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Etymotic EVO – Time Capsule

Comparisons –

TRI Starshine ($499): The Starshine is far more coloured but has a very intriguing treble performance that will impress if you can tolerate brightness. Both have similar bass extension, neither being especially impressive. The Starshine has a warmer, fuller mid-bass giving it more slam, however, the EVO is noticeably faster and more defined here being much more articulate. This is in addition to its cleaner and more separated tuning. The midrange on the Starshine picks up greater warmth from its bass and it is more laid-back. Its vocals sound a bit more strained due to its upper-mid lift. The EVO is far more linear here and also more forward. It has a more natural voicing free of strain or sibilance and a more accurate articulation.

The EVO also has better note definition, being more resolving of fine details here. The treble is much brighter on the Starshine but the lower treble is actually a little smoother if anything. It has less bite too with its daintier EST note presentation. The EVO has a better resolved foreground in turn, and it delivers more accurate note body and texture. The Starshine is much thinner due to its middle-treble peakiness. At the same time, it does have a bit more fine detail retrieval in the foreground, but chiefly extends much better with loads more sparkle, micro-detail and headroom above. It has a larger and more holographic image while the EVO is more stable and layered.

Moondrop Variations ($520): The IEM to beat around this price range IMO, a very strong all-rounder. Instantly, the Variations is bassier, extending deeper and delivering a far more emphasized sub-bass slam. The EVO is faster and more articulate, in addition to its leaner and more defined note presentation, it has a sizeable separation advantage. The Variations has it beat on texturing, dynamics and its bass sits more forward without introducing much tonal colouration, which will likely appeal to a wider range of listeners. The midrange has a very similar character between the two. The EVO is slightly leaner, the Variations slightly more laid-back and forgiving. Both have a slightly smoother articulation and excellent timbral accuracy throughout.

The EVO is a touch drier but also sounds slightly more balanced and linear to me. The Variations is slightly more structured and coherent but doesn’t has a hint less same resolving power. The Variations has a slightly more even and present lower-treble. Despite this, the EVO has a sharper note attack giving it more bite here and a slight advantage on fine detail retrieval. The Variations meanwhile is a bit more textured and has greater air and background detail above. It even has some sparkle the EVO misses. The Variations has a larger stage, especially with regards to depth. The EVO is more separated and has sharper positioning while the Variations is more multi-dimensional albeit less precise.

Kinera Skuld ($550): The Skuld is a more coloured sound with a fuller lower-midrange and bass in particular. It has slightly better bass extension but the EVO has greater deep-bass focus giving it a slightly more weighted note presentation, the Skuld having more mid and upper-bass warmth. The Skuld is fuller and punchier, its bass sits slightly more forward but is mostly defined by its different voicing. The EVO is faster, cleaner and more separated. The midrange tells a similar story, the EVO is far cleaner and more separated while the Skuld is the opposite, being full-bodied and musical. The EVO has a more accurate voicing and a smoother articulation balances out its leaner nature.

It has higher note definition and is more resolving in general. The Skuld is more inviting and forgiving, while a little boxy, it remains naturally voiced all the same. The Skuld has a more prominent treble overall, especially in the lower-treble giving it a crisper yet thinner treble expression. The EVO is more even, and more defined, retrieving fine details better. The Skuld extends slightly better, delivering more air and slightly better layering. It has a wider stage though the EVO has much sharper imaging and better separation.

Soft Ears RS10 ($2099): The RS10sits near the pinnacle in terms of tonal and technical refinement if you’re looking at a Harman-neutral style presentation. With an all-BA setup, it represents a logical progression from the EVO. The RS10 is one step more revealing than the EVO but with a bolstered sub-bass to counterbalance. Its low-end remains tonally clean but has a bolder expression and immediately better extension, weight and rumble. The RS10 has a more discerning mid-bass too, but the EVO does separate slightly better with its more even tuning, though I would hesitate to call it more timbrally accurate despite this. The midrange is also just a touch more linear and coherent on the EVO as the upper-midrange falls off sooner. The RS10 extends into the 4kHz region giving it a hint of intensity on certain tracks. In return, it represents a large bump in resolution and layering and the voicing is no less natural.

The RS10 lacks the dryness and lean note weight of the EVO, both are tonally excellent here. The RS10 also has a bit more treble presence and a similarly even lower-treble tuning. It is immediately more detailed with a cleaner transient response discerning greater fine detail and better separating ability during complex passages. The biggest difference is with regards to extension, the RS10 having heaps of background and micro-detail that isn’t nearly as apparent if at all on the EVO. This gives the RS10 a huge advantage in imaging, though it isn’t much larger, the RS10 is far more multi-dimensional and just as sharp and organized. It separates even better with exception of the bass due to its bolder note structure here.

Verdict –

Where competitors may provide greater power and complexity, the EVO is a stripped-out machine of precision, focus and purpose. The cable is hugely annoying but the new metal shells are gorgeous, highly isolating and ergonomic – that is, if you can handle the long sound tubes that still tickle the brain as on past Ety earphones. And, the listening experience is familiar too, now made more accessible with a more robust low-end. While Etymotic’s signature weaknesses of soundstage size and bass extension are improved, they do remain weaknesses relative to the competition. On the contrary, I feel these qualities contribute in part to the Etymotic house sound and I found it very familiar coming from ownership of the original ER4S. Had Etymotic assumed a Harman tuning, boosted bass extension or upper-treble sparkle, I would argue that the end result may not have been as distinct in character nor as appealing to fans of the brand.

For so too has the company honed their strengths; the EVO delivers sensational note definition that exceeds its asking price, excellent midrange resolving power and market-leading tonal accuracy. It’s a rewarding tuning that feels like it was drawn from a time capsule yet realised through svelte modern design. So while many modern competitors pursue a grander, more ethereal sound, the EVO is the opposite – intimate, hyper-responsive and oh so clean from bottom to top. In turn, I would still fathom Etymotic earphones don’t have the widest appeal as a daily driver and yet, years later, their signature tuning remains hard come by and has plenty of life. Accordingly, a case can easily be made that the EVO is worthy of a place in any enthusiast’s IEM collection.

The EVO can be purchased from hifiheadphones for $499 USD/£499 at the time of review. I am not affiliated with Etymotic or hifiheadphones and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

Track List –

AKMU – SAILING

Billy Joel – The Stranger

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Crush – OHIO

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Voices

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jaden – BYE

Joji – Sanctuary

Kanye West – Donda

Maneskin – Chosen

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of The Moon

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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