Earsonics GRACE Platinum: Classically Trained

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out Earsonics’ new top of the line offering, the Grace Platinum.

If you’ve been following the high end portable audio market for a while now, you’re likely familiar with Earsonics. The French outfit founded by Franck Lopez in 2005 has been catering to professional and enthusiast markets alike for over a decade. They currently offer a variety of universal and custom-fit earphones featuring both hybrid and pure armature setups.

Like the Corsa I reviewed not too long ago, the Grace Platinum we’re checking out today is another all-armature offering, though with ten drivers per side this time around. Four high-range, four mid-range, and two low-range drivers are arranged within a 3D printed acrylic structure and surrounded by a zinc-magnesium alloy shell, further covered with a premium platinum foil. Like other products in their range, the Grace Platinum is hand-made and it truly looks spectacular.

As the top model in their Universal Audiophile lineup and with a price tag to match, the Grace has a lot of pressure on it to perform. Let’s find out how it did, shall we?

What I Hear

Ear Tips: Tips are one of the most important aspects of getting good sound out of an iem, regardless of their price point. As such, the stock tips are fine, but you’ll want to upgrade to a third party set to get the most out of the Grace. Just as with the Corsa, my preferred alternative is the Spinfit CP145 in small size. It provides extra fit depth, a reliable seal, and outstanding comfort while retaining the signature of the kit tips. I figured the CP100 would have been a better choice given the Grace’s bright-ish presentation, but they just ended up making it sound sound slightly harsh, a stark contract to how smooth it sounds with other tips. Sony Hybrids and Final Type E are also good choices, especially the latter since they provide a similar experience to the CP145. Both provide a slightly more shallow fit with the Sonys having reduced durability, so I’d stick with the Final tips if you have the option. The smaller bore of these tips also warms up the signature a hint which might be more suitable to some listening preferences. I had no luck with any wide bore tips. Foams are also a nice choice as they warm up the sound and take some of the edge off the upper range, should that bother you.

The first thing that struck me when the Grace initially blessed my ears with it’s musicality was the low end, so we’re going to start with that. Despite being an all-armature unit and heading their universal audiophile lineup, the Grace doesn’t skimp on bass. It is bold and robust. Extension is excellent which is obvious given the bias towards sub-bass instead of mid-bass. This deep bass bias leaves the Grace sounding cooler than some of the competition though, a coolness which carries through the entirety of the signature. Texturing is awesome meaning the Grace handles the grungy notes of The Prodigy and Tobacco quite well. Speed is also unsurprisingly quite impressive. If you’re into drum and bass or a metal-head, you’ll have a lot of fun with the way this earphone handles double bass and rapid bass-lines in general.

The mids are somewhat dry and cool thanks to the restrained mid-bass presence and a lower treble bias. As a result timbre accuracy doesn’t quite match some of the more impressive models out there like Campfire Audio’s Solaris 2020. Still, the presentation more than works as it does a fantastic job of highlighting the Grace’s technical prowess. While not quite class leading, there is a ton of detail and some impressive clarity to be found here. This does not come at the expense of engagement either with the Grace more than able to appropriately reproduce the emotional performances of Celine Dion on “Ashes”, or Paul Williams on Daft Punk’s “Touch”.

Treble regions of the Grace Platinum match the chromed look of the earphone and give it a brightness that comfortably counters the visceral low end. With a presence region bias, you hear plenty of nuanced detail. Air and spacing is plentiful, though it is held back somewhat thanks to the trailing off of the brilliance region with only a small spike around 10k to keep the energy up. Notes in general are well-defined, though there is a hint of splash present. Unlike on other products where any splashiness distracts and detracts from the listening experience, that isn’t the case here. What little splashiness there is feels deliberate. There is an element of control to it that is apparent on dense passages such as Havok’s “D.O.A.” where individual cymbals strikes meld on lesser earphones. Through the Grace they remain individual and distinct.

The Grace Platinum’s sound stage is beautifully presented with a very well-rounded balance of width and depth. Vocals are set back just outside the ear giving the listener some breathing room, avoiding the in-your-head feel commonly associated with in-ear monitors. Sounds and effects can be tossed well off into the distance. As such, it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull out one earpiece when I heard such an effect to make sure my wife wasn’t calling me, or to check that one of our sweet kittens wasn’t getting themselves into trouble. As a gaming earphone the Grace is pretty darned competent. Imaging is extremely nuanced and tracking a sound from one channel to the other is handled smoothly without any dead zones or vagueness. Sounds are also layered well with plenty of separation keeping everything distinct and clear.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Campfire Audio Ara (1,299 USD): The 7-BA Ara is my personal favourite of Campfire Audio’s lineup thanks to it’s highly detailed, neutral-bright signature. The Grace aims for a different signature with more bass, a more prominent upper midrange thanks to a lower mid dip, and more relaxed treble, particularly in the brilliance region. The Grace has a warmer, more full sounding signature with a smoother presentation, particularly in the mids and treble. Bass is equally rapid and well-controlled on the two with the Ara’s texturing making a stronger showing. It lacks the visceral feedback of the Grace though, leaving the Ara’s low end to play more of a supporting role. I find the Grace’s presentation makes it more genre versatile, particularly when we’re talking about EDM and hip hop.

The midrange of the Ara is cooler with a slightly brighter, less natural sounding timbre that plays well into its focus on clarity and detail. The Grace Platinum’s mids are slightly cool and dry too, but with a hint of natural warmth that gives it a more natural presentation and slightly more accurate timbre. Detail and clarity are exceptionally close, though the Ara’s additional technical prowess gives it an edge for critical listening. One area the Grace has a strong edge over the Ara is sibilance. The Ara does nothing to mask sibilant tracks, such as Aesop Rock’s “The Gates”. The Grace softens harsh ‘tees’ and ‘esses’ leaving the aforementioned listenable, if not still somewhat tiring.

Treble is where the two stray most from each other. The presence region on each gives their signatures tons of clarity and micro detail nuance. Notes are well controlled and defined. Heading into the brilliance region we see the Grace lose energy. It can still provide shimmer and sparkle where needed, but it ends up being considerably less aggressive than on the Ara. Whereas I most enjoy the Ara at my typically low volumes, I have no issues bumping the Grace’s volume up to my personal limits where it remains reasonably non-fatiguing. I’d still call it slightly bright, but not to the extent of the Ara.

Both have an excellent sound stage, though the Grace’s is wider and deeper. I attribute this to the less prominent lower-mids which sets that vocals back further from the ear by default, immediately opening up the stage. Imaging on both is stellar with extremely nuanced and accurate channel-to-channel movement. Neither one sees improvements over the other in my opinion. The Grace does provide a bit more room for individual instruments to play, resulting in a slightly more layered feel. Neither ever comes across congested though, even on extremely busy tracks.

I’ve tested numerous Campfire Audio products over the years and none have failed to satisfy when it comes to build. The Ara is the best of the bunch in my opinion, so the Grace has itself some serious competition. When it comes to materials they are both outstanding, though I’ll give the Ara the nod. The shells are pure titanium and both fit and finish are virtually flawless. No excess glue, no gaps between parts. The Grace looks more the part of a top tier earphone though. This is partly because while the Ara’s shell design is truly awesome and iconic, it has been used across numerous Campfire Audio models at varying prices and unfortunately, deviously copied by other brands. It doesn’t look or feel quite as novel or special as it did in the past. The Ara’s single included cable finds itself sitting between the two included with the Grace. Versus the Grace’s 4C cable the Ara’s is more flexible, has a tougher feeling sheath, and more neatly integrated hardware. The Grace’s 8C cable turns the tables in the same way, adding thickness and better braiding into the mix, not to mention it’s balanced.

Overall I think they’re different enough to be complimentary products, though I can’t see anyone buying both unless they have seriously deep pockets. Take the Ara if you like a brighter sound and/or enjoy dissecting tracks. Go for the Grace if you want something technically outstanding but still quite genre versatile.

HiFiMAN RE2000 (2,000 USD): The single dynamic RE2000 has remained one of my favourite earphones of all-time thanks to it’s rock solid, extremely well-rounded and smooth, coherent presentation. Bass on the RE2000 is quite linear and somewhat similar to the Ara in terms of the way it transitions from lower to upper, unlike the Grace which to my ear puts a slight bias on sub-bass. This linearity gives the RE2000 a warmer tonality that carries into the rest of the signature making it the more natural sounding of the two. The Grace’s armatures are clearly faster though, with the RE2000 holding onto notes longer. While this doesn’t result in muddiness, it does leave the Grace sounding more textured and more technically adept with extremely fast notes.

Leading into the mids the RE2000 has a stronger upper region bias. Where the Grace starts to lose emphasis as you drift towards 3k, the RE2000 peaks at 3k. It’s overall presentation reminds me of the way Moondrop tunes the mids on some of their lineup (ex. Aria, Starfield), but with less extreme peaks. As noted earlier, Hifiman’s single dynamic sounds more natural thanks to a more organic timbre. It gives up detail and clarity to the Grace though with finer nuances of a vocal performance being present, but smoother and less crisp. When it comes to sibilant tracks the RE2000 is less forgiving, surprising given it is otherwise less fatiguing in nearly every other way.

Heading into the upper frequencies we see the two take drastically different approaches. While both have a presence region bias, the RE2000 retains emphasis far longer with emphasis only starting to drop after 5k, peaking again around 10k or so. The Grace’s peaks are in similar locations, but a good 5-10dB lower in places. Despite this, I perceive the Grace to sound brighter due to its cooler tonality and lessened overall warmth to the presentation. Neither sounds particularly sparkly, especially compared to the Ara, and clarity is similarly good with the Grace still having an edge. Notes from the RE2000 are cleaner and better controlled with a softer edge to them, though less detail is carried overall.

When it comes to sound stage the RE2000 takes a step beyond the Grace by providing additional width and depth. Vocals are set further out by default with the RE2000 being capable of tossing effects further from the head. It overall does a better job of immersing you in a track. That said, when it comes to technical qualities the Grace pulls back some points. Its imaging is cleaner and more nuanced making channel-to-channel movement even easier to track. It also does a better job separating instruments and track layers.

Build quality isn’t usually Hifiman’s greatest trait, so it isn’t surprising that when it comes to build, the RE2000 is outclassed by the Grace Platinum. Materials are not the issue with the main shell of the RE2000 being composed of brass with a gold plating, plastic structures rounding things out to accept the 2-pin plugs. The cable is pure silver, though saddled with a very generic black rubber sheath, useless strain relief, and subpar hardware. Where the RE2000 falls down is in fit and finish, and just a general, subjective impression of quality. There is plenty of excess glue around the plastic face plate and nozzles, the logo is printed on and after a few years of use is starting to wear off. The receptacles for the plugs are not quite aligned perfectly either. Both of Earsonics’ cables look and feel of higher quality, especially the balanced one. The Grace could use some extra attention to detail as well, but only when it comes to the face plate gap and excess glue. Everything else about it looks and feels appropriate for the price, which cannot be said for the RE2000.

Overall I find these suitable competitors for anyone looking for a premium earphone. I’d recommend the RE2000 to those that want a warmer sounding in-ear and can give up some technical ability for timbre quality. And if they don’t mind the sub-par construction. For everyone else, the Grace is the one to get as it provides a more satisfying bass presentation along with notably improved clarity and detail top to bottom, along with better staging qualities. Lastly, the Grace’s material quality is vastly improved over the RE2000.

In The Ear The Grace Platinum shares its shell design with the Corsa, but here they are composed of a zinc and magnesium alloy, overlaid with a platinum foil. It is certainly visually stunning, with a dense, tough-as-nails feel in the hand. The inner ridges, rear ventilation, and face plate design containing the Earsonics logo are all well-formed and free of unrefined edges. While the nozzle is unfortunately lacking a lip for holding tips on, it is quite long. This helps ensure there is enough friction present to hold most third party tips in place when inserting and removing the Grace Platinum from your ears. My preferred tip, the Spintfit CP145, fits and holds on just fine. This is a big, heavy shell though, the latter even more so with the Grace given the extra internals. While it’s not something you’re going to want to sling around your neck when not in use, when wearing them the weight is managed well. The design is organic and shapely, naturally hugging the contours of the ear. While the materials are high quality, fit and finish is about the same as the Corsa, which is to say it is just fine. As a handmade product, some quirks can be excused, though at the Grace’s retail price my expectations are high and improvements should be made. The excess blue glue sticking out around the front edge of the shell above the screw is very noticeable, as it was on the Corsa, and the face plate could stand to sit more flush. The gap between it and the rest of the shell is quite prominent. Overall a gorgeous product with amazing materials, but one that could benefit from improved fit and finish.

The Grace Platinum comes with two cables. The pre-attached cable is the same 99 USD one that came with the Corsa. It’s fine, but my thoughts on it are unchanged when paired with the Grace Platinum. It’s a simple quad-strand, silver-plated, braided design with Kevlar reinforcement that doesn’t look or feel too dissimilar to the silver-plate cables KZ has been including with a number of their recent products. The cable is quite slender and has fantastic aluminum hardware at the compact, well-relieved angled jack, y-split, and the 2-pin plugs. Tangle resistance is pretty decent for a thin cable, it transmits barely any noise during movement, and it retains little memory of bends. Leading up to the earpieces are preformed ear guides that could stand to be a touch stiffer as the weight of the earphones overwhelms them.

The second cable is a significant improvement and the one I recommend using, pending you have a source with a 4.4mm balanced out, or an appropriate 4.4mm to 2.5mm adapter like the DDHiFi DJ44B. It features a braided, six-strand construction with a hybrid alloy design of 6N OCC and silver with a Kevlar core. It’s light, flexible, but stiff enough to deal with the weight of the ear pieces thanks to the inclusion of useful preformed ear guides. The aluminum hardware is fantastic too. While the 0.78mm 2-pin plugs are the same as those on the standard cable, the y-split is thicker with the ES logo laser etched into the aluminum. The straight jack is well relieved with defined knurling to ensure you can get a good grip on it. Earsonics didn’t skimp on the chin cinch either, with a bead-styled cinch found resting above the y-split. Overall a wonderful cable, and one that feels of suitable quality to match the Grace Platinum’s premium standing.

When it comes to ergonomics Earsonics crafted a thoughtfully designed shell. While the size will be limiting factor for those with smaller ears, for everyone else I suspect it will be quite comfortable to wear. The inner half of the shell is smooth and well-rounded, completely free of any sharp edges which could cause discomfort. The bulbous shape feels form-fitted to the outer ear and spreads the weight of the earpieces fairly evenly across the surface of your skin. If the Grace Platinum were lighter, I’d easily be able to wear it for an entire 8-hour work shift with no complaint. As-is, I find the areas the earphone touches getting slightly sore after a couple hours. If taking the health of your ears and hearing seriously, you shouldn’t be listening for hours on end anyway. Isolation with silicone tips is fairly average. Unlike most all-armature earphones I’ve come across which are fully sealed, the shells of the Grace Platinum are heavily ventilated with two large, vertical vents on the rear of each earpiece. While this does reduce its ability to passively block outside noise, it does improve comfort by ensuring there is no pressure build up when they’ve been inserted into your ear. If you need to boost isolation further, the included Comply foam tips works wonders. More dense silicone tips like Final Audio’s Edge Type E tips are a suitable alternative if you want to avoid the fiddly nature of foam tips.

In The Box The Grace Platinum arrives in minimalist packaging with a feature I don’t think I’ve come across before; a half sheath. On the front of the sheath is Grace in large cursive print, with Platinum found below in a slender, uppercase font. France’s flag can be found centered just below. Lifting off the sheath reveals a black monolith of a box with Earsonics and the ES logo printed in a contrasting glossy font, tucked into the lower left corner. The rest of the box is featureless. Flipping back the magnetically sealed flap you are greeted by a foam cutout in which the earpieces reside. Just below this is a cardboard slip where, courtesy of Frank Lopez, their CEO, a paragraph in French thanks you for purchasing an Earsonics product and welcomes you to the world of professional audio. Under this insert is the carrying case, and to the right a smaller cardboard insert where more of the accessories can be found. In all you get:

  • Earsonics Grace Platinum earphones
  • Clamshell carrying case
  • HI-RES 4C 3.5mm cable
  • HI-RES 8C 4.4mm cable
  • Cleaning brush
  • 1/4” adapter
  • Comply foam tips (s/m)
  • Single flange silicone tips (m/l)
  • Bi-flange silicone tips (s/m)
  • Hearing aid cleaning wipes (x2)

Overall a very simple, clean design for the packaging that uses fewer materials than much of the competition. Since mostly cardboard is used, you won’t be tossing it in the garbage and can instead recycle. In terms of accessories, this kit is fine. Comply tips are pretty much the defacto standard for foam tips so you can’t go wrong with them. The included silicone tips are the same common sets you’ve seen with countless other products, at a wide variety of price points. They work but you’ll be tempted to replace them with something more premium out of the box. The addition of an upgraded balanced cable and the 1/4” adapter for use with a desktop amp round things out, resulting in a solid kit of extras.

Final Thoughts This is only the second product from Earsonics I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, but if this and the considerably more affordable Corsa are any indication of how competent the rest of their lineup is, Earsonics is undoubtedly a brand that should not be underestimated or overlooked. Given their existing standing in the industry, I don’t think they have to worry about anything.

The Grace Platinum exudes a level of visual flair that is befitting of its flagship, all-BA earphone status. Thankfully this is backed by a listening experience that also reflects the Grace’s position in the Earsonics lineup. The low end presentation is full and complete and can easily compete with earphones using a dynamic driver for this region. The midrange is extremely detailed and coherent, though timbre accuracy could be improved upon as it may come across too cool and dry for some. Treble is energetic and crisp, yet not particularly fatiguing. This is all wrapped within a large sound stage with seriously impressive technical qualities. The Grace is a premium all-rounder that can handle casual listening just as well as critical listening.

Going back to the visual flair mentioned earlier, the chromed platinum foil of the earpieces certainly attracts the eye. Despite being large and fairly heavy, the ergonomics are spot on resulting in a comfortable fit with good isolation. I’d like to see them improve part fitment a touch though, as the gaps and excess glue peeking out might disappoint some buyers. The accessory kit is well-rounded with a solid set of silicone and foam tips, balanced and single-ended cables, and a useful carrying case, among other extras. It would be awesome if Earsonics could partner with Final Audio or Spinfit so more premium tips befitting their higher end models could be included. Still, you can pick those up separately, and you should if you’re willing and able to add an endgame earphone like this to your lineup.

Overall a fantastic product that offers sexy good looks and top tier sound. Earsonics knocked this one out of the park. Great stuff.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Max with Earsonics for reaching out to see if I’d be interested in reviewing the Grace Platinum, and for arranging a sample. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Earsonics or any other entity. At the time of writing the Grace Platinum was retailing for 1899,00€. You can check it out here: https://www.earsonics.com/in-ear-monitors/grace-platinum/ / https://www.earsonics.com/store/produit/grace/

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 119dB/mW
  • Impedance: 26.6ohms
  • Drivers: 10BA with 3-way crossover + impedance corrector

Gear Used For Testing Huawei P40, DDHiFi TC35 Pro, Earmen Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, Asus FX53V

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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