Pros: + Looks + Comfortable + Powerful bass, flat but present mids, rolled off yet detailed highs, usually good separation + EQable
Cons: +- Dark sound signature - Lack of sub-bass detail, bass can be boomy - Impact not consistently present - Classical lacks detail and space
+ Stylish looks
+ Powerful bass reproduction, flat but present mids, rolled off yet detailed and even sparkly highs, usually good separation
+- "Dark" sound signature, tends to favor the bass and lower mids. Not perfectly analytical nor overly musical
+- Best for pop and pop/rock
- Lack of sub-bass detail, bass can be boomy
- Impact not consistently present
- Classical lacks detail and space
After 6 years my old Creative EP-630s are..actually still going strong. But the slight tear in the silicone tip was enough justification for me to look out for another pair, lol.
After extensive research (read: Google Ads and Amazon admails) I ran into these in-ear monitors.
These Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE's are part of their refreshed IEM line, introduced in the Spring of 2011, along with its little brother, the DTX 71 iE. A microphone equipped variant (the MMX 101) also exists. At MSRP 79 euro these headphones can be considered to be in the sub 100 eur/pound/dollar mid-range: a category with fierce competition such as the entry level Shures, Etymotics, Bose, Monster and Klipsch IEMs.
First of all, thumbs up for Amazon.co.uk's service. Although the price wasn't exactly bargain basement, and the box was slightly dinged because they packed it into a standard book cardboard package - delivery was swift and reliable.
The packaging is deceivingly simple. In fact, if you'd see these in an electronics store you'd probably browse past them. No fancy box, no extended specsheet, no introductory message stating the pedigree of the brand.
Inside are the headphones, 2 sets of silicone tips (medium and large), and a mesh carrying case.
The headphones themselves are quite small, have a simple cilindrical shape, and have a smart touch of colored aluminum (red, black or silver). This makes these headphones look quite stylish. The cable's attached to the headphones through a silicone encasing, decreasing microphonics. The cable is a traditional Y cord. The Y segment is also encased. This all leaves a positive impression. Don't jog in these phones though, the microphonics do tend to act up when you let those dangling cords dance.
The silicone tips are on the stiff side, but are comfortable - in such a way that I forget I got them in at all. That's always a good sign.
Now, the sound.
I used a Sony Walkman X series to test these, and turned of all EQ.
The first song I tried was Lura's "Ponciana" - a Morna song with warm strings and guitars, smooth rhythms and female vocals. The DTX 101's give of a very warm signature, with competent reproduction of the basses without veiling the vocals or trebles.
Next up is the slightly better known "Last Friday Night" of Katy Perry. The bass-line is maintained beautifully throughout the song, but what struck me most is how well all the pop sounds and vocals are represented. The richly produced instruments are well separated, not recessed or veiled, and it sounds all very sparkly without being tiring. The same goes for Utada Hikaru's "This is Love", female vocals and instruments are very present and sparkly, and the bass is good throughout. In this song, the song does seem to miss some impact: On my Xtrememac FS1 (similar to the Futuresonics Atrio), the bass sounds more snappy and has a more "subwoofer" quality to it. Having said that, the FS1 is twice as expensive.
Next is Coldplay's "Clocks". Even though the DTX 101's are a bit dark, in this song, a certain degree of depth and airyness in the soundstage is attained - relatively rare in IEMs and definitely in this price range. Good stuff.
With setting up Limp Bizkit's "My Generation", I wanted to see if these cans can handle the bass guitar and electrics. And well, they can. This song usually shreds most headphones to bits, but the DTX's handles it very well. Unfortunately, although the bass is powerful, it is a tad boomy here.
Now, you can't test Limp Bizkit without playing a Linkin Park song. In "Faint", the sharp electrics and Chester's vocals are a real challenge, but the DTXs are quite up to the task. In contrast to "My Generation", the bass sounds tighter, even light here. The sub bass rumble in the bridge is quite subtle, as opposed to eg. the Creative EP 630s, where this sounds well into the mids and tends to muffle the rest.
Finally, I set up the 2nd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff. Although the entire orchestra is represented well, the consistent presence of the DTX works a bit against it: there is a distinct lack of space, resolution and impact, which was strangely present in "Clocks". Over the ear headphones work better here, especially my Sennheiser HD 595 but also the aforementioned FS1 IEMs.
Some other various remarks:
° These headphones are low impedance (16 Ohms) which means they fare best with low power devices such as mp3 players and don't require a preamp to get the best out of them. Actually, hooking them to my stereo or laptop introduced sometimes pronounced lower mids, giving an irritating booming quality to male voices. An impedance adapter may be necessary.
° Boosting the mids and treble with EQ can aid in "lightening" the sound of the DTX 101's. It also helps to add some impact to the bass. Generally, these headphones are quite "EQable", which means you can flavor them as you want, without them falling prey to distortions too quickly.
° Sound is fine when the music is playing. Having some outside noise is fine I think, and also helps in not making you the mp3 socially inept ******, lol.
° The connector is angled. This may be annoying to some.
° Although I didn't burn in these headphones, I did notice some slight improvements in impact, bass response and high sparkle over the course of the first couple of days.
In the end, with the Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iEs, you get what you pay for: a definite step-up from bundled and entry-level headphones, but not the levels of detail or impact you can get from higher end, 150 eur+ headphones or over the ear headphones. Having said that, these are headphones are very easy to live with: comfortable to wear, comfortable and pleasant to listen to and not too expensive; the Beyerdynamic DTX 101's iE quickly get out of your way. They give you a tight and consistent sounding package - a great companion for your iPhone or mp3 player; especially if you like pop, electronic or pop/rock. Recommended.