The SK3 is not something I really expected much out of when Hieu Trung Tran offered to send me a set early this year. It had no fancy name and was basically relegated to a “middle child” position, sporting 3 drivers and overshadowed by its popular big brother, the Ion, and its easily accessible cheaper brothers the SK1 and Aya. When I put it on for the very first time, I wasn’t really that impressed either. It sounded… there. It was an IEM. Nothing really stands out and it lacks that “wow-factor”.
As usual, the first thing I do is to pick out any and every weakness. The bass is very much BA and there’s no escaping that; limp, lacks authority, not a lot of articulation in the sub-regions. The upper treble isn’t as snappy as I would like; granted, no fatigue, but it could use a smidgen more sparkle. Just a tiny bit would do, to bring out a little more energy in the high percussions. Nothing offensive but it’s not exactly exciting.
I kept listening. And I listened even closer. I couldn’t find any more weaknesses. The midrange sounds right, the timbre was very good, very natural presentation, vocal centric if anything. There was no muffling or veiling as far as I could hear, the SK3 had clarity and it had it in spades. Detail retrieval is spot on, perhaps not to the extent of the top dogs but definitely in the ER4 ballpark. A neutral signature, perhaps tilted towards the midrange due to the subdued higher registers and typical BA bass. Nothing stuck out like a sore thumb and everything is there as it should be. The more I listened and the more I compared with the rest of my gear, the more I loved it. The SK3 has a very UERM-inspired sound and is now part of what I consider “The Sub-$500 Reference Trifecta” alongside the Massdrop Plus and the Etymotic ER4.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.