EarSonics Store – Direct link to purchase
EarSonics – Homepage
A Little Technical Stuff:
- Sensitivity: 119 dB / mW
- Frequency response: 10 Hz -20 kHz
- DCR: 26.6 ohms
- Driver: 10 transducers with 3-channel HQ filter with impedance corrector
-MRSP: Universal fit € 2000.00
EarSonics, a company that came to existence in 2005. It was started by Franck Lopez, who himself is a musician, a bass player. This entire EarSonics thing came about because of love, a love for music and a passion for quality sound. You have to appreciate the story, of a man not happy with the quality of ear monitors available at the time, so he seeks to create a better mousetrap. Franck did just that, and since the humble beginnings of EarSonics, they have released several different models to include the SM64, Velvet, S-EM6 and S-EM9, some of their most popular IEM’s to date. Not only their most popular, but some of THE most popular among the “in the know” crowd. There has always been a distinct EarSonics house sound, one that has an established and loyal fan base. Anyone that follows this hobby knows that a lot has transpired in this industry since 2005. Innovators such Franck, are always busy developing cutting edge technology in an attempt to stay ahead of an evolving market. The companies two latest TOTL offerings, the EM10, and the Grace have taken a different path from the characteristic house sound that made EarSonics so famous and I for one, like the progression. I also have a lot of respect for someone willing to deviate from their norm. It is a gamble to take a departure from the tried and true.
I credit EarSonics for having a significant impact on the IEM market as we know it today. I also credit Franck and EarSonics for being a contributor in sending me spiraling down the audio rabbit hole. I will never forget purchasing the SM64 second hand, after already owning a couple of Westone offerings, the UM3X and W4R, it was the beginning of my slippery slope. While the Westone’s were incredible, it was the EarSonics SM64 that captivated me. Along the way, I would dip my toe in the EarSonics waters, with the Velvet, for example, to see what they were up to. Each EarSonics offering, known for a full bass, house signature. The custom, 10-driver EM10 was the first to plot a different course than the usual house signature, but it was only available as a custom offering so it wouldn’t have mass appeal like a universal offering would. I enjoy the EM10, and it’s smooth operator capabilities, but it was a paradigm for EarSonics in a non-traditional house signature.
I noticed that EarSonics had a new TOTL 10-driver universal model, the Grace. With the EM10 also being a 10-driver model, it was a fair conclusion that the Grace would be the universal peer to the custom EM10. I asked directly what, if any, were the differences versus the EM10 and the Grace. The response I received was that the Grace shared the same DNA as the EM10 but with some slight tuning differences. I am not sure if this was EarSonics being humble, but to my ears, I think there is maybe more than minor tuning differences. The shared DNA is the 10-drivers, smooth overall signature and a listener-friendly tone, but I feel that is where the similarities stop, and while they may be brothers, the differences abound.
A Little Marketing Hype:
Place to excellence!
When the technique fades to give way to emotion; a single word to characterize that …
Born of the spirit of its designer and the hands of our goldsmiths, Grace brings together the essential ingredients to make it an exceptional in-ear.
An intense black dress in which lodge 20 hearts beating in concert, capable of delivering the most intense and harmonious sound that you have been allowed to listen.
Advanced electronics combining exclusive materials and high technology, driven by drivers specifically developed for EarSonicss through a set of specifications rigorous.
A lacquered acrylic envelope, manufactured using 3D technology and assembled entirely by hand in our laboratories.
Extreme comfort provided by a silhouette studied and developed over several years, to forget the presence in the hollow of the ear.
The most advanced pair of universal earphones ever developed by EarSonics, for an audiophile experience out of the ordinary.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
- GRACE and its detachable cable
- Delivered in luxury box ES.
- 2 pairs of Comply tips of different sizes
- 2 pairs of silicone tips of different sizes
- 1 cleaning tool
- Carrying case
- Adapter jack 3.5
- User manual
Unboxing and Accessories:
The box was adorned with a black sleeve with Grace monitors autographed in a copper or maybe a dark gold color in the lower right-hand corner and ES in the lower left corner. Upon removing the jacket, the consumer is presented with a black box with the ES initials in the lower right corner. Once you flip open the lid, there is a thank you note, in French, from Franck Lopez the CEO. Above the note are two circular windows which showcase the monitors and their dark gold cursive inscription of Grace adorning each monitor.
Laid out in a foam tray beneath the Thank you note are the accessories. The packaging is purposeful and reminiscent of the EM10 packaging, minus the eartips since the EM10 were a custom design. All of the inclusions are listed above, and I would consider the EarSonics retail packaging and accessories to be average with other TOTL offerings. I will include a photo below to show you can expect to receive. There is a card included that lets me know that Jean pierre Pinaud handcrafted my Grace’s. They include a Platics1 cable with memory wire. Keep in mind EarSonics uses a reverse polarity in their design. For the price of the IEM, I wish they would include a more upgraded stock cable, but that is only a wish.
Build Quality and Fit:
I gave the Grace monitors an OCD level inspection and found the build quality to be top notch. They are relatively small considering there are 10 BA drivers inside. EarSonics are never flashy and very simplistic in their design efforts, which I actually like. The shells are shaped in a teardrop shape, and for a universal they have a slight custom fit feel to them, regarding their comfort. The shells are black with the name Grace emblazoned in a dark gold on each monitor. I have had zero comfort issues and would not hesitate to recommend them as their shape should not really give many folks any comfort issues. The short, angled nozzles have three bores. The nozzles are very short and do not have a lip to assist in grasping the eartip. I tried some of my go-to eartips, the JVC Spiral Dot Tips and I could not keep them on the nozzle. However, the Final Audio E tips held tight. I found the Final Audio gave me the best sound and comfort, so I am glad that they stay put on the nozzle. Going down in size to a smaller eartip, compared to my usual eartip, gave me a stronger bass presence.
The review was written utilizing multiple sources, Essential phone w/HD adapter, QP2R, iBasso DX120. I listened using multiple aftermarket cables, to include the Ares II 4-wire and the Ares II 8-wire Bespoke cable as I found both paired really well. Honestly, I took the Plastics1 cable off immediately and never looked back. Maybe I should have given it a chance because I found it to pair quite nicely with the EM10. My sample music consisted of 320kb, FLAC, 24bit as well as streaming Tidal Masters, Spotify, and Deezer.
Moving on to the sound section….
If I were to characterize the Grace in a couple of words, it would be balance and tone. The Grace is most certainly a departure from the bass bold, animated, house signature of EarSonics past. It is evident that the EM10 began this shift in house sound, and the Grace is picking up where it left off, but with a twist.
The bass of the Grace is satisfying in all of its technical glory. You will not find a ton of quantity in the bass but what you will find is adept and offers a clean, non-muddy bass. The sub bass is not the fullest, but as the bass frequencies head north, there is a pervasiveness to the bass. To my ears, it sounds stronger in the midbass and even fuller yet in the upper bass region. There is not much in the way of any coloration to the bass, it is natural, but what minimal color is there creates a bit more engaging personality in the Grace. It does not extend incredibly far south, but it is designed to be a quality vs. quantity type of listen.
This is clearly not DD bass. I feel that the DD driver bass adds a bit more snap and fun, for the most part, but what the Grace brings to the table a technical, clarity in the bass transitions and allows the listener to decipher the differences between the bass ranges easily. Do not expect a tooth-rattling rumble because that isn’t what the Grace is designed to do, partly due to the nature of the BA and partly due to tuning. It is a quick bass without any lingering notes, so the decay is perfect.
If I were to singularize the overall bass feel I would say there is space between the transitions and a transparent tone. If I was a bass player, as Franck Lopez is, it is the bass character I would want to be associated with. Any more bottom floor to the bass it would more than likely create a blanket of bass that interfered with its technical ability to perform as bass aficionados would expect. I put on a Blue’s based playlist and found the bass to accompany the guitar riffs perfectly, it was like peas and carrots. Balance is alive and well in the Grace, and the bass clarity has a melodic tone. It is captivating and fun to listen to.
The mids are perfectly balanced with the upper bass region and create a seamless transition. The mids do not steal the show. Actually, none of the frequencies take the spotlight, it is shared, as it should be in a balanced signature IEM. In all genres of music, the Grace excelled. I love listening to vocals with the Grace, especially female vocals. Norah Jones melted my heart. Female vocals are correctly placed in the presentation and stage. The tone of Norah’s voice is moving and sultry. Frank Sinatra crooned, It was a Very Good Year, and I felt he was in the room with me, the strength of his voice coupled with the plucking of the strings gave me gooseflesh. My preference was female vocals during listening sessions, quite an experience.
The timbre of instruments is mesmerizing, there is an ambiance to everything Grace offers. There is transparency and air between the notes, which is one of the most significant tuning differences when compared to the EM10. The EM 10 sounds a bit more in head, and closed, where the Grace has a more open and airy sound. I feel the air not only adds to the stage width and depth but also to the emotion behind the music. The upper mids in the Grace have a beautiful tone, and if fullness exists, it is in this frequency. If you notice, fullness is not a descriptor I have used much in the review. While the total signature is not thin, by any stretch, it is not the richest or warmest I have heard. When listening to a FLAC version of Dave Matthews Crash, it sounds so complete and as I would expect the artist wanted it to be heard. The stage is wide and deep with extension to the furthest ends. I am not a Dave Matthews fan, but his music is very involved with lots of instruments and sounds coming at you from all directions. I like to test an IEM’s ability to provide ample air and stage using Dave Matthews music, and I am happy to say that the Grace reproduced the tunes wonderfully.
The second biggest differentiation between the EM10 and it’s universal counterpart is the ability to extend well and offer a twinkle in the edge of the treble region. The treble is smooth and never offensive and finalizes the balancing act that is the Grace. I am not a fan of bright or trebly sounding IEM’s, and the smoothness of the Grace suits me perfectly well in this regard. I think this aids in the versatility of being able to adapt to all genres of music.
The treble is nimble and features a clarity and sparkle without ever being fatiguing. The treble blends so well with the entire balance of the signature. It indeed is nice to hear such nice amounts of definition while maintaining the velvety serenity of the tone. It is a different type of listen, without any of the signature outshining the other. The treble rounds out and completes the package.
Jazz, Rock, EDM, Vocal, Acoustic, everything I threw at it, never changed its delivery, all with a smooth tone and emotion to the music.
The Grace is fairly easily driven with moderate volume, but really shines when you bump up the volume. Yes, this is one of those IEM’s that you find yourself goosing up the volume level from time to time while listening.
The QP2R is my reference player and pairs incredibly well, especially from the 2.5mm balanced output. The added stage and sparkle of the QP2R assist in widening the extension. The full, rich, organic tone of the QP2R does not add coloration but adds the fullness that might be otherwise lacking. The overall signature is organic and natural, meanwhile with smooth overtones. This pairing excels with Rock and Grunge genres, with female vocal music thrown in for good measure. Separation is broad, and staging is coherent.
The iBasso DX120 utilizing the 2.5mm balanced output is also a sublime pairing. You could not go wrong with pairing the DX120 with the Grace. I actually preferred the pairing of the DX120 and the Grace more than I did the QP2R. The DX120 seems to give the proper lift in the areas most needed by the Grace. The tone maintains it’s pure form and really allows the bass transparency and layering to shine. Also, I found the power at 50% was more than powerful enough. As with the QP2R, the separation and staging are excellent.
I touched on a few of the primary differences between the EM10 and the Grace, but I will expound on that and say that the tone of the EM10 and Grace is where the DNA is shared. Both IEM’s share a beautiful smooth tone that is conducive to long listens.
I feel that because of the upper bass tuning of the EM10 it gives the signature a more closed sound. I am hesitant to say congested delivery because that conjures a negative perception, but it doesn’t have the air that the Grace has. That air also presents the listener with a more spacious sound, more of a transparent effect. It is genuinely effortless to place the instruments on the stage. Grace also has a deeper stage as well as width, almost creates a holographic feel to vocals.
The Grace sound is not thin, but when comparing to the EM10, it comes off as leaner, because of the air surrounding notes. The bass layering and transparency, as well as quality, is more to my liking on the Grace.
Compared to the Empire Ears Legend X. The Legend X is a bit more expensive ($2300) than the Grace. The X is technical in the tuning as it showcases more detail than Grace and as well, the treble extends further than Grace. The X is a hybrid, containing DD and BA drivers and the Grace is strictly BA, so considering that the Grace has a very technical bass with beautiful layering and transparency. The Grace has punch and speed with rapid decay overall, but the Grace lacks the snap that the Legend X has in the midbass and doesn’t extend as low as the X.
To my ears, the Legend X really isn’t warmer than the Grace it just adds a bit more rumble. Contrary to belief, I don’t find the Legend X incredibly bassy. The Grace holds it’s own really well against the Legend X. That is not to say that one is my favorite over the other, as the Grace has received a lot of recent head time, and I can see it continuing to do so in the future.
You might want to own this IEM if:
+ You want a perfect tone and organic timbre to instruments
+ You prefer a smooth, balanced, non-offensive signature
+ You prefer a sound that is full of emotion and excels at long listening sessions
+ You sensitive to treble peaks and sibilance as this is super smooth
+ You like a coherent stage with sexy female vocals
Sometimes the wrap-up is the most challenging part of a review, and this one is no exception. I love Grace, it is a TOTL offering from EarSonics, and they hold a special place in my portable audiophile life. From my days of listening to the SM64 and the Velvets to hearing the shift in house sound to the EM10 and now the Grace. I have no problem saying the Grace is my favorite EarSonics IEM I have heard.
The bass is perfect for a BA IEM and shows off its prowess with its natural tone and transparency. Franck should be proud because, rooted deep in his own musical abilities is a bass lover at heart, and it shows in Grace. It is evident that the tone, clarity and resolving bass are all really a labor of love. The overall sound is exciting yet smooth, which allows the listener not to be offended by any harshness, for long sessions. I love the organics of the Grace and feel it should be commended for a signature that focuses on its timbre.
The cable is definitely one area that can be improved upon. I have enjoyed the Ares II 4-wire terminated with 2.5mm balanced and the Ares II Bespoke 8-wire.
The smoothness prevails in its tone and what it renders to the listener is done with Grace. I really can’t think of a better name for this IEM.