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Review of the Livewires + Brief comparison with the UM2 and ES2

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 
Here's just a simple review of the Livewires that I collected from Jaben last Friday. Thus far, it has gone through about 20 hours of music (recorded) and about 6 hours of stage monitoring use (live). Hope it helps some of you with your decision.


Premise

Some background here, I have listed below, the IEMS that I have owned and used the following both for personal audio listening and for stage monitoring for the past 5 years. I have also included brief thoughts about each, so as to facilitate the brief comparison later.

My music is played unamped, through an iPod 3G, a iPod Nano 1G, a iPod Shuffle 1G, and an iPod Shuffle 2G. Stage monitoring is through the Aviom and the Shure PSM700 personal monitoring system.

1. Shure E2 (Hated it.)
2. Shure E1 (Fabulous. My favorite single driver till the E4 came along.)
3. Shure E3 (Hated it.)
4. Shure E5 (Hated the cable, couldn't appreciate the sound)
5. Shure E4 (Fabulous. My favorite single driver. Period.)
6. Westone UM1 (Bang for the buck. Close to the E4 sound for less than half the price. Liked this too.)
7. Westone UM2 (Superb for relaxed listening. Extremely musical and engaging. Loved this while i had it, but missed the details i heard with the E1, E4 and UM1.)
8. Earpeace Livewires (My favourite so far.)


Build 4/5

Earpieces





I have seen (physically, not through reviews) and felt the Westone ES2, and the UE10Pro before. Both are similar to the Livewires as they are all made of acrylic. This is unlike the Sensaphonics 2X-S which is made of soft silicon. Having seen the two other IEMs made of acrylic, i would say that the build of the Livewires is quite comparable to them. The surface is smooth and there were no bumps or indents in the surface. Feels 'solid' in my hands, feels lighter than my UM2+Widex Custom molds.

They do have limited color choices, and the faceplate has to be either black or brown. And they don't do glitter in your earpieces. I originally wanted mine in either 1. Fully transparent red, 2. Fully transparent black with gold glitter OR 3. Fully transparent with silver glitter. But alas, i was give the order form with a measly few color options and no glitter. This might not be a problem to all, but the aesthetics do matter to me personally. Check out the Livewires website for the full color options if you're thinking of getting a set, or just email Uncle Wilson for an order form.



To differentiate the right earpiece from the left, there is a blue dot on the left earpiece to identify it, the other earpiece, will then obviously be the right one. The dot can be seen in the photo above.

Cable

The cable seems to be of high quality, looks extremely similar to the ones found on the Etymotic ER4 series and the Westone UM1 and UM2. Microphonics (when worn over the ear, that's the only way i use them) is virtually non-existant, comparable to the UM2 (which i used for the longest time before i went to the Livewires).



The 3.5mm audio jack, sadly, came in chrome rather than gold. The publicity photos and review photos i've seen and read about the Livewires show them in gold, so i was a little perturbed and disappointed when i saw that the sets that were sent to Jaben were in chrome. I would think a custom IEM aimed at performing musicians on stage would definitely have the jack in gold for durability purposes as the chrome jacks tend to oxidise and spoil much faster.



The cables are replaceable, just pop them out and put the new ones back in. To differentiate the cable for the right side and the left side (for those who are anal about the panning issues like me), the Livewire cable has a small red heatshrink (check out the photo above to see what i mean) on the cable that goes to the right earpiece.





The cable connector is unlike the standard 2-prong connector that can be found on Westone and UE IEMs. This one on the Livewires, according to the website, is a coaxial connector (think SCV cable point) that can rotate 360degrees instead of being in 1 fixed position. The Livewires website puts this as being an advantage for people who like to dangle their cable forward rather than hang it over their ears. I personally think the gold connector is a little huge and it is not very aesthetically pleasing. The photos above show the connector on the cable, and the connector on the earpiece.



The cables also come with a memory wire (seen in the photo above). This is short and works well, even with my Oakleys. This is completely unlike the one on the Shure E5 which is long and unwieldy. I like this feature a lot! Keeps the cables over my ears with them threatening to fall off.


Fit

I guess another major issue about custom IEMs is the fit. I had my impressions taken by Uncle Wilson from Jaben Network in Singapore. The Liveswires fit really well. The first time i inserted them i felt a little strange and sore. It was probably due to the fact that the Livewires was made of acrylic. After a day of using it, i must say that it no longer feels strange or sore. I guess it just takes a little getting used to. Its extremely comfortable, and the isolation is better than custom sleeves on your universal IEMs.


Sound

The sound from this is really good. The soundstage of the Livewires is much wider than the Westone UM2. Music sounds bigger and more enjoyable. There is more 'air' in the sound. The music is not as 'in-your-face' as the UM2, now, the music is as though the musicians took a couple of steps backwards, adding more space between you and them, and between themselves, thus details are more noticeable too.

The main difference between these and the UM2 is the details. The UM2 is an excellent IEM, enjoyable bass, and music just seems to melt into you when you listen, but as some has noticed, the details in the highs are missing from the UM2, but for me, that is exactly what contributes to the lush sound signature of the UM2. The Livewires, possess that detail in the high end. Now the acoustic guitars, acoustic piano and vocals suddenly have that sparkle again. And you can hear the 'air' when they resonate. The bass is deep, but controlled and not overpowering. The mids are present, but not as forward as the UM2.

I listen mainly to Rock, Jazz, Funk, Fusion, some Pop, acoustic music, and Indie. In my opinion, the Livewires is an all rounder, it has made my enjoy my varied choice of music so much more in the past few days, and it has also made my stage monitoring experience a whole lot more enjoyable due to the isolation and the wider soundstage.


Accessories 0/5

The Livewires came with ZERO accessories (discounting the ziplock bag and Uncle's namecard). This is the most disappointing part of the Livewires. For such a low price, I was not expecting much. But I thought the least the company could do, is to provide a decent hardcase to protect the Livewires and a 1/4 inch adaptor (for some monitoring systems). The Livewires, were afterall, designed for stage monitoring.

Also, I'm not too anal about this, but I was promised some Livewires souvenirs from the webmaster (apparently the co-founder of Livewires) when i had some email correspondance with them with regards to my order, but i never received them.


Turnover Time 2/5

I placed my order with Jaben on the 5th May. It arrived last Friday 22nd June. The Livewires website promises a 10day turnover time. Adding a week before and after for freight would add up to 24 days, and to give it some allowance, it would take a month (30days) for the Livewires to reach me. However, it took slightly over 1.5 months to reach me. There have been others who are complaining about the turnover time as well on Head-fi. But i think it'll get better once they start sorting out their process for mass production as it is a new company and i think they are swamped with orders for such a 'bang for the buck' product.


Verdict

I would say that at this price, for this sound quality and build, NOTHING COMES CLOSE to the Livewires. At this price, this product is EXCELLENT. In my opinion, it beats any universal single/dual/triple driver IEM hands down based on the fabulous sound and the fact that its a custom IEM, no universal can fit better and sound as good (even with custom sleeves).




UPDATES

Brief Comparison with the Westone ES2

Hi all

I have had the opportunity to compare physically and sonically, the Livewires and the Westone ES2 (custom molded dual driver IEM) briefly for about 15 minutes over the weekend. Would like to share some of my observations. Note that this is my musical and sonic preference and your mileage might vary, so don't start flaming me here for sharing my personal opinion.

Just a note, i was saving for the Westone ES2 before putting money down for the Livewires and i was glad i bought the Livewires instead.



Physical Comparison
You all have seen the build the Livewires through the pictures i've posted earlier. I do not have pictures, but the ES2s that i saw (2 sets of them) looked 'cheap' to a large extent. You could clearly see where the faceplate joined the IEM shell, and whatever was used to join them, was all over the plce inside. The earpieces themselves were not buffed to a shine, thus having uneven matte and shiny areas all around. The colors (transparent blue, and transparent red) were dull and not rich, thus adding to the 'cheap' look of the ES2s. Compared to the Livewires, the ES2s pale in comparison build wise.

Honestly, i was very disappointed to see it turn out this way. I would supposed and was expecting that a USD650 product would at least look way better than a USD249 product. I can't imagine showing them to my friends and say i paid so much for them.

Hopefully these are a one off things and not a consistent 'feature' in all the ES2s being sold. If not, they do have a thing or two to learn from John Diles and the rest of the Livewire team about presenting a respectable build in their IEMs.


Sonic Comparison
I managed to squeeze the ES2s into my ears (it wasn't my set so it took a while) and achieved the same isolation as the Livewires so as to make it a fair comparison.

I felt that the sound signature was extremely similar. Differences are that bass of the ES2 sounds much smoother, making the music more 'lush' whereas the bass of the Livewires are punchy and deep, making the music more engaging. The ES2s would be excellent stage monitors and would make wonderful earpieces should you want to thoroughly enjoy and relax with your music. The Livewires would appeal to people who like their music to be more engaging and involving.


Packaging
This is where the ES2s surpass the Livewires greatly. The ES2s come in a shiny black Pelican Case with a custom molded insert to fit the earpieces, the cables, a pack of silica gel, a earpiece cleaner, and a bottle of oto-ease. Impressive, and something to expect with a set of custom monitors from whichever brand you purchase them from. The Livewires, came in a ziplock bag with NO accessories. But i heard now, they're beginning to include the earpiece cleaner as well.


Please note that i am in no way, slamming Westone for their products. I'm only giving my personal opinion about them. And i, infact, LOVE the ENTIRE range of Westone Universal IEMs. Just thought they could have put more thought into their custom IEMs as well.

Hope my observations shed some light for some people who're trying to make a decision. =) Have fun reading!

And all you Livewires owners who haven't posted pictures and reviews, we're all looking forward to them! =)
post #2 of 58
Great Review, I have now made my decision, thank you, now, I can go to their company and meet them, and get ear molds done there too
post #3 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by vii_haven View Post
2. Shure E1 (Fabulous. My favorite single driver till the E4 came along.)
3. Shure E3 (Hated it.)
Theres a chance Im wrong here, but wasn't the E3 Shure's replacement for the E1?
post #4 of 58
Thread Starter 
Nope. You're not wrong. But if you have heard the E1, then the E3, both for long periods of time for monitoring and listening, you will realise the obvious difference between the 2, like i did! =)
post #5 of 58
Now all you got to do make this already comprehensive review complete is to someday listen to a pair of Shure E500/SE530 and see how those compare in sound. The LiveWires should win in comfort/isolation (as they are custom), but sound quality could probably go either way.
post #6 of 58
Thread Starter 
Well, i definitely ain't spending money on a Shure E530! Haha. If i'd consider a universal IEM as a backup for monitoring, it'll either the UM2, or the up and coming (and still yet to come) Westone 3. The fit, comfort, sound and wonderful cable does it for me. Perhaps someone would like to lend me his/her E530. Grins.
post #7 of 58
Nice review, and great pictures. I do wonder how durable the cables are with daily use, though. The connection looks rather fragile.
post #8 of 58
This might be a bit much to ask for, but is it possible you can take a picture of your LiveWires in your ear? Do they stick out of your ears more than UM2 or do they sit pretty flush as well?
post #9 of 58
Thread Starter 
The cables feel the same as the ety and westone cables. Definitely rugged and durable. I can attest to that. The connection looks fragile, but feels very firm. Before i placed my order, the connection was a concern as well, but after i got it, it didn't seem so much of an issue anymore. The issue now, albeit a minor one, is that the connector looks terrible (in my opinion). they could've designed it way sleeker than a blocky gold piece. EEEE...
post #10 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterDLai View Post
This might be a bit much to ask for, but is it possible you can take a picture of your LiveWires in your ear? Do they stick out of your ears more than UM2 or do they sit pretty flush as well?
I have a pic like that, but i gotta wait for a friend to send it to me. They are flush with my ears, even more flush than the UM2 was already flush! Haha. It's bad English but it sounded nice. Haha. Barely visible when you look from the front.
post #11 of 58
Nice review! Looks like this will be my next iem. Now for the long wait to build up some money...


Ply
post #12 of 58
Thank God!!! A good review, finally!

So you say they beat out the UM-2 huh? That's good news cause I just sold mine to pay for the Livewires. I liked everything about the UM-2's but a) the sibilance in the upper mids that make them fatiguing to listen too and b) the recessed high end. You say the Livewires have much better high end ? Good news! Any hint of listening fatigue? Do vocal S's and symbols smear? I wasn't willing to "live with" a $300 IEM that I had a hard time listening too.

I can live without the extra goodies you get with other IEM's. I'll just buy a nice rugged Pelican Case when I get mine. Something like this. If you size it up right you can fit your player in there as well. Better then any clamshell case you get from Shure or Westone anyway. I'll probably order an extra cable cable as well.

I can't wait to order mine now! I got my impressions all boxed up just waiting to send them!

Oh, BTW, when you use them on stage (as I will be) what EQ adjustments do you use?
post #13 of 58
Great review vii_haven. Seems we're getting lots of comparisons to triangulate the LWires traits off of.

And as mentioned Alchemy, the cable and connector is as durable as any other IEM I've used.
post #14 of 58
My left Livewire won't go in all the way, I think they made ear canal part too long. John is going to make me another set shorter. Can't complain about the customer service (other than turn times at this point.)

If you like the UM2 I think you will be happy with the Livewires sound. I hear only subtle differences, nothing like the difference between say the UM2 and ER4. Yes the midrange and top end are less "velied" but it's not a huge difference. With the bass boost on my 2G Nano the Livewires bass sounds a lot like the UM2 (a little boomier but also richer sounding). The cable is identical to the UM2 cable except it has memory tubing by the ear. IMO this is the best IEM cable around for comfort and microphonics.
post #15 of 58
Thanks for the detailed, illustrated review. I've read other reviews and they've all said that these are comparable sound-wise to the Sensaphonics 2X-S, which makes me think, why bother with the Sensaphonics (or ACS for that matter) when these can be had for less than half the price? That said, some reviewers did complain of insufficient bass (although he did call the FR "flat" and suitable for the audiophile crowd), which is definitely not the case with the ACS and most probably the 2X-S. Your description of the sound is what I'd like to hear in an IEM: well balanced, good deep 'n fluid bass, a bit of treble sparkle, "neutral" midrange, airy, detailed, etc... Are there any aspects of the sound in which you'd like to hear improvements for future revisions?

My understanding is that these are two-channel, dual driver IEMs. Are these double bored?

Other reviews:
http://homerecording.about.com/od/au.../livewires.htm
http://reviews.cnet.com/headphones-h...-32475692.html
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