The (Backyard) Biz: shotgunshane’s Visit to EarWerkz!

Editor’s Note: shotgunshane resides right around the corner (well, in the same wheelhouse) from EarWerkz, a new custom in-ear monitor company, making it perfect to do a quick profile of the new kid on the block.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some of the EarWerkz team for an opportunity to listen to their entire lineup. I couldn’t have been more excited, as it’s not often a new CIEM manufacturer opens up practically in your backyard!

That backyard is the Gwinnett County area of Georgia, making EarWerkz a convenient resource for musicians and audiophiles in the metro Atlanta area. Of course, they’re also a service to customers nationwide and all around the world. Built with a strong customer service-oriented foundation in mind, EarWerkz touts 7 days of customer support, 12-hour email response time, and a 10 day turnaround time on standard builds (with rush options available). Each EarWerkz custom monitor comes with a 30-day fit guarantee and a 1-year warranty.

As I looked through the company’s designs though, the thing that made EarWerkz stand out, in my mind, was that their shell designs are a bit different from the offerings seen most everywhere else — they fit both shallower inside and more flush to the ear. The cable actually attaches on the faceplate of the shell — this means no more worrying about shells sticking out from your ear (at seemingly random and uneven amounts) to allow room for the cable and connector to have clearance to go behind your ears.

In conjunction with a more stealthy fit, you can choose from two different series for the same driver configurations: Pro Series or Hero Series. The Pro Series have partially recessed, detachable cables for over-the-ear wear. The Hero Series have fixed cables for wearing down, and an even lower profile that won’t interfere with motorcycle helmets or other head gear. Since the faceplates, in both cases, house the cable connections, artwork is not offered but I believe there is an option for the EarWerkz logo. Faceplates can be black, white, beige, smoke or clear and shells can very from more than a dozen different color options.

So how do they sound? The house sound of the EarWerkz line up is a neutral based, forward signature. Bass is slightly enhanced, while treble is smooth and relaxed while remaining articulate. Most choices in the lineup have staging properties that are very realistic in presentation, without exaggeration in any one area, but most noticeably carry excellent height that belies the fact that you are wearing IEMs.

EW demos_mini

Individually, the models break down as follows, into what EarWerkz regards as different classes of monitors:

Class 1

Driver Configuration: Single Precision Tuned Armature Driver
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 18 kHz
Impedance: 26 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 109 dB @ 1 kHz

The EP-1 is EarWerkz‘ entry level single driver offering. It has a downward-sloping signature with non-fatiguing, laid back treble. The midrange is full and surprisingly rich for a single driver. Bass is slightly enhanced over neutral with solid impact, rumble and texture. The EP-1 is apparently popular with motorcyclists looking for an easy to listen signature over long periods of ride time.

Class 2

Driver Configuration: Single High, Single Low. 2-Way, Passive Crossover Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 18 kHz
Impedance: 23 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 126 dB @ 1 kHz

I raved repeatedly to the EarWerkz staff how superb the EP-2 tuning was.

The EP-2 is an excellent dual driver and it instantly clicked with my neutral leaning preferences, bringing a contented smile to my face. I raved repeatedly to the EarWerkz staff how superb the EP-2 tuning was. Clarity and transparency are simply fantastic, besting other universals and customs costing much more, and overall tonality was spot on. While many have called the Ultimate Ears UE4 Pro (another excellent dual driver CIEM) a “baby UERM” to try and punctuate the point how good it is at its budget level, I believe the EP-2 is simply better.

As such, the EP-2 is one of the most neutral models in the EarWerkz line up. Bass is equal parts upper, middle, and deep bass, the midrange is effortlessly transparent and clear, and treble has very good extension, with perhaps the best airiness of the entire line up. The transparency of the middle and upper midrange made me think of the Etymotic ER4S. While overall resolution doesn’t quite compete with higher tier models, the EP-2 doesn’t give up much in anything else and more than holds its own in every other category.

Hence, the EP-2 will be my #1 recommendation for anyone looking for a neutral monitor on a budget. With a MSRP of $399, the EP-2 is pound for pound one of the best earphones I’ve heard.

As a footnote, the EP-2+ is a slightly more bass-enhanced version of the wonderful EP-2. The plus version shifts the emphasis of bass down lower, to give it a bit more grunt and rumble in sub-bass. The plus also has a little less air and treble presence, which reduces overall clarity and transparency slightly in direct comparison to its sibling. The EP-2+ is $20 more than its sibling and would be another easy recommendation for someone looking for an overall neutral presentation with just a bit more deep bass emphasis.

Class 3

Driver Configuration: Single High, Dual Low. 2-Way, Passover Crossover Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 32 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 118 dB @ 1 kHz

The EP-3 is about as close as you can get, in an EarWerkz custom, to a bass-oriented signature. Boasting dual lows and a single for highs in a 3-way configuration, it has a full, rich, and thick signature. Bass is enhanced and helps color the lower midrange for weighty and intimate vocals with a relaxed, non-fatiguing treble. The EP-3 comes across as a bassy and mid-centric stage monitor with elements that reminded me of previous Shure models and a 1964Ears Quad I’ve previously owned.

The EP-3+ takes the same signature and moves into even darker territory.

Class 4

Driver Configuration: Single High, Single Mid, Dual Lows. 4-Way, Triple Crossover Points Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 20 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 120 dB @ 1 kHz

The EP-4 has been recently revised and has become the most analytical of the EarWerkz line up.

Bass was neutral, but perhaps a tiny bit lean. The midrange was very forward and lifted vocals onto another plane of prominence. Treble was the brightest of the line-up with extra sparkle and air, yet somehow never harsh, showcasing perhaps the largest deviation from the EarWerkz house sound.

This EP-4 would be a great recommendation for those preferring brighter, harder-edged signatures or those looking for something to excel with female vocals. I found the EP-4’s bright and mid-centric signature perhaps the most unique and engaging of the line up.

Class 5

Driver Configuration: Single High, Dual Mids, Dual Lows. 4-Way, Triple Crossover Points Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 25 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 118 dB @ 1 kHz

The four-way EP-5 begins to show larger steps in sonic refinement as one goes up the EarWerkz ladder, with possibly the smoothest and most laid-back treble of the line-up.

In some ways, the EP-5 is an evolution of the EP-1 signature, while exponentially improving on technical abilities in resolution, separation, imaging, and spaciousness. The EP-5 would be a good match for someone looking to get into a more neutral signature but has concerns about and sensitivities to treble.

Class 6

Driver Configuration: Dual Highs, Dual Mids, Dual Lows. 5-Way, Four Crossover Points Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 27 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 118 dB @ 1 kHz

The EP-6 boasts quad crossover points (five-way design), and the improvement in resolution and separation over the previous models is readily apparent. The signature is pretty neutral with bass levels somewhere between the UERM and JH13. The midrange is forward and clear with very good tonality, excellent distortion guitar crunch, and intimate vocals. Treble is just slightly laid back, but even and remarkably smooth — perhaps a hair less presence than I would categorize as absolutely neutral.

In that way, the EP-6 can be both powerfully dynamic and wonderfully delicate at virtually any volume. With a grin on my face, I was ready to declare the EP-6 my favorite of bunch but then I realized I still had one more model to try…

Class 7, the Legend

Driver Configuration: Triple Highs, Triple Mids, Dual Lows. 7-Way, Six Crossover Points Network.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 25 ohms @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity: 119 dB @ 1 kHz

The Legend screams top-of-the-line status.

The EP-L8 is an 8-driver, 7-way (6 crossover network) beast. Simply put, it’s the EP-6, but perfected.

The signature is similar, yet somehow EarWerkz has squeezed out improved resolution, dynamics, separation, and imaging. The Legend screams top-of-the-line status. Treble articulation is fantastic, leading to some of the best treble resolution I’ve heard. Bass texturing is precise and clean, and the midrange a multifaceted juggernaut of emotion, delicacy, and power.

Each instrument is clearly separated and precisely placed, yet coherence is superb and rivals that of my JH13 FreqPhase ownership experience, but in an even more neutral signature that is smoother and more even in treble, while maintaining best-in-class detail retrieval.

I simply didn’t want the audition of the Legend to end. EarWerkz clearly has a top-of-the-line offering that is clearly deserving of its name.

EW colors 2_mini

I had a great time with the EarWerkz team. They were very personable and were genuinely interested in getting honest feedback from me.

Best of all, they were super patient, as I took better than three hours of their afternoon listening to and discussing the line up with them. They were practically as excited as I was! Overall, I was very impressed with the entire line-up.

Standouts are the EP-2, revised EP-4, EP-6 and the Legend. The EP-2 is a real gem and just a steal of a deal; it’s an excellent neutral custom at an entry level price.

Stay tuned! In the coming weeks, I’ll be giving a full review of the Legend EP-L8!

For ordering or more information, please visit: www.earwerkz.com

About shotgunshane
(Full Author Bio)
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Looks like you met the people that oem for the CIEM company, “Gorilla Ears”

    Like

  2. Brian says:

    Would you recommend Earwrkz EP-L8 over UE 18 Pro?

    Like

    1. shotgunshane says:

      Hi Brian, Unfortunately I have not had opportunity to hear the UE 18.

      Like

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