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-   -   EarSonics SM3 Review (http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=55939)

dfkt 06-28-2010 09:20 AM

EarSonics SM3 Review
 
http://www.anythingbutipod.com/archi...sm3-review.php

lestatar 06-28-2010 09:51 AM

Superb review dfkt!

These SM3's sound quite promising to me, should I ever decide to pony up and shell out for top notch armature IEMs, especially as a huge fan of guitar music. I am also very intrigued by your assessment that EQing the SM3 may actually detract from their overall sound characteristics since your preference for EQ is indeed well known.

So glad you stuck with them and gave them a chance...:)

Gee, guess I'm gonna have to back off on the French now, huh?

shigzeo 06-28-2010 11:22 AM

Excellent work as always. Glad to see we ride at least one similar horse.

dfkt 06-28-2010 11:26 AM

Thanks Nathan. It took me more than long enough to learn to appreciate them.

JxK 06-28-2010 12:29 PM

Great review dfkt.

Quote:

Originally Posted by dfkt
...that they make me feel like I’m in the studio with the band, instead of at a live venue.

Hah, does that mean they're grados done right? ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by dfkt
Personally, I’m mostly used to listening to phones and speakers that deliver a V-shaped loudness curve, with boosted bass and treble, and somewhat recessed midrange. That is what usually sounds “natural” to my ears.

If you tend to listen to music at very low volumes, this actually makes alot of sense. Human hearing becomes substantially less sensitive to bass and treble at low volume. And the lower the volume becomes, the less sensitive our perception of the extremes of the frequency range. So for someone like you who prefers to listen to music very quietly, using a V shaped EQ would be necessary to maintain a natural sound.

And for an earphone that requires higher volume levels to be enjoyed, like the sm3, you'll need less V shape since your hearing is more optimized.

Xinz 06-28-2010 08:29 PM

woah, finally. From your point of view, seems like um3x with better bass and bigger soundstage.
Talking about instrument separation, my UM3X has a tendency that parts where the vocals come in, the background music seems "pushed back" or "toned down", does SM3 have this issue?
And about details, do you encounter in your 1 month use moments in your music that you can distinctively tell where one background music or instrument is coming from(left/right) compared to other phones you used? Cos that is 1 trait of my UM3X also.

Sorry to keep comparing it to UM3X as the few reviews + design of the SM3 is too similar to it

Now to source for someone who can let me audition...

dfkt 06-29-2010 05:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JxK (Post 480415)
If you tend to listen to music at very low volumes, this actually makes alot of sense. Human hearing becomes substantially less sensitive to bass and treble at low volume. And the lower the volume becomes, the less sensitive our perception of the extremes of the frequency range. So for someone like you who prefers to listen to music very quietly, using a V shaped EQ would be necessary to maintain a natural sound.

And for an earphone that requires higher volume levels to be enjoyed, like the sm3, you'll need less V shape since your hearing is more optimized.

Yes, it seems many discrepancies of how some people perceive some phones so vastly different can be attributed to how loud or quiet they listen to it. The human equal-loudness contour is a wondrous thing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by JxK (Post 480415)
Hah, does that mean they're grados done right? ;)

I should try blasting Grados and Etys on full volume, maybe I like them then. ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Xinz (Post 480524)
woah, finally.

Well, I explained why it took so long. ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Xinz (Post 480524)
From your point of view, seems like um3x with better bass and bigger soundstage.
Talking about instrument separation, my UM3X has a tendency that parts where the vocals come in, the background music seems "pushed back" or "toned down", does SM3 have this issue?
And about details, do you encounter in your 1 month use moments in your music that you can distinctively tell where one background music or instrument is coming from(left/right) compared to other phones you used? Cos that is 1 trait of my UM3X also.

The way you describe it, it sounds like your UM3X are boosted in the vocal range, the 1-4kHz region. The SM3 sound very homogeneous (despite the outstanding treble), no "ducking", no compressor effect I ever noticed.

With details you seem to mean the stereo imaging, as I understand it? Well, the SM3 are top notch, as I wrote. Pretty much in the same league as the UE11 - which is really good as far as balanced armature IEMs go. They're not magically wide like some dynamic driver IEMs, like the FX700, V-Moda Vibe, and such, but the SM3 have really accurate pin-point instrument separation and localization.

And yeah, there were some "wow" encounters I had with the SM3's stereo imaging, where some rather unexpected sounds came from unexpected locations - in music tracks I am familiar with.

JxK 06-29-2010 11:14 AM

I'm just curious now about your personal preferences regarding the sm3 vs the fx700. The sm3 are clearly very good, and have a great form factor. And I'm not asking about which one is better, that would be comparing apples to oranges...different phones for different applications and different listening habits. But what I'm curious about is which sound signature do you prefer more?

warriorpoet 06-29-2010 08:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dfkt (Post 480618)
Yes, it seems many discrepancies of how some people perceive some phones so vastly different can be attributed to how loud or quiet they listen to it. The human equal-loudness contour is a wondrous thing.



I should try blasting Grados and Etys on full volume, maybe I like them then. ;)


Well, I explained why it took so long. ;)



The way you describe it, it sounds like your UM3X are boosted in the vocal range, the 1-4kHz region. The SM3 sound very homogeneous (despite the outstanding treble), no "ducking", no compressor effect I ever noticed.

With details you seem to mean the stereo imaging, as I understand it? Well, the SM3 are top notch, as I wrote. Pretty much in the same league as the UE11 - which is really good as far as balanced armature IEMs go. They're not magically wide like some dynamic driver IEMs, like the FX700, V-Moda Vibe, and such, but the SM3 have really accurate pin-point instrument separation and localization.

And yeah, there were some "wow" encounters I had with the SM3's stereo imaging, where some rather unexpected sounds came from unexpected locations - in music tracks I am familiar with.

Great review! I have long been curious about these, but the poor USD/Euro exchange rate would kill me on these ATM...

One question about soundstage:

You mention certain dynamics sounding "magically wide". In my experience, dynamics tend to "mush" everything together once increasingly complex material is introduced. Sometimes this results in the material sounding "wider", "broader" and "lush", but it's less detailed. Is this the effect you're referring to?

...and on par with the u11 for 345 funny Es? Not bad at all.

odigg 07-01-2010 12:52 AM

Thanks for the great review!

The part that really caught my eye was the paragraph on you needing a long time to adjust to them. This is a much needed perspective in the world of headphones as it is an important temper on all the "Best headphone ever" and "Perfect headphone" comments that are constantly thrown around.

A lot of times these concepts like "natural" and sometimes even "neutral" really boil down to the sound signature you are used to. If you listen to any comfortable and technically competent headphone for long enough, it starts sounding natural and perhaps even neutral. That's the beauty of the human brain and its plasticity.

I am slightly confused by your comments on the SM3 treble. You say it's in the same class as the PFE but then say it's slightly recessed. Do you mean in comparison to the mids?

I'm curious to see where you place it in your IEM chart.

Quote:

In my experience, dynamics tend to "mush" everything together once increasingly complex material is introduced. Sometimes this results in the material sounding "wider", "broader" and "lush", but it's less detailed. Is this the effect you're referring to?
Part of the problem is that a number of popular dynamic IEMs tend to have a lot of energy at the lower end of the spectrum. Especially if you are not used to it, this has the psychoacoustic effect of making everything sound like smashed together or that instruments are climbing all over each other.

ath 07-01-2010 02:58 PM

Great Review! I have both UM3X and SM3 and I am torn between the two unable to decide which is better.

It took a while to find a good pair of isolating ear tips for the SM3's. I have now settled with Large Ety foamies which gives the best isolation and fit. I think I am going to give it some more time before I decide to put it up for sale.

So far, I find the UM3X to be a better sounding earphone right out of Clip+ but I am going to keep an open mind :)

james444 07-03-2010 01:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by odigg (Post 481048)
I am slightly confused by your comments on the SM3 treble. You say it's in the same class as the PFE but then say it's slightly recessed. Do you mean in comparison to the mids?

I am not dfkt, but currently testing his SM3. I also know the PFEs and concur that the SM3's treble is (at least) in the same class as the PFE's. However, the SM3 have exceptionally forward and rich mids, therefore the highs may appear somewhat recessed in comparison.

dfkt 07-03-2010 01:34 PM

Exactly what James444 said. Treble is always sparkly, incredibly precise and detailed, and never sibilant - just the weighting compared to the midrange is different to the PFE. Well, the SM3 treble is maybe even a bit more refined, but that could be because of the different weighting, since it's never too forward.

(WTF, you registered in November 2008 already? Spy! ;))

cn11 07-07-2010 11:51 PM

Agree about the treble... so precise, layered, and spatially powerful, yet never remotely hinting at harshness. Incredible. To my ears they make the FX700's seem brash and overdone in the highs. At first you think there's more detail and clarity with the JVC's, but in comparison the details are all there with the SM3's yet there's more space and placement. And this is with such smoothness and refinement. In this way they're a paradox in IEM's.

Normally I call myself a basshead, but I'm enjoying this seemingly impossible combination of smoothness/refinement and detail of the SM3's even more than my usual need for powerful bass. It gives them such a feeling of air and space... I am so impressed by the SM3's.

Oh, and great review dfkt. :0)

kasrhp 07-15-2010 10:09 AM

Great review. Much appreciated

NeedBalanceCtrl 07-18-2010 04:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by odigg (Post 481048)
A lot of times these concepts like "natural" and sometimes even "neutral" really boil down to the sound signature you are used to. If you listen to any comfortable and technically competent headphone for long enough, it starts sounding natural and perhaps even neutral. That's the beauty of the human brain and its plasticity.

Also, I believe a lot of the "burn-in" process is not so much about the hardware burn-in but really the human brain being adjusted to the new phones. Once one gets adjusted to a new pair of phones, one starts believing in a lot of the positives of the new phone, but I believe it's just the brain having converted over. The human brain is able to adapt and adjust to an exorbitant degree.

I would almost argue that if one goes back to a previous pair of 'phones and listens to that older pair exclusively for two weeks, one would adjust back to hearing all the positives of the previous pair of 'phones as one would have adjusted/converted back to the sonic signature of the older 'phones.

dfkt probably says it better:

Quote:

So I thought it’s my brain that has to “burn in” to the SM3’s sound signature instead – because I just couldn’t believe anyone would design an IEM on purpose that sounds so bad right out of the box. There must be more to it… and boy, there indeed is. It just needed some time until I ‘understood’ the SM3. It took me almost a month until I had to acknowledge to myself that they’re far from being a piece of junk, and actually quite the opposite: they’re some real reference monitors, all serious business – yet they’re rather ‘musical’ at that, if not euphonic sounding.
Of course I fully admit I'm a total greenhorn. I'm no audiophile; I'm not even a pretend-audiophile. Take my comments with as much grains of salt as you please. :D

james444 07-20-2010 01:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Need Balance Control (Post 484161)
Also, I believe a lot of the "burn-in" process is not so much about the hardware burn-in but really the human brain being adjusted to the new phones. Once one gets adjusted to a new pair of phones, one starts believing in a lot of the positives of the new phone, but I believe it's just the brain having converted over. The human brain is able to adapt and adjust to an exorbitant degree.

I would almost argue that if one goes back to a previous pair of 'phones and listens to that older pair exclusively for two weeks, one would adjust back to hearing all the positives of the previous pair of 'phones as one would have adjusted/converted back to the sonic signature of the older 'phones

Good point! I'm currently preparing a 4-way shootout between the SM3/FX700/e-Q7/FI-BA-SS that involves heavy A/B listening. Despite the fact that the SM3 are technically brilliant, I'm having a hard time because their highs are significantly recessed as compared to all 3 others.

But I can very well imagine that if I'd exclusively listen to the SM3 for a longer periode my brain would adjust and I wouldn't mind any more.

NeedBalanceCtrl 07-21-2010 12:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by james444 (Post 484602)
Good point! I'm currently preparing a 4-way shootout between the SM3/FX700/e-Q7/FI-BA-SS that involves heavy A/B listening. Despite the fact that the SM3 are technically brilliant, I'm having a hard time because their highs are significantly recessed as compared to all 3 others.

But I can very well imagine that if I'd exclusively listen to the SM3 for a longer periode my brain would adjust and I wouldn't mind any more.

That's probably a good thing. :) It's better for you to be happy/content with what you purchased.

The problem arises when fanboys or 'audiophiles' insist/dictate to everyone else that such and such 'phone, after burn-in, is the best there is or the best they've ever heard.

odigg 08-11-2010 08:25 PM

To anybody with a PFE w/greys and SM3 - Would you agree or disagree with the following statement? "The mids of the SM3 are more forward than the PFE."

Based on the review and other comments, it seems this would be the case. I just want to verify.

dfkt 08-12-2010 05:56 AM

I would agree with that statement in general. In the end both don't seem to exaggerate any parts of the frequency range overly much - the PFE have more forward treble than the SM3, the SM3 have more substantial bass, and in the end the SM3 sound more "weighty, beefy, bold" while the PFE sound more "thin, lean" as a whole. That way, one could say the SM3's midrange is more forward, even if it's not something in the frequency response. Yet both are incredibly fast - which is one of the paradoxes with the SM3.


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