review

EarStudio ES100 Mk2 Review Bluetooth Receiver For Headphones

Monday, July 27, 2020

Music is the expression of the soul and, as such, it's nice being able to listen to one's favorite music anytime there is a chance! Wireless headphones make listening to music on the go a very convenient reality. Portable audio is getting better and better and fast approaching the quality of the home audio setup system, thanks to Bluetooth receivers such as the EarStudio ES100 Mk2, which is a neat bit of kit that will make you fall in love with your favorite tracks all over again!
The EarStudio ES100 Mk2 is a bluetooth receiver amplifier/DAC for headphones that is designed to make any wired headphone bluetooth ready. The Mk2 ES100 will not work with wireless headphones or wireless earphones. You will need to plug the headphones into one of the headphones jacks - either the 3.5mm jack or 2.5mm jack for a balanced output.
The EarStudio ES100 Mk2 is the second version of the original EarStudio ES100 (Mk1), which is no longer available to buy from Radsone, which makes EarStudio. That said, while the first version of EarStudio ES100 is not being sold, the EarStudio ES100 (Mk1) is not obsolete since the second version of EarStudio ES100 (Mk2) has the same hardware.
The Mk2 ES100 integrates the same dual chip AK4375A DACS, analog volume control and built-in microphone so, you can take calls even if the earphones you are using do not have a microphone built-in. As long as the phone is bluetooth connected to the ES100, you can even take calls via the ES100 built-in microphone while connected to a computer.
If you already own a Mk1 ES100, you can simply update it to the latest firmware - Version 2.0.2 - which was released early last year (January 2, 2019). In terms of performance, the Mk2 ES100 delivers the same superb audio quality with detailed sound and airy sound stage as the Mk1 ES100.
The latest firmware also improved the ES100 Bluetooth version to Bluetooth 5.0 (from Bluetooth 4.2). If you buy the new Mk2 ES100, the latest firmware will be already preinstalled. Whatever you do though, do not install the previous firmware (v1.4.2) because doing so bricks the device.
Where the improvement on the new Mk2 ES100 can be seen are in the build quality. The Mk2 ES100 looks much better put together with a more polished finish around the edges. That said, the Mk2 ES100 still has an all-plastic outer shell construction with a softer plastic finish for the front panel, which has a dark navy blue finish to it. The Mk1 ES100 has a midnight black finish. The ring status led is also brighter on the Mk2 version, allowing it to be seen better under strong light.
The mid-frame is made of thicker plastic with a silver finish, making the Mk2 ES100 as lightweight as the first version, weighing just 20 grams. The low weight is great, although metal construction would make the ES100 more sturdy and premium looking like the HUD100. That said, the Mk2 ES100 is no longer prone to easily scratching, thanks to the scratch resistant coating on the surface. This means, you can keep the ES100 Mk2 in a pocket with keys without worrying it will scratch easily.
Most of the changes are cosmetic, although functional. For instance, the Mk2 ES100 shirt clip has a wider, sharper teeth, which catches fabric better. The buttons on the Mk2 ES100 are also more tactile as they have been raised, making them more convenient to operate.
Another feature that makes the EarStudio ES100 Mk2 an outstanding product is the companion mobile app - EarStudio app -  which enables all the magic. From the app, you can select your preferred codec connection, tweak the equalizer (EQ), enable jitter cleaner and ambient mode, which effectively works like the Ambient Sound Mode in many premium headphones, letting background sound into the audio playback.
The EarStudio app has been improved since it first launched in 2018 so, it now integrates more features including microphone volume control, EQ Q Factor (filter bandwidth) and EQ processing headroom to make the audio louder without clipping. The number of EQ presets to choose from has also increased.
From the EarStudio app, you can also turn off the ring led on the ES100, change the HFP (hands-free profile) version from 1.5 to 1.7 and, you can also enable multi-point paring support so, you can run two connections from the ES100 to two devices at the same time.
Thanks to Sony licensing LDAC to Google, every Android phone running Oreo (version 8.0 or higher) supports LDAC streaming. The EarStudio ES100 Mk2 supports the higher quality LDAC bluetooth codec from Sony, which means the data transmission rate is higher than SBC (320kps) and AAC (250kps), which is the only streaming codec iOS supports for Apple devices.
That said, the EarStudio ES100 Mk2 isn't able to fully stream LDAC at 990kbps without stuttering. The highest LDAC streaming rate the Mk2 ES100 can handle is 660kbps, which is good enough since most Spotify tracks are streamed at 320kbps from lossless.
The EarStudio ES100 Mk2 will work with any IEM or headphone that has a 3.5mm or 2.5mm headphone jack. The ES100 Mk2 can drive headphones between 10 ohms and 60 ohms, including the HE100 earphones. With a pair of 60 ohms headphones, the Mk2 ES100 is able to output 105dB via the 3.5mm headphone socket and 112dB via the 2.5mm balanced socket. Anything above 60 ohms, you will need a more power amplifier. The ES100 Mk2 also integrates a 100mAh battery, which takes 3.5 hours to recharge via micro USB input.
As a car accessory, the ES100 Mk2 will absolutely transform your current car audio setup system when connected to a decent hi-res player. ES100 Mk2 is not compatible with windows 7 computers though; hence you will need a computer running Windows 8 or higher in order to use USB DAC mode. To get more details read the full review of the EarStudio ES100. You can buy the EarStudio ES100 Mk2 bluetooth receiver on amazon.

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