Grace Platinum: Continued excellence from earsonics
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Grace Platinum ($2100): Continued excellence from earsonics
Having previously reviewed the Corsa and the Onyx before release, when Thibault asked about reviewing the Grace Platinum, I of course, said yes. Not knowing anything about it, other than word of mouth in conversation with @B9Scrambler, I awaited my turn. And to be honest, I forgot about it, until Thibault contacted me saying it was on the way. It was then, I delved a bit deeper into the unit specs. 20 drivers, 10 per side harkened back to what we affectionately called “the driver war;” started by Far-Eastern manufacturers several years ago. I can remember every week one company, or another outdid the previous record; settling finally on I believe a 28 balanced armature (14 a side!!!) driver of some ilk. It did not sound good. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I read up and waited on the Grace Platinum (GP). But, knowing my luck with the others and earsonics excellent record with their models, my trepidation turned into anticipation. On the same day, another high-end IEM arrived, and they will be compared below, but first the GP. I thank Thibault and earsonics for the inclusion, both are extremely professional and excellent with which to work.
Frequency Response: 10Hz-20kHz
Drivers: 10 balanced armatures/side w/ 3-way HQ impedance corrector filter
In The Box:
1 HR 4-core cable, 2.5se
1 symmetrical 8-core HR cable, 4.4bal
2 pairs Comply tips
2 pairs silicone tips
1 cleaning tool
1 jack adapter
From their site (and paraphrased):
Grace Platinum represents the best of Earsonics. It is the culmination of our range, designed and assembled in our laboratories by hand in France. Based on the extraordinary electronics of the Grace HR, the Grace platinum goes one step further in transcribing sound and details. The Grace Platinum has also been completely revised with the addition of high-quality components. The 20 drivers allow it to deliver high acoustic performance over a wide bandwidth ranging from 10Hz to 20 KHz. The 3-way impedance corrected HQ filter is capable of reproducing extremely faithful sound rich in details as well.
20 balanced armature drivers (10 per side), including 4 specific to vents, specially designed for Earsonics. The shell of zinc and magnesium alloy are covered with an exclusive platinum foil. Acrylic Heart ® technology offering sound rigor and phase control. TrueWave ® technology allows optimum work on phase control and a top quality “magnitude” curve. The shell is tuned for optimum cavity acoustics as well.
Oh, and it is completely put together by hand.
Empire Ears Legend X ($2200)
Astrotec Phoenix 6 ($1550)
Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii-E01 motherboard
Topping A30 Pro/D30 Pro/ M6P & MBP
iFi Pro iDSD/iCan/M6P/MBP
Buena Vista Social Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan
In typical earsonics fashion, the Grace Platinum (GP) comes in a black box, with a silver sleeve over it. The same type of box in both the Corsa and Onyx I reviewed previously. What IS different is the case. Rectangular but of a gray denim-like cover (coincidentally, I have THREE that are of gray and denim-like material), it is a bit thin, especially when both cables are inside. Other than that, the set-up is identical, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it keeps costs down.
My first look was of the platinum foil shells, which were clean and fingerprint free (thank you!!!), and of different color than the gray Corsa or black (onyx…) Onyx. Mirror-like and good looking, the shell follows the familiar to me earsonics pattern and shape, but larger.
Build & Fit:
The GP has the familiar shape and feel of other earsonics models, which is a shell shaped somewhat oblong, with what looks like a stamped logo, into the soft metal shell. It isn’t of course, but that freshly logoed wax look is good looking, nonetheless. The GP is a somewhat larger shell than the others I have tried, which makes sense as it holds 10 balanced armature drivers preside. Those drivers follow with four high-range, four mid-range, and two low-range drivers, arranged within a 3D printed acrylic structure and surrounded by a zinc-magnesium alloy shell, further covered with a premium platinum foil. That 3D structure acts like a tuned listening room in your ears. Most manufacturers now do this to fine tune the sound, and I do approve. It makes a difference, and some will use tubes to pass along the isolation of each BA or set of BA’s, melding them together with crossovers or the tubes themselves.
There is also no hiding that the Grace Platinum is a heavy IEM. These carry serious heft in them, but once in ear with your tip of choice (I used the included Comply foam), the fit was good, and did not stick out that much. I could also not feel the heft too much, enjoying several long listening sessions. A nice addition is the inclusion of two cables. A 4-strand 3.5se and an 8-strand 4.4bal. I used the 4.4bal exclusively. A mix of copper and silver, the balanced cable is gorgeous and very pliable. No microphonics are had, but the over ear guide does not always stay. The cable is as good as the Grace Platinum itself.
Housing 10 drivers per side, the acrylic 3D designed, and printed inner chamber is acoustically balanced to provide optimum sound according to the earsonics guidelines. As said previously, most manufacturers now use something such as “designed chambers” and I say, it’s about time. Enhancing our listening pleasures this way is a fairly easy task, and I would gladly pay a bit extra for that.
The 10 balanced armature drivers set up provides two each side for low, four in the mids range, and the other four in the treble range. With a 3-way high quality (HQ) impedance filter, the whole design is optimized for our listening pleasures. I can vouch and agree with the other reviewers, that this is among the best BA bass I have heard of late. I love good dynamic drivers for the low end, but the use and engineering of the GP makes me almost forget there isn’t a DD to be had.
The Grace Platinum provides a solid all-around sound, with very good bass extension that comes across as robust, but not intrusive to me. This lack of intrusiveness continues across the whole in my opinion, and gives the GP a thoroughly satisfying signature, that does not dwell in the “too dark” or “too rich” spectrum of which I normally like. I find the overall timbre to be very good as well, with a fairly expansive soundstage to boot, making this a solid IEM in the universal category.
Late last night, I had Pink Floyd on (song immaterial) and I was watching game four of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I really don’t care for either team, except that the Avalanche’s owner also owns the Denver Nuggets, and the Super Bowl winning LA Rams along with my beloved Arsenal FC. If the Avs win, I can see a healthier summer transfer market for the Gunners as a result (things are already looking good). As a result of the game, and a local Logboat Bobber Lager, I kept turning the volume up through the Topping duo mentioned above. And the sound was quite good. Green Day’s American Idiot followed Floyd, and the attack and decay of that bass certainly gave me the sense of a balanced armature approach; but the chamber inside the GP gave an excellent voluminous sound to that bass. Such that, I found myself listening at higher volumes than normal; but not reaching to turn the volume down.
The GP may not be the best for all genre, but it certainly held my appeal during that late-night listening of rock and punk. It was superb. Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals were concise and vibrant in the mids section, while the guitar and drum work, which graced the treble note did not bleed either up or down. There was good air between the note, but not voluminous in expansion. All was tied together nicely and coherently. Slightly cool in overall tone (as others note as well) but not dry or overly analytic like some fully balanced armature IEM’s I have heard, there was a thoroughly enveloping sound to the GP, which belied its make up. That also leads to very good clarity of note as witnessed on Tommy Emmanuel’s Guitar Boogie (live) where each strum can be discerned with good quality.
Quite often when using BA’s, manufacturers rely upon a dynamic driver for the low end, but earsonics has successfully provided us with a listening chamber that acoustically represents that low end using all BA’s. On Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Little Wing, I never felt the song was too thin or polite, with the right amount of bass guitar coming across to accompany the bass drum. It was thoroughly musical. And here is part of the magic in the GP. It can provide what some might call a “lighter” sound, without sounding thin or antiseptic. I never heard that impression at all. Following SRV’s superb song, Tommy Emmanuel’s Lewis & Clark gave the kind of low-end reach deserved for the guitar he was playing. Also, each note played in its own space well, giving good extension in the three dimensions. Soundstage as a result is quite good with his guitar working outside my head a bit. While some like overly expansive sound to express itself well outside and up (as well as fore/aft), this can lead to a thinning of note to me. While the expansiveness can be a great interpretation for say classical works, it can be antithesis for another genre. The Grace Platinum seems to stretch the boundaries of what is “acceptable” for use in more genre.
Moving on the O.A.R live About Mr. Brown in Chicago, that live music simply sings through the GP. This is one song, in which my ears won’t forgive me for a good while, as the volume raised yet again. It was here though, that Mark Roberge’s voice did get a bit grating, but I feel it was due to his piercing vocal tendencies and not the GP. A raucous song, giving me a really good listen.
earsonics Grace Platinum ($2000) v Empire Ears Legend X w/ Eletech Socrates ($2800):
I won’t repeat the intro that I use every time I compare the LX. I will get right to it. Moving to the LX/Socrates combo, the sound became almost dead to me. The GP came across as much more vibrant and “exciting,” which puzzled me immensely. Queueing up David Bowie’s Conversation Piece, which was written and recorded at a time when bass was lighter, the song sounds quite good on both. The LX providing more depth and warmth to the sound than the GP. But the GP provides a more open sound to me. This is a good comparison, for each goes about its business in a different manner. Deep, rich bass of the LX vs clarity and space of the GP. Both are good, and I continue to be surprised by the Grace P. Further confirmed on Space Oddity, the LX provides deep reaching, mesmerizing bass while the GP gives a space-like sound, but not too far apart.
earsonics Grace Platinum ($2000) v Astrotec Phoenix 6 ($1550):
The Phoenix came my way from another reviewer, and it represents a major step for Astrotec. I have heard of nothing close to this price from Astrotec. Immediately, the Phoenix comes across as brighter, with better reach up top. There is a good lilt to the top end, which the GP cannot match. This extension comes across very well in Pomme’s Sans toi, with her voice ringing rich and vibrant throughout. There is a more forward push from the mids as well here, that the GP cannot match, with its more laidback signature. The rumble of bass in the Phoenix is heard through the dynamic driver, and the four (yes four) electrostatic drivers from Sonion makes for good extension up top. This is a worthy tribrid to the mix, even if it almost doubles the price of the original Phoenix. Since both approach sound differently, I cannot really choose one over the other. If you like a more forward sound, that involves you, then the Phoenix 6 may be a good look. If you prefer a more mature, laidback signature, the GP is the easy choice here.
As mentioned earlier, the Grace Platinum was a remembered surprise to my abode. I had forgotten about it. Upon arrival, my queue was thankfully thin enough to give it a good, long run of well over 75 hours of listening. In that time, I went from appreciation of the sound, which is mature and laidback; but also, those late-night listening sessions where to put it bluntly; the GP just rocked. I don’t often (enough) turn the volume to high levels, and with the Grace Platinum, I just did. I found myself continuing the clockwise rotation on the volume wheel of the Topping and enjoying it. Right now, I listen to the Eagles Live On MTV version of Hotel California and yet again find the volume going up. That signature presented through the music is one in which I like quite a bit. Maybe a bit too much up top, but the calm presentation of the rest bodes for a volume-pushing session when you can. And in that, I still relish my time with the Grace Platinum. And that is the point, to listen and enjoy, while sometimes pushing the volume to levels that should be too high.
A word about price. Yes, these cost $2k, which is a lot for pretty much anyone to consider. But when you consider the price, you should take into account if the item in hand gives you that much more pleasure than the one you own. As witnessed by reading the words of those who attended CanJam in Chicago, many (most?) gravitated towards the high-end priced items. So there still seems to be the market for that. I won’t tell you that this is the latest, greatest IEM and you should go spend your dollars on it. What I will say though, is that the GP is an excellent IEM, that much like those who partook in the finer listening devices at CanJam should give a listen to as well, for it might fit your listening bill as well as your bills ($).
A huge thank you to Thibault for including me. The Grace Platinum is indeed a treat.