EarSonics whisks us away with a dreamy, euphoric type of sound that feels pleasantly familiar, yet unlike anything I’ve heard. The EM10’s intended focus of the tuning is clearly on tone – but it’s a special, unique kind of tone. The sound is clear, but it isn’t bright; there’s a special, warm type of glow behind the sound – the combination of a rich bass and mid-treble tuning. According to Franck, the key to the EM10’s special tone lies in combining pairs of subtle peaks around 8, 10, and 12 KHz for ultimate musicality and finesse – because apparently, our ears love paired harmonics. Franck must be on to something, because the EM10 certainly seems to be agreeing with my ears. But even so, the treble region as as whole is relatively laid-back, and it’s mostly the 12 KHz region adding some colour to the sound. The result is a melodious signature, which remains silky smooth.
The S-EM9 seemed to be optimised for separation and resolution; a precise, articulated sound. The EM10 in turn takes a different direction, with different priorities. The difference resides in the upper bass and attenuated lower treble tuning. Where the S-EM9’s leaner notes formed a perfect match with its stage dimensions, the EM10 sounds rich and bodied. So while both construct a similar average-sized stage with even proportions in width and depth, the EM10 creates a full and more engaging sound, where the S-EM9 sounds cleaner and organised. And due to the EM10’s softer treble approach, the imaging doesn’t strike you as pinpoint precise. But rather than striving for analytical precision, it’s a very coherent presentation, that seamlessly weaves together. And by means of its depth, the EM10 makes good use of its layering ability to perform well at separation.
The EM10’s bass leans towards the fun range, due to its slightly greater than neutral quantity. It’s a bass that comes with a nice mid-bass punch. Even so, its low-end extension is about average, and it isn’t a mean, hard-hitting bass. It is however a natural-sounding bass. Due to the lower treble tuning, the bass has a soft touch. It’s a rounded bass, with a gentle decay. It’s decisively not a stereotypical dry, lean BA bass. While manufacturers often choose to dip the upper-bass in order to create a cleaner sound, the EM10 maintains a fairly linear tuning throughout the upper-bass region, in favour of tone. Taken together, it’s a fun bass with a gentle touch, which contributes to the overall tone.
There’s a special glow over the EM10’s midrange. It’s exciting and engaging, but most of all, easy to listen to. The most common way to add some excitement is by lifting the lower treble, which also results in a brighter sound. But the EM10 instead lifts the higher treble regions combined with a classic 5 KHz dip, effectively avoiding the whole sensitive are. There’s a touch of beauty to the upper mids, while remaining incredibly smooth. It’s warm, rather than bright. The purist might say it’s coloured, but it’s purposefully, and most of all, tastefully done. Which isn’t to say the tuning is wildly inaccurate, as instruments nevertheless have a fairly accurate timbre, resulting from the attenuated lower treble tuning. And combined with the rich bass, it isn’t an overly clean-sounding midrange; but it is a very harmonious one. It’s a tuning that invites to forget about analytical dissection – the hallmark of a coherent signature.
Accordingly, the EM10 creates a nicely full sound, and vocals are a treat. Full-bodied and slightly forward, as a result of a characteristic bump in its centre midrange frequencies. It’s a solidified, rounded vocal presentation, with sufficient vocal power. There’s body and depth to male vocals, but equally, a sweetness to that of female’s. It’s clear to hear the vocal presence was prioritised within the tuning, as they jump out from within the stage. But they do so gently, as the vocal articulation is incredibly smooth, in line with the rest of the presentation.
To accomplish its tone, the treble itself is slightly laid-back. It’s an articulate treble nonetheless, but one that doesn’t demand your attention. The EM10 breaks with its predecessors, by dipping the lower treble region. The result is not only an incredibly smooth treble, but one that results in a very coherent presentation as well. Selflessly, the treble takes a step back in favour of guitars, background choirs, and especially synthesised notes. It’s a treble reminiscent of something like the UE18+ perhaps, smooth, and warm in tone. But a crucial difference is that the EM10’s signature nevertheless sounds clear, exciting, and melodious. This is a tuning that seems to be fare especially well with our guilty pleasures – pop music for instance, or 80’s hits any true audiophile will never admit they listen to.