EarSonics Velvet universal fit in-ear monitor review

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EarSonics Velvet earphone

Make: EarSonics
Model: Velvet
Type: In-Ear Monitor
Wear Style: Cable over-the-ear
Base Price: $699 (buy on Amazon)
Country of Manufacture: France

EarSonics has been making in-ear monitors for musicians in France for years and started selling internationally not too long after I reviewed the SM3 in April of 2010.  Along with the international expansion EarSonics has expanded their product line to appeal audiophiles in addition to their core musician customers.  Their latest product is a universal monitor with sound tuning, the Velvet.  Price-wise it falls between the S-EM6 and SM64 in the lineup, offering a monitor in a price point where there is little completion.  Does it fit in that price range, and just how good is EarSonics’ first product with sound tuning?  Keep reading to find out.

REVIEW INDEX
General product information
Sound information
Comparisons
Source matching
Summary

 

DESIGN

The Velvet is a 3-driver, 3-way universal fit in-ear monitor with a detachable cable and potentiometer for sound tuning.  The nozzle size is 4.5 mm, which is larger than the 3.15 mm SM64 nozzle size, but about the same as the S-EM6’s tapered nozzle.  Per EarSonics, the Velvet is tuned with three sound signatures which can be selected by turning the potentiometer, but the knob is continuously adjustable, so it is possible to achieve different sounds with settings between the advertised three.

Warranty

1-year warranty on the shell and drivers, which is similar to competing products.

 

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

Packaging of the Velvet is quite different than the typical EarSonics packaging, with a much richer presentation style than typical.  There are three different types of ear tips included and five spare sets.  Three of the five sets are the standard bi-flange ear tips while small triple-flange and a unique mushroom shaped single flange make up the other two pairs.  A cleaning tool, small flathead screwdriver, 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm adapter, and two packs of cleaning wipes are also included.  A new rectangular zipper carrying case is included, but not as sturdy as the plastic case that comes with other EarSonics products.  8/10

CABLE

The cable is a twisted cable that is similar to other stock 2-pin connector cables and comes in black for the standard Velvet and gray for the Velvet Crystal.  The cable a high quality cable, and the same used on their CIEM products, with a tight twist and clean look.  The ear area utilizes memory wire for over-the-ear wear, which is required for the Velvet, and there is a cable cinch made from heat shrink material.  The molded plastic 3.5 mm plug has a durable look and feel, and will work with most phone cases and provide good durability. 6/10

BUILD QUALITY

The Velvet shell is held together with two screws and is solidly built.  The potentiometer has a smooth movement and is easy to adjust with the included screwdriver while the cable connection point is solid.  The original model had some housing issues due to the plastic manufacturing process from what I understand, which has been remedied, and the Crystal has a good track record.

 

ISOLATION

The Velvet provides a good amount of passive sound isolation that is dependent upon the ear tips.  For me, external noise is significantly muted without any music playing, and when the music starts, it is easily eliminates all but loud external sounds. 4/10

 

SOUND

Disclaimer: My review is done in a comparative way using similarly priced IEMs and/or CIEMs for perspective and to determine performance.  In this review I try to accurately portray the product under review, presenting strengths and weaknesses, the sound signature, characteristics, and technical performance as opposed to providing flowery dialog of performance without perspective.  My ultimate goal is to enable you to make an informed decision about what product is right for you.  Take the review as a critical look at the product and not a sales pitch or marketing fluff.  I believe gear should be selected based on the sound signature you want and/or the specific use, not solely on technical performance or unsubstantiated hype.  Here are some quick references for more information: My review technique, Thoughts on reading a review, Custom IEM information

The EarSonics Velvet received 100+ hours of burn in as is customary before I do my serious listening.  The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: EarSonics S-EM6, EarSonics SM64, Lear LUF BD4.2, Sennheiser IE800, and EarSonics EM32 custom in-ear monitor.

Sound Tuning: The Velvet offers sound tuning via tuning dial in the back of the housing.  While the tuning is continuously variable, there are three settings that EarSonics has identified, which are indicated by positions of the tuning dial.  The tunings can be seen in the cart below, which has been provided by EarSonics.

EarSonics Velvet earphones Sound Signatures

Bass: Bass is plentiful as is typical for EarSonics products, with good depth and good note sustainment.  The tuning knob on the Velvet adjusts the bass quantity from slightly enhanced to quite prominent while adjusting the positioning relative to the midrange.  Position 1 presents the bass the furthest back in relation to the midrange while positions 2 & 3 push the bass more forward, increasing the quantity.  The bass remains well controlled with excellent texturing and capability to sustain notes considering the BA driver and price point, even with the maximum bass setting.  In position 3 note sustainment won’t disappoint unless you are a bass-head since it isn’t quite to the level of a dynamic driver, but it doesn’t intrude into the midrange and treble.  Quality is superior to most hybrid/dynamic driver earphones I have heard in the price range, beating the PFE232 and IE800 and quantity is very respectable.

 

Midrange: The midrange has always been a point of emphasis for EarSonics, and while the midrange can be adjusted from a mid-centric sound to a more V-shape, it still offers the EarSonics rich experience and emphasis one would expect.  Layering is excellent, detail is high, and everything is well placed giving realism to music recreation.  While the bass and treble can be adjusted, they never overpower nor cause a degradation of the midrange.  The upper midrange is a bit more prominent than with other EarSonics products, adding a slightly more airy, brighter tone yet retaining the classic EarSonics midrange bliss.

 

Treble: On the brighter side for EarSonics, the treble is smooth yet revealing and forgiving; an excellent combination.  Overall smoothness is a hair better than the S-EM6 while a good amount better than the EM4, but the presentation isn’t quite as detailed.  While the IE800 has similar treble quality, other universals in the general price range I have heard aren’t at the same quality level.  Decay is very good in the treble region, and while not up to par with CIEMs that cost double, performance is still impressive.  Treble extension is very good, with a gradual roll-off at around 15.5K and the last audible test tone I could hear being 17.5 KHz.  This is the best treble from a pure quality standpoint I have heard from an EarSonics product.

 

Presentation: The Velvet presentation is similar to other EarSonics products, which means the soundstage is 3D with good depth and imaging for an excellent recreation spacious recordings as well as a warmer, richer sound that is smooth.  While the bass and treble move relative to the midrange as the tuning knob is changed, there is always the mid-centric (the midrange pushed a bit forward compared with the rest of the spectrum) feel that is characteristic of EarSonics.  Transparency and coherence of the Velvet are impressive, comparing with higher priced IEMs such as the S-EM6 and Lear LUF BD4.2.  Notes are rich, but are still very clear and detailed with a much improved PRAT vs. the original EarSonics model I heard, the SM3.

 

Volume performance: The Velvet performs good at all volume levels, and the sound tuning can help overcome the human loudness curve, boosting the bass and treble for a low volume level linearity while scaling to higher volumes well.  On the EarSonics website it shows the opposite of my recommendation, as the V-shaped sound shows a louder volume.  But, the Velvet does remain very clean at higher volumes regardless of the tuning setting.  The sensitivity is on the lower side meaning potential hiss issues aren’t a big concern.

 

Sound Summary: The EarSonics Velvet earphone falls in the mid-range between the SM64 and S-EM6 earphones, but offers sound tuning via a knob.  Regardless of the tuning knob position, the Velvet has the traditional smooth and rich sound along with a mid-centric presentation EarSonics is known for while ranging from mid-forward to V-shaped. Transparency, detail, coherence, and capability are all excellent for the price resulting in a nice realism to the sound.  Spatial presentation is also in line with other EarSonics products, recreating a 3D experience with well mastered music.  While notes have detail reminiscent of an analytical sound, there is a naturalness to them that enables long-term listening under any condition.

Page 2: Comparisons, source matching, and summary

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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.

22 Comments

  1. Alejandro Martinez on

    Hi, Joe

    Thank you so much for your reviews. They’ve helped me to choose this particular model as my replacement.

    Best regards.

    Alejandro

  2. ArrV on

    Hi average_joe, would the Velvet be an upgrade to the In Ear SD-2s?

    Thank you and looking foward to your reply!

    • average_joe on

      Hi ArrV, yes, the Velvet is an upgrade, but it also has a different sound signature as the Velvet has significantly more bass capability and a more exciting sound vs. the more “neutral” SD2.

      Cheers,

      Joe

      • ArrV on

        Hi average_joe, really appreciate your reply! I’m looking forward to audition the Velvet and experiencing the different sound signature. Perhaps a New Year Present hehehe 🙂

        Cheers and advance Happy New Year!

  3. Lim Jun Jie on

    Hi Joe

    having only heard UERM and SM3v2 from your list, how would you compare the velvet to them?

    • average_joe on

      Hi Lim Jun Jie, sorry I missed this comment. They are different in many ways.

      First, the SM3v2 isn’t in the same league as far as sound quality, with a more up-close and personal experience, but also lacking the clarity and precision of the Velvet. The UERM has quite a different sound, going for a neutral reference sound and surprisingly not quite the bass capability. The Velvet is smoother, but doesn’t bring the detail to the forefront that the UERM does, but that isn’t to say the Velvet lacks detail. The Velvet is much more forgiving and I could listen to it day after day in any situation, focused or relaxing, while the UERM has clinical feel to it in comparison that brings everything into focus and begs me to pay attention.

      Cheers,

      Joe

  4. Skeith on

    Can you compare Velvet with TG334 ???
    Which one has better resolution, transparency, extention, imaging, and soundstage ???

    • average_joe on

      I borrowed ljokerl’s TG334, so I can’t at this time; however if you ask him I am sure he will at some point.

  5. George Boutos on

    …talking of comparisons, how would the Velvet compare to something roughly 1/3 the price like the Fidue a83, or the Audio Technica ATH IM03, highly rated in various places (including of course the headphone list, for the A83)?

    Thanks,

    George

    • average_joe on

      Unfortunately I don’t have those readily available for comparison, but in my experience they wouldn’t perform at the same level. Of course, there is the law of diminishing returns from an overall perspective. But maybe there should be a law of nuance returns, where as prices go up (not always, but much of the time), there are improvements to the little things, and my ears are now trained to hear those little things clearly.

      You may also want to ask ljokerl for his thoughts…

  6. George Boutos on

    Hi there,

    Interesting reading, as always, plus, the quality of these reviews is steadily getting better, more informative and useful. Comparisons is the real essence here, at least for me. I wish they could be extended to cover more products at lower price ranges as well, as the average reader/buyer is most probably more familiar with them.
    One minor remark-question: is the isolation rating correct? (i.e. 4/10). seems this takes away from the average score in your list.

    Thanks, Cheers,

    George

    • average_joe on

      Hi George, the 4/10 is good for a universal as the perspective is based on CIEMs, with a 5/10 being an average acrylic shelled CIEMs. The only universals that would get a 5/10 are ER4 and Phonak products (Phonak’s need foam ear tips).

  7. Abhi on

    Hi Joe,

    I am unable to decide between velvet and S-EM6. Which one to go for or not. I am very confused. Which one is more VFM?

    Also have you heard Shure SE846?

    Thanks

    • average_joe on

      Hi Abhi,

      While I really like what the S-EM6 has to offer, the Velvet is better VFM. It really depends on what you want, and hopefully the comparison between the two helps. I could easily listen to the Velvet, and the sound tuning and treble quality are added benefits. I have heard the SE846 for a short period of time and thought that, while it is better than the 535, it isn’t an natural and realistic as EarSonics products.

      Cheers,

      Joe

  8. Ivabign on

    Good to see these IEMs getting the attention they deserve – they really sound rich and full for a BA IEM – the drivers are larger than average, the three Earsonics use are larger in volume than the 5 I have in my UM Pro50. I have to agree that they like a clean source. I listen through my ALO Island at the computer and use the middle gain position, whereas the low gain is more often used with my IEM collection. A very nice review, Joe.

    • average_joe on

      Thanks for reading. Yes, they deserve attention, but people that want an earphone for their phone may be disappointed because they won’t experience the true capability of the Velvet. It has the best ADSR of any EarSonics product I have heard, specifically in the treble region.

      Cheers,

      Joe

  9. getclikinagas on

    The three month wait for an average_joe review was worth it! Thanks for the awesome review.

    I hope I get to experience that EarSonics midrange someday.

    • average_joe on

      Thanks for waiting, and reading! Hopefully you do get to experience the EarSonics lush mids in the near future.

      Cheers,

      Joe

  10. PAblo on

    Hey Joe, you didn put the score of the combinatio between dx90 plus Velvets.. 8/10 or 9/10 😉

    • average_joe on

      Sorry for the delayed response while working on site issues (that are still going on). It is an 8/10. I have added a bit more meat to the pairing.

  11. Anthony Kimball on

    Great review average_joe, thanks! I’m guessing there was a typo in the isolation:

    “The Velvet provides a good amount of passive sound isolation that is dependent upon the ear tips. For me, external noise is significantly muted without any music playing, and when the music starts, it is easily eliminates all but loud external sounds. 3.5/10”

    Unless I’m missing something, good isolation wouldn’t be a 3.5….

    Thanks again

    • average_joe on

      Hi Anthony, thanks pointing that out as it is a mistake and should actually be 4, not 3.5, which is pretty good for a universal IEM.

      Cheers,

      Joe

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