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Review: Earsonics ES3

Earsonics ES3

We’ve been wanting to listen to a pair of Earsonics’ made-in-France headphones for ages. Why have hundreds of artists chosen to adopt Earsonics’ in-ear monitors as a trusted solution for live performances? We wanted to try to find the answer to this question by testing the Earsonics ES3, the brand’s mid-range model, which has been designed to offer outstanding musicality and appeal to the most demanding audiophiles.

Shaka Ponk, Stromae, Véronique Sanson, Black M, Charlie Winston, Christine and the Queens, Chinese Man, Elvis Costello, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-Louis Aubert, Maître Gims and Renaud, to only name a few… the list of artists using Earsonics’ headphones is exceptionally long. And it’s not without reason, as Earsonics is an expert manufacturer of custom-made headphones, with each earpiece molded to fit the shape of the user’s auricle and external auditory canal. The flawless mechanical coupling and impeccable wearing comfort offer, as can be imagined, a crucial advantage to the artist evolving on stage. This isn’t the be-all and end-all, however, as Earsonics equips its in-ear monitors with up to 9 balanced armature drivers.

What is a balanced armature driver?

A balanced armature driver is a very small driver whose working principle is different from that of a traditional driver. Normally, the driver installed in a pair of headphones is composed of a cone to which a mobile unit (coil, spider) is attached. This unit is driven by a magnetic field created by a magnet, in much the same way as for the driver found in an acoustic loudspeaker. A balanced armature driver also features a cone, but this cone is not mechanically confined by a mobile unit. armature_balanceeIt is consequently much lighter, and this is the key advantage offered by this type of transducer, since its transient response (ability to transition from one sound to another) is exceptional. The cone is connected to a coil, where it is held in place by a very thin metal rod. This coil is suspended within a magnetic field and oscillates in response to changes in this field, thereby generating vibrations in the cone.

Why is this type of transducer so rare?

Manufacturers having mastered the art of balanced armature drivers are few and far between. This is mainly due to the fact that producing a balanced armature driver is a tedious and costly process. In fact, it is often necessary to install several drivers in a single earbud in order to cover the full sound spectrum (from lows to highs). Apart from the fact that installing multiple drivers increases manufacturing costs, these drivers must be filtered (in the same way as for a speaker) to avoid frequency overlap.

Earsonics ES3

The Earsonics ES3’s audio diffusion canal, as it appears without the tip.

Earsonics ES3: specs

Each of the Earsonics ES3 in-ear monitors’ earbuds is equipped with three balanced armature drivers which cover frequencies ranging from 10Hz to 20kHz. Their sensitivity is rated at 116 dB for 1 mW of power which, in light of their impedance of 31.2 Ohms, makes them very easy to drive. Any smartphone can do the job as well as–generally speaking–any high-quality portable audio player. The braided plastic cable is detachable and terminated by a 3.5 mm mini-jack connector. The other end of the cable is fitted with semi-rigid plastic tubing which can be bent to take the shape of the ear.

Earsonics ES3

The Earsonics ES3’s cable can be bent to fit snugly around the ear. The headphones are thus held firmly in place.

Earsonics ES3: included accessories

Along with the headphones, Earsonics provides a small zip case as well as several pairs of silicone and comply foam tips. A cleaning tool for removing earwax from the tips is also provided.

Earsonics ES3

The silicone and memory foam tips, alongside the cleaning tool provided with the Earsonics ES3.

Earsonics ES3

The cleaning tool provided with the Earsonics ES3 in-ear monitors.

Earsonics ES3: test conditions

We listened to the Earsonics ES3 with several sources: the iBasso DX200 digital audio player, the FiiO X5 III digital audio player, and a Xiaomi Redmi Pro smartphone, and we played mostly FLAC and FLAC-HD files. It is important to mention that the tips selected will have a non-negligible impact on the audio quality. Apart from choosing tips for maximum comfort, it is essential to ensure that they form a perfect seal once placed in the ears. Not only will this provide complete insulation from exterior noise, but above all it will not alter the lows (which would result in an unbalanced sound restitution).

Note than the comply foam tips, once compressed into the opening of the ear canal, can considerably reduce the volume of highs. This is due to the properties of memory foam, as it is a material which captures highs. The silicone tips don’t pose this problem. However, if the foam tips are correctly inserted, they are more comfortable and don’t move.

Earsonics ES3

The cable supplied with the Earsonics ES3 headphones is detachable.

Earsonics ES3: listening impressions

The Earsonics ES3 headphones are remarkably balanced from lows right on through to highs, and they offer flawlessly even dynamics. Their tonal balance is slightly physiological, with generous, spot-on lows and ethereal, smooth highs. Above all, these headphones have an impressive knack for analysis and offer an unwavering sense of breadth. We were often surprised by the sound stage’s width, even with a smartphone. With the iBasso DX200 and its dual ESS DAC, the sound is brimming with details and micro-details. We often found ourselves thinking “hey, I hadn’t ever heard that before.”

Lows
Generous (but not intrusive), transparent and balanced from the upper bass register to the infrabass. The signature transient response of the balanced armature drivers is unmistakable.

Mids
Neutral and smooth, without any perceivable alteration of the frequencies. When listening to films or TV series, the precision of this register is unmistakable.

Highs
Slightly excessive in their presence, though never so much as to compromise the coherence of the sound message. The articulation is very good, and the listening experience gains in clarity without altering the original recording.

Earsonics ES3

Earsonics ES3: conclusions

The musicality of the Earsonics ES3 in-ear monitors is unquestionable. In addition to being judiciously balanced from lows to highs, they shine for their ability to deliver a highly analytical sound message. The French manufacturer proposes exceptional performance for a mid-range model. We enthusiastically recommend adopting the Earsonics ES3 for musical enjoyment along with a smartphone, DAC or digital audio player.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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