Greetings!

Today we're checking out the new, reworked version of the Polaris from Campfire Audio.

Back in 2017 when I reviewed the original Polaris, I was blown away. Here was an earphone that was quite technically adept in a way that was befitting of it's premium price tag, yet it had an unashamedly v-shaped signature. It was both fun and capable, yet there were a few qualities I was not particularly fond of. First, while the sound stage was large it was quite flat giving the Polaris a “wall of sound” effect. Over time I also found the mid-range could come across dry and unnatural. Regardless, it made for one heck of a listen, all wrapped with that distinctive Campfire Audio design.

The new Polaris is now available and I've spent the last two months rocking out to it. Is it an upgrade over the original? Does it paste the same stupid grin across my face when listening to EDM? Or, was it downgraded to fall in line with the 100 USD lower price? Let's find out.

Disclaimer:

Thanks to Caleb with Campfire Audio for arranging a sample of the Polaris for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on time spent listening to the Polaris throughout the last two months. They do not represent Campfire Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the Polaris retailed for 499 USD. You can check it out here: https://campfireaudio.com/shop/polaris-2/

Personal Preference:

I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

Sources:

Mobile: Shanling M0 alone or with the Periodic Audio Ni amp, ZiShan DSD
@home: TEAC HA-501 with a ZiShan DSD or Asus FX53V acting source duty

The Polaris II is quite sensitive and easy to drive. No amp needed. Make sure you've got a clean source though, because like many Campfire iems it will hiss if the output is too much.


Specifications:
  • Driver: Single balanced armature with T.E.A.C. + 9.2mm dynamic with Polarity Tuned Chamber
  • Impedance: 17 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105dB
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz to 20kHz




Packaging and Accessories:

When it comes to packaging, Campfire Audio has changed things up this time around. The spirit of their past designs are still in place as they follow the same astronomical theme, but the format has changed. Similar to the Solaris, the Polaris comes in a fairly large, shallow square box. This box is covered by an exterior sheath, sealed shut by a bronzed black Campfire Audio seal on the back. The front contains a large sticker with a mottled pattern set beneath a high quality image of the Polaris' earpieces and the usual company branding and model information. One more sticker is present around the side containing company info, another image of the Polaris, among other details that may or may not be important to the average consumer.

Breaking the seal, the sheath unfold like the pedals of a flower revealing the main box inside. Lifting out the box, you will notice the inner sheath is printed with the CA logo dead centre, blackened rays exploding outwards. It's quite dramatic. The main box itself contains the same beautiful mountainous scene found on CA's prior packaging along with more Campfire Audio branding. Lifting the lid you're greeted by the slogan “Nicely Done” printed on one of the flaps, as well as their new leather carrying case and a smaller cardboard box containing many of the included accessories. Beneath all this is your warranty card and a manual. In all you get:

  • Polaris II earphones
  • Smoky Jacket Silver Plated Copper Litz Cable
  • Final Audio tips (xs/s/m/l/xl)
  • Campfire Audio Marshmallow tips (s/m/l)
  • Medium bore single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Campfire Audio lapel pin
  • Cleaning tool
  • Mesh accessory case (x3)

Overall this is an outstanding unboxing experience, as is always the case with Campfire Audio. But...I still prefer their old packaging. It was smaller and more compact thereby using less material and producing less waste, a big plus for those that toss packaging once they get to the goods within. That said, this packaging still produces a lot less waste than what you get with various other brands (RHA, Dunu, etc.), and everything is recyclable, so take this as more of an observation than a complaint. The new box does look fantastic on display though, a positive for those of us that appreciate brands who put time and effort into crafting unique and attractive unboxing experiences.

Packaging aside, the accessory kit is second to none. Final Audio tips are some of the best in the business and with five sizes included you're sure to find something that works for your ears. Campfire Audio's Marshmallow tips are a very high quality foam option. The basic single flange silicone tips are nothing special and are the sort of tip you'd find included with more budget oriented offerings. That's not to take away from their performance though. They stay attached to the nozzle just fine and consistently seal well. The cleaning tool will be invaluable to those with waxy ears and the inclusion of three mesh bags to keep everything neatly organized is genius. Nicely done.




Build, comfort, and Isolation:

The machined aluminum housings of the new Polaris eschew the Ceracote faceplates of the original, and instead are adorned completely with a vibrant blue anodized finish that looks pretty stunning in person. Seems to me that Campfire has improved the quality of their machining and their anodized finish. Compared to the original Polaris, the shells are much smoother. Small bumps and knocks that chipped the finish on the original Polaris have done nothing to the Polaris II. Black ~10mm long stainless steel nozzles replace the 3D printed plastic nozzles of the original Polaris and have a prominent lip that does a great job of holding tips in place. These nozzles are very similar to those introduced with the Atlas and Comet and incorporate protective grills into the design. You won't have to worry about losing a filter when changing tips. Matte black screws top things off and attractively accent the blue colouring. I would love to paint them yellow to give the Polaris a Subaru WRC vibe. The Polaris II carries over Campfire Audio's familiar, extra durable, and now insulated beryllium/copper MMCX connectors. I say extra durable because that's what the marketing blurb spouts, but also my now almost two year old and well-loved original Polaris has seen tens and tens of disconnects and the MMCX connectors are just as firm now as they were out of the box. Fit and finish is as to be expected, that is to say it is fantastic. Seams are barely visible and everything lines up perfectly without any gaps or off kilter angles.

The Polaris II comes with Campfire Audio's new Silver Plated Copper Litz cable. It is quite reminiscent in design and thickness to the copper cable that came with the original Polaris, but with a new smoke coloured sheath. The 90 degree angled jack is smartly designed with an extension to permit compatibility with a wide variety of device cases, though strain relief is a little stiff. Less of a worry than it would be in other cases. My experiences with Campfire's cables have shown them to be plenty durable. Within the small, reliefless aluminum y-split, the cable divides sending two strands on each side to the ear pieces. Slotting into the top of the split is a small plastic chin cinch. It moves much more smoothly here than on older Campfire cables and as a result is much more useful. Also much more useful is the move to preformed ear guides. While the memory wire used on past Campfire Audio cables worked, I found the “memory” aspect of that title limited at best which led to the wire straightening out over time. Ditching that entirely and running with preformed guides has resulted in a much more pleasant experience since I'm not constantly rebending the wire to ensure it stays behind my ear. This is a great new cable and I was pleased to see it included with some other new/updated models, like the IO and Andromeda v3.

When it comes to comfort you'd be forgiven for assuming Campfire Audio's iconic angular shell design is a pain in the ear. Maybe for some, but not for me. Ergonomics are just right with the low profile Polaris II conforming quite naturally to my outer ear. That plus the use of lightweight aluminum, a small size the belies the chunky appearance, and the reasonably long nozzle keeps the earphone sitting in a way that does not feel out of place. While I find the stubby nozzle of the Andromeda more suitable to my personal ear anatomy, I can still wear the Polaris for hours without experiencing any discomfort.

Isolation on the Polaris II is quite good. Despite having a vented housing, it blocks nearly as much noise as the fully sealed IO. However, the Polaris II retains the placement of the outer vent of the original and picks up a ton of wind noise that almost completely drowns out your music. While the volume of the wind noise is reduced over the original Polaris, it is still glaringly loud limiting the Polaris II's usefulness when worn outside, at least in weather where even a fairly light breeze is present.




Sound:

Tips: Wide bore all the way. The included small bore tips accentuate the already very prominent mid-bass tipping the Polaris II over the edge into a slightly bloated presentation. Wide bore tips, like those from JVC, negate this keeping the low end massive and engaging but still controlled.

While still very much a v-shaped sound, the Polaris II's tuning has seen some when changes compared to the original, the most obvious due to a new dynamic driver handling the low end. Gone is the original's 8.5mm dynamic is favour of a larger, 9.2mm unit. Boy, does it make a difference. The Polaris II's low end takes most of the spotlight and as such is a major driving force in the overall presentation. So, let's start by looking at the bass.

The Polaris II's low frequencies are huge. Lots of mid-bass, lots of sub-bass, bass everywhere. This new Polaris is an absolute bass cannon. Normally this quantity of bass would be a bit much for me, but it works. This new dynamic doesn't initially feel quite as quick as the old one but it handles the rapid double bass inherent in many metal tracks, such as Havok's “Time Is Up”, just as well as the old one. And, in the process it provides a MUCH more visceral experience with notes rumbling and lingering where they would die off and lose energy on the original Polaris. This makes tracks like Karma Fields & Morten's “Stickup ft. Juliette Lewis” an absolute blast thanks to the heavy bass line that now carries the track like it should. The only thing I prefer about the previous driver is it provides more texture and detail. The new Polaris II's low end is smoother and more refined at the expense of a mild loss of information.

Midrange presence is more or less the same as it was on the original. That is to say, it's recessed, but not by a lot. Despite all the extra bass dialed into the Polaris II, instruments and vocals remain clear and coherent without mid-bass bleed joining in and ruining the party. I personally prefer the mid-range here when compared to the original Polaris because it's thicker and more natural sounding with a more accurate timbre. I get a better sense of the emotion behind Paul Williams' opening and lyrics on Daft Punk's “Touch” with the Polaris II. However, this more natural presentation comes with a reduction in clarity and detail which is noticeable when a/b'ing the two together. Vocals simply do not sound as sharp and crisp through the Polaris II. I personally think this is worth the improvements in timbre and accuracy. You might feel otherwise.

The Polaris II is about as bright as the original, with the treble emphasis shifted to higher frequencies. This gives the II more energy and bite to its attack while adding air and space to notes. The reduction in the presence region would also help explain the slightly reduced detail and clarity. In addition to the shifted emphasis, I found the Polaris II's presentation better controlled. Running through King Crimson's “Cat Food”, hit hats simply sound cleaner and better defined through the Polaris II. If you're sensitive to upper treble, I can certainly see you preferring the original Polaris' presentation though as hit hats have a fair bit more emphasis through the Polaris II and at higher volumes risk being overbearing.

Lastly, the Polaris II has a wicked sound stage. While the original had a fairly tall stage, it lacked depth which resulted in a presentation that was more or less a wall of sound. The Polaris II is in my opinion miles ahead of the original in this regard. Running through BT's “If The Stars Are Eternal Than So Are You And I”, the Polaris II surrounds you within the ethereal effects and dancing sounds while the original Polaris merely places it beside you. Tracks are much more deep and lively with the Polaris II. Imaging is improved too thanks to this extra space, lending the Polaris II to success with gaming. The depth and accuracy of it's stage, along with excellent layering and separation made this earphone a gem to use when playing intense racing games like Wipeout Omega Collection (special mention goes to the wicked sound track) or competitive shooters like PUBG or Call of Duty.




Select Comparisons (volumes matched using Dayton iMM-6):

Fidue A85 Virgo (399.00 USD): The A85's triple driver hybrid setup offers a more balanced, neutral-leaning sound than the Polaris II. Treble on the A85 feel biased towards the presence region and compared to the Polaris II is lacking in brilliance. This leaves cymbals, chimes, etc. sounding slightly muted and dull compared to the Polaris, and lacking the same level of detail. The A85's mid-range is notably more forward with vocals and acoustics having a slightly thicker and much more dominant presence on most tracks. Timbre is more accurate out of the Polaris II. The A85 adds a touch of dryness where there should be none. Clarity is similar between the two with vocals and instruments being equally coherent. Bass is where the two drastically split. The A85's low end is barely elevated above neutral with a light, warm, mellow presence that focuses clearly on mid-bass. It's not slow, but it's not particularly quick either. Sub-bass is present but lacks presence. When compared to the Polaris II the A85 sounds almost anemic. The Polaris II's bass is clearly the star of the show with a advantage in speed and control, as well as way more presence in both mid-bass and sub-bass regions. The A85 sets the listener further from the performance and as such gives the impression of a larger sound stage. When it comes to technical ability, the Polaris II is a big step forward. Imaging is sharper, more precise, and tracks sound more layered and better separated. A big part of this is due to the Polaris II's depth which is much improved over the A85. While I prefer the A85's mids, that's all I think it has going for it over the Poalris II.

HIFIMAN RE800 Silver (599.00 USD): The single dynamic in the RE800 S has a more balanced sound than the Polaris 2. Still v-shaped, but not to the same extent nor in the same way. Where the Solaris puts it's extra emphasis in the bass, HIFIMAN puts it firmly in the treble with the RE800 S. As such, I found the RE800 S the brighter of the two with a more even upper and low treble balance. Clarity and detail are more prominent on the RE800 S, helped along by a leaner presentation. Mids on the RE800 S are more forward and articulate with the Solaris II sounding thicker and more weighty. The RE800 S is more susceptible to sibilance that does not show up on the Solaris II. Timbre on both is accurate. Bass is where the two really split with the RE800 S having a much more dainty presentation. Extension is good on both but the Solaris II has a much greater mid- and sub-bass emphasis resulting in a much more visceral experience that will undoubtedly be overwhelming for some. Texture is excellent on both with the RE800 S having the edge. When it comes to sound stage the RE800 S takes a slight lead on width and imaging accuracy. The Solaris II gives off a much greater sense of depth that make it's staging feel more accurate and alive. Overall I find these two to perform on a similar level. I personally find the Solaris II a heck of a lot more fun to listen to thanks to it's beautiful bass and enveloping sound stage, though the RE800 S is good to have on hand when a cooler, more neutral-leaning signature is desired.

Final Thoughts:

The Polaris II is apologetically bassy, and that's okay. I for one am glad Campfire Audio doubled down and fully committed to this new sound. The resulting earphone is hella fun, even if it gives up some detail and clarity to it's predecessor. It's completely worth it. Those aspects that were improved were significantly improved, while those aspects that were not are only slightly worse. The Polaris II has a more natural sounding mid-range with improved timbre and the dryness of the original removed. It has a VASTY improved sound stage that entirely corrects the 2D-ish nature of the original.

Yes, I miss the Ceracote faceplate and two tone colour scheme, but I welcome the cleaner machining and anodized paint job that is proving to be much more resilient to damage and chipping. Where my original Polaris had a small chip out of the box and numerous more by the time the review was released, in the same time and with similar treatment the Polaris II still looks mint. While I like the design of the old leather case, the new one is easier to carry and store the earphone and it's accessories in. It's a quality of life enhancement making the new case one I actually use on the regular.

Overall the Polaris II is a welcome update to the Polaris I, and should you be in the market for a fun, top tier earphone, be sure to include it on your list of gear to audition. You might be surprised.

Thanks for reading!

- B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Some Test Tunes:

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (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 Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)




disclaimer:    I have recently done a series of Simgot reviews and after the last round was asked if I was interested in a new model that would be released on July 10th.   This was to be the new flagship and sit considerably above the EN700 Pro, so I quickly said yes please.   It arrived on 6/28/19 and jumped the queue on some others due to the time sensitivity with its impending release.   Many thanks to Simgot for providing the Ek3.   For those interested in it, it can be pre-ordered from Amazon or Simgot.  
The EK3 has now officially been released and can be purchased through Amazon here is you have an interest: https://www.amazon.com/SIMGOT-Headphones-Balanced-Earphones-Detachable/dp/B07SB2QDL3

Unboxing / Packaging:
Those who are familiar with the Simgot line will recognize the packaging.  Understated flat black with Simgot name in satin black on the front and a gold tab at the bottom with Ek3.   The rear of the package shows the specs  and tuning switch positions.  I immediately took a picture with my cellphone for reference while out and about as I have not memorized the switch positions for each mode.   Lifting the cover reveals the earpieces in a foam tray at top, and the leather case in a cutout below.   The earpieces have an almost snakeskin like quality that is accentuated by the color scheme.  They are actually a bit closer to honeycomb on close inspection, but the elements of the design and color choices certainly make them look a bit reptilian.

Accessories:
The EK3 comes with a well made leather case with Simgot logo on the front, slogan on the rear, and magnetic closure.   Inside the case are two cards that each contain a set of silicone eartips in three sizes.  Card 1 contains the standard tips while card 2 has bass enhancing tips.    The two sets of tips do indeed make a difference in sound.  Both are made of the same material and seat to roughly the same depth, but the bore diameter is enough different to change the sonics.    I found Tip 1 to be more accurate and provide a closer to neutral signature while Tip 2 was more relaxed and more musical for long listening sessions.   Tip selection will largely depend on switch positioning as they can to a degree augment or cancel each other out.  Graphs of each tip and switch combination are provided below.
The Cable has a Velcro retainer but lacks a shirt clip.  If there is a ding, it is that the case is not large enough to store both the tip cards and the earphone but for most they will pick a tip from the cards and use it so carrying both cards of tips around is probably not all that likely anyway.

Build/Fit:
Shells are a three (3) piece arrangement with the honeycombed faceplate, the smoked transparent inner shell, and a brass nozzle.  The outer shape is what I would call an inverted teardrop while the inner is a bit more convoluted to conform to the ear of the listener.  Fit and polish around the junction of the two parts is very good with no visible line and no fingernail hanging as it crosses the shell.  Polish around the switches is equally good  The Nozzle exits the upper most point of the front with no cant or rake.   Tips are held firmly by a large lip on the nozzle and I found with the straight in direction of the nozzle I could wear medium tips and get a good seal instead of having to go with large like I often do.


Internals:
The EK3 lists as a 3 driver, all  balanced armature design.  Two packages are used.   The first a CI22955 handles bass duties,  while the 2nd is the TWFK30017 which is a two armature package combining a WBFK tweeter and a vented FK woofer with a single output for ease of installation.   This is an interesting choice as the TWFK has been around since about 2008, but is still one of the smallest available dual packages made.   Other models have been designed to eliminate some of the perceived shortcomings of the TWFK, but none has successfully improved on the TWFK while retaining the same form factor.  As an example, two TWFK packages fit in roughly the same space as a single Sonion 1723.  The 1723 was Sonion’s answer to the TWFK.
Nominal Impedance is listed at 18Ω with a sensitivity 115dB/mW.    With numbers like that we expect the EK3 to be easy to drive, and it is.   I was able to drive it from both I-phone and Android phones and while it does scale some with better sources, I didn’t feel that it lost substantial umph when used with a phone as the source.  I did find that detail levels improved with better source.


Cable:
The cable provided is the same cable provided with the EM2 that I previously reviewed.  I was impressed with it then, and remain so.    It utilizes the increasingly popular hooded bi-pin connectors with .78mm pins.  The connectors are recessed inside the housing to protect the pins and to strengthen the connection when installed.   This is an excellent idea, but does limit use of 3rd party cables but recently several new offering have had the hooded connectors so this may be changing.     The cable itself is a 4 core copper braid up to the splitter and two twisted pairs above.   The jack and splitter both feature a rose gold colored metal housing encased in a clear rubber like plastic.  The Chin slider is the same metal but lacks the coating.   The Jack is a straight 3.5mm TRS design with good strain relief so should last well unless abused.  The bi-pin connectors also share the same rose gold metal ring giving the cable a very nice overall look.  Two minor issues do warrant mentioning. First, the Chin slider is mostly ornamental as it is too loose on the cable and simply falls back to rest on top of the splitter during use.  Second, the L/R markings on the connectors are clear on clear and can be very difficult to make out.  A colored dot would go a long way to making this easier to see.



Sound:
This is a bit more complex than usual as we have two different types of tips and 2 switches that give us a total of 8 possible combinations to influence the sound signature.   The tips are neutral (Type 1) and bass enhanced (Type 2) while the switch positions are defined by Simgot as:
Below are the graphs representing each tuning possibility.  The first set are comparisons of both switches and tips.  For the reference I have used tip type 1 and the balanced tuning settings.
The Second set are comparisons of the tips.  Here I ran the same switch settings with Tip 1, then traded for Tip 2 without touching any of the test settings or switches so you can see the impact of switching tips.

And finally, I am including the one with all the different combinations represented on one page.  I think it does a great job of showing that filters, switches, and tips don’t change the basic character of a driver as in all cases the curve retains all the dominant geography.  A valley may be a little deeper, or a peak may be a little wider or taller, but those same peaks and valleys are present in all of the graphs.   Converting a V to a Neutral or vice versa is not going to happen with tips, switches, cables, EQ, or other minor tweaks.

Bass:
Sub-bass is good in quality and typical of balanced armature bass.  It sacrifices some thump and depth for detail and clarity.   Speed of attack and decay is very good and it can fake the user out if the track doesn’t call for sub-bass, it doesn’t render it.   Mid-bass is a bit forward of the sub-bass in all tunings and again is very fast on the attack and almost equally quick on the decay.  Detail and texture are very good and more natural and flowing than expected from a single BA design.     None of the tunings will satisfy the bassheads among us, but with the bass enhancement turned on (switch 1)  the EK3 delivers plenty of bass for hip/hop, edm, or movie listening.
(One cautionary notice here  –  I did find that the normally understated x-Bass setting on the xCAN and xDSD units I use a good bit, was a poor fit with the EK3 and use of it muddied up the bass some and detracted from the detail so you gained a bit of quantity, but lost more quality proportionally which was not a good trade in my estimation.   If you use the iFi amps, you may want to be aware of this mismatch).

Mids:
Transition from the mid-bass to the lower mids is clean without any bleed or shadowing.  Almost all combinations of switches yield a somewhat mid forward result with switch 2 pushing the mids slightly more forward when on.   While all tunings have somewhat forward mids, none get out of balance with the rest of the signature and all are well detailed with good texture.   Probably my favorite attribute of the EK3 is its ability to produce lush mids with some weight to them without getting sloppy, slow, or thick sounding.   Honestly, I thought I knew the drivers used in this model well enough that I wasn’t expecting mids as good as they are.  Kudos to Simgot on the tuning as the TWFK driver is not known for being this full bodied and tight.

Treble:
Here again transition from the mids to the treble is quite clean and smooth without any jagged edges or sharp points.   The default tuning is a bit hot and I found that I preferred balanced tuning option and tip 1 that brings this down slightly from the exquisite tone settings with the same tips.    Again regardless of the combination of switches and tips, there is an emphasis on the 3-4kHz range and then steps back pretty solidly before finally rolling off above about 11kHz.   Detail in the treble range is very good and the attack on snare is believable if not perfect in timbre.  Cymbals are also believably presented which is a tough thing to get right.       There is enough top end air to feel open when the bass boost is disabled, but turning it on does seem to scale that back just a tick.

Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage has fair depth and width and is reasonably symmetrical.  I would place it somewhere in the middle ground between intimate and cavernous with it being closer to intimate side.   Instrument separation is quite good and the layering particularly in the mids is probably the strongest influence on the imaging.   Seating the orchestra is straight forward with instruments placed appropriately beside or front to back and clean distinctions between them.     Here again the tuning switches and tips come into play.  I found that more bass I added, the smaller the stage seemed to be.  I found the largest stage with either the balanced or exquisite settings and Type 1 tips.

Comparisons: 
I had to stretch a bit here as the EK3 is above the price point of my average fare here.   I have used a couple of my personal collection (FLc8s and IT03) but also borrowed a DM6 and the LZ-A6 and used my notes from a previous experience with the FA-7.    Some of these are slightly above or below the $359 asking price of the EK3 and without knowing if that price will change when it hits the mainstream vendors, I may have compared it to a couple of things that are out of its league.  (I did refrain from the temptation to compare the Eartech Quint and EE Bravado as they were both enough more expensive that it wasn’t a fair fight).
BGVP DM6   –  The DM6 is a favorite of mine, with good sub-bass, very good mids, and a great tonality.   The EK3 comes is pretty much parallel with the DM6 from about the knees up.  the DM6 digs deeper and hits with more authority, but it can be a bit sharp at times which the EK3 handles a bit more fluidly.  Vocal timbre in particular is a bit better on the EK3.   If bass is all important, the DM6 will take this fight, if it is not, this is likely a split decision and my nod would go to the EK3 for its tuning options that  the DM6 lacks.
LZ-A6 – I added the LZ-a6 as possibly the most tunable model in the price range based on its filter set, loudness switch, and the ability to use BGVP filters if so desired.   Internally, the A6 is a hybrid with Dynamic driver, 4 BAs, and a piezo-electric super tweeter.   The BAs are paired using a 4 way crossover so the Ek3 can be compared as a 3 driver to the LZ-a6 as a 4 driver with pairs of the BAs used as a single element.       The A6 sub-bass is a bit deeper than the Ek3 can muster, with its dynamic driver, mid-bass is about equal in quantity with the Ek3 getting in a punch with tighter control and bit faster attack/decay.  The loudness button the A6 can more or less be thought of as a bass boost and makes it a bit looser yet.    Mids on both can be fantastic depending on filter/switch choices and again both can be tuned some to improve them to each users liking a bit further.    I really like both here and would want more time with the LZ-a6 before I declared a clear winner.  The treble is better extended on the A6, but at the price of it being hotter than on the Ek3 and needing a bit more filter to bring it back inline.   The treble sensitive will prefer the Ek3, while those looking for that last bit of extension will prefer the A6.
FLC8s  –  The minute I unboxed the EK3, I knew I would be comparing it to my FLC8s.  The parallels are there, both the same price point, both tunable, both triple driver models, and both aimed at the portable market with low impedance and high sensitivities.   I found the filters to be much more complicated to manage than the switch arrangement, but a bit more effective as the filters gave a broader range of options.   The nice thing about the Ek3 was the ability to change sound signatures with a knife tip or paper clip in a pinch and not having to worry with dropping and losing those tiny parts.   The FLC8s has more sub-bass quantity than the Ek3, while the Ek3 has a bit thicker mids with a more natural timbre.   Highs are slightly sharper on the Flc8s with the factory installed filters but can be brought into line with the Ek3 with a quick swap.  Both have good detail throughout the upper range with the Flc8s being a little sharper edged to my ear.
The other thing I came away from all the tunable models with was the sense that no amount of switches or filters can turn a leopard into a zebra.   All retained basically the same signature with a little more here or a little less there.  If you don’t care for the bass signature, move on to something else and don’t waste time on filters or switches.    If you like it pretty well, but think it could be improved with just a touch more here, or a little less there, then filters and switches may be a worthwhile exercise.   Set realistic expectations.
IBasso IT-03 – Admittedly the Ek3 falls over the price of the 3 and below the price point of the 4 so neither is a direct compare.   The IT-03 has more sub-bass and mid-bass quantity than the Ek3 regardless of switch settings or tips.  Even at Bass Boost and Type 2 tip, the Ek3 cant bring the quantity of sub-bass that the IT-03 brings to the table.  On the flip side, the IT-03 is much more V shaped and the Ek3 has no trouble besting the IT-03 throughout the midrange.  Mids are more lush on the Ek3 and vocals benefit from that extra body.   Highs on the IT-03 are its weakest point.  They are a bit uneven and can be a bit brittle at times.    The Ek3 is more polite on all but the most treble forward (exquisite tone) setting.  I found detail to be about even between the two when comparing the upper ranges.  Again, this battle isn’t a one-sided early round knockout.  It is a split decision with preference of the listener having the ultimate vote.
Fiio Fa-7  – This is another natural comparison as both are up and coming brands, both are using and advertising the use of Knowles drivers, and both are all BA arrangements.   Both models use a CI for bass but while the Ek3 uses a TWFK for mids and treble, the Fa-7 uses a ED for mids and the SWFK for treble.  Two different approaches to solving the same problem.   Both have similar bass depth but the Fa-7 puts a bit more emphasis on the mid-bass and at times gets overly warm from the mid-bass push.   The Ek3 in comparison pulls back the mid-bass and emphasizes the mids a bit more than the Fa-7.   The Fa-7 mids seem distant compared to the Ek3.   Both have polite treble without a tendency to get strident, but the Fa-7 seems to rolloff a bit sooner and feels more enclosed as a result.  Air is a bit better on the Ek3 as a result.    My preference here is the Ek3 based on mids and the early roll-off of the Fa-7.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Have you ever done something long enough that you thought you knew everything that something or someone was capable of, only to find out you were wrong?   I have to admit, this was one of those times for me.   Simgot has been consistently good in the <$200 price bracket, but this was stepping up considerably.   Could the Flyweight contender really take on the Welterweight class and expect to win?   More over, the Combination of the CI and TWFK is now so common that Knowles packages them as a single unit, the GK.  I’ll admit that I thought this was going to be less than stellar.   I’ve had enough Ci/twfk driven iems to feel like I knew their capabilities and that the Ek3 would fall neatly into that pigeon hole.    I was wrong.  Simgot has taken the drivers I thought I new and by dampers, filters, crossover, shell design, and tips have improved what I thought was possible out of the combination.    Granted some of the classic characteristics are still there.  The bass is typical of BA bass and trades some depth for speed and clarity.  Other typical criticisms of the drivers are largely addressed though.  I expected the TWFK to be somewhat strident and at times a bit shrill from previous experience, and it simply isn’t.  The treble is well balanced and polite even.
Moving to the tuning options, gimmick or real options?   They definitely do alter the signature, but not massively.  A lot of the time simply flipping the switches and listening again will fool you into thinking nothing has changed, but then on closer inspection you hear a bit more here or a bit less there.   Don’t expect huge changes, expect tweaks.   That is a the best way to think of the switches and tip options.   The Ek3 is one of those that grows on you the more you listen to it.  It doesn’t do anything splashy to get your immediate attention, but the longer you listen, the more little things you realize it does very well.
Simgot has managed to step into the welterweight ring and not only not embarrass themselves, but actually give some of the better known contenders a solid fight.   I don’t think its a KO in most of my comparisons, but when fighting above your weight class a draw should be considered a victory should it not?   Overall, I think Simgot should be very proud of what they have accomplished with the Ek3 and I look forward to where they go next.   They have the engineering skill to step up even further should they desire.
Summary
Pros: Good build quality, and several good tuning options.
Cons:  Cable could be improved,  highs can be slightly hot.