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Synergy between Portable Amps and IEMs - 9 IEM compared with 9 portable amps = 81 chances to mess up! - Page 5

post #61 of 83
Thread Starter 
I now have the iBasso D2 Boa that will be fully burned in at 300 hours by next Wednesday and that is being added to the review too. So it will soon become 10 amps and 10 IEM when I also add the Sleek SA6 and Klipsch Image X10 plus the HR Micro Amp and TTVJ Portable Millett Hybrid and iBasso D2 Boa.
post #62 of 83
Thread Starter 
Update - 8/2/08 - Added Klipsch Image X10 and Sleek SA6, along with iBasso D2 Boa, TTVJ Portable Millet Hybrid and HR 2006 Micro Amp.

I no longer have the q-JAYS, so some of the comments below are from memory and having compared them to other IEM that I still have.

KLIPSCH IMAGE X10: I now place both the Klipsch and SA6 above the q-JAYS mainly for reasons of transparency and more crystal clear highs. In my rankings, the Image would be the top universal IEM, just below the Freq Shows. And from memory I would pick the Image over the Triple.fi 10 Pro or stock SE530 as well.

The sound signature of the Image is reminiscent of my Shure SE530 before I turned them into custom shell IEM, but for slightly more treble energy than the Shure. The q-JAYS had a similar smooth sound signature to the SE530 but with less treble than the Shure - which everyone complains is "rolled off" in the treble. But these Image have ALL the bass of the Shure, and better treble, with the same rich smooth mids. It is possible to kill the highs by pushing them into the ears too deep, and the sound balance does change as I move them further out or deeper in. Occasionally I wish they weren't quite so forward with pianos, and that affects the amps rankings with them a little. But like the Livewires, even the amp at the bottom of the list is still an acceptable match so far.

There is also a degree of transparency with the Image and my top three amps that I just couldn't achieve with the colored mid-bass of the Triple.fi 10 Pro. They have a timbral accuracy that allows live instruments to sound like the real thing. Like with most IEM, they still have a small soundstage that tends to stay within the head, but instrument placement on the miniature stage is impeccable. And drum solos are just breathtaking with these!

The Image are similar in the mids with the SA6 and with the Freq Show, in being a fairly forward sounding IEM. The Image have fantastic bass, which the q-JAYS came close to, but the image add a sparkly transparent smooth high end that make the q-JAYS just sound a little rolled off in the highs. Compared to the Freq Show three driver custom IEM, the Image are very similar but with more bass! That means the highs could use just a tiny bit more extension, but it is still adequate enough to get the job done. Likewise, the SA6 have a similar bass to the Freq Show, which while not as powerful as I would like was present and got the job done.

The Image are also one of the few IEM that I can use with the included silicone tips and not have itchy ear canals, so not are they slightly more transparent than the SA6 but they are much more comfortable for me. The Denon C700 canal phones also don't make my ears itch, and they don't need to be seated deeply for a seal and good bass. The Image can match the bass of the C700 but they are strikingly smoother in the mids and treble than the Denon, which have over a year of use on them and are fully burned-in.

SLEEK SA6: The SA6 have the bass+/treble++ ports in them, although I did try all the other ports as well. The SA6 at first didn't impress me, and I found that like with the q-JAYS and Image that the deeper they are inserted into the ears, the more rolled off the treble. It took quite a bit of experimenting to get the fit that would sound right, but they were never able to go deep enough to be comfortable without making my ear canals itch, unless I was willing to sacrifice some treble. For the best sound I had to use a shallow insertion that was simply not as comfortable, which made me experience a tickle and itch that made me want to push the IEM in to soothe it.

Once I had the fit set for best sound, the highs came up and were sparkly and clear, and the transparency of the IEM improved, but they just don't make enough bass to make me happy. I could be happy with the Klipsch bass. The SA6 are detailed, and neutral, with little coloration, are fairly forward in the mids and soundstage, and are not prone to sibilance. But they lack the transparency that I get from all my customs or the Klipsch Image.

With jazz the string bass has good texture and tone, and the fingers sliding on and plucking the strings are sharp and quick as is the bass. The mids are warm and smooth, and I do now have a sparkle on the highs. Very interesting. Bass is present but doesn't have quite the impact I would like with some rock. Hip Hop and Pop like Rhianna and Usher have better bass than with U2, Linkin Park, Led Zep, Stones or Beatles. I am still a jazz and new age guy at heart...


1) Predator, tied with Viper
1) iBasso D2 Viper with THS4032 in the main opamp and LM6172 in the ground channel,
2) Pico
3) Lyrix Pro tied with the
3) Caffeine Pro
4) Headamp Micro Amp 2006 version
5) iBasso D2 Boa
6) Meier HeadSix
7) TTVJ Portable Millett Hybrid (adds an edge to the upper mids that I've never heard with the TTVJ before)

Sleek SA6 Amp Ranking (best to last): Again, all the amps sounded good with the SA6, even the lowest ranked amp.

1) iBasso D2 Viper with THS4032 in the main opamp and LM6172 in the ground channel (open and spacious and not too forward, with shimmering highs)
2) Predator tied Pico (not as open and more forward, but bass is better)
2) Pico (seems to wake up the space and ambience of the SA6)
3) Headamp Micro Amp 2006 version
4) Lyrix Pro tied with the
4) Caffeine Pro
5) iBasso D2 Boa
6) TTVJ Portable Millett Hybrid (adds a nice sparkle without being too forward)
7) Meier HeadSix

At some point I will re-examine the other IEMs with the D2 Boa and TTVJ but I do not have the q-JAYS or Super .fi 5 Pro anymore.
post #63 of 83
The more I read about the Image X10's the more I feel I need to give them a try myself. A couple of questions though, how do you find the Image X10's treble compared to the SA6's? What about sibilance with the X10's?
post #64 of 83
What's the best synergy for Etymotic ER-4P or 4S? Something under $150?
post #65 of 83
Originally Posted by goldfilm View Post
What's the best synergy for Etymotic ER-4P or 4S? Something under $150?
I haven't heard it myself, but lots of people will vouch for the ER-4P with the Minibox-E+.
post #66 of 83
I can vouch for the Altec-Lansing im716 modded at 47ohm and the MinboxE+, but it costs more than $150, I think like $189. Just checked, and it's out of stock at Head-Direct.
post #67 of 83
Thread Starter 
I don't hear any sibilance with the Image X10, while it can occasionally (but not often) rear it's head with my SE530 customs. I thought the treble was more transparent and sparkly and uncolored with the Image.

As far as the ER4P(S) - under $150 is tough. My top picks of these USB DAC amps is easier to give. I would think the D2 Viper with LM6172/THS4032 opamps would be a good match for the ER4P because of it's awesome bass, with the Predator right up there as well. The Headstage Lyrix Pro with bass boost on is even bassier, to fill in the ER4 missing low end, as long as you don't mind the USB DAC missing some (but not all) of the Micro Detail in the space and ambience department. I personally think the Headstage USB DAC is still better than the Fubar III dedicated DAC, or the Behringer U-control DAC, even if it isn't the best of the bunch here. That is the only one close to your price.
post #68 of 83
Thread Starter 

I have a new favorite opamp combination. LMH6622 in the main amp and THS4032 in the ground channel.

This is a good compromise between my previous full size headphone opamp selection (LM6172 main/THS4032 ground) and my IEM opamps (THS4032 main/LM6172 ground), and seems to fall right in the middle. Previously, the best full size headphone opamp set was too forward with some IEM (like q-JAYS, Klipsch Image and Freq Show). But with the opamps swapped for use with those IEM, then some full size phones were too thin (such as RS-1 and Proline 2500). The new setup with LMH6622 in the main socket and THS4032 in the ground fixes this issue of needing to switch between two opamp configurations when switching between full size headphones and IEMs. This also has the benefit of a more expanded soundstage with more of a 3rd row experience, and not on-stage or in the back row.

The ISL55002 and THS4032 that I reported on in previous opamp rolling tests are more neutral open opamps, and less warm than the LM6172, while the LMH6622 seems to be between them (unless you use two together). It actually seems like the 6622 is fuller when used in the main amp, and thinner sounding when used in the ground channel. With the LM6172 in the ground channel, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between the 4032 and 6622 in the main channel, and I like either of them. But I find using two LMH6622 in the D2 to be a little thinner sounding than I care for. Yet, the LMH6622 in the main (with THS4032 in the ground) is fuller sounding and improves on what i liked about the ISL55002 in the main (with THS4032 in the ground channel) in my previous notes.

As I said before, I also like the LM6172 in the ground channel with the LMH6622 in the main amp socket as this warms it up ever so slightly over the THS4032 in the ground. Basically, the LMH6622 in the main amp (and either the THS4032 or LM6172 in ground) is very good with both full size headphones and with IEM. Swapping the LM6172 into the main amp channel gives subtle changes and does bring the sound a little forward and more full in the mids, so it seems a little richer and more intimate. This is especially good with thin sounding headphones like the Proline 2500, and yet the mids are not too overpowering with any of my other full size headphones or IEMs. So, it is still possible to swap these two opamps for a different sound, and still use it with everything regardless.

Basically, anyone with a D2 Viper should have an LM6172, a THS4032, a LMH6622 and maybe an ISL55002. I don't think anyone needs two LMH6622 (a little thin/recessed) or two LM6172 (too full/forward) at the same time, as they take the Viper to 2 different extremes. Although it might be useful to double up two of the same opamps as an EQ with some headphones that are too much in one or the other direction.

HiFlight agrees with my assessment above, and has said the LMH6622 makes the D2 Viper sound like the iQube. I have had my Viper set up like this for about a week now, and plan to leave it like this for a while.
post #69 of 83


Thanks headphoneaddict for all the write ups. You must have spent alot of time both listening to the equipment and writing. Your knowledge and time contribution here is greatly appreciated.
post #70 of 83
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Victor Chew View Post
Thanks headphoneaddict for all the write ups. You must have spent alot of time both listening to the equipment and writing. Your knowledge and time contribution here is greatly appreciated.
You're Welcome!

PS: Two other good opamp combos

1) LMH6622 main/THS4032 ground channel - this is in between the opamps I talked about in my 7/1/08 post. So, the sound falls between LM6172 main/THS4032 ground (for full size phones) and the THS4032 main/LM6172 ground (for IEM). This is good with both full size phones and yet not too forward with IEM. I left mine with these in it for a while, until #2 below came up.

2) LTC6241HV main/LMH6655 - this is the "Predator clone" combo discovered by HiFlight. I am finding it good with IEM and full size headphones, and really like it a lot. Here are my notes on this, and it is what I currently have in the D2 right now - http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f105/m...ml#post4661267
post #71 of 83
Thread Starter 
I want to add that the #1 amp for the Freq Show Music Maker Customs is now the Practical Devices XM5 with the 75 ohm switch activated and AD8065 opamps with BUF634 in the buffers. Kinda moot point now that Freq is gone.
post #72 of 83
Nothing about the Mini3 ? :-(

Very good job anyway... Thank you so much...!
post #73 of 83
Thread Starter 
Yeah, sorry, but I just wasn't very interested in buying a Mini3 (or is it Mini^3 ?)

A large part of my review of the Westone ES3X vs Ultimate Ears UE11Pro vs Jerry Harvey JH13Pro was about amp synergy with the three different custom IEM. That review is too long to add to this review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/r...1/#post5933754
post #74 of 83
Thread Starter 
The best portable amp for the UE11Pro is now the iBasso D10 with TLE2141 class-A boased opamps with EL8201 as buffers. This is better with the UE11Pro than any of the portable amps in my profile, including my previous #1 the 3MOVE.

The Woo WA6 and Single Power Square Wave XL are the best desktop amps for the UE11Pro, Westone ES3X and JH Audio JH13Pro (as stated in the review linked above). This beats any portable amp with them.

The best amp (portable or desktop) for the Senn IE8 is the ALO Amphora. That is followed closely by the iBasso D10 with AD8599 opamp and AD8616 buffers, but that opamp combo is only good with the IE8/HD600 and too thin bright with other IEM. The TLE2141-CA/EL8201 in the D10 would be my next choice with the benefit that it sounds great with all my custom IEM too.
post #75 of 83
How did I ever miss this thread?

Anyway lots of good info here. Thanks, Larry!
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