Pros: Bass, soundstage
Cons: Fit, mids
The retail package for the IE 80 is one of the most impressive IEM packages I've seen. The IEMs are nicely presented and the brushed aluminium box looks very sleek.
Opening the box confirms this with a the box despite being plastic with aluminium faceplates seems very well constructed and more than adaquetely protects the IEMs themselves although the L shaped 3.5mm connector can be difficult to fit into the case. The included tip selection is very wide. However for me, this is where the problems began.
The tips selection, while wide, is still subpar in design, with many of the buds themselves seems to be designed for freakish ear canals, a fact not helped by the wide nozzle design of the IE series. This made it impossible to get anything approximating a decent fit with any of the included tips. However, since I own a fairly large number of IEMs I made do with some medium Sony Hybrid greys from a pair of MH1cs which stretched over the much wider nozzle of the IE80. It should also be noted that the IE80 provides almost no isolation at all.
Onto sound: With the stock tips, the sound was fairly decent, the large(for an IEM) soundstage remeniscent of the older IE8 is present, imaging is good and the highs are detailed but non fatiguing and the lows are strong and impactful. However the mid range was muddied significantly by the low end, which was extremely disappointing in a £200 pair of IEMs. The highs themselves while technically accurate, left much to be desired in terms of musicality and I found them quite dry and boring, lacking the slight sparkle of other IEMs in the price range(or below) such as the Phonak Audeo PFE112 or the Shure SE425.
Fitting the previously mentioned Sony Hybrid Grey tips on the IE80 attenuated the highs and closed the coundstage noticeably, resulting in a darker smaller sound. I found the trade off for a secure fit and the greater isolation quite favourable however.
Looking on head-fi I came across the tape mod and auvivo tips. The tape mod involves covering the bass ports with tape. This has the effect of removing the midbass bloat that muddies the midrange and tightens the bass up. Depending on what setting you had the bass port on piror to the tape the IE80 shift from a bass centric to a mid centric IEM, which may not be for all listeners. The Auvio tips are Sony Hybrid clones with a central bore width that fits the IE80 wide nozzle naturally and as such doe not reduce the soundstage and attenuate the highs like the normal Sony Hybrids. Similar, but for me an inferior fit are the silicone tips included with JVC IEMs.
In conclusion, the IE80 is a competant IEM, but is highly flawed in it's stock form. Due to the many issues I have with it, I find it difficult to recommend at the £200 price mark it typically sells for in the UK. If you do find youself enjoying the soundof the IE80, but hating the fit, it may be worth investing £120 in some custom silicone eartips from ACS.
Stock Fit: 2/10
Tape Modded sound: