Disclaimer: The FIIO EM3 earbud was sent to us free of charge. FIIO is a website advertiser and the FIIO EM3 doesn’t need to be returned
EM3 – FIIO Reply to the Monk?
Just last week I published my article on the Venture Electronics Monk (the original version). In short, it blew me away for a $5 earbud and I ended up ordering over 10 units of the new Monk Plus for my friends. Now it looks like FIIO wants a piece of the pie and we all know FIIO is great when it comes to budget gear. But can the EM3 beat the Monk? Read up on the Monk review first as this review very often will refer to things stated in there.
The FIIO EM3
The FIIO EM3 is an open earbud that originally was made for the M3 portable DAP, which Paul reviewed for us. FIIO says:
“So what’s the difference between the EM3 and the M3’s bundled earbuds, other than the color?
Firstly and most importantly, the EM3’s impedance was raised to 47 ohms. Raising the impedance may
alter the earphones’ impedance characteristics, reducing nonlinear distortion caused by inductance
in the voice coil windings, increasing sound quality. For example, the Yuin PK1, legendary among
HiFi circles, has an impedance of 150 ohm. Of course too high impedance places undue stress on the player
/ amplifier’s voltage amplification requirements; therefore, we settled on an impedance of 47 ohms,
which we believe reaps most of the fidelity benefits of high impedance while being easy enough to drive
from most smartphones. Secondly, the EM3 comes with a microphone as well as the inline remote,
so as to allow voice calls as well as music listening. Finally, the EM3 employs an L shaped jack in place of the
original straight jack, and does not compromise durability for prettiness: the jack is suitably sturdy if a bit
clumsy looking, but is suitably designed to be compatible with cases for smartphones and DAPs alike.
There are not that many high-q uality earbuds on the market, never mind one that is so cheap and comes
with a mic and remote. Hopefully we’ve found a little unfilled niche in the market?
Simply put: Good sound at a bargain! Simple to use, but not simply designed!”
The new EM3 has a streamlined minimalist design which is supposed to be easy on your ears.The dynamic driver inside the EM3 is an eight part design and the driver itself – with its 14.8mm – is a bit smaller than the Monks, which is 15.4mm. The EM3 has a 1.2m shielded cable which is terminated with an L-shaped gold plated 3.5mm plug. The big differences between both cables are that the FIIO has strain reliefs on the earbuds and that the cable itself has an in-line microphone and remote.
The EM3 has an output impedance of 47Ohm compared to 32Ohm from the Monk and their sensitivity respectively is 109dB vs 112dB. Both are very easy to drive with your phone or favorite DAP.
Build Quality & Comfort
FIIO’s latest packaging materials for the K1 DAC/AMP and A1 mini portable amplifier was very basic, namely a see through plastic “box”. The EM3 arrived in a small white non see-through box and it does look more qualitative. The FIIO EM3 is only going for $9.99 on Amazon for the moment but the packaging compared to the $4.99 Monk is a lot fancier. Don’t expect a fancy box however, you get what you pay for. And yes, that makes the FIIO EM3, three times as expensive as the Monk. If I remember well the FIIO EM3 was supposed to sell for $8.99 but I can’t find it anywhere for that price at this moment.
The VE Monk earbud is thicker and it looks to be more durable than the slim but more elegant looking EM3. I would feel more comfortable throwing the Monk in my bag but the EM3 does have a strain relief. Anyway, even if they’re both very cheap, you should always make sure they’re well protected. I myself keep the cable untangled by using one of Cosmic Ears’ cable binders and I always carry my monitors in a Pelican 1010 hard case. The EM3 has a mesh grill covering the dynamic driver, where it is all plastic with the Monk
The EM3, and the Monk for that matter, weigh as good as nothing. They’re small and light and depending on the foam used give you a comfortable and secure fit. The foam jackets of course have an impact on the sound quality and the FIIO EM3 comes delivered with 3 pairs of durable soft-foam ear sleeves. The foam jackets are fully closed as well.
I do find the FIIO EM3 a little more comfortable than the Monk both with and without jacket. The best fit for my ears however is with foam. If there’s one thing I would improve on the EM3 it is the L/R marking as it isn’t very visible when just looking at them. Well that is until you realize the integrated mic is on the left connector…
Friends of ours have made this nice article on how to fix Earbuds, check it out here: https://www.pingzic.com/how-to-fix-earbuds/
Sound, comparisons, and more after the jump: