Originally Posted by Nocturnal310
can someone compare livewires to universal iems sound quality?
like IE8, W3 etc?
really interested but wondering if SQ is also worth it.
Here is something I shared with another head-fier recently:If you want the sound similar to a re-cabled Grado RS-1 in an IEM
the Livewires are the choice. Livewires are crisp, airy, detailed and transparent with superb vocals. Bass is good and fast and detailed, but without quite the full power of the W3 or IE8 bass. These sound best amped, but not bad un-amped. The Phonak Audeo are a universal fit IEM with a similar sound to the LW, but there are many complaints about the Phonak QC with cables that become stiff with time and can crack, and a few showing up with a dead L channel, or developing cracks in the housing.
Vs the similar sounding Phonak I get better fit and isolation with my LW, and the frequency balance is better than Phonak with black or grey filters - meaning I get all the bass of the black filters with all the detail and open sound of the grey filters. And have three different cables that I can use with the LW as they can be swapped out, unlike the Phonak. Choices include an optional 50 ohm cable that will help cut hiss with noisy sources due to their very high sensitivity and low impedance. I plan to order that 50 ohm cable soon to try out. And, stevenkelby makes a nice silver plated copper cable that clearly outperforms the stock cable (price varies depending on cable and length). The LW sound better un-amped than the Phonak, while both improve with being amped with a nice warm amp.If you want a sound similar to a re-cabled Edition 9 or modded D5000 in an IEM
the Westone 3 is the top choice. I still like the W3 a little more than my IE8 which I rank just below the W3. Vs the IE8, the W3 seem to have a little more speed and detail plus some sparkle in the highs, making them more like the LW - while having a more powerful bass, and a little better instrument presence, and deeper immersion in the musical performance. The W3 for me are very transparent as well, and provide a clear window into the music, and were the first IEM I found to beat my Livewires by a small margin (due to the improved immersion in the music, with more weight and body to the instruments).
The W3's biggest problem is with some people reporting sibilance, which is mostly if they not using the right tips for their ear size and shape - finding the right tips is difficult for many people (but not most). I am able to use the stock grey silicone tips, or the triple flange tips with the stalk trimmed 2 - 3 mm shorter. Interestingly the W3 with the stock complys foam tips sound more like the IE8, where it smoothes out the sound a little while taking away a little of the sparkle while it does that. My W3 are not picky about what amp I use, and also sound great just from the headphone out of my iPods and iPhone 3G. My $70 custom UM-56 tips are my favorite by a small margin.If you want a sound similar to an HD650 in an IEM
my top choice is the Sennheiser IE8 (1st). I would have to place the Image X10 (2nd) or SE530 (3rd). After putting over 400 hours of burn-in on the IE8, I am liking them more than I recall liking my old Image X10 or SE530. I have to describe the sound as "organic" euphonic and open. At first the IE8 bass was hugely overblown and the treble was very artificial sounding, but both issues improved significantly with an extensive 400+ hour burn-in. Of course during the first 300 hours of burn-in I seriously considered selling them (several times). But now I plan to keep them as the IEM to grab when I don't want good isolation and need to hear my wife or kids yelling for me.
Not only is burn-in important with these, the IE8 sound changes a lot with different tips - NONE of the stock Sennheiser tips worked for me, except the medium silicone where isolation was terrible. I had to use some bi-flange tips from eBay and then from a pair of head-direct RE2, but now I am settled on a pair of Sony hybrid silicone tips as of a few days ago. Lastly, my IE8 are more picky than other IEM about the amp that I use with them, and right now an ALO Amphora loaner amp and my opamp rolled iBasso D10 are the best matches for the IE8. Anything else compromises optimal sound quality for being able to use the amp's sound signature like an EQ (Vivid V1 or Nuforce Icon Mobile).
The LW with impressions cost me about $300 with shipping, and I like them a tiny bit more than the IE8 or Phonak, and a little bit less than the Westone 3. I would not want to get rid of any of them, but the Westone 3 are the universal IEM that I use the most when portable/mobile (I don't want to lose my ES3X which stay at home). Only you can decide if any of these are worth it after you research them, and I hope my descriptions help you a little. I would hate for you to be one of those people who find sibilance with the W3 until you either find the right tips or give up; but I don't see anyone complaining about sibilance with Livewires (nor problems with upper bass bleeding into the lower mids), and most people are very happy with the sound. It seems about 50/50 split among those that own both IE8 and W3 as to which is preferred, and most like both. People who don't own all of these, and have just tried each for a little bit, probably don't have enough experience with them to really rank them. You really have to spend a lot of time with them, with different tips/amps/source, to know what they are really like.
Some people would put all these IEM on the same level, just with a different sound signature - where ranking them is personal preference. The only IEM I have that clearly beats all my other IEM (custom or universal) are my Westone ES3X which is an $850 custom 3-driver IEM - and vs the W3 the ES3X improves upon the midrange detail and presence, with better transparency and neutrality, a tighter better-balanced but still-strong bass, smoother highs, and a huge holographic soundstage for an IEM. The ES3X also will beat all my dynamic full size cans, in addition to all of my IEM. I now pretty much only like to listen to my ES3X and my electrostatic headphones when I am at home.