EarSonics EM10 (€1990)
Grace’s co-flagship possesses some similar traits, but essentially strives for a different type of sound. Due to its enhanced mid- and upper-bass, the EM10 creates a thicker, more bodied sound. Simultaneously, its treble is smoother and generally more laidback. The EM10’s focus lies clearly on the upper midrange, resulting in a very easy listen to signature with a beautiful tone. While Grace shares some similarity in the upper midrange, its treble is more articulate, which provides a more rhythmic companion to the midrange. Its midrange in turn is a bit leaner, although the vocal forwardness and density is similar.
In terms of staging, the EM10 creates a more classic rectangular stage with an average width and depth. Grace’s stage is clearly wider as a result from the enhanced treble, although it is not particularly deep. Accordingly, Grace relies primarily on its width for separation, while the EM10’s layering is more effective. Pursuant to its lifted treble, Grace’s imaging is a little bit more precise, although this particularly pertains to its treble notes. In addition, its midrange is a bit more transparent. Even so, their overall extension and accordingly performance is fairly similar.
Empire Ears Phantom ($1799)
Much like the EM10, the Phantom is an in-ear primarily designed for tone. And similarly, it outputs a greater quantity of mid-bass compared to Grace, as well as offering greater bottom-end extension. Accordingly, the Phantom’s midrange is thicker and warmer, with a more forward vocal reproduction: the Phantom puts the singer in the spotlight, where Grace pursues an even balance between the vocal and its instruments. Grace’s bass is tighter and quicker, and its midrange notes a bit leaner.
In addition, it offers a more lively upper midrange, with slightly more treble presence. The Phantom’s general tone is warmer, and accordingly, a bit more natural in timbre for instrument-based music. By contrast, Grace’s upper mids sound more melodious, and fare better with a larger variety of synthetic-based music such as pop or EDM. Due to Grace’s lifted treble, it provides greater clarity overall, as well as a marginal improvement in extension. Finally, its stage is a bit wider, although the Phantom’s is deeper.
Westone ES80 ($1899)
Compared to the previous two, the ES80 comes closer to what Grace is trying to achieve: a linear tuning with excellent balance across the board. The ES80 however has one aspect that sets it apart; I consider it to be one of the most high performing in-ears when it comes to end-to-end extension, and accordingly ‘true’ resolution: high definition of notes and background blackness. Indeed, the ES80 has better extension at both ends, resulting in greater sub-bass impact at the bottom end, and higher resolution overall. In addition, it has slightly greater mid-bass presence, although it remains a controlled bass similar to Grace.
The two share a fairly similar approach when it comes to midrange and treble; a neutral midrange in size and forwardness, with an articulate and detailed treble. The main difference however lies in their tone. The ES80 comes very close to neutral, staying barely on the warmer side. But it does sound a bit uneventful in comparison to Grace, which has a more lively tone overall. Accordingly, Grace is the easier, more fun in-ear to listen to, where the ES80 is technically more proficient.
With EarSonics’ latest model, their gradual progression continues. While former models as the Velvet, EM32, and S-EM9 excelled with stimulating tunings by means of pace and precision, their tone hovered around the more neutral side of the spectrum accompanied by brighter elements. Grace picks up where they left off, but now provides a more all-round tuning by means of its tone. It’s a fun earphone to listen to, that refrains from over- or underemphasizing specific components of the frequency range.
Grace’s name was inspired by a sense of elegance and splendor. A more feminine touch if you will. And indeed, there is a case for that to be made. For instance, Grace doesn’t provide a bold or thick type of sound. This isn’t a bass that’s trying to prove how tough it is, or a vocal reproduction bent on putting a display of power. So for listeners that are more selectively focused on either bass, vocals, or treble, it probably won’t provide an overwhelming experience. Rather, it leans towards a more delicate, refined signature where balance is key, and a touch of beauty in its tone brings it alive. So for those that were delighted by the S-EM9, Grace forms a natural evolution.
Configuration: 10 BA drivers, 3-Way crossover with impedance corrector
Impedance: 26.6 Ohm
Sensitivity: 119 dB/mW