Welcome to my Cliffnotes, a series where I push out rapid fire opinions of some of the IEMs I’ve heard but can’t be bothered to fully review. Thus I won’t get too in-depth, nor will I be too formal and technical. Less analysis, more… from-the-heart if you will.
Ah… Earsonics. They’ve been around for almost as long as I’ve been in the hobby, and I can distinctly remember their original SM3 being one of the most sought-after TOTL IEMs back in the day. They have traditionally been a staunch BA purist-type of company, slowly maintaining their small but dedicated fanbase since their heyday in the 2010s.
At least until very recently, with the release of the Blade and Stark. Earsonics’ first foray into the wild and whacky world of hybrid technology, years after everyone else has had their turn.
But despite this sudden bout of innovation, there are some oddities that this French company will stubbornly cling onto even if it meant losing their grasp on the ever-evolving demands of the young porta-fier. First is their inexplicable decision to invert the polarities on their 2-pin connections, a decision that the rest of community have drawn ire to ever since the very beginning.
The other oddity is a bit of a contentious topic but also highly relevant: their house sound. Read on.
Product page: https://www.earsonics.com/in-ear-monitors/en/blade/
MSRP: €550 (~$610)
Driver configuration: 1DD + 2BA hybrid
As per usual, when it come to a signature like this there is always a nice way to put it: the Blade has a unique sound.
However, I’m not nice. I’ll tell you what I hear in the Blade: low resolution. Boxy and honky mids. Muffled and congested staging. Just… general badness.
But that’s the thing: this is undoubtedly an Earsonics product here. It has the house sound, it has the weirdness, it has all the quirks and features that any loyal Earsonics fan has come to know and love over the years. And to those people I say: all the power to you! You have found your signature, you know what you like, and so you have achieved what many audiophiles in the hobby have been chasing for years.
For everyone else who does not have access to any Earsonics demo units, you are going to need a nice, long sit-down session to ponder over whether or not you truly want this kind of (frankly very esoteric) sound. Because in this humble critic’s opinion, the Blade is more surströmming than blue cheese.
Yet, notice that I’ve been mostly focusing on the signature almost the whole time here. Ignoring the uniqueness of its sound, the technical performance of the Blade does not live up to its price tag and is easily bested by any semi-established $100 IEM. It’s an overengineered hybrid from a company that desperately needs a wake-up call.
Product page: https://www.earsonics.com/in-ear-monitors/en/stark/
MSRP: €1,390 (~$1,540)
Driver configuration: 1DD + 4BA hybrid
At almost three times the price of the Blade, the Stark offers almost nothing over the Blade.
Look, I get it. Higher price, more drivers, shinier exterior… all signs point to a “superior” product. But here, I’m not sure what exactly the extra two BA drivers did and I’m less sure about whether it justifies that absolutely massive price hike.
My stance on the matter is pretty simple. If you really want a hybrid Earsonics IEM, the Blade is enough. The Stark, in my opinion, seems to be a trap laid out specifically to target the “whales” of the hobby, the ones who are attracted to large price tags for the flex factor.
For everyone else, try before you buy. Applies to everything out there, but especially important for Earsonics.
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My usual thanks to my loyal supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys: