Earsonics ES5 – IEM Review

INTRODUCTION

Over the years, with more experience slowly gained, I’ve started to refine my audio collection. I realise I have a privileged position because as a reviewer, I often get to try before I eventually buy (through my reviews). And I do buy the gear I intend to keep for myself – it is only fair after all.

Up until now that has involved buying my iFi stack (iUSB, iTube and iDSD), and my current main headphones and earphones (including the HD800S, HD600 and Möbius among quite a few others). It is with the earphones (IEMs) I’ve managed to come close, but have never quite reached the “nirvana” I’ve been looking for. Earsonics is an extremely well known French audio company who specialises in in-ear monitors, and I’ve had the chance recently to review their ES2 and ES3 IEM’s, and came away suitably impressed by both.

Max Capgras approached me again and asked if I’d like to review another of their line-up. I suggested my tastes were more to the flat than coloured side of things, and he suggested the ES5. Other reviews I’ve seen of this monitor have been very good – would it fill my own personal preferences? Lets take a look together at Earsonic’s ES5 5 BA monitor, and see how it stacks up.

ABOUT EARSONICS

Earsonics was formed in 2004, and are located in France. From their own website, they describe themselves as:
French designer and manufacturer of a range of in-ear-monitors tailored and universal for musicians, sound engineers and audiophiles demanding.

And they further expand by saying:
Provide quality, high fidelity audio listening. Respecting the spectral balance and musicality.
Musical sound around listening .

I know that their earliest commercial model seems to be the original SM line, and includes the SM2, SM3, SM64. From there they have branched out into both custom monitors and also universals including the EM series (Pro and Audiophile), ES series as well as some specially named monitors such as the Grace and Velvet.

But perhaps the quote that gives you the best idea of what Earsonics is all about comes from their CEO (Franck Lopez)
In a field dictated by the data sheet and the race for pure performance, we ended up forgetting the essential – what drives you to start a desire to acquire the best, for the sole purpose of creating this emotion that overwhelms you and makes you forget everything else.
Our headphones are developed in this direction, create EMOTION …

I can definitely relate to this thinking.

You can find Earsonics on the web : Earsonics website or Earsonics on Facebook

DISCLAIMER

The Earsonics ES5 IEM that I’m reviewing today was provided to me freely as a review sample. Max has asked me to keep it for my personal use, or for follow up comparisons, and I thank them for this. The retail price at time of review is Eur 950.

PREAMBLE

If you haven’t read any of my reviews, I suggest starting here, as it will give you an insight into my known preferences and bias.

For the purposes of this review – I’ve used the ES5 straight from the headphone-out socket of many of my portables, but predominantly the FiiO X7ii, X5iii, M9, and my iPhone. I have tested them both amped (Q1ii, Q5, XRK-NHB, and E17K), and straight out of the DAPs listed.

In the time I have spent with the Earsonics ES5, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). This is a purely subjective review – my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt – especially if it does not match your own experience.

THE PACKAGE

 

The Earsonics ES5 arrived in a 165 x 225 x 45mm “book style” box with grey retail sleeve. The outer sleeve is simple with just the ES5 logo on the front and specifications on the rear. The inner box is quite classy – matte black with 2 circular windows showing the ES5 monitors and a pull-out drawer revealing the accessories.

 

The total accessory package includes:

  • A pair of Earsonics ES5 IEMs
  • A 3.5 mm single ended to 2 pin earphone cable
  • 2 pairs of foam tips
  • 2 pairs of silicone single flange tips
  • 2 pairs of silicone dual flange tips
  • A large zippered carrying pouch (approx 120 x 85 x 30mm)
  • A cleaning tool
  • A 3.5mm to 6.3,, adaptor
  • A user guide (French)
  • 2 packets of cleaning towelettes

THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

ModelEarsonics ES5 (Music series)
Approx price$950 Eur
Type5 Balanced Armatures per side
Driver Config1 x Low, 2 x Mid, 2 x High with three way crossover
Freq Range10Hz – 20kHz
Impedance33Ω
Sensitivity117 dB/mW
Cable Type120 cm copper core with twisted TPU sheath
Cable Jack3.5mm gold plated, right angled
Cable ConnectorsStandard 2 pin
Weight19g with incl cable and Shore “Olive” large tips
IEM shell2 piece molded EVS Acrylic

MEASUREMENTS

The graphs I use are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget. I suspect it is slightly down at around 9-10 kHz, but seems reasonably accurate through the rest of the spectrum.

I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else’s, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response – especially if you’ve followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I always use crystal foam tips (so medium bore opening) – and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements – and output is under 1 ohm.

The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I’ve included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.

I’ve measured the ES5 multiple times, and unfortunately with this particular set, there is either a crossover out of whack, or one of the BA’s is out of kilter. Channel matching is very good apart from a spike in the right hand earpiece at 2 kHz – and the imbalance is quite noticeable. Earsonics driver matching is generally impeccable, so I’m chalking this up to an anomaly.

BUILD

External

The ES5 has the same shell design as the ES2 and ES3. It consists of a two piece EVS (“ergonomic versatile shell”) acrylic casing which joins naturally into a smooth half “D” shape through the use of two micro Phillips head screws. All corners are nicely smoothed, and the ES5 fits my ears wonderfully with no sharp or protruding points. They measure approx 20mm in length at their widest point and 16mm tall, with a depth of about 12mm.

    

The nozzle is approx 6mm in length, 4mm in width, is located at the upper front of each ear pieces and is nicely angled to fit naturally with your ear canals. The nozzles are lipless and designed to fit T100 Comply foams (which means the Shure Olives are also a good – albeit somewhat tight – fit).

The external face is smooth and nicely rounded. On the right hand earpiece are the letter ES and on the left is the number 5. At the top center (part of the outer face assembly) is the standard 2 pin connector socket. This is a standard flat socket – so there will after-market cable options for those who prefer cable changes.

    

The most striking thing about the ES series is the notch in the outer face, directly opposite the nozzle, and it actually looks almost like a piece has been taken out – until you notice the smooth curves and realise it is intentional. I was puzzled why the would do it until I noticed how well they fit. The notch has been designed to fit your Tragus, and it works extremely well. Brilliant design, and one of the reasons why this universal is so comfortable to wear. There are otherwise no external markings or brands, and of course no vents because it is wholly a multi-BA configuration.

Cable

  

The cable is 1.2m in length and consists of a copper core and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) sheath. The use of TPU makes a lot of sense due to its high elasticity, high shear strength, and resistance to oil and grease. The connectors are clearly marked left (blue) and right (red) with dots on the connector housings. From the connectors is a 60mm form-able ear guide which I have found really easy to use. The y-split is plastic with excellent strain relief, and there is a clear plastic tube for a chin slider/cinch – which again works very well. The jack is right angled, 3.mm and gold plated – again with excellent strain relief and also smart-phone friendly.

  

The cable itself is a twisted pair above the y-split and twisted triple below it. It is extremely supple, and while there are some microphonics, use of the cinch and cable management under clothing eliminates this to a negligible level.

Internal

The shell is translucent, and it is easy to see the BA drivers and cross-over circuits. The design (internally) is a little different this time, and Earsonics have fitted 12 mini compartments to effectively house the internal components (drivers, crossover circuit boards, filters and internal wiring). Their use of ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) acrylic, combined with Earsonic’s Fusion process, allows far more flexibility with the design, and this includes a dual pathway in the shell coupled with their own acoustic diffractor to create a wider sound space. The BA drivers are Earsonics’ own proprietary design, and this gives them a lot of control over the total design process. There is a single larger bass/low BA, a dual mid-range BA, and dual high-end BA making a total of 5 BA drivers per earpiece. These are combined with a 3 way crossover for coherence.

FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

Isolation with the ES5 will depend on the seal you achieve and type of tip (possibly also the insertion depth you can achieve – although generally it will be somewhat shallow). I’m using large Shure Olives, and isolation is rather good (I couldn’t hear the keyboard while I was doing the final edits). With music playing, I’d have no problems using these in public transport, and they are pretty good for use on an aeroplane.

Comfort for me is excellent – the ES5s are a design which simply disappears for me when worn. In fact these rate up there with the most comfortable IEMs I’ve tried. They sit well within my outer ear (inside the external ear cavity – between tragus and anti-tragus), and are extremely easy to sleep in.

    

I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) – so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don’t fit overly well and shallow fitting IEMs can be problematic. The ES5 is a relatively shallow fitting IEM – but because it naturally fits Shure’s Olive foam tips – I can get a perfect seal every time.

Earsonics does include their own silicone tips – which are quite rubbery – but also gave me an excellent seal, and were (surprisingly for me) very comfortable as well (dual flange). Because of the thinner width of the nozzles, and lack of any type of lip – many of my other tips simply would not stay on. However both Spin-fits and also hybrid tips (Sony Isolation) also worked well.

SOUND QUALITY

My testing for this section was done with the FiiO X7ii (AM3A module), no EQ, and Shure Olives. I used the X7ii simply because it provides both a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and also more than enough power. No EQ was used. On more vocal centric tracks, I used the X7ii’s balance control to subtly compensate for the mid-range imbalance – this was quite effective.

 

For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7ii (paired with AM3a) was ~35-40/120 Single Ended (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB (track dependent). Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list https://www.head-fi.org/f/articles/brookos-test-tracks.17556/

Relativities

  • Sub-bass – very good extension, elevated and prominent without overpowering other frequency bands. The ES5 has good rumble even at my lower listening levels, and for my personal tastes it is well balanced in the overall frequency. With sub-bass dominant tracks (like Lorde’s Royals) there is no noticeable bleed (or masking) into the lower mid-range.
  • Mid-bass – good impact, and slightly stepped back compared to the sub-bass. Still has quite reasonable thump and this is pretty good quality, typically quick BA bass. Definition and texture is good but doesn’t quite have the same natural timbre of a dynamic set-up. Still, this is one of the better BA set-ups I’ve heard for overall bass definition, and with hip-hop (Eminem) or Trance (Armin van Buuren) I’m not feeling anything lacking.
  • Lower mid-range – there is a definite recession compared to mid-bass, and this is where a lot of the clarity comes through I think. Its an interesting signature because the mid and sub bass combine to give decent richness and a little warmth, but there is definitely a little less depth with male vocals, and the normal rough timbre of Eddy Vedder’s or Shaun Morgan’s vocals isn’t quite there.
  • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range (mainly in the 1-2 kHz area, which really helps add that sweetness in the presence area for female vocals. The nice thing about this tuning is that it isn’t overdone and there is a quite a cohesive interchange from low to upper mids. Upper mids are nicely aligned in intensity with mid and sub-bass.
  • Lower treble is extended and there is a little emphasis in the 6-7 kHz area which gives added definition and overtones to cymbals. It’s not overdone though (for my personal tastes) and for me the overall feeling is one of balance.
  • Upper treble – seems to be well extended. Its hard for me to judge this area, because my hearing tops out around 14kHz nowadays, and the measuring equipment is not accurate enough from about 9 kHz up. No signs of brittleness.

Resolution / Detail / Clarity

  • Clarity is very good, and there is excellent detail in all of my usual test tracks. With Nil’s Lofgren’s “Keith Don’t Go” (acoustic guitar), finger movements on the fret-board are audible and realistic. With Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing”, the micro details such as drumstick clicks are easily heard, and there is no signs of masking from the bass guitar.
  • Cymbals hits (especially hi-hats and crash-cymbals) are present, and the trailing decay is audible.
  • Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” is a good track for checking the overall balance on hi-hat taps and general cymbal decay, and the balance in this track is very good. Cymbal brushes are delicate and sustained.

Sound-stage, Imaging

  • Note that I did need to play around with balance to negate the channel imbalance, and I have purposely chosen not to attribute this to any deficiency in this section.
  • Directional queues are very clean and transients with Amber Rubarth’s “Tundra” are clear and nicely defined.
  • Positioning within the track is consistent and stage shape has nice balance of depth and width.
  • Perception of stage is expansive for an IEM. While the percussion is definitely closer, the cello and violin feel as though they are outside my head-space.
  • The applause section of “Dante’s Prayer” and Lakme’s “Flower Duet” both have an extremely good sense of of flow around me, and once again there is a sense of space.

Strengths

  • Overall balance end to end in the frequency response.
  • Bass speed and definition
  • Sense of staging – both shape and overall size
  • Excellent at lower volumes with good clarity
  • Female vocals have a nice sense of euphony

Weaknesses

  • Lower mid-range is a little too recessed for my liking and does lose some depth of timbre with male vocals.
  • Can be slightly strident at higher volumes

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

The ES5 is easily powered straight out of any of the portable devices I have, and I haven’t experienced any issues with the iPhone ES, or any of the FiiO DAPs. I’m at my usual 65-75dB listening level (with typical pop/rock songs) on the iPhone ES at a volume level of around 30%. I did try the ES5 with additional amping including the Q5 and XRK-NHB but noticed no obvious signs of improvement through the application of additional power.

  

RESPONSE TO EQ?

I need to reiterate that there is no perfect solution here. I use EQ to adjust to my own liking – and there is no universal correct EQ setting – it is purely individual preference. I wanted to address one thing with the EQ and that was simply to lift the lower mid-range. To achieve this I used the parametric equaliser on the Equaliser app on my iPhone SE, and simply applied a 4 dB rise at 500 Hz with a q factor of 0.5. There was an appreciable correction in the weight of male vocals and for my personal tastes this was an improvement. The ES5 responds well to EQ.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS

The ES5 is heading toward flagship category, and definitely sits in that price bracket, so I wanted to compare it to some similarly priced higher end IEMs I currently have. The appropriate comparisons for me included Earsonic’s own ES3, the LZ Big Dipper, Shure’s SE846, Fidue’s A91 Sirius, 64 Audio’s U10 and HiFiman’s flagship RE2000.

These comparisons were all done without EQ, using the FiiO X7ii, and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. These are very subjective comparisons. Pricing was taken from Amazon in USD or Penon Audio (Nov 2018).

Earsonics ES5 vs Earsonics ES3

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs ES3 @ USD 599.00
BuildBoth are almost identical in overall build materials, size and external quality (both being very light weight resin). The differences are all internal with the ES5 having compartmentalisation, 5 drivers per side and an extra crossover.
Cable(s)Both have identical 2 pin cabling systems.
AccessoriesSimilar overall. The ES5 has a more spacious case, and a 3.5 to 6.3mm adaptor. Tip selection is similar overall.
Comfort / ErgonomicsSame design – so identical (very comfortable)
Sound Quality OverallThese two are definitely from the same family, and this shows in the frequency response. The ES3 sounds a little more laid-back, where the ES5 more vivid. Both have a somewhat dry mid-range which tends to favour female vocals over male vocals. With the ES3 there is a little more emphasis on sub-bass where with the ES5 that emphasis is more in the upper mid-range. Both have pretty good balance overall. Both create a reasonably good feeling of depth and width. The ES5 gives more impression of layering of instruments within the overall mix.
My PreferenceA tough one – both are extremely good IEMs and really tick my boxes for ergonomics, comfort and overall balance on tonality. I really do appreciate the extra impression of imaging with the ES5. If I was ignoring price, my nod would go to the ES5 – it is slightly more musical overall. With price taken into account, and knowing that I often rely on EQ to correct to my own preference, personally I would take the ES3.

Earsonics ES5 vs Shure SE846

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs SE846 @ USD 799.00
BuildBoth IEMs are extremely well built. Both housings are made from a dense resin or polycarbonite, and both are practically seamless. The ES5 has a little less width and a little less height, but both are nicely ergonomic. The SE846 has a choice of tuning filters which do affect the upper mids and lower treble quite nicely. The ES5 has the internal acoustic chambers and compartmentalisation and also one additional driver. The SE846 has the excellent and quite unique low pass filter system which really does change bass impact.
Cable(s)The ES5 has the 2 pin twisted pair to twisted triple single-ended cable. Shure uses MMCX and includes 2 cables – both Kevlar coated 3.5mm terminated but in different lengths (one short and one long). The ES5 cable is a little more manageable, while the SE846 is more sturdy.
AccessoriesSimilar number of tips, but the SE846 has more adaptors (including 2 prong airline), 2 cases and of course the filters.
Comfort / ErgonomicsBoth are extremely comfortable and very ergonomic. This is a toss up overall. The SE846 does tend to isolate slightly better though.
Sound Quality OverallBoth are flagship quality but quite different signatures. The SE846 has a much more balanced signature end to end, and depending on the filter used, can be bassy and warm, or clear with good impact. Bass on the SE846 has very good definition and impact with a sub-bass emphasis, mids are full and slightly forward, and with the white filter, lower treble has good extension and definition. Comparatively the ES5 is a little more coloured with stronger bass and also more upper mid-range emphasis. It is a little leaner through the lower mids. Both have good transparency and staging ability and size.
My PreferenceI like both IEMs – I need to make this very clear at the beginning. With the ES5 I still like to lift the lower mids via EQ and then it really is a great signature for me. But the SE846 (in the limited time I’ve had with them) are a more appealing signature for me personally out of the box, and coupled with the fact I don’t need to EQ to my taste, and also that they are significantly cheaper makes the SE846 a little more appealing. This one really does depend on your signature preference.

Earsonics ES5 vs LZ Big Dipper (3 switch)

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs Big Dipper @ USD 860.00
BuildBoth are extremely well built from quality resin with very good fit and finish. The ES5 are smaller, but both (for my physiology) are easy to wear. The ES5 has 5 BA drivers and the use of specialised acoustic internal chambers. The Big Dipper has 7 BA drivers and 3 filter switches which give two choices for bass, mid-range and lower treble choices.
Cable(s)Both have good quality cables and both are 2 pin (my preference). The Dipper has an 8 core cable, whilst the ES5 has a twisted pair to twisted triple. I actually slightly prefer the ES5 cable.
AccessoriesI didn’t get the full accessory package with the Dipper I purchased (ex review sample). The actual retail accessories for both are pretty good, and comparable – good tip choices and cases (Dipper cases are more solid).
Comfort / ErgonomicsBoth are extremely well shaped with no sharp edges, and able to be worn for long periods with no discomfort. The slightly smaller size of the ES5 does give a slight edge on overall comfort – but both are extremely good. Isolation is slightly better on the Dipper.
Sound Quality OverallAnother really interesting comparison because both have some commonalities and also some differences. Sub-bass is very similar on both, and are quite quick (transients) with good overall impact. The primary difference is again with the lower mid-range where the ES5 is leaner and more recessed while the Dipper is richer and definitely warmer. If anything, the Dipper is the more realistic sounding of the two but both are coloured (v-shaped). The upper mids for both are elevated, and the second main point of difference is in the transition of upper mids to lower treble. On the Dipper this is extended at an elevated level, and at times this can appear hazy, and resolution suffers a little. With the ES5 there is the recession at 4-5 kHz and this contributes to the enhanced clarity and also some of the overall dryness. I do think the ES5 is the more resolving of the two.
My PreferenceA tough one here. The Dipper is a little more versatile, but to get to my overall signature preference, I do need to apply EQ to the upper mids (take a little peak out at 2 kHz). With the ES5 its more about fixing the recessed lower mids. I’d call this one a draw, and again will depend on preference.

Earsonics ES5 vs Fidue A91 Sirius

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs A91 Sirius @ USD 899.00
BuildBoth have very good build quality, with the A91 Sirius winning on overall build materials (alloys), but losing out on weight as a result. The ES5 has the 5 BA drivers and internal acoustic chambers, whilst the Sirius has a 4 BA and 1 DD hybrid design.
Cable(s)Both have very good quality cables, but ultimately the Sirius’ modular cables (with adaptors for different plug types including balanced) is a better system. It is more microphonic though. The ES5 still has my preferred 2 pin system, but the locking MMCX connectors of the Sirius are a good substitute.
AccessoriesVery good tip selection on both. The Sirius has the better overall selection of plugs and cable accessories though. Although the carry case on the Sirius is metal, the ES5 case is my preference because it is slightly more picker friendly.
Comfort / ErgonomicsThis goes to the ES5, and by a large margin. I know some have no issues with the Sirius, but it does have some sharp corners and does cause me long term comfort issues – where the ES5 is a dream to wear in comparison.
Sound Quality OverallIn case anyone is confused by the freq chart, the Fidue A91 has a DD relief port which does affect the quantity of bass. If its closed it closely mimics the ES5 in quantity. If its unobstructed, the bass flattens when measured. The port is on the inside of the body, and for me remains pretty well closed. Combine that with the fact that the A91 is a hybrid, and for me the bass is quite a bit stronger on the Sirius, and with a strong sub-bass emphasis. Despite the dip into the mid-range, the Sirius retains some richness. Vocals are still quite forward, and female vocals are more emphasised than male with both IEMs. Overall the ES5 is a little clearer but also drier in tonality. The Sirius is a little richer and warmer.
My PreferenceIf I was judging purely on sound out of the box, I’d prefer the Sirius, but when you look at the whole package, the ES5 comes out on top for me. The biggest issue is long term comfort, and for me the ES5 is just a lot better. I can fix the ES5 to my own preference with EQ, and where comfort is concerned, cost is secondary.

Earsonics ES5 vs 64 Audio U10 (with Apex M20 module)

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs 64 Audio U10 @ USD 980-1399
Note U10 are no longer available except as B Stock
BuildWhilst both have good overall builds with acrylic shells, I have noticed the tendency of the 64Audio shells to occasionally chip at the nozzle, so I’m going to give the nod to the ES5 on overall build. But although the U10 I have has a slight chip, it still functions beautifully and this is after more than 2 years. The big difference here of course is the Adel or Apex tech – which creates a more open stage, can assist with lowering listening volume, and also allow tuning changes to frequency response. The second difference is the 5 drivers per side vs 10 per side with the U10.
Cable(s)Both have 2 pin cables – twisted pairs, to twisted triples. The ES5 cable has the better overall quality, with the U10 cables sometimes cracking at the 2 pin plug. My advice to U10 owners is to budget for a replacement cable – it happened to me twice. Nod again to the ES5.
AccessoriesEven contest here. The ES5 includes more tips, but the inclusion of the custom case with the U10 and the Apex/Adel modules evens things up.
Comfort / ErgonomicsBoth have an ergonomic build and are very comfortable for longer term wearing. Overall the ES5 is slightly more comfortable, and also isolates a little better. One of the benefits with Apex/Adel though is the elimination (or at least lowering) of bone conduction when walking.
Sound Quality OverallAgain two earphones which are flagship quality even if they are not the current flagships of both companies. Despite the ES5 having more sub-bass quantity, the U10 is the warmer of the two – but this is more likely to do with bass quantity relative to mid-range and lower treble. The U10 is also very well balanced with excellent vocal ability with both male and female vocals. Where the ES5 is somewhat dry and lean, the U10 is richer, fuller, and to me sounds a lot more realistic (although it took me a while to appreciate it’s tonality). The ES5 does have heightened clarity, but it does come at a cost to overall tonality and balance.
My PreferenceThis is probably not a fair match up, as the U10 has been one of my favourite IEMs for the last year. I’ll freely admit to liking the overall build, fit and comfort of the ES5. But for me its the natural tonality, balance, spaciousness (Adel/Apex really opens the impression of stage size) of the U10 – and even applying EQ I can’t match the out of the box tonality 64Audio achieved. For me the U10 (even at a higher price) is worth the outlay – although to be fair I didn’t always think this way.

Earsonics ES5 vs HifiMan RE2000

PriceES5 @ USD 1099.00 vs RE2000 @ USD 1200.00
Note that the RE2000 price has dropped a lot from original list price of $2000 at launch.
BuildBoth have very good overall build quality, with the RE2000 winning on overall build materials (brass and alloy), but losing out on weight as a result. The ES5 has the 5 BA drivers and internal acoustic chambers, whilst the RE2000 has a proprietary single dynamic full range driver design.
Cable(s)Both have 2 pin cables which appear to be good quality. The RE2000 cable has very low microphonics.
AccessoriesGood accessories and tip selection on both. Both packages are comparable, although the HifiMan carry case is more durable.
Comfort / ErgonomicsThis goes to the ES5, and again by quite a margin. I know some have no issues with the RE2000, but it does have a sharp edge which does cause me some long term comfort issues – where the ES5 is superbly comfortable to wear in comparison.
Sound Quality OverallThe RE2000 is the best dynamic signature I’ve heard. The bass is strong (one of the best qualities of DD drivers), but also in good balance with the rest of the signature. The mid-range is rich and full and equally good with male and female vocals. Treble extension is excellent, and whilst extremely detailed, does not detract or overpower the entire rich and natural sonic signature. In comparison the ES5 is still good, but has a very analytical, dry and somewhat clinical signature. Where it captures overall detail and resolution, the RE2000 does the same but with far more musicality and tonality.
My PreferenceThis is a really tough one – because to me an IEM is unusable if its not comfortable. But how do you reconcile things when it simply sounds so darn great (the RE2000). I know I can alleviate the pressure points on the RE2000 through careful positioning, and if I owned it I would modify it so that the sharpish edges were alleviated (it is a review sample – I don’t own it – so I can’t). If the RE2000 was at its original price of ~$2000 the nod would easily go to the ES5. But at $1200 I’d take the chance of modifying the RE2000 shell. The sonic signature is just too good to pass up.

VALUE

Always a tough one to judge when the signature doesn’t quite hit your personal sweet spot. It’s worth looking at the pros objectively, and using that to form a decision. The ES5 has very good build, is light-weight and comfortable, and has very good imaging and clarity. It is able to create the perception of depth and width in a sound-stage (something a lot of IEMs struggle with), and when listened to in isolation (no comparison with other IEMs) it has a signature which can be adapted to. At $1099 it is expensive, and I think it provides fair value overall for what it delivers.

EARSONICS ES5 – SUMMARY

One of the things I love about Earsonics is the way they dance to their own tune. They have a great range or IEMs targeted at a variety of different users preferences, and their music series (ES range) is aimed squarely at audiophiles and audio enjoyment. When Max approached me and asked what I’d like to hear, I suggested something neutral and detailed, and in a lot of ways that’s exactly what the ES5 delivers.

The ES5 (like all the ES series) has very good build combined with a superbly designed shell, good quality cable, and decent (if not comprehensive) accessory package.

In terms of sound signature, it has great quality bass (for an all BA IEM) with nice extension. It is a little lean in the lower mid-range, and this does create a somewhat dry and clinical overall signature, but its one you can acclimatise to in a reasonably short time (whilst writing the summary I’ve been jamming out to a play-list on shuffle and thoroughly enjoying them). Overall clarity is really good, and the imaging and perception of stage size and depth is very good for an IEM. They are very good for listening at low volume levels.

Value is decent, but not startling (IMO). Whilst its not quite my preference I can absolutely understand why others will be much more aligned with the overall signature. For the price of $1099 you are getting an IEM with a really nice feature set for the intended audience (those looking for clarity and detail).

I just want to close with thanking Max for arranging the review sample. I know at some stage I will find an Earsonics IEM which will align with my natural preferences.

Earsonics ES5My ScoreOut ofWeightingWeighted Score
Accessories7.010.05%0.35
Build9.010.010%0.90
Design9.010.05%0.45
Fit/Comfort9.010.015%1.35
Sound Quality
Bass Quality9.010.08%0.72
Mid-range Quality5.010.08% 0.40
Treble Quality8.010.08%0.64
Overall Tonality5.010.08%0.40
Clarity8.010.08%0.64
Stage / Imaging8.010.08%0.64
Value6.010.017%1.02
Total83.0110.0100% 7.51

%d bloggers like this: