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...
Klipsch Image X10 Amp Ranking (best to last): ALL AMPS SOUNDED GOOD WITH THE IMAGE, EVEN THE LOWEST RANKED ONE.
1) Predator, tied with Viper
1) iBasso D2 Viper with THS4032 in the main opamp and LM6172 in the ground channel,
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.