of eartips is a matter of personal preference. I personally prefer the non-vented (white) ones, with which I find EM5813 to be more fun.

    Take, as an example, the “Rhee Waahnee” of B. Dillard, by The Red Norvo Quintet, from the album The Forward Look, RR-8, which has been recorded live in 1957 and combines the Red Norvo vibes with the guitar, reeds, bass and drums of the other four members of the group. This is a piece with a number of fast passages which the EM5813 handled with extreme speed and precision. When the vented (blue) eartips were on, the presentation seemed a bit bassier and slightly better controlled; while, with the non-vented (white) eartips, one would get an airier and a bit less accurate presentation. The same was the case with “O Vazio” of Jim Brock & Doug Hawthorne, by the Jim Brock Ensemble, from the album Tropic Affair, RR-31. With the vented (blue) eartips on, the presentation had a touch of bass and it was more taut; while, with the non-vented (white) eartips, the presentation had more air, was more pleasant and it gave the impression that there was closer to reality. Go now to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dance #3” from Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, by Eiji Que / Minnesota Orchestra, RR-96 HDCD. The EM5813 gives you a very lively presentation, and, if you close your eyes, it almost makes you believe that you are in the auditorium, listening to the orchestra. Here, the tightness and the little extra bass of the vented (blue) eartips is exactly what you need, as it gives you the precision that this piece requires; on the other hand, the non-vented (white) eartips continues to have a shiny performance, which is maybe not what one desires, as it takes away some of the power of this complex piece. Although, in general, my personal preference is the non-vented (white) eartips, here, I kept having the vented (blue) ones in my ears, and this made me enjoy the Rachmaninoff masterpiece so much that I did not want it to finish.  Finally, in a vocal piece, such as the classical Sade song “Soldier of Love”, from the album Lovers Rock, Epic Records, I have to admit that the vented (blue) eartips gave a more accurate and revealing presentation grabing more adequately all the essense of this beautiful song.

     

    Comparison results  

    One of the premium earphone sets, of a few years ago, was the Klipsch Image X10,  so I thought that it would be rather interesting to compare EM5813 to this model. Please note that the EM5813 MSRP is €425.00, while the X10 MSRP, when offered, was around $350.00.

    ·     The X10 is nice looking, while the EM5813 is superb looking. Furthermore, where the X10 does not seem to have “much beef” in it and to be rather delicate, the EM5813 is a very robust construction, which a lot of listeners would truly appreciate in the long run.

    ·     The X10 has very good frequency extremes, although the EM5813 is not far behind it.

    ·      X10 is known for its very good resolution, eventhough EM5813 is as revealing.

    ·     Both X10 and EM5813 have top clarity.

    ·     X10 is quite neutral and warm; EM5813, on the other hand, with the non-vented (white) eartips appears to be (balance wise) less accurate than the X10. Changing to the vented (blue) eartips, EM5813 certainly becomes more accurate, but with an slight inclination towards the bass side.

    ·     Musically, EM5813 has an edge over the X10; the former gives a much more alive presentation that will leave the majority of listeners more satisfied.

    ·     EM5813  is more dynamic than X10.

    ·     Also, EM5813 has an edge on X10 in soundstaging and image, although both issues are rather sensitive in earphones.

    ·     On the other hand, X10 has an almost perfect fit, something for which Klipsch is famous, while EM5813 won’t fit in everyone ears right away, and certain listeners should try a little before they find a proper fit.

    Overall, the X10 sound is more by “the book”, while the EM5813 sound is more enjoyable.

     

    Accessories and fit

    The EM5813 comes with a rather minimalistic set of accessories: Two pairs of  “one-size-fits-all”, dual-flange, eartips offered in two forms, vented (of blue color) and non-vented (of white color), as well as comply T-400 eartips; a set of permanently attached Cardas Clear Light Headphone Cables, of very high quality (for which Cardas is famous), fitted with a garment clip and serial number tag; a cleaning tool; and a genuine leather clasp-type carrying pouch.

    EM5813_5.jpg

    Although the idea in the EM5813 fitting is an “one-size-fits-all” principle, as it was already mentioned, this does not work with every listener. The vented (blue) and non-vented (white) eartips would satisfy most listeners but not all, and, in some cases, one has to try a bit before he feels that he has obtained a proper sealing. We learned that Cardas, finally, decided to make its eartips in three sizes (S, M, and L), with which we certainly would agree. Now, if you already bought your set without the three sizes eartips, according to Cardas’s Andy Regan, as soon as you register it at www.cardas.com, the Company will be happy to send you a kit that includes the three sizes eartips.[​IMG]

     

    In conclusion

    If you are looking for an earphone set that is reference like, with top analyticity, presenting the music layer by layer, and in an absolutely balanced, though sterile, way, then the EM5813 is not for you. However, if you want a set through which you will enjoy music in an accurate, detailed, balanced, and, most of all, alive and engaging way, then you should buy the EM5813 without a second thought. Not only it is of very high quality, which is to be expected from a Cardas product, but it also has an impressive performance; this is not a small feat, given that EM5813 is Cardas’s first attempt. Buy a set, and you will find yourself having it in your ears all the time.

     

    Specifications and price

    Audio engine: Dynamic driver stereo inner earphone

    Driver: 11.45mm dynamic driver with a neodymium magnet-drive motor and pen-type thin-film diaphragm
    
Impedance: 32 Ohms
    
Price: $425
     

    Reviewer’s note: The reviewer is particularly grateful to Mr. Josh Meredith, Cardas’s Marketing Manager, for providing the sample of EM5813.

     
    BlinkST, Dopaminer and wirawwa like this.
  2. Carlsan
    Did they change the cable on these? When these first came out, they had a full size headphone cable, making them much more uncomfortable then they should have been.
     
  3. notaris
    Hello Carlsan,
     
    To the best of my knowledge, the cable is the same to that the ear speakers first came with. It is one of the issues that I feel have to be addressed by the manufacturer, and it has already been pointed out to them.
     
  4. DooberKnob
    Interesting. It's nice to see some high end dynamics since BAs seem to dominate the 200+ range. I'm a big fan of dynamics so I might have to check these out.
     
  5. Toom
    They have a new one coming out shortly so this is all a bit late!
     
  6. good sound
    Could you post a link to some info?
     
  7. Toom
    Have a look at their website
     
  8. good sound
    Ya, I did right after I posted. This is the first I have heard of these. Don't know how I missed them. Should be worth an audition. Hopefully they will be available soon. Thanks.
     
  9. achristilaw Contributor
    I have Cardas Clear cables and interconnects everywhere (two of the two channel rigs and one of the headphone), I love these buds. Slight heaviness in the bass and a gently rolled top not withstanding, the overall portrait these buds paint is addictive. You can leave them inserted for hours and never feel the fatigue of any rough edges, a terrific well made bud. Jazz, blues and classical are my main tastes, rock from my generation (60's-70's), these buds nail it. I love the warm and resonant white tips........  
     
    You can't A-B them with another bud in haste, they might loose the quick comparison. Let one song run to another... then another....then. You'll get the picture!
     
  10. acain
    Nice review I have always been interested in these.
     
  11. Dopaminer
    I bought these a couple of weeks ago, after being blown away by the demo set in the store.  I was looking for a single dynamic which could rival the JVC FX850 and isolate, and the well-used demo set came as close to that goal as I`ve ever heard.  Truly fantastic sound quality.
     
    After having my own EM5813 for a short while, I can say they definitely need burn-in.  Also, the cable, while amazingly high-quality in appearance and feel, is heavy and too long for me.  The included excellent, metal shirt clip is a necessity if anyone plans to do any moving around with these, due to the weight of the cable. Given the length of the cable, I assume Cardas` idea was for these to be used at one`s desk.  The shirt clip is the best I`ve ever seen, a title formerly held by Fitear, and for people like me with shirt clip OCD, this one is amazing. The only problem is that it can`t grip other, thinner cables. 
     
    I decided to shorten my cable, and re-terminate to 2.5 balanced, a process still underway.  
     
    Thanks for the review of these unique, beautiful IEMs.  
     
    If anyone wants to see Cardas himself introducing his new IEMs, there`s a video interview somewhere on innerfidelity.com.  My impression was that the new one is another product, not a replacement.  I could be wrong about that . .  .
     
  12. scottyu
     
    Quoted, because one has to wonder if this is one of those "don't think this has been uttered anywhere else on the internet" kinds of phrases :D Dopaminer, are the cables removable?
     
  13. notaris
    I am not sure if George Cardas had in mind that one would use EM5813 at his desk only, but given that they look so nice, one has to be careful not to loose them, in particular, in view of their pristine performance.
     
    The new model, A8, is not intended to be a replacement but rather a fresh approach to the subject that will, however, address a number of issues of EM5813 that, according to my opinion, have to be attended for:
    - Some bass touch with the vented (of blue color) eartips,
    - Some roll off at the top end of the high frequencies.
    - The matter discussed here with the, otherwise excellent, cable.
    - The "one-size-fits-all" principle applied to the EM5813 eartips (although it appears that this has already been solved).
     
    The information that I have from the Cardas people is that the new model won't come out before the end of June, but I won't be surprised if this would be postponed a little. I shall try to post a review for, what appears to be, an exciting new model.
     
    Dopaminer likes this.
  14. Dopaminer

    Shirtclip OCD is no laughing matter.  I`ve cut a vacation short because of an inadequate shirt clip.
     
    The cable is not removeable.  It is, however, about a kilometer long.  
     
    scottyu likes this.
  15. Toom
    Keeping Up With The Cardasiems
     
    theUKMrT and Dopaminer like this.
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