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EarSonics Velvet

EarSonics Velvet In-Ear Earphone Review

Brief: Variable-tuning universal-fit earphone from French IEM experts EarSonics

MSRP: €699 (approx. $800) (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: Buy from Amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Triple Balanced Armature w/ 3-way Crossover | Imp: 31.5 Ω – 41.5 Ω (depending on sound setting) | Sens: 116 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Stock double-flanges; Westone STAR tips, MEElec M6 double-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Small (1 pair) and regular (4 pairs) double-flange silicone tips, large single-flange silicone tips, cleaning tool, antibacterial wipes (2), 6.3mm adapter, flathead screwdriver for adjusting the sound tuning, and zippered protective carrying case
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The lightweight shells of the Velvet are made of plastic and come in either black or clear. The twisted cables are detachable and feature a memory wire section and standard 2-pin connectors. The construction is solid and the overall design is very understated – all that really stands out are the tuning screws, which are accessible from the faceplates (more on these in the sound section). Two minor complaints – first, the plastic of the tuning screws is rather soft, and can be scratched easily with the included screwdriver. Second, there are no external filters on the nozzles of the earphones, so the included cleaning tool should be used periodically to remove any earwax buildup
Isolation (4/5) – Isolation is quite good with the included double-flange tips – about on-par with the SM64 model
Microphonics (5/5) – Basically nonexistent, as with all similar designs
Comfort (4/5) – The Velvet has a relatively small footprint in the ear, reminding me of the Noble universals. The angular design of the housings harkens back to the EarSonics SM2/SM3 more so than the smoother shape of the SM64 and can introduce some pressure points in small ears but on the whole the earphones are lightweight and very comfortable

Sound (9.4/10) – The EarSonics Velvet is a 3-way, triple balanced armature earphone featuring variable sound tunings selectable via a built-in tuning screw on each earpiece. In my experience the tunings mainly affect the bass of the earphones, with the full clockwise position yielding maximum bass and full counterclockwise – the most balanced sound. The three marked settings are “tight” (minimum bass), “balanced” (medium bass), and “warm” (maximum bass).

An explanation on the Velvet webpage indicates that EarSonics considers listening volume a factor when selecting the best sounding tuning to use, with “tight” being best-suited for low-volume listeners and “warm” for high-volume listeners. The nomenclature is relative, of course – per headphone community conventions, all three of the Velvet’s the sound profiles are on the warm and bassy side and just differ in degree.

With that said, the Velvet is an excellent earphone. It actually shares quite a few similarities with the far more expensive FitEar TG334 – both are BA-based earphones with enhanced bass and fairly level mids and highs yielding good overall clarity. Admittedly, the Velvet is a little less neutral – its upper mids are slightly brighter and the bass hump is a little more audible. It is also much less sensitive, but at their core the two are much more similar than they are different.

All three of the Velvet’s sound settings have significantly higher than average bass impact (especially for a BA earphone) and a nice balance of mid-bass and sub-bass. Compared, for instance, to flatter IEMs such as the InEar StageDiver SD-2 and Shure SE535, the Velvet sounds warmer and offers more bass depth and impact. Compared to hybrid earphones such as the DUNU DN-2000 and FLC Technologies FLC8, which tend to have very good bass extension with little mid-bass boost, the Velvet sounds more full-bodied and impactful, and can be considered “bassier” in the conventional sense.

One of the things I like best about the bass of the Velvet – especially in the “tight” and “balanced” configurations – is that, while noticeably enhanced, it never becomes overwhelming to the point of being fatiguing. Unlike, for instance, the Sony XBA Z5 and InEar StageDiver SD-3, which have comparable bass quantity, the low end of the Velvet never feels overwhelmingly bassy. This may stop me from recommending the Velvet to a basshead, but for pretty much all other listeners it is definitely an asset.

The mids of the Velvet are surprisingly clear for a warmer-sounding earphone – much like those of the FitEar TG334. For instance, the Velvet has no less clarity than the flatter, more mid-centric StageDiver SD-2. The treble is also very well-balanced and accomplishes the rare feat of being smooth and non-fatiguing without sounding dull or rolled-off. There is more sparkle and presence than with the SD-2, but not too much so – the treble is not very bright compared to the DN-2000 or FLC8, which means the Velvet loses out on some of the perceived clarity those earphones gain from their extra treble energy but also sounds a little richer and more full-bodied. The other upside, of course, is that the Velvet is less prone to harshness and sibilance.

The deep, impactful bass and good end-to-end presence of the Velvet benefit its presentation. The soundstage doesn’t have the sheer width of earphones with more laid-back mids (like the DN-2000 and FLC8), but it ends up sounding well-layered and versatile. Compared, for instance, to the rather flat StageDiver SD-2, the Velvet does sound more lively and dynamic by a margin. There are earphones that have all that plus a wider soundstage, but they are few and far between – the only one that currently comes to mind is the FitEar TG334.

One last thing to note – while better in this regard than the SM64 model, the Velvet is not very sensitive for a BA earphone, with much lower efficiency than your typical Shure/Westone/Ultimate Ears IEM.

Select Comparisons

EarSonics Velvet vs EarSonics SM64 ($449)

While both the Velvet and the older SM64 can be classified as having a warm and smooth sound, they actually sound fairly different from each other. I kept the Velvet in its minimum-bass (“tight sound”) setting for this comparison, and even then it offered more mid-bass impact than the SM64. I happen to think that the SM64 has fantastic bass – punchy and well-extended, yet linear in response and free of bloat. As a result of its extra mid-bass boost, however, the Velvet is a little more rich and lush-sounding.

The Velvet also lacks the upper midrange dip of the SM64. If not for this dip, the SM64 would sound significantly more neutral than the Velvet; as is, the Velvet is just a little more colored. The greater upper midrange presence helps it sound clearer than the SM64 despite its mid-bass hump. Vocals are fuller and more intelligible on the Velvet, and the overall sound is more cohesive. A side effect is that it is less tolerant of sibilance – while the SM64 does a great job of killing sibilance on tracks prone to it, the Velvet is more revealing, though still smoother than most IEMs in its class. It also has a more forward presentation, versus the more laid-back SM64.

EarSonics Velvet vs RHA MA750 ($120)

The dynamic-driver, enhanced-bass MA750 has been one of my most consistent recommendations for warmer-sounding mid-level earphones. Its sound falls between the minimum-bass (“tight sound”) and medium-bass (“balanced sound”) settings of the Velvet. While closer to the latter setting in bass presence, the MA750 is actually a little less impactful than the Velvet, which has much more headroom for those who crave even greater impact.

The bass is less controlled and more intrusive on the RHA unit. The mids are more recessed for the most part, before gaining emphasis in the upper midrange. There, the RHA sounds less refined and a bit “tizzy” compared to the Velvet. The Velvet has more midrange presence and is smoother and clearer, but also warmer and more rich-sounding.

EarSonics Velvet vs DUNU DN-2000 ($270)

The Velvet was kept in its minimum bass (“tight sound”) configuration for this comparison, but these earphones still have very different sound signatures. The V/U-shaped sound tuning of the DN-2000 boasts a bit more sub-bass presence with similar overall bass quantity and a much colder, brighter tonal character. Interestingly, the warmer EarSonics keep up in clarity despite being much smoother. The DN-2000, on the other hand, sounds more metallic through the upper mids and treble. At lower volumes this is not a big deal, but at higher volumes the Velvet sounds quite a bit more natural.

EarSonics Velvet vs InEar StageDiver 3 (SD-3) ($599)

The SD-3 is a triple-driver, enhanced-bass universal IEM from Germany-based InEar. Being closer to the Velvet in both price and sound tuning than the more balanced-sounding SD-2 on which it is based, the SD-3 seemed like a better point of comparison. To match the SD-3’s sound most closely, the medium bass (“balanced sound”) tuning of the Velvet was used. Clearly, EarSonics’ definition of “balanced” differs not only from mine, but also from that of the folks at InEar.

In its medium-bass configuration, the Velvet has similar impact and depth to the SD-3 but its bass seems a little tighter overall, likely because the bass boost doesn’t reach too high into the upper bass. The Velvet never feels overwhelmingly bassy, yet the solid deep bass presence gives it a dynamic and engaging sound. The midrange of the Velvet is more forward and a little clearer. The upper midrange and lower treble have more sparkle and excitement, while the SD-3 sounds smoother and a bit more dull. The Velvet’s presentation is a little more layered and well-imaged. As usual, the SD-3 is way more sensitive.

EarSonics Velvet vs Westone W40 ($500)

Westone’s former flagship is a quad-BA monitor with warm and smooth sound signature. For this comparison I put the Velvet in its minimum bass (“tight sound”) configuration. Even then, it generally provided a bit more bass impact while also having its bass emphasis focused more on the subbass region. The W40 has more mid/upper bass, and a result suffers from a bit more bass bleed. This, in turn, results in lower clarity, though on tracks with less sub-bass presence the Westone can appear punchier than the Velvet (of course, the Velvet can be retuned to one of its bassier settings to compensate if needed).

Above its sizable bass hump – from the upper bass region and up through the treble – the Velvet is on the whole more accurate-sounding than the W40. The W40 has less upper midrange presence, which doesn’t help its clarity. Vocals are more intelligible on the Velvet, and the treble is a bit more sparkly on the whole. Otherwise, the two are not far apart in performance though, as is the case with most other BA-based monitors, the W40 is significantly more efficient than the Velvet.

EarSonics Velvet vs Sony XBA-Z5 ($700)

Sony’s flagship IEM is similar to the Velvet on paper – a warm-sounding high-resolution earphone with plenty of bass and good treble quality. I started out with the Velvet in its minimum bass (“tight sound”) and medium bass (“balanced sound”) configurations. Compared to the XBA-Z5, these had more prominent mids and sounded brighter and clearer. The XBA-Z5 is bassier, warmer, and darker. The bass is a little boomier and the overall sound is a little dull in comparison, with less forward and slightly more muffled mids. The Z5 is also even smoother and more forgiving than the Velvet, which is hardly harsh itself. The presentation of the XBA-Z5 is more spacious, due in part to the more laid-back midrange and excellent treble extension.

Switching the Velvet to its maximum bass (“warm sound”) setting evens the playing field quite a bit. With the Velvet in this configuration, the XBA-Z5 becomes the more balanced of the two earphones, though its bass still has a bit more rumble and the midrange is still not as forward or clear as that of the Velvet. However, in this setting the Velvet has a sizable bass hump and lots of bass impact, which removes its tighter, less powerful bass as an advantage over the Z5 and allows the Sony to keep up in other ways. Not only is the presentation more spacious in the Sony set, but the treble seems to be better quality as well – more level and also more extended.

On the whole, while the two are similar in general tuning philosophy, the Z5 is a very good basshead earphone while the Velvet sounds best when kept it in its warm-but-not-quite-basshead configurations.

EarSonics Velvet vs Gorilla Ears GX-4b ($799)

The GX-4b is a quad-driver, enhanced-bass custom in-ear monitor that performs on a similar level to the Velvet. The Velvet is no less impactful than the GX-4b even in its minimum bass (tight sound) setting. The midrange of the GX-4b is slightly drier and the top end is a bit more revealing. The Velvet, on the other hand, is even smoother and does a better job of killing sibilance and harshness. The Velvet at times sounds clearer but on some tracks its bass gets in the way a bit more. The presentation of the Velvet is less forward while the GX-4b is significantly more intimate, and much more sensitive as well.

Value (8.5/10) – It is always hard to put a value rating on a ultra-high-cost earphone like this, but the Velvet may just be an end-game IEM for those who  like the “warm and smooth” type of sound signature – and that in itself can be worth a lot. With the ability to fine-tune its sound (mostly the bass boost) and a compact form factor with all the usual trappings of a top-tier BA earphone, what’s not to like?

Pros: potential end-game IEM for warm and smooth sound, detachable cables
Cons: N/A

Check out average_joe’s Velvet review for another perspective.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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58 Responses

  1. Never heard the bass of the XBA-Z5 boomy, maybe first hours out of the box, these are not bass-head at all; in fact with electronica I prefer the much more bassier JVC.

  2. Sure, but these are pretty different-sounding. The Velvet is a lot more colored, in any setting it has enhanced bass and a bit more treble presence and crispness than the AF180 – sort of like a v-shaped EQ curve (with a bass bias) applied to the flatter Audiofly sound.

    AF180 on the other hand is pretty flat – it has a bit of a smoothed-out upper midrange (which differentiates from the Velvet even more) but otherwise is quite level. Closest to this voicing among the other quad-driver IEMs is probably the UE900.

  3. Normally I would say yes, but coming from the B2, which is a top-tier clarity-focused IEM, you will be very sensitive to the difference in clarity between the Velvet and the SM64 – i.e. the SM64 will seem veiled coming from the B2. The Velvet less so, and I think along with everything else that will add up to a bigger difference between them than what it is objectively.

  4. Hello |Joker|,

    I’ve recently been reading up on the Velvet. I’m in search of a rich, full-bodied, warm, but nonetheless high-performing IEM to compliment/contrast my Brainwavz B2’s dry tone; something more intimate and impactful/fun in other words. Do you think the Velvet fulfills this niche?

    I also see you mention elsewhere in the thread that its little brother, the SM-64 performs similarly on the lower end (as in tuning). With that in mind, are the differences between the two more marginal than I’d like?

    Thanks,
    Erik

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