EarPower EP-10 Plus Comparisons

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Manufacturer: EarPower
Model: EP-10 Plus
Cost: EUR 700 plus shipping
Country: Italy

The EarPower EP-10 Plus is a hybrid custom in-ear monitor that uses a modified Sennheiser ear bud for the bass.  The design is open, providing an ambient effect while still pumping out plenty of bass, and in my case, a bit too much mid-bass.  The sound is good, but the alien look may be a turn-off for some (or many).  The sound is more reminiscent of a headphone than an in-ear, but performance could be better for the price.  The included case is not very protective.

USE NOTES

For the longest time, I felt I had no use for the EP-10 Plus due to the look and others outperforming it, but now I have.  Making a long story short, I used to use Sennheiser RS-130 headphones for late night movie watching with the wife.  I had 2 pair with one base station, but the base station broke.  Sennheiser sent a replacement RS-160, which is not compatible with the 130 headphones.  My wife uses the 160 and I now use the EP-10  Plus with a 2nd gen Arrow amp, both fed from my JVC SU-DH1.

I get an open, spacious sound with plenty of bass for any movie soundtrack and they sound is better than the RS-160.  I like the ability to hear my surroundings, which are significantly reduced on the 160 due to the closed back design (the 130’s were opened back).  Plus, I don’t care what they look like in this situation!

 

COMPARISONS

vs. EarSonics EM3 Pro

Two different customs for two different listening style and music preferences.   The EM3 Pro is your typical custom with 3 BAs in a 2 way design in a solid silicon shell.  The EM3 Pro seems very solidly built and is easy to twist in and out and feels very comfy.  The EP-10 Plus is very different, as it has a much lighter plastic shell that doesn’t insert as deeply and the upper section is much larger, making them a little uncomfortable to me for extended wear.  I have to pull straight back on the rear of my ear to insert the EP-10 Plus.  The EP-10 plus nozzle does not insert as deeply as the EM3 Pro nozzle and does not isolate nearly as well as the EM3 Pro.  The sound leakage is near ear bud levels, which is what the EP-10 Plus bass driver actually is.

And speaking of the bass driver, it is out there.  The EP-10 Plus looks strange, at least to me while being worn.   Not that looks would stop me from wearing it in public if I though it warranted ear time and wasn’t offensive.  I am sure it would be a conversation starter, if you want to take them out when people talk to you!

I have had the EM3 Pro for much longer than the EP-10 Plus and have been used to the sound.  It offers great detail, can be powerful yet refined, and thick at times.  The presentation location is up close while pushing the stage wide, wider than my previous space champ, the SM3, although the SM3 is pretty close.  The EM3 Pro seems to present whatever was recorded…warmth, bass, treble emphasis, narrow presentation or wide presentation, the EM3 Pro just does what it is told.

Enter the EP-10 Plus…it does not do what it is told, it does more (for the most part)!  More space, more bass oomph, more mid-bass.  Ouch, sometimes too much mid-bass.  The EP-10 Plus leaves the EM3 Pro behind in the size of the presentation and can project you further away from the presentation than the EM3 Pro.  The space is headphone like, but I will cover that more in the EP-10 Plus vs. the headphones.  The weaknesses of the EP-10 Plus is the mids and treble are not as detailed as the EM3 Pro, which cuts through a presentation like a hot scoop through ice cream, bring out all the details.  Not that the details aren’t there in the EP-10 Plus, but the presentation lacks the refinement in the mids and upper registers, possibly from too much mid-bass, or a better driver being used in the EM3 Pro.

 

How about the bass?  Well, the EM3 Pro can pump out bass, but it does not exaggerate the bass quantity.  If bass is present in large quantities, that is what you hear, if not, you hear the lack in the song.  The EP-10 Plus has much more to it in the bass region, and the quality of the bass is nothing short of spectacular.  So the focus of the EP-10 Plus is the bass.  Of course, using a great amp helps (Stepdance/Pico Slim), although both are still good with the iPhone.  And I will add that the EP-10 Plus is more sensitive than the EM3 Pro.

Since there was too much mid-bass for my liking, I decided to EQ the mid-bass down (8 dB @ 800 Hz in the rockboxed iPod and via Winamp).  So, comparing the two with EQ on for the EP-10 Plus and no EQ for the EM3 Pro pulled ahead convincingly except for the detail level, which was not quite up to par with the EM3 Pro.  With EQ on both the EM3 Pro clarity improved even more, so it really is a tossup depending on what you are looking for.  Great bass or better clarity and detail.

 

EM3 Pro EP-10 Plus
Better mid and treble detail Better bass texturing and reverb
More liquid/natural mids and treble Better soundstage space, close to cans
More true to the recording More bass weight
Easier to drive More sensitive
More comfortable and easier to insert/remove Deeper bass
Better isolation Too much mid-bass – needs EQing IMO
Looks better & more solid construction
Removable cable

 

vs. EarSoncis SM3

You can immediately tell the EP-10 Plus is a different beast than the SM3.  The low end capabilities of the EP-10 Plus and size of the soundstage make the SM3 sound somewhat small and feeble.  And while the SM3 is full, lush, rich, and thick, the EP-10 Plus doesn’t have those qualities in droves like the SM3, but it does have a noticeable mid-bass hump that affects the clarity more than the thick richness of the SM3.  If the EP-10 Plus and SM3 were boxers, the EP-10 Plus should easily knockout the SM3, but the mid-bass hump keeps the SM3 from being knocked out.

Just as with the other presentations, the mid-bass isn’t always a killer for the EP-10 Plus, and the warmer songs tend to have more of a veil with both, but to me it is sometimes a killer for the EP-10 Plus, but not for the SM3.  Now, apply the EQ to one or both and then the EP-10 Plus starts landing the knockout blow.  But the SM3 is still hanging around as the mids and treble are more liquid with more easily perceptible detail.

 

You can’t deny the space and bass dominance of the EP-10 Plus, but the SM3 also has merit in the mids and treble.  Plus, the sound signature is different with the SM3 sounding more like a stage monitor in comparison, and the EP-10 Plus bass orientation coming out.

 

SM3

EP-10 Plus

More liquid mids and treble

More bass power

Higher resolution/level of detail in the mids/treble

Much greater soundstage size/space

Doesn’t need EQ

More sensitive
About 1/3rd the price

Better build quality

Better isolation

Overall sound initially sound much better

Better cable More bass heavy presentation
Sounds more like a monitor

 

vs. Audeze LCD-2

Upon initial A/Bing, the space of the EP-10 made me think it is the headphone of the IEM world…the size of the space between the two is close.  As already described in the EP-10 Plus vs. the EM3 Pro, the EP-10 has too much midbass at times.  When A/Bing without EQing the EP-10, it is not all that competitive from a sound quality standpoint.  But, with EQ the overall presentation is very good and the bass is just a small step down from the LCD-2, but the rest of the spectrum falters.  Not that the EP-10 Plus mids/treble are bad, but for the price of the EP-10 Plus, it should be better.  The LCD-2 has much more refined and detailed mids/treble as well as a more realistic presentation to go with a slightly larger space.   Bass impact is similar in most ways including reverb (sustaining bass notes) and texturing, but the LCD-2 is ultimately better.  The LCD-2 is more musical and is exceptional across the spectrum in my opinion while  A/Bing with the EP-10 Plus brings out the flaws of the EP-10 Plus.  I am not going to say the EP-10 Plus is a big step down, but it is a step down.

While bass quality of the EP-10 Plus is nearly on par with the LCD-2, the quantity is higher than the LCD-2, even in the deep bass.   However, I don’t mind having extra emphasis on the bass of the EP-10 Plus since the quality is so good!  For anything other than critical listening, the EP-10 Plus competes with the LCD-2, and gives space that I still find astounding for an IEM, but if I want to sit down and listen critically, the LCD-2 is superior.

LCD-2 is harder to drive by a good amount.  For example, I had to max out the HUD-1 (on high gain) to get a good volume with the LCD-2 while the EP-10 requires a fraction of that volume.   On low gain with the Stepdance the volume again needed to be above 50%, closer to 75%, but on high gain it was fine.  Of course, with the RPX-33 the opposite was true as there was a little hum with the EP-10 and none with the LCD-2.

 

Summary: These are really so different in function; I wouldn’t wear the LCD-2 while working outside or bring it on a flight.  A great amp is needed to get the most out of the LCD-2, but the Stepdance takes the EP-10 Plus bass to the extreme (and the Pico Slim isn’t all that far behind).  Given the same source, these are fairly close in overall presentation when the EP-10 Plus is EQed, but the LCD-2 is more refined/detailed in the mids on up.  Without EQ the midbass of the EP-10 Plus is just too much for my liking and sounds congested compared with the LCD-2.

 

LCD-2

EP-10 Plus

Slightly better bass quality More bass emphasis and much more mid-bass
Much better detail and realism in the mids and treble Incredible space for an IEM, near the soundstage size of the LCD-2
Better clarity Easier to drive
More enveloping and involving Ultra portable
Little larger overall space Does not leak sound
Looks much better Cooler to the ears

 

vs. Beyerdynamic Tesla T1:

Along the lines of the comparison of the Tesla T1 and everything else, the EP-10 Plus has a different, not so bright presentation.  Take the LCD-2 vs. Tesla T1 bass comparison, meaning I find the EP-10 Plus bass more textured and impactful, but it is still close.  And when the EP-10 Plus isn’t EQed and the two are A/Bed the EP-10 Plus sounds like a thick, veiled, poorly conveyed reproduction and then the T1 sounds like a thin, mid recessed overly bright painful reproduction!  They are both very good, but the difference in presentation for me makes each the other sound bad upon first listen.

The rest of the spectrum is portrayed better with the T1, and the space is larger, similar but a little more so to the LCD-2 vs. T1.  The mid and treble quality of the T1 is better.  The details in the T1 treble are smoothed out a little in theEP-10 Plus and the treble presentation in general is more pleasing to me, as the T1can be too much with not the best recordings.  But then I prefer less bright sound signatures.

So, EQing the EP-10 Plus greatly improves the sound for me, and without a stellar amp, the T1 isn’t all that good, getting knocked down a few notches in quality and bass capability.  Two very vey different styles of headphones and sound signatures that won’t be mistaken for each other!

EP-10 Plus Tesla T1
More bass weight with slightly better texturing

More (much more) treble emphasis that is more resolving

Portable

Bigger soundstage

Easy to drive Better quality, yet less forward mids

 

SUMMARY

The EarPower EP-10 Plus offers a powerful bass experience with an open sound and good, but not great detail.  The bass can be overpowering at moderate volume levels, but at lower volume levels it works well.  The open back design does not give isolation, providing an ambient port affect without losing bass response.

 


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About Author

Having a life-long love of high-quality audio and gadgets, average_joe got back in touch with his audiophile side after a hiatus caused by life. His focus became headphones and related gear as the size and price fit his life better than home audio. He believes the entire audio chain is important, and likes to continue to think past the headphone and on into the head, as he believes understanding the details of how we hear will lead to a better audio experience.

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