Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 pro versus Sleek SA6 - my comparison
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 pro versus Sleek SA6 - my comparison

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Introduction:
I got Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 pro last month. The short version of events is that UE has been less than great with their handling of some broken super.fi 5 pro I had, so bad that I ordered Sleek SA6 to see if they would serve as an alternative to the TF10 that I have been considering returning in protest. Well, I got the SA6 and have been putting them through their paces side by side with the TF10s. Would that all my apparently difficult choices in life turn out this way in the end: this was a no-brainer, the triple.fi 10 pro are being returned.

What triple.fi 10 did better:
  • Soundstage - SA6 are no slouch, but TF10 is simply much more clearly defined. The virtual location of instruments with the TF10 is precise and clear.
  • Tighter low end in the general - although slightly mired by an over emphasis of the very low end, the low end of the TF10 is very tight and refined, moreso than the SA6 even with the different bass ports.
  • The sealed aluminum and rubber carrying case of the UE products is light years beyond the clumsy carrying case provided for the SA6.
  • Quality control at ship - This is very minor, but the medium sleeves that came with the SA6 both have small tears in the silicone. The tears don't affect seal or comfort as best I can tell, but it was a small blemish on the initial impression of the SA6. I was also surprised to see that the SA6 is still not shipping with the treble tube removal tool since it was announced as finished back in May.

What both did about the same:
  • Comfort - I've got no complaints with the comfort of either IEM.
  • Apparent build quality - I've got my doubts about the design of UE's super.fi and triple.fi housing, but SA6 have their share of reported failures as well, so I'll just say that out of the box both appear equally well built.
  • Mid range - I'm sure that there are differences, but it's splitting hairs to compare them. Both have a very clear, detailed, pleasing midrange to my ears.
  • Drivability - both are easy to drive and both have high enough impedance that they don't have noise problems out of the headphone jack.

What SA6 did better:
  • Fit - I had no problems with the TF10 fit in the general, but compared to the SA6, this is no contest. Getting a seal is no effort and the seal does not break no matter what facial contortions I make. This makes the SA6 a much better choice for on the go wear versus the TF10 where the seal is so easily broken by either wide facial movements (smiling, eating, opening my mouth wide) or head movements in general.
  • Isolation - Since you're already too isolated with music playing with either earphone to listen to the outside world, you might as well get even better isolation, and the SA6 does a better job than the TF10.
  • High end - I know that TF10 are regarded highly for their clear high end, but after listening to them a lot, I feel the high end is too emphasized. Certain instruments (acoustic guitar using electric pickup and horn sections are two common examples) veer from clear and beatiful to harsh and piercing to my ears in a number of songs. A good example is the song "Ten Little Kids" by The Jayhawks. The song has a metric ton of cymbals throughout. On the TF10, the after ring of the cymbals is forward of the vocals and distracting, on the SA6 with anything except the treble++ tube, it's as I would want it (and how all my other gear reproduces it as well).

    I tested the SA6 with the treble++ and that's the closest I can come to replicate the high end of TF10. If you read the thread about the SA6, you see that most people find the treble++ not their thing, and I'm one of them.
  • Cord microphonics - UE's memory wire and over the ear design makes cord noise almost non-existent, but the SA6 over the ear eliminates it completely.
  • The very low end - This is probably my most subjective factor, but the "subwoofer in your ear" effect of the TF10 is distracting to me. Hitting my eardrum and immediate skull bones with the same sort of punch full size loudspeakers would hit my body with is not the same thing to me. I found it distracting in hip hop and R&B. The SA6 is still plenty punchy to me and not distracting. This makes me really question why some people like the SE530 over the TF10 because it reportedly has even more bass, no thanks is all I can say.
  • Unamped performance - I felt that the SA6 sound character suffered less when not amplified. I really felt the TF10 needed the amp to sound their best. While I don't mind using an amp when I'm at my desk, running around my house was a bit on the inconvenient side, and on the go was simply impractical. I suppose you can flip the lens around and point out that the SA6 don't gain as much from an amp, but from my perspective, that the difference is less significant is a point to the SA6.

The short summary is that although the superior clarity and separation in the soundstage on the TF10 made for some really amazing passages in some music, the over emphasized very high end and the over done, for my ears, very low end took away from the perfection of their sound quality. When the TF10 are great, they are very great indeed, but when they find something that reveals their flaws, they are artificial sounding and not so pleasing. Conversely, the SA6 will never be that sort of "very great", but they also have none of the over emphasis flaws that distract from the TF10. The SA6 have a more solid, more even sound quality, the same modularity that attracted me to UE products, better fit and seal, undoubtedly better customer service, and do this for around $100 less. Giving up a the potential of small gains in sound quality in some recordings compared to those positives is, for me, a no brainer.
post #2 of 32
Great impressions! I just borrowed a pair of Triple.fi's from a friend yesterday so I haven't had much time with them but many of your impressions mirror my own.

One area where we differ fairly dramatically is in the top end of the triple.fi's, I find the upper mids and treble to sound a bit recessed in compariosn to the SA6's using the + treble tube. I'm curious if this might be due to tips, I'm using a pair of comply tips, what are you using?
post #3 of 32
That made for a very interesting read! Thanks for taking the time to share such detailed thoughts and feelings. My budget is currently more restricted and, in the relatively short space of time- but since April 2008- since I have plunged myself (with sincere enthusiasm and joy) into the audiophile world (at present, but portable, as I got so enthralled with all this when looking for a DAP and high quality headphones to use while working out and getting fit; two birds with stone as would also take the opportunity to listen to new music and expand my musical awareness and tastes etc), I have bought a sony NWZ-A829 DAP, a pair of SA6, a resistor adaptor, a pair of SE530's (a few weeks ago as I was so keen to start building up my comparative exp with IEM's and the different sounds etc), not to mention a wealth of new CDs to listen to! Therefore, I think I've been trying to get more experienced too fast and desparately, to achieve things too, perhaps impossibly, fast and so, supported by the condition of my bank balance, I have decided to take my foot of the gas a bit and just let things progress and develop with time and also to let myself have more time with what I have and getting to know it etc before wanting to consider more and expand. In short, I was just being and making myself unnecessarily hurried about everything. However, the triplefi's were an item I really wanted to get and try, along with the se530's, UM2's, klipsch images and custom 3's so I appreciate some honest input on them, especially compared to a phone I own in the SA6. Nice one .

Sounds like your experience with UE customer service and communique was poor, to say least. Anyway, good luck with SA6! I'm sure your affinity for them will grow and deepen if anything
post #4 of 32
BloodSugar00, I think you're on the right track. Sit back, relax and take your time, get to know the products you own and when you do you'll have a clearer picture of what, if anything, you'd like to change.
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
I'm curious if this might be due to tips, I'm using a pair of comply tips, what are you using?
I used the stock silicone (medium) with both earphones. I used comply in the past with SF5 but found they attenuated the highs a bit, I guess based on my comments above, they might have made the TF10 more my thing, but if it costs $5 every 2-3 weeks to make IEMs fit your tastes, that might be a questionable choice in IEMs
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
BloodSugar00, I think you're on the right track. Sit back, relax and take your time, get to know the products you own and when you do you'll have a clearer picture of what, if anything, you'd like to change.
Exactly.. I think thats a healthy, logical and sensible approach and attitude to have. Glad I've realised it (before I broke my bank balance)! Just chill out more and not be in a hurry.
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
One area where we differ fairly dramatically is in the top end of the triple.fi's, I find the upper mids and treble to sound a bit recessed in compariosn to the SA6's using the + treble tube. I'm curious if this might be due to tips, I'm using a pair of comply tips, what are you using?
If you can obtain a pair of the UE silicon sleeves and achieve good fit with those then I believe you should notice a difference in the highs.

I have not tried the Complys myself but using modded Shure olive foam eartips on my M-AUDIO IE-40 (rebranded/recolored UE Triple.fi 10 Pro) did muffle the highs somewhat. It may be because of the eartip opening size, as the UE stock single flanges have a wider radius of opening for sound to come through (which matches the wide nozzle of the IEMs themselves).

I also did not like the way the Shure Soft Flex eartips made them sound. It made the sound less full and muffled the highs a tiny bit, but not to the extent that the Shure olive foam eartips did.

I still have my Sleek Audio SA6 to compare and I can understand why some people prefer it, and I think channum's review sums it up. I, however, love the sound signature of the M-AUDIO IE-40, because it's so full and exciting to me. Yes, cymbals in songs are pretty prominent, but I'd rather hear the entire ring of the cymbal vs. half of it. It does not sound as realistic/crystal clear IMO when it's not completely there. Perhaps I am not as sensitive to the highs as others here but I can definitely agree that it is the most prominent that I've heard in an IEM so far.

The M-AUDIO IE-40's large soundstage makes me forget sometimes that I'm listening to IEMs. I haven't been visiting Head-Fi as often because I feel quite satisfied with what I've got already. I'm going to enjoy these, waiting patiently for the Westone 3.

EDIT: Just wanted to agree on a few more points from channum's review. The M-AUDIO IE-40 does indeed scale better with better sourcing/amplification, while the SA6's sound does not change as much. I have no issues with the IE-40 fit-wise, but it might be because I'm used to it by now. The isolation is indeed better with the SA6 I believe because of the very well-designed double flanged eartips.

And I can also attest to the fact that Sleek Audio has amazing customer service.
post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by channum View Post
I used the stock silicone (medium) with both earphones. I used comply in the past with SF5 but found they attenuated the highs a bit, I guess based on my comments above, they might have made the TF10 more my thing, but if it costs $5 every 2-3 weeks to make IEMs fit your tastes, that might be a questionable choice in IEMs
I'm guessing that might be the source of the difference then.

I found the problem to be particularly pronounced straight out of the iPod, hooked up to the Pico using it's amp and DAC the Triple.fi's become more balanced but a bit recessed/closed in sounding in those upper registers. It's interesting to note that while the Triple.fi's with complys seem more recessed in the top than my SA6's the Triple.fi's sibilance is over exaggerated with vocals becoming a bit spitty sounding in some instances. It's not too severe, certainly livable from what I've heard so far but I thought it worth noting.

Comfort wasn't as much of a factor as I thought it would be, they are different and more difficult to insert but once on they're not too bad although not at the level of comfort I have with the Sleeks.

The Triple.fi's do pose a bit of a dilemma because I tend to be a bit of a bass head so I'm rather enamored with the fuller bass but I don't think I could give up the other aspects that the SA6's bring to the table.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterDLai View Post
If you can obtain a pair of the UE silicon sleeves and achieve good fit with those then I believe you should notice a difference in the highs.
Back when I had E500's I developed a sensitivity to the silicon tips, it's got so bad that I can barely tolerate them for longer than 5 minutes. Ironically I had a sensitivity to Shure's black olives when I first tried them as well but when I retried them shortly before I sold the E500's I found the sensitivity had subsided. I now find they seem to be the best compromise for comfort and durability.
post #9 of 32
Nice comparison, channum!
post #10 of 32
Channum, you should try some foam tips on TF10. It somewhat cures the problem of the slight harshness in TF10's treble.

My observation of the two IEM's SQ is: While TF10 sounds good with almost all kind of music, no particular one genre excels; While SA6 don't sound as balanced as TF10, its warm sound is far more musical and great on vocal or any mid centric music.
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the comments

The key difference between the two if someone wanted to know what I consider the absolute most important key point to take from this comparison is that the SA6 are a very evenly performing earphone. The triple.fi 10 had this interesting characteristic: For more than two standard deviations worth of music (~95%), they sounded as perfect as can be, truly crystal clear amazing sound. For those outliers of music, they were flawed to my ears, overemphasizing the very high and/or the very low ends of the music and distracting rather than delighting. Conversely, the SA6 never sound quite that good, but they never sound quite that bad either. I'd rather have an earphone that can deliver B+ to A work on everything I throw at it versus an earphone that delivers A+ work most of the time, but only manages C work when it can't pull off the A+. Someone else might understandably rather get A+ work most of the time and deal with some C work instead of almost never getting that A+ performance at all. It's all in your priorities.
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by channum View Post
Thanks for the comments

The key difference between the two if someone wanted to know what I consider the absolute most important key point to take from this comparison is that the SA6 are a very evenly performing earphone. The triple.fi 10 had this interesting characteristic: For more than two standard deviations worth of music (~95%), they sounded as perfect as can be, truly crystal clear amazing sound. For those outliers of music, they were flawed to my ears, overemphasizing the very high and/or the very low ends of the music and distracting rather than delighting. Conversely, the SA6 never sound quite that good, but they never sound quite that bad either. I'd rather have an earphone that can deliver B+ to A work on everything I throw at it versus an earphone that delivers A+ work most of the time, but only manages C work when it can't pull off the A+. Someone else might understandably rather get A+ work most of the time and deal with some C work instead of almost never getting that A+ performance at all. It's all in your priorities.
was that 5% sub-par performance of the triples genre based or was it across genres.
post #13 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
Channum, you should try some foam tips on TF10. It somewhat cures the problem of the slight harshness in TF10's treble.
Too late, they're already taped up to go back

I suspect that comply tips probably would tame some of the over emphasized high end, but having dealt with comply on my super.fi 5 for a while before ditching them for silicone, I don't think they're worth the price. You can buy a nice mid range IEM or top shelf earbuds for what you'll burn through in a year on comply tips.

I never noticed any sound quality difference with the stock UE foam tips versus silicone.
post #14 of 32
I most definitely understand that perspective channum. Great analogy...

The M-AUDIO IE-40's top end and bottom end can sometimes be fatiguing with certain songs (but I would still give it a B ), but with a great majority of my music, it sounds glorious to me.

I'm actually surprised that it's a pretty unsubstantial 5% of your music that bothers you. I would've expected a higher number to make it a decision to switch over, but alas it appears that that 5% really sounds wrong to you, so it seems logical.
post #15 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by idiotekniQues View Post
was that 5% sub-par performance of the triples genre based or was it across genres.
My issues with bass were genre dependent with things like hip hop and R&B where you have that overblown synthetic bass beat. Some would probably consider this effect a bonus, I mean, it is remarkable that an IEM can pound on the 70 or so square milimeters of an eardrum as powerfully as a full size loud speaker can pound on your whole body, but the effect was not my cup of tea.

The high end problems were dependent upon intruments more than genre. Certain cymbals, acoustic guitar using an electric pickup, horns, even choral vocals if high enough could exhibit this over emphasis. It was only related to genre in that these sorts of instrumentation are more common in certain genres. Even so, I'm sure this is more of a personal taste than a genuine flaw thing; after all, enough someone's requested the treble++ tube for the Sleeks even though with the treble++ they have similar high end flaws to my ears on the same problem tracks for the TF10.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 pro versus Sleek SA6 - my comparison