Earsonics Velvet – Tunably Addictive

The Sound

Post-SM2, Earsonics changed their tune. Their tune used to be: sensitive, dark, and characterized by wildly swinging impedance. The SM2 still is my benchmark for testing the ability of an amp to supply enough current to low-impedance loads.

For that reason I love it.

But on every other front, I think Earsonics’s current route, is better. It is, in fact, one of the best house design standards in the world of balanced armature earphones.

For one, current Earsonics earphones’s low sensitivity levels obviate the worst hiss from poor amps and DAPs. And then, because it requires more voltage to hit comfortable listening levels, channel imbalance is rarely ever a problem. If it is a problem, your playback device/amp is a POS not worth the ink printed on this page.

That’s all to say that current Earsonics earphones are wonderfully easy to drive. Your old iPod will do the trick. Your old Walkman will do the trick. Even your old AMP3 Pro2 may sound okay. You do NOT need an amp. You will need to turn up the volume. But again, if your device can’t supply enough volume for safely loud listening volumes, it is a POS.

This is killer. And it probably comes from Earsonics’s experience with performing musicians, that need stable output no matter the battery pack into which they’re plugged.

As a result, most of this review was done plugged straight into a current-generation iPod nano. Back to back with iBasso, or with iRiver, or with other, trebly, quadruply expensive, players the nano holds its own. And it has Earsonics Velvet partially to thank for that.

As for what you’ll hear from Velvet, well that really depends. Since it’s got a new wide-mouth bore, it’s harder than before to bung up the sound path. The ear pads that I cobbled together sound as good as anything.

Then, there’s the analogue dial, which lets you set Velvet into one of three variable sound signatures. Earsonics call those: warm mode, balanced mode, and tight mode. I prefer this nomenclature: EM32 thick-ass bass mode, SM64-esque exciting mode, and closer-to-GR10 mode.

Take another gander at my EM32 review. I was floored by its deep, throaty bass. Bass that knocked your eardrums about like punching bags. Bass that yawns with ferocity, but which also yawns just to yawn. It’s not a bass that bottoms out, nor does it drift into the mids. It is strong, but eminently natural. It is addictive. It is detailed. It is also a bass more fun and unforgettable, than bass from most earphones out there. It doesn’t give up heaps of spatial detail, nor does it cast a really 3D image. But it centres everything, and is huge.

That’s the bass you get when you switch Velvet into Warm mode. Personally, I find it Velvet’s most addictive setting. It’s big bass done right.

Transitions are good across the field, but addicts of forward highs may miss angrier progressions from mids to upper mids and highs, that help turn a simple trance listen into a mind-catapult into the club.

God knows the bass has done its part to get you there. Mids aren’t at all pulled back or recessed. They border on the emotive, and thankfully tread far enough from the florid to make them work brilliantly with trance and EDM. Voices jump to the center, as do strings, woods, and your favorite jaw harp (which my wife mistakenly calls a Jew harp). But what my brain keeps coming back to is Velvet’s amazing bass.

I know that I’ll probably draw eyebrow lifts from some people on the net for saying this, but here goes: Velvet is a basshead earphone. And I’m a basshead. Being a basshead can mean one, or many, of many things. The basic tenet of bassheadinity is that bass, in form, and function, is it. You can be a basshead to whom only bass sound pressure is important; you therefore place little importance on bass definition, on bass extension, and on bass quality. That’s one part of being a basshead. Velvet, and the EM32, fulfil the requirements of the basshead that wants the sound pressure, but also the quality, the roundness, and the agility necessary to make it feel good.

Velvet nails those things. And yet, its bass isn’t too much, nor is it really the star. It is just damn addictive. The midrange balances against it well, and the highs, which drop slowly in sound pressure from the mids, don’t drop off too aggressively.

Highs certainly are muted when put side-by-side with forwarder earphones. The GR10’s smooth, but grippy upper mids trump Velvet’s, but only in signature. Earsonics have never been about forward upper mids. They’ve been about the smooth, ultra-keen transitions from one to the other. And Velvet is as smooth as any Earsonics ever. Sorry, that is wrong. It has smoother transitions from bass to mids than any hitherto universal Earsonics earphone. But it’s got a better high-presence than the SM3, and the S-EM6. Tuned correctly, it gives a very convincing approximation of a maturer SM64.

And god, it’s good.

While there’s not much to complain about, I will say this: people that desire stark contrast between spectra should move on. Velvet makes no sonic mistakes, but it is more laid back than the typical ‘reference’ earphone. And perhaps partly thanks to its softer body, its rendering of stage elements is closer, though well positioned, than, say, the SM64, and the EM32.

I’m also a fan of the Ultrasone IQ, but I’ve got to say: Velvet outclasses it in almost all regards. IQ’s biggest problem is that its bass driver has a tendency to bottom out when fed overly energetic, powerful bass lines. Velvet knows no bottom. Neither does it know as excited of an upper midrange.

Tuned to the balanced setting, it compares favorably with the LEAR BD4,2, which is saying a lot. The two are complementary, but interpretations of a similar verve. The LEAR of course, less bassy, and more mid-focused. The Earsonics: well, read the above.

The Meh

Firstly, there’s too much black in this one. From the package, to the literature, to the accessories, Velvet is, while classy, a bit of a yawner. And its sound tube is a bit too soft. I’d prefer that I couldn’t roll it between my fingers without marveling at its elasticity. And while we’re on it, I think I should encourage Earsonics: you’ve made great strides. Velvet is so much more classy, and sure to appeal better than ever to the market into which your earphones have been funneled. I think it will do well. But I think you could go further: iron out the divots in the impact foam, make better ear pieces- when I think of more, I’ll mention it.

The Conclusion

That you neither need an amp, nor needs your hissy iRiver AK100 an attenuator, makes Velvet such a pretty pony to pair with otherwise good-sounding, but ghastly noisome equipment. Its sonic performance is workhorse steady. Its new design is easy to use, and its sound as addictive as it is lovely. Had my early unit not fallen apart, it was a shoo-in for 2014’s best of. Velvet has raised my expectations from Earsonics.

It should yours, too.

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

24 Comments

  • Reply February 8, 2015

    ExpectationGap

    Have you seen these in clear/crystal? They’re brilliant!

    • Reply February 8, 2015

      ohm image

      I saw them, but not in person. The black sound great, but look tired. The clear ones, if in person they look like the render, should be hot.

    • Reply February 27, 2015

      Me hello

      What Company are those the same ear sonics as the review at the top of this page? They actually look like they could offer more then my SE 535’s
      by Shure

      • Reply February 28, 2015

        ExpectationGap

        They are Earsonics velvet in “crystal” color. Same as reviewed here.

        • Reply March 9, 2015

          Me hello

          Ok, sorry for the misunderstanding I have the Shure SE535’s in clear they sound at times otherworldly !

          • Reply March 23, 2015

            ohm image

            There are some similarities, but the Velvet has three unique sound signatures that really help you hone in on genre-specific music, or merely to match what you like with your ear.

            • Reply March 29, 2015

              Me hello

              Pretty much every genre has it’s proper sound on my Shure’s

    • Reply March 23, 2015

      ohm image

      By the way, I had my black units replaced by clear units, so I’ll chime in when the unboxing is done.

      • Reply March 25, 2015

        ExpectationGap

        Awesome, would love to know if the renders are true to form.

        • Reply March 25, 2015

          ohm image

          They have arrived back in Japan, but I’ve been so busy with a couple of commercial shoots that I’ve yet to unbox them. I will keep you updated, probably via Headfonia’s facebook page.

  • Reply February 8, 2015

    obsidyen

    I bought the Crystal version of Velvet. Earsonics said they should be shipped next week. I’ll post a pic when I get my hands on them. Loved the SM64, Velvet should only be better. I used to dislike IEMs and thought they couldn’t be better than on-ear headphones for portable use, but Earsonics SQ completely changed my mind.

    • Reply February 9, 2015

      ohm image

      I replied this morning, but somehow my message didn’t get through.

      Velvet is better than SM64 in that it can get close to the SM64 verve, and do the almost-EM32 thing, too. Versatility at its best. I hope you enjoy.

  • Reply February 11, 2015

    LoneShark

    How’s the bass of the warm mode, compared to the SE846?

    • Reply February 11, 2015

      ohm image

      I wish I could compare them directly. I do not have the SE846. It was loaned by Shure about a year ago. I can utter this blanket: Shure’s bass has more slam, while the Velvet has more warmth. The Velvet is (again, from memory), warmer sounding and slightly more natural in the bass, but the Shure is tighter all around.

  • Reply February 28, 2015

    dog ears

    Heya Nathan, this is tempting coming from an Earsonics ‘fan’ =) Straight from the DAP’s headphone out is what I like. Thanks for the review.

    • Reply March 9, 2015

      ohm image

      Even a dog could find something to love with these. Enjoy.

  • Reply March 22, 2015

    James

    Hi Nathan, Just wondering if you could give me more specific directions how you made those custom tips or where to get those black tips? cheers James

    • Reply March 23, 2015

      ohm image

      Just cut out the centre stalk of your least favourite thin-stalk ear pad, then put on the tip of your choice. The tips you see are from JVC/Victor earphones and are super comfy. If the stalk isn’t good enough by itself, cut another, larger stalk and put it on.

      If that isn’t a good explanation, I need to blog about it someday.

      • Reply April 2, 2015

        James

        That makes sense 🙂 Know where I can get the JVC/Victor earbuds?

  • Reply May 26, 2015

    Dhia Oshaish

    Hey Nathan!
    Thank u for the review. I dont know if you remember the Velvet’s sound well or no.
    Anyway, I bought these for a friend and gave them a quick listen. I was totally impressed. Usually I would be listening to the Fidelio X2, and everything else I managed to try would not be as good in comparison (no direct comparisons but I know it when I am underwhelmed). With the Velvets I was impressed (no direct comparison again). So I am here to make sure that what I heard was right. Do something like the Velvets sound better than the X2s?
    If you had both in a quiet place, which one would you pick to listen to music?

    Thank u!

    • Reply May 28, 2015

      Dhia Oshaish

      I am asking bcz I am encouraged to buy the velvets but I dont trust my initial impressions. And I cant listen to them again, so I am reaching out for your opinion.

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      ohm image

      Hey, I’m sorry this is so late. Personally, I don’t tend to compare anything but sound signature between headphones of non-compatible genres. And, personally, I prefer headphones to earphones at every juncture. But that’s me.

      So, you can get a nice warm sound signature similar to the X2 with the Velvet. But whether it will be better, or worse to you, really depends on you.

      I prefer something easy when I’m in a quiet venue. Ergo, headphones. Ergo, X2 over Velvet. But if that quiet venue requires me to be quiet, earphones are my choice.

      Velvet is more capable of adapting to various important signatures. If that’s important to you, go ahead. But in no way can I decide for you because to me, comparing headphones to earphones simply doesn’t make sense. They are too different.

  • Reply February 18, 2018

    rob

    “bassheadinity” – genius.

    • Reply February 18, 2018

      ohm image

      I’d love to own some genius, somewhere. Many thanks.

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