EarsSonics’ EM10 is the French firm’s flagship custom-fit in-ear monitor. Unlike the EM9, the EM10 is offered only as a CIEM, but not as a universal-fit earphone. The EM10 and EM9 share many similarities but also two major differences. First, as a CIEM, the EM10 offers greater potential for a perfect fit, though owners-to-be will have to arrange to have custom ear-mold impressions taken in order to get that fit. Second, the ten-driver EM10 has a slightly different driver array than the nine-driver EM9; both models feature four high-frequency drivers and four midrange drivers, but the EM9 uses just one bass driver where the EM10 uses two. Given that I previously have found the EM9’s bass extension and control exemplary, inquiring minds might wonder if the EM10’s additional woofer is a good thing.
Unlike the vast majority of in-ear monitor manufacturers, who use standard, off-the-shelf balanced-armature drivers from various manufacturers, EarSonics uses balanced-armature drivers made to its custom specifications by Knowles. The EM10 is a triple-bore design, with three separate tubes in its shell that carry the sound from the throats of the balanced-armature drivers to the EM10 eartips.
Getting ear-mold impressions taken is an essential first step in the path to obtaining custom in-ear monitors, and for this purpose I visited a local audiologist. He had never done impressions for EarSonics CIEMs before, so there was an element of uncertainty in the process. Also, he did not use a bite spacer, which had been employed in all the previous impressions I have had made.
It took about a month for the EM10 CIEMs to arrive from France. When I put them in I found they fit perfectly from the start, which has not always been the case with other CIEMs I have had made. But there is a reason for their great fit; by design the EM10 does not extend as far into your ear canal as many CIEMs do, and since those last few millimeters are the hardest part to get right, the shallower fit of the EM10 definitely simplifies things. A brief word of encouragement: Getting ear-mold impressions taken is easy and painless; so don’t let those concerns keep you from trying CIEMs (and especially the EM10).
Sonically, the EM10s were a pleasure. Overall frequency response was smooth with no noticeable peakiness even in the critical upper-midrange 2–3kHz region. Like the EM9 the EM10 has excellent midrange clarity and decipherability. Dense mixes are easy to listen into, and each instrument has a well-defined location in the soundstage. On Tula’s “Colours” from Tidal, every synth part has a palpable three-dimensional location in space. While the EM10’s soundstages were not quite as large as those created by some CIEMs, such as the Empire Ears Zeus, the three-dimensionality and image solidity of the EM10 were state-of-the-art.
When I reviewed the EM9s I noticed the bass improved greatly after some playing time. With the EM10 (which were a demo pair that I assume had been used) the bass was impressive from the first moment sound reached my ears. And while the extension, resolution, and lack of coloration between the bass and the midrange were obvious, the most noticeable difference between the EM9 and EM10 was that the EM10 produced slightly more low-bass impact and seemed even easier to “listen into” to hear the low bass’ texture and weight. Naturally, this begs the question, “Was there too much bass?” My answer is no, since the bass doesn’t pollute or color the midrange or upper frequencies, which is the problem with “bass monster” IEMs.
If you have tried the EM9 universal-fit earphones and loved their sound but wanted a custom in-ear-monitor fit, the EarSonics EM10 will be exactly what you’re looking for. They have a neutral harmonic balance with amazing bass extension that still sounds natural. Let me put it this way: Once you put the EM10s into your ears, you won’t want to take them out.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Three-way, balanced-armature, custom-fit in-ear monitor
Driver complement: 10 balanced-armature drivers (four high-frequency, four midrange, two bass), HQ 3-way passive crossover with impedance corrector
Frequency response: 10Hz–20kHz
Impedance: 26.6 ohms
Sensitivity: 119 dB/1mW
Weight: Not listed, but similar to EM9
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(North American Distributor)