Pros: Sounds Great, Isolation, Build
Thought that I would post this here as well because peple who search for this should be able to find this easier. Has been reposted from the SE846 thread.
Today I got the chance to listen to some of my friend's gear and compare them to the SE846/DX90. I was particularly curious about the Roxanne, but the IM03 turned out to be a very interesting listen indeed. Here is my comparison of the SE846 and the Roxanne since there hasn't really been an in depth comparison yet. Obviously, YMMV.
JH Audio Roxanne vs Shure SE846 (White Filter)
The Roxanne was very good, and having loaned that pair for a day a while ago, I knew what to expect. When I had them, I absolutely loved the bass and treble, but found the midrange somewhat lacking in clarity and detail. When I heard the SE846 with white filters, I immediately thought that the SE846 was a bit similar to the Roxanne, but the midrange was absolutely the best I have heard on an IEM.
Let's start with the bass, it is hard to compare these two IEMs especially, because both are adjustable. The Roxanne was on a configuration where the impact was around the same as the SE846. I found that although the Roxanne bass was incredible, the SE846 is just better to me. It is faster and more punchy, which I like and has the perfect amount of sub-bass. The Roxanne was great too, but I thought that the SE846's bass was just more realistic.
The midrange was no competition for me, the SE846 takes this hands down. The SE846's midrange is lush, but very detailed at the same time. It has no sibilance and vocal clarity is above everything I have heard. The Roxanne's midrange just felt like it was a bit veiled and overly warm.
The treble was interesting, on the blue filters I would have taken the Roxanne treble over these any day, but with the white filter it is much closer. The SE846's treble is probably a little more pronounced, but both are very detailed and not sibilant at all. I really don;t prefer either, so this is a draw.
The area that the Roxanne is heads and shoulders above the Shure is soundstage and imaging. The Roxanne along with the 1plus2 are the two most headphone like IEMs I have heard in this regard and although the Shure is very competent in this area, the Roxanne is better. The Roxanne's soundstage is more three dimensional and the SE846's soundstage feels a bit flat in comparison. Imaging is also better on the Roxanne, but the SE846 is not far off at all.
The SE846 seems to be a little bit more detailed because it is tuned brighter and is faster, but in reality they are both great, but I do feel like the SE846 pulls ahead a little. Clarity is much better on the SE846 due to the tuning once again. The Roxanne's warm mids does it more harm than good IMO and it sounds too warm for me. The Shure sounds quite neutral and vocals especially are incredibly realistic and accurate. Instrument separation is a bit better on the Roxanne, but the SE846 comes quite close. Vocal separation is a little better on the SE846 for me.
Overall, I do feel like I made the correct decision by going for the SE846 over the Roxanne because personally I like them more, but many people will also disagree with this. One thing is indisputable, however; both of these are extremely good IEMs and are two of the best universal IEMs out there right now.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. The AK100 was shocking, and not in a good way. They were warm, had no focus and sounded downright bad. The sound was blurry almost and everything just sounded warm and lifeless. I genuinely do not like this DAP, for the price, the AK100 is simply unacceptable IMO.
Back to more positive impressions, the HM-901 is great! sounds very detailed, the most detailed DAP I have heard without any doubt. The SE846 paired very well. Soundstage and imaging was exceptional and so was clarity and detail. It made the AK100 sound like a cheap toy. However, almost everything has negatives and the HM-901 is certainly no different. The build quality is horrendous, with cheap feeling and looking plastic everywhere. The deal breaker for me was the UI. The HM-901 is slow, unresponsive and hard to navigate through. If HiFiMAN made the HM-901 more usable, then this would be an awesome DAP.
The DX90 is what I am using right now and I love it. It ticks most boxes for me - it is small, light, has decent battery life, sounds good and has multiple outputs. It sounds great for the price too. It is essentially a slightly scaled down HM-901. It isn't quite as good, but is more than makes up for it by being a but better overall package. It pairs just as well with the SE846 as the HM-901 does.
As always, I hoped that this helped and I would love to hear what other people think.