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2016 Review: Earsonics S-EM9

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Earsonics S-EM9 earphone

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Earsonics for supplying the S-EM9 in this review free of charge. The S-EM9 packs in 9 drivers, only one of which is bass. (Can you guess which one?) It goes for around1500$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Earsonics S-EM9.

Five minutes into my initial listen, a question fluttered – if just briefly – in my frontal lobe: is this the return of the classic? Polite, articulate highs, emotional largesse: echoes of the SM3. Just minutes later, I switched artists; and a few minutes after that, I switched genres. Hours later I got it.

No: this isn’t the return of the SM3. And yet, there’s something familiar there.

Pinning a house sound to Earsonics’s array of earphones is difficult. We’ve got chalky: original SM2; soft: SM3; split personality: Velvet; and in the SM64, depending on manufacture date, basically two earphones under one model number.

Not sound

The S-EM9 uses the familiar Earsonics cable. It memory wire is mid-long. Its mildly stiff. it’s got a compact L-shaped plug, and under its decades-familiar y-split and clear neck cinch, a tightly wound, triple-strand torso. It’s not a bad cable. It’s not a good cable. For glasses wearers, it sometimes gets in the way, but rarely unseats temples from ears. For everyone else, it’s a familiar non-microphonic vine. I’ve run with it, biked with it for hours under a summer sun in Seoul. I’ve given it treble the Nuforce HEM series treatment and it’s not only stayed together, my efforts barely stretched it.

Earsonics S-EM9 earphone

The same smells-like-spray-paint zippered pouch, the same wax loop, the same 3,5 to 6,3 step up adapter, the same box, and excepting the Comply tips, the same awful ear tips from Velvet have moved onto S-EM9. Longtime Earsonics fans (me among them) use anything but Earsonics’s ear tips, which neither isolate well, nor for many people, fit snug. For me, they hurt.

Starting with Velvet, the sound tube diameter widened enough that Shure’s awesome yellow foams no longer work. The good news is that really comfy alternatives from SpinFit, Ortofon, and the sturdy nibs from the Final Audio F7200, work more or less like a charm. Many tips made to fit medium to large bores just work.

Earsonics S-EM9 earphone

Just so you know, I’ve used the tips that came with my Final Audio F7200 for this review. Final or Comply, isolation waffles between so-so and decent. When on the train, I compensate by ticking up the volume. Thanks to short sound tube, the S-EM9 fits shallowly. Unlike the S-EM6, it fits flush in the ear, anchoring both hips and its shoulders against skin. The cable angle is natural. If you find a good tip, the S-EM9 may well be the most comfy among Earsonics’s line up of custom-cum-universals. My wife didn’t like to keep it in her ears for long, but she said it was more comfy than Andromeda, and certainly more so than most large earphones. (Oh, and it’s not really black. It’s a kind of chocolatey dark brown that looks black in normal circumstances.)

It is put together with care typical to Earsonics’s custom earphones. Its shells are tough, smooth, well-labelled, but here and there in the sound tube, you’ll see bubbles. Speaking of the sound tube, it’s drilled with three bores, each of which connects to one driver set. Speaking of which, the S-EM9 eschews the typical multi-bass driver speaker design for a multi mid and high design. Four each of the latter two, and a single full-sized bass driver. What soundiness, pray tell, does this portend?

 A girl wears Earsonics S-EM9 earphone

Before we get off track, let’s talk two-pin. The unit Earsonics fed me has it. There is evidence that in the wild MMCX versions exist. I’ll be damned if I ever see one. And, I’m quite happy to not. Its novelty has worn off. As has the pressure fit of a number of user-level MMCX connectors out there. So far I’ve been lucky. But I have more trust in the classic and ain’t-broke-so-don’t-fix-it two-pin connector. Earsonics, thanks for staying the course.