On first holding the box containing the Earsonics SM64 Earphones, I picked up on the 'no-frills' design of the packaging, which is something I appreciate. Opening the box it's great that you don't have to rip anything open or work out a packaging puzzle to get to the good stuff. Inside you get an instruction card, a rigid carry case, a selection of tips (2 x double flanged pairs and 2 x Comply isolation pairs) and a small cleaning tool. The earphones come with a replaceable braided cable that feels very well built and flexible – very similar to the Westone cables. The cable has a tough right-angled jack plug and the yoke is of equal quality, this is very reassuring as they are generally the most fragile parts of an earphone.
The first thing to mention is that the SM64 needs an amplifier! They are high impedance and they have fairly low sensitivity, this makes them tough to drive so I wouldn't recommend that they be used straight off a portable player unless you know it has a powerful headphone amplifier. Once you have your amp hooked up you need to pick the right eartips – as with any earphone if the tips are too small you will lose the lower frequencies for a paper thin sound or if the tips are too big then the sound will be muffled. I found that thelarger Comply tips suited me perfectly, and once that was sorted I could really enjoy these amazing earphones. You hear everything so clearly and with punch, also the soundstage is superb – you can really pinpoint where each sound is coming from. I tend to find high end earphones either flat and analytical, too aggressive in the higher frequencies or too smooth. These have great clarity without being analytical or harsh, the upper mids really cut through and the bass is tight but also full (if that even makes sense).
I listen to quite a mix of music and the SM64did them all justice – With rock music the snare drum really cuts through and you get a nice wash on the cymbals. The bass is clear and tight, guitars (generally in stereo) are well separated. Softer music like acoustic tracks sound great! The guitar strings sound natural and you hear the reverb trail off till the very end, also the vocals are forward without any harshness. These earphones also work with electronic music but they might not be for everyone. I'm not a fan of big bass, I prefer the bass to be tight and accurate – even on bass heavy music. So if you're looking for a lot of bass then these may not be for you, but if you appreciate bass quality then you'll be happy.
If you're looking for an earphone with a balanced and neutral sound then these are a great choice! The bass is tight, mids cut through without being too harsh and the highs extend very well and naturally. Thereplaceable braided cable is flexible and well built, there is very little to no micro-phonics and the built in ear guides supply extra support and comfort. The supplied carry case is tough and not too big, and the ear tip selection should suit all users. One possible downside to these earphones is the amount of power they require, you will need a dedicated headphone amplifier to get the best out of them – one with plenty of power.
The equipment I used for the testing was:
- FiiO E12 Portable Headphone Amplifier
- HiSoundAudio Nova Music Player with WAV files