Review - Strauss & Wagner EM205 (sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube


The Straus & Wagner EM205 were sent to me free of charge by Audio46 as one of a group of reviewers selected to receive the sample. Their 2 conditions for this were that the review must be posted within 14 days of receiving the item and that the review must be first published in this thread on Head-Fi before posting elsewhere. Unfortunately the IEMs were delayed due to the shipping company (surprise surprise) and I didn’t receive them until a couple of weeks ago, a month after they were shipped.

Other than that, Audio46 made no other requests, so my opinion will follow the usual path of being as honest and unbiased as possible.

Although they weren’t specifically requested, here are the (non affiliate) links to their store and to the product:

Audio46 store: https://audio46.com/

Wagner & Strauss EM205:  https://audio46.com/products/strauss-wagner-em205-earphones-with-3-5mm-connection-and-mic-remote

Intro…

To be totally honest, I had no idea what I was receiving when I was offered the W&S EM205, I haven’t watched or read any reviews on them but I decided to take a look at the website for some specs before publishing this review and to be honest, there are more specs on the box they arrive in than on their website.

According to the box, they are a single 9mm dynamic driver set of IEMs (it doesn’t actually specify DD on the box but they certainly sound DD), with an impedance of 32 Ohms and a sensitivity of 108dB.

This should make for pretty easy IEMs to drive but for some reason, when paired with one of my phones that I use as a DAP on occasions, they did sound like they were lacking some clarity, clarity that improved (slightly, but more on that in a moment) when paired with something as simple as the Apple Dongle.

Please note that I haven’t used these IEMs connected to an amplifier like I usually do (normally the Atom in the case of IEMs) as I don’t like connecting IEMs with inline mics to amplifiers without an adapter (which I don’t have on hand at the moment) and as the cable is fixed, I couldn’t swap the cable for one without a mic.

In other words, all of my impressions have been done with the Apple Dongle, connected to an Android phone and using UAPP, with stock tips and obviously stock cable.



Presentation…

The EM205 arrive in a very simple white box with a few images in black & white, along with some details and specs (as I said, more than on their website). The packaging actually reminds me a lot of IEMs you would find on sale at stores like “Ale-Hop” (those in Spain will get the reference) or even at “Tedi” (most Europeans should get this reference). Please note that this is not a complaint, I am all for saving money on packaging and putting it into the product itself.

Inside the box we find the IEMs, a drawstring pouch for transport and a couple of extra sets of tips (3 sets in total, including the ones that come installed). There is not a lot included and I know we are talking about a $40 set of IEMs, so we shouldn’t expect much, but in comparison with other similarly priced items from other brands, the contents could be considered quite sparse.

This is obviously not an issue if the money has been invested in the quality of the IEMs and, more importantly, the sound.



Build and aesthetics…

These are a small set of IEMs, similar in form factor to things like the Tanya or E500 (shorter than the E500 but a little bit beefier than the Tanya). This makes for a comfortable set of IEMs that can be worn with the cable either up or down, although I do find that wearing them with the cable up does place the controller/mic very close to the bottom of the ear (this will obviously depend on your own ear size.

The IEM shells, while made of plastic, do seem to be well built and look like they would withstand daily routines quite easily, they don’t look like they would have any problems with being thrown in a pocket or backpack, especially when inside the included bag.

The cable itself is ok, not the best but adequate for daily use. It is a simple rubberized cable that does decide to tangle itself on occasions but is certainly not the worst cable I have received. This is good because, as I mentioned, the cable is fixed, so you won’t be swapping it without a soldering iron.

There is a microphone and small inline controller on the cable, with three buttons to control basic music control like vol +, vol -, play/pause etc. I found that the play/pause (center button) also serves as next track when pressed twice, however, I didn’t find a way of doing last track, at least while using UAPP for this review.

All in all, the build and comfort is quite satisfactory for the price of the EM205, nothing outstanding but nothing to really complain about either.



Sound…

Putting in the EM205’s and pressing play for the first time was literally like suddenly jumping back in time, to a place where a set of 30€ set of JVC or Sennheisers were great fun, back to times when IEMs where only on stages and everything else was just earbuds, independently of the fact whether they fitted inside your ear or just perched in the opening.

Now, before you assume that I am hating on these IEMs and saying that they sound like something from 15 years ago, that is not what I am saying. I am referring more to the tuning you would find in 90% of IEMs that are sold to people who don’t live in the audiophile world, a land where a set of 30€ JBL IEMs are great because they are JBL. Again, I am not hating! Those people enjoy their music probably a lot more than some (lot’s of) audiophiles and are happy with what they hear, which is the most important thing in all of this, enjoying the music.

So, without straying further from the subject, the reason I mention this is because I feel that the tuning of the EM205 is very similar to that “safe consumer” tuning that is found on many similar priced products sold en masse. That doesn’t mean that it is bad, my son, for example, would probably be very happy with them, it is just a sound signature that is not something that really appeals to me, luckily it is not as “over done” in the bass as some other items I have tried.

Starting with the subbass, there is plenty of low rumble there, in fact, listening to "Chameleon", I got the sensation that my ears were being vacuum sealed at times. There is enough subbass to actually make you feel it inside your ears, sort of like a miniaturized dance floor in your ears.

Moving into the remaining bass frequencies, these are an extension of the subbass and can no way be thought of as lacking bass. Yes, I have tried bassier sets that were much worse, but that doesn’t stop the EM205 from having too much bass for my personal tastes. This can actually prove impressive for the first few tracks when listening to EDM but I soon get tired and feel fatigued from too much bass. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-bass, after all I am a bass player, but I prefer it when I don’t have to strain through the bass in order to appreciate the rest of the frequencies.

And the rest of the frequencies are there to be appreciated but they get a little overpowered by the lows. In the lower part of the mids, there is still mid bass trailing over into these frequencies, making them come across a little congested in the low mids area. This is not helped by the fact that there is a recess in the mids, making voices and mid centric instruments be pushed behind those overly present lows, fighting to actually make their presence noted. A reduction of bass via EQ does actually help bring them a little more towards the front but without EQ, they can range between slightly recessed and too far away, when talking about vocals. For example, the song “Make Noise” by Busta Rhymes and Lenny Kravitz, has vocals that are pretty recessed on a neutral set up, with the EM205 the vocals are almost absent.

Moving towards the higher mids and up into the treble, there really isn’t any noticeable boost in order to at least bring back a little of the V shaped signature (not that I am a huge fan of overly done “V”s anyway) and it sort of just continues on with the same lack of presence as in the mids. There is also not a huge amount of extension, so there isn’t much of that “air” that would maybe make things a little more “breathable”.

The good news is that sibilance is non-existent, as is any harshness, if you don’t mind the boosted lows, you can push these IEMs very loud without harshness (although you will run into some distortion and probably hearing issues if you go that loud :) ).

The soundstage is around normal for a set of IEMs in this price range, with image positioning also around average. It is not terrible but the bass does add to the sensation of being rather narrow (for me personally).



Conclusion…

It is probably clear that I have not enjoyed the Strauss & Wagner EM205, and this review probably comes across as rather negative, which I guess it is, but it is far more related to my taste in sound than to the actual IEMs themselves. If you are someone that enjoys this kind of tuning, which many people do, it is a much better alternative to some of those supermarket offerings that will cost the same, have worse performance and even more bass.

The packaging, and IEMs, do look like they would be at home on a multi store shelf or bookshop, but I personally feel that they perform better than would be expected if you would find them in such a place. They are IEMs that a very large percentage of the general public would really enjoy, with them plugged directly into their phones with an inline mic ready for those calls.

Personally, as these earphones have a tuning that I do not enjoy, it makes it very difficult for me to focus on the good points while ignoring the things I don’t like. It’s like trying to focus on the lettuce of a 500g burger when you don't like the taste of the meat.

SenyorC