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I'm confused, looking for advice: choosing one of the top of the line IEMs

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi, I’ve been a lurker for a long time and I tried to make a decision, but I’m still confused about which top-of-the-line IEM I should get, so I’d like to have some advice.

The headphones and IEMs I own are the PX-100, CX-300 and the ATH-ES7. I prefer the es7, because it has more treble, sounds less veiled and has a more forward midrange. The es7 did not really impress me, but it’s a fun headphone.
I’ve read many threads and I’ve checked the Westone 3 threads everyday to see more comparisons and reviews, because I thought it might be the IEM for me.
I mostly listen to Japanese music: J-Pop, rock, trance, electronic, R&B etc. I don’t have an amp and my source is a Creative Zen V Plus. I mostly have Flac and320 kbps VBR/CBR Lame mp3’s.

The IEM I’m looking for should have lots of isolation, good build quality (= very important, the IEMs will have to last a few years) and should be very detailed (= this is the reason why I’m upgrading: I want to know how a top-of-the-line-IEM with ‘great’ SQ sounds, I want to be able to hear details I’ve never heard, to have that wow-feeling^^). I think my ideal sound signature would be a full, warm, (bit) forward and not recessed midrange for vocals and treble should be (not too) bright. Bass is the least important, although it’d be nice to have a decent amount of tight, controlled and not bloated bass.

I’ve done my research since I’ve joined Head-fi, so I made a list of IEMs:
ER4P (/APS-ER4P), SE530, TF10, UM2, W3, X10, C3, IE8, SA6 and CK-100.

- ER4P (/APS-ER4P): the er4p has the midrange and treble (might be a bit too bright) I’m searching for, but it’s a bit of bass light (=cold, thin? I’m not sure^^). It’s very detailed, but I’m worried about the lack of the fun/musical sound and the cold, thin, tight bass without impact signature. The APureSound-cable would give it a full, warmer and more bass punch, impact sound with a bit tamed treble. I’d get the cable, but it’s too expensive for me, so if you guys really recommend it instead of the other IEMs, I’ll try to get it (if my parents allow it^^). The ER4P is also the cheapest, with €160 (= with shipping to Belgium) in the EU (If there’s a cheaper EU-shop, please tell me, I’d rather avoid getting an expensive IEM from outside Europe because of VAT). If I would get the ER4P, I might also get a Fiio E5 amp, for extra bass^^

- se530: the highs roll off, but it has a nice midrange. I know the build quality issue has been fixed, but I’m still worried about it.

- TF 10: the earpieces are too big and ugly^^ and the midrange was kind of recessed. I’d probably have comfort issues.

- UM2: the overpowering bass and warm mids are nice, but there’s a bit of high-roll off. Westone’s durability is probably very good and I could use a equalizer, but I’d rather leave it flat. I’ve also read that the UM2 is a bit muddy.

- Klipsch Custom 3, X10: The sound sig of the C3 doesn’t suit me, and the X10 are fragile, I think.

- IE8: it has no isolation, so I’d rather get another IEM, but the SQ suits me.

- SA6: =the sound signature for me, but its build quality isn’t very good and the amount of detail could be a bit better.

- CK-100: I don’t know much about the CK-100, but I read somewhere they were like a ER4P, but with more bass. But I think they sound a bit thin like my ES7 and it is overpriced, I could easily get an APS-ER4P.

- W3: the Westone 3 also has a great SQ, but it has not enough siblance for Japanese music, according to ZephyrSapphire, who instead used his ER4. And it has been mentioned that the W3 is veiled, which I don't like. And it’s a hype^^.

If something is incorrect, tell me. I’m only looking for advice of those IEMs, but you can recommend others. After removing some IEMs, this remains:
- ER4P (/APS-ER4P)
- W3
- SA6
- CK-100
- UM2
- SE530

This should be enough info, it’s longer than I expected^^ Thank you for helping a confused, 15 years old, universal IEM-seeker. If no-one replies, I’ll try to make a decision myself^^. I’m aware that there isn’t a perfect IEM. When you’re choosing one of the top of the line earphones, it’s all about preference. I even think that I’m not able to hear a big difference between two high-end IEMs. I’m just trying my best to find the perfect IEM for me. So I’m looking for advice for the IEM which suits my ideal sound signature (then I might get that wow-moment for the first time^^).
post #2 of 25
My advice: Buy and try. No one here can tell you what sounds best to you. It's pretty clear from the latest back and forth with the W3s that this entire in-ear experience is really a matter of personal taste. As some posters have noted, they even prefer using different IEMs for different types/styles of music. So it's highly doubtful your confusion is going to be unconfused by asking for a specific recommendation. With the recent (last year or so) explosion of mid and high end IEMs, there is just too much static to find a clear choice. Just trying to be honest.
post #3 of 25
There is no best. There is no right. Make your best guess at what will be best for you, try it, and if it doesn't work for you, rest assured someone here will buy your used phones for a fair price.
post #4 of 25
You know what,a couple of days ago i would have recommended the Ie8's but as you know the isolation is not there at all.
Shame because in my experience it certainly sounds HUGE!
But based on what you have said i will throw another idea in and recommend the Shure Se310,it fits your requirements and believe me it sounds Great!
Imo price to performance nothing touches it and it's not as expensive as many you are looking at.
I'm sure i will be in the minority here but as far as i'm concerned these sound as high end as any of the more expensive ones.
I've tried many of the ones you mention and hand on heart none of em are "better" it's more a case of taste.
But you won't be disappointed with the 310's.
When i get rid of these ie8's i will get myself a backup pair simply because all round there isn't anything better.
Hope this helps and good luck on your search,i hope you find what you want.
post #5 of 25
I don't think the er4p sounds overly cold when using it with the right source. Using v0 mp3s and my clip it sounds a lot more warm and engaging then on my ipod classic with lossless.

Can't beat the fact I got them for cheap on the forums!
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tstarn06 View Post
My advice: Buy and try. No one here can tell you what sounds best to you. It's pretty clear from the latest back and forth with the W3s that this entire in-ear experience is really a matter of personal taste. As some posters have noted, they even prefer using different IEMs for different types/styles of music. So it's highly doubtful your confusion is going to be unconfused by asking for a specific recommendation. With the recent (last year or so) explosion of mid and high end IEMs, there is just too much static to find a clear choice. Just trying to be honest.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xena View Post
There is no best. There is no right. Make your best guess at what will be best for you, try it, and if it doesn't work for you, rest assured someone here will buy your used phones for a fair price.
Indeed, I'm aware of the fact that there isn't a perfect IEM. That's why I posted my preferred sound signature. And I also noticed the increase of IEMs since I joined. When I created this thread, i knew that the thread was a description of the perfect SQ for me^^ I just thought it would be nice to get advice of ppl who also like the sound signature I described and of ppl who listen to Japanese/Korean music (it would make my decision easier^^). I also have to collect posts, or else i can't buy or sell on head-fi. I think the required post count was 50.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beyerfan70 View Post
You know what,a couple of days ago i would have recommended the Ie8's but as you know the isolation is not there at all.
Shame because in my experience it certainly sounds HUGE!
But based on what you have said i will throw another idea in and recommend the Shure Se310,it fits your requirements and believe me it sounds Great!
Imo price to performance nothing touches it and it's not as expensive as many you are looking at.
I'm sure i will be in the minority here but as far as i'm concerned these sound as high end as any of the more expensive ones.
I've tried many of the ones you mention and hand on heart none of em are "better" it's more a case of taste.
But you won't be disappointed with the 310's.
When i get rid of these ie8's i will get myself a backup pair simply because all round there isn't anything better.
Hope this helps and good luck on your search,i hope you find what you want.
Yes, the IE8 are one of the IEMs i was considering and it's cheaper in the EU than the W3, but worse isolation than other iems = not good^^. I was actually thinking of getting those (SE310), but I'd probably get the upgrade feeling, so I'd be getting an expensive iem anyway. Until i've got a job and lots of money for a fullsize-can+amp+source. Head-fi is evil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZoNtO View Post
I don't think the er4p sounds overly cold when using it with the right source. Using v0 mp3s and my clip it sounds a lot more warm and engaging then on my ipod classic with lossless.

Can't beat the fact I got them for cheap on the forums!
After reading my first post, I realized i'd probably get a er4p/sa6/ck-100/W3. But the SA6's build quality = not good, W3 = veiled, not siblant enough for Japanese music (still looking for W3 reviews) and CK-100 = unknown (I could wait until I see some reviews of the SQ), so ER4P looks like the iem for me.
The Creative Zen V Plus is a warm source, so this makes me want to get the er4p, but i'm going to do some research if the APureSound-cable is worth the money, without an amp. Do you mean the Sansa clip? I might get a Sansa Fuze. Someday
post #7 of 25
u make a bit of mistake by not trying TF10P. I always assume i will have fit problem and it actually fit better than UM2 and more comfortable. Way easier to get good seal compared to UM2 due to small bore with can be easily muffled with foam tip.

TF10P are big and ugly but i cant see it. I dont have chicken vision so never bothered. Only wish it can be tad smaller so that it sit flush.
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeTrun View Post
The IEM I’m looking for should have lots of isolation, good build quality (= very important, the IEMs will have to last a few years) and should be very detailed (= this is the reason why I’m upgrading: I want to know how a top-of-the-line-IEM with ‘great’ SQ sounds, I want to be able to hear details I’ve never heard, to have that wow-feeling^^). I think my ideal sound signature would be a full, warm, (bit) forward and not recessed midrange for vocals and treble should be (not too) bright. Bass is the least important, although it’d be nice to have a decent amount of tight, controlled and not bloated bass.
To me it sounds like the Westone 3s are almost exactly what you're looking for. They have a slightly forward midrange that makes vocals really stand out, the lows extend deep with lots of detail, control, and speed, and the highs are there though I wouldn't call them bright sounding IEMs. You talk about wanting sibilance for your J-* music, and it certainly is there if the song has it, and is actually one of the things I've seen people criticize in their reviews and impressions. However, I did not notice any sibilance on songs where it wasn't an actual part of the song like these critical reviews have.

As far as build quality, the cable might be thin but seems built like a tank, and the plastic shell also seems plenty sturdy, and if you get a get seal the isolation is great, and improved with foam tips.

I can't compare with any of the others you listed, but the Westone 3 certainly did give me that "Wow" feeling the first time I listened to them, I hope you end up happy with whichever one you pick.
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by toughnut View Post
u make a bit of mistake by not trying TF10P. I always assume i will have fit problem and it actually fit better than UM2 and more comfortable. Way easier to get good seal compared to UM2 due to small bore with can be easily muffled with foam tip.

TF10P are big and ugly but i cant see it. I dont have chicken vision so never bothered. Only wish it can be tad smaller so that it sit flush.
The sound signature and the replaceable cable are nice. I usually don't care how a iem looks, but these are..um.. big^^ I'd feel weird wearing them on the bus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by somestranger26 View Post
To me it sounds like the Westone 3s are almost exactly what you're looking for. They have a slightly forward midrange that makes vocals really stand out, the lows extend deep with lots of detail, control, and speed, and the highs are there though I wouldn't call them bright sounding IEMs. You talk about wanting sibilance for your J-* music, and it certainly is there if the song has it, and is actually one of the things I've seen people criticize in their reviews and impressions. However, I did not notice any sibilance on songs where it wasn't an actual part of the song like these critical reviews have.

As far as build quality, the cable might be thin but seems built like a tank, and the plastic shell also seems plenty sturdy, and if you get a get seal the isolation is great, and improved with foam tips.

I can't compare with any of the others you listed, but the Westone 3 certainly did give me that "Wow" feeling the first time I listened to them, I hope you end up happy with whichever one you pick.
Thank you, I'm happy you enjoy your W3.
Yes, the W3 seem to be great, but I'm still doubting because of the mids: I've read that they are recessed/veiled. And I probably won't get them, because with 400 dollars+shipping+VAT, I could easily get an Aps-ER4p.

I'm now considering:
- ER4P (/APS-ER4P) (I've read Antonyfirst's review=what I'm looking for^^ and some prefer their ER4 instead of the W3)
- W3
- SA6 (but i'll probably drop them: These are perfect, except for build quality, I suppose)

I'm going to look for comparisons of the (APS-)ER4P and the W3 and reviews of the APS-ER4P.
post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeTrun View Post
- IE8: it has no isolation, so I’d rather get another IEM, but the SQ suits me.
Assuming you mean Sennheiser IE8's, they do isolate very well (I have the IE7s) ...
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cordova View Post
Assuming you mean Sennheiser IE8's, they do isolate very well (I have the IE7s) ...
Yes, I mean the Sennheiser IE8. They isolate, but I'm looking for huge isolation! Well, compared to the other IEMs, I think they've got less isolation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beyerfan70 View Post
You know what,a couple of days ago i would have recommended the Ie8's but as you know the isolation is not there at all.
Shame because in my experience it certainly sounds HUGE!
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeTrun View Post
Yes, I mean the Sennheiser IE8. They isolate, but I'm looking for huge isolation! Well, compared to the other IEMs, I think they've got less isolation.
All I can say is I cannot hear the TV at normal listening volume (whilst in the same room), nor can I hear someone talking to me from 3 feet away, with my IE7s in, without actually playing any music through them. The IE8's noise isolation is rated at 26DB. I don't know about the others (the only other IEMs I own are the Sony MDR-EX82's), but if they isolate better than that, it's impressive ..!
post #13 of 25
I think you are focusing WAY too hard on flaws. Id look into a better source vs a new set of phones. Your listening is only as good as your source.

Also look at the X5s in if a new source is not an option or customs like FreQ trip drivers.

As for durability in an iem thats gonna be a tough spot, I don't go spalunking with my x10s but they do hold up to a head-fiers daily use.

pink
post #14 of 25
I think you have to be very careful in trying to categorise sound signatures based off of forum postings

And whilst the advice of try before you buy is sensible, truth is it is nigh on impossible to do so if you do not live in Tokyo or NY. But it is all part of the journey
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeTrun View Post
UM2: the overpowering bass and warm mids are nice, but there’s a bit of high-roll off. Westone’s durability is probably very good and I could use a equalizer, but I’d rather leave it flat. I’ve also read that the UM2 is a bit muddy.
Equaliser = distortion is my book. Muddy is relative. I haven't used my UM2 since buying the ESW9 but I have posted elsewhere already on the matter. I sold my E4G (black E4C) and kept the UM2 as I wanted that punchier bass. And they have an incredibly fun sound that is easy to enjoy if you are new to IEM
post #15 of 25
The Sennheiser IE8s do have isolation. Just like any other IEM, you just need to find the right tip. And you do get quite a few in the box.
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