The supplier of the EM3 – it’s not made by FIIO itself of course – has worked for companies such as Denon, LG, Samsung and … Skullcandy! FIIO says they went for a natural sound with a realistic sound stage and I think they realized that rather well.
Earlier this week the FIIO EM3 was traceless and I spent my Sunday afternoon looking for it. After a couple of hours it turned up in one of my cat’s hiding places and luckily it was in perfect non-chewed on condition. That’s another reason right there why you should always store your IEMs, monitors and earbuds in a box.
The overall sound signature of the EM3 with the full sleeves is more on the neutral side but it’s always musical in its presentation. The EM3 has good speed and attack and manages to keep everything tight. Its sound stage is good for an earbud and to my ears it’s just a little wider than the Monk’s with a better separation. Detail level for this price is very good and it to me has more fine detail in the lower mids than the Monk where detail kind of gets lost because of the bigger bass and thicker mids. The treble section however seems more layered and detailed in the original Monk.
Bass is tight and isn’t boosted. Bass body I would say is medium and more neutral compared to the VE Monk. Bass detail, depth and layering aren’t that spectacular in this price range. Basically: Monk = bigger body, EM3 = more neutral but tighter. The mids in the EM3 have a nice spacious feel to it. They are fairly neutral and they are in line with the bass presentation, so bass doesn’t run into the mids. The vocals are very natural sounding and are more upfront than in the Monk. The treble is lively and energetic and like the vocals a little more forward. For me the treble section in the Monk scores better with better extension, layering and detail.
Without any sleeve the EM3 sounds thinner and a lot more forward with an almost sharp presentation. Bass isn’t that much present. With the open sleeves from the Monk the mids and voices still sound more forward but the bass now has a better presence. I definitely prefer a full sleeve on the EM3.
Vs The Monk – Sources
Of these two the VE Monk is the most fun and most relaxing to listen to as it has the biggest bass, full bodied mids and best treble. The EM3 is a bit more refined, spacious and detailed in the mids section and it gives the impression of sounding more forward. Layering and separation seem better in the FIIO EM3, except for the treble region. The FIIO is a lot of fun as well, it just isn’t as addictive as the Monk is, while it technically actually might be the better one. Both score great, the Monk is the most seductive and fun one, while the FIIO EM3 is the more neutral and forward one.
Driving the EM3 is extremely easy and I personally like using it in combination with a DAP with a bigger bodied type of sound like the L5PRO, the L3, the Cayin N5 and the X3SG. For my personal taste the EM3 sounds a little too gentle with DAP’s like the X5SG, AK120II or AK240.
Cheap earbuds are definitely getting better. The EM3 has a different tuning from the popular Monk but it holds its own. Especially the tight bass and the more forward presentation of the upper mids and the treble section are noticeable. Some people will definitely prefer this over the softer and more relaxed Monk. Depending on the source, mood and music I’m listening to I like to switch between the EM3 and the Monk. Because of their price it’s fairly easy for everyone to get both and in my opinion both earbuds are complementary. I would say the EM3 at $9.99 is worth its price even if it is double as expensive as the VE Monk. But that is mainly because the Monk is ridiculously cheap for the quality you’re getting.