And as this essay gets progressively happier and happier (and I drunkier and drunkier), the hardest thing for me to do is to transfer the smile on my face to the blank space below this full stop.
I’m getting sidetracked by just how damn comfy this earphone is. Part of that comfort extends to how I listen to music. The EM32 is neither too sensitive, nor hard to drive. Dig the original iPod shuffle, but not its constant whispering background noise? The EM32 cuts down enough of the background noise to make that white gumstick really sing.
Another praise-worthy point is that the EM32, like the SM3 before it, is simple to drive. Plug it into pretty much any modern source or amp and get high quality signal direct to your drums. It eschews crazy impedance swings for staid, conservative loads. Even if your source is an iPod video, you will get great, well-voiced signal straight from its headphone output.
This is one of the marks of a well-designed audio circuit.
And, that conglomeration of silicon, acrylic, and metal sounds:
In this case, heavenly could be spelled h-e-a-v-y. Heavy as in from the bottom. The EM32 has no problem in rendering the almost inaudible opening seconds to Markus Schulz’s Mainstage. Unlike most earphones capable of rendering lows as low, the EM32 maintains supreme control from there on up.
Bass detail freaks: as long as you are into lows for the backbone, not the airy spaces, EM32 will float your boat. Bass is strongly anchored, but gloms to the centre. The effect is like standing about five metres from stage between two large, well-hung sub woofers.
EM32 sports just three drivers. Two of them are huge. One is small. The small one does treble. One of the big ones does mids. The other handles bass. You might think that headroom would suffer. You’d be wrong. While thunderous, bass never, ever, booms. It never hits walls. It never flubs. Is it supremely controlled? Probably not. But it’s supremely natural. And like a pair of stage subwoofers, it zaps your medulla oblongata, and down.
That means that separation of elements, of left/right bass channels, of super fine details is of secondary importance. Of primary importance is the feel, the touch, of the bass.
And despite more air and more separation, mids follow a similar pattern. And they pull you in. The SM3 impressed me by adding emotion to the laid back sound signature of the SM2. EM3 keeps step. Mids are round, full, lush; and despite taking up what what feels like a smaller piece of the frequency pie, their space is fully their own. Bass doesn’t encroach on mids. The sense of speed remains high, and elements such as vocals, are lustrous, fibrous, and strong.
Back in the day, I dug what I called linear: a sheet-rattle of barely audible bass, ample upper mid range tweak, and what I called detail. Detail amounted to lots of treble sound pressure. My weapon of choice was the Etymotic ER4. At the desk, I used a pre-2005 Beyerdynamic DT880. As time went on, that preference softened. Today, I appreciate where I came from, and still lean toward a contrasty upper mid section and a good sense of space. But more and more, adjectives like powerful and emotional have become important.
But just as often, powerful earphones do one of several things wrong. And EM32 doesn’t. It is powerfully natural; or perhaps I should say naturally powerful sounding. Next to bass, treble presence trails off a bit, but not at the expense of speed. EM32 keeps up with any foot-tapping music you in your arsenal. In fact, it is one of a very few bassy earphones that sounds really really good with trance. No, there isn’t enough contrast between lows and highs to emulate the that genre’s namesake. No nodding off into lala land as Vibrasphere, or Infected Mushroom spin away. Head bopping speed? Yes. Chest-booming power? Yes.
Didn’t figure you for an earphone that had real bass.
That was a surprise. But so was my take up with the Earsonics SM3. And today, the EM32. And now the EM32.
But I’m maturing. And the EM32, with its focus on the feel of music, has grown on me.
But let’s close this. If you are a so-called detail freak, favouring super-duper contrast between bass and high mids, or that ER4-style etchy treble, the EM32 likely won’t fit your tastes. And, if you dig ponderous, duffy lows that don’t apologise for hitting their own ceiling, EM32 won’t do. It’s too controlled for the latter, and too laid back for the former.
It gets the details across just fine, but when a song is over, you won’t be gabbing about the sound of fingerprints rubbing off on coiled steel. You’ll be on about how the guitar solo made you feel, and how Broken Social Scene really were on it.
EM32 is Earsonics through and through. It’s about feeling, about mood. It’s an earphone that sounds great sans amp. It’s an earphone that’s not too sensitive. And yeah, it’s obvious that the finer details: earphone guts that could be swept for prints, and that really could do with a hoover, got left out. But it’s equally obvious that what really matters to Earsonics, and the reason they have no qualms with leaving behind evidence, is that the sound engine behind it all is what matters.