With a natural musical Grace!
PROS: natural smooth tonality, deep bass impact, good retrieval of details, very compact universal shell design.
CONS: nozzle is short, the sound sig could vary depending on pair up.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
It has been awhile since my last Earsonics review when I tested S-EM9 a few years ago. EM10 was their follow up flagship release, but only available in CIEM design. Personally, I’m not a big fan of custom IEMs because in many cases I end up with fit issues (due to my ear anatomy). That was the reason why I skipped EM10 review opportunity, and also the reason why I didn’t hesitate when I found out about their latest universal 10BA design, named Grace. I have no doubt that Frank Lopez, who founded the company back in 2006, was persuaded by Earsonics customers around the world to reconsider and to grace us (no pun intended) with universal version of his latest flagship.
According to the roots of Earsonics, the company was started by a musician for musicians and artists. The “musicality” theme of Grace will be carried throughout this whole write up, since it’s not only created by and for musicians, but it also has a natural smooth musical tuning and even listed as part of Earsonics Music Line of universal monitors. As usual, you can expect the in-depth sound analysis, comparison with other IEMs, and pair up with different sources. So, let’s find out if these “100% Made in France” IEMs could be music to your ears.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Grace arrived in a similar packaging as S-EM9, a bit oversized box with an exterior sleeve and magnetic flip cover which still reminds me of a chocolate box opening experience. Once you flip the cover open, you will find Grace peaking through two round windows. Next, you will have to slide out a box tray with a foam filling that has individual cutouts for IEMs and the rest of the accessories. It’s a nice secure premium packaging with a satisfying unboxing experience.
Besides a pair of Grace monitors with a detachable cable, I also found 2 pairs of foam tips (M/L), 4 pairs of silicone tips (double flange M/L and single flange M/L), a cleaning tool, a quarter inch to 3.5mm jack adapter, carrying case, a card, and cleaning wipes. The adapter is another reference to musician’s world since a lot of studio desktop equipment uses quarter inch jack. The selection of eartips is OK, but never hesitate to try other ones to improve the fit and the comfort. The carrying case has plenty of the room for IEMs, cable, cleaning tool, and extra eartips, but I honestly expected something a little more upscale. Perhaps a more premium custom case could be considered in the future since this is a flagship model.
Overall, the packaging is premium, but accessories could be better considering this is Earsonics flagship product.
The included cable has a standard OFC wires with a single ended 3.5mm TRS connector in a compact rubbery housing with a decent strain relief, a plastic y-splitter mold (also with a good strain relief on every side), and a sliding clear plastic tube piece used as a chin-slider. The pairs of left/right side wires get combined at y-splitter where the ground becomes common and 3-wires go down to the connector. Going up to earpieces, you have a standard 2pin connector with a plastic housing, red/blue dots indicating corresponding Right/Left sides, and a flexible memory wire wrapped in a clear plastic tube forming a comfortable adjustable earhook. I didn’t notice any microphonics using stock cable with Grace.
While this is supposed to be a basic OFC cable, it doesn’t feel cheap, actually feels quite durable, and the tight rubbery outer cable shielding reminds me a lot of Westone stock Epic cable. The only comment here is about a memory wire which I personally not a big fan of. It’s just too much hassle constantly shaping it after the storage. I prefer a pre-shaped springy earhook, but obviously it’s a subjective opinion. Also, this is a flagship product, a more premium cable with balanced termination and single ended adapter would have been nice.
Aftermarket cables (cable rolling).
As many of you know, I’m a cable believer because I do hear the difference, either a subtle or a more pronounced, and I have mentioned in many of my other reviews that intent of my testing with different cables is not to stir up a controversy, but rather to share my experience of what I hear. Feel free to skip this section if the talk about cables offends you.
To make sure it’s not the placebo effect at different listening volume levels, I did volume-match in every comparison. Also, despite the sound changes I hear during the cable rolling, nothing is night’n’day. In theory, cable shouldn’t function like an EQ to drastically change the sound, but it could add a level of refinement to it.
Effect Audio Ares II – I hear bass being a little faster, mids a little brighter, leaner, and treble a bit crisper and with more airiness. It takes the analog edge off the sound, giving it a brighter, crisper, faster pace.
Effect Audio Thor II+ – I hear bass impact to be the same, but the bass sounds more articulate, more layered, and faster. This improves the quality of the bass while keeping the quantity very similar. Mids are more revealing but still retain the same body, not as lean as with Ares II. Treble is well controlled but has more airiness and slightly better extension.
PlusSound Tri-Copper – Here it feels like a layer of veil is lifted off, and the signature is more W-shaped with bass having more control, being more articulate and better layered, mids being more transparent, still smooth and natural but with a better retrieval of details. Treble is still well controlled but has more airiness and better extension.
PlusSound Tri-Silver – I hear the changes similar to Tri-Copper, almost all my comments are still applicable but on top of that the bass also got lifted, with a signature now pushing more toward L-shaped due to more bass slam. Bass hits harder, and still articulate, layered, and fast.
PWA 1960 2wire – Here the soundstage got even wider, very common for 1960 pair ups. Bass hits hard, closer to the original signature, similar to Tri-Silver improvement with sig being more L-shaped rather than W-shaped. Mids are smoother and more natural with some improvement in detail retrieval. Treble is well controlled, but not as airy like Tri-Silver or Tri-Copper.
Overall, my favorite pair up was with Tri-Copper cable, especially since bass had a better control. In my opinion, stock OFC cable doesn’t do Grace justice, while Tri-Copper refines (fine tunes) the sound. Just keep in mind, no changes are night’n’day.