EARNiNE EN2J: Unforgivingly Detailed
Today we’re checking out EARNiNE’s flagship earphone, the EN2J.
The EN2J is a dual balanced armature earphone. Unlike most, EARNiNE does not use drivers from well-established companies like Knowles or Sonion. Instead, they designed their own in-house which gives their earphones their own unique sound.
Let’s check em out, shall we?
Thanks to Penon Audio and EARNiNE for arranging a complimentary sample of the EN2J for the purposes of review. All thoughts within are my own and do not represent EARNiNE, Penon, or any other entity, nor am I being provided any financial compensation to write this review.
The EN2J retailed for 267 USD at the time of this writing: https://penonaudio.com/earnine-en2j.html
The EN2J on EARNiNE’s site: http://earnine9.com/e9/?page_id=99
For at home use the EN2J was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, HiFi E.T. MA8, F.Audio S1, or Shanling M1, all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. I didn’t find it particularly susceptible to hiss from any particular device. You don’t need a powerful source to bring them up to volume, but a clean source is suggested. The EN2J is very revealing.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW +/- 3 dB @ 1 kHz
- Impedance: 20 ohm @ 1kHz +/- 20%F
- Frequency response: 20-20 kHz
Packaging and Accessories:
EARNiNE’s packaging is straightforward and effective with an attractive design. On the front of the outer sleeve the EN2J’s smooth lines and metal shells are on display. The sides outline some features and accessories. Out back you’re provided an exploded image of the housings and how they’re constructed along with technical specifications and some additional features.
Removing the sleeve reveals a magnetically sealed cardboard box containing the important goods all nestled within neatly cut protective foam. In all you get;
- EN2J earphones
- Silver-plated MMCX terminated cable
- Carrying case
- 3 pairs of single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- 1 pair of foam ear tips (m)
It’s a fairly minimal accessory kit, especially for the price, but the quality of everything is outstanding. The tips are dense but soft and sticky providing a great seal. The case is compact and spacious inside with a smooth-moving zipper and covered in a durable fabric. I would love to see EARNiNE team up with Spintfit in the future and include a set of their tips. They pair beautifully with the EN2J.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The EN2J’s steel housings both look and feel quite stunning. They’re weighty without being heavy, and are constructed well with acceptable tolerances between pieces. Left and right channels are denoted by blue and red plastic dots inset into the inside of each ear piece. They could have painted those on, or written a small L or R like most, but they went a step further highlighting an attention to detail that permeates the EN2J to it’s core. My only qualm is the outer plates are soft and pick up micro scratches quite easily.
The cable is one of the nicest I’ve come across, though I wouldn’t have guessed it on looks alone. At first glance it looks like those generic, overly thin braided cables found on countless budget earphones, but then you touch it. It weighs nothing. It behaves more like a piece of thread with extremely flexibility, NO memory, and almost no noise transmission. It is terminated in a compact, well-relieved 90 degree angled jack. The y-split is a compact and durable hunk of rubber. It has an effective chin cinch. The flexible, pre-formed ear guides do not interfere at all with my glasses and keep the cable secure behind my ears. I absolutely adore this cable and wish I could buy more separately because it belongs on every MMCX equipped earphone I’ve got.
As a result of their shapely, low-profile design and the EN2J is very ergonomic and virtually disappears in my ears. With the stock silicone tips I found them slightly finicky to seal fully, but that’s more a result of the shape of my ear than anything. It’s my experience with most earphones of this style. Using the included foam tips eliminates this issue completely, as do any number of after market tips be they from Sony, KZ, HiFiMan, or another brand. At 5mm the EN2J’s nozzles are a standard size and the majority of 3rd party tips fit them just fine.
As is the case with most BA earphones, the EN2J’s steel housings are fully sealed and isolation is stellar. Despite being sealed, I never experienced any pressure build up causing discomfort. Can’t say the same for the vast majority of fully sealed earphones I’ve come across.
Tips: Foam tips. If you’ve got them, use them. They soften the treble and make the EN2J a wonderfully near-neutral experience with a mild treble tilt. They don’t seem to hinder the intense clarity and detail either, and even serve to improve imaging accuracy further. Very rarely do I find foam tips have such a positive effect, but here is pretty clearly the superior tip. Next up I’d recommend a set of Spintfits. The EN2J sounds best with as deep a seat as possible, and the extra length and soft silicone of Spintfits really helps achieve this. The stock tips are great too, but I couldn’t get quite as deep a fit as was needed to get the most out of the EN2J leading to less accurate treble and a touch of harshness.
I liken the EN2J to that of a tool. It is clinical in it’s presentation, completely unforgiving of a track’s flaws and unrelenting in the delivery of detail. From that, as would be expected the EN2J’s treble is intensely detail and revealing. You better be playing high quality tracks through a noise free source when listening to this earphone because you’ll hear everything.
The EN2J’s treble is handled by the same all-range driver that works the mid-range, extending quite well with smartly tuned peaks that give it a high-energy, low fatigue presentation for something so treble focused. That said, especially with silicone tips, the treble sensitive out there will find these much too sharp so I can’t recommend you give them a go. Compared to the similarly priced LZ A5, the EN2J’s treble is about as lean, tighter, and smoother without the uncomfortable harshness experienced through that model. It is no less detailed or airy either.
Vocals through the EN2J have a breathy, almost raspy quality to them, though it’s handled in a way that gives the EN2J a positively unique quality. It serves to highlight the crazy detail on show while retaining a certain level of musicality. Dare I use the word fun? Triggered. Instruments and effect get the same treatment, retaining a toe-tapping quality that keeps the EN2J pleasing to listen to despite the clinical levels of information being shoveled your way.
Leading into the low end, you might ask where it is on first listen. I certainly did since I was accustomed to dynamic driver bass and the B400 which has a very robust bassline for an all-BA earphone. The EN2J’s low end is definitely there, after all it has a driver dedicated to the region, but it could be described as reserved at best. It really only comes out to play on the bassiest of tracks, and even then it rarely escalates beyond neutral levels. It seems at it’s happiest humming along in the background, especially since it doesn’t dig particularly deep. Not one for bass fans.
When it comes to sound stage the EN2J performs quite well. For the most part it has a very forward, in-your-face kind of presentation yet it has no issues tossing effects off into the distance. This is one of those earphones that had me taking them out every once in a while thinking someone was at the door or in the room. I would happily use them for gaming given their imaging is pinpoint accurate and they both layer and separate sound exceptionally well, almost as good as the B400, but the lack of low end presence isn’t ideal.
Instead of dropping a bunch of comparisons likely not relevant to anyone, I figured we could make this section interactive. Let me know in the comments what you want to see these compared to. For other BA-only earphones, on hand I have from Brainwavz the B100 (1BA), B150 (1BA), and B400 (4BA). Other EARNiNE models include the EN120 (1BA) and EN1J (1BA). From Sony we have the XBA-2, the only other dual BA in my collection. The rest of my gear can be found here.
The EN2J is an eye-opening earphone from a technical perspective. The level of detail and clarity it brings to the table is frankly quite impressive, all set within a very lively and well-defined stage. It makes the act of listening to the earphone itself and it’s particulars, not the music per say, a pleasant experience. The steel housings and mature design are refreshing too, giving off a more mature and professional air than much of the competition.
That said, as with any treble heavy, bass light product it’s not an earphone for everyone. If you know what you like, that being elevated levels of detail and clarity and sharp, accurate treble and mids, the EN2J is well worth taking a closer look.
Thanks for reading.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)