Editor’s Note: Mr. T made some very short comments on the SM64 a few months ago when it first came out; here, TheDigitalFreak fleshes out his thoughts on the SM64…
The EarSonics SM64 earphone is one interesting piece of kit. The French company, known for keeping its production line within France (instead of outsourcing to China) started to turn heads a few years ago when they released the triple-driver SM3, designed to compete against the likes of (then) flagship models like the Westone UM3X, Shure SE530, etc.
It was quite well-received by the market, but, as with all products, had areas that needed addressing and further tweaking. This year, EarSonics released the SM64 as their flagship model, supplanting the SM3 at the top of the food chain.
Although meant for mobile use, these IEM’s are not low impedance earphones but instead boast a high impedance value of a whopping 98 ohms (something that Mr. T actually prefers) but makes up for it with a sensitivity value of 122 dB/mW.
Under the hood, we have a triple-driver balanced armature setup (according to Mr. T, two Knowles Electronics receivers, a CI for the lows, one of the most capable BA woofers, and a TWFK for the mids and highs; very similar to the SM3’s setup) with something called an “HQ 3-way crossover with impedance corrector”, a design being patented by EarSonics.
Sonically, I wouldn’t class the SM64 as a sound engineer’s monitoring tool but instead as just a capable, slightly warm earphone with some very tasteful and fun coloration added into the mix. The bass is only mildly elevated and sounds lush and full. Its extension is excellent, rewarding the listener with a full, deep-hitting bass. Note decay, although not the quickest I’ve ever heard, avoids smearing and detail retrieval rates exceptionally well. Mid- and sub-bass rumble is very satisfying — the bass is not linear, and the lows can hit hard when called upon.
The SM64 is definitely a mid-centric IEM — think along the lines of the Westone 4 —- vocals, guitars, strings, etc. are pulled forward. Similar to the lows, the mids sound slightly full and lush; electric guitars have a very nice crunch behind them. Although I wouldn’t mind hearing a little more microdetail, I would rate detail retrieval as acceptably good considering the warm, lush sound of the midrange. Overall, tonality for guitars, flutes, violins, and pianos is excellent and sounds very natural. Vocals, especially female vocals, sound exceptional on these IEMs — the SM64 excels with vocal-driven music.
The highs are clean, clear, smooth (grainless) and well-extended, giving the overall soundstage a sense of added space and air. Transition between the upper mids and lower highs is good and sibilance seems very well-controlled. Although highs extend well and display a sense of clarity, they are not overly boosted. The (welcome) consequence is a lack of fatigue during long listening sessions.
The SM64‘s soundstage sounds acceptably wide and tall, and with enough depth to give the listener an out-of-head listening experience. Still, I wouldn’t mind hearing a little more added depth and layering added into the equation. Even so, the SM64 still pulls off a very satisfying and immersive audio experience. Instrument separation is very good and I can pinpoint instruments acceptably well.
As mentioned before, the SM64 is not an especially sensitive earphone. The good news, though, is that it can still be driven to acceptably loud levels on an MP3 player, while the bad news is that it sounds quite sloppy out of an iPod/iPhone. This IEM benefits from amping and is happier with a quality mobile amp behind it, scaling nicely to added voltage swing. So, run the SM64 with a quality mobile DAC such as the CLAS-db (reviewed here) and it’ll be really happy. The even better news is that amps known to throw hissy fits with IEMs will still drive the SM64 wonderfully because of the higher impedance crossover design.
The SM64 is definitely a capable and involving little IEM. It has a very smooth sound signature that’s tasteful and not ostentatious in the least bit. It’s very much a genre-chameleon that will handle multiple types of music quite well and won’t do anything “wrong” to offend the listener. For those in the IEM hobby who like to tap their feet to music and dance to the soundtrack of life, don’t hesitate to pick this one up!
For more information on the EarSonics SM64, please visit its official product page: http://www.earsonics.com/en/sm64/
TheDigitalFreak is an middle-aged music and (C)IEM enthusiast born two decades before his time. He views being labeled an audiophile by his peers a joke yet loves to mix and match gear in order to attain different types of sonic coloration for his music. Above all, he tries not to lose sight of the joy music provides; it is ultimately what matters, rather than the gear playing it.
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