As soon as we opened the window today, our editorial office smelled the lavender fields of Provence and the room was filled with grassed purrs of Yves Montana. And all because we continue our acquaintance with extremely interesting new products from the famous French brand EarSonics!
Not so long ago, at the end of winter, the younger brother of the new EarSonics hybrid line - Blade, warmed and invigorated us with our sound. Now it’s the turn to prove himself to his elder relative: the stately and serious intellectual Stark.
Let me remind you that the French company introduced these two models of in-ear monitors to the world more recently. Both models have a similar appearance and hybrid design: Blade (2BA + 1DD) and Stark (4BA + 1DD). Interestingly, despite the rich experience of many years in the development of IEM/CIEM, Blade and Stark for Earsonics were the first hybrids. And the company approached the development of these ears with all responsibility.
I allow myself to take a short excursion into the glorious history of EarSonics, in case any of our readers are not familiar with it. ES engineers are the founding fathers who stood at the origins of creating IEM/CIEM based on balanced armature emitters. It was they, along with brands such as Westone, Shure and UE, who were the first to manufacture universal IEM and custom monitors based on 2, 3, 4 or more BA drivers / receivers.
My acquaintance with the products of this brand began a long time ago, about ten years ago, when I had the opportunity to listen to their models SM2 and SM3. A little later, I used SM64, SM2-IFI, EarSonics Velvet, S-EM6 V2, and about a month ago ES Blade. I already wrote reviews about the last four models, now the turn has come for the five-driver Stark hybrid model.
Well, one-two-three-four-five - yeah, we begin our review of EarSonics Stark!
Text: Alexey Kashirskey aka Hans Barbarossa
Sensibility: 125 dB/mW
Frequency response: 10 Hz-20 kHz
DCR: 18, 5 ohms
Drivers: 1 DDynamic, 4 BA drivers with 3 way crossover.
Appearance, kit and ergonomics
These IEM are delivered in a neat black box, on the front side of which the brand name "Earsonics" is briefly and essentially in one line, its logo, the contents are indicated - "monitors" and a small French tricolor is placed. Everything is strict, stylish and to the point. Immediately obvious - made in France!
The treasured casket leaves this package. We open it, and now through two round windows the IEMs look at us. Thanks below are written thanks and good wishes from Franck Lopez - a musician, sound engineer, founding father, and CEO of EarSonics!
In the box, in addition to Stark with a nice silver-white cable, there are three pairs of silicone tips (the fourth was inside the case), two pairs of Comply foam tips, a stylish hard case with a zipper, wipes for caring for IEM, an adapter 3.5/6,3 mm, a brush for cleaning sound tubes and a warranty card with instructions. In general, there is everything you need that you might ever need to use IEM.
Stark, like his younger brother, is completely made of metal. As far as I know, designers used anodized zinc and magnesium. The silver textured IEM shell on top is similar to the contours of intergalactic alien ships from old sci-fi films. And the inner black-matte side of the case was cut in a semicircle by three lines emphasizing the bending of the shell. In general, the construction of the Stark and Blade is similar, the difference in color, and possibly in the alloy of the material. Stark looks more elegant and expensive, otherwise everything is similar.
The outer side of the shell is colored in silver light, and in general is very similar to a bar of silver, over which skillful jewelers conjured. In the center, among graceful step forms, it contains a convex logo of the ES brand.
On top is a 2pin connector for connecting a cable. On the back of the IEM, we can find two compensation slots designed to properly configure the dynamic emitter, and just below the screw, one of those that fastens the two halves of this intricate art object.
Inside the metal structure is an acrylic 3D core, specially designed for the new IEM hybrid line with three emitters (1 DD / dynamic 8mm fulfills Lows and 4 BA: two is responsible for Mids, and the other two is for working out Highs). Each driver has a separate camera, which allowed engineers to carefully tune the sound of each of the emitters. In addition, the new impedance crossover corrector created by EarSonics, in combination with EVS and FUSION technologies, allows these IEMs to sound without any phase distortion, clearly, precisely and at the same time extremely musically.
The tactile feel of touching the Stark is simply amazing. These IEM are truly a work of art! It can be seen that the manufacturer did not save on materials and, more importantly, in addition to engineering concentrate embodied in complex schemes and precise details, he invested his soul in them. Although I out of habit run ahead, we will already understand this by going to the section on sound.
Despite the significant weight that is felt when you hold the IEM in your palm, in the ear the Stark it is felt very easy and comfortable. Personally, when I was wearing it for a long time, I even forgot that I have two small graceful weights in my ears.
The build quality, in my opinion, is almost impeccable, which is not surprising, because these IEMs are assembled by hand and exclusively in France!
The four-core cable is braided; it is unusually light, soft and elastic. TRS 3.5mm L-shaped connector with gilding, 2pin connectors, which make it easy to pick up another cable with the same connectors for IEM, if necessary. The cable is called the HI-RES 4C Silver cable - and this is another innovation of Earsonics, which, without a doubt, is beneficial to the sound.
Well, according to the results of the first part of the Stark review, no doubt deserves the highest awards. But the most important thing, as you well know, is ahead of us: we turn to the analysis of sound.
And this is the most exciting part of our review.
Stark was burn-in for 50 hours before use.
Listening was conducted with: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, iBasso DX220, iBasso DX160, QLS QA-361, iFI xDSD, HIP-DAC & iFI micro iDSD Black Lable.
With all the devices, these IEMs played out well.
I recommend a responsible approach to the process of selecting tips, as this makes a significant contribution to the creation of a sound picture.
I would describe the sound of ES Stark as well-balanced, comfortable, polished and natural, served in a neutral-warm manner with a slightly darkened background, a charming, thick low-frequency range, a beautiful rounded “tube” bass; smooth, with excellent refinement of micro and macro nuances, an extremely rich, detailed mids, and an unusually clean and clear high-frequency range. It is polished like sea pebbles, an adult, aristocratic and extremely naturalistic way of delivering sound.
IEM draws a spreading stereo panorama, harmoniously and proportionately building a virtual space both in width and in depth. The overall musical canvas looms quite integrally, in contrast, with accurate and natural transmission of sound tones.
This is a thick and fairly neutral manner, where a sound wave easily and smoothly flows from one register to another, harmoniously connecting the entire musical canvas together, and the main action, of course, belongs to the mid-frequency range. The result is a symbiotic plexus of small and large details, a wealth of timbres and a serene charm. This sound makes you fall in love and is intoxicating from the first minutes of listening!
The impact is dense and powerful, going to the very bottom, while not falling very far beyond the border of the common frequency component. The bass is thick, resilient and extremely deep. He clearly wins back his own, harmoniously filling the middle with a saturated and significant substance. In general, the low frequencies here do not impose their presence, they only elegantly set the rhythm, create a light velvety background and add a comfortable mass to the overall sound. Here there is a relief, and exquisite mannerism, and charm. On the one hand, the bass lacks speed and slash a little, on the other hand, adding these elements here, we will lose the foundation, the very charmingly warm and unforgettable charm inherent in Stark.
The mids is smooth, natural, timbrally rich and textured. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. This is an extremely naturalistic and melodic manner, with striking contrast and subtle depiction, as in the engravings of Dürer, all the details of the composition, where each instrument and each played note are in their place in space.
Gracefully stringed instruments, winds and especially vocals. This is a well-balanced and at the same time emotional performance, where all the elements of the composition are served unusually accurately, large and multifaceted. Stunning smoothness, informativeness and such accurate localization of sounds in space, as if their coordinates were calculated by a supercomputer.
High frequencies are reproduced clearly and harmoniously. They are flush with the middle, and I would even say that these two registers (Mids and Highs) are one, they are seamlessly sewn together. Their quantity and quality also does not cause the slightest complaints. The register is transmitted cleanly, accurately and distinctly, without sharpness and distortion. This is an unusually reliable and maximally correct manner, with good articulation, served in a light, elegant and comfortable form. Pure harmony and nothing more.
In general, an extremely lively and baroque picture is obtained: the bass, waltzing, gradually fills the musical space, saturating it with depth and rhythmic foundation, while the mid-frequency and high-frequency registers paint the main, rich in timbres, detailed and moderately emotional picture.
If in a nutshell we try to compare the sound of the two brothers, Blade vs Stark, it turns out that, in the presence of common “generic” features, the younger (Blade) produces a more vigorous, driving sound, putting main accents in the midbass and delicately highlighting the mid high and some treble. Stark, on the other hand, is endowed with a more mature, adult, larger sound, striving for a neutral manner. Harmony and richness of timbres reigns here. In my opinion, there are no winners and losers, but there are two excellent sound concepts that perfectly complement each other.
Personally, I give preference to Stark, as “tasty”, not academic, analyticity is always close to me. But the youthful passion of Blade is also extremely attractive to me.
ES Stark is an amazing IEM model with a true French touch. This is a well-balanced, adult, rich in musical tones, unique sound.
Separately, it should be noted the highest performance (manual assembly in France!), Impeccable design, good ergonomics and a rich set.
There is no doubt that this new product from Earsonics will become one of the most revered and beloved models among audiophiles, like its hybrid brother Blade.
The only thing left to say is the price of this pleasure. In the online shop earsonics.com Stark can be bought for 1400 €. Of course, it's not cheap and "anti-crisis", but in the audiophile's open space, where these headphones send the listener, money loses its meaning and the pure pleasure of Sound comes to the fore.
In general, if you can afford to pay for exquisite and high quality sound, then I strongly recommend ES Stark for purchase.
Sound, ergonomics, design, manufacturing quality, kit.
The price (although it is quite acceptable against the background of competitors).